1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HUME COOK presented a petition from John Robertson, M.A., of Moonee Ponds, praying the House to take into consideration the money laws of the Commonwealth.
Mr. BATCHELOR presented a petition from certain residents of South Australia, praying theFederal Government to take steps to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, as provided by the Constitution, in reference to the conservation of the waters of the Murray for the purposes of navigation.
Petition received and read.
Mr. BATCHELOR presented four other similar petitions.
Sir LANGDON BONYTHON presented ten similar petitions.
Mr. KINGSTON presented eight similar petitions.
Mr. POYNTON presented six similar petitions.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON presented fifteen similar petitions.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence see that minimum-wage provisions are inserted in all future contracts for the supply of saddles and harness to the military forces? I understand that less than1s. an hour is being paid by some contractors in New South Wales.
– I regret that notice of the question was not given, so that I could ascertain exactly the terms of the contracts referred to. So far as I am concerned,I shall not allow any work to be done for less than what is considered a reasonable minimum wage. I have already prevented two or three cases of what is termed sweating.
– In view of the promise of the Acting Prime Minister that the Commonwealth will assist Victoria or any of the other States in the flotation of converted loans, will it be made a condition that the assisted States shall float no more loans except through the Commonwealth ? Is it not likely that abnormal State borrowing will continue if the Commonwealth is made responsible for States’ liabilities?
– I pointed out last week, in reply to a similar question, that, among the many points to be examined in this regard, two of the most important are what consideration the Commonwealth will obtain for undertaking such a responsibility, and the future borrowing powers of the States for which responsibility is undertaken. I mentioned that very great thought would have to be given to the whole subject.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs, without formal notice, for a distinct and definite answer to the question - Is the proposed parliamentary excursion to take place? At this period of the session we might expect the honorable gentleman to give us a distinct assurance that it is not going to take place, and we should not separate without a clear understanding on the subject.
– The honorable and learned member has asked his question in a rather dictatorial manner, which I resent. I want to know from him first to what trip does he refer ?
– The trip about which the honorable gentleman has been talking to the newspaper reporters so often of late.
– If the honorable and learned member wishes me to say that I am not going to give facilities to members of this Parliament to visit the various States, I shall not do so. I intend to give such facilities if I can. The trip to which the honorable and learned member refers is a visionary matter, which is being fanned by the press in an unfair and untruthful manner. The statement in this morning’s newspapers that the wives of members are to be taken is on a par with other statements which have been made on the subject. I resent such statements, but, so far as possible, I intend to give honorable members who canill afford to visit the other States at their own expense a reasonable and inexpensive opportunity to do so, either by taking a steamer or by going overland. This latter arrangement is a matter for honorable members to deal with themselves, and it is not being considered in any way by myself or by the Government.
– Is the honorable gentleman going to New Guinea ?
– It is very likely that I shall go myself, whether other honorable members do or do not go with me. It is very reasonable that a trip of this kind should be taken, so that honorable members may know what they are legislating about. It is essential that this Parliament should not be practically legislating for a dark continent. Without binding myself or the Government to any method of assisting members to visit the various States - because nothing has yet been decided - I intend to try to provide facilities to enable them to do so ? At the present time there is only the visionary statement of the press that an extraordinary trip is to be taken here, there, and everywhere.
– Well, what is the truth about the matter ? What are the intentions of the Government on the subject?
– Are the Governmentgoing to provide spirits and cigars?
– If the country would not do it, I would do it at my own expense, and not ask the Government to pay a penny for it. I am quite prepared to take the responsibility for anything I do in the matter. I am not going to organize an expensive tour, which will injure the taxpayers of Victoria or of the other States, but I do not know as much - though I know as much as most people - as I should like to know about other parts of Australia, and other honorable members are in the same position. Living here during a long session such as is about to close, they have no opportunity to make themselves acquainted with places other than Victoria. All I have to say is that there is not to be an expensive trip, but that I shall help honorable members in every way I can to visit the other States.
– I wish to remind honorable members of the provisions of Standing Orders 93 and 94, which govern the asking and answering of questions. They are as follow : -
In putting any such question no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.
In answer of any such question a member shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
I think it will save the time of the House if honorable gentlemen conform to those rules.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence take steps to ensure that members of the defence force are not prevented from travelling by rail to and from the parades which it is necessary for them to attend in order to carry outtheir duties? I do not refer to trips for the exchange of visits between neighbouring corps for the purpose of rifle shooting, although there is something to be said in their favour, but to attendance at ordinary parades. I understand that from Saturday next it is intended to stop the issue of military passes in Victoria.
– I understand that it is proposed that the passes shall be withdrawn from Monday next. I have forwarded all the papers in the matter to the Attorney-General for his opinion as to the legality of what is proposed to be done, but I can assure the honorable and learned member that if the passes are withdrawn the Government will see that the present facilities are continued, even if we have to pay the fares of the men ourselves. I believe that I am right in saying that if such payments are made to the railway authorities of any State, they will be deducted from the amount of revenue returned by the Commonwealth to that State.
– Will the honorable member support any man who insists upon his right to travel on the railways ?
– I do not want to come to loggerheads with any of the State authorities, but I have instructed the military authorities to see that there is no dislocation of the present state of affairs.
– When Sir John Forrest was in Perth, in December last, he stated to a press interviewer -
I have very much pleasure in stating that before my departure from Melbourne, Mr.. Barton and the Ministers agreed that a conference between the principal engineering officers of each of the States of the Commonwealth should take place as early as possible.
The interviewer then asked - “ What is the object of that conference?” Sir John Forrest replied : -
The officers sitting in conference will deal with the reports that have been furnished by Mr. Muir and’ the officer who represented the South Australian Government, on the nature and character of the country between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. The engineers will be specially required to report upon the gauge, the route, the probable cost, and the probable revenue and expenditure in connexion with that important project. I strongly urged this proposal, and it was readily agreed to, as it will be the means of placing the matter in a definite shape before the Federal Parliament.
Sir Edmund Barton, when at Fremantle, on 12th May last, said -
It had been his pleasing duty that day to write to Mr. Deakin, who would preside at the Cabinet meetings during his absence, asking him to expedite the appointment of a committee of the leading constructive railway engineers of the eastern States to consider the reports that had already been made, and to make further inquiries so as to see whether the data laid down in these reports would commend their approbation as engineers.
I would ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the committee of engineers referred to will be appointed in time to permit of their report being laid upon the table at the opening of next session, so that Parliament may be able to consider the project, and whether the Minister has any general information to offer regarding the prospects of the railway ?
– Prior to the date mentioned by the honorable member, and afterwards the Government placed themselves in communication with the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia, in order to secure at the earliest moment detailed information as to the character of the route which had been approximately selected. Since- that time, I understand that special survey parties - in Western Australia, in particular - have been investigating the route suggested. The main difficulty in parts arose from the apparent absence of water supplies, but boring has been already conducted along some of the most difficult and necessitous portions of the route with considerable success. The Western Australian Government is to furnish us, as soon as they receive them, with -copies of the reports from the various parties who have been engaged in survey and boring operations. We have already received from the South Australian Government reports as to portions of the line within their territory. These reports are being collected, and will be collated in the Department for Home Affairs, and as soon as we obtain such physical information as will enable the professional board to form a definite opinion as to the route to be chosen, the cost of the work, and the revenue to be derived, an appointment will- be made. We have been waiting, as from the first, for the detailed local reports, and particularly for those with regard to water supply, because these will affect, not only the cost of construction, but the cost of working the line. There is no intention on the part of the Government to incur any unnecessary delay.
– Can the Acting Minister for Defence give the House any details with regard to the proposed defence retrenchment which it was promised should be effected in the administrative branch 1 A statement appears in one of the newspapers to the effect that the retrenchment is to extend beyond that, and is to affect the permanent forces.
– I think the honorable and learned member is slightly mistaken in saying that it was intended to confine the retrenchment to the administrative staff. The intention was that the retrenchment should be confined to the permanent forces, and that it should not operate with regard to the militia forces or rifle clubs, or anything of that kind. I have at this moment received a report from the General Officer Commanding ‘ containing suggestions which I have not yet had time to consider. I do not think it would be right to lay this upon the table until I have had an opportunity to peruse it. My instructions to the General Officer Commanding were that the retrenchment was to be confined to the permanent forces, and I am afraid that that branch of the service will suffer very severely. I had hoped to be able to lay upon the table to-day a document which I have received from the General Officer Commanding, who, to some extent, protests against the drastic retrenchment proposed, mainly in regard to the permanent artillery, which he believes will be reduced in efficiency. I shall lay this document upon the table of the House at the earliest possible moment, and tomorrow I shall probably present the proposals of the General Officer Commanding. So far as I can gather, these are confined to the permanent forces, but there are some points of which it is just as well that honorable members should be informed.
– I would ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he heard the speech recently delivered by the honorable und learned member for Indi, advocating Albury as a site for the federal capital. Further, whether he is aware that that site adjoins the constituency represented by the honorable and learned member. I also desire to know whether the honorable and learned member for Indi joined in either of -the visits of inspection made by members of the Federal Parliament to the proposed sites in order to obtain the information necessary to enable him to judge as to their relative merits?
– I heard the speech of the honorable and learned member for Indi, and I am also aware that Albury adjoins the electorate represented by him. As to the third question, I cannot speak positively ; but I believe that the honorable and learned member did not visit the various suggested sites.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the experts who are to report upon the proposed sites for the federal capital have yet been appointed, and whether honorable members will be informed as to the personnel of the committee before the close of the session?
– I hope that the honorable member will be reasonable. The appointments have not been considered hy myself or by the Government, and it will be quite impossible to submit the names of the experts before the prorogation takes place. I. do not think- the appointments will be made for at least a week. I think I have plenty of work to do without being rushed into dealing with matters which will require some little consideration, especially in view of the amendment made by the Senate in the motion for the appointment of the committee.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister - 1. Whether any stel* have been taken to place the charwomen and cleaners in the Melbourne General Postoffices on the permanent staff? 2. Whether he knows that officers similarly employed in other States are on the permanent staff? 3. Whether there is any likelihood of the charwomen and cleaners at the Melbourne General Post-office being placed upon the same footing ? 4. Whether the whole question will be referred to the Public Service Commissioner, with instructions that the positions of all persons similarly engaged are to be made uniform ?
– I am unable, from my own knowledge, to supply the information desired, but I shall make inquiries.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the petitions which have been presented to-day, and other representations which have been made by the various States interested, in reference to the question of diverting water from the River Murray, the Government will consider the advisability of taking steps at an early date to enter some form of protest against the action of the Victorian Government?
– Certainly not,without hearing the other side.
– The petitions presented to-day relate to diversions of water from the River Murray, and it is not clear from their wording, so far as I can judge, that they refer to diversions of water from the tributaries of that river. Diversions from the Murray are disclaimed by the Victorian Government, whose advertised proposals are restricted to storing water from the Goulburn River. So far as I am informed, diversions of water from the tributaries on both sides of the Murray have been, and are still, taking place. It will be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to take care that the rights which it possesses under the Constitution in the matter of navigation are conserved ; and I have already promised the House that at the earliest possible moment after I am relieved of the double duties I am performing, I shall consider that question ; and if any effective protest can, and ought, to be made in the interests of the Commonwealth, it will be made. As the honorable member knows, however, this is probably the most complex - I might almost say the most obscure - part of the whole Constitution ; and it will be extremely difficult to determine - first, what are our rights and powers and next, the most tactful and effective way of asserting them?
– I should like to know from the Acting Minister for Defence whether the members of the Victorian naval forces who served in China, and who retired from the service in March last, will share in the compensation allowances which are being made to the men who are being dispensed with ?
– If any of the men referred to are members of the Victorian permanent naval force, and are retiring in connexion with the reductions now being made, they will share in the compensation.
– In the event of the commission on the River Murray recommending that joint action be taken by the States of New South Wales, South Australia, and
Victoria, together with the Federal Government, to utilize the river for the benefit of all concerned, will the Government at once join in such action, so that the necessary preliminary inquiries may be made, and plans prepared for a scheme for submission to Parliament when the next session opens? By way of explanation, I may say that the condition of affairs in the northern parts of Victoria and in Riverina is such as to demand the early settlement of this question, because otherwise the country will become depopulated.
– And so will the Lower Murray.
– If the settlers are able to properly utilize the waters of the Murray, they will be largely assisted in tiding over their difficulties.
– If the Murray River Commission report during the recess, and the Governments of the States represented concur, the Federal Government will most cordially assist and co-operate in every possible way in taking any practical action that may relieve the necessities of the case.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Echuca, I desire to ask whether the reply of the ActingPrime Minister is intended to convey that any expenditure will be incurred by the Commonwealth in connexion with a commission upon which it has no representation ?
– The reply which I gave to the question which was put to me was, that if the three States concerned indorsed the recommendations of the commission, and any assistance on our part was necessary it would be obtained. In answering that question, I did not contemplate that the Commonwealth could be called upon to bear any expenditure, but if it were, there would be no need to hesitate in incurring it, because such expenditure would be borne by the three States concerned, and would not be a levy upon the rest of the Commonwealth.
-I desire to know from theActing Prime Minister whether he will see that in the event of vacancies occurring in the federal service, officers in all the States shall have equal opportunities of applying for the positions? I understand that in the past officers in some of the States have, owing to want of sufficient notice, been placed at a disadvantage as compared with those in Victoria. I do not in the least blame Ministers, but I believe, nevertheless, that what I have stated is the fact.
– So far as I know, what the honorable member has stated is not the fact. Very few appointments have been made recently, and in the majority of cases officers from States other than Victoria have been appointed. In my own department there are only two adult positions, and neither of them is occupied by a Victorian.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to the following paragraph, which appeared in the Evening News, Sydney, of yesterday : -
It is rumoured in Sydney that the Federal Government may yet reconsider the question of the duties on grain and fodder. It is asserted that, should present very unfavorable crop prospects be borne out by harvest results, the duties may be temporarily removed in 1903. Possibly the Federal Minister of Customs may make a decisive statement shortly concerning the Ministry’s intentions in this matter, for the rumour interferes greatly with trade, and Melbourne grain merchants are agreed that, whether the duties are to be retained, abolished, or suspended, there should be an official announcement one way or the other as long as possible before the new season opens.
I should like to know whether the Government have any intention of suspending these duties?
– My honorable colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs has made no such recommendation to the Government, and I understand that he has no intention of doing so. Consequently, there is no foundation for the rumour.
– As it is evident that private members will have no opportunity of obtaining a decision upon various motions which appear upon the business paper, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government have considered the proposal that both Houses of this Parliament should be elected upon the same day, and, if so, whether he is prepared to make a statement as to the Government policy in that connexion ?
– In reply to the honorable member, I desire to say that the
Government have not yet considered the question to which he has referred.
– The motion has been upon the business paper for the past twelve months.
– It is true that the honorable member brought the matter forward during a recent debate, and the Government propose to consider it so soon as the Cabinet is complete. There will be ample time next session for this House to determine what course it will follow after it has been informed of the proposals of the Government.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government intend, during the recess, to frame uniform regulations providing for the insertion of a minimum wage clause in all Commonwealth contracts, and whether they will give the preference to Australian manufacturers ? In this connexion, I may add that a preference was recently given to German manufacturers as against Australian.
– I will make inquiry into the matter, but I understand thatprovision of the character referred to has already been made.
– Not in all contracts.
– I shall be happy to inquire into the circumstances under which the practice referred to has not been followed.
– In the Legislative Council of South Australia last week the following resolution was carried -
That in the opinion of this Council it is desirable (1) that foreign ships engaged in the coasting trade of Australia should be subject in all respects to the same laws, rules, and regulations to which British or Australasian ships so engaged are subject; and to that end (2) that the Federal Government should introduce into the Commonwealth Parliament a Bill to amend the Customs Act No. 6, of 1901, by including clauses similar to the 140th and141st sections of the Imperial Customs Acts 39 and 40 Vic, chapter 30, or to make such other provision as it may think necessary.
That resolution was supplemented by another,directing that the first should be transmitted to the Acting Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I wish to ask whether the Government have had time to arrive at any decision in regard to that resolution ?
– I think that the Government received copies of the resolutions in question the day before yesterday, and they were immediately referred to the Minister for Trade and Customs, in whose department such matters are dealt with. I have not yet received a reply from my honorable colleague, but no doubt will do so within the next few days.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable and learned member for Indi, that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The question of a proposed tour of members of the Commonwealth Parliament round Australia.”
Fivehonorable membershaviing risen in their places,
– In submitting this motion, I may mention that I informed the Minister for Home Affairs of my intention to do so. He was present in the’ Chamber a moment ago, and I am very sorry that he absent just now. That, however, is no fault of mine. I entirely disclaim any justification for the observations which the honorable gentleman made in regard to the alleged dictatorial method adopted by me in putting the question which I asked him to-day. What I did was to inferentially call his attention to the evasive answer which he gave the other day to a question put by the honorable member for Echuca. He did not give a straightforward reply, and I cannot believe that there is any truth in the comments which have appeared in the united press, or that they are untruthfully representing his attitude in regard to this matter. It may be that there is some misunderstanding regarding the extent of the proposed tour of federal members. If that be so, it was the honorable gentleman’s duty to definitely state his intentions. When he proposes to embarkupon an enterprise that is wholly unprecedented, and, so far as I can judge, unjustifiable, if not unconstitutional, he ought to take the House and the country into his confidence.
– Is the honorable and learned member sure that the Minister intends to carry out the trip as represented by the press?
– I am not sure, but this House is entitled to receive a definite answer from him. In putting the question which I did, I was only performing my duty, as any honorable member who thought it right to take that course would have been doing. I had a right to expect a reply that could not be misunderstood either by Parliament or the country. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am wholly opposed to any proposal to take honorable members upon an excursion, and to pay for their board and lodging at the same time. Such a course is entirely unwarranted by any trust which has been reposed in us. We are not sent here to squander the people’s money in that way. We must not forget that we are here clothed with a high public trust, and if honorable members desire - as I should wish them to do - to visit other parts of the continent, travelling facilities are provided, and there would be no objection, I am sure, to offering members the same opportunities for travelling by boat that they now enjoy in respect of the railways. I believe there is no honorable member who asks for more. But when we are told in the public press time after time that there is to be - not champagne, but whisky and soda-
– That is only a press gag.
– It is an index of what is intended - it has not been repudiated - and it is our duty to say that such a proposal shall not be carried into effect, so far as we can prevent it. One or two parliamentary trips were made to the Federal capital sites in respect of which I may inform the honorable and learned member for Illawarra - who does not appear to be very familiar with what took place upon those excursions - that I was not present.
– The honorable and learned member was perfectly prepared to choose Albury as the site for the capital, notwithstanding that he has seen none of the other sites.
– The honorable and learned member is thoroughly aware that I have never said a word to that effect.
– I heard the honorable and learned member’s speech the other night.
– Then the honorable member misunderstood me. All I stated was that Albury should be included in the list of eligible sites to be examined by the experts. At that time I expressed regret that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Kennedy forced me to say so much, because I had been silent upon the subject previously. Upon this occasion I want to put myself right, not merely with the people of Victoria, but with the people of Australia, and I desire to give honorable members a similar opportunity of placing their views before the country. I am not going to be a party to any festivities at the expense of the country ; and the method that would be introduced by the novel mode of offering to honorable members an opportunity to spend the money of the taxpayer in junketing, without the consent of Parliament is, I think, one which will be repudiated by every honest thinking man in the community. I cannot understand why the Minister for Home Affairs does not declare in a straightforward manner that he’ intends nothing of the kind. He merely says that he is “ going to offer facilities “ to honorable members to visit the remote portions of the Commonwealth. What does that mean 1 If anything of that kind were attempted, strong and loyal as I have been to the Government, I could support them no longer. I do not believe that the Acting Prime Minister, or any member of the Government, has any such scheme in- his mind. I cannot conceive that the Government have been taken into the confidence of the Minister for Home Affairs, and that they have discussed this matter. If they have not, it was the plain duty of the Minister to openly declare that the proposed tour was not to take place. I feel that I have entered a strong protest. I have made my feelings in regard to this matter perfectly clear, and I wish it to be thoroughly understood that I shall be no party, either now or hereafter, to sanctioning or indorsing any such action as appears to be contemplated by the Minister for Home Affairs.
– The position of this matter, so far as it has taken actual shape, is a very simple one. No later than yesterday there was a Cabinet meeting, at which I took the opportunity of asking the Minister for Home Affairs, in view of the statements that had appeared in the public press, whether he was prepared to make any proposals in regard to the suggested visit of the members of this Parliament to various Australian ports. He replied that he was not in that position, that at the present time the idea had only assumed the vaguest form ; it had been suggested to him that such a visit was very desirable, and that he himself concurred to the extent of believing that the better acquaintance of honorable members with the actual physical conditions of the more remote parts of the Commonwealth was highly desirable in view of the more efficient discharge of their parliamentary duties; but that beyond receiving suggestions and making inquiries he had done nothing, and that he had not arrived at any final opinion whether any or what expenditure upon the projected trip should take place. Consequently, the whole discussion of such a tour is premature and unsubstantial. What he stated yesterday was what he has repeated in this House, namely, that, whether with or .without justification, there has been a complaint that the extreme northern part of the State of Queensland and the western State of Western Australia are as yet unknown to the bulk of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and that beyond the representatives of those States, there were none in this Legislature who, when local ^questions were under consideration, were able to speak frsm a knowledge of local conditions.
– On some national question, such as that of the railways, local members might, perhaps, be prejudiced.
– That is possible, and one of the best methods of correcting such prejudice is to secure the possession of some knowledge on the part of other members of the actual facts.
– A visit to the different ports would not enlighten honorable members as to conditions in the interior.
– Such a visit alone would not enlighten honorable members. It might enlighten them on some points in connexion with interests which have been mentioned here, such as the pearl-shelling industry and the intercolonial shipping trade. But in regard to the railway projects referred to by the honorable member for Bland, there would be no enlightenment unless some incursions inland were made. The Minister foi’ Home Affairs said that while his own desire was, as far as possible, to remove the complaints which had been made, not only had he not himself arrived at any definite conclusion, but all that had been furnished to him by different members were general suggestions as to the possibility of arranging a visit to those two States.
Whereupon there had been added some more ambitious project of connecting the visit with a circumnavigation of the continent ; though I fail to see where any reason could be found for such a prolonged and probably expensive journey.
– According to the press, the Minister for Home Affairs has mapped out the whole route.
– Will honorable members go across the continent on bicycles or camels ?
– There are honorable members who have covered a good portion of the continent on the bicycle. The Minister for Home Affairs was not prepared to lay before the Cabinet, even in the most general outline,any project whatever, because, as he stated at the outset, the first question he had to determine was the extent to which a proposal of the kind would be taken advantage of. Unless the Minister for Home Affairs knew that a considerable body of legislators were prepared to go, any such’ undertaking would be utterly unnecessary.
– Would the Government approve of anything approaching a picnic?
– Certainly not. I do not think that any idea of what is popularly known as a picnic, or anything which could be brought under such a title, was ever in the mind of the Minister for Home Affairs. Certainly such an idea was not in the mind of any other member of the Government. Although as yet we have had no opportunity of considering any proposition, I intimated individually to the Minister for Home Affairs that, in view of the action which is likelyto be taken both in Western Australia and in Queensland, every encouragement and facility should be afforded to honorable members to make themselves acquainted with the circumstances of those States. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, accompanied by a late member of the Victorian Legislature, visited Queensland prior to the recent legislation in regard to that State, and, according to their own testimony, their visit, short as it was, revolutionized many conceptions they had previously held.
– But we went at our own expense, and it cost us£35.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi, whose comments to-day cannot be objected to from any standpoint, has himself pointed out that it will be necessary to make some provision for honorable members who desire to travel by sea where there are no railways.
– But necessary coach journeys have not been taken into account.
– It would certainlybe proper to provide the necessary facilities for sea and coach travelling in order to enable honorable members who can spare the time, or who will sacrifice their business or leisure, to make better acquaintance with the more distant States. It certainly will be the duty of the Commonwealth and of the Government to take care that every such facility is afforded. But so far from there being any intention on the part of those who have suggested these journeys to take advantage of the Government or the Commonwealth, the honorable Minister for Home Affairs told us that one honorable member, to whom he was indebted for the suggestion, had offered - and he believed the offer would hold good on behalf of others - to defray his own expenses. All that this particular member sought were means of transit to enable him to visit the different parts of the Commonwealth.
– Are all the observations of the Minister for Home Affairs about whiskey and soda purely imaginary ?
– The Minister for Home Affairs, in what is a thoroughly Australian fashion to-day, indicated that he was prepared to look after that part of the entertainment himself if necessary. This House is alleged to be, and I believe it is, a house in which the consumption of stimulants is as small as, if not smaller, than in any Parliament in Australia, if there are some who have not yet weaned themselves from such tastes, the Minister for Home Affairs, or whoever is with the party, will be easily able to provide all that will be required.
– We must be a poor lot from the Customs point of view.
– The whole point is that the criticisms of the honorable and learned member for Indi are directed against a project, which, according to the press, the Minister for Home Affairs has favorably considered, but upon which he has formed no. definite opinion; it remains a project If it be the desire on the part of any considerable number of honorable members to visit the northern parts of Queensland and
Western Australia beyond the railways, it is a question whether it might not be more economical to utilize some State vessel instead of discharging the individual fares of honorable members travelling either singly or in parties to the same destination. That is purely a matter of consideration from the stand-point of economy and of the end to be gained.
– I hope the visit will not take place.
– Beyond this the Minister for Home Affairs has never gone.
– Satisfy Parliament and the country once and for all that it is not intended, without the sanction of Parliament, to spend public money on a trip such as that suggested.
– Such a trip as suggested and painted by the press, certainly not. But in such a visit as my honorable colleague has indicated, paid in the performance of the duties of honorable members, those who desire to take part are entitled to every encouragement and assistance. It will be paid at the sacrifice of honorable members’ own time, on which they must travel long distances. Many are probably extremely indifferent sailors.
– We do not want a Governmentconducted tour at the public expense.
– There can be no possibility of a tour traversing the whole continent, and involving ineffective visits to a few ports. If the vote placed at the disposal of the Minister for Home Affairs for defraying the ordinary travelling of honorable members to and from the sittings of Parliament, has been expended already perhaps nine-tenths, and the other tenth can be applied to encouraging visits to the remoter portions of the Commonwealth, there is a great deal to be said for that course. I am sure that none of us would be willing to offer any discouragement to a visit of the kind. But the difficulty is that a mere suggestion, put before the Minister for Home Affairs by two or three honorable members, was discussed, and magnified out of all proportion in the press, and was presented - to take a very considerate view - with extreme misconception as to its nature. There can be no discussion on anything so impalpable.
– Will the Minister give an assurance that the expenditure will not exceed the proportion of one-tenth which he has named?
– I feel quite sure that the expenditure authorized will not exceed the amount of the vote which was placed at the disposal of the Minister for Home Affairs, and of which eight-tenths or nine- tenths have already been spent.
– I hope that no amount of money will be applied to this purpose.
– What the honorable and learned member for Indi protested against were feasting and other indulgences. What he indorsed was the provision that will be made, either by sea or land, to enable honorable members to obtain transit to all parts of the Commonwealth with which they might desire to make acquaintance.
– What I mean is that honorable members who come from distant States ought to be put into the same position with regard to shipping facilities as other members are in regard to railway travelling.
– They are placed in the same position and always will be; that follows of necessity. Such honorable members are bound to come to this place of legislation, but it is also suggested that honorable members here should be able to go to the more remote partswhere travelling is no luxury under any circumstances, and the best involves considerable hardship.
– If we once begin, where will it end? Every Parliament will have to be conveyed.
– Every Parliament may have to be conveyed, but not at a total cost more than the vote authorized. Metropolitan members of the States Parliaments have always received all-line passes throughout their respective States. These passes were issued with the avowed purpose of enabling them to visit country districts, and obtain information as to their circumstances.
– Would it not be wise to get the opinion of Parliament before spending any money ?
-Certainly, if Parliament were sitting as it is now sitting. I can assure honorable members that there is no project that can be put before this House in black and white, or that has ever been entertained, even by the Minister for HomeAffairs, who alone has considered the suggestion. Consequently nothing can be submitted to Parliament, or it would be submitted. The Minister for Home Affairs would be here himself to reply to the remarks which have been made, but, at my request, as the representative of the Government, he is attending “a meeting, which he left simply in order to answer questions. This visit is not proposed to be a picnic or excursion, as is proved by the fact that the object is to visit parts of the continent which, however attractive, are the least comfortable for travelling, all in the extreme north and west, at a season of the year when the heat is greatest. What I feel about the matter is, that a proposal of this sort would fail - even if it were a picnic of feasting and festivity - because it will not be possible to tempt a third or a fourth or a fifth of Parliament to take part. The difficulty will be, not to avoid spending a large sum in entertaining, but rather to induce, honorable members to go. For my own part, I must say that I shall feel it my duty during the recess, if it is possible, in view of the faithful discharge of my official duties, to visit the more remote parts of the Commonwealth. I certainly do not propose to go in picnic fashion, but as I have always travelled in Victoria and elsewhere. I would point out that the Commonwealth is not going beyond what is done in every State of Australia. The State members in Western Australia have travelling facilities over that vast portion of the continent, as have also the Queensland members in their own State. So far as I know, all that is contended by honorable members who made the suggestion to the Minister for Home Affairs, is that similar facilities should be extended throughout the Commonwealth, having regard to the fact that, from a federal point of view, Australia is one State. It was only because my honorable colleague has interpreted some of the comments as implying a desire- which I do not think is well founded - on the part of the press to restrain honorable members from becoming acquainted with other parts of the Commonwealth, and to confine their knowledge to the one or two capitals where they happen to be, that he .has resisted and resented their criticism. I am perfectly sure that if the Minister for Home Affairs misunderstood the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Indi, it was because he took them as directed from the point of view which I have indicated, as showing a desire on the part of the people in the metropolis to retain to themselves the advantage of the knowledge possessed by Parliament of their own wants, wishes, and views. Unless honorable members are enabled to visit the remote parts of the Commonwealth, they cannot legislate as Australians.
– It is unfortunate that the Minister for Home Affairs, when questioned upon this subject on two or three occasions, has not contradicted the impression -which prevails in each of the States as to what the proposed trip means.
– There is. no proposed trip.
– The Minister for Home Affairs was asked if facilities would be granted to members to visit W7estern Australia so that they might make themselves acquainted with the requirements of that State. From that inquiry a continental tour has been developed. The Minister has never yet contradicted that statement. To-day, indeed, he has added to the itinerary. We are to be asked now to visit not only Western Australia, the extreme northern portions of the continent, and Queensland, but to go also to New Guinea. It has appeared in the press two or three times without contradiction that the Minister has said that he intends to charter a steamer for this purpose, and that members’ wives are to be taken also.
– The Minister expressly contradicted that statement to-day.
– Has he contradicted the statement that he would provide food for honorable members while away ?
– Where has the statement appeared ?
– It has appeared on several occasions in both the Melbourne newspapers, and has been telegraphed to the newspapers in the other States. I look upon the action of the Minister as very discourteous. He did not deny, in reply to my interjection this afternoon, that he intends to go to New Guinea.
– Why should we not visit New Guinea?
– If it is intended that New Guinea shall be visited, we should be informed. My complaint is that we are given no definite information. This House has a right to know whether the statements in the press are correct, and, if so, what amount of money is proposed to be spent on the contemplated tour. Notwithstanding my desire for economy, I do not object to facilities being given to honorable members to visit Western Australia and Queensland, by giving them boat and coach fares in addition to their railway passes, but I do not think that food and lodging should also be provided.
– It seems to me that some of the Victorian representatives are so inoculated with the disease of so-called economy that they are willing to sacrifice anything to curry favour with those who urge it, whatever the detriment to the Commonwealth as a whole. We shall probably have before us next session proposals for a transcontinental railway, if not across South Australia to Port Darwin, at least across Western Australia, and I confess that, for one, I am not now in a position to give an intelligent vote upon such a question. It is extremely difficult to arrive at a correct conclusion in regard to the quality of soil, the probability of development of traffic, and other matters, merely by reading, and if I had the time to go to Western Australia I would gladly avail myself of the opportunity to do so at the expense of the country.
– The honorable member would not travel overland along the route of the proposed railway ?
– I would go as far as I could, but I understand that it would be very difficult for a party to travel over the whole route. I agree with the Acting Prime Minister that the trouble will be to get members to join a travelling party. I am afraid that I shall be unable to go. In regard to the administration of New Guinea, we have to face probably the most important problem awaiting the solution of the Commonwealth for many years to come. There are hundreds of thousands of coloured people in -that possession, whose whole destiny is practically in our hands. We have, rightly or wrongly, accepted the trust, and we should regard it as sacred. I had an opportunity the other day to speak to a missionary from New Guinea, who appeared to be a very broad-minded man, and he told me that it would be impossible for any person who had not visited it to have any proper conception of the difficulties of governing that country in the interests of its own people and of the Commonwealth. Under these circumstances, I. welcome the proposal to afford facilities to honorable members to visit New Guinea, and to stay a few days there.
– One would have to live in New Guinea to’ learn anything about the place.
– I do not think so. Impressions conveyed to the brain through the eye are more lasting than those obtained by reading, or in any other fashion, and, moreover, one is in a better position to read to advantage after he has seen a place than before visiting it. A week or two might very well be spent in the coastal districts of New Guinea. Honorable members going there would ask questions which would otherwise not occur to them, and would get information which they could not obtain in any other way, and their impressions would be very valuable to the House when we came afterwards1 to deal with legislation affecting the Possession. I am afraid that I shall not be able to go to New Guinea, but I would, if possible, gladly avail myself of the opportunity to do so. I do not think that the people of the Commonwealth will raise any objection to the proposed visit, and I think it would be false economy for them to do so.
– It is unfortunate that reference has been made in this connexion to the action of the representatives of one particular State.
– All the opposition to the trip comes from the representatives of one particular State.
– The honorable member for Bland has thought it necessary to read a lecture to the representatives of Victoria, and some reason for his attitude was given by the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that his colleague was under the impression that there is a desire on the part of the press or politicians of Victoria - I do not know which he meant - to limit the knowledge of honorable members to the requirements of one or two particular cities.
– I referred, to the press.
– I do not think any honorable member believes that that is so. It is very well to indulge in these cheap statements when speaking to the gallery, but honorable members know that they are, not true.
– It is the other side who are speaking to the gallery.
– The honorable member for Bland arid other honorable members are quite at liberty to visit New Guinea, but they should do so at their own expense.
If I feel that I am not competent to vote intelligently upon any question likely to come before the House, I make it my duty to investigate the matter at my own expense.
– All of us have not the means to do that.
– It is not a question of means, but of will.
– Can the honorable member will himself a sum of money ?
– It is our duty to do what is right in the interests of the people, irrespective of means. It does not, indeed, require much expenditure to take a trip to any of the neighbouring States. I regret that the Government have coquetted so long with this matter. I think that they should assure the House that there is no intention to undertake the suggested trip at the expense of the public. I do not think there is any disinclination on the part of honorable members to educate themselves in regard to the requirements of the Commonwealth generally, but the example of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who is not a millionaire, is one which might honorably be followed. Honorable members should pay their own expenses instead of travelling at the expense of the taxpayers.
– I think that I was the first to refer to this matter in this Chamber. Some weeks ago I asked the Government if facilities would be given to honorable members to visit the various States during the recess. I was particularly impressed with the necessity for such visits by my conversations with many of those whom I met during a recent trip to Western Australia. I found that they knew nothing of the federal members, and I know that the majority of honorable members are absolutely ignorant of the conditions obtaining in Western Australia. Next session we shall be called upon to consider the proposed construction of the transcontinental railway, which will cost millions of pounds. The facilities I asked for, namely, steamer fares between Adelaide andFremantle for all members desirous of visiting the western state during the recess, even if all the members of this House went west, which was not likely, would not cost more than a few hundred pounds, and surely that amount would be profitably expended in the investigation of a proposal which will cost millions. We have already spent some thousands of pounds in theendeavour to select a suitable site for the federal capital, and the construction of a transcontinental railway is quite as important a matter.From the way in which many honorable members have spoken in this chamber and out of it, they seem to consider that Western Australia is a huge sand patch, and that it would be a great mistake to construct a line of railway to that State. I ask such honorable members to visit Western Australia, and to see for themselves what has been done by the energy and enterprise of its people. They will be able to judge as to the huge timber, mining, agricultural, and pastoral resources of the country, and they will be impressed with the necessity of uniting the eastern and western portions of the Commonwealth by railway. If the railway had been constructed honorable members would have been enabled to travel to and fro under conditions similar to those prevailing in other States, and surely in the absence of railway communication some facilities should be provided. I think that the objections raised by certain representatives of Victoria are in very bad taste. We have been required to remain in that State for eighteen months, and we have naturally been affected tosome extent by our environment, and have gained a considerable knowledge of local resources and necessities. The representatives of Victoria should return us the compliment of enabling us to demonstrate the extent and value of our resources. I am very glad that the Government have taken a liberal view of this question, and I think the newspapers have exaggerated a very simple proposal to an extraordinary extent. No extravagant expenditure needbe incurred, and it will only be in accordance with the spirit of fair play if equal facilities are extended to honorable members to visit all portions of the Commonwealth.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I hope that the honorable and learned member for Indi will define his position as clearly as he expects the Minister for Home Affairs to place his attitude before honorable members.
– I thought I had done that very well.
– So faras I understand the honorable and learned member, he holds that Members of Parliament should have facilities for travelling to and from the seat of Government when they are engaged on parliamentary business only, and that if they desire to obtain information by visiting different parts of the Commonwealth they, should do so at their own expense. That entirely negatives the idea put forward by the Minister for Home Affairs. I understood from the Minister that a great many complaints had been received from various parts of the Commonwealth to the effect that honorable members were called upon to legislate upon subjects regarding which they had very little or no knowledge, and that therefore it was desirable that they should visit the more distant parts of the Commonwealth, and acquire information, so that the people generally might feel more confidence in the justice of their conclusions. Then the question arose whether it would be cheaper for honorable members to make these visits singly or as members of one large party. In the meantime an intimation was received that the Western Australian Government desired ‘ that a large number of members should visit that State in a body, and that in such an event the State Government would be only too pleased to show them all they could of the vast resources of that part of the Commonwealth. It seemed to me that the Minister’s suggestion was an admirable one. I shall not be able to take advantage of it, but I am sure that much benefit will be derived by those who are able to avail themselves of the facilities offered. If such a visit had been made prior to the consideration of the Tariff, I am- sure that many of the items would have been considerably modified. When we were dealing with Queensland timbers, for instance, honorable members said that they had no guarantee that Queensland possessed sufficient resources to justify them in imposing a protective duty, but if they had visited that State they would have been able to judge for themselves as to the vast quantity of timber available for commercial purposes. In many other items in which Queensland was interested, honorable members admitted that they had not the detailed knowledge necessary to enable them to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. The people of Queensland will be only too glad if provision is made for honorable members to visit that State. The very erroneous idea prevails in many quarters that the Federal Parliament is something external, and apart from the people. This idea is being developed in some of the States, and the public are altogether losing sight of the fact that this Parliament is the creature of the people themselves. lc is desirable that this idea should be discouraged in every possible way, and in order that the federal spirit may be extended and firmly established, it is advisable that honorable members should make themselves fully acquainted with the conditions in which the people live in all parts of the Commonwealth.
– Do the Queensland Government ever plan excursions for Members of Parliament over their vast territory ?
– Yes, they have frequently done so. Moreover, whenever any visitors desire to obtain information regarding the resources of the State, or the conditions of life within it, they afford every assistance in their power. They offer facilities for members representing the southern parts of the State to acquire a knowledge of the northern districts, and at one time they allowed Members of Parliament to make a trip once a year to the northern districts with this object in view. This is really all that is suggested by the Minister. It has never been proposed that any big junketing trip should be entered upon, or that >ve should enter upon a large picnic of .any description. Wo know that the visits of inspection to the proposed sites for the federal capital were characterized as picnics, but I venture to say that no inspection was ever more economically managed than that in which honorable members of this House took part. The information I gathered during that visit to New South Wales afforded me knowledge which I could not -have acquired otherwise. We may read articles and reports, and see photographs, but we can obtain no such information as can be gained by a personal inspection, and by personal contact with those who are engaged in industrial occupations). We have not heard the last of the coloured-labour problem in Queensland. That is bound to be a recurring question for some time to come, and we shall probably have to face further agitations in reference to it. The representatives of that State have their own opinions, but we do not wish it to be supposed that the representatives of other States blindly follow us. Every man in this House owes it to his conscience to decide according to the best evidence he can obtain, and we desire that honorable members should study all these matters at first hand for themselves. I am not advocating a junketing trip, but I hope that the Minister will adhere to his idea, and afford reasonable opportunities to honorable members for visiting Queensland and other distant States. We are thankful to the Victorian representatives for what they have done to extend our information regarding the resources and industries of that State. They have organized trips, and they have given us opportunities of inspecting their factories, and I can honestly say that the inspections I have made have been revelations to me. I believe that the same thing will happen to honorable members who make visits to the other States. We have a magnificent continent, and we should make ourselves acquainted with it as closely as possible. Honorable members have had their attention’ very largely confined to their own States, and we now ask them to avail themselves of every opportunity to gain a more extended knowledge. There is no desire on the part of the Government to incur lavish expenditure. They simply wish to do what is fair and reasonable, in order that honorable members may be in a position to do justice to all parts of the Commonwealth. There is a strong feeling amongst the people of Queensland that that State should be visited by honorable members, either singly or in a body, and they will be only too glad to extend every courtesy and consideration to those who may be able to partake of their hospitality AVe ask honorable members to come and see us, and to give us a verdict according to their consciences.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi was anxious to assure us of his high and disinterested motives in dealing with this matter. He was also at some pains to indicate that he considered it his duty to make his position perfectly clear, not only to his own constituents, but to the people of Australia. I am perfectly prepared, even in this matter, to give the honorable and learned member credit for the best possible motives, but I can assure him that there are many people in Australia who would not have lost a night’s sleep if he had refrained from making his explanation. The honorable member for Gippsland has to some extent improved upon the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Indi, inasmuch as he declares that honorable members ought to be prepared to travel about the Commonwealth on the business of 47 g 2 the people at their own expense. I presume that the honorable member is an employer of labour, and I would ask him whether, in the event of a proved servant intimating to him that he considered it necessary to visit a certain property belonging to” his master, the honorable member would turn round and say, “ Yes, you may go and look at the property, but you must pay your own expenses”? Surely if it is right in private matters to pay the expenses of those who are engaged in the interests of their employers, is it not just as reasonable to pay the expenses of Members of Parliament when they are engaged on public business ?
– If you employ a man to do certain work, you expect him to acquire the knowledge necessary to the performance of his task before you pay him ?
– In such a case as I have stated the honorable member would no doubt take the opinion of one who was qualified to say that his attention was required in a particular place, and would not call upon him to pay his own expenses. There are some people who believe that the business of the Commonwealth could best be done by gentlemen of culture, and leisure, and wealth, who are prepared to do all the political work required of them without pay. I quite understand that a few people who hold this view have continued to exist even in Australia. But I hold the opinion, which has been borne out by the knowledge I have gained since I have been a member of this Parliament, that the democracy of Australia are prepared to pay for the work done on their behalf. The only difficulty now presenting itself arises from the fact that those who sometimes cry out for economy are prepared to cut down expenditure in matters which do not affect them. The payment of the travelling expenses of members of this Parliament is opposed by some gentlemen who are in possession of life passes which enable them to travel free over the whole of the railways of Australia. Before these honorable members stand up and demand economy, they should first be prepared to put aside the privileges they enjoy.
– No one has a life pass over all the railways of Australia.
– Yes,, they have.
– I should like to remind honorable members that several matters of considerable importance to the people of Australia urgently require their personal attention. A striking illustration of the advantage of personal inspection was afforded in the case of the visit to the proposed sites of the federal capital, and I think that every one who has visited those sites will agree that it is absolutely necessary that a personal inspection of every one of them should be made by honorable members before any conclusion is arrived at. I understand that the Government are making arrangements to allow the honorable member for Gippsland to visit a few of these sites at the public expense, and if it is necessary for the honorable member to do that, surely it is desirable that he should make a personal inspection in order to inform himself with regard to matters of even greater importance. Take the case, for instance, of the aliens upon the north-west coast of Australia. I have traversed many miles of the interior, but I have not visited any of those ports which are infested by undesirable aliens. Just prior to my arrival in Melbourne, a friend of mine, whose business compels him to travel along that coast, assured me that ifI only paid a visit to some of the places to which he referred, Ishould have no hesitation whatever in endeavouring to forever clear the Australian ports from the scum of southern Asia. Then, regarding the employment of kanakas in Queensland, I hold that if honorable members could visit the northern portions of that State and see for themsel ves - as the honorable member for Herbert has assured me they could do - that white men are actually working in localities where a little time ago we were informed that they could not labour, that circumstance in itself would be of sufficient importance to justify the visit. Of course, I am well aware that in the past the practice of Victorian politicians has been to take their views from certain newspapers. I am not prepared to degrade my position to that extent. I believe that it is my duty to rise as far as I possibly can from the position of an amateur politician - of which some newspapers seem to approve - to that of an expert in politics. I can do so only by exercising my judgment independently of any external influence, and by seeing for myself the localities interested in the legislation which we have enacted, or are about to enact. I trust that this Parliament will never allow the proposition to be indorsed that all honorable members are required to do is to meet here and follow the suggestions of newspapers, who would fain dictate to the Commonwealth as they have done in certain States in the past.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has described the proposal of ‘the Minister for Home Affairs as an admirable one. To my mind all the trouble which has arisen in connexion with this matter is due to the fact that honorable members did not know the exact nature of the Minister’s suggestion.. The Acting Prime Minister has assured us that even the Cabinet were unable to extract from him any details connected with the proposed undertaking. If that is the position, is it to be wondered at that the impression should be created abroad that the Minister would like to get into the safe haven of recess with a free hand? The proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, like a grain of mustard seed, seems to have grown in the honorable the Minister’s mind to very large dimensions. I trust, however, that any apprehension on the part of honorable members regarding the suggested trip will be allayed by the speech of the Acting Prime Minister, who, so far as I was able to follow him, has not given his adherence . to anything beyond what can be accomplished upon the ordinary railway passes of honorable members. Those passes will carry honorable members through most parts of Queensland, and - with the exception of the Great Australian Bight - to Western Australia.
– They will not carry honorable members to Northern Queensland by many hundreds of miles.
– The additional cost involved in reaching the northern portion of Queensland would not represent a very large sum. What seems to arouse irritation in the public mind-
– In the mind of the press.
– No. I think it has aroused irritation in themind of the public generally.
Mr.Fowler. - Say the public of Victoria.
– It is not fair to put the matter in that way. I think that the representatives of Victoria are just as honest in their endeavours to do well for the Commonwealth as are the representatives of other States. But the idea seems to have got abroad that a parliamentary trip is contemplated from
Sydney to Fremantle, and thence round the coast to Thursday Island. I am perfectly convinced that any such trip would possess no. educational value whatever. I have examined the maps supplied to honorable members, and noted the soundings at Thursday Island and Broome, and I am quite sure that from those maps we can gain a much more intelligent idea of the places mentioned than could be derived from the projected excursion. Of course, honorable members might penetrate the interior of Western Australia, but I do not see how they could do so unless the Government supplied camels for the purpose. In the north-west portion of Western Australia I believe there is magnificent country, but it would be impossible for honorable members to see it unless they made a journey inland. The impression which ha’s Deen created in the public mind is mainly due to the want of candour on the part of the Minister for Home Affairs in replying to certain questions which have . been asked in this House. I occupy precisely a similar position to that taken up by the honorable and learned member for Indi. Until to-day I thought the Minister contemplated utilizing a gunboat or special steamer for the purpose of making a trip all round the Australian coast. So far as I have been able to follow the Acting Prime Minister, I do not find fault with his suggestion that the fares of honorable members to Western Australia should be paid by the Commonwealth. If that be all that is intended, I shall be perfectly satisfied ; but I should not like the Minister for Home Affairs to have a free hand in the organization of any trip which he chose to undertake during the recess.
– For me this discussion lacks the interest which it possesses for some honorable members, who are comparatively ignorant ‘ of the geography of Australia. Before I was out of my teens, I had mastered the information gained by every Australian explorer who had published a line.
– According to some honorable members, the more ignorant a man is, the more qualified he seems to be to legislate.
– The honorable member speaks very truly. I look upon this discussion more with amusement than any other feeling. Personally, I am charged with up-to-date information of
Australia from end to end, because I have read the publications of those who possess a knowledge of the localities that I have not visited. It seems to me that this grand Continent of Australia contains so many Saharas, that it is a pity it was. not altered by volcanic action, and converted into a great inland sea. Regarding the question of .junketing, picnicing, and feeding excursions, I should like to say that when I look round this chamber, I often wonder whether it is possible that the fine wellfleshed men whom I see have no food at home, and that they wish to go upon a Governmental guzzle the moment they get an opportunity of doing so.
– It is pitiable that we should have to disclaim any such idea.
– It is a disgrace to the modern civilization that is hanging about this city that there is always such a rush for refreshments. My experience is that I never have a fair, wholesome meal unless it is in my own house. I am surprised that so rauch has been said in regard to drinking champagne, &c. Why, 90 per cent, of the people dare not drink champagne, because it is absolute poison to them. Therefore, they say - “ Give a passage by steamer and a free railway pass to honorable members, but do not give them food - the sardines and potatoes, the cut of mutton and corned beef.” As a matter of fact, steam-boats are catered for at the rate of ls. 10id. per head per day, Notwithstanding this fact,’ the press exclaims - “Deprive honorable members of the ls. 10-^d. per day. Give them a free pass over the railways, and pay their fares by coach and steamer.” Would it be of advantage to honorable members to visit the remote parts of Australia? I think that it would. At the same time I do not believe that more than a very few could possibly spare the time involved in the undertaking, and I am absolutely certain that they could not be catered for in those remote places for ls. 10£d. per day. Why, it costs the traveller ls. 6d. to get his band-box carried into his bedroom. . Truly, honorable members are paid passing well at £400 a year, especially when one considers that they have spent £800 within the last eighteen months.
– That is not the case with the Victorian representatives.
– How much did the Queensland elections cost ?
– PATERSON. - I think that my election cost me about £2,000. Certainly it was nearer that sum than £1,500.
– How many votes were recorded in the honorable and learned member’s favour?
– PATERSON. - About 7,000. I have no desire to engage in the projected parliamentary trip. I am not surfeited with a knowledge of Australia, but I cannot spare either the time or the money that would be involved in such an undertaking. The majority of honorable members have sacrificed their income in attending to their legislative duties, and some have forfeited their health. Not a few have had doctors’ bills and hospital expenses to pay. Yet when we talk about a little trip to circumnavigate this great island desert, we are met with the cry - “ You can have your passages paid, but you must provide your own food.” There are honorable members in this Parliament who are imbued with a sincere desire to legislate for the Common- wealth upon the most solid and just grounds, but who are unable to put their hands into their pockets and provide the necessary funds for the proposed trip. It is impossible to travel round the Continent of Australia comfortably under a sum of £400 with free passes included. I sincerely hope that this debate will speedily terminate. I cannot understand why so much fault has been found with a desire on the part of honorable members to visit the different parts of the Commonwealth. I am so familiar with all of them, that to me the matter seems of no importance whatever. I cannot imagine such a surfeit of ignorance prevailing. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs tells me the people of Queensland would be only too glad to welcome honorable members to that State. I know that they would have been very pleased to receive visitors from this Parliament, prior to the legislation which we enacted regarding the employment of kanakas and the abolition of the tea duty. That reminds me that I think there must after all be something at the bottom of this matter. It has been whispered that the Government in their hearts desire to modify the kanaka legislation, and that this trip to Queensland is proposed for the purpose of enlightening honorable members with that end in view. That is very much like “locking the door after the steed is stolen,” but we are better late than never. I shall support the proposal for the trip to Queensland and Port Darwin, if only to aid honorable members who voted in the dark on the kanaka question to obtain some enlightment.
– In my opinion the Government in this matter are not free from blame. There has been too much talking. When I say that, I am not blaming the Acting Prime Minister, but simply venturing the remark that the Minister for Home Affairs has been more than a little indiscreet. As a result of what has been said by the Minister for Home Affairs, an idea has got abroad that arrangements areabout to be made for a huge picnic. Certainly such a notion prevails in South Australia, especially in the Parliament of that State. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was, I think, very reasonable, and I am sure it will be approved by honorable members. But anything in the way of a picnic must be condemned, and to such a project representatives of South Australia will be as strongly opposed as are the representatives of Victoria. I have been very much amused with certain statements which have been made. We have been told that the “picnic” was to be carried out by means of the South Australian warship, the Protector.
– She rolls.
– Not only does the Protector roll, but her capacity for passengers, in addition to crew, is extremely limited, so that if the use of this ship is contemplated, the “ picnic “ cannot be carried out on anything like a huge scale. I shall assist the Government in furnishing honorable members with facilities for seeing different parts of Australia, but, at the same time, I am sorry that the Acting Prime Minister has not been more precise in his statements. He should have informed the House that nothing in the way of a picnic is to take place.
– I did so.
– But there was a little uncertainty or vagueness as to what is contemplated.
– Because we do not know.
– Does the honorable member want to know how much butter, beef, or cheese will be consumed?
– In the interests of South Australia I want to know that nothing like thousands of pounds are to be spent.
– That is ridiculous ; there is no intention to spend any sums of the kind.
– Will the Minister give an assurance as to the limit of the amount which will be spent ?
– We do not yet know that the trip will take place.
– It is not certain that a single honorable member will go.
– I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that even if the project is seriously contemplated, the difficulty will be to get honorable members to go. I shall not be found to be one of them. I am in favour of reasonable facilities being afforded, but shall most strongly oppose anything in the way of extravagant expenditure.
– So far as I can gather, this matter seems to have originated in the press. There are a certain number of people in Victoria who seem to be so dominated by the press that they are afraid to open their mouths unless they are in accord with the doctrines of the newspapers of Collins-street. The writers of the various statements which have appeared in the daily newspapers must have known that they were ridiculous; if they did not, they are to be pitied, for the absurdity of the statements was patent. We have heard of people “playing to the gallery,” and I think some honorable members have been doing that very largely today. The honorable and learned member for Indi and the honorable member for Gippsland are entitled to, at the very least, two columns in both the Argus and the Age to-morrow morning, and if that space is not devoted to them, I shall be very disappointed. But the majority of honorable members are not under the influence of those newspapers, but are prepared to say exactly what they mean.
– That is a very cheap observation !
– It is a very true observation.
– I doubt whether the honorable member for Kennedy is as independent of the press as are the honorable and learned member for Indi and myself.
– Then it is a very extraordinary coincidence that certain honorable members should be always prepared to fall in with the ideas of the press. Victorian representatives can attend to their own private business, giving their brains second-hand to the business of the State ; but a large number of other honorable members who come from distant States are prepared to sacrifice personal interests, and, at great personal inconvenience, to devote what abilities they have to the service of the Commonwealth. It does not sound well for honorable members who are able to combine their private business with their parliamentary business to speak in the strain we have heard this afternoon of members who have to sacrifice everything to the State. Every opportunity should be given to honorable members to visit various portions of the Commonwealth so that they may know the country for which they are Legislating. With the exception of, perhaps, the honorable member for Brisbane, there is hardly an honorable member who has the slightest conception of Queensland generally. I do not know anything myself about Port Darwin or Western Australia ; but from my reading and information, the latter appears to be a wonderful country. We must remember that this Federal Parliament has merely commenced legislation, and the fullest possible information should be obtained by honorable members, if possible by personal visitation.
– The Commonwealth has been asked to take over Port Darwin, and yet some South Australian representatives do not wish honorable members to see that part of the continent.
– It is the duty of every honorable member, even at sacrifice to himself, to visit the places which have been mentioned. Personally, I hope to see Port Darwin and Western Australia at no distant date ; and it would be well if every other honorable member had the same desire. I have been over the greater portion of Australia from the Gulf down to Victoria, but my knowledge is yet very limited of the resources and wealth of even that portion of Australia. If that be so in’ my case, how limited must be the knowledge of honorable members who may never have been out of Victoria or New South Wales, as the case may be. Honorable members who cannot afford the time to pay a visit such as that suggested, should not be selfish, but should allow other people, who have the interests of the Common.wealth at heart, to have the advantage of personal knowledge. It seems that there is a desire on the part of some honorable members that no official visit shall be paid. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland that those who go this trip should pay their own expenses, but there are a large number of honorable members who are not in a position to do so. My experience is that the man with means, if he pays his own expenses, is generally on some particular business of his own, and is not particularly concerned with the interests of the State. Every facility should be given to honorable members who have the energy and the desire to visit the more distant parts of Australia.
Mr. WINTER COOKE (Wannon).Honorable members are greatly indebted to the honorable and learned member for Indi for having elicited a statement upon this question from the Acting Prime Minister; The House has been considerably in the dark as to the intentions of the Government, and even now we have not all the light we should like.
– Honorable members know as much as the Government do.
– It appears that the Cabinet have not made up their mind.
– We have not had a chance.
– But honorable members ought to have had a direct answer earlier, seeing that a trip has been mooted for some time, and that considerable criticism has resulted.
– After what the Prime Minister has said, the Cabinet will make up their minds, I have no doubt.
– If any good would result from members travelling about the country, I should not oppose the expenditure of public money in that direction. It must be admitted there are amongst us many who are not able to pay the expenses of travelling over the whole of Australia, and if any good were to be gained by visits for a specific purpose, then by all means the .Commonwealth ought to pay the expense. But it is now suggested that . honorable members should go to Western Australia, to a large extent at the public expense, in order to put themselves in a position to decide as to whether or not a railway shall be constructed from Coolgardie to Esperance. Does any honorable member honestly” think that a visit to Western Australia, commencing- at Fremantle arid extending to Kalgoorlie, will give any valuable information on the point as to whether this railway should be constructed.
– But surely some idea would be gained of the resources and development of the country 1
– All that information can be obtained from the official statistics. The particulars as to population, agriculture, and gold production are all accessible, and there is no necessity to pay a personal visit in order to obtain the information. Moreover, the evidence which honorable members would gather would not be sworn evidence, though of course they would be able by personal observation to see something of the railways, waterworks, and palatial buildings of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. The same observations apply to Port Darwin.
– Does the honorable member never visit his estate when an employe’ brings in a report 1
– In the matter to which I am referring, I should certainly not go merely on my own personal observation, but would call the best sworn evidence available. In Victoria, railways for a long time were made at the instigation of Members of Parliament. Then we appointed a Railways Standing Committee which took the sworn evidence of experts and other people in regard to proposals placed before Parliament, and though mischief is still occasional])’ done, the country has suffered much less under that system than it did formerly. In the same way. this House will have to be guided chiefly by reports and sworn evidence of experts in regard to proposals for great public works, such as the improvement of the Murray River, and other matters which may be brought before us from time to time. I look upon the visit of honorable members to the suggested federal sites as a waste of money. I do not believe that it will be of any use, because I think that the House will ultimately have to decide the question upon the opinion of experts. For a similar reason I am glad that if any money at all is to be spent upon the proposed visit of members to other States the amount will not be very large. I would rather see no expenditure of the kind incurred, because
I think that no good result will come from it. It is strange that we are now being asked to consider a proposal of this kind, when in the early part of the .session the House refused to consider the expediency of appointing a Royal commission to inquire into the kanaka question, and legislated upon it in absolute ignorance, so far as the representatives of the southern States were concerned, of the surrounding conditions. In the same way, we passed legislation affecting the pearl fisheries on the northern coasts of Australia without personal knowledge of the subject. While I should not object to the expenditure of public money in obtaining information, I think that in this case, as the information obtained cannot be very much, the expense should be limited to a very small amount.
– I am opposed to the expenditure of any large sum of money in providing facilities for honorable members to take a trip during the recess. I am at a loss to understand this sudden desire on the part of some honorable members to obtain personal information in regard to distant parts of the Commonwealth seeing that when, in the early period of the session, certain measures were introduced affecting Queensland and Western Australia, and four or five of us urged that their consideration should be delayed for a few months so that the House might obtain fuller and more practical information in regard to the questions with which they dealt, the House would hear of no delay. I freely acknowledge that it is necessary that honorable members should know as much as possible of the various parts of the Commonwealth. Had they had greater knowledge I think that the legislation to which I refer would have been based on very different lines. The proposal now under discussion is to me an indication that the Government and the House generally have begun to realize that a mistake was made in regard to the legislation to which I refer, and that time should have been given to enable fuller information to be obtained. I am willing to consent to reasonable expenditure to enable honorable members to travel from one State to another to secure all information possible for future use, but I think that if the Government provide passes for honorable members they will do all that is necessary, and that it would not be well to make an expensive trip on a man-of-war.
– This appears to me an extraordinary debate, because it has been initiated by representatives of Victoria, not upon the foreshadowing of any policy by the Government, but upon a mere newspaper canard. Victorian representatives ought to be in a position to judge of the value of the reports that appear in the Melbourne newspapers.
– The honorable member has frequently relied upon them in the statements which he has made to this House.
– I have relied upon them as little as, and, perhaps, less than the honorable member has done. When- 1 first came to Melbourne, I was disposed to judge the newspapers here by the standard set by those in my own State, and to place considerably more reliance upon their statements than further experience has justified. When this Parliament first met, the Melbourne press gave us instructions as to the lines upon -which we should legislate : but, finding that a majority of honorable members were not disposed to accept their instructions, they seem now to think it right to make all sorts of extraordinary and wild statements as to what we propose to do, and to manufacture opinions for us. This is a case of the kind. Some time ago it was stated by one of the representatives of Western Australia that the Government of that State wish honorable members to visit it, and the Commonwealth Government intimated its desire to afford facilities to enable us to do so. As a result, ridiculous statements have been published about the organization of an immense champagne picnic. I think that the members of this House abstain from champagne and other intoxicating liquors as much as do those of any other Legislature, and as much as any other body of men in the community. That in itself should be a sufficient guarantee that they are not likely to waste public money upon expensive drinking picnics. If there was any reason for fearing that such a picnic was being organized, the debate this afternoon would be justified ; but there is no ground for any supposition of the kind. My time and means are very limited, but questions affecting not merely my electorate or my State, but the vital interests of the Commonwealth, come before this House from time to time, and it is desirable that I should have fuller knowledge to deal with them. It is my experience that it is not altogether wise to rely entirely upon reports or printed matter of any description, and that personal knowledge of a subject is always desirable. As a native of New South Wales, I had a fair general knowledge of the conditions of that State before entering this Parliament, but my visits to the suggested sites of the federal capital have placed me in a much better position for ultimately giving an opinion upon the question than I was in previously, notwithstanding all the reports on the subject which I have read. It was to be deplored that the time at our disposal, before legislating on the subject, did not enable a large number of the representatives of the southern States to make themselves personally acquainted with the conditions under which sugar is grown by black labour in northern New South Wales and Queensland. Upon the broad principle at issue - whether Australia should be ‘a white or a black man’s land - there could be only two opinions, but a closer and more intimate knowledge of conditions might have enabled us to avoid a considerable amount of trouble and friction. The same statement applies in regard to the legislation which has been passed affecting the pearl-shelling industry, and will apply to legislation affecting land questions in New Guinea, the acquirement by the Commonwealth of the Northern Territory, and the labour conditions of Australia generally. I am glad that it is the desire of the Government to give honorable members reasonable facilities for studying such matters. I am as antagonistic as is the honorable and learned member for Indi or any one else to the expenditure of public money upon expensive tours, but, unless Melbourne is to be regarded as the centre of the Commonwealth, and we are to be content to be informed of the interests of no other port, honorable members must travel. I am glad that in the interests of Australia the Government propose to assist us to do so.
– As I believe the Acting Prime Minister has explained, I was obliged to leave the chamber for a short time when the honorable and learned member for Indi was speaking ; my absence was not an intentional discourtesy to the honorable and learned gentleman. With reference to the matter that has been so liberally discussed, I think that, although the press have tried their utmost to make it appear obnoxious in the eyes of the people, the proposal is a very reasonable one. It is not proposed that any gigantic tour shall be made, or that we should, as some one has suggested, charter the Orient or the Ophir in order to take honorable members round’ the continent. The motive underlying the whole project is the desire to give honorable members an opportunity of becoming thor.oughly acquainted with the country for which they have to legislate. I think I know as much about Australia as do most honorable members. Many years ago I travelled from Brisbane across to the Gulf of Carpentaria; I have been over a good deal of South Australia, and all over New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania ; and yet I feel that I am not sufficiently acquainted with the Commonwealth to enable me to conduct my administrative work in the way I should like. In the interests of the States as well as of the Commonwealth, it is desirable that honorable members should know something of the country whose affairs they have to administer, and regarding which they have to pass ‘legislation. Personally, I know nothing about Western Australia. The honorable member for Wannon asked what good object would be served by honorable members visiting Kalgoorlie, or Coolgardie, or Fremantle, in Western Australia, in connexion with the proposal to connect Western Australia with the eastern States by railway. My answer is that nothing will tend to give honorable members a better idea of the necessity for making the railway connexion than a visit to the country, during which they can obtain information regarding’ its prospects and possibilities for future development. Another honorable member has asked when we were going to deal with the defences of Fremantle, and I would ask what do honorable members generally know about that subject 1 Will it not be a good thing for honorable members to gain some knowledge regarding the necessities of that port 1 The whole proposal is practical and business-like, and it will afford an inexpensive means of obtaining knowledge of the utmost value. At present the Western Australian Government have parties out boring for water along the route suggested for the transcontinental railway. They are thoroughly in earnest in their endeavour to induce the Federal Parliament to deal with this question, and we should ascertain for ourselves what kind of territory we are to connect with the eastern States by carrying out this work. The representatives of South Australia and the Government of that State are asking us to take over the Northern Territory, but I would ask who, excepting, perhaps, the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, who has been there, knows anything about that part of the Commonwealth ? I know very little about it, and I think that it would be to the interest of the State of South Australia, and of this Parliament, if honorable members were to obtain for themselves a little more information than they possess at present. In the first instance, the representatives of Western Australia asked that I should give every facility to honorable members to visit that State, and whatever may be said with regard to the proposed tour, no one will gainsay the desirability of enabling honorable members to understand the subjects upon which they have to legislate. That is the consideration which has influenced me, and I believe that, notwithstanding the antagonism to the proposal shown by some representatives of Victoria, the people of that State desire that this Parliament shall extend its knowledge of the other States.
– They do not approve of the expenditure.
– The people of Victoria will not be mean enough to disapprove of the expenditure of a paltry few pounds if it is designed to enable us to deal effectively with the matters which come before us. We are required to deal with vast interests, and no question of a bit of beef or mutton, or a piece of bread and cheese for honorable members, should be of any consideration. I have already said that there is to be no champagne picnic. There should be reason in all things. At present, no doubt, the people of Victoria have been worked up to a high pitch of excitement in consequence of the financial straits of that State.
– The South Australians agree with us.
– They are asking us to take over the Northern Territory, and the honorable and learned member wishes us to suppose that they do not desire us to look at it.
– Does the Minister propose to travel through the Northern Territory?
– No. But the railway penetrates from Port Darwin for a distance of 120 miles inland, and we should probably travel over that length of line. There is a proposal to construct a railway on the land-grant principle to meet that line. I am absolutely opposed to any such idea, and rather than see that done I hope that the Commonwealth will take over the Northern Territory.
– How can the Commonwealth take over the Northern Territory without the permission of South Australia ?
-South Australia has given her consent.
– She has now withdrawn it.
– I did not know that. I should have thought that South Australia would be very glad to hand over the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth.
– That idea is not borne out by the resolution which was recently passed by the State Legislature.
– I have not seen the resolution to which the honorable member is referring. The people of South Australia must change their minds very quickly.
– Is the Minister putting forward the probability of our being asked to take over the Northern Territory as an excuse for organizing the proposed tour ?
– I am making no excuses. When I believe a proposal to be right I shall carry it out in spite of every one. If I did not think the present proposal was a proper one to make I should not put it forward. I make no excuses, because I think it is inherently right that the members of this Parliament should have an opportunity of seeing the country for which they have to legislate. A great deal has been said regarding the expense that would be involved in chartering a steamer to convey honorable members on this trip round the coast. I am having estimates made at the present moment, and I venture to think that if we hire a steamer we shall be able to arrange matters more cheaply than if honorable members are left to travel by rail or steamer in the ordinary way.
Honorable members may go by train to all the States excepting to Western Australia or Tasmania. They can even cover a considerable distance in Northern Queensland by rail, but if they do so it will cost more than if they travel there by steamer, as has been suggested. I know some honorable members in this House who are not in a position financially to go through the country and obtain information in the way that is desired unless we assist them in some way or other, and I only wish to do what is reasonable, without incurring undue expense. At present we are, to a large extent, groping in the dark. It is all very well for the honorable member for Wannon to say that we can obtain reports and have plans prepared, and all that kind of thing.
– That course would have’ common sense to recommend it.
– Perhaps so ; but we should gain very little instruction by following it. I have seen reports regarding country through which I have travelled, and could not recognise the country by the descriptions given. That has been my experience in nine cases out of ten, and I venture to say that if the honorable member for Gippsland travelled through the country between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, he would not be able to recognise it from the reports which have been furnished.
– Then the reports cannot have been furnished by the right men.
– It would be very difficult to get men to so report as to suit every one. If honorable members are enabled to personally inspect the country they can use their own eyesight and their own common sense. A great deal has been said in the press regarding the proposed tour, and the proposal has been exaggerated in every possible way. The people of Victoria enjoy very good representation in this Parliament, owing to the seat of Government being situated within their State. The other States do not possess anything like the same advantage. On one occasion when I was fighting in New South Wales for a principle which is strongly supported by the honorable member for Gippsland, namely, a larger proportional representation for the country than for the metropolitan districts, Mr. Copeland, the present Agent-General of New South Wales said, that if Sydney had no representatives in the State Legislature, the fact that the Parliament was sitting in that city would enable it to exercise more influence than the country districts. If Victoria sent no representatives into this Chamber she would be in a better position, so far as the consideration of her interests is concerned, than would other States, regarding which comparatively little is known. I hope the representatives of Victoria will consider the conditions which prevail in the other States, and that, after calm consideration, they will see that, without incurring any extravagant expenditure, we can confer much advantage upon the States themselves, and upon the Commonwealth, by affording honorable members every opportunity to pay the proposed visits. I have been accused of extravagance in this and in other matters, and I have been the subject of much misrepresentation in the press. Why do not the newspapers show that where I have been able to obtain a grip of certain furniture, fittings, and works in Victoria I have reduced the cost by 50 per cent.? I am only mentioning facts which I am prepared to prove. When I am in a position to appoint my own officers in the other States, I shall reduce the cost of works there in the same way that I have done in Victoria. All our works will then be carried out in proper time, and without such delay as has hitherto occurred. I am referring to this matter because I have been attacked in a variety of ways for extravagance. In the few cases in which I have been able to render myself independent of the reports of others, and I have been able to thoroughly grasp the position, I have proved my desire for economy, and my earnestness in the administration of my department, by effecting a reduction of at least one-half in the cost of certain furniture, fittings, and works. I hope that when everything is brought into working order, and the people of the Commonwealth are able to see what has been done, they will recognise that, instead of the departments of the Commonwealth being extravagantly administered, they are being conducted with rigid economy. It is not practicable at the inauguration of the Commonwealth to keep everything down to bedrock, but I am sure I shall be able to satisfy every one before very long that we are administering our departments in an economical spirit, and that we are doing everything we can to promote the interests of the States, and to return to them as much money as possible. I hope honorable members will take my assurance that no undue expense will be incurred in connexion with the proposed tour. But I decline to be bound hand and foot. It is not fair that in the administration of my department I should be called upon to give a guarantee that a certain project will not involve more than £50 or £60 or £70. It is often impossible to accurately gauge the expense which will be incurred.
– How much does the Minister expect the proposed trip will cost ?
– It is not a question of the amount involved, but one of principle.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- The only principle I recognise is that involved in the question whether honorable members shall have an opportunity of gaining information regarding the country over which they have to exercise legislative powers. My impression is that if honorable members wish to visit Western Australia it will be cheaper for the Commonwealth to provide a Government steamer than to pay their expense of travelling in the ordinary way. If we voyage along the Queensland coast, I think it would be most desirable that honorable members should be afforded an opportunity of paying a visit to the centres of that State by means of the railway system.
– Would the Minister provide another junketing for members of the next Parliament?
– If any important matter is to be dealt with I should say that money expended in the direction proposed would be well spent. At the same time the personnel of Parliaments does not vary very much. I have been through Queensland, but I do not think that honorable members generally recognise the possible developments of that State. Queensland is three times as large as New South Wales, and nine times as large as Victoria. It possesses land equal to that in any part of Australia - land which will produce anything. Yet it contains only a sparsely settled population. I am satisfied that if many people were aware of the natural advantages which are offered in the eastern part of Queensland, they would be quite prepared to settle there.
– How long will the proposed tour occupy ?
– I cannot answer that question. The honorable and learned member can make his own calculation.
– How many members are necessary to make up theparty ?
– The honorable and learned member must understand that the proposal is as yet only in an embryonic stage. I do not know how many honorable members would care to go, and, unless a sufficient number offered to do so, of course I should not dream of carrying out my proposal. At the same time I am satisfied that if the Victorian representatives could undertake the trip they wouldcome back with a vast store of added knowledge. I am quite prepared to bear the brunt of any press attacks, because I am accustomed to that experience, but in this instance it does appear to me that the cost of the proposed undertaking has been unnecessarily magnified.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi) In reply.-If the Minister for Home Affairs had been present when the Acting Prime Minister spoke, I do not think he would have displayed so much antagonism to what his leader has said. The Acting Prime Minister practically gave the House an assurance that no such parliamentary party as has been suggested should be organized.
– I said that no picnic would take place.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has given honorable members the impression that he still adheres to his picnic views.
– I always said that the undertaking would be no picnic. It is only the newspapers who call it a “picnic.”
– I thought that the leader of the Government had given the House an indirect assurance that no parliamentary party should be organized in this connexion.
– I stated that no picnic would take place.
-I am sorry that the matter is to be left in that indefinite state. Of course, nobody can doubt the motive prompting the action of the Minister for Home Affairs, who desires that honorable members shall receive enlightenment. But I am utterly opposed to gaining that enlightenment by the expenditure of public money. Does the Minister anticipate that much good will be accomplished . by a hurried visit on the part of honorable members to various portions of Australia during the life of the present Parliament?
– Just as much good as was accomplished by the parliamentary visits of inspection to the eligible capital sites.
– That may not represent very much. I repeat that very little good can come out of the Minister’s proposal at this late stage of our parliamentary life. Does the Minister for Home Affairs believe that a hurried visit to the various ports will give honorable members any idea of the condition of the interior of Queensland? It is impossible. We shall thus be spending money without deriving any practical benefit from that expenditure. This question is not one which merely involves the expenditure of ?50 or ?500. It is a matter of principle. As far as I am individually concerned, I do not sanction the proposed excursion, and I shall not be prepared to indorse it if it takes place. The Acting Prime Minister was very fair in his statement to the House, and, although very naturally, from a spirit of loyalty to his colleague, he did not say so in direct terms, I thought he intended to convey that the projected trip would not take place, but that honorable members would be afforded an opportunity of visiting various parts of Australia in the ordinary way. If the Minister for Home Affairs intends to carry out his project of chartering a special steamer-
-N oone said a word about chartering a steamer ; and I can give the honorable and learned member my assurance that, if that course is adopted, nothing will be paid for the steamer.
– I sincerely hope that the excursion to which I so much object will not take place.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Since the above reply was placed in my hands, I have been given to understand that the Acting Commandant’s position will probably be further considered.
Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the table
Standing Rules and Orders of the House, and those relating to Private Bills, as agreed to by the Standing Orders Committee, and recommended to the House.
Mr. KINGSTON laid upon the table
Customs Prosecutions - Return to an Order of the House, dated 12th August, 1902.
Mr. DEAKIN laidupon the table
Report of the Drayton Grange Royal Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill read a third time.
– Early last month I directed the attention of the leader of the Government to the burden placed on trade between theeastern States and the Western Australian gold-fields by the refusal of the Western Australian Government to give the gold-fields access to their nearest seaport. In reply to a series of questions then addressed to him, the honorable gentleman intimated that the question was one to be determined by the proposed Inter-State Commission, and that section 102 of the Constitution could hardly be relied on to cover the case presented by me. It is my duty to combat that view, and I, therefore, submit for the acceptance of this House the following proposition : -
That the construction of a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie, or some other point on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia, is essential to the” absolute freedom “ of InterState trade contemplated by the Constitution.
First of all, I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of the leader of the Government in affording me this opportunity of exposing to the people of Australia the hardships inflicted without cause on some of their fellow citizens in the western State. I venture to hope that my colleagues and I have earned some little latitude ; for, during a session of nearly eighteen months’ duration, no honorable member from Western Australia has ventured to intercept the important work on which this House has been engaged by any question touching only those whom we have the honour to represent here. We have so far f foreborne to intrude any sectional grievance which might delay or displace the discussion of national issues. But the time has now arrived when this Parliament should be prepared to listen sympathetically to complaints from a minority in any State who are being cheated out of the chief benefit which they expected would follow from the federal union. That is the position to-day of the inhabitants of the gold-fields of Western Australia, and I say it is a position which should excite the active sympathy of every true federalist. That Western Australia is one of the original States in the Federation is largely due to the enthusiasm and the self-sacrifice of the gold-fields population. What was it that aroused and sustained this enthusiasm ? Certainly the grand ideal of nationality ; but also the strong belief that federation would give unfettered intercourse with the rest of the continent and free play to the efforts of men pioneering an arid and inhospitable region. No whining plea for exceptional treatment has ever reached this Parliament from that territory. Its settlers have never been suppliant for the privilege of preying on any other class in the Commonwealth. All they seek is that, in a hand-to-hand conflict with nature, they may be allowed access to, and free use of, such advantages as nature has conferred on them. They demand no more than that man shall not interpose a barrier between them and their natural outlet to the sea. What are known as the eastern or Coolgardie gold-fields embrace an area of about 450 miles from north to south, and of about 250 miles from east to west. Their southern fringe is little more than 100 miles from the ocean at Esperance, where there already exists a safe and commodious harbor. This port is about 220 miles from the main centre of population on the gold-fields, and is some 600 miles nearer than Fremantle to the eastern States. Fremantle lies to the extreme west, nearly 390 miles from Kalgoorlie. The whole of the passenger and goods traffic from the eastern States is thus carried some 600 miles by sea beyond the port nearest to its destination, and must then undergo an extra land carriage of 170 miles. For more than seven years the people have continuously agitated for the connexion of the gold-fields with Esperance by rail. Every appeal has been ignominiously rejected by the Western Australian Parliament, whose latest act is the refusal of a Royal commission to investigate the merits of the proposed railway. Now, I deny that the decision of that Legislature reflects the matured judgment of a majority of the people of Western Australia with respect to this project. The representative character of that Legislature will be apparent when it is known that, in 1900, some 211 persons had in the Assembly three members, whereas in the same year a single-member electorate on the gold-fields contained nearly 6,000 qualified voters. This inequality of representation still exists, though slightly modified recently, and justifies my assertion that the refusal of this railway is without popular warrant. Briefly, that refusal imposes on every passenger and every ton of goods from the eastern States an extra haulage of 800 miles. A few parallel cases may be cited to assist the imagination of those who have not enjoyed a trip round the Leuwin, and the subsequent long land journey to the gold-fields. The circuit via Fremantle is very much like that of going around by way of. Brisbane in order to reach Bourke, in New South Wales. Or imagine a Brisbane resident, whose destination is Winton, being compelled to sail around Cape Yorke Peninsula and proceed via Normanton - that is practically the position of one journeying from the eastern States to the gold-fields of Western Australia. At first blush this may seem to be a grievance with which this Parliament has no real concern, but ‘I hope to demonstrate the fallaciousness of such an assumption. Who compose these .gold-field settlements? Mainly people from the eastern States, who still retain here ties of friendship and trade, rendering intercourse imperative. From the eastern States also come vast consignments of foodstuffs and manufactured articles; imports which should increase if the Federal Tariff does what honorable members opposite expect it to do. In view of the doubt expressed by the Acting Prime Minister, I venture to define InterState trade as trade in commodities produced, say, in Victoria, and consumed in Western Australia. This trade is, by the refusal of the State Government to construct a railway, forced out of its natural channel. It is driven to make an unnecessary circuit of many hundred miles. This extra haulage of necessity involves extra expense. Whatever that extra expense may be, it is added to the price of the commodity paid by the Western Australian consumer. That this charge adds to the price paid by the consumer is in accordance with experience and with the laws of political economy. Thus the extra expense of this unnecessary haulage is the practical equivalent of an import duty, which no State has the right to impose.
– I doubt whether, under the Constitution, we can deal with this question.
– If the honorable member follows me a little more closely, he may see reason to alter his opinion before I have finished. The extra cost involved by this unnecessary haulage amounts to giving “a preference” to the local producer of similar goods.It is virtually “a discrimination” in favour of the local producer and against his Inter-State competitor. What more could a direct tax - that is, an import duty - do by way of protecting western products from eastern competition? So this extra and unnecessary haulage, the cost of which is the clear equivalent of an import duty, is in flat contravention of section 92 of the Constitution, which declares that “ trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be alsolutely free.” Now, how can trade be “ absolutely free,” which is culpably burdened by a State Government with charges that have, and are intended to have, all the effects of an import duty? The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly pronounced such barriers on trade to be unconstitutional. The principle laid down by Chief Justice Taney was this : -
If a State is permitted to levy it (a tax on imports) in any form …. one of the principal objects of forming and adopting a Constitution would be defeated. It could not be done directly in the shape of a duty on imports, for that is expressly forbidden . And if it could not be done directly, it could hardly be a just and sound construction of the Constitution which would enablea State to accomplish precisely the same thing under another name and in a different form.
The terms of that remarkable judgment fit this case exactly, though the practice it adjudged illegal differs from that which I am discussing. But the results are the same ; for, as I have shown, this unnecessary cost is substantially an import duty ; and the State having lost the power to directly impose such a duty cannot be allowed to impose it indirectly. Now the powers of this Parliament over trade and commerce do not materially differ from those vested in Congress by the American Constitution. Congress is authorized “ to regulate “ - while this Parliament may “make laws with respect to” - trade and commerce. The omission of the words, “ to regulate “ from our Constitution, according to Quick and Garran in their Annotated Constitution, page 516, “can certainly not be held to narrow the scope of the power, and may, perhaps, in some degree, extend it.” That being so, is it unreasonable to hope that our courts will follow the Taney judgment, and declare that the cost of this extra haulage, being the equivalent of an import duty, is an illegal charge ? Had the courts not given extreme elasticity to theAmerican commerce clause, their Constitution would not have worked so smoothly. In a text-book on this clause, by Prentice and Egan, this point is well stated : -
Freedom of transportation from conflicting, discriminating, and burdensome restrictions was thepurpose of the Constitution ; and while the language employed was almost necessarily such as referred to the means of transportation then in existence, and within the knowledge of the Convention, nevertheless the operation of the Constitution is not confined to the instrumentalities of commerce then known, but keeps pace with the progress of the country and is adapted to new developments of time and circumstance.
The concluding words of this passage have the utmost significance, and bear closely on this case. If our Constitution is to work satisfactorily it also must be elastic enough to meet such a “development” as this, where a State penalizes one section of its people for the advantage of another ; for otherwise it is inconceivable that the framers of the instrument should have neglected to insert a specific prohibition. We must follow up this principle of expansion, unless resort is to be had to the cumbersome and costly device of submitting to a popular vote every trifling amendment found to be necessary. In reply to the interjection by the honorable member for Richmond, I may remind honorable members that, as the main purpose of federation was freedom of trade and intercourse among the States, it seems absurd to hold that the Constitution lacks the means to accomplish that end. I am hopeful that this power will be found latent in section 51. That clause charges us with the duty of making laws “for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth “ with respect to, amongst other matters, “trade and commerce;” and section 98 extends this authority to “ railways the property of any State.” The phrase “ Peace, order, and good government “ is pregnant and far-reaching. Its possibilities of application are infinite. The boldest imagination of our day cannot accurately outline its range, nor forecast the blessings which its wise interpretation may bestow upon generations yet to come. It certainly appears to justify some action in this case. For, is it compatible with the “ good government of the Commonwealth “ that the cost of living should be artificially enhanced to 50,000 people for the benefit of a small group of land-owners in Perth and Fremantle? Is “ good government “ reconcilable with the permanent divorcement of a great community from its natural outlet to the sea, to the waste of public resources, and to the injury of public health? If that liberal interpretation which American jurists gave, and continue to give, to corresponding clauses in their Constitution is followed here, I am convinced that the federal arm is even now long and strong enough to smash this State injustice. The American courts, at any rate, find no difficulty in meeting the most ingenious devices of the States to fetter internal trade for their own advantage. A case resembling in some details that in hand occurred some years ago in the State of Iowa. A railway company was required by a local law to tranship passengers and goods at the town of Council Bluffs instead of permitting them to proceed right through to their destination in some other State. Apparently this was done so that the State of Iowa, or some of its traders, might reap an advantage by the transhipment. The company appealed to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Miller, who ruled the regulation to be ultra vires, in the course of his judgment) observed -
Commerce may suffer no more from a law requiring a direct tax to be paid thereon into the State Treasury than from a regulation under which charges will be exacted by individuals. . . And a regulation of a State, whereby the most speedy transit is prevented-
Exactly what happens in this case. The nearest route is closed, and kept closed deliberately by the Government of Western Australia, thus preventing “ the most speedy transit ‘’- may be a greater burden upon Inter-State commerce - a greater embarrassment to it - than taxes of the character already held invalid. Celerity in the transportation of passengers and freight is now imperatively demanded by the business of the country ; every impediment thereto is a burden upon commerce, and State statutes producing such results are clearly in conflict with the Constitution.
These extracts sufficiently emphasize the principle which, I contend, should be recognised by us. The only difference between the Iowa case and that of Esperance is that the “impediment” in the latter is created indirectly by the culpable refusal of the State Government to construct a railway to provide “ the most speedy transit “ of passengers and goods. But there is no practical difference in the results. The act of commission in the American case had precisely the same effect as the act of omission has in this case. An impediment is successfully interposed in both instances to that “absolute” freedom of trade and intercourse supposed to be guaranteed by our Constitution. To contend that we have no power to meet such an abuse is a confession of weakness - an admission that our charter is defective in that part where it should be strongest and most effective. This will be more apparent if we dwell for a moment on a possible case. Let us assume that prior to federation Esperance had been connected by rail with Coolgardie, and that the Western Australian Government charged, as it now does on existing lines, a lower rate for carrying local than for imported products. We have power, under section 102, to forbid this preferential rate absolutely. We could compel the State Government to haul InterState products at precisely the same rates charged for similar commodities locally produced. But if some narrow interpreters of the Constitution be correct, we could not. prevent the Western Australian Government from withdrawing its rolling-stock, tearing up the rails, and dismantling the port.
Now, the greater usually includes the* less ; but this rigid reading of the Constitution collides with that axiom. It implies that while the States possess the far-reaching right of shutting up a railway altogether, they have lost the lesser power of regulating their rates of carriage on such railway while it existed. And it means that while the Commonwealth may control rates so as to free Inter-State commerce from preferential treatment, it is, nevertheless, powerless to prevent the absolute closure of a trade route, even though the latter results in the imposition of an immeasurably heavier handicap on Inter-State commerce. This is the impasse into which this argument leads, from which, if this view of the Constitution be correct, there is no outlet. It will be said, possibly, that the dismantling of a railway is an improbable contingency. Those who think so will do well to study the story of railway wars in the United States. What has been said of democracy - that nothing is impossible to it - is to some extent true of Western Australia. Strange things have been done, are still being done, by the Government of that State. But be the contingency probable or improbable, the argument is unaffected. Looking broadly at our Constitution, giving a generous construction to its mandate that trade between the States shall be “absolutely free,” is not the conclusion inevitable that we may forbid a State from shutting up an existing trade route 1 Then, if that be conceded, it follows, as the logical complement of the contention, that no State may keep” a plainly natural trade route permanently closed - certainly not without the strongest proofs of financial inability to open it. No such proofs can be furnished in this instance ; for this railway could easily be built from the surplus revenue given Western Aus stralia by the Federal Tariff. Now there is no practical difference between shutting up and refusing to open a natural trade route. The result is the same to the trade which would pass through that channel. Therefore it seems to me that if we may forbid a State from dismantling a railway and closing a trade route, there must also be in this Parliament a force that, at any rate, can be indirectly used to compel a State to open a trade route by the construction of a railway on good cause being shown. I hope it will never to come to this, but let those who arrogantly close to the gold-fields population its natural avenue to the ocean take heed of the inherent powers of the Commonwealth in this regard. The American .Congress, with no wider prerogative than ours, has not only built railways, but expends money on ports, harbors, and rivers for the promotion of InterState commerce. Our power to construct a railway is accompanied by the reservation that it is to be done “ with the consent of the State” through which the railway passes. I quote this to show that there is no intention to shirk any difficulty, nor to mislead the House as to its powers. This Parliament cannot construct a railway from Esperance to Coolgardie without the consent of the State Government. Moreover, it cannot formally direct the State Government to build it. That is beyond question. But a time may come when an Inter-State Commission will be found talking to the Government of the western State in some such strain as this: -
Yes ; you are probably within your rights in forcing Inter-State passengers and trade to a favoured port, involving the delay and cost of many hundreds of miles of unnecessary haulage. But this charge is practically equivalent to an import duty on Inter-State trade, which neither directly nor indirectly have you any legal wan-ant for levying. The profits on your railway from Fremantle to the gold-fields make good the shortage on your other lines, which proves that your rates on that line are excessive for the service rendered. Your railway policy gives “a preference” to the local producer, and “discriminates “ against his Inter-State competitor. In future your railway charges must be based on what is fair and reasonable for a haulage of 220 miles instead of 387, subject to an additional deduction for the cost of the extra sea carriage which your action inflicts upon Inter-State traffic.
Undoubtedly, if the commission is to give full effect to the command of the Constitution, that trade between the States shall be “ absolutely free,” by which is meant free from artificial obstructions, then it must assume the position indicated. For the refusal to give a community access to its’ natural and nearest port in order that it may be forced to use a far distant outlet, is as clearly an ‘ obstruction to commerce as anything can well be. It is an injustice which no free community should be expected to tolerate. It outrages the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. But if we are forced to narrowly adhere to the letter and ignore the spirit of the instrument, then the Western Australian Government, like Shylock, should be held to the bond. Let me remind them that there is nowhere in the Constitution a definition of the word “ railway.” Hence a tramway, whether worked by steam or electricity, may by some modern Portia be declared to be “ not in the bond.” In other words, the inferential restriction against the Commonwealth constructing a railway “except with the consent of the State “ may not necessarily include a tramway, nor does it forbid this Parliament, in freeing and promoting Inter-State commerce, from taking full advantage of any new development in the science of traction. For instance, there is nothing to prevent the Federal Government from sending its mails direct from Adelaide to Esperance and thence to the gold-fields by rapid motor cars running over a specially prepared track. A little reflection on these points should convince the West Australian Government that in refusing this railway it stands on thin ice, which will not much longer resist the existing and growing pressure. At any rate, I trust that that Government may learn from this discussion’ that the Commonwealth will exert its powers to the full for the protection of its citizens against oppression. Now I leave the constitutional aspect of the question for a glance at its practical side. Two objections are urged against the construction of this line. The first is, that Esperance is not a safe harbor ; and, second, that the railway would not be a commercial success. If either of these objections were sound, the proposal might be at once dismissed. But I shall demonstrate that both are baseless. Esperance harbor is completely land-locked, and is approached by a surveyed, well-defined channel from 20 to 60 fathoms deep. A commodious Government jetty runs out into 20 feet of water, at which such ships as the Adelaide, Innamincka, and the New Guinea have berthed. During his visit in May, 1898, Sir John Forrest, the then Premier, is reported to have said -
He was well pleased with their harbor. He thought it an excellent one, and very little was left to be desired in its accommodation. They had a very good start to become one of the chief ports of the colony.
The State Government’s confidence in the permanence of the port is shown by the fact that all the public buildings have been constructed of stone. As to the other objection, reinforced by the reminder that settlement between Esperance and Coolgardie is too restricted to justify a railway, it is forgotten that railways promote settlement and develop traffic. Had no railways been built in Australia until settlement fully justified their construction, our railway mileage to-day would be insignificant. ‘ For most of the facts now submitted to the House I am indebted to an able and convincing speech by Mr. A.E. Thomas, member for , Dundas in the local Parliament. He. showed that the line would tap a large area of agricultural country, enjoying an average rainfall of 12½ to 30 inches, and already in parts yielding better crops of wheat than are obtained in any other portion of the State. This railway would give to the great mines of Kalgoorlie a quarter of a century’s fuel, of which they stand badly in need. It would penetrate, at the Norseman, a proved auriferous belt 40 miles long by 5 miles wide, which has already produced 200,000 ozs. of gold. Between Norseman and Coolgardie it would give fresh life to many other mining settlements now stagnant because of the excessive cost of mining development. The expenditure on Mr. Thomas’ own property will enable honorable members to realize the great wrong inflicted on this community by the refusal of a railway. From its inception until recently this particular mine paid £22,327 for haulage of machinery and stores. Had this railway been in existence, the charges for the same haulage would have been £1,650. If the difference, £20,677 had been saved, the mine could have been worked at a profit, and some 300 additional men would have found steady employment there. Thus, giving to each adult miner four dependents, we see that the absence of this railway reduces the population of one district alone by some 1,500 souls. But, apart from passengers and mails, here are three sources of traffic - mining, timbergetting, and agriculture - from which competent authorities assert would come ample revenue to meet working expenses and interest on outlay. It has been stated in the local Parliament, and not denied, that the largest firm of mining engineers operating in Western Australia, who represent millions of English capital - I refer to Bewick, Moreing, and Company - have offered to build this line, to carry passengers and goods at Government rates, and, finally, at any time, to hand it back to the State on fair terms. It is understood that the State Government has also been offered a loan of the required capital at 3½ per cent., which is the existing rate for Government loans. But none of these proposals find favour with the State Legislature, for reasons which this House will readily infer. Eoi- instance, the State Premier, speaking in the local Assembly on the 20th August, having admitted that if he lived on the gold-fields he would support the railway, openly avowed his opposition to it, because any other attitude was not “ compatible with my duty to my electors.” His electors are Perth residents, and his Government is supported by other Perth and Fremantle members, whose electors also directly profit by the diversion of interState trade through Fremantle. These gentlemen do not disguise in any way the motives impelling them to resist the construction of this railway. As a specimen of the remarkable arguments by which the local Government attempts to defend its position, I quote this sentence from the same speech of the Western Australian Premier -
I do not know of any instance in any country not in Australia, nor in any country the size of Australia - where you will find two lines built for the express purpose of serving the traffic of the one locality.
Had this honorable gentleman, Mr W. James, taken the trouble to consult a railway map of Australia, he would have found at least two instances where separate lines “ serve the traffic of the one locality.” There is a clear case in New South Wales. That State built a line from Sydney to Bourke, which passes through the town of Blayney. It has also built a line from Blayney to Harden, which directly connects Blayney with the port of Melbourne. So, not only do two lines here “ serve the traffic of one locality,” Blayney, but one of them, though built by New South Wales, diverts traffic to the capital of another State. Again, the Queensland Government has extended a line from Rockhampton to Longreach, and a second line from Townsville to Winton, in the same district as Longreach, There is no attempt here to divert trade hundreds of miles out of its natural course to a favoured port. Whatever may be said of the Queensland Government, in extending its railways it appears to have held the balance fairly between rival seaports, giving to each that portion of the traffic of the interior which is its right by virtue of geographical position. The people of the gold-fields require no more from their State Government. They do not ask that Western Australia shall be as generous as New South Wales in constructing a railway which serves another State. If this line from Esperance to Coolgardie is constructed, the whole benefit of the trade will still be confined to Western Australia, and this benefit will keep pace with the growth of imports from the eastern communities. Honorable members may measure the justice of the claim of the gold-fields population by the arguments advanced against it. I have quoted the strongest of these arguments, and shown that it is in clear conflict with facts, which can be verified by a glance at any railway map of these States. It must be now tolerably clear that this is not a purely local grievance. The gold-fields community suffers, but so does every producer on this side who finds a market on the other. Even this Parliament has on its own part a right to complain. The Postal department is under our control, and we are justified in inquiring whether our mails and parcels are being conveyed as cheaply and as expeditiously as they might be. We have good grounds for objecting to the extra cost and delay of carrying our mails some 800 miles unnecessarily. If we had an ordinarily fast steamer service from Adelaide to Esperance, and this railway were in existence, mails could be delivered on the gold-fields at much less cost, and some 48 hours earlier than under the existing arrangement. Though I have detained the House to an undue and unusual length, the pleas which might be urged for the construction of this railway are by no means exhausted. Let us leave mails, trade, and traffic out of the question, and consider the matter as it affects humanity. Here is a community of 50,000 people occupying a new territory destitute of any natural attraction, parched during nearly half the year by the fierce heat of a semitropical latitude. Water there is none, except what may be conserved or obtained by condensation ; food is at what would here be regarded as famine prices. The people live in tents or iron buildings, which offer little or no resistance to the heat and dust-storms ; they are illsupplied with schools, and entirely destitute of the means of recreation available in cities. Conceive the sufferings of little children growing up under such hard conditions and amidst so much unavoidable discomfort. They are chained to the sunbaked plains, though within a few hours journey of the sea-board. The monotony of their lives must not be broken by a glimpse of the ocean, nor by a gambol in its surges, because the railway which would bring them to the coast might damage vested interests in Perth and Fremantle. I ask, must land values in the capital be kept up, even if the price be the lives of little children who pine away for lack of the recuperating breezes of ocean and mountain top 1 While disavowing the language of exaggeration, I do say that this is one of the effects of the policy which denies the goldfields population access to the sea-board. It is a policy worthy of Caligula or Nero, rather than of responsible statesmen in the 20th century. Whatever the result of this discussion may be - and I regret that the important and urgent questions absorbing Ministers’ attention leave no room to hope for any immediate result - there is to me the consolation of knowing that I have discharged my duty. It has been shown conclusively, I hope, that the refusal of this railway so outrages the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution, as to demand soon or late decisive action by the Commonwealth, and that a gross injustice is being thereby inflicted on thousands who have laboured and suffered for the cause of Australian nationality.
– In supporting the motion of my colleague I wish to express my appreciation of the kindness of the Acting Prime Minister, in allowing us an opportunity to submit it to the House. Under existing circumstances, a very great wrong is being done to a large number of the people of the Commonwealth, and I think that the Acting Prime Minister has shown that, whenever such a condition of affairs obtains, he believes it is the duty of the House to rectify, if possible, the grievances under which the people suffer. In speaking in this Chamber I feel that my colleague and myself are, addressing men who will take a broad and enlightened view of this question. Those who believe that the proposed railway ought to be constructed, think that such an undertaking would benefit not only Western Australia, but the whole of the Commonwealth. Quite recently this matter was discussed in the Parliament of Western Australia, and a motion in favour of the construction of a line from Esperance to Coolgardie was defeated. Similar proposals have previously been defeated, even by men who could not deny the justice of the claim embodied in them. They were defeated by individuals who, in their speeches, openly declared that they have regard to the vested interests of one particular portion of WesternAustralia, and consequently must deny this measure of justice to the people of Boulder, Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Norseman, and Esperance. I hold that the refusal of the State Parliament to construct this railway constitutes an interference with Inter-State free-trade, the establishment of which was one of the chief objects of the union. But it is not only in connexion with the construction of the Esperance Railway that the “Western Australian Government are endeavouring to defeat the operation of Inter-State free-trade. They enjoy the advantages conferred by a special Tariff under which the duties diminish at the rate of 20 per cent, each year for five years. Those duties are not collected with the consent of a majority of the people of that State. Honorable members will recollect that the representatives of Western Australia in the Federal Convention were not elected by the people - as was the case in respect of all the other States - but by the State Parliament, which was largely composed of pocket borough representatives who did not represent a majority of the people. Consequently the Western Australian delegates, instead of asking for a concession which would have been of real benefit to that State - such, for example, as a guarantee that if it entered the Federation the. transcontinental railway would be constructed within a . certain period - asked for and were granted the right to retain Inter-State Customs duties. But the Parliament of Western Australia is not satisfied with the concession which was granted it by the Federal Convention, and therefore it has imposed upon the products of other States what virtually amounts to a double customs tariff in the form of preferential railway rates. Those rates distinguish between local and imported commodities. For example, local timber, coal, and other products are carried at considerably lower rates than are imported products. When the Inter-State Commission is established, no doubt these preferential rates will be abolished. Not content with the special Tariff which Western Australia enjoys, and the preferential railway rates which have been imposed, the Government of that State refuses to construct, a railway to the natural port of the gold-fields. I have visited Esperance, and I know that it is a charming and picturesque place which is admirably adapted for a sanatorium. If only as a means of giving the residents of the gold-fields access to the sea coast for a holiday, the construction of the line suggested is abundantly warranted. The distance between Esperance and the gold-fields is about 220 miles, whilst that between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle is 390 miles. The construction of the line proposed would thus affect a saving of over 160 miles in railway carriage. I would further point out that most of the commodities used upon the gold-fields are imported from the eastern States of the Commonwealth. Thus if a railway were built from Esperance it would open the gold-fields market to a large number of producers in the eastern States to whom it is now closed. It would also mean a saving of about 700 miles of sea carriage. The suggested Esperance Railway ought not to be confused with the transcontinental line, which is a national undertaking of an altogether different character. The latter is absolutely necessary for the carriage of mails, passengers, and goods, as well as for Defence purposes. Although the construction of a line to Esperance would open up a certain area of timber country, an enormous quantity of Newcastle coal and other commodities would still be consumed upon the gold-fields. Those commodities could be landed at Esperance and carried direct to the goldfields, but it would not pay to carry them from the eastern States by means of the transcontinental railway. I claim that the refusal of the State Government to undertake the construction of the Esperance Railway confers an undue and unreasonable preference upon local traders. Whether it does so within the meaning of the Constitution is, of course, a matter for legal authorities to determine. It is certain, however, that the action of the State Parliament is contrary to the very spirit of that instrument of government, which says in effect that no restriction shall be imposed upon commerce between the various States. I trust that this matter will be brought before the Inter-State Commission when it is appointed, and I think that the question of the construction of the Esperance Railway, and the Other matters to which I have referred, constitute an argument in favour of the early establishment of that tribunal. The very essence of federation seems to be equality of trade, and the prohibition of preference as between States. There is absolutely no reasonable excuse for the nonconstruction of this railway by the Western Australian Government. At present the traffic on the railway between Fremantle and Coolgardie is so much congested that there is some talk of duplicating the line. The very people who refuse to build 220 miles of railway to Esperance, on the ground that such a line will not pay, now propose to duplicate the present line of 390 miles. The excuse cannot be made that the financial position of Western Australia is such that she cannot afford the expenditure ; because, at present, that State may be said to have really far too much money, so heavy is, the taxation of the people. There is now provided a splendid opportunity for the State Government to employ that money in this much- wanted reproductive work; but instead, extravagance is being indulged inThere is a proposal to build a Parliament House at a cost of something like £100,000 ; yet it is impossible to induce the local authorities totake in hand the’ railway now under discussion. When the Prime Minister was in London some months ago, a deputation of men interested in the Western Australian gold-fields waited on him, and raised the question of the Esperance Railway- ; but I saw only a meagre report of what took place, and I do not know exactly the tenor of the Prime Minister’s reply. The construction of this railway is a matter which does not really affect the wage-earners or the poorer classes of the community, but which concerns mining men and others interested in business on the gold-fields. Not very long ago a report was prepared by a committee of an important body known as the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce, and considerable expense and trouble was gone to in order to get full particulars as to the arguments both for and against a railway to Esperance. The report states -
Your committee has collective^ and individually interviewed honorable members and permanent heads and officials of Government departments, shipping and mercantile firms in Perth, Fremantle, and elsewhere, and representatives of the Esperance Railway League. Information concerning railway matters has been received from the eastern States, South Africa, and other parts of the world, and has been closely examinee!, and in addition to local knowledge, maps, and charts, your committee has been furnished with all the information in the possession of the British Admiralty respecting the harbor at Esperance.
The most valuable statistics and reports were examined, and the question exhaustively investigated. The report consists of a series of answers to questions, and the first is - Whether or not there is a natural harbor at Esperance ? One of the arguments frequently used against the construction of this railway is that there is not a natural harbor at the terminus. I have been to Esperance, and I know that the bay, although large, is still very much better protected than, at any rate, the harbor of Fremantle. There is a natural breakwater of islands outside, and an abundance of shelter in the way of bluff and high country, rendering the harbor virtually land-locked. The only objection, if it can be called an objection, is that the harbor is slightly large, but still, as harbors go, it is admitted to be a very fine one. On the question which I have just read the committee reported -
A careful study of the Admiralty charts furnished with this report, together with extracts from supplements to the Australian Directory, vol. 1, corrected to loth November, 1900, and published by order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, gives much valuable information. According to the above data, there is good ingress and egress to and from the port through the causeway channel, and good anchorage throughout the bay. The south-west winds cause a heavy ground swell during short periods of the year. Your committee is of opinion that the harbor at Esperance is sufficiently good for all purposes, the depth of water being ample(vide Admiralty charts), with a good and safe holding ground(vide sailing directions). “ A short distance north of the present jetty there is a depth of 40 feet of water about 500 yards from the foreshore. The rates of marine insurance at the present time from the eastern ports to Esperance, and the rates of freight for the carriage of goods, are the same as those charged to Fremantle.
As a result of their investigation, the committee arrived at the following resolution : -
Taking everything into consideration, the weight of evidence enables your committee to report that the harbor of Esperance is a safe and commodious harbor.
I think every one must admit, in the face of such evidence, that there is a natural harbor at Esperance, and any statements to the contrary must be made by persons who do not know the facts, or are simply making assertions in order to defeat the claim for a railway. The second question dealt with by the committee is - What expenditure will be necessary on the harbor? The report on that point is as follows : -
The Government has already spent a considerable sum of money in the erection of a? jetty, Customs sheds, storage sheds, and public buildings, all of which are of a permanent and substantial character ; and your committee is of opinion that an expenditure of £75,000 would be ample to cover the cost of additional jetty accommodation, light-house, buoys, floating lights, &c.
On the question of expenditure, the committee arrived at this resolution : -
Your committee considers that an expenditure of £75,000 would be sufficient to provide ample jetty accommodation (with two tracks of railway line) to a depth of 40 feet of water, and this estimate includes the cost of one light-house, two light-ships, and all mooring and other buoys that may be necessary.
– What depth would that give ?
– A depth of 40 feet right up to the jetty. A third question was - What would be the cost of a railway to connect Esperance with the eastern gold-fields? That is a question that has often been discussed, and the committee went into it in the most careful way. On this point they say : -
In considering this question, your committee has had before it the cost of all the present lines in Western Australia, having particular attention to those recently constructed, viz., from Kalgoorlie to Menzies, and from Menzies to Malcolm, and is of the opinion that the proposed railway should not cost more than £3,000 per mile, including all rolling-stock (estimated to cost £250 per mile) when taking into consideration the fact that all the material can be landed at the port of Esperance, and construction commenced from that end. The actual cost of construction of the line from Kalgoorlie to Menzies was £3,249 per mile, and the total estimated cost of the line from Menzies to Malcolm is £3,367 per mile, both exclusive of rolling-stock. It must be borne in mind in this connexion, that these costs include railage on all material from Fremantle.
The committee on that point decided that the cost of the line, allowing for 60-lb. rails and including rolling-stock, should not exceed £3,000 per mile, or a total cost of £660,000. Many other estimates have been made, most of which put the figure lower than £3,000 per mile. The Minister for Defence, when Premier of Western Australia, introduced a Bill to construct a line over a portion of this route between Coolgardie and Norseman, and he then estimated that the total cost per mile would be something over £2,000. It will be seen, therefore, that the estimate quoted by the Committee of the Chamber of Mines is certainly not under the mark. In reply to the question whether the line would pay, the committee reported : -
Iti has already been shown that the estimated expenditure on the harbor of Esperance would be £75,000, and the cost of construction of 220 miles of railway, £660,000, making a total cost of £735,000. To pay 3£ per cent, interest on this sum would necessitate an annual profit of £25,725 over and above working expenses. Taking the working cost at 75 pet- cent, of the gross earnings, it would be necessary to have a gross revenue of not less than £102,900 per annum.
The report proceeds :-
The total imports into Western Australia for the year 1900 were valued at £5,062,178, and of this total goods to the value of £2,743,502 were imported from the Australasian colonies. The principal imports from the eastern States were cattle, sheep, and pigs for breeding and slaughter, horses for all purposes, oats, oatmeal, hay, chaff, flour, bran, pollard, manure, boots, shoes, butter, cheese, eggs, bacon, tongues, assorted meats, potatoes, fruits, . jams, jellies, wines, mining machinery, boilers, candies, sugar, soap, cakes, biscuits, &c. The whole of the country between the Coolgardie and the Kalgoorlie gold-fields and for40 miles beyond Norseman is heavily timbered. The construction of the proposed line would render these timber reserves available, and the freight on timber alone would provide a large revenue. There is evidence that a large belt of agricultural and pastoral land, having a good rainfall, would be opened up by the proposed line. Near Esperance there is what is known as the Pink Lake, which contains practically an inexhaustible supply of salt. Samples of this- salt have been analyzed by the Western Australian Government Assayer, Mr. Simpson,’ who said - “These samples contain only from -10 to ‘12 per cent, of mineral impurity, and are therefore equal to the very best brand of salt made in Europe.” With the cheap freights that would eventuate with the opening up of Esperance, this in itself would become an industry of value.
The honorable member for Coolgardie referred to the important mineral resources at Norseman. The gold-field at Norseman, which is situated midway between Esperance and Coolgardie, is a very promising one, and has already given a considerable yield, though mining operations there are very much retarded by the absence of railway facilities. Those who are in the best position to offer an opinion on the subject say that if railway facilities were given, the production of gold would be very large, and the traffic which greater mining activity would create would do much to make a line pay. Mr. Thomas, who represented the district in the Western Australian Parliament, went very’ thoroughly into the resources of that part of the State. He said-
Prior to 1897 the tonnage treated was 2,923 tons for a yield of gold of 3,980 ozs. During 1897 the tonnage treated was 16,980 tons, the number of ounces obtained 19,284; in 1S9S, 30,928 tons treated for 36,798 ozs. ; in 1S99, 59,379 tons treated for 44,213 ozs. The average up to that date is ‘95 ozs. per ton. During 1900 49,015 tons were treated for an output of 41,084 ozs., the average being -84 ; in 1901, 38,373 tons were treated for 37,084 ozs., the average being 96.
The monthly average output now is between 3,000 and 4,000 ozs.
There- is not the least doubt that a railway to Norseman would have been made long since but for the fact that its existence would have proved an unanswerable argument for its continuance to Esperance. The committee of the Western Australian Chamber of Mines, after having gone thoroughly into the figures to which I have referred, the cost of improvements necessary for the harbor at Esperance, the cost of constructing the line, and its possible receipts, came to the conclusion that there would be a profit after paying working expenses and interest on capital. If further argument were needed to support the contention that the line would pay, it is supplied by the fact that a number of private firms have offered to construct the railway. Private lines are not desirable in Australia, and very few people would advocate the construction of this line by private enterprise, but the fact that many private companies, controlled by clever financiers who have gone into the matter thoroughly, are prepared to contruct it, proves that . it would be a payable commercial concern. I have already stated that the railway, if constructed, would open up to the manufacturers and producers of the eastern States an extensive market for their productions in the gold-fields of Western Australia. I should like to see the manufacturers and producers of Western Australia supply all the requirements of that State ; but as it will be impossible for them to do so for a considerable time to come, I do not think that the gold mining and other large interests of the State should be sacrificed to benefit the smaller producing interests in the coastal districts. In support of the opinion that the construction of the proposed line would benefit the State, the committee of the Western Australian Chamber of Mines say-
Western Australia has an area of 975,920 square miles, or 624,5SS,800 acres ; but the total population is under 200,000. The principal articles of export from the State during the year 1901, exclusive of gold, were: - Wool, £378,135; timber £572,354 ; hides and skins, £86,559 ; pearls and shells, £130,730 ; sandalwood, £73,931 ; copper, £.110,769 ; tin, £52,102. The production of gold for the year J 901 was valued at £7,335,052. The auriferous area of Western Australia is probably larger than that of any other country, and greater railway facilities will enable this area to be more thoroughly opened up than at present. The saving in carriage over 167 miles of railway is of itself a by no means inconsiderable item. From the report of the general manager of railways it would appear that the eastern gold-fields railway and rolling stock is already taxed to its full capacity, and your committee suggests that the necessary . expenditure in additional rolling-stock and duplication of parts on the -eastern gold-fields railway could be better laid out by giving to the eastern gold-fields the use of its nearest port, which is Esperance. The backbone of the State is admittedly the gold-mining industry, and every shilling which can be saved in the cost of production enables a correspondingly lower grade of ore to bo treated. The expansion of the mining industry carries with it better, markets for the sale of agricultural and other produce, in addition to such manufactured articles as the State can produce, and consequently employment would be available for a much larger population than at present. There is no instance on record where a policy of decentralization has been of injury to the country which has adopted it.
In South Africa, where the chief industry is also mining, there are five important ports connected by rail with Johannesburg and Kimberley. These ports are Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, and Delagoa Bay. The records show that not only has each of these ports continued to steadily increase in importance and population, but the railway traffic on every line has shown steady progress.
Great Britain furnishes an even more convincing instance, while America, Queensland, New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia have proved the policy of decentralization to be beneficial to the State.
In the opinion of your committee the cheapening in the cost of living, and the more favorable conditions of life which would arise from a so much closer connexion with the eastern States, would, without any question, tend to the bringing over and settlement in this State of the families of workers employed in the State, and who now live in the eastern States, apart from their parents.
About£30,000is remitted through the post-office every month to the eastern States, and it is an admitted fact that a very large proportion of this amount is sent for the maintenance of workers’ families. The expenditure of this amount in this State would materially add to its prosperity as a whole.
Your committee also desires to emphasize the fact that with the lowering of the cost of working, it is not unreasonable to assume that many more mines will be worked than at present, with the result that the employment of so many more workers must add to the material prosperity of the State as a whole.
No institution has invested more money in Western Australia than that whose opinion I have just quoted. In conclusion, I should like to place this position before the House :
If the Government of Western Australia continue to refuse to construct this railway, the time may come when the Commonwealth will consider the advisableness of making it. The Commonwealth cannot compel the State to make the railway, but, inasmuch as its construction would greatly facilitate the interchange of trade and commerce between the eastern States and Western Australia, there are weighty reasons why the Commonwealth should take the matter of constructing the line into consideration. That, of course, could not be done without the consent of the State ; but if the State Government refused to make the railway, and adopted the dog-in-the-manger-like policy of declining to allow the Commonwealth to make it, the force of public opinion in Western Australia would eventually compel them to retract from one position or the other. The construction of the railway by the Commonwealth would to some extent cheapen the cost of the proposed transcontinental railway, because it would allow much of the material required to be brought over 220 miles of a federal railway, instead of over nearly 400 miles of State railway, i am sorry to have detained honorable members so long, but the subject, which is one of deep concern to the people of Western Australia, and especially to those whom I have the honour to represent, is a difficult one to explain accurately to honorable members who are not acquainted with the country. As was said in another debate this afternoon, most of the members of this House know very little about Western Australia, but I thank them for the indulgence which they have extended to me, and the Acting Prime Minister for having given us an opportunity to discuss the subject this afternoon.
– The House will recognise that the honorable members for Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie have dealt with this subject, which is of so great importance to both Western Australia and the Commonwealth, in a manner which reflects the greatest credit upon them. The speech of the honorable member for Coolgardie displayed an uncommon degree of research and careful consideration of the matter from the various aspects from which it may be viewed. He propounded some daring constitutional theories, but the base from which he moved was well established, and he supported his advances in a most lucid and logical manner. Honorable members have not listened to many speeches of so comprehensive a character. I was at first of the opinion that the Government might at once reply to what has been said in support of the motion ; but, having regard to the gravity of some of the issues raised, and to the fact that they must be further considered in relation to the powers of the Commonwealth in respect to the control of trade and commerce, I trust that the honorable members concerned will be content to have placed their own views upon record, and will consent to an adjournment of the debate. I therefore move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Attorney-General have leave to continue his speech on a future occasion?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In Committee :
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Acting Prime
Minister). - The prolongation of the debate elsewhere has prevented the return to this Chamber of either the purely formal and verbal amendments in the Electoral Bill suggested by the Message from His Excellency the Acting Governor-General, or the Appropriation Bills. The amendments suggested in the Electoral Bill are consequential upon the alterations made in either one House or the other, and are necessary in order to harmonize the different provisions of that measure. In view of the state of business in the Senate, it appears to be unnecessary to ask honorable members to assemble as early as 10.30 to-morrow morning. I therefore move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 2.30 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct attention to the proposed retrenchment in the Defence department. This afternoon I asked the Acting Minister for Defence whether he could supply honorable members with any information with regard to the details of the defence retrenchment which it was understood was to be effected in the administrative branches of the department. The Minister was not in a position to furnish details at that time, but he said that I was mistaken in stating that it was intended to confine the retrenchment to the administrative staff. He said, further, that the retrenchment would be effected to a very large extent by reducing the permanent forces. I find, on reference to Hansard, that on Thursday last the following statement was madeby the Minister : -
I hope there will be no misunderstanding, and that the suggestion I have made will be accepted. I give my word, which I hope the committee will accept - and I do not think I have ever been accused of not standing to my word in a case of this kind - that the reductions will be made, not in the direction that some honorable members seem to fear, but mainly in the expenses of the administrative staff.
Honorable members will probably recollect that I strongly urged that no retrenchment should take place among the men of the permanent forces, which is the direction which the honorable the Minister was referring to, and in which I had great fears it would take place ; but that it should be restricted to the officers of the central Headquarters staff and State Head-quarters staffs, and that is how the House accepted the proposed reduction in the service. The Minister made a similar promise to that which I have just quoted more than once, and yet the statement made in the press to the effect that the Permanent Artillery are to be largely reduced is confirmed by the Minister’s statement to-day. I do not intend to suggest how the retrenchment should be effected, but I think that the feeling of honorable members was that a sufficient reduction had not been made in the Head-quarters and other staffs and in the civil branch, and that the retrenchment should be effected principally in those directions. Honorable members urged the reduction of the Estimates by £62,000, because, in spite of the. promises made last year, the allowances previously made to officers had been added to their salaries, and the expected reductions in the expenses of the staff had not been effected. Solong as that state of things continues, there is no doubt that the House will insist upon continued reductions.
– I would point out to the honorable and learned member that he appears to be discussing a measure which is now before the other branch of the Legislature, and that he is, therefore, out of order. The honorable member would be perfectly in order in discussing an abstract question relating to the defences, but not in pursuing the course upon which he has now entered.
– My remarks are directed not so much to the Estimates which have just been passed by this Chamber, and are now before the Senate, as to the reductions which are to be made on nextyear’s Estimates.
– I understand that the reductions are to be made as from January next.
– Yes, no doubt ; but I was directing my remarks to the reductions which are to be made in the next Estimates. I trust that the Acting Prime Minister will see that the promises made by the Acting Minister for Defence are strictly carried out, and that the retrenchment measures will principally affect the officers of the Head-quarters staffs, and of the civil administrative branch, and that they will not, as in the past, operate to the disadvantage of the rank and file of the forces.
– I have had an opportunity of glancing through the very valuable report which has resulted from the self-denying work of the members of the commission which was appointed to report upon the condition of affairs upon the transport Drayton Grange. I believe that it will be found that the action of the Government has been fully justified by the report of the commission, which is based upon something over 1,500 pages of evidence. I understand, however, that owing to the fact that the commission was not a a strictly expert body, and also to the short time at their disposal, certain special information of a medico-scientific character has not been placed at the disposal of the House. Therefore I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that it should be left open to the professional members of the commission to place at the disposal of this House, in the form of an addendum to the report, any additional information they may desire to communicate. I believe this will not only prove valuable to us, but will be received with a great deal of appreciation by those who take an interest in these matters in every part of the British’ Empire. It will be of importance to the Admiralty, and to the health authorities in Great Britain, and will doubtless have a marked effect upon the regulations framed with regard to Imperial transports and, in fact, all sea-going vessels.
– I should like to say a word or two with regard to what was stated recently by the Honorable J. Kidd, the Minister of Mines and Agriculture in New South Wales, when speaking to his constituents at Camden, which forms a part of the federal constituency I represent. Mr. Kidd said that the State Government had supported the remission of the duty on fodder, and that Mr. Wise, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, was sent to Victoria to see if it was possible to get the duties taken off,but that the Federal Government would give no satisfaction. Honorable members may recollect that a deputation introduced by the honorable member for Wentworth waited upon the Acting Prime Minister with the request that the fodder duties might be remitted. The Minister gave a very indefinite reply, but the deputation left under the impression that there was some hope that, in the interests of the owners of starving stock in New South Wales and Queensland, a remission would be made. However, we saw subsequently, from the statements made by members of the Government and others, that the duties were to be enforced out of consideration for the interests of other parts of the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the Attorney-General of New South Wales, who had an interview with the Acting Prime Minister, on the day following that upon which the deputation was received, used his best endeavours to persuade the Federal Government to remit these duties. It appears to me very strange that we should be able to come away from the deputation with the impression that the duties would be remitted, and that the situation should undergo a complete change immediately after the Attorney-General of New South Wales had waited on the Acting Prime Minister. Could the Acting Prime Minister say whether, at that consultation, he and Mr. Wise came to the conclusion that there was a legal difficulty in the way and that the duties could not be remitted?
– I shall direct the attention of the Acting Minister for Defence to the references made by the honorable and learned member for Corio. The statement made by the Minister this afternoon was that the reductions were authorized in the permanent forces, and would not affect the militia forces, or rifle clubs, or the citizen soldiery generally. I understand that the Acting Minister for Defence wrote a memorandum of instructions to the General Officer Commanding with reference to the reductions, and that he received first of all an explanatory paper which it is proposed to lay on the table at once. He next received a memorandum with regard to the proposed retrenchment, which he has not yet had an opportunity to consider, but which, if it contains a satisfactory proposal, he may also present to the House. Consequently I think it is uncertain whether any of the retrenchments in question have yet been determined upon. I am sure that the country will recognise that it is under an obligation to the members of this House and to the professional men who constituted the Drayton Ch’ange Royal commission upon the inquiry. I have had an opportunity of cursorily perusing their report, which appears to me to be a model of clearness and brevity. By studying its few pages any one who wishes to do so can glean all the essential facts connected with that unhappy incident, and the conclusions to be deduced from them. But the great value of such a report is to be found in the suggestion, which it contains for the prevention of loss of life and suffering in the future. Under these circumstances I shall recommend my colleagues to favorably consider the desirableness of acquiring any further recommendations which might be of future use, either to the Admiralty in its transport service or to ships tainted with infection. The third matter to which I have to reply was that raised by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. In answer to his inquiries, I desire to say that when the question of the remission of the fodder duties arose three courses of action were open. One of these might have been taken by the Commonwealth alone, a second by the States alone and a third by the States and the Commonwealth acting jointly, or by the States acting with the consent of the Commonwealth. When the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, on behalf of the Government of that State, waited upon me to discuss this matter, the first question considered was - What could the Commonwealth itself do 1 By that I mean - Could the Commonwealth remit the fodder duties, and, if so, ought it constitutionally to do so f Upon that, matter we speedily came to the conclusion that it was not constitutionally proper for the Commonwealth to take action under the circumstances. There was no doubt whatever that of itself New South Wales could accomplish much, and it is equally certain that it ‘has accomplished a great deal, by reducing its railway freights, and granting concessions to the owners of starving stock generally. At that conference the Attorney-General of New South Wales intimated that if the Commonwealth could not see its way to take action, it was the intention of his Government to further reduce the railway charges which were then being made. It was with regard to the third course of joint procedure that the most difficult questions arose. In connexion with that the Commonwealth did everything in its power. Courses of action were discussed, which might appear to constitute breaches on the part of the State of its obligations to the Commonwealth. Upon that occasion the assurance which I gave was that, instead of adhering to the strict letter of the law, and enforcing against the State the sections of the Constitution which might be Interpreted as prohibit-, ing their free action, we should assist in every possible way. I went so far as to point out particular means by which the same end might be achieved without any breach of the Constitution. Where our hands were not tied, we stretched them out in the friendliest possible manner. The Attorney-General of New South Wales has admitted that, and if his colleague is correctly reported, I fail to understand how he could have omitted that statement of fact. I feel sure that the Mr. Wise will indorse my statement that we offered in the most liberal fashion to meet the States interested in respect of any action which they might take, and to which some prohibition might have been opposed.
– Was the Attorney-General of New South Wales satisfied that constitutionally the Commonwealth Government could not suspend those duties 1
– He was, because it was not possible for us to discriminate between States. He was also satisfied that it was constitutionally dangerous for the
Commonwealth to take some of the courses which we discussed, and he further agreed that it was possible to accomplish the end in view by other means.
– It was for the State Government to initiate action?
– Exactly. The various means by which the same end could be obtained without even an apparent breach of the Constitution were considered. For example, the State Governments could even have returned to the owners of starving stock the duties collected upon fodder, without coming into conflict with the provisions of that Constitution, providing it were done in a certain way.
– As long as the duties are imposed we encourage the formation of rings, which can charge the people whatever price they choose.
– One of the proposals discussed by us was the adoption of means by which the owners of all starving stock could bo returned She duties which had been paid upon their importations. But the practical difficulty which commanded most consideration was how that object could be effected without involving a breach of the Constitution. The Government of New South “Wales, however, has since decided that it can best assist the owners of starving stock by giving them cheaper railway freights and other aid far more effective to the inland settlers than the removal of duties, thus avoiding the necessity of invoking the particular methods discussed by the Attorney-General and myself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 8.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19021009_reps_1_12/>.