1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. THOMSON presented a petition from the ColonialSugar Refining Company Ltd., Sydney, praying the House to direct an inquiry into the practices and circumstances connected with an alleged unequal collection of excise upon sugar.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer if there have been any negotiations with the State Premiers, especially since the Premiers’ Conference, in regard to the transfer of State debts, to the Commonwealth. If there have been such negotiations, how soon will he feel free to take the members of this. House into his confidence upon the subject t
– I have had no negotiations with the Premiers of the States upon the subject.
– Will the right honorable and learned gentleman, before entering into negotiations to take over any part of the debts of any State, obtain an absolute agreement from that State that it will not borrow any more money except through the Commonwealth ?
– I shall be glad to do what I can in that direction, but my honorable friend is asking me to perform a very hard task. My inclinations run in the direction he has indicated, and I shall be very glad to carry out his views if I have the opportunity.
-Will the Minister for Home Affairs lay upon the table a statement showing the number of electors in each of the new subdivisions of New South Wales 1
– Let us have the information for all the States of the Commonwealth.
– I cannot obtain information in respect to all the States of- the Commonwealth until the work of subdivision has been completed. With regard to the State of New South . Wales, although I know what the number of electors in each electorate is, I have not received any official information upon the subject, and if the honorable and learned member for Werriwa will refer to the Electoral Act he will find that the Minister has no power to compel the Commissioner to give him information until after the expiration of the month which is allotted for the lodging and consideration of objections and suggestions. Directly the. previous subdivision of New South Wales was completed, I gave the’ information to the press, but the law to which I refer was not then in existence. Under existing circumstances, I am powerless to compel the Commissioner to give me information until he supplies it to me officially.
– Does the Minister know’ if the South Australian Commissioner has finished the subdivision of that State?
– I saw a paragraph in one of the newspapers to the effect - that the subdivision had’ been completed, and a report forwarded to my office.
– It was stated that the Commissioner was waiting for an intimation from the Minister.
– I have not received any information -from South Australia. A telegram was sent to the Commissioner there yesterday, to inquire if the work had been completed, but I have not yet had a reply to it. It is the Commissioner’s duty to issue the necessary maps, and give all the information required by law, hut I am powerless to compel him to do more than his commission instructs him to do.
– Can the Minister inform us whether- the figures which have been published in one of the Sydney newspapers are correct 1
– I do not know what figures have been published, but I have not made any information public. I have not seen the figures referred to.
– All the figures have been published.
– I have no information to that effect. If the honorable and learned member for Werriwa will supply me with a copy of the newspaper report to which he has referred, I will compare the rigures contained in it with the figures which have been supplied to me.
– The South Australian newspapers have published similar information.
– I desire to know from the Minister for Home Affairs what provision is being made to meet the case of electors who have changed their residence since the names were collected for the federal electoral rolls ? At present there are no electoral registrars to “ deal with the matter. Under the Act, if an elector has changed his place of residence, he will not be able to vote for the electorate on the roll of which his name appears. What provision is made for giving him a vote in the division to which he has removed?
– I should like notice to be given of that question ; but I think that special provision is made in the Act to meet cases of the kind referred to.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs a letter which I have received from a friend of mine at Grafton, in New South Wales. The letter is as follows : -
I have qualified for a vote in New South Wales, but I am unable to find any one who is in a position to inform me how to get my name on the roll so that lean vote at the forthcoming election. I wish you would write and inform me at once who to apply to.
– The writer has only to apply to the Chief Electoral Officer in order to have his name placed upon the roll.
– I desire to know from the Minister for Home Affairs when the federal rolls will be prepared and exhibited for public information 1 ‘ ‘
– The names of all applicants and of those who have’ been placed upon the rolls are in the electoral office at present ; the rolls are being prepared in accordance with the law. Each name has to be placed in the lists for one or the other of the polling places in the various divisions; and this cannot be done until this House has dealt with the subdivisions.
– I wish to ask the Minister if the Chief Electoral Officers have been appointed for each of the States, and, if so, what are the names of the gentlemen selected 1
– The acting Chief Electoral Officer is in Melbourne, and certain gentlemen have been engaged in the various States to carry out arrangements in connexion with the compilation of the rolls. No permanent officials have, however, yet been appointed. Following up the reply which I gave just now to the question asked by the honorable member for Maranoa, I desire to say that, if any person wishes to have his name placed upon the roll he has only “to write to the electoral officer in the State for which he has a vote, or to the central electoral office, or to myself. If he adopts either of these alternative methods, he will certainly have his name placed upon the roll.
Sir EDMUND BARTON laid upon the table the following papers : -
Resolutions agreed to at the Conference of State Premiers held in Sydney on loth April, 1903, and following days.
Papers relating to the admission of certain boilermakers into Western Australia.
Papers relating the admission of certain Maoris into New South Wales.
– I desire to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that yesterday I gave notice that to-day I would move a motion which I now find is placed on . the notice-paper for Friday. The Minister for Defence had informed me that the motion would be unopposed. It will be very inconvenient for me to attend the House at half -past 10 on Friday morning, and I fully relied upon the usual practice being followed, namely, that of placing a motion on the notice-paper for the date specified in the notice.
– The practice is that no business of the character to which the honorable and learned member’s notice refers - nothing except purely formal business - shall be entered upon until the address in reply is adopted. I therefore propose to allow the honorable and learned member’s notice of motion to stand on the paper in such position as he may prefer until the time to which I have referred arrives.
Debate resumed from 26 th May (vide page 66) on motion by Mr. L. E. Groom -
That the following address in reply to the Governor-General’s opening speech be now adopted : -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– The leader of the Opposition has exhausted entirely the full measure of compliment that it is expedient or desirable for the Opposition to lavish upon the Government, and therefore I do not presume to add anything in that direction. Indeed, I do not know that I could conscientiously add very much, or suggest anything that could be construed as being of the nature of flattery. A cynical Frenchman once said that, provided meals were served regularly, and the trains ran to time, it did not very much signify under ‘ what form of government one lived. That was a philosophical view of the case that I should possibly entertain, but for the fact that it could hardly apply, even in the case of the cynical Frenchman, to the Barton Government. I think the gentleman referred to would have found that something better than that might be looked for, even though meals were served regularly and trains were punctual. The Prime Minister has made some kind of answer to the speech of the leader of the Opposition. He began by saying that, except as to the matter of the six hatters, my right honorable friend had touched upon no measures of the Government, past or present.
– No. I did not say that. I said that the right honorable gentleman did not find fault with the measures of legislation already passed, or those proposed for this session, and that his notice as to the results of legislation was confined to the case of the six hatters.
– Well, if there was nothing whatever in the attack made by the leader of the Opposition, it seems extraordinary that the Prime Minister should have occupied two hours and a quarter in answering nothing - because that is the unfortunate position in which the Prime Minister finds himself. I shall now proceed to deal with some of the replies that the Prime Minister has made to the points raised by my right honorable friend. These points, according to the Prime Minister, were of no consequence ; but I wish to point out that his answers were of no consequence, and were in some cases hardly in keeping with ordinary common sense. The Prime Minister found fault with the leader of the Opposition for having given three different reasons why the Judiciary Bill was not passed during last session, and according to him, these three reasons absolutely contradict each other. The first of these reasons, in the order in which the Prime Minister gave them, was that the Opposition had prevented the passing of the Bill because of the fear of the appointments being made in recess ; the second was, that the Government neglected to push on with the measure ; and the third was that the Government did not wish to pass the Bill because they could not spare Senator O’Connor from another place. If we only reverse the order of these reasons, we shall find that there is nothing contradictory in them. The Government did not push on with the Bill primarily, because they did not wish to lose Senator O’Connor. Having thus neglected to push on with it, they brought it to the end of the session, when the sense of the Opposition, as expressed by its leader, was that it was undesirable that the Bill should be passed at that particular time, so that the appointments would be made during the recess, when the eyes and the voice of Parliament could not be brought to bear upon them. A fourth reason might have been adduced by the leader of the Opposition had he thought of it, namely, that the Government did not push the Bill through because they had very serious apprehensions as to whether they would succeed. Now, the Prime Minister was charged by the leader of the Opposition with having, whilst in Tasmania, made certain statements about him which were wholly untrue. That is the briefest way of putting it.
– The politest, also.
– Tes, the politest ; because true politeness consists in expressing in parliamentary language exactly what one means. One of these charges was that the Prime Minister had declared that the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney and his party combined with the labor party to procure the defeat of the tea and kerosene duties, to the great loss of Tasmania. This is how the Prime Minister is quoted in a Tasmanian paper : -
The party of which Mr. Reid was the leader, who was always accusing him of being under the thumb of the labour party, absolutely combined with that party to take off the duties on tea and kerosene, which for Tasmania were the most necessary in the Tariff.
Of course, all through the speeches made in Tasmania, there was a strong bid for the Tasmanian vote, and that bid is being made from the Tasmanian platform to-day - it is to be made to-morrow even. As ‘ a matter of fact, as the leader of the Opposition has explained, when the tea and kerosene duties were before the House, he was not present, and he was no party whatever to the debate or to the division which took place. As a fact, the tea duty was thrown out, not as a consequence of the votes cast against it by the Opposition, but because of the defection of eight of the Government supporters.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney was paired against the Government.
– Yes ; but that does not affect the statement that Mr. Reid acted in combination with the labour party, “because he was never in combination or in conference with them on the subject. When it is said that the rejection of the tea duty was the work of the Opposition, it may be pointed out that twelve members of the Opposition voted with the Government for the retention of the duty, and I do not think, therefore, that it can be fairly charged against the Opposition that they were the cause of the duty being thrown out. A large number of members of the Opposition voted in favour of the duty.
– The majority cf the Opposition voted with the Government.
– Yes. The majority of those present. Surely it was incumbent upon the Treasurer, who knew how important this duty was to one of the States, to do what he could to secure the support of his own followers in having it recommitted. There was another point as to which the leader of the Opposition was misrepresented in Tasmania by the Prime Minister, and as to which the Prime Minister, has offered no answer whatever. I refer to the statement that the leader of the Opposition and the free-trade party desired to force direct taxation upon the States. I have here a report of what occurred at the Devonport meeting. The Prime Minister, having made this statement, Mr. John Henry asked -
Will you quote where the free-traders say that?
– I have no quotations with me, but I believe I have heard Mr. G-. H. Reid say so.
That is all. “I believe I have heard Mr. G. H. Reid say so.” Sir Philip Fysh said -
Sir William McMillan had said that they would require to raise .t’2,000,000by direct taxation.
That is an old figment which was thoroughly swept away by the honorable member for Wentworth two years ago. “ At any rate,” said Mr. Barton, “ I am not in the habit of making incorrect statements.” But the statement to which I have drawn attention was an incorrect one. Whether it is the habit of the Prime Minister to make such statements I do not know. I do not think it is.
– I should have to change from my side of the House if it were.
– However, the fact remains that the statement which the Prime Minister made was an utterly incorrect one, and the right honorable gentleman, when questioned in regard to it, could only say that “he thought he had heard Mr. . G. H. Reid say so.” In replying to the leader of the Opposition yesterday the Prime “Minister pointed out, with considerable emphasis, the importance of this particular measure to Tasmania. Tasmania, he said, now obtains very much less revenue from customs than she did under her old State Tariff. That is so. She obtains a- great deal less owing to the very low excise duties upon tobacco and spirits, the absence of any excise whatever upon wine, and the high duty imposed upon made-up woollen goods. Upon the last-named class of goods alone Tasmania has sustained a loss of £30,000 per annum, a loss which is far greater than that occasioned by the remission of the tea duty, which the Prime Minister stated was so precious to the people of that State. The right honorable gentleman also charged the leader of the Opposition with having entered into an unholy combination with some mysterious body which desired to secure the introduction of cheap labour by opposition to the passage of the Immigration Restriction Bill - a statement which is absolutely opposed to facts and to common . sense. What is the unholy combination into which the leader of the Opposition entered for the purpose of carrying out the scheme suggested ? With whom did he make the combination ? Those who voted for the Act in its present form included the members of the ‘ labour party and all save six members . of the Opposition. ‘Are they the special representatives of capital ? I was one of the six who voted with the Government for the Bill in its original form, because I held that I was pledged by my utterances in London in 1897, when the matter was being discussed with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I agreed then that we should legislate on the lines of the Natal Act, and upon my return to Tasmania I introduced and passed through the State Parliament a measure framed upon those lines. Accordingly”, it was only consistent that I should take the same stand last session. That, however, does not justify the charge made against the leader of the Opposition of entering into an unholy combination in an endeavour to defeat the passage of the. Immigration Restriction Bill. What did he do ? He endeavoured to make that measure effect what it was intended to accomplish according to all the opinions expressed throughout Australia. He endeavoured to introduce . the colour, line in order to secure a white Australia by. a straight-out policy of exclusion.
– “A white Australia “ is, an expression to trade upon.
– Of course there is a cry for a white Australia, and it is only reasonable to insist that we should have that term clearly defined by providing a test which will exclude all coloured aliens. Regarding that measure it seems a little extraordinary that whereas on 10th May, 1901 - the day after the opening of Parliament - Senator O’Connor made a mistake in saying that the colour line would be applicable to all coloured aliens except British subjects, to whom an educational test would . be applied, and that the Bill had already been drafted and presumably discussed by the Cabinet, that remark - a remark of the most striking character - escaped the attention of thePrime Minister until a day or two ago. This seems to indicate that the method bt drafting a Bill of that great importance was, at any rate, a very haphazard one, which does not reflect particular credit upon the administrative capacity of the Government. The Bill was amended in committee at the instance of the honorable member for Bland, and as a result of that amendment the notorious case of the six hatters has arisen. I maintain that both this House and the Senate were clearly led to understand that the amendment - qualified as it’ was by other portions of the Bill - could not be interpreted as it has been since.
– The Opposition are very innocent.
– The honorable member for Bland is one of the innocent, unless, indeed, he be deeper in craft than I have hitherto assumed him to be. .
– I think they all . understood what was meant.
– I certainly did nob understand” what it now appears was intended. If we consult Hansard we shall find that, in the debate upon the measure in question,, the honorable member for Kooyong said -
But I have had a knowledge of the necessity of introducing considerable numbers of men for particular industries, because they have had special training and experience.
The Attorney-General here injected -
That is provided for.
The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said-
There is no desire to exclude men who voluntarily seek to make their homes’ here.
– As free men.
– I suppose that they come to Australia voluntarily if they come under, . an agreement. ‘ They might not come voluntarily if they did not come’ under an” agreement. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said-
There is no desire to exclude men who voluntarily seek to make their homes here for the purpose of engaging in manual labour or anything else, so long as they belong to civilized white races, and are themselves desirable immigrants. As _I understand it, we have never in Australia taken up that narrow view of saying that we must keep Australiafor ourselves and our children.
– Oh no.
– It is well that that should be generally understood.
What happened in the Senate? Senator Sargood said -
Such a paragraph as this is, so far as I know, contrary to the wishes of the general public. . . It will allow the Minister to stifle industries that may . require the importation of specially-skilled men, and the consequence will be that capital which might profitably be employed in developing industries will be unable to be so utilized.
In replying to that contention, -the PostmasterGeneral said -
There is a special exemption for skilled men, so that the honorable Senator has no ground to stand upon in his objection to the paragraph.
The doubts and fears of members of both Houses were thus lulled to rest, and a -section was passed which has been interpreted by the Prime Minister, who declared that he had no discretion in the matter, in a way that is calculated to prove most disastrous to Australia. Some honorable ‘ members may regard this as a matter oflittle moment ; but let them recall what has already been its effect, and let them imagine what it is calculated to be if the law be allowed to remain upon, the statute-book in its present form. We have heard some expressions of opinion concerning this legislation both in England and out here. From England the Agent-General for New “South Wales found it incumbent upon him to cable to his Government that the effect of the exclusion of the six hatters had been to damage the credit of Australia in the English money market. That is not an unreasonable result. The Prime Minister has stated that the despatch of the cable in question was the result of promptings from Australia - the outcome of some conspiracy, I do not “know what, and on the part of some conspirator, I do not know who.
– I hope that our credit is too strong for that.
– Our credit is not so good that it cannot be destroyed if we defy the Imperial sentiment and outrage our association with the mother country and the Empire by actions such as that.
– But the six hatters are not Imperial sentiment.
– There have been many wars concerning the rights of one Englishman.
– To my mind there is an object lesson in the way in which the Act has been interpreted. The Prime Minister states that he made due inquiry into the case of the six hatters, and that, after satisfying himself that they were experts in their business, he.allowed them to enter the Commonwealth. Is the right honorable gentleman to satisfy himself that everybody who is imported under an agreement is an expert in this, that, or some other branch of industry in which his manual labour may be required ? If I desired to enjoy good living, and accordingly imported a trained cook, possibly the Prime Minister might be able to express an opinion as to his qualifications - after trial. But all through the range of employments, who is to be the judge whether a man imported by a vigneron, a manufacturer, or a manufacturing interest, or by an individual for his own particular service, is an expert whom we may admit under this Act?
– The statute makes the Minister the judge, but the Minister, like every other judge, will have to go by evidence.
– What a nice occupation for the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth !
– How would the Prime Minister set about obtaining evidence as to an imported cook ? It was clearly incumbent on the Government to as little as possible outrage the sentiment of any State. And what has passed in the Legislative Assembly in Sydney is in itselfa very severe stigma upon the Government. I find that the Premier of that State, Sir John See, who is not particularly in alliance with the leader of the Federal Opposition, expressed the opinion at a very early stage of the contretemps that the Federal Government was entirely in the wrong in preventing the hatters from landing. In his place in Parliament, Sir JohnSee said that if he acted from personal feeling he would be prepared to break the law even if he . had to go to gaol. That is not a nice thing to have said of the Federal Legislature by the Premier of the mother State. Mr. Hawken, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, said that this was a matter in which every true Britisher would feel indignation such, as it was almost impossible to express. Mr. Hawken further said it was difficult to imagine that, in a place like Australia, with our liberal legislation, six Englishmen, who were as much denizens of the Empire as- were the members of that House themselves, should be prevented by a federal law, passed without the knowledge of the people, from landing. Mr. B. R. Wise, the New South Wales Attorney-General, who is no special ally of the leader of the Federal- Opposition, said he was sure every member of the New South Wales Legislative Council must sympathize with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Hawken. Mr. Wise admitted the sentiment that was properly entertained by members of the House ; but he appealed to honorable members not to bring forward in that Chamber a matter over which as a Parliament they had no control, and with which they had no concern.
– And he might have added that it was a matter about which they knew very little.
– Of course Mr. B. R. Wise would not pretend to know as much about this matter, or perhaps any other matter, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ; but still that was the view which Mr. Wise took, and it was a view largely taken in- England. On this latter point, the honorable member for Wentworth will no doubt be able to give us some information. It is a view natural enough, surely, in a case in which six of Our fellow Britishers, our fellow countrymen,. free nien and unionists-
– Not free men.
– Yes, free men.
– No ; bond slaves.
– Then no workman is a free man who is under a contract.
– In this case the men were bond slaves.
– Does a man sacrifice his freedom when he agrees to take a certain wage for a certain work ?
– Certainly he does.
– Then we are none of us free men.
– Very likely we are not.
– How can the honorable member for Bland speak about free men when he is himself paid under a contract?
– I can retire at any moment.
– So can these men, because the contract ceases to be in force.
– Excuse me, that is not so.
– The only extenuating plea I have heard for this policy is that there is a similar enactmentin America. But the Americans do not exclude Americans ; they exclude aliens.
– The Canadians exclude Britishers.
– We exclude fellow Britishers.
– So do the Canadians.
– Will th& honorable member for Bland suffer a few moments in patience. The point is. that America carries out this policy with justification possibly, because she excludes, not fellow countrymen, but people who donot belong to her. But, in spite of the fact that America has over 80,000,000 of: people, the immigration to the United States to-day is hundreds of thousands, in the year, and it is admitted that, but for this immigration, thenaturalized and born Americans would, in the course of some years, deteriorate to a. very considerable extent. The influx of new blood in America is a physiological necessity, owing to the climate of a greatpart of the country, as it will be found tobe a physiological necessity in Australia,, where we try to shut out immigration. Is Australia fully populated ? Have we the number of citizens within the Commonwealth we ought to have to push our industries and develop all our wonderful resources? Ought we to suffer any law toremain on our statute-book that excludes any immigrant who is a desirable man tohave amongst us 1 I think not. I suppose the Prime Minister referred to me when hespoke of the duty on potatoes and oatsbeing maintained on a high principle. There is something in that reference, and I did say something to that effect, and I did so advisedly. I was apologizing to my audience for what might appear to bea lapse from the path of the free-trader,, the audience being free-traders for the most part ; and my explanation was, I think,, thoroughly justifiable. I said that seeing that Tasmania made large sacrifices to enter the Commonwealth, and to purchase her way into the five ports of Australia, New Zealand, which had every opportunity of coming in, and which was courted and entreated tocome in, should not, as a matter of justice,, have the same rights as Tasmania. That was not because Tasmania imports one bushel of oats or one ton of potatoes from New Zealand, or is ever likely to do so.
When I was Premier of Tasmania I proposed to strike the duties off potatoes, oats, and cereals of all sorts, for the very simple reason that the duties were there for no particular purpose, inasmuch as we collected no revenue in the absence of any importation. But when it became a question of our being federated, and making considerable sacrifices for federation, then I thought it right and fair that, so long as New Zealand stood out, that colony should not have accorded to it all the privileges that Tasmania had bought. We have lately had an invasion of Tasmania by Ministers. We have had the Prime Minister, and also the Secretary for Home Affairs - the latter of whom is going over again - and we have the honorary Minister, Sir Philip Fysh, there now. Sir Philip Fysh has to address a meeting in Launceston to-morrow ; that is his parliamentry business at the present time. If one were an evil-minded critic it might be supposed that Sir Philip Fysh was there, and that his colleagues had gone there, in ‘view of the impending elections ; but if so, I think they are very much wasting their time. I do not chink that thenbeing there will have any particular effect on the electors of Tasmania, or banish from their minds the bitterly hostile feeling that Ministers engendered early in their career. The Prime Minister yesterday spoke about my unkindness towards my ex-colleague, the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh. There is no unkindness of mine ; the unkindness is that of the Government in having placed the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, in the position in which he now finds himself. Ministers went to Tasmania and said - “ We are the men who want to secure to you a proper revenue from the customs and to save you from an income tax.” The income tax at the time was very unpopular in Tasmania, and Ministers played on that fact when they said - “ Po not listen to the Opposition, who will force an income lax on’ you : listen to us, who will save you from it.” That is a good card to play if only the Government do not get found out, and the people do not discover that the cards are marked. 1 have no feeling of hostility towards the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh. He was my colleague ; and I ‘ hope I was loyal to him so long as he and I were of the same political complexion. The honorable member was a free-trader, and I was a freetrader; but after 65 years’ experience he
has become a protectionist. It is said that a man who never changes his mind is a fool, but a man who goes on for 65 years a fool in being of any political complexion, and then changes his mind so late in the day, does no good for himself. I want to show how extremely false is the position in which the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, has been placed. The other day at Hobart, speaking after the Prime Minister, and echoing what had fallen from the right honorable gentleman, he said -
This high Tariff is therefore a revenue Tariff, and not a destructive Tariff. Boots and hats would yield a little more at 10 per cent., but in connexion with almost everything else, I am in a position to say that the duties are not destructive, even if they do enable the manufacturers of these States to supply a certain number of Australian people. It is not a fact that a lower Tariff produces more revenue. When Mr. Reid says that he will secure the same amount of revenue from a lower Tariff, 1 say that he does not know what he is talking about.
That is the honorable gentleman as a protectionist, who, while he says that low duties do not secure a larger amount of revenue than high duties, tells his audience in almost the same breath that if the duties upon boots and hats had been reduced from 30 to 10 per cent, they would have yielded a greater return. He goes on to say -
So far as Tasmania is concerned, I will tell you this : That I strove to get the highest Tariff I possibly could, because I wanted to save you from direct taxation. There was give and take on both sides, and we secured a Tariff which is about as reasonable as we can expect. You have no business to pay a higher Tariff.
I ask honorable members to mark that statement. No doubt the electors of Tasmania will do so. Although lie told them that they had no business to pay a higher Tariff, lie again and again voted during the consideration of the Tariff for duties much higher than those which were agreed to. The Tariff which is now in force is not the Tariff which was brought down by the Government. It bears only a very faint likeness to it, and is incomparably superior to it, in that it is infinitely more moderate.
– It bears the same relation to it as a half-caste bears to a blackfellow.
– I will now ask the House to listen to what the honorable member, Sir Philip Fysh, said - with my complete concurrence, and knowing that I should indorse every word he uttered - when Treasurer of my Administration in 1897-8. In a Budgee speech which he delivered upon 14th October, 1897, he said -
In .1882 aci valorem, duties of 10 per cent, and minimum specific duties, added to a beer duty of 3d. per gallon, produced on a population of 102,834, il revenue of £302,954. Iti 1896 a maximum ad valorem duty o£ 20 per cent., and maximum specific duties, plus 4d. excise on beer, produced on a population of 100,1 13, £347,025. The difference is £44,971. The increase of population, without any increase of duty should, and probably would, have yielded £113,523. If that can be fairly assumed, then the increased Tariff isa loss .and not a gain to the revenue. Can any facts more forcibly convince that our Tariff is baneful to the people without securing the revenue intended V
In his next Budget speech he said -
We admit that our experience of high Tariffs is that they too often defeat their primary object, and revenue is not gained.
That is a fairly explicit statement in favour of low duties. Now, as to direct taxation. Speaking in 1897, the honorable gentleman said -
In 1882 Parliament was influenced to give relief to the taxpayer through the Customs, which the Treasurer of the day said then bore the relation of 70 per cent, to the total taxation of the country. I find that it was nearer 81 per cent., and I believe that policy of relief to be sound in principle. In 1890 the relation is nearly 75 per cent., and in 1897 it will be much higher. That policy of 1882 was directed on principles which called to the aid of the revenue the land tax and the dividend tax of 1880. It finds its origin in the policy of the British Mouse of Commons, and if we are unable to adopt the Imperial fiscal policy in its entirety, we may accept it as a guide in regard to general principles. The Parliament of 1882 and 1892 accepted the necessities and equities of these proposals, and the people have been loyal to the compact. Yet a cry of repeal rises from the few who Pay income tax, in disregard of the many who bear without a murmur all the other extra burdens I have named. The total repeal of the income tax would be a sin against the people, a breach of the canons of political economy, and a repudiation of an equitable adjustment to which all classes of the taxpayers have been parties.
In conclusion, he said -
Necessity and a statesmanlike policy of fiscal reform alike brought into existence the income tax.
I am showing what a complete change of front in regard to direct taxation by means of income tax there has been on the part of the honorable gentleman. AVe can all take the opportunity now afforded us to point out the grievances, more or less heavy, from which the people suffer as a consequence of maladministration. If I thought there was any hope of improvement I would once more urge the absolute necessity for a larger measure of economy in administration than is now apparent. Here is one instance which to my mind shows utterly uncalledfor expenditure - the appointment of an Inspector-General of Works at a salary- of £1,000 a” year, and of six assistants at a salary of £600 a year each - a total yearly expenditure of £4,600 upon officers whose duties for a considerable time to come might very well have been performed by public servants of the States for a mere trifle in comparison with the sum I have named.
– That statement is not correct. The charges made by the Governments of the States exceed by many times the amount the right honorable gentleman has named.
– That is due to mismanagement. The Minister could have come to better terms.
– Does the Minister say that he could not make an arrangement with the States 1
– No. lt was not passible.
– Any other man in the position could have done so.
– 1 think that any one else could have done so, and that it would have been an exceedingly simple matter to arrange, inasmuch as in the services of the States there are men who are fully competent to do the work, and who are more familiar with the buildings which have to be attended to, and the requirements of our service, than a newlyappointed staff can be. A man who could not make a more economical arrangement with the States has no right to be a Minister. Then there are little pinpricks of administration which might very well be removed by the exercise of more consideration and expedition. I have two complaints which I specially desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs. One is in regard to the extravagant bonding rents which are now exacted, and which have been heavily increased since federation ; and the second is in regard to the delay which exists in getting complaints heard. The Minister is expedition itself in seizing upon all he can lay hold of to obtain revenue, and I applaud him for his vigilance, where it has been properly directed, and for his determination that all revenue actually due should be collected.
But, even as to that, I think there are ways of doing things strictly which would not have brought him into so much antagonism with the people of the country. He must know how bitter the feeling is throughout the trading world in regard to the administration of the Customs department.
– I have not found such a feeling to exist.
– Then the right honorable gentleman has not looked far for a manifestation of it. There is considerable delay in obtaining replies to communications pointing out cases calling for redress. I do not complain about the Minister being quick to collect duty where it ought to be collected ; but I think that he should be quicker in refunding duties which ought not to have been collected. I brought such a case under his notice many weeks ago, but, up to the present time, J have received no sort of answer to my letter. [ was a little amused the other day to see how the Minister held himself up for public admiration as the Customs Minister who has received more conscience money than any other. I did not know that there was so much childlike and bland innocence in his composition. He appears not to see that, even if the fact is as stated, he does not receive- all the revenue which might be expected. If a merchant make a mistake in his entries now, he dare not own up to it. If he is an ultra-honest man, he has to send an anonymous letter to the Commissioner.
– That is not a fact.
– How can the Minister know that it is not a fact that conscience money is sent in under these circumstances?
– What I mean is that if a man points out a slip that would otherwise pass our notice, he is certainly not punishable for it.
– A good many persons have had a contrary experience.
– No; they have not, although it has been so stated for political purposes.
– I am not making these statements for any political purpose, but I am pointing out what is a popular belief, namely, that it is dangerous to point out mistakes in entries, because those mistakes are seized upon by the Customs authorities, and fines are inflicted.
– That is a pious belief that is wrongly entertained.
– What I have stated is laid down in the Customs Act as it is administered.
– There is nothing of the” kind in the Act.
– It seems to me that the Minister does not know the Act which he has to administer. I wish to direct attention to one or two matters relating to the Post and Telegraph department, which 1 presume is represented here to-day by the Prime Minister. Although these are small matters they should be remedied as soon as possible. In the first place, a surcharge of Id. is now made upon letters which are posted in trains. In civilized countries which have developed their Postal departments to the fullest extent the trains afford the principal means of distribution, and the common practice is to post letters in trains, have them sorted on the journey, and . delivered at their several destinations along the road. This surcharge of Id. has been imposed upon letters posted in trains which are, therefore, now subject to a postage rate of 3d. I also wish to call attention to the rate for the delivery of private mail bags. These bags had previously been, treated as private letter-boxes, and recently the fee charged has been increased for no apparent reason, except that it will probably offer some inducement to people who now have private mail bags to discontinue them, and thus cause loss to the revenue. . In Launceston there is no delivery of letters received by the Inter-State mails arriving at that place on Saturday at noon until the following Monday. This may in vol ve very considerable trouble and anxiety to people other than those who can afford to have their private letter-boxes. Letters addressed to private individuals are, as a whole, of greater immediate concern than are business communications, and I am glad to be informed that the Postmaster-General has the matter under his consideration. I should like to say a few words with regard to the Speech from the Throne. It states -
You will be asked to establish by statute a uniform, defence system for Australia.
One cannot help thinking how strange, to say the least, it is that for two years and more we should have been conducting our defence affairs without any Act whatever to sanction the existence of our forces, or to enable them to be dealt withby law in cases of emergency.
– The trouble has been the other wav. We have six Acts.
– I thought that uniformity was desired.
– So it is.
– I understood that the Government desired to pass a Defence Act that would enable our forces in all the States to act together.
– So we do.
– At present we have no legislation which will enable a defence force in one State to be called upon to act in another.
– That is a very good reason why the right honorable member should support us in passing the proposed Bill.
– I am not talking about reasons for supporting the Government. I did support the Government when the last Bill was introduced, but what is the use of supporting those who do not support themselves. I supported, the tea duty proposed by the Government, but what did they do - they blocked it.
– Because the right honorable member’s friends of the Opposition took such a course that the duty was knocked out.
-The duty was defeated because some of the Government followers voted against it.
– The Opposition had more support from our side than we obtained from theirs.
– The Government had the support of twelve Oppositionists compared to ten who voted against the duty, and there is no reason, therefore, why it should be stated that the Opposition knocked out the Government proposal.
– We cannot control the members of the Opposition.
– The Government cannot control their own supporters.
– The Opposition cannot control theirs.
– The leader of the Opposition was not present in the House on the occasion referred to.
– No, I was trying to do something better.
– I hope that we shall not see any repetition of the blunders committed by the Government in connexion with previous Defence Estimates. The Estimates first brought down were, upon a motion tabled by myself, reduced by £131,000. It was originally proposed that they should be reduced by £1, as an indication of the feeling of the House that the total expenditure upon defences should be curtailed by £200,000 ; but Ministers compromised matters and promised to effect reductions amounting to at least £131,000. Honorable members, however, did not listen to the promise of Ministers who have the confidence of the House to such a full extent, and divided on the motion, which was carried. Ministers did not occupy a dignified position when their plighted word was put aside, and a division was taken in order to embody the feeling of the House in a mandate. The next Estimates which were brought down were reduced by £131,000, and the honorable member for Bland, a potent factor in the House, moved their further reduction.
– The Estimates were reduced by £175,000 in the first instance, and then by £62,000 afterwards.
– The House passed the motion proposed by the honorable member reducing the Estimates by £131,000, and the Government- made a further reduction of £40,000.
– Then the House followed that with a further reduction of the next Estimates by £60,000.
– I cannot congratulate Ministers upon such episodes. The honorable member for Bland said he wanted the Estimates reduced, and the Minister for Defence being away, the Minister for Home Affairs consented. Apparently the expenditure was further reduced after that compliance with the demand of the leader of the labour party. What kind of Estimates were they in the first instance ? Upon what were they based 1 How was it that Ministers accepted, the proposal of the honorable member for Bland - even admitting the potent influence he has with them - without saying anything about the effect the reduction would have upon the efficiency of the defence forces or anything else. By their conduct they admitted one of two things : either that their Estimates were in excess of actual requirements, or that they accepted votes for less than the amount sufficient to maintain the defence forces’ in a state of efficiency. I notice from the Governor-General’s ‘ speech that we are to have a bonus in connexion with the sugar industry. The Minister for Customs has had some experience of bonuses, and, no doubt encouraged by this, wishes to extend the principle. The time is not yet ripe for discussing the proposal, but when it comes before the House and we know what it is, no doubt a good deal will be said about it. A great deal will have to be said to some of us to induce us to cast our votes in its favour. Then there is a paragraph in the Speech from the Throne which tells us that -
The urgency of questions of domestic importance prevents Ministers from asking you to give immediate consideration to the question of preferential trade.
Oh. ! that unfortunate preferential trade - how it has suffered. .We have always had it dangled before us. It was fully understood that it was to have been brought before the House and decided this session, but now we are told that something shuts it out from our present consideration. Cannot Ministera make up their minds six months before the actual work of the session commences? If they believe in preferential trade, as we have been led to understand, could they not have been ready to bring down some measure to give effect to it ? No, they could . not do this, although we are told that -
Aly advisers observe with gratification the recent utterances of the Secretary of State for the Colonies advocating the encouragement of trade relations between the various parts of the Empire.
I hope that none of us will feel any gratification at these utterances, if they can be construed into anything like what Ministers think they mean. I trust that we shall withhold our opinion until we have the whole context of what has passed, and know what the Secretary of State for the Colonies had in his mind when he delivered the utterances referred to. It seems absolutely impossible - unbelievable - that England, which has prospered through all these years with her open ports and her free-trade, will go back upon that policy for the purpose of fomenting trade relations with any part of the world.
– That is only a little political cheap-jack business.
– Mr. Chamberlain is not a political cheap-jack. He is an eminently able statesman, who has seen England through one of the greatest crises which she has ever been called upon to face.
– He is nothing like an able statesman now.
– The honorable and learned member cannot knowyet what Mr. Chamberlain means, and I decline to believe that the man who has followed Cobden, Bright, and Gladstone in their fiscal policy will come down to protection. Does it look like it when at the very moment of these utterances, over which there has been so much chuckling, the English corn duties were repealed ? If the free-trade position in England is to be yielded -up, how is it that when the Government had secured the corn duties they did not hold on to them ? I cannot believe that the nation will go back upon itself, not even for 50 statesmen of the calibre of the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain. We are told that we are to have a Navigation Bill, and I should like to know whether it is in print.
– A draft Bill is in print.
– Is the Bill to be brought down to the House ?
– The honorable member can see for himself by reference to the speech.
– I see that -
A number of other important measures are in preparation. ‘
– That does not tell us that the Bill is coming down. We have heard that statement before. The Governor-General’s speech continues -
Amongst these is a Bill to provide a uniform navigation and shipping law.
– Read on.
-I think I have gone far enough.
– The right honorable member will find at the end of the paragraph an intimation regarding the intentions of the Government in respect of that and other measures. It is there stated that probably we shall not have time to deal with a uniform Navigation and Shipping Bill this session, and as the first draft of it contains over 500 clauses, I think there is justification for the statement.
– The cryptic utterances of this paragraph may mean anything. I suppose they do mean that we shall not see the Bill during the life of the present Parliament. I hope that when it is submitted it will not be in anything like the form which has been outlined by the public press. I trust that it will not contain an invasion of the rights of British steam-ship companies trading to these ports, which would be unjustifiable - which could hardly be justified by any process of reasoning whatever. It has been hinted that it will contain a provision declaring that the sailors of these vessels while in Australian waters shall be paid at the Australian rate of wages. What right have we to prescribe the rate of wage which these great shipping companies shall pay to their men ? Their vessels enter our ports for a week, ten days, or a fortnight, but they do not belong to us, and are we to discourage them from coming here ? To my mind, it is evident that we should encourage their presence as much as possible.
– -What would the right honorable member do if they remained trading upon our coast for months ?
– I would treat them exactly the same as if they remained here only for a week.
– And if they remained for twelve months, I suppose the same treatment would be meted out to them ?
– The steamers of the P. and 0. and Orient Companies are very likely t’o remain here twelve months at a time, are they not 1 The course suggested would not only be prejudicial to our interests, and constitute an interference on our part with the conduct of business by the great ocean-going steam-ship companies ; but it would also be against the interests of the sailors who come here, and still more against those of our own seamen, who might count upon it as a fact that if such a provision were enacted there would be an influx of sailors to enjoy the higher wages in comparison with which the entry of the six hatters would be something utterly trivial and unimportant.
– Our own sailors do not say so.
– They will say so by-and-by. We have had a brilliant example set to us by the mother country in regard to her navigation laws. There anything of this tyrannical or restrictive character has happily been abolished for the past 50 years, and I hope we are not going back to a system of barbarism which existed! half-a-century ago, and which would be to so1 large a degree injurious to our own peopleand to our relations with the British Empire. Gratifying mention is made in the Vice-Regal speech to the State debts. We find that. Ministers have not forgotton that there areState debts, and have even given considerar-tion to the subject of taking them over. The speech states -
They will gladly take advantage of any opportunity that may offer of bringing these subjects, before you, but they are not sanguine of being able to do so in the course of this session.
Here is a matter which has been a most, urgently pressing one with the great bulk of the people of the different States eversince we federated. Indeed, one of thegreat reasons for federating was a desirethat the State debts should be taken over by the Commonwealth together with the customs duties out of which the interest is paid. We have already been waiting for two years to witness- some step made in this very desirable direction, and we are now told that Ministers have been considering it,, but see no chance of doing anything in connexion with the matter during this session..Together with the consideration of the Bill to provide for old-age pensions, it has been relegated to the limbo of the past. It hasbeen set aside for some indefinite period. I do not know that it is necessary to say anything about the selection of the federal capital. It is stated in the GovernorGeneral’s speech that we are to have information laid before us showing what theproposed capital sites really are, and, it is added, that it is expected the information which bas been collected ‘upon this subject will enable us to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Are we to arrive ‘at a conclusion upon the matter this session ?
– I hope so. Honorable members will be given every chance toarrive at a conclusion. An early opportunity will be afforded them of considering the report.
– But will it lead to business ?
– I am always in doubt as to whether the right honorablemember means business. If he does, hewill have an opportunity of transacting itin connexion with that report.
– I do mean business.
– Yes: business of a sort. The right honorable gentleman would rather make a malign attack than assist in the business of the country.
– I have not made a malign attack.
– I have no objection, if the right honorable member does so.
– But I have an objection. I do not desire to make such an attack - I leave that to the Prime Minister. I think I have said all that it is incumbent upon me to say, and I can only express the hope that we shall do business, and that at any rate some of these important matters for which the Commonwealth is waiting will see the light of day, and become the law of the land before the close of this Parliament.
– I think the right honorable member who has just resumed his seat was a little unfair to his former colleague, Sir Philip Fysh, seeing that the latter is not present to defend himself. The right honorable member laboured very hard to prove inconsistency on the part of his colleague, inasmuch, as on some occasions, that gentleman declared that low duties produced more revenue than high duties, whilst on others he contended that high duties were the more productive. When we accuse our friends of inconsistency, I think it is unfortunate for us that there is such an institution as Hansard, in which all our own sins are recorded. I have in my hand a copy of the Hansard of last session in which is reported a very able speech upon the fiscal question by my right honorable friend, in the course of which he told the House - indeed, during almost the whole of the session he contended that low duties were more productive of revenue than high duties - that the Government of which he was Premier increased the duties under the Tasmanian Tariff from 12^- per cent, to 20 per cent, for the express purpose of obtaining more revenue on account of the straightened condition of the finances. However, these are little lapses to which I suppose we are all more or less liable. When we are engaged in the very important work of laying the foundations of a new nation, it is most desirable that we should tread cautiously, in order that we may make no serious mistakes. I’ think, if we discover that we have madeany mistakes, we should rectify them as soon as possible, in order that the nation we are endeavouring to build up may rest on a sound and solid foundation. It is not my intention to enter into anything like a general review of our past work, bub there are one or two matters to which I wish briefly to refer, because I feel very strongly in connexion with them, and therefore - however unpopular my views may be with perhaps the majority of honorable members - it is my duty to express them fearlessly, and I intend doing so. Before referring to past acts of administration t however, there is just one matter, which was referred to by the leader of the Opposition last night, and to which I desire to make a passing reference. It is in connexion with the Tariff. The Tariff was undoubtedly the most important work performed last session. It occupied, I think, about a year of continuous work on the part of this Parliament. The Tariff is exactly what a thoughtful man might have foreseen from the commencement. We had ‘ to reconcile and assimilate the Tariffs of six different States. The two largest of the States, New South Wales and Victoria, were at the extremes of Australian Tariffs, the former having a free-trade policy and the latter having the highest protective duties in the Commonwealth. The other States had all more or less protective duties ranging between the free-trade of New South Wales and the high protection of Victoria. What was more natural than that the Tariff should be a fair compromise between these two extremes ? I think any impartial judge will say that that is exactly what our Tariff is. It is a Tariff of very moderate duties which are protective in their incidence, but nothing like to the extent that prevailed in Victoria. If we had wrangled for another two years, the result would not, in my opinion, have been very different. This is not the time to refer toour fiscal views or to urge the merits df one fiscal policy or the other ; we are not now dealing with those views, and no arguments could have any effect. That being the case, we should all agree to give the present Tariff a full and fair .trial ; and if we have faith in our fiscal views we should not be afraid. We can compare in New South Wales the effects of a moderate protectionist Tariff’ with the effects of a free-trade Tariff, while in Victoria we can compare the effects of lower protective duties with the effects of the higher duties in the former Tariff of that State. With that knowledge and experience, we should in the course of a few years have an excellent opportunity of framing a Tariff suited to the permanent requirements of the Commonwealth.
– It would be the same old cry after three years - “Do not disturb these infantile industries.” _ Mr. A. McLEAN. - I. may be wrong, but those are my views. No one in this chamber respects the leader of the Opposition more highly than I do, and I am very sorry that he is determined to plunge the Commonwealth into another Tariff struggle. That would be done without any information other than we have at present, and it would only mean the disarrangement and paralysis of Australian trade, commerce, and manufactures for another two or three years. I venture to say that Australia is not in a position to stand anything of the kind. We have suffered sufficiently from the disarrangement of trade in the last year or two, and also from the effects of the disastrous drought. I sincerely hope that the’ leader of the Opposition will reconsider this matter. I venture to say that almost every person who has the interests of the Commonwealth at heart, whether he favours a free-trade or a protectionist policy, will agree that we ought to have a little commercial rest for a time, and give the present Tariff - although I admit it does not satisfy either party - a fair trial before attempting to disturb it. There was one other matter to which the leader of the Opposition referred, and about which I desire to say a word or two. I should be the last to say anything at this stage against the project which our friends from Western Australia have so much at heart - the Inter-State Rail way. The leader of the Opposition last night urged the Government to proceed with a survey.
– A trial survey.
– There has been a trial survey.
– No ; I ascertained that there had not been a trial survey. If there had been I should not have made the observation.
– I have been told over and over again that the State Government of Western Australia have made a trial survey.
– There has been a survey made by two engineers, Messrs. Muir and Stewart, who have reported to some extent in favour of the practicability of the line.
– I hope that a full investigation may justify me in supporting this project, but at the present time the only salient features that stand out in connexion with it are that it is estimated to cost over £5,000,000 sterling; that the line runs for the greater portion of its length through a desert - though I am almost afraid to say so in the presence of the Minister for Defence - and that when completed it will have to compete with water carriage, which can almost always undercut railway carriage. Before we do anything in the way of committing the Commonwealth to the expenditure of £5,000,000 - which is no trifling sum - we should have the fullest information that could be obtained. I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister last night, and I think I can say without flattery that I never heard him in better form. Most of the statements he made were extremely effective, and I agreed very largely with what he said. But as there are spots on the face of the sun, so I think there were some weak points in the Prime Minister’s arguments. In referring to the case of the six hatters who were denied admission to the Commonwealth, until the intelligence had been cabled not only over the British Empire, but over the whole civilized world, the Prime Minister waxed indignant at any person attempting to criticise the Immigration Restriction Act. If the Prime Minister had confined himself to a defence of his own administration of the Act, he would have been on sound ground, but when he went on to defend the Act itself, he was on anything but a firm basis. I know that the Prime Minister did no more than administer the Act in accordance with its strict letter, and I am not one to evade my share of the responsibility as a private member for having permitted such an Act to get on the statute-book. But I say in extenuation that when this particular section was proposed by the honorable member for Bland, and accepted so readily by the Government, and when I asked the meaning of it, I was told that it was only intended to prevent an employer during the progress of an industrial dispute from adopting a means of terminating that dispute without regard to its merits. There was some semblance of justification for that - though I do not .say that even such an object was absolutely right - and I did not see my way to offer any strenuous opposition if that was all that was intended. I fully believed, from what we had been previously told by several members of the Government, that the Act would be administered in that spirit. It will be remembered that when the Bill containing the education test for immigrants was under consideration, it was pointed out over and over again that the provision, if strictly enforced, would shut out, not only numbers of reputable Europeans who would make most excellent colonists, but might also shut out hundreds and thousands of British subjects. There are numbers of British subjects who could not pass an educational test, and who nevertheless might be industrious, reputable, honest people, and would make desirable colonists. When these facts were pointed out we were told over and over again that if this power were given to the Government they would undertake that it would be applied only in the case of coloured aliens or objectionable immigrants. With that assurance, I for one took it for granted that the Prime Minister would administer the provision in regard to contract labour in the same spirit, and that it would be resorted to only during the progress of an industrial dispute.
– I did not say that.
– No; the Prime Minister did not say that it would be only so applied.
– What I said was that I would not apply the education test to reputable Europeans.
– When the Prime Minister accepted the provision in regard to contract labour, I thought he would see his way to administer it in the same way as the provision for an educational test. Had I thought it would be used for the purpose of shutting out the most desirable class of immigrants that could possibly come to Australia, I should have opposed it to the very utmost of my power, and I believe a great number of honorable members would have done the same. The Prime Minister seemed very much surprised last night that Mr. Copeland, the Agent-General for New South Wales, had dared to say that the exclusion of the six hatters would affect our credit in the mother country. I must certainly express my surprise that it was necessary for the Prime Minister or any other member of the- House to go to Mr. Copeland for that information, which was as patent as the noonday to every business man in Australia. What are the facts of the case 1 We know perfectly well, and every man whose opinion is worth having will tell us, that Australia can never become a prosperous nation without a large increase of our present population, and a very large expansion of our present industries. Where is the population to come from ? We have already shut out aliens and objectionable immigrants of every kind, and I supported every measure to that end - not that I am afraid of a small sprinkling of industrious, frugal people such as we sometimes have amongst us, but because of our close proximity to the teeming millions of the East, by whom, unless we adopt drastic legislation of the kind, our continent might be overrun, and the question arise as to which race should dominate. I consider it was absolutely necessary in the interests of the future of Australia that we should go that far, and I did all I could to support measures with that object. But, having shut the door to every undesirable class of immigrant, surely it was our duty to open it all the more .widely to every class of reputable immigrants who would be a desirable acquisition to our population. What did the Prime Minister tell us last night t He told us that free men from Great Britain are welcome, bub that bondsmen are not welcome - that men who come under agreement are not welcome. I can only say I never heard a greater desecration - I never heard a greater prostitution of the terms, “bondsmen” and “ free men,” than to assert that men who can get work and who will not leave work for which they are well qualified, unless assured of employment here, are bondsmen ; while a member of the unemployed in England is -quite welcome to leave the old world and to swell the ranks of the unemployed in the new world and perhaps become a burden on the people. That is a doctrine entirely new to me, and one which I think will never have my adhesion. I consider that the man who establishes a valuable’ industry in our midst, and who at his own expense brings out labour to make the industry a success, thus furnishing employment, is a public benefactor. At any rate such a man would be so regarded in any other country in the world except Australia.
– Even if he is doing it to defeat local labour ?
– Do the friends of the honorable member adopt that policy themselves in their own affairs ? When they want a professional agitator, do they take the local article, or do they bring a man from the old country and pay him £600 a year?
– The person to whom the honorable member refers did not make the contract under which he is working until he came here.
– A man would not be likely to come out here until he knew what he was likely to get for his services.
– He came out as a free man, and the contract was made after he reached Australia.
– Is it any wonder that, in spite of our magnificent resources, we have only a small population scattered round the fringe of the coast line, and that that population, instead of increasing by leaps and bounds is, like Joshua’s sun, standing still? I regret that I may appear to speak with some heat on this subject, but I feel very strongly upon it. I feel that we are making a serious blunder, and that if we- persevere in it, as the Prime Minister said last night the Government intend to do, we shall strike a blow at the very root and foundation of our national life. Contrast our condition with that of Canada.
– Canada has the same law on the subject as we have.
– The other day Canada received 1,800 immigrants as the result of public lectures which were delivered in the old world to induce them to go there. Here, however, we are placing every barrier in the way of an influx of population.
– In what way 1
– By doing all we can to shut out classes of people whom we should attract. We should offer every inducement to useful immigrants to settle amongst us. It will be a fatal blunder to build a Chinese wall round the continent, but that is what we are doing. And while we are trying to keep out our countrymen from the old world, we are taxing our own people to such an extent that we are driving them out of the Commonwealth. It is a very easy thing to keep out reputable immigrants who would like to come here, but we cannot compel our own people to remain if they are not content with their conditions. Therefore, we find that while there is very little immigration to Australia, our own people are leaving us by the thousand. What else could we expect from our manner of treating them ? We are piling up taxation.
– The honorable member helped to do that by supporting the Tariff introduced by the Government. He supported high duties whose effect must be to drive population out of the interior.
– I did not help to place upon the people the burdens to which I am about to allude. We are driving people away by encumbering them with taxation which they should never have been asked to bear. Take two of the subjects referred to in the Governor-General’s speech - the High Court Bill and the Inter-State Commission Bill. If those measures are passed, their administration will, when in full swing, cost the Commonwealth not less than £50,000 a year, and probably much more. Now, when the people of Australia were asked to enter into this union, the leading statesmen and writers on the press who advocated it told them that £300,000 a year would be the maximum cost incurred by federating.
– The Financial Committee of the Convention reported during the Adelaide Session that to put the Commonwealth into motion, with’ certain attributes which they provided for, would cost £300,000 a year, but it was not concealed by the advocates of federation that the cost of administration would afterwards increase.
– Those whom I heard to advocate federation in Victoria asserted over and over again that £300,000 a year would be the high-water mark of the Commonwealth expenditure.
– For some short time. For three years at least.
– We were told that over and over again.
– The honorable member is perfectly correct. The statement he has referred to was prepared to be placed before the electors.
– I will show the House how the expense of the Commonwealth has grown. In the first six months after the inauguration of federation, the expenditure by the department of the Minister for Home Affairs was £441, but during the financial year which began on the 1st July, 1901, it rose to £8,870, and during the first nine months of the present financial year it has been as much as £19,249. Those figures do not include the expense of Parliament, which for the first two years and three months of federation amounted to £291,078, which seems an extraordinarily large sum. I fail to see why the expenditure of the Department of Defence should have increased’ since the administration of the separate departments of the States was amalgamated under the Commonwealth. T admit that it was necessary to spend a large sum of money upon the celebrations consequent upon the Royal visit, but I find that in the first two years and three months df federation the total expenditure of the department has been increased by £83,292.
– Where did the honorable member get those figures ?
– From the Treasury. They were supplied by the Under-Treasurer For the first six months of federation the increased expenditure of the department was £44,147.
– The bulk of that amount was spent in connexion with the Royal visit.
– A good deal of it was. During the financial year which commenced on the 1st July, 1901, the expenditure of the department was ±’24,433 more than under ,.the administration of the States, and during the first nine months of the present financial year it was ±14,712 in excess. I am not allowing for any saving in the cutting down of troops, because I take it that that could have been done equally well while the military were under, the control of the Governments of the various States. The total additional expenditure of the Commonwealth last year, as shown by the Treasury figures, was £275,861. That was the expenditure for a full financial year, and I would rather deal with those figures than take the figures for the present financial year, which has not wholly expired. Those figures, however, do not show anything like the whole of the expenditure which the people have been called upon to meet. One Act alone - that which provides for the creation of a white Australia - and which I supported, but of which I think the people should know the cost, has led to the paying away in the shape of rehates for the last nine months of no less a sum than £61,266, which is at the rate of £81,688 per annum.
– That period of nine months includes the season in which the cane is delivered at the mill, and the amount paid in rebates is consequently the total amount that will be required for the year.
– I am willing to accept that correction, but I wish to point out that the expenditure must go on increasing. The Act does not provide for the total abolition of kanakas until 1906. Last year only a little over 30,000 tons- of sugar were produced by white labour. But if we take the total production for the Commonwealth at 150, 000 tons- -
– It is more than that.
– It would be about 170,000 tons.
– I accept those figures. That means that this Act alone will involve an expenditure of £340,000, or £40,000 more than the total outlay foreshadowed by the advocates of federation. In addition to that, we inserted one section in the Public Service Act relating to the payment of the minimum wage, which will also involve a heavy expenditure. That was distinctly an Act of the Federal Parliament, and I am not saying one word against it, but I am only showing what our legislation is costing the taxpayers. We have paid under this section during the last nine months £21,894, or at the rate of £28,658 a year, and this cause of expense, like the other to which I have referred, is in its infancy only. It is estimated by the Treasurer that it will cost very much more. Whilst referring to these matters I cannot refrain from saying a word or two about the department of my honorable friend the Attorney-General. I think that that stands out as a shining example to all others, owing to the small amount of expenditure incurred and the great amount of work performed by it. I think we shall all admit that the Attorney-General has been unremitting in his devotion to his work. We have known him to work until his health has become seriously impaired. The total cost of his department to the Commonwealth for two years and three months has been only £5,037. If the other departments were administered with anything like the same regard to economy, we possibly might not be afraid to launch out into expense such as will be involved in the establishment of the High Court or the InterState Commission. What I desire to impress upon honorable members, however, is that the drought which has afflicted the Australian States, has decimated our flocks and herds, has injured our agricultural industry, and inflicted loss upon the Commonwealth to an extent which I would not attempt to estimate, but which we know will run into tens of millions. We know that the Commonwealth is now suffering a recovery from that drought. We hope that the drought is broken - there is every appearance of it - and if that be so we may rely upon the recuperative powers of the Commonwealth to bring us back to normal conditions in the course of three or four average good seasons. If we had recovered from the effects of the drought, I should not hesitate to sanction expenditure upon the establishment of the High Court, but at the present time I do not think we should’ be justified in incurring it. The Commonwealth is not in a position to stand any additional taxation at the present time, and I contend, moreover, that there is no pressing necessity for it. I know perfectly well that the Commonwealth Constitution provides for the creation of a High Court, and also for an Inter-State Commission, but the framers of that Constitution very wisely refrained from saying when these departments should be brought into existence, leaving it to the judgment and good sense of the Federal Parliament to act when the necessity arose. I submit that the necessity has not yet arisen. The Constitution gives us power to vest any of our present courts with federal jurisdiction, and if our courts were so invested, they could deal with questions such as have arisen up to the present as effectively in every way as could the High Court if it were created to-morrow. We know that we have the best talent available upon the Supreme Court benches of Australia. The Bar in every State has been carefully culled in order to find gentlemen to occupy seats upon the Supreme Court benches, and I have never known a gentleman who was selected as suitable refuse the offer of such a position in the State of Victoria. Could we reasonably expect it to be otherwise t
– I know of halfadozen cases in New South Wales.
– There have also been some in Victoria.
– Perhaps they felt that they were not qualified for the positions. At any rate, I never knew any person selected for such a position in Victoria to refuse it.
– The honorable member is wrong so far as New South Wales is concerned.
– That may be. I speak subject to correction.
Mi-. Kingston. - The honorable member is also wrong in regard to South Australia.
– Perhaps so; but nothing like such large salaries are paid in South Australia as in Victoria and New South Wales, and I think my right honorable friend will admit that South Australia has no legal luminary better qualified to adorn the Bench than the present Chief Justice of that State. I think that he would be an ornament to the High Court if it were created to-morrow. A few years ago some of the gentlemen who are listening to me used to speak about Supreme Court Judges as if they were little deities. I always used to feel inclined to bow my head when I heard the Attorney-General speak with bated breath of the Judges of the Victorian Supreme Court.
– They are excellent men for Victoria.
– Yet if I understood my honorable friend aright, in that magnificent speech which he delivered last year - I do not think that I ever listened to a better or more able deliverance - he took a somewhat different view. When’ listening to that speech I could not help thinking that if my honorable friend had tried he could have thrown an attractive halo of romance around Hades .itself. I understood him to say that the only objection to our present Judges was that if they were called upon to adjudicate between the Federal and the State Governments, they might be considered by the people of the Commonwealth to resemble the famous tower of Pisa - they might be regarded as leaning towards the Governments that paid them. I know that my honorable friend did not mean his remarks to betaken in that sense, but he did say that the Judges might be suspected of unconscious bias. If, however, that applies to the Judges of our Supreme Courts, will not the same objection hold good in the case of the Judges of the High Court, and will not the same people’ suffer in either case ? The people of the States are the people of the Commonwealth, and the taxpayers of the
States are the taxpayers of the Commonwealth : therefore, it matters little whether the bias is to be found in the present courts or in the High Court. I have the highest confidence in our Judges, and I believe that no paltry considerations with regard to the paymaster who doles out the salaries contributed by the whole of the taxpayers will enter their minds. I do not think they will be so narrow-minded. There is no country on the face of the globe that is so well served by its judiciary as is ours. Moreover, no country pays such high salaries to its Judges. Tha United States, with 80,000,000 population, pay nearly one-third less than we do in Victoria, and the Canadian Judges are paid less than half the salaries received by ours. Therefore we may reasonably expect to be well served.
– The honorable ^member does not refer to the total, but to the individual salaries 1
– I mean that the, salaries paid to individual Judges in the United States and Canada are lower to the extent I have mentioned than those paid by us.
– Yes ; but they have three times as many Judges as we have.
– That would not affect the individual, and the class of men the salary would attract to the position. In view of all the facts I have mentioned, I have no hesitation in saying that there is no pressing necessity for heaping these additional burdens upon the people of the Commonwealth at the present time. The arguments which I have used with regard to the High Court will apply with equal force to the Inter-State Commission. That tribunal will no doubt be required in the course of time, but there is no pressing necessity for it, and in view of the degree to which the Commonwealth is suffering from the effects of the recent drought, it would be unjustifiable on our part to impose one shilling of taxation more than is absolutely necessary. Therefore I must continue to oppose these proposals, as contained in the Governor-General’s speech.
– I do not think that after the excellent speeches we have heard from the leader of the Opposition and others, it -is necessary for me to contribute at any great length to a debate which is generally regarded as being devoid of practical result. We must acknowledge the excellence of the reply made by the Prime Minister, although he may nob have succeeded in rebutting what was said by the leader of the Opposition. We can understand the desire of Ministers, who have had a ‘ free hand during the recess, to get to- work at once, and to thus avoid listening to further criticism, but we must all recognise that a little wholesome criticism, in fact a strong remonstrance, such as we have heard from the honorable member for Gippsland, or, perhaps, a friendly suggestion from an honorable member situated like myself, may not be altogether thrown away upon gentlemen who have on all occasions shown themselves especially susceptible to the force of numbers and to the pressure of new ideas. I must congratulate the honorable member for Gippsland upon his honest speech. Any remarks which come from the honorable member are always characterized by considerable force - not only by force of character, but by real strength of eloquence. And on the present occasion he has shown that he does nob consider himself too much bound by the ties of party allegiance to stand by the Government when he considers that the course they propose is open to strong exception. Although I had intended to refer to the extraordinary and irritating act of administration connected with the episode of the six hatters, I do not consider it necessary for me now to take up the time of the House, because I indorse everything that has been said by the honorable member for Gippsland. The honorable member referred to some extent to the speech of the leader of the Opposition, in which he is alleged to have stated that he intended, if possible, to effect a complete and radical change in the Tariff. I did not understand the speech of the right honorable gentleman as indicating that. No doubt if an opportunity arose for making a radical change in our fiscal system, such a reform would be acceptable to the free-traders, but the immediate policy for the coming election, as indicated by the leader of the Opposition, I understood to be the cleansing of the existing Tariff, the conversion of losing lines to revenue-producing imposts, and the alteration of the incidence of the Tariff, so that it should bear as lightly as possible upon the producers.
– How can the issues be confined to those lines 1
– If opportunity arose, no doubt the right honorable gentleman would enter upon a radical revolution of the Tariff; but I understood him to indicate that where certain lines involved a loss to the revenue, they must be abolished ; but where duties were too onerous, even from a moderate protectionist point of view, they should be reduced, and that, at all events, a stand should be made upon the whole question of oppressive and wasteful duties at this time rather than five or ten years hence, so that industries established under the Tariff may not in their opposition to revision rely upon the guarantee of acquiescence in their continuance and so that we may not have to beat down vested interests created in large centres, such as Sydney, by the operation of inequitable imposts. It is fully understood that if protection is once allowed to develop in any country, it is hopeless to abolish it. I was also exceedingly glad to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland in reference to the establishment of the. High Court. I have previously expressed the opinion - and I repeat it nowthat the immediate creation of a High Court, manned by hew Judges, is premature. I do not think that it is really required by our Constitution. It was absolutely necessary in connexion with the American Constitution, because there was no Privy Council to which to appeal for the reconciliation of the conflicting decisions of the States courts. In the next place, some of the States courts had, in confederal days, point-blank refused to carry out the federal laws.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the provision in the Constitution which enables us to refer matters to the State courts covers all the ground that is covered by the High Court, excepting that court as a court of appeal 1
– I do. I think that the means I suggest will .be all that is necessary for the next generation to reconcile the divergent decisions of the States courts. In pursuing the reference which I was making to America, I may mention that the “Executive had complete control over the judiciaries of the several States. The -Judges had a tenure of office in some cases at will, and in other cases from year to year, and as a necessary consequence the State courts really followed the trend of State politics, which for fifteen or twenty years was too often antipathetic to federal power. The dependence of the Judges upon the Executive impelled the federalists of America, in the very first session of Congress, to constitute a federal court. It goes without saying that no such necessity exists here. Our. Judges hold their office during good behaviour, and, apart from that consideration, we have in the Privy Council one of the greatest tribunals that the world has ever seen, despite its occasional eccentricities - a tribunal which is free from all political bias, free from all preconception which political Judges must have as regards the construction which should be placed upon the Constitution - preconceptions it may be taken from the Convention in which some members who may be promoted to the bench were particularly active. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, who made a very good speech in opening the debate, referred to the small business which the Supreme Court of the United States was called upon to do during the first fifteen or twenty years of its existence. It is somewhat significant that between 1790 and 1801-2, there were only six constitutional cases decided by that tribunal. Of course, a good deal of other business came before it, but the decisions upon the particular matters which in Australia call for the creation of a High Court did .not amount to more than six in the first twelve or thirteen years of the American Federation. As a matter of fact, during the period in which Chief Justice Marshall held office, .namely, from 1803 to 1835, the constitutional appeals averaged only two each year. They amounted altogether to 62. Of course, I am dealing with the period referred to by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, who, on the question of business, took up a position which he thought strengthened the case for the establishment of the High Court, but which I think really militates against its creation. Som’e time ago I called for a report upon the number of appeals made to the Privy Council during the twenty years ended 1901. Honorable members may have seen that report, which was furnished last year. It showed that the total number of appeals during the period indicated was 223 - an average of less than 12 a year. Our conditions of appeal to the Privy Council are almost identical with those which operate in the case of Canada. We have not abolished the appeal to the Privy Council. Had we done so, I should say that the High Court ought at once to be created. But we have to deal with circumstances as they are. The High Court of Australia, if established, will not, at its own option, be the court of final appeal except in very rare instances - perhaps once in fifteen or twenty years. It can only prevent an appeal when a question of constitutionality arises between States and the Federation. It is substantially true, therefore, that we have not abolished the appeal to the Privy Council, and that the High Court will still be only an intermediate court of appeal. In Canada, where the conditions are somewhat similar to those prevailing here, two-thirds of the appeals from the State courts go direct to the Privy Council. Owing to the respect in which that tribunal is held, and the greater expense of taking them into the Supreme Court, where there is no resident bar, and where the judges are actually compelled to reside, the bulk of the appeals go direct to the Privy Council. If honorable members care to look at the appeal cases, they will see that what I am stating is absolutely correct. If we establish the High Court, though there may be an average of twelve appeals a year - taking as a basis the experience of the last twenty years - probably not more than half of them will go to the High Court of Australia. I have already mentioned the number of constitutional cases which arose in America ; and we must not expect that the States are going to be constantly wrangling as to moot points of constitutional law. If we allow that there will be only half-a-dozen appeal cases a year, I fail to see the necessity for creating the High Court immediately. The Bill introduced last year by the AttorneyGeneral, in the very excellent speech to which everybody has referred in terms of admiration, proposed to create a very large original jurisdiction, which can be given only by centralization and by ousting the jurisdiction of the State courts in matters with which they are competent to deal. I do not wish, at this stage, to amplify the objections to the creation of the High Court, but I do think that they should give honorable members pause. We ought to bow to the prejudice - if one may be permitted to use that term - of the electors of Australia against the creation of huge machinery before the circumstances clearly justify the necessity for its creation.
– The main point is that the public should have some tribunal to which they can appeal.
– I quite agree with the right honorable and learned member’s reference, but if we were to vest original jurisdiction with the State courts, and use that highly respected and justly revered body, the Privy Council, for the purpose of correcting divergent decisions, all that is necessary during the first twenty years of our national existence would be accomplished, and we should effect a saving of £30,000 a year, according to the convention estimates, and possibly of £50,000. The Inter-State Commission Bill need never have been introduced if the Minister for Home Affairs had displayed a little energy in attempting to induce the Premiers tocome to some arrangement in regard tocompetitive rates at the borders. I pressed this matter upon his attention last year, when he promised to endeavour to see if some such arrangement could not be arrived: at. Later oh he informed the House that the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria had acknowledged the communications which had been forwarded to them, but that the Premier of South Australia had replied asking for further particulars. Letters were written by the Acting Prime Minister to the Premiers of the three States concerned, asking them to come to some arrangement similar to that which was entered into in 1895 for the voluntary abolition of these competitive rates. But, if the Acting Prime Minister had really wished that the States should do nothing, he could not have drafted a letter which was better adapted to attain that end than the one which he sent to South Australia. He practically accused that State of being the only sinner in the matter. The wording of the communication was so unhappy that the South Australian Premier had to ask in what respect that State had sinned, what were the particular rates objected to, and consequently the correspondence stopped, and nothing nas been done since. I firmly believe, from what I know of the temper of South Australia and the apparent inclination of other States, that if an agreement similar to that which was entered into in 1895, for the abolition of these competitive rates, had been adopted, the, matter might have been settled without the intervention of an Inter-State Commission. Besides, section 117 of the Constitution, which prevents discrimination between the States, makes the border rates absolutely unconstitutional. It requires only the act of the Executive to see that theprovisions of the Constitution are carried out. I notice that the Government are now considering the question of taking over the State debts. Some of usstronglyadvocated the adoption of that course in the convention. It is only right that the primary liability as to the payment of interest on the debts should rest upon those who have the control of the Customs, which was the mainstay of the States’ revenues. But I believe that if the debts are to be taken over, the power of the States to borrow further ought to cease. It is impossible to have seven different bodies dealing with the one set of assets. At the present time the States are mutually interested in each other’s securities. All their assets are jointly taxable through the Federal Parliament, and it is ridiculous to have six States capable, without mutual control, of dealing with one set of assets, and the Commonwealth capable Of imposing burdens upon the very same assets. The sooner we obtain the power of checking the States in their borrowing the better. The result also would be consolidation. Instead of having six or seven classes of debts, we should have one only, and greater solvency would arise from the fact that the money lender in the old country would at once be able to under stand what Australian securities really were.
– How does the honorable and learned member suggest that the borrowing of the. States should be checked 1
– I was about, with a certain amount of whispering humbleness, to make a suggestion to the Treasurer, not that there is much in it, but merely for consideration, and I do so because in the Federal Convention I suggested an amendment which was not gone on with, in the direction of taking away the power of the States to borrow. If a State with less than the average indebtedness of the States were allowed to demand a loan through the Federal Parliament, no harm would be done. If a ‘State has been economical - if by the conversion of its debts and increase of population, the indebtedness per head is less than the present average of all the States - I should allow that State to borrow, as a right, through the Commonwealth. In Queensland I find that the indebtedness exceeds by £2011s. 2d. per head, the average indebtedness of the States, while in South Australia there is an excess of £19 5s. 6d. per head. Under the circumstances such States ought to show cause why an application for a loan through the Federation should be granted ; because the other States, as I have already said, have an interest in the solvency of the two States.
– But have not interest and other matters to be considered 1
– I do not wish to go into detail, but the honorable and learned member is quite right. When I mentioned the average indebtedness I ought to have said the true indebtedness, because terms and interest must be taken into account, and the true indebtedness is easily enough obtained by reducing all the loans on paper to one common denominator. Having got the true average relative indebtedness of the various States after eliminating differences of terms and rates of interest, a State, when its indebtedness exceeds the present average, ought not to be allowed to borrow as a matter of course. In Victoria the indebtedness is apparently under the average by the amount of £11 9s.10d. per head, and under the circumstances Victoria ought to be allowed to borrow according to its owndesire.
– Then the honorable and learned member does not take assets into account.
– One cannot take everything into account. I am merely making a general suggestion ; and, whilst various factors have to be taken into account, I do not desire to deal with particulars on an occasion like this. It may be, for instance, that the indebtedness of Victoria is higher thanit appears. It has been said, though I do not know with what truth, that many of the municipal debts of Victoria are really State debts; that, however, is a matter on which I do not desire to say anything. These are minor matters of adjustment, and my only object at present is to indicate, possibly, some suggestion which may impose a check on State borrowing, and yet be satisfactory to the States. I very much regretthat there is no reference in the speech to the question of river navigation, seeing that the Federation, as well as the States, has an interest in the much vexed and important question of the rivers. The Minister for Home Affairs, when questioned by the honorable member for North Sydney last year, in regard to non-interference with diversions in the rivers, stated -
It may be that no action can be taken until a law is passed dealing with navigation, or the High Court is established.
Apparently we are to have no law this session on the navigation question. There is a huge Bill of about 600 clauses, to consider which might occupy two years, and the greater part of which is probably borrowed from the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act ; but the Government ought to have at once placed beyond doubt federal jurisdiction over the rivers by passing a short Navigation Act. Personally, I think we have jurisdiction without an Act, but on this point I remember that in the celebrated case of the Queen v. Keyne - the Franconia case - it was decided that though the civil and municipal jurisdiction of England, by the acquiescence of other nations, extended to the 3-mile limit, that jurisdiction was only effective for the purposes of belligerency - that it was dormant for other purposes, until an Act of Parliament, exercising it had been passed. Legal members of the House will remember that in that case, owing to no Act having exercised jurisdiction, the captain of the Norwegian vessel, who was arraigned for manslaughter through carelessness, outside low -water mark was acquitted, and that the year following, an Act was passed, exercising jurisdiction within the 3 - mile limit. Following the analogy of that case, it is more than doubtful whether federal jurisdiction exists until an Act is passed : and that seemed to be the opinion of the Attorney-General, as expressed in the answer given through the Minister for Home Affairs. I again express my regret that, under the circumstances, nothing has been done by the Government. I would appeal, on the question of the rivers, to the good sense of Australian representatives. I am bound to refer to this matter shortly, because we have, as federal members, a direct duty and responsibility in connexion with the rivers, just as much as have the members of the States Legislatures. I hold it would be a poor outcome of the loud-voiced enthusiasm which led to federation being, carried, if on the first occasion when an appeal is made to Australian sentiment and national spirit on such a question as that of the rivers, that spirit is found wanting. It is in matters of great difficulty, and not in matters of petty parochial k 2 politics, that real statesmanship is -tested. Minor matters can -be dealt with by men of moderate intelligence and a little luck if they have a complaisant majority behind them ; but it requires men of high calibre to deal with questions of great difficulty which do not, perhaps, bring immediate benefit, from a party point of view, to those who advocate them. There is no doubt that the relative rights of the riparian States in the rivers, and the best use and just apportionment of the waters, is one of the biggest questions that Australian statesmanship can face. The difficulty and complication are not inherent in the question itself. The trouble arises from the mutual misunderstanding and suspicions of the States concerned, from the relative extravagance of their respective demands, from the idea which has been formed on an imperfect knowledge of the details that it is impossible to reconcile the interests of navigation and irrigation, and that all concessions to one interest or method of utilization must be altogether at the expense of the other. But I hold that if honorable members approached this question with a full knowledge of all its bearings, and in a spirit which would actuate them if the Commonwealth were really a consolidation, a solution of the river question satisfactory and just to the States and the Commonwealth could readily be found. All that is really necessary is that we should get rid at once of the futile idea that it is impossible to reconcile the interests of irrigation and navigation, and that one must be given supremacy at the expense of the other. On that point I would recall the statements made by the Attorney-General and by the Minister for Home Affairs at the Melbourne Federal Convention. These honorable members then pointed out that, although the question was very hotly discussed, there was a possibility of a method of reconciling the two interests being hit on by the Federal Parliament, which they asked the Convention to trust in the matter. I should like to place before honorable members the position from a South Australian point of view. I may have to weary honorable members with a few figures which I feel it my duty to submit for consideration, although the significance of those figures may not perhaps be capable of immediate apprehension. The Royal commission appointed by the three interested States reported that- there was an irrigable . area of ‘50,000,000 acres in Australia - that is, an area’ capable of being irrigated if water were obtainable. The total irrigable area in New South Wales is given as 43,500,000 acres, in Victoria as 4,000,000 acres, and in South Australia as 2,500,000 acres.
– Is that in connexion with the Murray system 1
– That is, the Murray flats?
– Yes; the land was within a certain distance of the river. Many persons reading the report of the Royal commission, or a newspaper synopsis of that report, would rush to the conclusion that there are tremendous opportunities for irrigation from this river system ; but as a matt er of fact the effective irrigable area is much less than that I have just stated. I do not know what the real area is in New South Wales ; but the area in Victoria was reduced by experts to 2,000,000 acres as a maximum, and in that State there are not altogether more than 276,000 acres under irrigation. A very small proportion of even that area is under intense cultivation, the greater part being under irrigation by flooding, which is the least profitable and most wasteful method. I am speaking now purely on the evidence taken by the Royal commission.
– The Royal commission did not touch Queensland.
– Queensland is not very much interested in the matter except in one way.
– Queensland supplies the water.
– The opportunities for irrigation are . not so great in Queensland as elsewhere, although that State really acts as a benefactor to the other States. The catchment area in Queensland which supplies the river systems is far greater than in any other State, and we hope that Queensland will join in the Inter-State locking system. According to experts, rivers for a considerable distance into Queensland are capable of being made permanently navigable by a proper system of locking, and I hope that we shall have the co-operation of our Queensland, friends in the federal policy. America shows what extravagant views are entertained as regards opportunities for irrigation, when I state that in the arid region of the United States there are not more than about 3,500;000 acres irrigated.
– There are 8,000,000 acres commanded by irrigation channels.
– I rely on Kinney on Irrigation, which is, perhaps, one of the greatest authorities in America, and on another book, the name of which I forget.
– Not McKinney ?
– That is also a good man, to whom I am much indebted for informar tion on the question. The two States which are regarded as the leading States in America, from the irrigation point of view, are Calif ornia and Colorado, but in the former State there are only 1,500,000 acres under irrigation, and in the latter 12 per cent, of the total area of the State, or about a million acres. That does not show a very large capacity for irrigation. In Egypt irrigation has been in existence from the time of the Trojan war, and there are not now more than 5,000,000 acres commanded by the Nile.
– That area carries a big population.
– No doubt it is irrigation which keeps the population there, but if in Egypt, which is the greatest country in the world for irrigation, there are not more than 5,000,000 acres–
– Does the honorable and learned member know the reason why the area is not larger ?
– The impossibility of getting the water.
– No ; it is because there never have been constructed conservation works to steady the flow and keep the water available.
– I anticipated that would be urged as an objection ; but in India there is not a very much larger area regularly under irrigation than there is in Egypt. In South Australia, there is a very great navigation interest which is imperilled by ah extravagant view of the possibilities of irrigation. There are something like 90 vessels, representing an invested capital of £250,000, engaged in the navigation of the South Australian rivers. £250,000 is the Victorian estimate of the value of the vessels. I believe that the figures were supplied by the firm of Permewan, Wright, and Co., but that Captain King’s estimate is, I think in excess of that sum.
– The honorable and learned member cannot speak of those vessels as engaged in navigation when they are lying at the mouth of the river.
– They are the vessels which trade throughout the river system when the rivers are navigable. The Murray is navigable as far as Wentworth for, on the average, nine months of the year, but the apportionment which was recently suggested would destroy its navigability for the greater part of that time. The commission recommended that in any apportionment the navigation interests of the river which already exist shall be respected. On page 50 of their report the commissioners say -
It has been already shown that no apportionment of water can be made between the States for irrigation and water conservation without regard to the requirements of navigation. Sufficent water must be allowed to pass down the rivers to maintain navigability as heretofore, and as some time must elapse before the construction of locks and weirs, it is’ important to decide what are the conditions which will secure this meanwhile.
That is, the same natural discharge for the purposes of navigation as previously existed. I say at once that we in South Australia do not ask for that, and that it cannot be granted except at the expense of the demands of Victoria and New South Wales. But we ask that compensation in the way of conservation to render our share effective should be given to us if we are to yield to the needs of the other States. What do the commissioners and the Premiers recommend? The commissioners divide the year into two periods, that from July to January, which are considered the high-water months, and that from February to June, which are considered the low- water months. For the first period the upper States - New South Wales and Victoria - are to have a diverting power of 440,000 cubic feet per minute, and all the surplus over the navigable discharge at Morgan, and South Australia a discharge of 170,000 cubic feet per minute. That is, if the Murray at Morgan has a discharge of over 337,000 cubic feet per minute, the navigable discharge taken by the commission, any surplus is to go to the upper States. The compromise of the Premiers was this : The quantity to be diverted by the upper States was left at 440,000 cubic feet per minute, but that was subject to a condition which in some cases would be an impossible one. The diverting power of the upper States was made conditional upon there being a navigable discharge at Morgan. Now, during some of the high water months you cannot give- a diversion of 440,000 cubic feet per minute to the upper States, and leave a navigable discharge at Morgan. I will show honorable members what would be the effect upon the existing discharge of carrying this suggestion into operation, and for this purpose I will deal first with the period from July to January, and afterwards with the period from February to J une, taking the discharge for the_ year 1900, which is adopted by the commissioners as a mean year, and for the year 1896, which was regarded as a typically low year, though I think, as I shall afterwards show, that it really was not so. The average discharge at Morgan for the period from July to January, 1900, was about 1,100,000 cubic feet per minute. A depth of 4 feet upon the gauge there, which is accepted by the Premiers as a navigable discharge, and which is the discharge to be submitted ,to the State Parliaments for approval, is equal to a discharge of 460,000 cubic feet per minute. South Australia, therefore, gives up during the high-water months of a mean year a surplus of 640,000 cubic feet per minute.
– How can the honorable and learned member say that South Australia gives up that surplus, because not a drop of the water which” is measured falls in her territory ?
– I do not wish to go into that question. It is a matter of morality, and may be a matter of law. Honorable members may challenge my position, and say that South Australia is not entitled to the rights, she claims. That is a matter of opinion. But, assuming that there is something in our claim, and that our rights may be recognised by the courts, then the- effect of the compromise of our lawful claims which is suggested by the Premiers is as I have pointed out. I am not going to object to it, but I intend to ask for compensation when we grant it - a compensation which I am sure the good sense of honorable members will recognise. Let me now take the typical low year of the commissioners. In 1896 the average discharge at Morgan, during the period from July to January, was 649,429 cubic ‘feet per minute. A navigable discharge, according to the Premiers, would be 460,000 cubic feet per minute, so that the surplus given up in that year would have been 189,429 cubic feet per minute. Besides that, there would have been, given.up the. 440,000 cubic, feet- per. minute which, is to be- the primary diversion, because. South. Australia- is asked to: allow a diversion; of-‘ 440,000 cubic: feet, per minute, and. all excess-over, the- navigable discharge at Morgan. Now let . me- take the low water months of .those.- years-. The: commissioners recommended that, the apportionment, during: that, period should be- 370,00.0 cubic feet per. minute, for the upper States, and. 70,000 cubic feet per. minute for. South. Australia, and that any excess should be shared between. the three riparian States. in.the proportion, of: those quantities: The; Premiersrecommend that 370,0.00. cubic feet per minute: shall still be the primary diversion right’ of the. upper States, and. that the compensation water to South Australia shall be raised- from 70,000 feet ger. minute to 150,000 cubic feet per. minute, which is to be made the absolutely irreducible minimum.
– At the expense of the other States.
– Yes, to some extent, as it cannot always be obtained, and to some extent, as it is often exceeded now, at the expense of South Australia. In addition, if there is any surplus, ten-eighteenths of it is to go to New South Wales, fiveeighteenths to Victoria, and three-eighteenths to South Australia”. The effect of. that distribution would be this: “In 1900 the average discharge during, these months at Morgan, was 257,000 cubic feet per minute. The minimum suggested by the Premiers’ Conference was 150,000 cubic feet per minute,., which, would give up an excess of. 107,000 cubic feet per minute. In the typical, low year - 1896 - the average discharge was 430,000 cubic feet per minute, so that the surplus would have been 2S0,000 cubic-, feet per minute. It will.be seen, that the figures for the typical low year are higher than those for what is regarded as a.mean. year. Rut I have already said that I consider the figures do not justify it being called a typical low year. The fact is, however, that, you cannot always give a minimum of 150,000 cubic feet per minute to South Australia.
-.. - Where does South Australia get’ her surplus water?
– I do not not wish, to go into that, question. I acknowledge that the water comes from the other States, though two-thirds of it falls in Queensland. Do not let us now enter upon a discussion of the legal, rights, of the States. In. some months it is impossible to get a. minimum discharge of- 150,000 cubic feet per. minute. In March of. last year the- discharge at Morgan was only 119,000 cubic feet per minute, in April 69,000, and in May 78,000 cubic feet per minute; so. that, in those months the irreducible1 minimum would have- existed only upon paper. In any case it is useless to South Australia without a system of locking, because it. is about- 2.00,000 cubic feet per minute- less than the navigable discharge of the river. Honorable members may object that boats can be built to suit any stream. That, has- been tried, but it has been found, that. very light, draught boats will not pay: The- conditions of” our rivers are different from those of the American rivers which are of more equable flows. Those rivers, though shallow, are of an even depth. But even very shallow craft navigating our rivers have to meander here and there to obtain a navigable channel, so that boats of light draft have to make such long journeys and- to travel so often to get the cargoes up that they do not pay. Thus the minimum proposed would be ineffective for us, and it is to be given in exchange for the surrender of a large part of the navigable, discharge of the stream. Therefore I ask honorable members to come to our assistance in making the proposed compromise effective. We are asked to give up the quantities of water I have named, and, in addition, any claim - and I acknowledge that our claim is open to dispute - to the waters of the Lachlan, the Bogan, the Macquarie, the Castlereagh, the Namoi, and the Gwydir in New South Wales ; and of the Campaspe, the Loddon, the Broken River, and the Broken. Creek in Victoria, as being outside the- range of any apportionment. Besides that; we are to surrender all right to test the question of riparian rights for five years to come. Under the circumstances, I think that the recommendation of the commissioners that there shall be a federal system of locking as far as Wentworth as a commencement should be carried out.
-Now the honorable and learned- member is speaking upon right lines.
– That is what I was endeavouring to lead up to. I should be the last to obstruct a final solution of the wrangles over the rivers question. It has been my desire for many years past that a just apportionment should take place, but I ask honorable members to enable us to adopt the recommendations of the Premiers’ Conference by giving us the compensation which is beneficial to all but essential. to us, of a joint system of locking suggested by the commissioners.
– The people of Victoria will never accept the agreement of the Premiers’ Conference when they know what it really means.
– I know what some Victorians would like, and I know what ought to be done. Let us look at the present position of Victoria. Very little diversion of water is madeby New South “Wales, but in March of this year Victoria had a total diversion of 50, 000 cubic feet per minute, the diversion in that monthfrom the Goulburn alone being 20,000 cubic feet per minute. A channel is now being constructed, and is very near completion, which will have a capacity of 103,000 cubic feet per minute, and which will enable the whole of the waters of the Goulburn to be diverted into Victoria.
– That is the reportof the commission.
– The discharge of the Goulburn is sometimes as much as 1,500,000 cubic feet per minute.
– Yes, but what we have to go by is the discharge in low years. It is in low years, not in years of. flood, that the diversion of water matters. In March, 1903, 21,000 cubic feet: per minute was being diverted from the River Goulburn; 18,000 cubic feet was being pumped from, the River Murray between Echuca and Swan Hill ; and at Mildura 13,000 cubic feet was pumped in March, the total being 51,000 cubic feet, although the discharge at Echuca at that time was only 40,000 cubic feet per minute, and the discharge at Renmark had fallen to 24,000 cubic feet per minute, and the water in the river there was not sufficient to permit of navigation by ordinary boats propelled by oars.
– But consider what a dry year it has been.
– Still, it is in such years that the river question becomes most important to every one ; and within a few years it will be a difficult matter for Victoria to get what she wants unless she joins hands with South Australia.
– Navigation is not so necessary in the lean years as in the fat years.
– That depends upon the settlement.
– It depends upon the production.
– Supplies are more necessary in bad years than in good years. It has cost as much as £6 per ton to carry goods by road for a distance of 76 miles from Morgan to Renmark.
– But the idea of settlement is not to consume supplies. We ought to expect- production from settlement.
– The two things have to be taken in conjunction. The period of production in many cases is followed by a number of months when the river is very low, and if the river is not navigable the produce cannot be carried to market. We know, for instance, that wool is kept on the upper rivers for twelve months and more because it cannot be removed to the markets. The cost of the proposed locking to Wentworth is put down at £760,000, or about £200,000 more than the amount which, was proposed to be borrowed by the Government under the Loan Bill of last session. It may be that this work will not directly pay for some years, but it must be remembered that our railways do not at once pay the full amount of interest upon the capital expended. I would ask also whether ordinary water supply systems pay. Victoria went in very largely for the creation of water trusts, and for carrying out irrigation works. In 1900 she had to wipe off over £1,750,000 which had been invested in irrigation works.
– That is quite a mistake. -
– The Act of Parliament dealing with the matter shows that the interest and capital which had to be wiped off amounted to the sum I have mentioned.
– The honorable and learned member is confusing irrigation works with ordinary water supply undertakings. A great deal of that sum was expended for’ domestic water supplies and for watering stock.
– It does not matter with what special object the money was spent, so long as the capital expended on waterworks had to be wiped off to the extent of £1,750,000.
– That is quite true.
– Then, again, the Coliban scheme does not pay 2 per cent, interest on the outlay.
– But that is not an irrigation work.
– No ; but I am speaking of the out-lay upon waterworks.
– As a matter of fact, the Coliban scheme does pay 2 per cent., and more.
– The official reports do not show it. I have taken my figures from the Victorian statistics. The Geelong waterworks, also, do not pay 2 per cent. ; and if we turn to South Australia, we find that the Beltaloo waterworks do not return lj per cent, interest upon the capital outlay. Therefore it would be unfair to judge a navigation scheme by the consideration whether it is likely to be an immediate and direct success from a financial point of view. I am sorry to weary the House with all these figures, but the matter is one of great importance to all the States, and is kindling an agitation which, so far as the electors of South Australia are concerned, will, I hope, be conducted in a friendly spirit. I still hold the opinion that I had previously expressed, that the proposal to build a new federal capital is premature. It will involve .very great expense, and will not realize the objects of those who wish to have a federal city apart from the present centres of population. Ottawa and Washington are neither of them models of political purity. The tone of politics at the former city is very largely influenced by the civil service, and the capital is run by third-rate pressmen, politicians, and civil servants.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that the federal capital should be ?
– I should prefer that it should be located in Sydney rather than that it should be planted away somewhere in the Australian bush. I do not think that the removal of the seat of government from the present centres of population is likely to lead to any improved tone in federal politics, or to exert any beneficial influence upon the legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and I should not hesitate to support a proposal for an amendment of the Constitution, even if the change involved the location of the federal capital in Sydney.
– I should not object to that.
– I believe there are many Victorians who would prefer to see Sydney made the federal capital, rather than have it planted somewhere in the back-blocks of New South Wales.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that it would be a good thing if the federal capital were located at one of the present large centres of population ?
– I do, and I will further answer the question by quoting from the English press remarks made in condemnation of the arrangement entered into at the time the Constitution was finally framed. I think that the whole matter was put in a nutshell by the Saturday Review of 19th May, 1900. It was pointed out that we were merely following the wretched precedent of the United States and Canada, whose capitals, state and federal, had no claim to recognition either as centres of intellectual, social, or business life. They asked how much of the interest taken by the best class of minds in the country would evaporate if the political centre of Great Britain were transferred from London to some provincial town, and concluded by remarking -
It may be hoped that common sense may in time cause Australian political activity to gravitate towards some acknowledged centre of national life.
I think that puts the matter very fairly, and I hope that this question will receive, from a wider point. of view than a merely parochial one, further consideration at the hands of Parliament. I am Sorry that I have to differ from the leader of the Opposition upon the question of the naval vote. I believe that if we increase our contribution from £106,000 to £200,000 per annum we shall be affirming a principle, the developments of which we shall subsequently have to acknowledge. This vote is being asked for only as an instalment.
– We are already contributing towards the navy.
– Yes, we are contributing £106,000 a year, but we must remember that the British politicians are becoming most importunate in their requests for a larger proportional contribution by the colonies towards the expenditure upon the British Navy. Mr. Chamberlain, in introducing the question to the recent Conference of Premiers, said -
The colonies have enjoyed great advantages from being part of a great empire, but the privileges which we enjoy involve corresponding obligations. The responsibilities must be reciprocal and be shared in common.
Speaking later on, and being apparently affected by the inadequacy of the promise to contribute £200,000, Mr. Chamberlain addressed the Cape Chamber of Commerce in these terms -
The colonies must be prepared to abandon the idea of forming part of the Imperial confederation, or be prepared to take their full share of the responsibilities which world-wide dominion entailed. Be wished to impress upon them the necessity- of realizing their position and obligation.
That was after the promise of the £2 0,000 per annum as an initial step. We must remember that Great Britain can ma’ke out a very strong case for a large contribution. We saw it stated in the press recently that the total trade of the United Kingdom amounted to £934,000,000. That is a very large trade for any country to reach under a free-trade regime.
– That is the total foreign trade.
– Yes. The internal trade is rauch larger. Of the foreign trade, British possessions outside the United Kingdom are directly interested in about one-eighth. We send about SO per cent, of our exports to England, and if there is any protection to be obtained from the navy, we are interested as exporters to that extent in the trade of England.
– I think that our exports to England include the goods sent by us to Germany and other continental countries.
– Not to a very large extent. That opens up the whole question of the preferential duties, because the amount of wool that is sent direct to foreign ports is now much larger than before. A few years ago over 97 per cent, of our wool intended for foreign consumption was sent through London; but now only 72 per cent, is forwarded to the United Kingdom, because Antwerp is challenging the position of London as the port for the reception of wool intended for continental use. What I wish to point out, however, is that trade amounting to £254,000,000 is represented by commerce between British possessions and foreign countries, or between one British possession and another. This trade, which never touches “the shores of the United Kingdom, receives the protection of the British Navy.
– How does the honorable and learned member arrive at those figures 1
– I have the whole of the figures taken from the blue-books, but the cable which was sent from England recently corrected some of these, and it is, of course, upon the corrected figures that I have spoken.
– The trade to which the honorable and learned member last referred includes that of all British possessions.
– Yes. The figures I have quoted represent the trade of the Empire in which England has no direct interest, because it never touches her shores.
– That would include the Indian trade?
– Yes, undoubtedly. If we calculate the white population of the Empire at 56,000,000, and the naval expenditure at £32,000,000- that being the amount appropriated for the year 1901-2 - the contribution would be lis. 5d. per head of the white population throughout the Empire. The actual contribution to the navy by the people of the United Kingdom is 15s. 2d. per head, whilst the white inhabitants of the rest of the Empire contribute 4cl. per head, and Australia’s share represents between 6d. and 7d. per head. I say, therefore, that a very strong case can be made out by the United Kingdom when the time arrives for discussing the proportionate contributions. By increasing our present contribution, we shall begin to recognise a principle which will be pushed to its logical conclusion. The suggestion of the British Government was that we should contribute not £200,000 but £387,000 per annum. Even writers like “ Calchas “ in the Fortnightly Review state that Canada should contribute £4,000,000 and Australia £3,000,000 towards the expenditure upon the army and navy. We find even the Cobden Club - whose authority I am sorry to have to look to in this matter - condemning the colonies for not making a larger contribution, and pointing out that our true proportional contribution, combined with that of Canada, should be £6,000,000.
Mi-. Crouch. - The Cobden Club has always condemned the colonies.
– If it has condemned the colonies it has acted for their benefit. It may have condemned their fiscal arrangements, but it has’ never condemned their: aspirations. If honorable members seek, for English opinion in. this matter, I would direct- their attention to the correspondence which has been published in the London Times during the last twelve months. This affords many instances- of. writers actually advocating, what might involve- the. cutting of the. painter unless- we are- prepared to acknowledge our responsibilities. Mr. L. H. Horden, writing to the Times in answer to a very strong letter by Mr. Loring, says -
All that I advocate, and all that I understand Mr. Loring to advocate, is that we should inform the colonies we shall decline, after a certain date, to recognise their claims ; that we will protect them as far as we can, having regard to the interests of the rest of the Empire, but that we will, not accept it as an axiom any longer that they shall be relieved of all responsibility for their own defence, or from damage by war.
Then the Times puts the case very strongly. It pointed, out a few months ago that a zollverein or customs union was out of the question for the present - although it has changed its front with Mr. Chamberlain during thelast few weeks. - but told us that a.system of. Imperial defence was possible, and ought to be adopted as a beginning. It remarked that it was - . . . a necessary consequence of selfgovernment which, to their great advantage and ours, we have long ago conferred on the colonies in question, and, perhaps from these modest beginnings an adequate and equitable system of Imperial defence may some day be evolved.
That is, the very modest beginning of Lord Selborne’s recommendation of a contribution of £387,000 a year from. Australia, not the modest beginning of £200,000 annually which has been accepted by the Prime Minister. In this connexion I may point to the evidence of the various Imperial Defence Leagues. Twenty years ago their cry was - “ Imperial federation first, and afterwards a contribution through it for the purposes of defence.” Now, they have shifted their ground, and ask firstfor proper colonial contributions to the navy, and afterwards, as a reward, Imperial federation, for which we do not ask.
– The. Victorian League has a different system.
– Mr. Chamberlain, in referring to this matter, says that we ought to start with an advisory council, which would meet in London every four years. He declares that in his opinion the political federation of the Empire is within the bounds of possibility : that they ought not to force the hands of the colonies too quickly in this matter, but that the latter should commence with an advisory council and contributions to the navy. He continues -
If you are prepared at any time to take any share, any proportionate share, in the burdens of the Empire, we are prepared to meet you with any proposal for giving you a correspondingvoice in the councils of the Empire.
I do not- believe that the States ask for such a corresponding voice. What position should we occupy with proportional representation in the Imperial Council? Our full contribution to the- naval expenditure of- last year, which, according to the Estimates, aggregated £34,000,000, would, leaving other possessions out of account, as Canada requires to contribute, have been about £-3,500,000, and thus our share of Imperial representation would be about 60 or 70 members out of 670 members. Whv, we should have a regular pyramid of Members of Parliament in Australia. First, we should have the members of the States Parliaments - the most numerous class - then we should1 have the members of the Commonwealth Legislature, and on the top of all there, would be, the representatives in the Imperial Parliament, all of whom would be endeavouring by means of the peculiar methods which we have recently witnessed to help each other by-mutual recrimination. Unless we accepted this proportional representation, it is said there would be a loss of local dignity and the power of influence in Council. Personally, I think that the true bond of Empire is not to be found in these artificial arrangements. The real bond of Empire is that which is reflected in the memory of our mutual traditions, and that splendid feeling for the old country to which we always refer as “home.” The matter has been beautifully put by that great statesman Burke.- If I remember aright, he declared that the affection of the colonies really depends upon common names, kindred blood, similar privileges, and equal, protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are strong as links of iron. It may be said that we cannot, and do not wish to, escape from our liabilities. But we can recognise them by another means than that suggested by the Premiers’ Conference. Surely it is not impossible to do what the people in America in the early days did, and acquire the beginnings of a local navy ! That course is recommended by experts. I suppose that all of. us have read the recommendations of. the Commandant of Queensland.
– Does not the- honorable^ and. learned, member think that his.- remarks instituting; an. analogy” between, the: circumstances surrounding, the establishment of. the. High Court in America, and the need. for setting: up a similar tribunal in. Australia are: equally applicable here 1
– I do not think- so. Recently I read a report of Ian excellent paper by Lieutenant Biddlecombs, whom, the honorable member may know. Judging by that, report, he must be a man of, in naval matters, considerable capacity. In that paper the. writer pointed. out that for interest on an expenditure of about £1,000,000 we can borrow ships which, combined with the Imperial navy, would be adequate for our local defence. The outlay upon these would represent £40,000 or £50,000 a year by way of interest. What we want, as has been pointed out by Captain Creswell, is not ocean-going, ships,, but coastal ships - local defence ships - with tremendous’ gun power and small steaming. capacity. The little South Australian, vessel known as the Protector, which is only about one-third of the bulk of the Wallaroo one of the Imperial ships here; has actually a gun capacity 70 per sent, greater. The former vessel was particularly praised for the service’ which she- rendered, in China, and, as evidencing her steaming power, I may mention that on the voyage from Sydney to the Gulf of Pi-Chi-li she-actually reached her destination only one day after the so-called much faster ship of the Imperial squadron. I would further point out that the proposal to establish the nucleus of. an Australian navy is supported by some of the leading, journals in England. For example, The Spectator of the 12,th May, 1902, writing on the aspirations of the colonies in this direction, says -
To any scheme under which the colonies would be pledged to a definite contribution in men and money we greatly prefer the autonomous and localized system which has already grown up and which has served us so splendidly in the past three years.
In May, 1902, The Monthly Review, a journal which I think is established purely for the purpose of cultivating the Imperial instinct, said -
Self Government, equal rights, and freedom from interference are indeed the pre-requisites of loyalty in the sense that they leave little or nothing for disloyalty to take hold of.
The Edinburgh Review completely indorses our. local aspirations. It writes -
A- strong, movement exists in Australia in ‘ favour of obtaining, control of the- navy, and it found expression, we believe, at the colonial Con ference. This tendency is inevitable. State sovereignty is inextricably bound up with military power. No colony can really be selfgoverning which has not also control of its own forces.
These quotations evidence that a strong case may be capably made out from the point of view of those who advocate the establishment of an Australian navy. As regards any preferential, arrangement, I think that the sooner we knock the recent suggestion of Mr. Chamberlain on the head the better. The gyrations which he has displayed upon this question during, the last three or four years are simply extraordinary. At the Premiers’ Conference, he would not tolerate any reciprocation in trade matters between parts of the empire except upon purely freetrade lines. He further explained that he meant’ by revenue lines, not the protective system in vogue’ here, but a revenue tariff under which the- import duties would fall upon articles not capable of local manufacture, and would therefore yield the whole of the revenue to the State. He declared that where articles were capable of being manufactured locally the import duties should be met by a corresponding excise duty. His idea, therefore, was in favour of a revenue Tariff upon purely free-trade lines.
– He said, that that was what he would like to see, but that he would be grateful for any preference which he could receive.
– I am. sorry that I have to contradict the Prime Minister.
– It is very- easy for the honorable and learned member to do that, seeing that he was not present at the conference.
– But- I have the bluebook record of its proceedings, and I have read it.
– In his opening speech Mr. Chamberlain indicated what he would prefer, but it would be a total mistake to imagine that he did not . say he would be very glad of any preference that could be afforded.
– The Prime Minister gives only parts of Mr. Chamberlain’s statement and not the whole of it. He pointed out that our Tariff, even after rebates, would still be practically prohibitive as far as some English imports were concerned.
– That remark was directed solely to the high Tariff of Canada. I am speaking of the whole drift of the conference.
– I have read the whole of the report.
– Ths honorable and learned member could not have done so.
– I assure the Prime Minister that I have carefully read all the speeches. I sent home and obtained a bluebook for the purpose. I do not trust to the newspaper reports, because their accuracy is so often challenged. In his opening speech at the Imperial Conference, Mr. Chamberlain stated that he wanted any preference which might be afforded to British goods to be upon free-trade lines, and, in a letter, to a constituent on the 21st May, 1903, he defined his position as follows : -
I am fully convinced that the prosperity of this country depends largely upon her trade with the colonies which with a wise system of mutual concession, would increase by leaps and bounds. We have been apt in the past to consider too much the advantage which results from buying cheaply, and have not devoted sufficient attention to methods whereby we have the means to pay at all. . “
But at the conference Mr. Chamberlain said -
Whilst we most greatly acknowledge from von any preference you may be willing to voluntarily afford us we cannot bargain with you for it ; we cannot pay for it unless you go much further and enable us to enter your home markets on terms of greater equality.
He then proceeded to show that even if the specific rebates were made that were promised by other parts of the Empire, but not by our Prime Minister, there would still be a very high wall of protection against English imports, and in his final speech I think he really gave a quietus to the proposals of the Premiers. I should like to point out that it is impossible to adopt any commercial union of that kind which is not open to the very strongest objection. There were two suggestions, one of which I believe originated with Sir John Macdonald, and proposed an all-round duty of 5 per cent, on foreign imports. The suggested duty has recently been raised in some places to 10 per cent., but Sir Robert Giffen, the statistician of the Board of Trade, points out that that solution is absolutely impossible, because it would mean that almost the whole of the revenue would be paid by England. Our contribution would be a little over 1-1 per cent., while England would have to pay 41 per cent, of the total, and Canada and Newfoundland 2-4 per cent. Look at how English trade is likely to beaffected. If we take 40 of the raw materials which are imported into England, £110,000,000 worth are exported from foreign countries, and only £49,000,000 worth from other parts of the Empire. Of foods, the imports into the United Kingdom from foreign countries are valued at £180,000,000, while those from various parts of the Empire represent only £41,000,000. Of the total export and import trade of the United Kingdom, 75 per cent, is with foreign countries, and it is that trade we are asking England to tax.
– It is Mr. Chamberlain who asks that.
– I do not believe that England is asking that that trade should be taxed, but Mr. Chamberlain may be asking it with a view to carrying out that branch of his Imperial idea. The Canadian policy is an utter failure, and I speak here on the evidence presented at the Imperial Conference.
– Has the honorable and learned member read a speech made by Mr. Patterson at the Imperial Conference ‘f
– I read the report down to the appendices.
– Pardon me; I have a real reason for asking the question. Has the honorable and learned member read the speech made by Mr. Patterson, or the speech made by Mr. Feilding i If the honorable and learned member has not read those speeches, he has not got the speeches which were made at the conference. There were two books published - one, a blue-book, published to the world, and another, a whitebook, which was a record of the speeches made at the conference beyond that of Mr. Chamberlain. These speeches, however, were not allowed to be published, because of an objection on the part of one of the members of the conference.
– I read only the speeches which were available.
– That shows I was right in saying that the honorable and learned member had not read the speeches made at the conference.
– I may not have read the whole of the discussion ; but surely the Prime Minister will not say that I cannot form a reasonable opinion from the perusal of the official blue-book which is published? Surely the Prime Minister does not say that the Executive would deceive the Empire by publishing an unreliable bluebook ?
– I do not say so. All I say is that the honorable and learned member cannot say that he has read the debate at the conference unless he has got that which is not yet allowed to be published.
– I can give the Prime Minister quotations from speeches of Canadian Ministers, and from the speech of Mr. Chamberlain in reply to Canadian Ministers.
– If the honorable and learned member will show me the document on which he relies I will tell him whether it is the one to which I refer.
– The document is Mr. Chamberlain’s reply to Sir Wilfred Laurier as to the failure of the Canadian Tariff. There is ample material on which to form an opinion, because the special report presented to the Imperial Conference on the Canadian Tariff and rebates is presented with the published blue - book. Prom that report I find that in 1886 and in 1888, 40 per cent, of the Canadian imports were from the United Kingdom, and that in 1S95-7, the proportion had sunk to 28 per cent. Then the Canadians, in order to check the decline of English imports, offered the rebate, which in 1900 reached 33? per cent. What was the effect? In 1901 the proportion had sunk to 23? per cent., so that the policy absolutely failed in regard to the proportion of imports.
– All that has been blown to the winds.
– The report shows what I have stated.
– The facts were shown by the Canadian Ministers. A white-book contains speeches in. which the facts are shown.
– Surely the Prime Minister does not allege that the figures in the published blue-book are contradicted by figures in another book not published t
– But the light thrown on the matter by those who were concerned in the very collection of the duties shows that, in the immediate object of giving a preference, England has very largely gained.
– I read about a column and three-quarters in the Times, contributed, I believe, by the Canadian High Commissioner, on this question.
Sir- Edmund Barton. - I applied for leave to publish the speeches I have mentioned, but permission was not given because one objector prevented it being done.
– I did not read what was said by the Canadian representatives, but I do not see that that could change my opinion one bit if what is expressed in the blue-book is correct. At all events, Mr. Chamberlain, in reply to Sir Wilfred Laurier, said -
Though British trade with Canada since 1807 had increased 49 per cent., general imports had increased 02 per cent. . . . The increase was due only to the prosperity of Canada.
Sir Wilfred Laurier. Well, that is probably substantially true.
There is a total increase in the total trade, but the comparative proportion . of imports from Great Britain shrank since 1S86-8 from 40 per cent, to 23 per cent.
– And there was a three times greater increase of foreign imports at the same time, an increase of ?11,000,000 in foreign imports as against an increase of ?3,000,000 in British imports.
– However that may be, I believe that the conclusion drawn by statiscians like Sir Robert Giffen and Mr. Mulhall are probably correct, namely, that the adoption of this policy would eventually involve the disintegration of the Empire rather than preserve its integrity. I am sorry to have detained members at an undue length, but this is really the only occasion on which matters of great importance can be ventilated -in the House. I thoroughly agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs as to the better federal spirit which seems to be arising. We must all recognise an uneasiness in the public mind as to the probable outcome of federation. I do not believe that real disaffection exists, but there is just a little of that doubt, arising from a sense of the unknown, which sometimes affects the efforts of men at the commencement of great undertakings. That is due, I believe, to a combination of causes.
– Bad government.
– We are all, when not completely stumped, none the less conservative and inclined to. kick against changes which do any violence to longstanding habits. The period of pure enthusiasm seldom outlasts the honeymoon, though/if .Mr. Coghlan will allow me to say so, national and vital statistics .generally- establish the beneficence of the bond. Again, it is hard for the public to closely watch -the working of the federal machine, and local criticisms ..in “this grumbling age are ‘not always marked - to use Swift’s phrase - by sweetness and light. As to bad government, I doubt that the occupants of the Treasury benches were, at a time when the Federal Constitution was so much run down, the .best men to minister to a mind diseased. They seem rather partial to irritating remedies, of attempting to cure the disease by developing it. However, most other-federations have had their days of diminished enthusiasm and State anti’pathy, but the time came when they gave place to acceptance, co-operation, and, eventually, when the new order of things had come to be regarded as the natural one, devotion to the federal power. The experience and success of other federations, when observed, should silence carping and inspire confidence, for there are no indications here of weakening in those racial characteristics which have made the United States of. America, in some respects, the envy of the world.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne) - As a private member I do not feel justified in taking up the time of the House at any length when no adverse amendment has been moved upon the motion for the adoption of an address in reply to His Excellency’s speech, but I feel that I may do good service to some small extent by indicating as shortly as ‘I can a few of the opinions which I hold. In dealing with the conduct of the Government during the recess, and with their programme, we ought, to regard not only what ‘they have done and promised to do, but what they have refused to do. It is only -fair to recognise that in regard to some of the gravest problems which they have had to face they have refused to act in the manner in which they might have been tempted to act. I refer to the extraordinary proposals made by ‘the Premiers’ Conference with reference to the transfer of the debts of the States, and for compensation for the transferred proiperties, and also to the determination of the Government not to wink at the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act, but’ to administer the law as it stands, without regard to consequences. As to the transfer of the debts of the States, if anything would injure our credit, no proposal could do -more in thai; direction than that unanimously and -seriously put forward by the Premiers as the result of their Conference in Sydney. If Mr. Micawber, his wife, and children had each incurred debts, and borrowed all the money they could get, and the brilliant idea had seized Mr. Micawber of forming the family into a company under the title of “Micawber and Co.,” and transferring all obligations ‘to it, so as to leave each member free to begin borrowing again, we should have had a position analogous to that which the Premiers of the States seem anxious to bring about. I do not know anything more humiliating than the idea that the Federal Government should take over all the liabilities of the States, and that the Governments of the “States should then wipe their hands of all. responsibility, and go on’ borrowing as before. ‘Such an arrangement -is utterly impracticable. Then, as to the payment for transferred properties, I understand that it has been estimated that from £12,000,000 ‘ to £14,000,000 are required to pay for them. The Premiers have suggested that they, are entitled to obtain bonds or money for these properties. In making these remarks, I have “to depend entirely upon the newspaper reports, because, for, I have no doubt, very good reasons, -the Treasurer has not yet taken the House into his confidence about the matter ; but if ‘the newspaper re- “ ports are correct, he is taking the only safe course in the matter. He says in effect to the Premiers of the States - “ I will not pay you in bonds or in cash. These properties represent borrowed money. It would be absurd for the Commonwealth to take over a property worth, say, £10,000, and paid for out of borrowed money, and let you buy it back from us and borrow another £10,000 for it, thus charging it with a debt of £20,000.”
– That is not an unknown principle in State financing.
– I hope that we have “turned over a new leaf, and that if that is an old device of the States the Commonwealth will not repeat it. A matter which has been referred to at -some length by several speakers in this debate, and which, I think, has been misunderstood, is the application of the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act to the six hatters who were refused permission to land in Sydney. I cannot help thinking that the indignation of the honorable member for Gippsland was directed not so much against the Governmentthe Administration - as against the Act. I do not think that any one has asserted that the Government did more than administer the Act as they found it, and if there is anything for which I should commend a responsible Ministry, it is for administering the law, so long as it is the law, whether they like it or not. If there is anything which has marked the course of British liberty, it .is the insistence ‘of the people that governments shall administer the law as it stands. Briefly the facts “were these : - There is in existence an Act which says that no person who comes to Australia under contract to perform manual labour shall be allowed to enter unless he obtains an exemption from the Government because of the possession of special skill required here, and any one -so prohibited is liable, to imprisonment if he lands. The Government, when they found that the six hatters were coming to ‘Sydney in defiance of the law, saved the men from the ignominy of being locked up in gaol, and said to them, “ We will wait before taking action until you show that you are entitled to land.” The person who brought the men out had made no application for exemption, and until such an application was made, no exemption could be given. When the application was very tardily sent in, the Minister looked into the case, and found that the men should be allowed to land, and they landed accordingly. I adhere absolutely to the words which were quoted by the right honorable member for Tasmania this afternoon. In my opinion it is not the policy of any Australian to exclude from this country white men “who ‘come here free to accept or refuse engagements. The Government carried out the law. As for the Act itself, until I see furtherreason to change my opinions, I shall continue to consider it a right one. I see nothing unreasonable in saying that we welcome to our shores honest white men, but only such as come here’ free to accept Australian’ conditions and rates ‘of wages. A mam cannot be said to come here free who comes with a chain round his leg. If there were no such law, and a strike or industrial difficulty occurred, and there were men in Italy obtaining -£1 a week for work for which £3 a week was being paid here, hundreds of them could be brought out under contract to do it for £1 10s. or-£2- a week. But such a contract would really be made under constraint, and the men entering into it would be accepting conditions and rates of wages which were not Australian. There is nothing unreasonable in saying to people that if they come here they must not come under contract for three, ten, twenty, or any period of years. I listened carefully to ‘the dialectical duel between the right honorable gentlemen who lead the opposing parties in this Chamber, and I was rather disappointed with it. It was a brilliant pyrotechnical display, but it failed to give the steady illumination which the country is entitled to expect at this very critical stage of its history. I do not think’ that the -electors are much concerned in finding out the discrepancies between the Prime “Minister’s statement at Maitland and his subsequent actions, or between the speeches delivered by the leader of the’ Opposition at ‘Sydney and at Perth. I did not hear the speeches which that right honorable gentleman delivered in Sydney, but I heard some of those he made in Perth, and I could a tale unfold if I were to tell tales out of school, which I am not going to do. ‘If there is one thing which all Australians are anxious about, it is that the Federal Government shall not incur expenditure which is not absolutely necessary, and that there shall be no waste of industrial resources through strikes and lockouts, which have done so much damage to us in the past. I understand that Ministers wish to use the powers of “the Constitution to introduce a measure “providing for conciliation and arbitration, and I shall welcome “the introduction of such a measure, as I think all other moderate men will. After grave reflection, however, I cannot agree to “three of ‘ the proposals of the Governmentto “those to create immediately the Inter-State Commission and the High Court, and “to that to pay £200,000 under a naval agreement. I should like to say something :in regard to the expenditure upon’ the federal capital, but I cannot feel myself wholly free to refuse to give effect to ‘ the provision- in the Constitution in- respect to- that matter, as it is ‘part of a special stipulation upon the faith of which New -South Wales entered ‘ the Union. I am, however, free from responsibility for that provision. I opposed the acceptance of the Bill, and I thought the provision an unwise one ; but as a bargain has been made, and one of the States was induced to enter the Union very largely “ upon the promise that the federal capital should be situated within its boundaries, we are bound to carry it into effect. I hope, however, that we shall find -a wise means of borrowing the money without interest, under the Canadian system as has been suggested. With regard to the Inter-State Commission, I shall not speak at any length, but I desire to point out that the only purpose for which the appointment of an Inter-State Commission is essential is the abolition of preferential rates on the railways, the power to deal with this subject being contained in section 102- of the Constitution. Any other infringement of the Constitution, or of the laws made under the Constitution, may be dealt with in the ordinary courts. The Inter-State Commission cannot make laws ; it can only adjudicate and administer the constitutional provisions and the laws made under them. The commission will have no power to prohibit anything which the Constitution or our federal laws do not prohibit, and its powers are absolutely restricted. Section 102 of the Constitution provides that as to railways we may prohibit any preference or discrimination that is undue, or unreasonable, or unjust to any State, and that such preference or discrimination is not to be regarded as undue, unreasonable, or unjust unless so adjudged by the Inter-State Commission. I frankly admit that that renders the Inter-State Commission necessary, if there are preferences shown in connexion with the railway traffic. The number and nature of the preferences now given, however, have not been disclosed to us. On three occasions last session I tried to obtain from the Minister for Home Affairs information as to the cases in which preferential rates were charged upon the railways. On each occasion he promised to supply particulars, but failed to do so. I do not blame the Minister, but I think the result shows that he found very great difficulty in discovering preferential rates. The instance quoted by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs with regard to the rates charged upon cargo carried in ships from Sydney to North Queensland, as against ships from Brisbane to North Queensland, is not one which comes within the scope of section 102, which refers only to preferential railway rates, and that is the only matter for which we really require the Inter-State Commission. I object, therefore, to an expensive commission, with a large staff, being created, and fixed upon us for a period of at least seven years. We do not even know of the existence .of preferential rates such as would render it necessary to call the commission into existence.
– The Bill formerly introduced proposed to do more than deal with railway rates.
– I admit that, but the commission is essential only for the purpose of dealing with preferential railway rates. I feel that there is no machinery so bad as that which is adopted before it is really clear what is required.
– There is no doubt that preferential railway rates are in operation in Western Australia in connexion with the distinction made between imported coal and that produced at the Collie fields. The position there is very serious.
– I had an opportunity of inquiring into the condition df affairs in Western Australia some time ago, and I found that special reasons were advanced for the difference in those charges. It was stated that certain coal was more expensive to carry than other kinds. If there are preferential rates on the railways to any extent, the whole matter might perhaps be settled by constituting the Railways Commissioners of the various States an Inter-State Commission for the purpose of adjusting matters.
– In Western Australia beer brewed in Fremantle and Perth is carried on the railways at a lower rate than beer produced in other States.
– In New South Wales iron manufactured at Lithgow is conveyed over the railways at lower rates than those charged for carrying imported iron.
– The only, preferential rates prohibited by the Constitution are those which relate to the trade between State and State. I do not know of any State except New South Wales which produces iron in any quantity. There are iron deposits in Tasmania, but we know that they have not yet been developed. There are numbers of railway rates which are called preferential, but which really do not come within the scope of the Constitution. The
Federal Parliament has power to deal only with trade and commerce between the Commonwealth and other countries, and trade and commerce between the States. It has nothing to do with trade within the area of any State.
– Unless measures are adopted which are intended to take away the trade properly belonging to any other State, or to divert trade. We . have power to deal with cases of that kind.
-Yes. Section 5 1 , however, does not relate to all kinds of trade, but only to trade and commerce with foreign countries, and between the States. I do not wish to dogmatize too much upon this subject, because t have not the information necessary to render it clear whether or not preferential rates actually exist upon the railways. It is a great mistake, however, to suppose that the ordinary long distance or tapering rates can be affected by the Inter-State Commission.
– What does the honorable and learned member think that “ trade amongst the States “ means ?
– That is a very large question, and I do not feel prepared to discuss it now. What I say is that the ordinary long-distance rates charged upon the railways cannot be interfered with by the Inter-State Commission. It is only where a rate is intended to give an advantage to the produce of one State over the produce of other States that the federal authorities can intervene.
– The Inter-State Commission would have power to deal with the case I have mentioned in Western Australia.
– I know that the differential rates charged in Western Australia form a great matter of grievance with the residents of Kalgoorlie; but when I made inquiries into the subject an explanation was made to me ascribing a motive which I considered to be perfectly genuine and satisfactory.
– The honorable and learned member was misinformed.
– With regard to the naval agreement, I desire- to know whether it will be necessary to make an annual grant of the £200,000 per annum proposed to be paid tothe Imperial authorities, or whether a special appropriation will be made.
– An Act will have to be passed making a special appropriation as long as the agreement lasts.
– Then a special appropriation will be made for a limited term. The Prime Minister has very properly said, “ As long as the agreement lasts.” Either this £200,000 is to be the ultimate contribution, or it is not. If it is not to be the ultimate contribution, we shall begin by establishing a principle which will lead us how far we do not know.
– We shall be perfectly free at the termination of tha agreement.
– Yes, but if we once admit the principle that we are to contribute money over which we are to have no control ; that we are to pour money into the great gulf of the British naval expenditure, then we shall have no ground for objecting when we are asked to contribute our proportion according to our population or according to our trade. We must, nip these new proposals in the bud. We all entertain the utmost good feeling, towards the old country, but no onewho understands the conditions of politics and life in Australia, and desires tomaintain the good feeling which now exists, will propose anything calculated to cause friction. Such a result, however, must follow if we are called upon to divert money required for the development of our own resources to purposes which are to be carried out apart from our control. Our true policy is to try as far as we can to relieve the mother country of the burden of looking after us. It should be our object, to protect our own floating trade, to train our own seamen, and to look after our own safety. I saw a letter a few monthsago written by a very distinguished manin London to a resident in this State,, in which the writer ‘ said that of all the Premiers who had attended the recent Conference in London the Prime Minister of Australia had created the best, impression. He added that Sir Edmund Barton had promised least, but was, esteemed the most. I was greatly pleased to read this letter, and it was afterwards, that I learnt, to my chagrin, that, the Prime- Minister had been - if I may say it- - wheedled into promising a contribution of £200,000. I think that in the absence of any instruction from this Parliament, the Prime Minister had no right to make any contract with thelmperial authorities.
– Except subject to the ratification of Parliament.
– I admit all that; but if a promise is made subject to our ratification, it is very awkward for a supporter of the Government to refuse his vote under certain circumstances. I hope, however, this question will be treated as an open one, and that our allegiance will not be submitted to too great a strain. Ina matter of national Austra- lian policy such as this, the wishes of honorable members should have been ascertained to some extent before anything was done. Now I come to the matter of the High Court. I find, by referring to Hansard, that during the debate on the address in reply at the opening of last session, I expressed, in substance, the same opinions as those I now hold. I cannot help thinking that the Federal High Court is, under all the circumstances, unnecessary, and that we can easily delay incurring the expense that would be involved until some more suitable time. I was sorry to hear the leader of the Opposition to some extent supporting the Government in this matter. The right honorable gentleman was determined to find fault with the Government in some way, and so he complained of their having delayed the appointment of the court. So we have the curious spectacle of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition strongly advocating the creation of the court without further delay. Honorable members may think that I ‘ do not know much about the InterState Commission, or naval matters, but I do know a little about the High Court, and I do say deliberately, and after thinking the whole matter over very carefully, that its creation at this juncture will involve the placing of an unnecessary burden upon the people of Australia. The leader of the Opposition stated that the country was crying aloud for the creation of the court, but I fail to find any evidence in support of his statement. I urge’ honorable members to ask themselves what the High Court can do that cannot be equally well done by the Supreme Courts of the States, with the Privy Council over them to give uniformity. Several grave questions which have arisen in regard to our Acts and the Constitution have been very ably dealt with by our Supreme Courts. I do not think that the AttorneyGeneral has cause to object to the last decision of the Victorian Supreme Court in connexion with a case in which he was interested. It has been said that the
Supreme Courts of the different States may differ. That is so ; but at the same time we have the Privy Council which can make decisions uniform, and to which the Supreme Courts will, and must bow. The Privy Council can deal with constitutional points sent to it by the Supreme Courts as freely as it can with ordinary appeals. There is a provision in the Constitution that the Privy Council is not to deal with appeals from the High Court upon constitutional points except in very special circumstances, but there is no prohibition- and we cannot make one - against the Privy Council dealing with appeals from the Supreme Courts upon constitutional points.
– Would not the Privy Council proceeding be too long in the settlement of trading disputes ?
– I do not think that there would be any difference between the time occupied by the procedure in the case of the Privy Council and that of the High Court. How could there be 1
– It would take longer to obtain a decision from the Privy Council than from our own court.
– Of course there would be a difference between the time absorbed in going to London, which involves a journey of a month or more, and that occupied in travelling to some place in the heart of New South Wales. Of course the idea underlying the establishment of the High Court is that we should have a tribunal to deal with appeals in the federal capital. But the members of that tribunal - five of them - will go on circuit to the different State capitals. They will have to travel a good deal, and I think that there must necessarily be long delays- before, a man in Western Australia, for example, could have his case settled by the High Court Judges. It would be far better to allow him to appeal to the Judges of the Supreme Court of his own State. I have carefully re-read the speech ‘delivered by the AttorneyGeneral last session in submitting the Judiciary Bill to the notice of this House. I did so for the purpose of ascertaining whether I could not modify my views upon this matter. After recognising the graceful diction, the charm of manner, and kindliness of feeling exhibited throughout that speech, I cannot help saying that when its columns are boiled down, the residual product of ground why this court should be created now is very small indeed. The Federal Constitution is merely a new law interposed between the Imperial law and Colonial law. The Judges of the courts simply have to endeavour to apply this Constitution in place of applying only the State Constitutions. Hitherto the Supreme Courts of the States have had to deal with Customs Acts. They will now have to deal with one Customs Aci only. The same remark is applicable to the Defence, the Public Service, and the Post and Telegraph Acts. ‘ Of course the Privy Council is not an ideal court. It partakes more of the nature of a chamber or a board than of a court, but, at the same time, it contains some of the best jurists in the British Empire, and there is a good deal to be said in favour of the contention that British law ought always to keep a connexion with the parent stock. There is no system of law so great as was the Roman law, for the Roman Empire, except perhaps the British law. To hope that the principles of British freedom, which are involved in British law, shall extend all’ over the Empire is a great ideal to cherish. In Canada they did not create a High Court till ten or twelve years after the establishment of the Federation. It is quite true that our Constitution says in effect that a High Court shall be established, whilst in the case of Canada the provision was permissive. At the same time I would point out that in. the Canadian Constitution the power was obviously one which ought to be exercised. I should like to see it exercised in Australia, but there is no obligation on our part to exercise it immediately, at a time of transition, and when the States Treasurers are straining to meet their liabilities. When we find the whole of the Tariff revenue of the Commonwealth practically appropriated for the purpose of paying interest upon . the debts, and when we know that there is no great degree of prosperity at present throughout Australia, it is only reasonable to urge the postponement of the creation of the High Court for a time. In the case of’ the United States there were special reasons whv that court should be established without delay. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has referred to some of these. The Federal High Court was created in America because the courts of the States could not be trusted. In support of that contention I would direct attention to the following passage from Elliott’s Debates, volume 5, page 331 : -
Mr. Randolph observed that the courts of the States cannot be trusted with the administration of the national laws. The objects of jurisdiction are such as will often place the general and local policy at variance.
The fact is that the courts ef the States in America at that time were not comparable in power and independence with those of our States. An instance of this occurred about three years prior to the holding of the Federal Convention in America. The legislature of Rhode Island had passed a law making paper a legal tender, and imposing penalties upon people who refused to accept it as such. A butcher declined to accept it. and an informer laid an information against him. The matter was tried before the Rhode Island court, and all of the judges held that the law was unconstitutional and void, because under the Constitution they could make only enactments which were consistent with the laws of England, and it was inconsistent to pass a law which directed that penalties could be recovered before a magistrate only as distinct from a jury. What happened 1 The Judges, I repeat, held that this law was unconstitutional and void. As a result they were hauled before the Legislature, and asked how they dared to declare one of its laws void. They explained that they were compelled to take that course in accordance with their oaths of office. A motion was tabled for their dismissal, for it must be borne in mind that they had not a permanent tenure of office. They were not dismissed, however, for the reason that they had to be elected every year by the -Legislature, and the Legislature took good care not to re-elect them next term. But the difference between that case - which was rankling in Mr. Randolph’s mind when he spoke - and that of. the judges of our Supreme- Courts, is that the latter have a life tenure of office during good behaviour, and cannot be removed. Surely it is not fair to say that because a special court was necessary under such a loose system as prevailed in America in 1789, it is imperative that we should immediately establish a Federal High Court in Australia. There are two objects for which, the proposed” tribunal is to be created. One of these is that it- may deal with Federal matters. I altogether dispute that Judges -with a- permanent tenure, such as is enjoyed by the occupants of the benches of our Supreme Courts, have any more sympathy with their respective States than they have with Australia as a whole. Any one who knows them, must admit that they have no State allegiance as distinct from their allegiance to Australia. The chief ground upon which it is urged that we ought to have se special court to interpret our Constitution is that its members should be in sympathy with the spirit of that instrument of Government. Now, if there is one thing which a judge ought to do, it is to dispense justice without fear, favour, or affection. I do not think that sympathy is essentially a good quality to possess in dealing with matters of law. At the same time, when our Supreme Court Judges come to interpret a law made under the Constitution, they will deal with it as they would with a problem in mathematics, without any. sympathy one way or the other, and with a determination to do what is right. In conclusion, I want to reconcile my attitude with the attitude I took in the Federal Convention, where I voted -for a strong High Court. Right through I gave my vote in favour’ of the strongest High Court that could be created ; but I voted in favour of there being no optional appeal to the Privy Council. I found that at the final drafting of the Constitution there was a clause omitted which prevented appeals to the Privy Council. The attention of the Prime Minister was called to the matter at the time, and Sir Josiah Symon, as well as the Prime Minister, gave expressions of opinion. If the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, who spoke on the subject or any one else will take the trouble to look at the report of the Federal Convention in Melbourne, volume 2, page 2455, they will find that Sir Josiah Symon said distinctly that there was no optional appeal to the Privy Council. Sir Josiah Symon said -
It appears to me that the point to which the honorable Mr. Glynn has directed attention will not, in practice, arise at all. The intention certainly was not to multiply appeals, or to give an alternative- option to an appellant in a State court to appeal either direct to the Privy Council or to the High Court. We have dealt simply with appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. Under clause 73, a general jurisdiction in regard to appeals is given to the High Court. The natural anxiety of the honorable member is that there should be a power in the Parliament to put an end to appeals direct from the Supreme Court of a State to the Privy Council without going of course, through the High Court. It appears to me that under clause 73 the appeal direct to the Privy Council is practically abolished.
– That was altered, of course, in England.
– No ; I think the only discussion in England was as to appeals from the High Court, and not as to appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. As the law at present stands in the Constitution, a man who is beaten in the Supreme Court in Melbourne or Sydney can choose his appeal court. That is a most unwholesome thing, because neither court is bound by the other’s decisions, and an appellant always chooses the court which is most likely to decide in his favour. The effect ‘ of the omission in the Constitution will be that most appeals in ordinary cases will go straight from the Supreme Court to the Privy. Council. If I had to advise, as I have often had to do, a beaten litigant in a Supreme Court, I confess that, having regard to present conditions and to the prospects in Australia with our existing population, I should tell him to appeal to the Privy Council in preference to the High Court. I should give that advice because in the Privy Council, there is certainty of finality, which is a great point. People do not enjoy going from appeal court to appeal court ; that is a burden they would rather not bear. What is wanted by a litigant is finality, and, of course, success. He does not care about paying money in order to support the Constitution, or to support a High Court ; his only desire is to win and gain money or avoid paying money. In 99 cases out of 100, I am sure that litigants will choose to appeal to the Privy Council. I say, without doubt, that under present conditions there will not be obtained for the High Court stronger men or better lawyers than are now in the Supreme Courts of the States. If we had a prospect of getting men of better calibre on the whole for the High Court than we have in the Supreme Courts, there would be a great deal to be said for the proposal of the Government. In the course of time, when our finances are in a better state I have no doubt we shall be able to get as much competition and as many men to select from as there are in England. Owing to the strong tenure and the exalted position which the Supreme Court Judges occupy, there is no doubt that the position attracts the best men at the bar. We have therefore to ask ourselves what is there to be gained by creating now a High Court 1 What is there that the High Court can do that the Supreme Courts, with the Privy Council over them cannot do ? I speak strongly because I know there has been a great deal of glamour and mystery about this matter. One would think that the Federal Constitution was something mystic, and not merely a means to an end - a means to order and progress. We do not want Judges to expand the Constitution ; we want them to interpret it. It is with the people and not with the Judges, who are responsible to no one, that the expansion of the Constitution must rest. One of the greatest dangers is to commit to any bench - the members of which have their own idiosyncracies, and have no direct responsibility to the people - the moulding and shaping of the Constitution.
– Do not English Judges expand the law 1
– I think they unfold the law ; I should not say that they expand it.
– I know, a few cases in which English Judges have expanded the law pretty considerably.
– That may be so in Ireland, but I do not think that the judiciary in Ireland ought to be taken as a model for Australia. I know only too well how things are managed in Ireland. I feel I have taken up enough time. I merely , wanted to indicate the three items of ex”penditure on which I do not feel justified in voting with the Government. I think, however, that the country is grateful to the Government for having administered up to the present the laws as they stand on the statute-book.
– After the very able speeches to which I have listened, ‘ dealing retrospectively with the work of the Government, I shall not add anything to the debate in that respect. I propose to confine myself to the speech of His Excellency, and only in such a way as to deal with general principles, leaving matters of detail until the various Bills are before us. I am very glad to hear the expression of opinion which came from so able a lawyer as the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne on the matter of the proposed High Court of Australia. I was further pleased to hear the able remarks which were made by the honorable member for Gippsland to-day on the same subject. I regard this question simply from the point of view of economy, though I should not continue to do so if I thought the creation of a High Court would lead to any greater efficiency in the administration of the law. I attach great weight to the arguments which have been put forward in favour of the view that this court can be done without for a time ; and, in passing, I may say that I think the creation of an Inter-State Commission might also be postponed. There is one matter which has so far not yet been touched on, and with which I wish to deal in a broad way. I refer to the proposal to introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. In this proposal, it seems to me, there is a very great principle at stake, and, so far as I know, there is no precedent for federal legislation of the kind. The laws of the United States are quoted very freely in this House, and naturally so, considering that we have practically adopted the Constitution of that country, and I think we may fairly look to the experience of that country to guide us in this matter. I shall not say anything at present in regard to the merits of courts of conciliation and arbitration, but confine myself to the desirability of confining their creation to State legislation. I find on reference to the excellent work of Quick and Garran, that there was great diversity of opinion in the Federal Convention as to whether the creation of these courts should be one of the subjects to be dealt with by the Federal Parliament. Quoting from Quick and Garran’s book, I find that the present leader of the Opposition said- -
He believed in the compulsory investigation of trades disputes by State authorities, but he was of opinion that the proposed subclause would tend to enlarge the area of trade disputes, for the reason that the employers or the men might be disposed to extend the area of a dispute, in order to get the advantage of having it settled by the Federal tribunal. The arguments presented in opposition to the proposal were - that to interfere with the State in the settlement of trade disputes would be an undue and unnecessary intrusion on the local industrial life of the State.
Mr. Wise, who is responsible for the passing of an Act of the kind in New South Wales, is reported as saying -
He did not think that it would be prudent to create a Federal court having authority to fix the rate of wages for the whole of Australia.
Turning to a very able American writer for whose opinions we all have great respect, namely, the great late Professor Fiske, I find that, dealing with this subject, he said -
The chjef problem of civilization from the political point of view has always been how to secure concentrated action amongst men on a great scale without sacrificing local independence. …… The durableness of the federal union lies in its flexibility….
States so unlike one another as Maine, Louisiana, and California, cannot be held together by the stiff bonds of a centralizing Government. . . .
It is in this complete independence that is preserved by every State in all matters save those in which the federal principle itself is concerned that we find the surest guaranty of the permanence of the American political system.
Those remarks were illustrated by certain legislation which had been passed in the State of California, and which, had the subject been one for federal control, would have become the law in the whole .of the United States. The legislation was, however, confined to the one State, and after a few years, to use a homely phrase, it “ fizzled out,” without causing excitement in any of the other States. This is a subject we should approach very cautiously, and so far as I can see at present, experience, evidence, and argument are against the taking of this power out of the hands of the State Parliaments. The argument of the leader of the Opposition that employers or employes might push the matter so as to have the matter dealt with by the State authorities commends itself very strongly to me. In reference to the proposed agreement with the Admiralty, I am very much disposed to follow the Government lead ; but there is one point which strikes me very forcibly, namely, the proposal, as I understand it, to do away with the torpedo boats. Even if we had a good strong squadron here, I think that to do away with the torpedo boats would be to create a hiatus in our line of defence which might lead to considerable suffering and loss. If there were no torpedo boats, and the squadron were ordered away, we should have only our forte and torpedoes to depend upon, and they would be practically useless against a vessel which could lie hull down off the coast and shell such a town as Sydney. The best authority I can quote on this subject is Captain Mahan, who in a very able article - as all his articles are - writing upon preparedness for naval warfare, says -
Coast defence implies gun power and torpedo boats ;. but coast defence, though essentially passive, should be an element of offensive force local in character. This offensive element of coast- defence is to be found in the torpedo boat in its various developments. There should be a local flotilla of small torpedo vessels which, by their activity, should make life a burden to an outside enemy.
He goes on to quote a distinguished English admiral, now dead, to the effect that the conditions of modern warfare, owing to the invention of torpedo boats, are such as are calculated to drive the captains of a blocking fleet crazy. We require, in the first place, heavy gun power within our forts, and in addition, torpedoes. Ships in motion are, like birds on the wing, not easily hit, and it has been demonstrated that fast ships can often steam past a fort almost without injury. Captain Mahan, therefore, lays it down very plainly that coastal defence is not sufficient without some sort of aggressive power which can be used to raise . a blockade or to disturb a ship which may be shelling a town, perhaps with smokeless powder, from a great distance. Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell us whether the torpedo boats are to be done away with.
– -I do not think that that has been decided.
– At the end of last session I dealt with this matter from another point of view. At that time the Minister for Home Affairs was administering the Department for Defence, in the absence of its proper head, and I asked him what was to be the position of the men who are now engaged in our local defences. I understand that there is nothing in this agreement to provide for these men, who have spent a good part of their lifetime here, and I gathered that that arm of our defence force was to be done away with, altogether. I admit that it is necessary that a squadron should be free to be sent about anywhere within southern waters : but, in addition to our forts, we must have a fleet of light torpedo boats for coastal defence. Captain Mahan puts forward a very strong argument for the employment of torpedo boats. He says that -
In such a flotilla, owing to the smallness of its components and to the simplicity of their organization and functions, is to be found the best sphere for volunteers. The duties could be learned with comparative ease, and the whole system is susceptible of rapid development.
He points out that the largest warship could be built before you could train men to manage her, whereas men can readily be trained to take part in the defence of the coast by means of torpedo boats. So far as the general question is concerned, I may say at once that I will support the agreement, but that I should be very sorry to see the boats that are here now done away with, unless they are to be replaced with others. The Prime Minister last night referred to the attitude taken by Canada. I agree with him that Canada, so far as outsiders can form an opinion, has not taken a very broad view of this question. I hope, however, that that country will yet see its way to accept the idea that the British navy should be used for the general protection of the Empire. The position of Canada has been very clearly dealt with by Captain Mahan, so that I cannot understand the view taken in that country. Writing at the time of the Behring Sea disputes, he said -
It is upon the Atlantic seaboard that Great Britain will defend Vancouver and the Canadian Pacific. In the present state of our seaboard defences she can do so absolutely. What is all Canada compared with our exposed great cities? What harm can we do. Canada proportionate to the injury we should suffer by the interruption of our coasting trade and the blockade of Boston, New York, the Delaware, and the Chesapeake.
Those words apply, not only to the position of Canada, but to that of other countries. The best way to defend ourselves is to be ready within reasonable limits to pursue an offensive policy. The matter of preferential trade is hardly brought by the GovernorGeneral’s speech within the arena of practical politics. It may do for us to fall in with some arrangement of the kind, but I cannot see how the telegraphed report of Mr. Chamberlain’s speech, which is all we have as yet before us, can be taken to convey its full meaning. When Mr. Hofmeyer, the leader of the Africander Bond, made the suggestion, long before the Boer war, that a tax should be placed upon foreign goods for the maintenance of a fleet, it was pointed out by Sir Edward Giffen that the people of Great Britain would have to bear most of the cost, and that the colonies would get off with very little. That was the burden of the song all round. We were told that the home country could not afford to put us into the position of which Mr. Chamberlain seems to approve. I have here a telegraphed report of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister in “Vancouver, and I do not think honorable members will be disposed to adopt the view there putforward, though, of course, the report may not be absolutely correct. It is taken from the London Weekly Times, and reads as follows : -
Referring to the preferential Tariff question, Sir Edmund Barton said that Australia would favour the mother country not by concessions from the existing Tariff, but by imposing duties on foreign goods, principally on those from Ger- man3’ and the United States.
– I never said anything in any speech which amounted to expressly indicating that Australia would take a certain course.
– I am quoting from a short report telegraphed to the Times, through Reuter’s agency.
– I never pledged Australia in any way or at any time.
Mi-. SKENE. - I do not regard the words I read as a pledge, but as an indication of a policy which I do not think Great Britain would be likely to accept, or that we would accept. With regard to the six hatters’ question, which has been so ably dealt with, I desire to say that, like most other honorable members, I had no idea that the Act could be used in the way in which it was used. I find, on referring to Hansard, that the honorable member for Bland was thefirst to propose the provision under which action was taken, and he did so for the reason that it would cover most of the classes of labour likely to be affected through people being inveigled into unfair agreements in ignorance of the conditions obtaining in Australia.
The Attorney-General, who is responsible for the nice way in which the committee was led on, would not accept the propasal without this proviso -
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted hy the Minister for special skill required in the Commonwealth.
Everything turns upon the words “ required in the Commonwealth,” but, read in conjunction with the remark of the AttorneyGeneral, honorable members were justified in the view that the provision would not do very much harm. The * honorable gentleman told us that -
It is necessary to make provision to permit skilled labourers to enter the Commonwealth if they are of such a character as to be able to add to the industrial wealth of the community.
Therefore I take it that the question to be decided when the men arrive here is simply this - “ Were they skilled workmen-? “ .
– Under that interpretation of the Act you could crowd the place with skilled workmen and turn out those already here.
– That is another aspect of the matter. When the honorable member for Bland moved the insertion of the provision, he did so in the interest of people who are not here now, but who may be coming here, so that they might not be inveigled through ignorance into entering into a wrong agreement. The Prime Minister -read into the provision another intention - the intention to protect men already here.
– Only so far as the words “ required in the Commonwealth “ necessitated an interpretation.
– One must regard the conditions of the Commonwealth in order to discover what is required in it.
– Such an inquiry, to be of any use, would have to be most exhaustive. The Prime Minister required an affidavit.
– No. What I said was that some statutory declarations were laid before rae.
– The Prime Minister, in speaking upon this matter at Hobart, on 14th February, is reported to have said -
He would explain the circumstances connected with the six hatters. The law which he was charged to administer said that he must satisfy himself that the persons who came to Australia under contract were only to be admitted if they possessed the skill that was required in the Commonwealth. It was the duty of the gentleman into whose employment the immigrants were going to satisfy him (Sir Edmund Barton) by affidavit or otherwise on that point.
– “Affidavit or otherwise.” What I received were statutory declarations, which are not sworn. I received no affidavits.
– The point I wish to make is that a statutory declaration or an affidavit contains the opinion only of one man, which is not much evidence as to the requirements of the Commonwealth. I was quite satisfied with the explanation of the Prime Minister with regard to the reasons why information was asked for regarding the necessity for importing skilled labour, but my recollection is that after Mr. Anderson had given the necessary assurance he was required to show that he had advertised throughout the Commonwealth for men, and that he had used every effort to find out if the necessary labour were available in Australia before taking measures to import workmen. I understood that this was done by the Prime Minister.
– My recollection is that Mr. Anderson was not asked to do anything of the kind, but that he came forward and acted very properly. He should have supplied us with the information six or eight days before.
– No doubt the provision may be regarded as one for the protection of the workmen who are already in the country, but it is not fair that any undue restriction should be placed upon the introduction of skilled workmen who may be necessary for the purpose of carrying on our manufacturing industries with success.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the people of this country are entitled to some .protection 1
– I differ from the view taken by the honorable member, because I think that there should be no obstacle to fair Competition between British subjects. It is not fair that a State like New South Wales, which desires to. start a new industry, should be limited in its selection to the cast-off workmen of other States. .
– But no such limit was imposed. As soon as it became apparent that these men were needed thev were admitted.
– With reference to the point raised by the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, I notice that during the debate upon the Immigration Restriction Bill the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said -
There is no desire to exclude men who voluntarily seek to make their home here for the purpose of engaging in manual labour or anything else, so long as they belong to a civilized white race and are themselves desirable immigrants. As I understand it, we have never in Australia taken up that narrow view of saying that we must keep Australia for ourselves and our children.
I do not know whether that expresses the view of the honorable member for Yarra.
– All I want is that all immigrants shall come as free men.
– Then the judge who recently came from England to Western Australia was not a free man 1
– I do not think the attitude taken by the honorable member for Yarra is a sound one. If we are to obtain skilled labour from other parts of the world, we should obtain the best, and the best men will not leave the old country unless we give them some guarantee of work when they arrive here.
– The leader of the Opposition told us that any agreement that might be entered into was valueless.
– I said that the agreements had no effect the moment the men landed in Australia, if they were contrary to the law.
– A question was raised as to whether the men came here under agreements embodying terms prescribed by the trades unions. It appears that there was no infringement of the trades union rules in their agreements, but I do not see why that should in any way influence the action of the Federal authorities. The States have different laws relating to labour questions, and we find that in Victoria the value of labour is fixed to some extent by the minimum wage provisions of . the Factories and Shops Act, but the Prime Minister should not be placed in the position of practically dictating the labour conditions under which men should be admitted into the Commonwealth. Still less should he be subject to any dictation on the part of the trade unions. So much has been said regarding this question that I need” not dwell upon it any further than to remark that I shall be -glad to take advantage of the opportunity which I understand the leader of the Opposition intends to give us to vote for a repeal of this law.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has not said that.
– He wants to make the’ law more drastic.
– Let me speak for myself. By the time that all honorable members who desire to do so have spoken for me I shall be charged with inconsistency.
– A matter outside of the speech to which I wish to refer is the disorganization of the mail service during the recent strike in Victoria. It seems tome that if there is no power within the Constitution at present to enable the Government to step in and insure the carriage of the mails, some authority should be sought by the Federal Government. I find that in the United States there is no such thing as a stoppage of the mails. No matter what strikes may take place, the Federal authorities there have the necessary power to secure the carrying out of all contracts connected with the postal service. If we do not at present possess power we should acquire authority in some way. Quick and Garran, in their Annotated Constitution qf the Australian Commonwealth, referring to the position of the Federal Government of the United States in this connexion on page 964, say -
If domestic violence within the State is of such a character as to interfere with the operations of the Federal Government, the Federal Government may, without a summons from the States, interfere to preserve order. Thus, if a riot in a State interfered with the carriage of the federal mails, &c. , the Federal Government could use all the force at ite disposal not to protect the State, but to protect itself. These principles were conclusively settled in the United States in 1895.
If during the recent strike in Victoria an application had been made to the State Government by the Federal Government, the rolling stock and other railway plant and material necessary for carrying the mails probably would have been supplied to them, and the postal service might have been continued without interruption. I quite approve of the attitude taken by the Prime Minister in connexion with the recent strike, because the policy of non-interference on the part of the Federal Government left them free to act impartially in the event of any application being made to them for their assistance in an extremity. But the federal authorities occupy a very humiliating position when they are powerless to prevent the stoppage of mails through strikes or other labour disturbances. ‘ During the recent strike a train started from Adelaide on Friday night, and did not reach here until Tuesday morning.
– Has the United States Government ever exercised its power with regard to the conveyance of mails %
– I do not think it has ever been found necessary to exercise it. There has never been a stoppage of the mails.
-. - Oh, yes ; they have been stopped many a time through strikes, and the power referred to by the honorable member has never been exercised by the federal authorities.
– The United States Government may not have exercised its powers, but I think it is due to us that some control similar to that which they can exercise if they choose should be vested in the Federal Government. I do not know whether the State Government is under any penalty for a breach of contract in connexion with the carriage of mails, but I know that very serious penalties are incurred by mail contractors in the country, and. that they have no redress, however unfortunate may be the conditions in which they are placed, through drought or other adverse circumstances. In any -case some means should be adopted for obviating a recurrence of difficulties such as those experienced in Victoria recently. I need not deal any further with this matter. The Governor-General’s speech indicates that a large number of measures are to be brought forward for our consideration. We are to be called upon to deal with a Bill providing for the incorporation of New Guinea as a territory of the Commonwealth. I have been altogether opposed to any such course, and if we could honorably do so, we should retrace any steps that may have been taken in that direction. I fear that if we take over New Guinea, we shall be brought face to face with a very serious race problem in the near future. There are 350,000 natives in New Guinea, and I am afraid that we shall experience difficulties similar to those which beset the Cape Government in connexion with the control of Basutoland. That Government found it desirable, after having assumed control of that territory, to hand it back again to the Imperial Government, and I understand that they now contribute£18,000 a year towards the expenses of governing it as a Crown colony. It will also be a serious matter for us to depart from the conditions under which we now find ourselves in regard to having a continuous sea-coast border line. If we incorporate New Guinea within the Commonwealth, we shall have 1,500 miles of boundary line contiguous to nations which are on the whole hostile to us, and we can easily imagine the possibility of serious complications arising under such circumstances. However, I do not consider it necessary to deal with these matters at any greater length at present. I shall take the opportunity when they are submitted to us in detail to discuss them more exhaustively.
– I do not know that we can quarrel with the quality of the work outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, but I think that we may very well ask for a reduction in quantity. During last session a great deal of discussion took place upon measures which were eventually abandoned, and the whole of the time devoted to them was virtually wasted. I have no objection to devoting attention to measures which we have a reasonable prospect of passing, but it is requiring too much of honorable members to ask them to spend night after night discussing measures which in the end are set aside for lack of time. It would be wiser, under the circumstances, for the Government to reduce the work of the session to the smallest possible prop’ortions, and to confine attention to Bills which it is absolutely necessary to pass before the expiration of the present Parliament. I propose to deal briefly with a few matters which in _ my judgment are worthy of special notice. The administrative work of the Ministry has been the subject of several compliments, and I think that we should specially recognise the splendid services which the AttorneyGeneral rendered by his advocacy before the Full Court of Victoria of the interests of the Commonwealth in the Customs case which was recently decided. The very great importance of the services he then rendered, and of the decision which he was instrumental in obtaining can hardly be overestimated. I think it is due to him that we should mention the appreciation which we individually feel for the very fine work indeed which he did upon that occasion. I wish also to commend the Government for the stand they have taken with respect to one or two matters relating to assurance, which were mentioned here during the course of last session - matters in which I was particularly interested. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that I submitted several motions . in reference to them, and I am exceedingly glad ‘that there will now be no necessity to deal any further with two of them at least. I asked that the Government should take in hand the work of guaranteeing its own officers. I urged that the Government itself ought to create a fund into which guarantee premiums could be paid, and out of which any losses might be made good. This has now been done, and I think that the Ministry are to be complimented upon the step which they have taken. It is one which will eventually be commended upon all hands, and one which must bring about very good results. I understand, too, from a letter which I have received from the Prime Minister’s department, that it is proposed to institute a system of fire insurance in connexion with the properties and plant of the Commonwealth. These two systems to which I have referred have already been practically adopted, perhaps there may be some hope for the proposal which I put forward last year in regard to the establishment of a Commonwealth Life Insurance Department. That of course is a very much larger order. It is a subject upon which there may be very wide differences of opinion, but it is within the recollection of honorable members that last session the principle was defeated only by the narrow majority of one, and the probability is that if the issue were made a direct one, the proposal would be carried. Under these circumstances I trust that the Government will anticipate any motion upon the subject and declare in the readiest manner possible what their proposals are: Perhaps one of the most important statements made during the debate was that of the leader of the Opposition last night in regard to his policy concerning the Tariff. Honorable members upon the protectionist side of the Chamber had hoped that that matter had been definitely settled for- some time at least. Personally I do not think that it should be touched again during the whole of the book-keeping period. But, from the right honorable member’s statement, it appears that some of the items of the Tariff are to be made the subject of contention at the next general election.
– We ought to have free timber.
– The trouble is that if the Tariff be re-opened at all, every honorable member who is interested in any particular item will want the duty upon it reviewed, and there will be no means of preventing that from being done. Ibr example, I might desire to see an increased duty upon nails, just as the honorable member for Barrier might wish to have mining timber placed upon the free list. But, though I was very sorry to hear the declaration of the leader of the Opposition, I am hopeful that now we understand exactly what he proposes, the result may be placed beyond doubt. As far as I can understand the electors of Australia, freetraders and protectionists alike, are heartily sick of the Tariff question for the present. Therefore I hope that the electors will see that that matter will be left severely alone for a certain period at any rate, so that that peace may be conferred upon the community which is necessary to commercial prosperity. In the
Governor-General’s speech a passing reference is made to the recent great utterance of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. ~No further reference could be made to it in that deliverance, -especially as the Government do not propose to re-open the Tariff question. At the same time it is encouraging to find a great statesman like Mr. Chamberlain at last indicating that he will put forward some proposition in respect of the matter of preferential trade. I do not know that we can give a preference of 5 or 10 per cent, to all classes of British goods. I - have carefully thought the matter over, and it appears to me that the only way in which it could be dealt with effectively, would be by scheduling three or four items of commerce which might be advantageously admitted to Australia, and a similar number of articles which might be thus admitted into Great Britain. Amongst our chief exports are such articles of commerce as meat, wine, hides, tallow, and possibly wheat. These might be scheduled, and admitted to Great Britain at a lower rate than -would be charged upon similar articles coming from the continent and elsewhere. On the other hand, there are items which would correspond to the export value of those I have mentioned, and which might be admitted into Australia. Of course it is a matter for mutual arrangement but in that way I think we might arrive at the efficacy and practicability of reciprocal trade. I do not think that we should give any general preference to British goods, because a difficulty will always arise as to their origin. We know perfectly well that quite a number of articles which are imported as British goods are not made in Britain at all. They are made in Germany and elsewhere, and simply pass through commercial houses in the United Kingdom. By a system such as I have suggested,” we could admit articles which are known to have been manufactured in Great Britain as a quid pro quo for the admission of’ certain articles from Australia into Great Britain. If the latter country is prepared to give us a preference representing £500,000 or £600,000 worth of her trade, we should be prepared to reciprocate. It is merely a matter of adjustment between the two countries. The question of the establishment of a High Court has been discussed at some length. As a layman I am not the best qualified to express an opinion on the subject, but I do feel that there is a necessity for the establishment of that tribunal. I am therefore inclined to follow the Government, notwithstanding what has been said by such able lawyers as the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. Next to the Judiciary Bill the most important measure referred to in the Governor-General’s speech is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. For the most part I indorse all that has been’ said in in reference to that measure, and I hope to witness its speedy passage into law. Legisation of the character promised is in the interests of commercial peace, and will make for prosperity, amongst all classes in Australia. What will prove the chief topic of discussion, and the principal cause of dissension during the present session is the naval subsidy. By listening to what the Prime Minister had to say to a Melbourne audience upon this subject, and by reading all that I possibly could in regard to it, I have endeavoured to arrive at its true bearings, but I am not yet convinced that the Government have adopted the right policy in this connexion. I- feel that at this stage we are about to establish a precedent which, if followed to its logical conclusion, must lead to further contributions towards supporting the Imperial Government. To my mind there is another ideal at which we should aim - namely, the control and management of our own naval forces, seeing that we have to find the money for our own defence. Though I do not definitely commit myself to oppose the Government in- this matter, I feel very grave doubts as to whether they are asking us to take the right course, and, I shall, therefore, reserve my decision until the Bill is actually before us. It is worthy of notice, however, that, though we are told by the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth has not been committed to anything until Parliament ratifies the agreement arrived at, the additional sum which Australia is asked for has been placed upon the British estimates.
– Not the money which this House is asked to vote.
– The additional sum which we are asked to vote has been included in the Estimates submitted to the House of Commons, with an explanatory note co the effect that this money is expected to be received in accordance with the promise of the Prime Minister. It is also worthy of remark that men like Sir Charles Dilke and others affirm that this additional sum of money is of no value whatever to the British people. I cannot quote the exact phraseology, but the effect was that the spontaneous offering of the Commonwealth, and of the various States in connexion with the African wai’, were of value, while the sum of money now asked for was of no value. I am inclined to agree with that opinion, because it is not exact!)’ a question of money, but a question of principle. My aim is that all expenditure of money on our own defences should be controlled by ourselves, and that the men to be paid with that money to manage our ships should be Australians. Whether we take these ships for our defence on lease, licence, or conditional purchase, they should be officered and manned by Australians receiving Australian money, and under the control of the Australian Parliament, rather than the control of some other body thousands of miles away. That is my present opinion, which I shall venture to voice and maintain until I hear good reason to the contrary. Such a policy would do much more towards fostering a genuine patriotic sentiment in our naval defence force, than could possibly be created amongst Britishers imported in ships which do not belong to us, and receiving our money . merely in order to carry out a contract. We desire to stimulate an Australian feeling and sentiment in respect to Australian affairs, and that sentiment cannot be purchased, but must be created by giving a live and genuine interest in our own concerns. There is another matter in connexion with the defences on which I should like to say a word or two. I was not altogether pleased or satisfied with the action of the Ministry in an episode connected with the Easter encampment. It will be recollected that as a result of the orders of the general officer commanding, two of our most highly trained and respected volunteer officers have asked to be placed on the retired list. Both are citizen soldiers, one with eighteen years’ experience, and the other, I believe, with 24 years’ experience. So far as I am able to judge, both were quite fit to take command of a battalion or brigade at the encampment, and being senior officers they were, as I read the regulations, entitled to do so. But owing to some idea which the general entertained as to their incompetency to give instructions in camp, they were passed over, and a junior officer appointed. The volunteer officers naturally enough felt aggrieved, and protested ; but the Ministry, unfortunately, felt obliged to support the general officer commanding. A most regrettable result is that the services of these two officers are lost to the Commonwealth. It is deplorable that after men have given years of volunteer service at a cost to themselves of not only labour and time, but also of a good deal of money, they should by reason of what they conceive to be an affront be compelled to retire. Had a strong stand been taken by the Ministry there might have been a different result. At this stage I do not wish to say more, because the question will arise again in connexion with defence matters, when the subject of a citizen soldiery is being discussed. I am not devoting any more than passing attention to the men concerned ; it is the principle underlying their retirement and the slight put on the citizen soldiery which affects me. In the first Governor-General’s speech we were promised that in the Defence Bill special care would be taken’ by the Government to avail themselves of a citizen soldiery. Emphasis was laid on that in the speech, but the first Defence Bill did not disclose any great evidence of the fulfilment of the promise, and the episode to which I have referred tends to show that the Imperial idea and regular soldiers are to have the consideration of the Ministry rather than the Australian idea and citizen soldiers whose conduct has been so lauded. The last, but by far the most, important point in the Governor-General’s speech to which I wish to direct attention concerns the finances of Australia. The Federal Parliament has been charged outside with passing Acts which tend to increase the burden of debt borne by the people of Australia. He later than to-day it was pointed out in debate that the expenditure is increasing, and that some of the benefits which federation was to bring about are not yet in evidence. That is quite true.
– The Sydney Daily Telegraph expresses the opinion to-day that at no point can the Commonwealth be charged with extravagance.
– Federal expenditure and federal extravagance are two different things, and I think the Sydney Daily Telegraph is right when it says we cannot be charged with extravagance, though it may be successfully maintained that the expenditure is increasing. But there must necessarily be an increase of expenditure when new departments and officers are created and new work undertaken. The proposals for a High Court, a naval subsidy, an Inter-State Commission, and the appointment of a High Commissioner, all prove that there is very soon to be increased federal expenditure. As one who strongly advocated federation, I feel I am not keeping my contract with the people whom I asked to support the Bill. We are not making some of those savings which I believe can and ought to be made. When the Constitution Bill was before the people, it was freely stated by the advocates of federation that by its adoption large sums would be saved. I then believed that to be so, I believe it now, and I was honest in advocating the Bill ; but up to the present we have not seen any great evidence of those savings. The only direction in which any reduction has taken place is in the military estimates.
– The expenditure is no less than under the State Legislatures.
– Speaking from memory, -I think that in’ the prefederation days the expenditure was about £860,000, and is now about £700,000, showing a saving of £160,000. But the whole of that saving will be more than eaten up if the proposals for a High Court, a naval subsidy, and other matters have to be provided for. In view of these facts, what are we to do to keep faith with the public as’ to the savings to be made? My opinion is that the savings ought to be effected by consolidating the loans of the several States. Almost every speaker in the course of this debate has made reference to the matter, but only two ideas have been put forward, first that there should be consolidation, and nextthat there should be restriction on future borrowing by the States. No suggestion has been made, however, as to how the consolidation should take place or how the restriction should operate. With consolidation there should, in my opinion, be some restriction, but not the absolute restriction indicated by the honorable and learned member forNorthern Melbourne. It would be ridiculous to tie up the States and render it impossible for them to borrow, seeing that they have had left to them matters of internal development and of social and domestic legislation which must necessarily entail the raising of loans in the future. The States have work to do which, as I say, can only be done by further borrowing,’ though, on the other hand, almost all the States have now borrowed up to what may be called the limit of their powers. Taking it for granted that the loans are to be consolidated, the restriction should take the form Of limiting future borrowings on a population basis ; that is, any future debts contracted by the States might be at the rate of so much per 100,000 inhabitants. If that were taken as the basis for Victoria, and the raising of £1,000,000 allowed, for each 100,000 people, the future borrowing power of the State would amount to another £10,000,000. I do not think Victoria should borrow that amount, or any amount, I merely use these figures for illustration. The idea of a population basis may not be wholly scientific, but at any rate it is sound and safe. Other elements must necessarily enter into consideration. There are possibilities of development in some States which are not- in evidence in other States ; but in the last analysis we come to the conclusion that the individuals composing the State have to pay the interest. On the units depend the burden ; and if the population increases the State debts may increase, but if the population does not increase there must be no further borrowing. All future State borrowing should, in my opinion, be done through the Commonwealth. If the Com: monwealth is going to take any interest in the matter at all, it has a right to see that the conditions as to the restriction are en- forced, and there is the more special reason that if the loans are floated through theCommonwealth agency, we shall be able to avoid conflict between State and. State and between the States and the- Commonwealth, in the money market. Such regulations would all tend to the benefit of the States. The position seems to be, taking the Premiers’ conference as a guide, that the Premiers of. the States are anxious for the Commonwealth to take over the debts of the States,, and to have unrestricted borrowing powers. What then should be the position of the Commonwealth ? Under the Constitution,, the Federal Parliament may act in this matter upon, its own discretion ; there is no obligation upon it to act. That being, the- case, this Parliament will probably not interfere until it is asked to do so by the Governments of the States concerned. When the States learn that by utilizing the credit of the Commonwealth they can obtain an advantage which their own credit will not give them, they will probably be prepared to submit to the conditions which we shall seek to impose upon them, and we shall be entitled to impose conditions and restrictions if we lend them our credit, because credit is capital, and will be proved to be so, when the consolidations and conversions of State loans take place. Let us therefore consider what are the advantages of consolidation and conversion, and how they may be brought about. The opinion is held by a large number of people that a conversion cannot be brought about until the due date of the loan concerned, or somewhere near that time. That is a fallacy. I think the Commonwealth could begin the- conversion of the State debts at any time, and convert any amount of indebtedness it, in its discretion, chose to so convert. That being so, the- States could at any time obtain the advantage which the use of the credit of the Commonwealth would bring to them. I do not know that many people recognise how much profit there is to he-obtained by the conversion of State loans. I hold - I may be wrong - that the Commonwealth could immediately begin to convert £300,000,000 of State debts. In converting that amount of State indebtedness there would be a very substantial initial profit. The average interest paid on the States’ debts to-day will be found upon careful analysis to be something like 4 per cent. Now, if we take the Canadian figures as a basis, the Commonwealth Government could convert the States’ debts upon an interest charge of 2.J per cent. To be on the safe- side, however, I will put the interest charge at 3 per cent., and. the difference of 1 per cent, would give a clear saving upon £100,000,000 of £l,000j.000 per annum. That saving could be very largely supplemented by the profit to be made by the conversion. From an analysis of the Australian stocks upon the London, market at the- present time, it will be found that the average- ruling price is about £92- or £93. That is fairly high’ as stocks go, but I make bold to say that Commonwealth stock would probably bring £97 or £98, a difference of £3 or £4 upon every £100. That would give, in the conversion of £100,000,000 of stock, a clear profit less charges and expenses of some £3,000,000. That being so, I marvel that the States do not immediately ask the Commonwealth to lend them its credit, so that the advantages I have pointed out may be obtained. But though those advantages can be obtained-
– Not now.
– I think so. Perhaps the advantage would not be so great at the present time, but the gain upon so large an amount in any case would be very substantial. I think, however, that the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of profit should not be handed back to the States’ Governments to spend as they like, but should go to the immediate redemption of the States’ debts, the total amount oftheir indebtedness being reduced by the profit secured. That would be the first step. The next step would be the creation of a sinking fund, such as has been outlined by the Attorney-General in his reply to the Premier of Victoria. There are several ways of creating a sinking fund, and some of them are open to objection. It is suggested that the States should be asked to pay so much per annum out of their revenue account towards a sinking, fund which would gradually reduce their indebtedness, but I think that if that were done it would probably be found in the working out of the scheme that the States would actually be paying more than they are now paying. My suggestion is that the difference between the rate of interest which the States are now paying, and the rate which will have to be paid for the Commonwealth loan should be devoted to the creation of a sinking fund. If the average rate of interest now paid is 4 per cent., and the average rate charged, on Commonwealth stock is 3 per cent., the States would contribute 1 per cent, towards the gradual, reduction of. their indebtedness, and yet they would not be paying any more money on the whole than they now pay. That contribution should be vested, in. a board of commissioners, who would net be subject to the control of either this. Parlia- ment or of any of the Parliaments of the States. They in their, discretion should, have the right to purchase States stock, or otherwise invest the money intrusted to them as they deemed most profitable and fitting. Thus two benefits would accrue to the States from the conversion of. their loans. They would benefit in the reduction of: their indebtedness by the amount of the profit made by the conversion, and. they would gain in the gradual reduction of their indebtedness through, the medium of a. sinking, fund created and used in the way I have indicated. I do not suppose that matters of this kind will be dealt with during the present session, but I feel that it is not exactly a waste of time, to discuss methods of conversion and the proper conditions and restrictions to be imposed upon the States in. connexion with them, because public opinion must be educated on the subject, and we must have the support of the people outside before any economic proposals can. be put forward. The Commonwealth is in the position of being able to render the States a great financial service, but in. doing so it is entitled to impose conditions and restrictions such as I have outlined. All these matters should be placed before the public, and therefore, although the subject has not been given great prominence in the-Governor-General’s speech, I have ventured to put forward two or- three suggestions in regard to it in. the hope that they may form the basis of further consideration. Having said so much, I will conclude by repeating, that, until some of the great and substantial savings which were promised to the electors when they were asked to accept the Commonwealth Bill have been obtained, we shall not have kept faith with them. Until this be done, this Parliament will hardly have justified its existence, notwithstanding, the fact the federation is growing in favour with the public, and that there is an increasing disposition to clothe the federal authority with greater powers and privilege’. As a Legislature, the people are getting greater confidence in us, but our chief aim must be to secure those financial and. economic advantages for; which federation was primarly adopted. Until we do that, we- shall not have made the progress we hoped, foc, nor have kept our promises to the electors!
– I. find myself in. agreement with a great deal which the honorable member for Bourke has said, though- at the outset I differ from him as to the inadvisability of: reopening, the Tariff question:in. connexion- with the/approaching elections. I. do not see how it is possible for honorable gentlemen. who have taken- a vigorous stand, against many of. the duties in the Tariff to recede from’ their position, and accept it as a fair compromise between the opposing doctrines of free-trade and protection. However much we may have hoped at one time to settle the fiscal question during the first Parliament, no honorable member who took part in the discussions of last session, can have any reasonable hope that the question has been finally settled. I do not wish at this stage to advance particular arguments in favour of the reopening of the matter, but it appears to me that the high feeling which prevailed during the discussion of the Tariff in this Chamber, and the evident dissatisfaction shown in the States at the result of our labours, make it abundantly clear that it must be reopened, and that a more satisfactory settlement must be obtained before anything like fiscal peace can rule ‘throughout the Commonwealth. I hope, however, that when the question is again referred to the electors, and dealt with in Parliament, we shall, after reasonable deliberation and discussion, reach a settlement which will last for some years. The programme placed before us by the Governor-General brings very forcibly to mind the fact that we are very far from having accomplished the constructive work of federation, and that a great deal remains to be done before the federal machinery can be said to be in complete working order. I listened with a very great deal of attention to the speeches of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. They advanced very strong arguments in favour of the House pausing before committing itself to the great expense in:volved in the creation of a High Court. I am not prepared to express off-hand a definite opinion upon the subject; but such a pretentious establishment as it was proposed to create does not seem to be called for by the necessities of the situation, and in view of the very serious financial strain which the people of the Commonwealth have been labouring under during the past year or two, we should be very slow, to commit them to any huge expenditure which is not absolutely necessary. I think that Ministers are deserving of very great censure for having allowed _ the citizens of the Commonwealth to remain for so many months without any legal redress against the Federal Government. The passage of an Act of Parliament at the close of last session conferring federal juris-, diction upon the States’, courts seemed to constitute a sort of death-bed repentance on the part of the Government for long neglect of what should have been one of its first duties. We are assured by the Government that an early opportunity will be offered’ Parliament for considering the report of the commission appointed to inquire as to the sites most suitable for the federal capital. I cannot congratulate the Government upon the measures they have adopted to carry out the compact between the States regarding the federal capital. There was absolutely no reason why the commission, if necessary, should not have been appointed within six months of the assembling of Parliament, . but fully eighteen months elapsed, and it was only at the expiration of last session that a roaming commission was appointed to obtain evidence which was already in the possession of the State Government. The commission should have been appointed at least twelve months before, so that the results of its deliberations might have been placed before the Parliament within a reasonable period. It is to be hoped that the Government will be true to their promise, and push on the selection of the federal capital site as a matter of urgency. I find myself in agreement with the Government and with the leader of the Opposition in the matter of the proposed subsidy to the Imperial navy, and I altogether dissent from those who think that we should at this stage take upon ourselves the responsibility of forming an Australian navy, wit-h all its attendant huge expenditure. I believe that questions of defence must necessarily assume an Imperial aspect so long as we remain a part of the British Empire, and I am certain that it is the desire of this Parliament, and of the vast majority of the people of the Commonwealth, to remain a part of the Empire. I am satisfied that our most efficient means of naval defence will be provided by an Imperial squadron stationed in these waters, and it is our duty to the Empire and to ourselves to contribute as liberally as circumstances will, permit. I know that Sir Charles Dilke, and others, have urged that a contribution of £200,000 would be a paltry one, and that it would not materially help the Imperial Government, but I believe ‘ that in our present circumstances that amount is quite as large as the people of Australia are able to afford. We cannot burden the Commonwealth in these early days of its career with any extravagant expenditure, but I think we are bound to respond to the demand made upon us by the Imperial Government to contribute somewhat more liberally than in the past towards the maintenance of an efficient squadron in Australian waters. It has been urged bv some honorable members that we should endeavour to create the nucleus of an Australian navy, that we should have our own ships and our own sons manning them. It is held that, in this way, we should build up a patriotic sentiment. But I would ask honorable members what they understand by those words ? It seems to me that every loyal Australian is a loyal Briton, and if our sons show their loyalty by desiring to serve in the Imperial naval service, they will be manifesting just as high patriotism as if they entered an Australian naval service. In this matter we must stand or fall together, as part of a great Empire, and the true patriotism we ought to encourage in our sons is one that will not be bound by geographical limits, but will embrace the whole Empire of which we form a part. It has already been pointed out that to create even a small Australian navy, which would probably be inadequate to the service demanded of it, would require a large initial’ outlay. I am not prepared to say how much, but, knowing what we do of the large expenditure involved in the construction of firstclass battle ships, we can realize that some millions would be required to provide vessels, and that we should then have to incur very heavy expense for maintenance. If we can enter into an arrangement with the Imperial Government to give us an efficient squadron, we shall make an excellent bargain, and secure for the smallest amount of money the best service we could have. I understand that an arrangement has been made by which Australian youths can derive the full benefit of training in the Imperial navy.
– There are provisions in the agreement by which the crew .of one of the second-class cruisers shall consist wholly of Australians and New Zealanders. There are also provisions that the minimum crews of three training ships shall be Australians and New Zealanders, and that their reserves shall be similarly constituted, so that with active sailors and reservists we shall have about 1,600 Australians and New Zealanders among the men required to fully man the squadron.
– The provisional arrangement, entered into subject - to the approval of Parliament, must ‘ commend itself to us on the ground of economy, and as one that is just and equitable. We are bound by every consideration of Imperial patriotism to contribute to the defence of the Empire. Even if it were possible for us to provide a fleet for our own defence, the obligation would still rest upon us to contribute if we could towards the maintenance of the Imperial navy, and the defence of our great trade routes and interests in far distant waters. I believe that in a general way our highest duty to the Empire is to be discharged by our looking after that portion of it which has been committed to our charge ; but we are not departing from that principle when we contribute to the maintenance of the Imperial squadron in these waters. We could not expect to be able to give our own people a better training than they would receive in the Imperial squadron, even if we had vessels of our own, and I believe the arrangements made as time goes on will secure the highest advantages to those Australians who wish to enter the Imperial naval forces. The Governor-General’s speech foreshadowed one of the most important measures that can come before Parliament. I refer to the Patents Bill, which I understand is to be introduced into this House by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I would urge the Government to press on with that measure at the earliest possible moment. No advantage that we can derive from the Federation is likely to prove of greater service than the establishment of proper patent laws. Already a large number of small inventors, who are not able to incur the expense of registering their patents in the various States, are waiting for the passage of this legislation, which, I understand, will reduce the cost of protecting patents to a material extent. At any rate, we are sadly in want of some comprehensive law relating to patents. The honorable member for Bourke has referred to a question in which the AttorneyGeneral is taking a very great interest - namely, that of converting the State loans into Commonwealth stock, and has spoken generally of the effect of such a course upon the finances of the various States. I think it should be impressed upon all the State Parliaments, as I am sure it has been upon the minds of honorable members of this
House, that Australian credit is affected by the conditions prevailing all over the States. It is necessary that we should preserve the solvency of the weakest State in the union - that in some way or other we should come to its assistance - because Australia is bound to suffer as the result of State misgovernment or extravagance, or of any repudiation of State loan obligations that might be brought about by unfortunate circumstances. Therefore, by assisting in the conversion of the State loans, the Commonwealth Government are in a position to very materially enhance the credit of all the States. But it is obvious that this work must be proceeded with very cautiously. There can be no forcing of federal . offices upon the State Governments. The friendly services which the Commonwealth is willing to undertake on behalf of the States can be undertaken only at the request of the State Governments, and at the present time there appears to be a. reluctance on their part to give the assurances required before the Commonwealth can assume any obligations in this respect. I hope that this Parliament will pursue a policy of rigid economy in the administration of public affairs. It has been said by some newspapers that so far the Commonwealth Parliament cannot be accused of any very great extravagance in the management of its affairs. I hope that it will adopt a similar course in the future, that no great extravagance will be manifested, and that it will afford an object lesson to all the States in the union. We should be careful not to commit ourselves to any obligations on behalf of the States unless satisfactory assurances are forthcoming that the latter will not be guilty of extravagant borrowing. If the Com-‘ monwealth is to assume any responsibility in regard to State loans, there must be a limit put upon State borrowing. I am not prepared to follow in the footsteps of the honorable member for Bourke, by declaring that we could limit the borrowings of the States proportionately to their population. After all, these matters must be determined by the credit of the States themselves, by the nature of the works which have been undertaken with loan moneys, and by the revenue derived from those works. We must be painfully aware of the fact that throughout Australia a strong feeling has been manifested that federation has not come up to expectations. That may be a natural result proceeding from high expectations. Possibly the people df Australia expected that the very existence of a federal union would itself enhance their credit, improve their trade, and bring about conditions altogether favourable to them. If so,, there is naturally a feeling of disappointment. At the same time, I think that much disappointment has arisen from the fact that the Government themselves have not been firm in their administration in some directions, whilst they have been very much too firm in others. I cannot allow the question of the exclusion of the six hatters to pass without expressing my very strong opinion that the Government in that case strained the law very considerably. I cannot help thinking that, at the outset, they might have allowed the exemption which was subsequently granted, instead of exposing this Parliament and themselves to a very great deal of ridicule. The honorable member for Bland, who was responsible for the amendment under which the hatters were for a time excluded, has expressed himself as being in thorough accord with the Prime Minister upon that matter, and the latter has urged again and again that he merely carried out the law. I hold that there should have been no hesitation on the part of the Government in admitting these men at once. The proviso which was introduced by the Attorney-General in connexion with the amendment of the honorable member for Bland was intended to be used by the Government in such a case, and certainly not after the rigid inquiry which the Prime Minister deemed it his duty to undertake. It seems to me a humiliating spectacle for the Prime Minister to constitute himself a court of inquiry to determine the capacity of certain workmen from Great Britain who seek to land here, and the necessity for that class of labour in Australia.
– The honorable member would not have had me decide without inquiry ?
– The Prime Minister’s inquiry need only have been of a very limited character.
– Would not the honorable member have me take the trouble to ascertain what those mien were ?
– Yes, I would justify the Prime Minister in demanding both from the gentleman responsible for bringing the hatters to Australia, and from the men themselves, some affidavits as to the trade and occupation which they were about to follow, and the nature of the agreements into which they had entered. But the agreements into which they had entered bore on their face sufficient evidence that that class of labour was required in the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister cannot constitute himself a competent court to inquire into the necessity for obtaintaining men in a particular trade at a particular time. The very fact that a large manufacturer had sent to the old country to bring men to Australia, and contracted to pay them the current rate of wages, is in itself evidence that that class of labour was required. It was not cases of that kind that the amendment of the honorable member for Bland was intended to meet. It was designed rather to prohibit the importation of large bodies of men who might be brought to Australia under contract for the purpose of depressing wages here, or of interfering in times of strikes with the arrangements between masters and men. In the light of what has happened, however, it will be absolutely necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the question of immigration again, and to liberalize the law so that no white British subject coming to Australia to work at an honest trade shall be prohibited from landing.
– How can that fact be ascertained without some sort of preliminary inquiry ?
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- I do not know that any elaborate inquiry would have to be made to discover that. A man’s agreement in itself is evidence that he is coming here to accept bona fide employment. The honorable member for Bland knows perfectly well that no manufacturer would send to the other end of the world to secure workmen, and agree to pay them the wages current in Australia, unless he believed there was a necessity for so doing. Naturally, upon starting a new industry a manufacturer would desire to obtain the most highly-skilled labour procurable, and, consequently, he would go to those centres where men had an opportunity of becoming thoroughly efficient in their trade.
– The fact that they are under contract is sufficient evidence that they are exempted from being under contract?
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- The fact that they are under contract at the rate of wages. current in Australia is evidence that their services are required here. Undoubtedly those men should have been admitted without exposing the Commonwealth to the ridicule of the whole world. Now the impression prevails abroad that Australia does not extend a hearty welcome to British workmen. So far from encouraging their presence here, we discourage them by leading them to believe that they will be exposedto a kind of Ministerial inquiry as to their fitness before they are allowed to land. I suppose we are all agreed that Australia requires a very much larger population to develop her resources, and to place her in a foremost position amongst the nations of the world.. But the Government have broadcasted to the world a notification that Australia does not welcome British workmen - - that Australia is in no need of population. It is practically a placard to the whole world that Australia wishes the work hereto be shared amongst the men who are here. Every other new country in the world is seeking to attract population by offering; inducements to able-bodied men to come and settle. Here, however, we are pursuing a policy of discouraging such men. I am thoroughly with the Government in their desire to restrict undesirable immigration and in trying to prevent an influx of coloured and inferior races, or the landing here of men not capable of existing by their own labour. Thus far, the Government will find members of the Opposition supporting their policy as vigorously as honorable members behind the Ministerial benches. But when it comes to refusing to admit our own flesh and blood - men with no blemish in health or character, who have a trade at their fingers’ ends, and are coming here under contract to pursue that trade - it is time to seriously consider whether we have not gone too far, and whether we should not at once liberalize this Act in such a way as to admit any free white man - or free Britisher, at any rate - who comes here to earn his livelihood. The Minister for Trade and Customs is not at present in the chamber ; but a great deal has been said about his administration of that department. I do not propose to go further than express a hope that, for the future, the Minister will recognise that all the mercantile community in the Commonwealth are not dishonest men seeking to defraud the Customs, and that they should not be treated as criminals for the making of purely clerical mistakes. It was never the intention of Parliament when the Customs Act was passed that respectable honest traders would be placed in such a position. This view has been so often expressed before, and the matter has been so thoroughly discussed in the newspapers and on public platforms throughout the Commonwealth that it is almost like wearing the subject threadbare to make any further reference to it. This, however, is the first opportunity honorable members have had of expressing their opinions since last session on what must be considered the unnecessarily severe administration of the Customs Act by the Minister. I do not for one moment attempt to defend a person who may try in any shape or form to defraud the Customs revenue. Much as we may deplore the existence of so high a Tariff as has been imposed, and much as we may regret the mistaken policy that has been accepted by a majority of ‘ honorable members, we still recognise that it is the duty of the Government to see that the duties are paid according to law. But it is no part of the duty of the Government to persecute and harass traders, or to treat mere clerical mistakes, which may be made by even careful men in any office, as if they were crimes. I hope that the Minister, without relaxing the severiby of his treatment of those who seek to fraudulently escape their obligations, will at least show some consideration for those who, as his own officers know, have only made mistakes. A number of subjects are touched on in His Excellency’s speech which, it is unnecessary to say, this Parliament will have no opportunity of dealing with in the present session. His Excellency’s speech refers to other measures, which are in course of preparation, or are already prepared, but which, it is feared, there will be no time to consider ; and I join with the honorable member for Bourke in expressing the hope that the Government will not try to do too much, but will content themselves with passing measures which are absolutely necessary. If it is proved to the satisfaction of the House that a High Court must be established before the federal machinery is in perfect working order, let ‘ the Bill’ be pressed forward, and a decision come to at the earliest possible moment. But I repeat that the business of the session should be confined to measures which are absolutely necessary. No mere “ show “ legislation should he attempted. We are on the eve of an election, and there is great temptation to members and Ministers to bring forward measures which will commend themselves to the public ; but I hope that during this short session in which it is not possible to achieve a very large amount of legislation, we shall approach the consideration of those questions only, the settlement of which is absolutely demanded by the necessities of the situation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. V. L. Solomon) adjourned.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow, at half-past two o’clock.
Motion (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to to ask the Prime Minister whether, since the House last met before the recess, the promise to make inquiries as to the terms on which South Australia was willing to part with the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth has been carried out 1 I should like to know what communications have been entered into with the South Australian Government on the matter.
– In reply. Before Parliament prorogued, there was a communication before the House on this subject. Soon after Parliament went into recess, it became apparent that the Government of South Australia intended to construct, or desired to construct, a transcontinental railway on the land grant system, and shortly afterwards a Bill was passed by the South Australian Legislature giving the necessary powers. It was not possible, by any means known to the Constitution, for the Commonwealth to interfere in a matter of the kind - not that the Commonwealth would have interfered had it been possible to do so - but the action taken by the South Australian Government justified me in making inquiries as to whether there was still a desire that the Northern Territory should . be taken over by the Federal
Government. If I recollect rightly, a modified reply was given at first to the effect - I do not put this as a certain statement, because, in order to do that, I should have to refer to the papers - that it was not intended for the present to press the offer of the territory to the Federal Government. Then I think I wrote another letter asking the South Australian Government to put the matter in a more certain way, and I was informed in reply that the offer was withdrawn, the words being added “ for the present” - but whether for the present or not, the offer was withdrawn. I think the first reply I got was that the offer must be considered to be in abeyance, and, when I asked for something more definite, I was told it was withdrawn for the present. To the best of my recollection that ishow the matter stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030527_reps_1_13/>.