1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 1) presented by Sir John Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if some steps cannot be token to render more regular the postal service in the country districts of Victoria. Owing to the recent trouble in the Railway department of this State, a number of people find themselves almost entirely cut off from postal communication with the metropolis. In many cases numbers of letters are left lying within a few miles of their destination for as much as 24 hours before being forwarded. In the town of Avoca, where over twenty mails are made up each day, they have Only three mails a week instead of a daily mail as heretofore.
– I need not say that Ministers very much regret that, through force of circumstances, the postal services of the State of Victoria have been so disarranged by recent events ; but every effort is being made to bring them back to the conditions prevailing before the railway service was dislocated.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if he has received any additionalcorrespondence with reference to the Vondel case, and whether, if so, he will lay it upon the table of the House 1
– There is official correspondence with reference to the case, but I do not think that it is complete. I shall be glad to lay it on the table as soon as we can make it complete.
– Has the Minister for Defence any objection to lay upon the table the decision arrived at by the Government upon the report of the commission which inquired into the Drayton Grange case 1
– I shall be very pleased to lay the whole of the papers upon the table to-morrow.
– I desire to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs when the decision of the Attorney-General in reference to the adjustment of Inter-State duties upon goods exported from one State and consumed in another prior to the 8th October, 1901, was given ?
– I cannot give the exact date, but I shall be happy to look it up, and give the honorable member the information to-morrow.
– Twelve months ago this House carried a resolution ordering the preparation of a return showing the comparative cost of the Imperial contingents sent from the various States to South Africa. I should like to ask the Minister for Defence whether he intends to comply with that resolution, and. furnish the House with the information asked for 1
– I do. not remember the resolution, but I shall look’ it up, and, if possible, give the information.
asked the. Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he has any objection to lay upon the table of the House a copy of all papers and documents concerning the matters connected with the proponed retirement of Lt. -Cols. Braithwaite and Reay?
– The answer ‘ to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Government is of opinion that no good purpose would be served by doing so, and would suggest to the honorable member not to press the question.
I might say that it seems to me, subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that requests for the production of papers should be made on motion. I do not know if honorable gentlemen expect the Government to lay upon the table any paper they may have in their possession at the mere request of any one member. In a case such as this the Government is in no way adverse to the production of the papers asked for, but it might not be in the interests of the persons concerned that such papers should be produced.
-The standing orders would prevent any form of question being placed upon the notice-paper the answer to . which would of necessity involve, the production of a paper or document ; but’ the question which has just been asked is perfectly in order. What the honorable member for Bourke seeks to know is whether the Government object to the laying upon the table of certain papers. If the Government have no objection, it will be competent for him to move, on notice, for their production, and even if the Government did object, he would still be at liberty to take that course if he desired to do so. There is no reason why a question such as this should not be asked.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether in view of the allegations of extravagance concerning the visit of Federal members to Western Australia, he will state what was the total cost of that visit to the Commonwealth ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The only cost incurred was for the conveyance of Federal members between Adelaide and Fremantle, .-ti 72 10s.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice - ?
– The answers to’ the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In reference to the fourth question, has the Government considered the advisability of appointing a small commission of gentlemen, with the requisite technical and departmental knowledge, to investigate, rectify, and consolidate these indices and records, prior to the Patent Bill becoming law, so that the public may thereby be put to the minimum of inconvenience when the Federal Patent Office is opened ?
– The Federal Patent Bill is likely to be introduced into the Senate within a month. The other questions pertain to the department of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sir EDMUND BARTON laid on the table
New regulations under Post and Telegraph Act 1901.
Debate resumed from 27th May (vide page 180) 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.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia . - I have no desire to lengthen this debate beyond reasonable limits. Knowing that we are to have, in all probability, a very short and somewhat busy session, I shall be pleased to see the debate terminated within a few days, in order that we may get to the solid work proposed in the programme presented to us in the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the leader of the Opposition and of the Prime Minister, and also to those of other honorable members, including particularly those of the honorable member for Gippsland. I was somewhat surprised at the remarks of the last-named honorable member, and at his seeming astonishment at the enormous cost to the Commonwealth of the rebates upon the sugar excise duty.
– The honorable member seemed to be almost horrified at the great cost that would be involved, and I was the more surprised at his remarks when, on reference to Hansard, I found ‘ that when the proposal for these rebates was under discussion, and the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, proposed to strike out the condition that the rebates should be continued till the year 1907, the honorable member for Gippsland voted in favour of levying this enormous tax upon the people of the Commonwealth for a period of five years.
– I mentioned that yesterday, but I said that it is only fair that the people of the country should know the exact cost.
– I think that upon that point the public were fairly well informed. In South Australia, the matter was fully debated before the elections, and the people understood exactly the position that would be created if sugar fro m New South “Wales and Queensland were to be admitted into other States free of duty. However, I am sure that the honorable member for Gippsland need feel little alarm, because even when the excise rebate of £2 per ton is absolutely abolished, as it will be in 1907, a sufficient encouragement will be offered in the £3 difference still remaining to enable competitors from outside to maintain sugar at a reasonable price. There is nothing with which to find fault in the Government programme, except perhaps its enormous length. It is a programme which might very well be introduced at the beginning of a three years Parliament, and occupy the whole of that period to complete. There are many measures of considerable importance, and I hope that, for the sake of economising time, the Government will tell us exactly what proposals they intend to push on, and then stick to the work in connexion with such measures until they are carried or defeated. With a host of measures before honorable members, a large amount of attention is diverted from matters of first importance to those which cannot possibly be brought to finality. I agree with the Government proposal for the establishment of a High Court, and, as I said in the early part of last session, I consider that this is one of the measures that is absolutely required to complete our Constitution. The question whether the court shall, as suggested by some honorable members, be constituted from the Chief Justices of the various States, or whether it shall be an independent body, is one which I am free to admit is open to much debate. At the same time, afterfairly careful consideration, I think that we should create a body entirely apart from our State’ courts, even though it may involve considerable expenditure. I do not for one moment suggest any want of faith in the ability or integrity of the Chief Justices or other members of our States judiciaries, but I cannot see how important questions of constitutional law, involving an enormous amount of work, can be dealt with by our States J Judges, who are, even under present conditions, frequently overworked. We have expended a great deal of money upon the machinery of this Federation, and w& should not now “ spoil the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar,” and lose dignity as a
Federation by having to resort to a casual court constituted of the Chief Justices of the States. At the time when Federation was before the electors’, a promise was made that a High Court should be constituted of Judges, appointed subject to the will of both Houses of Parliament, and removable only for misconduct - a court to which the people might have easy and speedy access, at a cost much smaller than that which is now involved in carrying appeals before the Privy Council. I think this promise should be carried out, and I shall therefore give my hearty support to the Bill foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. Of the other measures to be introduced, the one next in importance is that for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission. -Here, again, is another missing link which is urgently required to complete our Constitution. Many questions of’ the utmost importance can only be properly and fairly dealt with by such a body. Matters involving rival railway rates, fair trade and commerce, and the use of river waters are among these. It was stated yesterday that, although every effort had been made, by fair means and by friendly approaches, to bring about an understanding between the Railways Commissioners of the various States as to the rates charged on their respective lines, in several cases, notably in Western Australia, preferential railway rates were still in existence, and there is no possible means of dealing with this question except by the appointment of an Inter-State Commission. I need only direct attention to the two sections of the Constitution dealing with the Inter-State Commission to show that it is absolutely necessary that such a body should be established. Section 101 can hardly be termed permissive. It reads as follows -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration sis the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Section 102 reads -
The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable or unjust to any State, due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways.
The concluding paragraph is the most important -
But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of this section, he taken to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged hy the Inter-State Commission.
I do not think that- I need go further to prove the absolute necessity for proceeding at the earliest possible moment with the Government proposal. The next in order of importance in the Government programme is a measure which most honorable members will welcome, namely, the Defence Bill. We had a measure before us last session, which was ultimately withdrawn, and I think it was well that it should have been so dealt with. We are now promised a new Bill, and from what I can learn there is every prospect of it proving workable. It is urgently required, because, judging from the state of affairs in South Australia, a great deal of dissatisfaction exists regarding the manner in which the defence forces are being managed. The feeling there has become so strong that many old and valued officers who havedevoted years of their life and hundreds of pounds of their own private money to the service of the State have, in spite of their love for their profession, handed in their resignations. I know that South Australia is not alone in this respect, and that the same conditions exist to a greater or less degree in other States. Under these circumstances I shall indeed welcome the new Bill. Following upon this item in natural sequence, we come to the proposal for a new agreement in regard to the naval subsidy. We have not yet had an opportunity of seeing the exacttext of the agreement, and I think it is rather a pity that we should not have received fuller information. However, as this is ‘ an occasion upon which we can deal with the subject only in mere, outline, we must be content with the statements which have been made in reference to ‘ its conditions. I have heard opinions expressed by some very able naval and military authorities in favour of the establishment of a purely Australian navy, but I have come to the conclusion that the time is not yet ripe for this young community, of .about 4,000,000 of people, to contribute the money necessary to provide a navy. There are more reasons than one why we should not do this. “ First of all the expense would’ be enormous at the outset, and we should have continuous demands made upon us to renew ships and armament as the old vessels became’ obsolete. This is one of the strong arguments in favour of our continuing to rely upon the protection of the British navy in a somewhat better form than we have had it in the past. The additional contribution is a mere nothing compared with the expense to which we should be put if we dared at the inception of the Federation to start a naval defence of our own. I know that a very large section of the community, with their patriotic ideas, are very keen upon the establishment of an Australian navy, but when the question of cost comes to be considered, together with the new conditions under which our contribution is in future to be made, I feel sure that the balance of the argument is all in favour of the naval agreement. I say this, however, without having had an opportunity of very carefully studying the proposed agreement. I am relying upon the outline of it which has been published in the newspapers, and upon the statements of the Prime Minister, so that if the Agreement proves to contain different terms from those which I have been led to expect, I still reserve to myself full liberty to alter my opinion. On the other hand, if - as has been stated - it contains reasonable conditions for the training of our own men and cadets, and for a thoroughly efficient defence of our coast line, I shall give it my hearty support. The matter of the uniform patent legislation has already been dealt with by questions, and honorable “ members are promised that a Bill dealing with it will be introduced at an early date. Questions were answered to-day regarding the condition of the patent indices in the various States. 1 am able to answer those inquiries, at any rate, so far as one State is concerned. In South Australia the indices are in a hopeless state of confusion, and it is absolutely impossible to ascertain what patents have been registered and what have not. I know of several inventors who are merely waiting until they can take advantage of patent laws, under reasonable conditions, which will be uniform throughout Australia. Another important subject with which Ministers have promised to deal- - although somewhat indefinitely, I suppose when the time suits them - is the conversion or taking over of the States’ debts. This subject is not a new one. It was considered in the Federal Convention, and was the subject of attention in some of the State Parliaments even prior to that. The advantages to be gained by the conversion of the States’ debts have already been put before both Parliament and the people by able financiers who understand the subject very much better than I do. Amongst the great benefits which would be derived by taking over the various States’ debts would be the ability to convert them as they became due, and not before, into Commonwealth stock at a ‘considerable saving of interest. The total indebtedness of the Commonwealth to-day is, in round figures, about £220,000,000, and the urgent necessity for dealing with this question at the earliest possible date is evidenced by the fact that from the return of the debts due by the various States I find that during the next seven years - that is, up to 1910 - a sum of approximately £28,000,000 will become repayable. Something approaching that amount will have to- be repaid by the different States for existing bonds and stocks. Unless we arrive at some arrangement with the States it will be rather awkward if we find three or four of them each requiring £1,000,000, £2,000,000, or £3,000,000, simultaneously going upon the London money market at a bad time, competing against each other, and eventually being forced to pay for their accommodation, in the way of interest, a great deal more than they are paying at the present time.
– By bidding against each other?
-Yes. We know in the past how anxiously the AgentsGeneral of the different States have watched each other, like so many cats watching a mouse, in an endeavour to be first upon the London market with a loan of £1,000,000. Unless some arrangement is made by which the Commonwealth can take over the States’ debts, how much worse will the position be with £28,000,000 falling due within the next seven years, and with the knowledge on the part of the foreign bondholders that the States are bound to have the money’ with which to redeem their existing liabilities 1 Instead of having to pay 3 J per cent, interest it is quite upon the cards that they will be required to pay 4 £ per cent. Of course if we take over the whole of the liabilities of the States, we have the security - as was pointed out by one speaker yesterday - of the Customsrevenueforthe payment of the interest. But another question arises in my mind - namely, whether the foreign bondholder will not want to know that the Federal Government possesses as security the assets upon which the great bulk of this £220,000,000 has been loanednamely, the States’ railways. The bulk of this money was borrowed for the construction of the railways, and it may be considered that they should not remain in the hands of the States when the liability upon them has passed over to the Federal Government. This is a question which I leave to wiser heads than mine to consider, but it is undoubtedly worthy of close attention.
– If the matter is to be complicated in that way, any arrangement will be postponed for I do not know how many years.
– I recognise that that is a difficulty, and I thank the leader of the Opposition for the hint. I recognise also that there would be perhaps considerable delay in arriving at an arrangement between the different States for a transfer of the railways. Complications would arise as to their original cost and their earnings, and there would also be present a jealous feeling on the part of the States that by handing over their railways to the Commonwealth they might be prevented in the future from extending them within their own territory for the purposes of development. Still I put the position fairly, in order that it may be considered. Personally I think that the whole of the Customs revenue should constitute quite a sufficient security, and if the States can be induced to hand over their debts to the Commonwealth, and at the same time to give an assurance that no further borrowing will be undertaken by them without the consent of the Federal Parliament, a very large saving could be effected.
– That is another stipulation that would have the effect of postponing any settlement indefinitely.
– To my mind it is a stipulation that ought to be made. It would be folly upon the part of the Commonwealth to take over the whole of the liabilities of the States if any individual State might subsequently for the purpose of undertaking perhaps some fancy public work which might not be reproductive, go upon the money market again and pile up a new list of debts against its taxpayers.
– Does not the honorable member think that we ought to do something to knock out the underwriting system which is applied to State loans %
– That is a mere matter of detail. The underwriters have proved very useful upon some occasions. They have saved many a loan from failure. The leader of the Opposition suggests that it would be difficult to obtain the consent of the States to refrain from further borrowing. I am not at all certain that it would, because I believe that their position presently in regard to the repayment of loans will become so difficult that the electors in the various States will force them to accept the proposal of the Commonwealth Parliament - if we are willing to undertake the work - and to hand over their debts to the Federation. I do not see that much harm could result to them from the adoption of such a course, because, after all, if they wished to raise money for any purpose of reasonable development the Commonwealth Parliament would be only two anxious to assist them, and, moreover, the Federal Government would be able- to obtain the necessary money for them upon very much better terms than they could secure for themselves. However, that is one of those questions which I should be pleased to -see taken up with a great deal of energy, not only in this Parliament, but in every State Parliament throughout Australia. Now I come to some questions of administration. The administration of the Customs department has been specially commented upon in the various newspapers, and so many cases of harshness have been cited that I desire to say a word or two upon it. I can do so with a very much clearer conscience than can some honorable members, because at .the time the Customs Bill was being considered I think I can be credited with having exhibited a very lively interest in it, and with having warned the House again and again that its provisions were altogether too stringent. Those provisions might have been suited to the requirements of England 50 years ago, but they were utterly unsuitable to the present state of our commerce. I fought the question of the imposition of a minimum fine as strenuously as I could, and went so far as to call for divisions upon that matter. I attempted to secure a reduction of the minimum penalty for an infraction of the Act from £5 to £2. I also urged that no minimum fine should be provided, but that magistrates should be vested with absolute discretion as to whether they should fine an offender either ls. or £100. Had my proposal been carried, instead of men who are guiltyof merely technical offences being fined a minimum amount of £5, we should have witnessed a magistrate in some of the prosecutions instituted by the Customs department imposing a fine of ls. without costs. Then the disgrace of ‘the police court prosecution would have disappeared. The presiding magistrate could have expressed his opinion upon the merits of any case. He could have said, “ This is merely a technical offence, and I fine the defendant ls., and will not allow any costs.” I am sorry that that course was not adopted. I do not believe in the present limitation of a magistrate’s powers. We may provide a maximum penalty, but to limit him to a minimum fine is ridiculous. I wish to quote one or two cases in this connexion. One of the first cases - a very stupid one - which I remember, goes- to prove the absurdity of imposing a minimum fine. It was the case of a wellknown and highly-respected gentleman in Adelaide - a horse-owner and a breeder of horses - who received as a little present from a friend in India, a bottle of mustard oil for the treatment of horses. This oil came by ordinary ship, and, after inquiry, it was proved to have been manufactured in an Indian prison.
– That was so stated on the bottle.
– Yes ; there was no attempt at fraud, but the man was prosecuted, and the minimum fine of £5 was inflicted, although the bottle represented a value of ls., or less.
– That is not so much as a similar offender would have been fined under the law in England.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON. - I do not know what is done in England, but I do not think we should do anything so foolish as to fine a man under such circumstances. A good many of the- sections of the Customs Regulation Act were, taken from the old English law, which was extremely useful in the old days of the Coastguard, when small quantities of goods. used to be smuggled into England from France, Germany, and Spain.
– The English law to which I refer was passed in 1899.
– That is not my point at the present time, but I know that one has only to touch on a subject like this in order to stir up the honorable and learned member for Corio. I have no desire to see prison-made goods imported into Australia., and I am merely showing the absurdity of compelling magistrates to inflict this minimum fine when it is felt that no fine should be inflicted, and when, but for the stringency of the law, it would not be inflicted. If the Government had acted in the same spirit that they did in regard to the boy Tingey the other day, this fine ought to have been refunded.
– That was the case of the Bible ; there was a difference in the Cabinet about that. 1
– In order to give another instance of the peculiar anomalies of the Act, I wish to refer to section 53, which reads -
No spirits, opium, tobacco, snuff, cigars, or cigarettes shall be imported, except in packages as prescribed. Penalty : AM 00.
The Minister has the power of prescribing the size of the. packages by regulation, and this provision is also taken from the old English laws, which, as I say, were highly useful at one time, but are now absolutely ridiculous when it is considered that every article imported has to be manifested and remain in the charge of the Customs until the entry has been passed and duty duly paid. Why should not a man be allowed to import a package of tobacco weighing less than 20 lbs. ? Should I desire to import a package of 5 lbs., that package would be held under the Customs seal until the manifest and invoice had been examined and duty paid. I have shown the absurdity of the law, and now desire to show the absurdity of the administration. I received a telegram a few days ago, which I am sorry to say I have mislaid, from a solicitor of Port Darwin, informing me that a Chinese storekeeper there had imported 40 lbs. of tobacco in one ship, but,, for convenience sake, had divided the commodity into two packages, one containing 25 lbs. and the other containing 15 lbs. The packages were duly manifested, and the invoice was produced, but the storekeeper, on seeking to clear them, was informed that while he could obtain the package of 25 lbs. on the payment of the duty, the smaller packet must be seized, because it was under the prescribed size, and the importer was fined the minimum of £ 5. It is absurd that a Customs official should be so absolutely without discretion as to be guilty of administration of this sort. Does the Minister say that this storekeeper deserved to have any fine inflicted on him?
– He would have got it hotter under English legislation.
– No doubt he might have “ got it hotter “ under Russian legislation.
– Is Imperial legislation to be compared to that of Russia ?
– Our legislation is getting pretty close to that of Russia ; at any rate, I should say that a man could not be worse treated in that country. If the Minister cannot see his way to give his officers a little more discretion, the sooner the House takes the matter in hand and amends the Act the better. I am sure that the common sense of many members would support an amendment in reference to such cases as that of the cartridges the other clay, in the direction of allowing more discretion in the administration of the Act. In the case I have mentioned I am sure no ordinary magistrate or justice of the peace - and we have some curious specimens of the latter - would have dared to fine a man j £5 for an offence so nominal, if the law allowed any discretion. While saying all this, I must, acknowledge that the Minister has had to perform most difficult work. As a Customs agent for many years, I can appreciate the difficulties with which he has to contend. Even in one State, with one set of officers, those troubles would arise, but when dealing with six States and six sets of officers the difficulties must be enormous. I am condemning the administration for which the Minister cannot be personally responsible, unless he can put a week’s work into a day.
– I take all the responsibility ; I have very good officers.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON. - I know that the Minister has to take all responsibility, and he may have very good officers, but they must be lacking in discretion or afraid of being dismissed if they, in the slightest degree, lean to the side of justice. Everything the Minister has done has been with a view of conserving the revenues of the
Commonwealth, and his task has been a hard one ; and I am sure that if any one else had occupied the position, probably just as many mistakes would have been made. I say this with the idea of inducing him to give his officers more discretion in removing some of the anomalies I have pointed out, and permitting them to treat trivial cases as such, and not as subjects for police court prosecutions.
– Does the honorable member mean that the cases should be treated departmen tally ?
– No ; there have been great abuses under that system. “What I mean is that it would be a good thing if in such cases as those to which I have referred, the Minister were not quite so firm - I believe his friends called it firmness, though it has been described as obstinacy - and if he were to bring down a short Bill in order to remove anomalies. Such a Bill, I feel sure, would pass both Houses almost at one. sitting. If the Minister even gave an indication of a reasonable desire to deal with such cases in a different spirit, those who have reasonable complaints would point out the difficulties caused by the law, and show how amendment would be advantageous. In such a step the Minister would receive hearty support from honorable members.
– How would the honorable member legislate in order to meet such a case as that which occurred at Port Darwin, unless it had to be dealt with departmentally ?
– First ofall, the section providing for a minimum fine might be altered, because it is unreasonable to force a magistrate to inflict a penalty . when there has been no attempt at fraud, and no absolute wrong done.
– The objection of prescribing the size of the packages is that they may be seen.
– My main point’ is that the magistrates should be given fuller discretion.
– Who is to prove that a mistake is honest or dishonest?
– The magistrate, I presume, is the best judge of that. It is absurd to compel a magistrate, in a technical case, to fine a man £5, when otherwise the penalty of ls. might be imposed. It is unwise to have an Act which places control upon the magistrate’s sense of justice. If a magistrate can be trusted to fine a man £100 surely he can be trusted to fine him1s.
– The honorable member means in cases of error.
– Yes, in such cases as that of the bottle of oil, where there was a mere technical breach of the law.
– No exception is made by the act in cases of prison made goods.
– I suppose that if I went on a visit to India and sent to the Minister of Trade and Customs a present, which on being opened after he had passed the entry - as he would, being an honest trader - was found to have been made in Calcutta gaol, he would immediately fine himself £5.
– I should wait and”run in” the honorable member.
– Now I come to the Immigration Restriction Act, though I am not going to deal with the six hatters, of whom we have heard enough. I shall refer to that case only in order to point out that when sub-section (g) of section 3 was passed, I for one was quite ignorant of the extent to which it would be used. I listened very carefully to- the debate, and later took some part in it myself. Sub-section (g) of section 3 was inserted on the motion of the leader of the labour party, and provides that -
Any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth shall be regarded as “prohibited immigrants.”
The object of the insertion of those words was, I understood, to prevent the introduction of large numbers of men under contract to perform work at unfair rates of pay, and to prevent interference during the existence of some strike or labour trouble. The honorable member for Bland, speaking in support of his amendment, said -
When I first gave notice of: this amendment I proposed to cover all classes of labour performed in the Commonwealth. But, in view of representations made by some honorable members, it is, I think, desirable for the time being to restrict the classes prohibited to artisans and labourers. There are one or two other classes of labour it would have been advisable to cover by the sub-clause, but the difficulty of providing for efficient exemptions of classes that should be exempted, and the possibility, perhaps, a little later, of a number of new industries being commenced within the Commonwealth, point to the necessity of minimizing the operation of the amendment in the meantime. The amendment will 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.
– I do not depart from that statement.
– That argument undoubtedly obtained the sympathy of honorable members on both sides of the Chamber. In speaking to the amendment the Attorney-General stated that -
The persons to whom the honorable member alluded when he made his concluding reference to the possibility of the establishment of new industries in the Commonwealth are excluded under the amendment as it now stands, and 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.
That is the interpretation to be placed upon the proviso which, on his motion, was added to the amendment. What has occurred, is very much to be regretted. I am sure that a blunder has been committed, and that it was not the desire of the Prime Minister that the men concerned should be treated as they were. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, speaking on the same subject, 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 forourselvesand our children.
That was the belief under which I, for one, consented to allow the clause to pass. It is difficult to know how the Act can be amended so that it will still contain the safeguards desired, and yet give an opportunity for desirable immigrants to enter the Commonwealth ; but I think that it should be amended so as to attain that end. There is another matter in connexion with the administration of the Act to which I wish to draw attention. It was never intended by Parliament that the operation of the Act should be retrospective, so as to do injustice to persons - whether English, Irish, Scotch, Chinese, or Japanese - who were living within the Commonwealth for years before the inauguration of federation. But a case has occurred in which injustice of that kind has beendone ; and although I have.directed the attention of the Prime Minister to it, I have not yet heard his decision upon it, and so far he has been adamant to my representations. The case is that of three Chinamen who were assistants in and part owners of a store at Port Darwin, and had resided in that town for fourteen years prior to federation. They were engaged in business there during the whole of that period, and had the cleanest of records ; and certificates were obtained by them from both the police and European merchants in the town as to their respectability and integrity. They applied to the Customs officer at Port Darwin for domicile certificates to enable them to visit their original homes in China for a few months. The officer did not see any difficulty in the matter. He told them - “ I cannot give you certificates, because’ they have to be sent from the head office in Melbourne ; but I have no doubt that there will be no difficulty in the matter.” Acting upon that assurance, the men left their business and wenttoChina. Ithinkthat under sub-section (n) of section 3 of the Act, they were entitled to fairer consideration than they have received from the department. That sub-section provides that amongst those who shall be exempted from the operation of the clause is -
Any person who satisfies an officer that he has formerly been domiciled in the Commonwealth or in any colony which has become a State.
These Chinamen satisfied the Customs officer that they had been living, had had their homes, and were in business in the State of South Australia for fourteen years before the advent of federation, and yet on a mere technicality as to the, meaning of the word “ domicile “ - upon which any half-dozen lawyers in this House could raise a vast amount ofargument - they have been denied the right to return. An injustice has been inflicted upon them which is a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member like me to lay the papers on the table?
– I shall be only too pleased to have them laid upon the table. I am speaking from the communications which have been made to me, and I am sure that the facts are absolutely as I have stated them. Parliament did not intend the Act to be retrospective, or to inflict injustice of the kind I have mentioned. I wish now to deal with the paragraph in the Governor-General’s speech which refers to the construction of the Western Australian Rail way. I received yesterday from the Prime Minister an answer in reference to the suggestion that the Northern Territory be taken over by the Commonwealth which puts that matter entirely at rest. The South Australian Government, naturally becoming tired of waiting for some reply in regard to the proposal for transfer, have decided to sanction the construction of a line which will join the existing system in South Australia to thai in the Northern Territory.
– The South Australian Government did not tell us of their intention to do anything in the matter until they had a Bill upon the table.
– At the beginning of last session I laid before theHouse a proposal which I supported by considerable evidence, and all the information which I could obtain in reference to the Northern Territory, and that proposal was actually shelved. The people of South Australia having waited for some reply on the subject for some fifteen months became tired of waiting. If the matter had been taken up when I brought it forward, and it was fresh, and the people of South Australia were favorable to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, the thing would now be an accomplished fact.
– Are they not favorable to the transfer now?
– No. They are now in favour of the construction of a transcontiental line upon the land grant system, and that line will be made. There are a dozen capitalists who will take the matter up on the terms dictated by the South Australian Parliament.
– The Government never had any indication from the South Australian Government that they were tired of waiting for an answer.
– The South Australian Government were not likely to make that intimation, but that is undoubtedly the fact.
– Will the people of South Australia let their Government part with the land ?
– Undoubtedly. At considerable pains, I brought a great deal of information upon the subject beforethe House, but the only reply to my proposal was the speech of a. Government supporter, who got up, or was put up, to make it a subject of ridicule.
– He was certainly not put up.
– His speech was ably answered by the member representing the Territory, but no other answer was given to the proposal, which was indorsed by the bulk of the electors of South Australia before ever I entered this Parliament.
– Are the majority of the electors of. South Australia in favour of the construction of this line upon the landgrant system 1
-I think that they are. At any rate, their representatives are. I wish now to refer to the Western Australian Railway.
– I hope that we are coming to it very quickly.
– That will.depend a good deal upon circumstances. A proposal in relation to that railway has already been put before the House, and we have been informed of some kind of understanding, which is perfectly unofficial and unwarranted by parliamentary sanction, between some of the members of the Western Australian Government and the Minister for Defence. We have been told that the line must be constructed, because Western Australia would not have come into the Federation had not her people believed that the Commonwealth would undertake its construction.
– There was never any compact.
– I am glad to hear it. If there had been it would not have been of much value.
– Those who were advocating a Federation not then in existence couldnot make a compact.
– No, perhaps not : but I am sure that, if it had not been for assurances of support for the railway, the Minister for Defence would not have advocated federation.
– Hear, hear ; that is so.
– Then I was perfectly right in my statement. There is no doubt a very strong feeling in Western Australia with regard to this line, and the report of the engineers with reference to it is being anxiously looked for. It is questionable whether the country is of such a character as to justify the construction of a railway, except for defence purposes.
– It- is better than much of the country in the north of South Australia.
– If it is not better than some of our country north of
Port Augusta it is very poor, and in that case I should advise the constructionof the line upon the land grant system. The proposed railway will cover a distance about equal to the gap between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, which is not yet bridged over by the transcontinental line, and the cost is estimated at about £5,000,000. Several matters will have to be considered before the construction of the line can be approved of. Whilst fully recognising the importance of defence considerations, and those relating to the isolation of Western Australia, of which so much has been made lately, we have to remember that if the line is constructed it will involve a very heavy annual interest charge upon all the States.
– Oh, no.
– Then we have to consider the position of South Australia in regard to the line.
– She will derive great benefit from it.
– I am inclined to differ from the honorable member, because a line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta will, in the natural course, join on to the line to be constructed between Cobar and Broken Hill, and the traffic to the eastern States, instead of going through South Australian ports as at present, will be diverted to the railway route.
– Is the honorable member opposed to that?
– I am simply putting the position as it affects South Australia. The Minister is jumpingbefore he comes to the hurdle.
– The Victorian traffic would still pass through Adelaide.
– I believe that the railway will operate to the great detriment of South Australia. It is all very well for the representatives of Western Australia to talk about the benefit that will accrue to the State which I represent ; but I shall be very much surprised if the South Australians permit the construction of the line through their territory unless they are assured that some benefit will be derived by them.
– That is a fine federal spirit.
– The same federal spirit that animated the Minister for Defence and others in Western Australia in preventing the proper opening up of the port of Esperance by rail to the gold-fields, and thus depriving ‘ South Au tralia and Victoria of the port which b st served their purposes inconnexion with the trade in that direction. I may tell the Minister for Defence, and those in sympathy with him, that unless the Esperance Bay Railway is built, and Esperance is made a port for Victorian and South Australian trade, instead of compelling traffic to the gold-fields to pass over several hundred miles of sea and railway at unnecessary expense, the people of South Australia will be fools if they allow the railway to pass through their territory.
– The honorable member should not make himself a laughingstock.
– The . Minister knows that what I am saying is a fact. Before this line can be constructed, the South Australian Parliament will have to look at the whole position, and they will undoubtedly want some quid pro quo before they sanction it. They are not going to permit their traffic to be diverted to other States unless some reasonable consideration is shown to them in connexion with the construction of the railway from Esperance to the gold-fields, or in some other direction.
– That is a good federal spirit.
– The same federal spirit as induced the Minister to demand the promise of a special railway before he consented to advocate federation ; the same spirit as induced the demand, of New South Wales for the capital site. South Australia- did not demand anything upon entering the federal compact. She did not even ask for reasonable consideration in regard to the immense sums of money spent upon the transcontinental telegraph line, which has been a source of loss to her for years. That was the largest national work ever constructed in Australia.
– South Australia will be paid for the line as a transferred property.
– But she will not be recouped the losses which have been involved in the working of the line ever since it was constructed.
– Did the Government institute the line because they thought of the losses.
– They instituted it in a courageous manner which might well be imitated by other States. They instituted it without regard to their own direct benefit, knowing that for years it must involve a loss. Whatever their main idea may have been, they have certainly conferred a great benefit upon the whole of Australia.
– Why should they not exhibit the same feeling in regard to the railway?
– I do not say that they should not, but whilst injustice is being done to South Australia and Victoria by the opposition which is being shown to the opening of the port of Esperance, I say they would be foolish if they consented to the construction of the railway, and thereby committed themselves to a contribution of probably £15,000 or £20,000 a year towards the maintenance of it. I think I have occupied a fair share of the time of the House, and I shall now conclude by assuring the Government that they will have no factious opposition from me. I shall do my best to assist them in passing those measures with which I am in sympathy, and I hope they will let us know at the earliest possible moment the Bills with which they in£end to persevere, so that all other measures may be relegated to some, future session.
– I intend tomake my remarks as short as possible, because I recognise that we have not a great deal of time to devote to the consideration of the large proportion of important measures promised in the Governor-General’s speech. I think there is no escaping from the position indicated by the leader of the Opposition in regard to the dissolution of this House, so that we may go to the country at the same time as a proportion of the members of the Senate. I admit that this will involve the sacrifice by honorable members of a portion of . the period for which they were elected, but I think that we should, if possible, avoid incurring the expense that would be involved in holding a second election. Moreover, I think that it is unwise to ask the electors to devote their attention to federal politics upon two occasions divided by only a few months. Whilst it may not follow from the coming elections being held together that on all subsequent occasions they will take place at one and the same time, we should, as far as possible, try to simplify matters for the electors, and to study economy. If the course suggested is followed we shall have but a short time at our disposal during this session, and the number of very important measures forecasted in the GorvernorGeneral’s speech renders it necessary that we should address ourselves to business at as early a date as possible.’ Before passing to the matters dealt with in the Governor-General’s speech, I should like to refer to one or two matters of administration. One of these is in connexion with the Immigration Restriction Act, not in regard to the admission of the six hatters, but in reference to the question of coloured immigration. I notice from a return published a few days ago,, that a considerable number of coloured people have recently been admitted into the Commonwealth notwithstanding the operation of the Immigration Restriction Act ; and it seems to me that if we can do no better than the return would indicate under the law as it stands, the minority of the members of this House who asked that the colour line should be drawn absolutely, and, that all coloured aliens should be excluded, ‘ took the proper course. In the first place, I find that over 30 coloured immigrants passed the education test. . These included Burmese, Eurasians, Filipinos, Hindoos, Japanese, Mauritians, South Sea Islanders, West Indians, and one black from St. Helena. I understood when the Act was under discussion that the Government intended to exercise such discrimination in the application of the law that no person would be able to pass the education test so long as he was held to be an undesirable coloured immigrant.
– We took a very strong step when we changed the test every fortnight.
– Perhaps so, but we were assured by the Attorney-General that the test could be made so restrictive as to exclude undesirables with as much efficiency as the course.proposed by the labour party. I submit that the Act would not have passed in its present shape if it had not been for that assurance, which weighed with some honorable members.
– Do not some of these immigrants leave again after- a short stay in the Commonwealth ?
– I do not think so.
– Then there is practically no exclusion.
– No. I see that 653 persons were excluded, but the Act is not effective whilst any number of undesirable persons come in.
– Will my honorable friend observe that the departures are very largely in excess of the arrivals ?
– I have observed that, but I do not see that it assists the case of the Government in the slightest degree. It does not showthat we should admit any more of these undesirable races than we can possibly avoid. It merely evidences that no increase has taken place in the number here, but that is not all that was asked by the people of Australia when the matter was placed before them. Another fact which requires some explanation at the hands of the Government is that a total of 1,300 odd Chinamen have been admitted during the year covered by the last return, irrespective of those included in the 33 I have mentioned as coming in under various proprovisions of the law. In this connexion I would point out that 1,079 were admitted upon State permits, 564 upon tonnage regulations, and 168 in conformity with the Immigration Restriction Act I presume that the 168 consisted of those who had been previously domiciled in Australia.
– Is the honorable member quoting from the returns regarding any particular race ?
– Yes ; from the returns relating to the Chinese.
– I understand that those are cases in which domicile was proved.
– I presume so. I understood, some time before the prorogation took place, that the possibility of Chinese and others being admitted under State permits would cease within a very short period after the question was raised. That was many months ago, and yet. I find that a considerable number in excess of that which was given at the time have been admitted.
– They are all persons who were settled here previously.
– That statement . is open to cavil and doubt. It is not certain that many of those who present permits are the persons who originally obtained them from the State authorities, and J think, therefore, that some limit should be put upon the operation of these permits.
– Their operation ‘ is largely diminishing now.
-From the number given it would seem there is a necessity for it. I should like to ask the Prime Minister how it is that any Chinese have been admitted under tonnage regulations. We abrogated that portion of the State Acts when we passed the Immigration Restriction Bill.
– We did not abrogate it, but we left those Acts to be applied in addition to the new Act. We applied the new Act. There may be some cases in which Chinamen can comply with the educational test, and consequently the necessity arises for the application of the tonnage regulations. Some of the State laws were very lax. in that respect, and did not prescribe any poll-tax.
– It seems to me that the law is very lax indeed if it will permit of Chinese coming in under the tonnage regulations. I admit that the presence of 50 or 100 Chinamen does not make any very great difference to Australia, but it is as well to stop a leak in the beginning, lest it may assume large proportions at a later stage. With regard to the admission of some 500 odd Japanese, I understand that 246 of them came in under a treaty which is now void - a treaty which was made between the Governments of Queensland and Japan prior to federation. I should like to ascertain whether the equivalent number of Japanese had left Queensland to allow of the 246 individuals in question coming in under that treaty, which provided that the Queensland Government would raise no objection to the admission of sufficient Japanese to maintain the maximum number that had previously been there.
– Those already in Queensland wereassessed atacertain number.
– Precisely ; and that number was not to be exceeded. Is the House to understand that there had been an emigration of 200 odd Japanese prior to the admission of the 246 in question?
– That agreement involved the admission of those who had passports from the Japanese Government, and included some who had permits to return from the Queensland Government. At the time we thought that the total number of these was 208, but it has now proved to be 246. That is the end of that matter.
– Of course that is a satisfactory statement, but it does seem to me that the Act might be administered with a great deal more stringency than it appears to have been during the past year. I think that a number of honorable members who voted for the Government proposal, in the belief that it would prove effective, would be relieved to know that the Ministry are now taking such steps as will absolutely exclude these undesirable people from Australia. Another phase of the Act upon which a great deal of attention has been bestowed has reference to the admission of the six hatters. It is somewhat refreshing to hear the confessions of parliamentary ignorance and innocence which are put forward as excuses under the plea that honorable members “ did not know it was loaded.” I have a very vivid recollection that the amendment which I proposed appeared upon the business-paper for a very considerable time, not exactly in the same phraseology as that in which it was eventually carried, but the principle involved was before the Chamber for a protracted period. When the matter came up in a concrete form, the debate upon it occupied eight pages of Hansard. So far as the leader of the Opposition is concerned, I wish to point out that though he was not present when the amendment was actually carried, he was present while the proposal figured upon the business-paper, and also upon the recommittal of the Bill, when the very clause in question was under discussion. The right honorable member therefore had every opportunity of protesting against either the principle involved or the phraseology employed in giving effect to it. But not one word was uttered by the right honorable member against the proposal. It was practically passed unanimously, although the honorable member for Wentworth gave to it only a qualified sort of approval, and the honorable member for Capricornia did, I understand, offer some objection to it. So far as I am concerned - and I think the remark is also applicable to the members of the party with . which I am associated - I have no objection to any number of Britishers or other white people coming to Australia to make homes for themselves, or to assist in the development of the country. Our insistence upon the principle contained in the amendment which I moved must not be construed into any protest on our part against immigration. I hope that it will be a long time before any section of the community takes up the attitude of objecting to others coming to Australia, and assisting in developing what, after all, is an enormous territory compared with the few people who at present occupy it. But what we say is that those who enter the Commonwealth shall be free from any control of their movements after their arrival, free to make the best of the conditions in which they find themselves, and to compete upon even terms with those who are already here.
Mr.F. E. McLean. - The honorable member does not object to their swelling the army of unemployed, but he does object to their coming here to obtain work.
– I do not accept that idea at all. A very large proportion of those who come here of their own free will are supplied with sufficient means to maintain themselves till they get an opportunity of taking part in the development of the country. We have already provided that paupers are not to be admitted to the Commonwealth. That is laid down in the same section of the Act to which I am referring.
– Then a section invalidating contracts would be sufficient?
Mr.WATSON. - No. That is the suggestion put forward by the leader of the Opposition, and, though it would be better than nothing, I hold that it would not meet the case. Instances have occurred in New South Wales - one at Joadja Creek, and two others near Newcastle - inwhich men were imported from England under contract to work in the mines. In one case the men ‘ went to gaol rather than carry out their agreement, whilst in another they were only prevented from leaving their employment by the fear of imprisonment, because they found, upon their arrival, that the conditions obtaining were not such as had been represented to them. Some of them absconded rather than work under those conditions. In my judgment, it would be better to have such an agreement abrogated than that the men should be bound by it after their arrival.T hat suggestion, however, would not meet the case, because if men are imported under contract, they might practically be paupers upon arrival. Landing in a new country withoutfriends, prospects or advice, what would be the result if the contract were rendered void ? In nearly every instance, unless some organization got hold of them, they would reenact it on Australian territory and it would be as operative as if they had entered into an agreement outside. The men would never have an opportunity of learning the nature of the conditions of their employment before the alternative was presented to them either of starving or accepting the conditions under which they were imported. It does seem to me that the outcry which has been raised in regard to the case of the six hatters is somewhat farcical. In the first place, it was a presscreated trouble. Most of the newspapers were naturally anxious to take advantage of anything which could be used as a lever against the labour party, and some of them, animated by a similar desire against a Government of which they do not approve’, were only too ready to manufacture a boom of indignation against the treatmentmeted . out to those hatters. This agitation was raised only by the press and a few politicians, who . had every opportunity of voicing a protest in this House, and did not take advantage of that opportunity. The leader of the Opposition at Maitland got into a seething state of indignation at the treatment accorded to these Britishers, and said - “ We require administration with discrimination.” We have had in New South Wales a number of instances of discrimination in administration, and we found that the discrimination was in favour of the big people rather than in favour of the ordinary citizen, and I do not think too much discrimination is a good thing for the working of our administrative departments. Allowing, however, that we do require discrimination, the leader of the Opposition at Maitland went on to say that if he had been Prime Minister when the collector reported the detention of these men at Sydney, he would have immediately - mark the phrase - “flashed across the wires “ an order to release them. Is that discrimination ? Does discrimination involve inquiry, or does it not ? Can there be discrimination if no inquiry is made, and there is no attempt to ascertain what the conditions are? That is administration without discrimination, and administration agains’; the law. The case, it seems to me, was easy of solution.
– Inquiry would cause too much delay.
– The hatters themselves did not apply to be released.
– There should not have been the delay which did occur in dealing with the question ; but at whose door lies the responsibility for that delay ? It lies at the door of Mr. Anderson, the man who sought to import these men. It is quite possible that Mr. Anderson when he first made arrangements to bring these men from England was not aware what the provisions of the law were, but surely, when the question was raised, if he were anxious to have the men exempt, he should have looked up the law and made application at once. Instead of doing that, he allowed, I think, five or six days to elapse before he made any application to the Prime Minister.
– That was to allow time for the newspaper agitation.
– We must recollect that something else is involved or was involved apparently in the attitude of Mr. Anderson, besides the mere desire to get ‘these men admitted. That gentleman a few months previously had stated that rather than pay duty, he would send back to England the machinery he was then importing for his hat factory. I do not say that Mr. Anderson was not justified in being annoyed at having to pay 1 2^- or 15 per cent, duty on his machinery - that is a matter for-him - but he was evidently so incensed against the Government for their administration generally that he took up the attitude that he would not be bothered, or would not humble himself to make application to the Prime Minister - that he would insist on these men being liberated without the law being complied with.
– But we should not break down the independence of these men.
– A man’s independence is always subject- to the law of the country, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who is a prospective Judge of some court or another, ought to remember that fact. The law states that exemption has to be applied for, and under the circumstances I can conceive of no Minister refusing exemption if requested to do so. If the Government, having been asked for exemption, had refused to give it, they would ‘ have been worthy of blame at the hands of honorable members and the public. It was specially for instances of this kind that the amendment or addition to the section was made on the proposal of the Attorney-General. That proposal was that persons possessing special skill, and necessary in the Commonwealth, should be admitted j and I, for one, have no quarrel with that position. However, as I have indicated, some gentlemen have attempted to work up an extraordinary amount of indignation over this matter, and amongst those the honorable member- for Gippsland, who stated last evening that it was a desecration of the terms “ free men “ and “ bondsmen “ to apply them to the case of the six hatters. I do not know whether the honorable member thinks that a person is free, or has any liberty remaining in him, if he signs such an agreement as these men did with Mr. Anderson - an agreement binding them on the one side to serve Mr. Anderson for three years at what is admittedly a fair wage, but leaving the determination of the agreement at any moment to Mr. Anderson. That seems to me a most one-sided sort of agreement, when it can be terminated at. a moment’s notice after the arrival of the men.
– But under the law there there must be reasonable notice given or cause shown.
– The agreement specifically provided that Mr. Anderson might dismiss the men at any time, if they did not give him satisfaction ; and it is clear that they might cause him dissatisfaction at any moment. Even the fact that a man curled his lip up instead of down might not satisfy Mr. Anderson, and then the agreement could be made null and’ void. On the other hand, however, the men were bound for three years, or for as long as Mr. Anderson chose to keep them in that period, no matter what their own feelings might be. On this question the honorable member for Gippsland strikes me as having suddenly become a free-trader. He believes, as a protectionist, I understand, in shutting out the cheap goods of other countries, even though the goods may have been manufactured in the great motherland, unless a heavy duty is paid. But he does not believe, on the other hand, that there should be the slightest inquiry as to the conditions under which workmen from Great Britain are allowed to land here ; and that to me seems a most inconsistent attitude.
– If the honorable member knew anything of business, he would know that good skilled men cannot be brought here at low wages.
– I know quite the contrary. What are high wages in England may be very low wages here, and I can instance the case of the men who were brought to the Joadja Creek, the. Borehole, and the Catherine Hill Bay collieries, and some of whom went to gaol. These were skilled men, and they were brought out from England on terms which were much lower than those obtaining at the Australian collieries.
– And the same was the case in the Peninsula of South Australia.
– The very best skilled men, who can get plenty of work in England, will not come to Australia unless they are sure of getting work here.
– Quite so; but under what terms and conditions 1 The honorable member, it seems to me, misses the point. This is not merely a question of men coming here, but a question of the terms and conditions under which they come. We do not believe in men being brought here under any false impression as to the conditions obtaining, and it is impossible for them to get a proper idea in England. It is only in Australia that they can get all the information as to the cost of rent and food and the standard of comfort which is maintained here. It is most inconsistent for the honorable member for Gippsland to say that he will bar British goods, and yet raise an outcry because a few words of inquiry are addressed to a number of Britishers who desire to land here apparently in contravention of the law.
– I never agreed, and I never shall agree, to debar reputable British subjects under contract or otherwise.
– It is just as well to know where the honorable member is. I, of course, welcome every Britisher here, but if Britishers come under conditions likely to work to the disadvantage of Australia or of our own people, we should, at least, ask them to explain what the terms of their agreement are.
– Would the honorable member call a man who came into this House, bound to a particular platform, a free man or a bondsman ?
– A free man, because he can retire exactly when it pleases him, whereas these hatters were not able to retire for a period of three years.
– Except to gaol.
– Quite so; but that is an alternative to which even the honorable member for Gippsland would not care to consign them. I have no objection to men under contract being admitted if it is shown there is any necessity for them.
-Cooke. - But when they had been admitted under contract, they would still remain bondsmen under the agreement.
– Quite so ; and I personally should prefer to see all agreements invalidated on the arrival of the men, even though the latter be admitted. But, in addition, we should have some guarantee that the men are of special skill, and are required in the Commonwealth before they are admitted under contract.
– The State laws would prohibit the men being sent to gaol in New South Wales and in Victoria.
– The law of New South Wales, if the honorable and learned member knows it as he should, is that all agreements are validated, even if made outside that State, and an attempt to repeal the Agreement Validating Act was unsuccessful.
– But men cannot be sent to gaol under the circumstances.
– But men were sent to gaol ; that is like telling a man he cannot be hanged, and then stringing him up next morning. I am convinced that the good sense of the people of Australia has not been outraged so far as the six hatters are concerned. I believe, further, that if it could be conveyed to the people, free from that hysterical indignation which there has been an attempt to stir up, that the men were merely required to explain the conditions under which they were coming, and that when exemption was applied for, it was granted within three days, there would be doubt as to what the’ public feeling, would be. I am quite willing to leave it to-,the electors to express their opinion on this matter. I believe that if an attempt is made to materially alter or to abrogate this provision in- the Act, a number of honorable” members will see that they have made considerable error as to the opinion of the people. Another matter I should like to refer to relates to the administration of the Military department. This House succeeded in substantially reducing the Military Estimates on two occasions, and it was distinctly understood, at least by me, that one result of the reduction would be the very material cutting down of the central staff and other expensive adjuncts of the military system. Yet we find, as set forth in a circular recently issued by the Minister for Defence, that the central staff of the
General Officer Commanding has been retained at practically its original strength. The staff is still costing, I think, some £15,000 a year, and those who insisted on retrenchment in the military forces are” being blamed for all the trouble that is occurring in connexion with the forces in New South Wales and other parts of Australia. Personally, I take no responsibility for the disposition of the money which was placed at the disposal of the Minister for Defence. He had under his charge a sum in excess of the amount available for defence a few years ago, when tlie departments were under State control, but he seems to have spent a very large part of it upon the almost useless features of a military force. While I am convinced it is not necessary to spend in the training of men more than, if as much as, the sum now allotted for that work, I believe that it is necessary to expend a very considerable amount in improving our defences. A great number of our forts have obsolete guns. We have comparatively few modern rifles, and no effort has been made, notwithstanding a half promise by the Government some time ago to establish an ammunition factory within the Commonwealth, though it has been stated in the press that a contract is about to be entered into with the Colonial Ammunition Company for the supply of some 12,000,000 rounds per annum.
– That company has a contract which cannot be broken, and which extends over a number of years.
– That contract only affects the “Victorian supply of ammunition, and would not prevent the Government from establishing factories in other parts of the Commonwealth. I think that they should have already token steps for tlie establishment of an ammunition and also of a small-arms factory. It is imperative for the adequate defence of Australia that we shall have arms to put into the hands of our people in the event of war occurring. We are training a large number of men more or less efficiently ; but, if war came, most of them would have to. be armed with obsolete rifles, and, although the Minister for Home Affairs has told us that a Martini-Henry rifle is a dangerous weapon if one comes within range of it, we cannot be sure that an enemy would do so before attacking with guns of a longer range. The Ministerfor Defence ought to be able to assure the House that he has prepared some scheme for providing the Commonwealth with an adequate supply of rifles, ammunition, and other munitions of war. I shall resist any proposal to give the Colonial Ammunition Company a larger order for ammunition than they now receive. MajorGeneral Hutton, I understand, has recommended that factories for the supply of ammunition be established in different places throughout the Commonwealth.
– I obtained my information from the press. If such a recommendation hasnot been made, I think that something of the kind should be done. We should not rely upon one factory. I do not know if the Colonial Ammunition Company make the cartridges which they turn out, or only roll and fill them with material brought from abroad. If they do the latter, the existence of the factory does not make us independent of oversea supplies, and the people are being lulled into a false sense of security.
– The company make everything but the cordite which they use, and it is made under patent in “Victoria.
– Is the brass work done here 1
– We should have factories capable of making everything necessary for ammunition, and we should supply them with sufficient work to keep the employes efficient. With regard to the proposal to increase the naval subsidy to the ] Imperial Government, I think we are bound to consider how far it is practicable for us to provide a sufficient sea defence for Australia at the present time. I am inclined to take the view that, even if we increase our subsidy to the Imperial navy, we shall not thereby obtain any adequate defence for our coast line. Could one Squadron be reasonably certain of intercepting every hostile fleet that might descend upon our shores 1 Only recently, during the English navy manoeuvres, the attacking fleet, operating in the narrow confines of the English Channel, got through the defending fleet, and entered port unobserved. If such a thing is possible in the English Channel, how much more likely is it to occur in the broad waters which surround Australia % It seems to me that we cannot rely upon any one fleet, whether locally-owned or under the control of the British Admiralty, to safeguard us from sudden piratical attacks by a foreign navy. To make our position sure, we should have to provide for naval defence upon a scale which our financial condition is not likely to warrant for some years to come, and it is worse than useless to depend upon an inadequate defence. That being so, I think our better plan is, first, to insure that we have a sufficient, efficient, and properly-armed land force, and, secondly, that our ports and exposed positions are defended by position guns, and by other means of defence such as modern science is continually inventing. It may not be a completely demonstrated fact, but it seems nearly certain that submarine vessels provide a port defence which is superior to the older methods. In conjunction with them we might, if necessary, utilize gunboats of light tonnage but of a fairly heavy armament. It would be hopeless to expect one squadron to efficiently protect 8,000 miles of coast line.
– I apprehend that the squadron would have to defend only the capital cities of Australia.
– I believe that that could be better done by preparations such as I have just referred to. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but my remarks are based upon what I have learned and read of the opinions of those who profess to have knowledge.
– What about the protection of our sea-going commerce 1
– If we could protect it, well and good, but I do not see how that is to be managed. Supposing the Australian squadron contained six or eight vessels, they could not be separated without weakening the fleet so materially that one portion or other of it would be liable to annihilation-
– They would give a good account of themselves to the attacking vessels when they met them.
– No doubt they would hold their own ; but to guard the whole coast line the ships would have to be separated, and separately they could do nothing against an opposing fleet. If they were not separated, and I do not think they should be, I fail to see how they could adequately protect our shores. That being so, I do not think it worth our while to sacrifice other means of coastal defence to inadequately protect our sea-going commerce.
– The expense would be greater than it was worth.
– I believe so.’ I believe that we can more cheaply defend our ports, coaling stations, and exposed position’s by land defences, with the assistance of torpedo boats or similar vessels, than by a squadron of cur own, or provided by the Imperial navy. We cannot expect Australia to have much money available for the purposes of defence for a long while to come. For many years we shall be constrained by circumstances to contribute more, proportionately, to the other expenses of government than many other communities do, because of the greatness of our territory and the sparseness of our population. That being so, we should adopt those means of defence which are most likely to prove effective for the money spent upon them. 1 see no immediate prospect of the formation of an Australian navy. I believe that we can get Australian seamen to work for the protection of our ports against hostile attack ; but I dp not think that an efficient naval defence for Australia is practicable. Therefore, I feel under no obligation to vote for the proposal to increase the contribution to the support of the Imperial navy. It is our business to provide as well as we can for our own defence, and if we do that we shall have done our duty to the Empire. If we relieve those in power at home from anxiety as to our position in time of trouble, we shall do all that can reasonably be expected from a small community settled in an immense territory. I think, therefore, that we should expend what money we have to spend for purposes of defence in efficiently protecting our ports and other exposed positions. There is another feature of the proposal to which I object. It seems extraordinary that, although we are asked to increase our contribution to the Imperial navy, the squadron is to be liable to be called away from Australian waters, so as to leave us without any protection for our sea-going commerce.
– It would not be worse than what the honorable member is suggesting.
– Yes, it would, because every pound we give as a contribution towards the Imperial navy will have to be deducted from the amount available for safeguarding our own ports.
– But we should have no communication with the outer world.
– In any case we should probably be deprived of that. If we were to bring into existence a navy such as the United States possesses, which, although it is not as large as some European fleets, is a very efficient one, we should accomplish a great deal. This might not be sufficient to adequately protect our ocean-going commerce, but I do not think any navy could do that to the fullest degree.
– We should have the whole British navy to protect our commerce.
– Yes ; but at a considerable distance. I trust that we shall have that in any case, even if we do not subscribe towards its maintenance. If we take our share of the responsibility in the defence of the Empire by providing for the , safety of this portionof it, we shall still have the protection of the British navy for our commerce in other parts of the world, if not in these waters. The objection I have raised seems to me to be a grave one, and I do not see how the provision for taking the fleet away from Australian waters can be held to be of any value in connexion with the defence of Australia. Amongst other matters to which I desire to refer is the question of the High Court. During the discussion as to the desirability of adopting the Constitution Bill, I adopted the view that we should have a Federal High Court, or that we should have an Australian Judiciary to interpret Australian laws. With all respect to the members of the Privy Council, I have always held that we should be able to interpret our own laws, and better understand their spirit than any outside tribunal. During last session I. shared the desire, manifested by many other honorable members, to economize as much as possible, and I hesitated to vote for the immediate passing of the Judiciary Bill, with a view to ascertain whether it would not be possible to find some less expensive way out of the difficulty. I thought it possible that we might appoint Australian Judges, not specially detailed and paid for the work, to the High Court, but on consideration I do not see that we could rely upon that method for the establishment of an Australian judiciary. I feel that even if we appointed the Chief Justices of the various States to constitute a High Court we should have to recognise the fact that they would still be responsible to the States and not to the Federal authorities.
– They are not responsible to the States authorities, they are irremovable.
– Their positions would still depend on the good-will of the States Parliaments.
– They are absolutely independent of the States Parliaments, and cannot be removed except for misconduct.
– However that may be, I trust that the Federal Parliament will retain control over the Judges appointed to any court that may be established. We should have the power to dismiss the Judges for misconduct. I do not pretend that the Federal Government or Parliament should have the right to revise their decisions. But we should at least have a greater degree of control over Judges appointed by us, than over Judges who were responsible only to the State authorities. Further, I think that if the Chief Justices of the States were appointed to act as Judges of the High Court, they would be liable to be influenced - I do not say corruptly - by the fact that they were still the officials of any particular State that might be interested in a dispute before the court. I think that might occur with regard to a number of questions that are likely to be submitted to the Court. It has been urged, that we shall have very little business to submit to such a tribunal. But I judge that, although the number of cases may not be great, some of them will be of extreme importance. For instance, there is the question of the interpretation of the section of the Constitution which affects the using of river waters. This point has already been dealt with by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and in all probability it will have to come before some court before the questionis finally settled.
– When ?
– The sooner it is brought before a competent tribunal and settled, the better it will be for the people of Australia, and the less will be the risk of friction.
– No difficulty can arise for the next five years.
– Judging from the attitude of some State legislators in New South Wales, it is not at all certain that the agreement recentlyentered into with regard to the river waters will be ratified.
– If it is not, what is likely to happen ?
– The trouble will then be revived in a more acute form than a few months ago, and certainly all the circumstances point to the desirability of effecting a settlement. I think it is likely that some difficulty will arise in connexion with the contemplated legislation for the settle ment of industrial disputes affecting two or more States. It will be necessary to ask some tribunal to decide how far Parliament will be justified in going, and to give its ruling as to what would really. constitute a dispute affecting two or more States.
– That can be settled by the Privy Council
– I do not think it is right to have recourse to the Privy Council in regard to matters arising out of our Constitution.
– The Privy Council is less likely than an Australian court to be biased.
– I do not know as to that, but I have a firm conviction that the Australian court is more likely to be well informed. I do not think that any special bias is likely to occur among members of the High Court.
– .Why does the honorable member fear that it will exist in the minds of the Judges of the State courts ?
Air. WATSON.- I do not wish to imply any doubt as to the bona fides of the State Judges. I believe that we have excellent Judges in all the States, but I cannot help thinking that a State Judge sitting in the High Court would be unconsciously biased even from the fact that lie was a State Judge.
– The same people will be affected in either case.
– I admit that; but I claim that we are more likely to find J Judges , actuated by a federal spirit, if we create a purely federal tribunal, than if we rely upon a makeshift court composed of State Judges. Perhaps my point may be illustrated by the attitude which the members of the States Governments take towards the Federal Government. These gentlemen are actuated by the very highest motives, but they are influenced by the mere fact that they are State officials, and feel it incumbent upon them to urge the State as against the federal aspect of affairs at every opportunity. I do not say that this reflects discredit upon them, but simply point out the spirit by which they are actuated.
– The Judges of the High Court must be chosen from the various States.
– Yes ; but the fact that they are’ chosen to form a part of the federal machinery will influence them to take a federal view.
– Has the honorable member any idea of the number of cases with which the High Court will probably be called upon to deal 1
– No. I have already mentioned one or two matters, and doubtless there are many others which will arise as time goes on, and fresh legislation is passed.
– In the meantime, then, we are to keep -the court waiting for some business to come along. *
– The High Court will not have to wait very long for something to do,’ if one may judge from the number of questions which have arisen in connexion with customs and other matters up* to the present. However, I am prepared to support the High Court proposal, notwithstanding that it will involve the outlay of a fair sum of money. I do not consider it wise at this stage to enter into details as to the number of Judges to be appointed and the salaries to be paid. I am inclined to be as economical as possible consistently with the efficient discharge of the work. There is another matter which I hope the Government will be able to push through, namely, the measure which they propose to bring forward dealing with compulsory arbitration. I think that recent occurrences have made clear the urgent necessity for passing a law which will prevent the recurrence of disastrous strikes. I have always favoured the system of arbitration’ as against strike methods. While it is true that trade unionists may have to give up some portion of their liberty under a compulsory Arbitration Act, the experience gained in New Zealand and New South Wales has convinced me that that loss of liberty was a small thing compared to the ‘greater security enjoyed by the men and the great benefits- conferred upon the community as a whole. At present there is a great, deal of friction - and this is a matter that will probably have to come before the High Court- amongst business men in Sydney, because they are compelled to pay certain wages to women workers, whilst Brisbane manufacturers, who compete with them, are allowed to employ females at sweating rates.
– The same contrast exists between the Melbourne jam manufacturers, who have to pay fixed wages, and the Tasmanian jam manufacturers, who are free to do what they please.
M!r. WATSON.- Just so. There is no doubt pressing necessity for a measure which will tend to equalize the conditions of work throughout the Commonwealth, due regard, of course, being paid to climatic and other varying conditions. Concerningcourtsof conciliation, as an addendum or preliminary to the court of arbitration, I may say that the unionists in New Zealand, to whom I spoke in reference to their working, seemed to be satisfied that they were doing good. They said that in quite a number of instances the issues had been narrowed down by the courts of conciliation. Those tribunals did not in all cases settle the trouble, but the issues were narrowed down so as to minimize the amount of work which had eventually to be done by the court of arbitration. When we consider that in Australia any court of arbitration would have to embrace the entire Commonwealth in its operation, it will be seen that anything that will tend to minimize the issues that come before that court is a step in the right direction. It is necessary, I think, to have one court only as a supreme head, otherwise we shall have varying decisions under similar circumstances in different parts of the Commonwealth. We want something in the nature of uniformity in laws such as these, and therefore I feel there may be a reason for courts of conciliation in this connexion that does not exist to the same extent in any single State. I trust that the Government will see the necessity of pushing this matter forward, because I assure them that .the whole question of- the equal competition of people in the various States under a common tariff will never otherwise be satisfactorily settled. It is possible that the High Court may rule that we have not ‘ power to deal with cases such as those I have mentioned, but I believe that even under a reasonable construction of the Constitution we have that power, because it must be manifest that if the wages paid to the women workers, of whom I spoke, in Brisbane are so low as to constitute sweating, that fact must affect the wages paid in Sydney, Melbourne, and every other town in the Commonwealth.
– In Brisbane they pay them 50 per cent. less.
– I know that they pay them considerably less. I do trust that the Government will push this matter forward. It is desirable that the lack of method in the conduct of public business which was displayed last session shall not be exhibited this session. I hope that we shall take up one Bill .and dispose of it, instead of discussing several measures, dropping them, and again taking up their consideration at a later stage. It must be remembered that although we transacted a large amount of business last session, the period occupied in accomplishing it was extremely long, and I believe that we could have economized time to some extent if measures had been proceeded with consecutively. However, that is a matter for the Government themselves to arrange, and I refer to it only because I believe that this session we should endeavour to curtail as much.as possible the time occupied in considering the various subjects which will come before us with a view to accomplishing a maximum amount of work. There are many other matters in the Governor-General’s speech to which I should like to refer, but I fear that I have already broken my promise to make my observations shorter than usual. However, later on I will take an opportunity of referring to some of the Government proposals when they are actually before us. The programme which they have put forward contains many more matters than we are likely to deal with this session. Still I am in accord -with them in their desire to pass a number of these important measures with the utmost expedition consistent with giving them fair consideration in the interests of the community.
– I think that the advice of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat is upon the whole very sound, and doubtless the Government, seeing the quarter from which it comes, will pay attention to it. I trust that they will endeavour to curtail the programme which they have put before the House with a view to the enactment of certain necessary legislation, so that honorable members may go to the country. I am sure that we are all anxious to get to our constituents, and I fear that the beautiful programme put before the House is saddened and tinctured by the recollection that there is hanging over us a veritable sword of
Damocles in theshapeof a dissolution. It may be that we shall survive the feeling until one or two of these imperative measures have been placed upon the statute-book, and that we shall then be able to go to the country and fight out the fiscal question, for however much the honorable member for Gippsland may desire that it should be allowed to rest, and however much the Prime Minister may denounce its re-opening as an outrage upon the people of Australia, it is already inevitable that it must be re-opened. The sooner, therefore, that we set about deciding it the better. In the meantime the Government have put before the country this manifesto in the shape of the GovernorGeneral’s speech. There is no doubt that they had their eye upon the country whilst they were concocting it. I have seen the speeches of some Governors at the opening of the States? Parliaments which were long enough in all conscience, but for length, to say nothing of its supreme importance, this speech “ takes the cake.” I cannot believe that the Government ever seriously entertained the opinion that they would accomplish a tithe of the work included in this programme. But, of course, thev were shrewd enough to omit nothing lest some recalcitrant member of the House - and particularly one of their own supporters - might rise and - say something unpleasant. Honorable members have already seen this Government in the most complaisant moods, and we know that it is a matter of the greatest difficulty to induce them to make up their minds concerning either their legislation or their administration. They postpone matters until they cannot do so a moment longer. That is a charge which applies to their administration even more than to their legislation. I will deal with their administration first. Take the case of the federal electorates - a matter of supreme importance, not only to the country, but to every honorable member of the House. We are now told that the electoral rolls for Victoria cannot be comple’ted before the middle of July. I submit that this delay will take us right up to a point at which discussion, fair survey, and revision, will become impossible, to say nothing of the impossibility of honorable members becoming thoroughly acquainted with the new electorates as they may be arranged. I can speak all the more freely upon this matter, because the draft of these electorates does not affect my position so much. But I submit that this matter should have been dealt with long ere this. The Minister for Home Affairs has been guilty of culpable negligence in having delayed it. Why could not these commissioners have been at work months ago? What has been the_ hindrance ? Only at the very last moment has the Minister appointed them. Thus it comes about that a matter which is of more immediate importance than any other has been left until the last moment to determine. Some honorable members remember their experience with the Minister in connexion with the mapping out of the existing federal electorates in New South Wales. He brought a plan of those electorates down to the State House only at the last moment, when there was no time to discuss it. He will probably adopt a similar course here, if he is not prevented from so doing. There are many honorable members to whom this is a very serious matter. The South Australian and Tasmanian representatives, for .example, have to make the acquaintance of entirely new electorates, and it is only fair to them that this question should be speedily settled. There is another matter to which I should like to refer, namely, the payment for the transferred properties. When will that matter be disposed of ?
– When the States are good enough to send in their claims.
– Then I think that some pressure should be brought to bear upon the States.
– We have made all possible endeavours to get the accounts from them, and have failed.
– The Federation has already been in existence for two years, and yet- no settlement has been arrived at, or payment made in connexion .with £10,000,000 worth of transferred property. Meantime, this matter is vitiating the accounts of the departments concerned. For example, “no interest has been debited ‘ to the Postal department. Last year that department showed a loss of £80,000, whereas if the interest were added it would show a debit balance of £250,000. I am satisfied that that debit will increase if the present administration .be continued. There is another question to which I desire to direct attention, namely, that of the selection of the federal capital site. At the last moment of the last session we were promised that the report of the commission appointed to deal with this matter would be available by the beginning of April. Indeed, the Minister for Home Affairs told honorable members that he would give specific directions to that commission to make every possible use of Mr. Oliver’s report, with a view to obviating useless peregrinations throughout the country. Instead of doing that we find them going over every item that has already been dealt with by Mr. Oliver ; and when they have done their best their report will not be anything like so useful as the report of that gentlemen. In this way the Commission are wasting time and delaying the settlement of a very important question. The Minister for Home Affairs ought to insist promptly on the report being presented at the earliest possible moment, and the sooner Parliament decides the question the better it will be for all concerned. As to administration we were told by the Prime Minister that one reason why the Postal department was taken over early was that the Minister in charge might study its requirements with a view to legislation. If that be so the Postmaster-General made a very rapid study, for almost as soon as the department was taken over the Bill was drafted, and not very long afterwards it was submitted to the House. If the object was patient investigation of the requirements of the whole of the Australian postal service, the PostmasterGeneral must be a very marvellous man if he did what the Prime Minister alleges. But the Postmaster - General’s handiwork is already beginning to show that he cannot have made any such patient investigation. The regulations which are placed on the table from time to time become more irksome as they multiply, and something will have to be done very rapidly to stop their issue if the department is to be carried on with anything like proper efficiency. The Prime Minister, in defending his colleague the other day at Sydney, said the Government were gradually and satisfactorily assimilating the postal services of the various States; but I am afraid that what he said did more credit to his loyalty than to his knowledge of the administration. I would like to call the. attention of members to that brilliant- regulation which provides that when the post-office loses a letter 2½d. must be. paid as a deposit before any inquiry or endeavour is made to find it. What reason there can be for an absurd regulation of that kind I cannot imagine. If the deposit were intended to cover the cost of investigation there might be some reason for the regulation ; but as a matter of fact 2½d. would not even meet the expense of the departmental correspondence about a lost letter. That regulation, which was issued recently, has . been in operation in Queensland for some time, and it should be known that the postal services of the other States are being harmonized with the same kind of administration that has always been current in the northern State. But we do not appreciate that sort of administration. The deposit may be a small matter in itself, but honorable memberscaneasilyrealizehow irritating it must be to people in the country. It is true that if it is found the loss of the letter is the fault of the Post-office, the deposit is returned ; but, all the same, this is a twopenny halfpenny regulation, and the sooner it is abolished the better. There is another regulation, the working of which I can perhaps best illustrate by citing a concrete case which occurred a few weeks ago. Under the Commonwealth, State Government departments must pay all postage on their correspondence carried by the Federal Post-office; and- that provision is right enough.
– The Federal departments also pay for their postage.
– But the Postoffice has made a regulation which makes all State departmental papers chargeable as letters, and the other day the officials of the department of Justice of New South Wales, when they desired to send a packet of documents to another part of the State, were asked to pay 10s. postage. Why, the Minister for Trade and Customs is “ not in it “ with the Post-office where collecting money is concerned. The officials of the department of Justice met the difficulty by taking the parcel to the railway station, and sending it by train to its destination at a cost of 3d. Surely, that is not the way to make the Postal department pay, displaying as it does a sort of wooden-headed administration. It may be said that the regulation is there and must be enforced, but such aregulation ought to be abolished as quickly as possible. The main point is that the Postmaster-General instead of getting more money, as he desires, for the work he does, is actually getting less, because the people use other means than the post-office for forwarding- their communications. There seems a general desire in the Postal department to suppress business, or drive it away, instead of attracting it, although if there is a department which more than another is a business department, it is that of the post-office. This is the department in which, more than in any other, ordinary business methods ought to be applied ; and yet, what do we see in connexion with the telephone? All telephonic extension in the country districts is stopped by a ridiculous regulation of the Postmaster-General, which requires any person who wants a telephone fixed to pay in cash three-quarters of the cost of construction, and an amount sufficient to cover five years’ expenses. No man in his senses would plank his cash down in such a way.
– What is asked for is a guarantee.
– The department requires the actual cash to be placed in the bank. There used to be a guarantee, but because we lost a little money, owing to the expansion of an immense business - because as in an ordinary business, we made a few bad debts - the Postmaster-General has by this regulation stopped all further expansion. It is true that now the PostmasterGeneral will have no more bad debts, but at the same time, he will get no more new business. The other day the honorable member for Canobolas desired to get telephone communication with one part of his constituency. The honorable member already had communication with another part of his district, and for that had given a guarantee for £30. In regard to the new application the Postmaster-General said that it could not be granted unless under the regulation £6S0 in cash were paid into the bank. I have an exactly similar case in my own electorate.
– I have several cases.
– In the case in my electorate the total cost of providing telephonic communication between a number of fruit-growers with their market at Parramatta is £90, and although the postoffice officials say that the wire will yield a revenue of £8 to £9 a year, or 10 per cent., the Postmaster-General insists on £60 or £70 being paid down in cash before the work is done. That is not the sort of administration which will enable the postoffice to liquidate a deficit, and the Prime Minister had better consider a little before he defends the Postmaster-General. If the postal services are being harmonized it is in such a way as to make the administration more irksome to the great body of the people in the interior of the Commonwealth. I should like to make some reference to the Pacific cable question, which is mentioned in His Excellency’s speech. The position is, as I understand it, that the Pacific cable is losing £90,000 a year.
– That is the estimate ; the exact figures have not yet been ascertained.
– Australia’s share of that loss is a little over £.30,000.
– I think that that loss will be equally chargeable to the three States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Under the bookkeeping clause, one-third will go back as a debit to each of the three contracting States.
– If that is the old agreement, the Government will surely not perpetuate a similar state of things in the new arrangement.
– The position arises out of the requirements of the Constitution. During the bookkeeping period the Commonwealth takes over the obligations of. each State in respect of any transferred department, and this is a continuance or maintenance of an agreement entered into as affecting the three States mentioned.
– Then I understand that on the Pacific cable there is a loss of £90,000, of which £30,000 is shared by New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, while South Australia and Western Australia do not bear any share ?
– The first three States mentioned are the largest partners.
– In the meantime South Australia and Western Australia are sharing in whatever advantages there may be arising from the Eastern Extension Company’s operations. What I complain of is that while the Eastern Extension Company have been given privileges which enable them to turn round and compete as they are doing with the Pacific cable, and threaten the very existence of the latter from the financial point of view, some of the States reap all the benefits and allow other States to bear the loss. In my opinion, the deficit on the Pacific cable could be wiped out with good management. The Eastern Extension Company advertises largely, and is now doing so even on the railway stations. That is only what any business firm would do in an endeavour to induce business ; but one never sees or hears a word, so far as I know, about the Pacific cable - nobody takes any responsibility in regard to the latter, while, so’ far as I can see, the PostmasterGeneral stands feebly by.
– The whole management is in the hands of the Pacific Cable Board. We have represented to them the necessity for business management, and if they will empower us to hire canvassers in their interests we will do so.
– A very great wrong was done when we gave the Eastern Extension Company the special privileges they now enjoy. I quite approve of the new arrangement made by the Prime Minister in taking prompt steps to limit the term of the agreement with that company ; and I cannot help thinking that the step taken is an implied censure on his colleague who, when Premier of New South Wales, , entered into the present absurd agreement, and signed an interminable contract with the company. I protested as strongly as I could against it at the time in the press, but without avail. In this respect Victoria set a better example to the rest of Australia than New South Wales did. Honorable members should recollect what the position was. We tried, when the old subsidy expired, to obtain from the company a reduction of rates, but they would give us nothing. They said - “ Before we lay down another cable we want a subsidy for a further term of twenty years, and the old rates must continue for that period.” We could not obtain any reduction or concessions from the company, and’ negotiations were broken off. But immediately Mr. Chamberlain gave his sanction to the Pacific cable proposal, the Eastern Extension. Cable Company rushed in, and said - “ We will give you almost anything you want if you will give us in return the advantages we ask for.” New South Wales had no right to treat with the company, except with the concurrence of the United Kingdom and of Canada ; but the Minister for Home Affairs took the bait held out by the company, accepted reduced rates for a short year, and gave them an opportunity to fight the Pacific cable proposal, and menace its very existence. Sir George Turner was faced with the same temptation as confronted the Minister for Home Affairs, but, to his credit be it said, he refused to yield to it. If New South Wales had acted as Victoria did, the Pacific cable would have been placed upon a paying basis from the start, and the cable rates would have been the same as they are to-day.
– The honorable member admits that the Commonwealth was bound by the arrangement entered into by New South Wales.
– I am not complaining of anything the Prime Minister hasdone in this matter ; I am complaining of what was done by his colleaguewhen Premier of New South Wales, which the right honorable gentleman has promptly set himself to undo. I have not much to say in addition about the administration of the Minister for Trade and Customs, though I wonder that he hasso suddenly become dumb. During his peregrinations throughout the Commonwealth, he challenged all and sundry. He beat his breast like the Pharisee of old, and told the people of Australia that he was not like ‘other Customs Ministers. He was doing tilings that should have been done long ago under State’ administration.
– Hear, hear.
– By that statement the Minister suggested that other Customs Ministers had winked at evasions of the law and connived at improper practices, and that no other Minister had had the pluck to do his duty.
– He was quite right, too. There is no back-stair influence with him.
– There may have been a lot of bad business going on in the past.
– The honorable member cannot be sure that bad practices, will not continue under the present regime. If merchants find that the department pounces upon them on every conceivable excuse, and that they are forced into the court whatever they do, they will try to circumvent the Minister. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman is not reckoning in his boasting with human nature. It remains to be seen if we have in the Minister a heavensent administrator than whom’ no one could be better. He has undoubtedly exercised a great deal of vigour in the discharge of the duties pertaining to his office, but it is too soon yetto say that he has proved better than all the other Customs administrators who have preceded him. I have everv admiration for a Minister who will hunt out fraud and prevent negligence, but there is a reasonable way of administering the Customs Act, just as there is a reasonable way of administering other Acts. If the conspiracy laws were administered as the Minister administers the Customs Act, nearly every man in Australia would be sent to gaol, because whenever two or three persons met together at a street corner they could be indicted for conspiracy. Or what would happen if the law relating to trespass were administered with the same strictness % If one set himself to inflict every penalty possible under the law, and to diligently hunt for victims, they could be found in abundance.. The Minister should exercise a little discrimination sometimes, particularly since the minimum penalty provided in the Act for any offence is £5.
– And having regard to the fact that the Act does not allow justice to be done by the courts.
– The Minister might very well refuse to set the law in motion where cases of error alone are concerned. We should then have less of the friction which has occurred during his administration. He tells us, however, that ho makes no distinctions, and that that is a proof of his fairness. The Prime Minister told us that he was as ready to prosecute a man like Senator Reid as a poor man who was bringing in a Bible to give to some one else.
– I did not mention Senator’s Reid’s name.
– No, but he is the typical big man whom we all have in our minds just now. I have nothing to say against the Minister for prosecuting in cases where fraud or gross negligence can be proven ; but where a little investigation will show that only an error has been committed, the case should not be taken into court. The Minister himself is not clear as to the meaning of the Tariff in every case. He is feeling his way, and interpreting its provisions from day to day. That being so, we should not haul to the police court people who are groping in the dark just as he is. One is tempted to say something about the administration of the Minister for Defence, but, instead of doing so, I shall wait to hear the details of his .proposed reforms. He has, however, begun to retrench at the wrong end in cutting off the allowance to the bands of the mounted regiments.
– That has not been done. The allowance has only been reduced.
– I hope that the Minister will restore the full allowance.
– What was the original allowance 1
– About £225 per band.
– I reduced it to £150.
– It might very well be cut down by a large amount.. I keep a band of 30 upon an allowance of £50 a year.
– Is it a mounted band ?
– No, but that does not make much difference.
– Yes, it does, because of the up-keep of the horses. The mounted regiments ramify throughout New South Wales, and by the time the band horses are provided for, the bands are at least £50 worse off than the band which the honorable and learned member for Corinella provides: Coming to the proposal to establish a High Court, I wish to hear the Minister justify it. No doubt a tribunal for the final determination of causes is necessary, but the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has told us deliberately that the machinery of the proposed court, and the salaries to be paid to its officials, will cost about £50,000 a year. That seems too large a sum to expend at this stage of our history. These questions of high policy, such as. have been suggested by the honorable member for Bland, will, no doubt, come up for the consideration by the High Court; but the time for that has not yet arrived, and the High Court will be created soon enough when its work becomes quite apparent. We may not have to deal with the question of riparian lights for five or’ six years, nor need we trouble our heads about matters arising out of the proposed Arbitration Bill, because the Arbitration Court may not have to give a decision for some considerable time to come. The establishment of an Arbitration Court, such as has been suggested, should be proceeded with, and we could surely make some simple arrangement for settling any questions which may arise until a Court of the proposed costly character is needed. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has drawn a parallel between the United States Supreme Court and that which it is proposed to establish here, but there is no comparison between American requirements and our own. Our functions are not so extensive as those of the American federation, nor are they so large as those reposed in the Canadian Federal Government. In view of the small powers invested in us, there should be very little work for a High Court to do, and we may very well save the expense connected with the establishment of such a tribunal for many years to come. Nearly all the questions that call for immediate decision relate purely to trade and commerce, and I cannot understand why it should not be possible to refer these points to a more simple tribunal. I am in entire agreement with the Government in regard to the increased naval vote. I think that a very reasonable arrangement has been made by the Prime Minister so far as the amount of the subsidy is concerned. The question as to whether the conditions for the control of the squadron are equally good is arguable, but the amount proposed to be contributed is very moderate indeed. In this connexion, I cannot help being reminded of a speech by Lord Selborne, which was recently quoted by Mr. John Morley, in England. Lord Selborne said -
It so happens, that more of the money provided by the taxpayer o£ the United Kingdom is spent in the British dominions beyond the seas than the British dominions beyond the seas contribute to the maintenance of the British navy.
I think that this is a point which should appeal to us very strongly. It is important that our commerce should be policed upon the high seas, and that England should look after it for us. England could get along very well if all our commerce were swept from the seas, but it would be a very different matter for us, and therefore we should shoulder a fair share of the responsibility involved in protecting our oversea traffic.
– Supposing we are dragged into wars which are none of our making ?
– The rude arbitrament of war would expose us to exactly the same disadvantages as if we had a squadron of our own. If the necessities of Empire required the removal of the Australian squadron from our coasts, no arrangement made with the Imperial authorities would enable us to retain it. Moreover, even if we had a squadron of our own, and the Empire were in danger, I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa would not decline to send it wherever the necessities of the mother country might require.
– No ; I would not.
– Therefore the question of sending our squadron away in case of a great Empire war is not of very great importance. The provision in the agreement for control over the squadron by the Imperial authorities simply asserts a technical right, which places us ‘ at no greater disadvantage in case of a great war than if we had a navy of our own. At the same time, I arn in favour of paving the way for the establishment of an Australian navy, and I see the beginning of this movement in the provision which is made in the agreement for the training of 1,600 Australians and New Zealanders in connexion with the squadron. That alone is worth the extra £94,000 which we are to pay towards the maintenance of the squadron. We shall get the full value for our money in the training which will be imparted to our men.
– I anticipate that £40,000 of the extra £94,000 will come back to us in the form of pay to the seamen and reservists when the new arrangement is in full operation.
– Yes, but apart from mere bargaining, the growing requirements of our commerce on the high seas call for an increased contribution from us. Moreover, I see in this arrangement the establishment of some- kind of balance between our naval and military expenditure. Our military Estimates now amount, roughly speaking, to about £550,000, and we are told by the Imperial authorities that the cost of maintaining the Australian squadron will be about £520,000.
– The amount will be £519,00U, including an allowance of 5 per cent, towards interest and sinking fund.
– Thus the expenditure upon our naval defence will be upon a footing somewhat similar to that of our military outlay, and we shall be to some extent reproducing the balance between the forces now existing in the old country. We are an island-‘ continent, with a long coastline to defend, and we are on sound lines when we are trying to maintain some balance between our military and naval expenditure. Beyond the reasons I have stated, we have the appeal - the urgent appeal - from the old country for an increase of our contribution towards the maintenance of the squadron. This weighs with me more .than anything else. The taxpayers of Great Britain find that the burden of Empire is pressing heavily upon them, and, in view of the fact that we share the benefits with them, it is only reasonable that we should make a larger contribution than that hitherto provided for. I do not know what will be the issue in Britain ; but Mr. John Morley points out–
– He does not believe in our paying a subsidy.
– That is beside the question. There is almost a pathetic irony in the words which I am about to read. After quoting Lord Selborne, he remarks -
Therefore, the taxpayer of the United Kingdom has the privilege, not only of taking on himself the lion’s share of the burden, the interest in which is shared between himself and his fellow Subjects in our dominions beyond the seas, but also and not less a share of the burdens in respect of interests not his own, but exclusively those of his fellow subjects beyond the seas.
There is almost a pathetic ring in these words, and from Mr. John Morley’s point of view there is immense force in them. He goes on to say - and here he bears out the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corio - that he is opposed to subsidies. He says -
Pray do not think that I am making any illnatured or carping point of this. Only do let us face the facts as they are. They talk of the expansion of England, and it is a very fine idea, a very fine phrase, a very fine thing. Only do please understand that the expansion of territorial England does not mean the expansion of the contributory area from which the taxation is to come. Now that is all I have got to say upon this main and central point. You will have to bear the burden. As I said, I do not want to carp. I have always thought that the colonies, from their social, economic, and political conditions, could not be looked to by a rational and provident statesman for a serious contribution to the share in our national burdens.
But Mr. Morley is logical. He says-“ I do not want these burdens of Empire.” He is against increasing them in any way. But we are in a position quite different from that occupied by him. We believe in the maintenance of the* Imperial connexion, and in the maintenance and development to the utmost possible extent of every scrap of the Empire.
– So does Mr. Morley, probably ; but he does not believe in undue expansion.
– No. The honorable member is wrong. Mr. Morley would not undertake a war to obtain another bit of Empire.
– No; but he might fight to retain what we have got.
– I am not quite sure even of that.
– Was he not speaking as a logical free-trader 1
– The Empire is not governed by chop-logic. In the course of the same speech, Mr. Morley pointed out, almost in a tone of reproach, that whilst the colonies were prepared to share the military burden of the Empire, they declined point blank to bear any part of the financial burden. In view of the tremendous armaments of the mother country, which are weighing down the nation, because the taxation for the army and navy amounts to 29s. per head of the population of the United Kingdom, we should offer an increased subsidy, not in any spirit of bargaining, but as a f ree and generous contribution to the burdens of the Empire. Now I come to the question of preferential trade. I see . that the GovernorGeneral’s advisers observe with gratification the recent utterances of the Colonial Secretary with reference to this subject. I see no cause whatever for gratification in that utterance. On the contrary, I see nothing in it but -an astute electioneering dodge. Mr. Chamberlain returned from South Africa to find that a rot had set in amongst his party, and, as the most powerful and popular member of that party, he at once set himself to stem the tide which seemed to be bearing them on to evil days. That is all the importance that we need attach to this tremendously great speech by Mr. Chamberlain, which has resounded from one end of the Empire to the other. That is all that it means, and honorable members may rest satisfied that we shall hear no more about preferential trade. It will be disposed of in connexion with the amendment which has been submitted by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the House of Commons. I think that amendment is an inconclusive one that will not settle the matter in the way that it ought to be settled. While it seems the height of presumption on my part to criticise the tactics which are being employed when I am 12,000 miles distant from the scene, the brief cable published in regard to the matter evidences to my mind a very inconclusive and untactful way of testing it. However that may be, this is no new idea on the part of Mr. Chamberlain. It is an old idea which is trotted out periodically. Mr. Huskisson suggested the same idea quite 100 years -ago. Later on there was a revival of the old fair-trade controversy, which produced Thomas Farrer’s book between 1S50 and 1860. But the question never gets beyond the academic stage. The moment it is introduced into Parliament, a blast of the people’s common sense is blown upon it and it is heard of no more. We may rest assured that the people of Great Britain will give the quietus to this latest proposal of Mr. Chamberlain, just as they have done to chimerical schemes before. To my mind the moment that Great Britain attempts to make a close trading corporation, that moment it will begin to disintegrate and its decay will set in. In view of the insular position of England, her difficult and bare natural resources, her increasing difficulties in competing with the more favoured parts of the world, I cannot conceive of her people consenting to a scheme which will have the effect of shutting them out from their natural markets.
– There are barriers against them everywhere.
– Itis wonderful how she has managed to get along so well all these years. If she is decaying it is marvellous that she has a revenue of over £130,000,000. For England, the ability to buy in other markets what she requires to maintain her manufacturing industries is her very life blood, and the moment any movement takes effect to put a ring fence round the Empire that moment her commercial supremacy will be threatened. Knowing these limitations, the people of England are not likely to go back to the old days from which she emerged triumphantly long ago. But I do not attach as much importance to these matters as do the advisers of the Governor-General. If they are “ extremely gratified “ at the pronouncement of one of the most acute politicians in England they are easily satisfied. No one applauds the eminent services which Mr. Chamberlain has rendered to the Empire more than I do, but for all that he is not the pure-minded statesman alone. He is also themost acute man in the British Empire to-day so far as electioneering dodges are concerned. I have already said that this session should close as speedily as possible in order that honorable members may go to the country and fight out that question, the raising of which the Prime Minister has already declared to be a crime against Australia. I notice one omission from this programme. No mention is . made of the benign benefits which have accrued to the Commonwealth in consequence of the Tariff.
– Be nine Why, they are fifty.
– The Age in which the Minister lives does not say so. The Age says that it is a bastard Tariff; that it satisfies nobody, and should be altered as soon as possible. The Prime Minister himself says that it is a botch.
– I have never said so.
– Does the Prime Minister adhere to that denial ?
– I do. If I had to chase and correct the erroneous reports of my speeches which appear in the Sydney and other newspapers, I should be doing nothing else all day.
– I think that the Prime Minister is almost the only man who would charge the Sydney Morning Herald with deliberate misreporting.
– I do not charge them with deliberate misreporting.
– This is what the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Prime Minister as saying, and it is what the Daily Telegraph also reports him as saying. Evidently there must be a conspiracy among all the newspapers to misrepresent the right honorable and learned gentleman’s utterances upon every conceivable occasion.
– Because two agree, is there conspiracy amongst all ?
– There are only four daily newspapers in Sydney, and I suppose that the same remark applies to all. The Prime Minister denounces the whole of them. Yet when he wants to attack the leader of the Opposition he is ready enough to do so on the reports of those very newspapers.
– I would accept his denial of their accuracy, and that courtesy is due to me.
– The Prime Minister did not accept his denial as to his remarks about taxation in Tasmania.
Siu Edmund Barton. - Yes, I did.
– The Prime Minister speaking at one place in his electorate is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have said -
The Opposition said that this Tariff is to be swept away and another one substituted. Under that the Opposition would fit a Tariff a little more of a botch thah they had succeeded in making this one.
– The quotation in itself is sufficient to show what the report is. “ Pit “ a Tariff - what does that mean ?
– The present Tariff, therefore, is a botch.
– Who says that 1
– The Sydney Morning Herald. I think the Minister knows it.
– Yes, it gives sixfortysevenths of the truth.
– I prefer to take the deliberate statement of the Sydney Morning Herald rather than the off-hand statement of the Prime Minister. I cannot believe that he remembers every word that he utters.
– I do not, but an expression like the one you. have quoted always strikes me.
– No public man can truthfully be held to remember all that he says. At any rate the Prime Minister has described his own Tariff as a botch.
– I have not. The Sydney Morning Herald’s discrepancy is not mine.
– The right honorable and learned gentleman went to some trouble to show that he kept faith with the Maitland manifesto. If the present Tariff keeps faith with that manifesto, then the Tariff in its original form did not.
– I claimed that the Tariff, as introduced, kept faith with the Maitland manifesto, and I said so here the other night.
– Then this Tariff does not.
– It lessens the value of the Tariff on the side of the maintenance of industries.
– This is the first time in the history of responsible government that I have known a Ministry content to accept such material alterations in a Tariff as were effected in their original production. It is the first time that a
Government have consented to more than £1,000,000 being cut away from a revenue of £9,000,000 by the vote of the House. If the Prime Minister is satisfied with the Tariff as it now stands, he must have been very much more satisfied with it in its original form. If he does not believe that it has been improved, and if - he holds that it has been made very much worse, the Government are under an obligation to re-open the question at the earliest possible moment, and to have it definitely settled once and for all.
– We have a better card than that.
– By the way, I have heard no mention of all the new industries which have sprung into existence as the result of the operation of the present Tariff. The Prime Minister talks about them very freely upon the platform–
– I can give the names of every one of them.
– Why, the first industry which the honorable member mentioned in his speech at Orange the other day was started and the money spent upon it before the introduction of the present Tariff.
– Let the honorable member ask the people who started it, and they will tell him a very different story.
– We do not need to ask anybody ; we live near the spot and know. The company that the honorable member has spoken of at Portland began operations eighteen months or two years before this Tariff was introduced.
– But it began operations immediately the Federal Ministry was established, and I can prove that.
– The honorable member may make the assertion, but he cannot prove it, because it is not a fact. That is the company which the honorable member places first amongst those represented in the £1,500,000 worth of industry ; but he says nothing about the industries which have been closed up in Sydney owing to the increased difficulty experienced in the purchase of raw material.
– Let the honorable member tell us about McMillan’s circular.
– Such a reference only shows the absolute poverty of argument to which honorable members on the Government side are reduced. They have to settle the whole fiscal policy of the continent by what is stated in an importer’s trade circular.
– Is that the only answer the honorable member can give to that circular 1
– I do not know anything about the circular ; I have never seen it. m
– We can give the honorable member 2,000 copies if he likes.
– I have no doubt the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has those circulars stored somewhere, seeing that he has quoted them throughout Victoria ; but if Victorian audiencies take that kind of political pabulum, they are easily satisfied.
– - New South Wales people will take it.
– It will be found that the people of New South Wales will not take such pabulum at the next election. A Tariff which satisfies nobody is a standing invitation to unrest so long as it remains in force. How can things be regarded as settled when everybody feels that we have only a temporary Tariff? The Ministry and the whole party behind them, together with the Age newspaper, and the protectionists of Australia, are practically saying - “ Give us a chance to feel our feet, and then we will alter the Tariff.” Does that show any prospect of -the peace for which traders are crying out ? What is really meant by the Government is - “Let us alone, and _as soon as we have got wind, and come back from the next election with the same free-trade votes that were given to us on a wrong basis at the last election, we will proceed further to undo the trading conditions of Australia.” The Government sneaked in the Tariff the last time, but they are not going to do so the next time. This botch, this imperfect Tariff, which satisfies no one, should be submitted for the approval of the people on its merits.
– Are the honorable member and the honorable member for Macquarie prepared to take the duty off cement ?
– If the honorable member addressed that question to some honorable members who have been supporting the Government it might have some point, which it has not when addressed to the honorable member for Macquarie and myself. The honorable member and myself have shown what we are prepared to do.
– A simple “yes” or “no” would answer the question.
– The honorable member would not be satisfied whichever way we answered it, and therefore we shall answer it in our own good time. To claim that the Tariff is one which satisfies the Government only writes them down as political opportunists who would do anything and sacrifice any policy in order to remain in office. I cannot conceive a Government sitting quietly down when its policy has been so mutilated, particularly a Government with such an overwhelming proportion of strength in the House. I could understand the position if it were a Ministry such as that with which the Prime Minister was at one time associated, and which remained in office for two years with a majority of one.
– The majority of one in that Parliament was never reached until after I left there. I think I may have been the one.
– That Ministry never had more than a majority of four.
– The majority was eight at one time.
– And that Government did more good with a majority of four than any Government with which the honorable member for Parramatta was associated could do with a majority of 40.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not think so at the time, because he could be heard bellowing like the bull of Bashan throughout the whole of that Ministerial career. I merely allude to this in order to suggest that the Prime Minister may have been led by that experience to his present loose habits concerning Ministerial responsibility. The Government sat still while the Tariff was torn to tatters and made a botch of. Indeed, the Tariff reminds me very much of the knife owned by a little boy, who said it was the same knife that had been owned by his father and his grandfather, except that it had two new blades and a new handle. The Tariff is in that sense the same Tariff, and is the result of a game of “pull devil, pull baker” in this House. It does not satisfy the Opposition, . nor does it satisfy the Government or their supporters, and the Ministry cry peccavi and plead to be left alone, on the ground that it would be a crime against Australia to re-open the question, knowing that the only result would be weakening of their prestige and position. But, from the point of view of Ministerial responsibility, and for the sake of the prospects of the commercial life of the community, the question should be settled once for all by the people with their eyes open - at the ballotbox. The Opposition intend, as far as lies in their power, that there shall be no more sneaking in of Tariffs, and if the people of New South Wales indorse the present imposts they will do so knowing what the proposals of the Government really are. That is all we ask, and the sooner the question is decided the better it will be for the future of Australia.
– I did not intend to speak on the address in reply, had it not been for the matter of the six hatters, which has excited considerable attention throughout the Commonwealth, and has, mainly at the hands of the press, been subject to more criticism than perhaps any other public question. I am supposed, at any rate by some of the newspapers, to have had some connexion with the stopping of these men from landing in New South Wales, and I consider that it is advisable that the facts of the case, from the point of view of the workers of Australia, should be put fairly before the House. The leader of the Opposition expressed the opinion that the Hatters Union could not be responsible for the action of one of its officers, and would repudiate it, in trying to obtain from the hatters a copy of the agreement under which they came to Australia. Further, it has been stated by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that if these men had been coming to Melbourne they would not have been prevented from landing. I am in a position to contradict statements made to that effect, and I can further inform the House that the rules of the English Union prevent men under contract from working in any union shop, so that had these hatters landed in England under circumstances similar to those of thS men whose cases we are considering, they would have had to find employment in some establishment not recognised by the union. The action of the union was taken exception to by the leader of the Opposition, but it must be remembered that these hatters were not the first who had arrived in New South Wales under agreement to Mr. Anderson since the Immigration Restriction Act was passed ; eight men had previously come out from England under agreement with Mr. Anderson. When that gentleman advertised for men, hatters from Victoria went to him, and others wrote to him offering their services, and it ought to be known that while the hatters who went from this State were given only two or three days’ work per week, the men under agreement worked full time. The union were informed that> Mr. Anderson distinctly said that he intended to use the men under agreement as a means to burst up the union and decrease wages, and it was then thought high time to interfere and stop him breaking the law, which both Mr. Anderson and the agreement men knew he was doing.
– Then the Government became the catspaw of the union.
– The eight men to whom I have referred were allowed to land because the Act was then not rightly administered. If the letters which had passed between the Acting Collector of Customs at Fremantle and the department of External Affairs were produced, it would be seen that the Act was not administered as it should have been, and as it is now administered in America. Altogether there were, I believe, thirteen persons previously allowed to come under agreement and start work with Mr. Anderson, and the whole circumstances show that there was no action on the part of any Melbourne organization with the object of preventing the progress of any Sydney industry.
– Do I understand that the Government had previously allowed men to come in under agreement 1
– The Government did not know the men were landed.
– And the fact was not pointed out to the Government 1
– Not when they arrived, but the fact was known to the Government when these six hatters arrived. The Sydney Hatters Union cabled to the general secretary of the English union on 1st December, 1901, informing him that no men under agreement would be allowed to join the Austraiian organization. That was done before the six hatters landed in Melbourne.
– Had they started from England 1
– Was the English secretary not informed that all agreements signed before a given date were to be recognised 1
– The cable stated that all agreements signed before the 1st December would be recognised by the Sydney union, and that cable was sent while the men were on the water. If honorable members see the agreement which was made between Mr. Anderson and these men, they will admit that it is very one-sided. I wish to point out how one-sided was the agreement which was made with the six hatters who landed in Sydney early in December compared with the agreement entered into by the boilermakers in England and the Western Australian Government. Those men, when they signed it, had no idea of the conditions obtaining in Australia at the time. Moreover, I believe they were well aware that they were breaking the law of the Commonwealth. The secretary to the Felt Hatters’ Association in England was warned in May last year that after the passing of the Act men coming to Australia under agreement would be prevented from landing. The society here has come in for a great deal of blame for the action which it is supposed to have taken. It has been asserted that they were behind the Government. But if any member of this House or any section of the community knows thatthe law is being broken, he orthey have a right to make the fact known to the authorities, and the newspapers which have denounced thesocietyfor what they did on that occasion are those who cry out most loudly aboutlaw and order. Toprovethatthesociety here did not object to the men coming out, but objected to the manner in which they had been brought out, I will read the first letter written in connexion with the case. The secretary of the society here knew that the Act was being administered by the Customs officials,, and consequently thought that the case should be brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs ; consequently he addressed that Minister first. His letter is as follows : -
May I be permitted to submit on behalf of my society the following questions : -
We offer no objection to the men as journeymen felt hatters, but strongly object to them under contract, as they receive regular work and wages, while men not so placed suffer from lost time arising from fluctuations of the demand for labour, thus giving these men undue advantage over all others.
The society did not set the law in motion until it found that its members were being penalized in Sydney, and were being compelled to walk about in order to find full employment for the contract men who were admitted in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Then they thought it time to interfere. The newspapers knew that thirteen individuals were admitted under contract to whom no exception was taken ; but that fact was notmade public. One section of the press of Melbourne, and the principal Sydney newspapers, we’re anxious to strike at the Government, and they saw an opportunity to do so in connexion with the action taken in regard to the hatters. It has been said that if the Prime Minister intended to release the men, he should have released them at once, without detaining them on board the ship. As a matter of fact, they were not detained on board the ship. I have heard from those who worked with them that they were allowed to go on shore every day, and that they never had such a good time before in their lives as when they were supposed to be in durance vile. When the Western Australian Government imported twelve boilermakers under contract the terms of the contract were very different. That contract specified what hours tlie nien should work, what wages they should be paid, and what the rate of overtime should be, and stated that if the men worked for a certain period they would not be charged for their passage out. The contract with the hatters was a very different one. It was in these terms -
In the first place there is no limitation there upon the number of hours to be worked per week, so that if the employer desired, he could compel the men to work the number of hours worked in England - 56£ hours per week or even a greater number if he so desired. Those were the hours worked there when I was in that country.
– There have been great changes since then.
– I have the rules of the society in my pocket, and if the honorable member likes to read them he will see that the hours worked in 1894 are the hours worked now. These men practically put themselves beyond the pale of their own union in signing the contract. Had they returned to England to work for any employer under agreement, they would not have been allowed to enter any union shop. The)- tried to take advantage of the fact that the union in Sydney is not very strong. When the press was making such a noise about the matter, it was stated that they had been promised by the trade organizations here a hearty welcome to Australia in February. At that time, however, the only organizations were those in Melbourne and Adelaide. There was none at all in Sydney until May, and I am positive that the men cannot produce any letter showing that a welcome was promised to any men under contract. I have looked through the association’s letterbook here to find if such a letter was sent, and I am satisfied that the only letter sent was the warning I have mentioned, enclosing a copy of the Immigration Restriction Act. A paragraph was published in the newspapers circulating in every felt hatter’s district, that men coming out here under contract would be breaking the law.
– They would not be breaking the law.
– I think that they would. Of the first batch of six hatters, two were practically unknown men, and their expertness is not sworn to in any affidavit produced to this House. Neither Mr. Anderson nor Mr. Sharpley would swear to-day what they swore then, that the men were experts such as could not be obtained in Australia, since some of them have already been displaced by other men who have gone over from Melbourne. The man whose clearance was read out by the leader of the Opposition was made foreman of a particular branch, but he was displaced by another man brought from this State to take his place, so he could not have given satisfaction in that position, and he has since gone to New Zealand. Honorable members can ascertain the accuracy of my statement by telegraphing to Sydney.
– Did he go to New Zealand of his own accord 1
– He is the man who was interviewed by the Sydney Daily Telegraph as to his expert ability and the qualifications he held, and who stated that he thought the country was a grand one, and that he would send for his son to come out, too. I presume that when he was displaced by a workman from this State, he preferred to leave Sydney rather than submit to the humiliation of being pointed out as the man about whom so much bragging was done. My object to-night is to show that the union was justified in the action they took. They were willing that men should come here to compete in the market on the same conditions as themselves, free to get their discharge, and to accept work in any shop they liked. The men in dispute preferred, however, to come out under a contract in which there is no stipulation to the effect that the union conditions either of England or of Australia shall be observed.
– Does the honorable member know that the union has been told that if it will pay the expense of bringing these men out here the contract will be cancelled, and that that offer is still open ?
– I have heard a rumour to that effect. But why did not the person who imported the men make a contract with them on terms similar to those contained in the Western Australian contract 1 I maintain that the organization of which I am a member was justified in the action it took, and that the Government was right in preventing the men from landing until theiremployer had asked for an exemption. He did not do so until 11th December, and the men were released on the 1 3th. But according to the facts in my possession, he was not entitled to obtain an exemption, and, to prove that statement I will read part of his statutory declaration -
My foreman in my hat factory, one Walter Sharpley, is an Englishman, and learned his trade and became an expert in felt hat making in England, and prior to writing to Messrs. Jepson Bros, us aforesaid, 1 consulted him and asked him to make a list of the best nien he knew of in England, in the branches of the felt hat making for which I required experts in my factory.
The said Walter Sharpley thereupon compiled a list of the best men he knew of in England, and whom he could recommend as thoroughly’ expert.
Of the twelve in all who were brought out under agreement, Sharpley has sworn that he knew only seven. Honorable members are mistaken if they think that only six were brought out. There were another six following those six. If you admit six men in. defiance of the provisions of the Act, you might as well abolish the law altogether, as to my mind there is no difference between six and sixty or six hundred, because you will afterwards have to admit every one who chooses to come.
– If they are able-bodied men they will be of value to the community.
– No doubt, but it is not right that we should allow them to come here under conditions which will tend to make things worse for those men who have been here for many years, and have helped to build up our industries. The Hatters Union were quite willing that any number of men should come in here, provide.d they were free to accept work wherever it might offer, and to leave any employment with which they might not be satisfied. The first letter which I read made that clear.
– And yet the unions were not prepared to permit men to freely pass from one country to another.
– Yes, they were, so long as the men were not under engagement. As a matter of fact, the men who came out here under contract could not pass freely from one State to another. They could not, for instance, leave New South Wales with a view to seeking more profitable employment in Victoria.
– According to the honorable member’s own story, one of them went to New Zealand.
– Yes, but he ran away, and could, if his employer had chosen, be brought back again and compelled to work. I believe that the workers should have the same free conditions as the honorable and learned member for Werriwa would desire to see apply to the importation of goods. I hold that a workman should be free to go where he chooses, and to sell his labour as he likes, and to obtain the best conditions possible, and that he should also be protected against entering into agreements which would prevent him from siding with his fellow-workers in time of trouble.
– Would the honorable member permit apprentices to be bound 1
– Yes : apprentices are bound under indentures in the hat trade all over the world so as to learn the trade properly.
– Then they are not free.
– I believe that even in the profession which is adorned by the honorable and learned member apprentices, or their equivalent, have to be bound under articles. Mr. Sharpley says, with regard to the first six nien, that he knew only four of them. He says -
I know, and am well acquainted, with Messrs. Joseph Joules, Frank Pollitt, Fred. ‘ Davies, and William Gee, who are at present detained on the ship Orontes in the port of Sydney, having worked and been associated with them as a felt hatmaker in England.
Of my own knowledge of these men, I say that they are each specially qualified as felt hat makers, and are skilled artisans in that industry.
If the leader of the Opposition had been attacking the Government for admitting the hatters, he would not have failed to point out that the evidence upon which they were adjudged to be specially qualified was utterly insufficient. At least two of them were not known as experts.
– But they held the union certificates.
– Yes, but that only showed that they were members of the union. The honorable member’ for North Sydney remarked that the Hatters’ Union had practically made an attempt to “ boss “ the Prime Minister, but that was not correct. They became aware that the law was being broken, and they considered it their duty to bring the fact under the notice of the Prime Minister, and to ask him to enforce the Act. The union officials did not object to the introduction of workmen, but they had strong reasons for opposing any wholesale importation of men under fixed agreement. Mr. Anderson himself said that he was arranging for. the introduction of several more batches of men to follow the six regarding. whom all the fuss was made, and the union in the light of their knowledge at the time took an absolutely straightforward course, which subsequent events fully justified.
– They entertained the men and extracted their agreements from their pockets.
– I do not know whether they entertained the men or not. As a matter of fact, I was not in Melbourne at the time, and I did not see any of the papers regarding this particular question until they were placed on the table of the House, with the exception of one letter which was sent to the Minister at a late stage of the trouble, after a deputation of employers had asked him to break, the law. The party of “law and order “ had no hesitation in asking the Prime Minister to set aside the law when they thought it was operating to their disadvantage. With reference to the second batch of six men, Mr. Sharpley says -
I know and am well acquainted with Messrs. Arthur Wood, Sam Grimshaw, and William Taylor, . . . having worked and been associated with them for many years as a felt hat maker in England. . .1 am also informed by Mr. Albert Booth, of Sydney, foreman finisher, that he personally knows and is well acquainted with Messrs. Alfred Kennedy and James Redfern.
That is a nice sort of declaration to accept as evidence regarding the fitness of these men for admission to the Commonwealth under special engagement, and would not be accepted in any court as evidence, and I can imagine how the leader of the Opposition would have pulled these statements to pieces if he had been attacking the Government from a stand-point opposite to that adopted by him. There was no reason for bringing these men into the Commonwealth, because there was a sufficiency of labour already here. There is no desire on the part of the Hatters’ Union to retain the work for themselves, but they want any tradesman who comes here to be at liberty to pass freely from shop to shop, or from State to State ; and they consider they were justified in fighting for a principle. The public have been entirely misled in this matter. The union men were not actuated by motives of jealousy, nor did they desire to prevent the hatmaking industry from being established in Sydney. On the contrary, they are most anxious that hat factories should flourish there, as their position will be improved if other factories are started, where they can go for employment. I went to Sydney as a member of the union and formed a branch organization there last May, and one of the men who came out in the second batch from England happens to be a high official of the Sydney union at the present time. We have nothing against the men. All the union were anxious to do was to prevent the law from being broken with impunity, and to guard against the country being glutted with labour under conditions which would tend to the disadvantage of those already settled here. Under the terms of the agreement the men could be compelled to work for any number of hours.
– Nonsense. The honorable member knows very well that could not happen under the provisions of the Arbitration Act in operation in New South Wales.
– The Arbitration Act does not regulate the number of hours to be worked by the men in the hat trade. No doubt if the honorable and learned member for Werriwa had had his way it would not have been necessary to introduce even six hatters into New South. Wales. The industry there has been encouraged by the protective duties, and it must be a matter of surprise to free-traders that a much larger number of manufactories have not been established, because they predicted that the duties which were imposed under the Tariff would prove prohibitive, and that local manufacturers would enjoy a most profitable monopoly. However, the position has not developed as was expected, as we only find one factory started in New South Wales, and the predictions of members of the Opposition during the Tariff debate have not come true. It was said that these men were required because of their possession of special knowledge and skill, but it is singular that whilst they were being engaged at £3 per week, Mr. Anderson was offering £3 10s. per week to men employed in Victoria with a view to secure their services. The honorable member for Gippsland said that there could be no objection to the introduction of these men, because there was no industrial dispute in progress at the time, but disputes might be very easily brought about by introducing men under the conditions which obtained in the case under notice. Under the terms of the agreement the men can be dispensed with at any time that the employer may consider their work to be faulty. There is no appeal from his decision, and thus he could, upon the most trifling pretext, get rid of the most expert men in the world. That would be the best way of bringing about a dispute, and the Government not only did right in detaining those men, but in my judgment they should have required furtherevidence before admitting them atall. I would further point out that no action was taken to bring pressure to bear upon the Government by any section of workers in the community. The Employers’ Federation, however, waited upon the Prime
Minister on the 16 th December, and urged him to override the law upon this matter. By the way, Mr. Walpole, the secretary of that association, who, I am informed, receives £1,000 a year, goes about the country as a paid agitator, preaching against conciliation and arbitration, and endeavouring to create disturbances. It was this gentleman who made a statement at Lilydale, when speaking there against the Factories Act, that marriage was a luxury for the workers, as were also “ long sleevers,” attending theatres, and the like, and that it was not fair to compel employers to pay for such things. This paid agitator receives £.1,000 a year for stirring up trouble between employer and employe. Yet when the workers dared to engage a paid lecturer for a few months the honorable member for Gippsland denounced the proceeding, and declared that the labour organizations obtained the best men they could from abroad. He stated that the workers had no right to adopt that course.
– Did lt Look at Hansard.
– I was remarking that the Employers Federation, if its members hold the same views as those entertained by its secretary, were anxious that these hatters should be kept in the position of bondsmen, and that all Arbitration and Conciliation Acts should be swept away or not brought into operation, because they know the workers are likely to obtain justice there, and they know that under such an Act the condition of the workers- would be improved. Indeed, at a later stage, they urged the Prime Minister not to introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill during the present year. Then it was that the Hatters Union appeared, for the first time and asked tlie Prime Minister to enforce the provisions of the Act.
– Did not the Union send in an agreement before that ?
– They sent in letters pointing out what was going on, and that the law was being broken. The deputation from the Hatters Union did not wait on the Prime Minister until after the first six hatters had been admitted. Consequently, there was no reason for the outcry which has been made against the union. If honorable members had known the full facts of the case they would not have been led away by the press upon that particular matter.
– The Prime Minister stopped the men at the bidding of the Hatters Union. The Minister for Trade and Customs knew all about it.
– He did not. The first official intimation which the Prime Minister received was from Mr. Baxter, sub-collector of customs, Sydney, who is neither a member of the labour party nor of the Hatters Union.
– I gained my information without either seeing or hearing from the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The Prime Minister took action before he had been approached by the Hatters Union. But seeing that these men were coming to Australia under an agreement, members of that organization had a right to petition against their admission. The honorable member for the Grampians stated last night that we had a- right to admit as many people as chose to come here under contract. I join issue with him upon that point. I have as much consideration for the man who is free to sell his labour in any ‘ factory, the men who are settled here, who have brought up families here, and some of these are unemployed to-day, as I have for the individual who is bound to one employer, and if the honorable member for the. Grampians is true to his free-trade principles, he should believe in the worker being able to sell his labour to the best possible advantage for himself. These men admitted that they had no idea of the conditions obtaining here. Why was no provision made in their agreements in regard to the question of overtime or that union conditions would be observed? Probably it was because the employer was anxious to work them longer hours, and give them only £3 per week.
– Tho Arbitration Act would prevent that, and the honorable member knows it.
– The society was not registered under the Arbitration Act. The employer could compel them to adhere to the conditions of the agreement.
– The men could compel the employer to pay them, irrespective of whether or not they were employed.
– It does not say so in the agreement. The agreement distinctly states that holidays will not be paid for. . The men themselves admitted that if they had been aware of the conditions prevailing they would have come here as free men. Had they done so, even if they had been out of employment for twelve months, not one of the newspapers which created such a fuss about the matter would have uttered a word in their favour. When I came to Australia from England, I walked the streets for about twelve weeks, and the newspapers did not publish a word in ray favour. But, because they were anxious to discredit the Government, they gave a great amount of publicity to this matter, and refused to print the full facts. Indeed, I was interviewed by a representative of one of the newspapers, and I told him that these hatters were not the first who had come to Australia under special contract. Did the newspaper in question publish that fact 1 Certainly not ! The press were anxious to make it appear that it was against all British tradition to exclude the men, when, as a matter of fact, I believe that a similar law operates in Canada. I know that similar legislation exists in America ; there the authorities are very particular about asking a man whether or not he is under contract. That practice has led to a lot of lying, just as I have heard that many merchants have lied with regard to certain invoices which have comebeforethe Customs authorities. These merchants might have aimed at the truth, but, if so, they were very bad shots. Before closing, I wish to say a few words in reference to the question of the promised Navigation Bill. I regret that the Government have not given more prominence to that measure. Last night the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, told the House that the mail vessels which come to Australia remain here only a week or a fortnight, and that we have no right to ask them to pay their seamen the Australian rate of wages. But I would point out that upon some vessels, which trade on our coast to the detriment of Australian ships, the crew are frequently shipped at the Islands. In this connexion, I might instance the Dean line, which has been trading here, month after month, to the detriment of our own shipping. I trust that, if time permit, the Government will endeavour to pass some sort of navigation law, though not for the sake of the employers, who are quite able to fight their own battles. If the present unfair competition is allowed, the rate of wages for Australian sailors will probably come down. Only last December our firemen and seamen had to suffer a reduction in wages of 10s. per month on this account. Some protection ought to be afforded to our shipping industry, which, I believe, employs a greater number of men than any any other industry we have. When the honorable member for Bland was referring to the agreement between the Defence department and the. Colonial Ammunition Company, felt that it would be very desirable for a copy of that agreement to be laid on the table before it is finally adopted.
– That will be done.
– I know something of the conditions which obtain in the works of the Colonial Ammunition Company under the present management, and I am anxious to see more protection afforded to the employes. Not many years ago an accident occurred there, and during the consequent excitement many facts were brought out in the press which were not creditable to the estblishment. I should prefer to see the ammunition required for the defence forces manufactured by the State, so that we could then regulate the conditions of labour. Last night the honorable member for Grampians said he hoped that the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act regarding the mail service would receive attention, and that the inconvenience arising from the recent strike on the Victorian railways would not’ be allowed to recur. In that hope I join, and I trust that the Government will go further and carry a . Conciliation and Arbitration Bill this session. Honorable members may say that the Victorian railway strike was a State trouble, but I believe that either the Supreme Courts of the States or the High Court when established, would rule that such a dispute did extend beyond the limits of any one State, seeing that the people of New South Wales and South Australia were prevented from travelling by rail, and had to resort to water communication. The honorable member for Wentworth, speaking on a motion submitted by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne last session, in favour of the Commonwealth acquiring power to make laws regulating the conditions of labour, said-
Since we met in the Federal Convention, which framed this Commonwealth Constitution, there has been a very considerable evolution of thought with regard to certain matters that were then discussed. I confess myself, that by reflection, and by listening to arguments, to be more convinced than previously of the necessity of including certain powers in the Commonwealth which we decided to leave in the States.
These remarks were made on. the question of fixing the rates of wages, hours, and conditions of labour. The honorable member for New England on the same occasion, said -
I have always regarded itasa misfortune that the Constitution Act did not provide that the question of conciliation and arbitration, and the regulation of wages, and conditions of labour generally, should be left as matters for the sole control of the Federal Parliament.
– It was a great mistake.
In any case, I trust the Government will at an early opportunity introduce a Bill to prevent any recurrence of troubles, similar to that lately experienced in Victoria, and I hope that during this session we will be able to do something to prevent a recurrence of this dispute, and bring about better conditions for all employes in the Commonwealth.
– I have always regarded the debates on the Address in Reply as, to a great extent, a waste of time, unless there was a motion of want of confidence before the House. On the present occasion, however, I think the debate is a little more important than usual, seeing that we are a new Parliament legislating for a number of federated States. In a short time we shall have to give an account of our stewardship, and it seems to me that some of the few measures we have passed will call for hard names from those for whom we have been legislating. There are two measures which most prominently stand forward, namely, the Tariff and the Immigration Restriction Act. The Prime Minister, in his addresses in the different States, has always urged that the Tariff should be left alone in order that the people may have an opportunity of seeing how it works. He has also, I understand, claimed it, in its present form,astheresultof his Maitland speech ; but we, onthissideof theHouse, have alsoa strong claim to be regarded as contributors to the Tariff as finally passed. In fact, I may describe the position as an alliance between a young free-trade father and an old decrepit protectionist mother. The result of that alliance is a child, of which the free-trade father is thoroughly and utterly, ashamed, while the protectionist mother, knowing full well that from her age and other circumstances, she will never have another, is determined to preserve her bantling to the utmost of her ability. My own opinion is that, as a result of the next election campaign, the protectionist bantling will die, more particularly when the Australians come to realize what they are called upon to pay as a result of its birth. I do not know whether honorable members have realized the result of this protective Tariff, and I desire to call their attention to the item of sugar. Owing to the protection given to the manufacturers or producers of sugar, the amount which the people have to pay, and which does not go to the benefit of the revenue, is over £500,000 per annum. I have carefully gone into the matter, and I find that there are, in round numbers, 8,000 persons deriving benefit from the sugar industry, and honorable members know thatthere is an excise duty of £3 per ton, and a duty of £6 per ton on sugar coming in from outsidesources.
– That is on cane sugar.
– So far as sugar grown by black labour is concerned, the cost practically amounts to the same as that on cane sugar produced outside Australia. I understand that a rebate will be allowed on sugar grown by white labour during the twelve months to the amount of £60,000, or about £2 per ton on 30,000 tons of sugar. There are something like 160,000 tons of sugar produced in Queensland and New South Wales.
– No ; that is the con- . sumption.
– The honorable member for Gippsland last night stated that £60,000 was being paid to the producers of sugar by white labour, and. that when the kanakas were deported in the course of some six years, the whole of the sugar produced, which I understand is 160,000 tons
– I said that about 170,000 tons would be the total consumption.
– Then the Ministerought to have told the House how much sugar is going to be produced in Australia, or otherwise, why was £340,000 mentioned as the amount the Customs were going to lose when the full rebate was allowed 1 At the present moment, in order to encourage the growth of sugar by white labour, and to encourage the growth of sufficient to meet our own requirements, the manufacturer is at present receiving practically a bonus of £3 per ton. Imported sugar is being landed and sold throughout Australia at practically 10s. per ton less than the price at which the Australian sugar is sold, though it is a fact that in certain cases the. price is the same.If imported sugar can be brought in, duty paid, and sold at such prices, then local producers ought to be able to supply the community at £17 or £17 10s. per ton. If the local producers bring the price up to the same as that of the imported sugar, it means that the people of Australia are paying to a small section of the community something like £500,000 per annum, and that payment will go on so long as the present duty continues. We were told that this is a bonus to the growers of Queensland and New South Wales.
– It is a bonus for the abolition of black labour.
– But the question arises whether we can do without black labour; and in the meantime, until the kanaka goes, the consumer is paying £3 per ton more for sugar than there is any necessity to pay. The Immigration Restriction Bill has excited great indignation over a large portion of Australia. I do not suppose that such a Bill would have been allowed to pass had it been thought that it would be administered as the Government have administered it. From a return laid on the table on the evening before last I find that 680 persons applied for admission under this Act. Of those, 633 were rejected because they were not able to comply with the education test, which consisted in asking them to write a certain number of words consecutively. No fewer than 33 of the men rejected were white men, and I am sorry to say “that three or four of them were British. Now, we know that it is. only within the last few years that the governments of the various countries of the world have devoted much time and trouble to the education of their peoples, and that there are, therefore, a number of very able and intelligent men who in their youth had no opportunity to acquire the art of reading and writing. It may thus have happened that men who would have made good colonists were rejected because they were not educated. But although 33 white men were rejected because they could not pass the test, the same number of coloured men were admitted because they could read and write. Therefore it seems to me that the test is worse than useless.
– Does the honorable member say that, when he knows that 630 coloured people were rejected ?
– I and another honorable member were the only two who strongly objected to the provisions of the Act. It is true that I supported the Government in providing for an education test rather than a colour test, but I did so upon the principle that of two evils one should chose the lesser. When the measure was under consideration I told the House that I was prepared to limit the number of Chinese and Japanese who could come here, not because I was afraid that the people of those races would come here in such numbers as to reduce wages, but because I felt that if they came here, and increased to large proportions, they might eventually menace the safety of Australia. I am, however, no believer in the “white Australia” cry. I told honorable members that I saw no reason why, in order to provide for the continuance of the sugar industry, an arrangement should not be made with the British authorities in India for bringing a certain number of Hindoos or other men of Indian race here under agreement to work in the fields, to be sent back when their term of service had expired. Parliament, however, passed the Act which we now have on our statute book, and the result was the very unpleasant incident which has been so much discussed. It was sought to refuse admission to men belonging to the British race who were in every respect desirable immigrants.
– Can the honorable member refer to a case in which such men have been refused admission ?
– The men I allude to were not allowed to land as British subjects ought to have been allowed to land in what is practically a British country.
– Notwithstanding the law !
– If they had been felons or malefactors the law might very well have been put into force against them, but they were refused admission simply because they came out under an agreement by which, although they may not have contracted for the high rate of wages now prevailing in Australia, they were to receive better wages than they were being paid in England. That having happened, I think the sooner the Act is removed from the statute-book the better, and I trust the leader of the Opposition, or some other honorable member, will, before the session closes, take steps to secure its repeal, now that we have seen the mistake which we have made. A short Act dealing with aliens such as the Chinese, would answer all purposes, and would place Australia in a higher position in the -eyes of the civilized world. With regard to the proposals contained in the Governor General’s speech, there are one or two which I shall cordially support. I have always held that, Australia being an island continent, a fleet is a form of insurance to us, so that we could not do better than, so to speak, subsidize the British authorities, if they require a subsidy, to provide for our defence. I do not see that great prominence has been given in the speech to the arrangement for the taking over of New Guinea by the Commonwealth. I presume that what we agreed to last session will be ratified, and I ask honorable members who made such a howl about a white Australia a few months ago how they will reconcile their position then with their unanimous approval of the proposal to take over New Guinea ? We have been told that if we allow aliens to come into Australia we shall have a piebald population ; but if New Guinea is incorporated in the Commonwealth the time must come when its people must be admitted to all the rights and privileges of citizens of the Commonwealth, because it will be colonized largely by men who have gone from Australia. When New Guinea contains a large population of white people, we shall be unable to refuse them the franchise. We cannot say to them - “So long as you remain in New Guinea you will be regarded as aliens, and will have no voice in the framing of the laws of Australia.” They will demand, and we shallbe compelled to yield, the privileges which are enjoyed by our own people. But another difficulty arises. As a rule when men go to countries which are inhabited by coloured people, they to a certain extent carry their lives in their hands, and most of them go unmarried. But if they settle in such a country they often in course of time make alliances with the natives amongst whom they live, and in this way a mixed population is created. How can the Commonwealth call itself a “ white Australia “ when it has within its borders such a population as must spring up in New Guinea 1 The thing is absurd. I do not intend to discuss the other Bills on the programme, because there are many other honorable members who wish to address the House ; but I desire to say that I thoroughly approve of the intention of the leader of the Opposition to endeavour to obtain at the next general elections an opinion from the country as to whether we should adopt a protective or a free-trade policy. As the honorable member for Parramatta has said, honorable members were to a certain extent . returned under false pretences at the last elections. Many of them were returned, not because of their fiscal opinions, but because they had occupied important positions in the State Ministries and Parliaments, and it was felt by the electors that the ablest men offering should be chosen. The Government have succeeded in passing a very hybrid Tariff, and one which is, I think, unsatisfactory to both parties. I have always been a revenue tariffist. I could not, like an honorable gentleman who spoke yesterday, reconcile f ree-trade opinions with the advocacy of a duty upon potatoes and oats. The furthest I have gone in the direction of protection - if I can be said to have gone in that direction at all - is in voting for the Bonus Bill when it first came before us. I voted then for the payment of bonuses for a certain limited period. When the Bill came before us on the second occasion, I voted against it, because it had been altered in an important particular. I trust that the battle of free-trade and protection will be fought out to the bitter end. No doubt, honorable members opposite would like the present Tariff to continue in force for a little while to see how it works. I have already shown what the consumer has to pay on sugar, and how he is being robbed. If all the sugar consumed in Australia were locally produced, the manufacturers would be able to pocket the duty of £6 per ton, and the consumers would have to pay £800,000 within a few years. Referring to the question of revenue tariffism, as distinguished from protection, I still feel very sore at the attitude assumed by the leader of the free-trade party with regard to the tea duties. I hold that as a revenue tariffist it was his duty to have supported that impost. One of the arguments used by the right honorable and learned gentleman was . that as duties were being levied upon nearly everything, and New South Wales would receive a far larger amount of revenue than it required, he did not feel justified in supporting the tea duty. Whilst, however, the Prime Minister, on various occasions, has twitted the leader of the Opposition upon his attitude, I say that ten times more blame attaches to the Government for the action they took. If the Government had desired to study the’ interests of the smaller States, they should have calledtheir supporters together and told them that the imposition of the tea duty was a matter of policy by which they would stand or fall, and that if the interests of the smaller States were not studied to the extent they regarded as necessary, they would hand in their resignations. If they had taken this attitude a large majority of the Government supporters would have stood by them, and the duty would have become the law of the land. They, however, left their supporters to . do as they pleased, and in spite of the support received from ten members of the Opposition the duty was defeated. Their action was neither more nor less than a sop to the labour party. If it were not so, why in the name of decency was not the duty dealt with in the order in which it appeared upon the Tariff? It was dangled like a carrot at the nose of the donkey, and the donkey followed it and eventually had the pleasure of devouring it. Without detaining the House at any further length, I will conclude by venturing to hope that the remarks which I have made will bear fruit in due season.
– Whilst I highly appreciated the strong and eloquent speech of the honorable member for Gippsland, I cannot say that I was fully in agreement with him. I cannot support the high eulogium he passed upon the Prime Minister’s speech. I quite agree that that deliverance was excellent, but excellent only in passages. Like the curate’s egg, it was good in parts, but the parts which were bad, were exceedingly objectionable. The right honorable gentleman offered the weakest defence I ever heard, even from a barrister-at-law, in regard to his statements made during the recess as to the action of the Opposition in the case of the tea duty, and in relation to the Immigration Restriction Act. He had the audacity to endeavour tq support these statements, although, as has been pointed out, a larger proportion of the members of the Opposition than of the Ministerial supporters voted for the tea duty.
– Is it not a fact that a number of members of the Opposition led the Government to believe they would vote for the duty, and then were wheedled into opposing it ?
– I do not know whether that is a fact or not, but I am not prepared to believe it. I know that when the division came on, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was looking for the Attorney-General, because that Minister had left the House in the face of an important division without pairing. It was a particularly audacious thing for the Prime Minister to say that there was an alliance between the Opposition and the labour party to defeat the Immigration Restriction Act, and it savoured very much of ingratitude on his part not to acknowledge that six members of the Opposition had actually saved the measure from defeat. Then, again, the Prime Minister made use of base insinuations as to the. motives which prompted the Opposition in certain criticisms of the administration. He declared that the Opposition was influenced in its criticism of the Customs administration by a desire to aid the rich importers. He further said that they were induced by a disposition in favour of black labour to adversely comment upon the Government action in regard to the Immigration Restriction Act. He said that they were prompted, not by honest motives, but by spiteful feeling against the Government. He charged them with having in some mysterious way originated and spread the reports in regard to the rejection of the six hatters, which caused such a commotion throughout the British Empire. That statement has been fully answered by one of the Prime Minister’s supporters, who condemned the action of the administration in the strongest possible terms. The Hon. Henry Copeland, the Agent-General of New South Wales, who is reported to have stated that the refusal to admit the hatters into the Commonwealth had created a bad effect in England, is a protectionist supporterof thePrimeMinister, and protectionists throughout Australia we re at one with the free-traders in condemning that, action. I do not intend to re-warm victuals that have become cold during recess, but I must deal with certain acts of administration in connexion with the Customs and with the Immigration Restriction Act, because, owing to the Prime Minister’s insinuations, it is necessary to give good reasons, instead of the bad ones suggested by him, for the attitude of the Opposition in each case. In the first place, however, I desire to allude to some of the leading features of the Governor-General’s speech. The Prime Minister stated that the leader of the Opposition had discovered very little in the speech from the Throne with which he could find fault. The explanation lies in the fact that nearly all the proposals are with regard to machinery measures required to bring into force those provisions of the Constitution, to which effect has not yet been given. In this category I include the High Court Bill, the New Guinea Government Bill, the provision to be made for the direct representation of the Commonwealth in London by a High Commissioner, a uniform Patent Law, and the proposal to create an Inter-State Commission. The Defence Bill is also a machinery measure, although it is being brought forward very late in the day. The work outlined in the speech is no doubt altogether too much to be dealt with in one session. Some of those proposals which donot come within the description I have given are not open to criticism until we have seen the Bills when they are brought before the House. With regard to the High Court Bill, the proposed appointment of a High Commissioner in London and the Inter-State Commission Bill, I desire to say that whilst I am as anxious as is any other honorable member of this House to limit the expenditure of the Commonwealth, I shall support these proposals, if a good case can be made out for them. Regarding the Inter-State Commission I have no hesitation in saying that if the proposed Bill is founded on the provisions of the measure which was introduced last session, it will have my opposition. I cannot agree to the absolutely unnecessary expense that would be involved in bringing every common carrier throughout Australia - every bullock driver who crosses from one State to another, and every steamer that navigates our coasts - as well as the railways, under the control of that commission. I admit that there seems to be some necessity for the creation of the commission, because preferential rates exist upon the railways in absolute contravention of the Constitution. These rates are really a substitute for the inter-State customs duties, which have been abolished, and we must adjust matters as soon as possible.
– The fight is now at the railway stations instead of at the Customhouses.
– Yes ; it is as the Minister says. At the same time, I do not think we should go further than Ls absolutely necessary. We should appoint a commission upon the cheapest possible basis, and restrict its work within the closest possible limits. If, in future, it is found necessary to extend the functions of the commission, we may introduce Bills referring other matters to its jurisdiction. With regard to the federal capital site, I am entirely in accord with the terms of the Governor-General’s speech, and I hope that the Government will see the necessity and justice of pressing this matter to a decision during the present session. The honorable member for Gippsland alluded to the heavy new taxation which all the States would bear in connexion with certain matters which he mentioned. One of these was that of the sugar excise. But in this connexion it should be remembered that, although the total of his figures was a large one, it does not approach the extra taxation to which New South Wales had to submit to enter the Federation. Nearly £1,500,000 additional taxation had to be paid by the people of that State as a consequence of it entering the Federal union.
– They had need of it, too.
– They did not need it, but like many other people, when they found their hands full of money they became spendthrifts, and incurred expenditure after expenditure until, instead of a surplus, they had a deficiency. That they did not need it was evidenced by the fact that they were before well able to carry on without it. To induce them to accept this burden and consent to the bond of union, provision was made in the Constitution that the capital site should be in . New South Wales territory. That was recorded in the bond, and is one of the reasons why the site should be selected at the earliest possible moment. Then there is the matter of the establishment of Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration. I am fully impressed with the desirableness of avoiding those contests between capital and labour which eventuate in strikes ; but I have yet to learn how the combined powers of legislation on the part of the States and of the Commonwealth are going to work in unison upon this matter. I think it would have been better to await the results of the working of the Acts in the different States, to ascertain if they require amendment, and then for the Commonwealth to obtain the consent of the States to deal with the whole question.
– The need for amendment has now been pretty well indicated.
– I do not think that all the points which require amendment have been indicated. In addition to the clashing of legislative power, I am afraid that we may encourage the frequency of disputes by the multiplicity of courts. I am afraid that there will be a tendency both on the part of masters and men, when defeated in the State court, to take their case into the Federal court. Again, when a decision has been given in the Federal court in regard to an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of a State, either side may create trouble in one of those States, and the arbitration court of that State may give an entirely different decision from that of the Federal court. Of course, it is possible that the Minister may have found a means to overcome these difficulties, but if his proposals, instead of reducing industrial disputes, are likely to increase them, I shall not be found supporting him. I need not enter largely into a discussion of the naval defence question, because I agree with those who have so ably supported the contribution to the Imperial Government. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, in their opposition to that subsidy, both made a strong point of the fact that if we commit ourselves to such a contribution, we shall eventually be committed to bearing our full proportion - on whatever basis it may be determined - of the expenditure necessary for the naval defence of the Empire. I do not think that that question arises at the present stage. If it comes to that, we are already committed, because we already contribute.
– Only the States contribute.
– The .Commonwealth itself has contributed. The only thing which we are now asked to do is to contribute a little more than we have done previously, and I think there is reason for that. If we are to contribute at all, I think the amount for which the Government are asking is certainly not too much. In my opinion, it is even too little. We must also remember that all the schemes for local defence which are put forward by experts differ entirely. What one says is necessary another declares is unnecessary. One would employ heavily-armed vessels for defence of our harbors and offings, whilst another recommends cruisers to keep off the fast armoured vessels which might attack our commerce at sea. Which of these plans are we to adopt 1 To my mind, we require more knowledge of what is required and of the important developments which are at present going on in the way of naval warships. At the end of ten years, when this agreement expires, if there be then any sound reason for establishing an Australian navy, we shall be in a better position owing to the expiration of the Braddon clause to undertake the necessary expenditure.
– This agreement will never expire unless we terminate it by a deliberate act.
– Surely, if we have the option of ending it we can do so if we wish.
– It continues for ten years, and may be terminated by two years’ notice at the end of eight years.
– Precisely. If we do not see fit to terminate it, I presume it will be because it is to our own interests to continue it. The adjustment proposed of the rebate of the sugar excise duty I shall be prepared to consider when the Ministry bring forward the Bill relating to it. I know that the proposal will confer an advantage upon the State which I represent, but I am quite willing to consider other States in the matter; and, if I see good reason to oppose it, the fact that it will benefit New South Wales will not weigh with me. Another measure which is foreshadowed in the dim and distant future, and which, I suppose, is intended as the piece de resistance for the elections, is the Navigation and Shipping Bill. I am very doubtful of the efficacy of such a measure. It seems to me that it is intended to support what is already growing on our coast - a shipping ring and, whilst a measure to deal with rings and trusts is also promised by the Government, I think it will be found very difficult to handle that question in such a Bill. I do not suppose that the Minister will attempt to lay it down that the rates shall sot be uniform, and if they are uniform I think this Bill will fail to operate, as similar measures ‘have done elsewhere. The only other matter to which I wish to allude is that of preferential trade. I notice that the reference to this question is put very gently in the Governor-General’s speech, which reads -
My advisers observe with gratification recent utterances of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, advocating the encouragement of trade relations between various parts of the Empire.
If we can judge from the telegraphed reports of Mr. Chamberlain’s utterance - and I do not think we should hold him to them until the full text of his speech is available - it is not encouragement of trade, but compulsion of trade at which he aims. The idea_ is that trade shall be compelled to go in a certain direction. Now, I have a great suspicion of the compulsion of trade in any form. Just as the leader of the Opposition, in quoting Mr. Gladstone, said that we have been left free to buy our experience in any market, so we have been left free to buy or sell, our goods in any market. That is a privilege for which we ought to be grateful, and one which we ought to hesitate before we give up. Under the new system, if it is ever adopted, we shall not be able to decide a Tariff for ourselves in what we consider the best interests of our own country. Word will come from Great Britain and other parts of the Empire that we must not do this or that, or retaliatory steps will be taken. Instead of offering, as it is supposed to offer, grounds for more cordial relationship between the mother country and her daughters, the system offers every opportunity for dissension, disagreement, and perhaps disruption, and its adoption would be the entering on a very dangerous course. I am at one with the honorable member for Parramatta - who put the matter so well - in having no belief that Great Britain will adopt such a system. What would ‘it mean? According to the telegrams it means, not merely arrangement with the States of Australia and other parts of the Empire, but it also means concessions to, in return for concessions from, the other powers of Europe. That implies a Tariff so extensive and so high in Great Britain that I do not believe for a moment the people there will entertain any such proposal. As to the questions of administration to which I have alluded, I should have liked to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs before I spoke, so that I might know, after his tour through the States and his experience at different meetings - very pleasant experience for the most part - and, after his interviews with different Chambersof Commerce, to what extent he is prepared to modify that administration of the Customs which has met with criticism so severe. I shall, however, have to do without the assistance which would have been rendered by that speech. In regard to the remark of the Prime Minister, about rich importers and poor sailors, I have to say that we are bound to look at this question apart altogether from the richness or poverty of those concerned. We desire to see even-handed justice extended to all, and to see no unnecessary interference with trade and commerce, which are the life blood of the community.
– So long as trade is honestly conducted.
– I quite agree with that remark. I am afraid that in this, as in other matters, Ministers who get extreme powers are inclined to use them to the fullest extent not only in extreme cases, but in the most ordinary cases. In Sydney the Minister for Trade and Customs alluded, rather unkindly, perhaps, to a member of one of these Houses, whose speeches, he said, were like the reading of tlie Riot Act, inasmuch as every one fled when they began. I do not think that was a justifiable remark, but rather that the Minister and others would have found a great deal of benefit by staying to hear the speeches.
– I said the speeches were as good as the Riot Act or “ God Save the King.”
– If we gave the Minister a Riot Act he would read it at every street discussion, judging from the way in which he administers the powers already invested in him. These powers are not extraordinary, but may be found in many Customs Acts.
– The Minister says that he is the only honest Minister for
Customs there has ever been in Australia.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– We will accept it that the Minister is an honest, though not the only honest, Minister. Some of these powers were given to the Minister before the Federal Tariff came into force, when he was administering the State Tariffs. How is it that they were never exercised then %
– For a verv good reason in Victoria.
– I am not speaking of Victoria ; there are others States which have equally drastic provisions of the kind. When we gave the Minister the powers under, the Federal Act, it was understood he would exercise them with a discretion similar to that he had shown in exercising the powers under the State A.cts.
– Does the honorable member mean with the discretion complained of in Queensland, which allowed the revenue to be robbed and honest merchants plundered ? I did pot know of the cases until they were brought under my notice by merchants.
– Why did not the Minister put in force the powers he had under the State Act ?
– I did as soon as I got the chance.
– The Minister had the chance immediately he took over the department, but he did not avail himself of it.
– I sent men out to look after the matter.
– When the Customs Bill was before Parliament, the drastic nature of these powers was recognised by man)’ honorable members, who had not perhaps observed that there were similar powers in other Customs Acts, and they were thought very severe, and, if unwisely used, dangerous. But the Minister assured the House that discretion would be used and that no honest man need fear. Honest men may not fear, but they suffer.
– I referred to honest and careful men.
– In the other Chamber, Senator O’Connor, in reply to an objection that one section might be used with too much severity, and a fine of £o imposed for a trifling mistake, said -
Of course, with regard to these trifling matters which are always used as an illustration, the answer is, in the first place, in 99 cases out of 100 there will be no prosecution over these small things, and in the second place, if there is it is not likely they will be pressed in any way for the recovery of the few shillings, or the pound or so, which mn be involved.
Has. there been any fulfilment of that undertaking? There is good ground for reasonable leniency in the administration of such a Tariff at its early stages. The Tariff is difficult of interpretation, the lines that divide different ‘classes of duty being narrow and vague in many cases. The difficulty is proved beyond doubt by the hundreds of decisions the Minister has given, and by the fact that many of these decisions are contrary - that a second decision cancels the first. That shows the difficulty of interpretation even by the framer of the Tariff. There have been prosecutions against individuals for breaches of the Act, and afterwards a decision has been given by the ‘ Minister showing that the view taken by the importer was a correct one.
– The Minister stopped the goods of several firms in Melbourne.
– The honorable member mentioned prosecutions.
– There have been prosecutions in connexion with cases where a decision was afterwards altered.
– To what cases is the honorable member referring ?
– I am speaking from memory, but I shall look up the cases. I could not even tell the Minister now what are his’ contrary decisions, but he himself knows there are a considerable number ; and if any action was taken under the first decision it is patent that under the second decision a prosecution would not stand.
– That is not so.
– It must be so.
– It is not so ; there have been prosecutions only from misstatements in regard to ‘the nature and value of goods.
– There have been prosecutions of every description of offence, errors involving from 2s. Sd. to hundreds of pounds.
– For misstatements of goods or value. “ Mr. THOMSON.- And for perfectly evident errors, where no fraud at all was involved. Surely the Minister must never read the newspapers.
– I do nob rely much on some of the newspapers.
– If the Minister sees the newspapers he must know that magistrate after magistrate has regretted extremely having to impose fines in cases which they thought should not have been brought into court.
– Magistrates say that about every law.
– I was not aware of that, but I suppose I must take the honorable member as an authority. I may say that Judges have even refused to accept the law, as is shown in a case reported in the newspapers.
– What does the honorable member think of such Judges 1
– In the case to which I refer, the J udge said the law was against natural justice ; and so it was.
– Can the honorable member mention the case?
– It was the case of an illicit still which was discovered on land over the crop of which -somebody had a lien. When the party went to reap the crop he was arrested for having this illicit still, and because he did not bring evidence - though there was no statement or evidence of his guilt - to prove that he was innocent, as he was bound to do under the section of the Customs Act, which provides that persons shall be deemed guilty until they have proved their innocence, he was convicted. On appeal, the Judge said that such a law was against natural justice.
– No Judge ever set aside the plain terms of the law on such a ground.
– The case I refer to was reported in one of the Melbourne newspapers on, I believe, the 23rd of April, and I shall endeavour to get the extract.
– It must be from a reputable paper, and further corroborated by the facts.
– Whenever a member of the Ministry is in a corner, it is newspapers reports which are wrong ; and now it appears that the same view is taken not only in regard to reports of speeches, but also in regard to Judges’ decisions. I am sorry I have not the newspaper extract here, and I should not have mentioned the case but for an interjection, but I have it on the premises, and I can show it to the Minister. Another reason for breaches of the law is the improper system whereby duties are imposed on goods according to the use to which they are to be put. Certain articles are dutiable if they are to be used for certain purposes, and they are not dutiable if they are to be used for other purposes.
– Will the honorable member give me an instance 1
– “Lining” is such an article, and there are many others. I objected strongly to such duties on every occasion when they came before us. . I pointed out that an honest man who imported such goods might know that a certain quantity of them would be used for a purpose for which they were not dutiable, and another quantity for a purpose for which they were dutiable, and, with every desire to be just he would be unable to know what duty he should pay on the whole importation. An extremely honest man might pay duty upon everything imported, while a man who was not honest would pass the whole without the payment of the duty, as imported for a purpose which rendered them non-dutiable. That system has given an opening for the evasion of customs duties, and similar openings are given in many other directions. The first case which I will lay before honorable members does not display undue severity in the collection of revenue on the part of the Minister, but rather laxity in that respect. A petition on the subject is already before the House. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company allege that 9,000 tons of sugar have escaped the payment of excise duty, and they have asked for an inquiry into the matter. I know nothing of it personalty, but a statement of the facts has been given to me, and I will briefly recite it to the House. The company say -
The Tariff was imposed on the 8th October, 1901, and all the sugar in our stores in Brisbane was taken possession of then and duty levied thereon as it went into consumption. Part of stock consisted of raw sugar bought from other manufacturers, and therefore in second hands : such sugar was also seized in the stores of the Millaquin Refinery.
In addition, all sugar made and bought by us in Queensland - whether on board steamers on the 8th October, or at our mills - was taken possession of, either in the mills or stores, or on delivery at the refineries, the only exception being some 50 tons in a store belonging to a forwarding agent at Mackay, of which no notice was taken.
At the same time five manufacturers in Queenslandone refiner and four mill-owners - held about 9,000 tons of white sugar, which was regarded by the Customs as exempt from duty. It is believed that most of this sugar had been removed from the factories prior to the 8th October, but a quantity was, we have been informed, on steamers in Queensland waters, and the remainder waa in the stock, custody, and possession of the manufacturers in Brisbane and elsewhere. In at least one instance the sugar was, we understand, in buildings owned by the manufacturer.
On the18th October, the Collector of Customs in Brisbane was asked why. he had not levied duty on the sugar, and a few days later the matter was reported verbally to the Comptroller in Sydney, further representation being made to him in Melbourne on the 31st October on the subject.
No considerable quantity of the sugar in question had ‘by that time been disposed of, as all buyers had stocked up before the duty was imposed.
As the Comptroller had stated officially that this 9,000 tons of sugar should pay duty, we thought justice would be done to us. so did not appeal to Parliament at the time ; but further remonstances were addressed to the department during November, and on the 10th December we received a letter stating that the matter was under the consideration of the Minister.
Nothing more was heard from the Customs, and, as it was generally supposed in Queensland that the duty collected on the stocks of sugar on the 8th October would be gi ven up, further action was not taken until the sugar duties had been discussed in the House, when the statement of the Minister showed that he intended to retain the money thus collected. An appeal was therefore made to the Senate for an amendment of the Act, so that the legality of the proceedings of the Minister could be tested in the Courts, but the majority voted against such amendment.
– Was all this set out in the petition presented to the House 1
– Not all of it. These are further particulars which I asked for -
It is to be noted that all proceedings taken by the department in this matter have been legalized under sub-section (6) of section 5 of the Excise Tariff Act, which provides that the stocks liable to duty were tho3e “subject to the control of the Customs, or to excise supervision, or in the stock, custody, or possession of, or belonging to any brewer, distiller, or manufacturer, or refiner thereof. “
The only sugar under the control of the Customs in Queeusland was that on board steamers; what we had was seized. It is said that a portion of the 9,000 tons was on steamers at Bundaberg, or in Brisbane, or between these ports ; if so, this was not taken for duty.
The stocks under excise supervision were those held by the brewers : in no case, we understand, was duty charged On these. The whole of the 9,000 tons above alluded, to were unquestionably in the stock, custody and possession of the manufacturers, and under the Excise Act the Customs could at once have demanded full particulars as to places of storage, etc., so that the duty might have been collected. This was not, however, to our knowledge, done in any instance, and the Brisbane collector was allowed to override the Comptroller, who, as before stated, regarded the sugar as subject to duty, and held that its exemption was an injustice to other manufacturers who were compelled, to pay.
The . view of the department on this point is set forth in the following ruling, of which a copy has been forwarded to us : - - “If this sugar was manufactured before the 8th October, . 1901, and on that date still belonged to the manufacturer, it is undoubtedly dutiable under paragraph,(b) of section 5 of Excise Act 1902. This applies to all sugar belonging to the manufacturer thereof on the 8th October, 1901, notwithstanding it may not be in his possession on that date, or afterwards returned to his possession.”
It is clear that in the last sentence “ in his possession,” should be read as meaning “in his premises,” because the minute referred to certain sugar which had been removed from a mill in September, 1901, and returned thereto a year afterwards ; and it shows that the department considered all sugar so removed was dutiable. Why, then, was not an y effort mode to collect the d uty on the 9,000 tons? The sugars seized in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland, which belonged to us, were in every instance in buildings free of Customs or Excise supervision at the time the Tariff was introduced.
The suits entered byus against the Customs are to determine the legality of the seizure on the 8th October, and raise a number of difficult points of law. None of them touch or can touch in any respect the question of the exemption from duty of certain stocks here alluded to, which is a matter of administration solely, and cannot be reviewed by a Court as the law stands now.
– Has there been any determination to exempt the sugar from duty?
– The department has not charged duty upon it. The best way of exempting an article from duty is not to charge duty upon it, and to let it go into consumption.
– If any one owes money to the department he will be made to pay it.
– The department cannot collect the revenue upon this sugar if it has been allowed to go into consumption.
– If the duty was ever clue it can be sued for as a Crown debt.
– I do not think that under the circumstances it can be recovered. However, it would have been better to collect it ten days after the Tariff was passed.
– Undoubtedly it would have been better to collect it immediately it became due.
– If the statement I have read is correct, the opportunity to collect it was not taken. I arn not responsible for the accuracy of this statement, though I asked that every care should be taken in compiling it. If the statement is correct, and the Minister could not collect the duty on the 18th October, 1901, how can he collect it now ?
– There was no authority for exempting any one from the payment of duty, and any one who owes duty will be called upon to pay it.
– The time to ask for payment was when the duty became due.
– The matter is a subject for inquiry.
– Yes, and an inquiry has been several times asked for on the facts alleged. Before the Minister spoke in Sydney the managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company wrote a letter to the Sydney newspapers, drawing his attention to the matter. The letter repeats some of the statements which I have already read, and which I will not read over again ; but the writer goes on to say -
Our first petition was to the Senate, and all that the Government could advance against it was a remark by Mr. JR.. E. O’Connor that our clear statements of bare fact were impossible and incredible.
To the next petition, which was sent to the Governor-General [i.e., the Executive), the reply was that the Minister of Customs- at whose door the charges were laid - had ascertained that no discrimination was exercised by his officers in the collection of tlie excise duty.
That is not a reply at all. I think that the truth or otherwise of the non-payment of duty on the 9,000 tons should have been alluded to. It should have been stated whether the sugar existed to the knowledge of the Customs’ officials, and why, if it so existed, it was not charged with duty.
– The petition stated that there had been discrimination. The officer reported that nothing of the kind had occurred, and information was given according^
– If the sugar did not pay duty, a discrimination was shown.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company did not send any one to the. Minister to represent their case in a proper manner.
– In connexion with the next step taken - the passing of a resolution by the four principal chambers of commerce in Australia, calling for an inquiry into the matter - I might point out that the members of those bodies we’re no more interested in the people who paid the duty than in those who did not pay. The writer of the letter says -
The third step taken was a representation by the four principal Chambers of Commerce in Australia, to the Prime Minister, that an inquiry was called for in the matter, and it is significant that after several months Sir Edmund Barton has not been able to find a word of justification or even apology for his colleague’s action.
Another Minister has, however spoken - the Attorney-General - who last week in a newspaper interview is reported to have said, first, that we were moving in the matter because we wanted the money paid by us to be returned, and, secondly, that so long after the event it would be difficult to prove anything.
– Did they ask for a refund of the duty ?
– Here is an answer to that question. Mr. Knox writes -
As to the first remark I have to sa)’ that it is not true.
This refers to the suggestion that it was desired that there should be1 a refund of the duty. Mr. Knox proceeds to say -
Mr. Deakin ought to know that the Customs cannot return any duties which have been legally levied.
That is so. The company recognised that if the duty were legally levied they would have no right to escape their responsibility for its payment, on the ground that the authorities had not made a similar levy upon others who might be equally charge-‘ able, and they knew that the question as to whether tlie duty could be legally levied at all was one to be determined by the courts. The letter which I have read is a very strong one, which should receive the attention of any Minister. It is as much in the Minister’s own interests as in the interests of the Customs administration generally that I bring this matter forward. The whole question should have been inquired into at an earlier date. Requests have been made for an inquiry, and yet the Minister has not taken any action. If he is able to sa3T that he has done so, I shall be only too pleased to hear him.
– There was no discrimination exercised in favour of any one. My instructions were to collect any duty that was available.
– I did not say that there was any intentional discrimination, but if the facts are stated correctly discrimination was exercised. I do not know whether that was done by the Minister, or by some one else connected with the Customs, but the Minister must be held responsible for his officers in the same way as merchants are held responsible for the acts of their clerks. There is the strongest reason for inquiry into the points whether the sugar was in store as reported, whether the Comptroller stated that it was liable to dutv, and whether the dutv has or has not been collected. I do not vouch for the correctness of the statements which I have read to the House, but I have given them as they were conveyed to me. At all events, the case is one which calls for the closest inquiry by the Minister, and information should be furnished to the House as early as possible as to whether that duty was collected. If it was evaded, we should be told why the officers of the Customs or the Minister allowed the evasion, when the matter was reported to one of their departments on 10th October, further reported at a later date, and again on the 31st October, whilst correspondence .and petitions have been passing on the matter ever since. There is another point to which I desire to direct the attention of honorable members, namely, the dangerous system that has arisen, partly under the powers given by this House in connexion with the Tariff, of allowing what is practically legislation by the Minister. I find list after list, some of them very -long ones, exempting goods classed as minor articles for use in manufacture. Scores of instances might be quoted under this heading where articles are required to pay a duty if they are designed for one purpose, and are admitted free if they are said to be intended for use in manufacture. I took several articles haphazard from a list extending over at least two columns of the Commonwealth Gazette, which were enumerated under the heading of “ Manufacture of Vehicles.” Included among these are - “ Couplings (shaft and pole) : hinges (concealed and butt); joints (concealed) ; “shackles; seat slides ; staples (breeching). These, and a number of other articles appearing under the same headings will leave hardly any of the component parts of a vehicle subject to duty. Now, that is a very dangerous power for any Minister to exercise. Then we come to the taxation of substitutes, and I think the Minister has taken a wrong view of his duty in this respect. I tested this very question in New South Wales, and a decision was . secured in favour of the view to which I am about to give utterance. Articles which were well known at the time the Tariff was introduced, should not be taxed as substitutes for other articles. We had the power to tax such articles when the Tariff was before Parliament ; and if the Minister desired them to be included in the dutiable list, he should have applied to Parliament for the necessary authority. If these articles were well known to the Customs at the time the Tariff was passed, they ought .not subsequently to be taken as substitutes for other known articles. Just consider for a moment how far the system adopted by the Minister might extend. Any food preparation might be held by the Minister to be a substitute for some other food, and he might in this way impose duties upon articles which had been left free. I have not time to go through the whole of the Minister’s decisions upon this point, but I have noticed two articles which, according to the Customs authorities, come within the category of substitutes, but which I say should not be so regarded. For instance there are mica chimneys. These articles have been imported for years, and were well known to the Customs at the time the Tariff was under consideration, and should then have been taxed if they were considered to be fit subjects for duty. Another article is curled fibre, which is also well known, and is now regarded by the Customs as a substitute for curled hair. We had an opportunity of taxing this article if we had chosen, but the Minister did not ask us to do so. Now, however, it is declared to be taxable as a substitute. The case of cartridges and the shot contained in them has already been mentioned . Under the Tariff cartridges were declared to be non-dutiable, but shot was made dutiable. I quite’.agree that there is some inequality in this, and if the Minister brings in a measure to make dutiable the shot contained in cartridges, I shall support him on the ground of justice. But when . the matter was before Parliament it was decided, notwithstanding the fact that they might contain shot, that cartridges should not be dutiable. In spite of this the Minister has taken upon himself to legislate, not merely outside the authority of Parliament, but in the face of the decision of Parliament, and has endeavoured to impose a duty upon the shot contents of cartridges. It has been pointed out to me that cartridges appear upon the free list in the Tariff guide prepared by the Customs department, and yet a duty was sought to be imposed upon them. I am very glad that the Minister has issued the Tariff guide, upon which a great deal of work has been expended, and which will prove very useful, to the trading community. I do not intend to weary the House by reference to the various autocratic actions of the Minister to which exception has been taken from time to time. If honorable members want to find instances, let them refer to Senator Pulsford’s lists. In regard to many of the complaints, no reply has been given by the Minister, and no doubt Senator Pulsford will direct attention to these cases in another place. I shall refer to only one case, in which a gentleman in Sydney . was concerned. This gentleman endeavoured to obtain a hearing at the recent meeting of the Minister in Sydney, but he was not allowed to speak. I do not wonder at his indignation. The facts are these - The Fuller Carrying Company passed an entry for an invoice relating to 22 cases containing 441 separate items. There were two mistakes in the entry, one being an error in excess to the extent of 25s., and another an error under which the duty paid was 17s. short. Balancing one item against the other the department still stood with Ss. to the good. The importer, however, was brought up to the court on account of the shortage of 17s., and was fined. I believe that the Minister has stated that the fact of the over-payment was not brought to light until the case came into court.
– Hear, hear.
– But when the overpayment was brought to light the case was not withdrawn, and the man who had actually paid the Customs too much was fined. Not only so, but before he could get delivery of his goods, although he had overpaid 8s., he had to enter into a bond, and obtain sureties, that if the goods were forfeited their value would be paid. Further, although the goods were landed in October last, the bond was only cancelled by the Collector of Customs on the 28th of last month.
– How much was he fined 1
– Five pounds.
– Did not the Minister return the fine 1
– He had not done so when he spoke in Sydney the other day.
– The money should be returned.
– Cases of this unjust nature naturally provoke indignation. I do not intend to quote any more of these instances, because they are very numerous, and it would only occupy the attention of the House unnecessarily. At the same time I must admit” that the Minister is to some extent moving from the untenable position which he assumed when he first undertook the administration of the Tariff. I do not complain of that, because I think the right honorable gentleman is moving in the right direction without endangering the revenue. But I would point out that the change which he is making, is, in itself, an indication that injustice has been done in the past. At one time the right honorable gentleman said that no discrimination ought to be exercised, that the courts should decide whether the cases which came before them involved fraud or merely error, but that he would not take it upon himself -to decide the matter. Only the other day, however, in replying to a deputation from ‘the Sydney Chamber of Commerce - and I congratulate him on the spirit which animated him on that occasion- he said that a discrimination is being exercised. Mr. Rogers remarked -
It was only the intention of Parliament that those extraordinary powers should be exercised, not in cases of trivial error, but in cases where there is an attempt to defraud.
– That is another incorrect report.
– I will not be certain, but I think that I saw -the statement recorded in both newspapers.
– It is wrong. What I told the deputation was that importers must declare to the authorities the nature of the goods and their value.
– Further on Mr. Wall said -
He (the Minister) should be satisfied with genuine invoices giving the proper values and discounts, supported by a bill through a bank.
– I quite agree with you that no importer should be prosecuted for a mistake in the duty, and I have put that in the letter to you. All I can say is I will sanction no prosecution of any importer so long as he properly describes the goods and gives their proper value. I will look after the rate.
Mr. Wall. The practice does not bear that ‘ ont.
– I will look after that.
That is, so far, a step in the right direction.
– That was done nine months ago.
- Mr. Wall is a gentleman who passes hundreds of entries per day through the Customs, and he says that it is not the practice. I admit that the Minister may have given the instruction nine months ago, because on several occasions I have discovered that his instructions- have not been properly carried out.
– I was sitting with the Collector of Customs at the moment Mr. Rogers read the letter, and he assured me that my instructions had been carried out.
– Another matter which calls for attention has reference to the long delays which have taken place in obtaining decisions. Frequently six, nine, and twelve months have elapsed. I know of one case in which goods were held for six months when the only thing required was a decision. I admit that the Minister has been burdened with work, and that for a time his health was not good. But there are officers in his department who are quite as capable of deviling with these matters as he is. If the work is getting too much for him some of the higher officials who are familiar with the policy which he has adopted should be allowed to decide them, thus facilitating prompt settlements.
– But the Minister would be responsible.
– The Minister is responsible for a great many more things that his officers do. Recently we saw in the public press that when the Treasurer took charge of the Customs department, in the absence of the Minister, these decisions on long-standing undecided cases came out in scores, if not in hundreds.
– The honorable member complained a little time ago that there were too many decisions.
– I did not say there were too many. I said that the number of separate interpretations by the Minister illustrated the difficulty of reading the Tariff. Then again, I think we should require some consistency from Ministers in the administration of their departments. For example, we find the PostmasterGeneral administering his department in one way and the Minister for Trade and Customs controlling his in quite another. As illustrating my remarks, I would direct attention to the following notice relating to the administration of the Postal department which appeared in a Melbourne paper of the 25th April, in reference to letters, money orders, &c. being enclosed in packets -
Senator Drake has been exercising the discretionary power given him by the law to fine rather than to prosecute. In some cases he has fined offenders as’ much as ±”1, but this regulation has been broken so frequently of late that the Postmaster-General wishes to notify that he may order prosecutions for the future.
These two departments therefore are managed in entirely different ways.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Minister should deal with those cases himself, because that would be a very dangerous practice %
Mi-. THOMSON. - There is not the least danger in what I propose. I do not offer these criticisms from the stand-point of an opponent. The Minister for Trade and Customs knows that I have always been willing to make any suggestions I could to improve the administration of the Customs, and if he chose to adopt them I should be amply awarded by the knowledge that the department was working more smoothly in its relations with the public. But I desire to see all unnecessary friction removed. I am with the Minister in declaring that in . all cases in which the element of fraud is present, or appears to be present, the importer should not be spared from a prosecution. But I do say this - that the inequality of Customs administration is not justified. And there is am inequality. There should be less discrimination than there is. There is now a discrimination between fixed duty entries and ad valorem duty entries. If a merchant makes a mistake, say weights, in a fixed duty entry, that mistake is corrected by the Customs, there is an end of the matter. But if he makes an equivalent mistake in an cm? valorem duty entry he has to go to the court, because he has signed a declaration as to the accuracy of his statement. The offence is the same ; but iri the one case there is no prosecution. Why? . Because it is claimed that the Customs have the goods there and can weigh them. But they have a far surer way of checking an ad valorem entry. They have the invoice, which is sworn to be the genuine invoice, and they have an opportunity of comparing that with the entry. Surely the sensible thing is for the Minister to Say as he has said- although I fail to see that he fully carries out his principle - “ I will be satisfied if you give a full disclosure and present to me the genuine in-
I voice and the genuine goods at the wharf.
As to any error in your duty or any error that may enter into a declaration, my clerks are there to check your statements.” In transactions between different merchants, if an overcharge is made by one to another, there is no part of the British Empire where that is treated as a crime and the man is taken into a court. The clerks of the other merchant are there to check, and as long as honest data upon which the calculation is formed are given to the Customs the Minister need require nothing more. If it is thought necessary to discourage error in the calculations based on each data, let there be fines for mistakes, and let them be imposed at once, as a matter of rule, by the officers receiving the entry. The Minister has power to impose fines. Let there be fixed fines imposed. The Minister can if he likes fine merchants 10s., £1, or any other sum for each error that is made. That is one way to secure correctness. If he demands full disclosures both of goods entered under fixed duties and ad valorem duties he has full security, and then if mistakes are made let him fine the individuals concerned indiscriminately without dragging them into the police courts. If a person commits an offence with the post-office by insufficiently stamping a letter the receiver is fined. Why should not the Customs adopt the same practice ? There would be nothing in it which would assist evasion of duties on the part of those dealing with the Customs. Let the Custom-house be conducted on the most rigid lines as to honesty, but there is Jio need for all this friction, disturbing the good relations which should exist between the trading community of Australia and the Customs authorities. There are dishonest persons in the community who -will try by every means and system to rob the revenue of large sums. At present the proceedings of the Customhouse suggest to me that the Minister and his staff are so busy catching mice that they cannot catch tigers - and the tigers are those persons in the community who will seek by. every device to rob the Customs. We want those persons to be exposed, not a multitude of trivial errors which will occur in business. As to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, the Prime Minister states that his administration is in accordance with the intent of Parliament, and absolutely in accordance with the terms of the law. He says that he intends to administer the whole
Act in strict accordance with the law. I interjected while he was speaking that I did not recognise the accuracy of that statement. I will now endeavour to show that I was right in my view. If we look at the debates on the occasion of the introduction of that measure we find this statement, which was made by the Prime Minister, and which enabled him to get the powers which the Act conferred upon him. The right honorable gentleman said, alluding to a previous speaker -
He also knows that Governments must be credited with common sense, or it is no use committing to them the administration of such measures at all. This amount of common sense and discretion must be credited to the present Government and its successors. 1
Then he says further on -
I have told honorable members why we think it necessary to take large power, namely, because large powers are necessary to deal with the cases which we have to meet, and also because it is necessary to give a large discretion to the Government in the belief that they will not act harshly in those cases which are not within the evil we wish to meet.
That is the common covering request which secured the passage of the Act in its present form. *Of course the amendment was not then in the Bill, but what did the Prime Minister say as to the object of the amendment. He said -
As to the other question, I think the amendment is a fair one. It tends to prevent the admission into the Commonwealth of persons who especially if they are not well educated, will be probably - or may be at any rate - brought here in ignorance of our industrial conditions, and who will thus enter into bargains which they would, not have made if they had had the opportunity of observing the working of our institutions.
That is one thing tlie Prime Minister said ; here is another -
Moreover, this legislation has the further disadvantage of guarding against the making of agreements of which the workmen who made them would repent as soon as they landed on our shores. I think the amendment is a fair one. and shall, therefore, support it.
These are the assurances given to us by the Prime Minister, and the intention of those who passed the measure was never that it* should be exercised in the way it has been exercised. Other honorable members have quoted extracts which show that this was the opinion current in the House. When the Prime Minister says that if that is not the intent of the Act it is the law, and that he will administer the law to the letter, I reply that he will not do so, and that he is not doing so ; further that if he did do so, then we should have to take out of his hands, or the hands of any Minister, a measure that would work such trouble and be so decidedly objectionable. Other provisions of the Act exclude all persons likely, in the opinion of the Minister, or of an officer, to become a charge on the public or any public charitable institution, persons suffering from infectious or contagious disease of a loathsome or dangerous character, persons who within three years have been convicted of an offence, not merely political, and sentenced to imprisonment for one year or longer and have not received pardon, and prostitutes or persons living on the prostitution of others. But it cannot be doubted for one moment that some members of these classes have come in since the Act was passed. It would be ridiculous to say. that amongst the multitudes which have arrived and are arriving here such persons are not included. Does the Prime Minister stop them ? No. Is he carrying out the terms of the Act ? No.
– How did you learn that ? Is it imagination ? There is no basis of fact for the statement. .
– T put it to the Prime Minister whether he dare tell me that since the Act was passed he has excluded all the arrivals that come under those descriptions ?
– Wherever I could find them out, 1 have done so just as I exclude those who are under contract.
– But how would the Prime Minister have to act if he wished to exclude all these undesirable persons, ‘or a large portion of them ?
– That objection applies to all laws.
– It applies to many laws, but the Prime Minister says that itshall not apply to this law, because he is going to administer it in all its strictness. Is he administering those other portions of the Act in all their strictness ?
– To the same extent as in the case of the hatters.
– The Prime Minister excludes only those undesirable immigrants of whom he knows.
– How can I exclude those of whom I do not know ?
– I am not saying that the Prime -Minister can do so, but I am asking what action he would have to take in order to find out who are undesirable immigrants, of the classes I have just mentioned.
– The same action as I would take in other cases.
– I may say that I have anticipated all the arguments that may be used by the Prime Minister, and I am quite prepared to answer them. In order to see that he was not allowing these undesirable people to come in, the Prime Minister would have to make all persons arriving prove that they were not undesirable. Was that horrible state of affairs anticipated when the Act was passed ? What action did the Prime Minister take with the hatters? He made them prove that they were not prohibited immigrants. What I say he should do, if he administers the Act in such a case as he does in the cases of the other classes of undesirables, is to have a good primd facie case before he acts.
– The Act makes the existence of the contract or agreement a prima facie case.
– The -Act allows the admission of those whom the Prime Minister considers to have the skill required in the Commonwealth.
– Not until he has grounds for considering that to be the case.
– The Prime Minister has to exclude all those undesirable people I have mentioned, but he does not do so until his attention is called to their entry, and then he only interferes if he has good reason to know that they are : undesirable. But in the case of the hatters the men were imprisoned on board a steamer in Sydney Harbor before he had proof that they were undesirable. The Prime Minister may smile at the term “imprisonment,” but a night in gaol, although perhaps not very serious or more severe than an all-night sitting of this House, is felt as an indignity, because it deprives the man of his liberty to move about the world like other men, and if wrongful entails heavy penalties on those in ‘fault.
– Those men could have walked ashore at any moment if they or their master had shown that they possessed special skill required in the Commonwealth.
– If the Prime Minister is going to put a specially severe interpretation on this section in response to pressure from anybody, it is time the provision was taken out of the Act.
– I give the imputation of pressure an indignant and flat denial.
An Honorable Member. - Or persuasion.
– Or persuasion.
– The Prime Minister may deny as he likes, but we have the papers before us, and we see that pressure was brought to bear.
– It is utterly untrue that at any time persuasion or pressure was attempted on me, and I have already said so to the honorable member.
-The pressure was from certain unions, who made an application.
– I knew nothing of any such application until I gavemy decision.
– The application was sent to the Prime Minister.
– It may have been gent to another Minister, but I was not aware of it, and the honorable member ought to accept my denial.
– Did the Minister to whom it was sent not make any representation to the Prime Minister?
– Not till after the decision. He simply sent the letter on without comment. I explained that in my speech.
– I only know that if similar action is to be taken in connexion with every man who comes to Australia, knowing or not knowing the conditions ; if he is to be kept in prison - a bondsman on board ship - when perhaps he is perfectly entitled to enter the country, and the Prime Minister knows nothing to the contrary, then this clause must come out of the Act.
– If the honorable member calls the ship a prison, each of these men had the key in his pocket.
– The men had not the key, and they were released only when they proved that there was no right to stop them. The Prime Minister knew that the Act was never intended to apply to these six men. The right honorable gentleman told us that the section is to prevent ignorant men, who do not know the conditions of the Commonwealth, being, deceived, and he knew these men were aware of the conditions.
– I knew nothing of the sort. I knew nothing but the fact that they were under contract.
– The Prime Minister ought to have known.
– How could I know ?
– The Prime Minister ought to have made inquiry.
– May I inform the honorable member, as I informed the House, that inquiry was made at Fremantle, and it was ascertained that these men gave the officers there no reason to believe they were under contract?
– I do not know anything about that, but it is perfectly absurd for Australia to exclude men who are being brought here to start industries, and who, before leaving theirnative country, have sought to secure their position by entering into an agreement which rendered them freer than if they had come without an agreement. The clap-trap which has been talked about their being bondsmen is a disgrace to the proceedings of a Legislative Assembly. A man is freer when he is free from the danger of poverty and want of employment, and has a secure position, than if he enjoys none of those advantages. The men themselves recognised that, because they asked for the agreement.
– But if six’ can be brought out, why not 6,000? The principle is the same.
– The principle is not the same. When these men entered Sydney Harbor, they must have thought - “ Here is a land which our forefathers discovered, and helped to settle, and whose people owe their liberty to those from whom we have sprung, and yet we are precluded from landing on its shores, when we are here, not as members of an invading army, or in immense numbers, to disturb its industrial peace, or in any way to injure it, but, on the contrary, to benefit it by the establishment of a new industry. We are not here without the consent of our union, because we carry certificates from our union in Great Britain. Furthermore, our admission has been agreed to by the- Sydney union, which resolved that all agreements entered into by Mr. Anderson before 1st December should be recognised.” The honorable member for Yarra had to admit that last fact to- 1 night. The men were not objected to by the Sydney union, but some one in Melbourne - I am not going to impute motives, because I do not know them - made representation to two of the Ministers, and the men were stopped. The Prime Minister had his answer ready - “This is not a case in which I should interfere.”
– “Where is the justice of saying that, when I have already stated that. I gave my decision before I knew of the existence of any union? No representation was made to me by any union until my decision was given.
– The Sydney union passed a resolution favouring the admission of the men. It was .the Melbourne union which lodged an objection to their admission.
– How did the Prime Minister become aware of the existence, of the contract?
– Through the subcollector of Customs in Sydney, who telegraphed the information. That was the only intimation I had at the time.
– The prima facie* evidence that the men were required in Australia was as strong as the Minister could have desired.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Prime Minister should have winked at the law ?
– He should have done in the first place what he did at the last. Does he intend to exclude all who come here until good reason is shown for not excluding them? The fact that a manufacturer thought it worth his while to send to England for the men, engaged them there at union rates of wages, and advanced their passage money, is prima facie evidence that they were required in Australia.
– That is equivalent to saying that the contract which was a reason for excluding was also a reason for not excluding.
– In this case the existence of the contract was a reason as evidence of the need of the men for not excluding. The action of the Prime Minister has made Australia the laughingstock of the world. If he intends to continue to administer the Act in that way, the sooner we get the section under which he acted expunged, or very materially altered, the better for the whole community, including the working classes themselves ; because nothing could do more harm to unionism than an action such as was taken. If the- Prime Minister carries out the other provisions of the law in the same way, he will have to make everybody who comes here prove that he is not a prohibited immigrant under the Act, and he is not prepared to do that. The Act is a discretionary measure. The Prime Minister, as I have proved by quoting his own words, asked for it as such. He told us we must trust the Government to administer it with due regard to common sense.
– I was speaking of the education test, which is the only discretionary provision in the Act.
– The Prime Minister was speaking of the Act. He said “such measures.”
– Any one would know from the tone of the debate that I was speaking of the education test.
– In all other cases the Minister does not exclude until he has the clearest proof that the persons whom his action affects are undesirable immigrants.
– The honorable member is unable to appreciate the language of the Act.
– I am at least able to appreciate the absurd position into which the Prime Minister has got the Commonwealth. It is only too manifest, not only to the members of the Opposition, but to some of his own supporters and to the world at large. The Prime Minister stated last night that the irritation he noticed on this side showed the strength of his arguments. I suppose he is not unwilling that I should . turn his remarks on himself.
– If I have displayed irritation, it was because the honorable member did not appear to be ready to accept my disclaimer.
– I accepted the right honorable gentleman’s statement, and did not repeat my own after it was made. The Prime Minister has expressed great indignation because he has been charged with having brought down a Tariff which was not in accord with the terms of his speech at- Maitland. The Tariff was certainly not such as was expected by many of those who voted for him and for his ‘ supporters in New South Wales. I desire to point out further that either the Prime Minister did not know during the electoral campaign what the Tariff was going to be, or that he concealed it from the electors. It would have been easy for him to indicate the character of the Tariff. He might have announced that it would contain duties ranging from 10 to 15 per cent., or from 30 to 30 per cent., or from 40 to 50 per cent., as the case might require; but not one word was said as to the real weight of the Tariff, although questions were asked on more than one occasion. Either it had not been decided upon, or accurate information regarding it was withheld from the public. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable, now that the Tariff has been brought forward and put into force, that the people whom it affects should have a chance of expressing their opinion regarding it If honorable members do not give the people that opportunity, they will take it for themselves. I know that in New South Wales the electors will not he content to bury the Tariff question, and I out quite in accordance with the leader of the Opposition in his determination to bring it forward. If honorable members on tho other side are as confident of victory as they profess to be, why are they so little eager for the struggle ? /
– We had enough of it here last year.
– Let me tell the honorable member that the people of the Commonwealth have already had enough of the Tariff, and that they wish to see it altered. I should have been only too delighted if, instead of adversely criticising the administration of Ministers, I could have expressed myself in terms of approval regarding their work. It would have been much more pleasant if the results of the first year of the Federal administration had been more generally satisfactory to the people of Australia, because apart from our fiscal differences, which will have to be settled by the people, much of the perfectly justifiable dissatisfaction with the Federal Government would have been removed by better administration on the part of Minister
Debate (on motion by Mr. HENRY Willis) adjourned.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m. t z
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 May 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030528_reps_1_13/>.