House of Representatives
29 May 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 291

QUESTION

ST. LOUIS EXHIBITION

Mr WILKINSON:
MORETON, QUEENSLAND

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have considered the matter of the representation of the Commonwealth at the great exhibition to be held at St. Louis next year, and, if so, what decision has been arrived at ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The Government considered the matter some time ago, and came to the determination that it would not be desirable to spend the public funds upon the representation of the Commonwealth as such at the exhibition in question. -

page 291

PAPERS

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– In laying on the table the following papers : -

Papers relating to the refusal of certificates of domicile to three Chinese.

Supplementary papers relating to the admission of certain boilermakers into Western Australia.

I desire to explain, regarding the latter, that I had to obtain the permission of the Premier of Western Australia before I could present them to the House. They consist of a letter from myself to him, and his reply, and although not official papers in the full sense, arc, I think, necessary in order to complete the information presented to honorable members.

page 291

QUESTION

IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION ACT ADMINISTRATION

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
HunterMinister for External Affairs · Protectionist

– The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Cameron, referred last evening to three British subjects who had been refused admission to the Commonwealth, and in order to remove all doubt I wish to explain that these three persons were not kept out for any reason other than those specified in the parts of tho 3rd section of the Act which follow the provision for the education test. Two were prevented from landing on the ground that they were idiots, and the third was excluded as a person likely to become a charge on the public funds.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH. ADDRESS IN REPLY.

Debate resumed from 28th May (vide page 291), on motion by Mr. L. E. Groom-

That the following address in reply to the Governor-Geneml’s opening speech be no.w adopted : -

May it pleaseyourexcellency -

We, the House of Representatives of theParliament of the Commonw ealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, bog 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. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).It is not my intention to speak at any length upon the Governor-General’s speech. I have been informed by gentlemen of large experience in the framing of speeches from the Throne, that for the most part the debate upon tho address in reply is regarded as advantageous to the Government, inasmuch as it affords Ministers an opportunity of judging from the speeches delivered by honorable members as to the measures with which they may successfully persevere, and those which maybe judiciously abandoned or postponed. I do not therefore think it necessary to say very much regarding many of the Government proposals until they come before the House for full discussion. I think, however, that I might appropriately address myself to matters arising out of the administration of certain measures passed last session. So much has been said in opposition to the administration of the Minister of Trade and Customs, that it is unnecessary for me to add greatly to the volume of criticism directed against him. There is no. doubt that he is the most unpopular administrator within the Commonwealth. At the same time, I believe that the course adopted by him will render the work of his successor in the department very much easier than it otherwise might have been. The services of the right honorable gentleman in connexion with the prevention and exposure of frauds are such as to entitle him to our warmest thanks ; but the practice followed by him of requiring reports to be sent from far distant places, such as Port Darwin to Melbourne, in order that his decision may be given upon the cases to which they relate, and the tyranny exercised by him in small and unimportant matters will, I am afraid, destroy any moral effect that might have been produced by the ! honesty and impartiality of his adninistration. There is no doubt that the Minister of Trade and Customs - to say nothing of the Prime Minister, who seems to have vied with him in annoying the public - deserves the best thanks of the Opposition for having prepared the way for a very successful campaign against the Government, because the whole qf the people of the Commonwealth are up in arms against their administration. We have heard a great deal about the successful legislation that has been enacted by this Parliament, and, so far as I can gather, the members of the labour party take to themselves most of the credit for passing into law the Franchise Act, the Electoral Act, the Immigration Restriction Act, and the Pacific Island Labourers ActAs a member of the Opposition, however, I claim to bo amongst those who voted for these measures, and I affirm, further, that if it had not been for the attitude assumed by the Opposition, the Acts referred to would not have proved so beneficial in their operation. The Government were not always at the mercy of the labour party, but whenever anything was proposed for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, they had to yield to the influence of the Opposition.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Does not the honorable member consider that the labour party did good work 1

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I have the greatest esteem for the members of that party. The liberals among them might very well sit upon this side of the chamber, but some of them are conservatives, from whom it will take some time to rub off the excrescences. This process, however, will be facilitated if they come much in contact with the honorable member for Darling, who is essentially a true liberal., although even he goes astray sometimes.

Mr Watson:

– I believe the honorable member for Darling intends to contest the Robertson constituency at the next election.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I have no fear of that, as I am sure that no one who is acquainted with my career will venture to meet me there. I notice one paragraph in the Governor-General’s speech, which reads as follows : -

You will be asked to ratify an agreement between the Admiralty and the Government of the Commonwealth, which modifies the existing agreement, . and secures for the naval defence of

Australia the protection of a powerful unci continuously efficient squadron of warships at a moderate cost.

I find that Sir Henry Parkes took to himself considerable credit for introducing, on the 24th November, 1887, a Bill embodying the substance of an agreement entered into between the Australian and British authorities with reference to the maintenance of a squadron on the Australian station. That agreement ‘ was ratified by the several States, and formed the basis of the arrangement now in force, under which the Commonwealth contributes £106,000 per annum towards the maintenance of the squadron. It is now proposed to increase the amount to £200,000 per annum.- Article IV. of that agreement reads as follows : -

These vessels shall be under the sole control and orders of the Naval CommanderinChief for the time being appointed to command Her Majesty’s ships and vessels on the Australian station. These vessels shall be retained within the limits of the Australian station, as denned in the Standing Orders of the Naval CommanderinChief, and in times of peace or war shall be employed within such limits in the same way as are Her Majesty’s ships of war, or employed beyond those limits only with the consent of the colonial Governments.

If we admit the principle that we ought to contribute to the British Navy for defence purposes, I am of opinion that £200,000 is not sufficient. I agree with the suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition that the Australian squadron ought not to be employed beyond the limits of the Commonwealth without the consent of the Government. To my mind, that is a very wise stipulation to impose. The forts of Australia in themselves do not provide an adequate defence, in addition to which the floating trade of the Commonwealth must be protected. In times of peace it is of little consequence whether or not a large fleet is stationed in our waters. It is only in time of war that we require such protection. Therefore, I hold that the Government of the Commonwealth should be consulted before these warships are removed from Australia. No less an authority than Captain Mahan has declared that it is most difficult for the guns stationed in forts to strike a moving object. Several instances have recently come under our notice which confirm that view. It is within the recollection of every one that Admiral Dewey’s fleet had almost passed the forts in Manilla Bay before it was discovered, and when it was, the batteries on shore were unable to strike any one of his ships. I see by the sneer of the honorable member for Bland, that he assumes that the objective of any hostile fleet would be known long before it reached Australian waters, and that consequently we should be on ‘the alert. But I would point out to him that whilst the forts at Sydney are well manned, and the submarine mines are under perfect control, similar conditions do not obtain in every port of the Commonwealth. During the Russian scare, nearly 20 years ago, I remember that a small Russian squadron appeared in St. Vincent’s Gulf, passed Cape Borda, and anchored just beyond the Semaphore at Glenelg unnoticed, during the night. On that occasion it would have been quite possible for the Russians to capture Adelaide during the night, to loot the coffers of the banks and to make off with their treasure before breakfast. The instances which I have given evidence that it is quite possible for a hostile fleet to make a descent upon Australian shores ‘without being observed. Commenting upon the Russian scare, the late Sir Henry Parkes declared that it was well known that Russia at that time had designs upon Australia. What was intended then could be easily accomplished by any great naval power to-day.. .Both the French and the Germans have established naval bases in the Pacific. Whilst Great Britain seems somewhat indifferent about her strength there, the French have been considerably increasing their fleet. They have u naval base at New Caledonia, and could very readily make a descent upon Australia. Consequently, if our ships were withdrawn from Australian waters, it is just possible that even some of the obsolete vessels belonging to the French - knowing that they would meet with no opposition - would Swoop down and obtain a foothold upon our shores. The same remark is applicable to Germany. The Germans have secured a naval base in Samoa, which was given to them as a sop to prevent their taking hostile action against Britain in the Transvaal war. Samoa is within a short distance of New Zealand - no further indeed from it than is Melbourne, and in this connexion it should be remembered that the efficiency of the German Navy has excited even the admiration of England. Should Great Britain ever be defeated by a combination of the great Powers so that she could not provide Australia with an adequate naval defence, an enemy might very easily obtain a footing in Western Australia or Queensland.

Sir John Forrest:

– - There is no railway from Western Australia.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The construction of the transcontinental railway would not overcome the difficulty, because although it would enable us to concentrate troops there within a few days, in the interim the enemy would have scooped all the available treasure and have made off. A very great deal has been said in regard to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act. During the past few days I have heard honorable members confess that they were not aware that the particular provision in that statute to which attention has been directed was so stringent as it appears to be. I do not plead any such ignorance. I find that the provision is most clear and explicit. Sub-section (b) of section 3 declares that any person who is likely, in the opinion of the Minister or of an officer, to become a charge upon the public or upon any public or charitable institution shall be excluded from the Commonwealth. That is a very proper provision. Then sub-section (g) - which was the provision applied in the case of the six hatters - declares that prohibited immigrants shall include “ any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth.” That section, however, must be read in conjunction with section 11, which says -

No contract or agreement made with persons without the Commonwealth for such persons to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth whereby such persons become prohibited immigrants within the meaning of paragraph (g) of section 3 shall be enforceable or have any effect.

The agreement entered into by these workmen became invalid as soon as they arrived in Australia. It is very clear, therefore, that the Act provides that if men are engaged abroad at a lower rate of wages than that which obtained in Australia, they may upon their arrival be excluded from the Commonwealth, because they have been brought here in ignorance of local conditions. If men have a knowledge of those conditions, or if they take the precaution to demand a failrate of wage, they are eligible for admission ; but the agreement is not binding upon them. That is a very proper provision, but it should not apply to British workmen ‘brought here under agreement stipulating that they must receive the highest prevailing rate of wages and be paid overtime.

Mr Tudor:

– Payment for overtime is not stipulated in the agreement.

Mr Mauger:

– And it is not correct that these men were to receive the highest rate of wages.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I am personally acquainted with Mr. Anderson, having known him as an honorable business man for ten or twelve years, and last night he told me that these men were paid at the highest - £3 per week - and overtime.

Mr Watson:

– A wage of £3 per week is not at the highest rate.

Mr Tudor:

Mr. Anderson was giving £3 10s. per week to Victorian hatters.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– There may be isolated cases in which men are in receipt of more than £3 or £i, or even £o per week.

Mr Mauger:

– They are not isolated cases.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– It maybe that men receiving these higher rates are managers of departments.

Mr Mauger:

– The honorable member is wrong.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– At any rate I do not think that any workman will say that £3 per week is not a fair wage, or that in this particular trade it is not the highest rate prevailing.

Mr Tudor:

– It is the minimum wage of the union - that is all.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The conten tion of the labour party is not, I think, that these men would have been admitted if the wages to be paid to them had been higher, but that the employment of such skilled artisans must of necessity compete with the employment of others already in Australia.

Mr Watson:

– I did not say anything of the sort. What is the use of misrepresenting?

Mr Mauger:

– The very first letter sent by the Hatters Union said, on the contrary, that the men were heartily welcome, but that there was an objection to their coming under contract.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– These men were picked men from the Denton Mills near Manchester, and were to receive higher wages than they are paid in England.

Mr Mauger:

– They might easily receive higher wages than are paid in England.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– As to the charge of misrepresentation, if honorable members will peruse the papers which are on the table of the House, they “will see that these men were objected to, not because they were undesirable men in the interests of Australia, but because they were highly skilled men.

Mr Tudor:

– That is not so ; the objection was that they were under contact.

Mr Mauger:

– Read the first letter that was sent by the union.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– That letter contained the following : -

We offer no objection to the men as journeymen felt hatters, but strongly object to them under contract, us they receive regular work and wages, while men not so placed suffer from loss of time arising from the fluctuations of the demand for labonr, thus giviug those meu undue ad vantage over all others.

Does not that mean that these hatters, if brought here, would come into competition with men already employed in the Australian trade?

Mr Mauger:

– Into unfair competition.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I contend that I am not misrepresenting the case when I say that that was the sole reason for the objections raised to the admission of these hatters. Is not the meaning of the opposition of the labour party that if these men were employed in Sydney, they would cause competition with the Denton Hat Mills of Melbourne - that this competition might overtake the demand now supplied by the craft in Melbourne, and thus take away trade, and possibly throw men out of employment in the latter city ?

Mr Watson:

– If the honorable member for Robertson applies that remark to me, he is absolutely misrepresenting what-I said.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I find that Mr. Smith, who represents the Hatters Union, wrote to this effect -

Remy memo, of yesterday’s date, I have the’ honour now of forwardingyou a copy of the agreement supplied by one of the men who have Come out to work at the Sydney Hat Mills. I may add that Mr. P. T. Tudor suggested that I Should interview you re the same, but I think you may be able to answer the questions in the previous memo without a personal interview. If not, I shall be pleased to meet you at any time Convenient.

The agreement made between Mr. Anderson and the hatters runs thus -

Mr SPEAKER:

– What the honorable member proposes to read was read last evening.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I was not aware that the agreement was read last night, and I have been challenged to refer to it. I desire to show that these men were employed at a high rate of wages.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I rise to a point of order. Surely it is admissible for an honorable member to read a statement which has already been read if he desires to point an argument? There is no rule to the contrary that I am aware of.

Mr SPEAKER:

– There are rules against undue repetition, and if an honorable member is simply reading a document which has been read at a previous stage of the debate, I shall certainly call his attention to the fact. I should be very far from preventing the reading of such document if an honorable member were desirous of raising a new argument. If the honorable member intimates that his object is to present a new . argument or new interpretation I shall permit him to proceed.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I desire to make some comments on the agreement in reply to an interjection. The agreement is as follows : -

  1. Charles Anderson agrees to engage the said Joseph Joules as planker and hardener, for a term of three years at a weekly wage of £3 per week, and the said Charles Anderson advances to the said Joseph Joules for his passage out, viz. , £25, which shall be deducted from his wages by amounts of 10s. per week, until this sum of £25 is liquidated. Holidays not to be paid for.
  2. Joseph Joules agrees that he is an efficient) hand in planking and hardening, and that he is perfectly competent in his work. Also, Joseph Joules contracts to be sober, attentive to business, and to do his work to the satisfaction of the said Charles Anderson.

These men were brought out by Mr. Anderson, who advanced each of them £25 for the payment of his passage, and made provision for defraying the expenses of their families in England whilst they were on the way to Australia. The honorable member f or Bland last night described thesemen as slaves who could not leave their work, although in the same breath he gave instances of men who were brought out under contract to work in the mines of New South Wales, and who broke their agreement by absconding.

Mr Spence:

– And were sent to gaol for doing so.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– And some of these men preferred to undergo that penalty to working at a lower rate of wages than that prevailing in Australia. These hatters were of the very same class as the miners ; that is, they were unionists who stipulated for the highest rate of wages procurable in England or Australia.

Mr Spence:

– No, they did not.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I arn assured by Mr. Anderson that the agreement made with these men in England was merely provisional, seeing that under the Act it must become invalid as soon as they arrived in Australia. I am further informed that when the men did arrive another agreement was entered into with them.

Mr Tudor:

– Does the honorable member say that these hatters signed a second agreement %

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– They voluntarily entered into an agreement with Mr. Anderson to work at the same rate of wages as had been stipulated for in the previous contract. That was after the interview with the honorable member for Yarra, and I very much regret to find that an honorable member of this House should take so important a part in attempting to exclude British workmen of the very highest class who are brought here for the promotion of an industry which would be so largely beneficial to the Commonwealth. However, notwithstanding that these hatters knew the facts - notwithstanding the statement of the honorable member for Yarra that they were not aware of the Australian conditions when they entered into the first agreement - it is true that they entered into a, fresh contract with Mr. Anderson.

Mr Tudor:

– Does the honorable member really say that these men signed another agreement here 1

Mr.HENRY WILLIS.- On theauthority of Mr. Anderson, I say that another agreement was entered into with these men as soon as they landed in Australia.

Mr Tudor:

– With the six hatters?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– With the six notorious hatters, and Mr. Anderson further informs me that one of the men, after entering into the .second agreement, went away to New Zealand, leaving Mr. Anderson his creditor for something like £30.

Mr Mauger:

– Serve him right !

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– Although the honorable member for Bland described these men as slaves, who would not follow the example of the miners and run away from their employment, the facts show that, without the intervention of the honorable member foi- Yarra, or Mr. Smith, the secretary of the union, they were well able to take care of themselves. The honorable member for Bland said -

On behalf of the labour party he wished to say that he had no objection to a number of British white people coming here to make homes for themselves and to assist in the development of Australia.

The honorable member for Bland intimated that he was then speaking on behalf of his party: and a member of that party is the honorable member for Yarra, who, with Mr. Smith, took a very active part in the endeavour to secure the exclusion of these competent men from Australia.

Mr Mauger:

– That is not fair.

Mr Ronald:

– Is the honorable member for Robertson an authority on Acts ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I am an authority on the Immigration Restriction Act, to the passing of which I was a party.

Mr Spence:

– How does the honorable member know that these men were competent ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

- Mr. Anderson himself stated that the mart who went away to New Zealand was highly competent.

Mr Mauger:

– Why did he go away?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I suppose he thought that New Zealand was a glorious country, where he might do quite as well as in Sydney, and by going there he had the advantage of clearing £30 by the fraud he was perpetrating on his employer. That was an inducement to him to leave Sydney. The honorable member for Bland said -

What they did insist upon was that these men should come free from any control as to their employment, and free to compete on equal terms with their fellow workmen.

These men were free to compete on equal terms, for we have the information that they voluntarily entered into another agreement when they knew the local conditions. After all the stir that had been made, after the members of the union in Victoria had interviewed them, and told them possibly, as the honorable member for Yarra intimates, of the conditions prevailing in the trade here - with all this information before them they were satisfied with the terms of the new agreement, and with the wages that were offered. I shall now refer to the administration of the Act by the Prime Minister. The Act is specific, and is satisfactory from my point of view. It specifies that no man shall be brought here in ignorance, and that if he is brought’ here under agreement, it shall be invalid as soon as he arrives. The men therefore were absolutely free, but the Prime Minister was most anxious to follow the dictation of representatives of the labour party, and prevent the admission of these men, who were brought out for the purpose of working in a hew mill that would turn out goods in opposition to those manufactured in Melbourne. He made it his ‘duty to follow the dictation of the labour party, and prevent these men from coming in, and, in order to prove that that was the case, I refer honorable members to a letter in this batch, which I shall not read for fear that it may have been read in my absence from the chamber, and in which the manager of the Denton Mills in Melbourne takes the trouble of saying that, while at one period of the year there are not sufficient men even for his own requirements in Australia, at other periods his men have to be worked overtime. He goes the length of putting upon paper these facts for the purpose of influencing the Prime Minister to prevent competent men from coming to Australia to work in a competing factory.

Mr Mauger:

– Will the honorable member read that letter t It is a misrepresentation, because the managers of the Denton Mills supported the hatters coming in.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The letter is in the batch. The Prime Minister allowed himself to be used by the labour party for the purpose of keeping out these hatters, although the evidence was before him that they were skilled men, from the very fact that they were required in an industry which was not fully manned, and that they would receive the highest ruling rate of wages. It seems to me that the honorable member for Bland, who states candidly that he has no sympathy with the contention that we should keep Australia for ourselves and our families, takes a brief on behalf of the men who would wish to keep out of Australia competitors in their own line of life. Am I to understand that he leads a party - a small section of the community - who would’ make him a bond slave rather than a free man, that he must follow their behest, and see that hatters are not allowed io enter Australia, and compete with them in their particular craft, and that he would have the Act perverted ? When he found that public indignation was aroused and contempt showered on the labour party for its action, then he said the Prime Minister should have acted more promptly - that is, that he should not have stopped the men coming in, I take it.

Mr Watson:

– He did not stop them.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– Before the honorable member went to New Zealand, he fairly egged on the union men to keep up the agitation against the admission of the hatters - I read his remarks in the press - while another honorable member was taking an active part in preventing the admission of skilled men, and bringing all the influence he could to bear upon the Government in their administration to pervert the true meaning of the Act respecting the importation of objectionable immigrants. I do not think it is necessary to go into other matters which are referred to in the speech. The Bills will be brought forward in due time, and shall receive my very careful consideration. I hope that the Government will not follow the dictation of any particular section of the House, but will administer the laws as they were intended to be administered, so that every citizen of the Commonwealth shall have full justice done to him.

Mr McCOLL:
Echuca

– There is a disposition in certain quarters to condemn the making of speeches on the address in reply. But I think it would be somer what unreasonable if this well-established practice were put on one side. There are only a few occasions upon which honorable members are enabled to speak their minds upon general topics, and to criticise the administration to any extent - the address in reply, ‘ the Budget, and perhaps a motion of no confidence. These speeches clear the atmosphere, enable honorable members to express their views on many questions, which perhaps during the session they might not otherwise get an opportunity of discussing. Therefore, I think reasonable time should be allowed for discussing the topics in this opening speech. I should not have risen to speak but for the address delivered the other clay by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, on the Murray River question, and the water question generally. So far as I can ascertain, the conduct of affairs by the Government has been giving very fair satisfaction throughout the country. Of course, opposition men, whether in or out of Parliament, will always find causes of offence on the part of the Government. Strike high or strike low, these opponents will never be satisfied, simply because the Government cannot please them, no matter what it ‘does, or how long it stays in office. We can quite understand that attitude, and, of course, it discounts all their utterances. Under the somewhat stricter regime of the Commonwealth as regards customs administration “and postal administration there will be a good deal of friction, until people get used to the new conditions. The stricter administration of the laws has been the cause of dissatisfaction. But when we consider the whole subject in a fair and impartial light ; when we consider the new problems which have had to be solved, and the many changes which have had to be worked in various directions, when we consider the peculiar constitution of this House, and the way in which parties are balanced, I think it will be admitted that it would have been very difficult to obtain a Government who would have done better under the circumstances than has been done. The leader of the Opposition has been touring Australia. He has made the gravest charges ; he has, so to speak, slated the Government in every possible way. But there has been very little response indeed to his attacks. In fact, it seems to me from what I have read that in every place he has left the Government in perhaps a little stronger position than it was in before he went there. He is very desirous of raising the fiscal question again. It is somewhat difficult to understand his attitude. He declines to take office, although his friends in the press say that it is waiting for him if he will only consent to sink the fiscal question. But he declines to take office unless he can lead a free-trade majority. Seemingly he is not very anxious for office, because he must know in his inner consciousness that the chance of his leading .a freetrade majority in the House is very remote indeed. What the country wants is not a stirring up of fiscal strife, but rest, economy, and development. I should like to see the Parliament and the Government doing a little towards bringing about those three things. The opening speech is a very long one, and to me it is unsatisfactory in this respect, that it comprises nine or ten items which are associated with the expenditure of money to a very great extent, but does not contain a single item of expenditure for’ the development of the country, and helping the people to earn more money than they did before, and thus meet the increased expense which, to a certain extent, the Commonwealth has brought upon them. The speech fails very much in that respect. In Australia we have gone through very bad times indeed. We have had a terrible drought. We have seen our people driven off the land after having been there for very many years. There is only one remedy for that condition of affairs, and that is the development of our resources and increased production. From beginning to end of this speech, there is not a suggestion to help our people in any way. There are many ways in which that help might be given. There is not to my mind that leaning towards economical Government which the people expected to find in the speech. I represent a farming community, and so far as I can, I intend to preach economy and practice it. Whenever an expenditure is proposed, which in my opinion is not necessary in the country it shall have my opposition, no , matter by whom it may be proposed. I think it would be a gross injustice to Australia at the present time to go to any great expense in selecting the federal capital. I am quite aware that it is provided in the Constitution that the capital shall be in New South Wales, and I am quite prepared to abide by the letter of that provision ; but no time is specified. While I am quite content to see the site of the capital selected, I shall oppose any undue expenditure of money in that connexion at the present time.

Mr Watson:

– Would it necessitate much expenditure immediately 1 I do not think so.

Mr McCOLL:

– As the honorable member knows, a Government or a Parliament always starts in a small way at first, but one thing leads on to another, and before it knows where it is it may be committed to a large expenditure, which, under present conditions in Australia, is not required, and cannot be justified. With regard to the capital, ‘while I am content to see the site selected, I am not willing to go further. I am not anxious to keep the seat of government in Melbourne, and am -quite content to put up with the inconvenience of travelling to Sydney to attend the meetings of Parliament. But I intend to oppose any undue expenditure. There is also the question of the establishment of the High Court. Prom what I am able to learn, it does not appear to me that the proposed expenditure upon the High Court is justified. I do not see that there is any need for running into great expense at the present stage. Apart from that, the salaries proposed under the Bill strike me as being extremely high. We are to have a Chief Justice at £3,500 a year, and four other Judges, each of whom will receive a salary of £3,000 per annum. That is not the worst of it; for if these men become incapacitated after a few. years service they’ will be in receipt of large pensions. If the Chief Justice retires from the bench after six months service he will receive a pension of £700 per annum ; if after five years service, £1,050 ; if after ten years, £1,750 ; and if after fifteen years, £2,450. Any one of the other Judges could retire after six months on a pension of £600 ; after five years on a pension of £900 ; after ten years on a pension of £1,500; and after fifteen years on a pension of £2,100. I am dead against this pension proposal. It would be even better - high as the proposed salaries are - to pay the Judges more money and allow them to make provision for their later years by insurance or otherwise. It does not seem to me that these gentlemen should be treated in a different manner from any member of the rank and file of the service. They will be paid high salaries, and should be well able to make provision for themselves, considering that, their extra expenditure will be amply covered by allowances. I do not see my way to give these proposals of “the Government my support, and there will have to be very strong reasons adduced if I am to change my views. Another proposed expenditure that is not necessary is that upon the Inter-State Commission. We have heard some little talk about friction in regard to railway rates and river charges, but it does not seem to me that there is any occasion at present for incurring the proposed expenditure. Undoubtedly we shall require an Inter-State Commission byandby, but let us wait until Australia grows in wealth, population, and importance before we bring, this body on to the stage. With regard to the much vexed question of the six hatters I do not propose to say very much. I went to a. considerable length in supporting the labour party with regard to the Immigration Restriction Act, because I recognised that Australia being so close to the vast hordes of population in Asia, there is a danger lest those people should come here and attain undue proportions, and I recognise, from what has taken place in Pennsylvania, in the United States, where large numbers of lower-paid European workmen were brought in to compete with local labour, that there is a need for imposing severe restrictions. The effect of the immigration into Pennsylvania was that not only were workmen ruined, but trade and business throughout the State were brought to a very low ebb. I was prepared, therefore, to go to a great length in support of this policy. But when the news came to hand that Britishborn workmen - men of “ the bulldog breed” - had come here and been refused admission to practise their lawful avocations - agreement or no agreement - it struck me, as it did the great majority of the people of this country, with a kind of shock: Something should be done to prevent that …– of thing. I do not know whether the leader of the Opposition has the courage of his opinions, and is prepared to submit a clause to amend the section of the Immigration Restriction Act. If he does not propose something of that sort, I shall take it that he is not very sincere in his condemnation of the Act. I- hope that something will be done to modify the measure, so as to permit British-born workmen to have a free entrance to these portions of the British dominions. But the difficulty that has arisen might have been solved much sooner than it was had a little more judgment been shown - or perhaps I should say, had it not been for the wilful perverseness of the man who imported the six hatters. It seems to me that there was a deliberate intention not to settle the matter quickly. There was an intention on the part of the importer of the hatters to flout the Government and bring them to their knees. It seemed to be thought that the force of public opinion would compel the Commonwealth Ministry to admit the men without having regard to the provisions of the Act. For this reason, I had not so much sympathy for the employers of the men as I should otherwise have had. With reference to the subject mentioned by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, the other day - that of our water supply, and more especially of the use of the waters of the River Murray - I have some remarks to make. I consider that this question of water supply is one of the most important that can possibly be considered in this Chamber. There is no factor that has so much to do with the prosperity of Australia as the supply of water, and there is nothing that will tend more certainly to bring prosperity to the Commonwealth than the utilization of the water supply which we have. We have in Australia some 3,000,000 square miles. In that area there are 1,219,600 square miles of territory with a rainfall of under 10 inches. There is an area of 843,100 square miles with a rainfall of from 10 to 20 inches ; an area of 399,900 square miles with a rainfall of from 20 to 30 inches ; we have under 225,700 square miles with a rainfall of from 30 to 40 inches ; under 140,300 square miles with a rainfall of from 40 to 50 inches ; only 47,900 square miles upon which the rainfall is higher than from 50 to 60 inches per annum; while we have only 70,000 square miles upon which there is an annual rainfall of over 60 inches per annum. These are serious facts that this House should take into consideration, in we are going to develop this country. We cannot progress unless we take steps for the conservation of river waters, and the utilization of them to the fullest possible extent. Many reasons are given for the greater comparative advancement of New Zealand than the Commonwealth. Many people believe that the labour legislation has a great deal to do with it. I hold, however, that it is the land resumption policy and the water supply that have given to New Zealand the position it has to-day. Their crops are so much more certain. With us, throughout the greater part of Australia, agriculture is a pure gamble. It is a chance whether or not a man will get any return for his efforts. There are many agriculturists in Australia who sow with little certainty of getting any return. Whatever ‘we can do to make the man who tills the land more secure should be done, both by the State Houses and also by the Commonwealth Parliament. How can ‘we hope to get population to come here unless we improve the agricultural prospects of the country ? We cannot possibly provide for a great many more people in the cities unless we have a larger back country - unless we feed the great reservoirs, our cities, by means of the streams of production which will come from a closely-settled country.

It stands to reason that we cannot progress otherwise. We have here a large continent that is at present only settled in the proportion of one and a half to the square mile, as against 4S to the square mile in Asia and 99 in Europe. We should do all that is possible to make provision for the settlement of the population that is born in the country, and for those who may be attracted here. But it is necessary to study the geographical conditions of Australia if we are to carry out this policy. AVe have a very big country. Honorable members are as well conversant with the map of Australia as I am, but I must remind them of some features. We have here, beginning with the Grampians in Victoria, a mountain range running east, and then right up north, and then westward to Warrego. That mountain range runs from 1,000 to 7,000 feet in height. On the outside of that range every drop of the water that falls goes to the sea ; on the inside of the range, for the space of some 900 miles by 500 - some 420,000 square miles in all - every drop of water that falls, if it were possible to save it, would find its way to the junction of the Darling and the Murray. We have there our great arterial river system, which, while we have not a great rainfall - because it must be remembered that it is in the winter that we have any large rainfall, and in the summer we have scarcely any at all - offers conveniences for conserving the supply, and should enable us to make use of it in times of drought, and during the summer months. But that great catchment area is not all effective. Out of an area of 420,000 square miles there are only about 160,000 square miles which are actually effective in securing and conveying water. Much of the water that falls in the form of rain is lost in wide open spaces, and in sandy country where it percolates rapidly away. Therefore, there - is only a moiety of the area that is effective in giving water to the rivers. Of that effective area there is in Queensland, 67,690 square miles ; in New South Wales, 75,499 square miles; and in Victoria, 15,310 square miles. Although the effective area in Victoria is smaller, yet, because of its having mountains close to the Murray, it supplies a larger proportion of water to the Murray than do the other States. The Murray itself -is the main drainage course of the east and south eastern portion of Australia. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, says that the State which he represents gives away a large quantity of water, whereas as a” matter of fact not a drop of water which, flows into the Murray and feeds it falls within South Australia. To show what goes down the Murray, I will take the volumes of Albury and Echuca. In a high year at Albury, there flows down 264,000,000,000 cubic feet, sufficient to cover 5,2SO,000 acres 1.2 inches deep. In the lowest year known - not including last year, which may be’ lower than the lowest year on the printed records- 91,000,000,000 cubic feet of water flowed by Albury, sufficient to cover 1,S20,000 acres 12 inches deep. In a mean year there are 144,000,000,000 cubic feet of water, sufficient to cover 2,880,000 acres 12 inches deep.

Mr Conroy:

– .Does the honorable member mean sufficient to cover that area at the season of the year when the water is wanted ?

Mr McCOLL:

– To enable this water to be utilized at a time when it is wanted, there would have to be a system of water conservation, so that the water would be ready for use when it was required. At Echuca, there flows down the Murray in a low year 403,000,000,000 cubic feet of water, sufficient to cover 8,060,000 acres 12 inches deep. In a low year 157,000,000,000 cubic feet is sufficient to cover 3,140,000 acres, while in a mean or average year, 254,000,000,000 cubic feet is sufficient to cover 5,080^000 acres. It will thus be seen that if we only conserve these waters - if the Government will take the matter in hand, and, with or without the co-operation of the different States, will provide storages to conserve the waters of the liver - enormous possibilities will be opened up for the interior of this continent.

Mr Conroy:

– Does tlie honorable member think the work would return interest?

Mr McCOLL:

– I shall come to that question in a moment. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, complained that the allotment of water which had been made to South Australia was too small. I shall deal only with the lowest - that of course will cover all the rest. Under the lowest allotment it is provided that South Australia shall have 150,000 cubic feet of water per minute passing over her boundary at Morgan. No matter how straitened New South Wales may be, no matter how straitened Victoria may be - even if our crops are perishing - this allotment, according to the agreement arrived at by the Premiers, must pass down the river at Morgan. The other States are to lose their water in order to make good that supply. According to its report the Royal Commission on the River Murray, which has been sitting, would allow in low years only 70,000 cubic feet of water to pass over the boundary at Morgan, and the arrangement made by the Premiers is one that I cannot understand. The ostensible object for which this volume of water is desired to pass over the boundary is that navigation may not be interrupted. This supply of 150,000 cubic feet per minute is to be sent down in order that South Australia’s trade with the Darling and other places may not be interfered with. As a matter of fact, however, such a supply would not allow of navigation, because I understand it would allow only vessels with a draught of 2 feet to pass up and down stream. Therefore, I cannot understand why this quantity should go down the river at the expense of Victoria and New South Wales. We must remember that in conveying that quantity some hundreds of miles down to the river to the boundary at Morgan, an enormous loss of water must take place. The whole of that water could be utilized for production higher up the river, whereas it may simply be wasted in going down stream.

Mr Conroy:

– What would be tlie quantity that would have to pass at Balranald in order to give that supply at Morgan?

Mr McCOLL:

– I cannot say. I have not gone fully into the figures so far as they affect New South Wales. It may be interesting to learn what this 156,000 cubic feet of water a minute would do. It would irrigate some 1,576,000 acres of land, and surely its utilization in that way would provide a better asset for this country than would the mere passing of the water down the river in a volume which would not even allow of navigation, and would only be wasted in the sea. I do not understand why the Premier of Victoria gave away i?i regard to this point. Before leaving Melbourne for Sydney he took up a very strong attitude. He claimed that Victoria had a right to use her own waters to her own . advantage and in the best possible way.

In order to allow of navigation at Morgan the river would have to be at least 4 fed above summer level, and it would require nearly 400,000 cubic feet a minute to be sent down to secure that level. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, said that there was only 276,000 acres of land under irrigation in Victoria. Possibly that was the case last year, but the area of land under our irrigation trusts is nearly 2,000,000 acres. The failure to some extent of our irrigation schemes has been due not to anything essentially wrong in the schemes themselves, but to the fact that the work of conservation and distribution has not been carried out as originally projected. No loss would have been occasioned by these irrigation schemes, and there would have been no writing off of the capital advanced by the Government of Victoria to the various trusts if the original proposals had been carried out. The amount written off was not anything like as large as that mentioned by the honorable and learned member. He said that we had written off £1,750,000 on account of our irrigation schemes. That is not the case. The total amount written off consists of £1,068,399 in respect of capital, and £574,252 in respect of interest. That writing off of capital and interest, however, was in relation to water schemes which have been in progress for the last 40 years. Various local councils, waterworks trusts, and other bodies for the distribution of water participated in it. “When the whole matter came up for rectification, every local body seized the opportunity, and wherever it was found that they could not pay interest on the money advanced, a writing down took place. The amount written off in respect of our irrigation trusts was only £720,252 in respect of capital, and £337,239 in respect of interest. The writing off of capital and interest in this way is not an unusual occurrence in regard to irrigation in other countries. The whole undertaking was new to Victoria, but even new as it was, and untrained as our people were in the work of irrigation, success would have attended their efforts had the work of conservationanddistributionbeen carried out asprojected by the honorable gentleman who is now Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. In that event there would have been no scarcity of water. Drawbacks might have been experienced during the first few years, but the irrigation trusts would have ultimately proved a success. We are now anxious that these works for the conservation and distribution of water should be carried out, and we require the water supply to make the trusts the success which they should have been years ago. Complaint is made that the Victorian Government are constructing works of great magnitude which will carry large volumes of water over our country. I would point out, however, that those works are not being constructed with a view of depriving the people of South Australia or others lower down the river of the supplies they require in the low seasons. They are being constructed so large because during the winter months, when water is rather a curse than a blessing to other places, enormous volumes which flow down our streams could be barred in their way to the sea, and conveyed over thousands and thousands of acres in the north-west as well as over the northern plains. There it could be stored in dams, lakes, reservoirs, and otherplacesforuseduringthesummer months. Honorable ‘members know that under the conditions which prevail in our northern districts a farmer is always certain of a good crop if he can give his land a flooding in winter, and whilst a large area to the west does not look for water when it is wanted elsewhere, if it could only get it at a time when it is being wasted, the farmers there would be able to make a living, and by means of their increased production increase to a very great extent the prosperity of the country.

Mr PAGE:
MARANOA, QUEENSLAND

-Does not the honorable member think that is a very selfish policy 1

Mr McCOLL:

– On the contrary, I think it is a wise policy, and I should be very glad to see Queensland make some provision in the same direction. My argument is that if Victoria is to be deprived of these waters the same principle will apply to Queensland, and in urging the claims of Victoria I am speaking just as much for New South Wales and Queensland as for the people of this State. The honorable member’s interjection shows that he does not understand the question in the slightest degree.

Mr Page:

– The honorable member wants all the water for the people of Victoria ; he does not want the people of the other States to receive any.

Mr McCOLL:

– I have never said anything of the kind. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, said that a sum of £250,000 was invested in boats on the Murray. That, however, is a mere circumstance compared with what we could do by. the utilization of this water for irrigation purposes. It may be of interest to honorable members to learn what is the value of the water that is running away to the sea every year, and what effect it would have upon the production of our country. In the fourth progress report published by the Victorian Royal Commission in 1S99 the value of water in various countries is set out. In Italy, according to this report, 60,000 cubic feet of water per minute is worth from £500 to £1,600 ; in France, it is worth from £500 to £2,250 ; in America, it is worth from £S00 to £8,000. According to the last book issued by Mr. “Wilcox, the eminent engineer of Egypt, every milliard of water which comes down the river and is utilized there is valued at £300,000. Having regard to the millions and millions of cubic feet of water which we permit to run to waste every year, honorable members will see what an enormous wealth we are allowing to slip away. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, referred somewhat lightly to irrigation, and to a very great extent discredited its use. He pointed out, for example, that in countries where the system had been tried it had not been attended with much success. In making that assertion he was entirely in error. In the United States of America, they did notgo in for irrigation to any great extent until about 1871 or 1872 - just a little while before the subject was mentioned in Victoria. The growth of irrigation there has been such that there are now 8,000,000 acres - the reference will be found in Smyth’s Conquest qf Arid America, published a year or two since - commanded by irrigation channels.

Mr Deakin:

– There are now over 11,000,000 acres commanded bv them.

Mr McCOLL:

– Yes. The book which I quote is a year or more old. In th”e irrigated districts of the United States the progress made has been five times as great as that in the more prosperous dry districts. In passing I might mention that I am speaking somewhat under difficulties, as I left my references at home, and have had to collect my notes very hastily. If I had my references here I should be able to give honorable members the exact figures. In California, where irrigation has been introduced into the various counties, the progress has been five times as great as in those districts where they have kept to dry farming, and in many of the irrigated colonies in Southern California there is now a population of 500 to the square mile. Production is increasing there by leaps and bounds, and in consequence of this increased production, California is going ahead at a truly marvellous rate. At the last meeting, of Congress, the President of the United States of America dealt very strongly with this question, and urged the conservation and utilization of every drop of water that could be obtained in the western districts of the States. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, made some reference to irrigation works in Egypt, and from his remarks it would appear that he has not kept himself in touch with what has been’ done there. Egypt possesses some 6,250,000 acres of cultivable land, and it has to be remembered that not an acre is cultivable without irrigation, owing to the fact that it is a rainless country. They have made an expenditure of £16,000,000 on the Assouan dam and other works connected with it. Two years have not elapsed since the completion of these works, but during the year following their construction the Government secured an enormous increase of revenue from their land tax. That tax, properly speaking, is a water tax, because, if the people obtain no water to irrigate their, land, the tax is not levied on them. The revenue obtained through this source during the year following the completion of these great works was raised from £22,000,000 to £28,000,000, and the expenditure mentioned has added an asset of £60,000,000 to the wealth of Egypt. Within two years, owing entirely to irrigation, Egypt, which has laboured under a debt of £105,000,000, has been able not only to pay her way, but to build up a surplus of £2,000,000 to the good. That has taken place in a country which in 1S76 was ruined by Ismail Pasha, who ran the national debt up from £5,000,000 to £70,000,000 in six or seven years. Egypt has been able to recover its position only by the aid of English engineers, who repaired the Nile works, thus enabling the application of its waters to irrigation purposes. If we desire to see our country grow, we shall have to adopt a somewhat similar policy. I come now to the condition of India. There we find that enormous works have been carried- out. From 1S90 to 1899 its revenue was £18,500,000, while the expenditure was £20,000,000, showing a loss of £1,500,000. But from 1897 to 1899 the irrigation works picked up, and while the revenue was £7,088,487, the expenditure was only £6,470,431. In 1891 there were 13,500,000 acres under irrigation in India. I believe that there are now some 25,000,000 acres under irrigation, and the works up to a late period were returning 4’2 per cent, interest. With respect to the agreement entered into between the Premiers of the different States in Sydney, the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, expressed the hope that it would be passed. It it, no doubt, very favorable to South Australia, but it is not favorable either to New South Wales or Victoria. I take a strong exception to that agreement; in the first place, because, for the first time, it permits the interference of outsiders in the control of our own local waters required for local purposes. It proposes to limit the use of the water falling within our own territory to a very much lesser volume than we are in Victoria already committed to in connexion with our water trusts. Our limit, under the agreement, is 147,000 cubic feet in low years, but our commitments in Victoria amount to 267,000 cubic feet- 103,000 cubic feet for the western channel, 24,000 cubic feet for theeastern channel, the Murray trusts are committed to SO, 000 cubic feet, and the Mildura Trust to 60,000 cubic feet. The stagnation and the distress in the north-, western districts of Victoria have arisen in consequence of our not utilizing this water, and instead of our being restricted in its use we should be encouraged and enabled to use it to a greater extent. The terms of the agreement give, to my mind, an undue preference to navigation as against irrigation, which the relative value of the two interests does not in any way justify. The agreement gives an unreasonable arbitrary flow to South Australia for navigation purposes, which is prejudicial to the interests of Victoria, and much more than the Murray River Commission decided that South Australia was fairly entitled to. I believe that if such an agreement is passed into law it will block the development of the water resources of New South Wales and Victoria for the next five years. The trouble is that nothing is proposed to be done during the five years to settle the points of difference at present existing between South Australia and the other two States. We are just to maintain the status quo, and at the end of the five years we shall have to fight the whole battle over again. Under the agreement, it is proposed to place the Murray in the hands of a commission of three. It gives to that outside body a controlling power, to which, as a Victorian, I decidedly object. We have spent a very great deal of money, and in the matter of water conservation have advanced far ahead of the other two States, and I therefore object to put Victoria in a minority on a commission having control of the lives, fortunes, and interests of our people in the north, who have been induced by the water policy of this State to settle there in many thousands. This agreement will not only prevent national development, but it will check individual enterprise, because in the case of streams flowing into the Murray, and covered by the agreement - some six in Victoria, and others in New South Wales - not a single offtake can be obtained, and not a single engine can be erected upon a stream or river beyond what is now there to pump a drop of water from it without the consent of this controlling body. I object to our people being placed under outside control in that way. Another drawback to the agreement is that nothing is done towards arranging either amongst the States themselves, or conjointly with the Commonwealth, to provide works for conservation or distribution during the five years, so that at the end of that time the agreement might be put upon one side, with satisfaction to the States concerned. In the agreement there is no recognition whatever, but rather an entire supersession of the powers of the Commonwealth in connexion with the navigation of the Murray. While undoubtedly the Commonwealth has power to construct locks on the Murray for the furtherance of navigation, it is doubtful if action in this direction will be taken. If we are to have locks on the Murray, then I say they should be locks which will be not only suitable for navigation, but auxiliaries for purposes of irrigation. They should be high enough to keep navigation going, and at the same time to permit of the utilization, hy gravitation, of the water stored. Any other policy in their construction will be foolish and shortsighted, no matter what the additional cost of the policy I suggest might be.

Mr Conroy:

– Such works would . not pay interest on the cost of construction.

Mr McCOLL:

– Yes, they would pay interest all right: Another objection I have to the granting of this ‘ concession by Victoria to South Australia under the present agreement is that it will form a precedent for the future. If Victoria through her State Parliament ratifies this agreement it will be impossible for her in the future to retreat from the position defined by the agreement, and she cannot again be placed in the position which she occupies at the present time before the agreement is ratified. Another point of great importance is that the joint commission, when it is appointed, is to be the judge as to what is a reasonable use of the water supply for purposes of irrigation. But Victoria and New South Wales having under this agreement laid down an arbitrary quantity of water which they bind themselves to take, how will it be possible for the commission to ask in future that these quantities should be increased? If such, an application were taken, for instance to the High Court, I think it is unlikely that the Court would be disposed to give the States more than under this agreement they agreed to take, and it would be rather disposed to give them less. The agreement proposes an interference with navigation rights of which the Federal Parliament is the only custodian, and it would prejudice the case of Victoria by permitting concessions to navigation of which the Federal Parliament has not approved, as required under the Constitution. In short, what this agreement means is this : What the States could alone have done, that is, provide joint works for irrigation purposes, it is .not proposed that they shall do, or so far as appears from the agreement that they should even consider; but in ‘ connexion with what the Federal Parliament and Inter-State Commission may have to do, the States under this agreement will interpose prematurely and attempt to perform the work for themselves. They have succeeded in accomplishing nothing whatever except to prejudice to a great extent the interests of Victoria, and to a lesser extent the interests of New South Wales. In 1888, New South Wales and Victoria came to an understanding with regard to the Murray, which it is a pity was not carried out. They then agreed to divide the upper waters between them; and I do not think that at the present time Victoria should consent to take anything like the position which, under this proposed agreement, she will be compelled to take. What reasons actuated the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria in consenting to such an agreement I do not know. I understand that it is strongly condemned in Sydney,and thatthere is no much chance that it will, be ratified by the New South Wales Parliament. I am very glad to hear that, because I believe the nonratification of such an agreement will result in the avoidance of trouble in the future. We are now told that if the agreement is not signed, South Australia may appeal to the Privy Council. That is a far cry, and it is a long and a difficult journey to take. I do not think the Privy Council would agree to interfere with the local distribution of water in autonomous States such as we have in Australia. It would be simply ridiculous to apply the English riparian law, which simply provides that waters must be passed down streams unpolluted and undiminished in quantity, to a country such as Australia, where our conditions render necessary the utilization of every drop of water for purposes of production. The application of such a law in Australia is opposed to all common sense and reason. I doubt very much whether the Privy Council, though wedded to English laws, would dream of applying such a law in this State. I have taken the liberty to deal with this matter at such length because, in my opinion, it is one which concerns us very much. If we as a new Parliamentare goingto win our way to the hearts of the people, we must not confine our work merely to the passing of machinery Bills. We must take up practical measures and give help to our producers, and find markets for their products, and we must take these questions up as early as we possibly can. In spite of all that has been said, I believe that the federal idea has grown, and is growing, amongst the people. Our new environment is strange, and we have not yet perhaps become accustomed to it, but the federal idea is growing, and everywhere we may hear people saying that the Commonwealth oughttotake over the whole of the business of Australia, and that we should put the State Parliaments out of the way altogether,Iamnotnowexpressinganopinionas to whether that would or would not be a wise thing to do. The opinion is, perhaps, scarcely articulate now, but it may be a cry before long, and it will not long be a cry before it will become a policy upon which elections will be fought and won. If we desire to show ourselves worthy to assume the position which we are expected to take, we shall have to work cautiously and economically, studying not the interest of any State separately, but the interests of all. I hope we shall do nothing to check the growth of the federal idea. I hope that the session which has opened now will be marked by steady application to work, and by the passing of good measures which will commend the Commonwealth Parliament generally to the people, and honorable members individually to the constitutents before whom they must go for election at the end of this year. Referring to the elections, I trust that they will take place this year, and that we shall not be compelled to put them off by reason of any delay in having the electoral boundaries adjusted. It would not be a fair thing that the country should undergo the expense of two elections where one should suffice. I have no doubt that we have only to act carefully this session, to be told when the election takes place, “ “Well done, good and faithful servants ; return to your work for the Commonwealth.”

Mr FOWLER:
Perth

– Upon those subjects, which we shall have an opportunity later of discussing in detail, I- have, not a word to say to-day. There are really only one or two matters to which I wish to refer, and that very briefly. The first is one which has not, I think, been dealt with by any previous speaker, and which, though apparently insignificant, embodies, to my mind, a rather important principle. On the occasion of the opening of Parliament, I was very much surprised to find that when Mr. Speaker, together with other members of this House, were called to another place, at the instance of His Excellency the Governor-General, we occupied there what appeared to me to be a somewhat humiliating position. I was very much grieved to see that the Speaker of this House had to remain in a passage, outside of the Senate chamber proper, and that honorable members had to be accommodated also outside of that chamber, in seats allotted usually to the general public.

Mr Henry Willis:

– In many cases honorable members were without seats at all.

Mr FOWLER:

– Quite so. I am aware that, according to the rules of procedure established in the British Parliament, the position appointed for the Speaker, together with other members of this House, on such an occasion, is at the Bar of another place. The term “Bar” is an elastic one, and I think that upon occasions such as the opening and prorogation of Parliament the Bar might be placed sufficiently far forward in. the Senate chamber to prevent such a position of affairs as we were treated to last Tuesday - a position entirely out of keeping with the provisions of the Constitution and the relations of the two Houses. I do not wish to make a suggestion as to what ought to be done in the matter, but I enter a protest against what was done, and I hope that better arrangements will be made in the future. The practice followed by the Imperial Parliament is retained in Great Britain largely because of its antiquity, but such a practice is entirely out of place in Australia, and if some alteration is not made sooner, I shall move, when the standing orders are under survey, that some other arrangements be made which will prevent any difficulty arising in the future. The other subject to which I wish to draw attention has been frequently alluded to in this chamber, though it has not always received the favorable consideration to which I think it is entitled. I refer to the subject dearest to all representatives of Western Australia, because it is dearest to the people of that State, the transcontinental railway scheme.

Mr Winter Cooke:

– It will be a very dear scheme to the rest of Australia, too.

Mr FOWLER:

– I believe that it can be carried out without becoming a “ dear “ one in the sense in which the honorable member uses the word, and that ultimately the line will prove of exceeding advantage to the whole Commonwealth. Part XIII., section 51, of the Constitution vests a power in this Parliament which enables us to carry out a scheme of this kind without entailing a penny of expense upon the people of Australia. The subject is one to which I have given some little consideration, and, if no one else moves in the matter, I intend to place a motion upon the notice-paper shortly which will give an opportunity for what I believe will be a very interesting and important discussion upon it. I complimentMinisters upon having referred to this matter in the GovernorGeneral’s speech as a question of national importance. Any one who carefully considers the situation of “Western Australia in relation to the other States must recognise that the construction of the transcontinental railway, if not in so many words part of the federal compact, is a moral obligation upon the people of Australia. I have no fear but that that obligation will be recognised when the time necessary for a scheme of this magnitude to mature has been given. I do not wish to force the matter forward any faster than it should be pushed, nor do the people of Western Australia wish it to be dealt with except after the fullest investigation. We have no desire to compel the other States to recognise our claim until every opportunity has been given to them to become fully acquainted with the nature of the project.- I therefore urge the Government to follow up the work which they have done by appointing a survey party to go over the proposed route, in order to obtain the fullest information in regard to it. That work is very necessary, because there are still a number of. people in the eastern States, and a few members in this House,’ who are under the impression that the line would run through entirely worthless country. I wish to say, speaking partly from personal knowledge, and also upon reliable information, that such is not the case. When in Perth lately, I met a gentleman who had been prospecting the country east of Coolgardie, and who reached a point within 50 miles of the South Australian border. He assured me that all along the route he had taken he had discovered excellent auriferous indications. I have also the authority of an

Agricultural expert for saying that a considerable area of the land which the line would traverse is suitable for pastoral occupation, and that part of it could with advantage be cultivated. That territory is today in the position which was occupied years ago by other parts of Australia which now are regarded as excellent country. Fifty years ago Riverina was considered a desert, and I have in my possession the report of a trip made by one of the old prospecting squatters through a large part of Victoria tj 2 and New South Wales, in which it is amusing to read the condemnation, by a man presumably expert in pastoral matters, of country which has since been proved excellent for both pastoral and agricultural purposes. I was somewhat amused to hear the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V . L. Solomon, insist on behalf of the people of his State upon the performance of a certain condition before permission could be given by them for the construction of the proposed line through their territory. That condition requires nothing less than the Construction in Western Australia of a railway which the honorable member thinks would be of considerable advantage … South Australia. I hesitate in accepting the statement of the honorable gentleman that the people of South Australia insist upon that condition. I have not heard it specifically mentioned before, and, until I have further evidence, I respectfully decline to accept the honorable gentleman’s statement on the subject as final. Is he prepared, moreover, to pledge the people of South Australia to give their consent to the construction of the proposed line if a railway is made to Esperance ? Unless he can do that, I fail to see why he has dragged the matter into this discussion. The construction of the Esperance line is purely a matter for the State concerned, and, so far from being of special advantage to South Australia, would possibly be of no more advantage to that State than to the other States. It would be of equal advantage to all the- States, whereas the construction of the proposed transcontinental line would benefit, first, South ‘ Australia, then Victoria, and then the other States on the eastern sea-board. It would be of special advantage to South Australia, inasmuch as it would assist that State in developing the Tarcoola gold-fields.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Are they not away from the route of the proposed line 1

Mr FOWLER:

– No ; the line might traverse that district. I do not wish, however, to discuss tlie details of the scheme on this occasion. All I ask is that honorable members shall preserve an open mind in regard to it, and pay careful attention to the evidence submitted to them, and that the Government shall place before Parliament and the people the fullest information obtainable. There is no doubt that the people of Western Australia regard the construction of the line as a necessary corollary to federation. Previous to the acceptance of federation by Western Australia, many of the leading statesmen of the eastern States promised that that line should be constructed by the Commonwealth, and, though I do not say that those promises legally bind the Commonwealth, I have no hesitation in declaring that they impose a very strong moral obligation upon it, inasmuch as, because of them, the objection of many people in Western Australia to federation was overcome. I have yet to learn that the people of the eastern States wish to repudiate the obligation. At the time these promises were made they were tacitly acquiesced in by the people of» the eastern States, and they should not at this late stage be repudiated because of the temporary craze for an improvident species of economy. As a final word, I would urge upon the Government the necessity for a survey of the route for the railway, so as to dispel the ignorance and prejudice which prevail with regard to the proposal. We hear a great deal about economy. . At the time that the visit of members of ‘the Federal Parliament to Western Australia was projected there was a great outcry on the part of those newspapers which originated the demand for economy, but it now appears that the total expense incurred was £172 10s. I venture to say that not one honorable member who took part in that visit to Western Australia, and thus placed himself in a position to judge for himself as to the conditions obtaining in that State, will fail to justify its claim for the construction of the proposed railway. I think honorable members will agree, also, that the money spent upon the visit was well laid out. I am sorry that more honorable members did not take advantage of the facilities then offered, and I extend to those who have not yet been to Western Australia a hearty invitation to go there. On behalf of the Premier of that State, I can assure them that they will receive as much kindness as was extended to those who made the visit during the recess.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:
Gwydir

– After all the criticisms which have been passed on the Government during the recess, I cannot allow the present occasion to pass without offering a few remarks. In view of the complaints made against the Government by members of the Opposition during recess, and all the disastrous consequences which have been attributed to their administration, I scarcely expected that the debate upon the Governor-General’s speech would have been allowed to pass without a much more vigorous onslaught upon Ministers. Some honorable members have directed attention to what they regard as the utter disregard by the Government of their financial responsibilities and of their want of appreciation of the obligations imposed upon them in connexion with the administration of the various Acts passed last session. But the principal charges have centred around the fodder duties and the difficulties experienced in introducing six hatters into the Commonwealth. In New South Wales for a long time’ we heard of nothing but the fodder duties. In the district which I represent they formed the subject of very considerable discussion, and I endeavoured to obtain information with regard to the extent of the tax they imposed upon the people. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 18th December, 1902, the following statement appeared : -

A few days ago Mr. Reymond, M.L.A., asked the Premier to supply Parliament with some information relative to the importation of fodder and its carriage by the Railway department. Last night the information was laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly. The Customs department supplied the following table, showing the duty received on fodder imported into New South Wales from 1st March to 31st August, 1902:- Hay and chaff, £249 los. 10d.; maize, £9,065 10s. 4d.; oats, £4,561 9s, 5d.; barley, £2,544 7s. lOd. ; pollard, £50 ; tares, £8 18s. 2d. ; n.e.i., £16 10s. 10d.; bran, £314 15s. 9d.; wheat, £393 ls. 5d.: total, £17,203 8s. 9d.

The Railway Commissioners received in the same period for the carriage of fodder, £20,257 2s. 4cl. Had no concessions been made on the fodder they carried they would have received £89,737 19s. 3d., so that their concessions aggregated £60,480 16s. lid.

The period referred to represented the worst six months of the drought, because during that period we lost more stock than ever before in Australia.

Mr Brown:

– The amount then paid in fodder duties was nothing compared to that collected since.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– That period was by far the worst in the district which I represent, because the rain set in in August and caused a growth of grass which rendered graziers independentof furtheroutside fodder supplies. The figures which I have quoted show the absurdity of many of the statements made by members of the Opposition. Those honorable members who have so much to say about tlie administration of the Prime Minister, in connexion with the episode of the six hatters, should recollect that they shared the responsibility for the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act. The honorable member for Gippsland astonished me by the statement that the intention of the Act was to prevent outside labour from being introduced into the Commonwealth under agreement during times of strike. If we admit that to be correct, we might as well confess at once that we know nothing about the Bills for which we vote. We should express exactly what we wish on the face of a measure. In the case under notice, I do not see how the Prime Minister could have acted in any other way than that which has caused such a storm to break about him. I desire to refer to the responsibility of the Government in- connexion with the expenditure of moneys voted by this House for specific purposes. I was very much astonished to learn that the Premier of Queensland, when speaking at Cairns a few days ago, stated that the Federal Government was shirking all its responsibilities with regard to the finances. He said, further, that the honorable member for Bland ruled Parliament. If that be” true, I wish to know where is the leader of the Opposition, and where is the Prime Minister ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The leader of the Opposition does not command the support of numbers to the extent that Mr. Watson does.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– Surely Mr. Watson is not stronger than the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition combined. At all events, what I wish to know is, who is the ‘” bigger “ -man of the threes I arn reminded in this connexion of a story regarding a family named Biggar. Mrs. Biggar had a son, and when asked who was the bigger, herself or her son, said - “ My son, because he is a little Biggar.” She was then asked - “But how about Mr. Biggar ; which is the bigger of the three?” She replied- “Mr. Biggar, because he is Father (far the) Biggar.” The point is, which of the party leaders is to rule the House ? When we find a number of appropriations made and voted upon the Estimates we have a right to expect that the money will be spent. The Government proposal to float a loan for the purpose of carrying out public works in connexion with transferred departments was defeated through the instrumentality of the labour party, and ultimately the necessary provision was made on the Estimates. Time has gone on, however, and we still have complaints from the country that the facilities which were intended to be supplied by the expenditure of these votes have not yet been provided. Unless some haste is now made, the votes will lapse, and the intentions expressed by the Government when the Estimates were passed will not be carried out. We. were told that many buildings were not worth repairing, because new ones would have to be erected. I wish to know whether these votes are to be regarded as involving current obligations or outstanding liabilities. Whether any succeeding Government will carry out these public works can only be conjectured, but it appears to me that at the present time a number of items are included in the Estimates merely for the purpose of inflating them, because it is utterly impossible to pay for the construction of these works out of revenue. Personally, I should have, liked to see the Government announce their intention of taking action to amend that abortion of an Act which prevents people in outlying districts from sharing in the benefits conferred by telephonic communication. I know of large areas in which it is simply impossible for the settlers who need telephone communication to furnish the cash guarantee required by the Government.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is a scandalous thing.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– The policy adopted in this connexion has positively prevented any extension of telephonic facilities throughout the whole of the 68,000 square miles of country which I represent.

Mr FOWLER:

– I have received frequent complaints about the same matter from the residents in my district. The people refuse to put the money up.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– It is indeed a scandalous state of affairs.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Yet the honorable member supports the present Administration

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– Yes; because I cannot determine who is the greatest man of the three - the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, or the honorable member for Bland. The leader of the Opposition voted for that measure, and when other important Bills, are brought forward he does not give the House the benefit of his assistance in fashioning them into good measures. But the moment he thinks he has- a chance of ousting the Government he joins forces with the honorable member for Bland. I repeat that residents in outlying districts would have been saved an expenditure of thousands of pounds had it not been for the enactment of legislation which prevents them from participating in the benefits conferred by telephonic extension. I cannot resume my seat without expressing surprise that greater attention has not been bestowed upon the part played by the Prime Minister when in England in regard to future legislation.

Mr Wilks:

– How did he shape? The honorable member was there.

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– He shaped remarkably well. I was informed by gentlemen with whom I conversed that he spoke well, and that he did not commit the Commonwealth to anything. He made it perfectly clear that every arrangement into which he entered was subject to ratification by this Parliament. The GovernorGeneral’s speech also contains a brief, reference to the subject of preferential trade. Personally, I am in favour of the establishment of preferential trade relations with England and Canada.

Mr Wilks:

– -Would the honorable member vote for absolute free-trade between Australia and England 1

Mr CRUICKSHANK:

– 1 think that I should even be prepared to go that far. Regarding the naval agreement, about which so much has been said, I cannot Help thinking that the financial condition of the Commonwealth makes it imperative that the Government shall proceed cautiously. The Defence Bill has yet to be introduced, and we do not know what expenditure will be necessary under its operation. Our present contribution towards the British navy is about 7d. or 7^-d. per head, but under the new scheme it will represent about ls. -per head. In my judgment any action on the part of the Government must be in the direction of rendering further assistance to the Imperial Navy. At the same time, I do not think there is any necessity for violent haste in connexion with the ratification of the proposed agreement, especially as the Defence Bill has yet to be considered. I did not like this important occasion to pass without making these few remarks. I congratulate the Government upon their legislative performance last session, and upon, the futility of the attempts which were made to discredit them in the eyes of the country during the recess. That such attempts were futile is evidenced by the fact that Parliament is now in session, and that the address in reply to the Governor-General’s speech is likely to pass without opposition.

Mr KIRWAN:
Kalgoorlie

– In my remarks I do not intend to discuss every subject that was considered during the last session of Parliament, or that is likely to be dealt with in future sessions. I merely desire to offer a few observations upon questions that the House may not have an opportunity of considering at a later stage. I wish to address myself more particularly to one or two Bills that, if the reports in the newspapers are reliable, may not be brought before the House this session, and to offer a few reasons why they should be submitted for our consideration. Before doing so, however, I desire to say that I agree with the remark of the honorable member for Gwydir, that sufficient attention has not been given’ during the course of this debate to what was done by the Prime Minister upon his recent visit to England and Canada. To me the report of the proceedings of the conference held between representatives of the colonies and the Secretary of State is full of interest. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that, in representing Australia, the Prime Minister was scarcely placed in a fair position. He went home without knowing the views of this Parliament upon the questions which were to be discussed by the conference, arid the result was that he could say nothing of any consequence. We all admit that the right honorable gentleman, wherever he might go, would do credit to Australia and to this Parliament. But when he left our shores for the old country he did so under a pledge that he was not to commit this Parliament to anything whatever. I learn from the Blue - book, which has now been issued, that towards the end of January last year the Prime Minister received a telegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which the latter intimated that this conference would be held, notified the questions that would be discussed, and asked for suggestions as to subjects other than those mentioned, which the Commonwealth Government might deem worthy of consideration. But I have no recollection of Parliament ever having been informed of the receipt of such a message. At that time it was well known that the subject of the renewal or otherwise of the naval subsidy would be considered at the conference, notwithstanding which this Parliament was denied an opportunity of expressing any opinion upon the matter. Consequently, the Prime Minister, when he journeyed to England, could only make an arrangement which might or might not be ratified by this House. It would not look too well, from his point of view, if that agreement were not ratified. It would have been far more satisfactory if the opinion of the House had been ascertained on the question, and the Prime Minister would then have been able when visiting England to say something definite. But, in the position which he occupied, he seemed to be almost gagged upon this, as upon other matters. Of course we all know that he has a wonderful faculty for making speeches which express nothing. Whilst in England and Canada he showed himself an adept in that accomplishment, but it was rather an unsatisfactory position from his point of view and that of the old country, besides being unfair to Australia. That there was no excuse on the ground of want of knowledge, or want of time, is shown in the very first page of the Bluebook, where it is stated that a telegram was sent on the 23rd January, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, intimating the desire of His Majesty’s Government to take advantage of the presence in London of the Premiers, in connexion with His Majesty’s coronation, to discuss various important questions of general interest. The subjects indicated in the telegram were the political and commercial relations of the Empire and its naval and military defences. The various Colonial Governments were also invited to furnish a statement of any subjects which they thought might be discussed, and, with the view to facilitate and- give a definite direction to the discussions, to furnish the text of any motions they desired to submit. Something ought to have been done by the Commonwealth Government to ascertain, through this Parliament, the opinion of Australia on the_ various questions that were to be discussed, more especially on the question of tlie naval subsidy. It might be that Parliament would have decided to give a very much larger contribution, or, on the other hand, to say that we were not prepared to make any contribution ; but, at any rate, the Prime Minister, in going Home without any exact knowledge of the feeling of Australia, was placed in an invidious and awkward position. Further, the Prime Minister, according to what appears on page 17 of the Blue-book, was forced to make an offer to the Imperial Government of what Australia would be likely to contribute. In the Bluebook it is stated that the Board of Admiralty received offers of assistance towards the naval expenses from the Empire,, and that the Commonwealth of Australia offered £200,000 per annum, in order to improve the Australian squadron and to establish a branch of the Royal Naval Reserve.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– That statement in the Blue-book puts the matter a little too broadly, and makes it appear that the representatives of the Commonwealth made the offer irrespective of all conditions, and as if they were pledging the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Nothing of the kind was ever done ; and if what occurred wasso understood, it was misunderstood.

Mr KIRWAN:

– In connexion with thecorrection made by the Prime Minister, it seems to me that this Blue-book has been compiled in a way hardly fair to the colonies. The speeches delivered hy therepresentatives of the Imperial Government are reported fully, but there is no referencewhatever to the position taken up by thecolonial representatives.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– That is not quite the fault of the Imperial Government. Mr. Chamberlain was ready to publish all the speeches .if no objection were taken, but it was agreed that the objection of one of the representatives of a self-governing colony should make that impossible, and there was one objection.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I gather from the report that there was no objection on the part of the Imperial Government, and it seems rather extraordinary that one colonial representative should have the power to prevent other representatives having their views published in the Blue-book so as to enable an opinion to be formed in the colonies on what their representatives laid before the Imperial authorities. The representative of a liberal community like Australia should have felt it his duty, notwithstanding the action of other representatives, to court publicity and ask that the speeches might be reported, or, at any rate, a clear idea given of the exact position.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– No clear idea,, could be obtained unless the speeches were published, and I endeavoured to see that they were published, but it could not be done under the conditions that were arrived at.

Mr KIRWAN:

– That is to be exceedingly regretted. The only idea as to the attitude of the Australian representatives is contained in a memo, from the Minister for Defence concerning his personal views of what ought to be done in the matter of the naval and military defences. While I quite agree with a certain portion of that memo., there are other portions which are not quite in accord with the sentiment of Australia - at any rate there is an inference in the memo, which is, I feel sure, quite foreign to that sentiment. In the particular paragraph to which I refer, the Minister for Defence says -

Great Britain spends annually on her army and navy about £50,000,000 (not including the South African war), or about £1 os. per head of herpopulation. If the Australian Commonwealth contributed in the same proportion, ifc would amount to something like £5,000,000 a year, whereas our entire military and naval defence vote does not exceed £800,000 a year, or only about 4s. per head of our population.

That seems to imply that Australia ought to contribute £5,000,000 per annum, or that, at any rate, the Imperial Government would be justified in asking for the contribution of that large amount.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think not, because further on there is a paragraph which shows that that was not intended.

Mr KIRWAN:

– Further on it is stated -

It moy, of course, be said that in building up another Britain, in the Southern Hemisphere, thus providing another home for our countrymen, and by extending British influence and trade, we have been doing a greater work for the Empire than by contributing towards Imperial naval defence ; but I think the time has gone by for us to use such arguments’, as both duty and stern necessity require that we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with the motherland in the determination to maintain inviolate the integrity of the Empire. That this is the sentimentdeep-rooted in the hearts 6f the Australian people has, I am proud to say, been shown during the South African war, which we have made our own, proving unmistakably to the world that our interests in war, as well as in peace, are indissolubly bound up with the country from which our fathers came, and to which we are all proud to belong.

Sir J ohn Forrest:

– That is not the paragraph to which I referred.

Mr KIRWAN:

– Paragraph 19 is, perhaps, that which is meant by the Minister for Defence, and it is as follows : -

If a proposal were adopted that the Empire should have one fleet maintained by the whole nation, every part contributing to its support on some plan to be mutually arranged, probably on that of the comparative trade of each country, and not necessarily on an uniform basis of contribution, what a splendid idea would be consummated, and- what a bulwark for peace throughout the world would be established ! Besides which we would be doing our duty to the mother country, which has been so generous to us during all our early years.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is the paragraph.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I quote these paragraphs in order that the Minister for Defence may have the case he wished to lay before the Imperial authorities properly represented to this House. Whilst I am in thorough accord with the Minister in his desire to promote a friendly feeling between the motherland and Australia, I dm of opinion that the mere making of the statement that the Australian contribution on the population basis would be something like £5,000,000 per annum, implies that the colonies ought to contribute that amount. A statement of the kind might very well have been left to the Imperial representativestoput forward. I am sure, however, that the representatives of the Empire do not favour anything like a contribution, on the basis of population, Or even a contribution on the basis of trade. They quite recognise that the colonies are a source of strength to the motherland, and it would, to say the least, be extremely injudicious to ask for such a tremendous contribution as that suggested.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think I meant that.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I merely say that a report of that kind, submitted by a’ representative of the Commonwealth, might lead to the belief that it represented the opinion of Australia.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– That memorandum by the Minister was not written for the conference. It was written some time before, and its existence having become known, we were asked if there was any objection to its being laid before the conference.

To that the Australian representatives naturally replied that there was no objection - not that it was ever intended that the .memorandum was to bind the Commonwealth Government without any further discussion.

Mr KIRWAN:

– At any rate, the memorandum was before the conference, and must have had some influence. I merely refer to the memorandum as an instance of what is given in the Blue-book as to the opinions expressed by the representatives of Australia, and, in doing so, I comment on the absence of any report of the speeches of those gentlemen. One resolution passed at the conference is of a very important character. It affirms that conferences of a similar nature should be held every four years, if not at shorter intervals ; and that seems to contain the germ of an idea for a better understanding between the motherland and the colonies generally. I trust that whoever may be sent to represent Australia at future conferences they will not be placed in the position in which the Prime Minister found himself, but that they will have ascertained the view of Australia, at any rate, on these matters, and will have a fixed programme which they can advocate. They should also have a fair idea of the discretionary powers allowed to them. The attention of this Parliament ought to be in some way or other, preferably by the Government, directed to a speech of the kind delivered by Mr. Chamberlain. In his speech he referred to the weighty responsibilities of the Empire -

The weary Titan staggers under the too vast orb of its fate. We have borne the burden for many years. We think it is time that our children should assist us to support it, and whenever you make the request to us, be very sure that we shall hasten gladly to call you to our councils.

He went on to quote from a notable speech in which Sir Wilfred Laurier said concerning the mother country - “ If you want our aid call us to your councils.” In the address to the conference, Mr. Chamberlain practically called the representatives of the colonies to the councils of the Empire, and he made two suggestions. One suggestion was that if the colonies thought that they should be represented in either House of the Imperial Parliament, it was quite possible that it could be done. Then he went on to say that, in his opinion, a better idea than that was that some council should be formed on the lines of the Federal Council of Australia, the council to be’ merely an advisory body without executive powers. Generally he seemed to think that something ought to be done to establish a representative Imperial body, while, of course, he laid stress upon the fact that any direct proposal of that nature ought to come from the colonies. If we are going to contribute to the maintenance of the defence forces of the Empire, certainly we ought to be allowed some voice in the expenditure. But even supposing that we do not contribute anything towards the maintenance of the navy, supposing that we do not contribute one farthing towards the Imperial expenditure, still the position will remain that Australia, so long as it is part of the Empire, will necessarily be involved in any quarrel of the Empire. We are bound to be responsible for anything that may be done by the Imperial Government . which would involve hostilities between Great Britain and other Powers. The position now is that while Australia may be brought into a quarrel - in fact, she cannot keep out of a quarrel in which Great Britain may be engaged - she has absolutely no voice in. the councils which may bring about that dispute. The position is almost an intolerable one to a country such as Australia, that believes in the representation of the people. If we are going to send contingents away - and, in any case, we are always open to attacks from the enemies of Great Britainthen it Will be for us to consider whether we should not endeavour to have a voice, either by the suggested advisory council or by some other means, in the making or pre:vention of those quarrels. There is another point in connexion with this report which I should like to have cleared up. Canada, which was represented at this conference, is a part of the Empire, but it is not prepared to contribute .one penny towards its own naval defence. It spends, on local defence, about a third of the amount per head of population that Australia does. It does not contribute Id. towards its naval defence, although it seems to me to be more in need of naval defence than is Australia. Australia is an island far removed from European powers, whereas Canada adjoins a power which, although it may be regarded as friendly, is still foreign, and it is also nearer to the great nations of Europe, and is much more open to attack than is Australia. It would be interesting to know the exact motives which have influenced Canada to refrain from making any contribution to its naval defence, while every other portion of the British Empire contributes something or other to its naval defence. I think that two of the promised Bills ought to have occupied a more prominent position than they do in the Governor-General’s speech. Judging by the references to these Bills in the speech, they do not seem to occupy a foremost position in the programme of the Government, although, to my mind, the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Inter-State Commission Bill are of the greatest importance. I refer to the former measure because of the experience of Western Australia in that regard. For some time we have had an Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and the result is that strikes are virtually things of the past. The Act is generally admitted to be far from perfect, and the decisions of the courts are very often questioned. It is sometimes said that arbitration courts in their decisions are unfair to the employers or to the men. It must be remembered that that argument may be applied to all courts. Courts are merely human institutions, and it is but human to err. When any one says that an arbitration court may err at times he is only saying that which may be said of a Supreme Court, the Privy Council, or the highest court in the realm. The Inter-State Commission Bill does not seem to have as many friends as the Arbitration Bill. A few evenings ago the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said he failed to see any reason why it should be introduced ; that he did not know of any case where preference was shown by railways to such an extent as would justify the formation of an Inter-State Commission. I believe that when certain facts are stated to the House, there is not an honorable member who will not agree that something ought to be done to prevent the preferences which are given in favour of the commodities of one State as against the commodities of other States. I shall quote railway rates in Western Australia to show that local produce is carried at a considerably lower rate than imported produce. Instances might be given to show that imported produce is carried at a rate three and four times higher than that charged for local produce. I have taken from the railway rate book some figures which I am sure will astonish honorable members. Let us take the case of timber which is produced locally -to a very considerable extent. From Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 387 miles, Western Australian timber is carried on the railways for £1 5s. 9d. per ton, while imported timber is charged £50s.10d. per ton - very nearly four times as much as the local article. That is a direct infringement of the principle of Inter-State free-trade ; it means virtually a second Customs house. As a Western Australian, I am sorry to have to bring this question before the House. I am sorry that our Premier, who fought so well to bring Western Australia into the union, did not see that these rates, which are a direct infringement of the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution, were abolished. However, there seems to be no prospect of the rates being abolished. Over and over again representatives of various public bodies and representatives of the people have waited upon the Premier and his colleagues and asked for the abolition of the rates, but no replies of a satisfactory nature have been received, and consequently it remains for this Parliament to endeavour to have them removed.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– There are equally as bad things being done nearer home in the way of wharfage rates.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I am sorry indeed to hear that. I shall now quote the railway rates for some other commodities. Let us take the case of Newcastle coal as compared with coal locally produced at Collie, in Western Australia. The local coal is carried 3S7 miles at the rate of 17s. 2d. per ton, whilst the imported coal is carried at the rate of £1 14s. 3d. - that is, almost exactly twice as much. I can give numbers of other instances in which the difference is almost equally great.

Mr Kennedy:

– Thatsystem is common to the whole of the railways of the federated States to-day.

Mr KIRWAN:

-I am exceedingly sorry that such is the case. I certainly never realized that anything so bad as this existed in the other States. If such be the case, it is a strong argument for the necessity for bringing forward the Inter-State Commission Bill as soon as possible. Tho other articles to which I shall refer are fruit and vegetables, sauces, and lard. All those commodities are carried, when locally produced, at £2 5s. 7d., but when imported at £5 0s. lOd. Locally-produced dairy produce is carried at £2 Ss. 7d., whilst imported dairy produce is carried at £’5 10s. lid. It seems to me that if this kind of thing is allowed to exist upon the railways of Australia, there is no real Inter-State free-trade. It is simply a second Custom-house, system, and should be prevented without delay. I do not say that an Inter-State Commission, founded upon the lines of the last Bill, ought to be established. There are a great many honorable members who are strongly opposed to the establishment of an Inter-State Commission on the expensive lines that were outlined in the Bill presented to Parliament last year. But I appeal to honorable members to see that, at any rate, something is done in order to put a stop to the preferences I have mentioned. They are a direct infringement of the spirit of the Constitution. “When the Minister for Home Affairs was in “Western Australia, representatives of various public bodies waited upon him and laid the facts concerning railway rates before him. He said that the preferential rates were distinctly unconstitutional, and far worse than anything he had heard of as existing in the other States. I can promise that if the Minister bringsforward the Inter-State Commission Bill, I, as a member of the Opposition, will give to him every support that lies in my power. The visit of the federal members to Western Australia during the recess was very much appreciated by the people of that State. When that matter was first referred to in this House - it was I who brought it forward in the first instance - I can well remember that the press described it as .a proposal to expend more money than was warranted. An outcry was raised in the press that led people to suppose that it meant an expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds. The actual cost, as shown by the reply given to a question of mine in this House, was something like £170.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– £172 10s.

Mr Wilks:

– How many members went ?

Mr KIRWAN:

– I think that every State in the Union was represented ; and I am perfectly satisfied that the visit will do a great deal to promote a friendly feeling throughout Australia. It showed the people of Western Australia that members of the

Federal Parliament were very much interested in the affairs of the State that is furthest out of the track of Australian traffic. I said at the time, when the proposal was first mooted, that it would not cost more than £200. The newspapers ridiculed the idea, and spoke of the visit as 1 hough it would be one wild picnic from beginning to end. They stated that it would involve the Commonwealth in a very heavy expenditure. I am exceedingly pleased to find that the results have justified the low estimate which I made in the first instance. Before concluding, I wish to refer to the question of the construction of a railway to Western Australia, to which reference has been made by most of the speakers during this debate. I recognise that South Australia at present seems to hold the key to the position. If. as the Premier of South Australia and the leader of the Opposition in that State say, South Australia will not give permission for the transcontinental line to pass through its territory, this Parliament is powerless. I notice that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, in the course of his speech, said that South Australia would not give her assent to the construction of a transcontinental railway upon her territory until a railway were built from Esperance to the eastern gold-fields. I may mention that I have always thought that the Esperance Railway ought to be constructed. During the last session, when the honorable member for Coolgardie brought forward a motion concerning that line, I seconded it, and gave at length reasons why I thought it ought to be built. I hope that the State Parliament and Government of Western Australia will see their way to the construction of the Esperance Railway, so that there will be no necessity to bring the matter again before the Commonwealth Parliament, whilst they will, by so doing, at the same time remove an impediment which, .according to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, exists to the construction of the transcontinental railway. There is nothing antagonistic between the Esperance Rail wayand the transcontinental line. Every effort ought to be made not only in Western A ustralia but by members of this Parliament, from a broad and statesmanlike view of their duties, to see that all the railway systems of Australia are united. It has been said that no compact was made in connexion with tlie transcontinental line. Certainly no written compact was made. There was no actual pledge for its construction. Unfortunately provision for it was not included in the Constitution. But most of .the representative men of Australia at the time of the referendum expressed themselves strongly in favour of the construction of the line, and there was not a single representative public man who expressed any doubt whatever that the railway would be one of the first great works to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Parliament. I have nothing further to say, Mr. Speaker, except to refer to the speech made by the honorable member for Gwydir, who in the course of his remarks seemed to imply that because the leader of the Opposition had not seen fit to move a motion of want of confidence, honorable members on this side were wavering in their criticism of the policy and administration of the Ministry. I am sure that that is not the- interpretation that will be placed upon the actions of those on this side of the Chamber by any impartial observer. The members of the Opposition fully recognise that this is the last session of the Parliament. They have over and over again stated that during this session the fiscal issue would not be raised, and theleaderoftheOppositionhas announced that he would not. place any bar to proceeding with necessary work that is largely of a non-party nature. He has said that he is prepared to act with the Government to get that work done, thus showing his desire to proceed with the essential business of the Commonwealth. I think that it is somewhat unfair that that action should be construed as it has been by the honorable member for Gwydir, and I am sure that it would not be so construed by any fairminded man either in this House or outside of it. When the fiscal issue comes to be decided - it is not to be decided during this session, as has been often said - at the next general election, no one who is aware of the feeling of the country can have any doubt as to the result.

Mr SPENCE:
Darling

– I think, comparing the experience of other Federations of modern times with ours, now that the people have had time to look round, to review the work of the first session of the Federal Parliament, and to judge what has been done by their representatives, we may congratulate each other on the success which has attended our efforts, and upon the satisfaction with which our work has been generally received. We have not heard a whisper of secession, except in Queensland from a gentleman who represents the plural voters of that State, and not the. people. I attribute the successful issue to the fact that the people had a voice in the framing of the Constitution, and are consequently loyal to it. I have listened with a great degree of interest to the criticisms upon the Governor-General’s speech, and the criticisms upon the administration of the Government. These criticisms, boiled down, appear to resolve themselves into censure upon the alarming activity of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the fact that the Prime Minister did not break the law in’ admitting six hatters before he was asked to do so. As a matter of fact, the affair of the six hatters ought to be referred to as that of the twelve hatters, because they were twelve in number. The critics of the Ministry take up an extraordinary position when they complain that Ministers have not broken the law, but that they have obeyed the Act which this Parliament made. It is possible, I will admit, that any law may be administered in such a way as to create more friction than is needed ; but I, for one, am going to express my appreciation of the activity of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the measure of success that he has attained. I can quite understand the complaints of persons against whom he has had to set the law in motion, but I am not going to give credence to ex parte statements which come from sources that have proved to be tainted. The head of a large firm which was afterwards prosecuted was prominent amongst those who complained of the harsh way in which the department was being administered. I certainly expected to hear a great deal from the leader of the Opposition.Judging from the statements in the press, the right honorable gentleman seems to have a very big correspondence, and I thought he would have been able to cite cases by the hundred. Instead of that he mentioned only one, the case of a quartermaster who was run in, it was said, for going ashore with a bible and a piece of silk. I consider the Government ought to be proud that so little could be brought against it. I do not intend to go into details in regard to the six hatters, about whom so much has been said. As a matter of fact twelve hatters were admitted, and I do not know why the people insist upon referring to “ the six hatters.” According to the press the action of the Government in regard to these men is causing the British Empire to totter to its ruin ; but I do not believe there were 1,000 people in England who discussed the matter. The press cabled something to England which was not true. The English newspapers published that cable and commented on the untruth, and then the press representatives at Home wired back to us that public opinion-in England was so and so. But it was only public opinion based upon false information. The only complaint I have to make is that a great degree of unfairness has been shown. in dealing with the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister. I like to defend any one who is unjustly attacked and even if a man is our greatest enemy we should always endeavour to see that he gets justice. A charge has been made against the Prime Minister that is not true - - I refer to the assertion that the hatters were refused admission. Indeed, some ungrossly unfair statements have been made in this House. The honorable member for Robertson certainly made a grossly unfair statement-

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! The honorable member must not say that another honorable member has made a grossly unfair statement. He must withdraw that remark.

Mr SPENCE:

– I withdraw it. I was going to say that I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Robertson make such statements, because it is unusual for him to do so. It was not fair of him to charge the labour party with having influenced the Government in dealing with the case of the hatters. The labour party took no action.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Then who is “Mr. Tudor”

Mr SPENCE:

– The honorable member for Yarra is a member of the labour party, but if the honorable member for Robertson took certain action it would not be fair to say that the Opposition was responsible for that action. I was one of those who waited on the Prime Minister and asked him to refuse to admit the second batch of six hatters, and I consider that, instead of being blameworthy for having endeavoured to shut out these men, the Prime Minister really strained the law in admitting them. If the people will only rid themselves of that unconscious bias, caused, no doubt, by reading the statements in the daily press, and will consider the true facts in a philosophical way they will readily see that the Prime Minister really strained the law in order to admit the men. I am not complaining that he did so, but I do say that it is unfair to charge the labour party with having influenced the Prime Minister. In all the circumstances I am by no means afraid that this provision in the Immigration Restriction Act will not be allowed to stand. When we get away from the little bit of party feeling that at present exists the same evidence which caused this House to vote for that section will lead it to retain it in its integrity.

Mr Henry Willis:

– But the administration in the case of the hatters was wrong.

Mr SPENCE:

– No. ‘The case was dealt with in the only way in which it could have* been dealt with. Inquiries had necessarily to be made. An attempt has been made to suggest that our credit has been injured in England by the way in which the hatters were treated. But shiploads of passengers come here and are quarantined for weeks and we never hear that the Empire is likely to be ruined in consequence of that action. Passengers are kept in quarantine until they get a clean bill of health, and these hatters were kept out .until they could secure a clean bill of health. I always like to place myself in a position to get at the true facts, and I never swallow the statements of a newspaper. I have had a good deal of experience in these matters, and I have’ never known of a case in which a man engaged in circumstances similar to those under which these men came out, was not deceived. We were told to-day by the honorable member for Robertson that one of these men had cleared out. This is the kind of man honorable members of the Opposition are championing, and who, they , tell us, should be freely admitted into Australia. My experience is that that sort of thing will invariably happen. I do not know of one instance in which men were not deceived when engaged under contract in this way. The way in which the free- trade party have departed from their principles in this case has caused me some astonishment. I do not say that every honorable member of the Opposition goes in for unrestricted competition, but they .will see that if men are bound down to work under agreement there can be no fair competition.

Mr Henry Willis:

– In this case themen voluntarily entered into the contract.

Mr SPENCE:

– A man sometimes voluntarily enters upon a work in which he loses his life. Sometimes a man voluntarily kills himself, and if the law catches him in the act of trying to commit suicide, it punishes him for doing so. In speaking of a workman, the expression is always used that he is free to do this and that, that the courts are open to him, and that he can readily secure justice. But what is the good of telling a man who is living from hand to mouth that the Privy Council is open to him, that he can go there and obtain justice 1 He cannot do anything of the kind. He has to do all manner of things to obtain his bread and butter. If a man lands here under agreement, it cannot be said that he is free. He has to work in accordance with his contract, and he is only free when the conditions are such as to give him absolute freedom. I am not afraid of any alteration in the Act, and I do not think that the Empire was saved when these men were admitted. I wonder that some people have not complained of the failure of the Government to catch the man who went away. The whole thing is nothing more than a party move on the part of the press, and is in keeping with the wave - of which we all know - that is spreading over Australia to-day. The detention of the men for a few days exactly suited this party move. It enabled the press to cable Home that representative British citizens had been refused admission to Australia, and I doubt whether the people at Home have yet been informed that these men were really not refused admission.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Would the Government do the same thing again ?

Mr SPENCE:

– I think the incident will stop men from coming here again in that way. I contend that, according to the strict reading of the law, the Prime Minister could have refused the men admission, and I am not ashamed that I was one of the deputation which requested him to refuse to admit them into the Commonwealth.

Mr McDonald:

– The mistake made was in allowing them to enter.

Mr SPENCE:

– I am inclined to think so. My own opinion is that a certain party is disappointed because the Prime Minister did not keep them out. If he had only done so they would have had a stronger case, but as it is they are obliged to keep on saying that these men were shut out, although they were not. I desire now to join with the honorable member for Parramatta in complaining to some extent of the administration of the Postal department. As a representative of country districts, I must say that the system adopted in the Post-office in some instances causes great hardship. There are two matters about which I complain. One is the way in which people are compelled to subsidize mail contracts. They cannot get a mail in a great many districts unless they contribute the greater part of the cost of carnage. I object to that system. They should either be refused a mail or the Government should be prepared, if necessary, to carry it at a loss, having regard to the fact that that loss is made up in other places. Letters are carried at a unifoim rate, because sufficient revenue is obtained in the thickly populated districts to make up any loss occasioned in carrying mails in more sparsely settled places. I have been travelling in country districts and have been endeavouring to obtain a record of what is paid by way of subsidies, for mail contracts. The departmental officials were unable to tell me how much they receive in this way. The practice adopted is to send out an inspector, who makes inquiries and says - “ We estimate the revenue to be obtained from the carriage of mails here at so much, and we will contribute so much towards making good the loss that will be incurred. If you can get any- one to make up the balance we will run a mail to this place.” In this way many selectors and farmers who are hard up have been compelled to subsidize mail contracts. I will give an illustration showing how much depends on one man. In one case I had great difficulty in securing a certain office. An inspector was sent up to the place, and reported that the estimated revenue for the year would be £10. The first year’s work resulted in a revenueof £42, but unless an estimate is made in this way facilities of this kind cannot be obtained. I come now to the question of telephonic and telegraphic communication, and I shall mention only two cases by way of illustration of my complaint. I know that there are many cases, particularly in Queensland, to which other honorable members can refer. There is a certain mining settlement, having a population of 600 people, situate i miles from a railwayline, and the residents of that place find it impossible to obtain telephonic communication unless they plank down £600 in cash. How can a body of miners - working men - be expected to subscribe £600 1 The settlement in question is evidently going to be permanent. The principal mine is a very rich one, and there are others adjoining. Altogether, it is a go-ahead place, but the local post-office is what is known as an unofficial one. A postmistress is in charge, and receives £28 a year. For that remuneration she does all the work of the post-office, and practically all the moneyorder and savings bank business. I know, of a somewhat similar district, although the population is not so large, which is in exactly the same position. It seems to me that as soon as there is a reasonable prospect of permanent settlement, the Government should erect a telegraph wire. No very great loss would be occasioned.

Mr Kennedy:

– The department is working under regulations.

Mr SPENCE:

– Regulations can be altered, and I am pointing out how they should be altered. In the progress of a settlement a stage is eventually reached at which the department determines to erect a wire at its own cost, and it provides telephonic communication, although it may not establish an official office. What I complain of is that the department is too slow in determining to carry out that -work; No effort is made to use the Post-office to assist the people in the country ; on the contrary, the people are submitted to all sorts of disadvantages. The department will not take a guarantee of any kind in regard to these works. I know that the guarantees of men whose names would be accepted by any merchant have been refused. The department must have cash down, but I am at a loss to understand why private persons should be asked to advance money in that way. I should not complain if it were a case of halfadozen people applying for telephone or telegraphic communication at the expense of the country. I would oppose such a thing myself. But here is a permanent settlement, or one that has every appearance of permanency, a place with thoroughly developed and rich mines and with others going ahead, and I say that the department has shown itself to be too slow in supplying the means of communication which such a settlement is entitled .to have. The people are put to great expense and loss, the mining companies have to keep a horse and an attendant constantly ready, and messages have to be carried for miles because there is no telephone or telegraphic communication provided. Another matter to which I desire to direct the special attention of the Minister for Home Affairs is one in which every honorable member is interested. I refer to the preparation of the electoral rolls. It is quite evident from the returns we have from New South Wales, and the estimate of Mr. Coghlan, that there must be some 80,000 persons in that State who are not on the rolls. That is a very serious matter. From a comparison of the populations of “Victoria and New South Wales, it is clear either that in Victoria names have been duplicated on the rolls, which is very unlikely and which it is perhaps unfair to assume, or that in New South Wales those appointed for the purpose have failed to collect the names of persons entitled to be on the rolls. In my recent trip to my electorate I met a very great many who are not on any roll at all. They do not know whether they are on the federal roll or not, and it is important to consider how they are to get the information. I have a suggestion to make to overcome the difficulty. It will be some little time yet before the plan of the electoral divisions is submitted to us, and there will then be a period of 30 days within which objections may be lodged against the divisions proposed. After that any alteration which may be deemed necessary will have to be made, and all this must be done before the rolls can be finally prepared. I suggest that in the meantime it is possible for the Government to have the temporary rolls, as at present compiled, printed and supplied to the various post-offices of the different districts. People will then be able to examine them, and if they find that their names are not included they can formally apply to have them placed on the rolls. I believe that a supplementary roll provided for in this way would be ready by the time we had dealt with the electoral divisions. Unless some such course is adopted, people will have to write to head-quarters on the subject, and I ask honorable members to imagine 80,000 electors in New South Wales communicating simultaneously with Mr. Lewis. What a nice little contract that gentleman would have in discovering whether the names of those persons are, or ought to he, on the rolls.” The matter is one which, I think, should be dealt with at once, that the difficulty may be overcome in time for the senatorial elections, apart altogether from the elections for the House of Representatives.

An Honorable Member. - How were the names left off? Did not the .police go round ?

Mr SPENCE:

– It is true that the police went round as they did in connexion with the compilation of the rolls for the previous elections, when thousands of names were left off. I know that in my own electorate before the last election took place we managed to get the names of no less than 170 men put on the rolls. Those names had been struck off, though most of the men had been living in the district for years. In one town, Warren, the names of all the clergymen were struck off, for what reason no one could say. I am not speaking of the case of new electors, but of men who had previously been on the rolls. One man whose name was struck off was continually under the eyes of the constable, who could not go out of his door any day without seeing him. I say that the data supplied for the purpose of revising the rolls has been incorrect, and country districts have suffered more than metropolitan districts in this respect. Owing to the drought there has been a temporary concentration of people within the metropolis, who, since the rain has fallen are going back to the country districts which they left. During the time of the drought the country districts of course had a minimum population, whilst the population of Sydney was at the maximum. That will probably account very largely for the preponderance of women voters in the metropolis as the wives, daughters and servants of managers of stations being in Sydney temporarily would of course be placed upon the Sydney rolls. The Government might consider the suggestion I make and see whether it is not possible to issue copies of the temporary rolls to enable persons whose names are not included to take steps to get them upon the roll.

Mr Conroy:

– What is the last day upon which they can be put upon the rolls ?

Mr SPENCE:

– Revision courts w,ill have be held after the rolls have been compiled, and there will not be time for all that requires to be done unless some such suggestion as that which I have made is acted upon. I shall not now say very much about the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It goes without saying that I ani heartily in favour of that measure. It has always been a proposal of the labour party. Labour has always been prepared for arbitration, while it has been the other side that has been against it, and it is the other side that will be found against it now. I shall reserve more lengthy remarks upon the matter until the measure is before the House, but I should like now to urge its importance, and to suggest that it should be one of the first measures considered. I do not agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that it is not urgently needed. I know of cases now waiting in which complications are likely to arise unless a court of conciliation and arbitration is established. I refer, of course, to cases affecting Inter-State matters. I quite recognise that the question- of jurisdiction will be one which there will be some difficulty in deciding. It will not be easy to draw the line between Inter-State and purely State matters. But there are some cases which are certainly Inter-State waiting to come before the court as soon as it is established. I do not anticipate that the court will have a- great deal of work to do, and while on that account it need not be very costly, I venture to think that it will be the means of saving the people of Australia a very large sum indeed. Even if its establishment involves considerable expense, I know of no court whose work would be of more value to the people of the Commonwealth. I agree with the leader of our party that, as trades unionists, we may have to make sacrifices in some things of va-lue to us, but we shall be prepared to do that for the sake of industrial peace, and in order that good relations between employers and employes may not be disturbed. On the subject of the proposed High Court of Judicature, I feel that we still require a great deal of information, which I hope we shall get when the measure for its establishment is introduced. As the proposal is to give the court original jurisdiction, it is probable that upon its establishment it will be able to take’ over the consideration of a great many cases which now come before State courts that have been given federal jurisdiction. This will probably affect the question of the cost of its establishment, because if there is a good deal of work to be done by the court, and we are called upon to pay high salaries to the Judges, they will probably be earning their money. I point out that in the way I have suggested the work done by the proposed High Court may lessen the work which, under existing circumstances, must be done by the States judiciaries, and on that account some savings may be effected by the States. I know that there have been complaints in New South Wales recently that the Judges there are overworked, and are unable to overtake the work they are required to perform. I think that the Judges, of the Federal High Court will become specialists, will acquire special knowledge for the performance of their functions, and in that way will have an advantage over the Judges of the various States who temporarily exercise federal jurisdiction. I agree that if a High Court is to be established, we should try to keep down its cost as much as possible. The Federation should go slowly and steadily in the setting up of these great institutions, and certainly if it can be shown that a High Court can be dispensed with for a time without involving injustice, I should favour delay. I have heard nothing so far to induce me to believe that very much will be gained by the people of the Commonwealth as a whole by postponing the establishment of the High Court. I am not greatly in love with the proposals for naval defence. My idea is that if we give our people practice in the use of the best rifle, and supply them with rifles and ammunition, through rifle clubs and such bodies, they will take care of Australia. In conversation with authorities on the subject of defence, I found that the popular idea of a vessel appearing outside Sydney Heads and shelling the city was ridiculed. It was pointed out that war vessels carried a limited quantity of ammunition for the purposes of sea fighting, and they would not be likely to waste it in shelling a place like Sydney,’ where there is so much space taken up by water, gardens, and streets. It has been suggested before now that one of the best defences which Sydney could have would be an effective fire brigade system, so that fires which might be lighted by shellsthrowninto the city could “be promptly extinguished. ButI have been told that it is not likely that a war vessel would do any such thing as fire shells into the city. I was assured by a good authority, a professional military man, that an ironclad might get into Sydney Harbor, but it was not reckoned that it could get out. It was not supposed that its entry could be prevented either by the fixed guns or by submarine mines, because we know what may be done by counter mines. It seems to me that we require a good deal more information upon the subject than we have at present. We cannot contemplate the formation of a big. navy able to fight the number of ships likely to come here. I recognise that a gunboat might be able to defend us from the operations of an ordinary cruiser or privateer, but if it were the intention of an enemy to do anything in the way of taking away loot, the number of ships required for the purpose would be sent, and we should require a considerable navy to fight them. It seems to me that there is a great deal of waste about the defence business altogether and I am not in favour of the idea of even forming the nucleus of au Australian navy at present. There have been so many developments recently in connexion with the business of defence that I hope the fullest information will be given on the subject when the measure referred to in the speech is brought before us, and that the whole question will be very carefully considered. Perhaps the proposal which has been suggested is the best that we can accept.. It is possible that it would be better to have ships which would be under our own control if we are to have them at all, and small fast cruisers to run round the coast would be useful for the purpose of supplying information. The authorities of Great Britain must, of course, protect their commerce, and I have nodoubt they will doso. I would rather see Great Britain and the other leading nations of the world join together to set up an arbitration court, and compel all countries to bring their disputes before it. Of course there would always have to be the ultimate resort to force, but such an arrangement would be a better way of settling difficulties than that which now obtains and which necessitates the constant building up and equipping of huge armaments. A great deal of money has been wasted in the past in military preparations, and while I do not wish it to be forgotten that Australia is part of an Empire to which her people are proud to belong, and whom we do not wish to treat meanly, I am of opinion that we cannot afford to spend much money on defence. I wish now to refer to the finance problem. In the first place I congratulate the Ministry, and especially the Treasurer, upon the attitude which they have taken in regard to the proposals of the six Australian statesmen who met in Sydney to sketch out how, in their opinion, the Commonwealth should be run. Those financial geniuses evolved a splendid plan. They proposed that the people of Australia should borrow a large amount of money to buy back from themselves buildings which they had already paid for with borrowed money. I do not know what a private person would think if an arrangement of that kind were suggested to him in regard to his own business. Those gentlemen forgot that we are all one people, and that the Commonwealth and the various State Governments and Parliaments are so many committees appointed by the public to manage their business. I am very glad that the Ministry have indicated that they will not be parties to such a scheme for sneaking in a £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 loan. In this connexion, I should like to refer to a phase of the matter which I have not yet heard mentioned, and to make a suggestion which I hope will commend itself to honorable members. The pooling of the public debts of the States and their conversion into a Commonwealth debt is a matter which has been very much discussed of late, and an arrangement to which I am favorable. But I do not think that the time is quite ripe for bringing about such a conversion, and I was not surprised to find no reference in the Governor-General’s speech to the subject. Before anything can be done, some understanding must be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States as to future borrowing. It is very . clear that if the public debts of the States are converted into a Commonwealth debt, we shall have the unpleasant task of collecting taxation to repay what has been borrowed, whilst the Governments of the States will have the pleasant task of spending whatever money may be borrowed in f future. The Commonwealth, however, could not be put into the position of determining for what purposes the States should, or should not, float loans, because that would be an interference with the powers of the Governments of the States ; but before anything can be done in the way of conversion there must be some definite understanding on the subject of borrowing. It is manifestly clear that future borrowing must be done through the Commonwealth Government. In -31 years the Australian people have paid no less a sum than £103,000,000 to the British money holder without in any way lessening their indebtedness to him. Therefore I say that it lias become necessary to establish a sinking fund toprovide for the reduction of our indebtedness.

Mr Fowler:

– Western Australia has. established sinking funds in connexion with all her loans.

Mr SPENCE:

– Yes: but there should be .a sinking fund to provide-‘ for the reduction and extinction of the whole of thedebts of .the Commonwealth. I would also suggest that an understanding should bearrived at with the States as to the purposes for which .money should be borrowed. In my opinion, the Commonwealth should insist that the StatesGovernments shall expend loan money only upon two subjects, the making of rail ways and the conservation of water. I mention those two objects because such works would be reproductive, and are absolutely necessary in a country like Australia. But I do not agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke that the borrowingpowers of the States should be in proportion to their population. On the contrary, I claim that a sparsely populated State likeQueensland, which has a big territory todevelop, is much more justified in borrowing for the purposes I have named than a Statehaving a smaller area and a larger population. If the objects upon which loan money were expended could be limited,, that would be a check upon the extravagance of the States Governments, and would prevent them from yielding to thepressure which is now brought to bear upon them. In both New South Wales and Victoria proposals for large public works areinquired into by parliamentary committees before being laid before Parliament, and this relieves some of the pressure, but a check such as I speak of is still absolutely “necessary toprevent the foolish expenditure of loan money. The members of the Opposition seem to consider that the Government aresettled in their seats on the Treasury benches, and if that is so they will have plenty of time to go fully into these matterswith the Governments of the States before any proposal is made. I hope that negotiations will be opened up with the Governments of the States, and that a reasonable: understanding will be arrived at, so that the matter may be dealt with by next Parliament. I have taken from Coghlan a few figures which will show very clearly how great are the financial burdens which the people of Australia have now to bear. According to Coghlan, our public debt amounts to £55 17s. Id. per head of population ; which does not seem an enormous sum. But it must also be remembered that 10 per cent, of the property of the Commonwealth is owned by persons living outside its borders, and that 20 per cent, of the property of New South Wales is owned by people living outside the borders of that State. In view of these facts I wonder that the States which find themselves short of money are not imposing absentee taxation. In the figures I am about to give the dividends drawn by absentees are included. The indebtednessof the Commonwealth incurred by the Governments and local governing bodies is, according to the latest figures, £192,341,000, and our indebtedness under private investment, including money drawn bv absentees, £l27,951,000,agrandtotalof £320,292,000, or £83 1 ls. 4d. per inhabitant. Those figures do not include mining investments. According to the statistics for 1901, the people of the Commonwealth pay annually to the British money lender £13,039,000 in interest. To ascertain what this means to the population taken individually, I have calculated its incidence upon the breadwinners of the Commonwealth. There are in the Commonwealth 1,269,000 male and 339,000 female breadwinners. Of these, 1,214,057, or 61 percent, of our population, are male breadwinners between the ages of 15 and 65 years, and their contribution amounts to £10 5s., or about 4s. per week each. Those figures should bring it closely home to us that this matter of borrowing should be carefully looked into. It behoves us to see whether we are not nearing the time when, if we should not put a stop to public borrowing altogether, we should borrow as little as possible. I am not contending that it is not often profitable to borrow, but borrowing is profitable only when the money borrowed is expended upon the development of natural resources which we could not so rapidly develop out of - revenue. In a country like Australia, whose rivers are mostly chains of water-holes iu the summer time, we must have railways to open up the land, and where such railways develop our mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries it is profitable to make them even if we have to borrow money to do so. But we cannot continue the present system of borrowing, and the figures which I have given show what a load of debt it has already placed upon us. According to Coghlan the British money lender has received from Australia £56,000,000 more than he has advanced. I wish now to say a word or two to ridicule the talk which we have heard about that personage not being willing to lend us more money. As a matter of fact he has got in Australia the best field for investments that he ever discovered. We pay our interest directly it is due, and we have repaid him £56,000,000 more than we have borrowed, without reducing our indebtedness. To show how ridiculous some of the statements which have been made’ by the’ press are, I will quote a few figures. The newspapers are always ready, to serve party interests, to write of the country as if it were going to ruin. I find, however, that it is really the richest country in the world. The country which produces least wealth per inhabitant is Prussia, whose production is less than £5, while that, of Germany is about £8; of England, £7 18s. Cd.; of Sweden and Denmark, £10 ; of France, £11 lis. 6d. ; of America, £14 14s.; of Canada, £16 5s. 6d. ; and of Australia, more than twice as much as that of the United States, namely, £29 12s. 7d. Those figures were compiled upon the returns’ for the year 1901, when our yield of wool was much lower than in years previous. Every one person in six in Australia owns property over £100 in value. Whilst the condition of many of our people is very hard, our exports and our savings show that in the aggregate we are very well off. Nothing, therefore, can be more absurd than the cry that John Bull and Company will refuse to lend money to Australia. But it is our business to study our own interests rather than his, and for that reason I hope that in future our public borrowing will be much less than it has been in the past. I was glad that this House determined last session that the Commonwealth should not borrow to provide for public works which could very well be paid for out of revenue. I do not think there is any likelihood of all the measures in the Governor-General’s speech being dealt with this session, but I certainly think in regard to the proposed establishment of an Inter-State Commission that, if the Federation is likely to take over the railways - and the idea that it should may grow in the minds of the people - we shall not want such a body. We should consider whether it would not be better for us to adopt the easiest and cheapest method of regulating these matters, without entering upon any elaborate arrangements, until the question of taking over the control of the railways can receive further attention. Possibly it would be much better for all concerned if the railways were placed under federal authority.

Mr Fowler:

– The work of the InterState Commission might lead up to the federalization of the railways.

Mr SPENCE:

– Perhaps so, but a simple and inexpensive tribunal might effect that purpose quite as readily as the body proposed to be erected under the elaborate scheme suggested by the remarks of some honorable members. I hope that no time will be lost in obtaining the report of the commission appointed to inquire into the suitability of the sites suggested for the federal capital. I have taken every opportunity of denying the absurd rumour which has been in circulation to the effect that it is proposed to spend £5,000,000 in the establishment of the capital. There is no foundation for any such idea. The site for the federal capital should be selected as early as possible, because it is manifestly unfair to New South Wales to incur any unnecessary delay. After the site has been fixed upon, the area will have to be mapped out, and under the most favorable circumstances the capital cannot be established before some considerable time has elapsed.

Mr Fisher:

– We might start with tents instead of permanent buildings.

Mr SPENCE:

– I should have no very strong objection to adopting even that course, but I hope to see the whole question settled as speedily as possible.

Mr FULLER:
Illawarra

– The long programme submitted by the Government affords an opportunity for very wide discussion, but I do not propose to deal with the subjects mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s speech except in a general way. I shall defer any remarks I may have to make until the measures foreshadowed are brought before us. I welcome the proposed High Court Bill. I listened with very great attention to the eloquent speech delivered by the Attorney-General in connexion with the measure introduced last session. I have always advocated the appointment of a High Court, and, after hearing the Minister’s speech, I was more than ever convinced that in the interests of the Commonwealth it was absolutely necessary that a High Court should be created. I have been astonished at some of the suggestions made regarding the vast amount of expense which will be entailed by the establishment of the proposed tribunal, and this is one of the matters on which I shall require the fullest information before I cast my vote. I arn not prepared to approve of any undue expenditure. I hope that in regard to the High Court Bill and other measures which are to be brought in the Government will not advance them to the second reading stage and then allow them to drift along in a haphazard way as was the case with a number of Bills last session. I trust that the Government will not resort to their previous practice of counting heads in order to ascertain the feeling of the House, but that they will act with that independence and resolution which should always characterize a dignified Administration. I desireto direct attention to one or two matters affecting the constituency which I represent. We have there one of the largest industrial centres in Australia, with fifteen or sixteen coal mines, numerous coke works, large harbor works, brick works, and other important industrial undertakings. 1 interested myself in attempting to secure telephonic communication between that district, which is 50 or 60 miles from Sydney, and the metropolis. Estimates were drawn up and other preparations made, and just when everything seemed complete I was asked to. provide £700 cash for five years as a guarantee to cover the working expenses of the line. So far as the Illawarra district is concerned, no doubt the money could be found, but why should the people be asked to furnish a guarantee for a public facility which should be provided for the benefit of the whole district ? My contention is that in the case of a great industrial centre with a settled population - not a moving population such as might -be temporarily located on a gold-field - the Postmaster-General should deal with an application for telephone communication as a matter of general policy, and should, if the circumstances appear to him to warrant it, carry out the work independently of any guarantee on the part of the people. In another case it was proposed to connect the Camden hospital with the residence of its medical officers, but in that instance also a guarantee had to be provided before the work was carried out. Surely, of all institutions, those which are provided by the people for the relief of human distress should receive the greatest consideration at the hands of the authorities. The principle upon which these and similar applications are dealt with at present appears to me to be absolutely wrong, and the sooner the present regulations are repealed the better it will be for all concerned. I have also to complain of the unaccountable delay in the expenditure of money voted in June last for carrying out work in connexion with the Postal department in my- district. In one case money was voted to provide a postal service for an important centre at which there are large smelting works employing upwards of 600 hands, but although twelve months have elapsed the plans and specifications for the work are not yet ready. In another instance £67 was voted for painting and repairs at a post-office, and although the premises are in a disgraceful condition, the plans and specifications for this work also are still incomplete. Judging from my own experience and from the criticisms passed by a number of honorable members, the administration of the Postal department is not being carried on with any approach to satisfaction. I do not wish to say anything of ‘a personal character against the Postmaster-General or his under-secretary, Mr. Scott, but so far as I have been able to observe the magnificent postal facilities to which we have been accustomed in New South Wales are gradually being brought down to the level of the conveniences provided for the public of Queensland. The object should be not to level down in this way, but to improve in the highest possible degree the means provided for ministering to the public convenience. I desire to touch upon one matter in regard to which I put some questions to the Minister for Trade and Customs yesterday. I allude to the proposed enactment of uniform patents laws, to which reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. Those who have had anything to do with the registration of patents in the various patents offices throughout the States, must be aware of the great difficulties under which inventors labour at the present time. In New South Wales it is notorious that the office is in a state of confusion and chaos, as a result of which the public are called upon to submit to great inconvenience. I am personally acquainted with many investors, who are anxiously awaiting the enactment of a federal patents law, so that, instead of having to register their patents in each of the States, they may take out one patent for the whole of the Commonwealth. The answer which the Minister for Trade and Customs - in whose department this matter is - gave to me yesterday, was that he had no power to interfere until a statute dealing with it had been passed. No doubt his statement is perfectly correct ; but ray idea is that, in the interim, a convention composed of men possessed of technical skill and knowledge should meet, with a view to placing the State patents offices in order. We all know that at the present time the transfer of patents from one person to another is a very expensive process. It resembles the style of the old land transfers to which the people of New South Wales were accustomed before the adoption of the Torrens title simplified the procedure necessary in such cases. Under existing circumstances, no layman can obtain a transfer of a patent without consulting the legal fraternity, against whom there is such a strong antipathy in this House. After all, it should be remembered that the majority of the inventors who take out patents belong to the poor or middle “ classes of the community, and I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs would do well to consider the suggestion which I have made, in order that the process of transfer may be rendered as inexpensive as possible. The honorable member for Echuca, speaking as a representative of the farmers, objected to any large expenditure in connexion with the Federation. Amongst other matters, he declared that we should be careful not to incur any expenditure in’ connexion with the establishment of the federal capital. But I would point out that in selecting the capital site we shall be merely carrying out the compact under which New South Wales was induced to join the union. That in itself is a reason why the work should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. Last session, in common with the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Parramatta, I was anxious to ascertain something regarding the duties which the board of experts that has since been appointed to deal with the matter would be called upon to perform. At that time the report of Mr. Oliver was available, together with all the evidence taken by him, and I felt satisfied that no additional information of any value connected with the questions into which he inquired could be furnished by any commission. What has been the result? The members of the commission have travelled all over the country, collected a large amount of evidence upon the same lines as that submitted to Mr. Oliver, have ascertained the price of tomatoes in Albury, and acquired voluminous information of a similar character. I was sorry to hear from the Minister for Home Affairs yesterday, that the report of the commission would not be available till next month, although it was promised for the middle of April. These are some of the matters which tend to delay the carrying out of the compact made with New South Wales. The remarks of the honorable member for Echuca were only a’ repetition of what has been said for months past by the daily newspapers of Melbourne. They object to the establishment of a federal capital on the ground of expense, and suggest that we should have a peripatetic capital alternating between Melbourne and Sydney. These suggestions are put forward only for the purpose of securing delay in the selection of the site.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– They will not delay it.

Mr FULLER:

– At any rate we cannot deal with the report of the commission until it has been received. That means a further delay of a couple of months. I should like, also, to refer to one matter connected with the Defence department. I. understand that the general officer commanding the forces of the Commonwealth proposes to dispense with the band which is connected with the regiment of lancers in New South Wales. That regiment is a most important part of the State military forces. It is a body the members of which have shown their loyalty to the British Empire perhaps more than any other force in Australia. They were the first colonial troops to land in South Africa, and to be sent to the front during the Boer war. Upon different occasions they have journeyed to England at their own expense to compete at military tournaments, and they also took, part in the celebrations connected with the Queen’s Jubilee. The members of the band connected with the regiment are trained soldiers who go through an annual course of musketry. In other words, they are well qualified for active service. Although the head-quarters of the regiment are in Sydney, branches of it exist in a great many towns in New South Wales. There is one in the constituency of the honorable member for Parramatta, another in the electorate of the Prime Minister, and three in the district which I have the honour to represent. I understand that the officer commanding the regiment has called a public meeting in connexion with this matter, and that a petition has been sent to the Prime Minister with a view to securing provision- upon the Estimates to prevent the services of this band from being dispensed with.

Sir John Forrest:

– We are providing £150 a year.

Mr FULLER:

– I was not aware of that. I understood from the report of the public meeting which was held that no allowance had been made.

Sir John Forrest:

– The amount is not so large as it was.

Mr FULLER:

– Colonel Burns, the officer- commanding the regiment, as well as some of its members, have spent a considerable amount of money out of their own pockets in connexion with its maintenance, and therefore I think that they are entitled to considerate treatment. Knowing how strong are the. Imperial instincts of the Minister, I feel sure that after their services in South Africa, he will grant them every consideration. We have heard a good deal from various speakers throughout the Commonwealth, and notably the Prime Minister, as t6 the necessity of having what is called a “ Tariff rest.” The honorable member for Echuca was very strong on that point to-day, holding that in the interests of the country we ought to be satisfied with the Tariff as it now stands, and that there ought to be a cessation of fiscal discussion. The honorable member also expressed the opinion that if the leader of the Opposition re-opened the Tariff question, his chance of reaching the Treasury bench would be hopeless. I do not know whether the Treasury bench constitutes the great aim of the right honorable gentleman, but as for myself, I am fighting as, I believe, my leader is fighting, for a revenue Tariff in the best interests of Australia. The Prime Minister, speaking at Dungog, said that if the Tariff were swept away, and another substituted, the second would be more of a botch than the first, thus acknowledging’ that the present Tariff is a botch.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Perhaps the honorable and learned member was not present last night when I denied having called the present Tariff a botch. I did say something about the Opposition endeavouring to make it a botch, but nothing to the effect that it was a botch.

Mr FULLER:

– I was present in the

Chamber last night, but did not hear the explanation. My authority, however, is the report of ‘ the speech in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I do not blame tlie newspapers for an error like that ; there are many errors which we cannot contradict.

Mr FULLER:

– The Prime Minister also said that it would be iniquitous to bring

About a period of unrest, and he appealed to the people to give the Tariff an opportunity of settling down. On the same occasion the Prime Minister asked why we should go through a period of unrest “to suit the people on the other side.” But this is not’ altogether a matter of “ suiting the people on the other side.” The question ought to be settled in the interests of the people of Australia. It is in those interests, and not merely for the advancement of personal aims, that honorable members on this side are fighting. At Maitland, on 27 th April, the Prime Minister said -

But whether Mr. Reid failed or succeeded to reopen this question it would lie an act of perfidy to the Commonwealth, because it would mean that for the sake of fads and theories and the desires 0 office they would get rid of that which ought to be tried under normal conditions.

It appears to me that the remark about “ fads and theories “ applies equally to the Ministerial side, seeing that they insist on maintaining the present Tariff in order to carry out their fad or theory of protection. After tlie Maitland manifesto of the Prime Minister, the people of New South Wales had no idea that such a Tariff as that laid before the House last session would be presented, and there is not the slightest doubt that as introduced the Tariff was a partisan measure.

Mr Bamford:

– New South Wales is not the whole Commonwealth.

Mr FULLER:

– That is so, but I have no doubt that the people of New South Wales will make their voice heard at the next election. Ministerial members, and the newspapers which support them, charge the Opposition with the responsibility of delaying much needed legislation by the prolonged discussion on the Tariff proposals.

Mr Kennedy:

– We do not blame the Opposition.

Mr FULLER:

– The honorable may not, but most Ministerial supporters do blame us. The same charge has been made against us by the Prime Minister.

Mr Thomson:

– The discussion on the Tariff occupied time equal to only 58 sitting days.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– The blame laid on the Opposition is severe, but it is merited.

Mr FULLER:

– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but I do not know whether he will consider that the present’ Ministerial supporters will merit the result of the next election. The Prime Minister asked -

Whether under the struggle and strife they have had, they should again bc subject to similar strife and struggle for the mad purpose of pulling up the plant before they knew whether the roots had struck.

That is the very reason why we want the question fought out at the earliest possible moment. If the roots of protection do get struck in Australia, we shall hear the same old miserable cries about vested interests - the same cries which were heard in the lobbies throughout the Tariff discussion - and it is in order to avoid such a result that we want the matter decided by the people at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro smiles, but I ask him whether there are no people in the Commonwealth deserving consideration except those interested iia manufactures? Has no regard to be paid to the miners, farmers, and others throughout the country districts, who are engaged in the great industries which have been the backbone of Australia from the very beginning Are these people not entitled to some consideration in connexion with a Tariff for all Australia? The honorable member for Gwydir, this afternoon, said that the agricultural duties produced only £17,000 at the port.of Sydney during the six months prior to last December. But the people of New South Wales and Queensland know what they have to pay in consequence of the present Tariff. It is not merely a question of the £17,000 paid at Sydney on the foreign produce imported ; -we have to consider the enhanced price which, as a result of the Tariff, the people of New South Wales and Queensland have to pay for the produce received from Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia.

Mr Bamford:

– It must be remembered that those duties always existed in Queensland.

Mr FULLER:

– But the New South Wales people have been accustomed to live in an air of freedom, and they desire to see the people of Australia breathing the same healthy atmosphere. It is no new thing for the Prime Minister to urge a Tariff rest, because as far back as 1894 the right honorable gentleman was engaged in talking in exactly the same way in relation to the Dibbs Tariff in New South Wales. In defence of that Tariff, the Prime Minister then said -

A drastic, alteration would unsettle every commercial and industrial interest, would unhinge all the operations which had begun under different arrangements, and in a time like this, where we are crossing the stream, we should not be asked to swap horses.

But the New South Wales people insisted on “swapping horses” when “crossing the stream.” There was a general election which resulted in the Dibbs Tariff being swept away, and in the establishment of free-trade - or comparative free-trade at any rate - in the mother State, which then entered on a period of prosperity never enjoyed under protection.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– It would have been better if the people of New South Wales had taken my advice.

Mr FULLER:

– I believe that at the Commonwealth election the people will refuse to accept the Tariff rest which the Prime Minister offers. I feel satisfied that we shall have a revulsion of feeling from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, with the result that the people will again be able to breathe that air of freedom to which they had been accustomed. In regard to the naval agreement, I am one of those who desire to keep Australia for white people. The prominent way in which we have brought ourselves before the world in recent years, and the class of legislation which we have .been passing, imposes upon us the necessity of doing something to preserve our shores against attack. We have always lived under the flag of Old England. It has been our protection in the past, and I trust that it will always be so. The proposition made by the Prime Minister meets with my hearty approval. If we desire to keep Australia for white people; if we wish to be in a position to enforce our legislation, then we must place ourselves in as strong a position as possible to defend our shores. I entirely agree with that part of the GovernorGeneral’s speech, and I sincerely trust that those measures which are in the interests of the people of Australia will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible in this House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Wilks) adjourned.

page 328

SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at half-past two o’clock.

page 328

ADJOURNMENT

Electoral Rolls : Drayton Grange Inquiry

Motion (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government, particularly the Minister for Home Affairs, a matter of some importance to the electors of New South Wales. From a paragraph in the press to-day it appears that the Minister for Home Affairs has discovered a discrepancy between the census returns and the electoral rolls of New South Wales ; that that discrepancy represents 80,000 voters, and that he is placed in a much perplexed position. It has also placed the electors of New South Wales in a much perplexed position, and the discovery of this discrepancy requires some explanation. Of course the census returns and the electoral rolls were in the possession of the officers appointed to redistribute the electorates, and they should have been aware of this discrepancy before they plotted out the districts. The districts have been plotted out, and suddenly the Minister states that heis in great trouble and perplexity by reason of the discovery of this discrepancy. If it is not explained, and explained early, it will throw some suspicion on the motives of the Minister. I do not think that he can be accused of gerrymandering.. I understand that he has applied to Sir John See for further information in regard to electoral matters. Why was notsuch information asked for before the plotting took place! If this matter is allowed to pass without an explanation he cannot be surprised at the public thinking that the Ministry are scheming to undo what has been done. I do not think that that is the case. I should like the Prime Minister if he can to make an explanation,and if he is not in a position to explain I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs will be able to give a full and clear explanation to the House next week.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Defence · Swan · Protectionist

. -In compliance with the request of tho honorable member for Maranoa, 1 have obtained all the correspondence relating to the Drayton Grange inquiry. I propose to leave the papers on the table for the inspection of honorable members, as I do not wish the department to have the work of copying them unless it is specially desired. I hope that when they are done with by honorable members in amonth or two, I may be permitted to return them to the department.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
HunterMinister for External Affairs · Protectionist

– With reference to the inquiry which the honorable member for Dalley has made, the Minister for Home Affairs, who has gone away during the last few minutes, has a larger knowledge of this matter, departmen tally, than I have. All that appears, so far as I know, Ls that in comparing the population of New South Wales and other States, now that we have adult suffrage, it is. estimated that the numbers returned on the rolls in New South Wales are 80,000 short of what they should be, taking the population as the basis.

Mr Wilks:

– According to their own census returns.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It may be in accordance with tho census returns, but that I am not aware of. My honorable colleague is making inquiries, with a view of finding out how it is . that the rolls show such a discrepancy. If it appears that it is a discrepancy that is inevitable the matter will go no further. But if it appears that an obvious injustice is being done to New South Wales with respect to the return of the rolls, then it will bc for the Minister to consider whether he will bring any, and what proposal before the House.

Mr Wilks:

– The officials were armed with the information before they plotted out the districts.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– Possibly, and that may be some evidence that the rolls were properly collected. It all depends, upon the results of the investigation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 4.8 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030529_reps_1_13/>.