1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs what is the date of the decision of the AttorneyGeneral that Inter-State adjustments were necessary for transfers of goods under the State Tariffs
– There have been several opinions, the first of which was. given in, I think, September, 1901. I am expecting full particulars, however, and I hope to be able to give the honorable member all the dates later in the afternoon.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the recent appointments in the Commonwealth to the Imperial Service Order were made with the knowledge or concurrence or at the suggestion of the Ministry 1
– The distinctions which have been conferred upon officers of the public service of the Commonwealth were so given.
Sir GEORGE TURNER laid upon the table
Audit Act, two returns as to transfers, financial years 1901-2 unci 1902-3.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of theGovernment to hold the next general elections of the House of Representativeson the same date as the elections for the Senate ?
– It is not usual to state publicly by way of anticipation any advice that it is proposed to tender to the Crown, but with the promised cooperation of honorable members in the passage of much necessary legislation, the Government look forward with great satisfaction to the possibility of such an arrangement.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 29 th May (vide page 329), on motion by Mr. L. E. Groom -
That the following address in reply to the Governor-General’s opening speech be now adopted : -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Since you have had the proud- privilege of presiding over our deliberations, Mr. Speaker, you have not heard more suave explanations than those you listened to last week, not only from the Prime Minister, but from other members who spoke on that side of the House, in reference to the policy outlined in the speech of the GovernorGeneral. The Prime Minister took two hours of valuable time to tell us that the leader of the Opposition had said nothing to which he could reply. If such a speech had been made byan honorable member on this side of the Chamber he would have been charged with obstruction. The right honorable gentleman, however, brightened his address by a reference to a work on political science called “ The Pirates of Penzance,” and quoted from a. chapter which deals with policemen. We should indeed be thankful to the laughter-makers of the Empire for the aid they sometimes lend us in that direction, and, with apologies to
Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, I will quote from the same source, slightly paraphrasing my quotation, and say that -
Taking one consideration with another - with another -
The Prime Minister’s life is nota happy one - Turantara . ‘
Not only did the Prime Minister occupyour time at great length in telling us that he had nothing to reply to, but other honorable members on his side followed on very similar lines. The leader of the labour party, the political Warwick of the Commonwealth, told us, however, that, while he was well satisfied with the Government, he trusted that this session the Prime Minister and his colleagues would take command of their own business. Fancy the effect of such a remark from one in his position in any of the Parliaments of the States ! Such a remark is in itself a motion of censure. The honorable member virtually charged the Prime Minister with having had no control over Government business last session. Members of the Opposition made that charge last session, and now we have it repeated by an honorable member who speaks, not for himself alone, but as the mouth-piece of a number of others whom he has been elected to lead. I hope that the Prime Minister will take the honorable member’s advice, and that the Ministry as a whole will recognise their responsibility for the measures submitted to this House. If that happens, we shall not have the waste of time which is said to have occurred last session. There is, however, one matter upon which the House may well expect an explanation. The honorable member for North Sydney, who is always heard with attention, and whose remarks are always valued, because he is moderate in his opinions, and never overstates a case, has stated in the presence of the Minister for Trade and Customs that revenue to the extent of £27,000 has escaped through the meshes of the Customs drag-net. The. Ministerhas not yet deemed it worth while to answer that statement, but the members of this House and the people outside will want to know why this hitherto frigid, rigid, and exacting administrator has allowed so much revenue to escape his net. If the Minister does not think that the House and the country are entitled to an explanation, he should make one for the sake of his own reputation. Indeed, the charge was of so serious a nature that the House might well have adjourned until the Minister was in a position to make a detailed reply to it. The honorable member for North Sydney informed the House that the Colonial SugarRefining Company of Sydney presented a petition to the Senate seven or eight months ago, setting forth that excise duty amounting to £27,000 had not been paid on 9,000 tons of sugar which was dutiable; that they had received no reply to that petition, and only scant attention to their representations at other times ; and that, later on, they petitioned the Governor-General in Council - the last resort which an aggrieved person has - and the only reply received was that there had been no discrimination. What they did they did as honest citizens acting in the interests of the Commonwealth, and they now reiterate their charge in a petition which has been presented to this House. Contrary to his usual custom, when an attack is made upon his administration, the Minister for Trade and Customs remained absolutely dumb after that charge was made. During the recess he was so careful of the revenue that clerks were even put on to count the grains of shot which fell out of a cartridge, so that duty might be imposed upon them, but when a sum as large as £27,000 is at stake he takes no action to recover it. Honorable members on this side of the House are as anxious to protect the public revenue as is the Minister or any other section of the House, and we require an explanationin regard to this matter. As to what hasbeen said about the want of anything to answer in the speeches of members of the Opposition upon the address in reply, I would point out that one reason why the Government have not beenstrongly attacked is that during the last six months there has been a great outburst of indignation throughout the Commonwealth at their administration, and the public men who have voiced it are not willing to repeat here what they have stated at length outside. But Ministers need not think that because no amendment has been moved upon the address in reply they have no responsibility in regard to the promises made in the Governor-General’s speech. In my opinion it would be a wise thing for the leader of the Opposition always to move an amendment upon the address in reply, in order to make Ministers toe the mark, because the discussion on such an amendment directs the attention of honorable members, and focuses public attention upon the lapses of the Ministry during the recess. Ministers are congratulating themselves upon the fact that the public have no substantial grievances against them, but when the next elections are over they will know that the indignation against them is deepseated in the hearts of the people. The Minister for Trade and Customs claims that he has been doing equal justice to all classes of persons directly affected by the administration of his department ; that he has been dealing as fairly by the humblest individual as by the richest merchant. We believe that all classes should be treated upon an equal footing, and we raise our voices only when we find that some are allowed to escape the payment of that which is clearly due from them. It is not when merchants are deservedly attacked that we find fault with the action of the Minister, but if, on the other hand, members of the trading community are subjected to unnecessary irritation and annoyance we are ready to defend them. We affirm that the standard of equal justice for the merchant and all others, which the Minister claims to have raised, is made to fly side by side with the banner of fiscal tyranny. The oversight on the part of the Customs in regard to the collection of the sugar excise duty is not only unfair to the Colonial Sugar Company, but monstrously unjust to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. The Government have strained themselves in order to make shot contained in cartridges pay duty, but they have allowed the public to swallow 9,000 tons of sugar upon which the excise duty has not been paid. I feel that T should be justified in moving the adjournment of the House in order that this matter may be probed to the bottom. Although the Minister may be exact to a fault in his administration-, what right has he to scout the statements of the honorable member for North Sydney with regard to the excise duty on sugar which has been lost to the revenue.
– Who scouted the statements of the honorable member for North Sydney ?
– The Minister has not denied the statements, and I may remind him that “ scouting “ is not a matter of words only, but a matter of action.
He has scouted the whole of the statements which have been made, by refusing any explanation, and by declining to take the House into his confidence. The charge against the Customs department involves something far more serious than tyranny or irritation, although the policy of the Minister, which has resulted in the most serious delays, has caused great trouble and loss to merchants. I believe that the morality of merchants and importers is no better and no worse than that of the manufacturers. The merchant who is beset by keen competitors has to take all the advantage he can in carrying on his business, and the manufacturer is in the same position. The Minister evidently regards all men asscoundrels until they prove themselves otherwise. I prefer to regard them as honest until they are found to be the reverse. Prior to taking over the administration of the Customs the Minister had moved in £ comparatively small sphere. The experience he gained in Adelaide could scarcely have qualified him to arrive at a complete understanding of the conditions prevailing in such large centres as Melbourne and Sydney, and consequently his course of action has been entirely unsuited to the circumstances. In those cases in which he has punished persons guilty of serious frauds, or taken measures to prevent their recurrence, his administration is worthy of admiration, and personally I can applaud many of his actions. If he had been as careful in regard to the collection of the sugar excise as he has been in punishing merchants for trivial mistakes, surely the £27,000 to which reference has been made would not have been allowed to remain unpaid. Are we to find in the Minister, the straightforward, adamantine Minister, another shattered idol? I could have staked my reputation on the ability of the Minister to collect every possible penny of revenue. But now we find that the Commonwealth has lost £27,000 through some neglect on the part of its administration. I do not suppose the Minister for Trade and Customs values my opinion or support, birt I hope that for his own sake, and for the benefit of the Commonwealth, he will explain what has become of the sum mentioned. The GovernorGeneral’s speech contains a good deal of padding, and refers to a number of measures which the Government cannot expect to pass into law during this session. Some of the remarks contained in the first paragraph of the speech are not only critical but insulting. We are told that -
It was impossible, by reason of the exhaustive discussion of the Federal Tariff, to deal with any but the most urgent of the proposals then brought before you, and renewed demands must now be made 011 your industry and patriotism before the Common wealth machinery can be deemed complete.
That statement, read in conjunction with the remarks made by the Prime Minister during the recess, conveys a distinct insult. Perhaps the Minister will tell us that he was misreported, because when any attempt is made to pin him down, that is the excuse behind which he takes refuge.
– I never say that I have been misreported when I have been truthfully reported.
– We shall see what the Prime Minister has to say to the press report which represents him as complaining that the obstructive tactics of the Opposition had prevented him from carrying out certain necessary measures. We are- informed in the Governor-General’s speech that “the exhaustive discussion of the Federal Tariff,” renders it necessary to make renewed demands upon honorable members before the Commonwealth machinery can be deemed complete. That is only a quiet and insinuating way of conveying the same complaint as was made by the Prime Minister from the platform. I now propose to subject these statements to the test of comparison. Fifty-eight, or to be exact, 57 and two-eighths sitting days were occupied in the discussion of the Tariff. Machinery measures, such as the Excise and Customs Bills, occupied 75 sitting days. Fifty-eight days were occupied in moulding a Tariff which was to replace six separate Tariffs and six separate systems. As against this the Victorian Parliament occupied over six months in discussing an amended Tariff, which did not involve any radical alteration of the fiscal policy of that State. Moreover, that discussion took place after a Commission had reported upon the whole question. In New South Wales the DibbsJennings Ministry introduced a Tariff, at a time when the Prime Minister was Speaker of the Assembly in that State, and five and a half months were occupied in the discussion of the slight changes proposed. The Prime Minister could scarcely have recalled his own personal experience when he .committed himself to the statement that the obstructive tactics of the Opposition had rendered it impossible to deal with any but the most urgent proposals last session. Now, let us consider the measures which are put forward as urgent, and which it was found impossible to pass last session. The most notable of these are the Inter-State Commission Bill, the Judiciary Bill, and the Defence Bill. The Inter-State Commission Bill was introduced in June, 1901, and in November of the, Same year the debate upon it was adjourned on the motion of a Government supporter. Nothing further was heard of it until the Governor-General’s speech was read to us. The Judiciary Bill was read a first time in June, 1901, and the second reading was moved by the Attorney-General in March, 1902. The Attorney-General occupied twelve months in procuring the data necessary for that admirable speech of his, in which he explained the provisions of the measure. After this the Bill was absolutely stifled by the Government.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The Attorney-General will not deny that I have correctly described what took place, and that after he moved the second reading in March, 1902, nothing further was heard of the Bill. Still we are told that the delay in dealing with these measures was due to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition. The story of the Defence Bill is still more pitiable - if that be possible. It was read a first time in July, 1901, and five or six weeks were occupied, principally by Government supporters, in debating its provisions, after which the Bill was suddenly dropped. It was complained that the measure w-as badly drafted, and its conscription clauses were strongly objected to. We were afterwards informed through inspired press paragraphs that the conscription clauses were to be dropped. In view of ali these facts I contend that the charge which the Government have directed against the Opposition more properly lies at their own door. Although, as I have pointed out, the debate upon the Tariff - was not lengthened to an inordinate extent, it might have been very much shortened but for the action of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The right honorable gentleman defended the composite duties even in the last ditch. The Government proposals were defeated again and again, but the
Minister refused to take the decisions of the Committee as final, and caused an unnecessary prolongation of the debate by his persistency. Now we find the leader of the labour party expressing the hope that the Prime Minister will keep a much tighter rein over the business of the House than he did last session. The honorable member for Bland has placed his hand upon a weak spot, because the Prime Minister had no control over the House during last session. The Prime Minister, in answer to the leader of the Opposition, declares that the public require fiscal peace. But fiscal peace can be purchased Only at the expense of the masses and primary producers of Australia, who have been called upon to bear a heavy burden in the form of taxation of their food supplies and apparel. Such a policy may suit the protectionists, but it does not conform to the ideas which are entertained by the free-traders. The latter cannot agree to call a fiscal truce, but must insist that within a few months the public of Australia shall have an opportunity of showing whether or not they approve of the Tariff which is at present operating. The only way in which this question can be conclusively settled is by making it the test issue at the forthcoming general election. If any attempt be made to obscure the issue by ambiguous Ministerial cries of equal justice to the miner and merchant, it will be impossible to obtain at the ballot-box the real opinion of the electors. However politicians may squirm, I am satisfied that the people of New South Wales will compel the Tariff to be made the issue at the next election, and the protectionists of Victoria, if they are true to their principles, must necessarily adopt a similar course. To my mind, the position is unavoidable.’ In his memorable Maitland manifesto the Prime Minister declared that he strongly favoured a system of moderate protection, and that his policy would be one which was designed to obtain revenue without involving the destruction of industries. But when the Minister for Trade and Customs submitted the original proposals of the Government, he boldly affirmed upon the floor of this House that he had a protectionist majority at his back, and that he intended, as far as possible, to impart to the Tariff a protective incidence. Will the free-traders be caught napping again ? Not likely ! In contradistinction to the utterances of the Prime Minister, I would direct attention to the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral when addressing his constituents at. Ballarat during the recess. He said -
A basis of a Tariff had been laid, and a furthermeasure of protection would have to be given.
That is a very definite utterance. On the one hand, the Prime Minister cries forfiscal peace, and on the other, theAttorneyGeneral, who has probably theleadership of the Government in reversion, says something of a diametrically opposite character. Is it likely thatfree - traders can subscribe to a fiscal truce under such circumstances? I would, further point out that the Treasurer estimated that a sum of £1,200,000 would be collected under the operation of this Tariff in excess of that formerly derived under theStates’ Tariffs. To-day, however, he findsthat the excess represents £1,500,000, notwithstanding the alleged obstructive tacticsof the Opposition, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, which resulted in the remission of taxation aggregating another £1,500,000. I am thoroughly convinced that the electors of Australia, would have been pleased indeed to witness much more obstruction of the same character had there been any probability of itproving productive of equally beneficent results. The honorable member for Echucaurges that the fiscal question ought to belaid to rest peacefully, and in so doing he ismerely echoing the statements of the protectionist journal of Victoria, the Melbourne Age. Let me inform that honorablemember, however - and my knowledge upon this matter is gleaned neither from free-trade nor protectionist newspapers, but comes as> the result of personal observation - that in my own district, which boasts the largest industrial concerns in the Commonwealth -in Balmain, and the district of Dalley generally, there are more iron-workers unemployed to-day than there ever were before. How do these well-established industries - for which the Prime Minister pleaded in thefirst Governor-General’s speech - stand today 1 They employ hundreds of men less now than were engaged in them ten yearsago. Under such circumstances will thepeople allow the fiscal issue to be burked ? What is applicable to those industries isequally applicable to industries throughout the Commonwealth. The electors, are not going to be chloroformed, however much the Prime Minister may endeavour to chloroform honorable members- in that way, by declaring,when it suits his purpose to do so, that he has been misreported. As the electors have an opportunity only once in three years of making their will known through the medium of the ballot-box, they will avail themselves of it to the full. There is one matter in connexion with Customs administration to which I desire to refer. When the Tariff was under discussion, theMinister for Trade and Customs was asked by myself and other honorable members to make provision for granting drawback upon paints used upon ships in Australian waters. More recently still, the honorable member for Newcastle directed attention to this matter, whichhas been under the consideration of the Minister for the past nine months. The right honorable gentleman was invited to make inquiries with a view of ascertaining whether any undue advantage would be conferred upon any particular firm by the adoption of the course suggested. He is still considering the matter, but has been unable to arrive at any decision, notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of men in the districts of Dalley and Newcastle are suffering in consequence. Had he decided to grant drawback upon the paints so used he would have conferred employment upon a class of labour which sadly requires it. Why is it that he cannot give a decision upon the simple matter referred to ? With regard to the establishment of the High Court, 1 have yet to hear an answer given to the speeches delivered by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne and the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, both of whom are trained’ lawyers, and oppose the Bill. They are not aspirants to the High Court Bench, and they deliberately declare that if such a tribunal were created its members would have little to do save to draw their salaries. Their statements have not been contradicted, either by the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General, and the only reasonable inference which can be drawn from that fact is that they are true. It was pointed out by those honorable and learned members that in America when the High Court was established only six constitutional questions were decided by it in twelve years. In the face of such testimony, if the Government desire economical administration, they will postpone the creation of this tribunal. To my mind, all that is necessary for us to do at the present stage is to vest the States courts with the power of original jurisdiction. It has been wisely suggested that the Chief Justices of the States could be constituted a board to deal with disputed constitutional questions. In my judgment, the establishment of the High Court could well be deferred for fourteen years. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, unhesitatingly affirm that its creation at the present stagein our national history is premature.
– Does not the honorable member know that in New South Wales the Judges cannot perform all the work that is now required of them?
– I am satisfied that the Parliament of that State has never practised parsimony to such an extent as to decline to sanction the appointment of another Judge if his services were really required. Outside of the United States, and including about fifteen portions’ of the British dominions, the salaries paid to the Judges do not represent anything like the sum which it is proposed to pay to the occupants of the High Court. Bench. A salary of £3,500 is mentioned as the emolument of the Chief Justice, and a sum of £3,000 for each of the Puisne Judges. To my mind, these amounts represent a bill which the Commonwealth cannot afford to pay. Seeing that the United States, with their 80,000,000 of people, pay their Chief Justice only £2,100 a year, surely, in view of the existence of our States courts, we ought not to pay a higher salary to the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. The admirable speech made by the AttorneyGeneral upon this question last session dealt only with the principles of abstract justice. That. in itself is a splendid thing for discussion, but I do not propose to deal with it. I wish to confine my remarks to the expenditure which will be involved in the passage of the proposed Bill. Unless very strong reasons are advanced I am afraid that I cannot see my way to. support the measure. I shall not occupy time in discussing the naval subsidy. We are now asked to pay £94,000 per annum more than we previously paid, and all we have to ask is whether the service is worth the extra expenditure. That may not be a poetic way of looking at the matter, but it is certainly a practical way. Sentiment is all very well in time of stress or trouble,. but the Empire is not held together by steel hawsers or by the exchange of cannon shot. As the Prime Minister remarked on one memorable occasion, the Empire is held together by silken bonds ; and those silken hawsers show no sign of wear. I can see, of course, that Australia is not in a position to establish a nav’ of her own, and I do not agree with the honorable member for Bland, who is the leader of the labour party, in his contention that we should confine ourselves to coastal defence. At the present time our coastal defence costs some £57,000 per annum ; and that I regard as too small a sum.
– Was the vote for coastal defence not cut down ‘
– The defence vote was cut down in a most reprehensible manner ; but that is a matter with which I shall deal later. The honorable member for Bland expressed the opinion that forces on land would prove quite sufficient for the defence of the Commonwealth. Of course all these are matters of speculation, and I do not pose as a naval or military expert ; but I cannot find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Bland until a resolution has been carried that in future all naval engagements shall be fought on the Yarra. Until a determination to that effect has been arrived at, Australia must be prepared to take a part in her own defence. Our great difficulty is want of cash, and we are now asked to pay an increased subsidy. The extra £94,000 is not much, but, as I said before, the question is whether the service will be worth the expenditure. Are we prepared to establish a navy of our own ; and, if so, is there a possibility of that establishment being effective within a reasonable time ? The Prime Minister has informed us that the dreadful Braddon section in the Constitution prevents our taking up the duty of defenders of this portion of the Empire, and this means that we must fallback on the motherland. If that be the true position, then all we can do is to pay this extra £94,000. Of course, we might establish a navy like that of some of the South American Republics, and have one modern gunboat ; but I am afraid that the whole of the time of that boat would be engaged in running around Australia in the effort to guard our shores. This question of naval defence reminds one of the scare which was raised years ago in order to frighten Australia into federation. . We were then told to be aware of the Chinaman, and subsequently to be aware of the Jap, and warned that our only means of protection was federation ; but, as we know, two years afterwards . little Japan conquered great China. My own opinion is that our greatest protection lies, first of all, in our isolation, and, secondly, in open ports. There is not the slightest doubt that open ports would prove far more effective as a means of security than any expenditure on naval defence can be for many years to come. Of course, if the Prime Minister supports a policy of expansion, and assumes responsibilities in the Southern seas,” there is no doubt that Australia must share those responsibilities. Great Britain is the mistress of the Southern seas, and it is our duty to assist in maintaining the Empire. There is a naval base in Sydney, and the amount we are asked to contribute to the naval subsidy is a fleabite compared with the cost to which the motherland is put in maintaining the fleet in Port Jackson. The amount of £94,000 as compared with £35,000,000 expended on Imperial defence is ridiculous ; and that we should be asked to make such a contribution may be taken as more of a compliment than anything else. As to preferential trade, recent occurrences have shown us that it does not do to go too far ahead in the march. The Empire is marching very strongly just now, and during the South African war Australia did her share, as I am sure she would do again under similar circumstances. Mr. Chamberlain has found during the last two or three days that it does not do to get too much in the van. That Minister is a- practical statesman, but he has his poetic flights, and the Australian people, while regarding him with great respect, will, like the English people, refuse to dance as puppets at his court. We recognise the work which Mr. Chamberlain has done in the consolidation of the Empire. But, at the same time, it is to be doubted whether the people will take the great jump which that gentleman now invites them to take. I notice that the Prime Minister has put preferential trade in the back part of his programme, although, when he left England and when he arrived here, that question received great attention at his hands at public meetings and in newspaper interviews. Mr. Chamberlain has found that the people of Great Britain are not prepared to pay any extra tax on their food supplies ; and certainly the masses of Australia are by no means willing to carry any further burdens. The Australian people, in cases of necessity, will carry their share of the load ; but they refuse to take a step of the kind now apparently contemplated, simply to be the toy of a statesman, however high the position he occupies. To me it appears that Mr. Chamberlain has held (out preferential trade as a bogy to foreign nations ; at any rate, it is difficult to ascertain whether he really intends or wishes such a scheme to be carried into effect, or whether he merely threw out the suggestion as a feeler. In any case, over 100 conservative members’ of the Imperial Parliament, who are supporters of Mr. Chamberlain, are not taking the high responsibility usually assumed by them, but are acting, as Australian Members of Parliament would act in reference to smaller matters, and are carefully feeling the pulse of the electorates. All this tends to show that Mr. Chamberlain has gone too far ahead of the regiment. We are now marching in time to Imperial music. The Empire is not held together by mere conservative sentiments, but rather by a statesmanlike recognition of the characteristics of our own race. Personally, I do not suppose that we shall hear any more of preferential trade, which is a mere device of the protectionists. Free-traders know that an open port cultivates no desire of invasion amongst foreign powers; although that may well be the result of the erection of Tariff walls. The settlement of the federal capital site depends on the “Government. The Prime Minister says that he is tired of a local and commercial atmosphere, and desires a federal atmosphere; and if that be the feeling, I trust that the compact with New South Wales will be observed this session. Certainly, if the Government are in earnest that compact will be carried out, but if they are not in earnest, nothing that the Opposition can do will tend to an immediate settlement of the question. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister gives this matter a foremost place in the speech of His Excellency, and I trust that it may find a foremost place in legislation. In the matter of the Defence Hill, I see that some of the obnoxious provisions which were before us last year are being dropped. What blame there is in reference to this measure lies at the door of the Government, who, in the treatment of the Defence Estimates by the House, received a rebuff of which even the Prime Minister must feel ashamed. On two occasions were the Defence Estimates taken out of the hands of responsible Ministers and mutilated at the sweet will of honorable members. This is a department of great influence and importance, and yet the Estimates were thrown on to the table without explanation or defence. If the Minister had said that after close inquiry and careful consideration they were of opinion that the Estimates should be passed as submitted, there is not much doubt that the House would have voted accordingly.
– The Government did take up that position on the second occasion, but still they accepted the adverse vote.
– On two occasions Estimates were thrown on the table without explanation or defence. Some one then suggested that £130,000 had better be knocked off, and this was agreed to, the Minister merely saying “ Not a bad idea.” If the Estimates were overloaded in the first instance the Government ought to be ashamed, and if they were not overloaded they ought to have been defended. As a fact, however, there was an absolute surrender of the principles of responsible government, and that is one of the charges made by the Opposition. From the very first the Government have shown a tendency to allow others to take control of business, and to absolutely surrender all the principles of responsible government. We have already had the Defence department worked on the butty-gang principle, one year by the Minister for Defence, and the second year by the Minister for Home Affairs.
– It was the House which decided on the reduction of the Estimates.
– But the Minister for Defence did not defend his Estimates. If there be any Estimates on which a Government should stake its existence they are the Defence Estimates, which deal with most important items of expenditure. Personally, I thought the Estimates too large, seeing we had been told that under federation certain economies would be achieved, notably in military administration. When the Minister for Home Affairs was in charge of the Defence Estimates a reduction of, I believe, £65,000 was effected, and yet there has been no economy in the quarters where it is most needed. The rank and file have suffered, and with them the efficiency of the defence forces throughout the Common-wealth. About £200,000 was saved on the Defence Estimates, but that was rot on the initiative of the Ministry, and was due to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition, assisted by the labour members. At present we find that the forces are suffering from the want of a strong controlling power, although it was hoped that, at any rate, the Defence department would, not be worse administered than under the State Governments. It is to be hoped that the Government will in the future control the business of the House and rise to the demands of responsible government. I hope that Ministers will defend the Estimates when they are laid on the table, and will not allow reductions of any kind.
– I cannot promise that.
– Notice, should be given of an awkward question like that.
– I do not regard it as an awkward question, and 1 ask the Minister for Defence, who is noted for his candour, to give a reply now. Will he defend the Estimates when he lays them on the table, so that we may know whether or not we have real responsible government 1 I do not know what has been the experience of Victorian Members of Parliament, but in New South Wales a Ministry that would treat a department in such a cavalier manner as that in which this department has bee’n treated would have been thrown out of office. I do not know, either, how honorable members from other States have fared at the opening of a Parliament. While I am not very fond of ceremonials, at the same time I believe in a due recognition of the powers of the two Houses of Parliament. I was very much annoyed, sir, to see the position which you had to take the other day in the Senate chamber. In New South Wales the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly occupies a seat at the foot of the throne, and he asks for a copy of the Governor’s speech. That is not so in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament. You, sir, the custodian of our rights and privileges, were practically compelled to stand in a gangway in the other chamber. I cannot understand, sir, how, when no Legislative Council of a Shite would dare to take up a similar position, the Senate of this Commonwealth, elected, like ourselves, on a popular basis,, had the audacity to place you in that improper position. In South Australia, if my memory serves me correctly, there was. once a Speaker whom they tried, to insultin a similar manner, and who demanded, not out of regard for his personal aggrandizement, but on behalf of the House which he represented, his admission into the body of the chamber of the Legislative Council, and the presentation of a copy of the openingspeech by the Governor in an official manner. On the contrary, sir, you had to receive a copy of the GovernorGeneral’sspeech from the hands of an official.. Not only were you in your official position placed in a very ignoble position,, but the members of this House weresimilarly treated. I am sorry that thePrime Minister did not draw attention tothe incident, and resent the position in which you were placed upon that occasionThe difficulty in the way of accommodatingmembers of this House in tho Senatechamber could have been easily overcomeIn New South Wales the table is removed from the Legislative Council chamber, and the members of the popular House areaccommodated with seats in the body of that chamber. The only thing I careabout is the opportunity to offer a few remarks upon the opening speech. Whether it is heard by me in the other Chamber or not is a matter of indifferenceto me, and I believe to most honorable members. As a rule they do not care about ceremonials, but they dislike any ceremonial which strikes at the root of the powers and privileges of theHouse to which they belong. I believe - whether it was intentional or not I do not know - that an insult was offered to this House, and I trust that it will not be repeated. In this building an admirable arrangement could be made. The Queen’sHall could be used as a neutral ground,, where neither the Speaker nor the Presidentwould be placed in an invidious position, and where the members of each Housecould come from their” chamber and hear the delivery of the opening speech. The slightest consideration would have overcome the difficulty which was experienced in accommodating the members of this House. I believe that upon one occasion in South Australia - I cannot recall thedate of the incident - the Speaker of theHouse of Assembly made a very strong- protest against a similar insult which was offered to him in his official capacity. I do not suggest that in this instance the insult was offered intentionally to you, sir, who no doubt can remember the incident to which I have just referred. In New South Wales, when the Prime Minister held the high position of Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, he always sat in the body of the Legislative Council chamber, near the foot of the throne, and received from the Governor an official copy of his speech. What can be done in the case of a State Parliament to uphold the rights of the popular House must be done in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament. The insult is not offered to a party in this House, but to honorable members generally. It is an attempt to introduce the thin end of the wedge ; and if you, sir, permit this treatment to be repeated, your privileges may gradually be taken away from you. The opening speech contains a reference to a Navigation and Shipping Bill. I know that there is no chance of the measure being brought in this session, but it is certainly one which is very much required in the Commonwealth. Probably it has been framed on the lines of the Merchant Shipping Act, which is, 1 suppose, the finest Act in the British dominions. Whether it will conflict with that Act ornot I do not know,- but still it is one which will have to receive the greatest attention in the House. I can understand the wisdom of postponing its consideration until next session. The measure is almost large enough to occupy the attention of the House for one session. . The Merchant Shipping Act contains provisions which, if not altered by federal legislation, will operate very injuriously in one State. InVictoria a vessel which is registered locally can run for twelve months with an exemption certificate, but in New South Wales a locallyregistered vessel, is allowed to run only six months.
– Quite long enough.
– It may be quite long enough, but let the legislation be made uniform. That is one reason from the commercial side of the question. Now, from the trade side, I will advance a reason why the Bill should be passed early. I regret that it was not introduced last session, and apparently we shall not be able to deal with it during the present session. I would point out to the Prime Minister how the differential system of exemptions operates. Most vessels register in Port Melbourne, and the result of such registration is that a ship has to undergo an overhaul only every twelve months, while in New South Wales a locally-registered ship has to be overhauled every six months. The work is drifting from Sydney to Melbourne. We hear talk about an Inter-State Commission being required to prevent the destruction of the intent of free-trade. This differentiation of exemptions is destroying the intent of free-trade. Until we get a uniform Navigation and Shipping Act, this and many other matters cannot be rectified. I hope that the few measures which the Government intend to introduce will be conducted through the House with that sense of responsibility which so far has been absent from their procedure. I trust that the Government will stand by their measures. I do not wish to rake up old sores, but another instance of the absence of responsible government was witnessed when a sum of money was required to be voted to the late Governor-General. The Government allowed their measure to be mutilated. I believe it approached very near the confines of being out of order. It was my opinion at the time that the scope of the measure had exceeded the order of leave, but the matter was not canvassed by any honorable member. A Ministerial supporter took absolute control of this important measure, and the Government allowed it to be mutilated and destroyed, affording a terrible evidence of their weakness. Still they tell us, both on public platforms and in this House, that they are prepared to go to the country on the measures which they have carried, and acquaint us with their intention to carry the measures which the Opposition opposed. There has at no time been any obstruction by the Opposition. Except in regard to fiscalism, where there was bound to be a difference of opinion, every effort of the Opposition has been in the direction of improving the measures thrown at the House, and if any House ever proceeded to its work with patriotism and energy this House did so last session. On all sides honorable members gave their support to the Government as far as they were able to do so, and did not act in a factious manner. No advantage was taken of the absence of the Prime Minister in England. But even if in his absence matters relating to the Empire had been introduced, the Opposition would have been found quite loyal to their position, not willing to obstruct or to offer factious opposition, while quite prepared at all times to fight to the death for the principles by which they stand. I take it that the cry of fiscal peace will not answer for either free-traders or protectionists. Not only has the Attorney-General denied the Prime Minister, but the Minister for Home Affairs has denied the Prime Minister within the last two months in his own constituency. He told his constituents that the Tariff is not one with which he is satisfied ; that it will not suit a protectionist. If it will not suit a protectionist, why does he not fight to get one which will do so?
– Because he will choose his own time.
– There is the answer to my question. We are to be blindfolded on this side, and led like bullocks to the shambles, merely to suit their time. It is not a question of suiting the time of the Government or the time of the Opposition. It is a question of suiting the convenience of the people. Now the people who are paying taxes on food supplies, wearing apparel, and other items of that character which they had never to pay before, will fix the time, and that will be at the next election, the first opportunity which they will have had to record their votes. I am satisfied that the Prime Minister will find then that although - to my regret - the address in reply has been allowed to go without an amendment being moved–
– Move an amendment now.
– I shall not move an amendment. My honorable friend might have to support the amendment if I did, and that would be a very awkward position for him to be placed in ; it might bring about a free-trade-protectionist Administration, which we are not going to have. The focussing of public attention is not what my honorable friend requires at the present time. But what we do require, and what the Opposition are determined to secure, is that the mind of the people shall be focussed at the right time. The Prime Minister thinks that when the people have become accustomed to the Tariff they will not be so keen to show their resentment or indignation as they would have been six months previously. He may also be trusting to tho revival of good seasons.
I do not wish to be too suspicious, but I should like to know how it is that the discrepancy between the census returns and the electoral rolls in New South Wales has only been discovered since the electoral districts have been plotted out ? I am not referring to the protectionist seats. The distribution of the seats should be quite above party warfare. It is always prudent for a Minister to give any instructions in writing. If the Minister for Home Affairs gave any instruction to the commissioner in charge of the redistribution of electoral seats in New South Wales it should have been given in writing, and I hope that there has been no personal interview with the officer. It does seem remarkable - and I trust an explanation will be made during this debate - that the commissioner and the officers in the electoral department did not discover this discrepancy until the State had been plotted out into districts. After that work was completed they suddenly discovered that there is a discrepancy of 80,000 persons, which may require further attention on their part. I wish to know whether that further attention means an alteration of the divisions, or a prolongation of the session, or an adjournment until the time comes for the general elections to Joe held. If the date of the general election’ is not affected by the discovery of that discrepancy all the trouble is over. The Prime Minister can easily say whether he will allow that discrepancy to penalize the people of New South Wales, or whether lie will punish those who are responsible for its existence. Either the Minister for Home Affairs or his officers are responsible. It must have occurred either through the fault of the commissioner and his officers, or through the fault of the Minister, because th*e census returns and the electoral rolls, were placed in their hands before the plotting out was begun. I should like some explanation of this matter to be made. I trust that all honorable members are satisfied with the redistribution. We do not care to lose a portion of our constituency, just as no one cares to lose an old friend. I suppose that every honorable member will say that he is quite satisfied with the redistribution of the seats, but that is not the point at issue. It is not the politicians, but the people, who have to be considered. The redistribution of the seats should be beyond the influence of the politician. After the work is completed a discrepancy of S0,000’ persons is found.
– Does the honorable member expect a tory Ministry like this to consider the people ?
– In this matter the public should be considered by the Ministry whether it is tory, radical, or liberal. Nothing should be purer than the preparation of the electoral rolls; the administration of the electoral laws should be beyond the influence of any party and any Government. I think it is always wise for a Minister to instruct an officer in writing. When the Prime Minister rose the other night lie said he had to reply to the leader of the Opposition, but that he did not know what he had to reply to. He will find that there are many grievances felt by the Opposition, and not the least of them are the absence of control of the business of the House, and the surrender of responsible government.
– In rising to take part in this debate it is not my intention to weary the House with a lengthy address. I feel that the charge which has been made, that this discussion is to a large extent a waste of time, is not without some foundation in fact. Of course, the case would be entirely different if the leader of the Opposition had tabled, an adverse amendment, but he has done nothing of the kind ; .on the contrary, he has disclaimed any hostile intention, and in the absence of the fighting spirit the debate has not been characterized by that animation and those personalities which tend to make political speeches, if not always specially edifying, certainly very interesting. The members of the Ministry must feel most kindly disposed towards the leader of the Opposition for his present attitude in relation to them. He has little to say in condemnation of their doings in the past - in fact, he has not been so outspoken in his criticism as some of their own supporters ; and as to the chief proposals in the address of the Governor General he is either silent or expresses agreement. Of course, the leader of the Opposition stands where he always has stood in relation to the Tariff, and although he does not approve of the administration of the Customs department, he says he entertains the highest opinion as to the ability of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and is quite sure he has been actuated by the best motives. As coming from the leader of the Opposition, the Minister must warmly appreciate such sentiments ; while I, as a Ministerial supporter, cannot do very much more than indorse the generous sentiments of the right honorable gentleman. No one who knows the Minister for Trade and Customs will say that he is the embodiment of amiability, but those who know him best will unhesitatingly assert that as a public man he has set before himself high ideals, and that when lie believes he has discovered the line of duty he follows it at all hazards, with absolute integrity and without the least respect for persons. He knows nothing about the line of least resistance, which, to the politician, is so often the path of peace and of popularity. I regret that the Minister has not more of the diplomacy and grace of manner of the Attorney-General, who has the faculty of being able to say and even do unpleasant things in such a way that they produce little irritation. But we must take the Minister for Trade and Customs as we find him, and I am satisfied that when the soreness which exists in certain quarters - soreness, I am afraid, not always without justification - passes .away, the conviction will prevail throughout the Commonwealth that the Prime Minister did the right thing when he placed in Mr. Kingston’s hands the portfolio for Trade and Customs. Speaking in this Chamber last session, the honorable member for Wentworth said it was absolutely essential that the atmosphere in the Customs departments throughout the States should be rendered wholesome, and that position and wealth should not exercise undue influence. I think I may say that the wishes of the honorable member in these particulars have been realized. If the Minister’s methods have been rough, they have been very effective, and if the honest merchant has felt at times more than a little hurt at what has seemed to him harsh treatment, it must not be forgotten that the dishonest trader has been making substantial contributions to the revenue which in the past he seems to have often been successful in evading.
– Then all previous Ministers for Trade and Customs have been dishonest t
– Certainly not. But I think the general feeling throughout Australia is in accord with the opinion I am expressing.
– “What are the cases in which large contributions have been obtained from dishonest traders ?
– It is quite impossible to give specific cases, but the opinion I have expressed is prevalent throughout Australia, and I think there is a general admission on the point, so far as merchants are concerned.
– In most cases the amount involved has been under £2.
– But those small cases involved in the. aggregate a large sum.
– There will be general agreement that the man who would at the present time, and with the present administration, attempt to cheat the Customs department, would be a very courageous individual.
– No doubt it is going on every day
– The same results, perhaps, might have been achieved by gentler methods. I am not at all sure as to that - but this we know, that the drastic methods adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs have been entirely successful. This fact will not be forgotten, and on account of it much will be forgiven if forgiveness be needed. The leader of the Opposition, in dealing with the Tariff, referred to the removal of the duty on tea. I have no intention of going into that matter. I refer to it only to say that I supported the duty, and that I regret it was not passed for a special reason. I am not at all sure, in spite of tea being on the free list, that a considerable part of the £300,000 which the duty represented has not been drawn from the pockets of the consumers. I think it would really have been wiser if the whole sum had been. collected for the benefit of the Commonwealth. As to the Tariff itself, I think it will he a mistake if the leader of the Opposition raises the fiscal issue at the approaching elections. The people have had enough of the Tariff for some time to come. I see the position in which the right honorable member finds himself, but there are many who believe that he will be studying his own interests and the interests of Australia by leaving things as they are for the present. I must frankly confess that in regard to the High Court Bill I have been a waverer. I have felt a good deal of sympathy with the views expressed by my honorable and learned colleague from South Australia, Mr. Glynn, but before this session opened I had made up my mind to support the establishment of an independent tribunal. Possibly if I had not done so I might have been carried away by the enthusiasm and eloquence of m)r friend, the honorable member for Gippsland. I agree with him, however, that to spend something like £30,000 on a High Court seems an appalling expenditure.
– Unless equal economies can be shown in consequence of the creation of the High Court.
– Would it be possible to do so ?
– Yes; I propose to do so.
– Although I shall support the Government in this matter, it is my intention to reduce as far as possible the expenditure that will be involved in the establishment of the court. I suppose there can be no doubt that an independent tribunal is necessary, and that reasonable expenditure can be justified. The Government say so, and their opinion is backed up by that of the leader of the Opposition, who states that without the High Court the Commonwealth is without a Constitution at all. It must be admitted that with no High Court the Constitution is not complete. I .agree wilh the leader of the Opposition that the selection of the Federal Court Judges will test the ability and patriotism of Ministers, but I believe they will rise to the occasion and appoint men who will do them credit and be an honour to Australia.
– -They rose to the occasion when thev selected their own friends for billets.
– There is further heavy expense connected with the Inter-State Commission. If the work with which this Inter-State Commission is intended to deal can be done without the costly appointments contemplated by the Bill, and there are those who say such is the fact, economy should unquestionably be studied. But the work must be done. There is an undoubted tendency by means of fresh establishments ‘to pile up expenditure, and if we are not very careful federation will become extremely unpopular as the result of the extra taxation which it must necessitate. Having said this much, it is only fair to add that the right honorable member for Balaclava is a Treasurer who has been no party to extravagance. It would be gross extravagance for this Parliament to allow two independent elections to take place within the next twelve months - one for the Senate, and the other for the House of Representatives. These elections must be held simultaneously, even if that course means shortening the term of this House by several months, and I am sure honorable members generally will approve of that arrangement. In the Governor-General’s speech allusion is made to the projected railway across Australia from west to east. No doubt some day such a line will exist, and there will also be a railway crossing the continent from north to south. The people of South Australia are most concerned about the latter, and I really believe that it is the more important railway to the Commonwealth as a whole. It is my opinion that the mails from England will never be landed at Perth and carried east by rail. Long before anything of that kind is possible the mails will reach Australia by way of Europe and Asia, and will come overland from Port Darwin. Already the British Government are making inquiries as to whether the mails for India cannot be sent out by rail. It is well that information should be gathered with respect to the cost and prospects of the railway in which the people of Western Australiaare so keenly interested, but I am disposed to think they will have to wait awhile for the realimtion of their hopes.
– Because of the great expense.
– Why did not honorable members for South Australia speak of the matter when federation was being discussed?
– The people of Western Australia will have to wait some time for the realization of their wishes, not only because of the expense which the construction of the line would involve, but because I believe a railway running across Australia from north to south will be considered to be much more in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– Surely the honorable member would not break faith with the people of Western Australia ?
-What faith is that ?
– The pledged faith of South Australia.
– There is one omission from the speech of the GovernorGeneral which will be regretted by all South Australians. They would like to have seen a reference to the river question, and a reference which would have been favorable to their State. The case for South Australia was well and temperately put by the honorable and learned member, Mr. Glynn, who has been for years an authority on the subject. Does some one ask what the present position is? It can be stated in a few words. The recent Royal commission recommended an apportionment of the waters which would leave South Australia a discharge inadequate for navigation, and much less than the flow the State has hitherto enjoyed. The Premiers’ Conference suggested that South Australia’s apportioned discharge, or share, should be increased in the months from July to January from 1 70,000 cubic feet per minute to a navigable depth at Morgan, and in the months from February to June from 70,000 cubic feet per minute to 150,000 cubic feet per minute. The allowance would in the months from February to J une still be considerably under the average natural flow, and below the navigable depth. If South Australia is to agree to such an apportionment the River Murray must be locked to make the diminishing flow effective. This work is recommended as a federal undertaking by the late commission so far as the stretch from Blanchetown to Wentworth is concerned. Without the locking of the river South Australia gives up with no compensation a portion of the natural discharge that helps to keep the Murray navigable to Wentworth for nine months of the year.
– What will be about the expense of that scheme ;. and how will the honorablegentlemanjustify it?
– The scheme would be justified because it would be of advantage to the whole of Australia.
– The expense would be borne only by the States concerned.
– I was going to say that the position taken up by South Australia is, in my opinion, a reasonable one. She is only asking for justice, and I am sure honorable members of this House are quite as anxious as are her own representatives that her fair claims should not be ignored. I now come to a matter which has received consideration and aroused interest in Great Britain as well as in Australia. I refer to the obligation of the Commonwealth in regard to the defence of the Empire. I say at once I admit the obligation, but that admission does not necessarily carry with it agreement with some of our English critics as to the form in which the obligation should express itself. I am in favor of the creation of an Australian navy, manned by Australians, trained to naval defence in our own waters. To make an adequate beginning, I do not believe the expense would be near])’ as much as represented, but T am forced to concede that little or nothing can be done in this direction at the . present moment by reason of the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth. This does not mean the abandonment of the idea. It only means delay in giving effect, to it. In the meantime I am prepared to support the Government in their action in regard to the increased subsidy, but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that there is an element of danger connected with this subsidy. If it be continued it will without doubt be increased, and if constantly increased it may at any time become the cause of friction between the motherland and the Commonwealth. It should not be forgotten that if Australia ceased to exist England would not be able to reduce her fleet by a single ship. I am familiar with the arguments by which the fallacy of the position I am taking up is supposed to be proved to demonstration. We are told that the Empire is one, and that therefore her fleet should be one ; that Australia’s safety in time of w’ar would depend not on the ability of the Commonwealth to defend itself, .but on the supremacy of the British Navy. Lord Selborne put the position thus : -
There is no possibility of the localization of naval force., and the problem of the British Empire is in no sense one of local defence. The sea is all one, and the British Navy must therefore be all one ; and its solitary task in war must be to seek out the ships of the enemy wherever they are to be found and destroy them.
The London Times indorsed this view, and expressed the opinion that the Australian notion as to the kind of danger to which Australia is peculiarly liable is all an illusion ; in fact, that it is unthinkable that any hostile cruisers would descend upon our shipping or our ports unless the fleet from which they were detached had first defeated the British Navy and obtained command of the sea. That I am afraid is mere assumption. Memory tells us that when some years ago there was the possibility of trouble between Great Britain and Russia the latter country made provision for attacking Australia, and that a Russian war vessel was actually fitted out with appliances for picking up and cutting the Port Darwin cable, and so destroying the connexion between this continent and England.
– What monetary gain would be secured bv cutting the cable 1
– No doubt if the mother country were engaged in war, and succeeded in defeating the enemy, the latter would have to make full reparation, supposing an attack had been made on Australia, but that would be poor satisfaction to Adelaide or Sydney if serious mischief had been done to either capital. A foe in its work of destruction risks the consequences which are inevitable in the event of defeat. To make provision to defend our ports and the floating trade in Australian waters is to follow the dictates of common sense. For the defence of England exclusive, reliance is not placed on the services of the general navy. She has the Reserve Squadron and the port guardships, and at the present time further provision in the way of local defence is being made. Under all the circumstances, surely the attitude of Australia is very much what might be expected. If the Commonwealth possessed war vessels,.it does not follow that they would al ways be retained in these waters. Australia may be relied on to come to England’s assistance in a case of need. That would be the spontaneous act of a loyal, people, and a repetition of what occurred in 1900, when, with no obligation, the vessels belonging to the Australian Squadron were released for service in Chinese waters, where they were joined by the gunboat Protector from South Australia. The mother country will gain more by trusting to the loyalty of Australians than by endeavouring to secure rights under any agreement which may not commend itself to the majority of the people in the Commonwealth. There is another matter having reference to the Empire with regard to which I wish to say a few words. But, beforedoing so, I would like to remark that I think the Prime Minister is entitled to the thanks of the people of the Commonwealth for the manner in which he represented Australia in England last year. He had intrusted to him a difficult task, which he carried out with dignity and distinguished ability. He delivered ‘ many eloquent addresses, but he was careful to make it quite clear that he had no power to bind the Commonwealth, and he was skilful enough not to let this most necessary declaration detract too much from the importance attaching to his speeches. I suppose I shall do no harm if I quote from a private letter written by a well-known Australian now resident in London -
– I hope it is nobody who is expecting the office of High Commissioner.
– No ; the honorable and learned member is quite right upon that point. The writer says that Sir Edmund Barton towered above the other colonial representatives present at the Coronation. A scholar and a gentleman, he proved himself an ambassador of whom Australia might well be proud. And in % this connexion I would like to pay a tribute to the eloquence and excellence of the closing portion of the address, delivered in this House last week, by the leader of the Opposition. I did not agree with all he said, but with much of it I agreed most cordially, and his entire reference to the Empire I thought fully worthy of the position which the right honorable gentleman occupies in this Parliament, and worthy, too, of abroadminded man, capable of looking at matters not from the restricted stand-point of one State, or even of the Commonwealth, but as a citizen of a great Empire. I think the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney was quite right in speaking of Mr. Chamberlain as one of the foremost statesmen in England. His past, and especially his immediate past, puts the matter beyond question. Then why need the right honorable gentleman have any fear as to possible want of full consideration of the effects which a policy of preferential duties within the Empire would have on Great Britain. The idea is not a new one fis far as Mr. Chamberlain is concerned. It has been in his mind for years. Possibly at one time the policy included free-trade within the Empire, as Mr. Balfour evidently still thinks it should do ; but that is clearly out of the question. Any scheme of the kind must be based on the Tariffs of the various colonies. Personally, I am strongly in favour of preferential duties. Australia has nothing to fear. There are decided objections to the one-sided arrangement which now exists with Canada. But there is every reason why we should give the mother country special consideration in return for special consideration shown to us. As to the possibility of retaliation on the part of foreign countries, it should be remembered that our exports for the most part consist of food products, and raw materials needed for manufacturing purposes, and foreign countries will think twice before putting heavy taxes on imports which will mean handicapping their own manufacturers in the markets of the world. Against the injury which conceivably might be inflicted on colonial trade must be set the enormous advantage of a preferential market in GreatBritain. Of the wool imported at the pre. sent time 64 per cent, .is sent from Australia and New Zealand. The rest comes from Argentina, Austria, Saxony, Russia, and other countries. With a slight Tariff advantage the whole of the wool received in Great Britain could be drawn from within the Empire. The aim of Mr. Chamberlain, to use his own words, is to create a selfcontained and self-sufficing Empire, and I think it is the duty of this Parliament to help in the realization of so splendid an object.
– In reviewing the conduct of Ministers, I think we are bound to consider their actions, not only since they came before us last Parliament, but from the time the Ministry was formed, and I therefore desire to remind honorable members what happened upon the formation of the Ministry. Ministers took office on the 1st January, 1901 , but they did not meet Parliament until the following May. Now, we have heard from the. Prime Minister a great many noble statements. He has gone so far as to say that, he is a man- to be trusted. A great many people throughout Australia accepted hisdeclaration that he was an honorable man, whose word could be taken, and trusted him accordingly. But what was the result? We all know what he said in regard to theTariff, and the statements he made when in New South Wales. If, in private life, a man is. jockeyed .or swindled out of, say 20s.’, by false statements or misrepresentations, hehas a remedy in the police court. But thethousands of voters who were misled by thefalse statements and misrepresentations of the Prime Minister have no remedy whatever.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw the words “ false statements and misrepresentations.”
– If you rule them to be unparliamentary, I do so, though outside I have not hesitated to use the word “ swindle “ in connexion with the right honorable member’s actions. To my own knowledge, hundreds of electors- and, no doubt, other honorable members know many other cases of the kind - were misled by the utterances of the Prime Minister.
– Was the honorable and learned member misled?
– I had been misled on former occasions, but on the occasion to which I am alluding I profited by my previous experience, and was not misled. One would have thought that the Prime Minister, in his desire to set himself right with the people of Australia, and to win a name for statesmanship, or at least to earn a reputation for being a man of his word, would have tried to keep as closety as possible to his promises. But what do we find? The chairman of his committee, who listened to his Maitland speech, said, after the introduction of the Tariff, that that measure had been introduced in defiance of the Prime Minister’s promise, and that he considered that the right honorable gentleman had misled him, and that he was induced to support him by promises which had not been kept. Then three representatives of Victoria repeated practically the same charge. They were men who could form an impartial judgment, and whose only interest was to serve the truth. The right honorable gentleman has by his action made the words of politicians of no account in the ears of the people of Australia. I hold that the word of a Prime Minister should be sacred ; that he should set a high standard of public morality, and as far as possible keep his “word. It is no defence of his action for him to try to place an entirely different meaning upon his statements from that which was naturally placed upon them by those who heard and read them. At the present time, however, almost the whole of the electors are agreed that the Prime Minister did not put the issue before them properly, and that they were deliberately misled in regard to the probable nature of the Tariff.
– The honorable member must not say “deliberately misled.”
– I withdraw the word “ deliberately “ as unparliamentary, although I have not hesitated to use it outside. This man not only made statements and representations which outside would be characterized only in one way, but he went further. Directly he became Prime Minister and two great offices in the public service of the Commonwealth were created, he looked upon them, not as places to be filled by the best men obtainable, but as billets to reward his political friends, and he deliberately made use of his position to appoint two of his friends to them.
– I wish to draw the attention of the honorable and learned member to Standing Order 272, which says that -
No member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member thereof …… and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The honorable and learned member has imputed a motive which is decidedly improper, and therefore, in the words of the standing order, his action is “ highly disorderly.” I ask him to withdraw his statement, and not to repeat it.
– Of course, I bow to your ruling, sir : but am I to understand that statements of fact are disallowed ?
– There must be no imputation of improper motives.
– Then I will say that with the most honest motives, with the strongest desire for the good of the country, the Prime Minister appointed two of his friends to these offices. Furthermore, he made the salaries attaching to the positions so low - £800 a year - that he was able to inform Parliament that no applications for them had been received from men holding similar positions in the public services of the States - because men in such positions were receiving a larger remuneration.What a noble effort that was on his part to save the Commonwealth expense. But he did not stop at that. In one case, this man, who has such a keen desire to save the public revenue, did not resent the setting aside of his authority, and accepted what a good many people would regard as a snub, so that he might remain in office a little longer. Let us see what occurred in regard to the appointments made by the Government, and what control Ministers had over the House. Times out of number the appointments which the Prime Minister suggested were set aside, and there was an entire abnega tion of his parliamentary responsibility. But if we are to have such a thing as sound government, there must be Ministerial responsibility - a political principle which has been set at naught by the Prime Minister and his colleagues.We know what happened when the Governor-General’s Allowance Bill was before the House. We know how the provisions of that measure were amended, and its original purpose quite changed. Whether that purpose was a good or a bad one is foreign to this discussion, but we know that the Government made certain pledges to the GovernorGeneral, which they delayed for sixteen or seventeen months to bring before the House. Of course such an unworthy motive as fear is not to be ascribed to them in connexion with this delay. No unworthy motives are to be ascribed to them; they acted from the most honorable motives. The Prime Minister had nothing to gain by denying the existence of an agreement with the late. Governor-General, though, no doubt he will be able, if taxed with it, to say that he was misreported. But was it right for this House to allow a Minister to continue in office after such an abnegation of responsibility? Until the day arrives when it is considered an abnegation of responsibility for a Minister to act in the way described, there can be no sound government in Australia. The Prime Minister has gone so far as to condemn honorable members for speaking in opposition to measures brought forward by him, and has then turned round and stated that the measures, as amended, were creations of his opponents, who were responsible for all their faults. This course of conduct is bringing our representative institutions into disrepute, and our whole system of administration must be entirely changed before they can be rehabilitated. When we find that a Minister’s word is not regarded as sacred, even by Parliament itself, the position is very serious. We know that a number of persons, including the chairman of his election committee, entertained the view that the Prime Minister had departed from the promises made at Maitland during his electoral campaign, and we have had instances in this House in which honorable members have declined to take the word of the right honorable gentleman. When the Defence Estimates were under consideration the committee declined to accept the promise of the Minister that the Estimates should be reduced by £131,000, and insisted upon a division. Honorable members will find the circumstances set out in Hansard, page 12212. By their action on that occasion honorable members showed that they did not place any reliance upon the utterances of the Minister. I was glad to see a spark of courage induce the Prime Minister to re-‘ sent the insinuation of his want of truthfulness by indignantly asking - “ Is not my word to betaken in a matter like this?” but the burst of laughter with which his question was greeted made the right honorable gentleman fall back into his former position. Probably a mental review of what he had said and done in the past brought confusion to his mind. . I felt almost sorry for the Prime Minister in the humiliation to whichhe was subjected on that occasion, because it must have been deeply humiliating for any Minister not to have his word accepted, even by those sitting behind him in the House. What was the duty of a Minister who thought he was being treated unjustly and improperly in such a case? Why, to resign from the House which had shown so little faith in him. When honorable members found that the interests of special individuals or classes were receiving more consideration than were the interests of the community at the hands of the Prime Minister they were not disposed to accept any assurance from him. The action of the right honorable gentleman on that occasion must have come as a surprise to those who had known him many years before, but it caused no astonishment in the minds of those who had carefully watched his conductforthe past two or threeyears. One incident during thecourse of the Tariff debate filled me with shame. When the duty on broom millet was being discussed it was urged that as broom millet was largely used as raw material in connexion with industrial operations carried on in blind institutions, it should be admitted free of duty, but as against this we had presented to us a letter from a constituent of the Prime Minister stating that he intended to grow broom millet, and that therefore it was desirable to impose a duty. No doubt the duty on millet might secure a vote for the Prime Minister, but was it worthy of the right honorable gentleman to allow it even to be suggested that simply because one of his constituents desired to have a duty imposed, the interests of the blind broom makers should be ignored ? The Prime Minister has asserted that it was owing to the action of the Opposition that the tea duty was defeated. We cannot, however, help being struck by the fact that the tea duty was rejected bya majority of only two, and that only 66 honorable members out of 75 cast their votes. Exclusive of Mr. Speaker, who has never voted, and of the Chairman of Committees, who, except on one occasion, has not given anyother than his casting vote, seven votes were unaccounted for. Under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that the Government regarded the tea duty as of the utmost importance to some of the States which were badly in need of revenue, it was reasonable to expect that the tea duty would be recommitted. No such action was, however, taken, while, strange to say, a recommittal was insisted on in the case of salt, although the original division accounted for every vote except one on the Opposition side. During the debates which took place upon the salt duty, one of the directors of the Castle Hill Salt Company was in Melbourne, and, no doubt, interviewed Ministers, and represented to them the necessity for a recommittal of the duty. However that may be, the salt duty was recommitted and increased. The Prime Minister recently told us that the effect of protective duties was to increase the prices of various commodities, and that the duties were imposed for that purpose. I am pleased to be able to agree with him, but I cannot understand why he allowed the Minister for Home Affairs and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to travel the country pointing out that the effect of protective duties is to lower prices. If, as the Prime Minister points out, the wages of the workmen employed within the Commonwealth depend upon the prices obtained for the articles they produce, the effect of the duties, according to the Minister for Home Affairs and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, must be to reduce wages. The Prime Minister has utterly given up all control of matters in this House, and has allowed himself to be swayed backwards and forwards. He has even allowed insults to be heaped upon him, and yethe has been content to retain his position as a Minister. Honorable members will not accept his word, as was exemplified upon the occasion to which I have referred.
– That was all explained afterwards. The action of the committee was not intended to indicate want of faith in the Prime Minister’s word.
– I shall show that my statement is absolutely correct, and in support of it I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the following passage in Hansard, p. 12212: -
– I understood that the Government had undertaken to reduce the Estimates for next year by £130,000. They were willing to do that without any vote of the committee. I desire to know if this vote is proposed for the purpose of insuring the reduction, and if the undertaking of the Government is not to be accepted ? The position ought to be clearly understood.
When the Prime Minister used those words I thought that some remnant of his former manliness had returned to him, yet the vote was carried against him, and he submitted to the insult in silence. Is that a position which any Minister of this House ought to occupy?
– It was explained afterwards.
– Would the Minister for Defence have submitted to anything of that sort? 1 was even surprised that the right honorable gentleman was content to remain in a Government to which such an insult had been offered. Why should not the same standard of morality be observed in political life that prevails in private life? In private life the Prime Minister would not submit to such a snub - why then should he be a suppliant in political . life ? Now I wish to deal with the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, in the administration or want of administration of his department, has made himselfvery objectionable to traders. One of the first matters to which I would draw attention is the strictly personal way in which the Minister seems to treat all matters. Honorable members know that when a majorityof this House agreed to reduce the duty upon salt, the right honorable gentleman was primarily responsible for securing a recommittal of that item. He could not, however, have tendered the Cabinet any similar advice with reference to the tea duty, the remission of which involved the Commonwealth in a loss of revenue of approximately £400,000.
– One wasa protective duty and the other a revenue duty.
– If the Minister took up the position that the revenue of the States ought not to be considered, but that a duty ought to be imposed upon a particular article, because some individual was thereby enabled to obtain a higher price for it, it was utterly unworthy of him. If he will not fight on behalf of the public interests, why doeshe fight on behalf of private interests? From the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I assume that if a person owning a tea plantation had come forward and pointed out that his industry required the artificial aid of a protective duty the Minister for Trade and Customs would have been prepared to listen to him. I suppose one of the worst features in connexion with the right honorable gentleman’s conduct is that which was referred to the other night by the honorable member for North Sydney. He pointed out that 9,000 tons of sugar had evaded the payment of an excise duty of £3 per ton. This sugar belonged to certain companies, all of which are known- to the Minister, who, however, has denied all knowledge of the matter. In this connexion it is worthy of notice that as far back as the 22nd July last an answer was given in the other Chamber to this very question on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Upon no less than three occasions the matter has been brought under his notice. That a dozen letters have been written upon it can be conclusively proved, and yet he denies all knowledge of it. The names of the gentlemen in New South Wales who have attached their signatures to the statement that the right, honorable gentleman did know of the matter are Dr. M.cLaurin, Dr. Mackellar, Mr. Neville Griffiths, Mr. Edward Knox, and Mr. Kater - men of known probity, who are anxious to have the matter inquired into by a court of law. If their allegations are untrue the Minister can recover £10,000 damages for libel from every one of them. Where is the £27,000 which ought to have been paid upon that sugar ? These gentlemen desire an inquiry to be made, and are perfectly willing to pay the expenses connected therewith. All that they wish to know is why the Act was not administered, and why justice was not done. It is useless for the Minister to rise in his place, and declare that the statements of these gentlemen are untrue, because the proper tribunal to determine the matter is the courts of New SouthWales. If by reason of negligence the Minister has allowed 9,000 tons of sugar to escape the payment of excise duty, thereby involving the revenue in a loss of £27,000, what becomes of his vaunted sound administration ? He is prone to tell us that the revenue is being defrauded of thousands of pounds, and, in effect, it is his habit to declare - “ I am the only honest Minister of Customs that the people have ever had.” Does the right honorable gentleman inwardly believe that his own colleague, in the person of Senator Playford, did not honestly administer theCustoms department in South Australia ? Does he suggest that the honorable member for Laanecoorie did not honestly discharge his duties in a similar capacity in Victoria, or that Senator Best was also corrupt? Why, the latter even went so far as to prosecute a client of one of his Ministerial colleagues, because it will be remembered that the present Treasurerof this Parliament, when Premier of the State, appeared in court to defend a man who was charged with attempting to defraud the revenue.
– The Commonwealth Minister has to administer a national depart ment.
– But the right honorable gentleman attempts to gain admiration by drawing attention to trifles, notwithstanding that in nine cases out of ten the attorneys prosecuting on behalf of the department confess that there has been no intention on the part of the accused to defraud the revenue. When we find day after day the same thing repeated, we begin to wonder why all those little prosecutions took place. Can this be described as administration? If the Minister says that he is bound to administer the law, he may be asked who was it that objected to this law being passed. When the measure was before the House I pointed out that it placed one of the most dangerous weapons in the hands of the Minister, seeing that it deprived the courts of the right to fix the amount of the fine.
– But this being the law, what can the Minister do ?
– Let me give the honorable member one or two instances in which the Minister for Customs has not so strictly administered the law. By the Act 38 and 39 Vict. No. 13, every person in South Australia who shall wager sums of money on any game or pastime shall be guilty of a misdemeanour . and liable to imprisonment. Does the Minister know that if he in South Australia made a bet of half-a-crown with a friend, he would be liable to imprisonment under this Act? Does the Minister not know that hundreds of people who like a game of cards, for, it may be,1d. per dozen, are similarly liable?
– Is that Commonwealth legislation ?
– It is legislation the administration of which was in the hands of the present Minister for Trade and Customs when he was Premier of South Australia. Did we ever hear of any summonses being issued in South Australia under that Act ? If not, it may be taken that the Minister exercised some discretion, seeing hundreds of people must have been liable on account of wagers made on cricket or football matches. We can see, of course, that if such a law were carried out strictly it would be ridiculous ; and that is exactly what we say of the administration of the Customs law. I am bound to say that the motive with, which the Customs summonses are issued does not seem to be a right or proper one. The one object ought to be to administer justice to all, and justice cannot be obtained when men are sent to a court where, by reason of the legislation, penalties are imposed as we now find them. We know that even in a case involving 12s. 6d. the minimum fine of £5 has to be imposed. In one case certain goods, valued in all at 12s. 6d., had been brought in, and the strict letter of the law not complied with. The person to whom the goods belonged, together with a cabman and the cabin boy of the vessel, were prosecuted, and on each was imposed a fine of £5 and costs, three summonses thus being issued for what was one offence. If the person to whom the goods belonged had not been able to pay the fines, the cabman and the cabin boy must have gone to gaol. Surely that cannot be sound administration : and that the law is as we find it is the fault of the Minister. I find that on no fewer than 26 occasions I objected to these drastic powers ; indeed, at the time I thought I had obtained from the Minister a promise that these provisions should be reconsidered, but, as a matter of fact, no further opportunity for discussion was afforded. I was new to the Ministry at the time, and I thought that in relation to a promise or undertaking of the kind they would act as men act in private life. I did not know that there was such a difference between political virtue and private virtue. The Minister for Trade and Customs, when Premier of South Australia, did not administer the strict letter of the law, as I have shown ; but to-day he says - “It is the law ; I shall administer it.” We almost think we hear Angelo, in Measure for Measure, protesting - “ It is the law, and I must administer it”; and we all know the result in the case portrayed by the dramatist. I should like to cite another South Australian Act - 33 Vict. No. 15 - which was under the control of the present Minister for Trade and Customs, but which was not administered by him in the same way as we now find him administering the Customs Act. Under section 79 of the Act I have just mentioned, any . person who, in a public street or thoroughfare in South Australia, rides on the shafts of any cart or other vehicle is liable to a fine of not more than £2. Is it not too ridiculous to suppose that the present Minister for Trade and Customs, when Premier of South Australia, ever put that law in force ? Why should he not exercise a similar discretion in Customs cases in which, as his own attorneys, tell him, no fraud is charged ?
– The Premier of South Australia is not a policeman.
– Does the Minister for Customs say that it was not his province, because he was not an officer, to set the law in motion? I should not express myself so bitterly against the Minister if I did not. know that he had brought more sorrow and pain to men’s hearts than he can ever compensate for during the rest of his life. How many honorable men have been brought up in police courts and charged as criminals? Would it be nothing to the Minister if such charges were levelled against him, it being at the same time admitted that nofraud appeared on his part. That is exactly what has happened to scores of merchants. If even in one case the Minister had exercised the prerogative of discretion I should have thought some of the other cases had escaped his notice ; a t any rate, it would not be for one case or a dozen cases that I should level the charge I am now making. But there have been dozens and dozens of cases in which men, honorable to the heart’s core, have been brought up and charged without rhyme or reason.
The honorable member for North Sydney told us of a case in which a man, dealing with 44-1 sheets of paper containing figures, made a mistake against himself of 28s., and another mistake against the department of 12s. 6d.; and although there was a balance of error against himself, this man was prosecuted as a common criminal. Surely it cannot be contended that such a charge is not a serious matter to an honest man. If such charges are really a matter of indifference, then we could accuse the Minister for Trade and Customs of all the crimes in the Newgate Calendar and yet not outrage his sensibility. We have been told by the Minister that he receives conscience money, but I know at least a couple of cases in which money has been refunded anonymously as a means of avoiding petty prosecution. In one care a merchant had received goods and passed them on a perfectly honest statement of the fact. Subsequently he ascertained that other articles had by mistake been included in the consignment, and that more duty was due by him. That merchant consulted a solicitor as to what ought to be done, and that solicitor sought my advice. The merchant mentioned two friends, both of whom had been prosecuted after their admission of mistakes, and my advice was that he should return the money through his solicitor, in the way in which conscience money is usually paid. Is it not disgraceful that men, honest in their dealings, should have to resort to such means ?
– There have been several cases of the kind- men have been so imbued with terror that they dare not admit mistakes at the Customs.
– All I can say is that in the case of men who admit an error and call my attention to -it, there is nothing to cause them to be afraid. No one dreams of doing anything to make such men afraid.
– That statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs is not in accordance with facts, though I am not charging the honorable gentleman with always knowing that to be the case. Men are perpetually being prosecuted on charges such as I have described. Any morning in the newspapers we may see reported cases in which the solicitors on behalf of the Customs department inform the courts that no dishonest motive or desire to defraud is imputed to the defendants. But in all these cases a fine of £ 5 and costs, with the alternative of fourteen days’ imprisonment, is imposed. The labourpart)’, who are always bragging aboutjustice, have in this Bill helped to pass legislation which denies justice to the poorman. A fine of £5 and costs is a great deal to a working man ; indeed, it may be morethan a fine of £500 would be to a wealthierperson. The poor man has to go to gaol, and surely that is not the justice which thelabour party wish to see administered. When a man is animated by any desire other than that of administering justice impartially, his motives cannot be described as good :: and by rigidly inflicting the penalty in these Customs cases we have inflicted injustice on hundreds of people, who very often offend quite unconsciously. The Minister tells us that he cannot discriminate. Is that always the case? I remember that when a member of theSenate brought over 10 lbs. of ginger, upon which the duty was 2s. 6d., he was not brought before a court. What became of the Minister’s cry, “I must administer thelaw ; I am incapable of making any difference.” The senator happened to be astrong supporter of the Government, and after that incident he fought for their measures tooth and nail. If the Minister knows no difference between offenders, if common sense is not to be brought into the administration of the law, then what was the motive which influenced him to allow one man to go scot-free, and to prosecute another man who brought in 10 lbs. of candy, and to have him fined £15? What is the difference 1 In each case the revenue is defrauded. Is there to be nocommon sense in the administration of theAct ? Are we not to fit the punishment to the crime ? When we see the Minister continually allowing improper charges tobe levelled against honorable men, what can we do but suggest motives for his conduct 1 If he thinks that other men donot care when they are so charged, then when charges of dishonesty are levelled against himself he is in the mighty position that he does not care. Is that a nice position to put us in 1 I think not. Yet that is what we are continually drifting to. I suppose that nothing is more clear or certain than that if this style of things is continued there will be levelled against the Minister a number of charges which it is to be hoped will cut even him tothe quick, if that is possible. I do not say that men do not care when the charge- is a baseless one, although they . have to be convicted. The Minister does not care if the charge is a baseless one, and he stands in exactly the same position as he was in before. His motive in doing all this advertising in connexion with little cases is not a good one. It is a way to make the mass of the people think that the. administration is more sound now than it was before. The real fact is that the administration under such circumstances is less sound now than it was before. It makes my very blood boil when I think of the manner in which honest men are being treated. I wonder I am able to restrain myself and to resist the temptation to level charges against the Minister. Is it any wonder that a man has to go outside mere politics ? In a mere political matter who wishes to quarrel with the Minister for Trade and Customs or any other man ? But when a political office is administered so badly that the Minister tries to bring the taint of criminality into the homes of hundreds of men, where it has no right to rest, then what are we to do but to mete out justice to the Minister in a similar way? Do we not feel inclined to say -
Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
That is the sort of language which ought to be addressed to the Minister . The Bonus for Manufactures Bill was so framed that it was to take effect from a date prior to its being passed. It was so twisted and mangled in this House that it could not be recognised. It contained one set of conditions when it was introduced, and it was only read a second time on the casting vote of the Speaker. A clause was so altered that itdidaway entirely with any advantage that might accrue to a private company. The Minister for Trade and Customs fought very strongly for his measure. On recommittal the clause to hand over the bonus to a State was omitted, and the old clause granting the bonus to private enterprise was restored. He fought for the restoration of the old clause, as he certainly did not fight in the public interest for the retention of the tea duty. Only yesterday a witness before the Bonus Commission pointed out that the duty with the bonus is worth£ 200,000 to him. Supposing that I turned round to the Minister and said to him - “ That is the reason why you opposed the labour party - that is the reason why you sacrificed your own Government - that is the reason why you fought day after day with a great earnestness which you never exhibited in any other cause?” Supposing I said that he fought for the Bonus for Manufactures Bill solely because a private firm could be advantaged by its enactment ? Of course we all knew when a prior date was fixed in the Bill that none but those who had arranged to start such works could possibly take advantage of its provisions. The Minister displayed an extraordinary interest in fighting for that Bill. Why should I not turn round and charge him with a dishonest motive in the same way as he has charged the merchants? If I did so I should only be meting out to him exactly the same treatment as he has meted out to others. He feels no sense of shame in making these accusations without rhynie or reason against individuals if they happen to be merchants, and I suppose that he would feel no sense of shame if similar accusations were levelled against himself. He will be judged in the same way as he has judged others. He has said that every y ear the re ven u e is def rau d ed of th ou san d s an d thousands of pounds. I am willing to accept his statement. But I desire to know how it is that the cases which come before the court are not big cases, but nearly always cases involving a sum that varies from £1 to £3. Except in five or six instances, there has been no case where the sum involved has exceeded £20. I am reminded that a Custom-house officer has said that the Minister does not see the cases of fraud in which action is taken. Yet the Minister declares that fraud is continually going on, that gigantic cases of fraud are coming before him. Where is there a record of these big cases in any court ? I think that nearly every man will agree with me that it is not worth the while of a merchant, for the sake of saving £20 or £30, to commit a fraud. If, as the Minister says, cases of fraud involving large amounts do happen, why are they not fought out in the courts ? Is a difference being made between a man who defrauds the Customs of a thousand pounds and a man who defrauds it of only a few shillings ? The men who defraud the Customs of a few shillings each are continually being brought before the courts. If big cases of fraud have occurred we wish toseethem punished; we do not desire the man who commits big frauds on the revenue to escape scot-free. If big frauds on the revenue take place as the Minister says they do, undoubtedly it is his duty to bring the offenders before the courts. Why are not the offenders prosecuted? Is there to be one law for the rich and another for the poor? When a mere mistake is made in addition or subtraction the offender is brought before the court, but apparently where big frauds take place the offenders go down and interview the Minister, and of course the courts are silent. Is that a sound administration of justice?
– That was one rather large case as I understood from the newspapers.
Mr.CONROY.- That was a case involving between£16 and £17 worth of goods, and a fine of £50 was imposed. The lawyer who was prosecuting on behalf of the Minister got up and alleged that it was not a criminal prosecution, but merely one to determine the amount of the fines to be inflicted.
– The jury said it was a case of fraud.
– I never went into the case.All I know is that the prosecutor said that it was not a case for a criminal prosecution, but merely a case to determine the amount of the fines to be imposed. We are bound by the statement of the prosecutor. One case of fraud does not make criminals of the merchants as a class any more than does one swallow make a summer. If a member of the House should depart from the strict path of duly and be shut out from decent society, would it follow that every other member ought to be shut out from decent society? I think every one will agree that it would not. What I object to is that the law is not being soundly administered. I cannot help thinking that a great many of the Minister for Trade and Customs’ actions have been taken simply for advertising purposes - to lead the public to believe that the administration of the department was never so sound before. The honorable member for Laanecoorie is present, and as a former Minister for Trade and Customs in the State of Victoria he may well be left to defend himself from the attacks of the Minister, who said that in the past there had been no sound administration of the Customs department inNew South Wales, Victoria, or SouthAustralia. It is true that when the Minister saw the effect of those words, and the resentment with which they were received he fell back upon those whom he has called companions in crime - the reporters. These gentlemen, employed on the various newspapers, had again “misunderstood “ the right honorable gentleman. He said that they had misreported him, and led us to believe that he was another unhappy victim of the press. The same plea has been so often put forward by the Prime Minister that when he advances it we take no notice of it. Whenever any quotation is used against the Prime Minister, we at once expect him to say -“I was misreported there.’’ Indeed, the other day he carried this defence so far as to say that he had been misreported even in the case of a paragraph read to him from the latest British Blue-book. Let us think for a moment what would be the result if any man were to make charges against the Minister for Trades and Customs in his administration of the department, and the same law were applied to the Minister that he insists upon applying in prosecutions against merichants. What is the law in the Customs Act in the case of a merchant charged with any offence? It isthat the averment of the prosecutor, or the complaint contained in the information or declaration or claim, shall be deemed to have been proved in the absence of proof to the contrary.” In the same wayevery averment or statement made against the Minister for Trade and Customs ought to be deemed to have been established in the absence of proof to the contrary. Surely what is just in the case of the one should be just in the case of the other. Have honorable members ever considered the way in which the Minister for Trade and Customs overrides an Act of Parliament when he thinks it stands in his way? When the duty on cartridges was before us, it was decided that the shot used in their manufacture should be dutiable, but that cartridges themselves should be free. The Minister for Trade and Customs now seeks to override that decision, which is contained in an Act of Parliament, by inserting the word “empty” before the word “ cartridge.” “When the matter was before Parliament, another place pointed out what would be the effect of making shot dutiable, while allowing cartridges to go free. The duty, indeed, was referred back to us by another place ; but at the very last moment the Minister, together with his colleagues, insisted that the provision should stand as it was. The desire of the Government then was that cartridges should be admitted free of duty. They refused to take any notice of the request made b)’ another place, and they called to their assistance the force of their majority to prevent the rectification of the anomaly. Several honorable members in this House also pointed out the anomaly that had been created. I believe I suggested that as shot would be so much cheaper on account of the duty, the Minister, as a believer in that doctrine, declined to alter the provision. It appears that he has learnt a little since then, and now desires to override an Act of Parliament. But there is only one way in which an Act of Parliament can be overriden, and that is, as the Minister for Trade and Customs, as a lawyer, must know, by passing an Act of equal solemnity. An Act of Parliament is required to remove the anomaly, and the . Minister has no right to interfere with the law in the way he has done. During the recess, the right honorable gentleman has been travelling in Queensland and elsewhere, and asserting that he is against black labour - that all his sympathies are in the direction of encouraging white labour. Acts, however, speak louder than words, and we must judge a man not by his statements, but by his deeds. And what do we find ? We find that when the Minister is proposing a duty on sugar grown by black labour - and the bulk of the sugar imported from Sumatra and other foreign countries is grown by black labour- he fixes it at £G per ton. We find that this so-called hater of black labour absolutely discriminates in favour of sugar grown by black as against white labour, and that whilst he fixes the duty on that grown by black labour at £6 per ton, he imposes a duty on sugar which is the product of white labour - namely, beet sugar - at £10 per ton. In matters of this, kind we must consider not what a man says, but what he does, and that is the way in which I regard the Minister’s declaration that he is seeking to brins: about a sound administration of the Customs department, while at the same time he brings men before the courts in respect of cases which should not be treated in that manner. How can it be said that the right honorable gentleman is really administering this Act to the best of his knowledge and ability ? I have shown the way in which at least two State Acts were administered by the Minister for Trade and
Customs as Premier of South Australia. He did not then hesitate to break the law, soto speak, in the exercise of his discretion ; but I decline to say that it is a breach of the law to refuse to put in motion all the severe provisions of those measures. One of them contains a provision “ that a certain, class of persons found wandering in certain streets or highways, or being in any publicthoroughfare, or place of public resort,, shall be liable to imprisonment for a. couple of months.” But was that provision enforced against that large class of persons, whom we know to be inevitable in all great cities ? No. That law was asked for that justice should be administered ; butthe exercise of justice lies in the administration of the law, and we find that when theright honorable gentleman was Premier of South Australia, he did not insist upon the arrest of every woman found loiteringin the streets. The Act requiring that, they should be dealt with in the way I have mentioned, still stands, but theMinister exercised his discretion. I mention this matter only because of the Minister’s assertion that he is bound by hard-and-fast rules, and that he must administer the law. It is difficult to know why he did not do so in times gone by. If” he exercised a discretion in carrying out the South Australian law which I have mentioned, why is he not able to do so in the’ administration of the Customs department? That is a question to which we ought tohave an answer, and the experience of merchants and others engaged in tradingshows that no true answer has yet been returned to us. The right honorable gentleman should recollect that if the law wereapplied to him as it is applied by him in Customs cases, all charges made against him would be considered proved in the absenceof proof to the contrary, and if that recollection will cause him to administer theTariff with that discretion and due regard! for justice which should cause the punishmentto meet the offence, the complaints of honorable members on all sides of the House will not have been in vain. Several measures are promised during the present session. Oneof these is a Defence Bill. I need hardly point out that the action of the. Government in regard to the Defence Bill introduced last session is another instance of” neglect of* duty on their part. If they were not guilty of neglect of duty, they at. least showed a want of foresight that. deserved to be reprehended. They should have been able to estimate the work of the session, and if they were not prepared to proceed with the Bill they should have let it alone altogether. They should not have taken over the defence forces until they were ready to do so, and, having taken them over, they should have proceeded at once with the passing of a measure to place the whole of them upon a common basis. At the present time there is, and there can be, no sound administration of the Defence department, because there is no Act upon which to work. This brings me to the question of the naval subsidy, in regard to which I find myself in a difficult position. If any one had told me a few months ago that I should object to a naval subsidy, my answer would have been that we were not paying all the contributions that we could. But a considerable change has taken place since then, and although I have not yet absolutely determined how my vote shall be cast in the matter of the proposed subsidy, I do say that when we read the utterances of one party in the British Government - utterances which are calculated to plunge Great Britain into industrial war with other nations - it becomes us to seriously consider our position. We know that industrial war is nearly always followed by a wai- of bloodshed. We know that the greatest guarantee of the preservation of the doctrine of “ On earth peace, good-will toward men “ is that there, shall be no such thing as industrial warfare. A political party in England at the present time assert that they are likely to ask a large section of the British people to join with them in carrying out a certain policy. If that policy be carried out, I have no hesitation in declaring that, from the very date of its inception, the dismemberment of the Empire must begin. It would not be possible for honorable members to vote for a naval subsidy without a much more serious consideration of the matter than has yet been given to it ; because if a bloody war follows an industrial war in Great Britain, our position will be very serious. We shall be in a position in which we cannot by our voice or vote have a share in the councils of the Empire. Whatever she may do for the cause of the Empire itself, Australia cannot, and will not, be dragged at the heels of any party which is about to enter upon a serious industrial strife. While for the present I z 2 may continue, as I undoubtedly should have done a few months ago, to give my support to the naval subsidy proposals of the Government, if, when the speeches of Ministers are delivered, they are found to bear in one way, and if we are to be absolutely committed to industrial war with other nations, I shall not be able to see my way to support the tie which holds us together. It cannot be either in the interests of the people of Great Britain or of ourselves. If’ in Great Britain the people of Australia are to be used as a lever to induce the great mass of the electors there to vote in the way suggested, we on this side cannot be induced by any Imperial representations to risk being plunged into wars of aggression. Our part will be sufficiently performed in wars of defence. I trust that the tie of sentiment arising from the possession of a common language, a common literature, and a common ancestry will never be broken. It is a sentiment against which reason itself would struggle iu vain. Who can measure the sentiment of affection 1 But when we create political ties, however strong they may be, there can always be valid arguments used against them. The stronger these ties are made upon paper, the more we call in the aid of the lawyer to draw up the bond, the more likely are we to weaken the only real tie there can be- the tie of affection which exists at the present day.
– The honorable and learned member is verv rough on the lawyers.
– Well, it is not by the. wax and parchment of any lawyers that any country becomes great. It is not by merely scribbling upon paper that the minds of men are to be measured. I say it is most unfortunate that the opposite view should be taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs, because it is that which is landing us in so much trouble to-day - producing a feeling of unrest amongst the bulk of the trading community. Every merchant is anxious to punish the man who commits fraud, because when he pays his own duty he desires that those who evade the payment of duty shall be prevented from underselling him. But he does not desire to be brought into the police court without any real offence being committed. He asks that he shall be treated with exactly the same measure of justice which the Minister for Trade and Customs desires for himself, and that no matter shall be brought into the court unless there is some proof of the commission of an offence. He does not ask that he should be treated as though the mere averment of the Customs authorities should be deemed to be proved until there is proof to the contrary.
– The Act says so.
– But why does the Act say so 1 Is it not because the right honorable gentleman fought for it and insisted upon it, in spite of the fact that members on both sides of the House fought against it and argued that there should be room left for the exercise of discretion? One matter which is to be brought before the House will require a very great deal of consideration. I refer to the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill. Where is the man who is not anxious to see strikes put an end to?
– We are all anxious for the millennium.
– Strikes are, in my opinion, as bad as civil war. There is this difference, that after a civil war the number of persons amongst whom the capital of a community is to be divided is found often to have been lessened, whilst I do not know that during a strike the number of children coming into the world is limited.Wemust all be desirous of trying whether something cannot be done in the direction suggested, but before we try it would be as well perhaps if we considered what has been done in the past.We know that there have been many statutes regulating these matters before, though they may not always have been similarly named.We know that they sometimes have been used as weapons against the poorer people, and sometimes solely on behalf of the various guilds which from time to time sprung up. I need hardly refer honorable members to the history of guilds throughout France and Germany, and even in England itself. ThroughoutFrance and Germany those guilds obtained enormous power. “Guilds” is, of course, only another name for unions, and the powers they were allowed to exercise, mostly from custom and partly by statute, were so great that when the French Revolution broke out, half the leaders of guilds were guillotined. We see inserted in the French Declaration of Rights a most famous clause, which mightwell be studied by men considering the cause of labour and desiring its true advancement in the real interests of the people. The clause runs as follows : -
We hereby declare the inalienable right of every man to the property of his own labour, and that he be free to sell or dispose of it us seems best tohim.
That was a famous declaration. It could not be objected that that legislation did not come from the mass of the people, nor could it be objected that they had had no experience of various Acts operating in the other way. They certainly had. I mention matters like these to show what tremendous injustice and oppression the mere regulation by statute of wages, and so on, may sometimes inflict. In myopin ion such a declaration would probably have prevented the great advance in wages that has taken place during the last 30 or 40 years, but I decline to believe that, because some of us hold that view, and, therefore, do not hope for so much from Conciliation and Arbitration Acts as is hoped for by others, we should allow ourselvesto be regarded as conservatives.We may be conservatives in the sense that we are striving to keep what is best of the old laws, and in that sense no man can object to being called a conservative. In my view the great mass of the people have less to hope for from legislation than from any other cause.What they have most hope from is the abolition of legislation which, in many cases, restricts and hampers their advancement in every possible way. Therefore, until I have seen the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill which is to be submitted to Parliament, I feel myself unable to say whether or not I shall give it my support. If it will soothe the feelings of the great mass of the people, and tend to make them believe and feel that justice may be more certainly administered than it otherwise would be, there will be a very great deal to be said for the passing of a law of that sort.If, on the other hand, it is found to be a law which may be brought into operation simply because a union in one State may become affiliated with a union in another, the case will be very different. It must be remembered that there are employers’ unions as well as employes’ unions, and ifunder the proposed Bill either of these unions may make a dispute a federal matter by simply calling upon some body in another State with which it is affiliated, to strike, I could not possibly support such ti measure. The aim of all thinking men’ will certainly be to lessen and not to extend the area of strikes. There is so much in this idea of restricting the area over which men may even produce, that some socialists recommend the cutting up of various countries in which particular occupations are carried on. I need only refer to Fourier and Owen as socialists who express themselves against an)’ extension of the area over which a strike may occur. It would be well for men who regard themselves wholly and solely as socialists and who desire the advancement of the people from the point of view of socialism, to sometimes study more earnestly the works of socialist writers. There is one other matter to which I shall refer, and that is the High Court of Judicature, which the Ministry propose to deal with. The Judicature Bill, has been before Parliament for a very long time. It is now two years since Parliament first met, and two years ‘and a half since the Ministry was formed. When they first met the House they made the statement that it was absolutely necessary to pass a Judicature Bill, and I am inclined to think that had such a measure been brought forward at that time it would have been passed. I admit that personally I should not have supported it, even at that early stage, but to-day we are in a different position. Upon reading through the sections of the Constitution, which give us the power of creating a High Court, I was very much struck by the arguments advanced by Sir John Quick and Mr. Robert Garran, as set forth in their book on the Commonwealth Constitution. They give what appears to me to be very valid reasons why the expense involved in the creation of this court is to a large extent unnecessary, and they even go so far ils to suggest that tentative proposals should be introduced under which the various State courts might be empowered to deal with all matters which might arise.
– ‘State Judges would have to be paid to do the work.
– The honorable and learned member is not correct.
– More Judges would be required in each State.
– The appointment of one or two Judges would not be a matter of any importance. I would ask the honorable and learned member to remember the cases, which would likely arise, and I remind him that the Customs Act, the Post and Telegraph Act, and a Defence Act already apply in every State. What are we going to create a batch of Judges for 1 Is it to settle questions arising out of the Constitution 1
– How about appeals ?
– Under our Constitution, as the honorable and learned member knows, appeals will nearly always go direct from our State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. I am not arguing now as to whether it was or was not wise to make such a provision, but there it is, and does any one doubt that in the bulk of cases the appeals will go to the Privy Council 1 I think the honorable and learned’ member, when laying down a big principle or fighting on its behalf, recognises that the Privy Council is composed of some «f the finest judicial brains in the wide world. Many of the decisions of the Council are absolute masterpieces, and may be read with a vast amount of pleasure by laymen and lawyers alike. Even before I became a member of the. bar I derived pleasure and instruction from the reading of decisions given by these eminent men. They were invariably in accord with great principles, and I may say that it was the study of great principles in a copy of these judgments which led me to the study of the law upon which I entered as a member of an entirely different profession. The first thing we have to consider in regard to the establishment of a High Court is whether it is needed. Is it intended to give the administration of Federal Acts to the Federal Judiciary alone ? Are the State courts not to take cognisance of Federal Acts? Is it intended to take all jurisdiction in federal matters from the Judges of the Supreme Courts, the district courts, the police courts, and the courts of petty sessions of the States t If so, we shall want for the federal bench not five Judges, as the Ministry propose, but at least 50. If we are to dispense justice, we must bring it as nearly as we can within the reach of ‘ all ; and it will not be within the reach of all if none but expensive courts are available to suitors. If we abolished the magistrates’ courts, fully one half of the people of Australia would be denied justice - not in so many words, because there would still be the district courts and the Supreme Courts for them to appeal to ; but, inasmuch as they could not afford the expense of appealing to those courts, justice would actually be denied to them.
The great bulk of the people are satisfied with the decisions given in the minor courts, where impartial magistrates decide according to the equity of the cases which come before them. The amounts involved may be small, but the cases are very important ones to the people concerned, in them. To bring justice in regard to federal matters within the reach of all, federal jurisdiction must either be given to these courts, or we must appoint federal magistrates, and setup similar courts throughout the States for the hearing of federal causes only. The same line of argument applies to the district courts. Are we going to take away federal jurisdiction from those courts, and set up federal courts to do the work? If so, we shall require 40 Judges for those courts alone, even if they travel round the various centres, and give the people there an opportunity to bring cases before them every three or four months. So again with the Supreme Court. Is it proposed that the Judges in the Supreme Courts of the States shall not have jurisdiction in federal matters? If so, we shall require, not five, but fifteen or twenty Supreme Court Judges to decide such cases.
– What will it all cost?
– The cost of providing for only five Judges will be very great. I think that it cannot be less than £40,000 a year after the first year, and that in a very short time it will reach £70.000 or. £80,000 a year, because the Federal Court will endeavour to attract all the work it can, and a separate body of sheriffs and constables will be required to execute its decrees.
– Perhaps it would be better to cease for a time to make laws.
– That would be much better for the whole community. It would bea wise thing to abolish many of our laws. What the people might very well ask is, “ Where is this expense going to end ? “ and it behoves us as a Parliament to answer that question. I think that it would be sufficient to pass a short Act, conferring jurisdiction in federal matters upon the State courts. I am not in favour of the creation of a Federal Court which is to be only a Court of Appeal. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, showed the other day, in a very masterly speech, that the number of appeals likely to be made to such a court will be very few. His- speech reflected great credit upon him, inasmuch as during the framing of the Constitution he was in favour of the abolition of the appeal to the Privy Council, and wanted a local appeal court. He says now, however, that the position is different. The Constitution gives a right of ‘ appeal to the Privy Council, and we must be guided in our deliberations on this matter by that. He pointed out that in Canada and in the United States the average number of constitutional questions arising in any one year was only two, and he asked whether we should go to the great expense of creating a Federal High Court to try the very few .cases of appeal that would be brought before it. It is not to be forgotten that even if a Federal High Court be established, its members cannot hope to be altogether uninfluenced by the interests’ of the States as whose representatives they have been chosen, although they may earnestly strive to be impartial. Rut even if they act impartially, and a decision is ‘given against a State, if the Judges from that State do not agree with the judgment, the people of the State will be ready to cry that justice was not done to them, because the court was not impartial. With an appeal to the Privy Council things would be very different. It could not be said that that tribunal is other than impartial. Suppose, however, that the Federal High Court were established, and a question affecting the right of South Australia to use the waters of the Murray were brought before it, and the judgment of the court was in favour of the States of New South Wales and ViCtoria, and against South Australia. Suppose, too, that the South Australian Judge on the High Court Bench- was against the judgment. Would not the people of South Australia then say that the court was biased, and that its Judges leaned towards the States from which they came? In the earl)7 days of federation it is most important that nothing should be done to foster State jealousies, and therefore decisions which effect State interests should come from a body whose impartiality is unimpeachable. I do not say that the High Court might not come to the same conclusion that the members of the Privy Council would come to : but I think that the feeling of a State against whom judgment was given would be that her interests had not been fairly dealt with by the Federal Court. Then the objections to the High Court are very great cm the score of expense. I think that the expense will be so great that we shall see growing up in the minds of the people a feeling of indignation against those who are responsible for its creation. We have already strained their loyalty to federation to a point of extreme tension. Indeed, I had no idea that people could becomeso hot, or that the condemnation of Ministerial action could be so general throughout Australia as we have seen it of lute. In whatever State you visit there is a feeling of dissatisfaction with federation. People think that things have not gone on rightly. In my opinion, the fault lies, not with the federal machinery, but with those who have been in charge of it, and who have failed in every instance to exercise the common sense which the occasion has demanded. Wherever you go you hear some fresh complaint. One mau complains that he cannot get a telephone connexion that he wants ; another man has some other complaint to make ; and so we find that the general feeling of the community is that the federal administration has been a gigantic muddle. For this the Ministry are entirely responsible. They undertook the administration of departments before they were ready to do so. Those who hold office have been too long accustomed to the little matters of State administration to be safely intrusted with the larger matters that fall under the administration of a Federal Cabinet. The time has passed for the Government to administer the affairs upon the same lines as were formerly observed in the. States. Ministers should consider the interests and wishes of the whole of the people over whom they have to govern,’ and however convinced they may be of the advantages to he derived from certain measures they should not bring them forward until they are likely to meet with the approval of the great body of the people who have to submit to them. That is a very sound principle to be followed, not only in the framing of the laws, but in their ‘administration. During the stormy times through which the Federal Legislature of the United States passed in the last century, Alexander Hamilton found that so much opposition was being displayed by the people of two or three of the States to an Excise Act that, like a wise administrator, he allowed the law to almost fall into abeyance in those States : that is to say, he administered the Act with
Such discretion and care that it was made to appear less offensive. I wish the Minister for Trade and Customs had exercised the same care with regard to the administration of his department in at least one of the great States of the Commonwealth. I wish that he had had some appreciation of the fact that a radical change was being made in the laws under which the people of that State had to live, and that the public were likely to feel some resentment, because they believed that they had not been able to secure the truest and fullest possible representation in the Federal Parliament. He should have recognised the feeling which existed there that the Prime Minister had not made the electors fully acquainted with the Tariff that was to be submitted to Parliament; that, if he had done so, many of those who were returned as supporters of the Government would have been rejected in favour of others, and that as a necessary consequence the Tariff would not have been carried in its present form. A certain amount of soreness exists not only in regard to the Customs administration, but also with respect to that of the Postal and Telegraph department. Such changes have been made in the latter department that for the last two years all extensions of the telephone system in the country districts have been denied, and all development has ceased. This is a very serious state of affairs, and complaints have been loud and general. Then, again, the residents in the country districts have been called upon to submit to the imposition of postage upon newspapers. Surely if the question- of issuing a common stamp for all Australia had to be postponed for some years on account of the operation of the financial clauses of the Constitution, the imposition of a common tax might very well have been similarly deferred; especially when ohe people of New South Wales were already contributing to the revenue to a much larger extent than was reasonable. The hundred-and-one pin pricks to which the public have had to submit have created a feeling of irritation against not only the Ministry but the Federal Parliament. If the resentment had always been directed against its proper object, namely, the Ministry, I should not complain, but I am convinced that the great majority do not distinguish too clearly between the Ministry and Parliament, and that consequently there is a likelihood of the Parliament being embraced in the wholesale condemnation. The Opposition have made perhaps as strong and as patriotic a protest as was ever made by any body of individuals. They have attended here under great disadvantages as compared with many honorable members who sit behind the Government. Of 23 Victorian representatives, nineteen sit behind the Government, and it is therefore very easy for Ministers to rally their supporters to their aid at any time ; whereas the majority of the members of the Opposition come from other States. I regret that a motion of censure was not proposed. It is true that possibly from a party point of view it would not have been wise to propose an amendment to the address, but I think there are higher considerations than those of party. The continuance of the present Government in office is a misfortune, because it is daily adding to the load which Australia has to bear. The longer they continue in office the greater will become those vested interests which are likely to make a strong and bitter fight against liberalism and progress. Therefore, I should have unhesitatingly supported a motion of censure with a view to ejecting the” Government from office. I know that the leader of the Opposition thinks that it is absolutely impossible to carry a motion of censure against the Government, but I should have liked to attach to all those honorable members who support the Ministry the full responsibility of their action. I should have liked to see them go forth as a body of men who, up to the very last moment, expressed their belief in the Ministry as being the best that could be placed in office ; and if it is considered advisable even at this late stage to move an amendment to the address I shall be glad to support it. I never cared about fighting against jelly fish. I always like to have something to fight against, something definite against which to direct my efforts. I should like to carry the fight against the Government to the very last point, and show that I recognise that their continuance in office is, through the perpetual maladministration of the departments, a menace to Australia. When the next election comes I shall do my best, .by the use of my voice and pen, to see that the people of Australia are made fully acquainted with the misdeeds of the Government. It is not my fault that they are not well acquainted with them already ; but, owing to the frequent mistakes that are made by nine Ministers, it is impossible for one man’s tongue to proclaim them.
– I do not intend, as on a former occasion, to occupy four hours in commenting upon the matter which is contained in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. Honorable members may remember the circumstances under which I addressed the House at such length at the beginning of last session. I think ray action then resulted in some good, as it enabled honorable members to call upon Ministers and. their supporters to defend their position. The Prime Minister is, in my opinion, open to blame for the way in which he has treated the people of the Commonwealth. It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to tell us that he did not mislead the electors as to his intentions regarding the Tariff. His speech at Maitland was delivered with a view to induce free-traders to record their votes in favour of the Government, and the old-age pension scheme was put forward as a sop to the labour party. The Government must have known perfectly well - as they have admitted since - that it was impossible under the “ Braddon “ clause to adopt an old-age pension scheme, because of the difficulty of raising the necessary funds. The)’ told us that the)’ would not resort to any direct taxation, and they confessed their inability to raise the extra £4,000,000 required through the Customs without imposing intolerable burdens upon the people. They have now dropped the scheme altogether. Referring to the Tariff at Maitland, the Prime Minister said -
A business Tariff, a practical working Tariff, and a real Federal Tariff is what we require. If you desire ‘revenue destruction, then you mustlook for another representative, and the Australian Parliament must look for another Ministry,, for we shall not take part in such a task as that.
Reports have appeared from which it would seem that the right honorable gentleman stated that a Tariff yielding £4,000,000 would enable the Government to get over the difficulty caused by the “Braddon blot.” The right honorable gentleman has repeatedly stated that he was misreported, but although he denies the accuracy of those reports, I think he will admit that the statementappeared in quite a number of the newspapers.
– I do not know in how many it appeared, but I saw it in one.
It seemed so ridiculous and so utterly at variance with all my public utterances on the subject that nobody could possibly believe I had ever said it.
– The publication of that statement in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Nei.cs, and the Australian Star, not to mention some of the country newspapers, must have exerted considerable influence upon the electors of that State regarding the question then at issue.
– Is the honorable member referring to a period prior to the referendum t
– Yes.- I come now to a manifesto issued by his party upon the night that the Prime Minister was addressing his meeting. In offering these observations, I wish honorable members to understand that I am anxious to avoid all personal reflections. I think that we should endeavour to raise the tone of the Federal Parliament by avoiding all references of a personal character. In the manifesto to which I have referred - some thousands of copies of which were distributed
– Has the honorable member a copy of it here ?
– I have a part of it here - the other portion is at home. Amongst other statements contained in that manifesto is the following : -
Free-trade and a high protective Tariff are both impossible. The necessity of raising a large revenue makes free-trade impossible, and for the same reason a prohibitive Tariff is out of the question. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent both free-traders and protectionists from joining the ranks of the association.
– The name of the association was altered for that purpose.
– Exactly. The effect of that statement was to mislead the free-traders of New South Wales, and to induce them to vote differently from what they otherwise would have done.
– Was that manifesto issued prior to the referendum ?
– No ; it was issued upon the night that the right honorable gentleman delivered his address at Maitland.
– It says that a prohibitive Tariff was impossible.
– Yes. In his address the right honorable gentleman declared that he desired to raise revenue.
– I have always stated that revenue was the first consideration.
– That is so ; but the Prime Minister must admit that after reading the statement to which I have directed attention, the people of the Commonwealth would scarcely expect a Tariff of the character originally proposed by theGovernment to be submitted to this House. Why, the duties levied upon some of theitems which it contained amounted- to Super cent, and 100 per cent. That the right honorable gentleman misled some of his own supporters in this matter is evidenced by the fact that Mr. Thomson, who formerly represented a free-trade constituency in the New South Wales Legislature, and who took the chair for him at one of his meetings, immediately upon the character of the Tariff being made public, wired as follows : -
Great wrath at betrayal of constituency by breach of promise. .We expected heavy revenue duties, but not a one-sided Victorian monstrosity.
-That shows that he did not understand the subject about which he was talking.
– It shows thatthe Prime Minister misled the free-trade electors of New South Wales.
– At the meeting over which Mr. Thomson presided I distinctly stated that the Tariff would be a protective one, that the Ministry was almost entirely composed of protectionists, but that the measure of protection afforded must be moderate, having regard to the circumstances of the States.
– Did the Prime. Minister say -
It will be a business Tariff, a practical working Tariff, a real Federal Tariff? That is what we will fight for. If you desire revenue destruction, then you must look for another representative and the Australian Parliament must look foianother Prime Minister, for we shall not take part in any such task as that.
It will be generally admitted that some of the duties which were originally proposed by the Government must have been destructiveof revenue.
– No; the proof of the pudding is in. the eating.
– The du tie* originally proposed must necessarily have produced a large revenue. The other night my honorable friend intimated that I had something to do with the defeat of the duty upon tea. I take my full share of responsibility in that connexion. Why did I assist in bringing about the defeat of that duty?
– The honorable member had his leader’s pair in his pocket.
– I did so because on the 19th of March of last year the Treasurer brought down to the House an amended financial statement showing that up to that date he would, so far as he could ascertain from the estimates, receive nearly £600,000 more than he had anticipated, notwithstanding all the reductions which had been made in the Tariff. At that time we had dealt with all the principal items of the Tariff. The Treasurer’s statement was submitted the night before we were called upon to deal with the tea duty, and in view of the fact that the revenue was so much in excess of the Ministerial estimate, many honorable members like myself, who believe that tea isa fair subject for duty, felt that they could not support a proposal which would provide the Government with an additional £500,000 or £600,000.
– The honorable member admits whipping on that occasion?
– I admit having taken part in it.
– The honorable member did not say that in Tasmania.
– Yes, I did; but when the Minister for Home Affairs was in Tasmania he told the people of that State a nice little fairy tale, which, I am glad to say, was not received with much appreciation. In dealing with the tea duty the Treasurer made the following important statement : -
I venture to say that if we had told the States which have been loyal to the federal movement fromfirst to last that their finances were to be disarranged to a considerable extent,we should have found that they would not have entered into the Federation at all.
In the case of Tasmania the question at issuewas to relieve that State of taxation to the extent of £15,124. But what was the position of New South Wales? The Prime Minister has frequently told the electors of that State that federation would not cost them the price of the registration of a dog - that it would not amount to 2s. 6d. per head of the population. Indeed, he has recently declared that its actual cost is only about ls. per head of the population. Yet, according to the last financial statement of the Colonial Treasurer under the Federal Tariff, the people of New South Wales are taxed to the extent of £1,250,000 more than they were previously taxed. This sum represents about £1 per head, notwithstanding which the Prime Minister assured them that federation certainly would not cost more than 2s. 6d. per head.
– That was the estimate whichwas always made of the “new” expenditure caused by federation. It does not reach that sum even now.
– Did the right honorable gentleman tell the people of New South Wales that they Avould be compelled to submit to additional taxation through the Customs representing £1,250,000?
– No; but I told them that there must be a heavy Tariff in order that proper returns might be made to the States.
– The Tariff at present operating yields about £9,500,000 annually, notwithstanding that reductions Avere made in it representing taxation to the extent of £1,250,000 a year. Yet my honorable friend opposite blames the Opposition, because in a fair fight they defeated an attempt on the part of the Government to extract an additional £500,000 or £600,000 from the pockets of the people.
– The honorable member explained that matter differently in Tasmania.
– I explained it as I am explaining it now; I never make speeches calculated to mislead people.
– The honorable member cannot have been correctly reported.
– I do not make much complaint of misreporting, ofwhich, however, I have to take my share. This is not the first time the Prime Minister and myself have come into collision over the matter of misleading the electors in reference to a Tariff. A few years ago the Prime Minister Avas a supporter of our free-trade Ministry, and when an attempt was made, shortly after his election, to raise the fiscal issue, he said that “he would have nothing to do with the Opposition.” The Government was defeated a fewweeks later, and the right honorable member accepted office as Attorney-General. Mr. Wise, the present Attorney-General of New South Wales, speaking in reference to a partly protective
Tariff which was introduced in the New South Wales Parliament, said : -
The honorable and learned member for East Sydney, Mr. Burton, has had two opportunities of makinghis choice, and on each occasion he has deceived those who trusted him.I tell him now that upon the great question of a union of the colonies his chance of leadership has gone by for ever. The man who will not be a lender upon that question, or uponany other great question requiring the confidence of the people, is the man who has betrayed that confidence twice.
– Mr. Wise has repented of that since.
– I dare say that Mr. Wise has repented of a good many things since, but that was his opinion as a free-trader. At any rate, these remarks show that the Prime Minister was not true to the promisehe made to the people of East Sydney when he was elected, but that he brought in a protective measure, which was contrary to the wishes of the electors, as was proved by the subsequent defeat of the Government. The Minister for Home Affairs has been making some speeches in Tasmania in reply to those delivered by the leader of the Opposition. It must be admitted that the Minister for Home Affairs had a very small audience at the meeting to which I am about to refer.
– I had a very large audience ; the honorable member must have been reading the Launceston Examiner.
– I saw by one of the newspapers which support the honorable gentleman’s policy that at that meeting there were about 500 people present. At the meeting addressed by Mr. Reid, although a charge of1s. per head was made for admission, up to ten minutes before the hour of commencement-
– To see the play.
– It is a play which the Prime Minister does not like, and which he will like less before the general election is over. I was about to point out that, notwithstanding this charge for admission - which, I may say, was made against the wish of the leader of the Opposition - the hall was packed. On the other hand, when the Minister for Home Affairs addressed a meeting in the same hall the audience was so small that a curtain was drawn half-way down the hall, while in the galleries there was not a single auditor. At that meeting the Minister for Home Affairs endeavoured to show that protectionist Victoria had made great progress as compared with free-trade New South Wales, and to support his position he referred to the deposits in the Savings Banks of the twoStates. As a matter of fact, during the last ten years the Savings Bank depositors of New South Wales have increased by about 79 per cent., as against an increase of 34 per cent. in Victoria, while the deposits have increased by 105 per cent. in New South Wales as against 71 per cent. in Victoria. During the same period the average per depositor was £3811s. 3d. in New South Wales as compared with £24 14s.8d. per head in Victoria, while in 1901 the amount per head of population in the Savings Banks of Victoria was £88s. 8d. as against £8 13s. 9d. in New South Wales. In 1891, in all the banks, building societies, and other provident associations of Victoria, the deposits amounted to £7,195,001 more than did the deposits in similar institutions in New South Wales, whereas in 1901 the reverse was shown, the amount in New South Wales being over £5,000,000 more than in Victoria.
– The honorable member is comparing a boom year with a drought year.
– I will take any year the honorable member likes to mention. The Minister for Home Affairs, in the course of his speech in Tasmania, said that in the Savings Banks of New South Wales the deposits amounted to £11,000,000, ignoring the fact that they amounted to nearly £900,000 more.
– I gave the exact figures.
– I took the figures from the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– How much was there in the banks generally ?
– Give the number of Savings Bank depositors.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports changes his ground as soon as he finds the facts against him. I admit that there were more depositors in Victoria, but I have shown that the deposits per depositor and per head of population were greater in New South Wales than in Victoria.
– Where are the friendly societies ?
– All these societies are lumped together in Coghlan. The Minister for Home Affairs talked about the enormous sums of loan money expended in New South Wales as compared with Victoria. It must be remembered, however, that the way in which the figures are used in Victoria would deceive most honorable members. In New South Wales the expenditure of loan money includes such works as sewerage, tramways, and local government, and the amount comes to £51 4 s. per head : but in Victoria, for the purpose of reference, water and sewerage works and tramways are kept apart. If in Victoria all these works were taken into consideration in the same way as in New South Wales we should find that in 1900, which, I believe, was the last year of office of the Reid Administration - and we are not responsible for what has taken place since–
– Does the honorable member intend to connect these remarks with the question before the House?
– I think I shall be in order in showing that New South Wales has made progress under free-trade, while Victoria has goneback under a protective policy. The expenditure per head of population in New South Wales in 1900 was £51 4s., while in Victoria it was £54 2s. 4d. The Minister for Home Affairs stated that the New South Wales Government had received £40,000,000 from the public lands, but if we compare the alienated lands in Victoria and in New South Wales we find that the latter State has parted with 24 per cent., and Victoria with 41 per cent. It must further be borne in mind that Victoria has received from her minerals no less a sum than £263,000,000 sterling: while from the same source New South Wales has received only £138,000,000. Victoria thus had a splendid start with £125,000,000 more than New South Wales from this source.
– How about the last ten years ?
– I am now speaking of the total receipts. The Minister for Home Affairs tried to gull the people of Tasmania by speaking of the great success of manufactures in Victoria as compared with those in New South Wales. But during the last twelveyears, the number of males employed in the factories of Victoria has decreased by 2,046, as compared with an increase in New South Wales during the last eleven years of 11,258. It must be admitted that the number of females employed in the factories of Victoria has, during that period, increased by 11,143, but the total increase of males and females in New South Wales has been 15,256 as against 9,097 in Victoria. Then the Minister for Home Affairs tried to show that even in the matter of population Victoria could compare favorably with New South Wales. But surely it is no evidence of prosperity under protection that in the last ten years Victoria has lost one-tenth of her population, and is still losing it in large numbers. The Attorney-General himself admitted in a speech he deliveredon this question in the Victorian State Parliament onthe 5th October, 1892, that in Victoria the miners had nothing to expect from protection, while the farmers had obtained all the benefit they possibly could from that policy, and would soon be in the same position as the miners, thus showing clearly that protection could not possibly be of any advantage to either of these classes. As to trade, I should like to refer to the figures of Mr. Fenton, the Victorian statistician.
– He is all wrong.
– Everybody is all wrong, according to the honorable member for Melbourne Pcrts. But Mr. Fenton shows that in the years from 1860 to 1900 there was a decrease in extra- Australian trade amounting to £600,000 in Victoria, as against an increase of £26,000,000 in New South Wales during the same period.
– Does not the honorable member know that Mr. Fenton has said that he forgot to include the whole of the timber trade ?
– That will not amount to a great deal.
– Over £100,000.
– Thedifference in favour of New South Wales was £26,000,000. Forty years ago the extra-trade of Victoria exceeded that of New SouthWales by about £14,000,000. Whereas in 1900 the extra-trade of New South Wales exceeded that of Victoria by £11,000,000. In this debate references have been made to the administration of the Customs department. Like my honorable friends on the opposition benches I believe in the law being administered in a fair and just way.
If a man attempts to defraud the revenue, let the Minister enforce the law ; but he ought to discriminate between a man who has deliberately tried to defraud the revenue and a man who has made a simple mistake, as has been the case very often. I could cite a number of cases where the magistrates have told the Customs authorities that there was no intent to defraud the revenue, but that they were bound to impose a fine of £o, although the sum in dispute amounted to only a few -shillings. I hold that in such cases a man ought not to be made a criminal where he was guilty of no wrong intent, but of only a simple mistake. I wonder what the Minister would say if every person who did business with his department were to turn round and say - “ I shall proceed against you for every mistake which you have made in administering the law.” If that policy were adoped many prosecutions would be instituted because mistakes must have been made in hundreds of cases. If the Customs authorities were proceeded against for all the mistakes which they have made, we could well understand what would happen. The Minister adopts a very novel method’ to prevent the possibility of any mistakes on his part coming before the courts. In this connexion, I may refer to the case which was tried in Sydney only yesterday. I do not know anything about the merits of the case ; I do not know the merchant concerned, and no one has communicated with me on the subject. I have only read the report which appeared in the Evening News yesterday evening. If Mr. Goldring, the merchant in question did wrong, let him pay the penalty for his wrong-doings. According to the statement which was submitted on his behalf to the court, his goods, books, and papers were seized, and have been held, for some considerable time - months, I believe - the department preventing him from going on with his business, and refusing to give him a reason for their course of action. I shall quote the exact words of the Sydney telegram which appeared in the Evening News -
The case of Magnus Goldring against the Collector of Customs occupied the attention of the Full Court to-day. It came before their Honours on an application by Goldring, who is an importer of watches and jewellery, to make absolute , a. rule nisi by which the Commonwealth Collector of Customs had been called upon to show cause why a writ of mandamus should not be issued to compel him to sign entries for two parcels of watches, or to state his reasons for refusing to do so.
A man whose business is being interfered with by the Customs department has a right to know the reason for their action.
He was also called upon to show cause why he should not either deliver upapplicant’s books, which were taken away by him under certain powers exercised by him under the Customs Act, or, in compliance with the requirements of the Act, give applicant certified copies, for the purpose of enabling him to carry on his business.
If this thing can be done to Mr. Goldring it can be done to any other merchant in the Commonwealth, and any man is liable to have his business ruined by the action of the department. One would have thought that the Minister would have been only too glad to have a full inquiry made into the case in order that Mr. Goldring might have an opportunity to obtain justice if he had a cause of complaint against the administration of the law. But what did the Government do 1
The application was based on the ground that the delay in returning’ the books of the applicant or furnishing copies within a ‘reasonable time was a denial of his rights; that he was entitled to have his entries pissed, and to have the goods delivered for home consumption within a reasonable time after the production of the material for such entries, or to be informed why the entries had not been passed.
Surely that is a reasonable request for any merchant to make ! How would any merchant who holds a seat in this House like the Customs authorities to seize his goods, books, and invoices, interrupt his business without ascribing any reason for their course of action, and decline to allow a copy of his invoices to be made? I am sure that the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, would not like to be treated in that way. Mr. Goldring does not appear in the character of a dishonest man when he publicly appeals against the action of the Minister, and courts the fullest inquiry into his transactions with the department. It does not look as if’ he was afraid of an inquiry being held.
Sir Julian Salomons, when the affidavits in support of the application had been read, took a preliminary objection that the Court had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter.
Last session it was the duty of the Opposition to point out to the House how persons in the Commonwealth were prevented from taking any action at law against any member of the Commonwealth Government, and a short Bill was introduced in order, as I understood, to enable any aggrieved person to apply for some measure of redress. Apparently the Minister for Trade “and
Customs can interpret the law as he likes, and will not allow a court or any one else to intervene and give redress to a business man who feels aggrieved by his administration. It appears to me to be an extraordinary proceeding on his part, and to need explanation. According to this report his action looks very bacl indeed. Sir Julian Salomons, acting for the Government, said that the Commonwealth Constitution having transferred the Customs department to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament and its Executive, no officer of the Customs, any more than any officer of the Executive Government, was open to mandamus from the State Court.
What remedy does this man possess?
– If he had paid the duty he would have obtained his goods, and then he could have sued for the deposit which he had made. Instead of that, he chose to take another course, and to ask the court to command a Commonwealth officer to do something.
– Order. The AttorneyGeneral can give the explanation at a later stage.
– I should like the Attorney-General to be allowed to give the explanation now, sir.
– I can assure the honorable member that Mr. Goldring having two other remedies open to him, chose a third, which would have meant coercing the Commonwealth without the Court being properly informed as to the circumstances. He had his remedy under the Claims Against the Commonwealth Act, and he did not choose to take it. He had his remedy under the Customs Act, and he did not choose to take it. He chose to do something else.
– Why should not the Minister for Trade and Customs allow him to have access to his books and to make a copy of the invoices ?
– He could have got them at any time by depositing the amount of the duty.
– I understand that in some Cases where merchants have overpaid the department, the Treasurer will not refund . the excess amount. I have been told of one case where, because the importer did not take action within a certain time, he could not get the excess payment refunded. It is a fair and straightforward course for a man to appeal to a court, and in every such case the Minister ought to give a reason for his action -
In giving judgment, the Acting Chief Justice said that, under the69th section of the Commonwealth Act, Customs and other matters were transferred to the Commonwealth, and officers were appointed to perform the duties of such Customs, including a comptroller and collector for each State. It was quite clear our State Legislature and Government had nothing to do with the matter, and that this court had no power to say whether a federal officer had or had not discharged his duties properly. That was entirely a matter between him and the authority which appointed him. The Collector of Customs owed no duty to ohe State Government.
Seemingly, it is difficult for a man to get any redress in a case of this kind. Mr. Pilcher, who is a leader at the Sydney bar, advised Mr. Gold ring as to what was the proper course for him to take ; his advice was followed ; and the Government immediately set up the plea that the court had no jurisdiction. It is a case of such importance that an explanation ought to be given by the Minister. The action of the department does not reflect much credit on the Commonwealth: and it is not fair that the Commonwealth should be placed in such an invidious position. When the Prime Minister spoke at Maitland not long ago of the work which had been done by the Government ho referred to the Acts, which had been passed. He took a great deal of credit to the Government for the passing of the Public Service Act. He pointed out that it was a splendid measure, inasmuch as it took away all political patronage and influence from the Ministry. I wish to ask the right honorable and learned gentleman who was responsible for taking away political patronage and influence from the Ministry? In their original Bill the Government took to themselves all the necessary powers to make appointments, increase salaries, and effect any adjustments ; and the honorable member for Wentworth proposed an amendment which compelled the Government to obtain a recommendation from the Public Service Commissioner before they acted, in order that he might have a voice in every case of the kind. The influence and power of the Public Service Commissioner which had been annulled under the Bill as introduced by the Government was in that way restored.
– He would have been merely a recording clerk.
-Yes. That would have been very handy no doubt for some members of the Government, judging by certain appointments that have been made. There was certainly, need for a Public Service Act to prevent political influence, because I think even honorable members opposite were shocked.
– The honorable member is an authority on that point.
– I was for many years a member of a New South Wales Government, and I defy any one to point to any case in which I allowed political influence to interfere with appointments in the department I administered.
– They tiled to get at the honorable member, but could not manage it.
– I do not say that I was any better than any one else ; but I defy any one to point to any appointments in the public service of New South Wales of which I have reason to be ashamed. I think the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will admit that I always obtained the services of the very best men.
– We all give you credit for that.
– The Prime Minister cannot take much credit for the Public Service Act, because if it had been passed as proposed by the Government it would not have got rid of the political influence to which reference has been made. I come now to one or two other matters which I think are of much importance. In speaking pf the Tariff the Minister for Trade and Customs in December last made a notable admission. It is not often that we can get a protectionist to make any admission of the kind ; but that made by the Minister was in keeping with assertions made from time to time by honorable members on this side of the House, and as often denied by protectionists. In speaking in the House on the 2nd December last, the right honorable gentleman is reported byHansard to have made this statement - although, I suppose, the Ministers will attempt to deny the correctness of Mansard-
The honorable member may look it up as much as he likes; but he will find that the figures are as I have given, showing the importations from Germany, France, and Belgium. And I say as regards these countries protection and cheap labour rsign supreme.
These are the countries which my right honorable friend has always urged that we should copy. He says that we ought to adopt protection because it benefits the working classes.
-If the honorable member reads the newspapers of Melbourne to-day, he will not think it has done so.
– I think we can obtain plenty of evidence that it has not helped Victoria. We are all sorry for that, because we have no feeling against this State. We recognise that the men of Victoria are as good as those of any other part of the Commonwealth.
– I shall not make that exception. A large number of former Melbourne residents live in my constituency, and they are splendid men. They came over to free-trade New South Wales, and they have done well. They have obtained there the benefit of fresh air and freedom.
– And they are now on the honorable member’s committee.
– Of course they are. I take exception to the action of the Prime Minister in regard to the proposed preferential trade between England and the colonies. When a cablegram was published in the Melbourne newspapers giving the substance of Mr. Chamberlain’s speech, my right honorable friend, not as Sir Edmund Barton, but as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, sent a cablegram to England intimating his approval, as head of the Federal Government, of the proposal, and presumably the authorities at home would believe that he was speaking for the Federal. Parliament.
– I did not send any cablegram ; I simply expressed my opinion in answer to a request by a representative of a press agency.
– That opinion was cabled home by the press agency, and my right honorable friend will admit that it was transmitted to England as the opinion of the Prime Minister, speaking for the Commonwealth.
– The opinion of the Prime Minister, speaking for his Government.
– If that is the opinion of the Government they should have the courage to admit it ; they should come down to the House and say - “ This is our opinion; we do not want any mistake. We believe we are voicing the opinion of the people of the Commonwealth, and we are prepared to stake our existence on it.” In view of what Mr. Chamberlain has said, it is singular that in the speech which the Prime Minister delivered at Maitland in 1901 he made a statement, which also appeared in the Governor-General’s speech of 10th May, 1901-
Some time must elapse before the financial conditions of the Commonwealth will admit of provision being made for old-age pensions. It is, however, the desire of my Ministers to deal with the subject as soon as possible.
The right honorable gentleman told the people what he was going to do. First of all, he caught the free-traders like Mr. Thompson, who was gullible, but found out his mistake. Of course, some of us knew the right honorable gentleman too well. We had been in Parliament with him, and knew that on the question of freetrade he was able to turn somersaults without any trouble The Prime Minister told the people. of the Commonwealth, in the course of his Maitland speech, that he was in favour of old-age pensions, and that the workers could expect them, not from the Opposition, but from his Government. He told the free-traders of Australia that his Government were not going in for any Tariff to destroy revenue, but for one which free-traders and protectionists alike could join hand in hand in supporting. He gained his point through what 1 say was a piece of deception. He knows that had it not been for that deception the VicePresident of the Executive Council, for whom I have the greatest respect, could not have obtained anything like 50,000 votes. In this way the right honorable gentleman gained his point. He secured the support of a large number of free-traders, as well as that of a great number of workers, and passed this objectionable Tariff. No doubt Mr. Chamberlain read the Prime Minister’s speeches, and said - “ The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is a pretty shrewd fellow ; he humbugged the workers and the freetraders.
– Order ! The honorable member must not say that the Prime Minister humbugged the electors.
– I am speaking in a political sense. I will say that he misled them.
– I do not mind it, Mi-. Speaker. The honorable member said just now that I deceived the electors.
– I will say that the right honorable gentleman deceived them.
– The honorable mem- . ber must not say that.
– Then I will say that he led them astray. No doubt Mr. Chamberlain, on reading my right honorable friend’s speeches, considered that the Prime Minister had done very well ; that he had been able to lead the workers astray by the promise of old-age pensions; that he had led the free-traders astray ; and had succeeded in getting his Tariff through–
– Not “his” Tariff.
–He succeeded in passing, not the Tariff he proposed, but one to which we objected because of the heavy duties which it still contained. No doubt Mr. Chamberlain hoped to succeed by adopting similar questionable tactics.
– A Tariff that the right honorable gentleman did not understand.
– I do not say that. 1 am sorry that Mr. Chamberlain supports the system of preferential trade proposed, because we all give him every credit for his action in connexion with the South African war. We all cordially supported the action of the Government - or most honorable members of the’ Opposition did so - in sending troops to assist the Empire, arid we should do it to-morrow if the occasion arose. . We are all anxious . to do what we can to assist the Empire, because if it goes down we must go down with it. -I start therefore with a fairly good opinion of Mr. Chamberlain, but I must say that I am astounded that he should be a party to the system of preferential trade proposed. What does Mr. Chamberlain say -
The workers must be convinced that they would be recouped the tax on food by extra wages, by social reforms, and by old-age pensions.
– He laid great stress on oldage pensions.
– They will need them if a tax is placed on food.
– After two kites had been flown, first by Mr. Chamberlain and then by Mr. Balfour - one speaking one way and one the other - those gentlemen considered that they could correctly interpret public opinion, but I think they will be mistaken. Mr. Balfour, who was at first half-hearted, then made this statement : -
Is it so certain that the working classes would repudiate sucha tax ? If by a general tax on foodstuffs it was possible to obtain from the colonies large measures of free-trade in manufactured goods, I am not sure it would not be worth while. I do not know whether the British working classes would consent to the sacrifice, or whether the colonies would consent to modify their Tariffs.
As free-traders we should welcome the opening of our doors, because we realize that we are able to hold our own. The Minister for Trade and Customs referred in the extract I have given to the imports from France, Germany, and Belgium, where, he said, low wages and protection reigned supreme. Our imports from those countries amounted to about £3,860,000, but our exports to those countries totalled about £6,520,000. We are sending goods to those countries, and receiving in return 70 per cent. more goods than they get for the goods they send to us. We have gained in one year £2,660,000 by our trade wilh the foreign countries to which reference has been made. Then it appears that the Government believe that England is going down, for I presume that is really the effect of the Prime Minister’s cablegram. He indorses Mr. Balfour’s opinion that England is going down. I see no evidence of it. According to the latest returns there is no likelihood of anything of the kind. The latest report issued by the Board of Trade does not indicate anything in that direction. What do we gather from it? In 1871 the population of the United Kingdom was 260 per square mile ; inFrance it was 177 per square mile; in Germany 196 per square mile, and in the United States 10.7 per square mile. In1900 the United Kingdom maintained a population of 342 to the square mile;France,191; Germany, 269 ; and the United States, 21. If these countries were called upon to maintain the same population per square mile as England, with its 120,000 square miles of territory, Prance, instead of maintaining 39,000,000, would have to maintain 71,230,000; Germany, instead of maintaining 56,367,000, would have to maintain 72,000,000 ; and the United States, instead of 75,000,000, would have to maintain nearly 1,226,735,400. This is according to the last statistics supplied to Parliament by the Board of Trade.
– If the honorable member compares New South Wales with Victoria on that basis, where will New South Wales be ?
-I am endeavouring to show that England is really going ahead, and will presently give figures showing trade, &c., per head of population as well as per square mile. We know that, as a matter of fact, Victoria is going back.
– Mr. Chamberlain had better withdraw.
– He willbemade to withdraw. I do not say that my speech or any speech made in this Parliament will have any effect upon Mr. Chamberlain, and I dare say that even the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will have less effect upon him than that perhaps of any other member of the House. When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports speaks of comparing New South Wales and Victoria, I would ask him whether he will deny that in the value of goods manufactured and in process of manufacture there has been a decline of £2,412,000 for the last year.
– I do denyit.
– Therewe are, Cogldan is wrong again.
– No ; Fenton is wrong.
– They are all wrong if their statements do not suit the views of honorable members opposite. I would ask honorable members whether the figures dealing with the annual production of coal give any evidence that England is going down. According to the figures supplied by the Board of Trade during 1890-4 the average annual production in tons, per head of the population in England was, 3.79 ; in France,.43 ; in Germany,.79, and in the United States, 1.09. In 1895-99, the average annual production per head of population had risen in England to 5.07 tons, in France to.78 tons, Germany 1.69 tons, and in the United States to 2.57 tons. Let honorable members apply any test they like, and they will find that England is ahead. Is that any evidence of decay ? Now, let us look at the wages paid to coal-miners, and it must be remembered that one of the arguments used by the Prime Minister at Maitland depended upon the question of wages. The right honorable gentleman told the coal-miners that if they went in for protection factories would be established in the State and more coal would be used. England, as we know, has an open door, and yet her consumption of coal is greater than that of France, the United States, or Germany.
– Does the honorable member refer to export or internal consumption ?
– I have referred to the average annual production, but I will give the figures of internal consumption presently. The wages paid to miners in England are lOd. per hour ; in France, 4d.; in Germany, 4d.; and in the United States, od.- Is there any evidence there that British workmen are worse off than those of other countries ?
-Does the honorable member connect this with the GovernorGeneral’s speech 1
– I do. I do not know why I am asked the question. Reference has been made to the question of preferential treatment, and I am endeavouring to show that England has no need to go in for preferential treatment in the way suggested because she is prosperous now without it.
– There is nothing of that in the Governor-General’s speech.
– I have already objected that the right honorable gentleman had not the courage to challenge us on the question. I should not have blamed him if he had not sent home a cablegram in which he speaks for the people of Australia.
– I did not send it.
– The right honorable gentleman speaking as Prime Minister of Australia gave the information to the press agency.
– They asked my opinion, and I gave it, and I gave them another opinion yesterday.
– I say that if the right honorable gentleman, as Prime Minister of Australia, speaks for Australia, he should be prepared to come down here, and take the responsibility of it. However, he does not speak for Australia.
– He speaks for the majority.
– Nor does he speak for the majority of the people of Australia.
– The honorable member speaks for Great Britain.
– I speak for Great Britain because I know that if the Empire goes down, we go down with her.
I find according to the Board of Trade returns that the estimated consumption of coal per head of population in 1900 was, for the United Kingdom 4 ‘OS tons, for France 1-19 tons, for Germany 1-77 tons, and for the United States 3-08 tons. Does that give any evidence of the decay of England 1 Now, let us take the production of pig iron, and let it be remembered that while we have here a Government prepared to give certain encouragement to the establishment of the iron industry, there is in England no protection and no bonus for that industry, which is in open competition with all. What is the position in this respect in England to-day. Taking the five years 1895-9, the average annual production of pig- iron per head of population was -22 tons in the United Kingdom, -06 tons in France, “13 in Germany, and -15 tons in the United States. Is that any evidence of the decay of England 1 Can any evidence of decay be found in the figures dealing with exports ? But I find that the exports of domestic produce per square mile in the United Kingdom in 1900 were valued at £2,33S ; from France £804, from Germany £1,062, and from the United States £79. Per head of population the average value of exports for the years 1895-9 amounted to £5 19s. 5d. for the United Kingdom, £3 14s. 8d. for France, £3 7s. 3d. for Germany, and £2 1 8s. 4d. for the United States. There is in those figures no evidence of decay which calls upon us for a change in our whole fiscal policy. Then I take the average trade of the United Kingdom with Germany, and I find that during 1880-85 the imports of the United Kingdom per head of population amounted to 14s. 6d., and the exports to 10s. 3d., while during 1896 to 1900 the average for imports was 14s. 3d., while the average for exports was increased to Ils. 9d. That certainly sho’ws no evidence of decay. If we take the totals, the figures are £3,700,000 and the total exports £5,500,000. Now, if we take the imports of merchandise in relation to the total we will find that in 1880 the percentage from France was 10-25, from Germany 5-92, and from the United States 26-04. In 1900 the percentage was the same from France, it was 5-96 from Germany, and 26-53 from the United States, showing a very little increase. In connexion with exports the figures for 1880 were, for France 6-99 and for 1900 6-97, for Germany for 1880 7-60 and for 1900 9.34, and for the United States for 1880 13.83. I have not the figures for 1900. If we take the figures relating to shipping we find that in the United States of 92½ per cent. engaged in foreign trade 7 per cent. of the trade was carried in American vessels and 85½ per cent. in British vessels. This has been so strongly brought under the notice of the American authorities that they have instituted an inquiry to discover whether their position cannot in someway be improved. If we take the figures affecting exports of domestic produce we shall find that the exports of the United Kingdom for the five years 1895-1900 gave an an average value of £226,000,000, for France £135,000,000, and for Germany £166,000,000. In 1900 our British exports increased to £283,000,000, or an increase of £57,000,000. InFrance the increase was £29,000,000, and in Germany the increase was from £166,000,000 to £222,000,000. Let us take another test in the number of unemployed in all trades covered by the returns of the trades unions, and we find that while during 1892 to 1894 the number was 7 per cent. in 1899, in 1901 the number had been reduced to 3 per cent. In the engineering and metal trades the number of unemployed in the years 1892 to 1894 was 8½ per cent., and in 1899 it was only 3 per cent. These figures do not show any evidence of decay. If six of the great Powers were called upon to maintain the same population per square mile as Great Britain, with her 120,000 square miles, we should find that instead of maintaining 390,000,000 people, as they do at present, they should maintain 4,400,000,000.
-Will the honorable member apply that reasoning to New South Wales and Victoria ?
– I think I have been fair with honorable members in giving these figures of population, wealth, trade, and the consumption of coal ; and while I give the figures for free-trade England I give the figures for the other side as well. I only ask that honorable members opposite should do the same in regard to Victoria. The Secretary to the Board of Trade, in commenting upon those figures, says -
Whatever these figures show, it is clear that they do not show that there has been any material displacement of home manufactures in our markets by Germany.
– In what year was that written ?
– The document from which I am quoting was laid upon the table of the House of Commons in 1902, and no later figures are obtainable. Those statements show that there is no evidence of the decadence of British trade.
– Surely the British Government do not say that England is decaying.
– No, but they are trying to reverse the policy which British statesmen have followed with remarkable success for the last 50 years. We are told thatFrance and Germany are getting our trade; but there is not a workman’s paradise in either of those countries. I have a return here which shows that in 33 German towns, each with a population of about 100,000, the highest wages paid in 1901 were19s. 3d. and the lowest 13s. 9d. a week. InFrance, in the summer of 1882, men got 2s. 6d. a day, and in the summer of 1892, 2s. 4½d., while the wage paid to women was1s. 9½d. and 1s. 7½d. in the two periods respectively. In Belgium, in 1874, men were receiving1s. 7½d., and in 18951s. 7d. a day, and women 113/4d. and11½d., a decrease in each case. It must be remembered, too, that in those countries people ordinarily work not eight, but ten, twelve, and thirteen hours a day. SirRobert Giffen, a well-known writer of financial essays, pointed out that in Great Britain during the last 50 years the wages of carpenters have increased 43 per cent., of bricklayers and masons 30 per cent., of pattern weavers 55 percent., of weavers 115 per cent., of spinners160 per cent., and of miners 50 per cent. When under protection wheat was 94s. a quarter, the farmers used to pay their labourers 7s. a week. In 1878 wheat was 46s. a quarter, and they paid 15s. a week, while in 1886 they paid 15s., though the price of wheat was then only 30s. a quarter. The working class representatives in the House of Commons are unanimously opposed to any reversal of the fiscal policy of the country. They know that wages are higher, hours of labour shorter, and conditions of employment better in free-trade England than in any protected country. I find from another return that in 1887 the weekly increase in wages was £45,000, in 1898 £95,000, and in 1899 £114,000. The total increase for 1889 was £6,000,000, and for the first eight months of 1900 £150,000 a week, or a total of about £8,000,000. On page 52 of the document from which I have quoted there is a return called table G, which shows the average annual value of the importations into England from Germany in the periods 18S0-1SS4, 1891-1895, and 1896- 1900. In dealing with this return I shall take no notice of the importation of sugar. We all know that sugar is not produced in the United Kingdom, but her importation of that commodity is very large, amounting, I believe, to over £9,000,000. If the Germans like to pay bounties to produce beet sugar cheaply for the advantage of the people of England, I am sure the English workers have no cause to complain. Comparing the periods 1 880-1 SS4 and 1896-1900, the increase of importations into the United Kingdom from Germany, deducting sugar, is £353,333, not much more than £400,000. Is there in those figures any evidence that the productions of German workmen are displacing in the English markets the productions of British workmen 1 The Board of Trade report says -
Our exports consist more largely of manufactured goods in proportion to our whole exports than do those of France and the United States, but we are run very close by Germany in this respect. Nevertheless, measuring per head of the population, we are……. far ahead of Germany or any other of our competitors.
The importations into Great Britain consist largely of raw material which comes from America, Germany, the colonies, and other countries, to be made up by British workmen, and re-exported very largely to the countries of original production. For example, the United Kingdom imports immense quantities of cotton from the United States, and, under free-trade, manufactures 66 per cent, of the cotton goods used in the world. That is done under free-trade, and by workers who are paid better wages .than are received in protectionist countries.
– Are the wages paid in Great Britain better than those paid in the United States 1
– On that subject I should ‘like to quote the opinion of Mr. Hoskins, a well-known manufacturer of iron, who, in New South Wales, prospered under free-trade. When, in 1900, a contract was opened for the supply of cast-iron pipes for the Geelong waterworks, he was ready to land the pipes required at Geelong, if the duty were remitted, for £26,000, but the Otis Company, a Melbourne firm, wanted £32,000. As the Government of the day would not remit the duty, the Melbourne tender was accepted, so that the Geelong people are now ‘ paying interest upon £6,000 more capital than would have been expended if the tender of the free-trade manufacturer had been accepted. In 1901, after a visit to America, Mr. Hoskins, speaking about the conditions of labour there, was reported to have said that in some of the large steel works, and notably in Carnegie’s, men were called upon to work for eleven hours a day, and for thirteen hours on the night shifts. American employers take more out of their men in many ways than do employers here. Generally ten hours is a working day, but in the Homestead Works the hours were . eleven in the day-time, and thirteen at night, and the majority of employes were not Americans but Russians. Returning to the subject of the importation of raw materials into England, I may point out that materials for textile manufactures were imported to the extent of £77,347,363, for sundry industries to the value of £65,079,691, and that the imports of metals represented a value of £33,195,391, the total being over £1 75,000,000. Of manufactured goods, England imported only £93,225,005 worth. Now, looking at the other side we find that the manufactured goods worked up by British workmen - paid at higher wages than continental employes, and working for a smaller number of hours per day - and ex- ported from England, represented a value of £234,7S9,389. Thus England exported manufactured articles to the value of £141,000,000 in excess of her total imports of manufactured goods. That does not tend to show that England’s manufactures are being displaced by any of her competitors. These figures are taken from the official returns of the Board of Trade, and the position in regard to Germany is summed up as follows : - -
In the period under review there was an increase in our imports from Germany to the extent of 3-7 million pounds. There has been some decrease in the imports of agricultural produce from Germany, balanced by an increase in the imports of sugar, and some slight increases in the imports of cotton, woollen, glass, and iron manufactures, none of which, however, are imported to any great extent. On the other hand, our exports to Germany increased by ±T>,500,000, or over 30 per cent. This increase was largely due to one special article, coal ; but woollen yarns, cotton manufactures, iron and steel manufactures and machinery also contributed their share. Whatever these figures show, it is clear that they do not show that there has been any material displacement of home manufactures in our home markets by Germany.
I think that this supplies the best evidence that could be produced as to the progress made by England under free-trade. I had not intended to speak at such length, but the interruptions of my honorable friends opposite have shown the necessity for affording. them a little enlightenment. They evidently do not read the latest reports, or do not properly digest the facts contained in them. I have quoted from the reports of the Board of Trade, and I now wish to read an extract from a statement by Armitage Smith, who in his Fifty Years of Free-trade says : -
Statistics of wages and prices show that with easier work and snorter hours a labourer gets now about 05 per cent., factory operatives 75 per cent., and a skilled mechanic 00 per cent, of necessaries than he did 50 years ago. Sir R. Gi fieri has stated that nearly the whole of the economic advantage of the last 50 years has gone to the working classes, that is, their position has not only changed absolutely as regards the comforts of life, but relatively as regards other classes in their share of the general prosperity. ‘ While the capital has increased, the income from capital has not increased in proportion. The increase of earnings goes exclusively, or almost exclusively, to the working classes. What has happened to the working classes in the last 50 years is not so much what may be called an improvement as a revolution of the most remarkable description.
The condition of the British Empire is so satisfactory to-day, and the progress she has made during the last 50 years has been so marvellous, that it is extraordinary to find a man like Mr. Joseph Chamberlain contemplating such a leap in the dark as has been indicated by recent cables. England now enjoys a position among the nations such as has never been achieved by any great power, search the annals of history as we may. Taking, her population per square mile, I have pointed out that if the six great Powers are to maintain a similar proportion of people to area, they must sustain 4,400,000,000 instead of the 390,000,000 they have now. England under a free-trade’ policy has controlled over one-quarter of the surface of the globe ; her population to-day represents one-quarter of the whole population of the earth, and her surplus wealth is sufficient to pay the national debts of all the nations twice over, and leave a substantial balance.
The policy of free-trade, which has done so much for England, and has produced such marvellous results, is one that we should seek to engraft upon the Constitution of Australia. We should endeavour to avoid the adoption of a protectionist policy, and we should no’t for one moment agree to sink the fiscal question , as has been ad vised by the Prime Minister. The Melbourne Aye has supported the Government view that we ought not to raise the fiscal issue at the next elections. We are told that we should defer the revival of that question until after the close of the next Parliament, by which time the protectionists hope that they may obtain a still larger majority than they now possess in this House by the same objectionable tactics as were adopted at the last election. The advantage which the protectionists now enjoy in this chamber is not very great. We have 35 free-traders here as against 40 protectionists, including the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, who was returned as a freetrader, but has voted as a protectionist. When I was in Tasmania I was told that “ free-trade “ was one of the most prominent features in the placards on the cabs which conveyed the honorable member’s supporters to the poll. Notwithstanding the honorable member’s apostacy, the protectionists have a majority of only five in this House, whilst the free-traders have a majority in the Senate. The Government majority in this chamber was obtained under very questionable circumstances, and I venture to say that upon the fiscal question, this House does not represent the views of the people of Australia. We shall not, therefore, follow the advice of our enemy, the Melbourne Age. I warn free-traders that, although the present Tariff is not one of which they can approve, they have been saved by the exertions of the free-trade party from much more calamitous results. Instead of having revenue duties upon some articles and protectionist duties upon others, they would have had to submit to all round high protective duties, and if the Government secure a large majority at the next elections, there is a strong probability that an effort will be made to still further increase the burdens of the people. The Government have crippled the great mining, agricultural and pastoral industries of Australia, which cannot derive any benefit from a protectionist policy. They have ignored the example of New Zealand, which admits agricultural and mining machinery free of duty, and they have condemned our agriculturists, miners, and pastoralists, who are obliged to seek markets for their produce in Competition with the whole world, to bear heavy taxation upon all the necessaries of life, and upon all the implements used in carrying on their several industries. As against this, we find that the Victorian manufacturers who have enjoyed the benefits of protection for the last 35 years, and are still unable to stand alone, are allowed to. obtain their machinery free of any impost. Our staple industries have not received fair treatment, and I feel convinced that when the time arrives for the people to express their opinions regarding the action of the Government, they will return a substantial majority of honorable members who favour a freetrade policy.
– I had hoped to hear some speech from the Government side before being called upon to address the House this evening. It is remarkable that the Government should have been willing to allow . the debate to close, as it certainly would have done if I had not risen at this time, without some reply by the Minister for Trade and Customs, ‘to the very severe criticisms which have been passed upon his administration. We have had speeches from the leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for North Sydney, and others, containing very serious charges against the administration of Ministers, and especially against that of the Minister for Trade and Customs. In regard to some of these charges, Ministerial action should have been taken to offer an explanation the moment they were uttered. I know that in many respects a Government has to be thick-skinned ; but, if charges concerning the administration of justice and of the great departments of the State largely affecting the industrial life of the country are made in Parliament, they should be the subject of immediate inquiry, and honorable members should, at the very earliest opportunity, be placed in possession of the actual facts. No Government, however large its majority may be, does itself any good by stolidly ignoring the questions and asseverations of a minority. Having passed through a very anxious session, in which the great work of the Commonwealth was completed - I refer to the framing of the Tariff - it might naturally have been thought that during the present session, in which to a large extent our attention will be focussed upon what may be called non-contentious subjects, it would not be necessary for honorable members to deal exhaustively either with legislative or administrative matters. But, on the other hand, I cannot forget that this is probably the last occasion in connexion with a debate of this kind in which honorable members will have an opportunity, prior to’ the general election, of criticising the administration of the Government. If I may be permitted to say so, I do not think that I can be regarded as an unfair man. During the whole of my political career, as the Prime Minister knows, I have been anxious to accord fair play even to my opponents. In the first Administration of the Commonwealth, I recognise that even if the Government had been composed of angels from heaven friction would have been inevitable. Difficulties were bound to arise, and under any circumstances many were sure to be greatly dissatisfied. But after . malting all allowances for these considerations, I feel very strongly as a federalist, who is as ardent, pure, and, I hope, as patriotic in my aims as is the Prime Minister, that the first two years - of the Commonwealth Administration have been disastrous to the tone, the character, and the sentiment of federation itself. I feel that there is a great deal of justice in the chagrin and disappointment which are felt by people in all parts of Australia concerning the first two years of the administration of the Commonwealth Government. It was perhaps unfortunate that in forming his administration the Prime Minister had to choose- naturally, I suppose - men who had taken a leading part in the political life of the different States, and that offices had to be allocated to them without any regard being paid to their previous training or capacity to fill those offices. It is a curious circumstance in connexion with human affairs that sometimes one error - one small accident as we might call it - alters the whole tenor and character of a period of history. I have no desire to be personal, but I say that if you, sir, could have been placed in the position of Minister for Trade and Customs, and if the right honorable gentleman who now fills that office could have been elevated to your chair, the whole history of the administration of the Government during the past two years would have been changed. I do not hesitate to say that if the Minister, who is undeniably possessed of very great abilities and talent, but who is utterly unfitted by character and experience for his present office, had not been placed in that position, and if the policy enunciated by the Prime Minis tei- at Maitland had been carried out in the faith and integrity of its evident meaning, I should not have had to rise to censure the Government for having broken its pledges and exhibited to the Commonwealth a series of administrative blunders which have brought contempt upon it in all parts of the world. We have, unfortunately, a Cabinet of lawyers. No man has a greater respect than I have for the legal individual who devotes his life -to what is probably one of the highest professions in the country but I do think that in many respects a legal experience is not the best training for the broad administration- of business affairs. It seems to me that the Minister for Trade and Customs has made two mistakes which have been fatal to his administration. In the first place, he does not seem to know the difference between administration and adjudication. In dealing with his department he has imagined himself to be upon the Supreme Court or the magisterial bench. Now, all Governments - not merely Governments such as those in Australia which undertake the control of a great many business enterprises, as, for instance, the management of the railways - must possess departments of a purely business character. In itself the Customs department is a great business department. Let us look at the history of the legislation connected with it. This Parliament enacted a law which conferred upon the Minister the most stringent possible powers for the prevention of fraud. .The Minister gave us his sacred promise - a promise which was repeated elsewhere - that a certain provision which we inserted to show that the highest would be punished equally with the poorest would not be put into effect unless a prima facie case of fraud had been made out. Again, when some prosecutions took place in Sydney, the leader of the Opposition put substantially the following question- to the Minister: - “Does the Minister acknowledge that in every case, even where it is clear that no fraud has been attempted, but an error has been made, he is bound to prosecute?” In reply the right honorable gentleman said - “ I do not say anything of the kind. I hold that I am not bound to prosecute unless I see that fraud has been attempted.”
– I have never said anything of the sort at any time.
– Then I ask the Minister if, because we inserted in the Customs Act a provision which gave him power to call a clerical error a fraud, he has resolved to send the most trivial cases of error into the police court. Is that the administration of the right honorable gentleman ?
– The administration is that if an importer truthfully declares the nature of the goods and their value, and produces the proper invoice, he will not be prosecuted.
– That is only recent administration.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. It has been the administration for nine months.
– The Minister has said that he is anxious, if every possible information is given to the department by the importer, that no prosecution shall take place. But let me remind honorable members of some of the facts connected with his administration. In New South Wales it used to be the practice for merchants and importers to do all in their power to assist the Customs department. When any doubt was entertained regarding an entry, the custom was to consult the officer of the department and for that officer, together with the individual interested to decide what was the correct duty. The Minister for Trade and Customs heard of this arrangement, which, to any’ man imbued with business principles, would seem fair and straightforward. But he immediately said - “We will do nothing of the kind. You must make your entry, and if any error be found in it you will be prosecuted.” In other words, the Minister laid a trap for the importers. What was the reason for this prosecution t This was the reason: the Minister, when he began his administration, was imbued with the idea that nine-tenths of the importers of Australia were rogues. Otherwise there is no sense in his administration. Yet for many years Customs administration in these States had proceeded smoothly enough. The very provision which is contained in the Commonwealth Customs Act was embedded in the Act of Victoria. Wherever did we hear of such prosecutions and persecutions as have taken place under the Commonwealth Act ? It is all very well for the Minister to put on a courageous front 1 It is very easy for him to use the money of this country to prosecute and persecute small struggling traders, but it is an act of absolute cowardice for him with the machinery of Government at his back, and with the whole of the revenue at his command, upon discovering a pure error, involving perhaps 10s. or 12s., on the part of firms which for 30 or 40 years have held unblemished records, to haul them before the police court and to brand them- as criminals for the remainder of their lives. Either it is childish administration or the right honorable gentleman has some object in view. What has been the result of his administration ? Only a few days ago on my way from England, I saw in one of the newspapers a declaration by him that his experience led him to believe that the huge majority of the merchants were perfectly honest. Even if he did make some mistake in the early part of his . administration, when once he found he had been befooled, as I believe he was befooled, he ought to have had the candour and courage to go back in his steps. He ought to have said, “The majority of these men are honest, and I want to get them on my side ; I, by my administration, will call on these men as honest traders, as other Treasurers and other Collectors of Customs have done, to help me in the administration of the Customs department.” But what did the Minister do % Befooled at the beginning, hs steadfastly, with that pig-headed obstinacy which is his characteristic, went on his course simply because he had begun it, and, at a time when he knew the great majority of commercial men were perfectly honest, he did everything in. his power to set them against himself and his administration. I call that childish. This honorable gentleman has seen other departments administered. W e have, in this Ministry of all the talents, men who, like the Minister for Home Affairs, have probably each of them in the course of his public career administered three departments of State. The Treasurer, who never would be guilty of such absurdities as I have indicated, and the other Ministers of the Crown who form this Government, have personally administered the Mines, the Lands, and other departments of State. Will anybody tell me that any
Sir II illiam M aMillan business in this world could stand the treatment to which this unfortunate Customs department has been submitted by the Minister 1 But I go further, and ask every member of this Ministry on his honour to tell me whether he has not dissented from the administration of his colleague. I defy any Minister to-day to tell me that he has not so dissented. And this is what is called responsible government. One Minister out of nine defies the other eight, and also defies the public opinion of the country. I say it is a farce of Government. There is no other Minister on the Treasury benches who would have acted like the Minister for Trade and Customs. I do not know what his purpose is, or what he is aiming at. It is well enough for him to lie by when these charges are made, but I say the country must call him to account. If we are a democracy we must have no class legislation. Yet, in this first Commonwealth Government, within two years, we have a gentleman who knew nothing about trade and commerce - who was simply the square peg put into the round hole owing to exigencies of’ the formation of a Government - but who takes it on himself to be the guardian of the morality of the people. I tell him that there-are firms whom he has prosecuted and persecuted for 2s. or 3s., but who can stand this prosecution and persecution, and whose honour is equal to that of himself and of his colleagues. I am not a lawyer, but I have always understood that it is the intention which constitutes the crime. I have to speak to-night without notes, but I can cite from memory, on the authority of the public prints, the case of Messrs. Sargood and Co. A certain gentleman from the Customs department went to the Police Court and said: “Mr. Magistrate, this is a case of error ; there is no fraud ; there is practically no stain on the character of these people, but I press for a conviction.” The result was the imposition of a penalty of £5, with the alternative of fourteen days’ imprisonment. Supposing the representative of the firm, in the face of that expression of opinion on the part of the prosecuting officer, had gone to gaol, as many men would do in order to assert a principle and show the absurdity of such administration, would there nob have been a cry throughout the length and breadth of the country % One of the most respectable men in Sydney wrote to the Minister a letter, a copy of which I had the opportunity of seeing. This took place at one of the earlier stages of the persecution ; and in that letter the merchant pointed out that he had an unsullied record of 20 or 30 years in the capital of the mother State. I know that man well ; and in his case a mistake was made in connexion with an Inter-State certificate - a mistake which arose in consequence of the clumsy way in which the law was framed. It was one of those mistakes in connexion with which the administration ought to have saved a man from persecution. It was a case in which, I think, certain boxes of butter were imported from New Zealand, and these were mixed up with other boxes. These details, however, do not matter in an illustration of the kind. The duty had been paid, and no . question was raised on that score - there was no question whatever of any benefit accruing to this man. But through the error of his clerk - an error which probably arose because the boxes were not definitely marked - the consignment was sent on to Queensland as, I believe, New South “Wales butter ; at any rate, it was a matter arising out of an Inter-State certificate. This man, although he wrote to the Minister, had to present himself at ten o’clock in the morning at the Criminal Court, and, to use his own expression, had to “mingle with the drunks of the day.” He was kept at the court till about four o’clock in the afternoon before his case came on ; and this was a man who had probably never before in his life been in a criminal court. Surely that is a position in which even the most extreme radical or labour member, or anybody else, would not like to see a decent honest citizen. I quite agree that there must be very stringent regulations, and I realize that a man with fraudulent intent might continually plead clerical errors. But let me give another case. People are not generally assumed to be fraudulent when there is overwhelming proof that they are honest. This is the case of a large firm ; and, in the first place, any person who conceived tho opinion that, the firm was fraudulent would have to imagine that the principal, who represents probably some £300,000 or £400,000 of invested capital - the principal of a firm the honour of which is at stake, and which deals in large transactions - went to his shipping clerk, whose salary was probably £200 a year, and said- “ Look here, we want you to put in fraudulent entries.” In other words, it lias to be imagined that a firm of this stamp would place itself at the mercy of a shipping clerk in receipt of a salary of £200 a year. On the face of it, such a supposition is childish and absurd. No man with a mind capable of grasping anything beyond the narrow technicalities of a narrow profession would ever think such a thing. I will take the case of one such firm, which had paid £27,000 in duty to the Government of Australia without a single hitch. This firm in the whole of its career never had a charge of any kind brought against it ; but in an invoice there was made what on the face of it was an error. I shall describe what I mean, and, without really mentioning the particular firm, give an analogous case. If a person imports nails in packets marked as containing nails, and exhibits an invoice, and the shipping clerk, by one of those mysterious mistakes of which all men are capable, in the entry describes the consignment as screws, that on the face of it would to all reasonable men be an error. No prima facie case of fraud could be imagined under such circumstances, except by a lunatic. Against the firm which I have in my mind there had never before been a word of suspicion, and although the)’ had previously paid from £25,000 to £27,000 in duty, they were brought up before a police court to answer a charge involving about 25s., and were met with the alternative of a fine of £5’ or fourteen days in gaol. What is all this wonderful talk about the saving of the revenue? I believe it to be an absolute fabrication. There has been such a reign of terror exercised in the Customs department that the officers are becoming mere hirelings. There are things done in the Customs department in Sydney that would never be done except under a system of terrorism and tyranny. ‘ I do not know why the Minister for Trade and Customs pooh-poohed a statement made to-night by an honorable member that “conscience money” had been paid in a case where an importer had found he hud made a mistake in his statements to the department. But there is no doubt that,such is the terror of re-opening a question of the kind, merchants refrain from openly admitting that errors have been made. I tell the Minister for Trade and Customs that at the present time there are delicate questions with regard to the payment of duty exercising the minds of certain people in Sydney ; and there is a terror, no matter what may be said by Customs officers, that by some insidious means the very candour and honesty of the merchants involved may be taken advantage of, and that there may be a a retrospective investigation. Up to the present moment these merchants - and they have taken advice from me - absolutely do not know what to do. I always understood, from the first time I became acquainted with political economy, that one of its axioms is that taxation, although it may happen to be burdensome, ought, in its collection, and in the administration of the law, to be as pleasant and as free from friction as possible. Men ought to know what they are going to be taxed. They ought to know what the law is ; but instead of this, there is such a system in the Customs department that men are afraid to be even candid in their expressions to officers. I want to know whether this state of things is to go on. I want to know whether this great Commonwealth Government, which was to be broader, freer, more liberal and magnanimous than any mere provincial or State Government, is going to say that because men have money, or belong to the capitalistic class - that because men belong to the class which has made England, and made possible the introduction of Englishmen into these States - it is better to persecute them, and thus play to the gallery. Then, again, I want to know whether this House is going to be true to itself. This House passed the Customs Act on the sacred understanding from the Ministers of the Crown that the particular provision to which I have referred, would in practical administration be used only as a weapon against fraud. Are members on that side of the House so- biassed by party feeling, or are members of the Government so frightened or so loyal to their colleague, that, although they know the administration has been wrong, no steps are to be taken to alter the present state of affairs ? When we find this provision, which was to be exercised only in cases of fraud, taken advantage of by the Minister to persecute a great section of the community for his own purposes - whatever those purposes may be - I want to know whether Parliament is going to be true to itself and say to the Minister - “We gave you this provision, because we thought you were going to treat the community as an honorable administrator ; but now that we find there a desire to please certain sections of the community at the expense of others, we will take this weapon out of your hands, fully determined that this Act shall be reformed.” That is the question which we have to face. I feel that in many ways we have not” very much to boast cf in our legislation or our administration. I feel that instead of taking a broader view, not merely in legislation, but also in administration, we have been narrow, provincial, suspicious. We have not risen to the national standard which might have been expected to be reached, and what is the result1? Ardent federalists atone time thought that by good government, by the best men of the community being attracted to this Parliament, a higher standard of public life would be attained, and that a greater confidence in administration would permeate the community than prevailed in the smaller communities. The federalists of a few years ago thought that bit by bit, through the provisions of the Constitution, certain services and certain powers of a national character would be handed over by the States to the Commonwealth Parliament. But that all depended on the first few years of our administration. What is the ghastly result of the past two years t I venture to say that if you were to ask the States to-morrow to transfer any great service like that of the railways to the Commonwealth, they would scout the proposal. The)’ would say - “ What ! give over the administration df bur railways to men who have shown such ignorance and imbecility both in the Post-office and in the Custom-house; do you think that we are mad ?” No, sir ; it will take many years of wise administration by future Governments before the effects of the narrowmindedness and the inefficiency of the administration of the present Government are wiped out. I am sorry that I have not brought my notes. I wish now to call the attention of the House for a few minutes to a question which - although I understand from the Governor-General’s speech it is not to come practically before us. during the present session - has been brought into such great prominence during the last few days that I think it is necessary that any honorable member who has made a study of it should state his views clearly and unmistakably. I mean the question of giving preferential rates to the United Kingdom. I believe that many honorable members are not quite seized of the whole importance df this subject, _ I know well enough that in talking to a certain section of protectionists I am only talking to deaf ears. On the other hand, I wish honorable members to understand that this is a question on which both free-traders and protectionists might stand shoulder to shoulder. In the first place we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that any preference by the colonies to the mother country must mean, if there is any sense in it all, some preference by the mother country to the colonies. I made that statement in a speech which I. delivered in London before Mr. Chamberlain uttered his latest manifesto. But that involves the question of England’s fiscal policy. It may be said that we have nothing to do with her fiscal policy; that we may possibly give a preference to her from a patriotic motive. But if it is clear that the question of preferential trade must lead up to the abandonment of England’s fiscal policy, then we are very largely interested in anything which affects the mother country, and I can quite imagine many protectionists saying, quite candidly - “ Although we believe in protection for Australia, we do not believe in protection for the mother country.” Many persons will say that, but I wish to ask, what is the object of this proposal by Mr. Chamberlain 1 The object is to unite the Empire by closer bonds than have ever been known before. I take it that there is a further reason, and it is to make the Empire stronger as a whole by this union and by these bonds. The British Empire is composed of about 40,000,000 persons in the United Kingdom, and, say, 12,000,000 white persons outside its shores. If the policy involves a renunciation of England’s free-trade, and if such renunciation strikes a vital blow at her commercial supremacy, where is the benefit of the movement 1 I take it that we desire to continue our union with the mother country, to draw year by year those bonds closer, because she forms the great centre of power and influence upon which the whole Empire hangs. Looking at the question in the most abstract sense, is it likely that small countries like England and Scotland, which are practically the great centres of our manufactures, and which do a business of £800,000,000 or £900,000,000 in exports and imports will do any thing to offend customers numbering 300,000,000 or 400,000,000of civilized people for the sake of conveniencing 12,000,000 persons in their own territory 1 The idea is absurd. There is absolutely no basis for what is called a Zollverein. But, again, there is a much higher aspect of this question than even that which appears on the surface. Up to the present time the safeguard of England and the safeguard of the Empire has been the free untrammelled operation, politically and commercially, of the different parts. Canada has gone its own course, and it has obtained its own systems of responsible and local government. Australia, by a gradual evolution - nobody having blundered on the other side - has bit by bit got rid of almost every prerogative of the Crown except the links which bind us to the mother country in the persons of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth and the Governors of the States, and in the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London. Lately we have been bound more closely together as comrades in arms on the fields of South Africa. We are bound by religious ties. We are bound by this fact, that Australia is the purest British possession in the’ world. With the exception of a few aliens our people are entirely British, and we are as free as any nation in the world can be, with simply an Imperial link in which Imperial interests, being our interests, too, have to be studied as well as our local interests. What is this the first step towards ? It is the first step towards a mechanical arrangement which, if it is once begun, can never be retraced, and also a mechanical movement in trade and commerce. What is the destiny of this country ? Its destiny is to trade with all the world. We grow a peculiar kind of wool which every nation buys. W e have meat, wheat, and cattle to sell, and we are placed in the centre of the Pacific, with congested populations in the Eastern world. If ever there was a country which by nature and geographical position was intended to be free from commercial shackles of that kind, it is the island-continent of Australia. It must be recollected, as I said before, that if this course is once pursued, we may never be able to retrace our steps, and, instead of solidifying the Empire, instead of drawing the bonds of union closer, we may be creating a source of irritation which in the future may be “too great to bear. I quite agree with Mr. Chamberlain that everything does not consist in cheapness. I quite agree with Mr. Chamberlain and others that sentiment is a magnificent force. I hope that the day will never come when, in great national crises, we may not be ready to venture all for the sake of our common country. But that is high pressure. That is not the every day business of life. No .political union can go on unless it is based not merely upon sentiment but upon the mutuality of material interests. Any arrangement which in the future might seem to be detrimental to the real trading, commercial, and other interests of this country from which it seems impossible to recede, might, by the operation of the very system, by the irritation which it engendered, sow seeds of dissolution which would prevent the ultimate union of the British Empire. For years we have been trading directly with all parts of the world. Instead of our foreign trade being done through London it is done directly by men who have come herefrom Germany, Austria, France, and America to buy wool and other products, and that trade has been increasing by leaps and bounds. We do another trade not merely with the United Kingdom, but with the British possessions. Can any sensible nian conceive of any system of preferential rates which will be satisfactory to all parts of the Empire 1 Knowing how different are the conditions of countries like Canada, South Africa, and Australia, can. he conceive cf any blending of interests to such an extent that we can have any harmonious system which will work smoothly everywhere 1 It is all well enough for Canada to take this view. It wishes to be the granary for Great Britain. It wishes Great Britain to be protectionist, and it was the first promulgator of preferential duties. Most distinctly we are bound up with the interests of the mother country, and in looking at the question of preferential trade we must consider1 the effect on the mother country. As a free-trader, as well as for other reasons, I look upon any proposal at the present time to disturb that fiscal system which has made Great Britain the mistress of commerce throughout the world, which has given to her these colonies, and made it possible for us to exist, as an invitation to commit suicide. I cordially indorse the action taken by the Prime Minister in London with regard to the naval subsidy. Unlike some* of my legal friends, I do not want to split hairs on the question of representation and matters of that kind. I desire a plain, businesslike, transaction, and if ever there was a bargain struck in the world, that bargain by which, for £200,000 a year, we gain the security of the British Navy is one of the greatest. We continually hear it said that Great Britain must defend her own shipping. But is there no colonial shipping ? One of the greatest enterprises that we have is that of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. We have also Howard Smith and Sons’ fleet ; we have the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, the Australian- United Steam Navigation Company, and a large number of others. It would probably cost over £1,000,000 a year to protect’ even our own waters. When we take the interest on expenditure, as well as the absolute destruction of obsolete warships, and other points into consideration, we must see that the bargain we have made shows us to be almost as cuteminded a people as are our cousins of the United States of America. As for the future, as sensible men we can leave that alone ; what is to be done twenty years hence need not ‘ bother honorable members of my age, and I think the Government are to be commended in proposing to put their stamp upon this arrangement. I also feel .that in this short session we should not do more than is absolutely necessary to complete that part of the Commonwealth structure which will render justice to all our people, and make the different requisite services run smoothly. There is a great difference between the laws we have to pass that are practically similar to other laws in the different States to which we have been accustomed, and laws like those pertaining to the Inter-State Commission, which relate to the different States in their Inter State relations. As a body- we can have very little knowledge of those at present, and a postponement will enable us to mature our views in regard to them. My own opinion is that if we pass the great Judicature Bill, which will establish a High Court for Australia ; if we complete the defence arrangements under the auspices of my right honorable friend the Minister for Defence ; and pass a Bill for the appointment of a High Commissioner, so that we shall have proper representation in the United Kingdom, those three measures will probably be quite sufficient for this session. In view of our position as a Commonwealth Legislature, we ought to be careful that all our Acts are as complete as possible. The measures I have named will have to go through both Houses, and if we pass them during the present session I think we shall do as much as is necessary. Compulsory arbitration is one of those matters which I think can very well be put aside. I am aware of the ardour with which the Minister for Trade and Customs for several )’ears has carried out schemes, or dealt with proposed schemes of the kind, but it seems to me that we must class this legislation merely as experimental. We have now an Arbitration and Conciliation Act in operation in New Zealand, while one has recently been passed in New South Wales, and these should be object lessons to us as to the operation of this principle, lt would be well for us to pause before we commit ourselves to any piece of legislation which is not urgently required, and on which we shall have far more information by the time that the next Parliament meets. Every one is anxious to stop industrial strife, but in attempting great social changes and great remedial measures we must be very careful that we do not forget those basic principles of liberty to which we owe everything. I do not know how people view the operation of the Act in New South Wales - I do not know how it is going to operate - but I do not like some of the arrangements which have been made. They seem to me to be absolutely a blow at the ordinary principles of human liberty. It is a very serious thing to place the whole industrial life of a community in the hands of one man. At the present time a very able man sits in the arbitration court of New South Wales, and practically adjudicates. He has two assessors sitting with him, but he is practically the dominant spirit. That man has in his hands practically the control of the whole industrial life of New South Wales, for except in a matter of law, there is no appeal from the decision of the court. It may be necessary, it ma)’ work well, but it is a fearfully drastic experiment. It certainly does not fit in with the beliefs which have made up the framework of British character and British liberty. At the same time I am no mere clinger to what are called principles if it cam be shown that by certain experimental legislation, by certain bold schemes, we may ameliorate the lot of pur fellow beings. I am quite willing to put aside any
Shibboleth if I see that by doing so I shall help to raise the general condition of my country. But there is no necessity to hurry the passing of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It has been put forward to placate a certain section of this House, and I submit that if it is not necessary to deal with it now, if it is better as a matter of wisdom and of statesmanship to wait and see how the principle operates, no pressure of any party ought to influence an independent and courageous Ministry. As regards the capital site, I hope that something definite will be done this session. I feel very strongly that the 100-mile limit - a question which I suppose cannot be opened now - is a very serious detriment to the future settlement of this question. I believe that one of the best sites in New South Wales would be a place a little within the 100-mile limit of Sydney, and that it has all the conditions of water supply and all the conditions of hygiene necessary for such a purpose. I presume that nothing can be done in that direction ; but it is a matter which ought not to be forgotten in determining this question. I do not think that it should be delayed ; but it seems to me that the unfortunate provision in regard to. the 100-mile limit is liable to deprive, not New South Wales or the people of New South Wales, but the people of the Commonwealth as a whole, of a site which, while not in any way interfering with the capital of New South Wales, while in spirit carrying out the provision inserted in the Constitution, would have been fit the same time acceptable in every way to the majority of honorable members. I observe that the Governor-General’s speech refers to the proposed construction of a railway line between Western Australia and South Australia. With all due deference to those who may have expressed their vie ws, that is a matter on which I do not think any honorable member - at any rate from the States not directly interested - should express a definite opinion unless he has a very peculiar personal knowledge of the subject. In my case I do not think I should express an opinion until I have before me the whole official knowledge that the Government can produce, upon which to form a judgment. I have no doubt in my own mind that the line proposed, or something similar - to it, will ultimately come. I have no doubt that as the years go by we shall have for strategical purposes, and for purposes of communication, to make lines which may not be in the category of purely commercial railways ; but I think that before many of these lines are completed the railways will have to be amalgamated. It is a very different thing to project a non-paying line simply supported by the Federal Government under the peculiar conditions of our finances, and to project a line on a system of railways which is paying well, and which may be able to stand the loss for national purposes. The question of the appointment of a High Commissioner is a very important one. The position occupied by the Commissioner will not be that of an agent whose duties are more or less of a trading character. The duties of the High Commissioner will be almost entirely of a diplomatic character. He will be the ambassador - if that expression can be used while the two countries are under the same Crown - between Australia and the mother land. But there is one thing which I think the High Commissioner for Australia and the High Commissioners of other parts of the Empire may do. They may be the means of solving the question connected with the future political union of the different parts of the Empire. The gentleman appointed to the position will. I presume, be retained in the office for several years. He will be in close communication with the Colonial-office, with the High Commissioner for South Africa when the colonies there are federated, and the High Commissioner for Canada ; and I look to these High Commissioners as likely to form probably the nucleus of the colonial council which must precede any scheme of political union. There must be some mode by which the different parts of the Empire can confer. The proposal of which we have heard so much of late from Mr. Chamberlain is entirely before its time. It has been placed before the British public, and there has been no means of getting at the colonial opinion. I look to these High Commissioners, and to the conferences which may be held in future between representatives of different parts of the Empire, to pave the way for this political union, but I deprecate as I said before, any attempt for electioneering purposes, either here or at home, to force a question so full of great importance to the future destiny of the British Empire. Having expressed myself strongly with regard to the matter of Trade and Customs, I should like now to appeal to the Minister to reconsider the position he has taken up. I believe, and I know he believes, that the present state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely. I presume that the Minister for Trade and Customs is one who would like to see. preferential rates established, and that he would like also to see the protective system introduced into .England. I should like to ask the right honorable gentleman what would be the result in England under a protective system if one tithe of the trouble that we have had during the last eighteen months were experienced in that country 1 Why, there would be almost a rebellion in the country. That country is a great commercial country, and the people know that the £2,000,000,000 to which the right honorable member for East Sydney referred in his interview the other day, though perhaps he slightly exceeded the real amount, as being lent to other parts of the world by the British people, was earned from commerce, trade, and manufactures. I say that the inauguration of any system such as that which has been inaugurated in the Custom-house of this country, if it caused one-tenth of the irritation that-has been experienced here during the last 18 months would put the people of old England into a state of rebellion. Such a thing would be absolutely impossible. I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, at the end of last session, if he intended to alter the provision in the Act to winch I have referred, because I did think that the right honorable gentleman felt that he was in a peculiar position in regard to it, that he thought he was bound to let things take their course, and let every case go to the courts, as the matter was not one purely of administration. The right honorable gentleman told me that he did not see any necessity to alter it.
– If the honorable member has read the report of my last interview with the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, he will know that we arrived at the happiest conclusions.
– I believe the right honorable gentleman had an interview with the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and I believe further that with the fatality which appears to have followed the right honorable gentleman on various occasions, there is now a difference of opinion as to what he really said at that meeting. I am told that what he really did say was this - “ If you show me your original invoices, I shall look after the matter of the payment of duty.” The right honorable gentleman says now that he did not say that ; but I can put two or three gentlemen on oath who will say that they asked him particularly - “ Do you mean the entry?” and that he said - “No, I mean the original invoice.” Now, the right honorable gentleman was right in what he didsay, but he is wrong in his repudiation. The great struggle in connexion with customs cases in Victoria years ago, when I had some knowledge of it, was on the question of the original invoice. Certain firms passed what they called copies, or passed invoices coming from their own agencies in London, and not from the original manufacturers ; but the Customs authorities were perfectly satisfied the moment the importer showed the original invoices. I may tell the Minister for Trade and Customs that as a result of the Customs authorities acting harmoniously with the merchants, those merchants who did show originalinvoices brought pressure to bear upon others. They formed themselves into a vigilance committee, by means of which they assisted the Customs authorities, and the result was that after a certain time original invoices had to be shown. That is the attitude which the right honorable gentleman ought to assume.
– Really the honorable member is barking up the wrong tree.
– The right honorable gentleman now says, I presume, “ Show me the entry.” What sense is there in that ? Is there any conciliation in that ? “ Show me the entry, and I will get you in a trap. I will not allow my officers to tell you whether the duty upon these goods will be 15 or 10 per cent. No. Make out the entry. If you are wrong, and I decline to give you advice, it is a fraud, and I shall have you before the police court.”
– I think the honorable member must be mad to say what he is saying. We came to a very happy understanding in Sydney.
– I hope for the sake of his original intelligence that the right honorable gentleman is mad. I shall now give the facts of a case that occurred in order to show the spirit in which the Act is administered. The Minister may say that this was done by an officer of the department, and that he cannot be held liable for whatever may be done by officers of the department in all portions of Australia ; but I say that the right honorable gentleman has so permeated the officers in the department in every city of Australia with terror and fear, and has so brought them down almost to the position of State serfs, that they are practically frightened to do what is right. I can give proof of this case, and cases after all are better than mere declamation. A certain firm was not quite satisfied as to its interpretation of the Tariff in relation to certain goods imported in a case. They passed a sight entry,and the goods were opened. The Customs officers decided that certain lines were dutiable at certain rates. By that time the fear and want of confidence in everything connected with the department were so great that this firm’s customs clerk said to the officer - “ You put down opposite these lines in pencil what you say are the duties.” The officer did so. Of course, this instance would not have come before the right honorable gentleman, but I am giving it to him as an instance of what has been going on. A short time afterwards a similar case arrived consigned to the same firm. They, of course, did not pass a sight entry, because they had the opinion of the Customs officer, and they put the goods through as usual. They were seized by the Custom-house officer, but he was confronted with his own decision, and if it had not been for that document with his own pencil-marks upon it, the firm would have been brought to the court and fined £5, with an alternative of fourteen days’ imprisonment.
– But the honorable gentleman says that nothing at all was done to them.
– Nothing was done, because nothing could be done. There was the proof of the officer’s previous decision, and even the glaring injustice of the right honorable gentleman was not capable of doing anything to the firm in those circumstances. I have only one or two words more to say. The peculiar and glaring injustice of this administration in one of its phases arises out of these circumstances : We began the consideration of the Tariff about the 8th October, 1901, and the right honorable gentleman knows that it went through innumerable revisions in both Houses. If the whole community had been as intelligent as the Minister for Trade and
Customs, which of course they could not be expected to be, they could not possibly have known where they stood owing to the kaleidoscopic changes made to the Tariff. In the next place, the classification was bad in many cases, so bad that the right honorable gentleman knows that if we had taken the verdict of twelve men as to the class to which certain goods belonged, six men would give one opinion and six another. In all the circumstances, I ask whether this was not an occasion for fair and lenient consideration? W as it hot a time for discretion in administration, rather than for the right honorable gentleman to call not merely an error a fraud, but to denounce as a fraud an error which was the result of our own operations and the general difference of opinion? What has been the result, even with the Minister himself? He has changed his opinion time after time. He has given different decisions, and with a meanness contemptible in a Minister of the Crown, in cases in which duties were paid, when it was thought the goods were dutiable, and in which the importers have appealed to have the amount returned, by taking advantage not of the law, but of a technical arrangement of his own, under which notice had to be given within a certain time, he refuses to this day to pay back money which was never clue to the Customs. I say that all this sort of thing must come to an end. The Minister for Trade and Customs may remain stolid, and the Government may remain stolid, but whatever I may think on the subject of the prejudices of honorable members opposite, I recognise that it does not follow that because a man is a protectionist he has no desire to see pure administration of the Customs. Because a man is a protectionist it does not follow that he desires to see any persecution of the mercantile classes of the community. If we are a democratic community, we shall desire equal law and justice for everybody. Though we may have our own differences and our own ideals, at the same time, so long as under our industrial system a certain class does exist, and so long as that class is under the law, and is honest if we put taxation upon it, though it may be heavy, its collection ought to be made as light as possible. We believe that justice should be done, no matter what the consequences, and the name of the Commonwealth
Government ought to stand as high, if we are going to be a great nation in this country, as that of the British Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bruce Smith) adjourned.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at half -past 2 o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I promised to give some information to the honorable member for North Sydney with reference to the dates upon which certain opinions were given, and received at the Customs House. I find that the first opinion was given on 26th September, 1901, to the Treasury. It was afterwards forwarded to the Customs on 27th February, 1902. Another was given on 6th February, 1902, to the Audit-office, and received at the Customs-office on11th February, 1902. Three other opinions, dated 26th March, and 23rd December, 1902, and 27th March, 1903, were also given.
– There is a matter connected with the transcontinental railway to Western Australia to which I should like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister before we adjourn. We are getting a considerable amount of information regarding the proposed line, and one of the arguments most commonly used concerning the railway is that it would be of advantage for defence purposes. I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he will get exact official information regarding the proposed Western A ustralian trans-continental line for strategicaland defence purposes. It is, I think, the only point upon which the Government are not now endeavouring to get information for the benefit of the House, and I fail to see why we should not have information upon that point.
– I will do my best to satisfy the desire of the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030602_reps_1_13/>.