House of Representatives
3 June 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 443

PERSONAL EXPLANATION

Mr DEAKIN:
Attorney-General · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– To make a personal explanation, I wish to call attention to a statement; made by the honorable member for North Sydney on Thursday last. He is reported to have said -

I know that when the division came on -

The division, upon the tea duty - the honorable member for Eden-Monn.ro was looking for the Attorney-General, because that Minister hud left the House in the face of an important division without pairing.

Jt is possible that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was looking for me, and that I was not in the chamber, but I have reason to remember, because of the surprise which occurred in connexion with the division, and because I have since consulted my diary, that I was within the precincts of the chamber from the commencement to the close of the sitting. I have not the least doubt that the honorable member for North Sydney made the statement in good faith in consequence of something which he heard. I am concerned only with the fact that I was in the building during the whole evening, and did not leave until after the division was taken. I was paired for the division to oblige a member of the Opposition.

Mr THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– As a matter of personal explanation, and in reply to the Attorney-General, I wish to say that it is a duty and a pleasure to accept his statement unreservedly. What I said was in reply to an unexpected interjection, and it might be excusable if, under such circumstances, I did not speak with the close accuracy which might have been expected had I made a deliberate statement. I do not put my explanation upon that ground, however. I had ample justification for the statement, for on the night of. the division upon the tea duty, and shortly before the division took place, the Government Whip - the honorable member for Eden-Monaro - stated that the Attorney-General had left the House and had not paired. He then endeavoured to obtain a pair for him, and put down the name of a representative of New South Wales, who at the time was absent from Victoria. I objected to the name being used, because the honorable member to whom it belonged had told me in a recent conversation that he was in favour of the duty upon tea, and another pair was found. The Government Whip was certainly seeking a pair for theAttorneyGeneral, although, I accept the statement of the latter, and that he was within the precincts of the House. I could support my statement as to the seeking for a pair by the testimony of other honorable members if I chose to bring them into the question, but I do not feel justified in doing so. I am quite satisfied to leave the matter where it is, and stop at the statement of facts within my own knowledge.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES

– With reference to the statements made by the AttorneyGeneral and the honorable member for North Sydney, the fact that the division alluded to was taken nearly twelve months ago makes it impossible for anyone to be very clear as to what members were or were not within the precincts of the House at the time.

Mr SPEAKER:

– It is impossible to allow a debate to take place upon a personal explanation. The Attorney- General was within his rights in making such an explanation, but I am not sure that the honorable member for North Sydney was in order in following him, and I am certain that the honorable member for EdenMonaro will not be in order in proceeding to discuss the matter further.

page 443

QUESTION

RELIEF TO THECROTTY MINERS

Mr O’MALLEY:
TASMANIA, TASMANIA

– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Constitution is similar to that of the United States of America, and that the American Congress voted £200,000 for the relief of the victims of the Mount Pelee disaster, and that now at Crotty, in Tasmania, over 1,000 people are almost destitute because of the amalgamation of two mines there, will the Prime Minister place upon the Estimates the sum of £10,000 to assist those pioneers ?

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

– I am under the distinct impression that it is not within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to vote money for such a purpose. The honorable member speaks in a good cause, and I shall give the matter further consideration ; but I hope that what I say now will not be supposed for one instant to be an intimation that I think that what he asks will be granted.

page 444

QUESTION

FEDERAL ELECTORAL ROLLS

Mr BROWN:
CANOBOLAS, NEW SOUTH WALES

– With reference to the alleged omissions from the Federal electoral rolls, I wish to ask the Minister for Home Affairs if he proposes to take steps to have the names of electors who are said to have be’iii left off enrolled prior to the boundaries of the State divisions being finally decided upon ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Home Affairs · HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I have already taken what action is possible. The lists of names - which are really the rolls - have been printed in New South Wales, and I hope to have them exhibited at every postoflice in the State within the next day or two. I believe that they are to be sent out to-day or to-morrow. I have also inserted notices in the press, pointing out the discrepancies to which the honorable member alludes, and asking electors to inspect the rolls and to send in their names to the otticer in Sydney if they’ find that they have been omitted.

page 444

QUESTION

GENERAL ELECTIONS

Mr POYNTON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Will the Prime Minister indicate to the House what measures lie considers are of such importance as to warrant the prolongation of the session until such a time as will make it impossible to hold the elections to this House and to the Senate upon the same day ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

-In all courtesy to the honorable member, I do not feel called upon to make a Ministerial explanation on the subject at this stage. “There will be a proper occasion for a Ministerial explanation as to the- course of business.

page 444

QUESTION

ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT

Mr McDONALD:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND

– Have the Government decided whether they will introduce a Bill to amend that provision of the Electoral Act which prevents State members from contesting federal seats ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– Steps were taken in some of the Parliaments of’ the States to prevent federal members from seeking election to the State Parliament, and when the Electoral Bill was before this House a provision was inserted in it making State members ineligible as candidates for the Federal Legislature. The whole matter involves a wide question of policy, and I am not at present prepared to say that the Government will consent to any amendment in the law, but the matterwill be taken into consideration at an early date.

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

– And heads counted.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– No. Tocount heads is the peculiar province of theOpposition.

page 444

QUESTION

PERMANENT STANDING ORDERS

Mr CONROY:
WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES

-I wish to ask thePrime Minister when the adoption of thenew standing orders, prepared last session, is likelv to be moved ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– I have notdiscovered any such great difference between the standing orders provisionallyadopted and those which have been prepared by the Standing Orders Committee - although the latter are, in some respects, an improvement on the former - as will warrant me in a session like the present, in . taking up the time that I can see would be occupied in their discussion by putting them before honorable members.

page 444

QUESTION

COMMONWEALTH POSTAGE STAMP

Mr CLARKE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1: Whether the Government has vyt considered the desirability of introducing an uniform Commonwealth postage stamp.

  1. If so, what is the result of such deliberations.
  2. If not, will lie consider the matter us soon, as possible.

Sin EDMUND BARTON.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes, so far as the Commonwealth postage stamp can be made uniform during the book keeping period. (2&3) A decision will shortly be arrived at and made public.

page 444

QUESTION

RIFLE CLUB REGULATIONS

Mr FISHER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND

asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. When the new regulations re rifle clubs are likely to be issued ?
  2. Whether any of the new rifles are to be issued to rifle clubs ?
  3. Whether it is his intention to increase the price of ammunition to members of rifle clubs ?
  4. Why it is that requisitions for passes over Queensland railways may not be signed by the nearest Defence Force officer, as was the case prior to federation ?
Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Defence · SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. . At an early date.
  2. Yes, when available.
  3. Not at present.
  4. Inquiry is being made into the matter.

page 445

QUESTION

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH : ADDRESS IN REPLY

Debate resumed from 2nd June (vide page 384), 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 Pleaseyour 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 Yonr Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I should have been very willing under ordinary circumstances to co-operate with other honorable members in saving the time of Parliament by curtailing this debate, even to the extent of refraining from making any observations, were it not that I feel that although the leader of the Opposition has not tabled any motion in the nature of challenge to the Government, I could not, in view of my duty to my constituents and in self-respect to myself, forego making certain observations upon the administration of the Government since the conclusion of last session, and upon the Ministerial programme contained in the speech of the Governor-General. I feel sure that every one who heard the speech delivered last night by the honorable member for Wentworth must feel that the most serious and most damning case was made out against the Minister for Trade and Customs as. the direct administrator of his department, and against the Government as a whole. Ministers have not denied the challenge of the honorable member that they have all individually taken exception to their colleague’s administration, and yet have allowed him to continue in his control of the Customs, to the detriment and discredit of the Commonwealth’. Any one who reads that speech must admit that the Ministry stand committed for trial before the bar of public opinion. I desire in the first place to deal with one or two questions of administration, and I shall afterwards direct my attention briefly to the programme put forward by the Government. In the first place it is to be noted that when Parliament prorogued the Prime Minister had not returned from England. It will be recollected that a number of honorable members of the Opposition, myself in particular, had taken most marked exception to what I have never had any hesitation in characterizing as an immoral breach of political obligation on the part of the Prime Minister in connexion with his Maitland manifesto. I do not wish to go over the old ground again, although some honorable members on this side of the House have thought it desirable, but I desire to repeat my belief that quite outside of the tactics of politics, for which I am prepared after twenty years of political experience to make great allowances, the Prime Minister has by his action forfeited all claim to respect. Great as was my admiration for the Prime Minister, and willing as I was to stand by him and help him to consummate the great scheme of federation, I say now,’ and I shall say to the end of the chapter, that he went right beyond the bounds of political allowance with regard to party movements, and committed a great moral delinquency in deceiving the people of New South Wales in regard to the Tariff. It is all very well to say that the fiscal question should not be raised in New South Wales to-day. I admit that if the Maitland manifesto had been carried out in its letter and spirit, we, as a party, would have no right to disturb the commercial and industrial affairs of the Commonwealth by again bringing that question before the people ; but when we can prove out of the mouth of a member of the Government, that the Maitland manifesto was intended as, and was taken to be, an assurance to the people of Australia - because Maitland was, so to speak, the Mount Sinai of the Commonwealth - that the fiscal question was not to be raised, and that, therefore, it ought to be put aside as irrelevant to the election, the charge goes home in such a way that it cannot be refuted. I need only refer to the statements reiterated by the VicePresident of the Executive Council that we ought not to allow the wretched fiscal issue to enter into our consideration, but choose the best men, not from the fiscal point of view, but in every other sense of the word to take part in the great and responsible work of carrying on the business of the Commonwealth. If further proof were wanted of the impression that was created by the Prime Minister’s speech, is it not contained in the memorable event which took place in this Chamber when the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for the Grampians, and the honorable member for Flinders, who were intimate friends of the Government and sat on the Government benches, speaking in pathetic terms, told us that they had been deceived by the Prime Minister and the Government, and that, in order to put their protest into the most definite and dramatic form, they would cross the House- and sit in opposition ? Does it need any torrent of language to bring the position home to the minds of the public? I started upon my federal career with a fixed determination to help in the carrying through of the great work of federation, but when, after believing for years in the high ideals which the Prime Minister, above all men in Australia, had put before the public as to our future national life; I find him. stooping down from. his pedestal of perfection to act the groundling in political life, how can I repose any further confidence in him ? I shall continue to lose confidence in him. I have watched to see how far he has realized his own high standard of political idealism. The Prime Minister proceeded to Great Britain as a kind of emissary from the Australian people, to represent them at what may be looked upon as an initial form of Imperial Council, which may in future years determine the destinies of the Empire, of which we are a part. I watched to see how far he would show himself fit to occupy that high position. We all remember - and it has a bearing upon our present day politics - readinghis utterances as reported in the English newspapers from time to time. It has been claimed as a subject for credit that he spoke frequently at great functions, and that he never in the whole course of his circuit of representation committed Australia to a single opinion. I submit that this reflects no great credit upon him, because, although he was not authorized to commit this Parliament to any particular measure touching the interests of the Empire or the Commonwealth, he had full authority to express his own opinion as to what ought to be done. We find, however, that from first to last there was a series of swollen speeches, speeches full of swollen Imperialism, regarding what oughtto.be done in the interests of the Empire, in absolute forgetfulness of thefact that the policy of his own Government was calculated to completely undermine theunion of the Empire. What could one think ?’ I was reminded of the process adopted by some enterprising butchers when they wantto sell veal. They blow it out for exhibition in their shop windows. That seemsto me to afford a forcible illustration of the kind of utterance we had from theright honorable gentleman. His speeches; were redolent of Imperialism of the most swollen character, as if he had not a thoughtfor that insignificant corner of the worldcalled Australia. The Empire was to beeverything, and yet the right honorable gentleman had brought forward a programme under which the subjects of hisown King were absolutely barred from passing from one part of the Empire to another. Afterwards we’ find him actually stooping, in deference to the socialisticparty in this country, to shut out for days together men of his own flesh and bloodcoming from the very country in which these swollen utterances of his were delivered. We are told that under the provisions of the ImmigrationRestriction Act the Prime Minister’shands were tied, but the section whichit is said prevented him from exercising a discretion, and which should nothave been passed, was accepted in the most mild and meek manner by the AttorneyGeneral without reference to the Government, because the honorable member for Bland had suggested it.

Mr Kingston:

– Was the honorable and learned member in the’ House at thattime ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No ; but I haveread Hansard with great care, and I know exactly what took place. The leader of thelabour party rose and said - “I have an amendment to make,” and the Attorney General said - “I should like to hear it.” He did hear it, and it was accepted, and was passed into law. It has been said that once that section was passed the PrimeMinister had nothing to do but to carry out its provisions ; but what does the section provide ? That no man who has been contracted for shall land in the Commonwealth unless the Prime Minister has first of all ascertained that he is required for the industrial purposes of the Commonwealth”.

I have paraphrased the section of the Act, but that really is the effect of it: It was aimed at keeping out large bodies of men, who might be contracted for in other countries, and brought Out under engagement against the interests of the working classes already here. Itwas quite open to the Government to say that they would be no party to such a provision. They might have said that they were entirely at one with the socialistic party in preventing men from being brought here under contract at rates of pay below those current here, and it would have been tin easy matter for them to hold as null and void every contract which had been entered into in other parts- of the world. Taking the section as it stands, however, the Prime Minister is made the arbitrator as to whether men, who are brought out here under engagement, are required in the country. Required by whom - by Mr. Anderson, or by the workmen? Was it ever intended by Parliament that the Prime Minister should, on every occasion that a man or a number of men happened to be landed here under contract, be constituted a kind of Royal, commission to make an inquiry into the economic circumstances of the trade affected? That is .what the Prime Minister undertook to accomplish. He undertook to solve the problem without making any inquiry of a widespread character. Thus these English artisans were detained for six days in a sort of moral quarantine whilst the Prime Minister formed an opinion as to whether half-a-dozen additional hatters were required amongst 4,000.000 of people. For the right honorable gentleman to adopt such an attitude after his grandiloquent utterances upon Imperial affairs in London was a fall for which no parallel is to be found in the history of public men. I have no desire to speak generally of the prohibition imposed upon the advent of black labour to this country. I merely say that that circumstance alone points to the right honorable gentleman in his speeches in London having played the hypocrite to a nicety before the British people. He may or may not have meant all that his utterances implied. It is much more charitable to suppose that he went to England and made his speeches with these provincial notions in his mind than that he made them in good faith, and upon his return suddenly fell from the lofty position which he had occupied. In this connexion it is worthy of note that quite recently the Government actually blocked the advent to the Commonwealth of three natives of a. country which Australia very much desired should enter the Federation - I refer to New Zealand.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Does the honorable and learned member say that we attempted to block those men 1

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I say that they were blocked.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– It is absolutely untrue.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that expression.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I do not accuse the honorable and learned member of untruth, but I say that the statement which he made, wherever he got it from, is an untrue one. I do not in any way accuse the honorable and learned member of untruth.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I am quite sure thatthe Prime Minister will set the House a good example by withdrawing the expression.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– If you, sir, think that I ought to withdraw it in the face of what I have said I do so unreservedly. Perhaps I may be allowed to say, however, that the expression was not aimed at my honorable and learned friend, but at those who make such “statements wherever they are to be found - probably abroad.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I quite reciprocate the Prime Minister’s desire that we should not indulge in any personal altercation upon a question of this sort. I do not say that the right honorable gentleman blocked these men by physical force, but the administration of the Government certainly blocked them.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Has the honorable and learned member ‘seen the papers bearing upon the subject ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I have seen the papers, and it is from them that I gained my information. I repeat that three natives of New Zealand are living in this country only upon condition that they remain here for a limited time to assist in a particularentertainment. Good God ! to what a stateof things have we come in Australia when, on the eve of entering into a great partnership with the British Empire for Imperial purposes, the natives of a country close to our shores, and with which we have sought a. local partnership, are permitted to enter the Commonwealth only upon condition that they do not permanently remain here. In my early days I may have formed altogether too high ideals of public life and public men. I may have built up expectations iri regard to State and Commonwealth politics that the big men of Australia would gradually come to the front, and that the leaders of the people would endeavour to conduct the affairs of this great country upon lines which reflected credit upon us as & State, and upon the Empire to which we belong. But can decadence, cun personal declension, have a finer illustration than is afforded by the spectacle of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth preaching this Empire ideal in England, and returning to Australia to carry out a policy of wretched, miserable parochialism that would be unworthy of the smallest South American republic ? I admit that I have formed too high ideals, and that, after twenty years of political experience, I shall have to lower the standard which I had set up. When I see important questions treated in this way - when I see our fellow beings - members of our own nationality, treated in this fashion, how, I ask, can a man like Mr. Chamberlain, if he knew the facts, hope that we shall sacrifice our miserable local ambitions to fall in with his great Imperial scheme? So far, he has only visited a Crown colony, and he does not appreciate the character of the public men with whom we have to deal when he imagines that we are ready to cast aside our local affairs and rise to the level of the Imperial policy which he pictured in his recent speech. So much for the general administration of this country. I come now to the question of the Customs administration. Although I have had many years experience in different phases of commerce, I do not intend to enumerate all the cases of Customs persecution - I do not hesitate to describe them as such - which have taken place under the regime of the present Government. I have heard of many instances of hardship some of which are stronger than those which have been placed before the House. When the Customs Bill was under consideration I remember that I was one of the first to. draw attention to. the clause in it which reversed the old timehonoured provision that a British citizen was presumed to be innocent of any crime until he was proved guilty. I commented strongly and frequently upon that principle, and received satisfaction only when the House was assured by the Minister for Trade and Customs, in the most measured language, that although this arbitrary power was being placed in his hands it would be exercised with discretion, and that justice would be tempered with mercy. What has been the result? The right honorable gentleman is reported in the British Australasian - as was stated by the honorable member for Wentworth in the speech which he made last night - to have admitted his belief that the great bulk of the merchants of Australia are honorable men who are a credit to Australia and to the British Empire. Yet, although a similar provision was contained in the Victorian Tariff Act, no one in the history of that State, since 1866, when its Customs laws were changed, ever heard of any series of persecutions which approached in hardship those which have occurred under the Commonwealth administration during the last two years ? I do not object to any provision for the detection and punishment of dishonest men. I have no sympathy - and. I know something about the work of the Customs department - with merchants who attempt to defraud the revenue. I do not object to offenders in cases in which blank invoices are brought to this country for fraudulent purposes being punished, not by fine, but by absolute imprisonment. What I do protest against is the fact, which was commented upon with so much eloquence by .the honorable member for Wentworth last evening, that hundreds of highly reputable merchants have been hauled before the police court with drunkards and criminals, compelled to remain there - sometimes hours - until they could be charged, and fined £5 for having committed a miserable error which the prosecutor forthe Government has admitted did not contain an element of fraud. What is the effect of such administration ? Its effect is to put the rogue upon an equality with the honest man. Not merely is a member of this great and honorable class of the community treated as a rogue, but the real rogue, who ought to be punished by imprisonment, is practically consoled by being reminded that hundreds of reputable merchants are upon an equality with him. Thus, in addition to the insult which has been offered to the mercantile classes of Australia, the Government have offered an incentive to crime in that they have made it less heinous and objectionable. It is a very regrettable circumstance that there has been introduced into the Customs administration of this country a man admittedly of very great ability in his own walk of life, but with no knowledge of commercial practices. For aught I know to the contrary, the Minister may be a very excellent advocate and lawyer in his own State, but I say un-. hesitatingly that it was a mistake to introduce a gentleman of his calibre and training into the mercantile operations of Australia, seeing that he could not possibly have acquired any knowledge of value concerning commercial practices. To me it is perfectly clear, as a man who has had years of commercial and legal experience, that the right honorable gentleman entered upon the work of his department in the full conviction that the mercantile classes of Australia were a parcel of unprincipled individuals who were attempting to rob the poor man by evading the payment of duty upon their goods. No one could have listened to his deliverances upon the Customs Bill and the Customs Tariff Bill without feeling that he entertained the belief that he was called upon to make provision against a class which was cunning and astute to a degree, and that he was a sort-of magnified policeman or detective appointed by the Commonwealth to catch them.

Mr Ronald:

– He was right.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable member for Southern Melbourne knows less of commercial affairs than does the little finger of the Minister for Trade and Customs.

Mr Ronald:

– But I know something about common honesty.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If that is the attitude which the right honorable gentleman assumed upon undertaking the administration of the Customs department-

Mr Kingston:

– Is the honorable and learned member referring to any particular statement of mine ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No. If I were to quote from the utterances of the Minister, I should not be able to catch my train to Sydney, as I intend doing, to-day. I have other occupations besides politics, and I am pleased that I have ; I should be sorry to depend on the latter. What I say is that this is not the attitude in which to approach the mercantile classes of this country. What has been the result of all this administration 1 Honorable members ought, in all fairness, to ask themselves whether in the whole of the two years during which the right honorable gentleman has been at the head of the Customs administration of Australia one substantial case of fraud has ever been brought against any member of the mercantile community. I know that the Minister will mention the Queensland case, and, no doubt, that is a case for which he may take some credit. It was a very complicated case, and whether or not the offence was driven home to the head of the firm I am not prepared to say. But if we compare the administration during the last two years and a half with £32,000,000 of imports per annum, what have we as the result of this wild and savage administration ? People have been prosecuted for a series of pettifogging errors, so clearly errors that the Crown Prosecutor has over and over again had to admit in court that there was no charge of fraud. Yet, in these cases, it was asked that a fine of £5 should be imposed, and, without it being realized what it meant to the heads of great firms who have en joyed an unblemished reputation for perhaps half a century - from a time when the Minister. himself was in knickerbockers - these firms have been brought into police courts and subjected to this humiliation. The Minister may depend that the people of the Commonwealth will not forget his administration. There is no doubt that when the Government next appeal to the people for an indorsement of their administration, the effect will be felt - perhaps silently - but it will astonish Ministers as showing how what may appear to be little things lead to great results. I now pass to one other matter under the head of administration. We all remember that when the Customs Bill was under discussion, we understood that a distinction was to be made between sugar grown by black labour and sugar grown by white labour. It was perfectly clear to me - though there may have been some subtle language used - that the intention was that every ton of sugar should pay an excise duty of £3, but that where it was grown by English or white labour there should be a rebate of £2. We find, however, that thousands of tons of susrar which have not been grown by white labour but by black labour - the mere harvesting being done by white labour - have earned this rebate over and over again. Although I do not like the law, when a law is once made I like to see it honestly administered. But we find that in the case of hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar the rebate has been allowed, although, as I say, only the harvesting has been done by white labour ?

Mr CONROY:

– Does the honorable and learned member make the charge that the rebate has been allowed to people not entitled to it?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I say that therebate has been allowed to people who are not entitled to it, and the matter has been commented, on in the columns of the Times, from which I get my -information. That is an act of administration which ought not to be tolerated. If we make a law, no matter how objectionable, it should be carried out ; but I say that in this relation the law has not been carried out, because side by side with the drastic provisions on which I have commented, wo had an undertaking from the Minister that this enactment would be used only in case of actual fraud.

Mr Kingston:

– The honorable and learned member never had anything of the sort, and I defy him to point it out.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I now pass to the Government programme contained in the speech of His Excellency. My first observation is that the speech, in its very opening,, contains a remark of a very prominent character, which I say is unjust towards the free-traders of Australia. The paragraph of His Excellency’s speech to which I refer begins thus -

It was found 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 ou your industry and patriotism before the Commonwealth machinery can be deemed complete.

I ask any members on this or any side of the House to put fairly to themselves the question - What was the cause of nearly twothirds of last session being occupied over the Tariff? We have had a boast in the interval, by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Home Affairs, that the present Tariff is a fair compromise. But where does that lead us ? Does it not lead to the conclusion that it took twelve months of protest and debate on the part of the Opposition in order to produce a fair compromise 1

Mr Mauger:

– The Tariff, as introduced, was a fair compromise.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am not talking of what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports may think. I am talking of what the Prime Minister has said.. I am further talking of what the Minister for Home Affairs has said, and the claim made by these right honorable gentlemen is that the present Tariff is a fair compromise. Why did it take twelve months of hard fighting on the part of the free-traders to produce a fair compromise? Was it not because of the notable breach of faith by the Prime Minister - a ‘ breach of faith which the members of the Opposition and the people of the country who support them protested against? Were these twelve months not occupied in. trying to bring the Government to a recognition of the promise which was made at Maltland ? It is true that we did not succeed,, though we obtained recognition to a certain extent. It is certain, however, that the question will be raised at the next general, election.’ The leader of the Opposition has. given due notice to the people of the country that it will be raised. Are the Government not in a logical cul-de-sac when I put this question to them, protectionists as. they may be - -Why should it have taken twelve months to get this Tariff, except for the fact that it was, when introduced, not a fair compromise ? 1 1 was only by twelvemonths’ protest and debate that it was put in the condition now boasted of by thePrime Minister. There is another aspect of His Excellency’s speech to which I would like to refer. It will be remembered that when the original programme of the Government was put forward, the people of. Australia were told that there was to be am old-age pension scheme. I quite, recognisethat that was merely the political cheese for the trap - that it was merely the old practice of offering the bundle of political, carrots in order to attract the unthinking portion of the population. But now that twoyears have passed away, the Government had dropped this particular bait, and the matter of old-age pensions is not mentioned. But the question was not dropped until it was pointed out to the members of the Government that such pensions were impossible, for the reason that it would benecessary to raise £2 in taxation for every 10s. required. We find the speech of His Excellency, which is the programme of the Government, full of padding. Half of the speech, at least, promises measures which even the least . intelligent member of the Government must know to be a farce There is an endeavour to catch the crowd,. and persuade them that after all the Government is a liberal Government, because it promises 20 or 30 measures in the near future. We see here pursued the same old practice of - I am now talking of State politics, and of practices which I thought would be abandoned in the federal atmosphere - proposing everything it is possible to conceive, in the hope that some day the opponents of the Government may adopt the programme, and lay themselves open to the charge of stealing their proposals.’ No one who knows the Constitution, and who lead the original programme of the Government with care, can have failed to see that every conceivable legislative measure was crammed into it, whether or not there was the means of carrying it out, in the hope that the Government might hereafter be able to accuse the Opposition of taking part of that programme. That is a very old trick in State politics - an old trick in the lower grade of politics - but it was adopted at the beginning by the Federal Government, and is repeated now. Who can say, for instance, that the Inter-State railway to Western Australia is likely to be carried out during the reign of this Government or of this Parliament?

Mr Crouch:

– We should like to have it.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

-We should all like to go to heaven, but whether or not we shall all get there is another matter.

Sir John Forrest:

– The leader of the Opposition said that he would carry the work out at once. .

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Who can say that the question of rings and trusts, which presents one of the greatest problems of the present day, will be taken into serious thought by the present Government during their term of office ? Who can suppose for a moment that the enactment of the navigation laws - which are modestly put down in His Excellency’s speech as a matter in regard to which the Government are not sanguine - will be seriously attempted by this Government? Who can suppose for a moment that banking laws for all Australia will receive serious consideration ? Who can suppose that the Bonus Bill will this session be the subject of any serious effort on the part of the Government ? I have a very low opinion of the faculty of the Government for estimating public feeling, but I do not think their faculty is low enough to induce them to- try another and a third fall in regard to the Bonus Bill. Who can suppose for a moment that the question of preferential trade will be introduced by the Government? This reminds me of the extraordinarily paradoxical attitude of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman took part in a discussion in Great Britain with the Premiers of the other dependencies on this subject of preferential trade, and he gave an assurance that he would make a proposal to his Parliament with a view_ to its adoption. Where is that proposal ? A long cablegram was sent, no doubt at the expense of the Commonwealth, to Mr. Chamberlain, informing that gentleman how much the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth approved of this magnificent Imperial scheme of preferential trade.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The honorable and learned member was not present when I denied that I had sent any telegram to Mr. Chamberlain, and when I said that the telegram was sent by a press agency after an interview with myself. The telegram was sent entirely at the cost of the press agency.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That only refers to the cost of the cablegram.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– There was no telegram sent by me to Mr. Chamberlain. The honorable and learned member’s remarks are full of misstatements.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Will the Prime Minister deny that the words contained in the telegram were from an interview with him, and that they involve his own personal opinion on the question ?

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Exactly ; that is so.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Then the dilemma is just as important or just as fatal to the Prime Minister. What does it matter whether the £10 or £20 which this cablegram cost was paid by the press agency or by the Commonwealth, whether it was addressed to Mr. Chamberlain directly or to the British press, so that he might see it ? I ask what sentiment or opinion it expresses on the part of the Prime Minister ? And I couple it with the assurance to Mr. Chamberlain in England that he. had the support of the Prime Minister. But now the right honorable gentleman has counted noses. He is aware of the reception which the proposal is likely to get in this Chamber, and he has therefore quietly left it alone. It is quite possible that his assurances when in London as to his intention to introduce the matter to the notice of the Commonwealth Parliament may have given Mr. Chamberlain some hope that he would meet with that reciprocity which we are told to-day he looks upon as indispensable to his scheme ; but he has now learned through the press that in the speech of the Governor-General, which contains the Government policy, the matter is one which has been left to the sweet by-and-by. So we have the announcement made by this man, who now stands at the very apex of the British Government, that he cannot go on with the scheme unless he has the sympathy and reciprocity of the British colonies. But he lias not got it. He finds that the Australian statesman who faithfully promised to recommend the scheme to his Parliament, and who inspired the telegram which went to tlie English people to show that he is in “favour of it, has not the political courage to introduce it in this Chamber. We are coming to a pretty state of things in Australian politics, when the head and front of our political life goes to England like a great ambassador, and leads the people and statesmen there to believe that we are prepared to join in this great Imperial policy, to rise to this great Imperial height, and, when he comes back, is afraid to introduce the subject to Parliament. The measures which I have mentioned are mere padding, not in the sense that there is no merit in them, but because they have been crammed into the Government programme with no possibility of realization. Just as a miserable tradesman will dress his shop window with empty biscuit tins, or cigar boxes, to make a show to impress his customers, the Government, to impress the public, not. to impress the members of this House, place a number of empty promises in their programme, merely to be able to point to the large stock of legislative measures of a practical character they say they are going to pass. In addition to those I have mentioned, we have the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s agreement, legislation upon the banking laws, and legislation in regard to preferential trade and the conversion of State debts. Out of twenty proposals which are solemnly put forward as if they were really part of a practical scheme of legislation which the Ministry intend to introduce, ten are palpably impossible of realization this session. The Government, however, think that in this way they can mislead the people of the country. I should like now to say a word or two in regard to measures which I think are of a practical character. I take first that which, to my mind, is of the most importance. I regard the mere choice of a capital site as unimportant, but I consider it of the most profound importance to the whole Commonwealth that its Parliament should not sit in any one of the State capitals. If we were meeting in Sydney, I would be as averse to the arrangement as I am to our meeting in Melbourne. As the representative of another State, I have seen the great injury which is done to the interests of the Commonwealth by having its politics immediately under the criticism of the local press. I have seen, too, the effect of the present arrangement upon the attendance of honorable members. While the State from which I come is entitled to a representation of something like one-seventh more than that of Victoria, the actual attendance of honorable members last session gave Victoria a representation of something like one-seventh more than that of New South Wales. Why is the capital kept in Melbourne t It is not because of the action of Victorian members that nothing has been done. But do not the Minister for Home Affairs and his colleagues know that within half-an-hour every Victorian supporter can be rung up by telephone and brought here to vote in a division, while it takes the representatives of some of the other States, such as Western Australia, who have to come thousands of miles to reach Melbourne, days .and weeks to get here. It is a crying disgrace to the honorable member’s department that the federal capital question has not been pushed further.

Mr BAMFORD:
HERBERT, QUEENSLAND

– Where is the money for building a capital to come from ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I deprecate the statements which have been made as to the expenditure of millions of money being necessary to create a federal capital, because I believe that £50,000 would do all that will be required for years to come; but I am averse to the meeting of the Parliament of Australia in one of the State capitals, where it can be largely influenced by the local press, and where its members are placed in such a position that one State gets a larger proportional representation than it should get, while another State is proportionately unrepresented. What has occurred during the last two years to justify the delay in settling the question ? What has been done within that time to settle it? Two and a half years ago the Government were in possession of a full and most able report upon all the sites in New South Wales which had been submitted for consideration ; but all that has happened since is that there have been two excursions to those sites, in which a limited number of members of both Houses took part. I said, two years ago, that the visits of honorable members to the sites would be useless, and I will give an illustration to show why they have been useless. One cannot by a mere cursory view of and site judge as to its fitness. Take the matter of climate alone. A party of members visited Albury on a very bad day, and the people of Albury were so struck with the unfairness of ‘ a mere cursory judgment upon the suitability of that site that they have since protested that the day upon which honorable members visited it was not af air day by which to judge it. Now, if the weather, which we breathe and live in, ctinnot be judged by a visit extending over one, two, or halfadozen days, how can an opinion worthy of the name be formed of the water supply of a site, its accessibility, or the character of its soil - which is a matter for chemical analysis - on the cursory visit of a few people who go there with every comfort provided for them ? The arrangement was a farce from beginning to end. Put that farce aside, and what has been done in the last two and a half years 1 A commission has been appointed of gentlemen taken from four of the States, whose president, although a very capable architect, when looked at from the point of view of the people of his own State, and in comparison with a man like Mr. Oliver, is not a fit person to lead the Government of the Commonwealth to a conclusion on the matter. So that, practically, absolutely nothing has been done for a period of two and a half years. No one can help drawing but one conclusion from this delay, and that is, ‘that as the policy of the Government is a protective one, it is to their interest to set their face against a move from undoubtedly the most protectionist corner of Australia, and to stay there until they are forced out of their position by a charge of dynamite. This great question, which affects the whole body politic of the Commonwealth, has been allowed to go on from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year, without any attempt on the part of the Government to settle it. Then the question of conciliation and arbitration is mentioned in the speech. As - a free-trader, I do not want to be suspected of taking a bigoted, individualistic view of that question. Personally I expect no good from it ultimately ; but it is a question which involves so many aspects that I have always been prepared to hear all that could be said on its behalf, to consider the opinions of all outside authorities upon it, and even to go the length of watching with great care its actual operation in countries like New Zealand and New SouthWales. These reasons carry great weight with me, quite apart from the actual merits of the question looked at economically. The working classes of the United States and the British workmen will have none of it.

Mr Mauger:

– Whv ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Because they do not like it. We are now ascertaining what certain large nations of workmen think of these questions, and it is a suggestive, if not a conclusive, fact that in a country which is essentially a commercial and industrial community, having a population of 80,000,000 people, the workmen will have none of it.

Mr Mauger:

– They give their reasons for not accepting it.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Within the last few months, a very valuable commission, composed of 23 trades unionists, was sent from England to the United States to ascertain how far and in what respects the conditions of the workmen of the United States differed from those of the workmen of Great Britain. In an edition of the Times issued a few weeks ago, there is a most interesting summary of the evidence taken, and of the report of the commission, under the heading “ Relations between Employer and Employe - Boards of Conciliation.” A Mr. Mosely was charged with the conduct of the commission.

Mr O’Malley:

– He paid its expenses.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes, and he is regarded by the Times as a most able and competent guide for the 23 trades unionists, who were selected as representatives of the more important industries of Great Britain. They were taken in November and December of last year on a tour of the United States, that they might have an opportunity to see for themselves something of American industrial methods, and of the relations between capital and labour in America. In a two-page SUmmary of the result of that commission, published by the London Times, I do not find a word about compulsory arbitration. There are, however, some very significant remarks, which show that the’ United States workmen assume towards employers of labour an attitude entirely different from that taken by the working classes of Australia. One of the delegates says -

There was a time in om- trades union movement when a jingo spirit was dominant. Saner methods now prevail.

I would commend that to the working men of this country. The 23 trade unionists who formed the commission must have had a distinct bias in favour of the working classes, but we find this very significant statement by Mr. Mosely -

In many trades a joint committee of employers and employes meet periodically to settle rates for piece-work by mutual consent, and if such an arrangement were adopted all round I am sure it would be found beneficial : and this is * what is practically done in all American industries.

Mr. Cox, one of the members of the commission, remarks -

In wages disputes and the relations between employers and workmen’s organizations they have much to learn from us. It would be helpful if a committee of the leading trades’ union leaders were to come over and make a personal investigation into our trade union method5! and their relationship with the employer sections. There was a time in our own trade union movements when the jingo spirit was dominant. Saner methods now prevail, and a strike over a wage question is the exception rather than the rule.

I do not make my observations upon this question without having great experience to guide me. I was one of the two originators in Victoria of the Employers’ Union of Australia. I was president of the Employers’ Union of Australia during the whole of the time I lived in Victoria. I was one of a body, composed of representatives of the Trades Hall of Melbourne and of the Employers’ Union, who drafted a constitution for a voluntary board of conciliation between employers and workmen. I have sat in the Trades Hall, Melbourne, . as president of the Employers’ Union and as president of the Conciliation Board, and I have, together with the workmen of Melbourne, settled on the most amicable lines quarrel after quarrel between employers and employed. Without any legislation whatever, and with only the exhibition of a fair and honorable spirit between employer and employed, I have witnessed the amicable settlement of what promised to be some of the biggest industrial struggles in Victoria. During my experience I have gained a great deal of knowledge of unionists and of employers, which is not altogether useless- to me when I am endeavouring to think out this question, and with such experience, backed by 35 years of economical reading, I assert that the same thing that I have described could be’ done to-day if only the jingo spirit were not so dominant in this young country. It has disappeared from the United States and from Great Britain, awl when it disappears from this country, and the workers recognise that capital is, after all, in the same relation to the workman as is the plough to the farmer - the means by which he carries on his work - -they will see that instead of treating capital as an antagonistic element which should be driven out of the country, it should be looked upon as a friend to be courted, to be invited to stay and try its hand in furthering the interests of the community. Then the days for compulsion in anything will disappear. It must be taken as an axiom of political economy that capital is as timid as the shyest of game, lt can fly away, not upon wings, but upon cable wires. It may also be laid down with equal emphasis that capital will never stay where it does not receive the best treatment. The best treatment is the most conciliatory spirit and the fairest attitude towards it. If this is the fact why should this jingo spirit be displayed ? Cannot our working men see that in showing this spirit they are merely discouraging the advent of new capital, and encouraging the departure of old capital from the country, and so forcing themselves to return to first principles and elementary forms of work. The capitalist puts his money into a venture admittedly in order that he may secure a reward for the use of it in the form of profit. The workmen of Australia say to the capitalist - “ It is your capital and you put it into this business, but we are not going to allow you to manage it. We are going to appoint a board - it does not matter whether it is called a Wages Board or Arbitration Court - to determine the wages which you shall pay to your employes.

We know that you can go to other countries, such as the United States and Canada, and there find employment for your capital, but you happen to be in Australia and your draft for £1,000 is here. We therefore ask you to put that money into an industrial undertaking, and we shall manage it for you. We shall decide the rates of pay to be given to your workmen, the number of apprentices which you shall have, and the number of hours which your workmen shall be called upon to work. All these things will be decided by three men.” Now, who are these men? Not great industrial masters who have had years of experience. In New South Wales one of them is a Judge of the Supreme Court - a lawyer - possibly, a man who has no more notion of practical commerce thanhasaclergyman. I am not referring to the sitting President of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, because it so happens that that gentleman had some storekeeping experience before he went to the bar. I am speaking of what may happen.

Mr Fowler:

– Is it a fact that the Arbiration Court manages the business 1 Is it not true that it simply decides questions of justice between the two parties ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I say that it determines the rates of wages to be paid, and the honorable member will admit that this must prove a very important factor in determining the prosperity of a business. The Arbitration Court also determines how many apprentices the employer shall be allowed to train for carrying on the industry, and also the number of hours for which the workmen shall be employed. In fact, it would be difficult to name a single feature in the conduct of a business which does not come within the province of the court, Let me give an instance. In the southern, coal mining districts of New South Wales, only within the last six months, a mine manager found himself called upon to dismiss a certain number of hands. The question then arose whether he was the proper person to determine which of his hands were of least use to him, and which it was most desirable to retain. The question was brought before the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, which solemnly declared that the manager of the mine must, perforce, discharge the men last employed.

Mr Spence:

– That is the general custom.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– What would become of our general commerce under such conditions 1 Who is to have the management of our businesses? I am pointing out what will be the effect upon the management of business when capital is supplied by an experienced individual, and when the management is taken out of his hands, and left to a body of men who may have no knowledge of business. I am giving instances of the comprehensive way in which the management of a concern is taken out of the hands of the owner of the capital,by the decision of the Arbitration Court, that, although an employer may consider that A and B are the least competent men in his employment, he must not discharge them, but must choose from others, because they were the last taken on.

Sir William McMillan:

– Even though matters of life and death may be involved, as in the case referred to.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes. Although an employer may consider that certain men have been careless, and are not as competent as others to conduct their work with safety to their fellow employes, the court has said that the men who were last employed must be first discharged. Would any honorable member who is not steeped in bias say that that is not practically managing the whole business of the capitalist for him, whilst requiring him to supply the wherewithal to carry it on. I ask honorable members who are very much attracted by the compulsory arbitration scheme to first of all admit that capital cannot be controlled, that it can come or go at will. Unless we are going to pass a law laying an embargo upon all capital that comes into the countiy, the capitalist is free to take away his capital or leave it with us. We want it here. We cannot carry on our mines, or our shipping trade, or our manufactories without it. We can do nothing but scrape the earth with our fingers unless we have capital, because even a spade or a plough represents capital. With a full experience of trades unions and their methods, and of employers generally, I assert most positively that it is suicidal for the working classes of any country to take up an attitude of antagonism towards capital, it is calculated to cause those who have money to invest it in other parts of the world where they are treated more fairly and more in accordance with the traditions of British commerce.

Mr Fowler:

– Should there not be a spirit of reciprocity between the two parties ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes, I think there should be. We cannot look to the experience in Great Britain or the United States without finding that where employers have accumulated great wealth, they have displayed the utmost magnanimity, and the same spirit will be evinced all over the world under similar conditions. The moment, however, that the working classes adopt a jingo attitude towards their employers, the breeches pockets of the latter are buttoned up, and they say - “ You shall have your pound of flesh, but no more.” I have watched the progress of industrial movements very carefully, and I can see the jingo spirit everywhere in Australia. We saw it displayed during the last great strike in Victoria. The jingo spirit will never generate in the employer those kindly feelings which lead to the expenditure of money in providing for the comfort and happiness of employes. When, however, that spirit disappears from Australia, as it has done from England and the United States, and we have a voluntary system of conciliation, such as has been adopted elsewhere, there will be a sort of millennium in industrial matters. It seems to me a very feasible and practicable millennium, in which theemployer and employee will shake hands, as I have seen them do in the Melbourne Trades Hall, and become the best of friends. But I have also observed - and this is part of Victorian history - that as soon as the president or secretary of a union abandoned their jingoistic attitude, and adopted a more moderate tone towards their employers than did their predecessors, they ceased to satisfy the younger jingo spirits of the next generation, and their places were filled by some much more intractable individuals. Thus this feeling of antagonism was perpetuated.

Mr MAUGER:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · PROT

– Surely that cannot be the case when the officers of the unions change everv twelve months.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– During the term that I have mentioned the most harmonious relations existed, and even the Melbourne Age declared that I had been the greatest menace to the working classes of this country. But so far did I engender a feeling of good-will in this State that upon leaving it I carried with me one of the most complimentary letters from the president and secretary of the Trades Hall that a man could carry - a letter stating that I had* brought about a better feeling between the two classes than had ever existed before. Although Arbitration Acts are in existence in New Zealand, -New South Wales, and Western Australia, honorable members are aware that quite recently, at a large meeting of trades unionists held in the firstnamed State, the Act was denounced as the greatest legislative curse which they had ever known. Those very words appear in the report of the proceedings published by the daily newspapers ; and so strong was the feeling of trades unionists in regard to several decisions, that Mr. Seddon informed them that unless they exercised greater care they would break up the whole institution. We have the further testimony that quite recently in Western Australia the Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution, the effect of which was that as. its members were compelled to tolerate an arbitration board for a certain period, and to pay the artificially high wages which it produced, they did not see why the whole of the Commonwealth should not submit to the same ordeal.

Mr Fowler:

– -That was the Chamber of Manufactures.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

-Its members wished the system to be extended to other States, not because of its beneficence, but because they had to tolerate its effects in artificially raising wages. If the result of such legislation in Western Australia is to artificially raise wages, thereby placing the employers of that State in an unfair position, what would be the effect of similar legislation upon Australia in its relations with the outside world?

Mr Fowler:

– There are distinct signs of progress in Western Australia.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– But it is still problematical whether that State will retain the capital which has hitherto been invested there. When we remember that this question is undoubtedly in its experimental stage, we ought to pause. I find that the New. Zealand correspondent of The Times, in a letter which is referred to in a leading article, says -

Meantime it is patent to any impartial observer that there is a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the working of the Arbitration Act, and once more the question may be asked - “If these things ‘are done in the green tree, what may be expected in the dry ?”

Although I arn not prepared to commit myself to any definite statement as to the ultimate effect of this measure, the fact that it would practically compel the individual who provides the capital for any industry to submit the management of his business to aboard, whose members have no sympathy with him, induces the conclusion that if the proposed legislation be enacted capital will cease to How into the country in the way that it has done, and much that is already here will depart. I heard of a little incident the other day in regard to Victoria which is worth repeating, especially as I can vouch for its truth. A representative of the company which manufactures such splendid woollen goods in New Zealand visited this State soon after the Tariff was passed. He had authority to look around Victoria, and ascertain if it were possible to embark £100,000 in a similar industry here. Whilst here his attention was directed to the existence of wages boards, which are equivalent to the Arbitration Court of New Zealand. A fortnight after commencing his inquiries, in reply to a question put by a friend, he used this impolite language - “Not one damned copper will be sunk in the industry in this State.”

Mr Mauger:

– Yet he has to submit to an Arbitration Court in New Zealand.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That is so ; but whether the £100,000 will be invested in New Zealand I do not know. I repeat that honorable members ought to pause before attempting to extend this system to the whole of Australia. I know that the intention is to make it applicable only to industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any ohe State : but I hold that we might well defer the consideration of it until we ascertain whether the operation of similar measures in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia can be regarded as a success. Passing from that question, I come to that of the Inter-State Commission Bill. Most honorable members must be surprised to learn that, notwithstanding all the protests made by the Government regarding the sufficiency of the Bill submitted to Parliament last session, they have tardily admitted that it was wrongly conceived in that its provisions were made applicable to oceangoing steamers. They now confess that it was wrong to attempt a sort of inquisition into the financial arrangements of the different companies whose steamers ply between other countries and Australia. The objectionable provisions referred to have now been eliminated from the Bill. In this connexion I feel somewhat complimented that a little production of my own. which was republished by theShipping Federation of Australia, pointed out the enormity of those proposals. The idea that, in order to guarantee the equitableadjustment of freights between the different. States, we should have arrogated to ourselves the right to control such great companies as theMessageries Maritimes, the P. and O., and Orient, and to pry into the whole of their financial conditions, was a preposterous one. Those provisions have now been. abolished, and the measure, I apprehend, will comeforward in a somewhat .similar form to that adopted in the United States. No one can question the wisdom of seeing that no meansof carriage between one State and another is allowed to exist which would have theeffect of neutralizing that absolute freetrade which we wish to establish. If the* Bill, when it is submitted, is true to the principles which I have indicated, instead of opposing it, I shall do my best to assist the Government in passing it into law. At. this stage I do not wish to deal with the question of preferential trade. 1 have commented upon the fact that the Prime Minister had promised to submit some proposals to us in this connexion. I think that they ought to have been submitted. The Ministry, however, having resolved to keep them back, I should have been very’ glad indeed, to have heard a speech upon the subject from the Prime Minister. My opinion isthat by adopting preferential trade relations with the mother country, instead of binding ourselves to it by means of stronger cords, we should have made use of a. mechanical contrivance which would have been irksome. The ties which bind us tothe mother country are those of blood, affection, and common interests, and theseconsiderations are more elastic than would be any written agreement at which we could arrive. Mr. Chamberlain’s attemptto introduce this system, however wise it may be upon high Imperial grounds, was quite premature as regards these States. AVe must remember that, so far, the Secretary of State has visited only what are practically Crown colonies, namely, the South African States. He has not had any experience of States like our own, where we have fiscal arrangements peculiar to ourselves, and which are not alterable at a moment’s notice. I suppose that he was not aware that under our Constitution we were bound during the next seven and a-half years to carry on all the work of the Commonwealth Government and to provide the States with sufficient revenue for the maintenance of many of their institutions through the Customs department. Had he realized that twelve months or more were occupied in enabling members of this Parliament to agree to a so-called fair fiscal compromise, he would have understood the practical impossibility of the people of the Commonwealth re-opening the Tariff question at a moment’s notice with the idea of settling it in two different columns - one for the British people, and one for foreign countries. I hold that the electors of Australia are too busy to rise to these great Imperial considerations at the present day. The change must come in a settled community, where there is a large majority of people of leisure. Then local affairs can for a moment be put aside, and great Imperial aspirations can be looked into and considered. To suppose that we can shut our eyes to the necessities that arise out of the Braddon clause ; that we can sit down at a moment’s notice and settle our Tariff in a double column to suit the British Empire on the one hand and foreign countries on the other : to assume that we expect Great Britain to change her fiscal policy and tax the whole of her foods to realize this aspiration, is ridiculous. I formed theopinion days and weeks ago, and I hold that opinion to-day, that the primary purpose of this proposal was that Mr. Chamberlain might offer a menace to the people of countries like Germany,, who are trifling with the British people in regard to their Tariffs, and, secondly, that there should be a political move in anticipation of the next general election. When we see the lande.l classes of England offered a sop in the shape of protective duties on foods, which means an enhanced, value to their lands, and the working’ classes offered an unconditional old-age pensions scheme, we can readily believe that Mr. Chamberlain considers he has laid the bait for the two great extremes of British society, and that he deems them sufficient to secure the success of the present Government at the next general election, which we may depend would have come much sooner if the bait had been taken, and if the people had responded to the call made on them. The scheme of Mr. Chamberlain is impracticable, and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and his Government think so. I am willing to indorse that view of the Government, but at the same time I think it is a great pity for Australia that the Prime Minister should have inspired a cablegram which seems to confirm the assurance he previously gave to Mr. Chamberlain that the people were with him, and that a sympathetic response might be relied on if the proposal were adopted by other parts of the British Empire. I have already said that the reference to the Inter-State railway to Western Australia is a part of the padding in the speech of His Excellency, and most honorable members will admit that I am right. I have seen the report of the gentlemen who visited Western Australia in connexion with this proposed railway, and I have spoken to some of theni ; but taking the report itself, what does it amount to ? Months ago, when discussing the question, I said that such a railway would cost £6,000,000 ; and the report shows that, although the gentlemen to whom I have referred have never been on the line of railway except as approaching it from the great Australian Bight, and although they know nothing of the later capabilities of the route - they do not know to-day whether water will be found on any part of the line of railway - they, without that knowledge, and after making what is necessarily a wild estimate of the possible trade across this great continent, estimate the cost at about £5,500,000. We all know what estimates are when they are made in the dark, and this estimate is confessedly made in the dark. On the face of it this is an interim report made on the most meagre and insufficient data. There has been no survey, but if the Government are sufficiently impressed with the preliminary report of the commission to justify a further report, and if. the further report is satisfactory, there may be entered on a survey which I am told, on good authority, will take years to make.

Mr Fowler:

– No.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Such a survey would certainly take two or three years.

Mr Fowler:

– A couple of years.

Sir John Forrest:

– That depends on how many men are engaged on the survey.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Minister for Defence is a man for whom I have the most profound respect, but 1 am afraid he has what Emerson calls “an inflammation on his mind,” and it is this Inter-State railway. We all remember the drastic way in which the Minister for Defence threatened to break «p the Government and the Commonwealth if this railway were not constructed. That of course was done in the spirit of Gilbert and Sullivan, because we know that such a line is an impossibility.

Mr Fowler:

– Starting simultaneously from each end, the survey could be made in a vear easily.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I admit that in the future this railway may be constructed ; but to speak of it as required for defence purposes is to advocate it on its weakest ground.

Mr Fowler:

– Military authorities regard the line as necessary to defence.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In order to construct a .railway capable of carrying troops across, what I shall not call a desert for fear of offending the Minister for Defence–

An Honorable Member. - Call it waterless country.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In order to construct a railway across waterless country for a distance of something like 2,000 miles–

Sir John Forrest:

– No no.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am taking the whole distance from Fremantle to Adelaide,

And I say that to use the defence argument in favour of its immediate construction is to put the question on its weakest and most laughable ground. There is no doubt that in the future a railway to Western Australia, like a railway connecting Adelaide with the Northern Territory, or a line from Bourke across to the north-western corner of Australia, may be constructed. But it is of no use for the Government to play with the Western Australian people by pretending that this Interestate railway is really within the domain of practical politics.

Mr Fowler:

-The right -honorable member for East Svdney says that the line is within the domain of practical politics.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In my opinion, the right honorable member for East Sydney is no authority on such a question. The right honorable member, when he expressed the opinion, was a guest of the Western Australian people, and we all know that it is one of the conventions to say pleasant things to one’s hostess or host, even if we stretch the truth a little.

Mr Fowler:

– Western Australia will not forget the expression of opinion.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am sure that none of the honorable members for Western Australia regard the promise of the Government as a serious’ one. However glibly, with their tongues in their cheeks, they talk, to their constituents about the time when the great west shall become connected with the great east, they know in their hearts that such an undertaking is for future years. It is for that reason, I say, that the reference to the Inter-State railway is a piece of padding in the speech of His Excellency the Governor General. I do not want to go on at much greater length, but I should like to say a word about the mail contract. We are told that great companies like the P. and 0. and the Orient companies are to be compelled, if they are to retain their present subsidies, to change their black labour to white labour! I can quite understand, although I cannot altogether sympathize with the desire to keep Australia pure. That is an aspiration as to which I may keep my tongue in my cheek ; but for electioneering purposes it is a very fine cry. We have now measures designed to preserve a white Australia, and I hope we shall be all the better for our racial purity ; but it is proposed to take a step further in a direction which no man can call practical. It is ridiculous for us to say - “ We are . not content to keep Australia free - not only from alien races, but from our fellow subjects in other parts of the Empire - we must also insist on our shores not being contaminated by a steamer with black men aboard.” Is that not a most degrading sop to the wildest socialism of Australia 1 Why do we not say that we will not use anything touched by black hands 1 Why not, just as Mahomedans do in regard to Christians, refuse to touch a plate from which an alien has eaten 1 Why not go to these wild extremes ? These great steamship lines do not depend on Australia for their great profits.

Mr Thomas:

– Does Australia depend on them ?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No ; but we must depend on somebody to run our mails, and it is a question whether this cry for racial purity is going to be carried to such an extent that we shall be compelled to pay £200,000 or £300,000, or perhaps only £100,000, more in order to prevent any steamer coming to our ports with black men in the forecastle.

Sir William McMillan:

– This matter does not affect our racial purity.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The law was not passed on the ground of racial purity.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– On what ground was it passed ?

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– On the ground of getting British ships manned by British seamen.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Are British ships now manned by British men ? If the honorable member for South Sydney will look up any recognised authority, lie will find that a large proportion of the mercantile marine of England is manned by Germans, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and Scandinavians generally. That only shows that the British” ship-owner lias to run his ships on the most economical lines in competition with those of other countries. It means thatthegreat national asset of England, her mercantile shipping, of which we are never tired of boasting, must, if the conditions are unfair, go to the wall, and the marines of other countries be allowed to dominate us.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– White labour on these vessels is advocated by some of the most influential newspapers in England.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That may be so, but I do not think m’uch of the advocacy of newspapers ; it is usually coloured by subscribers and the editors’ motives.

Mr Kingston:

– And by advertisements.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– And by advertisements. The success of the merchant shipping of England depends on its being able to compete with other countries, and carry on its work with a moderate profit. We know that if instead of using foreign sailors, who seem to suit better and do the work for less wages, ship-owners were compelled to take Englishmen at higher rates of pay, it would mean that on one side of the balance-sheet there would be a much larger debit than there is at present. That increased debit must mean that the ship-owners cannot compete with . foreign ship-owners, and that the latter must finally dominate the shipping interests of the world. Do we want that? Is our desire to avoid contamination and to see ships manned wholly by white men so strong that we are prepared to pay £100,000 or £200,000 a year more to the mail steamers ? Are we satisfied to see English shipping go to the wall in competition with theshippingof other countries ? Are we satisfied toseethecarryingtradeinthe hands of German and French steamers, which are subsidized to three or four times the extent of the P. and O. or Orient steamers ?

Mr Fowler:

– The German and French steamers are manned wholly by Germans, and Frenchmen.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Very likely ; but I am talking of the business aspect of the question. Let ships be manned by pure Germans, pure Frenchmen, or pure Japanese; but it must be remembered they come here in competition with British ships. We propose now not only not to subsidize British shipping companies, but to place an incubus on them, and render their position more difficult than before. I may, of course, be wrong in the views I take. I know I am out of touch upon many of the great problems of the day with ninety-nine hundredths of honorablemembers, but this lean bear with the utmost good nature. 1 know that in many cases I beat the wind in this Chamber, and I sometimes feel like a child crying in the wilderness ; but I think I do sometimes strike a key-note which may send home an honorable member who will think that at least I mean what I say, and that there is, may be, some truth and genuineness in the suggestions I make.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I would like tosay, in order to put the other side of the shield, that I shall have the utmost pleasure in supporting the High Court Bill. I do not know whether honorable members think that after the speeches of the kind I make, there is much chance of any return being made to me for my supp-jrt. I think not ; at any rate I do not want any return. I shall give my hearty support to the proposed increased contribution to the naval deEences of the Empire. I cannot get over the great looming fact that Great Britain spreads her protecting wings over us, as she does over all parts of the Empire, and that she spendsannually about £32,000,000 on her navy. Great Britain -has a population of about 40,000,000, and the annual expenditure upon the British navy is about £34,500,000. If we take the white population of the Empire outside Great Britain at about 13,000,000, it will be seen that it is, roughly speaking, one-third of the population of Great Britain itself. Now, if we recognise that the Imperial navy, whatever may be the purposes of England, has the effect of guaranteeing the safety of our shipping, as well as that of England, to us and to every other part of the Empire, and of enabling us to live in quietness, without the fear of invasion by any one of the many peoples whom we by our legislation so openly insult, we must admit that our contribution should approach in some way a fair proportion according to population. But hitherto we have contributed only £120,000 a year, and it is now proposed that we shall contribute £200,000 a year, which is, roughly speaking, only one-fifteenth of what our contribution should be according to population.

Mr Conroy:

– -But we have no voice in determining questions of peace or war.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If it is contended that there should be no contribution without representation, or that the contribution must be in proportion to representation, I ask what would be our proportion of representation according to contribution? On our present contribution we should have only one representative in the House of Commons. But the views expressed by the representatives of Australia at the great Imperial consultations which are held from time to time, and at which both the head of the Government and the leader of the Opposition have within the last few years been present, exercise a far greater influence in the councils of the Empire than would be exercised by our proportional representation in the House of Commons. Why, then, should we quibble upon the question of representation? If we contributed in proportion to population, we might ask for an Imperial Parliament in which Australia should be represented : but if we were so represented we should be absolutely bound by the decisions of that body. Now, however, we are in the happy position of being able to offer advice and counsel to the Ministers of the Empire without responsibility. We have only recently had an instance of such action. The head of the Government promised the Secretary of State for the Colonies that ho would submit his preferential scheme of duties to this Parliament, but he has not clone so, and who can make him do so? But if au Imperial Parliament in which Australia was represented had taken the matter in hand, its decision would have to be complied with, and who can picture the friction which would have occurred here when it was found that we were bound at its dictation to consider the matter of preferential trade. The natural sympathy between Australis, and the mother country will be a sufficient bond between them for many years to come. We are not concerned with the desire of a great statesman to consummate his magnificent career by some large scheme if it does not coincide with our interests. 1 join heartily with the Government in their desire to increase the naval subsidy, and I hope that the time will not be long before we shall offer, according to our means, a much larger sum than we are offering now. Who can doubt that the people, of Australia, taking into consideration the condition of the daily lives of our population, are better able to contribute to a fund of this sort, man for man, than are the people of England, with their carping poverty and distress? ‘ That being so, are we not wanting in that great Imperial spirit of which we so often boast, when we fail to come forward and say - “ We will contribute our proportion to this great fund from which we derive so much comfort in the protection of our personal interests 1” I shall be very happy to support also any Defence Bill which is founded upon the recommendation of the most skilled men the Government can find, and to vote for the establishment of a High Commissioner in London. I favour, too, the adoption of uniform patent laws. We are apt to under-estimate the importance of uniform patent laws to the whole of Australia ; but the difficulties which, personally and professionally, I have known men to suffer in connexion with the registration of patents in Australia show me that much dishearten ment and disappointment occur under the present system. A. very simple Bill, to which no opposition-could be urged, might be passed, and its effect should be to encourage the inventive genius of the people of Australia, and to give us a better chance of industrial Success in the future. With these comments I conclude my remarks. Speaking generally, I shall be very glad, apart from the criticism I have offered, to give the Government every assistance - “ When I am here,” the Minister for Trade and Customs will say. He has the magnanimity never to fail to remind my constituents that I do not attend the meetings of the House as often as he does, but when, like him, I am offered a salary of £2,500 a year, I shall be willing to put aside my own private business, and devote myself as entirely to Commonwealth affairs as he does.

Mr KINGSTON:
South Australia. Minister for Trade and Customs. · Protectionist

– With regard to the concluding sentence of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I should like to say that I have never, when on the platform, made any references to his absence from this House, though in an exchange of courtesies now and again in this chamber I have called attention to the fact that he is not here so often as we should like to see him. I do not think that he need take exception to that statement.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Of course the right honorable member regrets the fact.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do. When he rose he indulged in remarks of a character which induced me to think that they called for some retort, but his subsequent observations were much more pleasant, so that I do not now think it necessary to reply to him in kind. The criticisms in which he indulged at the expense of the Government were of a very general character. His remarks ranged from the actions of the Imperial Government, and of one of the most distinguished statesmen of modern times - the Secretary of State for the Colonies - to those of our humble selves, and perhaps we should be pleased to be grouped with the Imperial Government, even in depreciatory criticism. In my opinion we have reason to be proud that a statesman of the calibre of Mr. Chamberlain has addressed himself to the question of preferential trade between the various parts of the Empire. The criticisms of gentlemen who have accepted the theory that in trade nothing but cheapness is to be valued, and who decline to give the slightest consideration to questions of Empire and kinship, are not likely to induce Australians to come, to a wrong conclusion as to the value of the action which is evidently now contemplated by the British Government. Sentiment, they say, rules the world, and sentiment, practically expressed, appeals to all j but sentiment which finds no expression in action is worthless. . What is the value of the talk about Imperial sentiment and of the ties which constitute the Empire in which we all believe in our hearts, if we are to know no citizenship so far as trade is concerned, and to recognize no distinction between those whose hands may be, and have been, raised in our defence in times of distress and difficulty, and those who at the earliest opportunity would drag the national, honour in the mud, and destroy our traditions and reputation ? May the time speedilycome .in which, as regards trade affairs, weshall be found willing to make some littlesacrifice for those who rightly claim to beour kith and kin, who subscribe to the sameconditions of commerce and labour as we do, and with whom practical expressions of friendship should exist. It is a source of great disappointment to many that hithertono preference has been shown by Great Britain to her colonies, or by her colonies to GreatBritain ; but may the ti me speediIy come when some arrangement in that direction may W made which will be satisfactory to both thereon.tracting parties. I do not forget our difficulties in the way of revenue, but ib is patent that we might give the United Kingdom preference over foreign countrieswithout any inexpedient loss of revenueby keeping our duties as they are, so far asEngland is concerned, and raising them against others whom we have no reason tosimilarly favour. What is the value of our patriotism -and imperialism if we do not differentiate between our brothers and thecitizens of the mother country, and thosewho would willingly bring about our downfall at the earliest opportunity ? Those whobrag about the connexion with the Empire, and refuse to give her people the slightest consideration, are undoubtedly open to blame. Consideration of the present position isbeing forced upon Britain by the action of” Canada, and I venture to think that British statesmen will rise to the occasion. What is the position ? Canada gave a preference to Great Britain without receiving anything in exchange.

Mr Conroy:

– She had the benefit of open ports.

Mr KINGSTON:

– She received nothing in a protectionist or reciprocally preferential commercial sense. What was. the further result? The benefits which Canada had previously enjoyed in relation to foreign trade, and which GreatBritain had also enjoyed and continued to enjoy, were taken from her by German retaliation. Thus Canada’s preferencefor her own mother country resulted in her being deprived of privileges whichshe had formerly enjoyed, and being subjected to disadvantages to which she had’ not previously been called upon to submit. Under such circumstances, British sentiment in relation to her colonies. has found practical expression in the words of the Prime Minister of England and Mr. Chamberlain. We find moreover that German)’ has practically retired from her position, and that Canada is not likely after all 10 be seriously penalized for the magnanimous attitude she assumed towards the mother land. The time has come of which we have ever)’ reason to be proud. We have also reason to regard with pride that statesman who has taken such a prominent part in this movement. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to Mr. Chamberlain as having resorted to a political dodge. The honorable member may know all about dodges, but he does not know very much about Mr. Chamberlain. I hope that there “will be no uncertain sound in this connexion, and that it will be made known, despite the outcry of free-trade faddists, that Australia appreciates what is proposed by Great Britain, and that she will welcome the day when the details can be worked out, and some satisfactory arrangement arrived at. At present the Government are subject to adverse criticism, because they have not proposed this, that, and the other ; but our present duty is to wait. The British Government intend to appeal to the country, and I venture to think that our duty is to wait, and to wish, and to hope, and to hold ourselves in readiness to support the mother country in every possible way. We should make it known at the earliest possible moment that Australia will be only too glad to take advantage of the opportunity which Britain proposes to give us. The Empire which does not recognise, in matters of this kind anything in the shape of citizenship, but treats the enemy of to-morrow in the same way as its friends and citizens of today, which does not concede the right of mutual consideration between citizens and mother country, which does not mark the distinction between foreigners and those who belong to it, cannot stand. Therefore, let us hope that such conditions of instability as do exist may be replaced at an early date by a better state of affairs, in which the national sentiment shall find practical expression by assent to proposals which it is evident the British Government propose to make at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr Wilks:

– The British Cabinet is divided on the subject.

Mr KINGSTON:

– -Really, after the statements which have been made by the two gentlemen who are at the head of the= British Cabinet, it would appear that the honorable member has spoken without reflection. When a declaration has been made on the floor of the House of Commons, by Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain, telling the whole world that the Cabinet are in agreement, what is the use of the feeble pipe of the honorable member for Dalley 1 - for whom, personally, of course I have the greatest respect.

Mr Wilks:

– The ballot-box will not speak with any feeble pipe.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! I must direct the attention of the honorable member for Dalley to his frequent disregard of the standing orders relating to interjections. I must ask him to discontinue these interruptions.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The British Government have acted in view of the elections, and have unfolded a programme of which their announcement relating topreferential trade will form a leading feature. Knowing what we do of the astuteness and statesmanship of the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain, it may be taken for granted that he feels that the Government programme is one which will appeal to the great heart of the British people. I venture to think that that programme will be appreciated, as it ought to be, here in Australia, and in the other colonies of the Empire, which have too long mourned the absence of some such proposal as that now put forward. I had intended to allow myself to say a few words at the expense of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, but in his absence I scarcely care to do so. I might, perhaps, say that it is a pity that the remarks of the honorable and learned member should be characterized by what is apparently - of course I may be mistaken - insufferable egotism. The honorable and learned member has associated the word “ hypocrite “ with the Prime Minister. Who believes for an instant that hypocrisy is a characteristic of my right honorable friend ? Then the honorable and learned member talks about “ swollen “ utterances. I do not know what is the worst thing that one could behold in the way of “ swelling visibly.” I believe that there would be a close contest between a pouter pigeon and a poisoned pup ; but these two representatives of the animal kingdom would hide their diminished heads in a competition with the honorable and learned member for Parkes when he rises to let himself loose. “ Hypocrisy!” “Swollen!” Do honorable members think that these are proper words to use in that connexion ?

Mr Wilks:

– They are quite as fitting as the’ right honorable gentleman’s reference to a poisoned pup.

Mr KINGSTON:

– On a dog matter, no doubt, the honorable member may be an able judge. The arguments of the honorable and learned member for Parkes were most inconsistent. First he found fault with the Prime Minister for administering the law, and afterwards rated him from a different point of view altogether for not administering it. The arguments of the honorable and learned member were mutually destructive. I contend that if a law is proposed in this House, those who are opposed to it should get up and fight against it. Do not let one honorable member say - “! was asleep,” or another say - “ I was not here.” It is the duty of all honorable members to be awake. It is their duty to be here. And if, as the result of their somnolence or absence, legislation is passed with which they cannot agree, or which, from their point of view, is injurious to the Commonwealth, they are all the more to blame. It does not become them to attend here at rare intervals, and then rate their fellow members who have been applying themselves to their work and who agree with the law. The honorable member for Parkes said that the law provided that immigrants were not allowed to come in here under contract unless the Prime Minister had ascertained that they were required. That is the law. Anybody who finds an expression of the popular will embodied in a Bill, and who disagrees with it, should strike at it immediately. If, however, the measure becomes an Act, no Minister can hold his seat and refuse to execute it without being a traitor to his country and the law. That law was intended to be executed.

Mr Thomson:

– It is not being carried out now.

Mr KINGSTON:

– It is. I venture to say that the law is being as thoroughly and faithfully executed as any Act ever was. Has the Government failed in its duty 1 We have the law for our direction, and it is interpreted by the honorable and learned member for Parkes as requiring the Prime Minister to do what he actually did. My right honorable colleague would have been a coward and a traitor if he had not done what he did. There was no dispute as to his duty. Are we to pass Acts simply to tickle the public ear, to offer the people something, and then snatch it from their grasp ? I say “ No.” I am proud to ser.ve under the Prime Minister, who is determined to keep the word of promise to the hope as well as to the ear. I desire to make some reference to the remarks which have fallen from honorable members as to certain Maoris having been prevented from entering the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister had nothing to do with the action that was taken in regard to them. He did not know anything about it until it was all over, because the stoppage which was suggested was of the purest technical character, and all those concerned were more than pleased with what was done. These Maoris were members of Fitzgerald’s circus troupe. On their arrival at night they were refused admission by the Customs officer, but when the matter was referred to the Collector of Customs next morning an exemption certificate for three months was issued immediately. What more do honorable members want ? The Customs officer executed the law, and the next morning an exemption was granted by the collector. A telegram which was received on the subject goes further, and states- - “Fitzgerald Bros, express ‘themselves as perfectly satisfied, but wish extension for twelve months.” The extension was given immediately, and a further notification was conveyed to Messrs. Fitzgerald that if they wanted anything else in that connexion it would be done. There is no doubt aboutour sentiments in connexion with the admission of immigrants. Of course,. Maoris are treated in a manner entirely different from aboriginals of Australia. We have specially exempted them, and very properly, from the prohibition which attaches to aboriginals in connexion with the franchise. As regards the fuss which has been made in this connexion, I say that it clearly reveals the fact that the Prime Minister did his duty ; aye, and he is always prepared to do his duty.

Mr Winter Cooke:

– Under what authority is a temporary permit granted 1

Mr.KINGSTON.- Under the authority of the Immigration Restriction Act. I could not avoid laughing when the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who really ought to know all about history, because he looks so like it, sneered at Mr. Chamberlain, and asked - “What does he know, seeing that he has visited only Crown colonies “ ? Good gracious ! What about Cape Colony and Natal ? Are they merely Crown colonies ?

Mr Mahon:

– Their Constitutions are suspended so that the honorable and learned member was perfectly correct.

Honorable Members. - No, no.

Mr KINGSTON:

-I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie will find that his statement is incorrect, and that both colonies possess constitutional government.

Mr Mahon:

– Their Constitutions were suspended during the recent war.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Do they not possess responsible government? When Mr. Chamberlain was there, were they not so governed ?

Mr Mahon:

– I do not know.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The honorable member does know, and ought to acknowledge that that is so. Open confession is good for the soul, and I believe that the withdrawal of the stigma cast upon Natal and Cape Colony by the suggestion of the honorable and learned member far Parkes that they’ are Crown colonies, will be performed by him with all possible despatch. At different times various hard things have been said about myself. I have listened with interest to a number of them, and I should like to say a word or two in regard to those criticisms. I confess that I was fairly pleased to find that, though the language used by some of my critics was intended to be severe, the reception given to it by the House showed unmistakably that honorable members were not disposed to believe that I would wittingly treat one man differently from another.

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

– Hear, hear.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I feel certain of that, and I wonder, therefore, why one or two honorable members did not say a little less than they did. The principal suggestion which has been made is founded upon a petition presented by the Colonial Sugar Company. The effect of that suggestion undoubtedly is that in the collection of excise upon sugar I have treated one company’ differently from another. All I can say is that I have never done anything of the sort.

Mr Thomson:

– I made no insinuation that such treatment was intended. I stated that I did not know the facts.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am not complaining of the observations of the honorable member for North Sydney. I know perfectly well that he did not suggest an improper act, or that I had dealt with one company in a way different from that in which I had treated another.

Mr Conroy:

– Some people suggest that.

Mr KINGSTON:

– And it is not worth while taking any notice of some of those people. The allegations contained in the petition from the Colonial Sugar Company is -

That’ whilst stocks of purchased sugar held by the company in their free stores were seized and levied on, no excise or other duty was levied on stocks in other factories, expressly referred to as coming under the operation of the Excise Acts, nor were such stocks seized, though those in breweries were under Customs supervision, and were subsequently used in the production of beer, under Customs authority.

It then proceeds to particularize as follows -

That although the company s stock of refined sugar in their free store was seized and excise levied thereon, a larger quantity, the property of the Millaquin and Yengarie Sugar Company, and other white sugars, made and owned by . Gibson and Howes, H. E. and A. Young, the Nerang Central Sugar Mills, and Wood Brothers and Boyd, all at the time in the stock, custody and possession of the said manufacturers respectively, were not seized, but were permitted to be delivered free of of excise, such sugar amounting in all to over 9,000 tons, and liable therefore - if your petitioners’ stocks were rightly seized - to duty in the amount of £27,000 was allowed by an officer of Customs to be sold and distributed in the State of Queensland without the payment of excise which was levied on the stocks of your petitioners, and without, so far as your petitioners can ascertain, any inquiry by the Customs department as to the quantity ofsugar thus held, or the places in which such sugar was stored.

I am sure that honorable members will not come to the conclusion that the Millaquin Company, Messrs Gibson, Howes, and others, were allowed’, to clear their sugar free.

Mi-. Thomson. - Not clear it.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am satisfied that honorable members will not believe that any differentiation whs made between the mills. If I were guilty of such conduct as that, I would not stand here. I would not face the House. I say, further, that if I thought any section of the House worthy of the name, believed that I could be guilty of such conduct I should be sorry indeed, and glad enough to justify myself at any time or place. This matter has been repeatedly explained. It was the subject of discussion time and again last year in the Senate.

Mr Thomson:

– Who gave the explanation of it ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– The Vice-President of the Executive Council. It was on the Sth of October, 1901, that we imposed the sugar excise. That was the date upon which the Tariff was introduced. Part of the 1901 season, therefore, which commenced in June or Jul)7, had expired. There was bound to be some sugar which had passed into consumption, and which it was impossible to pursue into the teacup, or even into the private store. What we decided to do was to seize all that was in the factories or in stores belonging to them.

Mr Thomson:

– The law says in the “ stock, custody, or possession.”

Mr KINGSTON:

– The honorable member will recollect that on the Sth of October, 1901, there was no law in existence. We did not enact legislation upon this subject till some months after. The Tariff Excise Bill was not drafted until some time earl)’ in 1902. Therefore, we had to. consider what we should do. It was a moot question whether or not we should collect duty upon sugar which had been manufactured prior to the introduction of the Tariff. We therefore decided advisedly to seize all the sugar in the excise factories and refineries, and in the mills belonging to them, and resolved, as regards the other, to await the authority of Parliament, which we hoped to receive in due course-

Sir William McMillan:

– Was that fair to the other companies ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes. We could not pursue sugar which had gone into consumption before the Sth of October. We could deal only with that which remained for consumption.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The Minister has given his whole case away.

Mr.KINGSTON.- The honorable member for Wentworth will allow me to finish my remarks before he comes to such a delightful conclusion upon the whole subject. I was” informed that the Colonial Sugar

Company complained of some action of mine! in this connexion.

Mr Thomson:

– On the 18th of October.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not think it was so early as that. What was done ? The Comptroller-General, who heard of thematter in Sydney, telegraphed at once thatno difference was to be made between thetreatment accorded to the Colonial Sugar Company and that meted out to any ether company. When it got to my ears-

Mr Conroy:

– Did not the Minister know of it before?

Mr KINGSTON:

– When the matterreached my ears I spoke to my officer in warm terms, which are not likely to beforgotten. I issued instructions that thesame treatment was to be accorded to all, and that course has been adopted from beginning to end.

Sir William McMillan:

– It is questionable whether that instruction was carried out-

Mr KINGSTON:

– When the petition was forwarded in September last, Mr. Lockyer was Acting Comptroller-General,, and he telegraphed-

Mr Thomson:

– That was after several communications had been made upon thematter.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I would point out tohonorable members that several attacks havebeen made on the Minister during the course-, of this debate, and, for example, no later than last evening, there was not a whisper heard when the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking. In common fairness I ask that the Minister shall be allowed to proceed without interruption.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I have searched high and low for all the communications that itis possible to obtain in this connexion. I have a number of them here, and I think I shall be able to show enough of them tosatisfy honorable members generally. Thesting of the petition is to be found in theallegation that certain men have been singled out for special treatment. Nothing of thesort. All have -been treated alike. As I was saying, the Acting Comptroller-General, wired -

Colonial SugarRefining Company have petitioned Governor-General re excise on sugarcharged on stocks of raw and refined sugar manufactured and purchased by company before dateof introduction of Tariff, and held by company in Queensland in free stores, which were not subjectto customs or excise control prior to introduction of Tariff. Petition sets out that while thecompany’s stocks were charged excise, the stocks: of sugar in breweries and other excise factories mentioned in the Excise Act were not charged excise. Petition further alleges that a large quantity of sugar, the property of Millaquin and Yengarie Company, and other white sugar owned by Gibson and Howes, H. E. and A. Yuung, the Nerang Central Mill, and Wood Bros, and Boyd, all the time in their stock , custody, and possession on the introduction of the Tariff, was not charged excise, but was delivered free. Petition states this sugar amounted to over nine thousand tons. Minister desires immediately full report as to these allegations, especially re that of discrimination between the mills, which he cannot believe has occurred.

The following reply was sent by Mr.

Irving: -

Brisbane, 20th Septembsr, 1902. Sir, - I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your wire of the Kith instant re the petition of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to the Governor-General, and the Minister’s instructions for a full report upon, the allegations, and especially that of discrimination between the mills.

  1. “That while the company’s stocks were charged excise, the stocks of susrar in breweries and other excise factories mentioned in the Excise Act were not charged excise.”

In reply to the above I have to state that, on the receipt of a confidential wire dated 3rd October, 1901, from the Comptroller-General, viz., “ Act as if excise duty will be collected on sugar from 9th instant, and see necessary arrangements for officers taking stock, &c, are made. “

Officers were instructed accordingly on the 8th October, and the stocks of sugar were taken in all factory and refinery premises in the State on the morning of the 9th idem.

Do honorable members see what that means ? Just fancy an officer discriminating, or an instruction being given to treat one mill differently from another ! Show me the man who ever dreamt of such a thing and you” show me a dishonest man. The com- municationcontinues–

That is a large quantity. The Millaquin and Yengarie Company had S,283 tons, and it is difficult to see where there was any preference. We are further informed that the sugar in 5S factories amounted to 2,136 tons, and that the total collection, noting the holding, was on 16,S03 tons. There was absolutely no discrimination whatever; indeed, if anything, the facts show that the Millaquin and Yengarie Company were harder hit than were those who called attention to the matter..

Mr Thomson:

– That firm could not be hit harder if it had the quantity of sugar.

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– I mean the firm were hit harder in that duty had to be paid on nearly 8,000 tons, whilst the company who complained had to pay duty on only 5,000 tons.

Mr Thomson:

– What about the 9,000 tons?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Probably this sugar was got out before the 8th of October; we know how smart merchants are, and we did not feel justified in seizing sugar which was not in the factory or its store. It is one thing to go to a mill store, and another thing to pursue sugar all over the country into merchants’ private stores, or into private houses. We did what was right when we took that which we could get, and which bore on its face primd facie evidence of ownership by the manufacturer. We did not try to do what was unreasonable or impracticable, but we did what was our duty. If we find out that there was any dutiable sugar belonging to any mills at that time, we shall be only too pleased to collect the revenue without a moment’s delay.

Mr Thomson:

– May I point out that all that is asked for is an inquiry ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am now giving the results of an inquiry ; at any rate this matter has been inquired into time and again. The question was fought out in the Senate, as the papers in my possession prove, in June, 1902, almost a year ago. The following question was asked in the Senate : -

  1. Whether it is true, as alleged by the Colonial Sugar Befining Company, that no excise duty was levied on large quantities of sugar in stock, enstody, or possession of, or belonging to, the manufacturers thereof, and stored in their premises at Bundaberg and Brisbane, on the Sth October last, while the sugar in the possession of the said company was made liable to the excise duty paid on the above date.
  2. If so, what was the reason for such differential treatment.

The reply was -

There was no differential treatment. Customs Control was taken of all sugar in the possession of manufacturer on their factory premises. It was not found practicable to do this as regards sugar which had leftthe factory, and which appeared to have gone into consumption except on InterState transfer.

Mr Thomson:

– The sugar referred to had not got into consumption.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I know the honorable member for North Sydney is a reasonable man, and I know lie will follow me when I say that there was a risk of losing our proposal for the duty on the stuff which had been passed into consumption before the 8th of October ; and we were perfectly justified in doing what we did in regard to the sugar in stock. To follow the sugar into the merchants’ stores is a step which I am sure the honorable member would not have cared to take unless fortified by legislative authority.

Mr Thomson:

– Will the Minister allow me? We are not concerned with sugar which had gone into merchants’” stores, but with sugar which was in the refiners’ possession.

Mr KINGSTON:

– As to that, the Sugar Company admits that they had 50 tons of sugar which we did not touch, because it was not our policy to interfere with what had gone from the mills or their stores.

Mr Page:

– Why not make the petitioners give evidence ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– If I can find there is any sugar which, under the larger powers given by the Act, we can take, and which has not been taken, it shall be taken. It is absurd- to suggest that I exercised a preference for somebody of whom I had never heard : indeed, had I heard of him, it would only have made the matter worse. My desire, as every one knows, is to get the revenue due to the Commonwealth, and it seems so preposterous to haul me over the coals for acting upon that desire, that I might almost apologize for lingering longer on the subject. My policy is to get revenue any where I possibly and rightly can, and the man who can justly lay a charge against me of any laxity or want of vigilance must have found me in a mood altogether unusual. This matter has been discussed almost to nauseousness elsewhere, and I think I have a right to complain of the suggestions which undoubtedly have been conveyed to the House.

Mr Wilks:

By whom ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I mean specially by the presentation of the petition.

Mr Wilks:

– That is another matter.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not blame any one, but I feel sure that no member who was a party to the presentation of the petition knew that the matter had been threshed out.

Mr Thomson:

– What was the date of the threshing out?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I have the date here, and I should like to show the malign ity, with which’ this complaint has been pursued. Any honorable member, I do not care’ on which side of the House, would resent an accusation of the character which has been made against my administration. On the loth of May last year an honorable member of another place asked why one particular company should be singled out, while every other company and importer escaped. Is that allegation borne out by the facts and figures I ha ve to-night laid before honorable members 1 The Collector of Customs in Queensland was brought down to Melbourne, in order that this matter might be fully explained. Senator Millen in his place said -

Duty was not collected on similar sugar which was held in Queensland by the Millaquin and Yengarie Com puny - which, I understand, is really the Queensland National Bank - H. E. and A. Young, Gibson and Howes, and by Woods Bros, and Boyd. These people I understand held between them 8,000 tons, and while that quantity was allowed to go free of excise duty, a quantity of 2,584 tons, held by the Colonial Sugar Company, was charged duty.

Further on, Senatpr Millen said -

In the absence of a specific denial of my statement, I venture to say that even Senator O’Connor will not attempt to defend an act of administration which shows snch partiality or discrimination,

Senator O’Connor. There was no duty levied on sugar in stores, but the sugar in all factories and refineries were levied on.

Senator MILLEN. Of course a great deal depends on what is the definition of a store. In this particular case, a duty was levied on goods which were in a store, and not in a bond at all.

Senator O’Connor. I draw no distinction between stores and factories. Sugar in stores not connected with factories or refineries was allowed to go free.

What more explanation is wanted than that - given a year ago ? Senator O’Connor also said -

But at the same time the Sugar Company are not entitled to be placed in a different position from any other body, or corporation, or individuals, and I propose to deal with the subject simply as if it were an individual who thought he had a right to some redress for some injury.

This is what he also said during the discussion of the Bill in the Senate : -

We must take it that under constitutional usage sugar on the 8th October was an excisable article. Therefore, subject to this law, and according to the exact letter of the law, sugar, wherever it was, and could have been followed, no matter whether it was in private houses, or warehouses, or stores. That, in the first place, was unnecessary. It was also unworkable and impracticable to carry it out with any sort of fairness. A line, therefore, had to be drawn for the protection of the revenue.

The matter was thoroughly fought out when the 2nd clause of the 5th section of the Excise Tariff Bill was before the Senate, and honorable members know that the intention of the Government was carried into effect.

Mr Thomson:

– The Act speaks of the stock or “in possession.”

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes ; but that was not the original provision on the Sth October, 1901 . We had not then formulated precisely what we were going to do ; but we adopted an easily explainable and just rule as to seizure. To continue the quotation from Mr. Irving’s letter from which I was reading -

These sugars were all’ placed under Customs control on the morning of the 9th October, and on being delivered for home consumption, were charged excise duty.

None of the sugar we seized, including the 6,000 tons belonging to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, went into consumption until the duty was paid.

Mr Thomson:

– Was any sugar seized on board ships ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not think so. Mr. Irving proceeds -

With regard to stocks of sugar in breweries and distilleries on Sth October, these were not taken, as no intimation had been received to that effect, and no copy of the Excise Tariff Act was received here until 1st July, 1902, which was wired for to Melbourne by the Comptroller-General when here.

I took the opinion of the Attorney-General as to the true interpretation of the Excise Act in regard to the durability of sugar in a brewery, because I wanted to know the best way to recover any amount for which it was liable. The Act imposes duties of excise upon -

All goods dutiable under the schedule . . . in the stock, custody, or possession of, or belonging to, any brewer, distiller, manufacturer, or renner thereof.

If the word “thereof” were not in the section, I take it that sugar in possession of a brewer would be dutiable, but it apparently refers to the whole group of excisable articles, so that the section seems to speak of beer in the possession of a brewer, tobacco in the possession of a manufacturer, spirits in the possession of a distillery and sugar in the possession of a factory or refinery. That is the way in which we have administered it. Mr. Irving goes on -

In my wire to you of 24th July, 1902, it was stated that the breweries held 219 tons 16 Cwt,

We would have levied the duty if we had been entitled to it. He continues -

My letter of 26th August brings this under your notice in connexion with the Excise Tariff Act, and asks for instructions. There was no sugar in the distilleries on Sth October, molasses only being used by spirit-makers in this State.

Mr. Irving then deals with the following statement : -

  1. “That a largo quantity of sugar, amounting to over 9,000 tons, thB property of Millaquin and Yengarie Sugar Company, and other ‘ white ‘ sugars owned by Gibson and Howes, A. H. and E. Young, the Nerang Central Mill, and Wood Bros, and Boyd, all the time in their stock, custody, and possession, on the introduction of the Tariff, was not charged excise, but was delivered free.”

In reply, he says -

I have to state that all sugars found in the factories or factory premises of the persons referred to by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, was taken possession of on the morning of 9th October, and found to be as follows : -

None of this sugar was delivered free of Excise duty ; no discrimination was made between any sugar factories and refineries.

No one reading the petition, and particularly the references which contrast the attitude adopted towards the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with the way in which these sixty other people were treated would believe for a moment that they were treated as this letter shows, all in the same way and in the only reasonable way in which they could have been treated. No doubt a considerable quantity of sugar got into consumption before the Sth of October.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– What does the right honorable member mean by “consumption “ 1

Mr KINGSTON:

– It was sold, or got to places where it would not be worth while to follow it, It was not in any factory.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The right honorable member does not refer to sugar in a store?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I would not hesitate to charge duty upon sugar stored by a manufacturer. If the sugar crop in Queensland in that year was 120,000 tons - though I do not think it was so much - would it not have- been only natural that at least 20,000 tons would have got into consumption by the Sth October. My officials have gone thoroughly into the matter, and we cannot find that more than 15,000 tons had got into consumption by that time, though we can account for pretty well the whole of the crop for that year. Mr. Irving continues -

With regard to the quantity of over 9,000 tons of sugar said to be in the possession of the persons named on the introduction of the Tariff, and delivered. free of duty, a large quantity of sugar, estimated to be 16,000 tons (see my wire of 17th instant), had been removed from the factories, and was stored in merchants1 premises and other places, not being factory premises, throughout the State ; but the department has no knowledge to whom it belonged. This sugar was not taken possession of on the 9th October, and in connexion therewith I beg to refer you to the following wires between the Comptroller-General and myself : -

Of course, directly I heard the suggestion that there had been discrimination, I gave instructions that a full inquiry should be made. This is the first telegram, which was sent by the Comptroller-General from Sydney, on 28th October, 1901 :-

Stated that some persons have large stocks of sugar which are escaping Excise whereas Colonial Sugar Company are charged. Is this so ? There ought to be no distinction. Reply to Melbourne.

To that telegram Mr Irving sent the following reply : - ife sugar stocks removed from mills prior to 9th instant, and stored warehouses, wharfs, &c, have not been treated as liable to Excise. Sse your wires of 9th and 10th instant. Colonial Sugar Company had large stocks in their refinery, which have been detained in common with stocks in other factories. See also my letter 22nd October, 1901, re Gibson’s applications.

Mr Thomson:

– It was not all actually in the refinery, but in the premises adjoining.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The Excise Act gives this very wide definition of a factory :- “ Factory “ means the premises on which any person is licensed to manufacture excisable goods, and includes all adjoining premises used in connexion therewith or with the business of the manufacturer.

I think that that definition abundantly justifies all that we have done.

Mr Thomson:

– Was not some sugar taken out of the refinery before the duty was imposed, and brought back afterwards ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am obliged to the honorable member for reminding ‘me of that fact. It got out before the Sth October, 1901, but when I saw Mr. Gibson and Mr. Young during my Queensland trip, I was not aware that I had impounded their sugar. However, here is my ruling on the subject, in my own handwriting, which he who runs may read -

If, as I understand, this sugar was manufactured bv Messrs. Young Bros, before the Sth October, 1901, and that on the Sth October, 1901, it still belonged to them, it is undoubtedly dutiable under paragraph (ft) of section 5 of the Excise Act 1902. This- applies to all sugar belonging to the manufacturer thereof on the Sth October. , 1901, notwithstanding it may not be in his possession on that date or afterwards returned to his possession.

Mr. Young promptly paid the duty, and we are doing, our best to find out any other sugar that was removed while it still belonged to the manufacturer.

Mr Thomson:

– That is what is asked for.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am only too glad to do this, but I am afraid we shall not find very much.

Mr Thomson:

– The Sugar Company and the Sydney Chamber of Commerce are willing to assist the Minister by giving evidence on oath at any inquiry he may hold.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I shall only be too glad if they will give us any information that may be in their power. It would be idle for us to appoint a Royal commission to hold an inquiry. If we have a willing horse we do not need to flog him, and those who are willing to give information can supply it by making a statutory declaration. Do honorable members suppose that I do not wish to catch those, if any, who are escaping the payment of duty ? My desire, is to make the Customs revenue look as well as I can, and I venture to apply to my right honorable colleague the Treasurer for a certificate on that point.

Sir George Turner:

– The right honorable gentleman has been so vigilant that he has quite upset my estimates.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes ; because I brought in more revenue than was expected. I would ask honorable members to consider the attacks to which I have been subjected by some of my critics here. I am not complaining

Mr Thomson:

– The Minister can give a Roland for an Oliver.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am not going to complain about the honorable member for North Sydney. I wish I was able to obtain from other honorable members benefits similar to those which I derive from the experience of the honorable member, which I know is always at my disposal. Preposterous statements have been made regarding me as a Minister. I take some pride in the position I occupy, and I have a desire to collect all the revenue that is due, and I know neither friend nor foe in connexion with my office. I have made my explanation, and I feel convinced that honorable members will consider that not the slightest discredit attaches to me. I need only say, further, that it was not without some difficulty that we made up our minds as to the proper way in which to treat this matter. I conferred with some of ‘ my colleagues on the subject, and we came to the conclusion that the plan that was adopted as regards seizing sugar in factories which had been made before the Tariff was brought into operation - when we knew where it was and to whom it belonged - was the proper one to adopt. We have the Act to work upon now, and as soon as it was passed, the Collector of Customs for Queensland was informed, and I believe that he has faithfully carried it out ever since. If, however, there is anything that remains to be collected it will be brought into the revenue as soon as possible. With regard to the general criticism to which the customs administration has been subjected, I may take up my parable from some of the words which were used by the honorable and learned member for Parkes. He said that an understanding was arrived at in the House that no prosecutions should be entered upon except in cases of fraud. There was nothing of the sort, and there was never any ground whatever for that suggestion. The Bill was framed on an altogether different principle, because it discriminated between cases where there was fraud, and those in “which there was no fraud. For fraud a double penalty was provided, and we were required to expressly allege fraud whenever it was intended to suggest it. If I had charged fraud in the various cases which have been referred to, I should have been worthy of the criticisms in which some honorable members have indulged , but in very few cases, indeed, has fraud been charged. On the contrary, I have been accused of having initiated prosecutions in cases where no fraud was suggested, and time and again the counsel for the department has announced in court that no fraud was charged. I arranged for this from a consideration of the first criticisms which were passed upon me, in which it was stated that unless the fact that . no fraud was charged was mentioned in court, the public would not know whether there was fraud or not. Instructions were issued that the position was to be stated in court, although it was not necessary that such a course should be taken.

Sir William McMillan:

– Does the Minister contend that the Act must be put into force in every case ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– No, I do not,

Sir William McMillan:

– Then I do not see the relevance of the right honorable gentleman’s explanation.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not see the force of my honorable friend’s interjection.

Sir William McMillan:

– What I say is that if the Minister could exercise discretionary power and refrain from taking action in the courts, why did he force people there in cases where no fraud was alleged?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Because in some cases hideous carelessness was indulged in.

Sir William McMillan:

– In one case out of many involving altogether the payment of £25,000 to the revenue.

Mr KINGSTON:

– My honorable friend’s memory is very much at fault. I desire to call his attention to the fact that I have been taunted with prosecuting in cases where there have been errors on either side and a balance in favour of the department. That charge was made against me in another place, and it was supported by the quoted testimony of the honorable member for Wentworth that this had happened to him. That statement has been repeated time and, again, even to my own colleagues, and I assert that it has not an atom of fact to support it.

Sir William McMillan:

– The Minister is not stating the case correctly. The Minister knows that although it was stated that the case was connected with my own firm, I said that it belonged to another, but the facts remain the same. It was a pure error when it was represented that the matter was connected with my firm in Sydney. .

Mr KINGSTON:

- Senator Pulsford first referred to the Fuller Carrying Company, and as an additional make-weight, he quoted the case of the honorable member’s firm, but the honorable member freely admits now that that was a mistake.

Sir William McMillan:

– I did so, long ago.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes, after months of delay and repetition.-

Sir William McMillan:

– No, at the very moment I found out.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The honorable member went away to England first.

Sir William McMillan:

– No; I admitted it before I went to England. The Minister is mistaken.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I twas when the Minister for Defence came back from England. Senator Pulsford referred to the Fuller case, which was really the only case in which even a pretence could be made that there was a balance in favour of the Customs. Let me say further, that it was not proved that there was a balance of error in favour of the Customs.

Mr Thomson:

– It was admitted.

Mr KINGSTON:

– No ; it was not admitted. We could not go into the matter. The prosecution was instituted in respect to a short payment; and it was not until we got into court that anything in the shape of a set-off was urged. That matter could not be investigated, because the point should have been raised when the goods could be inspected. No claim could have been entertained for the refund of the money, and the suggestion of the error in favour of the Customs appeared to be a lawyer’s device, resorted to at the last gasp. The issue as to the over payment was not tried, but was rejected by the court. The sworn testimony in the shape of the entry had been accepted, and there was a 3hort payment, which we proved up to the hilt; but at the last moment the solicitor’s ingenuity suggested an over-payment which would more than counterbalance the shortage. The court would not look into the matter, but fined the defendant in respect to the shortage.

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

– Did the Minister look into the matter ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– No. I could not do so, because certain goods are charged at a certain rate of duty, and when a point of this kind is raised, we want to see the goods and find out what they are-

Mr Thomson:

– Not if it is a manifest error.

Mr KINGSTON:

– We accepted the entry, but for the sake of discrediting his own entry, the defendant proposed to deny the correctness of that to which he had sworn. I say that that was the only case of its kind, and Senator Pulsford was entirely wrong in saying that, not only was there the Fuller case, but also that of McArthur and Co. The testimony of the honorable member for Wentworth, in a matter of this kind, would, no doubt, carry great weight. The tale as told by Senator Pulsford has spread all over the place, and I was not able to trace it to its source until I saw a report of a debate which took place in Sydney; and noticed that an old friend of mine had been making some most extraordinary statements about men having been sued when the balance was on the side of the Customs. I wrote to him about these statements, and found that they were supported by an authoritative announcement by the honorable member for Wentworth. Hence the statement of Senator Pulsford regarding McArthur and Co., whereas the only case was that of the Fuller Carrying Company. I do not suggest that the honorable member for Wentworth would wilfully state what he did not believe in, but the circulation of such a report shows that the wish is often father to the thought, and that one often imagines wrongs that never occur. I do not know that I have unnecessarily introduced personal matters affecting politics into this discussion. Probably the honorable member for Wentworth will seize an early opportunity to mention that what is alleged did not happen to him, as the people of Sydney, from what I have heard, undoubtedly believe to be the case.

Sir William McMillan:

– I obtained the evidence of certain cases. I do not deal with my own business in this House.

Mr Thomson:

– The case existed all the same.

Mr KINGSTON:

– There were not two cases but only one, and that was Fuller’s case, which I have already disposed of. The suggestion that the Act was to be confined to cases of fraud was never made. On the contrary, express legislative provision was made for differentiating between the two classes of cases. I have pointed out, time and again, .that in very few instances are proceedings instituted for fraud.

Mr McDonald:

– What about the Robert Reid case ?

Mr Thomson:

– That firm was not charged with fraud.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I say that the firm in question was charged with fraud, and that the jury found it guilty of the charge preferred against it. I do not intend to differentiate as to blame, and it is not my disposition to bother my head beyond the discharge of my duty. In the discussion of these cases, I have not exhibited bitterness towards any individual, I feel sure. I simply do my best to faithfully discharge my duty. I have issued instructions that a man is not to be charged with fraud unless upon clear evidence, but that in such cases no pains are to be spared to punish the offender. I do not wish to discuss anything in the nature of personal matters, but I may be permitted to ask what was the way in which I was met a year or two ago in the discussion of this question when I brought up the name of Robert Reid and Co. 1 When I was attacked for instituting proceedings against this firm for the recovery of 6s., what was put ? The idea that that firm could be guilty of any irregularity was scouted as preposterous. I believe that what I did upon that occasion was right, and that the merchants of Tasmania spoke out with good cause, although at the time it was suggested that I was little less than a maniac for impugning the action of the firm in question.

Mr Thomson:

– If that were a case of fraud, the Minister ought to have taken stronger action.

Mr KINGSTON:

-There was not sufficient evidence to prove fraud in that case, but in the light of subsequent evidence, how does the taunt against me lie in the mouths of those who criticised me 1 The firm has been proved guilty of fraudulent practice. “Under such circumstances, how long shall I be taunted with the cry - “ It is a respectable firm of long standing and integrity ; let it escape.”

Mr Thomson:

– That was never suggested.

Mr Fisher:

– Why, the Chamber of Commerce declared that it was a persecution.

Mr Conroy:

– There were a thousand reasons for not prosecuting in that case.

Sir William McMillan:

– As the Minister will probably occupy some considerable time in completing his speech, probably this will be a convenient opportunity to adjourn for dinner.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I shall feel greatly obliged if that can be done.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The House will no doubt extend to- the Minister the courtesy which was extended last week, under similar circumstances, to the leader of the Opposition. [Mr. Speaker left the chair at 6.8 p.m.; sitting resumed at 7.30 p.m.]

Mr KINGSTON:

– The honorable member for North Sydney threw some little doubts on my suggestion as to the use which was attempted to be made of the name of the firm of Robert- Reid and Co., when the Tasmanian case was under discussion.

Mr Fowler:

– The doubts have all been dissipated.

Mr KINGSTON:

– As the honorable member for Perth points out, the old doubts at this particular moment have all been dissipated, but to prevent their return I should like to place on record the facts. When I spoke of the’ Tasmanian case I was by no means attempting to impugn the honour of an)’ person or firm, but I did not hesitate to point out that I was justified in saying that the revenue was “ got at.” There was immediately an attempt made to scout the idea on account of the respectability of the firm, a respectability which to all outward intent I was content to admit. I referred to Robert Reid and Co. as a firm held in as high honour as any, but I was justifying their being tackled, when the necessities of the case appeared to require it, as I hope I shall always do, whatever firms, big or little, may be involved. Speaking on that occasion, I said -

What happened ‘! A declaration was made as regards about £16 worth of goods that were intended to be sent to Tasmania, that they consisted of ±’3 worth of imported material, and that the added value given to them by the Victorian manufacturer was .-£13. That was not true.

Mr Thomson:

– There was only fis. difference.

Mr KINGSTON:

– We may “regard the tradebetween Victoria and Tasmania as of a retail character, and our attention was called to this case because it was found than Tasmanian merchants were being “got at,” owing to their beingdeprived of the protection to which they wereentitled under the Constitution.

Sir William McMillan:

– Does the Minister mean that Messrs. Reid and Co. deliberately did this?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I mean to say that they did “get at” the Tasmanian merchants, whetherthey intended to or not.

Sir William McMillan:

– That is absurd.

Mr Thomson:

– If that is the view the Ministertakes, it shows where the trouble comes from.

If that is not attacking me for suggesting that this firm was capable of “getting at” the revenue, I do not know what it is. I do not believe that that criticism would be indulged in to-day, when I feel still further justified in the action which I then took. On that same occasion I called attention to the reports of the Tasmanian State-collector, Mr. Barnard, who stated -

If the quantities and values taken out by the experts here are correct - with regard to the item on the attached copy of certificate - it would show that gome of these certificates are totally unreliable ; and in the interests of this State some -action should be taken against those persons who make these declarations falsely. Otherwise the revenue of this State must be seriously affected.

Sir William McMillan:

– What does he mean by “falsely!” Knowing them to be false?

Mr.KINGSTON. - I will read what Mr. Barnard said -

In the case in point, the dutiable material from which the cotton apparel is stated to hare been manufactured, is declared to on the certificate as of value£32s.11d., and the cost of manufacture at £1311s., whereas the experts here agree that the material used cannot be of less value than £618s6d., taking the value at bare American cost, thus defrauding the revenue of the duty on £3 15s. 7d., plus 10 per cent.

That, I think, would prevent the two honorable members to whom I have referred, indulging in similar criticism to-day ; and in the light of subsequent events I feel even more justified in the course which I then took, and which the House’ was prepared to indorse. It is no pleasure to me to institute prosecutions. I do not want the fines, and I do not care to see men disgraced by convictions for fraud : but, holding the position I do, my duty is clear, and I will do it, looking to the House for justification. Those who assert that I proclaim myself the only honest Minister say that which is not true. There have been many honest Ministers who have done their best, but having the benefitof the advice and the experience available to an Australian Minister responsible for six States - advice and experience which were not available in the case of State Ministers - I see more of what goes on and know more of what ought to be done than was naturally the case in the isolated States. I do not for one moment attribute to Australian merchants any general failing in comparison with British merchants. Australian merchants are worthy of the highest reputation which British merchants deservedly enjoy : and those who say that I have spoken ill of my Australian friends and the people to whom I belong, in the way of making comparisons with the merchants of other countries, say that which is not. I am proud of the country to which I belong, and have every cause to be proud. I am proud of our merchants and all classes and conditions of men within the Commonwealth. But we all know that in the matter of smuggling and offences against the revenue there is a lax idea in nearly all communities which we do not find in connexion with other matters. “ Getting at “ the Government has been thought to be a comparatively venial offence. I do not know what may generally be thought of such offences, but a Customs Minister ought to lay himself out to prevent them.

Sir William McMillan:

– But not to trap people.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I have been clothed with the necessary power, and I regard it as a trust to be honestly and vigilantly exercised.

Sir William McMillan:

– With common sense.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes; with common sense, in order to prevent not only fraud, instances of which of a deliberate nature I am happy to say are comparatively few, but also to prevent carelessness, incompetence, and recklessness, which are all too frequently exhibited in connexion with the preparation of Customs entries.

Sir William McMillan:

– In one out of ten thousand entries.

Mr KINGSTON:

– What are customs entries? A -man pledges his oath and his honour.

Sir William McMillan:

– Rubbish !

Mr KINGSTON:

– Honour is not rubbish, and an oath is not rubbish, and every entry which requires’ an oath involves a man’s honour.

SirWilliam McMillan. - I did not mean what the Minister thinks I meant.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I will not press the point, as the honorable member says he did not mean his words to be taken in that light.

Sir William McMillan:

– I was referring to what the Minister previously said.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Many people think lightly of Customs offences, and we know how entries are scamped in the hurry of the moment ; but that is not good enough, and the Customs have a right to require more. Importers should employ competent hands at good wages to do this work.

Mr Bamford:

– Not bovs.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Boys should not be employed.

Sir William McMillan:

– Nonsense.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The House marked its intention in this respect in the Customs Act, but time and again we have been told of boys being sent up to pass entries. Dr. Wollaston, who is the highest authority in customs practice in Australia, and who is a worth recipient of the Imperial Service Order, informs me that it has been too long the custom to send boys to do this important work. Where the oath of an importer is concerned, and the reputation of his firm may be involved, competent men at decent wages should be employed, and not boys in knickerbockers.

Sir William McMillan:

– Rubbish.

Mr KINGSTON:

– As a fact, however, boys, whose heads are not up to the shoulders of an average adult, have been intrusted with this business, and, so long as I have the honour to be in my present position, I shall not allow the practice to go unchallenged.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– How many cases of fraud have been discovered ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Not many- six or seven. But when we find fraud amongst the highest firms what are we to think,

And what care ought we not to exercise?

SirWilliamMcMillan. - Nobody blames the Minister for that.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am sure they do not. The honorable member for Wentworth knows that the Customs ‘authorities have to be very careful, and that a line cannot easily be. drawn between one class of firm and another. The great majority of the merchants are honest men, but they are perhaps not quite so careful as they are honest. There are some few who defraud, but they cannot be marked off with a line ; and firms in high repute to-day, may to-morrow be detected in a long series of frauds. We have to be vigilant and treat all alike, and no man should be allowed to escape on account of previous good character. No fraud ought to be charged, unless it is capable of proof up to the hilt.

SirWilliam McMillan. - Is it possible to avoid error in any business ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– It seems to me that there are errors and errors.

Sir William McMillan:

– And the Minister wants to call them fraud.

Mr KINGSTON:

– That is not so. I am not going to justify my administration by reference to cases, all of which are publicly known.

Sir William McMillan:

– Has the Minister not found the bulk of our mercantile community honest 1

Mr KINGSTON:

– Indeed I have; the great bulk are honest. But the honorable member must not think that he has now extorted from me an admission which I have not previously made and gloried in.

Sir William McMillan:

– I do not think the Minister started with that idea.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I did start with that idea, and I repudiate indignantly any suggestion that I ever defamed my countrymen, of whom 1 am proud. I never suggested that Australia compares unfavorably in this respect with any other country in the world ; on the contrary, I know the fact to be otherwise, and have so expressed myself time after time. To endeavour to make out that I am a slanderer of my countrymen is to talk nonsense. I do complain that there is not more care shown in the charges which are brought against me. I will, not return to that charge, with which I have already dealt, and in which my honorable friend admitted, like the honorable man he is, that he had made a mistake. I think it was Senator Pulsford who said that in a case in which there was a difference as between £34 7s. 6d. and £37:4s. 6d., and in which nothing had occurred more than a mere error, of which it was not worth while taking notice, I caused a prosecution. I did nothing of the sort.

Mr Thomson:

– There have been prosecutions for less.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The fact is that there was a case brought before me in which there was a difference or shortage as between £62 and £150, and at the same time the other case, to which Senator Pulsford referred,. was mentioned. But it came before me, not as a difference of £3, but as a difference of practically £91. I ordered the prosecution, and the two cases- were taken as practically one matter. The defendants pleaded guilty in regard to the big case, and the other was withdrawn.

Mr Thomson:

– Has the Minister seen Senator Pulsford’s letter?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes ; and Senator Pulsford has every reason to be ashamed of himself for it.

Mr Thomson:

– He examined the depositions in the police court.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I will give honorable members the facts. The plea of guilty was entered in regard to the larger charge. The defendants wanted it to be entered as regards the smaller charge, but we would not agree to that. 1 may say at once that there was no charge of fraud. This is the letter of the Crown Solicitor -

I have the honour, with reference to your letter of the22nd inst., relating to two prosecutions against Farmer and Co. on the 24th September last, to inform you that, although my papers do not disclose the subject-matter of the charge upon which the conviction was obtained, the prosecutingofficer distinctly recollects that the plea of guilty was accepted in respect of the charge concerning twelve csises of furniture. He informs me that, the day before the cases came on forbearing, Mr. Shorter, solicitor for the defendant company, saw him in reference to such cases, and asked if the department would be prepared to withdraw one of the charges in the event of his pleading guilty to the other. Mr. Shorter was told that a definite reply would be given at 10 o’clock next morning, and at that time he expressed a desire to have the plea recorded in respect of the charge relating to one bale of rngs. The prosecuting officer declined to accede to this course, and eventually Mr. Shorter pleaded guilty to the other charge.

I made that statement, or one to the same effect, at the Town Hall. Mr. Pulsford heard what I said, and went to the court. He then proceeded to write that he visited the court, and that the docket showed that the conviction was upon the smaller charge. That statement is a half truth, the sort of fib which is the hardest of all to light. He makes no mention of the fact that the clerk told him that there was a confusion in the papers, and that in all probability the plea of guilty was entered in the larger case. In ignoring that information he, it seems to me, has wilfully misled the public. This case shows the sort of treatment to which I am subjected. If I make a mistake, I am not above owning it, and I think that others might do the same.

Mr Thomson:

– I have no doubt that Senator Pulsford will reply to the Minister’s statements.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I hope that he will, and that at length the truth will be made plain.

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

Senator Pulsford is a more accurate man than the right honorable gentleman ever was.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do my best to be accurate.

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

– So does he.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not wish to suggest that hedoes not; all I desire to say is that he did not treat this case with the candour which is probably his characteristic, but from which on this occasion he suffered himself to lapse.

Mr Thomson:

– Where is the evidence of what the clerk said?

Mr KINGSTON:

– It was contained in the following letter, which is signed by F. P. Minns, P.M., acting C.P.S., and Chamber Magistrate : -

With reference to the communication between Senator Pulsford and the deposition clerk, it appears that the latter saw Mr. Pulsford inspecting the papers, and explained to him that “although the ‘ furniture ‘ summons attached to the rug information was marked ‘withdrawn,’”’ it was almost a certainty that the word ‘ withdrawn ‘ referred to the information to which the summons was attached.

All that we have heard about the cruelty of charging fraud against this, that, and the other man is so much fudge. The charge of fraud is preferred only when there i’s ground for it. In all other cases the statement is made by the prosecuting counsel that we do not charge fraud, as a concession to the wish of many, that where we do not charge fraud, we shall declare we do not. With regard to the statement that persons charged with Customs offences have to herd with the “drunks,” I would point out that in South Australia a man who neglected to register his dog would have to rub up in the court against a “drunk,” just as he might do in the street. Though I am not an advocate of intemperance, however much the consumption of spirits may benefit the revenue which I cherish so dearly, I say that, in the sight of Heaven, for a man upon a jovial occasion to exceed, so that in rolling home afterwards he is run in and fined, is a venial sin compared with that of the man who robs me of my duties. We are all liable to make errors, and if we do, it is suggested that we should appear in the courts to receive punishment without being contaminated by the presence of “ drunks “ there. There is too much nicety in these complaints. If a man in Victoria does not vaccinate his child he is taken to the police court, and I believe that a member of this Parliament has been so treated. Was he contaminated by that?

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

– He feels outraged, and is writing to the newspapers to vent his feelings.

Mr KINGSTON:

– But I guarantee that he has too much’ good sense to object to what has been done to him on the ground that he was brought iuto contact with’ “ drunks.” Perhaps he did not appreciate such treatment from the people of another State. We need not be ashamed, except for our own sins ; and though we may blush vicariously^ for the enormities of others, it is really our own affairs that trouble us. Now it has been said that there was no considerable trouble in connexion with Customs administration before I took office. If there was not there ought to have been. I think I know something to the contrary. Do not honorable members recollect that we had not been six months in existence as a federation before the cry came from Queensland that serious customs leakages were taking place, and we were asked to help the authorities there 1

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

– The Minister will not bo able to stop the leakages, notwithstanding all his heroic measures.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The Brisbane Courier of 10th August, 1901, contains a report with these headlines, “ Unfair influence of official laxity - Customs leakages - deputation to the Queensland Treasurer.” This was a deputation to direct attention to the customs laxity and the need for reform, and among those who attended I find representatives of Messrs. Stewart and Hemmant, gentlemen of whom! can speakin the highest terms, who, when called upon to afford me information, did their best to show that what they stated was actually a fact, and I feel sure that they were actuated by the best principles in doing what they did. There also occur the names of Messrs. D. and W. Murray, R. Eraser and Co., Robert Reid and Co., R. Armour and Co., and A. M. Kirkland. Three of these firms have since found themselves in collision with the Customs authorities, and have been dealt with.

Sir William McMillan:

– Hear, hear. The Minister’s own condemnation. Were they fraud cases ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I do not lightly charge fraud.-

Sir William McMillan:

– I doubt whether the Minister has the right to mention their names.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Regarding one of the firms mentioned, an allegation was made when they were tried and fined that their honesty was shown because they had made a mistake against themselves. The mistake against themselves amounted to 10s., and the mistake against the revenue to ?10. I am not suggesting fraud in that case, because, as I say, I shall not charge fraud lightly. When I charge fraud, honorable members may depend upon it that there is some ground for it, and that we are likely to reach the offender.

Sir William McMillan:

– Does not the Minister ever make an error in his own accounts?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Does the right honorable member for Wentworth often have accounts sent to him showing that he owes less than the amount due from him to his creditor. I do not mean to say that all mistakes are made against the Customs, but it is very nice to be able to point to a mistake against oneself, and say, “ See how honest I am.” In regard to such mistakes the merchant will not forget, to call in afterwards and collect the overpayment, but if we passed the mistakes against the Customs, where should we be ‘! ‘ According to the report to which I have just referred, Mr. Alexander Stewart did not hesitate to give it as his opinion that-

The leakage in the Customs revenue from softgoods alone during the past three years has been fully equal to halt the amount of the existing deficit - namely, over ?250,000. And Mr. Stewart asks - “Can we assume that other trades are honest, if this sort of thing goes on in the drapery trade? “

  1. specially refer to the gentleman who introduced the deputation, because I feel sure that he is absolutely public spirited. It is very pleasant to have to do with a gentleman who not only speaks boldly, but gives every assistance to the Customs. It cannot be doubted that the members of the deputation were in a position to know what was going on, and to give reliable information. Some honorable member asked me a question regarding this matter, which was also mentioned in the Queensland Parliament in the following manner : -

Mr. Macartney asked the Treasurer

  1. Has he seen a statement referring to an alleged leakage in Customs revenue attributed to Mr. Alexander Stewart (of Messrs. Stewart and Hemmant) ?

    1. Is there, in his opinion, any foundation for such statement in fact ?
    2. Has any action been taken in the matter? Mr. Cribb replied : - 1. Yes. 2. Yes. 3. The alleged leakage in Customs revenue was brought under the notice of the Treasurer on 7th June last. Steps are being taken to prevent such leakage.

I communicated with Mr. Cribb on the subject, and he replied on Sth Augustas follows : -

I have the honour to inform yon that in the month of .lune a deputation of Brisbane merchants waited on me, stating that they had good reason to believe that considerable leakage occurred in the Customs revenue of this State. It has been the practice here to allow firms conducting business in other States with branches in Brisbane to pass import entries at English or foreign cost, plus 10 per cent., but it was represented that the invoices presented with “the entries did not always show the true English or foreign cost, and that clue care was not exercised to see that they did so. *This** privilege of passing entries at 10 per cent, on English or foreign cost was not intended to apply to houses which do not keep stocks in this State, but simply sell through agents on samples. The deputation further alleged that some firms were in the habit of passing entries for goods which were not properly defined in the declaration. For instance, under the head of 1 ‘ Pins,” which for use in apparel are free, hair-pins, curling-pins, &c, are included ; and saddlery buckles, which are free, are made to cover many varieties of buckles. There appears to be substantial grounds for the statements made by the deputation, and when the new Tariff comes into force there may be further inducements for unscrupulous traders to attempt to pass goods from State to State without payment of duty. I am desirous that all reasonable care should be taken that the revenue of the State should not suffer, as well as that merchants who conduct their business in a fair and legitimate manner should not be placed at a disadvantage , and I should be glad if you would give this matter your attention, and issue instructions which will insure close scrutiny of invoices, and more frequent examination of goods iri this State, with a view to preventing the abuses complained of and protecting the revenue.

At the instance of a committee of merchants in Queensland, the powers of the Commonwealth were invoked for the purpose of preventing abuses, which were stated to be of a very grave character, and this circumstance added strength to the information of which we subsequently became possessed, and confirmed us in every action. Inactivity in such a case would have been a grave offence, and I am determined that such a charge shall not lie at my door. I said a little time ago that I was not requiring information which was not within the complete control of the merchants themselves. I -am not troubling merchants with regard to the classification of goods for duty. I do not care what mistake they make with regard to the duties. There may be cases in which it is difficult to sa)’ to what particular duty goods are properly subject, but what I have said time and again is - “Give me the nature of the goods, give me their value, give me proper invoices, and you need! fear nothing- you will not be prosecuted.”

Mr Thomson:

– Does not the Minister know that a great many prosecutions have been instituted after such information hasbeen given 1

Mr KINGSTON:

– No, I know to thecontrary, and I am going to prove it. This is what the Sydney merchants asked foiwhen I last saw them, and when I pointed out that they had it already they were delighted. Possibly mistakes have been made,, but they have certainly not been justified by the facts. In cases where £90 was. involved, it has been represented that only £3- was in question, and I have given an instance in which certain things were represented as having happened to more than oneindividual when there was only a solitary case. I do not suggest anything beyond an honest mistake, but still it is annoying tohave matters misrepresented. I wrote tothe Sydney Chamber of Commerce on 27th June last, and said -

What precautions are usual and proper to betaken has long been settled by the practice of States situated in similar circumstances.

Two things are chiefly essential - a true description of the nature of the goods, and their value, supported by the production of the genuineinvoice identified by the importer’s declaration.

So long as the nature of the goods, and their value, &c. , are fairly stated so that the duty can be accurately assessed and the proper invoice te produced, no importer need. fear anything. Certainly he will not be prosecuted for any error ou a really doubtful matter of opinion.

Mr Thomson:

– They have been prosecuted.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am not speaking without book. I know how exact my honorable friend is, and I am going to proveeverything up to the hilt. Instructionswere issued in September under my signature.

Mr Thomson:

– That is nearly twelvemonths after the Tariff was enforced.

Mr KINGSTON:

– In June I made thepromise to which I have referred, and by which my officers were bound, and on 2nd September I gave instructions which .wereput into formal circulation, although they had’ been previously acted upon. I could not go back upon a letter such as thatwritten by me to the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. This was my instruction -

  1. As to entries, I do not wish prosecutionswhen the nature and value of the goods are fairly disclosed in the entry, so that acceptance of the- entry will not necessarily cause loss to the revenue - if the officer does his duty.
  2. I specially desire that no errorof classification by the importer in the entry shall alone render him liable to penal consequence if he has in the entry disclosed the true nature of the goods so that they can well be identified for Tariff purposes by an officer familiar with the Tariff’.

What I say is that I ain entitled to two things - the invoice and the entry. The entry is an oath to which the importer swears. I say to him - “Let me have the invoice and entry, the nature of the goods and their value, and you may make as many mistakes as you choose regarding the duty andyou will not be punished.” That is the position which I take up. I want my officers to look after the duty, and not to rely too much upon the inexperienced classification by a merchant. We are more competent than he is to decide what duty should be imposed, but he is more competent to say what is the nature of the goods and their value. When he gives us that information, together with the true invoice, he need fear nothing. This is what was circulated with the memorandum by the Acting Comptroller-General, Mr. Lockyer, one of my most careful officers - a gentleman who has raised himself to his present position as collector in Sydney by high ability. What does he say? -

Herewith are enclosed for your guidance, directions by the Minister in regard to the dealing with misdescription of goods and errors of entry by importers and agents. A careful inspection of many of such cases which have, by direction, been submitted for the personal consideration of the Minister, has disclosed in many instances, to say the least, the most culpable carelessness in the presentation of the important particulars necessary for the protection of the revenue.

Here, I say, time and again I get the excuse of gross carelessness. I say to the merchants - “ Before you swear to any statement, employ some one who will not be ‘grossly careless. Protect the revenue, and honest and careful merchants.” The communication continues -

It . is possible that many of these errors are the result of the employment of incompetent and inexperienced clerks.

I believe that they are. But I hold that the offence is rather aggravated by the employment of boys or of men, often at very small salaries, to do work which they are not capable of satisfactorily performing. The Acting Comptroller-General continues - It is quite clear that in many instances the attention and care which are considered imperative in ordinary commercial transactions, have not been extended to and observed in dealing with the department. There is undoubted evidence in many cases of inexperience, want of care, and incompetence in the preparation of entries, which,, in the interests of the revenue, cannot possibly betolerated. It, therefore, now rests with you tosec that there is no lapse of vigilance on the part of the officers, or want of care and attention on the part of importers and agents in all that is. necessary for the furnishing of full and accurate information. . The entries should be clearly written and fully completed, the goods accurately and truthfully described, and due regard eiven tothe importance and very serious nature of the declaration subscribed.

An entry involves an oath. I think thatfact is too frequently forgotten. It is regarded merely as an idle form, judged by the want of attention given to its preparation, and the facility and recklessness with which it is sworn to.

The Minister particularly directs - “In all cases of false statements on entries sis to the value of goods against he revenue which might have been avoided by proper care by competentclerks, proceedings to be taken when more than £1 duty is involved, or irrespective of amount where the case is not the first against the same importers. The Comptroller-General may sanction any proceedings, irrespective of amount, in any case when the special circumstances appear to require it.

Mr Thomson:

– Does that apply to fixed duties ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– It applies to alL Even in the case of goods which are not delivered before they were weighed, there is no trouble. I have taken pains to inquire by telegram within the last ten dayswhether there has been any breach of the order to which I refer, and I have received an assurance from each of the State collectors that nothing of the sort has taken place. Under these circumstances, how does it lie in the mouths of those who suggest the contrary to justify their attacks? Let them bringforward one case which will justify them. Such a case has never occurred, and cannot have occurred, unless my collectors have Stated what , is not true : and I know that I am supported by an honorable staff which would not, cn any account, wrongly advise the Minister’s office. There I am content to let the matter rest. I am delighted tohave an opportunity of making this explanation. I have had other opportunities in various places, and at different times. Thelast one - and perhaps the one which I most enjoyed - -was at the interview which I had with a deputation of merchants at. that great centre, Sydney. What was the result of that interview, even according to- my severest critics ? One of those critics - the Sydney Morning Herald - which had prepared me for all sorts of dull and dreadful things, headed the report of the proceedings of the deputation - “ The Minister in a conciliatory mood” - I am always that - “Amicable .assurances on both sides.” At first there was a little loose sparring, but when we got to close quarters we found that we thoroughly enjoyed each other. The report in question states -

At first there was a little disagreement regarding the precise subjects to be brought forward by the deputation, but an understanding was soon arrived at, a conciliatory spirit was shown on both sides, and the discussion was carried on in the most friendly spirit

There is nothing of the prize-fight about that.

Mr Thomson:

– The Minister has since stated that the deputation misunderstood his promise, and that he did not give the promise which satisfied them.

Mr KINGSTON:

– All I can say is that this is the report of the Sydney Morning Herald upon the matter. 1 suppose that will be accepted as an authority in New South Wales.

An Honorable Member. - The Minister does not accept its statements himself.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Not as to statistics especially as to shipping which is decorated. In such cases if one obtained 6-4’7ths of the truth he would be lucky. But the report of the proceedings of the deputation seems to be all right.

Mr Thomson:

– I quoted from it the other night and the Minister said it was wrong.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Then the honorable member must have quoted a portion which I have not seen. The members of that deputation reminded me of what I had said, but they did not assert that 1 ever declared I would not institute prosecutions except in cases of fraud. They agreed that I was right in what I wanted. In the House of Representatives, said Mr. Barre Johnston, Sir William McMillan had asked the following question : -

Would not the Minister permit a Customs official to allow the rectification of a clerical error “! to which the Minister had replied -

We arc not laying down the rule that persons must be prosecuted and penalized for the smallest clerical error, such as might take place in an arithmetical calculation ; but in collecting duties, as I have stated in communication with chambers of commerce u nd other bodies interested, we have a right to know from the importers what is the nature of the goods they ure importing, and what is the value of those goods.

When they put it that they wanted me to abstain from prosecutions where questions of duty were involved, I told them that I had been adopting that practice throughout. The report proceeds -

On the point that Mr. Wall and other gentlemen have raised, as to men being prosecuted for making wrong statements of duty chargeable, I wrote to your chamber some time ago stating that such was not 1113’ wish, and I gave instructions to the contrary months ago. I hold in my hand the instructions signed by me 011 1st September. I look to my officers regarding the question of rates - (Hear, hear) - and Mr. Lockyer tells me he believes the fullest effect has been given to these instructions. In the second clause of those instructions I specially desire that no error of classification by the importer in the entry shall alone render him liable to penal consequences, if he has in the entry disclosed the true nature of the goods so that they can be identified for Tariff purposes.

All the members of the deputation smiled their benedictions, the clouds which had previously overhung the meeting were dissipated, and joy and happiness reigned supreme. Upon that occasion I also emphasized a declaration which I made in June last, to the effect that the importers need not trouble themselves about the duty which is to be paid. They have only to speak the truth about matters within their knowledge, namely, the nature of the goods, their value, and the invoices. I will undertake to look after the duty. Every member of that deputation left the room perfectly satisfied.

Mr Thomson:

– Did not the Minister say the other night, when I was quoting an extract from that very newspaper, that the deputation had misunderstood him ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I cannot tell. I had not the report in my hand when the honorable member was reading it. There is no doubt, however, as to the position which I took up, and there I’ . am content to allow the matter to rest. Since that deputation waited upon me the Tariff guide has been completed. That work I think supplies a wealth of information not only to the commercial public, but to the Customs officials. It will enable them to avoid that reference to headquarters which has necessarily been associated with its absence. I do not hesitate to admit that iu the past too many delays have occurred. I have never attempted to deny that fact. It is infinitely better I should acknowledge that a lot of work has been forced upon me which I have not shirked. Unless 48 hours could have been compressed into each day, I could not possibly avoid the delays which have occurred. I have not spared myself, and I have no intention of doing so. But I shall be glad indeed to get rid of the drudgery associated with the initial stages of Federal Tariff administration. It is an experience which I should wish no honorable member, but which I am glad to have gone through, because I believe it will further qualify me for the performance of my duties, and give me a better appreciation of the work, thus tending to the credit of my office, and, I hope, to the good of Australia.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– After a storm there generally comes a calm ; and now that the hurricane which has recently blown in this House has subsided, the debate should flow along with its usual placidity to the end. I sincerely hope that we have heard the last of grievances concerning Customs prosecutions. For the past two weeks in this House, and in the press for months, utterances would lead one to think that no interests in the country were suffering except those of unfortunate importers, who are represented as being continually harassed and persecuted by a fiend in the shape of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Surely there are other people besides importers in Australia. When the Tariff was before the House, I fought in the interests of free-trade ; but now that we have a Tariff there should be no loophole left for dishonest traders. What is the meaning of all this talk about the indignity of men appearing along with drunkards in a police court? Are not innocent men often arrested, and not merely asked to appear with “ drunks,” but deprived of their liberty ? Yet we never hear a protest in such cases from those honorable members who are so eloquent in their defence of the importers. In my judgment the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs is perfectly fair. If the importers will tell him the value of the goods, and their nature, and produce proper invoices, he will fix the duty. That seems a proposition with which I do not see anybody can fairly find fault. But there are other departments of the State quite as important, if not more so, to the people than that of the Customs. There is the Postal department, which touches people more intimately than the Customs. I tell the Government in all friendliness that if they are to continue in office it will be necessary for them to’ look closely into the administration of the Postal department. As one from a distant State, T know that most aggravating delays occur before the Department can be induced to carry out the slightest work. Some ‘of these works were projected before the Commonwealth took over the department, and yet they are still at the stage when tenders are being called. That is the’result of redtape, and I respectfully suggest the advisability of shaking up the officers, so that the people in the interior portions of Australia, who are opening up and developing the country, may obtain postal and telegraphic facilities. In my opinion the department is run a little too much on commercial principles, the idea of the Minister apparently being that each service must pay its way.

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

– Why should the Postmaster-General not get revenue, if the Minister for Trade and Customs gets it?

Mr MAHON:

– I do not object to that view, but up to this time the post-office has always been used as an auxiliary in the development of the country. It is monstrous to expect that every new service must pay its way from its inception, and if the present policy is continued it will seriously retard settlement and development in the interior. Then, I want to know the reason why these extravagant demands for guarantees are made in the matter of telephone and telegraphic communication? If I desire a telephone to be constructed between two towns, I must give a cash guarantee to cover any loss that might occur. Under the Western Australian law, municipalities have no power to give these guarantees, but must spend every shilling of the rates, except 3 per cent., on municipal improvements. It is the opinion of those who interpret the law that the municipalities are thus debarred from giving guarantees to the Federal Government in connexion with telephone and telegraphic extension. And I want to know how it is that in these matters some States are served differently from- others . ?

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

– All States are treated alike.

Mr MAHON:

– That is not so. An honorable member of this House, who represents South Australia, and has an influential newspaper at his back, was instrumental in obtaining the construction of a telegraph line to Tarcoola, at a cost of not less than £14,000, without any guarantee being given to the Federal Government. I understand that, i7i the first instance, it was represented to this House that this money would be deducted from South Australian revenue as part of the expenditure of a transferred department ; but now the claim is seriously raised that this is part of the new expenditure which must be borne by the Commonwealth generally. This is a matter which seems worth inquiring into. How is it that an honorable member from one State can have a large work like this done at a cost of £14,000 without any guarantee, while a Western Australian member, under similar circumstances, is, asked to deposit a certain amount in cash 1 There is another point requiring notice in connexion with postal administration. This is in respect to the refusal to deliver letters addressed to Tattersalls. That step has caused an enormous loss of revenue, and the statement I made at the time that the section would prove a failure is borne out by the fact that Tattersalls sweeps are now filling as well as ever they did. The House as well as the Government deserves censure for this. This is what may be called hypocritical legislation.

Mr McDonald:

– Why so? We might as well say the honorable member was guilty of hypocrisy in voting against the clauses.

Mr MAHON:

– It is pure cant to pretend to legislate for the suppression of gambling, when we know that it cannot be suppressed in that way. What I said in the House was that if we desired to legislate against gambling we should do so directly, and not in an underhand manner, which is always more or less hypocritical. As regards the transcontinental railway, I notice that some honorable members are opposing its construction on grounds of economy. One of the South Australian members the other night gave, as his principal objection to the line, the enormous cost it involved, but I notice that when the same honorable member advocated the extension of the Tarcoola telegraph line, he> made no inquiry as to the expense beforerecommending the project to the House. Another honorable member observed that the Western Australian Government should build the Esperance line before South Australiagives permission for. the transcontinental lineto pass through her territory. It will bewithin the recollection of honorable members that during last session I submitted amotion in favor of the construction of theEsperance railway, but I think these projects stand on different footings. They arebo th worthy of being completed, but there> is no reason why the non-construction of the Esperance railway should retard theconstruction of the transcontinental line. I regret very much that some effort is beingmade to prevent the Parliament of South Australia from giving the necessary consentto the construction of the Port AugustaKalgoorlie railway. If ever a Governmentpledged itself to anything beyond recall, the Government of South Australia are pledged to give permission for the construction of this transcontinental line. To prove thetruth of what I say, I have only to read a’, letter written to the Premier of Western Australia by .our Speaker, when he occupied thehigh position of Premier of South AustraliaThe letter is dated 1st February, 1900, and is as follows : -

Following our conversation as to the possibleblocking of the construction of a railway line from. Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia refusing consent rendered, necessary by section 34 of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill, to the construction of the linethrough her territory, 1 regard the withholding of consent as the most improbable thing, in fact,, quite out of the question. To assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake as. soon as the federation is established (West, and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth) to introduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of a line by the federal authority, and to> pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.

I find also that your successor, Mr. Speaker,, in the Premiership of South Australia, wrote on 31st July, 1901, to the PrimeMinister as follows : -

In reply to your letter of 23rd inst., I have thehonour to inform you that prior to the submission of the Commonwealth Constitution Act for theapproval of the people of Western Australia, viz., the 1st February, 1900, the Honorable F. W. Holder (then Premier qf South Australia) wrote-, to the Premier of Western Australia (copy of the letter herewith) undertaking on specified, conditions

But the only condition specified in your letter, sir, was that the Western Australian Parliament should simultaneously pass a Bill through their House. Now we are given to understand, however, that certain specified conditions were mentioned, and the letter of Mr. Jenkins proceeds - - undertaking on specified conditions to in troduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this State to the construction of a line of railway to the Western Australian border. On the . 11th June I telegraphed to the Western Australian Premier as follows : - lie C’oolgardie Railway. A Bill will be introduced into our Parliament, as agreed by Mr. Holder, 1st February, 1900, but we strongly insist upon line joining your State 40 to60 miles north of Encla.

It appears to me that new conditions are now being added by the Premier of South Australia before consent will be given. I notice, from the reported statements of some public men in South Australia, that there is a disinclination to give effect to the promise which you, sir, made as Premier on behalf of the Parliament- and the people of South Australia. I have too high an opinion of the people of South Australia to credit the notion that they will permit their Government to commit such a serious breach of faith as this involves. I feel convinced that when South Australian public opinion is appealed to, it will be declared that the promise of the Premier of that State, given in good faith, . should be redeemed. If that State had an objection to consent being given to the construction of the. Western Australian transcontinental railway, the time for that objection was before Western Australia agreed to join the federation.

Mr Fowler:

– And then Western Australia would not have come into the union.

Mr MAHON:

– That is so. It was most unfair to wait until now to suggest new conditions and to raise new objections to the project. But we find an explanation of that peculiar circumstance in the fact that South Australia appears to have set her heart on another transcontinental line, though I venture to think that, when the true conditions under which it is proposed to build that line are known, no syndicate will be foolish enough to undertake the work. It is proposed to convey to a syndicate for the building of the line a territory almost as large as the State ofVictoria. The railway, when finished, is not to be handed over to the

South Australian Government, but is to continue the property of the syndicate. That seems to me a most inequitable proposal. I know of two similar private railways in Western Australia, but they are both miserable failures.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Are they failures so far as the promoters are concerned ?

Mr MAHON:

– They are failures so far as the country is concerned. The most miserable railway journey a man can make in Australia is that from Perth to Geraldton, on the Midland Company’s line.

Mr Henry Willis:

-Is that worse than the journey from Albany to Perth ?

Mr MAHON:

– Yes, far- worse; there is no comparison between the two. The trains run at the rate of about 15 miles an hour, and in the 318 miles, which comprise the whole distance, there is not a place where one may procure a decent meal, so that those who travel on the line invariably take their own food and liquor with them. But the secret of the South Australian objection to the Western Australian transcontinental line will be discovered in the report of an interview which took place in London between a newspaper reporter and a gentleman who claims to be the power behind the throne in South Australia. He is not the Premier, but he informs all and sundry that at any time he likes he could turn the Government out. This is the report of an interview with Mr. Darling, the leader of the Opposition in South Australia, the gentleman to whom I refer -

Although his coming to London had no official connexion with the promotion of the scheme for building a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, still, he had made “casual” inquiries amongst bankers and financiers. “They seem to be agreed,” continued Mr. Darling, “that the state of the money market and the disposition of capitalists generally are not altogether too favorable at the moment. They seem to think, however, that it is one of the ventures that might well be taken up by London capitalists when better times arrive.” The South Australian afterwards proceeded to show what the expression “ better times “ meant in his mind. “The Commonwealth,” he said, “is at present entirely opposed to the introduction of coloured labour into any part of the island-continent. If that course is persisted in, then the tropical resources of the Northern Territory cannot be profitably developed. It is no use blinking this fact. What I would suggest is the introduction of Indian coolies under an indentured system, which has worked so well in other parts of the British dominions. I believe that the people of Australia will, in the course of a few years, come round to this view.”

The railway is to be made by a private syndicate ; and, as a concession, they are to receive a territory as large as Victoria, and are to have the right of running the line, and, apparently, of charging what rates they like on it for all time. I believe, too, that they are to be exempt from State taxation. But Mr. Darling has given the project away when he says, in effect, that this territory can be made profitable only by the employment of coloured labour. I think that this Parliament will prevent Mr.” Darling or his syndicate, if it is foolish enough to undertake the enterprise, from employing coloured” labour. Possibly the syndicate has not been told that the Federal Parliament may impose taxation upon property : although, so far, we have imposed no direct taxation, we have the light to place a tax upon land. I apprehend that when those facts are made known to London capitalists they will hesitate for a long time before proceeding with the construction of the line. The correspondent from whose report I have quoted goes on to say -

I reckon that if Mr. Jenkins’ land grant railway to 1’ort Darwin j$ not built until the Australians have turned their back upon white labour, then the man is noty et born who will travel on the line.

And I quite agree with him. I think that when the question is fairly put before the people of South Australia they will not be guilty of a repudiation in the nature of a breach of faith. Despite what the politicians and leaders of Parliament may say, I should be perfectly willing to submit the issue to the people of South Australia, putting before them the promise which was made on their behalf by their Government. I intended to speak at some length upon the other questions dealt with in the Governor-General’s speech, but no doubt other opportunities will in due course arrive when the various measures in the Government programme are brought before the House. AlthoughIam inclined to consider the High Court a necessary part of the federal machinery, I fear that as proposed it would be too expensive a luxury at the present time. I should like instead to see some arrangement whereby one federal Judge could be appointed to sit with the Chief Justices of the States whenever occasion required the services of the Federal High Court, because it does not appear to me that there will be sufficient work for five

Judges. I believe, however, that the whole matter is one that we might fairly postpone for the present. With regard to the federal capital site, I think that, in justice to New South Wales, we should proceed to its selection as soon as possible, but I should not be in favour of commencing the building of the capital while money is so dear in London, because no Government can profitably borrow at 4 per cent., and it is not possible to get money now at lower rates.

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

– Not much money would be required.

Mr MAHON:

– No ; but as this House has already objected to the borrowing of money for necessary works, such as telephones and telegraphs, I think we should not borrow to build a federal capital. We want telegraphs and telephones for the development of the back country more than we want a federal capital. However glad I might be to get away from Melbourne, I recognise that this is not the time to increase the burden of the taxpayer by borrowing.

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

– Is it not the time to carry out a bargain?

Mr MAHON:

– The construction of the transcontinental railway was an implied bargain with Western Australia, the terms of which are unfortunately not in the Constitution, but they would have been there had those who represented that State at the time been alive to the interests of their colony. When will the honorable member be ready to carry out that bargain ?

Mr Conroy:

– Two wrongs do not make a right.

Mr MAHON:

– No doubt that that is so, but that statement makes our wrong no less hard to. bear. I am rather disappointed with the declaration of various speakers concerning preferential trade relations with the other parts of the Empire. I was surprised to hear the eulogium pronounced upon Mr. Chamberlain to-night by no less a person than the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is a singular thing to find one who is widely regarded . as the darling of Australian democracy praising a man who in England has been a traitor to democracy; Possibly the attitude of one of the Melbourne newspapers in regard to Mr. Chamberlain may have influenced the mind of the Minister. ‘That paper is a harsh ‘ critic of the Minister for Customs, and his hostility to it may account for his exhausting the language of eulogy concerning Mr. Chamberlain. “Until last Monday the Secretary of State for the Colonies was the darling and hero of that’ great newspaper, the Argus. During the African war, and ever since he left the liberal party, the Argus has shown the greatest appreciation of the genius of that wonderful” man. But on Monday last the Argus says this of him -

Reversals of policy by Mr. Chamberlain have been too many and too remarkable to make it worth while to charge him with inconsistency. With bini a policy or a principle is a thing to be adopted in view of the exigency of the hour, and to be dropped as further turns of the political wheel may render necessary.

J object to the savage manner in which the Minister for Trade and Customs corrected the small mistake - it’ it was a mistake - made by me in an interjection. I merely said that the Constitutions of Natal and Cape Colony had been suspended during the war in South Africa. What I should have said was that the right of the Parliaments of those colonies to meet had been suspended during the war.

Mr Conroy:

– That is practically a suspension of the Constitution.

Mr MAHON:

– It is really a distinction without a difference, and the Minister for Trade and Customs devoted more attention to this trivial matter than it warranted. I was rather surprised also to hear some of the views expressed from the opposition side of the chamber with reference to preferential trade. The leader of the Opposition said that if we were to have a protective Tariff we ought to close the doors more tightly against foreign countries than against England. I do not see much difference between what the right honorable gentleman said and what the Minister for Trade and Customs has suggested. The utterances of the leader of the Opposition do not accord with the Cobden idea of freetrade, because Cobden held that, although a protective Tariff might .injure the country against which it was directed, it would also injure the country which imposed it. If that is so, how can the leader of the Opposition allow himself to become implicated in any imposition of protective duties 1

Mr Conroy:

– He would lessen them as much as possible, if he could not remove them.

Mr MAHON:

– There is the alternative proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs of increasing the duties upon foreign products, and leaving them as they stand with regard to those which come from Great Britain. Personally, I should prefer to see the duties entirely abolished so far as imports from the mother country are concerned, and revenue imposts collected upon goods from foreign sources. I was surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs should become so enamoured of Mr. Chamberlain, because he’ must be perfectly aware that that right honorable gentleman hz-s proved a traitor to every political party with which he has been associated. Mr. . John Morley, who, as a statesman, a literary man, and a democrat, is far and away above Mr. Chamberlain, in writing the life of Cobden some years ago, practically foresaw the present proposal for preferential trade, or, as it was then known, fair trade. This is what he says -

Nobody has fully grasped the bearings of freetrade who does not realize what the international aspect of every commercial transaction amounts to ; how the conditions of production and exchange in any one country affect, both actually and potentially, the corresponding conditions in every other country. It is not free-trade between any two countries that is the true aim ; but to remove obstacles in the way of the stream of freely exchanging commodities, that ought, like the Ocean us of primitive geography, to encircle the whole habitable world. In this circulating system every Tariff is a,n obstruction, and the free circulation of commodities is in the long run as much impeded by an obstruction at one frontier as at another. This> is one answer to an idea which has been lately broached among us, under stress of the temporary reaction against freetrade. lt has been suggested that though we cannot restore protection in its old simplicity, yet we might establish a sort of National Imperial Customs Union among the English dominions. The territory over which the flag of Great Britain waves is so enormous and so varied in productive conditions, that we could well afford, it is urged, to shut ourselves within our own walls, developing our own resources, and consolidating a strong national sentiment, until the nations who are now fighting us with protective Tariffs come round to a better mind. The answer to this is that the removal of the restriction on the circulation to a more distant point would not affect the vital fact that the circulation would still be restricted and interrupted. To induce our colonies and dependencies to admit our goods free would, of course, be so much gained : just as the freedom of interior or domestic commerce, which was one of the chief causes of the early prosperity of Great Britain, was by so much a gain over the French system, which cut off province from province by customs barriers during the same period. But freedom of internal commerce, whether within an island or over a wide empire, is still not the same thing as universal freedom of exchange. An interruption, at whatever point in the great currents of exchange, must always remain an interruption and a disadvantage. England is especially interested in any transaction that tends to develop trade between any nations whatever. We derive benefit from it in one way or another. The mother country has no interest in going into a customs union with her colonies, with the idea of giving them any advantage, or supposed advantage, in trading with her over foreign countries.

I do not know that I need weary the House by continuing this debate. I should not have spoken but for some remarks which were made regarding the transcontinental railway to Western Australia. I hope that in discussing the various measures which are to come before us, we shall display the same good feeling and friendliness that was shown in connexion with every measure except the Tariff last session. If the Government will direct their attention to securing a proper administration of the Postal department, they will perform as great a public service as has been rendered by the Minister for Trade and Customs in his department. I honour the Minister for what he has done, and I believe that the people of this country, almost to a man - certainly those in- the back country of Western Australia - approve of his administration. Although I sit in opposition to the right honorable gentleman, I concede the fact that his dealing out of evenhanded justice to the weak and the strong must meet with all-round approval, and that his action in bringing to justice men who held their heads high in the community, and regarding whom no suspicion was previously entertained, redounds to his credit. I hope that he will continue in the course which he has hitherto followed, but that he will make a strenuous effort to avoid the irritating delays which have caused so much loss and annoyance to merchants in the past. I rose mainly to deal with the objections regarding the transcontinental line to Western Australia, and to urge the j Government to give more attention to the 1 administration of the Postal department, and to conduct it upon principles other than those which appear to actuate the Postmaster-General.

Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I do not intend to go over the ground which has been traversed so often by other honorable members. I should be glad tosay a word or two in defence of the attitude of the Parliament of South Australia in reference, to the transcontinental railway to the Northern Territory, but, unfortunate!)’, I am unable to do so. It seems to me that the granting of such a large concession to a private company to enable them to build a railway for their own convenience is altogether indefensible. With reference to the attitude of South Australia towards the Western Australian railway, I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie is hardly doing justice to the Premier of the former State. The South Australian Government have not stated that they will not carry out the promise, but they have stipulated that the proposed line should be constructed in a certain latitude.

Mr Mahon:

– There was no such condition made in the first instance?

Mr BATCHELOR:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– No, but there is an explanation foi- that. During the period which elapsed between the communication sent to the Premier of Western Australia by Mr. Speaker when he was Premier of South Australia, and the letter sent by Mr. Jenkins, the present Premier, the Tarcoola gold-fields were discovered, and the Government of South Australia are now naturally anxious that the line should pass somewhere in the vicinity of those fields rather than, as suggested, some distance southwards. This would relieve the South Australian Government of the necessity of constructing an almost parallel line to Tarcoola. The proposed deviation will not add 25 miles to the total distance to be covered by the railway, and the condition laid down is a reasonable one.

Mr Fowler:

– I do not think that Western Australia will object to such a condition, but we are informed that all sorts of other conditions are suggested.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I do not believe that the people of South Australia will go back upon the undertaking entered into first by the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he was Premier of that State, and afterwards by Mr. Speaker when he held a similar office. But before that line is built other conditions may prevail. I do not think that the people of South Australia will go back upon their undertaking merely because Mr. John .Darling, or even a dozen or two individuals, may think it is desirable to do so. I say this without in any way suggesting that either South Australia other representatives are necessarily in favour of the line. But that is a very different matter from declaring that if the line is to be undertaken, South Australia will not stand in the way of its construction through her territory. I suppose that honorable members would smile if I suggested that something had been omitted from the Governor-General’s speech. One paragraph in that long deliverance states -

A number of other important measures are in preparation. Among these is a Bill to provide a uniform navigation and shipping law. This measure, however, is necessarily long and complicated.

Later on the. speech contains the following declaration : -

My advisers will gladly take advantage of any opportunity which may offer of bringing these subjects before you, but they are not sanguine of being able to do so in the course of this session.

I think that statement is a reasonable one to make. It would be quite impossible for us to enact uniform shipping legislation embodying all the navigation laws of the different States in one Act during the present session. I understand that a Bill to -effect this purpose is in course of preparation, and that it contains some hundreds of clauses. Of course we should not care to attempt to pass such a measure during the current session. But I put it to the Minister for Trade and Customs that there are some Bills that the Government intend to proceed with which are less urgent than is the passage of a ;short Bill designed to protect Australian shipping from the unfair competition to which it is at present exposed. A measure containing only a few clauses would be sufficient for the purpose. Under the circumstances which obtain to-day, Australian chipping is gradually being taken away from local companies by foreign vessels which, once in several years, call at a port -outside the Commonwealth merely for the purpose of getting their crews to sign fresh -articles. By adopting that subterfuge they are enabled to defy any legislation which we may enact with reference to the employment of white men upon them, and to override the conditions with which Australian vessels have to comply. I believe that the House would readily consent to consider a short measure such as I suggest. There is a great deal hanging to it. In this connexion I. need only point »out that an agreement exists between the Australian steam-ship owners and their seamen, ‘ which will expire during the present month, though an arrangement has been made to continue it till December next. If something is not done in the interim to place foreign ships in a similar position as regards wages, manning, &c, to that occupied by Australian vessels, an all-round decrease in wages will take place. It may be said that that matter will be covered by the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, but the arbitrators under any Act will take into consideration the unfair competition to which the owners are subject.

Mr Tudor:

– Could we not compel the owners of vessels which trade here to pay the increased rate of wage ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I very much question whether we could. It seems to me that it would be far better to introduce a separate Bill for the purpose of covering these special disabilities. I know that the Minister for Trade and Customs does not care about devoting himself to a short measure of this kind. He would prefer to thoroughly master the whole question, and then draft a measure to meet the necessities of the case. If honorable members study the figures contained in a blue-book which was presented to the House of Commons last year in regard to this matter, they will be disagreeably startled. Those figures show that a large increase has taken place in the number of lascars and foreigners employed upon British ships, and a corresponding decrease in the number of Britishers so employed. During the past ten years I find that the lascars upon British ships have increased by 12,288, and the foreigners by 8,750, a total increase of 21,038 seamen, whereas the number of Britishers so employed has decreased by 7,155.

Mr Conroy:

– May not that be due to the fact that the men can do better than go to sea ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The real reason is that the labour of the Iascar is cheaper. These figures, I submit, are sufficiently startling to merit careful consideration, unless the whole of the mercantile marine of Britain is to be manned by foreigners and lascars, which would be a particularly serious matter for the Imperial navy in the event of a naval conflict. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Parramatta spoke of the agreement which had been entered into with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. He declared that it was a matter for congratulation that the interminable agreement which previously existed had been amended, and an arrangement for ten years substituted. From my stand-point I am unable to discover any cause” for congratulation what-

I ever. As a matter of fact, the old agreement gave the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company nothing, but bound it to give to the contracting States a continuous reduction in cable rates to the old country.

Sir John Forrest:

– A similar covenant will be contained in the new agreement.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– But that agreement is only for ten years.

Sir John Quick:

– What about the right to open offices ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– That arrangement means nothing at all. In the absence of the Pacific cable, tenders for the construction of which had not been called–

Sir George Turner:

– But the agreement had been made.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– At the time the agreement was made the Pacific Cable Company had not called for tenders for construction.

Sir George Turner:

– But the British Government had agreed to join with the States, otherwise the Eastern Extension Company would never have lowered their rates.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I admit that the Pacific cable project assisted to make the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company decrease its charges. It would have been a splendid lever to have held for an indefinite period, but I submit that as an actual fact the construction of that cable has been a bit of a blunder. What has been the immediate result of the undertaking ? It has involved a loss of £90,000, of which £30,000 is to be borrie by the Commonwealth.

Sir George Turner:

– We have saved the subsidies which we would otherwise have had to pay.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The subsidies were wiped out in the agreement.

Mr McCay:

– The honorable member wants to obtain all the good and reject all the bad.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– That would have been the sensible course to adopt. One method would have been to use the Pacific cable scheme as a means of dealing with the Eastern Extension Company in the event of the latter charging more than fair rates.

Sir John Quick:

– That would have been a breach of faith with Canada.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– There has been no breach of faith so far as South Australia is concerned, and that- State was perfectly satisfied.

Sir John Forrest:

– And Western Australia was perfectly satisfied.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– We ought to remember that under the sliding scale arrangement, prices over the Eastern Extension cable had to be reduced whenever the revenue of the company reached a certain figure, and that but for the establishment of the Pacific cable, and the subsequent division of the business, we should now have been able to send messages at 2s. 6d. per word instead of 3s. It was a curious contention on the part of the honorable member for Parramatta that Western Australia and South Australia, who entered into no arrangement in connexion with the Pacific cable, should now not only have to bear the loss of revenue which its establishment has caused them, but should further assist the eastern States to pay their portion of the loss.

Mr McCay:

– That is only the “true federal spirit.”

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I wonder if theeastern States, in the case of any profits being made on the Pacific cable, would hand over a share to the western States. I mention the observation of the honorable member for Parramatta, because in the absence of anything to the contrary the Government might think it reflected the opinion of the House.

Sir George Turner:

– The liability of the eastern States was taken over by the Commonwealth.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– And during the book-keeping period those States must stand oi- fall by their agreements. South Australia cannot complain of the fact that a portion of the business now goes over the Pacific cable, but we should regard it as iniquitous if we were now called upon to assist in meeting the loss on that line.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Does the present line from South Australia pay ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It pays fairly well, but in the old days it was a very heavy burden on South Australia ; and the loss,, including payment of interest, has not yetbeen made up.

Sir George Turner:

– Would not the arrangement as to the Cape cable have had the effect of taking away the transcontinental work from South Australia altogether?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– No, it would not. Under the interminable agreement that

South Australia, and also Western Australia, entered into, the former State gave nothing, and got a considerable reduction in the rates. Messages by the Cape cost just as much as those by Port Darwin ; and the amount received by South Australia is the same irrespective of the line used.

Sir George Turner:

– But the Port Darwin line would not have been used.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– That does not matter, because the landing facilities at Fremantle and Glenelg would have been used. We have no right .to complain of the Eastern Extension Company trying to defeat a rival, but we must complain of an attempt on the part of the Commonwealth Government to unduly favour the Pacific line at the expense of the former company. Three of the eastern States are concerned in one cable, and the western States are concerned in another, and the postal authorities have decided that all messages, the routes of which are not indicated by the senders, must go by the Pacific cable. That appears to be a deliberate action in order to force as much business as possible to the Pacific line. Why should unrouted messages handed in at Kalgoorlie be sent all the way round to Brisbane, and thence by the Pacific line, when a shorter and quicker route, in which Western Australia is interested, is available?

Sir John Forrest:

– Western Australia is not interested in that route.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I do not use the word “ interested “ in the sense of partnership.

Sir John Forrest:

– It does not matter to Western Australia which way messages go, but I think they are sent by the line from that State. The messages go just as quickly, and at the same price, on both lines.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I have seen it stated in the newspapers, and have also very’ good authority for saying, that instructions have been given to the effect which I have indicated ; and this, of course, affects, very considerably the revenue of South Australia and Western Australia. A fair thing would be to arrange that all messages should go by the quicker route, or by each route alternately. Either method would be adopted, but with the present arrangement the Government can fairly be accused of favouring the Pacific line. I should now like to refer to the public service regulations. These as a whole- are fairly liberal, but there are a few to which exception may be taken. I shall not refer to details, because I think the public servants may be trusted to bring any disadvantages under which they labour under the notice of their superior, but there is one regulation which it seems to me ought not to be allowed in its present form. By regulation 41, officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss, or in any way to promote political movements. That is a very wide and sweeping regulation. Officers are further forbidden to use any official information for political purposes, or to disclose any such information without the express direction of the permanent head. These latter regulations are quite proper, and will meet with the approval of not only the public, but also of the officers themselves. Under regulation 41, however, public servants are unable to join any kind of organization whether of single taxers, free-traders, or protectionists, or in any way to promote a political movement. It may be said that the regulation is not to be -interpreted literally - that it is a power which will never be exercised : but it is a very dangerous power to place in the hands of the Executive. I shall not go intodetails, but merely mention that recently we have seen a very extreme view taken of what a political association’ is. We have seen the most disastrous results in one of the States as a consequence of the adoption of that extreme view. Here, however, we have a much wider clause, and one which I think honorable members will agree should not be in the regulations. It was first published on the 23rd December last, and took effect on the 1st January of this year. There are other clauses in the regulations to which I should refer, but that I do not wish to keep honorable members atthis late hour. I ask the Minister, however, to consult with the Public Service Commissioner to see if the regulations which I have dealt with cannot be modified, so thatthe public servants of the Commonwealth may enjoy as full rights of citizenship asthose outside the service. There are one or two other matters upon which I wished to speak, but I shall leave them over until another time. I was exceedingly pleased te hear the explanations of the Minister for Trade and Customs in answer te the charges made against him during; the debate. I feel certain that the public opinion of the Commonwealth will approve of his administration rather than of the criticism of some of his detractors. I hope that when the debate is concluded we shall get to work as speedily as possible, and that the session will not be unduly prolonged.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– At this late hour it is not my intention to keep the House very long. I would preface my remarks by thanking honorable members who visited Western Australia to see for themselves the conditions of an important State, which in many respects, I am sorry to say, has been misrepresented. The people of our State, however, regretted that more federal members did not go there to inquire into our conditions, and to be witnesses of the prosperity which we .are enjoying and shall continue to enjoy for a considerable time to come. As in 1892 our population was only 58,000, while “in March last it was 219,000, honorable members will realize that the State has not stood still. On the contrary, it has progressed by such leaps and bounds as are phenomena] even in the history of Australia. I am aware that an impetus was given to our progress by the discovery of gold, but other reasons for it are the liberality of our laws and the generous encouragement which is given to settlement. The measures to which reference was made in the Governor-General’s speech are of very great importance. It must be remembered that the conditions of the various States are very diverse. I may fairly say that there are not two States whose conditions are alike. Consequently the legislation which is proposed here necessarilv provoked a great deal of discussion. We can only hope that the laws which are passed will prove beneficial, not to particular States alone, but to the whole Commonwealth. Last session we passed into law twenty-one Acts, apart from measures of a financial nature, so that our first session was not an idle one ; and I feel sure that the legal foundation for the working of the Commonwealth which was thus laid will later redound to our credit. We have heard from some of the eloquent speakers in this Chamber that many of the Bills which are to be brought forward this session will be of the greatest importance to the future welfare of the Commonwealth, and no doubt they must. With regard to the establishment of a High Court, I feel that unless some economical proposal is put before us I cannot support the Bill. My idea is that the Judges of the States courts will be sufficient for some time to come. There may be cases involving hundreds or thousands of pounds which should come before federal courts, but, as a trial, the Chief J ustices of the States might very well be used for a year or two to constitute such a court. If that is done, there will be a great saving of expense, and justice will be meted out to those who ask for- it. With regard to the federal capital, I, for one, will- not agree to the expenditure of any large sum of money upon buildings. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes that it is a mistake for the Federal Parliament to meet in one of the capitals of the States, because its members must be influenced to some extent by the newspapers of that State. If economy were practised I think that the necessary buildings could be erected without imposing too serious a burden upon the finances of the Commonwealth. I am entirely in accord with the proposal to establish courts of conciliation and arbitration. We have just had an illustration in this State of how business and commerce are paralyzed when a large industrial dispute takes place. If a similar dispute occurred at one time in more than one State the disaster would be very great. Any measure which will prevent strikes, and will save men, and especially women and children, from their effects, will be a good one. In Western Australia there were in 1901 two strikes which paralyzed trade, and honorable members can imagine the consternation and misery which was created by the stoppage of supplies to the gold-fields, which are dependent for communication on about 400 miles of railway. I am also ready to support the proposed naval subsidy of £200,000 per annum. It would be suicidal for a country with a population of something like 3,800,000, to spend, say £1,000,000 upon the purchase of a war > vessel. We should still have its up-keep to provide for, and it would practically give us no protection at all. I feel sure, however, that under ‘ the new naval agreement we shall be well protected. I hope that the Government “will see that the war ships are allowed to move from port to port. In the past the people of “Western Australia, who have always contributed their si tare to the subsidy, have «een very little of the vessels of the squadron. The honorable member for Darling Downs spoke in favour of the establish ment of a Federal Department of Agriculture. That suggestion was first made by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and it is a pity that it has not been carried out. Such a department need not necessarily be expensive, but it would do a great deal of good by its investigations into the capabilities of various kinds of soil, and by the information which it could give to agriculturists of all kinds. I wish to call the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to a case which I should like to bring under his notice. A firm in Western Australia some time ago imported some timber, and as the documents necessary to pass a Customs entry did not arrive with the timber, an arrangement was made with the department that a deposit of £50 should be paid, and that the entries should be made in due- form when the proper documents arrived. That happened in due course, and something like £26 was paid in duty. But upon an application for a refund of the difference, it was stated that the money had been paid into the revenue account, and that the Customs Act did not allow any of it to be returned. I will read copies of the papers in the case which have been placed in 1113- hands, the originals having been sent to the Comptroller-General of Customs. The first is a letter to myself, which I do not think it necessary to read. The next letter is addressed to the Collector of Customs, Fremantle, and is dated Fremantle, 6th November, 1902. It reads as follows : -

Dear Sir, - By the Wollowra, which reached this port in January last, at Adelaide, we had 1,215 pieces of timber transhipped from a vessel from America.

The papers forwarded to us were not sufficient to satisfy your department, and, by permission, we deposited the sum of £50 (fifty pounds) to obtain delivery, and to produce the specification and other information when received.

These papers have come to hand, and we desire to complete entries, but we are informed that .the <-£50 has been paid into revenue. The amount of duty charged in the shipment is .-U26 1 ls. 4d., so it will be seen th:it a sum of J-23 8s. 8d. is clue to us.

We will be pleased to learn that upon our pissing the necessary entries we may obtain a refund of this amount.

The reply was dated 7th November, and reads as follows : -

In reply to your letter of yesterday’s date, I beg to inform you that the amount in question being on deposit over the period allowed, viz., G (six) months, was carried to revenue, and as your firm failed to produce the documents required by this Act within the prescribed time, I am unable.to approve of any application for a refund of the amount overpaid.

On the 22nd November a letter was addressed to the Comptroller-General of Customs at Melbourne, in the following terms : -

We respectfully ask your consideration of a deposit entry made by us in January last, as peour letter to Collector of Customs here, and his replies thereto, as per copies enclosed herewith. We learn that according to section 17, Federal Customs Act, six (6) months is the period allowed for such deposit, but of this fact we were ignorant, and, therefore, under the circumstances, we trust you will deal justly with the case.

On the 4th December the ComptrollerGeneral replied -

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd inst., for refund in connexion with an amount deposited by you with the collector, Fremantle, in January hist, to cover duty on certain timber ex Wollowra, and in reply to inform you that the Customs Act does not permit compliance with your request.

I think that was really a hard ease, because the firm affected was one of good standing, and handed over £50 as a deposit in order to secure duty which amounted to not more than £26. I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to this matter in the best spirit, and I feel sure that that honesty of purpose which has distinguished his administration will prompt him to act fairly in this instance. A letter which appeared in to-day’s Argus, signed by Messrs. Blogg Brothers, shows the difficulties and inconveniences to which manufacturers, even in Melbourne, are subjected -

Mr Kingston:

– I could say something very funny about that letter if I wished.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– I do not think it necessary to read the letter, but simply direct attention to it. I desire to say a few words with reference to the transcontinental railway to Western Australia Some honorable members, representing South Australia, seem to look upon this proposal in a very parochial spirit. They think that because the Western Australian Legislature declined to authorize the construction of a railway from Esperance Bay to the gold-fields, the South Australian Government should, therefore, withhold their consent to the construction of the line through their territory to “Western Australia. The House has already been informed that distinct promises were made to the Minister for Defence and others before Western Australia entered the federation. It was represented by Sir John Forrest, who was then- Premier of Western Australia, that South Australia was really in earnest in her desire to have the railway constructed, and if it had not been for such assurances, Western Australia would certainly not have entered the union. It has been stated that if a railway had been constructed from Esperance to the gold-fields, it would have greatly assisted South Australia, and apparently that State would prefer to have the local line rather than a railway which would connect Western Australia with the other States of the Commonwealth, and promote the general benefit. Would it not be better, after all, for South Australia if goods could be sent direct from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie rather than bv steamer to Esperance and then by rail to the gold-fields 1 I was pleased to hear the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, say that he was favorable to the construction of the line, although he could not vote for it at present. We do not wish honorable members to pledge themselves to vote for the construction of the line until the necessary information, now under preparation, with regard to water supply and many other matters is placed in their hands, because we know that it would be suicidal on our part to urge the construction of the railway before its success could be fairly assured. The honorable and learned member for Parkes rather pooh-poohed the idea that the railway would be of any use for the purpose of conveying troops. I hope that many years will pass before any necessity arises for using the line for such a purpose : but I feel sure that we should act wisely in placing ourselves in a position to convey troops to almost any point of our extensive coastline, in order to meet a threatened invasion. It is questionable whether a railway from Esperance Bay to the gold-fields, such as has been ardently desired by the people of South Australia, would pay or prove of any real benefit to our neighbours in that State : in fact, it might have the effect that neither the present line from Fremantle or the suggested line would pay ; so that I hope too much importance will not be attached to the refusal of Western Australia to construct the Esperance line. I hope the Government will push on with the inquiries now being made in regard to the transcontinental railway, and that the line will be surveyed without unnecessary delay.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I think that, in view of the long speech made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, we may fairly ask the Prime Minister to consent to an adjournment of the debate at this stage.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I think that we might go on a little further to-night. I have been very considerate to honorable members in allowing early adjournments, and I think they should be satisfied if we close at a quarter to eleven.

Mr BROWN:

– In view of all the circumstances, the Prime Minister might very fairly have consented to an adjournment, but I know that I need not expect very much consideration from him, and, therefore, I am quite prepared to proceed. A great variety of subjects have been dealt with in the course of this debate, but most of them are of the greatest importance, and deserve the fullest consideration at our hands. Therefore, I do not regard the time devoted to their discussion as wasted. No doubt the Government are anxious to conclude the debate, in order that they may escape further caustic criticism, and enter upon the work of the session without further delay. One of the charges levelled against the Prime Minister is that he was not perfectly fair to the electors of the Commonwealth, and particularly to those of Nev/ South Wales, when he indicated to them the Tariff policy which he stated it was intended to submit to this Parliament. The Prime Minister, in his reply to the leader of the Opposition, declared that there was no reasonable ground for the assumption that he was not perfectly frank with the electors of New South Wales in regard to this matter. But I am disposed to think that the criticism of the leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified. I would remind the right honorable gentleman that a very strong feeling existed in New South Wales over the question of the adoption of the Constitution. That feeling largely obliterated the old lines of difference between persons entertaining opposite fiscal views. If for no other reason than that, the Prime Minister should have fully disclosed to the electors the character of the Tariff which he intended to submit to this Parliament. At the conclusion of the severe contest in connexion with the adoption of the Constitution a meeting was held at Bathurst to consider the future position of the federal movement. At that meeting the chief figure was the Prime Minister, who was regarded as’ the leader of the profederal movement in New South Wales. The battle-cry which he then raised in connexion with the impending struggle was not one of protection versus free-trade, but the main contention was that the Constitution was in danger. He appealed to the electors to rally round the federal party, and thus save the Constitution. The reason for this action was that a large section of the anti-federalists were prepared to do all they possibly could to defeat the purposes underlying that instrument of government. At the meeting held in Bathurst, amongst the gentlemen who occupied seats upon the platform were the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable and learned member for Parkes. The tenor of their addresses was strongly in accord with the policy outlined by the Prime Minister ; but they were wise enough not to burn their boats, and when they became familiar with the character of the Tariff which was to be submitted, they wisely drew back.’ No doubt they congratulate themselves to-day that they are not in the position of many of the old-time free-traders of New South Wales. For example, one of the right-hand supporters of the Prime Minister in his own electorate was a free-trader. He supported him upon the understanding that the right honorable gentleman was to be the leader - not of a protectionist Government, but of a Federal Administration. The federal idea was to be uppermost. When the Tariff was submitted to this House he withdrew his support, and during the course of the present debate the Prime Minister has declared that the gentleman in question had not sense enough to perceive what was the real position at the time. Yet in his Maitland address I find that the Prime Minister, amongst other things, stated -

I have not come here to conduct a protectionist campaign, though under other circumstances I should have been prepared to do so.

Later on, in addressing a Brisbane audience, he is reported to have said that the difference between the policy of the Government and that . of the other side was only a thin veneer - that it was .not the wide fundamental distinction which is implied by a protective as distinguished from a freetrade Tariff. During the same campaign the Minister for Home Affairs is reported to have said -

He could only call it cruel to raise the fiscal question now, when the very Constitution itself rendered free-trade and protection alike impossible.

All these facts go to show that the fiscal issue was not submitted to the electors. I- would further point out that Senator O’Connor gave utterance to sentiments similar to those entertained by the Minister for Home Affairs. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is reported to have said -

We ought not to allow the wretched fiscal question to come in, but we ought to choose the best men.

That was the original battle-cry. The men who were in sympathy with the federal movement were to receive first consideration, and the wretched fiscal issue was not to be raised. But what happened? After the elections had been won, the Government had to evolve their taxation proposals. In submitting those proposals to this House the Minister for Trade and Customs declared -

This is a protectionist policy. We were sent here by the people to support that policy, and we place it before you with the force of our majority behind us.

That is very different from the statement which was .made throughout New South Wales prior to the elections. All things considered, I think there is very substantial ground for the criticism which has been levelled against the Government upon this particular matter. I regret to say that the high expectations formed of the first Federal Administration have not been realized. Probably the reason for this is to be found in the fact that the Prime Minister selected his present colleagues very largely from the legal profession of the other States. The result is that in the administration of the affairs of government we get too much of legal technicalities and too little of common-sense. The result is that much friction has been caused throughout the Commonwealth by an incapacity on the part of Ministers to handle matters in a commonsense manner. Whilst I freely confess that 1 was in opposition to the Constitution Bill, because I wished to see it more democratic in some respects, I think I have every reasonable ground for claiming that

I am as sincere a federalist as the men who fought for a conservative Constitution. Ihope that federation will not be judged by the mismanagement of the first Federal Government. I join heartily with the mover of the address in reply in the hope that as time goes on those causes of friction will disappear, and that the great advantages to the whole of the people of Australia from this union will present themselves in so Strong a light that dissatisfaction will be forgotten, and all will assist in upholding and supporting the federal movement. But it is a matterof great regret to every friend of the union that theFederal Governmenthave made such a bad start. If even now the Government . could see their way to clear themselves of the mere legal technicalities, red tape, and blue paper which, as it were, make the Federal Government stink in the nostrils of the average member of the public, they would serve the high purpose I have no doubt they have in view much better than they are doing at present. This weakness is seen right through the various departments, from that of the Prime Minister in the case of the half-dozen hatters, down to the administration of the Post and Telegraph department, and I am afraid that even the department of Defence is not altogether free from this irritating red-tapeism. As to the hatters, I wish to say that I supported the provision under which they were excluded, because I believed that a law of that character was necessary and desirable in the best interests of the people of Australia. And I am not prepared to go back on the stand I then took ; but it is most regrettable that the powers conferred bj’ this provision were put into operation on this particular occasion. I admit that the papers which have been produced place a much more favorable light on the conduct of the Prime Minister than appeared when the question was exciting high feeling in the State of New South Wales. There was some substantial ground for the feeling of friction which was occasioned in that State. The Prime Minister in his reply seemed . to wish to lead the House to suppose that the noise was caused by opponents of his Government, and of the principles of legislation of this character. But I remind the Prime Minister, that perhaps one of his strongest political friends in New South Wales is his late colleague, the present Premier of that State. That gentleman is not likely to lend himself toany expression of hostility towards theFederal Government on measures of thisdescription, but he saw grave grounds fortaking exception to the action of thePrime Minister. In the height of the disturbance, before the Prime Ministercame to a decision, Sir John See telegraphed, to him as follows : -

I sincerely hope your Government will see fit release hatters on Orontes without further delay. Matter raising intense dissatisfaction here.

The following day Sir John See wired! again -

Just received cable from Agent-General thataction taken to prevent landing of British workmen seriously affects financial proposals of this: State. Again strongly urge permission to land.

Mr Tudor:

Sir John See did not know all the facts of the case.

Mr BROWN:

– That was a request from, the Premier of New South Wales, who is not in any way hostile to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Indeed, when the Prime Minister or any member of the Federal Cabinet addresses a meeting in Sydney the Pre^rnier of the mother State is able to join him on the platform and support the Government in matters of general policy. But he could notsupportthem in the matter of thehatters. I am open to correction, but I am informed that Mr. Anderson also is a strong supporter of thepresent Government, and notlikely in a matter of the kind to do anythingto their detriment. Mr. Anderson spentsomething like £30,000 in Sydney in equipping a factory for the production of’ hats, and he was not likely to spend that sum of money for nothing. For his factory he required 72 skilled hands, and was prepared to give employment to about 200 or 300 other persons ; and,’ according to bisown statement, he endeavoured to secure this skilled labour in the State of Victoria before he sought assistance from outside theCommonwealth. I find from a return prepared by the trades unions f©r the information of the Prime Minister, that in this tradethere are 173 skilled hands in Victoria, twenty in South Australia, fifteen in New South Wales, and three in Western Australia, or a total of about 211 within theCommonwealth. Papers produced show conclusively that Mr. Anderson was not able toget anything like the number he wanted in Australia, and he-decided to import hands. I. cannot understand the -opposition which in certain quarters was shown to the importation of skilled men of this description. It meant the opening of a new industry, and enlarging the productive powers of the Commonwealth; instead of making the conditions of labour worse, it meant the opening up of new avenues of employment. I have no sympathy with the cry that, the population of the Commonwealth should be kept down to its present figure. We have immense possibilities in the way of developing the wealth of Australia, but the possibilities are dormant until such time as intelligent labour can be brought to bear. ‘ If this Commonwealth is to be the great nation we hope, we mast be prepared not only to see an increase of population but to afford facilities to that population far developing the natural resources of the land. To prohibit the starting of new lines of industry, or to prevent the introduction of skilled hands, is, in my opinion, the most suicidal policy which could be followed ; at any rate, it is a policy to which I cannot give any adhesion. But in the State of Victoria, and increasingly so in New South Wales, such are the conditions that I’ believe it would he most unwise to launch. any large scheme of assisting or inducing population, to come here. We arc not able to hold the population we have at the present .time. The very best men of these two States are -being driven away because the natural resources are in the hands of a monopolistic few, who will not use those resources themselves, or afford others reasonable facilities for doing so. Until the State Governments solve this problem I have no hope of any great additions to our population in the near future, but am rather inclined to think that the leakage we are now experiencing will continue, to the detriment of the Commonwealth and our national prosperity. The Prime Minister took a week to consider the matter of the six hatters ; and here I may say that I believe the right honorable gentleman, in insisting on an exemption being applied for, was ‘ only carrying out the law. The difficulty of the position was first of all that the particular section was in an Alien Restriction Act which primarily dealt with coloured races; and. both employers and workmen in the old country may be excused for their ignorance of the character of the legislation.

Mr Tudor:

– That was not the case with these men.

Mr BROWN:

– I have no doubt they were told something about the law in Melbourne.

Mr Tudor:

– They were told before they left the old country.

Mr BROWN:

– This provision had never been exercised before. Mr. Anderson, according to his own statement, sought legal advice, and he was informed that theAct did not apply to men who were beingbrought out under the terms of his agreement. After considerable negotiation, after he had been put to the expense of journeying from Sydney to Melbourne to interview the Prime Minister, . and after the PrimeMinister had consulted a number of persons interested in the trade, it was discovered that the whole trouble was due to the fact, that one of the blue paper forms of which the Federal Government is so fond had notbeen filled in. “When Mr. Anderson wasset on the right course, the Prime Minister discovered, as he wrote in his minute, that -

It is clear that Mr. Anderson cannot find his- 72 nien among the existing personnel of the Australian hat trade within the Commonwealth, and orders were issued to allow the men tobe landed. Instead of being treated as. they were, they should have been treated as. the Sultan of Johore and the Maoris whocame here were treated. It was most unwise to administer the law as it was administered. I am a friend of the Act, because I believe it to be a necessary one, and I want to see its provisions’ carried into effect. But I say that it was unfortunate, in the interests of that legislation, that theincident happened. If the men had a rightto come here, they should not have been placed in such an invidious position ; but, on the other hand, if they came out under conditions inimical to the public welfare, they should have been treated as undesirable immigrants, and not allowed to land. I believe that great damage has been done to the Commonwealth in theopinion of the old world by the action which was taken. I make that statement on the authority of the Premier of New South Wales, and of the AgentGeneral of that State, both of Whom are personal friends and former colleagues of the Prime . Minister, and would not say anything calculated to injure him .unlessthey ‘found it absolutely necessary to do so.

Honorable Members. - Let us adjourn., now.

Mr BROWN:

– Shall I be allowed to continue my speech to-morrow 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– On this occasion T consent to the honorable member having leave to continue his speech tomorrow.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the pleasure of the House that leave be granted to the honorable member to continue his speech to-morrow ?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Brown) adjourned.

page 496

MESSAGES

Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of messages from the Senate, informing the House of the appointment of a House Committee, a Library Committee, and a Printing Committee, with power to act during the recess, and to confer with similar committees of the House of Representatives.

page 496

PRINTING, LIBRARY, AND HOUSE COMMITTEES

Resolved (on motion by Sis’ Edmund Barton) -

That leave be given to the Printing Committee of this House to confer with the Printing Committee of the Senate, and that a Message be sent informing the Senate accordingly.

That the Senate be also informed that the Library Committee and the House Committee of this House hare leave under the Standing Orders to confer with similar committees of the Senate.

page 496

HOUSE COMMITTEE

Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -

That Mr. Manifold be a member of the House Committee in place of Mr. Piesse, deceased.

page 496

HIGH COURT PROCEDURE BILL

- Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -

That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to regulate the practice, and procedure of the High Court.

page 496

SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund

Barton) -

That the House at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at half- past 2 o’clock p.m.

House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030603_reps_1_13/>.