1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer explain what he did with the portion of the Commonwealth revenue collected in the State of Tasmania last month ?
– I paid it away to meet the necessary expenditure in the State.
Sir JOHN FORREST laid upon the table
Regulations under State Defence Acts and the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs if it is true that the electoral commissioners, or some of them, in adjusting the boundaries of the federal electorates in accordance with populations, are making practically no distinction between dense city populations and the scattered populations of large country districts, notwithstanding the fact that the Act permits them to make a discrimination to the extent of 20 per cent. above and 20 per cent. below the quota. If no discrimination is being shown, I ask the Minister if he considers that the spirit of the Act is being complied with, and the intentions of Parliament carried into effect ?
– If I remember aright, the honorable member was one of those who were prominent in trying, when the Electoral Bill was before the House, to have a distinction made between the number of electors which should be allotted to a country constituency, and the number which should be allotted to a city or denselypopulated constituency, but the House decided that there should be a discrimination only to the extent of one-fifth above and onefifth below the quota. In South Australia the quota is being adhered to very closely in both city and country constituencies. It was the intention of Parliament, however, that there should be some discrimination, and when the proposed divisions are laid before the House it will be for honorable members to say whether the commissioners have done their work in accordance with the spirit of the Act.
– Has the Minister given any instructions to the commissioners on the subject?
– They are adding to the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa a territory as large as Victoria.
– They are talking of doing so.
– The only information - it is not an instruction - which I felt called upon to give to the commissioners was that they should divide the electorates in accordance with section 16 of the Act, which says -
In making any distribution of States into divisions, the commissioner shall give clue consideration to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions, and, subject thereto, the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the commissioner may adopt a margin of allowance to be used wherever necessary, but in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
I could not do more than that.
– Can the Minister say when the maps of the proposed electoral divisions of Queensland will be available to honorable members?
– I had a communication from Queensland this morning, and I expect the divisions to be posted to me to-day or to-morrow, so that I shall receive them as soon as a mail can get here from Brisbane. It will take some time, however, to prepare all the maps which have to be distributed.
– The other night, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the Prime Minister promised to obtain information as to the advantages from the military stand-point of a railway running east and west across the continent of Australia. I now ask him if he will obtain similar information with reference to a railway running north and south?
– I do not see any valid reason why I should not make the inquiry which the honorable member suggests.
– During the recess no documents of any kind were posted to honorable members, though many important matters of public interest arose and were discussed in the newspapers - subjects like the report of the Conference of Premiers, and the statements of the Treasurer in regard to the finances. It seems to me that honorable members, without being overloaded with unnecessary papers, should have sent to them documents which would guide them in forming their own opinions on public questions of importance, and not be left to depend upon the newspapers. I do not know what the practice adopted by a State Parliament is, but I know that I have felt the want of such information as I speak of. During the recess I received no public document of any kind.
– The honorable member can have all parliamentary papers posted to him if he asks for them.
– I think it is the custom when documents have been laid upon the table by command, or in pursuance of a resolution, that they are distributed among honorable members even during the recess, if the printing of them is ordered. But it has been the practice not to communicate to honorable gentlemen during a recess documents for the parliamentary publication of which there has been no authorization, and such papers as are of any importance are laid upon the table upon the re-assembling of Parliament. I will consider the question which the honorable member has raised, but I think that he will admit that it would be a matter of some difficulty to depart from a practice which appears to rest upon reason.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs if he is correctly reported in one of this morning’s newspapers to have informed an interviewer that the land required for the federal city will be bought before the selection is made?
– I have no recollection of making any remark of the kind. The journalist who attributed the statement to me must have drawn upon his imagination. It is not likely that the Minister or Parliament would purchase land before the selection was made.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied me with the following answers : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When does the Government intend advancing the sixth and fourth classes of South Australian federal officers who have reached the South Australian State maximum of their class, from the intermediate grade salary to an equality with other federal officers at the maximum of the Commonwealth fifth and fourth classes, and will such advance date from the coming into operation of the Commonwealth Act ?
– I have an intimation from the Post and Telegraph department that this is a matter for the Home Affairs department to deal with, and if the honorablemember will repeat his question at a later date the information will be made available.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
– As this matter is connected with my department, I may inform the honorable member -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
– Information to enable replies to be given to the questions is being obtained, and answers will be given as soon as it is available.
asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow : -
Conditions were as follow : -
Debate resumed from 3rd June (vide page 496), on a motion by Mr. L. E. Groom -
That the following address in reply to the Governor-General’s opening speech be now adopted : -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When the Prime Minister very kindly consented last night to my resuming my address this morning, I had dealt with the question whether there was any justification for the charge against the Prime Minister that the fiscal policy of the Governmenthad not been fairly set before the electors of New South Wales prior to the general elections. I had also called attention to what I regarded as the causes of the existing dissatisfaction with the administration of the Federal Government. I now desire to say a few words in reference to the Tariff. The Government were charged with the very important duty of framing a Tariff calculated to meet the requirements of the whole Commonwealth, and we are now in a position to judge them by the results of their work. It seems extraordinary that, in spite of the very strong fight they made over the Tariff, no honorable members who sit on the Government side of the House seem to have the courage to come out into the open and defend their handiwork. The unfortunate Tariff finds no one prepared to father it. It is like “ Japhet in search of a father.” Those who are responsible for the Tariff deal with it in a very gingerly way, and, judging from the appearance of some leading protectionists, they are not very satisfied with the results achieved. We can all remember the genial expression on the face of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports during last session, but now his appearance is the reverse of cheerful. Whether this is due to the effects of the Tariff’, to doubts as to the stability of the Victorian Wages Boards, or to the depressing effects of the wave of “ Irvineism “ which is now overwhelming his State, I cannot say, but the fact remains that the honorable member and others who supported the Tariff do not seem disposed to make any very strong fight in its behalf. We are told that we should allow the whole matter to rest, because the commercial affairs of the Commonwealth would be very seriously unsettled by any revival of the Tariff discussion. This view is put forward most strongly whenever any suggestion is made that the duties now provided for should be modified upon a revenue-producing basis, and at the same time be rendered less protective. I feel satisfied, however, that if, as the result of the next general election, the Government find themselves supported by a substantial majority in favour of high duties, the cry which is now being raised against interference with the Tariff will be dropped, and an attempt will be made to increase the duties. The Prime Minister, in the course of his address to the electors of New South Wales, claimed that the whole trouble in regard to the Tariff had been caused by the members of the Opposition and those who had assisted them in destroying the symmetry of the Government scheme of taxation. The Tariff has been hailed by some Government supporters as a “ poor man’s Tariff,” and, no doubt, if that description is intended to apply to a scheme which places heavy burdens upon the shoulders of the poor, whilst relieving the rich as far as possible, the present Tariff deserves that. name. I wish to show the extent to which the efforts of the Opposition and of the labour party have been successful in removing burdens from the shoulders of the consumers. In this connexion I need only refer to the speech delivered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council when introducing the Tariff into the Senate. That honorable gentleman made a strong appeal to the members of the Senate not to effect any further reductions, because the revenue which the Government required to meet the needs of the States had been already greatly reduced by the alterations made in this House He pointed out that the losses so involved included the following : - Cocoa beans, chocolate, and confectionery, £18,000 ; preserved milk, mustard, salt, and rice, £43,000 ; tinned fish, £40,000 ; tea, £350,000 ; cotton and piece goods, £200,000; other textiles, £50,000 ; machinery, metals, &c, £50,000 ; kerosene, £10,000 ; drugs, £20,000 ; earthenware, £20,000 ; printing paper, £25,000 ; and other items, £20,000 ; making a total of £976,000. The Senate decided, however, to make further reductions upon some of these important lines, and the revenueproducing power of the Tariff was further diminished as the result of the compromise which was eventually arrived at. But, instead of the Tariff producing only £8,009,000, it actually realized £8,692,000, and is estimated to-yield even more , during the current year. Indeed, more revenue is being realized under its operation than the high duties . originally proposed by the Government were estimated by the Treasurer to yield. According to the returns which are now available, the actual increase from this source in New South Wales up to the present time is approximately £3,272,000. The revenue derived in that State from this particular head actually -shows an increase of about £1,250,000. In other words, prior to the accomplishment of federation, the people of New South Wales were taxed to the extent of £1 6s. 4d. per head, whereas during the current year - despite the fact that they have been suffering from drought and disaster such as they had never previously experienced - they have been taxed to the extent of £2 5s. per head, an increase of 18s. 4d. per head. What is more, the taxation is being realized. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister declared publicly that the Tariff which would be submitted by the Government would be based upon the principle of- “ revenue without destruction.” I think that the experience of New South Wales and a number of the other States is that its operation is in the direction of obtaining revenue with destruction - the destruction of its natural sources of production. The GovernorGeneral’s speech contains a recognition of the fact that the Commonwealth generally is suffering from drought. It says -
Notwithstanding the drought, which proved so disastrous to many parts of Australia, the federal finances are in a very satisfactory condition.
But they are in that condition only because the Tariff is exacting from the people money which they can ill afford to pay. To a very great extent, too, it has assisted to destroy natural industries. I have a very vivid recollection of a debate which _ occurred in this Chamber in reference to the grain and fodder duties. .Honorable members will remember that under the original proposals of the Government the duties levied upon these articles were so high that Ministers did not expect them to yield any revenue under normal conditions. The matter was under discussion in this House when the drought had reached a very acute stage in Queensland and New South Wales. I recollect that when honorable members appealed to the Government on behalf of their respective States, either to remove those duties or to suspend their operation until normal conditions again prevailed, their suggestion was met with very strong opposition by Government supporters, notably, by those who favour a high protective Tariff. The Minister for Trade and Customs defended the stand taken by the Government upon the ground that it was right for the farmers in the more favoured parts of the Commonwealth to profit by the needs of their brethren in its less favoured portions. In what way the federal spirit - about which we heard so much prior to the consummation of federation - was manifested in a contention of that character I fail to perceive. . In the Senate the Vicepresident of the Executive Council voiced the same sentiment when he declared that Australia’s needs on that occasion were Tasmania’s opportunity. Coming to the rank and file, I would point out that the honorable member for Gippsland strongly opposed the suggestion to suspend the operation of the fodder duties, because he interpreted it as an endeavour to secure a modicum of what he called “free-trade,” which, he said, could not be obtained, except under the plea of the necessities of the people of these States. The honorable member for Moira also denounced the proposal in the very classical language of “flap-doodle.” He declared that the suffering settlers of these States were squealing for assistance to which they were not entitled. Several other honorable members from the Government side of the House gave utterance to similar sentiments. In view of the great disaster which has overtaken the industries of the Commonwealth generally - a disaster which is being intensified by the operation of the present Tariff - I should like to hear the grounds upon which those honorable members justify their action at the present stage. There is certainly no reason for the contention that the position of affairs was not known at the time. It is true that it may not have been fully realized, but that was not the fault of the people who were suffering, or of their representatives in this Chamber. The matter was put before the Government very plainly by representatives holding fiscal views similar to those entertained by the Ministry themselves, and by those who were their strongest supporters prior to the election. In this connexion I need only refer to a large meeting which was held in Sydney for the purpose of urging that consideration should be extended to the farmers of the droughtstricken areas - a meeting which resulted in the appointment of a deputation which subsequently waited upon the Acting Prime Minister and placed the position fully before him. At that meeting the Minister of Lands in New South Wales, Mr. W. P. Crick, is reported to have expressed himself as follows : -
It was a cruel thing to think that if fodder could be got for the stock it should be shut out, and he thought he could claim the support of men like Mr. Carruthers (the leader of the Opposition) and Mr. Ashton, when he said it was the duty of the Government of the State to pay the duty on the fodder to keep the stock alive if possible.
I would also remind the House that the Attorney-General of that State was specially deputed to visit Melbourne on behalf of the New South Wales Government and to confer with the Commonwealth Government upon the matter. In the report of an interview with an Age representative at the time of his visit, Mr. B. R. Wise is reported to have said -
The idea that Australian farmers will be injured b- a temporary remission of duties is based on the assumption that the farmers have any stocks to sell. This is, however, not the case, except in very few instances. The farmers have long ago parted with their stocks, which are now held by persons who bought for re-sale, and who should have already made a very fair profit on their bargains, lt is quite certain that something ought to be done. Any one who realizes the importance of the pastoral industry to the country could not fail to recognise the gravity of the situation.
That is a fair statement of the position as it was placed before the Commonwealth Government by the Attorney-General of New South Wales. After the matter had been considered, and no assistance in the direction of a remission of the duties was forthcoming, the adjournment of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales was moved by Mr. J. C. Fitzpatrick for the purpose of calling attention to the matter. In the course of the debate, the Premier, Sir John See, is reported to have said -
When this matter was brought under my notice, I said as representing the State, that we were prepared to forego the duty upon imported fodder : but the Federal Government could not see their way clear to do that. Just the same as in some other matters, they have endeavoured to put the responsibility on this Government, when they should have taken action themselves.
I think that is a very reasonable position to assume. The Commonwealth Government is responsible for the duties which have been imposed upon these lines, and if it was expedient to remove or suspend the operation of the duties, certainly the Ministry should have undertaken the task, instead of leaving it to the State Government to circumvent their action by providing for a refund of imposts after they had been collected. It has been stated in reply to objections which have been urged, that by means of the present Tariff, the State Government were enabled to reduce railway freights to an extent that more than compensated the stock-owners for the duty they were called upon to pay upon these particular items. But I well remember that the Chief Railway Commissioner of New South Wales - a very shrewd commercial man - when he was approached upon the subject of a reduction of the rates for the carriage of starving stock, put the position exactly as it subsequently worked out. He told his interviewers that such a proposal would not accomplish the object at which they aimed, inasmuch as the stocks of fodder had passed into the hands of a few, and that any reduction in the railway rates would be made an excuse for increasing the price to the consumer, so that no benefit would be conferred - upon him. That is precisely what has occurred. Failing to secure concessions from the Commonwealth administration, the State Government endeavoured to assist stock-owners by reducing the railway rates. But, just in proportion as those rates were reduced, the price of fodder charged to the unfortunate stockowners was increased. The result was that in many cases supplies of fodder which were purchased at £4 or £5 per ton, and the ruling price of which should not have exceeded £6 per ton, were sold to persons who were endeavouring to save their stock at £8 and £10 per ton, and even more. A few nights ago the honorable member for G wydir attempted to decry the dissatisfaction felt by reason of the operation of these duties. The honorable member quoted a return showing that up to August last a sum of something like £17,000 was obtained from this particular source, and in view of that small collection he asked wherein lay the great grievance against the Government t But it is not the amount of duty collected that indicates the full oppressiveness of this provision. It is the fact that the imposition of the duty enabled a few to control the market and to charge practically what they liked in dealing with stock-owners who were making heroic struggles to preserve their stock. The honorable member certainly does not correctly size up the position if he thinks that the whole of the trouble is to be measured by the experiences of farmers and graziers, up to some time in April last. The trouble only began then. The farmers and settlers are not yet free from it. They have still to purchase fodder to save the remnants of their stock, and seed to enable them to put in their crops - also material for other necessary operations. The matter has long since ceased to be a mere question affecting stock and stock-owners. It is now a people’s question. It affects the bread of the community. In consequence of the drought last year’s crops were practically a failure.- I find that in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, no yield whatever was obtained from about 1,750,000 acres, which were put under wheat, and that a great part of the area that was stripped, or cut for grain, yielded only from 10 lbs. to 60 lbs. per acre. Nowhere in the Commonwealth - with the exception of South Australia - was anything like. a fair average return obtained. I find from the returns supplied that Western Australia stands perhaps in a better position, than do the other States ; but its returns last year were 51,393 bushels below the yield for the previous season.
– Not on account of the drought.
– Certainly the extent of production in Western Australia is not nearly equal to the local requirements. I wish to indicate the real effects of the drought upon this really indispensable classof production. In 1900-01, New South Wales produced 16,173,771 bushels of wheat, Victoria produced 17,847,301, South Australia 11,253,148, and Queensland 1,194,088 bushels. In the year 1901-2, a considerable shortage took place. Instead of a yield of 16,173,771 bushels, New South Wales obtained only 14 808,705 bushels; and the yield .in Victoria was only 12,127,382 bushels. In South Australia, it was 8,012,762 bushels ; and in Queensland it was 1,692,222 bushels. Last season, New South Wales obtained a yield of only 1,561,205 bushels, showing a shortage of 13,247,503 bushels on the previous year; Victoria raised 2,386,219 bushels, or a shortage of 9,741,163 bushels; South Australia had a yield of 6,354,912 bushels, or a shortage of 1,657,852 bushels ; and Queensland had a yield of only 100,000 bushels, or a shortage of 1,592,222 bushels. In Western Australia the yield was 881, 70S bushels, or a shortage of 51,393 bushels; while Tasmania had a shortage of 13,662 bushels as compared with the returns for the previous )>ear. As compared with the yield for the previous year there was a total shortage of 26,303,790 bushels, and as compared with the return for the year before the shortage represented 36,118,SS1 bushels. There was thus an enormous falling-off in the general food supply of the community. I turn now to the losses sustained in pastoral enterprises. In New South Wales the drought last year resulted in a shortage of 189,263 bales of wool ; in Victoria there was a shortage of 68,327 bales : in South Australia a shortage of 12,734 bales; in Queensland a shortage of 26,740 bales ; and in Tasmania a shortage of something like 4,741 bales, or a total loss of between 300,000 and 350,000 bales of wool for the whole Commonwealth. This shortage includes a large quantity of what is known as dead wool, or dead skin, and it indicates that in the coming year the falling off will, be very largely intensified. Mr. Coghlan estimates that the losses in respect of the failure of wheat crops and death of stock in New South Wales alone represent something like £10,000,000. That, however, is only a very small proportion of the total losses which the drought entailed upon the State. There was, for example, the increased cost of feeding stock, and the increase in the price of fodder required for that purpose. In my own electorate over £100,000 was expended last season in providing for the sheep upon a single holding. Apart from that expenditure, an enormous outlay was involved in securing railway trucks, and paying for the transfer of stock to more favoured districts. The experience on this holding is a fair illustration of what was general throughout my electorate, and indeed throughout the greater part of New South Wales. The total loss to the community cannot be measured by the loss of £1 0,000,000 in respect of crop failures, death of stock, and so forth. If this were a question affecting only New South Wales the House, perhaps, might afford to ignore it. But it affects the whole Commonwealth. In the issue of the Argus of the 26th ultimo a return was published showing the estimated wheat importations into Australia from the 1st of January to the 24th of May. The approximate production of wheat in Australia last year was -12,112,0.00 bushels; there was also on hand in flour and old wheat about 900,000 bushels, or a total local supply of 13,01 2,000 bushels to draw from. The” importations during the-period named consisted of 7,S48,625 bushels, while under order and on the way to Australia there was a total of 4,031,975 bushels, the aggregate importations thus being something like 11,SS0,600 bushels. It is estimated that 19.500,000 bushels are required for food supplies, while seed requirements represent another 5,500,000 bushels,’ or a total of 25,000,000 bushels. During the year 1901-2 the Commonwealth instead of importing grain in these enormous quantities for its own local requirements, exported no less than 1,980,000 bushels. It was said last session that the Tariff would operate in the direction of providing for local requirements. The honorable member for Gippsland asserted that we must have a Tariff like that proposed in order that we might provide for our local requirements. He suggested that it would - by what species of magic he did not explain - compel the farmers to enter upon the work of producing wheat, so that we might not be dependent on outside sources for our supplies. The Tariff has been passed, and what is the result? As the result of the abnormal drought conditions under which the Commonwealth has suffered during the past twelve months, we have been compelled to import grain to provide for the normal requirements of the community. We have had to import nearly 12,000,000 bushels of wheat, and as the result of the grain duties, we have augmented the federal revenue to the extent of something like £500,000. That sum has been received from a source from which the Treasurer never expected to secure a penny, and he does not expect to obtain anything from it in normal times. If this is not revenue with destruction - the destruction of one of the main sources of the wealth of the community - I do not know what is. One of the charges which will lie against the Tariff is that instead of enabling the people to fight the adverse natural conditions with which they have been faced, and will have to face again in time to come, it has and will operate in an opposite direction. It works in the direction of making these natural conditions more oppressive than they were before. I undertake to say that if the Government of New South Wales had not come to the assistance of the graziers - and more particular^’ the farmers of that State - by purchasing seed wheat for them, despite the high prices then ruling, and by providing fodder foi1 them, a very small area would have been placed under wheat during the present year. The producing community of that State has been so badly crushed by the drought, plus the operation of the Tariff, that they would not have had any reasonable prospect of providing for the requirements of this community during the coming year. The outlook is now much more promising. I trust that the drought will soon disappear, and that the farmers and other producers will be able to recoup the losses they have suffered, more particularly during the last twelve months. But what I desire to emphasize is that instead of the Tariff being one that will produce revenue without destruction, its operation has had quite the opposite effect. It has assisted to kill those industries so far as it is possible for a tariff to do so. The only alternative open to the Government was to. go to the other extreme, in which some of our protectionist friends believe, and provide foi- the total prohibition of importations. I think that the farmers of the
Commonwealth would be very glad to hear some explanation from representatives like the honorable members for Moira and Gippsland, and two or three others, who made such a strong fight to prevent any relief being secured to them by the remission of duties. At the present time wheat is taxed to the extent of nearly lid. a bushel, and in my own State the duties, and wharfage charges upon the 6,500,000 bushels, which are imported to meet the requirements of the people, amount to ls. Id. per bushel. That is a very heavy burden for the consumers. A good deal has been spoken of late of the starving stock of the Commonwealth, but now it is starving people whom we have to consider. The drought has closed a considerable number of avenues of employment and production, and has depleted the savings of a large part of the community, so that many people, particularly among the farming population, are now dependent upon public charity, although they were never so before, and, I hope, never will be so again. Victoria is a country which has enjoyed the advantages of protection, not for merely a year or two, but for something like 30 years. If those advantages are as great as some enthusiastic advocates of protective duties claim, how comes it that up to the 24th May last Victoria had to import somethinglike 2,750,000 bushels of wheat for local consumption? Why did ‘ not the duties by which she has been protected sufficiently foster such a primary industry as agriculture to make her people independent of outside supplies 1 The facts show that man)’ conditions have to be taken into consideration in the formulation of Tariffs, and that to insist upon hard and fast principles in the way the Government have done is not to bring about’ revenue without destruction, but to destroy in an endeavour to obtain revenue. With regard to the measures foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s speech, I shall take the attitude which I have always adopted since my first appearance in public life : I shall support such measures as I consider to be in the interests of the whole community, but I shall oppose measures which I think might very well be postponed, or which in my opinion it would be against the public interest to pass. A mutter which the Government should deal with ;is speedily as possible is the selection of the site for the federal capital. This is probably the last session of this House, and certainly the last session of Parliament so far as a number of the members of the Senate are concerned. A great deal of time has been given by honorable members, and a good deal of money has been spent by the Government, in order to qualify this Parliament to arrive at a proper decision upon the matter ; but if a decision is not come to this session, a great deal of the work that has been done will be thrown away, because the new members who will no doubt be elected will not be in the same position as ourselves in dealing with the question. To my mind, there has been an unaccountable delay in proceeding with the matter. I do not know the reason for that delay ; but I hope that it will not be permitted to continue, and that this Parliament, in fairness to New South Wales, and in the interest of the whole Commonwealth, will be given an opportunity this session to finally settle the question. A measure which I regard as of great importance, and deserving of our best consideration, is the proposed establishment of courts of conciliation to provide a modern, humane, and civilized method of dealing with industrial disputes. Another important measure is that for dealing comprehensively with the registration of patents, and bringing all the States under a uniform patent law. A number of the other measures to which the Government seem to attach more importance might very well give place to such a measure as that. The inventive genius of the Commonwealth is heavily handicapped by the present condition of affairs and by existing legislation. With regard to the defence of the Commonwealth, and the proposed naval agreement, I am of opinion that a Defence Act is necessary in order that our military administration may be put upon a sound footing, and that the friction and dissatisfaction which now exists may be removed. As to the pro-‘ posed naval subsidy, I would point out that we have already contributed to the old country, for the protection which she has afforded us, an amount aggregating something like £1,250,000, and under the proposed agreement we should have to contribute within the next ten years something like another£2,000,000. This sum may not appear a very large one, but I should like to hear the whole subject more fully discussed before I commit myself in any way in regard to the proposal. It is to our benefit that we should work in harmony with the mother country, but I think that in the end it will be more satisfactory to our own people and to the mother land if we provide for our own defence. I consider naval defence more necessary than land defence, because it is rather late to attack your foe when he has placed his foot within your threshold. It is better to attack him before he reaches our shores. I should like, therefore, to see some system formulated which would give us complete control of our own defences. When we have grown into a nation we must be ready to defend ourselves, and the sooner we commence our preparations on sound lines the better it will be both for ourselves and for the mother country. Now that we have a high Tariff it is necessary that we should pass legislation to prevent the creation of trusts and other mischievous combinations which are likely to arise under it. The Government give great prominence in their programme to measures for the establishment of a High Court and an Inter-State Commission, and the appointment of a High Commissioner to represent the Commonwealth in London. For reasons which seemed good in themselves, they postponed legislation on those subjects from the early part of last session until the present time, and in view of the urgent measures which are now before us, I think they might be left over for a little longer still. If I were convinced that there is an absolute and immediate need for a High Court, an Inter-State Commission, and a High Commissioner, I should be ready at once to support the proposals of the Government, but as it seems to me that the carrying of those proposals into effect will unnecessarily increase federal expenditure, and not do much more than provide big salaries for prominent lawyers, I think they can stand over for a while. I see no reason why, for the present, jurisdiction in regard to federal matters should not be exercised by the State courts, instead of setting up a High Court with the accompanying necessary machinery, to deal with them. If, as I understand, it is the intention of the Government that the minor tribunals of the States are to have federal jurisdiction within certain limitations, I think that similar jurisdiction might be given to the higher State tribunals. It will be time enough to establish federal courts when it is found that they are incompetent - which I do not think they are - or that they have too much
State work to admit of their attention to federal matters. I had intended to say something in regard to the administration of the Post and Telegraph department and one or two other matters, but I will content myself with what I have said upon the Tariff question. I am sure that those who are connected with the pastoral and agricultural interests, and who have been so adversely affected by. the operation of the Tariff, will be glad to hear some justification of it from honorable members who so strongly resisted the granting of relief to them in a time of dire need and distress.
– I regret that I must occupy the time of honorable members on this occasion, because I realize that it is necessary that we should pass the address in reply and get to the business of the session as soon as possible ; but my regret is somewhat mollified by the fact that for nearly a fortnight I have been listening to the speeches of several honorable members who have not appeared to be very desirous of saving time. As I represent a State whose representation in this Chamber is not very large, and as this is probably the only opportunity which I shall have of speaking generally upon matters of public concern, I think that in the interests of the people who sent me here I should take advantage of it. I feel more impelled to speak on this occasion because I represent a State which is altogether isolated from the rest of Australia, and is in much the same position in that respect as an island in the Indian Ocean, 1,000 miles away. One has to travel 1,500 miles by sea in order to reach that State; it is unknown to most honorable members in this House, and is cared for by very few.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– I judge in this matter from the utterances of honorable members. I very seldom hear anything that I can regard as exhibiting any great concern for the State which I represent. I say again that it appears to me to be cared for by few, in this House or indeed out of it. This, however, is not fair treatment, because Western Australia has been a good friend to Victoria and to every other State in the Commonwealth for many years past, and is soat the present time. I do not intend to refer to all the matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech.
My right honorable colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs last evening dealt with all the animadversions, upon his administration, and I think that he has cleared the atmosphere. I do not propose to say anything regarding the case of the six hatters, which has engaged the attention of honorable members opposite more perhaps than any other matter since we re-assembled, and I shall be silent regarding the case of the three Maoris, who came to Australia for the purpose of fulfilling some professional engagement. I cannot help saying, however, that if it were not that these cases afforded the Opposition an opportunity to exhibit their political antagonism to the Government, we” should not have heard so much about them. In other words, if they had not appeared to be good cards to play from the point of view of those honorable members, they would not have been brought forward. We have heard a great deal from some quarters with regard to protection versus free-trade ; and I believe that if we all live to be as old as Methuselah, we shall never hear the end of the fiscal controversy. The subject is too good to drop. It affords a good line of party division, and when there is nothing else to fight about, we can come back to the old question, and deal with it as if it were an absolutely new one. I shall not enter upon any discussion of the subject, except to say that I do not see how those who advocate a revenue Tariff of something like 15 per cent, all round, without any free list, can call themselves free-traders, because a 15 per cent, duty constitutes a fairly good protection.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– It certainly affords a protection of 15 per cent, to the person who produces the article in this country. Therefore, those who call themselves free-traders, and in the same breath say that they are revenue tariffists, without a corresponding excise on local production, are, in point of fact, protectionists. I have on many previous occasions stated that I do not believe there is any particular fetish in either free-trade or protection. My idea is that it is a matter of business, and that people advocate the particular policy which they think will pay best. Those who are protectionists to-day would be free-traders to-morrow if they thought it would pay better. I have had experience in this matter. A large number of men who were born in Victoria, and who were protectionists, migrated to Western Australia, and went to the goldfields in order to improve their position, and now the majority of them are strong freetraders.
– They were sensible men.
– No ; I do not ‘ say that ; but their action bears out what I say. I should not be surprised, following up the same line of argument, if the honorable member for Macquarie, who is now a strong free-trader - I do not know whether he always was - did not become an equally strong protectionist if he thought it would suit him better, or rather thought it would suit the country better. My own opinion is that it will require a lot of argument to convince people possessed of ordinary intelligence that it is better to have the manufactured articles we require made for us in other parts of the world rather than to make them for ourselves. If we desire the whole population of the Commonwealth to be engaged in the primary industries, we shall never have a large population. We shall have to encourage manufactures, and do our best to make as much as is possible of what we require, thus affording employment to our own people rather than to the people of other countries. I have heard some observations, principally of an uncomplimentary character, with regard to the administration of the Defence department which I have the honour to control. These remarks have been made by persons who, probably, have not studied the question -very much, but who have read in the newspapers that there is disorganization here and there, and have, therefore, concluded that everything has been neglected. It has also been said - I think by the leader of the Opposition - that the Government were unwise in taking over the Defence department before they had a Federal Defence Act ; I think the right honorable gentleman went so ‘ far as to say that we were without any law to govern the department. That, however, is not the case. W e have always had the States Acts in operation, as provision was made in the Constitution that in regard to transferred departments, and pending legislation by the Commonwealth, the laws of the States should continue in force, and that the
Governors of the States’ should be represented by the Governor-General. The transferred departments have, therefore, been carried on with as perfect legality as when the six separate administrations had control. I think that we should have been very unwise if we had deferred taking over the department until we had passed a Defence Act. In any case, we are in a far better position to deal with the defences now than we should have been if we had delayed taking over the department. We have already done a good deal in the way of instituting reforms, and honorable members must recollect that the defence vote has been reduced during the last two years by almost £250,000 Surely honorable members must know that we could not make such a reduction in the expenditure and still leave everything as it was before. When the full details are placed before honorable members, as they shortly will be, I think the7 will find that there has been considerable retrenchment and reform, and that the work done has been of a beneficial character. I hope very shortly to lay the Defence Bill upon the table of the House. The Bill is practically ready, and will be presented to honorable members as soon as an opportunity offers. I believe, furthermore, that honorable members will find the Bill of such a character that hostile criticism will prove somewhat difficult. I desire also to say a few words with regard to the federal capital site. We have an obligation to discharge to the whole of the people of Australia by dealing with this question as soon as possible. It was deliberately decided at the Federal Conventions, and approved by the people of Australia, that there should be a federal capital, and I think we should decide, not upon the exact site, perhaps, but upon the district in which the capital is to be situated, as soon as possible. We have heard a great deal about the great expense which will be involved in the establishment of the capital city ; but the fears entertained are not well grounded. I believe in economy, and I should be very sorry if any one thought otherwise. I have had a good deal to do with the expenditure of public money during my lifetime, and I defy any one to say that in the expenditure winch I have made of many millions for the people of Western Australia, I displayed any evidence of a desire to be other than careful of the public interests. Although I spent £12,000,000 of loan moneys in Western Australia during ten years I was Premier of that State, not a single public work was ever authorized by me in that State which, if I had the power to undo to-day, I would undo. There is not one great undertaking that the public opinion of that State would wish to see undone, as far as I am able to judge. I make these remarks for the purpose of showing that I am not a spendthrift, and that I have no desire to see money wastefully expended. But during the period that I have occupied a seat in this House, the conviction has been forced upon me that in the minds of some honorable members a miserable feeling of parsimony and impecuniosity reigns. That feeling seems to have laid hold of this House and of Parliament - for what reason I do not know. Some persons entertain the opinion that we cannot have a federal capital because its construction will cost money. I am satisfied, however, that such a view is entertained only by a lot of croakers - by those who have no faith in their own country, as I shall presently show. If we are to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution, as we are bound to do, there is not the slightest reason’ in my judgment why we should not incur expenditure upon a federal capital. There is no reason why we should not, if it is necessary, spend a million of money upon that undertaking. What is a ‘ million of money 1
Honorable Members. - Oh ! oh !
– I thought that my remarks would arouse those who entertain the parsimonious feeling to which I. have already referred, and that is the reason which prompted me to make them. The annual interest upon £1,000,000 amounts to £30,000 - less than 2d. per head per annum of the population of this country. It does not represent the price of a glass of beer a year to the people of the Commonwealth. Yet we are told that we cannot afford to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution by building a federal capital. It seems to me that some honorable members, as well as the people and the press of this country, have lost their energy and pluck. I say to my fellow Australians - “ Do not let us defer carrying out the solemn covenant embodied in the Constitution for the erection of a federal capital through fear that we cannot afford the yearly expenditure of probably Id. and certainly not more than 2d. per head. Do not let us look back upon the days that are past.” Some individuals may have lost a-, little money in those days, but they must not conclude that the whole country is similarly circumstanced. That is- not the condition of the Commonwealth, and there is no reason whatever to defer the selection and occupation of a federal capital. At this stage, if I may be permitted to do so, without trespassing too much upon the time of honorable members, I should like to place upon record my view of the qualifications “which a federal capital site should possess. No doubt every honorable member has his own idea upon this subject. I desire that the site selected shall be in New South Wales, in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. I wish it to be convenient to both those great centres of population - Melbourne and Sydney. It must possess a splendid water supply. Its climate should be cool in summer, and it should not be situated in some uninteresting portion of the country, but should be located in reasonably close proximity to some great natural feature.
– Near Kosciusko.
– I do not care whether or not it is near Kosciusko, but I hold that it should be adjacent to some great physical feature which shall be a source of pleasure, recreation, and enjoyment to its residents and its visitors for all time. Another matter referred to in the speech of the Governor-General is that of the High Court. I look upon the establishment of that tribunal as a part qf the Constitution.
Mir. Joseph Cook. - What about the expense that will be incurred in its creation”!
– There is the question of expense again. The people of the Commonwealth should never have federated under this great Constitution if they were unwilling to incur the expenditure necessary to give effect to its provisions. I have no desire to ‘see extravagance indulged in, but I certainly wish the plan of the Constitution to be completed. To my mind, the High Court is the keystone of that instrument of government. It is just possible that we may be able to economize in other directions. I understand that the Attorney-General at an early date intends to indicate to the House how economies can be effected so that the establishment of the High Court will not prove a large additional burden. Personally I consider that its establishment is absolutely indispensable. My own idea is that there should be an appeal, not only from the High Court of Australia, but from every court throughout the Empire to one Imperial and final tribunal. The idea of Empire is associated with a feeling that there should be one law for the whole of the Empire. There ought not to exist halfadozen interpretations of laws upon the same subject, one for Australia, another for South Africa, a third for Canada, and others for other British possessions. If we are to carry on trade and commerce with all parts of the Empire, there should, in my judgment, be one final Court of Appeal.
– We have that already.
– That is not a Court of Appeal such as I desire to see established, because, whilst it is the tribunal which finally determines the disputes in which persons beyond its own territorial limits are involved, another court is provided for the appeals of the residents of the mother country itself. My idea is that there should be one Court of Appeal for the whole Empire. In this connexion I cannot do better than repeat what I said when the present Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Attorney-General were in England acting as federal delegates on behalf of Australia. At that time I was Premier of Western Australia, and I was asked my opinion with regard to the right of appeal under the Constitution to the Privy Council. In reply to that question, I telegraphed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies - and I am proud of the view which I then took, because it exactly expresses that which I still hold - as follows : -
I am of opinion that by the possession of one Court of Appeal for the whole British race, whose decisions ure final and binding on all the Courts of the Empire, there is constituted a bond between all British people which should be maintained inviolate as the keystone of Imperial unity.
That is my idea of the Court of Appeal that we require in the Empire, and whilst I believe that the High Court will finally settle all matters of constitutional practice in the Commonwealth, still I look forward to the time when we shall be able to appeal, not to the Privy Council as at present constituted, but to a great court of final appeal for the whole Empire. I come now to another matter to which I wish to address myself. It is not the first time that I have spoken in regard to it, nor is it likely to be the last, unless my constituents have no further use for me.
An Honorable Member. - Does the Minister refer to matters of defence ?
– In some respects it is a matter of defence. I desire to address myself to the question of railway communication between the eastern and western sides of Australia vid Port Augusta in South Australia, and Kalgoorlie, which is the eastern terminus of the Western Australian system. I am sorry to have to speak so strongly on this subject, but I owe a duty to the people who sent me here. If I were to remain silent on an occasion of this kind it is just possible that my action might be misrepresented. A portion of my observations will have reference to the legal difficulties, viz., the legal consent of South and Western Australia, necessary under the Constitution, at present in the way of the Federal Government carrying out the project to which I have referred - difficulties which ought to have been removed long’ ago, and which I hope will soon vanish. I arn the more impelled to speak upon the present occasion, because the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, discussed this matter at length the other evening. I regret that he is not in his place to-day in order that I might speak much more strongly in regard to his action than I feel disposed to do in his absence. I have never listened to a more unfederal speech than that which the honorable member delivered. I do not believe that any honorable member has ever so far forgotten in this House the obligations of the State he represents as did the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, a few nights ago : I do not believe that the “ doginthemanger “ policy has ever been advocated to the extent that it was by that honorable gentleman. Very similar sentiments were expressed .by the leader of the Opposition in another place; but, as I have not the right to criticise what takes place there, I shall simply say that I view the utterances of that honorable and learned gentleman as I view the unfederal words of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon. In view of the fact that
Australia has been federated for more than two years, and that we have come together with a common desire to benefit each other, and to do our best for the whole Commonwealth, I should have thought that no honorable member would have dared to say that the obligations of the State he represents should be cast aside and forgotton. That is really what the honorable member said, as I shall proceed to show. But I have another reason for speaking to-night. It is that I desire the people of South Australia - who are my friends, and who, I am confident, are as honorable and as high-minded as are any people in the Commonwealth - to understand from statements made in this House the real position occupied by South Australia and Western Australia in regard to the construction of this line. I am confident that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, does not represent the feelings of the people of that State in regard to the undertaking on the part of the Government of South Australia to the people of Western Australia. I thank the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, for what he said last night. I know that he voiced the view held by you, Mr. Speaker, and expressed by you when Premier of South Australia. I know, too, that he voiced the opinions held hy my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he was Premier of that State. All three honorable members are in accord, and I prefer to accept their opinion as representing the feeling of the people of South Australia rather than the unfederal utterances of the honorable member for’ South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon.
– The honorable member had no authority whatever to express those views on behalf of South Australia.
– I shall show that prior to federation South Australia never had any objection to the construction of a line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. There was a whisper on one occasion as to something in the nature of an objection, but the Government of the State expressed indignation that there should be even a whisper of opposition. I intend to show that the Government, the people, and the press of South Australia all urged and induced Western Australia to enter the federation by promising to assist in advancing the construction of a railway between the two
States. If I do not succeed in proving that fact, honorable members will take a view of the obligations of South Australia very different from that held by me. I shall be plain and straightforward in dealing with this matter. I desire that the promises and undertakings made by South Australia to the Government and people of Western Australia, prior to federation, shall be placed once and for all in the records of this House.
– They do not bind the Commonwealth.
– I am not speaking of the Commonwealth. My object is to show the people of South Australia that they are under an obligation to give their consent to the construction of this line. Before doing so, however, I have a very pleasant duty to perform. I have to thank the leader of the Opposition for his generous words and the encouragement he has given the people of Western Australia in regard to this great project, which is of so much importance to them as part of the Federation. I do not for one moment assert that there is any stated obligation on the part of this House as a body to support the construction of the line, but there is an obligation on the part of some honorable members to do so. The leader of the Opposition is in accord with the Government in regard to this matter ; and the Government have no doubt as to the desirableness of the work if it is found practicable.
– The leader of the Opposition goes further than the Government do. He would build the line at once.
– I shall come to that matter presently. The Government have no doubt as to the necessity of the work if it is reasonably possible to carry it out.
– The right honorable member does not think we have sufficient information before us to enable us to decide the matter now 1
– I have not reached that point. Like the Government, the leader of the Opposition has no doubt about the matter. The following is a report of the speech which, as leader of the Opposition, he delivered at Kalgoorlie on the 27th January last : -
Now there was one little bit of equity which the Federal Government had got to do to the State of Western Australia, and that was to build a railway to connect it with the other
States. From the first moment the federal compact was signed he had always publicly stated that, although there was no written agreement about it, it was always regarded as a tacit understanding, upon the strength of which Western Australia had consented to join the federation.
– That was only the right honorable member’s personal opinion,
– I am not seeking to bind any one else to this statement.
– But the right honorable gentleman said the right honorable member spoke as leader of the Opposition.
– I shall do so again. No doubt when the right honorable member spoke he felt the responsibility that rested upon him as leader of the Opposition, and the right honorable gentleman stated that he spoke in that capacity. I desire to thank him for what he said then, and .also for the generosity, with which he viewed the question. I come now to the position of South Australia. In 1897 - which was the Diamond Jubilee year - I was Premier of Western Australia, while ray right honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, was Premier of South Australia. On the 28th of May of that year, while we were both on our way to England, you, Mr. Speaker, as Acting Premier of South Australia, addressed the following letter to my colleague Mr. Wittenoom who was Acting Premier of Western Australia : -
Sir, - This Government has obtained reports and estimates for the construction of a railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Port Augusta to a point on the border of South and Western Australia, about 470 miles from Kalgoorlie. I should be glad to learn whether your Government is prepared to unite with us by carrying out the work from the border to connect with your line, should we cany the line to your border.
Mr. Wittenoom, who was acting for me, seems to have given the matter but little consideration, and on 8th June, 1897, he made a formal reply in these words -
In reply to your letter of the 18th ult., I have the honour to intimate to you that this Government is not prepared at present to construct a railway to the South Australian border.
I have no hesitation in saying that this was merely intended as a formal reply to the communication from South Australia, but I regret very much that it was ever sent. As I said before, I was away at the time of its receipt, and I did not hear of it, nor of the reply sent by Mr. Wittenoom, until 1899 - two years afterwards. As soon as I learned of the correspondence, I addressed a letter to the Premier of South Australia in these words - 22nd Aug., 1899.
Sir, - With further reference to your letter of 28th May, 1897, (marked C. P. W. 1 258-95 i n margi n ) I have the honour to inform yon that the present Government has always been anxious to have this colony connected by rail with the railway system of South Australia, and is prepared to do all in his power to further the carrying out of the work.
The reply givenby Mr. Wittenoom to the above-mentioned letter during my absence from the colony, and which has recently come before me for the first time, could only have been intended to mean that at that moment he was not prepared to arrange to provide the funds necessary to construct the portion of the proposed railway in this colony to connect with your border.
I will add that you are aware that it has always beena part of my declared public policy to have this railway undertaken and completed, and, therefore, if your Government is able to consider the question favorably I will be glad to enter into negotiations with you as to the best means to be adopted in order to carry out this great and desirable work.
To this I received the following telegraphic reply, dated 28th August, 1899-
Replying your letter 22nd inst. just received, South Australia, as already intimated, favours federal undertaking of railway connecting east and west.
I was not quite satisfied with that reply, as I had not made any reference in my letter to the construction of the line by the Federal Government. My request was that the work should be undertaken by the Governments of the two States interested. I therefore sent the following telegram to Mr. Kingston on the 1st September, 1899 -
Shall be obliged for reply by letter to mine in reference to railway. You will notice that the question of the Federal Government building the railway is not raised in my letter.
In answer to that message I received the following telegram, dated 4th September, 1899-
We can add little to our wire of 28th ult. When we wrote you in June, 1897, we should have been glad to arrange for construction of the railway by our two colonies, but your Government declined to join in doing this. Now the position is altered, for with federation assured the federal construction of the railway is in our opinion undoubtedly the best means for carrying out this great Australian undertaking. We hope that it will not be long before Western Australians and South Australians are co-operating in the Parliament of the Commonwealth to bring this about, and we repeat that you can rely on South Australia’s sympathy and support.
That telegram was signed by Mr. Kingston, as Premier of South Australia. Shortly before the time when this correspondence passed between the Governments of the two States, namely, on the 19th April, 1899, I received a letter from Mr. Kingston, who was then Premier of South Australia, written with the object of inducing the people of Western Australia to join the Federation. This is what he said -
Sir, - As desired, I have the honour to forward herewith three copies of our Commonwealth Act Amendment Bill, pursuant to which and our Federal Enabling Act 1895, we propose, on the 29th of this month, taking a referendum of our electors on the question of the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill as proposed to be amended at the last Premiers’ Conference. We are sanguine that the decision of the people to accept federation, which was pronounced by a two to one majority in this colony in June last, will be repeated.
Will you pardon my taking the opportunity of expressing the sincerest hope that Western Australia will, as heretofore, keep pace with the general federal advance. All the other colonies will, no doubt, be included. To you, who are so familiar with the general advantages of federation, it would be idle to dwell upon them. But the relations between Western Australia and the other colonies- I speak especially for South Australiahave been always so cordial, that I am sure it would be a source of infinite regret to all if Western Australia were even temporarily omitted from the closer union, so long contemplated, so arduously contended for, andapparently so readily capable of consummation by all.
Our near constitutional connexion resulting from federation is in itself a boon of great worth to all included within its sphere.I cannot help thinking, also, that it must at no very distant date result in the connexion of east and west by rail through the medium, say, of a line between Port Augusta and your gold-fields. This would, indeed, be an Australian work worthy of undertaking by a federal authority oh behalf of the nation, in pursuance of the authorities contained in the Commonwealth Bill. It is, of. course, a work of special interest to Western Australia and South Australia : and I devoutly hope that the day is not far distant when the representatives of Western Australia and South Australia may, in their places in a Federal Parliament, be found working side by side for the advancement of Australian interests in this and other matters of national concern.
That letter shows how earnest my right honorable colleague was. Two months afterwards he appears to have seen a telegraphic report to the effect that a colleague of mine, Mr. Piesse, who for many years was Commissioner of Railways in Western Australia, had stated at some meeting that he had been upon a visit to Adelaide, and had there heard many people say that South Australia was unwilling to consent to this railway being constructed. Honorable members know that under the Constitution the consent of a State through which a railway will traverse is necessary before the Commonwealth can undertake the work. Mr. Kingston was indignant that Mr. Piesse should have made that statement. He felt that it was unfair to the people of South Australia, and he sent two or three telegrams to ascertain the names of those who had dared to give Mr. Piesse such information. Mr. Piesse did not feel himself at liberty to give the names, because in all probability the conversations were purely personal, and the right honorable gentle- man then telegraphed to me in these words -
Cannot understand Piesse’s references to probable reluctance of South Australia to permit federal construction of railway connecting colonies. We have no fear of any such antifederal “dog-in-the-manger” policy.
– AVas that before the two referenda 1
– It was just before the second South Australian referendum, and long before the Western Australian referendum.
– The second referendum ?
– Before the second referendum in South Australia. There was only one referendum in Western Australia, because the Western Australian Enabling Act provided that until New South Wales had agreed to enter the union no vote should be taken in Western Australia. So greatly did Mr. Kingston feel the imputation upon the good name and generosity of his State, that a few days later he had Iris letter and telegrams to me printed and made a State paper, and he then laid the whole of the correspondence upon the table of the House. The honor.able member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, was a member of the South Australian Parliament at the time, but he raised no objection to the promises which had been made in good faith by his Premier. Indeed, while the correspondence lay upon the table, no dissentient voice was heard from either the Parliament, the press, or the people of South Australia. The object of the publication of the correspondence was, with my full consent and approbation, to clear the way, so that the people of Western Australia should vote for federation when the question was referred to them. I think I have said enough, to show what was the feeling of South Australia, and what were the actions of its Government in regard to this matter. It is of no use to cry after the thing is over, but I say deliberately, in tlie face of this House and of the people of Australia, that if for a moment I had thought that South Australia would bar the construction of this railway, and that Western Australia would have to remain for any length of time isolated, fardistant, and unconnected with the rest of Australia, nothing in the world would have induced me to lend my help and my voice to the carrying of federation in that State. Federation, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is, and always will be, a sham, and will never be satisfactory to the people of that State while they are cut off from communication by railway with the rest of Australia. In order to further pave the way towards the acceptance of federation by Western Australia, I, in the early part of 1900, took, at my own expense, a journey to these States, so that I might interview the Premiers then in office, and obtain assurances which would make it easier for Western Australia to throw in her lot with the Eastern States. I obtained very little encouragement, however, and I have often said since that it seemed to me that those who were guiding the ship of State at the time would rather spoil federation by allowing Western Australia to remain outside the union than grant the one or two small requests made by Western Australia. One little request I made was that the provision in the Constitution which allowed South Australia to raise a bar to the construction of a transcontinental line should be removed ; but the Premiers whom I met said that the Bill could not be altered; though, notwithstanding that statement, it was altered in far more important particulars in London. I do not, however, now wish to find fault with any one ; all I am trying to do is to show that I did my best to obtain the amendment I speak of. I had told the people of Western Australia that no South Australian Government would be likely to ever object to the construction of the railway. But when one is making a bargain it is just as well, in a matter of this sort at any rate, to have the ‘ undertaking in writing. We should have had some safeguard in the Bill. Those who opposed me, said to the people - “ Trust the people of South Australia ; trust the Commonwealth ; we do not want any special provision in the Bill; we take it for granted that all will be right. South Australia will never object to the construction of the line ; see the assurances which her public men have given.” But although I got no satisfaction from the Premiers of most of the. eastern States, Mr. Speaker, who at the time was Premier of South Australia, and to whom I explained the difficulties of the position, was good enough to write me the following letter, on the 1st February, 1900, just as I was about to return to my own State : -
Following our conversation as to the possible blocking of the construction of a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia refusing the consent rendered necessary by section X.XXIV. of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill, to the construction of the line through her territory, I regard the withholding of consent as a 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, Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth, to introduce a Bill, formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of the line by the federal authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.
I returned to Western Australia with that letter, and published it far and wide. It was one of the reasons, amongst many others, which I felt justified me in not further insisting upon an amendment of the draft Constitution.
– Surely a sufficient reason, too !
– But what has taken place % I have seen in the reports of the debates of the Senate that a South Australian senator has said that -
The construction of this railway will put a very serious strain on the federal spirit of South Australia.
Honorable members also heard what the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, said the other night.
– And what the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, said.
– I am glad that the honorable member has reminded me of that utterance. The honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, said that a transcontinental railway running north from Oonadatta to Port Darwin was of more importance than a railway running to Western Australia. But a line running north would terminate at a place where at the present time there are very few people besides 2,000 or 3,000 Chinamen, whereasa line running west would reach the western shores of the continent, and would connect with a country with a population of 220,000 white people, with a trade, speaking from memory, of £15,000,000 a year, with a revenue of £3,500,000, with a total production of gold of £40,000,000, and with an annual output of gold valued at £8,000,000 - one of the most flourishing States of the Commonwealth. Such a line would go through Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, places 4.00 miles from the coast, which have already produced gold to the value of nearly £30,000,000. It would therefore take me a long while to understand the reasoning which led the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, to the conclusion that a railway to Port Darwin is more important to Australia than a railway to the great State of Western Australia. The honorable gentleman referred to the mail service with Europe, which he thinks will some day come via Port Darwin. No doubt it is very important that mails and passengers from abroad should reach here more quickly than they do now ; but that is not the primary reason why I advocate a transcontinental railway. I ask for the construction of that line, so that Western Australia may be in reality and not merely in name a part of the Commonwealth .- so that she may enjoy her full share of the benefits of federation, by being united to the other States, and thus have intercommunication with them for the carriage of passengers, mails, and for the purpose of trade and commerce generally. It is not because the mail steamers stop at Fremantle that I primarily wish the railway to be made. I would advocate its construction as strongly as I do now even if the mail steamers did not come to Fremantle. Say what you like, federation can never be real until it is seen. To make the union a reality, its effect must be seen, and must be daily in evidence ; but what evidence have the people of Western Australia of the fact that they are part of the Commonwealth ? There is none whatever. They may as well be on an island in the Indian Ocean, as far as federation is concerned, as continue in their present condition. The undertaking given on behalf of the Government of South Australia must be fulfilled, and I believe and trust it will be. I cannot, however, refrain from saying that there has been a great deal of dillydallying over this matter. There has been a desire on the part of the Governrnentof South Australia to delay, at any rate, the carrying out of the obligation solemnly entered into by two Premiers of that State with the Government and people of Western Australia. What is the reason ? Are the Government of South Australia afraid to do right - to keep their word 1 Their solemn promise has been given, as I have clearly shown. In a speech which I delivered on the 18th July, 1900, and in which I recommended the people of Western Australia to join the Commonwealth, I referred to the obligation of the Commonwealth to defend the States from invasion, and then followed with these remarks -
It must be remembered, therefore, that as under federation there is the obligation upon the whole of Australia to defend Western Australia, this obligation necessitates that there must be a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. All the principal public men of Australia have stated that such a railway is indispensable, and many have pledged themselves to vote for it on the very first possible occasion.
I think I may, without any egotism, say that that address, in which I pointed out both sides of the question with regard to the federation, if it did not carry federation in Western Australia, certainly influenced many thousands of votes in its favour. I will not say anything more with regard to the position of South Australia. I am sorry to have had to say so much, as I do not wish to make any remarks which may seem harsh or ungenerous, but, at the same time, I have a public duty to perform, and seeing that we have been federated since the 1st January, 1901, and that no move has been made by the South Australian Government to pass a Bill dealing with the construction of the railway, I think that my observations are fully justified. I may say that the Western Australian Parliament has not passed a Bill because the Government have been waiting upon South Australia. Eighteen months ago the Western Australian Government sent a copy of their proposed Bill to the South Australian Government. But no reply was received, and the Western Australian Bill was not proceeded with. Possibly this was owing to the changes of Government and other circumstances which may have interfered with a continuity of administration in Western Australia. Whatever the cause may be, the fact remains that South Australia has delayed the carrying out of the obligation which I say. most deliberately rests upon her, and I hope that no further time will be lost. I feel quite sure that if the people of South Australia had an opportunity of expressing their views they would not show any disposition to defer a work which must be of great benefit to them and to Australia. One can hardly understand opposition on the part of a State which is within the federation to a railway which is intended to connect the two sides of the continent. The construction of this railway was one of the great advantages assured to the people of Western Australia before federation was agreed to, and it is difficult to conceive what federal feeling can exist in the minds of those who would prevent this railway from being constructed. I have already said that honorable members seem to have a burden of impecuniosity resting upon them. They seem to be afraid of spending any money, even upon a railway such as that now projected. It does not matter, apparently, how desirable the work may be, or how much revenue it will produce ; all that seems to occupy a place in the mental view of some persons is the £4,000,000 which will have to be spent. Honorable members do not. ask for any particulars, except as to cost ; they lose sight of all the advantages which may be derived by the Commonwealth as a whole. I assure honorable members, however, that this railway will never become a burden on the people of Australia, as it will pay its way within two years after its completion. I am not an adventurer, or a spendthrift, or a visionary, nor do I make this statement without knowledge, or a feeling of responsibility. I have built many hundreds of miles of railway in my time, and I have taken the full responsibility of many works. I have undertaken great obligations, and I am certainly not willing now to commit the Commonwealth to any work that is likely to prove a burden for all time. If I were to do anything of that kind, it would recoil upon me as it would have done when I was connected with the State Government. I always knew when I was controlling the affairs of Western Australia that if I committed the people to undertakings which proved burdensome, I should stand discredited, and that, therefore, it would be suicidal for me to do anything without the most careful consideration. I do not regret my action in regard to any of the great works which I have carried out. I have very good reason for saying that the proposed railway will pay. Do honorable members consider that the South Australian Government have called for tenders for the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta, which is 700 miles north of Adelaide, to Pine Creek, in the Northern territory - a distance of about 1,100 miles, and that thev have offered an immense area of land, 90,000,000 acres I believe, to the syndicate which undertakes the work ? I hope th’ey will succeed in getting it carried out, but I lugard the proposed railway to “Western Australia as being in an entirely different category. It is not to have one of its terminal points at an isolated port in the tropics of Australia, but is intended to bring a large population of white people in Western Aus tralia into connexion with their countrymen in the eastern States. At the present time from 30,000 to 40,000 people travel to and fro by ship between Eastern Australia and Western Australia, and this number would be largely increased if there was railway communication. I ask honorable members to look seriously at this matter, and to consider whether we cannot build the railway, and at once obtain the control of 1,100 miles of line. I. suppose we all look forward to the time when the Federation will take over the control of the whole of the railways of Australia, and we should not make a bad start if we commenced with the construction of the railway 1,100 miles in length to connect with the Western Australian railway system. If we say that we cannot undertake the work the Western Australian Government, however anxious they might be, would not be able to build the whole of the railway. If they were willing to build their own 475 miles, the South Australian Government might not respond by constructing the 625 miles of line which would pass through their territory. The only alternative, therefore, would be for the Governments interested to ask a private company to construct the line. Supposing that this were done - even though the land grant system were not introduced except to the extent of giving the company a few thousand acres here and there along the line - would honorable members be willing to hand over that line to a private company for all time ? for ever 1
Honorable Members. - No.
– Then we had better set to work and see if we cannot build it for ourselves. We may depend upon it that the line will have to be constructed. Possibly, as the South Australian Government have agreed to the building of a line to Port Darwin oh the land grant system, they may not prove unwilling to allow their section of the Western Australian line to be constructed under similar conditions. I do not know what are the views of the Western Australian Government upon that question, but the point for our consideration is whether it would be better for us to undertake the work, and start in business as railway owners with this 1,100 miles, or leave it to be constructed by a private company on the land grant system, or by other means. I want honorable members to dispel their fears about spending a little money, and to undertake the construction of this railway without any apprehension that it will become a burden upon the Commonwealth. The financial position of a country is not to be considered upon the basis of the amount which she owes, but rather with regard to the way in which her money is invested. If we receive in the form of profit more than sufficient to pay the interest on the money borrowed, no one can say that the investment is a burden on the people. If we were all to be judged by the amount of our liabilities, without consideration of our assets, most of us would be regarded as insolvent. Therefore we should look, not at the first cost of the railway but at- its promise as a commercial undertaking. I do not see why the Commonwealth with its £10,000,000 of revenue should be afraid of incurring liability, in embarking- upon an enterprise not only absolutely necessary for the purposes of federation, but also a work that will pay its way. When I was the Premier of Western Australia I introduced and passed Loan Bills in one session amounting to over £7,000,000. The population of the State was then not more than 150,000, and yet we borrowed the money knowing full well that we were investing it in such a way as would advance the general interestsof the country by constructing great, important, and necessary public works. I took the whole responsibility, and no one to this day can cast any reproach at me in regard to the works then undertaken, including the great Coolgardie water scheme, upon which we spent £2,500,000, on the ground that they were not legitimate or reproductive. Honorable members of this House, on the other hand, seem to regard the expenditure of a £5 note as a piece of wild, extravagance. The building of this railway to “Western Australia is not a South Australian or a Western Australian matter, and those who will not regard it as a Federal concern can have very little faith in their own country. I have not been accustomed to any such timidity upon the part of public men. I .was for many years at the head of a small State with a comparatively limited revenue, but I was never accustomed until I came here to such miserable parsimony as that exhibited here with regard to necessary works. In this connexion I would direct the attention of honorable members to the recent remarks of a great British statesman, because they exactly express my own sentiments. ‘ This great man said -
After all, it is the large schemes that succeed. It is no use peddling and shrinking nowadays. Those who want to succeed must risk something, and courage finds its own reward.
Those are the sentiments which should inspire us. If we are afraid to face great enterprises having for their object the cementing together of the people of this country, and the opening up of its vast territory, we shall be unequal to our opportunity and to our responsibility, and I shall despair of our being able, in our day, at any rate, to make this Commonwealth either great or prosperous. I have now said all that I desire to say in regard to the construction of the transcontinental railway. There is just one other matter, however, concerning which I wish to say a few words. I shall not say very much upon it, because in a few days the Prime Minister will have an opportunity of placing it before honorable members in more eloquent terms than I can employ. At the same time, as the Ministerial head of the Defence department, I think that I ought to say a few words in regard to the Naval agreement. The Prime Minister went to England with the full consent and approval of this Parliament, and it was never expected that he should do nothing while he was there. He was careful to leave the ultimate decision of all questions in the hands of this Parliament ; but it was surely never anticipated that he should sit idly by and do nothing. He had an opportunity of meeting and conversing with the most eminent men in England upon the question of naval defence, and, subject to the approval of Parliament, he entered into an agreement based upon conditions which he thought would meet with the approval of this House. In arriving at that agreement, no doubt he had in his mind the views which honorable members expressed during the discussion of the Defence Bill last session. I have perused the speeches delivered upon that occasion - I was not present at the time - and I find that out of eighteen speeches upon’ the subject, fifteen were practically in accord with the agreement into which the Prime Minister has entered. There were only three speakers who in any way dissented from the general views contained in that agreement. I do not pretend to be a military or a naval expert - my career has led me in the paths of peace - -but I have formed the opinion that the 4,000,000 people in Australia are not called upon to embark upon great schemes connected with naval defence. In the early days of our federal union, we had better concentrate, as far as we can, our attention upon the improvement of our country by attempting to make “ two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before.” We should endeavour to settle the people upon the land rather than unnecessarily undertake great schemes of naval defence. The idea of creating and maintaining an Australian fleet, whilst very satisfying from a sentimental standpoint, is one that we . need not seriously entertain just now. By assisting the mother country in our naval defence, we <;an get a far better measure of protection, at an infinitely less cost, than we could derive from tile creation of a navy of our own. I thoroughly believe that the people of Australia are really fond of the mother country. In their hearts they wish to do all that they can to make the Empire great and prosperous. It is not only in the interests of our kindred in the old land that we should do so, but it is also in our own interests. We must recognise that our interests are those of the Empire. “Our fate and theirs for good or ill are woven threads “ - we are one. For all the purposes of naval defence and British supremacy, the people of the Commonwealth are exactly in the same position as are those of the United Kingdom. We are all aware that the taxpayers of the mother country, who number about 40,000,000 odd, contribute £34,000,000 annually in providing for the Empire’s naval supremacy. That expenditure is not incurred for the defence of Great Britain alone, but for the defence of every possession of the Crown throughout the world. Some one said the other day that I advocated the adoption of a scheme under which Australia should contribute to the naval defence of the Empire upon the basis of population. I never did any such thing. I knew that such a course was absolutely impracticable.
– It has been advocated.
– I know nothing about that - I have never advocated it. If the Commonwealth were to support the Empire’s navy upon the basis of population, her contribution would be £3,500,000 annually ; but under the agreement into which the Prime Minister has entered, we are asked to assist the mother country only to the extent of one-seventeenth of that amount, viz. £200,000.
– That is only the beginning.
– I have the very greatest respect for the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne; in fact, I regard him as one of my dearest friends ; but in this matter we are as far apart as the poles. We shall never agree in regard to the Empire’s naval defence. We Australians are a proud people, proud of our country, and of the mother land. Is it to be suggested, then, that while we are willing to participate in all the advantages conferred upon us by being British subjects, we are unwilling to assist in bearing the burdens of the naval defence of the Empire to the smallest extent 1 Shall we say - “Let our countrymen- in the mother land continue to pay £34,000,000 annually? We will continue to enjoy all the advantages under which we have been fostered and protected, but will decline to pay ls. per head towards their cost.”
– Hear, hear.
– If those are the sentiments of the honorable and learned member for Corio, he and I, too, are as far apart as the poles. My views are all in the other direction. I do not know why it is so, but it seems to me that there are some honorable members of this House who were born and nurtured in the old country, who have enjoyed its protection, all its advantages, in their youth, who seem to be less patriotic than those who, like myself, were born and nurtured in Australia. In this connexion, to such an one, I feel inclined to quote the words of Sir Walter Scott, but I will refrain from doing so. It has been stated that if Australia did not exist, the mother land could not do with one war-ship less, or spend one pound less upon naval defence than she does at the present time. But are we so poor and mean that we are content to’ allow the taxpayers at .home to do all, whilst we do nothing ? Surely not.
– Which is the best way to help her ?
– “I had rather be a dog and bay the moon than such a Briton.” Looking at the matter from the very meanest standpoint, namely, the monetary, I hold that it will pay us to approve of the agreement into which the Prime Minister has entered. Under it we shall contribute only a small sum for an j immense service. A great deal more than we contribute will be expended in this country, and thousands of Australians will receive a naval training, and a large number will be found permanent employment. We have frequently heard the familiar saying, which by this time ought to be worn threadbare, that there should be no taxation without representation. Only the other day I saw in one leading journal a statement to the effect that Australia had contributed £106,000 annually to the Australian auxiliary squadron for ten years, and that she had nothing to show for the expenditure. That is thought to be a terrible indictment to make. Why, even if the contribution were regarded as a sort pf insurance premium, the money would have been well spent. Australia occupies just the same position in regard to it as does any individual who has for a number of years insured his valuable premises without getting the place burnt down. He has paid his money, and has nothing but his house safe and sound to show for it. Is there anything in this contention after all ? To my mind it is special pleading, and depends on the ignorance of its readers for any effect. We spend millions of pounds annually in interest upon borrowed money, and similarly we spend thousands of pounds upon external contracts, without having any representation. To my mind, the fact that we entered into this agreement ten years ago should be quite sufficient.
We have paid the money for the service rendered, and we have as much representation as we have in reference to the payment of interest on our debts, or in relation to any other contracts for a term of years that we enter into beyond Australia. But this is not a contract to be carried out beyond Australia, for the money, together with a much larger sum than we shall contribute, will be spent here. If we had our own navy, what should we have to show for the money expended upon it when our vessels became obsolete % How many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended upon the local naval forces of the States ‘I
– But is it not insurance ?
– It would be, if the service were efficient. But although our local naval forces are composed of capable men, who are fit to do excellent service at any time, we are not in a position to meet a foe outside the Queenscliff heads or elsewhere. I speak with some authority, that is, if I. can place any confidence in my advisers.
– What did the Governor of Victoria, Sir George Clarke, say in his recent speech in the Town Hall, relative to our defences ?
– I cannot say.
– But the right honorable gentleman was present.
– I say that if a powerful foreign warship appeared on the Australian coast we have not a ship belonging to our local naval forces that could show her nose outside the harbors, notwithstanding that we have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on our local naval forces.
– The right honorable gentleman appears to lose sight of the auxiliary squadron.
– I am not referring to the auxiliary squadron. I am speaking of the local or State naval ships upon which so much has been spent. If we had the Gayundah, the Paluma, the Protector, and the Cerberus in Hobson’s Bay there would not be one of them able to show out beyond the Queenscliff heads in the case of the presence of a powerful foreign warship outside. What has become of all the money spent on our local naval forces 1 I am not complaining, but members say we require representation, but I assert that we want efficiency and that we have the same representation as we have in many other matters.
– We had representation.
– But we have no ships to send out to sea. The time has arrived when we must have efficiency, and the only way in which to secure that efficiency is to accept this agreement. No doubt if Parliament were willing to spend £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, we should be’ able to obtain, purchase, and maintain powerful war-ships, but the maintenance and interest would amount to £1,000,000 a year. I have correctly set forth the position in regard to the hundreds of thousands of pounds that the States have already spent on local naval defence. I feel certain that the Parliament will approve of this agreement which will only be for a limited number of years, and I utterly repudiate the suggestion that it will really mean taxation without representation.
– What voice should we have in the disposal of the vessels if war were declared 1
– We should have something better than any mere agreement could give us. We should have the strong arm, good will, and affection of the mother country, which has never deserted, and will never desert, the British people wherever they may be.
– But where is the representation ?
– In this case we are asked to pay £200,000 a year, and practically we shall have the protection of a fleet which costs the taxpayers of England over £34,000,000 a year.
– That fleet could be withdrawn from our shores at any moment.
– The honorable member would not trust any one, not even those who hold the reins of power, in trust for the British race throughout the world, in the mother country. This great Empire of ours has not in the past, and will not in the future be carried on without a spirit of trustfulness.
– But we have been told that what I have stated will occur.
– The honorable member is taking a very narrow view of the matter. Although it is thought bast to have but one control, that does not mean that we shall be neglected, that we shall be treated as if we were not part of and did not belong to the nation. The more generous and the more trustful we are in our dealings with others, the better they will be to us. It seems to me that mere bonds of pen .and ink and paper will not bind us together in times of difficulty and stress. I desire honorable .members to take a broadminded, patriotic view of this vital matter. Let us realize that our Empire demands that we shall have the supremacy of the sea, and let us do all that we can to assist in maintaining that supremacy in our own interests, and in the interests of our country.-
– In following the Minister for Defence, I feel very humble - as humble as Uriah Heep. I may add that I am also deeply indebted to the Minister, because his inspiring patriotic speech has electrified the atmosphere of the Chamber, and greatly elevated the tone of the debate. I do not say that I agree with everything that has been said by the right honorable gentleman, although I most heartily admired the spirit in which it was delivered. I shall not occupy the attention of the House for any length of time. I shall refer to only two of the measures mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech. The first relates to the establishment of the High Court. I have listened with devout interest to all the references made to this subject by the various speakers who have contributed to the debate, and I must say that I am rather perplexed at the diversity of opinions which prevail. Some honorable members speak of the supremacy, urgency, and importance of the High Court in relation to the Constitution, and the right honorable member who preceded me stated that it was absolutely necessary as the complement of the Constitution. Other speakers have said in another place that it is impossible to work the Constitution in the absence of a High Court. We tremble, therefore, when we think of the terrible consequences which might result to Australia if any accident happened to this measure, and if ‘we were left to cany on with u maimed and crippled Constitution. One would think that some honorable members looked upon the Constitution as an old battered hulk fighting in the midst of a storm, its masts and sails and rudder gone, and the crew working at the pumps to save their very lives.. I do not think we need take such a pessimistic view of the position. In these alarming circumstances the neophyte in politics - the man entirely unskilled in legal customs - must look entirely to those experienced and learned in the law. I have looked to the honorable member for Northern Melbourne, but he does not seem to be in the least dismayed at the prospect of having to carry on with a maimed Constitution. In fact he laughs. He says - “The Constitution is all right,” and he makes the pithy remark, which puts the whole matter in a nutshell, “ Wait till the shoe pinches ; wait till there is an absolute necessity for this High Court before you go to the expense of establishing it.” I thoroughly agree with the honorable and learned member. Further, he invites Parliament to take Canada as an example. We are all very fond of pointing to Canada as an example to be followed. The. Government, when it suits them, have a particular affection for that country. If the)’ desire a doublebarrelled duty they quote Canada, and in this connexion I would say that in one case we have actually adopted the Canadian expedient of a double-barrelled duty. I think we cannot do better than follow Canada’s example in this case, and wait for ten years, as they did, or at all events until the expiration of the period covered by the Braddon clause, about which I shall have a word to sa)’ presently. I look also to the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and I observed that he is perfectly placid and unmoved. What does he say 1 He says that the creation of the High Court would now be premature, and that it will not be required for another generation. On going into figures, he appeals to every business man by stating that the appeals to the Privy Council have averaged only twelve per annum for the last twenty years. Again we turn to another honorable and learned member. I refer to the honorable member for Werriwa. He tells us that appeals to the Privy Council are always decided with the utmost impartiality. I should naturally think that if one desired an absolutely unbiased judgment on questions of law, he would be far more likely to obtain it from the Privy Council than from a purely Australian Court. I am a very patriotic Australian, yet I think the balance lies in favour of the English Court, so far as the question of purity is concerned. The only thing I do not like about the Privy Council is that it is so strongly branded with the mark of St.
Michael and St. George. As far as the ordinary layman can see, I believe that the Constitution is doing very well - that it is doing good work. I believe that instead of being a shattered hulk she is a stately handsome ship, that she is sailing along in summer seas with all sails set to the best advantage, except, perhaps, that she has to sail with a sky-sail less, or a royal, but this gives her less top-hamper, and makes her very much safer and steadier in meeting a storm. There is only one feature in reference to the Constitution that might be called objectionable, and repeated reference has been made to it. I speak of the Braddon blot. I think the Government should be extremely thankful for the Braddon blot. It was a magnificent conception. What a refuge it affords the Prime Minister ; what a godsend it is to the Treasurer ; what a bulwark for the Ministry ; what a brake against reckless, unbridled extravagance ! You ask the genial and courteous Treasurer for a cheque for old-age pensions, and he says - “ I should be delighted to give it to you, but here is the Braddon clause, which prevents me from doing so.” The thought’, strikes me that perhaps the author of those provisions expected that .he would be the Commonwealth Treasurer. If so, fate has decided against him. In any case I think that, instead of being regarded as a blot upon the Constitution, they should be spoken of as its saving clauses. I have listened to the arguments in favour of the establishment of a Federal High Court, and the only one which influences me is that for an Australian Court of Appeal. I have every sympathy with that object. Nearly all my family were born in Australia, and Australia saved my life when I was a mere wreck, so that I am Australian to my inmost heart. But in dealing with this matter we cannot escape the fact that we require to economize. Notwithstanding the splendid breezy spirit of the Minister for Defence, we, as business men intrusted with the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth, must show an example of economy. When in Queensland lately, I found that an extraordinary opinion existed in the minds of my constituents in regard to the federal expenditure. They seemed all to be impressed with the idea that the Commonwealth is going headlong to perdition because of extravagance, and in the interests of fair play - and I hope I shall never be deficient in the spirit of justice - I had actually to fight the cause of the Government, and to win credit, not from my own side, but from the supporters of the Ministry. I had to explain that instead of the Commonwealth being extravagant it was sometimes, in my opinion, too much inclined towards parsimony. But now that I have returned, and find this proposal for the establishment of a High Court iri the forefront of the Government programme, I am forced to reconsider the position. Is this a time for imposing fresh burdens upon the already overburdened taxpayer? Honorable members do not seem to realize the tremendous distress which exists in Queensland. Nearly the’ whole of the cattle owners there have been absolutely ruined. Wealthy men, who could afford to come to Melbourne and spend their money freely, are penniless. Indeed, ‘the breeders of cattle have been particularly hard hit, because they had no sooner got through the tremendous disaster in which the tick pest involved them, than they were overtaken by the recent .frightful drought, which has caused the loss of millions of cattle and of sheep. When I was last at Rockhampton I could not speak for a week, because I felt so disheartened at the signs of distress in the town. Men who had been getting good wages, and whom I had paid myself, were begging in the streets for 6d. to buy a meal. Yet we are asked to throw away a largo sum of money in the establishment of a High Court, which perhaps we do not need at all, and which we can, at any rate, do without for the next ten or twenty years.
Mi1. McDonald. - The honorable member does not say that the conditions which he has described exist in Queensland to-day 1
– Things are not quite so bad as they were. Rain fell on the day upon which I left Clermont.
Mr.’L. E. Groom. - When was that?
– That was in December last. But any one who has had experience knows that it will be many years before Queensland can recover her former position. Only to-day I was speaking on the subject with a bank manager who has come from that State, and he shares that opinion. Owing to the scarcity of young stock, the effects of the drought will be felt for many years to come. Is this then a time in which to propose fresh expenditure 1 Many of the States are now exercising the most severe and rigid economy. Look at the economies which Queensland is effecting. The retrenchments in the public service there have been extremely severe. What a howl we should have heard if one half of what has been done in Queensland were done in Victoria. North, south, east, and west the people are crying for bread, and what do we offer them 1 A Judiciary Bill ! We ask, “ What do you want with bread? Look at the magnificent Bill we are giving you. We propose to give bread and butter to the Judges of our High Court, but you can go and work.” There are thousands of men still out of employment, while many others have been driven in distress from the country. They ask us, “ What are you going to do for us ?” and our reply is, “ We are going to establish a High Court where you will have justice administered in the purest manner possible.” What do these men care for justice? They want bread. They do nob want justice at the expense of further taxation. The position reminds me of the trial trip of a steamer which I once attended at home. There was the usual fashionable company on board, and fine speeches had been made- by the magnates present, when an inquiring shareholder asked, “But what about the dividends 1” He received the reply, “Do you expect dividends with two lords on the board?” We are going to have five new law lords on the bench, though I heard a lawyer say that he did not believe that a Federal High Court was required, or, at any rate, that we could do without it. In my opinion, it is desirable that we should have this judicial court as soon as we can, that is, as soon as we have work for the Judges. But it is a piece of unpardonable extravagance to propose its establishment at a time when every shilling of the revenue is required for other purposes. I mistake the temper of the Australian people very much if they do not show themselves extremely indignant at the attitude of the Government in regard to this question. I feel certain that if a referendum were taken upon it, the result would be an enormous defeat for the Government.
– Not if the people understood the subject.
– Of course, it is said that laymen cannot understand these legal, matters.
– This is a matter which they could easily be made to understand.
– Look at the enormous cost of the proposed court. We are to expend £30,000 a year to begin with.
– I gave the House £30,000 as an estimate which, I explained at the time, would cover not only the salaries of the Judges and their officers, but that of the Crown Solicitor as well ; in fact the whole administrative body of the court.
– I remember the magnificent oration which the AttorneyGeneral delivered when he first proposed the establishment of this court. The impression which it left upon my mind is so distinct that I can hardly believe that fourteen months have passed since it was delivered. If a vote had been taken on the question immediately after his speech, I am afraid that some of us would have forfeited our reputation for consistency by voting bald-headed for the Bill. But, fortunately, we had time for reflection, and it has done us good. In addition to the £30,000 which is the cost of the court as estimated by the Attorney-General, there are the pensions of the Judges to be reckoned. I never heard of Judges anywhere going without pensions, and the pensions of these learned law lords would amount to a large sum. First we are asked to create a great Valhalla, and then, when these great law lords enter it, we are to hand to them tlie apples of immortality, in the shape of pensions. It is a singular thing about pensions that, although the poor pensioners who are in receipt of 5s. a week die off like flies, the pensioners who get £1,000 a year are immortal, they live for ever, and when one of them dies by inadvertence the country says, “Thank God !” Is not that a humiliating thing ? In my opinion it would be better not to give pensions, but to make the salaries sufficiently large to enable their recipients to make their own provision for old age and infirmity. I would like to see the money which a High Court would cost, not put into the bank, but judiciously and properly expended ; and I believe that it could not be invested to greater advantage to the Commonwealth than by increasing our naval defences for the protection of our hearths and homes. On the question of defence I am a narrow-minded Australian throughout. With regard to the Naval agreement, I think that even assuming that all the other conditions are acceptable the proposed term of ten years is too long. I quite understand that when the Prime Minister was at home he did not wish to appear too mean, and neither do I. I want to see Australia act a generous part rather than otherwise. The amount which it is proposed to give the Imperial Government, £200,000, is comparatively unimportant. As the Minister for Defence asks - “ What is £1,000,000?” I ask in the same way - “ What is £200,000 ?”- it is nothing. The only point is that we are called upon to pay £200,000 per annum . for ten years. What I do not like is to find that Canada, whose example is always quoted in this House, has made a much more advantageous bargain with the Imperial Government. She has two Imperial squadrons constantly patrolling the seas upon her shores - one on the Pacific and the other on the Atlantic side - and yet she does not pay the Imperial Government one penny. Now, as a Scotchman, I do not like to see Australia overreached by Canada, and I think that if England can do what she has done for Canada, she can extend the same consideration to Australia. The money which we propose to contribute towards the Imperial navy would be applied to infinitely greater advantage if it were used to form the nucleus of a fund out of which we could build ships for ourselves. We shall have to come to that in the end. We cannot possibly continue to depend for the protection of all our ports upon England ; we cannot be for ever hanging’ on the maternal breast. The million of money mentioned by the Minister for Defence would build three of the first class cruisers recommended in Captain Creswell’s report. The interest on £1,000,000 borrowed at 3 per cent, was stated by the Minister for Defence to be equivalent to the price of a glass of beer for every inhabitant of Australia, but it would be even less than that. Whatever Government may be in power in the near future will have to face the question of creating an Australian navy. I do not wish to belittle the Australian auxiliary squadron, because it seems to be necessary to us at present, but I am afraid that we shall be increasing the subsidy at the wrong time. Just fancy the position we shall occupy if we ratify the proposed agreement. It is undeniable that if England were in serious straits the ships belonging to the Australian squadron would be taken away from our shores. That is not the worst either, because the squadron would take with it the only men upon whom we could depend for our naval defence. One of the baits held out to the Prime Minister to induce him to increase our contribution was the provision made for the training of Australians as seamen and as reservists on the vessels of the fleet. But these men would be taken away from us possibly at our time of greatest need. I am just as fond of old England as is any honorable member, and although I am a Caledonian chieftain, I should come down with both feet on any attempt to belittle England. I never mention the name of Scotland, as many Scotchmen do, making themselves ridiculous and odious, but I glory in belonging to England. We should in this matter look to England’s benefit. If we ratify the agreement we shall continue to be a drag upon England, whereas if we build our own ships we shall help her.
– The question is how best to spend the money we can afford ?
– The best financial proposition is to use it to build our own ships. The thought has struck me that if we had passed the tea and kerosene duties - the loss of which I have always regretted - we should have been able to build a fleet for Australia out of the proceeds of those imposts within five years. Why should Ave be” afraid to tackle the question of ‘providing an Australian navy ? Look at what we have done for ourselves without the assistance of the Imperial Government. We have built over 16,000 miles of railway, we have registered a maritime tonnage of 345,000 tons, and the value of our land and improvements, not to mention the immense stocks of merchandise and produce, and our flocks and herds, represents the prodigious sum of £62S,000,000. Moreover, we have spent upon our railways £217,000,000. I admit that ‘ a good deal of this money has been spent badly, and that if we had saved that which has been badly spent, we should have been able to provide a fleet at once. The crowning evidence of” our manhood and of our ability to manage our own affairs, is to be found in the fact that we have borrowed £215,000,000. Australians are sometimes accused of getting “ swelled hoad,” and I believe the accusation is just, because every one is afflicted with the same complaint, more or less, upon occasions ; but in this particular case I think we are too modest. Do not let us forget that of the five greatest cities in the British Empire
Australia, owns two. Notwithstanding all these evidences of wealth accumulated by Australians, borrowed by Australians,’ and expended by Australians, we are standing on the brink, shivering at the bare idea of building a cruiser. I believe England would be delighted if we showed a bold national spirit, and took the defence of Australia into our own hands.
– All the naval experts give us that advice.
– Yes. I candidly confess that I had not the necessary experience last session to enable me to judge as to the right course to take in regard to naval and military expenditure, and perhaps some of my votes may be open to considerable criticism. After reconsidering the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that we are making a great mistake in not paying more heed to the navy. I do not say that we should devote less attention to military matters, but as a .matter of self-preservation we shall have to spend more money for the protection of our coasts, and the sooner the Government recognise their imperative duty in this respect the better will they study the truest interests of the Commonwealth.
– After listening patiently to the addresses of honorable members, the conclusion has been borne in upon my mind that the Government may safely be congratulated not only upon their administration, but also upon the forecast which they have given us in the Governor - General’s speech. If one note has been more dominant than another in the criticisms to which they have been subjected, it is the complaint, perhaps not made directly, but voiced in an indirect way, that they have, so to speak, depleted the political wardrobe, and left the Opposition without any political attire, other than the proverbial fig-leaf, in which to appear on the public platform at the next election. It has also occurred to me that even when honorable members have trained legal minds it is often difficult for them to be logical. The “honorable and learned member for Parkes riveted my attention by the masterly way in which he dealt with his subject last evening, but even he appeared to be altogether illogical, because, on the one hand, he accused the Minister in charge of a department with playing the part of an arbiter in interpreting an Act of Parliament, whilst on the other hand he condemned another
Minister for not acting in a similar capacity. The Minister for Defence laid upon us the charge of being parsimonious, and he also made a noteworthy remark in connexion with his references to the federal capital site. He said that it was desirable that we should place the federal capital in close proximity to some striking features of Australian scenery. Anyone who has been intimate with the condition of the country during the last two years must admit that the most pronounced natural features have been river beds without water and the bleaching bones of our dead stock. Looking at the matter from that stand- point it is not to be wondered at that honorable members of this and other legislative bodies in Australia should adopt “ economy” as their watch word on all occasions. They are forced into that position. I think it was the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, who credited the Government with having at all times displayed economical tendencies. I cannot indorse that statement. I could cite several occasions upon which the Ministry have been compelled only by the feeling of the House to exercise economy. For example, last session they attempted to pass a Loan Bill. It is true that the amount involved was a small one, but it represented the beginning of a bad practice. It was only the opinion of the House which deterred them from following in the footsteps of the State Parliaments by initiating a system of borrowing. While I am at all times prepared to support any expenditure that is calculated to promote the welfare of the people, I cannot vote for any proposal involving increased expenditure without being fully convinced that there is ample justification for it.
– How does the honorable member propose to keep faith with New South Wales if the federal capital be not established 1
Mi-. KENNEDY. - I have not expressed an opinion upon that matter yet, but I will address myself to it presently. First, amongst the Ministerial proposals embodied in the Governor-General’s speech is that relating to the establishment of the High Court. It may be necessary to create that tribunal, and I do not say that I will not support a proposal in that direction, but I certainly will not support new expenditure to the extent of £30,000 being incurred in the establishment of a court.
– Unless the honorable member is satisfied that it is a good investment ?
– So-called good investments do not always prove to be such.. In the first instance I shall have to be convinced that our existing needs cannot be met by the States courts. Many honorable members seem to forget that the States and the Commonwealth are . composed of the same people. In each instance the taxpayer is identical. That is a fact which is too often ignored in the relations which exist between the Commonwealth and the States. Instead of the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria meeting each other in a perfectly friendly spirit, they approach each other through the columns of the daily press - allow the newspapers to “ pull their legs “ so to speak, altogether oblivious of the fact that in the meantime the public interests which should be their first concern are going to the dogs.
– The honorable member is at liberty to peruse any correspondence which I have had with State departments, and he will then be able to form his conclusions as to whether I have not on all occasions extended to them the utmost courtesy.
– At a later stage I shall read certain extracts which have led mo to the opinion I have expressed.
– The State Premiers are jealous of the powers of the Commonwealth.’
– That may be so, but the first concern of statesmen should be the public .interest, not personal dignity or matters of etiquette. The establishment of the Inter-State Commission will also involve the Commonwealth in another large and permanent expenditure. There may be a necessity for constituting a tribunal to deal with disputes of an Inter-State nature that are brought about by the operation of’ differential or preferential railway rates. When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was speaking the other evening’ on the differential rates which exist in Western Australia, I interjected that the same conditions prevailed in other States. Undoubtedly they do. Of my own knowledge I can say that, from some stations in Victoria the Railway department charges residents of this State three times as much for the carriage of their wool as it does for the carriage of wool which is grown in New South
Wales. ‘ Other merchandise is carried under similar conditions. Secret rebates are made to individuals and to representatives of various firms. In the Railway Commissioners’ report for the quarter ended December last appears a statement which is only a repetition of what occurs from year to year. It shows that rebates have been made to individuals upon rates which have already been reduced. There is no doubt, therefore, that a necessity exists for the creation of some tribunal to deal with these questions. But honorable members should not forget that under the Constitution the powers of the Inter-State Commission are restricted to some extent, and that where it can be proved that differential rates are charged for the purposes of development that tribunal would be absolutely powerless.
– It could deal with cases in which preferential rates are charged. The instances given by the honorable member could not then exist.
– At any rate they exist at the present time. In my opinion it is not necessary to incur a large expenditure in order to remedy these evils. The States are practically the- sole railway carriers in Australia, so that difficulties which confront the Inter-State Commission in America where the railways are in tho hands of private companies could not possibly arise here. Personally I fail to see why the Commission could not be constituted by the appointment of officers who are already in the State services, the cost involved being borne by the Commonwealth. All that is required is a body composed of one of the Railway Commissioners, a first-class commercial man, and a judicial authority. Officers who are already in the service could be appointed to collect evidence upon any matter in dispute, and that evidence could be submitted to the tribunal indi- cated
– Would the honorable member allow a Victorian Railway Commissioner to sit in judgment upon a Victorian railway case?
– Not necessarily. One man would not dominate the whole position. All disputes would be determined upon the weight of the evidence submitted. Passing to the adjustment of the boundaries of the new Federal electorates, I would urge upon the Minister for Home Affairs the necessity which exists for having the rolls posted in the different districts at the earliest possible moment. Electors will then be able to ascertain whether their names appear upon them, and, if not, will be able to get them on before the elections take place. With regard to the discrepancy which exists between the census returns and the Federal rolls, the explanation may not be far to seek. Let us take the case of Victoria as an illustration. I know that the Federal rolls show an increase of 9,000 male electors over the latest published State rolls, although the qualification is exactly the same in both cases. It is evident that there cannot have been any great amount of negligence or carelessness in the compilation of the Federal rolls. In this connexion I may mention one case which came under my own notice. Two householders in a certain district informed me that no inquiry whatever had been made with respect to the persons in their homes, and they assumed, therefore, that their names were not upon the Commonwealth roll. I suggested that probably the officers charged with making the inquiry had authentic information from some other source. Upon inquiry, I found that the names of all the persons in the homes referred to appeared upon the roll, thus proving that although the officer entrusted with the work had not made a personal visit to the houses, he had full information as to those whose names were entitled to be placed upon it. It is essential that the earliest opportunity should be given to electors to ascertain whether their names are upon the rolls, in order that they may avoid disfranchisement at the next general election. There are two other matters to which I wish to direct pointed attention. The first is that to which the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, drew attention the other day, namely, the question of navigation and irrigation. In my judgment, one of the largest questions confronting a very considerable section of the Commonwealth is how we are to utilize the waters of our rivers. In this connexion, however, no alarm need be experienced by representatives from the other States that any financial burden will be cast upon the Commonwealth as a whole. I have no hesitation in saying that whatever financial responsibility may be incurred in respect of irrigation works on the Murray or the Darling rivers, the States which will be benefited thereby are fully prepared to accept it.
It is not a question of asking the Commonwealth, so to speak, to expend money for the benefit of one State, or a section of a State. Land-holders within these districts are prepared to accept the full financial responsibility. I do not know how far it is possible for the Federal Government to interfere at the present stage, but I should like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the feeling was present in the minds of a very considerable number of people that, in entering into federation, we were creating a power which might be able to harmonize the relations existing between neighbouring States in regard to joint works beneficial to both parties. The proposed transcontinental railway and the works relating to the Murray basin waters come within that category. The Constitution vests certain powers in this Parliament with respect to navigation, and I presume those powers cover the question of the navigation of the Murray and its tributaries. The question whether the necessities of navigation are to supersede the requirements of irrigation is one that should be determined by this Parliament at the very earliest moment. I think I am right in saying that the Prime Minister attended a conference at Corowa some little time ago.
– In March of last year.
– -At that conference the three riparian States interested in the Murray basin waters were represented by their Premiers, and an agreement was arrived at that the whole matter of the use of the waters of our rivers should be referred to a commission, on which each of the three riparian States should have a representative. The commission was appointed, inquired fully into ‘ the matter, and submitted a report. The members of that commission were men in whom the Governments that appointed them had absolute confidence. They were appointed, I presume, because they were thoroughly conversant with the subject, and knew the way in which to obtain the best information. They made certain recommendations which they embodied in their report, and in April last the Premiers of the three States concerned met in conference in Sydney. Amongst other questions dealt with at that conference was that relating to the river waters - and with what result 1 The Premiers simply ignored the recommendations of the commission ; they threw the commission’s report into the waste-paper basket, and formulated a proposal of their own, which they propose to ask their respective Parliaments to ratify.
– The report of the commission was unfair to South Australia.
– That is the extraordinary feature to which I propose to refer. I have already mentioned that it was the aspiration of many federalists that the Federal Parliament, when created, should be able to determine issues of this character, that wherever conflicting interests like these existed between two or more States, the Federal Parliament, acting for the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, should be able to determine what was best in the interests of all concerned. As to the constitutional rights of South Australia, I am not going to offer any opinion. The Premiers threw the report of the commission into the waste-paper basket and formulated proposals of their own, which they are going to ask their Parliaments to ratify.
– The South Australian representative on the commission entered a protest against the report.
– He dissented from the finding of the commission. I have some knowledge of the conditions which prevail over the greater portion of the Murray’ valley, and I venture to sa)’ that the proposals formulated by the conference of Premiers will not be ratified either by the Parliament of New South Wales or that of Victoria. I believe that the position will be as it was. South Australia will not have sufficient water for navigation purposes during a considerable portion of the year, and irrigationists in New South Wales and Victoria will be retarded in their operations for some years to come. If the agreement is ratified, it will not only debar the people of New South Wales and- Victoria from entering into further irrigation projects, but in many seasons it will leave irrigation trusts which have already been established in Victoria without a drop of water.
– They have at present under way all the schemes that it would be possible to carry out for the next five years.
– No. That is another creature of the imagination of the pressman who, to use a colloquialism, sometimes “ pulls the legs “ of the people.
– Did not the Premier of Victoria say so 1
– The peculiar fact is that the Premier of Victoria, speaking in the State Parliament and also on the public platform, claimed the right of Victoria to divert every drop of water which fell on Victorian territory.
– That is a large order.
– I am not saying whether the Premier was right or wrong. I am merely telling the honorable member what he said. After making that assertion here, he went to Sydney, and actually gave away the rights of the people - rights which had been created under an Act of Parliament - to the use of water for irrigation purposes. I have been associated from my boyhood with farming and grazing in the Murray Valley, and I know something of the conditions which exist there. Had the recommendation of the commission been carried out there would have been a possibility of very materia] development, not at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– But at the expense of South Australia.
– No ; at the expense of the States concerned.
– Was not our share to be the dry channel 1
– No. I shall tell the right honorable gentleman what I and others who are not representatives of South Australia think about the matter. Unfortunately we are still imbued with that parochial spirit which, shortly prior to federation, induced some of the States Parliaments to load up some of the departments that were about to be transferred, in order as they thought, to pass on the baby to the general taxpayer of Australia. In dealing with large measures of common concern - measures affecting the people of more than one State - we seem to be still imbued with that spirit.
– If I object to a man taking my watch, does that show a parochial spirit 1
– No claim is made either by Victoria or New South Wales to the use of the whole of the waters of the Murray. What is claimed is that sis the Premiers submitted the matter to the best available authorities, the report given by those authorities should have received some little consideration.
– It was not a unanimous report.
– I am aware of that. But it was a report by gentlemen who know more about the matter than does the Premier of any one of the States. I wish to point out the effect of the agreement arrived at by the Premiers. We have on the Goulburn River in Victoria an irrigation trust which was formed some years ago, and in connexion with which there has been some £500,000 expended in the resumption of lands and the construction of weirs and water channels, and other works. After expending a very considerable sum of money in experimenting with irrigation, we are now obtaining some return for our outlay. During the last two or three dry seasons people have realized the true value of water for irrigation purposes, and, as the result of that experience, have continued to impress upon the Premiers of the States concerned the desirableness of coming to some agreement with respect to the use of the waters. It was this agitation that first gave rise to the Corowa conference. A scheme was promulgated by the people of Riverina under which it was proposed to expend about £500,000 in constructing a weir at Bungowannah, together with other waterworks, to divert a volume of water sufficient for stock and domestic supplies over an area of 3,000,000 acres, and to irrigate about one-twelfth of that area. The diversion works were to be a joint enterprise on the part of Victoria and New South Wales. The water to which Victoria considered it was entitled - and the report of the engineers supported the contention - would have supplied a vast area. But, as a result of the agreement arrived at by the conference of Premiers in April last, these schemes must be abandoned. For at least twelve or fourteen years there has been a Trust district in existence on the Goulburn River, where we have now almost perfected our irrigation arrangements. But if the Premiers’ agreement be ratified by Parliament, the Trust will not be able to divert a single drop of water from the Goulburn for the proper supply of that district. Under one of the provisions of the agreement 150,000 cubic feet of water per minute has to be sent down the Murray to the eastern boundary of South Australia. As a matter of fact, the gaugings taken by the Water Supply department show that in many years there is not a volume of 120,000 cubic feet per minute flowing along the river at that section ; but as soon as the supply at the eastern boundary of South Australia drops below 150,000 cubic feet per minute both Victoria and New South Wales will be debarred from using the water. Thus, it is an absolute certainty that the agreement, if carried out, would not .only deprive the contemplated works of their requisite supply, but would actually cripple those works that are already in existence. It is for this reason that I am urging the Prime Minister to give some attention to the matter. In support of my contention that the ratification of the proposals of the Premiers would not only prevent the States of New South Wales and Victoria from entering into new irrigation schemes, but materially interfere with works which have been in existence for a considerable number of years, I will quote the report of an interview with a gentleman who was at one time at the head of the New South Wales Department of Water Conservation - a gentleman who was very eminent in his profession, arid knew exactly what lie was speaking about -
Mr. H. Or. McKinney, speaking of the decision of the conference of Premiers in regard to the River Murray question, said that the demand made hy South Australia in regard to the waters of the Murray and its tributaries had been from first to last extraordinary. In the proposed settlement of the claims of the three States, the quantities of water allotted to South Australia had been proportioned to its demands, rather than to any legitimate rights. Navigation, which South Australia -was so desirous of protecting, was chiefly navigation on New South Wales rivers. Practically what New South Wales had been asked to do was to sacrifice the interests of a large area of lands in the central and western divisions in order that South Australia might derive benefit from a precarious trade on the western rivers of this State.
I have already referred to the feeling which seems to exist between .the Premiers of the States and the Prime Minister in regard to matters of mutual concern. The following quotation will illustrate my remarks -
The Premier (Sir John See), in replying to adverse criticism on the agreement entered into with respect to the allocation i of the Riiver Murray waters, and the assertion that South Australia had got the advantage of the other States, said that the whole matter resolved itself into this : that had some compromise not been arrived at, the conference would have been discredited, and the question of the River Murray waters would have possibly led to litigation in the Supreme Court, and finally, in an appeal to the Privy Council, causing endless delay in carrying out many good irrigation and water conservation works.
Practically the same opinion was expressed by the Premier ofVictoria. To my mind, all these Premiers, in agreeing to let the decision of this matter wait over for five years, instead of determining the respective rights of the States at the present time, are anxious to follow the line of least resistance, notwithstanding the fact that the question must eventually be dealt with, and that the sooner it is settled the better for all parties concerned, because the experience of many years has shown us that the development of the interior is impossible without the conservation of flood waters and their use by means of irrigation works. Mr. Irvine’s remarks also illustrate what I have said about the feeling which exists between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister -
Mr. Irvine also dealt with some remarks made by Sir Edmund Barton, Prime Minister, in reference to the work of the conference. “I am rather surprised,” he said, “ at a statement attributed to Sir Edmund Barton. He is reported to have said - ‘ The Commonwealth Government could not consent to any of theresolutions which appeared to dispute the powers which the vote of all Australia, with the indorsement of the Acts of Parliament, had conferred upon it in matters which were by the Constitution handed over to the Federal Government. I am not aware that there is anything in any of the resolutions which tends to dispute or question any such powers-
– I did not say that there was. I rather guarded myself in that speech against saying so.
- Mr. Irvine continues - certainly it was not the intention of the Premiers to do so. Their intention was to bring respectfully under the notice of the Federal Government certain matters in which the exercise of its constitutional powers would be beneficial, in their opinion, to the whole of the States. “
When matters of public concern affecting both the States and the Commonwealth proper arise, it would be much better if, instead of speaking in the press of difficulties which may be merely creatures’ of the imagination, the heads of the various Governments would come to close quarters with the Prime Minister and arrive at some understanding. It is our bounden duty, if the Constitution has given this Parliament the power, or we can obtain it from the States, to deal with the question of the rights of adjacent States in the waters of the rivers which flow between them.
– The question would first have to be referred to us by the
Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States concerned.
– I wish to draw attention to the matter publicly so that consideration may be given to it. Peeling on this subject is very strong throughout the northern districts of Victoria and the southern and western districts of New South Wales, because their future prosperity depends upon the early settlement of the question. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, and it is connected with the oversea mail contracts, and concerns the interests of a large number of the producers of Australia. Of late years I have had a more intimate knowledge of the conditions of the producing interests of Victoria than of those of the other States, and for that reason my remarks must seem to apply more particularly to Victoria, though I think they are of equal application to the other States. The subsidy paid to the companies whose steam-ships carry our oversea mails has been about £90,000 a year for some years past. Practically all we get for that contribution is the regular carriage ofour mails to and from Great Britain and intermediate ports. But prior to 1899, and in the early days of our export trade in perishable products, an agreement was made between the Government of Victoria and the steam-ship companies - and I believe that similar agreements were made in the other States - which required them to make certain provision for the conveyance of perishable products. After a considerable amount of experimenting, that trade developed very largely, until it became seriously affected by the drought. But in or about the time of the inauguration of the Federation the agreement I speak of was allowed to lapse. Now, it has been the hope of the producers of Victoria and, no doubt, of those of the other States, that, as soon as one authority was in a position to enter into an agreement of this kind for the whole Commonwealth, they would obtain much better conditions. Last season, which was not a favorable one, the export of butter, fruit, mutton and lamb in the carcase, and rabbits from the departmental freezing works and cool stores in Melbourne, was something like 25,000 tons. But in. dealing with the steam-ship companies in their individual capacity as producers, or through agents, our people feel that they are not in a position to obtain the terms to which they consider themselves entitled. The charge for the transport of butter, for instance, which is entirely in the hands of the mail-boat companies, is £7 per ton, or -d. per lb. from Melbourne to London, a price which those in the trade term a prohibitive one. Although there has been a considerable increase in the volume of trade, there has been no reduction in rates for some years past. I therefore think it is incumbent upon the Federal Government, now that an opportunity is afforded by the expiration of the mail contract, to enter into an agreement, upon the renewal of the mail subsidy, for the transport of perishable products under better conditions and at lower rates. The export of perishable products is a trade which is yearly increasing in volume, and in which the whole of the States are concerned. Furthermore the interests of the producers are everywhere identical. In the matter of the export of fruit, we have now arrived at the stage when fruit can be sent to the London market with some degree of certainty that it will arrivein good condition. But the freight on a 40-lb. box is as high as 4s., or more than Id. per lb., which shippers from whom I have made inquiries, term an extortionate charge. I ask the Government to give some attention to this matter. I do not intend to traverse the many statements which have been made by the various speakers during this debate. Some of the issues which have been raised are more suitable for discussion from a public platform at the approaching elections. The old question of free-trade and protection has been revived, but I think its resurrection is due to the fact that free-traders wish to make themselves a decent suit in which to appear before the electors, and so they are using the shroud of a body which I thought was decently buried after the last debate on the Tariff. The view which I take in regard to what has been said about the administration of the Alien Restriction Act, is this : Severe criticism has been hurled at the Prime Minister because at the dictation of the socialistic party he refused admision to the famous six hatters. As I understand the situation, the Prime Minister was in duty bound to refuse permission for the landing of these men until certain conditions had been complied with. Some honorable members have apparently lost sight of the fact that after representations were made by the labour unions, and by what has been designated as the socialistic party, the Prime Minister saw fit to admit the hatters. It has also apparently been forgotten that another batch of men, who came here under exactly the same conditions, were allowed to land immediately upon their arrival, simply because steps were taken with respect to them which should have been taken in regard to the first six hatters. I do not claim to be exonerated from my share of the responsibility attached to placing the Immigration Restriction Act upon the statute-book. When I voted for the provision under which the six hatters were first refused admission to the Commonwealth, I knew as well what its effect would be as I know to-day, after all the discussion and all the criticism which has been passed. When notice of the amendment was given by the honorable member for Bland my mind reverted to an incident of twenty years ago, and it was with a view to prevent a recurrence of anything of the kind that I decided to support the proposal. In the Lachlan and Darling districts of New South Wales friction which had existed for some years between the squatters and the shearers culminated in 1878 in what was known as the Mossgiel strike. The squatters tried to obtain the upper hand, and the shearers fought them as well as the conditions would permit. The squatters endeavoured to fill their sheds by engaging shearers in Victoria and Tasmania, under contracts made in those States. These shearers, who were good and capable men, and were perfectly familiar with the conditions obtaining in the western districts of Victoria and in Tasmania, knew nothing of the circumstances in which they would be placed in New South Wales. When they arrived on the stations representations were made to them that the)’ could not shear with advantage under the conditions to which they had agreed. Many of the men, however, in spite of this, went to work, but before a week was over they raised objections, and a strike was the result. That occurred in 1S79 or 1880. The records can be found in the Hillston Police Court, because some of the shearers spent in the gaol there the time which would otherwise have been occupied in shearing at Gunbar Station. Some of the contract men, however, completed their shearing under police surveillance during I the whole time. That was the case that was in my mind, and which impelled me to support the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. If the Act is administered, as I believe it will be, in the spirit in which it was passed, it is not likely to prevent any one who comes here with a legitimate object from entering the Commonwealth. I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs has, by his reply to his critics, effectually dispelled those shadows, which, according to the press reports, have been hanging over his head for a considerable time. I think he is to be commended for the line of action he has adopted. I remember distinctly that when the Customs Bill was submitted to the House it was stated by the Minister that, from the information obtained through the Customs officials, the States had been losing something like £750,000 annually through leakages. That was not a desirable state of affairs, and as I thoroughly appreciate the difficulties which confronted the Minister in bringing about various necessary reforms, and in securing uniformity of practice, I warmly congratulate him upon the great work which he has achieved. No one will question his honesty, or his integrity, and although there may have been a few cases of hardship, the general policy pursued by the Minister must have exercised a salutary effect upon the trading community generally and have resulted- in gain to the Commonwealth. I think it will be admitted by those who have had any experience, that there is a limit to what Parliaments can do in any one session, and I do not suppose any honorable member will be beguiled into believing that it is possible for this Parliament, however strenuous may be its efforts, to pass all the measures foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s speech during the next few months. I feel confident that some of the most important of them will be passed into law, and I trust that in the administration of these measures, Ministers will be as fearless as they have been in carrying out the provisions of the Acts already on the statutebook.
– At this late stage of the debate, I do not intend to say very much ; but I think some remarks should be made with regard to one or two matters affecting that portion of Queensland which I represent. I have never had the pleasure of congratulating the Government before; but I now offer them my felicitations 2 n 2 upon having promised us an Arbitration Bill. I hope that that measure will be of a comprehensive character, and that it will embody the compulsory principle. I trust, further, that it will be largely instrumental in putting an end to industrial warfare within the Commonwealth. We know that any legislation we may pass upon this subject can be operative only in regard to industrial disputes which affect two or more States, but I can assure the House that the labour party will very soon make it clear that almost any labour dispute may be brought within the scope of the Act. An amalgamation of the various trades organizations throughout the Commonwealth is now in progress, and this, when completed, will bring the whole army of workers into such a combination that any Arbitration Act we may pass will have a much wider application than is now generally supposed. I regret very much that an Act of this character was not in force quite recently, because, if it had been, very much of the trouble which recently occurred in Victoria might have been avoided. I do not wish to say anything further regarding the proposed measure until we have it before us. Those who are opposed to us in politics have frequently told us that we must settle our industrial trouble by constitutional means, but immediately we propose to act upon their advice, we find them still doing .all they can to thwart our object. During the 1891 strike, which extended over the length and breadth of Queensland, we were told that if we had any grievances we should seek redress in Parliament. We took the hint that was then given by Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, and organized our forces politically instead of industrially. We immediately found that those who had advised us to take this course were more strongly opposed to us than ever before, because they realized that we had become conscious of our power, and that within a comparatively short time we should probably capture the Parliament. I think that there are other matters which should have formed part of the Government programme. Exactly the same conditions prevail to-day as existed two years ago, when mention was made in the Governor-General’s speech of a proposal for establishing old-age pensions. If it was right then that any such scheme should form part of the Government programme, old-age pensions should also be among the subjects claiming our attention during the present session. I regret very much that the Government have apparently abandoned the idea of taking some action to relieve the necessities of those who have done much towards building up this community. It is all very well to say that there are constitutional difficulties in the way of raising the necessary funds, but there is no reason why the money should not be secured by resorting to direct taxation. The Government may say that they do not care to take this course because it would unduly interfere with the revenue-raising powers of the States, but sooner or later they will be compelled to meet the financial requirements of the Commonwealth in this way. It seems ridiculous that if the Federal Government requires £1,000,000 it should have to raise £4,000,000 through the Customs. There are a number of other measures proposed in the speech upon which I do not propose to dilate at present, but I shall certainly strongly oppose several of them, because I do not think they are necessary in the present circumstances of the Commonwealth. There is the question of the naval agreement, but that will come on for discussion later. What I principally desired to speak about, when I rose, was this : that the Electoral Bill was passed last session - I think on the 10th or 12th of October - but it was the end of February before any real attempt was made to prepare the rolls in Queensland. Something was lacking in administration, considering the vast area that had to be traversed in order to collect the names. Any hurried attempt to collect them could only result in a vast number of persons not being able to get their names on the rolls. We now find that there are 1S,000 or 20,000 people in Queensland who have not got their names on the rolls. No attempt seems to be made now to show how those particular persons are to be enrolled. Taking into consideration the .fact that the number is so large, it seems clear that the department should have been more active in- seeing that the whole of the names were collected in a more thorough manner than appears to have been pursued up to the present. There is not one of the States in which it has not been found, in comparing the federal electoral rolls with the census returns, that a large number of people have been left off. In New South Wales there are about 70,000, and in Victoria between 40,000 and 50,000. This is an enormous number of electors omitted in the compilation of the rolls.
– Still, there are more names on the federal rolls in Victoria than there were on the State rolls previously.
– Yes, and the same is the case in Queensland ; but at the same time there has been negligence in collecting names for the federal rolls.
– The others will have an opportunity given to them to have their names included.
– There is a difficulty about collecting the omitted names afterwards at the various revision courts ; whereas if a proper canvass had been made in the first place the great bulk of these persons would have been placed upon the rolls. There seems to be a desire that the House of Representatives should not be dissolved until after the Senate elections. I hope that such will not be the case. Up to the present the answers to questions put to the Prime Minister have not been at all satisfactory. The question is a very simple one, and might have been answered in a simple manner by the statement that the House of Representatives would go to the country at the same time as the Senate. As it is now, we do not know when we are going to the country - whether in December next or next year. The position will be that the Senate will adjourn some time in October so as to give senators who are retiring an opportunity of again contesting their seats if they desire to do so. The consequence will be that the House of Representatives can do no work beyond that date owing to the Senate not sitting. In the ordinary course of things the new members of .the Senate would not care about meeting until the end of January, and we should have to go to the country a month later. There would thus be a period from October practically until the new members of the Senate are returned next year during which no business could be done by. us. Apart from the fact that we could do no business here, there would be extra expenditure entailed to the amount of £50,000 or £60,000 by not having the elections for the two Houses at the same time. I should look upon that as criminal on our part. Of course I know that those who hold the opinion that we should go to the country at the same time as the Senate will be met by certain difficulties. We shall be told first of all that the House of Representatives and the Senate cannot on all occasions go to the country together; that some time or other there will be a dissolution of the House of Representatives, when we shall have to go to the country “on our own.” But on this particular occasion we certainly can save £50,000 or £60,000, and it is our bounden duty to do” so. Another point that will be raised is that under the Constitution the States have the right to fix. the dates of election for the Senate, and that we do not know exactly what dates they will fix. I understand that some of the States are not favorable to having the Senate elections on the same day as the House of Representatives elections. The result will be, if that idea is carried out, that the elections in one State will be on one clay, and on another day in another State. But we can easily get over that difficulty. If the States like to plunge themselves into the expense of having two elections, let the onus rest upon them ; but we should be fixed in our determination to go to the country -on a certain date. Supposing- which up to the present time seems problematical- that the States have power to fix the date for the Senate elections, the course I recommend will compel them to fall into line with the action which the House of Repre- sentatives takes. There is another matter as to which I should like to say a word or two. I refer to the legislation in connexion with black labour. All through this debate this subject has been dropped. Time after time we have heard - especially in Queensland - that the passage of the Pacific Islands Labourers Bill was going to ruin one of the largest industries in Queensland. But these facts stare us in the face at the present time : Last year Queensland produced 10,000 tons more sugar than in the previous year. If Queensland had had a normal season instead of a disastrous drought the product would have been very much greater. I am sorry to say that an attempt is being made in Queensland - and that some of the leading members of the Government give countenance to it - to adhere to the position originalally taken up that the sugar industry will be ruined by our legislation. All sorts of rumours have been circulated to the effect that white men cannot perform the work. Now the supporters of that view have modified their contention a little by stating that white men cannot do the work north, say, of Townsville.. But the fact is that white men have done the work there. A certain company in the north of Queensland which, owing to the legislation that was likely to take place prohibiting the importation of black labour, indented a large number of kanakas, and which leased these men under agreements to various farmers having transactions with the company, has done some rather remarkable things. A number of these farmers were desirous of working their cane fields with white labour, and so earning the rebate on sugar. But they were not allowed to do so by the company. Further, this particular company has issued a pamphlet, and sent it broadcast - I presume all over the States, because I have seen several copies in Melbourne - setting forth that certain individual white men were given an opportunity of cutting cane in the fields, and failed. It is just as well that the House should understand exactly the position of the whole affair, because this is one of the most disgraceful things that any company could be capable of. They first of all entered, into an agreement with a certain number of men to cut a certain quantity of cane. The men had to supply so much cane per day to keep the mill going. The very first thing the company did was to put the men to work in a field of cane which, under ordinary circumstances, would not have been cut at all. It was so knocked about and tangled that it was almost an impossibility to cut the cane, and in the ordinary course of events it would have been destroyed and used as manure, instead of being used for the production of sugar. But the men cut the cane, went through all the difficulties that had to be faced, and supplied the quantity that was necessary according to their agreement. Then the men thought they were going to get something better to do. But what was done then by the company? They put the men on to a field of cane that would go only about 1 *</inline> tons to the acre, and where it was almost a matter of impossibility for them to cut the quantity of cane required for the mill. The result was that when after a few days the men were about a ton and a-half short the company told them that the agreement had been broken ; that they had not supplied the quantity of cane necessary; and that they would forfeit their deposit of £100. A hundred pounds is a large sum of money to a few hard-working men who are desirous of making a living at that particular work under such circumstances. They complained, and- pointed out the difficulties they had been under, and that it was almost .an impossibility to cut the quantity of cane required in that field. It mustbe borne in mind that the particular section of the field referred to would only run about 1^ tons to the acre, and would not have been cut at all under ordinary circumstances. It would have been allowed to be destroyed. The company would not have attempted it even with cheap kanaka labour. But they put these white men on to it, and because they were about tons short, the company complained of the work, and said the agreement was broken. The men made an application to get their £100 back, and the company agreed to give them the £100 if they would sign an agreement to the effect that they did not cut the amount of cane required. In the face of these facts the company turns round and issues a pamphlet to the public saying that these men had failed to carry out their contract. They have circulated this pamphlet broadcast. I have seen it stated in the
– I do - not think the honorable member is right as to the amount of shortage - h tons.
– It may have been a little more ; but that is the information which I have - that they were a ton and a half short. It may have been a little more, or it may have been a little less ; but the fact remains that the crop they were employed to work on was of such a poor character that in ordinary circumstances it would not have been cut.
– I am not endeavouring to justify the action of the company as to the cutting of the cane, but at the same time I think the honorable member’s figures are out.
– I received my information from a member of the contracting party, and I claim that he should know what he was talking about. There is another aspect of the coloured labour question upon which I wish to touch, and it arises out of the reply given by the Prime Minister to-day to a question by the honorable member for Herbert. I find that the Government have issued permits to allow certain Asiatics to be employed in the pearl-shelling industry of Thursday Island in place of those who have gone away. I regret very much indeed that the Government should have issued 211 permits. What the people of Thursday Island required was that the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act should be carried out, and that no permits should be granted in connexion with the pearl-shelling industry. If all the black labour were driven out of Thursday Island and the pearlshelling beds allowed to rest for a time it would be one of the best things which could happen to the pearl-shelling industry in the northern portion of Queensland ; for the scientists say that the continuous ‘working of the beds will ultimately result in their becoming useless to the Commonwealth. We are told that these permits are issued merely to allow the Asiatics to work in the pearl-shelling, industry. When we recollect that we legislated to prevent coloured aliens, particularly the kanaka, from working in the sugar industry, does it not seem rather inconsistent that the Government should issue permits to coloured Asiatics to work in the pearlshelling industry ? If it is a reasonable thing to allow coloured Asiatics to work in the pearl-shelling industry, it would be equally reasonable to allow them to work in the sugar industry. I do not advocate ‘that policy, but it is the logical outcome of the issue of these permits. At one time on Thursday Island the inhabitants hoped that a permanent industry, which would induce a permanent population to settle on these islands, would . be established, but the continuous introduction of the coloured alien by a certain syndicate has gradually squeezed out the white man, until to-day hardly a white man is employed in the industry. Whereas at one time we had a population of nearly 2,000 white Europeans, to-day we have a population of only 600 white Europeans. It was urged then by the syndicates that the Asiatics were only required on the boats to dive and attend to the white divers. Eventually the white diver was squeezed out. But that was not the worst evil which resulted. A few years ago nearly 80 white men were employed in building and repairing boats. Just before Christmas I visited all the boat-sheds, and I found that only three Europeans were employed in the boat-building and repairing trade, and that practically the whole of - the trade was carried on by Japanese, so that the coloured Asiatics have virtually squeezed out all the European population from that particular industry. But that ‘is not all. Although the coloured Asiatics were imported purely for the purpose of diving and attending to divers, I found that, with the exception of its owner, an aerated water factory, which I suppose was conducted as well as any factory of the kind in the southern portion of the Commonwealth, was carried on by Japanese and other coloured assistants. No matter where you may go on the island you. will find that work which at one time employed white women or white men, is now done by coloured Asiatics. Originally these men, as I said, were introduced for the express purpose of diving. But it was not possible to keep them employed at that work. Not -only have they drifted into the boat-building trade, but they have permeated every industry on the island and entered the household of almost every person. Why, then, continue the issue of these permits? What has become of the boast in the House last session that the education test would keep out all the coloured people ? It has been admitted that it has allowed 30odd aliens to enter the Commonwealth. ‘ If the Act had been firmly administered those 30 odd persons could not possibly have landed. The position which the labour party took up at the time the Bill was being considered’ was that the exclusion of these people from the Commonwealth would depend entirely upon administration. I hold that the granting of these permits is a very serious act. I know that the people of Thursday Island who are not directly interested in the pearlshelling industry by owning boats or shares in a company which is getting shell - I am speaking more especially of the business people - feel very sore about the action of the Government in issuing the permits. They fear that it is only a matter of time when the beds will be completely denuded of any value which they possess, and hold that the presence of thispopulation is a menace to the rest of tlie settlement. What they’ desire is that the Immigration Restriction Act shall be administered firmly, and with a desire to keep coloured Asiatics out of the Commonwealth. We are threatened that the pearl-shelling fleet will go over to Dutch New Guinea. It is well known to every one who is interested in the trade that it is an impossibility for the fleet to goto Dutch New Guinea, and that even if they did go they would be compelled, under certain circumstances, to take refuge on the Queensland coast from time to time.
– There was a telegram published in the newspapers to the effect that they had abandoned that idea.
– It was used as a threat at the time when we were considering the Immigration Restriction Bill, and it is used even now when we know that the idea has been abandoned and was never intended to be carried out. Interested persons were possessed of sufficient information at the time to know that the industry could not possibly be carried on at Dutch New Guinea. Even if the fleet did go there it would be one of the best things which ever could happen to that part of the Commonwealth, because the scientists state distinctly that the beds in the northern portion of Queensland require time to rest and recuperate. I hope that if the Government intend to take any action in this matter they will proceed in some other way than by granting these permits. There is another feature of this business which ought to be considered. Without going into details I shall briefly refer to the herding of coloured Asiatics on these floating ships. Last session I said that they were floating hells, and I think I was not very far out in making that statement. If it were possible for me to speak without going into details I think I could very soon shock honorable members by my description of what goes on. Of course it may be said, and said truly, that I have never been on the ships. I do not desire to go on them. Men who have spent the greater portion of their lives among them have given me sufficient information to enable me to say that it is anything but a desirable thing to carry on the industry in the manner in which it is carried on. The herding of large numbers of coloured men on the boats from time to time is simply revolting, and it ought not to have been allowed. I regret very much that even by granting the permits we should have recognised the industry in that respect. I hope that if any action is to be taken it will be taken by a special Bill, which will also provide for the proper inspection of these floating stations from time to time. In that way we might have an opportunity to minimize the evils of the system, and the sooner the work is begun the better. I realize that it is an impossibility for us to deal with the question in this short session. I sincerely hope that at no distant date the House will deal with the question by some comprehensive legislation, which will cover the various phases of the industry. I hope that by the time the next Governor-General’s speech is delivered the effects of the disastrous droughts which have been experienced in various parts of the Commonwealth will have been removed, although, as regards stock, some years must necessarily elapse before -normal conditions can be reestablished, especially in Queensland. Still the mining industry in Queensland, and in other parts of the Commonwealth,’ has developed to such an extent that it must assist in minimizing the distress which has taken place, and’ which would have been accentuated if this industry also had suffered severely from the drought. Fortunately it has not done so to any great extent, and therefore it has been able to find employ-for a very large number of men. I read with very much regret a statement which appeared in the press yesterday, that it had been found necessary in Queensland to afford relief to a large number of unemployed. I trust, however, that in view of the copious rains which have fallen in Queensland and other parts of Australia, the. coming harvest will provide employment for the greater portion of these men. In that way it will afford them an opportunity to tide over their difficulties, and probably by the time that we have another speech from the Governor-General, the Government will be able to tell us that the drought has been dispelled, and that the State is in a much more prosperous condition than it .is at the present time.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).- I rise more particularly to congratulate the Minister for Defence on the vigorous speech which he made this afternoon, and to give him some words of cheer. I do not know that there is any necessity for him to lose heart, because I believe that the Government of South Australia will loyally carry out whatever obligations have been entered into by that State in regard to the construction of the transcontinental railway. I cannot conceive of them ignoring, or endeavouring in any way, to repudiate any arrangement made in the past. But some honorable members seem to be somewhat eager to arrive at a conclusion as to the possibility of this undertaking before they have the actual data necessary to guide them in arriving at a decision. As a member of the State Parliament of South Australia, I took an active interest in this proposal many years ago. I foresaw then the possibility, and in fact, the necessity of connecting the two States by rail. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that on one occasion a proposal was made to provide artesian bores and other means of water service between South Australia and Western Australia, as a forerunner of the necessary work which must at a subsequent date take place. That proposal was lost in the South Australian Parliament, I believe, by only one vote. At a subsequent date, I moved for a return showing the probable expenditure that would be involved in constructing this line, and giving an approximate estimate of its earnings. I was so impressed with the nature of that return that I moved with respect to the construction of what must be the first section of that line. I have the fullest confidence that the line will be constructed, and that at no very distant date we shall have links of steel connecting the two States. I am equally confident that it will not be the white elephant which some people imagine it will be. It will net traverse a wilderness : it will run through a vast area of mineral country. I have travelled over a large section of the track, and know something of the country at the South Australian end
At the other end it will not go into a no-man’s land, but will connect a district which has a population of something like 40,000 people within a very small area. I do not believe that the representatives of South Australia sitting in the State Parliament will repudiate any implied agreement or understanding, or promise made either by you, Mr. Speaker, or by the Minister for Trade and Customs, as Premier of that State. There seems to be some little uneasiness, however, as to the route this line will take. It is feared that the line will be connected, not with that portion of South Australia which has been indicated, but that it will be carried across the continent direct to New South Wales. That matter, I believe to be absolutely in the hands of the people of South Australia.
– Western Australia will carry out her part of the contract. There need be no fear about that.
– I feel sure that she will. I propose now to say a word or two, not in defence of the speech made by my colleague the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, in reference to this line ; but in regard to the stand which he has always taken. I would point out that the honorable member should at least be credited with this degree of consistency, . that he opposed the proposed construction of the line in the first speech that he made during the federal elections. I do not know why we should bring this line into conflict with the railway to the Northern Territory. It seems to me that the two lines stand distinctly on their own merits, and really do not conflict in any way. In view of the fact that the South Australian Government has entered - unwisely, I think - into an arrangement for the construction of the northern line, it seems to me that comparisons cannot be- made between the two. I wish now to say something of the criticisms which have been levelled at the Government during this debate. Speaking as I do from this side of the House, I wish honorable members of the Opposition to give me credit for being sincere in the remarks which I have to make. I have listened earnestly to the criticisms made, and directed chiefly against the administration of the Customs department, and it appears to me that they wholly miss the point. I think the critics have discovered the defect, but they have not directed their energies - they have not brought in their cannon - against the true cause. I say that the cause of the complaints that have been made is to be found in the Act itself, and not in the administration of it. If there be any necessity for attack, it should be levelled against the Act, and against that particular part of it which gives no discretionary power to those who have to administer it. The Act makes it impossible for the Minister to differentiate between cases of absolute fraud and simple cases of error. In my opinion, an effort should be made to amend that part of the Act which draws no distinction between those who make innocent mistakes and those who are guilty of fraud. I have sat with the Minister for Trade and Customs in the same Parliament since 1S93, and as you know, Mr. Speaker, I have had my differences with him. But I have yet to learn that in any official capacity he was ever guilty of favoritism. No one, not even his greatest enemy in politics, has ever accused him of showing favoritism. I cannot conceive of any other method of dealing with Customs offences which would not have brought about complaints similar to those that are being levelled against the right honorable gentleman at the head of the department. The same complaints would have been levelled against the present Minister for Trade and Customs, or any one else administering the department, if he had been called upon to judge the offences. I do not want to see the introduction of that method of administration which prevailed in some States prior to federation, and under which men willingly submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the Minister, and agreed to pay fines, extending in one case to £1,200, which he inflicted. Under that system, offenders were put on the carpet, but they were dealt with in private. There was no publicity, and none of that exposure which would have occurred if their cases had been dealt with under the present method. I assert that the Minister for Trade and Customs, whoever he may be, is not the right man to decide matters of this kind. Much has been said about a fine which, was imposed upon a South Australian citizen, and a very fine citizen he is. I refer to Mr. Raleigh ; but what else could have been done 1 If the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is a representative of the State from which I come, had allowed that gentleman to be dealt with in a different way - if he had told those under him, that the case was so trivial - and it is one of the most trivial that has been mentioned during the debate - that it should be decided without going into court, what would have been said 1 Would he not have been accused of favoring a citizen of his own State ?
– And a personal friend.
– And a personal friend. In my opinion, very great danger would be involved in. giving power to the Minister in charge of the Customs department to say whether this man or that man was right. It would be equally, indeed, more dangerous, to allow the whole rank-and-file of Customs officers to arrive at determinations as to the particular values of goods. That, to my mind, would be intolerable, I am pleased to notice - and here again I shall come in conflict with some of my respected and honored friends on this side of the Chamber - that the GovernorGeneral’s speech contains a reference to a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I hope that it will be of a compulsory nature. We heard the other evening something of the jingoists of labour, but did it not occur to the honorable member who used the expression that, if it could be used in that sense, he could have spoken with equal force of the jingoists of capital 1- Is it not a fact that the very necessity for something in the nature of compulsory arbitration is that these people will not come to a meeting 1 With all due deference to the acting leader of the Opposition, to the honorable and learned member for Parkes, and to the honorable member for the Grampians, I am inclined to think that those honorable gentlemen are not in a position to fully realize the aspirations of the workers of these States. In saying that .1 do not intend any disrespect to those honorable gentlemen, but I say their lite has been on a different plane altogether from that of the great mass of the workers who will be affected by this proposal. I would ask honorable members who are inclined to oppose the measure if they have been behind the scenes and have seen the conflicts and the suffering that have occurred simply because one side would not agree to meet the other ‘? Have they known anything about the starvation and the want which have been brought about in many instances ? If they have I believe their hearts are big enough and broad enough to enable them to decide that it is well that we should try to put an end to all that kind of thing. That is the object of the measure proposed, and I trust it will be passed during this session. I look upon the High Court and the Inter - State Commission as natural corollaries of the Constitution. We may differ as to how they should be constituted, but as I stated from this place last year Inter-State free-trade will remain a misnomer while the war of cut-throat rates is carried on between the States ; and tlie full benefit of the Constitution cannot be realized until we have a court with authority to decide technical points which may arise. Take the question agitating the public mind so much in three of the States to-day. I refer to the question of riparian rights which concerns South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales 1 Which honorable member of this House is prepared to say just what is included in the Constitution upon this point 1 Who will define exactly what is meant by “ the reasonable use “ of the waters of the River Murray 1 Whatever meetings of Premiers may take place, whatever conferences may be held, and whatever decision even this Parliament may come to, the final say upon the question must lie absolutely with those who will be appointed to interpret the Constitution. I am not quite clear that in order to secure a Federal High Court it is necessary to create a number of new Judges. I believe that we have in the various States men capable of filling these high positions, and I feel very much inclined at the present time to support the proposition to give federal jurisdiction to State Courts, at any rate until we have grown somewhat bigger than we are now.
– What would the honorable member do for a Court of Appeal ?
– There is the Privy Council as a Court of Appeal.
– On the other side of the world.
– Under any circumstances, even if we constitute a Federal High Court of three Judges, and there is some idea amongst honorable members that that should be done, or if we constitute a High Court of five J udges, and their decision upon some important matter is against a particular State, we shall find that there will still be appeals to the Privy Council. I am not altogether in harmony with the Government proposals for increasing the naval subsidy. I admit that my mind is not made up on the subject. The question with me is whether we should initiate a naval scheme of our own, or continue, what, so far as I can see, has not been a very successful arrangement in the past. However, I shall wait with an open mind until I hear what is to be said upon the question. I shall not now say anything about the federal elections, because we shall have an opportunity later on of dealing with that subject. In reference to the great question occupying the attention of the leading statesmen of Australia to-day, and about which we have seen so many paragraphs and columns of matter flashed across the cables to the old country, and repeated all over the world - I refer to the question raised in the speeches of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Chamberlain, and of the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Balfour - my conclusion may be due to a want of knowledge, but, to my mind, the proposal is not within the range of practical politics. I shall give the reasons which lead me to think so. Honorable members who have read the report of Mr. Balfour’s speech cabled to us the other day, will know that he laid down three conditions as essential to the proposed preferential arrangement. One was that the working classes of the United Kingdom must agree with their eyes open to submit to an increase in the cost of their food supplies. Another condition was that the States which were referred to chiefly as protectionist States must be prepared to admit British manufac- itures free.
– Oh, no ; the Tariff is to be raised against the foreigner.
– That is distinctly the proposal of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The right honorable gentleman has not definitely made that proposal, but he suggests that as a way in which what has been proposed might be given effect to. Does the right honorable gentleman think that he could even in this House increase the rates on manufactured lines beyond the rates as they stand to-day?
– Against the foreigner ? Yes.
– I do not think so; nor do I think that honorable members sitting behind the Ministry, so long as they can prevent it, will ever allow even, the free admission of English goods. I believe the question is beyond the range of practical politics ; and honorable members will probably see some evidence of that in the cablegrams which are now arriving, and from which it appears that it is now to be left absolutely to the people to say whether they are going to accept the proposal or not. The elections will probably take place before any decision upon the subject is given in any State of Australia. If the lines of trade referred to are allowed to come into the Commonwealth free, the Minister for Trade and Customs will be faced with the problem of raising revenue, and he will already have noticed that the Premier of his own State has said that he will at once object to the proposal on revenue grounds. I personally believe that, if England waits until the Australian Parliament agrees to the proposed preferential arrangement, she will wait a very considerable time. Like those who have preceded me, before I bring my remarks to a close, I would urge honorable members to allow the debate to terminate so that we may proceed to business.
– I intend to yield to the desire expressed on both sides of the House by being brief, and. assisting in bringing this protracted debate to a close. There are, however, one or two matters of some importance upon which I should like to say a word or two. In the first place, I congratulate the Government on their promise to introduce the much talked-of Conciliation and Arbitra-
I tion Bill. I listened with the very closest attention to. the honorable and learned member for Parkes last night, and although he appears to have had such a vast experience in connexion with industrial matters, he also appears to have shut his eyes to the terrible labour wars which are going on all over the world. They are not confined to Australia or to Great Britain. We all know of the terrible struggle which America has just gone through, when 150,000 men were on strike, when some 750,000 persons were involved, and the whole industry of the nation was on the verge of a standstill. It seems to roe that the Government would have been lacking in their duty if they had failed to recognise this important industrial difficulty, and had made no effort to provide against it in Australia. I think it is Washington Gladdon who says that there are three stages in industrial evolution. The first stage is when the workers are slaves, and mere chattels ; the second stage is when the employers, the masters, on the one hand, and the working people banded together in their organizations on the other, struggle for the mastery ; and the third stage, that of universal cooperation. I quite recognise that the Bill which it is proposed to introduce will not get rid of all the difficulties and struggles pertaining to this evolution ; but surely, in view of the terrible issues, it is worth while trying ? We have the experience gained in New South Wales, Western Australia, and New Zealand, and, notwithstanding the efforts made to deprecate the experiments made and the experience gained from them, that experience goes to show that these efforts will tend to bring about the third stage, namely, mutual co-operation. If I understand the aspirations of the working classes aright, they have no desire to stifle conciliation ; they welcome conciliation. In all my experience I have never yet known any body of representative working men refuse to meet their employers in order to talk over a trade difficulty. But I have known them to be forced either to yield to conditions that destroyed their manhood, and were likely to destroy their homes, or to resort to a strike. I say that all that the honorable and learned member for Parkes said last night with regard to conciliation will be heartily welcomed by those who desire arbitration. But they feel that voluntary conciliation is not sufficient, and that they should have some court of appeal to which they can go when the first tribunal has failed to bring about what they so much desire. Without entering upon a fiscal discussion, I should like to say a word or two about the effect of the Federal Tariff upon Victorian ‘ industry. I know that it is exceedingly undesirable to open a general discussion on the Tariff; but we have now had some eighteen months’ experience of its operation in what is admittedly an industrial centre. Without discussing whether it is more so than New South Wales or not, I think that even our New South Wales friends must admit that Victoria is an industrial centre, and that Victoria has a great deal to lose by any proposed alterations in tlie Tariff. It was urged upon every platform throughout Victoria that the industrial life of the State would not suffer if we entered the Federation and joined hands with our neighbours, inasmuch as the wider markets which would be open to our manufacturers and producers would be of infinite advantage to us ; and statistics which have been recently published have been used, notably by the leading free-trade journal of Melbourne, to show that our people have lost nothing by the reduction of the Tariff. The report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for last year goes to show that at the beginning of 1902 there were 59,000 people engaged in the various industries in Victoria. That, says the journal I refer to, is a larger number than were ever before in our history so employed, and it argues that tlie increase is due to the reduction of the duties. But it must be remembered that the figures I have quoted were for the beginning, not for the end, of 1902, and that at the time to which they applied the Federal Tariff had been in existence only four months. What they really go to prove is that, notwithstanding our industrial legislation, under which the wages paid are higher, the hours worked shorter, and the environment of the workers better than in any other State, our industrial position is higher than ever before. The figures prove nothing as to the effect of the Federal Tariff on Victorian industries. I believe, however, that when statistics on that head are obtainable, Victoria will not be found to have lost much. I think that she will be found to have lost some of her local trade, but she will have gained in interest trade as much as she has lost at home. These remarks, unfortunately, do not apply to all her industries. There are branches of the boot trade, and of the coach-building trade - axle and spring works, and spoke factories - which have been absolutely closed as the result of an undue reduction of duties. The axle and spring making industry, which was giving employment to 120 men, no longer exists. That fact might be urged as a reason why Victorian protectionists should attempt to re-open the fiscal question at the next elections. But I do not think that it is a sufficient reason. I believe that the Commonwealth has more to gain by leaving the Tariff as it is for the next four or five years, and both free-traders and protectionists, who are wishful for tlie prosperity of the country, might come to an agreement to that effect. At the end of that time we could deal with the duties in the light of the experience we had gained.
– Should not the people be given an opportunity at the next general elections to express their opinions upon the Tariff?
– I am sure that if the question is brought before them they will not vote for plunging Parliament and the country into another long Tariff discussion. Furthermore, I am of opinion that the passing of a measure like the Navigation Bill is of much more importance. Ardent protectionist as I am, I am strongly of opinion that by waiting and watching the development of our industries, we shall, do more than by re-opening the Tariff discussion. I wish now to briefly refer to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta upon the question of preferential trade between the various parts of the Empire. He told us that Great Britain was never in a more prosperous condition than it is in now, that wages there had increased, that the length of the working day had been shortened, and that the working classes were generally in a much better position than they had ever been’ in before. He also said that Mr. Chamberlain would have to bring round the great bulk of trades unionists and members of the working classes generally to his way of thinking, before the change which he proposed could be incorporated in the statute-book. I have never been to England, and, therefore, cannot testify from personal observation, as the honorable member for Parramatta did on one occasion, to the terrible condition of that country. But I should like to read some extracts from a debate which occurred in the House of Commons in April of last year. The men whose words I am about to quote are not the members of the Ministry who tire now proposing trade reciprocity, but the great leaders of the liberal party. Sir Henry Fowler, upon the occasion to which I refer, said -
I do not know whether honorable members have read Mr. Booth’s valuable report on the poor of London, or Mr. Rowntree’s valuable contribution with reference to the poor of York. Those two statements show that there are large numbers of the population of this country whose wages are not more than 18s. a week. It is not a question of thousands, but of millions, and there are still larger numbers whose wages run between ] Ss. and 25s. a week.
– The other day a man living in a suburb of Melbourne was found to be earning only 14s. a week.
– His case was an unfortunate exception ; such wages are not the rule here. “What I am speaking of is a chronic condition, a reiteration of the bitter cry of outcast London. Then Sir William Vernon Harcourt said on the same evening
In 1900, according to the last return I have seen, there were 1,000,000 paupers (out of 4.0,000,000 of people) receiving outdoor and indoor relief.
On the 14th May following, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the leader of the Opposition, said -
Thirty per cent, of the population has been shown to be in a state hovering on the verge of poverty, if not actually plunged into it, and it is these people who will suffer. Let the House realize for a moment what this Ad. a loaf means.
– That is unskilled and disorganized labour.
– I am sorry to learn that these conditions are affecting the labour connected with the clothing and boot trades, which is not unskilled and disorganized. Private letters by the last mail advise me that there is great distress in Nottingham, the centre of the bootmaking industry. The secretory to the Nottingham Boot Union, which has a membership of 6,000, has shown that there are now a larger number of unemployed there, and that the wages in the trade are lower than ever they have been before during the last ten years. I do not say that this state of things is entirely due to the fiscal policy of Great Britain. I know that the reaction which has followed the war, and other circumstances, are having their effect. But the facts show that it is the height of absurdity for honorable members to try to prove that the working people of England are in such a prosperous condition that there is no need for a change in the fiscal policy of the country.
– Will the honorable member tell us what wages are paid in Berlin, under a protectionist policy, in the trades to which he is referring ? Unless he makes a comparison of that kind his figures prove nothing.
– I hoped that I would not be dragged into a discussion of the fiscal issue generally.
– Then why introduce it ?
– It was not introduced by me. One side of the question has been stated, and it is only fair that I should put the other before honorable members. We on this side of the Chamber have said very little on the matter. I do not contend that protection will do everything that is necessary to improve the condition of the workers. Protection at the Custom-house is only a beginning. Let me quote another authority - one of the staunchest free-traders in England. Presiding at a lecture upon freetrade on the 26th October, 1901, Mr. Leonard Courtney is reported to have said : -
We hail a long experience of prosperity, which had been the most eloquent and convincing argument that could be used in favour of freetrade. He did not himself put his faith in that line of argument. If they had nothing but prosperity to refer to in support of the argument that free-trade was right, any change in prosper] tj’ would, have a very damaging effect on the force of their argument and turn aside the force of their conclusions. We are not quite so prosperous now as we have been, and it would seem as if we were on the eve of a period of largely diminished prosperity. So one of the arguments in favour of free-trade would tell more feebly than it has told.
That is not an extract from the Age ; the words are those of one of tlie leaders of the free-trade party in England. It is because of the existence of facts such as those which roy authorities speak of that a proposal is emanating from the British Government for preferential trade within the Empire, and it is strange that opposition to that proposal should come from Australia. The idea is not a new one. In 1894 a conference was held in Canada at which representatives of New South Wales and of the Other States were present. . That conference unanimously agreed to the following resolutions : -
On that occasion it was not the representatives of Australia, but the representatives of Great Britain who objected. But now that Great Britain comes forward with a proposal, the representatives of New South Wales are the very first to raise their voices against it. I could understand opposition coming from Great Britain, because to working men trained in the nursery of free-trade such a proposal would no doubt come as a great shock. Those who can read the sighs of the times, however, must admit that the whole question has assumed a phase that would not have been dreamt of ten years ago. I agree in some measure with many of the proposals made by the Government, and I shall take an opportunity of discussing them when they come before us. The Government are to be congratulated on the way in which they have administered the Acts passed last session. It must be quite new to Ministers to have fault found with them for over-active administration. We have often heard Ministers reproached with laxity and with ignorance of the law, but the worst complaint directed against the present Ministry has been that urged against the Minister for Trade and Customs, that he has been too active and too eager to protect the revenue. My own feeling is that he has done his duty fearlessly and well, and I hope that he will long be spared to continue in the same course. I believe that the public generally are with him heart and soul, his detractors being found only among those who are directly interested in bringing goods into the Commonwealth with as little trouble as possible. So long as Ministers carry on the work of administration fearlessly and without favour and continue to bring forward progressive legislation they shall have my support.
Mr. WINTER COOKE (Wannon).I had fully made up my mind not to speak on this occasion, but the honorable member for North Sydney asked me to put the case of the Colonial Sugar Company again before the House, and especially before the Minister for Trade and Customs. I listened very carefully to the Minister’s speech last evening, and it struck me as being very energetic, and full of wild and whirling words. On the whole, however, he made out a very good case.At the same time I wish that the right honorable gentleman, whilst turning his mind towards those passages of Scripture which he sometimes shows a fondness for quoting, would remember the passage - “ In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” The right honorable gentleman has very much confidence, but very little quietness, and as a result it is very difficult for one of my moderate intellect to follow him. I understand that he considers that he is not at liberty to refrain from prosecuting in cases of fraud. Of course we all desire that any one guilty of fraud upon the Customs shall be prosecuted without fear or favour. The right honorable gentlemen also made it clear that in certain cases of misconstruction he was called upon to prosecute, but I understood him to say that there were cases of mistakes in which he had exercised discretionary power. He did not, however, tell us upon what principle he had proceeded. From what we can see in the newspapers many cases have been taken into the courts which should never have been sent there. The magistrates have over and over again expressed their regret at the necessity for imposing fines, because, although breaches of the law had been committed, they seemed to consider that the discretion of the Minister had not been wisely exercised, but that his treatment had been somewhat harsh. With regard to the case of the Colonial Sugar Company, I have a statement from the manager of the company in Melbourne. I understand that fault is found, not so much with the laxity on the part of the Customs authorities in not collecting the duty, as with the delay in coming to a decision as to what should be done. Over and over again the attention of the Minister, or of certain of his officials, was drawn to the alleged facts, and the following is the statement made by Mr. Astley : -
On 31st October, 1901, I received a telegram from my general manager, Sydney, reading - “Inform Doctor Wollaston we have authority for stating that about 8,000 tons white sugar being whole stocks other manufacturers have been recognised by Customs in Queensland as free excise.
He will see impossible for us accept this situation, and some action on our part imperative before taking this. Wish him understand our position.”
I went, the same day, to the Custom-house, and interviewed the Comptroller-General, Dr. Wollaston, and exhibited this message to him. He said the subject had been referred to by Mr. Knox, when they met a few days previously in Sydney, and that it had since been receiving his earnest attention. He said he had not consented to the exemption of this sugar from duty. He asked if I could give him particulars as to owners and whereabouts of this sugar. I said I understood the Brisbane collector knew all about it. He said he would immediately forward telegraphic instructions to the collector at Brisbane that he must collect excise duty on it. He said that an official decision on the question as to the liability to duty of Australian sugar actually existing in a manufactured condition at the time the Tariff was introduced would be given shortly.
On the 7th. November I saw Dr. Wollaston again at his office. He said he had issued instructions to the Brisbane collector to levy excise duty on the sugar in question, that that official had hesitated to act on them and had asked that they be confirmed, and that he had not yet been able to obtain the Minister’s orders to confirm them. I said the effect of the delay in confirming the instructions to the Brisbane collector to levy the excise duty on this sugar was that our Brisbane trade had practically ceased for the past fortnight. I asked him to represent this to the Minister at once, and to tell him we trusted that definite action would not longer be delayed. He said he would do so.
On the 8th November I saw Dr. Wollaston again at his office, when he said he had failed to move the Minister. 1 said I must press him for some definite action. I afterwards wrote him as follows : -
Melbourne, 8th November, 1901.
The Comptroller of Customs, Melbourne.
Dear Sir. -Ref erring to the subject of my frequent calls upon you of late, I desire to point out that when, ten days ago, I informed you we had reliable information that about 8,000 tons of sugar, being the whole stocks of other manufacturers, had been recognised by the Customs authorities in Queensland us free of excise duty ; that it was impossible for us to accept such a situation ; and that some action on our part was imperative, you undertook to instruct the authorities there to at once levy duty on this sugar, and so relieve us from the admittedly unfair position we were placed in by the fact that this duty was demanded on our stocks.
Though ten days have since passed, this promised action has not yet been taken ; and we are still in the manifestly unfair position of having to compete with sugar which you are allowing to escape all duty, while at the some time demanding £3 per ton on our sugar which has been grown and manufactured under exactly similar conditions to the other.
It is surely not necessary for me to repeat that the position is an improper and intolerable one, and I would beg that, in common fairness, there be no further delay about putting our sugar and the sugar referred to on the same level.
Yours very truly,
On the 12th November I called on Dr. Wollaston again at his office, and asked him to give me a reply to mv letter of Sth idem.
On the 18th November I waited on Dr. Wolaston again, when he said the Minister had not yet given any decision in these matters.
On the 22nd November I saw Dr. Wollaston again at his office, when he said the Minister had not yet announced any decision.
On -29th November I wrote to the ComptrollerGeneral as follows : -
Melbourne, 29th November, 1901.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Melbourne.
You will pardon mc for reminding you that I am still awaiting your answer to the complaint I made of the unequal incidence of your action in the collection of excise duty on sugar in store on the Sth October.
The matter is of the first importance to us, seeing that out business in Queensland remains in a crippled state, and will so long as the unfair disadvantage you have placed us at continues ; and it is surely not unreasonable if I press you for a decision - either that the other sugar I have referred to be taxed, as ours has been, or that ours be set free. - I remain, yours faithfully,
On 10th December I received a letter from the Comptroller-General saying “ that the matter relating to the collection of excise duty on sugar in stock on Sth October last is now under the consideration of the Minister for Trade and Customs.”
The gravamen of the charge is that the company directed the attention of the Customs authorities to what they believed to be an important fact, and asked that action should be taken. The Comptroller-General of Customs sought for the authority of the Minister, and after two months had elapsed an intimation was given that the matter was still under the consideration of the Minister.
– All stocks in factories or mills were similarly treated.
– I cannot go beyond the facts stated in the letter. This is not the only case in which delay has occurred at the Custom-house. No rightthinking man will find fault with the
Minister for taking care that the revenue and honest traders are alike protected, but the delays which occur at the Customs con-, stitutea great grievance amongst commercial men. I am not an importer, and I know very few importers, but from what I can gather their complaints do not relate so much to being brought before the courts as to having to submit to unnecessary delays.
– The constant delays have been inseparable from the initiation of the administration.
– I quite understand the Minister when he says that he cannot compress 48 hours’ work into 24 ; but if it is impossible for him to do the work, surely the Cabinet is sufficiently strong to permit of the administration being shared by some other Minister.
– The troubles connected with the initiation of the new administration, and inseparable from it, are now being overcome.
– I understand that the work is still so excessive that the days are not long enough for the Minister.
– I did not say that as regards the present administration.
– When federation was first talked of there was some fear that under the new condition of affairs the system of responsible government, as understood in the States, would break down. In this connexion I was very much impressed by a remark of the honorable member for Bland. He urged on the Ministry that they should be more methodical in the work they brought before the House- that we should have a Bill put before us, and that we should carry that Bill through, and not have other Bills introduced so that members forget all about the ‘ earlier measure. There was one thing that the honorable member for Bland could not find fault with, and that was the method of the Ministry in obeying his orders. Over and over again during the last session this Government yielded to the very skilful and courteous leadership of the honorable member for Bland.
– Did not the opposition do the same ?
– The opposition are not in a position of responsibility, but the Ministry is ; and if the Ministry comes down to this House with certain principles in a Bill and presses that they shall be carried, it is not right to accept from any section of the House a principle antagonistic to the wishes of the Government. There was the question of lascar labour on the male steamers. The PostmasterGeneral in the Senate did his very best to point out that that provision was not desirable. He opposed it. The members of the Ministry in this House gave in and “ kow-towed “ to the leader of the labour party. We had again the question of the tea duty. The Cabinet did their very best to resist the abolition of that duty, but instead of keeping eight of their men in order they allowed them to vote for omitting the duty from the Tariff. With what result ?
– What are we here for if we are not to have an individual opinion?
– The Government previously said that it was important that the tea duty should be carried for the benefit of certain States of Australia. Then there is the section in the Immigration Restriction Bill about contract labour, which was not in the measure as originally produced. Worse than all, we had the Defence Estimates thrown back to the Government twice. I say, without fear of contradiction, that if a. Ministry of the Commonwealth of Australia goes on doing that kind of thing responsible government will be at an end. Instead of the Swiss system we shall have a hybrid of the Swiss system and responsible government. This first Commonwealth Ministry has done more harm to responsible government than any Ministry has ever done throughout the British Empire. I do not know what the motive could be; whether the Government thought it was not good for the Commonwealth to have a swopping of horses in crossing the stream, or whether - which I should be sorry to attribute to them - they were actuated by the desire for place and power which is innate in most human beings. But there is the fact : that on four separate occasions - and a search of the memory might recall others - this Ministry yielded to a section of’ the House. Therefore, that section which may, or may not, represent the feeling of Australia - I do not know but it does not represent the feeling of the majority of this House at all events - has been dictating the policy of Australia. I hope that I shall be able to see my way to vote for the measures of the Government, and that they will be the measures of the Government, and not of only a section. There is one Bill upon which I will touch for a moment, namely the High Court Bill. I have still an open mind on that question. At present I feel pretty strongly against it ; but I am going to keep my mind open until I hear what the Attorney-General says with regard to the economical side of it. One reason why my feeling at present is against it is that we can very’ well use the courts of Australia for deciding Commonwealth cases. In using them we should obtain the services of men of judicial experience in deciding very important” questions ; whereas if we establish a new High Court in all probability its members will not be drawn from the benches of Australia, but will be largely, if not altogether, lawyers who have not had judicial experience. I think that it would be better for litigants - whether States or individuals - that their cases should be brought before men of judicial experience rather than before those who have only just left the bar or the political arena. However, I am not going to say how I shall vote. There are other measures which I shall await with interest. There is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I do hope that we shall be able to pass a Bill which will once for all do away with the barbaric method of settling labour disputes by means of strikes or lockouts. I have long thought that things should not remain as they are in that respect. This is not a new idea of mine. I have expressed it on the platform. I think that nothing could be more barbaric than the way in which the people of the civilized world have hitherto settled their industrial disputes. I have spoken longer than Iintended to do, and I now conclude these remarks with the expression of the hope that we shall have a very successful session, and that we shall have a Government leading.
– At this late hour I shall not take up much of the time of the House, and I doubt very much whether I should have discussed the matter before us at all, had it not been for the fact that the honorable member who has just preceded me, has questioned the right of any person living or breathing on earth to have anything to say in this House unless he possesses a patent of nobility which represents a big banking account or a fly-blown estate. I want for a few moments to question this doctrine. To my mind it is an utter farce for honorable members to stand up in this House and say that the honorable member for Bland controls the Min.istry, The honorable member for Bland is the parliamentary leader of sixteen men - perhaps not as intellectual as the honorable member for Wannon, perhaps destitute of al] . those divine and aristocratic feelings that are requisite for legislators. But still, they are human beings, endowed with the same sort of feelings as other men. They are men whom the great Creator had the same amount of trouble in bringing into the world as He had in the case of the honorable member. The question arises - suppose there were sixteen men in this House, not members of the labour party, not members of the steerage party, not members of an autocratic party or an aristocratic party, but sixteen representatives who had as able a man as the honorable member for Bland to lead them. If those men went, through their leader, to Ministers - supposing the honorable member for Wannon was a Minister - would they not have something to say in the moulding of the legislation of this Parliament ? Surely to goodness sixteen of us in this House and eight in the Senate ought to have some voice in the moulding of legislation. And that is all we ask. The honorable member for Bland has never yet attempted to dictate to the Ministry, and the Ministry has never yet been dictated to by the honorable member for Bland. But, in a compromising and conciliatory manner, the honorable member for Bland has occasionally suggested compromises with regard to proposals before Parliament, and the Ministry have often said that they thought the suggestions were fair, and have accepted them. I venture to say that if the honorable member for Wannon were a Minister, and sixteen members came to him occasionally, all his feelings of antipathy to us as unfortunate specimens of democracy would not prevent him from listening to us. He would not be able to stand out against the call for progress which our party represents, and which this age requires. The day of death and stagnation and grave-yard politics is passing by. We represent universal trouble, and universal trouble represents universal progress. We represent the policy that will lead men to meet trouble, and the honorable member for Bland is one of those who will show the way. If we are not to have any voice in the framing of the legislation of the Commonwealth, will the honorable member for Wannon, and those with whom he sympathizes, select candidates to come and try and put us out at the next election ? But if we arc in this House, we are going to take part in its business, and shall have something to say in framing its legislation. We are going to do this in a humble and Christian and submissive manner, though not in a crawling manner. Now, for a few seconds, I want to congratulate the Ministry on their administration. I congratulate the Prime Minister on having had the pluck to question the right of persons to bring servile labour into Australia. I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs on having had the pluck to administer the Customs Act, and on having destroyed that sneaking little holeinthewall policy that has been pursued for years, and under which certain persons have occupied front seats in church on. Sundays, saying “Amen” in the right place, and then swindling the revenue during the rest of the week. I do not, however, congratulate the Government on not having placed in their policy the question of old-age pensions. I am sorry that they did not have the pluck to put that in their programme instead of saying that they could not do so because of the “Braddon blot.” What has the “ Braddon blot “ got to do with this matter ? If the Ministry had embodied old-age pensions in their programme they would have had a good chance of carrying it this session. Let me tell them that we of the steerage party are prepared to-morrow to re-impose duties on tea and kerosene if for the purpose of paying old-age pensions. We will pay it - the great multitude will pay it ; out of tlie tea and kerosene duties the Government can pay old-age pensions if the States are willing to hand over the money to the Federal Ministry to pay the pensions with. It is wrong for us 1 who have enough in this world not to think of the thousands of destitute old men and women throughout the Commonwealth who are tonight going to bed without sufficient to. eat. Honorable members may have noticed the other day that that unfortunate man killed his wife and children and then himself because he was trying to live upon 14s. a week in a Christian country, where men go down to church Sabbath after Sabbath, turn up the whites of their eyes, and thank God that they are not labour chaps. I am in favour of the establishment of the High Court. At the close of last session I was not in favour of its establishment, and the reason why I now support its creation is the introduction of that infamous coercion Bill into the Victorian Parliament for the suppression of the rights of the people.
– The existence of the High Court would not have affected that.
– My honorable friend forgets the writ of habeas corpus. . We are first citizens of the. Commonwealth and then citizens of our State. The paramount power is the Commonwealth and the subordinate power is the State. .The arrogance of one State has become so terrific that it thinks it is running the Commonwealth, but it has less effect upon me than has the bite of an Australian mosquito on the tail of the American eagle. I am in favour of the institution of the High Court, when I see a State that is crawling in the gutter in the presence of the power of the press, proposing to put the people in gaol without a trial. I know of no country where .a policeman, for very little cause, can arrest a man and get him sent to gaol without a trial. Talk about Russia and Turkey ! Victoria is worse than either country. I know of no precedent for such legislation. What can we do 1 We can do exactly what can be done in the United States. If citizens are deprived by the States of rights to which they are entitled under the Constitution, they can apply to a circuit Judge of the United States for a writ of habeas corpus and be discharged. If I thought that that power would not exist in the High Court of Australia, I should not vote for the Bill. I believe in the establishment of the High Court. Only the other day, in Victoria, the Employers’ Federation of Labour and the “Deform” League sent out their agitators. These two paid agitators excited the people, and brought on the railway strike. If I were not sure that a citizen would be entitled to apply to a federal Judge for a writ of habeas cm-pus, I should not think of voting for the Bill. What did they do here the other day? In the guise of a man called Martell, they brought a suit in the Supreme Court against the Miners’ Union to recover £1,000, and the heroic and courageous Judge a’Beckett, in the face” of a manufactured public opinion, boldly gave his judgment for the Union. That shows us what it is to have an honest Judge. I am beginning to have faith in the Judges. We want more Judges like Mr. Justice a’Beckett. I believe that the power to issue a writ of habeas corpus will exist in the High Court. We can, if we like, give federal jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of a State. When a Judge of the High Court is on circuit he can sit in the State Supreme Court, and if any man thinks that he does not get justice in Perth, Brisbane, or Sydney, he can appeal to the Full Court at the federal capital. I propose to close my speech with a reference to the naval subsidy. I desire to show the Prime Minister that, as a matter of business, he is making a bad bargain. The original cost of the seven ships comprising the auxiliary squadron was £854,000, and the annual interest on that sum at 3 per cent, was £25,620.. During the last ten .years we have paid £1,500,000 for the maintenance of the fleet, and we have nothing to show for it. Supposing that ten years ago we had bought the seven ships with borrowed money and paid £80,000 a year into a sinking fund. At the end of the period we should have owned the ships and paid off the original cost of £854,000, and our naval expenditure would be costing£197,620 a year instead of, as proposed, £200,000 a year, which we are to pay away for nothing. Or, supposing that we were to borrow about £6,700,000 to-morrow. And I guarantee the money can be got in America on the bonds of the Commonwealth at 3 per cent, if it cannot be obtained in England. If we. pay England £200,000 a year for ten years for the maintenance- of this fleet, we shall pay away £2,000,000, and at the end we shall have nothing ; whereas if we borrow £6,700,000 at 3 per cent, we shall pay about £200,000 a year, and we shall have £6,000,000 odd to put into a fleet. Establish a sinking fund, and within twenty years the loan will be paid off.
– What about the upkeep of the fleet 1
– I am allowing £91,000 a year for that purpose. I look at this proposal of the Prime Minister as a bad investment. I am speaking as a straight-out supporter of the Government. I ask my honorable friends in the Ministry to consider these figures like business, men, and see if it is not better for us to build . a navy that will -relieve England of the necessity of having to keep warships here. We can look after our own coast. Take the history of the civil war in America.
When did the Shenandoah and the Alabama destroy American commerce? They came into our ports when the American fleet was fighting at certain points. If the subsidized navy can be sent to China, or some other part of the world, a fast cruiser can sail into Port Jackson, shell Sydney, ay tribute on the people, and perhaps loot the banks. That is the. danger we have to face. I urge the Government to start to build a little fleet, to train the seamen, and to have men ready to jump on to the warships, and do their duty when the necessity arises. I trust that they will carefully consider what I have said ; otherwise, at the end of ten years, we shall be £3,800,000 out of pocket, and we shall not have anything to show for that expenditure.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).At this late hour, and at the fag end of the debate, I shall not enter into details, or detain the House at any length. There are several things I wish to say in connexion with the proposed legislation. We may divide parliamentary work into two great sections - the legislative and the administrative. The legislative, which we are now anticipating in this discussion, is altogether irrelevant to the matter before the House. I wish to say a few words about the administration of the Acts of last session. We have had proof of the wisdom of the couplet -
For forms of government let fools contest ; Whate’er is best administered is best.
Whatever may be said about the Government, one thing they may be proud of is the record of their administration, for without fear or favour they have endeavoured to give practical effect to the Acts on the statutebook. The member of the Cabinet who has come in for most abuse in connexion with the administration is necessarily and inevitably the Minister for Trade and Customs. I would say that we have every reason to thank God that we have such a Minister presiding over the department of Trade and Customs. As a protectionist, I remember the time when we had a highly-scientific Tariff in Victoria - a Tariff which was to all intents and purposes protective in the true and literal sense of the word, but it was laxly and loosely administered. Time and again, I have seen in this State a Minister for Customs who was an avowed free-trader - a man administering a policy to which he was” utterly opposed. Consequently, every anomaly that could be laid to the charge of protection was put in its way. But at last we have as Minister for Trade and Customs a man who practises what he preaches. Unfortunately, there are men who are free-traders and believe in it, and practise it, no matter what the law of the land may be. I rejoice “that at length honesty is going to mark political life in Australia, and that there is to be no such hypocrisy as that associated with a man administering a tariff with which he is utterly out of sympathy. It seems to me that this is a right and proper time to stand up for political honesty in these matters; that it is high time that we should speak out against men who seek places in the Legislature of the country and bind themselves by oath to obey the law of the land, and yet, when their interests are at stake, play fast and loose with that law just as it pleases them. Again and again we have had this subject touched, upon and hinted at distantly, but no one apparently has had the courage to “bell the cat.” The truth, however, must be spoken. ‘ We must justify our political honesty and political institutions by protesting against such barefaced impudence as is shown by defiance’ of the law and policy of the country. Therefore, I say that in regard to the administration of the department, we have reason to thank God that at length we have reached a time when the law is no longer administered in a Minister’s room ; but when all who have occasion to be suspected are required to go before a tribunal that knows no man either by his creed, his colour, or his politics. We have heard from the Opposition accusations against the Minister for his failure to deal with cases in the Minister’s room, and we have heard of the great enormity of dragging highly reputable and respectable men into the company of drunkards and brawlers in the common police court. It reminds me of the story of an unfortunate Irishman who got the worse of drink. His priest coming along at the time quietly laid him down in the pig-stye. When he saw Pat subsequently, he said to him, “That was a good spree you had Paddy.” “ Begorra, it was,” said Pat. “When I saw you,” continued the priest, “you were lying with the pigs. What did you do when you woke up ? Did you get up?” “No,” replied Pat, “the pigs got up.” They got up because they were so ashamed of their company. And so
I think the drunkards in the police court ought to be ashamed of the company of men, who, while professing to be law-makers are really law-breakers. There is no righteous indignation which can be too strongly expressed against such a striking iniquity as that associated with men who enter Parliament to assist in making laws, and swear to obey them, bet yet violate them whenever they have an opportunity to do so to their own profit. I wish to say a word or two now with respect to the legislation to be placed before us. I am glad to learn that there is to be some effort on the part of the Ministry in the way of a spirited home policy. What I mean is this : At the present time industry in Australia is in a state of depression. We know ‘that there are alternating periods of prosperity and adversity. We are now in a cycle of adversity. The Ministry should put forward a vigorous policy and spend money in useful reproductive works in a time like this, rather than when commerce is bright and labour is plentiful. I may illustrate my argument - and illustrate it with some sympathy - in this way : Fifty years ago the method adopted by the medical profession in treating fever was to bleed and blister the patient in order to destroy the fever. But the result was that in nine cases out of ten they killed the patient as well as the fever. The new method of treating fever is to feed and nourish the patient - and a very comfortable treatment it is - to enable him to fight down the disease and survive it. That is the intention of the Ministry, In times of depression they should push ahead with reproductive works. But when business is bright and labour is plentiful and the political world is prosperous - when there are other enterprises outside - that is the time when we can preach economy. Therefore,! am glad to hear the way in which the right honorable member for Swan - I was nearly going to say the Minister for Defence, but in this case he is the Minister for Railways - spoke of the great transcontinental railway, which is not only a big enterprise, but will be of great use to the whole of Australia, provided that it is carried out on commercial principles. I am perfectly sure from what I have seen in travelling from the west to the east - from what J have seen of the enormous regions of auriferous land there - that the line will tap at the other end a very resourceful country, and that if we carry that railway over the continent, we may make it the means of opening up agricultural, horticultural, and mineral resources of Australia yet unthought of. Let those who are promoting the scheme take a lesson from the past, and this will be not only the biggest thing that Australia has ever undertaken, but it will also be profitable. Let us remember the lessons of the past - let us remember the disastrous consequences of building purely political railways running to a stump and to other places where there is no need for railways. I believe honestly, from what I Iia ve seen of the western terminus of the proposed railway, that there are large, infinite, and boundless possibilities there, and that the line will be valuable, not only as a means of defence - and with that matter I have nothing to do - but will serve many other purposes. It will be useful, not merely as a conveyance to travel overland, because the sea is always preferable, but as a means of conveying marketable and perishable products to market ; it will be useful in developing the wealth and resources of a wealthy country, and in bringing the extremes of Australia together. It will be not only a matter of sentiment, but a work of utility to the Commonwealth, provided, as I have said before, that it be constructed on commercial principles.- I had no intention of occupying the attention of the House for any length of time at this late hour. I rose merely to say that I think the Ministry are to be congratulated on the splendid programme they have put before us. I am sure I. have the sympathy of the party which lias been referred to in a disparaging way by tlie leader of the Opposition when I say that if the Government adopt a vigorous policy and carry out works at the present time when there is a great depression upon us, that work will bear fruit, and that it will reflect to the credit of the Commonwealth and will be for the good and the welfare of Australia. I rejoice also at the prospect of the establishment of Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is said that we in Victoria have suffered on account of a drastic Factories Act which is not uniform throughout the States. The enemies of that Act have again and again asserted - with what truth I am not prepared to say - that it has driven capital from this to neighbouring States. There is just a possibility that if there be anomalies or differences in regard to factories legislation in the different States of Australia, one State may profit at the expense of another, because of that advanced legislation, but what we desire above all things in connexion with this matter, is uniformity throughout the length and breadth of Australia. When we have secured that, we shall have taken away the strongest weapons which the enemies of industrial legislation have - and I grant you there is a lot in what they say - in regard to capital being driven from one State to another on account of drastic factory legislation. Let us have this legislation, and let it be fair and uniform. Let there be some court of appeal between master and man. We know that the fight is never equal when the cupboard is pitted against the safe. The cupboard goes in always, and there is n.o equal struggle, but if we have the dignity of justice - and let us thank God that in British communities law and justice are as nearly as possible synonymous - if we have a man raised above the sUspicion of corruption to hold the balance between capital and labour as a final. court of appeal, we may be perfectly sure that he will command the confidence of both master and man, and that we shall in that way solve one of the greatest socialistic problems of the present day. It is a laudable effort, and I wish God-speed to this proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the federated States of Australia. I sincerely trust that the Bill will be passed and that it will show to the world that here at least we are prepared to listen to reason, that we have in truth some socialistic legislation. There are some who have an awful fear of the bogey of socialism. We have high authority for saying that we are all socialists nowadays, and so we are more or less - professedly so, and very visibly so at the time of the elections. We want more evidence “of this spirit of socialism as a rational way of settling disputes. A court of arbitration is nothing more nor less than a substitute for the antiquated barbarism of war, and as all disputes are capable of being settled by reason, so there is no dispute which can arise between capital and labour in this continent, or in any part of the world, that is not capable of being settled by rational means. The question of the federal capital is one which I am not. called upon to refer to at any length, but still I shall say this,’ t hat if it was promised - and I believe it was - by the promoters of federation in Australia, that the building’ of a federal capital would be expedited, that promise should be kept. I am perfectly sure that at the present time it might serve a very good purpose. I dread the influence of either the great metropolis of Sydney or of Melbourne in connexion with the Federation. Isolation to some extent gives independence, and we shall never be independent of State influences until we have a territory of our own, and can from that exalted height view the whole of the federated States of Australia. As one of the members for Melbourne, I may, in saying so much, be saying what is distinctly opposed to my Own interests, but I do say here, publicly, that if there has been this promise given to New South Wales, let the Government of this Commonwealth be marked in future as a Government who look upon a promise as equal to a pledge or an oath. The matter is one for reflection, prudence, and foresight. It is not a thing to rush. The federal city is not going to be for a day, but let us hope for ever, and therefore let us see that we have all that is necessary for the formation and building of the federal capital. I question very much whether we can hurry the matter, but it should be kept before us as our ideal and our goal. I am the more strongly urged to this conclusion on account of the pin-prick policy of those who have harassed us here in our possession of these premises. Again and again it has been stated in public that we are mere intruders who had ousted other men from their’ rightful place. That impresses upon us the urgency of a settlement of this matter. The Federal Parliament ought not to be regarded as an intruder in any State of Australia, and, certainly, the gentlemen who lead in such matters as I have referred to, will, by their action, inevitably hasten the settlement of the question of the building and forming of the federal capital very much more than can any words of mine. I find that I have not, so far, referred to the six hatters, and no speech at this time can be be considered complete without some reference to those gentlemen. What a god-send they have been to the Opposition ! What would we have heard from honorable members opposite if it had not been for the incident of the six hatters 1 This matter again raises the question of the administration of the Government. They found themselves armed with a certain law, and they have been told by honorable members- opposite that they should simply have winked at the law and should have allowed these men to enter in peace. Again I say that we are to be congratulated upon having a Government who, finding that they are responsible for the administration of a law, proceed to administer it without fear or favour, and, despite the consequences, to put it into force. Contract labour is a thing we have reason to dread. We know how close we are to countries in which contracts may be made, and where a combination of capital might at any time swamp this continent and make labour for the working men here impossible. I therefore rejoice to think that we have a Ministry characterized by honesty of administration, and that though popular favour and praise might have been expected if they had decided to ignore or wink at the Act they were appointed to administer, they have, despite the inevitable consequence of unpopularity with a certain class, dared to do right and dared to say fiat juslitia ruat cælum. The programme set before us by the Government will involve a great deal of reading and study before we come to deal with the measures in detail ; but the House is composed of honorable members who will bring the best intelligence they can command to bear upon the work they have to do. If those measures are put upon the statutebook, I believe they will make for the weal of Australia. 1 hope that the Government will continue to carry out, without fear or favour, the laws we have put into their hands to administer, that political honesty will characterize this House, and that certain men will see that they cannot, with impunity, break the laws and parade their persons in high places ‘as if they were law makers merely, and not at the same time law breakers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House will on Tuesday next resolve itself into a committee to consider the supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House will on Tuesday next resolve itself into a committee to consider the ways and means for raising the supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman, for Mr. Page) -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Oxley, Mr. R. Edwards, on the ground of urgent private business.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Winter Cooke, for Mr. Skene) -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Kooyong, Mr. Knox, who was detained in London on urgent private business, but is now on his way to Australia.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. L. E. Groom) -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Brisbane, Mr. MacdonaldPaterson, on the ground of urgent private business.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at half-past two o’clock on each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past ten o’clock on each Friday morning.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business ; and that on Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, General business shall take precedence of Government business.
That on Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, general business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : -
On one Friday -
Orders of the Day.
On the alternate Friday -
Orders of the Day.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Phillips) -
That the honorable member forRiverina, Mr. John Moore Chanter, be Chairman of Committees of the whole House.
Ordered (on motion by Mr. Tudor for Mr. Crouch) -
That a return belaid upon the table of the House showing -
The person appointed since 1st January, 1901, as permanent commissioned officers of the Defence forces of the Commonwealth and their present rank and salary and past service, excepting those appointed only for South African service, and those who, before that date, were officers in the Defence forces of the States.
The number of officers of the permanent forces of the Commonwealth who have served in its permanent forces under the rank of commissioned officer.
Motion (by Mr. Chanter for Mr. Hume Cook) proposed -
That a copyof all the papers and documents connected with the proposed retirement of Lt. -Cols. Braithwaite and Reay be laid on the table of the House.
– These papers seem to me to be of such a character that it is scarcely in the public interest that they should be placed on the table of the House. The G overnment personally have not the slightest objection to the printing of the papers, and the only reason which would influence me in advising the House not to print them would be the interests of the parties concerned. There are statements contained in the papers affecting the efficiency of persons who have done good service in this State, and who have been for a very long time connected with its citizen forces, and I think their publication will serve no good purpose. I asked the honorable member for Bourke not to move his motion. He had an opportunity, as other members of the House have had, of seeing all the papers, but he is not satisfied, and desires that they shall be placed on the table. Having made these observations, I propose to allow the decision of the matter to go on the voices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to fulfil a promise which I made to the honorable member for Wentworth that
I would indicate to the House the order in which we propose to introduce the more immediate measures in our programme. In making this statement I want it to be clearly understood that it applies only to immediate business. It is in no sense to be implied that any measure which I do not mention to-night will be abandoned or slighted. I do not wish the idea to get abroad, or to have the inference drawn, that the Government is not going on with measures because I do not mention them to-night. All that I have promised to do is to state the order of immediate business. I wish to explain, however, that no order which the Government lays down for the conduct of its business can absolve it at times from dealing, as necessity requires, with some short Bill, or some measure of sudden urgency, or some matter coming from the Senate. That, of course, is always understood. I have further to premise that I cannot yet fix any exact time for bringing in the Bill or resolutions about the federal territory until the report of the commission is received. I have it from the Minister for Home Affairs that he confidently expects that report within a fortnight, and then honorable members must be afforded reasonable time in which to consider it before any measure is placed before them for discussion. Having cleared the way with those statements, I have to say that the Attorney-General will move the second reading of the Judiciary Bill on Tuesday. As the measure does not differ very materially from that which was introduced by him in an exhaustive and very elaborate speech last session, it is intended to go on with the second reading debate without an adjournment. That is an understanding between the acting leader of the Opposition and myself. The Procedure Bill is almost part of the Judiciary Bill, and must accompany it, and be dealt with in succession to it. Then two very short measures are necessary to enable the Treasurer to know his position in dealing with some matters of finance. They are a Bill to abolish the rebates on sugar, and a Bill to convert into a bonus from the beginning the payments which have been and are now being made. Without discussing those measures, I may explain that they are to be introduced in accordance with the policy which has already been announced of treating the matter with which they deal as a national one. Two Bills are to be introduced, both of which are extremely short, in order to avoid any constitutional objection which might be taken if the subject were dealt with in one measure. There will follow the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the proposed naval agreement. I think that that statement gives honorable members notice of what they will be asked to deal with for some time to come. It is only fair, however, that. I should mention what it is proposed shall be done in the Senate. When the other Chamber has dealt with the standing orders - which, I believe, will take but a very short time - the Postmaster-General will introduce the Senate Elections Bill, and theNaturalizationBilland the Patents Bill will follow. I make this statement for my honorable colleague subject to any alteration which may be necessary to enable such matters as the approval of telegraphic or mail contracts - which will not take any time - to be dealt with. That is, I think, as far as I am called upon to indicate the nature and order of the business which the Government will more immediately introduce.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Defence to the disbanding of the Queensland Teachers’ Volunteer Corps, and particularly to bring under his notice the account which appears in the Brisbane Courier of the 2nd J une. It appears that the corps has been in existence about eleven years, and about 417 State teachers have passed through its ranks, so that it has done very useful work for the State. I think it was the desire of honorable members that, incutting down the Estimates, retrenchment should not take place in connexion with useful bodies of this kind, so much as in the permanent military staff. I will not go into the details of the case, but I shallbe pleased if the Minister will inquire into the matter, and make some statement to the House in regard to it at a later date.
– I take this opportunity to tender my sincere thanks to the honorable member for Wimmera for having nominated me to the high and important office of Chairman of Committees, and to honorable members for having so graciously accorded that nomination their unanimous support. I wish to assure them that I shall in the future, as in the past, endeavour to do my duty faithfully and impartially. I thank them for the generous support which they accorded mo during the long session which terminated in October last, and ask them to again give me that support during the present session. I assure honorable members that at all times, when sitting in the chair, Ishall know no party, but shall endeavour to uphold the great traditions of the British House of Commons.
– So far as I recollect, the matter to which the honorable member for Darling Downs has directed my attention was dealt with while I was in England, in connexion with the reduction of the Defence Estimates in accordance with a vote of this House. I do not think that it has come under my notice. I will, however, look into the case, and let him know exactly how the matter stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030604_reps_1_13/>.