House of Representatives
27 August 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session



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

page 4310

PETITIONS

Mr. TUDOR presented a petition from 1,100 railway servants in Victoria, praying the House to make provision for applying to them the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.

Petition received and read.

Mr. McCAY presented two petitions from certain residents of Victoria, praying the House to pass into law the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.

Mr. HUME COOK presented a similar petition from 700 electors of the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Mr RONALD presented a petition from the executive officers of the Melbourne Wharf Labourers’ Union praying the House to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, so that it shall apply equally to all vessels engaged in the Australian coastal trade, whether Australian, oversea, or foreign.

Mr. BATCHELOR presented a similar petition from the executive officers and trustees of the Port Adelaide Working Men’s Association.

Mr. TUDOR presented two similar petitions from the executive officers of the Trades’ Hall Council, Melbourne, and the executive officers of the Political Labour Council of “Victoria.

Petitions received.

page 4311

FEDERAL CAPITAL SITE

Mr O’MALLEY:
TASMANIA, TASMANIA

– I desire to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs whether there is any truth in the rumour that Ministerial intimidation has been exercised in connexion with the conclusions arrived at by the Commission appointed to report upon the Federal Capital 1

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I do not know to what the honorable member is referring. I know of no intimidation whatever in connexion with the report of the Commission. Certainly none has been exercised by me.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– What the honorable member means, I suppose, is - whether there was any suggestion to the- Commissioners as to the way in which they should frame their report ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Certainly not. There was no conversation or suggestion of any kind.

Mr THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– In view of the rapidly decreasing opportunities for the completion of important business, and of the emphatic statement of the Prime Minister that he intended to ask the House to make a final selection of the Federal capital site during this session, will the right honorable gentleman state when preliminary action will be taken in connexion with that matter 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– I shall give notice of the resolutions relating to the selection of the Federal capital site as soon as I can do so consistently with their careful preparation, but it must be understood that a reasonable time must elapse after notice has been given before they can be discussed. Owing to the long time that was necessarily occupied in the preparation of the report, certain other important matters, with the course of which I cannot interfere, have in the meantime claimed the attention of the House, but that does not in any way affect my determination to give Parliament an opportunity of deciding the question, and to ask it to do so.

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

– When will that? be?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– As soon as possible. I cannot name the exact day or hour.

page 4311

QUESTION

HONORARY MINISTER

Mr MAHON:
COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to a paragraph which appeared in an Adelaide newspaper respecting the disclosure of the name of the honorary Minister who is to be appointed to succeed the Vice-President of the Executive Council ? The paragraph has reference to Senator Playford, and contains the following statement : -

The old gentleman, possibly under the impression that he was having a confidential chat with a fellow Federal member, blabbed out the news to Sir Langdon Bonython during a train journey from Melbourne on Friday last. That cute newspaper proprietor jumped from the train at Ararat, wired the news to his confidential man in Melbourne, with instructions to return the information to Adelaide. This accounts for the Advertiser being the only Australian daily to publish the tit-bit on Saturday morning, and, at the same time, the double wiring will give Bonython a loophole to escape having betrayed a confidence, or taken advantage of other papers with which be runs in double harness in the matter of Federal information.

I should like to know whether the Prime Minister will make inquiries into this matter ? Honorable members connected with newspapers do not desire to be considered as capable of betraying the confidence of their fellow members.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– In the first place, I may say that I have never seen in any newspaper a description of Senator Playford as an “old gentleman,” and I do not think he is one. In the next place, I think I must abstain from taking any part in investigating private conversations of the kind referred to.

At a later stage -

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON. I should like to state that I deny absolutely having sent any telegram based upon information furnished to me by Senator Playford.

page 4311

QUESTION

CUSTOMS ADMINISTRATION

Mr BATCHELOR:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether there is any truth in the statements which are continually appearing in the newspapers that he is making some important changes in the administration of the Department ; and, if so, what is the nature of the changes?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Protectionist

– I am not responsiblefor all theparagraphs which appear in the newspapers. The Customs Department is a large one, and I wish to make myself thoroughly acquainted with it before I take any action. I might make some slight alterations, but, in doing so, I intend to be extremely careful that the revenue is protected in every way, and that fraud is punished.

Mr Batchelor:

– Do I understand the Minister to say that he is not making any materia] changes in the administration?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I am not in the position to say what alterations I shall make. I shall administer the Department as I think best in the interests of the community. So far as the late Minister for Trade and Customs is concerned, I have already consulted him upon two or three matters, and I do not wish to do anything that would be strongly at variance with his genera] administration. At the same time, if I can do anything that will work no harm, but will confer benefit, I shall not hesitate to take action.

page 4312

QUESTION

IRON BONUS COMMISSION

Sir JOHN QUICK:
BENDIGO, VICTORIA

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. When will the Iron Bonus Commission’s report be published ?

    1. Is it intended to deal with the question this session ?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

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

  1. The Chairman of the Commission states that the report will be printed within the next fortnight.
  2. This question cannot be determined until after the report has been received and considered.

page 4312

QUESTION

NARRABRI-WALGETT MAIL SERVICE

Mr CRUICKSHANK:
GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES · PROT

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is he aware that theNarrabri-Walgett mail service has been running in an irregular manner for over six months ?
  2. Have the contractors been fined each time they were late ; if not, why not?
  3. If they have been fined, have these fines been remitted ; if so, why so?
  4. Are the contractors on this line allowed to ran late every mail; and, if so, what is the reason ?
Sir PHILIP FYSH:
Postmaster-General · TASMANIA, TASMANIA · Free Trade

– The reply to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -

The information is being obtained from a neighbouring State, and necessitates the delay of a reply to a future day.

page 4312

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS BILL

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister ‘ for Trade and Customs · Hume · Protectionist

– I move -

That leave be given to bring in a Bill relatingto elections.

I need only say that this Bill deals with theboundaries of the electoral divisions.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill presented and read a first time.

Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -

That the second reading of the Bill be made an. order of the day for to-morrow.

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

– I should like to ask the Minister in charge of this Bill if he intends to take the seoond reading to-morrow?

Sir William Lyne:

– Yes, if possible.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– On the first opportunity, as I said last night.

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

– But is there really such a terrible hurry to get this Bill through? I suggest respectfully that the Minister should postpone the second reading of this. Bill - at any rate until next week.

Sir Edmund Barton:

-For what reason ?

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

– For thereason that there are a number of honorable members, away who were not aware that any proposal’ of this kind would be brought before the House so early.

Sir William Lyne:

– I stated last week that I would introduce the Bill at the earliest, possible moment.

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

– Isubmitthat I am.not unreasonable in asking that the second reading of the Bill should be postponed until next week in order that honorable membersmay have full notice of the intentions of theGovernment, and may be here and in a position to discuss the measure. I again ask. the Minister to consent to so reasonable a. request.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– TheMinister for Trade and Customs has not answered the very proper request; of the honorable’ member for Parramatta. Seeing that the honorable gentleman is only to-day proposing to deal with the electoral divisions for two of the States he might very well leave the consideration of this Bill till next week, in order that honorable members may be given a proper opportunity to consider the decision of the House with regard to those divisions. That would certainly be forwarding’ the Bill as rapidly as could have been anticipated. It is not the fault of honorable members that the final division of the States has not been before us sooner, and I am at a loss to understand why action should be taken to rush this measure through. It. is one which ought to receive the full consideration of Parliament. I consider it an extraordinary procedure to propose to hurry on the consideration of the Bill in this way, when no objection has been taken to the preliminary stages. The request of the honorable member for Parramatta is one which should receive consideration, and the Minister for Trade and Customs should reply to the honorable member’s suggestion.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
Robertson

– I think the Minister for Trade and Customs might well comply with the request made to him. We are anticipating the result of the decision of the House upon the electoral divisions for two States which have yet to be dealt with. A number of honorable members are away in Sydney who would, no doubt, desire to speak upon this Bill.

Mr Thomas:

– Are we to stop business because a few honorable members are away?

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

– The honorable members who are now away are here as often as the honorable member for Barrier.

Mr Thomas:

– I do not ask that business should be stopped to suit me.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– No doubt the honorable member for Barrier is interested in having this matter settled as soon as possible, but it is not in the interests of the public that it should be settled as rapidly as the honorable member would desire.

Mr Thomas:

– We desire to deal with the selection of the Federal capital site.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I hope the Minister in charge of the Bill will be fair to all the States, and will accede to the request made to him. The honorable gentleman has repeatedly stated that there would be plenty of time to bring forward this matter after the proposed divisions of the States had been dealt with.

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

– After the short discussion which has taken place, I think the Minister for Trade and Customs will act wisely in agreeing tothe suggestion which has been made. I believe that the honorable gentleman will advance the Bill by adopting that course. The Bill, which so far none of us has seen,, is one in which we all take a very keen interest.

Sir William Lyne:

– Very few take a keen interest in it.

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

– I feel sure that it will hasten rather than delay the passage of the Bill if the second reading be made an order of the day for an early day next week. I am sure there is no desire on the part of honorable members on this side to delay business.

Mr KIRWAN:
Kalgoorlie

– I concur in what has been said by previous speakers in opposition to the proposal to rush this business forward. A number of other matters of very great importance appearing on the notice-paper might very well begone on with in the meantime. This question . of . the division of the States into electorates is one which is attracting very great attention, especially in New South Wales. The newspapers . in that State are crowded with matter dealing with the subject; various public meetings have been held, and one honorable member of this House thought fit to resign his seat in- order to protest against the action proposed by the Government.

Mr McDonald:

– And the right honorable member has been sorry for it ever since.

Mr KIRWAN:

– The facts I have mentioned ought to be recognised by the Government. When we have such business as the Patents Bill, Naturalization Bill, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Budget debate, and various other matters on the business-paper which may be gone on with in the meantime, what can be the reason for haste in connexion with this measure 1 I sincerely trust the Government will see their way to adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member for Parramatta.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– I am rather surprised to hear a New South Wales member object to going on with business because certain honorable members are not present. If we take the average attendance of honorable members we find that the worst attendance is that given by honorable members representing New South Wales. Taking the average attendance the Labour party have a better record than any other party in the House.

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

– I should like to back my attendance against that of the honorable member.

Mr McDONALD:

– I have not missed a sitting this session. It is quite true that during the last session of seventeen months I was ill for two or three days, but I question whether the honorable member for South Sydney can show a better record of attendance than I am able to show.

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

– What has this to do with the question ?

Mr McDONALD:

– I was replying to the interjection of the honorable member for South Sydney. The only argument advanced for postponing the debate upon the second : reading of this Bill is that certain honorable members who are paid to be here are not here. Another reason why I am surprised at the action taken by honorable members coming from New South Wales is, that the question of the selection of the Federal capital site, which is of more importance to New South Wales than is this Bill, still remains to be settled.

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

– Then why not go on with it ? There is plenty of business to go on with.

Mr McDONALD:

– Those honorable members are prepared to sacrifice that business. Week after week they go away on the Thursday afternoon, and remain away on the Friday, and there is practically no business done from 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon until the following Tuesday. They now wish to postpone dealing with the Federal capital site.

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

– No one is making such a ridiculous suggestion.

Mr McDONALD:

– That is really the position of affairs, and I, for one, desire that the question of the Federal capital shall be dealt with.

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

– That is news to honorable members. ,

Mr McDONALD:

– It is not news. I have mentioned that matter in this House as frequently as has any representative from New South Wales. If we are to postpone business simply because some honorable members desire to return to their homes upon Thursday afternoon, we shall have very little opportunity of disposing of the Federal capital site question during the current session. It appears to me that the request for deferring consideration of this Bill is prompted merely by a desire to secure a bigger pyrotechnic display in connexion with the resignation of the leader of the Opposition. I trust that the Bill will be proceeded with to-morrow.

Mr WINTER COOKE:
Wannon

– It seems to me that the great strength of honorable members on the opposite side of the House should induce them to extend a little mercy to those who differ from them on this occasion.

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

– They wish to cover this thing up as quickly as possible.

Mr WINTER COOKE:

– They enforced their desires in direct opposition to a large number of the representatives of New South Wales in connexion with the electoral divisions proposed by the Commissioner who was appointed to prepare a scheme for that State. Now the minority ask for a little time to consider this Bill. It is not as if there were no other business with which we could proceed. It is true that honorable members should be present if possible. But if there is other business which can be transacted

Mr Thomson:

– This is the least urgent.

Mr WINTER COOKE:

– Certainly, the consideration of this Bill is not urgent. There is plenty of business which might be proceeded with to-morrow and which honorable members would be quite prepared to transact. There is no necessity to press forward this Bill with such rapidity. I am aware that the big battalions are upon the other side of the House, and, therefore, I think that the Minister might very well accede to the request which has been made. Similarly I ask the leader of the Labour party whether he cannot exhibit a little mercy on the present occasion. I make this admisericordiam appeal to the Government.

Mr KINGSTON:
South Australia

– I have been asking from the earliest stage of the discussion upon the boundaries of the new electorates that this Bill should be introduced, and I desired that it should be proceeded with as soon as possible. I think that it should have been brought in earlier. Seeing that it is absolutely necessary to fix the electoral divisons, it appears to me that we have been wasting time in affirming that we disapprove of certain electoral boundaries. We should have taken the Bill in hand and declared the divisions of which we approved.

Mr Winter Cooke:

– Why this hurry now ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I say that the Bill should have been submitted earlier, but I do not think that the lateness of its introduction should induce us to hurry so much that a fair opportunity will not be allowed to both sides of the House to discuss the measure fully. I am opposed to what has been done, but nevertheless I say to the Ministry - “ Do not rush the Bill through with unusual haste.” It is one thing for us to resolve that we do not approve of certain districts which’would have enabled us to take certain steps under the provisions of the Electoral Act. We have carried that resolution. The Government now propose that we shall address ourselves to the question of what shall constitute the new electoral divisions. I do not know whether the Bill is in print, but it does appear to me, seeing that we shall sit rather late to-night and meet very early to-morrow, that we should give fair time for its consideration. I am opposed to the action of the Government in refusing to make any attempt to bring the electoral districts uptodate, but I trust that will not cause thetn to reject the suggestion, which I throw out in all friendliness, that we should be given the fullest opportunity of considering this matter. Different honorable members attach more or less importance to this question. The leader of the Opposition has given the best proof he can that he attaches very considerable importance to it. I do not think that he has very often asked for a postponement of business, and seeing how absolutely essential it is that he shall take part in the consideration of this question-

Mr Mauger:

– Surely the right honorable member would not have us defer its consideration for three weeks ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– No ; let us wait till Tuesday. I understand that the election for the vacancy created by his resignation will take place to-morrow.

Mr Watkins:

– What has that to do with the matter ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– It has a good deal to do with it. When a man gives proof of his regard for the importance of this subject by resigning his seat and submitting himself to his constituents, he is entitled to ordinary fair play, and I think that the fullest fair play should be extended to him under the circumstances. I do not think the suggestion will commend itself to the general sense of the House that we should depart in any way from the ordinary course, so as to prevent an honorable member from taking that part in the debate which he desires to take.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I think that the argument for delay in this matter is so much nonsense.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member would not say that if he were upon the other side.

Mr WATSON:

– There is no salt involved in this question, and I do not know that the honorable member is particularly qualified to act as judge.

Mr Kirwan:

– That is rather rough.

Mr WATSON:

– I intend it to be so. This House had a splendid opportunity of considering the boundaries of the new electorates, and full advantage was taken of it.

Mr Poynton:

– Where was the honorable member then?

Mr WATSON:

– I was absent in my electorate.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member was as bad as are other honorable members.

Mr WATSON:

– I am not complaining of what was done in my absence, and I did not desire the debate to be kept open for my personal convenience. I repeat that full opportunity was afforded to discuss the whole of the principles involved in this Bill. Every one was aware that if the electoral divisions recommended by the Commissioners were not approved, some action would be necessary to bring the Electoral Act into harmony with the position thus created. It was well known that if the divisions were not approved, we should require to fall back upon the existing electorates. If this Bill be not carried at the earliest possible date, what will happen t The whole arrangements for printing the electoral rolls for these divisions will be deferred for an indefinite term. I blame the Government for not giving the House an earlier opportunity of considering this question, and thus arriving at a decision apart from any question of hurry or expedition.

Mr Thomson:

– We cannot rush matters when we are doing the right thing, but we can when we are doing the wrong; thing.

Mr WATSON:

– If some decision upon this question is not arrived at very quickly, scores of thousands of electors will be disfranchised.

Mr Wilks:

– Will a delay from Eriday until Tuesday make all that difference?

Mr WATSON:

– I do not say that it will. But I do say that we should pass this Bill at the earliest possible moment. So far the electors have had no proper opportunity to enroll themselves in the electorates in which they will eventually be called upon to vote. They cannot possibly know what those electorates . are until Parliament has come to a decision upon the question.

Mr THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Whose fault is that?

Mr WATSON:

– It is the fault of the Electoral Department. But, altogether irrespective of whose fault it may be, it is our duty to come to an early decision upon this matter. Personally, I do not care what decision is arrived at, but I hold that it should be arrived at speedily.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– I think that the Minister might very reasonably agree to the many appeals which have been made to him. The honorable member for Bland has argued that, if we do not pass this Bill immediately, scores of thousands of electors will be disfranchised. Apparently we are to understand from his contention that the Electoral Department is in such a state of confusion that, if consideration of this Bill be deferred until Tuesday next, scores of thousands of electors will be disfranchised. That is really a censure of the administration of the Department. But I would point out that a large number of honorable members are absent at the present time. They understood that the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was to be proceeded with. It was believed that the consideration of that Bill would occupy our attention for the remainder of tht week, and J consider that indecent haste is being shown by the Government in springing this measure upon us. That, I am sure, is the view which the public will take of the action of the Ministry. The leader of the Opposition is at present in Sydney, and the Government are seeking to take advantage of his absence. He emphasized his disapproval of the course adopted by the Government in dealing with the electoral divisions of the States by resigning his seat in this House, and he is now before his constituents, who, T am satisfied, will support the action taken by him. We have allowed the Bill to be read a first time, and I thinkthat the second reading might very well be postponed until next week. It is a most unusual course for a Government to propose that the second reading of a Bill shall. take place on the day following its introduction. I trust that the Minister will allow the further consideration of this measure to stand over until next week. If he insists upon pressing it forward at the present stage, he will give colour to the suggestion of “jerrymandering “ which has been made in connexion with this matter. The right honorable member for South Australia said some days ago that it was a mere waste of time to discuss the resolutions relating to the proposed distributions, and that a Bill should first be brought before us. That assertion has been amply justified, and I trust that the Government will grant this reasonable request to allow the further consideration of the Bill to stand over until next week.

Mr R EDWARDS:
OXLEY, QUEENSLAND · PROT; FT from 1913; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910

– I rise for the purpose of supporting the request made by the honorable member for Parramatta. To my mind, there is a tendency on the part of the Government to rush certain legislation through this House with unnecessary haste. The Bill could not have been introduced today but for the action of the House in granting special leave to the Minister to give notice of the motion last night, and I think that the Government should accede to the reasonable request that its further consideration be allowed to stand over until Tuesday next.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
TASMANIA, TASMANIA · IND; ALP from June 1901

– (Tasmania). - I trust that the Minister will see his way clear to allow the consideration of this Bill to stand over until Tuesday next.

Mr Watson:

– Does the honorable member desire to see the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill become law this year 1

Mr O’MALLEY:

– Certainly I do. But I contend that it is open to us to proceed with the consideration of that measure today and to-morrow. We are familiar with the tactics of the Opposition, and we know that if we proceed at once with the consideration of this Bill they will “ stone-wall “ it.

Mr Wilks:

– No ; we shall raise reasonable objections to it.

Mr O’MALLEY:

– I accept the honorable member’s correction. If the consideration of this measure be forced upon the

House at this stage no progress will be made. On the other hand, if we conciliate the Opposition by postponing its further consideration until Tuesday next I feel satisfied that all parties in the House will work harmoniously together, and that we shall probably pass the measure after a discussion extending over only half-an-hour, or, at the most, an hour.

Mr Thomson:

– We have offered no opposition to the passing of the Bill through its preliminary stages.

Mr O’MALLEY:

– I agree with the honorable member that no obstruction has yet been placed in the way of the passing of the Bill, and if honorable members of the Opposition will be prepared on Tuesday next to deal with this matter in a true Christian spirit, I think nothing will be lost by acceding to their request.

Sir WILLI AM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I have to inform the House that I cannot accede to the request for the postponement of the further consideration of ‘ this measure until Tuesday next.

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

– Then the second reading will not be proceeded with tomorrow.

Sir Edmund BARTON:

– We know that certain honorable members of the Opposition will talk all day, whether we proceed with the second reading to-morrow or on Tuesday next.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Quite so; and I think it is just as well that we should give them an opportunity to express their views to-morrow.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– We can see through this request.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– The Opposition have taken up an extraordinary attitude in regard to this measure. The leader of the Opposition was the first to suggest that a Bill should at once be introduced to give effect to the proposed electoral divisions.

Mr Thomson:

– The Minister did not adopt that course.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I have availed myself of the first opportunity to adopt the suggestion. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that if the resolutions relating to the distribution of the States were agreed to, a Bill would be necessary to legalize the proposed boundaries, otherwise the States might repeal their Acts, and leave us without any divisions. Now that I have introduced a Bill dealing with the question, certain honorable members of the Opposition take exception to it. In regard to the remarks which have fallen from the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, I would point out that I stated some days ago that the position taken up by the Government was that the first step to be taken by them under the Electoral Act was to submit a series of motions dealing with the proposed divisions. We felt that if we failed to adopt that course it might be said that we were ignoring Parliament, and it was for that reason that the resolutions were submitted. We consider that Parliament, and not theMinistry alone, should deal with a question of such vital importance. It might have been possible to introduce a Bill in the first instance ; but, if we had adopted that course, we should probably have been accused by those who avail themselves of every opportunity to attack the Ministry of a desire toignore Parliament. All that could possibly be said in regard to the Bill itself has already been urged in connexion with the resolutions which have been dealt with by the House.

Mr Thomson:

– No.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Everything that it is possible for the ingenuity of man tosuggest has been said in regard to this matter.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– All that might reasonably be said in regard to the Bill has. already been put before the House.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · PROT; IND from 1910

– Exactly. When the motions dealing with the proposed distributions of some of the States were before the House, it was asserted that nearly all the representatives of New South Wales were opposed to the action of the Government ; but, as a matter of fact, one-half of them were not.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– If the Government had brought in a Bill before submitting thesemotions to the House, would they not have departed from the provisions of the Electoral Act?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Most decidedly.

Mr Thomson:

– But the Minister has- departed from the Act.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– We have attempted as far as possible to comply with it. This Bill consists of only three clauses. The first relates to the short title, the seconddeals with the boundaries, and the third relates to the names of the various divisions. It will simply give effect to the resolutions which have been carried.

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

– Two States yet remain to be dealt with.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · PROT

– We do not propose to proceed with the consideration of this Bill until . the motions relating to the distribution of those States have been disposed of.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– The remaining motions will be immediately submitted. The Bill will give effect to the resolutions which were debated for four days and four nights, and nothing more remains to be said in regard to the matter. We were under the impression that there was a very strong desire on the part of the House that this Bill should at once become law, and had it not been for the standing orders I should have asked leave to proceed with the second reading at a later stage to-day. I find, however, that the standing orders will not permit the adoption of that course. It is absolutely necessary that there shall be no undue delay in dealing with this matter, so that the rolls may be pi’inted and circulated, and the revision courts held as soon as possible.

Mr Thomson:

– It is an absolute bungle.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Although I have done all that I can to expedite the preparation of the rolls it is impossible to complete themuntil the actual boundaries of the divisions are known. I am anxious, and I think that the House should be anxious, to have this matter dealt with. It is not as if I were proposing the introduction of a Bill containing some fresh matter. It was known last week that this Bill would have to be introduced. The subject with which it deals has already been discussed. Honorable members cannot contend that it is necessary for them to read the provisions of the measure half-a-dozen times to see what is contained in them. The real object of this attempt to secure a postponement is to defer the consideration of the matter until the leader of the Opposition is returned to Parliament. I cannot hold myself responsible for an action which seems to me to be in the nature of a burlesque.

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

– The honorable member’s action is much worse than that.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– It would be little short of criminal if the Ministry consented to postpone this legislation because of a stupid freak which has been perpetrated by the leader of the Opposition, and which is not supported by the people of New South

Wales, if we except the electors of one or tvvo constituencies.

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

– I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, if it is in order to proceed with this business now 1 I am under the impression that the standing orders provide that no business shall be taken on “grievance day” until after the discussion of grievances.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member will refer to the second paragraph of Standing Order 241 he will find it there provided that -

While the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means are open, the first Order of the Day on every third Thursday shall be either Supply or Ways and Means.

It is also laid down in Standing Order 119 that -

If all Motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.

Therefore, all that the Standing orders require is that on “ grievance day “ the first order of the day shall be either Supply or Ways and Means, and that it shall be called on within two hours after the meeting of the House.

Question put. The House divided.

AYES: 36

NOES: 13

Majority…… 23

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

page 4319

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS : TASMANIA

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Hume · Protectionist

– I move -

That this House approves of the proposed distribution of the State of Tasmania into five Divisions, named Darwin, Denison, Flinders, La Perouse, and Wilmot, as shown on the Map laid upon the Table of the House of Representatives on the 23th August, 1903.

I desire to mention that, as in the case of South Australia, this is the first time that Tasmania has been divided into districts. I have heard of no complaints, and I think that perhaps this is mainly due to the fact that the population of the island is evenly distributed. There is a reasonable number of electors in the city of Hobart, and the same remark applies to Launceston. In no case is there any congestion of population such as we find in the capitals of other States. The Darwin division contains 1 5, 134 electors ; Denison, 16,220 ; Flinders, 17,314; La Perouse, 16,116; and Wilmot 16,663. I shall be willing to accept an amendment having in view the substitution of some other name for Flinders, because there is already a Flinders division in the State of Victoria.. I do not know whether honorable members representing Tasmania have any name in their minds, but any reasonable proposal will be accepted.

Mr Thomson:

– Which electorates include Hobart and Launceston respectively ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I shall obtain that information for the honorable member presently. The population of Tasmania is fairly distributed, but the large tract of barren country which lies between the head of the Derwent and the West Coast has practically no population. The greater number of the people are clustered around the West Coast, along the North and East Coasts, and along a portion of the South Coast. I am informed that Flinders embraces the town of Launceston, and that La Perouse includes Hobart.

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

– Hobart is in the Denison division. That shows how much the Minister knows about the distribution.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I have not gone into every particular in connexion with .thedistribution, and I do not intend to. I know Tasmania perhaps as well as does -any one in this House, but I am not familiar with the names of the new divisions. I believe that the distribution has been carried out in a reasonable manner, that full regard has been paid to community of interest, and that natural boundaries have been observed as far as possible. It has, of course, been impossible to secure perfect community of interest. A portion of the North-west Coast has been joined to the mining settlements on the West Coast, and the division which includes these has been extended nearly as far as Devenport. The large farming centres between that place and Launceston and the miners at Beaconsfield are of necessity together. The mining camp to the northeast, as far as George’s Bay and Scamander,, and the tin mining fields, as well as the mining fields at Lefroy, have been included with Launceston and Ringarooma. It has been impossible to avoid associating mining and agricultural interests to some extent, and I think that the distribution will befound generally acceptable. I find that a Mr. J. Davies, of George Town, made a. suggestion - the only one made - which the Commissioner shows was not of any great moment, and could not be carried out.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:
PostmasterGeneral · Tasmania · Free Trade

– I desire to take this opportunity to express my deep regret that the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, who, with hiscolleagues, is very keenly interested in thisdistribution, is unfortunately prevented by bodily infirmity from being present. I am sure that honorable members will join mein that expression of regret.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I am quite sure, from what I know of the right honorable gentleman, and of the districts included in the divisions, that if he were to attempt to make a better distribution, he would fail. I am satisfied, moreover, that as the districts which he has represented previously are embraced in Wilmot, the distibution will meet with his approval. It is gratifying toknow that the gentleman who was appointed on a former occasion to divide Tasmania into five divisions, and the Commissioner in the present instance, have proved to be sonearly in accord. Mr. R. M. Johnston, the able statistician of Tasmania, on a. former occasion distributed Tasmania into five divisions on behalf of the State Government, but he had to work under the electoral law of Tasmania, and with the rolls then in existence. It is gratifying to know that, whilst we have been endeavouring to pay full regard to community of interest and other considerations, Tasmania has been growing, and that whilst there were only 39,000 electors on the old rolls there arenow 42,000 male and 38,000 women voters. The Department may well be congratulated upon the fact that the police officers engaged in the compilation of the rolls have so ably discharged their duty as to induce 38,000 of the women of Tasmania to enrol themselves. “When the 38,000 women electors are compared with the 42,000 men on the roll, it is evident that the women of Tasmania will not have the full voice in political affairs to which their numbers entitle them, because there are quite as many women as men in Tasmania above the age of twenty-one. We may therefore expect that as time goes on the number of women on the rolls in Tasmania will be increased. In so far as regard must be had for community or diversity of interest, Tasmanian representatives will be able to give a certificate that the purposes < of sections 13, 14, and 15 of the Act have been satisfactorily complied with in the divisions proposed. It is impossible to collect communities of interest even in & small place like Tasmania. The horticultural interest, for instance, largely centres round Hobart and the Derwent Valley; but there is also a very large horticultural district on the fringe of the mining district on the North-west Coast. Again, so far as mining interests are concerned, though we shave some 20,000 miners on the West Coast, now represented by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, if - we were to bring together the whole of the mining community, that number would have to be supplemented by 4,000 residents on the Tamar River, in and about Beaconsfield, and in and about George’s Bay.

Mr Wilks:

– Are they all in one electorate ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– They are not all in one electorate. It is impossible to bring together communities of common interest in Tasmania, when regard must also be had, under the Act, to existing electoral boundaries and natural features.

Mr Thomson:

– ‘They are scattered like plums in a pudding.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I will not say that, because there are too many of them. They are represented by dense populations whereever they are, and we have at Beaconsfield, in a very small area indeed, a very large number of miners.

Mr Wilks:

– What about Launceston ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– So far as Launceston is concerned it is-immediately associated with that district.

Mr Wilks:

– Is Beaconsfield included in it?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The district of Launceston, beginning at the Tamar River, takes in some population that belongs to the mining district of Beaconsfield.

Mr Wilks:

– Does the honorable gentleman think that fair 1

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– It is as fair a division as could be made.

Mr Hartnoll:

– Launceston does not take in Beaconsfield.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– It does not take in the whole of it. Then we have the Hobart district, which, all being well, I hope to represent myself, in the district named Denison, and whilst we have a population of 26,000 people in Hobart, we have large suburbs at Glenorchy and Sandy Bay, which are really horticultural districts. It will be found that these are thrown together. If honorable members consider the conditions throughout Tasmania they will admit that it would be exceedingly difficult, while having regard to the physical conditions of the country, the distances people have to travel, and the necessity for having polling places somewhat contiguous, to make a fairer division than has been made by the Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Counsel, whose report we have now before us. No doubt Mr. Counsel and Mr. Johnston, the Statistician of Tasmania, have taken counsel together in the arrangement of the divisions proposed. Some alteration is suggested in the names of the electorates. I think I prefer some of those previously selected. We had Natone, Loyna, and Pateena, and other ‘ native names, but in this instance we see the influence of the Survey Department upon the names selected. Some attempt has been made to follow the course by which Tasmania has honoured herself in utilizing the names of Lyell, Huxley, Murchison, and others of the celebrated men of old England. Here Mr. Counsel has endeavoured to perpetuate the name of Darwin. I can quite understand why he selected Darwin as the name of one division, and Denison as the name of another, because Denison is the name of a former Governor of Tasmania, who, honorable members will remember, made a name for himself subsequently in India.

Mr Wilks:

– Why did he select Darwin?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I presume it was because Darwin was associated with Lyell, Murchison, Huxley, and the other celebrated men whose names are perpetuated on the mountain tops of Tasmania. The name of Flinders has also been selected, and though its use would commemorate the name of the navigator, it would conflict with the name of one of the electoral divisions of Victoria. I shall suggest a change with respect to that. I think the name of La Perouse was not a happy selection, because we do not wish to recall the reign o.f terror with which La Perouse was connected, and I should prefer an English name in any case to a foreign name. I know of no way in which we could more honour ourselves in this connexion than by perpetuating the name of Sir John Franklin, who was formerly a Governor of Tasmania, and whose bones now rest in the icy land of Esquimo

Mr Wilks:

– What is wrong with the names of “Fysh “ and “ Braddon?”

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I do not think those names would do. The name of Havelock is a good old name with distinguished associations from India, whilst Sir John Franklin was associated with the Admiralty and also with the Governorship of Tasmania.

Mr Wilks:

– What is wrong with the name of “ Tasma ? “

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Tasma is the sweetheart of Tasmania. I remind the honorable member that the Island is called Tasmania, and the name is honoured by that selection. We might, I think, very well alter the names of Flinders and La Perouse, and if my colleagues from. Tasmania can suggest no better names, I would suggest that we should substitute for the name of La Perouse the name of Franklin, and for Flinders-

Mr Wilks:

– Northcote.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

-Northcote would be an exceedingly appropriate name, seeing that we shall presently be associated with

Lord Northcote as Governor-General of the Commonwealth. I therefore move -

That the motion be amended by the omission of the words “Flinders” and “ La Perouse “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Northcote” and “ Franklin.”

Mr Thomson:

– I think it would best suit the convenience of honorable members if this amendment were moved at a later stage, as if moved now it may tend to confine discussion. I have no doubt the PostmasterGeneral will extend the courtesy to honorable members of moving his amendment at a later stage.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The liberty of debate will be in no way curtailed by the moving of the amendment at this stage. But I have no doubt that, if any honorable member desires to move an amendment earlier in the motion, the Postmaster-General will be ready to give way.

Mr HARTNOLL:
Tasmania

– I was exceedingly pleased to hear the ‘tribute of respect paid by the Postmaster-General to the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon. I have the satisfaction of knowing that the divisions, as set forth, thoroughly meet with the approval of the right honorable gentlemen, who has been so long identified with our political life. I think that the boundaries recommended constitute as fair a division of the island State as it is possible to make. When I learned that the work of defining the boundaries of the new electorates was to be intrusted to Mr. E. A. Counsel, the Surveyor-General of Tasmania, and that he was .to have the advantage of the intelligent co-operation of Mr. R.M. Johnston, the Government Statistician, I felt perfectly sure that the representatives of that State would be fairly treated in every respect, and that the new electoral divisions from the point of view of population and community of interest would be in accordance with popular opinion. I have known the two gentlemen in question for very many years, and for intelligence and high mindedness I do not think that they can be excelled in any community. Concerning the- names of the new electorates, I am thoroughly in accord with the suggestions that have been thrown out by the Postmaster-General. Naturally he is more anxious regarding the southern divisions of the island, and the name which he has suggested and which will perpetuate the memory of Sir John Franklin is a very appropriate one. I suggested that the name of Northcote; - and I intend to contest this division - should be substituted for that of Flinders, by which name it is designated in the Commissioner’s report. I understand that Flinders is one of the Victorian electorates, and, in my judgment, it would be inadvisable to duplicate the names of electoral divisions. As I have been associated with political life for nearly twenty years, and have been especially identified with Launceston and its surroundings, I thought it was only in the nature of things that I should have the right to suggest that the name of Flinders should be changed to that of Northcote* the name of the first Governor-General of the Commonwealth after this Act comes into operation. From that point of view it is an appropriate selection. The father of the new GovernorGeneral was for many years one of the leaders of political life in the old country, and the name which he bears has also been associated with the western portion of England for a very long period. Indeed, it is one which is honoured throughout the length and breadth of the Empire. With these few remarks I desire to concur in the suggestions that have been thrown out by the Postmaster- General, and to cordially approve of the various divisions recommended for the State of Tasmania. I believe that they will insure a true representation of the people.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– If any evidence were needed of the extraordinary methods which are being adopted in connexion with the partial division of the various States into new electorates, it is afforded by the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs has submitted this proposal to the House to-day. Naturally he is supposed to have thoroughly considered the matter, and to be able to assign good reasons in support of his motion. Yet, as regards the island in which he was born, and of which he knows so much, he cannot tell the localities to which the names which appear in the report of the Commissioner apply.

Mr Fowler:

– Is he supposed to “ get up” the whole geography of the island ?

Mr THOMSON:

– Is a knowledge of geography needed when the report of the Commissioner alludes to these divisions by their names ? The Minister has objected to the electorates proposed in various States on the ground that the country districts did not receive representation proportionate to the city constituencies. Yet he comes here to-day and ‘ acknowledges thathe does not know the city electorates which are alluded to in the report of the Tasmanian Commissioner. If this Parliament is prepared to allow the recommendations of Ministers to operate when they display their absolute ignorance of the matter under discussion, it stands upon a lower plane than any Parliament with which I am acquainted. If honorable members will refer to Mr. Counsel’s report they will see that thedivisions are alluded to by the names of Darwin, Denison, Flinders, La Perouse, and Wilmot. No other name’s are given. The Minister had to compare the representation which was given to different parts of theisland State, and yet he is absolutely unable to allocate to the various divisions thenames which appear in that report.’ It is surprising that the honorable gentleman after apparently thinking either that the Bill was necessary, or that in accordance with the provisions of the Act, he was required to submit resolutions dealing with the reports of the Electoral Commissioners-

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the Bill.

Mr THOMSON:

– Before the electoral divisions have actually been decided we areasked to rush a Bill dealing with them through this Parliament. I intend to show the value of the Minister’s objections to thedivisions which were previously proposed. What were the reasons which he advanced in opposition to them ? He declared thatthe country electorates had not been treated with sufficient liberality.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! Perhaps it would save the time of the House later on and remove misconceptions if I read the standing order to which I am about to call attention. Standing Order 266 is very definite. It says -

No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanation.

That standing order expressly precludes an honorable member, not only from quoting, but from making any allusion to, debates, upon any other matter than that which is . under discussion. I cannot, therefore, permit any honorable member to refer to any debate that has taken place previously, either on the Bill which was introduced this afternoon or upon the subject of the electoral divisions for other States, which were decided a week ago.

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

– Do I understand, sir, that you make that ruling an absolute one ? If the member for North Sydney wishes to show that in connexion with the proposed distribution of Tasmania into electorates a different principle is being adopted from that which was adopted in connexion with other States, I take it that he is perfectly entitled to refer to a previous debate for the purpose of making that distinction clear ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– I had to give this same ruling last week in connexion -with another debate that took place. The standing order I have quoted leaves me absolutely no option in the matter. It not only precludes incidental reference, but any allusion to any previous debate, and therefore I am bound to rule as I have done. I might suggest half-a-dozen ways in which it would be possible for the honorable member to put. before the House what he desires to say ; but it is not for me to do so.

Mr THOMSON:

– The various motions which have been introduced deal with the division of the Commonwealth into electorates.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Each State is dealt with separately.

Mr THOMSON:

– They deal with the division of the Commonwealth into electorates, and I claim that, in considering the proposed division of one portion of the Commonwealth, it is necessary for me, for the purposes of comparison, to refer to the division of another section of it. That is the only way in which it is possible to show the fairness or otherwise of these divisions. If the standing orders prevent the adoption of that course, it will be necessary to move for their suspension in order that this matter may be discussed in a reasonable way. I shall not allude to a greater extent than is necessary to the resolutions that have already been dealt with by the House.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order. The standing order to which I have already referred does not permit a reference, “so far as an honorable member may think it necessary,” to a previous debate. It is an absolute prohibition of any .allusion to a previous debate. There are ways in which it is open for the honorable member to put before the House the views that he desires to express without any violation of the standing order, but it is not for me to make any suggestion in regard to that matter.

Mr THOMSON:

– I have no desire to allude to the previous debates - as debates - which have taken place in relation to these questions. I have every desire, Mr. Speaker, to submit to your ruling. I think, however, that it is necessary for me to refer to the character of the schemes of distribution with which we have already dealt, and to compare them with that now before the House. I think I shall not be guilty of a breach of the standing orders in adopting that course. The only plea that can apparently be urged for the rejection of the schemes submitted by the Commissioners is either that the country districts, as compared with the towns, have not been allowed sufficient representation, or that in certain States the recent drought so severely affected rural districts that some allowance must be made for the people who found it necessary to remove from the drought-stricken centres to the coastal electorates. As to the representation of the country, as compared with the city, I would point out to the Minister that, under the schemes submitted by the various Commissioners for the distribution of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, the difference in favour of the country electorates, so far as the average number of electors in an electorate is concerned, was as follows : - Victoria 4,44S, New South Wales 3,975, Queensland 6,563, and Western Australia 711 ; an average for the four States of 3,924 in favour of country electorates, as compared with city and suburban divisions. That was the preference proposed to be given in the rejected States divisions of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, and the proposed distribution of Western Australia, which it is also proposed to reject. Let us deal now with the scheme of distribution of South Australia, which has been accepted, and the proposed division of Tasmania, which we are now asked to adopt. In those States in each division the average number of electors in favour of country as distinguished from city electorates is only 1,443. Thus, although the Minister professes to be actuated by a desire to secure the fair representation of the country districts, we have been asked to accept a distribution which offers the least advantage to electors residing in rural electorates. We have been invited to reject those schemes which offer the greatest advantage to country electorates, and to accept others which will give them the least consideration. This is an extraordinary exposure of the attitude taken up by the Government. What ground can there be for the statement made by the Minister in connexion with his proposal that the distribution of Tasmania shall be accepted ? That distribution does not offer the advantage to country electorates which would have been secured for rural districts in other States by the adoption of the schemes which the Government called upon us to reject. In these circumstances there must be some reason other than that which has” been put forward for the attitude taken up by the Government. What is that reason? It will be observed that the House has been invited to reject the proposed redistribution of States which were divided for the first Federal elections, and that the scheme for the distribution of States which were each polled as one electorate - which provided no nest from which an honorable member came fully fledged into this Chamber - are to be accepted. That is a most significant fact. I have no desire to impute motives, but- .

Sir William Lyne:

– The honorable member is doing so.

Mr THOMSON:

– Circumstances may force me to take a certain view of certain matters, but I am the last to impute motives. I am always ready to give Ministers and honorable members generally every credit-

Sir William Lyne:

– The honorable member never’ gives me credit for anything.

Mr THOMSON:

– I am not aware that the honorable gentleman has ever asked me to do so. When we find that’ every alteration of an electorate which at present returns a member to this House is rejected by the Government, and that the schemes submitted by the Commissioners for the distribution of States which were previously polled as one electorate, are alone accepted by them, what vie w a,re we to take of their action? There is only one conclusion possible, especially as the reasons given for the rejection - the insufficiency of the representation of country districts as compared with city divisions - applies more strongly to the schemes of distribution which have been accepted than to those which have been rejected. The position is a serious one, and impugns the honour of Parliament. [House counted.] As I have already stated, the proposed schemes of distribution of States already divided have in every case been rejected and the original divisions reverted to,, while the schemes -of distribution of States not previously divided have in one case been accepted, and in the other case the Government propose to accept them. What does that mean ? It means that the Government have determined that where sitting members are in any case likely to be disturbed there shall be no redistribution of the divisions. But it is the people, not the members of this House, who have a right to be considered in this matter. What did we decide by the Electoral Act, which we passed last session 1 We decided that the proper basis of representation was ‘that which is provided for in the Act, and that no Other representation, and especially no representation which varies so much from the scheme laid down in the Act as the existing divisions do, would be a proper one. We further determined that legislation should, not be passed by a House of Representatives elected on the old divisions. In reverting to these divisions we are departing absolutely from that determination. Such a departure requires for its justification an infinitely better reason than has been pub before, us. The new Parliament will have new legislation to deal with, but that legislation, if passed by a Parliament .elected on the old divisions will be passed, according to our deliberate opinion expressed in the Electoral Act, by a Parliament which is incapable of properly dealing with it. That Parliament will have a tenure of three years, and its legislation may continue to have force for a much longer period, although it will be legislation passed by a Parliament elected on an absolutely false basis. That is an astonishing position. How the Ministry or honorable members who are responsible for the Act can support the present proposal is beyond my comprehension. Although I was not in favour of some of the provisions of the Electoral Bill, I stand by them as well as by the provisions of which I was in favour, now that the Bill has become an Act. That should be the attitude of every Minister and of every member. But, according to the Minister’s own statement, we are unnecessarily departing from the principles embodied in that Act. Why is that being done? It is undoubtedly not because of sound objections which can be taken to theproposed new divisions. There must be some other reason. In the particular case before us, the proposed distribution for Tasmania, the Minister asks us to accept an arrangement of divisions which tells against the country districts infinitely more than did the schemes of divisions of’ which, the House, on his motion, has disapproved. Treating the country districts which are attached to the town of Launceston as part of a city and suburban division, and regarding the Hobart and Launceston divisions as city divisions entirely, I find that, while the average number of electors to a representative in the remaining divisions - the country divisions - is 15,638, the average number of electors to a representative in the Hobart and Launceston divisions - the city divisions - is 16,767, a difference of only 1,129 in favour of the country representation, whereas under the proposed distributions of other States which were rejected, because it was said that under ‘ them the country districts had not sufficient representation, the country divisions had on the average 3,924 electors less than the city divisions. What can be said about this ? Is it to be wondered at that emphatic objections have been raised? Any honest man, whatever his political views, could express his opinion upon the matter only in one way. The protest which we are making is a strong one, and there is every occasion for it, because the interests of honorable members have been considered rather than those of the people. Whilst it is preferable that we should conduct our proceedings in and out of Parliament with as little friction and as few ruptures as possible, there is the amplest excuse for resistance to measures, whether they be introduced by the Government or by private members, which are intended to absolutely reverse the well-considered decisions of this House. The absolute decision of Parliament, deliberately arrived at after full discussion, has been departed from ip the interests of some one - not of the people, because we considered their interests in the Electoral Act - and a return has been made to that which we considered’ a false basis for the election of members of this Parliament. I have no hesitation in putting this view directly to honorable members. It is one which I shall have to sustain whenever I deal with this subject.

I should be, willing to make an allowance wherever possible, or to admit if it were there, any reason which would be a good one, but the only reason of which I can conceive is no excuse. When we consider the peculiar treatment of one State as compared with another, and the fact that we are asked to reject one proposal owing to certain objections which are advanced as recommendations in another, we must come to the conclusion that the wrong course is being deliberately adopted. We decided that, in a delicate matter of this kind affecting ourselves, we should not be the judges, and therefore we should have accepted the decisions of the arbitrators we appointed, unless reasons infinitely better than those put forward - not reasons relating to the disturbance of members’ interests, but real reasons having regard for the interests of the people - were advanced in support of the proposal to continue the old conditions. Strong reasons have not bsen shown. Those which have been advanced have fallen to pieces. They are not reasons as a matter of fact. If we have no reasons on the surface we must look for them below the surface, and I regret to say that we can conceive of reasons by which the action of the Federal Parliament should not be influenced.

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

– I desire in the first place to say a few words with regard to the amendment moved by the Postmaster- General. I do not quite know why there should be any slavish adherence to names. I am not in favour of adopting the name La Perouse, but T-do not quite see why we should substitute that of Franklin. I am also unable to see why Northcote should be substituted for Flinders. It is quite true that one of the names suggested brings back old memories, particularly to those who have followed British politics in times gone by, but I do not think that that is any reason for adopting the names of British statesmen in connexion with our Australian democracy. I have not heard anything but good about the new Governor-General, but I think that in a practical matter of this kind, there are other names which, ought to be suggested. What objections could be urged to the names of Fysh and Braddon ? They are the names of very old public servants of Tasmania, and in these . matters we- should not be guided by any party considerations, but by a remembrance only of the services rendered.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– I do not .think that either of the owners of the names aspires to the distinction.

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

– I was not suggesting that. No doubt the Minister’s aspirations are now directed to the carrying out of the great postal reforms which are shortly to be announced to the people of Australia. His aspirations have had an impulse lately, which we hope will carry him far in the direction of radical postal reforms. He has an opportunity in connexion with his Department to carry out reforms which will redound to his credit when he shall have passed from this sublunary sphere and gone hence to the great majority. No doubt his aspirations are associated more with the affairs of his Department than with the name of any electoral division. None the less I commend to honorable members the view which I am now expressing. I think it was the Secretary for Public Works in New South Wales,” Mr. O’sullivan, who said that we ought “to give our statesmen a little more taffy while they lived instead of so much epitaphy when they were dead and gone.” And that sentiment, although strangely expressed, is a good one. I do not think that we should wait till our statesmen are dead to do them honour, and to recognise the immense services rendered by them. The two honorable members whom I have named have done yeoman service to Tasmania, and have stood by her through good and ill report. In New South Wales we have honoured our statesmen by applying their names to some of the Federal electoral divisions. One honorable member who sits on the front Opposition bench represents an electorate named after our most famous statesman, the late right honorable W. B. Dalley. Another honorable and learned member represents an electorate named after another of our foremost statesmen, namely, the late Sir Henry Parkes. Then there is the Lang division named after one of the noblest of Australians. These men in the days of long ago gave the best of their lives of the people of Australia, and they are now held in affectionate remembrance by the people whom they served. I do not see why the two old servants of Tasmania to whom I have referred should not have their names associated with the Federal electoral divisions. Their names would be quite as appropriate as those which have been suggested. I am ashamed to say that I do not know very much about the relation of the name of Franklin to Tasmania.

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

– He was one of our popular Governors.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– We know all about him.

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

– I should judge by the cordial reception of the name that Sir John Franklin did some good service for Tasmania, and that he lives in the kindly remembrance of the people who lived under his beneficent rule. However that may be, the services of Sir John Franklin can have been as nothing compared with those rendered by the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, and the Postmaster-General, Sir P. O. Fysh. Every one regrets the indisposition of the former gentleman, which prevents him from attending in this Chamber and expressing his approval or otherwise of the boundaries of the electorate which we hope to see him successfully contesting in a month or two. I venture to say that he deserves well at the hands of the Federal Parliament, and particularly at the hands of the State from which he hails. Both he and the Postmaster-General,. Sir Philip Fysh, were in London representing Tasmania at the time that the Commonwealth Bill was passed by the Imperial Parliament. They were both of them members of the Convention at which the Constitution was framed and finally passed. They have both had their hands to the plough in connexion with the Federal movement during the whole course of its evolution, and for that reason alone they are entitled to have their names associated with the electoral divisions. The name of La Perouse has little to commend it as a title for one of the divisions, whereas Flinders is already associated with one of the electoral divisions of Victoria. And in looking about for appropriate names, I cannot suggest any that could be more fitly associated with the electorates than those of Braddon and Fysh. Is there a name which is associated with better service to the Empire as a whole than that of Sir Edward Braddon? He has served his country well in positions of great responsibility. He filled high offices in the Indian Empire during the first half of the last century. Then he retired, and he has since given another ordinary lifetime to the service, of the island home in which he has chosen to make his last abode.

To crown a career of that kind - a career which has been devoted to the interests of the Empire at large, and particularly to the island of Tasmania - we may well urge that his name should be perpetuated by calling one of these electorates after him. Then Sir Philip Fysh told us, in a speech which he made a little time ago, that he had been associated with the public life of Tasmania for thirty-eight years.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– For forty years now.

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

– I think that the honorable gentleman also declared that he had held office for twenty-eight years. One looks with longing eyes to a State where that sort of perpetual service is possible to men. I do not mean to suggest that the honorable gentleman has not merited the exceptionally long service which it has been his privilege to render in positions of responsibility and power. More than once I have said it was a pity that the Government, of which he was an honorary Minister for so long, did not make better use of his services. _ We know that in Tasmania he has filled the positions of Treasurer, Minister for Customs, and Premier, for very long periods. Upon two or three occasions, if not more, he has been Treasurer of that State, and there is no one who has a closer knowledge of tha duties appertaining to the Customs Department than he has. For these reasons, as well as on account of his long mercantile connexion with Tasmania, his name, and that of Sir Edward Braddon, ought to be gratefully remembered by the people of that State. In dealing with these matters we can afford to thrust aside all party feeling, and to remember, in connexion with the compliment which is suggested, the services which these men have rendered in their day and generation to the people with whom it has been their privilege to reside. In this first Commonwealth Parliament we shall do well to turu over a new leaf, and to recognise, as far as possible, the merits of our prominent’ statesmen whilst they are alive. We have been ready enough to do them honour when they have gone. We have been ready enough to build monuments to them and to celebrate their achievements when they were no longer here to appreciate the honours arid tributes of a grateful people. It was nob thus in days of old. [Debate interrupted wider Standing Order 119.] 9 m t

SUPPLY (Formal).

Decimal Coinage - Federal Capital Site - Standing Orders Officersof the Postal Department - Rifle Clubs.

Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.

Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).There are one or two matters which I desire to bring under the notice of the House. Last session I took a great deal of interest in an inquiry by a Select Committee into the question of the coinage of silver within the Commonwealth, and the adoption of the decimal currency system. After an exhaustive investigation the Committee recommended that this Parliament should adopt that system of currency and commence the coinage of its own silver. I admit that its report was submitted to a thin House, but I am justified in saying that it would have been adopted by a large majority had there been a full attendance of honorable members. The question was also considered in the other branch of the Legislature, and it is generally admitted that the Senate is quite as much in favour of that system as is this Chamber. I understand that the Government have recently been making inquiries in England either with a view to obtain the permission of the Home authorities to undertake the coinage of our own silver or to induce the Imperial Government to undertake that coinage for us at the cost of a slight seignorage. In either case I think that the Ministry need not have conducted any inquiries, because we have the fullest power under the Constitution to deal with the matter for ourselves. In these days, when we are called upon to practice economy in every direction, a considerable addition to our revenue is a matter of no .small importance. In this connexion I would point out that by the adoption of the system which I have so persistently advocated, it is possible for us to obtain a very large sum indeed towards defraying the cost of the Federal capital and undertaking large national works. So far, the only objection which has been urged against the establishment of the Federal capital is that the project will involve the. expenditure, of public money, which we cannot afford, in some out of the way place. By adopting the great national reform to which T have referred, the Government would save between £1,250,000 and £1,500,000, which they could fund for the purpose of constructing the permanent buildings in the Federal capital. The Constitution gives us the fullest power to undertake coinage for ourselves, and if the Government are applying to the Home authorities for permission to enter upon the work there is no necessity for any correspondence upon the matter. On the other’ hand, if the British Government will not undertake the task of coining our silver for us under a similar arrangement to that which operates in the case of Canada, there is no reason why we should not get it done in the private mint of Birmingham, under the supervision of our own officers. I trust that the Government will give some indication of the policy which they intend to adopt in this connexion. It is quite apparent that there is an absolute majority of honorable members who are decidedly of opinion that the Commonwealth should derive what profit there is from silver coinage. My proposal, if adopted, would remove the lion in the path of the establishment of a new capital. By showing that we can obtain the money necessary for the first steps in the construction of the Federal capital immediately, and in such a way that it would always stand at the back of our currency, if any change in the relative, value of silver and gold should take place in the future, we shall remove the ill-grounded opposition to that project by the Kyabramites and the small municipal councils in Victoria. At the same time we shall carry out a great national reform in our currency which cannot be measured by £1,000,000 sterling. That reform, which would be felt throughout al] the ramifications of trade as well as in our educational system, would mean a profit of millions of pounds - certainly a profit of ten times as much as we should receive by the initial stage. Even the” Treasurer, who is one of the most cautious of statesmen, has admitted that, at the outset, we can save £25,000 a year in interest after capitalizing the profit which can be made out of this new currency. I believe that £30,000 a year could be saved in this direction, and in view of the excessive caution which is exhibited by the right honorable gentleman, I believe that my estimate is more accurate’ than is his. I think that the House and the country generally will be prepared to admit that we may reasonably hope to secure from this source a revenue greater even than the estimate which I have formed. The reform is a great one, and the feeling of both Houses of the Parliament is so strongly in its favour, that I am astonished that. the Government have failed to take some definite action to secure this profit, and to use it in the direction I have indicated. It seems to me that it would be impossible to do better than to lay aside the first profit that we shall obtain from a national system of metal token currency for the building of the great capital of the Commonwealth. I am induced to occupy the attention of the House at some length in dealing with this matter, not merely because of the interest which I take in the reform itself, bub because of the very keen interest which T take, and have always taken, in the question of the Federal capital. When I first associated myself with the Federal movement I foresaw, as most of us did, the difficulty that was likely to arise in determining the site of the new capital. It appeared inevitable, from what we knew of the history of the States, that there would be somedegree of jealousy between the twogreat capitals of Victoria and New South Wales in relation to the question, and, at one stage in the development of the Federal movement, it seemed that this feeling more than any other was the lion in the path of the establishment of the Commonwealth. After many difficulties it was finally decided that, as an inducement to New South Wales to become one of the original Sta,tes in the Federation - for that really was the bargain made - the Constitution should provide for the erection of the capital in that State. I have no doubt that the Treasurer made the counter-proposition that if the other States granted that concession, the people of the mother State should in turn concede that the capital should not be within 100 miles of Sydney. Hisdesire undoubtedly was that Sydney should not, in this respect, have any advantage over Melbourne. That understanding, which was arrived at by the Premiers of the several States, was embodied in the Constitution and approved by the people of the Commonwealth, and it was generally’ understood that during the first or second session of the first Federal Parliament the site of the capital would be determined. I have no wish to impute motives. I have the interests of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth at heart, and I desire that this question shall be determined by the first Federal Parliament, which, in my opinion, is the proper tribunal to settle it. It appears to me, however, judging by what has already taken place, that the matter will be allowed to stand over until the last moment, and that, an Appropriation Bill having been passed, the present Parliament will close its doors, relegating not to the next Parliament, but possibly to some future Parliament sitting half a century hence, the selection of a site for the capital. I hold that this Parliament is in every respect best fitted for various reasons to decide this question. It was generally understood by the electors of the Commonwealth that the site of the capital would be determined by us, and if we do not deal with the matter, it seems to me that, at the next general election, and at each succeeding one, the return of candidates will depend upon the attitude which they take up in reference to this question. Let ns take, for example, the border electorates of Victoria and New South Wales. A candidate standing for the representation of Riverina, for example, would probably be asked by the electors whether, in the event his return, he would vote for the selection of either Tuinut or Albury as the site of the Federal capital, and his chances of success would be very slight if he answered the question in the negative. Similarly, the honorable member for Canobolas would be asked to definitely bind himself to vote either for the Orange or Carcoar-Garland sites, and if he declined to do so, he would have but a remote chance of winning the election. The honorable member for Macquarie would be asked whether he favoured the Bathurst site or the alternate site in his electorate, and he too would have very little hope of success if he replied that he did not do so. Honorable members representing the electorates which comprise Sydney and its suburbs would likewise be asked, if this measure were not dealt with by the present Parliament, whether they favoured the Maft’ra proposal for the amendment of the Constitution, to enable the people to determine whether Melbourne or Sydney should be the site of the capital. I represent one of those electorates, and probably if I said, as I certainly should, that I would vote against the selection of Sydney, I should lose my seat. At the last Federal elections I was asked where in my opinion the Federal capital should be located. Many voters inquired whether I would favour an amendment of the Constitution to provide for the selection of Sydney, but I replied that I certainly should not do so. Some of the newspapers published in Victoria appear to express the view that there is a conspiracy on foot to secure the selection of Sydney as the site of the Federal capital, but I feel satisfied that there is no such desire on the part of the great majority of the electors of New South Wales. There is a feeling amongst the people of that State - and that feeling prevails also amongst the people of some of the other . States - that the question should be settled, and settled in the only way in which it can be determined, by carrying out the provisions of the ConT stitution which relate to it. I have never felt that it would be an advantage to any State to have the Federal capital in its territory. I do not think that it would have been any detriment to New South Wales had the Constitution definitely declared that Ballarat should be the site of the capital. On the other hand, I consider that no injury will be done to Victoria if we carry out the provisions of the Constitution and select some site in New South Wales, at least 100 miles distant from Sydney, for our national capital. But it would injure not only New South Wales and Victoria, but the whole Commonwealth, if we began to tamper with the very principles of the bargain which was made at the inception of Federation, and held over the determination of this question for many years. I have no wish to see Sydney selected as the site of the Federal capital, because I take up a true democratic position in regard to the matter. Some people define democracy as the attitude of a man who swears that he will have everything that every one else has. I consider that the better way to express the true principle of democracy is to put the definition in a negative way. We might say, with Walt Whitman -

I speak the password primeval - I give the sign. of democracy ;

By God ! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms. [House cottnted.] I do not want anything that I am -not prepared to see others obtain on the same terms and conditions. I have no desire to see Sydney selected as the site of the Federal capital, because I sincerely object to the selection of Melbourne, and because I do not want anything to be done that would necessitate an amendment of the Constitution. An honorable member sitting on this side of the House has introduced a Bill to amend that section of the Constitution which deals with the Federal capital, his desire being that it should be open to the people of the Commonwealth to determine whether the capital should be in Sydney or Melbourne. If that measure ever becomes law, its effect will only be to cause the determination of this important question to remain in abeyance for the next half century. To do anything of the kind would be to inflict a lasting injury on the Constitution, and no less an injury on the Commonwealth. When the States entered the Federation, we all looked forward to the early selection of a site for the capital. During our tour of inspection, we saw many admirable sites on which to build a city. I was charmed with the number of interesting and attractive sites that were shown to us. The site which is now so strongly advocated by the Capital Sites Commission - the Tumut site - presented, on the morning we visited it, one of the most attractive pictures I have seen in Australia. We looked upon beautiful, undulating country, which in every direction presented features for an artist to study. But to my mind the climate of Tumutis too warm to make that place suitable as a site for a Federal capital. In .my opinion we must seek for natural advantages which will cause the infant city grow more rapidly than it would grow merely by reason of the fact that it was the seat of Government. We must look for some site which will be attractive, not only because of the presence near it of some great natura] features, such as Mount Kosciusko, .Lake George, or the Canobolas, but because of its pleasant climate, which will cause people who can do so bo remove there from cities like Melbourne and Sydney, where, during the greater part of the year, the heat is excessive and damaging to health. Of the sites already reported upon, quite half would be acceptable to me if some other could not be chosen. Indeed, there are three or four in regard to which I have no preference ; I should be content with any one of them. The proposal to amend the Constitution, which has originated, not in one place only but in a number of places, so as to leave it an open question where the capital shall be situated, is a most dangerous one. If it were carried out, the choosing of a capital would be postponed for probably half-a-century. What is.necessary is to make the choice during the present session. A strenuous effort should be made, and pressure brought to bear upon the Government, so that there should be a decision on the question this session, before supplies have been voted, and the doors of Parliament are closed. If this House is dissolved, and we and the retiring members of the Senate go to the country with the Federal capital site unchosen, the question will be made an election cry, not only in New South Wales, but in every other State!. I think that we should take pains to avoid that. Surely there will be enough questions to put before the electors without adding to their number the vexed question of the capita] site. No good can come of referring it to the electors. If- we are honorable, honest, and businesslike men, we shall carry out the arrangement provided for in the Constitution, and the sooner we do so, at any rate to theextent of deciding where the capital shall be located, under what scheme it shall be developed and governed, and what meansshall be devoted to designing and beautify- ing.it, the better it will be for the peace and good government of the Commonwealth. If this question is referred to the electors weshall not be able to get from them decisionsupon questions on which, their views areof great moment. The capital site question was settled by the Constitution in all respects except the determination of theactual location of the city. This present Parliament is pre-eminently the right body to deal with the matter, and the sooner it does so the better it will be for every one. It behoves us to come to a decision on thequestion, and by voting a reasonable sum of money for the designing and laying out of the new capital, to discourage the reopening of the subject. In my opinion, weshould purchase the privately owned land within the Federal area, and make it Commonwealth property ; and should acquire by transfer from the State of New South Wales the fee-simple of the Crown lands within the area. We should vote a sum of money to defray the cost of these transactions, and of making a detailed survey of the country ; and we should also provide a sufficient amount to enable the engineers, architects, and draughtsmen to lay out the future capital, at any rate, on paper. That would be a businesslike arrangement. I have contended all through that if the members of this.

Parliament are possessed of anything like the wisdom and ability which should characterize the representatives of Australia, the building of the Federal capital should not require the imposition of a single shilling of taxation upon the people of the Commonwealth.

Mr Kingston:

– It should be a handsome -Common weal th endowment.

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

– We should not necessarily build a vast city, but we should have a beautiful city, designed upon a plan capable of enlargement, and with a water supply sufficient for the probable population. All that should be done without imposing a shilling of extra taxation upon the community. In the first place, it must be remembered that the Commonwealth Government could borrow money on as good terms as any Government in the world. If we borrow sufficient to pay for the land now held by private individuals, we shall be able to lease that land out again at good rentals. Not only will that land yield us a revenue, but weshall also be able to obtain good rentals, from the Crown lands which will be transferred from the State. If the governing authority of the Federal territory - because I hope that an area of land will be secured larger than is necessary for the immediate requirements of the city - is composed of far-seeing business men, it will be able to dispose of the suburban areas and city blocks for very profitable rentals. No statement in the Prime Minister’s Maitland manifesto gave me so much pleasure as the statement of the intention of the Government to retain the fee-simple of the land of the Federal territory in perpetuity, leasing it out at proper rentals. Although he did not expressly say so, I take it that his idea is that the money obtained as rent will be used in laying out the streets and parks, in constructing tramways, in erecting Government buildings, in providing a water supply, and in beautifying the surroundings of the city. The provision of an adequate water supply is probably the most important matter of all. In a modern city there should be no need of carefulness in regard to the use of water. In a city quite up-to-date in sanitary arrangements the authorities should be cable to say to the householders - “ You can waste as much water as you please. Turn on your taps, and let them run all night.” The nearer you get to that state of things the nearer you get. to a model city in point of sanitation, because so rauch depends upon proper drainage and the proper flushing of the sewers. We could use the rents obtained to carry out these works, though, of course, we should have to proceed slowly.

Mr McCay:

– We are proceeding slowly just now.

Mr Wilks:

– There is no waste of time.

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

– It is absolutely necessary that this question should be discussed, and we could not use the present opportunity better than in trying to screw the Government up to the sticking point in regard to the decision of the matter. The honorable and learned member for Corinella may take no interest in it, but the people of the State from which I come wish to know why their representatives do not insist upon the settlement of the question. They wish to know, too, what scheme the Government intend to propose for laying out, building, and beautifying the city, which will be the centre of the legislative, and, I hope, ultimately, of the intellectual life of the Commonwealth. The people of New South Wales wish to know why their representatives are allowing the settlement of this question to be delayed week after week, and month after month. This is not an Opposition matter. From Mount Aventine, where the Labour members sit, from the Government cross benches, and from the Opposition side of the Chamber, the question has been asked time and again - “ When are the Government going to give Parliament an opportunity to choose the site of the future Federal capital ? “ To these questions such stereotyped answers are returned that one is almost tempted to fancy that the replies have been linotyped, and are standing ready in the Government Printing-office for use as required. We are told by Ministers “ that they will deal with the matter as soon as they can,” “ that the matter is under consideration,” “that they are awaiting such and such a report.” Seeing that the answers which aire given are so evasive, it is a fortunate thing that we have this opportunity to discuss the matter, and to let Ministers see that there are honorable members, not only on this side of the Chamber, but even on the Government benches, who are extremely desirous that we shall comply with the terms of the Constitution, and keep faith with the people who voted for it. We have had Commission after Commission, and we have been told that we have not 3’et obtained all the information we need. For my own part, I have had enough of Commissions, and I am prepared to vote “ aye “ or “ no” in regard to the suggested sites. If I feel myself unable to vote for any proposed site, I shall move an amendment proposing the adoption of a site which I do favour. Seeing that it is the conscientious belief of ma’ny men, whose experience enables them to give a reliable opinion upon the subject, that we can obtain at least £1,250,000 by adopting our own system of currency, and could braid a capital without cost to the taxpayer, some consideration should be given to the matter at once. We could have no better investment for our securities than that to which, I refer. The sinking funds for which Parliaments provide from time to time are sometimes made use of by needy Treasurers. I do not think that the right honorable member for Balaclava has ever been guilty of such a thing, and I do not fear such action so long as he holds the key of the Federal Treasury chest. Not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world, funds which have been designed for certain specific purposes have been applied to other ends. The Decimal Coinage Committee recommended that the immense seignorage that would be derived by the Commonwealth from the proposed new coinage, should be funded, and, in my view, that money could not be put to any better use than that of building massive permanent structures for public purposes in the Federal capital. We could make a very good beginning with £1,250,000. The authorities controlling the affairs of the capita] might fairly be called upon to pay interest upon the money placed at their disposal, at the rate of 3 per cent., because, I hold that if they lay out the city properly, and lease the land comprised within the Federal area from time to time upon reasonable, and, at the same time, advantageous terms, they will very soon be in receipt of a large revenue. By using judgment in the selection of the blocks, they would be able to lease them at rentals which would give them a substantial income. They would not only be able to pay £3i»,000 or £40,000 per annum for interest upon the original outlay, but would be .able to borrow further sums on the security of their increasing revenue for the purpose of carrying out public improvements, and for the beautifying of the city. Although the Decimal Coinage Commission reported in favour of having our silver and copper coins minted abroad, we shall sooner or later have to establish a mint within the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is as well that at the outset we should obtain a supply of new coins from the British mints, but after having obtained the £2,000,000 worth of silver coinage, as well as the bronze coinage required for circulation in the Commonwealth, we could afterwards supply our own increasing requirements. We have the silver and the copper here, and there is no Sumwent reason for sending these metals toGreat Britain for coinage. After obtaining the first supply of special currency tokens we should need about £100,000 worth a year, and a comparatively small mint could turn out that quantity. The mint should be at the Federal capital, and under the control of the Federal Government, but built by the Commission appointed to manage the city. We should not require to interfere with the gold coinage, which could be carried on as at present by the Imperial authorities at the* branch mints at Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. These would meet all the requirements of gold exporters as well as the necessities of the gold producers. Wherever gold is largely produced, there should be a. mint, and we need not ask those interested in the mines to transfer their gold across the continent to the -Federal capital. We may not live to see the Federal capital in all its. grandeur, but I hope that it will be constructed upon the most modern lines, and provided with an unfailing supply of water - a. supply such as has not hitherto been seen in. Australia. There is hardly a ‘large city in Australia which at some time or other ha* not suffered from an insufficient water supply. There should be n© restriction upon the supply of water at the Federal capital. It should not be necessary toplaster up notices that water must not be used for this or that or the other purpose. There, should be a sufficient supply, .not only for domestic purposes but for irrigation and for every other conceivable use to which water could be applied. There should be no such thing as waste of ‘ water. The more water that can be poured through a city the more healthy it should be. We should endeavor to settle the question of the capital site so that there may be some hope of our children seeing the Federal city reared in some favoured spot in the State of New South Wales. All those honorable members with whom I have exchanged views on this subject agree that the constitutional right of New South Wales to have the capital established within that State should be regarded as undeniable. The capital must be established somewhere, and there is no way of escape from the compact made with New South Wales that the site should be selected in that State. That being so, the Government, as the first chosen champion of the Constitution, should take care that the question is settled in such time that our best efforts and intellects may be brought to bear upon it. That time is the present. There is every danger in delay. The uncertainty regarding the establishment of the Federal capital must introduce an element of discord into every appeal made to the electors. ‘ In view of the over-grown movement in Victoria in favour of economy, we could not expect candidates for election as representatives of that State to express themselves in favour of immediately estab1lishing the Federal capital, and of incurring any expenditure in connexion with it. I have advocated economy as strongly as any honorable member. I opposed the proposal that the Commonwealth should launch itself upon a career of borrowing by floating a loan of £500,000 for ephemeral purposes - works which would fade out of existence before we had time to realize what had become of the money. I have consistently set my face against extravagant expenditure. I think, however, that I have demonstrated that the whole of the work in connexion with the establishment of the Federal capital could be carried out in a reasonable and modest way, without imposing one shilling of extra taxation upon the people. It is absurd to suggest that we are going to spend millions upon a capital in the bush. The statements which have been made by the false economists of Victoria are entirely groundless, and should be dismissed at once and for ever. The only definite statement I have heard from Ministers with regard to the Federal capital was made by the Prime Minister recently, when addressing a meeting of the old Federal Association iri Sydney, of which I was a member, and in which I worked for many years with the right honorable gentleman in the interests of Federation. After Federation bad been accomplished, and we came to consider the question of dissolving that Association, it was decided that it should be maintained for the express purpose of defending the Constitution if necessity should arise. Now unless the Government can give us something more substantial than mere words and promises we must conclude, that the necessity for defending the Constitution, so far as New South Wales is concerned, has already arisen. We want something more than promises or intimations that sooner or later the Federal capital site shall be selected. I believe that the Federal Association, which will become one of the most memorable associations of Australia - one which will rank second only to the Anti-transportation League - acted wisely in holding itself prepared to defend the Constitution, which it helped to create, in any emergency. So far as we can judge from the statements made by Ministers, the Government are at one with the general body of the people of New South Wales that this question -should be settled during the present session.

Mr Watson:

– The people of Australia generally agree with them in that respect.

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

– I believe that the majority of the people of Australia are in favour of having the capital established in New South Wales at as early a date as possible. I cannot understand why the settlement of the matter should have been so long delayed. If Ministers intend to carry out their promises - and they are all honorable men - why should they not fulfil . them at once. The session is drawing to a close, and Ministers cannot expect us to believe that they are in earnest if they persistently delay the selection of the capital site. For some reason or other, Ministers apparently do not care to submit a proposal to the House. If they do not, however, facilitate a settlement before the session closes, they will suffer for it when the next appeal is made to the country. The feeling that New South Wales is not being treated well in regard to the Federal capital obtains among the ablest supporters of the Constitution in all the States, and a feeling of great hostility will undoubtedly be evinced towards the Government unless they take action at the very first opportunity. In many directions ve have been accused of attempting to accomplish too much during the term of the firs!; Parliament. But in regard to selecting the site of the future Federal capital, practically nothing has been attempted. We have dealt with many matters, for the settlement of which there was . no apparent urgency, but nothing has been done towards definitely settling this urgent question. I submit that the time is ripe for Ministers to put a definite proposal before the House. As soon as that question is settled, a feeling of relief will be experienced from one end of Australia to the other, because in many quarters a suspicion prevails that there is a disposition on . the part of Parliament to be disloyal to the Constitution. To that extent Federation has been brought into disrepute. I know that many persons affirm that the selection of the site is being delayed for special private and political reasons. Personally I entertain no such suspicion. Nothing is more calculated to damage the Ministry than delay in the settlement of this question. Moreover, the present Parliament is eminently fitted to deal with it. Future Parliaments will have to consider entirely different questions. When the appeal to the electors was made they took it for granted that their representatives would be called upon to decide where the capital should be located, and the scheme under which it should be erected. Personally I think it would be a good thing both for the Government and the Legislature if we removed to a home of our own at the earliest possible moment. That home should certainly not be in Sydney or Melbourne, but removed from the many influences which operate in those centres. We should adhere absolutely to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. I desire the Government to bring this matter to a head so that it may be finally disposed of this session. I am aware that a suggestion has been made that we should take a referendum upon the question of amending our Constitution, with a view to fix the capital either in Melbourne or’ Sydney. I submit that if we do so we shall create endless ill-feeling. I know of no question which is calculated to arouse such bitterness. Moreover, if we adopted that course there is no reason why every site which has been considered should not be included in the question put to the electors.

Mr Joseph Cooke:

– As to a choice between Melbourne and Sydney, the question could be put - “ Are you in favour of national dishonour V

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

– I am sure that no one here has the slightest desire to depart from the letter of the Constitution. We should teach our young people torespect the Constitution, to work under it, and, if necessary, to fight and die for it. Therefore, we should no longer be satisfied with stereotyped replies from Ministers upon this question. The best evidencewhich they can give of their sincerity is an intimation that they will, on Tuesday next, submit a resolution in favour of one or other of the eligible sites, so that the> matter may be decided immediately. I realize that there may be some difficulty about securing a clear-cut decision upon it, and that we may have to face theposition of a disagreement between the two Houses. Should such a thing occur it would be a great pity, because I seeno way out of the difficulty. If by any means we can bring about a joint sittingof the Houses, I am convinced that we shall obtain a satisfactory decision. I know that it has been urged by politicians of experience that we can never hope to induce theother Chamber, which is composed of thirtysix representatives, to sink its individuality in a House which is composed of seventyfive members. I do not agree, however, that, under such circumstances, the individuality of senators would be obliterated. If it be possible to appoint a Royal Commission - and I have heard that suggestion made - consisting of the whole of the members of both Houses, I think that we shall speedily arrive at a settlement of the question. I trust that the Ministry will, at theearliest possible date, submit a definite proposal in favour of a particular site.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made a capital speech, and dealt with hissubject in a capital manner. I am very pleased, indeed, that our Standing Orders provide that before supplies are granted, grievances may be aired. It is my intention to see that grievances are well aired upon the present occasion. During the period in which you, sir, have presided over the deliberations of this Chamber, it has rarely been your lot to listen to a discussion upon the Standing Orders, which to you are what the King’s Regulations are to the Imperial Army. Well-framed Standing Orders are unquestionably a sourceof protection to you, Mr. Speaker. It is often said that here we breathe a rarer atmosphere of politics, and I am glad to say that you, Mr. Speaker, have always had the- hearty assistance of the House in preserving order. I consider, however, that we have a serious grievance against the Ministry, for no effort has yet been made by them to secure the adoption of permanent standing orders for our guidance. Whence came the Standing Orders under which we are now working % I find that they were adopted by the House on 6th June, 1901, for temporary use. We have had a Standing Orders Committee, consisting of some of the most prominent membe’rs of the House, and I believe they met some time ago and drafted Orders for our use. These have not yet been presented to the House. All. that we have for our guidance are temporary Standing Orders, and in view of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, hav had, practically, no greater power over us than lias the chairman of a public meeting - having no permanent rules for your guidance it redounds to the credit of the House that our proceedings have always been characterized b)’ a due regard for the best traditions of political institutions. I am told that these temporary standing orders were prepared by some Australian genius known as “the only Jenkins.” Who is Jenkins ? The only Jenkins of whom I have read is Jenkins of the Yellowplush Papers.

Mr Kingston:

– What about Mr. -Jenkins, the Premier of South Australia 1

Mr WILKS:

– If I thought that these standing orders were the work of the Premier of South Australia, I should probably be disposed to give them greater consideration. I trust that I am not reflecting on the author of these Standing Orders, but it seems to me that we should have -a set prepared by our own Committee. I find that temporary Standing Order 291 deals with the resumption of interrupted debates, and if it were more clearly framed it might be of incalculable benefit to the Ministry at the present time.

Mr Mauger:

– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is really ventilating a grievance, or whether he is not sailing perilously near the obstruction of public business t

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have no hesitation in saying that so far as the honorable member has gone he has not transgressed the Standing Orders.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports’ views are so limited that he believes that a grievance can be associated only with a Bonus Bill or with the policy of protection. [House counted.’] We are told that even the Japanese Diet has adopted the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, yet we have never thought of obtaining permanent Standing Orders for our guidance.

Mr McCay:

– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I wish to know whether an honorable member is at liberty to read a newspaper within the precincts of the Chamber ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– There is no standing order prohibiting the reading of newspapers in the Chamber. It is simply a question of the courtesy which an honorable member owes to the House.

Mr WILKS:

– I may perhaps be pardoned for any feeling which I exhibit in dealing with this question, for even a man of the most judicial frame of mind cannot fail to be disturbed at the sight of privileges and liberties on the verge of destruction. [House counted.] In the long list of Speakers whose names have become famous, you, Mr. Speaker, do not occupy the least eminent position, and it says much for your ability that, armed with no greater power than has the chairman of a public meeting, you have nevertheless succeeded in satisfactorily discharging the duties of your high office. For more than two years now this House has been staggering along without proper directions to guide it. It may happen that in the future some designing Opposition will take advantage of the faultiness of the Standing Orders to prevent Ministers from carrying on the work of the country. We have read of that being done by unscrupulous opponents of a Ministry in the kingdom of Barataria, and though such a line of conduct will never be followed here, it is not to be denied that the Standing Orders present opportunities to an Opposition to give full public^ to actions of the Government which they conceive to be inimical to the interests of the people. The want of proper Standing Orders has given me many a sleepless night, and I wonder, therefore, at your placidity, Mr. Speaker, under the circumstances. It is a matter of surprise to me that you have been able to occupy the Chair for so long a period without hinting to the Government, if not to the House, the weakness of your position. By your tact and courtesy you have acted as a worthy custodian of our rights and privileges, and you have been justified in the reliance which you have placed upon the good sense of the honorable members. But the day may arise when an honorable member may, with the desire to obstruct business,’ or to irritate the Government of the day, refuse to be bound by rules which have no force. Doubtless this matter has given you hours of deep concern. The Ministry have done wrong in not providing proper Standing Orders, not only for their own protection but for the protection of the House. The passing of such Standing Orders should have been our first business, so as to provide suitable legislative machinery. The Standing Orders Committee, of which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo is an ornament-

Sir John Quick:

– I am not a member of the Committee.

Mr WILKS:

– A man of the honorable and learned gentleman’s knowledge and* constitutional attainments should be a member of that Committee. I know that other honorable members who hold that distinguished position have spent hours in framing suitable Standing Orders. Their work has been done, not under the public eye and trumpeted forth to the public in the morning newspapers, but in secret, as so much of the best work of Parliament is done. Those Standing Orders have been presented to the House, but the Ministry have never moved their adoption. That is the most serious grievance that we could bring forward. You, Mr. Speaker, must have often been surprised that honorable members so seldom address themselves to a matter of such interest as this. But do the Government propose to allow this Parliament to be dissolved before proper Standing Orders are adopted, arid thus declare to the world that we are unable to frame rules for the proper conduct of our deliberations t Are we to remain content with Standing Orders drafted by a genius named Jenkins, which are manifestly unserviceable on the occasions when they are most required t The Prime Minister has been taunted by his enemies with the ambiguous phraseology in which his replies to deputations are often couched. Whatever may be said of his lauguage, however, it cannot be denied that he is a student, and, no doubt, as such is well acquainted with the writings of the younger Pliny. I would remind him, therefore, that that celebrated Roman again and again refused to allow the assembly which he was addressing to proceed to business before the adoption of proper I

Standing Orders. That should be the position of every honorable member in the House. Of course, when you, Mr Speaker, rule that under Standing Order 408, or some other Standing Order, “ The honorable member for Dalley is not entitled to proceed further with that line of discussion,” I have bowed to your ruling, as I would bow to it if you drew my attention to Standing Order 5,408. I have done so in acknowledgement of your high character, arid your earnest desire for the proper conduct of debate in thisChamber, though my legislative experience tells me that it is never a good thing to argue with the Chair, even if one is in the right, because one’s fellowmembersalways like to see him over-ruled and in, trouble. But under Standing Orders such as these which have been framed by a MrJenkins, the position of a Speaker with lesstact and judgment, and inclined like seme of those who, “drest in a little brief authority,” preside over the State Assemblies, to domineer, would be deplorable. The Chairman of Committees, whoassociates more closely with his fellow members, is in even a worse position. Owing to the ineffectiveness of the Standing Orders the Chairman has been helpless, while honorable members have spent hoursin advancing reasons why he should leave the chair. The last desire of the Chairmanis to lose the honorable position he now occupies, and although it has been useless toexpect him to take their view, honorable members have continued to urge hiin tovacate his place. The Chairman was powerless to stop the flow of theireloquence, and the patience which he has exhibited under the circumstances has been truly remarkable. Honorable membershave harassed, worried, and bull-baited theChairman, and yet, with all these factsbefore them, the Government have taken nosteps to protect him or the Speaker. It would be in the interests of the Government if they facilitated the adoption of properStanding Orders, because the public business, would be transacted very much more expe-ditiously. The present condition of affairs is scandalous. Although no “stone- walling”” has yet taken place, there is a positive danger that, with other members in Opposition, the abuse of parliamentary forms might occur. We hear that the honorableand learned member for Darling Downs iscontemplating the publication of a book on the Constitution, but his energies would be- more profitably directed to the framing of a new set of Standing Orders. How is it to “be. supposed that Mr. Speaker and the Chairman can conduct the business unless they are armed with a proper authority? The Standing Orders Committee is composed of Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Gippsland, and the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon. They have devoted many hours to the consideration of Standing Orders, and have brought up a report which has been entirely ignored. It is a standing disgrace that this important subject should be neglected ; and if the Prime Minister is not careful he will find some honorable members taking advantage of the present orders in order to “stone-wall “the proposals of the Government. I am surprised that the newspapers have not published articles commenting on the neglect of the Commonwealth House of Representatives to frame proper Standing Orders. If such articles were published, it would be shown that this boasted Federal Parliament is in a worse position in this respect than are the local municipal councils, who have their well-considered and properly-drafted Standing Orders. It has been suggested that this is a grievance . which does not appeal to the average elector; but I cannot help thinking that my constituents will feel that in this respect we have sadly neglected our duty If it became known that any Opposition hud to take advantage of the weakness of the Standing Orders in order to assert the rights and liberties of the people, it would at once be seen that Parliament was under the tyranny of the Government. If an Opposition had to lake such a course, I think that even the most hostile Minister would admit that he had taken up an unbecoming position, and would adjourn any business he was trying to force on. If the Prime Minister does not see the utility of recognising the work of some of the most valued members of the House in drafting Standing Orders, there will not be much encouragement to undertake such labour in the future.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– I have a serious grievance to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs and of honorable members df this House. The travelling mail officers in Queensland find that they are placed in a peculiar position under Regulation 155 of the Public Service Regulations. That regulation makes the following provision for allowances : -

Relieving postmasters and postmistresses and other officers on regular relieving staffs at country offices, 6s. daily, and 30s. a week. Officers relieving on suburbs away from home, ls. Gd. daily. Letter carrier relieving in suburbs, including those relieving in suburbs on deliveries which are made direct from General Post Office, ls. daily. Railway mail guards and relieving railway sorters, for the first eight hours or portion thereof, while tra veiling, on duty, 2s., and for each subsequent eight hours, or portion thereof, 2s.

In Queensland, prior to Federation, these travelling mail officers received £50 a year as allowance ; and that was quite little enough when it is remembered that for five nights out of the seven they are away from their homes, are put to considerable expense, and have no regular hours for sleep. This especially applies to officers who are obliged to go out into the Western districts. They complain that by. the regulation they are placed in the same position as railway mail guards and relieving railway sorters in New South Wales and Victoria who are not classified officers, and have not hitherto received the travelling allowance which has been received by the Queensland officers. It must be remembered that these Queensland officers are classified officers, who have passed the Public Service examination ; whilst railway mail guards and relieving railway sorters in New South Wales and Victoria are officers of the general division. The result of the operation of the regulation has been to bring the Queensland officers down from the clerical division and place them in the general division. This is done in order that they may be brought into line with railway mail officers in New South Wales and Victoria, though when the Public Service Bill was going through Parliament we were invited to believe that there would be a levelling up and not a levelling down. I am informed that when the Queensland .officers, at the’ beginning of the yeal-, applied in the usual way for their monthly allowance of £4 3s. 4d. they were referred to Regulation 155. They consider that this regulation should not apply to them, because if it is applied to them they will be reduced to the same position as the New South Wales and Victorian mail guards and railway sorters, who are not classified officers. A difficulty arising is that if they allow this to be done without protest they may be reduced to the position of letter carriers. At present, being classified officers, they cannot receive less than £150, and can, through time service, receive £180 a year. A great deal of correspondence has passed between them and the Postmaster-General on the question, with the result that the sum of £25 was paid to them at the end of the half-year. This was after their grievance had been ventilated in the Senate. On again applying they were informed that the matter was under the consideration of the Public Service Commissioner, and his secretary advised that they should, in the meantime, apply for the allowance under Regulation 155, which provides for payment at the rate of 2s.perday. This the men have refused to do, for the reason al read y given. Loss of classification would mean more to them than the reduction in allowance under the regulation ; they are chiefly concerned about their classification. The duties of the Queensland mail guards are of a very much more responsible character than those performed by mail guards in New South Wales and Victoria. They ane for instance intrusted with the sale of stamps and postal notes and the registration of letters, and I understand that by their classification they are entitled to take positions as country postmasters, whose duties they practically perform at the present time. So far as the .Department is concerned, and this is the point I desire to emphasize, it is admitted that these men have a right to a classification which entitles them to promotion as postmasters, but the Public Service Commissioner sits back in the breeching and insists that they shall be placed in the same position as railway mail guards and relieving railway sorters in New South Wales and Victoria, who are officers in the general division. I hope the Minister will take some notice of this grievance. So far the men have tried every means to secure redress without satisfaction. The Minister to-day said that, by applying to a member of this House, these officers had put themselves out of Court, and had rendered themselves liable to dismissal. That attitude might be appropriate in dealing with soldiers, but the right honorable gentleman will find that he has undertaken a difficult job if he proposes to sack any of these men on such grounds. He may find that honorable members will retaliate, and sack him. If these men cannot get satisfaction ‘ from the Department, they have a right to have their grievance brought before this House, and to have their claim for redress considered in a proper manner.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– It would be, perhaps, well that I should address myself to a cognate matter before the PostmasterGeneral replies. I also have a grievance to bring under the honorable gentleman’s notice, connected with the- Postal Department. I shall be as brief as I can, whilst putting the case in such a way as to enable the Minister to understand the position. It appears that recently some eight porters connected with the Post-office have been appointed to the position of letter-sorters. It further appears that for a great number of years past, in Victoria at all events, men occupying positions as porters have not been entitled to be appointed as letter-sorters. The letter-carriers of Victoria are to-day greatly concerned about the proposed new appointments, and I understand that a meeting is to be held on Saturday evening next, at which 200 or 300 men will assemble to dis- ‘ cuss the situation, unless some action be taken in the meantime to avoid the injustice which they consider is being done to them. When the proposal was first made, a letter was written to Mr. Outtrim, the Deputy Postmaster-General, asking for an interview on behalf of the Letter Carriers’ Association. The letter was signed by the secretary of the association, and was as follows : -

I have been directed by the Victorian Letter Carriers’ Association to write and ask if you would grant an interview with, say four of our number.

Then followed the enumeration of certain items of business which they wished to discuss. In reply to that letter, Mr. Outtrim wrote as follows :< -

I shall be glad to see not more than three lettercarriers, as representing the letter-carriers as such, but not as representatives of an association over which I have no control.

The first grievance I wish to put before the Postmaster-General is that whilst his predecessor, Senator Drake, sanctioned and authorized the formation of these associations in connexion with the Postal Department, and actually encouraged their organization, because he found that in dealing with grievances they thrashed out all complaints among themselves, and were able to put matters which they desired to discuss before him in a concrete form, Mr. Outtrim now proposes to adopt a different attitude. The men concerned in this grievance have hesitated about seeing Mr. Outtrim, because they desire that the Ministerial sanction of their association shall be recognised by the officers of the , Department. The only word I have to say upon that point is that I trust the present Postmaster-General will see, as his predecessor did, that these associations are recognised, so that they may speak authoritatively for their fellow-men, with some assurance that what they have to say will be attended to. Dealing with the immediate subject of grievance, it appears that hitherto the position of a letter-sorter has been held to be open exclusively to lettercarriers. The reason for this is that porters have always had a higher wage to begin with than have letter-carriers. Porters have been given a wage of £9 per month to begin with, whilst letter-carriers begin with but £6 per month, and it has been understood that those who accept the position of porters, in view of the advantages which they secure in the higher salary to begin with, forego any right to promotion as letter-sorters. The letter-carrier, in accepting the lower salary to begin with, has had secured to him, under promise by the Department, in some cases stated in writing, the consideration that later on he may be entitled to the position of letter-sorter, which carries a higher salary. Certain senior lettercarriers, some time ago, were offered an opportunity to become porters, and they were told that if they accepted the position they would have to forego any right to the position of letter-sorter at a later stage. That fact goes to prove what I have said, that a porter has never at any time, under previously-existing conditions, been considered entitled to appointment to the better position of letter-sorter. I have here a letter dated 7th December, 1887, some sixteen years ago, which proves conclusively what I say. It was addressed to tlie junior letter-carriers of the Victorian Post-office, and was signed by the Deputy Postmaster-General for the time being, Mr. W. Galbraith. That gentleman wrote as follows : -

I have to request that you will state whether, in the event of your seniors declining, you would accept the position of porter. I would, however, direct your attention to the fact that by accepting such position yon forego all claims for promotion to the position of sorter.

That clearly confirms the statement I have made. As it is now proposed that porters should be appointed as letter-sorters, the letter-carriers feel that an injustice is being done to them, and it is under these circumstances that they have determined to hold a meeting on Saturday evening next to discuss the situation. I have to-day had an interview with their president, and I thought, that probably by mentioning the matter this evening I might get a satisfactory reply from the Postmaster-General, which would render the contemplated meeting unnecessary, and give satisfaction to all hands in the service. Of course, I know that the appointments objected to are being made by the Public Service Commissioner, but I have no doubt that, if that officer had knew that there was some sort of illegality about what he proposes, he would be prepared to do that justice to the letter-carriers to which I think they are entitled. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to make a note of the facts of the case, to submit them to the Public Service Commissioner, and to request him to stay his hand until he has fully investigated the matter. I trust that, the result will be justice to the letter-carriers, and the reinstatement of their old position in the Department, under which they have had exclusively the right of promotion to the position of sorters, and also that the porters proposed to be appointed to the higher position will recognise that they are taking an undue advantage of their fellow servants in the Department.

Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- When I was looking at my list of grievances just now, I thought I had discovered enough to take up the time of the House for six or seven hours in requesting their redress. However, to save time, I propose to draw the attention of the Ministry to only one, which I think of some importance. It is in connexion with the arming of the rifle clubs. If we are to encourage what I consider a most useful branch of the Defence Force, and to have that branch in an efficient state, should, unfortunately, their services be needed, the men must be armed with modern rifles - not obsolete rifles. At the present time the equipment is exceedingly defective. In Victoria., where the rifle clubs have been most successful, they have purchased from the Government 5,800 MartiniHenri rifles, winch are so much out of date and so valueless that they are sold at the price of 10s. each.

Sir William Lyne:

– I think that tho statement of the honorable member is wrong. I know that a large number were purchased at a very low price - £1.

Mr THOMSON:

– I am only giving the information which was supplied to me by the late Minister for Defence.

Mr McCay:

– In Victoria rifles have been supplied at 10s. each.

Mr THOMSON:

– The clubs have also purchased from the Government MartiniEnfield rifles to the number of 6,000 at 40s.- each, which is also somewhat under cost price. Bub the total number of modern magazine rifles purchased is 130. This does not account for the full arming of the force. It is short by some 8,000 rifles. I have some questions on the business-paper in which I seek to ascertain how that difference is to be accounted for. At any rate, out of 12,000 men only 130 are armed with modern magazine rifles. There may be some men who have purchased modern rifles from another source, but I do not suppose that they number very many. The policy which the Administration is determined to follow is that both in those States in which free rifles have been provided and in those States in which a charge has been imposed, the members of rifle clubs shall pay for new rifles if wanted. That means that a sum of about £4 will have to be paid by a large number of men who are giving their services at considerable cost to themselves. I have a return which shows that in the case of one club which has two representatives in the Bisley team, the ammunition will cost each man from 25s. to 30s. per annum. I shall now quote from a Sydney newspaper a letter which bears on this matter -

Sir, - In to-day’s, issue of the Herald you chronicle the success of Australian riflemen at Bisley, and urge that every effort should be made to encourage the “ valuable art” of rifle shooting in this country. That such encouragement is far from being given will appear from my experience iis a would-be rifleman.

I joined a well-known rifle club, was sworn in as one of the reserves, and attended the prescribed drills over a year ago, but so far have not obtained a serviceable rifle. During most of the time the only practice I could get was by borrowing a rifle of some friend, a most unsatisfactory arrangement. After many months, however, I got possession of a Government gun, one of the discarded Martini-Enfield pattern. Trying it at Randwick range I could barely find the target, and in the hands of an experienced shot its performance was such that old riflemen advised me to throw it aside as worn out.

Now, sir, my position is this : lam prepared to conform to any military regulations re drills, spend my spare time in practice, also go to a fair amount of expense in travelling, ammunition, markers’ fees, &c, in the endeavour to become a skilled shot, if only I could get issue of a serviceable weapon. Bines are on the way here ; what better can be done with them than by placing them in the hands of men who will prize them, care for them, and learn to use them? - I am, &c,

A Young Shot

July 23

It will be generally admitted that war will nob await the convenience of the participants. If, unfortunately, war should break out, we should be in a very bad position if our riflemen were not properly armed. The. men who choose to give up their time and to spend a considerable sum of money should not be required to re-arm. Free issue of rifles has been objected to, on the ground that they would not be taken care of. But in New South Wales, when free rifles were issued they were called in occasionally, and the cost of repairing, cleaning; and doing anything necessary to bring the weapons into good condition had to be defrayed by the club. I would urge upon the Minister the desirability of nob inducing men bo buy obsolete rifles because of the low Cost when they would be required in the case of war to be armed with and to understand the newer magazine weapon. It may be said that the House has objected to sanction a heavy expenditure on defence. But I feel sure that ib would nob refuse bo sanction the expenditure which is absolutely necessary to make our defence system effective. We may have men sufficiently trained, and men such as riflemen partially trained and prepared to receive the finishing touches in a very short time ; but if we are without the most perfect weapons in time of war, our expenditure will have been largely thrown away. For this reason, I think that the men ought to receive some consideration, especially those who spend as much money as they can afford in their laudable efforts to become good marksmen. If we are to have rifle clubs as a portion of our Defence Force - and I take a much higher view of their value in that respect than’ I believe do the military authorities - it is bad to shut out those who find it sufficiently difficult to incur the expenditure incidental to their becoming expert riflemen without having to bear the additional COSt of the rifles. Many a man who can afford ib will buy a rifle in any circumstances ; he prefers to have a rifle under his own control, and therefore these men will secure it rifle at their own cost. Other men will be debarred from taking part in the rifle club movement if this heavy additional charge of re-arming the force with the most modern rifle be laid upon their shoulders. For that reason I draw the attention of the Minister to the desirableness of formulating a more liberal policy than that which has been decided on - that is to require the men to pay the full price for a modern rifle, or to purchase an obsolete rifle at a reduced price and to the injury of that branch of the Defence Force.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– Some time ago I called the attention of the late Minister for Home Affairs to the request of a deputation which waited upon him when he was in Fremantle. Among other buildings, he was shown over the Custom.house and the Post-office. I feel sure that he has not forgotten his experiences - in fact, he was almost afraid to go into the buildings to see the clerks at work. He promised that he would consider the representations of the deputation. Several months have elapsed, and the particular grievance of the inhabitants of Fremantle is that they have received no reply to their request. I do not see an item for the buildings on the Estimates. I feel sure that when the honorable gentleman looks into the matter he will realize that there is a real cause of complaint. I hope that he will soon be in a position to give an early reply to the request. Other matters were brought under his notice on that occasion. The Custom-house agents complained of the disabilities they were under with regard to their clerks. It appears that a Custom-house agent has to find sureties to the amount of £500 for the honesty and good behaviour of each clerk, and also to pay a licence-fee of £5. What the Customhouse agents complain of is that when from any cause a clerk is unable to carry on his work, even if only a single entry should have to be passed, a fee of £5 has to be paid for a substitute. I hope that the Minister will give his earnest attention to these matters.

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

– I rise to emphasize the point made by the honorable member for North Sydney. I think that the policy of the Defence Department all along has been to treat the rifle clubs with the scantiest possible consideration. In view of the immense importance attaching to the use of the rifle in warfare - particularly the kind of warfare which is most likely in Australia - we ought’ to pay great attention to the development of rifle shooting, and give more encouragement to those who are endeavouring to perfect themselves in this very necessary branch of the art of war. The rifle clubs are at present armed with obsolete weapons which would be of little service in the time of emergency. If we believe in rifle clubs the sooner we arm their members with uptodate and effective , weapons the better. When a rifleman changes his weapon for the purpose of .equipping himself with a rifle that will enable him to render the best possible service to the country, the least we can do is to make the transition as easy as possible for him. We should not expect a working man, or any other man, to plank down £4 for a new weapon because the’ weapon which he already has is obsolete. The least the Government can do is to give him a new one in exchange for his old rifle. He may be called upon to make a nominal payment, though I am not quite sure whether it would not be better policy not to charge him anything. It is quite sufficient for the State if the rifle is used, and if, as the result of practising, the rifleman makes himself an effective shot who may be depended upon in time of emergency. I therefore protest as strongly as I can against the scant courtesy paid to rifle clubs, and the right down scurvy treatment meted out to riflemen by the Defence Department. When a man determines to make himself a competent rifle shot, it means the expenditure of much money and time. If we are to add the cost of purchasing new rifles, it means that only those who have means at their disposal can become effective shots. Our present rifle clubs are using more or less obsolete weapons, which we are told will simply make them the sport of an opposing foe armed with superior rifles. Either we should abolish this arm of our defence altogether, or treat the riflemen in such a way as to make them an efficient standby in case of emergency. I understand that they do not object to a certain amount of drill. They will subscribe to any reasonable regulations which may have for their object the perfecting of riflemen in the art of guerilla- warfare. I trust that the Minister representing the Minister for Defence will bring this matter seriously under the notice of the Department ; and I hope to see the Government placing an order for a large quantity of up-to-date rifles - as many, at any rate, as will equip our forces with these necessary weapons.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:
PostmasterGeneral · Tasmania · Free Trade

– It will be obvious to honorable members who have made themselves familiar with the Public Service Act, that the observations made with respect to the grievances of certain officers by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Bourke have relation to decisions of the Public Service Commissioner. As such, they relate particularly to the Department of Home Affairs. But as the officers referred to are in the Post and Telegraph Department, I prefer to answer for myself. During the short period of my administration of the Department, I have learnt with very great regret that there are a number of cases in which real grievances exist. While it is no part of my duty to review the decisions of the Public Service Commissioner, I certainly shall take pleasure in seeing that all the officers in my Department are fairly and equitably dealt with. I can only do so by appealing to my colleages. It is a matter for Cabinet decision. It will be recognised that it is a rather serious thing to reverse ‘ the decisions of the Public Service Commissioner, but I am quite sure that Ministers will be prepared to consider any matter of importance. Certainly, the pay of an officer, whatever his grade may be, is a matter of importance. I shall lay before the Cabinet a considerable body of cases, which I have under my observation, with the view to a reconsideration of the decisions of the Public Service Commissioner. I shall do that without making any complaint concerning that gentleman or his decisions, or without offering any opinion as to whether or not they are wise decisions. Ministers will take the responsibility for whatever theymay do. The observations of the honorable members, to whom I have referred, are recorded in Hansard, and it will be my privilege and pleasure to take care that the instances to which allusion has been made, together with others with which I am familiar, are brought under the observation of Ministers at an early date.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 4342

PAPER

Sir WILLIAM LYNE laid upon thetable the following paper : -

Customs regulation - Duty on condensed whole egg-

page 4342

QUESTION

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS TASMANIA

Debate resumed (vide page 4327) upon motion by Sir William Lyne -

That this House approves of the proposed distribution of the State of Tasmania into five Divisions, named Darwin, Denison, Flinders, La Perouse, and Wilmot, as shown on the map laid upon the table of the House of Representatives on the 25th August, 1903.

Upon which Sir Philip Fysh had moved by way of amendment -

That the motion be amended by the omission of the words “‘Flinders” and “La Perouse” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Northcote “ and “ Franklin.”

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).When my speech was interrupted by thebusiness with which we have just dealt, I was referring to the nomenclature of theTasmanian divisions. I do not propose to pursue that question any further. I shall leave to the consideration of the Government the question whether they will perpetuate the name of my honorable friend the Postmaster-General by attaching it to one of the Tasmanian divisions. I should now like to make one or two observations upon the whole question under review. I find that the work of distributing the divisions in Tasmania has been done, upon the whole, very well. The officer in charge has ignored every other consideration than that of striving, as far as possible, to secure an equal voice to the electors of Tasmania, irrespective of whether they live in the country or are congregated in the towns. It has been affirmed by the Minister in charge of this proposal that there should be a distinctive classification of voters within the States. He has contended, for instance, that the country districts should have a preponderance of voting power. I protest as strongly ‘as I am able to do against so pernicious a doctrine being incorporated in our Federal electoral administration. Whatever reasons may operate within the States for differentiating between the values of votes in town and country such considerations have nomeaning as applied to Federal matters.

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

– I do not perceive the bearing of the interjection. I was about to remark that the fact that there is a Senate veto ought in itself to be sufficient without making a further differentiation between the values of votes. I take it that the fundamental principle of the Constitution is that the men and women of Australia, as such, should be considered in the composition of this House. It is equally a principle of the Constitution that the interests of the States, as distinct from the men and women of the States, should find expression in the Senate. If that principle of the Constitution is being preserved, it is a reason why, in elections for this House, we should obliterate as far as possible all distinctions in the various States. But, notwithstanding that the Minister in pre-Federation days stumped the country from end to end denouncing the Constitutution because it interfered with the principle of equal voting, the very moment he has to deal with the electoral arrangements of the Commonwealth he declares that these mischievous distinctions, as between town and country, shall be drawn in the Federal arena. We have nothing to do with roads and bridges here, or with the development of territory as such. Those things are still within State control. Therefore, whatever reasons may exist within the States for making these distinctions, they have no meaning as applied to Federal affairs. Let me take the distribution which is proposed by the Electoral Commissioner of Tasmania. I find that he has done his best to preserve an equal vote irrespective of where it may be located. In other words he has given the vote of the denizen of the city of Hobart quite as great a value at the ballot-box as he has given the vote of an elector in the sparsely - populated districts which are grouped together under the name of La Perouse. Indeed, the peculiar feature of this report is that some of the huge country districts of Tasmania contain more voters than do some of the city electorates. That is a complete reversal of the principle which the Minister has already insisted upon in connexion with the divisions of some of the other States. If the honorable gentleman were consistent, he would instantly move the rejection of the Tasmanian scheme. I shall be glad to know what reason he has to offer in support of the course which he has pursued in connexion with a State like Victoria. I want to hear from him some” reasons which will sustain his position in making this proposal. Take the case of La Perouse. I understand that it comprises about half of the whole island of Tasmania. Most of the electors resident within its boundaries are engaged in pastoral pursuits, but it also contains a large number of producers. I find that 16,000 voters in those districts are to return a member to this House. The district comprising the city of Hobart has only 16,000, and Launceston has but a very few more. I wish also to point out that the district embraced within the division of Darwin includes all the West Coast. It takes iu Queenstown and some of the mining centres on the coast. That is a division in which there are huge aggregations of people. Therefore, under the doctrine which has been laid down by the Government, the votes ought not to have the same value as have the votes of electors who are resident in the back portions of the island. Yet, strange to say, in Darwin, 15,000 electors return a member to this House, whilst in La Perouse there are more than 16,000. This, I repeat, is a complete reversal of the policy which has hitherto been adopted by the Government. I find no fault with the Tasmanian scheme in itself. To me it seems reasonable that the electors in the crowded centres of population should have an equal voice in the election of the new Parliament with those who are engaged in pastoral enterprises in the back country. A city man, I take it, is just as much interested as, and no more than, the country man in the questions of national import with which we have chiefly to deal. Throughout the whole of these arrangements the Minister for Trade and Customs refuses to assign any reasons in support of his action. He makes the briefest possible speech when introducing these resolutions. I am afraid that too much information would be fatal to the scheme of the Government, which seems to be to force through these electoral divisions simply to suit the interests of sitting members. Why is it that the only two States in which the divisions recommended are proposed for our acceptance are States which heretofore have had no district representation at all? The Minister can find every reason for rejecting the divisions recommended by the Commissioners in States in which the interests of sitting members are concerned, and in which, to use the language of the honorable member for North Sydney, “they have made a little nest for themselves.” But in States where no nests have been built by members, and where interference is now sought for the first time, he offers not the slightest objection to the divisions proposed. It seems peculiar that all the Minister’s contempt, scorn, and criticism is reserved for those States in which honorable members have sat down in their electorates, and do not wish to be disturbed. There is still another fact which we must take into consideration - namely, that in neither Tasmania nor South Australia are any divisions wiped out in toto. In those States there is no Mr. Chanter to lose, for instance, and no Mr. McColl. One cannot help noticing these distinctions, and I submit that the Minister ought to justify his action in so cordially acceding to the divisions recommended by the Electoral Commissioners of Tasmania and South Australia, whilst so decisively scouting the division recommended in the cases of Victoria and New South Wales. I am aware that an objection has been urged against the boundaries proposed in Tasmania on the ground that community of interest has not been considered. I know that the Electoral Act prescribes that in making these divisions the Commissioners shall have regard to community and diversity of interest as far as possible. But I ask again - “ What has community of interest to do with Federal affairs 1 “ It cannot possibly refer to the same community of interest that is implied when we are discussing those rural affairs which are within the control of the States Legislatures. We have nothing to do with the development and leasing of the lands of the interior, or with the construetion of roads and railways. J Just as the term * community of interest “ is limited by whatever functions attach to the State, so in Federal affairs it is equally limited. Thus, there can be no reason why a mining section of the community should not be incorporated in an electoral division which contains other producers, seeing that the ground for their inclusion is that there may be an adequate quota for the return of members to this House upon the basis of absolute equality. The Commissioner recognised this fact in connexion with the only objection which was made to the Tasmanian scheme. He points out that the fact that a constituency happens to be composed of miners affords no reason why it should be taken out of one division and attached to another. Altogether this scheme seems to be a fair one ; but its very fairness only serves to emphasize the injustice of the previous action of the Government and of this House in rejecting schemes which were quite as equitable-. To my mind, there is only one reason for the ‘ course which the Government have pursued. Unquestionably, they are endeavouring to suit the interests of the sitting members, oblivious of those of the people outside. If there is onething which we ought to remember in. connexion with a scheme of this kind, itis that this is not a members’ question but a people’s question. .lean conceive of no greater wrong being done to the democracy of Australia than that, in connexion with the first general election for this House, under our own Electoral law no account should be taken of the great accession to the voting strength of theCommonwealth which has resulted from theadoption of the principle of adult suffrage. If for no other reason than that, the Government should have gone out of their way,, should have strained every nerve to seethat in the new distribution of political power men and women had an equal vote. Instead of doing so they have ignored: that principle. I hold that this matter has. been arranged for weeks past. Those whoare most interested in getting these proposals carried in the manner proposed by the Government have been conspicuously absent from the debates in . this Chamber. They have taken no part in them, but havebeen content with simply recording their votes in favour of shutting out the possibility of any new divisions being made before the next election takes place. The Minister himself has told us that all the anomalies towhich attention has been called could have been rectified in time for the coming elections, but he tells us also that he declines to takesteps to rectify them. He has made up his. mind that the next elections shall take place upon the basis of the old divisions, and, in order to carry out that intention, he is bringing down a Bill which we shall have to consider.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That measure is not before the House.

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

– I wish to make only a passing reference to a measure which is to crown the work in which we are now engaged. I do not hesitate to say that the action of the Government in making these invidious distinctions, which can have no basis of reason, cannot be too strongly condemned. Distinctions are made solely out of consideration for members’ prospects and seats and ‘ are intended to serve purely party interests. The action of the Government amounts, in my judgment, to a gross betrayal of the people of the Commonwealth - a betrayal which I hope they will not be slow to perceive when they exercise their penal power at the ballotbox.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– A pleasing feature of this debate is that not one representative of Tasmania has offered any objection to the distribution proposed by the Commissioner. It redounds to their credit that they do not hesitate to accept the scheme submitted, and the same remark applies with . equal force to the attitude taken up by the representatives of South Australia in regard to the distribution of that State. The Commissioner for Tasmania, according to the report which he has presented, has been guided in his work by a due regard for the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. He has recognised the intention of this House that every vote shall be of equal value, and has carried out his work with almost mathematical precision. The minimum number of electors in any one division is 15,134, and the maximum 17,314, a difference of

Only 2,180 votes. It is an instructive commentary on the work of this House, that the distribution of Tasmania and of South Australia, which has been carried out with mathematical precision and with due regard to the laws bearing on the subject, has been freely accepted by the representatives of those States as well as by the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Minister asks us to accept this scheme, but a few da3’s agowe were invited by him to reject schemes for the distribution of other States, which had been carried out with equal regard for the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. The argument advanced in connexion with schemes relating to some of the other

States, that the electors residing in country divisions should be accorded a. greater measure of representation than is enjoyed by those who live in city electorates, has not been advanced in thiscase. The scheme for the distribution of Tasmania and South Australia will giveeffect to the principle of one man one vote,, and one vote one value. The leader of the Opposition is now focussing the attention of the electors of Australia on the contention of his party that all should stand upon an equal footing, and that the electorsiu one division should have no greater measure of representation than is accorded to those in other constituencies. As has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta, the Constitution affectstown and country electors alike. It knowsno ‘distinction between the fisherman at the Gulf of Capentaria, the gold miner in Coolgardie, the iron worker in 2few South Wales, the coal miner in Tasmania, or the boot manufacturer in Victoria, The Constitution affects them not as electors of a State, but as electors of Australia. In the same way we speak- here, not asrepresentatives of any one State, but asrepresentatives of the Commonwealth. In our legislation we have brushed aside all distinctions between town and country, and have paid no regard to the contention that the voting power of an elector residing in the country should be greater than that of an elector residing in a city division. Wefind that two objections have been lodged against Mr. Counsel’s scheme of distribution. We had two objections, and only two, lodged against the Commissioner’s scheme for the distribution of Queensland, but they were considered to justify the recommendation of the Government that the report should be rejected. In»this case, however, the Minister is prepared to waive these objections and to wholly disregard the fact that no distinction is made between town and country electors. The people of the thickly populated portions of the Commonwealth will learn -with surprise that the same principle is not to operate in relation to the distribution of each State. In each instance I have voted for the adoption of the Commissioner’s report, and’ unless soundreason can be advanced for the rejection of this and the scheme remaining to be dealt with,- 1 shall continue to observe that rule. The Commissioners for the various States were selected by the Government because they were considered to be the most suitable men for the work. They were appointed because it was believed that they were free from political influence of every kind, and that ti ley would carry out their work in strict accordance with the law. I fail, therefore, to see why we should go back upon the work of the Ministry. The Government have seen fit in certain eases to reject the work performed by their responsible officers. I, for one, however, have been willing to accept that work, and it seems to me that no greater reflection could be cast upon any responsible, officer than to set aside his proposals for no other reason than the contention that certain electorates will not suit certain people. The people of two of the smaller States, the distribution of which naturally presents many difficulties, have raised no opposition to the adoption of the scheme submitted by the Commissioners. No representative of the smaller States has pointed out that the proposed boundaries are objectionable, to him, and I regret sincerely from the Australian point of view that the recommendations of the Commissioners of all the States have not been dealt with in the same way. The leader of the Opposition is now focussing the attention of the people of the Commonwealth upon this question. If it is right that an elector in Tasmania should have his country residence disregarded - that he should be placed on an equal footing with the resident of a thickly populated centre - it is equally right that the same course should be followed in regard to the distribution of the other States. I compliment the Minister upon his action in inviting the House to approve of this scheme, and I deeply regret that a similar motion was not submitted in relation to each of the other divisions with which we have dealt. We have been told that the reports presented by the Commissioners for certain States were not thorough, although, as a matter of fact, some of them comprised near])’ forty pages. The Commissioner for Tasmania has presented us with a report that is a mere pocket-handkerchief document, but the Government consider that it sets forth sufficient reasons for the acceptance of the scheme. On the other hand, although the Commissioner for New South Wales furnished us with an exhaustive report in reference to his scheme, the Government determined that it should be rejected. Honorable members representing this State have urged that a greater measure of representation should be accorded the country elector than to the resident of a city division, and, that being so, I fail to see that they can consistently vote for the acceptance of this scheme. In the distribution of Tasmania their contention has been wholly disregarded. If- they were fighting for a principle when they voted against the adoption of some of the schemes submitted to us - and I have a right to believe that they were- they should certainly vote against the acceptance of this distribution, inasmuch as under it town and and country voters are treated alike.’ If they accept this motion they will adopt a one-sided attitude, and their action will go to show that honorable members of the Opposition w ere perfectly correct in asserting that this matter was being treated as a politician’s question rather than as a people’s question. Honorable members who have supported the adoption of the various schemes submitted by the Commissioners have been fighting a battle, not in the interests of any political party, but in the interests of the electors. We ask that every man and woman shall go to the ballotbox armed with equal power. The Electoral Act allows the Commissioners a certain working margin, but we find that in this case the Commissioner has so closely followed the law that he has not availed himself of anything like the margin allowed him. He has practically placed both city and country electorates upon an equality, and his work is an object lesson to many honorable members who voted a few days ago for an undue measure of representation for country electorates. This is a matter which involves no mere question of land adminstra- tion. The Constitution requires that every vote shall be of equal value, and we should uphold the Commissioner, whose division conforms to the requirements of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. I sincerely regret that the Ministry have seen fit in the past to depart from this principle, and in their return now to a proper recognition of it we find ample justification for the attack made upon them by the Opposition.

Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The Minister is to be congratulated upon his action in inviting the House to accept the Commissioner’s scheme of distribution. He started out last week with the best of intentions, and proposed that a similar distribution of one of the smaller States should be accepted. That proposal gained favour in the House, and was adopted. In perusing the report of the Tasmanian Commissioner it is satisfactory to find that, while the quota is 16,100, he has been able to carry out his work upon a margin of only 1,000 votes. While in some of the other States there is a difference of something like 10,000 votes between the electorates containing the greatest number of electors, and those containing the lowest number, we find that in the State of Tasmania the maximum disparity will be only 2,000. The possibility of an undue proportion of the electors being included in any one division was in the minds of honorable members when the Electoral Bil I was before the House some time ago, and when it was contended that a margin of one-fifth was greater than was necessary to insure a proper recognition of the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. If the argument advanced by the Minister of Trade and Customs, in support of the rejection of a scheme relating to another State, were a good one, it would amply justify the re.jection of the proposal now before the House. It appears that, in more than one State, honorable members availed themselves of the opportunity to lodge with the Commissioner objections to his proposed scheme of distribution. In each case they were able to bring before the officer evidence to prove to their satisfaction that the electorates might be more satisfactorily defined, but the Commissioners thought otherwise, and that seemed to weigh with the Minister as a reason for the rejection of the scheme. He disregarded the fact that the Commissioners were able to show that they had given considerations to the suggestions submitted to them, and had found that they could not be carried out with due regard to the quota. .Two objections were lodged with the Commissioner for Tasmania against the adoption of this scheme, and I find that in one case the objector made a very important suggestion that was quite in conformity with the Act. He said -

In accordance with the conditions set forth in the Examiner of the 1 7th instant, I make objection to the boundaries of the “Franklin” and “Wilmot” Divisions.

The George Town Electorate is now for the State Parliament in a mining one.

As it is now for the ‘Federal it is divided ; Beaconsfield gold-field being in “ Wilmot,” and “ Leroy “ portion in the “ Franklin.” I am voicing a large number of the electors in the North when I say the whole of the George Town Electorate should be in “ Franklin “ in the interests of the mining community, which at present under the proposed divisions is separated.

Notwithstanding the strong case made out by Mr. Joseph Davies, whose letter I havejust read, the Commissioner decided that hewould not be doing his duty if he made any alteration. Indeed, he took up the strong position that the gentleman who made the suggestion was interested, and that therefore the suggestion should not be accepted. But when we were dealing with the proposed distributions of the three large States, the Minister asked the House to disapproveof them, apparently because the representation of members to the Commissioners had been ignored. It appears, further, that the Tasmanian Commissioner would not go tothe expense of republishing the distribution in order to adopt the suggestion of theBurnie Chamber of Commerce, which, at aspecial sitting, recommended the substitution of the name Hellyer for Darwin. The Postmaster-General has already moved the substitution of the name Northcote for Hinders, and of Franklin for La Perouse, and possibly, since he claims, to be better acquainted with the Statethan any other member of the House, hemay be able to inform us whether the suggestion of the Burnie Chamber of Commerceshould be accepted. I shall not say moreon this question now, however, because it has been fully discussed,, and I understand that we shall have another opportunity todeal with the matter generally.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Hume · Protectionist

– I was pleased tohear the honorable member for Robertson say that I am “to be congratulated for the action which I have taken in regard to the Tasmanian distribution, though I am sorry that his compliment was accompanied by a good deal of abuse from those who sit with him. I am becoming heartily tired of theinsinuations which are persisted in by honorable members who ought to know better, and who have not the slightest excuse for them, except the tendency of their own minds, which makes them believe that they are the only pure members in the House.

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

– They were not insinuations, they were straight out statements.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Despite what has been said to the contrary, Tasmania is a particularly easy State to distribute into- divisions each containing approximately the same number of electors.

Mr Wilks:

– What about South Australia?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– The same remark applies to the populated parts of South Australia. Population is much more evenly distributed in Tasmania than in the other States. There is no centre of population there! which, in proportion to the whole population, is so large as Sydney or Melbourne.

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

– Hobart and Launceston contain half the population of the State.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– That statement is not correct. If the honorable member were acquainted with the country districts of Tasmania, he would know that the agricultural districts are well settled, the land, instead of being held in large estates tis in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, being divided into farms of 100, 150, and 200 acres.

Mr O’Malley:

– The Van Dieman’s Land Company keeps a large area locked up.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– Nodoubt a great deal of good land is improperly locked up by that company, but, speaking generally, the agricultural districts are well populated. In reply to the statements based upon the objection of Mr. Joseph Davies, as to community of interests not having been studied, I would point out that any one who knows the northern part of Tasmania must be aware that the River Tamar, which in many places is a mile wide, is a natural boundary which could not be ignored. It was largely for that reason that the Commissioner declined to entertain Mr. Davies’ suggestion. The mining population at Lefroy is a small one, while that of Beaconsfield is large. Beaconsfield has been put into the division which contains Devonport, while the division which has the east bank of the Tamar for a boundary takes in Scotsdale, a good farming district, though not a very extensive one, in which from 100 to 1 50 acres makes a farm sufficiently large to maintain a family. Going from Lefroy and the surrounding diggings you pass through that district, and then get into the mining district of Waterhouse, Scamander, and the tin-fields at Mussel Bow. I think that the Commissioner has done his work well, and there is no doubt he has been very much aided by that able officer, the Government Statistician, who would have been selected to do the work but for the fact that it was thought well to appoint the Surveyor-General of the State wherever the services of that officer could be obtained. An honorable member referred to a large tract of country in the interior as containing about 1,700 electors, but any one who knows Tasmania is aware that there are probably not more than a score of people living in the- barren waste which extends from the head of the Derwent to the mining fields of Mount Lyell, and to within twenty or thirty miles of the North Coast. I make these explanations to show how unfair, unjust, and inaccurate much of the criticism directed towards these proposals has been. I would furthermore point out, in answer to those who object that we are asking the House to approve of the proposed distributions of the States not hitherto divided, while we asked it to disapprove of the proposed distributions of the States which were originally divided under the State laws, that the Commissioners for the latter were required by the Act to consider as far as possible the boundaries of existing divisions. They did not, however, pay the slightest attention to that instruction.

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

– They must be a bad lot.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– The honorable member may think so.

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

– The honorable member says so.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I have not said anything of the kind, and the honorable member has no right to place in my mouth words which I have not uttered. The Electoral Bill, as originally introduced, did not require the Commissioners to have regard to the boundaries of existing divisions. On inquiring how that provision came to be inserted, I found that it was taken from the New South Wales Act, and that it was deliberately adopted, so that there might not be a ruthless destruction of existing divisions. As I have said, however, the instruction was not followed by the Commissioners. Of course, in regard to Tasmania and South Australia there could be no such instruction.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

- Mr. Speaker–

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member cannot speak now, the Minister having replied.

Amendment agreed to. ‘

Mr Crouch:

– I rise to a point of order. A motion is now being put from the Chair upon which the Minister has neither spoken nor replied, and therefore I submit that I have a right to speak.

Mr SPEAKER:

– As a matter of fact, the motion now being put is that which was originally moved by the Minister, and amended by the House a few moments ago. Therefore, it is not a new motion in any sense.

Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Resolved -

That this House approves of the proposed distribution of the State of Tasmania into five Divisions, named Darwin, Denison, Northcote, Franklin, and Wilmot, as shown on the map laid upon the table of the House of Representatives on the’ 25th August, 1903.

page 4349

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS : WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Hume · Protectionist

– I move -

That this House disapproves of the proposed distribution of the State of Western Australia into five Divisions, named Coolgardie, Fremantle, Kalgoorlie,- Perth, and Western, as shown on the maps laid upon the table of the House of Representatives on the 25th August, 1003.

The proposed distribution is not subject to the same objection that was urged in the case of the three Eastern States. Drought has not prevailed in Western Australia in the same sense as in the Eastern States.

Mr Fowler:

– There is always a drought in the interior of Western Australia.

Sir WILL r AM LYNE:

– Yes, I understand that there is a perennial drought upon the gold-fields. I should not be able to speak with much confidence upon this subject but for the visit which I had the privilege of making to Western Australia a few months ago. When I noticed that the Commissioner had added the suburb of Subiaco to the Fremantle division, I asked myself what community of interest could possibly exist between the detached portion of the Perth electorate and Fremantle. Again, it does not seem to me that there can.be any community of interest between the main body of electors in the Swan division, and the western portion of the Perth electorate, which has been added to it. I noticed further that a small slice had been taken off the Swan electorate and added to Kalgoorlie, the centre of population in that division being hundreds of miles away. The boundaries have been- most ruthlessly altered, and the reasons which have actuated the Commissioner are entirely beyond my conception. Roebourne has been detached from the Swan division and added to Coolgardie, with which division .it can have no community ‘ of interest. ToKalgoorlie, a small place called Plan.taganet has been added, but in that case only thirty voters are affected, and the alteration is perhaps - not of much consequence, except as showing the extent to. which existing boundaries have been disregarded. If for no other reasons than thosestated, we might very well ignore the recommendations of the Commissioner, and retain the divisions as they stand at present. A comparison of the existing divisions with those recommended by the Commissioner shows that, by retaining the present boundaries, we may preserve community of interest as far as possible and, at the same time, avoid any departure from the maximum or minimum. As the electorates now stand, Perth contains 26,000 electors ; Fremantle, 19,000; Coolgardie, 21,000; Kalgoorlie* 23,000- roughly ; and Swan, 25,400. I have been told that it would be better for the Government party if the new divisions were accepted.

Mr Fowler:

– It would not make much difference.

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

– Then the Minister has been discussing the matter from a party point of view ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– No ; there has been no discussion. I arn simply stating what individual members, some of them on the Opposition side of the Chamber, have told me regarding the proposed distribution.

Mr Winter Cooke:

– Was the Minister indignant at the suggestion ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:

– I can assure the honorable member that I should not allow any consideration of the kind to influence me in this matter. I only mention the circumstance because it has been suggested that the Government have been actuated by party motives in dealing with the reports of the Electoral Commissioners. If I desired to act from a party stand-point, I might do well to accept the distribution proposed, but I do not intend to take that course. I take all the responsibility, and all the odium, if there be any, of refusing to approve of the new boundaries, because community of interest has not been regarded, existing boundaries have not been preserved as they should have been according to the directions given to the Commissioner, and the population is so well distributed that in no case will the number of electors exceed the maximum or fall below the minimum.

Mr KIRWAN:
Kalgoorlie

– I am sure we are all very glad to learn that the Minister gained so much valuable information during his visit to Western Australia. It is, however, peculiar that he should have failed to clearly understand the distinction between Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. Coolgardie includes almost one-half of Western Australia, and yet the Minister spoke of Kalgoorlie as including Roebourne.

Sir W illiam Lyne:

– I corrected myself.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I only mention the matter incidentally as an evidence of the amount of information the Minister possesses, and of his ability to speak with Authority upon matters of detail. The Minister objects to the proposed distribution on the ground that proper regard has not been paid to community of interest. If he compares the proposed distribution with the existing divisions, he will see that community of interest was not studied when the former distribution was made. In a large State like Western Australia, it is almost impossible to take that element into account. In the case of the Coolgardie division, for instance, I should like to know what community of interest there is between the town of Coolgardie and Kimberley. The latter is a pastoral district, whereas Coolgardie is one in which mining is the principal industry.

Sir John FORREST:

– Mining is carried on at Hall’s Creek, in the Kimberley district.

Mr KIRWAN:

– The mining now carried on there is so trifling that it is hardly worthy of consideration.

Mr Fowler:

– Could any distinction be made in that case 1

Mr KIRWAN:

– Perhaps not; but that is exactly the point df my argument. The Minister objects to the proposed distribution on the ground that community of interest has not been considered, and I contend that it would be virtually impossible to divide the State in such a way that community of interest would be preserved. I contend that there can be no community of interest between Coolgardie and Kimberley.

Mr McCay:

– That applies to both maps.

Mr KIRWAN:

– The objection the Minister is now raising could be raised in regard to the present distribution.

Mr McCay:

– In the one case it is inevitable, and in the other case it is avoidable.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I do not agree with the honorable and learned member.

Sir William Lyne:

– Does the honorable member for Kalgoorlie approve of Subiaco being included in Fremantle ?

Mr KIRWAN:

– Yes. I suppose it is of no avail to protest against the action of the Government. It seems to me that the Government make up their minds, and that arguments from this side of the House have no effect. The only course that seems to bring the Government to their senses is the adoption of methods which everybody must deplore ; and that is not the way in which the business of the House ought to be conducted. It is not creditable to the Government that honorable members should be forced to devices of the kind I have indicated, in order to secure fair play ; and it is with a certain amount of dispirited feeling that one stands up in order to protest. I feel it my duty, however, to protest against the action of the Government in reference to Western Australia, as I have protested against their conduct in regard to the other States. If we are not to accept the proposals of the Commissioners in any of the States except Tasmania and South Australia, why were the provisions for the appointment of Commissioners inserted in the Electoral Act? Why did we waste days in discussing the question, and why were Commissioners appointed and honorable members supplied with all the printed documents referring to Commissioners’ reports 1 I point out to honorable members on the Government side, who are always crying out for economy, that money has been absolutely wasted in paying Commissioners and in printing the various reports submitted * to the Government. The proposals of the Commissioners are objected to in every instance except those of Tasmania and South Australia, where ‘ no personal considerations arise. It is most extraordinary that in four cases the House should be asked to disapprove of the recommendations of the Commissioners. It might have been thought that the Government had by this time exhausted their objections. The drought cannot possibly be used as an argument in favour of the old distribution of seats in Western Australia, nor can there be any objection on the ground of interference with the Commissioner in that State. The sole excuse now brought forward is that the Commissioner has not taken into account community of interests. To any one acquainted with the circumstances Qf Western Australia the natural reply suggests itself that that State must be divided into five electorates in order that each electorate may be as nearly as possible equal in regard to the number of electors, and that no possible distribution can be fully in accord with community of interests. In my opinion Mr.- Johnston, the Commissioner for Western Australia, has done his work very well, and deserves every credit. The objections, or some of them at any rate, now raised by the Government have already been met in the report of Mr. Johnston with counter objections. Honorable members, if they look at the division recommended by Mr. Johnston, will observe that, as far as possible, it is made so that each electorate shall have an equal number of electors. If it be the policy of the Government that country districts shall receive stronger representation than the towns, then, even from that point of view, Mr. Johnston’s division is much better than the present division. According to Mr. Johnston’s recommendations, the electorate of Perth has the largest number of electors, with 23,532 names on the roll ; while Coolgardie is the smallest constituency numerically, though the largest in area, with 21,978 names on the roll. Thus, according to Mr. Johnston, the difference between the largest electorate and the smallest electorate numerically, is only lj554 ; and surely it would not have been possible to get nearer to equality.

Mr Mahon:

– The old divisions are quite as near equality.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I shall be able to point out that the old divisions do not so nearly approach equality. Under the old division of the State the largest electorate numerically is Perth with 26,251 names on the roll, and the smallest is Fremantle, a city electorate, with 19,025 names - a difference of 7,226.

Mr Mahon:

– Still that is not under the minimum allowed by the quota.

Mr Fowler:

– The honorable member for Coolgardie is quite right; it is within the limit.

Mr KIRWAN:

– The quota, I understand, is 23,078, and one-fifth under that is allowed.

Sir William Lyne:

– The minimum is 18,463.

Mr KIRWAN:

– If that be so, the Fremantle electorate is slightly over the allowance. But the elections will have to be held under either Mr. Johnston’s division or the existing division, and the former far more nearly approaches equal electorates,and is more favourable to the country districts. That is a complete reversal of the policy which the Government pursued in the case of New South Wales. Where isthe consistency of the Government] In the distribution of Commonwealth electorates generally the Government have shown themselves to have more regard for the interests of individuals than for the interests of the electors and the people of Australia generally. I now come to the protests which have been made against Mr. Johnston’s division. There is one protest from the Subiaco Municipal Council, and another from a public meeting held at the same place. But these protests, are answered by a letter from the Fremantlebranch of the Political Labour Party of Western Australia, who disapprove of theaction of the Fremantle Municipal Council in passing a resolution objecting to the proposal to include Subiaco in. Fremantle.

Mr Fowler:

– That is to say the Political Labour Party know better theaffairs of Subiaco than do the people of Subiaco themselves ?

Mr KIRWAN:

– I am putting one protest as against the other. The best reply tothe Government is given by Mr. Johnston in portions of his report which the Ministerhas been very careful to overlook. Mr. Johnston states -

You will observe from the foregoing that thechief objection to my proposed boundaries appears due to the inclusion of Subiaco in the Fremantledivision. My reason fordoing so was on account of the necessity foi- increasing the voting power of Fremantle, as I interpret section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to mean that the quotas should be adhered to as nearly as practicable.

I think that was the intention of honorablemembers when we were discussing the Commonwealth Electoral Bill. It was generally recognised that it was impossible to have perfectly equal electorates, and thata certain margin must be allowed. A margin of one-fifth was allowed in consequence, but I do not think that any member of this.

House believed that the full margin of onefifth was to be availed of in every case, but that, on the contrary, advantage should be taken of the margin only when there was no other way out of the difficulty.

Mr McCay:

– Every honorable member did not take that view.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I do not specially refer to honorable members who, like the honorable member for Corinella, represent country constituencies, and who contend that residents of the country should be given greater political power than residents of cities and towns. ‘ I am satisfied that a majority of the members of this House hold democratic views - at all events, on the platform ; and they have repeatedly expressed themselves in favour of liberal principles, and of representation on the true basis that every man should have equal political power so far as his vote in returning members to this House can give it to him. It is strange that men who on platforms and elsewhere speak, as a rule, so loudly in favour of equal electorates, and of one vote one value, are conspicuous on this occasion by their absence from the House, and have left to honorable members, whom they, are accustomed to deride, and who they say are not representatives of liberals and democrats, to endeavour to secure a true division of electorates in the interests of the people of Australia.

Sir William Lyne:

– I am glad the honorable member has found out what he is.

Mr KIRWAN:

– The Minister for Trade and Customs does not like to hear what I am saying, because he knows that what I am contending for is in accordance with the principle which men of his stamp advocate when on the platform, but which they evade when they get into this House. I say that this report of the Commissioner for Western Australia is the severest indictment which could be brought against the action of the Minister. Speaking of the objections which were raised to the divisions which he proposed, Mr. Johnston says -

I gave the subjects mentioned in sub-sections a, b, e, d, and e of section 16 the fullest consideration, and maintain that the interests of Subiaco andFremantle are not so diverse as to preclude their inclusion in the same division. Subiaco is an industrial centre, and some of the other component parts of the same division are largely so. The means of communication between the two divisions are eood.

These are points which the Minister, with all his knowledge of Western Australia, kept in the background. Mr. Johnston further defends his proposed divisions as follows : -

Having decided to include Subiaco in the Fre mantle division, I deemed it necessary to extend the boundaries of Perth, to include the Swan State electorate. That electorate embraces a mixed community, composed of farmers, market gardeners, orchardists, and a considerable number of men employed in the firewood, stone, and gravel industries ; the chief market for whose products is in the city or the adjacent suburbs or towns ; their interests are largely metropolitan ones, and in my opinion there is more community of interests between the Swan and Perth electorates than between the former and the other State electorates within the existing Swan Commonwealth division.

He further says. -

My proposal to include the Swan State electorate in the Perth division made it necessary to adopt a new name for the present Swan Commonwealth division, which I propose to call ‘ Western “ - a name suggestive of this State and descriptive of the geographical position of thedi vision. The proposed boundaries of the Coolgardie division differ from those existing, in two places : The Roebourne State electorate has been included with the object of increasing the voting strength, and because the Roebourne interests are very similar to those of the most northern parts of this division. The other alteration is on the southern end of the eastern boundary, and is suggested with the object of making the boundary more uniform and to partly follow the Gairdner River ; this amendment will have little, if any effect, however, upon the Voting strength.

I contend that Mr. Johnston is to be congratulated upon the excellent division he has proposed. As he puts it himself, he has as nearly as possible adhered to the quota, and he has considered community of interest as fully as is practicable in view of the great extent of the State. I shall therefore vote against the motion. Having appoin ted a Commissioner for this purpose, we should accept his work unless very good reasons can be shown for rejecting it. Good reasons have not been advanced for rejecting the work of Mr. Johnston. We have incurred a considerable amount of expense in the appointment of these Commissioners, who have to be paid, and a certain amount of money has been expended upon the printing of their reports. There has been no drought in Western Australia, community of interest has been considered as far as possible in view of the extent of the State, and in all the circumstances I sincerely hope that the House will- reject the motion.

Mr FOWLER:
Perth

– I must say that I have been rather surprised by the speech’ of my honorable friend, the member for Kalgoorlie. It appears to me to have been the speech rather of a violent partisan than of an honorable member of this House anxious to enlighten his fellow members, most of whom are in absolute ignorance of the facts, I admit at the outset that the existing arrangement of my electorate will undoubtedly suit me better than that proposed by Mr. Johnston. But if I have no better reason for speaking than that I should not occupy the time of honorable members. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie will remember that he and I have had one or two conversations upon this matter of dividing the different States into electorates, and he will recollect that I expressed the opinion to him that it would probably be a matter of impossibility for the Western Australian Commissioner to depart from the existing boundaries, and it comes to me as a very great surprise indeed that he has shown his versatility in the way in which he has done. I have absolutely failed to discover his reasons. My honorable friend has tried to give certain reasons, but they are of a kind which are more likely to mislead honorable members than to assist them to arrive at a true conception of the position. For instance, he has brought forward the case of the Coolgardie division, and pointed out that there is not a community of interest between Coolgardie and Kimberley. No one would pretend that there is that absolute community of interest between those two places which exists in the case of other parts of the State. No one would contend that it is possible to make any other arrangement of that part of the country than that which exists. But as regards the coastal districts, there is a community of interest which has been absolutely ignored - in fact, outraged in the most ridiculqus fashion, as I shall show. I think that the House will admit that I am in a better position to explain the situation in connexion with the Perth and Fremantle electorates than is my honorable friend.

Mr Kirwan:

– Or the Commissioner ?

Mr FOWLER:

– Or, possibly, than the Commissioner. It will be noticed that Subiaco has been taken from the Perth electorate and added to the Fremantle electorate. Subiaco adjoins Perth City proper as closely as do any of the suburbs round Melbourne adjoin that city. The distance between post-office and post-office is three miles. The tram, which runs along the principal street of Perth, also runs along the principal street of Subiaco without a break. To all intents and purposes Subiaco is a part of Perth. The great majority of the people who live in Subiaco are connected with Perth by business interests. This part of the Perth electorate is now proposed to be added to the Fremantle ‘ electorate, which is twelve miles away, and to counterbalance the subtraction of such a large number of electors, the Commissioner has taken the very heart out of the Swan electorate - the State electorate which gives the Federal electorate its name - and included it in the Perth electorate. In other words, the Subiaco part of the Perth electorate has been wrenched away and added to the Fremantle electorate, twelve miles away ; and to counterbalance the subtraction a part of the country, taking in a distance of fifty miles from Perth has been added.

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

– It is very wrong to rob nests like that.

Mr FOWLER:

– Yes. I am well aware that honorable members who have taken up this attitude of hostility are not likely to give those who differ from them credit for very much public spirit or public consideration.

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

– As much as the honorable member gave us when he voted us out.

Mr FOWLER:

– I am proud of the vote I gave in connexion with the sinister conspiracy which the honorable member voted for - I refer to the proposal relating to Queensland - and if he is prepared to defend his action on that occasion I am not in. the least afraid that I cannot defend my action on this occasion. The Town Clerk of Subiaco has sent to me a copy of a resolution, which was unanimously arrived at, in these terms -

That we, the electors of Subiaco, Western Aus tralia, do hereby protest against the inclusion of Subiaco in theFremantle electorate of the House of Representatives. Federal Parliament.

The Commissioner has reported that he had considered all the objections and suggestions which had been made . I sent to him a letter in which I pointed out what I thought was the proper re-arrangement to make if it should be considered necessary to make any re-arrangement. The Fremantle electorate includes a considerable stretch of country, and by adding some to that area he could have made all the re-arrangement necessary in the case of Fremantle - that had the lowest number - without this violent outrage of the principle which was laid before him in the Electoral Act. He has made no mention of that matter at all. Evidently he did not consider it. In conversing with the honorable member for Fremantle on the matter subsequently, I found that he agreed with me that that would have been the proper and natural arrangement to make. Under the provision of the Act, I repeat, there is no necessity for making any re-arrangement, and it has been left to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to go one better than those who have protested against re-arrangements in other States, and have argued that the provision of the Act should be complied with and that the minimum and maximum should be regarded. My honorable friend is evidently of the opinion that the provision of the Act is not sufficient for his purpose, and that an impossible condition of things without regard to the Act is what the House ought to approve of.

Mr Kirwan:

– I said what the Commissioner said, that the quota should be adhered to as nearly as possible.

Mr FOWLER:

– That is a relative term. I contend that under the old arrangement he is within the provision of the Act, and the “as nearly as possible” of my honorable friend was regarded much more effectively than it is under the suggested alteration. There is another reason which I think is worthy of some consideration by the House, and that is that the State Parliament is engaged upon a redistribution of seats and necessarily a re-arrangement of boundaries. If the present conditions were adopted the State and Federal boundaries would not be identical. All through these discussions that has been insisted upon as a necessary condition. In view of the temporary nature of the arrangement which the Commissioner has suggested, and of the circumstances which I have just stated, I utterly fail to see what justification there is for interfering with a condition that is within the limits of the Act. As I have said, the present arrangement suits me better than that proposed. My electorate under present circumstances is what may be fairly called an urban one ; but to drag a portion right out of its heart and put that portion into an electorate which has undoubtedly conflicting interests, and then to add a portion of the country as far as fifty miles away, is utterly absurd. It has been contended that Fremantle and Perth have no conflicting interests.’ Any one who is acquainted with the position of the two cities will agreewith me that there is a great deal of enmity and a very great conflict of interests between Perth and Fremantle. Taking the matter as a whole, and regarding it in a broad, rational way, apart from party considerations, I think the House will have no difficulty in agreeing with the Minister in charge that the present arrangement is a much better one, and more in conformity with the Act than the alteration proposed ; and therefore there is no justification for its being disturbed-.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– It is not my intention to say much, because I feel certain that the Minister for Home Affairs, who ‘probably knows more than any man in Australia with regard to the State from which he comes, will be able to place the subject before honorable members in such a way as to enable them to form a fair opinion, The reason for my objection to the proposed subdivision is that there is really no community of interest between Subiaco and Fremantle. Fremantle is not only an industrial centre. For fifty or sixty miles it comprises timber ranges, and also includes many electors who are engaged in agriculture. It appears to me, as it will appeal’ to every honorable memberwho knows Western Australia - and I regret that more honorable members who were invited to go to Western Australia during the recess did not avail themselves of theopportunity of making themselves acquainted with the local conditions - that, if the Commissioner had taken into consideration the community of interest of the peopleliving along the coast, he would, instead of giving Subiaco to Fremantle, have taken more of the coastal district for that electorate. Any one can see from the map that Fremantle could be extended with very little difficulty. There is a centre called the Williams, which could be added, and, if Swan were added also, it would have made up for the 4,000 electors from Subiaco who were added to Fremantle. I fear that the Commissioner has not taken into consideration the fact that the ‘population of Western Australia is increasing largely. Within the last two or three years it has increased by thousands. Ourmonthly increase is something like 1,200. The land is being settled in a phenomenal. (manner. It is important to remember that no further alterations in the boundaries will be made for three years if we adopt the redistribution now proposed. It is not necessary to go any further into the subject, because I am certain that if honorable members know anything of the country, or if they pay attention to what is said by those who do know, they will support the Government on this occasion.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– I am glad that in regard to the Western Australian divisions we have had a fuller explanation from the Minister than has been given in regard to the Other constituencies. We have also had complete information from the representatives of the State concerned. It might be invidious for me, who cannot pretend to be well acquainted with the local conditions of Western Australia, -to go into details, and I do not intend to do so. I will only deal with some of the general principles that have been referred to. In the first place, it is maintained that under the Act there was no necessity to make alterations in the boundaries. I agree with the Commissioner for Western Australia that the Act does require alterations to be made, unless it can be shown that the existing divisions in all respects thoroughly fulfil the conditions laid down not only in regard to the quota, but the other considerations enumerated also. Unless the existing divisions thoroughly fulfil the requirements, it is necessary to re-subdivide.

Sir John Forrest:

– We say that they do.

Mr THOMSON:

– The section says-

In making any distribution of States into divisions, the Commissioner shall give due consideration to - a, community of interest ; b, means of communication ; c, physical features ; d, existing boundaries of divisions, and subject thereto the. quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution.

That is to say, the quota is to be the basis, subject to the conditions enumerated. Consequently, if the Commissioner could give consideration to these conditions, and at the same time get close to the quota, he was bound to re-divide under the Act. He states that he has been able to approximate to the quota without disregarding the other conditions. That being so, he was bound to re-distribute, because the quota is fixed as the main consideration, and a variation is only allowed in regard to the other conditions mentioned in the section. It has also been urged by the honorable member for

Fremantle that the contemplated alterations in State boundaries is another reason for deferring the re-division. If that is to affect our decision either now or in the future, when could we ever bring about a re-division? In one or other of the six States there will always be some approaching or threatened re-distribution of their own electorates.

Mr Mahon:

– Does the honorable member think that an expanding country like Western Australia can impose arbitrary conditions and adhere to them for all time ?

Mr THOMSON:

– That is precisely what I am arguing. In the six States there will continually exist a need for effecting redistributions. If. that is to be regarded as a reason for deferring the work of dividing the States into electorates for the Commonwealth - as has been urged by the honorable member for Perth - we shall always be met with that objection.

Mr Mahon:

– But in this case the divisions are imminent.

Mr THOMSON:

– In Australia changes of that sort will always be imminent. If we defer the division of the different States into electorates for this House upon that ground the work will never be undertaken. In a country like Australia, with its floating population, and with the ne:cessity which exists under the Electoral Act to approach a quota as nearly as possible, the electoral boundaries must be continually changing. It is, therefore, impossible for the Commissioner to absolutely adhere to any defined boundaries, because of the nature of the instructions which are issued to him.’ I would further point out that the Minister himself selected each of the Electoral Commissioners. Yet, without imputing to them any improper conduct, he practically says that not one of the four has shown himself to be competent to discharge the duties which he was called upon to perform.

Mr Mahon:

– Another proof of human fallibility.

Mr THOMSON:

– Apparently the fallibility carries with it no responsibility. There is no responsibility in this case, either with the Minister or with the Commissioners. If the latter have done their work so badly as he seems to suggest, they should have been sent about their business and somebody else appointed to undertake it. Rather than that the next elections should be conducted on the existing boundaries, which will involve tremendous ‘inequalities of voting power and representation, why were the divisions not referred back to the Commissioners ? Surely it would not have been such a gigantic task to alter those boundaries so as to render them acceptable to Parliament had the Commissioners been informed of the reasons which prompted their rejection. Instead of adopting that course we are abandoning everything that we nave done, and practically admitting that we are unable to carry our own laws into effect. The future, I repeat, will present precisely similar difficulties to those which exist now, and the only way in which they can be overcome is by remitting the decision of this matter to a body which is entirely outside of the control of Parliament.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I do not propose to traverse any of the elementary truisms which have been uttered by the honorable member for North Sydney. But I put it to him - Would he like Darlinghurst, which is a suburb of Sydney, to be attached to Parramatta 1 There is quite as much community of interest between Darlinghurst and Parramatta as between Subiaco and Fremantle. The cases are exactly parallel. Subiaco is as much a suburb of Perth as Richmond is a suburb of Melbourne. It is absurd to attach a district like Subiaco, which is really a component part of Perth, to Fremantle. I have every respect for an officer who is appointed by the Government to carry out a work of this kind, and is free from all party considerations ; but I do not regard him as being infallible, especially when I find him guilty of what on the face of it is an absurd division. Let us look for a moment at the electorate of Fremantle. The honorable member said that he did not propose to deal with the local aspects of this question ; but if he had examined the map before him he would have seen at once that the Fremantle division might readily have been extended in a southerly direction, and that in that way the requisite number of electors could have been obtained. I doubt whether any honorable member is so absolutely indifferent as I am to the mapping out of these electorates. I care not whether the Commissioner’s scheme be accepted or rejected. It matters nothing to me which course is adopted. I should like to say, however - and now is the time to say so - that it is a tribute to the work done by the present Minister for Home Affairs, who divided the State into electorates for the first Federal elections, that after the lapse of nearly three years, and notwithstanding the enlarged experience which we have obtained, so little alteration has been made in the boundaries of the several divisions. I heard many compla’ints some three years ago, and I am not sure that I did not join in them, in regard to the proposed electorates, but I must freely admit, with the fuller knowledge that I now possess, that no other subdivision could have been justly made.

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

– Who carried out the work ?

Mr MAHON:

– The boundaries of the Federal electorates were determined by the Parliament of Western Australia, of whichthe Minister for Home Affairs was the> guiding spirit.

Mr Kirwan:

– There were no objections; to the Federal divisions ; complaint wasmade only in regard to the electorates for the State House.

Mr MAHON:

– Repeated objectionswere raised, to the Federal electorates, and I believe that some complaints appeared in the honorable member’s own journal.

Mr Kirwan:

– No ; the complaints were only in reference to the electorates for the State House.

Mr MAHON:

– I distinctly recollect that numerous objections were raised to the Federal electorates. I deplore the fact thatoccasion has arisen for any difference of opinion in relation to a matter of this, kind between the representatives of Western Australia in this House. I especially regret to find myself at variance with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but if I were to allow his arguments to pass unanswered, I should not do justice to the House. The honorable member for Perth has already pointed out the absurdity of the remarks which were made by him as tothe community of interest between Subiacoand Fremantle. That suggestion has fallen to the ground. As I have already observed, no one is more indifferent to the distribution of Western Australia than I am. The only complaint which I have to make applies not to the Government nor the Opposition individually, but to the Parliament as a whole, for it has disfranchised about 25,000 aborginals who would otherwise have been my constituents.

Mr Thomson:

– The honorable member objected to the proposed schemes of distribution in respect of four of the States.

Mr MAHON:

– I said nothing about the division of the other States into electorates.

Mr Thomson:

– But the honorable mem ber voted against the proposed schemes.

Mr MAHON:

– Not so. I voted for the “Victorian scheme. The only other vote I gave was for the rejection of the Queensland scheme of distribution, and in view of the revelations which were made as to the way in which that scheme was prepared, I think that my vote was amply justified. I am fully prepared to defend the position which I took up in regard to the division of that State into electorates. I am thoroughly at one with those who say that we should, as nearly as possible, give due representation to population. I shall heartily join with those who support the observance of that principle wherever it is possible to do so, but I consider it has been shown during the debates which have taken place on the proposed schemes of distribution that, in some cases, it is almost impossible to give it full effect. In seeking to give effect to that principle, a more serious injustice might be inflicted on the people than would be done by allowing the existing divisions to remain. I, for one, shall vote for the motion, and I trust that it will be carried.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Home Affairs · Swan · Protectionist

– I can also say that if I. intended to contest the Federal electorate of Swan, the scheme of distribution prepared by the Commissioner would be satisfactory to me. If I may be permitted for a moment to deal I with this question from a party point of j view, I should like to point out that the Commissioner’s scheme is quite as favorable to the Government as are the existing divisions, and that, in some respects, it is even more favorable. I desire to say at this stage - and it is right that I should do so - that I am acquainted with the Commissioner, Mr. Johnston, who is the Surveyor-General for Western Australia. We were associated together for a great number of years. When I was SurveyorGeneral and Commissioner of Lands in Western Australia, he was one of my officers, and I know him to be an upright, honorable, and absolutely trustworthy man, possessing a very wide knowledge of Western Australia. There are very few men in that State who have travelled over a greater portion of it, and are more intimately acquainted with its varied characteristics. 9 n

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

– The right honorable gentleman thinks that no better man could have been found for this work1!

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I recommended his appointment.

Sir William Lyne:

– Hear, hear ; I did not know him.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I recommended ‘ him as being the most suitable man that I knew of to carry out a work of this kind. In my opinion, one reason why the distribution of this State, and also of several other States, has failed to meet with as much approval as we should like, is that a mistake was made in intrusting so important and difficult a task to one individual. If, for example, three Commissioners had been appointed, we should not have experienced the difficulty and dissatisfaction that have occurred. The subdivision of Western Aus-‘ tralia into five electorates for the first Federal elections was made by the State Government, of which I was the head, and was submitted to the Legislative Assembly as a Government proposal. It was then, in accordance with the usual custom in that State, sent to a Select Committee, consisting of members from both sides of the House, and I remember well that the Select Committee were almost entirely in accord in regard to the divisions submitted by the Government. Very little alteration was made by the Select Committee, which, I think, settled the whole matter in one sitting. The existing Western Australian divisions are in absolute conformity with the provisions of the Electoral Act. Community of interest is preserved as far as possible, except, perhaps, in regard to the northern part of the State. The Kimberley districts would have been included in the Swan division, but. for the fact that they are separated from it by the State electoral district of the Pilbarra goldfields, and therefore in order to avoid Swan division being cut into two parts by the Pilbarra district both Kimberley and Pilbarra are included in the Coolgardie division. I may say that I have never communicated, either directly or indirectly, with the Commissioner on the subject of the proposed distribution, though when I saw his proposals I at once formed the opinion that they were not as suitable as the existing divisions. I have not written to him on the subject, however, because as a member of the Commonwealth Government, and as his old friend and chief, I felt some delicacy about doing so, and therefore he is probably still unaware of my views In my opinion, community of interest has not been sufficiently regarded, notwithstand ing the direction of the statute. To include Subiaco with Fremantle is certainly undesirable, since they are quite distinct places, Subiaco is a suburb of Perth, and is only two miles from the Perth Town Hall, electric trams running to and from the city continuously at short intervals throughout the day. Most ofthe residents of Subiaco find employment in Perth, and there is continuous intercourse between the two places, Fremantle, on the other hand, is 10 miles from Subiaco, and the communication between the two places is by railway. ‘ Probably only a comparatively few workmen living in Subiaco go to Fremantle to pursue their daily avocation. Therefore, in my opinion, Subiaco should be included in the Perth electorate rather than in the Fremantle electorate.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The Commissioner says that it is necessary to include Subiaco in the Fremantle division, in order to obtain the quota.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– It seems quite clear that such was not necessary. The Commissioner seems to me to have considered that the main thing he had to do was to keep to the quota, whereas the other instructions in the Act are equally imperative. He was given a margin to use unrestrictedly, and he should, I think, have used it in this instance in order to comply with . the statutory discretion given as to community of interest between Subiaco and Perth. The proposal to place 1,700 electors of the Swan division in the Perth division would not have been objectionable if it had been necessary, because the people of the State electoral district of Swan do their business in Perth, the capital being to a large extent their market town. But, in my opinion, the alteration is not necessary. There are enough people in Perth to obtain a quota for the division, and as the State electorate of Swan is a rural district it is proper that it should form a part of the Federal rural division of Swan. Coming to the Kalgoorlie division, I find that the Commissioner has amended its boundaries so as to include thirty electors from another division. I may explain that the existing Commonwealth divisions are each made up of so many State electoral districts, of which the Plantagenet electoral district is wholly within the Swan division.

The Commissioner, however, proposes to add part of that district to the Kalgoorlie division.

Mr Kirwan:

– He gives a reason.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– It is not, I think, a sufficient reason under existing ‘ conditions. There would be no objection to using a river as a boundary but for the fact that we had adopted the boundaries of the State electoral districts. In my opinion, it is unnecessary to interfere, unless for some veiy good reason, with the existing divisions, with which the people have become acquainted. Each of these divisions is made up of so many State electorates, and, by leaving the boundaries unchanged, we can avail ourselves of the services of the local registrars and returning officers, and compile our rolls from the State rolls, because the franchise is the same in both State and Commonwealth Parliaments: The Coolgardie electorate has been mainly altered for the purpose of taking in the Roebourne electorate, the latter being a State constituency containing 28G electors. It is difficult to understand why the immense area represented by the honorable member for Coolgardie lias been altered for the sake of including 286 electors? Such an alteration is not necessary to comply with the Act, and Roebourne is for the most part devoted to’ the pastoral industry, and is 1,000 miles away from the mining districts.

Mr Mahon:

– No thought was given to community of interests in that case.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not see why the Swan electorate should be altered for the sake of these 2S6 people, seeing that community of interests is already secured, including the towns of Roebourne arid Cossack.

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

– The Commissioner tells us why.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The reason given by the Commissioner is that there is just as much community of interests there as anywhere else ; but the Commissioner has had regard to the quota instead of having regard to the statute. The Commissioner had the Act before him, but seems to me to have read one part, and not to have given sufficient consideration to the other part.

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

– Yet the right honorable gentleman says that the Commissioner is the best man that could have been appointed.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That is so. In Fremantle the numbers are rather small, but still they are within the margin allowed by the. Act. It would have been better to include the Swan electorate with Fremantle, rather than to include Subiaco. Fremantle already has a large roll of population in the rural Murray district. It would be highly undesirable to include a suburb of Perth with Fremantle, ten miles away. I should have very much liked to agree with the Commissioner, because I recognise that he has done his best. I can only conclude that the nature of his report is due to the fact that the work was new to him, and that he did not altogether realize the latitude given by section 16 of the Act.

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

– Or the political exigencies.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I know the conditions prevailing in Western Australia, and I do not see that there is any political advantage so far as the Government are concerned, nor is there, so far as I know, any personal advantage to myself. This report would have to be returned with definite information as to the opinions expressed by this House, and that would be practically instructing the Commissioner what he had to do ; and it is not desirable that we should make an exception by returning the report in this case. Although I am not aware of the conditions in regard to the other districts affected, I have no hesitation in saying that I cannot bring myself to the conclusion that there is any necessity to alter the existing division ; and, unless there is some very good reason, the division should, I think, be left as it is. There is a great difference between giving and taking ; it is very easy to give, but to take away is another matter. I can assure honorable members that, whatever may be said as to the -constitutional aspect of this action, I am confident that they will do no mischief or injury to the people of Western Australia by leaving the electorates as they are at the present time.

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

– I think it a pity that the honorable member for Perth should have condescended to make personal charges, and to tell me that I have been taking part in the conspiracy in Queensland. I should like to know what authority the honorable member has for sayingthat there has been any conspiracyin that State ; because I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to support such a statement. It is unfortunate that such charges should be hurled across and about the House concerning the Commissioner for Queensland without any evidence in their support. Have we arrived at such a state of things that honorable members, in order to carry out their own plans and purposes, have to abuse an officer outside the House, who is not here to speak for himself, and charge him with the gravest offences of which a public servant could be guilty? .

Mr Watson:

– Does the honorable member think that the charges are made only for that purpose ?

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

– I can only come to that conclusion, seeing that no evidence has been given in support of the charges.

Mr Mahon:

– I thought we were discussing the Western Australian boundaries.

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

– So we are ; but I am replying to an accusation that I took part in a conspiracy.

Mr Mahon:

– I think that charge was brought about by an interjection of the honorable member.

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

– I do n6t believe there was any conspiracy ; and whatever I may have to say of honorable members I should not stoop to charge public officers with grave offences unless I had the requisite evidence to support the charges. I hope the honorable memberfor Perth will be quick to furnish the necessary evidence, because there is a cloud over this official, who, so far as we know, is a worthy man in every respect, and the cloud ought to be lifted or the official suffer the consequences. The Minister for Home Affairs told us that the Commissioner for Western Australia is a most capable man, and that he has done his best ; and yet in the next sentence we were informed that the Commissioner had not read the Act.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say that.

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

– The right honorable gentleman said that the Commissioner could not have read the Act.

Sir John Forrest:

– No.

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

– The right honorable gentleman said that the arrangements recommended by the Commissioner are absurd.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say that ; what I said was that the Commissioner had given too much consideration to one part of the Act and not sufficient consideration to another.

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

– The right honorable gentleman said the Commissioner had not read the Act.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say that.

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

– I venture to say that to all the criticisms of the recommendations the Commissioner has furnished complete answers.

Sir John Forrest:

– I have read those answers.

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

– The right honorable gentleman says that the Commissioner’s recommendations^ in regard to Roebourne and Kalgoorlie are absurd ; but here are the Commissioner’s reasons -

The proposed boundaries of the Coolgardie Division differ from the existing in two places : -

  1. The Roebourne State electorate has been included with the object of increasing the voting strength, and because’ the Roebourne interests are very similar to those of the most northern parts of this division.
  2. The other alteration is on the southern end of the eastern boundary, and is suggested with the object of making’ the boundary more uniform and to partly follow theGairdner River ; this amendment will have little, if any, effect, however, upon the voting strength.

The Commissioner says that the alteration was made to secure a better division and a better boundary. Surely that is a sufficient reason, and whether thirty electors or 1,000 were added it would afford a complete justification for his action. Community of interest is not the only consideration to be taken into account.

Mr Watson:

– Butsurelyaboundary should not be altered for the sake of thirty votes ?

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

– Why . not, if a better boundary could be secured ? The boundary of the electorate which I represent was altered by Mr. Houston to include very few more votes than are involved inthe case under notice.

Sir John Forrest:

– But the same system was not followed in New South Wales and in Western Australia.

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

– I do not suppose it was, but apparently, irrespective of the system which may have been followed, the proposed distributions are to be rejected. The Minister for Trade and Cus toms, in submitting the motion, told us that fortunately he had recently visited Western Australia. I believe that he was there for a fortnight, and that during a part of that time the weather was so sultry that he had to take refuge down a mine. For a further portion of the time he was chasing through the State, like Sir Galahad, following up the honorable member for East Sydney and answering his statements from time to time. After this gallop through Western Australia theMinister has comeback here and has ventured to criticise the work of an officer who has lived in the State all his life, and who knows more about it than perhaps any other man there. It is admitted that the Commissioner has an intimate knowledge of the State, and that he is a man of high capability, and yet the Minister has the effrontery to tell him that he does not know his own business. I ask honorable members to consider whether the alterations proposed are of sufficient importance to justify the rejection of the whole scheme. What does the displacement of voters in Subiaco mean ? Only 4,000 voters are affected, and in the case of Roebourne 250 are concerned, or altogether 4,250 voters who have been transferred from one division to another, as compared with a total of 115,000 in the State. Will honorable members . say that any slight inconvenience to which these 4,250 people may be subjected ought to be weighed against the interests of 1 1 5,000 voters ? The objections urged by the Minister, and by others who havesupported him, are trumpery in the extreme, and furnish no justification for rejecting the proposed distribution. The Minister for Trade and Customs told us that it had been suggested by some members of the Opposition that, for party purposes, the proposed distribution would be more favorable to the Government than the present divisions. I wonder which members of the Opposition ventured to make such a foolish suggestion. I question whether the Minister could point them out.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Does the honorablemember deny the truth of the statement?

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

– No ; I am not in a position to deny it; but I should like evidence in support of it. I think that the Minister spoke with some mental reservation. Before we reject the work of the Commissioner some better reasons should be advanced by the Minister. Who are we that we should presume to pull to pieces the work of the Commissioner, unless we are in a position to suggest a better distribution ? Are we to keep on sending the reports backwards and forwards until a perfect scheme hits been evolved ?

Mr Watson:

– Why should the report be presented to us ? The honorable member is apparently arguing that it should be adopted without question.

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

– No, I am not.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Then the honorable member’s argument is unintelligible.

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

– No doubt it is, to the right honorable gentleman, A, good many of his arguments are unintelligible, even to himself. The right honorable gentleman has remained dumb all through, although he is responsible for this political crime.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ; the honorable member has no right to use that expression, and I must ask him to withdraw it.

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

– Certainly .1 withdraw it. The Minister primarily responsible for this great wrong has been dumb, and it would be far better if he stood up and defended the action of the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs has not given us one solid reason for repudiating the work of the Commissioner.

Mr Watson:

– -What solid reasons had the Government with which the honorable member was connected in New South W ales for not taking action under similar circumstances ?

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

– The honorable member ought to know that there was no analogy whatever between that case and the one we are now discussing.

Mr Watson:

– The cases were parallel, because the State Government to which I’ refer set aside the report made by Commissioners appointed by themselves.

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

– The honorable member ought to know that there was a great difference between the two cases. The Commissioners suggested only a slight revision of the boundaries, involving at most, as the leader of the Opposition pointed out during a previous debate–

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order. The honorable member is out of order in referring to what was stated in a previous debate.

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

– I was merely replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Bland.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If a disorderly interjection is made the honorable member has no right to reply to it.

M r. JOSEPH COOK.- Ido not know that the interjection was disorderly ; it appeared to me to be very pertinent. The total number of votes involved was less than 8,000.

Mr Watson:

– That is not correct.

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

– I am repeating the statement made by the leader of the Opposition the other night.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I called attention earlier in the day to the standing order which prohibits allusion to a previous debate. The honorable member for Parramatta is distinctly alluding to a previous debate, and the interjection made by the honorable member for Bland also made reference to a matter discussed in a previous debate. I ask the honorable member for Parramatta not to advert to it.

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

– I have only to ask again what is the value of the reports of these Commissioners if they are not even to be sent back to them, but are to be set aside ? We get the best men who can be picked out in Australia to do certain work for us, and we immediately set aside their work contemptuously.

Mr Fisher:

– Contemptuously?

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

– I do not hesitate to say so. The honorable member must at least admit that the work of the Queensland Commissioner was set aside contemptuously, and he was smothered with suspicion. We have had the charges repeated to-night, and honorable members who have stood by the Commissioner have been referred to by the honorable member for Perth as having taken part in a conspiracy. Is that not contemptuous treatment? Is it not worse than contemptuous treatment to cover a man with suspicion and besmirch his character by allegations mode in this House? Honorable members know that it is, and I am characterizing what has taken place in the mildest way when I say that the Commissioners’ reports have been treated with contempt. I propose to stand by the Commissioners until we have some proof furnished us that their work can be improved upon, even if it be sent back to themselves for revision.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
Robertson

– I listened with great interest to the speech made by the Minister in charge of this motion, because I expected to hear from him some good reason for asking honorable members to reject the division proposed by the Western Australian Commissioner. No doubt the speech of the honorable member for Perth was very convincing from that honorable member’s point of view, but it was no reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Those honorable members, and especially the honorable member for Perth, are very much interested in the proposed distribution, and I waited with interest to hear what would be said by the Minister for Home Affairs. The right honorable gentlemen told us that the Commissioner bad been under his own direction for many years, that he was Surveyor-General of the State, and that no more competent man for this work could be found in Western Australia. Honorable members opposite were laughing during the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta, as if a very fine joke had been perpetrated on the Federal Parliament in the appointment of these Commissioners. If, as the Minister for Home Affairs has said, the old division of Western Australia was correct, what necessity was there for the appointment of a Commissioner to make a fresh division for that State? When we enacted a law to provide that the States should be cut up into divisions, we intended that there should be an alteration of the existing divisions. The honorable and learned member for Corinella evidently regards it as a very fine joke that these Commissioners should have been appointed at considerable expense.

Mr McCay:

– I never said a word upon the matter.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– Possibly the honorable and learned member did not say a word which could be heard by Mr. Speaker, but he looked deliberately towards me, and addressed some observations to honorable members beside him in the very wise way which he has, and which leads one to believe that he is a master of all the sciences, and is the wisest man in the House.

Mr McCay:

– I was telling the honorable member beside me a story entirely unconnected with Western Australia or with the honorable member for Robertson.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The honorable and learned member appears to think that it is a very fine joke to appoint as Commissioner to carry out the work of dividing Western Australia into electorates a gentleman who, on the authority of the Minister for Home Affairs, is the most competent man who could be chosen, and then to set aside his report. If there is one State in the Commonwealth where an equitable distribution of seats is necessary it is Western Australia. The past political history of that State will not bear investigation, when we consider the pocket boroughs that were in existence there. That past history was well known to the officer who had this work to perform. In one of the sections of his report, he says that he had to consider that there should be an equality of votes as nearly as possible, and in the division he submits he goes within 1,500 of the limitation in the two electorates to which he refers. The Commissioner knew very well that in the past in Western Australia one State electorate had as few as 46 voters, whilst another had 1 20. He knew that there were 6,000 voters in East Kalgoorlie and but 90 in Camberwell East. That is the history of the past in Western Australia ; and having appointed an honorable man to divide the State into electorates, we should have accepted his work. Not a single reason has been advanced against the alterations of the existing electorates which are proposed by the Commissioner. We have been told that Subiaco should not be included in the electorate of Fremantle, because the distance between the two districts is something like ten miles. What is ten miles in the cutting up of a State which has an area of 1,000,000 square miles, and in which one Commonwealth electorate - that of Coolgardie - is, J- suppose, as large as New South Wales and Victoria combined ? We have had all this talk about a distance of ten miles when we know that Subiaco is a suburb of Perth and that Fremantle itself is practically but a suburb of Perth. The interests of Fremantle and this suburb of Perth are almost identical. As the Commissioner has pointed out, it was necessary to take 4,000 voters from Subiaco in order to make up the quota as nearly as possible to that of Fremantle, and even with that reduction of votes, there is a margin of 1,500 voters.

Mr Fowler:

– Then he did not get so near to the quota, after all 1

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– If the Commissioner had not taken off voters as he did, the margin would have been more nearly 6,000 or 7,000. That brings us back to the old argument, which I shall not enlarge upon. We know that in some of the States there are electorates in which there are 10,000 more voters than in others, and it appears that the same condition of things is to prevail in Western Australia. It is a remarkable thing that when we have made citizens of the women of the Commonwealth, and have given them votes, the change is not to make the slightest difference in the size of the electorates or the quota.

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

– We shall try to alter these things when we come to deal with the Bill.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The Minister for Home Affairs has said all along that in the most populous States an abnormal condition of things has prevailed. . That has been given as a reason for postponing the division of those States. But the normal condition of things has prevailed in Western Australia, and yet the old electorates are to be adhered to. I hope that a better state of things will prevail later on, and that it shall not be understood from the decision of the House to-night that there is to be no proper distribution of seats in Western Australia. I feel that it is my duty to stand by the Commissioner who was appointed on the recommendation of the present Minister for Home Affairs.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Did not the honorable member say when we were discussing the boundaries of the New South Wales electorates that we might well follow the majority of its representatives?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– No. I am quite independent in this matter. I am not pledged in any way. I have come here to do my duty. My only ambition is to gain the reputation of being a fair, just, and conscientious man. I feel that it is my duty to oppose the motion. What was said by the Minister for Home Affairs has influenced me very considerably. ; but I heard no reason in his speech to justify the House in rejecting the recommendation of the Commissioner.

Question put. The House divided.

AYES: 23

NOES: 7

Majority … … 1G

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

page 4363

ADJOURNMENT

Order of Business

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
HunterMinister for External Affairs · Protectionist

– I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

In consequence of some representations which have been made, we shall not take the Bill based on the resolutions relating to the Federal electorates until Tuesday next. To-morrow we shall go on with the debate on the Budget.

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

– What about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that there has been so much talk about?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It was not intended at any time to go on with the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to-morrow.

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

– Was it not?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It was simply placed on the business-paper in the ordinary way.

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

– All this taunting round the Chamber has beep idle !

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– If the Prime Minister has not been asked today when he intends to go on with the Patents Bill, I should like to know.

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

– I understood that there was great anxiety all round the Chamber to get on with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. When many of us were uttering our protests against the action of the Goverment in regard to the electoral proposals, we were met invariably with the taunt that we were trying to delay the consideration of that very important measure.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The honorable member knows that it was intended to go on with the Electoral Divisions Bill to-morrow.

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

– There was no objection from our side, because we desired to treat the Government fairly. Had we known that it was not intended to take the second reading of the Electoral Divisions Bill to-morrow the Government would not have been permitted to proceed so far as they have done. It is absurd to interpose the Budget debate to-morrow, to bring on other business next week, and then to resume the Budget debate again at a later stage. When the Budget debate is commenced we should go through with it. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is the one outstanding measure of importance, but apparently it has to wait to suit the purposes of the Government. It is made to take a back position.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– I understood that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was made an order of the day for Tuesday next?

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

– No ; it is down on the paper for to-morrow.

Sir Edm ond Barton:

– But the understanding was that it should be taken on Tuesday.

Mr McDONALD:

– I do not see why the Bill should not be proceeded with to-morrow. It is only fair that we should proceed with it at the earliest possible moment. It certainly would be injudicious to go on with the Budget debate to-morrow, and return to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill next week.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of proceeding with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to-morrow. Otherwise there will be a risk of the measure being blocked. The Bill ought, to leave this Chamber within six or eight days, in order to afford a reasonable opportunity to pass it through the Senate. The fact that the Bill was carried without a division lastnightwill makeitareproach to us if it is not dealt with in Committee in time to permit of its consideration in another place.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– With regard to the remarks made by the honorable member for Parramatta, I should like to point out that he persisted in attributing to my remarks an application to the preliminary stages of the Bill relating to the electoral divisions, although I endeavoured, while he was speaking, to assure him that I was referring only to the statement which I made last night. That statement was made without any objection from any quarter. I used the words “at the earliest possible date.” That is why the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was made an order of the day for tomorrow. But it has been set down for Tuesday, partly in order to put an end to a dismal exhibition of a certain character which we were beginning to see in this Chamber - a dismal exhibition unrelieved by any gleam of humour or of wisdom.

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

– Say it again.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I am not gifted with an inclination for repetitions, such as characterizes the honorable member. It is said that it would be absurd to take the Budget debate to-morrow.

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

– There will be another taste of it next week.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I have given up expecting good faith from some quarters. It was the perfect understanding that the

Electoral Divisions Bill was to be proceeded with to-morrow, and it was never understood that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would be dealt with in Committee to-morrow. In the ordinary course of business it was placed upon the paper for that day, because that is the customary procedure, unless there is a special reason for setting down a Bill for a later date. The intention was, however, to take the small Electoral Divisions Bill to-morrow, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill on Tuesday. That arrangement goes by the board, however, because of the concession which we have made to honorable members opposite. This is what we get for making that concession. I submit that the whole attitude taken up by the honorable member for Parramatta is grossly unfair to the Government, but it is in keeping with the speeches we are in the habit of hearing from him. He appears to be unable to take any action without attributing base motives to others.

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

– That is offensive.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The right honorable gentleman must withdraw the remark that is considered by the honorable member for Parramatta to be offensive.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– Which is the remark that the honorable member deems to be offensive?

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

– I decline to say.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I do not know to which expression the honorable member refers. If he thinks that it is unparliamentary to say that he is grossly unfair, I withdraw the expression. Had we notified that it was our intention to proceed with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to-morrow, there would have been a perfect howl from honorable members opposite. They would at once have exclaimed “ Why did the Government make a statement that other matters would be proceeded with tomorrow, thus contributing to the absence of a large number of our supporters, and then take up the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is an important measure? In such circumstances charges of cowardice and gross breach of faith would have been ringing in this Chamber for hours. I decline to allow the conduct of business to be taken out of the hands of the Government by honorable members opposite. When they can take it out of our hands let them do so.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at . 1 1.31 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1903, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030827_reps_1_16/>.