1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. L. E. GROOM presented a petition from certain electors of Warwick, Queensland, signed by many employers of labour in the State, praying the House to preserve the principle of voluntary conciliation and agreement between employer and employe, or to submit the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the electors of the Commonwealth.
PUBLIC SERVICE RELIEVING ALLOWANCES.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member, I beg to state -
WESTERN AUSTRALIAN TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government intend to request Parliament this session to provide the necessary money to have a survey made of the route of. the proposed transcontinental railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie ?
– The following is the answer to the honorable member’s question : -
As soon as the Western Australian Parliament have passed the Enabling Bill now before them, authorizing the Federal Government to proceed, the question of construction will receive attention. The South Australian Government has not yet introduced a similar measure. Before the work can be completed as a transcontinental line, the consent of the latter State, aa well as of the former, must be given. The question of survey will, however, be considered.
In Committee qf Supply :
Debate resumed - from 9th September (vida page 4862), on motion by Sir George
That the first item on the Estimates (the Senate- £6,782) be agreed to.
– When the Treasurer delivered his Budget speech some little time ago, I had an opportunity to make one or two observations in reference to it. I wish now to review it after more careful consideration. I feel that I must still repeat the complaint which I made upon the spur of the - moment then, that, however faithfully his statement, and the returns which he submitted with it, may have reproduced the figures in the account books of the Treasury of the Commonwealth, it was singularly lacking in what must be regarded as one of the most important features of an address of that kind. It was lacking in references to matters of grave public concern, to questions of high policy, and to the real significance of the figures and facts which he brought before us. I should have thought that both the Treasurer and the Government would have considered it worth while to pay some attention to the most trying period which is being experienced in all parts of this great “Continent to-day, and that we should have heard something from him upon the bearings of Parliamentary and Executive action upon the present serious state of affairs. I have never taken a gloomy view of the future of Australia, nor have I had the slightest doubt as to the absolute soundness of its position in reference to both its financial strength and its latent resources. But there is no country so strong that it can disregard the principles of prudent conduct, or upon which bad legislation, an injurious public policy, and especially any tendency to careless public expenditure, will not work mischief. No matter how prosperous and great a nation may be, the painful fact always remains that the great bulk of the humanity of which it is composed lives upon slender incomes, and is exposed by comparatively slight causes to substantial distress. If that be so when a country is passing through phases of unexampled prosperity, how much more is it the case when it is being tried by severe misfortunes? Personally, I cannot contemplate the general outlook for this Commonwealth at the present time without feelings of grave apprehension. We have had serious droughts in times that are past, but there never was a period in the history of the Continent, since its birth as the country of a civilized community, when the facts relating to our position demanded more serious attention. It is especially sad that a country so vast, so rich in its opportunities for settlement and industry, should have ceased, for the last ten years, to exercise the slightest attractive power upon the over-crowded nations of the old world. It is a singularly ominous and distressful fact that, during the last ten years, the voluntary immigrants into this Continent of Australia have been fewer in number than the voluntary emigrants from it. We are accustomed to these figures with reference to the particular State in which we are now deliberating. But I am now passing away from local considerations. I am looking over the vast area which is occupied by the whole six States of the Federation. It is a matter worthy of our attention that whereas in years gone by, even under the most trying circumstances, a large and valuable stream of immigration poured into this Continent, for the last ten years that stream has absolutely stopped. It is not literally the case that we have had fewer immigrants than emigrants, but I use the term “ voluntary “ ; and during the last ten years the balance of immigration in nil these States - in spite of the great development of the marvellous resources, previously unknown, of Western Australia, and of the magnificent progress of that State - the actual increase by immigration has been some 4,400 souls. During those ten years there were 8,400 assisted immigrants, and but for that fact, as I have said, the balance would have been absolutely against us. When we look at young countries in other parts of the world, such as Canada, and even the Argentine Republic, what a painful contrast meets us. In some parts of Canada the increase of population during the past ten years has been more than 100 per cent. In many parts of the remote portions of .the Dominion the increase during that period has been simply marvellous. Even in the Argentine Republic the increase by immigration during the past five or six years has been something like 750,000 human beings. Whilst countries which certainly cannot be considered so immensely superior to the
Continent of Australia are renewing their life-blood and enriching their strength and power, we may be described as occupying the melancholy and ominous position of a stagnating community. I do not wish to enter upon a matter which. I believe, is engaging the attention of a Royal Commission in another State but it is another ominous fact that ten years ago, with a population smaller than we have now by several hundreds of thousands - because, of course, during those years there has been a natural increase - the births in Australia were more numerous than they are to-day.
– That is not confined to Australia.
– It is absolutely confined to Australia. The honorable member for Bland will see that the difference between the fact I am narrating and the general question is that, though there may be a decline in the birth-rate, it is not in this case a decline under that head, but an absolute decline in the total number of births in the Commonwealth. In a country like this, these facts ought to demand the serious consideration of men who stand in the position that we do. We must not forget that one of the most serious duties we have to discharge to the people of Australia is to think for them in matters in which they cannot think for themselves. To whom do the public look in times of distress for wise counsels and for resolute measures so far as the power of Parliament extends, in order to relieve the trying features of the situation, but the Parliaments of Australia 1 The Parliaments cost the people enough ; there is no country in the world where there are more Members of Parliament than in Australia. There is no country in the world where the burden of parliamentary expenditure presses more cruelly on a pioneer population than in Australia ; and surely Parliament, whether Commonwealth or State, ought to be keen to endeavour in some way or other to benefit the people in return for the burdens which are imposed. I do not think that any honorable member will think that on this occasion I arn taking the wrong course when I seriously refer to these matters. I am not endeavouring to put any political complexion on the facts which I am laying before honorable members. It would be in the highest degree uncandid if I were to suggest that anything we have done, or may have omitted to do, is seriously responsible for the facts to which I refer.
– Has the right honorable member the figures by him ?
– Yes, and I have certified them by figures which have been prepared for the Government of Victoria by the Statistician of that State, in his most recent publication.
– But the right honorable gentleman is speaking of the whole Commonwealth.
– Yes, I am speaking of the whole six States. In times of prosperity, when people found Australia, as they used to do, an attractive home - when people traversed the globe and sundered all their family ties in order to make new homes in this, to them, strange land - we all looked on that movement of life and strength as one of the grandest signs of future progress. Whether we take one side of the fiscal question or another, all intelligent public men and all intelligent writers regard it as the best possible sign when people are attracted to a country, and the worst possible sign when people are attracted from it. In Victoria, there has been, perhaps, a greater attempt to make a people prosperous by legislation than in any other part of Australia. I think that is a very fair remark to make. In Victoria there has been, perhaps, more trouble taken by Parliament to provide laws intended to stimulate and protect the people in the enjoyment of good wages and steady employment ; and it is an anomalous fact that there has been a far more serious decline of population in? Victoria than in any other State. During the ten years 170,000 young lives have begun their career in Victoria ; but, in spite of that fact, there are at the present moment 110,000 fewer people in the State than should be represented by the natural increase, and of the 60,000 left there are only 5,000 males as against 55,000 females. I do not want to detract from the gravity of these ominous facts by any endeavour to make political capital out of them. That is to be avoided in matters of such gravity. After all, what is the importance of our finances, except in so far as they bear on the state and condition of the people? What is this Parliament if it has not regard to the state and condition of the whole people of Australia ? The facts I have given are absolutely above party policy. I honestly believe that there is not a single honorable member on the other side who is not just as anxious as I can be to do everything possible to promote the welfare of this country ; that I wish to admit absolutely. We may differ as to methods, but I wish to give every honorable member the fullest credit for the purest patriotism in his own particular view, and I only mention these facts to show that there is “ something rotten in the state of Denmark.” It is not. for me to take- up the time of honorablemembers by entering into speculations as, to the cause of the facts I have narrated. I only wish at present to bring these matters’ before the minds of the people and their representatives. I intend to refer to a number of important subjects, and I can promise honorable members that I shall deal with them very briefly. I do not intend to go’into details of any kind at the present moment, because I feel that the time of thisParliament was never more valuable than it is now. But I always have the consolation, when I am speaking that I .am probably saving honorable members on this side from the necessity of occupying the attention of’ the Chamber. I must now refer to the Customs revenue of the Commonwealth, which involves a very controversial question. I wish to claim for honorable members on this side credit for a desire - equal to that, entertained by others - to promote the financial stability, both of the Commonwealth and of the States. We differ seriously from honorable members opposite as to the best means of doing that ; but whilst I give full credit to my honorable friends opposite, I claim that we on this side, tothe best of our judgment, desire mostearnestly to promote this financial stability of the States. The financial interests of the States and of the Commonwealth are inextricably interwoven together. The natureof the situation makes it so, and the way in which we administer the trust which is confided to us is of the most vital importance to the finances of the States. Now one of the objections taken by honorablemembers on this side of the Chamber - and I am going to be very brief upon thesematters of controversy - to the present system was that the raising of revenue wasnot the sole object aimed at, that it endeavoured to perform an impossible duty, namely, to encourage the natural growth of revenue from imports and at the same time to discourage those very imports. From our point of view that is an impossible task. I can understand the positions of any honorable members opposite who may say - “Neever m incL the revenue, never mind how it declines ; the more it declines the more convinced we are of the progress and prosperity of the country.” I can understand that as a perfectly consistent position. But I cannot understand the consistency of these who say in one breath that it is of importance that imports should decline and, at the same time, that it is of importance that the revenue derived from these imports should increase. It seems to me that those are contradictory positions. Now we have had one of the most vivid illustrations, to my mind, of the unsoundness of that policy in the sad events of the past year. There has been a great’ calamity pressing at the doors of tens of thousands of our people. There has been a time of bitter trial all over the industrial area of Australia, and especially in those parts where the results of industry ure most precarious and where the conditions of life are hardest. The shadow of this calamity has hung over that part of the vitality of the Commonwealth which is more important than any other, namely, its great producing industries. How has this policy operated upon them 1 Has it in a time of distress and starvation reduced the pressure of distress or relieved the pangs of hunger? On the contrary, the whole of the financial system of the Commonwealth has been deranged by the enormous unexpected increase of public revenue derived from the misfortunes and the sufferings of the Australian settlers. The effect of this upon our financial stability and the financial administration of the States, it will be my duty to point out. The Treasurer tells us that whereas he estimated that he would receive £83,000 from the grain duties last year, he actually obtained £602,000 - that he received £519,000 of solid money which must have come from the pockets of the settlers of Australia. The fiction about the foreigner paying the duty did not come to the rescue of the starving settlers of Australia. We had large syndicates of merchants, bringing in enormous quantities of the staff of life for man and beast, and making large amounts of money - in addition to the enormous imposts of the Commonwealth - out of the sufferings of the Australian, people. The foreigner did not play the part of the benevolent friend who relieves Australia of her internal burdens. On the contrary, he availed himself of the opportunity to magnify the burden of Australia. What was the result? In our two years of financial experience in which the stability of the States has depended upon the soundness of the Customs as a source of revenue, there has been a fluctuation of £1,000,000 in the receipts. In addition to this, there has been a bad piece of administration to which I must call the pointed attention of the House and of the country. I have, up to the present, been referring to a matter that arises from an honest difference as to policy, upon which honorable members are just as fully entitled to their opinions as I am to mine. They differ from me I know. But I am now coming to a matter upon which I’ claim the attention of honorable members opposite to the same full extent that I invite the consideration of my honorable friends on this side, namely, to the fact that the financial instability of the States has been aggravated by bud administration. I shall now point out how that has been done. The Government, I suppose after proper consideration, and after framing prudent estimates of expenditure for the last financial year, asked this Parliament to grant them a certain sum of money to be expended within the year. It was absolutely within the power of the Government to obtain money for any necessary works either in anticipation of the beginning of the financial year or at any time that they might require it. And I think I may take credit for honorable members on this side of the Chamber that no application has ever been made by the Treasurer for a vote in a Supply Bill to enable the Government to carry out public works that has not been promptly acceded to. So that the Government cannot escape from their responsibility by saying that they could not get the money they required in time to enable them to spend it. I wish to indicate the practical effect of this. ‘Ihe Treasurer has himself pointed out these facts. There was an appropriation for works’ expenditure. Now, surely, the basis of that was that the money was really urgently required for works which the Government considered necessary ; yet the Treasurer now comes before us and tells us that whereas at his request we gave him £365,000 to spend last year upon works, as a matter of fact he spent only £153,000, leaving unexpended in that year £212,000. Let us look at the operation of this. The States were receiving an inflated revenue owing to that exceptional cause of calamity, the drought, and at the same time they I were receiving money back which ought to have been expended that year. Now that expenditure will come on during the current yeal-, when the drought revenue has _ gone. While the revenue was booming, the expenditure was starved, and those States which were receiving a very large increase of revenue from the grain duties were subjected to a double element of instability in the shape of money which they could never expect to receive again.
– And which they spent. Mr. REID. - Now, is that a remark that might be expected from a sensible Minister of the Crown1! Is it not the curse of Australia that no matter how much money you give to a Government they will spend it ? There is not a single Government in Australia that has ever been able to keep money when it had it to spend
– They did not waste it, I suppose ?
– Let us hope not. But I desire to point out the difficulties in which the States will be placed this year. When £500,000 of extra revenue was thrown into the lap of the States the expenditure was curtailed to the extent of £212,000, and this year, when the revenue suddenly drops by £500,000, the works’ expenditure is to be increased.
– Was not the expenditure upon works curtailed at the request of some of the States?
– I am not responsible for that. I am not aware of the fact. May .1 say at this point that the Treasurer must not listen to such suggestions when he is handing over an exceptional windfall in the shape of drought duties ? He must not listen to suggestions to make the financial position unsound by reducing expenditure which must be met in the following year, when the revenue “will be less. The Federal Treasurer is the trustee for the whole of the Commonwealth. I can readily understand that we shall often have States Ministers, who are in financial difficulties; asking the Treasurer to curtail’ his expenditure so that in the following year he will have to carry double the burden that he ought to bear. But that is an unsound and vicious system of finance. There is no stability in it.
– It is very often done.
– I want my right honorable friend to understand that I am not addressing myself to him personally, because his i style of conducting affairs is quite different i from that of any ordinary individual in a democratic community.
– The right honorable and learned member knows a lot about it. His remark was very uncalled for.
– My right honorable friend’s policy suits a mining boom splendidly, but unfortunately there is not a mining boom in most of the Australian States at the present time ; there is a drought.
-Forrest. - There is no occasion for personal remarks or for rudeness, and I resent the right honorable member’s observations.
– May I ask my right honorable friend - after he has resented them - not to tempt me into making observations, which I did not intend to make, and which are called for only by his interruptions. I had not the remotest idea of referring to him, but he put himself right across my path, and I could not get out of his way. I wish to point out what this starvation of expenditure last year really means. The Federal expenditure was starved to give the States an unnatural amount of revenue last year when they least needed it - when they had a windfall. Now that the windfall has gone, what is the position of the Federal Treasurer? Having spent only £153,000 in a time of financial windfall, now that the States are in a condition of financial difficulty he proposes to spend not £153,000, but £4.20,000. Surely any honorable member with the slightest regard for sound finance can see that it would have been infinitely better that the works which were authorized last year should have been paid for out of ‘the drought duties, than that the money should be returned to the States, and that those works should now require to be constructed out of a declining revenue?
– But each time that the Treasurer brought down a Supply Bill was he not asked whether the money which it provided represented merely the ordinary expenditure, and when honourable members were told that that was the case, was not that the reason why no opposition was offered to the Bills 1
– I do not wish to make any personal charge against the Treasurer, because I have expressed my opinion of him frequently enough, and in the most favorable way. I merely desire to point out that it is a bad system of Federal finance which puts before us an expenditure for the year, and then does nob construct the works which are authorized, but throws them on to another year, during which other services must be provided for. It is infinitely better to let the States know their true position at the beginning of the year than to defer necessary expenditure, and at the same time to hand over to them accidental amounts. I merely desire to show the House what is the general effect of such a system. Before doing so, however, I wish to refer to the Post and Telegraphic service. That service, I suppose, is the most important which the Commonwealth controls on behalf the States. Is it any wonder that people outside, who do not know the facts, look with alarm on what they call our “ increasing “ expenditure. I will just give the House the benefit of the figures relating to the Post and Telegraph Offices during the past three years. They show an increase of expenditure- over revenue - that is to say a deficit in their working - of £94,000 in 1901-2, of £164,000 in 1902, and of £373,000 estimated for this year. Now any man outside upon observing that increase will naturally say that this debt and burden on the people is growing with ominous ‘ rapidity. Then, the Treasurer has to come forward and explain that the deficit last year was £164,000, only because he did not spend the full amount of the appropriation, and that consequently he must load this year with it. I say that that is bad finance. I wish to extend the fullest facilities to the people of Australia in connexion with post and telegraphs, but, whilst the expenditure of those Departments is so seriously in excess of. the revenue, I have no sympathy with that peculiar idea of a white Australia which calls, upon this Government to invite tenders for a special mail service of its own, because it is thought that even the infernal stoke-holes of mail steamers in the Red Sea cannot be relegated to the colored races. If this Imperial spirit of ours, which properly draws the line at a race taint in Australia, refuses to allow- these coloured wretches to lead a horrible life in the stoke-holes of steamers in the Red Sea, I say that the worst enemy of an Englishman ought not to wish to see him there. It is only the scum of the white race who will go there. It is only ‘the scum of the British race who will live in the stoke-holes of steamers in the Red Sea.
– Blackfellows are employed” upon the decks as well as in the stokeholes.
– I should like the Minister’ for Trade and Customs to try a month’slabour in the stoke-hole of a vessel in the Red Sea, and I should like to see the honorable” member for Maranoa, who has carried his country’s flag through all sorts of dangers in South Africa, do so. This straining of principle is exposing Australia to all sorts of ridicule. It is no service to that principleto stretch it to that extent.
– I ‘ say that the black: labourer is not confined to the stoke-holes.
– That is perfectly correct. At the same time I wish to draw a very clear distinction between pushing a great principle beyond the point at which it is a great principle, and to a point at which it becomes an object of ridicule and contempt.
– The German mail steamers employ white labour only.
– I do not care what other nations, do. I say that I do not fight foi” room in the stoke-hole of a mail steamer in the Red Sea for my own fellow-countrymen. If the poor wretches are so stricken downby misfortune that they have to descend tothat infernal region, at least I’ do not endeavour to put them there. .
– What about the engineers %
– I wish to say that there is a slight difference between a stoker and an engineer upon a mail steamer.
– Is there ? ;
– Surely my honorable friend’ does not see any particular glory in a whiteman being grilled upon a mail steamer ?
– They are not wretches.
– I did not speak of the engineers in that way. I draw a great distinction between engineers, who are one of the best bodies of working men in the world, and persons who are sent down into mail steamers to stoke a fire with a long pole.” T do not call the latter engineers. It would be a misuse of terms to do so. If an engineer has to. do that class of work he occupies an unfortunate position.
– They are not in a worse position than are some of the miners of Australia.
– I am not referring to the engineers. My honorable friend speaks of them ; I do not. . We all know that they are in the very forefront of the industrial world. What I assert is that we are pushing this principle to a ridiculous extreme when, on account of it, we desire a mail service of our own, and seek to dissociate ourselves from the Empire, .so far as the Imperial mail services are concerned. The position is especially serious when we recollect that the Postal Department every year is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds to Australia. When we are securing ample revenue from a Department, we are more inclined, perhaps, to indulge in these fanciful proceedings, than when it is not paying its way. On the history of the Postoffice the step which the Government has taken has nothing to commend it. I desire now to show how these matters affect the financial stability of the Commonwealth. I have a return here to which I ask the attention of honorable members, because it is a matter of great importance. The Treasurer has put before us some most valuable information. At page 54 of the Budget papers he gives us a statement showing the net amount of surplus revenue which the Commonwealth Government hands over to the different States. It is obvious that, if the -amounts which the States receive from us -are liable to severe and sudden fluctuations, there can be mo prospect of financial stability for them. The Customs form their main source of revenue, but will honorable members believe that the statement which the Treasurer has laid on the table of the House shows that the difference between the amount returned last year to the States, and the estimated amount to be returned to them this year is £1,780,000.
– No-; the right honorable member is adding the two items together.
– Of course I am. It is necessary to add the two years together, when in the one year we have a plus and the other a minus.
– The right honorable member is adding the estimated decrease for the present year to the increase of last year. He is comparing an estimate with a reality.
– Such an assertion suggests that the Treasurer is not familiar with the return.
– I have the figures before me.
– I also have the return. The heading is - “Comparison of receipts, payments and surplus to States.” Of course, the figures for the two years, 1901-2 and 1902-3, relate to actual receipts and payments. Those for the year 1903-4 represent only an estimate. Does the Treasurer say that the sum of £8,200,000, shown at page 54 of » the Budget papers as having been returned to the States for the year 1902-3, does not represent the actual money transactions which took place last year ?
– That is quite correct.
– Does he not say that the total of £7,251,000 represents his estimate of the amount to he returned this year 1
– Yes, but that does not show a difference of £1,780,000.
– That makes- a difference of £832,000.
– A difference of £948,000.-
– According to the figures I have just read, the difference is £832,000.
– The right honorable member is in error.
– What about the figures in the line lower down 1
– The right honorable member wants to double-bank the figures.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman, having prepared this list, does not expect us to pay no regard to it. I will read the figures submitted by the right honorable gentleman for the year 1901-2 and 1902-3. Those figures are actualities, not estimates, and they show a difference of £832,000 in favour of the year 1902-3 as compared with the year 1901-2. Is that denied ?
– No, but there is a reason for that difference.
– I am speaking not of reasons, but of figures. A comparison between the years 1902-3 and 1903-4 can be only an estimate, because the financial year 1903-4 has not yet closed ; but that comparison shows that the estimated amount to be returned to the States this year is £948,000 less than the amount returned last year. I desire to show how this affects the stability of the States in a number of ways.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to estimates or to the actual figures for last year 1
– To the actual figures. The actual amount returned last year showed an advance of £832,000 on the sum returned for the previous year. I am simply pointing out that whereas the States received £832,000 more last year than was returned to them for the previous year, this year they are to receive £948,000 less than was handed over to them last year. These two amounts make the total I have given. Let me take the figures as applying to the respective States. Last year New South Wales received £667,000 more than was returned to her for the previous year, but this year she is to receive £489,000 less than was handed over to her last year.
– She will receive a considerable sum in advance of that handed over to her for 1901-2.
– I am referring to the two years. I desire to call attention to the sharp fluctuations in these returns. The amount returned to New South Wales for the year 1902-3 was £660,000 in excess of the sum which the Treasurer announced that she would .receive. This year he tells the people of that State that they will receive £489,000 less than was handed to them last year. That makes the difference which I have mentioned. I come now to the position of Victoria, which has worked out a surplus of £150,000 for the financial year just closed. In my opinion that’ is one of the greatest triumphs of financial management under most adverse conditions that the history of Australia gives us. The present Victorian Ministry entered upon a work of enormous difficulty, and I look upon their achievement in securing a surplus - I assume it is an actual surplus - of £150,000 for the last financial year as one of the grandest in Australian history. I may be wrong, but that is my opinion.
– It is a grand achievement, especially when we remember the way in which it was secured.
– I am speaking only of the financial result of their labours. Of course, it may be open to all sorts of criticism.
– They stole sinking funds, and did various other things, in order to make up their surplus.
– I do not desire to enter into a controversy in regard to the local management of the State. The figures show the result I have named.
– Why shower praise on the State Government without looking into the details 1
– That is a perfectly proper observation for the honorable member to make. I have not had time to investigate the details, but without looking too closely into the methods by which this result has been obtained, I cannot help being struck by the rapid change which has taken place in the financial position of the State. I do not desire to express any opinion upon local politics. Returning to the Budget papers, I find that it is estimated that Victoria will receive this year £160,000 less than was returned to her last year. Thus the whole of her surplus of £150,000 is swept away by the fluctuations in the Estimates of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Western Australia last year’ got £25,689 more than it was expected would be returned to that State, and this year will get £1 29,667 less, a difference of about £1 55,000. In New South Wales last year they had a deficit of £247,575, and yet this year they will receive from the Commonwealth £489,373 less than was received last year, a difference of about £736,000 on the wrong side. Victoria last year had a surplus of £153,199, but this year she will receive from the Commonwealth £160,859 less than she received last year. Queensland last year had a, deficiency of £191,341, and this year will receive from the Commonwealth £114,365 less than she received last year, so that she will be over £300,000 to the bad. Those figures show a fluctuation of the total receipts of the Commonwealth, as they are divided among the States after expenditure has been deducted, which must throw the* States’ finances into serious confusion. I would be the last to justify the financial management of New South Wales. That State has now a revenue of something like £12,000,000, but, on the> Treasurer’s showing, she had last year a deficiency of over £247,000, and will commence this year with an estimated shortage of Federal receipts amounting to £489,373. Of course, a large amount of the difference is owing to the fluctuation in the fodder duties. New South Wales obtained an enormous revenue from. the fodder duties during the drought.
– The Premier of NewSouth Wales expects to obtain a’ surplus this financial year.
– I never knew & Premier who did not. I wish now to come to a matter which bears upon the future financial policy of the Commonwealth. It is a matter which will have to be faced by the
House sooner or later.. It will cause untold embarrassment to the States if the present principle of expenditure upon public works is carried out, because it is not a sound principle. The Government brought in a series of measures - an Inscribed Stock Bill, a Loan Bill, and a Loan Appropriation Bill - to afford facilities for raising loans. The House, in a fit of virtue, said, dealing not with the Common wealth expenditure, but with the expenditure of the States - “We will have no public works constructed out of loan money. They must come out of revenue.” . That is an absolutely unsound and ridiculous position. It is a cruelly wrong attitude to take, supposing that the States’ finances are .administered honestly; and we are not here to look after that. This is a matter, not of States finance, but of Commonwealth finance. These are works which Parliament authorizes for the States, and over which we have absolute control. How absurd it is to talk of loading the people by requiring them to bear out of current taxation the burden of large public works the utility of which will continue for thirty years.
– It is much better than the contrary policy.
– I admit that it is infinitely better than the mad policy which has prevailed in the States in times past, but it is an irrational extreme of the other sort, and inasmuch as we have complete control of these matters, we can surely trust ourselves.
– I do not think we can.
– If we cannot, the policy is one which must break down. Suppose the buildings of the Federal Capital cost £500,000, is that money to come out of current revenue, the return of which the States are expecting ?
– That is a special expenditure. Besides, every thing depends upon the i ate at which the money is spent.
– Does my honorable friend say that, when the States are in a condition of financial distress, the capital buildings, which will last perhaps 100 years, are to be paid for by the taxpayers in one year ; that the taxpayers of the present are to bear- the burden of expenditure which will benefit taxpayers ninty-nine years hence? Moreover, they are not reproductive works at all, so that, from that point of view, it would seem to be doubly wrong that their cost should be added to the public debt of the Commonwealth. But the. works carried on by the Post and Telegraph Department are reproductive works.
– Some of them are very doubtfully so.
– There is a difference between expenditure upon buildings for the Federal Capital and the purchasing of a telephone switch-board.
– I am not going into details, but I suppose a brick building is a substantial structure which will last thirty years.
– Even a brick building, when built out of loan money, is sometimes so extravagant that the expenditure is not reproductive.
– I do not approve of the alternative of permanent loans. I suggest, in reference to the expenditure upon large substantial works - not in regard to trivial expenditure’ - that it should be added - not to the permanent debt of the country ! That, though just as foolish as the policy of trying to gay for them out of current revenue, is even worse in its effects. What I suggest is a proper system of finance in the case of - real substantial public works which will last for thirty years, whereby the burden of cost shall be spread over a reasonable period of their utility. There should be paid every year out of revenue a fair proportion of their cost. That is a principle which we must follow at some time or another. I admit that at the present time of transition the House is perhaps wise in erring on the safe side. But this is a matter which we must consider as time goes on. The Treasurer will raise no great difficulty to any change of the sort. ‘ He made a memorable declaration upon the subject, which is characteristic of the Government right through. We have one or two candid gentlemen in the Ministry, who let us know what is the inner beating of the Ministerial conscience. The Treasurer is one of them. Speaking upon the Bills to which I have referred, he said, although he had brought them in, and had placed his great name upon them - “Personally lam glad that the House kicked them out.” No name in Australia is more trusted when it appears upon a finance measure than that of Sir George Turner. But if the George Turner who puts his name on a Bill is the same George Turner who says, after the measure has been kicked out, “ I am personally glad of it, because I did not believe in the Bill,” I think that in the future he should be asked to indorse each measure which he introduces with one of two phrases. He should write upon it either “ I believe in this measure,” or “ I do not believe in this measure.” If the Treasurer would give us the benefit of his private opinion before we consider these Bills, we should know exactly what to do.
– I am afraid that my right honorable friend does not know what I said when I brought in the Bill.
M r. REID. - Perhaps I do not, and if I did it might only make the matter more ridiculous. I suggest that the Treasurer might be so candid as to whisper to the House, “My colleagues have driven me into this, but I can trust honorable members, whom I know to be fair men ; I am in a queer gang in the Cabinet, and I have to do what they tell me, although I am naturally an honest man. Having consented to do a wrong thing, I want to whisper that I do not care about the business, and you had better chuck the Bill out - nothing would please me better. You must understand that I am the creature of circumstances.” But the Treasurer was not satisfied to take such a course, and treated us with a candour which is thoroughly refreshing. He said, “I never hesitate to back down when I think I am wrong.” That is a beautiful sentiment, but the right honorable gentleman spoilt it by adding, “ Or when I believe that the numbers are against me.” If all the great reformers of olden times had been of a similar disposition, not a head would have fallen on a political scaffold. The ruling powers would have been assured, “ I am a reformer, but if there is any chance of being executed I will climb down,” That sort of statement by the Finance Minister of Australia reflects more credit on his candour than on his mental calibre. The Treasurer, in discharging his responsible duties, has no right to submit Bills which he thinks are wrong ; he has no right to make his own judgment and conscience the creature of a fantastic intellect like that of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.
– Did the leader of the Opposition not pair in favour of the proposal?
Mr.REID- I do not think I did.
– Look at the records.
– At any rate I never paired in favour of that sentiment. I think my honorable and learned friend was endeavouring to lure me on to a side issue. When the honorable and learned member took up the Bill relating to the Governor-General, and so turned it inside out that its own framers did not know it, I have no doubt the Treasurer, with his colleagues, said, “ I never hesitate to climb down when I think I am wrong, or when I believe the numbers are against me.”
– The right honorable gentleman knows very well that that was a joke.
– Was it? If so, I beg the Treasurer in the future, when he makes such alarming statements, to add the postscript, “ This is a joke.” If the honorable gentleman will only put on the Bills he introduces, “ I am in earnest about this measure ; it is not a joke,” we shall better understand his position. I now come to what seems to me a very serious matter. A loan of £5,500,000 falls due in Victoria at the end of this year. I listened very attentively to the statement of the Treasurer, and, on reflection, I think there is one view which I think may justify him in the position he has assumed. If the Treasurer is advised by financial experts in London that the credit of the Commonwealth is not good, then I absolutely agree with the action of the Government in not endeavouring to float a loan. But if, with a Customs revenue of £9,000,000 sterling per annum and no public debt as a first charge, the credit of the Commonwealth is not good, I cannot understand the position.
– There is only a quarter of that revenue available.
– The whole of the revenue is available to pay interest, and what is paid on behalf ofVictoria can be made a charge on the Victorian Customs revenue. We have an absolute lien on any liability we may incur in respect to Victoria, to whom we pay a large sum every j’ear as her share of the Customs revenue.
– Is not three-quarters of the £9,000,000 practically a charge for all the States debts ?
Mr.REID. - May I point out to the honorable and learned member that this is not an equitable but a legal matter. If the Commonwealth raised a loan for New South Wales or Victoria, the repayment of the obligation incurred at their request would be a first charge on the money we have to hand over to the State.
– The service would be paid for in the same way as would any other special service.
– Exactly ; and I see no difficulty in the matter. But my point is that on this Victorian loan of £5,500,000 there is at the present moment, and has been for years,, interest paid at the rate of 4^ per cent. We ought to remember that when this loan was floated the credit of Victoria was probably greater than it is now, but the money rate then was 4^ per cent. Of the total amount, £500,000 pays interest at the rate of 4 per cent., and the total interest charged to the people of Victoria is £245,000 per annum. Surely the Commonwealth could raise the money at 3£ per cent.
– Three per cent.
– I am taking a wide margin, and I am sure the Commonwealth in its first transaction on the London money market, with the revenue I have described, could raise this loan at 3^ per cent. Such a loan would not increase our indebtedness one penny, but, on the other hand, would add to the financial stability of Victoria.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that the money could be obtained for 3 j per cent. 1
– I admit that the honorable member for Melbourne is a much better authority than I am on financial matters ; but I am making the suggestion for consideration, that the credit of the Commonwealth is good enough to raise a loan on the terms I have mentioned.
– I think 4 per cent, would have to be paid.
– I pay great deference to the opinion of the honorable member. I have only general information, but that’ leads me to believe that the Commonwealth could borrow the money at 3^ per cent.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman would not advise the Commonwealth to float its first loan at 3£ per cent.?
– I quite agree with the Treasurer. I am putting the worst case. But may I suggest that it would not be a Commonwealth loan ? If the State of Victoria asked the Commonwealth to float a loan on its behalf, any loan subsequently floated by the Commonwealth on its own behalf would not be regulated by the terms of the previous transaction. The money market fluctuates everyday and every hour, and the terms of a loan depend on the state of the market at the moment and not upon the terms on which money was. borrowed some years before ; if the circumstances were otherwise we should never borrow. Interest at the rate of 3A per cent, means £192,000 per annum instead of £245,000, representing a saving of £53,000- to Victoria. I now come to the question of a sinking fund. In the absence of financial advice, I should not like to express a deliberate opinion on this point ; but speaking with the little information I have, I rather approve of what I understand to be the view of the Treasurer, namely, that there should be a sinkingfund attached to this loan. I do hot know whether I-am correct as to the view of the Treasurer, but I believe that hesuggests that the sinking fund should be 1 per cent. ; in any case, I think the right honorable gentleman is endeavouring to take a wise course. If there were a sinking fund of 1 per cent., and even if Victoria continued to pay interest at the rate of 4^ per cent., she would in the course of thirty years - without speaking of compound interest,, which would amount to an enormous sum - wipe off £1,500,000 of her indebtedness - she would in the ordinary currency of debentures wipe off that amount without being called upon to pay a penny more in interest. The Commonwealth was broughtinto existence to do this amongst other great services for the States. I have alwaysstated in the Convention, and elsewhere, that it is idle to talk of convertingdebentures which have not fallen due. No sensible man will give up that which hehas, and which bears a certain rate of interest- for a certain term, unless hereceives an equivalent in the shape of lowpriced debentures or interest. An investor is bound to get his money’s worth beforehe gives back his security. Therefore it is all “ moonshine “ to talk about converting the loans, unless the security of theStates is considered bad. If the security of the States were regarded as rotten we might induce bond-holders to submit to the conversion of the loans. But I do not believe that any one holds that view regarding any Australian State. Such an impression is entirely without foundation, because I do not think there is any security in the world better than that of. an. Australian State, except perhaps it might be that of the Commonwealth. I think that a grand opportunity presents itself to the Commonwealth Government to set aside all red-tape in this matter. New South Wales and the other States would not grudge help to Victoria. There is no nian in Australia who does not wish to see each State placed in a better position by the Union, and inasmuch as the Victorian Customs revenue yields ample security - five times over - for this annual amount of interest charge, I suggest to my right honorable friend that he might lend his assistance. I recognise that there are a number of matters in connexion with the subject concerning which no one but the Treasurer has definite knowledge. I know that it is easy to criticise, but he must have far more knowledge than we have. I think I can fairly say that. But if my right honorable friend could see any way of forwarding this matter I should be glad. If he cannot, I hope I may intrude a little advice upon the State Premier. I hope that if the right honorable gentleman is not able at present to help the State by talcing up the loan when it falls due, the Victorian. Government will not dream of issuing the new loan at a long date, but will be content with the shortest possible period until the Federal Treasurer can come to their assistance. If the Victorian Government were to float a loan having a currency of thirty years, when money might be dirt cheap within a few years, they would make a fatal mistake.
– Would the right honorable gentleman suggest the issue of short dated bonds 1
– That is a matter of great delicacy. I do not wish to expose myself to the charge of impertinence, and I am purposely making any suggestion as vague as possible. I desire to say a word or two about the Public Service. I think that the state of the Public Service is most unsatisfactory. We have passed a regulation which, if worked out economically, would be all right, but which is liable to lead to the grossest extravagance. For instance, we know that in the Postal and Telegraph and Customs Departments a perfect army of young messengers are employed. They perform no intellectual work, but are merely boys who are employed to carry documents or telegrams from place to place. Under the theory of the minimum wage a servant, beginning as a mere errand boy at the age of seventeen, is entitled on reaching the age of twenty- one to £110 per annum.
– That is if he is retained in the service.
– Exactly. After he has been in the service for four years he becomes entitled to a man’s wages.
– But he is a man at the age of twenty-one.
– But I say that the principle upon which we should conduct our Public Service is that of giving a man’s pay when we get a man’s work.
– Then we should sack the man, and put other boys on.
– We do not want these servants to be the subjects of charity at the age of twenty-one. The people of the Commonwealth cannot stand these things. The public, who have a bitter struggle for existence, cannot afford tt» pay boys the wages of men.
– But those who reach the age of twenty-one are no longer boys.
– But they are doing boys’ work.
– Then we should get boys to do the work.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend that it is cruel that a boy should grow up to manhood, and assume the duties of manhood, upon a salary of not more than £50 or £60 per annum.
– We have dealt with that matter so far as telegraph messengers are concerned. We provided in the Post and Telegraph Act that if they were not appointed to other positions in the service they ‘ would have to leave at. the age of eighteen.
– That removes my objection so far as telegraph messengers are concerned. I was otherwise informed. That, however, does not apply to the Customs Department.
– I admit that ; but much the same principle is adopted.
– There are very few messengers in the Customs Department.
– What I wish to say is that we must conduct our Public Service upon a common sense basis. Now I have a different complaint to make. A system of absolute sweating is being carried on in some of the public Departments. Honorable members who are so concerned, and very properly so, about these young fellows who reach the age of twenty-one, and who
I are not in receipt of a salary of £110 a year, may very well give their attention to this matter. I think that the honorable member for Bland - with his knowledge of the Public Service in Sydney - will bear me out when I say that at this very time there are grown men who have had a large experience in business, and who are filling the most responsible positions in the public Departments who are receiving only £120 or £130 per annum. Surely there ought to he some justice. My motto as regards the Public Service “a full day’s pay ‘ for a full day’s work and full pay according to the value of the work.” Now there are men with wives and families, and equipped with long experience, who are rendering valuable services and doing highly responsible work in our public Departments, who are receiving only £120 or £130 per annum.
– The Public Service Commissioner is re-classifying them now.
– I hope that their positions will be fully considered. I saw some advertisements, in the Commonwealth Gazette to which I wish to direct attention. One related to a watchman who was required for the Customs House, at a salary of £120 a year. 1 am not complaining of the £120 proposed-, to be paid for a watchman, but I do complain of the next advertisement, to the following effect : - “ Wanted, for the Attorney-General’s office, a young man who has knowledge of the work of a solicitor’s office, and is a typewriter, £120 per annum.” Now,1 I must say with all due respect–
– That is as much as they give any public servant to commence with.
– The. watchman would work twelve hours to the other man’s seven:
– Do not call it work - it is duty. I admit that it may be harder for some people to do nothing than to do something. It may be more arduous for some men to do nothing for twelve hours than to work for twelve hours. At the same time, it seems to me that the clerk who is required to have a knowledge of the work of a solicitor’s office, and who has to be a good typewriter, ought to receive a little more than £120 a year. That is all. I am not grudging what is to be paid to the other fellow ; but I think that the clerk should receive a little more.
– In one case the salary represents the maximum and in the other only a beginning.
– That may be. But the officer to whom I referred is not like a cadet. He is being brought in as a clerk who has been in other offices, and has acquired legal experience.
– There are plenty of experienced clerks in Solicitors’ offices receiving only £3 per week.
– I know that. But is not that bad, and do not we want to set a better standard in the Federal service ?
– Hear, hear. But £120 is a fair start.
– I want honorable members to consider another important matter. Our defences have been in a rotten state for years. We have a good. Commandant, a competent man, who reports that our defences require to be put right at an expenditure of £480,000. He says that they are now in an absolutely improper state. The Treasurer admits that the General declares that that sum is required to make our defences real and perfect.
– But distributed over four years.
– I am coming to that point. These defences have cost millions of pounds - I mean the defences and the personnel. A thoroughly up-to-date General tells us that they are of no use, and that an expenditure of £480,000 is required to meet the exigencies of the case. No doubt he would like to see that expenditure incurred immediately, but knowing our financial position he very sensibly suggests that it should be distributed over a period of four years - in other words that we should provide for an annual payment of £125,000. But the Treasurer says - “Oh no, I can provide only £75,000 a year.”
– For this year.
– I am very glad to hear my right honorable friend say that. The expenditure of that sum represents his proposal for only the current year; but, of course, there will be a tendency to make it an annual payment. I wish to ask again why there should be a reduction in this most important service, because all the expenditure must come out of current revenue. The neglect of the taxpayers through their representatives and Governments of ten or twenty years ago must all come upon the taxpayer of these two or three years. There is no sense in that system if the works are permanent.
– The right honorable member will scarcely call powder and shot “ permanent.”
– But I used the word “ works.” There is a considerable sum required for ordnance and works. Now I desire to make a few observations upon a very interesting subject, namely the operation of the Tariff’. I wish to deal with it upon the basis of my right honorable friend’s own statements. In the course of his Budget speech, the Treasurer submitted a number of figures relating to a decline of imports into Australia which represented a value of some millions of pounds. Naturally, I wished to test his belief in the progress of the protective incidence of the Tariff upon imports by his own Estimates for next year, because I am sure that those Estimates are founded upon very careful and genuine investigation. Now, from page 3 of his estimate of Customs and Excise revenue for the current year, I find that, compared with the actual revenue derived during last year - leaving out of consideration the receipts from stimulants, narcotics, sugar, and miscellaneous, and taking the whole range of manufactures - the Treasurer expects to collect only £32,000 less than he received last year. Taking the whole range of imports of manufactures as covered by eleven divisions of the Tariff, and excluding only those which I have mentioned, I find that the Treasurer expects to receive £2,928,000 as against £2,960,000 - a difference of only 1 per cent. That estimate supplies a flat contradiction to the bright picture of colonial industry stopping imports to the extent of millions of pounds. Over the whole range of items from which a revenue of nearly £3,000,000 was derived last year, there is only a difference of £30,000.
– But we anticipate an increased consumption owing to the cessation of the drought.
– We can always offer reasons of that sorb. May I suggest that next year very hard times will be experienced in consequence of the drought. The sheep-farmers have not harvests coming in. They have nothing but dead stock about their runs - stock which they cannot replace. I merely mention the fact that the Estimates for next year do not indicate the progress in local manufacture that was predicted. There are two other matters of great importance to which I desire to refer. But before doing so I should like to refer bo the result of one year’s experience of this Tariff in New South Wales. I allude bo the year 1 902. In that State the people have nob been accustomed bo such high duties, so that ib really constitutes virgin soil. Upona previous occasion the Minister for Trade and Customs told us that in New South Wales about £1,500,000 had been invested in new industrial works since this protective Tariff had come into operation. His figures are only about £500,000 in excess of those contained in the official returns, which included even the money expended upon the erection of halls for the purpose of holding boxing exhibitions, upon works for generating electricity for the brams, and upon the re-erection of a large building which had been burnt down. These were all elements in the grand spread of colonial industry. But, fortunately, we have since received the report of the Department for Labour and Industry in that State, and in it Mr. Schey, who is an excellent protectionist, tells the people of New South Wales - who during the past twenty months have paid £3,000,000 more through the Customs than they formerly did - that for every man who entered /a New South Wales factory last year, seven women and children entered, and that out of a total increase of 1,600 hands, 1,500 were under eighteen years of age, 500 out of that 1,500 being so young that they had to obtain exemption certificates from public schools. Tb is impossible bo glory in results such as these. They exhibit the old taint which runs right through every protective policy - the taint of female and child labour. Now I come to another question - and i must say that it represents a serious omission from the Budget speech that the Treasurer did not touch upon, the question of a preferential tariff. At the last Conference which was held in London, the Government entered into certain obligations with Mr. Chamberlain. He made an address, in which he fully explained his meaning. He said, “ We want free-trade within the Empire. That is our ideal. We cannob get ib. Therefore we ask you bo give us some substantial preference. Canada has given us a preference of 12£ per cent. Afterwards she gave us 25- per cent., and still later 33 per cent. ‘Yet the condition of affairs is unsatisfactory. We ask you if you wish us to admit your goods upon favorable terms to take our goods in exchange.” That is an honest proposal. If we wish the people of England to impose taxes on the bread of their daily life we must not humbug, we must not defraud, we must not deceive them. Surely they should be left free from that. The Prime Ministers who assembled at that Conference agreed to a series of resclutions in which the principle of a substantial preference was affirmed. I have the resolutions here. This is one of them -
That is the contract for which Mr. Chamberlain is asking millions of people to impose taxes on the free passage of the life blood of British industry. I ask the people of Australia, if they wish to deal with this matter, to deal with it like honest men - to give these people, whom they picture as so distressed, so afflicted with the curse of free-trade, common honest treatment1! I ask them not to offer the fraud which would be represented by erecting a wall against the admission of their goods, and then proffer them a substantial preference by erecting a still higher wall against the goods of some one else. I shall denounce that proposal before all Australia as a mean, sneaking, disloyal fraud. Only the other day the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, speaking at a Protectionist Conference in Melbourne, exclaimed, “Let our cry be protection and loyalty to the Empire.” That exposes the obliquity of this brand of patriotism. They know well that if they were to open the door to their fellow countrymen in England, their policy of protection would be a sham. Against whom have the people of Victoria built up this wall of protection for the last thirty years ? Against their fellow countrymen. Why is there a duty of 30 per cent, on British boots and hats, and a duty of 25 per cent, on clothes made in England? . To shut out of Australia the industry of Great Britain. What a huge farce it is to ask those struggling millions on the old piece of land which has been free for centuries, to expose themselves to burdens in order to help men who till the virgin soil of a vast continent, and offer them nothing but a sham in return for their sacrifice ? I have here a solemn manifesto of the Protectionist League, which met in a place of humble industry in Bourkestreet - a hatter’s shop. It was not the abode of the six hatters, but the place of business of one genuine Australian hatter who has a tariff to help him. This great gathering of protectionist geniuses was illumined by the presence of two Cabinet Ministers. I suppose, that Sir William Lyne, the wary, and Sir John . Forrest, the unwary, going together to a meeting must give us some real insight into the policy of the Government. Between them we are bound to learn something. The result of one part of the proceedings of the League, as reported in a local newspaper with a vivid imagination, was the following determination : -
The call of Mr. Chamberlain with regard to reciprocal trade will be answered by Australians with a ready assent.
This is a plank in the fighting platform adopted by the Australian protectionists for the next elections. Does it not sound beautiful ? They speak of the call of Mr. Chamberlain with regard to reciprocal trade - remember not preferential treatment as between British and foreign countries - but reciprocal trade between Englishmen and Australians. They speak of Englishmen . and Australians working as brothers, shoulder to shoulder, old family ties proving stronger than fiscal fallacies and creeds. It is theoretically a noble platform. At last we see across this barren selfish wall of protection a gleam of lightning illuminating the message - “ Words of promise to our countrymen at home. Reciprocal trade.” I will now read a telegram which the same conference sent to Mr. Chamberlain, showing the way in which this ready, noble, brotherly assent is given to this gigantic scheme to tax the bread of the British millions. The report sets forth that -
After the manifesto had been adopted, it was resolved on the motion of Sir Langdon Bonython, seconded by Mr Hume Cook - “That the following cable be forwarded to Mr. Chamberlain, signed by the President of the Conference.”
How proud Mr. Chamberlain must have been to receive this message of brotherly love from far across the seas ? How it will stimulate him in his giant task of persuading the people of England to adopt the enlightened policy of ‘ Victoria ? Listen to the words of the message -
Conference. Commonwealth Protectionist Association now sitting, all States represented, unanimously resolved that this conference favours preferential trade with Great Britain upon basis existing tariff without interference with present protection.”
How the anxious heart of that great statesman must have thrilled with delight when he learned of this magnificent scheme for uniting the Empire. Do sane men believe that the conscience of the people of Australia who are loyal- who are not politicians - who, when they are asked to do the old country a turn, are ready to send Australia’s children to die for her, will not be shocked by this message 1 Do they think that the conscience of Australians will not be shocked when, under cover of loyalty - under cover of doing something for our motherland - it is declared that we are not going to remove a stone from that solid wall which has shut her out from the Commonwealth ? “Will not the conscience of Australians be shocked when they learn that this proposal does not mean that we are to be affected in any way by it ; that it means that only the people of Great Britain are to be touched, that the free currents of the Empire are not to circulate more widely into the heart of our continent, but that the industry of our people is to be placed in a more favoured relation to the necessities and miseries of the mother country ? The people of Australia will turn sick at such an attempt to insult their understanding. I say to protectionists - “ Be protectionists. Say, as you have said for thirty years past in Victoria - 1 We do not own any country when we want to build up a wall of protection’ ; but do not, in the guise of patriots, say to the people of Great Britain - ‘ We will help you, not by opening our door, not by making the barrier less difficult to pass, but, having shut you out, we will put up another wall to shut out the foreigner. “ You will thus have the glorious satisfaction of knowing that you will be between two dead walls. You will be exactly where you were before, except-that you will have the satisfaction of knowing that there is another wall behind you separating the Briton from the foreigner.’ “ What a delightful new avenue of enterprise the protectionists propose to create by distinguishing between the people of England and Germany; by shutting out their own fellow countrymen from our ports, while at the same time they erect another wall behind them to prevent the foreigner from interfering with their pastime of trying to get over the first wall. Protectionists had better take a more manly course. They stand by a great principle, which - whether right or wrong - demands the attention of every m*an.
– The principle of ignorance and evil.
– It is idle to say that, because some of the greatest nations in the world believe in the principle of protection.
– They have been very ignorant, and evil, too.
– That may be, but I am not prepared to advance the contention that I am infallible. I have no desire to take up that position. I merely say that I believe I am right. This, however, is not a matter of policy. It is not a question of protection or free-trade. It is a matter of common honesty. Politicians may twist and turn, but when the Australian people talk to the British people across the ocean they do not desire to speak in terms of deception and imposition. They wish to talk like men. The protectionists should act. like men who believe in their policy. We can respect a man who does that ; but a man who, under promise of doing something that he never intended to do, endeavours to sneak an advantage from other people who are worse off than himself,, does not come within that category If this Tariff is to remain as it is, I am going to tell the people of Australia that, no matter what they do in England, I shall make no bargain with the people of that country. I shall ask them for nothing. But I shall ask the people of Australia to take down half the wall which shuts us in from the mother country. I would not mock the people of England with anything less, and I leave it to them to fight out their own battles as to what is good for them. I kno w that it must be good for them for us to do what I propose. It has been hard enough upon them, when they have given us our land, our lives, and our humanity, to find a wall erected against them. They have always had power enough to smash these walls down, but they have been too noble to attempt touse the slightest indication of pressure. When we are dealing with people likethat, we should be honest and frank with them, and tell them what we mean. I come now to the last matter with which I wish to deal. As honorable members know, a certain Bill has practically become law. I am not now going to discuss the provisions of that Bill. The time is past for- that. But I wish to frankly state my position, so that there shall be no misunderstanding with reference to the next general election. Some time ago I openly offered, on behalf of the party which I lead, to have this matter settled once and for all. I consider, with those who long for some sort of settlement of this question which paralyzes industry, which divides men who have great principles in common, which seems to fritter away the power of many good men to cooperate for the good of the country, that it is time that the strife should cease and the difference disappear. Now that the Tariff is known, and has become the subject of experience, I honestly and frankly offered to stand by the verdict of the electors in regard to it. I go further, and I say that, unless there is a substantial majority in favour of disturbing the Tariff, I, if I were in a position of power, would not dare to disturb it ; that nothing, unless the voice of the people is unmistakeable, could justify me in disturbing it, in view of what follows from such disturbances.
– If the right honorable member disturbs it now, can he insure that others will not disturb it later on ?
– I am coming to a matter which I invite the Government and my honorable friends of all parties to consider. I do not make these remarks without the intention of proposing something practical. But I want in the beginning to define my position. Honorable members will in candour admit that when I made that offer it was on the basis of the electoral law, and of a system of constituencies framed in accordance with that law. It was not made on the basis of a game of chance, in which the dice were to be loaded, or on the basis of a system of constituencies under which 200,000 men and women electors would, have only the same influence in settling this national question as 112,000 other electors. Did we confer the suffrage upon the women of Australia in order to cheat- them1! If we attempt to cheat them we shall not thrive by it. I did not expect a constituency in which 15,000 women in one part of Australia would have the same power as 53,000 women in another part of Australia. Such an arrangement is not in accordance with the theory of our Constitution, and it is not to such a tribunal that I wish to appeal. I wish to appeal to a tribunal of the manhood and womanhood of the Continent, not to a tribunal “which politicians have invented. People may talk as they will against the suggestions I am going to make, and say that it is impossible to entertain them favorably because of some tremendous exodus of population which has altered the conditions of Australia ; but I am going to show now how they can be carried out. I have before me a map of the State which I represent, and I invite the attention of honorable members to that small part of New South Wales shown upon it, with Sydney in its heart, enclosed by a black line. Within the black line are the Sydney metropolitan and suburban electorates, the Newcastle electorate, and the Parramatta electorate, . which I have included because I have not the information which I wished in regard to it. I have, in regard to the rest of the State, a series of returns, sixteen in number, one for each constituency, which I have received from the Chief Electoral Officer for New South Wales. These returns show the number of electors upon the rolls at the time of the first general elections for this House in 1901, the number on the rolls in 1902, and the number on the rolls which were completed about two months ago. As there were no female electors in 1900, I shall deal only with male electors. I find that the number of male electors upon the rolls which are now being completed is as great for the whole State as the number on the rolls at the time of our first general election. Far from there having been a terrific exodus of population from the drought-stricken districts of the State, there are as many electors in those districts now as there were at the time of the last general elections.
– That fact supports our position. We were averse to applying data obtained a year ago to the state “of things existing to-day.
– I am not taking up the time of honorable members in order to go back to the old controversy. I intend to lead up to something quite different ; but I wish to establish my basis first. These figures show that there are more electors in those districts to-day than there were in 1900, in 1901, and in 1902. This year there are 8,000 electors there more than there were last year, and in this connexion I would remind honorable members that if the whole of the male and female electors in the three westernelectoral divisions of the State disappeared from the face of the earth- 42,000 in all - that number would not equal the difference between the number of electors in those divisions and the number of electors, in three other divisions, because in the first three divisions there are 42,000 electors, and in the second three divisions 94,000 electors, a difference of 52,000 electors. The first three divisions to which I refer constitute practically half of New South Wales, and have suffered severely from the drought in past years. I have here the return of male electors on the rolls of those electorates for a period of eleven years, which surely affords a sound basis of comparison. The return gives the figures from 1893 to 1903, and shows that during those eleven years the greatest variation between the figures for this year and the highest previous year is only a few thousand electors. Now I will give honorable members the figures for the past four years, which again afford a fair basis of comparison. In 1901 the three electorates to which I have alluded as constituting half of New South Wales contained 28,333 male electors; in 1901-2 they contained 27,846 male electors ; in 1902-3, 26,895 male electors; and in 1903-4, the lists which are to be the basis for the next election show a population of 28,461 male electors, a larger number than in any other year during the period. Those are the facts upon which I spoke and denounced this’ invention of an exodus. Not as a fraud - because 1 am willing to believe, in fairness to the responsible Minister, that he is not personally aware of these things. I do not want to make my statement in any way personally offensive to him. But some one behind him has placed in his hands information which the returns which I have received from the State Electoral Office show to be absolutely and fraudulently false. More than that, a statement was submitted to this House a few days ago which bears the same stamp of. fraud upon it. In that statement the population of the New South Wales electorates was tabulated in two columns, one showing the number of electors in the present divisions, and the other the number of electors in the divisions proposed by the Commissioner. But, in order to deprive the metropolis of 25,000 electors, a new division proposed by the Commissioner, and named Ashfield, was omitted from the list of Sydney divisions and put after the Barrier division, with no corresponding number against it in the other column. That is. political trickery which is in keeping with the whole of this sham. So far as that is concerned, it has been only seed time up to the present ; the harvest time will come by-and-by.
– Does the right honorable gentlemen suggest that an officer would do that without an instruction 1
– I suggest nothing ; I state the facts. I suggest nothing beyond what I know. I do not even suggest that the officer did it. I do not know whether he did or not. I only know that a return appeared in one of the ‘newspapers. No officer may have prepared it.
– It was signed by an officer.
– Then if it is signed by an officer it speaks for itself. If an officer signed a, return showing 25,000 less than the proper number of electors in the Sydney divisions, he would have been guilty of a deception upon those who did not take the trouble to check it as I did. ‘Very few people have the time, or care to take the trouble, to check public documents. We do not check them, because they are supposed to bear the stamp of sincerity and honesty, and we are entitled to look upon them as reliable. In omitting one of Mr. Houston’s divisions in order to make the discrepancy smaller by 25,000, the officer, or whoever it may have been, was guilty of the grossest deception. It was a most contemptible trick. If the return appears above the signature of an officer, I say that it would be infinitely better if Ministers abstained from appointing political partisans of their own to important offices. When men appoint political partizans to positions of public trust, as trustees between one carty and another, they must take the responsibility.
– Is the right honorable gentleman, making a suggestion against any particular individual ?
– No. I do not know any individual in the matter. One honorable member says that an officer signed the document, and if he did he must be held responsible. I do not wish to make any statements regarding matters of which I know nothing. I am accepting the assurance of the honorable member beside me. I am speaking of the way in which this statement was published in the press. I am making no statements about the return, because I have not seen it. Has any honorable member seen the return signed by the officer ?
– Yes, I have, undoubtedly j and I shall find it for the right honorable gentleman.
– I am not making all these remarks with a view to bringing up again the old quarrel. That is past and done with, so far as this House is concerned. But I want to tell this House and the country, that I decline to accept the constituencies as they stand as offering an opportunity to obtain a fair reflection of the opinions of the men and women of Australia. That is all. I say that on the question of taxation, and of the national policy as it affects the industries and burdens of the people of Australia every man and every woman has an equal right to a voice. I do not make any formal proposal, but I desire to throw out the suggestion- to the Government and to honorable members without wishing, by my method of submitting it, to place the Government in such a position that they may be precluded by their own sense of dignity from considering it. I quite admit that a suggestion to a Government should be made in such a way as to give them an honest opportunity to consider it. This quarrel of mine, to which I have been referring incidentally, is one which I transfer from this House to the constituency of the Prime Minister. I hold that the Prime Minister, as the head of the Administration, is responsible, not for any conscious act of wrongdoing, but for the state of affairs which I denounce. I shall meet him entirely on public grounds, and with every personal respect, and I intend to meet him in his own constituency. He met me in my own constituency at a time when I was Prime Minister of New South Wales. He thought it proper to come there. I am not sure whether I challenged him, but I think I did.
– The right honorable gentleman did.
– More power to the right honorable gentleman for having answered my challenge. In this case I do not wait for his challenge ; I go without it. As I never represented that part of New South Wales, I know that, to a certain extent, I shall be taking a leap in the dark. I never represented a country electorate in New South Wales.
– I hope the right honorable gentlemen will win.
– Whether I win or not, those honorable gentlemen who look upon my recent resignation as a farce will have an opportunity to study my action under other conditions. I stake my whole political future upon the principle upon which I shall contest the election in the constituency now represented by the Prime Minister. I stake it all upon that test. I do not choose the ground for the contest, but I go to that which the Prime Minister occupies, and I do hope that those friends and supporters of the right honorable gentleman, who do him an ill-turn by betraying such anxiety to get rid of him, will cease from their manoeuvres and will abstain from any further lobbying intrigues to persuade him to retire from a most honorable position. I consider that the attitude which the Prime Minister has taken up is worthy of his former career. When we are fighting we sometimes say bitter things ; but the Prime Minister knows well that, apart from that, I have always expressed the highest regard for him and for the high and honorable position which he has taken in public life. I sometimes say severe things regarding him, especially when he applies certain terms to myself. I have felt very bitter about certain matters, but all that has passed away, and I can assure my honorable friend that when I oppose him in his own electorate, I shall not utter one word that “ will be unworthy of our old friendship. The issue between us will be very much narrowed down, and the grievance will be very much lessened, and I shall also be able- to adhere to my honest desire to have the fiscal question settled once and for all, and finally - if we Can come to a conclusion that it can be treated in the way I am about to suggest. It is* a matter entirely for the Government to consider, because only the Government can conveniently carry out the suggestion. But I think it will appeal to the good sense and patriotism of honorable members, entirely apart from whether it will be convenient or otherwise to themselves. I say that we might well, on this occasion, in my opinion - I have not consulted my friends about it, but it is my own strong conviction - bury the fiscal question finally as a matter of political difference and conflict by taking a straight-out vote of the electors of Australia upon it, apart from all personalities. We know that the next election will be conducted under a number of distracting circumstances. We cannot affect to be ignorant of the fact. We know that in the appeals of the candidates to the electors, a number of personal considerations - considerations of popularity, and considerations of long and faithful service - will exercise an influence. For instance, if T, an ardent free-trader, were an elector in the constituency represented by my honorable friend the member for Gippsland, I honestly believe that I should have to vote for him owing to the confidence which I have in him and the respect which I feel for him as a free and, intelligent Member of Parliament.
– I always thought the right honorable ‘gentleman was a good judge.
– I am a good judge. I know a good man when I see him, and .1 never hesitate to acknowledge it. I think that it is one of the delights of difference to be able to recognise good men irrespective of whether we agree with them or not. I desire to see the fiscal question settled once and for all, free from personal considerations.
– How would the right honorable gentleman submit the question ?
– That is not a question to address to me. I am quite willing to allow the Government to put it in any possible way they can invent. I want to be so fair and frank that I am not going to haggle as to the way in which the question shall be put. I think that the Government which could evolve that series of resolutions regarding the capital site could surely frame a proposition upon the fiscal question which could be placed upon the voting papers.
– But the right honorable gentleman does not bind himself to accept their statement of the question ?
– The honorable member is looking as anxious as if I had done so. I am not in the habit of acting rashly, and I have not bound myself to anything. I wish, however, to put the matter in the most friendly way, so that it may be considered apart from all personal or party feeling, in order to make the appeal absolutely fair. I repeat that unless the majority for disturbing the present Tariff is a clear one, I shall consider that the question is decided against me.
– Does the honorable member mean a majority of honorable members 1
– No I mean a majority of the electors of Australia. We all have certain issues to meet, apart from the fiscal question, and I wish to give the people an opportunity to crystallize their vote upon the question of taxation, and to leave them free to vote for their representatives according to their ideas regarding their eligibility. I know that there are difficulties in the way; but if my suggestion were adopted it would have this admirable quality - that instead of my coming back and saying the majority was one way, and other honorable members coming back and saying that it was the other way, we should ask the people of Australia for a straight-out vote, and honestly accept the result. I say, further, that if the vote gave a majority of only one or two in favour of disturbing the present Tariff, I should regard that as a defeat.
– Does the right honorable gentleman mean a referendum ?
– Yes, I mean that alongside the ordinary ballot-box there should be another, into which the electors should be asked to deposit voting papers expressing their views upon the fiscal question. We have had a referendum with regard to the Constitution, and in connexion with the election of delegates to the Convention, and I think the principle is a sound one. I admit that it is not one to be used lightly, or availed of largely, but I do say that with regard to the question which has divided the people of “Australia for so many years any man who is honestly anxious to have it settled ought to favorably consider the proposition.
– That would afford a good “get out” for the right honorable gentleman.
– Does the honorable member think that the majority would be in my favour 1
– They might be upon that question.
– That is a nice admission to make. The honorable member says that I might win upon the fiscal question, but that, under ordinary circumstances, other considerations might stifle the free expression of the public will. This is not a matter for * politicians to settle. It is a matter of the taxation of industry, which should be settled by the people who have to pay the taxes.
– The referendum would save the right honorable gentleman from defeat. That is what I mean.
– How could that be if I were beaten? If the people recorded a verdict against me that would be a final defeat of my policy. If they did that I should not, as long as my life lasted, raise’ the fiscal question again before the people. That is all I can say. I have not many more years to live.
– Cheer up.
– I have not yet reached that old age at which men believe that they will live for many years longer. When I am about twenty years older I shall probably be quite sure that I am not going to die. But I am still young enough to know that I am getting old.
– The right honorable gentleman will last at least as long as the Braddon Blot.
– I do not propose to occupy a position in public life for any longer period than that. I do not ask the Government to say a word about my suggestion now. I have thrown it out suddenly, without any notice, and all I ask is that the Government and honorable members will do me the favour to consider it. I tell them- frankly that I cannot accept the decision of the constituencies as they stand, and I will give them one reason. There are seven electorates in New- South Wales which return seven protectionists, and contain only 112,000 electors. There are seven other electorates which return seven freetraders and contain 212,000 electors. I ask any man how he could expect me, in a. struggle for the great principle of my life, to accept the verdict of 100,000 electors as equal to that of 200,000 electors? It is foreign to the whole basis of the Constitution.
– It is partially reversed in Victoria.
– The same evil exists in Victoria. In this State there are three country electorates which contain only about 40,000 or 50,000 voters, and three city constituencies which contain more than 100,000. I do not attempt to puzzle out which party such a referendum would assist. It might help me here and- hurt me there. But the grand effect of it would be that neither side could afterwards say that the numbers were not up. If the numbers were in my favour I should be delighted, but if not, I should be committed to a fiscal truce in a way from which I could not escape. I desire to obtain no scratch victory. Indeed, unless I secured a substantial victory, I should accept it as a defeat. I feel very strongly upon the question of the manner in which this new arrangement of the electorates will work, and in the name of the men and women of Australia, who will have to bear the burdens imposed by our fiscal policy in the years to come, I ask that they shall be given a fair opportunity to record their opinions upon that vital question in order that it may be definitely settled. I also ask it in the interests of the politics of Australia, which have too often been crippled by the differences which unhappily do prevail between men who otherwise might be able to work in harmony.
– I do not intend to occupy a great deal of time in discussing this question, but there are one or two matters to which some degree of attention ought to be paid. Concerning the Budget papers, I can only say that the condition of affairs disclosed by the Treasurer’s statement affords abundant justification for the attitude which was assumed by the Labour Party during the discussion of the Tariff. At that time we urged that the Treasurer had under-estimated his probable receipts from many sources, and that consequently we were warranted in freeing from taxation a number of other items which had been included in the Tariff proposals. In debating the tea duties, some eighteen months ago, I said that, notwithstanding the prophecies which had been indulged in by the Treasurer, the Tariff, during the current year, would probably yield £9,250,000. I notice that the Treasurer’s estimate - which is admittedly a very conservative one, and which has reference to a period immediately following the drought- is £9,107,000.
– That includes the Western Australian special Tariff.
– So does the sum to which I was referring. I expressed the opinion that if the duties upon tea and kerosene, which represented a sum of £500,000, were remitted, there was every reason to believe that the Tariff would yield £9,250,000 during the current year. Notwithstanding the aftermath of the drought which we are likely to experience, I still believe that that estimate will be realized. 1 am glad to think that it is so, because it affords members of the Labour Party complete justification for having voted in favour of the abolition of those duties.
– But by abolishing those duties the honorable member hit two or three of the poorer States very hard.
– I regarded the matter not from the point of view of the poorer States, but rather from the stand-point of the to till burden, which we were imposing upon the Commonwealth. We had no right to increase that total burden in order that we might relieve some of the States. from a situation which really did not exist. Had Queensland or Tasmania resorted to direct taxation there would have been no need for apprehension upon that score. In this connexion I am glad to see that recently the Treasurers of those States have agreed to impose direct taxation in order to make good a deficiency in their revenue. I think there was ample room for the criticism of the leader of the Opposition in respect of insufficient provision having been made by the Government in the matter of military arms and equipment. Although as a member of the Labour Party, and in common with other honorable members, I have taken every opportunity to cut down the estimates submitted for the training of citizen soldiers, and for the maintenance of military staffs, I have never failed to put before this Chamber the imperative need which exists for providing our soldiers with arms and equipment. It is in the highest degree unfortunate that the Government has seen fit to allocate a sum of only £75,000 for that purpose. Major-General Hutton has not only reported that it will require an expenditure of £500,000 to make good our deficiencies in these respects, but has also urged the immediate necessity of establishing a small arms and ammunition factory in our territory. Yet ho steps have been taken by the Government in that direction. All that they have done is to arrange for an extension of a contract with the Small Arms and Ammunition Company of Victoria. That means that the establishment iri question, which imports most of its material, and . merely puts it together in Victoria is to be relied upon, in times of stress and trouble, to supply the whole of Australia. I hold that- the Government would have to face a very grave responsibility if the necessity suddenly arose to place either arms or equipment in the hands of our soldiers. . Yet the excuse urged by the Treasurer is that some of the States have not the requisite money to spend. That is a paltry excuse under all the circumstances of the case. If it is essential that these arms and equipment should be provided, we should be prepared to cut down the amount to be expended upon the training of our troops until they have been purchased. I admit that the- expenditure of £700,000, plus the extra sum which we voted the other day for alleged naval defence, is a reasonable amount to provide for the training of our troops. At the same time it is very unreasonable to spend £700,000 in that direction, if we lack the necessary arms and equipment to see them safely through a war. Personally, I am prepared, to vote for the expenditure of a much larger sum to be specifically allocated to the purchase of small arms and equipment, and for the establishment within the Commonwealth of a small arms and ammunition factory. I made that statement some time ago, and I am glad to have an opportunity to repeat it, because there has been a desire on the part of some newspapers to persistently misrepresent the attitude of the Labour Party upon this matter. They urge that we are not concerned in the military defence of Australia.
– It is a deliberate misrepresentation.
– Certainly it is.
– We should be the very first men who would be called upon to defend it.
– Those who support the Labour Party can certainly claim that in every war which has occurred in the world’s history they have had to bear the brunt of the fighting. If the occasion arose they would do so again. In my judgment it is bordering upon the criminal to spend such a large amount in the training and feeding of our troops, and to make no provision whatever for their proper arming and equipment. No Government is discharging its duty unless it provides for the first essential in regard to defence. This afternoon the leader of the Opposition made some observations with regard to coloured seamen which I consider were particularly unfortunate. He referred to the white men who are engaged in the stoke-holes of the mail steamers and other vessels as the “ scum “ of the British race. I think that was a most unfortunate remark to make, and a shamefully inaccurate one. I admit that amongst the men who are so engaged there is a certain proportion who misconduct themselves by over-indulgence in drink ; but there is no class in the community which does not contain a proportion of whom the same thing may be said. Every one who is acquainted with .the history of the British mercantile marine knows that whenever danger has arisen, the so-called “ scum “ have died the death of men in order to save their fellow creatures. We who have read of the danger and travail which British seamen have been called upon to face - who appreciate their heroic conduct under all sorts of terrible circumstances - can feel a pride in them when we contrast their attitude with that of black crews such as that on the Argus the other day. Although that vessel was in Sydney harbor at the time, and within a stone’s throw of shore, the crew were panicstricken because another vessel bumped into her. Indeed, the screams of the black crew were so heartrending that they were heard all over the waterside suburbs of Sydney. Yet these are the individuals to whom we are asked to extend consideration, and the men, forsooth, who are placed in the same category as those of our own race, whose courage and coolness in the presence of danger is known to the world. I say that the leader of the Opposition was not only unfortunate in his choice of expression, but utterly unjustified in the opprobrium which he attempted to heap upon the white stokers who are employed upon steamers. He was also inaccurate in assuming that the work of the coloured crews is confined to the stoke-holes. As a matter of fact, upon the P. and O. steamers and other similar boats, all the work with the exception of that which is done on the quarter-deck and in the engine-room is performed by black men.
– There are black cleaners in the engine-room.
– The officers, engineers, and quartermasters of these vessels are white men. But these so-called “reliable” coloured crews cannot be trusted even to steer the vessels. It is idle, therefore, to pretend that the attitude assumed by the leader of the Opposition on behalf of “the poor, wretched individuals” who have to toil under such distressing conditions j in the stoke-holes is ‘ warranted. As a matter of fact we know that the stokeholes of vessels trading between Great Britain and South Africa, and crossing the line as they do, are filled with white men. The stoke-holes of a number of boats which, in trading to Australia, cross the line or pass through the greater heat of the Red Sea are filled with white men. It is true that there are many occupations other than stoking in the hold of a vessel trading in tropical waters, in which we should prefer not to see our men engaged, but they are ready and willing to perform that work, and we should be prepared to make some little sacrifice in order to insure employment for the people of our own race in the mercantile marine of the Empire.
– And for the safety of the passengers on these vessels, if for no other reason.
– Quite so. This matter must not be considered solely from the industrial point of view. From the Imperial point of view of securing a reserve for the British Navy in time of emergency, and also to secure the safety of those who “ go down to the sea in ships,” it is desirable that we should make this change. From every stand-point we are justified in making an effort to obtain this work for the people of our own race. I desire now to refer to the remarks made by the leader of the Opposition in regard to the minimum wage. The right honorable member said in effect that it was preposterous to pay a watchman £120 a year while we paid only a similar salary to a clerk. I would point out first of all that a number of watchmen in the service of the Commonwealth have to be on nigh.t duty for a period of twelve hours at a stretch.
– The average is about fourteen hours a night.
– I believe that a great number of them work fully fourteen hours a night, and for their services they receive the munificent payment of £120 a year. I do not think that a young man, even one who possessed a knowledge of typewriting, and had served twelve months in a lawyer’s office could be described other than as a junior when he enters the service. A junior has to work some six and a half, or seven hours a day - not at night - and although when he starts he receives no more than does a watchman - I consider that he occupies a more advantageous position.
Jam not suggesting for one moment that manyclerks are not worth a great deal more than £120 a year ; but when the right honorable member brings forward this matter, with a view of cutting down the wages of the watchmen - and it seemed to me, from his observations, that that was his only motive - he takes up a most improper stand. I fail to see the value pf his argument in regard to the assessment of the respective salaries of these men. As to the contention that it is ridiculous to pay a young man of 21, who has been in the service for four years, a salary pf £120 per annum for doing a boy’s work, I say at once that the principle which we embodied in the Postal Act, in insisting that telegraph messengers, for whom a man’s work cannot be found when they reach the age of IS years, should leave the service, is one that should be applied throughout the service. I can subscribe to the general principle laid down by the leader of the Opposition that we should give a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work ; but, I go further than that, and say that we have no right to retain in the service men for whom there is no work to do. If there is no work for them to discharge they should be dismissed, and the country saved the amount of their salaries. On the other hand, if there is work to be carried out by them, they should certainly receive a fair remuneration. A wage of 7s. per day is a reasonably small one to ask a man or woman to accept after he or she has been in the service perhaps for many years. Certainly those who receive that remuneration will not be able to indulge in extravagant living. ‘ I trust that, even if we cannot do so under the Act as it stands, steps will be taken to enable the Commonwealth to dispense with the services of youths for whom no men’s work can be found when they reach manhood’s estate.
– The only Department in which that state of affairs occurs is the Postal Department. We have made provision for it there.
– I do not know of any other branch of the service in which it occurs, and I cannot appreciate the right honorable member’s criticism.
– The practice is to appoint a junior at a salary of £40 per annum, and he works his way up in the service.
– Lads leave the service on reaching the age of eighteen years if there is no other work for them to perform 1 ‘
– Yes. That is the practice in the Postal Department. The same rule does not apply to other sections of the service, but I dp not know that there is any great- number affected, and therefore I fail to see what can be the evil of which the leader of the Opposition complains.
– I believe that telegraph messengers are appointed to positions as junior messengers in other Departments.
– Perhaps so. The leader of the Opposition was at some pains to criticise the policy laid down by the House with respect to borrowing. He approves, as every man must approve, of the general principle that we should not indulge excessive borrowing ; but that is one of those delightful sentiments which in politics mean but very little. Every Treasurer, including those who have been most extravagant in this direction, will deprecate the idea of anything in the shape of extravagant expenditure. Every Treasurer will stand up in the Parliaments of Australia and say that he believes in borrowing only for reproductive works. The practice, however, does not fit in with the theory, because there are always temptations to which most Treasurers yield, to extravagantly spend money which has not to be at once made good by taxation. As long as no new taxation proposals accompany it, people are very prone to forgive expenditure - especially if a portion of it is to be distributed in their own district - notwithstanding that it may. be absolutely unnecessary so far as the interests of the country are concerned. I know of various absolutely unnecessary works which have been carried out in New South Wales and which probably will not be used, if used at all, for several decades to come. In my own electorate - of course before I became its representative - a courthouse was erected at a cost of some £12,000 or £13,000, and it is used only twice a year, when the Circuit Court sits for a few hours. The old court-house is still occupied by the magistrates, and would have been quite suitable for the purposes of the Circuit Court. Instances of this kind which have occurred in New South Wales might be multiplied by the score, and I dare say that other States have had a similar experience. This policy of extravagance in the past was almost entirely due to the ease with which money could be borrowed, and the fact that no taxation had to be immediately levied in order to make good the expenditure. I am prepared to admit that cases are cropping up every day, and will continue to arise,, in which the amount expended might fairly be made a charge, as suggested by the leader of the Opposition, against the revenue of future years, but I contend that the only way to secure economy is to lay down the principle that we shall not borrow for the ordinary works of Government. The leader of the Opposition referred to the possibility of spreading the repayments over a period of thirty years. He introduced that scheme in New South Wales., announcing with a flourish of trumpets that he was going to put a stop to extravagant borrowing ; that he was going to make the revenue contribute something in respect of the cost of works which would last only a short time. He made provision for a sort of sinking fund by which a special classof works expenditure was created, and it was proposed that the cost of all works constructed out of this fund should be repaid within a period of thirty years. A vast number of works which were formerly paid for out of revenue have since been carefully provided for in this way with the result that the account is becoming enormously swollen.For the time being, there appears to be no difference between providing for works out of a fund which has to be made good within thirty years, and charging the cost to ordinary loan expenditure. Therefore, under such a system, a Treasurer is tempted during his term of office, which might extend over only a year or two, to provide for all works in this way, and to relieve to that extent the ordinary channels of expenditure. He would thus be able to show a surplus and relieve the people of immediate taxation.. But it is in this direction that bankruptcy in the long run is to be found. I trust that we shall exercise the very greatest discrimination in in floating loans for public works. I am not prepared, to lay down a hardandfast rule and say that we should not borrow under any circumstances.
– It is a healthy principle at all events to provide that we shall borrow only in respect of reproductive works.
– I certainly think so. Unfortunately, a large number of works which have been constructed out of loan moneys in New South Wales have not been reproductive. Even the most imaginative person could not say that they have been reproductive.
– The question is - what is a reproductive work ?
– Quite so ; I do not think that we have yet by any means approached a condition of bankruptcy in Australia. I am not one of the “calamity howlers,” as the Premier of New South Wales has very graphically described a certain class of men. I think that even under the disadvantage of extravagant public expenditure Australia could continue for some time to come without having to face any serious consequences. But it behoves us, as well as the members of the States Parliament, to put in the sprag before we reach the stage at which trouble might loom on the horizon. I do not quite agree with the remarks made by the leader of the Opposition in regard to immigration, because, if Coghlan is to be taken as a guide, our population has been increased materially during the last ten years by an excess of immigrants over emigrants. The figures quoted by the right honorable gentleman were put before us as coming from the Victorian Government Statist’s Office. But, according to Coghlan, from 1891 to 1900, there was an excess of immigrants over emigrants of 26,515. The leader of the Opposition said, if I understood him aright, that our increase of population during the same period was only 8,000, of whom 4,000 were assisted immigrants.
– He said8,400 were assisted immigrants, and that the total increase was under 4,000.
– That means an actual loss of 4,000. Coghlan, of course, includes the assisted immigrants, but he shows that instead of gaining only 4,000 in all, between 1891 and 1900 we have gained 26,515. In 1901 there was a net gain of 1,576. That is not large enough to exult about, but it is just as well that the figures should be correctly stated, and I wish to show that the position is not quite so bad as it has been painted by the leader of the Opposition. I admit that in the natural order of things the excess of immigrants over emigrants should be much - larger than it is, though it is useless to compare our position in that respect with that of either the Argentine or Canada. Each of those countries has practically illimitable areas of good land available for settlement, while our area of such land is limited, and, owing to the mistaken policy of past Governments, the good land is so locked up that persons in other States than New South Wales desiring to settle upon the. soil, have to go elsewhere.
– They are cutting up the land in the western parts of Victoria now. Mr. WATSON.- Yes, but the private owners are asking such high prices foi’ it that the farmers who rent it will probably be unable to compete in the open market with those who send produce from other parts’ of the world. The cause of the evil is that we have allowed our choicest land to get into the hands of a few individuals, and have taken no steps to secure to the State the increment which it has earned. However, I do not intend to make a speech upon the land question, over which we have no control. The sooner the Parliaments of the States set themselves to unlock the lands of the Continent, and allow people to settle upon them, the sooner it is likely that we shall have a rush of immigration to Australia. What is more important to us than immigration, however, is that opportunities for making a livelihood shall be given to the sons and daughters of our people. I have devoted, perhaps, more attention to the remarks of the leader of the Opposition than to the Budget, but that is because he referred to several matters, in regard to which I take a particular interest. I indorse his suggestion that the Government might settle the fiscal question by means of a referendum. It is impossible to obtain an absolute settlement of it, and it is always difficult to refer a question to the people in such a way as to obtain a clear expression of their opinion in regard to it.
– The leader of the Opposition did not tell us how he would refer the Tariff question to the people.
– He left that to the Government to determine. But as the Tariff is now in existence, it should be easy to obtain from the people a decided answer as to whether they are anxious that it shall be left as it is, and that no material alterations shall be made in it. But while it’ is difficult to obtain a clear and distinct expression of opinion from the people by means of a referendum, it is still more difficult to obtain an expression of their views
by the present method. Although the Federal Parliament has been in existence for only two and a half years and only some thirty-nine matters have been submitted to us by the Constitution, there are more than that number of issues now awaiting the decision of the people. Of course it is impossible that they can, in voting for members of the new Parliament, give a clear expression of their opinions upon all those questions. It is, however, highly important, in the interests of all classes, that we should have something approaching finality in regard to the fiscal question. I certainly feel that the present Tariff should stand. No doubt there are many men, and I hope women too, in my district who, when the election comes on, will vote for me, not because they sympathize with my views on the fiscal question, but because they agree with me on a number of other points which they think are for the time being more .important. We cannot expect that industry will flourish, or capital be invested, or that large strides will be taken in regard to manufactures, unless those directly concerned are able to form an idea as te how long existing conditions are likely to continue. Therefore I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to the suggestion which has been thrown out. If the feeling in favour of fiscal peace is as strong as I believe it to be, the Government have nothing to lose by referring the question to the people. But, in any case, we have a right to ask that in the public interest the people shall be given an opportunity to pronounce an opinion upon the subject. Personally, I have always advocated the application of the referendum to questions to which it can be applied with any chance of obtaining a clear answer. The present leader of the Opposition, when Premier of New South Wales, went so far as to bring in a Bill to provide for the submission of the Tariff question to the people of that State by means of a referendum. That Bill would have passed the Legislative Assembly, but it was not proceeded with, because of the unwisdom, as the Federal elections were approaching, of altering the State Tariff then. I at the time expressed the same ‘ opinions in regard to the principle of the referendum that I am expressing now. If we could obtain from the people a cear expression of their opinion upon the fiscal question, which would lead to . an understanding amongst political parties for the next eight years or so during which the Braddon provision of the Constitution will be in force, it would be of great advantage to the whole community.
– With regard to the matter just referred to by the honorable member for Bland, one of the objections I have to his suggestion is that, as the most populous State of the Commonwealth has only recently had experience of the advantages of protection, her people would be voting in the dark.
– Notwithstanding the fact that they are free-traders. a great many of the electors in New South Wales desire that the Tariff shall not be interfered with.
– The statement of the honorable member for Gippsland might be reversed and applied to the people of Victoria.
– It appears to me rather unfair to this State to continually parade it as a country from which people are anxious to get away because of the policy which has been in force here. Victoria has succeeded in settling upon her territory thirteen persons to the square mile, while New South Wales, the older State, has settled only four, and it must be remembered that there is a very much larger area of useless country in Victoria than exists in New South Wales, because statistics show that there is a larger unpopulated area in this State than in New South Wales.
– A great part of New South Wales is pastoral country.
– The land is used for pastoral purposes, but that is because encouragement has not been given to the people of the State to turn it to better usage.
– And because of the want of rainfall.
– Victoria has made much greater progress in protected industries than has been made in such industries in the mother State. However, it is not my intention to be drawn into a fiscal controversy now. It is a matter for congratulation that in the early days of this Commonwealth we have a Treasurer in whom we all place implicit confidence. But, as all men are liable to err, it is only right that every honorable member should devote the closest attention to such an important matter as the Budget. I regret that ‘ I am not in a position to deal as fully with it as I should like to do. But it is impossible to keep abreast of four or five measures when they are being dealt with concurrently, and I have hitherto been devoting most of my attention to the provisions of the Bill which it was expected would be under consideration during the next fortnight. However, I have this morning looked over a few of the items in the Treasurer’s statement to which I wish to direct attention. I have always felt that the financial provisions of the Constitution are calculated to induce extravagance on the part of the Federal Parliament. I think that the allocation of the assets and liabilities between the Commonwealth Parliament and the States Parliaments rests upon an unsound foundation. I remember that when I first read those provisions of the Constitution I said that they reminded me of a testator who had bequeathed the whole of his property to one son, and the whole of his debts’ to another. The Constitution gives to the Commonwealth the great bulk of the revenue, and leaves the whole of the debts with the States. That must necessarily induce a spirit of extravagance. It is true that the position is, to some extent, safeguarded by the Braddon clause, under which we have to give back to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise’ duties. But that is only a temporary provision, and it is possible for us to go a great deal too far in the direction of extravagance, even outside the limits prescribed by the Braddon clause. I think that we are indebted to the Treasurer for having placed very full information before us. I think that perhaps the right honorable gentleman took too much trouble and elaborated matters too much. If he had reduced his statement by one-half, it would have been more intelligible to the public outside. There is one point upon which I think that we cannot be too particular. Full and complete as is the information afforded by the Treasurer, I should have liked to see the new expenditure of the Commonwealth set forth more clearly. I think it is most desirable that we should place the expenditure of the Commonwealth before the public in such a light that every one can understand it. In order to secure a full statement of the expenditure for which the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth alone is responsible, we should, in the first place, take the cost of all the transferred Departments at the date of transfer. We can find the information in the papers submitted by the Treasurer ; but it is necessary to go further. In calculating the amount of the increased cost of these Departments we should show how much, if any, of that increase is due to the operation of State laws, and what proportion is due to the operation of Commonwealth laws or Commonwealth administration. I have not been able to find any papers which throw any light upon that point.
– I mentioned the cost incurred under section 110 - that is, the main item. I did not know of anything else that I could give with definiteness.
– I find that the cost of the transferred Departments for the financial year 1900-1 - which embraced the six months immediately preceding the establishment of Federation and the six months immediately afterwards - was £3,066,691. The estimated cost of these Departments for the current year is £3,152,549, or an increase of £85,858. These figures, however, do not disclose the whole of the facts, because, when we come to analyze them, we find that the Defence expenditure has been decreased. At this point I may mention that I am using the figures of five States only, because the returns for Western Australia are not available. The cost of the Defence Department was reduced by £111,425. Although I thoroughly agreed with the rediiction, and was one of those who voted for it, I do not think that we can take credit for it as a saving in the ordinary sense, because it simply means that we have dismissed troops, and have thus reduced the amount of the insurance upon the Commonwealth, and have thrown people out of employment to some extent. When we come to the Post and Telegraph Department we find that there has been an increase of £186,343 and in the Customs department an increase of £10,922, or a total increase in the two departments of £197,265. It is only fair to say that the estimated revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department also shows an increase, but not to the same extent as the expenditure.
– The honorable member must not forget that the effect of the penny postage in Victoria makes a great difference, and that the reduction we made in the telegraph charges also accounts for a large amount.
– No doubt, but these are matters which should be shown in order that the public might understand, and in order that we might place before them a position of which we could feel proud.
– I had no definite information regarding the items to which the honorable member has referred. The amount represented by the penny postage could only be guessed at.
– I direct attention to this matter with the object of inducing the Treasurer next year to give the fullest possible information.
– I tried to obtain some reliable information with regard to the items mentioned, but could not do so.
– We should not be ashamed of any item of expenditure for which we are responsible, but should take the full responsibility and place it before the public. I was rather disappointed to hear the Treasurer declaim against outside criticism of Commonwealth expenditure.
– I did not declaim against outside criticism, but against unfair criticism.
– I think that at least the Treasurer showed impatience upon the subject.
– Because I knew that the figures which were used were lying figures.
– The right honorable gentleman in replying to the criticism, used figures which, I think, he will admit scarcely disclosed the whole truth.
– I gave all the figures.
– I shall direct the Treasurer’s attention to them. In the first place I think that we should encourage criticism. A vigilant public bent upon frugal and economical government is. the healthiest. I have been connected with Governments when extravagant ideas prevailed, and when we were pressed from every conceivable quarter to embark upon lavish expenditure. I was also connected with the Government - of which my right honorable friend was the head - which found it absolutely necessary to retrench at a time when the public became awakened to the necessity of economy. I must say that it was very much . easier to retrench when there was a healthy public feeling, than to keep even within reasonable economical bounds when the people were pressing on every hand for lavish expenditure. The Treasurer, in endeavouring to show that there had been no u ad ue extravagance on the part of the Commonwealth, stated that the “ other,” or new expenditure, for the year 1901-2 was £207,914, equal to 1s.1d. per head of the population of the Commonwealth. My honorable friend knows that in order to arrive at these figures he deducted £53,562, on the ground that the expenditure represented by the amount was non-recurring.
– One of those items was the amount appropriated to defray the cost of the administration of New Guinea, and there was another item of £33;562.
– The Treasurer made the deductions under two heads. He deducted one set of items on the ground that they were non-recurring, although they undoubtedly represented expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth, and which could not have been incurred if the Commonwealth had not been created. For instance, there was the expenditure connected with the Royal visit.
– Apart from the establishment of the Commonwealth, the States would have spent just as much if the Royal visit had taken place.
– But the Duke of York came out here to open the Federal Parliament. It is not denied that the item connected with his visit represented Commonwealth expenditure ; but it was deducted on the ground that it was non-recurring. I do not think that was a proper deduction. Even though the expenditure might not recur, it should certainly have been debited against the year in which the money was spent. Under another head, deductions were made on the ground that the expenditure was not caused by Federation. These include two items. The first has reference to the administration of New Guinea. In my opinion an expenditure in this connexion of £15,000 was a proper deduction to make, seeing that the administration of the Territory prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth cost that amount. At the present time it costs £20,000. Therefore, I think, that £15,000 was a proper deduction to make on that account. The other item to which I refer is the sugar bonus. Surely, it cannot be contended that that bonus was not the result of Federation ? In the absence of Federation it would have been utterly impossible for at least five of the States to incur any expenditure in that direction.
Even had Queensland resolved to get rid of the kanakas - a course which her State Parliament was not at all likely to adopt - she would have been compelled to do so at her own expense. As one of those who voted for the policy of a white Australia, I am prepared to accept the responsibility of my action, and I think I can justify it before any reasonable body of electors. At the same time 1 hold that we should not seek to evade responsibility for any cost which may result from any of our determinations. We take to ourselves credit for having established a white Australia, and we should also admit the cost at which we have secured it. If the amount involved in the payment of the sugar bonuses does not appear upon the expenditure of the Commonwealth Parliament, where will it appear ? Certainly, we cannot expect the States Parliaments to accept responsibility for the cost which has been incurred, by the adoption of . a white Australia policy. Consequently, we should accept it, and the amount involved should appear in the very forefront of the items of new expenditure. Under these two headings, the amounts that have been deducted during the past three vears are - For 1901-2, £53,562 ; for 1902-3, £98,380 ; and for the current year, £110,000. But even these figures do not reveal the whole truth, because there are other items which involve expenditure for which this Parliament alone is responsible, and which are not shown here. Take the estimated “ new “ expenditure for the current year as an example. The Treasurer’s figures set down that expenditure at1s. 7¾d. per head of the population, which represents an amount of £324,946. To that sum, in my opinion, should be added £9.0,000 for the payment of sugar bonuses ; £48,316 on account of the minimum wage, and an additional £5,000 for the administration of New Guinea. These sums increase that “new” expenditure to £467,252, which means an amount of £143,310 in excess of the figures of the Treasurer. I am aware that my right honorable friend would be the last to wilfully mislead the public ; but his figures when crystallized to represent so much per head of the population have that effect. Whilst the Treasurer was delivering his Budget speech, I asked by way of interjection if the payment of the sugar bonus was not caused by Federation. His reply was that it was due to Federal action - that in estimating the cost of Federation the -Adelaide Convention did not foresee chat Ti white Australia policy would be adopted, and that, therefore, any comparison between the “present expenditure and that estimate would not be a fair one.
– The payment of the bonus is due to a policy which has been adopted by this Parliament, but it is not necessarily the result of Federation.
– But surely it represents an expenditure for which the Parliament should accept fu:l responsibility. I do not believe that there is any desire on the part of honorable members to evade that responsibility.
– The payments upon that account were not caused by Federation, any more than were the increases in our postal contracts.
– But the payment of “the bonus could not. have been brought about in the absence of Federation. If any item in the Budget is the result of Federation that certainly is. . It will be seen from these figures that the Convention’s estimate of expenditure for the current year has already been exceeded by £143,301. That is a considerable increase in expenditure at such an early stage of our history. But I ask honorable members to look ahead, because, when we have command of unlimited funds - as we have - it is only by considering our present position and our future prospects that we can keep the expenditure within reasonable limits. When any Parliament has command of more money than it requires there is always an inducement to extravagance. Therefore, I wish to direct attention to the additional expenditure which it is proposed to incur. In the first place there will be a very large increase in the amount of the sugar bonus, which will be payable, according to the statement of the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, in reply to a question which I put to him. He estimated that the production of sugar in a few years would be about 170,000 tons.
– That represents the consumption. A production of from 120,000 tons to 140,000 tons would represent a very good year.
– The production of 140,000 tons would mean an expenditure by way of bonus of £180,000.
– That is if it were all produced by white labour.
– In a few years it will all be produced by white labour.
– But the bonus will cease at the end of five years.
– When the bonus ceases my right honorable friend may rest assured that the production of sugar will cease. One of two things will happen - either the industry will be wiped out, or we shall have to continue the payment of the bonus. At any rate, we all admit that the amount payable by way of bonus during the next few years will represent -a considerable increase. Then provision has tobe made for the establishment of the High Court, and in connexion with the Federal capital, about which I shall have something to say when we come to del)ate the resolutions dealing with that question. There is also the cost which will be incurred under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– Unfortunately that will cost nothing.
– Further, there is the expenditure in connexion with the appointment of an Inter-State Commission and of a High Commissioner, as well as the additional cost of the mail contracts. In regard to those contracts I thoroughly agree with the remarks of the leader of the Opposition. I do not indorse his observations to the effect that the white men who are employed in the stoke-holes of the mail steamers represent the “scum “ of the British race. I express no opinion whatever as to the character of those people, or as to the desirability or otherwise of purging the British marine of coloured labour. But I do decidedly maintain that that work ought not to be carried out at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. As I have previously said, I assisted to initiate the policy of a white Australia. There were sound reasons which justified me in voting in that direction, and I am prepared to defend my vote- and to accept the full responsibility to my action. At the same time I am not prepared to go beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and to declare that black British subjects shall be denied employment by the British Empire or by the- British mercantile marine. To drive these coloured men out of British ships at the expense of the Australian taxpayer would be a monstrous injustice. We have no right to ask Australians to bear that cost. I trust that before the hew mail contracts are accepted Parliament will be given an opportunity to express its opinion upon this question. There is one other matter to which I desire to direct the attention of the Treasurer. It has already been referred to by the leader of the Opposition. I refer to the’ matter of State loans. It will be remembered that when the Federal Constitution was under consideration in the different States, one of the greatest inducements - one of the very few solid advantages - which were promised to the people was that the Commonwealth would be able to raise money at a cheaper rate than the individual States could obtain it, and that in this way a considerable saving in interest charges would be effected each year. Unfortunately, at the beginning of next year Victoria must redeem a loan for £5,500,000. This State has already parted with the greater portion of her revenue producing Departments to the Commonwealth. Therefore, it will be a very serious injustice if she is compelled to go upon the London market with a diminished credit - owing to her having handed over to Federal control her chief revenue producing resources upon the faith of the promises’ which were made - and to suffer a heavy loss by reason of having to float that loan upon her own credit. Some time ago the Treasurer, in the course of a speech, conveyed to me the impression that he could not be induced to go upon the London market at the present time, when Australian stocks were at such a low ebb. He reminded me very much of a Scotch clergyman who was asked to pray for rain. “ Weel,” he said, “ I canna’ see the guid o’t while the wun’s in the wast.” I suppose that if the financial wind had been blowing from a more favorable quarter - if the Treasurer could see that he could command a price for Victorian stock of which the Commonwealth would be proud - he would have gone upon the London market immediately ; bat when the conditions’ are unfavorable he shows a marked disinclination to go there.
– If I could have done so with safety, I should have adopted that course in relation to Victoria. I am acting on the highest financial advice I can obtain in London.
– The advice may show that we could not obtain a satisfactory price, or one of which we might be proud ; but whatever loss was sustained would have to be borne by Victoria It appears to me that it will be a serious matter if merely for the sake of gaining a little additional kudos, we inflict a heavy loss on Victoria. I quite agree with the right honorable gentleman: when he says that there should be an understanding with the States that they shall not overborrow. That would be a prudent compact, and I hope that the Treasurer will yet see his way to make arrangements to prevent, what in my. opinion would be thevery serious disaster and injustice which would result to Victoria if she were compelled to go into the London market with a diminished credit.
– I wish to take the earliest opportunity of expressing very deep regret for the fact that, in the heat of debate thisafternoon, I made use of an expression which I recognise must be unjust with reference to a certain class of men. I think honorablemembers will admit that it is not my custom to offend in this direction. As a matter of fact, I heard the expression used by a man who ought to know a great deal aboutthis kind of thing ; it came to the tip of mytongue, and I used it. On reflection, however, I feel that it was an absolutely wrong term to apply to these men. A man. cannot altogether undo an error which hghas committed but in this connexion I desire to do so as far as possible by an immediate expression of profound regret for having made use of the expression in question.
– I am exceedingly pleased that my right, honorable leader has remedied the little slipwhich he made. It was one of those unfortunate little mistakes which one occasionally makes in repeating an expression used by some one else, and I am glad that the right honorable gentleman has seen fit to withdraw the remark. Some six or seven weeks’, ago, after hearing the financial statement delivered by the Treasurer, I carefully examined the Budget papers, and made a. series of notes on which I certainly intended at that time to base a speech to this Committee. But I think now that we have arrived at a stage at which it behoves us to condense all that we may have to say in regard to these matters, and to abstain particularly from anything in the nature of an academic discussion. After the developments of the week, we are constrained to deal as rapidly as we can with theremaining work of this Parliament, in order that we may without delay take the sense of the electors on themany grave questions which have cropped, up since the last general election. In dealing with the Budget statement, I may say that I am reminded of a certain lady of my acquaintance, whose charms are so very pronounced that one cannot approach her without being impelled to use terms of admiration and compliment. One cannot resist, if he would. He may think it fulsome ; but the charms are so great that he is constrained to express compliments. I have never had to deal with a set of Budget papers-
– The honorable member will obtain a grant for another post-office in his electorate after the way in which he has complimented the Treasurer.
– The honorable member is in error. The possibility of obtaining anything except absolute justice from the Treasurer is very remote. The comparison which I have instituted occurred to my mind when I was examining the Budget papers, because I have never had to deal with anything yet with which the Treasurer has had to do, without feeling obliged to confess that whatever faults honorable members of the Opposition may have urged against the Ministry - and. necessarily an Opposition must always be faultfinding
– I hope the honorable member does not mean to say that we have no reason to find fault with the Government t
– The statements which the Treasurer puts before the Honse should certainly serve as a model for all future Treasurers. My experience of Parliamentary life is somewhat limited, but my experience on the press is greater, and it has forced me to the conclusion that every Treasurer of every State deals with its finances in such a confused way that an ordinary individual, although trained in commerce, is utterly unable to follow out the details. No such difficulty is experienced in relation to the work of the Treasurer. His is a plain unvarnished statement, which he who runs may read. I have never had any difficulty in obtaining a grip of the finances of the Commonwealth from the three financial statements made by the right honorable gentleman. To that extent I feel constrained not only to admit my admiration - which I think is shared by most honorable members - of the way in which the Treasurer deals with the finances, but to express the hope that other Treasurers who follow him will deal with these matters in the same plain honest fashion, so that those who have the responsibility of considering them may readily understand them.
– And may succeeding Treasurers have as generous criticism from the Opposition. The nature of a man’s enemies has a lot to do with his reputation.
– But this is exactly in accordance with the facts of the case.
– The leader of the Opposition has already criticised the Treasurer, and has for him some of the admiration which I express. But the right honorable member has gone further than I would go in his hostile criticism of him. The only adverse criticism that I can allow myself to make in regard to the Treasurer’s statements relates to the excessive caution which they display - a feature which also constrains admiration. I admit that the Treasurer is placed in a position of very great difficulty. There is the inherent difficulty under our Constitution, to which I referred in the early days of this Parliament, that the Treasurers of the various States have to depend on the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The two sets of finance are inextricably woven together, and, no doubt, if the right honorable gentleman took a somewhat roseate view of what might possibly be the outcome of the financial operations of the year, he would fear, even if he did not say so, that he might induce the Treasurers of the States to -take a still more optimistic view of them, and so lead the States and the Commonwealth itself into a position of financial difficulty. I am emboldened to say that, to some extent the Treasurer has erred on the side of caution. I say boldly that he erred in that direction in the estimate which he submitted to this House of the revenue to be derived during the first year of the existence of the Commonwealth. That estimate was altogether too restrictive. The right honorable gentleman certainly had the very great excuse that we were then entering upon a totally different condition of things from that which had existed in the separate States, and that it behoved him to be verv careful. On the other hand, business men on both sides of the House were forced to the conclusion that the estimates framed by the Treasurer, as to _ the revenue which would be derived from some of the duties imposed, were understated. Many honorable members considered that we might safely depend upon obtaining more from those sources of revenue than the Treasurer estimated ; but probably, under the condition of affairs to which I have referred, this display of excessive caution, which is one of the characteristics possessed by the Treasurer, which makes us so willing to believe that in him we have the right man in the right place, was not unnatural. It would be very unfortunate indeed, if, by any roseate view of our finances, we persuaded the Treasurers of the various States Governments that they were likely to receive a greater revenue than they would secure from us. It seems to me “ that the Treasurers of the States have been rather inclined to expect more from the Federal sources of revenue than they have any right to do. I expressed the opinion, long since, that it was one of the difficulties of the Constitution that the States were largely dependent upon our estimates, as well as upon our Acts, for the operations of their Governments. I still hold that view, and the sooner we can rid ourselves of the difficulty the better it will be. There is one way in which to do so. When we can take over the States debts, and perhaps the railways with them, in such -a way that the sums now returned to the States will be utilized in paying the interest on these debts - which were largely incurred for railway construction purposes - we may secure an adjustment under which we shall not have to return anything to them. The sooner we. can arrive at a position in which the finances of the Federation will be totally independent of any States consideration the better it will be, not only for the Commonwealth, but for the States themselves. I should not like to say all that I think on the subject of the desirableness of taking over the States debts, because I feel convinced that the Treasurer has given the matter all the consideration that its magnitude deserves. Probably he has obtained the very best advice available ; but I think, with the honorable member for Gippsland, in the absence of some specific statement to lead to a contrary conclusion, that something ought to have been done with regard to the very large conversion loan which is shortly to be raised by Victoria. To an ordinary individual it seems that, as Victoria is the first of the States to be brought face to face with the necessity for raising a large conversion loan, it offers a special opportunity for the Commonwealth to enter upon the policy of consolidating the States debts. In this way the Commonwealth will be able to effect the considerable saving which I, in common with many advocates of Federation, urged would be secured by union. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland, that a considerable savingcould be effected in this direction, and that the matter should be taken in hand at the very first opportunity. I have never yet heard of a practical working scheme under wh’ich the Commonwealth could at once take over the whole of the debts of the States and consolidate them. The only practical scheme for us to adopt is to takeover the debts as they mature. Let us get the best terms we can, and, until we are able to arrange some system by which the profits may be divided, if that be necessary, let us retain them.. The Treasurer probably thinks that, as the first holder of the office in the Commonwealth, he would like the first ‘ Commonwealth loan to be issued on terms in regard to which succeeding Treasurers could hardly hope to beat him. If that is in his mind–
– It is not in my mind. Nothing like it is in my mind.
– I am very pleased to hear the right honorable gentleman say so. Although I hope that we shall ultimately be able to borrow at 3 per cent, with probably a small premium, there is no reason why we should not commence to borrow at 3£ per cent, if we can use the money profitably in taking over maturing State loans, upon, which 4 or perhaps 4£ percent, interest is now being paid. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland, that it should not be forgotten that we have taken from Victoria, and from the other States, the right toraise revenue by imposing Customs taxation, which, as is well known, was looked upon in the financial world as the chief security for the loans which they have raised. The railways and public works of the States are frequently referred to as their principal asset, but the security to which the investors of the money markets of the world look is the power to raise taxation through the Customs. Having taken this power from the States, why should we not, on the first important occasion, by an agreement between the Commonwealth” Government and the authorities of the States, commence the consolidation of the State loans ? I do not say that we should borrow money to assist a State in financing a very small loan, but » the renewal loan of £5,500,000 which Victoria will shortly have to float provides an occasion of the kind. I think that the Treasurer must admit, and every business man would do so, that the Common wealth, with the security it possesses, and its powers of taxation, could borrow money at a rate lower than that for which Victoria could, obtain it, and I think we should not omit this opportunity to make the saving, even if the whole of it is handed over to Victoria. Because it must be remembered that the people of the States and the people of the Commonwealth are one. Whatever the reasons which are preventing the Treasurer from placing before Parliament some proposal for the consolidation of the State debts - and I “am sure they are good reasons - as a business man I think that we should not allow an opportunity to effect a considerable saving, if not for the Commonwealth, for one of the States, to pass by. If the Treasurer is delaying action in the hope that in the future the Commonwealth may borrow at a lower rate of interest, or a higher rate of realization, than is possible now, I think that he is not right in doing so, because, if we can make a saving now, even for the advantage of the people of Victoria alone, we are justified in doing so. The Postmaster-General’s Department has already been referred to in this discussion, and I think it will be referred to many more times before the debate is concluded. I hope that the recent change in the Ministry, which has given the portfolio of Postmaster-General to the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, will result in much needed reforms in the management of that Department. I have had some experience of the honorable gentleman in Tasmania, and I know that we may expect beneficial reforms from his large business add political experience. I hope that we shall get from him what might be called an ordinary business balance-sheet, showing the operations of the Department.
– Hear, hear.
– It is very much to be regretted that wo have not had such a statement of accounts in the past. The condition of our postal affairs is such as requires serious consideration, and honorable members must face it with the intention to bring about an alteration. The revenue received from the postal services of the Commonwealth in the year 1901-2 was £2,372,861. In 1902-3 it had increased to £2,404,650, while the estimate for 1903-4 is only £2,450,000.
– But the rates have been reduced.
– I shall deal with that matter presently. I find that the expenditure during the year 1901-2 was £2,346,607 ; during the year 1902-3, £2,406,193, and the estimated expenditure for the year 1903-4, £2,525,758. I have always contended that the Post Office should be managed largely as a business concern. When a private firm reduces rates, or charges, or prices, it does so with the object of increasing its business and its profits, and similarly, when Parliament reduced the postal rates it should have seen that what it did would have the result of stimulating a commensurate increase of business. .
– Unfortunately Parliament does not act upon commercial principles.
– I have always advocated the application of business principles to the management of the Postal Department. We are not justified in reducing postal and telegraphic rates unless we can thereby so increase business that our revenue and expenditure will balance. My complaint against the administration of the past - and I refer not to the immediate past, but to the time when the Post Office was under the control of the. States - is that it has not been up-to-date. We have not taken advantage of the most recent experience, nor have modern ideas been applied. Of course, in sparselypopulated communities the cost of a postal system must always be larger in proportion to its revenue than in more closely settled communities. But we are behind the times in many matters, and we have not studied how to get the best results from the Department. A considerable amount of criticism has been vented upon the other great expending Department of the Commonwealth - the Defence Department. I find myself constrained, as before, to agree: largely in this matter with the view of the honorable member for Bland. I sympathize with him in his complaints about the strictures of the press of Australia in regard to the action of Parliament in insisting upon the reduction of Defence expenditure. The press has wrongfully accused the Labour Party of being actuated by the desire to abolish all Defence expenditure. But, in my opinion, their action, in which member.-s of both the other parties in Parliament sincerely and honestly co-operated, was due to the feeling that hitherto we have been “paying boo much for our whistle.” We have been expending more upon military preparations than we have been receiving in the way of defence, and a great deal of our money has been spent in directions where it can least usefully be applied. I am with the honorable member in his desire that our men shall be armed with modern weapons of precision, that useful guns shall be placed in our forts, and that small-arm and ammunition factories shall be established. Expenditure would be properly incurred in those directions, and with a reduction of expenditure in other directions, we should obtain more for our money than we have been getting in the past. One reason why I think we have in the past spent too much upon land defence is that I hold that our proper defence is at sea. Under the new Naval Agreement, which Parliament has now happily sanctioned, there is still less reason for paying as much for land defence as the States have spent in the past. But, whatever amount we may feel justified in expending in that direction, we can have no adequate defence until our men are armed with the most modern rifles, and we are in a position to furnish them from our own factories with both rifles and ammunition, in the event of Australia being cut off from the rest of the world in time of war. I take the view of the honorable member for Bland, that whatever men we have should be armed with the best type of rifle and the best class of guns, and that we should have such an ample stock of ammunition as to render us independent of supplies from other parts of the world. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to the Treasurer’s defence of the economical policy of the Government. I heartily indorse the Treasurer’s view of the position. I think that the strictures passed upon what was called the. extravagance of the Commonwealth were utterly uncalled for, and in many ‘instances were studded with the grossest of blunders, if not’ of something worse. Ib was reported that we were guilty of extravagance in cases in which no extravagance existed, and I think the honorable member for Gippsland has utterly failed to prove that the cost of Federation has been anything like so great as was predicted even by those who favoured
Federation, bo say nothing of the prophesies of those who opposed ib. Ib was stated atone time that the cost of Federation would not be more than 2s. per head ; and, up to the present, the actual cost has not much exceeded ls. per head. I deny the right of the honorable member for Gippsland to add to the cost of Federation the amount of the sugar bonus which is being paid in connexion with the effort to secure a white Australia.
– Would that have been provided for unless that Federation had been established 1
– No it could not have been provided for without Federation. But that must be recognised as one of the benefits conferred by Federation, for which the people of the Commonwealth should be prepared to pay. Apart from the bonus that is being given for the growth of sugar by means of white labour, we haveexcise and import duties upon sugar which, in some States, are much higher than those levied prior to Federation. Would the honorable member saddle Federation with the cost of all those duties which are beinglevied upon the people of the Commonwealth ?
– I think that we should bake the responsibility of our own expenditure, and let the States bake theirs.
– -That is perfectly correct. Bub the COSt of a white Australia should not be debited to Federation pure and simple. It should he regarded as the cost of an additional benefit which has been conferred by Federation. I hope that Federation will confer many otherbenefits upon the people for which they will gladly pay. I do not think that the honorable member was right in trying to forcethe Treasurer to admit that the cost of celebrating the establishment of the Commonwealth should be debited tto Federation.
– I did not say that. I said that although it was a non-recurring” item, it should appear on the Estimates of the year.
– Yes ; but when we are ‘considering the annual cost of Federation we should not take into account non-recurring items such as that. I should like briefly bo refer to the Treasurer’s estimates of revenue for the current year. The item of sugar is one, regarding which I have had some experience, and in which I am interested. I should like to remind the-
Treasurer that when he made his last financial statement I predicted that he would receive £52,000 more than he estimated from the import and excise duties upon sugar. The actual receipts amount to £60,000 more than the estimate. .
– I deducted the £60,000 represented by the rebates from my original estimate. That is included in my present figures.
– Apart from the rebate altogether, it seems to me that the tonnage works out in such a way as to account for the increase. The Treasurer said that he expected to obtain £1 20,000 from the duty upon imported sugar, and I pointed out that he must anticipate that 20,000 tons of sugar would be imported, and that consequently the remaining 153,950 tons roust bear the excise duty.
– I never said anything about 153,950 tons.
– I calculated that on a consumption of 1 cwt. per head for the whole population of the .Commonwealth we should recei ve £52,000 more than the Treasurer anticipated, and Che actual figures have realized my estimate. I think that the late honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse, asked “ What about the bonus?” and I replied, “I am not dealing with the bonus at all, because I am sure that it has not entered into the Treasurer’s figures.” For this-year the Treasurer adopts the figures of .70,000 .tons of imported sugar and’ 110,000 tons of locally-produced sugar. The proportion of locally-produced sugar has been .very largely increased. I think the Treasurer’s estimate is fairly accurate, because the disproportion between the sugar produced in the Commonwealth and that imported must continue to. increase. The honorable member for Gippsland expressed the opinion that when the bonus ceased, and it must do under our legislation, the production of sugar in the Commonwealth by white labour would also cease. If I had held that view when we were dealing with the financial aspect of the sugar question, I should not have voted as I did. I sincerely and honestly believe that it is possible for us to produce sugar in Australia by white labour. I would remind honorable members of the very important alteration which has recently taken place in the world’s market for sugar owing to the ratification of the
Brussels Convention. I recently read in the London Times a full report of the debate in the House of Commons upon the Bill introduced for the ratification of that Convention. It appears from the testimony of very able men who knew something of the subject, and who spoke during the discussion, that -the effect of the legislation which does awa3’ with the cartels or bounties given by the German, French, and Austrian Governments upon exported sugar, will have a very marked effect upon the world’s prices. Honorable members are, perhaps, aware that sugar is sold in France at from 6d. to 7d. per pound, whilst precisely the same article is obtainable in England for 2d. per pound. This is entirely the result of the operation of the cartels or bounties. By the terms of the Brussels Con mention, which ha ve been ratified, these cartels cease and the price of sugar in Great Britain must increase very considerably. One prominent politician, who is opposed to the Imperial Government, says, and I believe honestly, that the ratification Of this treaty will cost the sugar consumers,’ including manufacturers who use sugar in their productions, no les3 a sum than £15,000,000 per annum. Honorable members will see, therefore, that there -must be a considerable advance in the price of sugar in England. It is said that the price of grain in Mark Lane rules the world, and the price of sugar in England, although it may not rule the world, will very largely influence prices in other parts of the world Therefore, we may expect a rise of £2 per ton in the price of sugar. Those who supported the continued employment of black labour upon the sugar plantations represented that it would cost from 35s. to £2 per ton more if white labourhad to be employed, and, therefore, those who have substituted white for black labour will receive compensation which was never contemplated at tlie time our legislation on the subject was passed. I do not look forward to the time when the growing of sugar will cease in Australia, but, on the other hand, I believe that we shall produce -sugar largely in excess of our requirements. I should like to refer to the difficulties experienced in the past with regard to the ex’port of commodities containing sugar, upon which either the excise or the import duty had been paid. The late Minister for Customs steadfastly refused to allow for the full amount of the duty paid upon the sugar contents of these commodities, and I thought his action not only unjust, but highly prejudicial to the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth. Now, however, owing to the operation of the Brussels Convention, I do not think the manufacturers of Australia needbother themselves very much about the odd fifth of the duty which the late Minister refused to allow. The price of sugar in England was until quite recently £9 per ton, as compared with £18 per ton here, the difference being repaid by £6 per ton duty and £3 freight and charges. Whilst manufacturers here had to use sugar which cost £18 per ton for making biscuits, jams, and preserves, they could not compete in South Africa or in the East with similar goods manufactured in Great Britain, and were practically shut out from those markets. Now, however, our position will be somewhat improved.I simply mention these facts as furnishing an answer to the observations of the honorable member for Gippsland, to the effect that Australia is likely to give up the production of sugar. I believe we shall continue to produce sugar in an increasing proportion, and that the revenue now derived from imported sugar will almost disappear. Another point to which I should like to refer is the preference which has recently been given by the South African Colonies - which are almost a Zollverein - to other parts of the British dominions, under a reciprocal treaty. Now we export to South Africa from Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales - indeed, from nearly the whole of the States - large quantities of produce and manufactured articles, and we take from that country practically next to nothing. Therefore, the sooner that the Government open negotiations with the South African Colonies, with a view to enter into preferential arrangements of that character, the better for our own traders and manufacturers. At present, a preference which amounts to 25 or 30 per cent, is given to manufacturers of the old country. We are competitors with them for the South African trade, and if a similar preference is denied to us they will enjoy a very decided advantage. I have already stated that I believe the Treasurer’s estimate of the amount which will be yielded by the sugar duties during the current year will be fully realized. He calculates that the consumption within Australia will be 180,000 tons, of which 70,000 tons will represent imported sugar, and 11 0,000 tons, -the locally-grown article. That consumption represents a 6 per cent, advance upon his estimate of the consumption during last year, notwithstanding; which, I believe that his expectations will, be realized. I do not agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that population in Australia is declining. Irrespective of whether our increase is derived from births or from immigration, I claim that our population, grows by about 50,000 souls per annum.. I hold that the 6 per cent, advance in the consumption of sugar, upon which the Treasurer bases his estimate, is warranted by the natural increasewhich will take place in the population of the Commonwealth and by the progress of our manufactures. We must always remember that a large portion of that sugar is used in our manufactures - such as jams - which are exported. Coming to the figures in connexionwith stimulants and narcotics, I find that, in 1902-3, the Customs revenue from those imports was £2,098,681, whilst the excise duty yielded £226,309, making a. total of £2,324,990. For the current year, however, the Treasurer estimates that the excise and import duties upon stimulants will produce only £2,310,109 - a decrease of £14,881. If the right honorable member expects a 6 per cent, increase to take place in the consumption of sugar, why does he anticipate a decrease of: £15,000 in the revenue derived from, stimulants and narcotics? For my own part, I see no valid reason to predict any such decrease. I admit that the drought which we have rercently experienced has diminished the purchasing power of the people, and I hold that that purchasing power is most quickly indicated by the consumption of stimulants.. Last year the consumption of stimulantswas decreased, because the purchasing power of the people had been reduced, but Ionot think that the Treasurer is justified in expecting an actual falling off inhereceipts from this source during theurrentyear. Now that we have experiencedheworst effects of the drought we shall probably have some good seasons.
– Had it not been for the grain duties we should have gone to the bad by £100,000 during the past two months.
– I admit that. At the same time I am endeavouring to. avoid all controversial subjects. I arn now dealing with the Estimates of revenue for the current year, quite apart from the question of free-trade or protection.
– The revenue would have fallen off to tlie extent of £100,000 within the last two months but for the grain duties.
– But the Treasurer has a right to anticipate a falling off in the revenue till the harvest is at hand. The fact that the grass is green does not increase the spending power of the people. For that reason alone it is not wise to anticipate a reduction in the revenue from stimulants. Then, again, let us take the item of narcotics. I claim that stimulants and narcotics are the two great items which are most sensitive to a diminished or increased pu retailing power on the part of the people. In 1902-3 the Treasurer derived from customs duties upon narcotics £930,658, and from excise £454,236, making a total of £1,384,894. But in making his estimate for the current year he has reduced the revenue from imports to £918,000, and from excise to £447,050, making a total of £1,365,050.
– The imports towards the close of the last financial year were rapidly falling off.
– My point is that we really have no more reason to anticipate a decrease in the revenue from stimulants and narcotics than we have from sugar. The Treasurer declares that during the past few months the returns do not show any increase. But could anybody have anticipated an increase in the purchasing power of the people during the three months which have just expired after a long series of bad harvests 1 I take the view which is entertained by several honorable members, that the prospects of the States are far more rosy now than we anticipated they would be when we were discussing the Tariff last session. During the latter por-tion of the current year, I believe that the Treasurer’s estimates of revenue will be largely exceeded. On the other hand. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that in the estimates of expenditure provision has not been made for several items whish are connected with legislation which has recently been enacted. For example, no money has been sst apart for the salaries of the Justices of the High Court, or that of the High Commissioner. Possibly those matters will not affect the financial position till towards the close of the current year. I am satisfied that the Treasurer will exercise tlie same care and caution in the future that he has exhibited in the past, and therefore we may expect him to make some savings. Those savings, if based upon the experience of last year, will represent a considerable sum.
– But certain works were in progress upon the 30th of June.
– On the other hand, some of the works which he intends to ask Parliament to authorize will not be carried out before the 1st of July of next year. Consequently, there will be an apparent saving effected. Upon the whole I think we may congratulate the Treasurer upon having carried out the work of the Commonwealth as economically as was possible. I am one of those who contend for economy in all Departments of government, and I frankly admit that the. Treasurer is careful in his expenditure. I am quite satisfied with the Estimates which he has submitted. The only fault which I find with him is that he has been unduly cautious in estimating his revenue, and has failed to make provision for the expenditure which must be incurred in connexion with the few items to which I have directed attention. It seems to me that when the year has closed, we shall again be able to congratulate the Treasurer - if he is still in office - upon having managed the finances of this young nation very satisfactorily indeed. Upon the question of providing the money requisite for the construction of necessary public works - of whether that money should be taken out of loan funds in contradistinction from revenue - I quite indorse the remarks of the leader of the Opposition, that we cannot go to either extreme in these matters ; that it would be wise to provide for works of any considerable magnitude, whose utility would extend over a number of years, either by floating a perpetual loan or raising one, the repayment of which would extend over the number of years during which the works would be of service. That is a safe policy. But I do not recede from the position which I took up last yea.r, in refusing to consent to the proposal to borrow a small sum to provide for the construction of comparatively insignificant works. I consider that wo took up a right stand, and I shall never regret the course I adopted in refusing to agree to the Commonwealth entering upon a borrowing policy by raising a small and insignificant loan to provide, for the most part, for temporary works. If we enter upon any large enterprise” we will be compelled to resort to the policy of borrowing, and I think we can trust the Parliament to take care that the works on which the loan money is proposed to be expended are of sufficient importance, and likely to be so reproductive as to warrant the expenditure. In regard to other works which might be expected to serve their purpose for thirty or forty years, we might provide sinking funds that would permit of the extinction of the debt incurred during the life of the works. If we adopt that course I hope that we shall profit by the experience of the several States, and place the sinking funds, and all the arrangements associated with them, beyond the reach of Governments. I would trust the present Treasurer to deal with the sinking funds, and at the same time to wisely administer the affairs of the Commonwealth, but the same reliance cannot be placed in all Treasurers. I hope that if we adopt this system we shall appoint an independent Commission to deal with the funds. The leader of the Opposition has remarked that we cannot be expected to provide out of revenue for the construction of large works in connexion with the laying out of the Federal capital. The cost of carrying out these works should, in my opinion, be no charge upon the nation. We may have to make advances to whatever body is intrusted with the work of laying out the capital, but it should be required to repay those advances out of the funds derivable from the lands of the city. In that event, if the capital turned out to be more or less of a fiasco, rather than a prosperous undertaking, we should be able to accept the position, and refuse to incur any further expenditure. Until we see that it is likely to grow into an important city, we should not incur in connexion with it large debts, which taxpayers of future years would have to repay. If we carry out the work properly we shall be able to lay out a city, which, though perhaps small, will be one of which we may all be proud. It may be necessary to make some advances in connexion with the laying out of the capital, but those advances will in no sense constitute a permanent debt on the part of the Commonwealth. From a personal review of the Estimates, it appears to me that they contain very little to which we can take exception ; and, in the position in which we now find ourselves, I shall probably do no more than ask foi- information in relation to certain matters. I do not intend to contest the various items. My hope is that we shall speedily pass the Estimates, conclude the remaining business of the session, grant the Government supplies, and allow them to shut the doors of Parliament in order that we may appeal without delay to the electors. I have studiously refrained from referring to the question of free-trade or protection, but the leader of the Opposition has brought it very forciby before the Committee by making a novel proposition. Few honorable members of the Opposition had an opportunity of consulting their leader in regard to that proposal, and, although t shall not commit myself at this stage to any definite expression of opinion upon it, it seems to me at the first blush that it is quite impracticable. There are some questions upon which it is not difficult to obtain a clear expression of opinion by a referendum, but in regard to the question of free-trade or protection with its many gradations of detail, it is almost impossible to do so. Having regard to the many features of the question to be submitted, I should certainly be induced to object to the proposal. The leader of the Opposition has certainly one point in his favour in submitting this proposal to the consideration of the Ministry. He, in common with other honorable members on this side of the House, is very gravely dissatisfied with the electoral divisions on which the incoming Parliament will be returned. We contend that some of the States are not equally distributed and that a man or woman residing in one constituency will have a relatively greater voting power than is possessed by a °man or woman residing in another electorate. Thus, if we go to the country in the ordinary way, and call upon the people to declare what ‘policy shall be adopted in the government of the Commonwealth, we shall come back representing, as free-traders or protectionists, revenue tariffists, or moderate protectionists, constituencies varying so greatly in numerical strength that it will be impossible to say what is the true verdict of the country. To that extent the leader of the Opposition is perfectly justified in. making this proposal, because, owing to the gross mismanagement of tlie Government in relation to the electoral divisions, it is impossible to obtain a clear decision in any other way.
– How can we obtain a clear expression of opinion in tlie way suggested by the leader of the Opposition ?
– No doubt there are difficulties in the way, but the leader of the Opposition throws upon the Government the duty of finding a way out of them. Seeing that they have found an admirable way of settling the question of the site of the Federal capital; they will probably discover some means to submit this burning question to the electors. Apart from the fact that the electoral divisions show gross inequalities, I should be against the right honorable member’s proposal to refer the abstract question of free-trade or protection to a referendum of the people. I reserve to myself the right to vote either for or against the proposal if the present electoral inequalities remain ; but whether tlie question is determined simply by the result of the next general election or by a referendum of the people, I trust that it will be settled next session, and that it will not be disturbed during the remainder of the bookkeeping period, if not during the next ten or twenty years. Nothing is more disastrous to business and manufacturing enterprises than the uncertainty as to what is to be the ultimate Tariff of the Commonwealth. The freetraders are not alone in their desire to amend the Tariff. If they do not succeed in obtaining some authority from the people to make an effort to amend it, I believe that the protectionists will consider that they have authority to do so in quite another direction. I hope, therefore, that we shall soon obtain a final decision as to what the Tariff is to be. The question is one which has never been submitted in its native simplicity to the electors. I hope that we shall now put it before them, obtain a decision in regard to it, and then allow the Tariff to remain undisturbed for ten or twenty years to come.
– I do not intend to detain the Committee by making a speech of any great length. I shall deal principally with the Defence Estimates, but before proceeding to discuss them I desire to refer to the action of the leader of the Opposition in withdrawing the accusation which he made against white stokers. The charge was cruel and unjust, but I feel confident that it was inadvertently made during the heat of debate, and that- the right honorable member had no intention to say anything that was unfair. One has only to look at the men on board the vessels of the Auxiliary Squadron in Port Jackson, or those on the steamers trading between Australia and South Africa, and Australia and Vancouver, in order to gain an idea of the true type of British stoker. We have had some experience of the behaviour of coloured seamen in times of danger in Sydney Harbor ; but I wish to recall to the minds of honorable members some of the thrilling incidents which occurred in connexion with the wreck of the Quetta off the coast of Northern Queensland. The incidents of the wreck served to show in a very marked way the difference between white and coloured seamen, and when I remember how well the British on the Quetta behaved, I feel proud to be a Britisher. Among the survivors of the wreck was a young lady named Miss Lacey, who came, I believe, from Mackay. When the vessel struck and went down, two white men placed this lady on a plank attached to a, ladder, and for some hours helped her to retain her position on it. Eventually the two men succumbed, and shortly afterwards a hen-coop, on which a number of Asiatics were swarming, came alongside. The blacks at once took possession of the ladder and plank, and compelled the unfortunate lady to seek safety by clinging to the hen-coop which they had abandoned. That is an illustration of how coloured sailors act in time of danger. On the other hand, we have only to recall the story of the loss of the Birkenhead, its showing what white men are prepared to do. We all know that a number of troops on board that vessel stood to attention while the ship went down, and allowed the women and children to leave the ship in the only available boats. How can any honorable member think of comparing our British white sailors with black men, and talk of British stokers as the “ scum “ of the earth? If they are, I for one am proud to belong to the same race. I am glad that the leader of the Opposition has withdrawn his remark. Of course, one never knows until it is verified in this House whether anything appearing in the Melbourne Age or Argus is true, but a few weeks ago I read in the newspapers that the Government were in a bacl way for an Inspector-General of Public Works, and that the only man in the Commonwealth fit for the position is a soldier. Have matters come to such a pass that, notwithstanding all the architects we have in the different States, none of them is fit for that position, and that we must fall back on the Military Head-quarters Staff in Victoria ? I venture to say that there are some o£ the smartest architects in the world in New South Wales. Then, in South Australia, there is an architect who is a credit to the State, and we have a good man in Queensland. If the Minister requires an Inspector of Works, I recommend him to appoint one of those men. There is too much soldiering in the Commonwealth. It is colonel here, captain there, and major somewhere else. If the gentleman to whom reference has been made is of such value to the Military Department as the Minister for Defence asks us to believe, because he is not sure whether he can be spared, let the Government appoint a civilian, though I could show that twelve or fourteen of these officers could be spared. I would sack the Head-quarters Staff and the General with them. I would make a clean sweep of the lot. The Prime Minister, when the Naval Agreement Bill was before the House, gave us the assurance that the Australian Navy would be kept intact as it is at the present time ; but the naval authorities to whom I have spoken are just as much in the dark in regard to the scheme to be adopted as we are. I should like some information on that point. So far as the rifle clubs are concerned, [ do not know whether it is because they .are under the General Officer Commanding, or because of the Government’s desire for economy, but the authorities are going the right way to stifle them out of existence. I have been told by members of several of the clubs in Western Queensland that if the new regulations applying to rifle clubs are carried out they will have to shut up shop. They are quite willing to give their services to the Commonwealth, and to submit to a course of training ; but the General Officer Commanding has said that he wants no half civilian force ; that he wants a military force or none. That is the idea of an Imperial officer. While I myself do not like Saturday afternoon soldiers, I do not see why the rifle clubs should be strangled. The Government have . increased the price of ammunition.
– The price is t*he same now as it was before.
– Formerly the members of the clubs were given 300 rounds at half rates, but now they get 150 rounds, and pay full rates for whatever other ammunition they use.
– They are given 200 rounds, and are allowed to purchase another 200 rounds for half-price.
– If we wish to encourage rifle shooting we must give the members of rifle clubs the incentive to practice of cheap ammunition. They do not ask for ammunition for nothing, but they wish to get it at a cheap rate, so that they may become proficient. They suggest that the Government should allow a certain number of extra rounds per annum for “efficients.” Does the Minister think that 400 rounds a year is sufficient for a marksman1? He could blaze away that quantity in an afternoon with the new magazine rifle. Some time ago I asked him if the members of the rifle clubs could purchase their rifles, and the answer he gave me was that there were none for sale.
– There are plenty for sale now.
– Many of the men have bought rifles privately .since then. The Labour Party wish to see the defence force armed with the most up-to-date weapons, because we know that the men might as well be armed with pop-guns as be sent into the field with the Martini-Henry to oppose a force armed with Mausers. At the present time half the force is unarmed, and the other half has very poor weapons. The press have misrepresented the Labour Party in saying that we do not want a defence force. As a matter of fact, if there were a war scare, it would be to the members of the Labour Party outside Parliament that the appeal to defend the country would be made, and they would be the first to repond to the call to arms. ““‘One does not need to be a financier to see that at present our money is not being properly expended. Does the Treasurer know that the travelling allowances, railway, and steamer fares- ‘of the military staffs of the States run into nearly £100,000 a year? If the Government cut down these allowances, and kept the officers at work at home, instead of allowing them to parade the country decked out in gold lace and tinsel, attending balls and suppers, there would be more money to spend upon the development of our forces generally. A few weeks ago the General Officer Commanding took the whole of his staff, and the New South Wales staff, with batmen, servants, and horses, by special train from Sydney to Bathurst, where they stayed for an inspection lasting about twenty minutes, and then returned at full steam to Sydney. I venture to say that that trip cost the Commonwealth nearly £1,000. It is because the military vote is expended in that manner that the expenditure upon rifle clubs, and the forces generally, is starved. What are the Government doing with regard to the cadet corps? Practically nothing. The cadets should be the bone and sinew of our Defence Force, but the General Officer Commanding is strangling the cadet corps, as he is strangling the rifle clubs. Tt has been said that there is no discontent in the service, but let me read a paragraph on this subject which recently appeared in the Brisbane Courier. We were told that under Federation there would be a levelling up, not a levelling down, and that whatever a man was worth in one part of the Commonwealth would be paid throughout the service. It will be found from the fol.lowing statement that that is not so : -
In this community there is a very deserving class of men in the Public Service - the service of tlie Commonwealth - who cannot nin off to politicians to have their grievances aired or redressed. They are the non-commissioned instructors of the Commonwealth Military Forces, and may be named in a collective sense us “Sergeant What’s-his’name.” A member of the Federal House of Representatives, going through the average pay or salary of instructors on the permanent staff, has found that by taking the consolidated rates the pay of instructors in Queensland will be found to be much under what is received by similar public servants in other States. In New South Wales the average pay per annum is £208 18s. 3d. ; in West Australia, £196 15s. 8d.; in Victoria, £177 4s. 2d. ; in South Australia, £175 2s. 3d. ; in Tasmania, £173 2s.. 3d. ; and in Queensland, £166 9s. 5d. T/te Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 4th July sets out that under regulations the “ pay of warrant officers and- non-commissioned officers of the instructional staff’” shall be .at certain rates, which should work out very well when the provision comes into effect ; but meanwhile the men who are doing service in Queensland are at a very great disadvantage as compared with those in other States. Surely it will not require any very great tax on intelligence to devise a means of equalizing affairs, or any great mental strain in carrying such equalization into effect. To men who’ have groat affairs of State to settle, the position of the Queensland instructors may not seem important, but justice is always important.
Surely a classification should not take three years to make. The authorities know that the instructors are there, and they must have had a recommendation in regard to them from the Officer Commanding in Queensland. Not only is there trouble in connexion with the non-commissioned officers and instructors, but there is discontent among other officers, which the following statement seems to justify : -
While a fixed rate of pay for officers of the R.A.A. has been authorized according to rank.’ the pay of officers of the Permanent Staff remains in a chaotic condition, and the spectacle is seen of Staff-Majors only drawing pay equal to Captains in the R.A.A., and, in some cases, Captains on the Staff drawing more pay than Majors on the Staff. If it has been considered necessary to pay officers of the R.A.A. according to rank, surely it is more necessary to do so in the case of officers of the Permanent Staff who occupy much more important positions than regimental officers. A glance at the Estimates will reveal a most astonishing unevenness in pav. Take one instance - the D.A.Q.M.G. in New South Wales (a Captain) draws even more pay than the A.A.G-. in Queensland (a Lieutenant-Colonel). It is believed that the New South Wales Captain referred to draws as much pay as the Commandant of Western Aus tralia. These are only isolated instances of the anomalies of pay, which, throughout the Commonwealth, should be according to rank not appointment.
– That is an ex parte statement.
– It is not. I have picked out the items from the Estimates.
– Why does not the honorable member ask for an explanation of these statements ? We are ready to give any information that is asked for.’
– I am relating the facts to the Minister who may offer his explanation afterwards. A number of officers have been taken away from Victoria to join in a tour of the Commonwealth, and even to visit New Guinea. I should like to know what that little trip will cost the Commonwealth. We shall have to foot the bill, although the vote may be so hidden in the Estimates that it will be difficult to recognise it. I am told on very good authority that a colonel almost immediately after receiving his promotion, initialed a- voucher which included an amount charged by the printers, Messrs. Watson, Ferguson and Company, of Brisbane, for the printing of his own visiting cards. This is only a small matter in itself, but it shows the disposition of officers to take advantage of the opportunities which may present themselves for obtaining what they require at the cost of the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable member will confidentially communicate to me the name of that officer I shall undertake to inquire into the matter.
– I shall be perfectly willing not only to give the Treasurer the name of the officer, but the date and number of the voucher to which I have referred.
– The honorable member may rest assured that I shall haul up the officer.
– The honorable member for Bland referred to the question of establishing an ammunition and small arms factory. In all seriousness, I ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to do anything in this matter. I know that it may be argued that there is already one factory in operation in Victoria, and that that is quite enough to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. I would urge, however, that the Commonwealth should not be saddled with any bad bargain made by Victoria. If under the terms of the contract entered into it is necessary to use in Victoria the ammunition supplied by the factory let that be done by all means. But let us, at the same time, make ample provision for any emergency that ‘ may arise. Suppose that a war broke out in the . East within three or four months. In what position should we find ourselves with reference to our defences? If the Imperial troops in the East ran short of ammunition, and we had only one case of it at our disposal, it would be our duty to hand it over to them. Should we be in a position to manufacture a sufficient supply of ammunition, even to meet our own requirements, in a great emergency?’ The honorable member for Bland has pointed out that every particle of the material used in the local ammunition factory has to be imported.
– That is inaccurate. Nothing beyond the cartridge cases is imported.
– No cordite is manufactured within the Commonwealth, and therefore that material must be imported. If the present manufacturers have to import the materials for the purpose of making cartridges, why should not the Government do the same thing and manufacture ammunition and lay up reserve stocks in all the States ? “We have only to remember the condition of affairs which existed recently in some parts of South Africa in order to realize what our own position would be in a case of emergency;. We know that in Kimberley they had noguns with which to defend the town, and no ammunition worth speaking of. They had to establish an arsenal and ammunition factory in the De Beers mine, and make gunpowder and construct guns as best they could. We should be in exactly the same position if war were to break out -within the next few months. It was reported only last week, or the week before, that the Commonwealth Government had entered into a contract with the proprietors of the Victorian Ammunition Factory for the supply of several millions of rounds of ammunition. Suppose that under the influence of sudden pressure we required ten times the quantity, would- the manufacturers be in a position tosupply it ? If they were, do the Government think that they would supply it at the present contract price? No. Weshould have to pay them whatever they asked for anything beyond the contractquantity, because there is no other factory within the Commonwealth. That is not a very satisfactory position for us tooccupy, and unless something is done by the Government to amend the present conditions the sooner we put them out of office and set up another Ministry the better. Something should be done with regard tothe establishment of a clothing factory. TheNew South Wales Government are makingthe clothing required for the Government Departments and are saving money, and there is no reason why the Commonwealth should not follow their example. The New South Wales Government not only supply good cloth, and make good clothes, but they pay a good rate of wages. I am sorry tosay that the latter remark does not apply to the contractors who are now making uniforms for the’ Commonwealth Government in Brisbane. They are paying only sweating rates.
– That is provided against in the terms of the contract.
– “Then the contractors are evading the terms of the contract, and if the Minister will promise to take action I shall supply him with all the information necessary. The Commonwealth Government should have under its control all the works necessary to supply our troops with good clothing and with small arms and ammunition. I do not intend to detain the Committee any further at this stage. I shall. deal with a number of details when the .Defence Estimates come under consideration, and I can assure the Minister in charge of that Department that I intend to give him a lively time.
– I am sure that honorable members on all sides have been inexpressibly pleased at the high tribute paid to the Treasurer in connexion with the administration of his Department. I cordially indorse the remarks made in commendation of the right honorable gentleman, but I must, at the same time, express regret that in a weak moment he should have allowed himself to inflict a very great injustice upon a large number of worthy citizens in Tasmania. I desire to direct his attention to the methods adopted in dealing with the Defence Forces in that State. . I hope that I shall be able to make some impression upon Ministers, and that the Treasurer will consent to an alteration of the Estimates so that provision may be made for placing the troops in Tasmania upon a footing equal to that occupied by the members of the Defence Forces in other States. Onformer occasions he has steadily set his face against an alteration of the Estimates, but I hope that, in the present case, he will waive any objections he may have on that score. I believe that, at the solicitation of one of his colleagues, the Treasurer has been induced to depart from fair and proper principles in his dealings with the Defence Forces* of Tasmania. In five of the States the forces are enlisted under the partially paid system and. receive a retainer of £6 per man per annum to hold themselves liable to serve in any part of the Commonwealth. The retaining fee may go on from year to year, and they may never be called on to give their services. In Tasmania an exception - the only one - has been made to the rule to which I have referred ; and, as a. result, an altogether anomalous condition of affairs has been created. Instead of giving the members of the Defence Forces in that State a retaining fee, and thus rendering them liable to be called upon to serve in defence of the Commonwealth, they have been told that they will be paid when they are called upon for service, and that in the meantime they will be treated as volunteers. Under the Federation, for which we all voted, in the general belief that we should become one people with one destiny, Tasmania should not occupy a subordinate position.
– The conditions to which the honorable member refers will obtain for only one year.
– I do not wish to see the Great Britain of the south ^occupy the position of a poor relation of the Commonwealth. Under Federation every individual should occupy an equal footing, and Tasmania, although it is the smallest State, ought to occupy exactly the same position as the others. There should be no distinction.- We are all brethren, and we all belong to the one race. I am thoroughly convinced that the exMinister for Defence will indorse my view of this matter. As an example, let me take the position of Victoria as it is at the present time. Let me suppose that the Premier of this State approached the Treasurer, and said - “Our financial affairs are not in a perfectly satisfactory condition. We have to float a loan of £5,200,000 in a market which is anything but friendly.” Of course, I am glad to know that the Premier of this State is too high-minded and patriotic to make any suggestion of that kind. But had that position been put to the Treasurer, what would he have said ? What would all the Ministers have said 1 Would they not have replied - “ We have entered into a Federation, and we cannot allow Victoria, because of her financial exigencies, to occupy a position altogether different from that of the other States of the union.” But the same degree of justice, [ regret to say, has not been meted out to Tasmania. Some time ago I called for certain correspondence to be laid upon the table of this House. What did it reveal 1 To my mind, it contained some most remarkable disclosures, because, whilst upon its first page a statement appeared that there had been no correspondence whatever with the Tasmanian Government upon the matter at issue, I found, upon turning over a few more pages, a letter from the ex-Minister for Defence, which declared that the policy which had been followed had been adopted purely in the interests of economy and at the. earnest request of the Tasmanian Government. That request was that, so fair as the military forces of Tasmania were concerned, they should be placed upon, a volunteer footing. In order that the present Government who had ousted the Lewis Administration, upon the pica that it did not effect sufficient economies, might carry out its pledges to the electors* the Premier asked that no provision should be made upon the Estimates for the military forces of that State.
An Honorable Member. - It would have been a charge against the State.
– Exactly, and in order to prevent that the Premier of Tasmania intimated to some of the Ministers that it was desirable to retain the Tasmanian forces upon a purely voluntary basis. They were to occupy a position altogether inferior to that of the forces in the other States. I ask honorable members whether the various States, through their representatives, are, by means of backstairs influence, to determine what the Commonwealth shall do so far as the Federal forces are Concerned ? Those forces are designed to adequately protect the various States, and the Commonwealth Government is responsible for their efficient administration. I say deliberately that there is no justice in meting out to Tasmania entirely different treatment from that which is meted out to the other States. I feel sure that when the item in question comes under review honorable members upon this side of the Chamber will loyally strive to remedy the injustice. At the same time I “ appeal to Ministerial supporters who are naturally influenced by a desire to preserve intact the Estimates as submitted by the Treasurer, and who are indisposed, save under extreme pressure, to alter a single line of them, to see that Tasmania is not placed in a position inferior to that which is occupied by all the other States. In connexion with a transferred service, we should not hearken to the request of the Premier of any State, but should do justice to those who are under our special control. If this is to be a Commonwealth, let the Government exercise the functions of a Commonwealth Government. Do not let us go behind what are clearly our duties, and accept counsel from interested individuals, who are merely desirous of carrying out their pledges to their constituents - pledges that they would effect certain economies. In order to redeem those pledges, the present Administration in Tasmania are endeavouring to force this Commonwealth, through the Treasurer - in Tasmania, it is generally believed, upon the representations of the Postmaster-General - to do something which is absolutely unjust. I would’ further point out that at the present time in that State there are a large number of recruits awaiting enrolment. With this sense of injustice upon them, they have very naturally abstained from sending in their applications. ‘ They desire first toascertain whether this Parliament intends to deal out even-handed justice to the smallest State of the Union.
– Why have they been re- cruiting 1
– If the honorable member reads the report he will ascertain.
– I desire to impress upon- Ministers that the field force of Tasmania - the Engineers and Garrison Artillery at Hobart - should be partially paid, as are all the other branches of the Federal forces, throughout the States. I specially mention the field forces because they must be highly trained. In the absence of other training during the year, the instruction which they receive in camp is insufficient. I consider the fact that they are not paid for their services constitutes an absolute breach of faith, with the whole of the forces of the island. State. Upon the first occasion on which. Major-General Hutton visited Tasmania, hedistinctly promised that under the Commonwealth all the forces would be treated* alike. Shall we allow the General OfficerCommanding to make-a deliberate statement, of that character to a large body of men, who have thereby been induced to remainin the service, and then break faith with-, them 1 I presume that Major-General Hutton was authorized to make the statement in question. I may also mention thatat the present time the Tasmanian forces, are, legally speaking, militia forces, although for years past, owing to the exigencies, of State finance, they have abstained’ from accepting payment for their services. They have acted as volunteers merelyfrom a generous spirit, and owing to thecondition of affairs financial in that State.
– Which bodies did the honorable member say ought to be paid ? ‘
– The field forces of Tasmania.
– What number dothey represent ?
– The lowest number, I am informed by the Minister for Defence, is about 520 or 590. ‘ But if the right honorable gentleman will consent to place a lower number than that upon the partiallypaid list, I shall be perfectly satisfied. . My only desire is that the Federal spirit shall not be departed from, and that Tas- - mania shall not be relegated to a position < inferior to that which is occupied by the other States. I shall be perfectly content if the Minister will agree to place 400 or 500 men upon the partially-paid list. These men belong to a transferred service, and, therefore, such a course of action would not cost the Commonwealth a shilling, inasmuch as the amount involved would be deducted from the Customs revenue of Tasmania.
– It is a new charge against Tasmania, and represents a considerable sum.
– Similarly it is a new charge in Victoria.
– Oh, no.
– The Treasurer declares that it is a “ new “ charge, simply because these men have generously abstained from accepting pay, although in reality they constitute a militia force.
– No, but because the State Government have not previously spent the money.
– Is that the unFederal spirit which is to be assumed ?
– Will the honorable member pardon me ? The Tasmanian Government have not previously spent money in that direction, and have made a special request that the same policy should .be carried into effect this year, because of the financial difficulties with which they are confronted.
– I clearly understand that, but we find that Ministers have bowed like a reed before the wind to the representations of the Tasmanian Government. The point which I desire to emphasize is that, having taken over the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, the Government must deal with”’ them according to the lines laid down by the Commander-in-Chief, and regardless of tlie previous policy of any State. We have secured the highest talent available for the direction of our forces, but owing to certain exigencies, and to the friendly feeling entertained by the Federal Government towards the State administration, the policy prepared by them, and put before the House, is to be departed from so far as the Tasmanian troops are concerned. The Treasurer put a question to me as to the forces in respect of which I made this request. They are the field forces, the Engineers and the Garrison Artillery at Hobart. They are a comparatively small number of men, but it has been earnestly represented to me that the whole, of the Federal forces in Tasmania consider that they have been, very unjustly treated.
– The forces to which the honorable member refers represent only one-fourth of the whole.
– That is so. It is. quite probable that three-fourths of thetroops would prefer to be volunteers, because there are certain obligations attaching to the partially-paid forces with which many of them might not be able to comply. Themembers of the partially-paid forces, for example, are required to attend three orfour afternoon drills every month, and in the scattered districts of Tasmania thereare not many men who are able to leavetheir ordinary avocations to devote so much time to military duties. I intend when we come to discuss the items to test the feeling of the Committee as to whether there* shall be any departure from the broad. Federal spirit in the treatment of the military forces in Tasmania. This is the firstappeal which I have made in the House, and I hope that it will not be in vain. I trustthat I shall have the co-operation of Ministers when the crucial time comes to take a vote on this important subject.
– I extremely regret that I find myself on this occasion opposed to the request made by my honorable colleague. I should like briefly toput before the Committee my reason for declining to support it. A few months ago the finances of Tasmania were extremely depressed, and a cry for retrenchment was heard throughout the length and breadth of* the State. The Ministry of the day. said that further retrenchment, was impossible,, and shortly afterwards there was an appeal to the electors. Among the electors whoexercised the franchise on that occasion were many of the men on behalf of whom, the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, has made this appeal. The peoplerejected, nearly the whole of their previous representatives on the ground that they had. failed to practice economy in the administration of the affairs of the State, and returned men who , were pledged up to the hilt to a policy of retrenchment. The Ministry resigned ; a new Ministry wasformed, and that Administration, in pursuance of the policy which the electors had emphatically indorsed, requested the Federal Minister for Defence to allow the Tasmanian forces to remain for another year in the position which they had occupied for some time previously. The Committee should bear iu mind that a large number of these men exercised’ their rights at the ballotbox on that occasion, and- emphatically declared for retrenchment. In these circumstances I fail to see on what ground they can now ask for increased pay. Had their pay been curtailed, there might have been something in the contention put forward by the honorable member; but they are now receiving practically what they received before. There has been no breach of the Federal spirit. If this increased payment is made to the forces in Tasmania, it will simply represent money taken from the pockets of their fellow-citizens in the Island State. The additional expenditure will be borne, not by the Commonwealth, but by Tasmania. Under these circumstances, it seems to me that the Premier of Tasmania made an absolutely legitimate request when he asked that that principle ©f economy for which the people of the State had declared, should be observed by the Commonwealth, so far as the local Defence Forces, were concerned. If the Tasmanian finances were in a flourishing condition, I should be very happy to support my honorable friend’s request.
– The revenue received by Tasmania last year was- £80,000 in excess of that obtained by her during the previous yean1.
– I am sorry to say that an epidemic of small-pox has occurred in Launceston, and, as an illustration of the financial position of the State, I would point oust that a special tax will have to be levied to make good the expenditure incurred in -endeavouring to cope .with that epidemic. Under these circumstances, I shall feel compelled, in the best interests of Tasmania, to oppose the honorable member’s request. It is idle to talk of Federal expenditure as long as the book-keeping period continues. Three-fourths of the revenue collected through the Customs in Tasmania has to be returned to that State. The remaining one>fourth may be utilized by the Commonwealth Treasurer.; but if he does not expend it, he must return it to the Government for the benefit of the people of the State. I desire now to refer to the proposed mail contract, to which reference has been made by the leader of the Opposition, and subsequently by other honorable .members. I believe that we are at present paying the Imperial- Government a sum of £80,000 per annum as our contribution towards the cost of the mail service between England and Australia. The majority of the members of this House have declared through the Government that in future no subsidies shall be paid for the carriage of mails by ships manned by coloured labour. My views on the question of the employment of coloured labour are tolerably well known, and therefore there is no occasion for me to repeat them ; but I should like to call attention to a fact which has not been touched upon during the consideration of this question. I would point out that if we decide to impose a further burden on the people of Australia by terminating our agreement with the Imperial Government, and subsidizing a separate mail service between Australian ports and Colombo, we shall have to determine how the vessels of the service are to be manned. We have simply declared that we must have white instead of coloured labour employed on our mail ships, but we have said nothing as to the nationality of the’ white sailors to be employed. It is within the knowledge of honorable members that the great majority of oversea ships are manned by foreign crews, and we have no guarantee that, even if we incur the increased cost of running a special mail service of our own to Colombo, the vessels carrying our mails will be manned byBritish sailors. I do not know that the people of Australia, as a whole, indorse the view held by the majority of their representatives in this Parliament, that vessels carrying our mails shall be manned by white, instead- of coloured,’ labour ; but, if effect is to be given to that view, the Ministry of the day should take care to have a clause in the contract providing that our. mail ships shall be manned, not merely by white men, but by white men of British nationality. It seems to me that if we are desirous of substituting white for coloured crews on board the vessels carrying our mails, and are prepared to pay the increased cost which this change must involve, we may do much in this way to train men for the efficient Australian Navy of which we have lately heard so much. We- might have.a clause in all contracts, providing that vessels carrying mails should be manned by British white subjects ; or we could go a step further - and if we decide to refuse to pay for black labour, I should be inclined to support this proposal - and make these vessels a training ground for Australian seamen. In that way we should foster that sea-faring spirit on the part of Australians, which is bound sooner or later to be developed. We should certainly improve the position of Great Britain in time of war, because we should be able, if necessary, to furnish her with the nucleus of a trained force to man her warships. I commend this suggestion to the Treasurer, and trust that he will take it into consideration. If we make arrangements for a special service of our own, and decline to allow black labour to be employed on these vessels, something in the direction I have indicated should be done, otherwise we might find ourselves employing Germans, Russians, Danes, and natives of Finland, who could be recalled at any moment by their respective Governments. As long as the men of these nationalities are under the oath of allegiance they are bound to respond when called upon by their respective Governments, and thus, unless we take the precautions I have indicated, we might simply be training men for the service of the enemy. The only other subject to which I desire to direct attention. is one that hasbeen discussed by the leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Gippsland, and several others, namely, the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should, on their own responsibility, float the conversion loan of £5,500,000, which Victoria will shortly require to raise. I am strongly opposed to any such proposition. Our revenue in round figures amounts to about £12,000,000 per annum. From that the Commonwealth Government is entitled to deduct, if it sees fit, some £2,500,000; the rest of the money has to be returned to the States in the proportions in which it has been levied from them. I do not know the exact amount which Victoria is entitled to receive under this arrangement, but I believe that it is about £2,500,000.
– It is about £2,000,000.
– If the Commonwealth takes over the responsibility of the debts of Victoria; the financiers and investors who are interested in Australian securities will make inquiry into the matter, and they will find that, provided our Customs revenue does not increase, we shall be able to go security for her to the amount named. The Victorian debt is at present a very large one. Rut if we undertake to go security for any one loan, we shall not be able to stop there. We shall have to go on floating other loans, until Victoria has become indebted to the Commonwealth to such an extent that the interest she owes is equivalent to her share of the Customs revenue. But until the book-keeping period has ended - and, I venture to say, even after that time - the representatives of the States will not allow the Commonwealth to go security for Victoria, or for any other State, to an amount the interest upon which exceeds the share of Customs revenue receivable by that State. Therefore, when the interest payable by Victoria has become as great as her share of the Customs revenue, the Commonwealth Treasurer will be forced to cry “ halt,” and the State will then be in a worse position than she is in now. Having had the support of the Commonwealth for a number of years, she will have to float loans upon her own responsibility, and she will then find a greater difficulty in borrowing money than if she had met her own liabilities all. along. What applies to Victoria is. equally true of the other States. I can understand the Treasurer borrowing money upon the security of the revenue for the purposes of the Commonwealth as a whole ; but, as a business man, I cannot conscientiously indorse the proposal of either the honorable member for Gippsland or of the leader of the Opposition-. 1 would like honorable members to ask some independent financier whether, if Victoria agrees to the course proposed, she will not find herself in a worse position later on, when she has to borrow money again on her own responsibility ? Both the State and a private individual can borrow only in proportion to the security offered. I do not think that an attempt to bolster up the finances of Victoria in the manner proposed this evening will have the slightest effect in assisting her.
Sir EDMUND BARTON (Hunter- Minister for External Affairs). - I hope that I shall not detain the Committee for any great length of time, because I do not intend to digress into a number of the matters which have been raised, but will confine my remarks to one or two subjects. Before going into more important matters, I should like to say something in reply to the questions asked by the honorable member for Maranoa. He- referred to tin alleged promise of mine that the local naval forces - and I use the word “local” in the sense of “Australian” - should be kept intact. Those words do not quite cover what I said, because it will be necessary in course of time, and probably before very long, to replace some of the existing vessels by much more efficient vessels. It is intended, as I have repeatedly stated, to re-arm the Cerberus, now in Melbourne,’ and to keep in commission the two torpedo gunboats of the better class - the Countess qf Hopetoun and a sister vessel ; and to maintain for the time being the Queensland gunboats, the Gay undah, and the Paluma, and the South Australian boat, the Protector. Provision for their maintenance is made On the estimates of this year. But I do not promise .the Committee, and I did not make the promise when the Naval Agreement Bill was before Parliament, to ve tain those boats after the time when Parliament will assist us with the means and opportunity to furnish better defences for our ports, because they are, in the opinion of experts, not of much value as fighting machines. I have repeatedly indicated, and I think I have made myself clear, that the provision made under the Naval Agreement for a squadron which is to be part of the fleet of the Empire, is not in any sense intended to prevent the Parliament of Australia from making provision for whatever coastal and harbour defence it deems fit. I repeat that assertion, which, as honorable members will recollect, I was willing to place in the Naval Agreement Bill in the form of a declaratory section. Therefore it will be apparent that we hope to provide for the present force on the estimates for the year. As to any defence that may be provided in the replacement of vessels that are’ considered ineffective, or practically useless, we shall have to trust to the liberality of Parliament. We must have the assistance of Parliament in making replacements to provide for the efficient defence of our harbours, if not of our coast line. Assuming for the moment that Melbourne is sufficiently provided for, in the way of ships, as to harbour defence, my own view is that we shall do much better in regard to the other ports - in some of which there is some provision now, but in others an utter absence of provision - by providing torpedo boat destroyers or submarine torpedo boats. Those, in addition to the forts and mine-fields, which are efficient in most cases, and well provided for, should furnish a very effective defence in time of danger. I am speaking upon this subject with the full appreciation of the fact that the financial requirements of the Commonwealth, being necessarily varied,’ do not allow of as much provision in this regard as some experts would advise. But I take it that that is no reason why some of our ports should be left entirely without floating defences. If Parliament will give us-such assistance, I shall ask it to provide for such defences in addition to those I have mentioned, as will at any rate be fairly effective until the time arrives when we can afford more. As to the officers and men who are required for the purpose of carrying out such defence, honorable members will see that if we were to say that we intended to dispense with them, we should be only getting rid of the present men in order to obtain new men. I am not going to pursue such a policy as that, nor shall I ask the Minister of Defence to do so. The men retained on the present establishment will, I hope, find employment on the boats now in commission, or upon whatever boats are commissioned to replace them. If that statement was the object of my honorable friend’s question, I hope that he will consider the answer a reasonable one. I have now repeated substantially what I said when replying to the second reading of the Naval Agreement Bill. But as the honorable member desired the assurance, 1 have thought it not a waste of time to repeat my remarks. As to the question whether we intend to do anything to establish a small-arm and ammunition factory, I call attention to these facts. There is at present at Footscray, as the honorable member has mentioned, an establishment which turns out a certain large quantity of ammunition each year. There was in existence, when Federation came about, an agreement between the owners of the factory and the State of Victoria which was to last for a certain number of years, of which something under ten remain unexpired.
– A longer period than that, I think.
– About ten or eleven years. I think it is under ten years, though the exact length of time is not material for the purpose of my explanation. It has been found advisable, instead of importing all the ammunition required beyond what the factory was producing, to give it orders which have enabled it to increase its output, and it has now increased its output sufficiently to supply all, or nearly all, the ammunition necessary to meet the yearly requirements of the Commonwealth. Those who conduct the factory have, by the increase of orders, been induced to lay out further capital, until, I am informed, they are about to double their plant. If we were to establish a Commonwealth factory in rivalry of this private establishment, and especially if we established it immediately, we should, so far as the plant used for the manufacture of military ammunition is concerned, cause it to become useless and unsaleable, except as old iron. It would, of course, be possible to purchase the factory, but such a step as that is not to be taken without grave consideration.
– I do not think that any one wants that to be done.
– I do not think that any one will demand it. Therefore, what we propose to do is to let the agreement run out, without taking any drastic steps to put an end to it, and to order from the factor)’ up to the requirements with which it has hitherto supplied us. If there should be a large increase in our requirements it will be a matter for consideration whether we shall obtain tlie ammunition from the contractors or establish a State factory. But that is a matter for separate consideration, and in the meantime we shall leave the agreement with the firm to remain in operation.
– Has any additional agreement been entered into?
– I do not think so. No additional agreement has been entered into, but orders have been given for further supplies. The question of establishing a small-arms factory is of more importance. I am myself of opinion, although I do not wish this to be taken as expressing an intention to take immediate action, that every State should be able to make its own small arms and ammunition, and also to make uniforms for it? own troops.
– Does the Prime Minister mean that the ammunition and clothing should be made by the States Governments or in the States ?
– I think that a Government which is maintaining an army or a navy should not be dependent upon any private agencies for such supplies of warlike stores and muniments as may be necessary in the case of an outbreak of war. That policy must be suspended for the present in regard to the supply of military ammunition, but, in regard toother matters, the Government will take the whole question into consideration. We may find that it is possible at an early date to provide for such requirements as I have indicated by establishments in the hands of the Commonwealth alone. When we are able to do so I shall be very glad. So much for those matters. I prefer to leave any general questions as to the finances in the hands of the Treasurer. It is not necessary for both of us to enter into the controversy upon matters of figures. More than that, my right honorable colleague is the most capable authority in the House upon such subjects, and I am content to leave them to him. As to the matters that have been so interminably discussed relating to the figures showing the numbers of electors in the various electoral divisions, I am not going to debate them over again. I must, however, refer to some of the remarks made by the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, in the course of which these matters were dragged in. I want first to bring under the attention of the Committee the fact that the right honorable member charges fraud in connexion with the figures by which we defend our policy as to the distribution of the seats ; that is to say in respect of the figures which we laid before the House. The mere charge of fraud I treat with absolute contempt.
– Has not the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney had enough of that yet ?
– I do nob know. It is not for me to say when the right honorable and learned member will be satisfied, unless it is with himself. But I can say this, that a charge of fraud of that kind is a monstrous accusation to bring against the Government, especially when it is accompanied by a request such as that preferred by the right honorable gentleman.. The Government presented their policy and their figures to Parliament. That policy has been indorsed by resolution, and is now ratified in the form of a law, which is to be presented for the Royal assent tomorrow. Now, in the face of all that has passed, a charge of fraud, if not by ourselves by our officers, is presented, and on that ground we are asked to alter the whole scheme upon which we wish to’ test public -opinion at the elections. We cannot consent to such an alteration on such a ground.
– The charge is true all the same.
– It is a wicked thing to say so. Whether it is a wicked charge or not we are accused of doing a wicked thing, of having been parties to taking one seat out of the list for the purpose of making the figures appear 25,000 less than they should be. The right honorable. gentleman who makes that charge has ms a basis for his statement, the fact that he is not satisfied with the form of the divisions, and tells us that, because of his dissatisfaction, and his charges of fraud, we are to throw over our ordinary system of election for this occasion and substitute another. That is a monstrous demand. It is so monstrous that I wonder at the hardihood of even my right honorable friend in making it. My personal relations with him, as he has said, are perfectly friendly, and I am satisfied that they should remain so ; but I wonder that my right honorable friend should make such a charge, and in the next breath ask us to consent to a change of electoral system which he demands only on the ground of the truth of that charge. Of course we cannot consent to any such thing. I think that the community would be filled with wonder, and certainly we should be covered with shame if we consented to a change on such a ground. The calm proposal is that we should submit to the process which the right honorable gentleman suggests on the ground that a false and fraudulent distribution of electorates has been made for which the Government, and surely with them the Parliament, are responsible. That is a demand which no Government or Parliament could, with any show of decency, concede. To assent to a proposition of that kind would be to admit the shame which is charged, and which we indignantly deny. What is the object of it all ? I do not know why all these pains should be taken to put the fiscal issue under separate treatment - as if it were a long-sentenced prisoner.
– It was done in connexion with Federation
– I shall deal -with the question of the referendum as it affects Federation in a minute. What is all this for 1 Did my right honorable friend go to Sydney in order to obscure the fiscal issue? Did he remain there during a long campaign, in order that certain things should take place, regarding which he should not be present to record his votes 1 Did he sedulously abstain from a reference to the fiscal issue during the whole of that campaign, because he intended to return here and put up a scheme to prevent its proper operation in politics ? These are questions that will occur to any one’s mind. It may be very clever to adopt such tactics. It may be so or not ; but they afford no reasons which should induce this Parliament to change its decision, or this Government to change its policy. It is an attempt to separate an issue, which is the main one, from the ordinary issues of the general election. It is not proposed to apply the referendum to the introduction of a new system, or to some question which might be easily answered with a “yes” or a “no,” or perhaps with a “yes-no.” But if government is finance, and finance is government - then the issue in question most intimately concerns the system of responsible government. It goes to the very core, and I think, therefore, that it presents the last case as to which we should submit to the proposed change. The question of finance is most vital to responsible government, which, in its turn, depends upon our system of election. However good the referendum may be, our system of election would be disturbed by its application iu such a case as the present. The referendum itself takes away responsibility, perhaps rightly, or perhaps wrongly. I am not attacking the referendum now but I am saying that it takes away the responsibility of honorable members and Ministers. That is its necessary operation. It is a system by which mandates can be sought upon particular questions - mandates which every one will obey as a matter of course, and which, therefore, put an end to the party fighting on such questions, with the result that the losers have to retire from office. It, . therefore, abrogates, rightly or wrongly, the principle upon which our system of Government is based, and which is, in the main, embodied in the Constitution. It has always been claimed for the referendum that it removes questions from the region of Ministerial responsibility. Why should we, therefore, submit to the electors, by referendum, the question which most involves Ministerial responsibility and which the right honorable gentleman has been most persistent in asserting, that he intends to make the main issue at the forthcoming election 1 If we are parties to’ fraud - Ministers by their action and Parliament by its decision - what, is the right process ? If we were parties to the alleged fraud we should not be allowed an opportunity to appeal to the country, but should be placed some where else where we could be more safely controlled. If we are to be asked to make this change by divesting ourselves and our opponents of responsibility upon a main and vital question, all I can say is that this is not the time, and the charge levelled at us is not the ground upon which such a change should be made. Nor would I, upon an invitation based on such a ground, think of introducing a Bill to carry out what is demanded. In other words, I will not consent to take any step which at this stage would have the effect of withrawing the main issue to be submitted to the electors from die sphere of responsible government. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has referred to the referendum in its relation to the Constitution. The use of the referendum in connexion with the Constitution is confined to certain matters relating to the amendment of the Constitution. And there is a stringent provision that when a referendum is taken -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, orin any manner affecting tho provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
So that there is an ordinary referendum for ordinary alterations in the Constitution requiring that there shall be majorities in at least four out of the six States, and there are also certain other provisions which provide that among these majorities there shall be a majority in the State specially affected.
– I directed attention to the fact that Federation was brought about after a referendum.
– That simply strengthens what I was about to say. In the making or alteration of a constitution one could consent to a referendum vote of the people, whatever his opinion might be as to the referendum as an ordinary engine of parliamentary government. I am neither condemning nor upholding thereferendum as an ordinary engine of parliamentary government. I admit that in theway in which it may be used under the Constitution, it may be a good thing. But, rightly or wrongly, the Constitution does, not go a. whit further than I have indicated. If the referendum is a good engine for ordinary parliamentary government, it isnot an engine which should now be suddenly used as a cover for a charge which, I venture to describe as monstrous. The honorable and learned member for Indi put a very pertinent question whilst the leader of the Opposition was speaking. He asked - “ What would you refer to the electors asthe question 1 “ How would that question be framed ? Would it cover only the few items of which the leader of the Opposition talks one day, or the drastic revision of which he speaks the next day ? Would thisquestion be put - “ Shall the Tariff be maintained 1 “ If so, those who desire only one or two items to be reconsidered would certainly vote with those who desire its complete revision with its interminable delay and unutterable mischief. Where are we todraw the line in asking for a referendum upon the Tariff ? When a Bill which provides, for a single principle has been put through Parliament - as in the case of Switzerland - it can be submitted to a referendum toobtain, if necessary, the veto of the people. There is then a concrete question to which an answer in the affirmative or negativeis sufficient. But it is not so in the case of a Tariff. When once we re-open the question, the man who will vote “ Aye,” for an alteration of it, may be the individual whodesires its alteration for the sake of his own business, or the public man who would alter it root and branch, and for quite distinct purposes. Although their purposes would be entirely different, they would vote in exactly the same way. Therefore, a referendum is not the proper instrument by which to determine whether a Tariff with its great variety of subjects and its great variety of duties is acceptable to the people.
– And with thewomen voting for the first time.
– Exactly, though I believe that women will exhibit an intelligence in regard to public questions, which some of our opponents do not suspect. We cannot create a single issue irb regard to the Tariff. The idea of submitting to a referendum the question of whether or not the electors favour its maintenance is absurd. To how long a period should the question apply ? The leader of the Opposition declares that if he were defeated upon the fiscal question, he would never raise it again. Does he desire then that the Tariff should be maintained for a day or for all time 1 Does he not tell us one day that he wishes to alter only a few items in it and upon another that he desires to effect its drastic revision ? As yet we do not know which are the provisions of a certain Bill of which he approves, although he made a long speech upon the measure. Let him tell us what he requires in reference to the Tariff, for we have never yet had that information in a concrete form. For all these reasons I say that a referendum is not the engine for which the leader of the Opposition should ask, and not the instrument with which to dig the trench within which he seeks to protect himself.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie). - There are some matters in connexion with the Budget speech to which I desire to call attention. They specially relate to the State of Western Australia. Before doing so, however, I may be pardoned if I refer to the remarks which have just been made by the Prime Minister concerning the proposal of the leader of the Opposition to submit the Tariff to a referendum. To my mind those remarks bear out all that the leader of the Opposition has said regarding the action of the Government in reference to the electoral divisions in the different States. The right honorable member has declared that the Government proposal to revert to the existing electoral divisions will not permit of a true expression of public opinion upon the Tariff issue. Every person who believes that each man and woman in the Commonwealth should have an equal voice in its affairs - every one who is acquainted with the distribution of population throughout the Commonwealth - must admit the truth of that declaration. For instance, in New South Wales there is a difference between some electorates of nearly 70 per cent. There is a difference of 20,000 between the number of voters in the electorate of Lang and the number in the constituency of Darling.
– Oh, dear !
– Some honorable members who voted for the Government proposal do not wish to have their conduct emphasized. Many honorable members are anxious that the people shall forget all the circumstances of the case before the general elections are held, and consequently they are ready to cry down any one who wishes to perpetuate them in the public mind.
– Why only 1,600 electors troubled themselves about voting upon the question the other day.
– That evidences the certainty which existed in the minds of the electors in regard to the result of that, election. Similarly the electorate of Maranoa contains only 16,000 electors, whilst that of Brisbane contains 33,000. Of course the honorable member for Maranoa is very ready to interject “ Oh dear ! “ and to suppress anybody who wishes to ventilate this matter.
– We have been told all about it for five weeks past.
– If only a minor wrong were being done to the people there would be no excuse for constantly recalling it. But in this case a monstrous injustice has been committed. The electors have been robbed of their franchise, and we cannot too often emphasize the fact. The speech which was delivered by the Prime Minister, in answer to the proposal of the leader of the Opposition, shows that the protectionists, of which he is the head, are afraid to submit the fiscal question to the people in such a way that every man and woman shall have an equal voice in its determination. They are quite prepared to fight it after they themselves have arranged the electoral boundaries of the divisions.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in affirming that this House arranged the electoral boundaries of the different divisions 1 The boundaries were not -fixed by this House at all.
– I must ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie not to discuss that matter in detail. Although he is at perfect liberty to make an incidental reference to it, he must not reflect upon a vote of this House.
– I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is perfectly in’ order in replying to a statement which was made by the Prime Minister upon this very question. The right honor able gentleman has made certain comments upon the speech of the leader of the
Opposition in regard to the question of the boundaries of the existing electoral divisions.
– Order ! The honorable member for Maranoa asked me to rule whether the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was in order in declaring that this House had arranged the electoral boundaries of the various, divisions. I intimated at once that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would not be in order in making more than a casual reference to that matter, and I stated that he must Dot reflect upon any vote of this House.
– The remark to which the honorable member for Maranoa took exception was that this House had fixed the boundaries of the electorates. We had before us the schemes submitted by the Commissioners, and when we decided in the case of several of the States to revert to the old divisions on .which the original Federal elections took place, we certainly fixed the boundaries of those electorates.
– No ; the States fixed them.
– In these circumstances I do not think that any exception can properly be taken to my assertion. According to the Electoral Act, this House fixed tlie electoral divisions by agreeing to revert to the divisions in force when the Commonwealth Parliament was-first elected.
– If we did as the honorable member desires to do, we should fix them:
– I have no desire to do anything of the sort. My wish was that the schemes submitted by the several Commissioners should be accepted. Those gentlemen were impartial officers appointed by the Government under the Electoral Act to carry out the work.
– The honorable member is somewhat scared at the prospect of having to face his old electorate.
– As a matter of fact the Commissioner for Western Australia made jio change in the boundaries of the electorate which I represent, so that I should have been just as ready to face an election on the basis of his scheme as I am to face it under the existing system. I cannot be accused of any personal interest in this matter, but I desire that every man and woman shall have an equal voice in determining the policy of the Commonwealth. One of the questions which was most frequently submitted to candidates at the last Federal elections in Western Australia was whether they believed in the system of equal electorates - in the principle of one vote one value. The people had suffered so severely by the unequal distribution of tlie State that the question was one of vital importance, and it is still a very prominent one there. All candidates at the last elections were required to freely state the views which they held in regard to the question, and I consider that I should be unworthy of my position in this Parliament if I did not fight to the best of my ability against what I believe to be an outrageous wrong upon the people.
– It is disorderly for the honorable member to charge this House with having committed an outrageous wrong upon any section of the people. The honorable member must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. Few honorable members have departed so rarely as I have done from the Standing Orders ; but were I to fully express my view of the action taken by the Government in regard to the electoral divisions of the States, I should not utter a single sentence which would not be out of order.
– That would be no credit to the honorable member.
– If one thing more than another has justified the action of the Opposition in opposing the Government proposal in regard to the electoral divisions, it is the stand which the Prime Minister has taken relative to the suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition, that there should be a referendum to the people on the question of free-trade and protection. There are two proposals before the Parliament. The first is that the question of the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth should be left to the determination of the new Parliament - that it should be settled by the result of the next general election. The other is, that it should be submitted to a referendum. The existing electorates are so unequal that voters in certain divisions will exercise a greater voting power than that possessed by. electors residing in other constituencies, but the proposition made by the leader of the Opposition would enable the voice of the majority to be heard without the slightest difficulty. The Prime Minister, when I said that the question of the Federation of the States was settled by a referendum, appeared to think Federation was one of those great matters of national importance which justify a resort to that means of ascertaining the will of the people. I contend, however, that the question of whether the people of Australia should accept or reject the Constitution Bill involved far more intricate problems than are associated with the selection of a fiscal policy for the Commonwealth. The Constitution Bill involved . questions which were comparatively unknown to the people. It presented difficulties even to students of constitutional law, but it was nevertheless submitted to a vote of the people. The electors were called upon to declare by a referendum whether the States should take a more important step than they bad ever taken before, and surely in these circumstances they might be intrusted to determine in the same way the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth 1 The subject is one which has been discussed for years in all parts of Australia. Every individual knows something in relation to it. The people have read articles in the press, and have heard speeches from the public platform, dealing with free-trade and protection, and they are far better educated upon, that question than they were in relation to the” provisions of the Constitution Bill.
– The fiscal question has scarcely been discussed in Queensland for ten years.
– The subject has certainly been discussed very freely throughout all the States since the establishment of the Commonwealth. It is urged that it could not be submitted in a concrete form to the people. In my opinion that is not the case. I am glad to see that the honorable member for Bland, true to his democratic principles, believes in trusting the people to determine a matter of so much importance to them. We know in future what to think of those who are afraid to allow the people of Australia to determine the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth in the way proposed by the leader of the Opposition. The question might easily be submitted in a form that would enable the people to give an intelligent answer to it. They could be asked whether they favoured a simple revenue tariff or a revenue protective tariff.
– Or whether they were in favour of or against the present tariff.
– Quite so. There are fifty different ways in which the matter could be submitted to a direct vote of the people.
– Which one of the fifty would the honorable memberadopt ?
– That would be a matter for -the House to determine. No valid argument has been advanced against the leader of the Opposition’s proposal. It is a novel and almost a startling one, and it is certainly the most important proposition in regard to the fiscal question, that has been put forward. It is evident, from the statement made by the Prime Minister, that whilst the leader of the Opposition would be willing to abide by the verdict of the people of the Commonwealth, given in a way which would enable each individual in the community to have an equal voice in the determination of the question, the Government are not prepared to do so. They know that if a referendum were taken the protectionists would be defeated. That is the true reason for the position taken up by the Prime Minister, and for theopposition shown by honorable memberslike the honorable member for Melbourne to this suggestion. There is one matter relating to the finances of Western Australia to which I desire to refer. A statement has been presented by the Treasurer comparing the surplus revenuewhich has been returned to the States with the surplus which would have been handed over had the distribution been made on thebasis of population. The matter is one in which Western Australia is keenly interested. Under section 94 of the Constitution -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplusrevenue of the Commonwealth.
Some three years have yet to elapse beforethe expiration of the bookkeeping period. I think that the Treasurer’s statement is a valuable one, as showing the very serious injustice which would be done to one State of the Commonwealth in the event of the surplus being distributed on the basis of population. If that method of distribution were resolved upon, every State of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Western Australia and New South .Wales, would, according tothe figures for 1902-3, gain; whereas New South Wales would lose £171,000, and Western Australia £579,000. According bo the figures of the Treasurer for 1903-4, Western Australia would be the only loser,-. her loss amounting to over £500,000, which would be distributed amongst the other States ; New South Wales practically coming out square, because her loss would be only £751. I am very glad that the Treasurer takes a fair view of this question. He has shown in regard to it that fairness which has always distinguished his public life. He admitted that if the surplus were distributed on a population basis at the end of the five years of the bookkeeping period, some special arrangement would have to be made to meet the case of Western Australia. I am perfectly satisfied that every fairminded member of the Committee will agree with him on the matter, and I hope that whoever may succeed him in office will hold the same liberal opinions. In Western Australia the incidence of taxation is unduly severe.. By reason of the fact that there is an excessively large male population there, our contribution to the customs revenue is something like £7 per head. If the contribution were at the samerate throughout the Commonwealth, the revenue would be somethinglike £28,000,000. It is hardly necessary to point out that in a State of such vast extent as Western Australia, covering as it does, one-third of theContinent, there is an immense amount of developmental work to be done. Thereareimmensetractsof undeveloped country, and great undeveloped resources. Therefore the State expenditure per head of population must probably be larger than that of any other State. I am sorry that the Government have not seen fit to authorize the survey of the Western Australian transcontinental railway. Remembering all the promises which have been made by them in the Maitland speech, in the speech of the Governor-General at the opening of this Parliament, and in the speech delivered at the opening of this session, I think we should have advanced further than we have in connexion with this great project. We have been supplied very liberally with promises, but beyond the obtaining of a certain amount of information, nothing practical has been done. Of what use was it to obtain this information if the Government did not intend to at once proceed to the next stage, the surveying of the route ?
– We have not yet received the Enabling Acts of the States concerned.
– I think that the Minister will agree with me that it will not be long before the Enabling Bill now under discussion in Western Australia is passed. We have yet to learn what attitude the Parliament of South Australia will take in regard to a similar measure. At any rate it is not for the Commonwealth Government to anticipate opposition in either State. Whether the railway is to be constructed sooner or later, every one will recognise that it must eventually be constructed, and the money spent in surveying the route will not be wasted. If the Government do not see their way to authorize a survey before the session closes, the people of Western Australia will say that they have been fooled. It seems to me that the Government are just as insincere in connexion with the transcontinental railway as they are in regard to the Federal Capital. Many promises have been made concerning both projects, and the Federal Capital site may be selected this session. But both projects should be in a much more advanced stagethan they are in now. It is a, subject for regret that no provision has been made in the Estimates for the establishment of the Inter-State Commission. The Government are very much to blame for not having done more to insure the freedom of trade and intercourse between the States. On the 7th January, 1901, the Prime Minister, referring to this subject, said -
Another high tribuual was the Inter-State Commission, a body next in importance to the High Court, which will decide on unfairand preferential rates on the railways and in other directions. The war of preferential rates which has been going on between the Colonies for many years is totally inconsistent with the ideas of national union. That war must cease.
Yet he has done nothing to prevent that war from continuing. He went on to say -
The Inter-State Commission is the tribunal by which it must be abolished with as little hardship as possible, leaving the constituents in railway rates to compete within the proper limits prescribed by the Commission. The working of the Commission will have another advantage. It will prepare the way for considering the vast subject of taking over the railways, which can be done with the consent of the States, but not without their consent.
Nothing whatever has been done towards the establishment of the Inter-State Commission. We had promises made in connexion wish the Inter-State Commission time after time. It was referred to in the first Governor-General’s speech. A Bill was introduced in the first session, and a good deal of time was wasted, but nothing was done. Probably the reason why that Bill was not passed was that it proposed to constitute such an unwieldy tribunal. Had the Government proposed a scheme that was not of such an unwieldy nature, but which would have had the effect of establishing inter-State free-trade, they would probably have been able to carry out the promises made by the Prime Minister. We have not only a war of railway rates throughout the eastern States, but there are numbers of other means by which interState free-trade is defeated. I have referred many times in this House to the preferential railway rates in Western Australia. They press with very great severity upon the people whom I represent. When the question of the acceptance or rejection of the Commonwealth Bill was before the people, one of the arguments frequently used in favour of it was that federation would mean the- establishment of an Inter-State Commission which would abolish preferential railway rates, which rates involve a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum to the people of the Western Australian gold-fields. I have quoted some of the rates before, but they cannot be too often quoted. Local timber is carried a’ distance of 3S7 miles at a rate of £1 5s. 9d. per ton, whereas imported timber from the eastern States is carried at £5 0s. lOd. Local Collie coal is carried at 17s. 2d. per ton, whereas Newcastle coal is carried at £1 14s. 3d. In the same way fruit, vegetables, lard, and similar local products are carried at £2 5s., whereas imported goods of the same description are carried at £5 0s. 10c). It is a reproach to the Common wealth Government that such a state of affairs should continue after nearly three years of federation. That condition exists not merely in Western Australia, but in other States of the Union and there are besides additional impediments to Inter-State free-trade. Certain wharfage dues are used for the purpose of protection, and it is sometimes said, in Western Australia, at any rate, that the quarantine regulations regarding fruit and cattle are applied for protective purposes. We federated mainly in order that there should be free-trade between all the States of Australia. Yet here we have .as bad a state of things as existed prior to federation. Something might be done, even at this late hour of the session. If we cannot establish an Inter-State Commission . with all the expenses attaching to it, surely a scheme might be devised by the Government by which these preferential railway rates might be abolished. They are areproach to the Federation. They interfere with Inter-State free-trade, and they are a source of constant complaint. I have often heard it said that there has been no demand for an Inter-State Commission. I can assure the Committee that the hope that that body would be established was one of the contributing factors to the large vote in favour of federation given upon the Western Australian gold-fields. The States Premiers, if appealed to by the Commonwealth Government, might mitigate the present charges.
– That has been done, two or three times.
– I understand that a. request has been made to the various Premiers for particulars concerning the rates.
– It went further than that if I recollect rightly.
– I did not know that strong appeal was made to any of the Premiers. Possibly they might be induced to agree to a Conference on the question. It is too bad that, after almost three years of federation, nothing in this direction should have been accomplished. There is another subject which I should like to mention before sitting down. It has relation to one of the promises made at Maitland on 17th January, 1901, by the Prime Minister. I refer to what the right honorable gentlemansaid concerning old-age pensions. It is a question of very great importance. The Prime Minister made rather an indefinite statement at that time* though he held out some hope. I trust that before the next election he will make a more definite pronouncement. The question particularly affects Western Australia, because most of the people there have come from the other States. Old-age pensions are paid in Victoria and New South Wales, and it would not be extremely difficult to .devise some scheme by which their payment could be made general throughout the Commonwealth. The four smaller States have still to be included, but a great amount of the money necessary is now being spent in Victoria and New South Wales. A Commonwealth scheme alone would be effective, because at present men who move about from State toState are deprived of the benefits of the system
– Unfortunately we are hampered by the operation of the financial clauses.
– When men go from Victoria to Western Australia, for instance, they have to surrender their rights under the old-age pension scheme in operation in the former State. The particular statement to which I wish to call attention is one made by the Prime Minister in January, 1901, and reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, as follows : -
I now pass to another subject which has of late occupied attention in all the Colonies, namely, the subject of the old-age pensions. As you know, New South Wales and Victoria have already passed an Old-Age Pensions Act, and the other Colonies are looking forward to legislation in a similar direction by the Commonwealth, and a Bill which will supersede the legislation passed in the States will be introduced as soon as the financial position is clear enough to enable us to provide the neces- sary funds.
That statement raised a good deal of hope throughout the Commonwealth, and I trust that the Prime Minister will make a more definite statement upon the subject before the general election.
– There is one matter to which I desire to direct attention before this debate closes. When the Defence Bill was under consideration I made a statement regarding my personal feeling with respect to the abolition of the volunteer system in Victoria. I was interrupted by the then Minister for Defence, Sir JohnForrest, who said that the members of theVictorian Mounted Rifles were very glad to be placed under the partially-paid system. I replied that that was not so, because to my knowledge a number of the officers and men regretted the fact that they were to be no longer members of the volunteer forces. The Minister very properly caused an inquiry to he made, and courteously allowed me to inspect the replies received. I may say, that without exception the replies bore out the statement made by the Minister. The officers, at any rate, and a majority of the men were in favour of the alteration. This came as a surprise to me, because I was under quite a different impression. These replies were received from Major Pleasants, Major Borthwick, and Lieutenant-Colonel McLeish, and from the whole of the noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff. I know that others believed, with me, that the members of the Victorian Mounted
Rifles, at any rate, regretted that they were to lose the designation of which they were very proud - namely, that of being one of the best volunteer forces in the Commonwealth. I desire to express my appreciation of one fact which I noted in connexion with the replies made to the Minister. The Minister had apparently basedhis inquiry strictly on the Hansard report. I noticed that every one of the men replied to the Minister’s statement, and not to mine. This -may have been the effect of discipline or of sheer inadvertence ; but there was a remarkable unanimity en the part of the officers and men in ignoring the statement made by myself, arid in focussing all their attention upon the statement madeby the Minister. It was also noticeable that, by the time the investigation was completed, it had assumed considerable proportions, because the Commandant of the Victorian forces, BrigadierGeneral Gordon, said that, in his opinion, there was no dissatisfaction among the men of the forces. Such a statement was never made by me, and I do not think it was implied.
Motion (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I . wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table the statement presented by the Minister for Trade and Customs last week, with regard to the number of electors in the various divisions of New South Wales?
– I believe that my honorable colleague laid it upon the table, but that some honorable member has taken possession of it.
– I should be glad to receive the information contained in the paper as to the number of electors, which the Minister stated included the numbers added by the police. I should like the numbers added by the police to be given separately.
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030910_reps_1_16/>.