1st Parliament · 2nd Session
– I wish to correct a series of misstatements which appear in this morning’s edition of the Melbourne Age. It is there stated -
As the plan was putin the lobbies last evening, Mr. Reidis prepared to give a written pledge to drop the fiscal issue for six years, and to allow old conservative comrades like Sir William McMillan,
Mr. Bruce Smith, Mr. Dugald Thomson, and Sir Edward Braddon to follow their own paths for the future.
I wish to say that, as is usual in the case of statements printed in this newspaper in reference to myself, the passage which I have just read is a pure fabrication.
– Is it a passage from the report of the proceedings of Parliament?
– Does the honorable member suggest that I am not en titled to correct a wrong statement, merely because it appears in some other part of the newspaper than that devoted to the report of our parliamentary proceedings? There is another statement which I wish to correct. It is stated in this journal that -
Assuming the combination to be successful -
Any statement that there is a combination between myself and any person outside the party which I lead is another pure fabrication.
– Hear, hear.
– The statement continues -
Assuming the combination to be successful in detaching from the Barton Government some of its more extreme radicals, the plot is to defeat the Ministry early in the first scission of the new Parliament.
The statement that there is a plot is a pure fabrication.
Government supporters, remembering the part Mr. Kingston has played in the new preferential trade campaign, refuse to believe that the South Australian will succumb to the wiles of Mr.Reid. The facts remain, however, that the pair were frequently in earnest consultation together in the lobbies yesterday.
That is not an entire fabrication, because on one occasion yesterday I did have a conversation with the right honorable member for South Australia, when a number of other honorable members, representing the three parties in this House, were present. Except for that fact, it is a pure fabrication.
Mr.Fisher. - The newspaper is trying to pull the right honorable member’s leg.
– When Ananias tries to pull one’s leg, it is occasionally necessary to expose him.
– Where is the Sapphira ?
– The honorable member is the political Sapphira of the Melbourne Age. Then comes this statement:
Strenuous efforts were made by the Opposition on the previous night and during the morning to come to some sort of understanding with the corners hostile to the Government.
That is another pure fabrication.
These efforts failed. According to those who were best informed, the Opposition leader would have tabled an adverse motion on Wednesday afternoon if he had been given the least encouragement, from those whose support he courted. Sir William McMillan, after warmly supporting the Government in its action regarding the Conciliation Bill, actually paired against it, but other free-traders gave their leader to understand that on such a matter they must resolutely refuse to follow him.
That is another pure fabrication. I do not often take the trouble to correct statements like these, but I wish on the present occasion to do so.
– I should like to thank the right honorable member for East Sydney for his denunciation of the baseless suggestions in reference to both himself and myself. I desire simply to add that I hare seen a number of statements referring to myself in the newspaper from which he has quoted. They are merely specimens of the monumental audacity of lying hounds who attempt to posture as decent journalists.
– Last night I asked for the production of a return which I was told was laid on the table of the House by the Minister for Trade and Customs when we were discussing the proposed electoral distributions. I should like to obtain that information, because, in view of recent developments, it may be necessary for me to refer to it during the course of the Budget debate.
– The honorable member asked for the paper last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and at the first opportunity I wrote for it. The letter was forwarded this morning to the Department for Home Affairs, whence the information will have to be procured. I have not yet received the document, but that is not surprising, considering what a short spice of time has elapsed since it was asked for. 10 l z
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question, based upon certain statements which I am about to read. A telegram from Perth, which appears in this morning’s Argus, states that -
In the Legislative Assembly to-night the Premier (Mr. James) moved the second reading of the Trans- Australian Railway Enabling Bill.
I wish also to read from a letter which was sent in 1900 by the then Premier of South Australia - the honorable the Speaker of this House - to the Minister for Home Affairs, who at that time was Premier of Western Australia. It is as follows : -
Following our conversation as to the possible blocking of the construction of a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia refusing the consent rendered necessary by section XXXIV. of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill; to the construction of the line through her territory, I regard the withholding of consent as a most improbable thing, in tact, quite out of the question. To assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake as soon as the Federation is established, Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth, to introduce a Bill, formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of the line by the Federal authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.
I wish to ask, in view of the fact that no such action has yet been taken by the Government of South Australia, and that the present Premier of that State has declared that he does not intend to take any such action for the present, if the Prime Minister does not think it incumbent upon him to protest, in the name of the Government of the Commonwealth, against such a gross breach of Federal faith?
– I have a recollection of the letter which the honorable member has quoted. I do not think that the breach of faith between two States indicated by the honorable member is a quarrel into which the Commonwealth should enter ; but, as a certain policy has been deliberately announced by the Government of South Australia. I propose to write to the Premier of that State, pointing out to him what steps the Government of Western Australia are taking in regard to the transcontinental railway, and asking him to give us a clear indication of what his Government intend to do.
– As there is, apparently, no intention to attempt to proceed this session with the High Commissioner Bill, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government propose to make any temporary arrangement for the representation of the Commonwealth in London 1
– That matter will be taken into early consideration.
Ordered (on motion by Mf. Page) -
That there be laid upon the table of the House n return showing -
The total cost to the Commonwealth of the recent military inspectional tour of the States and New Guinea by the General Officer Commanding and his staff.
The total cost of the recent military staff rides under the command of the General Officer Commanding.
The total amount of train fares and boat fares.
The total amount of travelling allowances for till purposes, of the officers, giving name and amount to each.
Whether all accounts have been sent in and .paid in connexion with above tour and rides ; and, if not, how much is outstanding.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is always difficult to prepare with any care replies to questions of which notice is given on Thursday evening for the next day. I may say that there is no change in the policy of Ministers in the direction indicated’ by the right honorable and learned member, but that I shall give his question that well weighed answer which it demands, if he will place it upon the notice-paper for Tuesday.
In Committee of Supply:
Debate resumed from 10th September (vide page 4973), on motion by Sir George Turner -
That the first item on the Estimates (the Senate - £6,782) be agreed to.
– I regret that I was absent from the House last night when the Prime Minister spoke. If I had been here I should have immediately replied to some of his statements. The Prime Minister insinuated that one of my reasons for appealing to my electors with ‘regard to the actions of the Government in reference to the principles of manhood and womanhood suffrage was that I desired to escape from being in the House to give certain votes. I think that this is not quite an original suggestion of the Prime Minister ; but that he is acting under the unwholesome infection which must attach to people who are consistently and strongly supported by a certain journal in Melbourne. The insinuation referred to was thrown out by that malicious organ some time ago ; but, coming from that source, it is not worthy of much notice. Now that it has come from the mouth of the Prime Minister however, I would earnestly ask him, if possible, not to belittle his high office by making such ungenerous imputations. He spoke of my long campaign in Sydney, It was no fault of mine that it was a long campaign. If there had been no opposition, I should have been back in the House within a few days. Not only so, but before I resigned I left no room for doubt in the minds of the people or . of honorable members as to the course which I intended to pursue regarding the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I very much regret that the Prime Minister should have descended to tactics which are quite in place in the quarter to which I have referred, but are unworthy of a gentleman holding his high office. I wish also to direct attention to the attempt the Prime Minister is making to escape from the position which I put t« him yesterday. I deliberately avoided mixing up the complaint I have against Ministers in reference to the electoral rolls with the question which I submitted to the Government yesterday, but the Prime Minister endeavours to confuse the issue, and gives an altogether absurd excuse for refusing to adopt my suggestion. He says that I make the suggestion on a ground which is so absolutely offensive to the Government that it is impossible for them to entertain it. Now, there is no sort of foundation for that attempt to obscure the issue, because even the Government and every one of their supporters admit that there are inequalities. ^Neither the members of the Government nor their supporters can muster up courage enough to deny the notorious fact that there are inequalities. But what they say is, that certain circumstances have arisen which make these inequalities an unavoidable evil. There is jio dispute whatever about the fact that there are inequalities. I am going to take the Government before the electors on that issue at the proper time. Surely the Prime Minister will not have the .assurance to deny that the inequalities to which I have referred exist, as a matter of fact. They are notorious. The official rolls which have now been completed for the State of Victoria show clear y that in three electorates there are about 50,000 electors, whilst in three others there are over 100,000 electors. Surely even the most reckless individual would not deny that these are inequalities in a system which is supposed to be based on manhood and womanhood suffrage. In the same way - as I have already pointed out, and it cannot be denied - there are enormous disproportions between the numbers of electors in the New South Wales divisions. So that the fact of the inequalities is admitted on all sides, although” the Government put forward what they regard as a sufficient ground for bringing them about. I have studiously Avoided confusing the two issues, and I do not think that the Prime Minister will succeed in the attempt which he has made to find an excuse for not considering my proposition. Now, there was another remark which the right honorable gentleman made in reference to the fiscal question, which seemed remarkably shallow. He thought that the fact that the Tariff contained a number of details made it an unfit subject for a national referendum. But I should like to ask honorable members whether the political Constitution submitted to the Commonwealth of Australia did not contain an infinitely larger number of details - details in the shape of vital principles infinitely more complex and difficult than those of the Tariff, so far as the application of the referendum- is concerned. There is a way of applying the referendum which could be easily arrived at. It would be absolutely simple to submit a question of principle to the electors. The Tariff is, I presume, based upon a principle - the principle of protection; or, if the Government prefer to put it in what they might regard as a more just way, the principle of a revenue-protective policy. I suppose that that may be regarded as a fair description of the policy of the Government - a revenue-protective policy. A clear cut issue could be submitted upon a question of policy of that kind.
– There is a wide diversity of opinion as to the meaning of the terms.
– But surely there is no doubt about the principle of the Tariff. The most profound lawyers are puzzled as to the meaning of some of the principles of the Constitution, and yet there was a referendum upon that. Surely matters which puzzle the most profound lawyers are much more difficult to submit to the decision of the electors than is a question of so much per cent. duty. But that is an evasion of the principle to which I am referring. It would be absurd to put the Tariff before the electors, and ask them to vote upon every line of it. But it would be a simple matter to submit to the popular verdict the choice between a revenueprotective Tariff and a revenue Tariff.
– Why not ask the electors to vote for or against the present Tariff 1
– That is another proposition. I am only showing how simple it would be to submit to the electors a clear cut issue.
– Western Australia has a Tariff of her own, and that would confuse the issue.
– But that i3 a special Tariff which has nothing to do with the Federal Tariff, because under the Constitution it will expire in about two years.
– But the Western Australian Tariff would weigh with the electors in voting “ Yes “ or “ No.”
– It is wonderful how my honorable friends, who are so confident with regard to the popularity of the policy which they support, shrink from the test which I ask them to apply. One would think that the triumphant Protectionist Party, who say that they have such a vast majority to affirm their sacred principles, would not shrink from such a test. I think that their action puts the party which claims to have a majority in an extraordinary position. Why, even the present Government will display some flickerings of political courage when they feel sure that they have a majority behind them. It is extraordinary that men who believe that the result of an appeal to the people would be a triumphant national declaration in favour of their policy should shrink from a test as from the writing on the wall. I have a different opinion. I believe that there is a majority in favour of a revenue Tariff as compared with a revenueprotective Tariff. I admit that in fairness to the Government the Tariff should be described as a revenue-protective > Tariff”. Its description as a protective Tariff, pure and simple, might be regarded as misleading. I put in the word “ revenue” in conjunction with “protective,” although I believe that the principles are destructive of one another. The Government have, however, put forward the broad principle that the Tariff is designed for the purposes of revenue, and that it is at the same time protective. I do not think that there is one honorable member who would shrink from that definition, because it puts the Government policy forward in the most popular light. Surely the least intelligent elector could see the difference between a revenue-protective and a revenue Tariff. The whole thing is as clear as the noon-day sun. I am perfectly prepared for the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bland. I do not care how the question is put by the Government so long as it is decently fair. The honorable member suggests that the electors should be asked to vote for or against the present Federal Tariff. There could be no doubt with regard to that issue. I think that if the question were submitted in that form I should lose the support of thousands of free-traders. Many of them would, no doubt, say - “ We believe in Mr. Reid’s principles, but we want fiscal rest, and we shall vote in favour of the present Tariff although we are free-traders.” Therefore in consenting to have the matter submitted in that form, I shall give up a good deal. But I am prepared for that. I should be content either to have the matter put to the electors as a choice between a revenueprotective Tariff and a revenue Tariff, or as a question for or against the present Federal Tariff as a concrete fact. Surely that would give the protectionists all the benefit of the changes we effected in making the Tariff less protective and more re venue producing. I never wish to use the name of the Free-trade Party when I am speaking on my own responsibility. But I feel sure that when the party discuss this matter they will probably come to the same decision as I have.
So far from sinking the fiscal issue, I look upon my proposition as calculated to make it a burning question. I can see no more practical way of making it a burning ques-‘ tion than by submitting it by referendum. The candidates seeking, election would becompelled to refer to it.
– Only in two States.
– Surely the people of all theStates have some interest in this matter. I cannot understand the people of any State in the Commonwealth being so indifferent to the position in which they stand in regard to taxation as not to be interested in the Tariff question. So far from sinking thefiscal issue, the referendum would bring itabsolutely before the electors as a great burning national question. The only thingis that the electors would decide it instead of the politicians.
– Hear, hear. .
– The honorable member foiBland has been a consistent protectionist ever since I have known him, and I am surethat he puts his creed in an infinitely betterlight before the people by showing that heis not afraid to ask their vote upon it, than do those protectionists who shrink from submitting it to that test. I think that attitude will commend itself to the feelings of the people. If we had to pay thesetaxes out of our own pockets it would be a different matter, but it is the masses of thepeople in all the humble homes of Australia who have to solve this trouble by paying themoney.
– Cannot the righthonorable member trust the” procedure of the Constitution ?
– Cannot my right honorablefriend trust the people 1
– To follow the Constitution is to trust the people.
– It is the old story of thedespots of ancient times. It is all very well to exclaim - “Cannot we trust the procedurelaid down in the Constitution?” It is equivalent to saying - “ I, the ruler, arn theState and the Constitution. Cannot you trust me. If you will not I shall behead you?
– The right honorablemember wishes to go outside of the Constitution 1
– Will my right honorablefriend
– Now, nothing personal.
– -Surely, when the Prime Minister calls me “the leavings of East Sydney,” and I still speak of him in the friendly way that I do, the Minister for Home Affairs can stand my mild criticism -of him. He knows that it is not animated by any personal feeling. If he does not wish me to take him up, will he be good enough to leave me alone and not to interrupt. I do not care who the member is; if he interrupts me, he must expect his “ change.” In the same way, I am always prepared to “take my “change” from any honorable member when I interrupt.
– But the right honorable member must not be personal.
– “Unfortunately, anything is personal to my right honorable friend which comes between the wind and his nobility. Other politicians do not complain when in these encounters, a blow is occasionally landed upon their political noses. But the Emperor of the West does not understand this sort of business. I am quite used to it. If the Minister cannot appreciate my way of dealing with interjections, there is a very simple remedy, and that is not to interject. I repeat that if the present Tariff were put in one line upon the ballot-papers at the next elections, it would be a disadvantage to the cause which I represent, because it is notorious that there are thousands of people who believe with me on the principle, but who would vote in favour of leaving the Tariff alone. Can .the Government suggest any fairer way of putting the question] I am willing to give them their choice between taking a vote upon the question of whether the electors are in favour of a revenue protective Tariff as against a revenue Tariff, and whether they are in favour or opposed to the maintenance of the present Tariff. Instead of that being a sign that I am abandoning the fiscal issue, it is a sign that I am willing to make it the burning question at the forthcoming elections - with this exception : that if my proposal were adopted the voice would.be that of the whole community. It -would be the unadulterated verdict of the -community, instead of a decision which would, doubtless, be influenced to a certain extent by other considerations. I will just give an illustration. There is the honorable member for Melbourne, a man who has endeared himself passionately to the people by the high-minded unselfish course he has -adopted in this Parliament - a man whom the electors are yearning to triumphantly return. I am prepared to accept the terrible handicap of the honorable member’s personal popularity with the electors of Melbourne. The honorable member is a gentlemen who stands out before the people as a perfect mirror of political and personal unselfishness. I am prepared to accept all these disabilities. Then there is my honorable friend the member for Gippsland. In his case, perhaps, the difficulty is more real than it is in the case of the honorable member for Melbourne. But I wish to separate this matter entirely from the question of the conduct of the Government in reference to the electoral rolls, because they themselves admit the existence of the inequalities to which I have directed attention. They declare that they are prepared to meet me before the electors and to justify what has been done. I intend adopting means to have that matter put to the people in a very straightforward way. But since every one admits the inequalities of the present state of things - although some justify them because of the exceptional conditions which prevail just now - the referendum would be an acknowlegement by the Government of existing facts with their justification upon the general ground that they were inevitable. But, with the present unsatisfactory state of the electorates, there is only one way of permanently deciding the fiscal issue.
– What does the right honorable member mean by “ permanent”?
– I stated yesterday that I am prepared to accept the verdict of the people upon the fiscal issue for the rest,of my political career. That is about as permanent a settlement as I can arrange. I suppose that a man cannot give a better or fuller pledge than that. I am prepared to accept the decision of the electors as their final verdict so long as I am in the public life of the country. If honorable members opposite thought that they would receive a triumphant verdict for protection they would jump at my offer. The common sense of the public will realize that. I offer them a straight clear-cut vote upon this issue in any fair form that they choose. No man ever made a fairer offer to any Government. There need be absolutely no embarrassment of the kind indicated by the Prime Minister. He admits the present inequalities.
– Suppose the electors declared against the - Tariff, what sort of Tariff would it be assumed they require ?
– I am not talking now of the voice of Moonee Ponds, but of the voice of Australia. This is a matter-in which all the Continent is interested. I would take my honorable friend’s opinion upon most matters with the greatest possible respect ; but I am now speaking of a question which intimately affects every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. The man who believes that the people are behind his principle will not shrink from getting the stamp of their approval upon it.
– The right honorable gentleman could not have heard what I said. What I wish to know is - what sort of Tariff would the people be taken to indicate, by rejecting the present one 1
– There are two ways of indicating it, at least. What is the principle upon which the Government intend to face the electors ? It is the maintenance of the present Tariff. That is their policy. The public can express its voice upon that: If my honorable friends opposite think that would be an unfair way of putting the question to the people, because the present Tariff is not all that they would like, I am willing to take a vote upon the question of a revenue protective Tariff versus a revenue Tariff.. There could not be a more clear-cut issue than that. I am speaking of .a great national matter, upon which the people, in some form or other, should have an opportunity to express their opinion. It is a question which has been vexing Australia for many years. All I say for the present is that the public will be able to form its own opinion of the gentlemen who shrink from allowing them to decide this question. But I wish now to deal with another matter. I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in view of the statements which I have made, to lay upon the table of the House all the papers which substantiate the declaration of the Government that an exodus of electors from the country districts rendered the use of the rolls which have been taken impossible for the general elections.. That is a fair request to make. Surely in matters of public concern these documents ought to be laid upon the table. “ There are no. delicate questions’ involved in them ; they are based upon the sections of the Electoral Act ; and I ask that they be submitted for the inspection of honorable members. I have always maintained that they amount to an absolute fraud if they are what I believe them to be, and in socharacterizing them, I am merely acting upon the authority of the State Electoral Office. As I said yesterday, I have no personal knowledge of these matters; but I have in my possession returns from that office showing every roan whose namehas appeared upon the rolls in New South Wales during the last three or four years. As I have previously pointed out to the House, in all the country areas of New South Wales, there were more electors upon the rolls last year than there were at anytime during the previous three or four years. Therefore I say that when the statement is; made that there -has been a general exodus, and when that alleged fact is held to justify the disfranchisement of tens of thousands of people, it is a very serious matter. Theofficial documents show that that statement is not true.
– Does the right honorable member charge the Government with fraud ?
– No ; I have openly stated? that I do not. The Government can have no personal knowledge of all these matters. Who could fairly charge a Minister with a personal knowledge of everything in his Department?
– Then what does the right honorable member mean by using the the word “ fraudulent “1
– - I say that the figures submitted to the Minister are deceptive, in the sense that they have poisoned the minds of honorable members. The statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs that an exodus of population had taken place from the country districts which warranted the disfranchisement of tens of thousands of men and women in New South Wales isabsolutely false. That is what I told the electors of East Sydney. I do not for a moment say that the Minister, or any otherMinister, would degrade himself by consciously putting forward a statement in which he did not honestly believe. But I do say that whoever supplied that information, whoever supplied the alleged facta upon which his statement was founded, has absolutely deceived him. I have in my possession - and I am prepared to show them to the Commissioner or the Government - returns for every one of the country districts of New South Wales, single and collectively - including all but that little patch upon the map which I pointed out yesterday - and embracing an area of 304,000 square miles, out of 310,000 square miles. That is a pretty fair area of New South Wales. I have detailed returns which show every inch of the State electorates which is contained in the Federal electorates, and which prove that in all this vast area, so far from there having been an exodus of population, there are more males upon the rolls now than there were at any time during the past four years. Surely there is no reconciliation, between that set of facts put forward by the Electoral Office in New South Wales and the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs as to an exodus.
– Do the right honorable gentleman’s figures show that there was no exodus from the country districts whilst the drought was being experienced ?
– Certainly not. My honorable friend knows very well how the rolls are collected in New South Wales. The police have the roll which was collected during the previous year. They go round their different districts generally about the month of June. They strike off the names of electors who have, left the district, and add the names of f resh electors. I am speaking of rolls revised yearly in that way. I cannot say that people have not left the districts in question, but if so others have taken their places, and thus made the number upon the rolls more than it was previously. I shall be only too glad if the Prime Minister will take these returns and have them investigated, because it is entirely upon the face of them that I indulge in such strong language. They are made up in this way. Take, as an example, the electorate of Richmond, which is repre-‘ seated by my honorable friend Mr Ewing. The return reads, “ State electorates, or portion of same, contained in Federal districts.”
– Were those returns obtained from the State Electoral Office?
– Yes, from the Chief Electoral officer at Sydney. The State office in Sydney is able to compile a list showing the actual number of electors in each Federal -division. They had to carry out this work, as honorable members are aware, for the last general election. The Commonwealth elec”torate of Richmond comprises five complete
State electorates, namely Ballina, Lismore, The Richmond, Tenterfield, and The Tweed, the figures relating to which are set forth in this return. It gives the total number of electors as at the time of the Federal election held on the 29th March, 1901. That election took place on the rolls prepared for the year 1900.
– Do these figures relate to March 1901 1 What is the other date?
– I desire to explain that the election held in March, 1901, was on the basis of the rolls prepared in 1900.
– Were these figures checked immediately prior to the election of 1901?
– I have obtained them from the State Electoral-office, which has had the conduct of these matters foc very many years.
– They might not have taken the existing rolls.
– If these figures were not obtained from the rolls actually revised by the Revision Court my statements, would be mere wild assertions. I am dealing with the rolls after they had been revised, the names of absentees struck out, and new electors added by the Court. One column in the return shows the figures for 1900. I have already told honorable members that I am dealing only with figures relating to the number of male electors, because women were not admitted to the franchise in 1900, and therefore it would be impossible to make any comparison with the returns for 1903. I am taking an equal basis of comparison.
– Had New South Wales the system of voters’ certificates in force at this time ?
– Electors’ rights.
Mi-. REID. - Electors’ rights make the system more reliable.
– They are not used in our State.
– The registration system makes this comparison for the purpose for which I am using it all the more reliable. If the holder of an elector’s right removes from one electorate to another, he cannot obtain a new right unless he produces his old one. His whole electoral history is traced. If he cannot produce an elector’s right, he must show that he is a new arrival before the officer will give him one. The return to which I have already referred gives the total number of male electors in each of the five State electorates comprised within the electoral boundaries of Richmond. The figures to be found in the second column of the return are based on the rolls compiled in the year 1902. Those rolls -will remainin force until the new rolls for 1 903 have been formally completed. In the third column we find the total number of electors on the lists just compiled, and which will be used for the next election. At present they are merely lists. They will not be rolls until they have been revised by the Court. Let me take, for example, the electorate of Richmond. In that division, according to the rolls of 1900, which were used at the last general election, there were 10,055 male electors ; but in 1902 there was a falling off, the number of electors being only 9,426. The lists just compiled, and which will be the basis of the rolls for the next election, show a total of 10,740, or in round numbers an increase of 700 on the number of electors who were in the division at the last general election.
– On which of these sets of figures were the Commissioner’s divisions based 1
– On the 1902 roll.
– I am prepared to deal with the question even on that basis.
– The lists just compiled have not yet been framed into rolls.
– Then I will take the last in order to show the strong ground I occupy, and which alone should justify the strong language I have used. I desire to submit these returns to the inspection of the Government. They are in the handwriting of the electoral officer who furnished them to me. I did not prepare them. They were forwarded to me by the State Electoral-office. Instead of taking up the time of the Committee by dealing with each return, I shall publish them,, and content myself by merely submitting to honorable members the general result. I shall put before the Committee what is shown by them in relation to the whole of New South Wales, excluding the small piece of territory to which I have already referred. I exclude 6,000 square miles out of the total area of 310,000 square miles. On the basis of last year’s rolls the number of electors in the whole of this area of 306,000 square miles is only 3,000 below the number on the rolls for 1900. When we find discrepancies which in three different electorates total 54,000* electors, against a difference of 8,000 votes, for the whole of the country districts of New South Wales, according to the latest information, we must see that the action of theGovernment is not justified. I am satisfied that if the Government had informed theHouse that in all New South Wales, excluding Sydney and Newcastle, there were only 8,000 fewer men on last year’s rolls than there were on the rolls for 1900, last year being 1902 and the previous election having taken place upon the rolls for 1900, no honorable member would haverefused to accept the scheme submitted, by Mr. Houston. That scheme was in accordance with the law. I know that thehonorable member for Gippsland is not in favour of this provision in the Electoral. Act. But even men who do not believe in the law desire to be law-abiding. Howeverstrong their opinions may be they do not wish to disobey the law. I am not puttingit forward as a matter of opinion, but as amatter of common honesty, when I say that if the House were satisfied that fifteen of” the twenty-six electorates in New South Wales transgressed the legal extremes of the law which we passed, and knew thatthat condition of affairs would be remedied by the new divisions, there being only 8,000 fewer names upon the roll of male electorsthan in 1 900, no one would have j justified-
– What population would the 8,000 represent ? Would they not represent at least four times that number 1
– Twice as many on the basis of adult suffrage.
– Our electoral law relates not to men, women, and children, but toonly men and women.
– J am aware of that fact, but were not the distributions made by the Commissioners on the basis of population 1
– No; on the basis of the Electoral Rolls. Under the Constitution thenumber of representatives of each State is determined on the population basis. That is to say, each State is allotted a certain number of representatives according to thecensus returns. These divisions, however, were not framed on that basis.
– What I wish to show is that the difference of 8,000 adult males proves that there must have been a very large exodus of individuals from these electorates.
– I have two answers to make “to that statement. I shall mention first of all what I believe to be the most cogent one. “When the Government made these statements to the House, they had only to do what I, as a private member of this House, took the trouble to do. I went to the State Electoral-office ; they might have done the same. I made inquiries at the State Electoral-office as to the position shown by the present rolls on which the forthcoming elections are to be conducted. The Government could have adopted the same course. If they had done as I did, the State officer would have informed them that the rolls for this year show that not only has this deficiency of 8,000 electors been made good, but that there are now some 4,000 or 5,000 in excess of that number in these districts.
– I desire only to be just and to arrive at the truth. The divisions prepared by the Commissioner would not. take into account those whose names appear on this year’s rolls, because they were not in these districts at the time.
– Mr. Houston framed this scheme on the actual, the existing, state of affairs. That he did so is shown by the fact that he included the women in his totals. There were no females on the rolls for last year. That is my strong answer to the honorable member’s assertion. I think “that the lists were compiled in June.
– Mr. Houston’s divisions were on the basis of the lists taken in June, 1902, considerably more than a year ago.
– If the Committee turn to Mr. Houston’s report they will see that in making his distribution he included male -and female electors.
– But not the number of men and women in these electorates at the present time.
– Yes ; absolutely. It is not a matter of hair-splitting. If all the men and women of one-half of New South Wales, comprising the worst parts of what is known as the drought-stricken area of that State, had disappeared from the face of the earth, -and left those districts a howling desert, there would have been a disappearance of 53,000 electors.
– Taking the figures ixa at what date ?’
– The date accepted by the Commissioner.
– The 1902 rolls?
– But there were no female electors on those rolls. The female electors have been added by him to the number of electors on those rolls.
– I only desire that there should be no misunderstanding about the matter.
– Mr. Houston’s report shows exactly what steps were taken by him in regard to this matter. In the first page, he states that the number of male electors is 303,000, and the number of female electors 286,000, which makes a total of 589,000. These figures are given in a table to which we have the following head-note -
The number of electors presumably residing within the several divisions is given in the following table : -
Therefore, the worst that he did in the way of going back was to take the number of men on the rolls for 1902. The figures as to the number of female electors must have been compiled since then, because there were no female electors on the rolls f that year. His distribution was made on the basis »f present facts, although noi; necessarily on the basis of the new lists. He states in his report that -
With the aid of the official maps .and other data, the respective number of electors apparently residing within, the several existing Federal electorates were located as shown in the following table : -
He then gives, according to his data, the number of male and female electors, and shows a state of affairs which I have denounced as unfair.
– From what part of the report is the right honorable gentle; man quoting ?
-I am quoting from paragraph 7, upon page 4, of the Commissioner’s report. The Commissioner there states what would be the effect of holding the elections under the existing divisions, a procedure which we have now legalized. He tells the Government that if they do not adopt what he recommends, the state of things! will be what I am about to show. Therefore, the Government were informed as to what would follow if they retained the old boundaries.
– How many of the ^divisions would have less than the minimum number of- electors?
– The Commissioner says that fifteen out of twenty-six existing divisions are either below the minimum or above the maximum allowed by the Electoral Act. If there had been a difference of only 8,000 or 10,000 I should not have troubled to do what I did. But to prove the earnestness of my attitude I wish honorable members to understand that, whereas the present divisions of Darling, Riverina, and Barrier contain only 42,000 electors, three other divisions in the State contain 94,000 electors, or more than twice as many. If it could be assumed that the whole population of the first named three divisions had entirely disappeared, the existing discrepancy would not be justifiable. It must be remembered, too, that the drought is not a new thing in New South Wales, that it has been going on for five or six years. Another case which urged me to take the step I did is this : If honorable members will look at the column in which the numbers of female electors are tabulated, they will see that those figures must be correct within comparatively narrow limits, because they were compiled since the rolls for 1902, containing the names of male electors, were finished. The Commissioner pointed out that if the existing divisions were legalized, while 15,000 female electors in the divisions of Darling, Riverina, and Barrier, which comprise half the State, would return three members, 53,000 female electors in three other divisions would have only the same representation. As one who wishes to have the reputation of a sensible man, I could not have taken the course I did, because it would have been a theatrical one, if there were not these gross discrepancies.
– When did the report to which the right honorable member is referring appear?
– I am referring to the report which was placed before Parliament prior to the discussion of the proposed New South Wales distribution. It was the duty of the Minister to explain these matters to honorable members, so that they could clearly understand the position of affairs, because they must, of course, bear the responsibility for the votes which they have given. The Commissioner also shows that, whereas 212,000 electors who return supporters of my policy have a representation of only seven members, the same representation is given to only 112,000 electors who return supporters of the Government ; a difference of 100,000 electors between two sets of divisions containing seven constituencies each. The principle of our electoral law is that there shall be equal representation, a margin being allowed in. order that the country divisions may, owing to their want of facilities for voting, be put on an equality with town divisions. The Commissioner states in his report that the margin allowed by the Electoral Act permitted him to range from a minimum of 18,148 for a country division to a maximum of 27,220 for a town division. The law,, therefore, allowed him a come-and-go of 9,000 electors. That he fully exercised his. discretion in that matter will be seen by a glance at the numbers contained in his proposed divisions. There are about 18,000 electors in each of six country divisions which he proposes, while in his town divisions the numbers vary between24,000 and 26,000 - 26,502,. 26,433, 25,596, 25,487, 24,981, 24,933. Therefore, it is evident that he made a very fair allowance in favour of the country divisions. I find from the figures supplied by. the State Electoral Office, which I have put before the Committee, that there are 10,000 more male electors on the new lists. The Government should have been able to obtain that information, too. The State Electoral Office is the only source of this information ; it is not possessed by any Commonwealth Department. But if the Government had asked the Chief Electoral Officer of New South Wales for a return showing alterations made by the new lists, they would have obtained the information within two or three days, and they would have known that the new lists, when compared with the lists of last year, show an increase of 10,000 male electors, and a still larger increase when compared with the lists for 1 900, the year in which the first elections for this Parliament were held. If that information had been obtainedby the Government, and given to honorable members they would have said - “What is the use of talking of a terrible drought having denuded; the country of population, when there are as many electors now in the country divisions as there were three years ago when the last elections took place?”
– Does the return show any increase in the number of female electors, as compared with the police collection ?
– The list of female electors is a new collection.
– When did the police collect the names of the female electors?
– Since the lists of male electors were collected - in October, 1902. The Commissioner had the figures before him.
– Is the right honorable member in referring to the Richmond division, for example, taking the population within the present boundaries, or within the boundaries proposed by the Commissioner ? For instance, the Commissioner speaks of the number of elector’s presumably residing within the Clarence-Richmond division as 12,243 males, 10,071 females - a total of 22,314.
– The division to which those figures apply is a proposed division which the Government are not going to adopt.
– Then the right honorable member is speaking of the population in the old divisions ?
– Yes, because they are the divisions under which we have determined to hold the next elections. I am glad that the Prime Minister has referred to the Richmond division, because I should like to tell the Committee what the Commissioner says about it. He points out in his report, dated 4th August, that he assumed the present male population of the Richmond division to be 9,427.
– But the names were collected a year before he made his report.
– J am about to refer to the difference between the figures which I have, obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer in Sydney and the figures contained in the Commissioner’s report to the Government.
– How long is it since the New South Wales Parliament adopted the female franchise?
– The franchise was conferred upon the women of New South Wales after the compilation of the rolls of male electors in 1902.
– What is the difference between the Commissioner’s estimate of the male population of the Richmond division - 9427 - and the figures obtained from the State Electoral Office ?
– I will tell the honorable member that in a minute. The figures used by the Commissioner must have been obtained by him before the 1st August, because his report is dated 4th August.
– They were obtained twelve months before that time.
– Not so much as that, because he had before him the figures relating to the female electors of the States, and the Suff-rage was not granted to women until after October, 1902.
– The lists were compiled in August, 1902, and confirmed by the Revision Courts in the following October.
– The Commissioner, in his report dated 4th August, gives the numberof male electors in the Richmond division as. 9,427, while the State Electoral Office in itsgeneral list dated 1st August, 1903, givesthem as 10,704 - a difference of 1,277. But. I would not have occupied the attention of the country as I have done, if the differencesupon which I wish to focus public consideration were merely slight differences: of that sort, because I know that thereare many causes in these States to account for such fluctuations of population. I appealed to the public to justify my action because, after allowing for all reasonable differences, the fact remained that 53,000 women in one part of the State will have the same representation as only 15,000 in another part, while 112,000 men in one set of divisions will have the same political power as 212,000 men in another set of divisions.
– The original State divisions must have been very bad.
– No, they have existed for a long time. It is not a question of the State divisions, but of the fluctuation of population. Once the divisions are established the fluctuation of population can be easily accounted for.
– By the State divisions, I mean the divisions which elected the Staterepresentatives in this House.
– That is another matter. The inclusion of the female vote has made a wonderful difference. By far the greaterproportion of the females in New South Wales and Victoria are located on the coast- - in the populous towns. A good illustration of that is afforded by the lists prepared by Mr. Houston, which show that there are only 15,000 women in one half of New South Wales representing an area of 160,000 square miles.
– But thai; was under abnormal conditions.
– No ; there were never more people there. The total number of men and women engaged in pastoral and agricultural pursuits in that one half of New South Wales .was only 11,000. The Statistical Register of New South Wales shows the number of people engaged in different industries in different parts of the country, and if we take that part of ‘ the country which comprises the three electorates Of Darling, Barrier, and Riverina, and include every nian and woman engaged on every squattage, on every selection, and on every farm, not forgetting those occupied in dairying, the total reaches only 11,000. According to last year’s Statistical Register I find that in one little place on the coast - the Camden district - there are 22,000 producers of the same class.
– Camden is not quite on the coast, but is some distance inland.
– All I desire to show is how little this alleged drought exodus can mean. If we go back to 1900, when the drought was not so severe, or for six or seven years, we shall find that the population in the districts to which I have referred has not varied beyond one or two thousand over the whole period. The electorates mentioned contain only 15,000 women, and have within them 12,000 people at most engaged in pastoral and agricultural pursuits. Of course there are miners located in some of these districts.
– There are also some considerable townships.
– The right honorable gentleman must recollect that some of the mines have been shut down owing to the drought.
– No doubt j but I would point out that there are four or five or six times more miners in twenty square miles of the coastal districts than in the whole of the western half of New South Wales. There are five times more miners in those districts than in the whole of the western districts, with Broken Hill and the White Cliffs fields included.
– There are six or seven thousand miners at Broken Hill, and surely there are not five times that number at Newcastle t
– I said on the coast.
– The right honorable gentleman said they were within an area’ of twenty square miles.
– There are miners at other places besides Newcastle, and they do not occupy an area much in excess of that which I have mentioned. However, I do not wish to stand upon details, but to confine myself to broad facts The broad facts are these :
The Statistical Register shows that the whole of the rural population of the western half of New South Wales is under 12,000 - men and women - so that there can have been no exodus such as has been described. Honorable members will see that if all these people had left that area the exodus would not have represented more than 12,000. It is not as if this were a populous part of the country, with say 100,000 people in it. The districts of Barrier, Riverina, and Darling contain only 15,000 women, whereas three other districts contain 53,000 women. I feel that these discrepancies are so gigantic that a little explanation with regard to a thousand or two, or even 8,000 or 10,000, will not remove the difficulty. That is my point. I should like my honorable friends to look at a return which I have showing the history of the western half of New South Wales for .the last eleven years. Now, surely that is a fair position for honorable members to consider. These figures are given separately, with particulars as to all the State electorates, and comprise three different totals. ‘ I propose to give the totals for the one-half of New South Wales for the eleven years, in order to show honorable members what a chimera this supposed exodus is. The period covered is from 1893 to . 1903, including the last return compiled. The figures are as follow : - 1893, 27,500 ; 1894, 22,700 ; 1895, 23,600 ; 1896,’ 23,600 ; 1897, 26,000 ; 1898, 30,000 ; 1899, 33,500 ; 1900, 28,500 ; 1901, 28,000 ; 1902, 27,000 ; and 1903, 28,500. That covers a period of eleven years, through rain, sunshine and drought. Last year there were as many people in Riverina as there have been for the last four years, so that honorable members will realize what wild statements have been made in order to justify the action of the Government in disfranchising 100,000 electors, on the ground of a fluctuation in the population. The maximum number in that part of NewSouth Wales was 33,500, in the year 1899-1900. It was upon the rolls which contained that number of names that the last Federal election took place. The total in the list, as at present calculated, is 28,500, or a difference of less than 5,000. The lowest number of electors on the roll in any one year- in 1894-5-^-was 22,700. That was a very bad time. The next year there were 23,600, and in the following year 26,000. For the last four years the figures were 28,500, 2S,000’, 27,000, and 28,500. Therefore, so far from there having been a gigantic exodus which beggars description, there has been a greater steadiness, so far as the male electors were concerned, during the last four years than for the previous seven years.
– The figures for the last four years are about up to the average.
– They are above the average. The figures for 1903 were collected last July, and they . show a , higher total than any one of seven years out of the eleven. That seems to me to put the matter very strongly. There were more electors in that half of New South Wales when the last list was compiled than at any time during seven years out of eleven. Therefore, the more this matter is investigated the sounder becomes the position I occupy. It is not as if I had worked up these figures by some magic. I obtained them from the State Electoral Officer who has worked the figures out in complete detail. In order to illustrate this to honorable members I may take the case of the returns for the Werriwa electorate. The classification is very complete. The State electorates of Argyle and Boorowa are included in their entirety. Of the State electorate of Braidwood three parts are included representing respectively 248, 49, and 189 electors. Portions of the Queanbeyan electorate are included as follows : - Bungendore, 275 ; Collector, 261 ; Gundaroo, 95’; and Queanbeyan (portion), 281. The Burraga portion of the West Macquarie electorate represents ninety-six electors, and the Tuena district 436. These are all included in the Werriwa electorate, and honorable members will see that the information is given in the closest detail. This is not like some information to which we have been asked to give our attention, and which is absolutely unreliable, but it has been compiled in a systematic manner. Honorable members will see how unfair it would be to ask me to submit myself to the decision of the electors upon such a distribution as the Government have chosen. If a decision goes in one’s favour, one may be satisfied, however unfair the conditions.But suppose the decision at the next election were to go against me? The result would be very unfair, when 200,000 voters in free-trade electorates could return only as many members as 100,000 supporters of the Government policy.
– Has the right honorable member any information with regard to the Riverina electorate ?
– Yes. I shall give the figures for the eleven-year period to which I recently referred. There has been a great deal of talk about that electorate which is illustrious for the honour it confers upon itself in returning my honorable friend, the Chairman of Committees. The figures I propose to quote relate to male electors only, because no basis for comparison can otherwise be afforded. Riverina, which includes the State electorates of Deniliquin, Hay, and Wentworth, and portions of the Lachlan and Murray electorates, contained 9,808 electors in 1893, 8,354 in 1894, 8,750 in 1895, 8,584 in 1896, 9,009 in 1897, 10,268 in 1898, 11,931 in 1899, 9,791 in 1900, 9,713 in 1901, 9,349 in 1902, and 9,356 in 1903. So that, in that great electorate of Riverina, the total on the present list upon which the next election will be fought, is larger than the. total for last year.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs told us that there had been a large increase upon those figures during the past few months.
– These figures are brought up to the 1st August.
– But there are some later figures.
– These figures bring us up to the 1st August - that is, last month; ‘and details are given for different portions of the electorate. They show that the great electorate of Riverina, which, we were told, had been depleted of its population, as if there had been a plague upon the country, has not suffered to such a great extent, after all.
– There was a drop of about 3,000 in 1900-1. Was that before the State Division was made for the Federal elections *
– The figures for 1899-1900 were 11,900, and in the next year they fell to 9,791.
– Was that before the State was divided into electorates for Federal purposes ?
– The Federal elections took place in Ma/ch 1901, so that the rolls used must lui ve been those prepared in the middle of 1900, about nine months before the Federal elections took place. Those rolls showed 9,791 electors, whilst the present number of electors is 9,356, or within 400 of the maximum for the four-year period. Honorable members must begin to see that the wild statements made about a wholesale exodus from the Western districts is totally at variance with the facts. Droughts have been the curse of New South Wales, and have extended more or less over the past seven years. In 1891 we had 60,000,000 sheep. There was a considerable reduction down to the year 1895, and the last drought brought the figures to 25,000,000. During the past four years the figures are almost stationary. My point is that if we wipe out the whole 9,000 electors, it would not justify a difference of tens and hundreds of thousands. It is the gigantic character of the difference which has caused me to act as I have done. It is not a matter of arithmetic. If a mere difference of 20,000 or 30,000 electors had been involved, I should not have wasted the time of the House upon this matter. But it is a difference of 100,000 in seven electorates - a difference of 39,934 in four electorates. I feel confident that when I appeal to the people upon these facts, I shall be able to show that honorable members had not the true position before them when they voted as they did. I have made certain statements, and I am ready to hand over to the Government the returns on which they are founded. They corroborate every word that I have uttered. I am prepared to hand them over to the Government to be tested and examined. Will the Ministry act with equal fairness towards me by laying upon the table the statements on which the Minister for- Trade and Customs founded the electoral proposals which were submitted to this House ? Will the Government lay those documents upon the table, so that honorable members can make use of them to justify their conduct1? I hope that honorable members will excuse me for having discussed this matter again, but I did so in response to a request. All through my election, when I was far away from the Prime Minister, I stated most frankly that I did not impugn the good faith of the Government in this matter. They could not be personally aware of the statements made in a matter of this sort. They must get their facts from somebody.
– The right honorable member charged us with fraud.
– Very often an honest man has information put into his hands which proves to be inaccurate. It does not make that information less fraudulent, because the person who used it was not aware of its inaccuracy. I have been a Minister myself, and I. know the routine in matters of this sort. Ministers have to accept responsibility for the information their subordinates give them. At the same time, there is a moral distinction between the act of a Minister who quotes from inaccurate information which he has himself compiled, and that of a Minister who quotes from figures which some one else has prepared for him. Here is the list of which I complain. A report appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 4th September last. . It must, therefore, have been laid before the House on 3rd September. It reads -
Sir William Lyne in the House of Representatives to-day quoted the following return as showing the number of electors in the old Federal divisions of New South Wales as compared with the divisions proposed by Mr. Houston, the figures being taken from the State rolls and the Commissioner’s report.
This is put under two heads, namely, “ Rejected Divisions “ and “Existing Divisions.” The rejected divisions are those which were recommended by Mr. Houston, and the existing divisions represent the present electorates, the old boundaries of which have been legalized. Here is the contrast. Mr. Houston had placed the rejected division of Ashfield along with the divisions which he had been obliged to give to Sydney in consequence of the enormous number of electors there. The divisions which he proposed - that is the rejected divisions - are included, in this return, which sets out the number of electors contained in each of the existing divisions, and gives similar information with respect to the rejected divisions. Just let me compare Mr. Houston’s divisions with the existing electorates. Looking at the table, the electorates of East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, and other metropolitan constituencies appear in their proper order. Now I come to the new electorate of Ashfield. Instead of that being grouped with all the other metropolitan divisions - as was done by Mr. Houston - which would have shown 24,000 electors in the rejected divisions not accounted for at all- in the other figures, except as in the existing divisions, Ashfield is put down at the end of the return after all the country electorates. Had it appeared in its place, 24,900 electors would have been shown with a blank on the- other side of the table. The average man, having heard of my fight against the discrepancies which arise under the Government proposals, would naturally think, upon comparing the figures contained in that table, that in the electorates of East Sydney, West Sydney, and other metropolitan constituencies there was a difference of only a few thousand electors - the greatest divergence shown in any one electorate is, I think, only 3,000- as between the Government proposals and the recommendations of Mr. Houston, whereas there was really a discrepancy of 24,000 in Ashfield alone, which is not shown at all, in addition to the other discrepancies. Ashfield, I repeat, was placed at the bottom of the list, with nil opposite it. I did not notice the fact myself until my attention was directed to it. These things are unfortunate, and call for an explanation. This matter cannot be buried or shirked, and I ask the Government, in their own interests, to lay upon the table the authority upon which their proposals were founded. The country will not rest till that is done. Honorable members -who acted upon the statements of the Government havea personal interest in ascertaining whether they have been misled. I do not suggest for a moment that this has been done deliberately and criminally ; but, in my view, honorable members have certainly been misled by the use of documents which, on inquiry, would have been laid aside, the facts being exactly the opposite of those attempted to be shown. Now, I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that two of his colleagues recently attended a protectionist conference, and were parties to what is denominated a “ fighting” platform for the next elections. At the conclusion of that conference the following telegram was sent to Mr: Chamberlain : -
Conference Commonwealth Protectionist Association now sitting, all States represented, unanimously resolved that this conference favours preferential trade Great Britain, upon basis existing Tariff without interference with present protection.
I am sure that the Prime Minister will remember that whilst in London he was a party to a series of resolutions which indicated that a substantial preference should be given to the manufactures and products of the mother country. He is aware that the Dominion of Canada has at different periods already given them a preference of 12½ per cent., of 25 per cent., and of 33 per cent. Some of the other States have also indicated that they will extend a preference by reducing their Tariff in favour of goods from the United Kingdom.
– What others?
– Natal and the Cape.
– There was a resolution upon the matter which appears in the blue book for which I have sent.
– Canada began by giving the mother country a preference of 1 2½ per cent. That was afterwards increased to 25 per cent., and in 1900to 331/3 per cent.
– But the Canadian duties were originally very high.
– That makes all the difference.
– I am not now dealing with any controversial matter, because I merely desire to ascertain what is the policy of the Government. Surely two Ministers cannot engage in a conference, and be parties to such a telegram as that, in the capacity of private individuals? I shall be quite satisfied if the Prime Minister says-
– I will take care to make a reference to the matter in replying to the right honorable member to-day.
– Then I shall be satisfied. I merely wish to know what the Government propose.
– The right honorable member shall know.
– Had the Prime Minister dealt with the matter yesterday I should not have again referred to it.’ Personally, I dealt with it in the most pointed fashion. It is singularly unfortunate in my judgment that, whilst the other States which were represented at the recent Conference in London submitted definite propositions regarding the preference which they were prepared to extend to the products and manufactures of the mother country, this record appears in the report of the proceedings in reference to Australia, -
Nature and extent of preference unknown.
There is still another matter to which I desire to direct attention, and concerning which the Government have said nothing. They have not even made provision for it upon their Estimates. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister, whilst in England, concurred in the proposal that all the great self-governing parts of the Empire should contribute to a memorial of the late
Queen Victoria, in whose reign we received the whole of our constitutional liberties. Under that proposal the Premiers definitely stated the amount which they would ask their respective Parliaments to contribute. Yet here again, in regard to Australia, there is, I suppose) the usual entry - “ Amount nob yet ascertained.”
Here we are, face to face with the Estimates for the current year. We had the Budget statement of the Treasurer, in which he elaborated questions of pounds, shillings, and pence with painful detail. How is it that not a penny of provision has been made for the share of -Australia in this grand memorial 1 Why is it that the Treasurer has had nothing to say about it 1 I trust that the Prime Minister will endeavour to put Australia in a better light before the world. What is the use of a promise to submit a proposal to Parliament if it be not fulfilled 1 How .many years will the Prime Minister wait before submitting a proposition bearing upon the matter to this Parliament ?
– It is the intention of the Government to submit a proposal for a grant of £25,000 for the purpose which the right honorable member has indicated. I had intended to say so in my statement as to the measures with which the Government intended requesting Parliament to deal before the prorogation, but, by a pure inadvertence, I omitted it.
– The Government evidently have plenty of *money to spare.
– If the Government had intended to propose a grant of £25,000, it is very singular that they did not include it in their Estimates.
– We propose making a special appropriation.
– What is the use of a statement as to the public finances which treats with microscopic accuracy of every shilling and every penny that has been in the Treasury during the year, and which ignores this noble work t No matter what the finances of Australia may be, I shall vote for the expenditure of that £25,000 with the utmost cheerfulness. At the same time the proposal seems to occupy ‘ a very small place in the mind of the Government when the Treasurer thinks fit to refer to this thousand pounds and that, thousand, and says nothing in reference to this grand memorial. The following is the entry in ‘ the report of the proceedings of the Conference -
During the sitting of the Conference thePrime Ministers intimated their intention to ask their several Parliaments to vote the following sums towards the Queen Victoria memorial . .
Then follows a statement showing that the Prime Minister of Canada promised to ask his Parliament to vote £30,000 to the fund. No mistake can be made with reference to the position taken up by him. The Premier of New Zealand promised to ask for not lessthan £15,000, the Premier of Cape Colony £20,000, and the Premier of Natal, a sum not exceeding £10,000. Even the Premier of the little colony of Newfoundland promised to ask for £2,000. The Prime Ministers of the other colonies said straight out what they would request their Parliaments to do ; but the characteristic reply of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, who had been sitting at. the Conference Board for weeks was - “ Reply not yet received.”
– Quite right.
– In one way it was ; but this was not a proposal by the Prime Minister to pledge the Parliament to anything.
– He pledged the Parliament to. the Naval Subsidy Agreement,, although he had no authority to do so.
– I am putting forward nothing but what this record shows. I am not indulging in polemics. The report statesthat -
During the sitting of the Conference the Prime Ministers intimated their intention to ask theirseveral Parliaments -
There is no binding about that - to vote the following sums towards the Queen Victoria memorial.
The Prime Minister might have said quitelegitimately that he would invite this Parliament to contribute to this fund, just as he said to the Conference - “I will ask my Parliament to adopt this agreement in regard to the Naval Subsidy.” But his answer to this suggestion was - “ I am not in a position to give a reply.”
– What is the actual statement set forth in the Blue-book 1
-“ Reply not yet received.”
– That is correct.
– But the Prime Ministerhimself, not some gentlemen in far off Australia, was the person to give the reply. .Hewas present, and- he might well have said - “If the Canadian Parliament is to be asked. to contribute £30,000 to this object, I propose to ask Australia for a contribution of, say, £25,000.”
– He knew that he had a very strong Parliament to deal with. ‘-‘
– t presume it was no stronger then than it is now, and the matter will be submitted to it.
– I am glad that I have elicited that statement from the Prime Minister. It is quite time that we had some intimation in regard to the intentions of the Government in this direction. I can only say that I thoroughly support the proposal.
– In regard to the matter just referred to by the leader of the Opposition, I may as well at once clear the ground by saying that, as I intimated at the Conference, it has always been my intention to submit to Parliament a proposal that we should contribute to the con.struction of this memorial.
– What is the memorial 1
– A memorial to Queen Victoria, to be erected in London, probably opposite the gates of Buckingham Palace. I think it is understood that some of its features will be distinctively applicable to the States or colonies which form portion of the Empire.
– It will be like the Albert memorial.
– It will possess features that are distinctively characteristic of- each of the contributing States. In order to show how utterly impossible it is that I should not contemplate asking the Parliament to join in this movement, I would point out that unless we make some adequate provision in this direction there will be erected in London, for all time, a monumental work on which all parts of the Empire save Australia will be represented. I was from the beginning willing to ask the Parliament to contribute to the cost of this monument. I allowed the question of the amount to stand over pending the settlement of the details ; but my right honorable colleague on my left will tell the House that I have never faltered in any way in regard to my intention to propose that we should contribute to the cost of the memorial.
– Are we to have any voice in determining what form the memorial shall take?
– No. Supposing there are half-a-dozen or a dozen contributing colonies or States, there can not be half-a-dozen or a dozen designs.
– Why not a hospital instead of a memorial ?
– The question is whether we shall join or refuse to join with the other parts of the Empire in contributing to the cost of the memorial I consider that we should join with them ; but if honorable members do not agree with me there is an end to the matter.
– This is not a party question.
– Not by any means.
– The Government will not stake its existence on this question ?
– I fail to see why we should do so ; but I venture- to say that the common sense and the patriotism of the House will lead to the granting of a contribution to the memorial.
– Useless bricks and stones.
– When I desire the honorable member to make a speech for me I will give him notice.
– I should not care about taking the responsibility for all the speeches made by the right honorable! gentleman.
– This is a change in- the attitude of the Government towards the honorable member.
– When certain remarks were made yesterday there was a “ Yes, Mr. Watson “ which we all wot of.
– We must agree sometimes.
– And the right honorable member thinks that the offtener he agrees with the honorable member the better it will be for himself. At all events, the Government does not propose to enter into fresh combinations to try to remove the main issue at the next elections. It does not propose to get that difficulty out of the way in order that it may pave the way for a combination which will involve the use of expressions such as we heard yesterday.
– From the leavings of East Sydney ?
– Yes ; and I repeat the phrase, because there was a gentleman who went to Sydney to promote a rise of the people, but found that the electors took a rise out of him.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman appear before them for ten minutes 1
– I listened, without interruption, for a dreary hour and fifty minutes, to a speech made this morning by the right honorable member, following one made by him yesterday which extended over two hours and a half. But the moment I speak he becomes so uncomfortable that he is impelled to constantly interrupt me. Let me revert once more to the question of the Queen Victoria memorial. When- the Estimates were being framed, I was in communication with the various Governments, with the object of ascertaining what they were actually proposing to do. The Estimates were laid on the table before all the replies to my inquiries .were received ; but, when announcing a day or two ago the remaining business of the session, I intended to mention this matter. I forgot to include in that list of business our intention to invite the Parliament to contribute to this fund, and I also overlooked a small Bill to regulate extradition, which will be introduced in the Senate, and with which we hope to deal this session.
– Will the right honorable gentleman have any objection to laying on the table of the House the replies received by him.
– I shall be glad to see them.
– Before I make any proposal in regard to this matter, I shall take care that any communications which I have in relation to it are laid on the table of the House. I do not think I have ever exhibited any reticence in relation to matters of this sort. The leader of the Opposition has requested me to make a statement on the subject of preferential trade.
– It is a very proper time to do so.
– Whether it is or not, I intend now to make a statement on the subject, and to answer the right honorable gentleman’s challenge. It is true that two of my colleagues recently attended a protectionist conference, at which a fighting platform was adopted, and from which a cablegram was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The attitude taken up by that conference was practically in accordance with the position of the Government, which was placed before the House some time ago by my late colleague, the right honorable member for South Australia, MrKingston. The right honorable gentleman then intimated that it was our intention tomaintain the existing Tariff, and to ask first the country, and then the House, to exercise: a preference in favour of Great Britain, by way of increasing the duties in that Tariff as against the foreigner. We have heard a great deal about the impropriety which is shown in the proposal to increase our duties as against the foreigner, when compared with the decrease of duties made by Canada in favour of the motherland. But let us see whether it is a relative matter. Any one who looks at the Australian Tariff and the Canadian Tariff will learn at a glance that the latter, whichprevails under the regime of the presentfreetrade Government, taken all round isabout one-third higher than our own. The Canadian Government, in granting thin, special treatment to Great Britain, werecareful to preserve their protection, notwithstanding that the honorable gentleman atthe head of it is recognised as the principal” leader of the free-trade movement in theDominion. I should not be surprised in. the fulness of time to see an analogy.
– When we introduced theFederal Tariff we laid before the Houseparticulars of various other Tariffs, including; that in force in Canada.
– That is so. When we introduced the Tariff, the right, honorable gentleman, in conjunction withthe Treasurer, caused a tabulated statementto be prepared showing the existing Tariffs: in the various States, as well as those of Canada and New Zealand. Any one who cares to refresh his memory on the subject’, will readily discover that the Tariff originally proposed for Australia was much higher than the one now in existence. Taking it all round the Canadian Tariff is at least one-third higher than the Australian Tariff, . I think I am very much within the mark in making that assertion. If we arrivepractically at the same result by a decrease of so much per cent, in favour of Great Britain in the one case, and an increase of ‘ so much per cent, against the foreigner in the other case - the one case being Canada and the other Australia - what has theleader of the Opposition to complain of? Of what has he to complain unless he complains, as he naturally does, of any: preferential trade 1 The free-trader does not agree with the principle of preferential trade. . The very root of his policy is that every advantage which he gives to his kith and kin must also be given to the foreigner. One cannot conceive of a notion of free-trade without that policy which is called buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market - a policy which very often makes you r enemy dear and your friend too cheap. We cannot conceive of the existence of that policy side by side with a system of preferential trade. Once adopt that policy and preferential trade is dead. The naked truth remains that by the adoption and continuance of the policy of free-trade, it is utterly impossible to give any advantage over foreigners to the country from which we spring. I would rather give that advantage by way of an increase of duty against the foreigner than not at all. Considering we are face to face with a position in which the Treasurer anticipates a drop in the revenue, I think we are acting fairly when we say to Great Britain - “ Our finances cannot permit of a reduction any more than can our industries afford it, but we can give you this advantage : A certain quantity of manufactured goods will and must come to Australia as to all other protective countries, and instead of adopting an all-round Tariff, which would give an undue proportion of that particular trade to the foreigner as against you, we prefer that, if possible, you should have the sum total’ of it.” That is our position. Prom the stand-point of the maintenance of our revenue, the maintenance of our industries, and the holding out of the hand of friendship to our kith and kin, a change to the policy of my right honorable friend opposite would be disastrous. It would be disastrous first of all to this country, and then to the Empire. I therefore justify the cablegram which was sent to Mr. Chamberlain, although had I been a party to the framing of it I should have endeavoured to make it a little more explicit. I should have said that we intended to give Great Britain a preference by way of an increase in our duties as against foreign countries. I have always been in favour of the adoption of this course, and I think that my views in this .regard are well-known. So much for the answer which the right honorable gentleman demanded as to preferential trade. I come now to his arguments in regard to the electoral distributions, I have been asked by the honorable member for Macquarie to produce the return used by the Minister for Trade and Customs in this Chamber last week. I intend to hand it to my honorable friend for purposes of debate, and also to lay it upon thetable, so that it may be printed as a parliamentary paper. At the head of the document there is a statement, written in pencil, to the effect that the quota under theElectoral Act is 22,684, the maximum number of electors allowed in any one division- 27,220, and the minimum 18,184. .Certain figures are also added in regard to both the rejected divisions and the existing divisions, which are to be retained.
– Does the return refer tothe New South Wales electorates ?
– Yes. It is only about New South Wales that my right honorable friend is concerned, in this as in all other Commonwealth matters.
– I have referred to the Victorian figures too ; but I could not appeal to any other than my own State on the subject.
– My right honorable friend might have mentioned that a comparison of the totals given by the Commissioners for New South Wales and Victoria respectively as the bases upon which they were working, shows the number of electors upon which their calculationswere made to have been 586,000 in Victoria and only 589,000 in New South Wales, adifference of 3,000 ; whereas, according to the figures giving the population oE the twoStates, there should have been a difference of one-sixth, since the difference between the populations of the two States is onesixth, or 204,000. As the suffrage is now not manhood suffrage but adult suffrage, over- 97,000 electors were wanting from the figures given for New South Wales. That discrepancy shows the impossibility of collectingproper rolls under the abnormal conditionsthen prevailing. It is absurd and ridiculous to try to prove that a basis of division is a just one when, although the differencebetween the population of the two States is more than 200,000, or a difference of onesixth, the difference between the electors of the two States, as shown by the lists available, is only 3,000, when it should be morethan 97,000. How can my right honorablefriend, notwithstanding all his ingenuity, show that the proposed distributions, based upon such figures as those, can beright ? I find, from the paper for which the honorable member for Macquarie has asked, that in the proposed Darling division there were then 18,386 electors, and in the present division, which is the division to be retained for the next election, 12,139 electors. In the proposed Riverina division there were 18,862 electors, and in the present division 14,920 electors. There was no proposed division of the Barrier, but in the existing division of that name there were 15,173 electors. Honorable members will see, therefore, that the total number of electors in that part of the country is distributed amongst three divisions under theschemeof distribution which was in force at the last elections, and which we have determined to retain ; whereas it is distributed among two disvisions under the rejected scheme proposed by the Commissioner for the State. Dealing with those divisions, there is on the paper to which I am referring certain pencilled information obtained more recently than the information which was available when the tables were prepared. I find that, whereas the Electoral Commissioner reported the number of electors in the present Darling division to be only 12,139, more recent returns show that there are now . 15,184 electors in that division, or about 3,000 more, showing the progress which the division hasmade towardsobtainingthe minimum number of electors required by the Electoral Act. According to the Commissioner there were in the existing Riverina division 14,920 electors, while, according to more recent information, the number is now 19,234, an increase of 4,314 since the information upon which his calculations were based were obtained. In the Barrier division the number of electors has increased from 15,173 to 18,177.
– The addition of the female electors must account for those increases.
– No. I will have something to say about the effect of the addition of female electors. It will be seen from the figures which I have just quoted that the number of electors in two of the three divisions in question now exceeds the minimum allowed by the Electoral Act, while if the increase of population in the remaining division maintains the same rate of progress, the number of electors there will speedily do the same.
– The New South Wales Electoral Officer could not have issued two returns, differing so greatly.
– Who signed the return from which the Prime Minister is quoting?
– It bears the initials F.B., which I believe are those of Mr. Biden, of the Sydney office.
– Applications for enrolment are being received every day from people in the country.
– And names are being taken off the roll every day.
– Seeing that there has been such a remarkable increase of population in the Darling division, which is the only one now below the minimum, we may fairly assume that when the Revision Court is held the number of electors there’ will, by the addition of new names, also exceed the minimum. My right honorable friend has a curious way of referring to calculations as fraudulent. He ran away to Sydney.
-I did not run away to Sydney.
– The right honorable member ran away from his parliamentary duties here.
– The right honorable gentleman would not dare to run away to the people.
– I have shown as little fear of, and as much confidence in the people as have been shown by the right honorable member, especially under the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the Constitution.
– The right honorable gentleman should try the effect of addressing a meeting in Sydney for just one hour.
– It is an easy and a cheap, though anasty, sneer to make, to say that I should go to Sydney. That is what some rude person said to meat the Agricultural Show the other day. The right honorable member went to Sydney, and what happened 1 He was returned by the skin of his teeth.
– I had a majority of six to one. The right honorable gentleman never in his life had such a majority.
– If the right honorable member had been opposed by neither of the nonentities who were put up against him, he would have been able to describe his election as a return by an infinite majority. What response did the people of East Sydney make to his appeal ? He speaks of the 20,000 persons who attended his meetings, but only 1,700 voted for him. What is the difference between* 1,700 and 20,000 1
– The Prime Minister ran away from Bourke.
– The honorable member knows that that is not correct. I declined to contest the Bourke constituency, because the leader of the Opposition challenged me to contest the East Sydney seat, which is the very hotbed of his supporters.
– That is right.
– I went to East Sydney, but there were certain firemen and policemen of whom the right honorable member knows, whose votes gave him a majority ; and he is aware of the reason.
– It is well that I had the police on my side.
– What did Mr. David Storey do to the Prime Minister ?
– What I did to the honorable member for Macquarie in the contest for the Macleay seat. As the name of Mr. Storey, who is a very respectable gentleman, has been introduced, it is only fair to mention that, as the honorable member for Macquarie is aware, the Randwick election was determined by a base and monstrous sectarian agitation. <
– The right honorable gentleman has lived upon the sectarian vote all his life.
– I listened to the right honorable member for an hour arid fifty minutes without interrupting him, but he and his satellites are not prepared to let rae proceed without interruption.
– The Prime Minister should be the last to raise the sectarian question.
– I shall not go further into these side issues than to say that when the right honorable member ran away to Sydney, and went hunting round the State offices-
– It was a right thing for me to go to the State office. Why does the right honorable gentleman speak of me as “hunting round”?
– Well, I will say prowling round.
– Is the Prime Minister in order in saying that I “ prowled round” the State offices in Sydney ? ‘ As a matter of fact, I obtained the permission of the Premier of New South Wales before I asked for the information which I have given to the Committee to-day.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. V. L. Solomon). - If the words “ prowling round’* are considered offensive by the right honorable member for East Sydney, I am sure that the Prime Minister will withdraw them.
– I used them entirely in a jocular sense, but if the right honorable gentleman’s skin is so thin that they annoy him, I withdraw them. Hewent round to the State offices, he says, with the consent of the State Premier.
– I obtained information from only one Department.
-Well, oneDepartment. I do not suggest that hewould have asked for this information until he had obtained the consent of the StatePremier. What I said is no valid ground for his interruption and appeal to theChairman, but it is eidence of his extremediscomfort under my reply. He obtainedcertain figures from the State Electoraloffice, and then he, because they differ from, the figures used by the Minister for Tradeand Customs, told the Committee that the figures used by the Minister - although he admitted that the Ministerwas not personally responsible for them - were false and’ fraudulent. It is very wrong, very wrong indeed - to usea parliamentary term - to take figures which have been officially used by a Minister and,, because they differ from those obtained from another quarter, to say that they are false and fraudulent. The charge is unwarranted, but it has been repeated with a magnitudeof political spleen against a public officerthat I have never seen equalled in my political experience, extending over twentyfour years. It is all the one thing. Wheneveranything is done in a certain office to which a certain officer belongs it must be wrong. Simply because the officer when he was outof the Public Service sought election in an interest opposed to that advocated by theright honorable gentleman, he is attacked in a most spiteful way. If the conduct of the right honorable gentleman is not spiteful, it is rather too bad - whatever themotive may be - to make attacks upon a public officer who cannot be here to defend himself. I can promise the right honorable gentleman that if he will give me thefigures which he has submitted, I shall put them before the Electoral Department and insist upon their being investigated, and upon the right honorable member having a. reply.
– Hear, hear.
– As to that reply, I am sure that the officer will be vindicated, and that as a result my honorable friend will come off very poorly. Let us look a little further into this matter. Here is a paper, which I shall add to those already laid on the table, which deals with the three electorates of Bonier, - Darling, and Riverina. This paper has on it some figures in pencil, which were compiled since the return was originally written, and these I shall also include in the Parliamentary papers. These figures show, in ink, the state of the electorates in 1894, and in the other years up to 1900 inclusive. There are also, written in pencil, figures for 1901 arid 1902. When I read the figures for the latter year, I ask honorable members to recollect that they include the women voters, whilst those for the previous years, up to the end of 1901, relate only to the male voters. As is stated at the end of this return, there was a steady yearly increase of voting power all the time from 1894. to 1900. I shall show what happened after that date. . The male voters in these three electorates increased from 25,976 to 37,782. That represents a gain of 11,806, or nearly 50 per cent. Now, let us see what the individual figures show. The number of electors in the Barrier division increased from 7,716 males in 1894, to 10,776 in 1900. Instead of showing an increase, the next year exhibited a decrease to 9,596, and the total number of male and female voters in 1902-3, was 15,173.
– Could the Minister separate the numbers of male and female voters in the last return.
– No, from this paper I cannot give the male and female voters separately. In the Darling division - another drought-stricken district - there were 9257 male electors in 1894, and 13,994 in 1900. The number fell to 10,629 in 1901, or a decrease of nearly 3400 votes. The total number of voters male and female at the last collection in this year- 1902-3- was 16,236.
– Did not the right honorable gentlemen refer to Barrier as containing 18,-177 voters.
– Yes ; 15,173 was the total upon which the Electoral Commissioner based his distribution, but there have been further collections since, and the number has been increased from 15,173 to 18,177. I gave these figures before and I was not intending to repeat them just now. In the Riverina electorate there was an increase in the number of male electors from 9,102 in 1894, to 13,112 in 1900. Then, as we know, the drought continued with greater intensity, from about April or May 1900, until it broke up. The Riverina electorate which contained 13,11 1 electors in 1900 had only 10,229 electors in 1901, a reduction of 3000 male electors. When the Commissioner made- his distribution the total number was 16,242 - not males only, but males and females. Now, the number has been increased to 1 9,234. These figures show that in the case of all the electorates in the drought-stricken country the process of re-population is going on apace, and that the basis upon which the new divisions were made - the divisions were quite honestly made - was so shifting as to be a totally unjust one in its- essence for these constituencies, which are every day asserting their claim to the fairer treatment which we have decided to give them.
– Yet the Commissioner allowed for a difference of 8,000 votes between two sets of electorates.
– The right honorable gentleman is very fond of quoting figures showing that at the verv latest dates the number of electors in these divisions is increasing. He is thereby proving the case for the Government. We say that the old divisions are fairer than the hew ones, because the basis of population becomes less applicable every day to the new divisions and more applicable to the old ones. I arn taken somewhat at a disadvantage in this matter, because the Minister who has been in charge of the Department of Home Affairs throughout these changes in the population, and is best able to deal with the matter because he has all these figures at his fingers’ ends, is absent. When he returns he will, no doubt, supply any deficiency in my statement. We hear a great deal about the basis upon which the Electoral Commissioner made his distribution. The basis was a wrong one, and is disappearing every day. It was a false basis, not owing to any fault of the Commissioner, but owing to facts which are unfortunate for every State of the Commonwealth. That basis is vanishing as fast as Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, of which there was nothing left but the grin. On that basis, however, the right honorable gentleman draws attention to the fact that one group of seven electorates contains only 100,000 electors compared with another group of seven, favorable to himself, which contains 212,000 electors. That may be so ; I do not know. But figures which are being reformed every day form a very poor basis upon which to argue. Now let us see what value the right honorable gentleman attaches, as a consistent politician, to the question of the discrepancy in electoral values. Let us see how old and how true is his worship for the principle of one vote one value. In .1898 the right honorable gentleman went up for election. That was the occasion, to which he has referred, when I opposed him. Although I was defeated at East Sydney, I reduced his majority from thirty-seven to three - that is as between those who wanted te gerrymander the Commonwealth Bill, and those who wished to stick to it. Surely honorable members remember the gerrymandering Act which was passed, with the assistance of the right honorable gentleman, insisting upon a certain numerical majority before the Commonwealth Bill could be passed.
– That is not true.
– The right honorable gentleman never moved an amendment, nor did he in any out-spoken or valiant way attempt to prevent that Act from being passed.
– He voted against it.
– That is easily done. But in no valiant and outspoken way did my honorable friend attempt to prevent that thing from being done. ‘
– I did, indeed.
– It appeared that “ there were too many of our fellows in favour of adopting the Commonwealth Constitution.”
– The right honorable gentleman increased . my majority from two to twenty-one.
– The right honorable gentleman wants to lead me into by-ways to discuss the question why he left the sugar duties to stand at £3 per ton at a time when a certain vote of censure was proposed and gave a promise not to alter it, with the result that all the members representing the sugar districts were, not bought, but induced to vote for him.
– I shall leave Sydney to deal with the right honorable gentleman!
– I shall take care that Maitland deals with my right honorable friend, and I appreciate the chivalry, gallantry, and courage displayed by him in wishing to meet me with the main issue eliminated from the contest. I wish to give an instance of the right honorable gentleman’s worship of one vote one value. I brought forward an Electoral Bill in 1892 to give effect to the principle of one man one vote. It provided for single electorates, and that all elections should be held on the one day, and also for a redistribution of seats. A redistribution was then made, and the next election was held upon it. After that, when the right honorable gentleman was in power from 1894 to 1899, a distribution of seats was made by Commissioners appointed for the purpose. The right honorable gentleman, to whom one vote one value is a fetish now, never attempted to carry out that distribution by so much as a stir of the finger, and burked every attempt to carry it out. Then he went to the electorates with which he had gerrymandered.
– I shall have to speak again upon this.
– We have already had one hour and three-quarters of the right honorable gentleman this morning. He seems to be so afraid of me that he apparently feels that he must keep talking for the remainder of the time of this Parliament, in order that he may have a chance when he goes out of itDealing with the right honorable, member’s professed worship of the principle, one vote one value, I remind the Committee that, in speeches which have occupied four and aquarter hours, he spent some time in explaining that there were seven electorates with a voting ‘power of 100,000, whilst there were* seven other electorates favorable to himself with a voting power of 2 1 2,000. Apart from the criticisms I have passed upon the basis upon which the right honorable gentleman erects his structure, there is something more to be said in the nature of a comparison between the extent of his worship of the principle in 1898 and now. In 1892, as I have said, in the New South Wales Parliament, I introduced and piloted through the Legislative Assembly an Electoral Bill which, in its results, gave the people of New South Wales actual manhood suffrage without plural voting.
– The right honorable gentleman took up our Bill.
– I did not. The Bill I introduced contained very numerous alterations upon the Bill brought in by the Government of which the honorable, member for Macquarie was a member, and it was drawn in a very different way. It was drawn, no doubt, by the same draftsman, but under the instructions of a succeeding Government.
– The principle of one man one vote was contained in our Bill.
– The principle of one man one vote was contained in both.
– The right honorable gentleman’s colleague would not admit that the other night.
– My colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs was associated with Sir George Dibbs and myself in that Government.
– The right honorable gentleman’s colleague claimed to have introduced the principle.
– In any computation which is made of the time I occupy in a speech a very large deduction should be allowed in respect of the efforts of my honorable friend and others to take up time themselves. In the Bill to which I have referred we provided for one man one vote, and for a distribution of the electorates upon the principle of one vote one value within a margin of 600 one way or the other, which amounted,
Toughly, to 25 per cent. We recognised, as all Governments must, that with a population that is sometimes migratory, and in view of the fact that changes take place which are sometimes great and fleeting it is quite impossible to regulate these matters with absolute equality. Every Electoral Commissioner is for that reason allowed a margin. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act the margin allowed is 20 per cent., or a less margin by 5 per cent, than was allowed under the Bill to which I have referred. That Bill when passed contained a provision for the committal of the redistribution of seats to certain Electoral Commissioners. The Commissioners were appointed, and the electorates were distributed. This was in 1892. The right honorable member for East Sydney came into office in 1894, and his hold of office terminated, I think, in 1899. During the interval, in 1896 or 1897, the Electoral Commission was put in operation under the terms of the Act to which I have referred, and made a distribution of seats. My right honorable friend received the report of that distribution, but he did not act upon it. He retained the electoral divisions of some years before, prior to 1892. We did not hear a whisper about the principle of one vote one value when the right honorable gentleman determined to adhere to the old distribution, and to put that submitted by the Electoral Commission aside. Let me take the right honorable gentleman’s own basis of calculation by giving the figures of seven electorates. He has selected the seven electorates with the highest voting power for comparison with the seven having the lowest voting power. What do we find as the result of the right honorable gentleman’s action at the time to which I refer 1 It should be remembered that male suffrage only was in force, and that the electorates were small. Under the distribution to which the right honorable gentleman determined to adhere, seven electorates .had a combined voting power of 25,263, and seven electorates at the other end of the scale had a voting power of 12,853.
– Who did this ?
– The right honorable gentleman who sits opposite to me.
– I have dealt with that before. I shall now have to deal with it again.
– That does not appear to me to be of very great importance just now, because there is really nothing connected with this subject with which the right honorable gentleman has not dealt, before at least a hundred times.
– I’ have pointed out that what the right honorable gentleman states is not the case, by reference to the official figures of the report.
– Will the right honorable gentleman deny that, under the distribution which he adopted, there were seven electorates with a combined voting power of between 20,000 and 30,000, and another set of seven electorates with a voting power of between 12,000 and 16,000 ?
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow me to give him my answer now ?
– The right honorable- gentleman’ will please resume his seat. I object to any interruption. The right honorable gentleman never allows anybody to interrupt when he. is speaking, and let him now in all courtesy adhere to parliamentary methods of procedure. He will not deny, and he has not denied, that he left standing seven electorates, with the combined voting power of between 20,000 and 30,000, and another seven electorates with a combined voting power of between 12,000 and 16,000. I do not need to pursue the comparison. It is enough to say that the right honorable gentleman had an opportunity to rectify this discrepancy, and that he did not avail himself of it. I am not on that account going to lay a charge of falsity and fraud against him. He knew the figures and he does not deny that he knew them. .In dealing with the figures on the present occasion, the right honorable gentleman bases upon them a charge of falsity and fraud, the inference being that he was a pattern of rectitude with regard to the figures he dealt with himself - I beg the right honorable gentleman’s pardon - I should have said the figures with which he did not deal. There is the right honorable gentleman who speaks of hypocritical conduct and of lying and of gerrymandering.
– The right honorable gentleman has not stated the facts.
– The right honorable member may make his answer when his turn comes. He is altogether too expert in interruption. I must place this on record whether the right honorable gentleman likes it or not. There stands the fact : The right honorable gentleman allowed a condition of things to prevail which, according to his present views, was an’ enormity. In his view it was no enormity then, but the parallel is an enormity now.
– I say that the statement is riot true. That is my answer to the right honorable gentleman.
– The right honorable gentleman may make use of any unparliamentary expression he pleases, and I shall not have him called, to order, if he will but allow me to continue my speech. I am always met with a storm of interruption from honorable members on the other side, and I am on that account led to believe that I make them a little uncomfortable whenever I tackle them.
– The right honorable gentleman would be no. good if he did not.
– I am glad that the right honorable gentleman should testify to my power in that respect. Hearing the other side is a maxim of Parliamentary government, and as I am on one side, whilst the right honorable gentleman is on theother, he will, as an apostle of the principle of one vote one value, allow me to be heard. In the distribution to which I have referred, “ gerrymander “ the fact in speech as much asthe right honorable gentleman pleases - and that appears to be a parliamentary expression in use by my honorable friends opposite- - the staring fact remains, and the question of the right honorable gentleman’s consistency is where it always was - “Yes to-day and “ No “ to-morrow.
– Amen !
– There is. only one variation in his consistency, and that is when the right honorable gentleman utters “ yes “ amd “ no “ in the same breath. I have given an instance of the peculiartactics to which the right honorable gentleman has, as a skilful parliamentarian,, applied himself when conditions are changed,, the fact being that in one case he was in office, and in the other he was out. As I havesaid, I intend to have the figures which hehas produced to-day subjected to a searchinginvestigation. I shall have prepared an official report, divested, as far as possible, of any unnecessary comment. I shall haveit laid upon the table of the House, and I undertake to say that when that is done theright honorable gentleman’s discomfiture will be complete. One means which my righthonorable friend adopted by way of proving; his case was to try to combat the assertion of the changes that had taken place in the population of the electorates, owing to the operation of theseason of great trial through which New South “Wales, in common with other States, has passed, by quoting the electorate of Richmond. One would have thought that the right honorable gentleman would try toprove his case by quoting one of the waterless districts, one of those which had suffered from the drought, and by giving an analysis of the figures with regard to thatBut he gave an analysis with regard to theelectorate of Richmond, which includes theBallina, Lismore, Richmond, Tenterfield, and the Tweed State electorates. Let m& tell the Committee what sort of an electorate the Richmond is.
– I took the first electorate on the list.
– When I take the list prepared by the Electoral Commissioner, to whose report the right honorable gentleman appeals, I find that instead of Richmond being, the first electorate on the list it is the last but two.
– On this list 1
– On the list which the honorable member submits it is first. I suppose that it is by the same process that the right honorable gentleman discovered that Ashfield, the only new electorate in the list to which I have addressed myself this afternoon, is put last, because it is the only new electorate, and because that electorate and the Barrier are the only two which do not offer a comparison between the existing and the rejected divisions 1 That is why they appear so low on the list, as any one with any sense of fairness must admit. When the right honorable gentleman tells me that he has taken the first; one he finds, I can only say that the first he finds on his own list is likely to be the one he intends, to quote. Let me describe the electorate of Richmond, as the right honorable gentleman does not desire that it should be described. Is it a waterless district, or one affected by the shifting of population in time of drought - such a disturbance of population as takes place in the case of a gold rush, and the subsequent abandonment of the field? On the contrary, the electorate of Richmond is a fat district, a dairying, sugar, and maize district, having the benefit of coastal rains. It is not a district in which men are driven to the very verge of existence before they clear out in dread and terror, not to be attracted back until the seasons change, but one of the coastal districts that exhibits the least variation of population. That is the district which the right honorable gentleman selects as an example.
An Honorable Member. - The right honorable gentleman did not select East Sydney.
– No, he is sick of East Sydney, and desires to go somewhere else. The damsel has proved coy. Twenty thousand electors came to his meetings, but he could not get more than about 1,700 of them to vote for him. They were told that there was to be a great performance by the star actor.
Dramatically he resigned his seat, magnificently he posed before the electors, enormously he drew them to his meetings, to their infinite pleasure and his own, but when they went to the ballot-box, where his tongue was silent, and. their opinions alone were in evidence, only 1,700 turned up in response to his repeated appeals “ to give a chap a show.”
– There was a drought then.
– Yes ; but a drought of a character that my right honorable friend does not like as much as he does the drought which depopulates the electorates in which the producing classes reside, and gives him an excuse - to use his own words - for “ trying to rob them of their franchise.”
– There would not have been a drought if the Prime Minister had been there.
– I should have been as much a milk-and-water man there as I am now, and milk and water, no doubt, is the dictating note of my comments to-day. That is why the honorable member for Macquarie is so uneasy in his seat. He cannot remain in the same position for a moment. A pea in a rattle is nothing to him. He is rather a large sort of pea but a very dry one. ‘ This is the sort of subject which he makes the basis of his interruptions to a nice, pleasant spoken speech such as mine. This is the sort of thing which is quoted as a justification for an attack, if not upon the probity of Ministers, at least upon the probity of officials who are honorably doing their duty in the service of the Common wealth .
– The Prime Minister is talking a lot more now than he did when the Electoral Divisions Bill was under discussion.
– I am talking more now, and not unnaturally so. I will remind my right honorable friend that there is such a thing as patience. I have listened to all these bitter attacks, which have been of the most scandalous character, not only upon the reputation of public officials, but upon the honour of public men, with a degree of patience which I am sure the Committee can. appreciate even if the right honorable member cannot. But when this matter is again brought forward - even though the Electoral Divisions Bill is now about to receive the Royal assent - when the right honorable member tries to disentomb the work of Parliament and sets himself the task as a political body snatcher of trying to tear up the carcase, he is dreadfully stung if, after a discussion of the matter for three weeks or a month, I give him a polite reply. The right honorable member himself is very impatient of. interruption. Heis rude to anyone who interrupts him, even in the most civil way, and yet he cannot take his gruel without howling.
– The right honorable gentleman has recently gone in for boiled milk, find he howls more than ever.
– There is one thing about boiled milk, and it is this : that if it be applied to the wrong person - as it is in this instance - it is likely to prove a little scalding. I do not intend to follow my right honorable friend through his four hours’ jaunt.
– I will call it a chant if he prefers it. It is enough to expose him and his methods in a few instances. I claim that I have done that in speaking for the first time upon this question. Very properly I have previously left the talking to my honorable colleague who was in charge of the electoral resolutions and the Electoral Divisions Bill, but, now that he is absent, I feel called upon to reply to remarks which were no doubt made with the object of inducing rae to reply. I hope that I have done so not in an unfair spirit, and, if with a little warmth, with no more warmth than was sufficient to render my reply palatable to honorable members. To come to the question- of the referendum, I need scarcely point out that the right honorable member was prepared, under the new constituencies proposed by the Electoral Commissioners, to fight the fiscal issue in the ordinary way. But now that the electoral boundaries have been settled by Parliament, in pursuance of a discretion which was expressly reserved to it under the Electoral Act - the fact has been persistently ignored by honorable members opposite that it was intended that Parliament should express its approval or disapproval of the divisions - now that this House, in the exercise of its undoubted discretion, has, for reasons which commended themselves to a majority of honorable members, decided that in several States the divisions recommended by the Electoral Commissioners were not so fair as were the old divisions, he completely changes his tactics. It has been shown that to send the redistributions back to the Commissioners for reconsideration - even if there were time to adopt that course - would not remove the objections which were specially considered by Parliament itself, and for this reason : It has been stated by at least one of the Commissioners that the conditions governing the population and the repopulation of certain divisions were such that he had no right to pay regard to them. He ignored, in an honest view of his duty, an important factor which in itself was considered by Parliament to constitute a fatal defect in certain divisions by whomsoever they were recommended. Consequently, to send back the divisions to the Commissioners would not have remedied the defect; to do so would be to send them back to those who declared they had no power to remedy that particular defect. The obligation was, therefore, cast upon Parliament to do so. Parliament, after considering the ravages caused by the drought, and having regard to the wellknown effects of a prolonged drought in reducing the populations of the affected districts, without asking for statistical information upon the subject, has decided that if the old divisions were used as the basis for the forthcoming elections, there would .be more chance of the population of the electorates being fairly representative of tha States than there would be under the new divisions. Parliament came to that decision without casting the slightest calumny, upon the honour and rectitude of the Electoral Commissioners. That being so, the leader of the Opposition comes down here, with that noisy valour of his, which has been so often succeeded by a kind of Scotch pawky prudence, and tells us that the cards ate not to be dealt because, not dealing them himself, he does not know how they will fall. He says he would have gone to the country on the fiscal question under the new divisions without the suggestion of a referendum. And that was doubtless because he entertained the idea that he could take advantage of the distresses of the country electors consequent upon the drought to snatch another seat in the centres of population. Having believed that he had his clutch upon something which Parliament has now taken out of his hands, he exclaims - “ This is not a fair deal. If I cannot deal the cards myself I will not play you, but I am going to mark one card and call it referendum. I will play you with that marked card.” That is the new game in which he is to pose as the honest man claiming redress against a Ministry which seeks to disfranchise the people.
– There is nothing dishonest about his proposal.
– I am not saying that the referendum as a rule is a “marked card,” but when the leader of the Opposition, after being deprived of what he regarded as a certain seat, finds that Parliament will not approve of the distribution proposed, he turns round and exclaims - “ I want a referendum instead of the voice of the people.” I claim that this is practically a “ marked “ card.
– But a late repentance is better than none.
– There are many divines who say that the road to happiness in another world is never to be found by death -bed confessions.
– Jeremy Taylor had something to say upon that.
– Having been prepared to face a general election upon the fiscal issue until the old divisions were substituted for the new ones, the right honorable member now says - “ These divisions will not do.” To-day he again asks us to forget what he said about the fraudulent action of the Government and their officials - and practically the fraudulent action of a majority of this Parliament - to treat the matter as if those remarks had never been uttered, and all upon the ground of the suggested referendum. How can any honest Government adopt the suggestion when they are approached in that way ?
– An honest Government can alford to disregard charges of that sort.
– An honest Government cannot afford to grant a concession which would bear upon its face an acknowledgement of their guilt.
– It is a concession not to the leader of the Opposition, but to the people.
– It is nothing of the kind. A general election is the constitutional method by which the people decide these questions. The Constitution takes no account of the referendum except for certain specified purposes. Let nobody imagine that I am treating the result of a referendum with disrespect. The difference is that the leader of the Opposition asks: for this change upon the basis of an accusation which the Government, on. behalf of itself, on behalf of the Parliament, and of the public service, utterly resent, and. which I think I have disproved. We arebound to respect the divisions which have been approved by the Parliament, and if we consented to treat them as a nullity, and to resort to another method of. ascertaining public opinion, we should be branding ourselves as guilty of the very accusation which we resent. I say this, not out of any disrespect to those who are in favour of a referendum. I do not say that a referendum may not fitly be taken upon a constitutional question when there is no other accessible way of deciding it. But in this case weare asked to apply the referendum, as an engine of legislation, to apply a method quite different from that in which legislation is ordinarily determined. Why single out the fiscal question for decision by a referendum ? If my honorable friend believes the divisions are such that the next. House cannot be honestly elected, why does, he not say that there is no other question which such a Parliament can be trusted todetermine; and why, therefore, does he not require a referendum upon every question ?’ He cannot be consistent if he singles outthe fiscal question. He does not suggest that the new Parliament will be unfit to deal with other questions. His contention amounts to this - that it will not be fit to deal with the Tariff, but that it will be fitto deal with all other questions brought before it. He does not appeal for a referendum upon the Arbitration Bill, in regard to which his opinions are still in the solemn secrecy of his brain, but only upon one matter, in regard to which he fears that the Parliament elected upon the proposed basis will be adverse to, him. He wishes to be placed in a position which will enable him to enter into combinations - of course, all just and honest - with other members, either of this or the prospective Parliament. He desires to be able to say - “ The fiscal question has now been decided, and there is nothing to keep us apart.” My reply is that any one whoasks for that method should apply it to all questions. Do not let us single out oneparticular question in order to enable an astute leader to play a game which he knows how to play only too well, with an intimate knowledge, if not. of all, of certain cards in the pack. We shall not grant this request for a referendum. We say that- if there is to be a referendum for the settlement of public questions, then a referendum ought to be held only in accordance with a measure passed for that purpose. We say that in the nature of the case itself, and apart from other circumstances, there is no justification for singling out the fiscal issue* for a referendum, and that there is still less justification for doing so when the very foundation upon which this request is made is an allegation that a fraud has been committed, and that the Ministry and Parliament have assisted in its consummation. We cannot submit to that. We believe that the ordinary methods will suffice. If they are not good enough for my right honorable friend, they are good enough for us. We shall ask for a decision, not with the fiscal question separated from other issues, and not merely on the question of the Tariff, but also on an equally vital question - the question whether the fate of the Empire is to be in the hands of those who will take measures to promote its cohesion, or in the hands of those who by their policy would assist in its disintegration, and who, while propounding this policy in the name of free-trade, give not a snap of the finger for the dire results.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I am sorry that the Prime Minister should have reserved this long attack for a postmortem address. I addressed the Committee at some length yesterday, and he then had full opportunity to deal with all subjects. I do not complain of his lengthy speech. If he has so little regard for the value of public time, I need not consider it. The light honorable gentleman talks of political combinations, but I am happy to say that my public career from beginning to end does not show a trace of one alliance such as that .which he formed when he invited Sir William Lyne to join with him in this Ministry. Prior to that they were fighting on different sides. Sir William Lyne was trying to strangle the Federal movement ; he was denouncing Sir Edmund Barton as a conspirator against the people of Australia, and denouncing Federation as a gigantic fraud, which meant ruin to New South Wales. But when it came to a division of the spoils of office this arch anti-Federalist was taken to the bosom of the Federal apostle, and became his Minister for Home Affairs. This was the gentleman who had intrigued the Prime Minister out of the position of leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament in circumstances of personal humiliation. When the right honorable gentleman opposite got into the State Parliament by a back-door - I think he came down my way, got defeated, and had to get into Parliament by some hole in the fence in the shape of an up-country constituency - the Opposition thinking that they might do better with him than with Sir William Lyne solemnly elected him as their leader in the Parliament in which he says I had a majority of two. The result of his brilliant statemanship in that position was that when he challenged my possession of the confidence of the House, my majority of two rose to a majority of twenty-two.
– And shortly afterwards fell back to a minority of thirty-seven.
– This is the kind of leadership which, all through, has characterized the efforts of the right honorable gentleman. He has a beautifully solemn look, and a large stock of platitudes, but when he comes to deal with business he is an absolute failure, just as he was in the State Parliament. What had the Opposition in the’ State Parliament to do 1 They had to deal with the right honorable gentleman as an abject failure. They had to get rid of him in order to have a chance to- get rid of me. He received a .polite notice of ejectment, and had to resign. Then the present Minister for Trade and Customs, having mancevoured and engineered him out of the leadership of the Opposition, took charge, and succeeded much better than his predecessor as leader of the party. That honorable gentleman who inflicted this personal humiliation on the Prime Minister, and had been an anti-Federalist all through the Federal campaign, was taken into this Ministry by the Prime Minister as a trusted friend and colleague. If the right honorable gentleman desires to talk of combinations I think I may say that his political career is one of singular combinations. He was elected by a free-trade constitutency in New South Wales, as a follower of the late Sir Henry Parkes, sinking the fiscal issue in order to bring about Federation. Knowing him, I warned the electors. I said - “ This man whom you are electing on that basis will throw you over, and be AttorneyGeneral in the protectionist Ministry.”
Within six months from the date on which he was elected by the free-traders of East Sydney, upon the understanding that he would sink his protectionist principles and act behind Sir Henry Parkes, he threw the old gentleman over and joined a protectionist Ministry.
– I never threw Sir Henry Parkes over.
– Within a few months after his election the right honorable gentleman joined the protectionist Government.
– A few days before the right honorable gentleman joined the Dibbs Ministry and accepted Sir George Dibbs as his trusted chief, he said of him, according to the New South Wales Hansard -
I have the honour to characterize that as the statement of a gentleman - meaning Sir George Dibbs - who has as many policies in twenty-four hours as there are scales on a fish.
At the State elections he called Sir George Dibbs a conundrum which every one had to give up ; but a few months later when Sir George Dibbs had something ‘to offer him, that gentleman became in his view a states? man. I have had a different record.’ I have not been so ready to join with my political opponents. I have always pursued one straight line. I desire now to get away from these mere discursive allusions. I do not accuse the Prime Minister of having deliberately misstated the facts in regard to the position of some of the old New South Wales electorates. He has a great deal to attend to, and, so far as my actions are concerned, he finds he has very little to lay hold of. I desire now to deal with the matter of the redistribution of State electorates in 1898, to which the Prime Minister has referred. He led the House to believe that a redistribution of the electorates took place. That is absolutely false. As a matter of fact no redistribution took place. There were 125 constituencies in the State, and the Commissioners reported that out of that number there were thirteen divisions which were either above or below .the quota. I have here the report of the Commissioners, setting forth the details in relation to these thirteen electorates. It shows that the total number of electors above and below the quota in the whole of these thirteen electorates was 8,330. We see at once the desperate straits to which the Prime
Minister is reduced when he finds itnecessary to bring this matter forward as something relating to a distribution of Australia for a general election, in which hundreds of thousands of votes are concerned. I have a copy of the official report of the Electoral Office upon this matter, and I shall ask the Committee to allow me to read a few sentences from it. The Electoral Office “made this report to me -
It will ‘ be observed that should the proclamation of names and boundaries of the districts defined in the report referred to be made forthwith, ou approval of Parliament - which I am blamed for not doing- - complications must necessarily arise. Numbersof electors will be required to hand in their electors’ rights for existing electorates and apply for new rights for the newly-constituted districts, theproclamation of which does not take effect until the dissolution or expiration of Parliament. Consequently these electors will be disfranchised for the period extending from the time of issue of new rights for the newly-constituted districtsuntil such proclamation took effect, and a byelection for the existing electorate would probably be questioned.
If I had adopted this course, and a vacancy had occurred, it would have been impossible to return a member for one of these new electorates until the general election. In. view of all these facts, I think the Prime Minister was just a little harsh in bringingthis matter before the Committee as if it were on a par with the gigantic political steal which is represented by the transaction to which the Government is a party. I wish to show the Committee and the country the flimsy basis upon which the Federal Ministry have disfranchised tens of thousands of people. Here are the precious State documents which form, the authority for the statements they have submitted to the House. They carry on their very face proof of every statementI have made in this connexion. I am prepared to stand on every platform in Australia,, and from these documents convict the Government of every charge I have made. Here we have the figures. I am pleased that the Prime Minister was. thoughtful enough to .allow us a little daylight. Now, instead of speaking of newspaper statements, I can show honorablemembers from these official documents the trick which was played in putting a rejected division belonging to the Sydney area, at the bottom of the list. As a matter of fact, it should have been placed at the head of the list, but we find it following the country divisions at the very foot of it. What has the rejected division of Ashfield to do with Barrier, Riverina, Darling and Richmond ? Ashfield is in the very heart of the metropolis. With this one exception, we find all the rejected metropolitan divisions - East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Lang Dalley, Parkes, North Sydney, at the top of the list ; but Ashfield is placed at the bottom in order to conceal 25,000 electors from the eyes of the average reader, who glances from one column totheother.Ishall nowdeal with the other document upon which the House was asked to do what it has done. Will honorable members believe that, whereas a private member of this House took the precaution to go to the Electoral Office and obtain his information in black and white, this statement, which is put, forward as a justification for the robbery of a hundred thousand of votes, is a summary of something received by wire from Sydney. At the head of the document we have the words - “By wire from Sydney.” And this is the basis upon which the Government deals with the men and women of Australia. Where do we find the exodus of people from drought stricken centres which is said to have taken place 1 The document sets forth the figures relating to the years 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, and 1901. The figures for 1902-3 relate to male and female voters. But what about the latest information. When this document was obtained from the State office the Government could also have secured information relating to the present year. I obtained that information ; but they suppressed the line relating to the present year, which is the all important one so far as this question is concerned. There is no reference to it in this return.
– Ashfield is a new electorate.
– I am not speaking now of Ashfield, but of all the electorates. The three divisions of Barrier, Darling, and Riverina comprise half the State of New South Wales. Every line of the information which I obtained from the State Electoral-office should have been obtained by the Government. I obtained all the information which they have got, and, in addition, the figures for the present year. What we want to know is the state of the rolls at the present time. But the Government have not given us that information. Of course, the statement to which I have referred was obtained by telegraph, and one cannot criticise; such a statement so closely as a formal document. But there is this distinction between the Government return and mine : Both come from the same office, but the Government, return has been so carelessly prepared that it does not contain the proper divisions. It is absolutely incorrect. If I compare the returns, honorable members will see the reason. . The figures for the Commonwealth Darling division are correct so far as the State divisions of Bourke, Cobar,and Coonamble, which are comprised withinit, areconcerned; but the figures for the State divisions of Condobolin and the Barwon, only parts of which lie with . in the Commonwealth Darling division, are not correct. Then, although part of the State division of the Lachlan lies within the Commonwealth Darling division, its. population is not included in the Government return. That comparison alone carries the conviction that the Government return is not made out upon a proper basis, and does not accurately describe the electorates. But let us take it as it is. Let us look at the figures which have been added to it in pencil. These are the alterations by which the Government justify their action. For the Darling, Riverina, and Barrier they give the number of electors as 12,000, 14,900, and 15,000 respectively, as they are printed in the documents already published. But there are added in pencil the numbers 2,800, 4,300, and 3,000, an addition of about 9,000. As. I have pointed out, the total number of male electors in these three divisions is only 28,000. The Government figures, however, include male as well as female electors. Honorable members know that in the back country the number of women is very small as compared with the number of men.* Therefore, as the added number of male electors is only 9,000, there cannot be many female electors to be added, because those who know the bush are aware that in these remote pastoral ‘districts there are not many women. I shall refer to that matter again by-and-by. I hope that the Prime Minister will lay the return upon the table. I wish now to refer to his disingenuousness. I took up a number of documents, the first of which dealt with the population of the Richmond division, and the Prime Minister accused me of dealing with a division which had not suffered from the drought. Although he made that statement, he was in the Chamber when I dealt with the three big drought-stricken divisions of Darling, Riverina, and Barrier, and gave the returns for those divisions for a period of eleven years. Did he not, therefore, presume upon the intelligence of those to whom he was speaking, when, because I took as specimens first one district and then another, but addressed the bulk of my observations to the drought-stricken divisions, he said that I dealt only with divisions where there had been no drought? That sort of criticism may suit the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, because he is ready to swallow anything that he is told by the Prime Minister, but it is not candid enough for other men. It presumes too great a depth of ignorance. As I have had a very fair innings, I do not wish to occupy time much longer ; but there is one other matter to which I desire to refer. I yesterday delivered a long, and, so far as I could make it, emphatic, appeal to the Committee upon the subject of preferential trade. The Prime Minister followed me, and spoke at great length, but he said nothing about that particular subject. He must presume upon the ignorance of men when he thinks that they will believe that he innocently forgot to refer to it ; because he is always most industrious in taking notes. He writes like a typewriter when a member of the Opposition is speaking, so that he cannot forget matters as other honorable members who do not take notes may occasionally do. I had to ask him this morning, since he did not refer to the matter, what the policy of the Government would be. We have now had a statement of their policy, and I thank the right honorable gentleman for putting it forward with all possible fairness and plainness. We cannot have any complaint against the Government now that, thanks to my as’king the Prime Minister, we know what their policy is. We have it in plain black and white, so that no one can misunderstand it. But of all the depths of political absurdity the pretence expressed in this protectionist manifesto is the worst -
The call of Mr. Chamberlain with regard to reciprocal trade will be answered by Australians with a ready assent.
How can the right honorable gentleman speak of reciprocity when he will not take the shade of a fraction off the existing Australian Tariff? How can he ask Great
Britain to build new walls of taxation upon the food and raw products of her people when he will not take a single brick off the wall which shuts their manufactures out of this country ? He talks about Canada ; but that country has had the nobility to give Great Britain the advantage of a reduction of 33 per cent, without any haggling. The Prime Minister forgets that he is putting his Government in quite a different position. They are haggling for an agreement with Great Britain in order that they may get something ; Canada has offered a reduction of 33 per cent, without asking for anything. That reduction was a free-will gift on the part of the people of Canada to the people of Great Britain. They did not ask as a condition of giving that there should be even the shred of a tax imposed upon wheat. But the loyal followers of Mr. Chamberlain here want to trade upon the name of loyalty to the Empire. They want to trade upon the pretence of being willing to do something for the old mother country.’ But they will not relax a shred of their hostility to that country, as shown by the duties on the Tariff. They put forward the excuse that if the duties are lowered the revenue will suffer. But do we not know that the duties have been made high s» that there shall be no importations, and that if they were reduced the revenue would increase? These shallow statements may suit a jaded Prime Minister upon a Friday afternoon, but they will not suit the clearheaded intelligent people of the country. This loyal spirit of loving self-sacrifice upon the part of the protectionists is in marked distinction to the readiness with which they say that the free-trader would assist the foreigner. The free-traders of Australia believe in a revenue Tariff to provide for public necessities. The adoption of such a Tariff would shut out no nation. If Great Britain were treated in that way she would not have to ask .us to take down our Tariff wall. It is recognised that each country must raise revenue, and there is no complaint from the mother country about revenue duties. Her. complaint is against the unnatural conduct of her offspring in trying, by raising duties to such rates as to destroy the revenue, to inflict a cowardly blow upon the industry of their countrymen in Great Britain. It may be a matter of State policy, and justifiable upon high public grounds, to have a protective Tariff, but straightforward protectionists do not come whining about helping the mother country. They say “ We in Australia are a young people. Protection is a vital necessity of our conditions. We have to protect our industries even against the mother country.” Men who take that position are to be respected, because they say what they mean. But the man who puts this barrier up, and keeps it up, refusing to take it down, and at the same time pretends to embrace Mr. Chamberlain in a spirit of Imperial love and brotherhood, is a gigantic political fraud. In these matters of affection we should have no trickery of this kind. Let us talk sense. Let us speak as protectionists if necessary, and say, “ We have to impose these high duties. We do not impose them because of want of loyalty towards the mother country. Their imposition is part of our national policy.” But do not let honorable members, while insisting upon the retention of high duties as part of a national policy, pretend that they are surrendering something to help their distressed fellow countrymen in Great Britain. If the people of Great Britain are distressed and starving, and staggering under a weight of misery, is it not a refinement of human cruelty to try to add to their burdens, while cheating them out of a return? That is the language which I think right to use in this Chamber, and which I will use throughout Australia. I believe in a revenue Tariff, which is a Tariff which shuts out no one. Such a Tariff aims at producing revenue for the necessities of the Commonwealth, and every nation must impose revenue duties. But if we are to retain our protective Tariff, I believe in halving it. The Ministry have been plain, and I shall be plain too. As against the protectionists who offer the mother country a stone when she asks for bread, I offer to halve the existing duties. I appeal to the protectionists of Australia to act more nobly. I ask them to surrender their principles, at any rate to the extent of halving the 30 per cent, duties which are now levied upon a large number of articles ‘ manufactured in the mother country, and to make the rate 15 per cent.
– There are only two lines in the Tariff on which the rate of duty is 30 per cent. . “
– Yes. But it must not be forgotten that the items, boots, clothing, and hats are the chief things imported into Australia. 10 m 2
– The duty upon clothing is not 30 per cent.
– The duty upon clothing is 25 per’ cent. Fancy haggling over a difference of 5 per cent. ! But the duty on hats and boots and shoes is 30 per cent. The Treasurer’s figures show that the importation of apparel alone brings in revenue to the amount of £1,500,000 a year, notwithstanding the 30 per cent, duty which is charged with the object of preventing it. I ask protectionists who are ready to surrender part of their principles i to help the old country to do something real and substantial, not to cheat the old country by building a wall high enough to keep her out, and a still higher wall to keep out some one else. What advantage would it be to the mother country to be able to stray along a blind alley between two high walls? What sort of help is given to a man when he is shut inside one wall and outside another ? I am glad that the Ministry have at last shown some degree of straightforwardness in this matter, and have announced their policy in regard to it. As the Prime Minister knows, although when the Imperial Conference of 1897 was held there were only half-a dozen lines upon the New South Wales Tariff - narcotics, stimulants
– Yes, sugar. Altogether there were six or seven lines, but our ports were practically free. I said at that Conference that I did not believe in shutting out the old country, but that in order to encourage the reduction of Tariffs else.where I would be willing to reduce the New South Wales duties in order to give the mother country a preference.
– The right honorable member having nothing to give away, gave it all.
– I was willing to make an offer of the little I had to give. I was prepared to put theoretical principles aside. I was not ready to stand aside like the Pharisee, and let the publicans and sinners do what was necessary. I offered to identify myself with the movement, although I had so little to offer. But there is no excuse for this policy of the Government. . If it were intended that any substantial help should be given to the old country, there might be some justification for setting foreign countries against us. I wish to most earnestly impress this point. upon the Committee. Honorable members know that our exports to foreign countries are of quite double, if not more than double, the value of our imports from those countries of raw materials used in the primary industries of Australia. Our goods are being taken by rapidly increasing leaps and bounds by these foreign countries, and now the sales of outproduce in foreign markets represent many millions sterling per annum. What is the use of setting by the ears these foreign countries, which are our customers, to the extent of millions sterling a year if we are not going to do something substantial for the mother . country 1 What is the use of our talking of doing something, and not doing anything but raise, these buyers of our raw products against us. It is no light thing to do,. but I am willing to do it. I am not, however, willing to do it for the sake of mere sham. I am not willing to talk about removing obstacles iri the way of British trade without doing it.
– We want to place obstacles in the way of foreign trade.
– Unfortunately, among protectionists the term “ foreigners “ always includes the people of Great Britain. That is one of the worst features of the protectionist creed. The Victorian protectionists have not only treated Britishers as foreigners, but also their fellow Australians, by raising a barrier against them. Until honorable members who talk of protection, and, at the same time, speak of assisting the mother country, have some glimmering of real Imperial feeling, and can appreciate what will have to be done in order to give the old country a chance, they had better leave alone all talk about trade preference. I am satisfied now that the Prime Minister has placed his policy before us in a fair, straight, and open manner.
– The late Minister for Trade and Customs made a similar statement in connexion with the Tariff.
– I am not dealing with the late Minister for Trade and Customs. I am sometimes asked - “ Why don’t you continue to attack Mr. Kingston?” What sense would there be in. attacking a man who has left the Ministry 1 He is not a member of the Ministry, and I do not believe in fighting a man who is outside the range of Ministerial power.
– He has not changed his views.
– Those are matters for the right honorable and learned gentleman himself, and not for me. I am glad that we shall now have the Premier’s statement in plain black and white. I shall go to the country on _ this basis - that instead of keeping the Tariff wall up, we should take half of it down for the benefit of the mother country.
– What would the right honorable gentleman do about the foreigner ?
– The Prime Minister can raise the wall against the foreigner as high as he likes. That is a matter of indifference to me. But when honorable members try to persuade their fellow-countrymen in Great Britain into accepting conditions which u ill make their lives harder, which will increase the price of their bread, and make their food scantier, I say let them be honest, and give something substantial in return for that which is offered to us.
Sir EDMUND BARTON (HunterMinister for External Affairs). - I wish to say a word or two in explanation. I do not intend to make another speech or to imitate the example of my right honorable friend from whom we have had a third speech, and to whom we have had to listen for about five hours in the course of one Budget debate. I shall address myself almost solely to the charge made against me by the right honorable gentleman, because I can very well allow other matters between us to stand over for the present. He charged me with having thrown over the late Sir Henry Parkes. If I were guilty of that, I should be a very base person. It follows from that, that if the charge be untrue it is equally base. The right honorable gentleman, if he has a memory, must know that the facts were explained by me in public almost at the time they occurred. The facts were these : On one occasion - as the honorable member for Bland must well remember - the Parkes Government were defeated in connexion with an attempt made to recommit the Coal Mines Regulation Bill in the New South Wales Assembly. Sir Henry Parkes, during that debate, asked me into the Ministers’ room, attached to the House of Assembly in Sydney, and said to me - “ I can no longer continue to bear this strain ; I cannot continue to fight for federation.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “ My health will not permit me.” These matters have already been made public, so’ that I am not betraying any confidence. He said he feared paralysis, and that he could not continue to carry on the federal fight, because his colleagues were very much against his resigning his position as head of the Ministry. He said, pointing to an envelope upon the table containing a letter - “There is my way out of that difficulty ; it is my resignation of my seat in Parliament.” He added, “ You will have to continue this battle.” I said - “ I shall fight for federation all I can, but I wish to fight under you. I do not care if I fight in the ranks so Jong as you lead the movement.” He said, “ Unhappily, I can no longer sustain the fight.” Afterwards he became somewhat better, but never completely recovered: At that time there was in existence a free-trade Ministry, under Sir Henry Parkes, of which the right honorable gentleman opposite was not a member, but with which, I believe, the honorable and learned member for Parkes and the honorable member for Wentworth were associated. As was expected, the Government were defeated on that evening, and Sir Henry Parkes went out of office. The Ministry were defeated principally by the votes of the Labour Party, who were then in their first Parliament.
– The question at issue was the adoption of the eight hours system.
– The immediate question before the House was the recommittal of the Bill. I moved the adjournment of the debate, but the motion was defeated. The Ministry went out of office, and Sir Henry Parkes carried out his purpose, leaving me fully convinced that he was obliged for want of health to abandon the struggle for federation. As he was out of the political arena, and it was only because of Sir Henry Parkes’, association with that Ministry that I in any sense tried to save it from defeat, I felt that the free-trade party had no longer any claim upon me. So long as the Government would pursue my main object, which was to see Australia united, I would support it. After Sir Henry Parkes had gone, the consideration that bound me in any sense to his Administration was entirely, lacking, and it was for me to choose whether I should associate myself with those who . held the same fiscal views as myself, or take part in an Administration which, if it were formed would include gentlemen like the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney and the Honorable J. H. Want, both of them determined enemies of federation at that time. Honorable members may recollect the scathing criticisms which had fallen from my right honorable friend with regard to the Commonwealth Bill then before the public, and upon which the Constitution is so largely founded. I could not continue to support a man who I believed had left politics for ever. I was urged to join the incoming Ministry, which was composed of my normal political friends. I refused to do so, not for three days, but for a week, and was only persuaded to give way after I had obtained from my prospective colleagues certain guarantees that they would give their support to the federal movement. It was that support which eventually enabled me to obtain a vote of 58 against 17 in favour of the Commonwealth Bill. I refused to assist in putting the Parkes Government out of office for the reasons I have mentioned, and when I had lost Sir Henry Parkes there was no further bond between me and his party. I therefore took the only consistent course I could, by obtaining guarantees from my own political party, and to the extent to which it was possible I carried out my object. Honorable members are well acquainted with the subsequent history of the federal movement, and of the relative parts which the right honorable member and I have played in it. Honorable members will recollect that it was the right honorable gentleman who sat at the head of the Opposition when the new Ministry was formed, and that, until he recanted, any association of mine with him for the attainment of federation would have been worse than a farce.
– The Bill which I opposed was a most conservative measure as distinguished from the democratic Constitution we now have.
– It was so far from being conservative that! the present Constitution is founded upon it to a very large extent.
– The provisions of the Constitution have been very considerably democratized.
– The alterations have been very few.
– They were very material, otherwise the Rill would not have been passed.
– An important provision was inserted at the instance of my right honorable friend. We were of opinion that the Constitution could only be worked under responsible government, but in order that this might be made perfectly clear, my right honorable friend suggested the insertion of the provision which prevents a Minister from continuing in office after three months if he fails to obtain a seat in Parliament. That showed clearly that the administration was to be carried on by way of responsible government, and not by way of referendum. The right honorable gentleman, in mentioning that there was no distribution of seats in New South Wales in 1895 or 1896, made it clear that Commissioners were appointed for the distribution of the seats, that he received the report of the Commissioners, and that it rested with him to order the distribution or otherwise. He did not order that distribution, and. he says that there were only thirteen electotates which had more or less than the quota. The total number of electors represented by the differences below or above the quota was 8,000.
– That was not a general distribution, but related to only thirteen out of 125 electorates.
– I am coming to that. The right honorable gentleman makes a great fuss about three of the federal divisions. In the case to which I refer, thirteen electorates out of 125 would have been affected, if there had been a distribution on the principle of one vote one value. The quota was 2,200, and if honorable members divide the 8,000 votes which were outside the quota on one side or the other by the number of electorates, namely thirteen, they will arrive at an average of 615 voters per electorate. That represents between 25 and 30 per cent. excess over the maximum or below the minimum. Therefore, the very evil of which the right honorable gentleman now complains, existed in these electorates. When one considers that there was only a quota of 2,200 votes, or something like that number - I Speak subject to correction if I am wrong - it will be seen that the electorates were small, and that this difference one way or the other of 615 votes was really a difference of nearly 30 per cent.
This would be equivalent to an average difference of 7,000 in the case of the electorates with which we are now concerned if the collection of the rolls were complete. The proportions between thirteen electoratesout of 125, and three out of seventy-five my right honorable friend can reckon out for himself ; but every one who hears me will see that the thirteen presented a very different proportion to the area and number of the seats to. be distributed, and that they were not one-twenty-fifth but about one-ninth, which is a very much larger proportion. Their discrepancy was, as I have shown, equivalent to an average discrepancy in these electorates, about which the right honorable gentleman makes so much noise, of over 7,000 electors.
– In view of the exceptional nature of the debate, which has. consisted so largely of a duel between the leaders of both sides, the Prime Minister might now consent to an adjournment.
– I prefer that we should go on until 4 o’clock.
– I have taken the trouble to prepare a statement of the difference in voting power between the various electorates to which reference has already been very fully made. Honorable members will be rather astonished to find that the six Victorian electorates of Kooyong, Balaclava, Yarra, Bourke, and Southern and Northern Melbourne contain no less than 207,791 electors, whilst another set of six electorates, Wimmera, Indi, Laanecoorie, Gippsland, Echuca and Moira contain only 112,013 electors. This shows a difference in voting power between these two sets of electorates to the extent of 95,778, and it involves the disfranchisement of no less than 15,000 electors in excess of the total number of the electors of Tasmania. It has been urged that country districts should have increased representation on account of their extent, but I find that five country electorates in Victoria contain 125,984 electors, whilst another set of five country electorates contains only 91,932 electors, or a difference of 34,052. Combining the electorates to which I have referred, it will be found that between the two sets of eleven electorates there is a difference in voting power of no less than 130,000 electors, and these will be disfranchised by the Bill which we have recently passed. Wilt (honorable members contend for a moment that that is a fair method of distribution 1 Though we were justified in demanding that the fullest official information referring to the exodus of the people from the country districts should be laid upon the table of the House, the bald statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs, that a large number of people have left the country districts, was blindly accepted. Under the Constitution there is equality in the payment of taxation ; but the Government have not permitted the electors to exercise an equal voting power in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We have deliberately passed an Act giving people equal electoral rights, and the Government have taken these rights away, while they adhere to a system of equal taxation. I have pointed out that in six electorates of Victoria 15,000 more electors in excess of the number in the whole State of Tasmania will be disfranchised under the Government scheme. I am sure that our Tasmanian friends do not approve of that. We know that in the Senate there is equal, representation of the States without regard i to the difference in population ; but that has been accepted by the people, and we ‘ should loyally abide by it. The Prime Minister, when before his electors, dealt with that ; but he did not tell the people that, in addition to the equal representation given to the smaller States in the Senate under the Constitution, he intended in six electorates of Victoria to disfranchise 15,000 more electors than there are in the State of Tasmania. The right honorable gentleman dealt with the reference by the leader of the Opposition to the electorate of Richmond ; but, as has been pointed out bv. the leader of the Opposition, the electorate of Richmond happened to be the first electorate named on the list supplied to him by the Electoral Officer. We admit that the Richmond and Hunter districts are not droughtstricken ; but the figures show that, whilst in the New England electorate there are 23,378 electors, in the Richmond electorate adjoining, and divided from the New England electorate only by a bridle track there are only 16,897. Can any one justify a proposal which gives the same voting power to the electors of New England and Richmond, when there is a difference of nearly 8,000 electors between them ? By the action they have taken, the
Government are perpetrating a gross wrong upon the people of the Commonwealth. An endeavour has been made to show that the objection taken to the proposal of the Government is a movement in favour of city electorates as against country electorates. I represent a country electorate, and during my political career I have done as much to advance the interests of the primary producer as most men. I cannot, therefore, be accused of favouring city electorates as against country electorates ; but I believe in fair play for the whole of the electors of the Commonwealth, and in giving them the rights to which they are entitled under the Constitution. The Prime Minister told the people that under the Constitution they would have equal voting power, and now that the Constitution has been accepted he places them in such a position that an elector in one constituency is given nearly three times as much voting power as an elector in another. Is that a fair way in which to deal with the electors of the Commonwealth 1 Take, for example, four country electorates - namely, the Hunter, New England, Cowper, and Illawarra. Those electorates contain 95,063 voters, whereas four other country constituencies contain only 59,129. Again, let us take eight city divisions. These contain 241,898 electors, whereas eight other constituencies embrace only 130,000 voters. Turning to the female vote, I may instance the districts of Parkes, Lang, West Sydney, East Sydney, Wentworth, Dalley, South Sydney, and Newcastle, which contain 133,000 women electors, whereas eight other divisions contain only 52,000. Under the proposals of the Government, however, the 52,000 females would exercise as much political power as the 133,000. Moreover, in two of the States the Government have adopted the principle of one vote one value. In South Australia there . are two city constituencies which contain 47,081 electors, whereas two country constituencies contain 47,354. or nearly 300 more. Turning to Tasmania, I find that the division of Denison contains 16,220 electors, and La Perouse 16,122. There, practically an equal value is attached to each vote. I understand that the Denison division includes part of the electorate of one of the Ministers, who was returned to this House as a free-trader. I have no complaint to make in regard to the divisions of Tasmania. It returned all free-traders save one. The exception was not the PostmasterGeneral.
– Why does the honorable member make nasty insinuations in reference to honorable members who cross to this side of the House ?
– I repeat that Tasmania returned all free-traders save one. Had the Postmaster-General appeared before his constituents and told them that he had seen fit to alter his fiscal opinions, I should not have referred to the matter.
– Wait till the honorable member ascertains what the electors of Macquarie think about his insinuations.
– I am accustomed to hearing statements of that character. I have faced the electors of New South Wales for twenty-one years and only once have I been defeated. On that occasion I practically defeated myself by adhering to principle, because, if I cannot enter Parliament by the front door, I do not wish to enter it at all. I think it will be generally admitted that we have to suffer financially, because of our political ambitions. But to resume the thread of my previous remarks let me point to the State of Queensland. In three country electorates in that State there are 55,000 voters, whereas in three’ others there are 81,000.
– What is the quota in Queensland 1
– But the Constitution and the electoral laws provide that the quota shall be ascertained in a certain way.
– New South Wales gets credit for more than her due.
– Why ?
– Because the rolls have been badly collected.
– Does not that statement prove the incapacity of those who have had charge of this matter ? Even the Government themselves admit that the rolls are imperfect. But it is useless for them to attempt to palliate their shortcomings by pleading that as an excuse. During this debate reference was made to the employment of white men in the stoke-holes of our mail steamers. The statement was made that it was absolutely cruel to employ white men in that labour. In this connexion, I remember that a few years ago the circumstances surrounding employment in certain New South
Wales mines were such that it was positively dangerous for miners to engage in their avocation. What did the Government do ? I had the honour of piloting a Bill through Parliament which compelled the mine owners to supply their employe’s with a fair quantity of pure air, and to see that proper safeguards were provided in case of accident. If the condition of the stokers in our mail steamers is as bad as has been represented, the owners of those boats- should be compelled to effect a radical change.
– What about the stoke-holes of a man-of-war ? They are much hotter than are the stoke-holes of a mail steamer.
– Why is it nob possible to invent some mechanical appliance which will overcome this trouble ?
– It has been done.
– Then an agitation should be aroused which would compel the owners of these vessels to materially improve the conditions surrounding the’ employment of the stokers upon them. I know many worthy citizens who were at one time employed in this capacity. One man, whom I am pleased to call my friend, was compelled in his early days to work on these vessels under very adverse conditions,, and it seems to me that the time has arrived when an agitation should be set on foot to. effect reforms in this direction. The matter is worthy of the consideration of the Government. I know that we have no control over the vessels of other nations, but in view of the serious statements which have been made, the Government might very well urge the Imperial authorities to endeavour, if possible, to bring about a better state of affairs. I desire now to refer to our Def en ce Forces. The question of defence, from time to time, has been discussed very freely in this House, but the greatest difficulty has been experienced in’ obtaining any information in regard to the position of the forces. The honorable member for Dalley will support me when I say that we experienced similar trouble in dealing with the State forces of New South Wales in the State Parliament. Defence Estimates were submitted from year to year, and members were told that such and such a vote was necessary but it was impossible to elicit any full statement as to the working of the Department. We knew that maladministration existed. We felt satisfied that some of the highest positions in the service were given to certain men, not because they were well versed in military affairs, but possibly because they were able to bring influence to bear. The position of affairs was little short of scandalous. We endeavoured to bring about a reform, and succeeded to a certain extent in our efforts. But the position was never satisfactory. Large sums of money were passed to provide for the maintenance and control of the forces, not in accordance with’ the wishes of the State Legislature, but often simply . in accordance with the whim of men who had not the capacity to properly discharge the important . duties devolving upon them. When the first Defence Estimates were submitted to this House, honorable1 members were so much in the dark as to the true state of affairs and the purposes for which the vote was required, that they felt constrained to call upon the Treasurer to largely reduce them. , I admit that it was a most unsatisfactory way in which to deal with so great a question. We considered that the vote asked for was far too great. We knew that i t was far in excess of the estimate formed at the Convention, and that there must be something rotten in the state of Denmark, and, therefore, although we had no details available for our guidance, we determined to reduce the Estimates by something like £100,000. Last year we made a further reduction ; but it is still very difficult to obtain a grip of the position of our defences. I have nothing to say against the members of the forces.” I believe that we have an abundance of good material ; but, in view of the small return we obtain for our large expenditure, it is evident that some reform is necessary.
– We are practically voting in the dark.
– Exactly. On a previous occasion I made a suggestion in reference to this matter, which I believe might well have been adopted with advantage to the Commonwealth. Some time ago the British Government found it necessary to appoint a Commission to inquire into the arrangements which were made by the War Office in connexion with the South African campaign. That Commission has recently presented a report which reveals a startling state of affairs, and the British Government will find it necessary to take prompt action to effect reforms. It seems to me that we might with advantage follow the action taken by the Imperial authorities, and appoint a Commission consisting of men of business capacity, as well as men of military training, to inquire into the condition of our defences. Let us have on this Commission a combination of business and military training, and we shall obtain from it a report which will remove some of the difficulties under which we at present labour. We shall then learn how our money is being expended, whether our defences are sound, and whether the best use is being made of the material at our disposal. The British Commission on the conduct of affairs in South Africa will do for the land forces what Lord Charles Beresford and other reformers have done for the British Navy. Lord Charles Beresford, by his timely criticisms of the Navy, did a great service to the Empire. He referred to many matters in terms which might have rendered him liable to dismissal from the Navy, but he felt that the position of the Empire was at stake, and he did not hesitate to criticise the very men with whom he had long been associated. Many people declared at the time that he was wrong, but to-day he occupies one of the highest positions in the naval world. As a Minister as well as a private member in the State Parliament, I frequently experienced great difficulty, owing to the scanty information forthcoming from the Department, in dealing with the State Defences, and I feel now that we do not receive a sufficient return for the money expended on our forces. We certainly have a fine body of soldiers, as is shown by the work done by our men in South Africa, but we are not using our material to the best advantage. I hope that the Treasurer will give this suggestion his early consideration. A Commission would do good service to the Commonwealth.. The leader of the Opposition has referred in very strong terms to the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to the question of preferential trade. I am glad that we have at last obtained from the Prime Minister a straight out declaration as to the course which the Government propose to pursue. From time to time we have heard various rumours. We have read of cablegrams’ of congratulation being sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but we have asked in vain for information as to the views of the Government. We have urged that, instead of allowing the people of England to be misled by unauthorized cablegrams pledging Australia to Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal, the Government should tell the House . and the country exactly what they propose- to do. We were told that the cablegram sent by Mr. Deakin to the Secretary of State for the Colonies was merely an expression of opinion on the part of one member of the Cabinet. The Government cannot shirk their responsibility in that way, and I contend that thev should have come down to the House months ago with a straight-out declaration. They should have plainly stated their intentions, and ascertained the will of the Parliament. The leader of the Opposition was justified in inquiring whether any special- significance was to be attached to the presence of two members of the Ministry at the recent protectionist conference which sent a cablegram to Mr. Chamberlain on the question of preferential trade. If the Government had said at the outset - “ We have not at present sufficient information as to Mr. Chamberlain’s proposals to enable us to give any expression of opinion upon it,” the position would have been different. But they have to-day no further information than they possessed months ago. It seems to me, therefore, that the Prime Minister should at once have taken the House into his confidence, that he should have made this announcement months ago. I am satisfied that the public will not indorse this proposal. At a recent by-election in Great Britain a strong Conservative seat, which the Government had held for years, was won by a Liberal, and this may be taken as an indica- tion that the people of England are opposed to Mr. Chamberlain’s preferential policy. We have often been told by Ministerial supporters, when we have quoted the opinions of prominent Labour leaders and representatives in the old country, to show that they are strongly in favour of free-trade, that they do not represent the opinions of. the working classes in Great Britain. It has recently been conclusively shown, however, that the working classes there are practically unanimously in favour of freetrade. They know what it was to live wider the -curse of protection. They know what the families and wives of the working men had to endure in the early ‘40’s, when they asked for bread and were given stones, and what a great improvement of conditions there has been under free-trade.
– And they are not going to be bought over by Mr. Chamberlain’s offer of old-age pensions.
– No. It seemsto me that Mr. Chamberlain is adopting the policy of the Prime Minister here. When the Prime Minister delivered his Maitland speech he told the people of Australia that he would give them an old-age pension system and a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. He made that promise in order to win over the labouring classes to protection,, and wasso successful in securing their support that Mr. Chamberlain is now following his ex- : ample. .
– But what response is MrChamberlain getting from the workers 1
– They have told him practically that, in view of the Australian experience, they will not be caught napping.
– Last year the honorable member used to refer to Mr. Chamberlain as “Brother Joe.”
– I admit that Mr. Chamberlain is a man of ability. He is not the only great man who has seceded from the Liberal Party, not because he differed from them in regard to the Liberal policy generally, but for other reasons. Many men left that party because they were dissatisfied with Mr. Gladstone’s policy in regard to Home Rule. I remember reading a speech delivered by the late Sir Henry Parkes, in which be referred to Mr. Chamberlain as a great Liberal and Freetrader who would never turn from the policy of free-trade.
– Mr. Chamberlain did good work for the Liberal Party before he left it.
– Yes. I can “point to many utterances- by Mr. Chamberlain, in which he insisted upon the disastrous effects of protection in the old country, and. said that Great Britain would never prosper under that policy.
– What did the honorable member do in regard to the Arbitration, and Conciliation Bill ‘I
– He helped to tal it.
– It is wellknown who helped to kill that Bill. I could throw some sidelights upon the subjectwhich would show why the Government thought fit to drop it. The Minister for Home. Affairs knows that’ they thought it better to accept defeat upon the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy than to face the music on the amendment which would have been brought forward by the right honorable member for South Australia. The right honorable member told “us that, although he was always a strong advocate of arbitration - and we know that that is so - he had great difficulty in getting hia colleagues to carry out his principles. He made no secret of that. When the Attorney-General said that it was unfair for him to complain of the delay on the part of the Government in connexion with the measure, he answered - “ The cause of the delay was that I had trouble with my colleagues in Cabinet to get the principles I -advocated adopted.” I congratulate the Treasurer upon the courtesy and consideration which he always shows to honorable members generally. Although I differ, from him in regard to matters of policy, I acknowlege his readiness to at all times supply honorable members with reliable information. I hope that the Government will adopt my suggestion, and have an inquiry made as to whether the condition of our seamen cannot bo improved by legislation, and also appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the question of Defence.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1903, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030911_reps_1_16/>.