2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
ADMINISTRATION OF OATH.
Mr. SPEAKER.- I have to report that I have received a commission from His Excellency the Governor-General empowering me to administer the oath to honorable members who may present themselves to be sworn.
Mr. LONSDALE made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of New England.
RIGHTS OF TRANSFERRED OFFICERS.
Mr. POYNTON asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does not section 84 of Chapter IV. of the Commonwealth Constitution, and also section 60 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act,Part 5, of 1902, preserve to transferred officers all accrued and accruing rights under State Acts.
By what authority has the Public Service Commissioner withheld payment of annual increments to salaries over£160, due to South Australian transferred Federal officers.
Will the Government issue instructions that the increases provided for by the South Australian State Act of 1874, the right to which is preserved by the Commonwealth Constitution and Public Service Acts, and which increases are provided for on the Estimates for 1903-4, and authorized by Parliament, be paid without further delay to officers who have already been greatly inconvenienced by the non-payment.
Mr. DEAKIN. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
This matter is now receiving the attention of the Government, and I hope very shortly to be in a position to make a statement as to the course which will be followed.
REPATRIATION OF POLYNESIANS.
Mr. BAMFORD asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, taking into consideration the fact that recruiting Polynesians for Queenslandhas ceased, and that consequently no labour vessels are now leaving Queensland for the South Sea Islands, thus creating a difficulty in the return of Islanders whose agreements have expired, the Government has made any arrangements for the return of these men.
If not, does the Government intend to adopt any measures insuring the return of South Sea islanders whose agreements have expired, and who desire to return to their homes.
Mr. DEAKIN. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The return of the Islanders is provided for by the Queensland Acts, which authorize their introduction. These Acts are administered ‘by the Queensland Government, who control the fund from which the expenses of returning Islanders to their homes are defrayed. The Government has received no information of any difficulties having arisen in regard to providing means of conveyance.
Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the table the following papers: -
Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure, and Auditor-General’s Report for 1902-3.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers
Public . Service Act 1902, papers relating to promotion of P. Howe, Postmaster-General’s Department. immigration Restriction Act, New Regulation.
Return of persons refused admission, admitted on passing die test, and admitted without its application.
– I move -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at half-past two o’clock on each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past ten o’clock on each Friday morning.
Some question was raised last evening, of which I -did not catch the “ full purport, with regard to the proposal contained in the motion. I shall be glad to hear what any honorable member may have .to say with regard to. it.
– I objected to the proposal on the ground that it is undesirable that the House should sit on four days in the week. Regarding the question from the Ministerial point of view, it seems to me to be utterly impossible for Ministers to give proper ‘attention to public business whilst Parliament is meeting for four days in the week. Many of the faults in their administration may be to a certain extent attributed to the fact that they have had no time whatever during the greater part of the last two years to attend to that important branch of their duties, and have had to delegate some of their functions to the permanent heads of the departments. Honorable members are interested in reserving to themselves sufficient time to enable them to consider in the fullest detail every measure brought before us. With the House sitting four days a week this is impossible. Every Act passed by us contains serious defects. I need only refer to the Electoral Act, which was so badly drawn, and was so altered during its passage through the House that doubt has arisen whether the High Court can deal with cases of bribery and corruption. We shall do well if we legislate for two days in the week, and reserve the other four days for the careful study of the measures before us, If the House is prepared to remit the duty of making laws to the Parliamentary Drafts man I admit that my objection falls’ to the ground ; but I do not think we have yet come to that. We think that the Bills passed in this -House should express the considered intention of honorable .members, and in the last Parliament we sat so frequently that it was utterly impossible for us to properly, consider the measures brought before us. That honorable members were themselves conscious of this is shown by the fact that on many occasions we failed to get a quorum except by the ringing of the bells. I think that upon one occasion I had myself to draw attention to the fact, no less than seventeen times, that there was not a quorum df members in the chamber. This shows that honorable members were not in a fit condition of mind to deal with business. If we are going to do anything more than merely play at legislation we must have time for the consideration of the measures brought before us. Unless we have that time we shall be no more than any outside committee of men to whom a matter is presented for decision after five minutes’ consideration.. I am sure that three days are often enough for the House to sit during the week ; and, allowing one day for rest, that would give us three days in which to look into the measures submitted to us. It may be- said that honorable members coming from other States will be very desirous of getting through the legislative work of the session as quickly as possible, but the aim of Parliament should be to legislate not quickly but well. I am certain that honorable members would not have voted as they did vote upon many clauses in Bills submitted to them if they had had time to consider those Bills in the way they should have been - considered. The matter is not one which I intend to labour ,; but I repeat that it is impossible for any House to thoroughly consider the measures brought before it if it is asked to sit more than three days in the week, and it is equally impossible for the administrative work to be properly carried on by the Executive if we are expected to sit more frequently. We admit that a certain amount of time is necessary to enable the Executive to attend to administrative work by the fact that we do not propose to meet in the morning. If we adopt this motion in its entirety we shall enter upon the same bad practice as before, and while we shall be passing a great many laws, they certainly will not be sensible laws. If. we do not take the time necessary for the proper consideration of legislative measures we shall have no right to call ourselves a deliberate assembly.
– I entirely agree with the honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat with regard to the number of days of sitting. A great many honorable members of this House, and of all Parliaments throughout the British dominions, are fortunately engaged in trade or have private business to attend to, which necessitates their devoting two or three days a week to their private callings. I consider that three days in the week is quite sufficient for honorable members to devote to parliamentary business if they desire to conduct it properly. A certain amount of time must be given by honorable members to their private business, and we do not desire that the Victorian State Parliament, the Federal Parliament, or any other Parliament in the British dominions, should be ruled entirely by professional politicians.
– The honorable member is speaking for Victoria.
– I am speaking for the whole of the States of Australia. I do not desire that their Parliaments should be conducted entirely by professional politicians. I would say to my professional friends that, while I admit that a few of them may be necessary, we do not desire that all the members of our Parliaments should be professional politicians. We desire that there should be many honorable members who have business outside Parliament, and who are able to bring their business knowledge into parliamentary proceedings. I hope that if the House decides not to sit upon Fridays, the Ministry will not accept the ‘decision as an adverse motion, and send in their resignations, because I should not like to see public business incommoded at this very early stage. I do trust, however, that the House will decide not to sit on Friday.
– I should not have said anything at all upon this motion had it not been for the last speaker. The honorable member’s speech was such a selfish one that it requires some answer. I come from a State to which it is impossible for me to get back at the week-end to attend to my private business. A number of other honorable members are in the same position, but the honorable member seems to think that so long as he can get back to attend to his little business, which happens to be only a mile or two from this place-
– I was considering New
South Wales and South Australian members as well.
– He is quite satisfied to give the best portion of his intellect to his private business, and the weaker portion of it to the business of the Commonwealth. My opinion is, that a man who goes into Parliament and is paid£400 a year-
– Does not get one-quarter enough.
– I do not say that he is sufficiently paid, but I do say that it is his duty to give his best intellect to the service of the Commonwealth first, and if he is not prepared to do that he has no right to a seat in Parliament. When the honorable member talks of professional politicians, I suppose he refers particularly to the members of the Labour Party.
– Oh. no.
– I assumed that the honorable member “did. I have heard this kind of thing before, and understand that the honorable member is a prominent supporter of the Employers’ Federation. If he were ill to-morrow I am sure that he would secure the best professional advice he could get, but he is prepared for a system of quackery so far as politics are concerned. The sooner that the people realize that it is necessary that the men sent to Parliament should not only take a keen interest in politics, but should also make a study of politics, the better it will be for the interests of Australia. I trust we shall not have in Parliament such a lot of political quacks as we have had in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business, and that on each Thursday, until halfpast 6 o’clock until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.
I had proposed to adopt the practice under which we worked during the last Parliamentwith varying success, but have always doubted as to whether the time proposed to be allotted to private business was wisely placed at the end of the week. Any interruption of Government business either during the week or at the end of the week is of course undesirable, in the view of those who are charged with its transaction. But it is a perfectly open question as to whether the Friday sitting provides the best means of dealing with private business. The Cabinet, after consideration, thought that if the practice were left as it was. it would be attended with advantages, but I have since had an opportunity of consulting several honormembers who sit on this side of the House, who are of opinion that probably the one means of dealing with the question would be as useful as the other. I am, therefore, prepared by way of experiment - as we know the consequences of dealing with private business on Friday - to allot one afternoon each week during the next two or three months in lieu of Friday for the transaction of private business.
– The afternoon, not the evening ?
– No, only the afternoon till the adjournment for dinner. It seems to me that whilst the period thus allowed for Government business will suffice at the opening of the session, probably towards the end of it we shall have to revert to our former practice. However, I have no objection to taking business in that order for a . time. I propose, therefore, that upon Thursday afternoon, from 2.30 to 6.30 p.m., private members’ business shall take precedence of all other business, I have consulted those who are in charge of the Government business in the Senate upon this matter, and they assure me that the arrangement proposed has worked satisfactorily there. They do not know that it is better than devoting Friday to private members’ business ; but they are satisfied that from the Government point of view it is satisfactory.
– I am strongly of the opinion that the motion in its original form should be adhered to. In former sessions Friday was usually set apart for the transaction of private business, and our experience of that practice was that the matters discussed were not sufficiently important to attract a large attendance of honorable members. Consequently I fail to see why we should, in the middle of the week, break in upon the continuity of Bills with which we have been dealing. In legislative measures I claim that it is advisable that as far as .possible there should be some continuity of thought. The frequent breaks which occurred in the discussion of important Bills last session were responsible for very much of the trouble which has arisen in regard to the form in which those measures ultimately passed. ‘We never quite understood where we were. Now it is proposed to make an alteration in the order of business primarily for the purpose of suiting those honorable members who desire to discuss matters which are in reality so unimportant that they are unable to induce the Government to take them up. The three hours weekly which the Ministry propose to devote to the transaction of private members’ business is obviously insufficient. On the other hand, the adoption of the Government proposal will obtrude a break in the conduct of public business. By setting apart Friday for the transaction of private business, honorable members who wish to do so will be afforded an opportunity to become thoroughly conversant with the provisions contained in the various measures which are submitted for their consideration. It is proposed that this House shall meet upon four days a week; but if I were to take advantage of the forms of the House and insist upon a quorum being present during the whole of the sittings-
– But why do that?
– Unless there is a full attendance of honorable members, we shall have legislation enacted in the interest only of a section of the community.
– The others should be here.
– I do not propose to discuss the question as to who are usually the absentees.
– The honorable and learned member might just as well do so.
– The honorable member seems to regard attendance in the chamber at half-past 2 o’clock, when the names of honorable members are officially recorded as a proof that those who are then present pay the greatest, amount of attention to their legislative work. As a matter of “fact it is not so. Some of the most regular attendants at the opening of the sittings of this House are most frequently absentees. We get no contributions to the general debates from them, If we are to have legislation for the whole community, and if honorable members desire to sit continuously, let us have three shifts a day of eight hours each. I unhesitatingly assert that the feeling of the people of the Commonwealth is that we are suffering from too much legislation at the present time. It is high time that we were afforded an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes of the past, and to study in detail all Bills which are submitted for our consideration. The proposal of the Prime Minister will create a blank in the conduct of public business upon Thursday afternoon. If there is to be any such blank it should occur on Friday. I am so convinced that honorable members cannot efficiently discharge their legislative functions if they are required to travel to and from other States at the beginning and end of each week, that I have made preparations to reside in Melbourne continuously during the sittings of the House. At the same time I cannot take part in enacting legislation upon four days a week and do the reading that is necessary upon the other two, although I have as much physical health and vigour as has any honorable member of this House. Unfortunately, some honorable members fear that if Parliament does not sit continuously the public may think that no useful work is being accomplished. In my judgment the worst kind of work is usually work which is performed when Parliament is in session, because it is so frequently engaged in enacting legislation in the nature of meddlesome interference with private enterprise. Our parliamentary institutions are declining in the estimation of the public. I venture to affirm that not a single measure was passed during the last Parliament which does not urgently require amendment. I must, therefore, protest against the motion which has been submitted. If there is to be any hiatus in the conduct of public business, by all means let it occur upon the last day of each week.
Question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2nd March (vide page 16), on motion by Mir. Deakin -
That on Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, General business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : - On one Friday - Notices of Motion, Orders of the Day ; on the alternate Friday - Orders of the Day, Notices of Motion.
– To meet the views expressed yesterday, I now propose, with concurrence, to amend the motion by substituting the word “ Thursday “ for “ Friday “ wherever occurring.
Question amended accordingly, and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That a seat on the floor of the House be accorded to the Hon. Sir Jenkin Coles, Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly.
Debate resumed from 2nd March (vide page 25), on motion by Mr. Mauger -
That the Address be agreed to by the House.
– The form in which the Government have framed the Address in Reply has been happily chosen, because it is one to which every member of the House can cordially agree. We are asked to express our loyalty, which we are at all times ready to do, and to thank His Excellency for the speech which he has-been “pleased to address to Parliament.” After that speech has been carefully reviewed, it will be found that if any should have any reason to thank His Excellency for it, it is the members of His Majesty’s Opposition. In the first place, I wish to express the cordial congratulations of, I am sure, not only the members who sit on this side of the chamber, but of all the members of the House, at the appointment of our present Governor-General. I think our best wish for him is that when he resigns his important trust, he will be able to leave these shores with the same esteem which his predecessors have enjoyed. It has been the custom to select new members to move and second the adoption of the Address in Reply, but it is only fair to the Government to say that they had a perfectly valid excuse for departing from the practice on the present occasion, inasmuch as the only seat in Australia which they were able to capture was that represented by the honorable member for Bass. It was impossible for the Government to obtain two new members for the task, so they had to fall back upon their and our old friend the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to move the adoption of the Address. If the Government are as pleased with his speech as’ we on this side are, everyone should be perfectly satisfied. With reference to the honorable member for Bass, I should like to offer to him my congratulations for the manner in which he addressed himself to his task. The expression of his views suggested differences of opinion between us, but the manner in which they were conveyed to the House reflects, particularly for its brevity, high credit upon him as a new member. That he was able to obtain a seat here as the only new member returned to support the Government was owing, not so much to his political views, as to the patriotic services which he undoubtedly rendered as Mayor of Launceston in connexion with the recent outbreak of small-pox in that town. Speaking in all seriousness, I believe that he performed heroic services in that connexion. His occupation in life is one which naturally enabled him to undertake the duty of assisting at the funeral obsequies of the present Administration. My experience of speeches of Governors and GovernorsGeneral is that the first thing to be done in connexion with them is to try to discover what matters have been left out of them. No one can complain of the amplitude of the speech now under notice, but it is singular in respect to one or two of its omissions. For instance, the great battle-cry of the Ministry at the recent elections was advocacy Of fiscal peace; but we hear nothing about fiscal peace in the speech of the GovernorGeneral. On the contrary, there are proposed a number of measures which dangerously verge upon fiscal warfare. It will be remembered by honorable members that the Opposition played sad havoc with the Tariff submitted by the Government. We were prepared to take the . full responsibility for our actions before the electors of Australia. We were prepared then, as we. have always been prepared since, to go before the electors to justify that which we did in mutilating the Tariff, and to declare our desire to make even more radical changes. Our challenge to do so was accepted by our opponents at the time, and it was hoped on all sides, I believe, that the result would be the final settlement of the fiscal question. My own view was one which I thought might well be shared by both sides, that it was as much in the interests of the manufacturers of Australia and of those who wished to engage in industries that would be fostered by the Tariff, as it was to the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, that the fiscal issue should be finally settled, and the permanent position of all parties made known as soon as possible. That was the state of affairs until the time came for holding the general elections. Then the Government, in the exercise of their undoubted right, suddenly changed’ their ground. They abandoned the threat that they would ask the electors of Australia to punish us for what we did in mutilating their fiscal offspring, and, instead of coming forward .with a courageous policy for its restoration to sound health, they asked the people to allow them to raise the white flag over its remains. The electors, and especially those who took moderate views, were much impressed with the transition from the ardent fighting attitude of our protectionist friends as a great Australian political force, to the advocacy of a policy of neutrality. I quite admit the wisdom from a strategetical point of view of the course taken by the Government. The more weakness one has the more wisdom he needs. The Government felt that they were not quite strong enough to fight us, and therefore they adopted the Boer policy of hoisting the white flag. We, however, were not prepared to accept their view, and agree to the suspension of this vital issue. The Government, by the course they took, obtained the advantage of dividing our forces, because a large number of electors who believed in our fiscal views were anxious that the Tariff question should be allowed to remain in abeyance for a time. Their evolution also gave them a further advantage, in that it enabled them to swing into line with our friends of the Labour Party. The fiscal issue is perhaps the only one which strains the solidarity of that party, and the policy of its members has naturally been, to sink the issue as much as possible. Consequently the Government, by their diplomatic move, obtained an alliance for the time being with the Labour Party, and put the Opposition in the place of having to fight two great political parties on the fiscal issue. There was a further, and perhaps an even stronger, reason for this change of attitude. How could the Government go before the electors of Australia and advocate both the Australian policy of protection and the Imperial policy of preferential trade ? It would have placed the Government in a position which would have strained the intelligence of the dullest voter in Australia. How could any Government, true to its protectionist traditions, which had always been in the direction of shutting out the manufactures of the. mother country, come forward with that old traditional policy of building up a tariff wall against the mother country, and at the same time assure the people that the only distressed persons in the world for whom they had an affectionate interest and anxiety we’re the British manufacturers ? It is quite novel that the appeal of the British manufacturers for consideration, for the relaxation of this policy of protection, should have received so much, I will not say practical, but rhetorical sympathy from the Prime Minister, and the position would have been indescribably absurd if the protectionist flag of isolation and war against the mother country had been displayed side by side with a new loyal emblem of Imperial devotion. The situation would have been ludicrous, and the result was that protection was abandoned, and the policy of the Government resolved itself into this - “ Keep what is left of our fiscal bantling in the miserable existence to which it has been condemned by our wicked enemies the Opposition, and cover its remains with a white flag. In the meantime let us win the sympathies of the great mass of Australian people, who always readily respond to the call of loyalty and affection to the mother country.” Besides, there would have been a- restriction put upon my learned and distinguished friend the Prime Minister, even in his- rhetorical flights, which would have been decidedly embarrassing. Under the flag of preferential trade the Prime Minister could say with impunity, “ Mr. Deakin and loyalty to the mother country ; Mr. Reid the friend of the foreigner !” But under the flag of protection Mr. Deakin as the friend of the mother country, and Mr. Reid as the enemy of the mother country, would have been too ridiculous; because Mr. Reid’s whole political existence has been devoted to removing tariff barriers from the path of the mother country, and Mr. Reid happened to be the only man in the British Empire who, with the aid of his loyal friends, was able to pass a tariff policy which outrivalled in breadth and liberality even the British Tariff itself. It did seem strange to me that my honorable friend, whose general fairness and courtesy I have always been the first to acknowledge, should have found it possible, even in his inspired flights, where even recollection finds no place, to, picture me as a friend of France and Germany, and himself as a friend of the manufacturers of the midland districts of England ! I have never used harsh language with reference to my honorable friend, because I know what may happen to a man who has intervals of inspiration. His whole political career has reminded me of another genius in another country, who used to compose the most heavenly music, but who could never find a band, even when he conducted the orchestra himself, that could play it ! When we look upon mv distinguished friend as an orator we find him standing alone upon a pedestal ; but when we bring the orator down from the pedestal on to the floor of ordinary practical legislation, his proportions are miraculously diminished. But his intentions are always good.. We all have an admiration for him, because we all know that, whether upon a pedestal, or in any other position, he is, and has always been, a fair and honorable antagonist. One of the keenest pleasures of my antagonism, which will not be stinted, is that I have always been able to conduct my political differences with the Prime Minister without even the slightest break in the most cordial private intimacy, and I hope that will always be the case. ‘ Now, I regret to say that there were other issues at the last election which I deem it my duty as a public man to notice. In the field of industrial enterprise, and amongst all those questions which affect the two great classes into which this community is industrially divided, those of the employers and the employed, there has been an evolution which, I believe, is on the whole probably for the benefit of society. Especially of late years, and more particularly under the new arbitration law in some of the States, these two great forces which used to be scattered have been brought together. They have assumed the appearance and cohesion of military forces.
So long as this evolution is confined to the fields of industry, to the fields of conciliation, and of compulsory and peaceable arbitration it is, as I have said, an evolution which may work for the good of society. But I do most deeply deplore a thing which causes me to look upon the immediate political future of Australia with the most anxious regard. I refer to the fact that we have seen, during the last elections, traces of an invasion of these industrial armies into the field of national politics. The sharper the line between, I will not say the selfish, but the legitimate interests, of a man in his own private business and calling, and the duty he owes to his country and himself in the sphere of politics - the more sharply intelligence and conscience are kept free from selfinterest and class feeling - the better for the public life of any country. I do not blame one side in this matter. The state of things I have mentioned is perfectly legitimate and probably beneficial in the industrial sphere, but especially in Queensland, we saw the great questions, whatever they may be, of national politics in this Commonwealth, all swept into the background, whilst one issue, and that alone was fought, the issue between the classes and the masses.
– That was a cleaner issue than the one raised in New South Wales.
– The issue raised in New South Wales was a straightforward one.
– Was it? It was a dirty issue.
– Because it did not suit the honorable member. He has no right to say such a thing. It is very COW.ardly to say so.
– I must ask the honorable member for Macquarie to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark and apologize, but I think the honorable member for Bland ought also to apologize for having insulted the electors of New South Wales.
– I did not catch the remark made by the honorable member for Bland, but if the honorable member for Macquarie regards it as offensive. I have no doubt the honorable member for Bland will withdraw it.
– I at once admit that what I said was that in New South Wales there was a dirtier issue than that raised in Queensland. I say so now, and I do not withdraw it.
– What was the issue? Name it.
– The sectarian issue, and the right honorable and learned gentleman helped to raise it.
– The remark made by the honorable member for Bland involves no reflection upon the House or upon any member of it, and I cannot therefore rule it out of order.
– If- the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney would keep his politics as clean as they are in Queensland, he would do very well.
– I must” ask the honorable member for Kennedy to allow the right honorable and learned member for EastSydney to proceed.
– I do not know that these remarks fall at all within the line of the particular observations I was making. I do not think they do; but since the honorable member for Bland has chosen to make the observation which he did, and to use the language he did. use, and since he has explained the charge that’ he makes, may I suggest to him that it does not lie in the mouth of a man who has been in the public life of New South Wales for ten years to wait until the present time to talk of the influence of sectarianism in politics ?
– I did not wait; I spoke of it at the elections.
– For twenty years and more, the party which I have had the honour to lead has been hounded down by sectarianism.
– By the party who backed up the Labour Party.
– That is not true”.
– In the great party which I have led, the snaky track of sectarianism has been known to every man like the honorable member for the last twenty years.
– The Labour Party had it nearly killed.
– But there are two ways of being sectarian, a secret way and an open way.
– One with a green colour, and another with a yellow; you will have it straight enough now.
– I have stood in my political fights for years as the leader of a party, a political handicap of 20 per cent., before a single vote was polled for me in New South Wales, and I have never complained of it. I have never introduced the subject.
– More shame to the honorable member for Bland to do so.
– Did not the right honorable and learned gentleman write to Dill Mackay at the Town Hall ?
– Oh, this is something new !
– Who is Dill Mackay ?
– This is better than the 12th July.
– I must ask honorable members to refrain from these constant interjections. In order thatthey may be as few as possible, I ask the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney to confine his remarks to the question immediately before the House, and to, as far as possible, avoid making reference to irrelevant matters.
– May I remind you, sir, that I did not make the slightest reference to this particular question until a charge was made. When charges are made it is my bounden duty to myself and to my State to reply to them. I assert my right to reply to the interjection made by the honorable member for Bland.
– I must call the right honorable member’s attention to the fact that I have allowed him sufficient latitude to make a reply, but that the Standing Orders absolutely preclude the discussion of any matter other than that which is immediately before the House. Therefore, while the interjection may have led to aside debate, it having been called attention to, and disposed of, I cannot allow the right honorable member to follow an interjection, or a casual remark, by a lengthened speech.
– May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that I have so far had no opportunity of replying to the interjection to which I now refer. The honorable member for Bland has said that I wrote a letter to Mr. Dill Mackay.
– I shall not enter into a debate with the right honorable member for East Sydney, or with any other honorable member, but it must appear to the House that while interjections cannot always be checked, if I amtorulethatany honorable member may proceed to deal at length with any interjection made, whether relevant or irrelevant to the question under discussion, the debate may be permitted to wander wherever an honorable member interjecting may please to lead it. I cannot rule that an irrelevant interjection can be held to justify an irrelevant speech thereupon.
– I desire to take your ruling, sir, as to whether at this stage any matter arising out of the elections is not a fair subject for debate. As I understand it, a reference to this particular matter is more germane to a discussion of this kind than to any other. Any motive or influence which entered largely into the composition of the present Parliament may, I think, be discussed at this stage.
– Before you give any ruling, sir, I should like, not on my own account, because that is not a matter of consequence, but on account of the undoubted rights and privileges of the members of this House, to point out to you that this is a new Parliament following a general election. We are discussing the Address in Reply to the Governor-General’s opening speech, and it appears to me that any matters discussed during the election, and certainly any matters which influenced votes at the election, are all legitimate subjects for discussion in this House, whether raised by interjection or not.
– I point out to the honorable members for Parramatta and East Sydney that I have given no ruling contrary to the suggestion they have made. The whole question of the conduct of the election and of matters which may have influenced public opinion thereat is open to debate. The right honorable member for East Sydney admitted just now that the question he was discussing when I asked him to refrain was whether or not he wrote a certain letter at a certain time. I imagined that that particular question did not enter in any way into the conduct of the election.
– That is the allegation made.
– I can assure you, sir, as a member for the State, that it did.
– Then the right honorable and learned member may refer to it.
– I wish to refer to it, only in order to say a word or two, because I very much regret the digression. I have been twenty years in the public life of Australia, and I have never at a public meeting or. in any Parliament referred to the sectarian issue, except to denounce a statesman in New South Wales when he endeavoured to raise it. In spite, as I say, of great provocation and continued opposition on the part of a large mass of electors of a particular faith, during the whole course of my Ministerial career, I have never yet opened my mouth on a public platform to raise that issue, and I hope I never will. But when such language is used in connexion with men who did me the honour to vote for me and my followers, I should like the leader of the Labour Party to remember that if any such imputation were laid upon the workers of Australia who supported him, as that they imported a dirty issue into any election, he, as an honorable man - and we all know him to be one - could have none other than feelings of the strongest indignation. I regret the interruption, because it has led me in all candour to make the remarks which I have. But I now wish to dispose of the other offence against the Constitution to which the honorable member has referred - that of writing to Mr. Dill Mackay. I wish to dispose of that incident, since the honorable member has opened it. The matterhad altogether disappeared from my mind, but when subjects of that character are mentioned in Parliament it is our duty to clear them up. I would point out that this is the letter which I wrote” to Mr. Dill .Mackay - speaking from memory. There was a meeting called in Sydney to form, I think, a Protestants’ Defence Association, and as a public man I was invited to attend it. I was in Melbourne at the time, and therefore could not attend if I wished, but I wrote a letter to Mr. Dill Mackay, as the convenor” of the meeting, so far as ,1 can recollect, in these terms : - That during the whole course of my public career I had avoided the introduction into public life of sectarianism in any shape or form. But I said more - and in all candour I felt it right to say more. I added that I was not ignorant of the fact that although I had kept sectarianism out of the exercise of my powers in public life absolutely, I had not been able to escape the influence of sectarianism all through my public career as a Minister of the Crown. That was the statement which I made, and whilst one wishes to avoid these subjects - as one would avoid a fire or a pestilence in the community - when a fair question is put to a public man he is bound to answer it as a man.
– The right honorable and learned member went much further than that. He said that the Roman Catholics always opposed him.
– I never used the expression “Roman Catholics.” My honorable and learned friend, perhaps, carries my correspondence in his pocket - I do not.
– I carry the right honorable member’s words in my memory.
– I am giving the House the benefit of my recollection, which tallies exactly with that of my honorable and learned friend except in the designation of the particular source, which, however, is sufficiently notorious. I again wish to express to the House and to the people of all Australia my profound regret that the interruption of the honorable member and the language which he used compelled me as a man to reply to him, because I have unbrokenly held that no one should intrude religious differences into the field of national politics.
– It is a pity that the right honorable member did not announce that fact a little while ago.
– I have always entertained that view. May I further suggest, and then I shall have done with the subject, that perhaps an exhibition of the might which people possess against insidious tactics in Australian public life may prove the only method of removing sectarianism from politics, because when one side finds that it is a loss to use those means, its infallible sagacity will suggest the discontinuance of them. I now leave the question, and I quite understand that the honorable member’s indignation against Protestants is really his mortification against Mr. Longmuir. Something must be made to explain the remarkable circumstance’ that my friend, whom we all admit to be an eminently good member of Parliament and a worthy leader of a great party, was run so closely by a gentleman’ who has yet to win his political spurs. Naturally there is a feeling of irritation upon his part. Passing away from this regrettable topic, to matters which may help to restore better feelings, I wish to express my regret that the Ministry should have had such anxious moments regarding my possible extinction from public life. The Minister for Defence, who is an authority upon matters behind the veil, solemnly announced to the people of Victoria that- 1 was in the most precarious position, and that I might possibly sneak in between my two opponents. Well, my honorable friend knows what the result was, and I am sure that personally he feels much relieved. I wish to come back to that very serious question to which I was addressing myself. It is no answer to a man who deprecates one evil in public life to point to another. That is not a sensible answer in the halls of legislation. It is better to confine interjections to the subject with which one is dealing. I am perfectly willing to deal with any interruption. I am only too able to do so. But I wish again to refer to the matter upon which I was speaking. I say it will be a calamity in the public life of Australia when high questions of national politics are voted upon by armies on one side or the other, and when those armies not even carry a political those armies do not even carry a political their own class interests and class feelings. Those feelings, I say, are perfectly legitimate in their proper sphere - in the sphere of industry and of employment - and may not there be a subject of censure, but they are to be deprecated in public life. I am not going to enter into a criticism as to which man or which party is to blame for this, but I will say that when the freetraders of Queensland never could find room for the fiscal issue, when men like Mr. Philp, the Premier of that State, a known free-trader, and other free-traders, would not organize upon broad national lines of principle, but called meetings for the purpose of securing ^10,000 to fight an election for a class - such men, although they may pose as men of intelligence, as men of light and leading, expose themselves to criticism. And they have obtained their deserts. Whenever a class issue is raised between the classes and the masses we need not inquire “into the rights of it, because we all know what will be the result. No one sympathizes with men of the classes who raise their own selfish interests in the politics of this country. One of my strongest feelings of contempt is for those people who band themselves together as certain individuals did in the Sydney Exchange the other day. There, a large number of merchants met together - men to whom politics all at once had assumed a burning complexion. I have the most whole-souled contempt for men who made their wealth in the country, who have attained to positions in which they can use influence over their fellow men, and who yet confine the share they take in politics to a series of slanders upon others who do devote their time to the public life of Australia. These men never show a glimpse of public spirit until their pockets are touched. These are the individuals who make their class discredited throughout Australia. I wish to say that if there is ever to be a legitimate influence exercised by men of wealth and intelligence, they must not expect people to believe them to be patriotic when they never take any share in the urgent affairs of the public until their own interests are affected. Men who remain in their counting houses all their lives, and who can find no time to perform their duties to the public, must not expect to be . welcomed with enthusiasm when they rush from their desks in order to save some of their money from the consequences of legislation. I address myself, therefore, to this subject in ai spirit of absolute impartiality. I now wish to leave that question and to take up another point, which I think is one upon which we shall all agree. I believe we shall all agree that it is a positive calamity that, with a liberal electoral law, which the Prime Minister has’ described as the most liberal ever seen - and probably it is if it could only be properly administered - with the fullest freedom, and every facility for the registration of votes, the great masses of .the men andwomen of Australia should show so slight a sense of the privilege, its value, and their duty to the country. It is, indeed, a great pity and another source of genuine reasonable alarm that this should be so. Of course, large! allowances have to be made. At the time of the general elections harvest operations were in full progress. That would account for the absence of thousands of men and women from the polling booths of Australia, and I hope that this or some other Government when making the arrangements which are intended to bring every man and woman to the ballot-box of Australia, will show some little knowledge of the times at which it is most convenient for elections to take place. It is only in high official circles that it is unknown that the harvest of Australia is usually gathered at a certain time.
– But the Senate fixed the date of the last elections. We had to consider the Senate elections.
– Another place did not fix the date. It was determined that the elections should be held before, not on, the 31st December last.
– The elections could not be held before.
– There were many reasons for that. The whole arrangement from first to last was a bungle. I feel sure, however, that this or any other Ministry with the slightest sense of its duty will see - now that the life of the Parliament dates from December - that the dates for the holding of the general elections are not so fixed as to prevent many farmers and their wives from attending at ‘the poll. I come to another matter - the state of the parties in the House. The Government made their appeal to the people of Australia for renewed confidence and support, and the people of Australia in returning members to this
House gave them one new supporter, but took away eight or nine of their old followers. Without troubling honorable members with details, I should like to give the figures relating to both Houses as they stand at the present time. The net results of the elections are that the Government have lost ten seats in the two Houses, whilst the Opposition have lost two. The whole of those seats have been secured by representatives of the Labour Party, and may I say, as I have always said, that the Labour Party have this merit : that they put their principles and their platform in plain black and white, and that when they are returned they are loyal to those principles.
– Werethe labour candidates free-traders or protectionists?
– The fiscal issue is one of the principles which is not provided for in the platform of the Labour Party, and there is an obvious and not a dishonorable reason for that. The truth is that we do not want any more of machine politics than we can help. But the net result of the general elections, so far as this House is concerned, is that the Government who had forty-four supporters in the late Parliament, have now thirty-four, so that whatever the result of the election is-
– Is the right honorable member referring to both Houses of Parliament.
– I am taking both Houses, because in each case the vote at the general elections was a popular one. The result of the last appeal to the people - the only clear result - is that, whilst the Labour Party have not lost the confidence of the people, and the Opposition have lost only two seats, the Government even under the white flag have been heavy losers. The practical result is that we now have three parties.
– I cannot make the right honorable member’s figures agree.
– I do not say that they are exactly correct, but they are substantially accurate. I may mention one case in regard to which there may be some confusion in the mind of the Prime Minister. For instance, the honorable member for Oxley, Mr. R. Edwards, was returned at the first elections as a supporter of the Ministry, and for a time sat on the Ministerial side of the House; but at the last elections he was returned as a member of the Opposition.
– I may be wrong, but the honorable member has taken his seat on the Opposition side of the House.
– The right honorable member is correct.
– The honorable member for Oxley is the best authority on the subject, and he tells me that I am correct. His seat is one of those to which I was referring. If there is any doubt about the numbers I have only to point out that here we see the assembled representatives of the people in this new Australian Parliament, and I would ask whether the Government will point to a second new supporter in addition to the honorable member for Bass, whom they have secured so far as this House is concerned. Will not they drop a tear for the many able men they have lost ?
– Hear, hear.
– My honorable and learned friend is equal even to the tear. I wish now to express my entire agreement with a remark made by the Prime Minister in a remarkable announcement which he made on the occasion of a great gathering in this city at the beginning of last month. I heartily agree with the Prime Minister that the only possible basis upon which a system of a responsible executive acting in a Parliament of this type can be secured - the only possible condition under which that principle can be honorably and usefully worked - is when the Ministry in office commands the confidence of the full majority of the people’s representatives. If the Ministry do not command that confidence they should make an alliance - provided that alliance can honorably be made. I will at once admit that, provided an alliance can. be honorably made between two parties in the House, it is the only way in which to adjust the balance. But as long as three independent parties live in the same House - the parties being more or less equally balanced - the basis of an honorable Government is - I will not say lost, but is endangered. One of the evils of a weak position is the manifold temptations to make that position strong by secret arrangements. There was no sentence in the admirable speech made by the Prime Minister on the occasion in question which I more admired than the manly straightforward declaration, that if any alliance be made it should be made publicly, and that the basis of it should be published. It must not be that sort of alliance that happened before a certain ballot in another branch of this Parliament. It must not be a bargaining that, under the secrecy of the ballot, votes will be given to one man if other votes are given to another.
– The right honorable member must not refer to anything that has taken place or is pending in another Chamber.
– Still, I am very glad that I have “been able to say what I have. There must be none of these underhand intrigues. I hope that the party to which I belong, and that the Labour Party, too, whatever they may do in the public life of this country, will act up to the principle which the Prime Minister has announced.
– We have always done so.
– The members of the Labour Party always say so. However, I do not deny it. The noble attitude assumed by the Prime Minister upon this occasion was unfortunately spoiled by the latitudinarian view which he held as to which of the two young ladies he should marry. The honorable and learned gentleman, whilst very explicit as to the necessity for an alliance, did not appeal to the Opposition to save him from the Labour Party, as in accordance with his principles he should have done, nor to the Labour Party to save him from the Opposition, as was necessary to make the situation clear. As every head of a Ministry does, when those who do not believe in them are honestly divided, he told the people - “ We are going straight on.” I should suppose they were. I never knew a Ministry which was not going straight on when there was no immediate prospect of their being kicked out. The speech of the GovernorGeneral shows, not only that the Government are going straight on, but, addressed to a man of my advanced years, that they intend to go on for all eternity. The language used by the Prime Minister at this function, which, I believe, was held in the middle of the day, was this : After saying that the Government would go straight on, he continued -
The problem facing them now was how to conduct a Parliament which, instead of having a majority and a minority, had three practically equal parties taking part in the proceedings. It was a problem which had not yet been solved in any part of the world. . . “Administration and legislation had always been conducted on the principle of a majority and a minority. Now, however, they had practically three equal parlies, and the position was unstable.
Then comes the rhetoric -
It was absolutely impossible. It could not continue, and it ought not to continue.
So, although the Prime Minister told the people of -Australia that the position is impossible, cannot continue, and ought not to continue, we have set before us this programme for all eternity. The Prime
Minister then, by way of analogy, referred to the game of cricket. He asked what would become of the game of cricket if there were three elevens instead of two - one playing sometimes with one side, sometimes with the other, and sometimes for itself ? The side which always plays for itself is the side which is in office. One never finds that side playing for any one else. One of the comfortable advantages of the occupancy of the Ministerial benches is, that in these games Ministers have but one simple duty, and that is to play for their own side all the time, making use of the other two sides as often as they can. I agree with the Prime Minister that there is no objection to an alliance between the Labour Party and the Ministry, and that was my position in New South Wales. There was no secret arrangement between that party and my own. We stood out as independent parties which went to the country upon the same policy. When the Upper House rejected my Land and Income Tax Assessment Bill, I laid before the people and the Parliament the whole of my fiscal policy in regard to the Tariff and direct taxation. My proposals were blocked by the Upper House, and I then took a very eccentric course. Although the Assembly had been elected only a year previously, I exposed my friends to the chances of another election, and the members of the Labour Party and the supporters of the Ministry went to the people practically in alliance. The Ministerial party supported no candidate against a labour candidate, and the members of the Labour Party supported no candidate against a Ministerial one. That was an honorable and open alliance for the carrying out of a great national principle. I felt proud of it, and have always acknowledged the benefit which it conferred upon me. It was an alliance within the meaning of the words of the Prime Minister, an open alliance before the country upon a definite policy which had been submitted to Parliament. It is apity that the Government should be in their present position. The Prime Minister has exposed me to a good deal of undeserved criticism. When he made the speech which I have quoted, a number of persons, both in NewSouth Wales and in the other States, said - “What a fool that Reid is. Here is the Prime Minister offering his hand to him, and endeavouring to obtain a coalition which will set Australian politics upon a sound and stable footing, and he, perverse man, will not hear of it.” I am like a young lady.
I never feel inclined to give a definite answer to an interesting proposal until it has been definitely made.
– Not in leap year?
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that he is very much in the position of a batchelor who happens to be living in the same house as two unmarried ladies. His friends say ‘to him - “ It is really very improper that you, a single man, should be living with two single ladies.” My honorable and learned friend, acting upon the lines of his speech, would say under such circumstances. “ It is true that the situation is a wrong one, and cannot last, but I do not know which of them I shall take. It ‘is a question of terms.” What high-minded young lady would accept, if she ever received, an offer of that kind? My honorable and learned friend is careful to explain that he did not allude to any particular alliance with either of these young ladies. He said -
He had not the slightest idea as yet which two parties were going to endeavour to unite, but unite they must.
May I suggest to him that, when there is talk of union, the offer of union does not generally come from the gentle maiden, but from the gentleman who desires her.
– This is leap year.
– I do not know what interest that fact can have for my honorable friend, at his time of life. I was not referring to any of these difficulties as existing in his case. The Prime Minister said that there were only two questions to be asked. The first was - “What terms?” “ What terms?” I admit that ray honorable, friend would not refer to personal considerations. I quite understand that he meant matters of policy. “ What terms?” It is rather convenient for a person to make an offer to one of two other persons without making any offer to either of them. That is a very convenient sort of arrangement. Since the Prime Minister says there must be an alliance, that the very basis of responsible government demands that the present state of affairs shall not last, I beg to remind my honorable friend that the onus of the situation lies upon him. He can either give his position up or try to form an alliance which will make this a stable Parliament ; and whatever he does - as he says - must be above board. I wish, as briefly as I possibly can, to refer to some of the items in. the Governor-General’s speech. I hope that honorable members will not think that I am unduly trespassing upon their time, because, in the very nature of the case, there are a large number of questions to which I must make some reference. I have grouped the paragraphs of the speech somewhat differently from the Prime Minister. I shall in the first place deal with paragraph 25, which reads as follows : -
It is intended to examine the experience gained in the recent elections, with a v:.ew to on amendment of the Electoral Act.
Now, without reviving tlie painful controversy which occurred in the late Parliament, as I do not wish to take up the time in that? way, I desire to point out now that we have the completed rolls for the electorates of Australia, that every word I said as to the discrepancy between the numbers of electors in the different .parts of Australia, dealing particularly with my own State, has been more than justified. During the recess the Prime Minister stated that thousands of electors were objected to in Sydney, and that thousands had applied to be enrolled in the country, and that the course taken by the Government would be justified. May I tell honorable members that, according to the completed rolls of Australia, a worse state of affairs existed than I mentioned. I told the House that, according to the Commissioner’s figures, three country constituencies would contain 42,000 electors, whilst three city constituencies would contain 92,000 electors. The fact is, acccording to the completed returns, that three constituencies in the country embraced 52,000 electors, whilst three city electorates had 114,000 electors. The basis of the Act was electoral equality. That was the principle that the Parliament, as a body of honorable men, embodied in the law of Australia - electoral equality in principle, subject to certain local considerations within a given margin. May I point out that in the case of three electorates in the country, as compared with three electorates in the coastal districts, there was a difference of no less than 62,000 electors - a larger number than the whole of the men and women in the drought-stricken half of New South Wales. Between the two groups of three electorates there was a difference of 10,000 more than the whole of the men and women in one half of New South Wales. In grouping seven city electorates and seven country electorates, I pointed out that there was a difference of 100,000 whilst the completed rolls show that there was an actual difference of 114,000. Comparing four country electorates with four other country electorates, I showed a difference of 36,000 electors, whereas the actual difference was 35,000. So that the rolls confirm the statements I made, and in the face of this wholesale robbery of the people, we are told, in the 25th paragraph of the address, that there must be an inquiry, with a view to the amendment of the Act. No official report has been placed before us to prove the drought theory. Nothing has been submitted to support the plea that was made for robbing the people of their votes by the hundred thousand. But now we are told that there must be an amendment of the Act. We had an amendment of the Act, and that did all the mischief. It was the amendment of the Act that robbed the people, and now that the robbery has been accomplished we are invited to be good enough to further amend the Act, I hope more upon the lines of political honesty. The present state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. May I say that this robbery of the public rights, bad as it was, was intensified by the most disgraceful maladministration. I can only speak for my own State. Ido not profess to go beyond that, but I think my honorable friends, no matter what party they belong to, in the pursuance of their public duty will agree with me that if the electoral arrangements are again conducted in the same way as on the last occasion the scandal must re-act upon Parliament itself. I have been accused of entertaining personal feeling against the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. My answer to that is that during the whole course of my public life I have never had much to do with attacking public officers. The attack I make upon the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth is not of a personal character, because my statements are based upon historical records. The officer was pensioned off from the Lands Department of New South Wales as a person better out of the public service seventeen years ago.
– That is untrue.
– I have all the facts.
– I must ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to withdraw that statement.
– If I am required to withdraw the statement, I shall do so-; but I desire to point out that I have previously refuted the statement now made by the right honorable gentleman, and that he is now simply challenging the remarks I then made.
– I must ask the Minister to clearly withdraw his remark.
– I think I did clearly withdraw it. I said that if I were required to withdraw it, I would do so. Surely that is sufficient. I withdraw the remark.
– As the honorable member has now withdrawn the remark I regard the matter as disposed of.
– I am not referring to this matter in any spirit of contradiction. I took the trouble to make further inquiry, and although I could not secure all the papers - I could not blame the Government for that - I had other means of getting at the facts. In 1887 there was a re-organization of the Lands Department of New South Wales, in which Mr. Lewis was a draughtsman, and he was removed from the service and a pension of £100 was settled upon him. After he had been removed from the Department and put on a pension, temporary employment was found for him, which in the course of years enabled him to occupy by appointment the position of Chief Electoral Officer of New South Wales. In 1896 - seven or eight years ago - the Public Service Board, not a partisan Ministry - investigated the condition of the Electoral Department, and thought it better in the public interest that Mr. Lewis should be pensioned and removed from the Department, and that his subordinate should be put in his place. He was not removed on the ground of age.
– Retrenchment was thengoing on.
– It was done at the instance of the right honorable gentleman.
– It was done at the instance of the Public Service Board. I want to adhere to the facts. The Public Service Board of New South Wales thought it better to pay Mr. Lewis £300 per annum of. the public money to enable him to walk the streets and do nothing than to keep him in the Public Service. No other man was brought into the service to take his place, but his subordinate was appointed to the position, and he is still there. After Mr. Lewis’ removal, the staff in the New South Wales Electoral Office was reduced by the Public Service Board from 47 to 13, 14, or 15. Yet Mr. Lewis. who was upon the pension list of New South Wales, and who was not efficient enough to manage the electoral affairs of one State, was intrusted with the important duty of organizing the first election of the Commonwealth. I make no sort of personal attack upon Mr. Lewis ; I am arraying against him absolutely historical facts, to which I was no sort of party.
– And all this fuss is being caused over £250 a year?
– I warned the late Prime Minister about Mr. Lewis, and I told him that if there was a bungle or mismanagement the responsibility would rest upon the Ministry and not upon Mr. Lewis. I shall not take up the time of the House with the details showing what a monstrous bungle there was during the recent elections, because it is notorious. I now ask the Government - I do not wish to give this matter any party aspect - to appoint some authority to investigate the conduct of the Elecoral Department during the last elections.
– Hear, hear; some authority outside the officials.
– Yes. If we are wrong in making these charges of incompetence the officer ought to be vindicated, and if we are right the matter ought to be remedied. No attack on me across this table will meet the situation. That will not dispose of the present abominable state of things throughout Australia. It may suit a complaisant majority but it will not satisfy me.
– What does the right honorable gentleman charge against the Chief Electoral Officer?
– Nothing in particular. I charge him with absolute incompetency, that is all - incompetency so great that a publicly constituted Commission removed him from a similar position in New South Wales.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot prove that.
– I cannot prove anything to this Government. I ask, will the Government appoint a Commission to investigate the matter? I ask that the curtain of the Electoral Office may be lifted.
– The honorable and learned member is making a most vicious personal attack.
– I am a very vicious man, and the Minister is a pure-minded apostle; but he seems, nevertheless, to pick up all the derelicts of the Commonwealth. There was another objection I mentioned. Mr. Lewis became an active political partisan. He opposed the free-trade party at the next election after his retirement.
– Why should he not?
– I do not object to that. He had a perfect right to do it.
– The right honorable and learned gentleman is making a most vicious attack upon him.
– There is nothing vicious in stating that a man opposed another in an election. The sitting member for the Cook Division of the City of Sydney, Mr. S. T. Whiddon, was opposed by Mr. Lewis as a supporter of the Lyne party in 1898. I need not say that he was defeated. In the sameyear, Mr. Barton, afterwards the Prime Minister of Australia, contested the Macleay electorate, and Mr. Lewis went all over the district canvassing for the future Prime Minister, and the honorable member for Macquarie, who was a candidate, so far incurred Mr. Lewis’ displeasure that he was very nearly exposed to physical violence.
– What has that to do with it?
– My right honorable friend, with his western ideas, asks, “ What has that to do with it?” I will tell him. A man who has been associated with partisan politics in Australia is not a desirable person to become the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. This gentleman may be a perfectly good man as a member of his party, and perfectly honorable in every way. All I say is that it is not desirable to have partisans in these positions. In reference to the revenue and expenditure of the country, the Government make a statement which I have been making for some time, but which I am now glad to have upon official authority. It is that we have an expanding expenditure and a contracting revenue. The Ministry tell us that the operation of the Tariff cannot allow of an expansion of the revenue. One of my great objections to that Tariff was that it must lead to a declining revenue, whilst our expenditure must increase. I wish now to deal only with the important matters which are referred to in the viceregal speech. I want briefly to touch upon the allusion to the communication which was addressed by the Government to the Transvaal authorities upon the subject of the introduction of Chinese to work the Rand mines. I am the last man to encourage interference with the affairs of other parts of the Empire, but I do not find it at all necessary to criticise what the Government did in connexion with the importation of Chinese labour into South Africa. I think that is a questionwhich may fairly be considered an Imperial one, and with the thousands of natives in that country which we have annexed, this resort to distant labourers in the Chinese Empire is fraught with elements of danger to the whole Empire. I therefore feel that the occasion justified the action of the Government. I only regret that in this, as in all other great affairs, the Federal Government always plays the part of the humble satellite of New Zealand. It is Mr. Seddon who offers troops ‘to the mother country ; it is always th?s Government which tells the mother country that they are proud of what Mr. Seddon has done, and will do the same if they are asked. Mr. Seddon is the man who leads the affairs of Australia - the Federal Government do not. I regret the circumstance, however much I may admire and respect Mr. Seddon. Now I come to the question of the appointment of a High Commissioner and in dealing with these particular matters, I promise honorable members to be as brief as possible. I again enter my protest against men who have notoriously been candidates for positions of that sort, playing the part of political partisans. Unfortunately, the health of the Premier of New South Wales has unexpectedly broken down, and it is just possible that he may have to retire from public life, in which case this matter will be settled. Regarding the Pacific Cable. I merely wish to say that when the resolution approving of the agreement which had been entered into was laid upon the table of the House, I pressed upon the Government the ‘desirableness of withdrawing it, and of convening a Conference with the partners interested in that cable. My request was refused,, and I was defeated. Now, however, the Government are solemnly about to carry out what I assured them ought to have been done months ago. Regarding the Federal Capital site, which is referred to in paragraph 16, I would point out that each State has a subject which in the nature. of things is of more interest to it than it is to any other State. But I do think we shall set a fair example if in dealing with their respective claims we endeavour to render absolute justice. It is perfectly clear that this promise to concede the capital to New South Wales was an honest promise, honestly intended, and honestly indorsed by the people of Australia.
– Parliament wishes to carry it out.
– I am sure that it does. I merely express the hope that this question will be settled, and I am sure that Parliament will see that no idle and extravagant expenditure is incurred in connexion with it. Now I come to another great question - that of the transcontinental railway. In this connexion I congratulate the Minister for
Home Affairs upon his undoubted triumph. He has at last secured the formal approval of the Government to the construction of that line, because the declaration that the Commonwealth Government has “ sought the approval of the Government of South Australia for the construction of a railway to connect Western Australia with the Eastern states “ is an absolute statement that the Government, as a matter of policy - subject to the approval of Parliament - intends to construct the line. I have again to congratulate my right honorable friend upon his marvellous influence even upon the Prime Minister. For many years the Prime Minister, as he publicly stated during the elections, thought that this matter was one for the future. The Minister for Home Affairs, however, was able to assure the people while the election campaign was in progress, that he had had a long conversation with the Prime Minister, who had come to the conclusion that the line should be constructed without delay.
– I did not say “ without delay.”
– Without unnecessary delay. These are some of the marvellous transformations which occur during ‘ election times. I am thoroughly with the Government in their proposal. Now I come to the question of the States debts - a very important one - and to the subject of old-age pensions. I do think that the time has arrived when this cruel mockery of the old men and women of Australia should cease. In the manifesto of the first Federal Government this item figured. It figures again in -the present vice-regal speech, and it figures in connexion with a possible arrangement in reference to the States debts. Does the Prime Minister remain ignorant of the fact - as the Treasurer can inform him - that the Treasurers of Australia - I think unanimously - agreed to the removal of that provision in the Constitution which enables the Braddon section to be terminated at the end of ten years. Does he not know that, so far from allowing that section to become inoperative, every one of the Australian Treasurers asked that the provision which enables it to be removed should be itself removed? In the light of that fact, it is impossible to institute a national system of old-age pensions.
– Because we should have to raise ^4,000,000 through the Customs in order to retain ,£1,000,000.
– It can be raised by means of direct taxation.
– Of course, if the Government go in for land taxation, I admit that they could raise 000,000 and keep it; but I understand that the policy of the Government is opposed to direct taxation.
– The right honorable member was speaking of the possibility of raising the money which is necessary to establish a system of old-age pensions.
– I am speaking consistently with the policy, of the Government in uttering these words. So long as they do not alter their political principles or professed policy, they cannot possibly inaugurate an old-age pension system. They cannot, in the light of their own declaration impose direct taxation, and, therefore, if the money is to be provided at all it must be raised through the Customs. Consequently, they must raise ^4,000,000 in order to retain ^1,000,000. I do say that there are some things which should not become the playthings of political rhetoric, and one of them is the misery of the old men and women of Australia, who are listening to vice-regal speeches year after year, and who are saying to themselves “ Help is coming ; all Australia will be provided for,” when there is no man in the Cabinet, or, indeed, in this House, who does not know that it will be impossible to institute a national system of old-age pensions for years to come.
– Let us impose direct taxation, and the right honorable member will see.
– That may be a condition of the new alliance - I do not know - but at the present moment the party with which the honorable member is associated does not constitute the Government, and the Govern.metn will not alter their policy until they alter “their minds. Now, I want to deal with the reference in His Excellency’s speech to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Since that measure was before the last Parliament the situation has become a perfectly clear and definite one. In the last Parliament I criticised the Government - I think fairly - in this way : I held that if they intended the insertion of the provision in reference to the inclusion of the public servants, to be regarded as vital to the Bill, it was their duty to intimate that fact before the division was taken. No Government has a right to lead the House into false positions. If a Government intend to stake a Bill upon an issue before the House - and I think it is a legitimate thing to do, not for the purpose of bringing party pressure to bear, but because the House should know that there are provisions in the Bill which are vital - let us know it. Some honorable members may say “ I am thoroughly in favour of this provision, but in all fairness, I have to consider the consequences of my action, and as the Government have made this amendment a vital matter, I cannot vote in favour of it.” However, that situation has now disappeared. The Government have declared’ to the country in the most unmistakable terms that they regard the amendment as one which they cannot accept - that they look upon it as an unconstitutional amendment, to begin with.
– I have never heard them say so.
– I think that the Prime Minister has said so, and he will never fall into the category of statesmen who are prepared to distort their utterances to suit the occasion. He made no uncertain statement. Of course if he spoke only for himself, and someone else has a voice in the matter, I do not know what will happen. But I object to that sort of Ministry which is like a mermaid, which has a beautiful apearance in front of the curtain, and which is only fishy at the other extremity.
– Like the right honorable member and the honorable member for Parramatta.
– -I will come to that. My honorable friend is very good to my honorable friends opposite. I never knew him to be a bad friend of any Ministry. I -object to that sort of situation in which the Prime Minister speaks like an angel, and afterwards some other member of the Cabinet throws his tentacles over all the members of the Labour Party in the corridors. We do not want a Ministry of that mixed formation. I take the utterances of the Prime Minister as binding the Government before all Australia. If it were not so, he would be most careful to say that he did not speak as Prime Minister, with a possible risk to his office, but in the hope that he would subsequently get his colleagues to agree with him. However, he did not say that. He spoke of the amendment suggested as one which the Government could not accept, and as an invasion of the constitutional rights of the States. I think that he is right, and I suppose that I have a right to express my opinion at any time I choose.
– The right honorable member generally does.
– Yes. I have no hesitation in agreeing to the view which the Prime Minister entertains, and so far from my desiring to seize ,any advantage from him in his position of embarrassment upon this matter, he will have my support. Of course, since one lives in danger of all sorts of recriminations, I wish it to be distinctly understood, in justice to some of my friends who voted in favour of the amendment to which I have referred, that I can in no way influence those who have given pledges to their constituents as to the way they shall vote. I hope that honorable members will understand that in that respect I speak only for myself. I leave honorable members on this side of the House to their own views, and especially to their own declarations to their constituents. I wish to come to one of the practical matters which is referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, and which is one of much importance. I must heartily concur with the enlightened view of the Prime Minister with reference to the public necessities in the way of our doing what we can to encourage our great natural industries. I agree, most heartily, with everything that he has said, so far as that point is concerned ;. but my only disappointment is, that whilst we have in. the Governor-General’s speech the most beautiful descriptions of the condition of affairs which prevails, and which is to be remedied, I fail to find any remedy suggested. It is one of the singular attributes of the Prime Minister that he can unfold One of the most comprehensive and elaborate policies known to mankind without making a single definite proposal. But we do not require a statesman to repeat, although, perhaps, in infinitely more graceful and eloquent language, that of which the newspaper men have been writing every day for the past twenty years. We do not need a statesman to tell us what every one tells us - that agriculture should be encouraged. And, by-the-way, I take a much broader view of this question than do the Ministry. Why should not the great national industry of mining be encouraged ? X desire to encourage every great national industry, but I find that we have nothing but farming ‘ referred to in the Governor - General’s speech. I shall join heartily and earnestly with the Ministry in everything they will do in that direction. I cannot, of Course, agree with some of their chimerical proposals. When the Tariff was before the last Parliament, I think that honorable members of the Opposition showed their practical sympathy with those engaged ; in our great national industries by endeavouring to place as few obstacles as possible in the way of their securing the things necessary to carry on their operations. That is one of the most practical things that a Parliament can do. Parliament should endeavour not to place burdens on struggling men, but to avoid doing so. But these obstacles exist, and those who were enriched by the imposition of high duties upon all the necessaries of their industry, have this consolation : that the honorable and learned gentleman, who was instrumental in putting those burdens upon them, has a very high opinion of them, is very sorry for their troubles, and is very anxious to see them better off. We are all in exactly the same position, but we can find some one below the status of a Prime Minister to tell us of these things. The people of Australia look to a Prime Minister with all the resources of advice that he has in the Cabinet, and with the eminent official authorities of Australia at his back, to provide remedies, if remedies are to be obtained. If there are none, let u:> be manly and say so. Do not let us delude struggling people with illusory views of something wonderful that we propose to do for them, when we have no idea of how to do it. The only definite proposal in reference to agriculture that I can find in the GovernorGeneral’s speech is one which maybe viewed with somewhat mixed feelings. But, here again, I am thoroughly with the Prime Minister, who perceives, as I think most men must perceive, that the state of Australia, at present calls for the most serious consideration. If we reflect, as the Prime Minister has reflected, we must readily see that this is so. No man has drawn more brilliant pictures than those drawn by the honorable and learned gentleman, in the years gone by, of the glorious destiny in store for Australia, and of the grand institutions of this country, which we invite people in other lands to share. No man has drawn more brilliant pictures than he has done of the past prosperity of Australia, and of its prosperity in years to come. But the point is this : that having this great continent, with its vast possibilities, with its scant population, in contrast with the crowded countries of Europe, in contrast with the ancient well-ploughed fields of human industry in those old countries, we ‘find, in spite of all our marvellous advantages, that the stream of human attraction, the stream of that which helps on human attraction - the capital to be invested in enterprises in the Commonwealth - has ceased to flow. These streams, which flowed so lavishly to Australian shores in years gone by, and which in most cases brought our fathers here, have stopped. As the Prime Minister says, we now have stagnation. Seeing that we have passed so many wonderful remedies, in the way of legislation, for all the ills which afflict humanity, that we have adopted such a benignant policy, and that we have institutions so perfect as to be the cynosure of all eyes, is it not a thousand pities to find that for some reason or other, the eyes of humanity, the eyes of enterprise are turned away from us? It may be the fault of the people of other lands, but had we not better inquire into the cause? What is the cause of it ? The question is worthy of consideration. Do honorable members know, as stated by the Prime Minister at the recent Conference of State Treasurers, that out of 780,000 immigrants to Australia in forty years 635,000 were assisted immigrants? Do we realize the significance of that fact? Six hundred and thirty-five thousand human beings settled in Australia during the last forty years, with State assistance, while there was only 145,000 immigrants without assistance. How many of the Australians of to-day - how many of our present population of 4,000,000 - can say that their fathers were not helped out to Australia ? I am not saying that we should at present adopt the policy of assisted immigration. The question of whether something should not be done is a matter for very serious consideration, but I do not at present say that we should adopt that policy. If it be adopted, it seems to me that it can be adopted only as a national policy - that the movements between the different States make their settlement so uncertain that no one State would incur the expense of carrying out this policy. The Prime Minister has pointed out that in this serious crisis the one need above all others is that we should have not merely immigrants, but immigrants of a certain class - farmers. I agree with him. We must all agree with him that if we could pick and choose our immigrants the only men for whom we should have any strong desire would be farmers from the old European countries, possessing a certain amount of capital that would enable them to begin farming ‘life in Australia under sensible conditions.
– And a few more hatters !
– May I suggest that we are discussing a national question, and that it is not to be disposed of by a joke ? No one in this House takes greater indulgence in the field of jocularity than I do; but I hope, as I am sure my honorable friend does, that there are some subjects upon which a man can be serious.
– The right honorable gentleman made the question of the six hatters a serious subject.
– But I am not dealing with1 that question. I am dealing with another matter, which I think is a very serious one. My honorable friend will probably agree with me that if there is one hope to which we must cling for the sound development of Australian greatness, in the absence of some marvellous discovery of mineral wealth, which might at once change the situation, as if by magic, it is to be found in those who cultivate the soil. This is no discovery. ‘ It is one of those platitudes that every boy in a public school must appreciate. But I. am coming to something more practical. I am sure I am now addressing a large number of honorable members who have had a long experience in the country district^ of Australia, and I would appeal more particularly to those who have had that experience in the State to which I belong. I believe that. I am not wrong in saying that the number of farmers from the other side of the world, who have come to New South Wales with capital to carry on their .industry, has always been very small.
– Very small.
– That is the most difficult class to obtain. If a man has capital, and has a home - perhaps the home of his family for centuries - he finds it one of the most severe wrenches in life to tear up the roots of his household and go to a new land. The fact is, however, that these men do not come here. I believe that if we were to poll the farmers ot Australia to-day, we should find that they were not men whose fathers placed them on the soil. Very few of them have had that experience. The great bulk of them are men who began life by working for ordinary wages on the stations and farms of Australia. They began by saving their money.; they acquired a knowledge of the districts in which they lived, and the moment they obtained sufficient means they became selectors, and gradually developed into farmers. That is the history of agricultural settlement in Australia. And yet I assert in this House, and in the presence of Australia, that if any man in the Commonwealth decided to bring out from the mother country100 agricultural labourers who would settle on our farming lands, and acquire some small savings with which to begin farming operations for themselves, those men would be subjected on their arrival either to fine, imprisonment, or transportation.
-They would not save much on most farms.
– While the Prime Minister is searching for heaven-sent mysterious remedies for the paralysis of Australian development, this House and the present Ministry have placed round the shores of Australiaa notice board bearing the sign - “ Trespassers will be prosecuted according to law.’.’
– That is the cause, I presume?
– The honorable member for Maranoa referred to the case of the six hatters. May I suggest to the honorable member, from information which I have obtained from reliable sources - mostly from Australians who have been home and returned to our shores - that much as we can afford to laugh here, the position is a serious one. So far as we personally are concerned, we have no problem to solve. We have here a close preserve. We have had to fight for it, but now that we have got it, it is all right - we have struck comfortable surroundings. The problem of settlement - so far as we are concerned - has been settled for three years-
– I would not say that.
– I hope that it is. Our position is secure, subject, of course, to the right of petition. I wish to point out that’ the answer given to me on this head is not sufficient. So far as I can judge, the objection to the views I have expressed is infinitesimal. The answer I have received from honorable members, and from one or two isolated persons who have interjected at the public meetings in my own State, at which I have expressed these views before thousands of electors, is - “ If you import an agricultural labourer from England, under contract to perform work here, he is not a free man.” That argument is not a valid one. If the statement be true, no one under a contract to perform labour for wages is a free man. The labourer who is imported under contract is just as free as the labourer who, in Australia, signs an agreement to perform certain work for a certain period at so much a month. In the ! case of the imported labourer, inasmuch as themoney paid to bring him out to Australia has been advanced by the person with whom he has contracted, the agreement ‘for service would probably be for a longer period than is customary here, in order that the passage money may be honestly repaid. It must be remembered that the State does not put its hand into its pocket to pay the passage money of these men, as it did to pay the passage money of the 650,000 assisted immigrants who arrived here in the past forty years. Private enterprise, unassisted by the State, brings out these men, and enables them to enrich our Australian blood. I suppose we have not yet got to the pitch of thinking that English, Scotch, and Irish immigrants will contaminate our blood. We have not yet turned on the blood that runs through our own veins. In looking at the practical conditions of farming in this continent, our only hope for the future is, that agricultural labourers from other lands, who have nothing to tempt them to stay there and everything to induce them to come here,will be prevailed upon to immigrate to Australia.
– Does not the right honorable and learned gentleman know that in New South Wales thousands of our farmers’ sons cannot obtain land?
– My honorable friend is missing the point which I am making. The agricultural labourer who comes out here is not a farmer’s son who can take up land. He is a man whom the persons who hold these millions of acres can employ. I admit that the curse of Australia is that our best land, which should attract sensible farmers from other countries, is in very large holdings.
– There are plenty of labourers to be got.
– That was the cry when Robinson Crusoe inhabited his island. There’ was plenty of labour to be got because he did not need any. ‘ My honorable friend has missed one of the greatest lessons affecting the development of new nations settled in vast territories, if he has not learned that, granted the vastness of the territory, the magnificence of the resources, and the sparseness of the population, every human being coming into the country is a source, not of misery, but of wealth.
– We all admit that.
– Every man who comes here, I do not care what his employment, becomes a customer to fifty other working men engaged in fifty other industries.
– No one objects to that’ argument.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. It seemed to me that some rudimentary principles were being misapprehended. It is a rudimentary principle of colonization that the immigration of desirable immigrants - I quite admit that they must be desirable - to a young country like Australia is a good thing, not only for the immigrants themselves, but for the people who are already here.
– Although the Act is keeping out good men, it did not keep out Dowie !
– So far as Dowie is. concerned, if he had had the good sense to retain a bodyguard consisting of a certain friend of mine, he would not have had trouble at his public meetings. In my opinion, the episode, of the six hatters, which has been laughed at here, has caused the reputation of Australia more injury than perhaps anything else in “our history.
– The right honorable gentleman surprises me.
– It may be a subject of jocularity to some, but to my mind one of the -causes of our present trouble is the withdrawal of the confidence of the people of England from Australia because of the way in which we have treated Englishmen who have come here. I may be entirely wrong, and my honorable friends may be possessed of the knowledge and discernment necessary to show that I am so, but I respectfully desire to offer that as my personal opinion.
– It is a number of the Whittaker Wrights in Collins-street who are frightening capital away - men on the Stock Exchange.
– That is contemptible if it be so. But what would be the feelings of Australians if we were told that six young Australians who had gone to England under an agreement were to be shipped back to Australia ? We should have the Australian flag waving frantically in the air if that occurred. It would be said - “You call England the mother country, and yet when six bright young Australians were called from their native land because of their superior qualifications to engage in an honest industry in England “ - the hatter’s trade is an honest industry - “ the Prime Minister of that country has taken a week to consider whether they should be sent to gaol or kept on board ship until they can be returned to Australia.” We should have our friends of the Labour Party, especially if the men concerned were members of labour unions, up near the ceiling in their denunciation of the outrage upon the integrity of the labour Of the Empire.
– Not at all. We should say “ serve them right.”
– Considering that these hatters were genuine unionists, who were to receive union rates of pay, the Labour Party have since taken them to their bosoms very kindly. They tried to send them home again, but when they failed, they took them to their bosoms. That is a kind of treatment which may recommend itself to certain honorable gentlemen, but it is not characteristic of the mass of the workers.
– Is it true that the six hatters were working against the free-trade party at the last elections ?
– I think it highly probable that they were, because they are engaged in a protected industry. I regard the provision of the Act as unfortunate.’ Its . intention was not a bad one, and I believe that some of the members on this side of the chamber voted for it. Its honest and proper intention was to prevent the introduction during strikes of masses of labourers. . That was the chief object, and the second object was to prevent workmen in other countries from being made the subjects of fraudulent deception. I am with the members of the Labour Party in wishing to achieve those two objects. I am not fighting against that, and I would vote every time to secure those ends. But I draw the line against the third object of the provision. I say that we have no right to prevent the immigration of men from the mother country who want to settle here, not as loafers, but as workers, who have honest work awaiting their arrival.
– To displace other workers here !
– Now we have a line upon which the Ministry must be challenged. This sentiment - I will not be so unfair as to say it is the sentiment of the whole Labour Party, because the views expressed now are simply those of the individual members, who have interjected - raises a clear issue with the Government. The speech’ of the GovernorGeneral and the manifestoes issued by the Prime Minister throughout Australia in their highest notes dwelt upon the supreme necessity of a stream of immigration from other countries. Surely the Labour Party will not strike an aristocratic line, and say that, while they are perfectly agreeable to the immigration of gentlemen with private means, of farmers’ sons and others who have a few hundred pounds in their pockets, and who, after looking round the country, may fix their abode and invest their capital here, they object to the introduction of mere workers ! Such an aristocratic line as that is surely the last which the Labour Party can draw. If they believe in immigration at all, surely they will not deny their fellowworkers in the mother land the privileges which their own fathers enjoyed under the auspices of the State, and out of moneys provided by the public Treasury ! I leave that point to deal with another aspect of the brilliant pictures which the Prime Minister presented for the comfort of the farmers of Australia. In the first place, his dominant point of policy is to bring out more farmers to compete with those already here. That may be thoughta curious remedy for the distress of our own formers. I take no such ridiculous view. I say that Australia is wide enough to receive hundreds of thousands of desirable immigrants of all classes.
– If we can give them land.
– The Prime Minister said -
The preferential trade proposals now engaging the attention of the people of Great Britain will, if approved, secure to us an immense and reliable market.
What a grand thing we have in view now. The honorable and learned gentleman is not speaking in the language of rhetoric. “ Secure “ is a grand word, and he promises to secure to the farming community an immense and reliable market. It is marvellous, to my mind, that he should have remained ignorant of the policy of the Imperial Government, as announced in’ the House of Commons a few days ago during the debate there on the Address in Reply. It is astounding that the Government should refer to a scheme of preferential trade in the Governor-General’s speech as something to be mentioned in connexion with agricultural distress in Australia. Does not the Prime Minister know that the Imperial Government a few days ago formally and expressly announced to the Imperial Parliament that they did not approve of a policy of preference? Is the Prime Minister aware that they formally and explicitly announced to the Imperial Parliament that they would be no parties to imposing taxes on food? How can the Ministry put such delusive statements in the vice-regal address when the Imperial Government expressly state that they are opposed to preference and opposed to taxes on food ? Mr. Chamberlain is a very great man, a man for whom I have unfeigned admiration, and I believe his motives are absolutely good. I give that distinguished man absolute credit for believing that the policy he is advocating is a good one for his country.
– It would be charitable to say that old age has turned his brain.
– If it were as the honorable member says, I should look for more respect for old age from the young. The time may come when my honorable friend may be in a similar position, when his worst enemy will not jibe at him. I do not approve of the interjection, which it seems to me is in the worst of taste. Of course I was a young man myself once, but I do not sympathize with the observation.
– Our party in this House do not view Mr. Chamberlain with unfeigned admiration.
– My honorable and learned friend must understand that I am not indorsing every view that Mr. Chamberlain has expressed during his lifetime. If I did so, I should have to contradict myself very often. I give him the personal credit which I believe is his due, although I am as strongly opposed to him on this matter as any one can be, not as it affects the Colonies, but as it affects the millions in the mother country herself. The Prime Minister spoke of a certain pamphlet of Mr. Balfour’s as superb.
– Hear, hear.
– Does the Prime Minister omit to draw from that pamphlet the fact that, by his policy, he has placed Australia in the precise category in which Mr. Balfour puts Germany, France, and the United States ? Is he aware that the only policy adopted by Mr. Balfour, in that very pamphlet, which is superb - is one of retaliation.
– That is outside the Empire.
– I admit that my right honorable friend has a right to interject upon all these great questions. The principle of the policy of the Imperial Government, as disclosed in that pamphlet written by Mr. Balfour, is retaliation.
– I repeat, “Outside the Empire.”
– I shall deal with that subject presently ; for the present it is the property of my honorable friend. Where is Great Britain to retaliate, and for what ? Against countries that design their tariffs to shut out the products of her industries. That is the design of the Tariff of the Commonwealth. There is no preference for England there. There is the barrier to British trade; not to the same extent as the Ministry desired - thanks to the Opposition. The Government tried to build a stiffer wall against the mother country, and we pulled it down. Yet we are called foreign traders. There was a time, for thirty years, when the protectionists called us foreign traders, because they wanted to shut out the British manufactures, which, in the old days, competed seriously with Australian industries. However, Mr. Balfour says that his principle is retaliation, and the policy of the Government brings us within the sphere of Mr. Balfour’s denunciation. Yet the Government are now posing as the party of loyalty and affection for the mother country. Of course, the British Government are not so silly as to announce that they will treat the Commonwealth in the same way as France and Germany; that would burst the whole balloon.
– The right honorable gentleman said so at first.
– If I did, I fell into an error which my honorable friend has very gracefully corrected. What I wish to show is that in the case of the Colonies there is an observation that moral suasion is to be used. The whip is to be employed in the case of France and Germany, and moral suasion, which I suppose will take the form of placing us over the Imperial knee, is to be used towards the Commonwealth. With reference to the policy of preferential trade, I say in the first place, that the Imperial Government has expressly repudiated it, and secondly that it must be years before the people of England can vote upon it. Further, to talk of the policy of preferential trade, even if it were carried, as offering a secure market for Australian products, is to speak in blind ignorance of the fact that Canada has millions of acres of untilled agricultural lands within 3,000 miles of the mother country - lands which farmers may obtain for nothing. To talk of the struggling Australian farmers who have droughts to fight against and difficulties to contend with in securing land, and who are under the necessity of paying a high price for labour as compared with Canada, - to talk of their securing a reliable market under preferential trade, whilst we have an enormous Canada in the west, and an enormous India in the east with its coloured labour, is to set pretty music,’ in which there is no sense, for the people of Australia. . We shall have to settle our troubles in some other way. May I also suggest that the Government should have some sympathy with the farmers in England and Scotland and Ireland. Are these men, with their high rents and taxes, and their soil which has been exhausted by intense cultivation for centuries, to have no preference, no help? The great landed interest of England is sitting quietly by, but when we come along for our preference, a mighty irresistible cry will come from the Tory party of England. As the Prime Minister says - “ Charity begins at home,” and as he further remarks, “A statesman must look after the people of his own household.” The Tory party of Great Britain will ask that the people of the British household, who pay the British taxes, shall have some preference against men in these new lands who tax British industry. So that the whole of these references to the subject of preferential trade are the merest trifling with the stern necessities of the situation which confronts us. Something more than a poetic inspiration is required to meet the practical needs of Australia. We are told that new industries are to be encouraged. What are they ? The growing of cotton and coffee - black labour industries all the world over. Where is the coffee of the world grown? In tropical countries. What labour is used there? Coloured labour. Where is cotton grown ? In tropical countries. An attempt was made to. grow it in Fiji, and one would have thought that it would have had a very good chance there with the employment of coloured labour, but the industry was a failure. Experience has shown that the industries to which I have referred flourish only in tropical countries teeming with coloured millions to work in their coffee plantations and the cane-fields and cotton -fields. There is one point upon which I hold a very firm opinion. I would rather have the Northern Territory go on until eternity, with the best industry that can be found to fit its conditions, than introduce the coloured races into even a corner of Australia. I would rather let it lie as it is than open the dyke for the yellow flood that we should have to fight some day with all the strength that God has given us. I believe that that principle is supreme - it means self-preservation ; and I think that those who are crushing out the coloured labour on the sugar-fields of Queensland must take us for a lot of simpletons when they talk to us of coffee and cotton growing as industries which could be profitably established in Australia. Such talk would be all very well at a banquet, but it is utterly out of place in a serious deliverance such as that now before us.
– There is a great deal of cotton grown in America by white labour.
– Then I am very sorry for the white labour. In both the industries - cotton and coffee growing - white men fill the best positions, but coloured labourers do the hard work. ‘ Now I wish to deal in a few words with one or two of the remaining items in the Governor-General’s speech. There are three matters to which I wish to refer before I resume my seat. I ask honorable members to recollect .that the Government came before the people of Australia flying the flag of loyalty to the Empire and Imperial unity. Now let us see what this Imperial unity of this Empireloving Government means. Shipping laws to penalize the’ ships of England - shipping laws against the country whose ports are open to the Australian flag without let or hindrance. The moment, however, that the Union Jack is borne into these Australian seas we become American, and not British. We apply American laws to the British flag. If the Government really believe that preferential trade will open up great avenues to farming enterprise, if they really believe that we shall have tens of millions of bushels of wheat to sell to the people of Great Britain behind the preferential barricade, this is not the time to penalize the British people at every point, by proscribing their immigrants, proscribing their shipping, and discarding their mail services. I know that we shall have to thrash out all these matters! byandby,/but an the meantime thB Government, by its actions, is sending the knife right into the unity of the British Empire. I do not quarrel with the Government in the attitude they took up in the first instance in reference t’o the mail services. The then Prime Minister said that he would do all he could to bring about a white service ; but he pointed out the difficulties. In tHe Senate the provision for the employment of white labour upon mail steamers was omitted. The Vice-President of the Executive Council showed how mischievous it would be to insert the clause, and his arguments were so convincing that he secured its rejection by seventeen votes to nine. When the Bill came to this House, and an amendment was moved to re-insert the provision, the Prime Minister spoke in opposition to it, and the Government ‘ were hostile to its inclusion, but when they found that the Labour Party had made up their minds to have the clause, they agreed to its re-insertion.
– I think the Prime Minister spoke in favour of the provision.
– However, that may be, my point is that I agreed cordially with the Prime Minister in the attitude he first assumed. With him, I wished to see white labour employed wherever possible - I think that every man must instinctively desire that - and I backed him up, with a view to bring about that result. When honorable members speak of my inconsistency in reference to this matter, I am glad to be able to remove their misapprehension. What did the Postal Conference affirm? That it was desirable to communicate with the home authorities, with a view to secure the inclusion in the mail contracts of a provision for the employment of white labour.
– They affirmed the desirability of discussing the matter in the Parliaments.
– Yes. And-we did discuss it. We tried to induce the Imperial Government to insert the clause. Our attitude and that of the Government, up ‘to that point, was the same. But the difference between us was that later on, when the Imperial Government would not comply with our wishes, we did not take the alternative of breaking up the mail service to Australia.
– The right honorable member said, “Yes, Mr. Chamberlain,” then.
– Mr. Chamberlain was not in office then. Moreover, we said “Yes” because we thought it a wise thing to say under the circumstances. We would not go to the breaking point. We thought that it was desirable to employ white labour only, but we would not go to the extreme of breaking up the mail service of the Commonwealth upon that point. We did not think that the question involved was large enough to warrant us in so doing. My position is absolutely consistent. I was with the Government up to the point of doing all that they could to induce the Imperial Government to place the mail contracts upon that basis, but I stopped short, and would not be a party to the extreme action which the Government have taken. But there is still another brilliant picture which the Prime Minister drew. Not only were we to have a white ocean mail service, but we were to secure such a wonderful contract with the white service company that we should lay our farmers under immense obligations to us. The contract was to include most masterly provisions for the transport of all kinds of Australian perishable produce. All this was brilliant. People began to applaud the statesmanship of this masterly move. But after the Postmaster- General has hunted all round Melbourne for tenders the fact remains that we are face to face with a very practical situation ; and I say that, much as every man may desire that these mail steamers should employ only white labour, the price which we are asked to pay is too great for the smallness of the object in view. Now that Ministers find that they cannot carry out this project, it is singular that they have suddenly become enamoured of the practice of paying for the carriage of Australian mails in the same way as we purchase tea or sugar - by the pound. There is also some mention made of an improved new service with the New Hebrides. Will the Government prevent the natives of those islands from procuring employment on these ships;
– It must be all white labour upon these ships.
– What a marvellous attitude to assume ! We send our subsidized ships to make money out of the labour and energies of the poor wretched natives of the South Sea Islands, and we will not even give them a billet in the stokehold. What a magnificent, magnanimous attitude for Australia to take up. It is fit to rank with that momentous week during which the two men in Australia who excited most attention were the Prime Minister and the secretary of the Hatters’ Association. If these projects are intended to make for Imperial unity, and for the cultivation of brotherly feeling and . affection between the millions of England and our farmers, who wish to’ sell them their produce, I say it is an unbusinesslike thing to irritate and aggravate the men by whom Ave want to enrich ourselves. It is an ^aggravating, irritating, unstatesmanlike thing. Of course, my honorable friends of the Ministerial benches would naturally very much prefer not to listen to me, but I must thank the House for the patient attention which they have bestowed upon my remarks. As the leader of the Opposition, I wish it to be distinctly understood that we in no sense entertain the slightest fear of any progressive Liberal legislation. We have never done so. The traditions of our party are those of the great
Liberal Party. I have always incurred the animosity of the privileged classes of the community by the course which I took in compelling them to pay their fair share of the public taxation. These traditions, in the State of New South Wales, remain with us to-day. We must - as all sensible men must - look upon progress as the universal law. We must look upon change as an evolution which is inseparable from not only the existence, but also the improvement of mankind. We do not fear change, we do not fear progress. I wish to say again in the most emphatic manner that we are in absolute, sympathy with the most progressive legislation, that we entertain none of the old conservative idea that change is bad, and that progress will lead to calamity. There is nothing written more clearly upon the page of history and upon the face of the world than the one bright truth that amidst all the passing clouds of disaster, amidst all the horrid features which we occasionally, see in the progress of mankind, and in the evolution of -the highest forms of human society - through all the centuries, through . all those fearful passages, humanity is rising, . always rising, to a more perfect state. Having this feeling in favour of progress, and entertaining this ‘belief in the future of mankind, we have ideals. The highest ideal for a party is such a use of its powers as to enjoy the confidence not of one class, however influential, nor of one mass, however powerful. The idea of representative government is that a man should be equally the representative of every individual and every class in his constituency, that he should enjoy the confidence of every man, or ait any rate of the men of every class in his constituency. So with the evolution of our national politics. Our ideal is that in deciding the great issues which affect the fate of nations, we should, when we enter the ballot-boxes of Australia, endeavour to leave our own interests behind us. We should try to forget the thing which would help us as against our fellow men. In short, our desire should always be to vote in such a way as to keep public affairs upon a high elevation of public sentiment and public principle, without the alloy of class interest or class selfishness. These are ideals upon which depends the prosperity, not only of the rich, not only of the few, but. also the well-being of the whole mass of the community. The triumph of extremes is - and never more so than now - always followed by suffering and disaster, which are felt by those who are least able to bear them. I can understand that persons suffering under tyranny may throw reason to the winds - their country must be free, no matter how many despots disappear. But we are not in that position. We have fought out our great political battles in advance. The political equality of the people is enshrined in our Constitution, and now that we have such a Constitution - keeping in view the complicated interests of this vast community - the only true path of national progress and development is that which proceeds upon broad but moderate lines.
– I am grateful to . the House for the respite which was afforded by your kind consideration, Mr. Speaker, to the suggestion made that we should adjourn at the close of the speech made by the leader of the Opposition. Having listened to the remarks of the right honorable the leader of the Opposition with close, attention, I found myself, and assumed that others would probably find themselves, somewhat fatigued by the strain necessary to follow a speech so comprehensive and able, and dealing with a vast variety of subjects in the right honorable gentleman’s best manner. I felt also that the concession granted would not be lost, since it afforded an opportunity as necessary to me as it was to the right honorable member to survey some portion of the ground to be traversed, in order not to detain honorable members more than was absolutely necessary. Let me first acknowledge the admirably practical manner in which the honorable members who moved and seconded the address fulfilled their task. Then allow me to say that I do not propose to complain that the leader of the Opposition pointed to his own small successes and expressed the natural satisfaction of an antagonist at the misfortune which has befallen honorable members who sat on this side of the House. The interjection of approval which I gave to his references to the loss we feel was absolutely sincere. We have lost some of the best men it was ever my privilege to see in Parliament. I assert with perfect indifference as to the side on which they sat, or the principles which they supported, that more upright, more patriotic, more public-spirited men never sat in any of our legislatures. I do not think it necessary to detain the House with more than the briefest reference to the condition of affairs by which those losses were brought about. It is not necessary to apologize for them, or even to explain them ; but it should be said once and for all that those who recognised the position in which the Ministry went to the country felt that the exultation expressed at that time by my right honorable friend and those around him at the opportunity afforded to them was well founded. We had lived through’ a Parliament of about two and a half years’ duration, and of that life about two years had been spent in session. The Cabinet Bacl just lost three of the leading statesmen of Australia. We had coped with a long series of great questions in the presence of three parties, for the House was divided then - although not in the same numbers, on the same principles - as it is at present. Our one cardinal obligation had been to discharge the supreme duty resting upon us as a House and as a Government to pass a tariff in some shape before we closed our labours. Yet that was the question upon which the House was most seriously divided. Our “ Customs,” if I may parody the poet, rested “ upon us, with a weight heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.” The necessity of passing a tariff, however mutilated, in order that the mandate of the Constitution might be fulfilled, and that the finances of both Commonwealth and States should be preserved, was absolutely imperative. Whatever might have been the form in which- it emerged from the trial in this House, it was the first duty of the Government to pass it, and pass it at any cost. That was one. of the considerations which, as the right honorable gentleman remarks, did not put us in a favourable position for an appeal to the country ; nor were other surroundings such as to award us even a share of good fortune. We hari to encounter in this State - the centre, as my right honorable friend has often observed, of the fiscal views which I defend - a gross want of discipline, that . lost us several seats. On the other side of the river, the right honorable gentleman, more fortunate, was at the head of a great and well disciplined organization, which enabled him to reinforce his strength. Whilst my friend had here, as he had in other States, a strong and resolute press to support him, we found ourselves, in New South Wales, confronted, not only by the right honorable gentleman - a tower of strength in himself - confronted, not only with the strong party with which he has been allied for years, but by the two great morning dailies, both of them speaking in absolute unison in support of everything done by him, or in his name, and condemning everything done by us, or in our name. That was an enormous handicap. Those familiar with public life will realize that it must tell heavily in any election, and it told with peculiar force, under the peculiar circumstances which aroused feeling in that State. I am in one respect in thorough accord with the right honorable gentleman.. I believe’ that my own career, like his own, shows a determination at all hazards to ignore sectarian differences in the political arena. Like him, I view with regret their intrusion on either side. He himself ‘ has stated that, without reference to his own utterances, a certain vote was cast against him; but it is also equally clear that a certain vote was cast for him, and that in his State the second vote was immensely the stronger of the two. Consequently, in that State we suffered practically the whole of our electoral misfortunes. It has always been a matter of regret to me that the two States in the union who are the closest neighbours - the most intimately allied in commerce and intercourse - should have been divided on the one question on which Federal parties were founded. That, however, is the fact, and if my right honorable friend, when he looks back upon his brilliant efforts in that campaign has anything to regret or if I - as one returning with interest the kind and cordial expressions which he was good enough to utter - have anything to regret for him, it is that he should have stepped from his high Federal position of independence to appeal to narrow provincial motives which should never be introduced on a Federal platform. They, like sectarian influences, should be sternly put aside. I trust that whatever may be the differences of opinion which separate us in this House, they will never be created by the boundaries of the States, or represented by appeals to one section of the people. In these circumstances - my right honorable friends influence and ability, his organization, his press, the local feeling that existed across the border - what wonder is it that a number of those who supported the Ministerial policy lost their seats, and that we thus find ourselves reduced in strength ? When all these facts are realised it will be seen that the principles for which we contended had far less scope and effect in that contest than they have in ordinary contests. They taught us the lesson - that over the area of Australia it is difficult, if not impossible, at the present time to put forward one platform which will become the standard of support to one side, and of opposition to the other. My right honorable friend alluded to the circumstances associated with the general elections in Queensland. He might also have referred to other States in which the main question submitted by myself, as well as by himself, were passed by in favour of other considerations. He should realize that one reason why we stand in this Parliament today divided into three parties instead of two is the great size of the Commonwealth. The differences in political training, in habits of thought, and access to information, between the people of these States have led them to attach very waryng importance to the Federal issues submitted to them. There are, consequently, three parties in this House because Australia is practically divided in itself, and has not yet come to that full consciousness of its Federal responsibilities and powers which will ultimately resolve us into two parties, and two alone. Then my right honorable friend has another advantage in connexion with the general elections. I claim no credit for the Government, because it submitted a positive and somewhat elaborate programme. Any Government in the circumstances would have been obliged to do the same if it cherished any hopes of success. It is part of the responsibilities of its position. The Opposition, on the other hand, enjoyed, as they always enjoy, if they choose to exercise it, a far greater freedom ; a freedom from any positive or constructive policy of their own - a choice of simple negatives, which enabled them to unite all their conflicting forces against a Government programme. My right honorable friend, past-master of tactics as well as of their exposition, took full advantage of that situation. His policy was to present no policy, except in the negative. Even on the fiscal question, to which I must presently allude, his attitude was that of general hostility to the protectionist duties which had been passed. It went no further. In almost every particular of the Ministerial programme the right honorable member confined himself to general, and certainly genuine, indications of his dislike to them or to minor matters. The questions put by us to the Commonwealth - the adoption or rejection of our whole policy - were met by my right honorable friend with a demand that those who followed him should content themselves by rejecting them. That, as we all know, is another practical advantage which he enjoyed. Whatever a Government has done it has always made fewer warm friends by its actions than it has made enemies of those who think some other course ought to have been followed. Whatever it may have left undone is remembered by those who are innocent, perhaps, of all knowledge of the circumstances which compelled or ad vised the omission. Every Government suffers from this condition of affairs’. It was not peculiar to this Government or to the last elections, but operating as it did throughout the whole of Australia, extending over a vast field, and working upon undisciplined forces, the marvel is that the Government comes back to find itself in possession of the Treasury benches.
– In physical possession.
– Quite so. That is, after all, a remarkable achievement. We had to confront not only the right honorable gentleman, but an independent party in this House, following its own announced platform - a platform that in this and many of the States comes so much closer to our own than to that of the Opposition that the antagonism of those who stand in its name is to us more deadly. We who, like my right honorable friend, claim the title of “ liberal “ and even of “radical,” know that those who hold opinions similar to our own are our most dangerous antagonists at the poll, and consequently we suffered, as my right honorable friend has pointed out, to in even greater extent than did h’is own party.
– Not in New South Wales.
– We suffered to a much greater extent, except in New South Wales and Victoria, where the position remained practically unaltered. When all these circumstances are taken into ‘account - and I dismiss them now - it becomes easy to understand why we face the House with only one-third of its members as our supporters, independently of any other organization. My right honorable friend still enjoys, and while he remains in opposition will continue to enjoy, yet one more advantage.
– I will give them all to the Prime Minister if he will change places with me.
– When my right honorable friend crosses to this side of the House he will not be able to hand over those advantages to us to the same extent. Honorable members on this side who are Ministerialists have been returned on the Ministerial programme, which is positive, while honorable members on the opposition side have been returned on a programme which is negative. Deep divisions will rend the right honorable gentleman’s ranks when he steps from mere negations to positive propositions. At present he is able to keep under his banner many whose contrasted sympathies were reflected in their faces in spite of themselves during his remarkable deliverance this evening. The smiles “whichrippled over the faces of one section were surely heralded by the frowns of the other while the leader of the Opposition, in his inimitable way, turned lightly from one difficult problem to its fellow. That indicated only too plainly that his power lies, as he now perceives, in pursuing to the last a barren policy. He has maintained it consistently in the. admirable speech to which we have just listened. When the Opposition put to sea under his captainship, they sailed under sealed orders ; those who expected that to-night the seals would be broken, and the ultimate destination of the party known, are no better informed now than they were before.
– I am waiting for the offer that is coming.
– “ Prescribe when you are called in.”
– That dictum has the’ authority of one of the greatest of English statesmen, Sir Robert Peel; but it was more apt in his day, when the public not only took a much smaller share in the business of the nation, but were taken much less into the confidence of their leaders, than now. At the present time a negative policy can be pursued only for a short distance, and for immediate purposes. If followed further, it will fail. It is not the noblest kind of strategy. Indeed, it may be termed a “ penny-in-the-slot “ tactic. One must put a penny in before any policy will pop out.
– The Government were glad to fight under the white flag of truce during the elections.
– We fought for the white flag of a white Australia.
– We all fight for that.
– My right honorable friend’s’ allusion to the white flag is applicable to the Ministry, only because of the stainlessness of our policy.
– There is not even a blot of ink upon it.
– The difficulties of the situation are common to us both. When my right honorable friend was turning me pleasantly upon the gridiron, I thought of the comment of the Aztec prince to his complaining compani’on who was undergoing the same torture by the white conquerors of his country - “Am I, too, on a bed of roses?” I felt inclined to interject, when the right honorable gentleman was speaking - “ Are you, too, on a bed of roses ?”
– No, I am not. I am waiting to be asked.
– My right honorable friend has a large professional experience of cases in which thoughtless offers of alliances have been followed by disastrous pecuniary results to thegentlemen who have made them. He is an expert in such cases, and he knows that the present opportunity does not permit me to make a reply without prejudice. Under the circumstances, I must wait for such an occasion. The difficulty the Government have in making an offer is that we do not enjoy, his position of vantage. We went to the country, and have been returned upon a programme from which, beyond the reasonable relaxations of practical expediency, a departure is not possible, and we can make an alliance only with those who share our programme. The right hon- orable member has not seen fit to disclose his programme, and until he does how can I know whether an offer can be honorably made or received?
– The right honorable and learned gentleman must employ a broker.
– I should not need to go far from my right honorable friend at the present time. Although I do not withdraw one word of the speech of mine to which he alluded, it appears to me that, bound as we are to our programme, the gradual emergence of the solution of the present situation from the active life of this House must be awaited as the only thing possible. We have put before honorable members a programme which is definite and long; but all the measures mentioned in the speech can be dealt with this session, with one or two exceptions, which are carefully indicated. We hope to deal, even in a short session, if the House is so minded, with practically the whole of those questions. In doing so, we must inevitably fall into voting alliances and oppositions which will indicate the principles by which we are moved. The formal alliance,’ when it comes about, must be absolutely open, and made- in the public eye. The speech of my right honorable friend was notable for many things, and eloquent in many parts, but most eloquent in its silences. When he spoke with a certain sympathy of the funeral obsequies of the Ministry, the apprehensions which I might otherwise have felt were calmed by the realization that he is- wearing black crape upon his own arm in remembrance of obsequies far more important than those of a Ministry or party - the death and burial, during this Parliament, at all events, of the fiscal issue.
– I recognise that that is the verdict of the constituencies.
– That admission disarms me at once. The omission from the GovernorGeneral’s speech of a reference to fiscal peace is due simply to the lack of necessity for it, either as a mere statement of fact or as the glorification of success. The fact stands out boldly before the eyes of the thoughtful, because it marks a very important stage on the journey we have been travelling. We inherited the fiscal issue from the States, and in a federation of a group of States, with differing policies, it had to be fought out; it could not be avoided. It has been fought out to an issue in a form which, is unsatisfactory to both sides. But, by the verdict of the public, the question has been deposed from its high place as the first article upon our programme, and laid aside altogether for this Parliament. Perhaps it has been disposed, of in perpetuity, in the sense in which the fight has hitherto been waged.
– Then what is the meaning of the references in the speech to bounties and bonuses ?
– If we commence with the acceptance of the fact that the fiscal issue is dead, the way is open for dealing with the practical problems before us with a much freer hand than we have hitherto possessed. Up to the present, considerations foreign to these problems have weighed upon our minds, and have occasionally deflected our views in spite of ourselves. The fiscal issue being put aside, we are free to look these questions straight in the face. My right honorable friend was not without justification when he said that, in the opinion of those who agree with him, the’ proposals for what is termed preferential trade, which were before this country during the elections in an indefinite shape, seemed a contradiction of the protectionist policy adopted by those who sit on this side of the chamber. That may easily be so, for this reason: the question is one which may be regarded apart from fiscal principles in their ordinary application. Replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta, in regard to bounties, it is common for those who term themselves free-traders to approve the granting of bounties and subsidies of one kind and another, or proposals going beyond the most favoured nation clauses providing discriminate treatment with other countries. Such proposals were made by the mother country in the treaty with France, and have been considered at other times.
– They were quite different.
– They were different ; but they represent departures which to the minds of many free-traders were not justified. They were believed to impair the pure principles of free-trade. I do not agree, but I can understand the position of those who, like my right honorable friend, consider our present proposals inconsistent with the protectionist policy. To our minds they are the necessary outcome, and part and parcel of the principles of protection as we understand and have adopted them. I feel that it would be idle to reopen the fiscal controversy at this stage; but desire to draw a broader line of demarcation than that which is furnished by fiscal opinion, so that the causes from which our deepest differences spring may be realized. The term “free-trade “ is an extremely effective battle cry. All sentiment is for freedom, and Britons at all events have always realized the value of trade. But the term “freetrade “ has always been specious if not spurious in the mouths of many of those who adopted it. Their policy is not free-trade but free imports. The free-trader who is only a free importer, rejects the doctrines of protection now because he rejects the restriction of imports in England sixty years ago, undertaken in the interests of a class and by mediaeval means, which unnecessarily’ interfered with commerce. But the rejection of the old system of what may be called class protection no longer applies when protection has been democratized, as we know it has in Australia, since it now takes into account the interests of all classes of the community, and aims at supporting them. As we claim to have developed the doctrine beyond the point at which it was formerly subject to criticism, we see in the revival of the discussion in the mother country a recognition from the other side of the shield of the fact that the world has moved - that circumstances have changed for free importers also. The proposals now submitted are far from identical with the system* of fifty or sixty years ago. Consequently, a fresh and open mind with new and free thought, independent of old fiscal theories, is needed to determine the bearing of the propositions lately submitted. To our school of thought the doctrine of free imports is essentiallydistasteful, because it means to us as to some of its most outspoken advocates in the text-books, a reduction of the conditions of life and labour to the irreducible minimum, an abolition of every other consideration than the power of the purse, coupled with a refusal to look beyond superficial cheapness to the causes from which that cheapness - springs, and the disastrous results it often implies. The doctrine of free imports- meant to us the absolute abandonment of all considerations except those which could be expressed in coin at the moment of purchase.
– How does the Prime Minister explain the support given to free-trade principles by all the socialists of Europe?
– I do not propose to explain it. At some other time I might be glad to discuss the question.
– The honorable gentleman is delivering .a lecture.
– I hope I am not stray- . ing even for a moment from the practical issue before us. I venture to contend that the original orthodoxy of the free-trade party has been rejected in connexion with nearly all recent industrial and social legislation passed in the mother country or here.
– The Minister is entirely misrepresenting our view.
– I am reviewing the original orthodoxy of the free-traders, and am not representing the views of the right honorable gentleman, which I take it, are necessarily in advance of those to which I am referring. If we look back to the old orthodoxy of free-traders, we shall find it as much at fault as the protectionist orthodoxy of that . date. The advocates of both political creeds are more nearly approaching each other, because it is recognised thai, so far from abandoning economic affairs, and trade and commerce, to the mere operation of what is called the “ natural “ law of supply and demand, it is necessary in connexion with our social legislation, and our commercial and industrial organizations to exercise control over all public agencies in the best interests of the public. The old doctrine of “let alone” is dying with the circumstances to which it belonged, and is no longer possible. My honorable friends accept sanitary legislation, and accept legislation relating to public education, although at the time of the old orthodoxy such measures were regarded with as much disfavour as protection itself, as involving an equal interference with the sacred liberty of the subject. Advances of time and thought have brought an humane element into our legislation, and after that is coming a national element which is now beginning to express itself in connexion with our administration and legislation. I hope that my right honorable friend will forgive me for this little digression, which has been necessary to enable me to remind the House how out of the new circumstances of the twentieth century has grown the recognition of the fact that not only is legislation in connexion with trade and industry necessary to preserve the lives and safeguard the health of the workers, but that from a national point of view such measures are insufficient in themselves to safeguard us from the unfair competition r-f labourers in other lands who work under less satisfactory conditions. This is the reason that the proposals for preferential trade are being revived to-day in England, with every prospect, not only of their ultimate, but of their early, adoption in some form or .other.
– How does that statement accord with the results of the recent byelections in England?
– The advocates of preferential trade admit that they do not expect to win at the next election.
– I agree with my right honorable friend, and am aware of the results of the recent by-elections, but I would ask can even the party managers in Great Britain say how much of the success which has been gained by the Opposition is due to the preferential trade proposals of the Government, and how much is attributable to the action of the Government on the education question, their war policy, or their attitude as to the Chinese in the Transvaal? It is impossible to accurately estimate the extent of the influences which have been at work.
– That applies to every election.
– I admit that; but if honorable members will lookback at the utterances of the English newspapers which are opposed to the Government, they will see that prior to the introduction of the preferential trade question, great stress was laid upon the Education Act and the war exposures, until the Opposition expected to gain a majority in most constituencies without reference to any other question.
– That is why the red herring has been drawn across the track.
– That would support my argument, that if the measure of success which has attended the Government was due to their preferential trade proposals, the failures were attributable to other causes.
– Hear, hear; that may well be. The other was the sharper tooth by which they were liable to be bitten.
– The position I put is that the national issue has naturally come to the front. One of the best results of the recent fiscal discussion has been the reaffirmation of the old truth, taught by Adam Smith, but which seems to have been lost sight of by his disciples for many years, regarding the value of the home trade. Recent returns published in Great Britain show the effect of foreign competition upon the trade of that country, so far as it is reflected by imports and exports. These have driven back our opponents into their old entrenchments, which were ours for many years. It has made them recognise the value of the home trade. It has been shown that the total value of the import and export trade is but a fraction of the whole trade, for the reason laid down centuries ago that home trade combines production and consumption within a country, so that whatever profits may result, including that derived from transport, are within the country, and assist to build up the State. The aim of preferential trade throughout the Empire is to make the trade of the Empire a home trade, so far as our autonomous and other ‘conditions will permit. The advantages of a greater home trade cannot be and are not disputed. The proposal for preferential trade has commended itself to the people of the mother country, because it appears to them to afford an opportunity to secure to the people of the Empire the profits of its trade transactions to a greater extent. Of course, natural conditions tend to bring about this result.
If there were no alliance between ourselves and the mother country, Great Britain ; would still be our best customer, because she has a dense population and is a large consumer of foodstuffs and raw materials. On the other hand, owing to the natural conditions under which we live, Great Britain would see in us a huge territory sparsely populated, with almost unlimited opportunities of producing foodstuffs, and at the same time requiring supplies of manufactured goods: These conditions would in themselves foster the deliberate policy which is now being brought forward in order that there may be a profitable internal exchange of that which we produce. We shall need to produce in much larger quantities in order to reap the full advantage of any reciprocal arrangement for English manufactures which we do not produce or attempt to produce.
– Any article can be manufactured here at a price.
– My right honorable friend’s contention is that his action has always been friendly to the mother country, and not friendly to France and Germany.
– No, fair to the mother country, and fair to all. I declare war against no one.
– Exactly. My right honorable friend prefers to describe his attitude as fair to the mother country, and fair to all. It cannot be fair to her to keep her on the same footing as her rivals and possible enemies.
– But my first object is to do what I think best for my own people. That is the basis of my creed ; I believe it is good for my own people. If I thought that it was bad for them, I might be a protectionist.
– My right honorable friend, when he was speaking this afternoon, did what he rarely does. I think he made a slight slip, or perhaps it was an intentional concession, when drawing a contrast between the policy of preferential trade and the policy of protection. He said that the policy of preferential trade was Imperial, whilst the policy of protection was Australian. That is precisely what we say. We say that the policy of protection is Australian, because it benefits Australia. But at the same time we hold that it is consistent with the study of the interests of Australia under protection to develop our policy along the lines of preferential trade. Preferential trade, as applied to the Empire, may mean protection, but whether so or not it does not necessarily involve any sacrifice of our interests. It has been possible in times gone by for foreign nations to enter into commercial treaties with one another, and surely it is possible for us to enter into a treaty with the mother country, not only because natural conditions favour it,’ but because national sentiment encourages it. We could not, even though we wished, hide from ourselves the fact that our fortunes - in fact, our very existence - are bound up with those of the mother country, that we must stand or fall with the mother country, that we must rise or sink together. Hence it is to the interests of the mother country to strengthen as far as she possibly can, and to trade with, the countries under her own flag rather than to give support and encouragement to those countries which are not within the Empire. In this part of the world she finds the greatest purchasing power for her goods.
– No thanks to us.
– Even under all the tariff restrictions upon which my right honorable friend is so fond of dwelling, the fact remains that we are the best purchasers of the goods of Great Britain, and we know we can become still better customers. This consideration is the chief motive operating with the statesman who is at the head of this movement in Great Britain. Apart from this, he puts his case upon grounds which can be well defended, but in the forefront of his proposal he places first the closer commercial alliance which will be brought about between the mother country and her Colonies, who are her best customers. Is it not possible for those who sit in opposition to us upon the fiscal question to realize that in striking this national note we are sounding an entirely new chord?
– Hear, hear ; the Government are less protectionist than they were.
– We are less protectionist in the same sense than my right honorable friend is less free-trade.
– No, I am not.
– In the words of the old French proverb, “ we recoil a step in order that we may leap the further.” Just as we were content to accept the risk of Federal union, under which protection might be to some extent impaired by the lowering of the duties, and, unfortunately, the duties have been lowered too much, so we are prepared to further expand our area of supply throughout the Empire, so as to secure a larger field and better opportunities. We can advance step by step whenever we can gain more by making a concession than by remaining as we are.
– The question is, will the Minister make a substantial reduction of the duties in order to achieve the glorious results which he has been picturing ?
– Speaking personally, I am perfectly prepared to do so.
– That is a fair answer ; but it involves a change of policy.
-It will mean a reduction of the protectionist duties.
– Our proposal will require fair consideration of the duties which are protectionist, of those which are not protectionist, and in fact of all imposts whose reduction will have a preferential effect. We shall have to consider how far we can spare the revenue that we now derive from such duties as it may be considered desirable to reduce, and we shall have to be satisfied as to the effect of any reductions upon the industries. As this is a matter of trade relations, it must, like every other similar transaction, be a matter of bargain. It does not follow, because the actuating impulse is sentimental, because the ends to be gained are national, and because we recognise their importance quite apart from their commercial aspect, that we should enter into a compact without considering the influence it would have upon our trade and commerce. I may say that, if we are spared sufficiently long, we shall not hesitate to make proposals which may involve sacrifices to this country. But we shall make no sacrifices without showing the country their full extent, and pointing out what we are to receive in return.
– That is eminently safe.
– I should say it is eminently wise.
– Is the Minister prepared to indorse the promise made by his predecessor in office, that he would give a preference to England without obtaining any concession in return ?
– That may be the outcome of the situation. The reason we have spoken with hesitancy, and why I refrained from making a precise pronouncement in this regard last session, was that a proposal, such as that mentioned, as a free gift on the Canadian plan, would be very different in character from that I have in my mind as the result of a reciprocal trade bargain. The Canadian proposal itself, we have been informed by a leading statesman of that country, has been made in the expectation of a compensating recognition, which is now being looked for. It has even been stated, I think by a member of its Government - I am not sure whether the gentleman to whom I refer is now in Opposition - that unless some such consideration is forthcoming the Canadians will require to reconsider their position.
– At the recent Conference of Premiers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whilst agreeing to make further concessions without bargaining, expressed the hope that the Imperial Government would reciprocate.
– Even Sir Wilfrid Laurier expressed the hope that there would be reciprocity, and a late colleague of his went still further. Our position has been rendered one of extreme difficulty in this regard because we have had to wait to learn the attitude of the Imperial Government. The leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon to a declaration - an authoritative declaration - which was made a few days ago in London, and which was far more distinct than had previously been made by any member of the Government. I must confess that I read the statement with very great disappointment. I had anticipated that the present British Cabinet would propose some forward step before the next general elections took place. It was not until that utterance that we learned that the Government does not consider the country ripe at the present time for more than a discussion of the question. That necessarily alters our attitude - alters the position in which we find ourselves. But we have not remained idle. The Minister for Trade and Customs has for some time been engaged in preparing materials, some of which have been asked for by the honorable member for North Sydney.
– He has published a pamphlet.
– Yes, and a very admirable pamphlet it is. But, in addition to that, a close examination is being made of the whole circumstances connected with our British trade, and our foreign trade likely to be affected by proposals of this nature. The information which has been asked for by the honorable member for North Sydney constitutes an essential element in the consideration of this question, but it is not the only element. Another element lies in the conditions under which all our exchanges are made. Consequently, a study of the Australian Tariff, and of the industries affected by that Tariff, will be necessary before any Government can be prepared to submit, to this House proposals which must receive weighty examination before they are launched. The work will not take years ; it may not take months.
– Surely there was a preference given to the Colonies as far back as in 1846. The same argument was used then.
– Trie proposal under this head was challenged during the recent elections here as involving an interference with the autonomous liberties of the Australian, Canadian, and South African self-governing communities. In my opinion it represents no intrusion, by a hair’s breadth, upon those privileges. I take it that any proposal of this character would operate for a fixed term of years, and would relate to specific articles, and to a fixed extent. It would be a free Act of the several colonial Legislatures. Probably it would be of a rudimentary character in the first instance, and would require to be adjusted and extended as the result of further knowledge and experience. These proposals, so far as I can judge, will form but the commencement of a long and carefully developed policy which will link, as far as it is possible . to do SO our commercial interests with those of the mother country, and the other great dependencies of the Empire, to our mutual benefit. It will, therefore, produce in the first instance an enhancement of the wealth of the Empire as a whole, and supply the sinews of war upon which it depends, but much more than that, it will multiply the multitudes of its population, who are settled under its own flag. It will increase the number of white citizens living under white conditions who are able to take their stand in the defence of the Empire.
– Will it not link us with India, too?
– It may do so to any extent to which we find it profitable to enter into commercial relations with Hindustan. We shall safeguard our interests in that matter as in any other. But this policy must have as its foundation the recognition of the fact that this Empire is British in authority and control., It cannot be all British in its population. It is British only fractionally. But the greater that fraction is the more will the whole , sway of the Empire be strengthened and enhanced.
– Is this policy to be submitted to the present Parliament?
– I hope so, but, as I have said, we must depend largely upon the nature of the proposals from, and upon the trend of affairs in, the mother country. When we entertained a more sanguine view of the action which .would be taken by the Imperial Government, we were naturally more hopeful. Now that they are putting aside the subject for some months, if not for a longer period, we have necessarily to speak with more circumspection. At that time it appeared likely - and it is still possible - that their following in favour of preferential trade proposals will prove stronger than the Imperial Government has counted upon. I earnestly trust that it may. I have alluded to this question in order to enable honorable members to understand both the attitude of the Government in regard to it, and the difficulty of facing a constantly changing situation in the mother country - our other partner in any such arrangement Necessarily, whatever arrangement may, be entered into, must depend upon the response which is made by the mother country. It is only because of the fluctuations of opinion regarding the nearness of the success of this movement in England that we are so exceedingly cautions in dealing with it. Personally, I believe that when this issue is plainly placed before. the country we shall find the leader of the Opposition, and a number of those who are now acting with him, thoroughly alive to the .reasonable nature of the proposals submitted and to the magnificence of the end which they are intended to serve.
– I consider all the objects good. The only point of difference is as to whether this is the best way of bringing about the desired result.
– The last point upon which I have to touch in this relation is perhaps for us the most important of all, because we must recognise that if we were fortunate enough to obtain an advantage in the almost inexhaustible markets of the mother country, the increased consumption of our butter, fruit, and other products would prove of incalculable value to those who are settled upon the soil of Australia. In this connexion the leader of the Opposition asked rather captiously this afternoon, “ What about the millions of acres which are open in Canada, and the supplies which can be poured in from there?” But
I would point out to him that our farmers are now successfully competing with the producers of Canada. I “ believe that with the advantage of our seasons, they will compete with them to even more advantage.
– Australia is a better country than Canada can ever be.
– In regard to butter, fruit, and other products, Ave certainly possess an advantage, not only over Canada, but over the competing countries of Europe. It is because of their bearing upon the settlement of this country that these preferential trade proposals should commend themselves to this House. The right honorable member for East Sydney has referred to the fact that it might be deemed aristocratic exclusiveness if Ave aimed at securing the young sons of farmers who possess money. He declared that this class is limited in number. That is true, but the inquiries which I have made show that it is far larger than I had dared to suppose, and that a large proportion of those who are finding their way to Canada are taking money Avith them. And what we have to face is an even more serious condition than that. The subject is brought home to me by means of sheaves of correspondence, some of which, I must confess, furnishes me with a very painful surprise. I find, for instance, that one well-known citizen - I have not his permission to use his name - mentions that by one vessel bound for America last year there were 300 per-_ sons from Australia and Canada, most of whom were agriculturists. By another vessel he declares, upon the authority of the purser, 62 men of the agricultural class travelled thither, their capital averaging ^1 2 5 each.
– Then shame upon the Government policy.
– - They were proceeding to America from Australia. I have no information as to the districts from which they came.
– When Avas this ?
– Last year.
– Does your informant give the names of the ships so that the statements may be verified.
-~-Captain Pearse’s statement in reference to persons leaving the
Commonwealth for New Zealand has proved to be erroneous.
– Yes. Here is another communication, received only this morning. A well-to-do farmer, in one of the
States, has written to a friend of mine, stating that his son is anxious to leave Australia for the Alberta district, and that he is a successful farmer with some capital. In considering this question of immigration, therefore, Ave have to consider a dual problem. Not only do the English and Canadian journals declare that the bulk of the immigrants reaching there are agriculturists, but they affirm that a large number of them are possessed of means. We are not only missing these immigrants, but Ave are absolutely losing some of our own people. In my opinion, the causes for which we are losing these farmers are not causes under the direct control of this Parliament. In addressing the Conference of State Treasurers a few days ago upon this question, whilst carefully avoiding any reference to State politics, I felt constrained to point out, that the beginning and end of this question rested with their legislation, that though it was not for me to describe what should be done, it was evident that settlement on the land, easy access to it, the opportunity to acquire homesteads in districts possessed of a certain rainfall, were inducements which would attract the class of immigrants to which I have referred. The agricultural labourer to whom I have referred, if- he be a man of grit, energy, and industry, can in some of the States at least obtain land for nothing or next to nothing.
– In Western Australia, for example. He can also secure financial assistance. This is something like the condition of affairs that should exist in every State of Australia. I felt the extreme difficulty of dealing Avith this question, because of its relation to State politics, and that is the one and only reason why I have been hampered in the proposal submitted then and submitted now.
– But the honorable gentleman is not afraid of it; he believes in the proposal ?
– I believe that nothing is more essential.- We must carry it out, and on behalf of the Government, I promised the States that if they would assist us in providing the necessary attractions to the soil, Ave would submit to this House
Avith all strength - and, if necessary, stake our political5 existence “ upon them - proposals of a definite character to enable us to find suitable men and women to settle on the land.
– The Government will find the Opposition backing them up in such proposals.
– We are all of one opinion as to that.
– I believe that when the matter is put forward we shall obtain practically the unanimous support of the public. What has driven me so to speak to the consideration of this proposition has been the discovery that other districts, even in Canada, now offering inducements for settlement, are necessarily more and more remote from civilization, demand greater and greater trials on the part of those who go out to them, call for a much larger expenditure in getting there than I thought possible, and offer many difficulties to the settlers when they reach them.
– Seven months of snow.
– That is true of many parts of Canada. The people who are going out belong to a class who are willing to face these dangers and risks. If they are willing to face them there - if they are resolute enough and well furnished enough to do so - surely they would be willing to face the much lesser difficulties here, if the rich lands in the well-watered districts of the country were available for settlement ? Consequently the proposals now resubmitted in regard to immigration have an influence outside the special sphere of our Constitution. I believe that if they be sufficiently discussed in this Parliament, and our attitude distinctly manifested, they will cause the electors of the Commonwealth, who are the electors of the States, to review their State legislation, and determine what it is possible to do.
– They are doing so now.
– I hope so. It is necessary that this subject should be put before them, in order that they may ask themselves the question why Australia is not as attractive at it should be. My right honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, seemed to be of opinion that one of the great barriers to the influx of population was the introduction of the provision in the Immigration Restriction Act, with reference to contract labour.
– The six hatters.
– Yes, I regret to say that-
– It was an intimation to 40,000,000 of people in the United Kingdom that they were not wanted here.
– I regret to say that my right honorable friend was perfectly correct in his statement that the representations, as he may call them - the misrepresentations, as I call them - in the case to which reference has been made, have doneus incalculable damage at home.
– Whoever is responsible for it, that is the fact.
– It becomes my duty every week to rapidly look over cuttings from the British newspapers, and sometimes from the foreign press, in order to watch the current of opinion and I find the variety of forms of misunderstanding in regard to this incident almost incredible. Naturally, one is brought face to face with them.
– The position would have been worsehadthe six hatters been sent back again.
– The point to which I wish to come is this: that in spite of the misrepresentations that have taken place, I fail to see that we can point to any proof that the incident of the’ six hatters has affected to any degree the flow of immigration to this country. The cessation of the influx dates from the cessation of Stateassisted immigration, which exists now in only one State of the Union. For more than ten years before this incident, immigration into Australia had practically ceased - long before Federation came into existence. We cannot possibly say that there has been a cessation due to any one particular piece of legislation, or even to the general set of our legislation, because, unfortunately, except in the form of assisted immigration, no influx into Australia since the gold-digging days has ever reached anything like the reasonable proportionswe were entitled to expect. I think that the right honorable gentleman attaches far too much importance to the particular incidents to which he has referred, but recognise that we need the means of correcting the constant misrepresentations that are current in the mother country in regard to such matters.
– Have any steps been taken to correct these misrepresentations?
– I have from time to time supplied the Agents-General acting for the Commonwealth with a statement of the true facts, which they have sometimes communicated to the newspapers; but these corrections attract little attention, since the fixed idea exists that the legislation in question is in some way or other inimical to Englishmen. We require a High Commissioner in London.
– It is an impression that six British artisans were kept on board ship, and not allowed to land for some time.
– My right honorable friend’s weakness in regard to this point is that he -was a party to the passing of the Bill in which this provision exists, and that when he first called attention to it he made the statement that at the time of its passing he did not realize its full effect.
– I was not in the House.
– The .right- honorable gentleman tacitly accepted the provision in the Bill. Attention was called to it afterwards during his presence in the House, and he offered no objection.
– I had no opportunity to consider it. I think that two of the objects of the Bill are good.
– The right honorable gentleman made that statement on - the first occasion ; and he was at once invited to suggest an amendment which would, secure the two good objects of which he approved, whilst excluding the application of what he disapproved.
– If I make such a suggestion, will the Government take it up ?
– I promise to give it the fullest consideration.
– That is something like the statement in regard to preferential trade.
– If the suggestion is made, it will receive preferential consideration. Of course it would be necessary to consider it carefully in order to see that it would carry out what the right honorable gentleman sought to accomplish. In the present case the right honorable gentleman will find himself faced with ‘this difficulty which confronts an administration, and will confront him when he sits on this side - the consideration how we are to deal with the tens and hundreds if we neglect to deal with the units. How are we to fix any number of admissibles? How are we to deal with the emergency cases? The failure of the right honorable gentleman to draft his amending clause was probably due to a consideration of the difficulty how some men may be allowed to come in, although not in bunches, or companies? How are we to determine the precise ‘term during which they may not come in because of a strike or some other circumstances here, and yet do no injustice to people who may have been justified in leaving their homes, and accepting an agreement, only to find themselves on their way to Australia before receiving an intimation that their landing had been made illegal.
– There is a slight misunderstanding which, with my honorable and learned friend’s permission, I should like to correct.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot make an explanation until the Prime Minister has concluded his speech.
– Very well, sir. I thank the Prime Minister for his courtesy.
– When the right honorable member considers the position he will see that even his ingenuity will be taxed to discover any means by which the section in question can be modified without intrusting a very dangerous degree of latitude to certain officials, in order to accomplish the exclusion which he is willing to accomplish, and yet allow those whom he prefers to come in without objection.
– The late Prime Minister said that the success of the Immigration Restriction Act would depend upon its administration.
– Exactly. Then as a cognate subject I pass to the right honorable gentleman’s remarks with reference to the provisions in theo Post and Telegraph Act, forbidding the Postal Department to enter into Contracts for the carriage of mails by steamers in which other than white labour is employed. On that point the right honorable member’s memory has played him false. If he will refer to Hansard of 5th July, 1901, he will find, at page 2140,. a statement showing that the prohibition against letting mail contracts to owners of ships carrying coloured crews was discussed in the Senate. He will also find that my then colleague, Senator O’Connor, stated distinctly that the policy of the Government was to absolutely exclude contracts of that kind; but that he objected on their behalf to the introduction of that policy in the Post and Telegraph Bill, which was then before the House, as it was only a machinery Bill, which should not deal with a question of that character. He gave various other practical grounds for his opposition to the proposal; but on the very first occasion that the question came before Parliament he announced the deliberate policy of the Government, as requiring the exclusion of coloured labour from mail steamers under contract to us. At page 2252 of Hansard for 1901, the right honorable member will find the division list to which he alluded. It shows that the proposal was defeated in the Senate, after it had been debated with a good deal of warmth in that Chamber, discussed fully and anxiously in the press, and brought prominently before the attention of the whole public. It was on the 25th July, 1901, while the matter was still fresh in every one’s recollection, that the honorable member for Bland moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the question of the employment of coloured labour on mail steamers. The late Prime Minister on that occasion repeated what Senator O’Connor had said in another place - that the policy of the Government meant the exclusion of coloured labour from these steamers. No sooner had he resumed his seat than the leader of the Opposition rose, and cordially indorsed what he had said, promising the support of a united House in regard to the proposal.
– As a matter of negotiation - as an endeavour to carry it out. At that time, however, there was no Bill before us. There was simply a motion for the adjournment of the House, and, as I said, we all sympathized-
– I think that my right honorable friend will see, first of all, that the action of his late colleague, the then Postmaster-General of New South Wales, at the Conference, meant much more than that; and secondly that the language used at various times in this House by the right honorable gentleman himself with reference to this subject meant much more.’ It meant that when he was in office, he .looked forward to the application of this provision; that when he spoke in this House, he spoke with a full knowledge of the whole of the question, of its character, and of the intention of Parliament in regard to it. He spoke, therefore, with authority and knowledge.
– To whom does the honorable and learned gentleman refer?
– To the right honorable gentleman.
– At that time there was no such proposal before the House.
– It had only just been rejected by .another place, after a declaration had been made similar to that repeated by the Prime Minister in this Chamber. Consequently full attention was fixed upon the question. When the right honorable gentleman made his statement, he knew that the proposal had been made and rejected, and that the Government was pledged to give effect to it, if not in the Post and Telegraph Bill, at all events in another measure.
– It was not pledged to bring in a Bill to deal with the subject. Mr. Justice O’Connor said that it was impossible to apply such a principle to that clause, when speaking upon this very matter.
– He was dealing with the machinery Bill.
– He said that no law of the kind could be applied, that it was impossible to apply such a stipulation in an Act of Parliament.
– He is reported on page 2141 of Volume II. of Hansard to have said -
I draw a clear line of distinction between lay ing it down as a matter of policy, the performance of which will be watched by Parliament, that wherever it is possible and practicable white men only shall be employed, and placing a mandate upon the Postmaster-General that he shall enter into no contract whatever for the carriage of mails unless there is this stipulation in it. But he said -
The Government will be subject to the watchful eye of Parliament. What need is there, then, to tie the hands of the Government in such a way as this amendment proposes?
He continued -
The policy of the amendment - that is, the amendment excluding coloured labour - as far as it can be applied, will be carried out - by the Government - subject to the right of Parliament to interfere if it is not done.
He there gave a promise which, if it had not been embodied in legislation, would have bound the Government just as absolutely as they are now bound to take the course they have taken.
– It would have bound the Government to do the best they could to enter into a contract with steam-ship owners employing white labour only, but not to break the undertaking entered into.
– The undertaking entered into has not been broken. Mr. Justice O’Connor twice, and subsequently Mr. Justice Barton, asked Parliament to accept the assurance that effect would be given to the policy desired by honorable members, whether the clause was or was not inserted in the Bill. But the point which I have been leading up to is that my right honorable friend allowed this clause to be inserted by assenting without protest to the passing of the Bill. By doing that, he assented to the following provision, which is’ now a section of the Act: -
No contract or arrangement for the carriage of mails shall be entered into on behalf of the
Commonwealth unless it contains a condition that only white labour shall be employed in such carriage.
That provision is absolutely peremptory and mandatory. It contains no qualification, except that in the following sub-section in regard to coaling and loading beyond the limits of the Commonwealth. My right honorable friend, as a lawyer and politician, knew that that clause was contained in the Bill, and yet allowed the measure to pass without protest or objection. Indeed, he raised no objection to it, until a long time after the Act had become law. I do not in the least degree object to his revising his opinions and altering his judgments ; but I think that he fully shared the responsibility for the action of Parliament in this matter.
– I was only a sleeping partner.
– Occasionally the right honorable member is a sleeping partner in what we do here; but he is at most times very wide awake and active. He has certainly not failed to cite everything that happened to the detriment of the Government. Yet for months my right honorable friend made no objection to the existence of the provision I have read, although he knew that it was in the Act.
– What are the Government doing in regard to the carriage of mails? .Why is the matter treated as such a secret one ?
– I shall come to it in a moment. Why, too, should the leader of the Opposition object to the insertion in the New Hebrides mail service of the condition that the ships employed shall be manned entirely by white labour? Why should the f act that they trade to those islands compel us to subsidize vessels employing persons not of our own race, not even under the same flag, as ourselves? Nothing can be more reasonable than that the ‘white people of this Commonwealth, who pay the subsidy, should prefer the employment of white men to carry on this communication.
– I do not object to that; but I do not see why coloured people should not be allowed to take a berth in the stokehold if they are willing to do so. Personally I would not wish my worst enemy to be employed in such places.
– I do not know that the difficulty of obtaining men to work in the stokehold can be regarded as answerable for any adverse results that may be supposed to have been obtained so far. I have investigated with the aid of the best information procurable the effect of the condition in regard to the employment of white labour upon steam-ships employing white crews on deck and coloured crews below, and find that, generally speaking, twice as many coloured stokers are required to do the work which can be done by white stokers ; so that, as they are paid about one-third the wages of white stokers, the saving made by employing them amounts to about one-third of the wages paid to stokers.
– The manager of the P. and O. Company distinctly stated that it was not cheaper to employ black labour.
– I have heard that the employment of. coloured labour as a whole upon shipboard is not cheaper than the employment of white labour; but the information supplied to me in regard to vessels employing both white and coloured labour is that I have just given honorable members, and tells more against my position than that to which the honorable member refers. It cannot be said that the stipulation in regard to the employment of white labour in the stokehold and elsewhere has had any effect upon the tenders for the carriage of mails, except in cases like that of the P. and O. Company, where both deck hands and the crew employed below are coloured men. In regard to other companies, the financial saving upon stokers is too trifling to have affected their tenders. It is well known that every German ship which comes here employs white labour only, and I. believe German citizens only.
– And cheap labour at that.
– I have yet to learn that what is possible for Germans is not possible for Englishmen, and that what is possible to a German line of steamers is not possible to ship-owners who claim to be masters of the sea.
– Did the Government obtain a tender from the Orient Company?
– That company did tender, but at an immensely increased price.
– How much higher than that of the other tenderers was the price asked by the Orient Company?
– I do not know that unaccepted tenders should be laid upon the table of the House. What may be taken as a tender has since been, received from another company. It, in its informal state, agrees to abide by the requirements imposed by the Act, and to give a service in the time and under the conditions required.
– Were there any other conditions than those imposed by the Act ?
– All the papers should be laid upon the table.
– The laying of the papers upon the table is a matter which I leave to the Postmaster-General. There were only two peremptory conditions in the contract, one requiring the employment of white labour and the other the provision of up-to-date refrigerating machinery. The second requirement was somewhat vague in its terms, because no particular machinery was specified, but only that the provision for refrigerating must be adequate. As every first-class steamer now carries refrigerating ‘ machinery, I do not think chat either of those conditions can have affected the sending in of tenders, except so far as the P. and O. Company was concerned. All other conditions were alternative. Steamship proprietors were asked to tender for the conveyance of freight at maximum prices, for the provision of cold storage, and better ventilation, and subject to other conditions, but they were allowed the alternative of tendering for a service complying with any or none of these conditions.
– Was it specified that the Suez route should be followed?
– Tenders via the Suez route were asked for, but as an alternative contractors could tender for conveyance by a route from any port in Australia to any port in Great Britain. We have two tenders in addition to one which we consider far too high. One of these we could not accept because of its generality, and in regard to the other we are awaiting details which are to arrive. It is in the hope that we may have an opportunity to consider how far a tender for a mail service can be combined with a tender for an effective refrigerating service. We require the employment of white labour, and two tenders accepting that condition have been sent in. It is in order to ascertain what can be done in the way of providing a refrigerating service that we have hesitated before definitely advising the House on the matter.
– Did the last tender include Brisbane as a port of call ?
– Brisbane was not named. The right honorable member for East Sydney did not allude to the administration of the’ Immigration Restriction Act in regard to coloured aliens, and therefore I do not feel called upon to deal with the matter at length, but as the administration of the measure, so far as coloured- aliens are concerned, is being daily challenged in the press by those who ignore the express conditions under which the Act. assumed its present form, it seems necessary to say a few words upon the subject. When the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the House, an amendment was moved by the honorable member for Bland making the exclusion of all coloured persons absolute, without any option, and without the application of a test. The Government, for Imperial and diplomatic reasons which were fully explained at the time, appealed to honorable members to substitute .an educational test’ for absolute exclusion in so many words, and undertook to apply that test’ in such a manner as to give practical effect to the wish for the exclusion of coloured aliens. The provision in the Act was inserted, not to test the education of those who presented themselves for admission to the country, but as a means of bringing about the practical exclusion of all coloured aliens. The Government of the day undertook that the test would be so applied, and the Act has ever since been administered, not in obedience to its letter, but to the sp’irit of the undertaking given. It is perfectly idle for our opponents in the press to challenge our action on this matter, and to object that men are being examined in languages other than their own, since the test was intended to be applied in such a manner as to exclude coloured aliens. No secret was made of that intention by Parliament, and the test would not have been provided in the measure if it had not .been believed by honorable members that it would be so applied. The Government take the full responsibility of applying it as it has been applied. We gave a pledge to do so, and I have yet to learn that the intention of a statute, in regard to this or any other matter, should be defeated by its administration. If there is to be an alteration of the law in respect to mail contracts or the immigration of aliens, it should be set forth in plain terms, and resolved upon by Parliament after full discussion. It is true that the education test may be, and1 in some cases has been, applied to persons- who, reading the Act in their own country, took it to mean that what was intended was to obtain a .proof of education, but no one in authority in this country can pretend to think that this was the intention of the framers of the Act. The press are without justification for holding up to ridicule the application of the education test, which has been utilized just as was promised when it was placed in the Bill, and which will continue to be so employed.
– Has it not been applied to any white persons?
– Not that I am aware of.
An Honorable Member. - What about Stelling?
– Stelling was a thief, and was prohibited under another part of the section.
– If the honorable member will pardon me, the offence for which Stelling was found guilty would not come within the terms of the sub-section to which the honorable member doubtless refers.
– Stelling was a thief, at all events.
– As the case is now sub judice, I prefer not to discuss it. So far as I know no white man has been excluded by means of the application of the education test, nor has the test been applied to white persons, except by accident in the early stages of the administration of the Act. The test is being deliberately applied to give effect to the understanding entered into at the time it was passed, that it should be used for the purpose of securing the absolute exclusion of coloured aliens.
– Was not the provision inserted as a sort of diplomatic compromise to meet possible objections on the part of the Imperial authorities?
– Yes, to the extent that my predecessor in office received an assurance when in England that an Act containing a provision similar to that adopted would be assented to, whereas an Act of another character might require the gravest consideration.
An Honorable ‘ Member. - Who gave that assurance?
– So far as I can remember, it was given by Mr. Chamberlain when he was addressing the Premiers’ Conference in London in 1897. Now I wish to touch upon a question with’ which my right honorable friend has dealt at great length. There is no occasion to dispute the fact that there were circumstances in connexion with the recent elections which all of us must regret. For my own part, however, I think that during the progress of the Bill through the House, and certainly afterwards, I pointed out that the measure was to a large extent experimental. It was in the main drafted upon the lines of the
South Australian and Western Australian Acts ; but it also contained provisions derived from the statute-books of other States. Therefore, in its entirety the Electoral Act became quite a new measure in its application to every State. In the next place, from motives of economy, and also with, the idea of obtaining independent service, the administration of the Act was intrusted largely to public servants, who had not been previously charged with a similar duty. There were obvious advantages attached to the adoption of this course ; but practical experience showed that there were many drawbacks. I admit that the whole matter requires serious consideration, and we shall be prepared to submit proposals dealing with it. We had to deal with an area as great as any in the habitable globe over which an election of this kind has extended, and to carry out the provisions of an entirely new Act. Although in the main the Act was drafted upon State lines, it differed in technical details from all the Acts with which the State officials were familiar, and was, therefore, novel to them. Any one wHo has realized the extent to which practice becomes second nature with many men will understand the extraordinary difficulties with which the administration of the Act” was surrounded. I say, with confidence, that if the Chief Electoral Officer had been a political archangel, and most of his assistants had been similarly qualified, it would still have been absolutely impossible for him to administer the Act without complaint. . I was in a state of apprehension during the whole of the elections that the Act would break down in some serious way, and, considering the haste with which the rolls had to be prepared, and other arrangements made, I regard the results as simply marvellous.
An Honorable Member. - Whose fault was it that everything had to be done in a hurry ?
– IF was nobody’s fault. The haste was caused by the time at which the election had to be hel3.
– Six months were wasted during the previous recess before the appointment of the Commissioners.
– That is an easy thing to say, but difficult to prove. During the whole of the period mentioned the officers of the Electoral Department were engaged in making their preparations. The materials were not ready for the Commissioners, and it could easily be shown that even when the Commissioners were appointed the information available for their guidance was very imperfect I might deal with this matter at much greater length, but think that the mere statement of the difficulties that had to be surmounted is a sufficient answer to the criticisms which have been directed to the administration of the” Act. Taking into account the herculean nature of the task to be performed, I think the results were remarkable. Although, no doubt, there were causes of justifiable complaint, the work was performed in an effective manner.
– Do the Government intend to allow the present state of affairs to continue ?
– No, that would be impossible. My only object now is to show how much we were all in the dark with regard to the circumstances relating to the distribution of population. I find, on referring to the statements made by my right honorable friend, in the House and on the public platform, that in contrasting the country and city constituencies, he greatly under-estimated the population in the former group of electorates.
– And also in the city.
– We erred there. For instance, the right honorable gentleman’s estimates in regard to the Barrier electorate ranged from 10,000 to 15,000. The actual number of electors in that constituency was 19,000. The right honorable gentleman’s estimate for Bland was about 11,000, whereas the actual figures were 20,861. For the Darling, the right honorable member’s figures ranged from 8,000 to 12,000, whereas the actual figures were 15,268. His estimate for the Gwydir was 11,000, and the actual return showed 22,366. For the Hume he estimated 10,000, whereas 22,000 electors are shown to be in that electorate. There are similar discrepancies in other cases.
– The women voters were not included in my figures.
– Yes. These figures are given as including both male and female voters.
– I procured my figures from the electoral officer. At that time only the male electors were on the roll.
– I do not understand that, because at the very same time the honorable gentleman gave an estimate for New England, amounting to 23,000, whereas the actual returns give an aggregate of 26,759. All those electors could not possibly be males.
– Only male electors were referred to in the case of Darling.
– Order ! I must point out that these interruptions make it quite impossible for the Prime Minister to proceed. I therefore ask honorable members to -refrain from interjecting.
– All these figures belong to the same series, but I am far from saying that they are free from mistakes. My right honorable friend estimated that there were 17,000 electors in Richmond, whereas the actual return showed a total of 19,000. All those could not be males.
– I was comparing figures extending over a period of ten years, and I could only do that by quoting the number of male electors.
– The figures could not possibly refer to males, because the right honorable gentleman said that there were 32,000 electors in West Sydney, whereas the Commonwealth enrolment brings out the number as only 25,000. My object is to show how at the time referred to we were all dependent upon mere estimates as to the numbers of electors in the various constituencies. On 3rd September my honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, said -
In the Darling electorate honorable members opposite were prepared to accept 18,386 electors; to-day the number of electors stands at 15,000.
The returns show that in the Darling there are 15,268 electors’, or a few in excess of the figures quoted by my honorable colleague.
– My figures for the Darling were derived from Mr. Houston.
– I also have Mr. Houston’s figures, and I find that he was almost as much in the dark. I admit that the existing discrepancies cannot be. allowed to continue, but what I wish to show is that the estimates made were unreliable. Mr. Houston proposed new divisions which were to contain a specified number of electors. His alterations of the electoral districts were to bring about that result. There were to be 18,000 electors in the Darling. As a matter of fact, the rolls show 15,268 votes, in the old district, and that is the greatest shortage that occurs. In the new Riverina he said there ought to be 18,862 electors, whereas the actual enrolment in the old Riverina district, without any alteration in the boundaries, represents 18,163 electors. The larger Werriwa was intended to have 18,851 electors, whereas the actual number in the old constituency is 21,066. In the
Hume he said there ought to be 18,512 electors, whilst the returns show that there are actually 22,219 voters in the present constituency. The figures which honorable members opposite fought for, and which the Commissioner proposed as fair, have in every case except that of the Darling been exceeded in the old divisions without any alteration of boundaries. That is what we contended would happen. My right honorable friend has argued,- as he was quite entitled to do at this stage, from the proved facts ; but on a former occasion he argued not from proved facts, but from estimates that were more or less official. He was fully justified in using the Commissioner’s figures ; which we challenged as altogether insufficient for the country districts. That challenge has been justified by the facts. When the Commissioner set aside the existing divisions and created larger ones, he put down for his larger electorates smaller numbers than have actually been recorded in the old districts without any enlargement. The results have fully borne out our contention at the time that he was wrong. I find that Mr. Houston proposed 18,449 electors for the new Canobolas, . whereas - the actual number in the old was 20,250; for the new Gwydir he proposed t9–983j whereas the actual number was already 22,360. In the new EdenMonaro he required 19,913 as against an actual return of 22,320. In Cowper his scheme provided for 21,664 electors, whereas the actual enrolment shows 25,568 in the old district. In the old Hunter there are 26,962 electors as compared with Mr. Houston’s estimate of 23,705.
– Give us some of the figures for the city electorates.
– Those tell the same tale, so far as to show that we were thoroughly justified in challenging the estimates of the Commissioner.
– The right honorable gentleman would justify anything after that.
– We considered that the Commissioner’s estimates in regard to these country districts were insufficient, and the facts which I have quoted prove that they were. It is perfectly true that the number of electors in the city districts was also very much in excess of Mr. Houston’s estimate, and the figures which have been cited by the leader of the Opposition are correct. It is equally true that such a condition of things cannot be permitted to continue. But, knowing that the population was far above what was alleged, we argued that it must have come from the cities.- Instead of that being the case, although there was some efflux of population from the cities, the metropolitan constituencies still remained far above their proportion. Honorable members opposite were right in their statements regarding the city constituencies, but were wrong in the case of the country electorates; .whereas we were wrong as regards the metropolitan districts, and right as to the country divisions. There remain only one or two other topics to which I intend to allude in a single sentence, because they will come up for discussion at a later stage.
– What about the Federal Capital ?
– That matter is dealt with in His Excellency’s speech by the statement that a settlement of the question ought to be arrived at early - a statement with which I absolutely agree. The surveys are already in progress-
– Why not give Lyndhurst a chance, as the Prime Minister promised to do?
– The honorable member for Macquarie knows that I did not make any such promise. He is also aware that a survey of Lyndhurst would not assist its chances one iota, because the elevation of the country is even. If it were intended to establish the Federal Capital there, it might just as well be planted in one part of that district as in another. No survey is necessary to determine which would constitute the more eligible site so far as Lyndhurst is concerned. But at Tumut and Bombala there are several conflicting, sites. Surveys are absolutely necessary there, and Lyndhurst does not suffer by reason of no survey being made.
– I only ask for fair play.
– How long will the survey of these sites occupy?
– No longer than the New South Wales officials require. In regard to the question of old-age pensions, the leader of the Opposition has misunderstood the full intent of the paragraph referring to it in the vice-regal speech. That paragraph points to the adoption of a uniform system o”f old-age pensions .as one of the principal objects which must be kept in view by every Federal Government. The subject is one peculiarly adapted for Federal action, much more than it can ever be for State action.
The right honorable member is aware that two of the States have already adopted a system of old-age pensions, and it is quite possible for those States to transfer, and for the other States to agree to transfer, a portion of the Customs revenue which they are entitled to receive from the Federal Treasurer to the Commonwealth, so as to bring about uniform administration either at once or gradually. It is true that we. cannot entertain any proposal to undertake a national system of old-age pensions whilst we are compelled to return to the different States three-fourths of the total Customs revenue. But the States Treasurers will soon have under consideration a proposal relating to the distribution of that three-fourths of the Customs revenue.
– During the past three years have the Government taken any steps towards establishing a national system of oldage pensions?
– We have taken the first steps preliminary to the transfer to the Commonwealth of industrial and other matters without any success ; but it was not until the great scheme for dealing with the whole of the States debts and with the three-fourths of the Customs revenue was under consideration that it was possible to make a thorough and comprehensive proposal in regard to old-age pensions without facing extra taxation.
– During the past few years has the Prime Minister ever asked the States Governments to do what he suggests ?
– We have not asked them yet ; it has not been possible to do so. The right, honorable member speaks of the past three years, but I would point out to him that the Tariff has been in operation for only two years, and its normal receipts are only now being determined. If we are fortunate enough to get a comprehensive agreement between the Commonwealth and States on these subjects, it will be possible to at once cut the Gordian knot, and that without imposing any additional burden upon the States. When honorable members read the report of the Treasurers’ Conference they will notice that in the memorandum which was laid before that gathering by the Federal Treasurer he alluded specifically to the question of old-age pensions as one ripening for consideration.
– Will the Government wait until the consent of the States has been secured ?
– We cannot do anything without their consent.
– We can legislate directly.
– Yes; but only by imposing direct taxation.
– I am in favour of that.
– That would involve a revolution in the finances of the States. Concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I still entertain a doubt as to the constitutionality of the amendment which was submitted last session. I will not go so far as to say absolutely that it is unconstitutional, but entertain as great a doubt upon the matter now as I did previously.
– The Prime Minister’s objections to it are lessening.
– No, they are increasing.
– Who will take charge of the Bill?
– I shall. Regarding the transcontinental railway, upon which my right honorable friend indulged in some jest, I merely wish to say that I have never altered the opinion expressed in my Ballarat speech at the beginning of the campaign. There was no need to alter it. There has been no change in my attitude upon this question during the past two- or three years. Then the leader of the Opposition might have asked whether the proposed Navigation Bill will penalize British shipping. He made no inquiry, but went so far as to utter .a denunciation which he will find very hard to justify when he sees the measure in print in a few days. The Bill will be introduced as the first measure in another place, because we recognise its relation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and desire honorable members to see how far they interlace. Moreover,, both are remanets of the last session. I saw by the press to-day that (these are to be the first measures introduced as a concession to the Labour Party. Instead of that being so, I distinctly stated in the Ballarat speech that they would be the first Bills submitted. Moreover, I announced the concession - if it were a concession - when the Bill was under consideration in this House last year. It was part of a definite policy, and is not clue to- the elections or to anything which has occurred since. May I ask in conclusion - and I must apologise to the House for the length at which I have detained honorable members - that I have necessarily not enjoyed the free hand which the leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in exercising. He chose where he would cut and come at’ the Government, and it became my duty, to the best of my ability, to follow him in reply. But what I regard as the most hopeful sign of the situation is- the admission which he has since made by way of interjection, that he recognises, so far as this Parliament is concerned, that the fiscal issue has departed. It leaves a great space free.
– He did not say that ?
– I said that we could enjoy an armed truce. If the Government are prepared to shut up their armoury, we will observe the .truce which the people have decreed.
– There will be no difficulty in observing that, because, with the exception of the Iron Bounty Bill, which is a remanet from last session, there will be no attempt made that can be termed even by critics an interference with the fiscal peace, upon which we went to the country.
– What the Government cannot accomplish by means of a duty they wish to secure by means of a bounty.
– The Iron Bounty Bill does not involve a fiscal question. The disposal of the Tariff affords us an opportunity which we have never yet enjoyed in this House, of getting out of the old party ruts. There were many passages in the speech of my right honorable friend to which I listened with extreme satisfaction, because they exhibited a tendency on his part to endeavour to view some matters in a different light, particularly those questions which are being forced upon Australia to-day. They must present themselves at once to every man who looks at the map of Australia, or reads a handbook upon it. What are they ? It must occur to him, that this great territory “under the British flag lies unoccupied, unsettled, and unproductive. Why does a white Australia, except as regards a narrow fringe around, its coastal area, remain a name? Why is its territory not being utilized to the fullest extent? We are proving that there is scarcely any part of this continent in which white men cannot thrive. The leader of the Opposition was wrong in alluding to cotton as “ the coloured man’s crop.” In Queensland to-day there is an English cotton manufacturer’s agent who is making inquiries from the farmers who have grown cotton there before.
– The experiment has been tried several times in Australia, and has proved an utter failure.
– It was a conspicuous success as to the quality of the cotton, which was only driven out of the market by the low-priced competition to which it was then subjected, a result which, I understand from the presence of this agent amongst us, is not feared in the future.
– It will be grown again by white labour.
– Many of our great possibilities are undoubtedly associated with tropical districts, but ‘hot all of them. We have immense resources in the well watered and cool districts of Australia, where we have great areas of land capable of sustaining a population. During the recent short visit which I paid to New South Wales, the sight of the New England country and the Darling Downs, which were more familiar to me, was a revelation of the possibilities of closer settlement in the North. Those same opportunities exist to-day in Victoria. They are to be found all over Australia. It seems to me that we cannot be blind to great physical facts. We cannot be blind to the emptiness of this continent with boundless possibilities of production and a bare handful of white men settled upon it. In these circumstances I turn with eagerness to every quarter of the horizon which offers any opportunity for the increase of our production, and the multiplication of our white population. I see the .densely peopled British Isles dependent upon food supplies from over sea - supplies which in time of war or unfriendliness on the part of other nations might be cut off, but which it is possible to grow on British lands tilled by British hands, in this quarter of the globe. Here are overmastering opportunities for development dwarfing all else. They afford us an opportunity to rise out of the old rut of party politics, and, while continuing to discharge to the full the* programme which we are sent here to accomplish in the way of practical legislation - for that burden of responsibility rests upon us and is not to be put off by any new care- - we have yet to recognise that each and all of these proposals must be extremely limited in extent, while they operate on an insignificant portion of the continent, and a handful of population. The natural advantages, which we control, should be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands more. I am not painting word pictures. I have been for the last few months studying this question, by means of correspondence, reading, and inquiry, and find that the exodus from the mother country now proceeding, is, in the main, of a most desirable class.
Many, of the men are well trained, and have the means to open up virgin areas. I think my right honorable friend erred when he said it was the prospect of the investment of capital that brought our fathers to these shores. My own father came here with little more than his energy, and thrived at first by the labour of his- hands. He sought his fortune in gold-digging, and in pioneering - a representative of the thousands who made this country, not by the capital which they brought in their pockets, but by their courage and resourcefulness. All that they did can be done today. I fail to see why, in these circumstances, we should not at least make ourselves better known. It is all very well for those who are opposed to our proposals to say that some of our legislation repels capitalists. I daresay it repels some classes, but Australia would be infinitely attractive to other classes if they understood the possibilities of freedom, equality, and prosperity to be found here. Once they understood our possibilities we would no longer need a loadstone. The main consideration to ourselves, not to be overlooked, is the economic situation before us. That calls for open lands and busy hands. We do not refer specially to mining in the Governor-General’s speech, because mining, when it succeeds, is in itself a magnet, while the mining, like the land laws, are in the hands of the States. Our gold, and our fertile lands are the talismans that have attracted people to our shores in the past and will continue to attract them. The more we can fix eyes in this country, and out of it, on these magnificent resources which we talk about so much and realize so’ little, the better .we shall be, both at home and abroad -
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure. o
We do far more now than Goldsmith thought possible, by means of legislation, but while we still realize that politics relate only to the practical, the temporary and the expedient, we also realize that nevertheless our laws touch the homes and the lives of the -masses, enter into the cottage of the workman, and reach the far-off fields of the selector, affecting for good or ill the development of the generation which is now arising amongst us. The conditions under which that generation grows up, and under which our people will live, the conditions of health and of education, of comfort and toil thus artificially established, play a great and increasing part in moulding them and their character ; and this character is, after all, the best, the most- real resource upon which Australia depends.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney. - I must, at the outset, compliment the Prime Minister, not . only upon his eloquence, but on the conciliatory character of the speech which he has just delivered, and the fulness with which he has dealt with the questions that have arisen during the debate. In rising, after two such speeches as those to which we have just listened, I feel that I am placed, at a disadvantage, but I can only inform the House that I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible, and direct my attention to a reply to the arguments submitted by the Prime Minister. The honorable and learned gentleman has expressed satisfaction with the con’*dition in which his party has returned from the elections.
– A modified satisfaction.
– I can hardly accept that assurance of satisfaction, although I can join with the honorable and learned member in regretting that we have lost so many whom, regardless of the side on which they sat, we had learned to recognise as most valuable members, acting, to the best of their lights, in the interests of the country. The honorable and learned member has twitted the leader of the Opposition with having nothing but a negative policy to pit against the policy of the Ministry. In reply, I would ask the Prime Minister what is his but a negative policy ? What was the policy which he submitted to the people at the last elections ? It was simply a re-hash of the policy submitted three years ago, the only additions being those to which he attached the greatest importance when addressing the people of the Commonwealth - a proposal for the abandonment of the fiscal struggle, and the substitution of a fiscal peace - an entirely negative proposal - and preferential trade. He has yet to define his proposals in regard to preferential trade. This he has never attempted, as he should have done, having regard to the promise made by the late Prime Minister to Mr. “Chamberlain, to assist in bringing about preferential trade ; and to-day, if one asks him what is the policy of the Government in that respect, he receives the reply, “ It will depend upon the British Government.” What is that but a mere negation? A negative policy put forward by a Prime Minister is to be far more deprecated than is the naturally negative policy that must be adopted by a leader of an Opposition. Then the honorable and learned gentleman stated that the leader of the Opposition had declared that the tariff question was dead. No such statement has been made. The assertion of the leader of the Opposition was not that the question is dead, but that, recognising the number of honorable members willing to re-open it was not large enough to enable that to be done, he would for the time being bow to the decision of the people. The tariff question is not dead.
– The Government themselves did hot bury it. They cried a truce for the time being.
– The tariff question is a live one so far as the Opposition are concerned, and it will be fought out by them in the country. When there is a sufficient majority - as we free-traders hope there soon will be - to reverse the present policy, which we believe to be to the distinct injury of the Commonwealth, the question will be revived within the walls of this chamber. The Prime Minister declared further that it was recognised in British political circles, and indeed throughout the world, that the old position of fifty years ago should be re-considered -that the protection proposed to-day is not the protection of halfacentury ago. That is a strange statement to make, because the very arguments which are being used to-day in the great campaign now proceeding in England - the arguments as to benefits to the people to be derived from protection, the increased wages, the exclusion of the foreigner, the injury done to British manufactures by free importations, and the decay which will surely follow the freedom of our ports - were used fifty years ago. They were then industriously used in support of that very system of protection which the honorable and learned gentleman declares to be different from the protection of to-day. Where is the difference? The Prime Minister further stated that the competition which the British workman had to suffer, and his consequent degradation, required a remodelling of the fiscal faith. Will he tell me that the degradation of the working classes of Great Britain and the lowering of their wages, followed the adoption by Great Britain of the policy of free-trade halfacentury ago ? Has not the movement of the British workman been upward ever since that time? Is he not to-day in receipt of better wages and working under more comfortable surroundings than those of the workmen in the Continental countries of Europe which have adopted the policy of protection which the Prime Minister advocates ?
– Is that the only respect in which those countries differ from Great Britain ?
– Certainly not. I do not think that the prosperity of any country is entirely due to its fiscal policy ; but when honorable members declare that the policy which recognises free-trade as its guiding principle will injure the country that adopts it, and must do injury to the workmen of that country, they apparently forget that the history of Great Britain offers a sufficient answer to such an assertion. The next question to which I shall briefly allude is the question of preferential trade, to which the Prime Minister referred somewhat fully. I quite admit with him that the interests of the Empire are bound up with the question. That being so, it becomes us, as a portion of the Empire, and desiring its welfare, to consider the question, not merely in the light of our own narrow interests, but from the broader stand-point of the interests of the Empire as a whole. I am not going to enter completely into the question to-night, because the. Prime Minister has not put before us a proposal sufficiently definite to enable us to discuss the matter fully. But if we remember that the interests of the Empire are bound up in this decision, we must come to the conclusion that, even if we gained a slight temporary advantage by any arrangement,we should not agree to it if its adoption would injure the great Empire at its heart. The fact stated by the Prime Minister that the matter is to be with this Government a question of bargaining shows’ the danger to the unity of the Empire. If at some future time this Parliament is engaged in discussing Tariff proposals, and a majority of honorable members are in favour of a certain policy, what will follow, supposing that others elsewhere are bargainers equally interested with ourselves? We shall receive a communication from the British Government, intimating that they cannot allow us to carry out the intended policy, or that if we do, they will have to deprive us of certain advantages which they are then giving to us.
– If there is anything in that argument, why do not the States threaten the Commonwealth Government?
– The fiscal question is removed from their hands, and has been left in our hands. But if the suggestions of the Government are adopted, it will be not in our hands alone, but in the hands of New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, India, and Natal.
– It will be an Empire question.
– Yes, subject to suggestions and objections from every part of the Empire. Do not Victorian representatives remember the state of excitement, and almost of rebellion, . which existed at one time in Victoria in consequence of the interference of Downingstreet, as it was called? Is the gentleman who subsequently became Mr. Justice Higinbotham forgotten? Have his diatribes against the British Crown passed from the memory of honorable members? Is the public agitation which followed and existed for years forgotten ? Is it not a fact that the present loyalty of Australia, which our past has never equalled, is due to the noble recognition of the British Government of the wisdom of leaving the sons of Great Britain in this land to work out their destiny without interference. I am one of those who will agree to much to obtain the closer union of the various parts of the Empire, if that can be brought about. But I tremble when I recognise the questions which will arise in matters of taxation between different parts of the Empire if we adopt a policy such as that which has been outlined by Mr. Chamberlain. We must also remember that if we adopt it the anticipated results to British trade are not at all certain. Canada adopted it some years ago for the special purpose of giving Great Britain a larger proportion of the import trade of the Dominion, and our Prime Minister, in speeches made during the electoral campaign, said on several occasions that the result was that the trade between Great Britain and Canada had doubled. In making that statement he was guilty, of an error or oversight - I will not accuse him of anything worse - similar to that which he made in quoting’ the electoral returns just now. Whilst the trade between Great Britain and Canada has doubled during the six or seven years in which that preference has been in existence, it is now less in proportion to the whole import trade, of Canada than it was at the time the preference was first given. Whilst the imports of Great Britain have doubled, the whole import trade of Canada has more than doubled.
– If the honorable member will take the manufactured goods imported by Canada he will see how the British have gained. The imports from the United States are mainly raw material.
– A great deal of the imports from the United States are special kinds of machinery. The percentage of the British trade to the whole import trade of Canada fell in the period of preference from 27.58 to 24.25 per cent., while that of the United States, the very, country aimed at, increased from 53.48 to 58.40, and the exports from the United States to Canada were of much the same character six or seven years ago as they are now. It is a matter of grave consideration whether, if a preferential policy were adopted by us, it would achieve the results expected of it. It is very difficult to accept the sincerity of the Ministry upon this question. I have here an extract from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister during the recess in which he asks if any one of his hearers had a large family, and placed his sons about Australia not too far apart to be unable to communicate one with another, and one son grew wheat, another fruit, another wine, and another meat, what law, human or divine, forbade the interchange of their products and the recognition of the blood tie ? If we could believe the honorable and learned member was sincere when he uttered that sentence, we might believe in the sincerity of the Ministry in regard to preferential trade. No divine law prohibits the exchange of products between brother and brother in Australia or any other part of the world. ‘ The divine intention seems rather to have been to make this interchange easy and cheap by placing the ocean as a highway between distant countries. The Prime Minister, however, when the States were divided before , Federation, was utterly opposed to the free commercial intercourse. He deliberately set himself by human law against the policy of freedom, and the exchange of wheat, and fruit, and wine, and meat between brother and brother. Now, however, without renouncing the policy, which he then advocated, he asks us to accept his assurance that the Government are in favour of a policy which will lead to a real freedom of exchange between the different parts of the Empire. If the Government are sincere why has nothing been done in the way of outlining a policy of preferential trade, and getting the approval of the country to it? A magnificent opportunity was afforded during the late elections, but it was not availed of. The Premier of New Zealand, however, who, as the leader of the Opposition has stated, seems to be always in the lead-
– It is an ignorant lead.
– Possibly it is sometimes.
– The honorable member’s remarks remind me that I omitted to say that I did not address myself to the Transvaal question, because there is a motion on the business paper dealing with it.
– I am not referring to the Transvaal question. I am merely pointing out that the Premier of New Zealand has acted in accordance with the promise made by him regarding preferential trade at the Imperial Conference. I do not say that he has done much for Great Britain. On the contrary, if his proposals are looked into it will be seen that Great Britain receives very little.
– Every part of the British dominions has done the same thing.
– I am not aware that other parts of the Empire have extended concessions to us. Does the New Zealand concession extend to Australia?
– Not unless we reciprocate.
– Even the Premier of New Zealand chooses the portions of the Empire with which he will have preferential trade, though Great Britain so far has done no more for New Zealand than some other parts of the Empire. It has done more than we have, for we now shut out New Zealand” products most effectively.
– And they shut out our products.
– That is so. . According to the figures quoted by the Prime Minister in recent speeches, and by the mover of the Address in Reply, our duties are not high enough to enable us to give any concessions to the British people. We have been told that according to the Board of Trade figures we impose only 6 per cent. upon British exports.
– Seven per cent.
– Something between 6 and 7 per cent., and I would ask, therefore, what concession can we give? The Prime Minister and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports say that we cannot give any. We must impose some duty for revenue purposes, and we cannot make any reduction upon a rate of only 6 per cent. I really wonder at the Prime Minister, whose general fairness I am quite ready to admit, quoting this table so often when he knows very well that the Government could never have consented to accept a tariff upon the low scale represented. Owing to the frequency with which the table has been referred to, I should like to point out how absolutely fallacious it is. The figures are based not upon the imports of goods into Australia, but upon the total exports to all parts of the world, of certain large lines of manufactured goods in Great Britain. The exports selected- represent£1 74,500,000, and the compilers of the table take, say, a line like machinery and hardware which represents£21,000,000. They have not taken the whole of the exports under this head, but simply textile machinery, locomotives, and sewing machines, which represent a very small proportion of the whole. They take no notice of the actual imports into the importing country in order to arrive at the average rate of duty. I do not say that they are not right in that case, because, as they point out, they would have to take into consideration the duties which are actually prohibitive. The method they have pursued may be illustrated in this way. A manufacturer of hats, for instance, would say to a customer - “The average price of the hats I sell you is 7s.” The customer might say - “ No, the average price of the hats you sell me is 3s. 6d.” The manufacturer would then retort - “That cannot be because the average price of the hats turned out of any factory is 7s.” The answer of the customer would be - “ But you must remember that I buy only the cheaper grades of hats, and therefore my average price is lower than your general average.” That constitutes the difference between taking the average on the total exports of a country, and the average on the actual imports of the country to which the exports are sent. Therefore the table is absolutely useless for the purposes to which it has been applied. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in mentioning the lines of goods upon which concessions might be made to Great Britain referred to cotton piece goods. If we removed the duty of 5 per cent. upon cotton piece goods, the protection in Australia would not be reduced to that extent. It would rather be increased, because we should retain 25 per cent. duty upon the goods manufactured from cotton piece goods. That is where the protection would come in. It is represented that there is a duty of 131 per cent. upon certain goods in Russia. That country imposes high duties, not only upon manufactured goods, but upon raw materials, and therefore a duty of 131 per cent, might afford no protection. There may be 131 per cent, duty upon cotton piece goods -in Russia, but there might also be 131 per cent, duty upon raw cotton, an article “which Russia does not produce, and which is not included in the table. The table is absolutely useless, worse than useless. Mention is made in the Governor-General’s Speech of the advantage that would be conferred upon our producers by the establishment of preferential trade relations, but I would point out that the whole matter will require very serious consideration on the part of the Australian producer. I had an opportunity during the recent electoral campaign of coming into contact with a number of the producers of New South Wales, because I was relieved from the necessity of carrying on a contest in my electorate, and was thus free to travel through the country districts. The producers to whom I .explained the subject looked upon Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal in a light very different from that in which it was first presented to them. The preference offered by Mr. Chamberlain’s proposals must be very small, so far as we are concerned, because it cannot be afforded in connexion with raw materials, which represent by far the largest proportion of our exports. It can be given only in connexion with food, and therefore cannot be a high preference. He suggests a duty of something like 3d. per bushel upon wheat, and 5 per cent, upon meat, and he proceeds io make what from his attitude is the extraordinary statement - which is in keeping with the idea previously expressed by more than one Minister in this Chamber - that he does not think that these duties would increase the price to the consumer, because the foreigner would pay the duty. If so, what preference will be given to our producers. If the foreigner has no other market he may be compelled to pay the duty, and if he does all preferential advantage will be lost to us. We must remember that retaliation is always possible. A great many of our exports are sent to foreign countries. Take coal, for instance. _ Foreign nations might retaliate in connexion with our coal exports and we might find our products displaced by coal from Japan, Vancouver, or other places. All these matters are worthy of careful consideration. The next matter to which I wish to refer, is the Federal Capital site. I am rather disappointed that the Minister in charge of this matter has not displayed more of that wonderful energy which he is known to possess. The survey which he promised has been unduly delayed, and I find that the Federal Capital sites question, Which occupied a prominent place in the programme of last session, is now low down in the list of measures to be introduced by the Government.
– It does not follow that it will be taken in that order. The measure will Be brought forward as soon as the surveys are completed.
– I am glad to have that assurance. The Minister for Home Affairs is well aware of the feeling excited in Western Australia in regard to the transcontinental railway, which was not provided for in the Constitution, but which is said to have been the subject of promises by certain Prime Ministers. He can, therefore, well understand the feeling of something more than irritation which has been brought about in New South Wales by the delay in giving effect to the terms of the Constitution. I hope that in spite of the contemptuous comments which have appeared in the press of some of the States on this subject, the Government will not be diverted from the early fulfilment of the compact made with New .South Wales. With regard to the Inter-State Commission, I do not for a moment contend that there is no need for such a tribunal, but I hope that the Bill to be introduced for the purpose of creating it will not be framed upon the lines of the previous measure with regard to expense. We should be able to secure efficiency and economy at the same time, and I hope that some means will be devised by which we may utilize the services of our High Court Judges or other officials. The matters which require to be dealt with, although very important, are simple and few, and could be disposed of effectively and cheaply. It is not desirable that we should create any more departments than we can help, and it will certainly not be necessary to erect such an establishment as that contemplated in the Bill previously before us.
– Owing to the restriction imposed by the Constitution as to the character of the Court, it is very difficult to make provision for discharging the work of the Inter-State Commission by availing ourselves of the services of existing officers.
– That may be, but I , hope that some arrangement will be made for economically and speedily disposing of the few matters, such as wharfage rates, differential railway rates, and one or two other matters which require attention. When these have been dealt with, the main work of the Commission will be, to all intents and purposes, completed for the time being, and it will have simply to deal with breaches of its decisions.
– Why not appoint a High Court Judge, and a temporary assessor ?
– That is what we wished to do, but we find that it is impossible under the Constitution.
– I think there are methods which might be adopted for avoiding any unnecessary expense. A great deal has been said in reference to the employment of white labour only upon subsidized mail steamers. This House in a fit of virtue - if it was virtue - allowed a section to be inserted in the Postal Act -
– May that virtue long continue.
– The honorable .member is perfectly welcome to his opinion. The peculiar position is that - whilst the Ministry are succeeding in dislocating the mail service of the Commonwealth - and personally I do not object to discontinuing- the payment of the subsidies, so long as we give our producers not less than the present opportunities for the export of their’ produce, and our community equal opportunities for the carriage of its mails - the only proposal before us is that we shall abandon the subsidy without any intimation of the effect of such abandonment, and that we shall pav poundage rates. ‘ We are to abandon the subsidy because we refuse to pay it to mail steamers which employ coloured labour, and we are to pay poundage rates to vessels which employ that class of labour. We will not pay a subsidy to black labour, but we will pay poundage to black labour.
– It is time that the Ministry made a statement upon that matter to the House.
– Yes ; honorable members ought to be taken into the confidence of the Ministry upon such an important question at the earliest opportunity. The Prime Minister has said that upon the German vessels a law operates which confines the crew to members of German nationality. He declares- that what it is possible for Germany to do in this respect, it is equally possible for Great Britain to do. That is not so.
– I was alluding only to the Australian service.
– If we look at the enormous proportion of British shipping, we- shall see that it amounts practically to half the tonnage of the world. It represents more than 16,000,000 tons out of a total for the world of about 33,000,000 tons. When we remember that a population of 40,000,000 has to find the seamen for a mercantile marine so enormous in proportion to the mercantile marine of other countries, and that it has to provide the sailors for a navy as large as those of the two other most powerful navies in the world, we can easily see that what other countries can do in the way of manning their vessels by native white seamen is quite impossible to Great Britain.
– But the number of British seamen employed has actually diminished.
– I have not the figures before me at the present moment, but I accept the honorable member’s statement. With the exception of the American service, the British mercantile marine is the highest paid marine in .the world. Therefore, the diminution must be largely due to the fact that during the last twenty, thirty, or forty years greater opportunity for employment has existed in Britain than previously existed. I know from my own expe.rience that in England a great many persons used to go to sea simply because they saw no opportunities for obtaining land employment. If for any good reason we cannot at present man our enormous shipping tonnage, by absolutely refusing employment upon, our mail steamers to Indian black subjects we are really providing men for foreign navies, because Germans and others are being employed, and in many cases trained, in the British mercantile marine.
– They are mostly Scandinavians, I think.
– No, they are mostly Germans and others, called by seamen Dutch. There are npt nearly so many Scandinavians. A great many of the men who- are being employed and trained in the British mercantile marine would, in case of war, be called upon to man their own country’s navy.
– But they are “ undercut “ . in the mercantile marine.
– No. At the British shipping offices the same wages are paid to British and foreign seamen. I quite admit that if we could withdraw foreign sailors altogether, a rise in wages might result. Personally, I should be glad to see such an increase in wages, if it did not enable foreign nations to wipe the British mercantile marine off the ocean.
– How does the employment of black labour upon our mail steamers affect that question?
– If, at present, we cannot man more than half of our present shipping tonnage, I hold that by prohibiting the employment of these British dark subjects upon our mail steamers, we must make room, not for British sailors, but for foreign sailors. At any rate, there is this advantage in the employment of the lascar, that it is proposed - and in time of war effect would be given to the proposal - to place these men upon our fast mercantile cruisers.
– They have not been placed there so far, and I think that the authorities will reconsider the question of manning our ships with them in time of war.
– I think that is a very wrong thing to say, because some of these crews have displayed as great, courage as any white man ever did. We must remember that these black British subjects, whose courage we doubted, and whose reliability we questioned, have fought for the Empire-
– Not the lascars. They are not of the same race.
– But there are a variety of races which have done so. The very men of whom it was said years ago that they would be useless as soldiers - and they were useless then - have now become supports of the Empire.
– They always were.
– Years ago, as troops, these men were looked upon as useless. The Sikhs and some others were recognised as good men, but the rest were regarded as absolutely worthless.
– But we have never used them against a European foe.
– At any rate, it is considered that it will be necessary, in time of naval war, to make use of some of the coloured people of the Empire, if not the lascars, to man our fast cruisers.
– By placing some down below ?
– By placing some below and others on deck. I shall not enter into a discussion of the question of immigration restriction, further than to say that the whole complaint against the Ministry in this matter has reference to their administration of the Act. That they have to administer the lawwe all admit; but it has been administered in such a way as to provoke much of the contempt with which Australia is regarded by the press of other countries.
– And Parliament was asked to trust the administration of the Act to the Government ?
– It is all a question of administration. The Government can make the Act impossible tomorrow, if they choose to enforce all its provisions as they have this particular one. For example, there is a section providing that bad characters and people suffering from loathsome disease shall be excluded from the Commonwealth. But are they not admitted every day? We know that they are, because, to take the measures necessary to exclude them would make the name of Australia a by-word from end to end of the world, and would induce even its own people who have left its shores to remain away for ever. I do not think that even those who were most favorable to this provision desired that, as in the case of the Petriana there should be any appearance of inhumanity.
– Was there any?
– There was some appearance of it when shipwrecked sailors were exposed for many hours on the deck of a tug in Port Phillip, and then removed to another vessel to be sent out of the country.
– Any delay that may have occurred was not due to us. I am prepared to place all the papers in connexion with the case on the table.
– It has been stated that the Customs authorities were guilty of delay.
– A gross misrepresentation for party purposes.
– At any rate there was an evident intention to prevent the men from landing.
– That is not so.
– Shipwrecked sailors on our shores should be treated as they are treated in all other parts of the civilized world, They should be made as comfortable as possible, even at the risk of one or two of them making their escape. The Minister’s explanation of the Government proposal in regard to old-age pensions was absolutely unsatisfactory to those who believe in such a system being administered and paid for by the Commonwealth. I admit that if the desirableness of old-age pensions be allowed they should be provided for by the Commonwealth, so as to avoid the inconsistency at present shown in refusing the assistance granted to others to a man who, although he has been fifty years in Australia, has not spent twenty-five years in a particular part of the Commonwealth. The Minister declares that provision for old-age pensions is to be made by arrangement. What is the meaning of that assertion? The arrangement should have been completed before any mention was made of the matter either in the Governor-General’s Speech or in the House.
– Perhaps it has been made.
– The Minister admits that no arrangement has been made, so that the paragraph referring to it in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is only an advertisement for the Government. It is simply a politic step taken by them to suggest the putting forward of what they think is likely to be a popular measure. There should have been negotiations with the States Governments before anything of the kind was mentioned. The assent of. every one of the States Governments should first of all have been obtained, because without that assent nothing can be done.
– Without that assent we cannot obtain a uniform system.
-What would be the advantage of transf ering to the Commonwealth the oldage pension system of any of the States unless a uniform system were thus secured ? If any State says that it does not believe in old-age pensions, or that, in the event of the adoption of such a system, it will carry it out for itself, a uniform system for the Commonwealth cannot be obtained, and this proposal cannot be carried out.
– It could be done.
– Not unless the Government wished to make the whole thing an absurdity.
Mr.Deakin. - But five out of the six States might transfer to us the power to deal with old-age pensions.
– And the man who crossed from any of those States into the remaining one would be open to the same inconsistent treatment that at present obtains.
– That would be only onesixth of the present difficulty.
– But the inequality would remain.
– We should get rid of it gradually.
– It would be most absurd for the Government to. adopt that system, for it would be almost as imperfect as would be the taking over of the two States systems which now exist. I have the fullest sympathy with every word which thePrime Minister has said as to the desirableness of attracting people to Australia, and by means of the increased population so obtained creating new industries and enterprises, and securing the development of those now in existence. But there is only one effective method of attracting population, more especially to a place so distant from the old world as is Australia. We must either attract the people through the agency of those now in the country, or by the assistance of our lawmakers. We wish to create prosperity, and that prosperity can be secured only when there is confidence in the industry and enterprise of the country. The illustration of Canada given by the Prime Minister shows that that is so. Twenty-five years ago lands were obtainable in Canada on the same conditions as are at present offering ; and every effort was then made by the Canadian Government to attract population by means of advertising. The response, however, as a perusal of the figures will show, was very slight, the reason being that whilst the country possessed certain attractions, the one great attraction of prosperity was missing. When a country - and especially a country close at hand to other over-crowded lands - is prosperous, it will succeed in attracting population. 1 admit, of course, that very substantial prosperity is necessary to cause an influx of people to very distant lands, but when a country is prosperous the fact is scattered broadcast and the people who are doing well there communicate with their friends elsewhere and recommend them to join them. If we wish to advertise Australia - ifwe wish to secure something that will attract population to our shores - we must adopt methods that will result in the prosperity Of the Commonwealth. That prosperity is not possible without stability and confidence. I am not one of those who object to the working classes doing well for themselves and using every effort to improve their position - indeed, I believe that when we really benefit’ the labouring classes we benefit the whole population.
– That is what many people forget.
– When I object to proposals of a certain kind, as I have to do sometimes, I am actuated by the belief that they are not really designed to benefit the classes whose welfare they aremeant to secure. I take my own ground on these matters, and decide what I think will have the best result. But what I fear about some of the proposals of the Government is the creation of a greater antagonism between the two great elements of industry, capital and labour. It is desirable - and this remark applies to both sides of the question, to capitalists as well as workers - to arrive at some understanding that will create’ confidence, that will remove all unnecessary harassing from industry, that will induce enterprise, and, consequently, produce plentiful employment, to be followed by prosperity for the whole country. Once we accomplish that end we shall secure the greatest development for Australia that we can get. I do not care what a man’s views are, or oil which side of the question a- legislator votes ; all ought to endeavour, not to widen the differences between the two great parties in industry, but to narrow them, to remove them, if possible, so that prosperity may result. Whilst the Prime Minister desires to secure a flow of immigration, such as is taking place in Canada, he objects to one thing that is attracting immigration to Canada, and that is, the engagement before arrival of British subjects. I understand that a great many of the farm labourers, who are going to Canada, are engaged before they go. Like the leader of the Opposition, I cannot see why that should not be the case here. If labourers are not brought here to have an effect in any social or industrial disturbance, surely it is better for those who are here now, and far better for those who come, that they should know that they are going to be employed when they arrive. On the one hand, the person already living in Australia is secure, and, on the other hand, the persons who come know that employment is ready for them, and that they will not be thrown on to the market to look for work.
– Is there a want of farm labourers in Australia? Is it not farmers rather than labourers who are required ?
– I do not say that there is a dearth of labourers. If there is not, there would not be any engagement of labourers in England. But I believe that in Canada a large number of those who are going out are farm labourers under engagement. In fact, I believe that20,000 of them went out in one season.
– Were they not preceded by a large number of settlers ?
– I agree that a large number of settlers went in advance, and I should like to see settlers coming to Australia. I should like to see opportunities given for settlers to obtain land on the best possible terms. But in all this industrial legislation it is unwise for us to go further than isnecessary, and it is always desirable to avoid that character of administration that will attract . the criticism of the rest of the world. There are other things in the speech of the Prime Minister to which I should like to refer but for the lateness of the hour. I am sure that the Prime Minister will have the active sympathy and assistance of the Opposition and of all parts of the House in any wise proposals for increasing the prosperity of Australia, and directing a proper class of settlers to these shores. When he comes down with definite proposals to that end, if it is possible for him to embody them in a measure, he will receive every assistance from all sides, because we recognise that the present situation of Australia, when the only thing that is increasing is the public debt, is undesirable. I hope that the attention of the Governments of the States will be directed to the matter, and that the discussion will result in an improvement, so that if there is to be an increase of the debt - and I hope there will not be - we may also have an increase’ in the resources, and of the number of that best asset,’ the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watson) adjourned.
Mail Contracts : Preferential Trade . with South Africa.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will be good enough to lay upon the table of the House the papers connected with the recent negotiations for tenders for the mail service? To my mind, the Government are acting over this matter with a secrecy which is ill-omened. In connexion with a matter of so much importance, the Government should have taken the public into their confidence. We ought to know from the Postmaster-General exactly what has taken place. We understand’ that he has received a tender from the Orient Company, and that he has rejected it. Why cannot he tell the. House, for instance, what is the nature of that tender, and ‘on what grounds he refused to accept it? That is a matter of importance, and I should imagine that it ought to receive publicity. The public, as well as the Government, are concerned in these mail tenders. There ought not to be the slightest objection to making public the terms which have been submitted, and which have been rejected by the Government. I should .have thought that the Postmaster-General would ‘have been ready to-day to lay the papers upon the table of the House. I do not know what all the secrecy is about, and I, for one, enter a strong protest against the policy which has been pursued by the Government.
– I wish to know whether anything has been done to fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise to me to get full particulars as to the interchanges between the Commonwealth and the South African colonies, with a view of considering whether there could be arranged a system of preferential duties without awaiting the consideration of the wider question of preferential trade within the Empire ?
– In reply to the honorable member for South Sydney, let me say that I believe the information asked for has been partly obtained. I know that when the information was promised, a commencement was made, with its collection. I shall,’ however, inquire further into the matter. The honorable member for Parramatta scarcely realizes that the Government are not yet in a position to make their proposals. Our last intimation of a tender was received after the close of the time specified, and though we had received, a cablegram giving a general outline qf the offer, there are no details to hand. The Government have no wish to . delay bringing ‘ the matter before the House. This will be done as soon as there is material on which to make a proposal. To take the course suggested by’ the honorable member would simply mean the laying of one paper after another on the table .without, any definite purpose.
– But we have reached a definite stage regarding the whole matter. We are informed that the Government have rejected the proposals sent in originally. .
– The honorable member will see the reason when the Government are in a position to lay all the proposals before the House, with the alternative which we desire to have adopted. All information will be given to the House, but at a time when the matter can be practically dealt with, and not now when discussion could not result in anything.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
House adjourned at 10.55 P.m
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 March 1904, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040303_reps_2_18/>.