2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. EWING presented a petition from certain residents of New South Wales .and Victoria, praying the House to pass into law the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if he can give the House the particulars of the tender of the Orient Steamship Company for the English mail contract. I wish to know tha amount of the subsidy required by the company, and the nature of the service they offered.
– The Prime Minister has already intimated that the whole of the papers relating to these tenders will be laid upon the table shortly.
– Does not the Prime Minister think it only fair that we should have the papers before us, so that the whole subject may be discussed in connexion with the proposals of the Government ? I appeal to him to let us” know- the particulars of the tenders received..
– Every paper relating to the matter will be laid upon the table, but, as I suggested last night, I think ‘that no useful purpose can be served by placing before honorable members documents which are incomplete.
– Are the papers relating to the tender of the Orient Steamship Company incomplete? It is only for those papers that I now ask.
– It is scarcely possible to lay ohe set of papers upon the table without the others. We intend to make a definite proposal to the House as soon as the second informal tender to which I have referred is made complete by the furnishing of particulars which are to be posted, to us. I do not think it would assist the honorable member or further the business of the House to lay any papers upon the; table until all the documents are completeand we are prepared to make a definite proposal.
– Am I to understand that the tender of the Orient Company will again come up for consideration, in connexion with the reconsideration of the whole matter? Is that why the Prime Minister declines to lay the papers in connexion with it upon the table ?
– So far as I know, the tender of the Orient Company will not be again considered unless the tenderers see fit to amend it.
– Then why not lay those papers upon the table?
– Because the tender may be amended.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following papers : -
Introduction of Asiatics into the Transvaal, correspondence relating to.
Petriana case, correspondence and papers relating to.
– I ask honorable members to be good enough to again adopt the practice which was found necessary last session of setting down for the following Tuesdays questions of which notice is given on Thursdays. Copies of the questions placed upon the business paper are sent to the Departments only late in the afternoon of the day upon which notice is given, - and when that day happens to be Thursday there is not sufficient time on the following morning for Ministers to check the answers to make sure that the information contained in them is complete.
– Can notices of questions be given at any time during the sitting of the House?
– The Standing Orders provide for the handing in to the Clerk of notices of questions by members at any- time during the sitting of the House.
Debate resumed from 3rd March (vide page 133) on motion by Mr. Mauger -
That the Address be agreed to by the House.
– Both the leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, in the able and comprehensive speeches they delivered yesterday, devoted some time to regretful references to the politically slain, formerly in their ranks, and gave more or less satisfactory, explanations of how their disasters came about. As one of the Labour Party, I am under no necessity to do anything of the kind. -The Labour Party is in the happy position of not only having lost none of those who made up our number in the last Parliament, but of having added considerably to our former strength. The Prime Minister alluded to the difficulties under which the Government fought the electoral campaign in New South Wales, owing to the fact that they had arrayed against them the two great metropolitan daily newspapers of that State. I would draw the attention of honorable members- to the fact that the success of the Labour Party, great as it was, was obtained in the face of the op position of practically ‘all the daily newspapers in Australia. With a few exceptions, the daily press of Australia was united in opposition to the political ideas and aspirations of the Labour Party, and in a policy of absolute misrepresentation which, in many cases,- went far to delude the electors as to our real objects and actions. I have in my mind the conduct of a newspaper which persistently published a statement as to the attitude of the Labour Party last Parliament which had been refuted by me in a letter published in its columns. In that letter I gave the dates upon which, on behalf of the Labour Party, I had made certain statements in Parliament, but within ten days after its publication the newspaper reiterated its original statements, and continued publishing them in black type until the day of election, a period of . about three weeks. That is an instance of the degree of misrepresentation to which this party was subjected during the campaign. In view of such circumstances, and of the fact that it was impossible for our small voices to reach any large proportion of the people, it is remarkable that we managed to materially increase our strength in both Houses at the expense of the two older parties.
– The honorable member cannot say that of the Opposition. The Government supported the Labour candidates all through.
– We have . gained our success at the expense, so far as numbers are concerned, of both the old parties.
– In New SouthWales the Government took up the Labour candidates as though they were their own nominees.
– I do not think they did anything of the sort. They refrained from running candidates for one or two seats, for which Labour men were running, because they saw no chance of winning them, and the Opposition did the same thing.
– At West Sydney and at Canobolas, for instance.
– The Government sent the AttorneyGeneral up to Queensland to fight our men.
– The free-traders were the strongest supporters of the honorable member for Canobolas.
– Yes ; but no free-trade candidate had a chance of beating the present member for Canobolas.
– I would point out to the House that the honorable member for
Bland is merely expressing his own opinions and is perfectly entitled to do so. If other honorable members differ from him they will have an opportunity to express their views later on. In the meantime I ask them not to interrupt.
– I admit that I am merely putting forward my own opinions, which are open to question by other honorable members. I would point out to the honorable member for Parramatta, however, that several seats were lost to the Labour Party through the opposition of Ministerial candidates. In Victoria we lost seats for that reason.
– I spoke only of New South Wales.
– In New South Wales we were shown only that degree of consideration which circumstances bound the other parties to give to us. Our success, therefore, was the more remarkable ; but we have no cause to complain of the result of the recent appeal to the people. I had occasion to refer, by way of interjection, yesterday to a feature of the New South Wales contest which to my mind is the most humiliating and pitiable that could have been introduced into an. election.
– It brought the Labour Party into existence in New South Wales.
– Nothing of the sort. The Labour Party has this to its credit, that whatever it has done in State politics, it has never touched sectarianism.
– What did the leader of the Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament say about that?
– Upon a recent occasion, when sectarianism had become so rampant that it was impossible to close one’s eyes to it, he stated that it existed, and he asked the people to resent its introduction into State politics.
– When sectarianism is working in favour of the Labour Party it is all right, but now that it is going against the party it is all wrong.
– I can understand any one making the best of such a thing, but I cannot understand any man, glorying in the existence of sectarianism in politics.
– Such a man is an enemy and a traitor to his country.
– It must be apparent to all that it will be impossible to obtain that calm and clear consideration of the great issues which must agitate Australia for many years to come if the public mind is inflamed and prejudiced by sectarian bitterness. What
I attempted to convey yesterday was that sectarianism in politics existed in New South Wales to an alarming extent. While the leader of the Opposition was regretting the introduction in Queensland of class views in respect to the political issue, he uttered no word of regret at the introduction of another more insidious danger into the politics of New South Wales. As one who has had for many years a great admiration for the undoubted abilities of the right honorable gentleman, I expected more from him than a covert encouragement of sectarianism, and was proportionately disappointed at his remarks. It is all very well for him to say that in his letter upon the occasion to which I alluded last night he deprecated the introduction of sectarianism. It is true that he did, but his letter on that occasion reminds me of the incident related by the novelist in connexion with an Irish election. In that case, the adherents of one party captured a member of the opposing faction, and the priest who was present strongly urged his parishioners not to put the captive’s head under the pump. So in the case of the right honorable gentleman, whilst his letter in the first sentence deprecated the introduction of the sectarian issue, he stated later on that he could not disguise from himself the fact that he had always received the united hostility of a certain section.
– That is absolutely true.
– I do not think it is true.’
– The honorable member has introduced the sectarian question.
– I know I have. I think it is foolish to bury our heads in the sand and blind ourselves to the introduction of influences which ought to be deprecated by all those who have any regard for a healthy public life. This is not a matter, however, for the display of any heat, because what is done has been done, and I do not wish to unnecessarily revive the subject. Had the leader of the Opposition taken the stand that the democrats in New South Wales expected of him, he might have killed the sectarian issue in connexion with the elections. His influence in New South Wales is admittedly and deservedly great, and if he had been strong in his denunciation, the sectarian issue would never have raised its head in New South Wales to the extent it did. I did not yesterday convey, nor do I intend now to convey, that the majority of the electors in New South Wales were influenced by any such trivial consideration as the sectarian issue. My belief is that the great majorty of the Protestants in that State allowed no such feeling to animate them, and perhaps the most gratifying feature of the election was the fact that the only direct candidate of the ultra-Protestant organization was defeated. It was gratifying to see such strong proof that the influence of the organization in question was comparatively small.
– The honorable member is referring to the contest in Lang, where there were two candidates, including the one who was successful, running on the Protestant ticket.
– The successful candidate was not the direct nominee of the organization. I know that in nearly all the electorates the organization referred to selected candidates to run on their ticket, but they were not the direct nomineesof that body.
– What did ‘the Government do to reprobate the introduction of the sectarian issue?
– I do not know.
– Then why should the honorable member single out the leader of the Opposition for condemnation?
– Because he, instead of keeping silent, wrote a letter which, in my view, amounted to a covert encouragement of the sectarian element.
– When was that? - It was years ago.
– It was not more than eighteen months ago, when the sectarian agitation was started in New South Wales. ‘
– The honorable member has had the subject bottled up for a good long time.
– The sectarian issue did not arise in Victoria. The Government supporters were of both colours.
– If some honorable members in New South Wales had not endeavoured totake advantage of the sectarian cry, it would not have been raised. The leader of the Opposition had an opportunity of denouncing it of which he did not take advantage.
– Why does the honorable single out the leader of the Opposition ?
– Order. I recognise that it is extremely difficult for the honor- able member for Bland to proceed in the face ofthe constant interruptions to which lie is now being subjected. I desire to point Out that according’ to the Standing j Orders, all interjections are disorderly; so 1 that if it were necessary, I could absolutely prevent them. I should, however, be sorry to take any such extreme step. I should much prefer to follow the usual course of trusting the whole matter to the discretion of honorable members individually. If that discretion is unwisely or imperfectly exercised, I shall have to enforce the Standing Orders by preventing interjections altogether. I hope that I shall not have to adopt that course.
– I have referred to the leader of the Opposition, because in my opinion he had an opportunity of discouraging the re-introduction of the sectarian element into politics. Instead of denouncing it, or allowing it to die, as we might have hoped it would, a natural death, the right honorable gentleman took the opportunity to covertly encourage it. That is the objection I take to bis attitude, and I regret that he has fallen from the high plane of politics upon which he had previously moved. The right honorable gentleman at the close of his remarks on this matter said that the sectarian issue should be avoided as a fire or pestilence. What is to be said ofthe head of a great party in the State, who aspires to be the Prime Minister of Australia, who, whilst believing that the introduction of the sectarian issue into politics should be treated as one would treat a fire or a pestilence, does nothing to stamp it out, but, on the other hand, fans the embers into flame.
– What have the Government done to stamp it out?
– They have not encouraged it that I know of.
– The Government have no relation whatever to the sectarian issue.
– The leader of the Opposition, in the course of his remarks, also asked why I had waited until now, after having been ten years in the public life of New South Wales, to bring up this matter.
– Because until recently the sectarian influence was always on the side of the Labour Party.
– That is an absolute misstatement, and the honorable member has been sufficiently long in public life to know that it is untrue.
– I shall show whether it is untrue or not.
– It is absolutely incorrect to state that sectarian influence has always been on the side of the Labour Party, because that organization has always kept itself aloof from any sectarian element as affecting politics.
– It is a pity that the honorable member should raise the question now.
– The honorable member for Macquarie is fully entitled to his opinion, which, I have no doubt, he will freely express at a later stage. The leader of the Opposition, with his capacity for finding ulterior motives in his opponents, stated that the reason ‘ for my attitude was to be found in the fact that a man who bore the indorsement of the Protestant Defence League contested “ the Bland electorate against me on the last occasion.I may say, at once, that I could not desire to meet a more honorable and straightforward man than my opponent. I do not think that he was in the slightest degree responsible for the indorsement he received from the sectarian organization. I admit that it was used on his behalf, but my opponent was in no way to be blamed for that. With regard to the insinuation of the right honorable gentleman as to the narrow majority I secured, I may say that I have had experience in contesting elections against weak men and strong men, and I have only this comment to make upon the result of the election in my constituency : Although I had only a majority of under 1,000, I am quite willing to meet any strong man who likes to take up the cudgels when another occasion arises. There is another feature of the elections to which I wish to refer, and that is the administration of the Electoral Act. I heartily concur . in the strictures levelled by the leaden of the Opposition against the administration of the Act. When the Act was being passed, I took the opportunity to point out a number of features which, in -my view, would work against successful administration. One of these was the provision which would have the effect of concentrating the voting of the electors at the polling places for which they were enrolled. I pointed out that that was a grave error of design; but the Minister was so enamoured of the system, which was, I believe, introduced from South Australia, and recommended by his officers, that he would not see the force of my objections. Apart from any faulty construction of the Act, however, there were most gross errors of administration, approaching almost to the” criminal. I know personally of hundreds of men who were disfranchised through the failure of the electoral officers of the Commonwealth to under stand their business. Here is a case in point : A provisional list of names intended to constitute a roll was issued by the Electoral Department, and was on exhibition at a post-office for some time. A number of my own acquaintances went to the postoffice, found their names on the roll, and went away satisfied that they were eligible to vote. When the complete roll was issued, however, they found that their names were missing, and that, consequently, they were disfranchised. Notices of objection to the inclusion of their names were supposed to have been issued from the department, but in many cases never reached the addressees j whilst, in other instances they came to hand too late to allow the persons affected to substantiate their claims. I contend that this complaint constitutes a grave charge against the administration. There is another case in connexion with the postal vote provision regarding which so much was said during the time the Bill was under discussion. This provision to which I for one was opposed, was rendered absolutely valueless by the failure of the department to issue the forms in sufficient numbers, and in proper time, throughout the electorates. The officers of the department seem to be totally ignorant of the fact that the mails in some country districts are carried only once a. week or even as infrequently as once a fortnight. Owing to the imperfect arrangements, it was absolutely impossible for the electors in far distant areas to take advantage of the facilities intended to be offered by the Act. I hope that the Government will consent to hold the inquiry suggested by the leader of the Opposition last evening. We now have an opportunity to consider the provisions of the Act itself and to remedy its defects as far as possible. We should also sheet home to those responsible the blame for the errors which have resulted in disfranchising a large number of electors. The leader of the Opposition referred to the so-called gerrymandering in connexion with the electoral divisions. Like King Charles’ head, that subject seems to be always with the right honorable gentleman, since the historical effort he made to arouse public feeling in’ New South Wales some little time ago.
– He did arouse it.
– Not to the extent expected. I recognise that the majority of the people in New South Wales support the cause of free-trade, and that they would have returned a free-trade majority in any case.
The circumstances connected with the electoral divisions did not arouse public feeling to any great extent.
– It should have done.
– That is a matter of opinion. I am rather doubtful about it. Taking into account the number of persons in my own electorate whom I found to be disfranchised, I made an attempt to arrive at some sort of average which would apply to the State generally. As a result, I am convinced that the rolls even now do not truly represent the distribution of the population. There have been some cases of duplication, whilst in other instances there have been omissions. These errors seriously affect the value of the rolls. It is useless at this stage to enter into an argument as to whether the boundaries of the divisions should have been altered, but I trust that the Government will address themselves to the task of collecting a new roll during the next few months. I understand that the police officers in New South Wales - and possibly in other States - will shortly be making a collection of names for the purposes of the State roll, and if an effort were made at the same time to collect names for the Commonwealth roll, we might afterwards make the necessary redistribution of electorates, with complete information at our disposal.
– If a beginning were made now, we should not be much more than ready for the next election.
– I think it would be wise to begin as early as possible, and I trust that the Ministry will take the necessary steps without delay. The present rolls are not by any means complete or correct.
– The people must now apply to have their names enrolled.
– I think the Government would be warranted in making use of the special provision in the Act which enables them at any time by executive act to cause a collection of names to be made for the purposes of a new roll. There is a provision in the Act to that effect, and I trust that, in view of the serious necessity which exists for its exercise, at any rate in New South Wales, the Minister will see the wisdom of bringing it into operation.
– The names of nearly all adults are upon the rolls.
– The figures which are in the possession of the Minister may suggest that they are; but, because of duplications in some cases and of omissions in others, I assure him that the rolls in New South Wales are not nearly so complete as they ought to be.
– One would think that persons whose names are not already upon the rolls would make application to have them placed there.
– There is another feature of the elections to which I should like to refer, namely, the fiscal question. I share the feeling of gratification which has been expressed by the Prime Minister, that with the last election the issue as between freetrade and protection has disappeared for some time to come.
– Not quite that.
– At any rate’ so far as the tariff is concerned. Practically the- fiscal issue is dead, and the surest confirmation of that view is the neglect of the leader of the Opposition to test the feeling of this House upon the subject. That is an admission that the question is dead, at any rate so far as this Parliament is concerned.
– :Of course I am aware that there are still a few enthusiasts, like the honorable and learned member for Werriwa,- who would lead a forlorn hope, and who would fight to the death if necessary. But their efforts, courageous as they may be, will, I venture to say, meet with very little encouragement from the people as a whole. As honorable members are aware, I believe in moderate protection. At the same time, as a citizen, and especially as a member of the Labour Party, I welcome the disappearance of the fiscal question for the time being from practical politics. Of course it- may be said that any preferential trade proposals which may be adopted will exercise a disturbing, influence upon our tariff conditions. But whilst I am as anxious as any one to respond - and respond heartily - to any advances which may be made by the mother land in the direction of preferential trade relations, I am so much of opinion that any alteration which may be effected in our tariff should be of a reciprocal character that I shall never consent to its being re-opened with a view to affording trade preference, unless proposals first come from the mother country. Surely it rests with Great Britain to decide whether or not it is in her interests to make special arrangements with her selfgoverning colonies in the matter of trade relations. Personally, I believe that any wisely-designed scheme would be in the interests of Great Britain. But it is for her to say whether that is so or not. I absolutely object to any alteration being made in the tariff in favour of Great Britain, such as has been effected in some of the other self-governing communities, without reciprocity. I think that any arrangement which may be arrived at must be of a mutual character, as I believe the advantage will be mutual.
– Great Britain offers us her markets now.
– She offers us her markets, as she offers them to every other portion of the globe. But the position I am contemplating is one in which we should give and receive some slight preference as against the people of other empires. Personally, I do not think there is any probability of negotiations in this direction being opened up by Great Britain for some time to come. It is very evident that nothing can be done in England until after the general elections, and it is at least doubtful whether so soon after the proposals have been placed before the public there, a revolution in the fiscal policy of the country can be accomplished. Con- I sequently, I think that it will be some time before we are invited to bestow any preference upon goods of British’ origin.
– Does the honorable member think that we shall not be asked to do so within the life of this Parliament for instance?
– Yes. But should the advances come earlier my vote would be cast in favour of any arrangement of a reciprocal character which would be likely to prove mutually advantageous.
– Would the honorable member make it a condition of any arrangement which may be entered into that the English bond-holders should lower the rate of interest upon Australian securities?
– Probably, by our increased prosperity and improved credit, we shall be able to secure that lowering of interest. Another matter which was touched upon by the leader of the Opposition was that of immigration. He drew a graphic picture of what would be possible if we received a large influx of population. With the Prime Minister he shared the anxiety that immigration should be renewed. So far as I am concerned, I heartily sympathize with the idea that we should attract people to these shores in increasing numbers, so long as they are persons with whom we can associate freely, and who, in building up their homes here, would constitute no menace to our own citizens. I sincerely hope that immigrants of the right class will be attracted to Australia. At the same time, it is the veriest nonsense to talk of advertising Australia in the older land, with a view to’ inducing population to flow in this direction, until we offer facilities for those who are already here to settle upon our vacant lands. It is absolute nonsense. For years past in New South Wales we have witnessed the spectacle of. the sons of our present farmers - as well as men who, as manual labourers or as artisans, have saved a few pounds, and are anxious to establish themselves upon small farms - chasing the land ballots over the country, and spending their substance unavailingly in attempts to obtain land for agricultural purposes. Yet we talk about attracting immigrants to Australia. What nonsense it is to pretend that what we are suffering from is a lack of advertising ! No such “thing. What we are suffering from is a lack of opportunity for settlement, and the opportunity cannot be provided by this Parliament, but only by beneficent and proper action on the part of the States Legislatures.
– There is not sufficient capital in the community for those who are already here.
– There is sufficient capital. I repeat that in New South Wales there are thousands who are anxious to become farmers, but who are denied the opportunity of doing so.
– We have a Tenure Act which is more than sixty years old.
– That is only one of the various phases of the land question in New South Wales which requires the earnest consideration of every citizen. I am glad to say that the Labour Party in that State have placed the questions of land settlement and water conservation in the very forefront of their programme for the forthcoming election, and I trust that, irrespective of whether or not their candidates are successful, the people will become alive to the necessity for action in that direction. The. leader of the Opposition, in the course of his remarks, implied that latterly the failure of immigration was due, in some measure, to the legislation which has been enacted by this Parliament. . Surely, he is aware that the decline of immigration commenced at a period long anterior to the opening of the first Comonwealth Parliament ! I have in my possession the figures bearing upon this question from 1892 onwards, and these show that there was an excess of departures over arrivals in the Commonwealth for that year of 4,600. In 1893 the excess was 8,000 odd.
– Those were not farmers.
– I am now speaking on the question of immigrants generally. The leader of the Opposition referred to the decline in immigration in such a way as to suggest that it was due to legislation which’ had been enacted by this Parliament. In 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1897 the Commonwealth certainly made some small gains, in that there was an excess of arrivals over departures, but, according to. Coghlan, in 1898, 1899, and 1900, there were large losses, by reason of the excess of departures over arrivals. The year 1901 was the first in which the statistics again showed an increase of arrivals over departures, the. number being some 1,500 odd. Therefore it is not to be imagined that the failure to attract people to Australia is in any sense due to the laws which we have placed upon our statute-book. The most conclusive reply to that argument is that in the United States there is a much more stringent immigration law than exists in Australia to-day. There, they not only refuse admission to persons who, upon arrival, are found to be under contract, but they also expel any one who within twelve months afterwards is discovered to be under contract.
An Honorable Member. - They lock the door when the horse is inside.
– The horses are not inside, because they still continue to go into the United States stable to the extent of some hundreds of thousands a year.
– They are not citizens of the same empire.
– I am quite aware of that. I have no objection to the citizens of Great Britain coming to Australia so long as they are not under contract. The leader of the Opposition declared yesterday that if it were a question of their coming here to take the places of men upon strike he would object. Where, then, was the ground of his opposition to the view which was put forward by the honorable member for Yarra? Surely the two were in absolute agreement ! Of course, I am speaking merely of the principle which is involved, and not of the individual instance. In my view the hatters were not displacing other men, and I think that as soon as the law was complied with, it was proper to admit them. At the same time, it seems to me that the right honorable member gave his whole case away when he affirmed his willingness to go so far as to prevent men coming to Australia to take the places of others who were upon strike. If he is prepared to go to that extent, we have no cause to complain of his attitude. Then again, he said that Australia was suffering from a lack of confidence. The inference to be drawn from his statement, I presume, is that our legislation has scared the capitalist abroad, and that consequently the flotation of Australian loans is prejudiced. My own view is that if by any circumstance we can be prevented from borrowing for some years to come, it will be the best possible thing that can happen to us. Surely it is time that we freed ourselves from the dominance of the money-lender in Europe. Surely it is time that we became more self-reliant. Nevertheless, it is unfair to assume that the fact that money cannot be easily borrowed by the different States in London is due to the legislation of either the Commonwealth or the States Parliaments. British Consols were never at a greater discount than they are to-day. It may be remembered that some time ago it was one of the conditions of the settlement of the Rand troubles that some£30,000,000 should be borrowed, and that the interest should be chargeable against the mines in some form of taxation. This money was to be secured to develop the Transvaal, but most honorable members are aware that when it was proposed to raise the first instalment of£10,000,000, the floating of the loan had to be postponed because of the unpropitious state of the money market. We have already read press cablegrams referring to this question, and I would drawattention to a reference to the subject which appears in a letter from the London correspondent of the Age published in yesterday’s issue of that journal. The correspondent writes -
Among the various causes which have contributed to the abnormal conditions prevailing in the money market, the heavy borrowing of English municipal bodies is given a prominent place. Whereas the national debt has increased within the last fifteen years from £698,000,000 to £798,000,000, the total of the municipal debt has risen in the same period from £225,000,000 to £440,000,000.
There are, of course, other causes operating upon the money market, but it is sufficient forus to recognise that any community now seeking to float a loan on the London money market finds itself subject to high interest and large discounts before it is able to obtain a penny. What becomes, therefore, of the suggestion put forward by the- leader of the Opposition, who, after all, was merely repeating statements which have been hurled forth from one end of Australia to the other, that this lack of confidence on the part of the British investor is due to the attitude of the Labour Party in Australia? The state of affairs which prevails so far as the money market is concerned is common to the whole world, and I think that indirectly the result will be beneficial to Australia, inasmuch as it will compel us to rely more upon our own resources.
– But it is rather rough on us when our loans fall due.
– Of course it is ; and in that connexion no one regrets the position more than I do. But surely the honorable member does not imply the suggestion - and if he does he cannot substantiate it - that the Labour Party’s programme has in any way affected the British money market? I admit that so far as the renewal of our loans is concerned it would be highly beneficial to Australia if it were possible to borrow at a lower rate.
– But for the war in South Africa we should have been able to borrow at lower rates.
– No doubt that war has had much to do with the creation of the present position. I wish now to say a word or two with respect to the employment of lascars on mail steamers. I must certainly say that I was under the impression that the reason why so few tenders were received for the carriage of our mails was, probably, that the conditions other than those relating to the employment of white crews were such that the companies did not care to comply with them. The Prime Minister, . however, has indicated that there was nothing in the conditions apart from the provision as to the non-employment of coloured crews that should have prevented the companies from tendering had they cared to do so. It still seemed to me that it should be possible to arrange for a white-manned mail service. It is a well-known fact that at present the Germans carry their mails to and from Australia on vessels manned by men of their own race. The French do not do so. They employ lascars in the stokeholes of their vessels, and also to a great extent as deck hands. The Germans, however, employ their own people exclusively, and their vessels trade via the Suez Canal. Apart from this evidence that German stokers are able to stand the terrors of the Red Sea, we have the fact that the Lund line of vessels, as well as those of other services trading regularly between Great Britain and Australia, travel by way of the Red Sea.
– Not Lund’s line; they take the Cape route.
– I think, on reflection, that the honorable member is right as to Lund’s line, but my remark is true of other services.
– What line of steamers other than the German service go through the Red Sea?
– The Orient liners do, and until recently they employed white stokers.
– Not all of them.
– The greater part. At all events the terrors of the Red Sea have no effect so far as the men employed on our warships and on some of our mail steamers and other trading vessels are concerned.
– Why do they not employ coloured stokers on war-ships?
– Because they are not considered to be sufficiently reliable. In reply to a suggestion made by the honorable member for North Sydney that the British Navy will shortly employ coloured stokers I would say that in my opinion it is unwise for him to confuse lascar seamen, so far as their fighting qualities are concerned, with the Sikhs and the Ghoorkas of the hills. They belonged to a totally different class.
– A different race altogether. Mr. WATSON.- Quite so. The hillsmen are most decidedly fighting men, while the plainsmen and the others are quite the reverse.
– The differences between the various races of India are greater than is any difference that obtains between European races.
– So I gather from what I have read on the subject.
– The army does not recruit from certain provinces. Men from certain provinces will not be accepted.
– That is so. Judging from a recent development, I do not think that there should be any difficulty in arranging for the carriage of our mails by boats which travel by way of the Cape. We saw a statement in the press ‘the other day that a steamer - I think it was the Miltiades - came here from Liverpool or London in thirty days. That was a very satisfactory performance, and shows that vessels of that class trading round the Cape should be fast enough to compete with steamers carrying mails by the other route.If a vessel manned by white men can make a voyage in that time, it seems to me that there should be no difficulty in arranging for the carriage of mails by the Cape route. I am glad that the Government have not yet suspended negotiations, and hope that they will be successful in arranging fora service on the lines which have been indicated by the House. I think that the Government are to be congratulated on having protested against the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal. There is certainly some ground for the reflection of the leader of the Opposition that after all the Government only followed ‘the lead of Mr. Seddon. But I am glad that they saw fit to take the responsibility of protesting in the name of Australia, against the introduction of these undesirables.
– Would the honorable member resent any interference with our business on the part of the British Parliament?
– Then this action should not have been taken.
– The two cases are not on all-fours. We have been granted selfgovernment by the voluntary act of the British Parliament.
– For ourselves.
– Quite so. The British Government profess to be anxious to accord the people of the Transvaal such measures as the people themselves desire ; but they have not given any opportunity to the people of the Transvaal.to express an opinion on this question. That is the gravamen of the objection that I entertain to the present attitude of the Imperial Government.
– I think that the action taken by the Government was an ignorant and impertinent one.
– The honorable and learned member may think so ; but we have, nevertheless, ‘ an indirect interest in this question, because, as was recently demonstrated, we must be prepared to shoulder our share of responsibility in the Empire’s time of trouble. It appears to me that, when Chinese only are employed as miners in South Africa, there must be a greater probability of trouble than there would be if hundreds of thousands of white men were encouraged to go to the Transvaal; and form a bulwark for the protection of the interests of the Empire in that far distant corner of its territory. I do not wish to debate this question at length, because I hope to have an opportunity to move the motion, of which I have given notice, calling upon the House to give expression to its opinion on this subject. When that motion is under discussion, I shall be able to put before honorable members some facts which I think will be of interest. I, therefore, content myself now by heartily congratulating the Government for taking the responsibility of the action referred to. We are promised in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be at once proceeded with. The Government has already introduced the measure, and I find that it differs but very slightly from the Bill before the last Parliament. I . believe that the amendments which have been made, so far as they go, are in the right direction. I heartily sympathize with any effort to make the measure as complete and as comprehensive as possible, and to avert, as far as we can, a repetition of what occurred recently in Newcastle in defiance of the State Act. I am glad to say that that difficulty was only a temporary one, for the men have since returned to work.
– Does the honorable member refer to the Teralba case?
– Have the men returned to work ?
– They have.
– I am sorry that they obeyed the dictates of their leaders.
– That is the usual exclamation of our constitutional rebel, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. He rebels against anything and everything, and naturally rebels against any one who would have to do with constitutional authority. The Teralba incident was unduly magnified because, as a matter of fact, the employers themselves failed to take advantage of the remedy which the law provides. When the matter was under consideration by the Court they omitted, through their representative, to have the penalties for breach of the award specified in the award itself. There were other penalties which might have been enforced, apart altogether from the Arbitration Act, but the employers failed to take advantage of them. The fault was due not so much to the Act itself as to the failure of the representative of the employers to move the Court to have the penalties fixed. I am not one of those who declare that a law is not a good one because it may occasionally break down. There are many murders committed in this community which unfortunately remain undetected; there are many breaches of social and statute law which remain for ever undiscovered ; but that is no reason why all laws should be repealed, or why the protection of the police should be withdrawn from the community. And so I say that the occasional failure of an Act to carry out the objects sought to be accomplished by it, does not prove that it is unnecessary or incapable of being administered for the protection of the community.
– The Act was passed to prevent injustice.
– It has prevented injustice, and, from the point of view of the community, has done more than that. It takes many injustices to rouse a community and stir it to action, and I assert that the State Act, from the point of view of the community generally, has done more than prevent injustice.
– Why quell the spirit of freedom ?
– Freedom can, and frequently does, become license. Although I do not insinuate that the honorable and learned member really desires license, his views, if carried to their logical conclusion, would amount to that. The objections I have to the Bill, as introduced, are those which I had to the Bill introduced last Parliament. The Government have again excluded from its operation all in the employ of the Governments of the States. As we have already debated the question, and shall have another opportunity to discuss it, while it has been fully thrashed out before the country, I shall only say, now, that I trust that the majority of honorable members will vote for the extension of the provisions of the measure to every person in the community who may be suffering an injustice. Every person engaged in an industry should, to my way of thinking, be able to take advantage of the measure to remedy any injustice from which he may be suffering. It was puerile for one of the Melbourne newspapers, this morning, to argue that the men employed by the State are not engaged in an. industry. The mere fact that employment is State employment ‘does not prevent it from being employment in an industry. While it is true that municipalities in England and elsewherecarry on many services of an industrial character which are not carried on by municipalities here, I do not suppose that any Government elsewhere conducts more industrial enterprises than have been undertaken by the various Australian Governments. If the words in the Constitution bear the construction which their plain English meaning gives them, it is idle for the journal in question to argue that the members of the Convention had in their mind the elimination of State employment. If they had wished that, they would surely have specified it. So far as the members of the Labour Party are concerned, we intend to vote for the application of the measure to all public servants within the limits of the Constitution. Of course we are bound by the terms of the Constitution, which allows us to interfere for the prevention only of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State ; but we desire to make the Act as all-embracing as possible. Another matter to which I am glad the Government intend to give early consideration is the selection of the site of the Federal Capital. During the recent elections I was more than ever impressed with the necessity for an immediate settlement of that question. Quite apart from the interests of New South Wales, it seems to me impossible to expect any serious diminution of the jealousy which has existed for many years between the two great cities of the Commonwealth until the Federal Capital is established. The people of Sydney look with jaundiced eyes upon anything emanating from Melbourne, and, judging by what I read in the public press, and the sentiments I occasionally hear expressed, a proportion of the people of Melbourne look in the same unhappy fashion upon anything coming from Sydney.
– Why should we saddle a burden upon the Australian States because of the jealousy of two cities ?
– Parliament is not asked to establish the Federal Capital because of the jealousy of Sydney and Melbourne, but because it is a condition in the bond.
– It is a condition of the compact under which the States federated. It was an arrangement between the States by which they must honorably abide. Surely the honorable member for Franklin does not wish to go back upon that contract ?
– I do not see why we should not go to Sydney.
– I myself would vote against the establishment of the capital in Sydney ; but the Constitution makes that impossible. The same trouble would arise if the Federal Parliament met in Sydney as arises from its meeting in Melbourne. I believe ft would he a national benefit if we could get rid of this Inter-State, or rather inter-city, jealousy, by meeting in neutral territory, and thus freeing ourselves from vitiating influences. I am quite in accord with what has been suggested by the Prime Minister in regard to the probable cost of establishing the Federal Capital. Th? initial cost should not be very great, and eventually the expense should be nothing at all. I trust, therefore, that an early opportunity will be given to new members to inspect the three sites which still have a chance of being chosen, and that immediately afterwards we shall proceed to fix upon one of those sites. The matter is of the greatest importance to the interests of the whole community. The Prime Minister explained the paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech relating to old-age pensions as conveying a desire to take over from New South Wales and Victoria, by arrangement with those States, their present old-age pen sion schemes, and to obtain from such other States as might be agreeable authority for the institution, out of their revenues, of Commonwealth old-age pension schemes which would apply to their people. Such w proposal seems to be only playing with the question. While I admit that an arrangement with New South Wales and Victoria should accomplish some little good, in that there are at present in each State a number of persons who are ineligible for pensions because of their temporary residence in the other State, still the arrangement would not touch the question as a whole. Several of the States at the present time do not seem inclined to institute old-age pensions of their own. A majority in favour of such a proposal could not be obtained in their Parliaments, and if they are unwilling to establish funds which would be wholly under their own control, they are not likely to allow the Federal Government to establish funds put of their revenues, which will be wholly under Commonwealth control.
– Does the honorable member think that any of the States would hand the matter over to the Commonwealth ?
– I am not teo sanguine about the matter. In Victoria, a majority of the members of the State Parliament seem to view old-age pensions in the light of a charitable dole, which they are making as infinitesimal as possible, perhaps so as not to hurt, to too great an extent, the feelings of those who receive it. I think it is possible, however, to establish an old-age pension system without waiting for the elimination of the Braddon clause.
– How does the honorable member propose to get the necessary money ?
– That so far has been the chief ground of objection to the proposal ; but there are several ways in which money can be obtained. We could get a certain amount by the imposition of an absentee land tax, and we could get more by the nationalization of the tobacco trade, which is now practically a monopoly, ‘ the whole of the manufacture and distribution of tobacco through the Commonwealth being in the hands of the Kronheimer institution.
– They have sacked all their commercial travellers.
– They have reduced expenses by maintaining only one advertising department, and one set of -travellers, and they are rightly carrying on their business on the most economic lines. The consumers of tobacco, however, are not benefiting by the arrangement, because prices remain as they were, notwithstanding that the profits of most of the individual firms which are now combined were very large before the present pooling of interests. It was reported by a Royal Commission which sat in Victoria, and whose members did not belong to the Labour Party, that a profit of ^500,000 a year could be made in the- tobacco industry without deteriorating the quality of the tobacco sold. If that be so, it seems to me that the nationalization of the tobacco business in Australia would give sufficient to pay for an old-age pension system.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne says that under the Constitution we have no power.
– It is an unfortunate thing for litigants that even the highest legal authorities differ as to the- correct interpretation of any law, and therefore I. do not give up hope because an eminent lawyer takes that view of the Constitution. Personally, I am willing to make a trial in the direction I have suggested,, because I think that we should make an effort to establish a Commonwealth old-age pension system, to provide what will really be pensions, and not merely insulting doles to the persons to whom they are paid. I caught an allusion by the leader of the Opposition to the qualifications of a particular individual, but I was unfortunate in missing his remarks, regarding the appointment of a High Commissioner in London, so that I do not know what view he takes as to the desirability of that step.
My own opinion is that it is most unwise for the Commonwealth to delay making the appointment. The Kyabramese newspapers and their readers may talk of the enormous expense involved, gut if, after the appointment of a High Commissioner, the States take the steps which they should take there should be an absolute saving to the community.
– If the States would take those steps 1
– I think that public opinion will compel them to get rid of their Agents-General, just as it is compelling them to do a number of other things, once a High Commissioner is appointed to repre-, sent the Commonwealth in London, to transact diplomatic business, and to attend to questions affecting high finance. All that the States will then require will be commercial agents. New South Wales has now three or four such agents in different parts of the world, and I am satisfied that upon the appointment of a High Commissioner, the States can get rid of their AgentsGeneral, and the elaborate staffs connected with the offices of those gentlemen. At present we have absolutely no one in London who can properly voice the opinion of this Parliament or express the views of the Government. This is a most anomalous position.- Surely it must be admitted that if there had been a man in London with a full knowledge of the dangers which Australia had escaped in connexion with Chinese immigration, and a knowledge of the whole history of the movement, he could have made weighty representations to the British Government arid Parliament upon the question of introducing Chinese to the Transvaal. We know that as the matter stands there is almost a unanimous expres-sion of opinion by the Liberal Party against the introduction of the Chinese into the Transvaal, whilst the hesitancy on the part of the British Ministry betokens some doubt as to the propriety of the course they are following. Then, again, we have a number of trading interests in the South Seas. I notice that a Commission, conjointly representing France and Great Britain, is to be appointed to administer affairs in connexion with the New Hebrides. Australians have large interests in those islands, which should be watched by some one qualified to express the Australian view to the British Government. I have always objected to unduly enlarging the area of our responsibility. I do not think that it is good for us “to bite off more than we can chew,” and, therefore, I deprecate the continual increase of the territory which we should be called upon to defend in time of trouble. At the same time, I consider that we are not relieved from the necessity of paying full regard to the interests of our trading community. We have already acquired large interests in the islands in the Pacific, and we should have a representative in London who could make clear to His Majesty’s Government the views held in Australia. I hope that if it be necessary to introduce a Bill for the purpose of making the necessary appointment, it will be brought forward at an early stage. In any case,. I trust that action will be taken in this direction without unnecessary delay. In view of the previous utterances of the Treasurer, I had expected that some intimation would be made regarding the attitude of the Government with respect to what is known as the Canadian banking system. The Treasurer, when making his first financial statement in this House, said he was then considering, and inclined to regard favorably, the adoption of the provisions which have been in operation for many years in Canada, by which 40 per cent, of the reserves of the’ great financial institutions are required “to take the form of Government securities. This would amount to an issue of gold to the Government free pf interest. I had hoped that by this time the Treasurer would have arrived at a decision. I think that by means of such legislation the Commonwealth might obtain the control, free of charge, of at least ,£5,000,000, without inflicting any inquiry upon the financial institutions.
– They would lose the interest upon the money.
– The banks would not lose interest, because they do not receive any interest upon their reserves of coin and bullion, which amount in the aggregate to over £20,000,000. For many years past, according to Coghlan, the average of the reserves held by our banks has been £21,000,000, and if 40 per cent, of these reserves were exchanged for Government securities the reserves would still be intact, and would be just as valuable as at present.
– How would that help them in the case of a crisis?
– I quite admit that provision must be made for a crisis. The Government would have to retain a certain proportion of the gold which they took Over’; but the difference between, say, £8,000,000 and ,£5,000,000 would be quite sufficient to hold as a reserve. A few years ago we passed through the greatest crisis that ever occurred in Australia, andI would ask the honorable member how far the coin and bullion reserves of the banks were trenched upon during that period. Strange as it may seem, they were not availed of to any large extent. Most Britishers have a very high regard for precedent ; they look askance at any principle which has novelty as one of its features. But in this case we have the Canadian experience to guide us. The financial institutions of that country are as prosperous as our own, if not more so.
– They are more prosperous. There has not been a failure in Canada for thirty years.
– The interests of our banking institutions would not be injuriously affected in the slightest degree by the adoption of the measure suggested, and I trust that the Treasurer will favour us with some expression of Opinion. Personally, I think it is a matter of the greatest importance as affecting the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– It is a very complicated subject.
– I admit that. But what is a complication to a man of the capacity of the Treasurer ? We all have the highest respect for him, and personally I think that there is no man in the Commonwealth better fitted to grapple with this problem. I desire to direct attention to what I regard as an omission from the Governor-General’s Speech. We have been told that the speech is so comprehensive that it is almost impossible to discover an omission. But it is significant to me thatno mention is made of the intention of the Government to provide more adequately for the arming and equipment of our defence forces.
– That will be dealt with in the statement regarding the defences.
– Nothing is said in the Governor-General’s Speech regarding the defences, except that the Defence Act has been brought into operation. To me that seems to be nothing more than a chip in porridge, and I think that we should have had an expression of opinion upon what I regard as one of the most important subjects that can engage our attention.
Mr.Deakin. - The honorable member’s wish will be gratified very soon.
– I am very glad to hear it. I hope that the proposals of the Government will be in the direction of adequately equipping our forces, and that special attention will be given to the necessity of laying up a large stock of ammunition. I have little more to add except to. say that there has been a great deal of talk lately about alliances, and last evening the leader of the Opposition was good enough to indicate that he was prepared to receive the advances of any amorously-inclined suitor. So far as the Labour Party are concerned, we regard it as useless to think of taking a share of the responsibility of Government unless we have in this Chamber a majority of members who are prepared to abide by the programme which we have put before the country. I know that we share that position with the other parties in this House, and that is where the difficulty arises in connexion with the suggested alliance. Each party went to the country with a different programme, and it would be impossible without sacrificing some of the items in such programmes, to arrange a compromise that would be in the interests of the country, or fair to the parties. Therefore, the view taken by the Prime Minister seems to me to be the correct one. We must allow matters to developuntil we are in a position to find out how honorable members feel upon those great matters of public policy regarding which parties are at variance. So far as we as a party are concerned, our programme has the merit, as has been admitted by the leader of the Opposition, of always having been presented to the country in plain black and white. It is well known. The right honorable gentleman did, us the credit, in one of those kaleidoscopic changes for which he is remarkable, of saying that we are always earnest in carrying out our programme. It was only the other day, however, at a meeting of freetraders, that he was not at all complimentary to the Labour Party. Our programme is well known, and whatever comes or goes we are determined to carry it through if an opportunity presents itself. We have been encouraged in the attitude we have so far taken up by the increased measure of support we received when we went to the people on the last occasion. No other party can make a similar claim. In the belief that in each succeeding year our principles will find more ready acceptance at the hands of the people, that our aims will become more clearly known, and that our attitude and individual actions will be less subject to suspicion on the part of those who have not taken the trouble to understand us, I have no fear that the Labour Party will not be able to hold its own.
– I think that I must voice the opinion of a considerable number of honorable members when I say that it would be well for us to cease making references to the recent elections, to the causes which operated to bring about certain results in certain cases, and the reasons why one party succeeded and another failed. All these matters must rest upon one basis, namely, the intelligence of the community. If it were possible for the Government or the Opposition to cause the free ‘people of a self-governing country to vote for reasons other than those which should actuate them, I am inclined to believe that improper influences might be brought to bear. As matters stand, however, we all go forth to the electors with the idea of being returned, and the end we have in view is the good of the country. No honorable member here believes that it would be a good thing for the country if he were not in this Chamber. Possibly honorable members on this side of the House would be right in entertaining that view. We know that the election period is not one during which educative influences should be brought to bear by candidates. No sensible man tries to educate the electors at such a time. He has three years in which to do that. At the time when he is seeking their suffrages, his main efforts are directed to consolidating his position, and making it secure in their regard. We know that every election brings with it keen disappointment to candidates, owing to their finding themselves abandoned by people whom they think should support them. That falls to the lot of every man. Every successful candidate can, however, indulge in a kind of gruesome triumph, and reflect that, whatever his troubles and humiliations may have been, he is in the place of the elect, and the Other candidate is not. Every man who is on top is prepared to make, up a quarrel, and as I am on top on this occasion I am prepared to bury the hatchet. There has been some talk of an alliance, but I am not aware of any proposal of that sort. I dp not know who is to embrace the girl, to use the simile of the right honorable the leader of the Opposition - “ From pleasure to pleasure youth wanders along,
With his arm. full of girl and his heart full of song.”
Not, however, from pleasure to pleasure, but from office to office. But whatever alliance may be made, I hope that more regard will be paid to the good of the country than to the spoils of office.
– One rejoices in office, because it enables him to give effect to his own views.
– Office to a man of good character and patriotic feeling is useful only, because of the good which it enables him to accomplish. No decent man would seek office merely for the sake of office. He may be driven by poverty to sell his ability to a party, but the real value of office to any man of high character - and I take it that there are many such here - is that it enables him to render useful service to the people who have elected him. I now come to the bill of fare which has been placed before us by the Government. We all grant that it is an acceptable bill of fare. It represents the hopes, the aspirations, and the desires of the Government. It is a bill of fare which may be viewed in this way : that if one does not like the mutton he can take the mustard. In this bill of fare, as in most other menus, there are some matters which are of more importance than others. In my judgment every item which is mentioned therein is of minor importance compared with the question of our future trade relations with the British Empire.
– Then we are to do nothing for twenty or thirty years ?
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa in that period will do nothing that is right. Every honorable member who has had parliamentary experience for a decade or two is aware that most of the matters which agitate any legislature - the matters which separate parties from each other - are generally a sort of nine days’ wonder. But, now and again in the history of a nation some great subject is brought forward - as was the case in these States when Federal union was proposed - which causes men to recognise that they have higher obligations than those of their allegiance to any party. In my opinion the question of preferential trade relations with the Empire is one of those matters. In this connexion I address myself to the remnant upon the other side of the Chamber with feelings of sorrow rather than of anger.
– How many honorable members are upon the opposite side ?
– With Ministerial supporters it is a question of quality * rather than of numbers. Quality, after all, is the factor which decides the situation. I wish now to address myself to some honorable members opposite who, upon rare occasions, have exhibited, at any rate, spasms of intelligence. To me it was painful to find - and I do not say this with any idea of being unjust to them - that they have abandoned every political principle to which I thought they would steadfastly adhere. They have abandoned every profession which they have been making during the past ten or twenty years in the public life of Australia and of their own State. Let me endeavour to prove that statement. The honorable member for Paramatta knows that the great charge which was formerly levelled against the protectionists of New South Wales was that they were not loyal to the Empire. The policy of the free-traders, we were told, was ever that of loyalty to the Empire at all costs. On the other hand, we who were parties to imposing taxation upon the goods of the Empire were never presumed to be really in touch with the great British people. Consequently, the first plank in the free-trade platform was the stability of the Empire. Not only was it the first plank in their platform, but it was placed in the very forefront of every pamphlet and placard which they circulated. Their next proclamation was that the practice of free-trade, by bringing nations closer together, evoked all that was good beneath the national cuticle. The contention, put briefly, was that free-trade would bring the whole world into a state of peace and harmony. Every honorable member is aware of the fact that the basis - and I grant that it is a strong basis - of freetrade was alleged to be that it would bring the different nations together and that the interchange of goods making every part of the world to some extent dependent upon some other part would exercise a humanizing influence. Seeing that free-trade was to accomplish so much for nations separated by every conceivable barrier, one was naturally disappointed to find that it, in the opinion of the free-trader, would achieve so little for the British people. If there be anything in the professions which we hear from honorable members opposite, surely some of the beneficent results should be experienced by our own brethren !
– How much of the sugar duty will the honorable member surrender in the interests of the Empire?
– At the time of the Federal referendum I declared that if the sugar industry stood in the way of the union of the Australian people, I would still decide for union, and I take up a similar position now in regard to preferential trade.
– Will the honorable member surrender£3 per ton of the present duty upon sugar for the sake of the Empire?
– The sugar industry is not now under consideration. We can deal with these matters only upon broad principles. The sugar duty is quite safe under the control of this Parliament. The honorable member for North Sydney said last evening that the same arguments are being used in Great Britain now as were advanced sixty years ago. That is a fact. It was said that if Great Britain adopted a free-trade policy the whole of the world would follow her example. ‘
– That was never stated in Parliament, and the honorable member cannot show me a word to that effect in the debates.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa knows perfectly well that it is to be found in the reports of Cobden’s and Bright’s speeches. For sixty years Great Britain has pursued free trade, and yet the whole world is more united against her to-day as regards that policy than it was in the forties. Similarly for forty years with one slight lapse during the term of office of Sir George Dibbs, the policy adopted by New South Wales has been in the direction of free-trade. Yet not one foreign nation has ever made the slightest trade concession to that State. But perhaps these two historical facts are of nomoment to honorable members opposite. Let us take a further fact or two. Although they appealed to the people as free-traders, there is not a single individual in this Parliament who is fatuous enough to submit a proposal in ‘favour of free imports, and even if there were, there is not one member who is imbecile enough to vote for it. Therefore the whole appeal in New South Wales, in so far as it involved the fiscal issue, was a bogus appeal, and the people should have known it. I now propose to deal with another aspect of this matter. For election purposes, some honorable members declared that they were free-traders. Now, however, we are given to understand that they are revenue tariff - ists. As the honorable memberfor Bland pointed out, if the leader of the Opposition were to submit a motion to this House in favour of- a revenue tariff, he would no> secure a score of supporters. The fiscal issue has evaporated. Some honorable members may have been returned to deal primarily with the. question of preferential trade, but a very large majority have undoubtedly been returned to secure fiscal peace.
– The honorable mem- ber knows that the New South Wales supporters of the Government nearly evaporated also.
– What does the honorable member propose in regard to preferential trade?
– In due course I mayventure to express an opinion upon matters of detail. I propose to-day to deal with general principles. Great Britain is a self -governing country. It is inhabited by a people whom we are accustomed to regard as fairly able and intelligent. It possesses a House of Commons, and a House of Lords. These Houses of legislature, with a full knowledge of the facts of free-trade, with a full appreciation of what that policy can accomplish, have arrived at the conclusion that the existing state of things in Great Britain is unsatisfactory. Under the circumstances, what need is there for us to turn aside to discuss’ how many ships were built or how many machines were made within a certain period ? I fall back upon the general principle that the only way by which we can gauge the opinion of a country is through the medium of its elected representatives. The House of Commons by a majority, and the House of Lords, by a majority of two to one, have decided that the conditions which at present obtain in regard to British trade are absolutely unjust. Honorable members may tell me that the case has not been fairly put before the people.
– There would be a very different result then.
– They know more about Britain apparently than do the people of that country themselves. The men who placed the case for free-trade before the people of Britain were men like Morley, Campbell-Bannerman, and Asquith, and in the House of Lords great minds like those of the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Rosebery. They were surely competent to state their case. The very prestige of their names alone satisfies us that their speeches’ were masterly exhibitions of argument and rhetoric. Still, ‘ honorable members opposite have now absolutely the audacity to take up the case from the British standpoint and to attempt to prove that the British Parliament is wrong. They say that if the meaner mind of Chamberlain, the poorer intellect of Rosebery, and the lesser ability of Asquith were set aside, and free play given to the exercise of the glorious intellects that sit for ever on your left, Mr. Speaker, the verdict would be different.
– The honorable member is taking up the other side himself.
– Does it not appear reasonable to suppose that the British people know their own business ?
– They show that they do.
– My honorable friend, the member for North Sydney, pointed out that the Board of Trade cannot make out returns. It may be so, and the honorable member knows that anything I say of him will be said with the respect and veneration he has earned in this House.
– The honorable member cannot defend that return.
– I do more than defend it —I quote the authority of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in its favour. However, nothing will satisfy some honorable members. I ‘have pointed out that the British people are a self-governing people, and in the centre of the Empire they have determined, in so far as it has been possible for them to determine, that free-trade is unsatisfactory. Let us look to the example of the men of Canada, the home of the “ Lady of Snows.” They are an intelligent people who have successfully developed a great country not unlike our own, and they have come to the same conclusion. The New Zealanders have come to the same conclusion. The people of the South African Confederation, if I may call it so, and the people even of British Guiana, have come to the same conclusion- as that arrived at by the Parliament of the mother country. In every part of the British Empire in which there are free institutions, or, as in British Guiana, anything approaching them, there is the desire that the sons of the Empire should trade fairly within the Empire, and allow the foreigner to look after himself. The only people who appear to be sitting temporarily in the britching - to use the language of the Minister for Home Affairs - are our honorable friends opposite. In the whole of the civilized British world they are almost alone; they remind one of a few solitary penguins. They sit there and claim for themselves a higher order of intelligence than the rest of the people of the British world; but they absolutely refuse to give expression to any principle for our guidance in the solution of this difficult problem.
An Honorable Member. - How many were returned in New South Wales to support the honorable member’s views upon this question?
– If a referendum were taken in New South Wales without any ulterior object in view, nine men out of every ten would be found voting for preferential trade. Honorable members opposite must know that.
– I know that the honorable member would have to reverse that statement.
– I have already said that I shallnot deal with the question of freetrade except in a general way. 1 think I have said sufficient to establish the general principle. One reason why I do not propose to deal with the question of free-trade is that there never has been any.
– Is that so?
– It may be, like a large number of other things worth knowing, information to the honorable member for Parramatta, but that which has been spoken of as free-trade never got beyond the swaddling clothes of free imports.
– Did we ever have true protection ?
– My word ; he got £6 per ton upon sugar, and it is making him very “cocky.”
– Is it not odd that some honorable members, in dealing with these great national matters, always imagine that the mean question of a man’s personal interest must influence him ? I have no more personal interest in this matter than has the honorable member for Parramatta. If we are to have interjections, let us have some more in keeping with the tone of this debate. As I have endeavoured to explain to honorable members opposite, we know that free-trade, which has resulted only in free imports, was ushered in with two trumpet sounds, one a reference to the prosperity and advancement of England, and the example which England under a free-trade system would set to the rest of the world; and the other the resulting thankfulness of the nations to the harbinger of the great new policy. Honorable members are doubtless aware of these fundamental facts. The adoption of the new policy was first of all to bring about a state of prosperity for England, so great, that every nation must copy her example.
– Who said that?
– The whole of the free importers said so.
– Cobden especially.
– Surely it is not necessary at this stage that I should revert to the prophetic claims made by Cobden and Bright. Every one knows that it was claimed that the prosperity of England would be, and that it was also claimed that all other nations were to be so gratified by her action and so thankful that they would be at peace with her for ever. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, after due consideration of: the figures supplied by the Board of Trade, made certain statements which I believe to be accurate. What was the result of. the example set by England so far as other nations were concerned? Russia was so pathetically gratified with the result of the adoption of free-trade by England that she put on a duty of 131 per cent. The argument used was that the example of England would be so great that the other nations must copy her; but honorable members are now aware, in the face of the facts, that the other nations have not copied her.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that there is protection amounting to 131 per cent. in Russia?
– Whether the amount of protection be 130 per cent., or 131 per cent., a little more or a little less, makes no difference. It may amount to any “ x “ quantity the honorable member pleases; but the result is the same, and proves at least that the great example of England has had no effect whatever upon the other nations of the world. The people ofthe United States of America were so enthusiastically thankful that they put on a duty of 72 per cent. . Austria-Hungary was moderately grateful, and imposed a duty of 33 per cent. France, sanguine and pleased with Great Britain, imposed a duty of 30 per cent. ; Italy, 21 per cent; and Germany 25 per cent., all of them being greatly obliged. One honorable member opposite had the - I shall not say political rectitude, because perhaps, that phrase would not apply - but the political reasonableness to grant that the prophecies with regard to the example of England being copied by other nations have not been realized.
– What was Bastiat’s prophecy? Speaking in 1846 he prophesied that as a result of free-trade the bulk of the trade of the world would belong to England. That is an undoubted fact.
– The prophecy was that free-trade would bring about peace between the nations, and that their friendship with Great Britain would be eternal. Well, within the last year or two we have gone through a national crisis, and the civilized world, so far as one can gather, was not very friendly to Great Britain. So again the free-trade prophecy failed. It failed to set an example, and it failed in securing any friends for the nation which initiated it.
– That was because of commercial jealousy at the success of England.
– So far as New South Wales is concerned, honorable members are aware that in that State we have had the experience of forty or fifty years of free-trade, and in addition the literature, the enlightened example, and the high-class exposition of the policy by honorable members opposite. The rest of the world has the -advantage not only of New South Wales’ precept, but of New South Wales’ example, and yet we have never had any of the nations making the slightest concession to that State, and Ave never will. I direct the attention and the intelligence, feeble though it may be, of honorable members opposite to the experience of their own country. I presume that, although their knowledge of the history of the world may not be great, they have at least a glimmering of what Australia is. Australia, as honorable members should know, is a great producing country, and depends upon its primary industries of wheat, wool,” coal, meat, cheese, butter, and such like. The main consideration for the primary producer in Australia is the same as that for the primary producer elsewhere. It may be important that he should be able to find fields fertile enough to give him a good return for his labour, but the main question, after all, is where he will sell his produce. That is the question for the primary producer. He cannot sell it in Australia, because Australia cannot consume it. He must sell it somewhere, and the question is, where is he to sell it ? The honorable and learned member for Werriwa made some reference just now to Bastiat. What the Australian producer requires to know is not what Bastiat said, but where he is to sell his butter. Honorable members will say that he can sell it in the markets of the world, but Germany says, “ You must not send i cwt. of Australian butter into Germany unless you pay us 8s. 2d.” France says, “ You must pay us ios. 46.,” and the people of the United States say, “ You must pay us 28s. per cwt.”
An Honorable Member. - They are all exporters of the article.
– There is not a market of the world open to the Australian producer but the British market. Honorable members must be aware of that. The other markets of the world are shut against Australian products. If we take cheese, for example, a duty of ios. 2d. per cwt. is imposed by Germany, 6s. id. by France, and 37 s. 6d. by the United States. On our wheat we have to pay a duty of 11 1/2d. per bushel before it can go into Germany, a duty of is. 6d. per bushel before it may. enter France, and .a duty of 7 Jd. per bushel before it will be admitted into the United States of America.
– But the United States of America export wheat to England.
– I am not dealing with that phase of the question; I am dealing with the attitude of the other nations of the world to free-trade New South Wales as she was, and to free-trade Britain as she is. I contend that they will not take one particle of our products if - they can be produced in their own land. True, Germany and France take our wool, but that is merely because they cannot produce enough to satisfy their own manufacturing wants, and it is taken because it cannot be done without for the same reason that they are prepared to take our hides. These are the facts.
– But what about our wool?
– I- have tried to explain the position in regard to that product. It is taken because it cannot be done without. I am endeavouring to show that the policy of every nation of the world is “ the shut door” against everything that Great Britain or Australia produces ; but they naturally do not shut their doors to a commodity which they require. It is for that reason that they take our wool and our hides. With regard to fresh meat, which Australia exports, Germany imposes duties of seven- eighths of a penny and proposed - I am not sure of the result 2 1/2d per lb., and prohibits the importation of tinned meat, and so on with almost all nations. As a matter of fact, the subsidized vessels are not permitted to carry Australian produce which is likely to come into competition with the products of the country by which they are subsidized.
– Does not the foreigner pay the duty ?
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. Each and every one of our products must be disposed of in some way. The supply is greater than the local demand. Honorable members of the Opposition declare that we should dispose of our products in the markets of the world. I reply that, as they well know, the world will not accept them. What then becomes oi their argument? Honorable members ask me about Cobden and Adam Smith, Ricardo and Leveleye ; but the writings of those authorities have no more to do with this question than have the theories of Confucius or Zoroaster. Not one of them contemplated preferential trade or free imports only for British goods. The next question which naturally arises is, whether the English market is worth possessing. On this subject I shall put a few figures before the House, because, in due time, they will appear in Hansard, and some honorable members will thus be able to obtain some information which, it seems, Providence has not yet vouchsafed to them. The English market ibr butter is worth £20,000,000 per annum; for cheese, £6,000,000 ; wheat and flour, £33,000,000; bacon, .£13,500,000; other meats, £26,000,000; eggs, £6,308,000; and poultry, £1,059,000.
– Where has the honorable member obtained his figures?
– The honorable member knows that I would not quote them if they were incorrect. I used them at the recent election - they are vouched for by the Government Statist. We, the people of a great island continent producing all these articles, require a market for them, and Great Britain, knowing that, comes forward and says to us - “ We are’ prepared to negotiate with our sons of the Empire - we are prepared to assist in the development of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa by trading with our own flesh and blood.” And yet some honorable members say that we should make no response to that offer. Apart altogether from considerations of flesh and blood, and viewing the matter simply from the stand-point of common-sense - and there must be a modicum of common-sense in honorable members opposite, or they would not have been returned - there is not a man either inside or outside this Parliament who, being a producer, would refuse to negotiate for a preference. That being so, I contend that it is. right for us to accept preferential trade, and so promote the good of the nation. The world is increasing and progressing upon lines of practical science and of general development. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra is a representative of one of the butter districts of New South Wales, and having in him one honorable member of the Opposition who must possess some idea of what I am seeking to impress upon the House, I shall state the case for the butter industry. . What is happening in regard to that industry? We know, first of all, that there is in England a butter market worth ^£20,000,000 per annum. We also know that in Siberia, Finland, Lapland, the Argen-.tine, and Canada there are two great forces at work - one, the development of the country by railways and other cheap means of communication ; the other the development of industry by practical science, as, for example, by the use of the De Laval separator, and of freezing chambers in connexion with the butter industry. The butter production of the world is hugely increasing, and I make no idle prophecy when I declare that before honorable members opposite get into office New South Wales will export at least £10,000,000 worth per annum. But what is happening? We have an enormous market for. butter in Great Britain, and every particle of the rapidly-increasing surplus output of butter in all parts of the world is being shipped straightway to that market. Our dairymen have therefore to determine whether they., will accept a preference in that market - whether they will accept from Britain the right to go into that market under circumstances disadvantageous to the foreigner, or whether they will fight the foreigner in it.
– I suppose that with preferential trade Denmark will have to- put up the shutters ?
– We shall have a preference over Denmark, but the remark is not pertinent to the issue. We are both familiar with the butter industry of Denmark. It has been the honorable member’s business as well as my own - his professionally, and mine politically - to become familiar with it. But the fact remains that an increasingly enormous quantity of butter is being produced, and that the only open market for it is to be found in Great Britain. This means a deadly struggle for Australian butter in the British market.
– If the honorable member would assist in removing the duties which our dairymen have to pay he would improve their position.
– What duties? There is no duty, for example, on separators.
– The farmers of Camden and other districts were practically ruined by the fodder duties.
– It was drought that was the root of the trouble. Any man who has a proper grip of the industry, and. a proper appreciation for the fact that the. British is the only market in which our goods can be sold, must say - “ Why allow the market to be ruled by the foreigner?” If he would deal fairly with us in the markets of the world, the position would be different. If the Germans and the. French wouldtake our butter, we should have “ a fair go.” But they will not. do so.. Their markets are closed against our ownas well as British products, and it is our business to negotiate with Great Britain, and to negotiate with our hands free and not tied behind our backs. Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain recognised this fact.
– Our hands are not tied behind our backs.
– The whole trend of my argument is not in relation to the facts as they were; but with regard to the present tendencies. Here we have a great undeveloped territory, capable of producing butter and other articles, and the question arises - “ Where are we to dispose of our goods ? “ The foreigner will not take them from us, and yet some honorable members would sit idly by and allow him to deprive us of the British market.
– Does the honorable member think that a duty of 5 per cent. on butter would secure the British market to us? That is what is proposed.
– At this stage we have nothing to do with that question. We are nowsimply claiming the right to carry on negotiations in relation to the trade of the British Empire ; out of those negotiations may spring a policy which will in due course be laid before us. If honorable members believe that it is right and proper to encourage trade between the various parts of the Empire, why should they not vote for preferential trade? If they think that our. trade with Great Britain should not be lost for ever, why should they not vote accordingly? We are not asking now for preferential duties of 5 per cent., or of 135 per cent.
– Does the honorable member believe in preferences ? If he. does I am willing now to swap a piece of bad land for a. piece of good land..
– One would hardly, believe it possible to hear such statements in a Parliament of the twentieth century. At present weare simply asked to recognise the general principle involved. Do honorable members believe in the general principle of trade between sons of the Empire?
-Of course, we do; but honorable members sitting behind the Government have f or years been endeavouring to put up barriers against that trade.
-I will deal with that in- terjection a little later on. The honorable member for North Sydney spoke about retaliation. It is absurd to talk about retaliation when other countries impose all the duties they can carry against us.
– What I referred, to was the: surcharge - the differential rate:
– When honorable members speak of retaliation, I would, ask why should other nations retaliate? If it be true,-, as honorable-, members assert, that protective, duties -fall- only on the nation levying, them,-, what can there be to retaliate against ?
– We give it- up.
– There can be no reply. Our Australian -communities are perfectly entitled to govern themselves, and there is nothing in the law of nations to prevent our doing exactly what other nations are doing. France and Germany have a system of this kind in force in connexion with their own colonies. The same remark is true of other nations, and surely they can not find fault with the people of Australia for following their example.
– And what splendid colonies they have developed under that system !
– Is it not absolutely unjust to make such a statement ? What have we been able to do with New Guinea? Great Britain a century or more ago practically annexed every part of the world worth having, but, nevertheless, we have not had time to develop a nation in New Guinea. The honorable and learned member is altogether too intelligent to be unable to recognise the basic fact. I promised an honorable member that I would deal with the question of “who pays theduty.” If it be true, as the Opposition asserts, that we shall have to bear these duties, the barriers proposed to be raised against other nations will be a matter of no concern to the foreign sr, and therefore they will not retaliate. It is unnecessary to say more of this aspect of the case, and I shall therefore pass on to one more question which I think deserves some little consideration. I have already spoken at greater length than I proposed at the outset to do, but honorable members’ have been so friendly and at the same time so incoherent in their interjections that I have been carried further than I intended to go. Everyone knows what a great advantage preferential trade with South Africa would be to Australia. Here we -are producing butter, timber, fruit, and biscuits, and capable of producing them in unlimited quantities. Lying adjacent to us is a country which is prepared to take these goods. A mining community is a lavish community. It will have the best that can be obtained. South Africa is -waiting for goods of this description. It is inconceivable to me that any man should ref use to negotiate for preferential trade with a country of that description. If we asked any .storekeeper whether he would elect to trade within an area where a preference to his goods was given, or in an area -where no preference was given, there could be no doubt as to what his answer would be. Numbers of the storekeepers of this country are reputable people, though many of them through reading pernicious literature, and through their minds having become warped by early association, are free-traders. But still there is a basic element of good sense in them. If we were to ask any storekeeper whether a preference of even i per cent., ‘or 2 per cent., being given him inside area A, and no preference inside area B, with which of those areas he would prefer to trade, he would say at once that he preferred to trade in the area where a preference was given. Of course, a storekeeper wants to make money. There are two things that a good many people want. One is money, and. the other is sense. But any man of sense who wants to make money would prefer to trade in the country where a preference was given to his commodities. I see the honorable member for Riverina opposite’. He knows perfectly well that, at the time when New South Wales was free-trade, and Victoria was protectionist, there was a feeling of irritation along the borders of those two States. The honorable member has seen evidence of that irritation over and over again. It was f 2 complained .on the New South Wales “side that the policy of many New South Wales electors was not so much protection as retaliation. As a man of business who is identified with trade and commerce in that part of the country, the honorable member knows that every person who had sheep or cattle or produce of any description on the northern side of the Murray during that period, was seriously hampered by the Customs duties imposed by Victoria. If it were true that the imposition of duties by the one State upon the goods of the other had the effect of hampering the trade of that State, surely it is equally true that the imposition of duties by foreigners upon our produce must have a similar effect. If the countries within the British Empire imposed duties upon the goods of foreign countries that at present hamper our trade, they would have something to give away when they came to negotiate with those countries. Take another aspect of the case. The free-trade party in Great Britain says the people of the country levying the dutv pay the whole of it, but let any other -country endeavour to interfere with the sphere of influence of Great Britain in any other part of the world, and what happens ? They will fight to their last man to maintain that sphere of influence. What is the difficulty at the present time with Russia in the East ? There is a fight for what is called the “open door.” Much of the public feeling amongst British people against Russia is founded upon the fact that they desire to keep the door open for trade with the East, and they know perfectly well that if Russia puts cn duties against British trade, those duties must restrict that trade. And so it is with the countries that -impose duties against British trade within their own borders. Let me point out one other aspect of the case, and I shall have completed my remarks. The free-trade party say that protectionists desire to foster their own industries, and therefore they urge that as protectionists we ought to have nothing to do with the policy of preferential trade. I request them to contemplate a small fact in history. Several of the Australian States have adopted protection ; they have fought for their native industries. Closely associated with this policy are the names of statesmen like the right honorable member for Adelaide, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Treasurer, and many others. They have fought for protection in their own States. But it is a fact that “early every one of the protectionist leaders was a federationist almost at any price. In New South Wales the protectionist party was the bulwark of federation, and nearly ‘the whole of the opposition to federation came from the free-trade
– Certainly not.
– There may have been one or two exceptions. I do not wish to be ungenerous . towards such gentlemen as the honorable member for South Sydney. He and others, although they were free-traders, said they had a higher duty to perform to the whole of Australia. They recognized that Australia could never fulfil her destiny if the States remained separated entities. I admit that a number of free-traders like the honorable member rose above their fiscal principles. He was one of those who proved to be greater than many men in his party, and his feeling of responsibility to the State overruled every minor consideration. He and some others stepped out from the free-trade party.
– And were caught in a trap.
– In a few years we shall look back upon those who opposed the union
Df these States with much the same feeling that the people of America lookback upon those who more than a century ago opposed the union of the United States. When honorable members opposite say that protectionists are not. in earnestwith reference to preferential trade I remind them that almost every leading protectionist in Australia was prepared to break down the fiscal barriers between the States in order to bring about the federation of Australia. I admit, again, that they were helped by the more intelligent qf the- free-traders, amongst whom I am pleased to admit that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa was one. Honorable members will admit that on that occasion the protectionists did effectually secure free-trade within- the confines of Australia. Is it not: then, reasonable to suppose that they are equally desirous of securing preferential trade within the whole area of the British Empire? That is the basis of my appeal to honorable members when I ask them to forget their provincialism. I know that it takes a man of character, of some individuality ‘ and of strength of purpose, to break away from things to which he has long been accustomed - from the ties of party for example - and to recognise new conditions. But before very long the free-trade party will finally abandon its present policy. I am satisfied that before long almost every man in this country who is not unduly wedded to old associations, and possibly influenced by feelings of retaliation, will realize the necessity of doing his duty in the interests of this great Commonwealth and of the noble Empire of which it is a member.
– We have just heard a very heated discussion of the question of preferential trade, and when we have regard to recent events, I think we ought to congratulate the honorable member who last addressed the House on his vigour after ‘his recent battle. We can remember the time when he and a number of others of the rank and file went forth under the protectionist flag, and under the direction of two Federal leaders ; and I think I am correct in saying that he is the only survivor of that band, and may, therefore, be congratulated on his’ return.
– By a huge majority.
– But the honorable member is the only one of the band returned, and he impressed me with the idea that he “ doth protest too much.” He led me to believe during the whole time he was speaking, that free-trade ideas were running through his mind, but that he was trying to convince, not only the House, but himself, that protection is the best thing for the people generally. He reminds me of the gentleman who on one occasion said he had a head which was not shaped as is the usual protectionist head, and I am inclined to think that, as he has changed his fiscal policy, an alteration in the shape of his head is taking place in his evolution as a protectionist. I want to refer, though not at great length, to some of the points raised by the fiscal issue. I admit, straight away, that the proposals of the Government are of a negative kind - that they are an unknown quantity - and that until we have the measure before us in something like a concrete form, it will be difficult to forecast what we are to be called upon to consider. I regret very much that in the programme of the Federal Government old-age pensions should be made the means of mocking the deserving poor. I venture to submit that the inclusion of this proposal in the programme is the result of the majorities which supported the Government after the Maitland speech. The Government knew at that time that such pensions were rendered impossible under the Constitution when they took the stand that they could not impose direct taxation. The old-age pensions proposal is placed in the programme of the Government as a sop to a large number of people who believed that in the opinion of Ministers it was possible to bring about this much-desired reform. A period of two and a half years has gone by, and’ we find the Prime Minister, in his speech at Ballarat, admitting that so long as the Braddon section remains, old-age pensions will have to be postponed. The Prime Minister admitted, at Ballarat, what was contended during the last election, but what was denied by the -Government, namely, that while they adhered to the position of not imposing direct taxation, old-age pensions were impossible, in view of the fact that under the circumstances four times the’ amount of money required would have to be raised through the Customs House. We have now a nebulous kind of proposal in the programme of the Government - an expression of hope that on the States putting their finances in order we may be able to provide old-age pensions.
– That is a placard.
– It is neither more nor Jess than a placard. The deserving poor of Australia are being deceived by a proposal which is a mockery, a sham, a delusion.
– It depends on this House whether the proposal is to be a mockery
– The Prime Minister admits that it is a mockery.
– What I say is, that that is the only practical way.
– We need not allow the proposal to be a mockery.
– So far as the Ministry are concerned, the proposal is a mockery, and the honorable member for the Barrier must know. it.
– That is absolutely denied.
– I desire now to deal with the reference to immigration, which I look upon as so much padding in the speech. I remember reading quite recently of the Prime Minister’s remarks on the great opportunities and facilities there are in Australia for settling on the land ; and these he regarded as an inducement to immigration.
– I pointed out that there were these facilities in one State, and, possibly, in a second.
– It is within my personal knowledge that in Victoria, for one piece of land open to ordinary applicants - bond fide farmers’ sons of practical experience - there are hundreds of competitors.
– There are numbers of applicants.
– In .South Australia our experience is the same.
– Hear, hear.
– Does it follow .that every applicant wants the land to use, and will depend on it for his livelihood ?
– I speak only for my, own State, and I can say that 90 per cent, of the men who in a week or two will endeavour to obtain land recently purchased by the Government for settlement, will be bond fide applicants - men who intend to settle, and who are capable of getting the best results from the land. As a matter of fact, not one in fifty of these applicants will be able to get a piece of the land ; and it seems to me that it is within the function of the States Parliaments to make settlement possible or more easy. They can do that by breaking up the large estates which practically run throughout the whole of the Commonwealth. ‘
– Hear, hear.
– As to preferential trade, I said last session that I thought it was not within the range of practical politics. I am still of opinion that the proposal is a long way from the stage when the Government will indorse it as a matter of policy. We have heard a lot abou* foreigners, and about, the ports of foreigners being closed to the United Kingdom and to ourselves ; and we have also been told of the great advantage that preferential trade would be to Australians. I said on one occasion that in my opinion Mr. Chamberlain had a very great task to perform, inasmuch as he had to convince the great consumers of the United Kingdom that the levying of a duty on food would make food cheaper. That is Mr. Chamberlain’s task in the United Kingdom, while in Australia he has to induce protectionists to accept the manufactures of England as against the manufactures of other countries. But the average manufacturer, directly his particular lines are touched by a suggestion to reduce the duties, desires to shift the burden on the “ other fellow.” We were told yesterday that the manufacture of locomotive engines is a legitimate subject for protection. I venture to say that the honorable member for Richmond, who last raised the flag of protection and preferential trade, would oppose with all the strength he possesses any proposal to reduce the duty on sugar which is manufactured in his constituency. And I further venture to submit that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would not tolerate any proposal to reduce the duty of 30 per cent. on hats.
– What does the honorable member say as to the duty on salt?
– Any one would suppose that Australia was producing all that the United Kingdom requires. The mover of the Adderss-in-Reply, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, referred to the enormous amount of produce imported into the United Kingdom from foreign countries. Of wheat and flour alone something like 183,000,000 bushels are imported into the United Kingdom, of which 145,000,000 are from foreign countries, the British possessions supplying the remainder. The importation of butter into the United Kingdom represents from £16,000,000 to £17,000.000, of which the foreigner supplies£13, 500,000, and Australia and other British possessions the balance. The question is whether Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal to impose a duty would make these food supplies cheaper to consumers in the United Kingdom. Will the bulk of the people there allow a duty to be placed on food supplies in exchange for a concession in the matter of a duty on motor-cars?
– The organized workers of England are against the proposal.
– A Bill has been circulated dealing with industrial arbitration and conciliation; and I regret that the Government take the stand that we have no right to any control in the case of a strike, which extends beyond the borders of any one State, and in which State or Federal employes are involved. A reason given for this attitude is that the States pay the interest on the cost of the construction of the railways; but, surely the Prime Minister will not support that argument. If he does, I would ask him - “ Does not the private individual provide the interest in connexion with the industry which we propose to take control of so far as industrial disputes are concerned?” If it- is a right thing to be applied to the private individual, I fail to see why it is a wrong thing to be applied to ourown employes. Either it ought not to be applied to private employes, or it ought to be applied to all employes. It is absurd to say that State employes are not connected with an industry. Have we not locomotive shops? Do we not enter into contracts for the manufacture of engines, and come into competition with private manufacturers of engines ? Do we not manufacture pipes and a number of other lines ? The tendency of not only Australia, but, I believe, every country in the world, is to go in more than it has done for nationalizing a number of sources of production. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the rumour is true that the common rule under the Navigation Bill is not to apply to Western Australia.
– The honorable member will see the Bill, I suppose, next week, or later.
– I feel shocked that such a concession should be made. I desire to know why the exemption should not also apply to Tasmania. I have done my share to promote the construction of the overland railway to Western Australia. Time after time I brought the project under the notice of the Parliament of South Australia, and moved for returns. Only last year I assisted Western Australia to put its views before the people of South Australia. But it is not right to say that this common rule shall not apply to Western Australia until the railway is constructed.
– It would be a grossly unfair thing to do.
– Put that provision in the Bill, and what will be the result? 1 venture to submit that if there is an appeal to a board from the shipping companies of Australia for a reduction of the rate of wages, on the ground that oversea ships are exempt from the operation of the common rule, the board must concede that point. How can we, on the one hand, ask that£3 a month shall be considered a fair rate of wage on oversea ships, and, on the other hand, insist that £6 10s. a month shall be the rate on coastal liners? How can it be contended that that proposition is a fair one’? It would be a monstrous thing to exempt any State from the operation of a particular law.
– The honorable member takes a one-sided view of the question - his own side only.
– I am taking an Australian view of the question.
– The honorable member is taking a very narrow view.
– It is the honorable member and his colleagues in the representation of Western Australia who are taking a narrow view.
– Give us equal conditions, and we shall give you equal laws;
– The people of
Western Australia have got concessions in connexion with, not only the Tariff, but also pearl fishing.
– Certainly not.
– Only quite recently it was held that the law should not be put into operation as far as pearl fishing was concerned that the divers ought, to be allowed to come in under contract and ought not to be deported. But quite a different law. prevails in. Queensland.
– No ; precisely the same.
– From Queensland the kanaka has to go.
– In Queensland the pearl fishery is under precisely the samelaw.
– If it is a fair thing in : the interests of- a white Australia that the kanaka shall go it is a fair thing in the interests of a white Australia that foreign pearl fishers in the shape: of. Japanese,. Javanese and others shall go.
– There is no parallel. Pearl fishers do not come into this country except for the purpose of signing an agreementand going out, whereas kanakas come into the country to stay for years.
-I wish now to refer to a matter which I mentioned in the last Parliament, and on which I asked a question yesterday. I regret that it has not been settled.
– It has been referred back to the Public Service Commissioner so that he may give effect to an. opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, and, as I told the honorable member yesterday, I think that within a few days I shall be able to indicate to him a solution of the whole question.
– On three or four occasions I have brought this matter under the notice of the honorable and learned gentleman ; and, subsequently, as the result of my action, the money for these increments was placed on. the Estimates. But no decision has yet been come to.
– The Commissioner has taken it upon himself to stop the payment of the” increments, to which I venture to say that the officers are entitled by virtue of the State law.
– He could not stop the increments. He only had power to postpone the payment of them pending the settlement of two questions - the one the legal question which has been decided, and the other the adaptation of that legal opinion. It is being given effect to. That question is before the. Commisioner, and I think it will be settled within the next few days. The matter has gone steadily on since the honorable member called my attention to. it.
– I wrote a number of letters; on the question from South Australia, and I have, been promised time after time that within a day or two it would be settled.. I was told only yesterday by the Prime:- Minister- that the matter would be settled in a day or two. But in: the meantime a number of worthy officers: are being kept without, their- money. Surely the matter could: have been settled before, this time. ,
– No. It had to be dealt with inconnexion with the whole of the reclassification..
– The same thing applies to all the States.
– I think that there is a slight difference in the case of South Australia. The explanation which is always given is that the consideration of the matter is deferred until the classification is complete.
– The classification is prac tically ready now.
– I fail to see that the classification has anything to do with the question. I shall read the provision under which the honorable and learned gentleman admitted last year that the money ought to be paid. Section9 of the Civil Service Act of South Australia reads as follows : -
Every class in each division as aforesaid, except the first class, shall have a minimum and a maximum limit of salary, and every officer therein shall be entitled to receive an annual increase. That is to say, for officers of the -
Section 84 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth contains this provision : -
Any such officer who is retained in the ser- “ vice of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights.
In the PublicService Act of the Commonwealth we embodied the principle in these words : -
Where any officer in the Public Railway, or other Service of a State is transferred to the Public Service . of the Commonwealth, every officer so transferred’ shall’ preserve all his existing and accruing rights.
I submit that, by virtue of the provisions in those three Acts, the classification cannot in any way affect ‘the salaries of the men whose cause I am advocating. Another matter of which I complain is the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department in our State. The Government called for applications from persons willing to fill the position of postmaster in certain places - for instance at Kadina and Petersburg. The late postmaster at the Kadina post-office received’ a salary of £390; from the Federal Government he received the sum of .£270, and from the State Government he received certain emoluments for filling certain offices. This office has been advertised to be filled at a salary 0^234, and I am told that it is the intention of the Federal Government to ear-mark all the little emoluments for filling the State positions of registrar of- births and registrar of deaths. If it is true that theseallowances are to be paid into the Federal Treasury–
– That has been the rule in New South Wales for some time.
– It has not been the rule in South Australia.
– It is . the rule in most States, if not in all.
– I wish to point out the injustice which will result from the application of that rule. The Government have reduced the salary of the Kadina office by £30, and if they take away the allowances from the State Government, they will reduce the emoluments of the officer by £100. A Commission which sat in South Australia quite recently fixed the rate of pay for these offices at £330 in one case, and at £390 in the other. As against ,£257 and £234 now fixed by the Federal Parliament, quarters being allowed in both cases. If the Government fix such small salaries as the value of the work performed, they have no right to require these officers to do extra work for the State Governments, for which they receive no pay at all. The present system is a system of sweating, such as would not be tolerated if a private employer were concerned. I have another matter to refer to. Recently a huge post-office was built at Burnside, in South Australia. But after it was completed and ready for occupation, the shutters were put up, and it was left unoccupied for four or six months. The .fact was brought under my notice, and I interviewed the Minister in regard to it in Melbourne. Afterwards I received this explanation, from the Department -
With reference to your recent interview with ‘ the Postmaster-General, when you stated that the new post-office at Burnside, S.A., although finished, was not yet occupied, I have the honour, by direction, to inform you that it has been decided that the Burnside office shall be conducted under the “contract” system.
I think that a great number of honorable members in this Chamber agree with me that the contract system should not be introduced into the Commonwealth administration of the Post Office. In Victoria I have seen advertisements calling for tenders, not only from persons willing to act as postal officials, but for the providing of buildings and appliances. This, however, is the first attempt to introduce the system into South Australia. If the amount of business transacted at Burnside is not sufficient to warrant the putting in charge of an official of the Department, whose fault is it that the building was constructed? I do not say that it is the fault of this Government, but inquiry should be made to ascertain why a building, costing so large a sum of money, has been constructed. I hope that honorable gentlemen will put down their feet on the contract system in regard to the Post Office. It is an objectionable system, and will have very bad results if continued. I have been trying to ascertain what provision has been made for officers called upon to do certain administrative work under the Electoral Act. To my mind, it is a. scandal that the Commonwealth should pay its assistant returning officers only £3 3s. for the work which they have to do under the Act. I know of cases in which assistant returning officers had from twenty to thirty polling places to attend to, .and their work occupied - a great deal of their time for two or three months prior to the election.
– I do not think that they were appointed so long as that before the election.
– I think that some of them were. At any rate, I know one officer who had twenty-one polling places to attend to, and twenty-one deputies under him. He had to write out 430 names four times over, to post hundreds of objections, to reply to telegrams, and to do work which in more compact and thickly populated districts is regarded as the work of returning officers. In some instances in South Australia assistant returning officers were doing work previously performed by two returning officers, and it is ridiculous that they should be paid £3 3s. for work for which the State paid£26. I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs will not treat the matter with indifference.
– We are looking into it very closely.
– Another instance of the parsimony of the Government is the manner in which they have treated the South Australian letter-sorters, whose work is performed on the mail trains.
– The complaint of South Australia is that the postal expenditure has been increased.
– In this instance there should be an increase. These men now receive an allowance of 2s. 8d. a day to provide them with three meals, whereas the reduction in the allowances made by the Government comes to 3s. 9d. per day. As there are no sixpenny restaurants along the railway lines, it is impossible for them to live within their allowances. In contrast with the treatment of the letter-sorters is that given to some other officers in the service. In South Australia we have had a miniature army of military gentlemen who are paid large salaries travelling about and drawing big allowances. The late Commandant, for instance, drew more for travelling allowances than would pay the salaries of two or three clerks, and what was the use of his work? It will all have to be done over again. Then we have had in South Australia for some months a Queensland officer who has been doing the same thing. Now we have another Commandant, who must necessarily go over the whole country again. But while these officers draw large allowances, the lettersorters when on travelling duty receive less than will pay for three decent meals a day. I trust that the Ministers concerned will look into these matters. I am prepared to prove the truth of every statement I have made.
Motion (by Mr. McLean) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I anticipated that the remarks of the honorable member for Grey would occupy more time, but if no other honorable member is prepared to speak this afternoon, I shall be happy to agree to an adjournment of the debate.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– We have heard a good deal from the Prime Minister, and from the leader of the Opposition, about the deep loss which this House and the country have suffered through the disappearance of certain gentlemen who were members of the last Parliament. It is hardly consistent, I think, with these expressions of sympathy that the Government should allow those gentlemen to be harassed, as some of them are now being harassed, for the return of their railway passes. It will be admitted that the members of the first Federal Parliament made a great many sacrifices. We sat here during a session of seventeen months, debating’ the Tariff, and many of those who have re.tired from the House made considerable monetary sacrifices, in addition to the sacrifice of time which was necessary in the public interests. The Government proposed some time ago to give to honorable members who were members of the first Federal Parliament some recognition of the fact. But instead of having done anything of the kind, they are now allowing those who are not members of this Parliament to be meanly harassed for the return of their railway passes.
– They do not wish to retain these passes, so that they may use them on the railways.
– That is so. Further, ex-members are willing to pay the cash equivalent of the intrinsic value of the passes. I do not know what the general feeling of honorable members is, but I personally think that the members of the first Parliament who were not re-elected should be allowed to retain their railway passes as a memento of their connexion with the first Federal Parliament.
– Without the privilege of free travelling !
– They need not necessarily be allowed to travel free upon the railways ; I do not contend that they should be given that privilege. The passes, however, could easily be altered so as to make them unavailable for travelling. A mark could be made upon them, which’ would render them useless as railway passes. I do not wish to go into the matter at any great length, but I understand that in one case the police have been instructed to watch a late member to see that he does not travel upon the railways with his pass.
– Not at the request of the Federal Government.
– No, but at the instance of the State officials. I think that the Government should put a stop to this persecution, and allow those gentlemen who have had no reward except the approval of their
Own consciences for the performance of their duty in the Federal Parliament, to retain their railway passes as mementoes.
– I desire to support the view expressed by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I am aware that the Federal Government are not responsible for the action taken to recover the passes held by gentlemen who have ceased to be members of this House, but that it is entirely the work of the Railway Commissioners. Surely some arrangement could be made by which former members of this House would be permitted to retain their passes in such a form that they could no longer be used upon the railways.
– In one case a pass was made into a brooch, and was taken from the lady who was wearing it.
– Yes,. I believe that upon the death of a former honorable member of this House, his widow. had his railway pass made into a brooch or a pin, and that the railway authorities demanded and secured its return. The lady referred to wished to keep the pass as a memento of her late husband’s connexion with the first Federal Parliament, and that was a very natural desire. No expense would be incurred if the suggestion now made were acted upon.
– It should be remembered that honorable members of the last Parliament gave up four or five months of their allowance in order to save expense in connexion with the elections.
– Apart from that altogether, we must remember that there will never be another first Federal Parliament, and that a memento of one’s connexion with it would naturally be regarded as of special value. It has been the practice in some of the States to allow members to retain their passes after ceasing their connexion with the Parliament. In fact, I have the pass issued to me as a member of the South Australian Parliament, and I am wearing it’ as a memento of my connexion with that body. All that was demanded of me was the intrinsic value of the token, which I paid. There has never been any trouble in South Australia until the present time. One member of the late Parliament is being summoned to attend the police court for .not returning his pass, and I think that the Minister for” Home Affairs might easily arrange with the States Governments that all further proceedings in that direction shall be suspended.
– The Government communicated with, the Railway Commissioners urging the request made by the honorable members who have just spoken, but the reply was not favorable to granting it As we have to pay for the passes and the right to use them on the railways, we are almost powerless in the matter. I have had a considerable amount of trouble in regard to three passes which are still outstanding. Two of the gentlemen to whom’ they were issued, and who have ceased to be members of this House, have informed ‘me that they cannot find the passes, whilst another former member has intimated that he is determined not to give up his pass. I have written to the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales, asking them to send me three other passes, and to make a note of the fact that two have been lost and that another is being purposely retained by the gentleman to whom it was issued. I am informed that the matter is under consideration, and that the Commissioners are in communication with the railway authorities in other States. As only three passes are outstanding, of which two have been lost, ‘ it appears to me that gentlemen who were formerly members of this House have, for the most part, shown themselves willing tocomply with the request of the Commissioners, and, therefore, I do not think that the matter is one which should cause us any great concern. The passes- are issued to honorable members to enable them to travel free over the railways, and when gentlemen cease their connexion with the Legislature, they should give us their railway tokens, which really belong to their successors. Whilst some honorable members appear to sympathize with those who desire to retain their passes, my sympathies are excited in favour of .those who are entitled to passes, and have not yet been able to procure them. At present three honorable members are without passes:
– Are the old passes issued to new members?
– An honorable member’s personality is not involved in any way, the pass being issued .to the representative of a particular district.
An Honorable Member. - What is the value of the pass?
– Nothing worth speaking of, but the point is that it does not belong to us. These passes are issued to us by the Railway Commissioners to enable us to travel over the railways, and I agree with the Commissioners that it would be very inconvenient to have a number of old passes distributed through the country. Such passes would become very numerous as time went on, and new members were returned, and it is very difficult to say what use would be made of them. They would pass into hands other than those of the original owners, and the results might be unsatisfactory. I think that we should adhere to a reasonable and business-like arrangement, and that the passes should be given up. It may be very desirable from one point of view to retain a pass as a momenta, but I do not’ consider that that affords a sufficient reason for ignoring the business aspect of the matter. For twenty years I had a pass over the railways of Western Australia, but when I ceased to be a member of the State Legislature, I gave it up. I think the same thing should be done in the case of gentlemen who have ceased to be members of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040304_reps_2_18/>.