2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Parkes.
– I notice that the Minister for Trade and Customs has Upon the business paper a motion for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to bounties for the encouragement of manufactures. Does that cover a proposal for the granting of bounties for the production of iron?
– The Bill deals with the question of bounties generally, and has special reference to the granting of bounties for the production of iron.
– Yester day I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs; a question without notice, in reference to the practice of the Victorian Government in charging pilotage for Oversea ships not registered in this State, although they may be commanded by masters holding exemption certificates. The Minister stated that he thought that the companies concerned should test the legality of that practice in the courts, and I ask ‘him now if he does not think that it would be unfair to require them to do so? Should not the Commonwealth Government itself take steps for the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution?
– I replied to the honorable member yesterday that it had been stated to me by the manager of the Adelaide Steamship Company that, in Victoria alone, pilotage dues were charged for vessels not registered in the State, even though their commanders might hold exemption certificates. I do not know that the Government are yet in a position to deal with the matter, but it can and will be dealt with by the Inter-State Commission. To my mind, the Victorian practice is an infringement of the provisions of the Constitution, and I recommended the gentleman who brought it under my attention to test its legality in the law courts, in order to put the matter prominently before Parliament and the country.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer if his attention has been directed to the following telegram from Western Australia, which conveys opinions alleged to have been expressed by Mr. Gardiner, the Treasurer of that State: -
Mr. Gardiner, the Treasurer, today arrived from Melbourne. He speaks very strongly against the attitude of Sir George Turner and Sir John Forrest at the Treasurers’ Conference. There was more advertisement than sincerity, he says, in Sir George Turner’s proposals. His statement of the position was full of old exploded arguments or assertions. Sir George Turner’s suggestions were attempts to make the State Parliaments mere district councils.
Then comes what some of the representatives of Victoria may possibly consider a sacrilegious observation. In conclusion
He complains bitterly that, although the Conference was held in private, nearly all that Sir George Turner said appeared each morning in the press.
– I do not believe that-Mr. Gardiner said that.
– I have grave doubts as to whether the Treasurer of Western Australia made the remarks which are attributed to him. They are quite contrary to the position which he assumed at the Treasurers’ Conference. The honorable member for Coolgardie’ will see that for himself if he will read the report of the debates which took place at the Conference. Moreover, honorable members who read the newspapers know that my speeches were not reported each morning. I saw the representatives of the press always at the one time, and gave them a formal intimation of what had been done, but I never communicated to any pressman anything I had said in the Conference. Unless I myself heard Mr. Gardiner make the remarks attributed to him I would not believe that he had uttered them.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Notifications of the acquisition of land at Fort Largs, South Australia, for defence purposes; and at Scone, New South Wales, for a post and telegraph office.
Rules of the High Court as to scale of fees, dates of sittings, appeals, and elections.
Minute of the permanent head of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and minute and certificate of the Public Service Commissioner upon the appointment of Mr. A. G. Brown as secretary to the representative of the Government in the Senate.
Rules dated 18th December, 1903, under the Rules Publication Act.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
The General Officer Commanding reports -
Debate resumed from 8th March (vide page 231), on motion by Mr. Mauger -
That the Address be agreed to by the House.
– I rise with some diffidence at this early period in the session to address a few remarks to the House on the opening speech. I do not intend to discuss every item in the speech, but to refer to two or three of the more important matters with which it deals. I have been considerably amused by the puzzled expressions which have fallen from the leaders of the different parties in the House with regard to their future position. I have no doubt that the members on the Opposition side find themselves in a very peculiar position, as do also the members on the Government side. I think that we shall have to wait for developments before we are able to realize exactly where we stand. The three matters to which I desire to direct attention are, firstly, the financial position of the States and of the Commonwealth; secondly, the question of immigration ; and thirdly, the question of population in its relation to the report of the Royal Commission in New South Wales which dealt with the question of the birthrate. These are three questions which to my mind underlie not only Federal administration, but also the prosperity, not merely of this State, but of the whole Commonwealth. When I hear honorable members who are experienced in parliamentary debate and well posted in parliamentary statistics decry the credit of Australia as a whole, and so try to place their party on a pedestal as critics of the financial position of the Commonwealth, it makes me reflect for a moment, and take a survey of the position of the Commowealth as compared with that of other countries. I am not one of those who believe that it is wise at any time to cry stinking fish, even provided a bad state of affairs did exist. From every platform during the Federal campaign in New South Wales we heard ad libitum prophecies, both as to the insolvency of that State and as to the impossibilityof obtaining money to carry on the government of the State and of the Commonwealth. But when I come to glance at the statistics, I am at a loss to understand upon what facts those prophecies are based. When I consulted Mr. Coghlan some time ago in connexion with State finance, I was informed by a special return which he provided that New South Wales has borrowed nearly£80,000,000, and that of that sum£60,000,000 has been spent on revenue-producing works, and £20,000,000 on works which are essential to the development of a new country. Taking from the annual interest the amount which is provided from the revenueproducing expenditure, we find that it materially alters the position which is put before us by those persons who are always seeking to defame the credit of thisor that State. It is possible that many honorable members have not worked out the figures which Mr. Coghlan so courteously supplied to myself and others. He says that, instead of the taxation being the amount which is generally put forward by critics of the financial position in New South Wales, we are simply paying per unit of the population only 8s. ad. per head on unproductive loan expenditure. In Victoria, with all its faults, with all its errors of administration, with all its non-paying railways, we find that when the whole thing is boiled down and we put to the credit of that State the revenue which is derived from revenue-producing loan expenditure, its people are paying only 7s.11d. per head according to the figures which were given to me by Mr. Coghlan at the end of 1903. I challenge any man, be he a member of this House or a member of the State Parliament, to produce reliable statistics from any civilized country where the population are under a less burden of taxation than are the people of this Commonwealth. It rather hurts me to hear such statements as I complain of, when I know that I can rely on Mr. Coghlan’s facts in statistical matters, and also when I know that Mr. Nash, the financial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, has practically indorsed the return which he provided. It will be seen, therefore, that I am taking, not only the record of our Government Statistician, but also the statement of a gentleman on an antagonistic press, who has at least honestly expressed his opinion on the true position of affairs. I cannot see any justification for the expressions which escaped from the honorable member for Parramatta yesterday. I know that it has become practically chronic with some persons to act in this way, and allowing for the law of imitation it seems to me forgivable that they should at all times rise and disparage the credit of the Commonwealth or the credit of the State.
– The honorable member is now speaking out of a full experience, I suppose?
– I do not know whether I have had a full experience or not ; but I hope that when I gain a full experience I shall be able to use my knowledge with more discretion, and do more good for the community I represent, than my honorable friend is evidently inclined to do. I do not desire to enter into a lengthy discussion on the finances of the Commonwealth or of the States.
– The honorable member had better do so while he is at it.
– I shall please myself as to how far I shall go. I am not under the domination of any party as regards the expression of my opinions, and I feel sure that the honorable member will grant to a new member, with whom he should sympathize, the same privilege that he would expect to receive. I trust that honorable members will reflect before they rise to give expression to views which will not assist to remove the difficulties which beset the- States in this time of financial crisis or panic, for that is really what it is. My leader truly described the reason why the loan market is out of joint to-day. He stated that owing to the large amount of money borrowed by municipal institutions in Great Britain during the last two or three years, and the enormous sums that have found their way into South Africa to liquidate the expenses incurred during the war, we could not expect any other result, and that we should have to bear our share of the temporary inconvenience involved. In view of these conditions, I fail to see why honorable members who professto have at heart the best interests of the country should make statements which have already done much, and are calculated to do still more, to injure the credit of Australia. The statistics which I have quoted prove beyond any doubt that, among the more advanced countries in the civilized world, ours is subject to the least burden of taxation per unit of population, and that consequently there is no justification for the cry which has been so persistently raised with regard to the insolvency of our States. During this debate we have heard the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition speaking practically in accord with regard to the means to be adopted for the development of the resources of the Commonwealth. The sixth, seventh, and eighth paragraphs of the GovernorGeneral’s speech deal with the question of extending practical assistance and encouragement to those of our population who are settled upon the land, with a view to enabling them to increase the productiveness of the soil, and thereby contribute to the prosperity of the Commonwealth. I realize that the intention of both honorable gentlemen - and they are in absolute accord upon this question - is a most laudable one; but the question is whether’ their ideas are practicable, or whether they propose the best way of. attaining the object in view. In the midst of all the efforts made to settle people upon the land in the various States, it has been recognised that before any proposals could take practical effect, the land must be made available for settlers. When the leader of the Opposition was speaking, I was reminded of his utterances in the. State Parliament of New South Wales some years ago, when he introduced the land and income tax, and thereby did something to relieve the community, by adjusting the incidence of taxation. It would have been a great achievement on the part of the right honorable gentleman had he been able to adopt the same policy as that followed by the Right Honorable Mr. Seddon in New Zealand, when he first grappled with the question of land taxation. If the right honorable and learned member had done that, there would have been very little cause for the complaint that intending settlers are unable to secure suitable land. It may not be generally known that in New South Wales - as the honorable member for Bland has stated - there are hundreds ot settlers’ sons who have been on the land all their lives, who are how anxiously looking forward to’ the day when they will be fortunate enough under the Tattersalls Sweeps’ system of drawing lots for land to win the marble which will give them the right to settle upon a suitable block of land in- this grand country. I might also say that the land now available for settlement is not the most suitable- for. agricultural purposes, because it is practically the remnant that has been left after all the best land has been taken up. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the policy of the Labour Party should be carried out as soon as possible, and that land monopoly should be done away with. I do not wish to raise the cry of “ class against class, but I hope that the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, and the leader of the Labour Party, who are in agreement as to the- necessity for doing something to relieve the situation, will combine to adopt the one solution of the difficulty. The three parties in this House are practically agreed upon many points, but it is still a little puzzling to forecast developments. We have heard the leader of the Opposition appealing to the Prime Minister to come into closer union with himself or with some one else. The right honorable gentleman has-the claim to priority, so far as age is concerned, and he evidently desires that the alliance which has been so much spoken of may be brought about speedily. I do not see any reason why the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition should not form an alliance, because there is practically no point of difference between them at the present stage. The most important point upon which the Government and the Opposition, and the Government and the Labour Party are at variance, arises out of the proposal which has been made that the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill shall be extended to the servants of the States. The leader of the Opposition has, however, in effect, told the Prime Minister that if he will stand by his public utterances, he may count upon the support of that right honorable gentleman, to prevent the incorporation of such a provision in the law. When we come to consider the more serious question of the stagnation of population in the Commonwealth, we cannot help viewing, with the keenest of regret, the report of the Birthrate Commission, which recently reported to the Government of New South Wales. Some people seemed to think that the Commission would not serve any useful purpose, but I believe that it will result in great good, even if it only opens the eyes of the people to the existing condition of affairs. I recognise that the States Governments have not been altogether blameless in allowing this condition of affairs to arise. We are all aware of the methods which are adopted by persons who desire to diminish the natural increase of our population, and we know that those practices have been freely advertised through the medium of the daily press, without any barrier being interposed by the States Governments.
– That question is under the control of the States and not of the Commonwealth.
– I quite understand that. I merely wish to point out that if the States Governments had realized their duty in this connexion they would have prohibited the publication of advertisements which are responsible for the deplorable condition of affairs which exists to-day. I do not regard the stoppage in the natural increase of our population as the chief evil. There is a more regrettable phase of the question than that - I refer to the suffering which is visited upon the female portion of the community as the result of the adoption of the nefarious practices which have been advertised without let or hindrance on the part of the States Governments. I do not see how we can prevent, not only the restriction of our population, but the undermining of the health of the mothers of this nation, unless the Prime Minister appeals for the prohibition of this class of advertisements. In a young country like Australia it is deplorable that the birth-rate should be practically stationary, and that everywhere we should see signs that .the future mothers of the nation have a disinclination to perform the functions which. they should discharge as citizens of the Commonwealth. I now come to a matter which has been debated at considerable length - that of preferential trade. I do not wish to say a great deal upon it, because I consider that it is now beyond the range of discussion. All parties are practically agreed as to the future of preferential trade. The leader of the Opposition has already intimated that he is prepared to agree to a fiscal truce during the currency of this Parliament. On the other hand, the Prime Minister declares that he is willing to wait until Great Britain gives us some idea of the nature of the proposals which she is prepared to submit for the adoption of the Commonwealth. Seeing that the leaders of two of the parties in this House take up that attitude, it naturally follows that nothing will be done in connexion with preferential trade during the life of the present Parliament.
– Is the honorable member not in favour of it?
– I take up the same position now that I did during my election campaign. I say that when the mother country is prepared to submit her preferential trade proposals to the Commonwealth, and when she can show that our producers will be benefited by adopting them, I shall be ready, not to accept, but to consider them.
– Why not “reject” them straight out?
– I do not say that. I believe that the man who rejected such proposals before he understood the nature of them would be acting suicidally. The question is yet “ in the air.” There is no definite proposal before the House at the present time, and, to some extent, I ‘deplore the action of the Prime Minister in cabling to England the announcement that Australia was practically prepared to adopt a system of preferential trade.
– The honorable member does not think it was true?
– What is the use of my “thinking” upon the matter, seeing that I cannot prove whether or not my thoughts are right? I prefer to work upon facts.’ Had the Prime Minister upon that occasion taken up the attitude which he did in the speech which he delivered upon the Address in Reply - had he stated his willingness to defer action until Great Britain submitted proposals for our consideration - I think he would have stood upon fairly solid ground. When, however,- he took it upon himself to cable to England that Australia was proud to learn that the question of preferential trade was being advocated by Mr. Chamberlain, he went a step further than he should have done. The position which he now assumes is absolutely logical. He is prepared to wait until some definite proposals are laid before him.
– I am obliged to wait; I do not wish to do so.
– Mr. Seddon did not wait.
- Mr. Seddon is in New Zealand. At the present time we are not dealing with Canada or New Zealand, but with the affairs of the Commonwealth, and therefore we are not called upon to consider what Sir Wilfrid Laurier has done in Canada, or what Mr. Seddon has accomplished in New Zealand. It is singular that throughout the whole of this debate we’ have been repeatedly assured by members of the Opposition that the Prime Minister was pledged to advocate preferential trade and fiscal peace. Some have urged that the two matters are antagonistic; I think so too. If the question of preferential trade is raised, fiscal peace is impossible. At the same time, I hold that the Prime Minister overstepped the bounds of propriety in defining his position upon, this question before the voice of the people of Australia had been constitutionally expressed upon it through the medium of the ballot-box. In addressing the electors at Singleton, the leader of the Opposition said something to the following effect: - “If I am returned to power I intend to pull down a piece of the present fiscal wall in order to allow of the admission of the goods of the dear old mother country.” But the right honorable member is well aware that there is no man in this House who can pull down a brick of that wall unless another brick is substituted for it.
– We removed a good many bricks from it.
– Yes; honorable members upon the Opposition side of the Chamber removed so many bricks that no more can now be spared. Under the operation or the Braddon section of the Constitution we are compelled to raise a certain amount of revenue each year.
– That section merely regu-lates the distribution of revenue.
-I sympathize with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa sincerely, since his leader has practically forsaken the flag which he has so long held up to the breezes of heaven. In the circumstances he really becomes worthy of my sympathy, and I extend it to him. In view of the provisions of the “ Braddon Blot,” it is a mere mockery for any honorable member ‘ to speak of pulling down a piece of the fiscal wall in order to allow “ the goods of the dear old mother country to come in.”
– Exclusive duties do not raise revenue.
– That is so. It may be that In ‘drafting the Tariff the Treasurer provided for certain duties .which were purely experimental.
– And exclusive.
– That might naturally, follow. Any one who attempts to build up a Tariff of this kind must be prepared to find, with the lapse of time, that his judgment has not been confirmed exactly as he calculated. But that, after all, is only a matter of readjustment. All that can be done is to readjust any of the duties that do not perform the- functions which, in view of the provisions of the “Braddon Blot,” they were intended to carry out.
– It would be possible to take a brick or two. off the fiscal wall.
– Others would have to be substituted. The leader of the Oppo.r sition stated in- his speech to which I have already referred, that if returned to power he would pull down a piece of the fiscal wall bf the Commonwealth to allow the dear old mother country to send in her goods. A little later on, in the course of the same speech, he said that if he were not returned to power he would see that the Prime Minister of Australia carried out his policy to the letter, and imposed some substantial preference duties in favour of the dear old mother country.
– The honorable member is not correct in his statement. The leader of the Opposition spoke of reducing the duties.
– I am quoting in effect of the statements made by the leader of the Opposition. In the course of this remarkable speech, the leader of the Opposition went further, and said in effect - “ If I am not returned to power, I shall be a stronger man politically than I should be if I were returned to power, inasmuch as I shall escape the responsibility of performing a very difficult task.” What did he mean by that statement? He simply meant that if he were returned to power he would find it difficult to carry out his proposal to pull down a piece of the fiscal wall for the benefit of the dear old mother country.
– How does the honorable member know what the leader of the Opposition meant to infer?
– I am quoting from the speech delivered by-. the leader of the Opposition, and I assert that in the course of that speech he clearly indicated that if the Opposition to-morrow took possession of the Government benches they would be in exactly the same position as that occupied to-day by the Ministry. After all, it is very largely a question of office with those who speak in this way with regard, to preferential trade. In view of what I have heard from honorable members of the Opposition, I am satisfied of that. The honorable member for Lang yesterday addressed himself at length to this subject. He dealt with the matter in a very trenchant way, and quoted from speeches delivered by Mr. Chamberlain some years ago as an illustration of what Mr. Chamberlain was then and what he is to-day. But if I were to apply to other men the same standard of criticism, what would be the result ? What would be said if I asked the honorable member for Lang to explain his present position in view of the fact that on one occasion three or four years ago he signed the Labour Party’s platform, in which the fiscal issue was sunk as a matter of no practical importance when compared with socialistic legislation. I should refresh the honorable member’s memory if I were to ask him what was responsible for his change of views in regard to the importance of the fiscal question - why he considers it of preeminent importance to-day, when a few years ago he was prepared to sign the cast-iron pledge of the Labour Party, and to sink this issue. An honorable member should take care before throwing stones . to see that his own windows are strong enough to resist any stone-throwing in return. It is not a question of what was Mr.
Chamberlain’s attitude nearly fifty years ago, but rather what the necessities of today demand of him as a protector of the interests of the Empire in which he occupies so notable a position. I do not anticipate that the question of preferential trade will be brought forward during the life of the present Parliament, or indeed that, for practical purposes, we shall hear any more of fiscalism in this House. If that be so, we shall be able to pass some good useful legislation for the benefit of the Commonwealth. We do not want to see the eternal fiscal controversy, which formerly characterized the proceedings of the States Parliaments, perpetuated in this House. Another matter to which I desire to refer is the importation o,f Chinese. I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the Chinese are pouring over the borders in large numbers, and taking possession of many back-block towns remote from active centres of population. I do not know how it is possible for this to occur, but I know that it is taking place. These Chinese are undermining not only the workmen of these districts, but actually the shopkeepers and tradesmen. This is more particularly the case in certain towns in New South Wales. It is deplorable to find that men who had a kindly feeling towards Chinese when they employed them as servants are to-day beginning to realize what California realized all too keenly years ago - that the man who is your servant to-day may be your master to-morrow. We find that in certain parts of New South Wales the Chinese are practically usurping the position of shopkeepers. They evade every law - as they alone can - and are increasing in a way that should be arrested. I should like to see the Immigration Restriction Act enforced in its entirety so that this leakage of undesirable aliens into the various States may be effectually stopped.
– It is part of a general movement from the north towards the south and west. The Chinese to whom the honorable member refers have not just entered the country. They are Chinese who speak the English language, and have been here for some time.
– I am informed that this invasion of the Commonwealth by Chinese takes place in this way : The steamers coming here bring a number of Chinese in their crews, and discharge these men at the first port they come to, taking them on as passengers to the next port. Upon arrival there the men can simply walk ashore without being subjected to the’ payment of a poll tax or having to pass the education test.
– The steamship companies are obliged to take away as many men in their crews as they bring here, so that the number of Chinese in the Commonwealth is not being added to, even if the practice to which the honorable member refers is taking place.
– It is true that these steamers take away the same number as they bring, but the men who originally come here under signed articles for the first port land as passengers at the next port, and consequently escape the imposition of a penalty and the application, of the education test.
An Honorable Member. - Possibly the inspection is insufficient.
– That may be so. The inspectors have too much to do to attend to all the duties which are part of their functions. I trust, however, that so far as the’ Commonwealth is concerned, all legal restrictions will be imposed to stop the invasion of our States by Chinese. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the action of the Government in transferring the duties of electoral officers to the Postal Department. I find that non-official postmasters were appointed registrars, and charged with very heavy duties during the recent elections, without receiving any additional remuneration for the work they performed. In any case, the payment given to those who undertake the onerous duties devolving upon non-official postmasters is inadequate. The Commonwealth administration is certainly a penurious one so far as those men are concerned. But to impose’ upon men who are receiving, perhaps, or £10 a year for acting as postmasters, the duties of electoral registrars without extra payment is nothing less than disgraceful.
– Is the honorable member referring to the postmasters in the Department ?
– No ; to the postmasters who are not in the Commonwealth Public Service. The official postmasters have been paid for their services in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act; I am speaking of the treatment accorded to nonofficial postmasters - to men who are in charge of post offices, but who are not technically public servants. They are entitled to special consideration for the duties they performed in connexion with the recent elections.
– Have they not received the same treatment as other postmasters ?
– They are all badly paid.
– They are inadequately paid for the duties they perform as postmasters, and the fact that they have received no additional remuneration for the work done in connexion with the recent election does not reflect credit upon the Commonwealth.
– We are ready to listen to reasonable complaints ; but they have not yet submitted any.
– Perhaps they are waiting because they are not quite sure how long the Government will remain in office, and wish to know before they do anything with whom it will be necessary to lodge their petitions. I do not intend now to deal with the regulations issued by the Defence authorities, or with matters of that kind, though as an old volunteer I know something of the administration of the Defence Department. The other night, however, when proceeding from this House’ about 9 or 10 o’clock, I marvelled to see, close to one of the gates of the Fitzroy gardens, a recruit being put through his drill by two officers. It may be that the Minister, in view of the scare about a war which is being raised by the newspapers, and feeling the need to’ prepare for emergencies, is trying to develop as quickly as possible the material with which he hopes to defend the Commonwealth ; but I hope that this numerical superiority of officers is not characteristic of the Defence Force generally. If it is, the military estimates will be subjected to very heavy criticism when they are put before us. From what has been said by other speakers, I think that we have grave reasons for suspecting the methods of the Defence Department, and that we shall have to severely criticise the administration of the Department because of the officialdom which seems to rule supreme there. In conclusion, I hope that we shall at an early date arrive at a decision in regard to the Arbitration Bill. After all, politics is a matter of compromise, and I hope that the Prime Minister will see the wisdom of not drawing a strict line as to the classes affected by the Bill. I believe that it will be to the best interests of those employed by the States to come under the provisions of the Bill.
– Why does not the Labour Party compromise ?
– Why should they?1 They possess the driving power.
– The leader of the Opposition has compromised very materially since the meeting of this Parliament. No doubt the honorable member for Parramatta knows the value of the driving power which the Labour Party possesses. At any rate, he was at one time in a position to do so. I do not- say that we intend to compromise; but in the interests of those who are excluded from the operation of the Arbitration Bill, I appeal to the Prime Minister not to draw too strict a line. I cannot see that there is a justification for the exclusion of public servants from the operation of Iba provisions of the Bill.
– The matter has not been argued out here vet.
– Not this session; but I have read the arguments used last session, and have drawn my conclusions from what was sai’d then. When the Arbitration Bill is out of the way, I think there will be nothing to prevent an amalgamation of parties which will enable the business of Parliament for the session to be carried through with credit to ourselves and to the advantage of the country we have the honour to represent.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Having listened to the speeches of the new members of the House, I feel that we are to be congratulated upon the addition to our debating power, and in the case of the last honorable member, upon the acquisition of a speaker possessed of a new vein of originality and good humour. I wish to say a few words in regard to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. For a speech delivered at the opening of a new Parliament, it cannot be described as very exciting, or as containing any very novel proposals.
– The proposal for old-age pensions is novel.
– Yes, but there is to be no legislation on the subject until next Parliament. I an> concerned with what this Parliament has to do. The speeches of the Prime Minister and of the leader of the Opposition, however, contain something which, if not novel, was at least interesting, though, as the self-made merchant said to his son -
Repartee makes lively reading but dull business, and what the house wants is more orders.
I suppose that if we were to paraphrase that advice we would say that what this country’ wants is more markets for its produce. I cannot see much guidance to these markets yet. The opening speech consists principally of ‘the unpassed Bills of last Parliament, and illusory hopes for the present Parliament. There is the usual bow to the great farming interests, and to the other leading interests, but one cannot see exactly that there is more than a bow. There is a hope of bounties to the farming interests, but nothing about what the bounties are to be. There is a hope of increased facilities of transportation; but nothing to show the mode by . which transportation is to be facilitated. There is the usual bow to the working classes, not only with regard to the Arbitration Bill which was before the House in the last Parliament, but also with regard to old-age pensions. It is hoped that a uniform system of old-age pensions throughout the Commonwealth will be established upon the taking over of the debts of the different States. The taking over of those debts, according to the Treasurer, cannot be achieved until the Constitution has been amended, and the Constitution cannot be amended, as he says, until the next elections are held. So that it does not need much logic to come to the conclusion that the question of old-age pensions is not within the pale of practical politics at the present time. Then there is the usual bow to the commercial and producing interests with regard to preferential trade. In the opening speech of last session there was some allusion to this question, and in this speech we find a reference in a more specific form. But the great mover towards preferential trade in England, Mr.. Chamberlain, has admitted publicly that he does not expect to carry his proposals at the next elections. That does not appear to be sufficiently recognised. If the leader of the movement does not expect to win at the next elections, and if the Prime Minister tells us that he means this to be a matter of bargaining with the home country, where does preferential trade come in for this Parliament?
– He may win, but he is not sure.
– I never yet knew a general to succeed who went into the fight saying that he would not win. Of course, to Western Australia, that great colossus of the west, there must be a bow, or else no Government could hold its own. It is stated, in the speech, that a certain line is to be surveyed.
– That is since the visit of the honorable and learned member.
– Yes, I went over to Western Australia ; but, fortunately for me, I had not to travel across the sand between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I find that the Government has gone so far as to announce a Bill for a survey of the line. There is nothing to show that South Australia has given its consent, and without that consent, nothing can be done towards the construction of the railway ; to say nothing of other difficulties with which I shall deal when the time comes. All I say is that it is not within the pale of practical politics at the present time.
– The honorable and learned member is wrong.
– I do not wish to get into an argument with the right honorable gentleman, who could crush me at once without any scruple or difficulty. Then I find, from the opening speech, that there is a hope of immigration. There is no more than a hope. I do not blame the Ministry for making no proposal. No Federal Ministry can properly promote immigration ; it has not got the materials. It is forgotten, I think, sometimes that in the United States the Federal power started off with the control of the great area of prairie lands in the west. The success of an immigration project depends upon the availability of land, and until the proper authorities buckle to and determine to get over the difficulties with regard to land settlement, until they can show people .who are thinking of coming to Australia that they can get land or work, it is of no use for them to talk about promoting immigration.
– They can get land now in Western Australia.
– I have gone through those glorious hills that surround Bunbury, and I have seen as good land there for ros. an acre, on long payments, not carrying interest, as land for which one would have to Pa)’ £10 an acre in the market here. I believe that arrangements have been made by the Government to bring intending selectors to the land, and to pay their fares. I should not won’der if they also gave a free lunch, because my experience has been that free lunches are the rule in that State. It does provide facilities to people for getting land, but for some inexplicable reason there is a general impression that the State is an arid waste. It is nothing of the sort. It contains great wastes, but there is a very fine area of splendid land in the south-west. I do not wish’ to be drawn- into matters of detail. No thoughtful man can but be impressed by the want of increase of population from immigration, and the want of increase of population from ordinary growth. I think that both phenomena are the result of practically the same root cause - the difficulty of finding work, and the difficulty of getting access to land. If parents could see that their progeny would have a decent chance of living without the worry, wear, and anxiety to which they themselves have been exposed, there would not be this continual cry about restriction of population: There is a reference in the opening speech to a contract with the mail steamers: The outlook is not good. I fear very much that the Ministry, unless they look out, will be shoved into a corner.
– They are practically in one now.
– I hope not. I am sure that the honorable member will rise above party feeling, as he always does, and recognise that it is not well for this country to have its Ministry driven into a corner in regard to its mail contracts. I sincerely hope that the Ministry will not yield to the wellmeant suggestions to amend section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act until we see further how it works. We ought not to alter our policy for the mere reason that in London and elsewhere ignorant critics, basing their remarks on ill-natured and mendacious reports from here, oppose the provisions which we put into our Acts. We deliberately adopted that provision in the Post and Telegraph Act, and we ought to keep to it. Let us not wobble from one thing to the other. If we think that the claim is right I think that the House would be willing, even if it had to pay more for its mail service for a time, to fight the combination which at present is working to prevent the application of this particular provision.
– There is no necessity for that.
– That may be. But I am looking at the matter in its worst possible phase. I believe that the House will back up the Ministry if they show a determination to carry out the present policy until it is proved to be wrong. I hope that the Government will not waver with regard to the introduction of contract labour into the Commonwealth. Here, again, I am sorry to say that some men who have proved themselves to be utterly disloyal to Australia have sent to England ill-founded, coloured, and mendacious reports with regard to the six hatters, the Petriana case, and so forth. All those who are acquainted with the facts know that these reports have been unfairly coloured, and it was pitiable to see the extent to which Sir Frank Swettenham, formerly the Governor of the Straits Settlements, was misled by what he read in the London Times or some other newspaper. We ought to know what we want, and to stand to our guns, refusing to be influenced by the criticism of strangers who are unacquainted, with our circumstances. If we do this we shall earn the respect of our neighbours.
– Then we ought not to criticise others, as in the case of the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal.
– Others are free to criticise us, and we are free to criticise them. If we were justified in interfering in the affairs of the Transvaal when it was not a British possession, how much more title have we to do so now when it is.
– Then the people of the Transvaal would have an equal right to interfere with us.
– I wish that the Ministry had shown more vim, more strenuous effort; with regard to the question of the admission of Chinese into the Transvaal. Their protest was too lady-like. Whatever faults Mr. Seddon has - and, to my mind, he was greatly misled a few years ago - he has thrown all his rough and rude force against this iniquity. I decline to treat the present Government of the Transvaal in the same way that I would deal with the responsible Government of a self-governing colony. I look, as Mr. Seddon has done, straight to the power behind the throne. We all know that Lord Milner has practically a number of marionettes who do his will - that it is his will which governs in matters of the kind referred to, and that Downing-street is behind him. Although it is unlikely that our protest will have much effect, we were perfectly right to speak our mind. We are called upon to contribute to the navy of the Empire, and, as we also contributed to the subjugation of the Transvaal, we should be allowed to have some say as to the use to which that country is to be put. Where the coloured races go white labour cannot exist under prosperous conditions. The same condition of things that exists in South Carolina and Alabama will soon be brought about in the Transvaal. In those American States, only a few degraded whites exist alongside the masses of coloured workers.
– There are already millions of blacks in the Transvaal.
– Of course there are; but that is no reason why millions of yellows should also be imported. We should not transfer the Chinese from their proper place. Up to 1899 we were told that the object which the British Government had in view was to give white men the franchise, and to make the Transvaal a place in which white men could live. Now, however, we find that there is no franchise at all, and that the white men are being driven out of the territory. 1 feel that Mr. Seddon was fully justified in the language he used, which was direct, blunt, and strenuous. He said -
I boldly say, however, that whether the Australasian Colonies gave little or much help to South Africa during the Boer war, that help would not have been given if it had been dreamed that its effects would be to enable white labour to be excluded or penalized, while Chinese or other Asiatics are to be introduced and encouraged.
The principal work we have before us is the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Navigation Bill, the Federal Capital Site question, the Papua Bill, the Trade Marks and Copyright Bill, the Quarantine Bill, and a measure dealing with Rings and Trusts. The GovernorGeneral’s speech, however, omits reference to what I regard as the most interesting - I do not say the most important - item relating to the political situation, although it has evidently been the chief matter in the minds of the party leaders. I refer to the fact that we have three parties of nearly equal strength in this House. I do not say that this is the most important matter, because experience has shown that responsible Governments have often been conducted for the peace, order, and good government of the country, even with three parties of equal strength in the Legislature. The Prime Minister has used a cricketing analogy, and has asked how matters could be managed, if there were two cricket teams in a field and a third came in to interfere. The Prime Minister must acknowledge that that analogy ought to be used only by mere politicians and not by him, because I decline to recognise that the game of politics is one of “ ins “ and “ outs “ between two teams. It is quite possible, . even with three parties in the House, for the Government, relying upon the average good sense of the House, to carry out a useful programme, and that is what I hope may happen in this case. At the same time, I feel that there is a danger in having one party which has not taken any share of the work of Executive Government, and which does not expect to do so for the present, and, therefore, is not called upon to face the responsibility of carrying out the Government of the King.
– Every honorable member has a share of responsibility.
– Yes. But the honorable member must recognise that a great deal more responsibility and anxiety is felt by those who have, as the Executive, to carry out the policy of the country for the time being.
– They have added responsibilities as Ministers, but not as the members of parties.
– The members of the Government have to administer the affairs of the country under all kinds of conditions, and a most difficult and responsible task to perform. It is a misfortune for a country to have a large and solid party which has not felt the pressure of such a responsibility. I do not like the cricketing analogy, but I should prefer to compare the Labour Party to a young horse, full of oats, which has not been in the shafts, and has not had to pull the load, and which is very apt to be restive and refractory.
– Then it is time that the members of the Labour Party had Ministerial experience.
Mr.HIGGINS.- Very likely it is. The’ best frends of that party, and even perhaps some of its foes, would like it to feel the responsibility of pulling the political cart up the hill. It would be one of the most wholesome correctives to extravagance of which I can conceive. At the same time, it is only due to the leader of that party that I should say that, in my judgment, a great deal of the success which it achieved at the recent elections was owing to his strong good sense, his collectedness. and his attention to the business of the House. I do not think that the power of that party, - because we must recognise its power - will be misused, so long as he has control of it.
– Was the Labour Party not successful owing to the presence of two other parties in the field?
– There is no need to have two other parties. Now that the
Tariff question has been disposed of, surely we must recognise that- there is nothing between the Ministerial and the Opposition sides of the House, other than the table ! There are more differences of opinion between individual members of the Opposition than there are between members of the front Ministerial and front Opposition benches. Similarly there are more differences between Ministerial supporters themselves than there are between the political views of Ministerialists and Oppositionists. Honorable members, however, must recognise that there is a distinction between two parties, although it has not yet been officially displayed. There is a distinction between the party which favours State action, and the party which does not, or between the party which favours much State action, and that which favours little. There is a wide gulf, I repeat, between the party which is in favour of the cautious, steady, sober, application of the powers of an organized community, and the party which is not. I will put one more qualification, by saying that there is a big gap between the party which seeks to apply the powers of the State to the whole of the people, and that which seeks to apply them to only a few. I was travelling not long since with a friend who afforded me a very good illustration of what I mean. He opened the conversation by declaring that we are suffering from too much legislation. “ Why not shut up the talking shop,” said he; “ we cannot raise our hands without finding that we are interfered with by some law or other.” We then passed on to the discussion of other subjects, and after a brief interval, my friend began to impress upon me the extreme importance of passing a law providing for the payment of a bonus to an industry in which he was interested. I replied - “ I thought that you were opposed to State interference in these matters.” “ Oh, yes,” said he, “but not to that class of legislation.” Whatever we may think, I hold that it is one of the healthiest signs of the present position that the party which is most strongly in favour of State action is least in favour of the flotation of loans - is the least disposed to ask for borrowed money.
– That is a very good sign.
– It is one of the healthiest of signs. There is not the slightest doubt that the greatest incentive to the spending of borrowed money comes from those persons who are most opposed to the Labour Party. The demand for the expenditure of loan money does not come from the labouring classes in the towns, or from their leaders, but from the outlying agricultural districts which are far removed from the centres of civilization, and which, naturally, require far more of the assistance of the State. One factor, however, is wanting. We need a more specific and direct disapprobation of the wretched loan system. The position also requires us to face the Public Service problem, because the greater the area of State action, the larger will be the number of our public servants, and the more pressing will the problem become. No one can consistently ask for an extension of the powers of the State unless he is prepared to devote his intelligence towards devising a system under which the Public Service shall automatically work out the best results.
– Can any control of human beings work automatically to obtain the best results from them?
– Perhaps the term “ automatically “ is not strictly correct. What I mean is that changes are constantly occurring in the Public Service, and that there are thus questions of promotion and transfer continually arising as the result either of resignation or death. I say that we must face the problem of how, without provoking discontent, without permitting a charge of favoritism to be raised upon one side, or allowing of promotion by the dead stony rule of seniority on the other, we may have a public service which will work reasonably well and to the content of its members. It is a desirable thing to make our public servants contented. One of the greatest blunders which has been committed by the Victorian Government is that of separating its public servants from the rest of the community by giving them separate and distinct interests. Such action has led to the consolidation of the Public Service of this State. Previously its interests were scattered. Unfortunately the Victorian Government has now consolidated it into voting for itself. Talk about class legislation ! What worse class legislation can there be than that which results from class legislators? I come now to the question of the transfer of the States debts. I do not think that much has been said upon this subject by previous speakers. I have had the advantage of carefully reading the papers which were presented to the Conference of States Treasurers by the Federal Treasurer and Sir Frederick
Holder. I find that the Treasurer proposes to have the Constitution amended at the next election, and subsequently to take over the whole of the State debts. During the sittings of the last Parliament I foresaw something of this sort, and upon three ocasions I endeavoured to induce the Government to afford time for the discussion of a motion which I had submitted bearing upon the subject. The then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, promised to afford me an opportunity to move the motion, but unfortunately arrangements could not be made to that end. What was the result ? I had hoped to obtain the Treasurer’s view of the position, and to endeavour to work in with it. Unfortunately, however, no time was available for the discussion of the motion, and as soon as Parliament had been dissolved and the elections had taken place, the Treasurer called a Conference of Treasurers and said to them - “ We cannot do anything until we have a referendum at the next elections upon the question of an amendment of the Constitution.” If an amendment of the Constitution be necessary, it is a pity that it could not have been submitted to the people at the last general elections, because the problem is a pressing one. Every year during which it remains unsolved loss is occasioned to us, and I contend that it should be grappled with at once. I agree that the present provision in the Constitution with regard to the taking over of the States debts is unworkable and impracticable ; and in this respect I share the view expressed by the Treasurer. It provides that we can take over all the debts, or a certain proportion of them in equal proportion to the population. The form in which that provision was inserted in the Constitution was due to the jealousy of the States. The feeling at the Convention was that the Federal Parliament could not be trusted to take over, say, the debts of Tasmania, and not to take over the debts of New South Wales ; or to take over the debts of New South Wales and to avoid taking over those of Victoria. It was said at the Convention that equal consideration must be shown to all. But the proposal of the Treasurer is that we should take over all the debts uno flatu. That proposal is obnoxious to the criticism of Sir Frederick Holder, who has shown, in a short and able paper, that by taking over the debts of the States we should make a handsome present to the bondholders, without receiving’ anything in return. Let me furnish the House with an example. The experience of Canada is that the bonds of the Dominion are of greater value than those of the individual Provinces ; that the 3 per cent, bonds of the Dominion may be worth £100, and the 3 per cent, bonds of say Manitoba, worth only £92, showing a very substantial margin of j£8. That is a margin on which it should be possible for us to bargain.
– In Canada the lands and the railways are held by the Dominion.
– That does not affect my argument.
– Then as against the Dominion debt of ,£68,000,000 the debts at the Provinces amount only to about
– I admit that the honorable and learned gentleman is a veritable encyclopaedia of information, but at this stage I wish only to put one fact. Rightly or wrongly, there is a tendency, which will be operative in the case of the Commonwealth, to place a higher value on the bonds of the larger organizations, than upon those of the smaller ones. I have not the slightest doubt in that regard. I am dealing not with what honorable members may think ought to be the case, but with what are the facts, and it will be found, unless something happens which cannot be foreseen, that the Commonwealth securities will be regarded in London as being of more value than the bonds, say of Victoria, Western Australia, or indeed, of any other State. They ‘will be more sought after than will the Bonds of the States. Let us suppose for a moment that a 3 per cent. Commonwealth bond is worth ,£1.00 and that a 3 per cent. South Australian bond is worth only £92. In that event we should have a margin of £8 between the two.
– The margin would, be greater.
– I hope that I shalt not be interrupted in regard to mere details. I am stating a case which is milder than: that which I am entitled to put forward. I know, of course, that sometimes the margin will be greater, but let me keep to that which I have stated. If, in these circumstances, the Commonwealth took over the South Australian bonds, it would give a present of £8 in the £100 to every bondholder.
– It would depend on the way in which we took over the debts of the States.
– I am putting the matter before honorable members in this simple form. If the Commonwealth made ‘one of these South Australian bonds a Commonwealth bond, then, all other things being equal, it would make a present of to the bondholder.
– It would if there were a difference of £,% between the two.
– I am assuming that there would be that difference. I consider it very probable that there will be a difference, and 1 think that the suggestion which you, Mr. Speaker, embodied in your paper, and which you also submitted to the Federal Convention, should if possible be carried out. The suggestion was t hat we should be able to say to the holder of a South Australian bond, which is not to mature for some years to come - “ If you like to accept for the State bond, worth £92, a Commonwealth bond for ^95 or £,96, we will give you that Commonwealth security, but otherwise we shall not do so.” Accepting these figures, the adoption of this system would be, of course, a distinct gain to South Australia, which would thus have a debt as regards the bond in question of only ^95 or ,£96, in place of one of ^100. The difficulty is that the proposal, although most desirable, is impossible of fulfilment under our Constitution. The section, which provides for the taking over of the debts of the States does not allow us to make bargains of this description. We must take over either the’ whole of the debts or a proportion of them. But what we must all desire, and what would be eminently to the advantage, of the States and the Commonwealth, as a whole, is the power to bargain. For my own part I think that an effort ought to be made to amend the Constitution, and to amend it in a much wider way than that suggested by the Treasurer. His proposal is merely (hat the Constitution should be amended so as to allow the Commonwealth to take over the States debts which have been incurred since the establishment of Federation, and which amount to about ^25,000,000 or £26, 000,000. I consider that we should have an amendment of the Constitution - and I fancy that the. people would readily grant it - to the effect that the Parliament may take over all or any part of the public debt, with the consent of the holders, on such terms and conditions and in such manner as it thinks fit. I believe that the people of Australia are accustomed to large undertakings, and are not averse to them.
– I think that they would give us anything that we desired in that direction.
– I believe that the honorable member is quite right. The jealousy of the States, the fear that one may get an advantage over another, is unfounded. There are forces at work which will prevent unfair dealing. We can see how the Government are driven to try to placate the feelings of each of the States. There is a strong tendency on the part of all Governments to approve their conduct to the people. I take it that nothing can be done in this matter without an Act of Parliament, and that the people are willing to trust us with it as they have trusted us with
Other powers: Their sense of the fairness of honorable members, and of the competence of the Government, no matter what Ministry may be in power, will be sufficient to induce the members to give us their, confidence in regard to the carrying out of this great undertaking. Of course, it would not be fitting for me to deal with the subject more elaborately at the present time. It is one to be worked out more by discussion between financiers ; but some alteration in the direction I. suggest is most desirable. It may be objected that it would not be fair to bondholders to convert some loans, and not to convert all ; that bondholders may complain if debts due to others are taken over by the Commonwealth while their own debts are not taken over. I do not agree with that contention. It is purely a matter of bargaining. So long as we in this country perform our -undertaking to the bondholders of England, or elsewhere, to repay principal and interest, we shall do all that we can be justly asked to do. We have no concern with market conditions any more than directors have to consider the effect of their action upon a market. We must consider only the best interests of the country.
– If we fulfil our undertakings, the bondholders cannot complain.
– Exactly. If we repay £100 and interest for every ^100 borrowed, and do not deprive investors of any of their security, we. cannot be asked to do more. There is nothing to prevent us, however, from going to a bondholder, and saying to him - “You hold a bond for ^100. It is now worth only ^92 ; but we are willing to give you £95 for it if you will take a Commonwealth bond in exchange.”
– Perhaps the bondholder may say that the bond is worth £100,
– Of course, the Commonwealth Treasurer will ask Parliament to allow conversion only in cases in which he considers the market suitable. However, I feel that I have said enough upon the matter now. I hope that more strenuous efforts will be made to carry out this very important intention of the Constitution. My hearty support will be given to any amendment, no matter how. drastic, for the taking over of the debts of the States which will enable this Parliament to deal justly and freely with the matter. We require a free hand, however, and if we get it we shall be able to make a good bargain. I have something to say in regard to the proposed appointment of the Inter-State Commission. The honorable member for Gippsland made some wise and weighty remarks upon that head. I said, last Parliament, and I repeat now, that the appointment of the Inter-State Commission is not necessary at the present time. Complaints have been made as to unfair practices on the part of the Governments of the States, but such practices could all be stopped with the aid of existing machinery. For instance, I was told yesterday that the Victorian Government pay back to Gippsland coal companies Jd. a ton by way of re-‘ bate on railway freight ; that a certain sum is charged for the carriage of coal from Gippsland to Melbourne, and that the Victorian Government place upon the Estimates an amount which will repay a part of that sum to the coal companies. I have no hesitation in saying that that practice is equivalent to the giving of a bounty within the meaning of section 90 of the Constitution, and as such is illegal and could be stopped if the proper steps were taken. I venture to say, too, that if the Victorian Government were properly approached by those interested, and were shown that they are violating the provisions of the Constitution which binds them as well as us, they would stop what they are doing. If they did not, they could be restrained by the ordinary processes of the ordinary courts. Under the Constitution, the States have the power to give bounties for the production of metals such as iron and gold, but they have not power to give bounties for the production of minerals such as coal. It was upon my motion that that provision was inserted in the Constitution. To give £d. per ton to the Gippsland coal companies by way of rebate is distinctly to grant an illegal bounty, and could therefore be restrained. The only matter in which ‘ the Inter-State Commission is required to act is as to preferential railway rates under section 105 of the Constitution.
– How would the honorable and learned member deal with the case of the Victorian Government accepting a reduced freight ?
– Of course, the Victorian Government does not carry the coal ; it is carried by the Victorian Railways Commissioners.
– lt amounts to the same thing. Suppose that the Railways Commissioners accepted a reduced freight?
– Assuming that it could be shown that the Victorian Government was carrying Victorian coal at a cheaper rate than other coal, with a view to giving it a preference, that action would be equivalent to. the granting of an illegal bounty. At all events, that is my present opinion, though I do not give it dogmatically. But nobody, except the Inter-State Commission, can deal with preferential railway rates.
– It might be argued that certain coal is not so valuable as other coal, and therefore could be carried only at cheaper rates.
– The right honorable gentleman is, no doubt, now giving us’ the secrets of the Colley coal. At the present time the number of preferential rates, as distinguished from differential rates, is very small. On three occasions during the existence of last Parliament I asked the then Minister for Home Affairs what instances he could give of preferential railway rates, and each time I was told that he would let me know; but he did not. I think that he is not aware of any preferential rates. At all events, I am entitled to assume as much, having asked three times for the information. No doubt the creation of the InterState Commission is mandatory under the Constitution ; but its immediate creation, or its creation within a year, is not mandatory. Our prophecies with regard to the mistake in urging the creation of the High Court immediately have been largely fulfilled. Now it has been created, we muststand loyally to it, and give it all the moral? support we can.
– The Government asked for five Judges instead of three.
– Now that the creation of the Inter-State Commission is being made a live question, honorable members will ask the Ministry to prove the need for its immediate creation.
Mr.Thomas. - Let the High Court Judges act as Inter-State Commisioners to fill up their time.
– There is. an appeal under the Constitution from the Inter-State Commission to the High Court.
– In conclusion, I am grateful to the House for the hearing that has been given to my remarks. I hope to be able to say what I wish to say. upon the Arbitration Bill when that measure comes before us.
– I had not intended to address the House until I had become sufficiently conversant with its usages not to trespass Overmuch upon the patience of honorable members. As each one of us has at some time been a new member, I need hardly say that it is with quite a painful amount of diffidence that I rise upon an occasion of this kind. But I should be failing in my duty if I omitted to combat opinion expressed in this House antagonistic to certain interests with whose special representation I am intrusted. In my constituency reside nearly the whole of the members of the New South Wales permanent force. There are, of course, corps situated in other electorates, but most of the men live in the Wentworth division. Now, the New South Wales permanent Defence Force has been cut down by almost one-half since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
– And it wants cutting down again by one-half.
– In spite of the fact that at the present time there are hardly enough gunners to man the guns which guard Sydney from attack by sea, in spite of the fact that the military estimates have been reduced below what the Government themselves regard as essential to the public safety, honorable members are calling for still further retrenchment.
– Hear, hear. Mr. KELLY.- Perhaps they are quite qualified to form a judgment upon this matter; but surely I may appeal to their good sense in regard to it. The Government have engaged the best miltiary advice available. They decided to establish a’ citizen soldiery, and asked the advice of their military officers as to the nucleus of regulars necessary to train the new force to act efficiently in the field, and as to the auxiliary departments needful to make it mobile and easily organizable. Those officers gave their advice. But at the bidding of the third party in this House the estimates of expenditure framed in accordance with it were cut down below what almost every one regards as essential to the public safety.
– The party to which the honorable and learned member belongs voted for the reduction.
– And would again, I hope.
– I think that the honorable member for Maranoa also voted for it.
– Yes, and I would do so again.
– The Government gave way without taking a vote.
– The honorable member for Maranoa must surely possess military knowledge and qualifications beyond that of the Commander-in-Chief if he is willing to allow the estimates of expenditure to be reduced to an amount below what that officer regards as the requirements of the public safety. It would be far more reasonable to dispense with the services of the general staff, to sacrifice guns and gunners, and to keep only the third party as a warning to all comers. Why is it, I wonder, that the third party always assumes to possess special military knowledge?
– Because they are the only party with military discipline.
– I believe that they are the only party without a conscience. That is another way of putting the matter. I have listened to the members of the Labour Partv with very great attention, and although I may not agree with them-
– Is the honorable member serious ?
– It is not necessary to speak with the voice of that animal which is mainly marketable for its hide and horns. Although I have listened with immense interest to what my esteemed friends have had to say on this matter during the course of this debate, they have not quite succeeded in converting me.
– That is the honorable member’s misfortune.
– Perhaps it is my misfortune, but, at the same time, I believe it to be the country’s good fortune. The honorable member for Hindmarsh brought an immense amount of military lore to bear upon this subject. He spoke at considerable length, and ultimately succeeded in convincing me upon one point; and that was that it was hardly expedient for the Commonwealth to any longer retain the services of the General Officer Commanding, whilst it could command those of so talented a gentleman, speaking in a military sense, as the honorable member. For twelve years he had been a private in a Scottish volunteer regiment.
– The honorable member is wrong again ; he does not know what he is talking about.
– Possibly it was only the honorable member’s modesty which deterred him from telling the House that he was a private. I do not want to say anything that would hurt his feelings, but I understand that he was recommended for a commission, after having served twelve years. I am sure that, after having spent that length of time in a Scottish volunteer regiment, he must be eminently qualified to take up the position of General Officer Commanding. In view of the facts I have placed before honorable members as to thecondition of the defences of the great cities of the Commonwealth - and I think that most people will agree that the principal danger this country has to fear is a sudden raid on our great cities - I hope that they will recognise .that it is absolutely necessary to still retain what permanent forces we have, if only for the purposes of manning our forts and of affording an instructional nucleus. I know that in Sydney the forts have been absolutely neglected, and that we have not a sufficient number of gunners to man our guns. If that be so, I take it that all the money that has been spent upon those defences is so much waste. Therefore, I cannot too emphatically protest against any further reduction of the military vote. The honorable member for
Bland gave us a most concise and clear account of what is regarded throughout out the country as Labour Party legislation. No one can respect more than I do a great deal of the legislation for which the Labour Party is responsible ; but the leader of the Labour Party was dealing with some of the new measures upon which that party has placed its stamp of approval. The honorable member spoke at considerable length upon the subject of the English mail . contract ; but I think that he missed the main point, namely, that the question was one entirely of expediency. Undoubtedly, the Commonwealth has an absolute right to do what it wills with its own money ; but the question is whether it is acting with expediency in connexion with this mail contract. I was disappointed that the honorable member did not address himself to that aspect of the question. He mentioned that there were several steamship companies trading through the Red Sea which employed only white labour throughout their services. Perhaps it would be hardly fair to refer to the fact that he named the Lund line in this connexion, since he afterwards admitted that that line travels around the Cape. However, he mentioned the. Orient Company, and I would ask him to take my assurance, given upon the best authority in Melbourne, that the Orient Company have not, for the last six months, employed white labour throughout in any of their ships.
– That does not advance the argument. The change was made only recently.
– The last steamer employing white labour throughout was the Orestes, which reached Sydney in July- last. Upon her arrival twenty-three firemen and stokers had to be imprisoned for insubordination during the voyage. It is contended by these companies that it is impossible to properly control their crews when white labour solely is employed. I should like to read from a letter by Sir Thomas Sutherland, the Chairman of Directors of the P. and O. Company, which appeared in the London Times of 18th March, 1899. The honorable member for Bland had evidently read’ of the comparative merits of the Sikhs and Goorkhas. I wish that he had also acquainted himself with the merits of the lascars as seamen.
– I /have read what Sir Thomas Sutherland says.
– His letter reads as follows : -
When the monopoly of the East India Company came to a close, in 1834, in the trade between India and China, their ships were succeeded by what were called “ country “ ships, manned exclusively by lascars, with European or Manila steersmen, and these ships were among the finest schools -of seamanship in the world. All the coasting trade vessels, both in India and China, were similarly manned, and those who remember the opium schooners on the coast of China (some of which remained in existence to the late sixties), the manner in which they were sailed, and the man-o’-war smartness with which they were handled, will look back to them as among the finest craft afloat.
I should like further to read Sir Thomas Sutherland’s explanation of the circumstances under which the P. and O. Company were first induced to employ black labour. It is pointed out that before the opening of the Suez Canal all the “ country “ ships referred to trading east of Suez were manned by black labour. Sir Thomas Sutherland says : -
With the opening of the Suez Canal, in 1870, a new state of affairs arose. The services eastward and westward were no longer separated, and the same crew could serve in the ‘ ships alike in the Mediterranean and in the eastern seas. When the Company’s lines began to be worked regularly, via the Canal, it was the intention of the directors of the P. and O. Company that the ships should be manned exclusively by Europeans, the employment of lascars being confined to the vessels running between India and China, and on the coast lines. Accordingly the steamers leaving this country were provided with English crews, both seamen and firemen, but with results so unsatisfactory that the efficient working of a mail service was seriously compromised. It was no uncommon experience to have half a crew in prison for drunkenness and disobedience to orders, and the directors found themselves compelled, after a year’s experience of English sailors and stokers in the tropics, to make the experiment of employing Iascar crews on this side of Suez, in order to get the work of their ships properly done. i say against their inclination, because it was feared the ‘Iascar would never stand the rigor of an English winter.
That is the explanation of the reason why lascars came to be employed upon the ships of the P. and O. Company after the opening of the Suez Canal. Personally, I should infinitely prefer to see white men employed, if it were possible. But if it is purely a question of expediency ; if the companies have found that they cannot command the ‘ obedience of their crews unless they employ a proportion of black labour, it is hardly expedient on our part to dislocate the whole mail service of the Commonwealth for the sake of ,£72,000 per annum, which is equivalent to only 4½d. per head of the population. The honorable member for Bland mentioned the Norddeutscher Lloyd, which enjoys a subsidy from the German Government. I may as well read the clause in their contract relating to the employment of labour, which is as follows : - ,
All adult deck hands and members of the engine-room staff engaged in Germany are to consist of men belonging to the Naval Reserve of Germany, or of persons engaged to serve under the Imperial Navy, if steamers are requisitioned, hired, or bought by the German Government. Coloured men are only to be employed in the engine and boiler rooms when the employment of European firemen and stokers is inadvisable for sanitary reasons.
– Are black labourers so employed ?
– I cannot say ; but I believe that they are, upon the ships running tq the east of Colombo. I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh said that the company were forbidden to employ black labour.
– I said that they did not employ black labour.
– The honorable member said that they were forbidden to do so. The point I wish to emphasize is that if we prohibit British steamship companies from employing men who, after all, are our fellowsubjects, we shall encourage the introduction of more and more Germans into our mercantile marine.
– It is a question of granting a subsidy, not of prohibiting.
– The action taken by this Parliament has a tendency to prohibit the companies from employing black labour, and we shall gradually drive our trade into the hands of foreigners. We shall employ and train possible enemies instead of those whose loyalty we have no right to question.
– It would be better to do that than be without men to fight our battles.
– These men would fight our battles. As the Sikhs and Goorkhas have fought our battles in the hills, these men might be relied upon to aid us in fighting our battles upon the sea. I do not think that it is fair to suppose that the only races in India which are fitted to fight our battles are the Sikhs, the Goorkhas and the Dogras. It is unfair -to assume that the maritime tribes of India would be less efficient in their own sphere than the hill-men have proved in theirs.
– They have proved themselves very much less efficient. What about the Argus incident ?
– The honorable member asks me about a certain incident in which lascars, report says, did not behave very well ; but, I would ask him, what about the wreck of the Gascoigne on the coast of France, in which case Frenchmen rushed the boats, and left women and children to their fate. I do not mention this as reflecting any discredit upon a great and gallant nation like France; because I do not regard it as fair to base a judgment of a race upon a few isolated instances. I should be the last to judge the French nation by the Gascoigne incident, and similarly the honorable member for Bland should not judge lascars by a few instances of that kind. I pass now from the question of our mail services to another, with- which it is intimately connected. I refer to the Navigation Bill, which is yet in the clouds hovering .over the other Chamber. I sincerely trust that in submitting this Bill the Government are not acting under the direction of a small section of this House. I earnestly hope that it will give fair play to every one. Of course, the oversea companies which trade with us come here primarily for their own benefit. Incidentally, however, they benefit us. They spend in Australian ports, exclusive o’f wages, just under £1,500,000 .per annum.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his figures?
– They have been compiled by oversea companies from their own books. Does the honorable member doubt their accuracy ?
– No, I merely desired to learn the source from which they were obtained.
– Any doubt as to their accuracy would be a very reasonable one for the honorable member to 1 express, because the figures have been derived from an interested party. But there are always methods of gauging the correctness of statistics thus obtained. I have no reason to . question their accuracy, especially as the expenditure of the company which supplied them is not at the head of the list, as it undoubtedly would have been had they been “faked.” The total expenditure of these companies in Australian ports, exclusive of wages, is close upon £1,500,000 annually.
An Honorable Member. - They are philanthropists.
– No, they come here to make money, but incidentally they benefit us. Does the honorable member mean to tell me that if he is a bootmaker and sells boots to some person, that a mutual advantage is not conferred? These oversea vessels do not enter into competition with the steamship companies which are engaged in our coastal trade. I should be the last man in the world to endeavour to work to the detriment of our local steamship companies. I am a shareholder in one of them. At the same time I recognise what is a fair thing, and I hold that it is’ unfair to penalize the oversea vessels for the benefit of our local steam-ship owners. These ships carry no freight from port to port, and receive only about 5 per cent, of the passenger trade. Nevertheless, Western Australian members will agree that they are an immense convenience to the travelling public. In addition, they form another link connecting us with the mother country, and I think that the Prime Minister will be the first man to honour that link. The honorable member for Gwydir took the leader of the Opposition to task for his attitude upon the question of preferential trade. As a loyal supporter of the right honorable member- for East Sydney, I feel that it is my duty to reply to these statements. The honorable member for Gwydir said he could not understand why the leader of the Opposition should be at variance with the Prime Minister upon the question of preferential trade, in face of his declaration that if the Government were returned with a majority he would do his level best to induce the Prime. Minister to offer a real preference to Great Britain by allowing the present duties to remain operative as against foreign goods, and by lowering those duties as against British goods. I think that is a perfectly logical position for the leader of the Opposition to take up. On the one hand, as a free-trader, he could not support preferential trade ; on the other, he declared that if he were returned with a minority he would - do his best to see that any preferential trade proposals submitted would not me’an increased protection to Australia. I utterly fail to see the value of that kind of preferential trade which is advocated in New Zealand and Australia. Unless the Prime Minister is prepared to offer Great Britain a real preference, I ‘ cannot withdraw what I have said. The position is roughly this: The institution of preferential duties will mean the diversion into new channels of the foreign trade of Great Britain. If that trade is to be diverted into channels which are yearly drying up, of what value is the so-called preference to Great Britain? The preference granted by New Zealand is of no value whatever. It merely means that year after year New Zealand will be in a better position to oust goods of British manufacture from that colony. Is it fair to ask the mother country to adopt’ a system of preferential trade and afterwards kill her trade by the very preference which we are according to it? Concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and the Navigaton Bill, I am of opinion that neither of those measures should be introduced into this House until the Constitution has been honoured by granting New South Wales her right to the Capital site. I wish honorable members to understand that I am not standing here in the capacity of an Irish party in any sense whatever. But I hold that the first duty of this Parliament should be to recognise the rights of the component parts of the Federation.
Those rights have not been honoured ; and I do not think that the Bills to which I have referred should be introduced until effect has been given to the provision in the Constitution which relates to the Capital site. I wish now to briefly refer to the Petriana incident. As anything which honorable members may say upon this question may rightly be open to a charge of partisanship, I shall content myself with reading from Captain Kerr’s report. He says -
I have sailed in many seas the world over, but have never before seen or heard of a country where a shipwrecked mariner was not allowed to put his foot upon dry land.
– Is that his own report?
– Whose report would it be if he has signed it ?
– He was not there.
– Captain Kerr continues -
If your seamen were wrecked upon MalayPeninsula, or on the Chinese coast, they would not only have been welcomed but the best these poor blacks possessed would have been placed at their disposal.
– It was so here.
– The men who were responsible for the Petriana reports should be excluded as criminals.
– I take it that our national honour is as dear to us as is any other thing, but by its action, the Government have even put that up for sale.
– The statement implied by the quotation which the honorable member has read, that shipwrecked men were refused permission to land .here, is absolutely untrue.
– But will the Prime Minister say that they- were not refused permission to land in Melbourne ?
– They were never refused permission to land.
– Were they not kept on a tug?
– Yes. They were kept there by the agents, who were told that they could land these men when and where they pleased, so long as they took reasonable precautions that they should not blend with the population. They refused to So that.
– That makes the incident all the more ‘disgraceful.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s disclaimer, I exceedingly regret having used such strong expressions. In supporting the proposed appointment of a High Commissioner in London, the honorable member for Bass took it for granted that such’ an appointment would imme diately lead to the abolition of the offices of the six Agents-General of the States. I sincerely hope that the Government do not share his optimism in that respect. I trust that some arrangement will be made with the States whereby, simultaneously with the appointment of a High Commissioner, the main duties of the AgentsGeneral will be abolished. With the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech which relates to economy, I must profess myself in the most hearty sympathy. I think that in time the desire for economy must necessarily lead to the unification of Australia. The proposal to federate the States debts must have made everybody realize how absurd it would be to take over those debts without also assuming control of the great spending powers of the States, and if we took over their great spending powers, I take it that unification would practically result. I think that the Federal system is. merely the transition stage between an Australia harassed by six independent authorities and an Australia united under one central administration. But I most earnestly believe that before the Commonwealth can reasonably ask the States to intrust it with further powers, it must show itself worthy of confidence. I exceedingly regret that after three years’ experience of Federation, we find State inflamed against State, an’d States against the Commonwealth. We find that’ more inter-State jealousy exists to-day than was ever before known in the annals of Australia.
– I do not think that is so.
– I am sure that, if the right honorable gentleman were a resident of New South Wales he would share the view which I have advanced. The State from which I come now regards itself as having been tricked into Federation. It considers that it was tricked behind a tariff wall alike foreign to its interests and traditions ; and it is also beginning to suspect that this House does not intend to deal in a friendly way with the question of the capital.
– That is only the opinion of Mr. Haynes.
– No ; it exists all over the metropolitan district.
– Does Sydney represent New South Wales?
– It represents more than One-third of New South Wales, and consequently the opinions held by the people of Sydney are worthy the considera tion of the honorable member for Yarra. In view of these facts, it is well that action should speedily be taken towards the establishment of the capital. What would the representatives of the smaller States, think, if the Government refused to grant to those States their full rights under section 87 of the Constitution ? Would they, in such circumstances, sit down quietly, and possess their souls in patience?
– We should “buck in” and get our rights.
– Of course . honorable members would do so ; and I trust that they will “buck in “ and help New South Wales to get hers.
– If the honorable member would tell us what is desired we should probably help him.
– We desire first of all that the selection of the site of the Federal Capital shall be made without delay. If this. Parliament finds it impossible to select a site, 1 take it that it is Our duty_ to allow the Parliament of New South Wales to determine the question. I am aware, of course, that such a proposal would, if carried out, upset the calculations of a few honorable members.
– Where does the honorable member find any authority in the Constitution for such a reference?
– Where is it not?
– If this Parliament, in its collective wisdom, cannot settle the question, it should allow another Parliament, which has a better chance to determine it, to do so. In any event it must be determined soon. The unwarranted delay in settling this matter has kindled a fire of discontent throughout the mother State - a fire which is spreading, and which at all costs must be extinguished. What is wanted in this Federation is a more statesmanlike recognition of the rights of its component parts. If we had that recognition we should find each State satisfied with its neighbour, and all, mutually trustful, working together to build for this land we love so well a place among the nations. In making my appeal on behalf of the mother State, I would ask honorable members to lay aside all provincial feeling, and to give full play to those high Federal ideals of compromise and mutual consideration which are the only foundations upon which can be built a Federation of the hearts of those four million people we all represent.
– Without indorsing the views which the honorable member for Wentworth ‘has advanced, I think that we may all congratulate him upon his debut in this House, for the speech which he has just delivered was characterized by good taste, courtesy, and moderation. I dare say. that many of his views will find general acceptance, although in regard to some of them the honorable member and myself are as far asunder as are the poles. Possibly, when he can rid himself of the influences of the environment in which he has lived for so many years, and of the Philistine press with which he has so long been familiar - after he has enjoyed the company of the more liberal-minded men who sit around him - he will modify his views. The honorable member must be aware that it is not the fault of the Government, nor, indeed, of this Chamber, that the site of the Federal Capital has not yet been selected.
– The fault rests with’ the Government.
– The honorable membjr must know that several eligible sites were submitted last session, and that one was selected by us ; but that, in consequence of a disagreement with another place, it was impossible for us to finally dispose of the matter. I have no objection to the selection of a site, but I shall strongly oppose . the expenditure of any large sum upon the establishment of the capital. I shall certainly oppose very vigorously the spending of any loan money upon that project, although I believe that a site should be selected at the very earliest opportunity, so that the matter may be quietly put to rest for all time. When the Address in Reply was under consideration last session, I complained that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, then before the House, contained no proposals whatever to assist our people in producing more and thus earning more; that every proposal was one for the expenditure of money, and that the speech was destitute of any proposition to earn it. I also said that what we desired was practical legislation, so that we might have peace and rest, economical management, and the development of the country to its fullest extent. I pointed out that after all, if we were to win the hearts ofl the people, it would be necessary for us to set our faces in that direction; that we needed work for the people, help for the producers, and markets for their products. I am glad to say that in the Governor-General’s Speech, now under discussion, a step has been taken in that direction. A beginning, of course, has to be made, and in making the proposals contained in paragraphs 5, 6, and 7, the Government have gone as far as they can towards the submission of matters of great interest to the bulk of the people of this country. We hear a great deal about the present political position. It is being discussed at great length in certain sections of the press, and an endeavour is being made by those sections to make the position appear more entangled than it really is. If they had their way they would, doubtless, still further complicate the situation; but I, for one. am not much concerned about it. If we talked less, and did more, it would be much better for the Commonwealth. The position will adjust itself. Whether we have a Labour Government, a Government comprising members of the present Opposition, or the present Ministry in power, I feel certain that the good sense of honorable members, together with the watchfulness of press and public, .will keep that Government from going far astray. Our duty is not to worry about the political position, but to discharge the business which comes to our hands in the best possible way. Matters will surely right themselves. We must remember that the system which allows of the return of honorable members by a minority, is responsible for the present position. It places men who seek to” enter this House at the mercy of faddists and cranks who may be strong in their own particular districts, and prevents large questions of great importance to the country from being dealt with fairly and on their merits. Other considerations to the exclusion of the more important ones come into play, with the result that matters that ought to be dealt with are shut out. Much has been said about the Labour Party, which appears to be regarded by some persons as if it were another Frankenstein about. I do not agree with all the views which the members of that party hold, but, at the same time, I do not regard them in the adverse light in which they are regarded by some persons. I think that the members of the Labour Party are as honest, and earnest, and anxious for the good of all classes of the community as are the members of other parties. In some matters, however, I believe that they are going too fast, and that in other directions they are going too far. They desire to accomplish too much at once, and by reason of views’ expressed - I do not say by the leaders of the party, but by members of it - they are bringing upon themselves that suspicion as to their motives and objects, which the leader of the Labour Party admitted on Friday last existed in the minds of a number of people.
– To what planks in our platform does the honorable member object ?
– I do not propose to canvass the whole programme put forward by the Labour Party. I agree with a considerable part of it, but later on I shall refer to some portions of it to which I object. The critics of the party seize upon the views of the extremists as representing those entertained by the party as a whole. The leaders themselves are not responsible for the views which all the members of the party express. But when proposals are put forward from platforms on which the leaders themselves stand, and are allowed to go uncontradicted, it is only to be expected that the representatives of other large interests in this country feel themselves likely to be attacked, look upon the party with suspicion, and have fears as to what will be the result if ‘ it should get into power. If the Labour Party honestly desires to secure the welfare of this country and to reconcile the other parties who. differ from its views, its members must be moderate in the opinions they express and in the rate at which they seek to travel. I trust that before the close of the present Parliament - before we go to the country again - we shall see that our electoral laws are altered in such a way that no man will be able to sit in this Parliament unless elected, by a majority of the people of his electorate. Until we secure that reform we shall not get down to great principles, nor shall we have great parties. There should not be three parties in this House; there should be only two. But under existing conditions three, and possibly four or five, parties may be seen in this House at no distant date. One section of the community, which looks upon the Labour Party with great suspicion, is that which I represent. Many of my opponents assert that I have too much sympathy with the party, and indeed that was one of the cries raised against me at the last elections. I do not speak for owners of large estates, but I should be heartily glad if it were possible for the farmers of this country and the Labour Party to get into accord with each other.
– They are in accord in New South Wales.
– It would be an immense benefit to the members of the Labour Party themselves if that end could be secured. I would urge the Labour Party, in any views put forward by them, as well as in any legislation they seek to carry, to show a regard for the interests of the great body of producers. I would urge them to refrain not only from expressing any opinion that mightbe considered harmful to the producers, but also from putting forward legislation which the producers themselves consider would be harmful to them. If they adopt these tactics I believe that they will find that the farmers in many districts have far more sympathy with them than they themselves believe. A section of the press invariably represents the Labour Party as the enemy of the farmer, and calls upon the farmer to put it down. That, however, is not the feeling of many of the farmers themselves. They have learned of late years to modify their views to a considerable extent, and only moderate dealing and fair play are required to win their sympathy, and, perhaps, in time, their support. For myself, I would say, with the wise Hebrew of old - “ If the thing is of God, it will prosper ; if it is not, it will come to nought.” If it is founded on justice, truth, righteousness, and fairplay, it will succeed ; but, if not, it will fail as other wrong movements have failed in the past. I commend to the perusal of the leader of the Labour Party two poems of Whittier. Whittier was a true democrat, and a true poet. The first of these poems is entitled “ Democracy,” and has for its motto the text -
Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.
In the poem which he has addressed to the reformers of England, he sets forth what they should have in their minds as the ideal which they should strive to attain. He says -
Blessing the cotter and the Crown,
Sweetening worn labour’s bitter cup,
And, pulling not the highest down,
Lifting the lowest up.
If the Labour Party make those lines their motto, they will find that all classes will speedily join with them ; but when members of the party express the view that thrift means theft, and property means robbery, one cannot wonder that men who have been thrifty and careful in making provision for themselves and their families regard them with suspicion.
– What member of the Labour Party has used those expressions ?
– They have been used over and over again by members of the party, though I do not say. that they are to be taken as the views of the party. Those sentiments have been expressed on public platforms. I indorse two of the remarks made by the honorable member for Gippsland yesterday, though I shall not dwell upon the subjects of them, because he dealt with them very fully - I refer to the legislation which brought about the exclusion of the six hatters, and the endeavour to prevent the employment of black labour upon oceangoing steamers. I think that we should certainly try to modify that section of the Immigration Restriction Act which prevents labour coming here under contract, so that white men shall not be prevented from entering Australia. In my opinion, it will be sufficient to provide that labour contracts made outside the Commonwealth shall be absolutely void here. If we do that, employers in the Commonwealth will have no hold upon men brought here to perform labour, because those men will come in free from any obligations to them. While far too much has been made of the six hatters incident, if Has, undoubtedly, created a very bad impression in Great Britain and elsewhere. In view of our want of population, we should try rather to lower than to raise barriers against immigration, though, of course, we must give fair play to our own people. As to the cry for a White Ocean,, while there is much in the views put forward, I think we should see that the action we take is a moderate one. The farming population are afraid that if we aim at the total exclusion of black labour from vessels coming here from abroad, they will suffer severely through an increase in freights. I am not prepared to say whether that will or will not happen, but I think that to prevent friction and to secure harmony, some concession should be made. Some criticism has been expressed in regard to the conduct of the late elections which I do not regard as any too severe. I have never in any of my experience of elections seen such bungling before.
– Who was responsible?
– The officers in charge of the administration of the Act were in some cases responsible, while in other cases the trouble was due either to the faultiness of the Act, or to the shortness of time in which preparations had to be made. The proper conduct of elections is of the utmost importance, and one of the greatest mistakes made was in intrusting the carrying out of the provisions of the Act to men who had had no previous experience of elections. If the electoral officers of the States who had previously acted had been chosen, the mistakes which occurred, and the friction which was caused, would not have happened. There was too great an endeavour to get things done cheaply, to save money, and to bring the expenditure within the sum named by the Government as the probable cost.
– The Government profess to have saved £40,000 on the elections.
– They have had men working for days and weeks- without remuneration. No doubt many of these men were public . servants, but they should have been remunerated for the extra work done by them, even if the remuneration came to a few thousands of pounds. The smallness of the vote recorded is not to be wondered at. It is all very well to decry those who did not vote, and to blame them for not using their privileges, but there are considerations which are. sometimes overlooked in a criticism of this kind. Most of the farmers of Australia had, prior to the elections, been suffering from a drought of seven or eight years’ duration. At the time of the elections they had the promise of a very bounteous harvest. But with the chance of a change of weather, every minute was precious to them in getting in their crops. It was not to be wondered at, therefore, that those who had to work in the fields were unwilling to spend half a day or a day in recording their votes. I maybe told that they could have voted by post. The Act certainly gave them the right to do so, but many farmers who tried to exercise that right were unable to get the necessary papers. I know of eighteen in one district who were unable to record their votes, . because they could not obtain the necessary papers. Another reason why the vote taken was a small one is that the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament hitherto has not come home closely to the people. We have been engaged chiefly in the passing of technical machinery enactments which have not closely touched their interests, their feelings, or their hearts. Consequently, they were, to a large extent, indifferent as to the result of the elections. But possibly, with the promise of more practical legislation next session, the people may show greater interest in future elec-, tions. One thing I should like to urge upon this and any future Government is that it is desirable to avoid the holding of elections between November and February, because the farming population, the most important section of our people, is then busily engaged in harvesting its crops.
– What month would the honorable member suggest ?
– September or October.
– October would be as good a month as any.
– October would be a good month. In any case, the three months of harvest should be avoided, so that men may not be taken from necessary work when conditions are unsettled. I hope that the Electoral Act will be amended in the light of experience, and made as perfect and satisfactory as possible. The Treasurer is deserving of our best thanks for having had a Conference with the Treasurers of the States in reference to the consolidation of the debts of the States. The question is a large and important one, and I do not see how he could have done better in regard to it than to call that Conference. The result, so far as things have gone, is one with which we should be highly gratified. Possibly after the discussion which has taken place, a second Conference will be able to discover a solution of the difficulties which now face us. If so, the consolidation of the debts of the States will in itself be almost a complete justification for Federation, because of the enormous saving in interest which it will effect. It will, moreover, prevent extravagant expenditure, by restricting future borrowing, which is much to be desired. Another matter referred to in the Speech is the question of population. No doubt the decrease in our population is a very serious matter, considering the responsibilities which we have undertaken. The public debt of Australia at the present time is about £60 13s. per head of population, or about £142 per head for the bread-winners of the country, male and female. For the male bread-winners, however, who alone have to carry this burden, it amounts to about £180 per head. Every able-bodied man whom we can induce to come here will increase our wealth, and take his share of the burden of debt ; but to go on piling up debts while we are losing population is an act of great folly, and will create serious danger to the Commonwealth. I hope that future debts will be incurred only for works which, if not directly reproductive, will at least be indirectly so. We need not only more people, but an admixture of new races. The Anglo-Saxon race is strong and virile because it is made up of a mixture of races, and the opinion in the United
States is that that country is strong and progressive because its population comprises representatives of almost all the races of Europe. The admixture of new blood brings with it new ideas and methods, and that has made the United States strong and progressive. We shall not be a strong and progressive people if we determine that only persons of our own race shall come here. In the United States, Germans, Swiss, Italians, and persons of other continental nationalities are to be found, together with members of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races. In some places these foreigners occupy townships of their own; but generally they mix with the population, and that helps to make the race strong. We should not refuse admission, to desirable immigrants, no matter from what country they may come. In the case of animals, continual inbreeding results in a loss of strength and character, and nations are subject to the same deterioration unless they have an infusion of new blood to impart new vigour. The population problem is interesting in its relation to the White Australia question, which is looked upon by many, and by sections of the press as if it were entirely new. It is, however, fifty years old in this country, and there are many still amongst us who remember the very serious’ Chinese riots which took place in the fifties, and the very strong effort that was made in some of the mining districts to drive away the Chinese. From ‘that time until the present, there has been a very strong feeling in all the States that we should pass legislation that would have the effect of reserving the country for those whom we deem fit to associate with us. The question is not a new one, even in- England, because from the time of Edward VI. down to the reign of Elizabeth, legislation of an extremely drastic character - far more so than that brought forward here - was passed for the. purpose of keeping out undesirable aliens. In 1889 a Commission was appointed in England to investigate the circumstances under which large numbers of aliens were coming into the country, and in 1898 a Bill providing for the exclusion of aliens was brought before the House of Lords. Therefore, we are only following in the steps Of the old land when we express by legislation a determination to keep this country for those who are fitted to add to the strength and vigor of the race. As I said .before, however, I think we are going too far in excluding our own fellow-subjects, and I hope that the legislation now on the statute- book will be modified. There are some dangers to be avoided in connexion with our White Australia policy. We must take care that it does not result in an empty Australia. If we do not fill up with desirable immigrants those portions of the continent which- are at present unsettled, we shall leave them open for the advent of undesirables. We have vast areas in the northern parts of Australia which are accessible by means of good harbors, and absolutely open to Asiatics and to the inhabitants of the Indian Archipelago, and if we do not settle those parts with people of a desirable character, most assuredly they will be filled up by aliens. They will come: here in spite of us, and probably in such enormous numbers that we may occupy the position of undesirables and have to leave them in possession of the country. The trend of events in the Far East should make us extremely careful with regard to this matter. If we do not balance the White Australia policy with another which will bring in fresh population, all our legislative devices with a view of maintaining the purity of the race will surely be doomed to failure. The northern part of Australia would afford a congenial home for Asiatics, and it would be impossible for us to long prevent them from establishing themselves there. It may be asked - “ Where can we secure the necessary immigrants?” I would point out that we can procure many desirable colonists by making draughts upon the populations of Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and other parts of Europe - people who would be capable of settling upon the land and turning it to the very best advantage. In connexion with this matter, we must consider the necessity of making land available for settlement. It will be of no use for us to encourage immigration, unless, we have land upon, which we can place our immigrants without delay. Further, before finding land for people beyond our shores, we should first of all provide land for those who are already amongst us. It may be interesting and instructive to honorable members to learn that in Victoria, from the 1st February, 1903, to the 31st January last, 17,000 applications were received for land. I do not mean to convey that these applications, were sent in by separate individuals, because many persons were so anxious to secure land that they paid application fees for three or four allotments, on th-.’ chance that if they missed one they might secure another. The 17,000 applications, however, were lodged by 7,500 applicants. Of these, 3,700 have been granted land, so that we still have in Victoria to-day some 4,000 persons who have applied for land during the last twelve months, and whose demands are still unsatisfied. I am simply giving the facts with regard to -Victoria, with whose circumstances I am best acquainted, but I have no doubt that similar experiences are being met .with; in other States.
– In New South Wales the demand for land has been much greater, and, if anything, more difficulty has been experienced in meeting it.
– That gives so much more point to my argument. I find that at Lake Buloke, in the Wimmera district of Victoria, 103 allotments were thrown open for selection, and 1,350 persons lodged 5,000 applications. Then again, in Gippsland, in the southern part of the Colony, and with an entirely different climate, eighty-four allotments were applied for by 462 persons, who lodged 700 applications. These instances serve to show that a number of intending selectors are still landless. I notice in the report of the officer in charge of the Lands Department in Tasmania that a similar state of affairs is disclosed. The report, which is for the year 1903, says -
More persons have, I believe, visited Tasmania, with a view to settlement, during the last twelve months than for the previous ten years put together. The value of private lands has in consequence increased in these parts, in some cases, from ro to 25 per cent., and land selection has been greater than at any period since the introduction of the system.
The demand for land, even on the part of our own people, can only be met by extensive resumptions, because, in the case of Victoria at any rate, the State does not possess land enough to supply the needs of intending settlers. The paragraphs which appear in the newspapers from time to time .announcing that so much land is to be thrown open, need not be noticed, because in most cases the land in question is of very little value, and would prove of no use to intending settlers. In Victoria, the only land available for any large population is away in the far north, and cannot be utilized until our water resources are developed. I am aware that in Western Australia and Queensland there are large areas open for settlement. I do not care in which State the people settle; I would as soon see them settle in other States, so long as they can secure the land necessary to enable them to live and bring up their families in comfort. Our first duty is to provide for the wants of our cwn people, and afterwards to encourage immigration. If we enter upon an immigration policy without first taking care that our own people are sufficiently provided for, we shall act very foolishly, and I think that the strongest representations should be made to the States Governments with a view to induce them to make available the State lands which they possess, or to adop’t a comprehensive system of resumption. If they prove unwilling to do so, and it is still desired to pursue an immigration policy, I should favour the borrowing of money by the Commonwealth for the purpose of purchasing estates upon which to settle our people.
– At ruinous prices - it would never pay.
– Does the honorable member know anything about the subject?
– I ought to.
– Does the honorable member know anything about the subject as it relates to Victoria ?
– I think I know as much as does the honorable member - or probably a little more.
– Whether that be so or not, I shall give the honorable member the benefit of the little that I know. I was Minister for Lands in the Administration of which the honorable member for Gippsland was the head. Provision had been made upon the statute-book for the resumption of land,- but had never been put into operation until I took office. I occupied the .Ministerial position for only a short twelve months, but during that time I resumed three large estates and left behind me a recommendation for the resumption of another. In addition to that, I purchased a property at Moreland, within three miles of the Melbourne Post Office, and settled upon it a number of artisans and others, and gave them homes. I will tell the honorable member the result of that action. There are now fifty families settled there, holding from one to two acres of their own. They have thirty-one and a half years within which to pay the purchase money, the payments being made somewhat after the building societies’ plan, in sixty-three half-yearly instalments. The honorable member can go to Moreland and see the result of the experiment for himself.
– I do not say anything as ‘ to the experiment, but I contend that land settlement can be encouraged in a much better way than that proposed by the honorable member.
– If the honorable member would hold his tongue I should be obliged. Four country estates were resumed, upon which 189 families are now settled, whereas there were only four families in occupation previously.
– Is that in Victoria?
– Yes. The total sum which has been spent in the purchase of these estates is a little over £201,000. As showing that the system has proved a success, despite the bad years which we have recently experienced, I may mention that the arrears of payments at the present time represent only 1 per cent, of the rents, which, of course, also include the purchase money. No more gratifying experiment could possibly be entered upon, and the results show that the policy of land resumption by the State is a sound one if it be faithfully and wisely carried out. Of course, in the absence of extreme care it is possible to purchase land at too high a price, or land which is not suitable for the purposes to which it is to be put, and if that be done, it necessarilv follows that the State will suffer. ‘ But the fact remains that to-day in Victoria the arrears of payments upon re-purchased estates total only 1 per cent., and there is a profit to the credit of these estates, a large amount ‘of which has been expended in- improving them in various ways for the settlers. I mention this because we cannot enter upon a policy of encouragement to immigration unless we have a clear understanding with the States as to how they intend to find the land upon which immigrants are to be settled. I have shown the results of the experiment in Victoria in order that the public may know that this is not a wild, hair-brained, socialistic scheme.
– It is socialism, all- the same.
– Yes. But socialism of a class that I like. Our credit foncier system is socialistic, and so also is the control of our water-works by the State. I do not condemn socialism because of its name, but only because of its application in certain cases. If we are to attract immigrants from other countries, we must see that the land is prepared in advance of their coming. In -this connexion it would be well if the States purchased estates, held them back for a year or two, and forwarded plans of them to the countries from which we desire ‘to attract population. In some cases in Queensland, where the policy of resumption has been pursued, it has been customary to set apart one-third of the land for allotment to persons who have not been resident in the State for three months. The idea underlying this practice was that newcomers should not be elbowed out by those who had been longer resident in the country. I repeat that we must have the land available for settlement before the immigrants arrive, and we must be able to offer it to them upon reasonable terms. This class of settlement is progressing to a wonderful degree in California. There, they have a body known as the Californian Promotion Committee. It is formed chiefly of business and professional men, and is maintained by subscription. There is a central committee in San Francisco, and in every county in the State there are two or three members of the committee. They have rooms set apart for the purpose of disseminating information relating to every part of California. If an individual desires to ascertain the best localities in which to enter upon the growth of citrus fruits, for example, the information is promptly forthcoming. So it is in regard to the dairying, pastoral, and agricultural industries. Intending settlers are taken in hand and advised of the localities which will suit their requirements, and they are shown the land. Hence we find that during the past ten years the population of California has increased from 1,213,000 to 1,500,000. As evidencing the production in this State, I need only mention that in 1900, 528,908 tons, each ton containing 2,000 Ids. of fruit, were despatched by rail and sea.
– Is not this encouragement to settlement undertaken by private companies in California?
– A good deal of it is undertaken by public-spirited citizens who make nothing out of it.
– Exactly. It is carried out by gentlemen belonging chiefly to the business and professional class - men who love their State and who love this work. Of course the encouragement of immigration will necessarily mean recasting the State agencies at home. At the present time they are scattered about in all directions, and frequently come into conflict with each other.
Altogether they are woefully defective. What we require is one central building in which all information concerning Australia can be obtained - a building presided over by one head. At the present moment the existing agencies are costing Australia from £25,000 to £30,000 a year. I am sure that the expenditure of less than half that sum would provide a thoroughly satisfactory salary to a good man, meet the salaries of the assistants, and allow of the work being performed in a very much better manner than it is now. All necessary information relating to our land laws, our railways, our water facilities, and indeed, to almost everything else connected with Australia, should be obtainable in such a building. Then if we develop a (large export trade, and establish an agricultural bureau working in the States, we shall have to place the inspection of exports under the Commonwealth, because all shipments of produce are looked upon as Australian, and not as belonging to the particular State from which they come, a bad shipment prejudicing Australia as a whole. Of course, other countries are competing with us for immigrants, notably the United States, Canada, and South Africa. But in no essential element are we behind those countries. We have the climate and soil and every other necessary condition. We have land upon which we can grow all products. In Canada the land, for nearly half the year, is as hard as an asphalt pavement. There, buildings are an absolute necessity for the housing of stock; here they are merely a convenience. Further, we have facilities for growing special products such as are possessed by very few other countries. There are certain staples which probably any country in the world can produce ; others again which are universally required can be produced only in special districts. We possess those districts, and we should utilize them to the fullest possible extent. Of course we cannot hope to attract a large number of immigrants to our shores without making the best possible use of ou-r water resources. That subject, however, iis too large for me to discuss now, but under a motion of which I have given notice, I hope’ to be able to debate it at a very early date. Concerning preferential trade, it seems to me that those who oppose it take a somewhat narrow view. It is not merely a question of a 5 per cent, or a 10 .per cent, duty - it is not only a question of profit - but one of the solidarity and unity of the Empire. That is’ what Mr. Cham berlain has in his mind, and those who read Mr. Balfour’s pamphlet will be convinced that his desire is to make the Empire homogeneous. Otherwise disintegration will sooner or later result, and we know what will follow. However, preferential trade is not at our doors yet. Whilst it was right to insert a reference to that question in the Government programme, there is no need for us to occupy too much time in discussing it now. We have simply to let the people in the old land know that we are prepared to consider them, to give them fair play, and to do what we can to bind the Empire together.. The questions of agriculture and immigration are intimately connected with the establishment of an agricultural bureau. I trust that, ere long, the Government will see their way to institute a Department of that kind. In the United States it has rendered most invaluable service. We should have a similar Department here working in conjunction with our State agricultural bureaux. In New South Wales there is a Department which cannot be excelled in any part of the world. It possesses splendid men, who are doing magnificent work - work, in the benefits arising from which the whole of Australia should share as far as possible. In regard to all these matters I think that the Government might well take the opinion of members who represent agricultural constituencies in this House. Indeed, seeing that we already have three parties here, I do not know why we should not have a fourth - an agricultural party. I am sure that the honorable member for Gippsland would make a splendid head of it, and possibly we should be able to render good service to the Commonwealth. I am aware that provision is promised in His Excellency’s speech for bounties for agricultural products. That is a project upon which we shall have to embark very carefully. Personally, I am not opposed to the system. A good deal has been done in Victoria in that direction, but whilst in some cases the system has been successful, in many others comparative failures have resulted, simply because no supervision was exercised over the expenditure and the future of the industries to be benefited. I take the same view regarding the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as that which is entertained by the honorable member for Gippsland. I desire that its provisions shall not be made applicable to the farming or dairying industries, arid I am also opposed to’ State servants being brought within the scope of- the Bill. I wish also to point out that a section of the press is busily engaged in representing that the failure of the Government to secure satisfactory tenders for a new mail service was entirely due to the embargo which was placed upon the employment of : coloured labour on these vessels. I know I that- in these tenders provisions were included, notably at the instance of the honor able and learned member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Kooyong, and myself, for the better and safer carriage of perishable products. Those provisions were inserted because the system under which these ^products have been carried for years past nas spelt ruin to a large number of our .’ people. I should like to know whether those provisions have not had the effect of limiting the number of tenders received, equally with the prohibition which applies to the employment of coloured labour?
– A good deal more so.
– At the same time, the press arid other critics of the Government insist upon asserting that the failure of the Commonwealth to secure suitable tenders has been due simply .to the one condition. I was under the impression that it was due in a large measure to the other, and that impression has practically been confirmed. I trust that nothing will be done at the present juncture towards the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, for on that point I am entirely in agreement with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne- I feel satisfied that matter’s which are the subject of conflict between the States themselves or between the Commonwealth and the States, can be amicably settled by means of conferences. An interchange of views by the representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth should be sufficient to bring about satisfactory results without the appointment of an expensive tribunal. I trust that the lengthy programme submitted by the Government will be carried out. If it is, I feel that so far, at all events, as the practical measures set forth are concerned, we shall have done something to place ourselves on better terms with the people of- Australia, and to secure for us the approval of our constituents when next we have to meet them.
– In rising to address this House for the first time, the diffidence that a new member naturally feels is in my case increased by the fact that I have the .privilege to succeed so estimable and so high-minded a man as is Mr. Samuel Winter Cooke, who in the last Parliament so worthily occupied the position now held by me. ‘ I am greatly indebted to that gentleman for many evidences of good will and esteem. I am also indebted to him for the fact that honorable members have been good enough to extend much consideration to me as one who follows in his “footsteps. I count myself most fortunate in that I was privileged to listen to the speeches delivered by the leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister in this House last week. I had heard both of these honorable gentlemen on many previous occasions, but I do not think that I had ever derived more pleasure from their addresses. ‘I felt somewhat sorry for the Prime Minister when he put before us the terrible list of difficulties with which the Government had had to contend at the last general election. As I listened to his long catalogue of woes, it seemed to me remarkable that the Government had succeeded in getting back even one of its supporters ; but when I gave the matter consideration, I could only help recalling the fact that a very different . tone was adopted by some of the supporters of the Government, here and elsewhere, just before the last elections. I remembered that the Prime Minister paid a visit to Sydney, and ( made a speech there which I believe had for j the time being, great effect. We were told I by the press, which supports him here, as well as by his followers, that the walls of : Jericho had fallen ; that just as the walls of Jericho fell in years gone by at the sound of I a loud shout, so the walls of another Jericho I had fallen at the sound of a loud shout by the Prime Minister, and that Sydney was I henceforth to be the home of the protection- I ist. Shortly afterwards a visit was paid to I Melbourne by a very strong supporter of the Government - Mr. B. R. Wise - who told us j that it was a case of veni, vidi, viet; that the ; Prime Minister went to Sydney, he spoke and he conquered. Mr. Wise pictured a most ! terrible decimation of the free-trade ranks in that State. The leader of the Opposition was to be beaten ; the honorable and learned member for Werriwa was never again to move in this House : “That the Chairman do now leave the chair,” the honorable member for Dalley was never again to debate that question here; the honorable member for North Sydney would be among the missing, and the honorable member for Parramatta would lose his deposit. Many other pictures were put before us, showing the decimation which was to take place in the ranks of the free-trade part)’ in New South Wales. Those prophecies, fortunately, have not been fulfilled, and indeed, it seems to me that the position of the Government in New South. Wales, as well as in Victoria, is not as strong as it was prior to the last elections. Although a determined assault was made upon the gallant Victorian four who* held the fort in the last Parliament, so far as the Opposition was concerned, they managed to retain their places by increased majorities, while the Opposition also succeeded in securing another seat.
– By minority representation.
– I should have liked very much to have a straight-out contest in my own electorate with a Government candidate.
– Or with the Labour Party’s candidate.
– Yes. Most certainly.
– In that event we should have beaten the honorable and learned member badly.
– I do not believe in three-cornered contests; I prefer to see a straight-out run. The Government candidate for Wannon cut into my vote, and helped the Labour Party’s candidate from first to last.
– That will not do.
– But it is a fact. We nave also to remember that in the election of representatives for Victoria in another place, the four candidates selected by the Government found themselves somewhere among the ruck. One of their number was twelfth, fourteenth, or sixteenth on the list, and under these circumstances I think that the Government have little reason to’ congratulate themselves on the result of the elections. The party which has reason to congratulate itself is the party which has already done so - the Labour Party. Their discipline and organization were such that they secured many victories. I was struck with astonishment at the excellent organization they displayed in connexion with the contest for the representation of Wannon.
– It is the party which! has the admiration of both the other parties, and the sympathies of neither.
– Quite so. The fiscal question has been given much prominence by many honorable members who have already spoken during this debate. I am one of those representatives of Victoria who believe that it would be inadvisable to .have .any general re-opening of the
Tariff question for some time to come. I know that, in this respect, I differ to some extent from my honorable friends from New South Wales, but I feel that the continual re-opening of the Tariff question would be injurious to the merchants and producers of the States. In these circumstances, I welcomed the statement by the Prime Minister, that he was prepared for a fiscal peace; but, .at the same time, I pointed out to the electors of. my constituency that it would be advisable to carefully watch the efforts made in this direction. I reminded them of the old proverb about “ fearing the Greeks’ most when they bring gifts,” for the last elections had shown a great many members of’ the party in Victoria, New South Wales, and elsewhere that they might very well be deceived by spurious promises. I find now,, that instead of there being a fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament, there will be a fiscal war “before we have been long in ‘session. I have before me a copy of the speech’ delivered by the Governor-General, and I find that the first Bill referred to is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Next to that we have the Navigation Bill, which most certainly involves the question of protection or free-trade, while the third on the list is the Iron Bonus Bill, which no one can deny is a fiscal Bill. The Opposition in the last Parliament was strong enough, on many a division, to cut the claws of the protectionist party, and I have no doubt that, strengthened as it has been in New South Wales, and helped as it has been in Victoria, it will be able to give this proposal to grant a bonus for the manufacture of. iron a very warm welcome. For my own part, I am determined to oppose any proposal to give any syndicate or corporation some £300,000 of the people’s money. I ob’ject tb a proposal of the kind, not only on the ground that it is a wrong and vicious principle for any company or corporation to be benefited at the expense of the taxpayers, but also from considerations relating to the position of the States Treasuries. Some of us,’ who have had a slight and fleeting experience in the States Parliaments, are familiar with the difficulties which the Treasurers of the States have encountered in recent years, and any proposal to give away in this way money which -is now returnable to the States, must make their position still more difficult. It must lead them either to cruel and drastic retrenchment, or to increased taxation. I do not wish to see -either of these things, and therefore I intend to carefully scrutinize any proposal put before this House for the expenditure of public money in this way. I believe that there is no call for the expenditure of ^300,000 of the people’s money in the way proposed by the Government, and I do not consider that money so expended would bring any permanent benefit to the people of the Commonwealth. My predecessor was a member of the Royal Commission which considered this subject, and I thoroughly indorse his views. I have had the advantage of considering the reports prepared by the six on the one side and the six on the other - because there was an equal division of members - and it seems to me that the report of the six favorable to the granting of a bonus does not in any way touch the position taken up by those against the proposition. The question of preferential trade has also been referred to at great length by many honorable members. I am prepared to go as far as is any honorable member in the direction of securing preferential trade, provided that the preference to the mother country be real and genuine, and not the bogus one that was put up by the protectionist party prior to, and at, the last general elections. It is just as well that we should see what was the position taken up by the Protectionist Party when this proposal was first mooted. I find that the Prime Minister, in the course of a speech delivered by him in this House on the 9th October last, was asked by the honorable member for Darwin -
Does the Prime Minister’s statement mean that there is any danger of the present Tariff being reduced ? and that he replied -
If there is any danger, it comes from my *right honorable friend opposite, and not from this side of the House.
In other words, the Government were then pledged against a reduction of the Tariff in favour of Great Britain. A little prior to that date a protectionist conference met in this city, and was attended by the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Minister for Home Affairs, and other prominent members of the Government. A telegram was sent by that conference to Mr. Chamberlain, expressing belief in preferential trade on the basis of the maintenance of the existing protectionist duties. A preference of that kind would be a sham. It would mean no real preference to the mother country, and is ably summed up in a picture drawn by Mr. F. Carruthers-Gould, whose cartoons in the Westminster Gazette have gained of late so much prominence. In this cartoon the artist depicts John Bull pointing to a tariff wall, and saying to his colonial friend - “ I say, my colonial friend, are you going to lower this wall ?” The colonist replies - “ Well, not exactly lower it, but I’m going to raise the other part, so that this will be comparatively lower.” To this John Bull replies - “ Humph. ‘ It’ll want the same length , of ladder as before.” That is the position which the protectionist party takes, up in regard to preferential trade. It is pleasing to note that since the holding of this conference, the vigour with which the free-trade party has carried on the campaign has caused the protectionists to considerably modify their opinions, and we are now told by the Prime Minister that they are prepared to accept suggestions for a reduction of duties in favour of Great Britain. The greater the reduction, the greater, I hope, will be the support that it will receive from this side of the House. I think I may say that many honorable members on this side will not have the slightest objection to make a substantial reduction in favour of the mother country. The Navigation Bill has a bearing upon this question, and I would ask how are we to give a preference to the mother country if we are going to try to hamper and impede her shipping? The mercantile marine is the greatest asset of the British Empire, and any attempt to harrass that asset must be dangerous, not only to the Commonwealth, but to the Empire. What benefit will it be to the mother country to give her some temporary preference on goods imported to the Commonwealth, whilst her greatest industry, the mercantile marine, is injured by oppressive . legislation here? How does such a proposal square with the protectionist party’s professions of loyalty ? We are told that the preferential trade question is to be dropped for some time. I presume that means that it will be resuscitated at the next general election, and used to give a spurious brand of loyalty to the protectionist party. In the same way, the Government, doubtless, hope that the Navigation Bill .will be forgotten, together with other legislation aimed at- the British workman. I take it that a party which advocates legislation aimed at British shipping and British workmen cannot claim from the mother country any great favours in the nature of preferential trade. The real friends of the British people are those who desire that the rates of duty imposed upon goods coming here from the mother country shall be as low as possible, and who do not believe in harassing and oppressing British seamen and workmen generally.
– And who would at the same time let every foreigner come in.
– We hear always this talk about the foreigner ; but it is merely so much bluff to carry through a scheme for robbing the British Empire by injuring its mercantile marine and for unfairly taxing our own producers. This scheme to prevent British and foreign vessels- from trading between the ports of the Commonwealth unless they comply with certain restrictions means, if it has any meaning at all, . the creation of opportunities for the local ship-owners to combine to raise freights. It must be borne in mind, however, that the local ship-owners have hitherto done remarkably well. As one meets them in the street they appear the most prosperous of men. Why should the producers of Victoria or of the other eastern States who export to Western Australia or Queensland be penalized by having to pay extra freights in order to increase the riches of a few already extremely wealthy men who ha%’e their offices in Collins-street, Melbourne, and in George and Pitt streets, Sydney? That is the position we take up.
– “ To him that hath shall be given !”
– As the honorable and learned member reminds me, it is the old story of giving to him that has more than sufficient already. This is merely a policy of greasing the fat sow. The local shipping companies are doing well. One of them recently turned its business into a public company, and has since shown very substantial profits, while its previous returns were also exceedingly good. Why should the position of the ship-owners of Australia be improved at the expanse of the community generally ?
– To which company does the honorable member refer ?
– To Messrs. Howard Smith and Co. The other companies are also doing remarkably well.
– Those connected with them do not say so.
– I never yet heard of a manufacturer .connected with a protected industry, or asking for a bonus, making- anything but a poor mouth about his business when he approached the Legislature. When any individual is asking for the privilege of dipping his hand into the pockets of his fellow citizens to filch their money, he puts on a shabby coat and hat, and makes out a poor case for himself; but directly he has received his duty, or bounty, he puts on a good coat and hat again.
– That remark applies particularly well to the over-sea companies at the present moment.
– There is great divergence of opinion in this Chamber upon tha question of the employment of coloured labour upon the mail steamers. Some of those on the Ministerial cross benches do not agree with the policy of the Government, while some of those on the opposition cross benches do not agree with the policy, of those who occupy the front opposition seats. I strongly believe in securing a White Australia. I hold the opinion that our race would be contaminated if we allowed coloured aliens to land on our shores. The danger of contamination is so great that we should at all hazards insist upon their exclusion, but I do not consider it a legitimate extension of the policy of a White Australia to attempt to prevent lascars and ‘other coloured subjects of the Empire from being employed upon the oversea mail steamers. The ocean is wide enough for all, and it is a doginthemanger policy to try to prevent coloured men who are subjects of the Empire from earning a living upon British steamers. The position of the Government in regard to this matter is an extraordinary one. They have offered two baits to their followers. In the first instance, we were to have an ocean mail service carried on exclusively with white crews, while the producers of Australia were to enjoy the benefit <bf thoroughly up-to-date refrigerating appliances upon every steamer, which would insure the conveyance Of the’ir. (perishable produce to London in the best condition possible. Money was spent in drawing up the conditions under which tenders were to be sent in, and in advertising for tenders; but when no tenders were received - and every one felt sure that no reasonable tender would .be received - the PostmasterGeneral retired, as it were, into winter quarters for a few days, and emerged with a minute in which he set forth the statement that the day for giving subsidies to mail steamers has passed, that it is an antiquated and stupid system which no sane man would think of supporting. That was the second position of the Government. Now we have the third position. The Prime Minister tells us that he still hopes to obtain a contract under the former conditions, though personally I do not think that he has much chance of getting a satisfactory service. Suppose the Government fail to make contracts on the subsidy system, we shall within a short time have to resort to the poundage system. That means a contract just the same. Honorable members may say that it will not be a contract, but in fact and in law to place the mails upon steamers and require the owners to deliver them at the other side of the globe for a stipulated charge is to make a contract. The only difference between such a contract and the contracts under the subsidy system is that with the poundage arrangement there is no formal written agreement under seal. The mails, if carried under the poundage system, will still suffer the dreadful contamination of black labour, but, on the other hand, we shall lose all the benefits which would be enjoyed under a formal contract stipulating the payment of a subsidy. We shall be unable to require the steamers to run at regular times ; we shall be unable to compel them to improve their refrigerating accommodation, and, in short, we shall have all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of the present system. It is only splitting straws to say that, while we are perfectly prepared to’ pay poundage rates for the conveyance of mails by steamers upon which coloured labour is employed, we are not prepared to enter into a formal contract in black and white for the payment of subsidies to such steamers.
– The honorable member would like to give a bonus for the employment of black labour.
– We must pay for the conveyance of our mails, Under the poundage system the people who will suffer will be the farmers and business men of the community. Of course, in the busy season of the year, the steamers will run quickly in order to meet the demands of the trade/but in the slack season they may take four or five days longer to complete their .passages. If they were subsidized, however, we could compel them to make their trips within a specified time, and could require the observance of other conditions which would be of benefit to those who use the service. Reference has been made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I am one of the small minority in this House who are opposed to the introduction of that Bill. I do not think it fair that the employers of labour throughout Australia should have to obey two sets of industrial legislation, the State and the Commonwealth legislation. In most of the States, and particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, the industrial legislation now in force is of a particularly searching character, and it seems to me unfair to superimpose upon employers a Commonwealth law which may, and in all probability will, conflict with the legislation of the States. If we do so, employers will be forced to go to the High Court in order to ascertain which law they must obey. I do not think that they should be placed in that, position. On the question of State rights I am at one with the Government, and I am glad that ‘ they intend to stick to their colours. I do not think that the Commonwealth should endeavour to dictate to the Governments of the States as to the wages they shall pay their employes. I hold the belief that if we do so, the High Court will give a judicial decision which will soon put matters to right; but, apart from that, it is wrong for us to place upon’ the statute-book legislation which directly interferes with the rights of the States. Honorable members have referred to the need for new party distinctions. It seems to me that in the future the Commonwealth Parliament must be divided into nationalists and federalists ; between those who, notwithstanding the solemn agreement drawn up in the Constitution and sanctioned by the people, wish to go as far as they can in the direction of unification, and those who believe that the Federal compact should be kept and the rights of the States respected.
– We cannot go beyond the provisions of the Constitution.
– The proposals of the Labour Party tend towards unification. The suggestion that the Commonwealth Parliament should dictate to the Governments of the States what wages they shall pay their servants is a step towards unification, while the proposal for a Commonwealth tobacco monopoly is another such step.
– It is a matter of opinion whether the Constitution does ‘not allow both those’ proposals.
– The great majority of the legal authorities of the House will tell the honorable1 member.” that both proposals are beyond the provisions of the Constitution. Though the. question of State rights is receiving little consideration now. it is of great importance, and must receive consideration in the future. I do not believe in unification. I do not think that this great continent can be governed by one Administration and by one Parliament. I firmly believe in State rights, and the rights of the States are affected not only by measures such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but by every proposal for expenditure which comes before this Parliament, since the Governments of the States depend upon the Government of the Commonwealth for the great bulk of their revenue. They have in the past contracted enormous liabilities, to meet which they relied upon their Customs revenue, and if their rights are not protected, they are within measurable distance of disaster. I _was pleased, therefore, when the Treasurer met the Treasurers of the States in conference to discuss the possibility of consolidating their debts, and I read the report of the Conference with gre.at interest. It seemed to me, however, that the right honorable gentleman practically held the pistol at the heads of the Treasurers of the States by telling them that, unless they agreed to his proposals, the Commonwealth Parliament, when it got to work, would make their position a great deal worse. Those who drew up the Constitution and who, like yourself, Mr. Speaker, were so prominent in their advocacy of State rights, might well have gone further than they did in requiring guarantees for the recognition of the rights of the States.
– The honorable member appears to desire the alteration of the Constitution backwards.
– No ; but I wish to see its provisions observed. It should be regarded as a Federal Constitution, not as an instrument for unification. The energies of the honorable member, and of his party, however, are, consciously or unconsciously, directed towards unification.
– We recognise the limitations of the Constitution, and know that we must work within them.
– The last question upon which I wish to touch is that of Federal expenditure, and I hope that the representatives of New South Wales will bear with me when I say that I am not in favour of expending money in building a Federal Capital.
– What about observing the conditions of the Constitution?
– After a careful study and consideration of the question, I believe that a mistake was made when the Convention decided that the Federal Capital shall not be in one of the large cities of the Continent. The experience of America is that the establishment of capitals, both for the Federation and for the States, in the bush, has been a fruitful source of corruption and improper influence. Honorable members have from time to time complained of the strictures of the press, and at the last general election I was chastised with almost parental vigour on more than one occasion. At the same time, I think that the press exerts a good influence in giving publicity to all our doings. Once the Federal Parliament is buried in the back-blocks, it will be lost to the fear of that publicity, and will probably allow jobs to be perpetrated which would not otherwise be possible. I hope, therefore, that the Constitution will be amended in the direction of making Sydney the Federal Capital for, at any rate, the next twentyfive or fifty years.
– No. Melbourne.
– I am not so selfish as to wish that the Federal Capital should be established here. It is desirable that the Federal Parliament should meet at some large centre, and in view of the associations of the mother city, I think that it should receive the first consideration. I fully recognise the great claims of New South Wales. I believe that that State would never have entered the Federation but for the assurance that the Federal Capital would be located within its territory, at some reasonable distance from Sydney. I hope that this question will be settled, because it gives rise to much debate. Although I think that it would be a mistake to establish a Federal city in the wilds, yet if the majority of the two Houses see fit to fix upon an inland site, nothing remains but to carry out their decision, provided that the proposals for building are characterized by strict regard for economy. We should do nothing to hamper the States Treasurers at the present time. One has only to look at the conditions which haveto be met by the State Treasurers of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, or to recognise the immense difficulties under which they labour in their endeavours to make their ledgers balance, to be satisfied it would be the height of wickedness on our part to sanction extravagant expenditure. It would completely disorganize the States finances. For this reason I intend to oppose all billet-making proposals, such as those relating to the appointment of the Inter-State Commission and the High Commissioner. The States expenditure upon Agents-General will not be decreased, and the proposed outlay upon an Inter-State Commission can very well be postponed for years to come. I intend to consider how each proposal for spending money submitted would affect the States Treasurers. They should be entitled to our first regard, because they are more closely in touch with the taxpayers than we are, and will have to bear the brunt of any extravagance on our part. Our duty, therefore, is to protect them as far as possible. I desire to once again express the hope that when this Parliament becomes properly shaken down, the different political parties will group themselves into Nationalists and Federalists, thus copying the splendid example of the United States. For many years the Federalists were successful, and their very successes enabled the Nationalists later on to carry out the sound and progressive programme which has been so successful in that country.
– The honorable member for Wannon during his excellent speech, expressed the opinion that some consideration should be extended to his youth. I am sure that there was nothing in his utterance to indicate youth except the freshness of it. Both in his case, and in that of the honorable member for Wentworth, the electors are to be congratulated upon having sent into the Federal Parliament excellent representatives of the young manhood of Australia, who will undoubtedly do their part in maintaining at a high intellectual level the tone of this House. In view of the despondent tone of the Prime Minister at the Australian Natives’ Association banquet, when he indicated his fears of trouble owing to the peculiar balance of parties, I might congratulate the Government upon the fact that they still retain their seats in the second week of the first session of the second Parliament of Australia. The retention of their position is all the more noteworthy because they have been weakened by the elevation of two of their leaders to the High Court Bench ; they have lost, perhaps, their most virile member through the resignation, upon a point of principle, of the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide; and they have also been sent back by the electors with a somewhat curtailed following. I do not wish to refer to their administration, except upon one or two points. Although I may have to trespass upon ground that has already been well trodden, it is only, right, when one considers that the Ministry do not wish to refer to their administration, to take notice of them in a general debate of this kind. Some of the matters referred to, such as the employment of coloured labour on the mail steamers, are such that if reprehensible action has been taken, the responsibility must rest upon Parliament. If there was anything wrong in including in the mail contracts a clause relating to the employment of coloured labour, the responsibility must rest upon this* House, which accepted the proposals without even going to a division. I am almost sorry that I did not propose the amendment I suggested to some honorable members on this side of the House, and to some members of the Labour Party, which I think might have relieved the Government of some difficulty. I suggested that instead of compelling the Government to exclude from the right of tender companies that employed coloured labour, preference should be given, other things being equal, to steamers upon which only white labour was employed. Although it might seem a strong step to take, I think that the error we made should be re trieved by the amendment of the Act. I say that, although I am quite as much in favour of the principle of a White Australia as are the members of the Labour Party. In fact, I voted for a straight-out prohibition of coloured labour in preference to the provision which now finds a place upon our statute-book. I do not think, however, that the principle of a White Australia is affected by the mere inclusion in the Post and Telegraph Act of the declaration of a moral principle, because it does not amount to anything more than a political homily. It does no good to the principle of a White Australia, and it has no substantial effect either in restraining coloured labourers from coming to Australia, or preventing the depreciation of the wages of those employed upon mail steamers. The contracts entered into with the crews are through contracts, and cannot possibly affect the rate of wages in Australia.It is unfortunate that in these times, when so much is being said about the Imperial spirit, we should be embarrassed in our relations with the British Government. We belong to the Empire, and should, do our best to help the mother country. But in connexion with the mail contract we find that the Imperial Government have still to pay the subsidy in connexion with the Australian postal traffic. A general contract is entered into for the carriage of mails between Great Britain and China, India, and Australia, the payment made being £300,000 per annum. Therefore, whilst that contract lasts, and I believe that it has still two or three years to run, we shall have the benefit of that portion of the subsidy “ which relates to the carriage of the Australian mails. A lump sum is paid for the three services, but it is estimated that the proportion contributed for the Australian service is £98,000. When no real principle is furthered it is a great mistake to interfere with the expeditious transit of our mails, and the great conveniences that are afforded under the mail contract system. We can ill afford, in these days of severe commercial competition, to do without such advantages. I have seen it stated that, owing to some of the mail steamers reaching here, within thirtyone or thirty-two days from London it very often happens that the invoices relating to goods shipped by ordinary steamers can be sent by mail at a date subsequent to the despatch of the cargo, and yet arrive here in time for use in the clearing of the imports. Many conveniences are offered by these services, and it is a great mistake, when no substantial benefits result from an abstract declaration of principle, to interfere with them.
– The commercial conveniences referred to have not been extended to Queensland.
– Perhaps not. But we shall not cause the steamers to extend their facilities to Queensland by inserting a special clause in our mail contracts prohibiting the employment of coloured labour. On the other hand, such a provision may have the effect of preventing the mail steamers from calling at Adelaide. It is almost certain that, after a time, the P. and O. and Orient steamers will not regularly call at Adelaide if they are to be prohibited from tendering for the carriage of the mails. With regard to the Petriana incident, there is no doubt that there has been a great deal of confusion. On reading the newspaper accounts, it seemed to me that the Ministry were much more open to condemnation than appears after the perusal of the papers laid upon the table by the Government. Upon some points there is a great conflict. Still, where the Government have to administer a drastic enactment, they should make pro- %’ision for an exceptional case like that of shipwreck. It was a great mistake for the Government to wrangle with Messrs. Gollin and Co., Mr. Terry, and Mr. Stewart, for five solid hours, whilst the men were down at Williamstown waiting to land. The vessel was stuck up at Williamstown with a constable on the pier to prevent the men from landing, whilst the question was discussed whether the men should be landed at the quarantine station, or be placed upon a tug. The agents of the vessel were unable to obtain any definite advice, and in the end were told that they could land the men upon their own responsibility. The Government should have made provision for such an emergency. As regards the Suiting case, the Act was administered after the man was released, and, to say nothing about his offence in landing contraband goods, for which he paid the penalty, the test was applied in a manner quite opposite to that, which was to be expected, after the promise made by Sir Edmund Barton as to the method of administration. When the Bill was introduced provision was made that the immigrant should be examined as to his knowledge of some European language, and I think that the honorable member for Melbourne moved that the lanena ire should be selected by the immigrant. He made the suggestion,- and I think I moved in the matter. Sir Edmund Barton objected. He accepted part of my amend ment, which was to the effect that instead of the language being read out to the Customs officer, it should be dictated. But heobjected to the Government being expressly bound to allow to the immigrant the right of determining the language to be used for the test. In fact, he urged that it would betray a want of confidence in the administration of the Act by those who framed it. He said -
If a Swede were asked to write a passage at dictation, i should not dream of instructing the officer to subject the immigrant to a test in Italian. That would be unfair, and is not what the House has in its mind in passing this legislation.
I then pushed the matter a little further, because I recognise that we owe a duty to ether countries. Surely it is against all rules of international comity or equity that we should place on the statute-book a provision of which the administration is not clear. Under the guise of a colour test we should not apply a language test which might run, at the option of the officer, from English to Chinese. But, again, Sir Edmund Barton pointed out that the Ministry ought not to be distrusted in this matter. He said -
I do not think I ought to consent to an amendment which really has at the bottom of it a supposition that there might be cases in which an officer and a Minister might conspire to defraud an immigrant out of his choice of language. That is not the way in which any such Act can be administered.
But that is the way in which it has been administered. Of course the Ministry may say that we intended the education test to exclude coloured aliens; if that is the intention, I say that it is more in accordance with the dignity of a nation to expressly say so. Some of our strongest critics at home have stated that they cannot see any reasonable objection to a colour test pure and simple, considering that Australia is situated so close to the energetic and teeming millions of Asia. Regarding the case of Stelling, I do not know that he should have fallen under the colour test. The dominant blood there is European. There is an Arabian and European cross. and we all know that in such cases the breed is generally dominated by the higher blood. I do not wish to refer to the case of the six hatters further than to say that though similar legislation exists in America, there is no other country in the world in which labour contracts are regarded as a bar to the admission of subjects of the same Crown. We in Australia, t’or example, prior to federation, would not have tolerated legislation which would prevent a white resident in South Australia from entering New South Wales. Why? Because we are subject to the same allegiance. Then, I ask - Does the mere fact of an individual crossing 14.000 miles of ocean to another portion of the Empire alter the case? Certainly not, if there is anything whatever in. ali this high-flown talk in reference to Imperial solidarity. I think it is probable that if the constitutionality of these provisions were tested from the point of view of applying the test only to British subjects, the Courts would declare that we have no power to enforce them.
– Notwithstanding the Constitution ?
– The Constitution gives us no power which was. not previously possessed by the States. In connexion with the exclusion of British subjects, it has been laid down, apparently by some very able legal writers, that as an inference from the decision of 1747 in the Aeneus Mac donnell case, the power to exclude British subjects is not amongst those which are delegated to a colonial Legislature. It is really refreshing to turn from the somewhat pettifogging administration of an Act which enunicates a good principle to a remonstrance against the proposed immigration to South Africa of about 200,000 Chinese. The protest forwarded by the Prime Minister was directed against a wholesale proposal to substitute coloured foreign for British white labour in a country whose inclusion in the British Empire was partly secured by the efforts of Australian soldiers against a method of development the opposite of that adopted here under circumstances by no means dissimilar. The admission of these Chinese must eventually lead to the demoralization of the white labouring classes, who alone give stability and permanence to a community. Within the. past twenty-four hours I have looked up the balance-sheets of some of the mining companies whose agitation has resulted in the passage of this legislation in South Africa. Honorable members are familiar with the position of these States constitutionally. The Orange Free State and the Transvaal have each a nominee Legislative Council. The very great majority of their members are nominees of Lord Milner. They are civil servants, and as such, under the rules of official etiquitte, are bound to obey his suggestions. It is certain that if we increase the coloured element in South Africa to any appreciable extent, the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony will ‘never obtain representative government. At present Natal has fourteen blacks to every white man, whilst Cape Colony and the Transvaal have four blacks to every white. In the Orange River Colony two-thirds of the population is black, and, on the top of that, it is proposed to introduce 200,000 Chinese. The result must be demoralization of the whites. If these Chinese are admitted; the white residents in South Africa will never obtain the benefit of laws such as operate here - laws relating to the ventilation of. mineS) and which insist upon suitable con ditions being provided for workmen. Realizing this, those- who are interested in the mines have succeeded in getting this particular legislation passed. In Johannesburg there are fifty-three companies, fiftyone of which are in the hands of Jews - principally continental Jews. There are really only two British ownerships, though, in saying that fifty-one of the companies are in the hands of the Jews, I am regarding as to some extent, under Jewish management, the mines of the Rhodes estate. Werner Beit and Co. are, I think, the late Mr. Rhodes’ representatives, and, to a large extent, the mines are under Jewish administration.
– Practically, Cohen owns the lot.
– I am speaking upon the evidence of the official returns for 1903. They are the sworn official returns which are published in the mining journals of South Africa. What are the profits derived from these mines? Let us take the four principal mines of the Rhodes group. Last year the net: income derived from them bordered closely upon £500,000, whilst the percentage of profit ranged from a minimum of 10 per cent, to a maximum of, I think, 50 per cent. Upon some of the other mines which are associated with the Rhodes Estate, but which are under the management of another company, the profits reached a maximum of 187 per cent, upon their paid-up capital. It cannot, therefore, be argued with any fairness that these companies were badly situated as regards the employment of labour. ‘ I find, also, that the manager of one of the mines, Mr. Cresswell, resigned his position immediately the proposal to introduce Chinese was submitted. Mr. Wybergh, the Commissioner of Mines in the Transvaal, also resigned his seat rather than agree to what he described as “ this iniquity.” ‘ At home, some of the ‘most liberal and sane journalists strongly condemned the movement. The Spectator describes it as practically a relapse into barbarism. For example, I find in that journal of 9th January last the following passage: -
If ive cannot enrich the Transvaal without this, plunge back into barbarism, which we do not believe, the Transvaal may stay poor.
But it need not stay poor on the evidence of the published balance-sheets of the companies. What does the Times say upon this question - the Times, which has been earning a reputation of late by varying its position in accordance with whatever popular breeze may be blowing? It has now, become a protectionist organ, although a few years ago it was one of the strongest advocates of free-trade.
– It is reforming.
– Some twenty years ago the man who, in the opinion of the Times, was bringing about the disintegration of the Empire was Mr. Chamberlain, who is now its legislative idol. The Johannesburg correspondent of that journal, writing on 15th January, 1903, when the proposal for Chinese immigration was first mooted, said -
It is to be hoped that every care will bs taken not to adjust present difficulties at the expense of the future, and to lay up for the country a debt, more serious than a monetary contribution, for which posterity may for ever anathematize this .generation. By admitting the Chinaman into this country we may be laying up for our descendants a heritage of misfortune before which the immediate prosperity of the colony consequent on the step will sink into insignificance.
But the evidence of the position of the mines in South Africa, the wholesale character of the proposed immigration, and the better class of opinion in England, all point to the fact that the remonstrance given by the Ministry, as the Ministry of a part of the Empire, was well-timed and exceedingly appropriate. If the Chinese find their way into South Africa there will be a relapse into slavery, because they will not only be tied to one employer, but tied to one residence. It is an immigration of the males only. We shall have in South Africa a mixed, race - a mixture, say, of mongolians and kaffirs, negro, British, and Dutch, all blending together to produce one effete progeny. It would ill beseem one. on the discussion of an Address in Reply, to dwell at very great length upon the question of preferential trade ; but, as it is somewhat disturbing the political atmosphere at home, and as the position of the States is, I think, misrepresented by Mr. Chamberlain - because he has stated that the response of England is being awaited - I shall make a short reference to it. In common with some other honorable members, and more especially those onthis side of the House, I regret that the Prime Minister has seen fit to invite Mr. Chamberlain to come out and stump this country in favour of the policy. What did the Prime Minister say in the cablegram which he sent last December to Mr. Chamberlain? It was almost an imploratory application to him to consider our position - to consider us as one of the intending partners in the scheme of preferential trade. In what way have we become intending partners? I was always under the impression that a State spoke through its Parliament^ and not only has Australia refrained from speaking through its Parliament, but Ministers themselves have not adhered to the declarations which they made, some two years ago, in favor of the principle. When speaking at Maitland, Sir Edmund Barton gave not a very enthusiastic, but at least a clear, adherence to the suggestions in favour of preferential trade, which had been made at two or three Imperial Conferences. But when he examined the subject he seemed to follow the example which Mr. Chamberlain set, by first declaring his principles, and afterwards seeking what foundation, if any, they had. He told us in this House that he had looked into the question, and had become doubtful of the expediency of some of the proposals ; that he had found that there were questions of reprisals and interference with trade ‘treaties, so far as Canada was concerned. We know that his Maitland policy was never followed by results in this House, nor have the Ministry ever put a proposition in favour of the adoption of preferential trade before the Parliament of the Commonwealth. To say, then, that we are intending partners in this scheme is simply a deception in words. If we are intending partners, where is the necessity to convert Australia to the principle? Does it not show that the Prime Minister himself must have some doubt, even as to the efficacy of his own eloquence in converting Australia to this principle, when he seeks the outside help of Mr. Chamberlain’s rhetoric? What I would suggest to the Ministry is that instead of embarrassing us by calling .upon us to meet: on a somewhat doubtful platform, Mr. Chamberlain, who at present represents no one, not even himself - because he is not consistent on any policy - it would be far better for them to publish some of Mr. Chamberlain’s speeches for the education of Australia. That would be a cheaper way of carrying out what is desired, and it would also prevent political distraction. Mr. Chamberlain himself has republished some of the speeches delivered by him between May and November of last year. If the Ministry would take a few more of the speeches made by him within the last fifteen or twenty years, and publish them broadcast, we should have, with .that impartiality and that fervour which the honorable gentleman throws into every phase of his political belief, a complete, statement of the pros and cons of this question. I would suggest, for instance, that an- extract might be made from a speech delivered by Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons on the 12th August, 1 88 1,, in which he stated that “a tax on food would mean a- decline in wages.” Then passing over a period of four years, we might have an extract from the speech which he delivered at Birmingham on the 5th January, 1885, in which he said that “ property cannot pay its debt to labour by taxing its means of subsistence.” There might have been time, perhaps, for even the most sincere politician to develop different opinions in a period of five years. An extract might therefore be published from a more recent speech delivered by Mr. - Chamberlain at one of the congresses of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, which was held in London on the 9th June, 1896. At the Conference Mr. Chamberlain again opposed the proposition - which he said came from the Colonies - for preferential trade. A proposition, made, I think, by a Cana.dian, in favour of preferential trade was negatived at that Conference by about thirtysix votes to twenty-five, the colonial representatives voting for it, and the bulk of the others, under the leadership of Mr. Chamberlain, voting against it. On that occasion he said -
This proposal requires that we should abandon our system in favour of theirs, and it is in effect, that while the Colonies should be absolutely free to impose what protective duties they please, both on foreign countries and on British commerce, they would be required to make a small discrimination in favour of British trade, in return for which we are expected to change our whole system and impose duties on food and raw material. Well, 1 express my own opinion when I say that there is not the slightest chance that in any reasonable time this country, or the Parliament of this country, would adopt so one-sided an agreement. The foreign trade of this country is so large, and the foreign trade of the Colonies is comparatively so small, that a small preference given to us upon that foreign trade by ‘the Colonies would make so trifling a difference - would be so small a benefit to the total volume of our trade - that I do not believe the working classes of this country would consent to make a revolutionary change for what they would think to be an infinitesimal gain.
Surely mv suggestion is a convenient and a fair one? It is fair to both sides in this country, which has not yet made up its mind, and it is fair to Mr. Chamberlain. It would show that he is capable of forcibly expressing the case on both sides. But even so great an authority as is Mr. Chamberlain may be slightly mistaken in his a priori knowledge of the Australian position. . He states, for instance, that the foreign trade of the Colonies is comparatively small.- As a matter of fact, if we look at the volume and character of that trade, we find reasons for doubting his statement and opposing his policy. So far as its character is concerned, it is one which should appeal especially to protectionists. It shows that we should not disturb the existing trade relations of the Empire, because, on the whole, it will be found that the exports of British possessions to foreign countries exceed the imports. That is the protectionist’s ideal of the relations of healthy trade, for, according to our protectionist friends, the moire one sends out of a country, and the less it imports, the better it is for that country. I find that while the British possessions, as a whole, send 43 per cent, of their exports to foreign countries, only 38 per cent, of their imports come from foreign countries! If we take individual communities, what do we find? Let me refer, for example, tothe position of India. Twenty-four per cent, of the imports into India are from foreign countries, but 53 per cent, of .its exports go to foreign countries. Again, let us look at the position of Tasmania. We find that 6 per cent, of Tasmania’s imports are from foreign countries, but that she sends 27 per cent, of her exports to those countries. Surely our protectionist friends do not wish to disturb that sort of balance of trade ? Let us now take Germany, which is really the bugbear of the preferntial tariffists. Australia has a large and a rapidly growing trade with that country. .Making some allowance for difference of method in estimating values, the figures are these: During 1903 our exports to Germany, according to the German valuation of those exports, were over £6,000,000 in value, while our imports from that country amounted to a little over £2,250,000. That is an excellent trade, which appeals to the sympathy of our protectionist friends. We know, of course, that the balance must be adjusted somewhere, or at all events we free-traders think that such must be the case. Unfortunately we remain in that state of intellectual cloudiness in which we assume that trade after all is a round-about matter, and that adjustments must take place in the clearing-houses of the world. The British Possessions do not send their exports to other countries merely because of feelings of international beneficence; they know that the balance will be rectified. It will be found, perhaps, in connexion with Germany, that the rectification of the balance takes place in the export to England of some of those very glass bottles .which so much disturb the equilibrium of Mr.. Chamberlain. They may be imported to meet some of the interest debt of England. The fact that England has an export trade to foreign countries amounting to nearly £240,000,000 per annum - the fact that about 75 per cent, of the total trade of England is with foreign countries - certainly suggests caution. It is a trade that we should hesitate to disturb. I mentioned a few moments ago that the volume of our trade with foreign countries is a rapidly increasing and profitable one. Practically until 1861 the whole of Australia’s exports went to England. While the increase in our export trade with Great Britain between 1881 and 1891 was 27 per cent., the increase in our trade with foreign countries during the same period was 120 per cent. Between 1 89 1 and 1901 the increase in our export trade with foreign countries was 74 per cent.,, against an increase of only 5 per cent, so far as Great Britain was concerned. Surely those figures -do not justify the proposed interference with trade? Let us look at the position with regard to wool. Until- 1.88.1 practically no wool was sent by Australia to the Continent. In that year I believe there was a shipment of about £54,000 worth, but last year we sent to the Continent over £10,000,000 worth of Australian wool. If we enter into a system of preferential trade with Great Britain, surely our neighbours - who are fairly expert at the game of reprisals, because the system has been tried before and has failed - may include in their scheme of reprisals a tax upon Australian wool. It may be said that our wool is essential to Germany;’ but is that the position? I mention Germany because about £4,000,000 worth of our exports of- wool go to that’ country, but the wool of the Argentine is now competing with our own in that market.
– It is not of the same class.
– Experts tell me that it is equally as good as our own.
– Experts, of course, may differ. I am not speaking on mere personal suggestion, but I have learned that the-
Argentine wool is gradually competing with the Australian production.
– Its quality has not been as good as our own, but it is becoming equal to the Australian production.
– Quite so. If the game of international trade reprisals is pushed to its limits, England, under its new protective policy, will have to impose a tax on imports of manufactured articles from Germany. In other words, goods made there from Australian wool may be taxed in England, and our exports of wool will be checked by the very policy which is to industrially develop the Empire. I put it to honorable members that this question requires a little more analysis at the hands, even of Ministers, .than it has hitherto received. The case of Canada will be cited. But what do we find there ? We find growing discontent among the manufacturers of the Dominion at the preferences granted to Great Britain. An official memorandum was issued last year by the Government, and from it I make this extract -
The Canadian Government has been attacked by the Canadian manufacturers on the ground that the preference is seriously, interfering with their trade. The woollen manufacturers have been foremost in the attack, and they have made very bitter complaints to the effect that the industry is threatened with ruin through the severe competition from Britain, brought about by the duties.
We have there on a small scale an instance of the inter-Imperial discontent which will be promoted by the policy of preference. Canada has done a little more than New Zealand in this matter. New Zealand has done the opposite to what Mr. Chamberlain suggests. She has added 50 per cent, to her duties upon foreign imports hitherto taxed, and has placed duties of 20 per cent, upon articles hitherto free, while giving a concession in regard to Indian tea. One of the arguments of Mr. Chamberlain and his followers is that the dumping of cheap foreign products into England must be stopped, and the iron trade has been particularly referred to. I believe that dumping is beneficial to the English- iron trade. I have examined the prices given in the Blue Book which has been published, and I find that, while the prices were up in England about two years ago, and the output in some trades was affected by the dearness of the raw material turned out by the iron foundries, an increase in the importation of foreign pig iron was immediately followed by a fall in prices, which stimulated the industries for which pig iron is the raw material. But what country is it that does the dumping ? Under a system of preferential trade dumping from places within the Empire could not be prevented. Dumping by Canada and by Australia, if we .produced iron for export, could not be prevented, and Canada grants a bonus for the production of iron and has a protective duty to prevent its importation.. In 1902 the total importation of pig iron into Great Britain from foreign countries amounted to 226,000 tons while the local production was about 8,500,000 tons. Therefore not much evil can result from the petty competition of the imported article, some of which, by the way, is iron of a class which cannot be produced locally. But from what country is that iron chiefly imported? I find that the importation from Canada more than equalled the total importations from Belgium, Holland, and France, and more than doubled the importation from the United States, 103,000 tons coming from Canada, 78,000 tons from Germany, Holland, and Belgium, and 45,000 tons from the United States. Those figures show what a big cry has been raised about a very petty evil, if this importation is an evil. In any case, it is an evil which would not be cured by a system allowing the taxation of foreign imports and free importation from other parts of the Empire. We have heard a great deal about the need of assisting our declining mother country. I see no evidence of the statement that the zenith of England’s commercial greatness has’ been passed, even if it has been reached. A country, a little country with a total foreign trade worth more than ^900,000,000, and with a steam tonnage afloat almost equal to half the total mercantile marine of the world, that is the centre of an Empire with a population of 400,000,000 people, of whose territorial extension it has been proudly said that -
Her morning drum’s beat, wakening with the sun, and keeping company with the hours, encircles the globe with an unbroken chain of martial airs - is not yet upon the list of vanishing powers. If she ever does give signs of failing if, moved by a sense of coming decrepitude, the mother country calls for assistance from her children, I feel confident that the affection which has never yet failed her in times of danger will not require the material stimulus of Mr. Chamberlain’s series of pettifogging preferences. Now, to come to a subject which is a little more abstruse, but upon which not very much has been said, I shall make a short refer- ence to the conversion of the debts of the States. I find that the Treasurer says that the Constitution will have to be amended in order to carry out the policy suggested bv the Conference of Treasurers. In the Convention I several times pointed out that it would be a mistake to follow the Canadian example of taking over the debts of the States as from the date upon which the Constitution came into force.. That course was right enough in the case of Canada, because, the debts of all the provinces were taken over at once, but it cannot be followed here, because there is a balance of debts which we cannot take over, and which at the present time runs to about £25,000,000. In the Convention I urged the necessity for making the provision to make which the Treasurer now wishes to amend the Constitution. I then said -
If you are to limit the debts to be taken over hereafter to the ensuing debts of the Commonwealth, you may subsequently find yourself in this position : that you will be unable to take over any new debts incurred by the States or debts the character of which has varied.
What was the objection taken to that? It was that by taking over all the debts compulsorily under the Constitution we should lose our power of bargaining with the creditors of the States for a premium. I do not think that there will be £1 of premium obtained upon taking over the debts of the States until we have established a reputation for stability and sound financing. Canada took over the debts of the provinces, but there was no sudden rise in the price of her securities as compared with the old quotations. The Canadian 3 per cent, consolidated stock now stands at £97; but. why is that? It is due, not to the fact that the debt is a Federal one, but to the Canadian balancesheet. Surely if a consolidation of securities upon the Federal principle is good, a consolidation upon a unitary principle should be better. But if that be so, how is it that the 3 per cent, stock of France stands much higher than the 3 per cent, stock of the federated German States, the one being quoted at £97, and the other at £90. ‘ The difference is due to the difference between the balance-sheets of the two countries. Germany- has to impinge upon its _ loan moneys in order to make up deficits in its revenue, while with France things are different. The New Zealand 3 per cent, stock stands at £90, while the Westralian 3 per cents, are quoted at from £85^ to ^88 - because in a mining community prices are always subject to greater fluctuations than elsewhere - while the average price for the States generally is about £86. The difference between the price of New Zealand stock and the lowest-priced Australian stock shows the difference in the estimation of the English public of the value of the two securities. In Canada the land belongs to the Dominion, and so do the railways, with the exception of those which are privately owned. Canada, too, has a population of about 5,750,000, while our population is less than 4,000,000, and we owe, according, to the Treasurer, about £228,000,000 as. compared with the Canadian debt of about £76,000,000, most of which is a Federal debt. Furthermore, we have practically nosinking funds in Australia, and those which we have are almost nominal, while of the interest paid upon the Canadian debt - £2,700,000 a year - about one-fourth - is assigned to a sinking fund. Those facts show why Canadian 3 per cent, stock is quoted at j£>91- If we take over the debts of the States we shall not- get a premium until we have justified, by our financing and development, the confidence which investorsplace in Canadian financing. I favour the taking over of the debts of the States when it can be done, because, although I do not think we shall realise the anticipations of the Treasurers of some of the States, it will be a good thing to havea uniform stock and one authority to deal with the Federal assets. We must, however, put a. limitation upon the borrowing powers of the States. ‘ It would be suicidal for the Commonwealth to take over the debts of Australia without placing a limitation upon the borrowing powers of the States, because otherwise we should have seven ‘ authorities dealing with the same assets without any check one upon the other. There are only two more subjects upon which I shall’ detain honorable members. The Prime Minister hopes that a stimulus will be givento our development by the encouragement of State immigration, and he referred to the experience of Canada. I would point out, however, that the £100,000 a year spent by Canada became effective only quite recently, when very fertile and valuable land in the north-west of the Dominion was thrown open for settlement. If we can afford opportunities for settlement similar to thosegiven by Canada during the last two or three years, similar results may follow, but, otherwise, we may spend ,£1 00,000 a year without gaining any advantage. The increase of population in Canada was 1 50,000 more in the ten years which elapsed between 1871 and 1881 than in the decade which ended in 1901. It is only within the last eighteen months that it has largely inci eased. Let us induce immigration by attending to the conservation of water as well as to the opening up of land. We should endeavour to settle the rivers question once and for all. But what has the Federal Government done in the matter? Nothing but talk.
– What is it rests with us to do?
– Part of the jurisdiction over the rivers is Federal ; the Prime Minister acknowledged that in his Ballarat speech.
An Honorable Member. - Are the States coming any nearer ?
– We are a Federal Parliament. We should not wait upon the States, but should give them a lead in Federal matters. The Prime Minister stated at Ballarat that the Commonwealth has a voice in this matter in its power to control navigation. I wish it were not such a still, small voice as it has been hither to. The Commission reported that no apportionment of water can be made between the States for irrigation and water conservation without regard to the requirements of navigation. We, who represent South Australia, ask that consideration be given to this matter. We should pass a Federal law prescribing the Federal sphere in these matters. It is doubtful whether we can exercise Federal jurisdiction over the rivers until an enactment to that effect has been placed upon the statute-book. Last year I asked the Prime Minister whether the new’ Navigation Bill would contain a provision denning the Federal jurisdiction over the rivers.
– Surely that would not properly come into a Navigation Bill ?
– An agreement has been arrived at- between the three States, and it was to have been laid before each of their Parliaments.
– But nothing has been done.
– We are not responsible for that.
– But we are responsible for neglecting to act within our own jurisdiction. We have the power to prevent some of the States from drawing off the waters of the upper rivers for the purposes of irrigation to the detriment of navigation. Surely the Prime Minister has the power to protect the interests of South Australia, as well as those of Victoria. It may interest honorable members to know that, up to the 31st March of last year, the actual diversions from the. upper rivers amounted to 50,000 cubic feet per minute, or double the then discharge of the Murray at Renmark. Complaints have been made of the low state of the river at Morgan, at times when, under ordinary circumstances, there should have been ample water for the purposes of navigation at that point. New South Wales has also put forward a number of schemes which would involve the diversion of large volumes of water from the rivers. But these have been ignored by the Ministry. We do not wish to stop the use of water for irrigation purposes, but we desire to see an arrangement entered into that will enable the needs of New South Wales and Victoria to be supplied without interfering with the navigability of the river. ‘i’he Government nave taken no action whatever with regard to the suggestion of Federal locking to Wentworth as a start, and two large schemes of conservation which have been proposed by the Commission. I think we are fully entitled to complain of their inaction. The navigability of the rivers means a great deal to the States. Since the railways began to compete with nagivation in England in 1838 the canal system has not been very much developed. Over one-third of the canals now belong to railway ‘companies, and have practically fallen- into disuse. If, however, we look to France, we find that since* 1877 no less than ^30,000,000 have been spent in improving the waterways of that country. During the last fifteen years, the length of waterways open for traffic has been trebled ; freights have been reduced 40 per cent,, and the traffic itself has been doubled. This result has been brought about very largely by State expenditure. As a matter of fact, over 40 per cent, of the total goods traffic into Paris by rail and steamer is carried by water, whilst over 50 per cent, of the total traffic by rail and water into Berlin is conveyed by the latter means. The same thing is to be found all over the world. Even in America, I find, from recent returns, that 27 per cent, of the total goods traffic of that country -is carried by water; although the competing railways charge on the whole, rates only about half as high as those which prevail in England. The rate for the carriage of goods from Morgan to Renmark - a distance of six miles - by land is £jo per ton, whereas the charge by river for a distance much greater, is ios. per ton. Therefore honorable members will at once realize what the river navigation question means to South Australia. We ask that the seriousness of both the navigation and irrigation questions shall be considered, and that a scheme fair to all the States be brought about in the very earliest stages of our Federation. Something has been said with regard to the state of parties in the House. Personally I do not feel that there is any reason for public despondency in the fact that parties are so evenly balanced. If Parliament is a reflex of public opinion, the even balance of parties suggests that we should rest upon our oars. According to the proportion of party representatives sent here, there is no momentum ; but of course we know that the introduction of measures will create a majority upon one side or the other. W:e do not want party majorities only, without basic principles or policy; but when measures are placed before the House, and members coalesce around them, the proper lines of differentiation will be drawn. We have heard a great deal about the differentiation of the electors of the Commonwealthinto individualists and socialists. I think it is a pity that the community should be divided upon such general lines. It is impossible for any practical politician to describe himself either as a pure individualist or as a pure socialist. Circumstances often compel us to be a cross between the two - at one time an individualist, and at other times a socialist. We are all to a large extent socialistic. Our differences are less those of principle than of the application of principles. For my own part, I am prepared to test every measure on its merits. Regard for the pure theories of individualism and socialism is all very well; but so long as the Government respect the true line of non-interference by the State, which I hold is really bilateral, and commence* where freedom of contract begins and monopoly ends, they shall receive my ungrudging support.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas has favoured us with one ; of his ablest addresses.. He is always courteous and argumentative, and brings to bear upon the matters under discussion a fund of exact information, for which I am sure we are all greatly indebted to him. The subject with which he dealt last is one which has engaged the attention of every honorable member who has taken part in the debate. It seems to be considered necessary to lay
I aside the whole question of the Government programme when the state of parties is mentioned; but I would ask what that has to do with the legislation to be submitted to us. Honorable members have been sent here to support certain principles, and surely they will be true to their pledges and vote for those measures’ which will be best calculated to give effect to those principles. The honorable member for Gippsland launched out against the Labour Party, which he seemed to regard as somewhat dangerous. My feeling is that the programme of the Labour Party is one of the most moderate that could be placed before the country, and that it should receive the approval of every man who has any regard for liberal principles. It is far too moderate for me. If any honorable member who believes in progress can point to anything in the programme of the Labour Party which will not tend to the improvement of the conditions under which we live, I shall be glad to hear his objections. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne expressed a pious regret that the members of the Labour Party were not prepared to undertake the responsibility of carrying out their policy. I wonder where the honorable and learned member obtained that information. If the party to which I belong could rely upon a sufficient amount of support in carrying out its programme, there would be no doubt as to the course it would pursue. The intention is to carry out our programme to its fullest extent, as soon as we can secure the necessary assistance. Any party, elected upon a policy such as our own, which shirked its duty in that regard would not be worthy of the name or the position which it held. It is true that we are to a very large extent inexperienced, but, in this connexion, I would point out that a member of our party, who was subjected to very severe criticism, and who was recently appointed to the position of Treasurer in Queensland, is now lauded as one of the ablest Ministers that State has ever possessed”. He was an unknown man, and had never, except for a few days as Treasurer of a Labour Government, undertaken official duties of the kind before. He was trained first in the labour unions, and then in the Labour Party, and he has learnt to say “ No “ and mean it. In this respect, he has assumed quite a novel attitude, but the public are realizing that they have in office a man who has a policy, and who knows how to carry it out. The honorable member for Robertson suggested, by interjection, that the Labour Party had attained their present position because there were two other parties in the State, and he inferred that we represented a minority vote. Does not the honorable member know that all other parties have combined against the Labour Party, and that it has been the subject of persistent attacks in the press. The honorable member implies that we have no standing in the States, but I venture to tell him that in four of the States we represent a majority. In Victoria, the Senatorial vote showed most unmistakably the commanding position occucupied by the Labour Party. In eleven of the twenty-three divisions one or other of the Labour Senatorial candidates occupies a winning position. In the case of Queensland, we secured three out of every five votes that” were recorded at the poll. Surely that is not a minority vote. In that State, the percentage of electors who recorded their votes was larger than in any other. In the district which I represent, 67.3 per cent, of the voters went to the poll. That is the largest percentage of votes recorded in any. division in the Commonwealth. I represent one of the sugar districts, and the next largest proportion of voters stands to the credit of another sugar district, namely, Herbert, where the proportion of electors who voted was 63.5. This shows that the greatest interest was displayed by the electors in those parts of Queensland where coloured labour is employed, and which it has been stated would be most seriously impaired by the legislation passed by this Parliament for its abolition. Turning to Western Australia, we find that the labour vote was a very large one, and that it predominated over all others.
– Only 28 per cent, of the electors voted.
– The honorable member is, I think, mistaken, because* in compiling his average, he has taken the figures only for those districts in which elections took place. In South Australia, we have only the Senatorial votes to guide us. For some reason’ or other, from the very earliest times, the people of South Australia have secured the services of the ablest men to represent them in Parliament. If there was - case in which the Labour Party should have experienced a difficulty in succeeding, certainly it was in that State. But there the other advanced liberals, preferring a party with whom they would have no trouble in allying themselves, must have generously accorded the Senatorial labour candidates their support. In view of all these circumstances, I do not think that it is quite becoming of the youngest accessions to this House to point out that the Labour Party is the third party. Personally, I care not whether we are called the “ third party “ or the “ fifth party.” but if the evidence of our own senses is to guide us, and judged by the amount of support which we received, we are certainly the first party, in the Commonwealth. If our policy is a sound one, undoubtedly, as the honorable member for Echuca has just pointed out, it will prevail. His appeal to the Labour Party sounded very pleasantly to me. In Queensland, it is our good fortune that the farmers are beginning to see that their real hopes centre in the party with which I have the honour to be associated.
– It is largely so in New South Wales.
– Yes. They are awakening to the fact that those honorable members who urge that the farmers’ should be left alone, and who offer them no substantial encouragement, are not, in reality, their friends. They are beginning to realize that it is the desire of the Labour Party to assist the producers in every possible way. What is our policy? Our platform includes the maintenance of a White Australia, compulsory arbitration, legislation in favour of old-age pensions, nationalization of monopolies, a citizens’ defence force, the restriction of public borrowing, and navigation laws. Which of these items is offensive to the most sensitive individual ?
– What is the difference between that programme and the Government policy?
– We have never complained of that policy, but we may have to complain that the Government declines to go forward. In my judgment the Ministry, from the point of view of its general administration, has been a credit to the Commonwealth. But there are indications that it is inclined to call a halt. In my opinion this is solely due to Victorian influence. A shadow has come over the Government and will not prove a blessing if it causes it to hesitate when it should move forward. Regarding the history of the Labour Party, I should like to ask if at any time up to the present the policy of the party has been a popular one? Certainly not. Since its initiation in 1890, it has not been popular. Indeed, in some of the States the Labour I Party was formed in opposition to every other party. In- Queensland it sprang into existence when the great Liberal and Conservative Parties coalesced against the labour interest. We were bound then to create a party and to formulate a policy. The policy was formulated, printed, and as soon as it was drafted, published. The public thus knew exactly the principles upon which we sought their suffrages, and to the credit, of the Labour Party it has never once gone back upon the position which it. took up before the electors. The honorable member for Gippsland asked what we could do with a platform which is drawn up by an organization, and not by the members themselves. My reply is that if at any time our views conflict with the pledges which we have given to the electors, only one course is open to any honorable man, viz.., to return to his constituents, apprise them of the circumstances, and give them an opportunity of electing another, candidate. Moreover, it is no new thing for conventions to meet and draw up a programme. It’ was a convention which compelled the late Mr. Gladstone to move forward in connexion with what is now known as “the Newcastle programme.” The “third party “has been referred to more than once during the course of this debate. To my mind there are indications of the early formation of still another party in this House. It seems to me that there are a number of estimable and able representatives here who possess exceedingly conservative ideas upon some matters, and who are apparently about to create a fourth, if not a fifth party. Passing away from this question,. I desire to say that the present seems a fitting opportunity for those representatives who believe in a system of elective Ministries to address this Chamber. Personally I do not believe in that system. I have never been able to reconcile myself to the opinion that with a British system of government and with our British ideas elective Ministries are possible. But I know that quite a number of honorable members entertain a different idea, and I hope they will not think it is unbecoming on my part to suggest that the present condition of affairs affords them a splendid opportunity to address the House upon that particular phase of Parliamentary Government. I now pass from what the daily press constants refers to as the “political situation.” In my judgment altogether too much has been made of it. If a little more work were accomplished it would be more beneficial to all concerned. The question which I think should be uppermost in the minds of honorable members at the present time is that of making provision for the payment of old-age pensions. I am exceedingly sorry that this matter is again mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech in such a way as to hold out no hope - at any rate, within a reasonable number of years - to those who are deserving of justice in this matter. It seems to me that if. we are convinced that the proposal is a just one, and that, the aged are entitled to a pension from the Commonwealth, it is one of the first demands which should be made upon this Parliament. We believe that Australia is a more wealthy country than New Zealand, and if from timidity we refuse to establish a national system of oldage pensions we shall be Parliamentary cowards indeed. The mere fact that a difficulty will arise owing to our inability to raise the necessary money except by means of direct taxation should prove no bar to members of the Opposition. I was exceedingly sorry to hear the leader of that party declare in the last Parliament that he could not favour direct taxation. If we are to meet our obligations we must face them manfully, and be prepared to accept the consequences of our acts. How long are we to administer the affairs of Australia by leaning upon the Customs revenue alone? If we were attacked by a hostile force would the Government hesitate to introduce proposals for direct taxation ? Why should the most inequitable form of taxation be the constant policy of a Government which believes in equity and right? Surely some Minister will arise who will have the courage to tell Australia that certain things are just, and who will appeal to the people to allow him to carry them out.
– Is direct taxation one of the planks in the platform of the Labour Party ?
– It is not included in its programme ; but I have no hesitation in subscribing to it myself. I subscribe fully to direct taxation for any necessary purpose.
– What exemption would the honorable member propose?
– In the words of a very celebrated parliamentary leader - I think it was Sir Robert Peel - “ I will prescribe when I am called in.” I come now to the question of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which, however, I shall not discuss at any length at the present stage. I am of the opinion that, in exempting public servants from the operation of the measure, the Government are disregarding the voice of the country. The argument which has been used by the honorable member for Gippsland, and several others, that to extend the operation of the measure to them would be to interfere with State Tights, and with the revenue of the States, carries no weight with me. The adoption of that course would have no more effect upon the States than the establishment of the High Court has had. The only question that causes me any concern is one with which the lawyers will have to deal - the question whether we have the constitutional power to give effect to our desire in this respect. Every decision given by the High Court in relation to the States, either adds to or takes away from’ the revenue of those States. Every such act is in reality an act on the part of the Federal Parliament, and must increase or decrease the revenue of the Treasurers of the States. If we interfere with the States by extending the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to States servants, that interference will be, after all, merely a matter of degree, rather than one of principle. I am concerned most of all with the question of principle. I believe in socialistic action on the part of the State for the benefit of the whole of the people, I am also anxious to secure equitable decisions in reference to the conditions of their employes. I desire that those decisions shall be secured apart altogether from the Parliament. I wish them to be obtained in a Court of Justice, which will be far better fitted to decide such questions than any Parliament could be. As I have often declared, a Parliament is the last place in the world in which to look for justice in relation to matters of this kind. It is an incompetent court to deal with the intricate matters of commercial and daily life. Why should honorable members be prepared to establish a Court to interfere, as is proposed, with the private business of a man who has invested his own capital in some enterprise when they refuse to trust the servants of the States to the decisions of the same Court ? Why should we fear to subject the servants of the States to the authority of the Court? It seems to me to be hypocritical to say that we cannot trust it. If we are prepared to subject the servants of private employers to the decision, of the Court, we should be prepared to deal in the same way with the servants of the States. In that way we shall be better able to secure the just and equitable rights of the public servants of Australia. It is not for me to point to what I believe to be the gross injustice that has been done to a large number of public servants in this State. The incident in question is but another evidence of the fact that there should be a Court of. Justice to intervene between a Government and- its employes, because, at times, Parliaments are, undoubtedly, erratic. They should not have the power to impose conditions such as were recently fixed in this State.
An Honorable Member. - Look at the Coercion Act.
– It is not for me to deal with that matter. I am sure that, after they have had time to reflect, the public of this and every other State will be able to give a distinct statement of their views in regard to that matter. There has been “ much ado about nothing “ in reference to the question of a White Ocean service. We learned two days ago that the steam-ships of a service subsidized by the States of the Commonwealth are now being converted into armed cruisers. The vessels of that service are all manned by white labour, and the action taken by the Admiralty fully bears out the statements made by the leader of the Labour Part)’, which have the support of all its members, as to the result of the policy ofa White Ocean. To do justice also to the late Prime Minister, I should point out that, as a member of this House, he showed that the action of Parliament in stipulating that only white labour should be employed on steam-ships subsidized by us would be of assistance to the mother country in times of trial and difficulty. I think that he dealt with that mater most effectively, and we see now that the very first act of the Admiralty in dealing with the vessels of the CanadianPacific line has been to convert them into armoured cruisers. Would they have been dealt with in this way had they been manned by coloured crews? To hear some honorable members dealing with this subject, one would imagine that we were endeavouring to do a great injustice to other people. But we are not. We’ are simply declaring that in expending our money we should have the right to impose a particular condition. The shipping companies themselves have imposed conditions of their own. Some of their apologists say in effect that they should be allowed to make any conditions they please, but that the Commonwealth should not be permitted to impose anything in the form of a condition. The policy of a White Ocean needs very little explanation, and certainly no commendation from me. The Minister for Defence occupies a position of much responsibility, and he has to work out a great scheme before he will be able to satisfy the majority of the electors of Australia that the present position of the Australian forces is justifiable. There are now so many military experts in the Parliament that it would be unwise for me as a mere novice - as one who can point only to a short service as a volunteer - to make any further reference to this subject. I understand that we haveboth officers and privates, of the first merit, in this House, to advise us on military questions. I shall, therefore, leave that subject, and refer briefly to the Question of taking over the States debts. My view - and I have put it before the electors - is that at least a proportion of the States debts, representing the amount of capital actually expended on the railways of the various States, might be taken over, and that railway revenue equivalent to the interest to be paid on those debts should be hypothecated by the Federal Treasurer. That would be an equitable way of dealing with the matter, and one to which no one could take exception. But the whole question appears to me to be making but little pro gress. I fear that, notwithstanding the delicacy shown by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer in making terms with the States, some determined policy will have to be pursued ; that, if necessary, an appeal will have to be made to the electors to determine the matter. It is useless for us to continue in the present position. Praiseworthy and conscientious as the various States Treasurers undoubtedly are, there are times when it is necessary, in dealing with certain questions, to adopt a broad, and bold policy - to place the whole matter before the electors of Australia, and to ask them to determine what shall be done. That is the way in which I think this question will have to be dealt with.
– As in the case of Federation itself, until the people themselves take it up, we shall have no solution of the problem.
– Exactly. I trust that the Government will not lose sight of the desirableness of establishing a Commonwealth Statistical Department. There are many reasons why we should have such a Department inaugurated at the earliest date. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth is well served by the various’ statistical officers of the States, but the Department, is one that essentially concerns the Federal Parliament and Government, and I trust that at a very early date the Government will bring in a Bill to federalize the Statistical Departments of the States. I shall not further trespass on the time of honorable members. I anticipate that we shall have a very interesting session. So far as I am concerned, I believe that the Labour Party comprises the greatest number of those representatives who are not seeking office or any of the perquisites of government. We are here with a policy, seeking nothing, and desiring nothing, but that the will of the ‘people shall be observed, and that the legislation which they have demanded at the ballot-box shall be proceeded with with- out any unnecessary delay, and without any quibblingor cavilling as to the position of parties in this House. I shall be exceedingly pleased if the legislation introduced by the Government is such that it will secure the greatest good for the greatest number.
– I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– That is impossible at this early hour.
Mr. CARPENTER (Fremantle).- I am led to submit this motion by the knowledge that, although no honorable member now appears to be ready to proceed with the debate, several honorable members who desire to speak are absent.
– We cannot help that. It is now only 9 o’clock, and it is perfectly impossible for this debate to be adjourned at so early an hour. Honorable members will recognise that the admonition we have just heard to expedite our progress is a very wise one, and that we should proceed with our business with the least delay. I do not mean to say that a debate on an Address in Reply does not constitute business. Such a debate has many valuable purposes. It enables honorable members to discuss matters with which there would otherwise be no opportunity to deal for some time-
– The honorable and learned gentleman cannot make a speech at this stage. v
– It is absolutely necessary that the debate should be continued, and as there are a number of honorable member s who desire to speak, I would point out that now is their opportunity to come forward.
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the question before the Chair is the adjournment of the debate?
– The motion for the adjournment of the debate has not been seconded, and I can therefore call upon the honorable member for Moira to proceed with the debate upon the Address, if he desires to speak.
– It is not with a desire to unduly protract the debate that I rise now to address the House, but I wish to give expression to my views on several points which have already been enlarged upon by various honorable members. I ‘ shall not refer to the present condition of parties in the House. I assume that honorable members have all been returned on pledges clearly and distinctly given to the electors. I also assume that it is not likely that for party purposes they will deviate in the slightest degree from those pledges. When the honorable member for Wide Bay was referring to the platform of the Labour Party, I was, for the moment, under the impression that he was really reading the Government programme. A comparison will show that, save in matters of detail, there is really no material difference between the two programmes. I wish to direct particular attention to one or two proposals referred to in His Excellency’s Speech. Old and familiar as they are, it appears to me that their fulfilment is almost as remote as ever it was. With respect to preferential trade, important as it is, what hope is there of this or of any other Government making any headwayorformulating a proposal which can receive the consideration of this Chamber until some proposition has been put forward by the Imperial Government? That necessarily must be the first stage. That being so, I do not view it as being within the realm of practical politics this Parliament. The leader of the cause in Great Britain has himself admitted that he is not hopeful about getting his policy assented to by the people of that country at the ensuing elections. I would, however, draw attention to the statement of the leader of the Opposition that the idea of a protectionist community offering preferential trade is ludicrous in the extreme. Surely the right honorable gentleman must have forgotten that Canada hasbeen the first in the field in giving a preference, and our Tariff is practically a free-trade one as compared with that of the Dominion. How can it be ludicrous for the Commonwealth to move in the matter, when Canada has already done so?
– New Zealand, which is another protectionist country, has also done something.
– Yes. It is, however, useless to discuss this question until it comes within the realm of practical politics. Much attention has been given to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, and to the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act prohibiting the Government from entering into contracts for the conveyance of mails by steamers employing black labour. So far as the Immigration Restriction Act is concerned, I see no reason for altering my original attitude in regard to it. I have always been opposed to the introduction of labour under contract, and I am now more than ever convinced that those who took that position have the people behind them, while I am sure that the electors are not going back upon the policy which requires the exclusion of coloured aliens. With regard to a remark made by the honorable member for Gippsland last night, to the effect that the withdrawal of subsidies from mail steamers employing black labour may injure the producers of Australia, I wish to point out that the first and only concession which our producers have been able to obtain in regard to the reduction of freights for the transport of perishable produce to Great Britain was given, not by the companies employing coloured labour upon their steamers, but by companies employing white labour exclusively. That fact is well known to all engaged in the trade, and it should be better known to the producers of Australia. Then, again, it is a peculiar thing that some two or three years ago it was the companies upon whose steamers black labour is employed which combined to attempt to keep up the rates of freight for perishable produce sent to Great Britain. However, I do not feel able to continue the debate just now; but I express the hope that all parties in the House will concentrate their attention upon securing what is best for the whole Commonwealth.
– I am afraid that the interest in this debate has to some extent died out. So many subjects are covered by the speech of the GovernorGeneral that no honorable member can be expected to deal with more than a few of them; but there are one or two which I regard as of the utmost importance to the State which I represent, and upon which I should like to speak from the Tasmanian stand-point. There seems to have been a disposition on the part of honorable members to find fault with the manner in which the recent elections were conducted. Of course, every honorable member must speak for his own State ; but it is only fair to say that, so far as Tasmania is concerned, the preparation of the rolls and the conduct of the elections left very little to be desired. It must be satisfactory to those who had the management of affairs in Tasmania to know that, although the system was new to them, and they had the work of enrolling the whole of the women of the State to undertake, in addition to having to conduct the elections in accordance with regulations differing entirely from those hitherto followed there, errors were much fewer than might have been expected. About the only irregularity which occurred was the omission of a deputy returningofficer at a very small centre of population to sign his name on the ballotpapers. Honorable gentlemen will pardon me if I place before them the Tasmanian point of view in regard to the proposed Navigation Bill, to which reference has been made, and which is of the utmost importance to the island State. I am in complete sympathy with the representatives of Western Australia in their objection to any attempt to apply the “ common rule “ to the whole of the Australian coastal trade, because it would work grave injustice, not only to Western Australia, but, to a greater degree, to Tasmania. The great aim of those who are interested in one of the chief industries of Tasmania - an industry which in the very near future will probably be the principal industry of that State - has been to encourage competition for freight amongst steamship companies from abroad. The example set by the people of Tasmania in opening up theEnglish market by exporting their apples to London is such as might well be followed by producers elsewhere. Those engaged in the fruit industry in Tasmania have not asked for protection, for bonuses, or for State assistance of any kind. They have at their own expense developed a very large export trade to England. This season some twenty.-seven steamers will take away upwards of 300,000 bushels of apples from Hobart. Next year the export of apples will amount to 500,000 bushels, and before five years are over the quantity sent away will be upwards of 1,000,000 bushels. The growing of apples in Tasmania is confined almost wholly to the electoral division which I have the honour to represent, and speaking on behalf of those engaged in the industry, I say that if it would embarrass the Government to place in the mail contracts clauses providing for accommodation for the conveyance of fruit or other produce, we can do without them. We have opened up our own export trade without State assistance. But, having done so, we also say to the Government - “Do not interfere with the trade; hands off our export trade.” It will materially affect the export of apples from Tasmania to England if the Navigation Bill is so framed as to prevent any steamer from taking, say, 1,000 bushels of apples from Hobart to Western Australia.
– I do not think there is any export of apples from Tasmania to Western Australia now.
– No; becausethe Western Australian regulations shut out cur fruit, and some of the other States, by similar methods, endeavour to the best of their ability to prevent Inter-State free-trade.
– New South Wales, the great free-trade State, is the worst offender in that matter.
– No; the least.
– The chief sinner is Victoria. In this State wharfage or primage dues, amounting to 5s. per ton, are levied upon potatoes.
– Are not similar rates levied at Burnie, in Tasmania?
– If that be so, I hope that steps will be taken to have them removed. Until all such restrictions are removed, we cannot have Inter-State freetrade.
– In Western Australia we are afraid of the codlin moth.
– A proper system of inspection would prevent the introduction of codlin moth into Western Australia. Besides, fruit exported to such a distance would not be likely to contain codlin moth. The Commonwealth should try to develop trade between Tasmania and States having warmer climates. Our object should be to secure, by means of Inter-State free-trade, the fullest interchange of the products of the temperate and tropical climates within Australia. Honorable members may hear with some surprise, that there is at present no direct communication between Tasmania and other Australian ports than Melbourne and Sydney. If we wish to ship to Adelaide or Brisbane direct, we cannot do so; our produce must be transhipped at Melbourne or Sydney. Surely our difficulties and disadvantages are a sufficient handicap upon us without adding to our troubles. At the present time, although two companies send steamers to Tasmania from Australia, there is practically no competition between them. I ask honorable members who know more of the coastal shipping trade of the’ mainland than I do, what competition is there among the shipping companies here ? There is such a thing as - I must not say a combine - but an arrangement between the shipping companies that they will not trespass upon each other’s preserves, and if the Navigation Bill is carried, we shall simply create a monopoly and further handicap the producers of Australia. As one honorable member has stated, we shall place our own producers at a disadvantage for the benefit of the shipping companies. One of the greatest curses in America has arisen from navigation legislation such as that now proposed to be introduced here. The moment that we throw the whole of our export trade into the hands of the Australian shipping companies, we shall encourage the creation of a trust. There would be no competition, and the whole of the shipping and producing interests of Australia would be placed within the control of such rings as have arisen in America. It would be absolutely preposterous to prevent residents of Tasmania from proceeding to Melbourne or Sydney by the large steamers which visit their ports for the purpose of conveying their exports to the mother country, and to insist that they should travel 130 miles overland to Launceston and take steamer there in order that they might pay tribute to the shipping rings of Melbourne, Adelaide, or Sydney. If the Navigation Bill is passed, I hope that Western Australia will secure exemption from its provisions until railway communication has been established with the eastern States, and that Tasmania will be similarly freed from the operationof the law until she can enjoy the advantages of railway communication with the mainland. Speaking seriously, this is a subject of the utmost importance to us as an island State lying 12,000 or 13,000 miles from the market which we are now opening up. England is the only market we have for our fruit, particularly for our apples, and I would ask honorable members to think very seriously before they further handicap the State which to-day is making the greatest financial sacrifice for Federation.
– But the people of Tasmania have the money in their pockets instead of in the Treasury.
– No, they have not That is one of the greatest mistakes made by those who have not grasped our financial situation. What would be the position of Victoria and New South Wales if Federation had caused either State to lose 30 to 33 per cent. of its Customs revenue? When it is stated that Tasmania has lost , £150,000 of Customs revenue, the amount does not seem very large to those States which have been accustomed to deal with much more pretentious figures, but perhaps it may help honorable members to realize the position when I say that we have lost practically one-third of the whole of our Customs revenue. What would be the position of Victoria or New South Wales if they had been subjected to a similar loss?
– Is not the money which has been lost to the Treasurer still left in the pockets of the people?
– No, it is not. Prior to Federation Tasmania levied duties under its tariff wholly and solely with the object of obtaining revenue. It was impossible to obtain the required amount without incidentally affording protection in some instances, but the whole object of those who framed the Tariff was to obtain revenue, and they derived from the people a larger proportionate amount than was contributed by the residents of any other State. Under Federation an alteration has been made in the incidence of taxation. Whilst some of those articles which formerly yielded a large amount of revenue are admitted free protective duties have been placed upon other goods. The Government of Tasmania are not receiving the same revenue that they did before, and the people are not deriving any compensating advantage. Owing to the loss of revenue from Customs duties we have had to impose an income tax, which, I believe, is the heaviest in the world. We also have to bear the burden of the heaviest of land taxes, both for local and State purposes, and yet, in spite of all this, our Treasurer is in financial difficulties. I thoroughly indorse the statement made here to-day that, whatever may be the policy of this Parliament, it is our bounden duty, during the first few years of our existence, to regulate our legislation in accordance with the necessities of the smaller States. We are thankful to the Treasurer for the consideration which he has from time to time shown to us. Reference is made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the necessity for economy, and with that sentiment I am thoroughly in accord. When, however, I look for some manifestation of the economical spirit I fail to find it. We have established a High Court of Australia. I do not wish to reflect upon the action of the previous Parliament, but I think that it is now almost universally conceded that the Federal Parliament was premature in its action with regard to the creation of that tribunal.
– That is not the opinion of any one who knows.
– What I do know is that the gigantic intellects of three of the best men in Australia are now occupied in settling issues of a most trivial character.
– They will decide during the present week one of the most important matters that has ever been dealt with upon this side of the world.
– That is the question, whether the. Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Tasmania should affix a duty stamp to the receipts which he gives when receiving his salary. If that is a matter of sufficient importance to tax the gigantic intellects of the High Court, then I am sorry for them.
– If it were not settled by the High Court it would have to be remitted to the Privy Council.
– It would have been farbetter to allow it to go to the Privy Council than to saddle Australia with a High Court which has nothing to do.
– There are eight cases now awaiting their decision in Sydney.
– The case upon which they are now engaged is one which involves the decision whether it is in accordance with the law to make the small mark opposite a candidate’s name within the square, outside the square, or across the line of the square.
– That is a matter of great importance to the men for whom the electors vote.
– There is nothing in such a case to necessitate the appointment of a High Court, with all the paraphernalia surrounding it. I grant that, according to the Constitution, it was neces sary to create a High Court, but there is no reason why we should not have secured the services of some of the States Supreme Court Judges, who would have been just as capable, and commanded as much confidence, as the present High Court Judges. It is proposed that we should have a High Commissioner, but I do not see the necessity for having Australia so represented in London at the present time. We are to have an Inter-State Commission, for which there is no urgent need. It is also proposed to construct a railway to span the enormous tract of country between the settled portions of South Australia and Western Australia - a line which will have nothing to carry. Then we are to build a Federal Capital in the wilds of the bush, where no one will live. I think that it is time that the whole of the circumstances of the States should be considered. I have been sorry to hear the desire expressed that we should carry on here exactly the same kind of fight that was waged in the early days of the United States. I can clearly foresee that the real division of parties will come about when the fight commences with regard to the question of the unification of the States, when we are required to decide whether the Federal Parliament is to play the part of Aaron’s rod and swallow up the whole of the States Parliaments ; whether those bodies are to sink into the position of provincial councils; or whether the whole of the sovereign rights of the States are to be maintained. During the early days of the American Federation, Hamilton and others realised that it was necessary, in the best interests of the Union, that strong States Governments should be maintained ; that it would not be to the best interests of the country to centralize the whole of the power in the Federal Government. Centralization is always costly, and, under such institutions as we have, would be a huge mistake. For one, I do not wish to see the rights and powers of the States in any sense detracted from. No greater mistake could be made in the earlier days of our Federation than to whittle away, or to in any way belittle the rights and powers of the sovereign States.
– That could only be done with the consent of the States.
– It might be undesirable to exercise our powers to the fullest limit. I think that we are proceeding too fast, and that many mistakes were made by the last Parliament. The Postal and Defence Departments were taken over too soon, and we are now endeavoring to dispose of a number of important subjects, of which Australia has not realized the full significance. No greater mistake could be made than to commit Australia to the selection of a site for the Federal Capital.
An Honorable Member. - That is in the bond.
– I know that it is in the bond ; but I should like to glance for a moment at the circumstances under which that bond was entered into. They were creditable neither to New South Wales nor to “Victoria. New South Wales said that she would not enter the Federation unless she had the capital. “Very well,” said Victoria, “you shall have the capital, but it shall not be in Sydney.” And because of the childish and silly jealousy which existed between these two great States it is proposed to saddle the whole of the Commonwealth with the cost of establishing a Federal Capital away back in the bush. I admit that, owing to the terms of the agreement, some consideration should be given to New South Wales, and I should be quite prepared for an amendment of the Constitution to provide that the Federal Parliament should sit in Sydney. Personally, I think it would be a good thing if the Parliament sat for three years in Sydney and Melbourne alternately ; but if New South Wales is, like Shylock, going to stand upon the bond, we, like Portia, should, while admitting her claim, insist that New South Wales should get no more than is in the bond. Let us agree that the Federal Capital shall be situated in New South Wales when it is selected, it being understood that the time of selection must still rest with us.
– I think the honorable member will find that rather inconvenient.
– Is it not inconvenient for the rest of Australia to be plunged into the enormous cost which will be involved in establishing the Federal Capital ?
– Has not the. whole of Australia settled that matter?
– The whole of Australia has accepted the Constitution as it stands. The people of New South Wales must not be surprised if those States which are not prepared to be plunged into an entirely unnecessary expenditure object to the matter being rushed through this Parliament with undue haste.
– Then the honorable member must not be surprised at the result.
– What is the result ?
– The honorable member must wait and see.
– Personally, I am quite prepared to accept the result whatever it may be, rather than force financial difficulty, such as is threatened, upon the States. It has been argued that we must get away from Melbourne and Sydney, otherwise we shall never develop a truly Australian feeling on account of the influence which is exercised by the daily press ? If the Federal spirit in Australia is such an exceedingly sickly chicken that it is necessary for us to go into the wilds of Australia in order to provide it with a foster mother, it is a very weak chicken indeed. In the light of the history of the early days of Washington I think that the influence of a daily press upon a Federal Legislature is infinitely better than are the influences which would be brought to bear when we were far removed from that press. No worse position could be taken up than that we are not strong enough to argue our own case, and that, consequently, we must run away from the daily press. But do those who take that view imagine for one moment that by removing to Bombala, or to Timbuctoo, or wherever the capital may be located, they will escape from the influence of the press? What influence has the Washington press to-day upon the politics of America? It is the press of New York and the other capitals which really regulate the public life of that country. If honorable members believe that by getting away from Melbourne or Sydney they will diminish the influence of the daily press, as an old pressman I can tell them that they never made a greater mistake. There is another serious phase of this question upon which I desire to say a few words. One of the greatest misfortunes which afflicts Australia to-day is that far too large a proportion of our people is resident in our towns.
– That is a good reason for establishing the Federal Capital in the bush.
– But if that capital is to prove anything like a success it must either attract population fromthe existing towns-
– According to the honorable member’s own argument, that would be a good thing.
– I do not know that it would.
– The bush is a good place to attract people to.
– But how long will the site of the capital remain a bush? It must either attract population from the present capitals or it will convert those who ought to be. direct producers into indirect producers, of whom we already have far too many.
– Does not the honorable member see that it will pay well?
– I have never yet known of a Federal Capital which paid well.
– Has the honorable member ever known of a Federal Capital which was owned by the people?
– No ; but it seems to me very strange that, to paraphrase Pope, we never are, but are always to be blest. When we entered into Federation the glowing pictures that were drawn and the fairy tales that were told in my own State were marvellous. We were assured that a tariff which produced £8,000,000 would provide us with more revenue than we have to-day. We were also informed that as the result of Federation a saving of from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000 annually could be made upon the indebtedness of the States.
– That is a pleasure which has yet to come.
– So far I have not heard any scheme formulated which would bestow any benefit whatever upon the States through the federalization of their debts, beyond that which would be conferred if the spectacle of the States tumbling over each other to get upon the London money market could be abolished. That would be a substantial gain.
– Did not the producers of Tasmania derive a benefit from Federation last year?
– Undoubtedly Inter-State free-trade has conferred an enormous advantage upon them. Indeed, the whole of the benefits which they have derived from Federation can be described in the words “Inter-State free-trade,” and I trust that this House will be exceedingly loth to deprive them of those benefits by means of any wretched Navigation Bill such as is proposed. There is another question to which I wish briefly to allude, namely, that of encouraging immigration. For some time I was puzzled to ascertain what this
Parliament could do in that direction. I have not yet learned that it can do anything beyond endeavouring to arrange for a Conference of States Ministers with a view to considering the subject. As has been pointed out so ably by the Prime Minister and successive speakers, it is absolutely impossible to enter upon any system which is designed to encourage immigration unless we have the key to the situation, namely, the land, in our possession. In Tasmania we are not suffering from lack of settlement to the same extent as is the mainland. We have plenty of land available, and I am very glad to say that in Tasmania to-day settlement is proceeding faster than it is in any other State of Australia. Although there has been a very deplorable decrease of population upon the West Coast, owing to the partial failures of the mines there, the population of the Island State is daily increasing. Seeing that it is proposed to attract immigrants from England, I desire to point out that they are not the class of menwho will go into the forest lands of Australia and carve out homes for themselves. At the present time, Tasmania is receiving a certain proportion of settlers from the mainland. These persons are establishing themselves on the North-West Coast, in the Derwent Valley, the Huon Valley, and in the Channel. But they are not the individuals who go out into the bush and establish homes for themselves. They belong to the class which I understand predominates whenever there is a ballot for land in New South Wales or Victoria. They are men who are possessed of sufficient capital to enable them to purchase a small home which is partially cleared, and are altogether an admirable class. When they come to Tasmania they do us incalculable good by buying out the pioneers who have cleared the land, so that the. latter can then go back into the bush and establish fresh homes. It would be quite useless, I hold, to institute any system of immigration with a view to getting settlers to take up our heavily-timbered country. They are not suited for the work. The best class of settler we have is the son of the settler - the man who is making a really good living off six or seven acres of Orchard. In such cases we have closer settlement in its best aspect. When the Navigation Bill comes before this House, I intend to ask it not to impose handicaps upon these men. I can assure honorable members that it is not at all an uncommon thing to find eight or ten such settlers living in comfort, and educating their large families, upon 100 acres. I intend to ask those who really desire to encourage the worker not to deprive him of the result of his energy or enterprise, and not to sacrifice him on the altar of the shipping rings of the mainland.
An Honorable Member. - Let us give him all the encouragement we can.
– Yes ; and the only encouragement which he asks is to be left alone. I wish now torefer to the subject of preferential trade. I was exceedingly pleased to read the reference made to it in the Governor- General’s Speech, and to hear such an out-and-out protectionist as is the honorable member who moved the adoption of the Address in Reply, state, in answer to an interjection, that he was prepared to give a real substantial preference to the mother country. I must candidly confess that I fail to’ appreciate the position of those who claim to be thorough advocates of preferential trade,, but who say that we cannot do anything at present - that we must wait until the mother country comes along with a definite proposal. I believe in Mr. Chamberlain and in his policy. I thoroughly believe that if his policy is carried out, it will be for the good of the whole of the Empire, and especially for Australia. I would not wait until the electors of Great Britain had decided to give us something in return for our preference. I am so much a preferential tariffist, and so much in accord with what the Prime Minister has said as to the necessity of trading with those who are willing to trade with us, that I should be prepared to-morrow to immediately give a substantial preference to the old country without asking for anything in return.
– That would increase the area of free-trade.
– I care not whether it would do so, or even whether protectionists support the proposal as protectionists. In the case of the island State, we have practically but one market for the whole of our surplus products. England freely takes our minerals,our wool, and the whole of the fruit that we export, while there is not another market in the world that will take anything from us. I have precisely the same feeling for the mother country that I entertained before Federation towards New South Wales. Throughout the length and breadth of Tasmania to-day, the producers of the State entertain the kindliest feelings towards New South Wales. Why is this the case? The reason is that when Victoria was piling up tariffs against us, and shutting out everything that we could produce in Tasmania, New South Wales said - “ Send your produce to us.” I was prepared to give every preference to Sydney ; I was prepared, as a public man in Tasmania, to enter into reciprocity with New South Wales - to trade with her, and to give her what advantages we could in return for the advantages she had already given us. And now, so far as the old country is concerned, considering that she has taken the whole of the surplus products of Australia, that she throws open her markets to us, and defends our shipping, I am not prepared to haggle over terms. I would say to her - “ You open your ports to us, and I am prepared to give you a preferential tariff without waiting for the result of the British elections, and without waiting to see what you will give us in return. In return for what you are doing for us now - for the markets you are opening to us - I am prepared to show my loyalty to the Empire by preferential trade with you.” Is the Prime Minister inclined to proceed in that direction ?
– To pull down the Tariff.
– I would pull it. down for British goods, whilst at the same time I should not care how high it was made against the foreigner. I thank the House for the attention which has been given to my remarks. If I have spoken my mind in a clear, straight-out way, it is because I believe that it is always better for us to voice our opinions. When Ministers propose anything that I believe to be for the good of Australia, and for the good of the State which I represent, they will find no warmer supporter than I shall be. When they propose that which I believe to be inimical to the interests of Australia and to those of the State which I represent, they will have no stronger opponent than I shall be. I thoroughly agree with those who say that it is impossible to carry on a pure, intelligent, responsible government in the present state of parties in this Parliament. That is my humble opinion. I give expression to it as the result of some little consideration, and I think that any decision that will thrust upon Ministers the responsibility of governing, and upon every other party the direct responsibility for its actions, will be in the best interests of good government and the conduct of business in this House. I cannot understand a Government holding to its position when it ceases to govern. A Government when it ceases to govern should cease to exist.
– Why do not the Government resign?
– I do not say that they should, because, so far as I am able to judge, the Government are governing. I repeat the statement, that I do not think it possible for any party in this House that has now reached manhood’s estate - such as the Labour Party, for example - to continue to shape the course of government without being prepared to accept the responsibility.
– We will take all the responsibility if it is given to us.
– Quite so. When the party is numerically weak, the position is different. The position was not altogether satisfactory last session, but I can quite understand that, when the Labour Party numbered only sixteen members, it was not a force of sufficient strength to be able to strike out for itself. There is now no other party in this House much stronger than it, and I believe that the time will shortly arrive when it will have to take up a position of complete responsibility for its actions.
– When I reached Parliament House to-day, I had no distinct intention of attempting to make any substantial addition to this already long debate, more especially as I had in mind the fact that there is no party issue before the House, and, therefore, no opportunity for honorable members on either side to make what might be called fighting speeches. But after hearing so many utterances of new members which seem to me to have no other purpose than that of ventilating their views on the situation, and having had the advantage of perusing the last issue of Hansard, which seemed to me to have a similar purport, I thought that this occasion, which gives one an enormous scope, offered a very good opportunity for some of the older members to introduce themselves to the younger ones, and to show, at all events, that they are not what they are sometimes represented to be. I think, as I said at the first meeting of the Parliament of the Commonwealth three years’ ago, that it is highly desirable that we should know, at as early a stage as possible in the life of a new Parliament, the class of men we are to meet, the kind of men with whom we are going to discuss important questions, and what, as far as they are concerned, is likely to be the trend of affairs. I quite approve of the course which the leader of the Opposition has taken in refraining from challenging the Government at this particular juncture. Any attempt of that kind would have been a failure. It would be quite premature and unnecessary to provoke any strong party conflict at this stage in what I should say is one of the most remarkably constituted Houses we have known in Australia. No one could have thought of taking part in this discussion without feeling somewhat embarrassed by the enormous quantity of matter at his disposal to form the subject of a speech. The difficulty I have found has been in selecting and cutting down the quantity of material which offers itself within the limits of the debate. I propose, first of all, to take a retrospective view of the situation, because I believe that we have now reached a very important stage in the history of Federation. The first Federal Parliament was elected by the people of Australia at a time when they were very much in the dark. No one knew exactly what kind of Chamber this was going to be, how it would be constituted, so far as public opinion was concerned, what views were going to be expressed by it upon the fiscal or other important questions, or what would be the attitude taken up with regard to the Labour Party in Australia. But the people have chosen the present Parliament with their eyes open. It is true that they have been called upon to make a selection under very disadvantageous circumstances. No one who knows anything of what was the position of the electoral affairs of Australia at and prior to the last erections can fail to feel that certain classes in some of the States suffered serious disadvantage by reason, of the extraordinary and politically dishonest way in which the electoral arrangements were carried out. Most of us know very well, although some honorable members, who now enter the House for the first time, may not be quite aware of the fact, that the Electoral Act, of which the Prime Minister boasted so much in his Ballarat speech, and even more in New South Wales, as being one of the most liberal electoral laws that had ever been passed in Australia, had been practically kicked under the table of this House, so far as the last elections were concerned. In my own constituency - and one can only take that which he knows accurately as indicating the general trend of affairs - there are 35,000 electors, whilst the honorable member for Darling has a constituency of only 12,000.
– More than that.
-At the time of the last elections the Darling electorate comprised only 12,000 electors. It happens now that there are something like 15,000 upon the roll.
– Fifteen thousand two hundred and sixteen.
– I am not dealing with the exact figures in either case. As a matter of fact, I think it will be found, on referring to the. list that there are 36,000 instead of 35,000 electors in my own constituency. The inequalities of the last elections were so great that I now represent 36,000 electors, whilst the honorable member for Darling, with equal voting power in this House, represents only 15,000.’ In regard, to the women’s vote, of which so much has been said by the Minister for Trade- and Customs, I find that, whereas there are 18,000 female voters in my own electorate, the honorable member for Darling represents only 4,000. Taking the whole of the freetrade seats of New South Wales, as compared with the whole of the protectionist seats in that State, I find that whilst the eleven protectionists who were returned at the first election represent 160,000 electors, the fifteen free-traders - only four more - - represent 360,000. The measure which the honorable gentleman at the head of the Government referred, to so boastfully in New South Wales as being one of the most liberal electoral laws ever passed in Australia was absolutely ignored, and the people were thrown back upon the discredited electoral divisions of three years before.
– Is the honorable and learned member referring to the Electoral Act, or to the decision of the Parliament in regard to the redistribution of the electorates ?
– I am referring to the electoral divisions. The honorable member well knows that the key to the justice of an electoral law is whether it enables the people to be equally and equitably represented in Parliament.
– The honorable and learned member knows why the proposed redistribution of electorates in New South Wales was not proceeded with.
– I. know the explanation offered ; but I have a fairly good idea of what was the real reason for the action of the Government.
– It was because of the changes wrought by the drought.
– The honorable member has a good idea, too, that the effect of the action of the Government was to do a gross injustice to the free-traders of New South Wales. I leave honorable members who represent other States to speak of their own knowledge of the effect it had upon the free-trade representation of those States. For my own part, I say that the arrangements under which the elections were conducted have not resulted in a fair representation in this Parliament of the present opinions of the people of Australia. That is proved by the mere fact that eleven protectionists represent 160,000 voters, while fifteen free-traders represent 360,000 voters, so that 200,000 voters have a representation of only four members. One cannot help feeling that no sufficient explanation has been given of this state of affairs. We were told in this chamber by the then Minister for Home Affairs - and I mention.it because subsequent events have justified the criticism which was offered in the last Parliament from these benches - that the returns upon which the free-trade party relied were absolutely incorrect, and that when the elections took place it would be seen that those who left the country districts on account of the drought had returned to their homes, and thus restored the equality and equity of representation for which we were clamouring. The facts of the election show that nothing of the sort occurred. Thus we have a city constituency like Parkes with 36,000 voters enjoying only the same representation as the country constituency of Darling, with 15,000 voters. Very soon after the meeting of last Parliament, I’ expressed the opinion that, in consequence of the breach of faith committed by the then Prime Minister, in respect to the promises he had made in his Maitland manifesto, he had obtained a majority in the House of Representatives by political false pretences ; and I say to-day that the Government has again in this Parliament obtained an advantage by false political statements, and by resorting to the old electoral divisions, instead of adopting those proposed by the Commissioner appointed by the Government to equalize the representation _ of the people. It is to be deeply regretted that at the very commencement of our history as a Federation we have had two Parliaments which, so unequally and unfairly, by reason of Ministerial manoeuvring, represent the opinions of the people of the Commonwealth. The charges which were made last session by the members of the Opposition have been more than justified by the facts of the elections. It is a remarkable thing that the constituency represented by the late Prime Minister elected, notwithstanding the efforts made by Ministers and others to retain it for the Government, an unconditional freetrader, while the Government whip, who represented a division not very far from Maitland, where the facts of the situation were perhaps more vividly realized than in other parts of Australia, was not returned to this House, and the Minister who controls the Department of Trade and Customs had a very hard fight to save his seat from a freetrader. The result of the elections generally shows that the people of New South Wales, whom the deception to which I have referred most closely affected, distinctly resented the conduct of the Government. The present Prime Minister visited New South Wales during the recess, and I was interested and somewhat amused at the character of the speeches he delivered in that State. I was surprised at his boastfulness, and at the manner in which he suppressed the real truth in regard to many of the measures passed by this and the preceding Government. In the first place, he told the people that the Electoral Act was one of the most liberal on the statute-books of Australia; but I challenge any one to find in his speeches a single reference to the fact that the Government were really not applying the provisions of that Act to the Commonwealth elections, and had put it on one side, ignoring the distribution of seats which their own Commissioners had proposed as the most equitable for securing the equal representation of the people. He, boasted that the Government had passed a Public Service Act which had entirely done away with political patronage, although the fact is that the Bill introduced into this House fairly reeked with provisons for the establishment of political patronage.
– That is absolutely incorrect
- Sir William McMillan and myself devoted hours to exposing the attempt of the then Minister for Home Affairs to introduce into the measure a system by which every appointment would be made by himself.
– All appointments still are formally made by the Minister.
– The then Minister for Home Affairs told the House, in justification of . his attempt to provide for the introduction of political patronage, that the system of managing the New South Wales railways by Commissioners, and of governing the New South Wales Public Service by a non-political Board, had been a failure. Sir William McMillan directed several very able addresses to the exposure of that contention, and I did the same. We both championed the Railway Commissioners and the Public Service Board of New South Wales, with the result that the Bill had been so completely altered by the time that it had passed through the House that the Sydney Daily Telegraph published of it that not a single clause remained in its original form.
– The honorable and learned member should quote a better authority than the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– The then Minister for Home Affairs did his utmost to discredit the Public Service Board and the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales> who were appointed to abolish political patronage.
– Does the honorable’ and learned member think that what he is now saying has any reference to the Address in Reply?
– I submit that it has. I wish, in criticising the conduct of the Government, to show the effect of these statements upon the elections.
– The remarks of the honorable and learned gentleman in regard to my conduct are incorrect.
– I am not going to deal with the matter further than to say that, when the Prime Minister represented to the people of New South Wales that he was a member of the Government which passed a Public Service Act abolishing political patronage, he should in all honesty have told them that the Bill when introduced fairly reeked with provisions for the establishment of political patronage. It was only because of the steadfast opposition of honorable members on this side of the Chamber that that Bill was taken out of the hands of the Minister who had charge of it, and as honest and pure a mode of appointing and governing the Public Service provided for as exists on the statute-book of New South Wales at the present time. The Prime Minister also told the people of that State that the Government deserved credit for their action in introducing the Inter-State Commission Bill. Those who were members of the last Parliament know that that Bill was drawn by an inexperienced man, and was so little supervised or understood by the Minister who had charge of it that it was practically laughed out of the Chamber, and thrown into the waste-paper basket. I. undertake to say that its author, or god-father, will not recognize the Bill to be introduced this session. The honorable member for Hume fathered a measure for some one who tried to introduce into it provisions which are now being placed in the Navigation Bill. Its marginal notes contained references to United States laws which were absolutely untrue, and I showed them to be so. They were references which might have easily misled honorable members who had not time to look up the American authorities for themselves, and which made the Bill appear to provide for a Commission which was a counterpart of the Inter-State Commission of the United States, whereas something quite different was provided for. The measure was full of original but stupid ideas, which the Minister in charge of it had not the cleverness or the industry to understand. A peculiar thing about the eloquent speeches delivered in New South Wales by the Prime Minister in advocacy of fiscal peace and preferential trade was the small effect they had on the public. I have never been able to understand how any one can preach fiscal peace, which means the leaving alone of the fiscal question, and at the same time -advocate preferential trade, which means the raising nf the whole fiscal issue, but :bat was the pnlitic.il pabulum which the honorable, learned, and eloquent member for Ballarat tried to palm off upon the people of New South Wales. The result ‘was that the Government lost four seats in that State. The Prime Minister also boasted of the establishment of the Federal Judiciary. I was very pleased to hear some comments upon that action from the labour benches to-day. It was only because of the efforts of the Opposition that the Government provided for the appointment of three instead of five Federal Judges, though, so. far, the High Court has had so little to do that one of the Judges has been able to go to South Africa for a four months’ holiday, and the
Court is now engaged for the first time upon an important case.
– That is not fair. The honorable and learned gentleman, as a professional man, should know that the Judge referred to visited South Africa in the ordinary vacation.
– It was announced in the press that one of the Federal Judges would be absent in South Africa for four months.
– I am not answerable for what appears in the press, but the gentleman referred to did not leave Australia until the beginning of the vacation, and returned before it ended.
– I should like to take a retrospective view of the last session, because we are in a peculiar situation with regard to the state of parties, and the position of the present Government. One honorable member has stated that he could not understand why the Government should remain in their present position unless they, can control the House. I do not propose to quote high authorities to show what test should be applied to a body of men who undertake to lead the House ; but I venture to say that no authority, whether it be May Todd, or any other, could be examined without leading honorable members to the conclusion that no Ministry is justified in remaining in office unless it has practical control of the House and the confidence of a substantial majority - a majority sufficient to enable it to conduct the work of the Government and of the country.
– How does the honorable and learned member know that the Government have not that confidence?
– I propose to judge them by the events of last session. 1 think it will be admitted, even by the honorable member for Maranoa, that during the last Parliament the Government, which was substantially the same then as now, had a more solid following than at present. Let us see how they controlled the House last session. Let us examine some of the measures that were passed, and ask whether in the history of political government in Australia a parallel can be found for the absolute irresponsibility and helplessness of the Ministry during that period. I shall instance half-a-dozen measures.
– Are those measures before the House now ?
– No; but I propose to judge the competency of the Ministry at the present time by their actions when they had a larger majority than at present. The honorable member cannot know so much about the history of last session that he is not in need of further enlightenment. The Government brought forward a Bill to provide for an increase of the salary of the Governor-General. That measure was defeated, and practically thrown under the table. Although the Government had fathered it, and it was introduced by the then Prime Minister, it was taken out of their hands, after it had been in the waste-paper basket, and completely altered by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, in order to make it acceptable to the House. What did the Govenrment do?. We had heard a great deal from the then Prime Minister, in the early stages of the Parliament, about the independence which the Government intended to display. In spite of the treatment to which they were subjected, Ministers had no thought of retiring, but went on with the business of the country as if they were an irresponsible committee of the House instead of a responsible Government. Then, again, the Public Service Bill was altered, lock, stock, and barrel.
– The very soul of the Bill which was so dear to the Minister for Trade and Customs, namely, the element of political patronage, which the honorable gentleman desired to remain in the hands of the Minister, was eliminated from the measure.
– It was never embodied in it.
– Did not the Minister advocate the principle of Ministerial patronage, and denounce the Railway Commissioners and Public Service Board of New South Wales, on the ground that the independent method of appointing civil servants was bad ? Did he not arrogate to himself the right to make appointments, and was not the Bill altered in spite of him?
– Is not the Act now in the same shape as the Public Service Act of New South Wales, which places the appointment of public servants solely in the hands of Commissioners?
– The Sydney Daily Telegraph said there was not one of the original clauses left in the Bill.
– Even though the Daily Telegraph did say so, the statement is not true.
-Did the Government resign, or express its sense of humiliation, after having had its business taken out of its hands in that respect? No. Office was too sweet, and they went on again with the business of the country. What happened in regard to the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill ? It was introduced into the House, and literally kicked under the table. The Government tried a second time to secure its adoption, and it was again put under the table. As a last resort, a Royal Commission was appointed, with the result that the motion for the adoption of the report was carried on the casting vote of the Chairman, and now the Government have the temerity to tell us that they are going to introduce the Bill once more.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable and learned member will be absent when the Bill is introduced.
– If I were paid £2,100 a year, I should probably be able to attend as regularly as the honorable gentleman.
– The honorable and learned member is more fond of money than I am.
– Not a single measure was conducted through the last Parliament in a manner befitting a responsible Government. Ministers stooped to accept any amendment that any one chose to suggest, so long as there was a majority behind the proposal; and I will defy any honorable member to come to any other conclusion than that the principle of responsible government was never so seriously lowered as by the Ministry of which the present Government is the successor. What responsibility is likely to be assumed by the Government in the present Parliament ? What evidence is now before us? The Governor-General’s Speech reminds me of the reputation enjoyed by the late George Augustus Sala, who was said to be better able than any man in England to write a leading article which meant nothing. No one can discover anything in the nature of a straightforward responsible programme in the speech. Take, for instance, the question of preferential trade, of which we have heard so much. That was one of the two elements which constituted the party cry of the Government - “ fiscal peace and preferential trade.” We have fiscal peace, because the Government are frightened to revive the old controversy ; but we have not preferential trade, because the Government are afraid to bring it forward. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that we cannot move until England takes action.. Did Canada wait until England moved? Did not Sir Edmund Barton and his colleague at the Convention promise Mr. Chamberlain that, measures would be introduced to test the feeling of Parliament with regard to preferential trade? Was there then any. talk of waiting until England had moved in the matter ? Why does not the Prime Minister introduce the question now ? He .says that the fiscal question has been sunk, but still he proposes to introduce proposals for giving bonuses to farmers and others. Let us see what has been the result of some of the legislation passed by the last Parliament. I joined a very small number of honorable members in taking some exception to the very drastic legislation which was being passed in an hysterical and a hurried way. for the exclusion from the Commonwealth of the people of those nations which were not considered equal to our own. I took the responsibility of championing the cause of the Japanese, so far as I considered that they were entitled to reasonable treatment as a progressive nation, and I submit that subsequent events have justified the course I then took. At the time that the Immigration Restriction Act was passed, in which the Japanese were classed with South Africans and other barbarous and uncivilized peoples, “the Prime Minister laid upon the table of the House accurate figures with regard to the immigration and emigration of Japanese and Chinese to and from Australia.
– The Japanese were not mentioned in the Act.
– No; but thev were embraced by the prohibitory provisions, and the Prime Minister had correspondence from the Japanese Consul, who complained that his compatriots had been classed among barbarous peoples, whereas they claimed to be treated as a civilized and enlightened nation. The figures to which I have referred showed that, taking the whole of the arrivals and departures” of Chinese and Japanese over a number of years, the excess of arrivals over departures was only about 300. In a general way, we were told bv several .honorable members that hordes of Japanese were settling upon our Northern coasts, and threatening to come down and swamp us as a civilized people; but the figures showed that quite the contrary was the case. I hold that, as a matter of Empire - and no one can talk more eloquently about the obligations of Empire thancan the Prime Minister - if we recognize our place as a junior partner, and that is all that we can claim to be, it ill becomes us to stand in the way of negotiations between the mother country and her allies, when such negotiations are calculated to assist in Imperial consolidation. I hold, further, that the present war more than justifies my contention that, in the legislation that was passed, the Japanese should have been differentiated from other races, and that we should have shown that we were at least alive to the conditions of the people by whom we are surrounded, and by whom we are likely to be assisted in the future. It may not be generally known that in the Supreme Court of New South Wales at the present time exception is being taken to the action of the Government in regard to the well-known Stelling case. In that instance an unfortunate German, upon being called upon to pass an examination, as directed by the Customs-house officer at Newcastle, clearly showed that he was able to speak English, French, and German ; but the Government were so broad-minded and patriotic, and so much concerned about the interests of the Empire, that the man was required to pass an examination in Greek. I am happy to say that the Supreme Court of New South Wales has already granted a rule nisi calling upon the Commonwealth Government to show cause why their decision should not be upset.
– The case is now sub judice.
– I am not com.menting upon it. I remember very well that when the alteration was made in the Bill, in this -House, and the substitution of the word “ directed “ for “ dictated “ was agreed to, I pointed out that, though the Bill in its original form professed to give a Customhouse officer power to dictate only the words in a European language, by substituting, the word “ directed,” there was a danger that the officer, in the administration of the Act, would be required, not to dictate the words, but to direct the language; and I remember how the right honorable gentleman, who was then at the head of the Government, looking across to the corner benches with a smile upon his face, and, so far as I could see, with his tongue in his cheek, said - “ It may be a very1 convenient thing if the Custom-house officer is allowed to direct the language as well as dictate the words.”
What is the result? We have made it known to the people of Europe - because all those countries have their representatives here, and all the silly things which we do are very carefully communicated to the different Governments of Europe-
– And a lot of things which we do not do.
– Yes; and I dare say we get credit for some good things which we are not entitled to. The effect of that piece of administration, resulting from equivocal phraseology, which was pointed out to the Prime Minister at the time, has been that we have been made the laughing stock of Europe. But that is not the only case. It is not generally known that . during last year an unfortunate Portuguese sailor, at Newcastle, landed from his ship, and was arrested ; and because he could not pass an examination in English he received six months’ imprisonment with hard labour. The honorable and learned gentleman at the head of the Government cannot complain that he did not know of it, because I distinctly drew his attention to the fact, and asked him whether he was prepared to indorse that treatment of an honest European. What was his answer ?
– In the first place, he was not a European, but a Cape Verde islander ; and in the second place, there was no hard labour - he had only a nominal sentence of six months until he could be deported, it might be in six days.
– But was he deported in six days? When I pointed out that he was a Portuguese sailor, the answer was that he was a Cape Verde islander. I then pointed out that the Cape Verde Islands were a colonial possession of Portugal, and that, therefore, the sailor was a Portuguese as much as the honorable gentleman is an Englishman to-day-
– As much as a Hindo is an Englishman.
– Because he lives in an English State. We have also had half-a-dozen unfortunate New Zealanders who sought to come into this country and were stopped. One cannot forget that the honorable and learned gentleman was one of the most ardent in desiring that New Zealand should come into this Federation. What would have been the effect ? Will it be contended for a moment that if New Zealand had federated with Australia in the Commonwealth, a distinction would have been drawn between the European residents of New Zealand and the native New Zealanders? So that we were willing to take the whole box and dice of these New Zealanders if they only accepted our invitation to come into the Federal union; but because they thought better of it on account of living 1,200 miles away, we stopped seven of their men who wished to come into the Commonwealth, and detained them as undesirables some days, because they intended to do the very objectionable work of taking part in a circus performance. I do think that partyor no party - be we free-traders, protectionists, or members of the Labour Party - this series of occurrences should receive our disapproval. Take our own flesh and blood - the well-known six hatters.
– We know all about that.
– Of course we all know about it. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports laughs. “ A fellowfeeling makes us wondrous kind.” The point I object to is this: The then Prime Minister so interpreted the Act of Parliament under which these men were stopped, that he announced definitely to the public that it was his duty to inquire as to whether six hatters were required in Australia. Just picture the absurdity, in a country like this, in which we had just passed a Tariff which imposed a duty of something like 30 per cent. upon hats for the purpose of building up a hat industry in Australia, when these experienced hatters were imported for the purpose of lifting up the industry to a higher level, and manufacturing a better article, of the very Government which thrust the Tariff upon us, stopping them at our threshold and saying - “We shall have to consider whether six more hatters can be absorbed amongst four millions of people.” It is ludicious ! Indeed that is hardly the word to describe it. It is a travesty of politics; and that is what responsible government came to during the last Parliament. I am not surprised that every visitor who leaves these shores, and goes to England and returns, does so with the same story - that we are the laughing-stock of England and of Europe. And we shall continue to be a laughing-stock so long as we practise these absurd forms of administration.
– What about the Petriana sailors ?
– I do not wish to deal with that case, because the Prime Minister has made the statement that the newspaper reports are entirely untrue. I admit that I had a different account of the incident from Mr. Gollin, the agent for the ship, but 1 propose to accept the statement of the Prime Minister on that matter. During the elections we had a great many eloquent protestations made by the Prime Minister with regard to the Empire, and as to our obligations to it. We were told that the policy of preferential trade was to some extent based upon the desire to consolidate the Empire. But when the honorable and learned gentleman was asked at the termination of the last session - he will remember this, because it was a kind of categorical discussion between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition - whether he was prepared in future to help the Empire by reducing the Tariff in favour of England, the honorable and learned gentleman said - “ If that is to be done it will have to be done by your side of the House.”
– I think I said - “ If any serious reduction is to be made,” or something like that.
– I do not remember that word, but I will insert the word “ serious “ ; if there were to be any serious reduction in the Tariff it would have to be made by this side of the House. The Prime Minister was prepared to raise the duties against foreign countries and leave the Tariff as it was against Great Britain. I should like to know what sort of respect or love or patriotism there was for the British Empire in that statement? The Prime Minister appears to me not to want preferential trade for the British Empire, except as an excuse for getting higher duties against the United States and against Europe.
– He wanted it for safeguarding the shipping of England.
– I will accept that as the object of the Prime Minister at that time, although the suggestion seems rather remote. I do not know whether honorable members know that when the first speeches on preferential trade were made in the House of Commons by Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Balfour was particular to say to the House that one of the great, if not the primary, advantages of preferential trade would be that it would discourage in the Colonies the further development of vested interests in the manu facturing industries. He went on to say that one of the results would be to create a greater outlet for British manufactures. Both Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Balfour have said that they look for a modification rather than for an increase of the existing tariffs. If that is the primary purpose of preferential trade it is very easily seen that there are two distinct brands of that article. We all remember that Mr. Chamberlain, only a very short time ago, when speaking of the preference offered by Canada, said that it had not effected its purposes - that although the imports from England, as has already been explained by the honorable member for North Sydney, had increased, they had decreased as compared with the imports from foreign countries.
– Of course, the honorable and learned member has read the reply of the Canadian Minister?
– I have, but I do not think that that reply affected the question, as the Prime Minister in one of his speeches contended it did. Mr. Chamberlain said that he had been very disappointed with the effect of the Canadian preference, which was about 30 per cent., or in some cases 50 per cent. One has really to sometimes ask oneself outside the meaning qf men’s words, what men really think. Is it consistent with the honorable gentleman’s professions of good-will towards Great Britain that he should practically say - “ We are not going to make any serious reduction in the Tariff in favour of England, but we are perfectly willing to raise the duties against foreign countries ‘ ‘ ? His love for the mother country will be shown by his imposing, in many cases, a full 30 per cent, duty on importations into this country. That is bogus patriotism - bogus love for the Empire. If the Prime Minister and the gentlemen who form his Ministry meant well towards the people of England, and could forget for a while some of the Australian interests in their desire to promote the interests of the Empire, he would, on the occasion to which I refer, at once have said “ Yes ; whatever our duties are we are prepared -to reduce them in favour of the mother country.” “And he would have had good reason in his favour. He knew very well that the Tariff as it stands to-day was the best result that fie and his party could obtain in the fiscal struggle which extended over twelve months, and, therefore, he must have known that it was quite impossible to get this House as a whole to raise the duties any higher at the present time. But he knew at the same time that the leader of the Opposition had expressed a willingness to reduce the duties of the existing Tariff 50 per cent, in favour of the mother country.
– Only if he could not reduce the duties for everybody, as he wanted . to do. ‘
– The leader of the Opposition did not want to reduce the duties as against foreign countries.
– The leader of the Opposition distinctly said here, and also said throughout the elections, that he was prepared to’ make a distinct and substantial preference in favour of Great Britain.
– That was only if he were returned in a minority, and we had a majority. The right honorable gentleman’s words were read out by the honorable member for Wentworth to-day.
– I do not remember any such distinction or qualification. At all events, the conclusion I came to, from hearing the altercation across the table, and also the speeches delivered by the leader of the Opposition-and although I am a member of his party, I do not agree with him in everything - was that he had shown a much more substantial love and patriotism towards the mother country by his brand of preference than was shown by the Prime Minister. Why are preference proposals not placed before the House now ? The Prime Minister knows very well that it would be impossible to induce the House, as at present constituted, to raise the duties against the United States or Europe, but he also knows that the House would be prepared to make some concession to the mother country on the existing Tariff. If that be so, how is it that his love for the Empire does not take the practical form of introducing a measure which would be only a fulfilment of the promise made by the late Prime Minister, of whose Government the present Prime Minister was a member? Why is such a measure not introduced, seeing that it would be merely the fulfilment of the undertaking that the late Prime Minister gave to Mr. Chamberlain at the Convention where the question was first raised? It was at that Convention that anything was said which justifies Mr. Chamberlain in telling the people of England that the Colonies are asking for preferential trade.
– The matter had arisen in Canada.
– That is only a greater reason for introducing the measure. If preference has been asked for and promised, why is the measure not introduced now? It is not introduced for the reason that the Prime Minister and the members of his Government know that they are not at the present time a responsible Government - that they have not the control of the House, but stand at the mercy of .honorable members who sit on the cross-benches.
– I heard that the Government were at the mercy of the honorable and learned gentleman’s party.
– I do not think so. I can only say that I should be very much inclined, under such circumstances, to help the Prime Minister, and the leader of the Opposition has said the same. If the honorable, member were prepared to give this real preference to the mother country he would have a good chance of passing it through the House. Although there has been much talk about sinking the fiscal issue, I can tell the Prime Minister that if his suggested preference, or a Bounties Bill is proposed, the whole fiscal issue will be raised, and every honorable member on this, side of the House - and I think, knowing the feeling, I can speak with some authority - will be prepared to fight him to the last ditch. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the fiscal issue has been sunk.
– Not sunk - it died.
– That suits my argument just as well. It is all very well to say that the fiscal issue is dead, and that, therefore, this is an excellent opportunity to bring forward a Bounties Bill. I do not know what other honorable members’ reading of political economy is, but how a Bounties Bill can be excluded from the fiscal issue passes my understanding. My understanding of a bounty is that, instead of imposing a duty on the importation of goods- for the purpose of artificially raising prices, and thereby giving the manufacturer an advantage, the Government directly offer him the same advantage, not through the Customhouse, but directly out of the Treasury.
– It is a free-trade method of granting protection.
– I do not admit that it is a free-trade method, and if the honorable member is a- protectionist he is not ‘ an authority on free-trade methods. Any honorable member who really knows the elements of political economy must admit that the moment bounties are proposed the fiscal question is raised The whole object of freetrade is to give freedom to commerce - to allow commerce to travel in its normal and natural channels. The moment it is said to the proprietor of an industry, “ You cannot stand alone, but we will give you some artificial aid out of the Treasury at the expense1 of your .fellow men,” the whole system of protection is introduced in another form. At this late hour, I ask permission to continue my remarks to-morrow.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable and learned member have leave to continue his speech to-morrow ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bruce Smith) adjourned.
House adjourned at xi p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040309_reps_2_18/>.