2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the statement which appears in this morning’s Argus, . that the responsibility for the alteration in the class of persons before whom applications under form K of the Electoral Act would be attested rests with the Government? Was the question considered beforehand, as alleged in the newspaper report, and the alteration sanctioned by the Attorney-General ?
– The Government has a general responsibility for whatever happens in the administration of the Electoral, as of any other Act. The regulations issued under the Act were absolutely correct; the error referred to and commented upon by the newspaper arose out of instructions issued by some electoral officer without reference to the Attorney- General. The statement appearing in the Argus that the proposed alteration was submitted to the Attorney-General is absolutely incorrect, as is the further statement that Orders in Council were passed. Thus we have in the first leading article appearing to-day in the columns of one of the morning journalsof this city two statements absolutely without foundation, but put before the public as if they were absolutely and veritablytrue.
– They are near enoughto the truth to suit the Melbourne press.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to say, in reference to the second leading article which appears in this morning’s Argus’, commenting upon the difference between the treatment given to the crew of the Petriana and that meted put to the crew of the Japanese ship recently wrecked near Newcastle, that precisely the same course was followed in both cases. In each cas e agents of the vessel wereasked - “ Will you undertake to see that these shipwrecked men leave this country for their own land at the first convenient opportunity?” The duty of returning shipwrecked sailors to their own country is an obligation cast upon British ship-owners by British law. The agents of the Petriana refused to give that undertaking. They declined to allow the men to be landed upon their responsibility. They were offered their choice of landingplaces, and might have put the men ashore wherever they wished, if they had made themselves responsible for the deportation of the men on the first occasion possible. In the case of the crew of the Japanese ship, the undertaking we asked for was entered into, and the men were allowed to land at once, and to go to the Sailors’ Home. ‘ There was no alteration in procedure in that case, because none was necessary. The whole dispute has been as to who should bear the cost of keeping these men, and in the Petriana case the agents endeavoured to transfer their responsibility to the Government. Their failure to do so was the whole source and cause of the complaint which has been made, and the foundation of the misrepresentations which we have heard.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if his attention has been directed to the following passage from the decision of the Chief Justice of the High Court in connexion with the declaration that the Melbourne election was void. He there’ says that the voiding of the election was due to the neglect of the Chief Electoral Officer, and refers to thematter in these terms -
It was owing to the action of the Chief Electoral Officer in sending out a circular containing directions as to voting by post that these votes were lost. People who had endeavoured to exercise their votes had been disfranchised by what he thought he was justified in characterizing as gross negligence on the part of an officer of the Electoral Department.
I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the strong condemnation expressed by the Chief Justice, he will give effect to the request of the leader of the Opposition,, thata full and searching inquiry shall be made into the administration of the Electoral Office. It seems to me-
– The honorable member in asking a question is not permitted to express an opinion.
– In view of the fact that this decision supports-
-For an honorable member to say that a decision supports, or does not support, a contention, is to discuss the matter, and debate is not permissible when asking a question.
– Then, I shall content myself with asking the Prime Minister if he will give effect to the request of the leader of the Opposition, and of other honorable members, that a searching inquiry shall be made into this and other abuses due to the general maladministration of the Electoral Office. I think I shall be able to show-
– I shall take the first opportunity to obtain an absolutely authoritative copy of the remarks of the Chief Justice, and I shall read them in conjunction with the Minister who is charged with the administration of the Electoral Act. I understand that the instruction referred to was amended some time ago. If, after I have informed myself of the facts, an inquiry is asked for by any honorable member, I shall require him to state what it is he wishes to be inquired into, and its relation to the facts of this case.
– Will the Government consider the propriety of making an allowance to the two. gentlemen who have been unseated by the decision of the High Court in regard to the Melbourne election, to cover their expenses, since the election has been declared void, through no fault of theirs? A precedent has been set by the action of some of the Parliaments of the States in similar cases; in reimbursing candidates the expenses they had incurred. In New South Wales such consideration has been shown in several instances.
– I shall be happy to look into the precedents referred to. As under the Electoral Act no candidate for the House of Representatives is allowed to spend more than£200 in contesting an election, the reimbursement proposed would not be a very serious matter.
– Is the Minister for Home Affairs aware that some of the returning officers in New South Wales have not yet been refunded their out-of-pocket expenses? Is he aware that carpenters employed to erect polling booths have not been paid for the work they performed ? Will he take an early opportunity to direct that these persons be paid?
– I shall be obliged to the honorable member if he will give me more definite information on this subject. There are outstanding accounts in regard to which there are disputes, because some of the returning officers took it upon’ themselves to spend considerable sums of money contrary to the instructions issued to them. Those cases are being investigated, but every account in regard to which there has been no dispute has been paid.
– What about the carpenters?
– The carpenters were employed, not by the Department, but by various returning officers acting under the instructions of the Department. Where returning officers have gone beyond their instructions, there must be delay in dealing with these matters. Every other account has been settled long ago. I am doing my best to have all these matters dealt with, and if the honorable member can give me information which will expedite the settlement of accounts still outstanding, I shall be much obliged to him.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Defence what is the position of affairs now in regard to the difficulty which has occurred in connexion with the Defence Forces in the southern part of Tasmania. When will information on the subject be presented to the House?
– The matter is under consideration, and I hope to give the honorable member a definite answer in the course of two or three days.
Debate resumed from roth March (vide page 455), on motion by Mr. Mauger -
That the Address be agreed to by the House.
– I take it that honorable members are in the humour to dispose of the Address in Reply, with a view to giving their attention to the details of various measures which ought to be dealt with as soon as possible. Under these circumstances, I do not propose to occupy the time of the House at any length, particularly as an occasion of this sort is utilized chiefly for the purpose of criticism, and, because of the relations’ which have existed between me and the members of the Government, I am inclined to use my privilege of criticising sparingly, and certainly not with the object ofleaving a sting behind. I think, however, that it is just as well for honorable members to take advantage of this opportunity to define with sufficient precision their attitude towards the Government and towards the various questions which are likely to engage our attention, so that no misapprehension may arise. Approaching the consideration of the motion under these circumstances, I have to say that I cannot altogether approve of the action of Ministers in several important particulars. I address them in the hope that they may be induced to take heed to their ways. There are, it appears to me, symptoms of a highly undesirable fall from democratic grace, and as I do not wish to accompany them into any political slough of despond, I am speaking in the hope that further consideration may induce an attempt upon their part to avoid the pitfalls upon which they are undoubtedly, though unwarily, advancing. I hope that my past and present attitude may satisfy them that my desire is solely for an alteration in their ways which will be more consistent with the course which I believe they have hitherto desired to follow, and may have the effect of avoiding possible disaster. It is the advice of a friend, and I tender it as such, and nothing would afford me greater pleasure than to have it accepted in the spirit in which, I assure the Government, it is offered. First of all, I desire to say that I thoroughly agree with the protests which have been made recently against the action - or, rather, the inaction - of the Government in connexion with the Federal Capital question. I did not hesitate last year to plainly express my views upon the subject. I think that it would be a great pity if the present state of affairs were allowed to continue, or if any State, whether it be the oldest or the youngest, the most populous or the least populous, were induced to imagine that there is an intention on the part of the Parliament, or of any section of it, to disregard its undoubted rights. We should spare no pains to establish and maintain the very best relations between the different constituent States of this great Commonwealth, and we should, in every possible way, endeavour to avoid giving the slightest apparent foundation for the idea that any section of this House seriously considers the possibility of doing that which would undoubtedly be unjust to New- South Wales or any other State. It is upon the mutual trust and confidence which we all have in each other that the success of the Federation depends. Destroy the trust which should exist between the States, let there be any real reason for the suggestion that one State would do an injustice to the other, and the chief guarantee for the security of the Federation, for the continued existence of the goodwill which ‘ is necessary to its maintenance, will sustain possibilities of risk to which it cannot, in the interests of united Australia, be properly exposed. What is the position? It is that New South Wales has undoubted rights in this connexion. It has the right to expect that an honest and sincerely determined effort will be made thus early in the history of the Federation to settle the Federal Capital in some convenient part of New South Wales. I do not believe that any section of the House is really opposed to the question being disposed of at the earliest possible date. There is no room for argument on the subject ; the Constitution speaks all too clearly. In the very nature of things, what would be one of the earliest subjects to engage the attention . of the Federation? The settlement of the Federal Capital. How do matters stand now ? There is no doubt whatever that any Federal Parliament would, in the natural order of things, meeting for the despatch of business, address itself to the question : Where is the seat of government to be? If the Constitution were silent, that would take place in the natural order of events, and I ask : Is the provision in the Constitution to relieve us of the necessity of disposing of the matter at an early date? Nothing df the sort. The Constitution declares that the Federal Capital site shall be in New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney, and that declaration, instead of relieving us from the ‘duty of dealing with the question at the earliest possible date, simply emphasizes the necessity of out addressing ourselves to the question. Do honorable members recollect the history of the negotiations in this respect? The first referendum to the people of New South Wales failed, and failed- it has been said, and I think to some extent rightly - because the right to the capital was not guaranteed to New South Wales within the four corners of the first draft Constitution: What was done to overcome the difficulty? A Conference was held at which the various States were represented by their Premiers; The meeting was held in Melbourne, and Sir George Turner, then Premier of Victoria, presided. Tasmania was represented by the late Sir’ Edward Braddon, and Queensland by the late Sir James Dickson. The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney represented New South Wales, the Minister for Home Affairs, then Premier of Western Australia, represented that State, and I had the honour to appear on behalf of my native State. At that Conference, an agreement was arrived at with a view to overcome the difficulty, and a compact was made that .New South Wales should have the capital. We all agreed to that. I confess that I should have preferred the question to be left open. But we were all there considering the question, and there was a desire to federate, and the complaisance of the representative of Victoria smoothed the way towards the removal of the obstacle. At any rate, i lie agreement was made, and there it stands, and New South Wales is ‘entitled to the capital. It is now three years since we federate’], and she has not yet obtained her right. Under these circumstances, is not our duty clear? The Government say that they are getting on with this matter.
– I read various accounts in various places as to what they are doing. But I hold that their duty is to declare their policy. I venture to say that their first duty is to unite, because there must be a Government policy on a question of this sort. Of course, various questions are at times troublesome ; but, in regard to. the selection of the Federal Capital site, the Government should be united. What is the use of their saying “ We are doing our best ; we are advocating this and advocating that.” I ask : Is the whole strength of the Government behind their action? I know that it is difficult for Ministers to agree upon some subjects, but the time comes when their duty is to adjust their differences and to present for the acceptance of both Houses a policy upon which they are agreed, and which they are prepared, by resorting to every legitimate means, to carry . into effect. How can a number of people who are not agreed upon a question expect to succeed in inducing a number of others to agree upon it? The natural retort of those who have differences of opinion is : “ Agree among yourselves ; when you are agreed, put your proposals before us. Your agreement will be at least an earnest of the fact that you are prepared to sink unnecessary differences, and you will then have the right to ask us to follow suit.”
– We want to have the agreement accompanied by a cash deposit.
– I do not know about that. It would be sufficient, I take it, for the representative of the Government to tell us - “ Our policy as regards the Capital site is this “ - Tumut or Bombala, one or the other, specifying which. As regards the merits of the various sites, what we did last year practically amounted to the rejection of all sites other than Tumut or Bombala.
– This is a new House.
– I know that, but I do not think that the corporate view upon the subject has changed. I think that the dispute was narrowed down to the sites mentioned. It was last year, any way, and really it would be too bad to suggest that, instead of having been brought a little closer together by the lapse of time, we are more widely separated, and that some other site is likely to be introduced into the controversy. However, four or five months have elapsed since we were last together, and I put it to the leader of the Government - have the Government made up their minds as to which site they intend to recommend to Parliament?
– Not yet.
– Then I say that it is too bad, and that the sooner they do make up their minds the better.
– It is not such a very easy matter. It is, in fact, a very difficult matter, and no one knows thatbetter than the right honorable and learned gentleman.
– I know that as regards the Minister for Home Affairs there is that possibility for disagreement when he is about which seems to be somewhere existent in this particular case. But I put it directly to the Government - is it not time that they have made up their minds in this matter? The members of the Government proposed to have the question settled last year.
– By Parliament.
– Ministers were agreed then, I suppose ; they at least had some idea of what they wanted.
– They were agreed then, and they are agreed now, to accept the decision of Parliament.
– We have to thank the Prime Minister for nothing. The Government will have to accept the decision of Parliament, whether they like it or not. Speaking in all candour, I ask my honorable friend : Does he not think that this is a matter in which the Government should put forward a policy ?
– I do not.
– Then I venture to say that there will be a division of opinion between the House and the Government, which I should like to see put to the test. Is the matter to be humbugged? Are the Government to bring forward a Bill with a blank in it and leave the matter at that? Are they to rest content with informing the House that they have no united policy upon the subject, and leave it to the decision of honorable members ?
– It is a matter upon which each individual member should be free to express his own opinion.
– I would suggest to the House generally, and to the Government in particular, that it is a matter of giving effect to the constitutional provisionsof the Imperial Act as regards the fixing of the Federal Capital site. I have always understood that in a matter of that sort it is the duty of the Government - whatever Government might be in office - to propound a policy, and if the Government do not feel capable of doing so, I suggest that they might be offered an opportunity of allowing others, who would not exhibit similar reluctance, to discharge the duties imposed by the Constitution.
– Move an amendment upon the Address in Reply.
– I am not going to move an amendment. I put it to the House generally that the Government are expected to lead. Their attention is directed, by the express terms of the Constitution, to the necessity for applying their minds to the consideration of the case. We shall never arrive at a decision if we do not first get a Government which has a policy upon the subject, and which has the courage to advocate and fight for it in the way in which all difficult matters require to be fought for - to the end. I say that the feelings of the people of New South Wales upon this question are by no means unnatural, and unless it be promptly settled, I think that as time goes on, the irritation which they are experiencing will be likely to develop into a deep-seated sore, entirely prejudicial to a continuance of those harmonious relations and those feelings of mutual confidence and trust which should exist between the various States of the Federation.
– It will be far deeper if Parliament selects Bombala.
– May I ask if the Minister for Home Affairs agrees with that proposition ?
– I have no prejudices at all.
– I think it would be a national calamity if Tumut were chosen.
– Might I ask the Prime Minister if that is the view of the Government? Of course, there is sometimes an amusing way of looking at these things. Occasionally it happens that questions arise upon which it is very difficult for Ministers to be unanimous. I have experienced it. Of course, it may be that that case arose just because I “ happened to be there.”
– Why did the right honorable member not settle that particular question when he was a Minister?
– I could not settle it, and as a result I am here in the capacity of a private member. It does seem to me that the question of the Capital site will not be satisfactorily dealt with until this House is disposed to take the matter into its own hands, and to give something in the nature of a gentle hint to the Government that it expects them to have a policy upon the subject. I do not hesitate to tell Ministers that I would infinitely prefer that they should recognise the force of the position and take upon themselves their undoubted responsibility to propound a policy in favour either of Tumut or of Bombala.
– Will the right honorable member vote for Tumut?
– No ; I shall vote for Bombala.
– The right honorable member is upon the right spot.
– The present position cannot long continue. It seems to me that it is as plain as plain can be. New South Wales has her undoubted rights. She has been kept out of them too long. Let us give her that to which she is clearly entitled, and which is expressly provided for in our written Constitution. Do not let this cry that she ought to have the capital merge into a clamour. Her right to it has been made as plain as plain can be, first by the Premiers’ agreement, and subsequently by the adoption of the Constitution by the various States upon a referendum. It has further been incorporated in an Imperial Act. I say that whatever may be the reason forit, this delay has lasted too long, and when the cry is raised to defer action - and we hear a whisper of it now and again even in this House - and when we see that some journals have the hardihood practically to advocate the repudiation of the agreement, and the cheating of New South Wales, either directly or indirectly, out of that which is her undoubted constitutional right, I say the affair is reaching a stage which is highly dangerous to true Federal friendship, upon which our Constitution rests. I hold that those who favour delay should either rise in their places and justify its continuance, if they can, or yield that which they are in honour bound to yield - the rights of New South Wales, as embodied within the four corners of the Constitution. The responsibility for the continuance of the present position rests with the Government. They are bound to propound a policy; they propound none. They are bound to do their best to induce the two Houses to agree; they have even failed in that essential preliminary. This is no new subject. Last session I addressed myself to it. I remember the occasion upon which there was a debate on the question of parting with the control of the Appropriation Bill, and I then asked for an assurance that the Government would spare no pains to get this matter settled. I obtained a promise, but precious little more. Anyhow, the session closed without any advance being made in the solution of the rival claims of Tumut and Bombala, and the question, it now seems to be practically admitted, is an open one with the Ministry still. What is the good of the Government obtaining maps, and this, that, and the other, including the promised contour surveys? Was the matter ripe for settlement last year when it was introduced by the Government? If so, why is it not ripe now? If it was not ripe for settlement, why was it introduced? It seems to me that Ministers are simply encouraging the hopes of the people of New South’
Wales for a recognition of their rights - hopes which are not to be realized. The Government disagreeing upon the subject when are they going to agree? When are they going to get the question settled? I do not hesitate to say that, unless we are shown that there is a fair prospect of this question being taken up by the Ministry with an intention to settle it, and under circumstances which inspire more hope of its settlement than appears to be warranted if the Government are left solely to their own devices, some action on the part of the House will be justified in the interests of Federation, with a view to prevent a grave injustice being done to a State, which, however keenly alive to what her rights may be, is at least left no room for doubt as to what they are, by their declaration, with the consent of the people of Australia, within the four corners of the Constitution itself. Having said so much in regard to a matter upon which I am not in agreement with the action of the Government, I should like to say a word or two to my old friends of the Opposition, on the subject of the results of the policy which the Ministry have had the honour of advocating during the past two or three years.
– -Has the right honorable member got Mr. Wise’s figures?
– Of course, I naturally go to that which is wise at once. ‘ I congratulate New South Wales upon many things, and amongst others upon the fact that it includes amongst its statesmen, a gentleman of the ability of the Honorable B. R. Wise.-
– A convert to the right honorable gentleman’s fiscal belief.
- 1 do not know whether honorable members have noticed the report of Mr. Wise’s remarks which is contained in the columns of the Age newspaper - his utterances of Wednesday last with reference to the progress pf New South Wales, assisted by a good season, and the benefits which have been conferred by a protective Tariff. Really it is most refreshing when I reflect upon the gloomypredictions that were indulged in-
– Which has had most to do with her progress - the good season or the Tariff ?
– Despite ‘ all the gloomy predictions that were indulged in by seme of the opponents of protection, and despite the remarks which are occasionally made even in this House, what has been the result? Mr. Wise speaks from the experience of a couple of years’ working of the Tariff, and with the figures before him. ‘ 1 am sure that every one who ‘has the interests of Australia in general, or of New South Wales in particular, at heart, must be delighted with what - in the absence of Sir John See - the Acting Premier of New South Wales, with the figures before him, and the responsibilities of his office upon him, declares to be the result both of the season and of the Tariff. He directs attention, however, more particularly to the effect of the operation of the Tariff upon the manufacturing interests of New South Wales.
– There are more unemployed in New South Wales to-day than there ever were.
– I see.
– New South Wales has returned nineteen free-traders to this House. That is her answer.
– The electors did not vote upon the question of free-trade at all.
– The article from which I quote is headed “ A Prosperity Speech.” Mr. Wise, rejoicing upon the output of manufactures during the year, makes the statement that it totalled a value of ^25,000,000.
– We had a total output of ^28,000,000 one year.
– The report is as follows : -
The Acting Premier, Mr. B. R. Wise, delivered an important speech at the Mayoral luncheon this afternoon, in which he referred to the resources of the State, and produced som< statistics to show the recent advance in the prosperity of the State. After referring to the two years of unparalleled difficulties which the Government had had to face, he said those troubles had almost passed. A sum of £3,000,000 would go into the farmers’ pockets as a result of the harvest. The value of the wheat exported during the past two months, from Sydney totalled £500,000, and within the same time dairy produce of the value of £250,000 hat! been exported. Mr. Wise then referred to the growth of the position of New South Wales as a manufacturing Stale.
My honorable friends opposite will no doubt recollect that some of us ventured to say, from the nature and value of the resources of New South Wales in coal, iron, &c, that there would be a great increase in the prosperity of that State under protection. There can be no doubt whatever that she is richly endowed as compared with any one of the other States. Her’ resources are second to’ none ; and what we expected in relation to the increase of her production has, it seems, happened. Mr. Wise said -
The manufacturing output of the State totalled £25,000,000, which were wonderful figures when the smallness of the population was taken into consideration. It was five times as much as the value of the agricultural produce raised. A sum of £5,000,000 had been distributed in wages. During the past four years there had been a greater rush of trade than in any like period of the preceding twelve months. To show, in striking form, what the development had been, he would quote a few figures. From 1900 to 1902 factories had increased in actual cash value, counting machinery and plant, and not including buildings, by £1,000,000 sterling, and when the figures for 1903 were available, he believed that the increase would be £1,500,000 more. In 1900 the State exported boots of the value of £25,000; in 1902 that amount had more than doubled. In 1900 biscuits of the value of £10,000 were exported; in 1902 the exports had increased to £38,000.
– That is, to other Australian States.
– Each of the States benefits from inter-State free-trade. I can assure honorable members from New South Wales that the figures which I am quoting are as agreeable to me as if they referred to my own native State. I am sure that all of us have the same goodwill towards all the States.
– Does Mr. Wise state that the good season was due to a bonus on rain ?
– The honorable member had better go and ask him ; though perhaps, in answering a young member thus, I am speaking rather too sharply.
As for wearing apparel, the value of the goods exported in 1900 only amounted to £3,000. In 1902 the figures were £54,000. Jam to the value of £9,000 was exported in 1900; in 1902 the figures had trebled, and the value of the export was £27,000. But the most striking advance of all was inrelation to tobacco. In 1900 the tobacco exported had a value of only £19.In 1902 the figures were £112,293. Although the figures for 1903 were not available, yet he had been given an assurance that they would show a considerable increase on those of 1902. Sydney must reap the benefit of the prosperity shown by these figures. In the same period the capital value of the rateable property had jumped from £88,100,000 to £93,400,000, being an increase of £5,300,000, while the annual value had increased from £5,000,000 to £5,400,000. These figures served to show the increasing capital invested in the industries in this State, and the accompanying increases in wages.
Instead of there being a flight of capital elsewhere there has been a marked increase in its income.
– Can the right honorable member give the Victorian figures after forty years of protection?
– I do not think it necessary. Of course, Victoria has had the benefit of protection for a very long time. But here is Mr. Wise pointing out enormous increases of the character I have shown.
– In former years we have had him showing the wonderful effects of free-trade in New South Wales !
– These are his latest utterances, anyway, and they are uptodate. Coming from the lips of the Acting Premier of the senior State of Australia, they are of a character which admits of no dispute. Iwill go a little further, and rub it in. It is not as though these were my figures. They are the figures and opinions of the Acting Premier of New South Wales, who, I venture to say, is a man of whom all Australia has good reason to be proud.
– The people of New South Wales are not proud of him; they would not elect him.
– Unless they were proud of him he would not occupy the position he does.
– In a nominee Chamber.
– There are a good many constituencies in a good many parts of the Commonwealth that would be very proud to have Mr. Wise as their representative. He is a gentleman who has for many years occupied a prominent position in the public life of his native State, and his career is one of which a good many might well be envious. I am not speaking with the bias of one who is concerned in State party politics, but the unprejudiced view which I have expressed concerning Mr. Wise is one which I honestly hold. I really do not think there is any one who would seriously dispute the high ability and many talents of the honorable gentleman to whom I am referring. He went on to make this further statement -
He only quoted these figures to show how socialistic legislation - we have heard about that before - and the Arbitration Act were driving capital out of the country.
He seems to have the figures on his side, does he not?
He concluded by saying he further believed that, in the next two years, the growth of New South Wales industries would be without parallel in the history of the State.
– No one in New South Wales believes Mr. Wise.
– If only .£1,500,000 is given back, and £4,500,000 is taken away from the people of New South Wales in taxation, how is there a gain to the people of that State?
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa cannot speak again. He has already taken part in the debate.
– These are the latest figures, and as they are authoritative they are well worthy of our consideration. It seems to me that - speak trumpettongue’d, and all In one way. They prove that New South Wales, in common with all the other States, has profited from Federation and protection, especially as regards her manufacturing interests ; and it seems to me that, with Mr. Wise, we can hope for even better results in the future. I notice that our old friend, the leader of the Opposition, was present on the same occasion, and he did not take altogether the same view that Mr. Wise took, but attributed some of the success of New . South Wales to the enlarged market which she has undoubtedly secured for her manufactures and products under inter-State free-trade. Of course I should not dream of attempting to dispute that that is one of the results of Federation, and that it has had a good deal to do with the success which has been achieved. But I also contend that the figures which I have quoted completely dispel all the gloomy notions and the terrifying pictures’ which were drawn by some rampant free-traders as to the possible results of protection.
– I know of a number of factories which have been working half-time.
– All that I can say is that if some factories have been working half-time, the result is that they have increased the output of their manufactures.
– The honorable member is only referring to the importing boot firms.
– I am referring to engineering establishments which are only working half-time. Where they had 1,800 men working three years ago they have only 600 to-day.
– The honorable member for Dalley has already spoken.
– I do not propose to analyze the output of -ach industry. I have quoted the figures which are the most important, and it seems to me that there is no room for doubting these facts. They show that the manufacturing interests of
New South Wales are prospering - that their output, representing, as it does, £25,000,000 - is greater to-day than ever it was. May they go from good to better ! When we remember what is the population of the State, I think that these are figures of which we may well be proud. Instead of there being the disaster and ruin which were prophesied, we have ground for congratulation, and promise of better results in the future, which should remove even the shadow of a cloud from our minds, and induce us to continue, with stout hearts and bright hopes, in the course which is set before us in the interests of a united Australia. The next point to which I desire to refer is the subject of industrial conciliation. Honorable members will probably accept my assurance that this is a matter in which for years past I have taken a very deep interest. In 1890 my attention was particularly directed to the question by the great maritime strike, as well as by the industrial dispute at Broken Hill. I found that there were two things upon which the public mind was practically unanimous. It was recognised, first of all, that strikes and locks-out were much to be deplored. I am happy to say that I have never advocated embarkation on a strike; on the contrary’, I have always done my best to prevent men from resorting to this method of securing redress. It seemed to me, at the time to which I refer, that it would be a good thing if strikes and locksout could be prohibited. Then the thought arose in my mind that if we made it impossible for strikes and locks-out to occur we should have to substitute something in their stead, because they were claimed to be the only weapons which masters and men could employ, in certain events, to secure the doing of right. It appeared to me that we could not prohibit strikes and locks-out without providing some other means to ascertain the right, and to secure its accomplishment, and I set to work to draft a Bill dealing with the subject. The view which I took of the position was that whilst prohibiting strikes and locks-out we should recognise that in an industrial ‘dispute, as in all disputes, there is a right and a wrong, and that if we wished to provide for the doing of the right it was imperative that we should provide a. means by which that right might be ascertained. That proposition admitted, it followed naturally that we should be able to adopt ‘suitable provisions to give effect to it, and to this end I proposed a tribunal in which full public confidence could be placed. I should like at this stage to say that, whilst I am a believer in unionism, I believe in a unionism of masters as well as of men. Strong unions . on both sides are so many steps towards peace. One should not be stronger than the other to an extent which would, justify even an attempt to set aside the consideration of a question in dispute on the broad merits of right and wrong. ‘The stronger these unions are - the more closely they approximate in strength to each other - the more likely are we to secure mutual forbearance and mutual respect, and the greater is the possibility of equitable agreement. ‘ Here I should like to make my position and feeling in regard to one point very plain. I have heard statements as to there being a temporary disposition on the part of certain workers to fail to comply with the conditions of an award of an Arbitration Court. I know, however, that the unions themselves do not encourage anything of the kind, and I understand that, even as regards the Teralba incident, the position is that the terms of the award are now being carried out. Is not that so?
– It is.
– How was it possible for the men to struggle against the law?
– They went back voluntarily.
– To their honour be it said that they did so.
– Four thousand in the district at once accepted the decision of the Court, although it meant a reduction.
– I am proud to know that there is at present no wilful omission on the part of any man to comply with the terms of an award of an Arbitration Court in any part of the’ Commonwealth.
– Men are not to be free to refuse to work. This is a pretty country.
– What we desire to secure is the continuous employment of our workers. One of our chief objects in legislating as regards arbitration is that an end shall be put to the practices of masters and men in the way of strikes and’ locks-out. I put the question to the House, without fear as to what the answer will be : Is there one of us who really wishes to see a strike or a lock-out - who would not do his best to prevent such an occurrence?
– No one who has gone through a strike would wish to see another one.
– Exactly. I am known, I venture to think, for my genuine sympathy with the workers, but I have, at the same time, as keen a desire for justice to the masters. We should take care that provision for the satisfactory punishment of a man who wilfully fails to comply with an award of the Court, is clearly made within the four corners of the Bill with which we are to deal. We should have the courage to do our duty, and, when the need arises, to enforce those provisions, utterly irrespective of whether it is the master or man who breaks the law. The success of a law relating to arbitration depends upon the compliance of both sides with the awards of the Court, and I say “ out upon him “ - whether he be master or man - who seeks to strike at the foundation of legislation designed for the benefit of all ; who restricts a jurisdiction which is exercised for the benefit of both sides and for the good of the community. Let him by all means, be punished. Let there be no weakness in a matter of this kind. It is necessary for the good of all that there should be none. The man who can see a difference between master and man, as regards the duty of enforcing penalties for a breach- of the law, is peculiarly constituted; he has not that sense of what is true justice which is necessary for a proper appreciation of the manner in which the law should be administered. In this respect, let there be no weakness or wavering as to one side or the other. Let us say to both parties - “ You are bound by the law ; if you break it you shall suffer. “ A few examples in this respect would be more than justifiable. They would have a wholesome effect, and I think still more highly of the effect . the sense of justice would have upon public sentiment. One and all of us ought to set our faces against this tampering with the foundation of beneficial legislation of this description - this setting at. nought of its provisions. We should do all that lies within our power to discount actions such as those to which I have referred, and to secure their passing away for all time. The success of the effort’s which have been made in this direction, which is shown by the non-existence at this particular moment of any example- of defiance of legislation of this kind, will be continued in such a degree that these little temporary episodes, which grieve us and excite us to anger - but which are now so conspicuous by their absence - will shortly pass away, and we shall have a concurrence of public sentiment in the administration of the law, and its observance by all concerned, that will secure in the future even greater unanimity in relation to this particular point. We see elsewhere the effect of State legislation. Honorable members remember the old Broken Hill strike. There we had an industrial dispute. But what happened lately? Another industrial dispute occurred at Broken Hill-
– It would have been found difficult to punish all the men in the last-named case.
– All that the men asked in that case was that the employers should comply with their own agreement and grant them a conference. The employers, however, would not do so.
– There might be some difficulty in enforcing the law against a number of men. I have often said that there would be a difficulty in such cases. If a great many men set themselves against a law there will no doubt be difficulty in enforcing that law, but for any Government prepared to do its duty in this respect difficulties of that sort are surely made to be overcome? The honorable member would not suggest that because a number of men combined to break the law as to assault it would not be enforced. The Government might have difficulty in enforcing it, but they would do it. It should be done, and it would be done. The Government, in such a case, would recognise its duties, and Parliament would insist upon their performance, because the Executive would be there to see that’ the provisions of the law were carried out, and to give the public the protection which they require. It is one thing, when there is a law against what is deemed an offence, to break it, and it is another thing to do that which is not prohibited. The mere fact that something is prohibited under penalty will secure amongst all civilized communities a degree of observance which would be altogether absent if there were no penalty or prohibition. Civilized communities are law abiding communities, and to say that people do certain things when there is no law against them by no means proves that they will do them if there be such a law. It has been my duty to advise whether certain things were lawful or not andI have found that there is always a disposition on the part of the members of a community, and I do not care who they are, to obey the law, if it be clear and precise. People’ will not dream of disobeying a law when there is a prohibition under penalty. I find that where the breach of agreements is declared to be a penal act there is an indisposition to incur the penalty that has a most wholesome effect in regulating general action. We might just as well say in regard to any admittedly desirable provision to be found in the pages of our statute-books, prohibiting this, that, and the other, that there might be a difficulty in enforcing the provision if there were combined resistance, if there were an insurrection, or if there were a revolution. But insurrections and revolutions are things which we speak of only in our wildest moments. There is a respect for the law which regulates the mind of each individual in the community. I ask honorable members whether it is desirable that we should hold our hands in the making of laws, because it might be difficult to enforce them if many resisted their operation? The possibility of resistance is small indeed, and in the great majority of instances obedience follows the making of the law. A suggestion as to the difficulty of enforcement should not be sufficient to. induce us to hold our hand in legislating for the common good, on lines which must commend themselves to all as simply for the ascertainment of the right and the providing for its enforcement. I have had a good deal to do, from time to time, with this question of arbitration, and I imagine there would be a general disposition to accept that scheme which is thought most likely to secure the most just results. I ask honorable members to consider whether there could be anything better than to provide, before the outbreak of a dispute, for a Court to ascertain the right, when the trouble arises. Is it not a good thing, too, that there should be a decision of the question as to what is the right? It seems to me that we should have as President of the Court a gentleman accustomed to the judicial method of hearing, sifting, and weighing of evidence. Shall we not be taking one step towards securing that if we provide that the President shall be a Justice of the High Court? In the natural order of things we should expect on the Bench of the High Court gentlemen of the highest judicial attainments. I venture to think that that expectation would be strengthened by a consideration of the gentlemen who at the present moment occupy positions on that Bench. If we elect a President from that Bench, surely, we shall get the incarnation of judicial talent? We shall have, on the other hand, on each side, gentlemen who may naturally be expected to bring expert knowledge, or an appreciation of business habits, to the assistance of the Court; one representing the masters, arid the other the men. Can any one suggest a Court more admirably constituted? I venture, however, to think and hope that if any improvement can really be suggested as regards the constitution of the Court, the Government would be only too glad to adopt it.
– To consider it, at all events.
– What I should like to say here, is this: Of course, I know that, in party politics, my name is not infrequently associated with warm partisanship, but we know where party politics should end, and where questions of right and wrong arise, and I do trust that party politics will never be allowed to interfere with questions of justice between man arid man. We should keep the political element, in every possible’ way, off the Bench. This is a matter of the hearing of a dispute; it is a judicial consideration for the purpose of the declaration of the right, and it seems to me we shall get the judicial spirit fully represented in the way I have mentioned. A Court, constituted as I have said, will have no object and no duty but that of doing justice, . finding where the right is, and declaring for its enforcement. Then, when the award of the Court is made, my opinion is that we must have a power in the Court to fix the penalties attaching to any breach of the award. Let them be clear and distinct, and let there be no hesitation about the enforcement of the penalties which the circumstances of the case demand. We require an active Court, a just Court, and a Court, the awards of which shall not be waste paper, but which shall have every power necessary for securing due regard for and compliance with its every order. I know that it is sometimes said that the power of enforcement seems to be hard. All I can say- is that I take it that the object of the reference to a Court of Arbitration is to find out the right, and to secure that effect shall be given to it, but, if we are going to stop short, after finding out what is right, of doing what is necessary for the purpose of enforcing it, that will be altogether a mistake, and we shall be wasting our time. We take away the power to strike and the power to lock-out, and we substitute something far better- a declaration of the right, arid its enforcement. In 1890, when I first introduced an Arbitration Bill in the South Australian Parliament, I included in it a provision for compulsory conciliation; enabling it to be applied to all organizations, whether registered or not. Considerable exception was taken to this measure. The .term compulsory conciliation, and a good many other things in it, were objected to, and, after I had carried the Bill three times through the House of Assembly I lost it in the Legislative Council, and had to strike out the provisions for compulsory conciliation. It was contended that it would be sufficient if we were to give the Court a power to make a non-enforceable report. It was suggested that the investigation of a matter by the Court would enable them to declare where the right was, and that, though the Court would not have the power of compelling compliance with the terms of its declaration, public sentiment on the question would be guided by its report and influenced to such an extent that public feeling would call for compliance.
– It did not do anything of the kind in practice.
– I do not think it did. I was hopeful at the time that there would be found to be something in the contention. I thought that as regards big strikes, by’ which very considerable sections of the community are inconvenienced, it .might have effect. I think it might have had some effect, for instance, in the old Maritime strike and the Broken Hill strike, when many persons not immediately concerned in the disputes were inconvenienced to a great extent. But I am now satisfied that it is a mistake not to provide for direct compulsion.
– It would be the inconve’nience, and . not the principle, that would decide the matter in those cases.
– There is no doubt something in that, but at the same time public sentiment on the subject would be influenced by an authoritative declaration of what the right was. However, we had not the compulsory power. A case arose - I think Dowie was the name ; I know it was a curriers’ dispute - the President of the Court was Mr. Justice Bundey, a Judge whose name will be mentioned with respect anywhere in Australia. There were three representatives of the masters, and three of the men. It was a Court which, I am happy to say, we had the power of constituting, and which was constituted in such a way that no exception could be taken to a single individual forming it. That’ Court unanimously came to the conclusion that the men were entitled to 6d. a day more wages than they had been receiving. As there was no power to enforce the verdict, and as the public conscience did not seem to have awakened on the subject, nothing was done, and the shameful wrong was continued. All we had accomplished was the declaration of where the right was, and the continuance of the wrong done.
– And the public looked on with indifference.
– Did the employer not close up his business ?
– No; he got rid of all his men, some of whom are still walking about the streets.
– That occurred fourteen years ago.
– Yes, and some of the men are still walking about the streets in search of regular employment.
– I say that the teaching of that difficulty - the teaching of experience - is that if we are to have a Court calculated to ascertain the right, and declare what ought to be done, it should, to be effectual, be accompanied by the power to enforce its award. Else the award will be disregarded, and there will be simply perpetrated this infamy - that in spite of the declaration of a just Court, unanimous in its view on a subject which has been carefully investigated, one side or. the other will have the power to set aside the award and to do as it pleases. I do not think thatwe shall be well advised in this Parliament if we consent to be a party to anything of that sort. Let us make our provisions on the subject complete. When we have ascertained the right - and we shall run little or no chance of making a mistake with a Court constituted as is proposed here - do not hesitate in giving effect to the proper conclusions, in providing for the punishment of those who are not content with the declaration, but seek to defy it. Courts are not constituted to be defied. If we give them the power to declare, we must also give them the power to enforce. I venture to think that when a penalty is attached to non-compliance there will be a willingness on the part of those interested to comply at the earliest possible moment, which will be very pleasing indeed as compared with the instance of an altogether different state of affairs, to which I have ventured to refer. I should like here to say a word to the Government on what seems to me a disposition on their part to wobble on this important question. Surely the principles to which I have referred - to find out what is right and to provide for its doing - are applicable to all cases of industrial dispute. What do we wish to do? We desire to abolish strikes and locks-out ; we are agreed on that, at least. Do honorable members wish to have any exemption in that regard? If they exempted any industries under any circumstances from any provisions in the Bill, what would it mean ? It would mean that the chief object as regards the abolition of strikes and locks-out could not apply, and we should have strikes and locks-out in all the excepted industries. Surely honorable members wish that right should be done in all cases - that the law should apply to each industry. What is the difference? Why should one industry, I venture to ask, be exempted ? Why should the shipping industry, for instance, be exempted ? Let me ask honorable members to recollect that in Australia there has been legislation proposed as regards these matters. I do not think that, as regards an industry of that character, an exemption will be found in the law of any country. Let me tell honorable members that it was as regards the shipping industry that this legislation was chiefly undertaken. I undertook it under the provocation of the shipping strike.It was also undertaken by the Honorable W. P. Reeves under the provocation of a shipping strike. Why should we have one law for one industry, and another law for another industry? I confess that at this particular moment I am speaking with a degree of embarrassment, which I think might have been avoided. I understand that, as regards dealing with this matter by two Bills - one to be introduced here, and the other to be introduced elsewhere - the object of the Government is to save time.
– The Government are not paying attention to what is being said.
– I can assure the honorable member for Parramatta that I, for one, am paying great attention.
– I can assure honorable members that, whilst I welcome any proposal which is likely to be productive of that result, I am doubtful’ whether this particular scheme will be. When we are considering the whole question of arbitration, as we shall be shortly, I think it will be very inconvenient to be dealing with the Arbitration Billhere, and at the same time to have the Navigation Bill, laying down some law on the subject as regards our coastal trade, being considered in another place, because we shall not be able to refer to the latter, or to deal with the question completely. I am inclined to think that it would be infinitely better if we hadthe two Bills in this House at the same time. What we want finally is an agreement between the Houses. Will it not be likely to be more readily achieved if one House first deals with the two Bills which cover the whole subject, and sends its whole scheme on to the other, than if we deal in a piecemeal way with one Bill at a time, and are not able to present for the consideration of the other House at the same time what is really proposed ? Possibly some arrangements may be made to provide for a reference to the Navigation Bill.
– I think it will be quite possible to allude to the proposals of the Government as such, without saying whether they are being considered elsewhere or not. That is all that is wanted.It is not the debates elsewhere which are required to be discussed.
– Why should our consideration of one Bill be limited by the fact of the consideration of another Bill in another place? It is most irregular.
– It will not be limited.
– I take it that there is really no desire on the part of the Government to delay.
– No, to save time.
– I venture to suggest that expedition is more likely to be obtained if the Government will allow one House to look at both Bills at the same time, because until we have dealt with two Bills, we cannot say what are our complete views on the subject of industrial arbitration.
– And our consideration will be limited by the introduction of the Navigation Bill into another place.
– Not in the least.
– It is determined by that fact.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– That is the intention.
– No, the intention is the opposite.
– Speaking generally, I shall contend for the abolition of limitations to the jurisdiction of the Court. It depends on this question : Is the policy of no strikes, no locks-out, ascertainment and declaration of the right and enforcement of the award, good or bad ? If it be good, let it be applied to all. If it be bad, do not let us have anything to do with it. Broadly stated, the position is this: Do we desire the abolition of all strikes and locks-out, that in lieu of strikes and locks-out, there shall be judicial, amicable investigations and declarations, and enforcement of the right ? If we desire that, how then, may I ask, is it possible to contend for limitations as regards ship-owners, for preferences in favour of over-sea ships? We do not wish men to be sweated. We desire to secure a fair thing. Some of the exemptions which it is desired to introduce would be ridiculous in the extreme degree. We wish to do a right thing between masters and men on ships. Butsome persons will say - “ Oh, that is Only when the ships are carrying cargo.” Does not the same sort of being man a passenger boat as well as a cargo ship? Is there any difference in the humanity of the men ? Do they not equally resent injustice? Have they not the same rights as have other members of the community ? Is there any difference in the conditions of the work which entitles the master of a passenger ship to sweat a sailor, and deny him his fair wage, while the master of a cargo boat is prevented from exercising a similar power. Surely the main purpose of arbitration laws in disputes between masters and men is to see right done. Is a sailor to be paid £1 per month in the case of a passenger boat, with a few tons of cargo in the hold, when a much larger sum would properly be his reward ? When we think of what the provisions of the Bill are, it is almost inconceivable that there should be such a contention. Why should the proposed law not apply to passenger ships ? I remind honorable members that in New South Wales a common rule is exercised for the regulation of ships, though that rule, of course, has no application beyond the boundaries of that State. The Commonwealth has power only in cases of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, and the maritime trade is that which is likely to be particularly affected. I do not hesitate to confess that I have experienced bitter disappointment from time to time at the action of the Federal Government in connexion with this question. It- is fourteen years ago since I drafted the Bill to which I have already referred, and I had not proceeded five minutes with my speech, in moving the second reading, when I contended that Federal legislation would be required for the more effective application of the law to all industrial conditions inAustralia, particularly those prevailing in the maritime trade.
Mr.mc Williams. - Would the right honorable member have provisions to prevent the local shipping companies sweating producers ?
– I should be only too glad to do anything for the protection of producers.
Mr.Mc Williams. - Would the right honorable gentleman insert provisions with that object ?
– I do not think that could be done. Think what the position is. This Bill, it is proposed, shall apply only in case of disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State, and only when a Court, constituted most carefully and effectively, declares that it is right and just, can an award be made. In order to make an award, the members of the Court will have to make themselves acquainted with the facts, and then decide the question according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case. Do we trust the Court ?
– In my interjection, I was referring more particularly to the Navigation Bill.
– Of course, there is a distinction to be drawn between a Navigation Bill and an Arbitration Bill. But what I desire is that the Court shall have power to make an award in the case of ships engaged in the coastal trade, similar to that which they have in the case of all other industries on land ; I want no more and no less. In thecase of shipping companies carrying on business in Australian waters in Australian ships, I prefer that the Court should exercise the power I have indicated rather than that any hard and fast lines should be laid down. This Court will be builded so high as to command the confidence and respect of all Australia, and I venture to think that the proposals already made secure that end. And when such a Court, applying the principles of equity and good conscience, decide that it is right that certain conditions should be observed by competitors for our coastal trade, their award should be obeyed. Do we doubt that the Court will do right? Surely not, considering that we give the Court unlimited jurisdiction over all other industries in Australia. As to all the talk about railway servants, do we want to see, justice done? I base my advocacy on one ground only - justice. My desire is to prevent strikes and locks-out by judicial, equitable determination and agreement.
– Cannot public servants get justice in their own Parliaments?
– Does the right honorable member not know that a State Parliament has no power except within the limits of its own territory ?
– The public servants are the State’s own employes. Cannot they get justice from their own Parliament?
– I venture to think that the report of a Court, constituted as I have described, would ‘be of great assistance to each member of this House in considering theclaims of public servants in a variety of matters - that it would be invaluable in securing just decisions. In a matter affecting their daily bread the public servants have an equal right to that justice which is meted out to every individual in the community. Is the public servant to be considered a pariah outside the realms of benevolent legislation designed for the protection of every other section of the community ? Public servants generally, honorable as their position is, should be fairly remunerated. Do we wish the public servants to strike? Of course we do not. At the same time, if we exclude them from the operation of an Act designed to prevent’ strikes, we fail to apply to’ them most beneficent provisions. I am sure that honorable members agree that public servants have a right to the same facilities as are afforded to all other sections of the community in relation to disputes with employers; that is, to have a judicial andimpartial investigation, and a declaration on the merits of their claims.
– Does the right honorable member mean to say that the public servants distrust their own representatives in Parliament?
– Parliament is an incompetent Court.
– Parliament is a deliberative and not an investigating body, not being designed for, and utterly incompetent to carry on, this kind of work. Our time would be fully occupied, indeed, if
Parliament had to hold inquiries in cases of the sort; and, in my opinion, it is most objectionable that attempts should be made, as they are, to bring individual cases and claims before a legislative body.
An Honorable Member. - They become party questions at once.
– A member of Parliament is interviewed by some party to a dispute, and, acquiring a certain impression, represents to the House what he believes to be the facts; but the chances are that he has, and very naturally, been imbued with a very partisan view. The result is confusion and trouble, which well might have been avoided. It is proposed to exempt railway servants from the benefit of the proposed measure ; but, as in most cases, that branch of the public service is dealt with by Railway Commissioners, and is not, to half the extent that other Departments are, directed by the Minister, there are found even in various States Arbitration Acts provisions of an altogether different character from those which the Government have in contemplation. I do not say that there will be many cases under the proposed, legislation, seeing that we have power to deal only, with disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State. But when no State can deal with a dispute effectively, on account of the limited nature of the State jurisdiction, and the necessary power can be constituted only by Federal legislation, we should take the opportunity to supply the omission, instead of leaving public servants to strike in the absence of any remedy in the way of an ascertainment of ‘what their rights are, and a declaration on the merits of their claims.
– State public servants have their own Parliaments and Governments.
– Does the right honorable gentleman know that the Bill will apply only to disputes extending to more than one State ? The local Parliaments are powerless to act for the prevention, of such disputes.
– It would be better to abolish the States Parliaments altogether than to take away their right to manage their own servants.
– The Bill will not take away any of their powers. It simply provides for the exercise bv the Commonwealth of a power which no State Parliament can have.
– I hope that such jealousy as may now exist between the
States and the Commonwealth will speedilypass away.
– Legislation such as the right honorable member suggests will not tend to allay the jealousy of the States.
– This legislation is not a cause for jealousy of the Commonwealth on the part of the States. All that the Bill does is to make provision for the interference of the Commonwealth in cases where the States cannot act. We have no other powers than those given. to us by the Constitution, and the constitutional position is emphasized by the very words of the Bill. The measure applies only to disputes extending to more than one State ; in other words, to disputes with which the States have not sufficient power to deal=-seamen’s disputes and other disputes of that kind. We ask that the Commonwealth shall interfere to prevent these disputes, which the States have done nothing and can do nothing to prevent. We are providing for a comprehensive scheme to meet the condition of things contemplated when the Constitution was framed. We are providing against occasions when the States’ cannot act, and the interference of the Commonwealth is necessary. There is no taking away of power from the States in this connexion, because they do not possess any. The Commonwealth, however, will, exercise its constitutional powers for the. benefit of all concerned. It seems to me that there will be no difficulty in reading the Constitution as it is intended to be read.
– I do not think that the extension of the application of the measure advocated by the right honorable member comes within the provisions of the Constitution.
– When the Constitution was drawn the intention of its framers was clear enough. Let the right to arbitrate be exercised as completely as possible by the authorities of the States. We do not take away from- them that right. All the Constitution does is to confer upon the Commonwealth the power to act in disputes concerning two or more’ States-. There will be no interference by the Commonwealth authorities in disputes affecting only one State. It would not’ do”,- where a dispute affected more than one State, for the authorities of the affected States to attempt to act together. If they did, what would be the result? We should have one decision in one State, and a different one in another. Who is it acts for all the States in matters of common concern? The Commonwealth. The Constitution gives us the opportunity to provide for such action on the part of the Commonwealth, and this is the time to give effect to that provision. Let us exercise it as completely as we can for the common good. Therefore, I say, away with the idea of exemptions ! Various exemptions are proposed which may receive the support of many honorable members. I have heard it said that shipping trading to ports to which ‘ there are no railways should be exempt from the operation of the Bill until railways are” built to those ports.
– What are we doing ? I take it that the provisions of the measure are intended for ‘the fair adjustment of differences between employers and employes. Are we to be told, by the adoption of exemptions of the character suggested, . that no matter what the rights of the case are, no matter how patent the injustice, and no matter how strong the desire of the Court to provide for its immediate remedy, the wretched sweated sailors, however scanty their pay, and perhaps scantier their provisions, must continue to cry aloud for relief? Although the Court may be clear as to what ought to be done, as to what justice, equity, and good conscience dictate and require, there is to be inserted in the Bill the declaration that now, and for a time, there shall be no remedy, no relief, no matter how much nature may be despairing and exhausting. Existing conditions must continue unremedied, lest, perchance, a higher fare be required of those who voyage in the ships. Surely we are safeguarded sufficiently, when it is left to a competent Court to inquire into all such considerations, before it declares the necessity for an alteration ! Do we really desire humanity and right to be considered in the matter? Surely we do. Do we trust our Court? This is what is suggested ‘ may be the position : A report from your Court of Arbitration that wages are too little and should be increased, and by the legislation now proposed, the shutting of the door in the face of relief. We are asked to say-“ No matter if the pay is insufficient, and the provisions neither sufficient nor fit, the present conditions shall continue whatever declaration is made by our tribunal as to their iniquity.” It is not in these as in other cases simply a question of what is right between masters and men. Other considerations may be introduced, and we are to declare that no matter what the injustice, it shall continue, lest some one be called upon to pay some little extra fare for what it is to be hoped would be additional benefits accruing to him during a voyage.
– Does the right honorable member propose to give the people higher incomes to pay for the extra fares ? A few shillings mean a great deal to workmen.
– Yes, and that is the reason why they should not be robbed of them:
– How does the right honorable member propose to give the people the money to pay these extra fares ?
– I propose to find out what is due to the men employed, and to insist that it shall be paid to them.
– We should see that our people get what they earn.
– Yes. I wonder what people can earn in certain services.. I should be sorry if it were thought that I advocated that men should be paid what they had not earned. I am as strong upon the point of men earning what they are paid as of their being paid what they have earned.
– My point is that men are robbed by Customs duties of - what they earn.
– There are various reasons which prevent us from acting in particular cases, as judges of what men earn. Therefore, I say, erect a competent and just Court. Let it be declared by the Court what men ought, to be paid, and when it is declared, let them be paid. Let them receive neither more nor less.
– Are we better able to judge than are the members of a State Parliament as to what the employes of that State should be paid?
– Does the right honorable gentleman tell me that a competent Court, constituted of a Justice from the High Court Bench, and of men representing the two interests concerned, who hear the evidence, cannot come to a better conclusion as to what is right than we, who have no special knowledge of the subject-matter- of the dispute? Let these disputes be adjudicated upon by a competent tribunal. Let us try and test the Court as we please ; but let us spare nothing in ascertaining what is right. When the right is ascertained, we should see that it is done. Do not let questions of right between masters and men be complicated by appeals as to .what the effect of a decision one way oranother might be on any particular fare. That, with all other questions, will receive due weight and consideration from the Court. Constitute your Court, trust it, and give effect to its decisions.
– Why this desire to allow lawyers to decide everything?
– It is rather amusing to hear that question. I do not know if it is intended for a personal taunt ; but in 1890, when I first introduced my Bill, it contained a provision prohibiting lawyers from appearing before the Arbitration Court.
– Have fewer laws and you require fewer lawyers. We are continually making laws which provide for the employment of lawyers.
– I do not see how that bears upon the opinions I am expressing. I believe that the clause to which I refer was carried.
– I do not think it would be a good thing to prevent lawyers from appearing before the Arbitration Court.
– I thought then that it was a good thing, and I think so now, and shall vote for it. At the same time I think that a trained lawyer who has become a Judge is a suitable man to preside over the Court.
– The reason why I would allow lawyers to appear before the Court is because otherwise working men could not secure the proper presentation of their views. Laymen are not practised in legal subtleties.
– I can assure the honorable member that he will find that generally the secretaries or other officers of the working men’s organizations are admirably fitted to conduct cases in the Arbitration Court.
– We get along very well in Western Australia without barristers.
– But the officers of the unions are not trained in the law.
– They have not to contend against trained men.
– I shall be found resisting in every conceivable way the exclusion of any particular industry or class of persons from the application of the Bill. I believe thoroughly in the beneficence of the principle of abolishing strikes and locksout, and providing for the judicial ascertainment and enforcement of the right. If this be a good principle let us adopt it, and apply it as generally as we can ; if it be not, let us refrain from applying it at all.
To make the application of the Bill dependent upon the work of the sailor - upon the point whether or not his ship is carrying cargo between Australian ports, or whether there is a railway connecting the two ports between which he is travelling, is to introduce an exemption where exemptions generally are to be resisted, and to make it upon a ground that is really a pretext for striking at the principle of the Act. Such a suggestion must proceed from want of confidence on the part of those who advocate the Bill in the proper working of the great principles on which it is founded, or a desire to cause trouble by want of uniformity. Upon no ground could such an exemption be justified, because in good set terms it would amount to a denial of justice, when justice is demonstrable by the satisfactory declaration of a competent Court. I notice, with some interest, the attitude which has now been taken up by the Government on the subject of preferential trade. I am a believer in preferential trade. I believe that it will be well worth our while to raise our duties against the foreigner, whilst keeping them as they are at present against England. I notice, with surprise, that the Government policy does not seem to be that of the Barton Government by any means. Honorable members will recollect that the matter was referred to during the debate on the Address in Reply last year, when I had the pleasure, on behalf of the Government, of saying something in reference to it.
– The question is, whether what the right honorable and learned member said was on behalf of the Government. I do not remember that the matter was very much discussed in Cabinet.
– I do not know what the Minister really desires to say - whether he really intends to suggest that, as a member of the Federal Government, I gave expression at the table to sentiments which had not the authority of an utterance on behalf of the Government.
– Perhaps the right honorable and learned gentleman did not speak on behalf of the Government.
– All I can say is, that there is no “ perhaps “ about it. The Minister should know, if he does not know, that a Minister, speaking at the table, or from the Ministerial benches, cannot get over the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the Government.
– He does sometimes; I am afraid.
– I do not wish to have any heated words with the Minister, but I ask him if he seriously suggests that I did anything of the kind ?
– Oh, no.
– I am glad to hear that, because the Minister-
– I interjected because the right honorable and learned gentleman stated that the Government had changed the policy of the Barton Government.
– There is no doubt about it. Of course, the Government are entitled to change their policy as often as they like.
– How often did they change it.
– This is the way they changed : In connexion with preferential trade they are now announcing their intention to consider reductions in the present Tariff in favour of England. Not only did they not do that before, but, on the contrary, it was distinctly stated that the Barton Government were in favour of maintaining the duties as they are against England, and of raising them as regards the foreigner. And for two reasons. Firstly, because of the loss of revenue that would result from any reductions, and secondly, because so far as our policy is concerned, we had not achieved the degree of protection we desired. There is no doubt about that’. The recurring divisions on the Tariff show it. A further reduction under any circumstances would result in a loss of protection to our own people, which it would be difficult to justify. ‘ That is undoubtedly the position, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will not suggest the contrary. As I have, said, during the continuance of the Barton Government it was not part of their policy to propose reductions in the existing Tariff in favour of preferential trade with England, but rather to leave the duties as they were against England, and raise them against the foreigner.
– Personally, I was not aware then that there was any possibility of making reductions, but I find now that there is.
– I was not in the slightest degree commenting on the wisdom of the policy of the Government. I am glad that my statement has been borne out. The position was as stated, and for obvious reasons. I am still of opinion that it would be a good thing to maintain the
Tariff as it is in regard to England. I do not say that I am entirely opposed to reductions in the present Tariff, but I feel strongly that our first duty is to the people of Australia. We deliberately embarked upon our present policy for the pur-1 pose of affording protection to our own manufacturers. As honorable members are aware, we did not succeed in securing the full amount of protection which we thought was desirable, and which we proposed. Under these circumstances I think we were justified in saying that we would not consent to further reductions in the Tariff for the benefit of English manufacturers. At the same time, if there are cases in which, without injustice to both our local manufacturers’ and loss to our revenue, reductions in the present duties can be made, well and good. I should like to hear of them. I am of opinion that they must be few and far between. As a member of the Barton Government 1 was not aware of any such instances. If, however, they are matters of subsequent discovery, I’ am sure that reasonable treatment will be accorded to them by the House. At the same time I do not mind confessing that I, at least, am inclined to give the benefit to the Australian manufacturer, and I am not disposed to deprive him of a sufficient measure of protection or to needlessly sacrifice revenue.
– Why should he be granted any privilege as against the con-‘ sumer? Why, by means of a law, should we extend to any class a privilege over another class?
– The question of protection versus free-trade has been discussed on a variety of occasions during the past two or three years, and I do not propose to re-open it now. We know that a majority of honorable members in the last Parliament were in favour of protection, and I hope there is still a larger majority in this Parliament who have a disposition to “ hold fast to that which is good.”
– A burglar always endeavours to keep what he gets.
– No doubt the honorable an’d’ learned member speaks with more authority upon that subject than I can do.. I do not express the opinions of a burglar. I look upon the matter more from the public standpoint, and I think we were justified in the action which we took in our first session, and that we are not likely to go back upon it now. We will not sacrifice the existing duties unnecessarily for the benefit of the British manufacturer, and to the loss of our own revenue. The latest figures which are before us - I think they were collected by the Imperial authorities; they were quoted by the Prime Minister at Ballarat - show that we certainly cannot be reviled for having extended to our people an excessive measure of protection.
– If it is good, why not have enough of it?
– I should not mind a little more of it, but, having threshed the matter out once, I think that it would be a pity to raise it again. I am sure that the sentiments which we have already embodied in the protective policy of this country are still entertained by a majority of the general public, and of honorable members, and will not be lightly abandoned. It has been shown by the figures which were quoted by the Prime Minister that of the average duties operative upon British staple exports in various countries, that which is imposed in Australia is almost the lowest. The lowest average is that of South Africa, 6 per cent. Australia comes next with an average of 7 per cent.
– That is after the allowance has been made for the South African reduction of 25 per cent.
– The Canadian duties average 16 per cent. after deducting the 33 per cent. preference which is extended to British exports. Seeing that our average duty is 7 per cent., or 9 per cent. less than the average of the reduced Canadian duties, and 1 per cent. in excess of the reduced South African duty, which is the lowest, I think that very little ground for serious objection is afforded even to those who are opposed to a protective Tariff. There is very little room for us to make any reductions, without reaching the lowest average of the lot. An average of 7 per cent. cannot be complained of. As regards our manufacturers of metal and machinery, I say that a duty of only 12½ per cent. confers upon them very little protection indeed. Though there may be cases in which reductions could be justified, I do not know of any at present, and I shall await with interest, and scrutinize with care, the particulars when they are attempted to be supplied.
– I may inform the right honorable member that our duties average about 16 per cent., and that the Board of Trade returns are not correctly interpreted.
– All I know is that the Imperial authorities addressing themselves to the consideration of this question have obtained the figures which I have quoted for the purposeof guiding them as to what is the true position.
– Are they the principal articles of British export?
– They are imports into Australia and exports from Great Britain.
– The comparison is the same all round.
– The average of our duties is 16 per cent.
– The average of the duties on Australian imports of British exports is 7 per cent. I say that is low enough. I know of no particular instances in which the measure of protection afforded to our manufacturers is excessive, but perhaps it is just’ as well for the Government to allow this margin to come and go upon. If on further investigation they find that there are some articles, the duties on which can be reduced without injury to Australia, well and good. Having thus stated my position, I desire to say that I am altogether in favour of preferential trade between Great Britain and her Colonies. Sentiment is all very well, but sentiment to which we give practical expression by improved business relations is still better. Let us show that our feeling in this matter is not merely a subject for empty talk, but that we are prepared to do something to give expression to it. I should infinitely prefer to deal with Great Britain, and with our fellow British subjects who are all interested in the maintenance and extension of the Empire, than with others who have no similar interests, who are jealous of our position, who have no wish for the goodof our Empire, but whose hands would be raised tomorrow if a convenient opportunity arose for the purpose of trailing our national honour in the mud, and depriving us of the pride and glory, which, as a race, we have achieved I recognise at the same time, though I have every hope as regards the cause, that preferential trade is not likely to be so speedy of accomplishment as we could wish. First it seems that Mr; Chamberlain has to convert the Kingdom, and the two Houses of Parliament. Then the policy has to be adopted by some Imperial Government which, having obtained the necessary authority, will make proposals to the other constituent parts of the Empire. It is difficult to say when that time will come. In my opinion the sooner it comes the better. May we do all that we can for the purpose of speeding its coming. We cannot do much, but nevertheless we can let it be known that
Australia is willing - nay anxious - to do all that lies in her power. She will not, I hope, be backward in coming forward when the time is ripe. May events combine to that end. I think we have good cause to be pleased with the attitude, which, under the guidance of the Government, appears likely .to be adopted by the Commonwealth in this connexion. When the time comes for the consideration of details, may there be no unnecessary haggling, but may a fair regard be shown for both Australian and Imperial interests. This is a business matter which must be inquired into and dealt with by business people upon business lines.’ The sooner our trade relations are improved by mutual preferences the better. I believe that to-day public sentiment is in favour of preferential trade relations being brought about as early as possible, and I shall be glad if the Government do not hesitate to take the House into their confidence at any convenient moment, for the purpose of giving complete effect to a principle of which we generally approve. May Providence speed the day for the accomplishment of that end. I should like to make one or two observations in reference to our attitude as to the proposals of Imperial statesmen. I do not like the idea of anything in the shape of an invitation being extended to any Imperial statesman - whether he be a member of the Imperial Government or not - to visit Australia, for the purpose of advocating his cause. It seems to me to be almost a confession of weakness - a confession of weakness I did not expect from this Government, and which was not needed, so far as they are concerned. For instance, suppose there are two high contracting parties, the Commonwealth and the mother country. It is infinitely better that, from the standpoint of Australian interests, the matter should be dealt with by the Australian Government, constituted by and responsible to the public of the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear.
– On the other hand, it is better that the matter should be dealt with, from the point of view of the interests of Great Britain, by authorities responsible to the people of the United Kingdom. We do not want to trouble Imperial statesmen unnecessarily in Australian affairs. It is infinitely better that the Australian Government . should make up its mind upon its policy, define it clearly, and then advocate it direct to the people of this country. Then they can convey their views on the subject by correspondence or by any “other method that may seem necessary to the Imperial authorities.
– But this is a bargain to which there are two parties, the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government. We want to know the views of the other party, and they want to know ours. It was pointed out to Mr. Chamberlain that by coming here he would learn the Australian view, and we could learn the British view.
– But look at this position. Mr. Chamberlain at this moment is not even a member of the British Government. -But, apart from that, I venture to consider that the Prime Minister of this country’ can express the Australian view as regards .the relations between the Commonwealth and Great Britain. It is infinitely better that the Australian Government, after conferring with the Australian Parliament in the usual constitutional way, should formulate a policy, than that some one should come from the other end of the world to intervene between the Government and the people - to usurp, or almost to usurp, the functions of the Government of the Commonwealth in a case of this sort. I do not like any interference between the Australian Government and the Australian people. There is a right of conference, but I am inclined, almost, to resent the idea that somebody who is under no obligation of responsibility to the Australian people, should come here for the purpose of advising those who should properly and constitutionally be advised by the Government and by their representatives in Parliament.
– To advise was not the purpose of Mr. Chamberlain’s proposed % visit. For instance, Sir John Cockburn, as an Australian, has been speaking . on the platform in Great Britain expressing the Australian view of the question.
– I am inclined to think that the Prime Minister will, on reflection, be disposed to doubt the wisdom of inviting a canvassing of the Australian people, I will not say behind the back of_ our Government, but between and apart’ from the people and their constitutional medium, the Australian Government, in a way which might not be in Australian interests.
– Mr. Chamberlain would put his own views. We should not be responsible for them, nor would he be responsible for ours.
– Would it be altogether a desirable thing in a matter of policy affecting the United Kingdom to send some one from here to England on a similar mission ?
– There is no reason why we should not. I wish the English people could hear my right honorable friend himself on the subject.
– I should like to carry the point a little further. I think that the people of Australia ought in Federal matters to speak through their duly constituted authorities.
– Hear, hear.
– I do not like anything which looks like intervention between the people and those authorities. The right mode of expressing Federal sentiment by the people is through their representatives in both Houses of the Federal Parliament, and, of course, the Government acting in execution of the wishes thus expressed. I have noticed in one or two particulars what might be construed into a not too severe regard for this constitutional means of communication.
– Hear, hear ; there is no doubt about that.
– The Federal representatives and senators are the men who are most entitled to speak as constituting the Federal Parliament. I wish to see preserved the best relations with the States Governments. But the States Governments are not charged with responsibility for the expression of Federal sentiment. The Federal Government and the Federal Parliament are endowed with that responsibility. 1 notice in the Governor-General’s Speech some reference to meetings with representatives of the different ‘ States Governments. I do not like to find fault with methods which tend to preserve harmony, but I. doubt whether anything which gives the Stales Parliaments in Federal matters, by constituted practice, a habit in. the expression of their views direct to the Federal Government, can be justified with due regard to the privileges of both Houses of the Federal Parliament. I think we ought to be jealous - not stupidly jealous, not wishing to find fault, or to discover a source of trouble where none really exists - of our constitutional privileges. Do not let us get into the habit of disregarding the ordinary means of communication between the Government and the people. We are a Parliament, and we have a right to be. treated as such. In Federal matters arrangements ought not to be made, as it were, behind our backs, or without our having an opportunity of expressing an opinion. In regard to these conferences between the Executive of the Commonwealth and the States Governments, must we not be careful lest we establish a practice of going behind the backs of the representatives of the people in this Parliament, and affecting arrangements as to which we have not been consulted and have not had an opportunity of expressing our opinion ? How do honorable members regard the third paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech ?
A discussion by a Conference of State Treasurers,’ under the presidency of the Treasurer of . the Commonwealth, has produced a much better understanding of the difficulties surrounding these subjects, and
And then it goes on - a further meeting is proposed, when it is hoped that some mutually satisfactory arrangement will be attained.
What does that mean ? There is to be a further Conference, where arrangements are to be made. Are we not to-be afforded an opportunity in the meantime of expressing our views on the subject ?
– Of course any such arrangement would only be entered into for submission to Parliament. No Government could do anything without the consent of Parliament.
– I understand that the Prime Minister recognises the impossibility of that ?
– Oh, absolutely.
– I do not want to be hypercritical, but the Prime Minister notices the expression - when it is hoped that some mutually satisfactory arrangement will be attained.
It might have been more happily expressed. It might have been made more clear that any arrangement was to be submitted for our approval.
– As a matter of fact, that would have been put in, but we tried to avoid repeating phrases, and the phrase about submitting things for the approval of Parliament occurs very, often in the speech.
– Does the right honorable member allude to Ministers consulting States Governments or Ministers giving copies of Bills to newspaper reporters in order to get from them their views?
– If that question has any reference to any specific circumstance, all I can say is that there is no comparison; between what the honorable member suggests and what is suggested here; and if he sees a resemblance it is simply a mark of his utter inability to appreciate the true position. I am sure that’ the Government and the House wll agree with me that it is highly desirable that there should not grow up -anything in the shape of a habit of curtailing the privileges of Parliament in connexion with Federal affairs, and of giving to other people, be they States Governments or not, an opportunity of interfering, which is not constitutionally conferred, particularly if it may be exercised to the prejudice of the great Parliament to which we have the honour to belong, and which is undoubtedly charged with the duty of giving the most faithful interpretation of Australian sentiment on Australian affairs to a degree which belongs to no other body.
– Of course, my right honorable friend will see that in matters such as the transfer of the properties of the States the States Governments have to be considered and consulted. The Conference alluded to dealt with the transfer- of properties, the method of payment, and so on.
-I am sure the Prime Minister recognises the principle, and I am simply asking him to acknowledge the possibility of a precedent being established for the exercise by certain people of powers’ which do not belong to them.
– I recognise the principle. But this arises out of the Constitution.
– I am not saying that the precedent has actually been established, but that we have gone close enough to it. I trust that we shall not get any closer, but that the Parliament of the Commonwealth will enjoy to the fullest the power which it was intended to confer upon it by the Constitution - the right to voice for Ministerial guidance, as no other Parliament or persons can do. the Australian wish with reference to Federal affairs. There are one or two other matters to which I desire at this stage to refer. It has been suggested by several honorable members that the proportion of voters to the total number of electors who availed themselves of the privilege of the franchise at the last elections should have been much larger. It is most disappointing to find that in many rases the franchise was not availed of to thi extent that it ought to have been.
– It was very largely exercised in my electorate.
– And in many others ; but I am inclined to think that there is something in the suggestion that the exercise of the franchise is not only a privilege but a duty.
– The strict constitutional view is that it is a duty, not a privilege.
– Quite so. The honorable member for Gippsland has stated that he is disposed to support the introduction of legislation for the application of compulsion, so (hat the constitutional view of the matter may be emphasized. In a great many cases the neglect to vote proceeds from laziness. On various occasions efforts have been made to meet the difficulty, but all provisions in this direction have failed. I believe, however, that if we were to impress on the mind of the elector the fact that it is his duty to vote, and that he will not save himself any trouble by refraining from doing so, we should obtain much improved results. As the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out, a juryman who fails to attend at Court, in obedience to a summons, is liable to be fined. ‘ The electors are a great body of jurymen who have to deal with national affairs of infinitely more importance than such questions as that of whether John Jones stole a pair of boots.
– Would the right honorable member compel an elector to read the newspapers in order to see what was going on ?
– I do not propose anything in that direction, but, I think, we might fairly provide for the imposition of a small penalty in the case of an elector who neglects to vote, and fails to file an excuse within a certain period. I should provide that any elector entitled to vote, who did not avail himself of that right, should be liable to a penalty, unless within one month he filed an excuse setting out the reason for his neglect, and paid a registration fee of half-a-crown on filing that excuse. If an elector who, instead of voting on polling day, attends a race meeting, discovers that he has to file an excuse .and pay a registration fee of half-a-crown, he will consider, when the next elections come round, that it is better for him to vote than to go to the trouble of complying with such requirements.
– But what would the right honorable member do in the case of ah elector whose name had been left off the roll ! Would he provide for. the return of his registration fee?
– The provision to which I refer, could apply only to those who are on the roll. There is power for an elector to apply to have his name placed on the roll up to within a short time before the elections. If a man who refrained from voting were put to as much trouble as if he had gone to the poll, and were called upon, in addition, to lose halfacrown, he would take care to vote at the succeeding elections. That is what we desire to bring about. We’ do not wish to injure the electors, but to encourage them to vote.
– To offer them a mild ‘inducement.
– A fair inducement. I do not think that any one of us is satisfied with incomplete polling, which may operate to the disadvantage of one side, and the advantage of the other. It is our desire that all the people shall vote, and thus give clear expression to the sentiments they entertain. In these circumstances I shall be very happy to draft a Bill dealing with the question, and to place it at the disposal of any honorable member who may desire to introduce it. I shall be happy, indeed, to do all that I can to secure the passing of such a measure into law. Let us interest the people as much as possible in our doings; but let us interest them first of all in the elections themselves. Let us do what we can’ to secure a distinct declaration of the sentiments of the people.
– Thousands of people applied to be enrolled, but were left off the rolls. What would the right honorable member do in such cases ?
– My only object is to induce people to take advantage of the franchise. It would be absurd to revive the mistakes which have been made in the past - mistakes such as that of imposing the penalty of disfranchisement on those who neglect to exercise the right. What we need to’ do is not to take away from such people the right to vote, but to see that they exercise it. To disfranchise a man because he neglects to vote is a revenge-‘ ful and ridiculous proceeding.
– Because a man’s eyes are closed are we to take them out?
– Dozens of persons in my electorate whose names appeared on the exhibited lists found in the end that their names had been left off the. roll.
– If we took the step I have suggested it would encourage public officials to see to the careful registration of voters. There would be a more wholesome feeling if we had a more general exercise of the franchise. The sooner we take action in the matter the better it will’ be. Reference has also been made to the question of the parliamentary allowance. I have never looked upon ^400 a year as being sufficient for the services rendered by members of this Parliament, particularly in view of the long distances which many honorable members have to traverse, and the fact that they must either keep up two homes or subject themselves to great inconvenience and expense. I have always advocated the larger allowance of ,6500. * did so at the last elections, and it is a question to which attention should be given by the Government. I do not know that they addressed themselves particularly to it at the generalelections, but if they did, arid now see their way to bring the matter before the notice of the House, I shall not depart -in any way from the position I have taken up. Four hundred pounds is not in many cases a proper remuneration for the services rendered by honorable members. I note the statement in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government propose to introduce a measure relating to the encouragement of iron and steel works by the granting of bonuses, and I hope that these proposals will take practical shape at an early date. There is perhaps even greater necessity for the early settlement of the question of bounties to agriculturists, because, in the natural order of things, the granting or withholding of these bounties must shortly affect the actions of our farmers with reference to planting. I hope that the Government will be able to introduce these proposals at an early date, and press them forward without undue delay. We have also a reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the construction of the railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States. I have left no room for doubt as to my support of that proposal, and I shall strongly advocate it, believing that the line will be highly beneficial. I trust that the scheme will include the construction of a line not only from Port -Augusta to Kalgoorlie, but from Kalgoorlie to Esperance, which I honestly believe would confer on both the east and west double the advantages that would be gained by the mere construction of the main line, with no connexion between Kalgoorlie and Esperance. The overland line, pure and simple; would be chiefly useful for the carriage of mails. and the conveyance of emergency passengers. The requirements in regard to the carriage of heavy machinery and ordinary freights can only be well met by ‘ full advantage being taken of the comparatively short distance between Kalgoorlie and Esperance - a distance of 225 miles.
– Esperance is 230 miles from Coolgardie, arid 1 think it is about 250 miles from Kalgoorlie.
– Is a difference of 10 per cent, worth grumbling about in a matter of 200 miles?
– Yes, when it is 10 per cent, over and not under.
– I suppose that the distance will be reckoned from Kalgoorlie as the nearest point?
– No, Coolgardie. “
– The distance is 225 miles from the nearest convenient point of contact.
– It is 230 miles. Some people say that it is only 200 miles. They wish to exaggerate in the other way.
– I take 225 miles as a fair estimate. We need to be careful in matters of this sort. I take it that we will not be disposed to consent to any Federal expenditure being applied in such a way that it may unfairly advantage one part of a State, or of the Commonwealth, over another. If we require to expend money to improve the means of communication between east and west, let us expend it for the benefit of all. I have no desire at the present moment to go over the various arguments upon this question. I have heard honorable members from the Western Australian gold-fields make the strongest statements regarding the ‘inequity, I might almost say the iniquity, of the present state of affairs.
– The right honorable gentleman does not say it is an iniquity, I hope? He knows very little about it in any case. It does not become him to say that it “is an iniquity.
– It would better become my right honorable friend if he were to endeavour to control his emotions. At the present time he is distinctly rude, to say the least of it.
– When the right honorable gentleman speaks of the Government of Western Australia being guilty of an iniquity it is time for me to say something.
– Is the Minister for Home Affairs sitting in this Chamber as the representative of the Executive of Western ‘Australia, or as a member of the Federal Government?
– I am here to protect Western Australia against any insinuation which mav be made against that State.
– Any insinuationgood gracious ! And the right honorable gentleman sat here and heard two honorable members from the Western Australian gold-fields describe this thing in well set terms, and in a manner which should have made his blood boil.
– I was not here.
– Then the right honorable gentleman ought to have been here. ‘ It was put by those honorable members that this was done for the benefit of the people of Perth ; that it was a policy worthy of Caligula and Agrippa ; that old men and young children were dying on the gold-fields ; and that it was not a question of convenience, but a question of health and comfort, and even of existence.
– Wonderful !
– Wonderful ? Iniquitous !
– Considering that they had a railway down to the coast, and have had it for years.
– To Bunbury ?
– .No, down t’o Perth and Fremantle.
– That explains what those honorable members have said. They have said that what has been done was done for the benefit of the Perth land-holders, and that children were being sacrificed.
– The right honorable gentleman knows a lot about that.
– I “do. Those honorable members spoke with authority, and with warmth.
– We take hundreds of children to the coast every year.
– They put it as parochialism in its very worst form - that hard-working men, as the gold-miners certainly are, were not only being inconvenienced, but were being exposed to risks, difficulties, and even danger to life, that the land-owners of Perth might make a profit. That is what they said, and that is what they believed. * Why was it not contradicted before ? ,
– I contradict it now.
– The right honorable gentleman contradicts it now, when he is driven into a corner.
– No, I contradict it on the first opportunity, when I hear it from the right honorable gentleman.
– What avails the contradiction ? The facts remain. There is no getting away from them.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Those who say “ Hear, hear “ do not know anything about the facts.
– We have the right honorable gentleman’s word for that.
– And a very good word, too ; one in which the people of Western Australia believe.
– Yet the right honorable gentleman was only able to secure the return of one representative whom he supported, and that was himself.
– What is the honorable member talking about? The right honorable gentleman is Western Australia.
– Oh, he is Western Australia ! That accounts for it. I hope that if we spend Federal money we shall do it in a Federal spirit for a Federal work for the benefit of the Federation generally. I trust we shall not be guided by petty and parish motives, which have influenced action on other occasions, for the benefit of one part of a district or of one State as against another.
– I hope that people will keep their word.
– And in the interests of the land-owner, and to the detriment, discomfort, and death of hard-working miners.
– Death ! This is very different from what the right honorable gentleman told me when he was trying to get Western Australia to come into the Federation.
– Order ! The right honorable member will have the right to speak later.
– What has Federation to do with the construction of a railway to Esperance any more than with the construction of developmental railways anywhere else ?
– The construction of this line is necessary to improve the communication between different parts of the Commonwealth.
– But the same might be said of railways in other States.
– If there are any such, to which my remarks can be applied, let them be attended to. The honorable member will not find me advocating one policy for one State and a different policy for another.
– This opens up a very wide vista.
– All I can say is that the opening up of a port by railway extension may be an improvement in communication of the very greatest importance.
– Why not a line from Penola to Casterton?
– All right; the right honorable gentleman had better look into it.
– The right honorable gentleman would not support it.
– Or from Mount Gambier to Portland?
– I hope that if the Federal construction of a railway is advocated from Mount Gambier, it will be such an extension as will be to the best advantage of the whole Commonwealth.
– Why did the right honorable gentleman promise to do this making no mention of Esperance Bay ?
– Would it not mean a double advantage. Does the right honorable gentleman want to block up Esperance Bay so that everything will have to go to Perth and Fremantle?
– What about the right honorable gentleman’s promise?
– Order. The Minister for Home Affairs will have an opportunity of speaking later, if he so desires.
– The right honorable gentleman is departing altogether from his promise to me.
– What an unruly looking object ! I say that we need to exercise every care in dealing with this and other matters to see that the best result is secured. I remember that when Federation was proposed it was argued that Western Australia was, as regards her Customs, entitled to special consideration. We were asked to consider what her loss would be through intercolonial free-trade. It was contended that hers was a special case, and that she must have special provision made to meet it. We were told that there was no other State in a similar position ; that on account of the amount of her Inter- State imports, on which in the ordinary course she would lose duty after Federation, no State stood to sacrifice so much as Western Australia. I confess I was impressed with those state ments. They impressed the whole Convention very much. I do not hesitate to say now that they impressed the Convention too much.
– The right honorable gentleman was never very much in favour of the proposal made.
– I never was very much in favour of it. I think that all along I was against the right of Western Australia to continue to tax Australian goods. I may tell honorable members that this was granted only on the representation that her case was exceptional, and that on account of her losing Inter-State duties, she would sacrifice more than would any other State. But the position, to my mind, was not put quite as it ought to have been. The members of the Convention would never have consented to give Western Australia that power if they had not believed that her position was exceptional, and that she would lose more than would any other State. By the light of events, the representation then made has beenaltogether falsified. Western Australia’s position was not the worst, nor was it anything like the worst. Two things should have been considered : There was the loss to the State on Inter-State duties by the establishment of Inter-State freetrade ; but there was another feature which to some extent was overlooked, and that was the way in which the Federal Tariff would compare with the Tariff of Western Australia. Was the Western Australian Tariff a high one, or was it not?
– It was not very high.
– There was an impression which has been dispelled only by the light of subsequent events, that it was a high Tariff. No doubt there were large receipts, but that was due, not to the scale of the Western Australian Tariff, but to the volume of trade.
– And the general prosperity of the State, with its greater consuming power in proportion to population.
– Just so. As a matter of fact, the Western Australian Tariff was a low Tariff. It was lower than the Tariff of South Australia. I tell honorable members that it was so low that although that State would have lost on her Inter-State duties if she had not been permitted to continue to exercise the power of taxation on Australian goods, she gained so very largely from the higher rate of the Federal Tariff, that her receipt’s on foreign imports in the first year of the Federal Tariff were on over-sea imports only, more than £100,000 greater than were her receipts from all imports in the year before the Federal Tariff was enforced. But she industriously claimed, and was successful in getting, a special provision on the plea I have stated - -
– Well it was a bonâ fide plea at the time. The right honorable gentleman must admit that? We could not look into the future and forecast what was going to takeplace.
– Western Australia got a special relaxation of one of the vital conditions of the Constitution, on the ground of impending loss.
– She would not have joined the Federation without it if I could have helped it. I should never have been a party to her joining without it.
– But instead of being a loser, in the first year of the Federal Tariff, on oversea imports alone, she received £100,000 more than she got the year before Federation on all imports.
– She would have lost without it, as the right honorable and learned member knows.
-And what has she got under the special Tariff? In the first year she got £275,000, and in the second year, I think, about£2 2 5,000. During the two years’ operation of the Federal Tariff not only has there been no loss, but she has received £680,000 more than she would have received if she had not joined the Federation.
– The population had increased, as the right honorable and learned member knows.
– If the right honorable gentleman tells me that it was because the population had increased, I would point out that a sum of at least £400,000 was obtained owing to the reservation of a special power of taxation.
– And, in addition, she got £200,000 odd, because of the provisions which were inserted in the Constitution, to recoup only. There was no loss to recoup ; there was gain, and, in addition, she uses to the full extent the powers which, for the purpose of indemnity, were granted to her in the respect to which I have referred.
– The right honorable and learned member seems to have a “down” on Western Australia.
– I have no “down” on the State.
– It seems to me that the right honorable and learned member has.
– I have many friends in that State - men who have gone from my own dear State, and between whom and myself the best relations continue to exist.
– What does the right honorable and learned member want to do?
– I submit that, under all the circumstances, it is well that we should know what mistakes were made. I wish the facts to be made known, and to be considered. Let honorable members bear this in mind : Western Australia posed as the State most likely to be unfortunate under all the conditions, and it received special assistance. Has it proved its right to this special assistance by the realization of the state of affairs which was forecast, and on which this claim was based ?
– It has kept a large proportion of the people in the other States for many a year. The right honorable and learned member need not be “down” on it.
– Order !
– There are States which were entitled to consideration. Which are they ? Queensland, in the north, has been a sufferer.
– We helped her with the Tariff and the sugar bounty.
– Chair !
– We are not helping Queensland on the ground of any claim upon our forbearance on account of the alteration of her Tariff. Queensland had a 25 per cent. Tariff,Western Australia, a 15 per cent. Tariff, and Tasmania a 20 per cent. Tariff. Instead of the Tariffs of Queensland and Tasmania being raised like that of Western Australia, they were reduced, and Queensland suffers a loss of £200,000 a year, and little Tasmania a loss of £100,000 a year. There is no special consideration shown for those States.
– In Tasmania we have lost 30 per cent. of our Customs revenue.
– These are the States which were fairly entitled to consideration but which are not receiving any.
– We paid the money out of our own pockets, as the right honorable and learned member must remember.
– All I can say is that Western Australia raised £400,000 of the money by a tax on Australian goods, thereby depriving the rest of the. States for a limited term to the chief benefit which each State expected to derive from Federation - InterState free-trade.
– We buy £3,000,000 worth of goods from the other States every year, anyway.
– The position is that Western Australia was not entitled to special consideration, while Queensland and Tasmania - who were deprived of their Tariffs - have received no consideration.
– We get no consideration.
– Chair !
– We get nothing from any one. We pay everything out of our own pockets, as the right honorable and learned member knows.
– I have no doubt that Western Australia pays nothing which she can avoid.
– No other State pays anything to Western Australia; the people tax themselves and pay.
– I have referred to these matters in order that honorable members may appreciate the position as it is, and with a full recognition of the facts, come to the conclusions which ought to be reached. I am sorry that I have taken up so much time, but on an occasion of this kind it is just as well that we should speak our minds.
– Poor old Western Australia !
-“ Poor old Western Australia.” Of course, there are some things on which Western Australia may be congratulated, and one is the fact that the right honorable gentleman is here instead of elsewhere. I hope that when this debate is concluded, the Government will let us have the work in the most convenient shape, and I promise them it shall receive my best consideration.
– We have all listened with interest to the honorable member for Adelaide. No one, I think, will object to my statement that we can very well attend carefully to what he has said, and even where he was most severe on some of us, we can perceive still a kindhearted endeavour to turn us into what he thinks straighter paths. I welcome the scintillating of these thunderbolts which have been hurled at the heads of Western Australia’s representatives for the last half-hour. They indicate to me the gratifying fact that the right honorable and learned member who launched them has recovered to a considerable degree that strength and vigour which we all hoped for from the change of scene which he enjoyed a little while ago. I sincerely trust that for many a day to come we shall continue to be favoured with these thunderbolts - not lessening in their brilliancy, and keeping the House at times in a condition of activity - for which I think we are all obliged to their author. I am glad to say that in very many respects I find myself at one with the right honorable and learned member, and when I do unfortunately differ from him, it causes me very grave and serious searching of heart and mind, lest I should unhappily have gone somewhat astray. I have so much respect for the right honorable and learned member that I have a tendency at times to admit that I am in the wrong, where I find myself differing from him. It is, therefore, necessary for me on such occasions to investigate very carefully and as impartially as I can the position which I occupy. On one or two matters on which I am unfortunate enough to differ from him, I have taken that course, and so far as his references to Western Australia are concerned, I trust to be able to show the House, as briefly as possible, that I, in common with my colleagues in the representation of that State, have every justification for the attitude which 1 take up. The right honorable and learned member waxed very vigorous indeed in his denunciation of the people of Western Australia, in connexion with the existence of a sliding scale, which I freely admit has been of considerable advantage to its Treasurer. I wish to point out a fact of which I thought the right honorable and learned member was cognisant - that the representatives of Western Australia at the Federal Convention which obtained that sliding scale were not speaking on behalf of the people of the State. The vast majority of the people of Western Australia were entirely opposed to the provision for a sliding scale, and would have put it aside if at any time they had been able to do so.
– Not a vast majority.
– At any rate a decided majority.
– The honorable member might say a great number.
– In those days, when the Federal Convention was constructing the Constitution, Western Australia had a Parliament representative of only a very small section of the community; a large number of the people were unrepresented there. The representatives who were sent to the Convention were not elected by the people of the State, like the representatives of the other States, but were appointed by what was really a nominee Parliament.
– The Western Australian Parliament was at that time undoubtedly little better than a nominee Parliament.
– Did Parliament nominate the representatives, or were they nominated by only one gentleman?
Mr.FOWLER.- I will put it that the representatives were nominated by a nominee Parliament.
– The Western Australian Parliament is not very different now from what it was then.
– In my opinion the Western Australian Parliament is different now, and I give the Minister for Home Affairs the credit of endeavouring, as Premier of that State, to improve the position of affairs when the people clamoured so loudly that it was, perhaps, from the point of view of his own party, advantageous to concede reform. At any rate, the representatives of Western Australia at the Federal Convention demanded a sliding scale, ostensibly because the local revenue would suffer if that State entered the Federation, but really, by imposing a tax on the food of the people, to protect the interests of a handful of farmers and squatters who at that time dominated the local Parliament. As the Minister for Home Affairs interjected when the right honorable member for Adelaide was speaking, the people of Western Australia undoubtedly paid that taxation out of their own pockets, and that fact in itself is conclusive proof that if they had been able, they would not have asked for, but, on the contrary, would have bitterly opposed, the institution of the sliding scale. It is not in harmony with the chivalrous disposition of the right honorable member for Adelaide for. him at this juncture to throw the sliding scale in the teeth of the Western Australian people.
– I do not think I did so.
– At any rate, the right honorable member should know that if the people of Western Australia then, or at any subsequent time, had been able to abolish the sliding scale, they would have done so.
– They can do so at any time they like.
– But, even at the present time, there is a majority in the Western Australian Parliament who would oppose the abolition of the sliding scale.
– I think so too.
– And that majority does not represent the ideas of the community. As one who took an active part in the Western Australian Federal campaign, which was bitterly fought for a number of years, I can say that the federalists of that State, who were the large majority, would a hundred times rather have had a transcontinental railway than the sliding scale made a condition of the union. I believe, further, that if that railway had been demanded as a condition, it would have been granted and embodied in the Constitution.
– I do not think so.
– Unfortunately, the construction of a transcontinental railway is not provided for in the Constitution in black and white; but the federalists of Western Australia, while battling for the union, secured from the leaders of the movement throughout Australia, such promises as entitled them to tell the electors of the Western State that if they agreed to Federation, a line would follow. As a proof of that, there are on record declarations by Sir Edmund Barton, by the Prime Minister, by you yourself, sir, and, most emphatic of all, by the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, that if Western Australia federated the railway would be provided.
An Honorable Member. - That was a bribe.
– It was no more a bribe than the promise of the Federal Capital was a bribe to New South Wales. Although the construction of the railway is not a condition set down in the bond, the Western Australian people are, in my opinion, as fully entitled to it as are the people of New South Wales to the immediate provision of a Federal Capital. This question is now complicated in the most remarkable’ way, with what is called the Esperance railway scheme, and I should like to briefly explain the position. The Government of Western Australia is accused, by the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, of ignoring the interests of the people of the gold-fields, by refusing to provide this new means of railway communication from the coast, and he urges that the line ought to be constructed by the Federal authorities, in order to combat the fostering of what he regards as the selfish interests of the dominant body in Perth. But Western Australia has simply followed the same policy of railway construction that has been followed throughout the States of Australia, namely, a policy of centralizing all trade in the capital city.
– Does the honorable member approve of that policy?
– Even the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide has assisted to carry out a similar policy in his own State.
– I opened up every port.
– I think it could be shown, if necessary, that in certain districts in South Australia, the conditions would justify the interference of the Federal authorities in the matter of railway construction, just as much as do the circumstances in Western Australia. The goldfields may be somewhat unfortunately placed, but the position at the present time is one of natural development. There is a railway from Fremantle to some distance beyond Kalgoorlie, and that railway has been pushed out gradually, step by step, from the capital city. It was first taken to Southern Cross, then to a point half-way between that place and Coolgardie, and eventually right on to the centre of the goldfields. It was very natural that the railway should run from the capital into the mining localities, as these were being developed and proved worthy of railway communication. Why is it argued that there should be a railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance? The right honorable and learned member for Adelaide indulged in some rhetoric about the requirements of health, dying children, and so on ; but it must be remembered that the proposed line would run 250 miles into a miserable sandpatch on the Australian Bight. How many working men - even supposing they were able to do so - would care to send their children that distance to such a place?
– Has the honorable member ever been to Esperance?
Mr.F OWLER. - No ; but I have been to a point not very far distant, and I have a pretty good idea of what the place is like.
– I can assure the honorable member that Esperance is a very nice little town.
– It is extremely unlikely that at the present time, or for many a day to come, sick people and others requiring to leave the gold-fields on account of their health would go near Esperance.
– They cannot go there now .
– We are told, in addition, that if this railway were constructed, the means of communication between the goldfields and the eastern States would be very much improved. I firmly believe that there ought to be land communication between east and west ; but a railway between Esperance and Kalgoorlie would not get over the difficulties created by the absence of a transcontinental line. After the journey of 250 miles to Esperance, there would still be a sea voyage to Adelaide; and I ask. honorable members to consider for a moment which of the two routes would be the more popular with the people on the gold-fields. Travellers would have to remain at Esperance until they could secure a boat to carry them to Port Adelaide, whence there would be another railway journey to the city. On the other hand, if there were a transcontinental railway, a traveller would step on board the train at Kalgoorlie, and in thirty-six hours would be in Adelaide. How many people would care to spend time and money on the round-about journey viâ Esperance, when they had to face all these changes, and the delay and trouble involved by the repeated handling of luggage? So far as passenger traffic is concerned the construction of the Esperance line would, in my opinion, prove a waste of money. We are told, however, that the line would be convenient for the transference of cargoes and goods generally ; but I do not believe that even in this respect the route would receive much patronage. The handling of cargo would result in damage and expense, and although the rates on the transcontinental line might be a little higher, the advantages would be so great that it would be used to carry the greater quantity of goods from the eastern States. The agitation for a line to Esperance, so far as the Federal Parliament is concerned, was very largely the work of one gentleman whom the electors found it necessary to displace ; and I am quite willing that the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide should take his information from the new member for Kalgoorlie. I feel quite sure that whatever views the honorable member for Kalgoorlie may entertain about the Esperance railway, he would not block the construction of the transcontinental line until the Esperance scheme was adopted also by the Federal Parliament.
– Quite so.
– This leads me to the question of the scope and operation of the Arbitration Bill, or the Navigation Bill, or both, in connexion with the shipping trade of Australia. The right honorable and learned member for Adelaide dealt at some length with this subject, on which I admit he is an authority; and he urged, with a considerable amount of force, the claims of seamen to consideration from this Parliament. I agree that seamen, in common with all workers, are entitled to consideration when these measures are before us; and I should be the last to refuse them that degree of justice to which they are entitled. But the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, and those who
I think with him, altogether beg the question when they demand protection for Australian seamen. It is assumed that the conditions of competition inflict hardship on, and that there is a species of competition at work which is unfair to, Australian seamen. I deny both these premises. In my opinion the Australian seamen, to use a sporting phrase, “ stand on velvet.”
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member say that.
– I think I can prove the truth of my statement. When we talk of competition, we must be careful to include all the circumstances of the competition. It is no argument for a man to say that he is entitled to a greater degree of consideration than another upon one particular point if there are other phases of the question which neutralize his contention. If it can be shown that the employers of Australian seamen are able to pay higher wages than are paid by the employers of the crews of the ocean-going mail steamers, I think that the plea raised on behalf of the Australian seamen appears unnecessary.
– Is that a reason why the English companies should sweat their seamen ?
– There is, in this connexion, no question of sweating any man. The question is, do the seamen on board the ocean mail steamers come into competition with those onboard the Inter-State steamers ?
– Undoubtedly they do.
– It is impossible to prove that they do in the slightest degree. I know something about the general conditions on board the Inter- State steamers. I have travelled between my own State and the eastern States frequently for many ‘years past, and, if necessary - though I do not think that it is required of me at this juncture - I could give honorable members some rather surprising particulars from my own experience of the way in which the steamers are managed in the interests of their owners, and to the detriment of the persons who use them. Western Australia having endured for some years the unsatisfactory conditions imposed by a monopoly, the mail steamers began to call at Fremantle, and immediately there was an appreciable improvement in the conditions of travelling upon the Inter-State boats.
An Hon orable Member. - The ring was broken up.
– Unfortunately, the ring still exists, but the calling of the mail steamers at Fremantle has had a very wholesome effect upon the conditions of travelling upon the Inter-State steamers. The proprietors of the Inter-State steamers make enormous profits because of the monopoly which they still enjoy in regard to the carrying of cargo. The mail steamers carry practically no cargo from one Australian port to another; they simply bring cargo from Europe and deliver it at their various ports of call in the Commonwealth, on their return picking up cargo at those ports for delivery in Europe. Undoubtedly, passengers and mails are carried from port to port on the coast by the mail steamers, but the fact that the passenger rates on the average are 30 per cent. higher on the mail steamers than on the Inter-State steamers shows that there is no competition.
– What about the freights?
– Upon the average an Inter-State cargo steamer gets three times more for carrying goods from Sydney to Fremantle than a mail steamer getsfor carrying goods from Sydney to Europe. Assuming that the one voyage takes about half as long as the other, honorable members will see the tremendous advantage which the proprietors of the Inter-State steamers -have over the proprietors of the mail steamers. The owners of the InterState steamers pay to their men wages about twice as high as are paid on mail steamers, but under the conditions referred to they can afford to do so.
– The wages paid upon the Inter-State steamers ars about three times as high as the wages paid on the mail steamers.
– The proprietors of the Inter-State steamers could afford to pay their men four times as much as is paid to the men on the mail steamers. Under the circumstances, what competition is there between the two classes of steamers tending to bring down the rates of wages paid to the Australian seamen? The mail steamers take no cargo from the Inter-State steamers, and it is the amount of cargo carried that determines the prosperity of these shipping companies. While in many instances the mail steamers have not been able to make the slightest profit, the Inter-State steamers have been piling up huge fortunes for their owners. Furthermore, the Australian shipping companies have been making more money than they know what to do with in the ordinary way of paying profits, and have been building new steamers out of revenue. If I cared to go into details on this subject I could tell a marvellous tale of the prosperity which has followed the increase of the shipping trade between Western Australia and the eastern States.
– Yet the Brisbane River is full of steamers which have been laid up.
– We have been told that, if we impose the rule demanded by the right honorable member for Adelaide, all that will happen is that passengers to Western Australia will have to pay slightly higher fares. If that were the only result of its application, I should not offer such a strenuous opposition to the right honorable member’s proposals. There is, however, a great deal in this move which is not altogether on the surface, and it is just as well that it should be made perfectly obvious at this stage of our proceedings, because, no doubt, the matter will come up again. I have here a cutting from the South Australian Register of the 6th October, 1903. It contains the substance of an address delivered by the Honorable R. S. Guthrie at a meeting held in Adelaide under the auspices of Branch No. 1 of the A.N. A. He was speaking upon the question of shipping, a subject upon which he was well able to speak, being, I believe, secretary to the Seamen’s Union, and having occupied that position for some years. But, unfortunately for those who are agitating with a view to secure a monopoly for Australian steam-ship owners, Senator Guthrie rather imprudently gave his case away. Let me quote a small portion of his address. He said -
The policy of the future depended upon development, but in the meantime he was prepared to advocate the extension of the provisions of the Arbitration Act in the direction of including all ships trading between the ports of the Commonwealth. At the same time, he would relieve Australian shipping companies of port and light dues, and compel the foreign firms to make up the amount.
That proposition is so manifestly unfair that it requires no comment from me. Senator Guthrie shows a strong bias when he suggests that port and light dues should be imposed upon foreign shipping firms, and that the local companies should go free. He goes on to say -
The time was not far distant when mail steamers would have to abandon their coastal trade. He did not know any part of the world where such liners as the F. and O., Orient, and soon, traded from port to port. The day would come when the goods carried by those boats would be discharged into smaller coasting vessels, and when that day arrived, Port Adelaide by its geographical position would become the first Australian port.
– That is in the interests of Adelaide.
– Certainly it is. The ostensible object of these gentlemen is to protect Australian seamen from competition, which, as I have attempted to show, is purely imaginary; but their real aim is to make Port Adelaide a great distributing centre.
– That is if the circumstances warrant it ; it will not become a great distributing centre otherwise.
– If the circumstances warrant it, well and good, but I protest against any artificial attempts to bring about the desired result.
– The object is to prevent the British shipping companies from sweating their sailors.
– Can we prevent English employers from sweating their workmen ?
– We can if they trade along our coast.
– If the honorable member thinks that we can prevent the British shipping companies from sweating their seamen he is more simple than I thought. What would happen if we attempted to impose such conditions as have been suggested ? If the British steam-ship owners made up their minds that our trade was worth having, it. would be the simplest thing in the world for them to evade the law.
– Why do the shipping companies make Fremantle a port of call now - to benefit the people of Western Australia or themselves ?
– They call there to benefit themselves, and I am not arguing on any other basis. I contend, however, that whilst they are benefiting themselves they are conferring an advantage upon the whole of Australia, and that the policy of those who would interfere with the mail steamers is to benefit one port at the expense of all the others. It would be the simplest matter possible for any oversea company to evade the conditions which some honorable members desire to impose. They pay their sailors a certain sum per month, and there would be nothing to hinder them from making a bargain with seamen in the port of London for the round trip, paying the Australian rates whilst the vessels were on our coast, and compelling the sailors to go without wages for a time when they left our shores, in order that their pay might be kept down to the average English rate.
– Any law can be defeated by collusion between two or more parties.
– It would be utterly foolish for this Parliament to attempt to pass legislation that could not be carried out.
– According to the honorable member, nothing can be done, even when the railway is built.
– The construction of the railway between South Australia and Western Australia has nothing whatever to do with this question. So far as that work is concerned, however, I will go so far as to say that if South Australia assisted us to secure the transcontinental railway I should be perfectly willing to concede the common rule.
Mr.Tudor. - That would be a case of “ thank you for nothing,” because, according to the honorable member, the law could not be enforced.
– If they thought they could enforce the law, I should be willing to concede it to them, and to give them my opinion for nothing. I wish to indulge in a little prophecy - although, as the American humourist says, “ it is not wise to prophesy unless you know.” I believe that if the railway to Western Australia were constructed, South Australia would be the last State in the Commonwealth to demand the application of the common rule. Why?. Because its undoubted effect, with the railway in existence, would be to concentrate trade, to a very large extent, in Fremantle. I believe that that port has a large future before it, and that it will become, naturally, and without any’ artificial aids, the depot of a great deal of the European trade with Australia; just. as by reason of its geographical position Sydney now has almost a monopoly of the American trade. I should, however, be the last to ask that artificial means should be used to bring about that result. So far from desiring to restrict the mail steamers to one port, I am anxious that the whole of the States should have the fullest means of communication with the outside world. I believe that even the people of Queensland are by no means anxious to support a policy that would have the effect anticipated by those who are moving in the direction indicated by the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. Not long ago the representatives of Queensland formed a deputation to the Premier to ask that Brisbane should be made a port of call for the English mail steamers.
– All we wanted was equality of treatment.
– And that is all that Western Australia asks for, or expects. I believe that the representatives of Queensland have a perfect right to ask that the mail steamers shall call at Brisbane; but if they desire to bring about that result they must withhold their support from the policy of the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. I trust that Western Australia will receive the consideration to which she is fairly entitled, and that the issues will be perfectly clear to honorable members before they vote upon them. I am sorry that the question has been raised to-day in such a thin House, but I have no doubt that it will be again discussed at a later stage. In any case, I can assure honorable members that Western Australia feels very strongly upon this particular subject, and that most strenuous opposition will be offered by her representatives, and by the people themselves, to any attempt to increase her isolation. When one fully realizes the intent of the present agitation, it cannot fail to impress him as being monstrous. The very persons who are endeavouring to deprive Western Australia of the advantage conferred upon it by reason of the mail steamers calling at Fremantle, are those who are most bitterly opposed to the construction of the transcontinental railway. They will give, us neither one. thing nor the other. Under such circumstances, I am sure that the feeling of fairness which animates honorable members of both Houses of this Parliament will be definite enough, when the time comes, to prevent such an injustice being inflicted upon the State which I have, the honour to represent.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sydney Smith) adjourned.
House adjourned at 3.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1904, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040311_reps_2_18/>.