2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to make a further statement to the House in reply to a question asked by the honorable and learned member for Corinella yesterday. It is this : I am advised that new names may be added to the electoral rolls of persons who are qualified under the Franchise Act, and who have applied for enrolment prior to the issue of the writ. Consequently all persons who have applied since the issue of the writ for the election on the 16th December last, and whose claims are in order, will be enrolled for the election to be held on the 30th March. All electors whose applications for transfer have been received by the returning officer or registrar before the issue of the writ will also be enrolled, and entitled to vote at the election.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer if steps have been taken to have Commonwealth stock placed upon the list of British trust investments, so that that stock, when issued, may not be at a disadvantage as compared with State stock?
– The matter has not been overlooked. I brought it under the attention of the Prime Minister some time ago, in order that the necessary steps might be taken for the introduction of a Bill for the Act required to give the guarantee necessary before the British Government will put stock upon the trustees’ list. As there is no Commonwealth stock now on the London market, nor any likely to be placed there in the near future, that Bill was not introduced last session, but it will probably be dealt with this session.
– On Tuesday last there appeared a statement in the press setting forth the cost of the recent general elections, in which : there are manifest errors. For instance, the cost of the East Sydney election is put down at , £781, though I am informed that it was not anything like so much ; while the cost of the West Sydney election is stated as£265, when in point of fact it cost much more. Of course, arguments and deductions drawn from such statements must be quite wrong.
– My attention has been drawn to the matter. It appears that some of the accounts for the divisions named were by some mistake charged to. the other division ; but before the statement was finally revised for presentation to Parliament, the errors to which the honorable member refers were discovered and rectified. I do not know why there was such a hurry togive the information to the press before revision; but those are the facts of the case. The correct information was placed upon the tables of both House of Parliament.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Defence if the article appearing in this morning’s Argus, and headed, “ Colonel Tom Price. A Question of Retirement. An Interesting Position,” contains the facts of the case. Has his attention been called to the matter?
– I do not know what foundation exists for some of the statements which have been published in the Argus, but I shall be very pleased to make inquiries on the subject for the information of the honorable member.
– Does the Minister for
Home Affairs object to lay upon the table the instructions issued to the returning officer as to the recepti n or non-reception of the “Q” votes at the Ni-Ni polling place during the Wimmera election ?
– I have obtained a copy of those instructions ; but perhaps I may betaken as answering the honorable and’ learned member’s question if I read the reply which has been furnished to me in answer to a letter appearing in one of today’s newspapers, and signed by the unsuccessful candidate, Mr. Max. Hirsch. It is this: -
Mr. Hirsch asserts that the reply to the honorable member for Illawarra yesterday contains a “ positive misstatement of fact “ as to the advice given by the Attorney-General’s Department. There was no misstatement.
That advice was given in writing on21st December last, is recorded in both Departments, and a copy is attached. It exactly agrees with the statement made yesterday.
Mr. Garran’s memorandum, there referred to, is as follows:-
Memo for the Secretary,
Department of Home Affairs.
The polling booth at Ni-Ni not having been opened on polling day, the proper course is for the returning officer or presiding officer to adjourn the polling to another day, and give notice of the adjournment, as provided by section 153. of the Act.
A difficulty arises as to whether, at the adjourned poll, “ Q “ declarations should be accepted from, and ballot-papers given to, electors enrolled for other polling places in the division.
This is a matter in which the presiding officer must use his discretion. For the guidance of that officer, if he desires advice, I may say that in my opinion the adjourned. ‘poll being only for that polling booth, only those persons whose names are enrolled for that polling place are entitled to,
As, however, the matter is not wholly free from doubt, it might perhaps be desirable to allow “ Q “ declarants to vote, if the ballot papers can be kept separate-e.g., by taking their votes at a separate booth, with a separate ballot-box. The officer conducting - the scrutiny would then decide in his discretion whether to count the votes . or not; and in the event of a petition the Court of Disputed Returns would have the materials for - declaring the result of the election. (Signed) R. R. Garran,
Secretary, Attorney-General’s Dept.
Mr.Hirsch’s statement that portion of the judgment of the High Court was “ suppressed “ in my reply is equally Unfounded. To correct” the misleading effect of an isolated passage quoted from the judgment of the Argus, I quoted the immediate context of that passage; Nothing was suppressed, and no such inference was drawn as is suggested by Mr. Hirsch.
The additional passage from the Chief Justice’s judgment quoted by Mr. Hirsch also involved what he would term “ a suppression of fact,” since he omits the following very revelant passage : - “ It has been pointed out that if the view of the petitioner was accepted, the result would be that, when by accident one polling-place in an electorate was not open on election day, there would be, in effect, two entirely separate polls for the whole electorate, because when the adjournment came each party knew exactly how many votes had been cast for him, and each would collect together all the electors who had not voted before, and bring them to the adjourned poll, thus making practically a fresh election. In view of the provision that all elections should be held on the same day, it was plain that the Legislature thought thatwas a very undesirable thingto happen.”
– Can the Prime Minister say whether that opinion was forwarded to the returning officer prior to the date of polling?
– I shall be happy to ask the Minister for Home Affairs to inform the honorable and learned member. The opinion I have read was sent to the secretary to the Department for Home Affairs, and forwarded by him to the Chief Electoral Officer. What further steps were taken I am not at present in a position to say.
Mr. CAMERON made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of Wilmot.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the11th Australian Infantry Regiment (W.A.) is the only regiment on a nonpaying footing. If so, why?
-In reply to the honorable member I have to state -
The11th Australian Infantry Regiment is not the only regiment which is not paid.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Why has the Medical School of Instruction for the South Australian Medical Corps been postponed, in view of the fact that members, in some cases at great inconvenience, had made arrangements to attend ?
– In reply to the honorable member I have to state -
The General Officer Commanding reports that there is no officer available for giving the required instruction or supervision for the period previously arranged.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions -
asked the Postmaster-General upon notice -
Whether the Postal Department is responsible for the suspension of the sale of duty stamps and promissory notes by postal officials in charge of contract post-offices; if not, will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House how the present condition has arisen under which duty stamps and promissory notes are not purchasable by the public at contract offices at present?
– On behalf of the PostmasterGeneral, I have to say that -
The sale of duty stamps and promissory notes is under the control of and regulatd by the State Government. The Postmaster-General is not aware of the reasons why such stamps and promissory notes are not supplied to officers in charge of contract post offices for sale to the public.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
William Lyne and Mr. W. C. Goddardrespectively for the Hume Division at the General Election of 1901.
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions -
HUME DIVISION- GENERAL ELECTION, 1 901.
At that time only men exercised the right to vote.
Debate resumed from March 15 (vide page 542), on motion by Mr. Mauger -
That the A’ddress be agreed to by the House.
– (Swan- Minister for Home Affairs). - Honorable members opposite may think that, as the Government are always anxious to expedite public business, I am not altogether acting in accordance with that desire in rising to speak upon the Address in Reply. But my excuse is that I am one of the few members of this House - there are only five altogether - who represent the far-off State of Western Australia; and I think that it is incumbent on all of us to be, perhaps, a little in evidence on such occasions. Otherwise it might be thought by the people of our State, and, perhaps, by the people of Australia generally, that Western Australia had no efficient representation in this House. I also regret as much as any honorable member can do that on the few occasions when I have had the opportunity of addressing the House, I have had to refer to matters which particularly affected my own State. That was not because I am out of sympathy with the conditions or the affairs of other parts of Australia, or cannot take a sufficiently wide view to consider them; but because Western Australia has such a small representation. On the other hand, the great States of New South Wales and Victoria are so largely represented, and have so much influence here that it appears to me that it is not so necessary for their members to speak in regard to their affairs. I cannot, forget that Western
Australia is far away from the eastern States, that she occupies an immense area which is sparsely settled, having only a little over 230,000 people all told, and that she is isolated. We in Western Australia have no means of communication with these States except by a four days’ voyage by sea to Adelaide. I am very sorry at the beginning of my remarks to have to admit that this isolation is already spoiling the Federal sentiment in Western Australia; and unless some means are taken to prevent it, and that pretty soon - or at any rate unless some hope is.’ extended to the people of that State - all I can say is that that Federal sentiment must continue to get weaker, and must soon end - I assure the House that I hope that it will not be so - in open hostility.
Honorable Members. - Oh !
– I do not think that that is an improper remark for me to make. I am only stating what I fear will be the case. I very much regret it, and I hope some means will be taken to prevent it. There can be no doubt that the idea of Federation and the very meaning of the word is a joining together. Those who desire the success of Federation must assist in the first instance, in removing isolation. Whether rightly or wrongly, there is no doubt whatever of the fact that the people of Western Australia - a large number of them at any rate - in agreeing to join in a Federation with their fellow countrymen in other parts of Australia, believed, and had good reasons for the belief, that the union would soon result in the barrier of isolation being removed. They believed that they would soon have railway communication between Western Australia and the eastern States of the continent. That was the main lever used by all of us who advocated Federation: It was the lever used by the prominent men in Eastern Australia to influence those who had lived so long in isolation, and who had become accustomed to that position. They were told that this communication of Western Australia by railway with the eastern States must be an early result of Federation. We all, I think, admit that, Australia being an island continent, inhabited by the same race of people, there is no room here for six different and almost sovereign States. If it were otherwise - if we were different peoples with different habits and different ambitions - the case might be different; but that is not so. We all come from the same stock ; we have the same history ; we have the same ambitions for the future ; we are citizens of the same Empire. Therefore, there is no room upon this continent for six sovereign States with independent Governments. The argument was excellent when we all used it, that union was not only necessary, but reasonable and businesslike ; but it must be a real union, and not one in name only ; not a sham, such as our union is at present, and such as it must continue to be so long as we have no means of communication between the great western and the great eastern States, except by embarking upon a four days’ sea voyage, for the greater part of the journey far out of the sight of land.
– How did the American States get on before the use of steam was introduced ?
– I do not know, but should say very badly. I think that we may judge of our own case for ourselves. The honorable and learned member is so erudite that it is of no use for me to attempt to cross swords with him. I recog’nise that no honorable member in this House has a mind stored with so many historical facts as he has. Unfortunately, I,000 miles of practically uninhabited country will have to be traversed by the proposed railway. That makes the position more difficult than it would be if settlements were established at frequent intervals along the route of the railway. I am glad, however, to be able to say that some real advance has been made in this matter, and that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech conveys the information that the Government intend to ask the House to approve of a survey being made.
– Did not the Minister write that paragraph?
– I did not.
– Is it true that the Minister has decided that the survey shall be made for a railway by way of the Gawler Ranges, and not through Tarcoola?
– I have not decided anything. No doubt a railway could be constructed by the Gawler Ranges route for ^500,000 less than by the Tarcoola route, and as the House is in an economical frame of mind, that consideration may weigh with them. That, in itself, however, is not a sufficient reason why the route should be adopted. I wish to see the railway constructed, and I am not very particular as to which route it follows. The project for the construction of a railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States was not received with much favour when it was first submitted to the House; but I am glad to say that it is now viewed with more favour, and that it has gained ground in the estimation of the people. Even in South Australia - where, for some unknown reason which I could not understand, the project was regarded with disfavour - I believe that the people are beginning to see that it would be very beneficial to them, and would confer as great an advantage upon South Australia as upon Western Australia, and I look forward to the time, and that very soon, when any objection that may have been raised by that State will be removed. I have not the slightest doubt that success will attend our efforts, but whether immediately or some time hence must depend largely upon public opinion. We . shall have to be content to wait till Parliament, with full information before it, is able to arrive at a decision in regard to it. There is no use in my saying that it is a good project, that it would prove payable, or that it would impose no burden on the people of Australia. What I have to do, and what the people of Western Australia and all those interested have to do, is to use every effort to induce the House and the country to view it with favour. I have always been content to accept that position. I have, however, always entertained a very strong objection to a situation in which any State should be able to say - “ We shall prevent you people of Western Australia from being connected with the other States by rail; we shall not allow you to be brought into communication with your neighbours by railway, because there is rsection in the Constitution which says that our consent has first to be obtained.” I have no hesitation in saying that that section was not embodied in the Constitution with any idea that it could be availed of for such a purpose. The design of the framers was to prevent the Commonwealth from interfering with the States in regard to matters relating to inter-communication within their own territory, and it was never contemplated that one State should be able to block another from being connected with the other States bv railway. Any such idea would be absurd, and entirely opposed to the principles of Federation. No State with any self-respect would be content to restunder such a condition for a minute, and if I thought that South Australia or any other State would be able for long to prevent Western Australia from being connected with the other States by rail - to prevent that inter-communication between the States which is the very life-blood of Federation - I should say - “ This Federation is a fraud; we have been led into it by false pretences, and the sooner we get out of it the better.”
– What about the Federal Capital? We must have that first.
– I am quite as strong as is the honorable member in the desire to see the capital question settled. If any one imagines that we are not going to have railway communication between the east and west of Australia, I say to him that he is a little Australian, and has no faith in the future of his country. Federation, without means of communication between the great west and the great east of the continent would be meaningless. It would have absolutely no significance whatever.
– What does the Treasurer say upon the subject?
– I am not committing the Treasurer. We only want the railway when Parliament is prepared to grant it. Now I shall have to say some things which are not so pleasant as I might desire, but I am determined to give utterance to them, because I have a duty to perform, not only to myself, but to the people of the State I represent. Among the foremost men in Australia who promised - indirectly if not directly- that Federation would be the forerunner of railway communication between the east and west of Australia was the then Premier of South Australia, the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. On the 9th April, 1899, when I was Premier of Western Australia, he wrote to me as follows : -
Our near constitutional connexion, resulting from Federation, is in itself a boon of great worth to all included within its sphere. I cannot help thinking, also, that it must, at no very distant date, result in the connexion of east and west by rail through the medium, say, of a line between Port Augusta and your gold-fields.
There is no mention there about Esperance
This would, indeed, be an Australian work worthy of undertaking by a Federal authority on behalf of the nation, in pursuance of the authorities contained in the Commonwealth, Bill. It is, of course, a work of special interest to Western Australia and South Australia, and I devoutly hope that the day is not far distant when the representatives of Western Australia and South Australia may, in their places in a Federal
Parliament, be found working side by side for the advancement of Australian interests in this and other matters of national concern.
On the 4th September of the same year my right honorable friend wrote to me as follows. I may say that this was before the referendum in Western Australia -
With Federation assured, the Federal construction of the railway is in our opinion undoubtedly the best means for carrying out this great Australian underaking. We hope that it will not be long before Western Australians and South Australians are co-operating in the Parliament of the Commonwealth to bring this about, and we repeat that you can rely on South Australia’s sympathy and support.
– So far we have not been favoured with much of either.
– The right honorable gentleman has had both. Western Australia is offered two railways instead of one.
– I would point out to the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide that in the communication which I have quoted no mention is made of a railway from Esperance Bay to the goldfields. It refers only to the projected transcontinental line from Western Australia to South Australia. I repeat that we have had neither sympathy nor support from the latter State. For three years the Commonwealth Government have persistently endeavoured to secure permission from that State for the railway to pass through its territory. So far, we have been unsuccessful. The authorities have neglected to give proper consideration to the requests which have been made by the Commonwealth Government.
– Why, the very first speech which the Minister made in this House contained a threat of disruption and nonsense of that sort.
– I am discussing the question of the railway.
– We also complain of neglect of the Federal Capital question. “
– The honorable member will be quite satisfied with my attitude upon that subject. But in connexion with the transcontinental railway, I should like to ask what ‘the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide has done during all this time. He has done absolutely nothing. He has never asked the people of South Australia to respect the promises which he made. His action strongly recalls to my mind the old fable of the spider and the fly. “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the spider to the fly - and Western Australia walked in. The right honorable and learned member, who in a public capacity made all these promises - which were very acceptable to Western Australia - occupying as he did a most responsible position, has never yet come out into the open and said, “ I made these promises, and I ask South Australia to respect them.” He has never asked the people of what he terms “My own dear State” not to dishonour themselves or their country by repudiating the pledges which he made on their behalf. But instead, what has he done? He has done even worse, than nothing. He has sought to impose a new condition ; he declares that whilst he favours the construction of a railway from A to B, it is conditional upon a line being built from B to C.
– Thus giving both sides double the convenience which they would otherwise obtain.
– To what “both sides “ does the right honorable and learned member refer?
– To the east and west.
– The new condition which the right honorable and learned member seeks to impose is notoriously one which at the present time is not acceptable to the people of Western Australia. If an individual pledges himself to do a certain thing, in certain eventualities, and when the time comes for redeeming his promise seeks to qualify it by adding to it a new and objectionable condition, which he knows will not be acceptable to the other party, what can be said of his conduct? Yet that is precisely the position which is taken up by the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. For ten years the construction of a line of railway from Esperance Bay to Coolgardie has been a subject of controversy in the western State. I was prepared to construct a line from Coolgardie to Norseman, and upon two occasions I endeavoured to obtain the necessary legal authority for the work, but was not able to pass the Bill through both Houses of Parliament. That, however, is no reason why those who made promises in the eastern States of Australia should now .seek to attach to such promises another condition of a controversial character. If any honorable member can urge that that is fair treatment, I have no more to say. I hold, however, that the new condition which the right honorable member for Adelaide seeks to impose was quite outside the contract. While I was grateful to him for the letters which he wrote me in connexion with the transcontinental railway, I should be much more grateful to him if he would keep the promises he made in their entirety and not seek to get out of his promise by’ adding to it an impossible condition ; otherwise he might just as well openly avow that he is not prepared to fulfil the promises which he made.
– That is the object of tacking on the new condition.
– Does the Minister know that the estimates of the probable revenue that will be derived from the overland line which he is putting forward will be reduced by more than half if the Esperance line be constructed ?
– The right honorable and learned member, having made a promise, which we acted upon as a bond fide one, is now seeking to impose new conditions.
– Will the Minister deny that the estimates which he is putting forward will be falsified bv 50 per cent, if there is a line to Esperance?
– I do not think that they will.
– Will they not be affected ?
– They will not be affected at all. The right honorable and learned member labours under a disadvantage as compared with myself, inasmuch as he does not know the country.
– I know what the official estimate is, and the Minister ought to, but does not.
– If a person at Kalgoorlie desired to visit the fair city of Adelaide, I ask honorable members by which route he would prefer to travel? Would he go by rail direct, and thus arrive at his destination within 36 hours, or would he travel 247 miles by railway to Esperance, and there await a steamer by which to complete his journey - a distance of nearly 1,000 miles by sea?
– The officials who made the original estimate say that the estimated revenue from the transcontinental line will be diminished 50 per cent, if Western Australia constructs the Esperance line.
– That would be a very good reason for not carrying out the proposal.
– We should reserve the right to the Federation to construct the Esperance line.
– Our simple proposition is that Western Australia should be connected with the eastern States. With the exception of the Norseman gold-fields, some 105 miles from Coolgardie, there is nothing calling for a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. There is nothing at Esperance Bay itself which would warrant the construction of such a line. The people of Western Australia simply desire to have railway communication with the eastern States.
– Does the right honorable member think that in the matter of ordinary freights land carriage can compete with water carriage ?
– I am not prepared at this stage to enter into the consideration of that question.
– I am in possession cf the facts, which show that the old estimate of revenue would be reduced by 50 per cent, by the Esperance line.
– I wish that the right honorable member would allow me to proceed. It is useless for him to attempt to interrupt me, because I have been too long in the field of politics to be drawn off the track by his interjections. Even if a railway were built to Esperance, I feel satisfied that the major portion, of the traffic between the eastern States and Western Australia would be chiefly by way of Fremantle. The volume of trade is with the last-named port, and it always will be. I am of opinion that to build the railway to Esperance Bay, erect light-houses, and carry out other works necessary to make it a safe” and commodious harbour, would cost £1,000,000. Seeing that Western Australia has gold-fields all over her territory to develop, she is not, I should say, prepared at present to spend so large a sum in opening up a new port, when she has already spent ,£1,250.000 on the port of Fremantle. I do not intend to say anything further at this stage in reference to this matter. I come now to the question which agitates the mind of my honorable friends from New South Wales.
– Would it not be’ well for the Minister to take honorable members over to Western Australia?
– I should be very glad to do so, and to act as their cicerone. So far as there may be any reason for the belief that the Government of Australia, or the people of the other States, are unwilling to carry out the constitutional obligation relative to the construction of the
Federal Capital, I am quite in accord with the position taken up by the people of New South Wales. But I think that they are nursing a grievance which really does not exist. I have never heard a suggestion at the councils of the Cabinet that that obligation should not be fulfilled, nor have I ever heard any member of the Government give expression to such an opinion even in private.
– We trust that the Minister will do better than his predecessor.
– There were many matters which required attention at the inauguration of Federation, and which stood in the way of the immediate fulfilment of this obligation. It is well that in regard to a question of this kind there should be no undue haste.
– The Government will settle the matter this session?
– No doubt we shall do so. I believe that the Prime Minister intends that the question shall be determined as soon as we are in possession of the necessary information to place before the House.
– Will the Government accept the responsibility of recommending one particular site?
– It would be unreasonable to expect the Government to do so. What would be the position of those honorable members of the Government who have pledged themselves to the selection of certain sites? It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect them to be tied down to l party vote. If, for instance, the Governnent proposed that the Federal Capital should be established at Tumut, one of their members would almost be forced to resign, while if we were to ask the House to select Bombala another honorable member, of the Government would have to consider his position.
– Then the Government will not choose either site?
– The position which we take up is, in my opinion, the correct one. As a representative of the people of Australia, I desire to exercise a free choice; I desire to be free to vote as I think fit in the matter of the selection of the site of the capital of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister would be charged with unfairness if he tried to bind his colleagues and his supporters to one particular site. This is a national matter, quite beyond the scope of parties, and it is far better that honorable members should be allowed to cast their votes free from all party ties.
– And after we have voted on the question how long will it be before the Capital is established ?
– I take it that as soon as the question has been determined by Parliament it will be the duty of the Government to proceed with the work.
– Will the Ministry stand by the decision of this House?
– I think that questions of this kind should be addressed to the Prime Minister. Among the members of the Government is the honorable member for Hume, who certainly does not wish to see New South Wales deprived of its right to the Federal Capital, nor can it be said that the Minister of Defence, another representative of New South Wales, desires that the capital should not be established in that State In his speech at Ballarat the Prime Minister declared that the obligation must be faithfully carried out, and it seems to me that that was a definite statement. I shall now put before the House the statement which I made to the electors of Western Australia at the last elections. I was not led to give expression to the opinion which I am about to quote by any desire to obtain votes, because, as a matter of fact, the people of Western Australia have not as yet taken any great interest in the question. If they have any interest at all in the matter it is simply that they do not desire to see expenditure on any undertaking that is not urgently required.
– Except the transcontinental railway.
– They believe that that railway is necessary to the State of Western Australia, and that it will be of great service to the Commonwealth.
– That is the true Federal spirit - “ get all you can for yourselves.”
– The people of Western Australia are far removed from the eastern States. They are not in touch with the people of New South Wales. We are really, a small and isolated community, and it is no matter for surprise that we should give attention ito questions, which more directly affect us than does the matter of the erection of the Federal Capital. In my address to the people of Western Australia, I said -
I am in favour of the Federal Capital being established, as I believe it will be a great factor in increasing the Federal spirit, and of banishing^ unnecessary parochialism. The great cities of Sydney and Melbourne, containing almost one-third of the whole population of Australia, must always have immense influence on the Federal Parliament; but that influnce will, I think, be less potent, and less liable to be specially in evidence, when the Federal Legislature sits in its own State. The fixing of the Federal Capital in New South Wales was a special provision of the Constitution, and the undertaking must be honorably fulfilled. We must, ‘in these and in all other similar matters, do unto others as we would they should do unto us. Unless we are willing and anxious to fulfil our promise huw can we expect Australia to be honoured and respected.
– The right honorable member did not think that by giving expression to such sentiments he would lose votes?
– No; but I did not expect to gain any.
– The right honorable gentleman would gain votes by giving utterance to such an opinion.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. I am sure, however, that most of my own constituents were not very deeply interested in this project. It had not been brought home to them in its full significance. .
– But they consider that we should adhere to the Constitution?
– Of course they do. I am led’ to make this extract from my address to the electors, because of my desire to show that so far as I, and, indeed, my colleagues, are concerned, there is absolutely no wish to depart from the constitutional requirements as to the establishment of the capital. I should be ashamed if. after the people of New South Wales had been influenced to enter Federation because of this promise - and I believe that they were considerably influenced’ by the determination that the capital should be in New South Wales - we declined to carry out the obligation. To do such a thing would be most dishonorable. I wish now to say a word or two about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which is before the House. I, have for many years believed in the application of the principle of conciliation and arbitration rather than that of force for the settlement of industrial disputes, and an Act based upon the New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced and carried by me in the Western Australian Parliament, and is the law of that State to-day. I am not prepared to say that that measure has always worked well, because it has not. It is not likely that the administration of new laws will be entirely successful at the start. Every- new scheme requires working to discover its defects, and to bring about a thorough understanding of its principles, before good results can be obtained. It is so with the conciliation and arbitration laws. I believe, however, that the longer they are in force the better they will be administered. If it is seen in the future that evil, and’ not good, results from them, no doubt we shall retrace our steps, or substitute something better. We of the British race make many mistakes, but when
Ave discover that .we have made one, we generally find a way in which to retrieve our error, and eventually come to a position in which we are as well, if not better off, than we were before.
– That process takes a long time.
– Yes, but I have such faith in the good sense of my fellow Australians that I am not afraid. The right honorable member for Adelaide is my good friend, though he sometimes seems to speak as though he had not that sympathy with me which I desire that he should have: Last session he told the people of Australia that I have no sympathy with the workers of this country. I consider that a gratuitous misrepresentation. I ask any one who wishes to test it to examine the statute-book of Western Australia for the ten years between 1890 and 1900, during which I was said to be an autocrat in that State. If any one does so, he will find there to my credit much more progressive and beneficent legislation than emanated from the Legislature of South Australia while the right honorable member for Adelaide was Premier of that State. In no decade in the history of Australia has more legislation been passed for the benefit and amelioration of the people than was passed in Western Australia in the period I refer to. Facts speak more loudly than words. I could go about making ing speeches here and there, and be a blatant democrat and radical, but. I wish rather to be judged by the work I do. What has been done by many of the men who for years have been in the public life of this country? What measures can they point to and say-‘- “These are my handiwork; I am responsible for them”? When a public man has beneficent and useful legislation to his credit - I dislike the term “democratic,” because it has been so hackneyed - he has done good for his country. But those who haveonly made a noise, set class against class, and quarrelled with others until the place- has become unfit to live in, have done more harm than they could undo if they lived for 100 years.
– The right honorable gentleman’s democracy is ever in evidence when he has to bend.
– I do not wish to speak in such a way that my hearers shall not understand exactly what I think about the matters with which I deal. When I am in doubt upon a question I may say nothing in regard to it, but once I have made up my mind, I do not hesitate to express my news plainly. Therefore I wish to say that I am entirely in accord with the Prime Minister in the remarks which he made at Ballarat. I shall support again this session the position taken by the Government last session against the application of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the public servants of the States. My reasons for doing so are these : In the first place, I think that it is not necessary to extend the provisions of the measure to public servants. In the second place, it is mischievous to unduly and unnecessarily interfere with the Governments of the States in the control of their own servants. Furthermore, it was not intended by those who inserted in the Constitution Bill the provision allowing the Commonwealth to legislate in regard to industrial disputes affecting more than one State, that it should be applied as it is now sought by some to apply it. I am largely responsible for the adoption of that provision, because if I had not voted for it, and used influence which I possessed at the time to get it carried, it would have been rejected by a majority of the members of the Convention.
– The right honorable gentleman has no reason to be proud of that fact.
– I shall not be proud of it if the provision is made use of in the way desired by some. The clause to which I refer was proposed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and, in supporting it, I said that I had grave doubts as to whether I was doing the right thing. At that time I did not know the honorable and learned member as well as I know him now. His views seemed to be greatly in advance of those in my mind, and I looked upon him as a dangerous sort of politician, who was ready to go far beyond what I should consider safe. Since then I have come to know him better, and have learned to esteem him, though he is still in his opinions far ahead of me. However, at the time I gave my reasons for supporting him, and six other members of the Convention from Western Australia voted with me.
– Were they not, as a matter of fact, the nominees of the right honorable gentleman ?
– I do not say that j but we voted together a good deal. The clause was carried on division by twenty-two to nineteen, a majority of three, so if my six friends from Western Australia and myself had not voted for it, it would have been rejected. If I had known, or if nine-tenths of the members of the Convention had known, that this subsection, which we inserted for a different purpose altogether, was to be used in the way now proposed, we should not have supported it. We were thinking of the shipping strike, which had done so much harm to our trade and commerce. We had only disputes of that kind in our minds. But if I, for one, had had any idea that there would have been an attempt to exercise the provision in the way that is now proposed, I should never have voted for it. Not one of ‘those who spoke in the Convention - and some long speeches were made - even hinted at its being applied in the way that it is now sought to apply it. That is another reason why I am totally opposed to what is now suggested. I contend that it is unnecessary, that it is an interference with the States for no sufficient reason, that the proposed application of the section was never intended by any member of the Convention.
– Is that the opinion of the Minister for Trade and Customs?
– I believe that it is the opinion of the Government, or I should not be expressing it.
– Not of all the members of the Government?
– I do not know that I am not expressing the opinion of the Government.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that, the sub-section being in the Constitution, it is any the weaker, because he does not believe in its proposed application ?
– We had no idea of its proposed application at the time it was passed. We had not a chance of believing in it. I say again that, if we had known of the purposes to which it would be sought to apply it, we should soon have made short work of it. I intended to say what I thought about the matter, and I have said it as clearly as possible, so that there can be no mistake about my views. When this subject came forward in Western Australia - I say this in the presence of my honorable friends from that State, who belong to the Labour Party - not ohe of the candidates, so far as I know, gave the matter any prominence. Neither my honorable friend the member for Perth, nor my honorable friend the member for Fremantle, said much about it. They were not anxious to parade their views on the subject in their election speeches. They were kept in the background.
– I referred to it at nearly every meeting that I addressed.
– But I think that the honorable member said that it would not affect Western Australia.
– I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that if any strong opinions in opposition to the proposed application of the sub-section in question had been hammered home, as some people might have hammered them home, it would have had some effect upon the elections in that State.
– The question was brought up at every meeting which I addressed.
– I may further tell the House that I said this with regard to the matter in Western Australia -
I am opposed to the Federal Parliament passing any laws which would remove from the State Parliament the control of its own employes. If they did, such a course would prove to be unconstitutional, but in any case it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. It would practically take from the States . the control of. their own finances, and would be opposed to the autonomy of the States.
That is a definite statement, and it is still my opinion. I have no right - and I do not wish to take upon myself the duty - to offer gratuitous advice. Advice of that kind is not generally very welcome. But I may, without any offence, and in the best of good humour, say to my friends, the members of the Labour Party, that in my opinion they are trying to put on a little too much steam.
– We have been told that ever since the Labour Party came into existence.
– There is no harm in my saying it again- to my honorable friends. There is a celebrated fable of Aesop, about the dog and the shadow. The dog, seeing the meat that it was carrying in its mouth reflected in the stream below, jumped in, and by reaching after the shadow, lost what it had. I think a very good motto in all matters of this kind, as it is in many other matters, is “ hasten slowly.” It is always better to get almost all that you require, than by trying to get all you want at once, to lose the whole.
– We have been going rather slowly in regard to the transcontinental railway !
– We have been going too slowly in that matter. I trust that my honorable friend will assist in increasing the pace. It gave me very great pleasure last evening to listen to the remarks of my honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he made a generous defence of the Chief Electoral Officer. I am always pleased to be in the position of being .able to defend a public officer. I think that it is the right thing to do, if one can do it, because the whole stock-in-trade of a public servant is his good name and character. Members of Parliament who can say what they like about a public servant, can libel him up-hill, and kick him down, can say things to which he cannot reply in any way, should see that the power is carefully and wisely used. If advantage is taken of the privilege of Parliament to attack a public officer in general terms and not specifically, a very wrong thing is done. When a public officer does wrong, he should be called upon to meet a definite charge. He should not be attacked in generalities. I have had only a short experience of the Chief Electoral Officer. He was absolutely unknown to me personally until recently. But I can say this - that I have found him zealous in the discharge of his duties, and, as far as I am able to judge, upright in his desire to do justice. I have never seen him in the slightest degree leaning to the right hand or to the left. I have formed the opinion that he is a competent man, and he seems to have had experience of such duties as he is now discharging. I do not like to see such an officer attacked in general terms. If there is anything to be alleged against him, let it be plainly stated- Let it be put in black and white, and let us have the matter investigated.
I Mr. Dugald Thomson. - Let us have an inquiry.
– Is it a reasonable thing to have an inquiry when no specific charges are made? The honorable member for North Sydney is, I know, a reasonable man, who is anxious to do what is right. Does he think that it would be a fair thing to have a general inquiry without any specific charge being made? A prisoner at the bar knows what is alleged against him. We do not charge a prisoner with general offences, and there is no power to bring up fresh charges against him in the course of his trial.
– I was not speaking of the man, but of the work of the Department.
– It is unfair to demand that there should be a general inquiry, but I can understand an inquiry into the system.
– Was not the Parnell Commission an inquiry into general charges?
– There were definite charges in that case, I believe. My own opinion is that we cannot be too careful in guarding public officers from attacks in general terms. If anything is wrong, there should be specific charges made, which should be thoroughly well inquired into. We should not appoint commissions of inquiry merely to find out something against a public officer. Now I come to another matter about which I wish to say a few words. I allude to the Navigation Bill. The measure has not yet been laid upon the table, but it is mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. As that Bill will affect communication round the coasts of Australia, it is necessarily a measure of very far-reaching importance. I only wish to say this - that the fact that a thing is good in itself affords no reason for immediately embracing it; it is no reason for upsetting everything to bring it at once into existence. We sometimes remit duties by statute. But we generally give some notice before such an Act comes into force, in order that people shall not be injured by reason of their payment of heavy duties, and having insufficient opportunity to get rid of their stock.
– I thought it was the foreigner who paid the duty?
– I am not going to argue that question with the honorable member. Take, for instance, the measure which some people think very bene.ficient - the Pacific Island Labourers Act. It might be argued that if it were a good thing to prohibit the employment of kanakas upon the sugar plantations, absolute and immediate action should have been taken in that regard. But the Legislature, being reasonable, has said - “ No ; we think that it is a good thing, but we are not going like a bull at a gate ; we are going to gradually stop the practice.” The same remarks might apply to other measures, especially to the Navigation Bill. Although the Bill is not circulated yet, I might say that it appears to me that if we were to bring some of its provisions into immediate operation we should inflict injury. But if reasonable time is allowed to meet the altered conditions, the inconvenience or hardship to individual communities may be minimized. In connexion with all such measures, especially those which interfere with vested interests, some, time should be allowed to enable those who might be injuriously affected to prepare for the change. Some reference has been made to the question of old-age pensions. I was one of those who supported the proposal at the Convention that old-age pensions should be included among the subjects for Federal legislation. The reason I then gave - I have not looked up the matter since - was, that I believed that the Federal Parliament would be able to deal with the matter better than would any local Legislature. I thought that it would be able to take a wider view of the operation of such a law, and, ‘ although there was a good deal of difference of opinion, I voted in favour of. Federal control being exercised in that matter. Whilst the Braddon section continues it will be very difficult, without imposing special taxation, apart from the Customs, to bring an old-age pension law into operation. Some persons talk very glibly about imposing extra taxation ; but I think that those who look into the matter and attach proper weight to the great distaste of the people to any new taxation will see that the subject is not such an easy one to deal with as might at first appear. No doubt the bookkeeping sections and the Braddon sections of the Constitution suit the State which I represent. We are very pleased that those sections are embodied in the Constitution, and I am very glad that I voted for them. I venture to say that even the Labour Party in Western Australia could not successfully urge the abolition of the bookkeeping sections, or even advocate that their operation should be brought to an end. The reason is this. ‘When the five years’ term expires there is little doubt that a demand will be made for an extension of the period over which the bookkeeping clauses shall operate. Parliament has the right to extend the time if it thinks fit, because the Constitution provides that the sections shall operate for five years, or until such other time as Parliament may direct.
– The bookkeeping sections do not affect the old-age pensions ; the Braddon section is the obstacle.
– I am quire aware of that ; but at present I am dealing with the bookkeeping sections. I may tell honorable members that last year if there had been no bookkeeping sections in the Constitution, and the revenues and expenditure of the States had been distributed per capita, Western Australia would have lost ^600,000.
– There would be no need to distribute the revenues per capita, even though there were no bookkeeping sections.
– No ; but there might be. an inclination in that direction.
– Special provision could be made for special cases.
– I wish it to be very well understood by my friends from Western Australia and elsewhere that but for the bookkeeping sections it would have been possible to take ^600.000 out of the pockets of the people of Western Australia last year, and to have distributed it among the other States. I do not think that any one would care to go upon the hustings and advocate a change that would involve any such distribution. I should not like to take the responsibility of doing so.
– In the meantime Western Australia is gathering in the money from the other States.
– Any advantage that Western Australia may receive is paid for by the people of that State. With’ regard to this matter, I stated at the last general election -
The distribution of the surplus Customs revenue among the States, after the expiration of the five years bookkeeping period, is a very important question, and especially so for Western Australia, and our endeavours should be to have the bookkeeping period further extended.
I certainly think the bookkeeping sections ought to be extended, at any rate, for the term fixed for the Braddon section, viz., for ten years.
An Honorable Member. - Does the Minister favour an extension of the term of the Braddon section for ten years?
– I have not expressed any opinion upon that.
– The Minister apparently desires to extend the Braddon section, and then to further extend the bookkeeping section for another ten years.
– The bookkeeping system is not unfair. It is provided that the revenue collected in each State, less one-fourth, which is made available for the purposes of the Federal Government, shall be returned to the State from which it is derived, and that all expenditure shall be charged against the State in which it is incurred. No doubt this places a restriction upon the application of the common purse principal, under which the whole of the revenues in the States would be at the disposal of the Federal Government; but it is not unfair.
– We are made to occupy the position of receivers for other people.
– Perhaps so; but I need not go into that matter now. The Braddon section will stand in the way of adopting an old-age pension scheme for a period of ten years. I think that I have dealt with those matters referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, to which I particularly wished to refer.
– And, strange to say, the Minister has adversely criticised most of the proposals.
– I do not think so.
– The Minister does not believe in old-age pensions, or the Arbitration Bill-
– The honorable member is romancing. I now have to discharge a disagreeable duty. I feel compelled, very much against my wishes, to refer to some remarks made by my friend, the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, on Friday last. His observations were, I think, ungenerous and unfair. His very long speech, to which we all listened attentively, and to a great deal of which we were glad to listen, was spoiled by the attack he made upon the Governments of Western Australia - both past Governments and the present Government. I am particularly interested in his remarks with regard to the Government with which I was for ten years connected, but I am willing to also take up the cudgels in defence of those who succeeded me. The right honorable gentleman seemed to me so unreasonably hostile, that it might have been even assumed that some personal injury had been done to him by myself, or by the representatives of Western Australia, or by the people of that State. I may say that I have no knowledge of anything of the kind.
– No, nor anybody else.
– I assure the right honorable and learned member that, when he hears me repeat what he said, he will be really astonished that he should have made any such statements. It cannot be said that his speech was not full of goodwill towards the people of Australia, because he seemed to be very much concerned for their welfare. He spoke of his admiration and love for his fellowAustralians almost with emotion. Indeed, he presented quite a lugubrious spectacle. I could not help thinking he must have been reading the Lamentations of Jeremiah - so much emotion did he display towards the people of “ his own dear State.” But I regret to say that the same generous spirit did not animate him when he spoke of the people of Western Australia. He first attacked that State because the Constitution confers upon its Parliament the power to tax Inter-State goods for a period of five years, and then he wentso far as to declare that I and those who represented Western Australia at the Federal Convention had intentionally misled the delegates at that gathering.
– Is the Minister quoting from the report of my speech?
– I do not know what the report of the right honorable member’s speech says, but I heard him affirm that the Convention had been absolutely misled.
– By misrepresentation.
– Yes; Western Australia received consideration which properly belonged to Queensland and Tasmania.
– If I had the time at my disposal I could quote the opinions of a dozen, or, perhaps, twenty, of the most prominent men in the Commonwealth, who, at the Convention, urged that . the special circumstances of Western Australia required special treatment.
– That was opposed to the actual facts.
– I have in my possession, and can produce, if necessary, a letter from the Government Statist in New South Wales assuring me that whilst the Constitution provided for the needs of Western Australia for to-day and to-morrow, it would afterwards mean ruin to her. For the right honorable member for Adelaide to urge that we wilfully misrepresented the
State of affairs which existed is altogether too silly.
– Was not Western Australia a gainer by the substitution of the Federal Tariff for its own Tariff?
– But we did not know what the effect would be at the time. No one could possibly foresee that. For the honorable member to accuse us of having played a game and done something discreditable by means of misrepresentation is positively too silly. As a matter of fact, those whowere associated with me as delegates from Western Australia were not very eager to enter the Federation under the Constitution, as it did not appear to suit us.
– The delegates from Western Australia represented that that State would be a special loser as the result of union, when as a matter of fact other States were the losers.
– How couldI possibly look into the future? I had to judge by the past and by the then present. No one can tell what the future will bring forth. I indignantly deny that we indulged in any misrepresentation whatever. If I were in order in doing so, I should say that the right honorable gentleman’s statement is grossly untrue.
– All I can say is that the Minister’s remarks were untrue, and the figures show it.
– I mustask the right honorable member for Adelaide to withdraw that statement.
-I am ata loss tounderstand why suchastatement should have beenmade. Surely if ‘the result of unionhas beentobenefit one particular State more thanwas anticipatedthat isa matter forgeneralcongratulations. The fact that one Stateis prosperous whilstan other asnot,oughtnot tobe acause for regret, but rather one fot rejoicing. We must recognise that no State can prosper without conferring a benefituponthe other States. Is itnot acause for congratulation that Western Australia annually purchases nearly£3,000,000 worth of goods from the eastern States’? Is it not a good thing for Australia thatevery year nearly 50,000 people travel to and from that State because of its prosperity ? The statement of the right honorable member is really too silly. Were it not for the fact that he occupies a high place in the political life of this continent, that he is a leader of public opinion, and a man who for years filled the office of Premier of South Australia, I should not take the trouble to refute it.
– Let the Minister disprove my statements if he can.
– I again desire to emphasize the fact that the sliding scale under which Western Australia joined the Federation merely means that its people have to pay the extra duty themselves. Of course some of my honorable friends opposite may urge that it is the people of the eastern States who pay it, but I cannot agree with that view. Western Australia receives that which its people have previously contributed through the Customshouse. Can it be - I hope it is not - that the right honorable member’s statement was prompted by the fact that Western Australia has progressed more rapidly than “his own dear State.” Is he jealous-
– Why talk such rubbish?
– I will tell the honorable member why South Australia has not progressed so rapidly as has Western Australia.
– Will the Minister tell it truly, if he can?
– It has not progressed like Western Australia because it has had too much of the “ Kiingstonia “ drug during past years - -
– It has not yet recovered from the effect of that drug, and a good many years will elapse before it does.
– Why, the Forrest curse is worse.
– The right honorable member was not content to misrepresent my actionat the Federal Convention.He seems to haveseized upon some remarkswhich he says were made in this Chamber upon aformer occasion, when I was notpresent. I have never seen those remarks, but, upon two occasions now, with an interval of about six months between them, I have heardthe right honorable and learned member refer to and confirm those statements. He says that they were made here - I donot know by whom-
– Does the Minister .say seriously that he does not know by whom they were made?
– I am not going to-
– Do not say what is not a fact.
– The right honorable member must listen to me.
– Then, whilst speaking, do not make statements not in accordance with fact.
– I have never seen the statements in question.
– Is it true that the Minister does not know by whom they were made?
– I have heard it from the right honorable member.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know if the right honorable member for Adelaide is in order in interrogating the Minister, who is in possession of the floor of the House?
– The right honorable member for Adelaide is not in order in constantly interjecting, nor is the Minister in order in directly addressing the right honorable member instead of the Chair, and so provoking further interjections from him. I hope that both right honorable members will respect the Standing Orders.
– The right honorable member for Adelaide has based his attack upon the Government and people of Western Australia on statements which he declares were made in this House, and which he makes his own. I was away in England at the time when it is said these statements were made, and I have never read them. I know of them only because of the reference which the right honorable member has made to them on two occasions, and as they contain serious imputations against the Government and people of Western Australia I would ask him whether he has made any attempt to verify them. No one is justified in accepting a libellous statement as a fact, and to refer to it and confirm it, unless he takes some trouble to determine whether it is true. Has the right honorable and learned member made any effort to ascertain the accuracy or otherwise of the statements to which I refer? If it were a trifling matter, it would be unworthy of the notice of the House; but it is because of its seriousness that T am led to address myself to it. What are these charges which have twice been hurled against my past Administration, as well as the present Government of Western Australia? They are, in effect, that because the Government and Parliament of Western Australia have not built a railway from Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay - an undertaking which, inclusive of harbor accommodation, would involve an outlay of about ^1,000,000 - an iniquitous state of affairs exists. It is asserted that the policy of the past and present Government of the State is worthy of the Emperor Caligula; that in consequence of it old men and young children are dying on the gold-fields, and that the failure to construct the line in question has been due solely to a desire to benefit the land-holders of Perth. The further statement is made that children are to be sacrificed, and that hard-working men have not only been inconvenienced, but exposed to risks, difficulties, and even danger to life, in order that the land-holders of Perth may make a profit on their investments. These are the statements, said to have been made in this House., which the right honorable member for Adelaide has taken upon himself to reiterate and confirm, and which he repeated for the second time on Friday last. Could a more monstrous charge be levelled against the Government, Parliament, and people of any State? If it were made by some one having no place in the public life of Australia, it might well be left alone; but inasmuch as these statements have been accepted and reiterated by the right honorable member for Adelaide, I call upon him either to substantiate or to withdraw them. I wholly deny and repudiate them. I challenge .and defy the right honorable member, or any one else, to prove one tittle in support of them. When I indignantly contradicted them the other day, the right honorable member for Adelaide rejoined - “What avails the contradiction? The fact remains, and there is no getting away from it.” To this remark, one or two honorable members of the Opposition said, “ Hear, hear “ ; but I feel satisfied that they could not have understood the true import of these assertions. Such statements could not proceed from any save the most ungenerous and prejudiced mind. If this sort of irresponsible slander-
– It is “irresponsible slander.” spoken by the members for the district in question in this House. The right honorable gentleman heard those statements made, but never dared to contradict them.
– When I contradicted them, the right honorable member asked - “ What avails the contradiction?” The fact remains, and there is no getting away from it.
– No attempt was made to contradict them.
– This personal difference of opinion should be settled outside; we do not want to hear of it in this House.
– I again ask the House whether these are the kind of irresponsible charges that should be made against the people of a State by a wouldbe leader? Is this the kind of talk that will bind the people of the States together in mutual respect and confidence?
– Are the remarks made by the Minister himself likely to do so?
– I am acting only on the defensive. And what are the facts? I shall place them before honorable members. It is all very well for the honorable member for Parramatta to ask - “ Why refer to these matters ?” We listened for hours to assertions of the kind on the part of the right honorable member for Adelaide, and if the honorable member for Parramatta had endeavoured to induce him to refrain from making them, there would have been no occasion for me to refute them.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman refute then, if he can ?
– The whole gravamen of the charge is that the Government and people of Western Australia have failed to build two railways from the coast to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The reason for that failure was, in the case of my own Government - and no doubt the same remark will apply to the present Government of Western Australia - that there was already a splendid railway running from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, and indeed 200 miles further inland. That service has existed for several years ; while the State Government have also expended £1,250,000 in making the Fremantle Harbor fit to accommodate the largest steamers. No other inland town in Australia possesses better railway facilities than those enjoyed by Kalgoorlie. It has not only railway communication with the coast, but also a suburban railway service. Electric trams traverse its streets, and altogether the town is a most flourishing one. It is the great railway centre of the eastern gold-fields. The main line extends for about 200 miles beyond Kalgoorlie to the northward, as I have already mentioned. Then, again, the State has expended ,£2,750,000 in giving it a permanent water supply, which is at present even more than sufficient to meet its wants. That was a very great undertaking, and I think it will be admitted that it is a most beneficent one. We have in Kalgoorlie a satisfied and a prosperous people. I ask honorable members to glance at the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and to say whether he looks like a man representing an electorate in which the people are being treated inhumanely by a cruel and tyrannical Government ?
– I do not admit that we are satisfied.
– The people of Kalgoorlie are satisfied, so far as any people in a remote part of the country could be expected to be satisfied. The right honorable member for Adelaide appears to be under the impression that if any district is not connected with the coast by a railway line running in a straight course, a more direct railway should be constructed. From Deniliquin to Sydney the direct distance is 390 miles, whereas by rail the distance is 632 miles, or 242 miles more. If a railway were constructed from Deniliquin to Finley, a distance of only 40 miles, Deniliquin would be only 488 miles from Sydney. From Kalgoorlie to Fremantle the distance by rail is 387 miles, while the distance to Esperance Bay is about 247 miles, or about 140 miles less. From Sydney to Brisbane the direct distance is 450 miles, but the distance by rail is 723 miles, or 273 miles more. From Melbourne to Sydney the direct distance is 450 miles, and the distance by rail 576 miles. From Adelaide to Broken Hill the direct distance is 270 miles-, and the distance by rail 334 miles. From Albury to Sydney the direct distance is 286 miles, and the distance by rail 386 miles. From Sydney to Cobar the direct distance is 354 miles, and the distance by rail 459 miles. From Mount Gambier the distance to Adelaide is about 300 miles, whereas, if a railway were built to Portland, the distance would be only 65 miles. From Perth to Albany the direct distance is 240 miles, whereas the distance by rail is 340 miles.
– But Mount Gambier has connexion with the coast.
– Not with a good port. I think that the argument of the right honorable member for Adelaide is an absurd one. He contends that because Esperance Bay is only 247 miles from Kalgoorlie, the Government of Western Australia should make a railway to that port, although the gold-fields have already a good railway connecting them with a magnificent harbor at Fremantle. Surely, however, the matter is one for the State Government to deal with, and they can be trusted to manage their own business. Why should the people of Perth and Fremantle be represented by any one without the remotest foundation of truth or justice, as inhuman persons who have tried to make money for themselves at the expense of, and by neglecting the interests of, their fellowAustralians living on the gold-fields.
– The people of Western Australia have followed a policy common to all the States.
– The right honorable and learned member for Adelaide has spoken of the people of Fremantle as though they were bloodsuckers, who have tried to squeeze money out of the people on the gold-fields without providing them with conveniences in return. I would remind the right honorable member, however, that the early inhabitants of Western Australia mortgaged all that they had to borrow money to construct the railway to the gold-fields and to provide the people there with a water supply. Furthermore, persons from his “ own dear State “ of South Australia are as plentiful as blackberries in Fremantle and in Perth. For every old inhabitant in Western Australia there are at least three newcomers. Does the right honorable member refer to them as inhuman and cruel? Then, again, if the people of Kalgoorlie desire a change for the sake of health and recreation, do they prefer to go to Esperance Bay when they, have Perth, Fremantle, Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, and the older towns of the State to visit? What would be said of the contention that the people of Broken Hill would rather go to Port Pirie for recreation than to the fair city of Adelaide, or to the other beautiful towns of South Australia? Both contentions are absurd. But we have had enough of these local matters in this House.
– Too much.
– We have. had two long speeches from the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, both of them in the same style, and both dealing with a matter of purely local concern. Surely these matters should be left to those who are responsible for them, the people of Western Australia ! I cannot expect that honorable members should enter into my feelings in regard to the ungenerous statements that have been reiterated, because they have not realized their gravity; but I can assure them that the charges which have been levelled against me, and the Administration of which I was the head, have cut me to the very quick. I know what the people of Western Australia have done - I do not distinguish one class from another - to try to make that State prosperous. We were originally a very small community, and we mortgaged practically everything we had to float large loans for the construction of railways to the goldfields, to give the people there a water supply, to make roads, to erect telegraphs, to establish hospitals, and to provide for public batteries for the convenience of poor miners. When I think of all that was done, and know that it never for a moment entered the mind of any person in Fremantle or Perth to be unjust or cruel to, or to do other than to try to help, the population of the gold-fields, I cannot but regret -that the right honorable member for Adelaide has lent himself to the reiteration of statements which, no matter by whom made, are absolutely untrue. Surely I have just cause for complaint, that one with his great reputation should lend his aid to disseminating throughout the length and breadth of this country, such scandalous inuendoes and gross misrepresentations. I have had an unpleasant duty ; but I have been compelled to perform it in the interests of myself and of those with whom I have been associated in the Government and Parliament of Western Australia. I thank honorable members for their kindness in so attentively listening to my remarks.
– After hearing the able discourse of the Minister for Home Affairs, I cannot but think that this is not the right place in which to wash dirty linen.
– Why did not the honorable member say that after the speech of the right honorable member for Adelaide?
– I did not hear that speech. In any case, this is no place for personal quarrels. The only two persons interested in the matters dealt with by the Minister just now are himself and the right honorable member for Adelaide.
– The right honorable member for Adelaide should not have started the discussion. ‘
– I wish- to say a few words in reference to the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs last night. He stated that he had proved himself to be not an extravagant Minister, though he had been attacked by the press for extravagance ; and he told us that false economy is often extravagant. I have been afraid of extravagant administration ever since I have been in Federal politics. Whenever the creation of a new Department is spoken of, I get into a blue funk. It is not the first cost of a Department that I fear so much as the expenditure which I know will follow. Every Commonwealth Gazette announces new appointments to this office and to that. The last announcements of the kind I saw referred to several appointments to the Patent Office, to several others to the office of the Crown Solicitor, and so on. The States are not saving one penny by reason of the Commonwealth administration. This Government keep on increasing expenditure in every direction. We were told by Sir Edmund Barton, when he was advocating the adoption of the Enabling Bill, that if Federation were accomplished there would be so much saved to the States.
– The States should reduce their expenditure.
– And let the honorable member spend as much as he likes ! That is what he would wish.
– Certainly not. The new appointees to the Patent Department will, I think, all be transferred from the service of the States.
– I am very glad to hear it. Hitherto the public servants of the States have been elbowed out of their positions by others, though men who have been in the Public Service ever since they were boys must know more of the work of the Departments in which they have been employed than new men can know. We have “now an Inspector-General of Works, and I saw it stated in the press a few days ago that, as there are no offices for him. the Commonwealth will have to provide some. The Government wish the Victorian Government to add another story to the Commonwealth offices in Spring-street; but the Victorian Government do not see their way to do so. I do not blame them, because we are in Melbourne only on sufferance, and the sooner we get away the better. The Minister for Trade and Customs told us that the Opposition were largely to blame for the delay that has taken place in connexion with the settlement of the Capital site question. I ask him to make a definite charge against the Opposition in regard to that matter. The question would have been settled long ago if the Cabinet had been agreed upon it. Of course, the honorable member is only playing the political game for all that it is worth when he makes a statement of that kind. I should be glad to vote to-morrow to have a site chosen in New South Wales in the manner provided by the Constitution. The Minister also accuses the Opposition of having delayed business by speaking for a period of eight months; but by our action in connexion with the Tariff we have saved the producers and consumers of the country over £1000,000 of taxation. It is all very well for the Minister to say that the Government went to the polls to secure fiscal peace and preferential trade ; but that was not the whole of the issue. I do not wish for fiscal peace. I wish to take off as many burdens as possible from the shoulders of our consumers and primary producers. I will give the honorable member an instance of how he is taxing the exports as well as the imports of the Commonwealth. He mows that the Opposition secured reductions in the Tariff only at the point of the bayonet; the Government did not concede anything unless they knew that the numbers were against them. I desire to bring before honorable members the circumstances under which certain exports from Queensland have been taxed. The Government were not -satisfied with taxing the whole of the machinery used in the industries of that State, and the eatables and drinkables required by the people, but they imposed a duty upon the meat wrappers used in packing meat for export. These wrappers are not required for home consumption, but are used entirely for ex.port purposes, and yet the beneficent Government, which is always talking about protecting national and natural industries, imposed a burden upon one of the most important enterprises in Queensland. On the 3rd February I received the following letter: -
We, the Queensland Meat Export and Agency Co. Limited, take the liberty of enclosing your information, copy of an extract from a letter which we have received from Messrs. B. Kershaw and Co. Ltd., 68 Aldersgate-street,
London, E.C-, dated 18th December last, with reference to the Australian import duty on meat wrappers. The remarks are self-explanatory, and we need only add that the removal of the duty would have our hearty approval.
Extract from letter from Messrs. B. Kershaw and Co. Ltd., dated London, 18th December, 1903 =-
The Argentine Government charge no import duty on frozen meat wrappers. Consequently we send our clients in that country stockinette made into mutton, hinds of mutton, legs of mutton, lamb, beef (for liners under hessian) bags, and hessian made into beef ; and mutton (for Cape trade) bags. All these bags are branded here, and complete in every way for placing on the meat. Considering the keen competition in the frozen meat trade, we are strongly of the opinion that it is high time the import duty charged in your Colony on meat wrappers should be abolished,
*sd as to place you on an equal footing in this respect with your Argentine rivals. There is no calico used in the Argentine trade ; but for the colonial trade we supply large quantities, chiefly in the piece owing to import duty.
That describes the position of- the meat export trade, which is one of the primary industries, I might even say the backbone, of the Commonwealth. Instead of encouraging ‘such industries, the Government are doing all they possibly can to stifle them. Upon the subject of Customs administration, I have a letter written by a friend at Rockhampton, who says-
I most sincerely hope that before long the powerful voices of your party will be heard with reference to the still lamentable state of affairs with regard to Customs work. Not only is no assistance whatever given by the officers of this Department, but every effort seems to be madeto induce the unfortunate importer to make mistakes, and then clown him. The great tariff boole is now of very little use j so many alterations having been and still are being made in it that unless some assistance is given to the public by the Customs clerks, it is as much as a man’s life is worth to attempt to pass an entry. As one of the oldest Custom House agents here a good portion of my income was derived from passing entries : but it has become so irritating and vexatious and so much lime is lost that I have practically had to refuse to do any Customs work, unless where our business compels. I could fill pages of foolscap showing how the unfortunate importer suffers from the hateful system. The Department has almost despotic power, and where it is found that any fraud is intended, the delinquent should be punished with the utmost rigour of the law ; b»r at present all the punishment is directed at the innocent. The idea seems to be, when an entry is presented, not of receiving the duty, but “Can we have him in any way?” To put it plainly, it is just as bad as if you went to the railway station at Longreach, and asked the fare to Emerald, and the clerk were to say, “Find out from the time-table,” and if you dare to presenone halfpenny less than the exact fare, you are likely to get seven years’ hard labour. Why tV>Customs more than any other Department should have the power to act as they do is a puzzle. They won’t even give .change - the exact amount mus be tendered; and it often happens that for want of a few pence change a day is lost, and the unlucky individual put to serious trouble and expense. Kindly note that I am not referring to the Rockhampton Customs; the game goes on at every port the same, and it is about time that something was done to put an end to it. Surely every man should have the right to present his papers at the Customs, inquire what duty he has to pay, and pass his own entry without being put to the expense of employing any agent. Even in the case of the Inter-State .certificates the trouble is almost as great as and sometimes greater than in the old days before Federation. I shall be very pleased indeed to give you any information on the subject you may wish, and if you are the means of making an alteration you will have the blessings of thousands of miserable people, whose lives now are made wretched by this exasperating system.
I know that every word contained in the letter is true, and that the writer, who is a Customs agent, has had to give up his business; he is afraid to go to the Customs-house lest an endeavour be made to involve him in law proceedings. It was very amusing to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs complaining about the treatment he had received at the hands of the Oppositio:. Does not the Minister play the game of party politics for all it is worth? He shed crocodile tears over the way in which the Opposition had attacked him, when he knew quite well that every one of their guns were spiked. That is why he came down upon them like a cart-load of bricks. There is a nice little bit of padding in the Governor-General’s Speech upon the subject of old-age pensions. Paragraph 4 reads, as follows : -
The re-adjustment of Federal and State finances contemplated in such an arrangement will, it is hoped, present an opportunity for the adoption of a uniform system of old-age pensions throughout the Commonwealth.
No one knows better than the Minister for Trade and Customs that that is nothing, more than padding. The leader of the Opposition denounced the Government for having included that paragraph in the speech, but he did not speak half strongly enough to please me. I shall refer honorable members to what was said by the Minister, two years ago, when we were discussing the .question of old-age pensions, on the motion of the honorable member for Darwin.
– I hope the honorable member will quote the portion of my speech which I have underlined for him.
– I shall quote what suits me. The question of old-age pensions was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, at the opening of the first Parliament, and the Prime Minister at every place at which he appeared spoke of the advantages of a universal system of old-age pensions. When, however, the Government were put to the practical test, this was the feeling expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Speaking on 2nd August, 1091, he said -
The honorable member for Tasmania said that we should be generous to that State, and that if Tasmania had not enough money to pay old-age pensions we ought to provide it for her. In view of all these statements, I think it would be wise to wait and see how our finances, pan Out before making any declaration as to what we. should do in regard to any particular State. That is one of the reasons which almost preclude the Government from doing anything at the present time.
The Minister told us that we could not do anything in 1901, and I should like to know in what respect the financial position of the Commonwealth has changed, to render it possible for us to do anything now. Yet the Minister told us last night that the Government intended to do something.
– I did not say- anything that was inconsistent with my utterance on the former occasion.
– Where is the Ministerial nest-egg ?
– That is a question that may be very appropriately asked. The Minister went on to say, upon the occasion previously referred to -
As far as I can judge, taking as a basis the expenditure which has been incurred op to the present, it would require between ^1,000,000 and 100,000 per year to pay the whole “f the pensioners throughout the various States, excluding New Zealand. That is a very large sum to be called upon to pay out of the Commonwealth funds, shackled as they are by the clause to which reference has been made.
The clause referred to is the Braddon section, which is still in existence, and yet the Government think that the padding which they have introduced into the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will catch the eye of the Labour Party. So far as I am concerned, nothing will catch my eye upon this subject until a Bill is introduced. Let the Government show their sincerity by bringing down a Bill. The Minister knows full well that if the Government took over the tobacco industry and made it a national monopoly, they would be able “to find all the money necessary to provide for a scheme of old-age pensions. In fact, there are a hundred and one ways of accomplishing the purpose. Paragraph 6 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech reads as follows : -
With a” view to giving assistance wherever possible to those engaged in the cultivation of the soil, and as a preliminary to the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau, you will be invited to consider the best means of ‘ assisting the farmer, by bounties and otherwise, to grow new crops and find new markets. Speedier and cheaper transportation to the large centres of population of meat, butter, and fruit, under improved conditions, is much to be desired.
Now, what did the Government do when the pastoralists of western New South Wales and of Queensland were in difficulties through the drought? They did not offer them the slightest assistance, and now the Minister of Trade and Customs has the barefaced cheek to shield himself behind the action of the States Governments in regard to the reduction of railway freights. What has that to do with the Commonwealth? If the States Governments like to carry passengers or produce for nothing, that is not our concern ? The drought was a national calamity, through which we all suffered, and the least the Government could have done when the people were on the verge of starvation was to come to their rescue. The Ministers were protectionists, but they were intent upon protecting themselves, rather than the national industries of the Commonwealth. I suppose that the paragraph, to which I have just referred, is intended to afford comfort to the pastoralists, but they do not want any aid from the Government. God has been good to them in giving them plenty of grass and water for their stock, and they want no assistance from the Government. All they desire is that they may be left alone, but the Government will not do that. Reference is made in the speech to the carriage of mails and perishable produce from Australia. I cannot believe that the Government were serious when they called for tenders for the mail service. If they were, why should they differentiate between Queensland and other States? They have yet to explain away their action in inviting the mail companies to say how much more they would want if they were required to make Brisbane a port of call. That was tantamount to encouraging them to name such a figure that the Government would have good reason for declining to accede to the wishes of the people of Queensland. If there is to be a Commonwealth mail service, every State should have a share in the benefits, and Queensland should receive the same treatment as other States. The Government further state that they intend to profit by the experience which was gained in the recent elections by amending our Electoral Act. But
I wish to ask the Minister for Home Affairs how he intends to treat the electoral officers who were responsible for the numbering of ballot-papers, thereby rendering them informal ? I know of one instance in which eighty ballot-papers were thus invalidated. Surely some action should be taken; otherwise in the future any unscrupulous person will be able to turn the balance of an election. Let us assume, for example, that at the approaching Melbourne election numbers are placed by the electoral officials in the corners of trie ballot-papers, and the latter are thereby rendered informal. The result may be to disturb the whole of the arrangements, and possibly to cause the return of the wrong candidate. I come now to the action of the Government during the late elections. In this connexion I desire to give one instance which goes to show how much brain is centred upon the Treasury benches. They despatched a Drake to Queensland and he obtained a “ duck.-‘ In Capricornia a labour candidate who is a strong protectionist, and a straight-out freetrader, were rival candidates for the seat. Instead of leaving the contest to them, the Government put forward a protectionist candidate, who received 2,000 votes. The labour candidate was returned, and the free-trader was second upon the poll. Yet the Government after having done all In their power to prevent his election have the temerity to ask that labour representative for his vote. Then the Attorney-General visited Brisbane to advance the candidature of Mr. Macdonald-paterson. As a result that gentleman’s chances were promptly squelched. The same thing happened in the case of Mr. Glassey. Indeed, wherever the Attorney-General spoke on behalf of candidates, he effectively settled their chances of election.
– Nonsense !
– I am stating what are undeniable facts. These instances show the character of the electioneering tactics which were adopted by the Government. Had they served me as they did the honorable- member for Capricornia, I should leave them some time in the field when they ought to be in the lane. I pass now to the statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, that the Ministry have no desire to re-open the fiscal question. Nevertheless they propose to submit a Bill which’ is designed to encourage the iron industry ‘ by means of bounties. Does not the Minister for Trade and Customs think that such a measure will re-open the fiscal question? Personally I am quite prepared to remain here a week for the purpose of preventing any bounties from being granted in that direction.’ A more barefaced robbery of the people was never attempted. When Ministers submit a proposal of that sort, they will find that the free-trade members of the House are just as strong in their fiscal faith as they ever were. The Minister for Trade and Customs referred to the question of preferential trade. How do the Government suggest that a preference should be given to British goods? They propose to retain the existing duties, and to raise those which are operative against the foreigner. In other words, they will take all they can get from the mother country, and give nothing in return. In speaking upon the Address in Reply, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a very amusing reference to this question. He assured us that the agricultural industry in the old country had declined. “ Why,” he exclaimed, “ we cannot do more than make a man insolvent.” Yet the Government are prepared to offer no real preference to the mother country. But our party, I am pleased to say - ‘-r-
– Our party?
– Yes; I am a free-trader, and am proud to acknowledge it.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay used to hold the same views.
– Yes ; but they did not suit Maryborough, Gympie, and Bundaberg. We cannot blame the honorable member for having changed his views, because he has to represent three different industries.
– Anything which suits the Labour Party suits me.
– Upon the fiscal question members of the party are as free as are any honorable members of this House.
– Yes, because there are many who will give us a vote from motives of sympathy.
– Our party believes in business - not in sympathy.
– But if we deprived humanity of sympathy, what would be left? Nothing but bare bones. I desire to justify the action of the Labour Party in connexion with the naval and military estimates. The honorable member for Wentwortb has accused us of running the show. We have done nothing of the sort - we have merely assisted others to run it. The members of the Labour Party wish to obtain nothing but the best talent so far as our Defence Forces are concerned; but we do not want drawing-room soldiers. When . the Estimates were under consideration we were perfectly prepared to vote the Governmentany money which they might require for defence purposes, but we objected to spending it upon frills, gold lace, and spurs.When Federation was consummated the general idea was that we were to have a citizen soldiery which would -cost infinitely less than the military establishments which existed in the different States. What has been our experience? The old staffs have been retained, and in some instances added to. Why, whenever Major-General Hutton is about to visit any portion of the Commonwealth one would imagine that a host of Indian princes were on their way to a durbar : such as was recently witnessed at Delhi. I desire to bring under the notice of the honorable member for Wentworth one instance of extravagance in military expenditure. I refer to the occasion on which Major-General Hutton and his staff visited Bathurst by a special train, and remained there for only twenty minutes. That twenty minutes’ inspection cost the Commonwealth thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member has said that the military estimates should be again reduced by one-half.
– I do not think I said that.
– I think that the honorable member will find an interjection to that effect credited to him in Hansard.
– It is possible that I may have said so. I hold strong opinions upon this matter, because I understand how to play the game of militarism. If the honorable member will peruse the official report of the debates which occurred when the military estimates were under consideration during the first session of the previous Parliament, he will scarcely accuse the Labour Partv of having done anything wrong. So far as the armament of our forts is concerned, we are quite prepared to vote any money that may be necessary to equip them thoroughly. Hitherto that money has been expended upon useless flummery
– To escape from that position would it not be necessary to get a. new military adviser?
– I have said times out of number that it Would pay the Commonwealth to at once give Major-General
Hutton the whole of the salary which will accrue to him during his engagement, and to obtain the services of a thoroughly practical man who is in sympathy with our system.
– Is it not better to do that than to reduce the military vote?
– Yes. I may have interjected whilst the honorable member was speaking that if it were intended to conduct our Defence Force upon the same lines as those upon which it has hitherto been run, it would be better to starve it out of existence. Personally, I am of the opinion that it would have paid the Commonwealth, upon the inauguration of the Federation, to dismiss the whole of the members of that force and to have made an entirely fresh start. The honorable member for Wentworth must not run away with the idea that the Labour Party are opposed to all military systems. In time of national emergency the very men who would carry our rifles would be recruited from the ranks of the labouring classes. Who were those that volunteered for service in South Africa? They were chiefly members of the labouring classes.
– They would not have done so if they had possessed the knowledge which they have gained since.
– At that time it was impossible for any one to foresee what would happen. It is easy enough to guess that there are chickens in eggs when one can see them through the shell. I still hope that better counsels will prevail, and that the yellow agony will not be introduced into South Africa to displace white labour. I have no intention of detaining the House at greater length. Having listened to the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I am of opinion that he might have been more generous towards the free-trade party, in view of the very able speech which was delivered at the close of the Tariff debates by the right honorable member for Adelaide. On that occasion the right honorable member said, in effect - “ The Tariff is done with ; we have had a hard task to perform, and both the Government and the Opposition have sought, according to their lights, to do what is right. Now that the trouble is all over, let us shake hands and be friends.” It seems to me, however, that the Minister for Trade and Customs will never be friendly towards the free-trade party. When one speaks of free-trade to him, the effect is very like that which follows the waving of a red flag in the face of a bull. The honorable gentleman roars and bounds about like a bull in a china shop. He certainly possesses some good characteristics, and I feel satisfied that he does not always mean all that he says. I suppose that there is no honorable member in this House who has a more generous disposition, and if he would only be a little more generous in his criticism of members of the freetrade party the whole House would be better pleased with him.
– Does not the honorable member think that free-traders are very severe in their criticism of my actions?
– The Minister plays the game for all he knows, and he must not think that we are going to stand idly by and take our gruel quietly. Politics is a game, and I suppose that the best side must win. The remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Customs on 2nd August, 1 901, in reference to the question of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions are already on record, and Hansard has also recorded the remarks made by him last night in regard to the question. I trust that the next occasion upon which he is called to deal with the subject will be when he introduces a Bill to give effect to the system.
– It is not my intention to detain the House at any great length; but I am not one of those who believe that time is wasted in discussing the Address in Reply. It is the one opportunity afforded honorable members to ventilate their grievances generally, and to bring under the notice of the Ministry and Parliament matters which otherwise could be brought forward only by special motion. We had, for example, to move the adjournment of the House on one occasion last session in order to draw attention to a subject which has been discussed once more during the present debate, and which materially affects Queensland. I refer to the question of the oversea mail contracts. Honorable members will recollect that on the occasion to which I refer, nearly the whole of one sitting was occupied in discussing this matter. But when it is possible to deal with that and other matters in one speech - as is the case in a speech on an Address in Reply - we save rather than waste time in availing ourselves of the opportunity. should like to indorse all that has fallen from the lips of other representatives of Queensland upon the question of the oversea mail contracts.
We contend that, in this respect, Queensland should be placed on a footing of equality with the other States. It is not the question of the carriage of mails in which we are most vitally interested. We have to remember that in addition to the carriage of our mails it is proposed that these steamers shall be fitted with cold-storage chambers, so that they may be really uptodate ocean carriers, and as Queensland will be called upon to contribute her share of the subsidy, we naturally and justly claim that she has a right to share in the service. That has been our contention from the first, and it will continue to be so. If we are to have purely a mail service, I contend that where the State railways begin the oversea service should terminate, and that the Commonwealth should pay accordingly; but if it is to be a commercial service let it be one that will serve the whole of the States. I am sorry that the overtures made to the Postmaster-General in regard to this matter have been such that he is unable to accept them ; but I see no reason why we should despair. Competition exists in the oversea carrying trade, as it does in relation to most other matters, and I believe that this competition will operate rather to our advantage than to our disadvantage. I only wish that it were in our power to do as Sir Charles Lilley, one-time Premier of Queensland, did with the shipping companies. At the time in question there was one huge monopoly running vessels along the Australian coast, and an exhorbitant price was demanded for the carriage of our mails to the northern parts of Queensland. Sir Charles Lilley refused, however, to accede to these demands. He chartered one vessel, and ordered the construction of another, to carry the mails, and also to enter into competition for the general carrying trade. When the monopolists saw that they were likely to lose the general carrying trade, as well as the mail service, they gave in. If the Commonwealth could treat the shipping companies in a similar way, and charter vessels for our oversea mail service, good results would follow. It seems rather a large proposal to make, but the effect of the action taken in Queensland was to bring the steam-ship owners to their knees, and to cause them to agree to the terms proposed by the Government.
Mr.Groom. - The late Honorable T. J. Bynes threatened to take similar action.
– Quite so.
– It is not a larger undertaking than is the, running of railways by the States.
– Quite so. The States are common carriers, so far as the railways are concerned, and if this proposal were carried out the Commonwealth would be a common carrier over the ocean. Not only did the shipping companies accept the terms imposed by Sir Charles Lilley, but they took over the chartered vessel, and purchased the Governor Blackall, the construction of which had been ordered.
– That is a good example for the Commonwealth Government.
– I think it is. I do not know whether it would be too large an undertaking for the Commonwealth at the present time; but I am certainly hot one who would submit to the dictation of either the P. and O. Company or any other body of steamship owners.
– It is a question of bargaining, not of dictation.
– Exactly ; but the steam-ship companies appear to think that they have the Commonwealth at their mercy. If we can show them that they are mistaken their bargaining will be very much more reasonable than it has been. The honorable member for Darling Downs last night dealt very effectively with this matter, and I shall therefore not enlarge upon it. There is little to fear with regard to the carriage of Australian produce to the markets of the world. As the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has pointed out, Queensland has arranged for a new line of steamers, . fitted with the latest appliances for the carriage of her produce to the markets of the old world, and within the last three or four months butter to the value of ,£76,000 or thereabouts has been shipped by this line. This is only one of many items. The butter industry in Queensland is assuming very large dimensions, and, great as are the proportions which that industry has assumed in Victoria, I believe that in Queensland its possibilities are even greater. As this industry, as well as the frozen- meat and other industries expand, we shall. . not have to fear any lack of transport facilities for our goods, for only those vessels that are most effectively fitted up will secure our trade. Reference has been made during the course of the debate to the conduct of the recent elections. I myself observed a good many faults in the course of the campaign; but on u the whole, considering that we had a new system to work, and that, with a view to minimizing the expense, we placed that system as far as possible in the hands of members of the Public Service - men to whom the work was practically new - we have very little of which to complain. It is a matter of comparative ease to point to faults, but’ when we consider the disadvantages under which the officials had to labour, it seems to me that the mistakes of which we have to complain are remarkably few. So far as the conduct of the elections in my own division was concerned, I had not the slightest fault to find with any .of the officials. There is one particular passage in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech with which I am very much pleased. It indicates the intention of the Government, to endeavour to stimulate ‘ our__ native, industries, to encourage the starting of new industries, and to find more markets in the more thickly populated centres of the world. In the course of his able speech at the Conference of States Treasurers, recently held in Melbourne, reference was made by the Prime Minister to the Queensland exhibit at the Royal Agricultural Society’s show, held at Melbourne last year. The honorable and learned gentleman mentioned the attention paid to the exhibit as an illustration of the good effects which would follow the advertising of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. Having inspected that exhibit, and having heard many comments made by visitors to the show from all parts of Australia, I feel satisfied that the action taken by Queensland had a most beneficial effect. I am at one with the Prime Minister, and I believe with, every other honorable member, in the opinion that Australia’s chief need at the present time is more population, but I do not agree that assisted immigration is desirable. If we reverted to a system of assisted immigration, we should “elikely to attract to our shores men who would be a tax on the community, rather than those who would assist the people already here in bearing the burdens which we have under-: taken in order to develop the continent. We have placed ourselves under a great responsibility by expending large sums of money on public works. They are far ahead of our present requirements, but are designed to give access to our mineral and pastoral wealth, and the few who are here are bearing the burden. If we bring persons to our shores who have not the means to at once become, producers we shall only add to, rather than decrease our burdens. Advertise Australia by all means; advertise her products. Let the world know what Australia can produce, what her climate really is, and let us send samples of our products, not only to the British Isles, but to the Continent of Europe. Some of our best settlers have come from Germany, Denmark, and other Continental countries, and we should not confine our efforts to the British Isles. The stream of immigration which is flowing to America is not an all-British one; a very large portion of it comprises persons from continental countries, who make most desirable citizens.
– Including Italians.
– There are Italians who are very desirable citizens, while there are others who are not. I believe that Italians who engage in agricultural and viticultural pursuits are a most desirable class ; whereas those who grind organs and carry monkeys round the streets of our cities are undesirable. It has been said of the land laws of Australia that nearly every member of Parliament has a. land bill in his pocket, and it is no doubt true that nearly every member of Parliament holds a different opinion as to the way in which to increase our population from abroad. I have said in the Pailiament of Queensland, and also. I believe, in this House, that we have only to make the conditions of life attractive in Australia - to make it known in the older parts of the world that the conditions of life here are more attractive than are those elsewhere - when the tide of emigration will flow to, instead of from, Australia. How this is to be done is a matter of opinion, and I should occupy too much time in placing my views on this subject before the House.
– No, no:
– When the matter comes to be discussed upon a separate motion, I shall have something to say in regard to it. As to advertising Australian products by the sending of exhibits to the old country, the Prime Minister said’ very truly that the exhibits sent by Queensland to Melbourne were regarded with rather unfriendly eyes by some Victorians, who thought that it was not right for one State to take action which might tend to attract the population of another State. I do not think that there were half-a-dozen items in the exhibitreferred to- which could not have been produced within the Moreton electoral division, so that honorable members can imagine what an exhibition could be made of the products of the whole of Australia, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Wilson’s Promontory, and from Point Danger , to the Leuwin. Hardly anything can be pro- duced anywhere which could not be produced in Australia. I should like now to say a word or two in reply to what was said by the honorable member for Maranoa about the duty on meat wraps. I have received from the Meat Export Company a letter similar to that which he has read, and I agree with him that until we begin to manufacture these things for ourselves, they should be exempt from duty.
– Of course, everything required by Queensland producers should be admitted free, while things required by the producers of other States are subjected to duty.
– The honorable member has never known me to take that position. I have consistently voted for the imposition of duties upon articles which we manufacture, or are likely to manufacture, and for the free admission of articles which we cannot, or are not likely to, manufacture or produce. I am just as proud to declare myself a protectionist as the honorable member for Maranoa is to declare himself a free-trader.
– The honorable member for Maranoa is not a free-trader in respect to bananas.
– The honorable member for Maranoa should know that if large manufacturing populations spring up in our larger centres, meat wraps will hardly be requited, because most of out meat will be consumed within the Commonwealth. He seemed to imply that the honorable member for Wide Bay is a protectionist because Maryborough, Bundaberg, and Gympie are protectionist in their fiscal opinions. That remark was ungenerous. The honorable member for Wide Bay would not sink his principles to please the electors in that way. He is a protectionist as the honorable member for Maranoa, is a free-trader, by conviction ; though it might be retorted upon the hon orable member for Maranoa that he isa free-trader because cattle and. sheep are the chief products of his electorate. I hope that the day is not distant, when we shall not only manufacture meat wraps and othei cotton goods, but shall grow the cotton from which they are made. There is now a move ment for the re-starting of the cotton in dustry in Queensland and in other, part: of the Commonwealth. In my opinion, cot ton growing could be made remunerative even without the employment of coloured or other cheap labour. I was connected with the industry years ago, when only the cotton fibre was used, and the by-products were allowed to go to waste, and from the knowledge I possess I am firmly convinced that profitable crops could now be obtained by the employment of white labour. If we can. grow our own cotton and weave it into cloth for the use of producers in other industries, why should we not do so? The work of growing and manufacturing the cotton -would provide means of subsistence for a large population, who, in turn, would consume the products of others, and would help the community to bear the burden which we have undertaken to carry in order to open -up our waste lands and make them available for settlement. -The honorable member for Maranoa deprecates the giving of bonuses for the production of cotton, as he : deprecates the giving of any bonus; but I do not agree with him that to open the subject is to disturb the fiscal question. Even some free-traders advocate the giving of bonuses.
– Only very peculiar freetraders do so.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio reminds me that the late Sir Edward Braddon, as a member of the Iron Bonus Commission, recommended the giving of a bonus for the production of iron. He was one of the most ardent free-traders in this Chamber, and I have heard other free-traders say that, while they object to protection .because the duties are imposed for all time, they do not object to bonuses, because the payment of them can be made terminable at the end of a certain period.
– -We admit that bonuses are not quite so bad as duties.
– Will the honorable member give us his experience of bonuses?
– I have had experience of bonuses only in connexion with the growing of cotton in Queensland, years ago, at the time of, and shortly after, the American war, when the price was high because of the shortage in Lancashire. The Queensland Government then offered a bonus of _£io for every 300 lbs. of clean cotton, that is, cotton without the seed. A few engaged in the industry, and many middlemen, made their fortunes out of it because the farmers were not able to provide machinery for ginning and had therefore to sell for any price they could get to a few large tj 2 storekeepers and others who brought machinery into the State and obtained the bonus given by the Government. The farmers who paid to have their cotton ginned had to wait for their money until the return came from the old country, which took nearly twelve months. In those days there was no cable service, and no ocean greyhounds, and the sailing vessels used to take from seventy to 112 and 120 days on the voyage from here to England. Then the insurance charges were high, because of the length of the voyage and the liability of the cotton to sweat, and heat, and catch fire, and the freight charges were high for similar reasons. Lastly, there were no branch railways running into the country to convey the cotton from the fields to the ports of shipment, so that local carriage was much higher than it would be to-day.
– Now tell us about the effect of the other bonus.
– No doubt the honorable member refers to the bonus on manufactured cotton, which, I admit, was an absolute failure, because the control of it was given into wrong hands. Similarly, if the sugar bonus were wrongly administered, it would be a failure, though I am sure that the honorable member believes too strongly in a ‘White Australia to advocate its removal because of that possibility. It is not because there was” maladministration in the past that we need submit to it in the future. It must be remembered, too, that in those days only the staple of the cotton was used, ‘the more valuable products going to waste. Now, instead of thousands of tons of seed being thrown away, the hull would be made into ‘potash and the pulp pressed into oil cake. Cotton oil is now an article of commerce as valuable as the staple itself.
– They were recently preserving cotton seed at Ipswich.
– The seed was sold to the farmers as food for cattle, in its raw state, without having the oil pressed out of it. No doubt, however, there will be an opportunity to discuss the whole matter in detail when the Minister gives effect to his intention to propose a bonus for cotton grown by white labour. There must, of course, be the stipulation that white labour only shall be employed, because otherwise Chinese will rush into the industry. While on this subject, I wish to draw the attention of the Ministry to a phase qf the alien question which has not yet been referred to. Our legislation has driven a large number of Asiatics, mainly Chinamen, out of the sugar industry, and they are now taking up land on lease, in the northern parts of Queensland particularly, and growing fruit, chiefly bananas ‘and pine apples. Their competition with the white growers is so severe that it seems to me that measures must soon be taken for the protection of the latter. Not only does the production of bananas and pine apples at cheaper rates than those for which they can be produced by white labour make the competition of white men in that branch of industry impossible, but by decreasing the value of other fruit it interferes with the profits of other white fruit-growers. I desire to direct the attention of Ministers to one or two .little. matters regarding which I have asked for information. One of these has relation to the administration of the Patents Act. Last week I asked the Prime Minister, on notice -
Whether a working man, say in Queensland, who desires to obtain a patent under the Commonwealth law, will be. in as good a position as one who resides in Melbourne, or wherever the seat of government may be?
To that question I received this reply -
Yes. All persons in the Commonwealth desirous of obtaining letters patent are on the same fooling. All can make application through the post, personally, or by a patent attorney, or agent.
The majority of mechanical inventors are poor working men, and they prefer to attend to their business personally, .without the intervention of too many attorneys or patent agents. Honorable members will see at a glance that under present conditions an inventor in Western Australia or Queensland would be placed at a great disadvantage as compared with one located at the seat of Government. When the Bill was under consideration, it was suggested that patents offices should be established at all the principal cities of the States, so that applicants for patent rights might lodge their applications, meet any objections that might be raised, and have an opportunity to inspect all plans and specifications of past patents. The second question addressed to the Prime Minister was -
If a dispute arose regarding his patent rights would it be necessary for a Queenslander to journey to the seat of government to fight his cause ?
To that I received this answer -
Not necessarily. Matters of small importance could be settled by post, but in the event of any serious dispute arising, say, for instance, opposition, it would be necessary for the parties to be represented by a patent attorney or agent, or to attend personally.
If a man is to be represented by a patent agent or an attorney, he must, consult him, and although it might not be necessary for an inventor to .travel from the State in which he was residing to the seat of government, the attorney would have to come to him, because it would be impossible to make satisfactory communications by post. The other question I addressed to the Prime Minister was -
Is it intended, in the working of the Patents Act, to provide for the distribution of all necessary information relating to patents granted ia all the more important centres within the Commonwealth, so that persons desiring to inspect the same may be able to do so without journeying to the seat of government?
The answer to that I regard as eminently satisfactory, because the Minister was good enough to reply in the affirmative. I do not propose to enter upon a lengthy discussion of our defences at this stage, because I recognise that the proper time to do that is when the defence estimates are before us. Last week I asked the Minister for Defence -
Whether it is true, as reported in the Queensland press, that recruits for the Defence Force in that State would not receive uniforms in time to enable them to go into their annual encampment?
The reply was -
Every effort is being made to supply uniforms prior to the annual camps of training.
The second question was-r-
Will the Minister say whether or not the £25,000 which the Right “Honorable the Treasurer anticipates will be saved this year on ordinary military expenditure is being saved by keeping down the strength of the regiments, and by delaying the supply of uniforms to such recruits as have joined the Defence Force during the current year?
The answer to that was “ No.” I am rather inclined to think that the Minister has been misinformed, for I have here an extract from the Brisbane Courier of 29th February, in which an officer of the Department, whose name I do not wish to give, is represented as having, upon arriving at a town in my electorate, congratulated the commanding officer upon the manner in which his men had turned out. The officer is stated to have added -
The recruits would not have their uniforms in time for camp, but he asked them to show the Commonwealth their zeal by joining the movement to supply uniform at their own expense.
There have been complaints of the great difficulty experienced in bringing some of the regiments up to their full strength. Can this be wondered at, when not only is pay deferred, but recruits are asked to go into camp either without uniforms, or with uniform’s provided at their own expense. The officer in question was good enough to add-
He was determined to take the whole regiment into camp, and in uniform of some sort, and he asked the officers and men to throw their hearts into the movement.
An extract from the Brisbane Courier of an earlier date reads as follows : -
Sir George Turner anticipates that fully ^25,000 will be saved this year on ordinary military expenditure, and adds that this will enable the military authorities to exceed the vote of ,£75,000 for munitions of war. How this money is being saved the Treasurer could not explain, but the conclusion come to is that the forces have not been recruited up to the strength provided for in the Appropriation Act. In next year’s Estimates provision will be found .for a greatly increased supply of military stores. lt would not be at all difficult to provide for an increased supply of military stores df the rank and file of the forces were starved. I am entirely at one with the honorable member for Maranoa in the remarks he has made, and I do not think that the most democratic honorable member is averse to a reasonable expenditure upon proper defences. It has been pointed out time after time, and Ministers themselves have agreed, that there should be no expenditure on frippery - upon scarlet and gingerbread - but that the defence vote should be spent exclusively upon what would be of service in time of war. The money referred to has been saved at the expense of the real fighting forces. Some of it has, perhaps, been spent in the purchase of rifles and other munitions of war, but a good deal more than ought to have been so expended has been devoted to keeping up the parade of pomp amongst the staff officers. I do not propose to touch upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, beyond stating that my attitude is well known, because I made my position very clear- during last session. When the Bill comes before us I shall not deviate from the course I then laid down. I desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to a small matter that has arisen out of our Excise legislation. I had occasion to approach the Department a short time ago on behalf of a cigar-maker in my constituency, whose small factory turned out only about 90,000 or 100,000 cigars in the course of the year. This factory was the man’s means of living, and was, in fact, his all. When the Custom-house at Ipswich was closed, no inspection of this factory could be made unless an officer travelled from Brisbane. I asked the authorities at the, latter place whether it would be possible for them to send a man to make regular inspections, but they represented that they could not do so, and led me to understand that a licence would not be granted, because the cost of inspection would be too great. There was no desire on the part of honorable members to crush out small men, and thus strengthen the big monopolies. I had intended to refer to certain matters relating to the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, but I shall leave these to be dealt with on a future occasion, and endeavour in the meantime to arrive at some understanding with the Minister regarding them. I need not further detain the House. I came here as a supporter of the Government, and intend to accord them warm general support, subject to the con.ditions I laid down when I was before the electors in regard to the Navigation and Conciliation and Arbitration Bills. From those conditions I cannot depart, even though the fate of the Government may be involved. In all other matters I shall give them mv cordial support.
– The truth of the statement of the Prime Minister during the early days of the first Parliament, that th’e Commonwealth was a living organization, and that as such it would grow and extend its powers is well demonstrated in the speech now before us. Certainly, if we were to attempt to deal with half the measures therein mentioned, this session would extend so far that we should have to make arrangements for a Christmas’ adjournment. It would have been far better if the Government had confined themselves to two or three main measures, important for their national character or urgency, without bothering about other proposals which are mentioned in the speech, I take it, merely in order that they may play the part of “window, dressing.” I desire to address myself specially to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. That is the only proposed legislation to which I shall refer ; my other remarks will’ be confined to matters of administration. I am almost compelled to declare my position in regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, because my name was included in a list published in one of the daily newspapers which purported to indicate those honorable members who were prepared to vote against railway servants being brought’ within the scope of the measure. I propose to take up the same position that I adopted when the measure was before us last year. I then said that I was in favour of bringing railway servants within the scope of the Bill, because I held that if a Government entered into trading enterprises, it should be subject to the same limitations as other employers, and that it would be most unfair for a Government to expect to trade if it were unwilling to submit to the same legislation that applied to rival employers. During the last electoral campaign I stated that if my opposition to the Government upon this matter would have the effect of bringing the free-trade party into power, I should have to choose the lesser of two evils, and that, in order to save the Government, I should not, so far as I was concerned, insist upon bringing railway servants within the scope of the BilL In view, however, of the declarations made by the leader of the Opposition and a number of his followers that they intend to support the Government, the question loses its party complexion, and I ‘feel that I shall be free to -vote according to the dictates of my conscience.
– Why should not the members of the Opposition choose the lesser- of two evils?
– I have no doubt they will choose what they regard as the lesser of two evils. This question is entirely robbed of its party aspect when we find the leader of the Opposition and members of what may be called the Conservative corner on the ‘Opposition side coming to the support of the ‘Government. During this debate another announcement has been made, -which is of very .great importance, because, in my opinion, it means a definite re-arrangement of parties in this House. Hitherto’ the chief subject of difference between members of the Opposition and Ministerial supporters has been the fiscal . question. Now, however, that issue is to be sunk. Honorable members will recollect that, before the CobdenBright crusade in England, a similar condition of affairs obtained. There protectionists had a majority for many years, though there was a decreasing minority of free-traders. In the Victorian Parliament the fiscal question was never raised, because nearly all its members were protectionists. Further, that has been the position of parties in England from 1856 onwards, as most of the members of the Imperial Parliament were free-traders. Neither in the Victorian nor the English Parliaments, therefore, has the fiscal question been one which determined upon which side of the House a member -should sit. The declaration of the leader of the Opposition, that he is prepared to accept the verdict of the people of the Commonwealth upon this question, necessarily involves the formation of new parties. These will be based, not upon the fiscal issue, but upon other considerations and new principles. The other day I was looking up a biography of Lord Beaconsfield, which shows very clearly how, in 1847, a similar state of flux existed in England as . now obtains in Australia, and I may be pardoned for reading from it a very short extract. The position was that Disraeli had severed himself from his party, and with Lord George Bentinck had formed a protectionist party. He had refused to follow Sir Robert Peel, who was a freetrader, with the result that the latter was defeated. The extract to which I have referred, which fairly accurately describes the present position of free-traders in Australia, is as follows: -
But the really important point in this election is the attitude of Mr. Disraeli to protection. Whether he ever really believed in that doctrine or not, he may be credited with sufficient sense to see that, if once abolished, it could never be restored. He knew, of course, that the people having once got the taste :of cheap bread, would rise in rebellion .rather than again allow its price to be artifically raised by protective laws. The difficult problem which Mr. Disraeli had, therefore, to solve was, to keep up his appearance of a belief ‘in the possibility of a -return to protection, and at the same time gradually pave the way for abandoning protection. This is the game which he plays for the next few years, and I think the reader will not be wholly unamused in watching the skill, the audacity, and the unscrupulousness with which he played it. … This thesis, that an immediate return to protection was impossible, he enlarged on during his many election addresses ,- taking care, however, be it remarked, to hold out at the same time the hope that what .was impossible .for the moment would bc possible by-and-by. It is this that constitutes the dishonesty of Mr. Disraeli’s action. The harm he did by keeping alive these hopes, which he knew to be false, is incalculable. It induced lethargy in both the landlord and the tenant, and throughout the entire community it kept up a dangerous feeling of uncertainty.
I venture to say that, if the free-trade members of this House - who appear to be in a state of revolt against their leader upon the” fiscal question - attempt to raise that issue, after the pronounced way in which the people have declared in favour of protection, their action will be prompted by a desire to induce hopes which they know to be impossible of realization. I need scarcely point out that Western Australia returned to the first Parliament only two protectionists. The leader of the Opposition subsequently visited that State, and conducted a freetrade crusade there, with the result that five protectionists have been elected to this Parliament.
– Were they returned as protectionists? I am sure that not one of them will say so.
– But they all defeated free-traders.
– Similarly, in the first Parliament, four protectionists werereturned by Tasmania. Then the leader of the Opposition visited that State, and embarked upon another free-trade campaign, as the result of which it has since returned six protectionists. Indeed, every State of the Union, save New South Wales, has returned a majority of protectionists. I venture to say that the free-trade policy is maintained in New South Wales only because the Sydney newspapers suppress proper information. I am glad to note the attitude which has been adopted by the Ministry in connexion with the pro1 posed introduction of Chinese into South Africa. I would remind the House that on the 26th September, 1902, I brought this matter forward, and urged the Government to make representations to the Imperial authorities against the proposed admission of Chinese into the Transvaal and other South African States. I was exceedingly pleased to hear the criticism in which the leader of the Opposition indulged, because the Government have been content to follow the lead of Mr. Seddon upon this question, when the opportunity was clearly offered, and the occasion certainly demanded, that the Australian Ministry should take definite action. I remember that on the occasion to which I refer the present Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland, the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Darwin objected to any such representations being made. Consequently, none were made, and we have had to wait for eighteen months to discover that we ought to follow the example of New Zealand in this matter. I then reminded honorable members that Australians fought and shed their blood to preserve the South African Colonies to the Empire. Therefore, I claim that we have a right to exercise a voice in the terms of peace which were agreed upon. Indeed, Mr. Chamberlain promised that the Colonies would be consulted in the terms of peace - a promise whichwas never carried out. I am very pleased to know that the opinion is rapidly gaining ground that Australia will not consent to its own flesh and blood being denied an opportunity to obtain employment in those States. Some criticism has been indulged in with reference to the new regulations of the Defence Department. In my opinion the Minister has acted in a very proper manner by offering to forward to every honorable member who desires it, a copy of the new defence regulations, and by inserting in the Government Gazette an intimation that any suggested amendments in them shall receive fair consideration. Consequently, if, in the future, honorable members complain of feathers and gold lace, unless- they make proper representations to the Minister, they will have only themselves to blame. I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs has asked for a specific instance of incompetence on the part of the Chief Electoral Officer. From my own experience I am able, to supply him with one of several, because there is no honorable member in this House who does not thank his stars that the electoral arrangements did. not completely collapse. The statement of the Prime Minister that he feared there would have been an entire breakdown in those arrangements is a sufficient indication of the weakness of the Department. I wish, however, to state one case, in which incompetence was displayed, so that it may be placed upon record in Hansard. At Queenscliff, eighty-one soldiers discovered that their names were not upon the electoral roll. Accordingly they forwarded a list to the Chief Returning Officer, but received no reply to their communication. Their commanding officer then wrote on their behalf, and he. also failed to elicit any reply. Subsequently the men communicated with me. I interviewed Mr. Lewis, who rang up Mr. Newman to inquire into the matter. The latter admitted that he had received the list in question, that he had not replied to the letters, and had promised that all the names of the men would be placed upon the rolls, adding that they had already been forwarded to the Government Printer. I need scarcely inform honorable members that none of these men’s names appeared upon the roll. I think that is a specific instance of incompetence on the part of some officer, into which the
Minister will deem it to be his duty to inquire. I am very glad that the right honorable member for Adelaide has referred to the recent Conference of Treasurers upon the question of the -transfer of the States debts, because it gives an opportunity for” that matter to be discussed in the House, and so gives the Treasurer indications of the opinions of members. I must confess that I do not like the Federal Treasurer’s proposal to accept part of the gross revenue of the States railways without taking Over the administration of those railways. The Federal Convention was very careful to guard against the Commonwealth being made dependent upon the States for any portion of its revenue. That gathering distinctly declared that there should not be a direct contribution by the States towards the expenses of the Commonwealth, as it would make - the. Federation depend on the States. Therefore, I do not like the proposal of the’ Federal Treasurer.
– We should not be dependent upon the States; because we should receive the money direct.
– The Commonwealth would receive, the money, if it were available. But we should be dependent upon the disposition of the States to act generously to the Commonwealth by providing certain revenue. The Minister would also be employing States- officers for his own services, because all the railway men would be States officers in the employ of the Commonwealth. That is really the meaning of the Treasurer’s interjection.
– The Treasurer would have States officers whom he would not pay-
– They would be Commonwealth officers.
– In relation to only one of their functions: In all other respects they would be States officers. As the Treasurer contends that they would be Commonwealth officers, I desire to know whether the Government would extend to them the provision in the Commonwealth Public Service Act that officers who have been three years in the service shall receive not less than £110 per annum?
– I should have nothing to do with them except through, the Commissioner.
– Then the Government would simply take over one State officer, whilst many States officers would receive Federal moneys. I certainly agree with the Treasurer that the States loans should not be taken over for some time to come. In view of the fact that at present the average price of States’ bonds is ^85 for every £100 that has been borrowed, I consider that the Treasurer is very wise in holding aloof from the London . money market in anticipation of a good time to come. He has to remember that in spite of the difficulties at present associated with the London money market, with its glut of undigested securities, the Russo-Japanese . war will mean, perhaps, that another ^300,000,000 will have to be raised by those countries. If the Commonwealth goes into the English money market within the next five or six years, it will not be able to obtain anything but poor prices, I am glad to know that the Treasurer does not propose that the Commonwealth shall go into the London money market at the present time, and that he objects to take over any States bonds until he can obtain ^100 for every £100 which we have to pay. It is impossible for him to know what will be the conditions that will obtain when the whole of these conversion loans are required. In the proposal submitted by him to the Conference of Treasurers, he shows that if he simply took over the threefourths of the total Customs revenue now payable to the States, and did not touch the gross railway revenue of the States, the Customs revenue now going to New South Wales and Western Australia would meet the whole of their interest charges, while Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia would be at most only about ^100,000 behind. The proper course for the Government to pursue would be to take over these loans as they become due. That, indeed, is the only course which is open to the Treasurer. Even if it were necessary for him to take over more bonds of one State than of another, he should take them over as they fall due, and he would find by the time that the last loans became payable that our population, and consequently our prosperity, had increased to such an extent that the three-fourths of the Customs revenue, now payable to the States, would be sufficient to meet interest on the loans, and that it would be unnecessary for him to touch the gross railway revenue of the States. In my opinion, it would be disastrous for the Commonwealth to trench upon the railway revenue of the States until we can take over the railways completely. Although the .Treasurer cannot at present take over these loans - and it is my desire that he should not approach the London money market until he can obtain £100 for £100 - I think he might very well set to work, immediately to establish a sinking fund. When the Tariff was before this House the leader of the Labour Party submitted a motion for the abolition of the tea duty, but stated that he would not object to such a duty if the money so raised were applied to a sinking fund for the extinction of our enormous indebtedness. By means of tea duties we should be able to raise ,£300,000 or ,£400,000 per annum. I do not think it would be wise for the Government to take over all the functions of a State bank ; matters relating to private borrowing are much better left in the hands of private institutions. But one of the functions of banking that we might properly take over would be the issue of notes equal to the bank notes now in circulation in the Commonwealth, and which represent about £10,000,000. The money so derived, together with the amount raised bv means of a duty on tea, could be devoted to a sinking fund for the purchase of State securities - regardless of the State which had issued them - at the lowest price at which they were available. In that way we should improve the credit of the State, and be able to buy at times when it would be most profitable for the Commonwealth to do so.
– How would such a system improve the credit of the States?
– If the Commonwealth were able to constantly buy up States bonds at £&3 or ;£85> it: would thus force up the value of the stocks in the London market. It was a system of this kind that was really responsible for the fact that, until the South African war, English Consols were always above £^100. The National Debt Commissioners were always in the market buying up English Consols, as opportunity offered. In the same way, if the Commonwealth purchased, from time to time, States bonds which were the lowest in the market, we should increase the price of the debentures, while at the same time our credit would be improved when we as a Commonwealth come into the market. We should, likewise, pave the way for a more profitable notation of Commonwealth loans. This is a matter which should be carefully considered, because it would be most unwise for the Commonwealth to go into the market, even for conversion purposes purely, unless it could obtain a full price for its bonds. Proposals were put before the Conference that .the Commonwealth should pay .£96 or ,£98 to convert State loans, but I do not believe in such conversions; they would mean a loss either to ourselves, or to the State. I think that, in each case, we should wait until the next State loan becomes due, leaving the State to float its own loan if the time is still inopportune for Australia to borrow, and then take over-
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the Commonwealth should borrow money to enable it to take over States bonds?
– The Constitution permits it, and I have already proposed that a sinking fund should be established for the purposes of States bonds, and if my suggestion were adopted, it would only be necessary for the Commonwealth to obtain the consent of’ the States to the diversion of their three-fourths of the tea duty to the object I have named. There is one other matter which I think should be brought under the notice of this House.’ I refer to the great falling off in our Customs revenue. I largely account for this decrease by the fact that the change of Ministers has led to the removal of that strict and honest administration which was carried on by the right honorable member for Adelaide when he was in office, and to the substitution of a system of interviews such as those which are now occurring in the Customs Department. The Customs revenue for the year 1901-2 was ,£8,692,750, while that for 1902-3 was £9,451,686. I find that the figures relating to the Customs returns from June to December, 1902-3, and June to December, 1903-4, show that an absolute loss has occurred - that the collections for the last named period decreased by £200,096.
– That is a reflection on the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I brought this matter forward shortly after the present Minister for Trade and Customs took office. At that time he made a statement in the press that he was going to change what he regarded as the offensive methods adopted by his predecessor in bringing persons before the courts, and requiring them to be dealt with openly and fearlessly by . properlyconstituted tribunals consisting of persons trained to undertake such duties. What is the system that . the present Minister has substituted ? It is one that ‘ is absolutely illegal: The Act provides that . the Minister shall hear cases of the kind to which I refer and shall himself decide them. Instead of complying with that provision, the Minister allows these cases to be heard before officers appointed for the purpose in the various States. He does not see the witnesses, and save for the written statements put before him does not know the nature of the offences committed by the defendants. He does not know how the witnesses have conducted themselves, or whether they have spoken truly or not, and he does not always accept the recommendations of the officers who have examined these persons. I wish to put before the House some extraordinary decisions given by the Minister. I can point to various cases in which persons residing apparently in Sydney have been treated differently from .those charged with similar offences but living in other parts of the Commonwealth. Several cases are set forth in the Government Gazette of the 30th December, 1903. I find, for instance, that Ruttys Limited, of Sydney, for an offence alleged to have been committed on the 11th August, 1903, and consisting of misdescription of goods, were subjected to a penalty of £1 ; and that Joseph Pickles and Son, also of Sydney, for misdescription of goods on 4th August, 1903, had no penalty imposed on them, their post entry being accepted. Then, again, F. H. Allison, of Svdney, for misdescription of .goods was treated in the same way ; but W. L. ‘Daniel, of Maffra, Victoria, for the same offence, committed on 4th December, 1902, was fined ^3. Again I find that in the Government Gazette of 6th February, 1904, it is set forth that Messrs. ‘Davis and Fehon of Svdney, were dealt with for an offence which, if heard in the Criminal Court, would be described as obtaining money by false pretences. They were found guilty of claiming drawback which was not properly payable, and were fined £5. According to the same issue a Melbourne firm who, I am told, were brought before the Minister on two previous occasions, were dealt with for a similar offence on the 16th January, 1904, and the Minister decided that their post entry should be accepted. In a previous case this firm had made a mistake of £1,000. That mistake occurred when the right honorable member for Adelaide held Office as Minister for Trade and Customs, and they were then brought before a Court of Justice and fined. Let me now point to another case. The Gazette shows that Messrs. Colebrook and Knight,’ of Melbourne, were :dealt with for a misdescription of goods on the 4th December, 1902, and that it was decided that a post entry should be accepted, but W. L. Daniel, of Maffra, for a like offence, on 4th December, 1902, was fined ^3.
– In the one case the action of the defendant might have been wilful, while in the other a mere mistake may have occurred. It is very unfair for the honorable and ;learned member to deal with these cases in this way.
– I am ready to accept all that has been said in regard to innocent mistakes, but the suspicion which is rife in commercial circles as to these decisions would not arise were the cases heard, and not only heard, but decided, in open court. I wish, now, to refer to two cases which may be regarded as relating to other States. I find in the Government Gazette of 1 6th January, 1904, a statement showing that Messrs. Warren and Strong, of Sydney, on 31st January, 1903, were charged with’ undervaluation of boots and shoes, but that the Minister decided that no fine should be inflicted, and that the post entry should be accepted. In the same issue of the Gazette appears a -.statement showing that J. Howard and Co., of Rockhampton, for omitting goods from entry on 1st October, 1903, were fined £5.
– Does .the honorable “and learned member mean to say that there has been any collusion or favoritism ?
– I contend that the Minister should either accept the recommendations of his responsible officers or send these offenders before the court. There is a straightforward way of dealing with these matters, but, as I pointed out shortly after the present Minister took office, the system adopted by him leaves an opening for backdoor influences. But for the fact that the fines inflicted were very small there would have been a great agitation. A man who is fined only £3 or £5 has no wish to have his case brought prominently before the public. When we look at the evidence, and find that the Minister in his private room arrives at a decision without the slightest knowledge of the influences which have led up to the recommendation of the ‘officer, and that, these decisions are absolutely inconsistent and contradictory, it is time to-direct attention to the provisions of the Customs Act, .and to see that a return is made to the .system adopted by the first Minister of
Trade and Customs. Every man is treated fairly by being sent before the court, and having his case dealt with by a justice of the peace Or a police magistrate. That is the course of action which I commended. What was the consequence ? . I prefaced my remarks by stating that the Customs revenue would fall, and in the first month of the administration of the present Minister it did fall. This is a matter of great importance, not merely to the Commonwealth, but to each of the States. I find that the Customs revenue for the period between June and December, 1903, was less by £200,096 than that for the same period of the preceding year.
– What about the fodder duties ?.
– The last Budget contains an estimate of the difference there would be in the fodder duties, and that difference does not account for the fall I speak of.
– What about the falling off of revenue in certain periods during the administration of the right honorable member for Adelaide?
– I am not able to compare the figures for the period between January and June, because the present Minister has not been in charge of the Customs Department for the whole of such a period. But I have been able to compare the first six months of his administration with that of the right honorable member for Adelaide during the corresponding period of the previous year.
– A very unfair comparison.
– That interjection is unsupported by facts. I think the comparison I have made is the fairest possible. I am glad to have had an opportunity to bring the matter before the House. I have not touched upon the measures of legislation referred to in the speech, and have confined myself, with the exception of a few remarks upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, to matters of administration. I trust that when the various measures referred to in the speech are brought forward, I shall have good reasons to give for the votes I shall cast in regard to them.
– I must at once confess that all through I have refrained from speaking, and I am unwilling to speak even now, because it seemed, however paradoxical the position may appear, that the longer the debate continues the more members there are to speak. The discussion commenced with two conciliatory addresses by the leaders of the Government and the Opposition. They were followed by a speech of the leader of the Labour Party, which contained a psean of satisfaction with the results of the elections, with which that party, I think, are entitled to be gratified. That seems a recollection of a very long time ago; and now that we are in the third week of the session we find new debatable matter being brought forward, which seems likely to prolong the discussion still further. This afternoon we have had practically a grievance! day debate, various details of administration rather than general questions of policy having been discussed. I do not propose to follow the last speaker in the suggestions which he has made for dealing with that great question of the conversion of the debts of the States. I hope, however, that no one will listen to his dreamy proposal to take over £10,000,000 worth of bonds for the purpose he mentioned. I shall refer to one or two of his observations, because he. dealt with a subject upon which I wish to make a suggestion for the consideration of the Treasurer. I hope that the whole question will be dealt with by the House in the: manner which its magnitude and its seriousness demand. As the result of the elections, we find ourselves, as nearly every member has admitted, in an almost unworkable position. The only party which benefits by the situation, and will benefit by its continuance, is that which is so ably led by the honorable member for Bland. Last session, it will be admitted, many of the members of the Opposition afforded assistance to the Government when help was required. But that state of things cannot continue. The Government cannot expect to have the help of the Labour Party in regard to labour legislation, and then to depend upon the assistance of the moderate members of the Opposition in passing legislation which the Labour Party consider undesirable. It seems to me, and I am sure to many other honorable members, that the time has arrived when there should be some clear definition of parties in this House, and that the Government should be prepared with a policy upon which it is ready to stand or fall. The Prime Minister has declared that he will go right on and will countenance no underhand combination. . All of us who have had the privilege of knowing him in the past are perfectly sure that there will be no underhand work, and that whatever combination he enters into will be a straightforward and above-board affair. In pursuing his policy of going right on he has embodied in the Governor- General’s Speech a very comprehensive bill of fare. The measures therein referred to divide themselves, in my . mind, into those which are practicable- and possible, and those which are purely experimental, unnecessary, and impracticable. I think no honorable member believes that the Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme will be carried into effect during the life of this Parliament, however much he would like to see it come about. The Government, indeed, indicate that they regard the giving of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth as consequential upon the readjustment of the public debt of the States. Their action in referring to the matter in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech has been criticised as tending to mislead the infirm and destitute. I do not think that that was the intention, but in- any case the introduction of a measure to provide for Commonwealth old-age pensions is not practicable during the life-time of this Parliament. Then, with regard to the preferential trade proposals, even those who in’ Great Britain advocate preferential trade, and believe, as I do, that something should be done to consolidate the Empire,- and to secure its trade to its own people, admit that the time is not -yet ripe for definite action Therefore, it is only to delude Parliament to suggest in the Governor- General’s Speech that we may be able to deal with it. It certainly cannot be dealt with this session. No doubt the Conciliation and -Arbitration Bill is of great importance to the members of .the Labour Party, but, in my opinion, the passing of that measure will not make the Commonwealth more prosperous. It is a theoretical and experimental piece of legislation, which, in my judgment, will not improve the industrial conditions of theStates. Then I believe the proposed Navigation Bill to be an unnecessary restriction upon the trade and commerce of this country, ‘which ought- to be as free as possible. Instead of keeping merchant vessels away from our coast, we should try to encourage them to come here. I also regard the proposed appointment of the Inter-State Commission as impracticable. Surely we ought -to be at the end of this process of manufacturing (departments, involving the creation of so many new officers, and the payment of so many ad”ditional salaries to burden the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. We have not’ yet seen the Bill, but I earnestly hope that the High Court, which has not yet been overburdened with . work, will’ be intrusted with the duties attaching to the Inter state Commission!. Wath the special knowledge which the Justices of that Court possess, they should make an admirable body for dealing with disputes between States. There ‘ are two other subjects of which I feel that I must speak with bated breath. One of these is the proposal to construct a railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States. Upon that matter I am sorry to say that I cannot agree with my right honorable friend the Minister for Home Affairs. It is true that Federation will ‘ never be completely and satisfactorily consummated until railway communication is established between Western Australia’ and the eastern part of the continent; but I hold that there are many desirable enterprises upon which the Commonwealth should embark before that work is taken, in hand. ‘ I can perfectly appreciate the desire of the Minister and of the people of Western Australia to see the railway constructed ; but I do not think that they have any sound ground for the belief that it can be carried out for some time to come, even though it may have formed the subject of a’ compact entered into prior to Federation. There seems to be a strong disposition on the part of some honorable members to give effect to every provision of the Constitution, irrespective of the financial position or the natural development of the Commonwealth. According to these honorable members, we are bound to give immediate effect to every line of the Constitution, without regard to the necessities of the Commonwealth as a whole. So far as the transcontinental railway is concerned, it seems to me that it would be far preferable to devote attention to the completion of the railway in Queensland that is intended to reach as far as Point Parker. The line would extend from Longreach to Winton and Cloncurry, thence on to Point Parker, and would pass through a magnificent -stretch of country, which would be capable, of supporting an enormous population, which is full of minerals, and com? prises splendid .agricultural and pastoral” blocks. It was this country which largely assisted the pastoralists of Queensland to overcome their difficulties during the great drought. ;
– The line would be constructed wholly within Queensland territory.
– Then that would not affect the Federation.
– The railway would. affect the whole Commonwealth, and would tend to bring us into closer communication with Other parts of the world ; therefore I think that it should receive the most careful consideration at our hands. Another subject to which I refer with bated breath is the proposal to establish the Federal Capital. I do not think that this work need be undertaken by the Commonwealth for a long time to come. Undoubtedly, it is provided for in the Constitution; but we have to consider whether it would be expedient to incur the expenditure that would be involved in the establishment of the Federal Capital until the Commonwealth recovers from that long period of depression through which it has just passed. The Governor-General’s Speech mentions a number of matters which, unlike those to which I have referred, are of an eminently practical character, and worthy of serious consideration. One of these is the question of the transfer of the States debts, and the method to be adopted in paying the States for the properties transferred to the Commonwealth. It must also be admitted by honorable members that it is desirable that steps should be taken to increase our population, which has been reduced to a state of stagnation owing to the absence of immigration and the lamentable falling off in the birth rate, am glad to see also that it is proposed to grant assistance to farmers and other producers, because I regard that as a step in the right direction, and as one which will benefit the whole community. I think that the mining industry, which has done so much for tha Commonwealth, might also receive a little kindly consideration. Irrigation also is one of those practical matters to which the Parliament might very. well direct its attention. The proposal for the encouragement of the iron and steel industry is a good one. We shall never take our proper position as a great nation until we have iron and steel works established our midst under proper control. It is true that the consumption of iron and steel in the Commonwealth is limited, as compared with that in other countries. It is also well known that pig-iron is brought here in great part, in the form of ballast, and that therefore the freight’ charges are very small. At the same time we should have in our midst iron and steel works capable of turning out rails, and other articles of that description. Reverting to the subject of the States debts,’ I have already discussed the question with’ the Treasurer, who is familiar with the suggestion which I shall now venture to submit to the House. The memorandum which, the right honorable gentleman submitted to the recent Conference of States Treasurers showed a just appreciation of the many difficulties which surround the subject. As was pointed out in that document, and as is well known to honorable members, only the debts contracted prior to Federation can be taken over by the Commonwealth. It would be necessary to amend the Constitu-tion, if it were desired that the Commonwealth should take over liabilities incurred^ by the States since the establishment of Federation. The public debts of the States amount to .£228,000,000. Honorable members will recognise that this is a task of enormous magnitude, and one which demands very careful considerationIt is impossible to deal satisfactorily and finally with the question simply by the wave of a magician’s wand. I ‘ entirely agree with the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corio, that it will be a very long time before the Commonwealth will be able to borrow in London at a lower rate of interest than the States can do so at the present moment. As he very properly pointed out, most of the surplus capital available in England is now being absorbed for various purposes. Not only is the Government borrowing largely for its own purposes, but various corporations are doing the same thing, and the South African States are also receiving financial assistance. It is. estimated that there are somewhere about £200,000,000 of surplus profits available ir* Great Britain each year for investment. It: is true that if that accumulation continues it should materially ease the congested state of the money market if confidence in the Commonwealth and in the States finances . can be restored. To me it seems perfectly clear that the States of the Union which have the lesser indebtedness will never consent to burden their people with a general per capita charge, in order to adjust their circumstances to those of the other States.
No satisfactory solution of this question will be arrived at until the whole of the States debts are taken over by some central authority - either by the Commonwealth, or some body which may be constituted a trustee. Such a body might well be composed of representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth, and be vested with power to handle all loans, and to deal with all future flotations. It might very appropriately be called “ The Commonwealth of Australia Council of Finance.” It should consist of two members of the Federal Government, and a representative from each of the States Governments. It should possess a permanent head in order to ensure a continuity of policy and efficient control. Of course this could not be brought about without first securing an amendment of the Constitution. As I have previously pointed out, some change in the Constitution must be made it the Commonwealth is to assume control of the debts which have been incurred by the States since the inauguration of Federation. If necessary the States, by means of enabling Acts, could take the necessary powers for creating such a body as that which. I now suggest. I am one of those who believe that the Braddon section in our Constitution will require to be continued for very many years. I am satisfied also that when the book-keeping section expires the States will insist upon its renewal. I repeat that, for years to come, none of. the States will be prepared to surrender their control of the. railways, or to submit to any interference by the. Commonwealth with their railway development. Such a. council as I have suggested would conduct all future flotations, and constitute a governing and informed body possessed of a continuous and definite policy. Of course, I am quite aware that the objection which will be urged against such a proposal is that it would result in the loss of direct parliamentary control. But I would point out that all the States of the Commonwealth would have direct representation, and that such representation would always be subject to review by the Federal and the States Legislatures. We all know the magnificent success which has followed the creation of a somewhat similar body in Egypt under the presidency of Lord Cromer.
– But in Egypt, it has not to deal with different States.
– I am perfectly aware that the conditions are not analagous. Nevertheless it affords us an example of a body which deals with large sums in a way that is in the best interest of all concerned. I urge my suggestion upon thegrounds of public economy and efficient control. I believe that it deserves the consideration of the Treasurer quite apart from the fact that it would prove a means of uniting the interests of the Commonwealth and of the States. As I have previously intimated, I think it is necessary for us to adopt some means to increase our population. It cannot be denied that even in Victoria there are vast areas of land which ought to be occupied by small tenants. That can be secured only by first laying down the lines of a scheme which is calculated to attract desirable immigrants to our shores. Honorable members who have recently been to London must be cognizant of the gigantic efforts that are being made in a similar direction by Canada. The Government of that country has opened extensive offices for the purpose in Whitehall, and these are daily crowded by persons who desire to take up land in- Canada. The Canadian Commissioner was good enough to supply me with a mass of information regarding the methods which are adopted by the Immigration Office. Needless to add, these are far. superior to those which are adopted, by our States offices. Many laws have been passed. by this Parliament that have tended to bringthe Commonwealth into disrepute. We are being subjected, to a great deal, of misrepresentation, and the people of. England have not a true conception of the true position of affairs. I hold the view that one of the most practical steps which the Government could take to counteract this evil would be to appoint a High Commissioner. That view may not be shared by some honorable members ; but such an appointment is really essential. We have no proper representation in London, and it is desirable that this fault should be remedied without delay, in order that the position taken up by the Commonwealth may be clearly understood. It would not be a difficult matter to send home a representative of the Commonwealth qualified to find markets for our produce; but it is necessary that the High Commissioner should also be a man who has held high office, who is able to speak with authority, and whose words will receive the consideration of the public. Everything, of course, will depend upon the selection made by the Government. The most eloquent, enthusiastic, and practical man, so far as the development of Australia is concerned, should be appointed to the position. I earnestly hope that the Government will not view the appointment as one which should be made without grave consideration, for to select any one who is not enthusiastic in his desire to promote the best interests of the Commonwealth would be simply to waste our money. A responsible duty lies in front of this officer, for at present the Commonwealth does not stand well in the eyes of the British public.
– Why ?
– No one should be better qualified to answer that question than is the honorable member. I repeat, without fear of contradiction, the statement that certain legislation which we have passed has brought the Commonwealth into disrepute.
– A few of the wild-cat schemes floated in the London market are responsible for this state of affairs.
– I consider that-
– Similar legislation has nol brought the United States of America into disrepute.
– I do not hear to what the honorable and learned member is referring ; but I consider that the High Commissioner will have a responsible task before him in explaining some of our past actions. It is perfectly idle for honorable members to imagine that they can gainsay the facts. Let them peruse a few of the journals which exercise an important influence on investors in Great Britian, and they will .find that some of our legislation has brought the Commonwealth into disrepute. Had there been a High Commissioner in London, he would have been able to explain away much of the misrepresentation that has occurred. There has been much exaggeration abroad in reference to our actions, and we have not had any one in England able to speak with authority in regard to what our actual intentions are. If the Commonwealth is to succeed, we must follow the lines upon which the prosperity of older countries has been built; we must have regard for ordinary business conditions of life. It is necessary for us to attract capital for the development of the legitimate industries of the Commonwealth.
– We collared a good lump of what we attracted here some time ago, and that is what has caused the trouble.
– I do not know what the honorable member is alluding to. But if we are to restore the confidence of the British public in the Commonwealth, we must have a representative in London to protect and push our interests.
– Whom ‘would the honorable member recommend?
– The most eloquent member of this House would be the most fitting representative of the Commonwealth’ in Great Britain. Every honorable member knows to whom I refer. In the earlier portion of my address, I referred to the existence of three co-ordinate parties in this House, and indicated that the present position was untenable. We all admit that the fiscal question is practically dead.
– I, for one, think that it is. Had that fact been recognised at the last election - had the fiscal issue been subordinated to a consideration of the general interests of the Commonwealth, I feel satisfied that we should have had a more definite division of parties than we have.
– The fiscal issue was very much in evidence in New South Wales.
– While it continues in evidence we are unable to come down to reasonable conditions. The Labour Party have shown us what can be done by organization, and by differentiating between what is important and unimportant, and in that respect deserve every commendation. It is a standing rebuke to the other parties in this House that, by means of united action, and by putting .forward a distinct programme, the Labour Party have been able to improve their position, whilst other parties who did not discriminate, as they did, between important and unimportant details of policy, have come back to the House reduced in numbers and divided in strength. In subordinating the fiscal issue to other considerations the Labour Party has set us a splendid example. They consider that their socialistic platform is of infinitely greater importance to those whom they represent than is the fiscal issue. They allow their members to vote independently of party consideration so far as that issue is concerned, but, with that exception, they are a united body. It is highly desirable that we should rehabilitate the Commonwealth in the eyes of the public, for I feel satisfied that if a vote were now taken throughout Australia, the decision of the people would be absolutely against Federation. The feeling against the Commonwealth is most intense. The Minister for Home Affairs: to-night once more threw down the gauge of battle, and indicated that a feeling of: unrest exists even in Western Australia-.. We know, also, that New South Wales is dissatisfied with her position, and surely it is manifest that this state of affairs is. due to the fact that the Commonwealth Parliament, instead of taking up that high position which it was expected to assume, has failed in many respects to have regard to practical and business-like lines of legislation, and has. therefore, disappointed every one. Another reason for this dissatisfaction is that the States, as States, with certain responsibilities which they must bear, are beginning to believe that the Federal Parliament is endeavouring to supplant their Legislatures - that legislation which cannot be passed in their Parliaments is to be imposed upon them by the action of the Federal Parliament.
– Legislation relating, for instance, to conciliation and arbitration.
– Some of the States do not approve of legislation of that class.
– To what States does the honorable member refer?
– There is Victoria, for example.
– How does the honorable member reconcile that statement with the fact that at the Senate elections, an enormous vote was cast for Senator Trenwith and Senator Findley, who both support the principle ?
– The vote cast for Senator Trenwith was a very pronounced one. He has always been a moderate man in Victorian politics, and the public regarded him as one who had been subjected to great persecution. The high position which he occupied on the poll is an indication that the people have a feeling of sympathy for one who has always been moderate, and has been guided in all that he has done by a regard for what he believes to be right.
– Yet the honorable member would have put him out if he could.
– I regret that the Labour Party have accepted the designation of socialists, bestowed upon them by an interjector. I do not know how many of the members of the party subscribe to the doctrines of Owen, Marx, and other socialists; but if they all do, .it is likely to be a very serious thing for the Commonwealth. Of course, no man can stand up in this Chamber and declare himself opposed to all forms of socialism,- without contradicting past speeches and votes, either here or in a State Legislature. It is the destructive, revolutionary element in socialism that must foe resisted.
– Does not socialism mean the destruction of competition?
– When competition is destroyed, all incentive to improvement and ambition is taken away.
– The Commonwealth tobacco monopoly aims at the destruction of competition.
– It will be a bad thing for the community when we are all upon a dead level of equality. We hear of Christian socialism ; but, with all due reverence,! wish to say that our Redeemer, although consistently the friend of the poor and the suffering, showed by his example and teaching the ineffectiveness of laws for improving the whole mass of the community, and that it is only by stimulating the individual heart, and making better the individual life, that the condition of the people as a whole can be elevated. To reduce the whole community to one unambitious level is a state of things I regard as prejudicial.
– That is not the aim of the Labour Party.
– No demur was made by any member of the party to the statement by way of interjection that they are a body of socialists.
– The members of the Labour Party are a socialistic body.
– I did not believe that all the members of the party are socialists.
– The King of England has said that we are all socialists nowadays.
– The honorable member for Barrier is, I suppose, authorized, to speak for his party. When I refer to socialism, I mean the doctrines promulgated by men like Owen and Marx.
– Those men are communists.
– No ; communism goes even further. I would not suggest that there is a pure communist in this Chamber.
– The socialism of which the honorable member speaks is not the Labour Party’s brand.
– Then I should like to know what their brand is. We ought now to come to practical business, and I am endeavouring to do practical work in trying to get honorable members to define their positions.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s position?
– I shall go hand in hand with any party that desires to improve the position of the worker.
– - That is socialism.
– It is not destructive socialism. I shall support all legislation which has for its aim the securing to the worker of the interests and rewards which the industry in which he is engaged should give him. I have been consistent in my attitude on this question, in both private and public life, as I think an inquiry into the management of the concerns with which I have been identified will show.
– The honorable member is a good type of the boodler.
Mr.KNOX. - I am sorry that my honorable friend has introduced here an expression used by the gutter press of Australia, though I know that it slipped out of his mouth. Expressions like that require explanation, so that we may know what they properly mean.
– Socialism is another expression which requires definition.
– My honorable friend understands what socialism is, and what destructive and revolutionary socialism is.
– I know of about ten varieties of socialism.
– Socialism has engaged the attention of men like John Stuart Mill and others of the highest and best minds of the I world. There are three parties in this’ Chamber - the Ministerial, the Opposition, and the Labour Party - which are practically equal in numbers. Honorable members must, therefore, see that some new line of demarcation is necessary. The fiscal issue can no longer divide us, because that is dead. To carry on the business of the country in a constitutional way, we require a new and definite line of demarcation between those who have come here to carry out a platform to which they have had to subscribe-
– To which we have voluntarily subscribed.
– Honorable members of the Labour Party have come here with directions as to what they must do.
– We have pledged ourselves to a platform, and I suppose the honorable member has done the same.
– I was returned as an independent member.
– With a platform.
– With a definite platform.
– That is precisely our position.
– No doubt our promises to our constituents are as binding upon us as the pledge which they have signed is binding upon the members of the Labour Party.
We, however, are free to vote for legislation in the interests of the community as a whole, as opposed to the interests of a section of the community.
– The members of the Labour Party represent 85 per cent. of the electors of Australia.
– That statement is not correct, though no doubt the members of the Labour Party represent a. great bulk of the electors. They have been sent here, however, with definite directions as to the policy which they shall follow, and the line of demarcation I speak of should divide those who come here free to look to the interests of the whole community and those who are pledged to regard only a section of the community.
– Our objection to the honorable member is that he is here to look after the interests of a class.
– I am here to vote for whatever I consider best in the interests of the whole community, without direction or dictation from any section of it. I am not a delegate, but a representative.
– The classes know that they can rely upon the honorable member.
– I did not intend to speak more than a quarter of an hour, and I am greatly indebted to honorable gentlemen for the attention they have given to my somewhat lengthy remarks. I think that there should be a combination amongst honorable members for the purpose of carrying on the government of the country in a constitutional and business-like way, and that might be brought about by negotiations. I know nothing of any combination ; but I think it would be better to bring about a union, under present conditions, than to wait for chaos, and then to effect a coalition under stress of weather. I trust that a sufficient number of members will be found to adopt a national policy, and work for the good of the whole of the Commonwealth, under an Australian banner bearing the motto - “ For all the people of the Commonwealth, and not for any section.”
– So much has been said during this debate, and I might add, so well said, that it is very difficult for any one speaking at this stage to say anything of a novel character. It appears to me, however, that some of the questions to which honorable members have addressed themselves may be presented in an aspect different from that in which they have hitherto been exhibited. Before discussing the matters referred to in the
Governor-General’s Speech, I desire to refer to the kanaka question. To a North Queenslander the kanaka question is very much in the position of King Charles’ head to the late lamented Mr. Dick. A few days ago, I asked the Prime Minister a series of questions with regard to the arrangements for the conveyance of time-expired islanders to their homes. He said that the matter was one for the Queensland. Government to attend to, and that, so far, he had heard no complaints as to any of the islanders having been unable to leave. I may tell the Prime Minister that he is not- likely to hear any complaints. I admit that upon this question the present Government in Queensland is much more sympathetic than its immediate ‘predecessor, and that it may adopt an attitude different from that previously assumed by the authorities. At the same time, I am afraid ‘that the matter does not altogether rest with the Government, because there are officers who are specially appointed to attend to the requirements of those islanders who desire to return to their homes. I am very sorry to say that many people, who Ought to be ashamed of themselves for doing so, have been in the habit of trying to beguile the simple islanders by misrepresentations. When an islander’s first term of service has expired, at the end of three years, every effort is made to persuade him to sign an agreement for another six months, or for a longer period, if possible, and, among other things, he is told that there is no ship ready to take him back to his home. Of course, in these cases, the islanders are not able to speak very good English, and’ are practically at the mercy of those who desire to keep them in the State. I am credibly informed ‘that in many cases the Government agent, who, above all others,” should protect the interests of the islanders, helps to delude them, by representing that there is no boat ready to return them to .their homes. When I was last in Northern Queensland I met an islander who had been fifteen years in the State. He had with him his daughter, twelve years of age, who had been born in Queensland, and he told me that he was most anxious to go back to his own people and take with him his daughter, sothat she might he made acquainted with her relatives. He had then been trying for three months to obtain a permit to enable him to go to some other port, and there wait for a ship “to take him’ a way.’ Several other boys were with him, arid I was informed that they had completed their agreements, and were at that very time being induced to sign another agreement to work on the plantations for a further six months, or a longer term. Whilst indentured boys are waiting for a ship to take them back, they have to be kept by their late employers, who have to find .them in rations and house room. Those who accept re-engagements, however, have, upon the expiration of their service, to keep themselves. In either case the money which is paid over to the islander at the expiration, of his term dwindles away during the period of waiting. It is the ambition of every islander to take back” with him a certain amount of trade, and if, through the depletion of his resources, he finds himself unable to do this, he generally signs a further agreement. If what I have described occurred when ships were leaving, with tolerable frequency, during at least nine months of the year, how much more is it likely -to happen now that no ships are leaving for the Islands to bring back recruits? The Prime Minister said that the matter was one for the consideration of the State Government, but I contend that a great responsibility rests upon” this Parliament. We .have stopped recruiting, and have thereby reduced the number of ships available to take these islanders back (o their homes. Therefore, it is our duty -to see that those who desire to go back - and the kanakas do in the great .majority of cases so desire - shall have the means of doing so . placed at their disposal. I hope that the Prime Minister will take this matter into his earnest consideration. If the islanders have been deluded in the past there is .no reason why they should .not have fair play in the future. I make these representations in their interests. For many years the employers have had the big end of the stick, and have dominated the position and I think it is our duty to see that the islanders have fair play, so far as we can assure it. This is a question which, as a member of the Labour Party, and as a representative of Queensland, I should not desire to bring forward, if it could be avoided. We regard the* whole of the legislation passed by the State Legislature in regard to the introduction of islanders to work on sugar plantations with regret, -and we should be only too pleased to wash our hands of the whole business. The matter to which I have referred is, however, a very important one, and deserves our earnest attention. In isolated instances the Government agents may have done their duty, but in a great many cases they have played into the hands of the planters. I had intended to refer to the interjection made by the honorable member for Parramatta, with regard to the assistance given to the members of the Labour Party by the Government at the last election, but I think that the matter has already been sufficiently dealt with. There was no help given to me, or to any other member of our party, so far as I am aware. The Prime Minister himself appeared upon the public platform in. Victoria to help one candidate who was opposing a member of the Labour Party. I do not find any fault with his action upon that occasion,. because Ministers were at perfeet liberty to help their own supporters. I object, however, to the statements that they have given any assistance to members of the Labour Party. I am one of those who have serious complaints to make regarding the administration of. the Electoral Act. Speaking from my experience in my own electorate, I can confidently assert that the Act was maladministered in the grossest possible way: I reported several glaring breaches of the Act to the returning officer, but upon. my. arrival in Melbourne I found that the Chief Electoral Officer knew nothing about any such reports. It has been stated that in Victoria and New South Wales numbers corresponding with those on the roll were written upon the face of the ballot-papers, and that the corners of the papers were then turned down. In one place in my electorate I lost a. large number of votes owing to this practice. In that particular instance, the presiding officer did not even have the decency to turn down the corner of the paper. He wrote the numberon the face of the ballot-paper, and thereby robbed the ballot of its secrecy. In the State electorate of Herbert, the presiding officer, in. violation of the Act, declared at each polling place the number of votes recorded there. At one place, owing to influences which I deplore, only nine votes were recorded, and they were all given against me. That, of course, showed that the electors who voted had no judgment. I took the precaution to go to that place beforehand and tell every one who had a vote that the ballot was absolutely secret. During the passage of the Electoral Bill through the House, references were made to the practices indulged in in various States, with a view to ascertain how the votes of the electors were cast, and. my electorate was no exception to the rule in that regard. I told the electors at the place referred to that they need not fear that their votes would be disclosed, because the voting papers would be taken to the principal polling place and there mixed with others before the count in such a way that they would become unidentifiable. What will those people now think of me? The previous practice was so contrary to that which I. described that possibly they thought I was lying to them, and results would appear to justify their belief. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs what is to be done in reference to these matters. Are the electoral officials to be permitted to flout the Act as they please? When the Bill was under discussion every precaution possible was taken by honorable members to make the ballot absolutely secret. Now we find that, owing to the stupidity, or something worse, of the presiding officers,or of some one else; the secrecy of the ballot has been violated. I think that some action ought to be taken in reference to this matter. I do not blame the Chief. Electoral Officer. Nevertheless, this action is all. of a piece with the maladministration of which so much complaint has. been made during the course of this debate. I should like to say a few words upon the subject of the Federal Capital. Members of the Opposition have discussed this question at great length, but I have no hesitation in affirming that if the Sydney newspapers would abstain from saying anything about it for one month, it would be absolutely dead.
– I live in Sydney, and I am aware that the question is destitute of all life beyond that which is put into it by the Sydney press. The great majority of the people do not care anything about it. Some, of course, would like it to be speedily settled, because they imagine that it would provide plenty of work. I would remind honorable members that, upon the 30th September, 1902, a. vote was recorded in this House upon a proposal by the Treasurer to borrow £500,000. The leading members of the Opposition voted against that proposal upon principle, and I commend them for it.
– There is another principle to which regard should be paid, namely, that undertakings should be fulfilled.
– I quite agree with the honorable member that obligations should be fulfilled. But where, I ask, is the need for hurry in the settlement of this question. I will undertake to say that if the Federal Capital site were selected tomorrow the Treasurer has not a ten-pound note to spend upon it. Where is the money to come from with which to build the capital?
– Does the honorable member desire the Parliament to meet in Melbourne for ever?
– I do not. I am merely putting the practical difficulties of the situation before the House. If the Treasurer had the temerity to submit a Loan Bill, which was certainly not designed to raise money to carry out a reproductive work, would any honorable member support him, especially at a time when our securities are lower than they have ever been in the history of Australia.
– We have handed back to the States £1,500,000 more than we had a right to return them under the Constitution;
– There is no State which stands more in need of the money which has been returned to her in excess of the three-fourths of her Customs revenue to which she is entitled, than New South Wales. With the exception of Western Australia, all the States are in necessitous circumstances. I am satisfied that great friction would be caused if the Treasurer attempted to retain the whole of the 75 per cent, of the Customs revenue to which the States are entitled, and to devote the balance to the building of a Federal Capital.
– Should we not get a tangible asset in the shape of the territory which we acquired?
– To a certain extent we should ; but it would be a long time before we could realize upon that asset.
– Could we not go to Uncle Moses?
– We have no desire to go to Uncle Moses, unless for absolutely reproductive works. Nobody can contend that the building of a Federal Capital would come within that category. The question of the conditions which have been embodied in the contracts for our new mail service has been discussed at some length. Personally I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corio that the questions of the carriage of mails and of the conveyance of frozen rabbits to England should have been kept entirely separate. The honorable member for Kooyong has accused members of theLabour Party of being socialists. We consider it an honour to be regarded as such. But I would ask that honorable member, who finds fault with us on the ground that we are socialists, why he recommends what is purely a socialistic doctrine? He asks that our mail boats should carry butter, fruit, and rabbits in refrigerating chambers, and that they should be subsidized by the Government. I hold that the two questions should be kept quite separate. If ever there was scope for private enterprise, surely it is in connexion with the carriage of perishable produce. The trouble which has fallen upon the Postmaster-General in failing to secure satisfactory tenders for the conveyance of our mails is not due to section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, but is entirely the result of the other conditions which have been inserted in the contracts. I was very sorry to find another matter that I regarded as dead galvanized into life during the course of this debate. I refer to the matter of the fodder duties. During some portion of 1902 the statement was made in this House that there were 20,000,000 of starving sheep in New South Wales. I leave out of consideration the number of cattle and horses, and propose to divide the number in question by two.
-Our flocks in New South Wales were reduced from 60,000,000 to 20,000,000 odd.
– I am quite prepared to accept the honorable and learned member’s statement, but for purposes of calculation I wish to put the number down at 10,000,000. Assuming that each of these required 10 lbs. of fodder per week, that would ‘ represent a consumption of 100,000,000 lbs., or a little less than 50,000 tons. To bring that quantity of fodder from New Zealand, which was the only place from which it could be obtained at the time-
– Much of it came from the Argentine.
– It would require ten ships of the tonnage of the Orontes to bring that fodder to New South Wales, assuming that the vessels could complete the trip once a fortnight. Could New South Wales have afforded that? I say that she could not. It would have been utterly impossible, even had the fodder duties been suspended, to alleviate the existent distress. That 50,000 tons of fodder at £4 per ton - and I believe that a great quantity of it realized more than double that price in Sydney - would mean an expenditure of ,£200,000 a week, or over £1.0,000,000 within twelve months. How could the people of New South Wales have provided that money ? Honorable members should also bear in mind that in my calculation I have simply allowed for the fodder being landed upon the wharfs at Sydney. I wish now to address myself for a few moments to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who never appears to such advantage as when he is delivering a homily to members of the Labour Party. We all acknowledge his lucidity, his ability, his courtesy, and the manner in which he treats his subject; but we differ from” him in his deductions from facts. In speaking of the Labour Party, he declared that its members are socialists, and that they are ruining the Commonwealth - that the policy which we are striving to thrust upon the community is destroying the public credit. He also remarked that we had not read history, otherwise we should not take up the position that we do. I say that we are students of history, and that it is the events of the past which have forced us, willy-nilly, to adopt the ‘policy we have. Individualism has been the curse of the world, and it is time that the system was altered; The honorable member for Kooyong says that we desire to bring, down every one to a dead level. But, in this connexion, I would invite honorable members for a few moments to look at the position of Tasmania. That is a country where individualism has always been rampant, and I am perfectly certain that if the honorable member had hi.-; way, that state of things would continue. Until within a few months ago, no labour member had ever entered a Parliament as a representative of Tasmania. What is the position of that State to-day? It possesses a good deal of cultivable land, and enjoys a magnificent climate and fertile soil, but we find that, to use a colloquialism, it is as much “ up to its neck in debt” as is any of the other States. I am informed that the State Government of Tasmania closed the last financial year with a deficit of. ,£30)000, while the financial operations of the previous year showed a deficiency of £176,000.
– What about Queensland ?
– We have had an individualistic policy there.
– Tempered by banking legislation.
– Quite so. In Queensland, as elsewhere, we suffered from the banking crisis of i8o3» I wish honorable members to now turn their attention to another country in the same latitude, but possessing certainly a much larger area than that of Tasmania. In the matter of soil and climate, however, it enjoys no advantage over that State. I refer to New Zealand. In the one case the rule of the individualists is supreme, while in the other there is more socialism to the square yard than is to be found in any other country.
– In the days of individualism New Zealand was nearly bankrupt.
– Quite so. In 1892 its position was as bad as is the position of Tasmania to-day. If the honorable and learned member for Parkes were to read the history of the lands of the Southern Hemisphere as he does that of other lands, I am satisfied that he would arrive at the conclusion that the socialistic regime iii New Zealand is vastly superior to the system which exists in Tasmania, and of which he approves.
– Tasmania is doing splendidly just now. ‘
– Yes ; there are now three labour representatives in the Parliament of that State. I have a few figures here from the “ Politician’s Bible “-
– The honorable member refers to the Bulletin.
– No; that is the “Democrats’ Bible.” I refer to Coghlan. I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members some figures relative to the rate of interest earned by the railway systems of Tasmania and NewZealand. On page 344 of Cog/dan, a table is given showing the interest returned on capital expenditure for a period of five years, and . an examination of that table will show that the highest rate of interest paid by the Tasmanian railways during the period in question was 1.56 per cent. ; whilst the lowest paid by the New Zealand railway .system during the same period was 3*29 per cent. A similar state of affairs exists in relation to other matters. The people of Tasmania have no old-age pension system, such as exists in New Zea.land, but they pay 5s. 9d. per head towards the alleviation of distress; whereas in New Zealand, in addition to a system of old-age pensions, the people pay 9s.10d. per head towards this object.
– That shows that very little distress exists in Tasmania.
-There are thousands of persons destitute there.
– In answer to the honorable member for New England, I would say that if Tasmania is so prosperous as he would have us believe, why is it that her population is continually decreasing ?
– It has been increasing in population.
– Coghlan deals with the population statistics for a period of seventeen years, and shows that, while there was a small excess of arrivals over departures during a period of eight years, there was an excess of departures over arrivals during the remaining period of nine years. In 1902 there was an excess of. departures over arrivals in Tasmania, whereas in New Zealand the excess of arrivals over departures was nearly 8,000.
– Are the two States to be compared physically?
– The physical conditions of both countries are almost identical.
– What about the area?
– I allowed for the difference in the area of the respective States. Tasmania has about 16,000 square miles, while the area of New Zealand is 64,000 square miles, and in the figures with which I had intended to delight the House I had worked out the difference. But whereever the statistics given areper head of the population the question of area is not affected, and these figures show that New Zealand is far ahead of Tasmania. Let me take, for example, the dairying industry. Coghlan gives us some interesting figures relating to the output of butter, milk, andcheese. He shows that the Tasmanian output of these commodities for 1902 was of the estimated value of £446,000, whereas that of New Zealand was of the value of £2,608,000. Allowing for the difference in area, and therefore dividing the £2,608,000 by four, we find how far Tasmania lags behind New Zealand.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that Tasmania has but a very limited extent of good land.
– The same remark applies to New Zealand, a great deal of whose territory is periodically disturbed by an. earthquake. Nothing could be more indicative of the relative position of the two countries than are the figures relating to education, and I find that whilst Tasmania expends £58,318 on the administration and maintenance of its education system, New Zealand expends £494,621.
– What are their respective revenues?
– That is the question. I am endeavouring to show that if Tasmania were governed under laws similar to those which prevail in New Zealand, it would be more prosperous. If the honorable member looks at the figures he will arrive at the conclusion to which I have come, that under the two differing systems of legislation-
– The honorable member should compare Tasmania with Queensland, where there are socialistic principles in force.
– We have not the socialism that I should like to see there ; but it is coming fast, and I am glad to know that thisremark applies also to Tasmania, which has returned a rabid socialist to this Parliament.
– By forty-eight votes.
– I am sure that the honorable member was very pleased to obtain that majority. Nothing can be said in favour of individualism as against socialism. The honorable and learned member for Parkes is certainly a student of history. He speaks of the astigmatic vision of the Labour Party, a remark that I think should be applied to his own,and I would commend these matters to his consideration. Another question to which the honorable and learned member referred was that of conciliation and arbitration. He spoke of the Moseley Commission, consisting of twenty-six working men, which left Great Britain for the United States in order to compare the industrial life of the two countries. The honorable and learned member said that the members of that Commission returned from the United States of America firm in the resolve to have nothing to do with the principle of conciliation. As a matter of fact, there is no system of conciliation and arbitration in operation in the United States of America. Why, therefore, should the honorable and learned member, in ‘his effort to make the best of a bad case, introduce such a suggestion? There was no principle of conciliation and arbitration in the United States of America; consequently the Moseley Commission could not have been impressed by, anything that they saw there which had a bearing upon the subject. Reference was also made by the honorable and learned member to the withdrawal of money from Australia. Some persons are always complaining that capital is being withdrawn from the States, but they rarely, if ever, get down to actual facts. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, however, gave us one concrete case, and asserted that one institution - the Scottish Widows - had instructed its manager to withdraw, within a period of twelve months, some ^£2,000,000 which it had invested in Australia, and to send it to some other place in which 4 per cent, could be obtained. Coghlan shows, however, that all the money invested in Australia has paid an average of 4 per cent.
– The Scottish Widows were not* so sure of their security here.
– But the ‘money in question was not directly invested by this institution in any industry. The manager was simply making a profit by lending the money to some one else to invest. Statements such as .these with regard to the withdrawal of capital from Australia require something in the way of detail to establish their credibility^ I suppose I may be permitted to say a few’ words upon the subject of preferential trade.
– Is that a new subject ?
– It is with me. During the electoral campaign I was asked now and again, usually by some person the worse for liquor, what I thought of preferential trade, and I replied that later on I would give an opinion about it. I am sorry that the subject has been referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. At the present stage it is an academic question rather than one of practical interest. It is in the clouds. There is no need to discuss it during the lifetime of this Parliament, at any rate. When the English people have made up their .minds as to what they require, and ask us .to come to terms, it will be time enough to consider the matter. Until then it will be only a waste of time to discuss it. Connected with it is, .of course, the” question of free-trade or protection. During the very able address delivered by the honorable member for Richmond a few nights ago, some one interjected that we have no such .thing -as free-trade. I quite admit the truth of that remark. It was also stated that we have no such thing as protection. That is also true. The Common wealth Tariff is the result of the conflict between two parties holding opposite fiscal views. But while the protectionist is not afraid of his policy, the free-trader is afraid of free-trade. I am not speaking now as a protectionist.
– Is the honorable member still a fiscal atheist?
– Yes. Protectionists will ask for all the protection they can get, and still hold out their hands for more ; but free-traders will not accept free-trade at any price; they would not touch it with a long stick. I could count upon the fingers of one hand the members of the Opposition who are willing to adopt the policy of freetrade. I am not rabid upon the fiscal question. If honorable members opposite will give us a free-trade policy - if they will: say, “We will abolish customs houses altogether,” I will go with them. If they, say, “ We will give you the English Tariff,” I will go with them. But I will have nothing to do with the fiscal faking which takes 5 per cent, off one article, puts 6 per cent, upon another, and calls itself free-trade. We all admit that the Commonwealth must raise a large amount of revenue, and if honorable members opposite will show that they have the courage of their convictions, by proposing a policy of taxation similar to that of Great Britain, I will join their ranks. But if their leaders’ proposed such a policy, how soon their ranks would -be decimated ! Where should we find the honorable members for Kooyong, Grampians, and Wentworth?
– Locked in the honorable member’s arms.
– Not at all. They would have nothing to do with the direct taxation which would be necessary if the English Tariff were adopted. Then, as they are afraid to adopt a free-trade policy, what is the use of coming here and talking about it ad nauseam.
– How much direct taxation will the Government give us ?
– The Government have not the courage of their convictions any more than the .free-traders have. I am a candid friend upon this occasion. A great deal has been said during ..the debate about the third party. The honorable member, for Maranoa has taken exception to the term, becuse he says we should be called the first party, a sentiment I thoroughly indorse. The position of parties, in this Chamber might be represented by an equilateral triangle, or, to be nice, by an isosceles triangle, the two sides being equal, and each a little longer than the base. But what the third party lacks in numbers it gains in coherence.
– And in intelligence.
– If the honorable members of the Ministerial and Opposition parties think that the present position should not continue, why do they allow it to do so? If the members of the Labour Party were using influence to prevent a coalition between the two other parties, they might have reason for complaint, but we are standing severely aloof.
– The Labour Party is shoving the other side with all its force.
– We are not using any force at all yet.
– The members of the Labour Party are like the Innocents Abroad.
– Though we may be innocents, we are not very much abroad. If the two other parties wish to have two parallel lines instead of a triangle, . the members of the Labour Party are quite willing to make one line, and to take their seats upon the Opposition benches. I am afraid that the time has not yet arrived when we can keep the Ministerial benches warm. Reference has been made in the debate to the administration of the Defence Department. The honorable , member for Maranoa, in his usual terse and bellicose style, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, have addressed themselves to the regulations which have been published. One can only wonder that a gentleman in the position of the General Officer Commanding, and so able a statesman as the Minister for Defence, should waste their time in framing such regulations. Some of those who have spoken during the debate have severely criticised the action of the Labour Party in voting for the reduction of the Defence expenditure. In my opinion, it is a good thing that the Estimates were cut down. I agree with those who think that a change should be made in the administration of that Department to meet the undoubted wish of this House. No honorable member likes to see money wasted upon frill and tomfoolery, upon which a great deal has been expended in the past. I believe that the Minister for Defence has the welfare of our citizen forces, and of our rifle clubs, at heart, and that he is as good a Minister as we have so far had; at any rate, he devotes himself to his duties most attentively. I deprecate, however, the manner in which the citizen forces and the rifle clubs have been treated. In my electorate the members of rifle clubs are expected, not only to buy their own rifles, but even to furnish their own ranges. Such a thing is monstrous, and must lead to the disbandment of many clubs which have been a long time in existence, and have done good service. With regard to the treatment given to officers, I should like to read the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph some time ago: -
The importance of the commissariat branch in the military service is well recognised, but the Arbitration Court yesterday was struck with surprise when a cook related how on the occasion of a recent encampment a mess of five officers had a culinary staff of five to attend to their inner wants. Asked by way of preliminary what remuneration he had received while in camp, the witness blandly replied, “Seven bob a day.” “But you had assistance,” continued counsel. “Oh, yes,” was the answer, “four artillerymen helped me.” “What?” gasped the astonished barrister, “five persons to cook for five other persons ! Do I understand you to say that?” “That’s right,” was the reply, “but they were officers, and they often entertain their lad)’ friends with afternoon tea.”
That sort of thing brings ridicule upon the Defence Forces.
– Perhaps when the right honorable gentleman occupied the high and honorable position of Minister for Defence he indulged in these little luxuries, and therefore sympathizes with others. The general public, however, do not. like it.
– They do not mind it. They go to these camps.
– They mind it very much. This sort of thing brings. the Defence Forces into ridicule and contempt.
– Not into contempt.
– No doubt the matter is to the right honorable gentleman second in importance only to the Western Australian railway. The Daily Telegraph has a very wide circulation, as the members of the Opposition will testify.
– It is a very accurate newspaper.
– I do not vouch for its accuracy. When addressing himself to the question of finance, the honorable member for Kooyong ridiculed the proposition of the honorable and learned member for Corio. Now, the honorable member for Kooyong, though a financial magnate, may not be a financial expert. Gentlemen who have the handling of a great deal of money are not always the very highest authorities upon finance; and it appears to me that the scheme propounded by the honorable and learned member for Corio is a very sensible one, and worthy of careful consideration. The Labour Party will discuss the subject in extenso before the session is brought ‘ to an end, and we shall take the earliest opportunity of presenting our views to the House. The only hope for the representatives of New South Wales who desire to see the Federal Capital established is to place the Labour Party upon the Ministerial benches. We shall then be able to demonstrate how the Federal Capital can be established without involving the necessity of burdening the people of the Commonwealth with one shilling of extra taxation. We have a practicable scheme which will commend itself to even the honorable member for Parramatta, who is so hypercritical in these matters. I agree with the honorable member’ for Capricornia that short speeches should be the rule upon an occasion, of this kind, and I hope that 1 have not transgressed the limits of endurance. When fully 75 per cent, of the representatives in the House have spoken, one natural! v feels a desire to unburden himself, and hence I was prompted to address the House. In conclusion, I would again express the hope that the Prime Minister will give his serious consideration to the kanaka question, to which I directed his attention in the early part of mv speech.
– In view of the large number of honorable members who have spoken and the time that has already been occupied by the debate, I shall endeavour to curtail my remarks. I presume that the last general election is a subject of interest to all honorable members, and I am quite with the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Labour Party in asking that there shall be a full inquiry into the administration of the Electoral Act. I do not support this request in any spirit, of antagonism to the Government, or in any spirit of personal animosity to the Chief Electoral Officer. I do not ask for an execution, but simply for an inquiry. I think that there was a great deal of blundering in connexion with the elections. The Minister for Home Affairs holds the idea that those who succeeded at the elections should be content to allow matters to rest, but I do not exactly share that view. For example, in my electorate the returning officer, who was a thoroughly capable and experienced man, had always been consulted previously, as to where polling booths should be provided, but on the last occasion a’ list was forwarded to him from Sydney, and he was instructed to arrange for booths at the places therein named. I saw that no booths had been provided -for at one or two places where a large number of electors resided. I pointed this out to the re-: turning officer, who quite agreed with me, and wired to Sydney pointing out the desirability of having polling booths at the places referred to, and also representing that a booth would not be required at ohe of the localities mentioned in the list, because, since the previous election, all the former residents had left, and only one man, a caretaker, remained. A reply was received that it was impossible to provide the additional polling places suggested, and that the polling booth which the rer turning officer considered unnecessary would have to be arranged for, because it had been gazetted.
– Was there a roll for that one person?
– I suppose so. There might have been more names upon the roll at one time, but, as a matter of fact, the place was deserted. It was found after: wards that even the caretaker had left, and that there was absolutely no one in the locality to vote. There was not a house of any kind, or even a tent, that could be used as a polling booth, and it was suggesed that a carpenter, should be sent out to erect a booth. The returning officer, however, felt that that would involve unnecessary expense, and it was eventually arranged that the presiding officer and the poll clerk should take out with them a hooded buggy, and that that should be used as a polling booth. These two men were sent forty or fifty miles from the centre of population to a place at which there were no voters, and they had to spend the day in idleness. The only vote recorded was that of either the poll clerk or the presiding officer. Two or three places at which’ there had previously been polling booths were omitted from the list furnished by the electoral authorities, and the consequence was that zoo or 300 persons in the back-blocks were unable to record their votes. In one case, that of a station at which from twenty-five to thirty men were employed, no votes could be recorded, because the polling booth previously arranged for was. not provided on this occasion. If it be the settled policy of the Government to erect polling booths where . there are no people, and. to make no provision in places where there are rersidents, I do not think that it will be fair to find fault with the electors for not recording their votes. In. order to save expense,, the- Electoral Department borrowed ballot-boxes from the State Government. Some of these had to be altered, and were sent for a distance of 120 miles to Broken Hill for that purpose. There were a number of carpenters at the- place from which the boxes were sent, and it is reasonable to suppose that one or other of these men might have done all that was required, and thus have saved the expense of conveying the boxes to and fro by mail coach. In another case half-a-dozen additional boxes were required, and instead of having them made locally, the officials in Sydney sent them right through from that city by rail to Broken Hill. Whilst these matters may appear trivial, they tend to show that there was a great deal of blundering, and that it involved unnecessary expense, and- caused great inconvenience. Further, a great deal of carelessness was exhibited in connexion with the rolls, and it is only1 right that’ a careful inquiry should be made in order that the blame may be laid upon the right shoulders: Some of the fault may lie with the Act itself. If so, the law should be altered. If the fault rests with the Chief Electoral Officer, that gentleman should be dismissed, or, if the blame attaches to his subordinates, an opportunity should be taken to appoint a better staff., I think that it is due to the Chief Electoral Officer, regarding whom much has been said, that an inquiry should be held. Personally, I have nothing against that gentleman. I have come into contact with him only four or five times, and on each of these occasions I have been able to obtain what I wanted. I am pleased to notice, from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, that no acceptable tender was received for carrying on the mail service by steamers manned only by white labour, because I am opposed to such subidies as have hitherto been given to the Orient and P. and O- Companies. I understand that, under the old agreement, which was in operation for six or seven years, we joined’ the Imperial Government in paying the companies mentioned .,£170,000 per annum. To this amount we contributed £75,000; whilst the Imperial Government made up the balance. These subsidies were given with four distinct objects. The policy of the Imperial Government, which, I presume^ we followed so far .as the mail subsidy was concerned, was to subsidize mail steamers first, for the carrying of the mails ; secondly, in order to assist the shipbuilding industry ; thirdly, to provide swift armed cruisers; and fourthly, to maintain the supremacy of British commerce. I take it that we are all in accord with these objects, but I hold that it is unfair to charge the Post Office with the whole of the. expense entailed in achieving them. I understand that formerly the Imperial Post Office Department was not charged with the whole of the subsidy, but that the Admiralty had to contribute a large proportion of it. That, I think, was only fair. The Post Office should be charged only with the proportion, given to the companies for the carriage of the mails. Money contributed with other objects, in- view should be debited, to other departments. Our policy has been to provide not only for the carriage of our mails, but also for refrigerating space for. the transport of perishable produce. I do not object to that, but I do not think that the whole cost should be borne by the Post Office. It it be desired to encourage the shipbuilding industry, a Shipbuilding Bonus Bill should be introduced; if we wish to help the Imperial Government to maintain armed cruisers, our naval vote should be debited with a proportionate share of the subsidy, and if we decide to join in maintaining the supremacy of British commerce, the Customs Department should bear a share of the burden. If we desire to assist the export of produce to England, I think that a share of the subsidy should be borne by the Department of Agriculture. Personally, I am strongly in favour of the system of poundage rates being applied to the carriage of our mails. I think that the adoption of that system would insure a swifter delivery of our letters, and would provide us with a service as regular as that ‘ which has hitherto obtained. It must be borne in mind that,. whilst we are paying excessive subsidies, we do not obtain- the advantage of as speedy a delivery of our mails as we ought to receive. Neither the P. and O, nor the Orient vessels would experience the least difficulty in landing their letters in Adelaide at. least a week- earlier than they- do.
– We do*, not want a swift service so much as a regular one.
-But we- want a Speedy service combined with, regularity.
The fact that the mail steamers do .not deliver their letters as quickly as they might can very easily be demonstrated. .Honorable members will .recollect, that, except upon one or two occasions, the Cuzco, which has practically become obsolete, was always .able to land her mails within the contract time. It is, .therefore, apparent that vessels of the class of the Orontes and Mongolia could deliver their mails much more quickly ; but of course it does not pay them to do so. They are subsidized, I believe, to the extent of about .£3,000 per round trip. To accomplish the voyage sooner they would necessarily require to consume a greater quantity of coal. Consequently, there is no inducement to the companies to deliver our mails earlier. If the Commonwealth arranges to pay poundage rates for the carriage of its letters, a great saving will be effected. I understand that a charge .of Jd. for each letter weighing half-an-ounce would be equivalent to £75 per ton. But I would point out that these vessels are willing to carry ordinary freight for £3 . per ton, and surely our mails are a cargo which is worth considering. If Australian letters were forwarded to England by the first boat leaving our shores, with the proviso that any person could indicate .upon them the particular boat by which he desired them to be sent, we should, at least, be insured a .fast service. I should .not allow our mails to be carried, by either .the French or German companies at first. If the other companies formed a shipping ring, and refused to deliver mails within a certain time, I should then be quite willing to throw the carriage of our letters open to the competition of the French and German boats. I am a destructive socialist, because I believe in the destruction of poverty and hunger. If we could not obtain competition, I should be prepared to vote for a proposal to run our own boats, though I presume that as long as Lord Selborne is a director of the P. and O. Co., as well as a Cabinet Minister, some difficulty would be experienced in doing this. I am satisfied that if we could capitalize the!, amount which the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments disburse by way of subsidy, we should’ be able to secure vessels equally well fitted with the best of those engaged in the present service. I am aware that there are some people who urge that the traveller to-day can secure better accommodation and treatment upon the French and German mail steamers than he can upon the. P. and O. .or Orient boats. Although I am a free-trader, I frankly confess :that when I travel - which I do very occasionally - I like to ,do so upon a vessel flying the British -flag. Some honorable members, however, who advocate preferential trade, are .accustomed to travel upon the German and .French mail stamers. I assume, therefore, with some justification, that the accommodation upon these boats is superior lo that which is to be found upon the P. and O. and Orient vessels. When the officers of the latter are asked what is the explanation of this, they usually exclaim, “ Oh, but look at the tremendous’ subsidies which they ;receive.” But I would point out that the same argument is applicable to other lines. Let us take the White Star Company as an example. I Believe that that company has afforded an opportunity to thousands of persons to visit the old country who otherwise could not have done so. It has also enabled a large number of people to come to . Australia who never would have faced the discomforts of a sea trip as steerage passengers in the P. and O. or Orient boats. That being so, I do not see why the White Star Company and other lines should not participate in .this subsidy. .Personally, I object to the payment of any subsidy.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Cape route is sufficiently expeditious for the carriage of mails ?
– I believe in giving equal opportunities to every company
– But if we adopted the course suggested by the honorable member, a mail despatched from the Commonwealth this week would probably not arrive in England until after letters which are forwarded two weeks hence.
– We could not guarantee that the boats would go direct.
– If the vessels did not go direct, the people would soon discover the fact. Some fifteen or sixteen years ago the practice in Victoria, when persons did not indicate on the envelopes the boats by which they desired their letters to travel, was to delay them until the despatch of a regular subsidized vessel.
– That was upon the Californian line.
– No. New South Wales, I think, subsidized the Orient Company, and the Victorian Government the P. and O. Company, or vice versa. There are two classes of letters which are forwarded to England - those of business men, who naturally desire to obtain a speedy delivery of them, and those of the ordinary individual, to whom speed is not a matter of very great consequence. For the past twenty years I have been regularly corresponding with relatives in England, and, except, on very rare occasions, the question of the early delivery of my correspondence was not a serious matter. No subsidy is paid for the carriage of mails between England and America, but poundage is paid, and an enormous saving is thus effected, while the American mails are delivered in London just as regularly as the Londoner has his letters delivered in New York.
– All the business is done by cable.
– I am aware that more business is now transacted by cable than ever previously. If we can save an expenditure of£1 5,000 or£20,000 a year in connexion with our mail contracts, by all means let us do so.
– The honorable member forgets that cable messages must be confirmed.
– I am perfectly aware of that. The up-to-date business man depends more upon the cable than he does upon letters.
– Confirmation of cable advices is necessary.
– But if a business man cables an order to England, the firm to whom it is addressed does not await confirmatory advices before executing it. If he orders a motor car or a motor cycle, for example, it is delivered to him very often before his letter reaches England. I am pleased to notice the reference made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the question of a Commonwealth system of oldage pensions, and although I am aware that in the. opinion of some honorable members that reference is merely so much padding, I trust that the Government are not making a hollow mockery of the matter. It is at all events the duty of the party to which . I belong to see that it does not do so. If this Parliament extends over a period of three years, as I hope it will, it will be the duty of the Labour Party to see that a Commonwealth system of oldage pensions is secured. It is asserted that such a system cannot be established as long as the “Braddon Blot” remains; but I should like to learn from the Prime Minister whether there is anything so sacred about a land-values tax that it is impossible to raise the necessary funds by means of such taxation. Why should a landvalues tax be held to be sacred? Is it something like the Ark of the Covenant - once we touch it are we to die?
– In some States it has already been touched.
– The present Government have not been backward in taxing the food supplies of the people. They have succeeded in imposing duties on condensed milk, rice, porridge, tinned meats, and fish, and many other articles of everyday consumption. I am told that there is a duty on even ginger ale. What, therefore, can there be about a land-values tax that should deter the Government from taking action in the direction I have suggested? While the “Braddon Blot” exists it must be impossible to provide for a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions merely from the Customs revenue; but there is no reason why we should not raise the necessary amount by means of a land tax. All that is required is courage on the part of the Prime Minister. If the honorable and learned gentleman proposed to provide for old-age pensions by means of land taxation he would, of course; arouse the hostility of every daily newspaper in Australia. He certainly would not bask in the smiles of the rich. The wealthy people of the Commonwealth, whether free-traders or protectionists, would oppose sucha proposal.
– I voted for a land-values tax every time that a proposal of the kind was submitted to the Victorian Parliament, and on two occasions I myself submitted such a proposition.
– I am glad to have that statement from the Prime Minister ; it gives us reason to hope that he will have the courage to introduce a system of oldage pensions to be financed by means of a land-values tax. No tax could be more equitable. The land values of Australia have really been built up by the energy and the industry of the soldiers of industry, and an infinitesimal amount of those values would be sufficient to provide for the wants of those who are now unable to work. If the Prime Minister endeavours to grapple with the subject, he will be exposed to much abuse .; but should he be successful he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he has placed upon the statute-book the most humane of all legislation - that he has succeeded in bringing some ray of sunlight and comfort into the homes of tens of thousands of people in Australia, who, without such ‘legislation, are likely to spend their last few years in a ‘ condition little better than that of a lingering death. There is one portion of the Governor-General’s Speech to which I am somewhat strongly opposed. I refer to the paragraph relating to the question of preferential trade. I do not propose this evening to discuss that question, or to say whether preferential trade with the mother country would be good, bad, or indifferent. It seems to me, however, that during the last few years - and especially from the date when the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain took office as Secretary of State for the Colonies - a new policy has been instituted so far as England and her Colonies are concerned. The Colonial Office has been prepared to use the Colonies for party and political purposes in the old land. In’ order that honorable members may more clearly understand what I mean, I shall place an illustration before the House. When England went to war with the Transvaal, it was at once urged that Australian contingents should be sent to South Africa. There was no question of whether the war was justifiable. I remember hearing Sir Edmund Barton - then Mr. Barton - declare in the State Parliament of New South Wales that whether the war was right or wrong it was our duty to send troops to South Africa. The right honorable member for Adelaide, who, according to the Bulletin, is the ideal democrat of Australia, took up a similar position in South Australia, and any one who viewed the matter in a different light was regarded as a proBoer’ and a disloyalist. In the first debate which took place in the House of Commons after the outbreak of hostilities, Mr. Balfour, in answer to Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, said -
We have with us the material proof that our self-governing Colonies beyond the seas are with us heart and soul in this matter; Is it to be believed that if we were engaged upon some piratical transaction against the liberty of another people, those Colonies, the very breath of whose nostrils is self-government and liberty, would have thrown themselves into our cause, would offer us their resources, and aid us with’ their troops? No, sir, we are the butt of much ill-informed and malicious criticism on the part of foreign nations’, but we have with us the conscience of the Empire.
I do not suggest that the majority of the people of Australia did not believe in that war, or that they were not heart and soul with England in the position which she took up. The fact was, however, that the cry raised in Australia was that whether the war was right or wrong it was our duty to help Great Britain; yet we find Mr. Balfour declaring in the House of Commons that the sending of these troops from Australia showed that the hearts of the people of the Commonwealth were with the policy of England. That is an illustration of what is occurring to-day in relation to the preferential trade proposals. Mr. Chamberlain asserts that he has been led to enter upon his great campaign in England because the Colonies desire preferential trade, and while I do not say that what has been done here has been seriously misrepresented at home, the action taken has been used there for party purposes. A newspaper paragraph sets forth that -
The Times attaches more importance to Mr. Deakin’s statement of Ministerial policy. The very fact, it remarks, that two parties - the Opposition and the Labour members - are able in combination to out-vote the Ministerialists adds significance to Mr. Deakin’s declaration in favour “of preferential trade. The Prime Minister must know that he is assured of support beyond the limits of his own party ; otherwise he would have abstained from making so uncompromising a declaration.
If we were asked, apart from all other considerations, whether we favoured preferential trade, I am sure that the majority of the people would reply in the negative.
Mr.- THOMAS. - I desire now to read an -‘extract from a newspaper published in an English constituency, in which I take an interest: In passing I may ‘say that, although some twenty years have elapsed since I left England,- 1 take almost as much interest in the politics of the old country as I did on the day that I landed in Australia. ‘ The constituency to which I refer is ‘at present represented in the House of Commons by a Liberal Unionist, but an effort is being’ made to return a Radical in his stead, and the newspaper in question set forth that -
The cry of the free importers that our colonies do not desire preference has of late been growing fainter. Lord Roseberry and others have tried repeatedly, yet without much conviction, to make us believe that the scheme for Imperial reciprocity is as unpopular, in the Colonies as among Little Englanders at home. As a last resource, the free import party hoped that the Commonwealth of Australia would make no formal expression of its views on the subject. Now, even this hope is destroyed. Mr. Deakin, in cordially inviting Mr. Chamberlain to visit the Australian Colonies, acted not merely on his own behalf, nor on that of his Ministry, but on behalf of the whole Commonwealth.
Whatever may be our views with reference to preferential trade, I am sure the
Commonwealth is not in favour of Mr. Chamberlain visiting Australia as the guest of the Government. The leader of the Opposition has emphatically denounced the proposal that he should come here as the guest of the Government for party and political purposes. The leader of- the Labour Party - and perhaps I should refer to him in this connexion as the honorable member for Bland, because on the fiscal issue the Labour Party knows no leader - has also spoken against it. There are many reasons why Mr. Chamberlain should not be invited to come here under the auspices of the Government, and take part in a party conflict. The Protectionist Association have a perfect right, of course, to request him to come out under their auspices; but no Government have a right to invite a man to come here who has taken such a keen party stand in England as the right honorable gentleman has done. There are many reasons why it would not be advisable for Mr. Chamberlain to visit Australia as the guest of any Government. He has taken a very keen interest and active part in politics, and many of the people of Australia have no great regard for . him. I, for one, look upon him as a man who has gone back upon every reform that .he has advocated, and has betrayed every party with which he has been associated. There alf many persons in Australia who do not look ; upon him as being the statesman that some believe him to be. Those who to-day regard him as a statesman, would not have done so twenty years ago ; those who opposed him then are now his strongest supporters. The point that I wish to make, however, is that, while I do not say whether preferential trade is good, bad, or indifferent, I object to its being made a party question. On ‘ practically every platform in England, it is asserted that, although preferential trade may not be good for England; the Colonies. desire it, and the people at home are asked whether, after the Colonies have done so much for them, they should refuse to listen to the request. In the course of one of his speeches, Mr. Chamberlain himself said -
In Australia, the Prime Minister of Australia, and, I may add, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, have both made this policy of reciprocal preference a leading article in their programme.
Speaking in England, Mr. Chamberlain declared that, as the outcome of the conference the Prime Ministers of the various ‘ Colonies had unanimously agreed to make , preferential trade1 a leading plank in their platform. I do not .know what was the position taken up by Sir Edmund Barton, upon his return from England. He did not say much in reference to this question, but, perhaps, before leaving the world of politics, he handed over the matter to the present Prime Minister. Mr. Chamberlain, on the occasion in question, went on to say that -
My friend, Mr. Reid, the leader of the Opposition in Australia, although he is himself a convinced free-trader, has, if the reports of his speeches have been correct, declared that, if he could not have absolute free-trade, he would be prepared to give the mother country a preference of 50 per cent.
I suppose that every free-trader in Australia would be prepared to give the mother country a preference of 100 per cent. Mr. Chamberlain, in one of his speeches in England, said -
For my part .1 say that when I remember how the Colonies responded to our appeal, when I remember how, when we were in stress and difficulty, they sent us men in thousands and tens of thousands, that they paid us money, small indeed in comparison with our vast expenditure, but not inconsiderable when you bear in mind the relative proportion of our population - when I remember -how when every-one’s hand seemed raised against us we relied and rested on the moral support that we had from these great growing states across the sea, I for one am not prepared to treat their proposals with contempt’, and I believe that we may . negotiate with them without fear of a quarrel ; arid that they will show to us the same spirit of generosity and patriotism, which I hope that we shall be ready to -show to them.
If we are prepared to do for Great Britain what Mr. Chamberlain evidently expects, let us frankly say so. Let the Government place their proposals upon the table of this House, and let the question be discussed absolutely on its merits. Let Mr. Chamberlain and the people of England who are fighting with him know exactly what it is that we are prepared to do. I believe that the Prime Minister and many of his supporters are prepared to negotiate with Great Britain if Great Britain will negotiate with us. Well, there is not a single member in this House, I believe - certainly I am not one - who is indisposed to negotiate if Great Britain wishes it. If the British Government will submit a proposal to us, or if our own Government will submit a proposal, I shall be prepared to listen to it. But that is a very different position from allowing prominent men in England to say that they are advocating their policy for the sake of the Colonies. It was cabled out to Australia a little while ago that Mr.
Chamberlain had said that, if the Colonies did not want preferential trade he would be prepared to abandon the fight, but that it was on behalf of the Colonies - those who had done so much for Great Britain - that he was prepared to make a sacrifice. There is a political party in the mother country which is being handicapped by the action of the Commonwealth Government. Personally, I do not think that the Conservative or Protectionist Party has a hope at the next general election in England. But, at the same time, it is an unfair thing ‘to call upon thousands and tens of thousands of the people of England to vote out of sentiment for the Colonies, when, if that appeal had not been made to them, they would go into another camp. I feel very strongly upon that point. I feel that if an amendment were brought forward against our own Government at this juncture it would not be a fair and square fight, from the point of view of a number of honorable members, because it would concern issues which are quite apart from that of preferential trade. Some would vote against the Government because they were anxious to remove certain sections from our legislation. Others would vote against them for other reasons. The fact that they invited the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain out here would not in itself be a sufficient reason for endeavouring to displace them. So that I say that it is only fair to Australia, to Mr. Chamberlain, and to the people of England that we should have laid upon the table of the House the exact proposals of the Government as soon as they are prepared to submit them. Let them be discussed absolutely on their merits, and the people of England of all political parties know exactly where we are.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).A debate upon the Address in Reply is what has been well described as de omnibus rebus, et quibusdam aliis. For. the uninitiated that may be translated - “ Concerning everything and a few other things.” There are a number of burning questions included in the programme of the Government which is put before us, and I think it is the duty of every honorable member to speak in regard to it, in order that the House, and especially those who have provided the political pabulum which we are to discuss, may know what our feeling is in regard to the proposed measures. Such a debate is a kind of camera obscura, which gathers and concentrates the opinions of the members of the House upon leading, burning, vexed questions. I congratulate the Ministry, in the first place, on having put before us a very interesting programme. No one can complain that it is “ flat, stale, and unprofitable,” and that there is nothing in it to interest anybody. We have seen manifestoes and Governor’s Speeches which were marked by that characteristic. But this is decidedly an interesting programme, and whether we agree with it in detail or not there can be no doubt that there is. something in it for’ everybody.I shall pass over, the references to international matters, which usually mean nothing, and come down to the first part of the programme, concerning which every honorable member who has spoken has prefaced his remarks by explaining his attitude. In connexion with that subject there has been a very decided, unwarranted, malicious, and. malignant attack made- upon a certain party in this House, which is called the third party. We have been challenged to explain our presence here. We have been challenged to define our position, our theory; and the political school to which we: belong. One honorable member was concerned as to what socialism meant, and many people have been cudgelling their brains to find out what is meant by that word. Many of them are as far’ off as ever from throwing any light upon the subject. Some people during the recent elections went round declaring that the members of the Labour Party were anarchists. On other occasions we were denounced as communists. Then, again, we were described as socialists ; and I, for one, thought that it would have been a kindness on the part of somebody to present each of these gentlemen with a dictionary that could be carried round in the waistcoat pocket. It would have been a godsend to them, and would have saved .a great deal of misconception. For the benefit of those who are puzzled I will define what I mean by socialism. Socialism, as we mean it - that is, State socialism - is that organization which seeks the greatest happiness of the greatest number by constitutional and political means.
– The honorable member for Koovong gave us that definition.
– If that was the honor- able member’s definition I am glad that he understood so clearly what’ socialism is. And if that be socialism I have a very high authority to quote, no less than His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII., who said, on one occasion, “ We are all socialists nowadays.” Again, if that be a true definition of socialism I have to ask - , why these malicious and malignant misrepresentations of the party which has indorsed that definition of its policy and fought for such principles? Why is there this false view of the third party? Are we so common or unclean that we cannot be associated with? Why should! we be isolated and insulated into a third party? There is no third party. We have all along advocated measures, not men; and when we see the measures of the Government and the alternative proposals of the Opposition we shall be ready to range ourselves on the one side or the other. We indorse everything which appeals in (the Governor-General’s Speech, but we do not intend to stop half-way. We are prepared to follow the principles there contained to their logical termini That will bring the Government and the members of the Labour Party to a meeting place. The only question upon which we are likely to split is a difference, not. of principle, but of detail in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Government are to be commended for their attempt to give some solidarity to the conflicting factory legislation of the States, but they are not to be congratulated upon the invidious distinction which they have made between classes .by exempting from the application of their measure the seamen and the public servants. There should be no such exemption. Is it not the whole end and aim of the measure to do justice? That being so, does the . Government expect honorable members to support a distinction such as they have made? Are we to say to these large and important’ sections of the community, “You shall have no standing in this final appeal court for disputes between masters and men “ ? We can make no such distinction. I could not go before those who sent me here, and say that I am prepared to place a large, important, respectable, and intelligent section of the community outside the scope of the Bill. I think that I was elected largely because I refused to make such an invidious distinction between one class and another. The only plausible reasons given for it are ‘ that to apply the provision’s of the Bill to public servants would be a needless and wanton interference with the rights “of the States, and that it would be impossible for the Treasurers of the States to frame satisfactory Budgets if it were within the power of an outside tribunal to alter the wages of the servants of the States. To use those arguments is merely to raise a dust and complain, that one cannot see. Every one knows that there is no- finality in the action of a State Government. There is always a right of appeal from court to court, until the Privy Council is reached. But the disputes which will be brought before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will rarely have to’ do with the question of wages. The late trouble in Victoria between the railway men and the State Government arose about what those who regard money as everything would call a sentimental grievance, the right of the railway- servants to ally themselves with a certain organization. Any decision of a Commonwealth Court in that case would not have interfered with the State Budget. I can understand the action of the Prime Minister in this case. He went to Ballarat and there issued a Ministeral manifesto, in which he said that he was not prepared to apply the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to public servants and seamen. The country indorsed nine- tenths of his programme,- but I think that upon counting noses it will be found that a majority of those whom the electors have returned here are in favour of applying the provisions of the measure to those classes. If the Government are beaten upon the point, as they were during the Committee’ consideration of the last Bill, it will be their dutv to still go. on with the measure.
– What then will become of responsible government ?
– This is merely a matter of detail.
– It is a vital issue.
– No; the general principle of the Bill will have been affirmed, and the Prime Minister will not be doing right in refusing to proceed with its consideration if he is defeated upon a mere matter of detail.
– He says that the application of the provisions of the measure to public servants would interfere with the rights of the States.
– The States have surrendered their right to deal with this matter. How, then, can it be said to be an. infringement of States rights to bring the public servants under this Bill. The Constitution, and not the Minister, is my authority. (
– Have the States surrendered their right to tax themselves for their own services ?
– Certainly not.
– That, I think, is the point the Prime Minister made.
– Commonwealth rights and States rights- here overlap, the States having surrendered their right to deal with any dispute extending beyond the limits of a State. If that surrender involves the servants of a State, that State must bow. Mr. Wilks. - The honorable member desires the Government to bow and go on with the Bill.
– I do not ; I want, the Government to bow to the will of the people, and, as democrats, the Government ought to do so. The Prime Minister put his manifesto before the country at Ballarat, and that manifesto was indorsed by the people, with the qualification that they differed from the head of the Government on a matter of detail, but not on a matter of principle. The Government have no right to stake their existence on any but a matter of principle. This will be the one Bill which will absorb the attention of the House, and once the measure is before us, I sincerely hope that it will be taken possession of by the majority who are in favour of the inclusion of the public servants.
– Take possession of the Ministry ? ‘
– We shall be prepared to even do that ; but in the meantime, if the Bill is read a second time, we intend to insist on the inclusion of the Public Service. I trust that the good sense and kindly feeling which marks the personnel of the Government will not allow them to persist in passing the measure with a blemish upon it, but that they will bow to the decision of the country, and thus prove themselves democrats, not only in word, but in deed. There ought to be a parting of the ways somewhere, but, unfortunately, classes and schools have overlapped so much that we find good democrats who are free-traders, and equally good democrats who are protectionists.
– -1he latter by accident.
– No, by design. We want a line of cleavage, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill marks the parting of the ways and will determine on which side honorable members stand. We cannot have any invidious distinctions, and we are not going to stultify our Conciliation and. Arbitration Bill by excluding a highly respect able and numerous section of the community. I have a word or two to say about preferential tirade. I need hardly tell honorable members that I rejoice exceedingly that a proposal of the kind has come before us. I am heart and soul in favour of the principles laid down or suggested by Mr. Chamberlain, not only recently, but as far back as 1896. It is always painful to. find one’s self in a minority, but when the great war fever or furore was on, I was one who look what was regarded as an unpatriotic view, and expressed opinions which could be, and were, misconstrued into disloyalty. I took that view because I had no faith in Mr. Chamberlain, who forsook the party for whom I fought loyally as a member of the rank and file in the old country for twenty years. I felt that I ought ‘to speak out, and I did speak out, and taking an unpopular view, I had to bear opprobrium as a . pro-Boer. I am heartily glad, however, to be able to indorse Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal in the direction of free-trade, because I feel sure that, if we are to bind the distant membra disjecta of this ‘Empire into solidarity, there must be a union of interest. as well as a. union of sentiment. It must be made worth the people’s while to be loyal. It is humiliating to confess that men are loyal mostly in the direction in which their interests lie; but I am perfectly sure that a sentimental, visionary loyalty would be very transient unless supported by tangible, profitable, substantial advantages .in the form of preferential trade. Does it not seem absurd that while we in Australia are a great emporium for breadstuff’s, Great Britain gives’ us no preference, but throws her doors open alike to foreigner and friend.
– Are those the teachings of the Great Master?
– I fancy I know the teachings of the Great Mas’ter as well as does the honorable member, but those teachings have nothing whatever to do with preferential trade. I quoted, or I intended to quote, the Great Master this evening in the words - “ Whatsoever ve would that men should do to you do ve even so to them.”
– Then why not free the Australian ports to Britain ?
– The honorable member for North Sydney would be very glad if our ports were free to all men; he certainly would not be content with freeing the ports to Britain. We are making a bargain, and are certainly not going to throw away a tangible advantage. We are not proposing to open our ports, to Great Britain merely for the sake of doing so, or for the sake of loyalty to Great Britain.
– Loyalty to right is better than loyalty to Great Britain.
– I have already said that we must make it worth people’s while to be loyal, and there is now an opportunity.
– The doctrine of unselfishness is the doctrine of the Great Master.
– “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and I want to present my views in as few words as possible. I congratulate the Government on their very interesting programme, and I wish they may live to see it carried through. If the Government are true to their principles, they will get loyal support from the party with which I am associated. That I can promise them; but there need be no fear of a third party. Let me tell honorable members that there are not three parties. There are but two parties. The moment principles and measures, not men, are before us, we range ourselves upon one side or the other. We shall find that there are good democrats in the ranks of our honorable friends opposite, also democratic followers of the Government supporting us when we come to deal with the vital issue of including or excluding a large, respectable, and, I may say, a very much illused section of the community’, namely, the public servants. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, and we should make no invidious distinction as to the persons to whom we shall give the right of appeal to the highest tribunal in the land for settlement of all vexed questions. I hope we shall be able to challenge the verdict of the civilized world when Ave claim that we have done what we could to prevent industrial disputes between men and masters. There should be no class in our community without the right of appeal to justice, or refused a hearing for its grievance. I hope we shall provide all’ the necessary machinery to put into execution such a law that we may be able to say that Australia is a land without strikes, and without internal disputes. If anything will attract capital, and if anything will attract desirable immigrants to this country, it surely will be a knowledge of the fact that an industrial dispute is an absolute impossibility within the confines of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. McDonald) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I must ask the honorable member not to press that motion. Last night, as is -often the case on Tuesdays, we adjourned early. I regret that the honorable member did not then move the adjournment of the debate to enable him to speak this afternoon. But for a misunderstanding, I believe he would have done so. The position in which we find ourselves now is that if the debate is extended over to-morrow four or five more speakers will take part in it who, I under-, stand, have agreed to waive their right to do so if the debate is closed to-night. Therefore, although it may be at some personal inconvenience to the honorable member for Kennedy, and may impose upon him a burden which I am very reluctant to ask him to accept, I hope the honorable member will see his way not to press the motion he has moved when he learns that we can close the debate to-night if he speaks now.
– I shall divide the House on it.
– I hope the honorable member will not do so. I think I am making a reasonable request.
– We adjourned at 10 o’clock last night.
– Honorable members will remember that in consenting to the early adjournment last night I asked them to agree to close the debate to-night. That was the warning given. The honorable member for Kennedy could have spoken earlier to-day if he had chosen to do so.
– I could not, as every speaker was arranged for.
– I might wish to speak.
– I have been informed that honorable members who desire to speak agreed to waive their right to do so if the debate was closed to-night. In the circumstances, I ask the honorable member for Kennedy to help us to close the debate.
– I ask the Prime Minister to favorably consider the request of the honorable member for Kennedy. The time has been occupied to-day, not by members of the Opposition, but by members of the Ministry, and honorable members who do not sit on this side of the House.
– Only one member of the Ministry spoke to-day.
– Another spoke last night. It cannot be said that during the debate there has been any obstruction. The honorable member for Kennedy is entitled to a better opportunity to speak in the debate than will be afforded him if he is asked to speak to-night. It must also be remembered that there are some honorable members absent who did not anticipate that the debate would close to-night.
– Does the honorable member say that there are other honorable members on the Opposition side who desire to speak ?
-I understand that is so.
– Iwas not aware of that.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I think I may venture to ask honorable members, not only to aid us in closing the debate on the Address in Reply to-morrow night, as we certainly can do, but to aid us in closing it to-morrow afternoon, so that before we part this week we may be able to deal with the question of privilege upon the paper, and if possible also - and I am willing if it is thought we can finish the debate to allow it to have precedence - with the question of the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal. If a motion upon that question is to be passed in any form it should be passed at once. If it can be disposed of this week the paper will be left clear next week for the Arbitration Bill and other measures, arid we can proceed with them without interruption.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister, in the interests of honorable members generally, to the necessity for fixing a time for the Easter recess. I also suggest that that recess, by a little extension, might be taken advantage of to give a number of honorable members who have not yet, visited the sites proposed for the Federal Capital, an opportunity to do so, in order that the subsequent proceedings of the House in connexion with the selection of the site may be more intelligently followed by them.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister for External Affairs) - I admit that it is necessary that Easter week should be given to honorable members, as it would be making an undue demand upon them to ask them to attend here on a short week. I understand that it is the wish of some new members to make individual visits - no general visit is proposed - to the sites suggested for the Federal Capital, and I am prepared to grant an adjournment which will enable those who may think fit so to do to inspect one or other, or, better still, both of the sites suggested.
– The three sites suggested.
-Lyndhurst did not occur to me, because it may be visited with so little expenditure of time at any week end. I think the proposal suggested by the acting leader of the Opposition, which the honorable member did the the favour to mention privately, is reasonable, and I shall be prepared to more the adjournment of the House on the Thursday night before Good Friday for a fortnight. That will give time to honorable members who care to do so to visit all the sites.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040316_reps_2_18/>.