House of Representatives
27 October 1904

2nd Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 6201

QUESTION

CHARGES ON PRINTED POSTAL MATTER

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question without notice. I am informed that c-.very mail brings from England a large quantity of printed matter, consisting of price-lists, market reports, and catalogues, much of which is refused by the addressees because of the charges made on it by the Postal Department. ‘ On what principle does the Department proceed in making these charges ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– My honorable friend was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask this question. The charges are made in pursuance of an arrangement between the Customs and Postal Departments. I will read the information which I have on the subject: -

Tariff item 122 (a) is as follows : - “ Paper - Manufacturers of, Unframed, for advertising purposes, including price lists, catalogues, and all printed or lithographed matter for such purposes, per lb., 3d.”

But the undermentioned concession was authorized in the Tariff Guide: - “ Catalogues or price lists. Single copies received from exporting houses for the use of merchants may be admitted free of duty. This privilege is not to apply to those imported for distribution.”

On the nth April, however, the late Minister directed that such concession should cease, and an order was issued accordingly to the effect that on and after 1st September next all price lists and catalogues will be charged duty, irrespective of the purpose for which imported, or to whom addressed.

The collection of duty on single catalogues is attended with some difficulty. In cases where the circulars or catalogues are consigned to an agent in Australia, for distribution here, the procedure is simple, as the agent is enabled to pay duty and clear the whole as a bulk line. But when the articles are addressed singly, the collection of duty is not such an easy matter.

In some cases the amount payable on each catalogue would not exceed one penny, and it would be manifestly impossible to expect each addressee to call at the Post Office and clear his or her particular catalogue or circular. The following plan, adopted in Victoria hitherto, appears to offer the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty.

The duty payable is made a surcharge on the packet, by means of postage due stamps, and is collected by the Post Office officials from the addressee before delivery. The revenue thus obtained is credited to the Postal Department, instead of to Customs, .but both Departments being under the Commonwealth, this does not appear a very serious objection. Moreover, it is very probable that many persons to whom the advertising matter is addressed, will refuse to accept delivery when the payment of the surcharge is inflicted, so that it is not likely the amount of revenue at stake will be very large.

The Minister of Trade and Customs has approved of the foregoing, and the concurrence of the Postmaster-General is sought, in order that the system may be put in operation.

The Postmaster-General of the day accordingly gave bis concurrence to the arrangement.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:

– Are these charges made on the assumption that this matter might be printed in Australia? If so, I think that that assumption is in many cases without justification.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The charges are made under the Tariff Act. The whole question was submitted to the Minister of Trade and Customs and to the PostmasterGeneral of the day, and as the difficulty of collecting the duty on single packets was very great, it was agreed that the PostmasterGeneral should collect it by way of surcharge.

QUEENSLAND SUGAR PRODUCTION.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I wish to know from the Treasurer if the returns on page 6 of his Budget papers, as to the production of sugar by white and by black labour, have been verified ? In Queensland the results are shown to be so extraordinary that I feel certain that the figures cannot be correct. It is stated, for instance, that in 1902, 1,521 whites produced 12,254 tons of sugar, and 975 blacks produced 65,581 tons. In 1902 the white growers produced one-eighth of the quantity of sugar produced by the black growers; in 1903, onesixth; and in 1904, one-seventh. In 1902, -the whites produced 8 tons per man per annum, and the blacks 67. In 1903, the whites produced 12 tons per man per annum, and the blacks 60 tons ; and in- 1904, the whites produced 14 tons per man per annum, while the blacks produced 97 tons per man per annum. The figures for New South Wales are much more reasonable, and seem to be correct.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Treasurer · BALACLAVA, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– The honorable and learned member misapprehends the meaning of the word “producer.” The figures do not refer to the men actually working as labourers on the cane fields ; the number of producers is the number of persons registered as owners of properties on which cane is being grown. While the white producers - that is, the registered proprietors, who grow Cane solely with the aid of white labour - have generally small holdings, many of the black producers - that is, the proprietors who grow cane with the aid of black labour - are companies, and hold large areas, employing a large number of men.

Mr Batchelor:

– Then a black producer need not be a black man at all.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– It is not meant that the proprietor of the plantation is a white man or a black man, but that he employs white or black labour, as the case may be. I believe that the figures aTe correct. The Treasury has no means of checking them, but they were supplied by the Customs Department from information obtained by Customs officials in New South Wales and Queensland. I myself saw that the acreage of black and white production was very nearly alike in Queensland.

Sir John Forrest:

– No ; not half.

Mr Fisher:

– Not the cultivated acreage.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I am giving the information supplied to us as to the area under cultivation. I saw there was a great discrepancy in the production of sugar; and’ my idea was that it arose from the fact that those who employed white labour were in the southern parts of the sugar districts, where there has been cultivation for year’s, and where the crops are not so large as in the northern parts, where the greater part of the black labour is used, and there is practically virgin soil. That was my idea of th’e explanation ; but to be on the safe side, I telegraphed to the Collector in Queensland for information. I learn from my officers that a telegram has been received to-day, saying that a letter containing the information will arrive to-morrow, and to that letter I shall give every publicity.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– May I make an addition to my question, in, order to prevent any misunderstanding on the part of the Treasurer ? This return is headed “ White and Black Producers,” but at the top of each column there appear the words, “white labour,” and “black labour.”

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is the honorable and learned member asking a question?

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes, I am asking whether the Treasurer will- insert words to indicate clearly to the people who .read the return, whether it refers to the proprietors or the men who do the labour?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– We have to curtail the headings in these returns as much as possible, but I shall take an opportunity to make the meaning perfectly clear to every honorable member.

page 6203

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

Business of the Session.

Mr REID:
Minister of External Affairs · East Sydney · Free Trade

– I promised tomake a statement to the House with reference to the proposals of the Government as to the business for the remainder of the session, and I propose to make that statement now. I think the Government will consult the convenience of honorable members generally if an effort be made to so despatch public business as to enable Parliament to rise in the beginning of December. That is the desire of the Government ; but, of course, we are prepared to continue beyond that date if necessary. We ask the co-operation of honorable members, and of members of the Senate, to endeavour to bring about the result I have indicated. I should now like to mention the matters with which we propose to deal before the session closes. Before doing so, however. I may point out, not only for the information of the House, but for the information of the public generally, that, as a matter of fact, for the past eighteen months there has (been a recess of only something under a month, and that was a recess prior to indulging in the pleasures of a general election. I think that fact ought to be known as a reply to a number of people outside, who are always speaking to the countrv as though this Parliament were never in session. As a matter of fact, there is no Parliament in the world which is so much in session.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– No Parliament which sits so long and does so little !

Mr Fisher:

– I thought the complaint was that we had done too much.

Mr REID:

– I should not like to make the remark just uttered by the honorable member for Franklin, but as the result of my experience generally, since I came into public life, I will say that itby no means follows that the longer the session the more the work. My impression is that it sometimes happens that when sessions are not of undue length more work is done than if they are long.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is in accordance with what mathematicians call the inverse ratio.

Mr REID:

– That is sometimes the fact. This House met, as honorable members know, at the beginning of March, so that by the beginning of December we shall have been in session for nine months of the year. There may be some rare exceptions in the Chamber who would like to sit for twelve months in the year; but I do not suppose honorable members who come from very distantparts of Australia are anxious to be complete exiles from their States. Whether that be so or not, the Government propose to use every legitimate effort to bring the public business to an end by the beginning of December.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Or earlier if possible.

Mr REID:

– I do not care how much earlier we may complete the business, but I do not think it possible to fix an earlier date. In the first place, the Government is earnestly desirous that the Arbitration Bill should be finally dealt with before the prorogation - that is a foremost matter of importance in connexion with the measures now before the two Chambers. Then after the Budget debate is finished I think it is of pressing importance that we should pass the Estimates, and get to the first stage of the Appropriation Bill. I think honorable members will agree with me that the Papua Bill ought to be completed this session. We have only one clause for consideration in this House, all the others having been passed; and I think honorable members will be of opinion that the sooner the management of this Possession is put on a business footing the better.

Mr Bamford:

– Will the Bill be recommitted ?

Mr REID:

– As I intimated, I shall yield to any reasonable request in that direction. If I omit any Bill in. the course of this statement, I shall be glad if some honorable member will remind me of it, because I did forget to mention one or two on the last occasion. Now, however, I have provided myself with notes, so that I do not think there will be any mistake. The Government also hope to complete the Transcontinental Railway Survey Bill, and I may here sav that both Houses of the Western Australian Parliament have passed resolutions to reserve twenty-five miles on both sides of the route within the State. We shall also have to. introduce a short Billto amend the Defence Act, practically, however, only in one respect. The Government propose to submit to the House the result of their deliberations with reference to a system of reorganization of the Military Forces, and the decision we have arrived at involves some slight alteration of the Defence Act. We are very sorry to have to add this Bill to the list, but an amendment is absolutely necessary to bring about the changes the Government intend to submit to the House. The Minister of Defence proposes, under an arrangement which I feel sure the House will sanction, to make his statement as to the proposed reorganization in Committee of Supply on the Estimates. He will do so very soon after the discussion on the Estimates has begun, so that honorable members may have some interval of time in which to consider his propositions before we reach the Defence Estimates. The Cabinet came to a final decision only today, but the Minister of Defence will be prepared on Tuesday to make his statement, and the Defence Estimates will be postponed for a reasonable time in order, as I have said, to give honorable members full time to consider the proposals. We hope, also, to pass the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill. This measure has been passed by the Senate, and if we can deal with it this session it willbecome an Act. I do not desire to go into any details as to some provisions of the measure which mav have to be considered, but, if it be possible, I am sure honorable members on both sides will be glad to have it passed into law. Then there is a short Bill we should like to complete, but I admit it deals with a subject of some difficulty, namely, the extraordinary conditions under which persons have to ship fruit from Australia to other countries. The whole subject will have to be considered, probably, in connexion with the Navigation Bill. We think that the conditions which shipping agents and shipowners impose upon consignors of perishable products sent from Australia are so foreign to common sense and equity that it will be necessary to control them by Act of Parliament.

Mr Hutchison:

– That is a good Socialistic measure.

Mr REID:

– I donot care what honorable members call it, so long as they pass it. Some day or other we shall have a set debate upon the different definitions of “ Socialism.” In the meantime. I wish to sav that if I can help the individual enterprise of the producers of Australia by the use of the powers of the Legislature, I shall be most happy to do so. I stop short of abolishing the enterprise of individuals, and converting their industries into Government factories. However, I hope that the inflammable season will not set in in connexion with this useful measure. I should like also to say that although we have already given a week to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in connexion with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, we are very anxious to afford him a further opportunity to deal with that measure.

Mr Mahon:

– Give him another week.

Mr REID:

– I cannot invite my honorable friend to help the Government in a matter of that kind yet, and I will not make any promise upon the subject; but

Ave are anxious to give the honorable member for Eden-Monaro a chance to push his. Bill through.

Mr Thomas:

– What ! After the right honorable gentleman’s speech against the Bill?

Mr REID:

– If my honorable friend could only speak as well as he can interrupt, he would be a statesman. There is another subject, upon the importance of which we all agree, although widely different views are taken in this Chamber in reference to it, that is, preferential tradeAs I have said, we do not at all propose to accept the honorable member for Hume as a leader upon that great subject. We think that the natural leader of the movement in Australia in favour of preferential trade is the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and as we have said, we proposeto give him an opportunity of introducing that subject. We have, the less difficulty in doing that, because there is no doubt whatever that the subject was thoroughly canvassed at the last general election, and is, therefore, one upon which the House may be fairly invited to express its opinion. I think honorable members will agree with me, however, that it is one upon which a very lengthy debate must take place.

Mr Mauger:

– Is there any chance of our passing a Bill upon New Zealand lines ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The debate would be absolutely barren.

Mr REID:

– It would be perfectly inconsistent with the state of public business and the length of time we have been sitting, for the Government to give time this session for that discussion ; but we propose, at an early stage next session, to afford the honorable and learned member for Ballarat an opportunity to take the sense of the House on that subject.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– What are we to do in the meantime?

Mr REID:

– I think that in the meantime, the honorable member had better consult Mr. Anstey. He would do better to occupy himself in that way during the next six months than to devote his attention to any other matter.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The right honorable member may safely leave Mr. Anstey to me. 1

Mr REID:

– May I point out to the honorable member that as we have been sitting for nine months out of the twelve, only some gentleman who has some ulterior motive to serve, some highly disorganized individual who has no sense of proportion, would wish to sit’ for a longer period.

Mr Mahon:

– And no desire that the Government shall get into recess.

Mr REID:

– I am told that since the delightful events of yesterday, a new party has been formed in this House, which is composed of a large majority of the members of all parties. That party has only one plank - one with which every member of the Government agrees - and it is called the “ Recess Part v.”

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I can quite sympathize, as I am sure every honorable member must, with the anxiety of the Government to g,et into recess within a reasonable time. I do not say that in any party spirit, because it must be recognised that an immense strain is imposed on honorable members who have to leave their homes and travel to and from Melbourne, as we have been asked to do for a considerable time past, in order to transact the business of the country.

Sir Langdon Bonython:

– We are all included in the Melbourne Directory as residents of Melbourne.

Mr WATSON:

– It would be very difficult to decide where I am residing at the present time. I think that there is a matter even’ more important than the question of our getting into recess. With all our anxiety to conclude the work of the session, we ought to have some regard to the amount of work of an urgent character that is to be transacted, and, so far as I am concerned, T am prepared to suffer all the inconveni ence involved in staying in Melbourne a little longer if we can pass a few of the more urgent measures that are awaiting our decision. The suggested programme for the balance of the session put forward by the Prime Minister, does not seem to me to be quite complete. So far as the Estimates are concerned, I do not anticipate that any great length of time will be consumed in their discussion. No doubt there are some items to which exception will be taken, but I can assure the Prime Minister that there will be nothing like obstruction. There remains then the Papua Bill, which, as the Prime Minister has said, is nearly complete, and can be disposed of, I think, in a portion of an evening. I know that upon one. question some difficulty may arise, but even with regard to that I do not think that any lengthy discussion will ensue. The Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Survey Bill has been almost disposed of, so far as this House is concerned, and will not take up much more .of our time. With regard to the proposed amendment of the Defence Act, if the course proposed by the Minister is that which we have reason to anticipate from something that was published in this morning’s newspapers-

Mr McCay:

– I do not say whether the statement published bv the newspapers is right or wrong. The information did not come from official sources.

Mr WATSON:

– As I say, if we have any justification for assuming that the intentions of the Government have been correctly represented, it does not seem to me that the proposed amendment of the Defence Act will take up a very large amount of time. The Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill is a measure that we should endeavour to pass. No doubt, great. evils exist which the Bill will tend largely to remedy. We cannot meet all the existing conditions-

Mr Fisher:

– More is the pity

Mr WATSON:

– But we can go a long way in that direction. I quite agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that it is a pity the Federal authority is not clothed with greater powers in this regard ; but as far as our powers allow us to act. I think that Bill is of a verv important character. Then again, the Bills of Lading Bill is a measure which the Opposition can welcome. It is quite in consonance with the policy of the party upon this side of the House that the operations of the producers of the community should be facilitated to the utmost extent, consistently of course with a due regard for justice to other people. So far as I am able to glean, there is an urgent necessity for some reform in that direction in the interests of our producers. We have been informed by the Prime Minister that further time will be afforded for the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. So far as I am concerned, there is one omission from the statement of the Prime Minister which is even more important than is even that measure. I refer to the Trade Marks Bill.

Mr Reid:

– We have not yet received it from the Senate.

Mr WATSON:

– It is almost, if not quite, through the other Chamber.

Mr Reid:

– I am informed that the contrary is the case. I understand that there is a prospect of some debate taking place there.

Mr WATSON:

– I have been informed by some senators that the other Chamber is practically agreed upon that Bill. I urge that there is a grave necessity for the passing of a measure of that description. All the machinery necessary for its working is already in. existence. Its passage will involve no greater expenditure than is involved to-day in the working of the Patents Act, and in the absence of a Federal Trade Marks Act, a state of things which is altogether inconsistent with the Federal idea will be perpetuated. That is a very undesirable condition of affairs. To-day it is impossible for a man by one registration to secure protection for a trade mark throughout Australia. Further, it is possible - as it was in pre-Federal times - to register the same trade mark in different States on behalf of different persons. That practice has a very confusing effect upon the transport of manufactured goods from one State to another. It is a Bill upon which no great controversy can arise. T notice that some objection has been taken to one feature of that Bill, but only to one feature, and a vote of this House could decide its acquiescence or otherwise in that principle. The objection on the part of some persons to a provision which was recently inserted in that Bill by the Senate, does not seem to me a sufficient cause for delaying its passage. It is a measure of a non-controversial character-

Mr Knox:

– It is supported by all commercial men.

Mr WATSON:

– Undoubtedly. Every commercial man realizes the necessity of remedying, at as early a date as possible, the evils which it as designed to correct. It is the natural corollary oof the Patents Act.

Some time ago I expressed surprise that the previous Ministry had not seen its way to submit the two measures simultaneously, and to pass them almost concurrently, because the one is merely the complement of the other. I think that the Government will be well advised if they make an effort to pass that measure in the interests of the commercial community, and I can assure them that I will use my best endeavours to limit the discussion upon it in every possible way, so as to secure its earlypassage through the House.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– There is only one clause upon which there is any division of opinion.

Mr WATSON:

– That is so. Those honorable members who are associated with me will not hamper its passing on that account. We entertain certain opinions, b”.t expression can be given to them without delaying the taking of a vote. So far as the other matter mentioned by the Prime Minister is concerned, I must express regret that the Government cannot see their way clear to allow the House an opportunity to express its opinion upon the question of preferential trade during this session. It is true that the matter was put before the electors upon the occasion of the appeal to them in December last, and for a considerable time I was of opinion that there was no necessity to take further action owing to the fact that a clear expression of their views had then been obtained. But since I formed that, view it has been shown that a considerable difference of opinion exists in the motherland as to the desire of Australia in this connexion. In the interests of those who are engaged in the controversy in England - irrespective of the side which they may take - I think it is desirable that this confusion should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment. If it is a fact that the people of Australia do not desire to enter into a scheme of preferential trade, the sooner that view is expressed-

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– What confusion exists in England?

Mr WATSON:

– Speaking in England a few weeks ago, Lord Rosebery said it was altogether a mistake to affirm that Australia desired preferential trade.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– We cannot help what he says..

Mr WATSON:

– The honorable member asks me what confusion exists in the mother country, aand when I give him an instance of the different opinions which are entertained there as to the position which Australia occupies in this connexion, he replies, “We cannot help what a gentleman there may think.”

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– There is no confusion in “his statement.

Mr WATSON:

– I am quite willing to allow the honorable member to express his bpinion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I cannot; I wish that I could.

Mr WATSON:

– The honorable member may be precluded from doing so by the Standing Orders, but he generally manages to evade them. No honorable member of this House does that more effectively than does the honorable member. His interjections are almost interminable, and are equivalent to many speeches.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Would it not be more correct to say that some Australians wish to enter into a scheme of preferential trade, but not Australia ?

Mr WATSON:

– In my view, Australia desires to ratify such a scheme. Whatever views we may hold in this connexion, I contend that it is highly desirable that we should give expression to them now, and not after the lapse of six or nine months, or more.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Let us all send a note to Mr. Chamberlain.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not think that the adoption of that course would achieve the result I desire. I do think that some opportunity should be afforded this House to register its opinion upon the question. I shall be surprised indeed to learn that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat acquiesces in the suggestion that we should defer our decision upon it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– He is acquiescing in his election pledges - that is all.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order !

Mr WATSON:

– The honorable member for Parramatta is the most persistent interjector in this House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The trouble is that the honorable member only hears me.

Mr WATSON:

– The honorable mem- ber’s voice is so wretchedly harsh that I Cannot help hearing him. I do not know of anything in the election pledges of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I do not think that the honorable member does.

Mr WATSON:

– If the honorable member will permit me to get a word in edgeways, it may result in saving the time of this House. I know of nothing in the pledges of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat which will preclude him from asking for an early expression of opinion from honorable members of this Chamber, and from the other branch of the Legislature, upon this most important question. As the honorable member for Hume has been referred to by the Prime Minister, I may mention that he intimated to me that he has no wish to take this question out of the hands of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. It was because no action was being taken upon a matter which was very dear to him that he placed his motion relating to it upon the business-paper. The Prime Minister has since indicated that it would be regarded as a motion of no confidence, but I can assure him that it was not put forward with any such view, but merely with the idea of securing an expression of opinion upon the question at the earliest possible moment. I trust that the Prime Minister will see the necessity of giving some consideration to the Trade Marks Bill and the important question of preferential trade before the session closes.

page 6207

QUESTION

PAPER

Mr. REID laid upon the table the following paper : -

Telegrams from Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister notifying resolutions passed by both Houses of the Western Australian Parliament with regard to reservation of Crown lands along the proposed route of the. railway between Kalgoorlie and the eastern boundary of ‘the State.

“OTHER” EXPENDITURE.

Mr MAHON:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Whether there is any objection to lay on the table of the House the opinions of the law officers of the Crown in respect to the Treasurer’s interpretation of Section 89 of the Constitution to charge the “ Other “ expenditure of the Commonwealth on a population basis.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I think that it would be undesirable to establish a precedent by laying on the table of the House an opinion given by the Attorney-General. If any honorable member desires to peruse the opinion given by him in regard to this matter, however, I shall have much pleasure in allowing him to read the document.

page 6208

QUESTION

ELECTORAL ROLLS, QUEENSLAND

Mr BAMFORD:

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. Whether the Minister is aware chat it is stated that; in collecting names for the electoral rolls in Queensland, the word “permanent” in regard to residence has been inserted in Form A?
  2. Whether this insertion has been made by the authority or with the knowledge of the Minister?
  3. If not inserted by permission of the Minister, will he take such steps as may be necessary to insure that the spirit of the Federal Electoral Act, whichprovides that six months residence is sufficient to qualify for a vote, be maintained in the collection of the rolls?
  4. If the Minister has authorized the use of the word “ permanent,” will he give his reasons for so doing ?
  5. If the Minister has not authorized the use of the word “permanent” in Form A, will he ascertain by whose authority the word has been inserted ?
  6. If names have been excluded from the rolls, as alleged, on the ground that the applicants are not permanent residents of the locality in which the applications have been made, will the Minister issue instructions that the names of such persons be at once included in the rolls?
Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 4. No authority has been given for the insertion of the word “permanent” in Form A, nor is it known that it has been inserted. 3 and 5. Yes, if it has been inserted.

  1. Yes, if it be shown that names have been improperly excluded. Instructions to the police for canvass Nos. 11, 12, and 13 are as follow : -
  2. The name of such persons on each roll as are ascertained to be dead, or to have permanently removed from the Division for which they are enrolled, should be ruled through, and the words “ dead “ or “ left the Division,” as the case may be, written in the margin opposite thereto, upon the roll.
  3. The collector should be careful not to suggest the omission of the name of any person who may be only temporarily absent from the district for which he is entitled to be enrolled, and which forms his permanent or continuous residence.
  4. The same care should be exercised to prevent the enrolment of persons only temporarily resident.

page 6208

QUESTION

CONSECRATION OF BANNERS

Mr TUDOR:
for Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. What will be the expense of bringing the Anglican Chaplain from Sydney to consecrate the military banners at the parade on the 14th November?
  2. Will the Minister of Defence place a copy of the prayer previously referred to by him in the Library for inspection by members?
  3. Is there anything in the prayer which could not be as appropriately read by the Senior Chap- lain for. Victoria, who is a Presbyterian, as by the Senior Chaplain for New South Wales?
  4. Is not the parade almost entirely of Victorian troops, and is there any reason why the Senior Victorian Chaplain should be passed over?
  5. Has an invitation been extended to the Victorian Chaplains of all denominations to be present ?
  6. What Chaplains from other States besides the Anglican Chaplain have been invited to take part in the service, and have any refused ?
  7. Will any of the troops present for drill purposes be permitted, as provided by the King’s Regulations, to absent themselves from this religious service if they so desire?
Mr McCAY:
Protectionist

– I do not know that, in the absence of the honorable and learned member who has made this subject peculiarly his own, it would be quite fair to answer this question.

Mr Mahon:

– The practice has always been followed, and the honorable and learned gentleman is the first to take exception to it.

Mr McCAY:

– The honorable member is exceptionally critical.

Mr Mahon:

– Exceptionally correct.

Mr McCAY:

– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. The expense of bringing the Senior Chaplain of the Military Forces of Australia from Sydney to consecrate the military banners at parade on the 14th March will be £6 6s. 6d., including railway fare.
  2. The prayer will be taken into consideration by all the chaplains who are to take part in the ceremony before it is finally adopted, in order that care may be exercised to see that no expression remains in it to which any denomination might take exception. When this has been done I shall have no objection to a copy of the prayer being laid on the table of the library, in order that it may be perused by those honorable members who desire to read it.
  3. There is nothing in the prayer, as it now stands, nor will there be in the prayer as finally adopted, which could not be appropriately read by the senior chaplain of Victoria, who is a Presbyterian, as by the senior chaplain of the Forces who is in New South Wales.
  4. The parade, so far as numbers are concerned, will consist almost entirely of Victorian troops, but the consecration and presentation of colours will relate to the whole of the eighteen light horse regiments in Australia, the Field Artillery of New South Wales, and the Army Medical Corps of New South Wales. Therefore, so far as the colours are concerned, the parade will be of the troops of Australia, and, consequently, the senior chaplain for Australia is to lead.
  5. An invitation is being extended to a chaplain of each denomination which has a chaplain on The forces lists of Victoria.
  6. No chaplains have been invited from other States, and none have refused to take part in the service.
  7. Care will be taken that nothing is done to infringe either the spirit or the letter of the King’s regulations.

page 6209

TOBACCO TRADE

Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 5861), on motion by Mr. Batchelor -

That, in the opinion of this House, a Royal Commission should be at once appointed to inquire into and report upon -

The present position of the tobacco trade in relation to the production, manufacture, and distribution of tobacco.

The extent to which it is controlled by a monopolistic combination.

The best method of regulating that trade, whether by nationalization or by anti-trust legislation, or otherwise.

Mr. McLEAN (Gippsland - Minister of Trade and Customs). - I hope that the honorable member for Boothby, who submitted this motion, will consent to allow it to stand1 over for the present. From what I have been able to ascertain, I think that it will be found quite possible to obtain through the Department all the information which the honorable member requires. Even if we cannot obtain all the information, we shall be able to secure sufficient to enable us to see whether there is a prima facie case for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I do not think that we should hastily appoint a Commission which would involve considerable cost, unless we knew that the information we desired to obtain could not be secured by other means.

The remarks made by the honorable the Minister of Trade and Customs on the proposal to create a Royal Commission to investigate the present condition of the tobacco trade lead us to believe that your Government are reluctant to appoint such a Commission. We, therefore, venture to point out to you that we are entitled to claim public investigation as an act of justice to ourselves. Statements have been made, both inside and outside of Parliament, by gentlemen holding high positions, with regard vo our actions and those of firms connected with us, which statements are as incorrect. as they are injurious to us. We beg respectfully to state that, in common fairness, we should be given an opportunity of refuting these statements before a body authorized to investigate them, such as this Royal Commission would be. We would, therefore, beg of you to accede to the request of Mr. Batchelor that such a Royal Commission be created, in which case we will, of course, most willingly place at its disposal the most, ample and candid information which the public interest may require.

That letter, which was handed to me within the last few minutes, does not evidence any desire to avoid investigation. I have not had time to go into the matter thoroughly, because it is only a week since the motion was last under discussion, and other matters have intervened.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister of Trade and Customs have leave to continue his speech on a later day.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

page 6210

CUSTOMS RE-ADJUSTMENT

Debate resumed from 4th August (vide page 3891), on motion by Mr. Hume Cook -

That, in the opinion of this House, the existing Customs Tariff is unscientific in its operation and mischievous in its effects; and that, with a special view to the promotion of the agricultural and manufacturing industries, and the more settled employment of all classes of workers, a readjustment of its incidence on some of its leading lines is highly desirable.

Mr MAUGER:
Melbourne Ports

– I recognise that the change in events since this motion was put on the notice-paper has so completely altered the position of affairs as to almost warrant its withdrawal. But I should like to say under cover of it that, to my mind, preferential trade might, while helping Great Britain, be used to assist our own manufactures also, and the postponement of a decision in regard to the matter until next session is very disappointing. I had hoped, not only that opportunity would be given for its discussion, but that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat would have embodied some proposals in a short Bill, which would have enabled us to do in regard to Great Britain what has been done by Canada and by New Zealand, and also to assist our own struggling industries.

Mr Poynton:

– I thought the honorable member said the other day that Canada had increased her duties against Great Britain.

Mr MAUGER:

– She has increased some, and has lowered others. I am aware, however, that I cannot discuss the subject of preferential trade on this motion, and I recognise that it would be a waste of time to debate the question of Tariff readjustment at the present juncture. I hope that the Government will carry out their promise to appoint a Royal Commission as soon as possible, and that when the recommendations of that Commission are presented, action will be taken upon them to relieve our struggling industries. As these steps have already been promised for the readjustment of the Tariff, I move -

That the debate be now adjourned.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member, having spoken, cannot move the adjournment of the debate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I do not intend to discuss this question at any length, but I should like to make one or two observations incidentally upon the Tariff and our fiscal relations with the mother country.

Mr SPEAKER:

– There is on the businesspaper a notice of an amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Hume, which precludes any reference to preferential trade on the motion now before the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchison) adjourned.

page 6210

TARIFF COMMISSION

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– On be half of the honorable and learned member for Indi, in view of what has taken place in the House during the last few days, I withdraw from the business-paper notice of motion No. 2, relating to the appointment of a Royal Commission to report as to the effect of the Tariff upon certain industries.

page 6210

WARMATTA TELEPHONE

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– On be half of the honorable member for Riverina, I move -

That copies of all letters, papers, and other documents relating to the claim made by the Postal Department upon certain persons in reference to the construction of a telephoneat Warmatta, New South Wales, be laid upon the table of the House.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I do not object to lay the papers on the table in the Library, so that they may be available to honorable members, but, as they may be required again by the Department, it would be inconvenient to lay them upon the table of the House.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member for Bourke accepts the promise of the Postmaster-General to lay the papers on the table in the Library, it will be unnecessary to proceed with the motion.

Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke).- I accept the Minister’s promise, and, with the concurrence of the House, withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

page 6210

QUESTION

NATURALIZED CHINESE AND JAPANESE

Mr BAMFORD:
Herbert

– I move-

That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing, as nearly as can be ascertained, the number of Chinese and Japanese respectively resident in the Commonwealth, who have become naturalized British subjects.

I understand that the Government offer no opposition to the production of this return, which wall be of an interesting character, and possibly of some use in the compilation of the rolls.

Mr Reid:

– I have no objection to the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

” STRIPPER HARVESTERS.”

Motion (by Mr. Hume Cook, for Mr. Maloney) proposed -

That a return he laid upon the table of the House showing -

The number of “ Stripper Harvesters “ imported into the Commonwealth since the passing of the Tariff.

The country whence the “ Stripper Harvesters “ have been imported.

The names of the ports in the Commonwealth where the said “Stripper Harvesters” have been landed, giving the quantities at each.

The definition of classification in the Tariff of “ Harvester “ as distinguished from “ Stripper Harvester “ or “Stripper.”

The invoice value of each “ Stripper Harvester” upon which duty was assessed.

The rate of duty specified in the Tariff to be collected on “ Stripper Harvesters.”

The amount of duty actually collected on the importations of “ Stripper Harvesters.”

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I ask the honorable member for Bourke whether he has any objection to amend his motion, so as to embrace “ stripper harvesters “ manufactured in the Commonwealth, and exported, so that we may. make a comparison between imports and exports. I move -

That the motion be amended by the addition of the following words : -

The number of “ Stripper Harvesters “ exported from the Commonwealth since the passing of the Tariff.

The country or countries to which such “ Stripper Harvesters “ have been exported.

The names of the ports of the Commonwealth from which exportations of “ Stripper Harvesters” have been made, giving the quantities at each.

The value of the “ Stripper Harvesters “ so exported.

Amendment agreed to.

Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

page 6211

CHILDREN’S LIFE ASSURANCE BILL

Motion (by Mr. Hume Cook, for Mr. Groom) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to assurance on the lives of children by life assurance companies or societies.

SUPPLY (Formal).

Electoral Rolls : Preference to Local Tenderers : Letter-Box Clearances : People’s Reform League.

Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.

Mr MCDONALD:
Kennedy

– The other day I asked the Prime Minister whether a certain statement which appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper was correct. That statement had reference to the number of persons who are said to be off the rolls, and was in the form of an interview with the right honorable gentleman on the subject. It appeared to me, on reading that interview, that the Prime Minister sought to excuse the Government for not going to the country at the present time, because of the fact that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 qualified electors whose names are not on the roll, and who consequently would not now be able to vote.

Mr Reid:

– I did not mention that as the only reason - having a majority is another reason for not going to the countrv.

Mr MCDONALD:

– The less theright honorable gentleman says about his majority the better, and I think he recognises that fact. We remember the remarks of the Prime Minister the other evening, when an honorable member stated that if the Government did not take a certain course, he might be compelled to take action. Attention has already been called by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, and by the honorable member for Coolgardie, to the evasive manner in which questions asked by honorable members are answered by Ministers. In the newspaper interview to which I have referred, the Prime Minister, speaking of the States of Victoria and New South Wales, said -

That means that there are 300,000 or 400,000 persons who, if an election were held now, would be off the rolls, or in a place which is equivalent to being off the rolls.

I take that as a clear and distinct statement that he knew that between the States of New South Wales and Victoria, there were that number of people not on the rolls.

Mr Reid:

– I never made any such statement, as I explained the other night. It is manifestly absurd.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I asked the Prime Minister a question on this matter, in perfect good faith, because I felt that there was a mistake. In reply to that question, the right honorable gentleman, after my quoting the words of the interview, said -

The report is a-correct one, but I was careful to understate rather than overstate the figures furnished to me by tlie officers of the Electoral Department.

The Prime Minister now describes the statement as manifestly absurd, though in his reply to’ me, he said he had understated the figures.

Mr Reid:

– The use of the word “off” is a mistake. I did not mean that those people are off the rolls altogether, but that they are not on their proper rolls at the present time.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I understood the right honorable gentleman, to infer that when an elector changes his address his name is removed from the roll.

Mr Reid:

– I did not mean to conveythat they were off the roll, but that they were off the roll in respect to which they would have to vote.

Mr MCDONALD:

– -But even if a man changed his address he would be able to vote just the same. He could, if necessary, make use of a Q form. It appeared to me that a statement such as that made by the Prime Minister would certainly have a misleading, effect upon the public, and that it ought to be corrected at the earliest possible opportunity. Further than that, I considered that if such a large number of persons were disfranchised some further investigation should be made into the Electoral Department, and that the whole of the officers should be removed as speedily as possible. Nearly twelve months have elapsed since the last election, and now we are led to suppose that the rolls are in such a state that in the event of another election between 300.000 and 400,000 persons would be unable to vote. That would be a very serious state of affairs. Suppose that instead of securing a narrow and questionable majority., the Government had been defeated upon the recent want of confidence motion ? We should not have been in a position to carry on the business of the country, and our Electoral Department would have been so paralvzed that no election could have taken place. The sooner some alteration is made in the method of compiling the rolls the better. In my opinion the Electoral Department should be placed under the administration of a commissioner, who would be beyond the control of the Government.

The Prime Minister has advanced the unsatisfactory condition of the rolls as one of the reasons why we should not go to the country at the present time.

Mr Johnson:

– I do not think that that is a fair inference to draw.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I think it is, because the Prime Minister gave that as one of his reasons for not asking for a dissolution.

Mr Reid:

– Yes, that was one of the reasons; but there are several others.

Mr MCDONALD:

– Parliament has no right to be dependent upon the action of the Government in a matter of that. kind. We are elected directly by the people, and, therefore, anything connected with the compilation of the rolls, upon which the exercise of the franchise largely depends, should be placed entirely beyond the control of the Government. If we placed the Electoral Department under the control of a commissioner we should be able to hold him responsible for effective administration in the same way that we look to the AuditorGeneral to see that our financial affairs are properly ordered. The commissioner would be in a position to keep the rolls right up to date, and if he failed in that respect we should soon require to know the reason why.

Mr Johnson:

– That system would cost a great deal more than the present one.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I do not know that it need involve any great outlay. At the present time we have a Chief Electoral Officer, whose salary is certainly not a very large one. The amount paid to him might be slightly increased and fixed as the salary of the commissioner, who could work with the staff now employed, and enlist the assistance of the Postal and other Departments in connexion with the compilation of the rolls, and the performance of the work required from time to time.

Mr Johnson:

– Would the honorable member continue the present system of collecting the rolls?

Mr MCDONALD:

– I am not prepared to enter into details.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– That is where the trouble occurs.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I do not think it is the only cause of the trouble. The present system of collecting the rolls by employing the police is a very good one. There is no doubt that at the last election some confusion arose through the Department being called upon to conduct an election earlier than had been expected. The present system of collecting the rolls might be continued, but everything must not be left until the last moment. At the earliest possible moment the Government should make arrangements for the holding of Revision Courts at stated intervals If the electors were encouraged to come forward at certain stated times they would render valuable assistance to the Electoral Department in making the rolls complete. At present honorable members are continually receiving letters from persons who desire to have their names placed upon the rolls, asking when Revision Courts are to be held and what steps they are to take. There appears to be no uniform system at present.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Does not the honorable member think that the existing system wouldmeet the case if there was a really good man a.t the head of affairs?

Mr MCDONALD:

– I do not know that it is my place to offer any remarks upon that point at this stage, because the Government will have ample opportunities of dealing wth the matter.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Does the honorable member consider the present system a faulty one?

Mr MCDONALD:

– Yes, I do. I think that , the Department should be placed under a commissioner and thoroughly reorganized. My principle object in rising was to refer to the statement of the Prime Minister that between 300,000 and 400.000 persons would be disfranchised if an election took place at the present stage. Since the right honorable gentleman has stated that he did not wish to convey that meaning. I do not desire to press the matter anyfurther. I hope that steps will be taken by the Government to make the rolls complete at the verv earliestpossible date.

Mr CHANTER:
Riverina

– The honorable member for Hume has upon the businesspaper a notice of an amendment upon the motion now before the House. I have just seen the honorable member, who is confined to his bed by severe illness, and he desires that his notice of motion may remain upon the notice-paper, so that he may deal with it three weeks hence. As the honorable member for Hume has exhibited so much interest in this particular matter, it seems to me that it would not be a proper thing for any other honorable member to attempt to take the leadership in regard to it out of his hands. Under the circumstances, and in view of his illness, I would ask the House to allow the motion which appears upon the business-paper to be dealt with upon next grievance day.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I desire to. call attentiontothe evasive manner in which questions put to Ministers by honorable members are being answered. A few days ago I was under the painful necessity of drawing attention to the misleading and unsatisfactory replies with which Ministers had endeavoured to satisfy this House.

Mr Johnson:

– Is this another motion of censure?

Mr MAHON:

– I shall make it one if I choose to do so. If it is necessary for me to submit a motion of censure I shall not hesitate to take that course. I am not one who is given to shirking his duty in the way that some Ministers are doing. Some time ago, a very plain question was placed upon the business-paper by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, touching a preference which had been granted by the Postmaster-General to certain tenderers for postal supplies. At first, by a shuffle -which might be called indecent - the Postmaster-General attempted-

Mr Reid:

– I rise to a point of order. I wish to ask whether it is in order for an honorable member to refer to a Minister as somebody who is shuffling in an indecent manner ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that sratement.

Mr MAHON:

– I shall certainly withdraw it, in obedience to your ruling, sir ; but I desire to point out that what I said was that the Postmaster-General had been guilty of a shuffle which could scarcely be called anything but indecent. If the Prime Minister regards that as offensive, under your instructions, sir, I shall withdraw the remark, while retaining my own opinion in regard to it. The question put by the honorable and learned member for Parkes was very clear and explicit, and was not answered in any way by the reply which had previously been given to another honorable member. The honorable and learned member for Parkes naturally resented this attempt to evade a clear issue, and placed the question a second time upon the businesspaper. His question reads as follows : -

Can the Minister point to any constitutional or legislative authority in support of his differential treatment of Commonwealth contractors on the grounds of nationality ?

That is a plain, straightforward question, which I imagine any honest man could answer in a plain, straightforward fashion.

Mr Reid:

– Constitutional questions are very difficult to answer.

Mr MAHON:

– The answer given by the Prime Minister was as follows : -

I know of no legislation which interferes with the course we propose to take.

That was not an answer to the question at all. The question asked was whether any legislative authority existed for the action of the Postmaster-General, and coald not be answered by a quibble to the effect that there is no legislation against the practice. The practice condemned by the honorable and learned member for Parkes is the rejection of a lower tender and the acceptance of a higher one. The Prime Minister stated that he knows of no legislation which interferes with the course that the Government propose to follow, whereas the right honorable gentleman was asked whether any constitutional or legislative authority existed for his action. In other words, he has the effrontery to tell this House that he knows of no legislative authority which restrains him from paying more for Government supplies than is necessary to pay.

Mr Reid:

– Nothing of the sort.

Mr MAHON:

– If I understand anything about the English language. I say that is the proper interpretation of the right honorable gentleman’s answer.

Mr Johnson:

– It is a gross misrepresentation.

Mr MAHON:

– The honorable member may put his own interpretation upon that answer, but he is not likely to thrust, it down my throat. I claim my right to speak in this House even in the face of such a censor morum as he is.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– But do it kindly.

Mr MAHON:

– The honorable member for Parramatta seems to be the keeper of the consciences of a good many honorable members opposite. He is the lecturergeneral of this Chamber. Like a political Chadband he lectures everybody.

Mr Johnson:

– Do not act like a schoolboy.

Mr MAHON:

– I shall never imitate the honorable member. Whether I am acting like a schoolboy or otherwise, I insist upon Ministers returning straightforward answers to plain questions. I also wish to call attention to the new development which has taken place in reference to the late postal clearances from Melbourne. This new development synchronized in a remarkable manner withthe accession of this Government to office, because up till the 17th August not a word had been heard in reference to the proposal, and yet upon the 19th or 20th August it had already been launched, and was on the way to completion.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Who was in office on the 17th August?

Mr MAHON:

-I think that the PostmasterGeneral was. Anyway I shall not be particular to an hour or two. He ought to know how many days pay he has drawn. His chief was very particular about that matter when the Watson Government were in power.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That is very rough.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order. This constant fusillade of interjections is quite unbecoming to the House, and quite contrary to the Standing Orders. I must ask honorable members who wish to reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie to reserve their remarks until he has concluded his speech.

Mr MAHON:

– I trust that some honorable member” will move for the production of all papers relating to this matter. It is a most remarkable coincidence that upon the accession of this Government to office the move which I have indicated was made on behalf of the two Melbourne morning newspapers. Ample proof of my statement is to be found in the provincial journals, but I will just read to the House an extract from a newspaper which is published in this city. It is as follows: -

The general public is in no very pleasant mood with the Postmaster-General’s action in the postal pillar scandal. The conveniences of the general public have been set aside to assist the two morning newspapers in their petty grasping efforts to sell a few more papers at Ballarat and Bendigo. The Railway Department is supplying special trains for an additional payment of £1,500 per annum, which would, under ordinary commercial conditions, cost nearly £40,000 a year, and the postal arrangements are not only disarranged, but turned topsy-turvy to make it appear that a public convenience is being served by the newspaper specials.

Mr Kelly:

– What is the name of the newspaper ?

Mr MAHON:

– It is a weekly journal, published in Melbourne. If the honorable member desires to peruse it, I shall hand it to him.

Mr Kelly:

– Why not inform the House of the name?

Mr MAHON:

– I do not object to do so. The newspaper from which I am quoting is Table Talk. It is a newspaper, which caters for that section of the community to which the honorable member for Wentworth belongs. The article continues -

Of course it is all buncombe - the public is being greatly inconvenienced by the postal authorities making the last collections of the pillars two hours earlier than formerly, and the grievance is a substantial one. No complaints appear in the columns of the morning papers - of course not. Are they likely to cry “stinking fish”? But the evening Herald is very full of complaints, and Table Talk is inundated with letters from indignant correspondents.

I think that we have now reached a stage at which all the papers and reports relating to this matter should be laid on the table of the. House. We ought to know with whom the proposal originated, and have an opportunity to peruse the reports upon which this most extraordinary innovation has been made. I think I have shown that I am not disposed to be unduly critical, but-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I think that the honorable member has been very personal, ever since he left office.

Mr MAHON:

– Not to any greater extent than before I assumed office. My criticism of Ministers was always severe, when I felt it to be deserved, and I shall not hesitate to freely criticise their actions whenever I think that it is necessary to do so. I always endeavour, however, to be fair, and I hope that the PostmasterGeneral can say as much for himself. We are entitled to know why a large section of the people of Melbourne are inconvenienced by the new arrangement to which I have referred. It is not in force in any other State capital, and apparently it was introduced to increase the monopoly which the two morning newspapers published in Melbourne already enjoyed in this State. I do not wish to detain the House further, but I give notice of my intention to take some action in regard to this matter.

Mr BAMFORD:
Herbert

-I desire to refer briefly to the matter of the compilation of the rolls, which was introduced by the honorable member for Kennedy. In answer to a question I put this afternoon to the Minister of Home Affairs, a statement was made by the honorable gentleman, which seems to me to supply a reason for the absence of the names of so many persons from the rolls. I do not say that as many names have been left off as the Prime Minister has suggested. I think that he was inclined to exaggerate the number, but it cannot be denied that the names of a great many persons have been left off, because of the instructions issued to. the collectors by the Electoral Office. According to the Minister’s answer, the collectors have been instructed that care must be exercised that no persons temporarily resident in any locality are placed upon the rolls. I should like to know where authority is found for such an instruction. The Electoral Act certainly supplies none. Section 31 of the Act provides that -

All persons qualified to vote at any election for the Senate or House of Representatives, or who would be qualified so to vote if Their names were upon a roll, shall be qualified and entitled to have their names placed upon the electoral roll for the division in which they live, but no person shall be qualified or entitled to have his name placed upon more than one roll,. or upon any roll other than the roll for the division in which he lives.

The question arises as to the definition of the word “ lives.” It is not a question of “permanently lives’” or “lives permanently.” Does it not mean the place where the man happens to be at the moment he makes an application to be placed upon the rolls? There are a number of nien, such as miners and harvesters, who go from place to place throughout the Commonwealth, and I hold that those engaged in collecting the rolls have no right to put any questions to them whatever in regard to this matter. If a man expresses a desire to have his name placed on the rolls he has a right to expect that desire to be complied with, no matter where he may be residing for the time being, and I hold that it is not within the province of the Electoral Office to issue such an instruction as that to which I have referred.

Mr Brown:

– Under it the nomadic portion of the community would be disfranchised.

Mr BAMFORD:

– Decidedly. The instruction is a scandalous one.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It was not issued at my direction.

Mr BAMFORD:

– I do not know by whom it was issued, but I hope that the Minister will lose no time in having the matter rectified. No collector has a right to refuse to place a man’s name on the lists, but the Revision Court may, if it thinks fit, strike off the name of any person to whom objection is taken ; and under the Act objection may be taken by any person.

It is idle to say that because a man happens to have been residing for only a few weeks in a mining camp when a collector calls that he should be disfranchised, and this instruction, which is unfair to those who unhappily have to move from place to place in search of work, should be at once withdrawn. I am constantly receiving complaints from men living in a part of my own electorate, in which the population is largely nomadic, that the police are refusing to place their names on the rolls, on the ground that they are only temporarily resident in the locality. I hope that the Minister will immediately take steps to have the matter rectified, and to see that those who are entitled to vote are duly enrolled.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I wish to deal with a matter arising out of certain remarks made by me in the course of the debate on the motion of censure which recently engaged the attention of the House. On that occasion I made a quotation from a newspaper report of an address by Mr. Stinson, the president of the People’s Reform League, and it is to that matter that I desire specially to refer. During my visit to Sydney last week I met Mr. Stinson, and since my return to Melbourne have received a communication from him bearing upon this subject. I gathered as the result of my conversation with him that, whilst he did not take exception, on the score of want of accuracy, to the quotation in question, he considered that it might be misconstrued, and as I do not wish it to be said that any portion of my remarks were unfair or unwarranted, I take this opportunity to place before the House the full facts in relation to the matter. The remarks in question dealt with the opposition to the Labour Party on the ground that they are socialistically inclined, andin this connexion I was referring, not to the Reform League, but to a new association which is being largely supported by the Prime Minister and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and is known as the Farmers’, Property Owners’, and Producers’ Association. The first plank of the platform of that Association provides for the complete sinking of the fiscal issue, which divides the free-traders and protectionists, making the battle-cry in the future opposition to Socialism, and particularly to the Labour Party. I should like to read the official report of my remarks, which is to be found on pages 5 191 and 5192 of Hansard. They were as follows : -

The combination is known as the Farmers’, Property Owners’, and Producers’ Association of Victoria, and its first plank is that in all elections, whether Federal or State, where a Socialist candidate nominates, members of the association must sink all political differences and steadily support candidates to be selected by the association in opposition to the Socialists.

Mr Tudor:

– They must be an anti-labour organization.

Mr BROWN:

– That is just what it means. The other day a paper was readby Mr. Stinson, the chairman or leader of the People’s Reform League of New South Wales, and in the newspaper report there occurred the following : -

Mr. Stinson, in the course of his papers, said the alleged decadence in the tone of our public life, and. in the calibre of our public men, is attributed to a number of causes - the payment of members, manhood suffrage, and apathy and indifference on the part of the electors, being amongst the principal.”

If that indicates the stand-point of those who are fighting the Labour Party - if we are to take that as indicating the true lines of reform, and as denoting n better standard in political life, according to these gentlemen - thefirst object is to get rid of manhood suffrage, payment’ of members, and similar reforms which have been brought about since the Labour Party found a place in political life.

Mr. Stinson has supplied me with a copy of his paper containing the quotation in question, and from its perusal I find that his purpose was the advocacy of the better education of the electors and the improved equipment of his organization to that end. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I shall read a letter which I have received from him on the subject - 28 Castlereagh-street,

Sydney, 17th October, 1904.

Dear Mr. Brown,

In the Federal Hansard, No. 2S, page 5192, when speaking on the want of confidence motion on the 4th inst., you referred to a newspaper report of a paper read by me. You apparently wished to illustrate the attitude of those who are lighting, the Labour Party, and for this purpose used the following : - “ Mr. Stinson, in the course of his papers said the alleged decadence in the tone of our public life, and in the calibre of our public men, is attributed to a number of causes - the payment of members, manhood suffrage, and apathy and indifference on the part of the electors, being amongst the principal.”

And you argue from this that the first object of the Reform Party is “ to get rid of manhood suffrage, payment of members, and similar reforms which have been brought about since the Labour Party found a place in political life.”

Now, however I may differ from your point of view in politics, I have always given you credit for being perfectly honest in the views you hold, as well as being honest in your defence or advocacy of them, as the case may be. I do not know what newspaper report you quoted from, but if you had quoted the whole sentence instead of a portion, you could not possibly have put upon it the construction you did. Let me supply the balance omitted by you, following on the word “ principal,” where you left off - “And whilst probably all these causes contribute in part to the general result, the primary cause is, in my opinion, the lack of information and of a knowledge of theprinciples of government on the part of the electors themselves.”

My whole paper was in advocacy of a wider education for the people, not for a curtailment of their rights or privileges. For your fuller information, I send a copy of the paper, of which I invite your perusal.

In justice to the People’s Reform League (as president of which I read the paper), I think you will see the propriety of publicly and suitably acknowledging the false impression your quotation would be likely fo convey.

I am, yours faithfully, (Sgd.) John Stinson.

I think that if Mr. Stinson looks carefully at the Hansard report, he will see that my reference was more particularly to the new Victorian Association than to his association; but, as it is possible that views antagonistic to manhood suffrage may be attributed to the People’s Reform League, I take this opportunity to make their position clear, particularly as I gathered from my conversation with Mr. Stinson that neither he nor his league are opposed to the democratic principles in question, and do not wish to be associated with those who are.

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I understand that the police were instructed, in collecting the Federal rolls, to group the names of the electors according to their proximity to the polling places. That may be a good arrangement in some localities, but in a densely populated electorate such as mine it may prove unworkable. For instance, in one subdivision of my electorate there are over 6,000 electors enrolled, but if all the names are grouped according to proximity to a polling place, about 9,000 persons will have to vote in one building, and there is no building in the division large enough to accommodate so many. I think that the old divisional boundaries which have existed for years should not, without good reason, be disturbed. It may be advisable in country electorates to alter the grouping of names, but in metropolitan and suburban electorates, where people remain, for the most part, in the same place year after year, it is not advisable to make a change, and I trust that the Minister will see that no alteration is made that is not absolutely necessary, and has not been asked for by the electors. I brought the matter under the notice of the Victorian Commonwealth Electoral Officer, but as I did not hear anything more about it I thought it well to call the attention of the Minister to it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The instructions to help the police in their canvass under the Commonwealth Electoral and Franchise Acts were issued on the 1st July last, but I have not previously had my attention called to them. I observe now that there may be some misunderstanding under paragraph 13, which reads -

The same care should be exercised to prevent the enrolment of names of persons only temporarily resident.

There should, however, be no difficulty if that paragraph is read with the foregoing instructions, because it is there clearly pointed out that every person above the age of 21 years, not disqualified for certain reasons, specifically stated, must be enrolled.

Mr Watson:

– “ Temporarily resident “ refers to persons who are merely passing through a division.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The words “ temporarily resident “ must have been misread, if the interpretation has been given to them which, according to the honorable member for Herbert, they have received in some instances in his electorate. Attention will be given to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra, although the subject has already been under consideration, and I have issued the instruction that in some of the large suburban electorates old divisions shall be regarded.

Mr Tudor:

– Does that instruction apply to a Melbourne electorate?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It applies to the Bourke division, which includes Coburg and Brunswick ; but similar action will be taken where necessary in other cases. Not only must the polling places be convenient, but there must not be too many electors allotted to one polling place.

Mr Tudor:

– Was that instructiongiven to the police?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The instruction given to the police was -

In order to ascertain whether electors are correctly grouped or allocated to the polling places for which they are at present enrolled, and in order to correctly allocate proposed new electors to their most convenient polling places, the collector must be guided by the personal convenience and desire of the individual electors. In other words, the polling place to which each elector should be allocated is that which is most conveniently accessible to him or her.

In some cases, a polling booth three miles away from the elector’s residence might be more convenient, because of the existing means of communication, than a polling place much nearer.

Mr Tudor:

– In my electorate no one is more than half a mile away from a polling place.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The honorable member has the advantage of representing a closely settled electorate. In those electorates where there is a large population within a small area, it will be necessary, not only to provide convenient polling places, but to provide a sufficient number of them.

Mr REID:
Minister of External Affairs · East Sydney · Free Trade

– If the honorable member for Kennedy will refer to the report of the interview from which he quoted, he will see that I made my meaning pretty clear. I said -

It is estimated that there are in the two States, 300,000 to 400,000 alterations necessary, owing to removals and other causes.

This sentence precedes the statement which the honorable member quoted -

This means that there are 300,000 or 400,000 persons who, if an election was held now, would be off the rolls or in a place which is equivalent fo being off the rolls.

Therefore, my first sentence showed what I was referring to, and my honorable friend scarcely did me justice in not quoting it. The first statement is made in connexion with the removal of electors from their districts. If a man moves, he is still on the roll, but he is not on the roll for the locality in which he is living.

Mr Bamford:

– That will always be the case.

Mr REID:

– It happens that about- 30 per cent, of the electors change their residence during the twelve months.

Mr McDonald:

– I asked the right honorable gentleman the other day if it was correct that that number of electors would not be able to vote.

Mr REID:

– I went on to say, in reply to my honorable friend, -

It is only fair to say that the present state of the rolls is due to the incessant changing of residence on the part of a large proportion of the population.

So that I again referred to the fact that most of .the changes were owing to removals from one part of the Commonwealth to another. With regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, I cannot understand the bitterness of his attack, and his use of the words “evasive” and “effrontery.” He referred to the question which was asked by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, with regard to the alleged preference of 15 per cent, given to local Australian over European tenderers. The honorable and learned member for Parkes asked -

Can he point to any constitutional or legislative authority in support of such differential treatment of Commonwealth citizens on tlie ground of nationality ?

My answer was -

  1. The Cabinet, as I said on Friday, in answer to the honorable member for Corio, have not adopted any fixed rule in dealing with the tenders. They consider that each tender should be dealt with on its merits, with a constant desire to give preference to articles of local production in every reasonable way.
  2. Answered by answer to No. 1.
  3. I know of no legislation which interferes with the course we propose to take.

That is, dealing with each case on its merits. I was not referring to the fictitious preference of 15 per cent, alleged to be given to Australian over European tenderers. I pointed but that that was not our rule, and stated that we intended to deal with each case on its merits, and that that course would not be inconsistent with any constitutional or legal provision. So that the honorable member for Coolgardie, who accuses others of misunderstanding plain English, should try to recover from the -painful change that has come over him’ during the last two or three months. I never knew of a more amiable Minister than he was. He was beaming, as we all wish to see Ministers beam, with satisfaction and content, and a removal of twelve feet across the floor of the House has converted one of the most seraphic members of the Legislature into a perfect demon.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I desire to say a few words with regard to the electoral rolls. In the first instance, the period which has been mentioned as necessary to allow of the rolls being brought up to date, seems to me to be an unwarrantably long one. I think that the Electoral Department ought to find it possible to complete the rolls in a much shorter period. The statement of the Prime Minister as to the number of. persons whose names are wrongly on the rolls of New South Wales and Victoria, amounting to 400,000, would convey to the ordinary man a very wrong impression. So far ‘ as I have been, able to ascertain, a number of people have left their previous residences since the rolls were collected, and corrections require to be made, but in the great majority of instances these persons have not removed beyond the electtorate for which they are enrolled, and are still eligible to vote.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– A great many persons have removed beyond the boundaries of the electorates for which they are enrolled.

Mr WATSON:

– That mav be so, but a still larger proportion have not done so. If the Electoral Department wished to convey a proper impression, they would furnish the number of persons who have removed beyond the electorates for which they are enrolled, and who would require to obtain transfers to other rolls. The proportion of those who have moved so far is not very large.

Mr Tudor:

– The police say that not 20 per cent, of the electors who have changed their residences have moved beyond the electorates for which they are enrolled.

Mr WATSON:

– I can quite believe that. A far larger proportion of the electors whose addresses will have to be corrected still remain within the districts for which thev were enrolled originally, and in. which they would be eligible to vote.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I know of one electorate in Sydney in which 9,000 persons have moved in and 9,000 others have moved out.

Mr.W AT SON. - That may be an exceptional case. In the countrv electorates many men move about within the boundaries of an electorate, and, therefore, are not disfranchised by a change of address. I admit that occasionally thev move beyond the electorate, but I should think that 30,000 or 40,000 would probably cover those electors who would be disfranchised if an election were to take place to-morrow, and they had no opportunitv to become enrolled. The impression sought to be created by the Prime Minister was that it would be impossible to hold an election now, because of the condition of the rolls. I. contend that that is absolute nonsense. It would be of advantage if the rolls could be brought up to date, but at any period at which an election might be held, the rolls would contain the names of a large number of persons whose addresses were wrongly given, or who had moved away from their original places of residence. The rolls are incorrect in a certain degree, in regard to the descriptions of the electors, butin most cases Brown or Jones would be still eligible to vote. With regard to those electors who had moved out of a district, the roll, at the worst, would be surplusage.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The great difficulty with the present rolls arises from their original inaccuracy.

Mr WATSON:

– There may be some room for complaint in that regard, but at the worst the inaccuracies on the rolls are merely surplusage. If the writs for an election were issued within a month of the present time, an opportunity would be given to every person to enrol prior to the election taking place. The Prime Minister has sought to create the impression, or has allowed it to be created, that it would be impossible to hold an election now, owing to the condition of the rolls.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Not impossible.

Mr WATSON:

– He has’ sought to convey the impression that it would not be fair to hold an election at the present time, owing to the condition of the rolls. That is not a correct view to take. It is stated that four and a half months would be occupied in completing the rolls after a canvass had been made.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– No, three and a half months from date would be required to perform a certain portion of the work, and four and a half months for completing it.

Mr WATSON:

– Every one knows that in Australia a large proportion of our population is nomadic, and thateven thosewho are not technically nomadic are still given to moving about to a greater extent than are the people of other countries. Therefore, it is clear that if the completion of the rolls occupied four and a half months, they must, even at the end of that period, contain a number of misdescriptions.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– A good deal of regrouping has taken place.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not regard that as of very great importance. When I was in office, an inquiry was made of the Electoral Office officials, and they stated that if given six weeks’ notice before the issue of the writs, they were of opinion that an election could be held in such a manner as to allow of all persons sufficiently interested having their names placed on the roll.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The information referred to was supplied by the officials.

Mr WATSON:

– I do not think that the time mentioned by the Minister of Home

Affairs should be occupied in making the necessary corrections. The impression that has been created is that it would be impossible to hold an election on account of the number of errors in the rolls, but T. maintain that no substantial injustice would be done if an election were held within the next two or three months. I do not say that the rolls could not be improved upon, but they are not in such a state as to preclude an election being held under present conditions.

Mr BATCHELOR:
Boothby

– A somewhat serious condition of affairs is disclosed by the statement of the Prime Minister, according to whom we cannot at any time expect to obtain a reasonably correct roll. A collection of names was made bv the police and postal officials at the end of last November, which was supposed, to be up to date, and yet when the police went round at the beginning of last July, there were from 300.000 to 400,000 inaccuracies. Therefore, we can assume that when the rolls are brought up to date within the next two or three months they will still be faulty. As the Minister of Home Affairs is aware, the police began to collect the rolls on the 1 st July. I understand from him that five more weeks will elapse before that work will have been completed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Yes, because the collection in two States was not ordered simultaneously with the others.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Their collection” was ordered, but arrangements in connexion with the carrying out of the work had not been completed. In New South Wales ‘the police commenced to collect the rolls on the 1st July; but the lists would not be printed and revision Courts held for some weeks yet.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Revision Courts cannot be held within a week or two. Thirty days’ notice has to be given of the intention to hold a revision Court.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The work of completing the rolls, and of bringing them up to date, will occupy until the end of December of the present year. It has already been shown that after nine months had been devoted to their preparation, they contained from 300,000 to 400,000 inaccuracies. If that is the normal condition of things, it is evident that we shall never get the rolls in anything like an accurate state.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It is more than nine months since the previous collection took place.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Possibly it is twelve months. The work of collecting the rolls usually occupies from seven to eight months, because the States do not undertake the work simultaneously. The Watson Administration were induced to request the States Governments to commence the collection of the rolls in July by the knowledge that at that period some of the States were engaged in collecting statistics. To ray mind it is obvious that an earnest attempt will have to be made to expedite the collection of the rolls by the police, otherwise they will never be in a proper condition.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– There are greater discrepancies upon the present occasion, owing to the original defects, to the re-grouping which is now taking place, and to the alteration which is being made in the polling-places.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It ought to be stated that owing to the re-grouping, the rolls in their present condition are not accurate to the extent of some 300,000 or 400,000 names, but the impression should not be. conveyed that this number of persons cannot exercise the franchise.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– A very large number ot voters have removed from their former electorates.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I notice that the right honorable member for Swan is now present in the Chamber. Some time ago I asked the Minister of Home Affairs whether he was aware that when the right honorable member retired from office there were no rolls - either old or new - available for the conduct of an election. The right honorable member thereupon interjected that my statement was absurd! The fact is that he did not carefully listen to my statement. It is absolutely true that there were not sufficient rolls in Western Australia to supply the needs of the police in the compilation of fresh rolls.

Sir John Forrest:

– Why could not additional copies be printed ? All the type had been set.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Yes, and “pie” had been made of if many . months previously.

Sir John Forrest:

– It ought not ,to have been distributed.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable member was indirectly responsible for that, although I know that he was not aware of the. fact that the type had been distributed.

Sir John Forrest:

– Then why make such a song about it? 1 suppose that the honorable member wishes to take credit to himself?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that even under such an excellent administrator as the right honorable member for Swan, all sorts of inconvenient conditions arise.

Sir John Forrest:

– I su’ppose that everything was left in a perfect state when the honorable member vacated office?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– By no means. There were some occasions upon which I did not exactly fill the bill.

Sir John Forrest:

– That was an accident.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable member will see that there was no need for him to get into such an excited state of mind as he did upon a former occasion. The charge of inaccuracy which he levelled against me was absolutely unjustifiable. I have no wish to occupy any more time upon this matter. It is evident that we must reconcile ourselves to a condition of things under which at no particular period can the rolls be regarded as perfectly accurate, because of the shifting of population, and the fact that electors will not take the trouble to get .their names transferred. In order .that we may have a fairly full roll, I am of opinion that it will be necessary to provide for frequent collections - probably one each year - by the police and postal officials.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 6221

QUESTION

BUDGET (1904-5)

In Committee of Supply-‘ - (Considera tion resumed from 26th October, vide page 6r5r, on motion by Sir George Turner) -

That including the sums already voted in this present session of Parliament for such services, the following sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1904-5 for the several services hereunder specified, namely - The Senate, £6,722.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Swan

– When speaking upon this motion last evening, I overlooked the fact that my suggestion that the Commonwealth should take over the

States debts which existed at the inauguration of the Commonwealth, only as the loans matured, was not strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Section 105 provides -

The Parliament may take over from the States their public debts as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, &c.

My attention was drawn to that section by the honorable member for Bland. According to its provisions, we must either take over the whole of the States debts, or a proportion, per capita. That, however, . does not deter me from saying that whilst it is advisable to take over the States debts as they existed at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth, no advantage is likely to be derived from interfering with the loans until they are nearing maturity. Last evening, the honorable and learned .member for Parkes asked, by way of interjection, whether it would not be possible for the Commonwealth to buy up the stock on the London market whenever the opportunity offered. I do not think that any plan of that sort would be effective, because people are usually very much alive to their own interests, and our bond-holders would see that they obtained as good value as possible for their bonds. But, in addition to that, the Commonwealth does not possess the necessary funds to permit of the adoption of that course, and, therefore,, it would necessarily be required to raise loans upon existing market conditions. I take it, therefore, that the proposal of the honorable and learned member is scarcely a practicable one.

Mr Henry Willis:

– How would the right honorable member do it?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– By conversion. Loans would require to be raised for the purpose of paying off those maturing, and bond-holders would be given an opportunity of taking up a ‘ part of the new issue. That is the way in which conversions are usually carried out. An idea seems to prevail in this House, and it has been put forward in some papers presented to this House - especially in a memorandum which was submitted to the Treasurers’ Conference by Sir Frederick Holder - that if the Commonwealth took over the public debts of the States, and gave the bond-holders the advantage of Commonwealth security, we should be making -a free gift to the bondholders of an increased value, which should properly belong to the Commonwealth. It has been urged that that increased value should not go to enrich those who hold our bonds. I entertain no such opinion, because any country must be benefited by its bonds standing high in the money market. The higher they stand the better. If by some stroke of good fortune to the

British Empire, bonds which are now worth from £84 to£86, or £87, were suddenly to rise to £100, would any one say that we should not rejoice? Would any one begrudge the bond-holders the increased value of their stocks? I think not We must remember that many of the bonds which are at present selling for£84, atone time cost £100. I know of some Western Australian 3 per cent, bonds, for which£100 was paid, but which are now selling at the price I have just mentioned, yet no one appears to be ready to commiserate with the holders on the loss of £16 per £100 which they have sustained.

Mr watson:

-They will not lose that sum unless they are compelled to sell.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Of course not; but in all these matters we have to consider the marketable value of the bonds. It is no satisfaction to a bond-holder to be told that if he will only wait he will receive £100 in respect of every £100 bond possessed by him. I take it that an increase in the value of the stock of any country is to the advantage of that country. We are not to allow our opinions to be swayed by the feeling that if we converted any portion of the loans of the States we might confer a benefit on some private individual. We could not take that point into consideration unless it were possible for us in any proper way to participate in the advantage so secured, and we may depend upon it, that if we seek to convert before the date of maturity our bond-holders will endeavour to extract from us the full value of their stocks. For this reason I do not think that there is very much hope of our gaining anything, by converting loans until tbey are nearing maturity, and I do not recommend that we should attempt to do so at the present time. The memorandum placed before the Conference of Treasurers by the Federal Treasurer, and subsequently laid on the table of this House, affords us very clear and full information as to all the loans of the States that were outstanding at the date of its preparation. Under section 105 of the Constitution, we can take over only the loans which existed at the date of Federation, and these amount to £203,978,482. Honorable members are aware that since the establishment of the Commonwealth, further loans, representing a considerable sum have been raised by the several States; but under the Constitution we cannot deal with those loans, unless they were floated for the conversion of any loan existing at the date of Federation.

Sir George Turner:

– All such loans are included in the figures which the right honorable member has just quoted.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Quite so, but I refer to any loans that may be raised at a future date, for the purpose of converting loans, which under the Constitution mav be taken over by us. It is only reasonable that such loans should be included in the public debts of the States to be taken over by the Commonwealth. The annual interest on that portion of the public debt of Australia, which existed at the date of the establishment of Federation, amounts to £7,290, 190. Under the Constitution, during the bookkeeping period of five years, we have to return to each State the balance between the Commonwealth expenditure in that State, and the amount of revenue produced in it through the Customs and other Federal sources, and this year it is estimated that the Treasurer will return to the whole of the States a sum of £7,138,986. It will be seen that the estimated amount to be returned this year is almost equal to the interest due on the debt which we are empowered to take over.

Sir George Turner:

– But we must deal with each individual State. We could not take the total amount of the surplus to pay the total interest of all the States. We should have to take the amount due to each State to pay the interest due in respect of the debt of that State.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That phase of the question requires, of course, careful consideration, and increases the difficulty. The point I wish to make is that under our powers of taxation we have sufficient security to justify us in taking over the public debts of the States. Our powers of taxation by way of Customs and Excise duties have not been exhausted. Items remain untouched which would produce a considerable amount of revenue, and which in times of stress ordifficulty would have to be drawn upon. For this reason I have not been able to understand why the Treasurer should have demanded so much’ security from the States ; I do not know why he should have asked that the whole of the railway revenue of the States should pass through his hands in order that he might retain any sum required by him to meet expenditure on account of the redemption of the public debts taken over by the Commonwealth.

Sir George Turner:

– I modified that request very considerably at the Conference. I said that I should only need the railway revenue if there were a shortage in the Customs revenue, and the Treasurers of the States did not provide me within the proper time with the money necessary to meet demands on account of those debts.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– A provision of that kind would be reasonable. I am inclined to have confidence in the Legislatures of the States. They do not show the slightest tendency to repudiation in dealing with bondholders at the present time, and I do not think they would be likely; to do so when dealing with the Commonwealth. The Constitution to which the people of the States have agreed provides that -

The States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus then the deficiency for the whole amount shall be paid by the several States.

Sir George Turner:

– If a shortage occurred the States. Governments would say to the Federal Treasurer, “You have been extravagant, and you ought to find some other way to pav our interest.”

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– If we raised the necessary funds in some other way, the States would still have to pay.

Sir George Turner:

– But we should have to raise the money in States in which we should not want to raise it.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That, no doubt, is so, but we must have faith and confidence in the future. The great powers of taxation which have been given to the Parliament of the Commonwealth must be realized. The matter rests entirely in our own hands, and if any difficulty were experienced in obtaining the money required to carry out the obligations practicallyforced upon us by the States, we should be able to -take action.

Mr Storrer:

– In a matter of this kind security is better than faith.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– There is such a thing as desiring to be a little too safe. A man who always seeks to be on the safe side will endeavour, as a rule, to get the better of the party with whom he is negotiating, instead of being as generous to him as he would have him be to himself. The loans which mature during the next ten years amount to about ^44,000,000, and that is not a very large proportion of the total of ^203, 978,482 with which we have to deal. I would advise that, in taking over the responsibility for these debts, we should deal only with the’ loans as they mature, and that we should adopt a system of interminable bonds, with power for the Commonwealth to repay at any time, after a certain number of years have elapsed, on due notice being given. If we did that we should place ourselves in the position now occupied by some of the States. I am glad to say that Western Australia has this power at the present time. The loans of that State have a currency of forty years, and the Government have”” the right to give twelve months’ notice of intention to repay at any time after the lapse of twenty years. In that way the State Government have been placed in an excellent position, because it is open to them to choose their own time to repay.

Sir George Turner:

– Western Australia has no interminable bonds. .

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That is so. But we might get as good a price, if not a better price, by having interminable bonds.

Sir George Turner:

– Our London advisers say that we should not. I tried to obtain interminable bonds.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I believe that South Australia has interminable bonds.

Sir George Turner:

– In respect of only one .loan.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am not prepared to be dogmatic. As the Treasurer knows, one may entertain strong opinions, but he has to consider the views of others. In a matter of this kind, the views of those who have the money to lend us must be considered, and we cannot always obtain the exact terms that we should like to secure.

Mr Henry Willis:

– What should we save by having interminable bonds?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– We should secure the advantage of being, able to pay off a loan whenever we desired to do so. If it were not convenient for us to pay it off we should not be bound to do so.

Mr Henry Willis:

– I presume that when a man was lending money on such terms he would take into consideration the fact that the bonds were to be interminable.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Although the Treasurer says that the money lender objects to interminable bonds, we know they are negotiable instruments.

Mr Henry Willis:

– But under such a system we should have to pav more for our money.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– On the contrary, I believe that we might obtain a better price -for interminable bonds. That is a matter, however, which must depend upon the advice of those who represent us in London.

Mr Mahon:

– The interminable bonds, of New South Wales command higher prices.

Sir George Turner:

– - But they are local.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– My reason for addressing myself to this question is that it is one of great and most pressing importance. It will be necessary for us to take immediate action before very long. We have a duty cast upon us under the Constitution, and it is not as some persons imagine purely a matter in which the States may take action. We have the power to take over the debts of the States existing on the establishment of Federation without obtaining, their consent. The Constitution provides that “ the Parliament may take over from the States their public debts.” That is to say, we can take them over nolens volens. We should not. of course, -desire to do anything of the kind. It would be our wish to work in harmony with the States, but it is clear that the intention of the Constitution is that these debts should be taken over by the Commonwealth. I find from the excellent memorandum prepared on this subject by the Treasurer, that over .£3,000,000 worth of stock falls due next year, and will have to be met by the States concerned, unless we can come to an agreement for the taking over of the public debts of the States under the provisions of the Constitution. During the next five years - 1905 to 1909- a sum of £20,000.000 will fall due, including the £3,000,000 to which I have just referred. During the next five years - between 1910 and 1914, ,£24,000,000 more will fall due, while ,£51, 000.000 will fall due between 1 9 r 5 and 1 919 ; £5 1 ,000,000 between 1920 and 1924; and £60.000,000 between 1925 and 1929, and the balance at a later date. The pressure begins next year, when £3,000,000 falls due, and the pressure will continue for the next twenty-five years. I hope that the Government will be able, to take the matter in hand very soon, and that next session a proposition for taking over the whole-of the debts of the States will be laid before ,us. I anticipate the success of the scheme probably with more confidence than does the Treasurer, who, of course, has the greater responsibility. At the same time, I believe that there is no need to show any want of confidence in the States by asking them for more security than, we require, since we have almost enough at the present time, and. our latent powers are sufficient to allow us to provide the money ourselves if the States do not fulfil their obligations.

Sir George Turner:

– If we had the surplus revenue only, Queensland would be short by £610,000, South Australia by £439,000, and Tasmania by £28,000, whereas if we had the net revenue from Queensland that State would still be £200,000 short.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– These facts make the position more- difficult, but if the surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus the deficiency should be made up in some other way. I am sure that a workable scheme will be found for achieving what was one of the great objects of Federation.

Sir George Turner:

– Has the right honorable gentleman formed an opinion as to whether, as part of the bargain, it would be wise to extend the operation of the Braddon provision ? That is the stumbling block of the Treasurers of the States.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I know that there are difficulties in the way of extending the operation of the Braddon provision, because so long as at has force, the Federal Parliament will not have the freedom of expenditure which it would otherwise have. But necessity knows no law, and therefore I am of opinion that it would be wise to extend the operation of the Braddon provision for some years. The varying conditions of the States would create serious difficulty if any per capital distribution of the surplus revenue were adopted. I am aware that the honorable member for Mernda has a plan for overcoming the difficulty. I have not examined it but I have tried my best to discover how the difficulty can be overcome, except by the present bookkeeping mode, but up to the present have- not been successful. I know of no way by which full justice can be done to the States by any mode of distribution other than that vh Ch 1 is carried out under the bookkeeping and Braddon clause provisions. I do not bind myself to the exact terms of that provision ; but unless some plan can be devised for returning to each State the revenue it raises, less the Fe- deral expenditure, great dissatisfaction must be caused, since the citizens of the States have not yet sufficient of the Federal spirit to be willing to pay money for the assistance of other States, unless for some very specific and well-defined object. The ingenuity of the Treasurer, however may discover some means whereby, while dispensing with the Braddon and bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution, full justice may be done to all the States.

Mr Mauger:

– We cannot have an effective, scientific protective Tariff so long as the Braddon provision is in operation.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Then perhaps the honorable member will devise some scientific way of getting rid of the difficulty. I find by the papers which have been placed before us, that the amount paid for sugar bounties this year will be £104,162, and that., we have already paid £252,000 These payments are made to encourage the production of sugar cane by white instead of by coloured labour, and to recompense the employers of white labour for the greater expense which they have to incur. Up to the present time the Queensland growers have received £138,000, and the New South Wales growers £114,000. This latte, amount may be regarded as practically a present to the growers, because very little black labour has ever been employed in New South Wales. The Sugar Bounties Act will, however, expire on the 1st January, 1907, and then there will probably be a demand for its re-enactment for a term. Prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, the- people of the State of Western Australia had admitted for years past both tea and sugar free of dutv, but now they are not only paying a duty upon sugar, but are contributing towards the bounties given to the growers in New South Wales and Queensland.

Sir George Turner:

– Western Australia would have had to raise money by some other means if a duty had not been imposed upon sugar. That State has not had too much money within the last two years.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No other Stat? in the Commonwealth raises nearly so much revenue per head of population as Western Australia does. A State which raises u revenue of £3,500,000 from a population of 240,000, cannot be said not to raise sufficient revenue. If the amount raised is not enough, the remedy should lie in reducing expenditure.

Mr Kelly:

– She is rich enough to build a railway - the Transcontinental Railway - herself.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The Treasurer has not told us the amount that will have to be paid in the shape of bounties in 1907 ; but if the sugar industry is developed to the extent that we are led to expect, I shall not be at all surprised if the present made to Queensland, and particularly to New South Wales, amounts to £500,000.

Sir George Turner:

– That will be about it - another £250,000 for the next two years.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That is a very large amount ; but I am not finding fault with it. The honorable member for Wentworth seems to think that when one makes observations of this kind he is begrudging the money, but no such idea has entered my mind. We knew what we were doing when we consented, to grant the bounties, and we shall have to keep the compact. If we wish to encourage white men to grow sugar we shall have to pay for it’; that was thoroughly understood at the time. Therefore, any remarks I am making are not by way of complaint.. What I desire to point out, however, is that the other States are required to make a very large contribution towards the sugar bounties. The State which I represent has always met with generous treatment at the hands of New South Wales, but I desire lo point out to the representatives of Queensland that Western Australia - that far-off country of which people know so little - has already paid the sugar-growers ;£x5>394» and that her contribution by 1907 will probably amount to ,£50,000.

Mr Kelly:

– Does the right honorable member suggest that in return for that contribution we should give Western Australia £4,000,000 ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I suggest that those Honorable members who object to the small contributions their States would have to make towards the cost of the survey of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta should remember that a far larger amount than they will be required to pay in regard to the proposed survey has already been contributed by Western Australia in payment of the sugar bounties. Within a short time New South Wales will have received considerably more than the amount required to defray the whole cost of the survey.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Does she not con tribute about one-third of the total sum that has to be paid in bounties?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am dealing only with Western Australia, which has already paid £15,394, and will, by 1907, have probably paid . £50,000.

Mr Kelly:

– Were not the representa tives of Western Australia solid on the subject of the sugar bounties?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– What I desire to point out to honorable members is that what holds good in One case should also be regarded as having application in another, and that where one State derives benefits from another it should look generously upon any application, based upon national grounds, that may be made by that State. The honorable member for Wentworth has often referred to the Western Australian special Tariff. “I have always held that the people of Western Australia paid the duties under that Tariff, which was chiefly their concern.

Mr Kelly:

– That is an astonishing theory for a protectionist to hold. I thought it was the outsider who paid the duty?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The Treasury of New South Wales has benefited by the Federal Tariff to a much larger extent than has the Treasury of any other State. Owing to the operation of the Federal Tariff, it has received £5,003,289 in excess of the revenue he would have derived under the duties in operation prior to the introduction of the Federal Tariff. The people ofNew South Wales have had to contribute that revenue themselves, in the same way that the people of Western Australia have paid the duties imposed upon them by the special Tariff. I can see no point in the reiteration of the remarks which have been made with regard to the Western Australian special Tariff, apparently on the presumption that it has inflicted some injury upon the other States.

Mr Kelly:

– Does the right honorable member reallv say that a country pays the duties upon its own imports?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The sugar bounties do not seem to have had that stimulating effect upon the production of sugar by white labour that we all desired to see. In 1903, 24,406 tons of sugar were produced by white labour in’ Queensland, whilst the production for the present year is estimated to reach 31,190 tons - an increase of only 7,284 tons. In regard to that production a bonus of £62,800 has to be paid. I do not think that that is a satisfactory state of affairs. The production of white-grown sugar was practically doubled between 1902 and 1903 ; but the increase for the current year is a comparatively small one. In New South Wales the position is still worse, because the production of sugar in 1903 was 19,236 tons, and for 1904 18,600 tons, or a decrease of 636 tons. For this production we have to pay a bonus of , £37,200.

Mr Henry Willis:

– That falling off is accounted for by the fact that the sugarplanters are now engaging in a more remunerative occupation.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am dealing with the amount of money that we have to pay by way of bounties.

Mr Henry Willis:

– The bounties are not required.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not desire to say one word against the policy we adopted. I am simply studying the effects of the bounties,with a view to arrive at some explanation. Although we are paying bounties amounting to £100,000 for the encouragement of the production of sugar by white men, the net increase in the production for the current year is estimated at only 6,648 tons. I commend this matter to the attention of the Treasurer.We find that the sugar grown by black labour in Queensland last year was 65,456 tons, whereas for the present year the yield is estimated at 97,810 tons, or an increase of 32,354 tons. In New South Wales the production of sugar grown by black labour last year was 2,561 tons, and during the present year the estimate is 2,000 tons, or a decrease of 561 tons. This tends to show that there is less black labour being employed there.

Sir George Turner:

– There is a smaller crop altogether in New South Wales.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– But the amount of black labour employed in that State is very small.

Sir George Turner:

– I received a letter from the secretary of some society in New South Wales, stating that, owing to the bonus being granted, the sugar growers had, at the outset, substituted white labour for black labour, and had thus been enjoying the advantage of the bonus from the beginning.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– If the figuresshow anything, they demonstrate that the greater part of the sugar grown in New South Wales was by white men, and that the planters of that State have derived the greatest advantage from the bounties, because they have not been required to change their mode of operations to any great extent, and have already been paid in bonuses a sum of . £114,000.

Mr Henry Willis:

– They are still going out of business.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The point is that we have been paying bounties with a certain object, namely, to secure the substitution of white for black labour on the plantations.

Mr Chanter:

– They are not growing any less sugar than formerly in New South Wales.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– They are growing less, because the quantity of sugar produced this year. was 1,200 tons less than last year.

Mr Chanter:

– It does not necessarily follow that there has been a reduction in the acreage.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am speaking of the actual production. I do not know that I need “delay the Committee any longer. I hope that we shall soon dispose of the Estimates. Three Governments have had a hand in them. The Deakin Government had them about ready when they left office in April last. Then the Watson Government came into power, and the honorable member for Bland had the Estimates ready to present to honorable members about the time he left office. I am glad to see the present Treasurer back in his old position. I am sure that he did not find it necessary to make many alterations in the Estimates which he left behind him when he resigned office. There is nothing new nor startling in the Estimates. It will puzzle any honorable member - even if he studies them from beginning to end - to discover any item with which he can find much fault. They have been framed with too much care to permit of our criticising them in Committee, except with a view to elicit information, and to give the Treasurer the . benefit of any suggestions which may occur to us. I trust that the Estimates will be quickly disposed of, and - seeing that Parliament has been sitting almost continuously for three years, thereby rendering honorable members who occupy a similar position to myself almost strangers to their own homes - that we shall have an opportunity of visiting our respective States at the earliest possible moment.

Mr KNOX:
Kooyong

– I echo every word of the closing sentence of the right honorable member for Swan. I am very glad to know that there is a prospect of terminating this most extraordinary session, which has been productive of so little practical good to the Commonwealth. In referring to the Defence Estimates, I wish to say that the condition of affairs in the Far East surely demands that the Government, and the Minister of Defence in particular, should give the matter of our coastal defences very serious consideration. I regard Thursday Island and Albany as the two eyes of our Continent. I search these Estimates vainly in an attempt to find adequate provision made for necessary expenditure at the points I have indicated in connexion with our naval defence. I was one wHo strongly supported the proposal to contribute to the maintenance of an Imperial fleet in Australian waters to insure us adequate protection from a foreign foe. At no time, however, did I entertain the opinion that we should be doing justice to our own people if we neglected our coastal and harbor defences. I earnestly hope that the Minister, who possesses such a practical knowledge of the subject, will see that proper provision is made in this connexion.

Mr Watson:

– How much will it cost?

Mr KNOX:

– It will cost a considerable sum of money. Nevertheless, I am sure that the honorable member for Bland would not count the cost if he saw a hostile fleet approaching Sydney or Melbourne with a view to attacking either of them.

Mr Watson:

– I am most anxious to see provision made for our naval defence, but I hold that the £200,000 which we contribute as a subsidy to the Imperial Navy would have been of great assistance in that direction.

Mr KNOX:

– Our coastal and harbor defences, if they were not supported by the British Navy, would be worth nothing.

Mr Watson:

– Our first consideration should be our harbor defences.

Mr KNOX:

– I wish to see forts at Thursday Island and Albany properly manned and equipped. I am gratified to find that the Minister of Defence is determined that proper provision’ shall be made for our inland defence in the shape of rifle clubs. Notwithstanding that a considerable sum has been placed upon the Estimates for the purchase of a supply of magazine Lee-Enfield rifles, I trust that he will not rest content until every member of a rifle club has been provided with one of these weapons.

Mr McCay:

– I am authorizing the issue of them nearly every day, but I must keep sufficient in hand for our first line of defence.

Mr KNOX:

– Of course I recognise that our first line of defence must be properly equipped’. I now. wish to refer to another matter of importance, namely, the cadet movement. I know that the Minister is entirely in sympathy with that movement, and thathe is now placing himself in communication with the various States upon the subject. I am in strong agreement with one plank in the platform of my honorable friends opposite, in that I believe we must ultimately rely for our defence upon the individual knowledge and capacity of our citizens. If, then, we instruct our public school boys in the rudiments of military drill,’ so that they may subsequently be enabled to join the rifle clubs, and eventually to take their places in the militia forces of the Commonwealth, I think that we shall be doing all that we possibly can in the direction of our own defence. I have no desire to take up an unreasonable position, but next session - when I hope the Minister of Defence will be more firmly established in his office than he is to-day - I trust that he will submit a comprehensive and definite scheme in connexion with our cadet system. I come now to a question with which the right honorable member for Swan dealt very exhaustively - the consolidation and transfer of the States debts. Unfortunately for us, the Commonwealth Parliament has not acted in such a way as to justify the people of the States in reposing unbounded confidence in it.

Mr Watson:

– In what respect has the Commonwealth Parliament failed ?

Mr KNOX:

– In one remarkable particular - it has absolutely wasted the public time.

Mr Watson:

– The honorable member himself has contributed a little towards that.

Mr KNOX:

– It has created a lack of confidence in the success of its administration.. I speak wilh some knowledge from afinancial stand-point.

Mr Watson:

– That is a reflection on the Treasurer’s administration.

Mr KNOX:

– It is no reflection on the administration of the right honorable member who now occupies that position. Everybody is aware that I entertain the highest opinion of him and his capacity. Nevertheless it is a fact that if to-morrow the Commonwealth attempted to float a loan of from £2,000,000 to £5,000,000 upon the London market, to use the words of my informant, “it would be laughed off the Stock Exchange.”

Mr Watson:

– Ridiculous.

Mr KNOX:

– I can assure my honorable friend that it is not ridiculous. I am merely stating facts of which I have a personal knowledge. Anybody who peruses the report of the proceedings of the Treasurers’ Conference must “be struck with the obvious fact that the States Treasurers attended with a fixed resolve not to surrender to the Commonwealth anything in the nature of securities if they could possibly avoid it. I do not entertain the same hopeful view as does the Treasurer concerning the outcome of the next Conference. Should his anticipations prove correct, I shall be delighted. When the Conference takes place I think it will be found that the States Treasurers are more determined than ever not to transfer further responsibilities to the control of the Commonwealth. I am glad that the Conference is to meet as early as February next, and I shall watch its proceedings with very great interest. The right honorable member for Swan has clearly shown that the conversion of loans representing so large a sum as £220,000,000 must be a gradual process, and that is a point which I desire to emphasize. I do not think there is any inducement, nor is there likely to be any, for our doing anything to anticipate the maturing of these debts. My own impression is that the operation of converting them will not prove one of those financial projects that may be accomplished in the course of a few months, or even years. There will be a gradual process of evolution, and it will be necessary for us, as each loan is maturing, to take into careful consideration all the features which the money market of the day presents.

Mr Henry Willis:

– Would not a saving be effected if we carried out the whole transaction at one operation?

Mr KNOX:

– That could not be done. The honorable member recognises, of course, that it would not be an easy matter to convert at one operation loans amounting to no less a sum than £220,000,000. One may be disposed at first to consider that there are not many difficulties in the way,” but as soon as he gives serious attention to the matter he must recognise that the task before us is one of great magnitude. I should like to bear tribute to the excellent compilation forming part of the memoranda submitted to the recent Conference of Treasurers by the Federal Treasurer. It shows that he possesses a complete grasp of ,the whole question, and recognises the difficulties associated with it. In this memorandum the right honorable gentleman displayed a complete mastery of the entire subject that must have appealed to .those who took part in the Conference, and if anything can be done at the forthcoming Conference to further the object that we all have so much at heart, I am sure that the Treasurer will do it. We know that we shall have the right man in the right place to represent us at the Conference, and if he succeeds in inducing the States to transfer sufficient security to the Commonwealth, and to make sufficient provision for the payment of interest on the loans taken over by us, he will have accomplished a great work for which the Commonwealth will be eternally grateful. I believe, however, that, on’ further consideration, the right honorable gentleman will find that the difficulties in the way of the accomplishment of cur object are even greater than he imagines. . One great difficulty is that the framers of the Constitution did not make the necessary provision to enable us to give full effect to that section which refers especially to the conversion of State loans. The Treasurer knows, of course, that the Commonwealth might take up an absolutely arbitrary position, and say to the Governments of the States - “We are going to take over the whole of your loans, as at the date of Federation,” but, as a matter of fact, the Constitution does not specifically provide for the transfer of the public undertakings or works necessary as security. We know that the States would have to undertake the responsibility of providing for these moneys, but the provisions of the Constitution in regard to this matter are not sufficiently specific. I trust that it will never be necessary for the Commonwealth to bring into operation the constitutional power enabling us to take over these debts without the consent of the States, for such a course of action would be unduly oppressive.

Sir George Turner:

– If it were followed, it. would be used to our detriment in London when we attempted1 to borrow. It would be said that, as a matter of fact, there was no real security.

Mr KNOX:

– Exactly. As the Treasurer remarked at the Conference, it is ne cessary that Ave should approach the consideration of this question with a desire to arrive at a reasonable, business-like understanding. I feel that the Constitution will have to be amended, not only in the direction which I have indicated, but in other ways, in order to avoid the serious complications which are arising in connexion with the loans of the States. The total debts of the States amount in round numbers to £220,000,000. Since Federation loans amounting to £24,952,879 have been raised.

Mr Wilks:

– Those loans consist largely of renewals.

Mr KNOX:

– I shall content myself by saying that they represent fresh borrowings. Of this sum. New South Wales floated loans amounting to £13,507,046, while the other States raised a total of £11,287,867, so that New South Wales has borrowed £2,219.179 in excess of the total sum raised since the establishment of Federation by all the other States.

Mr Wilks:

– But New South Wales has “taken a pull” on itself.

Mr KNOX:

– If I may translate the honorable member’s remarks into parliamentary vernacular, New South Wales does not intend to borrow for some time. I am glad to hear that that is so. It seems to me that it is desirable that the section of the Constitution known as the “ Braddon section “ shall be extended-. I believe th21 the Treasurer will find the representatives of the States at the Conference in Hobart more firmly convinced than ever that the finances of the States require that- the time limit fixed by the “ Braddon blot “ shall be extended very considerably.

Sir George Turner:

– They could not help themselves unless we chose to give them permission.

Mr KNOX:

– I am aware of that; but there must be a common understanding between the representatives of the’ Commonwealth and the States..

Sir George Turner:

– They must be reasonable if they expect us to be reasonable.

Mr KNOX:

– I agree with the right honorable gentleman.

Mr Chanter:

– The Braddon section was always spoken of at one time as the “ Braddon blot.”

Mr KNOX:

– I read in a newspaper a few days ago that it was the “ Braddon blessing.” The provision in question was inserted at the instance of a right honorable gentleman who formerly occupied a seat in this House, and I trust that he is now receiving the reward of his labours in the interests of the people. I have only to add before I pass from this subject that, to my mind, nothing would be gained by immediate conversion, or by anticipating maturing debts. I believe that it will be necessary for us to issue interminable bonds - bonds resembling British Consols. We cannot deal at once with all the loans. Loans are maturing at specified, dates, whilst there are also loans under notice, but I hope that we shall be able to establish an interminable bond, and that we shall be able to obtain money at a low rate of interest, provided we give proper and sufficient security. One honorable member, in dealing with this question last night, referred to the fact that our 3 per cent, bonds were selling at a very low price, as compared with the rates prevailing for the stocks of other countries. As one who has had some experience of operations of this kind, I should like to say that public sentiment has an important bearing on the floating of a loan. It is necessary for us to show that we have unquestionable security, but at the present time there is an impression abroad that is adverse to Australian loans. I indorse the statement which has been made that when the people of the States voted for the establishment of the Federation thev considered that the conversion and consolidation of the debts of the States would be one of the first benefits to be derived from it. At the same time, I think it is desirable that we should not expect too much from the Commonwealth in the way of its being able to obtain money, for some time to come, at a very much lower rate of interest than can the Slates. The condition of the money market at the moment we enter it must always be taken into consideration, and until we do something to do away with the unfavorable view which is taken of Australian stocks, I believe that there will be very little margin between the interest paid on the Commonwealth loans and that paid on loans of the States. I wish now to refer to the Pacific Cable. Provision is made in the Estimates for the payment of a sum of £10,000 in respect of Victoria, £10,000 for New South Wales, and £10,000 for Queensland, or a total of £30,000, and I desire to know whether that sum represents the whole loss.

Sir George Turner:

– That is our proportion of the annual loss, which, of course, will be reduced when things get into full working order.

Mr KNOX:

– I think that we cannot too much emphasize the fact that New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland have to make up a deficit of £30,000 per annum on the working of the Pacific Cable, so that the trading community of those States may, see that it is to their interest to use that cable instead of the Eastern Extension Company’s cable.

Sir George Turner:

– Yes; but it must be borne in mind that, whereas formerly we paid a subsidy and higher rates, we now pay no subsidy, and the rates are lower.

Mr KNOX:

– Quite so. Although there is a loss of £30,000 per annum on the working of the Pacific Cable, we must set against that the saving in subsidy, and the reduction in rates. I wish to refer next to the enormous number of appeals which have been sent in to the Public Service Commissioner, a number so great, that I should think that the process of hearing them might be regarded as having practically broken down. I understand that the appeals run into thousands.

Sir George Turner:

– Two thousand appeals have been sent in, but a great many of them are on the same point.

Mr KNOX:

– I have received a great many letters from public servants who feel that there is too much delay in answering their appeals. While the fullest recognition must be given to the great work which the Public Service Commissioner has had to accomplish in the reclassification of, the service, I think that something more should be done to relieve the present tension.

Sir George Turner:

– The findings of the Public Service Commissioner will date back to the 1st July last, so that the public servants interested will not have much to grumble at.

Mr KNOX:

– All I ask is that these matters may be dealt with as rapidly as possible. In my replies to my correspondents I have said that attention is being given to their appeals, and that I am sure that they will be dealt with as speedily as possible. I had intended to refer to some of the electoral matters to which reference was made by other honorable members on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, but it is not now necessary for me to refer to them. Still, as the Minister of Home Affairs is present. I should like to remind him that we have not yet heard what steps are to be taken in connexion with the alteration of the electoral boundaries, so that there shall not be a larger number of electors in one division than in another. This is a matter which was regarded as of vital urgency last session.

Sir George Turner:

– The names of the electors must be collected before there can be any alteration of electoral boundaries.

Mr KNOX:

– I recognise that, andI understood from the Minister that the Victorian returns are practically complete. I should like the assurance that during the recess, when the Department has collected all the information available, a readjustment of boundaries will take place. Another matter to which I wish to refer is this : To my mind very small provision is made for recognising Mr. Coghlan’s services to the Commonwealth in the compilation of The Seven Colonies. That is a work to which we all constantly refer, and which is a standard in other parts of the world for information as to our social, industrial, and economic conditions. It is time that the valuable officer who compiles it was transferred from- the service of a State to that of the Commonwealth. I undertand that at the present time he endeavours to adopt a uniform method of collecting the statistics which he uses, but I do not think that complete uniformity can be obtained until we have a Commonwealth Statistical Bureau. I do not think there would be much additional expense if the arrangement which I suggest were made, because compensating savings could be made. As I have said on other occasions, the Commonwealth is placed in a position of disadvantage in not being properly,and adequately represented in Great Britain, and I should therefore have been glad to see the Government take in hand the HighCommissionership Bill which I am sure would have been readily passed by Parliament. We must have some one in London who can speak for the whole of Australia. I recognise that the co-operation of the States is necessary but itis a pity that the Government has not taken up a stronger position in the matter. I hope that during the recess some definite agreement will be come to with the States on the subject. There are men in this House who could give valuable serviceby representing the Commonwealth in London, and I have already shown that such representation is urgently needed. I referred in the earlier portion of my remarks to a communication from a leading financial centre in London as to the disaster which would overtake any Commonwealth proposal to borrow at the present time. What is needed is to create confidence in London in our financial position, and to improve our status there. The States should raise no objection to this, because undoubtedly what is best for the Commonwealth is best for them individually. Until we are represented there, we shall always be liable to misrepresentation.

Mr CARPENTER:
Fremantle

-At the outset I desire to thank the Treasurer for having done something towards removing a long-standing grievance. Ever since the Federation has been established, we have been looking forward to the time when we should be able to retire to rest, feeling that if any enemy came within reach of our shores, we should at least have some protection. It will be remembered that when I first took my seat in this House, I had to make the somewhat grave complaint that the then Government had misappropriated certain moneys voted by the House towards the construction of defence works at Fremantle; and whichI thought should have been spent immediately for that purpose. However, the Treasurer has explained - and I accept the explanation - that he did not at that time understand fully the extent of the expenditure to which that vote committed the Commonwealth. But having recognized that the cost will be somewhat greater than he first anticipated he has taken the proper course of asking the Committee to sanction a portion of the expenditure. I gather from the figures in the Budget papers that it is the intention of the Treasurer to proceed first with the fortification of the position known as Arthur’s Head. It would have been more acceptable to the people of Fremantle if the fortifications at North Fremantle, at which the largest guns are to be mounted, could have been first constructed. There will always be a strong objection to the Arthur’s Head fortification, which is in the middle of the business portion of the town, and will always be regarded as a source of danger. The firing of the gun in that fort will. I fear, cause some damage to the surrounding property. I should have continued to combat the proposal to fortify that position, had I not been convinced, after having personally interviewed the military experts, and having perused their reports, that the town could not be effectively protected from any other point The leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to the alteration that was proposed to be made in the method of apportioning the expenditure upon new works and buildings. I understand that there is considerable difference of opinion amongst honorable and learned members as to whether .the Treasurer’s ptoposed action will be constitutional. I do not propose to discuss that point, because where lawyers differ it would be presumption on the part of a layman like myself to attempt to decide. If there be any question as to the legality of the Treasurer’s action, .1 presume that any of the States will have the right to submit .the matter for decision by the High Court. The honorable member for Bland dismissed the legal aspect of the question, and proceeded to deal with it from the stand-point of equity. He complained that the Treasurer was proposing to spend some £24,000 in the erection of fortifications in Western Australia, and that the whole of the States would be called upon to contribute. I am quite sure that the people of Western Australia have no wish to be treated differently from the citizens of other parts of the Commonwealth. They are quite willing to have applied to them the same rule that is made to operate with regard to the rest of the Commonwealth - all other things being equal. But it seems to me that the objection raised by the honorable member for Bland loses Its point when it is considered that although it is true that the whole Commonwealth will be asked to contribute towards the erection of these works, it is also true that the Commonwealth has taken over from each of the States similar works and buildings for which it will have to pay. I can see no essential difference between constructing works and buildings, and paying for them now. and taking over similar’ works and buildings, which have been paid for by the States, and reimbursing those States.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– There is a great deal of difference, because one is a spot cash transaction, and the other is a matter of arrangement.

Mr CARPENTER:

– Even supposing that there is some advantage in having the works paid for out of hand, it must be recollected that those States which have already paid fox their defence works, have had the advantage of them in the past. The same people who have been deriving the advantage of the expenditure up to the present time, will continue to do so.

Mr Lonsdale:

– But they have to put their hands into their pockets to contribute towards the expenditure upon defence works in Western Australia.

Mr CARPENTER:

– We shall have to put our hands into our pockets by-and-by, in order to enable the Commonwealth to return to Victoria, New South Wales, and other States, the money that they have spent upon their defence works. It is only fair to say that it is not the fault of the Commonwealth that we have not yet received from the States, accounts of their expenditure. For some reason the States Treasurers will not tell us how much they want us to pay for the transferred properties, and it is very largely owing to their fault that we have not entered into some arrangement. I hold that there is no essential difference between the Commonwealth now paying money for the construction of works and buildings, and our eventually reimbursing the States for the expenditure that they have already incurred- upon similar works and buildings. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth, one or two public works have been constructed and the States concerned have been debited with their cost. Take, for instance, the construction of the telegraph line to Tarcoola. That work was recommended by the officers of South Australia, constructed by the Commonwealth, and the cost debited to that State. I understand that as soon as we arrive at an arrangement with the States regarding the mode of payment to be adopted in compensating them for their transferred properties, the work to which I have referred will be included with other public works, so that South Australia will be treated in exactly the same way as it is proposed to treat Western Australia. It is unfortunate in some respects that this departure from the method which has previously been followed should have been made at a period when the expenditure is absolutely necessary. I am convinced that if any other State had received the first advantage arising out of that departure, the same objections would not have been raised.

Mr Tudor:

– Western Australia has enjoyed an advantage from the commencement. That fact was pointed out by the Treasurer.

Mr CARPENTER:

– I do not think that the Treasurer made any such statement.

Sir George Turner:

– Western Australia has always gained. More money has been spent there than a per capita expenditure would have justified.

Mr CARPENTER:

– That observation brings me to the question of the redistribution of the surplus revenue. Some honorable members appear to think that because the people of Western Australia tax themselves more heavily than do the rest of the Commonwealth, they gain an advantage at the expense of the other States. I fail to follow the logic of any such reasoning. The people of Western Asutralia would be glad indeed if they could in any way reduce their own taxation. They have an immense territory to develop, and they have to bear a very large expenditure in administration as compared with States containing a much smaller area. -Yet they are doing these things with credit to themselves, despite the fact that they constitute a mere handful. Moreover, Western Australia is spending many thousands of pounds in public works and buildings every year. Seeing that its people are doing so much, and that ultimately this expenditure will benefit the whole of Australia, surely we ought not to cavil because they are allowed to tax themselves in excess of other portions of the Commonwealth ? Coming to the question of the bookkeeping period, I wish to say that the Treasurer will shortly be brought face to face with a very difficult problem. He has always recognised that it would be impossible to terminate the ‘bookkeeping system without making some special provision for Western Australia. No doubt honorable members have analysed the figures in his Budget papers which set out the difference which the distribution of the surplus revenue upon a population basis would have made to the various States. If the bookkeeping system had not been in vogue - if the surplus revenue had been distributed upon a per capita basis - the loss to Western Australia would have been as follows: - 1901 -2,. £658,256; i9°2-3.- ^579^34; 1903-4, :£453,’31:> and the estimate for 1.904-5 is £468, 621, or a total during four years of £2,160,242. I have merely to quote these figures to show that the revenue of Western Australia would have been, paralyzed if these amounts had been withheld from it. The only other State of the union which would have lost under a per capita distribution is New South Wales, which during the same period would have suffered to the extent of -£165,000. In his Budget speech the Treasurer mentioned that, with the approaching expiry of the book keeping period, under which the revenue of Western Australia had been afforded this protection, it might be necessary to adopt a sliding scale. He suggested that the bookkeeping system might be extended for ten years, during which existing differences might be gradually wiped out, so that Western Australia might approximate more closely to the other States in a distribution of the surplus revenue upon a population basis. I do not know whether he has worked out any scheme in this direction. I imagine that he has bestowed some thought upon it, otherwise he would scarcely have made the suggestion. I do not pretend to prophesy how such a method, if adopted, would work out. But considering the complications which would arise under two sets of bookkeeping, I am of opinion that it would involve as much work as does the present system.

Sir George Turner:

– It would involve exactly the same amount of work as we perform now. But at the end of ten years all the States would be placed upon a per capita basis.

Mr CARPENTER:

– The difference between the other States is not very great. If it were not for the peculiar position which Western Australia occupies we might even abolish the bookkeeping system in five years. That being so, why not abolish that system and make some special provision in the case of the western State ? I am hopeful that before many years have passed the conditions in Western Australia will approximate more closely to those obtaining in the other States, and the time may come when we shall find that the difference between Western Australia and the other States is so small that we shall be able to say, “ At the end of this or the next financial year no more bookkeeping shall be done.” If we hold ourselves free to take such action when the occasion arises, it seems to me that it will be preferable to embarking upon a ten years’sliding scale, which might mean additional work after the necessity for its performance had disappeared. Some honorable members have spoken of the unpopularity of Federation, and have agreed with certain criticism which has been bestowed upon this Parliament. -We have been charged with extravagant expenditure. I confess at once - not having been a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament - that it did appear to an outsider that the salaries paid bv this Parliament were upon a somewhat lavish scale when compared with those paid by the various Stales

Governments. Some little criticism on the part of members of the States Legislatures was therefore to be expected. We have no desire to curtail the powers of ‘ criticism of members of the States Legislatures, if they are of opinion that we are doing anything inimical to those States. But whilst I shared that view for a time, I am free to admit that after the first two years of the Federation no such criticism was justifiable. If there is one thing more than another which has contributed to build up the reputation of the Treasurer it is the fact that he sits very tightly upon the Treasury chest. He would be more popular than he is if he were a little more generous in his public expenditure. Then it has been affirmed that this Parliament, during the present session, has brought discredit upon itself and upon the whole Federation. When the honorable and learned member for Parkes was speaking, last evening, I interjected that one reason for the waning popularity of Federation was that the people of Australia, in adopting the Commonwealth Constitution, had been led to expect too much. Those honorable members who took an active part in the agitation for the establishment of the Commonwealth will recollect that the picture presented to the electors was very much overdrawn. It was stated that when once the Commonwealth was established, happiness, peace’, and contentment would follow. I remember certain flaming posters being displayed all over South Australia, in which the people were promised all sorts of things if they would adopt the Commonwealth Constitution Bill. The opponents of Federation pointed out that a large sum of money would require to be expended to get the Commonwealth into working order. I remember that the advocates of the Bill assured the public that, so far from Federation imposing any additional expenditure upon the taxpayer, it would actually result in the saving of money. They were informed by one gentleman, who occupies a very high position in another branch of the Legislature, that as the result of the federalization of the States debts more than sufficient money would be saved in the course of a few years to defray the whole cost of government. All these predictions have been unfulfilled. It is only too evident that, from a party point of view, some of those who urged the acceptance of the Constitution have been keenly disappointed. They anticipated that the Federal Parliament would consist, I was going to say, of representatives of only one class, but perhaps that would be too harsh a statement to make. On their own confession, however, they expected that there would not be many representatives of labour in this House - that we should have that rarer atmosphere of which we have heard so much, and that they were going to carry on the business of the country very much to their own liking. The fact that the people of Australia have not returned these men has produced a good deal of dissatisfaction and disappointment, and we have the conservative press on every side complaining that the Commonwealth Parliament is passing legislation which was never anticipated There is one aspect of this question which is worthy of comment. The attempts made from time to time to discredit an opposing party sometimes lead to the making of statements which reflect not only upon that party but upon the country whose interests we are here to conserve. Honorable members know full well that some of the wild statements made, particularly by the conservative organs, as to the effect of legislation passed by us, are viewed more seriously in Great Britain than in Australia, where we are cognizant of the reasons for such assertions. I believe that a good deal of the socalled unpopularity from which the Commonwealth suffers to-day has arisen from the injudicious comments and unjustifiable attacks which have been made for purely party purposes, and which have reflected, and must always reflect, on the Commonwealth as a whole. I hope that the present situation, of which we have heard so much of late, will shortly find its solution. I believe that it will, and that in spite of tha fact that at present there appears to be little or no work transacted by the Parliament, we shall have an alteration before long in the position of parties in this House, which will give one side or the other a working majority, and enable us to carry on the business of the country in a manner creditable to ourselves, and profitable to the people of the Commonwealth.

Mr STORRER:
Bass

– I wish to deal with only one item forming part of the Budget statement. I refer to the question of defence. It will be remembered that last year the Defence Force of Tasmania was reduced to a level below that of the rest of the Commonwealth, and that a certain amount of dissatisfaction arose, which resulted in the disbandment of the southern forces. The northern forces of Tasmania, however, remained true to their principles, and expected that they would be treated in the generous manner indicated by the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Balaclava, in last year’s Budget statement. The right honorable member then stated that such a thing as that of which the troops complained would not happen again. As a matter of fact, however, we find that the Estimates now submitted to us provide for the payment of the forces in Tasmania for only six months, instead of twelve - their pay is to date from 1st January next, instead of from 1st July of this year. I trust that the Tasmanian Forces, which have remained true to their principles, will be granted that which was promised them, and which they expected to receive. I believe that the volunteers of that State would willingly serve their country without any payment whatever ; but thev regard it as a slight to be asked to receive less than that given to their brethren on the mainland. I mention this matter at this early stage in the debate, so that when we are called upon to deal with the Defence estimates, we shall be in a position to treat the forces in Tasmania in the manner they deserve. It will be remembered that, in speaking on the motion for the adoption of the Address in Reply, at the opening of this Parliament, I referred to the wav in which our volunteers had been treated. During the debate which has taken place this afternoon, a good deal has been said as to the large expenditure contemplated on defence works in Western Australia; but I have not heard of any proposal to expend large sums on such things as fortifications in Tasmania. I do not complain of that, but Tasmania expects that her volunteers shall be treated on truly Federal lines.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

– I desire to say a few words on a matter which is of importance to Queensland, and to some extent concerns the whole Commonwealth. I. observed, with some regret, that the Prime Minister, when referring to-day to the measures likely to be dealt with during this session, did not mention whether the Government intended to introduce a Bill to extend the operation of the Sugar Bounty Act. I give prominence to this matter, for the reason that, as the Treasurer will freely admit, the Sugar Bounty Act was passed as an experiment, and that it was decided that it should expire at the end of 1906, on the ground that the Pacific Island

Labourers Bill, then drafted, provided that kanakas should be returned to the islands at the end of that period. I must say that the Treasurer, in introducing the Budget, dealt with the question in a very satisfactory way, and I make no complaint regarding his statement on the matter of policy. He sand, in the course of that speech, that-

Honorable members will recollect that the sugar excise and sugar bonus will expire on the 1st January, 1907, and shortly it will be the duty of the Parliament to take into consideration what course should be pursued with regard to the excise, and with regard to the rebates.

Mr Fisher:

– This session?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I do not know that it will be possible to deal with the matter this session. It is one which requires very careful and full inquiry, but, so far as I am personally concerned, I sympathize altogether with the position, especially of Queensland, in this connexion, and I may say I am prepared to do whatever is possible to assist the sugar industry, to keep it alive, and to enable growers of sugar to work in such a way that they will be able to do without black labour, without suffering any real hardship or loss.

That puts the case in a nutshell. A sympathetic reference of that kind, followed by legislation, is all that I require. Some criticism has been offered regarding the position occupied by the sugar growers, and I am sorry to say that complaints have been made by some of the representatives of other States in which sugar is not grown, that Queensland is receiving an undue advantage.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Hear, hear.

Sir George Turner:

– The complaint was not so much against Queensland as against New South Wales.

Mr FISHER:

– The honorable member for Franklin seems to think that it is unwise to encourage a native industry by extending to it a measure of protection even less than that enjoyed by others which are not to be compared with that of sugargrowing. Has the honorable member any idea of the proportion of protection afforded other industries, compared with that which is extended to the one now under notice? The hat and boot making trades are both protected by duties of 30 per cent., and the protection which the sugar-growing industry receives, does not at all events exceed that, although it is equal in every way to the industries to which I have referred. Honorable members from other States do not find the representatives of Queensland complaining that their industries are protected, while Queensland is not producing the articles which many of them manufacture. It may surprise the Committee to know that the products of some of the protected industries that are of material assistance to Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, are being used inQueensland in large and increasing quantities.

Mr Tudor:

– The Victorian protectionists have not objected to the payment of the sugar bounty.

Mr Mauger:

– The Victorian protectionists led in the matter years ago.

Mr FISHER:

-I am aware of that, but I cannot forget that the, Minister of Trade and Customs has frequently drawn attention to what he describes as the serious inroads being made on the revenue of Victoria, as the result of the White Australia legislation. I venture to say that when he looks carefully into the matter, he will see good grounds for the view I have always adopted, that this expenditure, if it really be an expenditure, is justified by the circumstances of the case. I quite, agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the sugar-growers have received the most active support of the prominent protectionists of Victoria. The great body of the protectionist members of this House supported the representatives of Queensland in securing this protection for the sugargrowers of the northern State, and I express my satisfaction at their action. The principle is a sound one, and our action in passing the Act has been fully justified, because the number of white growers of sugar has since steadily increased. The matter to which I now direct the Treasurer’s attention is this : that having discovered that our legislation is satisfactory, it is our duty to continue it. The time has arrived when it is advisable to give, if not legislative effect to our opinions, at least a promise to the white sugar-growers that the Parliament, having seen the wisdom of the measure in question, is prepared to continue it.

Mr Skene:

– This Parliament cannot bind the next.

Mr Mauger:

– Does the honorable member think that there is any doubt about our continuing the legislation in question?

Mr FISHER:

– I have some doubt, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister did not even mention the matter to-day, although its importance had been suggested to the Government.

Sir George Turner:

– It must be dealt with next session, in order that the sugargrowers may have fair notice of our intentions.

Mr FISHER:

– The Treasurer put the matter so clearlv before honorable members in his Budget statement that I did not think it necessary at the time to make any further reference to it, more especially as I knew that he held the financial strings of the Government of Australia. I am sure that the right honorable gentleman knows exactly the position in which Queensland stands. In answer to the honorable member for Grampians, I admit that this Parliament cannot bind the next. But it was entirely against my will - it was in opposition to the efforts which I made, both privately and publiclv - that a limitation was imposed on the duration of the Sugar Bounty Act. I think I may say, without any breach of confidence, that the reason why some of my fellowrepresentatives from Queensland urged that a time lirr.it should be fixed, was that they feared the present Prime Minister. I think that fear was due, so far as some honorable members were concerned, to the impetuosity of youth. We should have done much better had we passed the Bill without fixingany time limit, because it would have been open to us to repeal it at any time, had the circumstances shown that its continuance was not justified. The Prime Minister, who was then the leader of the Opposition, promised that he would respect the principle of the Act, up to the 1st January, 1907, at least, when it would expire. He made a very clear statement to that effect.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– He ought to do so.

Mr FISHER:

– I would ask the honorable member whether anything has happened since the passing of the Act that would justify the Prime Minister in refusing to agree to its extension beyond that date. I have never doubted the right honorable gentleman’s statement that he would respect it to the date named. When the sugar duties were under discussion, he stated that he would agree to a certain course, and that he believed, so far as hecould see, that this legislation was worthy of a fair trial. It has had a fair trial, and the results have justified the action of this Parliament in passing it. It has been stated that the production of sugar by coloured labour has increased in Queensland. Although I have not been able to put my finger on the statistics necessary to prove my contention, I have no hesitation in saying that that is not a correctstatement.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Can the honorablemember explain the figures which have been put before us?

Mr FISHER:

– I understand that the Treasurer is now awaiting a letter of explanation ; but I can advance a supposition which I think is reasonable. My idea is that the difference may be accounted for by the fact that probably producers who employ white labour when they register give, not the area which they have under sugar cane, but the area of their whole farms, part of which may be under other crops.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– But the quantity of sugar produced by black labour is increasing at a greater rate than that produced by white labour.

Mr Ewing:

– The figures are absurd.

Sir John Forrest:

– It is anticipated that the increase in the production by white labour this year will be only about 7,000 tons, while the increase in the production by black labour will be about 32,000 tons.

Mr FISHER:

– Another explanation that may be put forward to account for the large increase in the amount of sugar grown by black labour, is that last year and the year before were bad seasons in the southern part of Queensland. In my own district, owing to the severe drought, some black labour plantations had practically no crushing at all, and the cane was allowed to stand over till this good year. In some cases there has been no -crushing for three years.

Sir John Forrest:

– Notwithstanding the bounty, the production has decreased in New South Wales.

Mr FISHER:

– That proves my contention that the sugar-growers require consideration at the hands of Parliament. I shall leave it to the honorable member for Richmond to place before the Committee the case of the New South Wales growers, but so far as Queensland is concerned I would point out to the right honorable member for Swan that instead of the bounty having made sugar-growing a very profitable industry, the farmers engaged in it have a very keen struggle to earn a living.

Sir John Forrest:

– In 1903 the increase in the production of Queensland by white labour was about 12,000 tons, but this year it will be only about 7,000.

Mr FISHER:

– I think the figures go to show that the industry is not so profitable as some honorable members imagine it to be, and that the limit has practically been reached, so that unless the bounty is continued there will be a decrease.

Sir John Forrest:

– Perhaps the results will be better than the ‘ anticipation ; they’ have not been so far very satisfactory.

Mr FISHER:

– I differ from the right honorable member there. The number of white growers has increased by 621 persons in two years.

Sir John Forrest:

– Take last year.

Sir George Turner:

– The increase last year was 94.

Sir John Forrest:

– There was a greater advance in the first year, after the granting of the bounty, tha*n in the second year.

Sir George Turner:

– That was only natural. There was a big jump in the first year, consequent on the giving of the bounty.

Mr FISHER:

– The subject is very technical, and even those who are most closely acquainted with it feel that it is a difficult one. A most experienced Customs officer who has recently visited the sugar-growing districts has made a most satisfactory report upon the operation of the bounty. He says that he found no occasion to complain of the honesty of the white growers, and in only one case has it been found necessary to take the matter into Court. The appointment of inspectors has been of great assistance to the white growers, and the complaints which have been made have arisen rather from want of knowledge than from a desire to evade the Act. The point I wish to make, however, is that the 2,142 white families engaged in the production of sugar are worth more to the State of Queensland than large plantations which employ only a few white persons and a large number of coloured persons. But unless Parliament continues the bounty these 2,142 white families will find it impossible to carry on.

Mr McWilliams:

– Cannot . sugar be produced bv white labour without a bounty 7

Mr FISHER:

– No, because without a bounty the white grower has to compete directly with the black grower. The only difference between them is the bounty. The white grower pays £3 per ton in excise duty, and receives a bounty of £2 per ton, while the coloured grower pays the excise duty, and gets no bounty. Experts who have gone into the matter have shown that . the ‘bounty is equivalent to the difference between the wages of coloured labour and those of white labour. Therefore, if we intend to encourage the production of sugar by white labour we must continue it. I regret that so much opposition has been shown by members representing other States to this expenditure by the Commonwealth Queenslanders have not complained of the effect of the Federal Tariff in reducing their revenue, although they have hard a hard struggle to make ends meet. They maintain that as they invested a large amount of public. as well private money in. the Central Mills prior to Federation, purely for the encouragement of the production of sugar by white labour, the Federal Parliament should not desert them in their hour of need, because other States do not receive a bounty. It is no fault of Queensland that Victorian growers are not obtaining a bounty for the production of beet sugar by white labour. When the question was under discussion, I was ready to agree to a provision under which a bounty would be given for the production of sugar from beet; but, as a matter of fact, there is nothing to prevent Victorians who produce beet sugar by white labour from getting a bounty, and there are no climatic reasons why beet should not be grown here. As a set-off to the statements which have been made about the cost of the bounty system to the Commonwealth, I would like to remind honorable members of the loss of revenue which Queensland suffers under the Federal Tariff. In 1902, boots and shoes, to the value of £55,910, were sent from the other States to Queensland, while in 1903 the value was .£81,583.

Mr Tudor:

– Has the honorable member the figures for 1 900 ?

Mr FISHER:

– I do not desire to go back so far, but if I did, the contrast would be all in favour of my position. Queensland is paying to encourage indirectly the industries of the other States, but she makes no complaint about it. I hope, therefore, that the representatives of the other States will not attack the sugar industry, which is really the only industry from which Queensland’ gets an advantage under the Tariff. In 1902, Queensland imported from the other States confectionery to the value of £7,275, whilst in the following year the imports of that class of goods reached the value of £23,808. We were told that the jam industry would suffer in consequence of the sugar duties, but I am glad to say that that industry appears to be developing, especially in Tasmania.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The jam manufacturers receive a rebate of five-sixths of the value of the duty paid upon the sugar used by them, when their jams are exported.

Mr FISHER:

– That is quite correct. Whilst I was presiding over the Department of Trade and Customs, I did everything possible to facilitate the operations of the manufacturers of jam and other articles, and I granted the fullest drawbacks possible upon jams that were sent out of Australia. My action in that matter- aroused a little hostile feeling in my own electorate, but I felt sure that I was taking up a sound position. The manufacture of jam is an industry which is entitled to the fullest encouragement, because it has a tendency to assist our fruit-growers, by providing them with an outlet for the products of their orchards. It must be remembered that although one-sixth of the duty upon sugar used in making jam which is exported beyond the Commonwealth, is lost to the manufacturers, there is a protective duty upon imported jams, which is of some advantage to them. It will be satisfactory to the honorable member for Franklin to know that practically the whole of the jam consumed in Queensland is imported from the other States. Only £^840 worth of jam is imported from parts beyond the Commonwealth. The people of Queensland show a marked partiality for Australian products. They do not stop to inquire whether, by indulging their preference they will cause a loss of revenue. They have the satisfaction, of course, of knowing that, in many instances, they are consuming jam made by manufacturers who use Queensland sugar. In 1902 the imports of jam from other States were valued at £44,385, and in 1903 at .£53>598- The imports of dresses and tailor-made goods from the other States in 1902 were valued at £29,043, and in 1903 at £52,715. Unfortunately, owing to the hard times through which Queensland has passed, its population has not been expanding so rapidly in recent years, and the purchasing power of the community, owing, largely, to the very severe drought, has been decreasing rather than otherwise. They have, however, been steadily transferring their favour from foreign goods to the Australian article.

Sir George Turner:

– That tendency is increasing.

Mr FISHER:

– I am glad to say that it is. We do not wish our people to purchase imported products for the sake of the revenue derived from the payment of the duty upon them. In 1902 Queensland imported from the other States, hats valued at £ir,965, whilst last year the imports were worth £17,673. Having regard to the fact that a 30 per cent, duty is levied upon imported hats, this increase in the importation of goods from the other States alone made a considerable difference to the State Treasurer. I know nothing of the reasons which influence merchants in buying Australian as distinguished from foreign goods, but I take it for granted that they would not purchase them unless they were convinced that they received good value for their money. They must derive considerable advantage from the fact that their orders can be speedily filled by the local manufacturers, and that, therefore, they are not under the necessity of keeping excessively large stocks. It is only by encouraging our industries that we can hope to make Australia a great country.

Mr Page:

– How long, oh, Lord, how long?

Mr FISHER:

– We must exercise a little patience. I would’ point out to the honorable member for Maranoa that during the last few years we have been labouring under difficulties other than those created by the drought. Practically all the States Governments stopped borrowing, and made up their minds to live within their means, at a time of the greatest trial and difficulty. Had the change been brought about at an ordinary period, its effects would not have been so keenly felt. We now have the satisfaction of knowing that we have begun to live within our income, and I believe that we shall very shortly march ahead.

Mr Page:

– They have had thirty yearn of borrowing in Victoria, and they still want more.

Mr FISHER:

– So long as they keep on wanting more, they cannot make true progress. The Commonwealth has laid down a sound principle in regard to its finances, and although I do not for one moment urge that the States should not borrow any further, I. think that their operations in that direction should be very limited. I hope that I shall be supported by the honorable member for Richmond and others who are acquainted with the facts of the case, when I suggest that, if we cannot, during this session, pass a measure to amend the Sugar Bounty Act in the direction of providing for the continuance of the bounties, we shah at least be favoured with a clear and definite statement by the Prime Minister that the matter will receive favorable consideration during the next session. Nothing less than that would be of any use to the sugar-growers. As I pointed out to the honorable member for Franklin, the white sugar-growers do not seek a large degree of protection. All they desire is that the bounties shall be continued as some set off to the disadvantage under which they labour, in having to pay higher wages to the white employes who have replaced the kanakas -in the cane-fields. Every one will admit that it is far more desirable that we should settle white farmers and their families upon small farms than that we should encourage the establishment of large plantations upon which coloured labour is employed. I trust that the Government will give early consideration to the question of taking over the quarantine Departments of the States. We are empowered under the Constitution to take over the quarantine Departments by proclamation, and we should exercise our authority forthwith. When I was in office, as Minister of Trade and Customs, I convened a Conference to consider the possibility of transferring the States Quarantine Departments to the Commonwealth. It was unanimously agreed by the Conference that it was desirable that the Federal Government should take over the Quarantine Departments’ at the earliest possible moment. The difficulties in the way are not very great. Large powers are conferred under the various States Acts, and these could be exercised by the Federal Executive, under regulations which would be binding on the whole of the States. The Minister in charge of the Department would then have an opportunity to acquaint himself with the necessities of the case before being called upon to introduce a Quarantine Bill into this Parliament. My short experience has led me to believe that it is advisable for the Minister to make himself acquainted with the details of the work of administering his Department, rather than to lean too much upon specialists’ advice in preparing a Bill. That is a reason why I think that the Quarantine Departments of the States should be taken over by proclamation without delay. I desire to correct a statement which has been repeatedly made by the State Treasurer, an 1 others in Queensland, that one of the regulations under the Sugar Bounty permits of the bounty being paid in respect to sugar grown upon land planted by coloured labour after the 28th February, 1903. I have sent a written reply stating that that provision is not contained in a regulation, but in the statute itself. When members in responsible positions know the facts, they ought to state them clearly. It is idle to appeal to the prejudices of the people by declaring that the Commonwealth Government will not do this, that, or the other thing. I hope that the Government will never exercise any power which is not delegated to them by statute. Section 2 of the Sugar Bounty Act of 1903 reads -

There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to every grower of sugar cane or beet within the Commonwealth in the production of which sugar cane or beet white labour only has been employed after the 28th day of February, 1903, or for a period of twelve months immediately preceding the delivery thereof for manufacture, a bounty, at the rates provided by this Act, on all such sugar cane or beet delivered for manufacture after the commencement of this Act, and before the 1st day of January, 1907.

Provided that no bounty shall be paid in respect of the production of sugar on land which has been cultivated by other than white labour after a bounty has been paid in respect of the production of sugar thereon.

Provided that nothing in this section shall authorize the payment of any bounty for any sugar cane or beet in respect of which any planting has been done by other than white labour after the 28th day of February, 1903.

That puts the matter so clearly, that he who runs may read. I do not propose to enter into a discussion of the political phases of this question. I merely say, “ There is the law, and that Taw must be administered.” In conclusion, I trust that this question will be approached, not with the fear that a loss of revenue may be sustained by the, States which are not engaged in the production of sugar, but from a national standpoint. We have always been led to expect that wherever a great Australian industry could be assisted, and especially where white people could be settled upon the soil, this Parliament would extend just, if not generous, consideration to them.

Mr EWING:
Richmond

– I should not have spoken upon the present occasion but for the fact that the question of sugar has been made a very prominent one during the course, of this discussion. I do not propose to debate the question of the effect of the excise, but merely wish to deal with the effect of the bounty. In that connexion, I should like to address a few words to the protectionists upon the other side of the Chamber. I .understand that there are a few of them left.

Mr Bamford:

– This is where the honorable member ought to be.

Mr EWING:

– Politeness prevents me from saying where the honorable member ought to be. I have no wish to deal in detail with the figures which have been presented by the Treasurer ; but desire ,to point out what a magnificent success the bonus has been up to the present. Rarely has there been such a certain and rapid fulfilment of the protectionist doctrine.

Mr McDonald:

– What about the freetrade section of the House?

Mr EWING:

– I do not propose to deal with them. I shall confine my remarks to the principles underlying the proposals in respect of sugar. Rarely has an expenditure of £100,000 called into existence within the course of two or three years national wealth to the extent of £600,000. I do not agree with all the Treasurer’s figures in detail. Taking those figures, and arguing solely from them, I find that in 1902, 83,000 tons of sugar . were imported, whereas for 1904-5 it is estimated that only 42,000 tons will be imported. . There will thus be a decrease in our importations of 41,000 tons, representing a value of, say, £600,000. That is to say, the expenditure of £100,000 by way of bonus has, if we argue as honorable members have done all through the debate, increased the national wealth by £500,000.

Mr Chanter:

– The Treasurer declares that less sugar ,is being grown in the district represented by the honorable member than was grown there two years ago.

Mr EWING:

– The Treasurer is often as inaccurate as is the honorable member. I am dealing only with the Treasurer’s figures, and not with his statements. Surely the honorable member does not hold me responsible for those delightful poetical effusions of the right honorable member? His imagination may be inaccurate, but his figures are generally correct. I repeat that we have expended £100,000 by way of bonus, and as a result have increased the national wealth by £500,000 within two or three years. This result is so splendid that it must be satisfactory even to the socialistic gentlemen opposite. Some honorable members have pointed out that the black labour employed in New South Wales at the present time is greater than it was two years ago.- Although I am a Government supporter, for the noblest of all reasons, namely, that I desire to keep worse persons out of office-

Mr Watson:

– That is a nice compliment to the Government.

Mr EWING:

– According to the Treasurer’s figures, the quantity of black labour employed in New South Wales to-day is greater than it was two years ago. Frankly, I do not believe that statement.

Mr Bamford:

– Is the honorable member referring to New South Wales only?

Mr EWING:

– Yes. The Queensland representatives have already dealt very fully with the position in their own State. From my own knowledge of the sugar-producing districts of New South Wales, I do not believe that more black labour is being employed there’ to-day than was employed there two years ago.

Mr Fisher:

– It is the old cry that black labour is increasing.

Mr EWING:

– Yes. Honorable members must recollect that when we passed the Pacific Island Labourers Act, New South Wales was threatened with a serious augmentation of black labour. The legislation to which I have referred arrested that. What did we expect to happen from a national stand-point within two years ? That period is not worth considering in the life of a nation. There are some representatives who believe that to impose an excise duty of £5 per ton upon sugar, and an import duty of £6 per ton, would work satisfactorily. If we acted in that fashion, it is obvious that our sugar-growers would be protected only to the extent of£1 per ton. The mere statement of the case ought to be sufficient to dispose of any idea of that description.

Mr Bamford:

– That is only proposed in the case of black-grown sugar.

Mr EWING:

– But I understand that the honorable member is desirous of continuing the bonus. Behind the whole question lies the fact that, within a year or two, Australia may produce all the sugar that she requires for her own consumption. The price may then fall, as the result of internal competition. To some extent I feel that we are beating the air in regard to this matter. Last night the Prime Minister informed the House that the Tariff Commission would deal with it. The honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out what everybody knows is the serious aspect of this question, namely, that a sugar crop lasts for seven years, whereas a bonus at present is provided for only two years. That is the position in a nutshell. What is to be done during the remaining five years ? If the Commission is to deal with the matter at once-

Mr Groom:

– Will they deal with it as an urgent question?

Mr EWING:

– Yes ; I presume so.

Mr Bamford:

– The Tariff Commission will not deal with the sugar bounty.

Mr EWING:

– Why not? No subject is of more importance.

Mr Groom:

– I understood the Treasurer to say that that matter was outside the scope of their inquiries. The Prime Minister has declared that the Tariff Commission must not raise the fiscal question.

Mr EWING:

– The honorable and learned member ought not to pay attention to the small gossip which he hears.

Mr Groom:

– These statements were made in the House.

Mr EWING:

– If the honorable and learned member listened attentively, he would not be astonished at some of the statements which are made in this Chamber. If the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs really desires to obtain further information on the subject, I shall be happy to enlighten him. At the close of the speech made last night by the honorable member for Moreton I asked the Prime Minister whether this industry, among others, would be taken into consideration, and his answer was, “ Yes, unquestionably.” It now becomes our duty to see that it is taken into consideration.

Mr Bamford:

– There are other questions than the Tariff issue involved.

Mr EWING:

– No doubt that is so. The Prime Minister informed us that he would deal with this matter as soon as he could do so, and that is as far as we are likely to get. As the honorable member for Herbert has said, there are other questions than the Tariff issue involved. We know as a matter of fact that the Federal Parliament determined to deal with this matter, not on any commercial or fiscal basis, but from the stand-point that the bounty is the price paid for a White Australia. That was the national purpose, the broad ideal, which we had before us in passing the legislation bearing on this subject. I have no desire to give the Committee a dissertation on the policy of a White Australia. My views upon the question are already well known ; but one scarcely feels disposed to allow a question of this kind, which affects an industry in which a number of his constituents are engaged, to pass unnoticed. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs that this matter should be dealt with by the Government in the immediate future, and that it is our duty to see. that they deal with it in that broad and reasonable way which has characterized all their actions.

Mr Fisher:

– And the honorable member agrees that a statement in regard to the intentions of the Government should be made at this stage?

Mr EWING:

– I shall endeavour as far as I can to co-operate with honorable members opposite in bringing about a solution of the difficulty as speedily as possible.

Proposed vote agreed to.

page 6242

QUESTION

ESTIMATES

The Parliament

Division 2 (House of Representatives),

£8,479.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– I think we should have an explanation in regard to the item of £227 in respect of allowances to persons whose election as members of the House of Representatives has been declared void.”

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I am prepared to give the Committee an explanation. Honorable members will recollect that two elections - one in respect of the electorate of Melbourne, and the other in respect of the electorate of Riverina - were declared void. My attention was then officially called to the fact, and it was decided, after the law officers of the Crown had been consulted, that Sir Malcolm McEacharn and Mr. Blackwood, who had drawn their allowances as Members of Parliament from the date of the elections to the date on which they were declared void, were not legally entitled to the money so received. The matter also came under the notice of the Auditor- General, who referred it to me. I then applied to the two gentlemen named for a refund of the moneys so received, and they at once paid it back. Shortly afterwards the Government of which I was a member went out of office, and on my return recently I found that the honorable member for Bland, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, had caused this sum to be placed on the Estimates. Finding that he had initialed a document approving of the two amounts which go to make up this item being placed on the Estimates, I did not interfere with them; but had I re- maineduninterruptedly in office,inall probability I should not have made this provision. Sir Malcolm McEacharn is out of Victoria, and I do not know whether he desires to draw the sum. of £94 12s. 5d. which it is proposed to refund to him; but

I am informed that Mr. Blackwood does not desire to draw the sum of £131 12s. 11d. proposed to be returned to him. These are the facts so far as they are known to me with regard to this item.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– The facts relating to this item may be brieflv explained. These two gentlemen were declared duly elected to this House by the returning officers appointed by the Government, but had nothing to do with that declaration. They offered themselves as candidates, did their best to secure election, and, on being declared elected by the proper authorities, naturally assumedthat they were legally entitled to sit in this House.

Sir George Turner:

– But the election in each case was declared void.

Mr WATSON:

– Although the elections were declared void, the two gentlemen in question served as members of this House. The mere fact that they have not asked for a refund of the money has nothing whatever to do with the principle at issue. The principle is that Government officials were responsible for the voiding of the two elections - they were responsible for the actions which led up to the Court proceedings - and therefore the Government itself is responsible. I put it to the Committee and the country whether it is proper that a man who offers himself as a candidate should be made to suffer for the faults of Government officials. A man might be declared duly elected, and go to the expense of bringing his wife and family from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne, only to be unseated shortly afterwards ; and should he, in such circumstances, be refused the paltry honorarium which the Constitution allows to members of Parliament? It would be monstrous to decide that nothing, even by way of the ordinary allowance, should be paid to gentlemen who have been formally declared elected. When the question came under my notice the solicitor for Sir Malcolm McEacharn demurred to the Law Department’s reading of the law. In his view, the law was that the sitting member for the time being was entitled to the allowance provided for by the Constitution. I obtained the opinion of the Attorney-General on that question, and found that it did not coincide with that given by Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s solicitor, and without any request from either of the two gentlemen concerned, I decided to place these amounts on the Estimates. There is a further point involved, to which 1 would like to invite the attention of the Government. I did not have time to deal with the question, as to the position of all the other candidates at the two elections which were voided, but it was clear that two gentlemen were returned to this House who, through no fault of their own, were put to enormous expense owing to the actions of Government officials. They had to pass through the ordeal of a second election in consequence of this neglect, and whilst I do not say that the whole of the legal expenses attaching to the fighting of the two cases should be borne by the Commonwealth, I do say that some allowance should be made for the loss which these gentlemen sustained owing to the delinquencies of Commonwealth officers. In New South Wales, in several cases, where it was clearly shown that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of the candidates, both the successful and the unsuccessful candidates were reimbursed their expenses in respect of elections declared void. In the case of the Commonwealth, the election expenses which a candidate may incur are limited, and, consequently, the sums in:volved could not be so large as they might have been under the law of New South Wales. It seems to me that the Government should take some financial responsibility for the actions of their officers, otherwise every candidate for election to this Parliament will be called upon to run the risk of financial ruin.

Sir John Forrest:

– But the person concerned ought to apply for a refund, if he desires it.

Mr WATSON:

– That is another question. When this matter was brought under my notice, in the way I have mentioned, I thought it was only, fair to give the Committee an opportunity to pronounce an opinion upon it. So far as the equities are concerned, I think -that all those gentlemen who were put to considerable expense through no fault of their own should be fairly treated, and that the Commonwealth has a right to rectify, so far as is reasonable, the faults of omission or of commission of which its officials have been guilty.

Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy). - I was familiar with the facts explained by the Treasurer, and rose to speak, because I fully agreed with the action taken by the honorable member for Bland. It is outrageous that honorable members should be put to enormous expense owing to the negligence of the Electoral Department, and I think that the Government’ should reimburse not only Sir Malcolm McEeacharn and Mr. Blackwood, but others who incurred expense in the same way, owing to the fault of Government officials. Otherwise, it seems to me that no honorable member is safe. If an honorable member were returned by a majority of three or four votes, and the defeated candidate then took proceedings to have the election declared void, on the ground that some mistake had been committed by the Electoral Department, he would be put to very serious expense. He sits in this Chamber. Then the election is upset on some technicality, and he has either to contest it again or lose his seat. The honorable members who now represent Riverina and Melbourne, through no fault of their own, were plunged into enormous expense in the maintenance of their rights. In the first instance, two other candidates were elected’ for those constituencies, and they sat in this House for some time, receiving the remuneration provided for by the Constitution. That money they have been compelled to refund, and a sum has been put on the Estimates to pay it to them again. I see no objection to that, because undoubtedly while they sat here they did the work required of them by the electors, and were therefore entitled to the statutory remuneration. I think, however, that a sum should also be placed on the Estimates to recompense the two sitting members for the great expense they were put to, through the fault of the Government officials, to obtain their rights. I understand that it is impossible to increase the amount of an item.

Mr Fisher:

– It can be done.

Mr MCDONALD:

– If so, it is contrary to all my experience in dealing with Estimates. I urge the Treasurer, however, to take the matter into his serious consideration, and hope that he will give us an assurance that he will propose the reimbursement to the honorable members for Riverina and Melbourne of the sums which they lost, not through their fault, but through the fault of the Government officials.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I think that the late Prime Minister acted wisely in putting this item on the Estimates, if for no other reason than because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the principle underlying the proposal. I do not agree with the Treasurer, who apparently is opposed to this expenditure.

Sir George’ Turner:

– I do not oppose it. I allowed the item to remain on the Estimates.

Mr BROWN:

– I understand that the right honorable gentleman thinks that the principle is wrong. After the last general elections two gentlemen were declared to be duly elected for Melbourne and Riverina respectively. They were sworn in, took their seats in this Chamber, and discharged the duties of representatives of the people for a considerable period. Action was taken in the High Court, however, which led to the elections being declared void, not through any fault committed by the candidates, but through the fault of the Government officials. The seats were thereupon declared vacant, and another election was held, resulting in the return of the two members who now sit. The proposition before us is that the two gentlemen first elected should be paid the amount of remuneration which they received for the period during which they sat in this House, but which they were compelled to refund.

Sir John Forrest:

– Why did not the honorable member for Bland also provide for the reimbursement to the present members for Riverina and Melbourne of the expense to which they were put?

Mr Watson:

– I had not time to go into that matter, though I am in favour of that being done.

Sir John Forrest:

– So am I.

Mr BROWN:

– The item in the Estimates gives the Committee an opportunity to affirm the principle underlying the proposal. I am glad that the Government have agreed to recognise the right of these gentlemen to reimbursement.

Sir John Forrest:

– We are all agreed about that, but we desire something more.

Mr BROWN:

– If that is so, the item will bc agreed to without division, and a precedent will be established which can be applied under similar circumstances in the future. I understand that the leader of the Opposition was also “ready to consider the case of the two sitting members.

Mr Watson:

– The Estimates were not nearly finished when I left office.

Mr BROWN:

– I take it that had the honorable gentleman been able to complete the Estimates he would have provided for the two sitting members. In regard to the two gentlemen who were first elected, I would point out that, not only were they required to refund the money which they had earned during the period that they sat here before the election was declared void, but they were compelled to expend money in fighting an invalid election.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Where would the honorable member stop ?

Mr BROWN:

– I think that a reasonable amount should be allowed to them to cover their expenses during the first election contest, and their expenses in the Court proceedings which resulted in the declaration that the elections were void.

Mr Crouch:

– Would the honorable member vote a sum of money to reimburse the honorable member for Wimmera the Court expenses to which he was put?

Mr BROWN:

– Where, through no fault of the candidates or their supporters, but through the fault of Government officials, an election is declared void, the Government, in my opinion, is morally bound to reimburse the candidates any expense which they have incurred. But where an election is declared void through the fault of the candidate, he must bear the expen.se himself.

Mr Robinson:

– The honorable member evidently wishes to encourage litigation.

Mr BROWN:

– I do not wish to do anything of the sort. In my opinion, experience shows that the sooner we take these matters out of the hands of the Court and give them to a less expensive tribunal to deal with the better it will be.

The CHAIRMAN:

– There is so much conversation now going on in the Chamber that, although the honorable member for Canobolas is standing very close to me, it is difficult to hear what he is saying. If honorable members feel impelled to carry on conversations, I ask them to do so in tones which will not interfere with the speaker, dr prevent me from hearing what he is saying.

Mr BROWN:

– Perhaps honorable members have made up their minds on this matter. It is one on which I think opinions should be expressed for and against. When an election is declared void through the fauit of an official the Government is morallybound to reimburse the candidates their election and Court expenses. That principle has been adopted in New South Wales. It has been the practice of different Governments to place a sum upon the Estimates to cover the expenses incurred in cases similar to those which we are now considering. At the generalelection before last in that State, a petition was lodged against the successful candidate for the representation of the district for which I formerly sat in the State Parliament. The election was declared void, primarily on the ground that the Government had illegally cancelled a certain polling-place, after the writs had been issued. A re-election took place, and the two candidates were allowed £100 to cover the expenses which they had incurred in consequence of a second contest being rendered necessary. Other cases of a similar nature could be cited in order to show that the principle has been generally recognised. I trust that the Treasurer will see his way to make provision for the payment of a reasonable sum to recoup the expenses incurred by the candidates whose elections were upset owing to the neglect or incompetence of the electoral officials.

Mr SPENCE:
Darling

– I listened with seme surprise to one of the statements made by the Treasurer. He indicated that he did not approve of the action of his predecessor in office in placing a sum upon the Estimates to reimburse former honorable members who had been called upon to refund allowances drawn by them prior to their seats having been declared vacant by the High Court. We shall occupy a somewhat extraordinary position if it is held that honorable members who have been paid their allowances by the Treasury officials whilst sitting as members of this House shall be called upon to refund such payments in the event of their seats being declared vacant. If an honorable member is declared elected and sworn in, and takes part in the deliberations of this House, he is surely entitled to be paid. According to the decision given by the Attorney-General, however, be cannot be regarded as a member of this House.

Sir George Turner:

– Two AttorneysGeneral gave that opinion.

Mr SPENCE:

– In effect, it has been declared that the two gentlemen named obtained money wrongfully, and they were, upon that supposition, called upon to refund it. All sorts of complications might arise under such a decision, and I think that further inquiries should be made in order that honorable members may feel more secure than is possible under present conditions. The only safe course to adopt in order to prevent cases of a similar character arising is to refrain from paying honorable members their allowances until the time has expired for the lodging of petitions against their election. I support the contention of the honorable member for Bland, and I think that we are entitled to ask for some expression of opinion from the Government. Our electoral law is based upon demo cratic principles, and is intended to give equal opportunities to every qualified person to become a member of this House, thereby giving the widest choice to the electors. When we inserted in the Act the provision limiting the amount to be spent by a candidate at an election, we sought to render it impossible for a wealthy man to bribe a constituency, or to place a poorer candidate at an overwhelming disadvantage. Unless candidates are to be safeguarded against being mulcted in heavy costs through some informality in connexion with their elections, no man will be able to offer himself as a candidate for Parliament without exposing himself to the risk of ruin. Where a seat is declared void, owing to some negligence on the part of the electoral officials, it is only right that the candidates who are thus put to unnecessary expense should be compensated for their outlay. A private employer is held responsible for the laches of any of his servants, and we, as the employers of the officials who conduct elections, should shoulder the responsibility of any default on their part. I should not have directed attention to this matter but for the remarks of the Treasurer, which seemed to’ indicate that he would not, if he remained in power, make any provision for reimbursements in cases such as I have referred to. I trust that the Committee will express its opinion without hesitation, and that the Government will declare its views. Not only should the item now on the Estimates be passed, but we should make provision for recompensing all candidates who have been involved in loss through no neglect of their own. It seems to me that this action will be necessary in order to fulfil the purposes of the Electoral Act, which is intended to give fair play to rich and poor alike. Many mistakes were made during the recent elections, and many honorable members who are now sitting here might have been unseated if any one had chosen to present petitions against them.

Mr GROOM:
Darling Downs

– I support the suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition. I think it is time that the Treasurer informed us whether he regards it with favour or disfavour. In the latter event, it might be desirable to test the feeling of the Committee, not in any hostile spirit, but in order to lay down a broad principle for the guidance of the present and succeeding Governments. If an election is voided by reason of some irregularity arising from the error, negligence, or incompetence of the electoral officials, it is only fair that the. candidates who are put to the cost of a second contest should be recouped their expenses.

Mr McCay:

– Which expenses?

Mr GROOM:

– Under the Electoral Act a candidate is allowed to spend £100 in contesting a seat for the House of Representatives, in addition to his travelling expenses. Personally, I am of opinion that a candidate who is unseated through no fault of his own, should be reimbursed the amount of his scheduled expenses, in addition to his personal expenses. The further question then arises as to whether he should not be allowed the costs which he is called upon to bear in prosecuting an appeal before a proper tribunal. I do not wish it to appear that honorable members are asking for what is unjust; but I do think that a candidate who is by law admitted to be the individual who should have been declared elected upon the first occasion, ought to be placed in the position that he would have occupied had he been so elected. Take the case of the Riverina election. It is admitted that if the returning officer in that division had accurately counted the votes recorded its present representative in this House would have been declared duly elected upon the first occasion. That fact is not disputed. Had the returning officer allowed a recount, to permit of a mistake on the part of an assistant returning officer being corrected, no trouble would have been experienced. Mr. Blackwood was not responsible for the error in the counting, neither was Mr. Chanter. It may have been an act of negligence, but the candidates were in no way to blame. Then I would direct attention to the election for the district of Melbourne. In that case, as the result of a circular issued under the authority of the Electoral Department, certain errors were committed in connexion with postal votes. The officer directly concerned was able to make out a fairly good case in support of his action, but the candidates were perfectly innocent of his mistake, and so were the electors. In both these cases, the elections were voided, and the successful candidates were subjected to a heavy expenditure. Under the circumstances, it seems to me that it is only reasonable that they should be reimbursed their original expenses, according to their filed returns, in addition to their travelling expenses. I do not know what was the cost of the litigation which ensued. I know that Mr. Blackwood had to pay a large sum to Mr. Chanter.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Why not pay his expenses also?

Mr groom:

– There is a good deal to be said in favour of that proposition, but I have no desire to appal the Treasurer.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– We must lay down a principle.

Mr groom:

– I am laying down a principle, but I am endeavouring to limit it in the interests of the Treasurer. I admit that it was very hard that Mr. Blackwood should be called upon to pay the cost of the election petition, but it would have been still harder upon Mr. Chanter if he had not received some costs. I am not aware what amount he did receive, but I know that it did not re-imburse the whole of his outofpocket expenses. I merely wish to ascertain whether the Treasurer will promise to inquire into this matter, and whether, if he is satisfied that the proposal is a reasonable one, he will place this sum upon the Supplementary Estimates ?

Mr mcwilliams:
Franklin

– I think that the speech of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has shown us the difficulty with which we are confronted. If we begin to recompense candidates in any way, where will- the practice land us?

Mr King O’Malley:

– We must do justice, irrespective of where it will land us.

Mr mcwilliams:

– But honorable members opposite do not propose to do justice all round. If it be right that the Commonwealth should pay the expenses of a candidate who is called upon to contest another election, owing to the fault of a returning officer, surely it can be claimed, with equal justice, that all the legal expenses which that candidate has incurred as the result of an official blunder, should also be paid.

Mr Watson:

– a candidate is not bound to engage counsel.

Mr mcwilliams:

– He is bound to do so if the other side engages counsel. What chance would a candidate have of establishing his case if he, without the aid of counsel, had to face a brilliant lawyer? If we follow the course which is proposed we shall land ourselves in this position : that the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay the expenses of every disputed election.

Mr King O’Malley:

– Let us have competent officers and we shall be all right.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– 1 do not propose to say one word in favour of the manner in which the elections were conducted in some of the States, because I know that their conduct evidenced a great lack of ability. But seeing that those elections were conducted under a totally new system, and that the electoral officers were new to their duties, I think that they would have been more than human if some errors of judgment had not been committed. Personally, I believe that the whole of the Electoral Department will require to be reorganized before another general election is held. I desire honorable members clearly to understand where this proposal will lead us. There is no common sense in asking the Commonwealth to defray one portion of a bill of costs for a candidate when an equally just demand could be made upon it to pay the balance of those costs. I am opposed to both of these proposed grants. I admit that it is exceedingly hard for candidates to be called upon to fight a second election through no fault of their own. Those things, however represent the fortunes of war which every candidate must be prepared to face. In the present state of the Commonwealth finances. I do not think that we should be justified in voting more money for the upkeep of parliamentarians, and that it is exactly what this proposal means.

Mr McDonald:

– Suppose that the Commonwealth committed an act of injustice towards Tasmania?

Mr McWILLIAMS:
FRANKLIN, TASMANIA · REV TAR; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; CP from 1920; IND from 1928

-The Commonwealth has been committing such acts towards that State ever since the Federation was established.

Mr McDonald:

– Does the honorable member hold the Commonwealth responsible ?

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The position of a State in relation to the Commonwealth cannot be compared with that of honorable members deliberately voting legal expenses to themselves.

Mr McDonald:

– That is an unfair way of putting the matter.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– It is a perfectly fair way. If we vote this money, there is not an. honorable member of this House who, with the faintest claim to consistency, can object to paying the legal expenses of those candidates who are subject to costs in appealing to the Court of Disputed Returns. In the interests of the taxpayers we have no right to pass this vote. I shall oppose the suggestion to reimburse candi dates the amount of their scheduled expenses, and, if the matter be pressed to a division, I shall vote against the items contained in the Estimates.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
Darwin

– I support the position taken up by the honorable member for Kennedy, and the leader of the Opposition, who has raised this question. Had the Government obtained theservicesof competent officers there would have’ been no necessity for a second election in the case of either of these candidates. Had the Returning Officer, in the case of the Riverina election, been endowed with the intelligence of a mediocrity, he would have allowed Mr. Chanter a recount. If he had done so, that gentleman would have been declared elected, and Mr. Blackwood would have saved his money. Instead of doing so, as the result, not of prejudice nor of bigotry, but of gross incompetence, he declared Mr. Blackwood elected by three or four votes, and then refused a re-count. His action is in striking contrast with that of the Returning Officer in the” Darwin electorate, who allowed Mr. BrickhilL my opponent, a re-count immediately he applied for it. The re-count resulted in a gain of nine or tenvotes for me. Yet I lost eighty-four votes consequent upon the incompetency of the Returning Officer at Penguin. He permitted forty-two persons to vote whose names were not upon the roll, and it is well known they voted against me, They actually boasted that if “this Yankee,” as they termed me, was defeated, I would return to America.

Mr Robinson:

– Why did not the honorable member go there?

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

– I am as well able to live here as is the honorable and learned member, and I pay as much taxation as he does. I will go there when it suits me. The Scripture says, “ Go out and preach the gospel to the heathen.” Americans are sending their missionaries everywhere, and I am a missionary among the heathen here. I am in favour of paying Mr. Blackwood his expenses, and shall vote accordingly. I shall vote to pay the expenses of every man who is compelled to contest a second election owing to the action of incompetent officers. The electoral officers employed at the last election were honest, and many clever ; but those who were honest were not clever, and those who were clever were not honest. The prejudice of some of these officers in Tasmania actually induced them to direct electors how they should vote.

Sir John Forrest:

– Was not the honorable member returned ?

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

– I was returned to this House because I was able to defeat the hosts of ignorance. The ieturning officers for Melbourne and Riverina caused all this trouble, and the two gentlemen in question are entitled to be reimbursed their expenses. The same remark will also apply to the present representatives of the electorates of Melbourne ana Riverina. I am glad that the late Prime Minister had the courage to put this item on the Estimates, and I am sorry that he did not have the pluck to deal similarly with the other gentlemen I have named.

Mr Watson:

– I did not have an opportunity to deal with other cases.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

-The honorable member for Wimmera, whose election was challenged on the ground of a mistake made by Government officials, also had to engage a lawyer to fight his battle, and he, together with the honorable member for Denison, whose election was likewise challenged, should be reimbursed.

Mr Wilks:

– And so ought the honorable member for Wilmot, according to the honorable member’s view.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

– No; that honorable member brought will-o’-the-wisp charges against the honorable member for Denison, and, as he was unable to support his case, is not entitled to any consideration in respect of his law costs. While on this subject, I should like to say that I think the time has come for the re-appointment of an Elections and Qualifications .Committee to deal with all election appeals. It is far better that we should have such a tribunal than that an honorable member whose election is disputed should be called upon to go to the High Court. I visited that Court while an electoral case was being dealt with, and saw bewigged and gowned barristers and junior solicitors busily engaged in arguing whether two votes had been cast for a certain individual, or only one - whether an elector had put a cross opposite the name of a certain candidate, or merely a mark. The great High Court of Australia was engaged day after day on questions of this kind.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The system of allowing petitions against the return of members to be dealt with by the Elections and Qualifications Committee” has not proved successful wherever it has been fried.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

– I should prefer to submit a case in which I was concerned to such a body rather than to be put to the expense of High Court proceedings. Honorable members talk of the splendid electoral system of Australia, but give me the Tammany Hall system of New York, under which the men are changed every three years. I should rather have that than a system of incompetency. I should like the Treasurer to give us a. hint as to what the Government intend to do to assist honorable members who were nearly ruined in obtaining justice.

Mr Wilks:

– We should have every “ spec.” lawyer in the country working up a case if a successful candidate whose return was contested were reimbursed to the extent of his law costs.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:

– I think not. We must get at the essence of justice. If we do not do something of this kind, what opportunity will a poor man have to secure justice ? Money is power, and power is freedom, and I should certainly like the Treasurer to intimate the intentions of the Government with” regard to this matter.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Swan

– I do not agree with those honorable members who accuse the officers of the Electoral Department of incompetency, or something worse. This is not the time to indulge in generalities of that kind ; but I am strongly of opinion that where an election is voided on account of errors in the administration and through no fault df the person returned, he should not be mulcted in the ordinary expenses of the election. It may fairly be said that the two gentlemen in question were declared to be elected in the ordinary way, and I think it is only right that the Commonwealth should pay the costs incurred by candidates whose elections are voided through the default of officers of the Commonwealth.

Mr King O’Malley:

– That is all I want.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am not prepared to go so far as are some honorable members, and to say that the legal expenses incurred by an honorable member in contesting an appeal about his return - even if such an appeal is based on charges of neglect on the part of Commonwealth officers - should be paid by the State. We all have knowledge of many cases in which appeals have been made, and although such appeals have put successful candidates to considerable cost, I do not remember a case in which a demand for reimbursement has been made. If we lay down the principle that the Commonwealth shall pay the legal expenses of members in cases when their election is challenged, we shall be called upon in many cases to make large payments. Such ft proposal would be a direct encouragement to a defeated candidate to take proceedings against his successful opponent.

Mr Tudor:

– Unless he were successful, he would have no claim.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– But a person who had been declared duly elected might be put to costs amounting to £500 in defending his seat. If it were known that in such circumstances the Parliament would pay the expenses of the successful candidate, 1 think that nearly every seat would be assailed in the law courts. For that reason I hold that we should not make any reimbursement in respect of law costs so incurred ; but I think that a candidate who is declared duly elected, and is subsequently dispossessed of his seat on the ground of some error on the part of the officers conducting the election, should be recompensed in respect of his election expenses. The Government should be asked to pay reasonable expenses, but I do not think that we should go any further. If we did we might open the door to litigation, and do more harm than good.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– There is no doubt that errors must occur in connexion with every election, no matter how competent the officers may be who are employed to carrv it out. We must recollect that the last general elections were conducted under disadvantageous circumstances. There was great pressure as to time, and serious difficulties were encountered in preparing the rolls, whilst the officers had also to administer an entirely new system. In the circumstances I am not surprised that mistakes arose. I am satisfied, however, that nothing more serious than mistakes occurred, and that there was no desire on the part of any officer to do anything improper. Coming to the matter immediately under consideration, I feel that I have not been fairly treated: The principle involved is a new one so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. It is the first time, so far as I am aware, that any application has been made to the Government to deal with a matter of this kind. Had it been brought under our notice some months ago, as it might have been - seeing that these case’s are some months old - the Cabinet would have had an opportunity to consider it and to deal with any application for repayment of expenses. At the first blush it seems reasonable that candidates should not be put to heavy expense as the result of a serious error made by a responsible officer, and that, if they are, they should be reimbursed by the Commonwealth. But we have to consider how far any step in that direction might lead us. When a matter of this kind is suddenly brought before a Minister in the House, it is impossible for his Government to at once give it that consideration which it should receive. If we were to adopt the course which has been suggested, we should create a precedent, and we know how precedents extend from time to time. It would be almost impossible to lay down any genera! rule; it will be for the Government of the day to deal with individual cases as they arise. In these circumstances I would ask honorable members to allow the item to pass, on the understanding that I shall bring the whole of the facts which have been mentioned before my colleagues. I have listened to the arguments that have been advanced, and I promise the Committee that the question, in all its bearings, will be discussed by the Government No doubt I shall ultimately have to submit Supplementary Estimates, and if the Government can see their way clear to affirm the principle which has been discussed - or to affirm it in a modified form - honorable members will then have an opportunity to declare their opinion in regard to the matter. I hope that honorable members will not persist in asking for a definite decision now.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Monaro · Eden

– I think that the answer of the Treasurer is a very satisfactory one. I hope that the action taken in this case will not be regarded as establishing a practice. What is being done is being done not as a sympathetic act, but as an act of mere justice. But the Treasurer is right in saying that the Government of the day must deal with all these cases on their merits. Personally, I feel that the gentlemen concerned have suffered great injustice, though I agree with the Treasurer that we should not cast a slur upon the Electoral Department for what has happened, and that considering the area to be covered, and the rush of work, the Department did verv well. We must remember that the official? were all new to the work. They were not treading the beaten track. Although I warmly advocate this proposal, I have no desire to rush it on the Government; but I hope that when it is fully considered by the Cabinet, the justice of recouping these gentlemen for the loss which they have sustained through the action of Government officials will be recognised.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I wish it to be understood that it is intended to consider the matter, not only in the interest of the two sitting members, but also in the interest of the two gentlemen who lost their seats. If anything is done, it must be done for all.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff), £7,054; division 4 (Library), £3,019 ; division 5 (Refreshment Rooms), £820 ; division 6 (Water Power for Parliament House), £300; division 7 (Electric Lighting, Repairs, dfc), £1,228; division 8 (Queen’s Hall), £604; agreed to.

Division 9 (Parliament Gardens), £482. Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).-I think that so long as the Federal Parliament occupies these premises, we should see that not only the building, but the gardens, are kept in a proper state of repair. I have gathered, however, that there were many things in connexion with the gardens which were not attended to last year, owing to the limited amount at the disposal of those in charge of them.

Sir George Turner:

– Parliament voted £100 for contingencies, but only £22 were spent.

Mr McDONALD:

– I am not speaking to the Treasurer so much as to the House Committee. I understand that assistance was required at a particular time of the year, and that it was not forthcoming. We have been treated generously by the State of Victoria in being allowed to occupy these premises, and we should therefore see that they are kept in as good repair as they were in when they came into our possession. I hope that the House Committee will in future give all the assistance that is necessary for the proper management of the gardens.

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy. I know that the gardeners could not do all the work that was required to be done in the time when it should have been done. In gardening operations, as honorable members are aware, certain work must be performed at a certain time of the year, and if it is not done, it is impossible to repair the omission at some other season. Every one will agree that the gardener is an exceedingly capable man, and the House Committee should see that he receives all the assistance which is necessary.

Mr Page:

– Whenever he has asked for anything, the House Committee has given it to him.

Mr TUDOR:

– I accept the honorable member’s word, but I know that had it not been for the lateness and wetness of the winter, the lawns would not be in as good condition as they should be in at this season of the year. Perhaps the gardener does not like to ask for assistance every time that something is required. At any rate, I hope that the House Committee will see that more is done in future.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– It is pretty hard on the House Committee for the honorable members for Kennedy and Yarra to make these complaints. Whenever the gardener has asked for assistance, it has been readilv granted, at any rate, since I have been on the House Committee, and I might say the same for the other Departments which we control.

Mr Webster:

– Why was not the whole grant spent ?

Mr PAGE:

– Surely the honorable member does not think that we should throw the money away ? All that was asked for was £22, although £100 was granted.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Division 10 (Miscellaneous), £1,248

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– I should like to ask the Treasurer what is the meaning of the item “ for the purchase of a bust of the first Governor-General (re-vote), £100.” Is that an extra sum ?

Sir George Turner:

– £200 was originally voted, of which amount £100 lapsed. That sum will have to be re-voted.

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I should like to ascertain where the bust of the first GovernorGeneral was executed ? Was the sculpture done in Sydney ? I am given to understand that it was done elsewhere. Is it supposed to be Australian work?

Mr Wilks:

– It was done in Richmond, I believe.

Mr TUDOR:

– We can do better work in Richmond.

Sir George Turner:

– I regret that I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details to give the honorable member the information he desires.

Mr MCDONALD:
Kennedy

– There seems to be a little mystery about this bust of the first Governor-General. I believe that the history of it is that an energetic young artist thought that it would be a good thing to model a bust of the first Governor- General. He did so. I believe that he invited the first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, to go and look at his work. Sir Edmund was so enchanted with the striking likeness that he asked what it would cost to have the bust sculptured in marble. A price was mentioned, and Sir Edmund agreed to purchase. But, I understand that only the clay modelling was done in Australia, and that the sculpturing was executed elsewhere.

Mr Johnson:

– That is always done elsewhere; they cannot get the marble in Australia.

Mr MCDONALD:

– The monument in connexion with the first discovery of gold in Bendigo was entirely executed in Melbourne. No doubt the bust is a very nice ornament for the library.

Mr Fisher:

– No one recognizes it as a likeness.

Mr McDONALD:

– Personally, I think that it is very good, and reflects great credit upon the artist who did the modelling. But I am certainly of opinion that, considering that it is supposed to perpetuate the memory of the first Governor-General of Australia, the whole of the work should have been done in Australia.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of External Affairs

Division 11 (Administrative), £9,509 - agreed to.

Divison 12 (Office of Governor-General and Executive Council), £2,065

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I notice that there is no vote for the salary of the Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate. The vote last year was £400. The same remark applies to last year’s vote of £140 for typewriter and messenger.

Sir George Turner:

– Those officers are paid in connexion with another department this year.

Mr TUDOR:

– Has there been an entire saving on account of these salaries?

Sir George Turner:

– There is not a saving, but the officers are attached to the Attorney-General’s Department, instead of being officers unattached, as they were previously.

Mr TUDOR:

– From the Estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department, it does not appear that the whole of their salaries are there provided for.

Sir George Turner:

– No; the salaries are paid in connexion with that Department for a portion of the year only.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Division 13 (Administration of New Guinea), . £21,503.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– Before this vote is put, I would suggest that it ought to be postponed until honorable members have had an opportunity to consider the last New Guinea report. Some very important matter is contained in it. For instance, I direct attention to the item concerning judicial proceedings. In the year 1898-9, 535 cases were tried, but in 1902-3 the number had increased to 1,269 cases.

Mr Reid:

– What cases were they?

Mr MCDONALD:

– They were both civil and criminal cases. But the important point is this : The official report, shows that eighty-one murders have been committed.

Mr Reid:

– It must be remembered that there are 50,000 of the wildest savages in New Guinea.

Mr McDONALD:

– Quite so; but the striking fact is that there has not been a single conviction for murder. Cases of murder seem to have been dealt with on the lighter charge of manslaughter. No matter whether it is a black man or a white man who is murdered, full justice ought to be done.

Mr REID:
Minister of External Affairs · East Sydney · Free Trade

– I quite see the reasonableness of the attitude taken by the honorable member. I understand that the report to which he has referred has only just been placed in the hands of honorable members, and I propose to postpone the consideration of this division so that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the report. The division will fall right at the end of the Estimates, so that honorable members will have plenty of time to make themselves acquainted with the whole of the facts.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I should like to know the cost of the inquiry that was recently held into the massacre of natives in New Guinea?

Sir George Turner:

– Provision is made upon the Estimates for £400, but I understand that the actual expenditure will be less than that amount.

Mr MAHON:

– I think that a balancesheet should be furnished, showing the revenue and expenditure in New Guinea.

Sir George Turner:

– That is comprised amongst the Budget papers; all the items are given.

Mr MAHON:

– What about the expenditure upon the steamer Merrie England) I understand that that amounts to £7,000 per annum.

Sir George Turner:

– It is not so much as that, because it has been cut down.

Mr MAHON:

– That is what it used to be. I should like to know whether the Government are disposed to ask the Imperial authorities to bear a portion of the cost of protecting New Guinea?

Sir George Turner:

– When I was Premier of Victoria I pressed them to continue the subsidy of £3,500 per annum towards the upkeep of the Merrie England, but the request was absolutely refused.

Mr Tudor:

– Do not the Government think that they have a better chance of success now ?

Mr Reid:

– No. We have taken over the charge of the Territory, and we cannot ask the Imperial Government to assist us to the extent of a thousand or two.

Mr MAHON:

– It is more than a thousand or two. I understand that the Imperial authorities paid the whole cost of the upkeep of the Merrie England.

Sir George Turner:

– No; they paid only £3,500.

Mr Reid:

– We offered to take over the Territory, and we could not now go back to ‘ Great Britain and ask her to bear a share of the cost of administration.

Mr MAHON:

– The Imperial Government contributed towards the cost of the administration of the Territory long after it came under the control of the Commonwealth.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That was only in regard to an old liability.

Mr MAHON:

– I saw some reference to certain payments in correspondence which I read after I came into this House. Of course, those may have been made in regard to an old liability.

Division postponed.

Division 14 (Mail Service to Pacific Islands), £12,000.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– I should like to hear some particulars with regard to the services which are to be rendered in return for the increased subsidy of £6,000 which it is proposed to grant in connexion with the mail service to the Pacific Islands.

Mr REID:
Free Trade

– I have had the particulars put in a form which will enable me to ex-i plain in a very few words the meaning of this increase of £6,000. We have ‘been accustomed to pay an annual subsidy of £6,000, and we now propose to increase the amount to £12,000.

Mr Page:

– That is not shown in the Estimates.

Mr REID:

– Yes ; the items represent that total. No contract has actually been agreed to, because the arrangement made with the steam-ship company remains subject to Parliament voting the money. We should not make a contract binding honorable members until we had obtained the vote. Consequently this is a mere proposal to which we are not tied down until honorable members grant the increased amount. I do not think the Committee will have any difficulty in agreeing to the increased payment, when I mention what we shall get for it. We are very anxious to do something to retain our hold upon the Pacific Islands. Under the present very trying circumstances, we cannot do much, but one thing we can do is to encourage closer commercial relationship between the Islands and the Commonwealth. Most of our great colonial enterprises have had their beginning in the subsidizing of a trade route. For the additional £6,000 we propose to pay, we shall secure the introduction of two additional ocean-going steamers into the Island trade, in addition to the substitution of an ocean-going steamer for the present inter-island auxiliary vessel.

Mr Page:

– Does the trade warrant that?

Mr REID:

– This is the mere beginning of the development of what we believe will be a great trade between the Pacific Islands and the Commonwealth. I shall show honorable members the difference between what we obtain for the present subsidy of £6,000 and that which we shall secure under the new arrangement. The contract will include a service to the Solomon Islands, and we shall have ten trips per annum in lieu of six, and four of these trips will be made direct, instead of via a series of islands.

Mr Fisher:

– From what port?

Mr REID:

– From Sydney, which I think is the nearest port in that particular case.

Mr Fisher:

– Brisbane would be nearer.

Mr Tudor:

– What are the products of the islands?

Mr REID:

– I have not brought the particulars with me, but they include copra, coffee, betel nuts, and other tropical produce. As to the New Hebrides, there is to be a monthly service to all ports of the group, without transhipment, direct from Sydney, instead of via Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. The existing service to Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands will be maintained without alteration, except that it will be carried on by a different vessel. Then as to the Gilbert and Ellice Groups, the service will be the same as at present. To the Marshall Islands quarterly trips will be made. Monthly trips will be made between the Commonwealth and New Guinea.

Mr Watson:

– As compared with what?

Mr REID:

– At present the trips are made every two months, so that instead of six trips a year there will be twelve. The introduction of two additional ocean-going steamers into the service will give increased facilities for intercourse between the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands, and we think - and both our immediate predecessors in office agree - that we are making a good arrangement. Both the Deakin and the Watson Governments went very carefully into the matter, and they agree that we shall be getting the worth of our money.

Mr Fisher:

– What company will perform the service?

Mr REID:

– Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co.

Honorable Members. - Oh, oh !

Mr REID:

– Well, the service cannot be carried on in war canoes ; some one has to do the work. Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. offer special inducement by providing free passages to intending settlers.

Mr Tudor:

– Is that because they own land in the islands, and want to get rid of it?

Mr REID:

– I believe that they are giving the land to settlers free of cost. All that surely is strengthening the grip of the Commonwealth upon the island trade. An opposite policy would not do much good. Considering that three sets of Ministers have considered this matter - the leader of the Opposition has had this matter under his most careful consideration - I think that honorable members may rest satisfied that we are getting the worth of our money.

Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - Having listened to the explanation of the Prime Minister, I confess that I do not thoroughly grasp it, and I do not intend to support a vote of £6,000 upon a bald statement such as he has made. I wish to know what this money is to be voted for? What are the products of these islands?

Mr Robinson:

– Cocoanuts.

Mr PAGE:

– I do not intend to support a proposal to pay £6,000 per annum for cocoanuts.

Mr Reid:

– There is no competition in the banana line.

Mr PAGE:

– There happens to be’ a little competition, and I shall content myself by moving -

That the item “ Improved New Hebrides, Solomon, and Norfolk Islands services, new services to Solomon, Gilbert, and Ellice, and New Guinea, £6,000,” be left out.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I trust that the honorable member will not persist in his objection.

Mr Page:

– I must be supplied with more information, otherwise I shall.

Mr WATSON:

–There is a good deal more than cocoanuts or copra involved in this vote. To my mind it is essential that we should keep up communication with these islands. They are important to us from a strategical stand-point, and from a trade stand-point also there is much to be said in, favour of the proposed vote. Take the case of our own Dependency of New Guinea. For years past we have emphasized the importance of that Territory, and Queensland in particular has been most insistent in her action. This service will be of advantage to our relations with New Guinea quite as much as it will be to our relations with the islands of the Pacific. I trust, therefore, that the proposed vote will be agreed to.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I would ask the Prime Minister to postpone the consideration of this item.

Mr Reid:

– There cannot always be postponements. I will reduce the item by £3,000 if the honorable member is agreeable, because we have only to cover a period of six months.

Mr MAHON:

– I would prefer not to enter into a bargain of that character. The proposed vote stands upon an entirely different footing from that of the control of New Guinea. The New Hebrides do not belongto Australia.

Mr McCay:

– We wish to prevent them from belonging to some other nation.

Mr MAHON:

– I do not propose to now discuss that aspect of the matter. A very important investigation will shortly be conducted in reference to the tenure of land in these islands. That in- I vestigation will determine the nationality which is to populate them. I think that we might with advantage defer any additional expenditure until that inquiry is either under way or has been completed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– And allow the settlement of another nationality to proceed in ‘the meantime without any competition?

Mr MAHON:

– Does the Minister of Home Affairs mean to say that this vote will alter the character of the settlement in these islands? lt twill do nothing of the kind. It may induce a few additional Australians to go there.

Mr Page:

– -And we want them here.

Mr MAHON:

– Exactly. There ii plenty of room for- them here. I think that the Prime Minister would be well advised if he consented to a postponement of this item until a little more information is forthcoming. For example, we have not yet been told what sort of mail service this company will provide.

Mr Reid:

– I have just given the Committee details of all the different trips which its steamers will make.

Mr MAHON:

– I am not sure that they will give a full mail service every trip.

Mr Reid:

– I can assure the honorable member that they will.

Mr MAHON:

– I wish also to know whether this proposed vote includes the whole of our payments on account of- mail services to those islands? Before asking the House to sanction the payment of a large subsidy to this shipping company, 1 would urge the Prime Minister to await the result of the inquiry to which I have already alluded.’ What guarantee have we that this company will run the trips proposed, or that its vessels will not,, at a later stage, make deviations to suit themselves? We ought to have the agreement- before us before we are called upon to vote this money. Is Parliament to authorize, the payment of this large sum in complete ignorance of what we are to secure in return? I repeat, that we do not know whether these vessels will not, at particular seasons, make deviations to suit themselves.

Mr Reid:

– We are setting rid of these deviations to some extent.

Mr MAHON:

– But it is desirable to know how far that is being done in the interests of the shipping company, rather than in the interests of the Commonwealth.

Mr Reid:

– Their interest is to promote trade, which is also our interest.

Mr MAHON:

– Their interest is to promote their own welfare; I do not think “ they are out for the good of their health.”” With great respect I suggest that this item at this hour of the night should be postponed.

Mr DEAKIN:
Ballarat

– The proposal now before the Committee has been considered by three Governments ; it was discussed, while on a smaller scale; when Sir Edmund Barton was at the head of the Government.

Mr Page:

– The honorable and learned member told us at that’ time that the vote then proposed would be sufficient, and now another £6,000 is wanted.

Mr DEAKIN:

– The vote then was sufficient for the purpose to be fulfilled, but we found that the purpose was not sufficient. This proposal, although it will have an” important bearing on the settlement of the New Hebrides, has a much larger scope. It provides for the Marshall, Gilbert, and Ellice groups, where British and Australiantraders are exposed to the serious competition of a German’ line of steamers. It will restore communication with Australia,, and tend to bring to us the trade withthe islands which we are losing, sinceit is now passing through German* lines northward, by their route of communication to Europe. For that reason, after going into the whole question very carefully with the representatives of the persons interested in the islands, and also with thePostal Department, with regard to the mail communication-

Mr Mahon:

– -“ Persons interested in the: islands “ - yes.

Mr DEAKIN:

– The settlers and the merchants, and others in Sydney, who de- ‘ rive the benefit of the trade.

Mr Mahon:

– Settlers of our own nationality ?

Mr DEAKIN:

– Quite so. I do not pretend that this service is undertaken or proposed in the interests ‘ of any other country.

Mr Mahon:

– But ex parte information* should not be accepted as gospel.

Mr DEAKIN:

– It was not accepted asgospel. I can assure the honorable member that the information was sifted. We had the advice of Captain Rason, Mr. Woodford, the Resident on the Solomon Islands, and other British officials, who,, quite apart from ‘ commercial considerations, could give us an independent judgment, and place their large knowledge at our disposal. I can tell the honorable- member that the amount asked for is no, by a very great deal, what the tenderers first proposed - their first proposal was much larger and more expensive. That amount was cut down to what was absolutelv necessary, and no more, and to what we were assured, on independent testimony, was a fair price. I believe the contract re- mains as it was drafted by me. It was next investigated by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, when Minister of External Affairs, and also by the honorable member for Bland, who was the leader of the Government.

Mr McCay:

– Perhaps the then PostsnasterGeneral was not consulted.

Mi. Reid. - It was because the honorable member for Coolgardie was in that Government that I included this item in the Estimates.

Mr DEAKIN:

– The item has since been criticised, and is now introduced by a third Government. I admit that it is late to enter upon a discussion, and I merely offer the independent testimony ofone whose dutyit was to study the matter, and who did study it to the best of his ability with all the knowledge at his command, when I assert that this is a reasonable and economical proposal likely to be more valuable to us than I attempt to explain. Even if it fails, it is an experiment worth trying, before the control and trade of these islands is transferred to other hands and other countries.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

– There an; two schools of thought on this question. There are those who are entirely against Australia having anything to do with any lands except Australia; there are also others who think it to be the duty of Australia to secure all the adjacent islands. So far as I am concerned, I think the true policy is to get as many as possible of those islands under the command of Australia. I strongly expressthat opinion, because I think it is the only safe course, in view of the fact that the predominant partner must have control sooner or later. We could import a great many side issues into this discussion. We might be told to let the fresh air of individualism work out the salvation of those islands, without any pampering by subsidies or other means. I believe, however, that a subsidy would be well spent, and my only regret is that. Sydney should be so constantly clung to as the natural port. Brisbane is the natural port for those “islands, for very obvious reasons ; and as has been pointed out, Queensland was the first to see the necessity for obtaining control of them. Queensland annexed New Guinea when the home authorities had not the foresight to recognise the advantage of its possession.

Mr Watson:

– The balance of convenience is shown to be at Sydney, seeing that the shipping make their headquarters there.

Mr FISHER:

– That is because Sydney happens to be the great shipping centre. I do not object to Sydney getting the benefit, but it is just as well to point out that the representatives of New South Wales are just as ready to benefit Sydney as they are to deny any benefit to other parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I trust that, in the absence of sufficient information to enable honorable members to come to a conclusion, the Prime Minister will postpone this item. I suggest that the information contained in the document referred to by the Prime Minister should be printed and circulated, because I do not intend to vote for the increase of this amount until I am convinced of the absolute necessity for the increase.

Mr Johnson:

– A return giving the particulars was laid on the table this afternoon.

Mr TUDOR:

– And we are asked to vote on it to-night.

Progress reported.

page 6255

ADJOURNMENT

Preferential Trade

Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr DEAKIN:
Ballarat

– I had the misfortune to be absent from the H6use this evening, when, I understand, the Prime Minister made a statement as to the business to be disposed of during the remainder of the session. In that statement, I am informed, the right honorable gentleman made some reference to the probability that the allimportant question of preferential trade could not be dealt with until next session. I should be extremely loth myself to adopt any such opinion. It may be, of course, that there are such divisions in the House that it would be difficult to arrive at anv thing like a unanimous conclusion without the expenditure of a considerable amount of time; but, in view of the situation, it appears to me that we should fail in our duty if we did not at least make an effort to launch the question, and deal with it now if it be possible to arrive at anything like an agreement. I should have taken action much earlier but for the fact that the situation has been very unstable, because we have been discussing matters which necessarily have precedence, and also because while another motion on this subject is on the notice-paper I have been unable to frame such a motion as I would desire. I had hoped that to-day that motion would he brought forward - if it is intended to be brought forward - and disposed of. leaving a fair field for action on my part.

Mr Watson:

– lt. was intended to bring the motion forward, but the honorable member in whose name it stands is fill.

Mr DEAKIN:

– So I understand. It was because I had hoped that it would be disposed of that I have taken no action recently. I was loth to draft another proposal dealing with that part of the subject which has not been appropriated, so to speak, by the motion of which notice has been given, because such an action might have had the appearance of rivalry - and that is a policy which I particularly desire to avoid. The motion in question does not appear to me to be at all adequate, to the necessities of the situation, and I hope to have an opportunity during this session to submit what appears to me to be a sufficiently comprehensive and clear proposal in regard to this great national question. Its immense importance to us as a Commonwealth cannot be overestimated, “and it is also of great importance to the mother country, and to the rest of the Empire. In spite of the fact that so much of the session has expired, in spite of the heavy burden which Ministers will have to bear in discharging the work they already have in hand, I feel that this question involves issues of such magnitude, that I shall venture to prefer a request to the Prime Minister - a request that he will not find it in his heart to refuse - that a proper opportunity be afforded the House to discuss it. Whatever the ‘Prime Ministers personal views on the question may be, I think he will agree that the whole matter ought to be ventilated, and that at least some expression of opinion should be obtained from this Parliament during the present session.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– My attention has been called to a report which appears in to-day’s issue of the Argus, of a debate which took place yesterday on a motion for the adjournment of the House, and which may give rise to some misapprehension. In the course of his remarks, the honorable and learned member for Indi said -

The long continued attacks upon himself had now so long passed the bounds of decency that he Felt compelled, not only for his own sake, but Tor the sake of his constituents, and of the race to which he belonged, to resent them.

Mr o’malley:
T.

– A great race.

Mr Maloney:
V.

– A jolly good race.

Mr. Johnson (N.S.W.). - The race for thespoils. ft will readily be seen that the remark attributed to me is capable of an offensive construction. 1 do not say that I have been intentionally misreported; but I think that the interjection which I made was perhapsmisunderstood. I do not remember the exact words that I used ; but what I had in my mind was the jocular suggestion that it was a race for the Treasury benches on the part of certain honorable members. I had no intention whatever to say anything offensive in regard to any race of people, and I think it is well that I should take this opportunity to explain the matter.

Mr REID:
Minister of External Affairs · East Sydney · Free Trade

– I think I stated some time ago that there would be no objectionon the part of the Government to give the honorable and learned member for Ballarat an opportunity to bring the question of preferential trade before the House during this session, and I certainly have no objection to that course being taken. I feel quite certain, however, that it would be impossible for us to adequately discussthe question under, at all events, a month, and, therefore, I do not see any prospect of dealing with it in a satisfactory way during the present session. I wish also to mention that, as honorable members know, the British Parliament has been in recess since August, and will not meet until the middle of February next.

Mr Watson:

– When we get into recess, we do not know when we shall meet again.

Mr REID:

– It is singularly refreshing to learn from a statement made by my predecessor in office, that there is any idea that this is a matter of great urgency. So far as I am concerned, I have a particular personal wish that the, honorable and learned member for Ballarat should have an opportunity to make a statement of his views on this question in the House before the session ends, for my views on the subject will be published in a very prominent way in the mother country within the next few weeks. Those views must not be looked upon as official, for they were expressed before I came into office; but they are opinions which I still entertain, and I know that they will be published in such a way as to attract, at all events, some attention. I am very anxious indeed, as a matter of fairness to those who differ from me on this question, that the leader of the movement in Australia should have an opportunity to state fully the views which he holds upon it. I shall raise no difficulty at all as to the initiation of a discussion on this most important question by the honorable, and learned member, but I confess that at the present time, I do not see any reasonable prospect of bringing it to a conclusion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11. 9 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041027_reps_2_22/>.