2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister if he will be able to go on with the Trade Marks Bill should it shortly be received from the Senate? A deputation waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday in regard to the matter, and . I understand that he undertook to lay it before the Cabinet. So far as this side of the House is concerned, I can promise that if the measure is proceeded with we shall facilitate an early decision on the only contentious portion of the Bill.
-My honorable colleague has not yet had an opportunity to put the matter before the Cabinet, though he will have an opportunity to do so to-morrow. The Government are very anxious, before the recess occurs, to deal with Bills such asthe honorable member refers to; but the slow progress of the Estimates is making the prospect for their consideration less and less favorable.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if there will be an opportunity to deal with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill next week. I desire to be present when the Bill is discussed, but, as 1 shall have to go away from Melbourne at the endof this week, I should like a day or two’s notice.
– The Government desire to proceed with one thing at a time, and as we are now on the Estimates, we shall finish them before taking up anything else ; but it is a perfectly reasonable request that a few days notice should be given of the intention to proceed with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and I shall be only too glad to give it.
– I desire to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the following paragraph in to-day’s Age : -
Speaking to a deputation that waited on him yesterday, the Minister of Customs (Mr. Allan McLean) said : - There are many very important questions, such as preferential trade - which is a question of far-reaching importance- before Parliament. We do not feel that it will be possible to deal with that during the present session, but we propose to give Mr. Deakin an opportunity of explaining it from his point of view, so that it will be before the people, but there will be no opportunity of threshing out the matter this session.
Does he not think that other honorable members should have the same opportunity as is afforded to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to express their views on this subject?
– The Government wish to give the fullest opportunity for the discussion of this important question; but, like everything else, the matter must bear some relation to the necessities of public business.
– I understand from the press that the Prime Minister does not propose to proceed with the prosecution of the men known as the six potters.Is that because they were not imported under contract? If not, what are the reasons for abandoning the prosecution?
-As is now pretty generally known, the late Minister of External Affairs set the law in motion in the case referred to. The matter was placed in the hands of the Crown Solicitor in Sydney, who is acting for the Commonwealth Government, and he has reported to us that, after making, the most exhaustive efforts, he has been unable to obtain evidence which would warrant a prosecution, or such as it would be reasonable to put before any Court in support of an allegation of a breach of the law. There is no evidence of a breach of the law having taken place such as wouldwarrant him in going on with the proceedings.
– Are the papers open for inspection?
– Iwill have them brought over to the House, so that any honorable member who desires to see them may do so.
– Yesterday I drew attention to a small item pf expenditure in the statement of receipts and expenditure for the quarter ending 30th September£17 4s. for the entertainment of the Duc D’Abruzzi. As we have to foot the Bill, I wish to know what the entertainment was, where it took place, and who gave if?
– The entertainment consisted of a reception given by the Minister of Defence, the official head of the Naval and Military Forces pf the Commonwealth, as an act of hospitality to his Royal Highness.
– Entertainments of the kind have previously always been paid for by the Ministers responsible for them.
– The reception of His Royal Highness was an act of courtesy on the part of the Military and Naval Department, though I concur with the honorable member in the view that the cost of these little matters of hospitality had per haps better be discharged by Ministers, and that course will in future be followed by the present Ministry.
– Surely not when the entertainment is purely an official one.
– I am happy to say that we have a Ministerial fund for the purpose, and I think that this would be a legitimate charge upon it.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the statement which has appeared in the Border Mail, a newspaper published at Albury, that the right honorable member for Balaclava has threatened to resign his position as Treasurer because coalition pledges have been broken by the Prime Minister, is true?
– I have read a number of wild statements in the press, of which this is one. Honorable members will be very sorry to learn that the Treasurer is suffering from illness, and is therefore unable to be present. I suppose that that misfortune has caused these wild reports to be in circulation, though I need hardly say that there is absolutely no foundation for them.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that to-day is the anniversary of the birthday of His Majesty the King? Doeshe intend to go on with business, seeing that the occasion is being observed as a general holiday throughout the Empire?
– Monday next has been set apart for the official celebration of the anniversary of His Majesty’s birthday, and the Government, therefore, are relieved from the necessity of having to propose a respite for honorable members from their arduous labours in connexion with the consideration of the Estimates. We have thought it our duty, however, to transmit the congratulations of the Commonwealth to His Majesty upon the occasion, and to add an expression of the profound gratitude which we feel is entertained In the Commonwealth towards him for His great efforts to preserve the peace of the world.
askedthe Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is he yet in a position to inform this Housr whether it is correct, as stated by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Robinson), that successful tenderers not resident in Australia have not to pay. Customs duties on goods used in carrying out their contracts, while duty is paid on the goods used in a like manner by Australian successful tenderers for Commonwealth contracts?
– The information to enable me to answer this question is not yet to hand, but I hope to be able to furnish a reply in a few days.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Action in these matters is governed by the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and Regulations.
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the serious annual losses caused by rust in wheat throughout the Commonwealth, and the prospective value of an effective remedy, the Government will consider the advisability of offering, or inducing the respective State Governments to offer, a satisfactory bonus to any person or persons who may discover a , remedy, and satisfactorily prove the efficacy of the same.
– I think the subject which the honorable member mentions, is one of a number of practical value as to which the’ Commonwealth and States Governments might well co-operate.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 8th November, vide page 6649) :
Department of Trade and Customs
Division 32 (Central Staff), £6,712
– Before we proceed to discuss the items of this Department in detail, I should like to say a word or two in regard to the administration of the sugar bonus law. I cannot pretend to speak with regard to the position in Queensland, but I understand that the practice of New South Wales, in regard to the payment of the bonus - and it may be the same in the northern State - is to rely only on inspection by the Customs officials, and, intermittently,’ by the State police who happen to be in or’ near the district in which the areas are registered. I am informed that in New South Wales there is quite a number of leakages in this connexion - that men who are registered as employing white labour only, have occasionally, for periods, short or long, employed black labour, and have continued to collect the bonus. I do not myself assert that this is the fact, because all I have in support of the representation is a number, of ex parte statements, and it is not, I admit, wise to rely on information of that sort. It seems to me, however, that, taking probabilities into consideration, there is great room for error in this regard, unless the Department adopt some method of close inspection by officers, who should be responsible for insuring that coloured labour is not employed in areas registered for white labour. It is all very well to say that a police officer has been over a district, but people interested can usually get pretty Rood advance information, through’ the “bush telegraph,” with regard to the visit of an ordinary constable in uniform - that is, if the growers have an interest in evading his inspection, and hampering him in regard to the information he has to ob tain. Further, when we rely on officials of the State, we rely on men who are under no obligation to the people who require their services. Such officials owe their loyalty to the State Government, and my experience of the mounted constable in the country districts of New South Wales is that he is over-laden with duties. He has an enormous number of offices to fulfil, and is, in short, such a Pooh-bah that one can quite understand he should be inclined to perform those Federal duties which are thrust on him, in addition to his own, in a very perfunctory fashion at the best. While that might be a harsh judgment in regard to all constables, we can understand such a temptation to a man already overburdened with multifarious duties. There is such a large sum at stake in the payment of this bonus, that the Government might very well have two or three men in each district, or one man in each of the smaller districts, to insure that what is necessary under the Act is duly observed. I know that some appointments have been made during the year in connexion with the bonus provisions of the Act ; but, so far as I know, those appointments are of men whose sole duty it is to attend at the mill and check the amount of cane received. It is no part of their work, I understand, to go into rh? fields and see the class of labour employed on the registered areas.
– Is not that one of - then special duties ?
– I am not speaking of Queensland; but in New South Wales at present there is no field inspection, and the duties are, I understand, performed in a more ‘ or less perfunctory manner by the State police. They are asked to occasionally overlook the areas and report if they find any coloured labour employed. That seems a very imperfect method, and, in view of the large sums involved, I think that we should insist upon systematic inspection. The cost would be relatively small. I know that the Minister of Trade and .Customs, in common with other Ministers who haveheld his position in the past, is in full sympathy with the idea of preventing any one from obtaining the bonus unless he isentitled to it. We are all in agreement upon that point. I bring this matter forward because of complaints’ which have been made to me as to the circumstancesunder which the bonus has been claimed insome cases in the northern districts of New South Wales. It is altogether erroneous to suppose, as has been stated by the Treasurer, that little or no coloured labour has been employed on the northern sugar plantations in New South Wales. As a matter of fact, there has been a gradual drifting down of kanakas from Queensland for many years, and before the restrictions were placed on coloured immigration, a large number of Hindoos came in to New South Wales and gravitated to the northern districts. One or two estates recently employed both Hindoos and kanakas, and I believe that there is every probability of a large leakage, unless the Minister takes steps to have the areas properly inspected, so that we may be reasonably certain that the terms and conditions under which the bonus is given are complied with.
– Does the honorable member know anything of the system that is adopted in Queensland?
– I could not say, but I think that half-a-dozen or more Customs officers were specially appointed to perform inspection work by my late colleague, the honorable member for Wide Bay. I believe, however, that their duties, as in New South Wales, related mainly to the checking of the returns at the mills.
– That is really no check at all.
– It is no check upon the conditions under which the cane is grown ; but it insures the Department against overpayments upon the quantity of cane delivered at the mills That is a necessary check, but I think that we should go further, and avoid relying solely upon the officials of the States in regard to the class oflabour employed in the growing of sugar. The matter of a few appointments should not stand in the way of our insuring that the bonus is paid only to those persons who are entitled to it.
– Have not the growers to make a statutory declaration?
– If the honorable member had had the same experience as we have had in New South Wales, in connexion with statutory declarations under our land laws, he would not consider that they were of very great value. It is very curious that no one seems to think it any great crime to get at the Government. I know of ordinarilv reputable citizens who would scorn anything in the nature of a false declaration in the ordinary affairs of life, who have been known to take part for years in dummying transactions, and have made false declarations without the slightest compunction. In the light of such experience, I am not disposed to place anygreat value upon statutory declarations. Persons’ consciences seem particularly elastic in regard to such matters. The surest method of proceeding is to appoint inspectors, who will be responsible directly to the Federal authorities, and who will visit the plantations at unexpected times, and ascertain how far the prescribed conditions are complied with.
– It has been suggested that inspectors should be engaged, in order to insure that no black labour is employed by growers who claim the bonus. I do not think inspectors would be of any use. We may fully rely upon the white labourers who are employed on and about the plantations giving information in the event of black labour being employed.
– The white labourers do not always know when a plantation is registered as one upon which , onIy white labour is employed.
– I know of one case in which a grower was denied the bonus because he had in his employment a man with Japanese blood in his veins. No one knew that this man was to be classed as a black labourer until a fellow-employe, who knew that he was of Japanese descent, gave information to the authorities, and prevented his employer from obtaining the bonus. The growers are very careful not to employ black labourers, and will not even give work to our own native blacks. This, I think, inflicts a great hardship upon our aboriginals, who have been allowed to work in the cane fields for many years - particularly in the Clarence district.
– They are nearly all halfcastes in that district.
– There are a few half-castes there, as in the district represented by the honorable member. Prior to the institution of the bonus, the sugar-growers on the Clarence River employed a good deal of blacklabour, but now they have entirely dispensed with that class of workman. I do not think there is any necessity for the employment of inspectors, or even for demanding a statutory declaration. The white labourers are only too ready to report to the authorities anv cases in which black labour is employed.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee a case which I deem ro be a very hard one. I have indicated to the Minister my intention to refer to this matter, so that he will doubtless be prepared with full information regarding it. It will be remembered that in connexion with the Customs Tariff Act, the duties were collected from the time that the Tariff was laid on the table, and that the regulations provided that under certain circumstances, refunds of duty should be made in cases where goods were made the subject of imposts which Parliament afterwards declined to ratify. One of my constituents, a man named Smith, resident at Tareena. on the border of New South Wales and South Australia, had a portable engine, which he had taken from New South Wales into South Australia for the purpose of doing some threshing, or something of that kind. When he wished to return to his home in New South Wales, he was stopped on the border,and a demand was made for the payment of the duty imposed upon that class of goods under the Tariff, as it was first presented to the House. He demurred to this, and placed himself in communication with me. I brought the matter under the attention of the then Minister, and I was informed that the duty should be paid under protest. I am advised that that course was taken. The matter remained in abeyance for a considerable time, and’ Mr. Smith died. I have a letter from his widow, which I shall read, which states that the duty was paid under protest as suggested, but has not yet been refunded. An action was recently brought against the Customs Department by a firm in Melbourne, and the High Court decided that the duty which had been paid bv the firm in respect to goods which were afterwards placed on the free list should be refunded. That, to my mind, was a case very similar to the one of which I have been speaking. Duty was demanded upon articles which Parliament afterwards declared should be exempt, and the money was paid under protest. In that case the High Court decided that the duty should be refunded. Under somewhat similar circumstances another gentleman, who is engaged in the iron industry in New South Wales, imported some iron or steel rails . from Victoria. Parliament subsequently decided that no duty should be levied upon these articles. He repeatedly applied for a refund of the amount paid by him as duty upon them, but his applications were of no avail, and finally he decided to sue the Government to recover it. In this connexion the honorable member for Hume recently. put the following question to the Minister of Trade and Customs: -
Can the Minister give the House any information regarding a claim made by Mr. Sandford for a refund of duty on steel rails paid some time ago? The matter was afterwards taken into court. I wish to know if the Government have withdrawn their defence, and if they are now prepared to pay the claim? If so, will theMinister lay the papers on the Table? I do not ask the question in any hostile spirit, but if the Government have done what I think they have done, I wish the papers to be made public, so that my action, and that of some of my colleagues, in reference to the matter may be disclosed.
To that question the Minister made the following reply : -
The matter came under my notice a little time ago, as one which had been partly dealt with by my predecessors. On making inquiries, I found that the equities of the case were with Mr. Sandford, and I therefore sent instructions to Sydney not to enter a defence.
In one case legal proceedings were taken, and the decision of the Court was obtained ; in the other, proceedings were threatened, and in reply to a question by the honorable member for Hume, the Minister intimated that he had given instructions to withdraw the defence. In both of these cases a protest had been lodged against the collection of the duty. I am informed that effect was given to the instructions supplied to me by the Department, and transmitted by me to the persons interested. Upon the 1st September I received the following letter : -
I am enclosing you cuttings from the Adelaide Advertiser of August 18 and 19 referring to Customs dispute, and also letter received from you re portable engine brought into New South Wales in November, 1901. Could you kindly let me know if, in view of this judgment, I am entitled to a refund of the duty paid on the engine ? Under the N ew South Wales Tariff the engine would have been free, and also under the Tariff authorized by the Federal Parliament; but as it came in while the Draft Tariff was in force, we had to pay - under protest - nearly£34.
– Was the money accepted bv the Department under protest?
Mr.CHANTER.- I cannot say; but I am informed that it was paid under protest. The letter continues -
Had my husband lived, he meant to have written to you sooner, so I should be pleased. if you would let me know what you think about it. Trusting I am not troubling you too much. - I am, yours faithfully,
I then communicated with the Department, directing attention to the judgment of the High Court, and pointing out that the equities of this case were in favour of the poor widow, who was seeking a refund of a sum of ^34- She is in necessitous circumstances, so that the amount involved represents a considerable item to her. In reply I received the following letter : -
I Oth October, 1904
Adverting to your letter of 7th pit., enclosing a communciation from Mrs. Jane Smith, asking whether, in view of the judgment given by the High Court in the Cowan case, a refund could be granted on a portable engine transferred from South Australia to New South Wales, at Wentworth, in October, 1901, I have the honour, by direction of the Minister, to inform you that the judgment referred to applies only to cases where duty was paid under protest -
– No. They say, however, that -
As no written protest was made at the time the duty was paid on the engine under notice, the claim for refund cannot be recognised.
N. P. W0LLAST0N.
In this case it will be seen that a person, paid duty under protest. But, because the individual was not so well versed in matters of law as to recognise the necessity for making a formal written protest, the Department is endeavouring to evade its just responsibility. J have had some conversation with the Minister upon this subject, and where the equities of a case are so clear as they are in this instance I do not think it is creditable to any Government to attempt to shield themselves behind a paltry in for.mality of that description.
– It is purely a technical point.
– Yes, it is a highlytechnical point. The Department do not dispute that the money was lodged under protest. They merely affirm that it was not lodged under a written protest. This individual did all that he possibly could to protect himself at the time the portable engine was about to cross over the South Australian border. He communicated with me, and was advised to pay the money under protest, and he did so. I claim that all the equities of the case are on the side of this widow. Money collected under similar circumstances has been refunded in the cases of Cowan and Company, and of Mr. Sandford ; why should it not be returned in that of this poor widow, who is not possessed of the means necessary, to establish her claim before a Court of Law ? I sincerely trust that the Minister, with the full consent of the House, will see his way clear to refund this amount of ^34.
– I quite concur in the remarks of .the leader of the Opposition in regard to the desirableness of appointing inspectors of cane-fields in New South Wales as these officers have proved of such value in Queensland. It was whilst the honorable member for Hume was administering the Customs Department that these inspectors were appointed. I, in conjunction with the honorable member for Wide Bay, took some active steps in” the matter, and, after a good deal of persuasion, induced him to recognise the desirableness of adopting this course, in view of the fact that in several sugar areas most marvellous crops were reaped immediately after the initiation of the bounty, system- - crops whose like we had not previously heard of in Queensland. In some instances I believe the yield was as much as seventy tons to the acre. Possibly our suspicions were not justified, but we thought that, under these circumstances, it was advisable that officers should be appointed to inspect! these areas. I am happy to say that since that time the Collector of Customs in Queensland has spoken in the highest possible terms of the services rendered by these officials, and says that the work performed by them has been in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I have never heard ally complaint regarding the way in which they have discharged their duties, but from my point of view they had practically no experience in cane-growing. I believe that in every case the officers were strangers to the districts to which they were appointed. It must be remembered that the farms are very scattered. The area of, say, one district extends perhaps thirty miles from north to south, and ten miles or twelve miles from east’ to west ; and honorable members will recognise that in so extensive, a district a great deal may happen of which the Department has no cognizance. I think it is desirable that the men appointed to these positions should have a knowledge of local conditions, and of the many technicalities connected with the industry. While I have heard no complaints against these officers, there is certainly some ground for complaint as to the way in which the excise officers have been appointed. The ‘ canefield inspectors were in the Department prior to their appointment to field dutv.
They were what is commonly known as excess officers - men for whom there was not sufficient work in the branch of the Department in which they were employed - and they were transferred to the sugar districts on the ground that their transfer to field work would involve no extra cost. I believe that there are six of these inspectors in the sugar-growing districts of Queensland. The excise officers, however, are only temporarily employed during the crushing season. They remain at the mills, and have simply to check the quantity of cane sent in by the growers, upon which bounty is claimed. They perform a very necessary work, and as the quantity of cane crushed at the mills can be checked by the books, there is no possibility of collusion between the growers and the .officers of the’ Department. The system adopted in appointing these excise officers is not satisfactory, and I have recently received letters referring to the matter. One of the two excise officers appointed was formerly a book-keeper in a merchant’s office, and is said to have had no actual experience of the sugar industry. No great experience is necessary, so far as the work of these officers is concerned, but I think it is desirable, if not necessary, that they should be to some extent in sympathy with the legislation which they are required to administer. There is no evidence that they are in sympathy with it - the evidence, as a matter of fact, is quite the reverse. The second excise officer is an ex-bank manager, who had also no experience of the work of the sugar mills, and there is nothing to indicate that either of these men were enrolled as applicants for employment in the service. The Public Service Commissioner usually insists upon strict compliance with the regulation requiring that persons appointed to positions in the Public Service shall first have been enrolled as applicants for employment. That regulation must be complied with, even by a man who seeks employment as a cook in a telegraph line repairer’s camp; but I doubt very much if either of these excise officers were so enrolled. If they were not, how is it that they were appointed ?
– “Will the honorable member give me the names of the officers ?
– I shall be pleased to do so. I asked a question upon notice the other day,’ under the impression that the men in question were cane-field inspectors, but from the answer given by the Minister it seems that they are employed as excise officers. I should like to know why this wholesome regulation, which is applied so drastically in other cases, has not apparently been observed in connexion with the appointment of these officers. They may be excellent employes - I do not say that they are not, for as a matter of fact, I have no knowledge of their qualifications - but if they have been allowed to enter the service without complying with khe regurations, which all other applicants for employment must observe, favoritism has been shown to one section of the community as against all others. Reference has been made by several honorable members to the apparent discrepancy in the figures relating to the quantity of cane which has been produced by black and by white labour. The Treasurer, to some extent, explained the matter a few days ago, by saying that a producer in one case might employ a number of coloured men, and cultivate a very large area, while in another case he might be a man employing no labour at all, or very, little, apart from the members of his own family, and cultivating only a small area. That is certainly one explanation of the matter, but as the discrepancy is more marked in the returns for the northern and southern areas of Queensland, it is perhaps advisable for me to say that the soil ‘under cultivation in the north is usually scrub country. The land there is very fertile, and there is also a good and regular rainfall. In the south, however, droughts have occurred, and frosts have also been rather severe. It may be news to some honorable members that even in northern Queensland1 we occasionally suffer from.’ frosts.
– Frosts killed all the mango trees up there a little while ago.
– Yes. In 1899 severe frosts occurred at Townsville, which is well up in the tropics, and killed crops of sweet potatoes as well as young orange trees, banana plants, and sugar cane. In the Proserpine district the sugar cane growers have often, during . July and August, to start fires round the sugar cane fields so that the smoke from them shall prevent the cane being frost-bitten. This may be news to honorable members, but it is, nevertheless, a fact. The fires are usually built when cold weather is expected. A conference was recently held in Townsville, at which a large number of delegates were present from the various sugargrowing areas, though, with three of four exceptions, they all advocated one particular set of ideas. Of course, they were all in favour of the continuance of the bounties, because that is considered a very important matter up there, and I look upon it as almost vital to the industry, at any rate in the far north. They do not ask for the payment of bounties to be made permanent, or to be fixed for a set period, but for it to be continued indefinitely, until the condition of the industry is such that Parliament may discontinue it without any ill effect. The majority of those present at the conference also asked that kanaka labour should be continued - a piece of effrontery with which I know of no parallel.
– They did not ask for the payment of bounties on kanaka-grown sugar ?
– That was not made very clear, but the inference to be drawn from the arguments used was that some of them wish the kanakas to remain, and bounties to be paid on kanaka-grown sugar.
– What they really wish for is to have the kanakas back.
– Undoubtedly, they would like to have the Act repealed, so far as the prohibition of recruiting and the deportation of kanakas at the end of 1906 are concerned. Whatever Administration may be in power at the time will find it no easy matter to provide for the deportation of 5,000 or 6,000 kanakas within a few weeks, and I sympathize with whatever Government may have to face that difficulty. That is one of the reasons why I do not like to see the present Prime Minister in power. I am afraid that he will not tackle the question, with as much vim and courage as he would show if it were a free - trade problem. He will, however, be furnished with a full report of the proceedings of the conference to which I have referred, and the resolutions carried by those present. I sympathize with their desire for the continuance of the bounty, and shall support it; but I must not be taken as wavering for a moment in my opinion in regard to the need for the deportation of the kanakas, nor must I be held to favour the re-introduction of the system of recruiting. I do not think that any Federal Government would have the temerity to advocate the re-introduction of recruiting. That is something which is past and done with, and to which Australia will never again assent. There are, however, great difficulties in the way of providing for deportation, and the Government of the day will require plenty of backbone. and sympathy to carry out the provisions of the law. I should like them, therefore, to consider the advisability of seeing that those kanakas whose agreements have expired are given every facility for returning to the islands. Every kanaka whose term is up is most anxious to return home.
– What provision is made for returning the kanakas to their homes ?
– Five pounds per man is paid to the credit of a return passage by the persons indenting the kanakas ; but I believe that now that the recruiting is stopped, the cost of returning men is more than £5per head, since the vessels have to make the return journey empty. When recruiting was in full swing, the kanakas going backwards and forwards made a line of communication between Australia and the islands ; but, now that recruiting has been stopped, the men who are here, who are unable to write, have practically no means of communicating with their homes, and are, therefore, suffering from home sickness. Every obstacle, however, which can lawfully be placed in their way, is interposed to prevent them from going home. All sorts of arguments are used to induce them to re-engage for a further term, and when they are unwilling to do sta, they are told that there is no ship in which they can go back. I am sorry that men in the service of the State Government have connived at the fictions which are used to compel the kanakas to re-engage. The men walk about until their money is gone, and when they find that they cannot satisfy their ambition to take a “box of trade” home with them, they are in desperation driven to make another engagement. What has gone on in the oast is going on to-day ; and I strongly impress on the Prime Minister, in whose Department this matter is, the necessity of giving every facility at the expiration of their term for the return of these men. I believe ithat the Queensland Government have been approached, if not by this, by a former Administration, on this matter, and I have asked questionsand made observations in the House in regard to it. If the Prime Minister should be in office when these deportation clauses of the Act come into operation, he may, unless every facility is given for the expedition of deportation, find himself faced by a difficult problem. I ask the Prime Minister, who ought to be only too pleased to answer the question, whether a rumour, which has been .circulated in Queensland to the effect that this Ministry is not in sympathy with the deportation of these men, but is willing to consider the advisability of continuing kanaka labour, has any .foundation? What has given currency to the rumour at the present time I am unable to say ; but we are told that where there is “smoke” there is, at any rate, a little “fire.” By advocates of a White Australia, not only in Queensland, but throughout the Commonwealth, and in this House, which has declared unanimously in favour of the policy, this will be considered an opportune moment for the Prime Minister to express his opinion. I hope .that the Minister for Trade and Customs will inquire into the appointments to which I have directed his attention. I regret to say that in all such appointments made in Queensland, either before or since Federation, those appointed have had to give some indication of their political faith. No man who was considered in sympathy with the White Australia policy could get an appointment.
– Surely that has not been the custom in Queensland ?
– It has most decidedly been the custom. Men who were applying, or who were being thrust into the positions, in ‘ some cases, had to be of a certain political caste, or they had no hope whatever of appointment. If the legislation on the statute-book regarding the sugar bonus and the employment of kanakas is to be carried out in spirit, as well as in letter, it is most desirable that men. not of any political caste,” but just, impartial, and unbiased men should be appointed. The Minister should acquaint himself to some extent with the bona -fides of the applicants before’ he sanctions their appointment. So far as concerns the appointments made by the honorable member for Hume, when Minister of Trade and Customs, and afterwards confirmed by the honorable member for Wide Bay, when occupying the same office, I have heard no complaints, and, as I am in frequent correspondence with people in the sugar-growing districts, I should certainly have heard if any objections had been raised. But in the case of the excise officers, the position is altogether different. Those officers are appointed on the recommendation, sometimes, of the local subinspector, confirmed by the Queensland collector in Brisbane, and the latter may make temporary appointments without receiving any recommendation.
– The information I have is that the inspector is instructed not to recommend any men except from the Public Service rolls, and the fact that the names are on the rolls show that they must have been applicants.
-I am happy to have that assurance from the Minister. Though I know that the instructions are as the Minister states, yet I doubt whether the instructions have been carried out in particular instances. I am glad to hear that the Minister intends to make inquiries as to whether or not it is the fact that only those whose names appear on the roll have been recommended and appointed. I do not know whether the continuance of the bonus is a matter of policy, on which we ought to seek information from the Prime Minister, but both the right honorable gentleman and the Minister of Trade and Customs have now an opportunity to declare themselves on the subject. If such a declaration were made, it would ease the minds of a great many people interested in this industry, which is of great importance, not only to Northern Queensland, but to the southern States. North Queensland is a very large customer for the produce of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, and if North Queensland suffers in any way, the markets of those southern States will to some extent be affected. I do not intend to enter into figures in proof of the importance of the industry, but honorable members on both sides must recognise the fact, and be quite willing to indorse the action of the Government if they decide on a continuance of the bonus. I am sorry to see that the Prime Minister is leaving the Chamber, because I should like him to answer the question which I asked just now as to the rumour in regard to his attitude on the kanaka question - whether he is going to wobble on it, or whether he will maintain a firm stand, in the interests of a White Australia. Our future policy .will affect the sugar industry very seriously; and if the continuance of the bonus were the settled policy of the Commonwealth, it would be the means of bringing a very large area under cultivation within a very short period.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Honorable members will recollect that yesterday I made the following statement: -
I wish to record my protest against the action of one of these orderlies during the recent racing carnival. Judged by that incident, one would imagine that the roads ofour country were controlled in a manner which obtains only in Russia. I am credibly informed that two ladies, who were driving in a trap, were almost capsized by the indiscreet action of one of the orderlies. I wish to know to whom that officer is attached. Simply because the ladies in question ventured to pass the Governor-General’s carriage, this brute in human form pushed the trap in which they were seated on to the kerb stone.
It is only fair that I should say that this statement does not refer to the orderly of His Excellency the Governor-General, but to the orderly of the State Governor of Victoria. I make this explanation without in any sense mitigating my original criticism of the man who was responsible for the incident.
– I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will make some response to the appeal of the honorable member for Herbert, and favour honorable members with a definite statement with respect to the continuance of the sugar bounty. I can assure, the Minister that the statement made by the Treasurer, that he was favorably disposed towards the continuance of the bounty, was received with considerable satisfaction, and that, if a definite pronouncement that the Cabinet as a whole - including the representatives of both political sides - were in favour of the extension of the bounty beyond the time now fixed, unbounded satisfaction would be felt in Queensland, and those engaged in sugar production would proceed about their work with renewed confidence. The reason why I desire that the bounty should be continued is that those who are engaged in sugar-growing have shown a strong desire to loyally bow to the will of this Parliament, and to make sugar growing an occupation for white men. If the Minister could only make a favorable pronouncement on behalf of the Cabinet, as a whole, it would be received with very great satisfaction.
– By whom?
– By the sugar-growers in Queensland, and, I venture to say, also by the great majority of the people of Australia. We are now a Federation, and we are required to view Australian problems from a national stand-point. Ithink that I may claim that the representatives of Queensland as a. whole, have regarded the problems presented to them from a broad point of view. We have asked only for due consideration for the industries of Queensland, but we have endeavoured to grant our assistance to any industry, irrespective of the portion of the Commonwealth in which it might be carried on, which could be shown to be worthy of national support. I believe that that standard has been maintained throughout.
– The representatives of Queensland have been specially solicitous for their own industries.
– I think we have adopted a fair attitude throughout. No doubt, from the stand-point of the honorable and learned member, he has also taken a national view of these matters. This is not a question merely of free-trade and protection, because we know that there are other economic problems surrounding it. This House decided that it would endeavour to lay down conditions under which the sugar industry could be carried on by white men, and the evidence furnished recently by Dr. Maxwell corroborates the view expressed by many honorable members at the time the sugar bonuses were granted. I need not say anything with regard to the magnitude of the industry, because the Minister must be well aware of that. It would be very gratifying indeed if he could make some definite pronouncement as to the attitude of the Cabinet before the House rises.
– The honorable and learned member is looking a long way ahead.
– No, I am not, because the provision for bounties will expire at the end of 1906,
– That is a long way ahead.How can the Minister promise anything bevond that period?
Mr.GROOM. - He can easily make a promise on the subject. I do not desire that this question should be viewed from a party stand-point. It has been dealt with by all honorable members as a national question. When the right honorable member for Swan urged the claims of the proposed railway survey from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta he asked that it should be considered from a national stand-point, and we adopted that attitude. Although some of our constituents in Queensland have subjected us to criticism for supporting a proposal for the survey for the construction of the Western Australian railway, we have stood by the right honorable gentleman, and we expect the same consideration that we have displayed towards him.
– The honorable and learned member might explain that a sugar-cane crop lasts for seven years, and that only two more years are provided for under the present Act.
– Exactly. I trust that the Minister will see his way to give us a definite pronouncement on the matter.
– I hope that he will not ; he has no right to bind future Parliaments.
– The honorable and learned member forgets that the matter will have to be dealt with by this Parliament, because the provision for the bounty expires at the end of 1906. The Ministry have control of the policy of the country, and we are entitled to a clear pronouncement of their views. The question whether the industry is to- be further developed by those who are ready to embark their capital in it, may depend upon the policy announced by the Government. Moreover, it is only fair to the public that, they should be made acquainted with the intentions of the Government. I desire to refer to the matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina. I think the Minister might show favorable consideration to the claim of Mrs, Smith. What is the position? Here is a widow who has a claim against the Government. The Stature apparently requires that no claim can be made for the refund of duty unless evidence can be produced that a protest was made at the time the duty was paid. The Statute requires, further, that the protest shall be in writing, merely because evidence is required to the effect that the protest was made. It is, therefore, purely a question of evidence. The Department does not dispute the facts, but the point is that if Mrs. Smith desires to make a claim, she will have to prove that a protest was made, and in proof of that protest produce a written document.
– Has the honorable and learned member looked into the case?
– I am speaking merely from the point of view of the honorable member for Riverina, on the only fact put before ihe House. I hope that the Minister will give the matter his attention.
– I intend to refer to it.
– It seems to me that the claim is a just one. As was stated by the honorable member for Riverina, the question is simply whether a protest was made at the time the duty was paid. According to the letter read by the honorable member for Riverina, the Department admit that the protest was made; but as no written protest was made at the time the duty was paid, the evidence required by the Statute cannot be produced. When the demand for the duty was made in the first instance, the honorable member for Riverina saw the Minister of Trade and Customs, and was told that a protest would have to be made. He informed the person interested, and was afterwards advised that the duty had been- paid under protest. If these facts are clear, Mrs. Smith has an absolutely just claim. It is quite true that technically, owing to the absence of a written document proving that a protest was made, Mrs. Smith might not be able to establish her claim in a Court of Law, but certainly according to the equities of the case she is entitled to a refund of the duty. Moreover, in view of the cases which have been decided by the Minister, she seems to have precedent in her favour as well. Of course, if the Minister of Trade and Customs is in possession of another version of the matter-
– The other cases to which the honorable member refers are of a very different nature.
– Whilst the honorable member for Riverina was addressing the Committee the Minister did not indicate that fact in any way.
– I did not think that it was necessary for me to rise so early in the discussion.
– Upon the face of the letters which the honorable member for Riverina has’ produced, I think that he hasestablished a very strong case, and that he would be justified in moving for a slight reduction of this vote, in order to insurejustice being done.
– I trust that the Government will not make any definite pronouncement upon the subject, of the sugar bounty at this stage. I should like to direct attention to the fact that in pre-Federation days, Victoria used to derive ah annual revenue of ^280,000’ from sugar. Under the present policy of the Commonwealth, however, the whole of that revenue is lost to this State, and, inaddition, we are asked to continue to pay a bonus of £2 per ton upon all sugar produced in Queensland bv white labour. The payment of that bonus will swell’ Victoria’s loss to something like ,£340,000 per annum. The States in which the sugar is grown derive all the- advantage of the bonus. I trust that the Government will pause before they involve -the Victorian revenue in a loss of £340,000, in addition to imposing large burdens upon the other States, because New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania will be called upon to sustain considerable losses. My allegiance to the Government would be very severely strained if I thought that under a policy of this character they were prepared to sacrifice, not merely the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue upon sugar, but were also willing to sanction the payment of a bonus upon its production.
– From the remarks of the last speaker, one would imagine that Victoria was suffering severely from the operation of the sugar bounty legislation which was enacted by this Parliament, with a view to maintaining a White Australia. Evidently, the honorable and learned member looks mainly at the revenue which is derived by the State Treasurer under the operation of a uniform Tariff throughout the Commonwealth. Only to-day I observed that on© of the Melbourne newspapers was boasting that Victoria is rapidly recovering her distributing position. We all know that the establishment of InterState free-trade has materially assisted the manufacturing industries of this State, because, prior to Federation, those industries had been specially fostered by a protective system. Consequently, if there is one State more than another in which the people are reaping the advantages of Federation today, that State is Victoria. Honorable members will recollect that when the Tariff was under consideration, and an effort was made to levy a protective duty upon behalf of a Victorian industry, the proposal always commanded the support of the Queensland representatives. When, however, a duty was required to encourage a Queensland industry, the Victorian representatives were frequently found voting against it. No State has gained so much from the establishment of Inter-State free-trade as has Victoria, and none has exhibited a more woeful lack of the Federal spirit. I rose chiefly to draw attention to a few items which were dealt with - but not exhaustively - by the honorable member for Herbert, who, I confess, possesses a much wider knowledge of the sugar industry than I do. It is unfortunate that the Committee were obliged to postpone the consideration of the Esti mates of the Treasurer’s Department, because the honorable member for Wide Bay, who has taken a special interest in the question to which attention has been so pointedly directed, chances to be absent this afternoon. Had he known that the Customs Estimates would be considered i.oday, I am quite sure that he would have been present. The honorable member for Herbert has informed the Committee that it is compulsory upon those who import kanakas into Queensland, to deposit £5 per head in a trust fund, which is intended to be utilized in defraying the cost of returning them to the islands.
– Order ! I have called “order” more than a score of times during the past ten minutes, and honorable members apparently ignore it. I shall, therefore, be compelled to take notice of those honorable members who engage in conversation in such a loud tone as to prevent me from following the speaker.
– The trust fund (o which I was referring represents a considerable sum. That result is due to the fact that quite half of the kanakas who have been introduced into Queensland have died there. Something like 60,000 have been imported into that State, and only 30,000 have been deported to their islands. From the report of the conference of sugargrowers which met in Townsville a few weeks ago, I gather that they are desirous of retaining the services of the kanakas who are at present in Queensland. Our legislation provides for their deportation to the islands whence they came. That was one of the terms of their engagement. I am aware that unscrupulous agents have been travelling over the sugar districts of Queensland informing the kanakas that no ships are available to carry them back to their islands, thereby inducing them to sign fresh agreements with their employers. There are vessels ready to deport them to their homes, but these are unable to obtain a sufficient number of passengers on account of the misrepresentations of these agents. Some steps should be taken to check or prevent that sort of thing. These men desired to return to their islands, but in their childlike native innocence they accepted the statements of agents that there were no means of sending them back. If they become “walk-about kanakas” they are liable to be arrested, and the result is that, as a rule, they engage for a further term. When we consider that the death rate among the kanakas in Queensland has been something like 55 per thousand per annum, as against 11 per thousand of the men, women, and children of the white population of Queensland, we must see that they have not stood the work of the cane-fields as well as has been suggested. Nearly one-half of the kanakas introduced into Queensland have died there, but some 200 or 300 of the remaining half have married white women and established homes for themselves. I do not ask that these shall be deported. To return them to the islands from which they came would be to inflict a cruel hardship on their wives and children. We should allow them to remain where they have settled, but we should not place any obstacle in the way of a kanaka who wishes to return to his island home. On the contrary, every inducement should be offered him to return. I think now, although I held a different opinion at the time we passed the Pacific Island Labourers Bill, that we fixed too short a limit to its operation to allow of the ideal of a White Australia - an ideal for which I think we are all anxious - being attained. I firmly believe that the industry can be carried on by means of white labour, but the trouble is that it has been over-capitalized. Large estates, more particularly in the northern parts of Queensland, were established to a considerable extent by means of borrowed and re-borrowed money, and two or three interest claims have to be met from time to time. Miss Florence Shaw, as the result of her visit to Australia, made that fact abundantly clear. The over-capitalization of these estates made some form of cheap servile labour absolutely necessary in order that the planters might derive a little profit, and that a profit should also be reaped by the bankers of Queensland as well as by the brokers who negotiated the loans in London, and those who lent the money in the first instance. Too many profits were taken out of the industry to allow of it paying white man’s wages, and in consequence of this system Queensland has had to suffer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should pay the interest due to these different institutions ?
– I say that a mistake was made by the Government of one of the States, and that we have to pay not only for that mistake, but for blunders made in other directions in Victoria and New South Wales. Have we not to pay for the Act passed by the State Legisla- ture of Victoria increasing the salaries of public servants about to be transferred to the Commonwealth to the highest rate received by officers performing similar duties in any other State?
– The State has to pay for that.
– As long as the Braddon section remains in force it will have to do so.
– The classification scheme will deal with the difficulty before the operation of that section ceases.
– That is so, but representatives of Victoria should also remember that some time ago the State Government expended a large sum to encourage the establishment of the beet-sugar industry here, and that we not only allow a bounty and a certain rebate of excise on locally-grown beet-sugar, but impose an import duty of£10 per ton on beet-sugar imported from other countries. The representatives of Queensland were not selfish in their advocacy of legislation dealing with the industry. They thought not only of the position of Queensland, but of the possibilities of all the States.
– Why should sugargrowing be regarded as a national undertaking any more than is the production of wheat or fruit?
– I have already asked whether it is not reasonable to impose an excise duty for the encouragement of our fruit-growers. I think that the honorable member for Franklin will admit that when Chinese and other Asiatics enter into the fruit-growing industry in the rich coastal districts of Queensland, where apples may be grown as well as in Tasmania, and citrous fruits do better than in any other part of Australia, the white fruitgrower will be placed at a very great disadvantage.
– I do not think that the fruit industry is involved in the item before the Chair.
– I am discussing the operation of excise duties.
– Do I understand you to rule, Mr. Chairman, that we may not discuss the fruit industry during the consideration of the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs? There is a duty on certain fruits.
– I do not wish to give a ruling, because the whole debate on this division has been out of order. A request was made by the honorable member; for Bland that a discussion with regard to the sugar industry should be allowed on the first item in the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs agreed to that request, and I acquiesced in it. If my notice be drawn to the matter, however, I shall be compelled to give a ruling, which I do not wish to give. But I do not feel justified in allowing questions affecting the fruit industry, which does not come under this “division, to be discussed.
– No one can accuse me of any desire to transgress the Standing Orders. I do not hold myself bound by any engagement entered into by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, and I claim freedom of debate ‘as long as I do not commit any breach of the Standing Orders. I was not going from one industry to another, but in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Franklin, was endeavouring to show the operation of the excise duty.
– Interjections are disorderly, and the honorable member need not notice them.
– I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that notwithstanding any arrangement which may have been made by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, I shall express the views thai: I desire to put before the Committee as -we deal with - the individual votes, even if I may not do so during the general discussion on the first item. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the fact that while I think the inspection of sugar plantations is necessary, in order to see that the white labour conditions are observed in their integrity, the cost of the inspection is more than it ought to be. In connexion with the state of the Central Mills, when the present Chief Justice of the Commonwealth was Premier of Queensland, the farmers and planters were induced to mortgage their lands, and to enter into a guarantee to produce a certain quantity of sugar proportionate to the area or value of the land surrounding the mills. The present Treasurer of Queensland is vigorously enforcing those conditions, and it is to the interests of those who have entered into this guarantee that the cost of running the mills shall be kept as low as possible. I may point to one case in which the expenditure is greater than it should be. Excise officers have to do duty at these mills, but at the Central Mill at
Nambour we have not only an excise officer but an inspector. In the opinion of the farmers who have to find the money to pay interest on the cost of that mill, one man. should be able to do the work of the two, and thus save £300 or ,£400 a year. The officer spared from this mill need not be dismissed from the service, because he could be appointed to some other position. There are a few other matters to which I shall refer when the particular items to which they relate come before the Committee. I urge the Minister, however, to let the sugar-planters of Queensland, and those who may enter into the beetsugar industry in Victoria, know what are the intentions of the Government with reference lo the continuance of the bounties. A continuance for a definite period is not asked for, but it is desired that they shall be continued for some little time. If they are not continued, the danger .is that, when we have got rid of the kanakas, the industry may be run by Chinamen, and if I had to make a choice I should prefer the kanaka.
– When the Colonies federated they had a problem .to face consequent upon the action of Queensland in importing black labour, which was gradually filtering into other parts of Australia. The first Commonwealth Parliament determined that the importation of black labour should cease, while, to encourage the growing of cane by white labour, it was decided that a bounty of practically £2 per ton on the sugar produced should be paid to those who employed white labour only in their fields. When that proposal was discussed, it was regarded, not as a fiscal matter, but as one which, in the view of both free-traders and protectionists, it was necessary to carry into effect to purge the Commonwealth of black labour. The honorable and learned member for Wannon wished to know whether the sugar industry is a Queensland or a Victorian industry, and what Victoria has to pay towards the bounties on sugar. I would point out to the honorable and learned member that, although incidentally we are returned to represent State electorates, Ave have the same responsibility in regard to industries not carried out in our States as we have to those in our own electorates. To deal with the question in any other way would be to approach it in that miserable parochial spirit which it was one of the aims of Federation to obliterate. Although it was thought that 1906 would be a sufficiently distant period to fix for the removal of all kanakas from Australia, there seems to be now great doubt in Queensland, as evidenced by the speeches of her leading politicians, as to whether the time is yet quite ripe. A further trouble arises from the fact that, although under the Act bounties are to be discontinued at the end of two years from now, seven years may probably elapse before the cane placed in the ground to-day will cease to be productive. I agree with the Minister of Trade and Customs that it is a somewhat dangerous thing for the Government to announce a policy before ir is definitely prepared to proceed with it. If we were told that the Government intended to submit to Parliament next session a proposal to continue the sugar bounties for another five or six years, hopes would be created which might not be realized. Probably the Government cannot place this matter before Parliament this session. The Minister of Trade and Customs, however, has never shown himself parochial in these matters. I have no doubt that he, is as well disposed to New South Wales and Queensland industries as he is to Victorian industries, and if he is prepared to tell us that the Government policy on this subject will be divulged early next session, and that he is sympathetic in regard to the position of the growers, that is all that we can expect at present. We know that the Government are sympathetic in this matter, because we have had no Administration more desirous of maintaining a White Australia than is the present one.
– How can a freetrader agree to a bounty?
– An honorable member might as well ask, how can a free-trader keep out of the lunatic asylum? The honorable member might ask a large number of questions of that kind, which I am not prepared to answer, though I would rather have a fiscal policy of some description, than be like my honorable friends opposite - fiscal hermaphrodites. I hope, further that the Minister will, during the recess, visit the sugar growing districts. If protection is to be the policy of Australia, I am satisfied that free-traders will not deal unjustly with the sugar industry, because it is localized in New South Wales and Queensland. We are, however, beating the air by discussing the matter now. All that we can do now is to leave it in the hands of a sympathetic Minister, in the belief that his sincerity, his ingenuity, and his powers of rhetoric, will convert some persons about whom we have not had a great deal of hope in the past. I would, however, remind the Committee that, when the question was originally dealt with, free-traders unanimously supported the granting of bounties on the White Australia argument, and I think that next session we shall find that they consider there is something more important in our national life than mere matters of fiscalism.
– Whether the Government are, or are not, prepared to make a promise in regard to the continuance of the sugar bounties, I feel sure that honorable members will see that no injustice is done to the sugar growers in Queensland. I hope that the Minister will do something to remedy the complaint made by some honorable members about the difficulties placed in the way of kanakas who wish to return to their homes. We, on this side, are supposed to be the strongest advocates for a White Australia, but we have no desire to do injury to any coloured race, and we think that the kanakas are suffering injury through not being allowed to proceed to their homes when their terms of service are over. Not long ago I saw a return prepared to the order of the Queensland Government, which showed that one kanaka has been put underground for every day that, has elapsed since the institution of the kanaka traffic. This great mortality has existed, not amongst women and children, but amongst n.en in the prime vigor of manhood, because only such are recruited.
– Men who are medically examined before being allowed to land !
– Yes. We ought, therefore, in justice to the kanakas, to see that they are permitted to return to their own country as soon as they can. It is a surprise to me that there has been a difficulty in the way of obtaining a refund of duty in the case mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina. It is the hardest case that has been brought before us. I understand that a poor woman, whose husband paid the duty under protest, and at the request of the Department, cannot now obtain the money so paid, because some little technicality was not complied with. When considering the case of Mr. Sandford, the Minister brushed aside formalities and technicalities, and dealt with the equities only and surely he will not act otherwise in this case. If the man had thought that it would be considered necessary to send in a written protest, he would have done so. The Department has admitted that the duty was paid under protest.
– If the Minister will give us the departmental version of the case, I any willing to sit down.
– I had better deal briefly with the various matters to which reference has been made. With regard to the inspection of the sugar plantations referred to by the leader of the Opposition, I may say that since I have been in the Department I have been most careful to investigate every case brought under my notice before consenting to the payment of the bounty, so as to insure compliance with the conditions of the Act in regard to the employment of white labour. In view of the statements made by the honorable member, I shall make further inquiries in order to ascertain whether any evasion of the law is possible, Of course, the payment of a large sum of money is involved, and honorable members may feel assured that I shall look very carefully into the matter. I may point out that the case mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina was dealt with before I took office. I have, however, gone carefully into the question, and these are the particulars : The late Mr. Smith bought the engine referred to in Adelaide some years ago. It was retained in South Australia for, I think, three or four years. When he took the engine into New South Wales it was subject to the Federal duty of 15 per cent. That duty was demanded andpaid. Subsequently engines of that class were placed on the free list, and application was made for a refund of the duty. If honorable mem bers will look at section 6 of the Customs Tariff Act, they will find that Parliament inserted a provision for the special purpose of meeting cases of this kind, and protecting the revenue. The section provides that any duty collected under the Act shall be deemed to have been properly collected.
– Was any protest made at the time the duty was paid ?
– There is no record of my protest. Almost every person who pays duty grumbles; but there is no record of any protest having been made in this particular case.
– That seems to be the es- sence of the whole question.
– When it is asserted by he widow that her husband did protest, all the Department can say is - “ We have no written protest, and that is the only protest we can recognise.”
– Did not the Court decide that these duties were illegally collected ?
– No. In the case which the honorable member has in his mind, the duty was paid under written protest, and the Court held that duty paid under such circumstances was not collected by the Department, but merely held by them as custodians until the rate was definitely fixed. With regard to the case of Mr. Sandford, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Riverina, I would point out that the refund was made because the goods had been wrongly classified. I stated here on a former occasion that the equities were with Mr. Sandford. I did not, at the time, remember the whole of the facts of the case, but I have since refreshed my memory, and I may say that Mr. Sandford had not only the equities but also the law on his side. The duty had been collected under an improper classification - it had been so decided in another case tried before the Court. There are hundreds of such cases as that referred to by the honorable member for Riverina, and I have dealt with scores of them myself. The only thing that distinguishes this case from others is that my honorable friend - and I think it is creditable to his good nature - has pressed the matter very strongly. In other words, this case has a champion, and others have not. If the duty were refunded in this instance, it could not be consistently withheld in hundreds of others, which are in exactly the same position.
– Nor should it be withheld.
– It should not be withheld in any such case if it were paid under protest.
– But I say that there was no protest. Not only did Parliament pass a special section to cover such cases as this, but an amendment was moved, in reference to this very class of machinery, to provide for the refund of duties in cases where Parliament placed goods on the free list, and honorable members would not entertain it. Therefore, I have no power whatever. I may sympathize with Mrs. Smith just as much as does the honorable member for Riverina, but I have no power to refund the duty.
– Do we understand that no protest was made ?
– There is no record of any protest, and the only protest recognised by the Department is a written one. It must be written to be of any use at all. There is no record of any verbal protest having been made. We cannot say whether or not the gentleman who paid the duty made a protest. He may have done so, as many others did ; but there is no record of the fact. If he had made a verbal protest, it would have no effect whatever at law, and I am bound to administer the law as I find it. With regard to the matter referred to by the honorable members for Herbert, Darling Downs, and Moreton, namely, the continuance of the sugar bounty, I can only repeat what I told a deputation last week. The present Government came into office after Parliament had been in session for seven months. We took up the measures that were on the paper, and we are doing our best to close the session. Our predecessors had no intention of dealing with this question during the present session. I would point out that the bounties will continue for two years from the1st of January, and that both bounties and excise duties will expire on the last day of 1906. We have notyet had time to deal with the matter. If we had dealt with it, I consider that it would not be fair for us to announce our intentions before we were prepared to submit a measure to Parliament, because the growers affected would naturally regard that expression as the decision of Parliament, and act upon it. The Government do intend to deal with this very important question - I can assure honorable members that we do riot lose sight of its great importance - during the recess, and it will be brought under the notice of Parliament early next session, in order that the growers may have reasonable notice of our decision. Of course, this is hardly the place to introduce this subject. It is a question which should have been discussed when we were dealing with the policy of the Government. As, however, several honorable members who take a deep interest in the question have referred to it, I think that, although it is somewhat out of order, courtesy demanded that I should reply to them.
– The importance of the subject justifies its being out of order.
– I quite agree with the honorable and learned member. I can assure him that the matter will not be overlooked, but will be dealt with very carefully and thoroughly by the Government during the recess.
– If the Minister would only state that he viewed the proposal favorably - as the Treasurer did - we should derive some satisfaction.
– Honorable members are aware of our individual opinions, but I do not think it would be fair to make any public announcement of my views at the present stage. With regard to the appointment of the two officers referred to by the honorable member for Herbert, I am informed that they were taken off the Public Service list. As my honorable friend has kindly supplied me with their names, I shall have the matter thoroughly looked into. I think I have now dealt with all the matters referred to bv honorable members.
– I have an idea which I should like to lay before Ministers, in anticipation of their considering the continuance of the sugar bounty. I feel in my own mind that some extension will be granted, and we have to consider that probability. This question is too large for us to settle by means of an informal discussion this afternoon; but I make the Government a present of the suggestion that when they consider the extension of the bounties, as I believe they will, they will bear in mind the desirableness of providing for a tapering bonus which will expire simultaneously with the excise duties. It is certain that if the present bonus is extended for a further period of three or five years, we shall, shortly before its expiration, have honorable members whose constituents are interested asking for a further extension. That has been the history of all legislation connected with the sugar industry in Queensland. Directly the time approaches for the termination of the five or ten years arrangements - whatever they may be - an effort is made to secure a renewal for a further period. I believe in my heart that we should extend the present arrangement in order to assist the sugarplanters over a very troublesome period, but I hope that if the bonus is extended for, say, a further period of five years, provision will be made for a decrease of 20 per cent, each year, so that the bonus will altogether disappear at the end of the period fixed. We shall thus temper the blow to the planters, and also ascertain the effect of the bonus in the same gradual way. We should adopt an arrangement similar to that which has been applied to the Western Australian special Tariff.
– The cases are different, because the people of Western Australia have contributed all the duties paid under their special Tariff.
– I think that Western Australia has received very fair treatment indeed, and that it was a good thing, under her peculiar circumstances, to adopt that special method of treatment. We might follow the same principle in the case of the sugar bounties, especially in view of the financial difficulties which Queensland has to face. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked how it was that a free-trader could consent to the sugar bonuses? I consented to them, but I desire to inform the honorable member that I did so, not as a free-trader, but in order to get rid of the troublesome problem presented by the black labour question. Personally, I have had to pay rather dearly for my support of the bonuses ; but, in order to achieve successful results under the White Australia policy, I am willing to make the still further sacrifice that will be involved by the continuance of the bonus for a little longer. I trust that the Government will adopt mv suggestion, and that the bonus will finally cease at the end of the further period agreed upon. The whole question of the duties on sugar is a very important one indeed, because many of our industries are suffering owing to the high prices which have to be paid for that commodity. I have as much sympathy with the widow whose case was cited by the honorable member for Riverina as has that gentleman himself. But if the facts are as stated I do not see how this Committee could do anything - even if we wished to - except vote her a special sum upon the Estimates as a grant in charity.
– I do not mind what form the grant takes.
– I may inform the honorable member that whilst the Tariff was under consideration I was placed in a very similar position. I was called upon to pay duty to the extent of£114 upon a certain machine. Three days afterwards, the House decided to place this class of machine upon the free list. The result was that my competitors were enabled to import the same machine free of duty.
– Did not the honorable member pay under protest.
– Whether I had paid under protest or. not would not have made any difference. The law pro vided that duty should be collected upon these goods until Parliament otherwise decided. Consequently, a protest could have had no effect whatever. I admit that the case which has been cited appears to be one of very grave hardship, but we cannot avoid that. The law must be obeyed by rich and poor alike. I repeat that the only way in which we can deal with the case to which the honorable member for Riverina has directed attention is by way of a charitable grant, and I do not think that the adoption of that course is warranted.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I must thank the Minister of Trade and Customs for his statement to the Committee, which corroborates the facts as they were communicated to me. He declares that the Department has no record that this amount of duty was paid. I can assure the Committee that it . was paid under protest. When the late Mr. Smith communicated with me, I consulted the highest possible authority in reference to his case, in the person of the right honorable member for Adelaide, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs. He assured me that Mr. Smith would have to pay the amount of the duty under protest. I was not requested to advise him to lodge a written protest. There is no doubt whatever that a protest was lodged, because upon the receipt of my communication the duty was paid, and the portable engine was taken to Mr. Smith’s farm at Tareena, in New South Wales. Parliament subsequently decided that this money should not have been collected from him.
– Thousands Of pounds were collected which were not refunded.
– Parliament should entertain a more exalted view than that. From a financial stand-point my argumentmay be wrong, but from a moral standpoint it is absolutely sound. If the Government has collected money to which it has no right, that money ought to be refunded.
– In the first instance, Parliament made this engine dutiable.
– That, again, is a technicality. Parliamentnever made it dutiable. The Government proposed that a certain duty should be levied upon this machine. Subsequently Parliament declared that no duty should be levied upon it, and in the interim the sum of £34 had been paid under protest.
– If the protest had been a written one, a- refund would have been made.
– Yes, in that case Mrs. Smith would have had a legal claim. The letter which I have read from the Department lays particular stress upon the fact that no written protest was made. I know, however, that the money was paid under, protest. Surely this Parliament should determine that the equity of the claim should be considered in preference to the technicalities of the law. I repeat that, had a written protest been made, Mrs. Smith could have proceeded against the Government in the High Court - as was done in the Cowan case - and that tribunal would at once have said to the Government, “ You must refund this money-“ Why should it not be refunded? If the Committee are prepared to recognise the justice of the claim, I have no doubt that we shall be able to devise some means of returning the duty.
– Would the honorable member confine the claim to this case? There are hundreds of similar cases.
– If that be so, the amount involved in those cases should be returned. Parliament has no right to withhold money which it has deliberately determined should not have been collected.
– Parliament deliberately decided by section 6 of the Tariff Act that the money paid should be retained by the Treasury.
– I am aware of that. But I would point out that the High Court has determined that where a written protest was lodged with the Department the money must be refunded. The only difference between the case of Messrs. Cowan and Company and that of Mr. Smith is that the latter lodged a verbal protest. The Ministry has declared that my statement of the facts is correct, so far as documentary evidence is concerned, but that the Department has no record of any protest having been made to the officer who collected the duty.
– Has he been questioned in regard to the matter?
– I do not know. I do not bring this matter forward in an unfriendly spirit to the Government.
– How much is involved in all these cases? I suppose that the amount cannot be less than ^100,000, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has paid between .£30,000 and ^40,000.
– Does the honorable member say that the machine was not dutiable when the money was paid ?
– It appeared upon the list of dutiable goods, but Parliament had not then dealt with that particular item. When it did it exempted it from duty.
– I have a short precis of the case in print. Would the honorable member allow me to read it ?
– The facts’ of this case are as follow :’ -
On the 28th October, 1901, C. H. Smith, Wingillie, Tareena, New South Wales, brought from Clutterbuck Bros., Adelaide, South Australia, a portable engine, Value about ^,225. This engine had been in South Australia for about four years, and had been admitted free into that State under the Tariff then in force. Mr. Smith brought the engine into New South Wales, vid Wentworth, and portable engines being then dutiable at- 15 per cent, under the Federal Tariff, duty at that rate became payable on the transfer of the engine. Duty was accordingly demanded by ‘the subcollector of Customs, Wentworth, and was collected by him on the 10th December, 1901, the amount paid being ^33 15s. On the 13th December, 1901, portable engines were made free by Parliament. Mr. Smith states that on that account he expected to get a refund; now he makes application therefor. The duty was correctly charged on the engine, and during the Tariff debates an amendment, proposed with the special object of authorizing refunds in cases where duty had been collected on machinery, afterwards made free, was negatived (Hansard 11S82). Submitted for approval that Mr. Chanter be informed that there is no power to make the refund asked for.
That recommendation was approved, the papers bearing the initials of the honorable member for Hume, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- The explanation given by the Minister in- no way conflicts with the facts presented by me to the Committee. One little point made in the precis which the honorable gentleman has read, is that the duty had not been finally passed, but that under section 6 it was collected. The fact remains that it was at no time a duty imposed by this Parliament.
– Section 6 provides that duties so collected shall be retained.
– If that be so, why did the High Court order a refund in the case of Cowan and Sons ?
– If that is the case which I have in my mind, the Court ruled that as the duty was deposited only under protest, it was not collected.
– That is the whole point. The report read by the Minister makes no reference to the fact that the money was paid under protest. The owner of the engine told me, and his widow corroborates the statement, that, acting on my advice, he paid the money under protest, but did not put that protest in writing. If money deposited under written protest, in respect of a proposed duty which is not ratified, is returnable, surely we should not seek to shelter ourselves under so highly technical a point as this. Whatever our opinions may be, we have to ask ourselves whether an injustice has been done in this case, and if so, we should provide a remedy. If we have so framed our laws as to bind the hands of the Minister, we surely can unloose them.
– Does the officer admit that the money was paid under verbal protest ?
– The officer at Wentworth says that the money was paid, but makes no reference to any protest.
– Had a protest been made, would it not have ‘been his duty to make a note of that fact?
– If the honorable member had had as - much experience of Customs officers on the border as I have had he would know very well that some of them do not always adhere to the stringent performance of their duty, yet try to do what is right.
– I am only trying to get a! the facts.
– I recognise that, and shall be pleased to give the honorable member all the facts as I understand them. The widow of this man drew my attention to the decision of the High Court in the case of Cowan and Sons, and I once more took the matter in hand, and brought the matter under the notice of the present Minister of Trade and Customs. I showed him the letter written by the applicant for the refund, and told him of everything relating to the case; but he told me, as he has told the Committee, that with him it was not a question of heart, but a question of law, and that he was bound by the law. Had the man paid the money under written protest his widow would have been able to take her case to the Court, and obtain a refund, as in the case of Cowan and Sons.
– Did the honorable member advise the man, before the payment was made, to pay under protest?
– I did, and the report read by the Minister fully corroborates my statement as to dates. I have no desire to unduly occupy the time of the Committee, but I wish honorable members to be seised of the facts, and to assist me to so unloose the hands of the Minister that he will be able to do justice in this case. I am sure that I shall be ready at all times to assist honorable members to have justice done in any similar case.
– The honorable member is to be congratulated on the way in which he has put his case before the Committee, and also on the fact that he wants to bring all the details to light, in order that the matter may not be dealt with before the Committee is fully seized of the responsibility of its action. I can quite conceive that by acceding .to the honorable member’s proposal, we might establish a precedent fraught with very serious consequences to the Commonwealth. I would therefore seriously suggest that before arriving at any favorable decision on this question, the Minister should have a return prepared showing exactly the amount in respect of which the Commonwealth might be held to be indebted, if such a precedent as is proposed were set.
– I.t is a question, not of amount, but of justice.
– It is in this case a question of memory, and the burden of proof seems to lie .against the departmental officer. But there may be other cases in which there is also conflict of memory. The departmental officers concerned in other cases may be absolutely in conflict with those laying claims for refunds, and if we take one litigant’s word, it will be very difficult to refuse to take that of another. This case seems to be fairly well established by the fact that the honorable member for Riverina himself advised the payment under protest before it was actually made. Other cases might not be so clear, but if we accept one litigant’s word, we must accept the word of all. For that reason I would strongly urge that the Department should be given a chance to find out how much is at issue before we set a precedent of so serious a nature as that which it is now proposed to establish.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).When I spoke on this question at an earlier stage in the debate, I did not wish to arrive at any conclusion until we had heard the Minister’s explanation. We have now had a statement by the Minister, as well as by the honorable member for Riverina, and we are told that it was on the advice of the latter that the owner of the engine paid the duty under protest. I am quite sure that advice given by any honorable member to a constituent in regard to a matter of this kind would be followed, and the honorable member has the assurance of the owner of the engine that in this case he acted according to his directions. This makes out a very strong case for a refund of the duty. In addition to that, we have to remember that, under the decision given by the High Court in the case of Cowan and Sons, this money would have been repayable had it been paid under written protest. Unfortunately, the protest was not in due form, but as that was owing to the fact that the honorable member was apparently not told by the Department that it was necessary to lodge a protest in writing, and the man himself did not understand that it was imperative that he should do so, I think that the Government is morally bound to grant a refund. I certainly have very grave doubts as to whether there are many cases similar to that which has just been brought forward by the honorable member for Riverina.
– To my knowledge, there are at least a dozen.
– If the honorable member for Moira could bring before the Committee a dozen cases similar to that now before us,T think that we should hold that, in each instance, a refund should be made. I do not ask the Minister to accept the word of one individual. It would be undesirable to do so, but in this instance the honorable member for Riverina tells us that, after consulting with the Department, he informed the man what steps were necessary to protect himself, and I have no doubt that a verbal protest was made. I suggest to the Minister that he should consult the officer who received the money.
– No doubt that has been done.
– We have no evidence as to that. I think it is only fair that the Minister should consult the officer, and ascertain whether he has any recollection of a verbal protest being made. If he has, we shall have all the proof necessary to justify a refund.
– There is no doubt that this case is one of a class which excites the sympathy of honorable members, but the difficulty which confronts us is that we must act, not as our sympathies would dictate, but as the law requires. If we do not do so, where shall we draw the line?
– Is there a merchant in Melbourne who was not called upon, under exactly similar conditions, to pay duties on goods ? Did not the House clearly decide that no refund was to be made in such circumstances? It was said that the duty was passed on by the merchant to the consumers of the goods, and that, if he were granted a refund, he would merely put the money in his own pocket.
– But a merchant who had paid duty under these conditions, might have obtained a decision of the High Court in his favour.
– If he had made a written protest he could have done so, and put the money in his own pocket.
– This would affect every case where Parliament either abolished or reduced a duty, as first proposed.
– Quite so. It is peculiar that in this case the money was paid only three days prior to the duty being dealt with by this House. Equally hard cases have been brought under my notice by some of my own constituents. I know of no less than four different individuals interested in threshing plants and portable engines, who were similarly situated. When the duty on machinery was under consideration, traction engines were being imported, and it was necessary, to at once put them into use. The duty imposed on these engines was not ratified, but in order that they might obtain delivery and put them into use, three of these persons found themselves called upon to pay the duty before the matter had been finally dealt with. Those who were purchasing machines from agents naturally inquired from me what course they should follow to protect themselves. To make sure of my ground, I made inquiries from the Minister of Trade and Customs, who informed me that, in order to obtain delivery of the machines, they would have to pay the duty, but that if they thought fit they might pay it under protest. He meant of course, that the protest should be made in writing. But I went, further than that. Three of these gentlemen, for business reasons, found themselves compelled to pay the duty. In one instance, where it was not absolutely necessary to use the engine straight away, they followed my advice, and waited until Parliament had determined the duty, and thus escaped scot free. The others who had paid the duty were refused a refund.
– Had they not made a protest?
– They had made a protest similar to that made in the case under discussion.In one instance, a protest in writing had been lodged through an agent, but, unfortunately, he had not made it as an agent. In another case a newspaper proprietor intended to import a printing machine, which was dutiable under the draft Tariff, but thought it wiser to leave the matter in the hands of agents until Parliament had finished with the Tariff, and thus was able to get it in without paying duty. The case under discussion may be a hard one, but scores of similar cases have been brought under my notice, and if a refund were made in the one instance, why should it not be made in every instance? Honorable members seem to have overlooked the fact that in many cases the article on which duty was paid has since changed hands.
– The duty should be refunded only to the original importer.
– In many cases the original importer has sold the article on which he paid duty to another, and thus recouped what he originally spent. Would it be fair to make a refund to a man in that position? Much as I sympathize with those concerned in the case brought under our notice by the honorable member for Riverina, I feel that it would be dangerous for the Minister to make a refund in any case, except in accordance with the conditions which have been clearly laid down. If an attempt is made to remedy one particular hardship, the gates will be opened to a flood of applications for similiar treatment in other instances which cannot be resisted. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to another matter which was brought directly under the notice of his predecessor by a deputation from those engaged in the distillation of wine for spirit for fortification purposes. I do not wish him to give an answer at once, but I should like him to note the facts for further inquiry. Prior to the passing of the Federal Tariff, two of the States had an excise duty of 6d. per gallon on spirit distilled from wine for fortification purposes ; but the then Minister of Trade and Customs induced Parliament to make the Commonwealth rate is., in order to obtain a sum sufficient to cover the expense of supervision. Twelve or eighteen months after the Act was passed, the Minister was applied to for a reduction of the rate, but the deputation making the request was informed that sufficient time had not elapsed to enable it to be determined with any degree of accuracy whether the duties received covered the expense of supervision. The Act has now, however, been in operation for a considerable time, and I understand that an estimate is being prepared of the cost of supervision. I ask the Minister, therefore, to inquire at his leisure into the whole subject, so that he may be in a position later on to tell us whether, in his opinion, the present rate is necessary to meet the cost of supervision. I do not wish it to be inferred that an application for a reduction of the rate will be made, if it is shown that it only just meets the cost of supervision ; but seeing that it was made higher than the rate formerly prevailing in two of the States, in order to cover that cost, those engaged in the industry are entitled to know that the Commonwealth is not making a profit out of it.
– Do I understand that the High Court has decided that duties which have been paid under protest must be refunded? If that be so, it is an indication of their opinion that the levying of these duties in the first place was an injustice.
– The High Court has held that a duty paid under protest was not collected by the Customs under section 6 of the Act, but was merely deposited pending the decision of Parliament in regard to the Tariff.
– The dutyin the case to which I have referred was paid under protest, but the protest was not written.
– Difficulty arises as to the exact decision of the High Court in this matter. If the High Court held that the duties were not justifiably levied in those cases where they were paid under protest, and in some cases the protests were not written, a very wide question is opened up. I have had, on behalf of certain persons, to pay as much as £80 in duty on machinery ; and, while I have every sympathy withthe honorable member for Riverina, I think that any decision arrived at in the matter should apply all round.
– I wish to say a few words in regard to the attempts which are being made from time to time by certain persons who are interested in retaining coloured and Asiatic labour in the cane-fields, to discredit our legislation on the subject. The methods which are now being adopted in Queensland are similar to those which were adopted there some years ago, to procure the repeal of the State Act which prohibited the employment of kanakas in the sugar industry after a certain period. At that time a Commission was asked for, to enable evidence manufactured by one side to be placed before the public, because it was known that it was difficult to obtain evidence on the other side, and a report was brought in by persons who were interested in the continuance of black labour recommending a repeal of the law, the late Mr. W. H. Groom being one of the minority who objected to that course. The coalition Government of the day agreed to this repeal. Now a similar course is being followed again in Queensland. There has been a conference at Townsville, and attempts are being . made to obtain a report favorable to the employment of kanakas, on the plea that the industry must otherwise be ruined. I have, however, sufficient faith in the Government to feel that that will not be allowed.
, - There is, I have reason to believe, some sort of expectation, based upon I do not know what of the present Government proposing an alteration of the policy of this Parliament, which was settled by the Pacific Island Labourers Act. To prevent any possible misapprehension on the subject, I think it right to state at once that the Government have no intention to interfere with a policy which represents, not only the policy of Parliament, but also the policy of which I and all my colleagues are personally in favour.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy)- I am very pleased to hear the statement of the Prime Minister, because it will demonstrate to those who are interested in the employment of coloured labour on the sugar plantations the utter futility of making appeals to the Government with a view to the restoration of former conditions. However we may differ upon other matters, I think we are practically unanimous with regard to the employment of white labour in the cane-fields. When a division was taken upon the Pacific Island Labourers Bill only six honorable members voted in favour of the retention of the kanakas. We are in the unfortunate position of having a press which does not give due prominence to that side of the question which is presented by the advocates of a White Australia. Before the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was passed we were told that it would be impossible to grow sugar by means of white labour upon the plantations north of Bun daberg. Afterwards that statement was modified, and it was asserted that white labour could not be employed with any advantage north of Mackay. Later on, when it had been shown that white labour could be employed in the Mackay district with satisfactory results, we were told that black labour only could be profitably employed north of Townsville - between 200 and 300 miles further north. . It is a well-known fact that to the north of Townsville are immense tracts of virgin soil suitable for the production of tropical products, particularly sugar. These lands are exceedingly fertile, and when placed under cultivation will without much doubt produce enormous crops of cane, and in the opinion of many persons that particular part of the coastal districts will before very long become the principal centre of the sugar industry.
– Does the honorable member think that the industry can be carried on without the assistance of a bonus ?
– I am not prepared to express an opinion upon that matter just now. I must confess that I have not inquired into that matter very closely. We shall have to deal with it later on, and in view of the fact that I originally voted for the payment of the bonus for a fixed period, my attitude towards any proposal for an extension of the bonus will largely depend upon the information presented to us. The idea I had in view in voting for the bonus was to assist the sugar-planters over the transition period during which white labour was being substituted for black upon their plantations, and my action in the future will depend upon the results laid before us. I have alwavs held that sugar could be grown successfully by means of white labour in Northern Queensland, and I have proceeded to the length of stating that if the industry could not be carried on without the assistance of coloured aliens it would be better to allow it to perish. I see no reason to recede from that position. Immediately prior to the passing of the Pacific Island Labourers Act, the proprietors of one mill in Northern Queensland indented as many kanakas as they could possibly secure, with the view to farming them out to the tenant farmers in the district. That should never have been allowed for the reason that it was contrary to the law of Queensland, which distinctly provides that indented kanakas shall be employed only by the persons who indent them. A number of the growers in the neighbourhood of the mill referred to merely entered into contracts to deliver their cane to the mill, the proprietors of which had nothing whatever to do with the cultivation of the plantations. Therefore, I maintain that the mill-owners practically introduced the kanakas as chattels, with a view to farming them out. A number of the planters who desired to carry on their operations by means of white labour, in order to secure the bonus, were prevented from doing so, because the mill-owners said that they had entered into an arrangement to introduce kanakas to work upon the plantations and that the growers would have to employ them. The mill-owner always has the grower under his thumb, for the reason that he can refuse to take the planters’ cane. If there be no mill to crush the cane, the whole crop becomes useless, and severe loss is inflicted upon the planter. Therefore, the grower is compelled by circumstances over which he has no control to enter into an arrangement with the mill-owner. In the case of some of the plantations, where arrangements had been made for the employment of white labour, a number of men were engaged to harvest and load the cane. In the first place, an agreement was made for the delivery of seventy tons daily at the mill. Shortly afterwards, a letter was sent to the men, stating that they must reduce this amount to forty tons per day. The men were cutting and loading more cane than the mill could operate upon, and the manager of the mill found it necessary to send the following letter : -
It being now necessary to reduce your cane deliveries to forty tons (40) per day, I am instructed to give you one (1) week’s notice to do so, as specified in the agreement between yourself and this company.
The men were permitted to go on under the amended arrangement for some time, and subsequently received notice that they were not supplying the necessary forty tons per day. In the report of the company it was stated that the -men were ultimately discharged because they could not supply the (necessary quantity of cane. At Christmas time they received the following letter: -
I am instructed to inform you that according to your cane deliveries for some considerable time past, which has only averaged thirty-eight and a half tons per day, it is impossible for you to harvest all the white rebate cane, as per your agreement, before the termination of the present crushing season, thus causing the growers and the com-
pany a great loss. Owing to the average dailysupply not coming near the amount of your contract, this ‘company is reluctantly compelled to notify you that your contract is cancelled through non-performance of the conditions contained therein ; therefore you are to discontinue work on Saturday afternoon, the 27th inst.
It will be seen that the company, after having reduced the quantity of cane from seventy to forty tons per day, practically declared that the white men were not reliable, and could not perform the work required of them. The statement was also made that the real reason why the men did not perform the work was that they wanted to go on the spree at Christmas-time. I desire to refute that statement in the interests of the men, who worked throughout the whole of the Christmas holidays, and who were called upon to contend with verygreat .disabilities. ‘Many of them were placed upon cane which it was most difficult’ to harvest, owing to the fact that a large quantity of it- had been knocked down, and that the yield per acre was very small. The letter to which I have referred states that the average quantity of cane harvested was 38! tons per day/ Yet, according to the testimony of the excise officer, the number of tons of cane supplied each day by these men were as follows: -
Upon the 27 th of December I may mention that no cane was cut, because the company had given the men notice that their contracts were to expire. Upon that day they merely “cleaned up.” From these returns it will be seen that the men worked throughout the whole of the Christmas Holidays, and that during the ‘Christmas week they actually produced eleven tons of cane in excess of the Quantity for which their contract provided. It has been repeatedly stated that white men cannot cut cane in accordance with the requirements of the sugar mills. I distinctly remember certain telegrams appearing in the Age and Argus of this city, in which it was stated that these selected men had. failed to fulfil the terms of .their contract. But the facts are that under the worst possible . circumstances they not only cut the required quantity of cane, but 11 tons in excess of it. It Is just as well that the country should know that they were thoroughly competent and quite qualified to perform the work required of them. There is another serious aspect of this matter. A very vigorous effort is being made by those who are chiefly interested in the Queensland sugar industry to employ only Asiatics. They are prepared to draw aliens from all parts of Australia, because they wish to prove that they alone are capable of working in the cane-fields. I have already shown that if the white man cannot work there, the black man has no chance of doing so, because the death-rate amongst the whites - including men, women, and children - is only about eleven per thousand, whilst among the kanakas it is thirtyeight per thousand. Honorable members must also recollect that the kanakas who are indentured to work uponthe Queensland sugar pTantations are the very pick of the Islands. But, although they are in the prime of life, ranging from thirty to thirty-eight years of age, they die off in the cane-fields at the rate of thirty-eight per thousand. Apparently there is an insane idea abroad that we shall yet reverse our White Australia policy.
– We shall never do that.
– I hope not. But it cannot be denied that a certain section of the community, which is interested in the sugar industry, is using every means in its power to bring about that result. These persons desire the whole of their plantations to be cultivated by Asiatics. To this end, they are prepared to negotiate for the employment in them of a large number of Chinese from the Northern Territory. They are even willing to engage all the Hindoos available, with a view to showing that there is only one class of labour which can efficiently work in the cane-fields. In the metropolitan press of Australia the statement is frequently made that the sugar-planters are compelled to employ these men because no other labour is available.
– Is there plenty of white labour available?
– There is plenty of white labour available to do all the work that is required in Queensland. In the northern portion of that State there are thousands of men idle at the present time. My own idea is that in this industry - as in ordinary agricultural operations - a certain quantity of labour will be required at a particular season of the year. Take the case of South Australia as an example. That State has a very large area under wheat cultivation. But I ask, “ Has any difficulty ever been experienced in getting that wheat harvested?” Certainly not. Yet we know that after wheat has reached a certain stage, if it is not harvested within a week or a fortnight, it will be absolutely ruined. No doubt a few of the white men who are engaged in the sugar industry, occasionally get upon the spree, but are we to condemn the whole of them upon that account? I feel sure, not only that white men can supply all the labour that is required in the canefields, but also that they will give more satisfaction.
– I am informed upon good authority that white men cannot work in the cane-fields.
– Statistics prove that the death-rate amongst the white population of Queensland - including men, women, and children - is only eleven per thousand, as against thirty-eight per thousand in the case of kanakas.
– But the kanakas work in the cane-fields and the white men do not.
– I have seen white men working in cuttings and engaged in clearing scrub in places where they could labour for only twenty minutes continuously. Surely that is more trying work than any in the cane-fields, where the men are employed in an open brake? The advocates of kanaka labour urge that white men cannot do trashing work. They argue that when white men are employed in the cane-brakes, and are compelled to pull away the dead leaves from the bottom of the stalk, they develop a species of fever owing to the lack of air. There is no scientific evidence showing that it is necessary to trash the cane. One farmer may say, “ I can obtain an extra density in my cane by trashing it, and so secure an increased return,” while his neighbour says, “ I am not going to trash the cane, because the extra density so obtained will not recoup the cost of trashing it.” It often happens that one farmer trashes his cane, while his neighbour does not. Dr. Maxwell’s evidence is that if the ground be exceedingly wet - and that is rarely the case, for the larger proportion of the area under sugar-cane has to be irrigated - it is necessary to trash the cane, because the moisture which lodges round the roots might otherwise destroy it. But even that gentleman does not definitely say that trashing is absolutely necessary. It will thus be recognised that there is no scientific evidence that the work which it is said white men cannot do is really necessary.
– In America all the cane is trashed.
– That may be. I wish to emphasize the point that the trashing of cane in Queensland is carried out between May and August, and that there is no more delightful climate in any other part of the world than that of Queensland during those months. If honorable members can imagine one of the beautiful spring mornings experienced in Melbourne, when the sun is shining brightly, with a cool breeze and no dampness in the air, they will be able to form some idea of what the climate of Queensland is like during the period to which I refer. If there is any time when it is impossible for white men to work in the cane-fields of Queensland, it is certainly not during the period when trashing is carried out. During these months very little work is really necessary in the fields, but a man who has, perhaps, eighteen or twenty kanakas, and has to feed them and pay them £6 per annum for three years, thinks it is just as well to employ them in trashing the cane, so as to obtain some small return from them at a time when they would otherwise be doing practically nothing. Taking all these facts into consideration, I think there is ample evidence that white men can do all the work required in the canefields. I merely mentioned this point for the information of the honorable member for Hunter.
– I simply desired to hear both sides of the question.
– Exactly. A large number of land-owners in Queensland who are interested in the sugar industry are now letting sections of their farms to Chinamen, Hindoos, and others, for cultivation purposes. We have seen from time to time statements in the press to the effect that the whole of the valuable tropical agricultural lands in Queensland are fast drifting into the hands of coloured aliens, and it is certainly true that a large number of landowners are farming out areas in this wav. I regret very much that they should be so unpatriotic as to adopt such a course.
– Are they receiving the bounty ?
– No. In some cases they have obtained the land at a very lowrate, and are deriving a handsome revenue from the leasing of it to Chinese and other Asiatics, for the express purpose of having it cultivated. But I wish honorable members to bear in mind the further point, that they have resorted to this practice really as a means of stirring up an agitation in favour of the theory that the sugar-planters must ultimately revert to the employment of coloured aliens for the cultivation of their land. I regret that there is not a provision in the Constitution that would enable us to prevent coloured aliens passing from one State to another. With such a provision Chinese would not be able to pass from one State to another without paying a heavy polltax, and the sugar-planters would not be so eager as they are to introduce them into their service. The imposition of the heavy poll-tax in itself would deter them from taking action in this direction. Unfortunately, there is no such provision in the Constitution, and many persons, who are anxious to work up an agitation against the abolition of coloured labour, are inducing these Asiatics to leave other States for Queensland to engage in the industry. The matter is a serious one. It seems to me that the bounty system has worked very satisfactorily; and, although a number of . men have not registered as growers of sugar-cane by white labour, I feel that if they had a free hand many of them would avail themselves of the first opportunity to come under the Act. I hope that we shall do our utmost to reserve the industry for the white man. Sugar cultivation affords an opportunity for the employment of thousands and thousands of white labourers. We have not yet overtaken the local consumption of sugar. We shall have to produce 50,000 or 60,000 tons in excess of our present output before we shall overtake the Australian consumption, so that there is yet much room for expansion. We have given sugargrowers the protection of an import duty of £6 per ton on cane sugar. Some of them argue that they are not assisted to that extent, inasmuch as we levy an excise duty of £3 per ton; but they are certainly protected to the full extent of £6 per ton, in the sense that importers of the foreign-grown article have to pay that sum by way of duty before they can introduce it into Australia. Having regard to the constitution of the House, it is astonishing that a proposal to give such assistance was passed. But there was an earnest desire on the part of honorable members generally to make sugar-growing a white man’s industry, and I am sure that the people of
Queensland appreciate the loyalty to principle shown by the southern States in cheerfully paying a duty of £6 per ton on imported sugar in order that this may become a white man’s industry. I only regret that those actually interested in the industry are not making an earnest attempt to preserve it for the white man.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the speech delivered by the honorable memberfor Kennedy, which was very timely, seeing that the Government proposes to deal specifically with the sugar bounty question during next session. The honorable’member has thrown a side light on the manner in which the industry is conducted, and has certainly afforded me much information. I do not think that the request that the Government should at this stage make a statement as to their intentions in reference to the. industry should be pressed by the representatives of Queensland.
– I am not pressing any such request.
– Honorable members should be satisfied with the assurance of the Minister that the matter willreceive consideration during the recess. The point I should like to emphasize is that it should be the duty of the Government to make an absolutely impartial inquiry, by their own officers, not only in Queensland, but in the other States, as to the actual conditions of the industry. The inquiry should be thorough, but need not be an expensive one. As has been said, the other States are sacrificing a good deal with a view to further the principle of a White Australia, and to establish the great natural industry of Queensland on a firm and secure basis. If there is to be any extension of the period during which the bonuses are payable, it should be granted only on clear evidence adduced to the House that the industry is going to prosper, and in time will be a benefit not only to Queensland but to the whole of Australia. I would therefore ask the Government to give special attention to the statements made by the honorable member for Kennedy, and to institute an absolutely impartial inquiry, so that the fullest information may be given to the House next session, when the whole question will have to be dealt with.
– This is one of the most important questions before the Commonwealth at the present time. There is no doubt that the legis lation passed by the first Federal Parliament has not been so successful as was anticipated. I quite agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that the proposals put forward for the encouragement of sugar-growing by white labour were not dealt with from the fiscal standpoint. It was pointed out when the matter was before this Parliament that the planters of Queensland had been employingblack labour for a certain time, and that some assistance should be given them during the period in which black labour was to gradually give place to white. The facts show that, although the bounties have been payable for some dme, the production of sugar by black labour is absolutely increasing;. The figures put before the House by the Treasurer in the course of his Budget statement show that for the present year the output of sugar grown by white labour in Queensland has increased, in round numbers, from 24,000 tons to 31,000 tons, an increase of 7,000 tons ; while the output of sugar grown by black labour has increased from 65,000 tons to 97,000 tons, ora differenoe of 32,000 tons.
– That is owing to the fact that the black man is working the best ground.
– How is it that the increase is greater in the case of sugar grown by black labour?
– Because the land cultivated by the kanakas produces more for the labour applied to it.
– That cannot be the reason, because the kanakas are still employed, I presume, on the land which they used to cultivate before the bounty became payable. These figures, so far as I am aware, have not been challenged.
– Agreat deal more cane is being cultivatedby those employing black labour, because they have a number of kanakas under contract, and must keep them at work.
– I can accept that as an answer. Honorable members know my opinions on the subject of a White Australia. I do not speak as one who desires that Asiatics or kanakas shall be employed on the cane-fields. In a very able speech, an honorable senator who has given the matter great consideration for a number of years admits that our legislation on the subject has been a failure, and, as I live in a State whose conditions are very different from those of Queensland, it is my duty to get what information I can on this subject. The interjections which I have made while others have been speaking have been made, not with a desire to interrupt, but solely with the desire to obtain a solution of what to me is one of the greatest problems with which this Parliament has to deal. In a copy of the Queenslander which I read today, a member of the Queensland Ministry points out that it is necessary, for the sake of the sugar industry, that this Parliament should provide for the continuance of the bounties, which, he says, should be interminable as is the Tariff. I am glad, however, that some of the Queensland representatives in this, Chamber think that the bounties should be terminable. If they are continued for a further term, I think that they should be continued on a descending scale, and that the planters and others interested should know that there is a party in this Chamber - I believe a majority - opposed to the granting of bounties for all time, so that they may make their arrangements accordingly. It is not to be supposed that the people of the other States will be prepared to subsidize for all time a Queensland industry which, under such conditions, would be an artificial, and not a natural one.
– The bounties are paid out of the excise duties.
– I hold that this Parliament has no more justification for voting bounties for the production of sugar, than for the production of fruit, wheat, wool potatoes, or other products; but, at the same time, we have no more right to handicap the sugar industry by the imposition of an excise duty on sugar, than to handicap other primary industries.
– The question before the Chair is one of administration rather than of policy.
– I think that the matter might be better discussed on a separate motion ; but I have said nearly all that I wish to say now. I do not desire that there shall be any misunderstanding as to my attitude in regard to the continuance of bounties. So far as I am concerned, the sugar industry must stand or fall on its merits, without the continuance of the bounties. The only support that I am ready to give to it is by voting for an extension of the term for which bounties shall be paid to a further period of not more than five years, during which they shall diminish year by year. If the sugar industry cannot stand on its own merits, it must, like other primary industries which have been tried unsuccessfully in Australia, go to the wall. I would greatly deplore any such occurrence, but, nevertheless, I cannot, having regard to the interests of the other States in which cane is not grown, consent to the continuance of bounties for the production of sugar which, if granted at all, should be made universal, which, of course, would be absurd.
– I have listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy, who, honorable members will agree with me, stated to us briefly the arguments in favour of the payment of sugar bounties. It has surprised me more than once to find how little public men who argue against the abolition of kanaka labour really understand the conditions under which the sugar industry is carried on. Although I have always had sympathy with our fellowcitizens in Queensland who are crying out for the abolition of kanaka labour, and the preservation of their State for white races, I was for a long time to some extent ignorant of the conditions prevailing there. Perhaps my ignorance may be accounted for by the fact that, like many others, I was dependent on the possibly garbled reports which appeared from time to time in newspapers antagonistic to the principles which the democratic portion of the Queensland people were enunciating. Eventually, however, I visited part of the Queensland sugar districts to ascertain for myself what the true facts of the case were. I understood at the time that Australia would be asked to contribute a considerable sum in bounties for the encouragement of white labour,and the information I received, both from those who are intimately acquainted with the sugar-growers, and from the sugar-growers themselves, dispelled any fear I had that the abolition of kanaka labour would injure, much less ruin, the sugar industry. I went to the fields, and saw the trashing, about which we have heard from the honorable member for Kennedy, being carried out. Whilst that work is very tiresome, and trying to white men, I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy that in certain districts it is not absolutely necessary. Indeed, the opinion I formed was that a different) method of planting the cane would largely obviate the need for trashing in any district. According to the Treasurers figures, the Commonwealth spent in bounties on sugar in Queensland, in 1902, £24,500, and in 1903,£50,600, while the expenditure for this year is estimated at ,£62,800, a total of ,£147,900. In New South Wales the expenditure in 1902 was .£36,300, and in 1903, ^40,200, while it is estimated that this year ,£37,200 will be spent, a total of ,£113,700, or a grand total for the two States of ,£261,600. I can understand some honorable members being somewhat staggered by those figures. That is what we pay for the encouragement of sugar-growing, and the abolition of kanaka labour. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has discussed this matter from the point of view of Victoria, and we all have to consider how the people whom we directly represent are affected by proposals of this kind.
– The Commonwealth could not obtain an excise duty of .£3 per ton if no bounty were given to white-grown sugar.
– I am not going into .the question of excise, nor “do I quarrel with any one who asks how the present system affects his own State. In fact, I believe there is some justification for the honorable and learned member, for Wannon raising this question. A few days ago the honorable member for Capricornia, when speaking on the subject of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, asked why the State he represented should be called upon to pay a considerable sum of money towards the construction of a line which would not confer any benefit upon it. I interjected that that was a somewhat narrow view to take of a question that was essentially of & national character. In the same way, whilst we may be justified in looking at the sugar bonus question from the point of view of our own States only, we should at the same time endeavour to take a broad, national view of the matter, and that is’ what I propose to do. Just before the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was passed! I noticed’ that there was an inclination on the part of some of our farmers to employ black labour. I remember distinctly that one- prominent weekly journal openly advocated that the wheatgrowers upon the poorer agricultural lands of the States should follow the example of the sugar-planters in Queensland. Had it not been for the timely action of this Parliament in the direction of substituting white labour for black upon the sugar plantations, I Rave very little doubt that an agitation would have been entered upon by some of our farmers with a view to secure a supply of black labour, and that almost the same arguments would have been employed by them as have been urged in the interests of the sugar-growers. When I visited Northern Queensland I found that it was not the small grower with, say, fifty acres under cane, who wanted the kanaka, but the manager of the larger estates owned by absentees, who seldom, if ever, went to Queensland, and who merely invested their money, and looked for a certain return, and troubled themselves about nothing, so long as’ the dividends came along at the end of the year. I was .informed that although the small white planters were subjected to the competition of the large estates upon which coloured labour was employed,’ they were able to make a good living. The fear that white labourers cannot do the work required of them upon the sugar plantations is a bogy, which has, I believe, by this time, been finally disposed of. Perhaps some of the growers were really sincere in expressing the fear that a sufficient number of white labourers would not offer themselves ; but after having conversed with some of the planters, my impression was that, although they were using this argument in favour of the retention of the kanaka, they had no justification for arriving at the conclusion that white labourers would not offer themselves if they had an opportunity to do the work, and the conditions were made such as they should be. Not only in regard to sugargrowing, but in other industries, it has been found that if coloured aliens once obtain a footing a stigma attaches to the industry in which they engage, the work is called “blackfellows’ work,” and it is very hai i to persuade any white man that he should take it up. Take, for instance, marketgardening. In those States in which the work is undertaken almost exclusively by Chinamen, very few white men are prepared to engage in the occupation, not because it is not an honorable one, but because Chinamen have obtained control of it and the impression has got abroad that the work is degrading. In Queensland I found that the accommodation provided for kanakas was such that no decent white man would, or should, put up with it. If an industry is specially trying for thos£ engaged in it, the hardships of the workmencan be very much mitigated if proper provision is made for their comfort when they have finished their daily- toil. If the sugar-planters honestly desire to give the white labourer a fair trial they can do much towards solving any difficulty by providing their men with decent accommodation and comfortable surroundings, in which they can recuperate their exhausted energies. When the present crushing season began, and there was a prospect of fewer kanakas being available, some fears were expressed that the crops would not be cut, because of the want of sufficient labour. I was interested to read the following paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Argus: -
Mr. Kenna, member for Bowen, who returned to Brisbane after a three-weeks’ tour in the Bowen, Burdekin, and Mackay districts, states that there is no anxiety among cane-growers about not being able to get sufficient labou’r. There was a superfluity of labour last year on the Proserpine and at Mackay. He had spoken to a large number of men, who were going to work as canecutters, and he had no hesitation in saying that the majority were good workers and anxious to obtain work, but some were destitute. White labour was beginning to organize itself ; that is, the men are writing to farmers they worked for in the previous cane season just in the way shearers do, and the same men will go back to the same places. Some harm was being done by people, possibly well-meaning, who continued to <;ry out that the removal of the kanaka will ruin the sugar industry. Mr. Kenna says that after speaking to a great many he could find no canegrower who had tried white labour last season disappointed with the result. On the contrary, a fresh area is being put under cultivation, and large estates, at present being cultivated with black labour, are being cut up, and white farmers encouraged to take them up on the share system in anticipation of the departure of the kanaka.
If anything were required to dissipate the fear that, upon the departure of the kanaka, the sugar industry would be ruined for want of sufficient suitable labour, the experience of this season should suffice. Although .£250,000, spread over a period of three years, is a very large sum to pay, I think that it will be well expended if we can establish the sugar industry, for all time, upon such a sound1 footing, that coloured labour can be dispensed with. A complaint was made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon that Victoria was being required to contribute towards thi establishment of an industry from which it received no benefit.
– Victoria- does not object.
– I question whether the honorable and learned member for Wannon could speak for the whole of Victoria. In any case, I deprecate the idea of looking at this subject from the State point of view. The sugar industry is one of those large questions which is wider than the limits of any one State, and if we can establish it in such a manner as to provide profitable employment - even though it may not be of the most pleasant kind - for our unskilled white workers, we shall be justified in making some present sacrifices. I understand that the .Government are not prepared to indicate just now what attitude they propose to take in regard to the extension of the period over which the bounties are to be paid. I am not surprised that they are not so prepared. When they face this question they will find that among their present) supporters there are honorable members who will throw all sorts df text-books at them in order to demonstrate the unwisdom of granting bounties for the encouragement of an industry of this kind. I entertain no such view myself. There was a .time when the text-books were my guide upon matters of this kind. The result was that I found myself in constant difficulty, because the text-books stated one thing, and common-sense prompted another. When the Government have declared in favour of a definite line of policy, I shall endeavour to treat this question from a practical stand-point, rather than from that of a mere economic abstraction. If, with their mixed following, they, can avoid all the rocks which they will be called upon to encounter, I shall be only too ready to congratulate them. Even, though it may involve the State which I represent in a further contribution from its revenue, I hope that for the sake of maintaining a White Australia, I shall be justified in the attitude which I have assumed.
-! commend the Government for the stand which they have taken upon this question. I claim that it is altogether premature for them to make any declaration in regard to the continuance or otherwise of the sugar bounty.’ That question is a very serious one indeed to a huge body of fruit-growers scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Continent, and who are now attempting to export jam. Honorable members know that in jam, preserves, &c, sugar constitutes half the total value of the product, and that, therefore, the question of whether the sugar bounty shall be continued becomes a very serious one to jam exporters.
– How does its operation injure them?
– By raising the price of sugar generally.
– The honorable member I does not know anything about the question.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Wide Bay does. Nevertheless, he must allow me to hold my own opinion upon the subject. An expression such as he has used constitutes no argument whatever. Any parrot could repeat it. The sugar bounty involves a very serious payment by the fruit-growers of Australia, and an investigation will require to be made into the manner in which its continuance will affect that industry before the Government come to any decision in regard to the matter. Why should it not be so? A Commission is to be ap pointed to inquire into the working of the Tariff, and I submit that the sugar duty should be in no way differentiated from any other duty in the inquiry which is to be conducted by that body. I realize that the matter is complicated by a very serious racial problem, and that is why I hesitate to at once declare my hostility to any proposal for a renewal of the bounty. I understand that it is the intention of the Queensland Government to invite the members of this Parliament to visit the cane-fields of that State. I presume that the whole matter will then be inquired into very minutely.
– At our present rate of I progress, we shall occupy twelve months in disposing of the Estimates.
– At any rate, I cannot be accused of having wasted any of the time of the Committee. I have kept out of the Chamber whilst these tedious discussions have been in progress. But with others who have spoken, I feel that there is a great body of producers whose interests require to be considered when the question of sugar bounty is under review. I therefore commend the Government for having postponed their declaration of policy upon this matter.
– I do not complain of the honorable member for Parramatta taking exception to my interjection that he knew nothing whatever about this subject. As a matter of fact, our jam-makers at present receive a drawback upon any sugar employed in the manufacture of jam which is exported to other countries. The jam manufacturers of Australia enjoy a highly-protected market. The article they produce is dutiable to the full extent of the sugar that is contained in it. Only the other evening I quoted figures to show that, so far from Queens- arid having acted in a dog-in-the-manger spirit, in regard to jam, it has purchased the whole of its supplies, with the exception of , £800 worth, from Australian manufacturers. If our jam manufacurers import the sugar which they use, at least fivesixths of the amount of duty is returned to them by way of drawback.
– And the other onesixth is a sufficient handicap to keep them out of the markets of the world.
– Does the honorable member say that that is what he had in his mind just now?
– Most certainly. It is equal to £1 per ton.
– It scarcely amounts to that But, even then, the home market of the jam manufacturers is highly protected - almost as highly protected as is sugar itself. A great deal has been said in reference to the amount which is paid by way of bounty to the sugar-growers. Is there any justification for an Excise upon sugar? There is no such duty upon potatoes or grain, yet nobody would suggest that an Excise should be levied. The Excise is imposed upon sugar to enable the bounty to be paid. I note that the Treasurer estimates that the production of sugar in Queensland this year will be 129,000 tons, and that in New South Wales, 20,600 tons. An excise duty of £3 will be paid upon every ton of that sugar, or a total of£448,800. Only£100,000 of that amount will be returned to the white growers by way of bounty. The balance of£348,800 will be distributed among the States of the Commonwealth which consume the sugar. Does that fact substantiate the assertion, that the other States pay this bounty? As a matter of fact, the sugargrowers might fairly complain that they are being; penalized to contribute to the revenue of the other States. What is the reason underlying the payment of this bounty? It is that most of us prefer to see a native industry conducted by our own people. Need I remind the honorable member for Parramatta that a New South Wales Government of a virtually free-trade character retained a dutyof . £3 per ton upon sugar, upon the plea that it was not fair to ask the white growers to compete with sugar which was produced by coloured labour in the neighbouring State?
– There were other reasons. The major reason was that the Government could not “ square “ the revenue.
– At any rate, a number of the supporters of the Government represented sugar districts, and they would have preferred to sacrifice the Government rather than to sacrifice the sugar industry. It was recognised that per ton was a fair difference to allow between the cost of employing white and black labour in the canefields.
– Does the honorable member know that the sugar representatives were all opposed to the Government?
– Upon the occasion in question, quite a number of them supported the Ministry. However, I have no desire to enter into New South Wales political history. The duty upon jam, to which reference has been made, is1½d. per lb. Surely upon sugar it is not proportionately larger?
– It is the same duty.
– I do not complain of the impost upon jam. With the exception of £800 worth, Queensland purchases all her jam locally. Surely it is not too much to ask the other States to reciprocate. I would further point out that not onefourth of the duty collected upon sugar is handed back to the white growers. I regret that the amount is not larger. I regret that white labour production has not expanded more rapidly, although it has grown quite as quickly as I anticipated. After a careful scrutiny of all the reports upon the subject - reports which range over an area extending from the far north of Queensland to its most southern portion - I am pleased to say that wherever white labour has been tried in the cane-fields, it has been commended, even by its opponents. The point which we have to bear in mind is that at the present time the industry is in a state of transition. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the Watson Government had no policy upon this question.
– Not for this session.
– I clearly stated in Queensland that the policy of the leader of the late Government was that the Sugar Bounty Act should not terminate at the date fixed.Why was a limit to its operation inserted in the measure?
– How long did the late Government propose to allow it to remain in operation?
– We proposed, as I advocated at the outset, that the limitation should be eliminated from the Excise
Act and the Sugar Bounty Act. Why should we fix any particular limit when we may terminate the system at any time? The policy of the late Government was to continue thepresent system of dealing with the industry.
– The late Government did not tell us that they intended to deal with the matter during the present session.
– The accusation brought against the leader of the late Government was that he was attempting too much.
– But he did not propose to deal with the sugar industry in the way indicated by the honorable member.
– The honorable gentleman must recognise that there is. a vast difference between initiating a new policy and continuing one already in existence. A statement that it was the intention of the Government to continue the present policy might be made in the last days of the Parliament.
– But only Parliament could authorize the continuation of the present policy.
– Surely the Government do not propose to wait until a motion dealing with the subject is submitted before they make up their minds as to the course to be pursued in dealing with the industry.
– No, the Government might make a proposal to continue the present policy ; but it would be for the Parliament to say whether it should be continued.
– The question we were discussing was whether the late Government had any policy in regard to this matter.
– If they had, it was never put before the Parliament.
– I have already mentioned that the programme put before the House by the leader of the late Government was criticized on the score of its length, and I say that it should not be difficult for a Government to determine to continue a policy already in existence. The bounty was proposed in conjunction with an excise duty to assist the white grower, but a clause was inserted into the Act limiting its opertaion to 1st January, 1907, because the present Prime Minister made a clear and distinct statement that he would honour such a provision. I objected to the fixing of any limit, believing that it was undesirable that legislation, except that which is extremely experimental, should be expressly limited for a certain period. No one Parliament can dictate to another, and I did my best to prevent the insertion of the provision in question.
– Would the honorable member have the matter debated every year? He says that he would not have any limit to the operation of the bounty.
– I say that I would leave Parliament to decide how long the bounty system should continue.
– The honorable member would allow the Sugar Bounty Act to continue until it is repealed.
– Quite so. I should be quite satisfied if the Government were prepared to strike out the limitation to the operation of the Sugar Bounty Act, and the Excise Act of 1902.
– I should think the honorable member would.
– We should then have a right to debate the matter every year. We should be able, if necessary to refuse to grant supply, so that we should retain full power to discontinue the policy at any time. Why should an Act passed by a Parliament which is now dead, be the means of causing uneasiness in the minds of the white sugargrowers in regard to a matter with which the present Parliament is quite competent to deal? At the time it was thought by some honorable members that this legislation was experimental, and that its operation should be limited to a certain period. The question for this or any succeeding Government, is whether the experiment has been sucessful.
– Were not these Estimates framed by the late Government?
– That is not a pertinent question. I am not complaining of the Estimates. It is our privilege to engage in a general discussion on the first item in the Estimates of every Department.
– But, surely, the honorable member must have thought of this before the Estimates were considered by the Cabinet of which he was a member.
– We certainly did consider the matter, and I made a statement that the leader of the late Government was in favour of the continuation of the bounty system.
– For how long?
– For as long as the Parliament was prepared to grant the necessary vote. All that I ask - and I think that my fellow-representatives of Queensland will agree with me in making this request - is that the limit to the operation of the sugar bounty and excise provisions should be eliminated. It would then be open to any honorable member to attack the principle at any time. I do not object to any one making an attack upon it ; but the danger at present is that white sugar-growers have no guarantee that the system will be continued. While our policy has proved successful, they will not enter upon the work with the same enthusiasm as they would if the limitation were removed, leaving Parliament free to decide the policy to be pursued. That is the whole matter at issue between the Minister and myself.
– Surely the honorable member will admit that if we did not fix limit to the operation of the bounty and excise system, but left Parliament free to abolish it at any time, the sugar-growers would have no guarantee beyond the current financial year.
– Speaking for some sugar-growers, I prefer the course which I always advocated. There should be no express provision limiting the operation of the system for a given number of years, but we should trust the Parliament. Even if we provided that the Sugar Bounty Act should continue until 1915, we should not bind any future Parliament. The Treasurer of the day, if he had a majority behind him, might immediately stop the necessary supplies. It is amere delusion to impose such a limitation to the operation of an Excise Act. I do not say that a Government would do anything of the kind I have just suggested, but I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that the limit was fixed because the present Prime Minister said he would respect the principle up to the 1st January, 1907. When this legislation was before us there were two contending parties. The one party stated that” under no circumstances would white labour produce any large quantity of sugar-cane in Queensland, while the other party, constituting, I am happy to say, a majority of the honorable members of this House, were able to state that they believed that white labour could not only grow sugar-cane, but cultivate it successfully, and in increasing quantities, and that ultimately the production of sugar by white labour would be greater than the output by coloured labour. Those statements have proved correct. The contention of those who believe in the policy of a White Australia has been, absolutely borne out by the facts. Every development has been in favour of the principle of white labour. Honorable members will surely agree that it is far more satisfactory to be able to point to nearly 2,200 white farmers who are now growing sugar-cane in Queensland than to have merely fifty or sixty large plantations in that State employing some thousands of coloured labourers.
– Will white workers ever be able to grow sugar properly withouta bonus ?
– They will if they are given fair competition. Does the honorable member know that the sugar excise produces over four times as much revenue as is paid by way of bounties?
– That does not help the producer who uses sugar.
– The producer who uses the sugar has made no complaint.
– I must retort that the honorable member knows nothing about the matter.
– I do not pretend to say that the honorable member may not have been upbraided perhaps once or twice in a friendly way about supporting a system which has led to an increase in the price of sugar, but no complaint on that score has reached this House. If we had an opportunity to take a referendum on this question, I feel that the Government would soon have a policy about which there could be no mistake in regard to the industry. An idea has grown up in the minds of many Victorians that they contribute towards the payment of the sugar bounty, and that the money so paid by the Government is not raised from the sugar-growers themselves. That is a wrong impression. At the present time there are two divisions in Queensland. The producers by black labour desire the excise to terminate, and are indifferent as to whether the bounty system is allowed to lapse or not. If the excise were abolished they would still have a protection of £6 per ton against the imported article, and would have the assistance of coloured labour in competing with the white growers. The result would be that the 2,200 farmers who are sustaining their families by the cultivation of sugar-cane would have to compete against the cheapest labour in the world, and would not be able to fight against it. In that event we should then return to the state of things which existed in Queensland for the years preceding 1901, when those in favour of coloured labour always urged that white labour was not competent to compete with it in the cultivation of sugar-cane. At the same time they knew very well that they got the coloured labour for at least one-third what a white man could live on. If honorable members desire that white labour shall have only the same standard of comfort and of living as is sufficient for the kanakas, let them discontinue the bounties ; but if they do not, and wish” to protect the white labourers, they must continue the bounties. Every expert has pointed out that the difference of £2 per ton made by the bounties is not more than the economic difference in value between the two classes of labour, assuming that the white man and the kanaka are equal, though it has been lately demonstrated in Southern Queensland that the white man is better than the black man, and even in Northern Queensland he has shown himself able to do more than the black man can do. A great deal has been said about the migration of Asiatic labour to Northern Queensland, though it has not been of any great volume. The Minister of Trade and Customs some time ago made a suggestion that the Chinamen here-
– I did not make the suggestion to which the honorable member is about to refer; it was made to me. I denied the statement in this Chamber immediately after it was attributed to me.
– I am glad to hear that. The statement is one which I did not expect from the honorable member. It has been pointed out to me incidentally that the duty on jam is£14 a ton, while the duty on sugar is only£6 a ton.
– The duty on jam is£12 a ton, and the only protected ingredient in locally-made jam is sugar.
– With a duty of £12 a ton on jam and £6 a ton on sugar the fruit-growers have the same protection as the sugar-growers.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member has in mind the fact that if jams were admitted free of duty, the local manufacturer would be at a disadvantage through having to buy sugar on which a duty has been imposed. Local jam makers who export their jam, however, pay only one-sixth of the duty. When I was Minister of Trade and Customs, I laid down the rule that every facility should be given for the export of jam and other manufactures to foreign markets, and it is a mistaken idea that the rebate on sugar exported in jams injures the sugar-growers of Australia. If imported sugar is used by manufacturers, they pay £6 a ton duty on it, but on exporting their goods they get a drawback of £5 a ton, and the fallacy of the contention that this injures the Australian producers of sugar lies in the assumption that the jam which contains it is sold in the local market. As a matter of fact, it is sold in a foreign market, and any other policy would be a doginthemanger one, which would not benefit any one. It is most advisable, for the sake of the sugar-growers and of the Australian public, that the Ministry should make an early declaration of their policy in regard to the extension of the bounty system. For the last three years the bounty system has worked well, and has been demonstratedto be a sound one.
– It will be necessary to deal with the matter early next session.
– I am glad to have that statement. A similar statement was made by the Treasurer, who says that he has full sympathy with the sugar-growers. . I believe that the subject has only to be investigated by the Ministry to receive favorable attention/ and I hope that Ministers will make a declaration of policy in regard to it before the session closes. The proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta that the question should be referred to the Royal Commission on the Tariff must be resisted by every one who supports the White Australia policy. At any rate, if the Government intend to refer the matter to the Royal Commission, they should first amend the two Acts under which the payment of bounties and the levying of excise duties on sugar terminate two years hence, because this subject differs from the other Tariff questions by reason of the fact that, whereas the duties on the Tariff continue to be levied until altered or removed, the payment of bounties terminates at the end of two years. If, however, the Government are prepared to amend the two Acts to which I refer, I shall not object to the remission of the question to the Royal Commission. Otherwise, while the Commission is discussing the. subject, the bounties will cease to be payable.
– The honorable member should assume that the Commissioners, as business men, will deal first with the most urgent question submitted to. them.
– I have had some experience of Royal Commissions, and I have never yet found one to come up to expectations in the matter of expedition. It is a method of conducting public business with which I am not in accord, though I have had to do with the appointment of some Royal Commissions. Fortunately, the excise duties terminate at the same time as the bounties, which should make it easier for the Government to make up their minds on the whole subject. Those who are now complaining of the cost of the bounties will not like to lose the £348,800 which is the credit balance from Excise on sugar after paying the bounties. That is a matter which has frequently been lost sight of during these discussions. I should like to give a number of figures relating to the whole subject, but I do not wish to mix up technical matters with a question of policy. What we are most concerned about is a question of policy.
– The deportation of kanakas must be concluded by the 1st January, 1907.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question of the payment of sugar bounties. The Minister must remember that a large number of kanakas are not deportable, and that in addition to the kanakas who remain here there will be a considerable number of coloured aliens whom it will be possible to employ upon sugar plantations. The bounty was given to encourage the employment of white labour in the sugar industry, which we maintain is a white man’s industry. We have proved that it is so, because white men are making a success of it.
– This Parliament is making it a success.
– I am content to allow the honorable member to have his little joke. I was exceedingly pleased to hear him say that he had an open mind on this question. That says a great deal Tor the Honorable member.
– A speech like the honorable member’s is not calculated to help his cause much.
– Perhaps not. I am putting rav case in my own way ; no doubt the honorable member could, do much more justice to it. I am, however, pointing out the facts as they appear to me. Does not the honorable member think that it is only fair that I should point out that the excise collected upon sugar grown in the Commonwealth” far exceeds the amount of the bounty returned to the white growers, and that the provision for the excise duty and for the bounties terminates at the same time, namely, upon the 31st December, 1906? Sugar-growing is an industry in which a large amount of work has to be done before a crop can be cut. I know of no subject upon which there is so much misapprehension as that of sugar-growing. The Excise Tariff Act of 1902 provides that upon sugar there shall be a duty of 3s. until the 1st January, 1907, less from the 1st July, 1902, a rebate to the grower of sugar-caneand beet. The rebate, in the case of sugar-cane, is to be 4s. per ton on all cane delivered for manufacture, and in the production of which sugar-cane white labour onlyhas been employed after the 28th February, 1902. Not only the growers of sugarcane, but also the growers of beet, for the production of sugar, are to receive a bounty. The representatives of New South Wales and Queensland have not manifested a selfish spirit in connexion with this question, because they readily consented to the amendment which was intended to extend the advantage of the bounty to the growers of beet-sugar. The bonus is intended to encourage the production of beet-sugar in Victoria and other States, and I say “good luck” to the growers of beet-sugar if they can make a success of their undertakings.. I can find no justification for the conclusion that a country becomes poorer by producing commodities such as sugar.
– We may become poorer if we pay too much for it.
– The honorable member was not present when I explained that the Excise duty collected upon sugar far exceeds the sum distributed among the sugargrowers by way of bounty.
– Surely some one is so much poorer by reason of the fact that Excise duties are levied?
– I shall not attempt to enter into an argument upon that point at present. My contention is that the larger our productions of wheat, sugar, and other staple commodities, the greater will be our prosperity.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - The honorable member for Wide Bay has well said that this subject is very complicated, and that it is not every one who understands it. I think that I am free to state from my own knowledge of one side of it, that the honorable member does not understand that aspect of the question, although, no doubt, he ably represents the interests of those who are engaged in the cultivation of sugar cane. I made a few remarks at a previous stage of this discussion, and should not have risen again except for the fact that the subject has been discussed in considerable detail. I deprecate the waste of so much time in the discussion of a question of high policy - a difficult question, as the honorable member for Wide Bay admits, and one that cannot be debated upon an occasion like this in such a way as to throw any new light upon it, or help us to an ultimate conclusion. Several honorable members are browbeating the Government in connexion with the discussion of the Estimates, with a view to induce them to make a declaration of policy, which they must know no Government could make in the circumstances. Ministers have committed themselves to the appointment of a Tariff Commission, and, therefore, could not make a declaration of policy on a question which must be closely related to the findings of that body. The Government have to think of a great deal in connexion with this matter before they make up their minds. Any hostile criticism of mine directed to the efforts of the representatives of Queensland to have this matter viewed in. a light favorable to themselves, may reasonably be accepted with good will, in view of the fact that I have been such a good friend to the White Australia policy, and have already declared myself as favorable to the continuation of the sugar bounty in some form or other.
– The Treasurer has stated that the question of the sugar bounty was to be considered apart from the Tariff Commission.
– I do not know what the Treasurer may have said, but the manufacturers who use large quantities of sugar as raw material will demand to. be heard, and there will be no sense or justice in trying to debar them from placing their case before the Commission. They must knock at the doors of the Commission, and ask to be heard.I am not an enemy to the sugar-growers. I voted for the bounty, in the interests of a White Australia, and during the first year of its operation, together with the Excise duty, I lost £2,400.The honorable member must know that the moment we recast our fiscal arrangements, the price of sugar was increased by £2 per ton, whilst the price of jam, in the manufacture of which sugar plays a very important part, was not advanced. In one factory in which I am interested we used 1,200 tons of sugar during the first year that the Excise dutywas imposed, and therefore lost ,£2,400. Thus, ill will be seen that there are interests at stake besides those of the sugargrowers. Notwithstanding the losses I have made in the past I am. prepared to look at this question fairly, and, if neces-sary, to continue the payment of bounties to sugar-growers. I hope that the suggestion which I offered to the Government this afternoon will be adopted because I think it presents the only way in which we can emerge from the present difficult situation.
– If the honorable member allows the date for the expiration of >the bounties to be eliminated, I shall be- content.
– We shall have to consider that matter later on. I suggested that when the Government considered the question of the period over which the bounties were to be paid - probably next session - they should endeavour to ascertain whether we could not fairly deal with it in the same manner that the Constitution deals with the Western Australian special Tariff. If we are bound to carry on this system of bounties for a further period in order to assist the sugar-growers of Queensland and New South1 Wales, we should adopt a tapering policy, which would have the effect of gradually extinguishing the bounties at the end of the two, three, five, or seven year period that may be fixed. If that course were adopted, we should know that there would be some finality to the bounties. The honorable member for Wide Bay, however, appears to favour the idea of making an extension for a fixed period over which the bounties shall be paid in full, or eliminating dates altogether, and practically providing for a bonus for all time. He stated that this is a complicated question, and undertook to show the Committee that those industries in which sugar forms the principal raw material have not been injured by the payment of the bounty, or the collection of Excise duty on sugar. I shall be able to demonstrate, however, that we have been prejudicially affected, and that the honorable member for Parramatta was quite right when he stated that the fruit industry was suffering to some extent from the operation of the Excise duty and the bounty. First of all, the honorable member for Wide Bay is not accurate in saying that we obtain a full drawback of the duty upon the sugar used in the jam we export. What we do get is five-sixths of the duty on the sugar contents of the jam, as estimated by the Customs officials. Within the last week, I took out figures showing the quantity of sugar used in one of the jam factories in New South- Wales. A case of jam weighs 72 lbs., and I found that nearly 38 lbs. of sugar was used in the manufacture of every case of jam. That would represent more than half the weight of the total contents of the case. The weight given for the jam is not the nett weight, but only the reputed weight, and, consequently, the disproportion of the amount allowed by the Customs for drawback is greater still. The weight given for the sugar would be still more than the figures would at first glance represent. Then again, the sugar does not lose weight in the boiling, whereas the fruit does. Therefore, the honorable member must see that the Customs do not give us back five-sixths of the duty which we pay on the sugar we use. The honorable member for Parramatta is quite right when he declares that the difference between the duty which is paid by our jam manufacturers, and that which is returned to them by way of drawback, constitutes a serious handicap in the markets of the world. The question of drawback is one which becomes increasingly difficult every year. I recollect when the Barton Government introduced the legislation dealing with this matter. The right honorable member for Adelaide, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, freely acknowledged to me that it was one of the most difficult problems with which he had to deal, because he could not see how he could adequately protect the sugar industry without injuring a number of other industries. The only way in which he thought that his purpose could be accomplished was by instituting a system of drawback, and he feared that anything in the nature of a liberal system of drawback would lead to abuses, and consequent loss of revenue. I suggested that the onlyway in which these abuses could be checked was by converting the factories into bonds, and allowing drawback upon the actual quantity of sugar used in the manufacture of jam. The canned fruit, confectionery, biscuit, and brewing industries are all handicapped by reason of this legislation.
– It is all a matter of administration. ‘
– Administration cannot entirely overcome difficulties which laws create. I recollect attending a deputation which waited upon the right honorable member for Adelaide, in his capacity as Minister of Trade and Customs, in reference to this matter. One of the speakers directed attention to the fact that in Victoria or Tasmania it is possible to purchase a cwt. of soft plums for 2s. There is only one way in which use can possibly be made of this fruit. It cannot be exported to England as green fruit, or as frozen cargo. It can only be rendered marketable by being preserved. But before anything can be done in that direction the manufacturer is called upon to pay 6s. to the Government. Can the honorable member for Wide Bay point to any other industry in Australia which is called upon to pay a duty of 6s. upon a portion of its raw material before it can use the other portion which costs only 2 s. ? I am certain that he cannot.
– Is 2s. the general price of that fruit ?
– It is a very common price in Melbourne. That condition of affairs is necessarily a great handicap to the jam manufacturer. It imposes a heavy burden upon a legitimate and growing trade. It also checks its development in the home market. If we are required to pay 6s. upon imported sugar, in order to convert soft plums into jam for the home market, the price of that commodity must necessarily be increased by that amount. The result is that consumption is restricted. If we increase the price of any article, it naturally follows that the demand for it must be reduced. All that we asked the two preceding Administrations to do was to allow us a fair amount by way of drawback during trip continuance of the existing legislation. If it be found necessary to extend that legislation I shall not object. I have no desire to see any industry injured, but whilst we are protecting one we should1 be careful that we do not seriously damage others. The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that while this drawback is operative there is no inducement to local manufacturers to use imported sugar as against the Colonial article. But I would point out that so long as this drawback exists - and he will admit that we could not carry on an export trade without the aid of the drawback - the manufacturer will purchase imported sugar for his export trade, and will refuse to use Australian sugar. The price of sugar, like that of wheat, is dominated by the big markets of the world. The price at which imported sugar can be landed in Sydney, plus the amount of the duty upon it, is the price which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ask for their sugar. That must be so until we produce more sugar than is consumed in Australia. I believe that we shall reach that period very shortly. What will be the re-‘ suit then? Let us assume that we have even so small a balance as 5,000 tons of sugar in excess of our requirements. Then we shall be compelled to export 10,000 tons, and to import 5,000 tons, because, in order to obtain the full amount of the drawback, the local manufacturer must use the imported article. That imported sugar, less the duty, is cheaper than the Commonwealth sugar, and will always be so until Australia becomes such a large producer that it can make itself felt in the markets of the world.
– That does not injure the local grower.
– Let us suppose that a few years hence we have a surplus of 5,000 tons of sugar, and that our manufacturers find it necessary to import 5,000 tons in order to obtain the full amount of the drawback. The Commonwealth will then have to pay the freight from Australia in addition to the freight to Australia of these two lots of sugar. I repeat that the manufactures in which I am interested are handicapped very heavily by present legislation. For the sake of preserving a White Australia, I am prepared to extend that legislation a little longer. At the same time, I am strongly of opinion that the Excise duty and the bounty should be gradually diminished, so that within a specified number of years they would completely disappear. The honorable member for Wide Bay desires the Government to declare that they will indefinitely continue the policy of granting a bounty upon sugar. To do th’at would result in a fiscal fight for the repeal of such legislation every year. My suggestion is, I think, an infinitely better and more practical one. The question, I admit, is most complicated. In the House of Commons a similar discussion took place a couple of years ago, and there were very few members of the gre”at mother of Parliaments who thoroughly understood the sugar question. Our difficulties are not so great as those with which that body was confronted, but they are much greater than honorable members imagine. When the Government come to decide upon a definite policy in regard to the termination of the bounty and excise duty upon sugar they will find it a troublesome question to deal with. For these reasons I do not think it is politic for the Committee to insist upon the Government making a declaration of policy whilst the general Estimates are under consideration.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I think that the honorable member for South Sydney will admit that it would be unfair to remit this question to the Tariff Commission for investigation, considering that the terminable period of the sugar bounty is so near. I am of opinion that the limitation provided in the Sugar Bounty Act should be excised, and that Parliament should be allowed to deal with the matter as it chooses. I am quite prepared to trust it to deal justly with the sugar-growers.
– I do not propose to occupy the time of the Committee at length, tout I desire to reply to an honorable member who has affirmed that if the sugar industry can be successfully carried on only by means of a bounty its extinction is desirable.
– Hear, hear.
– So far as New South Wales is concerned, that State can get on very well without the aid of a bounty if the excise is abolished ; but at the same time its sugar-growers desire to secure a fair field and an absence of black labour competition. In my judgment freetraders can loyally support the payment of a sugar bounty, because by so doing they merely evidence their desire to maintain a White Austrafia. It is not right to say that the whole of Australia is taxed to pay the bounty. As a matter of fact, the farmers and producers themselves pay it. The people of Victoria have to pay. by way of excise on sugar, some £90,000 per annum, but New South Wales with not a much larger population pays in round figures £90,000 in excess of that sum. The producer really has to pay the excise in two ways. He pays on the sugar produced by him, and also on that which he consumes. That is the position. Sugar is not produced in this State, but the people have to pay the excise duty. Mr. Knox, the chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, said recently that -
The company would be prepared to give is.10d. per ton more for cane for every £1 reduction in excise with the present import duties.
– He could pay the extra price because of the duty.
– If the honorable member could show me that the price of sugar would be reduced by the abolition of the bounty, I should be prepared to support him, but he cannot do anything of the kind.
– That is a protectionist argument.
– It is not. I am very pleased that the Government intend to take this matter into consideration during the recess. The honorable member for Wide Bay appeared to view with some apprehension a proposal that the question should be considered by a Royal Commission, but the sugar-growers have nothing to fear. They need not be afraid of an investigation by a Royal Commission.
– Nor do I think that thev would object to the fruit-growers being heard on the question.
– I do not think that they would. We are anxious to concede what is right to the sugar-growers, more particularly in New South Wales, where it has been demonstrated that the bonus system is a proper one. We have shown there that it is possible to produce sugar without black labour. The coloured aliens formerly employed in the cane-fields in the Clarence district have disappeared, and it has been clearly proved that sugar-growing is a white man’s industry in that State. I do not think that there has been any waste of time in discussing this matter, and I am glad to hear the representatives of Queensland express their confidence in the capacity of white workers to carry on the industry in that State. Let us show that we are in earnest in our demand for a White Australia. From the look of approval on the faces of honorable members, I believe that they recognise the justice of the claim made by the farmers that the sugar bounty should be continued. The Sugar Bounty Act and the sugar excise will expire at the beginning of 1907. and the sugargrowers of New South Wales will then be able to continue their operations without the assistance of a bounty ; but if we have any belief in the principle of a White Australia we must protect them against the unfair competition of black labour.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- Since the adjournment for dinner I have had an opportunity to read the judgment delivered by the High Court in the case of Cowan and Sons v. Lockyer, to which I referred earlier in the day, and I think it desirable to place it before the Committee. It is not a verv lengthy judgment, and as it is applicable to the case which I brought before the Committee, and may apply to others, U is well that honorable members should be familiar with its terms. The Court held that under section 167 of the Customs Act a sum of money paid under protest in respect of a duty which subsequently was not ratified by Parliament was not collectable, and was not at any time payable. The law has been laid down for the guidance of the present Minister of Trade and Customs. His predecessors had no such ruling to act upon, and I should like the honorable gentleman to say, after hearing this judgment read, whether he cannot see his way clear to take the action I have advised in regard to the case which I brought under his notice, as well as in relation to sill similar cases.
– I should like to point out to the honorable member that by consent we are having a general discussion on the sugar industry, and that the specific’ case which he now desires to re-introduce might be dealt with by him when division 35 is before the Committee. The incident to which he refers relates to the action of an officer for whom provision is made in that division, and I would suggest to him that he should allow the discussion on the sugar industry to terminate before he deals with it.
– I should be very glad to accept your suggestion, Mr. Chairman, but I have to leave town to-morrow, and as the Estimates of the Department will have been dealt with before I return, I may not have another opportunity to bring this case under the notice of the Committee. The Chief Justice, in giving judgment, said -
This was an action brought by the plaintiff, si company carrying on business in New South Wales, against the Collector of Customs in New South Wales, to recover the sum of money, ^132 ys. 7c!., deposited by them in December, 1901, upon the importation into New South Wales of certain envelope folding machines. At that time, the goods in question were not liable to duty under the Tariff of New South Wales, which was, as a matter of law, the only Tariff applicable in that State. When the goods were imported, duty was demanded upon them by the defendant, on the ground that under the Tariff proposals then before Parliament such goods were proposed to be made dutiable. The money was paid under protest, as was understood by the parties, under the provisions of section 167 of the Customs Act 1901, which had come into operation shortly before, viz., on 4th October, 1901. The goods in question were included in the draft Tariff as laid upon the table of the House of Representatives on the 8th October, 1901. When the Tariff had passed through both Houses, and the Customs Tariff Act came to be passed into law on 16th September, 1902, these goods were exempted from taxation, so that, as a matter of law, no duty was ever payable on these goods. They were not taxable under the Tariff of New South Wales, and not taxable under the Tariff of the Commonwealth, and the only claim that could be made was that they were included in the draft Tariff laid upon the table of the House of Representatives. When the goods were imported, the plaintiffs denied the liability to duty, and deposited the money under section 167 of the Customs Act 1901, which had then been passed. That section runs - “ If any dispute shall arise as to the amount or rate of duty, or as to the liability of goods to duty, the owner may deposit with the Collector the amount of duty demanded, and thereupon the following consequences shall ensue : - (1) The owner, upon making proper entry, shall be entitled to delivery of the goods. (2) The deposit shall be deemed the proper duty unless by action commenced by the owner against the collector within six months after making the deposit, the contrary shall be determined. . . .” Now, that section occurs in Part VIII. of the Act, beginning with section 130, which provides - “ This part of this Act shall not affect any duties payable under any State Act.” It therefore had no application at all, according to the law as it then existed, to any duties that could be collected, according to law ; but, as we know very well, according to custom, they aic collected in such circumstances, and were collected in accordance with the draft Tariff. The terms of the section themselves also show that they were intended to apply to a Customs Tariff. They did not apply to a State Tariff, and, therefore, could only apply to a Federal Tariff. They assumed the existence of a Federal Tariff. In practice, the parties acted as if the section were the law, and it appears “to me that the proper conclusion is that the money was paid, not to be subject to the law under that section, but upon terms similar to those In the section, and, as a matter of agreement between the party paying and the party receiving, so that their rights might be thereafter determined. That construction of their conduct gets over a difficulty as to the action not being brought within six months, because the Act says - “ The deposit shall be deemed the proper duty unless, by action commenced within six months after making the deposit, the contrary shall be determined.” We need not determine a matter of speculation now, because, regarding the matter, as we do, in the light of an agreement between the parties, there can be no difficulty in extending the time for bringing this action, as has been done in fact, as is stated in the pleadings -
I desire to call special attention of the Committee to the following passage -
Those being the circumstances under which the deposit was paid, it is clear that at the time it was paid the money was not payable by the plaintiff. It is clear it was not payable under the Customs Tariff assented to in September, 1902. It was, therefore, never payable, and the duties claimed were never payable under any existing Tariff. But the defendant claimed to retain the moneys under section 6 of the Customs Tariff Act, which provides that “ all duties of Customs collected, pursuant to any Tariff or Tariff alteration, shall be deemed to have been lawfully imposed and collected.” The “ tariff “ is defned in this Act as “the tariff proposed in the Parliament on the 8th day of October, 1901. “ The “tariff alterations” are also defined as “ any alteration of the tariff since proposed in the Parliament,” which I suppose means “ any alteration by resolution in the Committee of Ways and Means.” In the present case, the item in question is in the original tariff and not in any alteration thereof. The words in section 6 are inaccurate. They can only refer to one tariff, because there is only one tariff. For the defendant, it is contended that the duties were collected within the meaning of that section, and, therefore, collected pursuant to the draft tariff, and, therefore, deemed to be lawfully imposed and collected. For the plaintiffs, it is contended that that is not theprimâ facie meaning of the words ;that the money was theirs up to the passing of the Act, and that section was to be a sort of indemnity Act for quieting disputes which might have arisen during the long period that elapsed between the introduction of the draft tariff, and the passing of the Tariff Act. The words are probably open to the construction contended for by the defendant, but if that construction is given to them, it will have the effect of changing the right to this money on that day. Up to that time, it was clearly recoverable by the plaintiffs. It belonged to them, and if an action had been heard at any moment up to the16th September, 1902, they would have been entitled to recover the money. The Court might have adjourned the consideration of it, but they would be entitled to recover the money. If the construction contended for by the defendant is given, the effect would be to deprive the plaintiffs of a vested right. That is a construction that should not be adopted, if the words of the section are open to another reasonable construction. On comparing the section with the two preceding sections, it will be seen That another construction is open. Section 4 says-“ The time of the imposition of uniform duties of Customs is the 8th day of October, 1901 and this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation at that time,” and section 5 says - “ The duties of Customs specified in the schedule are hereby imposed according to the schedule as from the time of the imposition of uniform duties of Customs “ - that is, from 8th October, 1901 - . “ . . and such duties shall be deemed to have been imposed at such time….. “ The intention, therefore, of the Legislature, was to do what they had power to do by the Constitution, viz., to establish uniform duties of Customs, and they declared that they established them as from 8th October, 1901, and they declared that those duties so imposed were to be those contained in the schedule to this Act, and, moreover, the only way in which the Legislature could authorize the collection of Customs duties is by imposing them as duties. They cannot authorize the collection of money as, and for, Customs duties, and not being Customs duties, but they must impose them qua Customs duties. They deliberately exercised that power in section 5, as to the duties mentioned in the schedule. If section 6 receives a construction which will support the defendant’s contention, the result will be that the Tariff laid upon the table upon the8th October, 1901, thereupon became a valid existing Tariff, and the duties mentioned in it thereupon were imposed according to it, and that as that Tariff was varied from time to time as alterations were made in Committee of Ways and Means, such alterations were part of a validly existing Tariff. Mr. Pigott admitted he must put his contention as high as that. If that were the intention of the Legislature, it was a very singular way in which to express it. I think, if the Legislature were invited to pass such a law, they would have had a hesitation in doing so. Full meaning can be given to the section without that extraordinary construction, so inconsistent with the apparent consideration of the Legislature, that they were dealing with a practical difficulty always existing under such circumstances. That is to say, the Tariff is being varied from time to time. Some people may object to pay what is not strictly due. Others do not think it worth while to object, and pay. A great deal is collected under the draff Tariff, and paid without objection by importers, and under circumstances not giving them a right to recover the moneys back, because, in most of the cases, the moneys were paid under a mistake of law, and the Legislature intended that matters should be put at rest. That is a very material provision, and the language used can support that contention. It is an equitable construction of the section, and does not lead to the result of depriving persons of vested rights. For those reasons, I come to the conclusion that the word “ collected “ there ought not to be held applicable to an agreement that money should be deposited under protest, in order to determine whether it was legally payable or not. There will be judgment for fhe plaintiffs, with cost.
That is a very plain statement of the position. On the question of whether there was any necessity to lodge a protest in writing, the judgment is perfectly clear. If honorable members look at clause 167 of the Customs Act, on which the whole of this action hinged, they will see that it has no reference at all to the lodging of a protest in writing against the payment of a proposed duty. The Chief Justice has clearly laid it down that where an objection was lodged that was a sufficient protest. This Parliament, so far as established custom would allow us, provided that the Government might hold, pending our determination, the money levied on duties proposed in the draft Tariff, to be subsequently retained for all time if those duties were approved, and to be refunded if they were not approved. The judgment which I have quoted should be perused by every honorable member. I need not quote the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice O’Connor, because he fully agreed with the Chief Justice in the matter. I ask the Minister to give special attention to this case. I know that he is sympathetic, but he has hitherto felt bound by law not to make a refund. He will see, however, that the decision of the High Court enables him to do justice, and thus to prevent matters being made actions of law which should be dealt with as matters of equity. As this information came into my hands since I last addressed the Committee, I Have felt it due to honorable members to place it before them.
– It is a revelation to me to find that the growers of sugar are so well disposed to the consumers that they pay the bounties out of their own pockets. If they really pay the bounties themselves, I wonder that they ask for a continuation of them. As a matter of fact, they do not _pay them. The persons who pay them are those who pay all the duties - the consumers. The import duty, on sugar gives the local manufacturers an advantage of £6 a ton, which the excise duty reduces to £3 a ton ; but as £2 a ton is returned to the while growers by way of bounty, they are able to take £5 a ton out of the pockets of the consumers.
– The collection of excise duties is to cease at the same Mme as the payment of the bounty.
– Yes, and the growers will then be better off than they are now, because they will be able to take £6 a ton out of the pockets of the consumers. I wish to show the absurdity of those who, calling ‘themselves free-traders, are prepared to sacrifice their fiscal principles because some of their constituents are sugargrowers.
– Can the honorable member show that the public will get cheaper sugar if the bounties are abolished ?
– If the duties were abolished they would get cheaper sugar.
– Does the honorable member object to the white grower getting an advantage over the black grower?
– I object to the consumer being “ got at.” We are here to legislate, not for a section of the population, but for the whole community. The discussion of this subject now can, of course, have no practical effect, but I hope that the Minister will not allow any alteration to be made until Parliament has dealt with the matter. I shall have more to say on the subject when it comes up for discussion again. The honorable member for South Sydney has shown how the sugar- duties handicap confectioners, jam-makers, and others for whom sugar is a raw material.
– But their commodities are protected.
– Yes ; . but they would be better off without the protection if they could get their sugar free tff duty.
It is the consumer who pays all the time - the unfortunate working man, who receives perhaps £2 a week, and who cannot come here to lobby or to put his case before honorable members. In agreeing to the duties we legislate for the rich, and crush down the poor man. I believe in giving privileges to no one, but in seeing that all have equal rights. When the subject comes up for discussion again, I shall vote against giving an advantage to any one set of men over the rest of the community.
– I have listened patiently to this very interesting debate, and, having followed the different speakers, I have gleaned a large amount of information, which will require a good deal of sifting to separate the chaff from the wheat. It is curious to notice how sensitive some men are in connexion with matters which particularly affect .those who sent them here. Many men are undoubtedly actuated by the desire to do what is best in this matter for the sugar-growers whom they represent. I do not complain of that, so long as their actions are consistent with their fiscal professions. An honorable member who holds that sugar should be treated in a manner similar to that in which other products should be treated is consistent; but I cannot understand how one calling himself a free-trader can urge that these bounties are justifiable, and that the duties are paid by the sugar-growers.
– I said that I had regard wholly to the need for protecting white labour against black labour.
– I do not wish to do an injustice to any one who has spoken on this subject. I realize that some honor-‘ able members, in their honest appreciation of the White Australia policy, may be carried beyond the fiscal opinions which they have enunciated on the platform. /Those men have my hearty approbation,, because the subject is of more importance than the question whether there should, or should not, be duties on sugar. What we are considering is whether the sugar industry shall be carried on for all time by white labour. That is of more importance to us and to our children than the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth, and I can appreciate the action of those who are prepared to sink their fiscal faith to realize a higher ideal - the preservation of a White Australia. The honorable member for New England never varies his arguments. He does not take into account the special circumstances of this case, and it almost seems that the honorable member is losing his mental equilibrium. I should like to hear from the Prime Minister some more definite pronouncement of his intentions with regard to the black labour question.
– I have already made a pronouncement.
– I heard the statement of the Minister, but that did not appear to me to be a satisfactory declaration of the intentions of the Government. I regard the question of the deportation of kanakas, under the provisions of the Pacific Island Labourers Act, as of far more importance than the extension of the period for the granting of bounties.
– The Prime Minister has already given an assurance that the Government intend to carry out the Pacific Island Labourers Act in its entirety.
– The Prime Minister stated that he intended to respect the laws passed by this Parliament, but I think that we are entitled to a declaration indicating something more than a sympathetic attitude towards the legislation which has been placed upon our Statute-book. I should like to hear a definite announcement that the Government intend to see that the kanakas, who are now employed upon the sugar plantations, shall be deported from the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Franklin asked why it was that there had not been a greater falling-off in the quantity of black-grown sugar. The reason is that whilst the kanaka is in Queensland, and open to employment by planters, his labour will always be preferred to that of the white man, notwithstanding the advantage given by way of bonus to those who employ white labour only. If we desire to establish a White Australia upon a sound basis, we shall have to do more than grant a bounty for the production of white-grown sugar. We shall have to insure the removal from the Commonwealth of the coloured aliens who are now competing with our white workers in the cane-fields.
– It is stated that tha Chinese are supplanting the kanakas.
– It is true that Chinamen are being employed in the cane- fields. The planters are not particular as to the kind of labour they employ, so long as it is cheap.
– I am informed that Chinamen are deriving the benefit of the bonus by employing white labour on their plantations.
– We cannot prevent that in the case of naturalized Chinamen. My point is that it has been established beyond question that white men can be profitably employed in producing sugar. In New South Wales, the white labourers are producing better results than were ever obtained by means of black labour. In fact, very few coloured men are now engaged by the sugar-growers in that State. The white workers upon the sugar plantations of Queensland are able to find employment during the crushing season, when labour is scarce, but immediately the busy time is past they are dispensed with, and coloured men are engaged for the rest of the year. A white man cannot live for twelve months upon the wages which he receives for four months work, and, therefore, in order to provide our Avhite citizens with constant employment it is necessary for us to entirely exclude black men from the industry. Weshall never be able to withdraw the bounty from the sugar-growers until we render it impossible to obtain black labour on the plantations. So long as black men are available for work in the cane-fields, those who employ white labour must be assisted by some form of preference. Therefore, I maintain that the elimination of coloured labour from the industry is necessarily of far greater importance than the mere question of continuing the bounties.
– Is it a fact that Chinese are being brought in to take the place of the kanakas?
– That is taking place to only a limited extent. I regret that the statistics available to us with regard to the character of the labour employed on the plantations are far from perfect. We can obtain information as to the number of acres under crop, and the number of tons of sugar produced by white and black labour respectively, but we have not been placed in possession of reliable statistics as to the number of kanakas or Chinese engaged in the industry. I am pleased to know that the Prime Minister has indicated that the Government intend to appoint a Federal Statistician through whose agency we shall be able to obtain reliable data with regard to all our industries. There are no sugar-growers in my electorate, but my constituents, as consumers of that article, are willing to pay an increased price for their sugar, in order that some encouragement may be given to the employment of white labour. The consumers of the Commonwealth have been represented as absolutely selfish, tout the majority of them, I am sure, are perfectly satisfied that it will be to the advantage of the whole community if we can establish upon sound lines an industry which will provide employment for a large number of white men. It has been said that we are paying dearly for the White Australia policy, but I would point out that we are at the present time affording very considerable protection to the sugar planters who employ black labour. They are deriving the full advantage of the £3 per ton which represents the difference between the import and excise duties upon sugar. This protection should be denied them, and any encouragement offered to those engaged in the industry should toe confined to the planters who employ white labour. Some honorable members have spoken of theduty upon sugar imposed by the Commonwealth as something new, but I would point out that prior to Federation a duty was imposed on sugar in New South Wales.
– That was also the case in Tasmania.
– And also in some of the other States. Therefore, we have not materially altered the position, except that we have offered special inducements for the growth of sugar by means of white labour. The honorable member for South Sydney has furnished us with some wonderful information with regard: to the effect of the excise duty and the bounty upon the industry in which he is engaged. He has told us that he has been involved in considerable losses, but that he is still willing to afford encouragement to the sugargrowers, in order that white labour may be substituted for black. He has indicated that he desires that the bounty, if extended for a further period, shall diminish yearby year. I contend that the kanakas, who are at present engaged in the Queensland sugar plantations, should be deported to their homes, in accordance with the provisions of the Pacific Island Labourers Act.
– Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs have declared their intention of carrying out that Act.
– I understand that they have given an assurance to that effect. To my mind, the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay, upon this question, are perfectly logical. He affirms that the wisdom or otherwise of continuing the sugar bounty should not be remitted to the Tariff Commission for investigation, because it will scarcely be possible for that body to report to Parliament before the Sugar Bonus Act has expired. Under such circumstances, surely it is the duty of the Government to make a definite declaration of policy upon this matter. The honorable member for South Sydney has affirmed that certain manufactures in which he is interested are severely handicapped as the result of existing legislation, but I can scarcely credit his statement that, during the first year of its operation, that legislation caused him to suffer a loss of £2,400. I am of opinion that he has neglected to allow for thereturn of five-sixths of the duty upon imported sugar by way of rebate when it is exported in any manufactured article. Seeing that the market of the Commonwealth has been preserved to out jam manufacturers, it seems to me that they cannot be subjected to such keen competition as they were formerly.
– The duty does not assist the local jam manufacturer.
– I claim that it directly assists him. I know an industry which was protected only to the extent of one penny per lb., and which developed mammoth proportions as the result. The honorable member for Franklin may speak of the matter from a Tasmanian standpoint, but I should like him to show now his contention can be borne out by facts. We should bear in mind the necessity which exists to preserve, at all hazards, a White Australia for future generations. Tonight, the honorable and learned member for Wannon declared that if the Government attempted to extend the operation of the sugar bounty they would impose a great strain upon his allegiance to them. It is unfortunate that honorable members oppositeare continually threatening that their loyalty will be strained almost to breaking point if the Government adopt a certain course.
– They only say so because they know that the Government cannot do what they fear.
– I do not think that is a fair interjection to make. The honorable and learned member for Wanhon did not adduce any reason for his strong opposition to the suggestion of the Queensland representatives. He merely raved about the amount which Victoria was paying as the price of Federation, and endeavoured to make it appear that Queensland was gaining materially by the operation of the sugar bounty. Had he explained his position more clearly. I might possibly have been in a position to answer the riddle which he propounded. At the present time we are receiving something like ,£400,000 by way of excise upon sugar. That amount is paid into the general Treasury, and is returned to the various States to assist in defraying the cost of their government. I claim that the Government might very reasonably acquiesce in the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay. The trouble is that, constituted as they are - being neither black nor white, so far as their fiscal creed is concerned - they occupy “a most deplorable position. Surely we have a right to ask the Government to state for the guidance, not only of honorable members, but of the people generally whether they intend at the end of 1906, without any further agitation, to deport every kanaka who is entitled to be returned to his island home. Those engaged in the industry have a right to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to so important a question. But what can we expect from the Government, when one of its leaders asks us to rely upon his well-known record as a supporter of certain fiscal principles, while the other tells us that he is prepared to take this matter into consideration when the proper time arrives? We do not ask them to make a full statement in black and white, but to give us an indication of their policy in regard to this matter. Surely we are entitled to know what steps they propose to take to establish their position. Have we not a right to know whether they intend to refer the question to the Royal Commission to be appointed to deal with the Tariff? The whole success of the industry and the policy of a White Australia are involved ; but the Committee has not received such liberal treatment as it might have expected from a Government which professes to be prepared to accept the responsibilities of office. As a matter of fact, they are not going to accept any responsibility in dealing with the sugar industry. The Minister of Trade and Customs says, in effect, “We shall leave the House to determine what shall be the treatment meted out to it.” That is in keeping with the reply usually made by a member of the Government to any question as to their policy. They tell us in one breath that they will accept the full responsibility of dealing with this question, while in the next they say /that Parliament must take the responsibility of deciding what shall be done. What has become of responsible government? The Treasurer estimates that the sugar excise duty will yield £’439,000 during the current financial year, and from this sum he deducts ,£100,000 in respect of the estimated bounty, leaving £[339, 000 to be paid into the public exchequer. The question whether legislation dealing with the industry has been successful is fully answered by the statistics bearing upon it. If we, as supporters of the policy of a White Australia, do not show that we are determined that the law shall be carried out in its entirety, and that the kanaka labour- shall be abolished, we shall have a repetition of what took place as far back as 1863, when kanaka labour was first introduced.
– The deportation of kanakas is provided for in the Estimates of the Department of External Affairs, and not in those now before us. I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the Estimates of the Department immediately before us.
– I am merely following the example of others.
– My attention has just been drawn to the point I have mentioned.
– The question of whether black labour shall be abolished is almost inseparable from that of whether the bounty system should be continued, and one finds it difficult to refer to the one without making any reference to the other. I would ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, in conclusion, to give us a clear, unqualified statement as to the policy of the Government in relation to this all-important question. He should let us know distinctly whether they intend to allow the matter to be dealt with by the Royal Commission on the Tariff, or to take the full responsibility of their position. They should take the Committee into their confidence, and say whether they intend to support a system which will uphold the policy of a White Australia, or whether thev will allow that policy, by reason of their- inaction to drift to a point at which it may be finally lost to the people of Australia.
– -I should not have spoken, on this question but for the remarks made earlier in the debate by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I do not desire the representatives of Queensland to form the impression that Victorians look upon the sugar bounty as a gift to the people of that State. So far as I am aware, no honorable member has yet mentioned, in dealing with this question, that Victoria is as keen in its desire for a White Australia as it was on the day that we passed legislation designed to attain that ideal. I recognise that if we are to have a White Australia, a sugar bounty bonus, or some sort of protection, must be continued. Some honorable members say that the Government should have stated distinctly what are their intentions in regard to the industry. I, for one, should have liked to hear such a pronouncement, but the Ministry, apparently, do not intend to disclose their policy until next session. Meanwhile the sugar-growers are to be kept in a state of suspense. We imposed the import duty on sugar, and granted the bounty, to help the growers over the time during which black labour was to be displaced by white, and as a representative of this State, I desire to enter my protest against the position which the honorable and learned member for Wannon has taken up. I believe that the people of Victoria as a whole realize that it is impossibleto have a White Australia unless we continue to encourage the cultivation of sugar by white labour. If a referendum of the people of this State were taken, it would be found that there was an overwhelming majority, even in the honorable and learned member’s own constituency, in favour of the policy of a White Australia.
– I agree with the honorable member, but I say that the Queenslanders are getting too much out of us.
– Victoria is receiving more.
– We shall pay £130,000 this year towards the cost of keeping up this system.
– I think that the people of Victoria are prepared to keep Australia white, even if we have to pay £130,000 a year to do so.
– They are paying more than all the other States put together.
– No. I believe that Victoria is using more imported sugar than are all the other States, but she secures the benefit of the duty collected on it.
– If the honorable member turns to the Treasurer’s Budget statement, he will see that she is losing it.
– I have examined the Treasurer’s figures, but I have not found any evidence in support of the honorable and learned member’s statement.
– The whole question will have to be threshed out next session.
– I admit that it will. I should not have spoken on this question but for the observations made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I think that the workers of Victoria are as keenly in favour of the present system of dealing with the sugar industry, as they are in. favour of protecting any of their own industries. I do not think that the arguments which may be adduced in favour of the consideration of the operation of the ordinary protective duties by the Tariff Commission apply to the suggestion that the sugar excise bounty should also be considered by that body. The latter will terminate at a fixed date, while the others will not do so. I sincerely hope that the Government will let those who are interested in the industry know, without delay, what are their intentions.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 33 (Patents),£7,853 ; division 34 (Statistics), £1,950; division 35 (New South Wales), £70,480; division 36 (Victoria), £64,501 ; agreed to.
Division 37 (Queensland), £51,934.
– I should like some information about the item -
Gratuity to T. J. Stutchbury, for services as Acting Sub-collector of Customs at Newcastle,
– That item is contained in subdivision 5 of division 35, which the Committee has passed, but I shall be prepared to give the honorable member that information later on.
– I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you are now putting the votes by divisions, instead of by subdivisions, as formerly.
– It was determined by general consent yesterday to take the votes by divisions.
– I think it is a pity that whole divisions should be passed without honorable members opposite expressing their opinions on the items therein contained.
– We have done , very wellto-night.
– The administration of the Customs Department calls for the most rigid scrutiny on the part of the free-trade section of the Committee, at least.
– They are gagged.
– I do not think that they are all gagged. I do not believe that the Honorable member for New England is gagged. Necessarily in a Department like this there must be items which may be challenged by honorable members who hold fiscal opinions which are opposed to the collection of Customs duties. It hasbeen proclaimed with great gusto in this Chamber, and throughout the country, that, now that there is a protectionist in charge of the Customs Department, protection is safe, even though there is a “shandygaff” Ministry in power.
– His predecessor was also a protectionist.
– He never made a fetish of the fiscal question.
– By universal consent a general discussion took place on the first division of this Department, and, that having concluded, we are now following the usual and proper course of dealing only with the items contained in the division before the Chair. I do not know how far the honorable member’s remarks may lead him, and therefore I would now remind him that we are dealing with division 37.
– My remarks may seem a little discursive, but I propose to connect them with the division later on. Like other speakers, I must have time to develop my ideas.
– I have no desire to treat the honorable member differently from other honorable members.
– I am sure of that. Perhaps what I am about to say does not apply directly to the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs in Queensland, but it is impossible to dissociate that administration from the administration of the central staff. I believe that a good deal of money has been unnecessarily expended by the Department in defending claims which its officers have known could not be successfully defended in a Court of Law.
– The honorable member has stumbled on a point at last.
– I had it in my mind all along, but I did not wish to be forced to refer to it prematurely. In the first place, however, I desire to complain of the manner in which some of the employes of the Department have been treated. Several officers have been dismissed from theservice. and have been denied the rights of ordinary litigants. In other parts of theEstimates considerable sums have been set down as compensation for officers who have Been dismissed. Knowing the circumstances under which some of these men have been dismissed, I think that they have been treated very badly. Some of them have been got rid of on the most . frivolous pretexts, and in one case of which I know personally the rights given by the Victorian Public Service Act were denied to those affected. The result was that the officer was reduced to the direst straits, and his family were in need of bread.
– Was that in Queensland ?
– No, I am not referring to Queensland, or to any State in particular, but to certain misdeeds of the central administration.
– The division relating to the central administration has been passed. The honorable member will have an opportunity in connexion with the report of the Committee to discuss the action of the central staff.
– I am quite aware of that, but it is impossible to dissociate the Queensland Estimates from the central staff in Melbourne. I take it that these Estimates are framed by the central staff, and that it is still open to honorable members to comment upon any bad management upon their part.
– No, the honorable member must not discuss the central staff at this stage.
– In that case, I shall be obliged to refer to the disparity between some of the salaries paid to officers in Queensland and those provided for officers holding similar positions in Victoria and New South Wales. I take it that I shall be fully justified in doing that. The salary of the Collector in Queensland is £750, which compares favorably with the salary paid to the Collector in Melbourne, who receives the same amount. I think, however, that the Collector in Melbourne is very much better off, because he lives in a city which has a better climate, and in which the cost of living is less. Officers stationed in remote places are entitled to receive relatively larger remuneration than those who are called upon to perform their duties in more favorable situations, such as Melbourne and Sydney. I find that the salaries paid to the officers in the correspondence and accounts branches in Queensland and Victoria respectively are certainly not in proportion. For instance the Chief Clerk on the central staff in Melbourne receives £750 per annum, whereas the Chief Clerk in Brisbane, who, I presume, next to the Col lec- tor has the whole management and control of the Department, is paid a salary of only £335.
– Should not the importance of the office be considered ?
– No doubt, but I do not think that the honorable member’s ideas are altogether in accord with the provisions of the Public Service Act, which impose upon the authorities the duty of recognising seniority and merit. The honorable member seems to have some hazy idea that public servants should be paid salaries which would represent a percentage upon the takings in the Departments in which they are employed.
– I think , that they should be paid according to the work that they do.
– Does the honorable member assume that a clerk in Brisbane will not do as much work in a given time as a clerk in Melbourne ? His interjection seems to imply that the officers should be paid in accordance with the amount ofmoney that passes through their hands. I would direct his attention to the fact that the Chief Clerk in Tasmania, who must have less to do than the Chief Clerk in Brisbane, is paid £350, with an increment of £10, which will bring his salary up to £360. I presume therefore, that the honorable member will be prepared to propose a reduction in that item.
– The Chief Clerk in Western Australia draws a salary of £400.
– The honorable member must recollect that the cost of living in Western Australia is much greater than in Tasmania, and that the climate in the former State is not so favorable as that of the State represented by the honorable member.
– The honorable member is “ stone-walling “ now.
– The Minister has displayed such an amiable disposition, both in opposition and in his present position, that I do not feel inclined to fake any offence at his remark, although it is incorrect. I think that, at this hour of the evening, the Government might consider the desirability of adjourning. We had not a quorum present during the greater part of the evening, and the Opposition have gone to some length in meeting the wishes of the Government.
– Yes, to great length.
– The Honorable and learned member had better not talk in that way. The Opposition refrained to-night from adopting measures similar to those which were taken on a former occasion.
– After their leader had given a distinct pledge.
– I should like to know what obligation rests upon the leader of the Opposition to pledge himself to keep a House for the Government?
– That matter is not under discussion.
– I must be permitted to reply to an interjection.
– Interjections need not be replied to.
– They need not be; but it would be most unjustifiable to permit interjections and to debar the honorable member who is addressing the Committee from replying to them.
– I promise the honorable member that there will be no more interjections. If there are, I shall deal with the honorable members who so offend.
– In that case I shall proceed with my speech. I think that the expenditure proposed in connexion with this Department in Queensland should receive the careful scrutiny of honorable members opposite. Several increases are proposed, and the division which is now under consideration - unless I am mistaken - involves an expenditure of £51,934.
– That is quite correct.
– That amount is sufficiently large to justify honorable members in rigidly scrutinizing these items in detail. Although the Minister of Home Affairs has accused me of “stone-walling,” I have no desire to occupy the time of the Committee.
– I can give the honorable member all the information regarding the point to which he refers, in one minute.
– I appeal to honorable members opposite to scrutinize these votes a little more carefully, in the interests of the country, so that when they are called upon to appear before their constituents. - as they may be very soon - they will be able to justify every vote which they have recorded.
– When you, sir, commenced to put these Estimates in divisions, instead of in subdivisions, I was under the impression that you were adopting a course which had not been assented to by the Committee. It will be recollected that last night, in connexion with the Governor-General’s establishment, you first put subdivision
No. 1. I desired to deal with an item in subdivision No. 2, and therefore the Minister of Home Affairs consented to both subdivisions being discussed concurrently. Since then none of the other subdivisions in these Estimates have been put separately.
– The Governor-General’s establishment was the subject of a special concession.
– I do not know whether the statement of the Government whip is accurate.
– The Government, whip has nothing to do with the matter.
– I can quite understand that. The way in which honorable members opposite are prepared to sanction the expenditure of such large sums as are provided for in these divisions, shows that they must have been absolutely satisfied with the administration of the Watson Government, which they were so anxious to “ sand-bag “ a few months ago.
– These are the Estimates of the late Government.
– I am aware of that. I am merely pointing out that they must be eminently satisfactory to honorable members opposite, who were so anxious to displace that Administration.
– I understood that the honorable member had risen to a point of order.
– No. I intend to discuss the Queensland Estimates in this Department.
– Let us settle the point of order first.
– Very well. I ask why, in view of the practice of putting each subdivision separately, which has previously been adopted by this Committee, a departure has now been made by putting divisions separately?
– What has been done in the present instance has been frequently done upon other occasions. As a matter of fact, if the Committee so desire, the whole of the Estimates may be put as one vote. In matters of this sort, the convenience, of honorable members is always consulted. In the case of the Gover- nor-General’s establishment, it is quite true, I commenced by putting the subdivisions separately. That practice was found to be inconvenient to honorable members, and accordingly I put the subdivisions together. Honorable members will recollect that at the beginning of the Department of Trade and Customs, there are three subdivisions.
These were put together, and no objection was raised to the adoption of that course. The leader of the Opposition was present at the time, he heard the division put, and requested that upon it a general discussion should take place. However, I am anxious to consult the desire of honorable members in this matter. Do I understand that they ‘ wish me to put subdivision No. 1 -
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I desire to point out the increases for which provision has been made in these items. The Minister of Trade and Customs stated just now that he could explain the position of these Estimates in one minute, but I have waited for his explanation in vain.
– The Minister has not had a chance of explaining.
– Will the honorable member permit me to do so now?
– In regard to the whole of the Queensland Estimates, there is a decrease of fifty-two in the number of officers employed for ihe current vear, as compared with those engaged for 1903-4, and a decrease in the estimate for the present year, as compared with that of last year of j£i 3,046.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- I am pleased to hear the explanation of the Minister, but if we examine these Estimates carefully, we shall find that many of the officers who have been retained will receive large increases. For instance, the cost of the correspondence branch has been increased from ,£1,027 to £1,225. In the general division there has been a slight decrease. While we find that the number of officers in a particular branch has been reduced by fifty-one or fifty-two, we shall probably discover that they have been transferred to other branches, and are receiving a higher salary than before.
– But the cost of the Department in every State has been reduced. Notwithstanding that we have created a new branch for statistics, and also established the Patents Office, there is an all-round decrease.
– That must be very satisfactory to the members of the late Government who prepared these Estimates.
– I give them every credit for it.
– As a supporter of the late Government, I am pleased to hear that, notwithstanding the establishment of these new branches, an all-round decrease has occurred. It is interesting to note that an increase has occurred in the cost of the statistical branch, and that the cost of the clerical division of the analyst’s branch is also increasing.
– The statistical branch is a new one. Expenditure used to be incurred in respect of it in every separate State, but the work has been consolidated, and on the whole there is a saving.
– According to the Estimates before us, a sum of £1,678 was expended last year in the maintenance of a statistical branch of the Department in Queensland. That branch must have been in existence, or there would not have been any appropriationin respect of it. This year there is an increase in the vote for it. I have no desire to “ stonewall “ the Estimates, although the Minister of Home Affairs suggests that some honorable members have evinced an inclination to do so ; but in the interests of the electors who are compelled to pay these increases, I think that we should critically examine them. Many honorable members opposite are apparently quite prepared to agree to any proposed increase, simply because they are sitting behind a Government which has asked them practically to remain dumb, so far as the Estimates are concerned.
– I think that we may fairly ask that progress be reported. We have dealt to-day with a very important question, involving a large expenditure.
– I do not think there is any debatable item remaining to be dealt with in the Estimates of the Department of ‘Trade and Customs. Let us pass them before we adjourn. We are not making any creditable progress.
– Under ordinary circumstances, the question of the policy to be pursued in relation to the sugar industry, which was debated this afternoon, would have been discussed for two or three days. If the question had particularly affected New South Wales, we might have expected the Postmaster-General to deal with it in a speech extending over four or five hours. It is a reasonable time to adjourn. There are many items yet to be dealt with in the Estimates of this Department which ought to be discussed.
– If the honorable member desires an explanation as to any item, I shall be pleased to give it.
– One cannot mention all of them at a moment’s notice, but
I think it is only reasonable that progress should be reported.
– I think that the request that progress be reported is a reasonable one. The Government have no right to complain of the progress made by us to-day.
– I am not complaining.
– There can be no reason for sitting beyond the hour at which it is usual to adjourn. The discussion of the question affecting the sugar industry certainly did not occupy more time than it was reasonable to expect.
– Has not the honorable member already approved of these Estimates ?
– No; I approved of the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs, butthe general Estimates were not considered by the Cabinet of which I was a member. I have not raised my voice in connexion with any item in the Estimates for the Department of Home Affairs, but I had not previously seen the Estimates now before the Committee. Some of the divisionsare of considerable importance. I had intended to make some remarks in regard to the statistical branch of the Department, but the division in which it is provided for, and several other important divisions, were passed hurriedly, while I was absent from the Chamber. The fact that we have had a long discussion on important matters of principle is not a good reason for extending the sitting beyond the usual hour.
– On two or three occasions, when the noconfidence debate was proceeding, I stated that I was willing to sit later if other honorable members would do so, to get on with business, but honorable members opposite then objected that it would be unreasonable to sit after 11 o’clock. We have done good work to-night, and I think it would be wise to adjourn now, so that we may come fresh to the consideration of this division to-morrow.
– If there is any one Department whose Estimates are not contentious it is the Department of Trade and Customs.
– These are the most contentious of all the Estimates.
– I would be glad to know why? We have a splendid man at the head of the Customs Department, and, although the sub-department of the Patents Office was created towards the end of last year, and a statistical branch has been established, the expenditure of the Department, as a whole,has been reduced to the lowest amount compatible with efficiency, so that the sum asked for is £13,526 less than was voted last year. I admit, however, that the establishment of the statistical branch will effect a considerable saving, inasmuch as work which was formerly done in the States will now be done at the central office. I shall be very glad to give any information desired, but honorable members opposite are as responsible as we are for the progress of business. I am willing to postpone any contentious proposal, but I think that the rest of the Department should be passed to-night. The leader of the Opposition has, I believe, been through these Estimates, and I am sure that He will admit that there is nothing in them that can reasonably beobjected to.
– Personally, I see nothing to object to in the Estimates, though I cannot ask other honorable members to take my word for that. Whoever happens to be in charge of the Estimates must be prepared to meet criticism. The debate to-night has been upon a very important question, and, so far as I know, the time has not been wasted.
– lt was largely a debate on matters not affected by the Estimates.
– The first item in a Department is generally used as a peg upon which to hang important criticism, such as that which we have had to-night. I think that we might well adjourn at 11 o’clock. In any case, I do not think we should be asked to go bevond the Queensland division.
– Some honorable members have said that Ministers ought to be satisfied to adjourn now, but the matter may not be of so much consequence to them, because they have to reside in Melbourne to attend to their official duties, as to those who come from the other States. I consider that we should sit either late at night or in the mornings, in order to get through business more quickly. Although the debate to-night was on an important question of policy, there has been too much repetition. I should like to have sittings on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I protest against the statement of the honorable member for Bass about the debate to-night having been a waste of time.
– It is quite true.
– No one has wasted more time than has the honorable and learned member. He has frequently stated that that was his object.
-That is incorrect.
– I ask the honorable member for Kennedy to discuss the division before the Committee.
– The honorable member for Bass was allowed to characterize as a waste of time the discussion of a very important matter, and I desire to reply to him.
-The honorable member’s long parliamentary experience must show him that if that were allowed our proceedings might become interminable. The honorable member for Bass made a suggestion in connexion with the request of the leader of the Opposition for an adjournment; but if I allowed the honorable member for Kennedy to discuss it, I should have to extend the same privilege to others. I now ask the honorable member to discuss the question before the Chair.
– The position is that other honorable members have already spoken, and that I am denied my right to reply.
– I tell the honorable member that he has no right to deal with any matter not under the consideration of the Committee, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the question before us.
– But I want to know why I am singled out in this manner. There is only one. way to have the question discussed. I move -
That your ruling be disagreed to.
– The honorable member has written out his motion in the following words, “ That your ruling bedisagreed with,” but he has not stated what the ruling is. Standing order 228 is as follows : -
If any objection is taken to a ruling or decision of the Chairmanof Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and may forthwith be decided by the Committee ; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
Will the honorable member kindly state in writing the ruling to which he objects?
– I disagree with your ruling, and it is not necessary for me to do more than to state that.
– What is the ruling?
-The honorable member for Kennedy has not seen fit to state what the ruling is.
– I rise to order.
– Wasting time !
– If the “ howling dingoes” over there will be still for a moment, I will state my point of order.
– Is the expression “howling dingoes “ in order ?
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta withdraw that remark. ?
– I withdraw the remark, but I ask to be protected from interruption. I say that we have no right to discuss a question which is not stated. There is no question before the Chair, except one which cannot possibly be debated. What is the ruling, and when was it given, and in connexion with what? The honorable member for Kennedy has submitted a ridiculous motion which cannot possibly be debated.
– The honorable member for Kennedy has handed me a motion which I put to the Committee, and which, so far as it goes, is in order.
– What is theruling?
– That is for the honorable member for Kennedy to state. If the honorable member desires honorable members to vote in ignorance as to the ruling it is a matter for himself.
– The objection I take is that other honorable members were allowed to distinctly accuse honorable members of wasting time, and a charge was levelled against myself without justification. The discussion this afternoon was one of great importance, not only to the House but to the country.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question?
– I am showing reasons why I object to the ruling - why I object to be ruled out of order when I attempt to reply to remarks made by the leader of the Opposition, the Minister in charge of the Estimates, and another honorable member. I have always contended that all honorable members are on the same plane, and none possess privileges over the others.
– Do I understand the honorable member to wish to infer that I have been guilty of favoritism, because, if so, I cannot allow the honorable member to continue?
– I hope that the Chairman does not think for a moment that I accuse him of favoritism, but during the discussion certain references were made, and when I attempted to reply
I was ruled out of order. The honorable member who accused honorable members of wasting time should have been called to order, but he was not, and his remarks naturally brought forth a reply. I submit the motion because I do not thinkI should have been ruled out of order. However, as I have now really said what I wanted to say, I shall, with the consent of the Committee, withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– We have had a most important discussion this afternoon, which had we not been near the end of the session, would, I believe, have occupied a couple of days. Under the circumstances, I think we might reasonably adjourn.
– I am sure that honorable members opposite desire to co-operate with the Government in transacting the public business, whilst we, on our Dart, wish to act with perfect fairness to them. Without asking my honorable friends to do anything at all unreasonable, I think that in view of our common duties to the public, we may fairly pass the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs this evening. I have been looking at the Estimates, and I find that all questions of principle and importance have been settled in connexion with the divisions that have been dealt with.
– Oh, no; there is still another important matter to be discussed.
– Then let us deal with it, and settle it, instead of postponing it. I do not wish to unfairly tax the endurance of any honorable member, even though he may not be in a very delicate state of health, and I think that my honorable friends opposite will be able to survive the ordeal of a little extra work to-night. I do not ask them to go beyond the Department of Trade and Customs. We have not had a really late sitting in connexion with the consideration of the Estimates, and I think that we could dispose of the Department now under consideration before midnight.
– If we sit until midnight, we shall sit after it.
– Well, sit then.
– -All right, we are quite ready for honorable members opposite.
– May I suggest that I am still addressing the Chair, and direct the attention of the honorable member for Coolgardie to the fact that he was the first to introduce threatening language.
– The honorable member did so when he said that if we sat till midnight, we should sit after it.
– The threats came from behind the right honorable gentleman.
– Supporters of the Government have been talking all the evening of sitting until 12 o’clock.
– Would that be an appalling thing to ask of strong working men?
– I do not think it should be. We are all workers here, and desire to do a fair amount of business in the interests of the country. My honorable friends have treated me generously to-night, and I am the man to acknowledge it. But that is a matter quite apart from the question before us. I have a public duty to perform, and I am only asking honorable members to dispose of the Department of Trade and Customs. I admit the value of the discussion that took place this evening. I am raising no complaint upon that point. The subject was a very important one, and some of the information given was very useful. I am entering no complaint, but I would ask the Committee to recognise the period of the session at which we have arrived, and to couclude the consideration of the Department now before the Chair this evening.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I think it is only fair that we should adjourn at this stage. I desire to direct attention to the first item in the division under discussion. I think that the Collector at Brisbane receives a very fair salary. Several increases are provided for, and I think that we might test the feeling of the Committee upon these by having a few divisions. I feel disposed to move a slight reduction on the first item. In view of the fact that the Queensland public servants have had to submit to very severe retrenchment, the officers of the Commonwealth employed in that State should be called upon to submit to some reduction. It must be recollected that they do not pay income tax, and that, therefore, they can the better afford to submit to some slight diminution of their salary. The Queensland Commonwealth Customs staff has been reduced by fifty-two officers, and a saving of £13,000 has been effected. I should like, however, to be satisfied that the efficiency of the Department has been maintained. Although the Collector is a good officer, and performs his work very well, I think that, in view of the necessities of the State, we should require him to submit to some reduction of salary. The interpretation placed by the Treasurer upon the provision in the Constitution with reference to the refunding of three-fourths of the Customs revenue to the various States has inflicted great hardships upon Queensland. I move -
That the item “ Collector,£750 “ be reduced by £25.
– I do hope that individual officers will not be dragged into our little differenceshere, and made, as a result, to suffer. Personally, Ido not know the Collector of Customs in Brisbane; but I do know that last year he was voted his present salary by Parliament, and that the collector in Western Australia receives a larger remuneration. Leaving out of consideration the fact that a large quantity of gold is exported from the western State, surely the trade of Queensland warrants us in paying its Collector of Customs a salary equal to that which is paid to a similar officer in Western Australia. I do hope that his salary will not be made the sport of our differences in this Chamber.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I trust that the honorable member for Kennedy will withdraw his amendment, because the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, Mr. Irving, is one of the most capable officers in that Department. He is about 56 or 60 years of age, and may soon be called upon to retire. His salary under the State Government was £750 per year, and the particulars of his service show that he was State Collector of Customs, and was transferred to the service of the Commonwealth on the 1st January, 1901, when the Customs Departments of the various States were taken over by the Federal authorities. He has a total service of thirty-six years, and is entitled, on that account, to some consideration.
– I think that there should be a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– I would like to ask, Mr. Chairman, whether you will take a motion from me - “ That the honorable member be no further heard.”
– I cannot accept such a motion.
– Mr. Irving is in Division A of the Commonwealth Service, and under the classification scheme, his salary, including rent, was fixed at £750. I have known him for a number of years as a very capable officer. He has to administer a number of Acts, among which is the Sugar Bounties Act. A report which was recently presented to the Minister will give honorable members an idea of the amount of travelling, by steamer, rail, buggy, and on horseback, which this entails, not only upon his inspectors, but upon the Collector himself.
– Then let us come to a vote. The honorable member has made out a good case.
– We will give honorable members a taste of what we can do first.
– Is the honorable member in order in threatening to obstruct business ?
– If he desires his expression to convey a threat of obstruction he is not in order.
– I have no wish to obstruct. The idea is an imagination of the honorable member’s debased mind. The officer to whom I am referring has also to administer the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act, No. 17 of 1 90 1. He is an excellent linguist, speaking seven or eight languages, and accompanied the right honorable member for Adelaide, as an interpreter, during his visit to Northern Queensland. If the Minister wishes a person who is suspected of being a prohibited immigrant to be examined, the examination is part of the work of the Collector. The Act under which these duties are performed is entitled -
An Act to place certain restrictions on immigration, and to provide for the removal from the Commonwealth of prohibited immigrants.
That Act is as follows : -
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majestythe Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia -
– I submit that the honorable member is not in order in reading the Immigration Restriction Act to the Committee.
– The . honorable member, so far as I follow him, desires to show the work which this officer has to do under the Act.
– But the honorable member is reading the title of the Act.
– It was not my intention to allow the honorable member for Maranoa to proceed further with the reading of matter not affecting this officer. I ask the honorable member to confine his quotation to those portions of the Act which affect the officer whose salary we are discussing.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quo
– I would direct special attention to the duties of this officer under section 3, which provides that, amongst others, the following shall be prohibited immigrants : -
– Standing order 276 provides -
The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition or the taking up of time by a speech of such unwarrantable length….
I desire to intimate to the honorable member that I think he is bringing himself very nearly within this Standing Order.
– I am merely detailing the duties which this officer has to perform.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that this officer, although he may be Collector of Custom’s, and may be intrusted with those duties, does not perform them by virtue of the Act from which the honorable member is reading. An “ officer “ under the Act means any person appointed under the Act - any officer of Customs, and not any particular officer. I submit that the reading of the Act is out of order.
– In my opinion, rbe honorable member for Maranoa has, up to the present, not seriously transgressed the rule but I have already given him an intimation which I hope he will accept.
– I should like to know who has charge of the administration of the Act, if not the Chief Officer of each State? Some few years ago, when I had to see the Collector of Customs in Brisbane in connexion with a Japanese on a mail boat lying at the wharf, he told me he had charge of the administration of the Act, and he told me the same at the beginning of the year, when I had to see him about a prohibited immigrant.
– Yes, but that is not by virtue of his office.
– But he does the work, and he is paid £750 per annum.
– I desire to direct attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I shall not detain the Committee any longer, but shall content myself with making a protest against the proposed reduction of £25.
– I have not the advantage possessed by the honorable member for Maranoa of being personally acquainted with the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, but I have no doubt that he is a very valuable officer. I did not hear the honorable member for Kennedy, and, therefore, I am at a loss to understand the reasons which actuated him in moving for a reduction of the item. I have, however, had the advantage of hearing the honorable member for Maranoa, who is a strong advocate of the claims of the Collector. I cannot conceive of any justification for singling out one officer for treatment of the kind proposed by the honorable member for Kennedy. I could have understood his action, if his proposal had formed part of a scheme for a general reduction of the salaries paid to the higher officials of the Commonwealth. Having heard no direct complaint against the officer, I do not feel justified in following the honorable member for Kennedy. When an officer has so many onerous duties to perform in connexion with a number of important statutes, his salary should not be reduced unless substantial reasons are advanced. The administration of the law relating to the sugar bounties imposes upon the Collector the most important functions, and the success of that legislation must largely depend upon the discretion which he exercises.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The distribution of the sugar bounties is a very important work ; and if the officer performs his duties as well as has been represented by the honorable member for Maranoa, I can only conclude that the honorable member for Kennedy has failed to advance substantial reasons for the reduction of his salary. We should consider the responsible duties he is called upon to discharge-
– The honorable member must not be .guilty of repetition.
– I am not guilty of repetition. If the Chairman had waited for a moment he would have found that I was about to refer to an entirely different matter, namely, the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– The honorable member is now distinctly out of order in instructing the Chairman as to his duty.
– I was not instructing the Chairman.
– Order ! The honorable member is now contradicting me.
– I know that things are getting a little bit mixed, and I can make every allowance for that. We are all becoming a little tired, and perhaps our tempers are being tried to some extent. If a reasonable position had been taken up by the Prime Minister, the present period of irritation might have been avoided. We have had sufficient experience of the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act to know that it requires to be enforced with great care .and discretion, and by officers who will reflect credit upon the framers of the Act, and upon the Government whose servants they are. Inasmuch as no complaint has been lodged against the officer in question, we should pause before we reduce his salary. I believe that when we have a good man we should pay him well. We have heard many complaints that we have not insisted upon the law being strictly administered.
– I regret that there is not a quorum present in the Chamber. [Quorum formed.]
– The manner in which the alien immigration restriction laws have been evaded renders it essential that we should have a Customs officer in Queensland in whom we may repose the most implicit confidence. Owing to laxity on the part of officials in some of the States of the Commonwealth, aliens have been admitted without remonstrance-
– I desire to take your ruling, sir, as to whether the honorable member is in order in discussing the Immigration Restriction Act, apart from the duties which the Collector of Customs is required to perform.
– So long as the honorable member connects it with the item which is under discussion he will be in order. But I would point out that he has already spoken twice of the effect of maladministration in the various States.
– I have never, as a matter of fact, used the term “ maladministration.” I said “ ill administration.” I claim that I am at liberty to continue my remarks, so long as I can connect them with the officer whose salary is under consideration.
– Order ! I have already ruled in favour ofthe honorable member, so that it is not necessary for him to discuss my ruling.
– I was endeavouring to prevent a waste of time in the shape of interjections. In the administration of the Alien Immigration Restriction Act, every officer who appreciates the responsibility cast upon him-
– The honorable member is now repeating himself.
– It is sometimes neces-. sary to do that, in order to prevent misunderstanding. It is far from my desire to needlessly repeat anything that I have said previously.
– Order ! I have already warned the honorable member several times. I will now bring standing order No. 276 into operation by pointing out that the honorable member is guilty of continuous irrelevance and tedious repetition, and I therefore direct him to discontinue his speech.
– I rise for the purpose of moving that your ruling be dissented from by this Committee.
– It is not competent for the honorable member to do that. Under the standing order to which I have referred the honorable member for Gwydir has a right to require that the question whether he shall be further heard shall be put to the Committee.
– I shall certainly take advantage of that standing order by requesting you to put that motion to the Committee,
– Do I understand, sir, that you rule that I cannot move a motion dissenting from vour ruling ?
– The honorable member can vote with the Ayes upon the motion which I shall put to the Committee.
– I respectfully submit that at no stage of our proceedings is an honorable member deprived of his right to move that the ruling of the presiding officer be dissented from.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. I have given, not a ruling, but a direction. If the honorable member will look at standing order No. 276 he will recognise that. The remedy is provided by the standing order itself. The motion which I shall put to the Committee is whether the honorable member for Gwydir be further heard.
– Mr. Chairman-
– There can be no debate upon the motion.
– Has the honorable member for Gwydir been ordered to discontinue his remarks?
– Yes, upon the grounds of continuous irrelevance and tedious repetition.
– I think that they were quite relevant, at any rate.
Question - That the honorable member be further heard - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I move-
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
It seems to me, in view of the condition of irritation in which the Committee is, that it would be wise on the part of the Government to agree to adjourn. We have been trying the patience of the Chairman to a great extent to-night, and in his interests, as well as in the interests of the conduct of public business, it is reasonable that we should now adjourn, and allow the consideration of these Estimates to be resumed to-morrow. I must say that I have never before in this Parliament witnessed anything like what has occurred to-night.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
An Honorable Member. - The Committee supported the Chairman.
Honorable Members. - It had.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- I regret 4ha.t it should have fallen to my lot to move that your ruling be dissented from, Mr. Chairman ; but I cannot allow it io pass unchallenged. I feel that ‘ a very serious error was made by you, and, without wasting time, or making use of a word that would give the slightest offence either to you or to any honorable gentleman opposite, I respectfully submit that your decision cannot be upheld by the Committee. Directly you had informed the Committee that the honorable member for Gwydir was guilty of tedious repetition under standing order 276, I rose to move that your ruling be dissented from, and you then told the Committee that what you had given was a decision, not a ruling. Standing order 276 reads as follows: -
The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, or the taking up of time by a speech of such unwarrantable length as to obstruct the business on the part of a member, and may direct such member to discontinue his speech-.
You ruled that your direction under that standing order is not a ruling which may be challenged by the Committee. I respectfully submit that it is, and in support of my position I refer you to standing order 228, which say’s -
If any objection is taken to a .ruling or decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once “in writing, and may forthwith be decided by the Committee ; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
I am aware that dissent from the ruling of the Chairman must be made directly that ruling is given, and, therefore, I took the earliest opportunity to raise the question.
– Of course, the Government must decide how the business of Parliament is to be carried on ; but the Prime Minister’s experience of all-night sittings in the New South Wales Parliament must have led him to form the opinion that they do not conduce to the forwarding of business, and are not likely bo maintain the best traditions of parliamentary government. A number of important speeches have been made in regard to matters relating to the administration of the Department, the consideration of whose Estimates was commenced this afternoon. This debate was participated in by both sides of the House.
– Two hours were occupied by one side, and five hours by the other.
– I scarcely know what the Minister means. If he means that one side properly discussed the matter, and the other side obstructed, there might be some point in his remark. If, however, it is admitted that it was fair discussion, I fail to see the point. I took no part, because the matter on which I wished to say a word was on another item connected with New South Wales, and I wished to reserve my remarks for that item. I had occasion to leave the Chamber for a few minutes, and when I returned I found that the whole of the votes of this division had been disposed of.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– On my return I found that, owing to the method first adopted having been departed from, several divisions of the Department had been passed without the consideration of the principal States. The votes connected with the Central Staff, the Patent Office, and the Statistician’s Department - the two latter being new branches created during the year, and having jurisdiction in very important matters, which might have occasioned some debate - had been dealt with, and the Committee were engaged in considering business connected with the State of Queensland. In that short space of time, there had been authorized an expenditure of over£200,000 out of a total of £269,000. From the money stand-point, which is a big standpoint as affecting the electors, we had done a considerable amount of work before the adjournment was asked for. I must disclaim any charge of obstruction on my part. It is true that on, those, as on previous Estimates, I have had a word to say, but on those occasions my words have been brief and to the point. I have all along been voting with the Government until tonight, when the motion was for the purpose of gagging a member. I have taken part in another place in a number of divisions on a similar question; but I have always opposed applying the gag ; and, until I see good reason, I shall not alter my attitude. I do not think the motion to which I now refer was warranted to-night. If, however, it is to be applied, as in the case of the honorable member for Gwydir, it is possible that in time, the whole of the Opposition may be gagged, and the Government permitted to carry their measures by brute force. I am prepared to give the Government every help in the expedition of business, when I am in reasonable agreement with their proposals; and I think I have shown that that is my desire.
– Does the honorable member believe in time being occupied in describing the personal appearance of public officers?
– While I do not believe in that course, I think that when the Government refused the adjournment, they invited some action of the kind. I am now speaking for myself only. If we are to have a repetition of what we saw to-night, when threats were hurled from one side of the Committee to the other, we may well be afraid, seeing that an honorable member’s mouth has been shut, that measures may be carried by brute force.
– We have had precious little of that, I am sure.
– I hope we shall have no more.
– It is no pleasure to me.
– Did the honorable member for Canobolas hear an honorable member of the Opposition say that the Government would be given a taste of what the Opposition could do ?
– I heard an honorable member on the other side say that the Opposition would be given a taste of what the Government could do.
– And I should think the Government would respond !
– The trouble was started on the Government side.
– It did not.
– I heard a challenge from the Government side, before I heard one from the Opposition side. What we desire is to carry on the business in a reasonable way ; and the present spirit is not that in which to conduct the government of the country. If we are to have these, all-night sittings-
– Who is making it an allnight sitting?
– I think the Prime Minister cannot charge me with obstructing business.
– The honorable member is doing a little bit now.
– I ask the Prime Minister now, whether he cannot see his way clear to grant an adjournment? Personally, I am quite prepared to meet tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, in order to carry on the business.
– The honorable member knows that when the Opposition takes charge, it is time for the Government to show fight.
– If the Government want to show fight-
– The Government have to do so, if they have any manliness.
– I think that when the Opposition asked for an adjournment, there was no reason for the attitude assumed by the Government.
– Was it not in reason to ask honorable members to sit a little later than 11 o’clock?
– That is a matter of opinion. If the Government have drawn their sword, that is another matter, and it is useless to appeal for other methods.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Honorable members opposite are most unreasonable in their attitude. The leader of the Opposition has time and again invited the House to sit all night, and I was one who protested against his request a. little while ago.
– On what question was that ?
– I cannot recall the question.
– I say that that never took place.
– That settles the matter, I suppose. One begins to understand the intelligence at the back of this obstruction. I am surprised at the honorable member for Canobolas, who is usually a fair man in this Chamber. I could understand “stone-walling” on a big principle, such as the imposition of a new Tariff.
– Then I suppose the honorable member would be justified in “ stonewalling “ ?
– Any honorable member is justified in “ stone-walling “ a measure, if he thinks such a course in the public interest. That is a well recognised rule in a parliamentarysense; but are honorable members opposite following that rule now?
– Then one member, at any rate, says that the Estimates should be obstructed.
– That is unfair.
– The Estimates are the only question before the Housie - an officer’s salary.
– What khe honorable member for Gwydir said was that he was doing what the honorable member for Parramatta spoke of as correct.
– I have yet to learn that there is any sense in the drivelling inanities which are going on from night to night in connexion with the Estimates. I appeal to honorable members to be reasonable, and allow the Estimates to go through, so as to enable us to get into recess.
– Is the Government procedure going to attain that end?
– I am not complaining of the time that was occupied on an important subject this afternoon. But it is a different matter when an honorable member moves an obstructive motion, and is followed by another honorable member who declares that he will give the Government a taste of what the Opposition can do.
– The sum of ,£200,000 had been voted before that occurred.
– There, is no reason why the whole should not have been passed, seeing that there are no debatable items in the Estimates of the Department, That is proved by the item which has been picked out for discussion - the salary of an officer with whose salary there is no desire to interfere. If this had been a legitimate proposal, I could have understood it, but an honorable member first submits a motion, and then asks another honorable member to oppose it.
– I never did.
– The honorable member invited the honorable member for Maranoa to oppose the proposal.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– And the honorable member for Maranoa ‘opposed the motion in a most obedient and docile way. It is patent that the present proceeding is for one purpose only, namely, to obstruct the passage of the Estimates, and thereby prevent the payment of the public servants.
– The .honorable member for . Canobolas, and another honorable member have, in my opinion, endeavoured to place the responsibility for my action on the Government. I wish honorable members to understand that I accept fully and completely all responsibility. I am in a position in which I have a duty to perform; and it was only after careful consideration, without consulting anyone, and after warning the honorable member for Gwydir twice, that I took action. I regret very much that I was compelled to interfere; and after warning the honorable member twice, I would take the same course again under similar circumstances. I do not wish any one to be blamed for an action which I took on my own responsibility.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- The course of events during the last hour is in my opinion unparalleled in the history of British Parliaments. I do not think that in any British Parliament any such power is relegated to the Chairman of Committees as that which has been exercised to-night.
– What are the Standing Orders for?
– The Standing Orders are absolutely out of accord with precedent if they are interpreted rightly by the Chairman. ‘ Standing Orders which govern debate in Committee, whether in New South Wales, or any other State, contain a provision under which an honorable member may be called upon to desist from speaking if, in the opinion of the Committee, by a certain specified, and not by a simple majority, he has transgressed. Yet, in the Parliament qf the Commonwealth, should we happen to have a partisan Chairman, backed up by a party with a solid majority, it would be possible for any honorable member against whom that Chairman had a strong feeling, to be called upon to cease speaking under any circumstances. When I was called to order I had been speaking for twenty minutes only upon a most important subject.
– It was not a matter of time, as the honorable member must know.
– I did not know it.
– I told the honorable member so.
– -Even so. I maintain even now that I had no intention of obstructing the business of the Committee or of repeating myself.
– How. can the honorable member say that?
– I cannot, in a matter of this kind, submit to the judgment of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Parramatta has referred to obstruction and “ stone-walling,” and a number of other things, but he admitted at a former stage that the discussion which took place upon the question of the sugar bounties was of a perfectly legitimate character.
– I had no objection to that.
– The Prime Minister has nothing to complain about with regard to the manner in which the business has been conducted up to the present time. I cannot be justly accused of having delayed the progress of business, or of having indulged in unnecessary repetition. I spoke for only twenty minutes upon a perfectly legitimate motion, when I was called upon by the Chairman to cease speaking, on the ground that I was guilty of tedious repetition and continued irrelevance. The Standing Orders do not warrant the Chairman in assuming the character of a dictator, and I certainly shall not submit to humiliation at his hands. If his dictum is to be accepted, he could, with the assistance of a gagging majority, practically close the mouths of every member of the minority.
– I desire to direct attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– To-day I addressed myself quite legitimately to the subject which was then under discussion. To-night, also, I took up a certain attitude, because I entertained the opinion that an unfair proposal had been made to reduce the salary of a Customs official.
– Rubbish !
– I can scarcely credit that the right honorable member for Swan is so ungenerous as to refuse to accept my assurance.
– The honorable member knows nothing whatever about this particular officer.
– Surely it is not necessary that I should be personally acquainted with every officer in the PublicService before I am at liberty to stand up and defend him. I had been speaking only twenty minutes when I was adjudged guilty of tedious repetition.
– The honorable member has already said that a dozen times.
– I do not intend to be dictated to by the honorable member for Lang. He seems to be rapidly developing into a dictator-general. I again ask the Prime Minister to agree to an adjournment! of the debate.
– I have been anxious to adjourn it for a long time. Let us first put’ through two or three pages of the Estimates.
– I am not responsible for the delay which has occurred. The Chairman alone is responsible. Will the Prime Minister agree to an adjournment oB the debate upon the Estimates when we have disposed of those relating to Queensland?
– The whole of the Estimates of the six States have been framed upon the same basis. We have passed thoserelating to three States without any objection being offered. Why not dispose of the other three?
– It is now 2 o’clock in the morning, and if the Prime Minister remains obdurate, what will be the result?
– If I agreed to the suggestion of the honorable member we should pass the Queensland Estimates in two minutes, and it would only occupy four more minutes to pass those relating to the other two States.
– I cannot admit that. No good can be accomplished by initiating all-night sittings. They are calculated to demoralize the Parliament, to undermine the health of honorable members, and to induce them to say things which do not redound to their credit.
– I will help the honorable member along if he will only trust me a little bit.
– I am perfectly prepared to trust the Prime Minister. I regret that I have been the cause of an incorrect decision on the part of the Chairman, or of something worse than that.
The ACTING- CHAIRMAN (Mr. Batchelor). - Is the honorable member reflecting upon the Chair?
– No; I am speaking of the Chairman who is now absent. These all-night sittings, I contend, are calculated to makehonorable members unreasonable towards one another. Personally, I believe that the Chairman was growing tired; that he was suffering from mental exhaustion, and that consequently he was induced to rule as he did. I think that he was sincerely desirous of doing his best to expedite the conduct of public business.
The ACTING - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Batchelor). - I think that the honorable member is reflecting upon the Chair.
– These all-night sittings are productive of no good results. In future, I trust that the Prime Minister will allow the Committee to adjourn at a reasonable hour.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- We have heard a good deal of specious reasoning as to why the Committee should conclude the consideration of the Estimates relating to the Customs Department before progress is re ported. The Prime Minister has declared that there is no principle involved in them, inasmuch as the Estimates of two States were passed without any opposition. I would point out that if the Committee made a mistake in allowing those Estimates to pass without criticism, we shall be duplicating that mistake if we agree to the balance in the same way. I am surprised that so keen a logician as the Prime Minister should have attempted to mislead the Committee by such fallacies. Certainly, I could never subscribe to such a doctrine. As I remarked upon a previous occasion, the silence of honorable members opposite is extremely significant. I entertain a great regard for them, and I trust that I shall see them in another Parliament. However much honorable members desire to dodge a dissolution they will be compelled to face one very soon. It is just as well that they should recognise the dangers which confront them. The other day I was fortunate enough to discover that an Italian nobleman had been entertained by the Ministry at the public expense.
– That item is not upon these Estimates.
– I would remind the Prime Minister that we are now discussing the motion that the Chairman shall leave the Chair. When we resume the consideration of the Estimates, I shall have a good deal to say upon the various items; but I now make another appeal to the Government to adjourn. We know that it is magnificent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it as a giant; and the Prime Minister, having a majority to-night, should be magnanimous.
– If we consent to adjourn now, will the honorable member promise to put the rest of the Estimates-in-Chief through at the next sitting?
– All but the Post Office estimates.
– I promise that, so far as I am concerned, I shall not object to the whole of the Customs and Treasury estimates going through at the next sitting. If that is done, I think we shall have made very good progress.
– Can the honorable member speak for his party?
– No, I only speak for myself. We differ only in our methods of arriving at the same result, and at this hour, with the greatest confidence in the magnanimity of the Government, I make another appeal to the Prime Minister to adjourn.
– I hope that as we have sat so late, the Prime Minister will stand firm in the position which has been forced upon him, and will insist on passing the estimates of the Customs Department before we adjourn.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I desire to point out that the Prime Minister was wrong in supposing that after we have dealt with the estimates for the Queensland branch, there is nothing to be discussed in connexion with the rest of the estimates of the Customs Department. If the right honorable gentleman will look at page 56 of the Estimates, he will find an entirely new item, “ To adjust salaries of officers entitled to increments under State laws, £237.” That opens up a very big question, and a matter of very great importance to the whole of the South Australian officers in the Commonwealth Service. Under the classification scheme, the salaries of South Australian officers have been reduced in a far greater degree than those of officers in any of the other States. This is recognised to some extent by the Government, but a very much greater sum than is provided for on these estimates will be required if the promise of the Public Service Commissioner that no officer is to have his salary reduced in consequence of the classification, is to be given effect to. There will necessarily be a good deal of debate on the item to which I have referred, and I remind honorable members that the matter has been before the House now for a very long time.
– Then it is about time it was settled.
– The right honorable gentleman should know that it could not be dealt with until we came to the item on the Estimates. I might have referred to the question on the first line of these estimates; but I felt that it would be more fair to discuss the matter when we reached this vote. I have referred to the question now in order to show that the Prime Minister was mistaken in supposing that the consideration of the estimates for the Queensland branch of the Customs Department should satisfy honorable members.
– It might be possible to adjourn the consideration ofthe debatable items to which the honorable gentleman refers.
– That would overcome the immediate difficulty, but we should not know when an opportunity would be given to deal with the question.
– I would guarantee that an opportunity would be given.
– All that I am concerned about in this connexion is that the fullest opportunity should be given to discuss that particular item in the South Australian Customs estimates, and certainly the proper thing to do is to discuss it when we come to it in the ordinary course.
– The request for an adjournment was made at a reasonable hour, and the action of the Government in refusing to grant it has not brought about very satisfactory results, a state of irritation having been created which has caused a display of ill-temper on both sides of the Chamber, and a new rule as to the conduct of debate has been made, which are both to be regretted. I have stayed here against my personal inclination - because I am opposed to all-night sittings - in order to bring before the Committee the manner in which the Immigration Restriction Act has been administered in Western Australia.
– Hear, hear. I have a word to say on that subject, too.
– Western Australia is being flooded with foreigners of all descriptions, who are coming into the country under the very eyes of the Customs officials. I think, however, that it is too late to discuss the matter now. Surely, as business men, we can come to some reasonable compromise which will enable us to get to bed, and will bring us here fresh for to-morrow’s sitting. I appeal to the Prime Minister to make a suggestion for such a compromise.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh). - I pointed out last night that a few weeks ago, when honorable members on this side of the Chamber were anxious to sit late to finish the no-confidence debate, Ministerial supporters objected, and yet they opposed the adjournment to-night. The Committee was in a good frame of mind when the adjournment was suggested at 11 o’clock, and I am sure that even the Prime Minister will admit that nothing has been gained by not consenting to adjourn. In my opinion, nothing will be gained by continuing the present proceedings. The Chairman was good enough to allow me to proceed perhaps further than was quite in conformity with the rules of debate, in introducing the matter which has been referred to by the honorable member for Boothby. It was then pointed out to me that a proper occasion for its discussion would arrive later. It is not, however, fair to ask us to discuss it at this hour, when many honorable members are away. I wish also to say something in regard to the administration of the Customs Department in South Australia.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Although the honorable member for Hindmarsh says thatthe Committee was in a good frame of mind at 11 o’clock, to-day’s Age - surely an impartial judge - says of our proceedings last night -
After a general talk about the White Australia question, sugar bonuses, the advisability of authorizing the Tariff Commission to inquire into the sugar industry -
– Is it in order for the honorable member to quote a newspaper article dealing with a debate now in progress ?
– I would point out that we are now discussing, not the Estimates, but the motion that the Chairman do now leave the chair, so that the honorable member’s point of order has no application, since the Age newspaper article deals with quite another debate.
– It is a recognised parliamentary rule that members may not read extracts from newspapers commenting on the proceedings of Parliament. If that were allowed we might be domineered over by the press with very serious results.
– I give in.
– I was sure that the honorable member’s intelligence would cause him to recognise the seriousness of the matter.
– Standing order 268 provides that -
No member shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents referring to debates in the House during the same session..
Therefore the honorable member for Parramatta is not in order.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy). - The leader of the Opposition has moved that the Chairman do now leave the chair, a motion which no Government, especially not one so high-principled as the present Administration, could accept, if passed, as other than a vote of censure. I regret that the adjournment was not moved at the usual hour, because twelve years of parliamentary life have convinced me that much more business is done before 11 o’clock than after that hour.
– We shall look like boiled owls in the morning.
– I have never seen a boiled owl; but I hope that we shall not be overtaken by so terrible a fate as I imagine that to be. It is true, as the Minister of Trade and Customs has said, that there is nothing very contentious in the Estimates of his Department; but there has just come into my possession certain information in regard to the Queensland sugar industry, which I wish to place before the Committee.
– Why did the honorable member vote to reduce the salary of the Queensland Collector of Customs?
– The honorable member was “ stone-walling.”
– I strongly resent these attempts to fasten on me the charge of obstructing. I emphatically deny that I have attempted to obstruct, and it is a well-known parliamentary rule that honorable members must accept such a denial. Every word that I have spoken on the Estimates has been uttered with conviction. The subject of the sugar industry is one in which I am deeply interested, and every word I said last evening I am prepared to stand by. Had we allowed the Estimates to go through, I should not have had an opportunity to bring this important matter under the notice of honorable members.. It has been said that there are not sufficient white men to do the work in connexion with the sugar-growing,but if the Standing Orders allowed me to read an article from a newspaper, I could prove the contrary, especially in regard to certain places in the Cairns district. If there were not sufficient white labour, the fact would offer some justification for. those who desire to reverse the present policy. The sugar industry has performed a great service to the Commonwealth. It has asserted the principle that for all time this vast Continent shall be retained for white men ; and it is necessary to take every precaution to preserve that principle in the interests of future generations. I am thoroughly convinced, from documents in my possession, that sufficient white men are available at the present time for all the work of harvesting, and other branches of this industry. This is shown by the circumstances attending a fire in a cane-field in the Cairns district a little while ago. A fire does not necessarily destroy the cane. While the trash and dry leaves may be burnt, the cane remains intact, though it is desirable to harvest it at the earliest possible moment. If a fire occurs in a 50-acre field, and 25 acres of cane are burnt, the damaged portion is attended to first. In the instance referred to, the overseer, in less than six hours, was able to double the gang by engaging extra men, and I may add that there were dozens of others available. The prompt action of the overseer in taking on the new hands, resulted in the whole of the cane being harvested. It must be clearly understood that the cane harvested under the circumstances would not be so great in density as the other cane, but, at the same time, the loss would have been enormous if the services of the white men had not been available. The point of the illustration is that a sufficient number of white labourers were available. As to the alleged unreliability of the white men, I know of two cases where overseers have been murderously assaulted by their coloured labourers, and this forms another reason why we should not allow the White Australia policy to be whittled away. I have here a statement by a gentleman largely interested in the sugar industry. That statement deals with the various methods adopted by a certain company in northern Queensland, in order to retain coloured labour in preference to white labour, and shows the schemes and devices adopted to frustrate the White Australia policy.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. (Quorum formed.]
– The Prime Minister said that he would be no man unless he resented the action of the leader of the Opposition, in moving the Chairman out of the Chair. I quite appreciate the attitude which the Prime Minister has assumed in this matter, but I am rather surprised at) his sudden accession of sensitiveness. He allowed a much more serious affront to be put upon him by the honorable member for Wilmot without manifesting the slightest resentment.
– It is a grand thing for the Labour Party to “ stone-wall “ the votes for the salaries of our public servants.
– I resent that statement, which I defy the honorable member to substantiate. I took a certain course in connexion with the item on the Estimates relating to the salary of the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, but I failed to obtain the support of a single member of the Labour Party. Therefore, it cannot, for one moment, be suggested that there is any organized “ stonewall “ on the part of honorable members on this side of the Chamber. A fair offer was made to the Government at an early stage of the sitting, and if that had been accepted we should all have been able to go home at a reasonable hour. I believe that some sinister motive underlies the action of the Government in attempting to force on the business in the manner they are now doing. We know that they have a very slender majority, and that they can very rarely bring all their supporters together.
– Two honorable members have come over from the Opposition side since the tactics now being pursued were resorted to.
– If there are any wobblers, honorable members opposite are welcome to them, because we have no use for them. I know that the Government are anxious to get into recess, and that they are shaping their course in such a way that after the passing of the Estimates they will be able to drop every measure that is now before us, and close the. session. Any such attempt on their part will prove futile, because honorable members on this side of the Chamber will not permit themselves to be dragooned into doing just as the Government please. Much time would have been saved, and the business of the country would have been advanced if the House had adjourned at a reasonable hour.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I regret that the Government did not see fit to consent to an adjournment at a reasonable hour. A fair offer was made to them, but they were not ready to accept it. They seemed to think that because rhey had a sufficient number of supporters here to insure a quorum, they could proceed at their own sweet will. Realizing the position of a certain measure in another place - and appreciating the treatment which has been accorded to certain amendments-
– The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– We know that certain events have occurred elsewhere, and that as a result the Government wish to hurry into recess. Legislation which was promised to the people, and which was included in the policy of the present Government, has been abandoned at the behest of certain organizations. In the interests of good government we should not be compelled to sit here-
– And listen to such drivel.
– We know very well how the honorable member for Moira kicked over the traces, and how he was brought up with a round turn.
– The honorable member knows better than that.
– I merely know what happened in this Chamber. Had the honorable member for Echuca been present he would have witnessed a most humiliating climbdown on the part of the honorable member for Moira. We know that the Government are desirous of disposing of the Estimates at as early a date as possible, with a view to getting into recess.
– We are dealing with the Estimates at the rate of one Department in a day.
– It is not my intention to detain the Committee at much greater length. One reason why you should leave the chair, sir, is that the method which is ordinarily adopted in putting the Estimates through has been departed from. I should not have taken part in any “ stone- wal ling,” had it not been for the decision of the
– Then the honorable member admits that he is “ stonewalling”?
– I am advancing reasons why the Chairman should leave the chair. Al the same time, I may tell the Government that in the future I shall not assist them as I have done in the past. I am anxious that the business of the country shall be conducted in a manner which will reflect credit upon the Parliament. We all know that the Government majority is absent in Tasmania, where he is probably shearing his sheep.
– The Government majority is growing.
– I have only the honorable member’s assurance to that effect. This afternoon the question of the effect of the sugar bounty upon Queensland was raised by the honorable and learned member for Wannon-
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. It was introduced by the honorable member for Herbert, and supported by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs.
– Whilst the debate upon that matter was in progress no “ stonewalling “ was indulged in. Between the hour of meeting and 10.15 P-m- last night, which is the ordinary hour of adjournment, the
Committee had passed about fifteen pages of the Estimates.
– The honorable member’s own leader asked that the remainder of the Estimates of this Department should be agreed to.
– I am surprised at the modesty of Ministers. We have been told that there is a “Recess Party,” and no doubt these Estimates are being hurried through in order to secure the support of that party for the Government. I shall not be sorry when we get into recess, because I shall then be enabled to let the people of Victoria know how certain of their representatives have broken their election pledges in this House. We know that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has supported an increase in the expense of the Governor-General’s establishment, although when Prime Minister he informed the House that it would not exceed ,£5,500 a year. I trust that the motion “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair “ will be carried, and that he will remain out of it for a long time, and that before the Chairman again takes the chair we shall have an opportunity of appealing to the electors, who, I have no doubt, will pronounce judgment on the present Government.
– I recollect that in the first Parliament the present Prime Minister did exactly what has been complained of during the last few hours, and, although no business had been transacted in the earlier part of the evening, the right honorable gentleman on that occasion protested against all-night sittings. From the discussion which has taken place one would think that the Estimates of the Customs Department covered no more than the sugar bonuses, but I point out that there are many items here which are of as great importance to some members of the Committee as are the sugar bonuses to repre sentatives of Queensland’. The unusual organization we have witnessed on the Government side since ten o’clock last night is some evidence of a determination on the part of the Government to put the Estimates through as far as possible. After that hour, instead of putting the votes in subdivisions, the Chairman has submitted whole divisions of these Estimates.
– The honorable member was not present when I explained the course I have adopted in that respect. I have already explained that in putting the Estimates in divisions, I have followed the practice of this Parliament since its inauguration. I have found on reference to the records that I was the first Chairman of Committees who put the Estimates in subdivisions. I did so until I was requested by honorable members on the Opposition side to put them in divisions, because they found that otherwise they could not discuss various matters as fully as they desired. The honorable member for Bland was present when I put the first division of these Estimates, and he made no objection to the course I followed, when it was agreed that there should be a general discussion on the first item. It is not fair that I should be placed in a false position, as I should be in the records of the House if, without protest, I were to allow it to appear that I had taken some advantage of honorable members, and desired to carry out a procedure which I should be the first to condemn as improper.
– I should be the last member of the Committee to put the Chairman in any such position. I had not the advantage of hearing the explanation which he previously gave. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has referred to a very important matter in connexion with the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act by the Department of Trade and. Customs, Which should be, dealt with in connexion with these Estimates. The administration has been so lax in many instances, that while the Government has been bearing the cost of keeping aliens until they could be deported, the aliens have also been charged with the cost of their detention. Complaints have been made with respect to the payment of refunds by the Department, and these are all matters which should be discussed on these Estimates. Any one who accuses me of attempting to block the Estimates does me an injustice. Up to the present I have not spoken upon them. What I am doing now is to assert my right to protest against these all-night sittings. Ministers may have their majority stiffened up for this occasion, but if they try to force business through without giving fair play to the Opposition, they will find that two can play at that game.
– The Government are trying to provide work for the people, and the honorable member is opposing that.
– They may be providing for the salaries of public servants, and for the erection of a few new buildings for their accommodation, but they are proposing nothing which will afford work to the unem- ployed of Australia. Up till half-past 10 o’clock last night, about an equal number of members from each side took part in the discussion on the sugar question, but when the Government found at 11 o’clock that they had a big majority, they declared that they would pass the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs before adjourning. They seemed to think that the discussion on the sugar question finished the discussion of those Estimates ; but there are a number of other important questions affected, and I intend to have my “ say ‘ ‘ upon some of them. Honorable members, however, are not in a fit state to deal with these subjects now. Our present proceedings are suggestive of a farce’. The Govern ment are trying fo carry through their Estimates in the most brutal’ fashion that I have ever witnessed.
– This attempt of the Government to force through the Estimates by exhausting the physical and mental faculties of honorable members is, in my opinion, a mistake. Those who have been in parliamentary life for any length of time have become more or less accustomed to all’-night sittings, as the results of attempts by Governments to expedite business ; but I think that failure almost invariably follows such attempts. The condition to which honorable members have been reduced by this prolonged sitting renders them unfit to properly consider the remaining divisions of the Department of Trade and Customs. The discussion of the sugar question was not unduly prolonged. The Government might, indeed, have expected a fuller discussion. Several divisions, too - for instance, those covering the patents and statistical branches - were passed hurriedly without discussion. Had I been in the Chamber at the time, I should have . risen to refer to one or two matters- covered by the vote for the ‘statistical branch though, of course, I am aware that I have now lost my opportunity.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– If the Government have not a majority in the Commonwealth, though they may have a bare majority in the House, that is a perfectly legitimate reason for preventing them by every proper means, from administering the public affairs. The Opposition have, without objection, constantly voted Supply, but the question tonight is not one of voting Supply, but of the particular form: which the expenditure of the Commonwealth should take.
– I beg to direct attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The object is to prevent the voting of the salaries of the public servants.
– The salaries of the public servants will undoubtedly be voted sooner or later. Will any honorable member contend that the Committee is in a condition at this late hour to carry on the discussion of the Estimates? There is every reason why we should adjourn. I think the Government acted somewhat hastily in accepting what was not intended as a challenge. I can assure the Committee that, on the part of the Opposition, there was no preconcerted plan or any desire to delay business. The debate during the day was perfectly relevant and conducted in the most satisfactory way. I was anxious to assist the Government to get on with public business as far as possible before we went into recess. They will not gain anything by adopting their present course. The members of the Opposition cannot be held responsible for the present proceedings, because a request was made for an adjournment at the ordinary time, and was refused. If the Minister of Trade and Customs had asked us to go on for another half hour, or for even another hour, we should not have demurred ; but when we were requested to dispose of the Estimates of the Customs Department before we adjourned, I think that we were being asked to do too much. A little consideration on the part of the Government is never lost, and Ministers should remember that many opportunities will be presented to honorable members on this side of the House to assist in expediting business. There has been no factious opposition on the part of honorable members on this side of the Chamber, and no unnecessary delay has taken place in connexion with the discussion of the Estimates. I hope that even at this stage the Prime Minister will see his way to make some offer which may be accepted as a compromise, and which will enable honorable members to obtain a little rest before proceeding with the ordinary business this afternoon.
– I desire to say a few word’s in reply to the frequent assertions of members of the Opposition that no obstruction was indulged in until after 11 o’clock last night. During the wholeof yesterday there was persistent stone-walling and obstruction of the public business. The members of the Opposition started the dis cussion upon the Estimates of the Customs Department, obviously with a definite object in view. After certain divisions had been passed, and the Queensland Estimates were submitted, the honorable member for Kennedy, and the honorable member for Coolgardie, rose and stated that the Estimates were being rushed through too fast, and that it was desirable that there should be a few divisions. That took place long before 11 o’clock.
– Nothing of the kind.
– A proposal was made that we should adjourn long before the usual hour, with the deliberate intention to obstruct the passing of the Estimates. The attempts which have been made to place the onus of the present proceedings upon the members of the Government will utterly fail, because the public will recognise that the members of the Opposition are solely responsible for the extent to which Parliament has been degraded.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made statements which are entirely opposed to the facts. When I came into the Chamber at twenty minutes to eleven last evening . I found the honorable member for Boothby asking the Government to consent to an adjournment.
– Honorable members opposite commenced to ask for an adjournment at ten minutes past ten.
– Nothing of the character suggested by the honorable member for Lang occurred until after I had spoken at ten minutes to 11 o’clock. My feeling is that it is high time that you, Mr. Chairman, were out of the chair. When I look round the Chamber I find that many honorable members are only half awake, and that a number of others are sleeping whilst we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds of the public money.
– That is just what we are not doing.
– It is not right that we should rush through Estimates involving the appropriation of hundreds of thousands of pounds without the slightest analysis. It is simply scandalous. I have purposely refrained from speaking in connexion with several items. When we were discussing the estimates relating to the GovernorGeneral’s establishment, Ministers insinuated that endeavours were being made to cast some reflection upon the GovernorGeneral. There was no justification for any such suggestion. If I had done my duty, I should have moved for the elimination of the item relating to the maintenance of the Governor-General’s establishment at Sydney. The expenditure now incurred is utterly useless, and I am quite sure that the Governor-General would raise no objection if we decided to save the tax-payers’ money by dispensing with the Sydney establishment. Honorable members are not now in a fit state to discuss the Estimates.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether the honorable member is in order in saying that we are not in a fit state to discuss the Estimates.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I could not have said anything milder. I confess that I am not in -a fit state to discuss the Estimates, and I am perfectly sure that my mental faculties are as clear as those of other honorable members. I have not indulged in any obstructive tactics, but if the Government do not consent to an adjournment, I shall be bound to see that this debate is continued until honorable members who have gone home to rest, have an opportunity to return to the Chamber. I should have been perfectly content to allow the Estimates of the Customs Department to be disposed of, if the Prime Minister had consented to the postponement of certain items to which the honorable member for Boothby and I desired to direct the special attention of the Committee.
– The items were not mentioned until about 3 o’clock.
– lt is not too late to arrive at some arrangement even now. The members of the Opposition were willing to arrive at a compromise, but the Government desired to force through the Estimates within a certain time, without allowing opportunities for consideration of several important items. It was suggested that no arrangement could be arrived at unless honorable members were willing to pass the Defence estimates within a certain time.
– The suggestion was not made by me, but to me by an irresponsible member of the Opposition.
– I did not say that the Prime Minister suggested a compromise, but honorable members on the Government side of the House led me to understand that the Government were prepared to agree to an adjournment, subject to our undertaking to allow the Defence estimates to be passed within a certain time.
– That suggestion was made to me by the honorable member for Barrier, and I have heard nothing more about it.
– I must have been wrongly informed, and I am very glad that the matter has now been put right. I am perfectly willing that the estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs should be disposed of, provided that the contentious items are postponed.
– What are they?
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee an important matter in regard to the salaries of the inspectors and lockers in the South Australian Customs Department, and the hon-, or,able member for Boothby desires to speak with regard to the salaries of some other officers. I wish to be assured that we shall have the fullest opportunity of putting these matters before (the Committee, in order that justice may be done. I shall not delay the Committee, unless the Government show a desire to keep us here whether we do business or not. If that is their intention, I am quite prepared to accept my share of responsibility. But I think it is only fair that the Prime Minister should now allow the House to adjourn.
– Unlike the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I desire no quarter from the Government. The Prime Minister has declared that he is prepared to sit here until Saturday night. Good luck to him ! I am quite ready to do likewise. If the Government are looking for “ lash “ they can Save it.
– The honorable member must have been dreaming. I Have never stated that I intended to sit until Saturday night.
– I was told so. Personally, I intend to do my best to send the Prime Minister and his supporters before their masters - the people. I intend to act upon the advice of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and the little lecture which has been delivered by the honorable member for Lang has about as much effect upon me as has water upon a duck’s back. I owe allegiance only to my constituents, and if my actions do not commend themselves to them, they are at liberty to deal with me at the proper time. Should the Prime Minister desire, he is at liberty to send a special envoy into my electorate with a view to compassing my defeat; or if he has a “ dark horse “ in Sydney he is welcome to trot him along to oppose my re-election. But I chiefly rose to point out that the State which I represent is in a very queer financial position. Repeated requests have been made to the Commonwealth Government to cut down the public expenditure in that State, and to assist it in every possible way in its frantic efforts to economize. But instead of that request having been acceded to, the expenses are being piled up continuously. Upon the Defence Estimates alone I find that there is an increase this year of from £10,000 to £12,000. Judged from the stand-point of its effectiveness it would pay that State to entirely suspend its Defence Force for a year or two. I hold in my hand a little report upon the cane sugar industry of Queensland, the reading of which will occupy me until breakfast time. It covers about 210 pages, and I intend to read it.
– For the purpose of wasting time?
– I will admit that. I say that I am wasting time; and I will repeat it as often as the Prime Minister pleases; but, in so doing, I am acting in the interests of my State.
– That is an honest confession.
– Does the honorable member imagine that all the virtues are to be found upon the opposite side of the House ? My experience is that I should beware of a man who is always parading his virtues. That fact was well illustrated the other day by the honorable and learned member for Indi. The honorable member for Lang has accused us of wasting time in discussing the Estimates.
– The honorable member has admitted it.
– I say that up till 11 o’clock last evening my utterances were in the nature of fair criticism. Did my constituents send me here to be a dummy ? Certainly not. They pay me for my services. Should the time ever come when I cannot satisfactorily discharge my duties I shall be prepared to resign my position in favour of a better man. I wish for no quarter from the Prime Minister, and I promise that he will get none from me. I repeat that up till 11 o’clock last evening there was no attempt upon my part to waste time. But I intend to waste time now, for the benefit of my constituents and of the country generally. The report which I hold in my hand was prepared by Dr. Maxwell, the Queensland sugar expert. I wish to connect that report with the office of the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, whose salary was under consideration last evening.
– I rise to a point of order. The question under consideration is not an item upon the Estimates, but whether you, sir, shall leave the Chair and report progress. Even if the honorable member can connect his remarks with the item to which he has referred, that fact will not make them relevant to the motion before the Chair. He has deliberately stated that he intends to read a certain report for the purpose of wasting time.
– He has stated that up till 11 o’clock last evening his remarks were in the nature of fair criticism, but that he now intends to read about 210 pages from the report of a sugar expert, and he has added that the task will occupy him until breakfast time. In view of these statements, I ask whether the reading of a long report by a Government expert in Queensland has any reference to the motion before the Chair?
– Might I point out that the Prime Minister has misstated the position of the honorable member for Maranoa. He admitted that he had participated in a waste of time - not that he proposed to do so.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Will this pack of dingoes stop howling?
– The honorable member must not be rude. He must remember his position and behave himself.
– I must ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw, Mr. Chairman. The noise temporarily deceived my ears.
– I submit that the honorable member has now aggravated his original offence. His last remark is a more offensive way of putting his former statement.
– This is the refinement of a point of order.
– It is a refinement which even my simple mind can understand. The honorable member’s insinuation is distinctly that we resemble a pack of dingoes.
– When the honorable member for Bland made that statement, I immediately called upon him to withdraw it, and he did so. Owing to some confusion at the time, his withdrawal was not heard. If, by any further remarks, he still implies that honorable members opposite come within the category of dingoes, I must ask him to withdraw it.
– I certainly do not suggest that.
– I think that Hansard will show that the statement which I made was that attributed to me by the leader of the Opposition.
– I am prepared to rule upon the point of order at once. I was under the impression that the honorable member for Maranoa had conveyed to the Committee his intention to waste time. But I would point out that it does not lie within my province to take any cognisance of such an intimation. I must wait until an offence has actually been committed. When the honorable member had transgressed the Standing Orders, I should have drawn his attention to the fact, and either have afforded him an opportunity of altering his method or have asked the Committee to assist me in carrying out the Standing Orders. Although the discussion, which may take place upon the motion, “That the Chairman leave the Chair,” is a very wide one, bearing in mind the decision of the Speaker, that it is not competent to discuss matters which are either before the House or Committee, the honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Estimates in detail.
– I am very sorry that I should have raised such a storm about the ears of the leader of the Opposition, of myself, and of honorable members opposite. I have no desire to fight, except in a political sense. I have no wish to waste the time of the Committee.
– The honorable member very soon backs down.
– I believe that I made flic statement which was attributed to me by )he leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member affirmed that up to ii o’clock last evening he performed legitimate work, but that he now intended to waste time.
– If Hansard reports me as having made that statement, I will not dispute it, but if I did so, I was in error. The first intimation we had of this allnight sitting was when the honorable member for Corangamite suggested to Ministers that we should sit until midnight. We have had an all-night sitting, and I do not think that much will be done even though we should sit until 2.30 o’clock this afternoon. >
I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members Dr. Maxwell’s report on the sugar industry.
The honorable member reading extracts from the report,
– I am sure the honorable member for Maranoa will understand that I have no desire to interrupt his speech unfairly, but when in my opinion an honorable member is out of order, it is my duty to ask for the ruling of the Chairman. I think that the Chairman has already stated the lines on which he must act under the Speaker’s decision. I believe that on the motion now before the chair, it is not competent for an honorable member to discuss matters which can be discussed upon the Estimates. As we know that this matter has already been discussed on the Estimates, and may be further discussed at a later stage, I submit that the honorable member is infringing the rule which has repeatedly been laid down by the Speaker.
– As I have already explained, this is a very wide motion. The motion that the Chairman do leave the chair is equivalent to a motion for the adjournment of the House, and it has always been understood that on such a motion very great freedom of discussion is allowed. Mr. Speaker’s decision had, I think, special reference to debate on notices of motion in connexion with which of course specific lines of discussion are laid down. I admit that there is a difficulty in regard to this particular case, and it would not, I think, be competent for me to interfere, unless the honorable member’s speech were continued at such length as in my opinion to be unwarrantable or unduly taking up the time of the Committee.
– If the Prime Minister will only suggest what he would like me to speak about I shall endeavour to accommodate him.
The honorable member read further extracts from Dr. Maxwell’s report, and proceeded :
I should be glad if honorable members opposite would look through this report, because I believe some of them do not agree with honorable members on this side on the subject of a White Australia.
– We do not believe in Queensland making us pay so much for it.
– That brings me to the question of the sugar bonus, and I admit that I do not believe in bonuses of any description. I may inform honorable members that we had some little experience of a bonus paid for the production of cotton in Queensland many years ago. Cotton was grown by the farmers around Ipswich, and the Ipswich Woollen Company converted some of their machinery into cottonweaving machinery in order to secure a bonus of .£5,000 offered for the first 5,000 yards of calico, locally^ manufactured from cotton grown in the State. As soon as the bonus was earned the mills in Ipswich were shut up. The offering of bonuses produces the same effect everywhere. Once a bonus is given to producers they claim that they cannot carry on their industry ‘unless it is continued. Another question to which I might direct the attention of honorable members has reference .to the condition of the finances of Queensland, and in this connexion I hope the Committee will assist Queensland members to keep these Estimates as low as possible. We are all wishful for a recess. Although Parliament has now been sitting for eight or nine months, I have spent only five weeks of that time at my own home. But if we allowed money to be voted which should not be spent, our constituents would demand an account of it. I think that the Prime Minister might at least let us adjourn now for breakfast. At 11 o’clock a number of us ought to attend a meeting of the Old-Age Pensions Committee, which has been arranged for the examination of some important witnesses.
– Although personally I am as fresh as paint, I might point out that we have now been sitting in a not too well ventilated chamber since halfpast 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, or nearly sixteen hours, and it approaches refined cruelty to keep you, sir, in the chair so long.- I regret that earlier in the sitting I felt obliged to dissent from your ruling, but I have no desire to challenge your fairness, and if any remark escaped me during the heat of the moment which might give ground for a contrary inference, I withdraw it, and express the hope that you will accept my apology for having made it. I am certain no honorable member on either side for a moment challenges your impartiality. It was remarkable that the Prime Minister should utilize the opportunity given by the Opposition last night to go to a function at which he told the people of Melbourne about the socialistic steam roller, which would go over young Australia, and flatten it out like a pancake. That was a most improper- observation for the right honorable gentleman to make .under the circum stances. Every honorable member is aware that the Prime Minister was dependent on the Opposition to keep a House last night. At the function to which I have referred, the right honorable gentleman pointed to the remarkable disappearance of Inter-State jealousy, as though that disappearance were due to his advent to office. If ever anybody, fostered hostile feeling between Victoria and New South Wales, by sneering at the former and its politicians, the Prime Minister is the man; and to tell a Melbourne audience that jealousy is disappearing, is a piece of pure hypocrisy. I should be glad if the statement were true, because provincial feeling of any kind is greatly to be deplored. We all’ regret the hardships inflicted on everybody involved in an all-night sitting of Parliament. If we members do not feel the strain so much ourselves, it is callous on our part to have no regard for the officers of the House.
– Why perpetuate the strain ?
– Why does the honorable member not persuade his leader to yield to the reasonable request of the Opposition?
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members on this side, who represent the forces of democracy, are determined not to allow the privileged classes to walk over their bodies in the future. We shall do our best to defend the position we have won, and ‘ carry the war into the enemy’s country. It is rather cruel of us to keep the officers of the House at work for such a long- time. Honorable members, when they feel tired, can go home to rest, but the officers of the House, including the Chairman of Committees, the clerks, the Hansard staff, and the attendants, have to be here during the whole time that we are sitting.
– May I suggest, in view of the sympathetic remarks of the honorable member, that we do not expect the Hansard staff to record the speeches delivered during these long sittings as closely as at ordinary times. I am sure that I speak with the general concurrence of the Committee when I make that announcement, and that honorable members will not complain if the report is considerably curtailed.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I agree with the suggestion of the Prime Minister. I thought at first that he intended to propose that the Hansard report should be suspended altogether.
– I should have done that, only I thought that it would involve almost too great an innovation.
– I have no objection to the suspension of the report.
– I have none.
– I deeply deplore the refusal of the Government to grant an adjournment at a reasonable hour last evening. Nothing is gained by a Government, even when they possess a. large majority, by needlessly challenging the Opposition. A wise leader of a Ministry will always endeavour to accomplish his objects by methods of pacification rather than by attempts to coerce or browbeat his opponents. That is my view of the position, but apparently it is not that of the present Government. Had they been present in the House instead of attending functions elsewhere they would have known that the debate which took place yesterday afternoon was of a very instructive character.
– I was the only Minister who was absent in the evening. We were all here during the afternoon.
– Some of the other Ministers were not present in the Chamber.
– That is always the case.
– I claim that the Government should have been satisfied with the progress which was made yesterday afternoon. The Prime Minister cannot expect to run the rule over the Opposition in the way that he sometimes attempts. He cannot forget the undignified position in which he has been placed by one of his supporters.
– The honorable member must recollect that the Opposition has lost some of its supporters recently.
– The honorable member is welcome to any supporter whom we have lost. I have nothing to regret. It is unfair on the part of the Government to compel members to remain continuously in attendance here for twenty hours, in addition to which these all-night sittings impose too great a strain upon the officers of Parliament.
– I notice that the party which is led by the honorable and learned member for Indi is not present. That is something to its credit.
– The honorable member himself is very censorious. No honorable member of this House has used’ more severe language than he has done. I am often tempted to apply to him a remark which Warren Hastings is credited with having made in regard to Francis. If hard words could slay, the honorable member would dwell solitary in a universe depopulated by himself. I regret that, owing to frequent interruptions, my remarks have occupied so much time, and I hope that my appeal for an adjournment will not fall upon deaf ears.
– When we reflect upon the cause of this long and acrimonious discussion, we must conclude that those honorable members who voted to curtail liberty of speech must now regret their action. I claim that the Opposition were perfectly justified in asking the Government to agree to an adjournment at the usual hour last evening. We asked for an adjournment at the usual hour, and we were informed by the Minister of Trade and Customs that he would consent to an adjournment when the Committee had dealt with the Estimates up to a certain point. I believe that if the Prime Minister had been present a different decision would have been arrived at; but I have noticed that whenever the right honorable gentleman has to attend a function something goes wrong with his Government. It would have been far better if the Government had accepted the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition to adjourn after the Committee had dealt with the Estimates for the Queensland branch of the Customs Department. It is the duty of an Opposition to criticise every proposal of a Government, and when such tactics are adopted as have been pursued by honorable members opposite on this occasion, I am prepared to do my share to bring the Government to a sense of what is just to honorable members. The Government must take the whole responsibility of the discreditable scenes which we have witnessed during the night. I am surprised that the Minister of Home Affairs has not exercised his persuasive influence upon the Prime Minister in the endeavour to arrive at a settlement. I, personally, have no desire to waste the time of the Committee, though I am certainly opposed to proceeding further with the Estimates until we have had an adjournment for rest and refreshment. We cannot be expected to pass the Estimates in globo without consideration or discussion. I am as anxious as any honorable member for a recess, but the Opposition cannot allow the Government to drive them. If, however, the Prime Minister challenges us to a trial of physical endurance, he will find that we are not easily vanquished.
– It is not a challenge, but a request to honorable members to transact public business.
– I am asking the right honorable gentleman to permit honorable members to put themselves in a frame of mind fit for the transaction of public business. If the right honorable gentleman has no consideration for the Opposition, he ought to have some consideration for the officers of the House.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Groom). - When the House has been similarly situated on previous occasions there has usually been a suspension of the sitting for breakfast, and it now being 8 o’clock-
– I was just about to intimate that the Government do not propose to ask you, Mr. Chairman, to suspend public business on the present occasion. Every facility, of course, will be given to honorable members to have breakfast without interfering with the course of business.
– Surely the Prime Minister is not going to act the rôle of an autocrat?
– Nothing of the sort. I am going to have my breakfast, and other honorable members mayhave theirs.
– On two previous occasions, when the House has sat all night, there has, even in the midst of a most violent contest, been a suspension for breakfast at this hour. Sooner or later the Committee must come to a conclusion, and afterwards, to some extent, the business of the country must be carried on.
– That is my desire ; but we have not carried on business for the last twelve hours.
– What I was about to say was that, in my experience of parliamentary life, nothing has proved so beneficial as a short adjournment in bringing about a settlement on such occasions. It is wrong to refuse an adjournment when so many honorable members wish to go to breakfast. I hope that the Prime Minister will reconsider his decision, otherwise it may be found very difficult to keep a quorum. The understanding with . the people of the Commonwealth is that we are here to transact business. When I left the Chamber at 11 o’clock last night I thought that the sitting was about to conclude. No one knows better than the Prime Minister that it is only possible for him to control the Committee up to a certain point, and therefore I hope he will consent to an adjournment.
– This is the first reasonable application which has been made to the Government during this protracted obstruction. I understand that the honorable member for Wide Bay thinks that a short adjournment might lead to a reasonable settlement. A Government must have some control over the business of the House. When the leader of the Opposition moves the Chairman out of the Chair it is an attempt to take the control of business out of the hands of the Government. If the action had been accompanied by a discussion on some matters of large national importance, which warranted an attempt to bring about a Ministerial crisis, I should not have had the slightest objection to what I consider a most reasonable proposal - that the Committee should adjourn now for breakfast or at any other reasonable time. But the difficulty in this case is, that not only has an attempt been made to take the business out of our hands, but that the discussion has been of such an utterly trivial nature - a deliberate attempt not to discuss any matter of public importance, but everything else - that I now feel that I have my back to the wall, and must fight. If the Committee is not prepared to support me, I am ready to accept its decision. Some honorable members have arrived who have not been entangled in the somewhat confusing proceedings of the night. In the interests of peace, and in the hope that this prolonged obstruction on no matter of principle may come to an end, I meet my honorable friend, who has made a perfectly fair suggestion, in the same friendly spirit, and I offer no further objection to an hour’s adjournment for breakfast.
– I wish the Prime Minister to understand that I am not speaking for the leader of the Opposition.
– I understand that.
– My experience is that an adjournment for this purpose is always attended with beneficial results.
– With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall now leave the Chair for an hour.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The sitting of the Committee will be resumed at a quarterpast 9 o’clock.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I am very pleased that the Prime Minister agreed to an adjournment; first, because it maintains a good practice; and, secondly, because it exhibits a commendable spirit. It is quite evident that the officers of the House are tired out, and the sooner this sitting comes to an end the better it will be for us all. I regret the attitude which has been assumed by the Government, because, whenevera state of temper is developed, it compels a recourse to the Standing Orders. I wish to make some remarks on several items relating to the Department of Trade and Customs in Queensland ; but, if this motion were carried, I should not have an opportunity to discuss the reduction in the expenditure there.
– This motion is interposed to prevent a discussion of the Estimates.
– If the motion were carried, I presume that no Estimates could be discussed in this House under the leadership of the right honorable gentleman. This experience ought to show that no good can result from an all-night sitting. I trust that an arrangement will be come to, and that reasonable progress will be made before we adjourn. In Queensland, I have known a Premier to mark on a notice-paper how far he intended to go before the House adjourned, but, as a rule, the first item was the only one which was discussed at that sitting.
– I have never taken up that position here.
– I have quite as much confidence in my colleagues as the right honorable gentleman has in his supporters.
– There can only be one man at the helm.
– I have no objection to the attitude which the right honorable gentleman has assumed ; but this motion is provided for by the Standing Orders to meet such a situation as has arisen, and until it is disposed of we cannot proceed with the consideration of the Estimates. Some members of the States’ Parliaments have charged this Parliament with gross extravagance, but the cost of administering the Department of Trade and Customs has been largely reduced without impairing its efficiency. It would be most objectionable if an. opportunity were not afforded to a representative of Queensland to point out that fact at a time when it could be reported in the press, so that it could be read by the people in far-distant parts of the
Commonwealth. During the last few months additional inspectors of Excise were appointed, and the administration is now much cheaper, and is carried out just as efficiently.
– Is not this an excellent time to discuss any matter affecting distant people?
– I understand that the right honorable gentleman wishes all the Estimates to be put through at this sitting.
– I never made such a statement.
– He wants all the Estimates of this Department passed.
– Good heavens ! Three pages of Estimates.
– I should prefer the Estimates to be discussed in the ordinary way.
– I cannot help the honorable member while this motion is blocking us. If it is withdrawn, we can get on with the Estimates relating to Queensland.
– The withdrawal of the motion rests with the leader of the Opposition.
– I went home at the usual hour last night, and I am informed that we are discussing this motion through the action of the Prime Minister, or at any rate through the action of the Chairman. The fact that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs is occupying the Chair proves conclusively that the advice tendered to the Chairman by the Opposition, that he should leave the Chair was most salutary and very necessary.
– He left the Chair, not on the advice of the Opposition, but because he was fatigued.
– The progress which was made yesterday was sufficiently great to warrant an adjournment at the usual hour. It is a very undesirable thing to attempt to force the Estimates through at an all-night sitting. The members of the Opposition have only been following an example which was set to them in the last Parliament by the Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Dalley, and, I think, the honorable member for Parramatta. The right to discuss each item in the Estimates is a most valued privilege of a representative of the people. In view ofthe fact that the Opposition, through its leader, has declared that it proposes to take every legitimate opportunity to challenge the Government, it does not lie withthe Prime Minister to say that there has been an improper attempt to prevent the Estimates from going through. The proposal to reduce the salary of an officer was not intended as an attack upon that individual, because every one knows that if it were reduced the amount would be made up to him from the vote for contingencies. We have been discussing the Estimates for a very little while, and considering the state of parties, the Prime Minister has no right to complain of any action taken by the Opposition. I wished to speak on a matter in which I was interested, but I found that the Chairman had rushed the Estimates through so quickly that I missed the opportunity. Last night this practice was continued to such an extent that whole divisions instead of sections were taken, thus preventing honorable members from having an opportunity to discuss the items in detail.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Groom). - I must ask the honorable and learned member not to reflect on the conduct of the Chairman.
– I think that the honorable member for Kennedy was quite right in entering a protest. I understand that the honorable member for Gwydir was ruled out of order when he had been speaking for only a few minutes. Naturally, that irritated some honorable members on this side, and one thing leading to another the Prime Minister said that it would be a trial of brute strength. It ought never to be a trial of brute strength, but a trial to see which side has the better cause. These are the Estimates, not so much of one Government as of two or three Governments. So far as I know, they are not marked by any of those undesirable features, which from time to time have distinguished the Estimates submitted in the States Parliaments, and in the Imperial Parliament. They have been pruned down to such an extent that the criticisms, which are made by ill-conditioned and ill-informed persons, are simply ridiculous. There is little or no room for further retrenchment, but it may be necessary to discuss a particular item. I shall always be ready to protest against any effort to interfere with the privileges of the representatives of the people. I submit that the Estimates ought to be stated from the Chair, not in divisions, but in sections. I think that a Minister ought not to agree to the Chairman submitting the Estimates in globo, and that good progress would have been made if, at the end of the week, the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs had been passed. I understand that the honorable member for Maranoa was not permitted last night to deal at length with the report of Dr. Maxwell on the sugar industry. It was hardly conducive to the bestinterests of the country that he should have been restricted to any serious extent in dealing with that document. No amount of discussion on the sugar question can fairly be regarded as a waste of time, or an abuse of the privileges of the House. I cannot understand why an effort was made to block the honorable member, even though he was speaking on an item, rather than on the Estimates for the Department. I trust that an arrangement may be arrived at whereby this irritating state of affairs may be terminated, and the Estimates may be submitted either item by item, or section by section.
– The Prime Minister interjected while the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking, that this motion was moved with a view to block the consideration of the Estimates. That was” hardly the motive which animated me, I submitted the motion, because, in my view, the honorable member for Gwydir had been harshly treated. He had been speaking for only a short time when the Chairman enforced the standing order, and I moved the motion to mark my disapproval of that act, and not with the intention of blocking the discussion of the Estimates, because a number of honorable members on my side were anxious to discuss some matters of adminstration. After the long discussion we have had, it seems to me that my object has been sufficiently served, and therefore I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– The little cause of antagonism having been removed, I wish to ask the Committee to take a course with reference to the business for the rest of the sitting, which I think will meet with the approval of both sides, and that is, that we should finish the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, and, in view of the regrettable illness of the Treasurer, pass the Estimates for his Department, which cover only three pages, and contain no debatable items. I do not ask honorable members to forego their right of criticism, but to cooperate with us in getting through the Treasurer’s Estimates. I should be perfectly agreeable then, to adjourn, so as to enable the ordinary sitting to be begun. If we continue sitting after one o’clock, honorable members will be prevented from getting an opportunity to deal with private business to-day. We shall be quite content, having got these Estimates through, to adjourn.
– By what time?
– By luncheon time.
– Will that finish the business for this week?
– No, but it will finish the business for to-day. I do not propose to ask the House to sit after private business has been disposed of. In view of the early sitting on Friday, and the long sitting we have had, it is only reasonable ifwe pass the Estimates forthese two Departments that we should not ask honorable members to stay late to-night. If the Estimates for those Departments are disposed of by one o’clock, private members’ business will not be interefered with in the afternoon, but if they are not passed by that time we shall have to continue sitting until they are passed.
– Do I understand that we must finish the Treasurer’s Estimates without an opportunity for rational and reasonable discussion ?
– I do not say “ must “ ; any honorable member is at liberty to discuss the Estimates as he pleases. There is no desire to infringe the rights of honorable members in any way, but if the Estimates I have mentioned are not finished by one o’clock, private business cannot proceed. I do not wish to divulge any confidences, but there was a kind of misunderstanding, that the announcement I have made would meet with the approval of honorable members opposite. Perhaps I may say frankly that as the Treasurer is ill I believe it will be very acceptable to him if we can inform him that the Committee has treated his Estimates in the way I have suggested. I am sure that honorable members will believe that if any other Treasurer were placed in a similar position, I should be the first to adopt such a course as I have suggested.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I desire to assist the Government in arriving at a satisfactory agreement, but I wish to understand the position clearly. I wish to know whether the Prime Minister is setting a task for the Committee to undertake?
– We are not setting a task ; we are simply stating that if honorable members discharge their duties of criticism by one o’clock, private members’ business will be taken in the afternoon, and when it is concluded, the Government will consent to an adjournment.
– I am prepared to do everything in my power to assist in getting the Treasurer’s Estimates through, tout I do not intend to forego my right of discussion in the slightest degree.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney).- The statement of the Prime Minister is all very well, but it is not fair to say that the responsibility will rest upon the Opposition in the event of private members’ time being abridged during the afternoon. In regard to the Treasurer’s Estimates, the position is such that as far as the desire to effect retrenchments is concerned, there is no need for discussion. Practically the Treasurer’s Estimates have been submitted to three Governments, and it does not lie in the mouth of any well-informed man to say that extravagance exists in any direction. But without desiring to reduce items on the ground of extravagance, ah honorable member may desire to criticise the Estimates, and should have every opportunity to do so. We have less than three hours in which to finish the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, and to deal with the whole of theTreasurer’s Estimates. If it is not possible to finish the work in that time the responsibility must lie upon the Government, and not upon the Opposition. I do not remember any all-night sitting previously when the Government did not consent to an adjournment at this stage.
– I do not remember anything like this in New South Wales.
– I remember one occasion in New South Wales when we started sitting on Monday morning, and continued right on till the following Saturday night. Honorable members who have not been connected with New South Wales politics may thank their lucky stars that we have had nothing like that in the Federal Parliament. Provided private members are given a reasonable opportunity to bring their business on this afternoon, I see no objection to the course proposed.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I think that the suggestion of the Prime Minister is a reasonable one, under the circumstances. Of course, it must be recollected that in the absence of any understanding whatever, the present debate will continue, and private members will be debarred from bringing on their business in the afternoon. Those who are anxious to give them an opportunity, will not achieve their end by refusing to accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister. With regard to the Treasurer’s Estimates, having been for a short period in the office of Treasurer myself , I am partly responsible for them, and if any honorable member cares to say a word against them, I am afraid I shall be constrained to defend them. But in view of the very regrettable illness of the Treasurer, the Committee might concede the request of the Prime Minister, and allow those Estimates to go through. I am sure there is not an honorable member of this House who is held in higher respect than the Treasurer, and if, in any way, we can pay him a compliment, that may help to relieve the mental strain upon him, everyone of us will be glad to do it. I certainly respond heartily to that portion of the Prime Minister’s request.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I am very pleased indeed that the Prime Minister and the leader of our party have arrived at a compromise. The only matter in the Estimates about which I am concerned is the position of the Collector of Customs, to whom I have already referred, and as long as that is attended to, I shall be satisfied.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir). - I regard the proposal of the Prime Minster as a compromise, which we can accept. It is reasonable to ask us to finish the discussion upon the Trade and Customs Estimates, and to pass the Treasurer’s Estimates before we adjourn, so as to leave time for private members’ business to be considered in the afternoon. It is as well that there should be an understanding that the Defence Estimates will not be taken to-day, because there must be an opportunity to criticise them thoroughly.
– I am very glad that an understanding has been arrived at. A good deal of feeling has been engendered on both sides. I hope that it will soon be forgotten. So far as I am concerned, I find that I was under a misapprehension as to the course of business. I left the Chamber for about ten minutes while the Committee was engaged in discussing the Estimates, and I came back to find that in the meantime certain items about which I had desired to offer some criticism had been passed. Indeed, items had been rushed through within a minute or two involving an expenditure of£200,000. I claim that when the Estimates are submitted to Parliament, there should be a full opportunity for discussing them. The matter was one about which I felt strongly. But I am glad to find that I was under a mis apprehension, and that there was no intention on the part of the Government to rush the Estimates through without debate. The compromise that has been suggested is a reasonable one, and I trust that the remainder of the Estimates will be put through without a repetition of the unenviable experiences which we have had lately. The honorable member for Kennedy is not present, but I may state that I heard him say that if a reasonable agreement couldbe arrived at between all parties he had nodesire to press his amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- There are one or two remarks of a general character which I wish to make specially affecting the State of Queensland. A charge of extravagance has been made against the administration of the Commonwealth in connexion with the various Departments. But as far as the Department of Trade and Customs is concerned, it must be pleasant to every one to find that there has been a decrease in the cost of administration of 10 per cent. without in any way affecting the efficiency of the service. It has been patent to all those who have had opportunities of observation that the officers are working extremely hard, and doing their very best for the Commonwealth. It is unfair that allegations of extravagance should be made when the fact is palpable that so large a reduction has been effected. The expenditure, in spite of the decrease, includes the outlay that is necessary in connexion with the administration of the Excise, which is very considerable. Although the Department is now being administered 10 per cent. cheaper than formerly, I believe that further economies will be effected. As vacancies arise, offices will not be filled. Another matter to which I wish to refer principally concerns Queensland, and that is in regard to the Excise officers. I come back to the statement which I previously made, and which has also been made by other Queensland representatives, that if the Excise duty on sugar to which I have referred is not continued, we shall be able to save an expenditure of about £1,500, being the salaries of seven officers, but at the same time we shall lose over £350,000 in revenue. Of course, a question of policy is involved, which I do not desire to discuss now, but I impress upon the Minister the necessity of taking care not to lose that amount of revenue to the Commonwealth by effluxion of time. Another matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee is dictated by my experience of the Department and the position in Queensland where we have a great variety of climates. I have come to the conclusion that since the inauguration of Federation the principle that should govern the Public Sendee of Australia is that there should be a movement of public officers from one part of the Commonwealth to another. Officers must no longer claim that transfers should be solely within the boundaries of particular States. I go so far as to say that as a matter of principle the proper policy to pursue would be to move officers from State to State in order that they might gain experience.
– We should not shift officers for the sake of shifting them.
– I make no difference between States ; I treat the Commonwealth as a whole.
– My experience of the Customs Department is limited, but I availed myself of every opportunity to inquire into matters, and, as the result of my observation, I came to the conclusion that, it would be a very good thing for the service if the young officers especially were moved from State to State so that they might gain experience in the remoter parts of the Commonwealth. Suppose that a young officer has been trained in Victoria or New South Wales, and is well acquainted with all the latest ideas that emanate from the head offices in those States. It might be an advantage to send such an officer to Broome, in Western Australia, or to the northern part of Queensland.
– That is being done now.
– To a very limited extent. The honorable member seems to think that the idea has only to be mentioned to be acted upon, but as a matter of fact, there seems to be great difficulty in carrying it out.
– Last week I had an application from an officer to shift him to another State. I immediately instituted inquiries to ascertain whether an officer in that other State desired to be transferred to Victoria. In a day or two I found an officer who wished to be transferred, and the matter was arranged. I do not consider State boundaries.
– I am glad that the Minister takes the same view as I adopted after inquiring into the matter. So far as I can ascertain, the Public Service Commissioner has not made up his mind that this is a proper principle to adopt, and there seems to be some difficulty in getting inaugurated. It is a good principle for other reasons. It is not fair to officers that they should be retained in the hotter parts of the Commonwealth for an undue period. Unless we have a system of transfer, whereby officers can be moved round and round from the colder parts of Australia to the hotter parts, and so on, we shall not have a proper system of training, which is particularly needed in the Customs Department. Moreover, it- is unfair to keep one officer in a trying climate for fifteen or twenty years to the injury of his health. If there was a proper system of transfer, the positions in the unpleasant parts might be occupied for two or three years at. a time. No injury would thus be done to the health of the officers, whilst the service would be greatly benefited. Another principle that should be inaugurated is that we should give a premium to clever young men to undertake responsible duties in the remote parts of the Commonwealth. I would give them an advance in salary, which would be an inducement to them. I would make it worth their while to leave the large centres of population, and to serve the Commonwealth in the more trying situations. I am aware that a district allowance is now made, but I should be prepared to go further than that, and to offer special inducements to young officers to serve in the more distant situations. I also desire to make a suggestion about a matter which I approach with some delicacy. I can assure the Minister that in mentioning it, I have not the slightest desire to cast any reflection whatever on the higher officers of his Department. I believe that no country has a better officer than the Commonwealth has in the present Comptroller-General of Customs. My experience of him convinces me that a more fair-minded, a more able, and a more industrious officer I have never known. But it strikes me that ‘between the Comptroller-General and the Collectors of Customs in the various States there is a great gulf. It is impossible for the ComptrollerGeneral to visit every part of Australia personally. The area is too vast. The Comptroller-General must be at the head-office to advise the Minister, because of his vast grasp of the whole of the service.
– He has made a tour through the States to organize the service thoroughly, and has effected a great many improvements.
– I know that the ComptrollerGeneral, Dr. Wollaston, is an exceedingly active man, and that if there are to be tours, he is the person to make them. But it is impossible for him to cover the whole ground, and there needs to be some officer between the ComptrollerGeneral and the Collectors, whose duty it should be to visit the States constantly. The new officer should ‘be an Inspector-General. If he occupied an intermediate position between the six Collectors and the ComptrollerGeneral, he would be enabled to visit every State and keep the Collectors in touch with each other. He would be able to inform the officers in the various States of the newest methods that have been adopted, and keep them up to date in Customs administration. The value to the Commonwealth of the services of such an officer would be ten times the amount of his salary.
– Does not the Comptroller perform those duties now?
– It is impossible for the Comptroller to he constantly travelling round Australia. His services at the head office are too valuable. An intermediate officer is required. It is possible to improve the present system in that way, and
I respectfully submit the suggestion to the Minister for his consideration. I have nothing more to add, but I trust that my suggestion will receive careful consideration.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- There is an item in the Estimates under consideration which runs through the whole of the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs. I refer to item ii under the heading of Contingencies “ Protection of revenue, ,£1,200.” Various sums are voted for a similar purpose in each of the other States. What is the object of this expenditure? How is the money used, and what method is adopted to protect the revenue? In the particular case which I have mentioned, ,£1,200 is debited to “ transferred “ expenditure, and .£200 to “other” expenditure. I find that in Victoria a vote of ,£1,000 is set down for the current year, and last year .£3,458 was expended; whilst in New South Wales the amount set down for the current year is ,£35, and the amount expended last year was ,£23. In South Australia, including the Northern Territory, the present year’s vote is ,£175, whilst the amount expended last year was ,£112. In Western Australia ,£100 is voted this year, whilst .£1,299 was expended last year.
– I can explain the expenditure without any difficulty. The money is voted to cover law costs, awards, and rewards to officers who have been zealous in unearthing cases of evasion of Customs duties. It will be understood at once that we cannot regulate the expenditure as between the States for such a purpose. In some cases the law costs will be very small, but if, on the other hand, a number of cases occur, the costs will be proportionately larger. It is impossible to maintain a proportion between the various States.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- The Minister’s explanation clears away a great deal of difficulty. I understand that the money referred to is mainly on account of legal proceedings. No doubt the very great difference between the expenditure for Victoria and that for New South Wales is accounted for by the free-trade system which has prevailed in New South Wales, and to the fact that the people of that State have not been educated up to methods of evading Customs duties to the same extent as the people in Victoria.
– I think the honorable member has made a mistake as to the New South Wales figures ; if he looks at page 43 he will see that the sum is .£2,010. He has merely quoted the figures for the border.
– I see that the New South Wales people have been learning a few wrinkles from the Victorians. There is one other matter which .1 wish to mention. A considerable amount of smuggling is carried on by sailors and others who arrive at our ports in vessels from the East. Detections are frequently made, and heavy fines are imposed ; but in spite of the watchfulness of the officers, and the severity of the punishment, smuggling is still continued. It has been suggested to me that the revenue would be safeguarded if, in addition to having vigilant officers at Australian ports, the Department of Trade and Customs would employ detectives at eastern ports with the object of affording information to the Customs authorities in Australia as to goods that were attempted to be smuggled. I commend the suggestion to the careful consideration of the Minister. I believe that if this plan were adopted, it would result in large detections being made, and a great amount of revenue being collected.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 38 (South Australia), £24,352.
– I wish to direct attention to the item -
To adjust salaries of officers entitled to increments under State laws, £237.
Similar items appear in connexionwith the South Australian Estimates, under various departmental headings. No such items appear in connexion with the Estimates of the other States. The explanation probably is that the South Australian Public Service Act renders the Commonwealth liable to pay certain increments to transferred officers, whether the Public Service Commissioner approves of them or not. The Public Service Commissioner, in classifying the service, graded the officers according to the duties they were discharging, but in some cases he did not recommend the increases to which the officers were entitled under the State law. This amount of £237 covers, I think, theannual increases of £10 to Customs officers up to the end of this financial year. I understand that the Commissioner is of opinion that whatever rights the officers may have had up to the time their offices were classified, they should cease from that date, and that he is not under any necessity to retain the officers at the salaries which they will hold at the end of this financial year.
– It has been ruled that these officers are entitled by law if they were passing through a class on transfer to the increments accruing therein, but that when they are promoted afterwards they come under the classification.
– That is the position which the officers have always maintained. I do not think they have ever maintained that the law entitles them to carry their right to increments up to another class. I wish to direct the attention of the Government to a matter which affects public officers in South Australia, more particularly in the Post and Telegraph Office, who have received a certain sum as salary, and a certain sum as allowances for quarters, selling stamps, and doing the work of the Savings Bank. In some cases these allowances amounted to a very large sum ; for instance, to about £200 in the case of the Port Adelaide Post Office, and to about £100 in the case of the Moonta Post Office. In many cases the loss of these allowances has meant a very considerable reduction in the earnings of an officer. The Public Service Commissioner stated in his report that he had been able to bring about a considerable improvement in the condition of the service, and one which would ultimately lead to a large saving, and that at the same time he had not reduced the salary of a single individual. In a highly technical sense, his statement is correct. The salary of the office has not been reduced, but the emoluments of the holder have been very considerably reduced, in some cases by as much as £200 per annum. It is not very much satisfaction to an officer to be told that his salary has not been reduced when the payments made to him have been very greatly reduced. The commissions which the Savings Banks Commissioners pay for the transaction of their business have now to be paid into the Treasury, instead of being paid directly to the officers who do the work. When the late Government left office, the question was under consideration whether it would not be a proper thing to place on the Estimates an amount to meet the cases of the men who would suffer extreme hardship from this alteration in the conditions of their appointment. Let me illustrate the position by taking the case of Mr. Gillen, who collaborated with Professor Baldwin Spencer in the production of a work on the native tribes of Australia, and who occupied the position of postmaster at Alice Springs. Being an exceedingly able man, he was made Protector of the Aborigines, and in recognition of his good services in that position, and of the scientific work he had done, he was promoted to the position of postmaster at Moonta, where the salary of the office was low, but carried allowances which provided him with an income of about £400 per year. Owing to the classification of the office, he has to suffer a very heavy reduction, after having spent a lifetime in the service of the people. There are other cases where the amount involved is very much larger than it is in his case. I should like the Government to look into the matter and see whether it would not be justified in asking Parliament to vote a sum so that no considerable reduction may be made in the salaries of these men, whilst they hold the positions. Of course, the officers who are qualified to take better positions should be promoted at the first opportunity. It would not be necessary to vote this amount for many years, because I believe that in a short time things would right themselves.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the travelling allow- ance of temporary Excise officers. According to Public Service regulation No. 134 -
The Permanent Head, or Chief Officer, when forwarding an application to the Commissioner, shall state what amount of salary, fee, or allowance is, in his opinion, appropriate to the work to be performed; but the rate of payment shall be the same as is paid to permanent employees of the Commonwealth in the State for similar work.
I hold in my hand some correspondence which has passed between the Department and an Excise officer in South Australia, whose case is similar to a number of others. It appears to me that an injustice is being done to these men. I do not wish to detain honorable members by reading their petition, but I would ask the Minister to look into the case of O. R. Adams and others, who claim that they are entitled to a certain sum as travelling allowance. It is stated distinctly in the regulations that assistant Excise officers must be paid the same travelling allowance as permanent Excise officers. Before these temporary men went out they were told that they would receive so much per day; but when they claimed the amount it was refused to them, though it was paid to the permanent officers. I understood the Minister to say that, where under the State Act any officers were entitled to increments, nothing had been done to prevent them getting the increments up to the maximum of the class in which they were placed. I am afraid that that statement is not correct.
– If the honorable member likes I shall read the departmental note, which shows what is being done.
– Very well.
– According to the departmental note, this sum of .£237 is required - to adjust the salaries of officers entitled to increments under State laws. It has been ruled that, under the Civil Service Act, those officers who were passing through a class at the inauguration of Federation are entitled by right to receive certain increments up to the maximum of their class. On receiving promotion these officers shall be subject to the rates prescribed by the Public Service Act and regulations.
-That seems to me exactly the case which has been contended for in South Australia. Under the State Act, the officers were entitled to these increments.
– That is what this provision is being made for.
– It was understood that promotion to a higher class would take away any right which ah officer had under the State Act to increments. I think that the abolition of the allowances to postal officers is a matter which ought to receive serious consideration, because it is a very serious thing for an officer to suddenly find his emoluments reduced by a sum ranging from £60 to .£150.
– I was very glad to hear what the Minister said in regard to the position of the officers in South Australia. I understand that the reason why many officers have not been paid their increments up to the present time is that the Commissioner has appraised the value of the work at less than the amount of the salaries, and that, although present officers will be paid the salaries which they were promised under the State Act, their successors will receive lower salaries. It will be very satisfactory if the increments are paid after the appeals have been dealt with. The Minister ought to make a searching investigation in regard to the work of the Department of Trade and Customs in South Australia. In one case, a locker has been placed in the position of an inspector, while the inspector, who was getting a salary of considerably over .£200, has been doing the work of the locker, whose salary is only ;£no. I understand that the locker - a first-class officer - is working a great deal of overtime in order to overtake the arrears of work on the part of the inspector. I do not think that an increase of £io is sufficient to compensate a capable officer for doing such responsible work. It would be well for the Minister to make a thorough inquiry as to the capabilities of other officers in his Department in that State, and also as to the manner in which they do their work. I am told that the retention of certain men, with defects of character, is preventing first-class officers from getting the promotion to which they are entitled.
– In subdivision 3 we are asked to vote to a clerk a sum of .£162, including arrears to the amount of £22. Is there any sufficient reason why the arrears have been allowed to accumulate? Unless there was some sufficient reason the officer ought not to have been placed in any worse position than other officers in the Department.
– The arrears did not occur in my time. I am making provision for paying them.
– In subdivision 5 we are asked to vote a sum of ,£120 for the settlement of a claim made by Mr. H. Hayter for compensation for the loss of his office. Apparently the Government recognise that they are under some monetary obligation to this officer. It would be interesting to know why we are asked to vote this sum to compensate an officer, apparently for the wrongful loss of his office.
– The reason of this vote is explained in the following minute: -
This amount represented the amount of salary of the officer for the periodhe was under suspension, prior to dismissal. He was kept for some months without salary, until his case could be tried. During this time he was unable to seek other employment, and as he had previously been on a low salary (£170) his case was a hard one. His legal adviser contended that a mistake had been made in the appointment of the Board to consider Hayter’s case. The law officer of the Commonwealth, on learning that Hayter would take, as settlement of his case, full salary whilst under suspension, recommended that his salary be paid, as, owing to the length of time elapsing before the decision was finally come to, the officer was entitled to some consideration. This was approved, and the amount was accordingly paid.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 39 (Western Australia), £32 , 699.
That the item “ Collector of Customs,£800,” be reduced by £100.
This officer was receiving a salary of £700, and an allowance of £100, when the Commissioner classified the office at £800. The salary of an officer in the administrative division is not subject to the Commissioner, but to the vote of Parliament. It was a mistake in these Estimates to place the salary of the Collector of Customs for Western Australia at £800. If this amount be reduced by £100, he will still receive the same amount as he did before, namely, £700 as salary, and £100 as allowance, payable out of the contingencies vote.
– I am pleased that the amount is to be reduced, because I could not understand why the Collector of Customs in Western Australia should receive a higher salary than a corresponding officer in another State. I do not know why it is necessary to pay a larger salary in one State than in another. In Tasmania, for instance, the Collector of Customs receives a salary of £500.
– Three times as much revenue is collected in Western Australia as in Tasmania.
– The responsibility is, I think, the same in each case, and that fact should be taken into consideration.
– I desire to know why there is such a discrepancy between Western Australia and South Australia. In view of the fact that South Australia has a very large shipping port, with a great many distilleries and breweries, I think that the Collector of Customs has to do much more work in that State than in Western Australia. It ought to be explained why the officer in South Australia is receiving only £600, while the officer inWestern Australia is getting £800. If the Minister can show that in Western Australia the Collector has to discharge more onerous duties, I shall be quite satisfied that he should receive a higher salary than the Collector in South Australia, but I am strongly of the opinion that it is not the case.
– For many years the Collector of Customs in Western Australia has been in receipt of a salary of £700, and a house allowance of £100. I believe that he also received an allowance for administering the Passenger Act.
– Exclusive of salary he receives only £100.
– I feel quite sure that he received more than £800 prior to Federation. As a general rule I think that an allowance to an officer should be specifically voted.
– I findthat years ago this officer did receive an allowance of £50 for performing other services.
– I presume that the interests of this old and very deserving officer will not be prejudiced by the proposed alteration.
– He will not be prejudiced in any way.
Amendment agreed to.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan).- I presume that the house allowance of £100 to this officer will appear somewhere else on the Estimates.
– No ; it has been arranged that it shall be paid out of the vote for contingencies.
– That will not be very just to the officer.
– What does it matter to the officer where the money comes from so long as it is paid ?
– This officer was taken over by the Commonwealth with a salary and a house allowance. If an allowance is payable to an officer, it ought to be voted specifically on the Estimates, and ought not to be paid out of a contingencies vote.
– In reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I desire to say that where an officer was taken over by the Commonwealth at a higher salary than that provided for in the classification it was not reduced, but his successor will be paid according to the classification. The Collector of Customs in South Australia received an increase of £150, so that, although he is receiving a lower salary than the Collector of Customs in Western Australia, he has had a substantial increase.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan). - I desire to ask the Minister whether the amount voted last year to the Collector of Customs in Western Australia was £700 or £800? It is possible that he may be told next year that the contingencies vote is not large enough to provide his house allowance of £100.
– A salary of £700 was voted last year. A mistake was made this year in asking for a vote of £800. The Commissioner classified the office at £800 without regard to the fact that the officer was receiving an allowance of £100.
– As a rule, when an allowance is given to an officer, it is specifically voted.
– Last year this allowance of £100 was paid out of the vote for contingencies. There is no necessity for a specific vote of £100.
– I wish to refer to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act in Western Australia by a Customs officer. I mentioned some time ago that the influx of foreigners into that State was so rapid that serious trouble was likely to occur in some places. It is notorious that the number of Italian immigrants has excited great alarm in several localities. It is very generally believed that they are coming out under contract. At any rate, it is a fact that they go into employment nearly as soon as they land. Only last week there was a riot in a northern town - in Leonora, I think - between British and Italian workers. I believe that as regards the Italians the administration of the Act is not nearly as efficient as it should be, because the inquiries are not sufficiently searching. It is also notorious that Chinese are landing in Western Australia at a rapid rate. The Chinese are being smuggled into the State with almost the same facility as the goods to which the honorable member for Canobolas referred this morning. It will be generally admitted that owing to our extensive coast-line, the efficient administration of the Act by reliable officers at every port is likely to be very expensive. I would suggest for the consideration of the Minister of External Affairs, that in each State there should be only one port at which foreigners could gain admission. At Broome and Carnarvon and other ports on the north-west coast of Western Australia, where the inspection is not close, foreigners land, and after they have received a note from a countryman that they have been domiciled there for a certain time, they proceed by another boat toF remantle and gain admission. I think that foreigners should only be permitted to land at the principal port in the State.
– The honorable member would not bring these men down to Fremantle and send them right back to Broome or Carnarvon?
– I would, because, except under extraordinary conditions they have no right to enter the State. In the case of the pearl fishers a special arrangement is made, but in other cases all foreigners should be brought down to the principal port, and there subjected to a test by a responsible officer. I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will look into this question at an early date, . and see if an arrangement cannot be made to prevent this heavy influx of aliens into that State.
Reduced vote agreed to.
Division 40 (Tasmania), £9,416, agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Division 25 (Treasury), £7,891 ; division 26 (Audit Office), £13,327 ; division 27 (Government Printer), £15,239; agreed to.
Division 28 (Miscellaneous), £36.
– I should toe glad if the Minister in charge of the Treasury Estimates can give an explanation concerning the following item: -
Refund of duty paid under exceptional circumstances, viz., on trophies presented for competition at the Geelong Fire Brigades demonstration, £3513s.7d., £36.
Only recently I brought under the notice of honorable members a case in which, on application, a refund of duty was refused. in this case, however, the law has been broken, and a refund of the duty has been made. I should like the Minister to explain why the distinction is drawn?
– I understand that in this case the Department is only following out the practice of the State, but how the money is paid I do not know.
– It is clearly an instance of favoritism. The Minister has nothing to do with the practice of the State. He is bound by the law of the Commonwealth. In a much more necessitious case a refund of duty was refused. I do not see why it should be made in this case, and therefore I move -
That the item, “Refund of duty . . . . £36,” be left out.
– It seems that the custom in the State in connexion with trophies for public objects such as a fire brigade has been to refund the duty paid. In this case the Commonwealth has simply followed the State precedent, no doubt in every other similar case that will 6e done. It has not been considered desirable in the State that the cost of a trophy should be unnecessarily increased by the amount of the duty. In this case the duty had been paid, and is to be refunded.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I should like the Minister to mention a case where the States have taken this course, and why it was done. I also wish to know who presented these trophies for competition at the demonstration of the Geelong Fire Brigades, and also where they were purchased ? There are hundreds of public demonstrations where trophies have been given, and no application for a refund of duty has ever been made. It is very unfair to discriminate in a matter of this kind. I should like the Minister to show me his authority for making a refund in one case and refusing it in another. It is alleged that in this case the trophies were presented for a public object. I have mentioned a case where, according to the decision of the High Court, a duty was illegally collected. The case of the poor widow, which I brought under the notice of the Minister this morning, is, in my opinion, a case of legalized robbery. I should like to get a promise that the same action will be taken in her case as in this case ?
– My difficulty is that I have no legal power to do what the honorable member asks. The only way in which it could be done would be by submitting a special item.
– If the Minister will submit a special item on the Supplementary
Estimates, I shall be quite satisfied to take the decision of the Committee.
– The difficulty with, regard to the matter brought forward by the honorable member for Riverina is this : When the Tariff Bill was first introduced, duties were collectable on the scale there proposed. That Bill was under consideration for more than twelve months. Duty was collected on the scale proposed, but Parliament in its wisdom reduced a large number of the items. But in order to protect the revenue, Parliament passed a section providing that any duties collected under the original scale should be deemed to be legally collected. In the case upon which the honorable member relies some person refused to pay duty, believing that it was not legally collectable. The money was paid under protest. The decision of the Court was that it was not collected legally. It was only held pending the decision of the Court. The case mentioned by my honorable friend is on all fours with thousands of other cases. There are honorable members of this House from whom large sums have been collected, but they have not asked for any refund. I am certain the honorable member is quite sincere in the action which he has taken in his desire to benefit this widow, but I do not see how we can pay these amounts, and at the same time refuse to pay in thousands of other cases which are precisely on all fours.
– Are we not differentiating in the case under consideration ?
– I do not know the circumstances of this particular case, but .1 understand that this is a rebate following out a practice which has prevailed in the States in the past.
– There is a good deal to be said for the point of view which the Minister has advanced, but there is one matter upon which I should like him to satisfy the Committee. Will he undertake, before coming to a final decision, to make inquiries from the officer who received the money, and ascertain distinctly whether it was paid under protest or not?
– I shall be glad to do that.
– That ought to settle the. matter, because, as far as I can ascertain, if the officer received the money under protest, acting on behalf of the public, in? equity there is not a bit of difference between that and receiving a written protest.
The facts are these : A person was taking a piece of machinery from one State into another State. Before he did that, the honorable member for Riverina was communicated with. He saw Mr. Kingston, who was then Minister of Customs; and was told that the money could be paid under protest. Acting under that advice, the honorable member for Riverina communicated with his constituents, and the money was paid under a protest - not given in writing, but verbally. But I do not think that we ought to take advantage of a mere technicality like that. If it is found that the money was actually paid under protest, we ought to refund it.
– I will maTte inquiries with a view to ascertain.
– The item “ refund of duty paid on trophies presented for competition “ opens up a serious question. All over the Commonwealth, competitions of various kinds are constantly taking place, and trophies are given as ‘prizes. We ought to deal with this matter upon a broad general Australian, footing. Is it fair and reasonable that any particular person or persons who get up a competition in one State, should have a refund on account of the money they pay for their trophies, when the same consideration is riot extended to persons in other States? This practice practically nullifies the effect of the Customs Tariff. There is no reason why we should make ah exception in favour of a fire brigades’ demonstration. Agricultural shows are just as important. Are we bound to recognise the practice which has prevailed in one State in connexion with one demonstration ? It is highly probable that these trophies can be manufactured in Australia, and if that is so there certainly ought not to be any remission of duty, in the interest of one competition. A large’ firm in my. own constituency some time ago imported a large machine for the purpose of destroying city garbage. The machine was duty free before Federation, but after Federation a heavy duty was imposed. The machine was required by a municipality for public purposes. But a refund was not allowed, although there was in existence a proclamation issued by the State before Federation, for the express purpose of bringing in the machine free of duty. We were told that there was a general Australian principle at stake, and that there could be no refund of duties on any articles. The Minister will admit that we should lay down general rules. ii b
– We all appreciate the importance of the matter, and if the honorable and learned member will allow the vote to pass now, we will afford an opportunity to re-consider it on the Appropriation Bill.
– I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Prime Minster.
– Although I am not AttorneyGeneral, I think it right to say that the point with regard -to .a written or verbal protest has nothing whatever to do with the question. The Customs Regulation Act prescribes the course to be followed when there is a dispute as to whether duty is payable or otherwise. The question of protest does not arise one way or the other. First of all a .dispute must arise. When there is an effort to pass a free entry for a particular article and the Customs officer demands duty, the person: passing the entry ‘has two courses open to him. One is to pay the demand, the other is to dispute the demand. If instead of paying he disputes the demand, his course is to pay, pass the entry, and get the goods. The amount pi id is treated as a deposit ; and then the law provides that -
The deposit shall bc deemed to be the pr.oper duty, unless by action commenced by the ow aci against the Collector within six . months al te] making the deposit the contrary shall be determined, in which case any excess of the. depor.it over the proper duty shall be refunded, with 5 per cent, interest.
In case of a deposit the amount becomes the proper duty by force of law, unless the person disputing it takes proceedings in a court of law to test whether the duty is payable or not. He has six months within which to take action. I wish to point that out so that the Committee may not run away with the idea that this is a mere matter of dispute with regard to a verbal or written protest; because if the person- has not taken action the deposit is deemed to be the proper duty.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I think the Minister is fully’ seized of the facts pf She case. It will be understood that I advised my constituent to pay the money under protest, on the recommendation of the highest authority for the time being - the Minister.
– j promise to make full inquiries,
– The proper course was to commence proceedings to test the matter.
– The Prime Minister cannot expect every farmer to be acquainted with all the requirements of the law. I feel strongly upon this case, thinking that the Department ought not to take advantage of a technicality to deprive this person of what was due to him. But I shall be satisfied if the Minister will make inquiries.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed fo.
Division 29 (Unforeseen expenditure), £700 ; division 30 (Refunds pf revenue), £30,000; division 31 (Advance to Treasurer), £200,000, agreed to.
Message from the King.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I should like to inform honorable members that ‘ the message I referred to as having been forwarded yesterday through the Governor-General to the King was transmitted to His Majesty at Sandringham, and His Majesty has sent the following, very gracious reply - .
Please convey my sincere thanks to the Ministers and Commonwealth of Australia for the message of congratulation and good wishes forwarded through you, which I greatly value and appreciate. - Edward R.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.25 P-m- (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041109_reps_2_23/>.