2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if he has seen the report in to-day’s Argus concerning the treatment of the crew of the steamer Queen Helena, which arrived recently from New York. It is there stated that, owing to the action of the Customs authorities in sealing the stores, the crew were without provisions for manyhours. To make the case clear, I will read the letter addressed by the captain to the Collector of Customs on the subject. It is as follows : -
Sir, - On the arrival of my steamer, Queen Helena, atWilliamstown from New York, at 4 p.m. on the nth inst., all our stores were sealed up. I pointed out to the boarding officer that it would be after hours when the ship got up to Victoria Dock, and that he had better let me have enough stores for the crew’s supper. He said no, and that there would be an officer on. the dock to open up the seal.
On arrival at the dock at 5.30 p.m. every one had gone. I went up to a boat loading for China, where a Customs-house officer Was working, and told him how I was situated, but he replied that he was sorry, but could do nothing in the matter, and that there would be no officer about until next morning at 8 o’clock.
The consequence was that my people got nothing to eat from noon on the nth until 9 a.m. on 12th.
I have been twenty years in command of British steamers, but have never received such treatment in any port I have visited before.
Will the Minister see that, while the present barbarous law remains on our statutebook, Customs officers arc at hand to allow ships’ stores to be opened when necessary in order to supply the crew with food ?
– The newspaper announcement is the first I have heard of this matter. I had an interview with the ComptrollerGeneral on the subject this morning ; but it had not before come under his notice, and he went off immediately to investigate it. In a preliminary report, which reached me just before the meeting of the House, there is a very serious conflict of testimony between the officer concerned and the statements in the captain’s letter. The charge made by the captain is a very serious one, and the whole incident most regrettable. I have, therefore, given instructions to have the facts of the case fully investigated, so that I may judge as to what further steps are necessary.
– I notice that the Papua Bill now stands a long way down on the notice-paper, although its consideration in Committee has been almost completed. Does the Prime Minister intend to abandon the measure this session?
– The right honorable gentleman intends to go on with it ?
– From a statement in yesterday’s newspapers as to’ what it is proposed to do during the remainder of the session, it would appear that the Government desire to pass the Appropriation Bill before other important matters which have yet to be dealt with have been taken in hand. The constitutional usage is that all the important business of the session must be disposed of before the Appropriation Bill is passed.
– That has been the practice. In any case, I should like to know from the Prime Minister how soon he intends to deal with the Arbitration Bill and the question of preferential trade, and when he intends to fulfil his promise in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Tariff.
– The newspaper statement to which the honorable member alludes was intended to be a statement, not as to the course of business for the remainder of the session, but covering the events of the succeeding three or four sittings. I am not quite sure that there is any such usage in regard to the Appropriation Bill as the honorable member suggests. I will not say that there is not such a usage, but I am not sure that there is any constitutional difficulty in the way of passing an Appropriation Bill before all the business of the session is completed.
– The Appropriation Bill was put through last year before a great deal of the business of the session was finished
– I should be very loth to countenance such a rule as the honorable member suggests in connexion with the conduct of business in the Federal Parliament, because there is a very great difference between the position of the Senate, and that of the second branch of the Legislatures of the States in regard to Appropriation Bills, since they have no power of suggestion in regard to amendments, such as exists in the Senate. The Senate, having the power to make suggestions in regard to Appropriation Bills, it is only reasonable that its members should be given a fair amount of time in which to exercise it, if they desire to do so. The exercise of that power would not be possible if the Appropriation Bill were sent to them in the closing moments of the session. We should show a proper regard for the rights of the other Chamber in reference to measures which come clearly within their constitutional province. Viewed broadly, the usage to which the honorable member for Bland has referred is the proper one, and Ihave no wish to break in upon it. This Chamber will act wisely in not allowing Appropriation Bills to pass away from its control, while important business remains to be transacted. But whilst regarding that as a wise rule, and one to be observed, I think that honorable members will agree with me that we must not go to the other extreme, and leave the passing of the Appropriation Bill to the last three or four, or perhaps the last two, days of the session, in the expectation that it will be passed hurriedly through another place by the suspension of their Standing Orders. I have no desire to ask the House to pass the Appropriation Bill while there is any business of serious importance still in this Chamber. The honorable member for Bland and myself have practically come to this agreement, that we may fairly take the Appropriation Bill into Committee. There is, however, one part of the appropriations which I think honorable members will readily agree to assent to in the form of a Bill, and send the measure on at once to the Senate - I refer to the appropriations for public works, which are separate from the ordinary appropriations for the year. I have received very urgent representations from the Sydney Trade and Labour Council, urging that works which have been authorized by Parliament shall be dealt with as soon as possible.
– I suggested some months ago that those Estimates might be passed in advance of the ordinary Estimates.
– I am sure that my honorable friend and honorable members opposite will place no difficulty in the way of that Bill passing through all its stages without delay. I hope indeed that they will help the Government to forward it to the Senate as soon as possible, and I intend to ask them to allow it to be put through all its stages to-day. Now that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has been disposed of, there is not a great deal of work for the other Chamber to do; but I should like to avoid any slackening off of the pace there, because they have had a very slack time all through the session. I ask honorable members, in the interests of putting useful works in progress with the least possible delay - a matter which ‘appeals to the good feeling of everyone in the Chamber - to pass the necessary Bill through all its stages to-night. I promise, however, that the Appropriation Bill proper shall not be taken further than the Committee stage - which will leave all its items open for discussion - until other serious business has been transacted. With regard to the appointment of the Tariff Commission, I am happy to say that, despite press’ reports to the contrary, the leader of the Opposition has intimated to me his willingness to assist me in securing a thoroughly representative and satisfactory Commission, and in return I can only assure him that the matter will be treated as one of grave urgency. I am making special efforts to settle the personnel of the Commission, which is the first step to be taken, and not an easy one. Now that the subject has been divested of any party significance, I think that we shall be able to come to an agreement on this very important matter without delay.
At a later stage,
– The Prime Minister, in hiv. reply to the honorable member for Bland, stated that the Appropriation Bill would not be passed through Committee until all the serious business before the House had been disposed of. I should like to ask him what Bills he regards as serious.
– As a rule, the serious Bills are those which take the least time to pass ; but I am not going to answer my honorable friend in that way. I look upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as a serious measure - a very serious measure. But there are some other subsidiary measures, such as the Trade Marks Bill, the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, the Papua Bill, and the Defence Act Amendment Bill, to carry out a scheme of which Parliament has already practically approved, which need not delay the Appropriation Bill, in view of our obligation to place it before the Senate within a reasonable time before the prorogation. Sir WILLIAM LYNE.- The Prime Minister has not yet referred to two or three important measures. I desire to ask him whether he has made any arrangement as to the date upon which the Manufactures Encouragement Bill shall be further considered, and whether he has arrived at any understanding as to the date upon which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat may be permitted to deal with his motion respecting preferential trade. I should also like to know if he can make a definite statement as to when the Tariff Commission is to be appointed.
– I really begin to feel that I am called upon to make a large number of Ministerial statements.’ Still, I recognise that I owe it to every honorable member, regardless of the position he may occupy as a leader or otherwise, to give him the fullest information I can with reference to the public business. I can assure honorable members that the fact that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and the motion relating to preferential trade were not mentioned, does not at all mean that those matters are not to receive attention. Unfortunately, owing to an illness in his family, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not here, an’d
I certainly propose to afford him the promised opportunity to proceed with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I propose to consult him as the honorable member in charge of the Bill - and as promised, I shall give honorable members proper intimation - as to the time at which the Bill will be further considered. The honorable member for Ballarat and I are . in communication with reference to the motion relating to preferential trade, and the Government propose to afford the honorable and learned member an opportunity to bring forward his motion at an early date. So far as the Tariff Commission is concerned, I think that I have already glvé. all the information that* can be furnished at this stage. It would be simply absurd - practically impossible - to fix a date for the completion of such an extremely difficult task. Everything depends upon the difficulty or ease with which fit and proper men can be secured to act as members of the Commission.
– I wish to direct the notice of the leader of the Opposition to a paragraph in to-day’s Age, on which I desire to ask him a question.
– Questions can be asked of private members only in relation to business of the House of which they have charge. I do not know any business of which the honorable member for Bland has charge, but only in the event of there being such business on the notice-paper, and the question concerning it, may the honorable member for Grey proceed.
– I wish to know if the Postmaster-General has taken any steps in regard to the retirement of telegraph messengers who, if in the Public Service of New South Wales prior to Federation, have, under a State Act,’ to retire on reaching the age of twenty years, or, if appointed after Federation, have, under the Commonwealth Act, to retire on reaching the age of eighteen years
– As my honorable friend must know, this matter is under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. Representations have been made to the Commissioner, but great difficulty is experienced in finding employment for all the messengers who reach the retiring age. Of course, a large number of boys enter the service at the ages of fourteen or fifteen, and upon reaching the age of eighteen, have to leave the service, unless other employment can be found for them. There is such a large number of boys, and we have such a comparatively small service, that it is difficult to find employment for all the lads who are qualified to perform other work than that upon which they were engaged. The Public Service Commissioner, however, is using ‘his best efforts in that direction.
– Will the Minister consider the advisability of framing a regulation if there is any power to do so - providing that telegraph messengers, upon attaining the age of eighteen, shall have preference for employment as telephone assistants and letter-carriers.
– I shall consider the matter, and see_ if it is possible to make some such arrangement for the employment of the large number of messengers who have no doubt faithfully served the Department, and who are entitled to preference in employment.
– I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General is in favour of giving the boys preference over persons outside the service - other things being equal?
– I certainly think that, other things being equal, a boy who has faithfully served the Department should receive full consideration. At the same time we have to administer the law, and any regulation that may be framed will have to be in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether, in the event of cases of injustice being submitted to him, he will bring them under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner, with a view to his applying a remedy ?
– I shall be only too glad to bring any such cases under the notice of the Commissioner. I know of many instances of hardship in my own district and elsewhere, and I shall do k:y best to prevent young men who have faithfully served the Department for a number of years from being dispensed with.
– I wish to know if the Prime Minister has any statement to make regarding the question asked by the honorable member for Boothby with reference to the increments to which public servants are entitled.
– I think that there has been some misapprehension upon this matter, and I shall endeavour to clear it up. I understand that the increments which were really referred to by the honorable member for Boothby were those to which officers are entitled under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– And alsothose to which they are entitled under the States Acts.
– The increments accruing under the States Acts involve a very serious question of law, upon which high legal officials have given - I have not seen the text of their opinions, but I have perused a precis of them - conflicting opinions. The question being one of law, I think it is highly probable that we shall have to refer it to the present Attorney-General. Therefore, with reference to the increments under the States laws, I am sorry to say that I cannot give any definite assurance, because the legal position has not been clearly ascertained. So far as the increments under the Commonwealth Act are concerned, there will be no difficulty whatever with regard to payment.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain the opinion referred to as soon as possible ?
– I think that, in view of the fact that the two predecessors of the AttorneyGeneral seem to have given opinions upon the subject, which are not in harmony, it is advisable that we should seek his opinion as soon as possible?
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received the information for which I asked him recently with regard to the extension of leprosy in Queensland ?
– I am sorry to say that we have not yet received an answer from the State authorities. We asked for the information some time ago.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is aware of serious delays in deal- ing with applications for provisional protection at the Federal Patent Office, and, if so, will he make such arrangements as will prevent such delays, which, it is said, are causing serious loss to applicants for patents for inventions?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, I have to state -
There have been no serious delays in dealing with applications accompanied by provisional specification. Although 1,157 provisional specifications have been received in the Patent Office in less than six months, nothwithstanding the enormous work involved in organizing a new Commonwealth patents system, no less than 471 of these provisional specifications have been accepted. Considerably more than this number would have been accepted but for the fact that, upon investigation, a large number of informalities have been discovered, owing to applicants or their agents having failed to comply with the requirements of the law. In many instances applications have either been improperly signed or not signed at all, whilst in others the applications show no title to the invention for which they desire to obtain letters patent. The applicants, or their agents, have been notified of these informalities, and asked to give them immediate attention ; but owing to a number of these people living in places beyond the State, some time elapses before these informalities can be rectified. A strong disposition was evinced by Parliament, when the Patents Bill was being debated, that the Patents Office should not place insurmountable difficulties in the path of the poor inventor, consequently the Commissioner has used every effort, where an applicant has filed his own application, to enable him to deal with his own case. No possible loss can accrue to an applicant by the non-acceptance of his provisional specification, seeing thathe is in no better position after such acceptance than he was at the date of the filing of his application. The acceptance of a provisional specification gives an applicant no rights against the public.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I have to state -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Postmaster-General has no denite information as to what the Orient Company propose to do in the respects after the present contract expires on 31st of January next. He has, however, been informed that the manager of the Orient-Pacific Company in Australia thinks that the present call at Adelaide may have to be discontinued in the event of no contract being entered into.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What other lines will the subsidized New Hebrides service connect Brisbane and the Islands with?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is intended that the Sydney-Solomon Islands service will call at Brisbane. If that service is continued to any other islands they also will be brought into direct communication with Brisbane. As I explained yesterday, the New Hebrides steamers cannot call at Brisbane, owing to it being so far out of the line of’ route.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Wilkinson) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the table showing : -
The monthly average number of letters delivered from the post-offices at Boonah, Caboolture, Esk, Laidley, Rosewood, and Nambour, in the State of Queensland.
The monthly average number of newspa pers, magazines, and parcels delivered from the same offices.
The average number of mails made up and despatched from these and other places.
The value of telegraphic and telephonic business (monthly average) transacted at each of the offices named.
Return to cover the year ended 30th June, 1904.
Message resumed from 10th November, vide page 6842),
Motion (by Mr. Frazer) again proposed -
That the Committee concur in the resolution
I submitted by the Senate.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).Since this resolution was submitted to the Committee, I have carefully perused the speech delivered by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, with a view to ascertaining how far the position which he placed before us was supported by facts. While I do not claim to be a constitutional lawyer, I am of opinion that his dissertation upon the Constitution shows conclusively that we have no power to nationalize ‘ the tobacco industry. In my judgment he has altogether misinterpreted the provisions of the Constitution. He has dealt with this matter as though we were empowered to legislate upon every subject which had not been specialty transferred to the Federal arena under that charter of government. I claim that we are bound by the provision of the Constitution, which sets forth most distinctly the various matters with which we can deal. Unless the States empower us to legislate upon matters other than those which are therein specified, we are quite unable to deal with them. It appears to me questionable whether, even assuming that the tobacco industry were nationalized, we could raise the enormous profit which the honorable member evidently anticipates. He has given us no indication of the data from which he draws the conclusion that a State monopoly in tobacco would return an annual profit to the Commonwealth of more than ,£600,000. The honorable member states that a certain quantity of tobacco is imported into the Commonwealth, upon which he apparently estimates the amount of profit which we should receive. He says -
I find from research that the annual profit upon imported tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes within the Commonwealth would be ^572,029, £3 ‘6,439. and ;£II2>857 respectively. He does not say what the cost of production of tobacco is, or what would be its selling price. He contents himself with saying that he finds, “from research,” that the annual profit upon the articles in question aggregates so much. Surely he ought to make a clearer statement than that. He continues -
These sums aggregate ^1,001,325.
He does not inform us how he arrives at the profit what is obtained even upon the locally -produced article.
– Surely there is some means of showing how that profit is arrived at. When we are asked to alter the policy of trie country by undertaking the nationalization of any industry, it should be made absolutely clear whether or not the undertaking is likely to prove a success.
– Will the honorable member vote to obtain that information >y means of the appointment of a Royal Commission ?
– A Select Committee, appointed by the Senate, is already inquiring into this matter. Under such circumstances, I ask is it necessary to appoint a Royal Commission? Personally, I do not believe in spending money unnecessarily upon such inquiries. If it can be shown that there is any reason why the Select Committee, which is at present engaged in investigating the matter, cannot obtain the information desired, I would not ‘be adverse to the appointment of a Royal Commission. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie continued -
The profit on locally-produced tobacco, added to the foregoing amount, increases the profit to ^2,005,750 annually, if we deduct the Excise and Customs duties now received by the Commonwealth, less 3 per cent., from the amount, in order to allow for the cost of the collection of our Customs and Excise duties upon tobacco, we shall derive a profit of ^673,454 per annum upon nationalization.
From his own figures, I find that the value of the manufactured tobacco, cigars,, cigarettes, and leaf imported into the Commonwealth is ,£780,000. In addition to that, there were 802,237 lbs. of leaf produced in the Commonwealth ‘during last year. The honorable member expects the present combine, after paying Excise and Customs duty, together with the cost of manufacture and production, to obtain a clear profit of £673,000, which would mean a total clear profit of at least £[2,000,000 upon raw material valued at not more than £800,000 or £[900,000. To my mind, that is an utter absurdity. He points out that in 1900 the manufacture of tobacco in France yielded a revenue of £13,215,799, whereas the amount of the duties collected in England aggregated only £10,500,000. At the time, I regarded his figures as somewhat strange, and accordingly took the precaution to check them. As a result, I discovered that he had selected the year 1900, because it had yielded the lowest revenue derived from tobacco in England for many years. It is a most extraordinary fact that the highest revenue from this source was obtained in r9°3-4-
– From where does the honorable member derive his figures?
– From the “ Statistical Abstracts of British Trade,” which can be seen in the Library.
– The returns for 1904 are not yet to hand.
– I can assure the honorable member that they are, and may be perused in the Parliamentary Library.
– The figures which I quoted were those given by the chief excise officer in Victoria before the Select Committee appointed by the Senate. They were the latest figures available three months ago.
– The figures to which I refer can be seen in this building. There is no need to go anywhere else for them. Instead of the revenue derived from tobacco in England in 1901 being ^10^500,000, it was £12,813,578. The receipts for 1903 total £12,451,000, and for 1904, ^12,627^000. I do not blame the honorable member for the selection which he made; but it is unfortunate for him that in 1900 the revenue derived from tobacco in England was the lowest received for many years.
– Even allowing that, the revenue obtained from that source in England is considerably below that which is obtained in France.”
– Are the figures quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie correct?
– They are correct so far as the year 1900 is concerned.
– The difference does not amount to a great deal.
– It represents over £2,000,000. To me that is an extremely small sum. From what I have said, it will be seen that the honorable member’s argument concerning the increased revenue derived by France completely breaks down.’
– France receives from tobacco more than £1,000,000 in excess of the revenue derived by England and that from a smaller population.
– No; the difference represents only ,£700,000 or ,£800,000. The honorable member went on to speak of the monopoly existing in Australia. There may be a monopoly, but, so far, the public do not appear to have suffered from its operations. He, and others, have put forward the argument that competition in this case is an evil, and that we should abolish it, and yet the protectionists are always telling us it is undesirable that there should be no competition in any industry.
– We object to cut-throat competition, which leads to employes being practically starved.
– It is singular that the honorable member refrained from plac-ing before the Committee any figures relating to the wages paid in France. Perhaps it did not suit him to make any reference to them.
– I spoke until the time aN lowed me under the Standing Orders expired. I could not do any more.
– But it is, to say the least, very strange that the honorable member should not have referred to the wages paid in France.
– Did I not state that the figures which I quoted were based on a manufacturing price of 2s. per lb., and that there was an allowance of is. 3d. per lb. in respect of the difference in cost of manufacture in France and Australia.
– The honorable member spoke of the cost being 2s. per lb., as against 9d. per lb., but he did not tell us how a profit was to be derived from the undertaking. -He then went on to sneer at the gentlemen engaged in the industry in Australia. He said -
Their names will indicate that they are good Australian citizens, who take a big interest in the welfare of the people of this country. Upon the 13th April, 1904, I find that the following persons held the respective shares assigned to them in the States Tobacco Company : - Louis Philip Jacobs, of St. Kilda, 28,350.
I suppose that the honorable member wished to suggest that Mr. Jacobs and others whose names he gave were foreigners. I made inquiries to ascertain where the shareholders in this company came from, and was informed that Mr. Jacobs is a native of this city, whilst Mr. Cameron, to whom he also referred, was one of the founders of the firm of Cameron Brothers, which was established here thirty years ago.
– What about Kronheimer of Hamburg? .
- Mr. Kronheimer was also one of the original shareholders in the firm of Cameron Brothers. It is immaterial, so far as the point at issue is concerned, whether he came from Hamburg or not. We endeavour to induce foreign capitalists to invest in industries in Australia, and when they do so the honorable member would sneer at them. “ Kronheimer “ may be a foreign name,. but “ Jacobs “ is not ; while the Messrs. Dixson, who were mentioned by the honorable member, have been carrying on business in New South Wales for very many years. It will be found that the shareholders in this company have been engaged for a number of years in the industry in Australia. The honorable member asserted that the State monopoly in France was an advantage to the workers, and proceeded to show -the benefits they had derived from it. Whilst he was speaking, I inquired how many women were employed in the industry there as compared with the number of men engaged in it, but he was unable to give me any satisfactory information on the point. I have since investigated this aspect of the question, and find that in France, in 1902, there were 14,941 women employed in the industry, at an average wage of 3s. 3d. per day of ten hours, while there were only 1,746 men, who received an average wage of 4s. 1 id. per day, employed in it. In Austria in 1902 there were 36,029 females employed in the industry, who received an average wage of 10s. per week of fifty-two hours, while there were only 4>377 males, who received an average wage of 11s. 2d. per week. These figures do not include the wages paid to boys and girls, for they come under the heading of apprentices, who receive 5s. 8d. per week. It will thus be seen that the State monopoly in Austria has not done much for the women. In Australia in 1903 there were 1,380 females, re,ceiving an average wage of 3s. per day of eight hours, and 1,51.4 males, who received an ‘average wage of 6s. per day of eight hours. These figures show that there are more men than women engaged in the industry in the Commonwealth, and that the wages paid are higher than those which ob tain in France or Austria. Then I would point out that the revenue we derive from the trade under existing circumstances is almost as much per lb. as that received from the tobacco monopoly in France, while the revenue per head is a little more.
– We are a much’ richer people.
– Does the honorable member suggest that our revenue would be increased by the establishment of a State monopoly in tobacco? In France the revenue per lb. in 1902 was 3s. 1¾d., and 6s. 8Jd. per head, while in Austria it was 3s. 8jd. per lb., and 3s. 2jd. per head. In Australia, however, the revenue derived from this source amounts to 2s. lod. per lb., and 7s. per head. In other words, the revenue which we derive from that source is very much larger than that obtained from the State monopoly in France or Austria.
– There is a greater spending power in Australia than there is in France.
– But the point we have to consider is whether the revenue from tobacco would be improved by the creation of a State monopoly: The honorable member for Kalgoorlie asserted that the local combine were destroying the tobacco-growing industry in the Commonwealth; but as a matter of fact they are endeavouring to encourage it.
– Then the honorable member admits that there is a combine?
– I am simply taking the honorable member’s word for it. It is immaterial whether there is a’ combine or not, as long as it does not injure the public.
– And they are doing that.
– They are not. There has been no increase in the price of tobacco to the retailer, except that which took place immediately after the imposition pf the duty. Before there was any combine in existence the price was increased in consequence of the imposition of the Federal Customs duties, but there has been no further increase.
– Customers do not get a box of matches with every box of cigarettes purchased as they used to do.
– I. always thought cheap things were good, but my protectionist friends have looked upon dear things- as desirable. The whole speech delivered by the honorable member was a series of contradictions. He did not show that there really was a monopoly in Australia.
– I think I did.
– So far as some matters were concerned, he would not say that there was a monopoly. In dealing with the tobacco-growing industry he went back to the condition of affairs in the eighties, and sought to show how t’he output had fluctuated from time to time. May I point out to him that there was an increase in the production of colonially-grown tobacco at the time of the American war, owing to the shortage of American leaf. Then, again, colonial tobacco was used in New South Wales for the treatment of the disease known as scab in sheep.
– Only the refuse was used.
– Colonially-grown tobacco was used for that purpose, and as soon as the disease was stamped out there was naturally a decrease in the consumption of the local article. How can the honorable member say that the tobacco-growing industry in Australia is being destroyed by the combine? As a matter of fact, it is being destroyed in France, as the result of the State monopoly. The growers there receive no protection of any kind. During 1902 the price of locally-grown leaf in France was 31/2d. per lb., whilst that of the imported leaf was 51/2d. per lb., and 44 per cent, of the locally-grown leaf was used. That accounts for the excellent quality of the tobacco produced by the State monopoly inthat country ! It is of such good quality that, when a Frenchman had smoked a Britisher out of a railway compartment in which they were travelling, he thought that he had avenged Fashoda. He said that if the French troops would only smoke French tobacco the British Army would never face them. This is an indication of the sort of stuff which is turned out by the State monopoly, and which Frenchmen have to smoke. In 1903 the price of the locally-grown leaf in Australia was 4d. per lb., whilst that of the imported leaf was10d. per lb. Notwithstanding this, the imported leaf was, for the most part, used in the manufacture of tobacco. Ifthe manufacturers will give 10d. per lb. for the imported leaf, although they can obtain the local article for 4d. per lb., it stands to reason that the foreign article must be infinitely superior. No man would give10d. per lb. for tobacco leaf if he could obtain an article of the same quality for 4d. per lb. We have also to remember that there is a duty of1s. 6d. per lb. on the imported leaf, which brings the total cost up to 2s. 4d. per lb. Would any one say that the manufacturers would pay that price if the local article, obtainable at 4d. per lb., would produce equally good tobacco? There must be some good business reason for the preference shown for the imported leaf. It is certainly not due to the fact, as suggested by my honorable friend, that members of the tobacco combine are interested in plantations in the United States and elsewhere, “ which are worked by black labour,” and desire to draw their main supply from those sources rather than from local growers.
– That is an absolute fact.
– Surely the honorable member would not expect any man of common sense to believe that these business men would import leaf all the way from America, and pay a duty of1s. 6d. per lb. on it, simply that black labour might be kept in employment, when they could grow it in Australia for 4d. a lb. The honorable member must think we are fools, if he imagines that we are prepared to accept such arguments. He may deceive himself, and those whom he addresses from public platforms by making statements of this kind, but when he puts them before the Committee he must expect to have them analyzed. I hold that his assertions are utterly absurd.
– What does the honorable member have to pay for good tobacco in Melbourne?
– So far as I am personally concerned, all tobacco is bad. It is a matter of business with these cute Yankees, of which we have heard so much. They do not throw their money away, but try every means to make a profit on its expenditure.
– They have not to pay excise.
– Excise must be paid on tobacco, whether manufactured from the colonial or the imported leaf, so that there is nothing in that objection. Every effort has been made ‘ to encourage the growing of tobacco in suitable country in the New England district, such as the Moonbi Ranges, where the soil is said to be good for tobacco. The manufacturers have not set themselves against the production of tobacco leaf locally, but have, on the contrary, spent money in trying to develop the industry. To my mind, it is impossible that these men should be making a profit of nearly £700,000 a year. I have not had time to go thoroughly into figures, but the statements of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie are opposed to common-sense. There is not yet a monopoly in the tobacco business, because in Victoria there are one or two factories which do not belong to the combine, while there is another in South Australia, and I think others in other States. A Mr. Arnell, of the firm of Dudgeon and Arnell, when examined before a Select Committee of the Senate, stated distinctly that his business had not been, injured by the combine, of which his firm was not a member, and that the price of tobacco had not been increased. The two tobaccoes which went up in price were one. made by his firm, and another called “ Derby,” but in each case the increase was due to the duty. So far as I can understand, the combine has not affected the position of the retailers, supposing there to be a combine in existence, though that is not proved by the evidence hitherto taken by the Committee. Neither have the general public been injured. I understand that Kronheimer Limited are the distributors for all the manufacturing companies in the combination; but the circular to which reference has been made has been issued by them, not to retailers, but to business houses. No retailer has been interfered with in regard to prices.
– The combine is offering inducements to retail tobacconists to keep up prices against the consumer.
– It is desired to keep prices at what they are now. The honorable member when speaking upon this question, said that if the industry were nationalized, smokers would not get their tobacco any more cheaply than they do now. They would probably get a worse article; and the growers would not gain any advantage, because in any case the industry must be conducted on business lines. If it were under the control of the Government, its managers could not refuse to use imported leaf, and manufacture only the colonial leaf, because, if they did, the consumption of tobacco would fall off, since smokers would not like the article which was being manufactured. With regard to the dismissal of hands, I understand that commercial travellers! were taken off the road by some of the firms, but that they have been found other employment.
– Not by the same firms. Forty-five were dismissed.
– They have been given other employment by some of these firms.
– What is the source of the honorable member’s information?
– My information is all right. I have heard that Kronheimer Limited have increased their staff of travellers, because they have a larger business to deal with now.
– By how many?
– I do not know; I am not acquainted with the details of their business. I understand, however, that very few travellers were stranded. If the honorable member had given me information on the subject. I could have made inquiries. I am altogether opposed to the nationaliza tion of the tobacco industry. It is silly to suppose that the profits made by the combine are as large as they have been stated to be, and the Government certainly could not conduct the industry as cheaply as it is being conducted by the business men now connected with it. It is impossible for a Government to compete with private individuals in manufacturing. From the information which I have obtained, wages here in the tobacco industry are higher, and the hours of labour shorter, than elsewhere, while the’ revenue obtained by the State is as large as the profits of the industry in France. Personally, I think all tobacco bad ; but I understand that, according to the taste of those who smoke, the tobacco we get here is better than that made in France. I think that in every way it is more in the public interest to let matters remain as they are than to make the tobacco industry a Government monopoly. We could have dealt with the subject more satisfactorily if the’ honorable member for Kalgoorlie had told us on what his figures were based, so that we might check them. I think that he will admit that his speech was absolutely bald. No one can test the accuracy of his statements, or determine whether his estimate of profit is at all correct. I cannot conceive, however, taking into account the cost of raw material, of manufacture, distribution, and excise, that the profits can be as large as they have been stated to be. I shall oppose the motion.
– The honorable member for New England has criticised the proposals of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie with his usual vigour, and with characteristic enthusiasm. He has told us that he is not one of those unfortunate people who contribute to the revenue indirectly by the consumption of tobacco and the use of intoxicating liquor; though it seems to me that he would be improved as a politician and a humanitarian if he would take unto himself one or two mild little vices.
– Does the honorable member drink and smoke?
– Occasionally. Although the honorable member is a paragon of virtue, it would be an improvement if he could discuss questions of this kind from the point of view of one who has practical experience, instead of regarding the industry as one to be suppressed in the most violent way possible. His chief reason for opposing tha motion seems to be that the tobacco monopoly is not an evil, because it is not inflicting any hardship on the community, prices now being the same as they were before it came into existence. He allows it to be inferred, however, that if it became a serious evil he might change his opinions.
– Not in regard to the inadvisability of nationalizing the industry.
– The honorable member’s present position is inconsistent with that which he assumed last night when the proposed prohibition of the introduction of liquor into New Guinea was under discussion. It was shown then that no evil has been done to the natives by the system now prevailing in the Territory, but the honorable member looked forward to a Lime when evil would be done, and he was anxious to prevent that time from arriving. I ask ‘him to be consistent in this matter, and to look forward to a time when the tobacco monopolists will carry into effect the policy which monopolists all over the world have at heart.
– Last night we were discussing the evils done to individuals by the liquor trade,
– The arguments advanced were on the lines which I have indicated, and the honorable member must see that he is inconsistent. Even if the tobacco monopoly is not at the present time a public *evil, it will, like monopolies all the world over, try to extract the utmost profit from the community, so soon as it can do so with reasonable safety. At present it is on its trial, and is beginning to collect its forces. It takes a little time for a combination such as this to get to work to effect its purposes I can understand the argument of the honorable member for New England with regard to some monopolies, which he contends should remain the property of the community, as a whole. But when he discovers some radical distinction between the proposed monopoly and natural monopolies I am totally unable to follow him- A natural monopoly may be a perfectly healthy one, whilst an artificial monopoly may be entirely unhealthy. We have to apply common sense to matters of this kind, and I contend that the honorable gentleman, who believes in the creation of certain monopolies for the benefit of the community, ought to apply exactly the same method of reasoning to the subject we are now. discussing. I do not intend to traverse the figures which the honorable member has quoted so plentifully.
– They are indisputable, and the honorable member knows it.
– Although I have had a great deal to do with figures during my career, I regard them with suspicion when they are brought forward as evidence.
– What about the figures quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie ?
– I always remember the statement made by a sagacious professor of Edinburgh, who declared that statistics, like mince pies, depended for their good quality very much upon the individual who concocted them. Whilst I have no doubt that the honorable member for New England, so far from having concocted the statistics he quoted, derived them from what he regarded as a safe and sound source, I wish to make a few general observations which I think will go far to prove the unsoundness of his conclusions. The State monopoly of the tobacco industry is no new idea. It has been found entirely advantageous by other communities, whose intelligence is at least equal to our own.
– Is it not a relic of the middle ages?
– We have some relics of the middle ages that we preserve with a great deal of reverence. The present proposal is upon the lines of schemes in other parts of the world, the operation of which have been attended with advantage to the general community.
– That depends upon the point of view.
– The honorable member is not a connoisseur in the matter of tobacco, and, therefore, very little weight can be attached to his sneers directed to the quality of the tobacco manufactured under the State monopoly in France.
– He is right all the same.
– In the case of tobacco, as in that of liquor, taste has very much to do with the judgment passed upon the article consumed. Although I do not consume much liquor or tobacco I know that some brands that I would not care to touch are highly esteemed .by others, who have as correct a taste and as much intelligence as I have. French tobacco is manufactured in a manner entirely different from that followed in English-speaking communities. In almost every country modifications are made in the system of manufacture, in order to suit the national taste, so that what might seem highly objectionable to others is regarded by them as of the highest possible quality. Doubtless, the consumers of tobacco in France regard English-made tobacco with as little favour as the smokers across Channel look upon theirs. At any rate, the people of France have shown no inclination to do away with the monopoly. They are evidently satisfied with the quality of the tobacco, as shown by the revenue that is yielded by the monopoly, and we have a right to assume that the position is one which is not likely to be changed in a hurry.
– What happened in Germany when at attempt was made to restore the State monopoly there?
– I am not acquainted with the position of affairs in Germany. Perhaps the honorable member will enlighten us when he addresses the House. As the proposal now before us has already run the gauntlet of criticism in another place, it need not be debated at very great length. Most honorable members interested in the subject have probably read the very able speeches made in another place, notably that delivered by Senator Pearce.
– Does the honorable member agree with all the figures quoted by that honorable senator?
– As I have already stated, I regard the figures quoted in such cases with a certain amount of mental reservation, until I have had an opportunity to inquire into them. Senator Pearce made out an excellent case, one that was certainly good enough to induce ‘his fellowsenators to adopt his proposal for further inquiry. I trust that honorable members will indorse the action of the Senate, and sanction an inquiry into a series of proposals which are of some interest to the community as a whole, and upon which they are entitled to receive the fullest information at an early date. .
– Whilst the able speech delivered by the honormember for Kalgoorlie excited my admiration, and I think he is to be commended for the trouble he took to obtain information for the purpose of fortifying his arguments, I am not altogether prepared to accept the figures quoted by him, no doubt in perfect good faith. The statistics quoted by the honorable member for New England do not agree with those placed before the Committee by the mover of the motion. They appear to indicate that there is something wrong somewhere.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie are absolutely correct, as applying to a particular year.
– That year happened to be a particularly bad one, so far as Great Britain was concerned, and the honorable member did not quote the French figures for the same year, but took another year, which did not offer a fair comparison.
– That was not the honorable member’s fault. His figures were not faked.
– I do not suggest that. I have already given the honorable .member credit for perfect good faith. It is possible, however, that he may have been misled, and I doubt whether we can accept his figures as absolutely reliable. I have been looking up some authorities upon this subject, and I have arrived at the conclusion that the nationalization of the tobacco industry will not remedy the evils which exist under what is admittedly a great monopoly, and as such most undesirable. A comparison which I have made shows that in the matter of taxation, we levy upon tobacco in the Commonwealth a duty equivalent to two or three times the value of the article, whilst in France the taxation imposed is equivalent to five times the value. The wholesale price of the cheapest tobacco sold in Australia is about 2s. 6d. per lb., whereas in France the cheapest tobacco is quoted at 2s. iod. per lb. Therefore, under a State monopoly, the cheapest tobacco is dearer than the lowest-priced article amongst us, even under a private monopoly.
– Surely that tobacco is not intended for human consumption?
– I do not pretend to speak as an authority, but that is the information given to me.
– I think that the average price is about 6s. per lb.
– I understand that the “ Yankee Doodle “ and “ Havelock “ brands are sold at 4s. 6d. per lb. to retailers.
– No; the prices are higher than that. The wholesale price of aromatic “Yankee Doodle” and “Havelock” is 4s. 9d. I believe that the darker qualities of the same brand are slightly cheaper.
– These figures I give on the authority of Mr. Max Hirsch, who gave them in the course of a public lecture, and I have not seen them challenged. The quality of tobacco most largely consumed within the Commonwealth - such brands as “Havelock” and “Yankee Doodle “-is sold to retailers at 4s. 6d. per lb., and the most popular French tobacco realizes about the same price. Therefore, I do not see that any particular advantage is conferred upon the French consumer.
– We are likely to obtain a purer article under the State monopoly.
– Experience in France would indicate that quite the contrary is the case, because it is universally admitted that French tobacco is of the vilest quality.
– That is not so.
-That is stated by all the authorities I have consulted. It is said that no one with any self-respect would ever dream of smoking French tobacco. I am informed, on the authority of an expert member of this House, that some of it is almost as deadly as lyddite to those who come within the range of its odour, and that the Japanese have been seriously thinking of importing it in large quantities for use against their enemy. They find, however, that, brave as the Japanese are credited with being, even under the most adverse conditions, none of their soldiers are sufficiently brave to smoke this particular tobacco. That statement may be the result of a little stretch of imagination, and honorable members are at liberty to seriously regard as much of it as they choose. There is, however, a general consensus of opinion that French tobacco is uniformly of vile quality. I do not think that the Commonwealth would be likely to benefit much by the proposed changefrom the point of view of’ quality. Notwithstanding the great difference between the population of Australia and that of France, . I find, according to Mr. Hirsch’s statements, that the former derives a revenue of 3s.01/2d. per pound from tobacco, whilst the latter receives about 3s. 13/4d. per pound. It will be seen, therefore, that from a revenue stand-point there is not a great deal of difference between the two countries. But as a matter of fact, as no private manufacturers or dealers are allowed to make any profit upon the sale of tobacco in France, the State profits there ought to be two or three times greater than is the revenue obtained by the Commonwealth from this source.
– Private dealers make a profit in retailing. I understand that persons are licensed to retail.
– So far as I can understand, tobacco cannot be sold by private persons in France for profit. As I have shown, however, the advantage is only slightly greater in France from that standpoint. In regard to production, it must be remembered that there is an enormous difference between the population of Australia and that of France. Yet we find that in Australia the production of tobacco is between two and three times greater than is the production in France. I can only surmise that the great majority of its citizens prefer to smoke imported tobacco.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his figures?
– From various official records. From the latest official data, only very recently to hand, it appears that in France the revenue per pound is 3s.13/4d., and per head 6s. 81/2d. In Australia it is 2s.10d. per pound, and about 7s. per head.
– France does not import very much tobacco.
– Then a large proportion of the population must be non-smokers. If we take France as an example, I do not see that any advantage is likely to be gained by the adoption of the change proposed, so far as wages are concerned. In that country the wages paid are alleged to be 40 per cent, lower than those which rule in Australia, whilst in the matter of hours the operatives engaged in the tobacco industry there are required to work one-fourth longer than are those engaged in the industry in Australia.
– The amount of leaf produced in France in 1901 was about fiftyfive times as much as that produced in Australia.
– I have not the means immediately to hand to check the accuracy of that statement. The honorable member will have an opportunity; at a later stage, of replying to all the points which are raised by the various speakers. I admit that all monopolies are evils.
– What would the honorable member do in regard to the existing tobacco monopoly ?
– I have a sovereign remedy for getting rid of that monopoly - a remedy which would be more effective than State control, or any other artificial means which can be adopted. I suggest to those who are in the habit of using tobacco that if they wish to destroy the present monopoly they should discontinue smoking. After all, free production and free exchange are the great panaceas for all the evils of monopoly.
– Is the honorable member aware that one of the biggest tobacco mo,noplies in existence is to be found in England?
– But what about the duties upon narcotics, which are operative in Great Britain?
– They are not very high.
– Off hand, I am not able to check that statement. When I was in the United States - which is the home of great tobacco trusts - a number of people were suffering from leprosy, and a special Commission was appointed to inquire into the cause of the spread of the disease amongst the white population which, it had been alleged, was due to excessive indulgence in smoking. In its report the Commission stated that in one of the States in which its members had visited the tobacco factories, they had discovered that only two factories did not employ leprous Chinamen in the manufacture of cigarettes and cigars. From that moment I thought it would be wise to discontinue smoking, and I have not since indulged in the habit.
– If there were no smokers in Australia, the non-smokers would be required to pay an additional £1,300,000 annually.
– Not necessarily. There is such a thing as having a smaller expenditure. I fail to see that the proposal to bring the tobacco industry under State control would overcome any of the evils which exist, or cheapen the price of tobacco to the consumers.
– It would provide the Commonwealth with the handsome profit which now finds its way into the pockets of the monopolists.
– Possibly, but I am not a Socialist, and do not believe in the State engaging in industries which can be very much better conducted by private enterprise under natural conditions of free competition. I cannot support the motion, because no argument has been advanced to justify the change which is sought to be effected. I do not say that a change is not desirable, but, in my opinion, we need a change in a different direction from that which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has suggested.
– I should like to call your attention, sir, to the fact that there are two motions upon the businesspaper which seem to conflict with one another. The first proposal asks us to assent to the decision of the Senate that, in order to provide the necessary money for the payment of old-age pensions and for other purposes, the Commonwealth Government should undertake the manufacture and sale of tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. The second has reference to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the position of the tobacco trade in relation to the production, manufacture, and distribution of tobacco. In dealing with this motion it seems to me that we are anticipating a debate upon the proposal relating to the appointment of a Royal Commission. I desire to ask whether that is not so?
– I would point out that I have very little to do with this matter. The Order of the Day relating to the Government manufacture and sale of tobacco is the first upon the business-paper, and although Mr. Speaker has given a ruling, in which I subsequently concurred, that it was not competent to anticipate debate, surely that could not be used as an argument in a case of this character. Otherwise it would be possible, when a notice of motion appeared upon the business-paper, to completely block discussion upon the subject in question. I would further point out to the right honorable member that, as Chairman, I have been directed bv the House to take this matter into consideration, and, therefore, it would not be competent for me to decide in the direction which he desires.
– It seems to me extraordinary that we should be asked to deal in a definite way with this proposal, and subsequently to debate the question of the desirableness or otherwise of appointing a Royal Commission to investigate it. The question of the control of the tobacco industry and the revenue that we receive from the trade is one of very great importance. I do not suppose that there is any industry which is surrounded with greater difficulties than is that of the growing and manufacture of tobacco, and to call upon the Committee before any investigation has been made to agree to the establishment of a State monopoly is to ask us to adopt a most unbusiness-like and unprecedented course. This is one of the most extraordinary propositions that has ever been submitted to the House. I agree that it would be reasonable to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the industry, because the report which the Commission would furnish would assist us to arrive at a proper decision. I do not know on what evidence another place was induced to agree to this proposal, but certainly no information has been submitted to us, showing that it would be a wise step to take.
– A Select Committee appointed by another place is now inquiring into the working of the industry.
– That is all the more reason why we should defer our decision until the report of the committee is available. Surely no honorable member would be prepared to vote blindly for such a proposal.
– There are none so blind as those who will not see.
– No doubt the honorable member has studied this question so carefully- that he is prepared to create a State monopoly without further consideration. There are others, however, who desire that the whole matter shall be carefully investigated before the Commonwealth is asked to embark upon what would be really a speculative undertaking. Practically the crux of the whole question is whether we can produce as good a leaf as is obtainable from other countries which are celebrated for their tobacco, and whether we can grow it in sufficient quantities to meet all our requirements. There is not much tobe said in favour of the creation of an industry which would interfere with the revenue of the country, and at the same time have to import all the raw material. During my term of office as Treasurer of Western Australia, a tobacco factory was established there, but I never regarded it as of much importance to the State as we lost a large amount of revenue. It seemed to me that we could have done very well without it.
– But the right honorable gentleman took that view of the industry simply from the stand-point of State Treasurer
– That is so.
– The factory has since been closed.
– Now that we have Inter-State free-trade, the position is very different. As a result of the establishment of the tobacco factory in Western Australia, the State lost annually a considerable amount of revenue.
– I have heard it said that Western Australia is well suited for the growth of tobacco.
– I have seen tobacco growing in Western Australia, but I should be inclined to say that, owing to the dryness of its climate, that State is not very well” suited to its production. The lands in the tropical parts of Australia are not as moist as are those on the northeastern side of the Continent. I do not suppose that any honorable member will contend that the proposal to create a State monopoly is a matter of such urgency that we should agree to it without careful consideration. I would suggest that we refrain from dealing with the question until we have arrived at a decision in regard to the motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission. That would be a reasonable course to pursue. I invariably hesitate to vote against any motion for the appointment of a Select Committee or Commission to gather information for the guidance of the House, and I think that we should act wisely in agreeing to the appointment of the Commission for which the honorable member for Boothby has moved. The proposal immediately before us. however, appears to be a haphazard and mischievous one.
– Then another place must be a mischievous House.
– The honorable member must surely think that we are in the sere and yellow leaf, if he imagines i that we are ready to rush the Commonwealth into this project without any investigation.
– The right honorable member has rushed into riskier projects which have turned out well.
– I do not think that the honorable member can cite any case in which I proposed that before any inquiry had been made, the State should interfere with a large industry conducted by private enterprise.
– There were a good many private water-carriers in Coolgardie when the right honorable member brought forward his scheme to supply that town with water.
– There is no doubt that those carters reaped a good harvest prior to the completion of the scheme ; but when they entered upon the industry they knew that it was not likely to be a permanent one. The proposal now before us involves interference with immense private interests. Those engaged in the industry have expended large sums on their plant and buildings, and I have no doubt that if we created a State monopoly, we should have to grant them compensation. It has not been suggested that those who have invested their capital in the industry should be told that after a certain date their plant must be thrown aside and their workers “thrown out of employment without compensation being granted to them.
– We should take over the men.
– It seems to me that in this, as in other cases in which the State has interfered with private enterprise, compensation would have to be paid. When hotels are closed, in accordance with the decision of a local option poll, that course has to be pursued, in fairness to the proprietors and licensees. It seems to me that an easy way out of the difficulty would be for the House to deal with the motion providing for the appointment of a Royal Commission before arriving at a decision in regard to the question now before us.
– That means of overcoming, the difficulty in which the right honorable member finds himself will not be available if I can help it.
– We know that there is a saying that certain persons rush in where others fear to tread. If we act with caution in dealing with this matter we shall give satisfaction, not only to the people of Australia generally, but to those Who are directly interested in the industry. No attempt has ‘been made to prove that the enterprise would be a source of profit to the Commonwealth, and in these circumstances I sincerely trust that the motion will not be carried.
– A difficulty has arisen now, for the first time in nearly four years, as to the meaning of the standing orders governing private members’ business, and I invite the House to lay down the rule that on all occasions motions shall share with general’ orders of the day the time devoted to private business, as the latter always share the time with motions. The intention of the Sessional. Order seems to be that orders of the day, general business, and private members’ notices- of motion shall share equally the time devoted to private business; but the wording is rather imperfect. If the House agrees to my suggestion, Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees will act accordingly.
– It seems to me that the present method of dealing with private members’ business is unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it leaves only a short time for the consideration of either a motion or an order of the day, as the case may be. I think it would be better to allow the private members’ business entered upon to be taken right through until completion, or until the time allotted for private members’ business had expired. Under the present arrangement we have not a sufficient opportunity to deal completely with any business, although we enter upon the consideration of a great number of subjects.
– I will propose a change next session. I do not think the present arrangement satisfactory.
– It would be well if the Government and the Standing Orders Committee took the matter into consideration.
– As this is the first occasion on which difficulty has arisen, I would point out that the Sessional Order relating to private members’ business appears to contemplate an equal division of time on Thursday afternoons between notices of motion and orders of the day. While, however, the Standing Orders provide that orders of the day shall be called on two hours after the meeting of the House, and so equally divide the time when notices of motion are taken first, there is 110 corresponding standing order providing that when orders of the day are taken first, notices of motion shall be called on at the expiry of two hours. As this is the first occasion on which the point has arisen, I call the attention of honorable members to it, and unless it is otherwise desired, I propose to allow the consideration of orders of the day to be continued. Do I understand that it is the desire of honorable members that private members’ time shall be shared equally between orders of the day and notices of motion?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I am very glad to have the matter decided, so that the Chairman of Committees and I may know what to do on future occasions.
Remaining orders of the day postponed.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to facilitate the parliamentary business of the Commonwealth, provision should be made to secure - whilst preserving proper freedom of debate - the discussions of the House being confined within more reasonable limits.
It is not my desire to occupy the time of the House at any length, and I wish also to avoid anything which may resemble undue comment on the proceedings of honorable members. But it must be apparent to most of us, as it is becoming apparent to the people of Australia, that the time occupied by our discussions is so great as to prevent us from accomplishing the business which we wish to transact, and which we have been sent here to perform. The life of the first Parliament had a duration of about two years and a half, and that Parliament was in session for upwards of two years of that time.
– The great Tariff discussion took place during the first session of that Parliament.
– It was understood that the discussion of the Tariff would occupy a considerable time. I was not a member of the first Parliament, but I have read the Hansard reports of its proceedings very closely, and I think it must be admitted that the discussions on the Tariff were unnecessarily prolonged. The Tariff, however, has not occupied the attention of this Parliament, and the amount of work done is altogether out of proportion to the time we have been in session.
– That is because the honorable member has been here.
– I take my share of responsibility; but I have not been one of the chief offenders.
– The honorable member has never offended.
– This Parliament was elected in December last, and has been in session for nearly nine months, which is too long a period, considering the amount of work which has been accomplished. If the FederalParliament is to be in session almost perpetually, some of us will be faced with a very serious position, and the personnel of this House will be very materially changed. All but those of us who live in Melbourne - and who can attend to their ordinary business during the day, coming here in the evening - are even now put to serious inconvenience, and if we are to have almost perpetual sessions, the representation of the people will ultimately be confined almost entirely to the members of two classes - members of the wealthy class, whose time is at their own disposal, and for whom the remuneration offers no material attraction, and members who are prepared to give up all their time to Parliamentary work for the sake of the allowance of £400 per annum - men who are prepared to live absolutely on the game, or what are known as professional politicians, though I do not wish to use the term offensively.
– We are all professionals.
– There are many honorable members who will not be able to continue in politics if our sessions become practically perpetual. But if this Parliament is to truly represent the people of Australia, it must contain a large proportion of those who are in active commercial life, and who, though not prepared to give all their time to public business, because they cannot afford to do so, are yet willing and able to render valuable public service. The House of Commons contains 670 members, and the British Parliament deals with the affairs of one-fifth of the globe. That Parliament generally sits from about the middle of February to early in August, with occasionally what is known as an autumn session, lasting from six to eight weeks. Yet the first Federal Parliament had a session of nearly a year and a half, while the first session of the second Parliament has lasted nearly nine months, and is likely to continue for another three or four weeks. What have we to show for this long session ? The Arbitration Bill has every prospect of being passed, but it is practically the only useful measure with which we shall have dealt; the other measures which have been under consideration having occupied but little time, and some of them being measures which might very well have been postponed for future consideration. The trouble which is facing us has faced the Parliaments of nearly the whole world. I have gone through some of the works which have been published on this subject, and I find that in Portugal the deputies are allowed one hour in which to speak on miscellaneous matters before passing to the Orders of the Day, while in many of the States of the American Union the sessions are limited. In Indiana, the session is limited to sixty-one days, and in
Colorado and Georgia to forty days. In six States and two Territories the limit is sixty days, in Maryland eighty days-
– But those are State Parliaments.
– Some of them deal with the affairs of a population larger than that of the Commonwealth of Australia, and dispose of a larger revenue than we have
– Indiana has a greater population than ours.
– The population of the city of New York alone is nearly equal to that of the Commonwealth.
– The County Council of London deals with the affairs of a population more than double that of Australia.
– Yes, very much more effectively, and with very much less waste of time than that with which we transact our business. Now I desire to direct attention to the United States Parliament, which deals with the affairs of nearly 80,000,000 people. In the House of Representatives - very similar to our own - no member may occupy more than one hour in debate on any one question in the House or in the Committee, unless he happen to be the member reporting the mea - sure under consideration from Committee, who is entitled to open and close when the general debate has been had thereon, and in this case, if it extends beyond one day he is entitled to one hour to close notwithstanding that he may have used one hour in opening. Dickenson, who is the greatest authority upon matters of this kind, says in reference to the British and American Parliaments -
In order further to promote economy of time, speeches might be limited to a quarter of an hour on a principal motion, or five minutes on an amendment, an exception being made in favour of the introducer of a Bill or motion and of Privy Councillors; leave being given, in special cases, with the consent of the Speaker, to dispense with the rule without debate : The consent of the Speaker being necessary to prevent abuse of the privilege.
– That is not the practice of the House of Commons.
– The practice of the House of Commons is very much worse, because they apply the closure when they desire, as our American friends express it, to “bulldoze” the House and pass a Bill through. I do not desire to see that system introduced here.
– They have to obtain the consent of the Chairman of Committees, and a Minister has to move the motion for the application of the closure.
– I think that what occurred in this House the other evening should be a lesson to us. It is most objectionable for the Government to have to put its foot down, or for a Speaker or a Chairman to be compelled to apply the direct closure to an honorable member. That procedure is certain to arouse feelings of animosity which should not find any place in this Chamber during the discussion of important public questions. The closure is the most objectionable means that can be employed to bring a discussion to a close.
– It is the most sensible means, if proper safeguards are provided.
– I know of no honorable member who would complain more loudly than the honorable member for Barrier if the closure were applied to him. I have seen it resorted to only twice, once in the Parliament of Tasmania, and once in this House, and I do not wish to see it again. In the ItalianParliament, which has to deal with matters quite as important as those which engage our attention, honorable members are allowed to write their speeches, but are restricted in the reading of them to fifteen minutes. I think that it would perhaps be of advantage if honorable members in this Chamber were allowed to write their speeches, because there is no doubt they would, by that means, be able to make their utterances very much more effective. I have taken some trouble to obtain information upon this subject, and I think that the facts placed before honorable members should be sufficient to show that this question is not a new one, and that it has had to be faced wherever Parliaments have met. I have not the slightest desire to deprive honorable members of fair and reasonable liberty of speech, but I think that in the interests of honorable members themselves it would be desirable to place a time limit upon speeches. Honorable members must agree that many speeches which have extended over two, three, and four hours would have had much greater effect, and would have been listened to much more closely by honorable members, if they had been curtailed to one hour’s length. My idea is that this motion should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration during recess, so that an order may be framed and submitted to the House next session. I think that the leader of the Government, or of the Opposition, or any honorable member who has to introduce an important subject, should be allowed unlimited time for that purpose. For instance, if the leader of the Opposition desired to move a motion of want of confidence, I should give him absolute freedom, and, similarly, I should place no restrictions upon the leader of the Government in his reply. My experience in the Federal and States Parliaments has shown me that it is not the leaders who are responsible for the long speeches that are delivered. I would restrict all other honorable members to threequarters ofan hour, or, if honorable members think one hour preferable, I should not object to that extension. Furthermore,I think that the honorable member whocloses a debate should be free from restriction. If the course I suggest were adopted, no debate upon any subject need extend over more than two or three days.
– What does the honorable member suggest so far as the proceedings in Committee are concerned ?
– I do not think that honorable members should be permitted to speak three or four times, or occupy an unlimited time, in Committee. One address upon any given subject should be sufficient. Honorable members frequently make Committee speeches on the motion for the second reading and second-reading speeches in Committee. During the consideration of the Arbitration Bill the Speaker had the greatest trouble in restricting the debate to the measure under discussion, and the Chairman of Committees had an equally difficult task in keeping honorable members to the question before the Chair. In the interests of the good government of Australia, and for the credit of this House, something must be done to put an end to the great waste of time that has been involved in our proceedings.
– The honorable member is the supporter of a strong Government ; what more does he want?
– The honorable member must know that under the Standing Orders any two or three honorable members, no matter how humble their positions, or how limited their intellects may be, can obstruct the business of the House.
– Why have any discussion at all ?
– I have no desire to proceed to extremes, or to prevent the honorable member for Darling from giving us valuable information such as he does at times, but I am sure that, notwithstanding the care with which he prepares his speeches, and the force with which he makes his points, he has on some occasions occupied our attention at undue length.
– The Postmaster-General spoke for four and a-half hours.
– Why does the honorable member single out the honorable member for Darling?
– I have no desire to single out any honorable member or to make special reference to those sitting on one side of the House or the other. In Tasmania the feeling of bitter disappointment at the proceedings of this House, and at the small amount of work performed by the Federal Parliament, is almost universal. I have ascertained that an equally strong feeling exists in Victoria. This Parliament is not conducting its business in the manner which the electors were led to expect it would.
– That is a reflection upon Ministers who have charge of the business of the House.
– I do not desire to reflect upon any one. My object is to place such restrictions on debate as will enable us to perform our work in a business-like way, and so that long discussions, extending over three or four weeks, shall be rendered impossible - so that two or three honorable members - irrespective of the side upon which they may sit - may be prevented from practically setting the whole House at defiance, rendering the Federal machine inoperative, and bringing Parliament into contempt.
– When did that happen ?
– I do not intend to be led into making any personal reflections.
– We have not forgotten the long speeches which the Prime Minister used to deliver when he was in Opposition.
– Once more I ask the honorable member for Bland to accept my assurance that I wish my proposal to apply to the supporters of the Government equally with members of the Opposition or those who sit upon the cross-benches.
Had I submitted this motion five months ago, I am inclined to believe that very many who are now opposed to it would have pronounced themselves in its favour. The best interests of the Commonwealth demand that we should introduce some system under which our business may be very much expedited, and a stop may be put to the enormous waste of time which goes on at present. I maintain that unless we bring our sessions within reasonable limits, we shall banish from this Parliament the very class of men whom we most desire to see here. Personally, I wish all classes of the community to be represented. At present, however, many individuals who would prove worthy representatives of the workers are unable to enter this Parliament because of the financial sacrifice demanded of them in the maintenance of two homes.
– Why not increase the salaries of honorable members?
– Instead of increasing the present salaries, I should rather see them reduced to £300 a year, and our sessions limited to six months. I am also in favour of adopting the system which obtains in some of the States of America, of fining each honorable member £2 for every day that he is absent from the House during the session. I should like the Standing Orders Committee to consider whether, by limiting the length of the speeches of honorable members, we should not shorten our sessions, and whether by fining absentees we should not insure the regular attendance of honorable members, with the result that business would be conducted in a very much better way. I hope that the House will give this matter its very serious attention, and thus rescue this Parliament from the well-merited opprobrium which is now being cast upon it.
– Personally I am quite in accord with this motion. I think that a good deal of time is needlessly absorbed by honorable members in making long speeches. I am even prepared to go further than the honorable member for Franklin. Under certain circumstances, I am quite in favour of the application of the closure. I do not think that any private member should be able to move that an honorable member be no longer heard, but I should be quite satisfied to see that power vested in any Minister who is in charge of any Bill which may be immediately under discussion.
– That practice would create a very bad feeling.
– But honorable members should recognise that the public business must be transacted. In the New South Wales Parliament any honorable member used to be at liberty to move that an honorable member be no longerheard. I do not think that that is a proper power to place in the hands of members generally. In the case of a Minister, who is in charge of a Bill, however, the position is very different. After a discussion has proceeded for some time, if there be any suggestion of”stone-walling”-
– What is “ stone-walling “ ?
– In the House of Commons, when a debate has been in progress for some time, it is competent for the Minister in charge of the measure under discussion, to ask the Chairman of Committees, or Mr. Speaker, whether, in his opinion, the discussion has been continued long enough. Should the Chairman or Mr. Speaker entertain that opinion, the motion is put to the Committee, or to the House.
– It is determined upon division, is it not?
– Most decidedly. Of course, I am not prepared to vest that power in a Minister without providing that he shall first obtain the consent of the Chairman or Mr. Speaker. That condition would afford some guarantee that the motion was notsubmitted for party purposes, but because the subject had been sufficiently debated. I heartily support the motion. I am aware that the honorable member for Melbourne is very strongly of opinion that when a quorum’ is not present in the Chamber, the Clerk of the House should be empowered to immediately draw attention to the fact, and that the bells should be set ringing. I am not prepared to go so far as that, because I do not know that it is necessary to have a quorum present at all times. In Committee, honorable members should have an opportunity of speaking as many times as they choose, but I think that some restriction should be imposed upon the length of their utterances.
– I agree to some extent with the motion of the honorable member for Franklin ; but I think that both he and the last speaker wish to proceed to extremes in this matter. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Barrier would be one of the first to raise his voice in most violent protest if an attempt were made to give effect to some of his suggestions.
– I do not think that the honorable member has a right to say that, in view of my statement to the contrary.
– Judged by his recent attitude, I am inclined to think that the honorable member would be violently antagonistic to such proposals. I am surprised to hear him advocating the application of the guillotine as it is practised in the House of Commons at the present time. I am amazed that an honorable member who professes to be in favour of liberal measures should advocate a procedure which recently resulted in the maiming and crippling of the Opposition there, when some Bills of the most vital import to the country as a whole were under consideration. There is no analogy between our position and that which obtains in the old country. In the Imperial Parliament, honorable members have to look after the affairs of a great Empire. The discussion of Britain’s foreign policy absorbs most of their attention, and they have to husband their time in a way that we have not to do in Australia. Nevertheless, I frankly confess that in view of recents events, something must be done to curtail the long speeches of honorable members.
– Is the honorable member referring to events of past years?
– No. There is no analogy between the events of past- years and the inane drivel to which we have had to listen hour after hour in this Parliament. There is all the difference in the world between fighting for a great principle, and the deplorable waste of time which has recently been witnessed in this Chamber. There are occasions in Parliament when obstruction becomes a sacred duty - occasions when the Opposition believe that measures are being passed which are diametrically opposed to the will of the people.
– Who is to decide when that time arrives?
– The Opposition must determine that question for themselves.
– What is “” drivel ?”
– I call some of the honorable member’s speeches drivel.
– I did not object when the honorable member made a similar remark a few minutes ago, which applied very indefinitely, but I do not think an honorable member should describe a speech made bv any other honorable member in that way.
– I think that the time has come when honorable members should be prevented from talking to empty benches for four or five hours at a stretch when there is nothing at stake, and when the only object which they have in view is that of making speeches to be reprinted from Hansard, and scattered broadcast over their electorates.
– That is done by honorable members on both sides of the House.
– I, am aware of that.
– Then why attack any honorable member individually?
– I am referring, not to any particular honorable member, but to any one who indulges in this practice. It seems to me that the habit is growing - that there is an increasing number of honorable members who address their electorates through the medium of Hansard, and avail themselves of a cheap way of advertising at the expense of the country.
– It is a very costly way.
– I believe that an outside printer would charge far more than does the Government Printer for the reprinting of these addresses, and I am not sure that the practice to which I refer does not savour of an attempt to sweat private printing firms. I do not think that honorable members opposite who are so strongly in favour of unionism, and all that relates to labour, should take advantage of the Government Printer in the way they; do. The time of the House could be devoted to a better purpose than that of enabling honorable members to address their constituents. There is always the public platform open to those who’ wish to place their views before the electors.
– That is not a fair statement to make.
– But it is a fact.
– None of the representatives of New South Wales adopted that practice in connexion with the selection of the seat of Government.
– I believe they did. I am happy to say that I have not availed myself of this system, but I may do so if it is to be continued. The whole House in this respect seems to be demoralized. I submit to the honorable member who moved the motion, as well as to the honorable member who replied to him, that it is easy for the public to provide a. remedy. I have heard many persons complain of the waste of time that takes place, and of “ the degradation of Parliament,” as they term it ; but the remedy is in the hands of the people themselves. The secret of the whole matter is that the people have returned to this House three parties so equally balanced that they neutralize each other’s efforts, and render it impossible for any effective work to be done. That state of affairs cannot be remedied by any rule of procedure which we may adopt. Even if we amended our Standing Orders in the way suggested by the honorable member for Franklin, we should find that those who wished to block the business of the House, or to prevent it from being conducted in a proper way, would still be able to do so. None of the proposals made by the honorable member would overcome the difficulty.
– But the course I have suggested has proved effective in Congress.
– I would remind the honorable member that there is no analogy between the United States system of Government and that of Australia. Ours is an entirely different system. There is no such thing as representative andresponsible government as we understand it in the United States. In a Parliament, where most of the work is carried out in Grand Committee - where they have a miniatureParliament within a Parliament, in which honorable members may speak a hundred times on any question if they desire to do so - I can well understand that a limitation may be placed on the speeches delivered in the larger Assembly, whose duty it is to pass the measure which has been perfected in the smaller one. The Grand Committee of Congress is about as large as is the whole Parliament of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, there is no analogy, between that systemand our own.
– Does not the honor able member think that if we placed a time limit of one hour upon all speeches, the length of our sessions would be reduced ?
– I do not know that it would. Limitations of this kind are imposed in the Legislature of New Zealand, but there is no limitation to the number of times that a member may speak. Those who desire to make long speeches are, therefore, able to get over the difficulty by delivering them in sections. I understand that there is a time limit of twenty minutes to speeches made in Committee, but when a member desires tooccupy further time he resumes his seat after the twenty minutes allotted to him has expired, and, later on, speaks for another twenty minutes. I am assured that the limitation of debate in the Parliament of New Zealand leads really to a very small saving of time. The only course open to us is to impose a limit to speeches which extend over so long a period as four or live hours. I do not think that we should allow any one - the Prime Minister or any other honorable member - to speak in this House for four hours at a stretch. If an honorable member cannot say what he has to say in an hour and a half or two hours, he had better leave it unsaid. The country would be all the better for his having left unuttered those views which he could not express in a speech of two hours’ duration. Any proposal in the direction of limiting the right to make such unduly protracted speeches will receive my cordial support; but I am not prepared to support the adoption of the extreme measures urged, to my very great surprise, by the honorable member for Barrier. I see no necessity for any Parliament in Australia to resort to the political guillotine. The real remedy is for the people to so arrange the state of parties in the House that effective government will be possible.
– But a small minority can block business.
– A minoritycannot block business if there be a strong, firm Government in power, supported by an adequate majority.
– But they can unduly protract a debate.
– In such circumstances they can carry it on only until such time as the Government says that it shall stop. By a small alteration of the Standing Orders we should be able to give the Government the power to shorten a debate when there is a majority in the House prepared to support a motion “ that the question be now put.”
– That is the political guillotine.
– It is something very different. The political guillotine simply enables a Government to secure the passing of a section of a measure or portion of the Estimates without rhyme or reason. I do not suggest anything of the kind. The method of shortening debate which I have just indicated is one for which provision is made by the Standing Orders of every Parliament in Australia except our own, and it has worked well. We have not exhausted the possibilities of our own Standing Orders. We are working under a set which is obsolete, and should have been abolished long ago. Another place has already adopted new Standing Orders, and there is a draft set awaiting our consideration, which should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
– It would take us six months to pass a set of Standing Orders.
– That has not been the experience of other Parliaments. The first business of the nextsession should be the passing of new Standing Orders. If weobtaina new set ofreasonable rules of procedure, we shall very quickly be able to limit debate.
– I once sat in the gallery of this House as a visitor, and heard the honorable member for D alley speak for some time on the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member was putting up a stone wall against an unreasonable proposal in the Tariff Bill. He availed himself of a standing order under which it is possible, on the motion that the Chairman leave the Chair to discuss any subject. I do not know of a mode idiotic standing order, and I understand that it is peculiar to the Parliament of South Australia, from whose rules of procedure it has been copied by us.
– At one time it was one of the Standing Orders of the Queensland Parliament.
– It should not exist in any orders. By a simple alteration of our Standing Orders, weshould be able to rid ourselves of the trouble of which the honorable member for Franklin complains. But the people must take the composition of the House into their own hands, and return a Government to power with a sufficient majority to enable it to control business and deal with it with all possible dispatch.
– I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Franklin for having brought this matter before the House. I pay but little attention to his assertion that he has met persons in all parts of Tasmania who are opposed to this or that practice. Tasmania is full of persons who are opposed to everything. Some of them are opposed to anything to which a few men in the neighbourhood tell them ‘they should object. In every part of Tasmania, with the exception of the West Coast, men are to be found who arte Barnums and Napoleons. They consider themselves to be the genii of the earth ; they think that the ordinary men are returned to this House, and that the great men remain in the State. A person cannot remain in* a public house for ten minutes without finding twenty men who are prepared to say that the representative of the district does not really represent it, and that the right man to return is one of those who is drinking with him. What the man on the street says about this Parliament is unworthy of consideration. When the elections come round, the people reject the candidate in whom they do not believe, and the members of this House are the best that could be selected from a population of nearly 4,000,000. They have been opposed by at least an equal number of candidates for legislative honours, and have not been defeated, so that what the man on the corner believes is immaterial to us. He has a kink in his brain. In America such men are known as “Western kinkerites,” and we need not trouble ourselves about them. I recognise, however, that there should be a time limit to our speeches, for every honorable member should be able to say all that he wishes to say in an hour, or an hour and a half. The honorable member for Franklin spoke of what is done in the United States. In Congress the mover of a motion is allowed an hour in which to speak in support of it, and if he speaks himself for only half an hour, he may allot the balance of the time amongst his supporters. When the hour has expired, his opponent gets up, and he in like manner farms out as much of his hour as he does not occupy himself. Then the moverhas another hour in which to reply.
– Are speakers allowed to reply to interjections?
– The time occupied in replying to interjections counts in the hour. I think that it would be a good thing if we allowed movers of motions in the House to occupy an hour in introducing them, and an hour in replying, and imposed a limitation of ten minutes on speeches in Committee. It would not then take long to get through our business. I see nothing to admire in long speeches, though one side offends as much as another in this matter. Everything depends upon whether members are on the Treasury benches or in Opposition. With regard to. what he said about professional politicians, I ask the honorable member for Franklin if he would like to see the Chamber full of amateurs, men who come here for an hour, and then go away to attend to their own business, leaving the professionals to keep a quorum ?
– The commercial community ought to be represented here.
– There is a need for professional politicians as there is for professional doctors and professional lawyers. One would not employ a student who had not gone through the dissecting room to perform a delicate operation on his wife ; he would call in a man of professional standing, such as Dr. Fitzgerald. The people of this country paid guineas to hear Madame Melba sing when she was a professional, but they would not pay sixpence to hear her when she was an amateur. I hate this talk about professional politicians. Was not Gladstone a professional politician ? Are not Balfour and Chamberlain professional politicians? Every man who has made a name for himself in British politics has been a professional politician. The amateur is an automaton who does what the Prime Minister wishes him to do. He is a mere “ job popper.” We want professional politicians. The experience of the last three and-a-half years shows that for the next fifty years to come the sessions of the Commonwealth Parliament will always last for more than two or three months. The American States Parliaments, to which the honorable member for Franklin has referred, have only local laws to attend to. The Parliaments of Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana legislate only for their respective States.
– But the House of Commons does not sit for more than six months in the year.
– The House of Commons is an anachronism, and Englishmen are beginning to find that out. How could 600 or 700 men do any work if they all talked? In a few years there will be local Parliaments for England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, with an Imperial Parliament to deal with matters of Empire concern. This Commonwealth Parliament must realize its position and its members must be paid decent salaries. Those who will stay here to-night to keep a quorum, and will be here again at half-past 10 o’clock to-morrow morning to make a House, are not the men who draw incomes from businesses. They are men who come from the other States, and are dependent upon their allowances. The salaries paid to us are ridiculous. The time is not far distant when Parliament will, by a secret ballot, elect the Ministry, for a period of three years, and there will be no premature dissolutions. When that happens, members will be paid decent salaries, and they will be professional politicians, who will devote their minds to the best interests of their country, and not to the obtaining of wealth. The best men whom Australia has produced did not make a dollar for themselves. The late Sir Henry Parkes never made a dollar for himself. Neither did Daniel Webster, the best Treasurer that the United States ever had. The fact that a man makes dollars does not show that he has brains. It only shows that he is a monopolist, who grabs what other men earn.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Franklin had good cause to bring forward this motion. I have sat here now for many months, and I know that one gets brain-weary listening to the speeches of honorable members.
– We listen to the honorable member’s speeches.
– I have spoken at considerable length on several occasions, but never without having had something to say. I do not speak for the pleasure of hearing my own voice, nor do I repeat myself a dozen times over. . The long speeches which take place in this Chamber do no credit in most instances to those who deliver them.
– That is not fair.
– That is my opinion.
– We may hold the same opinion about the honorable member’s speeches, but we do not express it.
– I am certain that the honorable member holds that opinion of every one’s speeches but his own.
– Then the honorable member is quite wrong.
– The honorable member for Kennedy speaks perpetually. If there is one member more than another who is a nuisance, it is he.
– The honorable member must not say that.
– I withdraw the statement if it is unparliamentary. However, I did not rise for the purpose of being disagreeable; I rose to protest against the inordinately long speeches which we sometimes hear, and the perpetual repetition in Committee of arguments delivered in second-reading debates. The proposition of the honorable member for Franklin appears a reasonable one. He would allow both the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition to speak at length, and would confine other honorable members to a limit of three-quarters of an hour, or an hour. If an honorable member has prepared his speech, he can speak with excellent effect in half an hour, but if he has had no time for preparation, he will often occupy three or four hours. If honorable members know that they have only a short time in which to speak, they will give more time to the preparation of their speeches, which will, in consequence, be more readable, and more creditable to them. The great waste of time takes place in Committee. The handbooks published by Mr. Lucy of the proceedings of the House of Commons, by Mr. Bradlaugh, Mr. Justin McCarthy,, and others, show that the discussions in conmittee in the House of Commons are conversational in their nature, whereas we have in Committee what are practically secondreading speeches. Possibly, if the reporting was not so good, we should have fewer speeches. I am certain that if the newspapers took but little notice of our proceedings in Committee, the speeches would be fewer. For the most part, honorable members wish to advertise themselves. I protest against these long sessions.
– The honorable member is not here verv often.
– Although the honorable member is one of our most regular attendants, he occupies more time than is his due, and .owes his notoriety greatly to the fact that he makes so many speeches. Although I am not here so often as he is, I am not absent when business is being done; I am always here when I am wanted. When no business is being done., however, I absent myself to attend to my personal affairs. When I entered this Parliament, I threw up everything, took an establishment in Melbourne at considerable expense, and began to live here regularly. I found, however, that I was only wasting my time by doing so, the session toeing of inordi nate length, and therefore discontinued the arrangement. If Parliament met in Sydney instead of in Melbourne, I should be able to attend, as many Melbourne members do, long enough- to get my name recorded, and then go away again to look after my business. There is very little in being a regular attendant in that way. The great virtue of a member of Parliament lies in his bringing common sense to bear on the business of the House. The honorable member may not carry this motion, because very few great reforms are carried when first introduced ; but it will pave the way for better arrangements next session. Possibly when the Standing Orders are considered, steps might be taken for a reduction of the quorum, at least in Committee. Moreover, a standing order to prevent obstruction, and what is known as stone-walling, might be passed.
– I do not think any Parliament in the world has as good an attendance as this Parliament has.
– Honorable members have been very regular in their attendance, in spite of the fact that there are few Parliaments whose members are called upon to sit for such long periods as we are. Our thanks are due to the honorable member for Franklin for having brought this matter forward, and I hope that the Prime Minister will place some suggestion before the Standing Orders Committee which will have the desired effect.
– The honorable member for Robertson has given us to understand that he is not one of those honorable members who would be affected by the adoption of a standing order following the lines suggested by the honorable member for Franklin.’
– I should be affected in just the same way as the honorable member.
– The honorable member also assured us that he does not adopt those methods of advertising upon the floor of this House of which he has accused other honorable members; but I am not sure that he can be entirely acquitted of offence in that regard. The motion affects us all to a certain extent. I am quite sure that we are all, at times, inclined To attach undue importance to our remarks.
– Then why does the honorable member object to my saying so?
– The honorable member was at special pains to impress upon us that he was not in the habit of speaking at greater length than was necessary, but I do not think that he is to be held less blameable upon that score than are other honorable members. Whilst I am quite in sympathy with the object of the honorable member for Franklin, I am not sure that he can accomplish what he desires by the means suggested. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that if honorable members desire to waste time, they will find- the means to do so. The evil that afflicts this Parliament is one which lies too deep to be reached by the means suggested. I have been fairly regular in my attendance in this House from the opening of the first Federal Parliament, and I have watched the proceedings very carefully. It appears to me that time has been wasted mostly when principle has been lost sight of, and party interests have loomed up too prominently. We require a more radical reform than that proposed by the honorable member for Franklin. With the honorable member for Darwin I look forward to the time when Ministers will be appointed by a method different from that now adopted. I hold very strong ideas upon that subject, and I intend to take action early next session, with a view to bringing about a reform. Whilst I believe in Government by majorities, I contend that Government by mere party majorities is bad. Although some of our speeches might well be shortened, I do not think it would be wise to restrict honorable members in Committee, because I have” frequently noticed that those honorable members who do the most work, and accomplish the best results, are required to address the Committee very frequently. Ponderous speeches, that extend over many pages of Hansard, and are reprinted for the benefit of certain constituents, might very well be curtailed.
– That is rather rough on the honorable member for Darling.
– I do not think it is fair to apply to any honorable member, remarks which I am making in quite an impersonal manner. I could point to many honorable members who have a tendency to offend in the direction I have indicated. Possibly I may have spoken at undue length once or twice; but I am not by any means the worst offender. I think we might improve our present methods, and I suggest that the Standing Orders, which I understand have been thoroughly revised, should be submitted early next session. In the light of the experience we have gained, we should be able to shape them in such a, way that they would tend to expedition in the transaction of business, without unduly curtailing the rights of honorable members.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Franklin upon having brought forward this question, although I do not quite agree with the method he proposes. I desire to direct attention to one matter which has a general bearing upon the subject under discussion. I’ have noticed that sometimes fully threequarters of an hour of our time has been occupied in. dealing with questions asked without notice. I do not say that these questions are not useful, but I think that if ii question is worth asking it could, nine times out of ten, be placed upon the noticepaper, so that an opportunity might be afforded to the Minister to furnish a concise answer.
– Why could not the replies be printed and circulated without being asked in the House? That is done in the Imperial Parliament.
– I would have no objection to such a procedure, or to questions being asked, if they are placed upon the notice-paper.
– Ministers could refuse to answer questions without notice.
– We can scarcely ask Ministers to take upon themselves that responsibility. Our Standing Orders are so framed that it seems to me that Ministers would expose themselves to a charge of discourtesy if they systematically refused to answer questions asked without notice. I hope that ‘ honorable members will agree that questions without notice should not be addressed to Ministers except on special and urgent occasions.
– I rise for the purpose of supporting the motion. I think that instead of having been referred to, as I have been, in rather severe language by some honorable members opposite, I should have received their thanks for having been largely instrumental in causing this matter to be brought before the House. I am inclined to think that the proposal will not have any practical result, and, therefore, that the time occupied in its discussion will have been to a very large extent wasted. The motion is not of a practical character. If it would have the effect of hastening the adoption of new Standing Orders it might be of some use. It is time that the new Standing Orders, which are supposed to have been approved of by the Standing Orders Committee, were adopted. At present we are in the hands of Mr. Speaker, who looks after us exceedingly well ; but I think it is a pity that we have not more definite and satisfactory rules to guide us. I entirely object to the insinuations which have been made with regard to the motives which have actuated some honorable members in addressing the House at length. What right has the honorable member for Parramatta, or the honorable member for Robertson, to insinuate that other honorable members have occupied the time of the House in addressing their constituents, or in stone-walling? I have a distinct recollection of honorable members who are now sitting upon the Government side of the House keeping us here during the last Parliament for very long hours, repeating arguments ad nauseam. If I have been an offender in the matter of long speeches, I think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat occupies a good second place. I claim the right to speak until I am satisfied that I have made myself clear. I am not desirous that honorable members should be attacked by brain-fag, as the result of listening to me ; but as no limit is placed upon the length of our speeches, I do not know that I am committing any particular sin in taking my own time in expressing my views. If the Government have so many political sins that I could not enumerate them within less than fourandahalf hours, honorable members opposite who placed them in power are indirectly to blame for the length of my speech. I think that the honorable member for Parramatta hit the nail on the head, when he said that the large amount of time occupied by honorable members in addressing the House, and the extreme length of our debates,’ was due to the peculiar condition of parties. I do not believe that there is any desire on the part of honorable members to waste time, but that the cause of all the trouble has been the unsettled state of our political life during the last eight or nine months. Even if we had had more stringent Standing Orders, and the length of speeches had been limited, we should not have been able to transact any more business. The honorable members for Franklin and Parramatta have the remedy in their own hands. If those two honorable members will cross over to this side of the House and assist us to bring about an appeal to the country the electors will be afforded an opportunity of returning to power a Government with a working majority. I repeat that, during the present session, the House has not been in the humour to transact business. The same spirit prevails in every Parliament in which there is practically an equal division of parties. Where a Government possesses a strong working majority, the Opposition can do little more than act the part of watch-dogs ; but when parties are evenly divided, it , is the duty of the Opposition to endeavour to displace the Ministry. I felt so strongly in regard to the wickedness of the present Administration that I was recently obliged to occupy about eight hours in delivering two addresses. At the same time I entertain no desire to make long speeches.
– Three of the honorable member’s constituents have succumbed to those speeches.
– Most peculiar ideas have been suggested during the course of this discussion. It has been implied that it is wrong for honorable members to take an active part in Committee work, and to circulate what they may say - which to them may seem worth circulating - amongst their constituents. I am one of those who think it is desirable that Hansard should be distributed among the electors. I can quite understand the desire of the Government to keep the people in the dark, because it is the only way in which they can retain their positions. I deprecate the suggestion that honorable members deliberately talk to their constituents, or that the circulation of their addresses is a procedure to be condemned. I should like to see Hansard in every household throughout the Commonwealth. I desire the electors to be brought into close touch with our parliamentary proceedings, and that object can be accomplished only through the medium of Hansard. The honorable member for Robertson has affirmed that some honorable members talk for the sake of gaining notoriety ‘and of getting their remarks reported in the newspapers. I would remind him, however, that the newspapers very rarely mention my name. I regard that as a great compliment. Upon the recent motion of censure, when I spoke for four and a half hours, only four lines were devoted to the report of my speech in one of the big Sydney daily newspapers.
The press carefully suppresses any utterances of members of the Labour Party, and consequently we cannot be charged with speaking in order to obtain reports in the newspapers.
– The Tocsin reports the honorable member.
– No newspaper reports our remarks. We are here to do the Lest we can in the interests of the people as a whole. Though we may view mattersfrom different stand-points, it is not for any honorable member to suggest that we are actuated by unworthy motives. The fact that we have not done much work during the present session is entirely due to the equal division of political parties. Honorable members upon this side of the House have endeavoured to remedy that state of things, but without avail. I say that this House is capable of doing good business if it were in working order. The Government, however, cannot control their own supporters. It is difficult for them tomaintain a quorum. Under such circumstances, how can we expect to do business?0 I support the motion, but to make it effective I think we should have an assurance from the Government that an opportunity will be afforded us of adopting our own Standing Orders as soon as possible. Of course, no such opportunity could be provided during the present session, but at an early date next session the matter mightbe discussed.
– I am very much opposed to this motion, but not because I am anxious to make long speeches. Probably I have occupied less time in this House than has the average honorable member. As a matter of fact, upon only one occasion have I spoken for more than an hour, and that was during an all-night sitting, when I took a hand in the proceedings, just as did the honorable member for Robertson, when, as a member of the Opposition, he indulged in “stone-walling.” I am quite prepared to accept his statement that I am a nuisance in this Chamber. It merely goes to prove that my criticisms must have pinched him very considerably at various times. His statement, however, will not affect my future conduct in the slightest degree. I shall continue to give expression to my views, irrespective of whom they may offend, or whom they may please. The honorable member has charged some honorable members with talking to their constituents through Hansard. I can recall occasions upon which he himself has addressed his constituents through the same medium.
– I have done so upon several occasions.
– The honorable member has had some of his speeches reprinted in pamphlet form, and upon one of these pamphlets he actually had his photograph reproduced. Up to the present time, however, I have not delivered a speech in this House which I have had reprinted. The particular pamphlet upon which the honorable member’s photograph was printed contains a speech having reference to the black labour question, and in travelling through Queensland I have had occasion to make use of several extracts from it. In this House honorable members must realize that we occupy a very different position from that occupied by members of States Legislatures. The latter come more or less constantly into touch with their constituents. But what is the position of representatives of distant States in this House? Since the last election I have been continuously resident of Melbourne, and I shall not be able to get back to my constituents before Christmas.
– Apparently the honorable member is not in a hurry to get back.
– The honorable member for Robertson does not pay more attention tohis electorate than I do to my own. I have ridden my bicycle through it for a distance of 3,000 miles, when the thermometer registered from 110 to 116 degrees in the shade. I do not think that the honorable member would tackle work of that description.
– I get about a great deal.
– But the honorable member travels in a very different manner. I trust that this motion will not be carried. I have worked under Standing Orders where the closure and the guillotine have been in force - where the closure was applied first of all by a two-thirds majority of the House, and subsequently by the decision of a majority, consisting of thirty members out of a total membership of seventy-two. Independent of party feeling, which ran very high at different times, there was no greater source of irritation than were these Standing Orders. Whenever the closure was applied it gave rise to a feeling of bitterness which lasted several months, and I am satisfied that the adoption of a similar standing order by this House would have the same result. From time to time differences of opinion occur among honorable members, but I can safely say that no honorable member of this House entertains any feeling of personal illwill towards another. If we introduce drastic Standing Orders, enabling the gag to be applied, we shall inevitably give rise to much bitterness.
– That is what I wish to avoid.
– I do not see how the honorable member would be able to avoid it. The time limit fixed in the New Zealand Parliament is easily evaded, whilst the political guillotine and the closure have led to many bitter scenes in the House of Commons. I would remind the honorable member that even if the motion be carried it will not convey any instruction that new Standing Orders shall be brought forward without delay, so that the debate upon it amounts practically to a waste of time.
– It is only a declaration of principle.
– But the principle involved is a bad one. What an honorable member may say in this House is a matter between himself and his constituents. If his conduct in this House injures any one it must injure himself.
– But are we to put up with this state of affairs for three years ?
– So far, I hold that no debate has been unduly protracted. There is no honorable member to whom I listen with greater attention than the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and yet he makes longer speeches than does any other member.
– He once spoke for five hours.
– I remember listening, with interest, to a speech made by him which extended over four hours.
– But, in the aggregate, he does not occupy much time.
– Whenever he was in charge of a Bill, he was, in this respect, one of our worst offenders. He never made a short speech ; he was invariably ready to afford us the fullest information.
– The course proposed by the honorable member for Franklin would remedy that state of affairs.
– I do not think that any remedy is necessary. I oppose the motion, because I feel that it would prevent honorable members occupying responsible positions from placing much valuable informationbefore the House. Where the parties are almost equally divided, an Opposition can prolong debate and harass a Government, no matter what rules of procedure are in operation. Probably, the only way to get over the difficulty would be to introduce the guillotine, but I, for one, do not favour anything of the kind. I have known a Government to say that so many pages of the Estimates - providing, perhaps, for an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds - should be passed within a certain time. After this declaration has been made, I have seen two or three supporters of that Government waste the time of the Committee up to within a few minutes of the hour at which the question was to be put, so that members of the Opposition should not have an opportunity to offer any criticism. Surely this House would not be prepared to agree to the application of the closure under such circumstances. Some one may say that the responsibility for putting such a standing order into force would rest with the Ministry, but it would never be applied except by a Go- vernment possessing a substantial majority. I trust that the course proposed by the honorable member will not be adopted, for it would tend only to engender strife and bitterness, and to put an end to that good feeling which has so long prevailed among honorable members.
– Judging by the chorus of approval with which the motion has been received, the honorable member for Franklin may fairly be said to have “struck oil.” The only dissentient voice which has been raised is that of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat.
– The honorable member for Parramatta also opposed it.
– He disagreed, not with the terms of the motion, but with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Barrier, that the political guillotine should be introduced. With one remark made by the honorable member for Kennedy I certainly disagree. He said that the length of the speeches delivered by an honorable member in this Chamber was a matter between himself and his constituents. But something more is involved. Any ‘honorable member who avails himself of the Standing
Orders to occupy more than a fair share of the time of the House simply tramples on the rights of his fellow members. He wastes the time, not only of his fellow members, but of the country, and his action also involves a waste of money. Each day’s sitting of the House costs something like £1,600, so that the honorable member who monopolizes three or four hours of each sitting-day is guilty of a waste of public money. As the honorable member for Parramatta has said, there is very little in prolonged speeches that is really worthy of attention. It seems to me that this motion, coming before us, as it does, practically at the close of the session, is tantamount to one of censure on the session, and upon honorable members themselves. The fact that nearly every honorable member approves of it, shows that they regard it in that light, and adds point to it. I trust that after what has been said, honorable members will pass a selfdenying ordinance, and so curtail their speeches that we may be able to transact some business. The honorable member for Darling laid very great stress on the necessity for a dissolution. No doubt the political atmosphere will not be clear until a dissolution takes place, but such a thing at the present time would be very unjust to those engaged in rural industries, who comprise a large section of the people of the Commonwealth. That, I take it, is the reason why the honorable member presses for a dissolution at the present time.
– The statement just made by the honorable member has been proved to be incorrect.
– We desired a dissolution three months ago.
– Even then, it would have come at an inopportune time for the farmers and pastoralists. There is no doubt that the peculiar position of parties in this House is responsible for the present condition of affairs. I have always been a supporter of party government, but in view of our ‘ experience in this Parliament during the last year or two, I have been led to consider whether it is not a mistake to regard it as indispensable. I am strongly inclined to indorse the views of the honorable member for Perth, and to think that if better progress is not made under the present system, it will be our duty before long to seriously consider whether it would not be possible for us to have a non-party Government elected by the votes of honorable members of this House. If such a course were adopted, I think that we should place Australia in a very much better position than it is in at present. We have not resolved ourselves into strict party lines, and, that being so, a non-party Government seems to be a necessity of the situation. I believe this motion will bear good fruit, and trust’ that it will be carried.
– I am somewhat surprised to find my fellow members sitting in judgment upon themselves. The object which the honorable member for Franklin has in view meets with the warm approval of honorable members of the Opposition. No one is justified in taking up more time than is necessary for him to place his views clearly before the House, and I think that the Government should, long before this, have submitted to our consideration the draft Standing Orders which have been prepared, after very careful consideration, by the Standing Orders Committee. There certainly ought to be a standing order placing a reasonable time limit upon the speeches of honorable members. I feel that, in any circumstances, the Prime Minister would not be a party to an attempt to curtail any address that was relevant to the subject before the Chair, and which was having a good effect upon the House. The Standing Orders, which we have temporarily adopted, enable practically one member to say whether or not an honorable member shall be allowed to discuss a certain topic. I should prefer any set of Standing Orders to one that makes one honorable member practically a despot. If the new Standing Orders contain any provision designed to prevent unduly protracted debate, I shall welcome them, for it seems to me that it is just as necessary to place a limit on the speeches delivered by the older members of the House, as it is to impose one on those delivered by younger and less experienced members.
Debate interrupted under sessional order limiting the time for private members’ business.
– In pursuance of a friendly arrangement with honorable members opposite, I wish to move, by concurrence, without notice -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to allow the reports, from the Committee of
Ways and Means to be adopted, and the Bill for the Appropriation for Works and Buildings to be passed through all its stages without delay, and the Appropriation Bill to be read a second time.
We shall not go on with the Appropriation Bill in Committee until other contentious matters have been dealt with. That is the understanding to which I have come with the leader of the Opposition. I have undertaken not to proceed with the Appropriation Bill in Committee until all other contentious business has been dealt with.
– Why pass the second reading of the Appropriation Bill?
– Why not?
– The necessity for moving the suspension of the Standing Orders will not arise until the resolutions have been reported from Committee of Ways and Means.
– Then I move-
That the resolutions reported from Committee of Supply be now adopted.
– I have no objection to the resolutions from Committee of Supply being agreed to, but I shall object to the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the second reading of the Appropriation Bill to be passed.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that now.
– Apparently the resolutions reported from Committee of Supply cover, not only appropriations for new works and buildings, but also the ordinary appropriation for the services of the year.
– The motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders which the Prime Minister read will not be moved until it is necessary to move it. It is not now before the House. Before a Bill sanctioning the appropriation of money for the purposes of new works and buildings can be introduced, the resolutions from the Committee of Supply and resolutions from the Committee of Ways and Means must be agreed to by the House.
– I do not wish anything to be done at this stage, under cover of the statement that only new works and buildings are affected, which will unduly carry forward the ordinary appropriation for the various Departments.
– The appropriation for works and buildings and the appropriation for the ordinary services of the year will be covered by separate Bills, I understand.
– The Estimates which were put before honorable members are divided into two parts. I gathered from the statement made by the Prime Minister this afternoon that it was intended to proceed further only with the second division, namely, those covering new works and buildings, and transmitted with the following message -
In accordance with the requirements of Section fifty-six of. the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Governor-General transmits to the House of Representatives Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and five ; and recommends an Appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund accordingly.
That is a different message from the message with which the Estimates-in-Chief were transmitted, and I presume that in accordance with it, a Bill may be introduced sanctioning only appropriations for new works and buildings. There is no serious objection, so far as I know,, to the introduction and passing of such a Bill ; but I do not think that it is right to carry the ordinary appropriation for the year any further. I understand that the leader of the Oppositionhas agreed only to the carrying forward of the appropriations for new works and buildings.
– The practice which this House has uniformly followed is that the resolutions reported from the Committee of Supply are brought up, as on the present occasion, and adopted by the House. The matter is then dealt with by the Committee of Ways and Means, and its resolutions are in turn reported and adopted. Bills are then introduced to give effect to the resolutions of the Committee of Supply and of the Committee of Ways and Means. Last year three such Bills were introduced ; but this year I understand that only two Bills will be brought in. These Bills will be dealt with separa tely. If the House thinks fit, one may be passed and the other rejected, or one put through all stages and the other passed merely through the first-reading stage. This division takes place after the resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means have been reported and agreed to.
Mr. REID (East Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - I would point out to the honorable member for Hume that I am not now asking for any favour. We have arrived at the present stage in the ordinary course of business. Resolutions have been reported from Committee of Supply, and I have merely moved their adoption. I have, however, pointed out that in the course of a friendly chat with the leader of the Opposition - to which I do not hold honorable members opposite, because he did not bind them, in any way - we came to the conclusion that the constitutional usage to which he referred this afternoon would be sufficiently protected if we took the ordinary Appropriation Bill no further than into Committee, until after the other contentious business of the session had been concluded, and passed through all stages a Bill authorizing the construction of new works and buildings.
– Why not stop at the. first reading of the Appropriation Bill?
– That is a matter of no great importance. I am willing to make twelve stages, if honorable members think that that would be more acceptable to them, though personally I wish to push on with business. If we do not take the Appropriation Bill further than into Committee, it will be open to honorable members to speak on every item of it.
– But its principle is affirmed when the House agrees to its second reading.
– If any honorable member has observations of national importance to make on the second reading, I shall not press it. What I shall, propose must be done with concurrence. I am not, however, asking any favour of the House at the present time. “
– We have arrived at the present stage in due order.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- The right honorable gentleman says that the proper constitutional course is being followed ; but, in my judgment, the Estimates should be divided. In this case they have been transmitted with two separate messages from the Governor-General.
– There is a constitutional reason for the course proposed, the Senate having the right to amend the Bill covering expenditure on new works and buildings, but not having the right to amend the ordinary Appropriation Bill. Therefore, two separate measures have to be sent to them from this House.
– In that case two separate resolutions should be submitted for adoption by the House, one covering the ordinary Estimates and the other the Estimates for works and buildings. By agreeing to the resolutions of the Committee of Supply, the House agrees to all the items covered by them, and when that has been done it is very difficult to deal with any items separately. It is only reasonable that ;the two sets of Estimates should be kept separate, and that two resolutions should be submitted to this House.
– Separate resolutions covering the two divisions of the Estimates were reported from Committee of Supply.
– The resolutions read by the Clerk covered the whole of the administrative portion of the Estimates. If it is proposed to deal only with new works and buildings, the suspension of the Standing Orders ought not to be moved to cover the ordinary Estimates for the year.
– I have not yet moved the suspension of the’ Standing Orders. We are now at a stage which has been arrived at lin the ordinary course. I will n01 consent to postpone the adoption of the resolutions from the Committee of Supply.
– I think that the Estimates covered by ‘the two messages should have been dealt l,with separately. Now it is proposed to mix them up, and to suspend the Standing Orders, in order-
– There is no such motion before the Chair.
– But such a motion is to be brought forward.
– The honorable member cannot discuss a motion that is not before the Chair.
– I am only referring to it, because of the statement made by the Prime Minister. The course proposed to be followed will result in confusion and possibly something worse. The resolution will relate to a matter with which we do not propose to deal at this stage.
– We do propose to deal with it. The first reading of the Appropriation Bill follows the carrying of the resolutions of the Committees of Supply and of Ways and Means. Those resolutions can be considered without any favour from any one.
– I am now taking exception to the submission together of resolutions dealing with two distinct Bills. I am prepared to allow the Bill relating to the appropriation for new works and buildings to go forward to the Senate at the earliest possible date, but I think that we should deal with the other resolutions relating to the ordinary Estimates in the usual constitutional way.
– Order ! The honorable member is now really discussing the point of order upon which I gave a decision a few minutes ago. I then indicated that we are following the course that has invariably been adopted in this Parliament. The point at which the division of the two Bills takes place is when the resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means are reported. The honorable member is now practically contending that my ruling is wrong.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is the constitutional practice to deal with two sets of resolutions practically in one, or whether we should not first deal with the resolutions of which it is proposed to finally dispose, leaving the others in abeyance until we are prepared to considertheAppropriation Bill embodying the ordinary Estimates.
-The two messages came down from the Governor-General, and were, by a resolution of the House, referred to the Committee of Supply. That Committee has chosen, in its wisdom, as it had a perfect right to do, to consider both messages, and to report to the House, not first one, and then the other, but both sets of resolutions at the same time. The Committeehad a perfect right to do that, and the question now is that the report of the Committee of Supply be agreed to. As I pointed out before, the next step will be to refer the resolutions to the Committee of Ways and Means, and upon the resolutions of that Committee being reported, it will be proposed that Bills be prepared to give effect to them. At this point the two matters will again become separate as the Constitution requires, and the House may then determine what shall be done.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is constitutional for the Committee to report upon two Bills at once? For instance, if two Bills dealing with different subjects were referred to the Committee, and were reported in one resolution, would that be constitutional ?
– If the messages related to different subjects they would be referred to different committees ; but in this case both resolutions were properly referred to the Committee of Supply, and the Committee of Supply properly reported the two matters at once. It is impossible to conceive of a case of the kind indicated by the honorable member.
– May I submit, upon the point of order, that it would be well for us not to pass resolutions referring to the Committee of Supply two messages at the same time. You, sir, have just informed us that the House referred to the Committee of Supply two messages together.
– That has been done every year.
– The course to be taken was a new one owing to the distinction between the ordinary Estimates and the special Estimates to be made for new works and buildings. This is the result of the distinction made in the Constitution between Bills which the Senate may amend and Bills which it may not. A misunderstanding has arisen owing to the House combining the two messages in the one resolution, and sending them to a Committee of Supply. I apprehend that what is now being done is perfectly regular.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I am arguing on the point raised by the honorable member for Hume. I understand that his contention is that it is not right for the House to deal with a resolution of the Committee of Supply with regard to two distinct messages. I take it, however, that the House cannot do anything else at this stage, and that the mistake has arisen from our having sent to the Committee of Supply two distinct messages under cover of the one resolution.
– I would remind the honorable and learned member that a Committee of Supply is set up at the beginning of every session for the purpose of considering all financial matters relating to Supply that may be referred to it. Each year various messages have been referred from time to time to the Committee of Supply, which ‘has Brought up its report on every occasion, as upon this, covering all the matters referred to it. Upon one occasion three separate messages were covered by the one report, and I am not sure that in another case there were not actually four messages referred to the Committee and reported to the House in the one set of resolutions. We are not adopting any new practice or one under which any mistake can possibly arise.
– I desire to ask whether it would be convenient for me at the present stage to raise a question which has been under dis- cussion for some little time, and which probably should have been dealt with in Committee of Supply. I refer to the retirement of Colonel Price, the late District Commandant of Queensland, and the question whether the circumstances of his case would render it advisable to provide for him some special gratuity or compensation. Upon reflection, perhaps I had better take an opportunity to refer to the matter when the Appropriation Bill reaches the Committee stage.
– The Defence estimates are included in the resolutions of the Committee of Supply, and, therefore, I presume that the honorable and learned member would be entitled to raise the point he has mentioned.
– The honorable and learned member would have been perfectly entitled to do so, but he has indicated that he will wait until the Appropriation Bill reaches the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motions (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1904-5 a sum not exceeding£2,046,008 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for additions, new works, buildings, &c, . for the year 1904-5, a sum not exceeding , £404,240 be granted put of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– I desire to have it recorded that I do not regard the course now being adopted as the proper one. If we have done wrong in the past it is not too late for us to retrace our steps. The effect of carrying the two resolutions proposed by the Prime Minister will be to pledge honorable members, to a certain extent, to the whole of the Estimates. That is an argument that would be used by the Prime Minister if occasion arose. To my mind, the proper method is to deal with the resolutions separately, and they should have been reported separately. I wish it to be placed on record that this method may prevent the general Appropriation Bill being dealt with as honorable members may desire, and that I shall not regard myself as being prevented by the adoption of these resolutions from taking any action I may deem fit with regard to the Appropriation Bill, and I trust that their adoption will not be regarded as being binding upon any honorable member.
– That is quite understood.
– With regard to the order of business, I may say that the understanding at which I arrived with the Prime Minister last evening was that the Appropriation Bill, covering the estimates for new works and buildings, should be passed.
-No one objects to that.
– Is not the Prime Minister proposing to go a step further?
– So far, nothing further than that has been attempted. With regard to the Appropriation Bill, it was agreed that it should be checked at the Committee stage. There was no understanding arrived at between the Prime Minister and myself that the Appropriation Bill should pass its second reading this evening.
– I do not regard the understanding with my honorable friend as binding the whole of the Opposition. It was merely in the nature of a conversation between us.
– Quite so. I stated that I saw no objection to advancing the Appropriation Bill to the Committee stage so long as we transacted the serious business of the session which remains to be done before this House lost control of that measure. That control, itseems to me, will still be retained if the Bill be advanced to the Committee stage.
– I do not regard all the members of the Opposition as toeing bound by the conversation which took place between the honorable member for Bland and myself last evening. Consequently, I shall not complain if some honorable members opposite do not feel inclined to assist the Government so far as does the honorable member for Bland. But I am quite willing to take only the first reading of the Appropriation Bill to-night. As honorable members are aware, that is merely a formal stage - a stage at which it is never discussed, and one which merely introduces the Bill to the notice of the House. But there is a positive reason for putting the Bill relating to works and buildings through all its stages this evening. Later on, when we reach the Bill stage, I propose to amend my resolution, so as to ask the Committee to put the Works and Buildings Bill through all its stages at the present sitting, and to pass only the first reading of the Appropriation Bill.
– I am quite sure that the Prime Minister will find that the members of the Opposition will be only too willing to help him to transact the business of the country, so far as lies in their power, having regard to their public duty. So far as the Works and Buildings Bill is concerned, I think that he will receive every assistance. Regarding the Appropriation Bill, I understand that this afternoon he announced his willingness to recognise the right of this Chamber to retain control over it until all the serious business which remains to be done has been transacted.
– That is so.
– Amongst that “serious” business, I take it that he includes the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the question of preferential trade, and the appointment of the Tariff Commission.
– Certainly not. I look upon an executive act as quite different from a legislative act.
– I think it is only right that the meaning of the rather ambiguous statement of the Prime Minister should be made clear.
– Surely, I was talking of measures of legislation - not of executive acts. There is a wide difference between the two things.
– The right honorable gentleman knows very well that a certain motion was withdrawn upon the distinct promise that he would perform that executive act.
– I am not questioning the fact that I am going to perform it. I am pledged to do so.
– Of course, it will be the duty of the Opposition, so far as lies in their power, to see that that executive act is performed. But the Prime Minister must not understand that we at all acquiesce in his statement that the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Tariff has now been divested of’ party significance.
– I will take it any way the honorable and learned member desires. I shall be only too happy to satisfy honorable members. I will admit that it is still a party question, if they please.
-I am willing to believe that the Prime Minister will carry out the very distinct promise which he made-
– The absolute promise.
– I admit that, to a large extent, the appointment of the Tariff Commission is an executive act, and I know that the Prime Minister - against the wish of some honorable members upon this side of the Chamber - has assumed the full responsibility of that executive act.
– That is so.
– Therefore, we desire to have, at the earliest possible moment, a distinct announcement as to the personnel of the Commission.
– The right honorable gentleman is going to submit to me the names of those whom he proposes to appoint, and I have agreed to assist him.
– That leaves the honorable and learned member free to make a party question of it. Others take a broader view of their public duties.
– The Prime Minister cannot fail to recognise that both he and his Government must accept full responsibility for the appointment of that Commission as a party question.
– As any Question that the honorable and learned member likes - party, or otherwise.
– Am I to understand that the Prime Minister does not pledge himself to place the appointment of the Tariff Commission upon the same footing as preferential trade and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– I do not understand the honorable and learned member.
– I should like to have a clear understanding that before this session closes-
– The honorable and learned member is now coming to another point.
– I should like to have a definite understanding that before this session closes, and in sufficient time to enable us to express our opinions upon the matter, the Prime Minister will appoint the Tariff Commission, and take full responsibility for his action.
– If I appoint the Commission, surely I must take full responsibility for my action. I have to watch my honorable and learned friend very carefully. He must not resume his seat under the impression that I have pledged myself to carry out a certain executive act before a certain date. I should scorn to occupy my present position if I allowed myself to be dictated to in that way. Having regard to my positionas Prime Minister, and to that of the Government as advisers to the Crown - and the appointment of this Commission will be in the nature of advice to the Crown, without which it could not come into existence - I decline to give any pledge in such a matter. I have given something, however, which the leader of the Opposition has accepted - something which is just as satisfactory as any sort of lawyer-like pledge which my honorable and learned friend could construct -I have given my personal assurance to the honorable member for Bland that I intend to push this matter through with the utmost despatch. But I gave that assurance voluntarily, and I “give to the honorable and learned member for Indi, who seeks to impose terms upon me and to exact pledges, no satisfaction whatever.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- The Prime Minister should understand that he is not giving personal pledges to any honorable member, and I am quite sure that the honorable member for Bland accepts no such pledge. What the right honorable gentleman is here to do - and what he is bound to do - is his duty to the country.
– But not at the dictation of the honorable and learned member. He hauled that flag down when he indulged in similar tactics upon a former occasion.
– The Prime Minister backed down, and if he had not done so he would not be in office to-day. We feel the necessity - and we intend to insist upon it - of holding the right honorable gentleman to the pledge which he gave to this House and the country. He may be as insulting as he pleases, but the country will not want, I hope, for men in this House who will stand to their guns, and do their duty, in spite of all that he may say.
– I should like to ascertain whether it is proposed to put these resolutions separately or together.
– Good gracious ! We are only following the practice which has been followed from time immemorial. Why all these objections ?
– The Prime Minister seems to be very vigilant.
– I cannot understand all these absurdities.
– Even though the practice adopted upon the present occasion has been followed from time immemorial, we should not hesitate to adopt a better system if one can be inaugurated. I merely wish to know whether, if these resolutions are put together, they will have any effect upon the Bills which will subsequently be introduced.
– There are really two resolutions before the Committee, and if the honorable member for Wide Bay, or any other honorable member, desires it, 1 will put them separately. But I would point out that if they were put together it would not prevent the introduction of sepa- rate Bills.
– I should be glad if you would put them separately.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- When the honorable and learned member for Indi submitted a motion having reference to the appointment of a Tariff Commission - a motion which was withdrawn in consequence of a statement by the Prime Minister-
– In consequence of not having the numbers.
– It was with drawn owing to a statement and a promise which were made by the Prime Minister. Scarcely had the honorable and learned member withdrawn his motion than the right honorable gentleman attempted by his glibness of speech to deprive his previous statement of anything in the nature of a promise as much as he possibly could. No doubt, that is why the honorable and learned member for Indi is rather dubious as to his future action with regard to this matter. I was present this afternoon when the Prime Minister made the announcement concerning the appointment of the Tariff Commission. The impression left upon my mind was that he was doing all that he could, by means of his command of language, to draw the Opposition into his net.
– Is this a new intrigue?
– I am not speaking to the honorable member. The language of the Prime Minister this afternoon was not very definite. Apparently, he desired to convey the impression that the appointment of the Tariff Commission and the Tariff question itself were not in future to be regarded as party matters.
– I never made any such statement.
– I may have misunderstood the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member generally does.
– I do not think that is a very nice remark to make. I always like to hear a statement made in plain King’s English. It is certainly undesirable that statements should be made on which different constructions may be placed. 1 wish it to be clearly understood that, in my opinion, it is absolutely impossible for a Tariff Commission, consisting Of members of both sides of this House, to be appointed, unless the House has an opportunity to consider its personnel. When the suggestion was made on a previous occasion, that the appointments should be ratified by the House, the right honorable gentleman said that he and his Government would accept the whole responsibility for them.
– It is not proposed to take the remedy out of the hands of the House.
– The whole tenor of the remarks made to-night by the right honorable gentleman, went to show that while he would not give the House an opportunity to consider the appointments made to the Commission, in a secondary way he would make the Opposition, as a whole, a party to the selection made. The Tariff cannot be taken out of the category of party questions.
– I did not speak of the Tariff question ; I spoke only of the appointment of the Commission.
– I have not had an opportunity to read the Hansard report of the statement made by the right honorable gentleman, but I listened very attentively to his speech. Unless the House is to have an opportunity to ratify the appointments made to the Commission - to approve of its personnel - I shall throw the whole responsibility upon the Government.
– They will never be able to bear it.
– We shall see. In regard to the interjection made a few moments ago by the honorable member for Moira, I would say that I desire to see the Commission appointed before we pass the Appropriation Bill. The Prime Minister promised the honorable and learned member for Indi, and the House generally, that the Commission would be appointed at the earliest possible date, or, at pall events, at an early date. Nearly a month has elapsed since that promise was given, but it has not yet been -fulfilled. I certainly do not think that the Commission should be appointed after Parliament has been prorogued, and at a time when we shall have no opportunity to raise any objection to it.
Unless such a statement as that which I have just made were clearly put before the House, the Prime Minister, judging by the remarks which he made this evening, might endeavour to ‘hold the leader of the Opposition responsible for the personnel of the Commission, although we should not have had an opportunity to consider the matter. The leader of the Opposition, in his kindness of heart-
– His sense of public “duty.
– I know that the leader of the Opposition, in his kindness of heart, will be prepared to assist the Prime Minister in every possible way ; but in view of the remarks made this evening by the right honorable gentleman, it seems to me that if the Commission were appointed after the House goes into recess, the Opposition might be called upon to accept its report, whether it approved or disapproved of its constitution.
– What utter nonsense !
– I wish, at all events, to put before the Committee the position that I take up. When the right honorable gentleman promised the honorable and learned member for Indi that the Commission would be appointed at the earliest possible date, with the result that the amendment relating to the question was withdrawn, I certainly thought that ‘he proposed to make the appointments within the next three or four weeks. No further time should be occupied in making a selection of gentlemen, of whom the House would approve, to carry out such an onerous and important duty.
– How long did it take the honorable member, as Minister of Home Affairs, to select the members of the Capital Sites Commission?
– It is useless for the honorable and learned member to endeavour in this way to draw a red herring across the trail. I shall decline to be bound by the report of the Commission unless I feel that, in the circumstances, its constitution is a fair one. I hope that the Prime Minister will appoint the Commission before the Appropriation Bill is passed. The desire was, in the first instance, that the appointment should be made by the House ; but, in view of the promise made by the Prime Minister, the amendment moved bv the honorable and learned member for Indi was withdrawn, and it is only fair that that undertaking should be carried out.
– I think it is just as well that the House and the country should know that interest in the appointment of the Tariff Commission is not confined to the honorable and learned member for Indi, the honorable member for Hume, and the small coterie which surrounds them. There are honorable members on this side who are just as keen in their desire that a Commission shall be appointed, and that it shall be a fair one, as are honorable members of the Opposition corner.
– We do not, at all events, hear much from them.
– The suggestion was made, and indorsed by the House, that if possible the whole of the States should be represented on the Commission, and honorable members will recognise that it is nol an easy matter to make such a selection in the course of a week or two. This matter does not lie altogether in the hands of the Prime Minister ; it is just as much the business of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is as keen, as ardent, and as honest a protectionist as is any honorable member of the Opposition corner. Honorable members on this side will see that the promise made by the Prime Minister is carried out to the full. The leader of the Protectionist Party, sits on this side of the House, and his honour is also involved in the appointment of a satisfactory Commission, so that the country need not fear that a fair and honest Commission will not be appointed. The appointment of the Commission is not a matter that comes solely within the purview of the House ; it is an Executive act, and as honorable members of the Opposition have insisted that the Government shall take the responsibility for it, full time must be allowed to the Government to make a wise selection, and such as the importance of the matter demands.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I think that honorable members of the Opposition, who are interested in the proposals for an alteration of the Tariff, are quite justified in expecting that the pledge given by the Prime Minister four weeks ago shall be redeemed before the House goes into recess. Of course, as the Prime Minister has said, the Government must take the responsibility for the appointments.
– I am not going to appoint a Commission until I am perfectly satisfied that I have obtained the best men available for the work; I am not going to oblige mv enemies by doing anything else.
– That is a very proper attitude to take up. Every one admits that the matter is of sufficient importance to justify the closest attention of the Prime Minister.
– We have to obtain the consent of those whom we invite to act on the Commission.
– That is so. I do not deny for one moment that it is unreasonable to expect that the whole matter should be dealt with in the course of a few days. At the same time one can quite understand the anxiety of honorable members of the Opposition that the Commission shall be appointed before the House goes into recess.
– Before the Appropriation Bill goes up to another place.
– Honorable members may keep the Appropriation Bill here for a year. I made no bargain with any one about the Appropriation Bill and the Royal Commission.
– It is only reasonable that honorable members of the Opposition should exhibit some anxiety to .have the Commission appointed before they are deprived by the prorogation of Parliament of the opportunity to express any opinion as to its personnel.
– It would be a pretty start to the deliberations of the Commission if we had a political controversy in regard to its personnel before it entered upon its work.
– I do not anticipate that there is any likelihood of such an occurrence.
– It would ruin its usefulness before it began its investigation.
– I do not suppose that the right honorable member anticipates having to fall back on men whose appointment would be likely to provoke such a discussion.
– If I could secure the twelve apostles, I should not be able to satisfy every honorable member opposite.
– I am quite prepared to rely on the assurance of the Prime Minister that he will give every consideration to. the matter, and deal with it as expeditiously as possible. If, as time goes on, nothing is done, we shall be able to take action ; but in the meantime there is no reason to suspect the bona fides of the Prime
Minister. I am prepared to allow the matter to remain in abeyance until there is evidence that the appointment of the Commission is being improperly kept back, and that the pledge given by the right honorable gentleman is not being fulfilled.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - Minister of External Affairs). - I wish to say that there are two ways of putting these matters to one . occupying my position - the way adopted by honorable members sitting below the gangway, and the course followed by the leader of the Opposition. After the statement which has just been made, I have no difficulty in repeating to the House the personal assurance I gave to the leader of the Opposition, that I shall lose absolutely no time in this matter - that I shall make it a personal pressing matter of public concern to appoint the Commission without a moment’s avoidable delay. I can give such an assurance to any one who approaches me as the leader of the Opposition has done; but when there is a veiled threat - when veiled conditions are sought to be imposed, and veiled stipulations for pledges are made - I can only meet such approaches in one way. I congratulate the country and the Opposition that I am able to pursue the path of duty in a more pleasant way when I am approached as I have been bythe leader of the Opposition than I should be under certain other conceivable circumstances. If my personal assurance to the leader of the Opposition that I shall make this a special matter of urgency is not sufficient to inspire confidence that I will do what I say, all the pledges in the world will not make it worthy of respect.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- The Prime Minister said this afternoon that the Appropriation Bill would not leave this Chamber until all matters of serious importance had been transacted.
– I referred to matters of legislation. I do not talk like a lawyer drawing out a declaration.
– The right honorable gentleman would uphold the dignityof his position belter by a little silence.
– It is difficult to be silent when the honorable and learned member adopts such a tone. I have to come down to his level.
– I may make it difficult for the Prime Minister, but he must try. I do not quite understand that the leader of the Opposition approached the Prime Minister.
– When one comes to see you, he may be said to approach you.
– That is the first intimation we have had of anything of the kind. Whatever may have taken place, we understood that the Appropriation Bill, preferential trade and the appointment of the Tariff Commission were placed on the same footing.
– The honorable and learned member could not have understood that from the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon.
– We not only could, but did understand it.
– Who are “ we “ ? I do not recognise the honorable and learned member. I deal with the leader of the Opposition.
– If we, in this corner, have a duty of a special nature to perform, it is to have regard for the question of protection.
– We say that the honorable and learned member and his party are bogus.
– The honorable and learned member was once a very ardent protectionist.
– That was when I had about as much sense as the honorable and learned member has now.
– At any rate, we are now discussing a serious matter. We understood that those three subjects, which are all of great importance, were placed on the same footing in the arrangement made between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. If they are to be treated differently, we do not consent to it. If the Appropriation Bill is to be delayed until the other two matters have been dealt with, we shall do our best to prevent the appointment of the Tariff Commission being placed inany worse position.
– Who are “ we “ ?
– If the House goes to the country, honorable members will soon find out who “ we “ are.
– I understand from the speech of the honorable member for Echuca, that he expected that the Minister of Trade and Customs, who isrespected on this side of the Chamber, would take the lead in regard to the appointment of the Tariff Commission, but the Prime Minister, to use his own words, has taken the matter into his pressing personal consideration.
– Surely that does not prevent my honorable colleague from working with me?
– It shows that the freetrade Prime Minister, and not the protectionist Minister of Trade and Customs, will . have the appointment of this Commission.
– It is the duty of the Prime Minister to deal with the appointment -of Commissions, whatever the subject of inquiry may be.
– It is at any rate well that the honorable member for Echuca, and the other protectionists who are supporting the Prime Minister, should know that they are relying, not on the Minister of Trade and Customs, but on the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman said, “ I am not going to bind myself to appoint the Commission before the recess,” and the Postmaster-General interjected, “ No, we made no promise ‘to appoint ‘it before the recess.” What consideration will the protectionists get if Parliament goes into recess before the Prime Minister appoints this Commission ?
– Honorable members opposite are naturally suspicious.
– We desire a fair Commission^ and tha House should have an opportunity to discuss the appointments. I think that the Prime Minister is right in saying that the subject to be investigated should not be discussed before it is referred to the Commission, but, seeing that the Prime Minister holds office without the support of the country, and is half protectionist and half free-trader, we should know who are to be on the Commission before we go into recess. The Prime Minister says, “ I am not going to submit to veiled threats. I am not going to give lawyerlike pledges.” Whenever t’he honorable and learned member for Indi rises to speak, the right honorable gentleman seems to think that he can secure the cheers of his supporters by throwing insults at him. In my opinion, it would be better for him to amend his manners. But, although in the beginning he took up a very strong position, after the leader of the Opposition had risen he said, “ Of course, when things are put in that sweet way, I am ready to back down. As I have been asked so nicely, I will give way in everything.” It was only on the 25th October, because of the action of the honorable and learned member for Indi, that the Prime Minister promised to appoint this Commission. Now we have arrived at the 24th November, and nothing has been done, and, no doubt, if -he can get into recess without appointing the Commission, the Prime Minister will be only too glad to do so. Every one knows that the right honorable gentleman holds his position on sufferance, because of the fear of a dissolution. But the very man who keeps him in power - the honorable member for Wilmot - says that he cannot stand him. The right honorable gentleman is in office, not because he enjoys the confidence of those who support him, but because he is the least of several evils, and they wish to keep the Opposition out of power. The right honorable gentleman is not trusted by this House, nor by his followers, nor by the country, and it is a disgrace to allow a man who is distrusted in that way to appoint a Commission like this.
– Is the honorable member in order in speaking of the appointment of the Commission by the Prime Minister as a disgrace?
– Who minds what he says?
– I do not suppose that it matters; but I do not think that he should be permitted to speak like that.
– In my opinion, the honorable and learned member for Corio has not transgressed the rules of debate.
– Was he in order in referring to the Prime Minister as “that man”?
– The rule is that an honorable member should refer to other honorable members by the names of the constituencies which they represent.
– The Russian Ambassador to the United States is reported to have said a little time ago, “ There is no doubt that we Russians did tell lies, and did break our treaties, but we hold Port Arthur.” Similarly I think that the Prime Minister has constantly broken his pledges, and has gone back on all the convictions and principles of his life, in order to hold office. Therefore, we cannot trust him in this matter, and must insist upon the appointment of the Commission before the recess. I am not good at “stone-walling,” but if the Prime Minister announced that he would not appoint this Commission before the recess, I would do my best to keep the House sitting, even if it meant a month’s talking. We had a discussion this afternoon about the waste of time in Parliament. Occasionally what seems to be a waste of time is not so in reality, and a “ stone-wall,” which would avoid such a catastrophe as I believe the Prime Minister is trying to bring upon us, would not be a waste of time. We desire that an impartial Commission shall be appointed, and therefore we wish to know, before we go into recess, who are to be the members of the Commission. I am glad that the matter has been brought forward by members of the coterie - as the honorable member for Echuca has called us- - to which I belong. We have separated ‘ from the other protectionists in the House, and from our leader, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– Not separated from, but deserted.
– When the honorable member for Echuca says that of us, I take it, not as an insult, but as an appreciation. I am glad to have deserted a party which can follow a free-trade Prime Minister, who, in my opinion, intends to act unfairly. If our protest to-night fails, we must use other methods, and the responsibility must lie upon the members of the Protectionist Party who are supporting the Government to see that their part of the compact with the Prime Minister is kept. I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, because he can, apparently, do what he likes with this Government. A short time ago we heard that the Prime Minister would set aside for him only one day for the discussion of preferential trade. Then a paragraph appeared in the newspapers, stating that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat thought that one day would not be enough, because he wished, not only to make a speech on the subject himself, but to enable the House to come to a conclusion in regard to it. We do not now hear that only one day is to be devoted to the question.
– Does not that show that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has more influence than have honorable members opposite.
– I think that he has more influence than any other man in this community.
– And yet the honorable and learned member deserted him.
– I think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is the most influential man in the community.
– And deservedly so.
– And yet the honorable and learned member’s leader is fighting him.
– He is not, but I do not wish to discuss the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. All I say is that he must have great influence with the Prime Minister, and that we have a right to ask him to use it. We were told in the first instance that the Prime Minister intended to allow the honorable and learned member for Ballarat one day in which to place his -views upon preferential trade before the country, and that the whole question was then to be closed up. The honorable and learned member, however, wanted the House to arrive at a decision upon h*is motion. Then the Prime Minister expressed himself as agreeable that there should be a certain amount of discussion. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat was not content with that. He stiffened his back, and the Prime Minister, whilst declaring that it would be premature to take any action at present, because Great Britain had not declared herself, agreed to allow the honorable and learned member all the time he required. More than that, I believe that a promise has been made that the Appropriation Bill shall not be passed until the motion has been disposed of.
– I did not make any such degrading promise.
– In view of the influence which he possesses with the Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat ought to see that the Tariff Commission is appointed without delay. We know that he does not trust the Prime Minister. I had the pleasure of listening to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat speak about twelve months ago, when he gave a very frank expression to his opinions with regard to the Prime Minister. Although he has been sitting behind the Treasury benches for some little time, I doubt very much whether his views have undergone any change. We have a right - this little group of members in the Opposition corner, the small coterie of protectionists in this cave of Adullam - call it what you like-
– It would not be parliamentary.
– I do not wish to say anything hostile to the Minister of Defence nor to my protectionist friends on the Government side of the House. I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to take a hand in this fight. If he assures us that he has obtained a promise that the Commission shall be appointed before we go into recess, the whole matter will be disposed of, and I shall be satisfied. He pulls the strings, and the Prime Minister works.
– I have every confidence in the Prime Minister.
– Hear, hear.
– I have appealed to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to see that the Prime Minister keeps his promise,’ and appoints the Commission almost immediately. The honorable and learned member has1 replied, “ I have every confidence in the Prime Minister.”
– Yes, that he will keep his promise.
– Mr. Chairman, “ ‘nuff said.”
– I cannot understand what all this commotion is about. I was under the impression that the gentlemen who represent the Protectionist Party on this side of the Chamber had ample confidence in their late leader, and, seeing that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has told us that he has every confidence in the Prime Minister, it naturally follows that he has obtained information with regard to the appointment of the Tariff Commission that has not yet been communicated to the public. I think that honorable members are quite justified in assuming that the honorable and learned member has full power to see that the promise given by “the Prime Minister is kept. I understood that the Prime Minister stated that he was prepared to communicate to honorable members the names of the members of the Commission before we went into recess.
Mr- Reid. - That statement is absolutely unfounded.
Mr- WEBSTER.- Am I to understand that the Prime Minister absolutely refuses to communicate to us the names of the members of the Commission before we go into reces’s?
– I never said anything of the kind. Does not the honorable member think we had better get to work, and do something for the men who are waiting employment?
– We know what this playing to the gallery means.
Mr- Reid. - I am not playing to the gallery, but I have had a special appeal made to me from the Labour Councils on behalf of thousands of men who are out of work.
– The Prime Minister makes an appeal on behalf of some men who are out of work, and we know exactly what his motive is. If the light honorable gentleman has any real solicitude for these men he will show it by expediting the appointment of the Tariff Commission, .because if we are to believe the advocates of the appointment of the Commission, the work which it will do will be of much gt eater importance to the working men of Australia than the mere passing of a few works Estimates. I should have thought the right honorable gentleman had had a sufficient amount of experience of Commissions which have been appointed behind the back of Parliament, and that for his own sake he would have asked honorable members to share his responsibility. Honorable members belonging to the Protectionist Party seem to think that their cause is perfectly safe in the hands of Ministers who belong to the same fiscal faith as themselves, and personally I shall be perfectly satisfied, and will give the Ministry every assistance, in my power in closing the business of . the session if they will announce the names of the Commission before the prorogation takes place.
– The honorable member can sit there until he is blind; he will not receive any such assurance from me.
– I am surprised that so much heat has been shown during this discussion. I would like to remind the Committee that the Prime Minister was not the first in this Parliament to appoint a Commission. During the last session a distinct promise was given that the names of the members of a certian Commission would be announced before the prorogation. Circumstances, however, prevented that promise from being kept, and the Commission was appointed during the recess. I refer to the Federal Capital Sites Commission, whose report was something like a Chinese classic, and had to be read backwards. I would strongly recommend the Prime Minister, in view of the results in that case, to announce to Parliament the names of the Tariff Commission.
– The most striking statement made here to-night was that which fell from the honorable member for Echuca, to the effect that the protectionist members on the Government side of the House were as anxious as, if not more anxious than, those on this side of the Chamber to have the Tariff Commission appointed. If my memory serves me accurately, not a single protectionist upon the other side of theChamber uttered a solitary word in support of the motion submitted in favour of the appointment of the Commission.
– What motion?
– The motion submitted by the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– The want of confidence motion ?
– It is all very well to declare that it was a no-confidence motion. The Minister of Defence must recollect - as we all do - that the honorable and learned member for Indi agreed to withdraw his motion because certain promises were made-
– Because two or three honorable members upon the other side of the House would not vote with him.
– Move another noconfidence motion.
– We shall not be afraid to submit another motion of that character if the Government fail to do what we conceive to be right. I repeat, that at no time have the protectionist supporters of the Government uttered a single word in favour of the appointment of a Tariff Commission.
– Why, the honorable member for Echuca was the first member of the House to raise the question privately,
– Privately ?He was the first honorable member to cross to the other side of the Chamber, and support a free-trade Prime Minister. I like to see honorable members stick to their colours.
– Why did the honorable member desert his leader, and call a meeting behind his back?
– I have deserted neither my leader nor my principles. I occupy a seat upon the Opposition side of the House, where I shall remain as long as the Prime Minister continues in office. I do not intend to support the Government in any way.
– And still we live.
– Yes, by the grace of Cameron.
– By the grace of any honorable member who is at present supporting the Government, for any one member can, by a change of vote, unseat them. What I wish to emphasize is that but for the action of the honorable and learned member for Indi no Tariff Commission would have been appointed.
– That is not so.
– The protectionist supporters of the Ministry, who declare that they are anxious to secure the appointment of that Commission, have never raised their voices to protest against existing Tariff anomalies. When they say that they have full faith in the Prime Minister, or in the Minister of Trade and Customs, they are begging the question, because, but for the action of the honorable and learned member for Indi, no Commission would have been appointed.
– That is not so.
– The Prime Minister says that that is not so, and yet the spectacle is presented to-night of honorable members upon this side of the Chamber demanding that the Commission shall be appointed, after a promise to that effect had been given. Apparently the Prime Minister does not intend to constitute the Commission until Parliament is in recess.
– The honorable member is at liberty to draw what inference he chooses.
– In reply to the honorable and learned member for Indi, the Prime Minister stated that he would not be under any duress in the matter, and further, that he did not wish the personnel of the Commission to be discussed by this House, as such a proceeding would be most improper.
– I never said anything of the sort.
– Then my ears must have deceived me. Words to that effect were most certainly used.
– I asked, “ Would it be a good start for the Commission if its personnel were discussed in Parliament ?” I did not say that it would not, or could not, be discussed there, but that the Commission would not be helped if it were attacked in Parliament before it had begun its work.
– That is practically the same thing.
– No, it is not.
– The fact is, the Prime Minister has got into the difficulty which we all foresaw, whenhe took upon himself the responsibility of appointing that Commission. The original motion affirmed that that body should be constituted by this House. The right honorable gentleman, however, declared that such a proceeding would be tantamount to taking the conduct of business out of his hands, and expressed his willingness to appoint the Commission and to accept full responsibility for his action. Originally, there were to be no members of Parliament appointed to that body ; subsequently there were to be one or two, and fit ,a later stage there were to be “ some.”
– -Surely one or two is “ some “ ?
– I think that “ some “ means more than one or two. Consequently, there have been several changes in connexion with the appointment of .this Commission. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber have a great deal to do with those changes, and it is because of the advances which they have made that they have been content to rest awhile. I do not wish to take any part in discussing the personnel of the Commission, but I desire that it should be appointed without delay, in order that it may get to work. The Prime Minister promised that he would embrace the earliest opportunity of appointing it for that purpose.
– So I shall. The man who is without responsibility can always do things easily and quickly.
– Seeing that a month has gone by, I think we are justified in inquiring when the Commission is to be appointed, and when it is to get to work. We have reason to make this demand, because amongst what the Prime Minister calls serious matters-
– Then it is a “ demand “ ?
– Undoubtedly it is.
– The honorable member has only to demand a thing, and he will not get it.
– What are the functions of members of Parliament?
– Not to drive the Executive. T do not intend to be driven.
– It is a respectful demand.
– Very respectful.
– It is not the sort of demand which is made when a person puts a pistol to one’s head, and says “ Give me so-and-so, or you die.”
– There is nothing else in it.
– The Prime Minister proposes to give time for the discussion of what he calls “serious matters of business.” Amongst that business he includes the question of Preferential Trade, although I do not know that he has promised to grant sufficient time for its consideration to enable us to come to a division upon it. He has further pledged himself to give the House an opportunity to consider the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. Surely the rectification of Tariff anomalies, locally considered, is far more important than either of those subjects.
– The appointment of the Tariff Commission is not a legislative, but an Executive, act. When I talk of legislative measures I do not mean Executive acts.
– The man upon whom we might have relied for a statement in connexion with this matter - I refer to the protectionist leader in the Cabinet - is absolutely silent.
– How does the honorable member know what we are doing in Cabinet in regard to the matter? He cannot assume that we are doing nothing, because we do not tell him what takes place in our offices.
– Surely we have a right to expect the Minister of Trade and Customs - who is the equal in all things of the Prime Minister - to make some announcement upon the matter. The honorable member for Echuca has stated that the Government are doing something. But he is not an authority upon the subject, and the Minister of Trade and Customs is. If the latter would make an announcement as to what is being done we should know exactly where we stood. In default of such a statement we are justified in suspecting that nothing is being done.
– In effect, the honorable member says that he does not believe the Prime Minister, but that he does believe the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– I do not rely upon the Prime Minister-
– Does not the fact that I am going to consult the leader of the Opposition in regard to the personnel of the Commission give the honorable member any confidence ?
– Certainly not, because the leader of the Opposition may be consulted half-a-dozen times, and may consent to nothing at all. Probably he will not. I do not know that he has any more right to be consulted than has the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, or any other individual member having special knowledge of the subject.
– Does the honorable member really think that the leader of the Opposition has no more right to be consulted than an ordinary member of the House ?
– I did not say that?
– The honorable member went very near it.
– The fact that the Prime Minister consulted the leader of the Opposition does not bind the Opposition to the personnel of the Commission in any way.
– But those who trust him may feel reassured by the fact that he is to be consulted.
– When is the Commission to be constituted?
– I have no objection to the Prime Minister consulting anybody he pleases regarding the composition of the Commission. But the fact that he intends to consult the honorable member for Bland does not bind the Opposition, or any section of it, to approve of that Commission.
– They will not be asked to approve of it. The appointment of a Commission is an exercise of the prerogation of the Crown.
– If we are not to approve of the appointment, why should we consider it?
– Parliament is never asked to approve of the exercise of the Royal prerogative.
– I am satisfied that the debate, which has elicited the statements made this evening by the Prime Minister, will lead to the appointment of the Commission at a much earlier date than would otherwise have been the case. He has assured the Committee that he will make it his business to look into the matter as one of pressing importance.
– I said so last night - before this debate occurred - to the leader of the Opposition.
– The statement was made privately. What we desired was the public declaration which we have obtained this evening from the right honorable gentleman. Other statements which have been made by him lead me to believe that the debate has saved time, and cleared up several matters about which there was some doubt. I should certainly like to see the Tariff Commission appointed before the session ends, and, speaking for myself, shall not give my consent to the passing of the Appropriation Bill until we have had, not a promise, but the appointment actually made.
– I wish to pour a little oil on the troubled waters, and to utter some words of encouragement to my honorable friends of the Alliance. There seems to be a general impression that the Parliament will be prorogued at an early date ; but, having regard to the progress made this evening, and to the programme for the remainder of this session, which was announced yesterday by the Government, I think that honorable members of the Opposition corner have every reason to hope that the Commission will be appointed before we go into recess. It seems to me that the session is not likely to close before February next. The Government tell us that they intended from the outset - even before the matter was brought forward by the honorable and learned member for Indi - to appoint a Tariff Commission. They have been about three months in office, so that we have a fair indication of the rate of progress they are likely to make in appointing the Commission, and can form some idea as to when the proper time will arrive for the passing of the Appropriation Bill. The Government have now reached a stage at which they consider that the appointment of the Commission is an urgent matter, and the Prime Minister is prepared to accept nominations from any source.
– I did not say that.
– The Government, at all events, are prepared to accept nominations from any reasonable source, and I presume that honorable members of the Opposition corner are in a position to make nominations. We ought to have some sympathy with the Prime Minister, for he is at the head of a very mixed party. The Cabinet consists of two opposing elements, and that possibly is the reason why they have been so long in arriving at the conclusion that the appointment of the Commission is an urgent matter. Possibly the Commission will be appointed in the course of the next three months.
– The honorable member is more hopeful than I am.
– Perhaps I am; but I wish to hold Out some hope of the appointment of the Commission to my honorable friends of the Opposition corner. There is some justification for their dissatisfac- tion, seeing that the Government have so long delayed the work of making a selection. The issues involved in the question of free-trade versus protection are so well known that there should be no difficulty in making a satisfactory appointment; but the trouble is that the Cabinet is equally divided, and that the two opposing parties apparently must share and share alike. I would suggest that the two sections of the Cabinet should meet in separate rooms, and decide first of all how many gentlemen from their party should foe appointed to the Commission.
– Did the honorable member make such a suggestion to our predecessors upon the fiscal question? They were equally divided.
– They were a united body, and had a solid party behind them, but the Government is not in that happy position. If they adopted my suggestion, I think that they would be able to appoint a Commission in less than three months. We know that they are anxious to go into recess, because that is their only haven of rest, and they certainly ought to appoint the Commission before Parliament is prorogued. Having agreed upon the number of members to be appointed to the Commission, the two sections of the Cabinet should proceed to select the men whom they think should represent the protectionist and free-trade parties. If the Commission were tacitly approved before the prorogation of Parliament, the Government would be able to go into recess feeling much happier than they would otherwise do, for they would know that they would not be liable to be attacked, on again meeting the House, for their action in regard to the matter.
– Considerable heat has been ‘ engendered by the discussion of this question.
– It is time we had a little more light.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must keep quiet. I for one shall not submit to his impertinence. I listen to him respectfully when he speaks, and demand the same consideration.
– I claim your protection, Mr. Chairman; I am absolutely in fear.
– The honorable member is so offensive to other honorable members, that perhaps he needs protection. If he continues his present practice, he will get himself into trouble.
– Not with the honorable member.
– I was not referring to the honorable member when he interrupted me. If I chose, I could say something of his career in New South Wales which would hold him up to ridicule and contempt.
– What does the honorable member mean by his dirty insinuations ?
– As soon as an .honorable member rises to speak he is assailed by offensive interjections on the part of the honorable member.
– The honorable member is a big baby.
– The honorable member has always been a political baby. I do not know what he is at the present time, but I know that at one stage of his career he called himself a protectionist; then he was a single-taxer, and subsequently he became a free-trader.
– That is absolutely untrue, but it does not matter.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– Very well, sir. I shall only say that the statement is absolutely incorrect, and that the honorable member knows it.
– I ask the honorable member to refrain from making interjections.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether the honorable member, in withdrawing the remark to which objection is taken, is at liberty to say that the statement is incorrect, and that the honorable member knows it.
– That is an expression that is used every day in this Chamber.
– Does the honorable member for Riverina take exception to the remark ?
– Then the honorable member must withdraw without any qualification.
– May I say, sir, that that is an absolutely unusual course to follow. The expression which I used is heard almost every day in this Chamber.
– The honorable member is now out of order. I ask him to make an unqualified withdrawal of the assertion that the statement made by the honorable member for Riverina is untrue.
– On what grounds? Simply because the honorable member objects to my assertion that his statement is incorrect, and that he knows it?
– The honorable member, as an old politician, must know that when he is called upon by the Chairman to withdraw a statement which is out of order, he must do so. Do I understand that he withdraws the statement to which objection is taken?
– I was about to say, when the honorable member interrupted me-
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member for Parramatta is setting a bad example.
– The honorable member is a fine example.
– Interjections are continually being uttered sotto voce, and it seems to me that they are made for a purpose.
– If any interjection reaches the Chair I will deal with the offender, but the honorable member cannot expect me to take notice of interjections which I do not hear.
– I am not commenting on the action of the Chair, but statements are being made which do not reach the Chair, and which are offensive.
– Then I hope that they will cease.
– Statements have been made to-night which must be offensive to the protectionist members in this corner. There has been a division of the Protectionist Party - I need not now discuss the causes of it- but it is nevertheless our duty to uphold the great principles of protection. I am willing to believe that those principles are still dear to the protectionists who support the Government. But what can be of more importance to all protectionists than the finding of a remedy for the terrible industrial conditions which have arisen out of the operation of the present Tariff? I was very much amazed to hear the Prime Minister say to-night that when the proposed Tariff Commission is appointed he will say to the House, “ These are the Commissioners,” but that the House will not have an opportunity to approve or disapprove of them.
– I said nothing of the sort. I have said neither that the Commission would be appointed, nor that the Commis sion would not be appointed, before the recess. I absolutely declined to give a pledge to the honorable and learned member for Indi or any other honorable member on the subject. In reply to the threat that the Appropriation Bill would not be passed until the appointments were made, I stated that that created a situation which embarrasses me in carrying out the duty of forming a Commission.
– The right honorable gentleman was asked very calmly and quietly in the first instance.
– Obstruction was threatened if. I did not give pledges which no Minister ought to be asked to give, and which no self-respecting Minister would give.
– I was not referring to that matter; I was dealing with what I understood to be the statement of the Prime Minister, that the appointment of the Commission would be an Executive act which he would not submit to the approval of this Parliament. To make such a statement is to invite the antagonism of honorable members. Why should he object to taking them into his confidence?
– How can I do so until I have done the work?
– The right honorable gentleman has invited, through the press, suggestions as to names and qualifications.
– Exactly; but I did not get any from the Opposition.
– That being so, surely the Prime Minister might show a little more cordiality towards honorable members.
– The invitation included honorable members.
– I see no need for making a threat on one side or the other.
– Then why do honorable members opposite make threats?
– I am not making threats. There are, however, honorable members who know the forms of the House.
– The honorable member never did.
– I treat the interjection with the contempt it deserves, and I treat the individual who uttered it in the same way. The Prime Minister said that he would not be driven, but who is attempting to drive him?
– The honorable member is not doing so, but others made the attempt.
– I have always given the Prime Minister credit for upholding the principles of free-trade as well as they have been upheld by any one, and surely he might give the protectionists who sit on this side of the Chamber credit for being true to their faith. Three questions are now of great moment to us. The first is the appointment of a Commission to deal fairly and squarely with the Tariff, and to recommend a remedy for the evils which exist under it. The next is, how to bring about preferential free-trade with Great Britain.
– Preferential freetrade ! The honorable member does not know any better.
– I mean preferential trade, of course. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to protect me from the continuous insults of the honorable member for Parramatta. If I am not so protected, and these insults continue, I shall have no hesitation about protecting myself
– I have heard two interjections since I warned the honorable member for Parramatta that these interjections must cease. I ask the honorable member to allow the honorable member for Riverina to continue his speech. The honorable member for Parramatta will have an opportunity to ‘reply.
– I sincerely hope, for the credit of the Committee, that the honorable member for Parramatta will discontinue his interjections.
– It is ‘not necessary for the honorable member for Riverina to refer to the matter any further.
– The great question of preferential trade with Great Britain is not in the hands of the Prime Minister, whose principles compel him to oppose such preference, but in the hands of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is supposed to be the head of the Protectionist Party in the Ministry. Surely the protectionists in this Chamber should set principle above everything else. What we wish to know is what is going to be done in regard to these two great questions, and in regard to the third great question which we have at heart, the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, which is now in the hands of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro? We were not elected by our constituents to hasten into recess. Our duty is to face the difficulties which are now causing such an outcry throughout the country. I trust that these matters will be lifted above party questions. I, in the first instance, objected to the appointment of any but Members of Parliament to the proposed Commission, because I believe that Members of Parlialiament know more about Tariff matters than do persons outside, since we spent twelve months in discussing the Tariff, and obtained information in regard to it from all points of view. It has been decided, however, that persons who are not Members of Parliament, but who, I presume, have positions in the commercial world, shall be appointed.
– And Members of Parliament as well.
– We have had no statement as to how many Members of Parliament will be appointed. The Prime Minister. has not shown sufficient candour in this matter. It is the country that wants this information. The difficulty in connexion with the appointment of a Commission will be that there will be too many, not too few, good men offering. I should like to know why the protectionists who are supporting the Ministry are now absent from the Chamber ?
– The same question might be asked about other honorable members. The corner benches from which the honorable member is speaking have, night after night, been deserted, except by the honorable member for Bass.
– The honorable member for Echuca has told us that he knows what is going to be done.
– He did not say anything of the kind. No human being knows who will be appointed to the Commission. I do not know myself.
– I am not speaking in regard to the appointment, but in regard to the time of appointment.
– No one knows that either.
– The honorable member for Echuca led honorable members to believe that the time of appointment, if not the personnel of the Commission was known to him. I do not blame the Prime Minister in this matter, but I blame those ‘protectionists with whom I have been associated if, having information, they refuse to relieve the anxiety of honorable members and of the public outside on this subject.
– No previous Commission has been appointed by this Parliament within such a period as that which has elapsed since it was decided to constitute a Tariff Commission.
– The only Commission that I remember as having been appointed by the Commonwealth Government was that which was authorized to report upon the Federal Capital sites.
– It took months to secure the appointment of that Commission.
– That was not such an urgent matter. There is no use in our hiding our heads in the sand. We know that what is practically a Commission has been sitting for the last twelve months, collecting evidence with regard to the effect of the Tariff upon our principal industries. Testimony has been afforded from time to time that our industries are languishing, and that our workmen are being thrown out of employment as the result of the operation of the Tariff. All this should point to the extreme urgency of the case. I do not blame the Prime Minister, because I know that it is part of his policy to ignore the claims of our manufacturing industries. He does not wish to see them gain any ascendency over the importers. 1 look, however, to those who belong to the same fiscal faith as myself, for some light and leading. If the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is still the protectionist leader, why does he not give us some assurance that the Commission will be appointed without delay? Why should we be asked to “ shut our eyes, and open our mouths, and see what God will send us?” We are not here for that purpose, but are required to do our best for the people of Australia in every walk of life. The Tariff Commission will, if it applies itself to its work conscientiously and earnestly, do an immense amount of good, as also will the measure which is intended to promote the establishment of the manufacture of iron and steel in our midst. The Prime Minister has avowed himself as an out-and-out opponent of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and he is also unfavorable to the appointment of the Tariff Commission. Unfortunately, we have a tug-of-war Government, one-half of the Ministers pulling in one way, and the other tugging in the opposite direction. Hence we can obtain no satisfaction. I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will succeed in converting the Prime Minister to his views, and that we shall be able to obtain some assurance that no time will be lost in doing that which is required to conserve our manufacturing interests. I do not see any necessity for the display of heat over this question, or for any threats or talk about resistance of demands. Honorable members, irrespective of parties, should be taken into the con fidence of the Prime Minister, and the people should be told what steps, are to be taken. If the Prime Minister will promise to announce the names of the members of the Commission, so that’ matters may assume a practical shape before we go into recess, I shall not have another word to say. It is of no use for the right honorable gentleman to say that he will resist certain demands, or for honorable members on this side of the House to indulge in threats. As a protectionist and a liberal, I am prepared to do my duty without intimating beforehand what steps I intend to take in the interests of protection, and with the object of providing work for our citizens*
– I am sorry that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat did not display »a little more sense” in regard to my innocent interjection. I cannot believe that he understood what took place. When the honorable member said that there was no necessity for any heat in connexion with this matter, the only remark I made was that I thought it was time we had a little more light on the subject. He then told me that I was not to be impertinent, or he would deal it out to me.
– I did not use any such expression.
– The honorable member threatened me with personal violence.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member said that he had something he could communicate to honorable members concerning my career, which would surprise them. I invite him to tell the Committee anything that he knows about me. The honorable member is an arrant cur if he does not accept my challenge. He has made insinuations, and has sat down without saying really anything concerning me. I invite him to say anything he likes as to my career, and the sooner he says it the better. I extremely regret the incident, but I submit that I said nothing to warrant the honorable member’s statements with regard to me, or that was in any sense impertinent. The Prime Minister has said all that any self-respecting Prime Minister could say with regard to the appointment of the Tariff Commission. If he is to be the mere puppet of honorable members in the Opposition corner, who “have interrogated him from time to time like so many pedagogues, he will not be fit to lead the party that is behind him. Some honorable members have tried to extract pledges from the Prime Minister, and have stated that if he does not make the appointments to the Tariff Commission immediately, the Appropriation Bill will not be passed. If those are not threats, I do not know what threats are. Unless the right honorable gentleman resists such menaces, there is only one course open to him, and that is to leave office, and allow honorable members in the Opposition corner to govern the country. The whole trouble seems to have arisen in consequence of the dual leadership of the Opposition. One section of the alliance is all right.
– Let the honorable member wait.
– Everything has been satisfactorily settled as between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition; but the trouble seems to have arisen from the fact that the honorable and learned member for Indi has been left out. It is unfortunate that there cannot be two leaders of the Opposition. The honorable and learned member for Indi would no doubt make an admirable leader. I submit, however, that he would have consulted his own dignity and the prestige of those honorable members who are associate with him, if he had refrained from re-opening a matter regarding which a definite arrangement had been arrived at between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, and from making demands, such as have not been preferred by the recognised leader on his side of the House.
– I desire to place on record my opinion, that the protectionists of Victoria are not fairly represented on the Government side of the Chamber. I have taken the trouble to ascertain how many of the Victorian representatives sitting behind the Government belong to the recognised Protectionist Association, and I find that there are only three, including the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Laanecoorie, and another, whose name I forget for the moment. There are twelve representatives of Victoria upon that side of the Chamber who do not belong to the Protectionists’ Association, some of them being free-traders, and the rest what we call “shandy-gaff” protectionists. Of the representatives of
Victoria on the Opposition side, six belong to the Protectionists’ Association-, and two are outside its ranks, one of them being a free-trader. I grant that a man may be a strong protectionist, and still not belong to the association, but the protectionists of Victoria ‘ certainly do not recognise the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as their leader. If they held a meeting in Melbourne, and the honorable and learned member appeared before them and claimed to be their leader, they would hurl him from the platform. The private life of the honorable and learned member is to be admired, and any man might be proud of his personal friendship, but I absolutely deny his claim to be the leader of the Protectionist Party. The real protectionist parliament of Victoria is the Trades Hall, and the real power of the protectionists is in the trade unions, the members of which disclaim the honorable and learned member as their leader. Cannot we point to the very large meeting that was held in the Town Hall the other night?
– There were only1,200 persons present, and that would not be a very large meeting in the Town Hall.
– I think that the Prime Minister will agree that the meeting was larger than that.
– The Age estimated the number of persons present at 1,200, and that newspaper would not disparage a meeting; held in support of the policy which it advocates.
– I recognise that the right honorable gentleman has quoted a very good authority. I do not think the Age would wittingly make a mistake in regard to that matter, because it appertains to the politics which it advocates. At the same time, I am of opinion that there were more than 1,200 persons present at that meeting. I am equally sure that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was not- proud of his reception by the gathering in question. I maintain that the real protectionists in this House are to be found upon the Opposition benches. If a public meeting of protectionists were convened in Melbourne, we should soon ascertain who is the real leader of the protectionist party, and who constitute that party.’ I will guarantee that if a meeting be called at any large centre in Victoria, it will be found that this State is feeling the injury which is being done to her industries by the present Tariff.
– Is Victoria the Commonwealth ?
– It constitutes a good portion of it. I have no faith in Commissions. The more experience I have of them, the more I am inclined to the view of the German who said, “ If the Almighty had placed the earth in the hands of a Commission, I have doubts as to whether it would ever have been built.” In nine cases put of ten the appointment of a Commission is synonymous with delay. Why cannot amendments in the Tariff be submitted to this House next session, and fought out to a finish? The Prime Minister has generously declared that when he appealed to the country upon the fiscal question he was defeated.
– The people declared for a fiscal truce, and I wish to see their decision respected.
– If a Tariff Commission is to be appointed, I say that it should consist of an equal number of true freetraders and protectionists - not persons of the shandy-gaff variety. If the Prime Minister will appoint staunch protectionists upon the one hand and ardent free-traders upon the other, I shall be content.
– Whilst I am quite willing to assist the Government to get into recess as soon as possible, I cannot understand why there should be so much delay in the appointmentof the Tariff Commission.
– If the honorable member had the jobhe would soon discover the reason. I have six States to deal with, and I have toobtain the services of thebest man in each.
Mr.STORRER. - I know that the Prime Minister possesses a very wide knowledge of theleading men of theCommonwealth, and that he has many opportunitiesof becoming acquainted with their abilities.
– My honorable friend should recollect that many of the ablest men are disqualified from acting upon the Commission, because they have business’ transactions with the Customs House. That is my trouble.
– I think that members of Parliament might be appointedto that body with advantage. Its constitution is an urgent matter, in view of the fact that many industries are languishing.
– I do not propose to reply to any interjections, because I realize thatby so doing a good deal of unnecessary heat is engendered. Somehonorable members fear that the personnel of the proposed Commission will not be satisfactory. Under such circumstances, I think that the Prime Minister should constitute that body without delay.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I wish to make a personal explanation. I object to haying words put into my mouth which I did not utter. The allegation made by the honorable member for Parramatta that I threatened to deal it out to him is absolutely incorrect. I object to such statements being recorded in Hansard as emanating from me. The honorable member has said that when I asked why so much heat should be imported into the debate, the only interjection which he made was to the effect that there should be more light. I really ‘believe that the honorable member interjects without being aware of the fact.
– Iknow what I said then, anyhow.
– The honorable member’s mind is sometimes “ soured” by his principles, and as a resulthe uses words which are very offensive.
– Is itbecause of a lack of principle that the minds of some honorable members are not soured?
– I should be extremelysorry to goto thehonorable member for Wentworth for principles.I can assure the honorable member for Parramatta thatmy remarks had no application to his personal career. I was referring tohispolitical career.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - Whathas the honorable member to say about it?
– I have no desire to create friction.
-My political career is better thanthat of the honorable member’s, I hope.
– Certainly it has not been more consistent.
– Consistently bad.
– The honorablemember for Wentworth will never have such a career if he remains in Parliament all the days of his natural life. What does he know of my political career? He is merely a boy in the House - ra political neophyte. He should sit silent, or otherwise he may get the political punishment which ought to be administered to naughty boys. His manner is against him andI would strongly advise him to cultivate a little more geniality towards his fellow members. I am’ content to allow honorable members who occupy seats upon the cross benches to determine the nature of my remarks in regard to the honorable member for Parramatta. When he addresses the Chair I always give him respectful attention, and refrain from interjecting. I trust that he will act in a similar fashion, and thus allow honorable members an opportunity to state their views fully and in their own way.It is not creditable that we should constantly have “ scenes’” occurring in the House, when they could be easily avoided by honorable members bearing a little with each other.
– What is all this twaddle about?
– I call your attention, sir, to the remark of the honorable member. That is the kind of interjection which he is constantly making, and yet he declares that he never interjects. Is it to be supposed that honorable members can tolerate continual interjections of that nature? the CHAIRMAN.- I would point out that it is entirely out of order for any honorable member to interrupt the speaker, and I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to refrain from doing so.
– I have no further remarks to offer on this subject. I rose only to say that I did not use the words which thehonorable member for Parramatta has attributed to me, and that if he will cease from interjecting I am sure that he will have no cause to regret it.
– With a considerable degree of trepidation, and almost fear, I rise to make’ my recantation to the honorable member for Riverina, who has just resumed his seat. I deeply regret that he took what was intended, on my part, to be a jocular interjection - and therefore a thoroughly disorderly one - as a serious matter.
– Why did the honorable member make such a statement?
– Only an honorable member of his modesty could possibly conceive that his whole political career could have been consistently bad. For my part, I should not have dreamt of putting such an interpretation oh it.
– They why make such an assertion ?
– I have risen, not with the object of making my honorable f riend still angrier, but , to pour oil on the troubled waters, and if I have given him any offence, I can only say that I am heartily sorry.
– I am somewhat surprised at the heat with which this matter has been discussed by certain honorable members opposite. They appear to be annoyed because some honorable members of the Opposition have made the request in all sincerity that the Tariff Commission shall be appointed before we go into recess. Simply because the statement is made by honorable members of the Opposition that it is only fair that the Commission should be appointed before the Appropriation Bill is passed, the Prime Minister asserts that a threat is being made.
– What a beautiful translation ! It sounds like poetry. Let us get some work done.
– I am anxious that we should do so. If we have such a responsible Government as the Prime Minister professes to lead, why do they not expedite public business ?
– Why does not the honorable member help us to pass this motion, in view of the fact that he talks of the necessity to find work for the unemployed?
– I have no desire to delay the business of the Committee. Since the present Government took office, some of their supporters have occupied more time in making one speech than I have done on the several occasions on which I have spoken. I have a right to express my views on this question without being twitted by the Prime Minister or by any one else, with a desire to delay the business of the country. No one can say that I have attempted to “ stone-wall “ in any degree.
– But the honorable member has worked the oracle:
– I deny that I have done so. On the contrary, I have always endeavoured to assist the Government to keep a House. I have attended here every day at 2.30 p.m., when some of the supporters of the Government have been enjoying themselves in other States.
– Or blackguarding, the Labour Party.
– That is so. I have attended this House when some of the supportersof the Government have been touring the country denouncing the Labour Party, arid stating that we believe that marriage is a luxury. As a matter of fact, I have proved that is the view held by some honorable members opposite, and by the organizers whom they employ to tour this State the honorable member for Robertson knows better than to come to my electorate and make such a statement regarding the Labour Party and its aims, as that which he made in the backblocks. These are the honorable members who, like the honorable member for Robertson, tour the country making misstatements about the Labour Party, while we are attending to the business of the country.
– The honorable member should read what I said. I refer him to the Daily Telegraph.
– I do not intend to reply to interjections, because I am anxious that we should push on with the business before us. The Opposition are quite right in contending that the Commission should be at once appointed, and in stating that they are prepared to see that Ohe Appropriation Bill is not passed until that has been done.
– Does not the honorable member think that they might wait to see what is done before making threats?
– They have waited for some time. It is over a month since the Prime Minister promised to appoint this Commission. I am glad to see that some of the protectionist supporters of the Government are now present. We may now be told what is being done, as one of them has already said this evening, that they know everything,- whilst we know nothing! The Minister of Defence said that the honorable member for Echuca suggested the appointment of a Tariff Commission before the honorable and learned member for Indi submitted his proposal.
– While the Watson Government was in power; the honorable member for Echuca raised the’ question of a Tariff Commission, and spoke privately to his fellow protectionists on the subject.
– That is the first I have heard of it. The statement which the Minister has just made differs from the interjection which he made while the honorable member for Bourke was speaking.
– That was an interjection and I was cut short whilst I was in the middle of it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bass that we should know before the House goes into recess what is to be the constitution of .the Commission. Even certain honorable members opposite would like to see the Commission appointed before the prorogation.
– Do not worry about us.
– Honorable members opposite will have quite enough cause for anxiety when the general election comes round.
– The honorable member may then come along and worry us.
– I shall do’ my best to worry certain honorable members who have broken the pledges made by them at the last general election. If the Prime Minister will apply the gag to his supporters in the matter of interjections, as well as in regard to speech-making, the progress of business will be expedited.
– Why does not the honorable member-
– Let the honorable member conclude his remarks.
– The honorable member for Robertson has been ordered to keep quiet, and as a loyal and humble supporter of the Prime Minister I am sure that he will.
– He was not “ ordered.”
– I am very anxious that this resolution shall be dealt with.
– It is very important that we should pass this motion, and have the talk afterwards. Honorable members opposite surely have an interest in the passing of a measure providing for works to be carried out. .
– The provision made for works in Victoria is not at all in proportion to the population of the State, but I shall deal with that matter when the second motion is before us. I agree with honorable members that before the Appropriation Bill is passed the Government should deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, appoint the Tariff Commission, and give the honorable and learned member for Ballarat an opportunity to submit’ his motion in regard to preferential trade, so that the people, as the result of the debate, may gain more information upon the subject than they have at present. No doubt the representatives of Western Australia are also anxious that the Transcontinental Railway Survey Bill should be dealt with this session, and I am confident that the honorable member for Cowper desires that the British New Guinea Bill should likewise be passed. I trust, therefore, that the Government will attend to these matters, and not abandon them all in their haste to get into recess. I do not make any threat as to what I am prepared to do, but it is only fair to the House and to the country that the session should not prove an absolutely fruitless one. If we have the responsible government of which the Prime Minister has spoken, why does he not see that the matters to which I have referred are dealt with before he asks us- to pass the Appropriation Bill.
– Because honorable members will talk incessantly, and prevent business being transacted.
– Such a statement comes with an ill grace from the right honorable gentleman, having regard to the fact that, when he was leader of the Opposition, members of his party made speech after speech, covering the same ground, in connexion with our consideration of the Tariff, in a session which extended over seventeen months. I hope that the Government will see that the matters to which I have referred are dealt with before Parliament is prorogued, so that the people will not be able to say that the session has been practically abortive, and that the request of the Opposition that the constitution of the Commission shall be known before we go into recess, will be complied with.
– The Prime Minister might have avoided the whole of this discussion had he promised that the Commission would be appointed before the passing of the Appropriation Bill.
– I might have avoided it by simply doing what I was told. Of course, that would save a lot of trouble.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has promised that he will ask the House to deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and with the motion relating to preferential trade, of which notice has been given by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, before the Appropriation Bill is passed. We have been told by him also that a promise to appoint a Commission is very different from a promise to give the House an opportunity to discuss the question of preferential trade - that the one relates to a legislative and the other to an executive act. The man in the street, however, will scarcely recognise the difference. The Prime Minister states that in the one case he is justified in making a promise, and that in the other he is not.
– I have made the only promise that a Prime Minister could make.
– If the Prime Minister can promise the leader of the Opposition that the Appropriation Bill will not be passed until the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has been dealt, with, why should he not promise the honorable and learned member for Indi that the Tariff Commission will be appointed before the Appropriation Bill is passed? It seems to me that the honorable and learned member, having submitted the motion which caused …… Prime Minister to promise the appointment of a Commission, is justified in seeking for an assurance from the right honorable gentleman that the appointment will be made before the Appropriation Bill is passed. As my tendency is to free-trade rather than to protection, I shall probably have less fault to find with the Commission than the protectionist members of the Committee will have. As the Prime Minister has so many things to do, I suggest that if we adjourned for a week, it would give him an opportunity to consider this matter.
– The honorable member was sent here to work. A son of toil should not knock out, when the curled darlings are willing to go on.
– The Prime Minister has complained that he has too much to do, and I suggest an adjournment to give him more leisure. It has been stated in the newspapers that he has a great deal to do in keeping a quorum here. The Senate might go on with work-
– They have finished their work, and are waiting for legislation from us. That is one reason why I wish to send the Works and .Buildings Bill to them tonight.
– We could pass some measures to-night.
– If honorable members would pass half-a-dozen measures to-night, I would agree to a week’s adjournment.
– At any rate, the Commission should be appointed before we go into recess, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss the appointments.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I wish to say a word or two in acknowledgment of the kindly advice given to me tonight by the honorable member for Riverina. I am obliged to him for his lecture on consistency, for his precepts as to my future behaviour, and, above all, for his expressed intention to let me alone in the future. Particularly am I obliged to him for his lecturette on temper, remembering the dis- play of light and sweetness which we have had from him. I recognise always his profound intellectual ity, and the high plane on which he dwells, and I shall do my best to pay heed to his advice. I am afraid, however, I shall be unable to follow it.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio). - I wish to call attention to the fact that, although matters of great importance to protectionists have been discussed during this debate, only two of the protectionists who support the. Ministry are present, the honorable members for Moira and Echuca . The Prime Minister, not having made a satisfactory statement as to when he intends to fulfil the promise which he gave on the 25th October last, I appeal to the Minister of Trade and Customs. In my constituency there are men who are starving for want of work.
– The honorable and learned member cannot sympathize with them much, since he is blocking a Bill to provide them with work.
– Yes. The Senate is waiting to deal with it.
– I wish to inform the Minister of Trade and Customs, as the senior protectionist in the Ministry, that in my constituency there are iron-founders who have been without! work for three months.
– Yet the honorable and learned member somersaulted on them when the Tariff was before us.
– Yes, more than any other honorable member.
– There are ironfoundries in my electorate which are being closed, and throughout Victoria thousands of iron-workers are without employment. the longer the appointment of the Tariff Commission is delayed the more will the protectionist supporters of the Ministry Be to blame..
– -Why did the honorable and learned member vote out of office a protectionist Ministry?
– Hear, hear.
– It is very well for the Prime Minister to cheer, since he is enjoying the fruits of office in consequence of the defeat of the Deakin Ministry.
– But the honorable and learned member neednot have played such a contemptible part in the matter.
– I demand that the right honorable gentleman withdraw that expression.
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement.
-Must I? then I do.
-We have heard a great deal about veiled threats to-night ;. but I am aboutto make a sort of clothed’ appeal to the honorable members for Moira and Echuca. If those iron-founders continue out of Work- - -
– The honorable and learned member helped to put them out of work by his action in regard to the Tariff.
– Not only are ironfoundries being closed down, but there is a cement factory in Geelong which has dismissed all its hands. I would point out also that fellmongeries which formerly employed over 800 men, now provide work for only eighty -five employes, and that several tanneries have been closed down. Thousands of men are walking about unable to find work, and at the point of starvation, and another month’s delay is threatened. I wish the honorable members for Moira and Echuca to recognise their responsibility. They hold the key to the position, because either of them could decide the fate of the Government one way or the other. Every day’s delay will cause more men to be thrown out of employment, and more factories to be closed down. I cannot stir the Minister of Trade and Customs ; but if ever there was a. time when the protectionist supporters of the Government should revolt, now is the occasion. The Prime Minister has stated that he will not promise to appoint the Tariff Commission before we go intorecess; and his protectionist supporters should show their resentment of his absolute repudiation of the pledges which he has givenhere and elsewhere. I would appeal even to the right honorable member for Swan, who is now present, and ask- him whether he thinks that our factories should be left to their fate. The Government have promised that the Tariff Commission shall be instructed to present progress reports. As soon as such reports are brought up, Ministers will be compelled to take action. Then there will be an end to the fiscal truce; and an end to this “ Yesno “ Ministry. The life of the Ministry depends upon delay, and the moreobstacles they can place in the way of the Commission, the better off they will be. It must be apparent to all honorable members that the Government are interested in delaying the appointment of the Commission.
– I should like to pass this Bill, in order that we may provide work for some’ of the starving unemployed to whom the honorable arid learned member has referred.
– What is the use of playing to the gallery like that?
-The honorable and learned member for Indi has appealed to me to curtail my remarks for the present, in order to allow the Bill to pass, and I am perfectly ready to follow his suggestion, because I desire that every possible provision shall be made for the employment of the men who are now in distress.
– I appeal to the Committee, not in my own interests, but in the interests of the public, to pass a Bill which deals with a number of public works, and provides for the expenditure of a number of sums of public money throughout the Commonwealth. I have had appeals made to me by the Labour bodies of Australia, who have pointed out the great distress which exists in various parts of Australia, and the importance they attach to having the works for which provision is made in the Bill, set going. The Senate has arranged to meet specially to-morrow, in the hope that it will be able to pass the measure. I do not make this appeal in order to prevent discussion, because the Appropriation Bill -will afford opportunities to honorable members to make any remarks they wish upon every possible subject of importance. It is desirable that the Bill shall be passed to-night, so that
We may send it on to the Senate in time for to-morrow’s, sitting. I believe that honorable members in thatchamber will set aside their StandingOrders, in order to, ensure expeditious treatment of the measure.
-Will that mean that employment will be afforded the following day?
– No; but it will help forward the movement for providing employment. It will effect a saving of a week, and, to peoplewho are said to be starving, thatwould surely be a matter of consequence. I have simply stated the plain facts, and I now leave the matter entirely in the hands of the Committee.
– It is proposed to pass only the firstreading of the Appropriation Bill proper?
– That is all at present. I am not asking honorable members to forego any opportunities for discussion. The fullest liberty will be afforded in that direction in connexion with the general AppropriationBill.
– I shall not disregard the request of the Prime Minister, butI must say that the pathetic appeal of the honorable and learned member for Corio reminds me of the squeal of a trapped rat. If we have ever had a complete combination of confused contradictions in this House, we have had it in the conduct of the honorable and learned member.
– That is not the way to get the business through.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio has made pointed allusion to me with the deliberate intention that his statement shall be published throughout the length and breath of the Commonwealth, and honorable members cannot expect that I shall sit silent under his imputations. I have every respect for the feelings of honorable members, and a due regard for the request of the Prime Minister, but when the honorable and learned member for Corio accuses protectionists on this side of interfering with the workers of Australia, I ask how he can forget the attitude which he assumed when the Tariff was before this Parliament ?If there was one member of the party who created distrust in the protectionists in this Parliament it was the honorable and learned member. His votes are on record in Hansard, and were registered against the interests of the very industries to which he has referred to-night, and amongst others against the industries of Geelong.
– That does not justify the honorable member in his action.
-It justifies me in refuting the slanders which have been cast on honorable members , on this side. What was it that put the present Prime Minister in the position which he occupies to-night ? Was it not,in the first instance, the vote of the honorable and learned member for Corio, who displaced the only protectionist Government we have had in the Commonwealth Parliament? It does notlie in the mouth of the honorable and learned member to accuse me of inconsistency, or of going back upon protection. I am, to-night, sitting behind the leader of the protectionist cause in Australia, whilst the honorable and learned member is sitting behind a leader who dare notstate to the electors what his fiscal faithis.
– Who says that? That is not true.
– I must ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw, and I say that the honorable member’s statement is in-‘ correct.
– When the honorable member for Bland was asked what the fiscal policy of his Government was, his reply was that the party which he led had no fiscal policy.
– I never said anything of the sort.
– Wre know that the party which the honorable gentleman leads to-day never had any fiscal policy.
– I never said that, anyhow.
– What was the position on the other side when the honorable and learned member for Indi moved his motion with respect to the Tariff Commission ? Why did not honorable members opposite press that motion to an issue? Simply because adhesion amongst honorable members opposite can be obtained only for one purpose, and that is to displace the present Government. The honorable and learned member for Corio accused protectionists .on this side of inconsistency.
– I did- not; I appealed to honorable members to be consistent.
– A strange appeal from such a charming bundle of inconsistency as is the honorable and learned member ! What was his attitude on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill ? The honorable and learned member declaimed more strongly than did any other honorable member against preference, and then at the crack of the whip he came into the fold.
– The honorable member for Moira should not talk about the crack of the whip.
– The whip has never been held over me, by the Prime Minister or by any one else.
– It was ; and it brought the honorable member to his knees in twenty-four hours.
– Nothing of the sort. I shall not allow my reputation to be slandered by so inconsistent an honorable member as is the honorable and learned member for Corio. I shall adhere to my statement at the outset, and have regard for the request of the Prime Minister not to take up time unnecessarily.
– It is rather refreshing to hear the . honorable member for Moira talk about his independence. The other- night the honorable member talked straight to the Prime Minister, and when that right honorable gentleman said he would be less than a man if he stood it, the honorable member got up next morning and apologized.
– I did nothing of thesort.
– The honorable member did not apologize.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I have been surprised to hear the Prime Minister deny the statement made by the honorable member for Kennedy, that the honorable member for Moira humbly apologized for his action.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The records of Hansard will corroborate the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy.
– Let us get this Works Bill through.
– The Prime Minister cannot cajole me by pleading that the working men of the Commonwealth will be kept in a “state of semi-Starvation unless we pass this- Bill to-night.
– The Prime Minister can get a bigger workers’ vote than can the honorable member for Gwydir. I can also get a bigger workers’ vote than can the honorable member.
– In reply to the hon- “orable member for Dalley, I will say that if the honorable member will strip himself of his sectarianism I am prepared to meet him in any electorate in Australia. If the honorable member will strip himself of his yellow cloak and come into the electorate I represent I am prepared to face him any day in The week.
– I can beat the honorable member and his party thrown in.
– We are accustomed to the vagaries of the honorable member, who would appear to receive a bonus from the Government to occupy the position of general interjector.
– That is not fair.
– When an honorable member strikes me below the belt I am prepared to strike back in about the same region.
– The honorable member should not have brought the yellow business into the matter.
– Then the honorable member for Dalley should not have challenged me on the labour question. I atnsurprised at the affected indignation of thehonorable member for Moira, who has tried to humiliate the honorable and learned” member for Corio by questioning his consistency. If there is any fiscal consistency to be found in this Committee it is to be found in the little party sitting in the Opposition corner. No argument which the honorable member for Moira can use will justify the position which protectionists occupy on the other side. The idea of an honorable member of his calibre talking to those who understand something of political matters in this Commonwealth, and telling us what consistency means when we find protectionists sitting behind the man who has declared all his life that he does not believe in their policy, and is determined to uproot it. It is simply marvellous that we should see on that side any protectionists, except those who are opposed to the progressive party known as the Labour Party. The party I see on the opposite benches place conservatism before radicalism or democracy every time.
– Let us get these resolutions reported. The honorable member can get all this in on another occasion.
– I know what it means to be in want of work. I know what it is to depend on my toil for daily bread, and the right honorable gentleman cannot appeal to me on that score in the crisis which is arising.
– The honorable member can get the cr isis at another stage.
– When I see protectionists sitting behind a free-trade Prime Minister, who has sworn that he will throw himself across the track of the progressive party of Australia, all I can say is that if there is an inconsistent party in the House, it is themselves.
– That is a good peroration.
– That is an unnecessary interjection. I never waste the time of the House, nor do I indulge in useless repetition or transgress the rules of the House any more than my humble ability will deter me from doing. I desire to safeguard the Government against any loss of their emoluments tonight in the form of cab-fares, because I realize that the Labour Party when it crosses the floor may have to submit to some charges at the hands of the right honorable gentleman who, in his time, has been such an adept at “stone-walling.” I sympathize with his anxiety to give work to the poor unfortunate unemployed in the various States. Having known what it is to carry my “bluey,” without any food to eat, I can truly sympathize with the right honorable gentleman in his desire to help the unemployed, and therefore I now resume my seat.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) agreed to, with concurrence -
That the Standing Orders be suspended, in order to allow the report from the Committee of Ways and Means to be adopted, and the Bill for the Appropriation for Works and Buildings to be passed through all its stages without delay, and the Appropriation Bill to be read a first time.
That Mr. Reid and Sir George Turner do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Reid, and read a first and second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £404,240).
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government havereconsidered the question of the manner of charging these works and buildings. When the Budget debate was initiated, I raised the question as to the wisdom of departing from what has hitherto been the practice, and charging the cost of these works and buildings on a population basis. Of course, I admitted then that if the transferred properties were paid for immediately, no injustice would be done to any of the States through the new procedure, but that if for some years we put up works and buildings, especially defence work’s, in those States where no provision or little provision has been made in that regard, it meant that other States would for a considerable time to come have to bear a much larger proportion than they otherwise would, and larger than they should do. Leaving out of account the items for armament, totalling £180,000, and taking into consideration only the £300,000 odd, which are to go for works and buildings proper, including, of course, some works for defence purposes-
– The total is only £130,000.
– Although £130,000 is the amount to be spent this year, still we commit ourselves to an expenditure of £180,000. So far as New South
Wales is concerned, there is a difference of only £10,000 between what is to be spent this year and her proportion of the total on a population basis. The proportion paid by New South Wales on a population basis would be £112,000, and the estimates of expenditure are £102,000. But the position is more accentuated in the case of Victoria. Her share, on a population basis, is £93,000, and the amount of money to be spent is £51,000, showing a deficiency of about £42,000. Western Australia, this year, will have spent £71,000 odd, and will have to pay, on a population basis, £18,000 odd. I have worked out these figures in accordance with the percentages of population shown in the Budget papers.
– Are not the figures given in detail in the Budget papers?
– I do not know ; if they are I might have saved myself the trouble of working them out. In Queensland there is a difference of only £4,000, and in South Australia of about £4,000. Victoria and Western Australia are the two glaring cases.
– Roughly speaking, Victoria is going to pay for some of the work in Western Australia.
– Yes. that is the position, roughly speaking. Of course I do not pretend to say what the legal position is. The Treasurer’s interpretation of the constitutional aspect of the question may be correct. But I do say that in the absence of any provision for payment for transferred properties, the equities would have been preserved by continuing the old system; and, personally, I am strongly of opinion that it would be much better to continue that system, pending some decision in regard to payment for transferred properties. Of course it is quite possible that next year we may have a practical scheme in that direction. I do not hope, for my own part, that there will be any immediate outcome in regard to taking over the debts of the States, but I do hope for some practical method of payment for the transferred properties being arrived at. In the meantime, it seems to me that a grave injustice will be suffered by the citizens of some of the States by the continuation of this method.
– I referred to this matter during the Budget debate, and the Treasurer then stated that he had obtained an opinion from the AttorneyGeneral, and also from the honorable and learned member for Corinella upon the subject. I think, whatever the legal position may be, that some new means of allocating these moneys ought to be found. It does not matter whether my own State is particularly concerned or not. This year, it appears that Victoria will be about £50,000 to the bad, and Western Australia will practically have the whole of that amount spent within her territory. On a population basis, Victoria will pay about £90,000, and have only about £40,000 of it spent here, and I desire to enter my protest against this new plan which the Treasurer has adopted. I have no doubt that the Treasurer has obtained the best opinion available; but, nevertheless, I think that the matter should be reconsidered, with a view to an alteration of the method adopted, even if we have to go back to the method which has been in operation for the last three years.
– This is a most difficult question, as the late Treasurer knows. We all know that the present Treasurer gives an immense amount of attention to these subjects, and the present method was adopted in consequence of its being found that the previous system worked out inequitably. If however, the new system works inequitably, we shall have to arrive at some other method. This was the best way we could arrive at, after giving the subject the best consideration. It will be admitted that the question is a most troublesome one.
– I quite recognise that this is a very difficult question to deal with, but the Prime Minister must also recognise, in justice to the States that have spent large sums of money in developing their Torts and defences, that they are receiving no return whatever on that account from the Commonwealth.
– We thought that this scheme would work out with the least hardship.
– It would, if we were assured that it would be limited, but we have no such assurance. Next year the discrepancy may be twice the amount of that for the present year.
– The expenditure on forts in Western Australia will be large for some years to come.
– That will also’ be the casein other States proportionately. If the system adopted this year is to form a precedent, there will be trouble.
– We are not tied to it for next year. to know whether any satisfactory arrangement has been made in regard to the Sydney Customs House? If the Minister will take the trouble to inspect that building, he will admit that it is in a disgraceful condition. If does not provide sufficient accommodation for the present number of officers. I need scarcely remind honorable members that the question of the employment of day labour in carrying out public works has been referred to many times in this House. When I was in office I stated that it was my intention, wherever possible, to employ day labour upon those works, and that where is was not possible the contract system would be adopted. But I would point out that the works which are carried out by the Commonwealth are few in comparison with those which are carried out by the States. In New South Wales, fortunately, no trouble has been experienced in this connexion, because wherever it was possible to perform work by day labour, that class of labour has been employed. The same remark is applicable to South Australia. A great deal has been said against the employment of day labour, but I claim that under proper supervision that system is cheaper than is the contract system.
– So long as political influence is eliminated.
– Yes, and so long as a good inspector is placed over the men to see that they perform their work efficiently. I confess that I used to be opposed to the day labour system.
– Hear. hear.
– The honorable member for Parramatta will recollect that in the New South Wales Parliament I attacked him for employing day labour in connexion with a telephone tunnel. As a result of that attack a Committee was appointed to investigate the matter, and if honorable members will take the trouble to read the report of thatbody, and the evidence taken before it, they will see that under proper supervision the day labour system is cheaper than is the contract system by 25 per cent. In spite of the outcrya gainst it - an outcry which comes mainly from the contractors - there are certain works which should be carried out by day labour in preference to the contract system. I trust that we shall not revert to the old system under which contractors are able to make such large sums of money. Theprofits secured by them are due, not to the fact that the contracts accepted by the Government are too high, but to alterations and additions ordered by the architects, which enable them to make heavy claims for extras, representing the difference between the value of the work done by their employes, and the total sum paid by the taxpayer. I refer to this matter, because I have heard and read of many statements in opposition to the day-labour system, and I have also heard the statement that it is gradually being dropped in New South Wales.
– All true reformers are adopting the day-labour system.
– If that be so, I hope that we shall not return to the old system, which has enabled many contractors, more particularly in New South Wales, to make large profits, representing the difference between the actual cost of the work, and the price paid by the Government, and to become our largest money lenders. If we revert to the old system the taxpayers will have to pay far more for the services rendered than they would have to do under any reasonable system of day labour.
– I rise, not to discuss the merits of the day-labour system, but to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the Estimates provide for an expenditure of something like £2,300, to enable the completion of improvements to the General Post Office, Sydney, which, until recently, were being made under the day-labour system. I believe . that the work in question was commenced whilst the honorable member for Parramatta was Postmaster-General in the State Government, and that he instituted the day-labour system. Recently certain changes were made, and a proposal was put forward, that the system of employing day labour in carrying out these improvements should be discontinued, and that the work should be handed over to contractors. The late -Minister of Home Affairs vetoed that proposal, and determined that the daylabour system should be continued.
– At the same time he wrote a minute, insisting that no political influence should be allowed.
– That is correct. In view of the success which has hitherto attended the day-labour system, I hope that the Minister will see that the works which we are now sanctioning, are carried out in the same way. With capable officers supervising the operations of day labourers, I
– What I am anxious about is that the adoption of the system this year shall not be used as an argument for continuing it.
– This Bill does not touch the question of principle one way or the other. It is simply an Appropriation Bill.
– Will the Prime Minister give us a promise that before the end of the next financial year the Government will endeavour to evolve some scheme whereby the inequity of the present arrangement will be to some extent minimized?
– Certainly ; we will go into the whole matter afresh.
– I desire to say a word or two with regard to the method of constructing public works. The Government has not made any announcement oh that subject. I should like to have an announcement from the Prime Minister as to what are the intentions of the Public Works Department. I think I am correct in saying that no resolution has been passed by this House affirming the desirableness of constructing public works by day labour. I believe that it was the practice of previous Governments to carry out public works by day labour, wherever it was possible to do so. If the Prime Minister will assure me that that policy will be followed in the future-
– I must ask the Minister of Home Affairs to answer that question.
– If the Minister will give me an assurance that that policy will be adopted wherever possible, I shall be satisfied.
– To what works does the honorable member refer?
– To public works generally. I understand that in carrying on those works, the Government make use of the Public Works Departments of the various States, and also of their officers. In most, if not in all of the States, public works are carried out by day labour. I trust that the Minister of Home Affairs will stipulate that wherever possible, the practice which has previously been followed in the carrying out of public works, shall be adopted.
– I am not aware that there has been any instruction for departure from the policy which has previously been followed in the Department over which I preside I can make no promise to the honorable member, without first being afforded an opportunity of ascertaining what the effect of that promise would be. It seems to me that the question whether particular public works should or should not be constructed by day labour, must be determined upon the merits of each case. I shall deal with each work in that way, I shall also ascertain what practice has previously been followed, and whether any alteration has been made in that practice.
– In regard to the point raised by the leader of the Opposition, I should like it to be understood that the representatives of Victoria do not waive any legal or constitutional rights which may be involved. My own opinion is that defence works may properly be regarded as new works, and should, therefore, be federalized. But public works which might be considered of a developmental character - post-offices, for example - should, I think, be regarded as continuing expenditure, and accordingly be debited to the States. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not waive any legal or constitutional rights in connexion with this matter, nor do I think that the House could in any way prejudice those rights. If any rights exist, they are preserved. by the Constitution, and may be enforced hereafter by proceedings in the High Court.
– And we would never put obstacles in the way of testing such a question if the States desired to do so.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- Since the establishment of the Federation, a great deal of trouble has been experienced in effecting improvements and repairs to transferred buildings, which some of the States Governments contend partially belong to them. In this connexion, I may instance the Sydney Customs House. Just prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the New South Wales Government added one or two storeys to that building ; but did not complete its interior. Later on, I induced this House to vote £2,000 or £3,000 to finish that work. Thereupon, the Premier of New South Wales objected to that money being expended, and maintained that a portion of the building still’ belonged to the State. The result is that the building is in a disgraceful and deplorable state at the present time. If I had had my way in the matter. I should have tested the position before the High Court long ere this. A similar dispute exists in regard to buildingsin Bendigo and Perth. I should like think it will be found to the interests of the Commonwealth to continue ‘the system.
Mr. CARPENTER (Fremantle).- I am sorry that the Minister did not give me the assurance for which I asked. He said that he was not aware of any change of policy in the administration of the Department since he had taken office, but at the same time he distinctly refused to give me the assurance that he would follow the practice of his predecessor. If he does not intend to do so, he should at once tell the Committee. This is a very important question, upon which the Committee, if asked, would be prepared to make a very -definite pronouncement.
– If the honorable member finds any cause for complaint, he can easily deal with it.
– There may come a time when it will be too late to make complaints. I refrained from making a speech on the subject, because I anticipated a sympathetic reply from the Minister. I thought that as the practice had become so common in many of the States, and had proved so successful, he would be in full sympathy with the suggestion.
– Let us hear what the Minister has to say, now that he understands the request made by the honorable member.
– I desire an assurance that the practice, which has been found to work so well, particularly in those States which have adopted it generally, shall be continued.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney - Minister of Home Affairs). - I thought that I informed the honorable member with sufficient clearness that I had not instructed a departure from any policy, in respect of the matter to which he alluded, which was observed by the Department before I took charge of it.
– The honorable gentleman said that he would not promise to follow the old practice.
– I shall not make any promise in regard to the future policy of the Department until I have had an opportunity to make that investigation which any Minister ought to make before arriving at a decision in regard to such a matter. As the honorable member for Hume has said, by far the larger ; proportion of the works that are under the control of the Department of Home Affairs are carried out bv States Departments. The Department itself has neither the officers nor the plant to carry out these works.
Whilst I am perfectly ready, to do anything that is in the best interests of the workers, it is expected, of course, that I shall see that the tax-payers of the community are protected, and that undue expenditure is not incurred in carrying out Commonwealth undertakings. Consistent with that view of my position, the day-labour system shall have my full support wherever it can be shown that it is cheaper than the contract system. I am not in any way antagonistic to day-labour in itself, but must judge bv results; I merely say that, as Minister, I must not commit myself to any promise until I have had an opportunity to see the result of the working of both systems. That is the position. Honorable members can, at all times’, know what is being done in connexion with the different public works of the Commonwealth. I hope that should I be called upon at any time to do so, I shall be able to show good reasons for. any practice that is adopted by the Department in relation to a particular work. The honorable member for Hume has referred to the condition of the Customs House in Sydney, and I may say that on taking office, I found that the facts were as he has stated. I at once: entered into negotiations through the Prime Minister,, with the Premier of New South Wales to have that unsatisfactory position at least remedied to some extent. As the result of these negotiations, the Premier of New South Wales has agreed to allow that portion of the building occupied by the Commonwealth to be repaired and altered, and provision is made on the Estimates to enable the work to be carried out. Consequently, the cause of complaint in regard to that portion of the building to which the honorable member has referred will be removed. Negotiations have also been entered upon, and I hope they will be brought to a conclusion at the Premiers’ Conference, if not before, for the settlement of the question of the ownership of the building. My action’ has, so far, been successful, and I trust that it will be more successful in.the,future in securing a settlement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
– I should like some information in regard to the proposal to grant ^1,000 for the construction of a new post and telegraph office at Canowindra. This post-office is .situated on the line, which divides the division which I represent from the Macquarie division, and, so that honorable members may understand the position of affairs, I may mention that at Canowindra there is a township built on private property, and what is known as the Government township, where a fine site was set apart on the laying out of the town for a ‘ post-office, and where there is also a public school and a police station. The original post-office, however, was a rented building in the private town. A controversy ensued between the townspeople as to where the new post-office should be placed, and I understand that the State Postmaster-General, just prior to Federa-tion, promised that no action would be taken without consulting those residing in the private township.
– Will the honorable member see the Postmaster-General about this matter?’
– I have hitherto got very little satisfaction out of the Postal Department in regard- to it. I understand that tenders have now been called. The State paid at the rate of £1,300 per acre forabout one-third ot an acre. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should make inquiries to see whether a larger area should not be purchased.
– I promise that the investigation shall be made.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment j report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Reid, and read a first time.’
House adjourned at 11-44 p-m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041124_reps_2_23/>.