2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WILKS presented a petition from ship owners and shipping agents of the Port of Melbourne, praying the House not to pass the Sea-Carriage of Goods Bill.
Mr. KELLY presented a similar petition from ship-owners, merchants, and insurance agents, carrying on business in Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales.
Petition received and read.
Sir WILIAM LYNE. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he is correctly reported in the press this morning as having intimated that the first business to be considered at to-day’s sitting is the motion relating to Preferential Trade, and that, after the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has delivered his speech, the debate will be adjourned, and the Appropriation Bill will be dealt with. , I desire to ask, further, whether the Prime Minister did not arrange with the honorable member for Eden Monaro that after the motion relating to Preferential Trade had been dealt with, the Manufactures Encouragement Bill should be brought on, and, whether it is true that he stated last night that the Government were not disposed to persevere with that Bill, beyond taking it into Committee, during the present session?
– With reference to the questions of the honorable member, I may say that it is the intention of the Government to ask for an adjournment of the debate upon the motion relating to Preferential Trade after the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has spoken on the question, in order to enable the Appropriation Bill to be proceeded with. So far as the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is concerned, it is absolutely beyond the expectation of any sane human being that the measure could be passed through both Houses during the two or three remaining days of the session; whereas the Appropriation Bill must be passed by both Houses before we go into recess. I am anxious to forward the Appropriation Bill to the other Chamber as soon as possible, because. I do not at all approve of the practice of throwing that measure at the heads of senators on the last day of the session. I do not think that that is proper or courteous treatment. I propose to send the Appropriation Bill on to the Senate as soon as possible, and whilst the other Chamber is dealing with that measure to devote as much time as we can to the matters to which I have referred. The only other Bill that the Government proposes to ask the House to deal with this session is the short measure known as the Sea-Carriage of Goods Bill. If that measure, which has been forwarded to us by the Senate, meets with the approval of this Chamber, it canbe passed this session.
Mr.Watson.-What about the Trades Marks Bill?
– I feel that at the present stage of the session, in view of the desires of honorable members, it will be impossible to pass that measure.
– There may not be much discussion.
– To which Bill does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to the Trade Marks Bill, not to the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill.
– I know that one of the measures is a debatable one, whilstthe other is not. I shall make inquiries, and if I find that either, or both, of the measures are not likely to be discussed at any great length I shall make a very earnest effort to pass them into law before we separate. I am very anxious that we should do as much work as possible before the session closes. When the Appropriation Bill has gone to another place honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of dealing with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill in a manner consistent with the public interest.
At a later stage,
– Referring to the question which I asked the Prime Minister in reference to the order of business, I wish to point out that he neglected to answer one portion of it. He omitted to say whether the statement which was made to me by the honorable member for EdenMonaro that he had arranged with the Prime Minister to proceed with the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill after the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had delivered his speech upon Preferential Trade is correct, and if so, whether an alteration in the order of business has been made since?
– I am really not prepared to say whether the position is or is not as the honorable member suggests. I merely desire to add that I am taking the course which I have decided upon, in the interests of public business, fully satisfied that just as much time, if not more than I originally intended, will be devoted to the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– In the absence of the Treasurer I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the reimbursement of election expenses incurred bv candidates whose elections have beendeclared void on the ground of neglect or error on the part of the . Returning Officers or other persons officially connected with the conduct of the elections. The Treasurer promised that he would consider the question that was raised in this House, and that upon its being shown that elections were declared void owing to no fault of the candidates, he would give some compensation, possibly to the extent of repaying the ordinary election expenses that were certified to. He promised to give the matter favorable consideration, and said that if applications were made he would consider the propriety of placing a sum on the Supplementary Estimates to meet them. I should like the Prime Minister to say whether he is in favour of the position taken up by the Treasurer, and whether he can see his way to make provision in the direction indicated.
– My honorable friend was good enough to intimate to me beforehand the nature of his question. There will be no Supplementary Estimates this session. Although, in the absence of the Treasurer, the Cabinet have not yet considered the matter, I must say that, in my view, it will be only fair to any man who has been put to the trouble of an election that has proved abortive through the mistake of public officers that some effort should be made to recognise the hardship of his case. I feel sure that all my colleagues will share that view. The only difficulty is as to how far we should recognise such claims. For instance, I should have no hesitation in saying, without consulting by colleagues, that we certainly should pay the amount of the expenditure which a candidate is allowed to incur. I think that is £100.
– And also his personal and travelling expenses.
– I do not want to pledge myself in the dark to pay any particular claim. I should not like to have to pay such an amount as £500 or £600 upon general items such as those indicated. I know that the expenses of the honorable member for Riverina, who has to canvass an enormous electorate, must have aggregated a very considerable sum.
– We wish also to avoid speculative actions.
– The matter becomes a more difficult one the moment we exceed the £100 limit fixed by the Electoral Act; but in the case of vast electorates, I think that the House, in view’ of the personal exertions, and travelling imposed upon candidates, will be prepared to act liberally.
– The , £100 limit which is fixed by statute has reference only to outside expenses.
– Of course, that amount represents outside expenses, and is not intended to compensate candidates for the actual trouble and expenditure to which they are subjected. The difference between the position of a candidate for the electorate of Riverina and that of a candidate for a city constituency would be enormous, so far as expenditure was concerned. The former would have to travel thousands of miles, whilst the latter would be upon the spot all the time. The only question which the Government has to consider is how far, in prudence, we can afford to recognize such claims. I can assure my honorable friend that the Government will make some provision of the character suggested by him.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister how soon he expects to obtain a reply to the inquiries which he kindly vouchsafed to make in regard to British treaties and proclamations in reference to the admission of black people to the Empire. If those replies come to hand during the recess will he afford honorable members generally access to the papers ?
– I may tell my honorable friend that I have already received a considerable quantity of material bearing upon the matter in question, which I shall be very happy to allow him to peruse at once: Any further information which comes to hand will always be at his disposal, or that of any other honorable member, during the recess. In fact, I wish to say that, in my view, the Government should, during the recess, place every facility in the way of honorable members who wish information regarding the progress of public business. Upon behalf of the Ministry, I desire to say that if any honorable member wishes to obtain information upon any matter of public interest during the recess, it will be our duty to supply him with it upon application.
– Are we to have twelve months’ recess?
– I do not propose anything unreasonable; but, so far as the recess is concerned, it would be infinitely better, both for the public and honorable members, if we could come to some definite understanding as to the length of future sessions and recesses. My own view is that if a fair thing were done upon the present occasion, we should have a continuous recess, extending over abouttwo years. As, however, that is impossible - seeing that the Government are consumed, as all new Governments are, with a desire to meet the House as much as possible - I amsorry to say that upon this occasion, the recess must be a limited one. Nevertheless, honorable members may rest assured that they will receive a reasonable recess.
– Until July, I suppose?
– Until some time in the neighbourhood of June, probably.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether I shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity of concluding my speech relating to Home Rule for Ireland before the close of the session? When I gave way last night to permit of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat initiating a discussion upon preferential trade to-day, I did not understand that I was thereby waiving my right to finish my speech upon the. motion to which I have referred.
– As honorable members are aware, the House has very generously given Government business precedence over private members’ business on Thursday. Unfortunately, we have to face the difficulty with which we are usually confronted at the close of the session - the difficulty of being unable to deal with all matters upon the business-paper. Inasmuch as the honorable member for Southern Melbourne has been in the House for four years without having previously brought forward the subject of Home Rule for Ireland, which is one of perennial interest and importance, I am afraid that he will have to wait a short time longer before he is allowed to resume the discussion upon his motion.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade andCustoms whether he will be good enough, before coming to a decision upon the question of the duty chargeable upon catalogues and printed matter, to afford an opportunity to the Typographical Society and the Master Printers’ Association, to place before him their views upon the matter?
– I would point out to the honorable member that a decision upon the question of the duty to be levied upon catalogues and printed matter was arrived at months ago. I do not intend to depart from the law which has been enacted. I cannot see my way to place the administration of my Department above the law. The law requires that a duty shall be charged and that duty will continue to be charged, so long as I administer the Department, until the law has been altered.
– I wish to ask the leader of the Opposition whether the statement that the Labour Party discussed the personnel of the Tariff Commission, which is contained in to-day’s Argus, is correct?
– It is not true.
– Under the Standing Orders it is not competent for the honorable member to ask that question of the leader of the Opposition.
– I wish to ask whether the Postal Department has ceasedto make a surcharge upon illustrated post-cards, on the face of which writing, other than the address, appears?
– I may tell the honorable member that that matter has already been decided. I have issued instructions that a lower rate is to be charged in cases where the address and writing appear upon the face of the card.
– I wish to ascertain whe ther anything can be done to expedite the final acceptance of applications and specifications for patents. I understand that in no case up to the present has there been a final acceptance of a patent. Although provisional patents have been issued, until the patents are finally completed the applicant has no right of action for infringement.
– I would point out to my honorable friend that the Commonwealth Patent Office, in taking over the business which was formerly transacted by six States, found that there were very great difficulties to be overcome before patents could be completed. The principal cause of delay was the inability of the Commissioner of Patents to obtain access to the specifications which have been lodged in New South Wales. The other States had kept duplicate copies, which they supplied to the Commissioner upon application. In most cases in New South Wales, however, only the original copies had been kept, and the Government of that State were unwilling to part with these. In order to overcome the difficulty, an officer was despatched to Sydney, the week before last, to examine the applications there. Until his examination is complete, it will be impossible to finally accept any patent, because it might infringe upon some patent for which an application has been lodged in New South Wales. The matter is being expedited as much as possible, and I hope that before long we shall be able to proceed with the final acceptance of the patents.
– I wish to move with the. concurrence of honorable members, a motion which is usual at this stage of the. session. It reads -
That for the rest of the session, when necessary, the Standing Orders be suspendedso as to allow the remaining stages of any Bills after their second reading to be taken without delay.
The only Bills with which we are now likely to deal are the Appropriation Bill, the Sea-Carriage of Goods Bill, and, if possible, one of the Trades Marks Bills.
– Why not both?
– I shall be only too delighted if we can deal with both. This motion will affect only the two Bills I have mentioned, about which I do not think there will be much contention.
– Does not the Prime Minister think there will be contention over the SeaCarriage of Goods Bill ?
– The Appropriation Bill and the Sea-Carriage of Goods Bill will, I hope, be put through without any very long discussion. Honorable members will recognise that the measures which remain to be considered are not of a contentious character.
– I am afraid there are indications that they are.
– The Prime Minister had better wait until next week before submitting this motion.
– Then I will give notice in the ordinary way for to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, . upon notice -
Whether the Public Service Commissioner has power to stop the payment of annual increments to the salaries of transferred officers who were promoted to the next higher class by the South
Australian Government prior to Federation, until such salaries have leached the maximum of the classes as provided for by the Civil Service Act of 1874?
– The answer’ to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In accordance with the usual practice, the AttorneyGeneral does not think that an opinion should be given upon what is either an abstract question of law or what, if it should arise in f act, may be the subject of litigation between the Commonwealth and any officers affected.
– I move-
Inasmuch as every increase in trade between the Mother Country and the Colonies or any of them would be of mutual advantage commercially, while collectively, by multiplying their production, profitable employment, population, and exchanges, such increases must enhance the unity and power of the Empire, this House resolves that -
The encouragement of industry and commerce within jthe Empire is a high national aim of paramount importance to all its peoples.
The proposals of the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the Colonial Conference of 1902, as then approved and since tentatively defined in order to foster inter- Imperial trade, outline a patriotic and statesman-like policy of internal development and external influence, whose details should be discussed by a further Conference at the earliest opportunity. 3.The Prime Minister be requested to consider the existing openings for preferential trade relations between Australia and other colonies.
The Prime Minister be invited to obtain all data necessary for the preparation of a measure granting a preference to British imports into Australia which compete solely with imports from foreign countries.
The Prime Minister is hereby authorized for and on behalf of the Commonwealth to offer to the Government of the United Kingdom a preference upon its exports to Australia in return for a preference upon out exports to Great Britain and Ireland, such preferences to be reciprocally adjusted according to Schedules sanctioned by Parliament.
In submitting this motion, allow me to call honorable members’ attention to the fact that it has been drawn with the object, as far as possible, of disarming hostile criticism from those to whom the proposal for preferential trade relationswith the mother country can be commended upon any ground whatever. Honorable members will notice that it may be accepted by those who hold the most opposite views upon the fiscal question. When the motion was framed, it did not appear necessary to state whether the preferences to be granted should be by way only of decreases of duty, or by way only of increases of duty, or by a combination of both. Every clause of ithas been drafted so that those who adopt free-trade principles, as well as those who are protectionists, may unite - as they may well unite in the first stages of the discussion of this great question - irideclaring, their willingness to take any further advance which may be possible, consistent with their principles, towards the consolidation of the trade of the Empire. Consequently, I desired in drafting the motion - having regard to the circumstances under which it was bound to be submitted to this Parliament -to omit, as far as possible, every cause for friction or disagreement. None of us can disguise the fact that as we proceed our paths will separate. Those who may go Rand-in-hand up to the point of declaring in favour of preferen tial trade relations with the mother country, will commence to differ so soon as the measure and character of those preferences have to be decided. We shall afterwards be found so widely separated that we shall probably come to open conflict. But in the initial stages, by way of laying a foundation, it seemed advisable to frame the motion in as noncontentious a manner as possible. That was done. I havenow to admitthat in the closing hours of the session it will probably requireto be much simplified, in order to commend itself to the attention of honorable members, and to permit of our obtaining from them - as Itrust we shall before the prorogation - an expression of Opinion, which, although even of a general character, may be taken to represent the opinion of the people of Australia as a whole, and, as such, may receive that consideration elsewhere which will be its due.. Upon this phase of the question, I shall, perhaps, have a few more words to say at a later stage. But,with that conciliatory object, and having regard to the pressure pf time, I propose to ask honorable members to pardon me to-day if I do not make any attempt to deal with this great question as it deserves, and as I should have sought to treat it if this had been the first, instead of one of the last days of the session. I propose merely to indicate what must be put aside under these exceptional circumstances, and then to show upon what a comparatively narrow point we may concentrate our attention. In all political questions, it is possible to take two different views. The one, which is customary, takes into account only that which is obvious, immediate, and direct - the consequences of today - and by these we are often governed : the other takes into account consequences which are indirect, remote causes and effects, the principles from which they are derived, and on which they depend. These involve very large considerations, and call for treatment corresponding to their magnitude. But neither the detailed discussion of the particulars upon which preference should be proposed, nor more than a passing recognition of what that preference is, or may come to mean to us nationally, is possible to me to-day. I ‘find myself restricted in every direction, but do not wish to be thought so blind to the occasion as to suggest that the treatment which I shall give to this question is in any way adequate. Ever since the commencement of this session I have been waiting for the most favorable opportunity to launch its discussion. Even as far back as 26th September last, I made an explicit statement of my intention to bring it before the House at the earliest opportunity, but, owing to circumstances over which I had no control, it has not been possible for me to submit this motion before to-day. The session, which has been absorbed with other work, has almost expired. The minds of honorable members have been occupied with other matters, and I find myself addressing a House which may well be considered to have exhausted most of its strength and energy in disposing of the great question which we had under review last night. I trust, however, that after the Appropriation Bill has been passed by this House, and whilst it is receiving elsewhere that consideration which is its due, under the Constitution, a full opportunity will be afforded us to deal with this motion, 1 not in an academic fashion, but in a definite way. I trust that we shall have an opportunity to make an assertion of principle. If it be not possible to arrive at a unanimous agreement, even in a general way, I hope that, at all events, by the generosity and consideration of honorable members, we may agree to take a vote upon a condensed summary of the principles which underlie the proposal. I hope that honorable members may be content to vote on such a summary without necessarily expressing their opinions at the length which they would otherwise desire. Even the restricted field which I propose to occupy necessarily involves the raising of an almost inexhaustible series of problems of immense magnitude and complexity. This question may hereafter be submitted to the House in a practical way. It will probably come before us in the form of a measure of a few clauses comprising a comparatively limited number of proposals, as a simple business matter, capable of being dealt with upon business lines. But, however short and simple that proposal may be, nothing can disguise from us the fact that, in dealing with it, we shall be taking the first step upon a high road of progress and advancement. In doing so we must pass under review many of those fundamental questions which underlie the whole of our politics, and determine the whole of our future. The question to which I first direct attention is not how this movement begins, but where it leads, and where it will end. I am aware that at a later stage we shall be divided into two schools. We shall have, on the one hand, those who believe that what is called Empire and Unity is possible only by maintaining our present fragmentary and isolated1 conditions with relations of good’ fellowship as long as amity endures. We shall have on the other hand a school comprising those who believe that our condition is unstable, untrustworthy, impermanent, and requires to be replaced, gradually but surely, by a fuller and more complete organization of ourselves and of the sister communities united under the Crown.
– It has stood the test for a good while.
– For only a short while. The test which is applied this year is not that which was applied last year, much less ten years ago. The circumstances of the world are being transformed. Its means of communication are changing; its people are varying in their relative powers and developments; their aims and their armaments are altering. We are confronted by a constantly changing situation, which has to be met, if we wish to preserve our consistency, by a constantly changing attitude adapted to the new circumstances that from time to time we are called upon to face.. ‘ If the world moves, and we stand still, we none the less take the responsibility of that decisive course of inaction. In discussing questions of this kind on previous occasions, I have endeavoured - but quite in vain - to guard myself against the supposition that in pointing to the probable or the necessary consequences of a step which is being taken, one is indicating an immediate result. When introducing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill I ventured a forecast of its social operations, its meaning, and its influence with that confidence which I still feel in it as containing, in its essence, the principles of social and industrial justice. But I expressly guarded myself, as I wish to do in dealing with this motion, against any such ridiculous assumption as chat the measure, important as it was, would, if passed without diminution, be more than the first short stage upon a very long road. Humanity has a long history, and the more we know the further that history recedes into the dim darkness of the past, measured now by tens of thousands of years, where formerly it was measured only by hundreds. So in dealing with the future, we speak of periods of time with which we cannot cope, and are not called upon to cope, but to which we must look to endeavour to discern what will be the fruit of the tree which we are planting. We are called upon to consider, not merely immediate consequences, but those of a later date. It is the common misconception of those who criticise our statements that the ultimate results we predict for any measure are to be visible on the morrow. And so in dealing with the great principle of arbitration - one of the greatest principles of modern times - in introducing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill the consequences to which I referred were those which I still believe the future will demonstrate. But they will not arise from that measure itself, and certainly will not be discernible in the first few years of its operation. In the same way I am not speaking of the results of preferential trade as determined by any particular measure which may hereafter come before us, or by the assent which we may give to-day to this proposal, as being anything more than an indication of what may gradually develop, as I believe it will, into one of the most important movements in the history of the Empire to which we belong. That development will not take place this year or next year; many years must elapse before it asserts itself to the full.
– What is the goal ?
– I propose to deal with that presently.
– Imperial Federation ?
– The term “Imperial Federation” would probably receive a different definition at the hands of every hon- orable member. “ Imperial Federation “ is one of those phrases which I willingly use, but always with the condition that I am permitted to interpret it in my own way. I refrain from imposing that term upon others, because it is so apt to mislead. The vital considerations of profound importance to which I shall allude may increase to a very considerable extent the burden of modern citizenship from day to day and year to year. Our endeavours to meet modern conditions impose upon us as citizens a greater and greater burden - more municipal duties, obligations, and risks; more State duties, obligations, and risks ; more Federal duties, obligations, and risks ; and soon more Imperial duties, obligations, and risks. It is the gradual assumption of this ever -increasing burden by the masses, with its necessary adjustment to our capacity, leisure, and opportunity for dealing with public affairs, that we have to recognise. I claim that this movement forms an unavoidable part of our future. It is an unescapable incident in the natural development of the people and country to which we belong. Of course, everything in this great issue turns upon proportion; and perspective. There will be hostile critics of my remarks who will easily turn into ridicule what I am saying, by gazing through the wrong end of the telescope, or inverting the proportion of the matters with which I am dealing. Against criticism such as that it is impossible for a speaker to protect himself. But before leaving these introductory remarks, let me add that we cannot expect to arrive at a conclusion upon these subjects until we have asked ourselves a series of questions to which none of us is yet prepared to give a complete answer. We must ask ourselves in what sense are the British people an Empire? We must inquire what our Empire means, and what it should be; what is its present value to us, and what are its prospective value and opportunities. We must ascertain how the existence of this Empire is reconcilable with the self-government of its parts, and how the full development of our selfgovernment is reconcilable with the increase of Imperial strength and authority. No one will suppose that I shall attempt to answer even one of these great problems which are interwoven with the minor issues now being submitted to us, yet with which we must deal, consciously or unconsciously, according to our ideals in regard to the great fundamental ideas of which I have spoken.
How those of us who live under the Empire are to preserve, defend, and protect it may appear to be a question far removed from every -day life, because we have hitherto marched under the sheltering aegis of the Mother country, in the paths of. peace, and cherish the hope that our probation may long endure. We have no guarantee of its endurance, and every incident now taking place in the world around us seems pregnant with the warning that we are passing through an era in which old boundaries and landmarks will be moved, so that unless we are prepared to rely upon ourselves, by a constant consideration of our ends and aims, we may be found lamenting too. late that our opportunities have passed away. I am not moved by that spirit of patriotism which exhibits or implies antagonism to other nations, because, in .my view, every nation, under Divine Providence, fulfils its own task, and all are conjoined in the common work of humanity. But while the care of other nations is not directly cast upon us, the responsibility for our own actions, and for our own Empire, rests upon our shoulders, and it is that which we are called upon to discharge. If, as is acknowledged by common consent, constitutional government, as we know it amongst Anglo-Saxon communities, and as we see it copied elsewhere, has been the great original creation of the people from whom we have sprung, and our own most priceless heritage, is it not probable that there still remains for us a greater development of that principle? We may one day bo. able to show in an era of world empires, one empire consisting largely of selfgoverning communities - self-governing communities composing a self-governing empire. To that achievement we are addressing ourselves day by day in all the labours which we undertake, on the lines of the historical development of the British people. In the rudimentary pioneering work done in Australia already, we have been playing our part in the solution of this great and far-reaching problem. I do not pretend that we are at the present time ripe for its full solution, nor do I feel called upon to propound a comprehensive and convincing theory of its evolution even if I were able to do so. When we transact our daily business, when Aye handle the particular bargain which will perhaps represent the first or second emergence of the principle of preferential trade in this Chamber, we shall be grappling with a subject wilh which every man in the street will be able to grapple, without taking into account, unless he so, desires, the main issues which I’ have stated. He may regard the subject simply from the standpoint of self-interest, by asking, “Will this pay Australia? Will it pay Great Britain? Will it pay the Empire?” Those are the questions to which it will be necessary for him to reply. But while discussing them, we shall be doing so under the shadow of transcendent issues, just as the traffic of London, in its chase of commerce, swirls in a whirlpool round the base of St. Paul’s. We cannot, in considering concessions or bargains, divest ourselves of their majestic outcome, and of our great future as a selfgoverning people in an empire made up of self-governing peoples. I do not. ask the House to consider the trade relations of the Empire which this motion more immediately affects, because I recognise that they are multifariously prolific in their influences, and the theme is one far beyond the opportunities at present afforded. It means more to us than to any. We cannot forget that we are alone amongst world empires in that we are governed upon absolutely democratic principles, and that the reconciliation of those principles with the Imperial idea is still proceeding. We differ from other empires in that the ocean forms its sub-domain, or sub-dominion, for in a sense the seas themselves come under the flag of the Empire. We are a series of widely-separated and scattered communities, divided by immense distances, and consequently -to us ships - the shuttles of the Empire - and electric cables, are the very essence of our political life, though they may play a small or inconsiderable part in the development of our neighbours. It is upon our merchant service and Imperial Navy- that our Imperial authority, and freedom depends. We, therefore, have to face, both on the political and on the geographical side, a problem which differs from that confronting other peoples. We have to seek to maintain amongst self-governing communities - which do not adjoin as do the States of the American union, but are separated by thousands of miles of ocean - a unity of action, of sympathy, and of aim. This may surely, be reckoned among the vastest of human ambitions.
– There may be unity of aim and not of method.
– It does not follow because we have unity of aim that we should insist on unity of method, or that there should be absolute likeness between one limb and another. We are at present separated by great distances, as well as by conditions, by race, and other circumstances. But however different our starting points, we can all have as a goal the ideal of closer union.
– May not these proposals drive us further apart?
– That is a perfectly practical and reasonable suggestion, which must be considered at a later date. Even if that be the view of the honorable and learned member, he is by implication admitting the doctrine which I am now laying down, that our desire should be to draw closer together. If we reject any proposal it will not be in antagonism to that desire, but because we consider the particular means proposed unsuitable for reaching it.
– Multiply contract and you multiply differences.
– And yet, business continues to live by contracts. The questions which we must sometimes consider will involve a fiscal issue, scarcely yet examined, though it will be broached - the question whether Imperial protection, protection for the Empire, is not a policy which will have to be taken into account. We have also to realize that, just as a selfgoverning Empire allows its communities the utmost freedom of political control, so, as a necessary corollary-, and not as a contradiction, it allows them complete trade and fiscal control. The growth of protection in the self-governing communities which make up the Empire is no more inconsistent with the Imperial idea than is the existence of such self-governing communities themselves. The two things go togetherinseparably. That, I admit, adds to the complexity of our problem, but it defines the nature of the Empire, whose peoples, taking their fortunes into their own hands - subject to a very large and general control from the centre - have been endowed with the richest privileges of selfgovernment, which they exercise according to their judgment and their reason. We require to recognise, both in trade and politics) that the Empire is. whatever may be the meaning pf the term “Imperial Federation,” if it be properly interpreted, a Federal Empire, an Empire existing with the grad consent, harmonious, and relatively independent action of its parts. It;isnot an Empire of the sword, of force, of centralized domination, but of voluntary and intimate unity. The Empire is Federal, or it is moving towards the goal of Federation, just as Australia, Canada, and much earlier the United States of America, havemoved towards and attained that goal under simpler conditions.
– The point is the method of Imperial Federation.
– And the determination of its conditions - the degree of Federalism, of authority in the central power, and of independence in the self-governing States.. Those are the problems which we are beginning to unfold. No one will believe that I am capable of assuming that they will be solved during this debate, or even in my life-time.
– It is a matter of sociological development to a certain extent.
– I trust so. I have dwelt upon these immense problems so long because, though unobserved, they knock at the door of every working man and womari in the Empire. This is a people’s question if ever there can be one. Immaterial as are the forces and elements, vast as are the dangers and problems we are considering,’ the severance of this Empire, if that be conceivable, not to speak of the fall of this Empire, which, I trust, is inconceivable, would inevitably carry in its train incalculable disasters and sufferings to the masses of the people who make and enjoy it. ‘ We are not discussing this question to-day, and I am not putting these problems in the interests of any class or section, but am submitting them because they most directly and permanently affect the well-being, the wageearning capacity, the social status, and general prospects of the people of Australia, and of the other communities of the Empire. The Arbitration Act and theindustrial legislation we have passed possess value only because we are sufficiently strong and protected from without to develop in our own way, and according to our own ideals. If once the axe were laid to the root of the tree which shelters us we might fold the scroll of our industrial history, put aside our pacific pursuits and aspirations. and at once set ourselves to the task of sharpening teeth and claws. We would need to drill often andfight hard to protect the territory, still too great for us to control and develop, which we hope to be able to hand down to posterity, because otherwise the heritage of our children would pass from them to other rulers who would 1 hold us in the hollow of a mailed fist. These are not questions for the philosophical student or the imaginative dreamer, but are practical, and must come home upon reflection to the people of Australia. I have already observed that the conditions of the modern, world - happily, or unhappily, we, as creatures of the day, are not qualified to judge - which are opening up wider possibilities for all the Asiatic populations, and promoting the novel developments we are witnessing’ in Europe to-day, indicate the end of - the era of relative peace which we have enjoyed. They foretell a clash of martial arms that may ring round this planet and determine the fate of nations. Therefore it befits us, if we wish to defend ‘ what we have, and to hand it down to our children, to consider all the means possible by which, while time is allowed to us, we can strengthen the position we occupy, making ourselves more desirable as friends to those who look favorably upon us, -and more dangerous foes to those who regard our prosperity with jealous eyes.
– What the honorable and learned member suggests is not the only means of attaining that end.
– I am not suggesting so. I am only now proposing one of the means.
– Such means as the honorable and learned member proposes have proved fatal in times .gone by. . They nearly resulted in the loss of Canada.
– The means then’ adopted were of another character, as I shall show. The point which I desire to impress upon the Committee is that it is becoming necessary for all our self-governing communities - for what used to be called the commonalty, and those whose interests are bounded by the bread-and-butter horizon - to think imperially, to realize what they ‘ owe to the Empire, in order that they may then proceed to recognise what the ‘Empire owes to them. Although even within each township and hamlet we find brought into play a certain amount ‘of antagonism in industrial life, competition for employment, and in the sale of goods; even though in our own streets and among our own people we find’ the keenest and fiercest competition for livelihood and wealth, that struggle is’ less keen and serious, because our people work under common -conditions, and live, in ‘ the main, under similar standards. The crush of competition with outside peoples, who may have reached different stages of civilization, and whose aims in life may be in vivid contrast to our own, is much more deadly. Efforts have been made to prejudice the public mind against the serious consideration of the question which I am now presenting to honorable members, by the introduction of the term “ Imperialism!” That word has been interpreted as if it had today the meaning which it bore in the Roman Empire, when imperialism meant militarism. We have now long passed beyond that stage. The imperialism of the future contemplates that the communities within the Empire shall gather together, bent upon discovering common interests, combine together to develop those common interests, to multiply their means of union and communion, (o increase their strength and intercourse, and generally to devote themselves to the task of self -development. These are not militant or aggressive aims, and do not imply centralization. They are democratic, selfgoverning, self-developing, and industrial ideals which make for peace.
– The greatest development in the direction indicated has taken place in small communities..
-The days of the government of small cities, clans, or septs, such as existed of old, especially in ancient Greece, have passed away. We have moved forward to aggregations in nations and states, and we are trending onwards to that great co-operative government of humanity which is the far-off and undiscernible goal of ultimate aspiration. There is no possibility of our -returning to the condition of affairs under which narrow subdivided communities flourished in face of the fact that the municipal life of to-day is fuller and freer, and affords greater opportunities for the exercise of power by the citizens than’ when of old each was economically sovereign. If we have lost anything, it is the opportunities’ for that local development.- of ability and intellect, which, amongst that greatest and most gifted of all ancient peoples-the Greeks - gave us a story which still excites’ the wonder and admiration of the. worldly When I speak qf Imperialism or Empire,’ I reiterate, and cannot,’ perhaps, do so too frequently, that I ‘ have no schome to suggest in that regard. I am merely in- dicating the direction in which we are. moving, ‘the goal towards which we are tending. We have’ to solve the problem in a. manner characteristic of our race - perhaps sometimes too characteristic - because with us practice has often outrun theory. We have often done the right thing before we have thoroughly understood the principles on which we have accomplished our ends. Other people have seen further, but have realized less. I suppose, however, that we must be content to muddle through - to také, step by step, stage by stage, and feel our way, by practice and experience, as we go. I have no desire to alter that method, because I recognise that no other is possible. When I speak of these future ideals, I am not proposing any cataclysmic change, political, social, or Imperial. If a growth comes - it will develop bit by bit, step by step, line by line, here an expansion, and there a fresh fibre.
– Whilst the honorable member is attacking the existing system of an alliance under the Crown, with an Imperial “reserve of parliamentary power, why does he not suggest some alternative?
– In the first place I do not attack. I think that the Crown is a great reserve power, and one of the richest sources of democratic development. If the power now vested in the Crown had been taken away from it, it would be vested in a class, and would not be susceptible of the use that has been made of it, since in the process of development the advisers of the Crown are subject to Parliament. Our present choice is a popular choice between integration* and disintegration. Consider the’ anomalous position which the Empire occupies to-day, that is to say, how far it is in reality an unity. It has a throne - one throne and one flag, it has a Legislature - a supreme Legislature, in which numerically the greater proportion of the subjects of the Empire are not represented. ‘ It consists of a series of self-governing communities among which we are numbered, linked to communities with less self-government, and of different races. What community is there beyond that of. the responsibility, which we all share in some faint degree, in the fortunes of the Empire- a responsibility which has so far carried with it no representation even . in the supreme Legislature ? The Empire depends upon a navy belonging to the mother country, and the mother country alone, although assisted by voluntary grants from some of her dependencies, and is protected chiefly by an army that is also an army of the mother country alone, although it may on occasions be assisted by the military forces of her dependencies:
Beyond the’ fact that the Empire has one law, though two courts of final appeal and one Crown,- it has not that basis or solidity of structure which an Empire, properly socalled, requires for its efficient working. That is what the Empire is to-day. What it may be in tha future I shall not endeavour to foreshadow, except to insist that to remain as it . is, with only these outgrown ligaments a/id a certain community of interests with regard to the risks of war and a kind of common expenditure for naval defence, is to court disaster. An Empire without a common revenue, or anything approaching it, without a common commerce of any assured kind, and without a common control, representing all the Empire, or anything approaching it, is an anomaly. It cannot be efficient enough to stand the tests and trials of the modern world.
– The honorable and learned member contemplates the surrender of our local powers.
– I contemplate ito such thing. The honorable and learned member who possesses in a marked degree the eloquence characteristic of his countrymen, shares also the imagination of his country’s poets. . Whilst in my plain simple prosaic Saxon, with a dash of Welsh;, I am endeavouring to pursue an argument, the honorable and learned member for Angas comes in with a trajectory out of space-
– Out. of Ossian
- Ossian is a suitable source. I am unable to see the relevancy of the honorable and learned member’s interjection to the particular line of argument which I am pursuing. But I am aware that he looks far ahead, and* am quite prepared to believe that when
Ave hear him, we shall find that .the standpoint from which he argues will justify the interjection which he has made.
– My prehistoric ancestors were Welsh also.
– In regard to trade, what is our ; position ? Fiscally, there is no real recognition within the Empire of its existence. At the present time, Australia and other parts of the Empire trade as liberally and freely with foreign nations, which may be rivals to-day, and which are possible enemies to-morrow, upon exactly the same terms as they do with the. mother country which, although she may be a rival to-day,, cannot by any possibility be an enemy* tb-morrow. As far as commerce is concerned, we recognise no other consideration than that of dearness or cheapness. If we can import more cheaply from the country which most threatens our liberties and our future than from the country which upholds our liberties and secures our future we buy the cheaper article. That is to say, the price we pay is our only consideration at the counter, notwithstanding the fact that we may be a partner in the shop next door, which is selling its wares a little clearer. What we have to determineis that these large, vague, and general considerations shall be appraised at something like their true value, so as to affect our trade and all our politics. We ought to ask ourselves, when weighing this question of cheapness, whether the penny less is always’ a compensation if we pay into the pockets’ of a rival instead of putting the price and one penny more into an establishment of which we are shareholders. If, for instance, we proceed as my resolution proposes, I believe we shall follow the example of the mother country. She makes commercial treaties which secure her the most favoured nation treatment, because, her ports being open to all nations, they are all equally favoured there. But other treaties between foreign nations already exist, in which considerable concessions are made by each to the other, not extended to the mother country. These nations have no more to expect from Britain but they have something to expect in. the way of favouring their exports against those of Britain for other countries. Therefore, between foreign countries treaties now exist under which, by means of fiscal concessions, they secure a larger portion of each other’s trade. When the present position has existed long enough to allow proposals to come to us for commercial treaties such as have been made with Canada - a special treaty existing between Canada and France at the present time - when the different portions of the Empire begin to make treaties with foreign countries for reciprocal trade advantages, what, from a trade and business standpoint, will the Empire be then ? Is that an ultimate union to which we can look forward with confidence either frpm an Australian point of view, or as citizens of the Empire ? If special agreements are entered into between the mother country and her selfgoverning dominions the present custom is to say that they will be made at somebody’s cost. It is usually urged that the British workman, or the colonial purchaser, will have tp pay something more. I do not admit that. Treaties can be made which would not raise the cost of articles upon either side, and which would still confer a mutual advantage. Othprs can be made which would, or might incidentally or temporarily for the most part, raise prices. Again, it is a question of how much ? There may be an increase in price, which is inconsiderable, and a compensating advantage, which is considerable. Treaties can be made, which, if they do raise prices, should be considered from the stand-point “ What do you receive in return?”
– Then the honorable and learned member would buy sentiment and friendship ?
– We cannot buy friendship and sentiment. I have yet to learn that friends in the same business are less competent to make business arrangements, merely because they are friends. The whole experience of our modern industrial life gives the lie direct to that suggestion. Let me assume that the honorable and learned member and myself practice at the same bar. It is obvious that the brief which comes to him cannot come to me. That fact, however, would not interfere with our friendship. Friendship and sentiment remain. All I have to say upon that insinuation is that it is a poor friendship and sentiment which cannot stand the strain of the everyday competition which is universal in the modern world.
– Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that we can increase friendship and sentiment by buying it in the fashion he refers to?
– I do not affirm that we can buy friendship and sentiment, but I say that we may increase the opportunities for establishing friendship by bringing our people into closer trade relationships. They may adapt their products and themselves to each other’s needs. The honorable and learned member for Angas has upon the business-paper a motion, which declares that our loyalty will not be affected if trade relations remain as they are.
– No; I wish to repudiate Mr. Chamberlain’s statement.
– I do not know that Mr. Chamberlain made the statement to which he refers, but if he did I know of no living man who is better able to defend it. Some honorablemembers declare that they are loyal in the absence of any advantages in commerce. I believe and hope that they are. But I decline to believe that they would be less loyal because they were also drawn together by the bonds of business interests. I do not suggest for a moment that loyalty depends upon the amount of trade which we have with the mother country. But we are assured that there are possibilities of readjusting duties between the mother country and her colonies, which, involving no increase of prices or -taxes upon either side, will considerably increase our reciprocal exchange of products. That exchange may be highly to our mutual advantage. That has to be judged from two points of view. It has to be judged from the point of view of the people of Great Britain, who are perfectly competent to form their own opinions. We must leave them to judge for themselves what advantage it will be to them. They have men enough of light and leading to guide them to a right conclusion. With that aspect of the question, I do not propose to deal.
– This motion is intended to influence them.
– What we are doing here is intended to influence opinion in other parts of the Empire, and legitimately. The honorable member was quite willing to attempt to influence opinion in the Empire by assisting to pass a resolution in reference to the action taken in another colony. Why should he not be prepared to influence that opinion in connexion with this great question? Every imperial proposal which we indorse has some slight, far-off influence upon public thought throughout the Empire. So it ought to have. We are open to be either approved or censured. Everything which we do cannot but exercise some influence upon our own people. We are seeking by a frank expression of opinion to enlighten each other and to sway those who take the pains to consider what we are doing, and why we are doing it. I propose to avoid the task of analysing figures to-day. With the limited object which I have in view, it becomes unnecessary to say more than that during recent years in Australia we have had before us the fact that, comparing British with foreign imports the gain has gone to the latter. There has been- a stage at which foreign imports have declined, but then British imports have declined still more. That condition of things will rather tend to increase. If our market be worth anything to the mother country, it is worth maintaining against the invasion which is actually proceeding at the present time. It is true that trade follows the flag, but it is equally true that the flag follows trade, and it is also true that shipping follows both trade and flag. What we have to consider is whether it is not a matter of great importance to the Empire that the fruits of Imperial citizenship with our trade and shipping should pass to another flag. Any one who has suffered the experience which I underwent when visiting Chinatown in San Francisco, seeing one of the largest portions of that great, wealthy, and progressive city absolutely conquered by an alien race, whose members were living under the control «of their secret societies, consent to dwell three stories underground, herded together ten times more densely than Europeans, will realize what it means to have a strange and foreign community introduced into the territories of the Empire. We may draw our own conclusions in respect to that for Austra Iia and elsewhere. Anybody who knows from the direct relations of those who are engaged in shipping what is taking place at Singapore, must know that there, line after line of steamers has passed from the British flag to another flag. Singapore itself is virtually owned by the Chinese, while to-day, for every vessel leaving that port flying the British flag, I am assured that two or three vessels leave flying a foreign flag.
– See what the Imperial Government are doing in the Transvaal.
– What is done by one Government or general election can be undone by another; what has been done at one time can be reconsidered at another. I- do not criticise British politics. Its people act as they think fit. But with these lessons before us of what it means to have a foreign community introduced into our country and citizenship, or invading our home trade, while our outside trade is passing under foreign flags, we surely have a right, as members of the Empire, to take them to heart. The only figures I propose to quote are those which indicate the possibility of diverting within the Empire trade which is at present without it. I find that in 1903 the imports - including gold and ‘ bullion - into the Empire represented upwards of ^900,000,000. Adding the exports of the Empire for the same year, I find that the total trade was ^1,606,000,060. ^ There may be a’ large proportion of these imports which the Empire cannot produce profitably, and a large proportion of exports which we cannot consume. With those, I do not deal. The enormous magnitude of these figures suffices to show the margin we have to work upon. They show the portion of our trade which now leaves only one of its profits in the Empire, and puts another profit in the pockets of our rivals, and probable enemies. That trade may be retained within the Empire to the lasting benefit, especially of those portions of it which, like Australia, are but imperfectly cultivated and inadequately settled. Who can limit the productive power of Australia in respect of the very produce which we desire to export, and for which the British markets are the best in the world? At present the whole of the British Empire does not produce more than one-third of the wheat which is purchased in Great Britain. Two-thirds comes from foreign sources, and only one-third of the Empire’s crop comes from Australia. That is one illustration of the relatively boundless possibilities which are open to us in regard to the production of wheat, meat, butter, fruit, wine, oils, and a great variety of other products, which Australia is admirably fitted to produce. With a sufficient white population settled on available land within the area of reasonable rainfall, we should be able to raise these products in almost any quantity. We could’ at all events produce sufficient to supply a large part of the demand of the best market in the world - the market of London - instead of supplying only an inconsiderable fraction of it.
– Mr. Chamberlain desires a Tariff that will enable British farmers to produce these things for themselves.
-Their Tariff may do something to enable British agriculture - the losses of which to-day are estimated at hundreds of millions sterling - to recuperate. If the British people think fit to adopt such a Tariff, we shall have no cause to complain. All I say is that it ought to be possible for British people to obtain the whole of what are known as food products within the British Empire without raising the price to the British consumer. The British market - with our producers enjoying an advantage over the foreigner, and competing only against those within the Empire, who share with us the cost of common defence and common national ends - would mean the multiplication of our population, and a settled, occupied, and productive Australia. * It would mean much for our manufacturers, who may say “ Preferential Trade would be beneficial to those who are called the primary producers rather than to ourselves. We cannot hope to invade the English market.” But what is the best market for our manufactures? The home market. What increases the demand in the home market? The multiplication of the number of producers on the soil. And what better or healthier development of the market for our Australian manufactures could we have than that resulting from the multiplying of the number of producers engaged in raising the food necessary for the Empire - food which, if obtained from outside the Empire, might be shut off in time of war.
– Why has the honorable and learned member always endeavoured to draw the population into the towns by protective duties ?
– I do not think we have endeavoured to do so.
– That has been the case in Victoria.
– I reject that suggestion. I do not wish to enter upon a consideration of the fiscal question, but every man is not fitted for a country lifeany more than every man is fitted for town life.
– But the matter is not leftto nature. Attempts are made by artificial means to attract men to the towns.
– The honorable and learned member must remember that the art which adds to nature is an art that nature adds. If he is drawing a contrast between physical nature and human invention, skill, and art, I would remind him that humanity lives to amend; and, so to speak, improve nature. And so, we seek our ideal of endeavouring to make the trade of the Empire a home trade. We all know that in the time of Adam Smith, as well as before, the home trade was always regarded as the most attractive and profitable. At the present time, the home trade means the trade within each country. That will always continue, to a large extent, to be its meaning. We seek, by judicious effort, to make the Empire trade a home trade for all its communities, so far as it shall be profitable and fair to do so.No one in Australia desires to be partner in any scheme to nefariously take advantage of the British people. We consider ourselves capableof electing men who will be sufficiently intelligent to see that we are not nefariously treated, and we have sufficient confidence in the statesmen of themother country to believe that they will see that her people are not unfairly treated. We propose nothing unjust. We desire a fair arrangement. If it cannot be made, then our friends,the political agnostics, will have won the day. Considering the spirit which prompts us,’ I think that the attempt to secure this arrangement should receive the encouragement even of those who differ from us. Let us gauge, test, andsearch the possibilities within the Empire for united action. Let us press on to the very last issue in order to discover if there be any means by which we can fairly re-adjust the trade of the Empire so as to aid in the development of its undeveloped parts, and maintain the wealth and prosperity of its great centre. It is a noble aim, and if it fails we all shall regret it. I believe it feasible and relatively within our reach, but admit that very little will be done at the outset or for some time. We shall have to feel our way. We shall have to judge every scheme by the test of facts, and not by the test of theories. I hope that we shall very largely brush away abstract doctrines. Those who would admit that in the’ abstract the doctrine “ buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market “ is the best, might be led to consider that the maintenance of the strength, the dignity, the prosperity of the Empire are worth something, and that if the market in which we buy be not within the Empire itself it may not be the cheapest, even if it seemed so according to current price lists. That would be a perfectly reasonable consideration to weigh with the most devoted advocate of free imports. He would say, “ National considerations impel me to test the abstract theory, so as to make myself certain what is the most advantageous course, because I realize that in the perpetuation, maintenance, and expansion of the Empire we shall find better opportunities for our race, and better means of fulfilling its duties.” It may be cheaper to pay a little more for a time, or more profitable in the long run to take a little less at present, to make or keep our own market. That is possible. Let us examine every scheme. I desire that this matter shall be probed to the bottom, in order that every means of bringing the mother country and her dependencies together by mutual exchange and the development of mutual trade for mutual advantage shall be employed. We must be prepared to make mutual sacrifices when the time comes. It is easy to say in advance we shall be prepared to give up everything. The test will come when we are asked to make a sacrifice. I admit that we must approach the consideration of this question prepared to make mutual sacrifices, in order to obtain mutual benefits. Every business man makes sacrifices in his business from day to day, in order to secure what he considers adequate benefits, and in entering into an arrangement with the mother country and the rest of the Empire we must also be prepared to make sacrifices.
– The honorable and learned member might as well ask a navigator to experiment with his chronometer when his vessel is in mid-ocean.
– I do not ask for anything of the kind; but I remember that some of our boldest sailors lived before the days of chronometers. They steered by the stars, and took their risks, as we are prepared to steer by the stars of patriotism and. accept the risk.
– The percentage of shipwrecks in those days was much greater than it is to-day.
– There were no statistics then. I do not for one moment suppose that any complete scheme of preferential trade could be arranged at the outset. We must begin with a moderate tentative experiment, to be gradually developed. After all, although the present Prime Minister of England is not a protectionist, he is one of those philosophic statesmen whom Plato thought most fit to be intrusted with the government of humanity. The steps which Mr. Balfour has been able to take on the road to what he calls retaliation - which is really Empire preservation - are steps on exactly the same road that we are travelling. Even that must carry with it benefits to us as well as to the mother country. We must not despise the day of small things. In any case, we shall not be taking an irrevocable step. What will be first accepted on both sides will be a tentative practical scheme, that can be amended, or, if necessary, rescinded. The Empire will not part with its self-governing character. No
House of Commons can bind, or would seek to bind, all future Houses of Commons, and in the same way no part of the Empire can bind itself to any scheme for more than a limited period. The arrangements entered into will be tentative, experimental, and modest in their inception. They will be capable of being rescinded, and especially capable of being varied. No doubt they will require to be varied. They will require to be gradually adapted to the needs and opportunities of both parties. We can enter into this experiment without the slightest apprehension, because it will be undertaken with the approval of the different, countries and peoples affected, and will be capable of being reconsidered and amended, if necessary, by either party. It will be an agreement after the manner of the treaties entered into by the mother country and foreign powers, which are for a fixed term, renewed from time to time.
– Could the honorable and learned member conceive of a zollverein, once having been entered into, being mutually dissolved?
– I think not,because it would be found to be mutually profitable. I believe that if a zollverein were once formed it would grow and continue to grow. That is one reason why I support it.
– Would it be possible to dissolve it?
– Not without an upheaval.
– All that would be proposed would be an agreement for a certain term. It would be recognized that at the outset an experiment was being made. There must be a test by facts, and not bytheories. I have to mention my own views on the subject, but disclaim any desire to press any prophecies on the House. We should first show that the scheme will be profitable when applied to certain imports, and then, if we find it profitable, extend it to others then to still others, and so on. When you have reached the limit at which an arrangement ceases to be mutually profitable, stop. When you find that you have made a mistake, retrace your steps.
– It is all so easy. ,
– It is not easy.
– These are matters of great Imperialistic concern !
– They are the tasks of self-government.
– The honorable and learned member proposes to interfere with great national interests as though he were playing at skittles.
– If the honorable and learned member had heard the beginning of my speech, he would know thatI have acknowledged that our commencements must be small, tentative,” cautious, and dealingwith picked items - the experimental method by which our forefathers have felt their way along the road of constitutional government.
– Our shipping interests have increased to such an extent that they now produce£90, 000,000 a year. The honorable and learned member’s proposals, if adopted, might seriously divert that trade.
– I have said that I regard our shipping interest as Imperial and most deserving of conservation. I wish to see the British mercantile navy manned by British sailors, and emphasize the word “ British “ in both cases. I hope that it will be fostered by the Empire, and developed to its utmost capacity. If it were impaired, a great blow would be struck at our very being. Just as the Federal movement in Australia, when it was languishing, received an enormous support from that great statesman, the late Sir Henry Parkes, who stepped out of the path of local legislation, and put himself at the head of the movement to effect its consummation, so we have seen in Great Britain the statesman to whom reference is made in my motion, step out of the groove of English politics to put himself at the head of this movement for preferential trade. The reference in my motion has been misunderstood by an English newspaper, which has taken the words of its second paragraph -
The proposals of the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the Colonial Conference of
to intimate that the proposals of this character proceeded from Mr. Chamberlain. His proposals” were ante-dated by many years by proposals and by action from within the Empire. The Canadians had taken several steps in preferential reductions long before 1902. The misunderstanding is due, perhaps, to the manner in which I have worded the paragraph, but I did not intend to suggest that these proposals had proceeded from Mr. Chamberlain, or from any other Englishman. They proceeded, in the first instance, from Canada, and from other self -governing communities, and were taken up by him in 1902, and developed in a manner which has been of the greatest advantage to the people of Great Britain. It is not for us to discuss British politics, and I do not propose to do so. Our agreement, or disagreement, with Mr. Chamberlain on this, or any other matter, is foreign to the subject at hand. He is a statesman who has lived long enough to make many friends and admirers, and many foes. I had the honour to meet him in 1900, when, with Sir Philip Fysh, and others, I visited England in connexion with the draft Commonwealth Constitution. He was then, so to speak, our antagonist. He took a view contrary to that which we desired to enforce, and used all his ability and influence to carry his point. But we had to confess the truth of an admission made to me by one of the leading radical journalists of England, when he said, ‘’ I am opposed to Mr. Chamberlain in every article of his policy, but there is not a man of my party, or of his, whom I would rather meet in politics, or business.” He met us with the utmost fairness, frankness, and openness, and used every possible means to defeat us. The fight was a very unequal one, but he was a very fair and straightforward opponent.
– He helped the deputation a great deal.
-I am speaking of him only as an opponent. Afterwards, when wecame to an agreement, his assistance was of incalculable value. The English people, and we, so far as we are interested, should be grateful for having at the head of this movement a man of his enormous practical aptitude, great powers, and immense influence in Parliament, on the platform, and in the press. He has his own ideals, and though they may not be reached by the same means as ours, they fit in with ourdeals. We are approaching the subject from different points, but we have the same goal.
– A few years ago he ridiculed these preference proposals.
– No one could do it better. He has the courage of his opinions, and when he changes them, does not d’env that he has advanced. He is not one of those who are superior to growth.
– One has to know which to accept - the last expression of his views, or the last but one.
– We may safely accept the last as containing his final opinions.
– The last but one is equally sincere.
– But when he put that forward, he had less experience as Secretary’ of State for the Colonies. While I shall not discuss British politics, I do not propose to introduce the consideration of colonial politics. But we cannot be blind to the fact that in Canada a preference was given, which commenced, I think, at12½ per cent., and has gradually increased, until it now amounts to33½ per cent. The Canadian people are prepared by arrangement to give a still higher preference to British goods.
– With certain qualifications.
– The honorable member for Parramatta objected that once an arrangement of this kind is entered into, it is impossible to withdraw from it. The Canadians, however, have from time to time amended their preferential arrangements, and in the last instance increased theirprotective duties against British as well as those upon foreign manufactures on two particular lines.
– On each occasion declaring that they would surrender nothing of their sovereign power.
– No surrender of sovereign power is asked for in the proposals which I have put forward. The Canadians have lately raised their duties on woollens against British as well as against foreign manufactures.
– In each case saying, that they would make no bargain.
– They are prepared to make a bargain. The Premier of Canada, speaking on behalf of his Government; which is supposed to be a free-trade Administration, has said that in the most explicit and emphatic manner.
– And in August last his Treasurer saidthe same thing. .
– Yes, they have declared that they are prepared to make a business arrangement, and to enter into a treaty: I do not wish to discuss what has been done in South Africa, where protective duties were raised2½ per cent. against the world, and were then lowered by 25 per cent. in favour of Great Britain, giving her manufacturers a preference of2½ per cent. An example nearer home has furnished us quite recently with the third instance - a concession having been granted to Great Britain by New Zealand without asking for a return. To determine the value of that concession, I wrote to the Right Honorable Richard Seddon, asking him to be good enough to inform me what its results have been. May I add that he has proved himself, by his successful administration of that great Colony, for more than ten years, one of the largest-minded men, most vigorous administrators, and capable politicians in the Empire; whatever he has done bears upon it the stampof success. In reply to my letter he wrote -
In reply to your letter of the 19th October, I beg to inform you that it is too early to make any very reliable estimate of the effect of “The Preferential and Reciprocal Trade Act 1903.” This arises from the fact that there is exemption up till the 31st March, 1904, in the case of all goods ordered before the date on which the Bill was introduced, namely,the16th November, 1903. Andin respect to printing paper ‘for newspapers, this is exempted by Act for practically -three years, whilst rails for tramways have also been exempt during the six months ended 30th September, 1904, owing to a special provision in our Act. Our extra duties virtually have only been collected from the 1st April last-
I omit some references to the figures, which it is not necessary to quote now. He continued -
Generally, I should say there is an evident advantage to British as compared with foreign trade, and our imports for 1904 are less than they were for 1903. This fact in itself must be taken into consideration in coming to a conclusion as to the working of the Preferential and Reciprocal Trade Act of 1903. The effect in respect to boots and shoes, furniture, and iron is marked, and, in my opinion, will be lasting. I shall be most happy, later on, when we are in a position to gauge more correctly the effect of legislation, to give you the fullest information in this connexion.
The New Zealand experience is therefore too short to enable a final verdict to be passed, but the right honorable gentleman names three important lines which we in this Commonwealth would be glad to see assisted by a measure similar to the New Zealand Act. In three at least of the selfgoverning communities within the Empire concessions have been made to the mother country, not by way of bargain, but in recognition of indebtedness for the protection received from the Imperial Navy and the Imperial flag, the gift of territory, the protection of our liberties and freedom of self-government, untrammelled by any interference dictated by other motives than concern for the interests of the Empire. On that ground the three self-governing communities which I have mentioned have taken a step which, in my opinion, we should take as early as possible - that is, after the inquiry which I have asked the Prime Minister to make as to the articles in regard to which it is possible to give effective preference to British manufacturers. I hope that when we meet, after the recess, the Prime Minister will see his way to either introduce such a measure, or. provide information and give an opportunity for its introduction by a private member. This requires no bargain.
– Is there any likelihood of reducing the duties on English boots?
– It has been by raising the duties on foreign boots that the New Zealand trade has been improved for both British and local makers. Why should the honorable member ask for that particular reduction ? I am not now proposing or considering either reductions or increases; I am placing this proposal on such a basis that honorable members, whether they favour an increase or a decrease of duties, can vote for it.
– It is far better to leave details alone.
– Yes, because when we discuss them we shall differ. At this stage, however, we can stand upon common ground. My honorable friend might propose reductions of duties with which I could not agree.
– Does the honorable and learned member remember telling the Prime Minister, when he sat on this side of the Chamber, that he would not be a party to the reduction of the duties?
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I did not say that. I said that any proposal that preference should be given by a general reduction of duties must come from the other side, and not from me. That is still true. Any general reduction is not likely to be proposed, or supported, by me, but I said then, and I say still that reductions are possible. Wehave to consider the interests of Australia, whilst the people of Great Britain have tq bear in mind the interests of the people at home, besides our common interests.
– The honorable and learned member wants preference to just the extent which may suit Australia, and pays no regard to the interests of Great Britain.
– The honorable member implies that we are acting from purelv selfinterested motives, but the answer to that statement is that it is wholly inaccurate. We do desire to promote our own interests, but our main motive is of an Imperial character, and our proposals must be made in such a way as to commend themselves to the people of Great Britain, who are just as well qualified to look after their interests as is the honorable member to conserve the interests of Australia. In the last paragraph of the motion, I propose that a formal offer shall be made on behalf of the Commonwealth of a preference to the United Kingdom upon its exports to Australia, in returnfor a preference upon our exports to Great Britain. In previous paragraphs I have provided for other matters thanmerepreference. I invite honorable members to approve of the idea of the conference which the present British Government proposes to hold, and to suggest that at that conference the Australian representatives should be prepared with information, gathered as the result of a study of our Customs duties, with a view to indicating the extent to which we can enter into reciprocal) relations with the United Kingdom for the benefit of both communities. I believe that an agreement can be made which will prove of great advantage, not only to Australia andGreat Britain, but to the rest of the Empire. The necessities of the case call for action upon our part, and the force of sentiment will come into play to assist us in doing that which is required of us. I do not by any means imply that regard for the large considerations which I have indicated should be limited in their effects to any arrangement by way of bargain into which we may enter with Great Britain in respect to trade and commerce.
– The time allowed for the consideration of notices of motion has now expired. Is it the pleasure, of the House that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat be permitted to continue his speech ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I have not a great deal more to say. I merely wish to guard myself once more against the idea that the proposals for developing the common interests of the Empire are to be confined to the preferences to be given by way of differential treatment through the Customs. I contemplate that provision shall be made by way of bounties and subsidies for truly national purposes, such as the development of our mercantile marine. In addition to granting countervailing assistance against the bounties and subsidies by which foreign shipping is being built up, it appears to me that the Imperial Government would do well to consider the desirability of making use of those powers of restriction which the Empire possesses in regard to its own trade at least against those nations which hamper us in our trade relations with them and their Possessions.
– Out of what fund would these bounties come?
– The proposal made by Mr. Hofmeyer at the Conference of 1897, which I attended, was that a special duty should be imposed upon goods imported into any part of the Empire, and that the revenue thus collected should be paid into a common fund, and applied to purposes connected with the defence and. development of the trade and commerce of the Empire. Such a fund could be devoted to the development of our mercantile marine and to the “ increase of our seamen, who are being reduced in numbers. If we could increase the number of British sailors throughout the Empire we could add greatly tothe strength of our mercantile marine, and also to the British Navy. I merely wish to guard against the supposition that, merely by increasing or reducing duties, we shall have done all that is possible in order to achieve the great ends indicated. The forces I have mentioned, and many others that experience may dictate, can be brought into play. If the spirit of unity is enhanced, and our patrioticobligations are fully recognised, we can glady join in any other movements for increasing the strength of the Empire for the development of its resources, and for increasing the happiness and selfgoverning powers of its people. We cannot do now separately a tithe of what would be perfectly possible in the future if we were united and acting as one people. Excellent resolutions have been passed at old colonial conferences held from time to time in Australia, but very little has resulted from them. Prior to Federation conferences, representative of the various States, wereheld, but few of the resolutions arrived at. could be carried into effect. Until theMinisters of the self-governing parts of the Empire are periodically consulted, and submit to their respective Legislatures resolutions providing for combined action, we cannot expect to achieve any results in the larger sphere. We can begin there as we did. here by regular conferences. I do not pretend that we can become a self-sufficing Empire, but it is certainly possible for us to become more selfsufficing and more self -developing than we are at present. We must recognise the gravity of the straits to which we, might be reduced at any moment. If the unhappy indescribable North Sea incident had plunged us at once into a serious foreign war, in what position should we have found ourselves in regard to the defence of the Empire, wholly dependent as we should have been upon the Lords of the Admiralty, who are responsible to a Legislature in which we are -not represented, and cannot be effectively represented in proportion to our numbers? Such crises are always near us. Proper proportion and perspective have ito be observed in considering the views I have ‘been expressing, because in this matter we shall be building, not for ourselves, but for generations to come. We shall be laying the first course of what may afterwards become a mighty structure. The 1 Customs agreements which were entered into between New South Wales and Victoria in [regard to the Border duties formed the preliminary steps towards the accomplishment of our Federation, and preliminary steps of the same nature, rudimentary and defective in themselves, will probably commence the great work of commercial union by Imperial reciprocities, which we now have in view. I happened to be reading a letter a few days ago in which Adam Smith, writing in 1760 of the union between Scotland and England, said that to his own knowledge the union had been of infinite benefit to both countries. /He had been reading a letter written by a Colonel Hooke, I think, just after the union had been accomplished, in which the writer said that nothing was more universally execrated by all classes of men than the union into which they had just entered, under which the interests of every class seemed to have been injuriously affected. Yet half a century later the great economist himself expressed his deliberate judgment that the union had already proved of infinite benefit. In a similar manner, as an Australian Federation we are passing through a stage in which it seems that every man’s hand is for the moment against us. What the people expected I am not prepared to say. What thev conceived it possible for ordinary human beings to achieve I do not know. Apparently, they thought that the mere passing of an Act of Parliament to constitute the Federation would, in some mysterious manner, transform the representatives and the electors alike into angelic beings who could commit no errors. We have made mistakes which we are bound to admit, but so far as I am aware, no assembly in the world has avoided them. We have not accomplished everything we desired, but I consider that in the face of the provincial jealousies we have had to combat, and the difficulties naturally attaching to our novel situation, it is surprising that we have achieved so much. Every thinking man who looks at our Federal record carefully and deliberately, while keeping in view what was to be expected under the circumstances, must admit it. And so of the proposals now- submitted in favour of preferential trade. . We are making beginnings in a small and inconsiderable way. Probably they will be embodied in Acts which may appear to be promoted by selfinterest. They, will be regarded wit’h a good deal of suspicion and some jealousy. I believe that the jealousy and suspicion will pass away, and that the experiment will succeed. Why ? It is based upon deeper and more permanent convictions and sentiments. Whatever our faults may bet they are not ours alone. If we possess any virtues, they are those of the stock from which we have sprung. If there be any people to whom we can look for sympathy - if there be any race with whom we can join in union - surely it is our own kith and kin across the sea. We are proud of the traditions which we ‘have inherited from that race, whose blood flows in our veins. That the Commonwealth is what it is, that Canada is what she is, that the American States are what they are, and that the Empire is what it is, we owe entirely to the constitutional capacity and dauntless energy of the British race. If the members of our own race are unable to come to an understanding with each other in politics and in trade, we may separate ourselves by a wall, and admit that it is not possible for us to look for any sympathy in aims or reciprocity in trade relations to any other nation. I devoutly believe that the people who have already accomplished so much in the world that their history is as noble and inspiring as are those of Greece and of Rome, will encourage us to take our share with them in building up a Federal Empire. We shall, I fervently hope, cherish a common spirit of unity and action, standing shoulder to shoulder against the world’s forces which confront us, evolving out of the constitutional Government which we enjoy its largest, noblest development, a self-governing Empire, whose ideals must be viewed not in momentary flashes, or judged by hours or years, but be seen in the light of centuries.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– In seconding the motion, I should like to have some idea when the Prime Minister proposes to resume the discussion upon this question. It seems to me highly desirable that we should be afforded some information upon that point.
– That question can be discussed upon the motion for fixing the date for the resumption of the adjourned debate.
– I should like to get some idea when the debate is to be resumed, because I think that it should be concluded this session.
– There are two matters as to which I should like to give the fullest latitudes-
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister’s remarks will close the discussion upon this motion ?
– Oh, yes.
– I raised the point of order as soon as I possibly could. I was not aware that the Prime Minister intended to reply.
– Will the honorable member kindly take his seat ? The question before the Chair is the motion for the adjournment of the debate. The Prime Minister moved that motion, and the leader of the Opposition made some remarks upon it. When nobody else rose to speak. I called upon the Prime Minister, who has begun his speech, I cannot ask him to break his speech into two portions, and to allow further debate to intervene.
– I submit that the honorable member for Bland merely asked a question. I think that the ruling is very unfair.
– The honorable member for Hume has no right to say that any ruling is unfair, and in answer to his remark that the honorable member for Bland merely asked a question, I would remind him that this is not question time. The inquiry put by the leader of the Opposition must have formed part of the debate, otherwise it could not have been made.
– I am very anxious to afford honorable members another opportunity of discussing this motion, but I am pledged to the honorablemember for Eden-Monaro in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and I am sure that the honorableand learned member for Ballarat does not desire me to bring those two matters into collision. I think that both honorable members will trust me to make an arrangement which will be commensurate with the importance of both questions. My object in asking the House to deal with the Appropriation Bill to-day is that it is really time that it was forwarded to another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for to-morrow.
With the concurrence of the House, I should like, for the purposeof convenience, to include this motion amongst the items of Government business which appear upon the notice-paper.
An Honorable Member. - Is the Government adopting it?
– Oh, no. Nevertheless, I cannot very well devote Government time to its consideration if it be placed on the list of private members’ business. It will occupy precisely the same position, as does the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– When I was precluded from speaking just now I desired to discuss the motion for the adjournment of the debate. If the question of Preferential Trade is to be pressed to a division this session, it seems to me that the debate should be proceeded with at once. Things, however, are so “mixed” that I defy anybody to . say, from the statement of the Prime Minister, what business is likely to be done, and when I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether an arrangement has been made as to when the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is to be dealt with?
– That question is not before the Chair.
– But I understand that its consideration will be interfered with by the discussion of the motion relating to Preferential Trade. The Prime Minister has proposed that the latter question shall be dealt with to-morrow.
– Not necessarily. I merely wish to place it upon the business-paper for to-morrow.
– How is it possible to conclude the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and of the motion relating to Preferential Trade, if they are to be considered upon alternate days ? I fail to see how it is possible, in the few remaining days of the session, to deal with the three other measures to which the Prime Minister has referred.
– Order ! The honorable member must not debate matters other than that which is under consideration. He must notdebatethe Manufactures Encouragement Bill’. . The only point before the Chair at the present time is whether this Bill shall be set down for to-morrow or for some other date.
– I think, sir, that you misunderstood what I was saying. I was not debating the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I was merely remarking that’ by fixing a certain date for the consideration of the motion relating to Preferential Trade, we shall be interfering with other business which remains to be dealt with. I think we should have some clear understanding as to whether the Prime Minister intends to press the motion of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to a conclusion before the session closes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
Thatthe Bill be now read a second time.
– I am sure that we all deeply regret the cause of the absence of the Treasurer, and must realize the difficulty which we have in dealing with this measure in his absence. The difficulty is accentuated in my case, because I propose to make a few observations regarding the attitude of the Government on a very important question, which must occupy the attention of theParliament at an early date, and upon which certain views have been expressed by the right honorable gentleman. Earlier in the. session, I drew the attention of this Government, as I had drawn the attention of previous Administrations, to the question of policy involved in the re-enactment of our legislation relating to the sugar bounty.
– Unless thereis an item in the Appropriation Bill dealing with the sugar bounty, it cannot, be discussed.
– Shall I not be in order in discussing the policy of the Government in this respect on the motion for the second reading of this measure? It has been the common practice in the Parliaments with which I am acquaintedto raise any question of policy on such a motion.
– I shall read the passage from May, which will give the honorable member the information which he asks. Dealing with Appropriation Acts, May sets forth, at page 561, that -
The latitude permissible in debate and amendment on going into the Committee of Supply (see p. 572) floes not extend to the stages of the Appropriation Bill. Debate and amendment on these occasions must be relevant to the Bill.
At page 562 I find these words -
The principle of relevancy is also strictly applied to debate and amendments in the Committee on the Appropriation Bill. No grant of supply is effected by the Bill ; its provisions are solely administrative; the sole object of the Bill is to insure the application of the grants made by Parliament to the objects defined by the resolutions of the Committee of Supply. Accordingly, debate or amendment must be restricted to the matter of appropriation ; and the conduct of the officials or of the Departments who receive the supply grants cannot be challenged in the Committee on the Bill ; nor can amendments be moved to its clauses, or to the schedule, to effect the reduction of the amount, or an alteration in the destination of a grant. Nor are the enacting words of the Bill open to amendment.
The practice laid down in May, and the practice of the British Parliament is distinctly to the effect that the only matters which may be discussed in dealing with an Appropriation Bill are those to which it specifically relates. If there be any vote relating to sugar bounties, or any vote for the payment of an officer engaged in the industry, it will be competent for the honorable member to deal with this question, but it is not competent for him to discuss a general matter of policy concerning anything which is not strictly provided for by the Bill itself. The Clerk has just handed me a copy of an ‘ appropriation made in this Bill, which shows that provision is made for the payment of certain salaries to inspectors in the sugar industry. If the honorable member can - and I am not quite sure that he cannot - get in all that he desires to say byconfining his remarks to anything relating to these officers, he will be in order.
-I should like to have a definite ruling on this point. If the practice of the House of Commons, by which we are bound,. is that a Government cannot be challenged on a motion for the second reading of an Appropriation Bill, in reference to matters of general policy, the sooner honorable members become seized of that fact the better. It is a very serious invasion of what -we have generally considered to be the principles of constitutional government.
– I desire to give a ruling strictly in accordance with the practice of such Parliaments as our own, and I have no option save to give a ruling iri the terms I have quoted from May, as applying to the present position : -
The latitude permissible in debate and amendment on going into the Committee of Supply does, not extend to the stages of the Appropriation Bill. Debate and amendment on these occasions must be relevant to the Bill, and must beconfined to .the conduct or action of those who receive or administer the giants specified in the Bill.
– The Crown receives.
– I cannot accept that interpretation. If the salaries of the Ministers were provided for by the Appropriation Bill their conduct would be open to debate on this motion. I have no option but to rule that the debate must be confined on this occasion to matters connected with the specific votes and grants in the, Bill. It is a well-recognised rule, both in this and other Parliaments, that on going into Committee of ‘Supply - and in certain cases in Committee of Supply - the widest latitude shall be allowed to honorable members in discussing, not only grievances, but questions of policy. In view of the fact that certain votes which I have mentioned appear in the Bill, I think that the honorable member will be able to put before the House the greater part of that which he desires to say in relation to the sugar industry.
– The question relates to’ both white and black grown sugar, but is. of special importance to those who grow sugar by means of white labour. I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the Treasurer, as briefly as possible, to the facts as I understand them. It will be remembered that the operation of the measures relating to the sugar bounty and excise was limited to a certain period, for reasons which I need not recapitulate, and I think it will be admitted that this legislation has proved entirely satisfactory to those who advocate it. . while it has not been responsible for any suffering on the part of the people of Australia who are not engaged in the industry. The point I. desire to emphasize is, that it will cease to operate at the end of 1906, and that as the Government do not intend to open the next session of the Parliament until some six months hence, they will not be able then to give anything like reasonable notice of their intentions to ‘the white growers who are planting in the* expectation that the bounty will be continued. I believe it is the desire of a large majority of the members of both Houses that the bounty should continue, and .that being so, it would be highly advantageous to all concerned if a public intimation were given by the Prime Minister, before the session closes, that it is- the intention of the Government to continue the present system.
– We said that oncethe bounty were granted, its advocates would desire it to be continued.’
– I held from the very first that no limitation should be placed upon the operation of this legislation. The limitation was imposed, because the present Prime Minister was prepared to honour the arrangement during the period named, and some honorable members who were very anxious to secure the passing of the measure agreed against my advice to accept it. I would remind the honorable member for Robertson that the law relating, not only to sugar bounties, but to the sugar excise, will cease at the end of 1906, and that if it be not renewed, we shall suffer a serious loss of revenue. As a matter of fact, the Treasurer estimates to receive this year ,£448,000 by way of the Excise duty on sugar, and to return by way of bounty to the growers of white sugar, £100,000 That leaves a credit balance of £348, 000. It has been pointed out .that there is no other industry in respect of which an Excise duty has been imposed.
– Is the honorable member taking the rebate into account ? He has only mentioned the bounty.
– “ Bounty “ was substituted for the word “ rebate,” because it was felt that no clear definition of the lastnamed word could be given. The two matters are covered by the one term.
– But it makes a difference in the figures.
– I am speaking from memory, but I am satisfied that the figures I have just quoted are correct. The credit balance of ^348,000 will be entirely lost if this legislation is allowed to lapse.
The argument which was used against the payment of the bounty - that it would result in. great loss to the States - cannotb e substantiated in view of these returns I am sure that no Government or Parliament would be prepared at this stage to lose revenue amounting to £348,000 for the sake of making a saving of £100,000 by putting an end to the bounty system. It has been contended that great loss of revenue has resulted from the operation of the bounty, and that if we were not to produce our own sugar, we should obtain a larger revenue by way of the duty on the imported article. The same argument might be applied to the imposition of the grain duties. Honorable members fromNew South Wales certainly used arguments against the imposition of those duties that were very effective. They said that they did not desire them, and that theyshould be removed in order , to help the producer. But the revenue derived the year before last from the grain duties amounted to over £500,000, and last year to about £250,000. If their arguments are sound, as against the overproduction of sugar, they are equally sound as against the over-production of grain, which has deprived the Commonwealth of the revenue which it would have obtained if more grain had been imported. No honorable member, however, is insensible to the absurdity of protesting against the increase in the production of grain because of the loss of revenue which it has caused. It is, however, equally absurd to apply that argument to the production of sugar. I ask the head of the Government to give us. before the end of the session if possible, an indication of his ideas on this subject. I hope that they will accord with those expressed by the Treasurer, who, in introducing his Budget, said : -
Honorable members will recollect that the sugar excise and sugar bonus will expireon the 1st January, 1907, and shortly itwill be the dutyof the Parliament to take into consideration what course should be pursued with regard to the excise, and with regard to the rebates.
– This session?
– I do not know that it will be possible to deal with the matter this session. It is one which requires very careful andfull inquiry, but so far as I am personally concerned, I sympathize altogether with the position, especially of Queensland, in this connexion, and I may say I am prepared to do whatever is possible to assist the sugar industry, to keep it alive, and to enable growers of sugar to work in such a way that they will be able to do without black labour, without suffering any real hardship or loss.
In respect to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to go into the general question The fact is, the bounty system has worked exceptionally well. It has received commendation from every officer of the Commonwealth who has been asked to report upon it, and has given the fullest satisfaction. The measure passed by this Parliament to provide for the substitution of white for black labour is proving efficient; and, recognising the vast importance of the sugar industry to Queensland and to New South Wales - and to Victoria, too, if she desires to engage in the growing of beet - it would be a great pity if any injury were done to it for the. want of a timely intimation that it is the intention of those in authority to continue the bounties.
– When the Estimates were under discussion, there was a long debate on the proposal to vote £6,000 for a mail service to the New Hebrides, and to other islands; but, although some time has elapsed since then, no intimation has yet been laid on the table concerning the agreement which has been entered into by the Government in regard to the matter, or their action upon it. A year or twoago we voted an additional£2,000 to improve the service to the New Hebrides, and this year we were asked for another £6,000. In all, we are paying one company , £12,000 for carrying on mail services with the New Hebrides and other groups in the Pacific. The first objection I have to the item which I have singled out is that as it comes under the heading of what is known as “ new “ expenditure, the money is found by the States in proportion to population. But while each of the States is asked to contribute, nearly the whole of the trade goes to Sydney. That trade is worth about £28,000 per annum - though I have not got exact information with me, because I did not know that this measure would be brought on so early - and nearly the whole of it is carried by the steamers of the company to which we grant these subsidies. If that company were purely a shipping concern trading between Australia and the Islands, and were the lowest tenderers for the contract, not much exception could be taken to the arrangement. But the fact is that they also carry on the business of retail and wholesale merchants, having stores in the different groups, and are practically able to levy blackmail on every competitor. If, for example, another company carrying on business in the Islands desires some particular commodity forthe purposes of its business, it often finds that it is undershipped, or over-carried, or that Burns, Philp, and Company had too much cargo of their own to find room for their competitors’ consignments, with the result that they have practically a monopoly of the trade, of the Islands. I would like to point out that there is another firm which sends its steamers from Cooktown to Woodlark Island, Samarai, and Port Moresby - the principal ports tobe touched at by the New Guinea service - and is prepared to do for £900 or£1,000 that for which we are at present paying Burns, Philp, and Company£2,000. This firm is also ready to put on better boats, and to give an improved service. That is a matter which demands attention, and in regard to which we should have more information. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth is really being asked to recoup Burns. Philp, and Company the charges levied upon them for the right to trade in the Marshall Islands, which are altogether beyond the sphere of British influence. In this action the Germans are giving Burns, Philp, and Company a taste oftheir own medicine, and’ the latter do not like it. The company complain that the Germans get hold of their time-table, and send boats on ahead to buy up all the available cargo, so that when Burns, Philp, and Company’s boats come along, there is practically nothing for them. If that is done, it is purely a, matter for their business manager. I doubt very much if the Germans are smarter business men than the managers of Burns, Philp, and Company, but if they are, the latter will have to improve their business methods. The Commonwealth, however, should not be asked to pay £6,000 to make up their losses. There are several places at which their boats will call where practically the only people are officials and storemen-in the employ of the company, I think that it is bad policy on our part, and that it is unfair so far as the traders are concerned. I should like to know why, if the proposed service is to be conducted solely for the purpose of carrying mails, Sydney should be made the terminal port. I do not object to Sydney having its fair share of any advantage that may be derived from direct communication with the islands; but,. if the mails are to be expe dited to the fullest possible extent, Brisbane should be selected as the first and last port of call in Australia, because it is nearest to the New Hebrides.
– The Prime Minister has promised to consider that.
– It is a fine thing for the representatives of a State which is collaring the sugar bonus to demand a tight bargain in connexion with this mail service.
– I contend that if the line of steamers is to be subsidized solely for the purpose of securing a good mail service, Brisbane should be the principal port of call in Australia. I do not see any reason why the steamers should be required to call at all sorts of outside places, beyond the sphere of British influence, merely to suit the convenience of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. We have little or no information before us concerning the proposed service, and I have the strongest objection to a proposal which appears to me to contemplate nothing more nor less than the granting of a substantial subsidy to a large shipping and trading company. We are now dealing with the Appropriation Bill, and when that is out of the road I presume that little else will be dealt with this session. There are, however, one or two important items on the business-paper, and I think it is due to the House that the Prime Minister should say which of them he proposes shall be dealt with before the session is closed.
– I think before the session terminates, the Government, which lives by the aid of such a microscopic majority, should inform the House what steps it proposes to take to fill certain important positions in the Public Service which are either vacant, or will shortly become vacant. The position of DeputyPostmasterGeneral in Sydney, which carries a salary of £920, will have to be filled, and similar positions in Perth and Adelaide. will shortly become vacant. I think that the Government owes to the House the duty, at least, of announcing what its intentions are with regard to these appointments.
– What about the Public Service Commissioner?
– According to the late Attorney-General, these appointments, and the amount of salaries attached to them, do not rest with the Public Service Commissioner.
– It is rather novel to suggest that the Government should make an announcement with regard to such appointments.
-I do not suggest that the Government should consult the House, but I think that they ought to give honorable members some assurance that the usual course will be taken in filling these important offices, so that any suspicion of the operation of improper influence shall be removed. I regret very much that the House did not insist upon reducing the salaries of some of these officials. Just imagine a salary of £920 being paid to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney. His responsibilities have been immensely reduced.
– I say “yes.” The Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney now has really very little responsibility, and the same remarks apply to officers holding similar positions in all of the States. Why should the salaries paid to these officers approach within £80 of that given to the administrative head of the Department, who conducts the affairs of six States and is responsible for the whole policy of. the Department? I have nothing to say with regard to the officer, who will probably be appointed to the position in Sydney. He is a very able and worthy man. But the Government, whilst fully aware of the necessity for economy, have deliberately adhered to the old salaries that were payable before Federation, and have paid no regard to the. change in the character of the duties which the officers are called upon to discharge. I think that the neglect of the Government in this respect should be published abroad, for the illumination of people who follow the lead of Kyabiam. The honorable member for Echuca and other representatives of Victoria, who are apparently quite satisfied to allow this extravagance to pass without comment or objection, were crying out for economy some time ago, and were especially strong in their resistance to any increase in the allowance to honorable members. Their desire for economy was a very worthy one, but’ they apparently do not feel disposed to countenance any scheme of economy which touches influential persons in the Public Service. The salaries of our officials should be apportioned in such a way that they are fairly in keeping with the services rendered, and I hope that the House will insist upon these salaries being reviewed. The Government cannot shift the responsibility upon the Public Service Commissioner, because the late Attorney-General has expressed the clear opinion that the Ministers, and not the Public Service Commissioner, must grade these officers and fix their salaries. The Government cannot deceive the country by putting forward any specious pretext of the kind I haveindicated. They have professed to be actuated by a desire for economy, and yet they are maintaining the salaries of the high officials in the Post and Telegraph and Customs’Departments af the same rates that were paid before Federation. I contend that that is not fair. A good opportunity is now afforded to the Government for adopting a hew principle in regard to the payment of the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, because, as I have stated, there are, or shortly will be, three vacancies, and the salaries might be reduced without inflicting injustice on any one.
– Does the honorable member consider that the salaries are too high?
– I think it is anomalous that a Deputy Postmaster-General should receive £920 per annum, while the official head of the Department, who has to conduct the affairs of six States, is paid only £80 more.
– But the Deputy Postmaster-General and the Secretary to the Postal Department have not the same kind of work to do.
– The right honorable gentleman will admit that the work of the Secretary to the Department is immensely more important, and calls for the exercise of higher capacity than that required in a subordinate administering the affairs of one State.
– I think the Deputy Postmasters are poorly paid, considering the amount of work they do.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Look at the thousands of officers they have to control.
– But the right honorable gentlemanmust recollect that these officers have been relieved of great responsibility, because the policy of the Department is no longer a matter of concern to them. They are not called upon to advise the Postmaster-General in the same way as in the past. Considering the opportunity now at hand to revise these salaries without hardship to anybody, , I think the Government deserves censure for its refusal to recognise the new position. I am glad that the right honorable member for Swan is present, because I intend to justify, from official documents, the charges made by my colleagues and myself concerning the past mismanagement of the Postal Department in Western Australia. The right honorable gentleman has repeatedly challenged the correctness of these ‘ statements, and I think it is only right that the public should be placed in possession of the facts, and that we should no longer lie under the aspersion of having brought forward unfounded charges.
– What charges did the honorable member make? I do not remember what they were.
– The right honorable gentleman’s memory is not so treacherous as his question suggests. The charges which are preferred in the official papers are of a much more serious character than those which have been mentioned in this House. We had not the opportunities which independent officials were able to avail themselves of when” they examined the affairs of the Department. During the last eighteen months Mr. Gregory, the Accountant of the General Post Office in Sydney, and one of the ablest men in the service, visited Perth, and made a thorough inquiry into the management of the Department.
– Was any money lost there ?
– I shall deal with that matter presently. I intend to put before honorable members a summary of an official report which has been furnished to the Government -
Mr. Gregory in his report on the above subject dated 17th October, 1903, stated that so far as the Head Office, Perth, was concerned, the loose and unbusinesslike method which prevailed merited the severest condemnation. The open manner in which the regulations were flouted, the entire absence of any check upon important sections of the revenue, together with the fact that the accountant was not in a position to. discharge one of his most important functions, namely : - the guardianship of the revenue, could lead to only one end, the encouragement of dishonesty and the loss of revenue.
– Did not all these items appear upon the Estimates for Western Australia?
– The honorable member i.s talking of something which is as foreign to my purpose as is right from wrong. I hope that he will confine his interruptions to subjects of which he has some knowledge.
– He merely asked a question.
– But his question has no relevancy whatever to the matters which I am discussing. The report proceeds -
In Perth it was found that the accountant was the custodian of stamps, and the manager of the Money Order Office was also the distributor of stamps. This allocation of duties was rather anomalous, and should be amended forthwith, as there was no more justification for the accountant being .the custodian of stamps, than there was for his handling cash. It was difficult to understand how that officer could constitute himself the departmental auditor, when he himself was charged with the responsibility of the custody of stamps, and, as was also found, the handling of moneys.
– He was a very good man, and he killed himself by absolute hard work.
– I wish that the right honorable member would suspend his judgment until he hears what independent officers of the Government- highly competent men - have to say upon this matter.
– Do not cast any aspersions upon an honorable man, who died in harness in the service.
– I should be very sorry to cast aspersions upon any man, unnecessarily.
– All that the honorable member can do is to prove something against a man who is dead, and who was as good a man as ever lived.
– Not at all ; I propose to prove something against a live man. The report continues -
The amalgamation of the offices of distributor and manager of the Money Order Branch was also undesirable, for the latter had the control of a large trust account, and it did not appear to be a safe policy for that account to be in ‘any way mixed up with the distribution of stamps.
Prior to the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth, stamps were obtained through the Treasurer from London, and when received were stored for the Department by the colonial . storekeeper. At the time of Mr. Gregory’s visit, there was a balance of ^£216,337 in the hands of the “ storekeeper,” and notwithstanding that the balance in question included 4d. stamps of the total value of ^6,000, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral had requisitioned on Melbourne for supplies of that denomination of a total value of £8,ooo since the 1st January, 1903.
Stamps were obtained f rom the local . storekeeper and from Melbourne and Sydney on requisitions signed by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and, when received, were housed in a large cabinet located in a strong room. The
Deputy Postmaster-General had the custody of the key of the cabinet, and the accountant the keys of the strong room.
Upon the receipt of the stamps, the accountant debited himself in his stock books with the value of same, and filed the Government Printer’s invoices for audit purposes.
A separate stock book was kept for postage due stamps, but it bore lib evidence of ever having been audited since it was opened in July or August, igo*.
It did not appear to be a satisfactory check for the Deputy Auditor-General to have to establish a debit against tha Accountant from invoices in the possession of the latter officer.
The distributor requisitioned for his supplies on the accountant, such requisitions before execution were approved by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, who in giving his approval handed the key of the cabinet to the distributor, who took it to the accountant ; the latter officer then made the issue, and the key was returned to the Deputy.
In a proper system of distribution, there would “be no necessity whatever for the Deputy PostmasterGeneral to appear in the transaction, and tit was difficult to understand what advantage was gained by that officer holding the key of the cabinet, seeing that he deliberately handed it over to the very officer it was intended he should be a check upon, viz., the accountant.
The distributor, upon the receipt of the stamps, debited himself with the value of the same in 11is stock book.
The system consequently necessitated an. unnecessary duplication of work, without even providing ordinary safeguards.
Two sets of stock books, viz., the accountant’s and the distributer’s, were totally unnecessary.
Fixed advances of stamps were made to postmasters, and the distributer kept the register of such advances. The accountant was not in a position to say what were the advances held by postmasters, or the total amount due on stamp account. He exercised no check whateveon those balances. Officially, they did .not come under his review.
Postmasters remitted cash to the receiver for reimbursements of their stamp advances, and the receiver having indorsed the amount received on the requisition, passed it on to the distributer for execution. Three (3) lists of issues were prepared by the distributer, one for stamps, one for cards, and another for wrappers and envelopes. These lists were forwarded to the receiver, who checked them with the entries in his cash book, and after initialing them, forwarded them to the accountant for posting purposes. As these applications for reimbursements were purely cash transactions, all this work was entirely unnecessary.
Postal notes were obtained from the Governanent Printer, Melbourne, in the same, manner as stamps, but, although the accountant debited “himself with the total value of the supplies, they were immediately handed over to the distributer. It was not easy to understand why the postal notes were differentiated from stamps so far as their custody was concerned, and it was still more incomprehensible why the accountant should keep a stock book for stock not in his possession. This performance of unnecessary work to the neglect of essentials was character istic <h the administration of the financial division of j this branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department in the Commonwealth.
Whilst fixed advances of stamps were made to postmasters, they were allowed to requisition for postal notes according to their requirements, without the cash equivalent accompanying the” requisition, hence the balance was always varying. The accountant was entirely ignorant of postmasters’ liability, either individually or . collectively, on postal note advance account.
It Was found that the duties which should devolve upon the accountant were discharged by various officers, not one of whom appeared to have any official relationship to the other. This divided control militated against effective administration, and unnecessarily duplicated work. The record, of accounts was kept in various branches. The accountant was entirely ignorant of the amounts due on the accounts issued from those branches.
The telephone accounts for Perth and South Perth only were kept by the accountant, those for country exchanges were kept by postmasters, and fife accountant exercised no check over the latter accounts, and in the case of the former, he had never satisfied himself that he had a complete register of the subscribers. The register for rents was designed tu embrace one year’s accounts only, hence fresh registers had to be written up annually.
All salaries, allowances, and amounts for conveyance of mails were paid monthly. A special salary abstract was prepared for each branch and office, and these were entered in the departmental register, also in the salary register in detail, and again in the appropriation ledger, allowances being similarly dealt with. Mail contractors’ vouchers were entered in detail in conveyance of inland mail book, the total of each voucher in the departmental register, and also in appropriation ledger. Contingency vouchers were transferred from the departmental register to .1 book called the Contingencies Abstract, in which they were posted alphabetically and in detail. The monthly -postings of contingencies alone in the appropriation ledger occupied forty-six pages, each containing thirty.six lines. As all of these particulars had to be again furnished on form 18, and also on form 29, ‘an immense amount of work was necessitated by the unnecessary multiplication of the number of vouchers.
The paying officer was located in the account branch, which, from an audit point of view, was not satisfactory, especially as in this case the paying officer, having no safe, was compelled to lodge his cash in one used by the accountant, the key of which safe was in the exclusive custody of the latter officer. Contingent payments, up to the date of Mr. Gregory’s visit, were made by the accountant, which was a highly irregular practice. An immense amount of labour was entailed in copying the whole of the salary sheets by hand into a book.
The receiver should be the only officer at the Head “Office authorized to receive official moneys other than those received from the public for stamps, postal notes, and similar services. The need of the concentration of payments was very observable. He should also issue a receipt in accordance with Regulation 29, “”’ Public
Moneys, 1902,” for all payments other than stamps. The irregular system of issuing manuscript receipts was in operation.
The Check Branch (inspector’s office) was an anomaly, as it was practically performing work which rightly appertained to the Account Branch. There was no justification for its separate existence.
The Check Telegraph Branch was under the control of the Manager of Telegraphs. As previously pointed out in reports on other States, this branch should be under the control of the accountant. There were 168 stations and about x millions messages dealt with per annum. The check in operation was not continuous, about four days per- month being done. Daily statements were forwarded to the check clerk, accompanied by the supporting messages. These messages are checked with statement, and also as to the value of stamps affixed. The check clerk also kept a record of business transacted at each station, both transmitted and received for statistical purposes. He also checked bureau statements of calls with remittance slip received from the cashier, and also the statements furnished by the fitter-in-charge at country exchanges, and those sent in by postmasters. The checking of the bureau calls should be transferred to the officer in charge of telephone accounts.
The counter clerk handed over all cable cash to the chief telegraph clerk, who paid it to the receiver, which was an unnecessary duplication of work, as the money should be paid direct to the receiver. No ledger accounts were kept against postmasters by the accountant for amounts due on cable account, and it was left entirely to the cable clerk to say whether a postmaster’s cable accounts were adjusted. Postmasters forwarded statements with their remittances, giving the details of each message. These statements after -being initialed by the receiver, were forwarded to the cable clerk, who ticked the entries of messages in red ink to indicate that the cash for same had been received. The fact that an item was ticked off in red ink was accepted as final evidence of its having been paid.
The Dead Letter Office was under the control of the Chief Inspector. Records of valuables and moneys were’ kept in suitably designed books, and although ruled so as to. provide foi the checking officer’s initials, and the accountant’s receipt, they had never been checked by the accountant, nor had he ever seen the books. Valuables found in unclaimed packets, &c, had never to the knowledge of the Dead Letter clerk been sold.
The Store and Stationery Branches were two distinct branches, under separate control, and this le.d both to delay in the execution of orders, as well as to the multiplication of work. Requisitions had frequently to be divided, and the stationery I portion thereof recopied and forwarded from the Store to the Stationery Branch for execution.
The Chief Inspector acted as certifying officer in nearly all cases, even when the Deputy PostmasterGeneral was present.
It was observed that large balances were frequently held on the premises by postmasters “in anticipation of payments, instead o’f the postmasters being authorized to open public accounts at the local banks, and to lodge those balances at the close of the day’s business.
He is not the only competent man who has examined into the methods pursued by the Department in Perth. Another officer, the chief clerk in the Audit Office, Mr. Percy Whitton, in a report dated 22nd September, 1903, upon the accounts of the General Post Office, Perth, deals with the subject.
In his audit report, dated 22nd July, 1903, onthe accounts of the General Post Office, Perth, Mr. Whitton stated that during the period from 1st ‘ January, 1903, to 18th March, 1903, only seventeen official receipts were issued, and for the balance of the amounts receipts were given at the foot of statements ana accounts, or on any piece of paper that happened to be handy.
In connexion with remittances received from country offices, &c, it was not the business of any one to see that the statements supplied to the accountant and those to the check branch agreed, nor could it be ascertained that it was any person’s business to see that remittances were .promptly made or promptly brought to account. Serious delays in bringing amounts to account were discovered, and in every instance investigated the 1 neglect was traced to the remitting officer. In places, within an hour of the chief office, it was no unusual thing for two or three days to elapse between the day the return was made up and the date the money reached the cashier. The statements themselves contained much useless information, and could be considerably improved.
The cashier’s cash book bore no evidence of having been examined at any time, and had not been examined. All the Perth collections were entered therein in totals, the details being set out on loose returns, afterwards being copied into ‘books all over the Department, thus creating a large amount of useless work. The work of thoroughly checking these receipts occupied several weeks in place of a day and a half, as it should have done under a proper system.
The telephone accounts were in a most unsatisfactory condition, and there had been absolutely no check upon them. The Perth Audit Office had tided off in the ledger any amounts found in the cash accounts, but that was the sum total of the check. In order to make a thorough examination of the accounts and the trunk line fees, he (Mr. Whitton) had to work from the switch boards, and had further to go to each of the suburban offices before he could arrive at anything like a satisfactory conclusion as to the position of affairs. He found the data supplied to him by the head office unreliable, and, in many instances, absolutely worthless. An annual short charge o’f ^455 was shown, and a removal charge of 40s., while there was a further sum of j£io 5s. due for one line, no account for which had been rendered for two years, although still in use. Excepting as regards new connexions,’ no attempt has been made to comply with the regulation dealing with annual rental charges for extra apparatus. Under this heading there we’re serious undercharges (in one case alone nearly ^50 per annum), and there would be many small overcharges. In this particular, he (Mr. Whitton) found the records of no value, and was unable, therefore, to certify what the annual loss was. The only way was to make a house to- house visitation, in order to ascertain what people really had. No attention had been paid to the amendment of the regulation, relating to insertion of extra names in the telephone list, and the cost of printing the extra matter in the list issued in March, 1903, was£15 7s. 3d. The accounts of the suburban and country telephones were kept at the local offices, and there was no check whatsoever upon them, and, so far as the suburban ones were concerned, it was impossible to satisfactorily work them in that way. At Fremantle he found the Postmaster had on hand several cheques, amounting to£57,.on account of deposits for new connexions, for which he had not given any receipts. The books relating to private boxes, bags, &c, were kept, and the accounts rendered by the officer in charge, and no record of keys was kept. No proper audit of these accounts had been made in the past. The remarks made regarding the Perth receipts being entered on loose sheets, and in totals only in the receiver’s cash book applied also to these and all. other Perth collections.
The Dead Letter Office was placed under the Chief Inspector, whose duty it was also to examine it; which appeared to be an anomaly.
In the case of bulk postage, the dockets, in place of being sent to the accountant, as directed by regulation, were sent to the manager of the Money Order Branch, who wasalso Distributor of Stamps.
Postal Notes. - The transactions in connexion with this portion of the work were checked day by day by the Perth Audit Office. A fair amount of book-keeping might be dispensed with if fixed advances were given, as done in Victoria and other States. During the period I examined, the receipts were not paid into the Money Order “account at the bank, but this has been remedied.
Money Order Account. - Although a certain portion of this account was checked thoroughly day by day by the Audit Office, no examination of the cash book or banking account had ever been made, neither had the bank balance been verified ; further, there was no check on the remittances to and from the State. The accountant kept the cash book, and dealt with all remittances outwards, while the manager simply kept a day book. All moneys received at the Mornington and Yarloop offices were dailypaid over to the manager, Millar’s Karri and Jarrah forests Company Limited, who gave the Postmaster an order for the amount on the Perth office of the company, which order was forwarded to the cashier, who obtained from the company a’ cheque for the amount.
Stores Branch. - The books had never been added up or balanced ; although the stock was carefully counted every six months, and a record of the count made in the ledger, no attempt had been made to compare it withthe ledger entries, and in most of the many tests made, it did not agree.
The cable account was not in a satisfactory condition. It was opened as a suspense account in February, 1902, although all moneys up to the end of January of that year had been paid out of revenue, the outstanding amounts for that month were, without any consideration, paid into the Suspense account, thus creating a surplus of about£500, but this surplus did not agree with the amount traced at 30th June, 1903. The accountant kept a ledger account of the transactions, but it never seemed to have occurred to any one that it was necessary to prove the balance. The chief clerk of the branch also kept a cash book in addition to other records, but a true idea of their value was shown by the fact that about eighteen (18) months before he made an error of £180 in bringing forward a total, and although a balance was struck every month since, this error was not discovered.
There is a salient fact. An error of £180 was made in bringing forward a total, and, although a balance was struck month after month, it was not discovered. The report continues -
As an illustration of the manner in which the work of the Department was transacted, Mr. Whitton mentioned that prior to his visit all moneys received by the telegraph clerks, whose office was on the ground floor, were taken by them to an officer on the second floor; he then took it personally to the cashier, whose office was in the basement.
That is an interesting commentary on the system which prevails. The cash was taken by an officer on the lower floor to an officer on the top floor, and it was then returned by that officer to the basement.
– W - Where was the burglar?
– I am coming to him -
In the Telegraph Check Branch a fair amount of work, foreign to the branch, was done in connexion with telephones. Some of it should have been done by the Telephone Branch, and the rest by the Accountant’s Branch proper.
Paying Office. - It was found that a great amount of the paying was being done by the Accountant, who is authorizing officer; and other officers, and on Mr. Whitton pointing out that this was improper, the practice was discontinued.
The Check Branch as a separate branch could be safely done away with; and much of the work done by the officers could be saved, if the greater portion of them were transferred to the Money Order Branch, and one to the Accountant’s Branch, as the checking that had been done by them could be better accomplished in the branches referred to without the keeping of unnecessary duplicate records.
The Accountant’s Branch. - Much unnecessary work was being done in the Accountant’s Branch, such as keeping money order cash book, accounts current, &c, telephone cash book (written up from the loose sheets supplied by the cashier), &c. One thing noticed particularly was the number of hand-ruled books in use throughout the Department. A large amount of time must have been take up dailyruling these books.
This is the report of the principal officer in the Audit Department of the Commonwealth -
The unsatisfactory condition of the Department was self-evident. Great allowance should be made for the unusual surroundings, but there was one’ point though which could not be so readily overlooked, and that was the persistent and deliberate disregard of regulations, and the instructions issued by head office in regard to which drastic action was necessary.
The following is a copy of a further memorandum by Mr. Whitton: - I
During my examination of the paying officers’’ account at the post offices, Perth. 1 noticed that all the vouchers submitted to me were certified by “ R. Hardman “ (the Chief Inspector). When I asked for an explanation, 1 was informed that he was authorized to sign in the absence of the Deputy Postmaster-General, and that advantage had been taken of that authority for several1 months past.
As the Deputy Postmaster-General has not been absent from his office during the period iri question, the vouchers now in your office, and those produced to me, are not certified in accordance with the law, therefore the authorizing officer has been guilty (and knowingly so, on his own admission) of a breach of Regulation No.
As regards the Chief Inspector, he too admits that he knew he should not sign the accounts. Although he made no protest in writing, he has protested from time to time verbally, and his action has been such that I think he should be exonerated.
So far as I can see, the Deputy Postmaster.General has nothing to urge in his own favour. In addition to the regulations, he had the express directions, in writing, of the head of his Department, that he was to certify.
Apart altogether from the trouble and extra work which their action must give, there is the more serious aspect, viz. : - That two of the chief officers of the Department, those above all others who should set an example to the staff, should, day after day, and month after month, deliberately break the regulations and the orders of the head of their Department. If it had been done in ignorance, there would have been some excuse, but one and all admitted to me that they knew they were doing wrong. In a question of accounts it is a very serious matter.
I may mention that, for the reports which I have just read, I am indebted to the present Postmaster-General. The House will be astonished to learn that the Government, of which the right honorable member for Swan was a member, allowed the late Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth tO retire on a handsome pension, although these reports were actually in their, possession. This was done although, as these reports show, he had deliberately broken the regulations of the Department, and could plead no extenuating circumstances.
– No; he is very much alive, for at the present time he is drawing a pension of something like £500 a year from the Commonwealth. Honorable members may perhaps be interested to learn that this officer. had not arrived at the statutory age of retirement, and that the law had Jo be considerably strained in order to permit him to leave the Department and draw ‘ a pension, as he was not incapacitated by reason of ill-health from the performance of his duty.
– Was any charge preferred against him?
– No. On the contrary, h.? arraigned his superior officers on several occasions. He had so much political influence in Perth, and had managed the Department in his own fashion for” so many years, that he thought that he could do as he liked. He even had the hardihood to flout his superior officer, and, I believe, the PostmasterGeneral of- the day. The Auditor-General, in his report for 1902-3, lays stress on Mr. Whitton’s remarks, and mentions that irregularities were discovered in connexion with moneys received in the telephone and other branches of the Perth Post Office, to which reference is made in an early portion, of the report. It was also found that over £4,000 per annum had been short-charged for telephone rentals. There have been no similar disclosures in connexion with the management of the Department in the other States. In view of the charges which we have made, and the aspersions which have been cast upon us for attacking the management of the Western Australian Postal Department, I have thought it necessary, even at the risk of wearying the House, to read these reports from the highest officials in the Commonwealth. Having performed that duty, I pass on to another matter. I indorse every word that has been said by the honorable member for Kennedy in reference to the vote for a mail service to the New Hebrides and other islands. I think that the Government have been very remiss in placing £6,000 on the Estimates to provide for the service for a whole year, when they knew that that service could not be commenced until six months of the twelve had elapsed. When the matter was being discussed on the Estimates, I was induced not to press my objection to the item to a division, on the assurance of the Treasurer that we should be given an opportunity to move a reduction when the Appropriation Bill was before the House. Now it ap- pears that the practice of the House of Commons, by which we are bound, will not allow a private member to move such a reduction.
– We can oppose the second reading of the Bill.
– Yes, but I think that the Government should of their own motion reduce the item from £6,000 to£3,000, as provision has to be made for half a year only.
– No more will be spent than is actually earned.
– My point is that, as we have to provide for the expense of carrying on the service only from the 1st January, to the 30th June next, it is not necessary to vote a sum sufficient to cover the cost for a whole year.
– Whenever there are delays in dealing with Estimates, instances of this kind occur.
– Surely Ministers might have arranged to place a smaller amount on the Estimates, knowing that that would be sufficient. There are some very suspicious circumstances in connexion with this mail service. The first is that the Government are prepared to give £6,000 to one particular company without calling for competitive tenders.
– Is one of the suspicious circumstances the fact that the Government of which the honorable member was a Minister approved of the arrangement?
– Not of the full item.
– The leader of the Opposition did.
– Not without competition.
– Yes; just as it stands.
– I was not aware of it. The Government should invite tenders for this service in the ordinary way, and the House should be informed of the nature of the agreement which has been made. It seems to me that one particular company has been selected for specially favoured treatment. .
– I think that all the information on the subject has been printed in the form of a return.
– Not all. We have not been informed as to the terms of the proposed contract.
– The terms are the same as at present, with an extended service.
– I hope that a statement will be made by a Minister in connexion with this matter. I wish now to refer to a matter connected with the administration of the Customs Department, involving, I think, a considerable hardship, and I feel sure the Minister of Home Affairs will listen sympathetically to the case. Recently a
Western Australian importer received a small shipment of dress boxes, made of cardboard, with his name printed on the lids. Until recently the importation of such boxes was subject to the payment of a duty of 25 per cent., about which the importer made no complaint, but his last shipment was treated as advertising matter, and charged 3d. per lb., which was equivalent to a duty of about 95 per cent, on the invoiced cost. I wrote to the Department on the subject, reporting the facts, and I received the following reply from the Minister: - 18th November, 1904.
In reply to your letter of 16th inst., relative to the duty charged on certain cardboard boxes, the lids of which are printed with the name ofthe importer, I have the honour to inform you that the goods in question are classified for duty as advertising matter under item 122 (a) of the Tariff, and in accordance with the provisions of section 138 of the Customs Act. The principle is similar to that involved in the decision on page 14 of the Tariff Guide, viz., paper bags, such as those stamped with a trader’s name, e.g., “ Robinson,” 3d. per lb. If imported plain (in which case the printing would be done here), i.e., without the printing on the lid, the boxes would be liable to 25 per cent, under item 123.
As regards the closing paragraph of your letter-
The importer had also had his name printed on some ready-made clothing, and had expressed the fear that this, too, might be charged as advertising matter -
I desire to point out that in the case of drapery, boots and shoes, &c, imported in cartoons or other immediate containing packages, the value of such cartoons or packages is included in the value of the goods for duty. Such boxes are not adapted for further use, and are, therefore, not dealt separately for duty purposes.
Inquiry is now being made regarding the importer’s statement that hitherto 25 per cent. only has been charged on dress boxes with the name printed on the lids.
P.S. - The ruling in the case to which your letter has reference was duly considered by me in connexion with a similar Victorian case, and approved after an interview with the importer.
I do not regard that reply as satisfactory. The amount of work which would be given locally in the printing of the importer’s name on the lids of the boxes issurely not sufficient to justify putting him to the expense and inconvenience of importing the boxes separately, and having slips of paper on which his name is printed locally pasted on their lids. It is much easier and better for him to have the boxes sent out ready for use. Surely, even adopting the extreme protectionist view, it is going too far to increase a duty from 25 per cent, to 95 per cent, to give the small amount of employment which the printing of names on boxes would afford. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will bring the matter again under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and that a more satisfactory decision will be given by the latter.
– There is a matter in connexion with the administration of the Public Service Act to which I direct the attention of Ministers. Section 31 of that Act reads as follows: -
Last session I drew attention to one or two appointments which had created a considerable amount of heart-burning among our public servants, and to-day I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to an injustice which was done to a man in the Victorian Patent Office when that Department was transferred to the Commonwealth. I have already directed his attention to the case, but it is necessary that some public protest should be made against what I consider an unjustifiable overlooking of an officer’s services. This officer had done excellent service in the Department, and yet he received notice that his services were to be summarily dispensed with. I know that there was no obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to take over this officer, but I think that some consideration should have been shown for him, in view of the fact that he was admirably suited for a position which was filled by the appointment of a person from outside. I think that honorable members are justified in expecting that the most rigid care shall be exercised in the administration of the Public Service Act, and that injustice and partiality shall, as far as possible, be avoided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members a matter which should have been dealt wilh when the Defence Estimates were under consideration. I am at a great disadvantage in speaking upon this matter, because the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who was to have presented the case to the House, and is in possession of all the papers relating to it, is unfortunately not able to attend here to-day. The subject to’ which I wish to refer is the retirement of Colonel Tom Price, who was District Commandant in Queensland. Colonel Price has done very efficient work in Victoria and elsewhere. He was the officer who organized and first took charge of the Mounted Rifles, and I think that the work accomplished by him in that capacity has earned for him the gratitude of the people of Victoria. When the Defence Forces were handed over to the Commonwealth, and Commandants were appointed to the various States, Colonel Price, although he had reached the retiring age, was specially asked by the General Officer Commanding to take charge of the forces in Queensland. I do not profess to say that the notes which I have in my possession are accurate in every detail, or that they can be fully borne out by documentary evidence, because I understand that in some cases conversations are relied on. As I understand the position, it is as follows : - Upon the Estimates for 1902 a sum of money was provided which was to be applied towards compensating certain officers who were being retired from the Defence Forces. I believe that Colonel Price was one of the officers who would have participated in such allowances.
– Colonel Price’s name will be found mentioned in the papers that were laid before the House.
– I understand that Colonel Price was named as one of those officers who was entitled to compensation on retiring, and that he was asked by the General Officer Commanding, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to accept the position of District Commandant in Queensland for a period of two years. Two months after his arrival there, he was notified that he was to be retired, and that the payment of a gratuity of £1,169 would be recommended. He had, however, expended some £350 in transferring himself and his family to Brisbane, and in settling himself in a position which he believed he was to hold for two years. When this matter was put before him, I understand that he asked if the , £350 would be reimbursed, but received no reply from the General Officer Commanding. Upon the 31st of October of the same year his appointment was confirmed, and I “understand th”at Colonel Price was told by the Minister of Defence - I. am only speaking from memory - that in accepting the position he would have to understand that, so far as the Minister was concerned, he would not be able to guarantee him the payment of a retiring allowance, because, although an amount had been placed on the Estimates, there was no certainty that it would be revoted. Colonel Price said that he was willing to leave the matter in the hands of Parliament. He continued to carry out the duties connected with his appointment, and received in addition to the salary he had previously enjoyed as the officer commanding the Mounted Rifles in Victoria, only some £8 per annum. He was fully under the impression that upon completing his two years of service Parliament would recognise the work that he had done for the country, and would not leave him out in the cold in regard to compensation. I assume that whilst he was acting as District Commandant in Queensland his services were fully worth the salary he received, and in fact the honorable member for Maranoa has informed me that he rendered excellent service. He is an officer of experience, not only in Australia, but in India, and he bore a gallant part in the South African war. Therefore, I think this matter is one which the House may very well take into consideration!. I understand that when Colonel Price went to Queensland, a sum of money was provided upon the Estimates, out of which he could have received a retiring allowance. That money was available for two months afterwards, and I am under the impression that the then Minister of Defence, the right honorable member for Swan, offered him his retiring allowance of £1,169. Thereupon, the Colonel asked that he should be reimbursed the money which he was out of pocket as the result of accepting the position of Commandant of the Queensland Forces. I understand that the Minister informed him that if he did not retire, he would not be able to claim compensation at a later period.
– Did the Colonel hold out foi the larger sum?
– No. He replied,I was asked to go to Queensland by the General Officer Commanding, who assured me that my services would be useful to the Commonwealth.” Two months after his arrival, having been subjected to an expense of about £350, he was asked to retire, and to accept the compensation to which he was entitled, namely, , £1,169. As, however, the Government declined to reimburse him the £350 which he was out of pocket, he was content to serve two years in Queensland at a comparatively low rate of pay, and to trust Parliament to give him the recompense to which he was entitled at the time of his transfer. I hold that whilst Colonel Price was discharging the duties of Commandant of the Queensland Forces, he was doing work which was commensurate with the salary that he was receiving. Consequently, the money paid to him in that way cannot be regarded as a part of his compensation.
– He was warned.
– He was told that if he retired he would receive compensation, but that if he remained in the service he would have to ask Parliament to make him a special grant. He trusted Parliament to deal fairly with him. That is the whole position. During his stay in the Northern State he did good work for the salary which he received.
– That goes without saying. Why has the matter not been brought before Parliament?
– It was intended to take that course, but, as in the case of the Irishman, what was everybody’s business became nobody’s business.
– Do the Government disclaim responsibility in connexion with the matter ?
– The Government saythat the matter is one for Parliament to decide.
– I shall explain the Government’s position later on.
– I think that the House will scarcely be inclined to take advantage of a technicality to precluae Colonel Price from obtaining that compensation which at one time he was entitled to receive. Had the honorable and learned member for Bendigo been present, he would have put the case very much better than I have done. I appeal to the House to look into this matter, and to deal fairly with Colonel Price, without regard to any technicalities or mistakes which have been made.
– I should like to make a few observations upon this subject. When in 1902 this Parliament voted a certain sum, amounting to one month’s pay for every year of service, to compensate officers about to be retired from the Defence Forces, it was clearly laid down that the action then taken by Parliament was not to be regarded as a precedent, and that officers who might retire in the future should not consider themselves as having any right to such retiring allowance. It was pointed out that the provision then made was of an extraordinary nature, and was intended to meet a special set of circumstances. Amongst the officers who might have retired then was Colonel Price. ‘He was entitled to retire by reason of having reached the age limit under the Regulations. But just previous to the decision of Parliament to grant retiring allowances he had been appointed Commandant of the Queensland Defence Forces for a period of two years. He had commenced his duties, and was naturally unwilling to relinquish his position. He wished to hold his appointment for the two years before he retired, and to receive the retiring allowance he was then eligible for at the end of the two years. As Minister of Defence at that time, I was unable to comply with his request, because the vote covering the retiring allowances of these officers was limited to one year. I told the Colonel that he might remain two years longer in the service, but that if he did so. he would have to take his chance as regards the matter of compensation. Apart from the fact that he had just commenced his duties, I may mention that he had been subjected to a considerable expense in removing his family to Queensland. Naturally, he was very loth to sacrifice so much. Two years of his service have since elapsed, and he now desires to be placed in the position that he occupied two years ago. In other words, he wishes his retiring allowance to be now paid to him. Considering that all the officers who retired at that time received compensation, I. think that he may fairly be treated in the same manner. Had he not accepted the appointment of Commandant of the Queensland Defence Forces, we should have been obliged to appoint some other officer, and to have paid him for his services. If the
Government comply with his request, the Commonwealth will not be a penny worse off than it would have been had he retired two years ago. I would further point out that Colonel Price has had a long and distinguished career as an administrator in time of peace, and as a brave soldier in time of war. He was instrumental in bringing the Mounted Rifles in Victoria to their present state of efficiency, and he has also served the Empire with credit and distinction in South Africa and other parts of the world. I should be sorry to see him lose the gratuity which he could have received two years ago, simply because he elected to continue in the service of the Commonwealth for that period.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - As a representative of Victoria, I wish to say that those who have come into contact with Colonel Price will share our desire that no injustice should be done to so gallant an officer. Not only has he accomplished good work as an administrator in Victoria, but he also rendered excellent service in the field in South Africa. Whilst engaged there, the cause for which he was fighting was always paramount with him. As an officer, he commanded the respect of every individual under his command. The right honorable member for Swan has put the position in a nutshell. I venture to say that the claim of Colonel Price will be indorsed not only by Victorian representatives, but by representatitves from Queensland and the other States. Had the honorable member for Maranoa been present he would have supported it with enthusiasm. I am sure that if he were “present he would vigorously support our request that Colonel Price should not be deprived of any of the privileges which it was proposed to confer upon him two years ago. We all know that had he consulted his personal convenience, he would not have gone to Queensland. But he accepted the position of District Commandant in that State, and in the opinion of all his friends he has a just claim to. be reinstated. He demands nothing in the shape of a gratuity, but that which we all are prepared to support as a right. I rose only to support this request, and am sure that it will receive the sympathetic support of every representative of Victoria.
– I should certainly like to indorse the statement made by the honorable member for Grampians. Colonel Price is a great and dis.tingusihed Australian soldier, and did splendid work for the Commonwealth during the South African war. Although some of us may have objected to the vigour of his language and actions in days gone by, no one could deny that Tie always did his best to serve, not his own interests, but those of the State. It was in the interests of the . Commonwealth rather than in his own that he accepted the position of District Commandant of Queensland, and had he been a little less unselfish he would not have been treated in the way which it is said the Government are prepared to deal with him. Those who know the state of efficiency to which the Australian Light Horse has attained will recognise that it is largely due to the splendid organization carried out by Colonel Price as officer commanding the Victorian Mounted Rifles. I remember that late General Officer Commanding visiting an encampment at Langwarrin about six years ago, and acknowledging that the Victorian Mounted Rifles whom he saw there were a model for the mounted forces of Australia. Later on, when he was appointed General Officer Commanding of the Commonwealth Forces, he selected them as a pattern for the formation and organization of the Mounted Rifles and the Light Horse of Australia. Colonel Price was injured while serving in South Africa, and in that respect alone - quite apart from all other considerations - has some claim on the Commonwealth. I know of one officer who, after serving Victoria for some years, was allowed to remain in the Forces for a considerable time after reaching the retiring age, and at the end of his period of service, he received the sum of £1,150. I do riot desire to mention the name of that officer, but I feel satisfied that if the Minister refers to the departmental papers he will arrive at the conclusion that Colonel Price has greater claims upon the Commonwealth than had the officer to whom I refer. My desire is that officers and men shall be treated alike. If the Minister determines to make a grant to Colonel Price, it seems to me that some consideration should also be extended by him to other men who were retired at the time in question, although they were still well fitted to render good service to the Commonwealth. Several other officers, in addition to Colonel Price - although they did not hold such a prominent position in the Forces - were retired in this way, and I hold that they have some claim for consideration. I desire now to refer to the manufacture of cordite in Australia. I believe that the Department has in hand a quantity equal to one year’s supply in time of peace. That, however, would hardly be equal to one day’s supply in time of war.
– Who said that we had that quantity in stock?
– I shall be pleased to learn from the Minister that there is more than a year’s supply in stock. I understand that under the contract entered into by the Department with Captain Whitney, of the Colonial Ammunition Works, for a year’s supply of the cordite necessary for making cartridges-
– The Government supplies the cordite to Captain Whitney.
– Quite so; but I wish to direct attention to an offer which has been made to the Government by the Australian Explosives Company, which has a factory at Deer Park. Several honorable members, in company with honorable members of the Senate, recently inspected the Deer Park Factory, where the most up-to-date machinery for manufacturing explosives is to be found. I am led to believe that the Minister has declined to enter into a contract with the company for the supply of cordite, because it is not prepared to deliver it under 3s. per lb., whereas in England the price is only is. 6d. per lb. The difference, when we consider all the facts of the case, is not so great as would appear on the surface.
– It is a difference of only 100 per cent.
– Quite so; but we have to compare the price with that which prevails in England’ in time of war. During the South African war the British Government, which manufactures the cordite required for its own purposes, was not able to cope with the demand, and paid Nobel and Co., of Waltham Abbey - the parent of the factory at Deer Park - 2s. 6d. per lb. for a supply. I believe that the Minister himself is impressed with the importance of the question.
– It is one of the questions to which I give almost daily attention, but the honorable and learned member cannot expect me to make an announcement, until I have some definite statement to put before the House.
– I appreciate the great pressure of work put upon the Minister, and I believe that he is doing his best to cope with it. I am informed by the manager of the Deer Park Explosive Factory that the Ministry have rejected the proposal made to them to supply cordite on the terms I have stated. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the importance) of our being absolutely selfcontained, so far as ammunition is concerned, in time of war.
– Hear, hear; but it means money, and a lot of money.
– Not a lot of money. The proposal made by the manager of the company was that the- Government should pay for the necessary plant. At present the company manufactures various explosives, including gelignite, which is a coarser form of cordite, but has not the “ cord “ from which the latter derives its name. The company proposed that the Government should pay for the cost of the plant, £6,000, and offered either to allow the State to erect it on its grounds, or to put it up for the Government for a remuneration of 5 per cent, on the outlay. That seems to me a very fair proposition. The company has a large quantity of machinery in its factory at Deer Park, and would be prepared to keep and stock all the raw material necessary to supply Australia in time of war with an unlimited quantity of cordite for a subsidy of ,£1,500 a year. Allowing for a certain percentage, the subsidy would really amount to ,£1,800. As the result of that outlay, our supplies in time of war would not depend on outside sources from which we might be cut off, and I think that the expenditure would be a very reasonable one. Most of the raw material is obtainable in Australia. We can, for example, obtain the sulphur here, and we are already making sulphuric acid and nitric acid. The only material that would have to be imported is nitrate of soda. Deer Park forms part of my electorate, but I do not support this proposition merely because of that fact. I should be glad to hear that the Minister had entered into an arrangement with this or any other company for an adequate supply of cordite. I trust that some satisfactory arrangement will be made. While the Australian Explosives Company demand 3s. per lb. for the supply of cordite, as against 2s. 6d. per lb. charged in England, in time of war, I think it should not be overlooked that the wages paid in Australia are in some cases one-third more, and in others half as much again as those paid in England. In view of this fact, the increased charge sought to be imposed by the local works does not appear excessive. Another matter to which I desire to refer is the mail service to the New Hebrides and other islands of the Pacific, which has already been discussed this afternoon by the honorable member for Kennedy. A fortnight ago I asked the Prime Minister whether Burns, Philp, and Company were the only firm to be permitted to tender for this important service. The right honorable gentleman replied that he did not think “ the present proposal “ could be improved upon. I then asked if he would permit shipping firms other than Burns, Philp, and Company to compete, and received the reply, “ No, because we think the present proposal the best possible. 1 ‘ In view of the statement made this afternoon by the honorable member for Kennedy, that another company has offered to take up the services, and run larger steamers for a much lower rate, I fail to see why Burns, Philp, and Company should enjoy a monopoly in this respect. I asked the Prime Minister a day or two ago whether, in connexion with these postal and trading services, he would arrange that Melbourne and Brisbane should be equally with Sydney the terminal ports, so as to give shippers at those ports similar trade advantages. The Prime Minister replied -
My honorable friend the member for Maranoa has already pressed this matter upon the Government, so far as Brisbane is concerned, and I will inquire also so far as Melbourne is concerned.
Nothing appears to have been done. I think that for procrastination and for giving answers in such a way as to stave off further questioning, the right honorable gentleman holds the record. As the whole Commonwealth is called upon to pay the extra cost of obtaining these trading and postal facilities, Sydney should not be favoured beyond other ports, simply because the Prime Minister represents East Sydney in this House, and I urge the Government to see that fair treatment is given to every other- port in the Commonwealth, and that Melbourne, and Brisbane, which is nearer to the New Hebrides than Sydney is, shall not be placed at a disadvantage.
– With regard to the question of the supply of cordite referred to bv the honorable and learned member for Corio, all I feel justified in saying is that the supply of ammunition and its component parts is a matter of which a Minister of Defence should not lose sight, and I have not done so, though I do not pretend to have made any definite arrangement in the short time I have been in office, because many other pressing matters have engaged my attention. With regard to the case of Colonel Price, I found that the matter had not been finally dealt with when I entered the Department, and, knowing his long and valuable services, if I may express an opinion in regard to them, in assisting to secure the efficiency of the Forces of the Commonwealth, I approached its consideration in no unsympathetic spirit, although I realized that I was not to allow my sympathy to control my judgment in dealing with it. Perhaps, the fairest thing for une to do is to place the facts briefly before honorable members, so that they may be aware of the exact state of affairs, before I state the view which the Government take on the subject. On the 10th October, 1902, a return was laid on the table of the House, showing certain proposed retrenchments, in view of the previous decision of the House to reduce the military expenditure by the sum of £60,000. In that return, Colonel Price, who was then Commandant of Queensland, was named as one who was to be retired on account of his age. The regulations of the Department’ provided that officers of his rank should retire at sixty, and he was then within ten days of that age. On the 14th May, of the same year, he had accepted the position of Commandant of Queensland, in regard to which acceptance, he alleges that he had no option, while Major-General Hutton has stated specifically, both orally and in writing, that he had the fullest option of going to Queensland or not, as he chose.
– The position was offered to Colonel Price by Major-General Hutton ?
– Yes, and Colonel Price alleges that, although the request was made to him that he should take the position, it was a request which he could not very well refuse. The documents on the file, however, bear out Major-General Hutton’s statement rather than that of Colonel Price.
– I would believe Colonel Price before Major-General Hutton.
– I do not think thu the honorable and learned member should make an interjection of that sort, no matter where he may sit, when I am making a statement of the facts of the case. In his acceptance of the position, Colonel Price writes -
With reference to your memo, asking me if I am willing to accept the command of the Commonwealth Forces of Queensland, I have the honour to state that I am so willing.
He also asks that he shall be granted the full tenure of five years as a reward for services. Major-General Hutton, commenting on that letter, said -
I propose to recommend Colonel Price, as a special case, to be retained in the service for two years, from the 21st October next.
He pointed out that the Colonel could not be retained beyond October, I1904; because he would then have reached the age of sixty-two years. On the 18th July, 1902, Colonel Price was gazetted Commandant of Queensland, and proceeded to take up his command. At that time neither the Government nor Parliament had come to any decision on the question of gratuities, although it had been raised, and was under consideration. Colonel Price says that Major-General Hutton led him to understand that if gratuities were given, he would get his gratuity on reaching the age of sixty-two, whereas Major-General Hutton says that what he told Colonel Price was that he .would do his best to secure a gratuity for him, and would strongly support his request for a gratuity, which he did, as the documents on the file show. He went so far, for example, as to say that in his opinion Colonel Price had a moral claim which the Government could not disregard. The papers, however, confirm MajorGeneral Hutton’s recollection rather than that of Colonel Price, and I would point out that the Major-General was not in a position to make a specific promise. On the 10th October, Colonel Price was recommended for retirement on account of age, because of the decision of Parliament, to reduce the military expenditure.
– Who made the recommendation ?
– The General Officer Commanding.
– After promising Colonel Price that he would do his best to keep him in Queensland for two years?
– When that promise was made, the parliamentary reduction of the Defence expenditure was not contemplated. On the 15th October, Major-General Hutton notified Colonel Price that his name had been submitted for retirement, and for a gratuity on the recognised scale of one month’s pay for every year of service.
– Does Major-General Hutton indicate why he changed his mind about retaining Colonel Price’s services?
– No, but the reason is clear. He was called upon to reduce the military expenditure bv .£60,000, and’ he had to make a saving wherever he could. On the 1 5th October, Major-General Hutton caused the following notification to be sent to Colonel Price: -
I am desired by the General Officer Commanding to inform you that, consequent on the retrenchment ordered by the Government, he has, with regret, been compelled to submit your name for retirement, as from the 3rst December next. I am further to add that the General Officer Commanding has strongly recommended that a gratuity, at the rate of a month’s pay . for each year of service, be granted you on retirement.
On the 22 nd October, Colonel Price acknowledged the receipt of that notification, and reminded his superior officer that when he was sent to Queensland it was with the promise that he should remain until October, 1904 - a promise which Major-General Hutton had undoubtedly made to him. He also stated that he had incurred expenses amounting to about ,£350 in moving to Brisbane, which would not have been incurred had he not accepted the position of Commandant of Queensland. In “addition to the sum of .£1,169, t0 which his gratuity would come, he claimed ,£50 for uniform, and £100 for losses caused by moving, together with freedom from liability in connexion with the rental of a house which he had leased for two years. Major-General Hutton drew .the attention of the Minister to the promise made to Colonel Price, that he should be allowed to remain in Queensland until October, 1904, and the Minister –the right honorable member for Swan - on the 29th October, wrote -
I consider that, as far as the Government is concerned, Colonel Price’s case is the only onein which the Government is committed, and in his case only to a limited extent. In order to avoid any misunderstanding in cases like Colonel Price’s, it is absolutely necessary that the General Officer Commanding should not make any promise to officers to recommend them for advancement, &c, until he has obtained the approval of the Minister.
Major-General Hutton promised Colonel Price that he should be retained in his command for two years, without first obtaining Ministerial authority.
– I think he promised more than’ that.
– Possibly ; but that is the only promise that seems to have been indorsed by the Minister, who said, “ The promise having been made, I indorse it, but similar promises must not be made hereafter, unless my approval is first obtained.” I may say that the General Officer Commanding, in a minute of 29th October, stated that he had received verbal authority from the Minister ; but nothing to that effect appears in the papers. The right honorable member for Swan wrote, on 31st October, as follows: -
Having considered the question of Colonel Price’s retirement, I do not think that it is advisable to interfere with his present tenure of office unless he prefers to take the proposed compensation, and retire on the 31st December next.
At the time Colonel Price was appointed as Commandant of Queensland, it was known that he was nearly due for retirement for age (sixty years) under the Regulations, and the papers show that the General Officer Commanding promised to recommend Colonel Price, as a special case, to b”. retained for two years from the 21st October, 1902, when he attained the age of sixty.
Colonel Price was also informed by minute of the General Officer Commanding, dated 15th May, 1902, that under the Regulations of retirement for age, it would be impossible for him to hold any active command under the Commonwealth after the age of sixty-two, which he would attain upon the 21st October, 1904.
It seems, therefore, to me that, as these facts were before the Government when the appointment was made, the Government is committed to them ; and I, therefore, approve of the undertaking being adhered to.
Colonel Price’s services will therefore be retained until the 21st October, 1904, when, under the age regulations, he must retire.
Then he added: -
I am unable to make any promise as to whether any gratuity will be paid to him on his retirement, as the present appropriation of gratuities to retiring officers and men was made on the distinct understanding that it should not form a precedent.
This was communicated to Colonel Price. It is only fair to point out that the issue which Colonel Price raised, namely, that he should be paid an extra £350, in addition to the ,£1,1,69, was passed by. That matter was not dealt with, and Colonel Price was not specifically asked, whether he would take ,£1,169, plus the ,£35° > but his statement that he was promised an extra two years’ appointment was recognised and admitted. This is to a certain extent in favour of Colonel Price. Then on the 5th November, 1902, Colonel Price replied -
I have carefully considered your telegram, “ A “ 51 of 29th October, 1902, informing me that the Minister has been pleased to approve of the continuance of my .present appointment for two years.
I also note that I am given the opportunity of retiring on gratuity on 31st December. From a sordid point of view, the latter would have been the course that I should have accepted, but careful consideration has caused me to feel that so long as I am able to give my services to my coun- try, pecuniary considerations (unless extreme) should not weigh against the clear call of duty.
I have exemplified this when I accepted my present appointment at 13s. 4d. per mensem advance on a regimental command that entailed much less expense. Actuated by such feelings, I wired to you that I accepted trie offer to remain until 2 ISt October, or two years after the age of sixty. I now ratify that wire.
I further note that your telegram informs me that the Minister is unable to make any promise as to gratuity on retirement at any future date, but I am constrained to believe that services, such as I have rendered to the country, will not be allowed to pass unrewarded, because I do not voluntarily give up my appointment at the present time.
– He wanted to keep both strings to his bow.
– It will be seen that Colonel Price also passed by the claim for £350, which circumstance tells against him, as the other omission told in his favour, and perhaps to about the same extent. The right honorable member for Swan, upon seeing this letter from Colonel Price, wrote on the 14th November -
I have told him that no promise can be made - so he can have no cause for grievance with me if his hope is not realized.
Colonel Price noted this, and wrote as follows : -
Noted. - I should have no cause of grievance if I did not get compensation on retirement, but seeing how small the addition to my salary has been, I retain the hope that when my time comes to retire I may receive generous treatment for my past services.
There the matter ended, until the current vear. Colonel Price became ill, and the Medical Board decided that he should retire; but the Government, the Watson Administration, determined that, although Colonel Price would have to retire, owing to ill-health, before he would 0th2rwi.se have been called upon to leave the service he should be paid his salary until the end of the term for which he was appointed. On the 20th April of this year, the General Officer Commanding called attention to the facts of 1902, and said that the Government were under a moral liability to pay Colonel Price £1,600. The General Officer Commanding was wrong as to the amount, but he had backed up Colonel Price’s claim all along. Upon the nth May of the current year, the then Minister of Defence, Senator Dawson, wrote the following memorandum : -
This matter has been before the Cabinet, and it was not considered that the claim for gratuity on retirement should be recognised, seeing that Colonel Price had the option either to retire on compensation at the time of the reductions, dr to continue his service. He elected to continue his service, and therefore had a longer period on full pay.
It was distinctly pointed out to Colonel Price at the time that no promise would be made as to the issue of gratuity at any future time.
The compensation for injury is to be considered on a further report by the General Officer Commanding.
Colonel Price then wrote, stating that he had no option; but in that he was inaccurate. It is true that he had no option before he went to Queensland - no one had any option up to that time - but afterwards he had. He also pointed out that the sum of . £350 was involved. Upon, the nth July, Senator Dawson wrote a further minute - I am leaving out everything that is not essential to the case - to the effect that the question had already been considered, and after citing the facts, said that he could not alter his decision. Colonel Price then protested still further, and the matter came under my notice. I brought it before the Cabinet, which came to the decision that they could not reverse the decision of the previous Government. Then, further representations were made to me. Colonel Price saw me, and’ I asked him to put in writing anything he wanted to say in addition to what appeared upon the file. From first to last, this file has been available to anY one concerned on behalf of Colonel Price, and a number of honorable members have perused the papers. After considering Colonel Price’s further statement, I sent it on to the General Officer Commanding for his comments, and it is then that the conflicts of evidence appear. I said -
After fully considering this matter again, and especially Colonel Price’s last statement, with the General Officer Commanding’s comments thereon, I regret that I cannot see that any fresh facts have been brought to light sufficient to justify me in varying the decision already arrived at. Please inform Colonel Price.
Colonel Price was so informed. I think I have told honorable members every essential fact. The Government’s position ls this : They are the custodians of the public funds, and, as such, it is their duty to preserve them. They did not feel that such a case was made out as would justify them in giving compensation to Colonel Price, and asking Parliament to vote the necessary money. They thought the question was more one of generous treatment than one of strict fairness. On behalf of the
Government, I may’ say that they are not in any- way unsympathetic towards Colonel Price and that, if it is the general wish of the House that we should extend generous treatment to Colonel Price in consideration of his past services, we are quite prepared to reconsider .the whole case.
– And that of every other person who has rendered us service?
– What I say is, that if it appears to be the wish of the House that the Government should reconsider the matter, we shall be quite prepared .to act in that way. I give that undertaking, but I go no further. That seems to me to be a fair position to take up. We have not been actuated by anything but a desire to do right.
– What is the attitude of the Government?
– I have pointed out the conclusion to which the Government arrived, and I have stated that if the House appears to wish the Government to reconsider the matter, we shall have no objection to do so. ‘
– I hope that the House will urge upon the Government that this is a case, if ever there was one, in which generous treatment should be extended. Although I have had very few opportunities of meeting Colonel Price - only once while he was District Commandant in Queensland, and once prior to that, whilst he was occupying some position in Victoria - he has been known to me through other officers, and the men who have served under him for many years. From the testimony which has been borne on every hand, I judge that he is one of those rare military men, who, in addition to possessing extensive professional knowledge and high capacity, have the great gift of winning the attachment of the men with whom they are associated, and inspiring them to make sacrifices in the interests of military discipline and efficiency. During the whole of the time he was in’ Victoria, no officer approached him in popularity. He founded the Mounted Rifles in this State, and established a similar body of men in another State. He moved about among the farmers’ sons, from whom the Mounted Rifles were principally recruited, brought the men together, drilled and disciplined them, and imparted to them his own interest in the work which was being undertaken. I do not think that there was ever a finer force in Australia than the Mounted Rifles,- which were formed on the initiative of Colonel Price, and were for many years trained by him, and which retained his spirit to thelast. Therefore, I am prepared, from the testimony- of many acquaintances and friends, who have been associated with the defence movement, to say that the work done by Colonel Price from 1885 onwards in Victoria, South Australia, and in another State, was really something exceptional, and quite outside his ordinary military duties.^ I do not know that we possess many military officers who could have gone into the country districts and rallied the men around them, drilled, and disciplined them in the way. that Colonel Price did. He had served for twenty years in the Imperial Army, and was a well-trained soldier. After having been connected with the Defence Department of Victoria for many years, he went to South Africa, and again I heard of him from the men of the forces under him on a number of occasions, and never in any but terms of the warmest commendation. The men were prepared to follow him anywhere,, and they were never weary of speaking of his self-sacrifice. When he was wounded upon one occasion, he refused to retire, as he might well have clone. He continued with his force with a broken rib for many weeks, he shared all the privations of his men, and set the first example throughout the whole campaign. I have never heard a word concerning these things from himself, but I have been informed of them by others. Upon his return to Victoria he was transferred to Queensland by the General Officer Com.manding, under circumstances which go far to bear out his statement. I do not question the accuracy of Major-General Hutton ‘s memory : but, speaking as he did, as a military officer, I am inclined to _ think that the offer made to Colonel Price was not a formal one. The latter apparently regarded it in the nature of a command, and accordingly broke up his home within a year or two’ of his leaving the service, and travelled about 1,500 miles for an increased salary of £8 a year. His appointment as Commandant of the Queensland forces, from a monetary stand -point, was a distinct loss to him. From the honorable member for Maranoa I have learned that in Queensland Colonel Price achieved the same success that he achieved elsewhere. Everybody seems to have become attached to him, and therefore those under his command gave him better service than they would otherwise have done. I have reason to suppose that the only official reprimand which he ever received was because he did not maintain a proper distinction between himself and his men. He seems to have had the colonial habit of associating with them upon terms of freedom and equality. Here, then, is the case of an officer who was offered his compensation under terms which would have involved him in a loss of between £400 and £500. In other words, he was virtually asked to accept one-half of the gratuity which he would have received had he remained in his own home and in his own State. Under the circumstances, can any one wonder that a person of his bluff temperament should say, “ I prefer to continue in the service for two years, and ro trust Parliament to treat me generously.” I am aware that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has made an exhaustive study of the whole of the papers bearing upon this question, and that he would have been prepared to lay the case fully before the House, had he not been called away -this afternoon. I do hope that the House will take a liberal view of the matter. I am sorry that the Government have not seen their way to promise more than a reconsideration of it. I think that the quite exceptional circumstances surrounding Colonel Price’s case, arising partly out of his character, and partly out of the conditions in which he was placed, should receive exceptional recognition.
– Could not that result be accomplished better by means of a motion?
– But for a mistake the matter would have been brought’ forward by way of an amendment to reduce the Defence Estimates by
– I am bound to point out to the honorable and learned member that such a proposition could not have been received.
– There is a method, I understand, bv which the opinion of the House upon this question could have been obtained by means of a specific motion. If ever there was a case which should commend itself to the generous instincts of honorable members it is that of Colonel Price, who is now dependent upon the work of his own hands after forty years’ of most distinguished service, many of which were spent in Australia.
– I rise to add my protest to those which have already been entered by the honorable member for Kennedy and others in regard to the New Guinea mail service. It is remarkable that the Government should have agreed to accept an offer from a private firm for a service of this character without first calling for tenders. So far as the South Pacific service is concerned, I have already expressed my opinion upon that, and I have nothing further to add. But in regard to the other service, I think that it is the duty of the Government to call for tenders. But I find tEat they have agreed to fall in with the suggestion made by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. The Government propose -
To establish a service connecting Thursday Island or Cooktown with all the ports in New Guinea. The inconvenience of the present uncertain means of communication has been long and keenly felt, and it has been the opinion of those connected with New Guinea that a regular and frequent communication will do much to promote the development of the Possession.
The service employs only one steamer. In connexion with the proposed service, the public are absolutely in the dark as to the tonnage of the vessels to be employed in it, their horse-power, and, indeed, all the particulars to which they are entitled. I am credibly informed than an offer has already been made by another firm to run this service for £950 per annum, or less than one-half the amount for which Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company are asking. So strongly do I feel upon the matter that I am determined to divide the House upon it unless the Prime Minister expresses his willingness to call for tenders. I should further like to impress upon the right honorable gentleman the advisability of making Cooktown, and not Thursday Island, the terminus of the service. We already have a weekly service from Melbourne to Cooktown, and it seems to me that, in establisha service to Thursday Island, the Government are not granting to the residents of New Guinea the postal facilities which they require, and which they might bestow by making Cooktown the terminus of the service. The route proposed to be adopted is a very roundabout one, whereas that from Cooktown to Samarai is almost a straight line. Moreover, the latter route would serve the greatest number of residents. It is suggested that an arrangement can be made with the London Missionary Society to bear a portion of the expense of the service in consideration of the steamer calling at certain mission stations and some trading stations upon the south coast of New Guinea. These trading stations, I understand, are devoted solely to the production of copra in the interests of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. It seems to me an. outrageous proceeding on the part of the Government to propose to subsidize a route for the benefit of this particular firm. If need be, I shall divide the House upon this motion.
– There is a lot of other money involved in the Appropriation Bill.
– The Prime Minister can state that he will notgive the contract to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, without first calling for tenders.
– He has already said that he will give it to that company.
– He has not stated definitely that he will, so far as this branch of the service is concerned. I believe that the other firm which has made an offer to the Government is equally able to carry the mails. I understand also, that it is prepared to comply with all the conditions which may be imposed. Moreover, it has a better boat than have Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company, and I trust that it will receive consideration. There is another matter to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs. Charges of a most serious character have been made in this House respecting the Customs administration in New Guinea. These charges ought to be investigated. If the Minister has not been informed of them, I will take the opportunity of supplying him with correspondence bearing upon them.
– Will the honorable member send me the particulars?
– I shall do so with pleasure. Another matter which is worthy of consideration has reference to the laxitv of the Customs administration Upon the northern coasts of Queensland. I am informed that a great quantity of opium, upon which duty is not collected, is being introduced there. During the term of office of the late Government I had occasion to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the matter, and subsequent events fully justified my action, some of the firms trading in one particular locality being heavily fined for smuggling opium. After a storm comes a calm, and I am led to believe that the efforts of the Department have been relaxed in a way that is not beneficial to the revenue, or creditable to the Administration.
I trust that the Minister will give attention to this matter, and, in conclusion, I earnestly hope that the Prime Minister will give us an assurance that he will not allow the Commonwealth to be mulcted in a totally unnecessary way in respect of the New Guinea mail service.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- Were I acquainted with Colonel Price, which I am not, I should be disposed to congratulate him upon the championship of his cause in this House. A claim brought forward by the honorable member for Grampians, supported by the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Oxley, and the right honorable member for Swan, needs only to receive the approval of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, in order to indicate for what manner of man it is being made. It may seem ungracious to oppose the granting of the suggested gratuity, but we all are familiar with the way in which the Government have dealt with similar claims advanced by obscure and friendless officers of the Public Service.
– It seems that Colonel Price was retired because he had not sufficient swagger.
– He certainly has influential friends. The Government will assuredly hear a great deal more of this matter if they give Colonel Price more than that to. which he is legally entitled. The claim was fully investigated by one Government, which arrived at a certain decision.
– Two Governments have come to the same conclusion.
– I thank the honorable member for the correction. Two Governments investigated Colonel Price’s claim, and each arrived at the conclusion that he should receive nothing more than that which the law would allow. When the Commonwealth is in a position to be generous to the poor and friendless members of the Public Service, it will be quite soon enough to support the claim made by Colonel Price for a gratuity.
– I do not think that any member of the service can be poorer than is Colonel Price.
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat was the leader of a Government which laid down a rule that is working very harshly. Let me recall the case of a postal official who, while in the execution of his duty, fell from a telegraph pole and received injuries which resulted in his death. At that time there was a sum of ,£10 or £12 due to him in respect of salary, and the right honorable member for Balaclava, as Treasurer in the Deakin Administration, actually deducted from this amount, which was claimed by the man’s widowed mother, a sum in respect of medical fees and the cost of conveying him to the hospital. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, as the head of that Government, must accept the responsibility for the rule which was thus laid down.
– This is the first that I have heard of it.
– The matter was discussed in this House.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs was the first to bring it under my notice, as Postmaster-General; but I found that my hands were tied. I could not do justice to the widowed mother of this man without violating a rule laid down by the Deakin Government.
– I have no recollection of it.
– It was certainly a very hard .case.
– Hear, hear.
– And there are others tint are equally distressing. In view of this rule, it would be monstrous for us to instruct the Ministry to grant Colonel Price any sum other than that which the law and the practice of the Department allow. I do not wish it to be thought that I would deal ungraciously with any man who has served the community ; but, when I heard the honorable member for Kooyong mention , the risks which this officer took whilst serving in South ‘Africa, I could not help inquiring whether he exposed himself to a greater risk than did anyprivate soldier.
– I said that no risk was ever taken by a private soldier which Colonel Price was not prepared to take.
– I did not understand the honorable member to speak in that way of the risk which this officer took; I thought that he spoke of the hardship-
– One of my sons, who served with Colonel Price in South Africa, told me that on the battle-field he would stand up and view the enemy through his field glasses, although he would not permit a private soldier to show his head above the rocks behind which they were sheltering.
– I have no desire to reflect on this officer’s personal courage, nor on his services to the Commonwealth. My sole contention is that we have no right to make one rule for the Colonel Prices of the service and another for the poor and friendless members of it. I do not oppose the granting of a gratuity because of any ill- feeling; and when I say that I do not even know Colonel Price by sight honorable members will at once acquit me of being actuated by any personal motive in taking up this stand. Until the heartless rule to which I have referred gives way to a more generous method of dealing with such cases, we shall have no right to be lavish in our treatment of this gentleman. It is, to say the least, rather curious that Colonel Price should have found so many able champions in the Ministerial corner, honorable members who did not have a word to say when the case of the postal official to which I have referred was brought before the House.
– I never heard of it.
– IT the honorable member turns to Hansard he will find that the case was discussed in the House. I put it plainly to the Ministry that if they make flesh of one and fish of another - if they are going to make one rule for the Colonel Prices of the service, and another for the poor and obscure members of it - they will hear from us again.
– -I did noi intend to speak to this ruction, but 1 cannot resist making a brief reference to the proposition which has been so ably supported by the ‘honorable and learned member for Ballarat and others. ‘ When the Defence Forces were taken over bv the Commonwealth, quite a number of men who had served under the States administration were entitled by length of service in some cases to an increase of 6d., and in others to an increase of is. per day, but the right honorable member for Swan, as Minister of Defence, refused to recognise their claims.
– That is an ex parte statement.
– In view of this fact, I cannot understand why honorable members opposite should support a proposal to grant a gratuity to Colonel Price. This is undoubtedly another attempt to mete out one form of justice to the man on top, and another to those at the bottom of the ladder. 1 protest against ‘ the proposal, and trust that the Government will not depart from the rule which has been laid down. Let justice be done; do not let us refuse to deal justly with mert in the ranks, and, at the same time, give special consideration to an officer.
– The honorable member is attributing motives to honorable members on this side of the House which he lias no right to suggest.
– I do not understand the right honorable member’s bark.
– If the honorable member repeats the suggestion he has made, I shall ask that he be called to order.
– The attitude of the right honorable member suggests that he is ashamed of his action in refusing to give the rank and file of the service .that which the State had previously arranged to pay them. I desire now, to refer to the question which was introduced by the honorable member for Kennedy. I believe that we should invite .tenders for carrying on a mail service between Australia and the South Sea Islands. There should be competition ; certainly no preference should be given to a particular company. The question involved is far more important than is the mere matter of maintaining a mail service. , between Australia and the islands of the Pacific. The Government wish to subsidize, a company which has a monopoly of the Australian trade with the Islands. It carries on a wholesale and retail storekeeping business in the islands, and the Government propose to subsidize a monopoly, which we have no right to support, in order that it may enter into competition with a German company for the trade of the Marshall Islands, which are beyond the sphere of British influence. I find that the Jaluit Trading Company has been granted by the German Government a monopoly of the trade in the Marshall Group, and to protect it from the interference of Bums, Philp, and Company, that Government have imposed very high tolls or dues on the latter’s .vessels. On the first voyage of the Ysabel to the Marshall Group, a charge of .£225 per month was made. On the second occasion when she visited the islands, she was refused water, and, on the third occasion, the dues were increased to ,£450 per month. Payment by means of a draft was refused, and the amount was subsequently paid in coin of the realm, and the steamer allowed to take her cargo and depart. Finding that these impositions were not sufficient to deter the company from entering into competition with the Jaluit Company, the dues have now been increased to ,£10,800 per annum. These facts have all been set out in correspondence on the subject which has been printed in the columns of the .Sydney Morning, Herald, and they show that the granting of the proposed subsidy is a much more serious question than it may at first .appear to be. Burns, Philp, and Company are attempting to obtain the trade of the Marshall Islands against the wish of the German company which has been granted a monopoly of. that trade, and our international relationships in the-Pacific are sufficiently involved already to make it unwise for us to risk trouble by assisting them in this enterprise. I have no objection to giving the company every facility to trade freely within the British sphere of influence, but, seeing the resentment which has been shown by the Germans to our invasion of their trade, I think we shall be taking great risks, and may have to pay dearly in the future for our temerity, if we continue this subsidy. It must be remembered, moreover, that Burns, Philp, and Company are not merely, a shipping company. They are interested in trading stores throughout the Island’s, and their influence is so great that they have practically a monopoly in the supply, of the necessaries of life to the settlers there. The company have promised to employ only white labour on their steamers. They have undertaken to put six vessels into the trade, and to man them with white labour ; but when thev recently started to run their Singapore line, they took a vessel .to Singapore with a white crew, and there placed on board a crew of Malays and Polynesians, discharging the white sailors. This shows that their inclination is to employ alien labour. The fact is that, although they have agreed to run six vessels, manned by white labour, in the Island trade, they are continuing to run two of the six in the Singapore trade, manning them with colored labour. It behoves the Government to see that .the agreement is enforced, because an additional amount was voted by Parliament to secure the manning of these vessels bv white labour, and if colored labour is employed, the Commonwealth will be .spending money for benefits which it is not receiving. Then, again, there are other firms who would be willing to employ steamers in these services if tenders were called for, and they should be given an equal opportunity with Burns, Philp, and Company to obtain the subsidy. I am informed that there is now a vessel trading between the mainland and British and German New Guinea, which is in every respect superior to that employed by Burns, Philp, and Company in the New Guinea service, being a vessel of 160 tons, whereas the company’s vessel is only 106 tons. I trust that the Government will enforce the articles of the agreement with the company. I, however, object altogether to- the subsidy, and shall vote against the third reading of the Bill as a protest against the action of the Government in assisting the company against its competitors.
– I under - stand that the reply of the Minister of Defence to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that he is prepared to consider the granting of a gratuity to Colonel Price, means only that he is prepared to place an amount on the Estimates for next year.
– I do not think that it will be proper for me to make any payment in anticipation of parliamentary sanction. ,
– I trust that the Prime Minister will take that view, too. This is a matter of concern to Queensland members, inasmuch as if a gratuity be paid, it will be debited to the State of Queensland.
– Is that so, seeing thai most of Colonel Price’s service was given to Victoria?
– I think that it would be debited to Queensland, because he was Commandant of that State when he was retired.
– I am inclined to think that that is so.
– At any rate, the matter deserves consideration. I do not, of course, charge honorable members with having had that contingency in their minds when they were advocating the payment , of a gratuity to Colonel Price, though it should make them willing to agree to the postponement of the consideration of this matter until an amount can be ^placed on the Estimates. There is nothing more dangerous than to have matters of this kind brought up in Parliament. It has been pointed out’ by a previous speaker that, however deserving an officer may be, if he has no political influence, his case will never be heard by Parliament, while a less able and deserving officer, who has friends, may succeed in obtaining a gratuity. The Executive has at its command special officers, who report on all matters of this kind with a full knowledge of the facts at issue. This case has been carefully considered by one Minister, and a decision practically arrived at. That decision was reviewed by another Minister, who concurred in it.
– Upon technical grounds.
– I thought at first the honorable member said “political grounds.” I can assure the honorable member that the fullest and most impartial consideration was given to the case of Colonel Price, and thai the members of the Cabinet were not influenced in any way against that officer. In ninety-nine cases out of every hundred we admire men who are outspoken, and who show that they have no fear whether they please or displease others. I judge from what I have heard of Colonel Price that he is a man of high ‘character, and I have no prejudice against him. I trust, however, that the Government will not regard the sentimental expressions which have fallen from honorable members this afternoon as sufficient justification for the payment of compensation to Colonel Price. If the money is once paid honorable members will be bound to pass the vote when it is placed upon the Estimates. This question should undoubtedly have been brought forward at an earlier stage, in order that the matter might have been fully discussed and dealt with in. the usual course. I do not think that we have any right to discriminate in matters of this kind in favour of those who are in an exceptionally good position to have their cases represented to the House. There may be many hundreds of others who have equally good claims, who are not able to bring their cases before us. I have on fully half-a-dozen occasions sought to obtain information from the Postmaster-General with regard to the payment of duty by foreign tenderers. My question was placed on the notice-paper, in the first place, on the 8th November, was postponed till the 9th, then again till the 15th and 22nd, and finally replied to on the 29th November. The question and answer were as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, itf on notice -
Is he yet in a position to inform this House whether it is correct, as stated by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Robinson), that successful tenderers not resident in Australia have not t-j pay Customs duties on goods used in carrying out their contracts, while duty is paid on the goods used in a like manner by Australian successful tenderers for Commonwealth contracts?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General has now received replies from all the States respecting this matter, and proposes to have a statement prepared dealin,?, with the whole subject, which he will cause to be laid on the table for the information of honorable members.
I understood the Minister to say, also, in response to an interjection, which is not recorded in Hansard, that he would lay the papers on the table during that week.
– I found that the papers were in the Attorney-General’s Department, and I could not get them back immediately.
– I do not wish to hurry the Minister, but I think that the information I desire could easily be obtained, and placed in the possession of honorable members, before the session closes. If the Minister will promise to lay the papers upon the table within the next day or two I shall be satisfied.
– I promise the honorable member that a full statement of the position will be presented before the session closer.
– I do not care what the facts are, but they should certainly be made known, so that, if necessary, steps may be taken to effect an alteration in the law.
– The honorable member had the matter before him.
– I do not care about that. If I did wrong, I am ready to bear the blame. If any injustice has been done the remedy should be applied as soon as possible.
– I desire to say a few words with reference to the question of granting a gratuity to Colonel Tom Price. I do not think that the position has been made very clear. If Colonel Price has a just claim upon this Parliament, I shall be prepared to meet it, but I think that we should have some more definite information upon that subject before any definite action is taken. Two sums have been mentioned, namely, .£1,169, which I understand represents an allowance of one month’s salary for every year of service, and £350, the cost incurred by Colonel Price in removing to Queensland.
– The latter amount will not enter into the consideration. The total sum which Colonel Price can claim as a retiring allowance is ,£1,370.
– Colonel Price may be all that he has been described by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the honorable members for Grampians and Kooyong, but I do not think that we are in a position to arrive at any definite decision as to the treatment that should be extended to him. The best course to follow would be for the Government to place a sum upon next year’s Estimates, and afford honorable members an opportunity to thresh out the whole matter. It must be borne in mind that Queensland will have to bear a large share of any -gratuity that may be paid to Colonel Price. I do not think that that is just, considering the short time that Colonel Price has been serving in Queensland. Some two years ago, when it was thought that Colonel Price would be called upon to retire, statements were made to the effect that the whole of the gratuity to which he would be entitled would have to be paid by Queensland. I took the first opportunity of interviewing the honorable member for Swan, who was then Minister of Defence, and he assured me that it was absurd to suppose that Queensland would be called upon to pay the gratuity. After that, the term of Colonel Price’s appointment was fixed at two years. I understand that that officer served for upwards of nineteen years in Victoria, and I think that that State should be debited with the whole of the gratuity that may have to be paid. However, I am perfectly willing to leave the matter to be settled by the House at a later stage. With regard to the steam service to the New Hebrides, I do not blame the Government for entering into an arrangement with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. Perhaps it might have been better to call for tenders, but I doubt whether any other firm would be able to make us a better offer than have Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, who have special trade relations with the islands, and a fine fleet of steamers. I do, however, find fault with the Prime Minister for having failed to make provision that the steamers engaged in the island sei vices should call at some of the. Queensland ports. We desire to cultivate trade with the islands of the South Seas, and I notice that Queensland proposes to send out commissioners, or commercial agents, to report upon the trade possibilities of the Pacific. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will reconsider the matter, and that he will arrange for the steamers belonging to the three mail lines to the islands to call at Brisbane, and also at Cooktown. The Prime Minister has stated that he desires to cultivate the most friendly relations with the States Government, and an opportunity is here presented to him to do Queensland a service, and at the same time to bring about a more friendly feeling towards the Federal authority than exists at present in the State which I represent. We should not permit any sentimental hostility to the Commonwealth to grow if we can possibly prevent it. I am very anxious that the Federal feeling throughout the Commonwealth should become stronger and sounder, and I hope that the Prime Minister will do his best in this direction so far as Queensland is concerned by revising the arrangements for the island mail service I have indicated. There is a weekly steam service between Melbourne and Cooktown, and I am sure that it would be a matter of great convenience if the island mail steamers could call at that port as well as at Brisbane.
– I desire to say a few words in view of the early retirement of the Chief Electoral Officer. I can compliment him upon the way in which he has carried out his duties, and I feel sure that if he had had full control from the beginning, as he had during the recent by-election there would have been far less cause for dissatisfaction. I wish to pay my meed of praise to that gentleman and his two subordinate officers. I trust that if he is retired the officer appointed in his stead will discharge the duties of the position without fear or favour. With the officer in the Postal Department, the consideration is not whether he can discharge his functions without fear or favour, but whether he can “down” me. Indeed, he is playing the same game now. This individual, who was the means of muddling the first election for Melbourne, removed the Registrar at North Melbourne, whilst that officer was engaged in compiling the roll for that division. The matter was brought under my notice, and untruthful statements were forwarded to Mr. Scott in reply to my charges. Several of the letters sent to that gentleman contradict one another. For instance, the officer to whom I have referred declared that the Registrar in question had left North Melbourne upon a certain date, when, as a matter of fact, he had not done so. I enter my protest against that sort of thing. On page 8 of the report of the Select Committee on Electoral Act administration, I find the following statement : -
Charges of partiality were made against the following officers of the Department : - Messrs. F. J. Britten, presiding officer, Melbourne Division; J. M. Falconer, assistant returning officer, Riverina Division ; A. Fordham, assistant returning officer, Riverina Division ; but in none of these cases did tlie evidence sustain the charge.
– Could ‘not the honorable member deal with this matter upon the motion for adjournment ?
– I intended to do so last night, but I was afraid of being “ hanged, drawn, and quartered” if I attempted to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs is absent just now, and he has left all the papers bearing upon the matter with me. I have already spoken upon this motion, so that I cannot reply to the honorable member.
– I merely wish to draw attention to an inaccuracy which appears in the report of the Select Committee. I object to the statement that “ in none of these cases did the evidence sustain the charge.” As a matter of fact, there was no evidence taken. The secretary of the North Melbourne branch wrote the following letter, which appeared in the Agc of 29th October, 1904 -
Sir, - In to-day’s issue I notice in the forecasts of the Committee’s report on Federal electoral reform and inquiries into the unsatisfactory manner in which the last Federal general elections were conducted tEat the charges of partiality made bv me against Mr. F. J. Britten were dismissed, ft seems strange that these charges are dismissed without taking any evidence. I submitted the particulars in writing to the Committee, stating that several witnesses were prepared to give evidence in substantiation, and the reply was that the complaint would receive attention. Later I was requested to attend Parliament House on Tuesday, 5th July, .to give evidence. At inconvenience to my business I attended, but was not called upon. In the interest of purity of elections all the evidence on both sides should have been heard.
Yours, &c, £. H. Need.
I gave evidence upon that matter. What I said was that a scrutineer had accused another of putting ballot slips -into his pocket, which was a violation of the Electoral Act. Thereupon he drew the attention of the officer in charge to the offender. I was present in the booth at the time, with another member of Parliament and two friends. The policeman in attendance said that he saw the man put his hand into his pocket, and Mr. Britten asked him to empty his pockets. He declined to do so. I then asked the officer in charge if he would detain the man whilst I consulted Mr. Hunt in reference to the matter. The latter could not leave the central booth at the moment. Subsequently I saw Mr. Newman, and a very strongly-worded letter was sent to Mr. Britten, who in the meantime had allowed the man to regain his liberty. Some persons who were incensed at the action of the officer in question attempted to detain the culprit, but the latter drew a knife and threatened to stab them. That evidence would have been forthcoming had the opportunity been afforded. As a matter of fact, no evidence regarding the matter was called. The statement in the report that the evidence did not sustain the charges made betrays a certain amount of carelessness which should not have occurred. At the same time, I do not accuse the honorable member for Darling Downs or the Minister of Trade and Customs with having been guilty of negligence. If the Government will institute, an inquiry info the matter even now, that evidence will be forthcoming. That is the only booth at which any irregularity occurred at the late Melbourne election. I understand that a general desire has been expressed that a sum of money should.be voted to a certain officer who has recently relinquished his connexion with the Defence Forces. Having had a personal difference with him many years ago, I do not desire to mention his name, but I may say that my committee feel very strongly upon this question. They have represented to me that it is my duty to oppose the grant of any sum of money that may be placed upon the Estimates for the purpose indicated. I agreed with and applauded the action of the Minister of Defence in this matter, and I see no reason to change my attitude. Thirteen hundred pounds may not seem a very large sum]’ but it is too much to pay to any officer if he has no legal claim to it. If the Government have that amount to spare, let them distribute it amongst the unfortunate men who were fooled by the promise from a Governor’s lips into going to South Africa, and who were promised billets upon their return. I am ashamed to acknowledge that those promises have not been respected. Many of those men to-day are begging for meals. Quite recently three of them informed me that they had been to the Victoria Barracks to try to obtain a pass to Sydney. They were met by some officer who was cruel enough to say, “ Oh, walk to Sydney.” I can assure honorable members that I expressed a very candid opinion concerning the officer in question. I well remember the beating of drums and the playing of fifes which accompanied the departure of our soldiers for South Africa. Why, Melbourne was transformed into a big circus show. Those men risked their lives in an unjust cause. Now, upon their return, an officer has the audacity to tell them that they had better walk to Sydney. I say that if we have £1,300 to spare, we should disburse it amongst the rank and file. Recently I have examined three of these soldiers, one of whom will be maimed for the rest of his life. A second will never enjoy a single day’s health. The Victorian Government have violated their pledges in respect to these men. I say that the officer who claims 1.300 as a retiring allowance should be granted it if he is entitled to it, but not otherwise. I trust that before any money is disbursed in that direction, the matter will be pressed to a division, so that the public may have an opportunity of seeing the way in ‘ which honorable members vote.
– I should not have spoken upon this question but for the misapprehension which exists in the minds of some honorable members concerning the position of Colonel Price. I am well acquainted with the events which have led -up to the present position, and I do not agree with those who say that we should not be justified in giving an indication to the Government of what, in the opinion of the House, they should do in this regard. I make that statement, because I think that Colonel Price has no legal claim. If he had, it would not be the business of the House to consider the matter, except with a view to induce the Government to do that which is the duty of every Administration “
– It should be done by resolution of the House.
– I agree with the honorable member. This is the proper tribunal to acknowledge the moral claims which are made from time to time upon the Commonwealth. It does not follow that persons who feel that thev have a claim upon the State should be able to Drove the absolute legality of that claim before this House would be competent to deal with it. I may say that I am in hearty sympathy with those who consider that some of the other cases which have been mentioned, are worthy of the attention of the House. A number of States servants who were. taken over by the Commonwealth have not been fairly, or even honestly, treated by it. The honorable member for Gwydir referred to a number of men - whom he described as belonging to the tank and file - who, on being transferred to the Commonwealth service, were deprived of certain compensation or pension rights, which they enjoyed under the State law. I cannot realize that this, or any other Government, would1 act so directly in contravention of the Constitution as-
– That is not what the honorable member for Gwydir said. I am familiar with the case to which he referred. It has been dealt with by several Ministers, and they have agreed that the claim should not be allowed. It is a question, not of pensions, but of an extra allowance to men who are still in the service.
– That is another matter. The fact seems to have been overlooked that the right honorable member for Swan, as Minister of Defence in the Barton and Deakin Administrations, had to deal with the question of granting compensation to those who were to be retired, in order, according to the opinion of the General Officer Commanding, to carry out the decision of the House. Most honorable members are aware that the General Officer Commanding entertained the view that only officers holding a certain rank should participate in the grant to be made by way of compensation. But the then Minister of Defence absolutely refused to agree to the schedule which was submitted to him by that officer. He determined that every man who was being retired from the service, in accordance with the retrenchment scheme, should receive compensation, and as the result of his action, the schedule was made to apply, in a correct ratio, to the private as well as to the highest officer. I think, therefore, that the statement that the right honorable member for Swan was then, and is now, considering only the claims of the more prominent members of the service, cannot be substantiated. I have had a personal, and also an official military acquaintance with Colonel Price, extending over eleven or twelve years, and have an intimate knowledge of the work he has accomplished in Victoria. The best test of an officer’s capacity is the appreciation in which he is held by those who serve under him. And I defy any one to discover throughout the length and breadth of Aus tralia, half-a-dozen men who have a word tosay against Colonel Price’s efficiency, against the consideration which he extended to the lowest as well as the highest in the service, or in condemnation of his capacity, not only to instruct, but to bring out all that was best in every individual with whom he came in contact. Another point to which I wish to direct attention is, that Colonel Price was the first to introduce into the administration of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth the democratic principle that all officers should rise from the ranks. He made it absolutely essential that every man who desired to rise to the position of an officer in the Mounted Rifles, should first serve a term in the ranks. As the result of this, we have what I hope we always shall have among our citizen soldiery - a feeling of true comradeship between those in the ranks and those who have, for the time being, to command them ; a feeling which cannot be equalled in any other part of the Empire. If it were only for the work that he accomplished in this respect, he should receive some consideration from the House. I desire to say nothing regarding his present financial position, save that from my own knowledge of the events which led up to his request that he might be allowed to serve, I am satisfied that, if hehad had any idea that the Government would not recognise his services, he would have retired, although at a distinct loss to himself. He left Victoria and gave up the command of his regiment in order to take upon himself the far more responsible and onerous duty of District Commandant in Queensland. He did not accept that responsibility with a view to secure any material increase in his remuneration, because, as the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has pointed out, the salary which he received as District Commandant was only £8 per annum in excess of that previously paid to him as Colonel of a regiment. He had to incur considerable expense in equipping himself, and in properly maintaining the high position which he assumed. I know that Colonel Price anticipated that he would remain in Queensland for five years, and when his term of office was reduced, under the circumstances to which I have already referred, it was with a feeling of deep disappointment that he learned he was to remain there for only two years. Any one who has seen Colonel Price must realize that it is a very serious matter to a man of his energy and capacity for endurance to be retired from the service. I freely and frankly admit that he has no legal claim upon the Government, for I know the circumstances under which he joined the service in Victoria. At that time there was no provision for the payment of compensation or retiring allowances to officers; but I feel that we may well indicate to the Government that in our opinion they should make some provision for one who has rendered such good service.
– Might not Victoria take the matter in hand?
– I think that Victoria, which has benefited so largely by his work, is entitled to do something in this direction. I also feel that the work which Colonel Price accomplished, in placing the MilitaryForces in Queensland on a much better footing than they previously occupied, entitles him to some recognition from that State. But the matter can be best dealt with by this Parliament, which, after all, is mainly responsible for the additional expense to which Colonel Price was put during the last two years of his service. As to the other cases of hardship to which reference has been made, I can assure honorable members that they will always find me ready to give a sympathetic ear, and to offer practical assistance to those who wish to bring their claims before the House. This is the proper place to deal with such cases.
– We brought one case before the House, but could get no satisfaction.
– I was astonished to learn this afternoon that the Treasurer made a deduction from the wages due to a postal officer in respect of expenses incurred in conveying him to the hospital, to be treated for injuries received while in the execution of his duty. . For the honour of the Commonwealth, the matter’ should be immediately dealt with.
– It is the law.
– But this is the highest Court of the Commonwealth. We make the laws, and one of our highest privileges is to give an indication to a Government that a hard-and-fast, .and sometimes all too severe, law, should not be allowed to take its ordinary course. I can assure honorable members that the social status of Colonel Price has absolutely nothing to do with my advocacy of his cause. I would far sooner plead for those less able to help themselves, and I am sure that a number of members of the Ministry take the same view. My personal knowledge of them leads me to believe that there is not one member of the Ministry who would not prefer to help those who were least able to help themselves; but the fact that a man has occupied a high and responsible position should not militate against any appeal which is made in his favour in this House.
– I wish to refer briefly to a long-standing grievance, in regard to the increments which I hold to be due to officers transferred to the Commonwealth from the State service of South Australia. In answer to a question which I put this afternoon to the Prime Minister, I learned that the matter had not been referred to the Attorney-General. An absolute breach of faith is now contemplated. The Constitution clearly provides that all existing and accruing rights of transferred officers shall be preserved as at the time of transfer. That provision was .inserted to insure that those who were transferred from the States to the Federal Service should not have to sacrifice any of their privileges. But what is the present position? When I brought this matter under the notice, of the Deakin Government, I was assured in this House by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that the South Australian officers to whom I refer were entitled to receive their increments under the State law. In other words, the honorable and learned gentleman admitted that they were entitled to receive increments until their salaries had reached the maximum of their classes when taken over by the Commonwealth. I think that every representative of South Australia has’ brought this claim forward, and the Public Service Commissioner admits that it is a valid one. He went so far as to get an amount placed on .the Estimates to pay these increments. Then, another decision was given, and now, although it is nearly four years since the men were transferred to the service of the Commonwealth, they have not yet received the increments due to them under the State law, amounting in some cases to £5. in others to £10, and in one or two to £15. Honorable members this afternoon have been generously suggesting to the Government that a sum of money should be paid’ to an officer whom they admit has no legal claim to such recognition of his services, and therefore I should like to know why other officers should be forced to contest their legal rights in the Law Courts.
– Does the honorable member refer to the right to be paid increments before the classification, or after the classification? Those are two separate matters.
– A decision has recently been given, making them two separate matters. The first decision was that, under the South Australian Act of 1874, officers transferred from the service of that State to the Commonwealth were entitled .to receive increments. The trouble is, that the salaries of the fourth-class in the Commonwealth service stop at a lower amount than those of the fourth-class in the State service, and when an officer rises to the maximum of the fourth class in the Commonwealth service, he is deprived of the enjoyment of his rights under the State law. Now, apparently, the Minister of Home Affairs seems to think that the classification of the Commissioner takes away those rights altogether, though I fail to see why it should.
– That is not a recent decision.
– It was given within j the last twelve months. I suppose it is two years since money was placed on the Esti-. mates for the payment of these increments’, j When the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs were before the Committee, the Minister read a minute stating that under the South Australian law officers ! were entitled to receive increments up to the maximum of their class, but since then I have received, through him, from the secretary to the Public Service Commissioner, advice that that statement is incorrect.
– It was based on the first opinion obtained, and the only opinion in (he Department at the time, but it appears from the statement of the Public Service Commissioner that it has been overruled by a subsequent opinion.
– Why cannot the matter be referred to the present AttorneyGeneral? The first opinion stated that the men were entitled to these increments, and the second that they were entitled to them up to the time of the classification. When the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was Attorney-General, he gave it as his opinion, dealing with a case which had arisen under the Victorian law, in which the same principle was involved, that the men were entitled. Apparently, however, judging from an answer I received from the Government to-day, they are to be put to the expense of proving their rights by an action at law. The present state of uncertainty has caused a considerable amount of annoyance, and the sooner a definite pronouncement is made in one way or another, the better it will be for every one. But surely, before the men’ are forced to go into Court, the opinion of the present Attorney-General will be obtained? It is nor a nice thing for officers to have to proceed against the Government. The honorable member for Boothby and I had an interview with the Prime Minister on the subject some time ago, and I expected that, as the result of it, the matter would be referred to the Attorney-General for his opinion.
– There seems to be a desire to obtain the opinion of the Attorney-General because it is thought that he will express a certain view. It would appear extraordinary that the Commonwealth should never obtain control of its own officers,, that a State law which was passed previous to Federation should operate after the classification of the Commonwealth Service by our Commissioner.
– The Constitution provides that every officer transferred to, or taken over from the service of a State, shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights. Surely the South Australian Act conferred certain rights on the servants of that State who were transferred to the Commonwealth, and, if so, these rights must have been preserved.
– Those rights were subject to modification or destruction by the South Australian Parliament.
– But the South Australian Parliament took no action to modify or destroy them.
– The Government wish to deal fairly with these officers, and are ready to recognise any legal right which they may possess.
– I complain of the delay in coming to a decision on the point. If the Government do not intend to obtain an opinion from the Attorney-General, thesooner the men take the matter in hand the better, though I should like the Prime Minister to look more closely into the question himself.
– My opinion is that legal proceedings should be commenced at once. The Government will facilitate in every way the obtaining of a. decision. We will not consider such proceedings as adverse. We shall work with them, and regard the suit as a friendly one.
– Would it not be better to have a test case after the adoption of the classification scheme?
– The legal point can be settled in advance.
– Judges generally abstain from expressing an opinion on hypothetical cases.
– We shall encourage the bringing on of this case at once, and shall endeavour in every way ‘to obtain a decision.
– That will be much more satisfactory than the present state of things, and the best way to get the matter settled. I desire now to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he has any further information in regard to a matter which I brought under his notice the other day - the complaint of certain temporary officers employed by his Department, who allege that they were promised certain travelling allowances, which were not paid to them, although paid to permanent officers, the temporary officers receiving a smaller amount. Not only do they seem to have received an injury in this way, but they also allege that they have not been employed by the Department since. I gave the Minister a letter a fortnight ago, in which their case was set out in reply to the last statement of his own officers. There are five men interested, and the regulation is absolutely in their favour. I understand that the regulations provide that travelling allowances shall be paid to permanent and temporary officers alike. I am, however, informed that, whilst the permanent officers have received certain allowances, their payment has been denied to the temporary officers. I know that it is alleged that the temporary officers were not entitled to the allowance, upon the ground that they were sent to places in the country which, for the time being, were regarded as their headquarters. If that view be correct, the objection would also apply to the permanent officers, because they were sent into the country and were temporarily stationed at such places as Angaston and Clare. It seems singular that the permanent officers, who have fixed pay and good billets, should receive the allowances, whilst the claims of the temporary officers should be ignored. The worst feature of the case, however, is that, ever since the temporary officers claimed the travelling allowance, they have received no employment from the Department. There is no question as to their competency, but it appears that the Department, not satisfied with denying the men the payment to which they were entitled, has black-balled them, other men having been put on in the meantime. The Minister can very readily satisfy himself as to whether my statements are correct, because I understand that the last report and the reply of the men concerned have been sent on to him. He can ascertain whether the regulations make provision to the effect I have indicated, whether the permanent officers have been paid, and whether the temporary officers are not entitled to the same allowance. I should like the Minister to deal with this matter, and to afford some definite information before we go into recess.
– I would remind the honorable member that the members of the Government will be open to receive representations upon this and other matters during the recess, and that we can reply to any communications sent to us, in the same way as if honorable members were in Melbourne, or able to address questions to us in the House.
– I am quite aware of that, but my experience, which extends over twelve years, shows me that very often letters sent to the Departments do not come before the Minister, and evoke only a stereotyped reply.
– If the honorable member writes to me direct, I shall reply to him in the same way.
– That is fair; so shall I. The honorable member will be treated in just the same way as if he were in Melbourne.
– I promise to look into the matter.
– I am sure that if the Minister does so he will find that my statements are borne out, and that the men have not only been denied their rights, but have been black-balled.
– The honorable member is aware that, after being six months in the employment of the Commonwealth as temporary officers, they must stand down for a term before they are eligible for reemployment.
– Yes ; but I do not think that the men referred to were employed for as long as six months. I trust that the matter will be thoroughly investigated.
– Reference has been made by several honorable members to the claim of Colonel Tom Price for compensation upon his retirement. I am not prepared to speak as to the merits of that gentleman or his claim. If he has a fair claim, I am quite willing to consider it. I sympathize fully with the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, with regard to the contrast between the treatment meted out to officials in the higher grades and that accorded to those occupying more humble positions in the service. The honorable member quoted one case in Queensland, and I have another case in New South Wales, which I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members. A certain workman was employed by the Post and Telegraph Department, in connexion with repairs to the telegraph and telephone lines in Sydney. It was his duty to climb the poles, and for that purpose he was furnished by the Department with a ladder. One day he was picked up in an unconscious condition at the foot of a telegraph pole, and as he never regained his senses he was unable to explain what had happened to him. It is supposed, however, that the ladder was slightly defective, and that fact may have contributed to the accident. He left behind him a widow and young family, who were thrown upon the tender mercies of the world. -His fellow-workmen brought his case under my notice> and I made representations to the Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Denison, who considered that the widow and family had. some moral, but no legal claim upon the Government. Further, he held the view that the’ matter should be considered by the State Government, because any gratuity granted to the widow and family would have to be deducted from the money that would otherwise be paid to the State. He said that if the State Government were prepared to make a recommendation on the subject, the way would be opened for the consideration of the widow’s claim. The State Government, on the other hand, said that the man had met his death whilst performing work for the Commonwealth, and that the matter was one entirely for the consideration of the Federal Government. Therefore, between the two stools, the matter fell to the ground, and nothing was done. I think that before we consider the claims of highly-paid officers, who have held important and lucrative positions, we ought to pay some regard to the necessities of those who have been dependent upon workmen who have sacrificed their lives in the service of the State under circumstances similar to those related by myself and the honorable member for Coolgardie. I trust that the Government will, look into the two cases referred to, and see if it is not possible to do something for the unfortunate families. I was recently informed, by a fellow-workman of the line repairer to whom I have referred, that his widow and young family are in very straitened circumstances, and that anything in the nature of a gratuity will prove very acceptable. There is another matter which I desire .to. bring under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs. It would appear that the powers of the Department are being exerted to the prejudice of a new industry which is being established in Sydney. It relates to the treatment or preservation of eggs. If honorable members will turn to Coghlan, they will see that this industry is becoming a very important one.
– I would remind the honorable member that upon the motion for the third reading of the Bill, it is not competent for honorable members to debate any question of policy. The discussion must be restricted to matters concerning which provision is made in the Bill by way of a vote or grant of some kind. Unless the honorable member can show that there is some vote or- grant that will be applied to the preservation of the eggs he has referred to, he will not be in order in pursuing the subject.
– I merely wish to refer to steps which have been taken by the Customs Department to the detriment of the industry mentioned. The discovery is that of an eminent medical man in Sydney, who has devoted a considerable sum of money, in addition to valuable time, towards the accomplishment of his object.
– Does the honorable member say that there is some grant or vote in the Bill which covers the matter to which he refers? Unless he does, I cannot allow him’ to proceed.
– I do not know that there is any special vote dealing with it. If I am in order, I wish to discuss the action of the Customs Department in connexion with this particular matter, because certain powers have been exercised under the Customs Act for the purpose of determining duties which operate to the detriment of the industry which is being established as the outcome of this discovery.
– I must admit, so far as the honorable member has stated the question, that I do not think it is covered by any vote in the Bill.
– Then I shall content myself with having brought the matter under the notice of the Minister. In connexion with the administration of the Defence Department, I trust that the Minister will see his way to encourage the formation of half-companies of Light Australian Horse in country districts. In my own electorate a small country town had the honour of sending a large number of men to South Africa during the recent war. These men did honour to themselves and the Commonwealth. Upon their return they utilized the knowledge which they had acquired in forming one of the halfsquadrons known as “the scouts.” They have maintained themselves ever since at their own expense. At the same time, they have failed to secure enrolment by the Government. The fact that Parliament has not seen fit to approve of the enlargement of the permanent side of the Defence Force, is urged as a reason for the curtailment of its voluntary side. I notice that in this particular section of the Forces, the Department claims to have effected savings last year. I maintain that it did so, at the expense of the particular company to which I refer, and of other companies of a similar character.
– What is the name of the town to which the honorable member refers ?
– I am speaking of a company known as the “ Condobolin Scouts.” The matter has been brought before the Department upon several occasions, and the company has been led to believe that its claims will receive some consideration, but so far, no consideration has been extended to it. I wish the Minister to see that this and similar bodies, which have exhibited their stability, and which have some moi al claim upon the Department, are first enrolled as volunteers, and afterwards as members of the partially-paid forces. I think that the whole policy of the Department, from its inception, has been in the direction of encouraging that system of defence. The district to which I refer is a pastoral and agricultural one. The men are efficient horsemen, and well adapted to form a company of that character. I trust that their claims will receive favorable consideration during the current year.
– I I merely wish to call attention to the fact that up to the present time the Government have neglected to make any provision for reimbursing the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Riverina the expenses to which they were subjected in connexion with the disputed elections for those constituencies. We all know that they had to incur an enormous expenditure owing to the culpable negligence of Government officials. To some extent this House is responsible for that result in having changed the venue of such disputes from a parliamentary committee to the High Court, before which tribunal only millionaires can appear. In this connexion it is the duty of the Government not to allow the session to close without making provision to reimburse the honorable members to whom I have referred their out-of-pocket expenses. Regarding the claim of Colonel Price, I wish to say, as a democrat, that I have an eternal hatred of all military shams. I regard all these gilded-spurred and tufted gentlemen as ham-sandwich advertisers. At the same time, if Colonel Price had an agreement that he should receive a certain amount on his retirement, he is entitled to get it. We have no right to inflict injustice upon any man, even if we do not agree with him politically. If his case be brought before the House, I am perfectly willing to support his claim.
– Who is to pay it?
– T - The Commonwealth. We have no right to make any individual in the Commonwealth suffer. Every agreement must be carried out, even if we lose by so doing.
– What about our price ?
– I a I am coming to that. The salaries which we receive are a disgrace to the Commonwealth. I am amazed that the electors should send their representatives here to starve upon £400 a year. The Government have made no provision for increasing our allowances.
– I wonder that the people outside do not start a patriotic relief fund 1
– The They keep their patriots in the destitute asylum. The patriotism of the angelic gentlemen who prate so loudly about it consists of dollars and cents. I claim that the remuneration of honorable members is not commensurate with the importance of the position which we occupy. We receive ,£400 a year, or £7 12s. 6d. per week.
– It is $2,000.
– S - Surely ..the honorable member does not think that $2,000 a year is decent pay for any man of brains ! I think that the Prime Minister - apart from myself - is the only man who has had the pluck to put this matter before the country. The Constitution declares that we shall be paid .£400 a year “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” By “scratching,” the Victorian representatives may manage to get along upon that amount. But I would point, out that the ordinary bank clerk in Western America receives $2,500 a year to begin with. We have now been in session for ten months, and our first session lasted eighteen months. It will thus , De seen that we are deprived of all chance of transacting our private business ; even the Victorian representatives fare no better. We continually hear people outside say, “We do not want professional politicians; we want amateurs.” Apparently, they desire some boys who will run up to the House occasionally, and bob their heads inside like a bob-tailed bull in clover. I claim that we cannot carry on political affairs any more than we can conduct a private business,, ‘unless we have the services of professionals. The time will come when we shall adopt the practice of pairing, and leaving the House for several consecutive weeks, in order to attend to our own business. Some honorable member has said that he considers that he is giving £400 worth of attention to the business of the country, and I think that that remark will apply to all of us. Any man who neglects his own private business for the sake of that of the country does not do justice to his family. Holman, of Wabash, Indiana, who for forty Years was considered the watchdog of the United States Treasury, sacrificed his own business for that of the State–
– Is the honorable member discussing any matter provided for in the Bill?
– I a I am discussing the pay of honorable members.
– That is not dealt with in the Bill.
– If If it is not it ought <o be. If something is not done to remedy this state of affairs, I shall have to ask my brethren to assist me in rousing the Government to the importance of the question. Let me conclude the story of Hol- man, and ‘ I shall have finished-
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed with that matter. He knows that it is out of order.
– I h I hope that something will be done in the matter of the allowances to honorable members, and I appeal to “the Prime Minister to deal with the question as soon as he can.
– In the recess.
– I s I shall support the right honorable gentleman in doing justice to the Parliament. The only other question to which I desire to refer is the necessity of improving the present postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities of residents in the remote parts of Tasmania. I would urge the Postmaster-General to visit that State during the recess, and personally inquire into the requirements of the people in this respect. It is interesting to observe the anxiety of the Government to assist the residents of New Guinea, while they are neglecting the descendants of those who won Waterloo for England, who are living in the back-blocks of Tasmania, and are being deprived of .these modern elements of civilization. Nowadays, a country in which “there is no proper telephone and telegraphic service, may be said to be in a state of savagery. The Postmaster-General has had the pluck to deal with many of these matters, and I would urge him to make a personal inquiry into the requirements of Tasmania. When changes are being .made, the Postmaster-General should see that officers are transferred from’ State to State. It should not be thought that because people are living in a rut they are going to remain there for all time. I am told that when, during the French Revolution Lafayette sought to save the King messengers had to run from room to room to announce that His Majesty would receive him. That formality had to be observed, although Lafayette’s object was to save Kim from the mob. It is necessary that we should do away with antiquated ideas, and endeavour to secure an up-to-date postal service. To his eternal credit be it said that the Prime Minister has had the courage to introduce a new system. When he finds that he is wrong, he freely admits his error, and one cannot help respecting him for it. When I am a Prime Minister, I shall do the same.
– I regret that the Government have not thought fit to make provision in this Bill, at all events, for the expenses of honorable members of the Parliament. The representatives of other States who have to remain here while the Parliament is in session, have to abandon their private business, and are put to much expense. Whilst it may be said that a remuneration of £400 is sufficient, so far as regards honorable, members living in this State, it must be admitted that those. who come from other States do not receive an allowance of anything like that sum. They have to maintain their homes in the other States, and to incur an expenditure of at least 15s. per day while they are attending to their duties here.
-Does the honorable and learned member base his remarks on anything in the Bill ?-
– I hold that provision should have been made in the Bill for the expenses of honorable members.
– I have pointed out two or three times during the debate that honorable members may discuss only matters that are dealt with in the Bill itself. If everything for which it does not provide might be discussed, the whole range of possible debate would be thrown open. The honorable and learned member has incidentally referred to the matter of allowances, and I ask him now to deal with something relating to the Bill itself.
– I point out, sir, that this Bill includes a vote to cover the expenses of public officers in the great Departments of the States, and I regret that it is not large enough to include what I should say are- the actual expenses incurred by honorable members in attending here. Shall I be in order in referring to that phase of the question?
– If the honorable member confines his remarks to that point, he will be.
– Whilst we rightly provide in this Bill for the expenses of officers of the service, we make no provision for those which honorable members incur in attending to the business of the country. We recognise that the travelling expenses of some of our officers may actually exceed the sum which they receive by way of salary, and therefore make provision for them. The expenses of commercial travellers are often far greater than the salary they receive, and no one would dream of saying that they were paid a certain salary if the whole of it were swallowed up by expenses. Section 48 of the Constitution leaves this matter in the hands of the Parliament.
– What would the honorable member say is a fair thing?
– If we are to have any allowance at all, I think it should be something like £1,000 per annum. Whatever it is, it ought to be a clear allowance, apart altogether from the expenses actually incurred by us in attending the Parliament. I regret that the Prime Minister, in providing for the travelling, expenses of members of the Public Service, has not seen fit to make the necessary provision to cover the expenses to which we are put. For the last three or four years I have consistently advocated that our allowances should be proportionate to the expenditure which we must necessarily incur. The electors must either choose their representatives from the members of a class to whom an allowance is of no consequence - and that would necessarily exclude all professional men - or from another class to whom an allowance may be of considerable importance, and who, never having been accustomed to anything like ,£400 a year, would consider it sufficient. The Members of the Parliament in any of the ordinary walks of life could earn far more than their country, gives them. Were it mot for their desire to gratify a laudable ambition, and to take some share in the councils of the nation, they would not be found here. If it were possible, we ought to confine our sessions to a period of one or two months, but the demand of the people for legislation would not .permit such an arrangement to be made. In my opinion, the people are receiving exactly what they are paying for. Men cannot devote the whole of their attention to the ‘business of the country unless they are reasonably remunerated for their labours. The sacrifice which many honorable members are called upon to make is altogether too great. It would be wise to bring this matter before the people of Australia at an early date, and to make provision in the next Appropriation Bill for expenses which would enable representatives of other States to say that they actually receive the allowance provided for by the Constitution. At the present time they cannot say anything of the kind owing to the expenses which they have to incur consequent! upontheir attendance, here.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence the fact that many men living in New South Wales who volunteered for service in South Africa, and actually served for a considerable time, feel aggrieved because the pay which they were promised by the Imperial Government is not yet forthcoming. They assert that the money was paid by the Imperial Government to the Government of New South Wales, and I trust that the Minister will make inquiries into the matter.
– That question is entirelybeyond the scope of this debate.
– I refer to it under cover of the Department of Defence, for which provision is made in the Bill.
– Unless the honorable member can show - and I think that he cannot - that there is some vote in the Bill providing for the payment of the persons to whom he refers, hecannot discuss the matter.
– The Bill does not contain any vote relating to them, but as a matter of equity-
– I think that the matter has passed from the Commonwealth to the Government of New South Wales.
– If the Minister can see his way to bring about a further consideration, of the matter, and to stop law proceedings, he will be conferring a benefit upon those who have fought for their country in South Africa, and will be doing what will be creditable to the Government. Another matter to which I wish the Government to give attention during the recess, is one which has been brought prominently before the House by the honorable member for Grey, and upon which several honorable members have spoken, namely, the improper practice of mail contractors, who, in many cases, style themselves Cobb and Co., of sub-letting and otherwise dealing with mail contracts, thus doing an injustice to smaller men, and bringing losses upon the Department. Only to-day I rave the PostmasterGeneral documentary evidence which proves that large firms are obtaining contracts, and then farming them out to others.
– Does the honorable member mean that they transfer their contracts ?
– Yes ; with the permission of the Department.
– Surely, the Department will put an end to a traffic of that kind.
– I hope that it will. The case which I brought before the Minister came under my notice only to-day, and has occurred in the State of New South Wales. The evidence shows that a certain individual, in the employ of others, was induced to tender for a small contract. His employers, finding that the price did not suit, approached the Department to extend the time for the bondsmen to sign, and in the meantime negotiated for the sale of the service to others, the Department being asked to agree to the transaction.
– That is utterly wrong.
– I agree with the Prime Minister that these proceedings should not be allowed, and I hope that the Minister will put down his foot firmly, and prevent the recurrence of such practices. I hope, too, that he will give more consideration to the extension of telephone lines in country districts. There are many places where the land is timbered, or where there are fences which could be used for the support of the wires, where application has been made year after year for the erection of ten, twelve, or fourteen miles of telephone connexion, and although the work could be carried out for a few pounds, the Departmental estimates have always run into hundreds of pounds, thus depriving the public of a convenience, and causing a loss of revenue to the Department. I hope that the Minister will proceed on the lines which he has promised this House to follow. In my own district fences have been successfully used to carry telephone wires, and, in my opinion, the Department should give telephonic communication as cheaply as they can, or else allow the public to erect their own telephone wires under more liberal conditionsthanare now given.
– I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– This is an extraordinary thing to do.
– The motion has not been moved in any spirit of hostility to the Government, but purely to prevent the loss by this House of the constitutional restraint which it has upon the Ministry, so long as it keeps the Appropriation Bill in its own hands, in order that urgent and important matters of public interest may be satisfactorily determined before Parliament is prorogued.
– It is the most pointed proof of want of confidence in the Government that an honorable member could show.
– I beg to differ from the right honorable gentleman there, but I cannot help it if he .takes that view.
– I never heard of such a motion being moved, except to express want of confidence.
– If the right honorable gentleman can show me in what other way the House can obtain the information it desires, and yet abandon its constitutional advantage in regard to its possession of the Appropriation Bill, I shall be glad to take advantage of It.
– I do not yet know what the honorable and learned gentleman wishes to refer to.
– There are certain matters of very great importance to us as a country, and as a part of the Empire. The Tariff concerns us all. There have been allegations - I understand that I have not the right to discuss the truth of them, or to refer .to them in detail, but I wish, so far as my rights and powers will allow me, to make my position clear - supported by what we think a considerable amount of evidence, to the effect that the operation of parts of the Tariff has been injurious .to certain industries. It is well known that great efforts have been made by some honorable members to obtain the rectification of what are thought to be anomalies and defects in the Tariff, and, as ‘ nearly as possible six weeks ago to-day, we were promised that a Commission would be appointed to investigate the whole matter. I recognise that .the Government could not appoint such a Commission without further investigation ; but as so long a time has elapsed since its appointment was promised, and the end of the session is approaching, we having reached practically the last stages of the Appropriation Bill, it cannot be fairly charged against me that I have moved an instant too soon to obtain an authoritative pronouncement from the Government as to, not merely the personnel of the Commission, because I think that that can be more easily determined, but its scope and duties.
– I wish to know, ‘ Mr. Speaker, if the honorable and learned member can discuss a matter which is not dealt with in the “Appropriation Bill. I understand that your previous rulings are clear on the point that only matters dealt with in the Appropriation Bill can be dealt with at this stage. I do not wish to limit the honorable and learned member beyond the requirements of the rules of the House. I could understand that he might be in order, though I am not sure that he would be, in complaining of delay in any executive act; but it seems to me, in the light of your previous rulings, that it is not permissible to discuss now the scope of the Commission, since it is not provided for in the Appropriation Bill.
– A speech such as the honorable and learned member for Indi is now making would be absolutely out of order during the discussion of the motion for the third reading of the Appropriation Bill ; but I would remind the Prime Minister that the honorable and learned member has moved the adjournment of the debate, and is now speaking to that question. I understood him to be urging that the debate should be adjourned in order to enable the House to receive information in regard to the scope of a certain Commission, and in following that line of argument he will be in order, so long as he does not go into matters of detail.
– That was my point, that he should not go into matters of detail.
– I thought I had sufficiently indicated that I understood that I am not allowed to go into matters of detail as to the scope of the Commission. I was urging that, before parting with our grip on the Appropriation Bill, we should insist upon knowing what the scope of the Tariff Commission is to be. The Prime Minister told us a few nights ago that he would not carry the Appropriation Bill past the Committee stage until all the serious business of the session had been transacted. I do not understand that one very important matter, namely, the debate on the motion for preferential trade, has been concluded. That may be referred to hereafter. T.he right honorable gentleman said, however, that he would regard the question of the appointment of the Tariff Commission as one of grave urgency, and, later on, while not putting it in regard to the Appropriation Bill in the same category as two other matter’s, he again assured the House that he would proceed with the appointment as a matter of extreme urgency.
– I said more. I promised that Parliament should not be prorogued until the Government had appointed the Commission. It is the fact that the honorable and learned gentleman does not accept that pledge, and wishes to keep back the Appropriation Bill, in order to make me perform my promise, that I resent.
– I wish to have a clear understanding in regard to the matter. It is quite possible for the Prime Minister to appoint the Commission at a moment when there will be no time for the House to discuss it.
– I do not intend to play tricks of that sort on the House.
Mir. ISAACS. - I do not say that that is the intention of the Prime Minister.
– I would not do it.
– Several honorable members have already left for their homes, and the passing of the Appropriation Bill will be an intimation to honorable members generally that they may with safety depart.
– The Bill will not be passed when it gets through this Chamber. It will still have to be dealt with in another Chamber.
– That is so; but once this House has passed it we shall have lost a very powerful constitutional lever.
– Certainly, if honorable members do not trust the Ministry.
– The Prime Minister maysay presently, with much greater effect, what he has to say on this subject, instead of interrupting my remarks. I wish to state, as quietly and as speedily as I can, my reasons for taking this course. If we look back at the evidence which has prompted those who have urged the appointment of a Tariff Commission and the alteration of the Tariff, we see that, if established, it would afford grave and urgent reasons why no time should be lost. If the allegations which have been made were proved, it would mean that a large amount of trade is disorganized, and labour thrown out of employment. Therefore, we regard it, not as a right, but as a duty, to take every means to emphasize the urgency of the situation. There is no urgency about the third reading of this Appropriation Bill.
– There is, if the Bill is to go to another place.
– But there is no such urgency as to prevent some announcement, being made beforehand as to the scope of the Commission. The right honorable gentleman may, without any loss of dignity, tell us what the scope of the Com mission is to be. I wish to say once more that I am not putting this as a matter of distrust at all. I would ask honorable members to consider the position in which we should stand before the country if the Appropriation Bill were to pass its third reading, and the Prime Minister found certain difficulties in his way relating to the scope of the Commission, its personnel, the direction its inquiries should take, whether the Commission was to make progress reports or not, whether any direction was to be given to the Commission to report in time to permit of legislative action next session, whether the Commission was to be of a roving character; in other words, whether it is to open up the Tariff from beginning to end. If we were to allow these things to remain unsettled, without a word of expostulation or request, we should lay ourselves open to the charge of remissness. The right honorable gentleman will admit that six weeks is a very considerable time to elapse in a matter of this kind. When we hear the last hours of this session tolling, it is time that we moved in the matter of asking the Government for something a little more definite in the way of a statement than any that has hitherto been made by the right honorable gentleman. He must give us credit for alertness in the discharge of our duty. If we are right in our contention, the matter is a very serious one.
– The Prime Minister promised that the Commission should be gazetted last Tuesday.
– I desire to elicit some definite statement from the Government - something that will satisfy the public that we are doing our duty, and that we are not sleeping upon our responsibilities. Whilst the Government have their duty to perform, we have ours. I hope that the Prime Minister will accept this statement in the spirit in which I make it. I know of no other way of raising the question. We have left this matter until the third reading of the Appropriation Bill was under discussion, and I am sure that if the right honorable gentleman were leading the Opposition under similar circumstances, he would take the same course.
– It was open to the honorable and learned member to say all that he has said upon the Appropriation Bill.
– Thatis exactly what Mr. Speaker has said I could not do. I do not think I could have taken this action at any other stage, except, it might have been, in connexion with the motion for the adjournment of some other debate. I do not think that I have shown any unnecessary party heat, or that I have said anything more than is consonant with the magnitude of the interests concerned. Therefore I content myself with saying thatI hope the Governmentwill, before they pass the Appropriation Bill entirely, afford us some information of a definite nature upon this matter.
– In speaking now, I do not close the debate upon the Appropriation Bill. There is an amendment now before the Chair, so that I am not depriving any honorable member of his right to speak upon the Bill after I have finished. I quite admit that the honorable and learned member for Indi has, by the words he has used’, qualified the impression which I formed from the course he took in moving the adjournment of this debate. Without the explanation which he has given, I submit that it was one of the most pointed attacks that could possibly be made upon any Government in charge of the business of the House. We have no right to be here at all, unless we are allowed to conduct the public business, and I suppose there is no measure more urgent or necessary in the interests of the people, and of the country, than this Appropriation Bill. Therefore, any such motion as the honorable and learned member has moved, would, in point of form, constitute an attempt to take the business out of the hands of the Government, and prevent it from being proceeded with. I admit, however, that the speech made by the honorable and learned member takes away that complexion entirely. He has been at pains - and I quite acknowledge his courtesy - to expressly disclaim the ordinary interpretation that would be placed upon his action, and I understand that he really took the course he has adopted, because, unless he had moved the adjournment of the debate, he would have been out of order. I accept that statement implicitly. I should like to point out, however, that the honorable member knows as well as, and perhaps better than, any other honorable member, exactly the reason why this Commission was not announced on Tuesday last. He knows very well that on Friday of last week, I invited my honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, to a conference to settle the questions he has referred to, in order that the Commission might be gazetted on the following Tuesday. My honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, who has, as well as myself, urgent matters toattend to, was compelled to leave the State for some days, and was compelled to suspend his cooperation with me until the following Tuesday. That made it impossible for me not to keep the promise I made, because I was not so careless as to make a promise with regard to a future event, but to fulfil the expectation that the Commission would be gazetted last Tuesday. We renewed for a moment or two last Tuesday our consideration of the matter, but only to postpone it, at the request of my honorable friend, until practically this afternoon, about 3 or 4 o’clock.
– Postponed it from last Tuesday ?
– First until yesterday, but we were not able to meet.
– The leader of the Opposition and I had a preliminary conversation yesterday. I suppose that my honorable friend does not consider that I am breaking any confidence in making this statement ?
– The leader of the Opposition yesterday was not prepared to go fully into the matter with me, and asked me to postpone it again, and we did postpone it until to-day. It was not until this afternoon, between 3 and 4 o’clock, that my honorable friend and myself could really come together-
– Was not that conference only as to the personnel, and not with regard to the scope of the Commission?
– Surely a Commission cannot be gazetted until its personnel has been settled. I have had thrown at me the promise I made, or expectation which I caused honorable members , to entertain, that I should gazette the Commission on Tuesday last. And I am now explaining that the preliminary conversation I was to hare had with the leader of the Opposition, before the personnel of the Commission could be settled, did not actually finish until between 3 and 4 o’clock this afternoon.
– When did the right honorable gentleman say that he submitted the scope of the Commission?
– I am not speaking of the scope, but of the personnelof the Commission. I suppose that the honorable and learnedmember will agree with me that the personnel is the main and most difficult point to settle, because it involves asking a number of gentlemen whether they will act or not.
– Both matters are important.
– I do not say that the other matter is not important ; but it is not so difficult as the selection of the members of the Commission.
– Yes, it is.
– I am only expressing my own opinion. Whether that’ be correct or not, the delay has occurred in no sense through any desire of mine to protract this period of uncertainty, but through the urgency of public business in respect to the conduct of which my honorable friend the leader of the Opposition andmyself have certain responsibilities. We had a number of very pressing matters to attend to through the whole of yesterday’s sitting. However, my honorable friend and I were able to come together this afternoon, and in a very few moments we finished our conversation, and arrived at an understanding as to the gentlemen whoshould be asked to form this Commission.
– Who advises the GovernorGeneral? The right honorable gentleman, or the leader of the Opposition ?
– What is this silly discord that strikes across an intelligent atmosphere? The honorable and learned member ought to recollect that the Government must always take the full responsibility of its executive acts. We are not questioning that. It is only the most shallow and superficial understanding of the importance of these national affairs which forbids a free and frank intercourse between two leaders upon matters which affect both sides of the House, and the community equally, and with regard to which we have all been anxious to act as free as possible from the intervention of party politics. I saw no infringement of the highest traditions of responsible government in conferring with the leader of the Opposition in a matter of mutual concern, which involves members of both sides, and in thus sharing with him the performance of a public duty. I did not perceive that I was wanting in dignity or propriety whenI approached the leader of the Opposition. If myhonorable friend had thought my action was wrong, he would not have met me in the manner he has done There has been no difficulty of any kind whatever, excepting that which I have explained, involving delay in my honorable friend and myself coming together this afternoon. The moment we settled the names of the gentlemen who should be asked to form the Commission, I approached the next question, namely, the scope of the Commission. I do not wish at present to go into that matter here; but I suggested to my honorable friend the leader of the Opposition - and I put it down in the shape of written headings - what the scope of the proposed Commission should be. My honorable friend received my memorandum before tea, and since then he and I have been in communication as to suggestions on his part, which I have invited him to make, in order that this Commission might be so framed as to give general satisfaction. My desire is to so act in every way, both as to the selection of the members and the scope of the Commission, that every one will be satisfied that everything is being done in a prefectly fair and impartial way.
– What about the casting vote ?
– The honorable and learned member is jumping from one question to another. I know that there cannot be any general debate upon this matter-
– No, there cannot.
– And I decline to make a statement under such circumstances. I have not myself yet had the advantage of settling finally the terms of this Commission, but what I wish to point out to the House is that I made a promise that, before the House rose, the Commission should be appointed - “ gazetted “ was the word I used. Thatmeans that the terms of the Commission, its scope, and its personnel, shall be absolutely made known to honorable members before the prorogation takes place. Having made that promise, I hope there is no honorable member who fancies that I am going to break it in any sense, and, therefore, any attempt to arrest the public business of the country as a sort of hostage for a full performance of my duty, would, if it were seriously intended, offer to me and to the Governmentan indignity which I should resent. But it is only fair to say that the honorable and learned member has, with perfect courtesy, shown me that he has no desire to cast any doubt upon my good faith or the good faith of the Government. My own impression is that this matter will now be settled very speedily, and I can again assure the House that before Parliament is prorogued, a Government Gazette, setting out the whole scope of the Commission, its terms, and its personnel, will be upon the table of the House.
– What the Minister has just stated in regard to the progress of the consultation between us as to the appointment of the Tariff Commission is substantially correct. There is only one very slight error into which he has inadvertently fallen. It is that, having to leave Melbourne on Friday last, I arranged to see him upon Tuesday. On Tuesday I saw him, and said that I was not then prepared to consult with him upon the matter. Yesterday each of us was so busy that we had not an opportunity to discuss the .matter, and perforce it had to stand over until today. I think that the Prime Minister might easily promise, without any loss of dignity, that honorable members shall be afforded an opportunity of discussing the scope of the Commission before the Parliament prorogues.
– Certainly, I should be very sorry to refuse that request. I have no objection to it at all.
– It is only a reasonable request. I dare say that, no matter what course may be adopted, some honorable members will find cause for complaint, and I do not think that they should be precluded from voicing their opinions upon such an important matter.
– That means reopening the Tariff debate.
– I do not think that the prediction of the honorable member for Parramatta will be borne out. I think that an opportunity should: be afforded to honorable members to discuss the scope and personnel of the Commission. They may entertain objections to both, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister and myself have agreed as to its composition.
– Does the honorable member wish to curtail the scope of the Commission ?
– I do not. Personally, I should like to have some indication of the primary matters to be inquired into by the Commission, but I do not for a moment wish to curtail the right of that body to inquire into every aspect of the Tariff which they may consider to be necessary. The only reason why I rose was to ascertain if the Prime Minister is willing to allow the matter to be discussed before Parliament prorogues.
– Most certainly.
– I understand that the Prime Minister now proposes to give the House an opportunity to discuss the scope of the Commission before Parliament is prorogued. In doing so he is practically taking away whatever justification may have existed for intervening at this stage. It was the interpretation which we placed upon his inaction that led to the motion for the adjournment of the debate. We had understood that, prior to finally dealing with the Appropriation Bill, both the personnel and the scope of the Commission would be made known.
– I did not promise that.
– Because that has not been done, and because we have had to trust, in a large measure, to what we have seen stated in the press and elsewhere, we were more than justified in asking for an official pronouncement on the subject.
– I do not at all object to the way in which the matter has been put. The honorable and learned member for Indi put the position with perfect courtesy to me, and’ I have no grievance whatever about it.
– I have no desire to take up an attitude hostile to the Government. At the same time, I think that the scope of the Commission is very much more important than its personnel, and I was under the impression that it would have been disclosed long ago.
– How can I reveal part of an Executive act before the GovernorGeneral himself knows it ? I cannot discuss such matters before advising the Crown upon them.
– I do not know why that which I regard as the more important side of the question should be left to the last moment. I should think that both the scope and personnel of the Commission might reasonably have been submitted to the leader of the Opposition simultaneously. But apart from that aspect of the question, I think that we should have some official pronouncement upon the subject. I do not propose to be bound either by what the Prime Minister or the leader of the Opposition does in connexion with this matter. We are justified in expecting an official pronouncement upon if, so that we may not be compelled to rely upon the press reports. As the Prime Minister has declared that he will give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the composition and scope of the Commission - though I for one would refuse to discuss the personnel of any Commission - I have nothing to add except that I hope ample time will be given us to debate the matter.
– I shall not run away, I can assure the honorable member. I shall stay here as long as there is a fight on.
– I regret very much that the Prime Minister has sheltered himself for his failure to carry out his promise to probably appoint this Commission upon Tuesday last, behind the leader of the Opposition. There is no dobut that the Prime Minister made that promise.
– He did not.
– I have had to point out more than once since this motion was moved that the question before the Chair is that the debate be now adjourned. I cannot therefore allow any discussion upon the personnel or scope of the Commission, or as to whether the Government have or have not broken a promise. The question under consideration is whether there are sufficient reasons to justify the adjournment of the debate at this stage.
– If I can show that on the 29th November ‘the Prime Minister promised that the Tariff Commission should be appointed last Tuesday, I submit that that might constitute a reason for believing that it will not be appointed at all, and for insisting that this Bill shall not be passed until it has been appointed. On the 29th November the Prime Minister stated, as recorded on page 7524 of Hansard -
I wish to say that the Government, so far from desiring to make those appointments during the recess, have been devoting their special attention to the subject, and I am very sanguine that I shall be able to make an announcement to the House as to the personnel of the Commission upon Tuesday next.
– Is that a promise?
– It is.
– It is not.
– It is a promise that the Commission would probably be appointed by that day.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– The reason why I wish the debate upon this Bill to be adjourned is that a number of men in my own constituency, who are feeling the pinch of hard times, are awaiting the appointment of the
Tariff Commission, in the hope that the result of its labours will be to afford them relief.
– The honorable and learned member voted to reduce these very duties.
– There are men in my constituency who are starving, and although the Prime Minister may laugh at the idea of any man starving-
– I was not laughing at that.
– I can only think of that historical parallel, when the Queen of France exclaimed, “Let the people eat grass “-
– Order!There is no historical parallel under consideration.
– That Queen did not reign very long. If the Prime Minister laughs at the idea of starving men, he will retire as she did.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable and learned member to charge the Prime Minister with laughing at the case of starving men. The honorable and learned member will please proceed with the discussion as to whether the debate upon this Bill should or should not be adjourned.
– The statement which has been made this evening suggests to my mind that it is highly probable that the Prime Minister is not sincere in regard to the appointment of the Tariff Commission. The honorable and learned member for Indi said that he did not question the bona fides of the right honorable gentleman. I do. If he were not in the position which he at present occupies, I should not pay so much attention to him. It is the office of Prime Minister , to which I have regard, and not the man. On the 23rd November last, in an interview which was published in the Argus and the Age, the Prime Minister said -
I want every one to know that there is no dodgery about this matter.
There have been times when Sir Edmund Barton, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and the honorable member for Bland, respectively, occupied the position of Prime Minister. How has the occupant of that great office fallen ! I do not think that any of them ever felt called upon to repudiate the charge of dodgery.
– Order ! The honorable member is not debating the question before the Chair.
– For the Prime Minister to repudiate a charge of dodgery implies that there is a lurking suspicion in his mind that he is acting in that manner.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member does not wish to defy the ruling of the Chair, and as he understands what that ruling is I ask him to obey it.
– Then I shall have to discuss the matter at a later stage. The following interview appeared in the Melbourne Herald on the 3rd instant : -
The Prime Minister to-day denied the statement in a morning contemporary that he was understood to be in favour of giving the chairman of the projected Tariff Commission a casting, as well as a deliberative, vote.
– I exceedingly regret to have repeatedly to interrupt the honorable and learned member, but he must know perfectly well that the matter which he is now discussing has nothing to do with the question whether or not the debate should be adjourned. Unless he complies with the rules of the House, I shall have to order him to resume his seat.
– I am sure that you, sir, will accept my statement that I am not transgressing deliberately. I do not desire the appointment of the Tariff Commission to be delayed. I should like to know whether I should be in order in discussing a statement that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who is to be its chairman, has declared that he will refuse to act upon it unless he is given a casting vote ?
– I rise to a point of order. What can some statement to the effect that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo would refuse to act upon the Commission, save upon a certain condition, have to do with the terms of this motion ?
– At the moment the Prime Minister rose I understood that the honorable and learned member for Corio was asking me whether a reference to a certain subject would be in order. I may say that a discussion of the matter to which he was referring would not be in order.
– I can only express regret that the Prime Minister did not see fit to appoint the Commission on Tuesday last. I exceedingly regret that the Government evidently intend to delay the appointment of the Commission as long as possible. After a delay of six weeks, the Prime Minister is not yet able to announce either its scope or personnel. I am sorry that he has thought if necessary to repudiate a possible insinuation of dodgery on behalf or himself, and I trust that the honorable and learned member for Indi will press his motion to a division. If he does, we shall see whether it is the desire of the House that the appointment of the Commission shall be further delayed - whether it thinks it right that the Appropriation Bill should be passed through-its remaining stages, thus depriving us of. our last constitutional opportunity to see that the most important work of the session is not further hindered or completely frustrated.
– I think that the honorable and learned member for Indi was amply justified in moving the adjournment of the debate. The reply given by the Prime Minister has, however, put another aspect upon the question. The right honorable gentleman has shown good reasons for his inability to make any announcement to the House with regard to the scope and personnel of the Tariff Commission, and I accept his statement. I should like to point out, however, that the reason why he has not been able to proceed further with the matter, is that he has been unable to consult the leader of the Opposition. The debate ought to be adjourned for the reason that I and other members of the Labour Party do not know to what our leader has agreed. I prefer to express my own opinions on the subject. A statement was made in the press this morning that the Labour Party had discussed the personnel of the Commission.
– That statement is incorrect.
– But it is accepted by the people of the country.
– God pity the country.
– The honorable member knows that great attention is always paid by the public to a statement which appears in the press relative to an important matter of this kind. It is only fair that the Labour Party, and its allies, as well as other sections of the House, should have an opportunity to learn what has so far been done, and to say whether or not they are satisfied. As the’ leader of the Opposition has also been consulted with regard to the scope of the Commission, and as the Prime. Minister has agreed that it is only reasonable .that honorable members should have an opportunity to discuss it, some time for consideration should be allowed us. I certainly object to a statement being published that the Labour Party has approved of anything which has been done up to the present in regard to the , appointment of the Commission.
– We have not been asked, to approve.
– That is so. I am not finding fault with what is being done in this matter ; I merely contend that we should have an opportunity to express our approval or disapproval of the determination of the Government, and that it should not go forth that we have approved of something which up to the present has not been done.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- From the reply given by the Prime Minister to the remarks made by the honorable and learned member for Indi, in moving the adjournment of the debate, we can see that the best of good feeling now exists between them. It is true that a slight misapprehension arose; but that was quickly dissipated. The objects which the honorable and learned member for Indi has in view - to ascertain definitely before the close of the session the personnel and scope of the Commission and to ensure to honorable members an opportunity to discuss the determination of the Government - are shared by a very large number of honorable members of the Opposition. The appointment of the Commission is an Executive act, and the Government will take the responsibility of it. No one will doubt the statement of the Prime Minister, nor do I think that any ‘ one will deny the right of every honorable member to comment upon the selection made. The Prime Minister has made a statement to the House, which I think we ought to accept. He promises that he will give us an opportunity to deal with the question, and I hope that he will also give the House a chance to further consider the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– I wish to send this Bill on to another place so that we may proceed with the consideration of that measure. I. wish the House to deal with the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill to-night, and to proceed to-morrow with the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– In the light of the statement made by the Prime Minister, I think that the honorable and learned member for Indi should now withdraw his motion, for no purpose will be served by further discussing it. We shall have an opportunity at a later stage to deal with the appointment of the Tariff Commission.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- I hope that the honorable and learned member for Indi will accept the advice tendered him by the honorable member for Riverina, rather than that offered by the honorable member for Corio, who urged that he should press the motion’ to a division. I should like to say that there is much force in the interjection made by the honorable member for Wide Bay, that it would be a bad thing for the country if it had to depend on the newspapers for accurate reports of everything that transpires in this Parliament. The Government will be solely responsible for the appointment of a Tariff Commission. The Prime Minister has been good enough to consult with the leader of the Opposition in order that .the most satisfactory Commission may be appointed. Whatever may have been the result of the meeting the leader of the Opposition has not consulted the members of his party about it.
– There is no necessity to do so.
– Quite so. I trust that the honorable member will not consult his party in regard to this matter, or seek to make them in any way responsible for the appointment of the Commission. When the Prime Minister makes an announcement to the House, we shall be able to deal with the question in a proper way.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- I shall content myself by saying that, having regard to the statement by the Prime Minister, I am perfectly willing to withdraw my motion. In order to prevent any misapprehension, I may be permitted to add, in view of the observation, to which allusion has been made by the leader of the Opposition, that whilst none of us desire that the proper scope of the Commission should be curtailed, we certainly do not wish that it should be unduly extended.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. REID (East Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - Earlier in the debate the honorable member for Wide Bay brought forward the matter of the sugar bounty, which is, no doubt, of most vital consequence to a very large number of persons in Queensland. I entirely sympathize with the determination he has shown from the first to bring the question before the Ministry, as one of the most urgent character. I have also received representations from the Premier of Queensland, expressing the great anxiety of the people of that State to have the earliest possible intimation of the intentions of the Government with reference to the bounty, which expires, I think, at the end of 1906.
– The legislation with regard to sugar Excise will also expire at the same time.
– Both expire on the last day of 1906.
– And in the absence of legislation, there will be a greater protective duty for the black-grown sugar.
– While I recognise the undoubted urgency of the matter as affecting a number of persons in Queensland, I think that honorable members will accept my assurance that, as the Government only recently came into office, and have had much to occupy their attention, they have not been able to master, in all their aspects, the somewhat troublesome conditions of this problem. We recognise its importance, and that very importance has made us hesitate to come to a hurried decision. I am really quite unable to intimate, in these circumstances, the policy which the Government will propose next session in regard to this matter. I am very sorry that I cannot give my honorable friend satisfaction, for I feel that if I could, I should give relief to a large number of persons in Queensland. But we have not been able, as a Cabinet, to deal with the question, and the illness of the Treasurer has been largely responsible for that fact As honorable members know, the Treasurer has studied this matter, perhaps more closely than has any other member of any Commonwealth Ministry, but as the result of his unfortunate illness, extending over many weeks, we have not had that assistance from him in respect of these and other questions which we should have liked. In these circumstances, I cannot give any further reply than this : That the statements made by the Treasurer in his budget speech still embody the intentions of the Government.We hope to be in a position when Parliament re-assembles next session, if not before, to intimate the policy we have decided to adopt. I do not say that we shall be able to make any announcement before next session, but if we come to a conclusion at an earlier date, I see no reason why we should not make our decision public without waiting for the re-assembling of the Parliament.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I wish it to be clearly understood, however, that I cannot give a definite promise to make an announcement before Parliament meets next session.
– The right honorable member admits thatthe Treasurer knows more about the subject than does any other Minister, and he is favorable to our request, that the bounty should be continued.
– His opinion will have very great weight with the Cabinet, but the matter is too important to be determined by one member of a Cabinet, however competent he may be. I am very sorry that I cannot give my honorable friend a more satisfactory reply in regard to the question.
– What about the New Guinea mail service?
– I may mention, in reply to the honorable member that, pending the passing of this Bill, we have not made any agreement with Burns, Philp, and Company. I promise my honorable friend, and others who have referred to the matter during this debate, that I personally will go most carefully into the question before any contract is made. I have listened to the statements of honorable members, and shall bc able to refer to the Hansard report of them. I shall carefully deal with the question, and shall, of course, take the full responsibility for anything we may do. But at present the Government are not committed in any way. It is quite an open question, and’ I shall take care to carefully consider it before any arrangement is made. As to the further question raised in regard to the Pacific Islands services, I may say that I have already arranged for two of the three lines of vessels to call at Queensland ports. I am informed, however, that if the vessels of the third line were to call at them, it would’ involve a detour, which would nullify our endeavours to secure a more expeditious service. Even as to that matter, however, I shall make personal inquiries. I will give careful attention to the representations that have been made.
Question resolved in , the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - Minister of
External Affairs). - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill which was introduced into the Senate, not long ago, by the AttorneyGeneral, and was brought forward because of very urgent representations which were made to the Government by a deputation from a general assembly of the Fruit-growers’ Union of Australia, which was held in Melbourne. The deputation waited upon me, and made a very strong appeal for the termination of the state of things which now exists in connexion with the carriage by sea of perishable products. I promised to give the matter immediate consideration, and brought it before the’ Cabinet, with the result that we came to the conclusion that we should, even in advance of the Navigation Bill, deal with the subject as an urgent matter. Beforespeaking upon the provisions of the Bill, I should like to briefly place before honorable members the present state of the law upon the subject. So far as the British Empire is concerned, there has been no legislation, except in New Zealand, to interfere with what is called freedom of contract, as applied to the shipping business, that is to say, the demand of ship-owners to be allowed to contract themselves out of all liability and responsibility for the carriage of their freights has been allowed to prevail, because there is no law to prevent it. Of course, there are necessarily two parties to all contracts ; the shippers must agree to these conditions, or want of conditions. But, in point of fact, the whole of the shipping trade makes demand for absolution from the ordinary conditions attaching to the occupation of a common carrier,, so that there is really no freedom to the shipper to vindicate his right to conditions such as attach to other contracts for the carriage of freight. The shipping companies - and as it is lawful, I have nothing to say against the practice - have exercised their ingenuity to minimize their responsibility for the carriage of freight to the smallest point, and so fully have they absolved themselves that, if, whilst a cargo was being carried across the seas, the grossest negligence, the grossest thieving, or the grossest abuse should occur, they would not be liable. Cases of fruit might be opened and eaten by the crew-
– Yes; but I mention the crew, because they are the servants of the shipping companies, and they can obtain entrance, to the holds by passages with which the passengers are not familiar. This is a state of things which I think is a disgrace to the shipping trade. There is no sort of equity or fairness in it. When the great English railway companies sprang into existence, it was felt to be necessary to prevent them from contracting themselves out of their liability as common carriers, and the first of several Acts for that purpose was passed in, I think, 1854. In America they have gone still further, because, while under the English law the shipping trade is not prevented from contracting itself out of its liabilities as a common carrier, as a railway company or other common carrier by land is prevented, in the United States these companies have been dealt with on the lines laid down in the Bill before us. New Zealand is, I believe, the only part of the British Empire which prevents shippers from contracting themselves out of their liabilities. But instead of . applying the measure to perishable products only, we have appliedit to cargo of all kinds, the Bill being general in its scope. It prevents the attempt on the part of a ship-owner to absolve himself from his proper duties as a common carrier in reference to cargo. It has been objected that the effect of this enactment will be to raise freights. That may be so, but the result of the present practice in so framing bills of lading as to get rid’ of all responsibility has compelled shippers to insure themselves against loss, by arrangement with other companies, and these insurances are generally effected at high rates. That the shipper has to go to an) insurance office to protect himself from the default of the ship-owner who has agreed to carry his goods, in itself points to the need of putting the trade on a more honest and proper footing. I asked the deputation of fruit-growers which waited upon me if the proposed legislation would injuriously affect them by increasing . their freights. Of course, business men should study these matters, and they told me that they had done so, and that their opinion was that freights could not well be made much higher, that they are now paying very high rates, without enjoying the protection which they should have.
– The highest rates in the world.
– I have heard from other sources that that is so, and in my opinion it increases the need for legislation of this kind. If shippers got their perishable produce conveyed at low rates, it might be contended that they were getting as much as they paid for; but since rates are high, the iniquity of the present practice becomes glaring, and urgently calls for a remedy. There are two matters which are not dealt with by the Bill, which follows the lines of, the New Zealand and United States Acts, but which it is suggested we should provide for. The Bill does not copy the United States Act in one respect, but, after full inquiry, 1 am prepared to add to it a clause which will make it practically the same as that Act. In the United States there has been more litigation on the third clause of what is known as the Harter Act than on the other provisions of the measure; but the Government have carefully followed’ the decisions which have been given, and have caused a clause to be drafted which, it is thought, removes the difficulties which have been discovered in the operation of the. United Stales Act. All sorts of complex questions of liability arose in connexion with the Harter Act, such, for instance, as the liability in connexion with a collision; but we think that the clause which we desire to insert is so worded that the intentions of the Legislature will be perfectly clear. We have also thought, upon consideration, that we should not resist the very strong demand that there shall be no interference with existing contracts.
– I think that clause 7, which provides that the measure shall not come into force until the 1st January next, prevents it from interfering with existing contracts.
– A difficulty might arise under clause 5.
– I think so. The Bill, as it stands, is not sufficiently clear on the point, and I am prepared to accept a new clause, which the honorable member for Franklin intends to propose, protecting existing contracts. I find that there are in existence contracts which have been going on for a considerable period, and it would be inequitable to suddenly put an end to them. I am prepared, therefore, to make it clear that, whilst the measure comes into operation on the 1st of next month, so far as new contracts are concerned, it will not prejudice existing contracts.
– The Bill deals only with shipping going to other countries, or passing from State to State. Is there no danger that the States Legislatures may think that, as the Commonwealth has control of navigation as a whole, it is not necessary for them to interfere to secure the regulation of the coasting trade ?
– The view we take is that it is safer to make the provisions of the measure apply only to ships going from Australia to other countries, or from one State to another.
– I do not think that we can, under section 98 of the Constitution, apply these provisions to shipping going from one port to another within a State.
– That is so. There is no reason why these provisions should not apply fo the coastal trade of the States, except the limitation in the Constitution. We thought that we had not the power to apply the provisions qf the measure to transportation within a State, and did not wish to raise controversial questions.
– Section 98 seems to give us full power to do that.
– No. The power we have is conferred by sub-section 1 of section 51.
– Our view was that we had no jurisdiction under any part of the Bill that would apply to the domestic transportation of any State, say, from one port to another, in Victoria. I presume that honorable members have seen the Bill. It is a very small one, and contains only seven clauses. The definition of goods, in clause 2, includes everything except live animals. The third clause provides, as I have described, as to the extent to which the Bill shall apply to trade. The fourth clause refers to the conditions which are included in bills of lading, contrary to justice and equity, and which we think ought not to be permitted. They are all specified in the clause, and I do not think that among them honorable members will find any condition which should not be prohibited.
– Does not that collide with the principle of freedom of contract ?
– Yes, it does, from one point of view. As has been said in other cases, there is no freedom to contract in the present instance, because men are compelled to accept such conditions that freedom practically forms no element in the contract.
– This is a good socialistic proposal.
– I do not care, so long as it is right. I think that we can find something good in almost anything - even in the Labour Party. If my honorable friends will carefully study the conditions that are prohibited in bills of lading under clause 4 of this measure, they will see that we are not interfering more than is absolutely neces- sary with the rights of ship-owners. Clause 5 has the effect of defining jurisdiction and fixing the construction. The sixth clause provides for penalties. Of course, it is necessary that the prohibition should be followed by certain penalties. As honorable members know, the amended Acts Interpretation Act, passed this session, provides that penalties fixed in the form adopted in the Bill, namely, ‘‘penalty £100,” shall mean the maximum penalties - not that the full amount shall be inflicted in every case, but that the penalty shall not exceed the amount specified. Therefore, the penalty provided for in this case means “ not exceeding£100.” Then there is another clausewhich provides that the Act shall come into operation on the 1st January, 1905. I propose to accept the new clause, of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Franklin, which reads as follows: -
This Act shall not apply to any bill of lading or document issued after the passing of this Act in pursuance of any contract or agreement entered into before the passing of this Act.
Provided that the exemption contained in this clause shall cease on and after 30th June, 1905.
– That provision could be made in the form of an addition to clause 4.
– Yes, the honorable member for Franklin would be quite at liberty to make his proposal in the form of an amendment to clause 4, and I suggest that he should adopt that course. I think that the proviso that the exemption contained in the clause, shall cease on and after 30th June, 1905, is a proper one. The Bill cannot become law in a moment, and as notice has been given, it would be very easy for persons who desire to contract themselves out of the operation of this Bill to enter into long contracts before the Bill became law. For instance, they could extend their contracts for ten years, and thus nullify the law so far as they were concerned for an indefinite period. Therefore, if we allow thepresent contracts to hold good until the middle of next year, those who are interested will have ample time to make any alterations in their arrangements that may be necessitated by this legislation. The new clause which we have drafted follows the principles of the Harter Act of the United States, but it avoids the provisions in that section which have caused endless trouble in the Courts of the United States, and have led to constructions being placed upon the legislation that were never contemplated. For instance, it was never intended that the owner of goods in course of transit should be involved in liability as between the owner of the ship in which his goods were being carried, and the owner of some other ship, with which it might come into collision. Under the Harter Act the owner of the goods in such cases is dragged into all sorts of questions of general average under certain conditions, with which he should really have nothing to do under an Act of this kind, because the object of this particular provision is to go no further than the relations which exist between the individual shipper and the individual shipowner. It has nothing whatever to do with the liabilities which arise under other circumstances, and the proposed new clause, which adopts the principles of the third section of the Harter Act, in words which clearly express the intention, reads as follows : - 6a. Neither a ship nor her owner, charterer, or agent shall be responsible to the owner of goods carried on the ship for damage toor loss of the goods -
That is to say, that if a vessel is seaworthy and has been properly manned and equipped, and goods are damaged, not owing to negligence, so far as their stowage or management are concerned, but owing to some error in navigating the ship which may result, for instance, in its grounding upon a shoal, it is not intended that the ship shall be liable. The proposed new clause eliminates a number of words in section 3 of the Harter Act, which have caused immense trouble in America.
– Is the form of that section an affirmative exoneration of the ship-owner from liability?
– I think that the proper course to adopt is to consider any new clauses in Committee. At the present stage, we are considering whether we shall read a second time a Bill which is in print. Therefore we can hardly take into consideration clauses which are not in the Bill until we reach the Committee stage. I would suggest that course to the Prime Minister.
– I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. All I desired to do was to indicate io honorable members what we proposed to adopt in the way of alterations. Perhaps it would be more convenient for us to go into Committee, and deal with the matter there.
– I cannot quite share the view expressed by the Prime Minister, because the Bill, short as it may be, is really a very serious measure, and calls for our most careful consideration. The Prime Minister has made the statement that only in one other part of the British Empire has legislation of this character been carried into effect. The honorable gentleman apparently forgot that the Royal Assent had not yet been given to the New Zealand Act, and that, therefore, it had not yet come into operation. That fact in itself is sufficient to show that this measure, is fraught with important consequences to a very large number of interests, and deserves something more than summary consideration at the fag end of the session. I represent the various Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth, and I should like to inform honorable members as to the attitude assumed by these bodies. At the third annual meeting of the general Council of the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth, held in Melbourne in April last, the following resolution was passed : -
That this Council recommends that legislation in respect of bills of lading should be in the form of the Act of Congress of the United States of America, 1S93, known as the Harter . Act.
It is common knowledge that for years past in all parts of the British Empire there, has been great conflict between shippers and ship-owners. Owing to the new clauses which have been inserted, in bills of lading year after year, it is really difficult to know what risk, if any, the ship-owner now takes. An agitation has taken place in Great Britain, and in every State of the Commonwealth, upon the subject, and is now being supported by the united councils of the Chambers of Commerce in the Commonwealth, with a desire to secure such modifications, as will throw just obligations and responsibility upon ship-owners. The Chambers occupy a difficult position, because they represent the general trading and commercial interests of the whole community. Whilst they consider that it is absolutely necessary that some change such as that now proposed should be made, they have no wish to place ship-owners in such a position that they will be absolutely without remedy. That, presumably, would be the position of the ship-owners, if the Bill were passed in its present form. This House has been approached by way of petition by the shipowners, who have set out various reasons why they should be granted certain protection. No doubt they have acted properly, but I think that in the light of their knowledge of the agitation which was proceeding, they might have informed the Chambers of Commerce at an earlier date. I have circulated an amendment, which reads as follows: -
If the owner of any vessel, transporting any merchandise or property to or from any port within the Commonwealth, shall exercise due diligence to make the said vessel, in all respects sseaworthy and properly manned, equipped, and supplied, neither the vessel, her owner or owners, agent, or charterers shall become or be held responsible for damage or loss resulting from faults or errors in navigation of said vessel, nor shall the vessel, her owner 01 owners, chatterers, agent, or master be held liable for losses arising from dangers of the sea, or other navigable waters,
I acts of God, or public enemies, ot the inherent defect, quality, or vice of the things carried or from insufficiency of package, or seizure under legal process, or for loss resulting from any act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent or representative, or from saving or attempting to save life or property at sea, or for any deviation in rendering such service.
It embodies substantially the provisions of section 3 of the Harter . Act. I. am very gratified to know that the Prime Minister has agreed to what will probably prove to be a better proposal than that which I intend to submit. It is a modification, of the Harter Act which will protect the shipping companies from any injustice.
– This Bill is intended to protect the fruit shippers. .
– Whilst I am entirely in sympathy with legislation of this character, 1 do not wish an injustice to be done to the shipping industry. If we enact legislation on the lines of the Harter Act, I think that we shall do well for all concerned.
– The Prime Minister has said that that Act has been responsible for endless litigation.
– Only certain portions of it. I venture to say that the word “ management,” which appears in that Act, has created more litigation than has anything else. The point has been raised as to whether that term referred to the management df a vessel, or to ,the management of the products which the ship-owners were carrying. I may mention that the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce support this Bill in substance upon the understanding that a provision will be inserted in it which will have substantially the same effect as section 3 of the Harter Act. It is also supported by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, the secretary of which has written to me as follows : -
The Council are of opinion that any measure on the lines of the previously expressed views of the Chamber, and particularly of the resolution of the general council of the Chamber of Commerce of the Commonwealth, April, 1904, and of the proposed “ measure to extend the remedies of persons, &c, &c,” vide report of General Council of the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth, April, 1904, pages 128- 130 - should be supported.
He adds -
It is only just, however, to state that the members of the Chamber, constituting the shipping trade sectional committee are strongly opposed to the measure.
I am also in receipt of the following telegram from the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce : -
Referring Sea Carriage Goods Bill, Adelaide Chamber recommends legislation on lines Harter Act, but strongly urges nothing to be done until report of Navigation Commission is available. Consider Bill in present form detrimental to Australian commerce.
I am of opinion that had that body known that it was proposed to insert in this Bill an amendment on the lines of the Harter Act it would have modified the concluding portion of its communication. I quite concur in the view that the details of this measure can be best threshed out in Committee. The Bill is practically the product of a deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister. Whilst the Chambers of Commerce in , the various States are in sympathy with its object and wish to see it become law, they disclaim any desire to inflict injustice upon the ship-owners, with whom it is desirable that all shippers should act justly and harmoniously.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I sincerely hope that this Bill will be passed. It is very urgently needed in the interests of the producers of all the States. The charge which has so frequently been levelled against members of the Labour Party that they have regard only to the interests of the residents of the towns, has become so ludicrous that I need scarcely refer to it. I feel that this Bill constitutes an interference with so called “ freedom of contract “ which both’ sides of the House will feel justified in attempting. It is a case in which there is no freedom of contract. Our producers have to send their produce to England in whatever ships are available, and on such terms as the shipowners dictate. Consequently, it might just as well be said that Esau had freedom of contract when he bartered his birth-right for a mess of pottage. I ask the Prime Minister not to pass the new clause through Committee tonight. Section 3 of the Harter Act has led to a great deal of litigation. An effort has been made by general consent to avoid the pitfalls that have been found in that section. I understand that a new clause has been drafted, which will need very careful consideration. Personally, I should not like to criticise that provision immediately it has been placed in my hands. Clause 3 of the Bill applies only to shipping between Australia and’ other countries, or between State and State. I am afraid that we are compelled to that limitation by the Constitution. It is very unfortunate that, although we can legislate in respect of shipping between Melbourne and Adelaide, we cannot legislate in respect of shipping bebetween Melbourne and Warrnambool. That is one of the faults of the Constitution which we accepted in imitating the United States Constitution.
– I think it was caused by the shifting of the navigation clauses which necessitated the re-drafting of the Constitution.
– It must have been forgotten in the drafting of our Constitution that the coast-line of each of our States is much longer than is that of the States of America, as a rule. Our States are tremendously large, as compared with the average American State. As a result we may have a ship voyaging from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Brisbane, a distance of 1,1.00 miles, and this Parliament cannot legislate with regard to it, notwithstanding that it can legislate for a ship voyaging from Brisbane to the Richmond River.
– Do not these criticisms constitute a reflection on the Constitution?
– I think that we are coerced by the Constitution into limiting the operation of this Bill. I should much prefer to be a party to a measure which dealt with Australian shipping as a whole, than to deal with it in this piecemeal fashion. In my opinion, clause 4 requires reconsideration. The chief object of the Bill is to aid producers in sending their commodities to England. That object, I fear, will not be properly achieved under paragraph b of clause 4. It deals with rather a technical matter, and I should like the attention of the honorable and learned member for Parkes to my remarks. Clause 4 provides in effect that the obligations of the owner or charterer of a vessel to make and keep the ship’s hold, refrigerating and cool chambers, safe for the reception and carriage of goods, are not to be lessened by anything which may be contained in the bill of lading. The difficulty is that the owner or charterer may say, “I am under no obligation to make proper refrigerating chambers, and, therefore, I am not lessening any obligation upon me to make and keep any proper refrigerating chambers and cool storage.”
– That applies to the whole of the Act, does it not ?
– Of course the Harter Act was framed upon the basis of the existing common law liabilities. But I would point out that there are no common law liabilities in regard to providing refrigerating chambers. They were not dreamt of at the time that the common law was growing up. ‘ Therefore, it was quite right to declare in the Harter Act that the obligations at common law to keep a ship in a proper seaworthy condition are not to be lessened by any contract. But when we say that the obligation to keep refrigerating chambers right are not to be lessened by any contract, the provision is without meaning. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should reconsider paragraph b of clause 4, with a view to making it clear beyond all doubt that there is an affirmative, positive duty cast upon the owner or charterer of a vessel to see that there are refrigerating chambers on board, and that they are properly kept throughout the voyage. Although the point seems to be a technical one, he will recognise that it is perfectly simple. The paragraph to which I have referred lays it down that nothing in the bill of lading shall lessen the obligation upon any owner or charterer of a vessel to keep proper refrigerating chambers. But if there foe no obligation to lessen, the provision is meaningless.
– What about the word “ avoided “?
– But there must be an obligation to start with. At common law, assuming there were no special terms in the contract, there is a certain obligation on carriers by sea as well as on carriers by land, to provide a good ship, or a good vehicle, as the case may be.
– The shipper chooses his own ship; he need not contract to send his produce by a particular vessel.
– That is another point. I was seeking to reply to the inquiry made by the honorable member for Wentworth as to whether the word “avoiding” would not meet the case. I think that the whole question hinges on the word “obligation.” There must first of all be an existing obligation, which is not to be lessened. I cannot find any provision for such an obligation, unless it be provided for by contract. A ship-owner, however, would say that he did not contract to undertake the obligation. I am glad that the honorable member for Kooyong has expressed the opinion of the Chambers of Commerce upon this question. Although certain amendments have been submitted by the Chambers, I recollect that, at a conference of Chambers of Commerce which met in Melbourne about three years ago, the late Hon. Robert Reid - one of the most experienced men in these matters whom. I have ever met in Australia - actually urged that not only should there be legislation with regard to the contents of bills of lading, but that ships should be run by the Government to convey our produce to England. There must be a change coming over the feelings of the people when such a man - a strong individualist and anti-Socialist, who happened, however, to be an importer and exporter, but not a ship-owner or a charterer - could say. “The terms of bills of lading have become so stringent as to exempt the ship-owner or charterer from every liability, and we must press the Government to interfere by legislation.” At the same time, a merchant invariably deprecates State interference in any matter in which he is personally interested. The Prime Minister has accepted the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin, which, I think, is absolutely fair. All that it means is that where persons have already made arrangements for vessels to go to a port to ship produce, this measure shall not interfere with the agreements made, although bills of lading may not have been actually signed.
– Shippers in Tasmania have entered into contracts with seventeen steamers to carry their produce. If this measure at once came into force there would not be time for them to arrange for fresh steamers to carry their produce to the markets of the old world before the opening of the fruit season.
– I think that the suggestion is a fair and sensible one, and so far as I can see, I shallbe very happy to support it. The exception to the proviso is also right. It is necessary that some limit should be placed on the time allowed, otherwise ship-owners would take care to make arrangements that would bring them within the proviso.
– It requires two parties to make an arrangement.
– But the honorable member knows as well as does any other honorable member, that very often one party is compelled to make an agreement with the result that the other can dictate what terms he pleases.
– But surely not in the short interval proposed in this case?
– I hope that after the second reading of the Bill has been agreed to, we shall be allowed some time to consider these questions before the measure passes through the Committee stage.
– 1 listened to the speech made by the Prime Minister, when introducing this measure, with considerable satisfaction, because it evidenced a strong desire on his part to hold the scales evenly between the two great interests involved - those of the shipowner, and those of the persons who have much greater local influence, the fruitgrowers and other producers of this country. I also listened with much satisfaction to the speech made by the honorable member for Kooyong, because, although he has taken an active part in the work. of some of the commerical bodies which have agitated for this legislation, I think he, too, succeeded in assuming a very judicial attitude in dealing with the two interests involved. I am bound to say that I do not feel quite so satisfied as to the impartiality shown by the honorable member for Northern Melbourne in the speech which he has just delivered. I may be wrong in my method of interpreting his desires, but he seemed to me to have one class only in his mind - the very large and important class of fruit-growers and other producers nearest home, whose interests we are very apt to magnify in considering all the issue’s at stake. For instance, the honorable member commenced by suggesting that we might find it more desirable to adopt the stronger provisions of the Harter Act, which have already been embodied in this Bill, and to reject the one section of all others, which the Legislature of the United States thought it only fair to introduce into that measure as a saving provision from the ship-owners’ point of view. I remember that the draft of the Inter-State Commission Bill, as introducedin this House, contained some marginal notes indicating that ft had been taken from an American Act. I had occasion to look very carefully into the Act, of which it purported to be a reproduction, and found that not only had the clauses in the Commonwealth Bill been so considerably altered as to materially change the effect of the measure, but that other provisions which, as in the case of the Harter Act, were considered by the Legislature of the United States to balance the obligations between the parties interested, had been wholly omitted. I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister say that, as the outcome of representations which had been made to him, he was disposed, with certain modifications, which I think he could justify, to adopt the whole of the Harter Act, which the United States Parliament thought a just and equitable basis of arrangement between the ship-owner, and the produce merchant and fruit-growers. The honorable member for Northern Melbourne should be careful to remember that, although we may produce butter, fruit, and a variety of perishable products in this country, it would be utterly useless to carry on the various industries to which they relate unless at the same time we could command competent and sufficiently seaworthy vessels to carry that produce to the markets of the world. Although the persons whose interests are wrapped up in these great shipping companies may not be on the spot, and may not be able to exercise the same influence by deputations and other means, as can the fruit-growers and others who live here, we must remember that the great industries of Australia, whether they be pastoral, agricultural, dairying, or fruit-growing, must be looked at as a whole. We must have regard not merely to the extent of their products, but to the means of conveying those products to the markets of the world. There are something like thirteen or fifteen great shipping companies now competing for the refrigerating trade of Australia with
Europe; and although I am not here to champion any company, I hold that we ought to seriously take into consideration the effect that any measure introduced in this House is likely to have on that great industry, upon which our producers depend, just as much as they do upon the seasons in which they cultivate particular products.
– I think we are endeavouring to deal fairly with this matter.
– I am not complaining of anything which the honorable member has said ; I am indorsing the spirit which the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Kooyong exhibited in dealing with this matter; but I am deprecating any lop-sided view of the question, which may or may not be the result of the fact that one class of persons happens to reside in Australia, while the other class is absent. We have a precedent for this measure. We have the fact that the United States, with a population of 80,000,000, with legislators as able as ourselves, with interests as wide and as diversified as our own, considered this question some years ago, with the result that the Harter Act was passed. I think that it would throw an enormous responsibility upon any Government, or upon any member of this House, to suggest that because the one interest is here, and the other is elsewhere, we should pick and choose between the sections of an Act which we are copying from the legislation of a great country like that of the United States - that we should select those which are beneficial to local interests, and reject those which will protect the interests of those who are outside.
– There is no reason why we should unnecessarily harass ship-owners.
– No. We have to remember that the shipping interest is so important that without it we might as well give up producing anything of a perishable character in this country.When we reflect upon the fact that these great companies are now sending to our shores vessels which, in some cases, cost£250,000 each, we must recognise that an enormous sum is being invested in order to give us the great advantage which such a service means. I recognise at once that, both in the matter of ships and of the produce, the mainspring of all this effort is commercial self-interest. We must not suppose, however, that because the one interest is represented by a great company, whose shareholders we cannot trace, and the other by individuals who can personally wait on the Prime Minister, and submit their grievances to him, the one is to be treated differently from the other. As long as we see that in copying an Act passed by the Legislature of a great community like that of the United States, both interests are properly conserved, we shall do very well, assuming, of course, that that measure is applicable to our circumstances. Something has been said by the honorable member for Northern Melbourne as to the regret which he feels that this measure cannot be applied to shipping between local ports, such as Melbourne and Warrnambool. Surely that is a consideration upon which it would be rather out of place for this Chamber to spend any time. It is a purely academic, post mortem sort of inquiry as to what ought to have been provided in the Constitution. The honorable member was one of the members of the Conventions which framed the Constitution, and it was quite open to him to take exception to any provision in the Constitution limiting the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in this respect to matters as between State and State. If the Bill had attempted to deal with the shipping within the States themselves, it would have been ultra vires of the Constitution, and some of its clauses would have been jeopardized, so that the Government were wise in limiting it as they have done. It is, however, a very partial sort of measure. Any person who has come here to-night by railway, having purchased a ticket, has accepted conditions absolving the Railway Commissioners of this State from a huge variety of risks which may occur in a journey from a suburb to the city.
– Have not the Courts ruled that those conditions are not effective?
– No; and I have myself suffered because of them. It is necessary to make a declaration of value to insure the liability of the railway authorities from loss in connexion with anything they have agreed to carry. I think that the value of the article has to be declared as exceeding£1. Honorable members should recollect, therefore, that it is not only the great shipping companies which send their vessels from England and Europe to Australia which make these conditions. The Prime Minister, in his speech, used one or two phrases which I think on a future occasion he will hesitate to repeat. He spoke of the present state of things as a disgrace to the shipping trade,” and “ contrary to justice.” If this has been so apparent for years, surely one may express surprise that the Legislatures of the Stateshave not introduced legislation to prevent the railway authorities from contracting themselves out of their liability in regard to the safe carriage of the goods of the selectors, the farmers, and the dairymen of the country. It must be remembered that we are now singling out a class of persons who are serving the community with a convenience which we could not do without. We ought, therefore, not to characterize these contracts, to which there must be two parties, by the language which has been used, and to which I take exception. We are now practically obtruding upon the domain of private contract. The leader of the Opposition said - I think very properly - that this is a piece of Socialism. So it is. There are hundreds of contracts being entered into every day which might as well be interfered with, if the ground for interference is that one of the parties is not at liberty to do more than accept or reject the conditions offered by the other. I could give many instances which show that in a score of relationships one set of citizens is in that position.
– The Commonwealth could not legislate in regard to the railways of the States.
– No; but the right honorable member was for twenty years a member of a State Legislature, and other honorable members have been members of State Legislatures for shorter periods ; yet they were willing to allow the railway authorities to absolve themselves from liability for the life of the father of a family or the safe carriage of goods to market.
– An Act was passed in New South Wales to lessen the liability of the Railway Commissioners there in the case of accident to passengers.
– I believe that an Act was passed limiting the liability of the Commissioners in the event of some great disaster occurring.
– Because of the tremendous amount of compensation for which they would otherwise be liable.
– It looks as though we were making fish of one interest and fowl of another.
– I assure the honorable and learned member that some of us would like to fix the same responsibility on both kinds of carriers.
– I am very glad to hear it. All I am contending for now is that we are taking action only in one direction. If the stupendous cost of a collision to the Railways Commissioners of a State be a ground for absolving them from or limiting their liability, surely it should be a ground for absolving or limiting the shipping companies. Take the case of the loss of the Australia, a vessel worth £250,000, which was run ashore by an officer of this State, with the result that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cargo were destroyed or damaged. Surely such an accident would render the company, if uninsured, liable to enormous damages, which it would be less able to pay than a public body, such as the Railways Commissioners of a State. The Parliaments of the States, in passing legislation to absolve the railway authorities from their liability as common carriers, admitted a principle which is quite contrary to that embodied in the Bill. My reason for speaking now is that the great shipping companies are practically unrepresented here. They are not the constituents of any member. They are not like the fruitgrowers, who are scattered over the country, and can wait on a Minister in reference to a disaster which may have overtaken their small industry, through the alleged negligence of some great company.
– Often from actual negligence.
– At all events, the shipping companies are not represented here, and, therefore, I ask honorable members not to take a lopsided view of this subject. The House must remember that there are always two parties to these contracts.
– Is it a bad principle that those who have the control should also have the liability ?
– Have they always the control? When the Australia was lost, the vessel was in charge of an officer of this State to whom the company were compelled to intrust their ship.. But for the adoption by the Prime Minister of a provision modelled on the third section of the Harter Act, which the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne thinks should not be inserted, an incalculable liability would have been thrown upon the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in that instance had this measure been law.
– There was no negligence on the part of the company’s servants in that case, and no action on their part which could have been construed as negligence.
– Although the honorablemember speaks confidently on the subject, the legal effect of provisions like these is not so easily settled. If I were asked to say what will be the result of passing the Bill, I would reply that it will be to increase rates of freight. Every one who knows anything about commerce is aware that some shipping companies issue two kinds of bills of lading. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, for example, issues what is called a red bill, and what is called a black bill of lading, the latter containing all the conditions which have been characterized as unfair and inequitable, while the former, which involves slightly higher rates of freight, saves the shipper from a number of risks.
– The rate is very much higher.
– No ; not much higher. I have made inquiry on the subject.
– Has the honorable member read a red bill of lading ?
– I do not say that red bills of lading throw every liability on the ship-owner, but they place the shipper in an infinitely better position than that which he occupies by accepting a black bill of lading; and I am informed on the highest authority that he can, for an almost infinitesimal extra sum, insure against all the risks which are thrown on the shipowner by the bill of lading provided for by this measure.
– That is not correct.
– My information comes from a Sydney merchant, who is connected with one of the largest merchant shipping companies. He has written to me to say that if a shipper has entered into a contract under a red bill of lading, a very small additional rate would insure him against all risks.
– The difference between the rates of insurance with and without “particular average” is so great that hardly any one insures with “particular average.”
– I am not speaking of that; I am speaking of the risks taken by the shipowners on the red bills of lading. Honorable members must recognise that this is merely a matter of price. It is for the ship-owner to say under what conditions he is prepared to carry goods, and for the shipper to say under what conditions he is prepared to make consignments. Where the freight is low the shipper must run greater risks than where it is high.
– The freight on fruit shipped from Hobart to London is 100 per cent, of its value, and yet the shipowners take no risk whatever.
– I am speaking of the additional freight which will have to be paid for insuring against the risks which the bill of lading dealt with in this measure will compel the ship-owners to take upon their shoulders.
– Why should not shipowners take the same risks as other carriers ?
– I have shown that the State carriers in New South Wales impose the very same conditions.
– This Bill does not create any new liabilities, but prevents ship-owners from exempting themselves from their common law liabilities.
– The Bill is intended to absolve the shipper from the risks from which the ship-owner has been exempting himself.
– By exempting himself from his common law liability.
– They did that in the United States until the Harter Act was brought into operation. It is ridiculous to suppose that our circumstances in this country are out of the ordinary. From time to time there has been competition amongst the shipping companies, who have reduced their freights, as they have had a perfect right to do, and the result of the lower freights has been that the shipowners have lessened the number of risks takenby themselves. As a consequence, we have’ a bill of lading in which certain rates are charged for freight cum certain liabilities on the part of the shipper.
– There has been no competition in the carriage of coal.
– We are not talking about coal ; but of fruit, butter, and frozen meat.
– What responsibili ties do the shipping companies take in connexion with the carriage of fruit ?
– That depends upon their contracts. They can make contracts under which they take no risks, or take all risks. We do notwish to force ship-owners into becoming insurers as well as carriers, because, in the state of society in which we live, these two functions are naturally separated.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that a carrier will take more or less care in the carriage of goods with liability or without it?
– I think the effect of this legislation will be that the ship-owner, if competition is not too strong for him, will charge higher rates for the carriage of goods to enable him to insure himself with insurance companies against the risks from which the shippers have been absolved. This case is very much like that of the Irishman, who complained of the shortness of his blanket and got over the difficulty by cutting a piece off the bottom and sewing it on the top. It is a great mistake to suppose that the shippers of the Commonwealth are a downtrodden class who have no choice. Every one knows that thirteen or fifteen large companies, possessing vessels equipped with refrigerating machinery, are competing for the carriage of our produce. Although they may compete among themselves with the result that they keep down freights, some of them will undoubtedly, under legislation of this kind, require the shipper, instead of insuring himself, to pay extra freight, which will enable the ship-owner to insure himself against the increased risk.
– They will not be liable for deterioration of goods from natural causes.
– I am not entering into details.
– I thought that was part of the honorable and learned member’s objection to theBill.
– At present, I am dealing only with general principles. I am pointing out that if the effect of this measure will be to compel the ship-owner to take from the shipper a sufficiently high rate of freight to enable him to insure himself against the extra risks which are thrown upon him under the Bill, all our time will have been wasted. We had a very good instance of this kind of boomerang legislation in New Zealand lately. Only last week we heard that a Bill of a very drastic character had been passed relating to the closing of shops, and that as a result the prices of the perishable commodities sold in such shops had fallen 50 per cent. It was stated that Mr. Seddon had had to confess that that measure had failed to effect its purpose, and that he was considering the desirability of summoning a special session of Parliament to repeal it.
– And he has since altered his views.
– I have not seen any announcement to that effect, although I have watched the newspapers very attentively. We may rush a measure of this kind through the House, and believe that we are going to confer great benefits upon the community ; but before very long it may recoil upon those sought to be benefited, and we may find ourselves in much the same position as we were before, or in an even worse one. I do not know whether the honorable member for North Sydney is aware of it, but I am informed on very good authority that the Harter Act is practically a dead letter, so far as the shipping trade between the United States and Australia is concerned. Notwithstanding the fact that the Harter Act has practically declared void the whole of the shipping conditions which it is here proposed to prohibit, goods are being carried in large quantities from the United States to Australia under ordinary bills of lading.
– I have an idea that some decision was given by the United States Courts to the effect that ship-owners could contract themselves beyond the provisions of the Harter Act.
– That may be the explanation. I do not wish to speak at any greater length. The Prime Minister has satisfied me that the Bill will not apply to existing contracts, and that the third clause of the Harter Act in a modified form will be inserted in the Bill. If these two amendments are made, the operation of economic laws will probably bring about results satisfactory to everybody concerned. Neither the ship-owners nor the shippers will be any less free than they are to-day, and I have no doubt that the former will be able to arrange to charge higher freights than at present, and then, with the result of the extra charge, to insure themselves against the risks which the Bill will take off the shoulders of the shippers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook), adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.40p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 December 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041208_reps_2_24/>.