2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General .
Mr. Speaker took the chair.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. Speaker read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Pursuant to the Public Service Act1902 : Regulations : - No. 104, Shipping Patrol Officer and repeal of Statutory Rule No. 46 of 1904 (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 8); No. 229, persons registered, and repeal of Statutory Rule No. 66 of 1904 (Statutory Rules 1905, No.11); No.102, seniority, &c, and repeal of Statutory Rule No. 74 of 1904 (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 17); Nos. 36 and 104, officers to obey summons, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 28) ; Nos. 263, 264, 265, 360, 267A., boards of inquiry (Statutory . Rules 1905, No. 33) ; papers re the appointment of Messrs. Teece and Skertchly as junior assistant examiners in the Patent Office, Melbourne.
Pursuant to the Customs Act1901, Regulations relating to fees for warehouses (Statutory Rules 1905,No. 18); enforcement of penalties and forfeitures (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 21); standards for condensation, &c. (Statutory Rules1905, No. 39).
Pursuant to the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901, notifications of the acquisition of sites for defence purposes at Armidale and Lismore, N.S.W. ; for post offices at Gular, Humula, Kingston (The Rock), and Mullumbimby, N.S.W., and at South Richmond, Victoria.
Pursuant to the Audit Act 1901, transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council for the financial year 1903-4, and the financial year1904-5, dated 26th June, 1905.
Pursuant to the Electoral Act of 1902, report and maps of the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the States of New South Wales and Queensland into electoral divisions.
Pursuant to the Defence Acts 1903 and 1904, Regulations relating to Military Forces : Inspector of Ordnance Machinery, Armament Artificers (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 34) ; amendment omitting “General Officer Commanding,” &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 3); Parts I. and IV., Inspector-General, Council of Defence, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 2); Part III., para. 49, Quartermasters (Statutory Rules 1905,No. 15) ; Part V., paras. 217-18, repairs, &c. (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 80); Part VI.,. paras.180, 193, canteens, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 14); Part XI., para. 58, Meritorious Service Medals (Statutory Rules 1905,No. 35). Financial and Allowance Regulations: Part I., sec. IV., para. 50, tenders (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 20) ; Parts I., It., IV., VI., rates, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 27); Parts I. and VI., damaged stores, staff rides, &c. (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 79) ; Parts I. to VI., X., to XII., omitting “ General Officer Commanding,” &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 6) ; Part IV., para.113, compensation for injuries, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 10); Part IVa., paras.115a and 115b, compensation for injuries, &c. (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 78); Part VI., para. 123a, Commandant (Statutory Rules 1905, No.16) ; Part VI., paras.129 and 134, pay during instruction courses and bonuses (Statutory Rules, 1905, No. 22); Part XIII., badges (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 9). Naval Forces : Amendment substituting “ Director of the Naval Forces,” &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 4); Part I., addition re Council of Defence, &c. (Statutory Rules 1905, No.1). Financial and Allowance Regulations : Amendment substituting “ Director of the Naval Forces “ (Statutory Rules 1905, No. 5) ; Fart II., paras.50 and 51, pay of Chief Engineer, &c. (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 83) ; Part IIIa., paras. 56a and 56b, compensation for injuries, &c. (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 77); Part IX., para. 83, Engine-room Artificers (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 82).
Report on British New Guinea for the year ending 30th June, 1904.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the agreement which was recently arrived at between the Railways Commissioners of the States with regard to the cessation of differential and preferential railway rates covers the whole of the objectionable rates?
– The agreement recently arrived at at Hobart covered the whole of the rates that were regarded as unconstitutional. We have received promises from the States Governments that action will be taken to give effect to the agreement. This course has already been adopted in some of the States, and similar action is to be taken in other States on the 1st July. Until I am in receipt of information as to what has actually been done, I cannot reply with exactness to the question of the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question with reference to a matter of urgency, which was brought under the notice of the Tariff Commission whilst sitting in Brisbane. It was represented that the local Collector of Customs had issued what were called permits to Chinese and others to sell opium, and that under such permits opium in large quantities was being placed within the reach of aboriginals. A request was made that immediate instructions should be issued to the Collector of Customs to cancel all these permits. I desire to know whether the Minister will cause an inquiry to be made, and whether, in the event of its being shown that such permits have been issued, he will at once cause them to be cancelled ?
– I think there must be some misunderstanding with regard to this matter. Under the States Administrations, the Collectors of Customs were in the habit of issuing permits ; but under the Commonwealth control no such authority can be given. The issue of permits has long since been discontinued.
– The power existed under the old Acts.
– Under the State Acts.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has received a report from a Mr. Scott, of Adelaide, showing in detail the proportion of the imports into South Africawhich come from Australia, and also dealing with the question of the appointment of a commercial agent to represent the Commonwealth in South Africa. I desire to know whether the Prime Minister will lay the report on the table, with a view to having it printed and circulated?
– There will be no possible objection to the printing of the report. I may say that Mr. Scott undertook the mission to inquire into these matters without any fee or reward, and I shall have very much pleasure in placing his report on the table.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he would have any objection to lay upon the table, and have printed, the correspondence that has recently passed between the Attorney-General and the Justices of the High Court in regard to the expenses incurred by their Honours when travelling?
– I think the matter should be dealt with by motion in the ordinary way, and I observe that an honorable member of the Opposition has just given notice of motion for the production of the correspondence.
– I would point out to the Prime Minister that the course suggested by him might involve considerable delay, and that the matter is one of great public importance. In view of the answer of the right honorable gentleman, Idesire to know whether the Government will afford an opportunity for the discussion of the motion which will appear upon the business paper, and I make the request on the ground that an important constitutional question is involved in regard to the administration of affairs during the recess.
– In reply to the honorable member, I have only to say that at present I do not see any necessity for adding to the answer which I have just given, and as for any constitutional question being involved, I have no knowledge of any constitutional point which remains unsettled.
– What about the conduct of the Government in the matter?
– That is not a constitutional question at all. It is merely a matter for criticism.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the plans of the proposed new electorates in Victoria are now ready, and, if so, why they were not laid upon the table to-day simultaneously with the plans of the proposed electorates in the other States ?
– In answer to the honorable member, I may say that the plans of the proposed new electoral divisions in Victoria are ready, with the exception of one map, which, I believe, will be completed by to-morrow. That is the reason they were not laid upon the table today. I may as well state - although the honorable member has not asked the question - that as regards the proposed new boundaries of the Western Australian electorates, a letter has been received, advising the forwarding of the plans and maps, but they have not reached me. I expect to receive them by the next mail.
– Will the new boundaries for the electorates in Victoria be considered first?
– I have not yet arrived at any decision regarding that matter.
JURY EXEMPTION BILL(Formal).
Bill presented by Mr. Dugald Thomson, and read a first time.
– I have to report that I have attended in the Senate Chamber, where His Excellency the Governor-General was pleased to deliver his opening speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy (vide page 5).
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Reid) -
That a Committee, consisting of Mr. R. Edwards, Mr. G. Fuller, Mr. W. J. McWilliams, and Mr. A. Robinson, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament.
The Committee retired, and having reentered the Chamber, presented the proposed address, which was read by the Clerk, as follows : -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I rise with very great pleasure to move -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
It was, doubtless, gratifying to honorable members to find that the speech delivered “by Hi’s Excellency the Governor-General this afternoon was so brief, being confined practically to one matter. Just as that deliverance was exceedingly short, compared with other Vice-Regal utterances, my remarks in connexion with it will be brief relatively to the speeches of others who have moved the adoption of the AddressinReply upon previous occasions. The speech to which we listened this afternoon must have come as a surprise to most honorable members.
– As a shock.
– It must have come as a shock, particularly to those honorable members who read the speech which the Prime Minister made at Hawthorn a few evenings ago. In that utterance, the right honorable gentleman forecasted the introduction of a series of non-contentious measures which he hoped the Opposition and this House generally would see fit to pass in the interests of the people of Australia.
– What about the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders?
– The Prime Minister further intimated in that address that if the Opposition were not prepared to deal with the non-contentious measures which he proposed to submit, the situation which would then arise would have to be seriously considered by himself and his colleagues. Since that speech was made, events have undergone a change. We have had a. notable deliverance from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. We all remember how active he was in the formation of the Coalition Government which now occupies the Treasury Benches, and it must be clear to every one who has carefully read his recent declaration, that as far as the Ministry are concerned, they can no longer consider him the warm and cordial friend and supporter that he was prior to making that speech.
– Hear, hear !
– In my judgment, the action of the honorable and learned member has dissolved the very basis of the alliance between himself and the Prime Minister. Whilst the honorable and learned member of his own volition has broken the cordial relations and friendship which have existed between himself and the present Government, he has given no indication whatever that he proposes to enter into any new alliance.
– Why should he do so?
– That is a matter which the honorable member will have to answer for himself. Perhaps he knows so much of what has been going on-
– I really do not.
– The speech of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat pointed to no alliance of any sort. The only conclusion at which I can arrive from a perusal of his address is that by withdrawing his support from the Coalition Government he desires to bring about a return to the three-party system of Government which was introduced into this House some time ago. Nobody who feels keenly in connexion with our representative institutions wishes to see a return to that system, which undoubtedly degraded those institutions. Under these conditions the Government, composed as it is of men of high standing in our public life, naturally had’ to seriously consider the position. It is clear from the Vice-Regal speech that they have done so. AH the measures which were forecasted by the Prime Minister at Hawthorn have been placed upon one side, and the Government now propose to deal with one matter only, which everybody will agree is a matter of pressing urgency - I refer to the Redistribution of Seats Bill.
– Especially the Prime Minister’s seat.
– The honorable member had better look after his own seat.
– They have confined themselves to the question of a redistribution of seats. Everybody recognises that whenever -a redistribution of seats takes place, it is proper to hold a general election. The Government have met the position like men.
– Like monkeys.
– The Government have met the difficulty which has arisen in the only way open to them - a practical, honorable, and straightforward way. I believe that a majority of the people of the Commonwealth will commend them for having adopted an honorable and manly course.
– Why did the Prime Minister meet the House at all?
– He wanted to have a look at the honorable member. That a redistribution of seats is necessary, must be patent to everybody. As time has elapsed, the inequalities which were proved to exist when the first distribution of electorates took place have increased. To-day they are of such a glaring character that, in order to insure a proper representation under the liberal franchise which exists in Australia, it is necessary that we should have a Redistribution of Seats Bill passed at the earliest possible moment. That fact is recognised, not only by the Government, but by every right-thinking person in the community. In some quarters a great outcry has been raised, because, under the redistribution scheme ‘ which is projected, Victoria will be represented by one member less, and New South Wales by one member more. What is the real position, and what is the reason for the great outcry which has occurred in that connexion ? When the first distribution of electoral divisions for the Commonwealth Parliament took place Victoria obtained her twenty-, third representative by having 1,135 Per” sons in excess of half the quota. In the second distribution which took place in 1903, that State secured her twenty-third representative because she possessed 2,280 in excess of half the quota. The statistics for 1905 show that half the quota necessary to entitle a State to return a representative is 27,443, and that Victoria has 24,631 less than half the quota, or only 2,812 persons in excess of the number required to return twenty-two representatives. What is the position in regard to New South Wales? In 1900 and 1903. that State returned twenty-six representatives upon the full quota. There was no bare allowance in the case of that State. Her representatives were returned upon the full quota in every instance. According to the official figures for 1905, she is entitled to an additional member,, because the figures show that she has 2,767 above half the quota. When Victoria, in the first instance, obtained her twenty-third member she had only 1,135 persons over the half quota, while in the second instanceshe had only 2,280 over half the quota; but in neither case was objection raised by any one
– New South Wales never objected.
– There was) no grumbling on the part of honorable members from any of the other States. But now that New South Wales has more than half the quotaentitling her to an additional member, namely, 2^767, as against the 1,135 ‘n the first instance, and the 2,280 persons in thesecond, upon which Victoria obtained her twenty-third member, we hear grumblingsin certain quarters1 in connexion with the proposed redistribution. In the interests of the proper representation, not merely of New South Wales, but of the whole Commonwealth, it is absolutely necessary that there shall be a redistribution. In order to give effect to our democratic franchise, and” to secure proper representation in this House, so that we shall have, as nearly as possible, equality in the matter of one adult one vote throughout the Commonwealth, it is imperative that every honorable member should recognise that it is his duty to support the position assumed by the Government, and to help them to pass a Bill for the redistribution of seats. I have nothing further to add. I have dealt with the only matter referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and I trust that it will receive the proper consideration of the House. I commend the Government for the manly, straightforward, honest stand they have taken up, and feel satisfied that it will receive the commendation of every rightthinking man and woman in Australia.
– In rising to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I may say that, like the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, I intend to be brief, because I think that His Excellency’s Speech leaves very little for me to say. The only matter with which it deals is the proposal of the Government to bring in a measure for the redistribution of seats; and, apart altogether from the question of whether any State should have the number of its representatives varied, I think it is essential that the States should be divided into something like equal electorates. If we are to have one adult one vote, the corollary is that there shall be one vote one power. It is not in accordance with such a Constitution as is ours that one honorable member should represent more than double the number of the electors to be found in practically an adjoining electorate.
– Why has Tasmania the same representation in the Senate as has any of the other States ?
– I am speaking of the Constitution as it stands. It has given the States a certain measure of representation, and every one who is familiar with the difficulties surrounding the erection of the Federal Constitution knows that, without equal representation in the Senate, there would have been no Federation today. It is essential that a proper redistribution of seats, shall take place before an appeal is made to the country. I regret, however, that any State should lose a proportion of the representation which it has enjoyed, and I hope that when the population statistics are counted or recounted, it will be found that Victoria will not have to part with any of her existing measure of representation. It is deplorable that in a young community like that of Australia any State should lose a proportion of its representation on account of a decrease of its population, and I hope that such a contingency will not arise. As to the position which the Government has taken up, I must say that they have my hearty congratulations. There has never been a Government in office with a majority at their back since my election to this House, and the majority supporting the present Ministry has always been small. Indeed, if my advice had been taken - for what it was worth - the course they now intend to pursue would have been followed when a crisis occurred on a prior occasion. When I first entered this Chamber the Deakin Government, who were then in office, had not a majority, and, indeed, they did not at any time have a majority behind them. We had then three parties in the House, and each was practically as strong as that behind the Government. When the Watson Government took office, they had very little more than one-third of the honorable members of this Chamber sitting behind them. It was really impossible for either the Deakin Government, or the Watson Government, to pass practical legislation, to control the House, or to govern the country. As long as the honorable and learned member for Ballarat remained faithful to the agreement entered into between his party and that led by the present Prime Minister, the position was different. That agreement was an honorable and proper one, and I believe that it had the support of a majority of honorable members. Although I confess that I have been unable to thoroughly grasp the exact attitude taken up by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat in his recent address to his constituents, it must be patent to every one who has perused the reports of that address, that the. loyal agreement entered into between the two parties has, so far as the leaders are concerned, terminated. They have reached the parting . of the ways. There is no one who would have received more abuse than the Prime-
Minister would have done had he come down to the House with a proposal to attempt to carry on when his majority had practically gone. The very honorable members who are now attempting to deride his action would have been foremost in abusing and challenging him to take up the very position that he has now assumed. What is the objection which some honorable members have been taking, both in the lobbies, and whilst the honorable and learned member for Illawarra was speaking? It is urged that the Prime Minister has indicated a course which he cannot himself carry out. It would be useless to deny that it is not in the power of any Minister, or any Government, to command a dissolution. It is not in the power of any Ministry to say that they will not exert themselves to remain in office, and that the moment they retire there will be a dissolution. The position which the Prime Minister has taken up is thoroughly in accord with the highest traditions of constitutional government. When the Ministry of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat failed to hold a majority, they retired, and when the Watson Government failed to carry a majority, they also retired. I believe that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat on leaving office did not apply for a dissolution, but we know that the present leader of the Opposition did, and I think that he was to be commended for his action. That being the position, what objection can there be to the proposal of the Prime Minister to make a proper and above-board provision to enable him to apply for a dissolution if he cannot hold a majority ?
– Could the Prime Minister secure a majority if he went to the country?
– It does not lie in the mouth of the honorable member for Darwin to say that he could or could not do so. That is a question which those who have sent us here must decide. If there be a majority of the electors of Australia prepared to adopt the programme of the Labour Party, that party ought certainly to be in office to carry out that programme.
– What is the alternative programme ?
– The honorable member will have an alternative programme, and I sincerely trust that it will be more clearly defined than was the programme which some honorable members of the Opposition put forward, the result being that during the last three months they have been running about the country attempting to explain that they did not mean it. When I read a speech delivered recently by the leader of the Opposition, it recalled to my mind one of the most clever cartoons I have ever seen. I refer to a cartoon which appeared in Lon don Punch, and has been considered one of the few worthy of preservation. As honorable members are aware, when John Russell sought to put back the hands of the clock, so far as Catholic emancipation was concerned, he ran through the country attempting to explain his proposal. This led Punch to bring out an exceedingly clever cartoon depicting John Russell, after putting up “ No Popery “ on the wall, flying for his life. I think that is exactly the position of the ex-Prime Minister - the present leader of the Opposition - for, having written up “ Socialism “ on the walls of the Commonwealth, he has been engaged during the last three months in touring the country, and attempting to explain that what he proposed was really not Socialism, or, if it was, it was such a little bit of Socialism, that, after all, it was not worth’ considering. Australia has come to this position : The present Parliament has been in existence for eighteen months, and, so far as practical legislation - legislation for the benefit of Australia - is concerned, the results have been to a very great extent nil. The Prime Minister would have deserved that which honorable members opposite would have said most vehemently of him, if he had. sought to mark time to the end of this session, and then, perhaps, have attempted to sneak through the next session with a majority which he could not command.
– What does the honorable member think of the GovernorGeneral’s speech after six months’ recess?
– There is not an honorable member who does not thoroughly understand what it means.
– What does it mean?
– It means that honorable members opposite will have exactly that which they have been threatening to bring about by other means ever since the present Ministry took office - a dissolution.
– That is rough on the Governor-General.
– The GovernorGeneral has to be consulted concerning that matter.
– Hear, hear. His Excellency is the arbiter in all these matters.
– If the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs had been listening to my speech, he would have known that I said, earlier in my address, that it was not within the power of any Prime Minister, or of the leader of the Opposition, to com- mand a dissolution. But it is within the power of a Prime Minister to say that he will not accept office and be dictated to by any irresponsible honorable member, or by any irresponsible party in the House.
– Let him resign.
– The honorable member for Wilmot held him in the hollow of his hand.
-So far as the honorable member for Wilmot and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat are concerned, the positions are entirely different.
– The honorable member for Wilmot is politically dead now.
– The honorable member for Wilmot may be in this House when some who are here now have been forgotten.
– He may be here after the honorable member has ceased to be a member of the House.
– When the time comes I shall be prepared to take whatever responsibility may attach to my vote ; but it seems strange that those who have been declaring that the Government is not in a position to carry on the administration of affairs, and ought to go to the country, now object to a dissolution. I myself heard a member of the Opposition say, “ We will sit down and block work, to compel Reid to go to the country.”
– A very gentle pressure is all that is wanted.
– It looks as though it would be successful.
– Now that an attempt is to be made to give honorable members opposite the fight for which they have been panting, they do not relish it.
– We are afraid that the members of the Governmentdo not mean to give us a fight.
– The Prime Minister has taken the only honest, constitutional course open to him, by saying that when he has not a majority–
– He should resign.
– Then the honorable member’s party ought never to have come into office at all.
– We had a majority ; otherwise we should never have come into power.
– It seems to me that the members of the Opposition would like to get the Prime Minister out of office without giving the electors of Australia a chance to express their views on the situation. What objection can there be to any Government saying, “ We appeal over the head of the Parliament to our masters, and to the masters of the Parliament”? Honorable members know that I do not hold the extreme free-trade views which are held by many in this House. I did not come into this House as a pledged supporter of the Reid Government.
– That is very much to the honorable member’s credit.
– But I have never ran out of the Chamber fearing to give a vote. The electors declared by a very substantial majority that the Tariff should not be re-opened, that there should be fiscal peace ; and, therefore, I say that before the Tariff is touched, we should go to those who sent us here, to get their opinion, and their permission to alter what has been done. If the socialistic platform is one which should be adopted by Parliament, surely honorable members opposite cannot object to the giving of an opportunity for its indorsement by the electors.
– We should not attempt to carry it through Parliament until it had been indorsed by the electors.
– Does the honorable member wish to tret back into office and decline to carry out his policy?
– Then, why does he cry for the resignation of the Government instead of for a dissolution ? If the Tariff is to be revised, there should first be a mandate from the people of Australia, expressed through the ballot-box ; while if the socialistic programme is to be carried through Parliament, it must be brought in at the front door, by the ballot-box, and not at the back door by means of some vote or combination.
– The honorable member will not find any back door tactics about the Opposition. There have not been any so far, as the honorable member knows.
– The leader of the Opposition need not take my remarks as personal. But what valid objection can he or his party have to the indorsement of their policy by the people of Australia, before its presentation to Parliament for acceptance? Under these circumstances, 1 think that the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on the manly and constitutional course which he has taken, by declaring that on the day when he cannot carry a living programme through Parliament he will appeal to the electors to see whether his policy will or will not receive their indorsement.
– In view of the many things which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has left unsaid, I should like a little time to considerhis’ speech, and I therefore suggest to the Prime Minister the propriety of agreeing to the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow.
– I have no objection to that course.
– Then I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Mr . REID (East Sydney - Minister of
External Affairs). - I have consulted with my honorable ‘ friend the leader of the Opposition, and he has raised no objection to the proposal I am about to make. As we have no standing order governing the matter, no time would be fixed for another meeting of the House if, by any misfortune, at the hour appointed for our next meeting a quorum could, not be obtained. I am sure that as we stand at present no one - especially not my honorable friends opposite - wishes to risk any such position of affairs. I, therefore, think it right that we should without delay pass a sessional order which will safeguard us from such a misfortune, and I therefore move -
That until otherwise ordered this House shall meet for the despatch of business at half-past 2 o’clock on each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past10 o’clock on each Friday morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 June 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050628_reps_2_25/>.