2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I hardly know whether to address you, sir, on a question of privilege or by way of personal explanation ; but I desire to refer to a paragraph having reference to the election of the Chairman of Committees a day or two ago, which appears in this morning’s Age. It is there stated that the Labour Party entered into an arrangement with the leader of the Opposition in connexion with this matter.
– The honorable member should move the adjournment of the House, so that we may all speak on the subject.
– He will get the facts then.
– I merely wish to say that I, a member of the Labour Party, knew nothing whatever of the arrangement referred to, and I take this opportunity to repudiate the statement that there was such an arrangement. I have no connexion with these petty intrigues, and do not intend to be made use of in any such way. I voted for the honorable member for Riverina, because I conscientiously believed that he would have had the position had it not been for causes entirely beyond his control which prevented his return to the House when this Parliament first met. I have no desire to justify now the vote which I gave, but simply say that I repudiate altogether the statement in the paragraph to which I have referred.
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say, in reply to the statement which has appeared in the Age, that no member of the Labour Party, no member of the Opposition, and no member of the Government party ever spoke to me about any scheme or plan in connexion with the election of the Chairman of Committees. As I do not wish either the honorable member for Riverina or the honorable member for Laanecoorie to think that it was because I had been spoken to that I did not record my vote, I desire to say now that I did not vote, because I was called away from the House on very important business.
– The statement in the Age is an absolute lie.
– Let the honorable member ask for information, and he will see if it is.
– Why does not the honorable member for Kalgoorlie give it, then?
– Will the honorable members for Macquarie and New England cease these exclamations across the Chamber. They must know that such a course is entirely disorderly.
– I ask whether it is not disorderly for members opposite to make statements against members on this side of the Chamber?
– Such a course would be equally disorderly.
– ThenI direct your attention to the conduct of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. He made a statement, and I replied to it. I desire fair play to be given to both sides.
– The honorable member mayrely upon getting fair play.
– That is all we want.
– I should be sorry to. name the two honorable members who are addressing me. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie made his remark immediately after the statement of the honorable member for Darwin, and I took it to relate to what the honorable member for Darwin had said.
– It was a charge against honorable members on this side of the House.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following papers: -
Papers relating to the residence of the GovernorGeneral in New South Wales.
– In the early part of last session I moved that a return be laid on the table giving the cost to date of inquiries regarding the Federal Capital Site. As that return has not yet been presented to the House, I ask the Minister if he will look into the matter, and inform us when we may expect it.
– I will look into the matter.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs was good enough to agree the- other day to place on the table some papers showing the effect of the uniform Tariff on the trade of the Commonwealth. I wish to suggest that it would be of great advantage to honorable members if the document could be printed. Has the Minister any objection to that?
– I do not know that I have power to order the printing of the document; I think that that is a matter which rests with the Printing Committee. However, I have not the slightest objection to the printing of it, nor have the Government. The return is being prepared1, and I think that when it is laid on the table it will be seen to be of sufficient importance to justify printing, because it is a paper which should be distributed.
– When a paper is laid on the table by a Minister, he may, if he pleases, move that it be printed. Otherwise, and in the ordinary course, all papers go automatically to the Printing Committee.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister when we may expect action to be taken in regard to legislation on electoral matters ? Does he think that the measures which are now being pushed forward in this House are of more importance than the very important matter of electoral redistribution?
– The preparation of the two electoral Bills, both of them dealing with complex matters needing very close examination, is well advanced. The Bills with which the House is now dealing are either brief, or were almost completed before we took them in hand. In the case of electoral legislation, our task will be in one instance to prepare a new Bill, and in the other to revise a long Bill.
– Are the measures likely to be long in preparation?
– They are well advanced.
– What about the Standing Orders ?
– They are prepared by the Standing Orders Committee.
– I wish to know if the Prime Minister intends to go on with the Redistribution of Seats Bill this session, and, if not, how long it will be before such a Bill will be laid on the table of the House ?
– Will the honorable and learned member give notice of his question?
– I tell the Government that they are breaking up the Union.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the approximate loss of postal revenue in consequence of the establishment of twopenny postage from the Commonwealth to all other parts of the Empire?
– £8,800 per annum.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– In moving -
That the Bill be now read a second time,
I shall be as concise as possible. I wish first to point out that it is divided into two parts, the first of which is practically a transcript of the Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain, which has effect throughout the British dominions, while the second contains provisions relating to the imports and exports of the Commonwealth, and gives power to compel the placing of a proper description on goods or on packages containing them. The first draft of such a Bill in my possession was prepared by the late Government.
– Does the Minister mean the Reid-McLean Government?
– The ReidMcLean Government. The Bill with which I am now dealing really tones down one or two of the more drastic provisions in the Bill framed by the late Government; but, of course, it goes further that that. The need for such a measure was to a large extent shown during the debate in the Senate on the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill. Certain amendments were suggested in that Bill, but they were not inserted, as it was considered by legal authorities that they could not properly be made in the Bill because of its title. To deal with the subject in better form, the Imports and Exports Bill was prepared by the late Government. Besides being due to the discussion in the Senate to which I have referred, the Bill was also the outcome of the Premiers’ Conference held early this year in Hobart, where the need for such a measure was explained by the then Minister of Trade and Customs. This Bill is, as I have said, a modification of the measure prepared by the late Government.
– Does the Minister mean that he has toned down the Bill prepared by the late Government?
– Yes, the measure prepared by the late Government was in some respects rather drastic. I have been asked what necessity there is for this measure, considering that the Customs Act contains provisions which enable us to deal with many of the matters which are now proposed to be made the subject of further legislation. For instance, those that could be dealt with in sub-section g of section 52 of the Customs Act, are dealt with in clauses 7 and 10 of the present Bill. These clauses undoubtedly give a clearer and stronger definition of what was probably the intention of the section referred to. Section 56 of the Customs Act, relating to prohibitions subject to restriction, does not deal with the matter in the same way that the present Bill proposes to do. I refer specially to those two sections of the Customs Act, because it has been asserted that we can do all that is required in the matters therein referred to without passing such a measure as that now before us. I find, however, after having consulted the officials of my Department, that this Bill is necessary to make the intentions of the Customs Act perfectly clear, and to confer greater and more discretionary power. The Customs Act does not deal with the standard of exports as this Bill does. The term “ standard “ is not used in this measure, but the term “ trade description “ is employed by the draughtsman, and the object is to compel persons who are exporting goods to bring their products up to a certain prescribed standard.
– Would the Minister tell us what exports are likely to be affected ?
– Yes, I have a list of the articles likely to be affected by the provisions which are intended to prevent the exportation of inferior goods to the detriment ofour export trade. For instance, under this provision, we shall be able to prevent the exportation of jam in short weight tins. I am informed that the articles of export most likely to be affected are as follow: -
As regards imports, the articleslikely to be affected by the provisions of the Bill are as follow: -
– The Department will require an army of inspectors.
– I do not think so. We have a considerable number of officers connected with the Department at present, and I do not think it will be necessary to appoint any others.
– What provision will be made for the examination of fruit intended for export to England ?
– The Bill makes provision for that in clause 10, which reads as follows : - (1.) The Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the exportation of any goods specified in the proclamation, unless there is applied to them a trade description of such character, relating to such matters, and applied in such manner, as is prescribed by the proclamation or by the regulations. (2.) All such goods to which the prescribed trade description is not applied, which are exported or entered for export or put on board any ship or boat for export or brought to any wharf or place for export, shall be forfeited to the King. (3.) Subject to the regulations the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him the Minister, may permit any goods which are liable to be or have been seized as forfeited under this section to be delivered to the owner or exporter, upon security being given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral that the goods shall not be exported in contravention of the proclamation.
– Will a special! officer be appointed to perform the work ?
– No. In connexion with the export of fruit from Hobart, for instance, the Collector of Customs would receive notice of a proposed exportation, and would have to satisfy himself, through inspection by his officers, that the fruit was such as should be exported. In clause 5 honorablemembers will see it is provided that anofficer shall inspect and examine all prescribed goods which are imported, or which are entered for export, or brought for export to any wharf or place.
– That will be simply impossible.
– Then the honorable member must consider that the provisions of the Bill prepared by the late Government were impracticable. That, however, is not the case.
– Would the Minister kindly tell us in what respect the Bill prepared by the late Government has been modified.
– It will take some time to go through the details and compare the respective clauses. The measure prepared by the late Government was called the Imports and Exports Examination Bill of 1905. Clauses 1 and 2 in the old Bill are practically identical with clauses similarly numbered in the present Bill. Clause 3 in the present Bill is altered slightly from the original by the addition of one or two words in the “ trade description.” Clause 4 in the present Bill is the same as clause 5 in the old Bill. Clause5 in the present Bill is the same as clause 6 of the old Bill. Clauses 7 and 8 of the old Bill have been dropped. Clause 9 in the old Bill is the same as clause 6 in the present Bill. Part of clause 3and clause 10 of the old Bill are embodied in clause 7 in the present Bill. Clause 11 in the old Bill is practically the same as clause 8 in the present Bill, and clause 12 in the old Bill is almost identical with clause 9 in the present Bill. Part of clause 3 and clause 13 of the old Bill are, with some modifications, embodied in clause 10 of the present Bill, and clause 15 of the old Bill is nearly the same as clause 11 of this Bill. Clause 14 of the old Bill is the same as clause 12 of this Bill. I do not say that the wording of the clauses in the present Bill is exactly the same as that adopted in the measure prepared by the late Government, but nearly so. Clause 16 of the old Bill corresponds with clause. 13 of the present Bill, and clause 17 of the old Bill is identical with clause 14 of this Bill. Clause 15 in the Bill before us was not included in the old Bill. Honorable members will be able to compare the clauses, and see what alterations and transpositions have been made.
– Would the Minister allow me to look at the Bill prepared by the late Government?
– The honorable and learned member may have it at once. I may inform honorable members that the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, which was prepared and introduced into the Senate the late Government, has been divided Some of its clauses have been embodied in the Trade Marks Bill, which was introduced by the Attorney-General, and other clauses have been included in the measure now before us. For instance, clause 4 of this Bill is practically the same as clause 4 of the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill. Then the provisions as to “false trade descriptions “ (and “ trade descriptions “ are embodied in clause 3. The provisions contained in clause 7 of the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill will be found in clause 4 of the present Bill. Clause 11 of the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill is partially embodied in clauses 8 and 9, and clause 12 of the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill contained provisions similar to those in clause11 of this Bill. Clause 13 of the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill corresponds with clause 15 of the present Bill, clause 14 with clause 7, clause 17 with clauses 2 and 7, clause 18 with clause 9, clause 19 with clauses 10 and 12, and clause 36 with clause 14. In connexion with the lists of goods which will be affectedby the provisions of this Bill, I desire to point out that many improper practices are indulged in in connexion with the preparation of foods. Honorable members may remember that some little time ago a Commission took very important evidence in New South Wales, in reference to the falling off in the birth rate. That evidence was never published, although I venture to think that it should have been. I have read a portion of it, and the Honorable Dr. Mackellar and Mr. O. C. Beale have spoken to me with regard to some of the assertions made by witnesses. There is no doubt that extreme action is necessary in order to prevent the adulteration of foods, especially infant foods. I have been pressed by the members of that Commission to do something to prevent the sale of adulterated foods, which cause great mortality, particularly amongst young children.
– And amongst adults, too.
– Probably. I refer to this matter as important and one with which this. Bill should empower us to deal. I think that there should be energetic action taken to stop this evil practice as far as possible.
– Would not any such provisions be more appropriately embodied in an Adulteration of Foods Bill?
– I do not know that we can quibble about the title of the measure. All that I am anxious about is to get a title which is sufficiently comprehensive, and which at the same time will not be ruled out of order.
– But the Government have shown some desire for consistency by agreeing to transfer certain provisions from the Trade Marks Bill to another measure.
– In this Bill power is given - and I presume that the late Prime Minister had this idea in his mind when he ‘framed the measure - to deal with importations in one particular direction. Take the case of what are known as “ quack “ medicines. I am informed that a great many of these are so adulterated that they are absolutely injurious frdmfrom the stand-point of human use.
– Let us provide for the placing of a formula upon the bottle, as is done in Germany. That will stop the practice of adulteration.
– We will do the best that we can. I am of opinion that the Trade Marks Bill will have some effect in that direction. It is absolutely necessary to prevent t,he practice of, adulterating foods for children and adults which is being carried on at present. Coffee, cocoa, &c., to some extent come within the same category. In regard to exports, we desire to obtain some control over goods of short weight, and impure foods which are probably sent away to other countries. Honorable members, no doubt, are familiar with the statements made before the Royal Commission which is at present investigating the condition of the supplies which were forwarded to the troops in South Africa during the recent war. It is necessary that we should be able to check anything of that kind. I admit that the task will throw a very grave responsibility upon our Customs officers. At the same time, they must recognise their responsibility, and we must attempt to make them still more vigilant and careful than they might be if the matter were not such a serious one. If they realize that by allowing any inferior goods to be exported to other parts of the world they will, if the charge can be sheeted home to them, be heir? blameworthy, they will probably exercise still greater vigilance. I have known cases in which inferior fruit has been placed upon the English’ market, to the detriment of a better class of fruit from New South Wales and Tasmania. There are no regulations governing our exports, and although in most of the States there is something in the nature of an Export Board in existence, the supervision exercised has been of a most perfunctory character. These boards do not shoulder tiny responsibility, and there is no penalty exacted for remissness.
– Surely the principle of caveat emptor applies there? The buyer ‘must look after himself.
– . Honorable members must have noticed in the press, times without number, statements to the effect that fruit and other perishable articles bearing the brand either of Tasmania, Victoria, or New South Wales, have been purchased in London in such a state as to do serious injury to the producers who export good produce to the mother country.
– If the Minister follows out that principle to its logical conclusion, he will have to provide for an examination into mining matters in order to see that persons are not imposed upon by the offer of valueless mining shares.
-I do not think so. That is quite a different thing. We shall not attempt anything of that kind in this Bill. This is a very important matter, and one with which we ought to deal at the earliest moment. I have no desire to make a long speech upon it. No doubt the provisions of the Bill will be dealt with exhaustively in Committee. I am not aware that there is any important point that I have overlooked. I have put matters, as far as possible, in their categorical order, and I have informed honorable members of the source from which we have taken the various provisions. I shall, therefore, content myself at the present stage, with moving the second reading of the Bill.
– I should not have spoken upon the second reading of this Bill but for the fact that
I shall probably be absent when the measure reaches the Committee stage. There is one point to which I wish to direct special attention, and which, perhaps, under ordinary circumstances, might have been better dealt with in Committee. I desire to say that I am in entire sympathy with the Minister so far as the object of the Bill is concerned. Its object is an exceedingly commendable one. What I desire to point out is that there are circumstances in which it is absolutely impossible to apply a uniform system. Speaking for my own State, the item of export in which it is particularly interested is that of apples. For many years we have been endeavouring to open up the English market, and we have now done so very successfully. The latest arrangement which has been arrived at provides that very large shipments of apples shall be made next year, the freight upon which will be only a little more than 2 s. per case. The point that I wish the Minister tobear in mind is that the vessels which convey these shipments to England arrive at Hobart, and make their stay there as brief as possible. The persons who enter into contracts with them have practically, to purchase, beforehand, the space which they think they will require.. For instance, they may say, “ We will ship 50,000 cases of apples by this boat, and 30,000 cases by the next.” In such circumstances they are required to pay for the space which they anticipate will be taken up by those shipments, irrespective of whether they utilize it or not. After a vessel arrives at Hobart, it sometimes happens that an agent discovers that he is 5,000, 6,000, or 10,000 cases short of the quantity required to fill the space booked. He has immediately to telegraph to the Huon district,” Send me at once 4,000 or perhaps 5,000 cases of apples.” A small steamer takes these apples down the Huon River to Hobart, and directly alongside the English vessel, to which they are transferred. Under these circumstances, to delay a shipment until an examination could be made, would be fatal. The shipments must be sent away speedily or not at all. I quite agree with the Minister that no punishment is too heavy to inflict upon the individual who ships thirdclass goods under a first-class brand. The man who uses a first-class brand should ship a first-class article. I repeat that it is impossible to apply a uniform system under circumstances such as I have detailed. The experiment was made by the Tasmanian Government in regard to the export of fruit. I hope that the Minister will understand that I am not offering this criticism in any captious spirit ; I am merely desirous that no regulations shall be made which will strike a very serious blow at the most important industry in Tasmania. At the present time we know that if we cannot ship our fruit speedily to London, it will rot in the local market, and we shall eventually have to feed it to pigs. Unless we can ship to England more than one-half of our crop - I believe that unless we can ship 75 per cent. of our apples to London next year - there will be a glut in the Australian market. Honorable members must recollect that we do not occupy the same position as do the shippers of butter and other articles on the mainland, where certain lines of steamers call regularly. Every vessel which goes to Hobart for a cargo of fruit must be brought there under special charter, and its stay there must be as short as possible. Any delay falls very severely on the contractor who has chartered the vessel. If the space which has been purchased is not filled, the person who has contracted to bring the vessel to Hobart is required to pay for it, and the boat goes awayto that extent empty. Under such circumstances to delay the shipment of fruit until it could be examined by a Customs officer or expert would be fatal to the consignment. That is the point which I desire to impress upon the Minister. I repeat that this very experiment has been attempted by the Tasmanian (Government, which was imbued with every desire to carry out the system which is now proposed, and to insure that nothing should foe shipped unless it was up to the standard. I trust that the Minister will give this matter his very serious attention. I hope that I shall be pardoned for making these observations at the present stage, but I am prompted to do so by the fact that I shall probably be absent from the House when the measure reaches Committee.
– I may not be here next week, and I should not like to miss the opportunity of making one or two remarks upon this measure. I was a little surprised to learn that the Bill had been prepared by the late Government. However, it is quite possible that the alterations which have been made, and which the Minister has not detailed, may represent the difference between what I regard as the objectionable features of the measure and the unobjectionable features proposed by the late Government., I think that the Bill is a dangerous one in many respects. I quite admit that it has much to recommend it, and I shall endeavour to show in what respect it seems desirable. But is is a dangerous Bill because it is one of a class framed by people who imagine that all human affairs can be regulated - who believe that commerce and industry can be managed by officers so as to reach a point of perfection which has not yet been achieved under any system of government in the world. The great danger is that where measures of this character are framed by men who are not familiar with the complexities and intricacies of commerce they carry the desire to regulate to such an extreme that they practically paralyze the machinery which they wish to perfect. The history of British commerce teaches this one fact above all others. I do not know of any one who has expressed it better than Buckle in his History of Civilisation, where he shows that almost the whole of the measures which were passed in the first half of the nineteenth century were in the nature of repeals to get rid of injurious attempts at regulation, which, as a fact, had embarrassed commerce in every feature of its organization. These lessons of history have been forgotten. There is a tendency to-day to resort to the old-fashioned school, by which it is taught, as I have said, that all human affairs oan be so regulated as to render them perfect. One has only to glance at the history of the reigns of Elizabeth, and of Henry VII., and Henry VIII., to find that the statute-books were simply choked with attempts of this sort to regulate trade and the details of commerce. I mention this only to emphasize the point that while it may be necessary in these days of adulteration for the Government to take legitimate steps to protect the ignorant part of the people - and I class myself among them so far as a knowledge of such things as chemicals fs concerned - we must take care lest we go too far. While it may be necessary for the Government, owing to the great competition in the sale of goods, to guard against what I mav call unfair and dishonest adulteration, it is imperative that we should keep in mind the old lesson of history - that we do not carry this principle so far as to really injure and embarrass the very trade that we are trying to conserve. There are two divisions of this measure which ought to be kept clearly distinct - the one relating to imports and the other to exports. In the endeavour to carry the movement for supervision to its most desirable extent, it seems to me that there has been a little too much enthusiasm on the part of the drafter of the Bill. Dealing first with the division relating to exports, I shall not for a moment take exception to the desire tomake. if it be not made, or to maintain, if it be made, the reputation of Australia for sending good produce of honest weight, and in good order, to other parts of the world. It is quite admissible for the most rigid individualist to contend that where a country has achieved a reputation for good exports, the man who secretly sends from that country a bad article under a good brand, is really trespassing upon the reputation of the honest exporter. Therefore in that sense, it is quite allowable for the Legislature to prevent any fraudulent representation on the part of an exporter that may prove injurious to those who are endeavouring to carry on the export trade of the country upon fair and honest lines. But in dealing with exports, it is necessary that we should exercise some care. We do not want to coddle the buyer in foreign countries. I can quite understand that in a country like this, it may be justifiable for the Government to supervise the exportation of such an article as butter, in order to see that the packages in which it is sent abroad bear representations that are true and honest. But I do not admit that it is desirable to carry that Government supervision to the extent of seeing that all the fruit that is exported from Australia is of good quality. I take exception, therefore, to the unlimited character of the supervision which it is proposed shall be exercised over our exports. I quite admit that in the case of such exports as butter, it might be allowed ; but I understood the Minister to say that instances had occurred in which persons had exported inferior fruit to England, and that this Bill would cover such cases, and prevent their recurrence.
– How can that be done?
– It seems to me that to attempt to do it would be to embark upon a wild goose chase. If the Government is going to supervise the quality of fruit exported from this country, or the quality of any other article of which the buyer may judge for himself, irrespective of any reputation the country of export may have, it will embark upon an undertaking that will be simply endless in its consequences and unlimited in its ‘extent. As long as the world lasts, goods, the quality of which is apparent, will be exported, regardless of what a Government may do. I suppose the difference between deception, in its legal aspect, in regard to things which can be seen and those which cannot be seen, has given rise to the very old doctrine of law, caveat emptor.
– Which means, in plain terms-
– “ Let the buyer beware.” It is a principle which has become recognised at common law. It recognises that if one makes a bargain, and subsequently becomes dissatisfied with that bargain, there is no remedy if the defect of which complaint be made could have been seen at the time of the purchase, because the buyer ought to have been aware of that which he could see for himself. If, on the other hand, there were a latent defect in the article, and there were an undertaking that it was sound, the defect being latent, the buyer could recover on the ground that he had been deceived. That is the law, and that very principle comes in here. I could understand this measure being applied to butter, which might be so filled with some preservative as to be positively injurious to health or life. It might be the legitimate function of the State to have butter examined before being exported, and on finding it to be dangerously adulterated with some preservative, it might quite legitimately exercise its power to prohibit the exportation. I am satisfied, however, that the Minister is wrong when he talks of applying the provisions of this Bill to such things as fruit, or other produce, such as cheese and meat.
– Or eggs.
– Or even eggs. These are all instances of a very large class of goods over which supervision cannot, and need not, be exercised by the Government. My only doubt is whether in all cases the discretion which is necessary with regard to these things will be exercised. If I am present when the Bill is being discussed in Committee, I shall devote considerable attention to the task of eliminat ing any portion of the measure giving the Government power to regulate the quality of an article to be exported, where the defect is patent, and can be seen by the buyer. Where will the Bill as it stands lead us ? I have cited the case of fruit, only because the Minister mentioned it, showing that he had it in his mind. But let us suppose that the Government are to classify fruit that is intended to be exported from a State like Tasmania. That would mean that the Commonwealth must have an officer on the wharf, or even upon a ship’s deck, who, after examining the whole of” the cargo of fruit, would be able to say “ this fruit is inferior and cannot be shipped.” Where is the line to be drawn as to what is inferior and what is superior fruit?
– That matter will be prescribed.
– How can the Minister prescribe what shall be deemed inferior, or what superior fruit? There are many who say that a certain class of apple is not worth growing ; there are those who hold that the ribston pippin is better than other apples. The opinion of the officer appointed to investigate and report would be regulated to a large extent by his particular idea as to whether an apple should be judged by its appearance or taste, or by the number produced by one tree.
– That is not the intention of the Bill.
– It is a question not of the inferior class of a fruit, but the inferior fruit of a class.
– But even if we say that the Government expert is to deal with the inferior fruit of a class, the honorable member will admit that that must be a matter of degree. Out of one orchard you may take ten or twenty classes of the same fruit, some inferior and some good. How is this to be dealt with? Is an ordinary expert to judge of what is inferior and what is superior fruit?
– If fruit were diseased, but bore no external evidence of that fact, only an expert would be able to deal with it.
– Take the case of half-rotten fruit?
– If it were half rotten, the trouble would soon cure itself.
– That has not been the case in connexion with the export of butter.
– I have specially exemptedbutter from this part of my criticism.
– Perhaps the honorable and learned member is not aware that the very course we propose to take is being adopted at the present time by the Government of South Australia in reference to fruit?
– That does not settle the matter so far as we are concerned. If unnecessary action has been taken by one of the States, that is no reason why we should cease to criticise a proposal on the part of the Commonwealth to do the same thing. I submit that my point is a very sound one. It is proposed practically to dictate to men who have studied the trade for years as to what is wanted abroad. Take a particular kind of lemon.
– These provisions would hardly be applied to lemons.
– They might be. The Minister is aware that we actually import oranges and lemons from Italy.
– And from the United States
– That is so. It is simply a matter of seasons. At one part of the year we may export the very thing which at another period we import.
– As a matter of fact we do.
– No Minister should be empowered to dictate to the producer what class of fruit he should grow. If the doubt is as to whether the producer Would send his fruit away in an unripe or rotten state, I am sure the Legislature need not take action. If a man exported fruit which appeared to the expert to be rotting before it left Australia, what condition would it be in when it arrived at its destination, and what incentive would there be for the producer to continue to export fruit in such a condition? Having dealt with the necessity for a keen distinction between the supervision of exports which contain what I call a latent defect, and those in which the defect is patent to every one, I pass on to the question of imports. Everyone knows that there is a growing tendency on the part of people in all British communities to doctor themselves by the use of tabloids and pilules, and other preparations of that kind.
– It is a very foolish practice.
– It is admitted, and the honorable member for Melbourne will agree with me, that the people are constantly running great risk by using with confidence drugs which they may buy in concentrated form, without really knowing what is their effect upon health. As a matter of fact, the Adulteration Act now in operation in Great Britain requires the manufacturers of these commodities to place upon every label a caution to the buyer that he ought to take medical advice before using them.
– The medical fees will have to be reduced before that will be possible.
– That is a point which I am not now considering. They have got pretty low sometimes. My point is that there has been a recognition by the authorities in England that some of these very things which are being sold plentifully to, and used freely by, the people, are sufficiently dangerous to life to require the printing on the labels attached to them of the advice to take medical advice before using them. We know that the use of preservatives is growing to enormous proportions, and that by them many things which would otherwise perish in a very short time are now kept good, so far as the taste can discern. The public do not know to what extent preservatives are used. To go into details, you may nowadays keep milk or cream in your house for days before it will turn sour. Why? Because it is charged with preservatives. We know that doctors differ exceedingly on the question whether the use of preservatives in food is not seriously injurious to health. A short time ago the opinion was expressed by the Medical Board of New South Wales that the constant and liberal use of certain preservatives in food is mostdetrimental to health.
– Quite right.
– That opinion is confirmed by the medical authority on my right. It may be perfectly allowable for the Government to exercise rigid supervision over the standard imports being brought here. I admit that it should be in the power of the Customs Department to send officers to investigate the good’s which arrive in this country, to ascertain whether they are of a character such as the Government would be justified in proclaiming injurious. But the House will agree with me that it is quite sufficient to give the Minister power to order such an investigation, to subsequently publish in the Gazette, if necessary, a proclamation prohibiting the distribution of the articles imported, and even to forfeit them, if desired, punishing those who persist in importing goods the importation of which has been proclaimed in the Gazette to be illegal. But clause 8 baldly states that -
No person shall import any goods to which a false Made description is applied. Penalty : One hundred pounds.
– But the clause contains a qualification.
– It is also provided that -
It shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this section if the defendant proves that he did not knowingly import the goods in contravention of this section.
The question is, on whom will the onus of proof lie? .
– On the importer.
– It is intended to make the Bill a sort of addition to the Customs Act, and if honorable members will take back their memories to the discussions in this Chamber about three years ago, they will recollect that in connexion with all offences against the Customs Act the onus of proof is thrown upon the person charged. There was a great deal of comment on that feature of the Act when the measure was before this Chamber. When a man is charged with a breach of the Customs Act, he has to go into Court, not to defend himself against the evidence brought against him, but to prove that “he is innocent of the charge. The so-called protection given in the latter part of clause 8 is merely a throwing upon the person charged with importing goods to which a false trade description is applied, of the obligation to prove his innocence. I do not wish to seem pertinacious, or to be too emphatic, but if we give the Government power to examine and analyze goods when they arrive, and, if adulterated, to proclaim the fact in the Gazette; and to prohibit the importation of similar. goods, making the person who is guilty of such importation liable to a penalty of £100, and compelling those charged with the offence to prove their innocence, we create many difficulties. One has to know only a little about commerce to be aware how difficult will be the administration of the measure. Goods are frequently sent out to persons in Australia as regular consignments, without being ordered. There are hundreds of men in the States who are acting as agents for the manufacturers of Great Britain and other countries, and who, without ordering them, receive goods on sale as if they were importers. When a parcel of such goods, together with the necessary papers, had arrived from Great Britain or America, the Customs Department might say to the consignee, “ The importation of goods of this class has been prohibited, and yet you are importing them,” and an honest and innocent man would have to go into court to prove his innocence without any evidence being brought against him.
– The publican is dealt with in the same way in connexion with his dealings with wholesale wine and spirit merchants.
– The honorable member may not approve of that.
– I do not.
– Then I ask him to join with me in my protest against this provision as unfair. It is a fundamental principle of British law, which is supported by centuries of experience, that the onus is upon the party making a charge to prove the person guilty who is charged with a breach of the law. We should pay our fellow-citizens the credit of presuming that they are innocent until something has been proved against them. I admit that the Government could do a great deal of good by .supervising the importation of goods, by making public the fact that certain goods are injurious to health, and in some cases by going so far as to prohibit, by proclamation in the Gazette, their importation. Those remarks apply especially to the children’s foods, to which the Minister referred, from which a very large number of deaths occur, as I know from experience. If the Government act in this way with wise discretion, great good will’ be done to the community ; but I ‘ ask the Minister, in shaping the Bill in Committee, after the criticism of honorable members, to take an interest in altering it to such a form that less discreet men coming after him may not abuse the privileges which it gives, and may not thus paralyze commerce when it is only intended to check abuses.
– I do not wish to reiterate the arguments of the last speaker, who has very fully pointed out some of the objections to theBill. The great majority of us will agreethat, on the score of principle, the measure as a desirable one. But there is no doubt that if the House is not very careful, proceeding as it must in ignorance of many classes of trades, it may pass legislation which, as has been the case with other Acts, it may subsequently have reason to regret. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has pointed out the many difficulties which may arise in dealing with imports. I wish particularly to provide safeguards against the enormous powers which’ are to be given to the Customs Department to make declarations through its officials as to the weight, size, measure, package, condition, or adulteration of goods. Clause 13, however, goes still further. It provides that -
Any goods intended for export which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act may, in manner [prescribed, be marked with any word, figure, or mark for the purposes of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
Honorable members will see the wide opening that that provision gives for fraud. I do not think that one can impress too strongly upon the Minister the danger of the abuse of powers like these, knowing as -we do the abuse which has taken place of -similar powers intrusted to our own local authorities, and the still larger abuse of such powers elsewhere. For this reason I -warn the House to look very closely at the clause. The grading of exports would -frequently be a matter of very great difficulty even for outside experts, and should not toe so fully intrusted to departmental officers. The clause will apply to most of our staple exports, to wheat, butter, fruit, meat, wool, leather, hides, flour, and so forth. It is safe to say that the exporters of such goods would derive considerable advantage from a Government warranty that the weight of the goods was as declared, and that the goods were free from adulteration. But if the Government inspectors are to go further, and say in respect of butter, perhaps, that not only do the packages in which it is contained hold 56 lbs. net, and that it is covered with grease-proof paper, free from adulterants, and perfectly sound, but that it is butter of first, second, or third-class quality, we cast upon departmental officers work which could be performed only with great difficulty by outside experts, and at the same time create an opportunity for fraud, by making it worth the while of exporters to bribe officials to give certificates which should not be given. In my opinion the principal of caveat emptor ought to be applied in all such cases. The Government might push things to such an extreme as to say that certain butter was worth 10 1/2d., or 10 3/4d. per lb. If our valuable staple articles of export bear a Government warranty as to certain broad characteristics, our customers will .have something reliable to depend upon. We shall really help our exporters, and facilitate their business by assuring the purchasers of the articles that inspectors at this end are acting on their behalf, and taking care that they shall get the article for which they stipulate. For instance, if a shipload of timber were being exported from the Commonwealth, it would be justifiable for the Government to give its warranty that the timber was jarrah, blue gum, or stringy bark, as the case might be; but if we went to the length of describing the particular quality of the timber, we should exceed the bounds of reasonableness and fairness. Similarly, the Government might give their warranty as to the weight contained in the packages of butter intended for export, the weight of wheat exported, and so on. But it would be impossible for them to classify the articles into various grades, and practically fix their values. That would be an exceedingly dangerous thing1 to do. With regard to imported goods, I quite agree that in these days so much’ adulteration is practised that we should take some further steps to supplement the efforts of the States Governments to protect the ignorant consumer. That term probably embraces nearly all of us. because I think that we are all more or less ignorant with regard to some articles of consumption. I do not think the Government could take too much power to prevent frauds in connexion with the preparation of food stuffs, and other materials, so> long as they do not actually restrict trade bv means of regulations under the Bill. The administration of such Bills as that now before us depends very largely upon regulations. An Act may be administered with almost any degree, of severity or laxity, according to the class of regulations adopted, and I think we should make the provisions of the Bill as definite as we possibly can, in order to minimize the clanger of mistakes in administration. Take clause 3, for instance. It might be possible under paragraph c to call upon a manufacturer at the other end of the world to place upon his goods a precise notification as to the materials or ingredients of which his goods were composed. Take, for example, Lea and Perrins’ Worcester Sauce. If the proprietors of that sauce were called .upon to place upon each bottle of their well-known product, a precise statement of the ingredients used, their good-will would vanish into thin air, and any one could use their formula. I know that these matters could be better dealt with in Committee, but I am now indicating broadly that we shall require to be careful in giving extended powers under regulations. Unwise administration might result in a serious interference with trade, and gross injustice to many deserving traders, whose business is more or less established on secret formulae. Then, again, I hope we shall avoid the mistake that was committed in connexion with the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. I gave my hearty support to that measure, but 1 strongly impressed on the Government that it should not be brought into operation too early. I think that we should guard against bringing a Bill of this kind into force too suddenly. Its ramifications will be very much greater than those of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act, and its commencement should be delayed for at least twelve months after it is finally passed. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that there are certain classes of articles which, though they may not be called first class, are still legitimate articles of export. Any interference with the exportation of such products would be an unwarrantable interference with the development of our productive power. As honorable members know, wheat may be of any number of different varieties or grades. The grain may be so low in quality as to be absolutely unfit for human consumption, and yet possess commercial value, not only here, but in other parts of the world. To prohibit the exportation of such wheat because it did not reach a certain standard would be to interfere to a serious extent with our export trade, and to damn the whole principle of the Bill, the general object of which we most heartily sympathize with. Take the case of fruit, for instance. There may be a thousand different distinctions. It would be absurd to say that unless fruit was of a certain standard it should not be exported. That would be an unwarrantable interference with the operation of trade, which would tend to restrict the production of our national wealth. Whilst the Government might be justified in giving their certificate that certain fruit was o”f a well known variety, and that it was properly packed in boxes of the regulation size, they should not attempt to classify the fruit itself. If we are careful not to permit the Government to exercise such powers as will lend themselves to abuse - if we refuse to give them such powers as we may be led to infer will almost surely be abused - the Bill which contains principles which must commend themselves to the good sense of honorable members, may be made a very useful measure.
-The honorable and learned member for Parkes and the honorable member for South Sydney have indicated a number of the objections that I had intended to express. A Bill like this is pregnant with much danger to the commercial life of the country, and I find it impossible to refrain from saying a few words with regard to it. We are face to face with a proposal that the Government shall have the absolute right to say upon what lines trade shall be carried on. The Minister proposes to assume control over both the import and the export trade. It seems to me that we should allow the principle of caveat emptor to apply to its fullest extent. How can we say what is good and what, is bad? How can we determine the stage at which a certain commodity becomes of no further use to the community ? I am perfectly sure that no officer appointed by* the Government would be qualified to come to a proper ‘determination on such a point. In connexion with the inquiry now being conducted by the Tariff Commission, it has been shown that potatoes, wheat, and a hundred and one other things which are absolutely useless, so far as human consumption is concerned, are vet of considerable commercial value for distillation purposes. Alcohol will probably be the great cheap fuel of the future - it may eventually displace petroleum. At present it is not doing so, but illimitable possibilities appear to be opening up so far as the use of alcohol is concerned. Under the provisions of the Bill now before us, the Minister might prevent the importation or the exportation of articles which would lend themselves to the production of alcohol or other commodities, and he might also prevent the importation of valuable substitutes, such, for instance, as saccharine. Synthetical chemistry is only in its infancy!, and we cannot tell how far its development may extend in the near future. We should not place any obstacles in the way of such development, because the world is looking to it to solve many of our present day problems. I would direct the attention of the Minister to the provisions of clause 13, which reads as follows: -
Any goods intended for export which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act may in manner prescribed be marked with any word, figure, or mark for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
Does the Minister mean to say that it is the function of an officer of the Customs Department to indicate the quality, class, or grade of the goods to be exported? Because one brand of butter may be slightly paler than another, coming from a different pasture, no colouring matter having been introduced into it, would the Minister say that the former should be graded as class B, and the latter as class A?
– This provision was contained in the Bill drafted by the late Government.
– I do not care in what Bill it was contained, or who drafted the measure. My objection is sound. The Minister knows perfectly well that there is a very great difference between the colour of different brands of butter which -come from different pastures. This Bill contemplates empowering, an inspector for the time being to decide exactly what shall be the standard quality or grade of butter. Surely that is not the intention of the House. I submit that this defect, having been pointed out to the Minister, he should take care to make the necessary correction. Personally I am of opinion that nearly all interferences on the part of Governments in matters of this character are a mistake. If, instead of bringing forward this Bill, a measure had been framed which provided for an easy recovery of penalties where any misdescription or adulteration of goods had taken place, it would have been infinitely better. The remedy would, have been a simple one. In that case a cheap means would have been afforded any person who felt that he had been injured in any way by misrepresentation as to the quality of the goods purchased by him, to obtain some reparation. Such a measure would have been much more effective than the one under consideration, because in every case the vendor would take care so to describe his goods that the buyer would have no remedy against him whatever. We know that in the purchase of machinery - even if a misdescription be made - although a remedy is provided, it as not as perfect as it might be. Had we confined our efforts to supplying an easier and less expensive remedy than is contained in this-. Bill, we should have done all that it is im our power to do. We should have rendered every person who is interested in any particular article absolutely liable. Unfortunately, that is not the case at thepresent time. Although a man may bevery grossly deceived in the purchase of an article, he has no remedy against the seller.. Under clause 13, we may possibly create a new danger. Apart from the difficulty of grading, let us suppose that all exports from Australia have to be classed and graded. We know that in the carriage of . goods from here to England, some deterioration often ensues, even although at the time of the inspection the goods were absolutely fit for use. Let us suppose that a whole shipment goes wrong on the voyage, and is admitted to another country bearing the mark, “Approved and passed by the Commonwealth Government.” What will be the result? We shall lower the value of every class of goods exported from this country. Every person who purchases a portion of that shipment will say, “ For the future I must take care. I exercised less caution than I otherwise should, in consequence of the mark affixed to the goods ; but that is evidently no guarantee of their quality.” As a result, we shall have prevented the best articles from realizing their true value, and thus by our action.’ we shall have inflicted an injury upon thewhole of the producers of Australia. From my own personal knowledge, I can say that” it is sometimes impossible to producegoods of exactly the same quality, even: when the same care is exercised. The variations of climate and of season? make a great, difference to our exports. It is almost impossible, for instance, togel in two consecutive seasons a wine of exactly the same quality and flavour. It is because of that fact that some vignerons contemplate the erection of great blending houses, where this difficulty can be corrected. That is why the big growers are constantly purchasing ‘ from their smaller neighbours. Who is to determine what the best quality of any article shall be? Is it to be seriously suggested that any individual who is appointed to the position of inspector, merely because he happens to be in the Government service, shall decide what shall be the standard of quality to which men who have been engaged in a particular business all their lives shall conform? If it is, the first duty of any man producing for export will be to ascertain the particular taste and ideas of the inspector who is likely to examine his goods. Having done that, those goods are almost certain to be graded1 under class A.
– Surely there would be no hard and fast method adopted ?
– The Bill allows the adoption of such a method. I fail to see how we can depart from a’ hard and fast rule. Take the item of wools alone. Fortunately for all those who are engaged in producing crossbred wool, the demand for that commodity has increased enormously.
– But the honorable and learned member knows that all wools are properly marked.
– Let me take a simple illustration. Let us suppose that a man enters a wool store. He may mark the fleeces at certain prices. I have known cases in which men have been as much as 3d. per lb. out in their calculations.
– The honorable and learned member does not suppose that wool - unless it were falsely marked - would be dealt with under this Bill?
– Are there any producers who are more careful than wool-growers in the classification of their produce?
– None. I am merely pointing out that all these commodities can be brought under Government control.
– The Bill provides that they can be. The honorable member supposes that a certain thing will not happen merely because he thinks that it ought not to happen.
– The Government could not get a better authority to classify wool than one who had already operated upon that produce.
– I have met very few men in my life who could classify both kinds of wool.
– The grower of each grade of wool secures the services of a specialist in that particular grade.
– Is it to be said, then, that we are to have two graders of wool ? Does not the honorable member know that wool coming from the same district very often varies in quality ? The wool grown in a good season is very different from that produced in the same country during a bad one. The honorable member for Moira knows that there is a break in wool grown in a bad season which in many cases lessens its value to the extent of 2d., 3d., or even 4d. a pound, according to the severity and duration of the drought. He knows perfectly well that both the quality, and the quantity, of wool produced by sheep always kept on good food in the one season are very different from the quantity and quality produced in a bad year. Yet we are to take upon ourselves, through the officers of the Commonwealth, the grading of all these things; or else we are going to say that those who export wool are the only persons in the Commonwealth who can be trusted. Does not. the honorable member for Moira know that certain firms engaged in the butter trade obtain a very much higher price for their butter than do others simply because they refuse to deal in all classes ?
– Is not butter already graded by the State?
– I believe that it is.
– The honorable and learned member does not object to that proceeding.
– Personally I do, if it is provided that none but a certain class or grade shall be allowed to be exported. It is extremely difficult to say what should and what should not be allowed to go abroad. I have already referred to the case of potatoes, which, although unfit for human consumption, might have a value because of their alcoholic contents. Alcohol will probably be the fuel of the future, and a very slight development in this direction will perhaps alter all our present-day ideas of combustion. I do not know how butter that was unfit for human consumption could be of any use, but I hold that if there is a foreign market for such butter, there is no reason why a man should not be allowed to export it, even if he cannot obtain more for it than the ordinary price for grease.
– That is an argument in favour of grading.
– All that I say is that a man should be permitted to export even inferior butter, and get whatever price he can for it. If a man says, “ This butter tastes like cart grease, but I am prepared to eat it,” why should he not be allowed to buy it?
– But would it be fair to sell good butter and inferior butter as being all of one grade?
– If the grading has been done by the Government, it certainly would not be fair.
– S’o that if a private individual graded the butter it would toe all right?
– My point is that one does not place any reliance upon grading that has-been carried out by unknown persons The position is very different with regard to grading done by the State. In order to show the danger attending the use of Government marks, let me quote the case of a shipment of butter, bearing a Government brand, part of which, after leaving here, became fishy. There might be no doubt that when the expert examined it here, it was his honest opinion that it was suitable for export; but apparently before it reached its destination so many microbes of an obnoxious character had developed in ‘ it that it became fishy. If these cases of fishy butter had been the first to be opened, the price of all the other butter shipped on the vessel in question would have been lowered by 2d. or 3d. per lb. Although there might have been only ten or a dozen boxes of fishy butter, those who had exported the remainder of the shipment would have had to suffer. That is one of the real dangers of the grading system. As the Bill stands at present the Government may make it compulsory for an exporter to show that his butter has been graded, and belongs to such and such’ a class. Would any honorable member say that because one consignment was bad, other shipments by the same vessel should suffer? Honorable members show by their silence that they agree with me that such a thing would be most unfair. I think their silence shows that they assent to my proposition.
– There would be a running chorus of dissent if we always took notice of what the honorable and learned member said.
– I have occasionally assented to the statements of ‘the honorable member. In view of these possible dangers, is the House prepared to say that Government grading should be compulsory? There is no doubt that if the Bill be passed as it stands, the result will be that all exports will have to be graded. I am a dairy farmer, and am able to see that every attention is paid on my farm to sanitary conditions ; I am able to provide everything requisite to insure the purity and wholesomeness of my product. But will any one say that a farmer in a smaller way of business than myself - one having less capital than I have - should be forced to supply himself with everything necessary for an up-to-date dairy before being allowed to produce butter ?
– The Dairy Supervision Act of New South Wales insists very properly upon certain conditions being observed.
– If all dairy farmers were forced up to the same pitch that two or three of us have reached, quite independently of outside supervision, seven out of every ten would have to go to the wall.
– That prediction was made long ago, but it has not been borne out.
– It has not been the experience of Victoria.
– Nor of New South Wales.
– If the honorable member suggests that I could not detect a difference between the methods of dairying on almost every farm, he does not know what he is talking about.
– What I say is that under the State law, there are certain minimum conditions which must be observed.
– If we provided, under this Bill, for a minimum set of conditions, the danger would be worse than that which at present exists. The first part of the proposition is a very sound one, because, in the interests of public health, it is necessary that we should step in and say that there shall be a grade below which no product shall fall. But it does not go any further, and in that it is wise. I speak of th’e dairying industry only, as one with which I am familiar.
– It is the one industry most affected by the Bill.
– No; the Bill will apply to exports of all kinds. In the case of dairies there is a minimum which considerations of public health demand, but I do not know that the honorable member is aware that milk condemned for one purpose might be used for another - it might, for instance, be used for white- washing purposes.
– When mixed with a little lime it makes excellent paint.
– Quite so. My contention is that the Bill goes altogether too far. There certainly should be a minimum grade, but every man should be allowed to sell what he pleases as long as he does not go r-below that minimum. The use of a Government brand, however, might tend to a reduction in the price of a whole shipment of produce simply because one particular consignment had proved unreliable. The use of a Government brand will tend to lower the price to the exporter.
– That has not been the experience of New Zealand1 or of Denmark.
– In those countries a minimum is fixed. It is provided that such and such an article shall not be placed in a certain class unless it comes within a certain grade, but under this Bill there will be power to go further. This measure might become a very serious weapon of offence - a weapon so powerful as to enable any men of ingenuity to practically break up the trade of’ the Commonwealth.
– No Government would dare to do that.
– Does the honorable member think that forty Governments would deter me from doing that which I wanted to do?
– But Governments do not consist solely of men of the stamp of the :honorable and learned member.
– There are many who would do what I have said if they had the chance. To my mind the country will rejoice when some despotic person come: along. Our so-called democracy, as exemplified in this and other Parliaments, is becoming more despotic than ever.
– What has this to do with the Commerce Bill?
– The introduction of the Bill illustrates my statements. Instead of such legislation, we should pass laws punishing persons guilty of adulteration, and making sellers responsible for the quantity and quality of their goods.
– How does the. honorable and learned member expect to build up an export trade except with a good article ?
– Our export trade can be built up only by exporting articles of good quality ; but Parliament cannot build it up. Who would take the advice of this Parliament on anything? If seventh-four members of this House told the seventyfifth exactly what he should do, I am prepared to say that he would not be so lost to the sense of independence and selfrespect as to act on the advice.
– Is the honorable and learned member speaking for himself?
– I have never pretended to take the advice of this House. Others may bow to the superior power of Parliament, but they do not accept its opinion. Does Parliament know on what lines the community should trade? I am sure that it does not. Are the members of this House ever united in opinion as to the particular lines to be followed in regard to any matter? I have never known an instance of the kind. Is not that a proof that Parliament is not fitted to lay down the lines on which commerce should move?
– There is a difference of opinion among all bodies of men on all matters under the sun.
– Did the honorable and learned member ever know of any Parliament whose members were all of one opinion in regard to any matter?
– No, and that is a proof to me that it is impossible for Parliament to pass laws directing the conduct of trade. We have been told that the late Government intended to introduce a Bill similar to this, though it may be that the differences between this Bill and the Bill which they would have introduced are such as to make the two measures entirely opposed in tone and character. To my mind, clauses 8 and 13 contain a very serious danger.
– What would the honorable and learned member suggest in their place?
– I would allow the Minister of the day to deal only with cases in which offences have been proved. I entirely object to the provision which allows the Minister for the time being to declare whether goods shall be graded or not.
– The South African buyers ask for this grading, and it is said that the Chamber of Commerce there supported it strongly.
– No doubt if two or three consignments were found on delivery to contain goods of bad quality, they would cry out against the Government grading. In nearly all cases in which men clamour for Government interference on their behalf, you will find that they are men who are not a§ keen in business as are their neighbours. I know from banking and other inquiries which I have made that almost every firm that has gone before the Tariff Commission saying that) it could not get along without higher duties - I do not refer to those firms which asked for the removal of duties on their raw material - is trading with capital which does not belong to the members of the firm, or the members of the firm are men of unsound position in the financial world.
– Yet the honorable and learned member has on other occasions said that these manufacturers are so rich.
– I have said that, in many cases, their operations are not to the interest of the bulk of the community, because they have made others poorer. I trust that honorable members will see that nearly all of these restrictive measures, instead of being of advantage to the people, really constitute an evil. The power to direct the grading of exports, if exercised at all, should not be exercised by the Minister for the time being, without a definite statement being made to Parliament as to the exports to which it was to apply. Without some such provision, I am certain that serious evils will arise. Lord Coke said that the great and serious evils which arise as the creation of laws designed to build up new principles are almost incredible. It is only about 100 years since the people commenced to understand what is meant by the principle of non-interference.
– Non-interference is generally regarded now as wrong,
– Amongst persons educated in economics there is a stronger belief than ever before that there should be as little interference as possible by the State. There has been an extension of what is regarded as the! proper scope for State interference, I admit, and more matters now come under the control of the State, and, in my opinion, very properly, than was formerly the case. But, unquestionably, whenever a new matter is brought under State control, a fresh evil is created, and the question to be determined is whether that evil is lesser than the evils which would continue if the old state of affairs remained unaltered. _ It is, however, sometimes contended that those who object to State interference, as a general principle, are opposed to all kinds of State interference. But it is absurd to think that we should object to State interference in such matters as sanitation, for instance. It is not because one believes in State noninterference generally that he would permit men to do as they please, to the serious detriment of the health and property of their neighbours. The State is justified in interfering in regard to the employment of child labour and a dozen other matters. In this case, however, no such interference is necessary. All that we need do is to give the purchaser a simple, cheap, and effective remedy for any damages that he may suffer through purchasing adulterated articles.
– What remedy could be given to the purchaser of half-a-pound of bad butter?
– If the bad quality of the butter was such that the purchaser should have ascertained it by the exercise of his sight, taste, or smell, he should not be allowed to bring an action; but if the adulteration was such as could not be detected by those means, a remedy should be provided for him. There is no need for the creation of a large staff of inspectors. If we go on building up Department after Department, the Commonwealth expenditure will soon exceed the limit of one-fourth of the receipts from Customs taxation allotted to us by the Constitution, and we shall have to hold our hands from what may be absolutely necessary legislation, ‘ simply because Ave cannot afford it. But what is more important than the passing of a measure by Parliament is its effective administration. It is the administration of a measure which affects the people. Good administration may make even an unsound law not wholly offensive, but bad administration will make the best law ever passed absolutely injurious to the community. I am surprised to find this Parliament going back to the methods of the musty past. All the evils complained of could be dealt with by giving a remedy to every purchaser.
– How could adulteration be proved without the assistance of Government analysts and inspectors?
– A purchaser might send a sample of milk, or of any other commodity, to an analyst.
– And pav the fee himself?
– If necessary, Government analysts might be employed for the purpose of examining articles that were suspected1 to have been adulterated.
– How many analysts would be required for the whole Commonwealth ?
– It is a mistake to suppose that the great bulk of the articles of food are adulterated. I do not see that there would be any practical difficulty in carrying out my suggestion. Under the system I propose, every man would act as a policeman but- if only a few inspectors were appointed the door would be left open for fraud and corruption, and very grave mistakes might be made. Articles intended for export might be rejected, on the ground that they did not come up to a certain standard, and yet they might be of comparatively high commercial value for certain purposes. We are rapidly approaching (fie stage at which there will be no waste products in any department of industry. Even the refuse of great cities is now being turned to practical use. Are we to lay down laws that will retard the development of synthetical chemistry?
– Certainly not ; but we do not wish it to be put to a wrong use.
– That would be prevented if we passed such laws that each individual would have the power to safeguard his own rights. We cannot look after the rights of each man, because we cannot determine what he regards as his rights. We could, if we pleased - unfortunately we do not please - give him the chance to enforce every right he possesses. By failing to provide easy means for the enforcement of all claims, we deny to many individuals the chance of obtaining their rights. We should insist upon alf men being made, as far as possible, equal before the law. At present that is one of the things we decline to do. A thousand wrongs are crying out for redress, and we are turning a deaf ear to the appeals for our assistance. The Bill appears” to me to seek a remedy at other than the fountain head. The intention, no doubt, is good, but the result will be evil, and I have no hesitation in saying that in the course of the next ten or twelve years serious attention will have to be given to the considerations that I have brought under notice. I prophesied in connexion with the Customs Act that a hundred and one evils would arise, and I believe that this Bill will be attended with equally undesirable results. By instituting the principle of Government grading arid Government marking, we shall deny to men the reward of their own industry, and rob them of the motive which is the principal inducement to work and effort. Nations have been beggared by their Parliaments - by the enactment of unjust laws and the imposition of excessive taxation. We have certainly passed many unjust laws, and we are marching rapidly along the path which will lead us to the imposition of such excessive taxation as will involve us all in ruin. Such measures as that now before us tend1 to bring all men down to one level. I cannot support a measure which will give Government officials an opportunity to deal with matters of which they will probably be quite ignorant. The Bill contains some provisions which I would be glad to see embodied in another measure; but the vitiating effects of some of its clauses are such that I shall oppose the motion for the second reading.
– I do not propose to speak at any great length. The remark which fell from the Minister of Trade and Customs that he had toned down the measure which was prepared by the late Government, conveys to me the idea that the original Bill must have been a remarkable production. It is unfortunate that the tendency of our legislation in this Parliament seems to be in the direction of narrowing the scope of our commercial and industrial life. The expectation, prior to Federation, was that our legislation would certainly not retard enterprise, but that it would help to promote it. We have before us a Trade Marks Bill, a Secret Commissions Bill, and the present measure, all of which contain provisions calculated to restrict the liberty of those who are engaged in trade and commerce. The provisions in this Bill, and in the Secret Commissions Bill, as well as certain provisions in the Trade Marks Bill, are creating consternation amongst members of the trading community, who find it difficult to estimate the effects of such legislation, and who look forward to the dislocation of business. The Bill before us, and the Secret Commissions Bill, are of such a drastic character, and will have such a serious effect upon trade and commerce, that I think it desirable that they should be referred to a Select Committee. I do not make that suggestion with the slightest desire to retard the progress of the measures, but merely in order that opportunities may be afforded to the commercial community to make full representations to Parliament with regard to them. A Select Committee might be appointed which would be fairly representative of all shades of opinion, and it might be stipulated that the report should be presented by a certain date.
– If that were done we might as well drop the Bill for this session, and perhaps for next session also.
– In view of the enormous interests involved, we should insure the very fullest consideration, and I hope that every opportunity will be given to those immediately concerned, to express their views.
– Every consideration will be given to any reasonable information or representations.
– I do not propose at this stage to take the responsibility of moving that the measure be referred to a Select Committee, but I would impress upon theMinister the necessity of attaching due weight to the farreaching character of the provisions of the Bill, and to the necessity of paying the fullest regard to the representations of the trading community. I quite recognise that the Trade Marks Bill was under discussion in another place last session, and that it is not open to the same objections of party consideration that apply to the other two measures I have named. I claim that, in the interestsof the whole commercial and manufacturing community, as well as of the people of the Commonwealth, it is undesirable to press through measures of this character, in the absence of proper information and proper investigation. I make this appeal to the Minister in no obstructive spirit. The commercial community are entirely favorable to the principles underlying these Bills, but in operation the drastic clauses which they contain may prove very harmful to us all. It appears to me that we are attempting to set up a position of self -righteousness, and to impose upon business men restrictions which will hamper all conditions of trade. I speak with the authority of the Chamber of Commerce, and of other organizations of manufacturers, and I appeal to the Minister to agree to the appointment of , a Select Committee to receive representations - which will be fairly made - as to why certain of the provisions of this Bill should not be brought into operation. I refrain from any definite motion, in the earnest hope that the Minister will see his way to grant my request, which is ‘a fair and legitimate one, having regard to the interests of the whole community. We are endeavouring, by all our legislation, to narrow the area and influence of our trade and commerce. We have had restrictive legislation enacted in the past, and we continue to pile up Acts of a similar character. If, by passing such measures, we could influence all outside trade and commerce, some useful purpose might be gained. But instead of accomplishing that, we are merely, restricting the operations of our own people. Naturally, the commercial community wish to see proper standards established in connexion with our exports. They wish to show that by raising the standards of imports and exports we are benefiting the community. But some of the details of the Bill are of so drastic a character as to induce me to make this earnest appeal, not merely as a private member, but as the representative of large commercial organizations.
– I wish to move the adjournment of the debate until a later hour of the day, because I desire to bring another matter under the notice of the House. Of course, it is understood that I will not lose my right to subsequently move the adjournment of the debate.
– The right honorable member will not lose any right.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Reid) adjourned till a later hour of the day.
– I wish to raise a question of privilege. I regret to say that I did not reach the House this morning prior to the commencement of business. When I entered the Chamber some interchanges were taking place in connexion with something which was alleged to have appeared in the Melbourne Age of to-day. I had not seen either the Argus or the Age before I came to the House, and it was one of my honorable friends behind me who brought the paragraph in question under mynotice. It was impossible at that time to deal with the matter, as I wished to have an opportunity to read the paragraph, and to see what allegations it contained. I have since had that opportunity, and before I make any observations upon it, I should like to read the whole of the paragraph to the House. I am so accustomed in this journal to imputations of treachery and every other form of wickedness under the sun, that I pass by most of the unfounded statements which it contains. But this is another of those grossly false allegations of which I must take notice. I will read the paragraph in extenso -
Mr. REID AND THE LABOUR PARTY.
The Chairmanship Vote.
The members of the Federal Labour Party are in a state of great indignation over what they regard as an act of treachery on the part of Mr. G. H. Reid and the Opposition in connexion with the chairmanship of committee’s election, which took place in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Labour Party and a section of the Liberal Protectionists were pledged to vote for Mr. Chanter. As between Mr. Chanter and Mr. Salmon the Opposition generally, and Mr. Reid in particular, greatly preferred the latter. When, therefore, it became evident that to run their own nominee, Mr. Wilks, meant, through the exhaustive ballot, the certain success of Mr. Chanter, the Opposition at the last moment on Wednesday decided to withdraw Mr. Wilks from nomination. But greatest of all, the Opposition desired to humiliate the Government. This could only be done by in some way opposing Mr. Salmon, the Prime Minister’s nominee.
Now, considering that three Ministers of the Crown voted against the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I am impelled to ask whether they were endeavouring to humiliate the Prime Minister ? It is a most extraordinary thing that it should be imputed to me that I was attemping to humiliate the Prime Minister, by voting against a gentleman who was opposed by three of the honorable and learned member’s own colleagues. As a matter of fact, I did not know that the honorable member for Laanecoorie was the nominee of the Prime Minister. He was not put forward by the head of the Government in any way. I was absolutely in the dark as to the attitude of the Prime Minister, or of any other member of the Government, so far as knowledge was concerned. I naturally supposed that the Prime Minister would vote for the honorable member for Laanecoorie ; but it was only a matter of conjecture. I had no knowledge. The paragraph continues -
About five minutes before the nominations took place the way to accomplish this end -was presented to Mr. G. H. Reid by Mr. Frazer, M.P., the Western Australian Labour member, who has been specially active on behalf of Mr. Chanter.
Having been assured that there was no chance of Mr. Chanter being elected -
The newspaper does not state who assured me of this -
Mr. G. H. Reid personally agreed with Mr. Frazer to a course by which the names of both Mr. Salmon and Mr. Chanter should be deleted from the resolution before the House relating to the Chairmanship. The arrangement was that when Mr. Chanter had been rejected, and the motion to confirm the insertion of Mr. Salmon’s name in the resolution was before the Chamber, the Labour Party should call for a division, with the result that an Opposition and Labour combination would defeat Mr. Salmon.
I should like to know whether the Labour Party agreed with that object to call for a division ?
– There was no agreement of any sort.
– That is what I should think.
– There was none, so far as I was concerned.
– As I intend to show, if the Labour Party had agreed to support our proposed nominee, there is no doubt whatever that we should have put him up. Our desire was to secure his election, and the man who says it was not, is one whom I do not believe ; he is a gentleman of the superfine morality of one who writes articles for the Age. He does not exist in real life. The article continues -
The idea was to defeat both the candidates and leave the resolution with a blank, which could be filled by a fresh nomination from either side -
That is a sort of arrangement which the friends of the honorable member for Dalley would be very slow to adopt, because it would mean using him as a pawn. I do not think that any one would be likely to make such an agreement, but I shall deal presently with that point-
The division was called for by the Labour Party -
This is the florid style of writing - as if the whole party had called for the division - but Mr. Reid and his friends went back on their undertaking, and with the exception of Mr. Conroy, who made a slight movement towards crossing the floor -
I think that the honorable and learned member has often done that - would not budge from their seats -
It is miraculous how the Age knows the inward motives for the attitudes of every honorable member in this House.
– I think that the leader of the Labour Party himself crossed the floor.
– I did, with the intention of supporting the honorable member for Laanecoorie.
– That is one of the strongest proofs that there could have been no arrangement with the Labour Party to vote against the honorable member -
Mr. Reid and his friends went back on their undertaking -
It is “ their “ undertaking now ; in the earlier part of the article it is said to be a promise made by myself. Now it is the promise of “ Mr. Reid and his friends” - and with the exception of Mr. Conroy, who made a slight movement towards crossing the floor, would not budge from their seats. In short, Mr. Reid went back on his promise to Mr. Frazer. Seeing they were betrayed, the Labour Party called the division off just a few seconds before the bells stopped ringing -
An Honorable Member. - Did the appeal come from the Labour side?
– I am inclined to think that the request was made by a member of the Labour Party. The appeal was made from the Labour side -
There is a good deal of feeling amongst members over the incident -
The power of the Age to impart feeling into this House is simply marvellous -
Labour members accuse Mr. Reid of open betrayal of his specific promise to Mr. Frazer. The friends of Mr. Salmon are no less wroth with Mr. Reid, for they regard it as an act of treachery that he should have bargained with the Labour Party to compass the defeat of their candidate. It is expected that reference will be made to the matter in the House this morning.
I generally read one of the Melbourne newspapers every morning, but it is not the Age. This morning, however, I did not have an opportunity to read even the Argus before I came to the House.
– Did the honorable member spend too much time over his devotions ?
– No, but I am residing some miles out of the city, and after sitting here until half-past 10 at night, it is not always convenient for one to reach the House at 10.30 a.m. I do not think, however, that I was more than ten minutes late this morning. I have read the whole of the article in the Age, and shall now deal with the facts.
– Does the right honorable gentleman propose to follow up his statement by submitting a motion.
– Mr. Speaker has been consulted, and I have ascertained that I am in order in adopting the course I have taken.
– I rise to a point of order.
An Honorable Member. - Gag !
– Standing order 285 provides that -
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be. prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
If the right honorable member is prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, I shall withdraw my objection.
– The name of the printer and publisher appears in the imprint.
– I heard an interjection when I rose, suggesting that this was an attempt on my part to apply the gag, but that does not influence me in the least. I think that the right honorable member is required by the standing order to produce a copy of the newspaper containing the statement to which he objects, and conclude with a motion.
– If the honorable and learned member will turn once more to the standing order to which he has drawn attention, he will see that it provides that if any honorable member complains to the House of a statement in a newspaper as being manifestly a breach of privilege, he must conclude his speech with a motion, declaring that the printer or publisher has been guilty of contempt. So far, however, the right honorable member for East Sydney has not accused the newspaper in question of being guilty of a breach of privilege. Should he do so, no doubt he will conclude with a motion, as provided for by the standing order, but that motion is unnecessary unless he desires to charge the newspaper with a breach of privilege.
– The reason why the right honorable member has been allowed to interrupt the business of the House - there is really no motion before the Chamber - is that he is raising a question of privilege.
– No doubt that is so. Except on a question of privilege, no honorable member could have intervened at this stage. But there are questions of privilege and questions of privilege. There are cases, amounting to a breach of privilege on the part of a newspaper, in regard to which a certain practice has to be followed ; but there are other cases in respect of which there is no set practice laid down.
– It is not my intention to move that the printer or publisher of the Age shall be brought to the bar of the House, because I believe that they are the most innocent of all concerned. If I could bring; to the bar one or two of the mysterious gentlemen who write leaders in the Age, one against the other, I might be induced to do something to bring them into the daylight; but I have nothing save the greatest respect for the printer and publisher of that journal, because I do not suppose that they look at what they publish. I should like to state my position from the beginning, with reference to this matter. I suppose honorable members will.be quite prepared to learn that I was always in favour of the candidature of the honorable member for Dalley, provided that he was nominated. I presume that there would not be any treachery in supporting one who has had a long political career, and has been a life-long supporter of my own, if I thought that a thoroughly competent member of the party to which I belong should occupy the Chair for a session. There is no man in the House who would grudge that position to the honorable member for Dalley. My position, therefore, was perfectly clear from the first. I was very anxious that, if possible, the honorable member for Dalley should be elected Chairman of Committees. On the other hand, I did not conceal my strong preference for the candidature of the honorable member for Laanecoorie as against that of the honorable member for Riverina. I do not think we are called upon, at present, to go into reasons for such a preference, but the House will accept my assurance that I greatly preferred the candidature of the honorable member for Laanecoorie to that of the honorable member for Riverina. I went further than that. My honorable friend, the member for Laanecoorie, will remember that I told him in the most straightforward way that I was strongly in favour of the election of the honorable member for Dalley if it could be brought about ; but, that, failing, the election of that honorable member, I would strongly support him. The honorable member for Laanecoorie did not approach me on the subject, or seek this information in any way. I happened to meet him, and volunteered the information that I would give him the strongest support, as against the honorable member for Riverina.
– That is quite correct.
– But I told the honorable member for Laanecoorie that I was going to use every effort to promote the success of the candidature of the honorable member for Dalley. I do not think that the honorable member for Riverina had any special reason to expect my support.
– No; certainly not.
– Honorable members will see, therefore, that I was perfectly open in declaring mv attitude. I had no need to declare my attitude to the honorable member for Riverina; and I may say that that attitude is not based on any personal objection to the honorable member. However, I made my position perfectly clear ,to the only honorable member to whom I thought it necessary to make a statement on the subject. I may say that the honorable member for Dalley, throughout this matter, avoided all question of canvassing or ascertaining who would vote in his favour. Some of his friends, just as the friends of other honorable members did, interested themselves in his success; and I suppose that that is not an unusual proceeding. But all through there was a distinct understanding that we would not put the honorable member for Dalley forward if it would lead to the election of the honorable member for Riverina. We so greatly preferred the honorable member for Laanecoorie that, if we saw that our putting forward a candidate would lead to a result to which we were strongly opposed, we would support the nomination of that honorable member The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, with whom I have been on very pleasant intimate terms - for I have always endeavoured to obliterate politics in our private intercourse - did come over to this side of the House before the voting took place, and he broached the question of a proceeding which would have the effect of a vote resulting in the removal of the name of the honorable member for Laanecoorie from the list of candidates if the honorable member for Riverina was not elected.
– That was Broached to us all over here.
– Fortunately, this was no private interview, because it took place in the presence of several of my fellow members. Honorable members know that every supporter of the honorable member for Riverina voted for him.
– All who were here.
– All who were here; there was no cross-voting on that issue. There was not a single supporter of the honorable member for Riverina who .abstained from voting for him, say, on the ground that he could not possibly win. The honorable member for Riverina voted his full strength, and had his full opportunity, and he was defeated by, I think, eight votes. I believe that, several of his supporters were absent - so I have been told - but all who were here voted in his favour. Now, as the newspaper says, the honorable member for
Kalgoorlie did come over to us on the contingency of the honorable member for Riverina being defeated.
– Which appeared absolutely certain, even if he polled his full strength.
– That is perfectly true; but the honorable member for Kalgoorlie did come over on the contingency of the defeat of the honorable member for Riverina, which, I think, he clearly saw would happen. There was a conversation between the honorable member and myself, and I say that fortunately two or three honorable members were grouped around at the time.
– Not all the time.
– Very well, not all the time. It is perfectly true that the question was discussed between the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and myself as to whether we should vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie in order to remove his name; but I saw clearly enough that I should be absolutely unjustified in entering into any such arrangement, unless by doing so I could secure the election of the honorable member for Dalley. I was not going to be made a pawn to be used) to defeat the honorable member for Laanecoorie, so that when our man was put up my friends opposite could vote against him, and thus create a blank again, so that another honorable member probably of their own party, if it were thought advisable to nominate him, could be elected to the position. I wanted a guarantee of good faith in this transaction. My object in desiring to place the honorable member for Dally in the chair was a legitimate object. If there is any strength in life-long political friendship, and in the support enjoyed from one of the most honorable men in the chamber, as the honorable member for Dalley is, I should think myself something less than a man if I did not do my best to put him into the chair, especially when I believed he would make a thoroughly good Chairman. I was not called on to help either the honorable member for Laanecoorie or the honorable member for Riverina in any shape or form, and my friend, the honorable member for Laanecoorie had the manliness to say to me at once that he could not, and did not. expect my support. Young as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is, he is a gentleman with whom we need to be careful. I am very glad that I was careful, because, instead of falling into some mysterious position in which the hon orable member for Dalley would have been left out in the cold - that would almost certainly have been the result - I told the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that while I was perfectly willing to vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I would only do so on a promise of the support of his party for my friend the honorable member for Dalley - that unless that support was promised, I would not be any party to defeating the honorable member for Laanecoorie.
– Was this proposal represented to the right honorable member as a party arrangement ?
– No; it is only fair to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to say that he did not do that - he did not say he came to me on behalf of the party.
– The newspaper makes it appear that he did so.
– But that is wrong; the honorable member did not use the name of his party. Had he come and told me that he had the authority of his party, I should have accepted his word, and voted against the honorable member for Laanecoorie, and the honorable member for Dalley would inevitably have been elected if the Labour Party had voted with us. But that was the very point on which the negotiations broke down. I said, as any man of sense with less experience than I have had would say, “ If you will give us an assurance that your party will support the honorable member for Dalley against the honorable member for Laanecoorie we will vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie.”
– And why not?
– The honorable and learned member had them all in the bag.
– I ask, why not? Why should we not do that which would not have been objected to if done in the interest of any of the other candidates ? I hope we are not going in for that sort of political hypocrisy, which applies rules to political opponents that we do not apply to ourselves. I make no sort of concealment of the fact that if I could have secured the election of the honorable member for Dalley I should have done so; and no one, surely, would blame me for that. But the point is that the newspaper asserts that I did come to anarrangement that the Labour Party having promised to vote with us, we would vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie - that is the promise that is alleged to have been broken. In the first place, the Labour Party know as well as I do that no such promise was given. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie says that such a promise was given, I suppose the Labour Party are in a position to know whether the honorable member says that which was correct. They must know whether or not he acted with their authority.
– If the honorable member said that he spoke for the party, he said so without authority. But the honorable and learned member has already said that the honorable member did not say so.
– Does the right honorable member not admit that I did not say I acted with the authority of my party ?
– I do so, strictly. I want to be absolutely fair to the honorable member. He in no shape or form led me to believe that his party agreed to what he suggested. That was the very difficulty ; I put it to him : “If you will come to me, and tell me that your party will do what you say, and will support the honorable member for Dalley, I will vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie.” Now, the honorable member did not come back and give me any such assurance, so that there could be no promise. I refused to make any promise without the assurance which was not given to me, because the honorable member never returned either to tell me that his party would, or would not .give the assurance which I had told him I should require. Now, that is the whole transaction so far as the honorable member and myself are concerned ; and, as I say, the honorable member went to others on this bench who will be able to say what was the transaction between them.
– I am very glad that the opportunity has been given to-day to discuss this question. I may say,, at the outset, that I was not responsible for putting the Age on to the statement that is published this morning. I did not run to the Age in order to make a statement of what I believed to be a grievance. In connexion with the matter itself, I am prepared to indorse the statement made by the honorable member for Herbert this morning. I acquit him of having any knowledge of the arrangement that was being made inside the House. The honorable member was not aware of it. But the honorable member for Herbert was sitting on this side when the second call for a division took place.
– No; he got up. I saw him get up.
– The honorable member will excuse me. I am taking the word of the honorable member for Herbert, and 1 believe that he knows best what happened.
– I did not know what was meant by the second call.
– That is the position. There is no doubt about it. It was well known that the candidature of the honorable member for Dalley for the position of Chairman of Committees of this House was being withdrawn for a particular purpose.
– Hear, hear; there was no doubt about that.
– My honorable friends opposite admit that.
– -Because he could not get in, arid we were not going to be made use of to put the better man out.
– My honorable friends admit that, and that removes a lot of difficulty from the situation. Then we were faced with this position - that it appeared to be absolutely impossible for the honorable member for the Riverina to win the position. Now, I am prepared to say that I have taken up a position unfavorable to the candidature of the honorable member for Laanecoorie. I am going to be careful, Mr. Speaker, not to reflect upon any one after the deed has been done, but I certainly was in favour of having one of the other members, of the House elected in preference to the honorable member for Laanecoorie in the event of the honorable member for Riverina being unable to secure the position, he being my first choice. For that reason, I say, that when I saw that the election of the honorable member for Riverina was impossible, I approached the right honorable member for East Sydney with a suggestion. The suggestion has been admitted by the right honorable member up to a certain point. Now, I say that I left the right honorable member for East Sydney thoroughly satisfied that we were going to get the support of the Opposition on the second call. The honorable member who this morning referred to the whole statement as a lie, is a man who heard nothing, and knows least of all about it.
– I was sitting alongside the honorable member when he made the statement to the leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member was doing nothing of the kind.
– I was, and heard all the honorable member said.
– I was sitting at the table alongside the right honorable member for East Sydney, talking to him. There were no other honorable members sitting at the table.
– We were not sitting at the table, but we were sitting on the front Opposition bench when the honorable member made the offer.
– Exactly; I was sitting at the table discussing the situation with the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the honorable member for New England was sitting on the front bench away from the table and knew absolutely nothing about it. The position, I state again, was that I left the leader of the Opposition satisfied ; and I told the honorable member for Bass, the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Boothby - and I think I mentioned it also to the honorable member for Barrier - that if we called for a second division the Opposition were going to assist us.
– The honorable member had no right to make that statement.
– No right whatever.
– Does the honorable member say that I had made him a promise on behalf of the Opposition without putting the condition that he should tell me that his party would support our man?
– Yes, absolutely.
– Does the honorable member say thatI did not point out-
– And I say that thehonorable member who raised the point of getting assistance for the honorable member for Dalley, was the honorable member for Macquarie.
– What did I tell the honorable member?
– At a later stage this happened-
– I want to know what the honorable member says I told him ?
– That he wanted a guarantee.
– Hear, hear; I am too old to make that sort of mistake.
– Hear, hear.
– I knew whom I was talking to.
– That explains the position.
– Was that after the honorable member had spoken to the leader of the Opposition?
– The honorable member’s extensive knowledge of the doings of parliamentarians made him think the matter over after his leader had given me the other assurance.
– Will the honorable member allow me in fairness to ask him a question ?
– Question time has gone past.
– Mr. Speaker knows that I cannot speak again.
– Of course, it is impossible to allow questions to be put in any formal way, and quite impossible to allow them to be put in the shape of a second speech ; but I recognise the importance of getting out all the facts in a matter of this sort. The right honorable member for East Sydney will be perfectly in order in making an interjection that is not too long.
– I must say that I am quite willing to give the right honorable member every opportunity.
– Icannot allow the right honorable member to make a second speech, but he can put his question in a word or two.
– I wish to ask the honorable member this question : Does he not recollect that I pointed out to him that I wanted some assurance that if we voted against the honorable member for Laanecoorie, his party would vote for our candidate ? Does he not remember that?
– I acknowledge having had a conversation with the right honorable member on that point.
– Then why did not the honorable member say so?
– I acknowledge that that point was mentioned, and still I say that I came away with an assurance that it was going to be risked.
– Risked ! After what the leader of the Opposition said about the honorable member for Dalley.
– It is nonsense !
– My honorable friends opposite seem now to have absolutely expected that it was impossible, in the event of securing a double blank, that the honorable member for Dalley would be elected. I say I did not hold that view, and, further, I am thoroughly satisfied that at that particular time those honorable gentlemen did not hold it either. The honorable member for Macquarie, as I have already said, was particularly anxious to get an assurance, which I could not, and did not, give him.
– Then I declined to have anything to do with the matter.
– But I say I was not dealing with the honorable member-
– I declined to have anything to do with it.
– Order !
– I think there is very little else in this matter that requires reference. I do not feel particularly happy that the matter has reached the position in which it is to-day ; it certainly was not my wish. I believe in semi-public or private conversations being regarded as confidential, and. for that reason I would have been the last to have given this matter publicity. But matters having arrived at their present stage, and being placed in the position of having to say whether a thing is right or wrong, I say that, to the best of my belief, it is absolutely correct.
– What is absolutely correct?
– The statement that I received! a promise from the leader of the Opposition of support in action taken to remove the name of the honorable member for Laanecoorie from the motion for the appointment of the Chairman of Committees.
– Does the honorable member say that the leader of the Opposition gave him a personal undertaking of that kind unconditionally ?
– The right honorable gentleman gave me a personal guarantee of his assistance in the matter.
– What was the honorable member’s answer to what I told him? I never received any.
– I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to take his seat. I remind the House that during the address of the leader of the Opposition there was almost perfect silence, and I ask for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie a similarly attentive hearing.
– It is a difficult thing to get from honorable members opposite the attention which honorable members in other parts of the House give to them when they are speaking. But I admit that this is a matter upon which they may reasonably have some feeling. I ask honorable members to ask themselves this question: If I had not felt that I had that assurance from the distinguished leader of the Opposition, why should I have gone to the honorable members whom I have indicated to-day, and told them that if we called for a second division we would get the support of honorable members opposite ?
– Did the honorable member go to his leader with that statement ?
– Further, I ask why I should have called for the second division if I had not believed1 that we would get that support?
– Because the honorable member was against the honorable member for Laanecoorie out and out.
– I say it was because I believed that I was going to have the assistance of the leader of the Opposition, and I presumed of the right honorable gentleman’s friends, in order to create a second blank, that we might have another vote for the chairmanship. I have nothing further to say. I hope that some of our other honorable friend’s on the opposite side will get up and enlighten the House on the position, and that they will get a better hearing than I have received. I hope it will be recognised that when the conversation to which I have referred was going on we were sitting at the table where the leader of the Opposition now sits, and honorable members were ranged along the benches which they now occupy.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).As my name has been mentioned in connexion with this matter, I may be pardoned for making a few remarks concerning it. It is true that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie approached the right honorable member for East Sydney. But it is a strange thing, if the honorable member received such a satisfactory assurance from the right honorable gentleman that he should have come to me immediately afterwards, and should, have put a proposition to me to which he had already received the assent of the leader of the Opposition. It is remarkable that if the honorable member received the assurance of the leader of the Opposition he did not accept it at once, but should afterwards have come twice to me. The first time he came to me he said, “Well, you want to get Mr. Wilks elected “ ? i said, “ I do. i have no hesitation in saying, in the first place, that I am opposed to the honorable member for Riverina, Mr. Chanter, and I am under no obligation to vote for the honorable member for Laanecoorie.” I further said, “I prefer Dr. Salmon to Mr. Chanter, and if there should be no other candidate I intend to vote for Dr. Salmon. At the same time, I am anxious to secure the return of Mr. Wilks if it is possible to do so in an honorable way.” The honorable member said, “There are a number of our people who are going to support Mr. Wilks if we have a division, and if Dr. Salmon is defeated-
– What is that?
– The honorable member stated that there was a number, or some, of his party going to vote for Mr. Wilks if Dr. Salmon’s name were not left in the motion. Is that not so?
– No, it is not so. I said that I believed that they might.
– I have been too long in public life to be satisfied with such a statement as that. I said I wanted to know if the honorable member was going to vote for Mr. Wilks, and I wanted to know the names of honorable members who were going to vote for Mr. Wilks-
– Did I say I would?
– Before I would be a party to allowing Dr. Salmon’s name to be erased, and thus allow honorable members opposite to come on with some new man and defeat us altogether.
– The honorable member was the innocent lamb amongst the lions.
– At least I have been too long in public life to allow a little affair like that to pass.
– That was why I was taken down.
– There was no taking down. I think my honorable friend will admit that he did not leave me with any doubt in his mind as to the course I would take.
– I thought the honorable member would follow his leader, as he usually does.
– It is a very extraordinary thing, if the honorable member thought I was going to follow my leader, and had an assurance from my leader that he was going to vote as the honorable member suggests, he should have come to me not once, but twice.
– Because the honorable member called me over to him.
– No; the honorable member came over to this side of the House, not once, but twice.
– At the invitation of the honorable member for Macquarie?
– I never called the honorable member once. He came and sat alongside of me here.
– When? Not after I had the assurance of the leader of the Opposition ?
– The honorable member told me that he had spoken to the leader of the Opposition first. As a matter of fact, I saw the honorable member speaking to the leader of the Opposition, and he came straight from that right honorable gentleman and sat alongside me.
– Does the honorable member say that he did not call the honorable member for Kalgoorlie?
– I did not call the honorable member. Why should I call the honorable member? Honorable members may smile, but if they think it is a light matter that a statement of this kind should be made, it only shows how much they have degenerated during the last few weeks when so much political treachery has been going on. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie will admit that he came to me when I was sitting on the front Opposition bench, and broached the subject before I mentioned it to him. Will the honorable member deny that?
– I will not admit it.
– Well, it is of no use for me to say any more to an honorable member who will so act, because I would not approach him again. But he knows full well, as honorable members on this side can bear out, that he afterwards came to the honorable member for Dalley and spoke to him on the matter. What reply did he receive? I shall leave him to give the answer. I only mention the matter to show that I was correct in stating that he approached me - and I did not know what he was going to do - not once but twice, if not three times, and i gave him this reply every time - “Who in your party are going to vote for Mr. Wilks if Dr. Salmon is to be rejected?” i said to the honorable member, “ Are you going to vote, or who are going to vote?” because I wanted to make up the numbers to see whether we had a chance of winning. I do not indulge in these little plots.
– I have never denied that the honorable member was on that point, looking for numbers.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that I left him in any doubt as to the course I was going to take?
– The honorable member left me in this doubt, that I believed he would follow his leader.
– Did I give the honorable member an assurance to that effect ?
– Order ! The honorable member cannot ask questions.
– My name has been mentioned, and I wish to know whether the honorable member got any assurance from me that I was going to be a party to the proposal he made.
– No, not from the honorable member.
– That shows clearly that the leader of the Opposition was perfectly right in his statement, and no one doubts his word. It was after the honorable member spoke to my leader that he came to me, and he accepts the assurance that I led him to believe, then, that I was not going to be a party to the proposal he made. It shows clearly enough that the statement made in the Age this morning - [ do not know at whose instance, and I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that it was not made at his instance - is a dastardly one, and is only in keeping with untruthful statements made in its columns during the last few weeks, in order to damage the right honorable member for East Sydney in the eyes of the electors of Victoria.’ It will not have that effect, however, because he is too well and favorably known throughout the Commonwealth for any scurrilous article of that kind to influence the electors.
– I do not intend to pursue this matter, but merely to say that there was no arrangement, so far as the Labour Party was concerned. The possibility of pursuing the course which ‘ apparently was outlined in the conversation between the two honorable members who have spoken was suggested to me, and I refused to have anything to do with it, and immediately the second division was called for, I crossed the floor with the intention of voting for the appointment of the honorable member for Laanecoorie. The Labour Party were not consulted in regard to any suggestion.
– I desire to say that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie came and sat between myself and the honorable member for Franklin, and, leaning over the latter, he spoke to the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was sitting on the other side. That is absolutely what occurred in that sense, and I believe it was the first intimation I had of the whole thing. I said to my leader, “ I would not have anything to do with them; I would not trust them. If we are going to vote out Dr. Salmon, we must only vote him out upon the distinct understanding that we are to vote in Mr. Wilks, and to that end we must have in writing the names of those who would vote for Mr. Wilks.”
– That is absolutely inaccurate.
– The honorable member wanted a pledge signed.
– I would not take their word. Yes, I wanted the condition inserted in a bond, if we were going to do that kind of thing. I was not favorable to the honorable member for Laanecoorie, but I was more favorable to him than to the honorable member for Riverina, and the former knows that he would not have got a vote from me if we could possibly have put in the ‘honorable member for Dalley. When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie says that I knew nothing about it, he says what is not correct, as the honorable member for Franklin can testify. The statement in the Age, which I characterize as being absolutely untrue, is that we pledged ourselves to vote out the honorable member for Laanecoorie. I give the most emphatic denial to the statement. We gave no pledge of the- kind, and the only condition upon which we would have voted the honorable member out would have been that we were absolutely certain of voting our own man in.
– Did I ask a single member of the party to do as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggests?
– No, and I should not have voted with the right honorable member if he had taken that course, without knowing what we were going to do. There is no member of the party, I believe, who would have done so. I do not think that the right honorable member could have carried any one with him. This party cannot be led to do dishonorable things of that kind - to be simply made a tool of in order to put some person in the Chairmanship of Committees. We are not so soft as is suggested.
– If the honorable member thought the transaction dishonorable, why did he want to get the condition put in a bond?
– It would not have been dishonorable if we could have put in our own man. I said it would be absolutely wrong, and that I would not vote the honorable member for Laanecoorie out, except for one purpose.
– To elect a better man.
– Yes. I would not have voted against the honorable member on any other ground. But when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie says that I knew nothing about it, his memory must have failed him, I think, because I was sitting on the front bench here, and heard the conversation. I do not wish to say any more on the subject. I only rose to clear myself from the imputation of having made a statement without knowledge.
– I rise for the purpose of informing the House that I was approached with regard to some arrangement of this sort by a member of the Opposition, and, like my leader, I refused to have anything to do with a compact of the kind. I might go further, and say, as the right honorable member for East Sydney has said, that some honorable members sitting on that side, not having a knowledge of any arrangement which might have existed, influenced other honorable members. I acted as I did because I was honestly opposed to the election of the honorable member for Laanecoorie - not because I knew of any compact. I would refuse to entertain at any time the condition which was proposed to be made.
– As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has introduced my name this afternoon, I wish to say a few words on this subject. What the honorable and learned member for Wannon has said is perfectly correct. I was sitting behind where the honorable member for Robertson is now sitting when the result of the division was declared, and, being under the impression that the business was all over, I rose from the seat and came down the steps, expecting that when you, sir, would put the second question, it would be carried on the voices, naturally. I did not know of any of these little arrangements being carried on. When in doubt, they say, it is always a good line to follow your leader. Whilst I was hesitating as to what course to pursue, I saw my leader cross the floor, and heard a division called for, by whom, or for what purpose I do not know. Being a straightforward man, these despicable diplomatic dodges do not appeal to me. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is quite right in indorsing what I said this morning - that I knew nothing about the arrangement, and I decline to be brought into it in any way.
– As my name has been mentioned, I wish to briefly say that the statement made by the honorable member for New England is absolutely correct. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie came across the chamber and sat alongside me. Leaning in front of me, he said, “ Now is your time to knock them both out ; now is your chance to give Wilks a show.”
– To whom?
– To the leader of the Opposition, I believe, who was sitting alongside me. The honorable member was sitting there, and, leaning right across my face, he said, “ Now is your chance to knock them both out if you want to give Wilks a show.”
– Is the honorable member prepared to say that the leader of the Opposition was not sitting at the table?
– That is a very important point.
– What nonsense !
– I am not prepared to say whether the honorable and learned member was or was not sitting at the table.
– Then the honorable member admits that he does not know.
– The only thing I am interested in is that immediately the remark was made, I said to the honorable member for New England, “ Surely to heavens, there has been enough trickery in the House during the present session. I shall have absolutely nothing to do with the proposal.” I refused to vote to strike out the name of the honorable member for Laanecoorie, no matter what the result might be. Personally, there is no member of the
House whom I would rather see in the Chair of Committees than the honorable member for Dalley. But I did think that our chance to run him into the chair, if it existed, was to run him in at first. I do not wish it to be understood that I was a party to the arrangement which was proposed deliberately by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, to strikeout the names of both members, in order, as he said, “ to give Wilks a show.” I refused positively to have anything at all to do with it, and, so far from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie receiving any assurance from those on this side of the Chamber, every honorable member sitting here made a similar refusal, while the honorable member for New England refused in even more emphatic terms than those which he addressed to Mr. Speaker this afternoon. I wish to make it clear that, so far as honorable members sitting on this side of the Chamber were concerned, we refused to do what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie proposed, namely, to strike out the names of the two candidates, in order to give the honorable member for Dalley a run.
– Did I ask one member of the party to do such a thing?
– No member of the party asked me to do it, and if my leader had asked me to do it I should have told him what I told the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that I would have nothing to do withany arrangement of the kind.
– I wish to protest against honorable members wasting time on a motion of this kind. If the people listened to what the press says they would believe that the only honest men in the country are those connected with that institution.
– Is there a question open to debate? I spoke by way of personal explanation.
– The matter raised by the right honorable member for East Sydney involved a question of privilege. If he had merely made a personal explanation I should not have allowed any debate, but, the question of privilege having been raised, I have permitted the discussion to proceed so far. During the last few moments, however, I have come to the conclusion that any legitimate purpose which could be attained by the discussion of the question of privilege has been already accomplished, and I hope that honorable members will now enable me to close the debate, so that the House may proceed with its ordinary business.
– If all that the press prints isright, the time has come for us to build one huge gaol and imprison every one in it. In my opinion, wehad better attend to our business and pay no heed to the statements of the newspapers. Not a day passes but I have to suffer from such statements. I believe that both honorable members concerned in this matter are labouring under a multiplicity of delusions. Neither would say here what he did not believe to be true. But, in listening to another talking, one nods his head and the other person goes away, as satisfied as an auctioneer is with a bid, while the press flames the matter forth until the Rocky Mountains might be on fire. I do not believe that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is capable of wronging any one, nor do I think that the right honorable member for East Sydney would wrong any one. I am sorry, however, that the honorable member for New England has said thathe would not take the word of a member of the Labour Party.
– Of some of them.
– It is a sad thing for a member of Parliament to say that, when seven or eight members of the Labour Party have been Ministers of the Crown, and the King has taken their words. I ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, if the honorable member can name one member of the Labour Party who, during the eighteen months that he has been in Parliament, has broken his word ? If he cannot do that he should withdraw his statement. What would he think if a member of the Labour Party said that he would not take the word of a member of the Opposition?
– The honorable member is not now discussing the question before the Chamber.
– I quite agree with you, sir; but if the honorable member for New England has the manliness which he appears to have, he will withdraw his statements.
– As my name has been mentioned, I wish to say that I very much regret that there has been a dispute of this character in connexion with the election of a member to the high judicial post of Chairman of Committees. My party treated me extremely well in connexion with the matter, giving me a free hand to run or not, as I thought fit, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie knew, out of my own mouth, before the nominations were announced from the Chair, that I was not a candidate. When he was ‘.passing me here, he said, “ You will pardon me for speaking to you on the question, but are you a starter?” - or a “candidate”; I am not sure of his exact words. My immediate reply was “ I am scratched for all engagements.”
– That is when there were two others running.
– That was before any candidate had been nominated, and before a name had been mentioned in this Chamber. Later on, when it was found that there were only two candidates, the honorable member came to me, and said, “ Now is your chance,” and explained to me that a blank had been created. I did not answer immediately, but, later on, after I had seen the leader of the Opposition, I said, “ You must get the assurance of your leader, Mr. Watson, first.”. I did not countenance the promise made to me. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie addressed three or four of us, the leader of the Opposition having his face turned in this direction. I did not understand at first what he was talking of, because I was thinking about other matters. But when he had explained how a double blank could be created, I said, “ Can you bring the assurance of the leader of the Labour Party?”
– The honorable member is very innocent.
– That is my distinguishing virtue, and I do not think I am to be blamed for that fault. If any one has a right to complain, it is myself, because my name has been dragged into this matter. It seemed to me that the honorable member wished to make a catspaw of me in the interest of the candidate to whom he was attached. I refused a week ago to be made a catspaw of, and I refused again on the day of the election. I hope that the House will hear nothing more of these so-called arrangements in the future.
– Certain honorable members of the Opposition have doubted whether the honorable member for Kalgoorlie spoke to the leader of the Opposition when he was anywhere than on the front Opposition bench. As one who was present during the whole time, I saw the honorable member speak to the leader of the Opposition when he was sitting on the front Opposition bench, and afterwards when he was sitting at the table.
– Hear, hear.
– It passes my comprehension how the honorable member for New England could have heard the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, whose face was turned away from him, and who was speaking in an ordinary tone of voice. I regret that this discussion has taken place, but I realize that in view of the paragraph which appeared in the Age, it was hardly possible to avoid some reference to the matter. I am pleased in one sense that this matter has cropped up, because we have heard the leader of the Opposition state distinctly that if he had agreed to support a certain candidate, he would have had the votes of the whole of his party in his pocket.
Honorable Members. - No.
– No such statement was made.
– The leader of the Opposition stated distinctly what I have indicated. Honorable members opposite do not desire that any honorable member on this side of the House shall rise and express his opinion. They have shown a disposition to interrupt every one who has made any attempt to address the House from this side of the Chamber. Several honorable members opposite, amongst them the honorable member for Parramatta, did all they could to disconcert the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, a young and new member of the House, who was defending himself against a serious attack.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is the most dangerous member in the House - that is my opinion of him.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was being attacked by the big guns of the House, and notably by one honorable member, who hardly respects the Chair - we had an example of his conduct in that respect last night. The leader of the Opposition stated distinctly that his party was not going to be made use of in order to allow a member of the party to which I have the honour to belong to be elected to the Chair.
– I never made any such statement. The honorable member for Riverina is not a member of the Labour Party.
– I aim quite aware of that, but the right honorable member said that if a double blank were created, it might permit of the election of a member of the Labour Party.
– I preferred the honorable member for Laanecoorie, that was all.
– The right honorable gentleman stated that if a double blank were created, it might permit of the election, not of the honorable member for Dalley, but of a member of the Labour Party.
– Instead of the honorable member for Laanecoorie, whom I preferred.
– I voted honestly and straightforwardly. There was no party decision on the matter one way or the other. The honorable member for Dalley states that he was left with a perfectly free hand. A similar statement would apply to every member of the party to which I belong. I regret that this discussion has occurred, because I think that elections to such a position as that of the Chairman should be conducted without any intriguing such as has taken place in this instance. Members of the Opposition were engaged a fortnight ago in endeavouring to secure nominations for the position.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– It is not incorrect.
– Name them.
– Members of the Opposition were going about asking whether any member of the Labour Party was going to run for the position. They were anxious that some one should run, and wanted to know why we should support any man outside our own party. I notice that honorable members are not asking for names now.
– I am.
– My remarks do not refer either to the honorable member for South Sydney or to the honorable member for Macquarie, but other honorable members belonging to their party asked us why we did not run the honorable member for Kennedy, or why we did not give the honorable member for Boothby a chance.
– Order ! The honorable member is introducing quite new matter.
– It is well known that intriguing was going on among members of the Opposition, with a view to the election of a member of their own party, and we have had the assurance of the leader of the Opposition that he would not stand a member of the Labour Party at any price.
– I desire to say a few words by way of explanation. The honorable member for Yarra, after having been in the Chamber, and having heard every word I said, has stated I said that I would not have a member of the Labour Party in the Chair at any price. I am sure that the honorable member, on reflection, will see that that is doing me a great injustice. My remark was that I would only vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie in order to place the honorable member for Dalley in the Chair - that unless that was the re- suit I would not vote to put any one else in.
– I certainly understood the right honorable gentleman to state that the creation of a double blank might result in the election of a member of the Labour Party.
– I assure the honorable member that my only meaning - and I can not conceive how my words could be otherwise construed - was that I would not vote against the honorable member for Laanecoorie unless there was a certainty of my friend the honorable member for Dalley being elected.
– This is a very regrettable incident, and I should not have risen but that I feel that the position I occupy requires that I should, in justice to the honorable member for Dalley, if not in my own interest, say a few words. Some weeks ago I induced the honorable member for Dalley to become a candidate for the Chairmanship, and I consulted the members of my own party with regard to supporting him. So far from there being any intrigue. I happened to meet the honorable member for Riverina, and, without being asked by him, told him that I was supporting another candidate, a member of my own party. So far was I from trying to induce the members of the Labour Party to put forward a candidate, that I can give my word of honour that I never made any such suggestion on any occasion. The facts are these: Up to the day before the election, I had intended to nominate the honorable member for Dalley, and the only reason I had for refraining was the request of the honorable member that I should not proceed with his nomination. I was not spoken to by the honorable mem- ber for Kalgoorlie, or any other member of his party, with regard to the withdrawal of the nomination. I think it is most regrettable that we should proceed with elections such as that which recently took place, and afterwards have to go through all the battle again in consequence of what I consider to be the ill-advised and intemperate statement made to the press by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– I did not make the statement to the Press.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I am bound to say that I do not attach much blame to the Age over this matter. We have had it substantially admitted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that what the Age, said had, in broad outline, been communicated to it.
– The honorable member has said that he was no party to giving the information to the Age.
– I know that, but he states that what the Age says is, with the exception of a little dressing, substantially correct.
– Yes, I say that the Age statement is substantially correct.
– I shall class the honorable member with the Age in future.
– If this kind of thing is to go on, any intercourse between honorable members of this House will become impossible. According to my recollection, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie came over to this side of the House three or four times. No one called him, and no one wanted him, that I know of. He came running over here in a most excited manner, saying, “ Here’s your chance.”
– I shall know how to deal with the honorable member in future.
– I knew how to deal with the honorable member on that occasion - I passed him by. I do not believe in honorable members rushing about the Chamber in an excited fashion, and begging other honorable members to take a certain course on the spur of the moment. It was at the very last moment that all this took place.
– It was a trap, as we can very well seenow.
– My recollection is that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was going backwards and forwards and holding consultations on the back bench with the honorable member for Yarra.
– He never consulted with me.
-I saw the honorable member talking to him on the back bench.
– I say that the honorable member is absolutely wrong in stating that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie consulted me.
– That is in keeping with the honorable member’s other statements.
– That must remain. It is impossible to make any statement that is not promptly challenged by honorable members opposite. I hope that in future, when any election takes place, it will be conducted in the proper way. Any matter affecting an election to a position such as that of the Chairman should be managed through the agency of the party whips. If the honorable member had adopted that proper course he would have avoided all this trouble and (misunderstanding.
– The Whip was not authorized to do anything of the sort, anyhow.
– Therefore, the honorable member had no right to do what he did.
– Cannot I do anything without consulting the Whip?
– I do not think that the honorable member shouldtake action of that sort in connexion with so important a matter as the selection of superior officers of this House without consulting his party.
– We do not follow the whip to that extent over here.
– The honorable member does not follow the Whip when it is convenient for him to do otherwise. But I venture to say that when the whip is cracked over there he follows it, and follows it just as keenly as does any other honorable member. I do not complain of that. What I do complain of is that the honorable member came over to the Opposition benches three or four times, and begged honorable members sitting here to take a certain course of action, and when they would not do so, he rushed away to a newspaper and made a scandal of it. That is a justifiable ground of complaint. Moreover, the honorable member put the matter in such a way to the press as to impugn the honour of the leader of the Opposition. When the honorable member does that he puts himself outside the pale of intercourse with other members of the House. That is the only way in which we can treat him in the future.
– I am astonished at the heat which has been imported into this debate, and especially at the heat displayed by the honorable member for Parramatta. I can assure him that if he will make a statutory declaration that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie went to a newspaper office to communicate the information which has appeared in the press, he will stand a very good chance of being prosecuted for perjury. I am willing to believe this, because I have the assurance of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that he did not visit the Age office. After all, this is a twopennyhalfpenny matter. Its discussion is not calculated to enhance the dignity of Parliament in the eyes of the public. Personally, I know nothing whatever about it. I was pledged to support the honorable member for Riverina. Had he not been standing, I should have been only too willing to support my old friend, the honorable member for Laanecoorie, who was a colleague of mine in the Victorian Parliament. But naturally my sympathy was with the honorable member, who, like myself, had been wronged by a Federal official, and who, as a result, had to contest a second election. Members of the Labour Party were left absolutely free to support any candidate they chose, and as a member of that party - which voted solidly upon the division - I cannot blame the Opposition for doing likewise. I compliment them upon having voted solidly. I know that the leader of the Opposition will do me the credit of saying that only this morning we had a conversation about a similar instance occurring, and I now put it to him, “ Is it not just possible that a mistake has occurred “? In a hurried interview a word dropped may very easily be construed as a pledge. I may tell the leader of the Opposition that I had the definite statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that he received an absolute assurance from him. I was voting for the honorable member for Riverina, and wished to see him elected. Had he not been a candidate for the Chairmanship, and had I not been pledged to support him, I should have voted for the honorable member for Lanecoorie. I think that this matter had better be dropped alto gether, and if it is possible for one with my French name to pour oil upon the troubled waters, I shall be glad to do so. Will any good purpose be achieved by any honorable member declaring that he cannot accept the word of an honorable member upon the opposite side of the House, or vice versa?
– It is a pity that these matters should have been talked about and taken outside.
– I know- that there are very few honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber whose word I would not accept, and I am perfectly certain that in the bottom of their hearts they would accept the word of honorable members upon this side of the House, irrespective of whether they be Labour members or Ministerialists.
– I wish to say a word or two by way of personal explanation. I did not state that I would not accept the word of a Labour member. If I did so, I did not intend to convey that impression. What I wished to convey was that I would not accept the mere statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie upon the particular matter in question. I wanted the arrangement to be put in writing. I did not think that the honorable member had the authority of his party to make the arrangement, and it was because of that, I insisted that it should be put in writing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Reid) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a message from the Senate announcing that it concurred with the resolution passed by the House of Representatives affirming that it was desirable that the Standing Orders of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, relating to Lapsed Bills, should be referred to a joint meeting of the Standing Orders Committees for consideration and report.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne and read a first time.
House adjourned at 3.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050804_reps_2_25/>.