House of Representatives
17 August 1905

2nd Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.15 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1103

ADELAIDE POSTAL OFFICIALS

Mr BATCHELOR:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain whether it is not a fact that some of the letter-sorters and maildrivers in Adelaide work from 5 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock in the evening, or even later, in order to make up an ordinary day’s work. The answer which he gave yesterday had reference to telegraph operators, but it had not been stated that they work these long hours.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Postmaster-General · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The trouble referred to has been removed. As the honorable member informed me yesterday that he would ask this question, I communicated with the Adelaide office, and have been informed that the reply which I gave yesterday in regard to operators’covers mail-sorters and mail-drivers too. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall probably be able to give h m further information which will be satisfactory to him.

page 1103

BRISBANE MAIL-SORTERS

Mr CULPIN:
BRISBANE. QLD

– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if he will bring under the consideration of the Public Service Commissioner the complaint of the sorters of the English mails employed at the General Post Office, Brisbane, as to the stoppage of a special allowance for this work.

Mr GROOM:
Minister for Home Affairs · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · Protectionist

– I understand that the honorable member intended to mention this complaint during the debate on the Public Service classification. If he will give me a statement of the circumstances of the case, I will submit it, with other complaints, to the Commissioner.

page 1103

QUESTION

CHATSWOOD POSTMISTRESS

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– On the 4th August the honorable member for Gwydir asked certain questions in regard to the postmistress at Chatswood, which willbe found on pages 629 and 630 of Hansard, to which I replied t hatinquiries were being made, and replies would be furnished as early as possible. I am now in possession of detailed answers. The replies to the honorable member’s first series of questions, furnished by the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, are as follow:-

  1. At the inquiry held in July, 1903, by a board appointed under the Public Service Act, into achange of carelessness of management against the late postmistress’ atChatswood, evidence was given by the inspector, in reply to questions by the accused’s solicitor, which imputed irregular money transactions some time previously (the dates of which were not given). No evidence on the matter was given by the late postmistress, as she was not called to give any sworn testimony. The inspector’s evidence appeared to the Deputy Postmaster-General to need an explanation, which was immediately obtained, and dealt with as shown below. (See No. 4 )
  2. If a Treasury inspector during an inspection of the office discovered any irregularity of the kind referred to, it wouldhave been reported to the Deputy Postmaster-General, and the postmistress would have been called upon for an explanation.
  3. Public Service Regulation No. 45 provides that- “ Any monetary transaction between officers, either as principals or agents, whereby any interest or other return in money or kind is charged or paid, or borrowing moneyby senior officers from their subordinates, is forbidden” ; but the transaction disclosed was not considered to be an infraction of this regulation.
  4. Yes : the respective comments were as follow : -

By the Deputy Postmaster-General, . Sydney : - “ I am quite sure that Mr. Bramble’s explanation will be accepted in this matter as* an exoneration of any improper intention on his part, in regard to the transactions that Mrs. Ford has through her solicitor, introduced into this case - transactions that in no way bear upon the charge against her.

I think, however, that inspectors - and, indeed, all. officials - should be very careful to avoidany monetary transactions of the kind.”

By the Secretary, Postmaster-General’s Department : - “ I think that the action of Mr. Inspector Bramble, viz., borrowing money from official cash, Highly irregular, and tending to place him in a false position with respect to the discharge of his duties as an inspector.

No comments were made by the PostmasterGeneral or the Public Service Commissioner.

  1. No action was taken or considered necessary.
  2. The officer in question has recently been promoted to a higherand more important position in the service, for which position applica- tions were invited through the Commonwealth Gazette. The applicants who were considered in connexion with the same were : - W. H. Maguire inspector; E. W. Bramble, inspector; and G.

    1. Little, formerly a clerk in the Department, they being the only applicants.
  3. There is no objection to copies of the papers being laid on the table of the House if moved for in the usual way.

The replies to the honorable member’s second series of questions, furnished by the Acting DeputyPostmaster-General, Sydney, are as follow: -

  1. The late postmistress, Chatswood, was charged with carelessness in the management of the office through want of proper supervision, and through laxity , of administration.
  2. The charge was practically denied by her. 3.Thestaff of the Chatswood office, when under the control of the late postmistress, consisted of -

The Postmistress, salary,£140 per annum.

Assistant, salary,£65 per annum.

Letter-carriers (5), salary,£115 per annum each.

Mail Boy, salary,£110 per annum.

Telegraph Messengers (4) salary£52 per annum each.

Telephone Attendants (2), salary, £110 per annum each.

Telephone Attendant, salary,£78 per annum.

Telephone Attendant, salary,£65 per annum.

Telephone Attendant, salary,£65 per annum.

  1. The present staff consists of -

The Postmaster, salary, £235 per annum.

Clerical Assistant, salary,£160 per annum.

Assistant, salary, £110 per annum.

Letter-carrier, salary, £126 per annum.

Letter-carriers (4), salary, £120 per annum each.

Assistant (Mail Boy), salary, £60 per annum.

Telegraph Messenger, salary,£52 per annum.

Telegraph Messenger, salary,£32 per-annum.

Telegraph Messengers (2), salary, £26 per annum each.

Telephone Attendants (3), salary, £110 per annum each.

  1. No; the registration of births, deaths, and marriages was removed from the last postmistress’ control in January, 1902, nearly two years before she left the service.
  2. Although the office wasrelieved of the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, as above stated, the ordinary business of the Department has considerably increased.

page 1104

QUESTION

CHIEF CLERK OF STORES, SYDNEY

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– The following are the answers furnished by the Public Service Commissioner to the questions asked by the honorable member for Gwydir onthe 4th August, and reported on page 630 of Hansard, in reference to the recent appointment to the position of Chief Clerk of Stores, Sydney : -

  1. Yes ; the applicants were as follow : -

Davies, H. R., supervisor, Mail Branch.

McNeilly, J supervisor, Mail Branch.

Golding,W. H., inspector.

Campbell. R., clerk. Store Branch.

Chapman, E., postmaster, Enmore.

Eldershaw, P. S., postmaster, Grafton.

Richards, J. J., postmaster, Queen Victoria Markets.

Miller, J. H., postmaster, Gundagai.

Wakely, C. F., postmaster, Edgecliff.

Martin, B. J., postmaster, Lismore.

Foley, T. J., postmaster, Walgett.

Muir, J., clerk, Store Branch, Brisbane.

Lambton, E., inspector of lines.

And Messrs.

  1. W. Marks, of Sydney.
  2. Law, Department of Home Affairs, Sydney.
  3. D. Birrell, of Hamilton, New South Wales.
  4. Child, clerk, Government Printing Office, Sydney.
  5. H. Chance, Stores Branch, General Post Office, Adelaide.

A.H. Ford, of Newcastle, New South Wales.

  1. J. Sinclair, of Leichardt, New South Wales.
  2. F. O. Helm, of Sydney, none of whom are employed in the Postmaster. General’s Department, New South Wales.

    1. No.
    2. Yes ; two of the applicants were senior to Mr. Golding, but were passed over on account of physical incapacity in one case, and in the other case, unfitness for the special duties of the position to be filled.
    3. Yes; but applications from the whole Department had to be considered, and Mr. Golding was appointed as being the senior competent applicant.
    4. The Public Service Commissioner has no information on this point.
    5. See No. 5.
    6. Yes ; from Messrs. Campbell and Eldershaw, both of whom are junior to the officer appointed. The appeals were referred to the Board of Appeal, and were disallowed in both cases. Another officer, also junior to Mr. Golding, appealed, but his appeal was invalid.

page 1105

QUESTION

TELEPHONE SUBSCRIBERS AND OPERATORS

Mr HUTCHISON:
HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. What is the number of telephone subscribers in the capital of each State of the Commonwealth?
  2. What is the number of telephone operators in the capital of each State of the Commonwealth ?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Sydney, 11,419; Melbourne, 7,263; Brisbane, 2,223 ; Adelaide, 1,670 ; Perth, 2,409 ; Hobart, 695.
  2. Sydney, 373 (including monitors) ; Melbourne, 200 (including monitors) ; Brisbane, 40 ; Adelaide,28 (including supervisor); Perth, 104; Hobart, 11.

page 1105

QUESTION

POST AND TELEGRAPH DEPARTMENT

Mr JOHNSON:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

Whether he is yet in a position to furnish replies to the following questionsasked, upon notice, by Mr. Johnson on Thursday last, and in. respect to which the Postmaster-General replied that inquiries were being made, and answerswould be furnished as early as possible : -

Is it a fact that electricians and mechanicsemployed in the Department who handle no money belonging to the Department are required to contribute to a guarantee fund equally with officers who have the handling of large sums of public money ?

If such a practice obtains, does the PostmasterGeneral consider it a fair one ; and. if not, will he endeavour to alter it?

Has there ever been serious misappropriation or embezzlement of public moneys by officers of the Department?

If so, have the monetary institutions into whose funds the guarantee contributions of employes are paid ever made good or been called upon to make good to the Department losses fromsuch defalcations ?

What is the amount of revenue received from the New South Wales Department from each of the following sources : -

Telephones?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. It is a fact that electricians and mechanics employed in the Department who handle no money belonging to the Department are required to contribute to a guarantee fund, but they do not contribute to the same extent as officers who have the handling of large sums of money.
  2. The rule which has been laid down is that officers through whose hands articles of value pass in the execution of their duty shall furnish guarantee to such an extent as will protect the Department against loss, and the PostmasterGeneral considers this a fair rule.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes.
  5. This information will be supplied to the honorable member within the next week.

page 1105

PAPER

Sir WILLIAM LYNE laid upon the table the following paper : -

Return compiled by the Collectors of Customs showing the effect of the uniform Tariff on trade and manufactures.

page 1105

QUESTION

ELECTIVE MINISTRIES

Mr FOWLER:
Perth

– I move-

That the present methods of constituting Minis terial Cabinets, together with the powers exercised by these bodies, amount in many respects to the usurpation of the rights and duties of Parliament as a whole, tend to foment unnecessary party, strife, impede the work of legislation, and precipitate artificial crises; and therefore, in the opinion of this House, such legislation as may be necessary should be introduced to provide for the election of Ministers by Parliament.

It is somewhere about fifty years since the late Prince Consort declared that representative government was on its trial, and only a short time ago William Clarke, a writer in the Political Science. Quarterly, said something very much to the same effect. He wrote -

There is no more patent and significant fact in contemporary Europe than the failure, if not the absolute collapse, of parliamentary government.

That saying has been quoted by Benjamin Kidd in his book, Principles of Western Civilization, and I think that ‘pretty well the same observation has been passing through the minds of many other students of the science of government. This criticism of parliamentary government is directed, not so much at the principles themselves, as at the methods by which they are brought into operation. No one in these days has very seriously questioned the proposition that representative government is in some shape or form a necessary and desirable thing, but a good deal of criticism has been directed against certain methods of applying that principle to human affairs, and the most serious criticism of all has been directed towards what is known as the Cabinet system. In going into this question” as carefully and thoroughly as my opportunities will permit, I have been surprised to discover how many writers have questioned this particular application of the representative principle to the science of government. In these days we have undoubtedly a form of Cabinet government which, as I indicate in my motion, is, to my mind, in many respects a usurpation of the rights and duties of Parliament as a whole. I am not proposing anything on my own account, in putting forward this rather sweeping statement ; I am merely endeavouring to emphasize, in our present conditions, the statements and opinions of others moving in a different sphere of action, and thinking out for themselves, in association with other conditions of government, very much the same problems that confront us in Australia at the present time. I, therefore, claim no originality in putting forward the proposal, nor shall I be able to show very much originality in either my remarks or my arguments. The subject has attracted a good deal of attention in Australia lately, and very many able pens have been taken up in criticism of the system of Cabinet government, . and in attempts to initiate and expound better and more suitable methods of achieving parliamentary government. I shall occupy only a short time in offering what I regard as fair and reasonable criticism of existing conditions, and in indicating in a general way the best method, in my opinion, of obtaining an improvement. In Australia the question of the election of Ministers by Parliament is no new one. For many years the subject has cropped up in the Parliament of South Australia. There ‘ the principle has been enunciated and supported by very many able and thoughtful politicians, some of whom, I am glad to say, have transferred their energies and abilities to the sphere of Federal politics, and are now will ling to assist in bringing about the change for which an impatient public are waiting. In Victoria, also, a Royal Commission was appointed in 1894 to inquire into this question, but no definite recommendations were brought forward. I think that the obstacle in the way was largely a constitutional one, which could not be removed without considerable difficulty, and the whole matter was therefore - as has often been the case in Victoria - allowed to drop. The fact that these inquiries and debates have taken place shows that there was some particular necessity for them, which, I think, is to be found in the tendency of Australian Parliaments towards frequent and unnecessary changes of Government. Too often principles and the public interest have been merely the dice with which parties have played, the prizes being the portfolios of Ministers. Again, during the Conventions at which the Commonwealth Constitution was drawn up, this subject was debated with a good deal of interest, and the principle of the election of Ministers by Parliament received a considerable amount of support. That some definite proposal in this direction was not embodied in our Constitution was not due to the absence of desire on the part of many members of the various Conventions, but rather to their very proper inclination to allow the Commonwealth to work out in its own way, as fully and as freely as possible, its political methods. Accordingly, we find that in. section 62 of the Constitution the question of the formation of Ministries is dealt with in the old formula of absolute indefiniteness, which leaves this Parliament perfectly free to alter existing methods as soon as it thinks fit. I believe I am correct in saying that there is no constitutional obstacle whatever in the way; of this Parliament adopting, with very slight alterations, the principle of election of Ministries by Parliament as a whole. In 1864 a book was published by an English statesman, Earl Grey, who expressed in it a very remarkable prediction. In discussing the subject of parliamentary reform, he pointed out that Cabinet government acted fairly well whilst only two parties existed in Parliament. But he went on to say that if at any time these two parties should be resolved into three or four, Cabinet government as then carried on would have to be swept away, because under a three or more party system the circumstances that had justified the method of government by Cabinet would have absolutely disappeared. To-day we find that the twoparty system has disappeared in Australia.

Mr McWilliams:

– There are three parties in the House of Commons.

Mr FOWLER:

– Exactly. The threeparty system has been in operation there for some time. Even in that case, the prophecy of Earl Grey has been fulfilled, and the House of Commons is at the present time regarded By those within it, and by many personsoutside, as a huge inert mass, which is controlled absolutely by the Cabinet, and has little or no power of initiative. The same thing exists here, the important distinction being that the three parties inthis Parliament are more evenly balanced. I am afraid that we are likely to have three parties here for some time to come.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– We are far more likely to have five parties than two.

Mr FOWLER:

– I believe there will be a new line of cleavage ultimately, but whether that will result in the establishment of two large parties, or in the division of existing parties into a larger number of small parties, I am unable to say. At any rate I think we may fairly conclude that the two-party system having disappeared from Australian politics the circumstances which brought into existence Cabinet government have also disappeared, and the present system of Cabinet control of Parliament ought therefore to be abolished. I have indicated in my motion that one of my principal objections to the present system is -

That the present methods of constituting Ministerial Cabinets, together with the powers exercised by those bodies, amount in many respects to the usurpation of the rights and duties of Parliament as a whole.

I think that may be called my principal indictment, in support of which I shall bring forward the words of others, which are weightier than I amable to utter myself. I shall submit the evidence of thoughtful publicists, andI think I shall be able to convict, out of their own mouths, statesmen who approve of the present system. Before I proceed to do that, I willingly admit the force of the argument that one has to meet at the very outset, in discussing a question of this kind, namely, that based on the antiquity of the institution I am now attacking. I was going to say “ antiquity and respectability,” but I am not sure that the second word applies as well as the first. There is no doubt as to the antiquity of the Cabinet system, but I have grave doubts as to its respectability. I do not wish to enter upon a learned dissertation as to the development of the present system. If we went back to absolute beginnings, we should lose ourselves in the mists of antiquity. There is no doubt that in olden times, when the King absolutely ruled the country, he surroundedhimself with courtiers, whose advice he sometimes sought, but who were more frequently the mere tools of hisroyal desires. It was, however, in the reign of Charles II. that we find the true beginning of the present Cabinet system. In that reign the infamous Cabal, as it was known, was interposed between the King and the Parliament. Its duty was simply to act as a buffer against which Parliament generally expended its force in its futile efforts to assert itself, and we find the same body of men also ignoring Parliament, as far as they dared, in order to carry out the wishes of the worthless King. Occasionally the power of indictment that remained with Parliament was used against one or other of those Ministers, but I do not think that any one who wishes to defend the system of Cabinet government will be able to regard that particular phase of its accompaniments with any degree of satisfaction. Coming a little further down the line to the Hanoverian period, we find a further development. Parliament, in the meantime, had gradually acquired more power, and the brutal methods of the old Cabal had had to give way to the finesse of the parliamentarians. In the days of the early Georges, -the King selected his particular tool in the person of the Premier the Premier, in turn, proceeded to select his tools in the persons of Ministers, and they selected their tools in an utterly corrupt Parliament. The process by which this was achieved was an unblushing and unconcealed system of bribery. In the days of Walpole there was actually a Department of the Treasury from which sums of money were paid every month to a sufficient number of members of Parliament for being complaisant tools in the hands of the Ministry, enabling them to carry on what was euphemistically termed “ His Majesty’s Government.”

Mr Deakin:

– One can still see the back stairs in Whitehall, up which they went to receive their pay.

Mr FOWLER:

– I believe they were well worn in those days. By-and-by, under the influence of the reform movements that brought about improvements in the -personnel of Parliament, the system of open bribery disappeared, and by the time of the great reform of 1832 other methods were necessary to enable the Premier to carry on Her Majesty’s Government. Those were found in the consolidation of the party system, and that system has continued to be consolidated by Ministers of the Crown to such an extent that it is absolutely threatening the working and the privileges of Parliament itself. Cabinets have gradually acquired powers that were vested in former days only in Parliament. I hold in my hand a remarkable book, written by Mr. Sidney Low, a well known publicist, which has been recently issued. The ‘ title of this work is the Governance of England, and to my mind it makes a very powerful and forcible indictment against the present system of Cabinet government. The writer points out, amongst other things, that the Cabinet has no status in any legal sense of the term; that it is totally unrecognised by any of the laws under which constitutional government is conducted, and that it is merely a selfconstituted body, that meets in secret, at the instance of the Premier, carries on its proceedings in an informal w.av, and gives Parliament only such information regarding its deliberations as it thinks necessary. Mr. Low continues -

It has no regular time of assembly. It has no fixed place of meeting. It has no office, no staff, no secretary, no rules, no corporate funds, no permanent location. . . . When it assembles, the Cabinet finds that it has no corporate character. It might be a fortuitous conference of heads of departments at one of the public offices, or a meeting of party leaders at the Carlton Club. It has a “standing president in the Prime Minister, who has more than the ordinary power of a chairman at a meeting, in bringing forward such subjects as he thinks fit, and closes the debate at his discretion. The proceedings are conversational and informal. There is no agenda paper, and, indeed, no paper of any kind. Not only are no records or minutes kept, but it is understood that a minister may not take a note, for future reference, of anything said or done during the council.

The same author quotes a description of Cabinets given by Lord Rosebery, a statesman who has had experience as a Minister, and who, therefore, speaks of something of which he has had experience. Lord Rose’bery puts the matter in this way -

To the inquiring foreigner nothing can seem more extraordinary, in a country with so much of democracy about it, than the spectacle of a secret council on the Venetian model, sworn to absolute silence, and conducting the business of a nation which insists on publicity for everything less important … of all anomalous arrangements for executive government in an AngloSaxon community, during the present epoch, and under the present conditions, the strangest is the Government of England by a Secret Committee.

I said, at the outset of my remarks, that I would be able to show, out of the mouths of some of the strongest supporters of the present system, the extent to which the Cabinet has usurped the functions of Parliament, and I intend now to do so. In a speech, delivered at Edinburgh on the 30th October, 1894, the Marquis of Salisbury said -

There is an enormous change in the House of Commons as I recollect it, and the evolution is going on still ; and we have reached this point - that discussion of a measure is possible in the Cabinet, but for any ‘effective or useful purpose, it is rapidly becoming an impossibility in the House of Commons.

These are the words of a former Prime. Minister of Great Britain, who supported the Cabinet system, and whose son, at a later date, spoke in even more absolute terms regarding the state of affairs that has arisen under the system of Cabinet control in the British Parliament. Lord Hugh Cecil, son of the late Marquis of Salisbury, and a member of the present British Government, speaking in the House of Commons in March, 1901, used these remarkable words : -

We hear often of the infringement of the rights of private members, and it cannot be denied that a transfer of political power from the House of

Commons to the Cabinet is going on. . . Why is it that nobody cares, outside these walls, about the rights of private members? Because there is a deep-seated feeling that the House is an institution which has ceased to have much authority or much repute, and that when a better institution, the Cabinet, encroaches upon the rights of a worse one, it is a matter of small concern to the country,

I think, as has been -observed by Mr. Bernard Holland in one of his works, that language such as that had hardly ever been heard “ within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster since the days of Charles I.” These were the words uttered by one of the most cynical and aristocratic members of the House of Commons, who has consistently flouted the opinions of members of that House, and who, as a member of the present British Ministry has applied, in the most brutal fashion, the “gag,” as we may call it, when members have dared, in his opinion, to criticise too freely the actions of that all-powerful Government. In the June number pf the Nineteenth Century will be found an article by Sir Martin Conway, entitled, “ Is Parliament a mere Crowd ?” It is a regrettable indication of the position into which the Imperial Parliament has fallen, when the consideration of this important question is reduced to such an inquiry. The writer makes the following observations : -

Fundamentally, the Cabinet is hostile to the House of Commons. It continuously strives, and with success, to appropriate to itself powers which properly belong to the House of Commons. It supplants the House of Commons as a deliberative assembly ; it has practically taken away from it the power of refusing supplies or of debating whatever subject it pleases; in fact, in the course of a century it has wrought an absolute revolution in our whole constitutional system. Nothing but the phrase remains - the facts are all changed. We talk of Parliament as possessed of. supreme power, whereas it is the Cabinet that possesses it. We talk of Parliament as capable of upsetting the Ministry, whereas the only question at any moment is whether the Ministry shall upset Parliament or not by dissolving it.

I think I have shown by these quotations that the process, which has been going on in the British Parliament, undoubtedly amounts, at the present time, to a usurpation, by the Government, of the rights and duties of Parliament. What has taken place in that Legislature has occurred also in the Commonwealth Parliament. I wish it to be distinctly understood here that, in dealing with this question in connexion with this Parliament,. I shall avoid the personal element. I am speaking on a question of considerable importance* and must illustrate my points by going as closely to the issue as I can ; but I repeat that I desire it to be clearly understood that I challenge no Ministry, and no member of any Ministry, in anything that I may say by way of criticism of the system. As regard’s the usurpation of the functions of Parliament in Australia, I think every member of the Federal Parliament, who has sat in this or another place since the inception of Federation, must have steadily undergone a process of disillusionment with regard to the share he is able to take in the work of the country. I believe most of us came into Parliament with an idea that we could do some little good .; but T. think we are beginning to realize that that little is almost a negligible quantity. The whole process of parliamentary work is hedged round with so many forms that it requires a very patient and persevering individual to be able to thread his way amongst them ; and, even after he has mastered the forms, he finds himself in a position of absolute helplessness. If a member sits behind the Ministry, he has the privilege of voting according as they wish him to vote, and, if he sits in opposition, he votes solidly with his party as the opponents of the Government.

Mr Crouch:

– What if a member sits in a corner?

Mr FOWLER:

– A member is then ina somewhat better position, but, even in the corner, there is still party influence, from which no member of this House can at any time absolutely dissociate himself. With this system at work, we have the extraordinary spectacle, as has been indicated by some one, of a number of able men on one side trying to legislate, and on the other, a number of equally able men trying to prevent (he former from legislating. And all this because of the exigencies of party warfare, which call for a loyalty to party rather than to any particular principles which may be at stake in proposed legislation. Again, an outsider might think that Parliament had undoubtedly some voice in shaping the course of a. particular session ; but we all know that that is not so. We know that the power rests entirely in the hands of the Ministry, who determine on a policy in the secrecy of the Cabinet, without reference, as a rule, to any of their supporters. That policy ls placed in the mouth of the Governor-General, and the Ministry proceed to carry it into effect the best way they may. Their supporters, up to the time the policy has been, publicly enunciated, remain in absolute ignorance, and when it is brought down to the House, they have to obediently follow the leadership of the Ministry. If any Ministerial supporter does not do this there is the possibility that at the next election he may find himself marooned, and left deserted and discredited outside of Parliament. It is a necessary virtue in any member of a party that he must blindly follow his leader, and the more blindly the better ; if he wishes to exercise an independent opinion, he must do it at some risk to his future political prospects, and certainly at the disadvantage of a good deal of unpopularity with his party. Another matter in whichParliament is supposed to exercise some control is that of finance. I believe that in the Imperial Parliament this control is always regarded as the strength of the people - the people are supposed to have the power of the purse in their hands, and Parliament, through the people, is regarded as supreme in the exercise of that control. What happens in the Imperial Parliament happens here in Australia. Members of Parliament know nothing of what is going on in regard to the finances of the country until the Estimates are brought down. The Estimates are introduced to-day, and tomorrow honorable members are asked to indorse them. The Ministry take the responsibility of the Estimates, and the members behind the Ministry have to share that responsibility; and while the Opposition may growl or criticise as much as they may, they are absolutely impotent to prevent the passage of a single item. The Imperial Parliament has better control over its finances than has the Federal Parliament over the monetary interests of the people of Australia. Under the Imperial Parliament, there is an official known as the Comptroller-General, whose business it is to see that all the moneys voted are properly expended, and that no money is expended except that which isvoted by Parliament. He, as a paid official, has to carry but a duty in which he ignores all party considerations, proceeding only upon the mandate that Parliament has supplied in the voting of the sums. The people of Australia have not even this small guarantee that the money voted by them, through their representatives in Parliament, shall be applied to the purposes for which it is intended. We all know it to be the fact that money may be voted, and re-voted, and voted again, and still never spent. I have in my own electorate an instance of the kind. Money has been placed on the Estimates for three successive years, and the contemplated work is no nearer being taken in hand than on the day the sum was originally voted.

Mr Deakin:

– The pleasures of hope are greater than the pleasures of realization.

Mr FOWLER:

– No doubt my electors have still the pleasure of hope; but I ask the Prime Minister whether that is an entirely satisfactory state of affairs. I, as a member of Parliament, am helpless to bring about any change.

Mr Crouch:

– The honorable member ought to impeach the Treasurer.

Mr FOWLER:

– The old power of impeachment remains, but I am afraid that in our case we could hardly go the length to which they carried the system in the old days, and which I am afraid would create an evil greater than that to which we now object. But we know also that in addition to. money that has been voted, and not expended, money actually appropriated for a certain purpose is expended in another direction altogether. That happens regularly, and we have in effect given to the heads of the various Departments a free hand in this connexion.

Mr Deakin:

– If there is any such departure, it is only in minor matters ; and the expenditure must be shown on the next year’s Estimates.

Mr FOWLER:

– It is admitted by the Prime Minister that departure does take place in minor matters; and there is no reason why it may not take place in important matters.

Mr Deakin:

– No.

Mr FOWLER:

– It may, just as easily.

Mr Deakin:

– If the House chooses to approve.

Mr FOWLER:

– If a Ministry chose to accept the responsibility for this state of affairs, it is not likely that a majority behind them would cease to give that unswerving support which is supposed to be one of the special blessings of party government. Another objection I have, as stated in my motion, to the present Cabinet system is that it impedes the work of legislation; but I do not think I need labour this point, which is perfectly obvious to any one who has been a member of the Federal Parliament since its inception. The time that has been wasted in aimless party strife, if shown in a monetary form to the people of the Commonwealth, would, I think, rouse even them to the necessity for some action. If we take the time that has actually been bestowed on the genuine work of legislation, which for the most part is carried on in Committee, and contrast that with the vast amount of time wasted on no-confidence debates - on debates on general principles, carried on in the vaguest fashion possible - it would emphasize very strongly indeed the necessity for some radical reform in our existing methods. I have also said that the present system precipitates artificial crises. I think we all understand what the threat of dissolution means when whispered around by a Government that wishes to get its own way in a particular matter. No member of Parliament is at all anxious at any time for a dissolution, nor do I think that the country is anxious for frequent events of the kind. They mean a great deal of expense, and I have an idea that, even if a dissolution had come about during any of the crises that have overtaken the present Parliament, parties would have come back pretty well as they went out. But, while that view has been held very generally by honorable members still, whenever the Government are in difficulties, we find the whisper of “ dissolution “ going round. Honorable members who are not anxious to face their constituents - and none of us are anxious to do that too often - may be cajoled into assisting the Government to tide over some difficulty, and continue them for a little while longer in office. One of the most singular crises that ever happened was, I think, the one by which the present Prime Minister left office on the first occasion. Then we had a crisis precipitated by the Prime Minister himself, in the face of a contrary opinion held at least by a majority of honorable members of this House. The honorable and learned member left office when a majority of honorable members desired him to remain - a rather singular state of affairs, that is highly complimentary to the Prime Minister as. a man. But what then occurred indicates what I might call an allegiance to the present system of party government that is not altogether in the best interests of good government.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Particularlyviewed in the light of the fact that he has come back to office.

Mr FOWLER:

– I do not wish to enter into details in regard to this matter, because every honorable member is fully seized of c all the circumstances connected with the late crisis. I believe I voice the opinion of the majority, when I assert that these crises have been of a thoroughly artificial nature, that no overwhelming revulsion of opinion has taken place, and that no great national movement has made the changes that have taken place in Parliament at any time necessary. It seems to me that the whole thing has come down to the very low level of party struggles for the Treasury benches, a deplorable state of affairs, inseparable from present conditions, but which it ought to be our duty to try to obviate by every means in our power. If this evil, which I have tried to indicate, exists, even though to a lesser degree than I believe it does,I am perfectly justified in urging ,that what we should put in its stead is simply the old principle of the supremacy of Parliament.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The ideal of British development !

Mr FOWLER:

– We should undoubtedly get back to what the honorable member says is the ideal of British development, the principle that Parliament represents the people of the country, and ought, therefore, to be supreme in all matters pertaining to legislation and administration. If that is an axiom upon which we may all of us agree, I am quite willing to leave the matter there, and to nave the question debated in any way which will throw light on it, and to allow such further steps to be taken-, by means of an inquiry by a Select Committee, or some similar investigation, so that the best methods may be adopted to remedy the evil of which I complain. I have mv own ideas as to the direction in which reform should come, and I have indicated them in a general way in my motion. I think that Parliament should elect its Ministers.

Mr Crouch:

– “Its Ministers.” They are not the Ministers of Parliament at all.

Mr FOWLER:

– I think that, while technically the members of the Government are the Ministers of the Crown, they are de facto the servants of Parliament, and should be appointed by Parliament . to. carry out its behests. In Switzerland, this system has been in practice for many years, with the most excellent results. In that country, which” we all know has brought democratic principles into effect to a perhaps greater degree than has any other civilized community, the principle of electing Ministers by Parliament is working to much more advantage that can be claimed for the system operating at the present time in the various parts of the British Empire. In Switzerland, the two Houses meet as one body to elect seven Ministers, who hold office for the term of the Lower House of the Parliament, namely, for three years, and are not removable, except for gross misconduct. They are elected primarily to administer departments, and the true function of Parliament, that is, legislation, is carried on with a facility which surprises those who have been working under such conditions as we have here. I do not believe that the Swiss system is the very best possible. I do not believe, for instance, that Ministers should hold their portfolios absolutely for the term of a Parliament, without the possibility of being removed from office except for some very serious offence. My idea is that, as Ministers are the servants of Parliament, they should be removable by Parliament whenever that body may think that it would be a wise and a proper thing to remove them. I would not go so far as to say that a Minister once selected by a Parliament should be removable at any subsequent stage in the history of that Parliament by the vote of a mere majority ; but a strong majority, say three-fourths or four-fifths, of the whole House, should be able to remove a Minister at any time it desired to do so. I can imagine many a case in which a man who had been elected as Minister might adopt an attitude towards Parliament which would make his removal highly necessary and desirable, and one of the great advantages of the system which I propose would be that any individual Minister could be removed without it being necessary to challenge the whole Cabinet.

Mr Crouch:

– That is all very well in Switzerland, because there Ministers have only to register the popular decisions given bv referendum.

Mr FOWLER:

– -The Swiss Ministers have a great deal more to do than to record popular decisions. They have control of the legislative work of each session. Any member may bring forward a motion, but it must be submitted to the Cabinet before it can be submitted to Parliament, and while the initiative and the referendum are undoubtedly at work, these apply only to a small proportion of the legislation which is passed by the Swiss Parliament. The ridiculous nature of the present situation in this Parliament must have appealed to every honorable member when now and again the action of a particular Minister may have been highly objectionable. But while one may thunder against any Minister, it is never proposed to take action against him individually, because to do so would impugn the position of the whole Cabinet, and it has been very rarely in the history of parliamentary government that a whole Cabinet has done something which Parliament has regarded as justifying its removal from office. Time and again, when a Ministry is thrown out of office, it is because of the transgression of perhaps only one Minister. And time and again, a Minister who ought to be removed from office remains unchallenged simply because under present conditions .the only way to do this is to displace the whole Cabinet. These are the results of a system of collective Cabinet responsibility, which high-sounding phrase merely expresses the fact that Ministers, in their own interests, have found it advisable to hang together.

Mr King O’malley:

– They would be hanged separately if they did not.

Mr FOWLER:

– Unfortunately they cannot be hanged separately. That, I suppose, is why the principle of collective responsibility has been adopted.

Mr Glynn:

– The Ministry has been given enough rope sometimes.

Mr FOWLER:

– That is not through a desire on the part of the House to improve the trade in. hemp, but because we cannot very well help ourselves. I think I may claim for my proposal that, as it would enable Parliament to attack a particular Minister who had made himself objectionable, without impugning other Ministers who were carrying out their duties thoroughly well, it would be a step in the right direction. The elective principle would undoubtedly give Parliament that power. In Switzerland Ministers are chosen primarily to administer the Departments. They are elected individually. They act for the most part individually ; and while they have full power to discuss and consider as a collective body the matters which come before Parliament, it is perfectly competent for any one of them to take individual action if he thinks fit. Each Minister must justify himself to Parliament. Parliament is his master, and to Parliament he is responsible. While he owes a certain allegiance to his colleagues, that does not compel him to do at any time what he strongly objects to. Under that system, we should not have the extraordinary and lamentable spectacle of members, after they had left office, standing up - as they have done on the floor of this chamber - and declaring that certain measures which they had supported were supported because of their Ministerial position, and not because they believed in them. A circumstance of that kind is one of the strongest indictments against the present system.

Mr Crouch:

– And against the men who have made such statements.

Mr FOWLER:

– While that has been done only by some Ministers, I believe that a system which makes such a thing possible is a system which should be altered as soon as we can reasonably alter it. I know that there are Ministers who would decline to be put in such a position ; who, when they found themselves out of harmony with the majority of their colleagues, would resign. That, undoubtedly,, is an honorable course to take, but we have reason to believe that it is by no means always followed. Some members, as scon as they become Ministers, put on one side their individual opinions in a manner that is demoralizing to themselves, and can only tend to reduce the tone of Parliament as a whole. It has been said that the system I propose carries with it some disadvantages. I ann willing to admit that. I know of no reform that has ever been carried of which that could not be said. I confess, further, that the present system possesses some advantages. If it had been absolutely bad it would not have existed so long. If, however, we can show that on the whole the system we now propose would be an advance upon existing conditions,. we shall do all that is required to justify the change. We have been told that we should destroy the homogeneity of the Cabinet. If homogeneity involves the sinking by individual members of a Cabinet of their principles and opinions so that they may adapt themselves to the views held by the majority. I do not think that it is a thing to be admired. What we require in parliamentary government is the full application of the intellect of the individual, and if we select Ministers because of their intellect or ability, we should provide for the freest expression of that intellect and ability. We are told also that Parliament in choosing its Ministers might not always pick the best men. I do not wish to enter with too much detail into the methods that are adopted in the construction of Cabinets. Even within my short experience, ‘ however, some of the most remarkable conditions have operated to determine the composition of Cabinets, and we all think, ever if many of us do not like to say so, that Cabinets do not always include the best intellects or the most scrupulous members of the parties which they represent. We must all agree, even though we may not talk about it very loudly, that it is not always ability that is desired in a Minister; that other qualities - I would almost say vices - are .regarded as highly necessary in Ministers,, in order to insure the proper management of the party, and of Parliament. The fact that a member of Parliament becomes a Minister does not always indicate the highest ability or the highest’ degree of political honesty. I know of a particular State in which it used to be said, and I believe with a good deal of truth, that the Premier did not endeavour to select colleagues of ability, but that he rather sought for mediocrities, in order that he might carry out the principle of one-man rule, and tower head and shoulders above those who were nominally in possession of portfolios, but who were in reality his humble servitors in all matters connected with the policy of the State.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– It is notorious that that has occurred several times in the course of English history.

Mr FOWLER:

– There is no doubt that such a condition of affairs has also prevailed elsewhere at times. I think, however, that I may leave the question of the construction of Cabinets in the hands of honorable members, who know well enough the considerations which operate in these matters and what is required to meet the exigencies of party government. Regard for these considerations cannot by any stretch of imagination be looked upon as necessary to the welfare of the State. I have taken up even more time than I had intended, but I feel very strongly on this subject, because I am one of those who came into Parliament with an honest desire to do something that would leave the country a little better than I had found it. I give every honorable member credit for the same aspiration, but I would ask whether honorable members have found that their opportunities for achieving their aspirations have been at all in keeping with their desires. There is no doubt that

Parliament, as it is worked at present, is not a machine by which the wishes of the people can be best carried into effect. The system of party government is radically bad, andits focus is the Cabinet. If we adopted the system of electing Ministers, we should do away with many conditions that now hinder legislation, and we should make the voice of the people more effective in Parliament. If we accomplished these results, we should be carrying out the purpose for which we are sent here. I do not claim that the method I have indicated is absolutely the best. I have brought forward a motion which I think should give rise to some debate, because we must all realise the necessity for some change. We can fairly expect that the genius of the race to which we belong will enable us to find a remedy for the present situation in politics. It is our duty to restore to our representative institutions the exercise of their proper functions, and to hand them down to those who follow us, improved in every possible way, to carry out the objects they were originally intended to secure.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I think honorable members must have listened with a great deal of interest to the calm, judicial, and withal very full statement of the case against the present system of executive government presented to us by the honorable member for Perth. I think honorable members know that I have been moving in the same direction as the honorable member, but I am as willing to stand at his back, and support his endeavourto bring about the proposed reform as I would have been to move in the firstinstance,and directly. Under these circumstances, I do not intend to proceed any further - indeed,I think I could not if I wished to do so - with the motion on the notice-paper standing in my name. I propose to give the motion now before us the strongest support, and I fear that, owing to the importance of the subject, and the very careful consideration which I may allow that I have given to it, I shall occupy some considerable time in speaking. My task will be somewhat shortened owing to the very able way in which the honorable member for Perth has gone over the whole of the ground, and to the almost strange coincidence of points that he has taken up with those I intended to make. The honorable member’s speech shows that his mind has been working, as necessarily it would, in the same direction as my own. That is the case with all reformers who may take up this particular subject. As far as I possibly can, I intend to avoid those branches of the subject to which the honorable member has done full justice. I wish, in the first place, to point out that, agreeing as I do generally with the honorable member, I am not altogether in accord with him as to the form in which he has submitted his motion. As it now stands, it seems to me to admit that some legislation is necessary to bring about the proposed reforms. I am strongly convinced, and I think I shall be able to quote powerful authorities in. support of that view, that no legislation whatever is required to effect the desired reform - that it does not in any sense involve an alteration of the Constitution, but merely a change in the practice that has grown up under it. To that extent, I differ from the honorable member, and I intend before concluding to move as an amendment that all the words after the word “ therefore “ be struck out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : -

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon some better method both of appointing Ministers of State and constituting the Executive Council, with power to send for persons and papers, such Committee to consist of - Mr. Speaker, Sir George Turner, Sir John Quick, Mr. Groom, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Skene, and Mr. G. B. Edwards.

I may say that I have not consulted any of the honorable members whose names I have suggested, and that I have not spoken to. Mr. Speaker on the subject. The proposition that you, Mr. Speaker, should become a member of a committee of any sort, outside of theordinary sessional committees of the House, is perhaps an extraordinary one; but I hope that we shall be able to prevail upon you, if the motion be carried, to serve on this body. Your presence on the Committee would emphasize the point that this motion is in no sense a party one. It seems almost an Irishism to talk of a motion for the abolition of the party system being so construed ; but in any event I feel that it is very desirable that we should have the assistance of Mr. Speaker in dealing with this question. He would probably preside over the deliberations of the Committee, and would materially help us to arrive at a decision asto what may be possible in the direction of a reformthat I am in- clined to believe a very large number of honorable members, as well as a large majority of the people, favour.

Mr Fisher:

– Does not the honorable member see that it would place Mr. Speaker in a controversial position?

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I do not. If I thought for one moment that the appointment of Mr. Speaker to this Committee would involve him in. any controversy, I should be the last to suggest it. It is because I think the House wishes to emphasize the fact that this proposal is only on a parity with one for an inquiry as to constitutional procedure, that I have included his name in the personnel of the contemplated Committee. The inquiry would be vested in a very inadequate body if Mr. Speaker, who represents all sides of the House, were not a member of the Committee, and I* trust that he will agree to serve upon it. Although I am in favour of something being done to remedy the existing state of affairs, I must confess that the more one considers the question, the greater the difficulties in the way of accomplishing the object in view seem to be. I shall intimate later on the direction in which my mind has been working with regard to the solution of this problem, and to show that the great mass of our best thinkers and ablest politicians have been moving, however blindly, in this direction - that they have been endeavouring to see how the difficulties, which have been experienced not only in the Federal Parliament, but in all the Parliaments of the British Dominions where the Executive system of government has been adopted, can be removed. These difficulties have occurred, and are still being experience, even in the Mother of Parliaments, although the obstacles in the way of a reform of this wide-reaching nature are so great that it has been impossible to suggest a practical scheme. I wish at the outset to explain my personal association with the motion, in order to remove any misconception with regard to my advocacy of it. In the first place, I may say that the motion was drafted long before the recent Ministerial crisis, and has no relation whatever to that occurrence. As a matter of fact, I had made up my mind long before to move in this direction.

Mr Fisher:

– Hear, hear; I heard the honorable member speak of it some years ago.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I wish to remove any misapprehension1 that may exist in the minds of my own close political friends as to the motion being possibly construed as a reflection upon my political party leader. I may say at once that my relations with my leader, the right honorable member for East Sydney, have been of the most cordial and satisfactory character. I do not think that in the whole history of party government, any member of a party could have wished for a leader who was more considerate and less exacting than the right honorable member has been to his followers. On every occasion that we have had to consider a matter of party discipline or action, he has refrained from exercising that great’ power which his ability, influence and experience, would almost entitle him to use. He has always been willing to concede a large measure of liberty to his followers. This has made him a very popular leader, and has given him, I am proud to say, a very loyal following. It will thus be recognised that, in submitting this proposal to the House, I have no desire whatever to reflect upon the right honorable member. It is the feeling - as the honorable member for Perth has put it so well to the House, in his calm, judicial, and well-reasoned language - that as the result of the party government system, the Federal machine has not worked as well as it ought to do, and that similar parliamentary institutions all over the world are not working as well as they ought to do. that has induced me to take this action. I shall endeavour to prove that the party sys-tern all over the world is producing the gravest political difficulties, and that some other system is possible, under which those difficulties may be minimized. It will be my effort to show that the Cabinet system is an anachronism - that it is what one might called an arrested development. When first brought into operation, it was a verysatisfactory institution, meeting alii the- demands of existing political circumstances, and subsequently obtaining the glorified praise of the great Whig writers, who defended the theory of the Revolution. But while we have accepted the Cabinet system, which, at its inception, was held to be a’ political achievement, almost reaching the consummation of an ideal, in all other directions there has been, and will continue to be, a development further and further towards giving full democratic power to the community, and allowing every man and woman a free voice in the government of the country. While we have repealed all sorts of legislation and remedied institutions

1 1 1.6

Elective [REPRESENTATIVES.] Ministries. which created monopolies, repressed individuals, placed disabilities on certain religious sects or peoples, restricted the freedom of the press and freedom of speech - whilst we have removed all these evils one after another - we still retain the Cabinet system of government in precisely the position that it occupied over 200 years ago. Although we have altered these other subsidiary institutions - for they are subsidiary, when one considers the immense influence which the Executive brings to bear on our political life - we have left this one intact. Although we have seen the evils arising from it in the old country - the rivalries and conflicts of persons whom one might almost call tyrant political leaders, and the formation of Ministries out of shreds and patches of men, simply because they were prepared, as mere automatons, to support the leaders in power, no attempt whatever has been made to amend the Cabinet system. On the contrary, there has been a silent reaching forth of some secret force, which has made the power of the Cabinet greater and greater, until it has become a menace to public institutions, wherever such institutions exist. It will be my endeavour to show, as the honorable member for Perth has done, by reference to the development of the British Constitution, that the ideal under which this very system was brought into existence has been departed from by reason of the power which Cabinets have asserted. Instead of two parties, which existed at the initiation of the system - the party of the Revolution and the party of the Jacobites, who were against revolution - we have three or four parties, and I believe the time is not far distant when we shall have in this Parliament, not three, but five parties. While all these changes have beer* taking place we have preserved the old system of Executive, which throws the power of administering laws into the hands of certain picked individuals, who represent, for the time being, the dominant power in any Parliament. It is admitted, even in this House - and it has been admitted for a long time outside - that there is a widespread feeling that our Federation, which was launched with so much exuberant hope, has failed to realize the high expectations that were formed of it. In the long fight that many of us had to bring about Federation - and in mv own humble way I fought as hard as the best men amongst the supporters of the movement - great hopes were expressed as to the future of the Common- wealth. When I saw that great assemblage at Sydney to proclaim the inauguration of the Commonwealth - an assemblage of our own people from all the States and of visitors from other countries - and gazed upon the specimens of our grand Imperial Army that gathered to see the Commonwealth launched - when I heard <the acclaims of the people, the music of the bands, and gazed at the flags that were flying, I ‘ felt my heart swell within me at the prospect of the realization of our great political aim and hope. I felt that pride which most of us felt in taking our children to see what would be something for them to recollect for the rest of their Jives - the dawn of one of the most glorious-. Constitutions the world has ever known, under which our great country was to progress from year to year, and to become what I believe she is yet destined to be - one of the greatest, strongest, and richest powers on the face of the earth. We must, all expect the tardy -realization of our hopes; but I think most of us anticipated something more than has yet been attained, by this Parliament. It should be apparent to every man, looking, back upon the dailyhistory of this Parliament, with all its interruptions, with all its keen struggles between the “ins” and the “outs,” with all the superfluous criticism launched ‘ by this, side against that side, with all the changes, of Government that have taken place - that, whatever Ave may think of the qualificationsof the various men who have held office, and have had the privilege of submittingmeasures to this House, the present system of party government which makes the-occupants of the Opposition benches vehemently oppose any proposition comingfrom the Government benches, has had’ more to do than has anything else to which we can point with the tardy realization of our hopes when the Federal’ machine was launched. I did think that ere thiswe should have seen something done towards solving the great problem “ of” the nationalization of the States debts under Federal control. I hoped’ we should”, see, at any rate, a beginning made with the establishment of the Federal Capital.

Mr Crouch:

– Does the honorable member think that party government has had’ anything to do with the delay in the settlement of that question?

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Most decidedly. I am trying to show that party government is responsible for- much time’ wasted in useless debate, and in interruptions to enable new Ministries to prepare their policy, and for the unnecessary criticism which had to be given in some sessions, not to one, but to three Governments. These interruptions and unnecessary waste of time have prevented the realization of some of our best hopes, including, at least, some beginning with the establishment of a Federal Capital, which, I believe, would remove one of the greatest difficulties experienced in the Federation.

Mr Chanter:

– Parliament has decided that question.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– We have tried to decide the question without regard to party, but party influence has been working all through. Until we have Ministers who are individually selected by the House, and who can be compelled by the House to take up a certain position in regard to this and other questions, so long shall we have such delays, which might have been prevented under a different system. It has been pointed out recently by the late member for Wentworth, Sir William McMillan, as reported in the Melbourne Argus, “that the -personnel of this House is becoming less and less capable. I do not know that I am fully in accord with that opinion ; but the reason given by Sir William McMillan is that business men are now turning their large enterprises into limited liability companies, and, instead of being proprietors, they are now becoming paid servants of large corporations, and cannot devote time to national affairs. The argument seems ingenious, but I do not believe that it accounts for business men not offering themselves for Parliament, so much as does our system of party government. They find that the length of our session, and the time occupied in more or less useless, talk, prevent them from devoting themselves to the affairs of the nation. In my opinion, their absence is due to the unbusinesslike system, under which we waste time, energy, and effort, and almost everything that can be wasted, including money, in an endeavour to carry on the affairs of the nation with two, three, or more parties. If the objections I have indicated were removed, some of our ablest business men would be able to devote time to representing the citizens in this House. ‘ This Parliament was elected in December, 1903, and in the eighteen months or so which have intervened there have been three Ministries.’ We have in this House alone no fewer than twenty honorable members out of a total of seventy-five who have occupied positions as His Majesty’s Ministers of State. Those twenty members, naturally, as the honorable member for Perth pointed out, included a great many gentlemen whom we can only regard as mediocrities - that is, men who are not of the best ability - and it is no reflection upon those men to use the expression. After allowing for three Ministries, including twenty ‘ of our own members, there are still honorable members, including the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, the honorable and learned member for Angas, the honorable and learned member for Parkes, the honorable member for Grampians, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who would form quite as able a Ministry, all round, as any of the three which we have had during the last eighteen months. 1 say that in this connexion alone there As a wasteful expenditure of ability. None of the three Ministries contained the best ability of the House, though all of them, of course, contained some of the best ability. It is the duty of this House and the nation, as it would be the plain, humble duty of every man in the management of his private business, to select the ablest men for the administration of the various Government Departments, and leave them to carry out the dictates of Parliament.

Mr Ewing:

– Has the honorable member ever seen an election for the Public Works Committee in New South Wales?

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I have not, but I believe those elections were at times somewhat disgraceful. I can tell the honorable member that from time to time this House, and other legislative assemblies throughout the world, have had the duty thrown upon them of electing Speakers, and there has seldom been a mistake in this connexion. I trust the time is far distant when we shall have to express our opinion- on the merits of the present occupant of the Chair. But it has ever been a source of congratulation to honorable members that their choice was so judicious, and if we can exercise such a choice in selecting the high executive officer who presides over our deliberations, surely we may be intrusted to select the administrators of the different Departments. I hope this motion will be seriously dealt with, as dealing with a question that confronts not only -us but also similar legislative bodies throughout the world. Only this week, oil opening my last copy of the Times, I find Mr. Balfour, the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, thus reported : -

Mr. Balfour moved the resolution, of which he had given notice, for the closure by compartments of the further proceedings on the Aliens Bill. He’ called attention to the fact that, while Government business had occupied the first place on the order paper on seventy-three days this session, it had only been possible to allocate eleven days to the legislative programme.

It will be seen that the great Mother of Parliaments found only eleven days out of seventy-three available for dealing with the legislative programme.

He admitted that criticism of the administration of the Government was the duty of the House, and certainly of the Opposition, but the lime given up to the fulfilment of that duty, as compared with the time devoted to legislation, bad this year been excessive. The session would come to its natural close between the 10th and the 15th of August, and in the interval there would be about twenty-seven working parliamentary days, of which eight must be allocated to Supply and two to the discussion of the APpropriation Bill.

It will be noted by honorable members that the days devoted to Supply and the Appropriation Bill have a party signification-. The debate on Supply is one in which the honorable members to the left of the Speaker severely and caustically criticise the honorable members on his right.

The House, which already worked on more days and for longer hours than any other Legislative Assembly, ought not to be strained to a point beyond its strength.

It is evident that Mr. Balfour, in making that last statement, was unaware of the lengthy period’s that the Federal Parliament has devoted to some of its sessions. We . had one session which continued for, I think, something like seventeen months, with one or two small breaks, and our ordinary sessions are always longer than those referred to by Mr. Balfour as unusual. I am pleased to be able to admit that our hours of sitting, except on one or two special and regrettable occasions, have not exceeded those demanded by the circumstances. But, so long as we occupy so many months in the work of the nation, so long shall we be debarring some of those best qualified, from taking part in our deliberations - those most likely to be able to give the best assistance in directing the affairs of the country. A great many quotations have been used in this discussion, but it is necessary, on the first occasion on which this question has been brought up for practical consideration, to put, as it were;, the whole .case concisely, ‘though fully, on the records, so that we may be able to see how far we may meet the arguments of those who are in favour of reform. I have here one of the Temple Primer series of publications, written by Leonard Courtney on the “ Working Constitution of the United Kingdom.” Mr. Courtney is a- very competent authority, not only by reason of his intellectual abilities, but also because of his vast personal experience. After referring to the great evils experienced in party organizations in Great Britain, Mr. Courtney, in this book, which is a condensation of a much larger work by him, goes on to say on page 19 -

The employment of trie (party) machinery thukept in constant work cannot be said to be altogether free from evil effects. It is true that in a nation there must be forces of hesitationarid of adventure.

It seems to me that the juxtaposition of those two ‘words is very happy. They represent the natural political division in all Legislative Assemblies - the division between the forces of adventure andi the forces of hesitation.

But corresponding moods exist in the breast of every man, and the effort of the individual is not to give way to alternate fits of inaction and of rashness, but to maintain an equable course of regulated labour. The aim of education is to substitute continuity for discontinuity, an uninterrupted flow for mere gush and cheek If national life is so organized that its manifestations are habitually characterized by discontinuity in successive periods of time, we may suspect some -defect 4n its organization, even though we may not be able to see a way to its remedy. Such discontinuity does not in fact exist in real life, and it is noteworthy how habitually the conduct of the parties in power is shaped so as to correct the discontinuity which party organization tends to produce. Every party in power leans in the direction of the policy of its opponents. A Conservative Government is liberal, a Liberal Government is conservative. It is a common experience for each in turn to be condemned by its extreme followers for adopting’ the policy of its adversaries. The complaint is well founded, and it shows that both Liberal and Conservative sire conscious that the true line of national movement follows a course between their exclusive fields of policy. If it were possible to organize the representation of national life so. that it should be habitually embodied in something reproducing this central fine of movement, we should be spared the falsity and the waste resulting from an organization always producing more or less serious misrepresentations. Such a vision is at least conceivable. It must be made the subject pf further inquiry before it can be declared to be in any degree practicable. Meantime, it may be observed that, could it be realized, the Government of the future would have a promise of permanence and stability corresponding to the permanence and , stability. of the nation itself. It would be entitled to be called, what many Governments vainly claim to be, national. It would, from time to time, part with some elements and receive others. As years went by, it would be entirely renewed, but there would rarely be a break in the continuity of its existence. Such a transformation cannot be accomplished at a jump. Any steps towards it must be gradual. It is enough if the movement gives us a real promise of approach.

I desire, sir, to continue my remarks on a future occasion.

Leave given.

Debate interrupted, and orders of the day, general business, called on under standing order No. 119.

page 1119

QUESTION

HOME RULE FOR IRELAND

Debate resumed from 3rd August (vide page 581), on motion by Mr. Higgins -

That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as follows -

May it please Your Majesty :

We, Your Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, desire most earnestly in our name and on behalf of the people whom we represent, to express our unswerving loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty’s person and Government.

We have observed with feelings of profound satisfaction the evidence afforded by recent legislation and recent debates in the Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom, of a sincere desire now fo “deal justly with Ireland; and in particular we congratulate the “people- of the United Kingdom on the remarkable Act directed towards the settlement of the land question, and on the concession to the people of Ireland of a measure of local government for municipal purposes. But Hie sad history of Ireland since the Act of Union shows that no British Parliament can understand or effectively deal with the economic and social conditions of Ireland.

Enjoying and appreciating as we do the blessings of Home Rule here, we would humbly express the hope that a just measure of Home Rule may be granted to the people of Ireland. They ask for it through their representatives! - never has request more clear, consistent, and continuous been made by any nation. As subjects of Your Majesty we are interested in the peace and contentment of all parts of the Empire, and we desire to see this long-standing grievance at the very heart of. the Empire removed. It is our desire for the solidarity and permanence of the Empire, as a Power making for peace and civilization, that must Be our excuse for submitting to Your Majesty this respectful petition.

Mr GLYNN:
Angas

– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, whom J must compliment on his able and exhaustive speech on this question, displayed a just sense of the character and position of the House of Representatives when he submitted a motion on the question of autonomy for Ireland. Our interest ex tends to whatever touches the Empire as a whole, or the welfare of any of its parts. Though anything we can say may have the force only of an opinion, and may perhaps lack the force of authority and responsibility, still the voice of representatives chosen upon the widest possible sufrage, and experienced in the working of autonomous institutions, must have some moral, if not a persuasive, effect. Besides, we speak not as strangers, but as men bound to the peoples of the British Isles by the ties of allegiance and blood ; as to a large extent scions of the same stock, with traditions which are similar, and modes of thought not likely for many years to become widely divergent. Interest and affection therefore combine to entitle us to offer an opinion on this subject with, of course, the diffidence of persons who are 14,000 miles from the sphere of those institutions with which we deal, but with, at the same time, the authority which arises from knowledge acquired in the working of autonomous institutions. Besides, the discussion df this subject will, I hope, help to clear away some prejudice, and, though ineffective in producing direct results, it may dispel the ignorance which obtains as to the origin, nature, and extent of the agitation for Irish autonomy. Want of knowledge and defective sympathy are largely responsible for the rash judgments which are still, notwithstanding our boasted enlightenment, too common, and to a great extent account for the unfortunate temper in which political and religious questions are too often approached. Times have undoubtedly changed for the better since Sydney Smith could say of his countrymen that the moment the name of Ireland was mentioned they seemed to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense. A broader suffrage, a fairer press, the spread of popular education, and the intermixture of peoples, has led to the entertainment of sounder opinions and healthier views. The debates in recent years on such subjects as the Irish land question, the Financial Relations Commission, education, and local government, have helped to popularize the Irish point of view, and have shown the people of Great Britain that, for the state of a nation, they must trust to something better than the mere preconceptions of ia class. With greater enlightenment has come a temper of conciliation, and a desire to grapple with conditions hitherto unnoticed, or perhaps ignored. Still, in the face of the recent local recrudescence amongst a few, of a temper of, shall I say, illiberality. one cannot yet flatter himself that ignorance and prejudice no longer affect discussions as to the relations of kindred peoples, or that cock-sure opinions may not be entertained as to the faith and aspirations of a nation about which some of those who express them know little, and possibly care less. I intend to deal with the subject before us from the constitutional point of view, and if I trespass a little in the matter of retrospect, and deal with history, it is merely for the light that it may shed upon contemporary events. I trust that, whether we believe, or do not believe, in the principle of Home Rule, those of us who are sincere are actuated by the common motive of desire to promote the integrity and welfare of the Empire, as well as the prosperity of each of its parts. The object, of course, is to strike some solution of a difficult and much-vexed question. We must endeavour to account for the failure of constitutional union to promote that mutual development of resources and sympathy, that perfect amity and compatibility of temper and national views, which ought to exist between the people of two countries whose characteristics are, to a large extent, complementary, and whose interdependence seemed prescribed bv an all-wise Providence when He set them in juxtaposition in the deep. I believe that the day of small independent States has passed. The future, unless the ethics of the Gospel become applied, in deed as well as in word, to international affairs, a consummation more devoutly to be wished for than expected, is undoubtedly for large Empires. The petty States of antiquity, as has been well said by Professor Seeley, are no longer possible -

The lustre of Athens grew pale when Macedonia arose, and Charles V. soon put an end to the palmy days of Florence.

States like Finland, Poland, Florence, and others are instances of the failure of the smaller States of antiquity to stand against the cupidity and aggression of the larger powers. With the disappearance of small States passes, too, the possibility of realizing the highest type of political organization. As Empires extend, unless they are based upon the principle of local self-government, a lower form of organization has to be substituted for the old. As Seeley says -

In antiquity the good States were usually cities, and Rome herself, when she became an Empire, was obliged to adopt a lower organization.

We know what the weakness of large Empires is. The weakness of great Empires not based upon the principle of autonomy in local affairs, which is what we claim for Ireland, that ignore local centres of loyalty and affection, is at the present time instanced by the demoralization of Russia. On the other hand, we know that the strength of the British Empire, the very basis of its integrity, and the welding together into affection of its various parts, is due to the fact that it is based upon the principle of local autonomy. What was said 150 years ago by perhaps the greatest statesman who ever appeared in English politics, one whose memory will survive, if I may quote his own words, applied to another, “ after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption,” is capable of even greater application now.

I look, I say, on the Imperial rights of Great Britain, and the privileges the Colonies ought to enjoy under those rights, to be just the most reconcilable things in the world. The Parliament of Great Britain sits at the head of her ‘extensive Empire in two capacities : one as the local Legislature of this island providing for all things at home, immediately, and by no other instrument than the Executive power. The other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her Imperial character, in which, as from the throne of Heaven, she superintends all the inferior Legislatures, and guides and controls them all without annihilating any.

That passage is taken from the speech of Edmund Burke, on American Taxation, and I trust that I am not exaggerating when I say that, if the principle of autonomy and central control for the larger matters of Empire were in his time the most reconcilable things in the world, the reconciliation is more practicable now, when our mutual sympathy is. more complete than it was when those words were spoken. Under either an autocratic or a democratic Government, autonomy is the only alternative to centralization, with its ineffective administration, its attenuated public spirit, and its absence in practice of popular control. Even under the democratic form of Government, in which, I trust, from its working here, we are all believers, we see the evils of concentration. But when large bodies of electors, minorities amounting almost at times to a nation in size, .may be disfranchised, as in the case of Great Britain and Ireland, for seven, or perhaps, fourteen years, _ what is the result ? A lack of that solidarity of feeling and purpose which ought to exist, and, through the unchecked dominance of the party in power, the sense of injustice rankling in the minds of those who have been excluded for long periods from the possibility of initiating or controlling legislation. Lord Acton, who was a home-ruler in the true sense, not one carried away by fervour and desire, not one who believed that a paradise would ensue upon the reconstruction of political machinery, but a man who had drawn his conclusions in favour of autonomy from perhaps the widest researches in history made by any man during the last fifty or 100 years, points out this weakness of the democratic principle where it is applied without local self-government over too wide areas. He says -

Liberty depends on the division of power. Democracy tends to unity of power. To keep asunder the agents we must divide the sources; that is, we must maintain or create separate administrative bodies. In the view of increasing democracy a restricted Federalism is the one possible check upon concentration and centralism.

It is in a restricted federalism that the solution of the Irish question may be found. Such a solution is all the more necessary now when there is a growing recognition of the principle, whether it be good or had, of basing representation exclusively on population. In the old country there is an agitation to which the Balfour Government, which is remarkable for its pliant back-bone, is bending, for the redistribution of the electorates of the United Kingdom, and the fixing of the proportion of the representation of each of the national units of the union, on the basis of population, a redistribution which, in my opinion, would be a violation, if not of the letter, of the very spirit of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. The principle, however, is, I believe, supported at the present time by a majority, so far as a majority can reflect the true opinions of a people’s hearts.

Mr Wilks:

– On a population basis Ireland would get a representation of seventy-one members in the House of Commons, whereas now she has 103.

Mr GLYNN:

– I am aware of that.

Mr Wilks:

– It is just as well that it should be known. Why does not the honorable and learned member tell us something about Norway and Sweden?

Mr GLYNN:

– Perhaps the honorable member will shed some of his enlightenment on the subject when he rises to speak. I shall be only too glad to listen to the honorable member. We find that leading constitutionalists advocate the application of the principle of population to representation, even in Federal matters, in which each State is supposed to retain some representation beyond that which would be accorded to it on a population basis - in other words, equal representation with other States in the Senate. For instance, Professor Burgess, one of the leading constitutional authorities, in an address which was published in the Political Science Quarterly, of the first quarter of this year, says -

According to modern views, principles, and conditions, no rule of distribution of legislative seats in either Chamber, except the roll of population, can rightfully prevail in a national democratic republic, no matter whether the Government is centralized or Federal.

In, then, the great States of modern times, with representation so imperfect in fact, however broad the suffrage, with a practically unchecked dominance of the party in power, with large masses of the people entitled to a franchise ineffective to secure proportionate power, with the inevitable tendency to ignore diversities of local conditions in the interests of a dull and spiritless uniformity prescribed by the majority of the hour, some arrangement under which purely local matters are left to purely local control is indispensable to liberty and good government. The inevitable destruction of local character and colour does not make for union. Australia is a homogeneous country, but its development has been from consolidation to local government, and is not likely to be reversed. The people of the British Island’s are not in all respects homogeneous - a fact which is evidenced by the application of certain Acts of Parliament to only portions of the Kingdom. Some have been applied only to England, others only to Scotland, and others only to Ireland. Unfortunately, however, that diversity of legislation has been prescribed, not according to the feelings of the inhabitants of the particular portion of the country to which the Acts have been applied, butby the dominant majority of the hour. On the other hand, I admit that it is impossible for the future to make the State co-extensive with the nation. All States are, now-a-days, more or less composite in their character; but the Federal system itself allows us as great a degree of nationality as is possible. Lord Acton tells us -

The combination of different nations in one State is as necessary a condition of civilized life as the combination of men in society.

The Swiss Federation is composed of French, Italian, and German elements. The American Federation seems to be composed of almost all the races under the sun. Therefore, my idea of Home Rule does not include, as perhaps that of some other persons may, a recognition of the right and the expediency of forming units under a Federal system, based purely on nationality. I hold that some modification of the constitutional relations of Great Britain and Ireland is necessary - a modification in the direction of Federalism, under which such matters as the Army and Navy, diplomacy, and all those larger matters of Empire, as well as matters in which uniform legislation could be applied, might be delegated to the central Parliament.

Mr Wilks:

– Does the honorable and learned member think that that would suit those who are now advocating Home Rule ?

Mr GLYNN:

– I think so; but we know that the moment we begin to deal with particular methods, various opinions are held. It almost seems to be the duty of one-half of the House to oppose proposals coming from the other half, and, therefore, it cannot be expected that perfect unanimity should exist among the advocates of Home Rule.

Mr Wilks:

– But would it suit the most prominent advocates of Home Rule at the present time?

Mr GLYNN:

– I believe it would. Parnell, I think, advocated a modification of the Federal system as the best method of preserving the integrity of the Empire, providing for a reserve of power in the central Parliament, and granting to Ireland a large measure of local autonomy.

Mr Wilks:

– That is not the view taken by the members of the Home Rule Party.

Mr GLYNN:

– I cannot say. I am not here as the representative of any particular party. I have already quoted Burke, and I should like to make another quotation from his last messageto the peoples of the two islands, which might be put generally as the basis of a system that ought to satisfy the aspirations of the two countries. Even before the union, some suggestions were made for the reconstruction of the political machinery, more likely to meet the needs of modern times. Burke says -

My poor opinion is that the closest connexion between Great Britain and Ireland is essential to the well-being, I had almost said to the very being, of the two countries.For that purpose, I humbly conceive that the whole of the superior, and what I would call Imperial, politics ought to have its residence here, and that Ireland locally, civilly, and commercially independent, ought politically to look up to Great Britain in matters of peace and war, on all points to be guided by her, and, in a word, with her to live and die.

Now, if the words “Great Britain” were replaced by the words “ the Federal State,” as the representative of the larger matters concerning all parts of the United Kingdom, if Federalism were the principle - and in my opinion it could be associated with freedom of mutual commerce - we should have the basis upon which most Federal States of modern times have been organized. We should have the principle under which the American Constitution has led to a union, not only in act but in feeling, between States which a hundred years ago were remarkable for their diversity ; under which they have grown to unexampled prosperity ; a principle which has been adequate to the necessities of democratic Switzerland, and which has been even adapted to the more militant type of organization exemplified by the Germanic Federation. We should adopt that type of Federalism which would help us towards the successful solution of the difficulties - which have been too long-abiding - between Great Britain and Ireland. Now, having dealt with the constitutional matter, let us see whether the union has really worked as successfully as was predicted by those who made it a reality. In his message to the King, in January, 1799, advocating the union, Pitt said it would be -

The free and voluntary association of two great countries which join for the common benefit in one Empire, where each will retain its proportional weight and importance, under the security of equal laws, reciprocal affection, and inseparable interests, and which wants nothing but that indissoluble connexion to render them invincible.

Have the predictions of Pitt been realized as to. the security of equal laws ? Is it not a significant reflection upon the work of the Union, that in the very first year, 1801, no less than five Coercion Laws were passed, and one of the severest of insurrection laws to suppress the agitation for Catholic emancipation was placed on the statute-book? A few years ago, a writer in the Pall Mall Gazette, referring to the Insurrection Laws of 1823-25, said that if such laws were applicable to England at the time of the Corn Laws, Cobden and Bright would have been sentenced to seven years’ transportation by justices or landlords interested in maintaining the taxes on the food of the poor. Then, has equality been suggested by the facts mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that until the last few years there was a difference in the basis of the franchise; that there was no local government until 1898; that the people of Ireland suffered under religious disabilities - and not even the Test Acts were repealed until 1832, and then only under the stress of a very disturbing agitation. I am sure that the House will excuse me if, not with the idea of promoting asperities, but merely for the purpose of shedding a little light on present conditions, I refer to the question, above all others, that for years past hasbeen at the root of Irish discontent, namely, the land question. We must remember that Ireland, even at present, is a country in which three-fourths of the population are directly dependent on the products of the soil. Her growing manufactures in the eighteenth century were, owing to the unfortunately narrow views of those days, crushed by direct legislation. Froude - a by no means perfectly impartial historian - on this question says : -

Ireland was regarded as a colony to be administered, not for her own benefit, but for the convenience of the mother country.

What were some of these commercial laws ? In 1663 the exportation of cattle from Ireland to Great Britain was prevented by “ An Act for the Encouragement of Trade.” An agitation afterwards sprung up for the destruction of the growing woollen industry of Ireland. A petition was presented to the Government by various English merchants, who asked that the woollen industry in Ireland should be suppressed, and a Select Committee of the House of Commons, which reported on the linen trade in 1825, said -

This export (the woollen) was supposed to interfere, and very probably did, with the export from Britain; and a plan was in consequence undertaken to annihilate the whole woollen trade of Ireland, and to confine us to the linen manufacture in its stead.

When that petition was presented, His Majesty promised to do -

All that in me lies to discourage the woollen manufacture in Ireland and encourage the linen manufacture there, and to promote the trade of England.

By the Statute 10 and11 William III., Ch. 10 - a monarch far more liberal than some of those who prostitute his name - the export of woollens manufactured from Ireland was prohibited. Froude, in re ferring to those laws, of which I have given only one or two instances, wrote -

England governed Ireland for what she deemed her own interest, making her calculation on the gross balance of her trade ledgers, and leaving her moral obligations to accumulate as if right and wrong had been blotted out of the Statutebook of the Universe.

I have referred from sheer necessity of explanation to these laws of the past, which I believe not one-fiftieth of the population of Great Britain would now refuse to describe as oppressive. A better spirit prevails in the present day. I remember hearing John Morley say in one of his speeches twenty years ago that -

Time was when the Irish peasant saw no light upon his horizon save that which shone upon him from across the floods of the broad Atlantic. He now sees a new light, a beacon ofhope, nearer home - referring to England - that shall not be put out.

Under these laws the people were once more driven back upon the soil. What were the conditions of occupation under which they were to win from the soil the means of subsistence ? Tenure was practically at will. The Land Act of 1870, passed on the initiation of Mr. Gladstone, was designed to put an end to capricious eviction. For reasons upon which I need not enter in some cases it failed. The prevailing tenancy system was then at will or from year to year, and in some instances the receipts given for rents regularly bore a notice to quit. This indorsement was made so as to place the tenant absolutely atthe power of the landlord, and also in some cases for electoral purposes. The result of this system was, as stated by the Devon Commission in 1845, that - “the want of fixity of tenure paralyzed all exertion.” In many cases the landlords, unfortunately, were absentees. This was due to some extent to the Union itself, as its establishment put an end to the existence of Dublin as the chief residence of the so-called aristocracy. The absentee system was increased by an unfortunate piece of legislation called the Encumbered Estates Act, which was passed in 1849 or1850. After the stress of the famine, when mortgagees became importunate for their interest and principal, and rents were not as easily procurable as before, owing to the poverty of the people and the unfortunate condition of the country, this Act was passed to enable expeditious sales of estates to take place on the application of mortgagees. Many large estates were- then placed on the market, and were purchased, in most cases, as speculations by absentees, at a price equivalent to six or seven years’ rental. These estates were managed to a great extent by local agents on behalf of absentee proprietors, and as the result of the unfortunate piece of legislation to which I have just referred, distress and discontent were intensified. The custom in Ireland is for landlords to be non-improvers of holdings. In England, on the contrary, the landlords have always been improvers. One seldom or never heard of such a thing in Ireland as a farm that had been improved by the landlord, for the improvements were invariably made by the tenant. I am speaking, now of three-fourths of Ireland, in which the bulk of the people are dependent on the soil. In Ulster, however, tenant right was recognised, with the result that a much greater degree of satisfaction was secured.

Mr Higgins:

– I have known land to oe “made” by the carting of soil, and rent being paid for a patch formed in that way.

Mr GLYNN:

– It was proved in the case of the Galtee Mountains that men had actually carried soil in baskets on their backs for a distance of two miles up the mountainside, in order to make the miserable little plantations round their cottages, on which they grew the potatoes that kept them alive. Mill, a dispassionate observer, referring to the landlords under the system prevailing in the middle of the last century, says -

Returning nothing to the soil they consume the whole produce minus the potatoes strictly necessary to keep the inhabitants from dying of famine.

I have already referred to the Devon Commission, which consisted almost wholly of representatives of the landlord class. That Commission commenced its inquiries in 1844, sat for about eighteen months, and examined 1.100 or 1,200 . witnesses. In its issue of 6th February, 1884, The Times referred to the question to be dealt with by the Commission as - -

The most portentous question with regard to Ireland to be found within the vast scope of material economy ; on which depends, in a manner, the existence of Ireland as a nation existing to the degree to which it does exist under the sway of civil government.

When Lord Russell proposed to put some check upon capricious eviction - to put a limitation upon the arbitrary power of a landlord to depopulate a district that has so often supplied the Army of the United Kingdom with men on whose dash and brilliancy in emergencies the Empire has often successfully depended, what was done? The Bill introduced by him was ignominiously rejected by the House of Lords. Forty years after this, the late General Gordon, after spending some months in travelling through Ireland, described the then condition of the peasantry in these words : -

The state of our fellow countrymen in the south-west of Ireland is worse than that of any people in the world, let alone Europe.

What was the result? As was pointed out by the honorable member for Northern Melbourne, the result of all this was depopulation - it was the check on industrial and various other conditions that determined the exodus of the people. We find that the population of Ireland in 1845, at the time of the sitting of the Devon Commission, was 8,400,000; but, according to returns for the present year, it has shrunk, from various causes, to 4,350,000. For many years the people left I eland at the rate of 80,000 per annum, and even now the exodus is going on to the extent of nearly 38,000 a year. An unfortunate feature of the movement is that the young go, but the old remain. It is a remarkable fact, as was evidenced by the figures which Sir Robert Giffen placed before the Financial RelationsCommission in 1893 - figures which are said in a recent article in the Nineteenth Century to be equally applicable now - that, while in England and Scotland, in round numbers, 13 per cent, of the male population is over fifty years of age, in the case of Ireland 18 per cent, of the population is ever fifty years. Is it not remarkable also that in a country that has always been specially noted for the purity of its sexual relations - a purity which has invariably been marked by exceptional fecundity - the excess of births over deaths is now almost the lowest in the civilized world? The large proportion of old people among the population of Ireland reacts on wages. According to the recent report of a Commission, the average weekly wage of agricultural labourers is 18s. 8d. in England, 17s. 3d in Wales, and 19s. 3d. in Scotland, while in Ireland it is only ros. 1 id.’ When we consider the difficulties that must be confronted’ by a man, however self-denying, self-sacrificing, and abstemious he may be, who has to live on a miserable -pittance of 11s. per week, whilst some of us have never known what is is to feel want, have never been deprived of a meal, and have never had a moment’s anxiety as to the possibilities of the future, we’ may perhaps understand the occasional fierceness that is characteristic of Irish agitation.

Mr Wilks:

– Does the honorable and learned member blame the Union for that?

Mr GLYNN:

– I am endeavouring to show what has accompanied the Union, and pointing out the legitimate deductions that I think may be drawn from certain facts. The absence of remedial legislation, and the pressure of unequal laws, has to a large extent contributed until recently, at all events, to these conditions. I acknowledge that, within recent years1, measures designed in the most liberal spirit, and with possibly far-reaching effects, have been placed upon the Statute-book.

Mr Wilks:

– Such as the Local Government Act and the Land Act.

Mr GLYNN:

– I assure the honorable member that I do not forget them. Between 1886 and 1891 a sum of no less than ^40,000,000 was advanced or guaranteed by the Treasury of the United Kingdom to enable tenants to purchase their own holdings where landlords were willing to part with them. Again, in 1904, a measure was passed by a very large majority - practically by almost a unanimous vote - under which arrangements have been made to advance, within a comparatively short period, up to ^100,000,000, to enable tenants to purchase their own holdings, and giving landlords, as an inducement to sell, a bonus of £12,000,000 on the purchase price. Under these laws there are now no less than 80,000 occupying proprietors, where formerly they were but mere tenants, liable; at short notice in some cases, to be evicted. The result of this legislation has been most marked on the industrial development of Ireland and the well-being of the people in districts to which the system of peasant proprietorship has extended. I do not believe, however, that some of the legislation that has been passed with the best of intentions has been the best solution of the land problem, although it has been accepted by 80 per cent, of the people of the country. If the State purchases the land, it ought to own it, because a time comes when peasant proprietary eventually goes back. That occurs, at all events, -in progressive communities, where the dual system returns, and the solution which was accepted as a compromise is not one that I can indorse as being the most conducive eventually to the integrity of the Empire and to the wellbeing of that part of it which it affects. But it is a great advance. As the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has said, it is an unfortunate fact that these remedial measures have been too long delayed. I do not intend to refer to the Financial Relations Commission, an analysis of whose report has been so well given to the House by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, but shall content myself with merely stating that, in an article by Lord Dunraven, iri the last number of the Nineteenth Century to hand, it is estimated that the over-taxation of Ireland at present is £4,000,000. I merely mention the fact, without wishing to examine the statement, because there mav be other considerations - besides those taken into account by Lord Dunraven - which to some extent may have been ignored or not have had due weight given to them. I may again refer to the fact that the Financial Relations Commission almost unanimouslyreported that, in the case of Ireland, laxation is far in excess of the capacity to bear it. _ Now let us look at the working of the Union from the point of view of administration. To put it shortly, in Scotland the Government officials receive £300,000 a year, as against £1,000,000 paid in Ireland. In Scotland the police cost .£539,196, as against £1,567,214 in Ireland, although, according to the report to which I have referred, ordinary crime in Ireland is just half that in Scotland. The Castle system in Ireland has been called a regular Eldorado for privileged persons, and this is largely the cause of a great deal of the still lingering disaffection. Arnold White, writing in the Fortnightly Review for October, says -

Irish discontent and anxiety as to the future, to-day, are not mainly with the English Government as such, but vested interests which have framed the Castle government as a Caliban for the performance , of servile tasks, useful to the party of ascendency in Ireland, but neither serving the interests of the Empire nor conducing to the maintenance of the union.

As I indicated, I do not advance local autonomy with central control - a central’ Parliament for larger matters - as a panacea.

Mr Wilks:

– Does the honorable and learned member believe in a subordinate Parliament for Ireland? What is asked1 for is a co-ordinate Parliament.

Mr GLYNN:

– To some extent a coordinate Parliament ; but it is idle to juggle with words; the honorable member may mean one thing and I another by the word “ co-ordinate.” Every Home Rule Bill which has been introduced, recognises the supremacy of the central Government, but the Bill of 1896, unfortunately, made the mistake of excluding the Irish from representation in that central Parliament. Such exclusion would have caused a jarring of interests and a sense of subordination without control not conducive to the welfare of the Empire. Local government is not . advanced as a political panacea; still representative and responsible government in an autonomous and democratic State, is the only conceivable form that has the ele-ments of endurance, and whatever degree of efficiency may be obtainable. But, except under ideal conditions, it will never lead to the millennium. The imperfections of human character, the rarity of. foresight, common sense,! and a patriotism that is not partly self-regarding, the complexity of modern affairs, the dependence of the best regulated State on external conditions beyond its control, the fact that party prejudices and perceptions largely decide the issues of our so-called deliberative assemblies - all tend to affect the working of the best political machine. It was this that inspired the bitter, and perhaps extreme opinion of Swift, that “whoever could make two ears of -corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians together.” But while far from being of opinion that self-government in local affairs can accomplish everything, and is the only condition of industrial development and popular well-being, I believe that it will help towards the realization of those two great ends of civil government, and at the same time conduce towards the greater growth of relations of perfect amity and co-operation between the peoples of two countries designed by Providence for an alliance of strength and affection that the folly of man has too long helped to mar.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– The speeches of the honorable and learned members for Northern Melbourne and Angas are, I .suppose, the most perfect contributions we nave yet had in defence of the Home Rule movement. In saying that, I do not in any way desire to be invidious, because I do not forget the speech of the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, when he brought forward this question last session. I trust that I shall deal with the subject in the same calm, dispassionate spirit that characterized the main portion of the speeches to which I have referred. No one could listen to the recital of the grievances of. any nation without sympathy, or without a dislike of the system under which they occur, if it can be proved that the system is the cause. For instance, the account which the honorable and learned member for Angas gave of the low wages paid to certain classes of the community in Ireland could not fail to appeal to anyone with a sympathetic nature, and no one could pretend to defend such wrongs, as those which, as we know from history, have been suffered under the land laws of that country. But it must not be forgotten that agrarian trouble is not confined to Ireland. Even under the advanced laws of Australia there has been trouble in this connexion, and the land laws have had to be altered in order to ameliorate the condition of agriculturists throughout the continent. The motion is lengthy, explanatory, and sentimental, and makes a strong appeal to our sympathy; and if it were not for the effects which would follow Home Rule, there would be very little objection to indorsing the proposal. But whenever we find a lengthy motion, in which there is embodied a defence of the principles advocated^ it is regarded by old parliamentarians as evidence of weakness. A motion which requires a good deal of padding - which is, as it were, a “gilded pill” - is looked upon with much keener interest and suspicion than is a more simply-framed proposal. In the motion there occurs the following : -

We have observed, with feelings of profound satisfaction, the evidence afforded by recent legislation and recent debate in the Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom, of a sincere desire now to deal justly with Ireland; and, in particular, we congratulate the people of the United Kingdom on the remarkable Act directed towards the settlement of the land question,’ and on the concession to the people of Ireland of a measure of local government for municipal purposes.

That statement takes it for granted that all honorable members are seized of the facts. I do not pretend to say whether that assumption is right or wrong, but I sincerely trust that there are ‘grounds for “feelings of profound satisfaction.” It may be an act almost of sacrilege to Sug gest that members of the Federal Parliament are not seized of the facts, but my opinion is that very few honorable members have any reason, founded on their knowledge, for the “profound satisfaction” of which the petition speaks. I do not know that honorable members are acquainted with recent Imperial legislation in regard to Ireland. It may be. that the three honorable members whom I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks are acquainted with the facts and are “ profoundly satisfied” with certain events which have occurred ; but such a statement in a motion of this kind, in regard to honorable members as a whole, is an absolute untruth. I am not in any way objecting to legislation of the kind referred to, but merely taking exception to the wording, of the motion, and attempting to prove the folly of presenting it to us in the form of a “gilded pill.” The honorable and learned member for Angas has, in the most manly way, admitted that concessions have been made to Ireland,, and expressed his profound admiration for certain recent legislation, which shows that the Imperial Government are not opposed 10 the rectification of certain grievances in that portion of the Empire. Those who oppose the granting of Home Rule to Ireland are not deaf to the cries of her people for reform, or callous to their sufferings.. We sympathize with their distresses, and shall rejoice at the passing of legislation which will improve their conditions. The Treasurer took exception to this sentence in paragraph 2 of the motion -

But the sad history of Ireland since the Act of Union shows that no British Parliament can understand or effectively deal with the economic and social conditions of Ireland.

Although we may not agree with those who favour the granting of Home Rule to Ireland, we must admire their straightforward utterances, just as those who believe , in Home Rule probably appreciate the candour of those who are honestly opposed to them. But I cannot understand the attitude of one who addresses’ the Chair on a motion of this kind as the Treasurer has done. Because he’ “has so many friends of high standing who are Irish, he objects to having to vote on this question. While he does not like the motion, he does not wish to vote against it. I suppose that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne hopes that the motion will be passed, and that it will then be .no empty resolution, but will be forwarded to those who support the Irish cause in the Old World, and will have due weight with the Imperial authorities. If it were otherwise, and the motion had been moved merely for purposes of discussion, as if this House were a young men’s literary and debating society, the honorable andlearned member for Northern Melbourne would be wasting our time. But, although it is intended to be no empty motion, the right honorable member for Swan, notwithstanding the responsibilities attaching to him as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, desires not to have to vote on it, because he has so many Irish friends in. the community, whom he does not wish to offend.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I understand that he protested against having to vote on the motion at all.

Mr WILKS:

– Exactly. I cannot understand a member shirking his duty to his constituents, and evading his responsibilities by desiring not to vote on a motion which is properly before the House.

Mr Higgins:

– I am not raising any objection to the honorable member’s action in attacking the Treasurer.

Mr WILKS:

– I understand that while the honorable and learned member is godfather to Home Rule, he is not godfather to the right honorable member for Swan. If he were, he would have to bear a most serious responsibility. If I, as a’ free-trader, were to refuse to cast a vote on a motion dealing with the fiscal question, because in doing so, I might offend my protectionist friends, my attitude would be as contemptible as that of the right honorable member for Swan in regard to this motion, and my utterances would be laughed to scorn. The supporters of Home Rule will gain nothing from the right honorable gentleman, and those who are opposed to Home Rule cannot regard him as in alliance with them. If honorable members are to refrain from casting their votes on disputed questions, in order to- try to keep sweet with both sides, free-traders may as well try to obtain protectionist supporters. The right honorable member for Swan is neither a supporter nor an opponent of the motion. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne wishes us to declare that all the grievances and distresses of Ireland, to which he referred in his speech, have been occasioned by the Act of Union, and will continue so long as the Union lasts, while the honorable and learned member for Angas said practically the same thing.

Mr Glynn:

– I did not.

Mr WILKS:

– Both the honorable and learned gentlemen quoted the remarks of the younger Pitt, but both of them forgot to tell us the history of the Irish Parliament, which was in existence for the eighteen years from 1782 to 1800.

Mr Higgins:

– Would the honorable member have made our speeches longer?

Mr WILKS:

– Both honorable and learned members are astute lawyers ; one of them coming from Victoria, and the other from South Australia. The honorable and learned member for Angas is full of the sentiment of his race, and he possesses the capacity to express it. No other member of the House can better coin a phrase, or more excellently round a period than he can; while the mover of the motion is an astute equity barrister. These are the forces with which I have to contend. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne says that he had no time to refer to the dark side of the picture. He apparently had time only to put a onesided statement before the House.

Mr Higgins:

– I want the honorable member to meet us on our ground, by discussing what is best to be done under present conditions.

Mr WILKS:

– I am endeavouring to do so,- and I trust that before I conclude I shall have done so.

Mr Higgins:

– “ Let the dead past bury its dead.”

Mr WILKS:

– I do not intend to rake among the musty records of history, or to turn back its dark pages; but I have a right to point out that the honorable and learned member forgot to tell the House what was the condition of Irishmen when they had a domestic Parliament. He also forgot to tell us that Pitt’s policy was never fully, carried into effect, though he spoke of the failure of that statesman’s prophecy with regard to the success of the union.

Mr Higgins:

– Pitt desired Catholic emancipation, and could not get it. The honorable member is right in that respect. But Catholic emancipation has since been brought about, and still the population of Ireland is dwindling, away.

Mr WILKS:

– The last paragraph of the motion might almost have been culled from the speeches of Daniel O’Connell. We find almost his exact phrases in the sentences employed. So far as Daniel O’Connell is concerned, L intend to show later on that if Pitt’s prophecies were not fulfilled, neither were O’Connell’s.

Mr Webster:

– We might hear something from Cobden, too.

Mr WILKS:

– Personally, I think that we have enough to do with matters of our own concern, without interfering in connexion with Ireland’s grievances. But the honorable member for Gwydir wishes me to go still further afield.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The time allowed for the discussion of Orders of the Day has nearly expired. Does the honorable member -wish to continue his speech on another occasion ?

Mr WILKS:

– Yes.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the will of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his speech on the resump tion of the debate?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Debate interrupted ; Government business called on under sessional order.

page 1128

QUESTION

PARTY GOVERNMENT: MINISTERIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Mr SPEAKER:

– With regard to Order of the Day No. 2, general business, it has come to my knowledge, since the notices of motion appeared on the businesspaper, that it covers precisely the same ground as that covered by notice of motion No. 1, general business; and, as the latter was given notice of on an earlier day, will have to be dropped.

SUPPLY (Formal).

Customs Inquiries in Canada: Defence Forces at Portland: Commonwealth Press Writer: Federal Capital: Massey- Harris Company: Retiring Allowance of Post Office Employes : Postal Administration.

Question - That .Mr. .Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

– I have only one or two grievances to mention on this occasion. One of these arises out of a discussion which took place a few days ago. I think that some injustice has been done to the Canadian Government owing to certain comments which have been made upon its action in regard to recent Customs inquiries. It was stated a few days ago that the Canadian Customs authorities had refused to make certain inquiries which- the Commonwealth Government desired them to undertake, and a somewhat similar statement appears in to-day’s Age. The facts of the case are as follow: - About a year ago, at the special request of the Customs Department, the Canadian Government directed an expert to inquire into the manufacture of harvesters in Canada, and report whether the price at which they were invoiced to the Commonwealth was a fair one. It appears from the papers on the departmental file that an exhaustive inquiry was made, and a letter setting out the views of the Canadian authorities was forwarded to Australia. There was no refusal in that case ; but, on the contrary, the Commonwealth Government caused a letter to be sent thanking the Canadian Government in the most glowing terms, for their action. In another case, having reference to an article of consumption, with the name of which honorable members will, no doubt, be familiar through the advertisements in the newspapers and elsewhere, I refer to “ Force,” the Canadian Customs authorities were asked for information as to value, and they gave the fullest information. In another case they were asked to give their valuation of an article of food called “Orange Meat,” but they replied as follows : - ‘

The Department is unable to meet your wishes in this instance, as the Minister decided some time ago that it was inadvisable for officers of the Customs in Canada to undertake inquiries in respect of such matters for Customs purposes in other countries.

That action on the part of the Canadian authorities has been described in the press as churlish; but I do not think that any such interpretation should be placed on their conduct. Honorable members know that it would be difficult for any Government to inquire into any manufacturer’s business, and find out the cost of production of the article made by him. For instance, if the Customs authorities, at the request of the Argentine Government, went through some manufacturing establishment such as that owned by the McKay Harvester Company, and ascertained the cost of producing harvesters, there would be a public outcry, in which every section of the community would join. There would be very good reasons for such an outcry. We know that, in order to obtain statistics of production in Victoria, the Government have to enter into a solemn undertaking with producers and manufacturers that the particulars with which they are supplied will not be used for other than statistical purposes. If we treat our own people in this way, how can we expect other Governments to deal with their citizens in any other manner. It is most unreasonable for the Minister of Trade and Customs and the Ministerial organ, to take the view that the attitude assumed by the Canadian Government is churlish. We would not comply with such a request ourselves, and we should not describe as churlish the refusal of another Government. As has been pointed out to the Customs Department on behalf of the Canadian Government, if the Customs officials were entitled to overhaul a man’s business and find out the cost of manufacture, and the profit derived, the manufacturer would be subjected to oppression in a political sense. If, for instance, a manufacturer were engaged in industry subject to the operation of a wages board, he would very strongly object to his cost of production and rate of profit being made known. We have specially provided in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that all evidence touching upon this matter shall be treated as confidential. In Victoria recently, a case was referred from a wages board to an industrial Court, and certain questions were asked as to the cost of manufacture and the profit made upon chemical manures. The information was handed in on the understanding that it was to be treated confidentially, and was to be communicated to the Chairman of the Court only. We deliberately refrain from allowing the taxing Departments of the Government to make inquiries into the cost of production and the wholesale value of manufactured products, and yet it has been alleged by the Customs Department that the decision of the Canadian authorities to adopt a similar course is churlish. I do not think we can reasonably expect the Canadian Government to take up a matter of that kind. Regarding the general debate which took place a few days ago on the subject of the duty on harvesters, I need only say that I was perfectly satisfied with the concluding remarks of the Minister, to the effect that he would put no obstacle in the way of the Massey-Harris Company testing their case in the Law Courts.

Sir William Lyne:

– That is not quite what I said.

Mr ROBINSON:

– What the Minister said was -

I believe in fair play, and whilst I am not sure that the right of appeal prevails, I may say at once that if the Massey-Harris Company have any reliable facts or data to bring before me, J should like to have them submitted for my consideration. /If they then commenced proceedings against the Government, I should be very much disposed not to place any impediment in their way, but to give them every facility. I cannot say anything fairer than that.

For my own part, I do not think the Minister could have said anything fairer than that. If he gives the company every facility and does not place impediments’ in the way of having this difficult question settled before the High Court of Australia, I do not think any reasonable man can take exception to his attitude. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, namely, the necessity of establishing some branch of the Defence Iorce at Portland. Yesterday, I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question on the subject. Last year, I brought this matter before the House, and I was “ bluffed out “ on the ground that the question should have been brought up before the Estimates were prepared. I wish to bring it forward on this occasion in good time, so that consideration may be given to the matter when the Estimates are being framed. Ever since the settlement of Victoria, the town of Portland has had an arm of the Defence Force stationed there. It is the oldest settlement in Victoria, and has historical associations which attach to no other place in the ‘State. For many years a battery of garrison artillery was stationed there, but that has been taken away. The residents have, over and over again, urged the Government to allow some arm of the Defence Force to be established at Portland, even though it be only a corps of rangers. So long as the defensive instinct of the people of the district is allowed some outlet they will be satisfied. They do not think that they should be entirely deprived of that which they have for so many years enjoyed. I can assure the Government that very strong feeling prevails among my constituents upon this point, and I think that the district is entitled to the fullest consideration. The town of Portland possesses a fine drill-hall, and all the facilities necessary for training some branch of the Defence Force, and if the VicePresident of the Executive Council will use his best efforts to comply with the wishes of the people there I shall feel inclined to forgive him many of the political sins he has committed during the last few weeks. In conclusion, I wish to express the hope that the Postmaster-General will endeavour to comply with the wishes of the deputation which waited upon him to-day upon the subject of country telephones. If he can see his way clear to grant the request of the deputation he will confer a great boon on the residents in the country districts, and will earn their lasting gratitude.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– I have only one matter to which I wish to direct attention, and it relates to a question I asked last week with regard to the appointment, through the Prime Minister’s office, of Mr. John1 Plummer, of Sydney, as press writer to the Commonwealth. Mr. Plummer was engaged until recently in conducting very strong free-trade attacks upon those States that had taken up a protectionist attitude. As far back as December last, he was appointed as press writer to the Commonwealth, and is receiving payment at the rate of ^400 per annum. His articles are to appear in the English, American, and Continental newspapers, and copies are to be seen at the Prime Minister’s office. I have read some of his articles, most of which seem of a fairly^ useful and informative nature. In the few minutes I had at my disposal, I have made four or five extracts from articles written .by this gentleman, and think they show that the Government is treading on dangerous ground in paying a journalist to represent the views of the Commonwealth in the public press. At page 12 of the Department’s Book of Extracts I find the following statement :–

Brigadier-General Finn’s appointment will expire in 1906. The probability is, however, that his engagement will be extended for a further term of years.

This is purely a matter of opinion, and some of us advocate the appointment of Australians to this position. Then again at the same page, we find the following extract from an article by Mr. Plummer: -

In the southern portions of the Queensland sugar country coloured labour is not essential, but the supply of white labour is largely a matter of wages.

The assumption, of course, is that coloured labour is necessary in the northern1 parts of Queensland. Here is an extract from an article published on the 17th of March last, which appears at page 15 of the Book of Extracts : -

The system of old-age pensions at present confined to New South Wales and Victoria must be regarded somewhat in the nature of an experiment, and its adoption by the Commonwealth Government will largely depend on the success of the working details and the means of obtaining the necessary’ funds, the latter necessarily involving some form of additional taxation, probably through the Customs.

Mr Johnson:

– Is there anything wrong in that statement?

Mr CROUCH:

– I think there is.

Mr Johnson:

– It is merely an expression of opinion.

Mr Watson:

– But Mr. Plummer is not employed to express his own opinions.

Mr Johnson:

– An abstract opinion like that which has been quoted would not commit the. Government.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Will the honorable member for Lang allow the honorable and learned member for Corio to continue his speech ?

Mr CROUCH:

– If my memory serves me rightly, two proposals have’ been put forward to provide for a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions, one being the nationalization of the tobacco industry and the other the imposition of a land tax. I submit that these statements by Mr. Plummer, who is a subsidized agent of the Commonwealth, must necessarily commit this Commonwealth to opinions to which it should not be bound. I come now to another extract from an article written by this gentleman, which is really an echo of Mr. Plum.mer s old-time attack on the protectionist policy. Not long ago, before entering the Commonwealth service, he published a series of articles with a view of showing how badly the workmen of Victoria and South Australia were paid as compared with their fellow- workers in New South Wales. Writing on the 19th ultimo to the

Yorkshire Daily Observer, the Daily Express, . Dublin, the Kilkenny Moderator, and other journals, he made this statement : -

The average weekly rates of wages to men in New South Wales ranged from ^2 Ss. 8d.- to £1 os. iod., and in Victoria from £2 4s. nd. to ,£1 is. 1 id.

This is an attempt to show that the freetrade policy of New South Wales enables the workers of that State to earn an average weekly wage of about 4s. in excess of that available in Victoria under the benighted system of protection. Here is another extract from an article on Australian Loan Policy, published on 6th December, 1904 -

Mistakes may occasionally have been made, for the Australians have yet much to learn in the work of financial administration, but the experience gained from these will, unquestionably, prevent their repetition.

This extract appears at page 10 of the Book of Extracts kept by the Department. We all know that it is hard for -a writer to confine himself to facts, and I would certainly urge the Prime Minister to seriously consider whether it is desirable to continue this system. He should remember that, as Mr. Plummer is subsidized by the Government, special importance is attached to his articles.

Mr Wilks:

– Did he not “puff up” the Labour Party?

Mr CROUCH:

– I should object to his praising that or any other party. A Government press-writer should have nothing to do with party or political opinions.

Mr Robinson:

– He should have no opinions whatever.

Mr CROUCH:

– That is really the position. As no man can write without expressing an opinion, and as, under this system, the Commonwealth must be committed to the opinions expressed by Mr. Plummer, I think the Prime Minister should consider very seriously the advisableness of dispensing with his services.

Mr LONSDALE:
New England

– ! wish to refer to a small matter arising out of the subject to which reference has been made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. Personally, I care not a snap of the finger for what newspapers may publish regarding myself Hitherto I have managed to get along without them, and I certainly do not wish to attach too much importance to the statements made by the Age. My only desire is that that newspaper shall place the truth before its readers. During the debate which took place in this House last week on the question of the valuation of harvesters, I made certain statements wilh regard to evidence given by Mr. Moore and Mr. McKay before the Tariff Commission, as to the cost of these machines. On returning from Sydney on Tuesday last I was handed a copy of the Age containing a letter written by Mr. Moore, referring to a speech of mine on the harvester question, in which he asserted that he had given no evidence as to the cost of the machines, and that his testimony related solely to the question of distribution. I thought that I should have an opportunity to reply to his statement, and accordingly sent a letter, couched in the most amiable terms, to the editor. This newspaper, which is the god of a great many public men in this State, took it upon itself to mutilate my letter.

Mr Johnson:

– The honorable member was not surprised at that?

Mr LONSDALE:

– Not at all. I did not expect it to be published, so that, had they refrained from publishing any part of it, I should not have been disappointed. But they published the first paragraph - which simply bore out the statement made by Mr. Moore, that he gave evidence on the question of distribution - and completely omitted that part of my letter which constituted my defence. If public men are reported by newspapers, they certainly ought to be correctly reported, and when a charge amounting practically to untruthfulness is made by a newspaper against a public man, that newspaper shouldgive him an opportunity to reply. If the press wishes to guide public opinion, it should take care to put before the public that which is true, and to give everyman an opportunity to correct any statement that is incorrect. As a matter’ of fact, Mr. Moore did give evidence as to cost, although, apparently, he was not conscious at the time that he was doing so. I wish to read acopy of the letter which I sent to the Age, and it will be seen that it does not contain one offensive statement. The letter was as follows : -

To the Editor of the Age.

Sir, - Your issue of to-day contains a letter from James Moore, manager of T. Robinson and Company Limited, referring to a speech made by me on the harvester question. He states that the only evidence he gave before the Tariff Commission as to the cost of the Harvester machine was with regard to the cost of distribution, which he admits was 27 per cent. of the selling price. Mr. McKay gave similar evidence. I use the above evidence to show that the value fixed by the Minister of Customs is too high. It works out asfollows : - Value, £65 ; duty, £82s. 6d. ; cost of distribution, 27 per cent. on selling price of machine, £81 -£21 17s. 6d., a total of £95, thus showing a loss of £14 upon each machine sold. Mr. Moore must sec that this is a fair deduction -

The Age published this part of my letter, in which it was admitted that Mr. Moore had given certain evidence ; but it made no reference to my statement of defence. The letter continued -

Mr. Moore must see that this is a fair deduction from the above evidence, but he is mistaken as to its being the only evidence he gave.

I did not say that he was a liar.

Mr Wilks:

– If the honorable member had said so, no doubt the Age would have published the statement.

Mr LONSDALE:

– Probably it would. The letter continued -

In answer to question 15825, he states - “ I am informed that one of the imported machines is invoiced at £26 odd, and the other at£38 odd.” In answer to question15833, he said - “ I know that the valuation of the lower-priced machine is just about the value of the raw material used by us.” Mr. McKay gave similar evidence -

This is direct evidence as to the cost of the material. It seems to me that the evidence of both Mr. McKay and Mr. Moore was carefully prepared before they went before the Commission, because it runs on similar lines - and also gave evidence as to the cost of labour, question 16720 - “ Will you tell me what percentage your wages bear to the total output from your factory ? - Roughly speaking, I should say it is 30 per cent.” This makes it clear that the cost of material is £26, labour, say, 33 per cent. of machine,£13, brings the total cost to£39.

That is about the price at which these machines were invoiced. Mr. Moore and Mr. McKay wouldhave had an opportunity of meeting my statements had this letter been published ; but the Age chose to suppress the communication. The letter went on to say -

Mr. Moore gives the price of iron, question 16100 - “We have got American iron landed in Melbourne at£7 per ton; and we buy ft in Melbourne at the present time for £10.” This bears out the above. The Massey-Harris machine weighs about 30 cwt., this at 10s. per cwt. is£15 - 20 per cent. loss in construction makes the cost £18. This indicates that the material costs less than £26. If we put the cost of labour as equal to material, as worked out from the price of iron, it fixes the price of machine at£36. The cost of small imported parts ready for setting up was given by Mr. Moore, question 16139; - “ Do you think it would be from 2½d. to 3d. per lb.? - Yes, landed here.” The same cost would certainly cover the larger parts of the machine. The machine is 30 cwt., and the average cost 2¾d. per lb., or £1 5s. 8d. per cwt. - the total cost of machine,£38 10s. He also admitted that the Canadians and Americans produced at a less cost, because they specialized more and used more machinery. Mr. Moore will now, I am sure, admit his . mistake, and will see that I have made fair deductions from the evidence he gave. The first items, which he has already admitted, must convince any unprejudiced person that the value fixed by the Minister is too high.

That letter is a fair answer to the statements which were made. I am not taking action in this matter in the dark, and my opinion is that the more light that is shed the more despicable will the actions of those gentlemen be shown to be. I realize that they are seeking not to protect the revenue, but to conserve their own interests. Indeed, they are in a combine, the object of which is to enrich themselves by keeping up the price against the farmer; they are not fighting a combine which is seeking their ruin.

Mr Chanter:

– That statement ‘ is not warranted by the facts.

Mr LONSDALE:

– The statement is warranted by Mr. McKay’s evidence. That gentleman would- not come down to the price which the combination desired ; on the contrary,, he wanted it made higher, and I have no hesitation in saying that he has deliberately made statements which nearly border on the false. I may have given this newspaper too much importance, but some public men would seem to be afraid of journals like this, and, indeed, one can clearly understand their position. This same newspaper tried to hound out of public life a* man, with whose politics I do not agree, but who was then- only acting in the interests of the country. For years the Agc newspaper advocated a law which would call upon people through whose properties railways were constructed, to hand the necessary land over free of cost; but when it was decided to construct a railway through land belonging to Mr. David Syme, that gentleman’ desired, for his own special benefit, to have the law repealed. Senator Trenwith, who was then Minister for Railways in Victoria, had the courage to refuse to comply with Mr. Syme’s request, and determined to make the wealthyman disgorge; and for that reason the newspaper was used in an endeavour to hound him out of public life. Personally I do not care a snap of the finger for this or any other newspaper.

Mr McDonald:

– What about the Sydney Daily Telegraph?

Mr LONSDALE:

– I care for no newspaper. I have never been made a tool of by either the Daily Telegraph or the Sydney Morning Herald. There is a newspaper in my electorate, which is bitterlyopposed to me, personally and politically, but I can say that that newspaper never refused to insert a letter which I deemed it necessary to publish” in its columns. It is time some la.w was passed to compel newspapers - which, by the way, claim privileges all the time - to publish communications without any mutilation, when it is desired to rebut reflections made on public men, I wish the Minister to think over the matter, when I am sure he will realize the wrong he has done in raising the valuation.

Had these been deserving men, the Minister could not have been Blamed for his zeal ; but that the contrary is the case is plainly shown by Mr. McKay’s evidence.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I desire to mention a grievance which, though it affects persons who may he deemed insignificant, ought to receive some attention. In the early days of the session, I brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the case of two men, Bartholomew and Frizzell, who, after long and meritorious service in the New South Wales Post Office, were, under a law passed by this Parliament, compulsorily retired on reaching the age of sixty. Under the law of New South Wales these men were entitled to a retiring allowance of one months’ pay for every year’s sendee; and I do not think that that statement will be disputed, seeing that similar allowances have been allowed by both the State and the Commonwealth. For some reason or another the Federal Government and the State Government came to loggerheads as to the way in which this retiring allowance was to be computed, and the result was that those men, who were retired eighteen months ago, had to wait eight or nine months before they got any satisfaction, and then, I believe, only half of the amount was paid. These men were old, and had no provision for their old age. and yet they were cast out into the cold world, where, for the period I have mentioned, .thev had actually to. live on credit, awaiting a decision. I wrote to the late Treasurer, the right honorable member for Balaclava, on the subject, and he was good enough to express his keen sympathy. But he threw the blame on the State Government. Whatever the difficulty is between the two Governments, these old men were discharged under our own law, with practically a certificate of good behaviour during twenty odd years. It was the duty of the Post and Telegraph authorities, as the custodians of these men’s interests, to see that they did not suffer an injustice. Some settlement ought to have been made on amicable terms,, or, failing that, the extreme step should have been taken of obtaining a decision of the Court. The Federal Government do not say the men are not entitled to the full claim, but, because the Sta,te Government are not willing to agree to the amount, the Federal Government are pusillanimous enough not to protect its own servants, and allow them to be defrauded out of one-half of their claims.

Sir John Forrest:

– I believe that case is settled ; I think I settled it myself .

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

-I think the Minister is mistaken, or, if the case has been settled, it is only very recently.

Sir John Forrest:

– I am pretty certain the case has been settled.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– If it has not,. I hope I shall have the right honorable gentleman’s assistance in settling it. The injustice of this case has been admitted by one Minister after another. That admission was made by the late PostmasterGeneral, and has also been made, in a round-about way, by the present PostmasterGeneral ; and now I may take it that the Treasurer acknowledges that something ought to be done. It is the duty of Commonwealth Ministers to protect the rights of our public servants, and not to cast them adrift on the ‘ world without any provision for their old age. If the case has been settled, I am afraid it is only to the extent of half the amount due; and if that be so, I hope the question will be re-opened. Such an act of injustice is beneath the dignity of the Government. Men who have given long years of service ought not to be kept out of their just dues for eight or nine months, and thus exposed to the risk of not being able to obtain the bare necessaries of life.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– There are two or three matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the House. The first of them relates to the Federal Capital Site. For a considerable time past, correspondence has been in progress between the Governments of New South Wales and the Commonwealth in reference to this matter, and at the present time there appears to be a deadlock in regard to it. This deadlock seems to be due to a desire on the part of the Commonwealth Government not to give consideration to the reasonable representations of the New South Wales Government concerning the rights of that State in connexion with the matter of territory. I have always held - and I brought this view before the House when speaking on the Seat of Government Bill - that, according to the strict reading of the Constitution, whilst ‘the Federal Parliament had a right to determine the Seat of Government, that right was to be exercised only after territory had been ceded to the Commonwealth by the State of New

South Wales, or acquired by the Commonwealth. The more I read the section of the Constitution which deals with the matter, the more am I convinced that that is what was meant. Notwithstanding the attempts of astute lawyers to strain the meaning of the section, it will appear to every intelligent lay mind that the intention of the framers of the Constitution was that New South Wales should first grant the necessary territory to the Commonwealth, and that then the Federal Parliament should decide where the Federal Capital should be within that territory. In my opinion, in dealing with this matter we have gone the. wrong way to work, and should start afresh. The Federal Parliament has, in my opinion, unwisely selected a. site for the Federal Capital without first ascertaining whether New South Wales would grant the territory in which that site is situated.

Mr Chanter:

– The Government of New South Wales offered the site which was chosen.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– And reserved land there.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do not know what was actually done in that regard at the time referred to by the Postmaster-General ; but I believe that there were other sites offered.

Mr Page:

– Where would the honorable member like the Federal Capital to be?

Mr JOHNSON:

– If I had a- free choice, I should like it to be near Sydney.

Mr Page:

– It is just as well in Melbourne as it would be in Svdney.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do ‘not think that Sydney itself would be a proper place for the Federal Capital ; but at a little distance from Sydney there are .suitable sites, one of which might be chosen with advantage, but for the 100 miles limitation of the Constitution. Of these I have indicated my preference for a site lying between George’s River and National Park.

Mr Robinson:

– In the honorable member’s electorate?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Yes. But while that is my personal preference, because I think it an eminently suitable site, Parliament is debarred by the Constitution from considering it. In any case. I should not allow my mind to be biased against other sites because they were not in the electorate which I represent.

Mr Page:

– What are the honorable member’s objections to the site selected? Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have said that Dalgety is the best site.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Honorable members were compelled by force of circumstances to vote for a site of which- they did not approve. Lyndhurst, Tooma, and Dalgety were the three sites put before us, and I think that any impartial person would have said that Lyndhurst was absolutely the best of them in respect of climate, natural resources, accessibility, and general suitability. It is contiguous to the loop-line from Blayney to Harden, which connects the southern and western railway systems of New South Wales, and will ultimately become a main trunk line, connecting the capitals of the States, greatly shortening the through railway journey from Brisbane and other parts of Queensland to Melbourne,’ and all places in Victoria, as well as to Adelaide and all places in South Australia. Lyndhurst is also within a comparatively short railway distance of Sydney.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Are these remarks in order ? Has not the matter been settled ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Unfortunately the matter has been settled, and, apparently the Federal Capital has been settled in the process. The Lyndhurst site was struck out after the first ballot,i and then we had to choose betwen two less eligible sites, one of them in the electorate of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the other in the electorate of the PostmasterGeneral. Those two representatives of New South Wales deliberately sacrificed the best interests of the State for their own self-glorification.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member knows that the Standing Orders prohibit the imputation of improper motives, and the honorable member must be aware that the motive which he has just imputed is improper.

Mr JOHNSON:

I am surprised lo learn that the term “self-glorification” is an improper one, or conveys an improper imputation. To my mind, it is inseparably associated with the element of personal and political ambition, and is not necessarily associated with unworthy motives, and I did .not think when I used it that it was unparliamentary or offensive. However, if you, sir, rule that it is not parliamentary, I shall refrain from using it.

Sir William Lyne:

– The honorable member said that we sacrificed the interests of New South Wales.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Yes,, and I maintain that both honorable members did.

Sir William Lyne:

– Who sacrificed the interests of New South Wales by allowing the 100 miles limit to be placed iti the Constitution ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I, at any rate, had nothing to do with that. I should have strenuously opposed any limitation on the choice of the representatives of the people in this matter. The present situation is causing great friction in New South Wales, because the people of that State see that their interests are being sacrified to those of Victoria. The Minister of Trade and Customs tried to get Parliament to choose a site as near as possible to the border of Victoria, and if the site which he supported had been chosen, and it had been necessary that it should be in the centre of Federal territory, that territory would have extended over the border of New South Wales into Victoria.

Sir William Lyne:

– Has the honorable member ever seen Tooma?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Yes. I spent some time there three years ago, and know its proximity to show-clad mountains. I do not know if honorable members wish to be frozen while sitting in Parliament. The climate of Melbourne is bad enough in the winter time. The objection of inaccessibility and climatic conditions applies to both Tooma and Dalgety.

Mr Robinson:

– Dalgety is not . accessible to Victorians at all.

Mr JOHNSON:

– It is more accessible from Victoria than from the settled parts of New South Wales.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– To those who can fly.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I mean that it will be more accessible from Victoria when a small piece of connecting railway has been made.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I must call the attention of the House to these constant interjections. It appears to me that for the last quarter of an hour the honorable member for Lang has been- saying what he had no intention of saying when he rose, because Ke has been drawn off his track by the interjections of other honorable members. He has the right of every honorable member in possession of the Chair to make his own speech, and I ask other honorable members not to attempt to divert the course of his remarks.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Although the site which has been chosen may comply with the letter pf the law, it is not in accordance with its spirit, and therefore I hold that the Government of New South Wales- is right in objecting to what has been done, and any representation by them desiring the reconsideration of the matter should be treated courteously, and receive full consideration. The public feeling on this question is so high in New South Wales that I am confident that if a referendum were taken there to-morrow there would be a practically unanimous vote for secession from the Union. This is what the Constitution declares in regard to the matter. Section 135 reads as follows :-

The Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be in territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth . . . and shall be . distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney.

I submit, as I have submitted before, that the words “ territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth “ pre-suppose that the territory shall have been! granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth before the Seat of Government is determined upon by this Parliament. I say, therefore, that in deciding on the Seat of Government before we have acquired any territory, we have been putting the cart before the horse, and have thereby made a serious mistake. I think we ought to recognise this, and be prepared to reconsider the matter.

Sir William Lyne:

– How could we acquire the territory before we fixed upon the locality ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I see no difficulty in acquiring it if the New South Wales Government are prepared to say to the Commonwealth Government, “ We will allow you to take up your territory in a certain quarter.” I understand that the New South Wales Government are prepared to do that, and if that be so, we should consider their proposals, and try to meet them as far as possible, instead of continuing in opposition to their wishes. The interpretation of the Constitution from the point of view of the New South Wales authorities coincides with my own, and also with that of every reasonable man. I hope that the Government will yet give consideration to this matter. The Prime Minister, in one of his letters to the Premier of New South Wales, which have just been published in the newspaper, says -

The determination of Parliament regarding the Dalgety site was arrived at after many months of careful inquiry upon complete information, and with a full desire to do justice, not only to the several States of the union, but to the people of New South Wales.

He then goes on to say that, in his judgment, good faith has been kept with New South Wales. I say that that is not a fair statement of the case.

Mr Deakin:

– Not from the honorable member’s point of view.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Exactly, and my point of view is supported by the evidence of my own vote. I disapproved of the Dalgety site, but I voted for it, because, after the site which I preferred, and for which I voted in the first instance, had been rejected, I had only two sites to choose from, namely, Tooma and Dalgety. I did not approve of either of these sites, But I had no recourse but to vote for that which was the less objectionable in my eyes. The same thing happened in the case of many other representatives of New South Wales. Under these circumstances, how could it be said that the selection was fairly representative of the opinion of honorable members. I say that the result of the voting did not fairly represent the feeling of this House, and that certainly another opportunity ought to be afforded to those who desire to have this question re-opened to vote for other sites.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The second position would, I am afraid, be worse than the first.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do not wish to sm any more upon the subject of the Federal Capital Site. A few days ago I asked the Postmaster-General certain questions, which I repeated to-day. I asked -

  1. Is it a fact that electricians and mechanics employed in the Department who handle no money belonging to the Department are required to contribute to a guarantee fund equally with officers who have the handling of large sums of public money ?
  2. If such a practice obtains, does the PostmasterGeneral consider it a fair one; and, if not, will he endeavour to alter it?

To the second question I received the following reply : -

The rule which has been laid down is that officers through whose hands articles of value pass in the execution of their duty shall furnish guarantee to such an extent as will protect the Department against loss, and the PostmasterGeneral considers this a fair rule.

Now, what loss can possibly occur in the case of mechanics who have the handling of nothing belonging to the Government beyond the few tools which they use in carrying on their work, and for which thev are responsible? Does the PostmasterGeneral consider it fair to ask men who have no valuables passing through their hands to pay something out of their salaries to guarantee the Department against loss? What loss? The loss of nothing. I think that this is a grossly unfair imposition, and that the answer given by the Minister is most unsatisfactory. I admit that it is perfectly fair and reasonable to expect persons who handle money or valuable property to subscribe to some sort of guarantee fund, but to apply this rule to mechanics is absurd and unfair. Then I asked other questions as to whether there had been serious misappropriations by officers of the Department, and whether the guarantee companies had made the defalcations good. The answer I received to these questions was a curt “Yes.” I have noticed that during the time the present Government has been in office there has been a disposition on the part of Ministers to treat honorable members who ask questions in a most discourteous manner, and I take this opportunity of protesting against such conduct.

Sir William Lyne:

– Would the honorable member have liked the Minister to say “ No” instead of “Yes”?

Mr JOHNSON:

– No; but I think that the answer in the affirmative sh’ould have been accompanied by some amplification. A curt “ Yes,” when proffered as a reply to questions of that kind, is most discourteous, and almost insulting. It is due to honorable members that they should receive courteous treatment, and fair and reasonable replies, from Ministers. I hope that the Prime Minister will endeavour to induce his colleagues to display some of that courtesy for which he has earned deserved distinction.

Sir William Lyne:

– Who has been discourteous ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Some Ministers have been discourteous, but I do not wish to mention their names, as that would be invidious. All 1 hope is that they will cultivate the grace of politeness. There is another subject to which I would like to direct attention. I notice that in the library there is a relic of the Imperial Parliament, in the shape of a Speaker’s chair, which has recently been renovated. I am sorry that has been done, because its value as a relic has been completely destroyed.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I mav inform the honorable member. that the chair in Question has nothing whatever to do with this Parliament, that we have taken no steps con- cerning it, and that we have no authority over it.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am pleased to know that the responsibility for “the act of vandalism which has been committed does not rest on this Parliament.

Mr R EDWARDS:
OXLEY, QUEENSLAND · PROT; FT from 1913; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910

– I desire to bring under the notice of the House a paragraph which appeared in this ‘morning’s Age, and which, in view of the fact that there is not a word of truth in it, casts a serious reflection on Queensland. The paragraph reads as follows: -

Though nine months have passed since Sir Herbert Chermside retired from the Governorship of Queensland his successor has not yet been appointed. The Colonial Office anticipated, writes our London correspondent, that there would be some difficulty in finding a suitable man when the salary was reduced by statute from ^5,000 to £3,500, -““id this is apparently proving to be the case. No public reference has been made to the matter in London, but there is some private gossip to the effect that two men have declined the appointment. It may be that the Colonial Office has not yet adjusted its views to the altered conditions of the Australian State Governorships; that it goes on trying to secure first-class men for what have become second-class positions in more senses than one. The Government of Queensland has not, however, hampered the home authorities by an)’ stipulations in its own case, and it is getting more than impatient at the delay which is taking place in making an appointment to its vacant Governorship. The Colonial Office has just received a rather peremptory telegram, which the Government sent through Sir Hugh Nelson, who is temporarily filling the vacancy. The appointment will therefore not be much longer delayed.

As a representative of Queensland, I desire to say that there is not a word of truth in this statement. No telegram was sent by the Queensland Government to the Home authorities urging the appointment of a Governor, because Queensland had no desire that an appointment should b.e hurriedly made. In the Governor’s speech at the opening of the Queensland Parliament last month it was stated that Lord Chelmsford had been appointed Governor of the State, and that he was expected to arrive in Brisbane in November ; but the people of that State would have been. very glad if the Lieut. -Governor, who has been discharging the vice-regal functions for the last nine months, and has discharged them on previous occasions, had been permanently appointed. I think I am expressing the opinion of the people of that State when I say that in the present Lieut. - Governor we have one of the most capable men to be found in Australia. The statement that appeared in the Age I look upon. as casting aserious reflection upon the people of the State of which I am a representative, and I hope that the Age will be generous enough to-morrow morning to correct the report.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I also have a grievance to ventilate, and I am glad that the Prime Minister is in the Chamber, because it is to him that I desire particularly to address my remarks. The matter to which I propose to allude as briefly as possible is that to which reference has already been made by the honorable member for Lang - the question of the Capital Site. As honorable members are aware, negotiations are proceeding on this subject between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of New South Wales, and I hope that those negotiations will end satisfactorily, both from the view-point of the Prime Minister and from that of the Premier of the State of which I am a representative. It is one of our chief functions as a Federal Parliament to preserve the most amicable relations with every State in the union. I can conceive of nothing which will so largely contribute to the maintenance of cordial relations and good feeling between New South Wales and the Commonwealth as an amicable settlement of this question. It cannot be denied that the newspapers in Victoria are doing their utmost to concentrate all the Federal functions in the city of Melbourne.

Mr Robinson:

-No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– One has only to read the astounding leader which appeared in the Age a day or two ago, wherein the suggestion is politely made that the Seat of Government is to be in Victoria for at least fifty years to come-

Mr Robinson:

– I quite agree with that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I was sure that the honorable and learned member would indorse the statement.

Mr Robinson:

– The honorable member surely does not desire to leave here?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I desire to see this matter settled. We have now been dealing with it for nearly five years, and I think every one in this Parliament will agree that it is about time the finishing touches were put upon the determination of the question. When reference was made to it a little while ago, the honorable member for Bass, among others, declared that it had really been settled by the Parliament. It is clear, however, that it has not been settled. It is a very live question at the present time, because the Constitution declares that the site of the Seat of Government can be settled only when the necessary grant of land shall have been made by the Government of New South Wales. It is in connexion with the granting of the land by the State Government that the immediate difficulty has arisen.. I am one of those who, when the matter was being debated in the House, took up the position that we were approaching it in the wrong way. I, with others on this side of the House, urged very strongly that the Seat of Government Bill should not be passed, at all events for some time to come; that we ought to proceed first of all by resolution, and on the basis of that resolution open up negotiations with the New South Wales Government relative to the selection of the site. The final act of determination should have been a Bill such as has already been passed. We are now told that the Seat of Government Bill is mandatory in its terms ; but in reply we have the statement of the Premier of New South Wales, when application is made for the grant of land, that the decision of the Parliament of that State, that the site on which the Commonwealth Parliament has determined shall not be granted, is equally mandatory. In this way a deadlock has occurred. I presume it is not one that must necessarily continue. I take it that it is one of those stiles over which we, as reasonable men, can step, with the exercise of a little prudence, common sense, and Federal feeling. It is because I hold that view very strongly that I make these remarks. I hope we shall hear nothing in connexion with this matter that will provoke a feeling of hostility on either side. My desire is that it may be settled as speedily as possible, and with the utmost of good feeling. This Parliament has dealt with one stage of the question. We have decided upon the site of the Capital, but the acquirement of the land has yet to be dealt with, and New South Wales interposes with the statement that, since she has to grant the land, she should have some voice in the determination of the district in which the Capital shall be situated. I submit that, apart altogether from the legalities and technicalities of the question, there should be, on the basis of equity and reason, some right inhering in New South Wales to speak as to the situation of the land which she is to be asked to hand over to the Federation. That has been recognised all through the debate. There has been no talk of taking the land from New South Wales by force. When the Seat of Government Bill was under the consideration of the House the fact that nothing of the kind could be contemplated was clearly recognised by the present Attorney-General. In the course of a speech made by the right honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable and learned member for Indi declared that it was not intended under that Bill to take any land. The report, which is to be found at page 3956 of Hansard, vol. st, 1904, proceeds as follows : -

Mr REID:
EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Then is this clause a mere expression of opinion?

Mr Isaacs:

– It is not proposed to take land, and we cannot take land by the Bill.

Mr REID:

– Surely, as business men, we are passing this clause seriously.

Mr Isaacs:

– We cannot coerce New South Wales.

At a later stage, the Attorney-General made it clear that the Seat of Government Bill did not provide for the mandatory settlement of this question. He said -

I contend, however, that this Parliament has not only the first word, but also the last word, although New South Wales also has necessarily some voice in the matter.

New South Wales is raising her voice on the present occasion, and it is in dissidence with that of the Federal Parliament. We have declared that Dalgety is to be the site of the Federal Capital, but New South Wales, speaking through . its Premier, says that it ought not to be, and offers three other sites - a free gift of land in each case - the selection of any one of which would, in the opinion of the people of that State, be more suitable, and certainly more in accord with the section of the Constitution which provides for the establishment of the Capital in New South Wales. This is the point which the negotiations have now reached. During the last few months considerable correspondence has passed between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales has now framed a set of questions which he asserts ought to be submitted to the High Court, and asks the Prime Minister’s concurrence in, this reference to decide the issue between them. Here is an extract from the last reply made by the Prime Minister -

It would appear that the High Court will not entertain any questions of law where framed merely to obtain the opinion of the Court.

I should think that that would be very probable. Even you, Mr. Speaker, decline to entertain hypothetical cases. Whenever we wish to- obtain your ruling without raising a specific issue, you plainly inform us that you are not called on to decide the point. I suppose that would be the governing principle in any Court of equity or law. The Prime Minister goes on to say -

The writ issued must be in such a form as to disclose a cause of action by one party to the suit against the other.

If the Government oT New South Wales will institute an action, properly framed, it will then be open to the parties to raise any questions relevant to such an action for the decision of the High Court; these may then be put in the form of a special case, in the settling of which we shall be prepared to offer every facility.

Mr Deakin:

– Hear, hear.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I submit that this offer is not quite as definite as it might be, and the Premier of New South Wales shares my view. I find in both papers today a paragraph stating-

Mr Deakin:

– It is a mere summary.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is likely to be a correct summary since the two newspaper reports are, I believe, in entire agreement. The substance of Mr. Carruthers’ reply is that he regrets that Mr. Deakin’s offer is not an agreement to submit a case, and he goes on to describe the proposal as “ a gross attempt to evade the question.” The report continues -

He was not at all satisfied with the position which Mr. Deakin tried to place him (Mr. Carruthers) in - that of first discovering a just cause of action, and then going through the intricacies and technicalities of High Court proceedings, if Mr. Deakin would agree to reference being made to the High Court, without clouding the matter, with technicalities, the course of the Government would be perfectly clear.

I take it that when the Prime Minister penned this letter to the Premier of New South Wales, he intended to treat the matter in the fairest possible way. I take it that the Prime Minister did practically agree to have the matter submitted to the High Court.

Mr Deakin:

– Hear, hear.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That being so, the question narrows itself to one of finding a cause of action. I submit that the proper course in a case of this kind, would be for the Prime Minister, with the consent of the Premier of New South Wales, to make the cause of action, instead of throwing the onus on the Government of that

State. I do not pretend to say what form the cause of action should take, but many forms suggest themselves. One is that the Federal Government should, under arrangement with the Premier of New South Wales, peg out some area on the site which has been selected. But there is one thing’ the Government is entitled to do even before taking that step. Having asked the Government- of New South Wales to give the land, which we have determined shall be the site -of the Capital, and there being a difference of opinion, I submit that the wish and will of New South Wales, as expressed in the communications ®f the Government of that State, should be placed before this Chamber for review. If the Government desires to settle the matter amicably, and to preserve cordial relations with New South Wales, we ought to review the matter in the light of the opinion -expressed by the Parliament of that State. One party cannot act without the other, unless we suppose an impasse has been reached, which cannot be got over without the exercise of the supreme powers of the Commonwealth Government and Parliament in a way, we hope will never be reported to. In” the first place, this Parliament ought to review the whole question in the light of the facts submitted by the Parliament of New South Wales; then if the Prime Minister thinks fit to take the other course suggested by the Premier of New South Wales, he himself ought to make the cause of action and thus facilitate, a settlement by the High Court as speedily as possible. The longer this matter is allowed to remain unsettled the more disturbed will be the relations between New South Wales and the Commonwealth. The Constitution makes it very clear that that State has some rights in reference to the Federal Capital, and five years is a sufficiently long period to wait for the settlement. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister in his reply will make it clear that he, at any. rate, is anxious to have this matter settled with the least possible delay, and with a desire to facilitate the good feeling between the Commonwealth and the State.

Mr LIDDELL:
Hunter

I should like to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to a matter of some importance. In my electorate there is a district which was settled by the original pioneers of the country, who have left behind them a race of what are practically yeoman farmers. These farmers are accustomed to open-air life, and to horsemanship, and they are just the stuff of which the best of soldiers are made. Many of them went to South Africa to serve in the war, and it is on their behalf that I make an appeal for justice. Lord Roberts, in the light of his experience in South Africa, has said that a great deal depends on the marksmanship of the troops -that marksmanship, combined with discipline, is what is most necessary. Ever since I entered this Parliament, I have been endeavouring to obtain for the citizen soldiers of this district a rifle range, but, though Ministers have come and gone, no rifle range appears. I hoped I had succeeded during the reign of the last Ministry, but just when I thought the matter was almost finally settled, it was discovered that, while I had been agitating, the portion of land, which is desired for a rifle range, had, through some fault in connexion with the State Government, been alienated to a private person, who had built a house and erected a fence. I am now told that this person is perfectly willing, if properly com- pensated. to give up the portion of ground in question. I have repeated!)1 applied to Ministers in connexion with this matter, and I believe the first to take it up was the Minister of Defence in the Watson Government ; and I now appeal to the present Government. The following letter, dated nth July of this year, was written by the Under-Secretary of Lands in New South Wales to the Secretary of a Civilian Rifle Club at Singleton: -

Referring to the copy of the letter forwarded by you from Mr. John Smith, of Singleton, respecting the proposed exchange of his homestead selection (portions No. 169 and 170) for portions 174 and 175, parish of Darlington, county of Durham, in connexion with the extension of the Combo rifle range, Singleton, I have the honour to inform you that a copy of the communication referred to has been forwarded to the Commonwealth Government, who have the matter in hand.

That is as far as we have been able to get after all those weary eighteen months of waiting. The last Government placed a sum of money on the Estimates for this purpose, and I am very much afraid that, seeing the money was not expended, similar provision may not appear on the next Estimates. The military force in this neighbourhood has been in existence for many years, but it is now languishing and disappearing for want of the facilities for which I ask. The members of the rifle club have their homes there, but it is unreasonable to ask these men, after working all the week, to tramp three miles to the present rifle range, and three miles back to their homes, on the Saturday afternoon. The piece of land which is desired is quite close to the town, and military officers have reported that it is in every way suited for a rifle range. I have received another letter from the secretary of a Civilian Rifle Club, asking me to urge on the military authorities in Melbourne the necessity for having this matter settled at once. There is another matter to which I desire to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General. In my district there is practically a new town called Kurri Kurri, which is the centre of a very large coal-field. The value of this district is, I am afraid, appreciated neither by the Postmaster-General nor his officers, although it is an enormous coal-field, which will in time be one of the finest in the world, with a seam of coal 30 feet thick. Less than eighteen months ago the place was a desert, whereas to-day there is a population of 2,000 people, and magnificent buildings are springing up on the land, which was, not long ago, virgin forest, and was sold by the Government for ^35,000 in one day. Notwithstanding its importance, the only post-office of which the district can boast is a small verandah boarded in ; and in this the whole postal business of the population has to be carried on. If Kurri Kurri were anywhere near Melbourne, Ti have no doubt that long ago proper postal facilities would have been provided, but, unfortunately, the place is in New South Wales, which, as I say, is not properly represented in this House. I believe a site has been chosen for a post-office, and to show the dilatory manner in which the affairs of the Department are administered, I may mention that about four months ago the request was made that a letter-box might be hung on the fence of a railway station belonging to a private line ; but, although every provision was made for the fixing of the box, it was weeks before the Department would do anything in the matter. I hope that the post- master-General will see that this district receives the attention which it deserves.

Mr EWING:
VicePresident of the Executive Council · Richmond · Protectionist

– With regard to the matter brought under notice by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the Minister of Defence informs me that he is dealing with it, and will endeavour to give the honorable and learned member an answer as soon as possible. The. honorable member for Hunter himself made it clear that there are complications surrounding the case which he mentioned, which make it impossible to deal with it offhand, but I understand that a settlement of the questions at issue is likely. I will endeavour to obtain a reply for the honorable member to-morrow.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– I regret that, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has availed himself of his opportunity to speak before I could put before him another complaint relating to defence matters. The other day we were informed by him that it was not ‘in the public interest that this House should be told the exact position of the Commonwealth in regard to coastal defence. The Minister seemed to forget that the House is the responsible body which votes the supplies by means of which the affairs of the country are administered, and while the responsible Minister may be fully seized of the necessity for increasing our expenditure on defence preparations, he cannot expect us to do what is requisite in that direction, unless he informs us of our shortcomings. It is ridiculous to pretend that the public interest requires the preservation of secrecy in this matter, because it must be known to every honorable member that in the Defence Department there are hardly men enough to act as watchmen to all our fortifications. An inquisitive person could walk un- ‘ challenged through some of the fortifications at our principal ports, and I have no doubt that any one could obtain an intimate knowledge of the defences of the Commonwealth without troubling the Minister in regard to the matter.

Mr Ewing:

– Then why does the honorable member ask questions on the subject ?

Mr KELLY:

– I know the position of affairs, but I am anxious that this House shall know it too. I shall pass away now from the Department represented by the honorable member to that of which the Postmaster-General is the head. I desire to inform the Postmaster-General that it is a singular, but yet a true thing, that it can, on occasions, take his Department some twenty days to deliver a letter to an address, Lilyvale, within ten miles of the General Post Office, Sydney, a period of time in which it might easily have been delivered by a trained tortoise. As if that were not sufficient, I have now to complain that the Department has recently decided that letterboxes shall no longer be placed on the tram cars running on the Little Bay line. Surely those who devote themselves to the noble work of hospital duty - and there are, in addition to patients, no fewer than 100 adults occupied at the Little Bay Hospital in attending to the sick and convalescent - deserve consideration, and the Department should stretch every point to improve their postal service. The explanation given for the alteration of which I complain is that it is not feasible to fasten, letter-boxes to the electric tram cars. As it was possible to fasten them to the cars drawn by steam locomotives, it seems extraordinary that it should be impossible to fasten them to the electric tram cars, and if the PostmasterGeneral will give me permission to do so, I will see that it can be done, in which case I do not know how the Department can further refuse to continue the postal facilities which those at the hospital, and along the tram route, have hitherto enjoyed. T. was not in the House when the deputy leader of the Opposition referred to the correspondence now taking place with regard to the Federal Capital Site between the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister,, but I hope that the latter will do all that lies within his power to allay the justifiable bitterness existing in New South Wales, because of the non-settlement of this matter. We know that the people of that State made it a sine qua non of their joining the Federation that the Federal Capital should be within their borders, and the other States unanimously agreed to their demands.

Mr Storrer:

– Not unanimously.

Mr KELLY:

– Yes, unanimously, because every State of Australasia joined the union, and is represented in this Parliament. That being so, New South Wales has as great an interest in the matter as has the Commonweal th. the other party to the agreement. The people of New South Wales would not have asked that the Capital should be within their borders unless they had thought that it would be a valuable concession. Through their representatives in this Chamber, they offered a site, Lyndhurst, which would have been not only most acceptable to them, but the cheapest to the Commonwealth. That site was not chosen, and the citizens of the State feel that by the selection of Dalgety the final settlement of the question has been indefinitely delayed, because they think that this Parliament will refuse to remove the Seat of Government to Dalgety until Victoria has consented to extend the railway from Bairnsdale to Dalgety, which she will not do. The Prime Minister will therefore see that there is some justification for the bitter feeling of which I have spoken, and I hope that he will do all he can to allay it by stating a question for the decision of the High Court by which the right constitutional procedure may be determined and the claims of New South Wales satisfied.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– As this is an occasion for the ventilation of grievances, a member of a party which has its full share of them lias a right to avail himself of it. But the presentation of grievances is one thing, and their callous reception by the Ministry another. They care nothing for our grievances, so long as they can continue in office. That was shown bv the attitude of the Postmaster-General to the complaints of the honorable members for Hunter and Wentworth. One has almost to apologize for being a representative of New South Wales, Ministers take so little interest in the concerns of that State. The PostmasterGeneral remains dumb, and no one listening to these debates would believe that he was a representative of a New South Wales electorate. So far as the interests of New South Wales are concerned, his electorate might as well be in Fiji. There was a period in our history when he stood up manfully for his own State, and succeeded in securing the selection of what he considered to be the best site for the Federal Capital. I do not wish to throw the apple of discord into the Ministerial camp, but in connexion with the selection of the Federal Capital the Postmaster-General proved himself to be much smarter than his colleague the Minister of Trade and Customs. I do not for one moment say that he succeeded in outwitting the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is acknowledged to be the arch-political manoeuvrer of this House. Possibly the Minister of Trade and Customs consoles himself with the reflection that, although his colleague gained a victory over the selection of the site, he has not succeeded in securing a settlement of the question. The site has been selected, but the Capital is not there. I ask on behalf of the people of New South Wales that this question shall be dealt with at once. We are now placed in such’ a position that New South Wales, in order to obtain her just rights, has to sue upon her knees to the Prime Minister in order to have a friendly suit brought before the- High Court. If the Capital Site question had directly affected the interests of Victoria, ‘very little business would have been transacted in this House until that matter had been settled. I can imagine how the Age would have denounced the Federal Parliament, and recommended all those over whom it had control to block public business until the question had been dealt with. I believe that the Opposition would be fully justified in taking the fullest advantage of the Standing Orders to obstruct public business until the House consented to recognise the claims of New South Wales to a speedy settlement of the Federal Capital question. It is no exaggeration to say that if any public man of reputation were to commence an agitation in New South Wales for the secession of that State from the Union, on the ground that faith had not been kept with it in regard to the establishment of the Federal Capital, he would be supported by a’ large majority of the people.

Mr Crouch:

– The honorable member is not sincere.

Mr WILKS:

– I am sincere. If anything affecting the price of potatoes were brought under notice, the honorable and learned member would howl until he was blue in the face, but he feels no interest whatever in the affairs of the mother State, which is entitled to considerate treatment at the hands of the House. I do not believe for a moment that the general body of electors of Victoria are opposed to the settlement of this question, but that the whole of the obstacles in the way of the settlement are the result of political and journalistic opposition. The public of New South Wales do not, for one moment, suppose that their existence as a State or their prosperity as a people depends upon the establishment of the Capital within their midst; but ‘they think they have every right to complain that five years have been allowed to elapse without anything definite having been accomplished in the direction of giving effect to “this section of the Constitution. They regard their position as a most humiliating one, when their Premier has to become a suppliant to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and on his bended knees ask that a moral compact should be put to the legal test. Then there is the question cf the redistribution of seats, upon which public feeling in New South Wales is very excited. The public there know that an Electoral Act has been passed, and that a scheme, for the proper representation of their State was defeated in the last Parliament. They are now looking forward with expectation to the adoption of some other scheme which will do them justice. While the basis of the Federal franchise is equality, New South Wales is being denied her full share of representation. Victoria has now more than ner proper share, and apparently honorable members who represent that . State desire that the present inequitable conditions shall be continued. It is very strange that the Government, which is prepared to accept the returns of the States’ Statisticians in ordinary matters, should decide that only a Commonwealth Statistician can furnish them with a proper basis for fixing the representation to which the various States are entitled. Days and weeks pass, and the matter of the redistribution of seats is kept in the background.

Mr Storrer:

– That is the fault ‘of the. Opposition whip.

Mr WILKS:

– A member for Tasmania, which is represented in this Parliament upon a more liberal basis than any other State, should be the last to say a word in opposition to the rightful claims of New South Wales. We are too generous and innocent. If innocence, generosity and kindness are to be rewarded in the way that the Government propose, I shall have to attend a night school conducted by the Minister of Trade and Customs in order to learn something of his political tactics and manoeuvres. I am certain that if I had the knowledge which enabled the honorable gentleman to break up the late Ministry, I should soon secure a settlement of this question. When the honorable member for Parramatta was one of the rank and file, he was most vigorous in his condemnation of the delinquencies of the Ministry, but I am afraid that his responsibilities as deputy leader are making him altogether too respectable and moderate. I expect a man of his vigour and force to impart a little of his old-time fire into the debates, and to join with me - this is straight-out talking- - in obstructing the progress of business until the requirements of New South Wales in the matter of the Federal Capital end the redistribution of seats have been attended to. I am told that the honorable member for Parramatta has dealt with the question of the Capital Site in an able manner, and I trust that the Prime Minister, in his reply, will show that our efforts to-night have not been in vain. If New South Wales wishes the question to be settled by the High Court, I trust that the Prime Minister will give every facility to the launching of a friendly suit. The time has passed when we might have hestitated to speak plainly with regard to the Federal Capital Site, lest we might be classed as provincialists. Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia have secured their part of the Federal compact, and the people of New South Wales are now demanding that the compact made with her shall be kept.

Mr Robinson:

– There are three representatives of New South Wales in the Ministry.

Mr WILKS:

– From the point of view of New South Wales, they might as well be in a Bulgarian Ministry, for, politically speaking, they are “ Bulgarian atrocities,” so far as that State is concerned. Two of them represent electorates on the borders of Victoria, and all their inclinations are in favour, of this State. I may be judging them harshly ; they may be doing their best in the Cabinet to have the matter settled. That possibly accounts for the troubled look on the face of the Prime Minister.

Mr Page:

– Why did not that “ shandygaff” Ministry which the honorable member supported, do something to settle the question ?

Mr WILKS:

– As a matter of fact, the late Ministry were not allowed to remain in office long enough to do much in this, or any other, direction. I wish to know whether attention is to be given to the appeal made by New South Wales? The only way in which the Opposition can make the Government deal promptly with_the redistribution of seats and the settlement of the Site of the Federal Capital - two matters of vital importance to New South Wales - is by actively obstructing all other business until those questions have been finally disposed of. If we do not take this course, the people whom we represent will charge us with want of activity in the interests of that State. Many charges of provincialism have been made against honorable members representing New South Wales by the representatives of Victoria, but I assert that they are more prone to consider only the interests of their own particular State than are the representatives of any other part of the Commonwealth. I do not wish to beat about the bush, and I say unhesitatingly that the way in which the Capital Site question has been treated in the Federal Parliament is nothing more nor less than a piece of sharp practice on the part of Victorian pointers. That statement is being made in New South Wales again and again.

Mr Crouch:

– This is a truly Federal speech.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member is always ready to talk about “ the Federal spirit,” when the matter under discussion does not affect his own State.

Mr Crouch:

– I wish to do justice.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member’s sense of justice is such that he would not recognise Justice from a barber’s pole if he met her in the street. Only a few weeks ago he brought his ingenuity into play against the Minister of Trade and Customs. It is a well-known fact that the attack in question was a double-barrelled one, and that for two days before delivering his speech the honorable and learned member hardly knew which barrel to fire - the one loaded for the right honorable member for East Sydney or that charged for the Minister of Trade and Customs. In the end, he fired the barrel loaded for my leader. And this is the honorable and learned member who declares that he wishes to see justice done ! The honorable member for Gwydir has failed to disclose what is his attitude on this question.

Mr Webster:

– The honorable member should tell the House how his party sold New South Wales in regard to this question.

Mr WILKS:

– Are we to understand that the honorable member, simply because he belongs to the Labour Party, is opposed to a redistribution of seats? Are we to be told that the democrats of the Labour Party have abandoned their cardinal principle of equal representation, simply because of their desire to support the Government? Am I to understand that the honorable member, simply because his party has been attacked, is prepared to demolish the principles which that party professed only a few years ago? Why is the honorable member not taking his part now, irrespective of party ties, in urging the Government to do justice to New South Wales? By his interjection he admits that New South Wales was “ sold.”

Mr Webster:

– I do.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member says “I do” with a smile, but he does not attempt to prevent the continuance of the injustice. I ask him now, as a member for New South Wales, to help in this matter, in spite of the fact that he belongs, to the Labour Party. It is a startling commentary on the present state of affairs when we find every member of the Labour Party from New South Wales silent when the interests of that State are at stake. Are we to understand that they are suddenly seized with a high Federal spirit, . and do not touch this subject because they deem it to be parochial?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Labour Party represent their grievances through the caucus.

Mr WILKS:

– I wish that the caucus would see that fair play is given to New South Wales.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable member’s party was in office a year ; why did they not do something in this matter?

Mr WILKS:

– We had no opportunity. The right honorable member for Swan should be the last to twit the last Government for any action or inaction. Up to four weeks ago the right honorable gentleman was a proclaimed public supporter of the last Ministry. Now he takes his seat as Treasurer in the present Ministry, and attempts to castigate those whom he so recently supported. I speak to-night for a specific purpose.

Mr Webster:

– To obstruct business.

Mr WILKS:

– When the honorable mem- “ ber obstructs .we all know it ; other members may obstruct without the fact being apparent. I say openly and frankly that this Opposition would neglect their duty if thev allowed the Government to proceed until the two matters to which I have referred are definitely settled.

Mr Tudor:

– The Capital Site question is settled.

Mr WILKS:

– With an emphasis on the word, no doubt the question can be said to be “ settled.” If this were a Victorian matter, the Yarra Bank would not be sufficiently large for the honorable member and his friends to demonstrate their zeal for the interests of their State. So long as New South Wales permits the delay, so long will the Government continue to humbug that State.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not say that.

Mr WILKS:

– I use the word in a political sense.

Sir William Lyne:

– It is about time the honorable member was stopped.

Mr WILKS:

– It is about time the Minister of Trade and Customs did something for New South Wales.

Sir William Lyne:

– I have done more than ever the honorable member has done, or will do, for New South Wales.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member for Hume is never tired of boasting about what he has done ; but there is hardly a single measure of value that he has placed on the statute-book of New South Wales that I have not assisted him in carrying. Time after time the honorable member gasconades on the platform about this and that useful measure he has been instrumental in passing. I remember, however, that when the early-closing agitation was on, and he was opposed to the policy, he came to honorable members now on this side of the Chamber for instructions. Yet he has the indecency to stand up in Victoria and boast about what he has done in New South Wales. The Minister suggests that I should be called to order for fighting in the interests of the State I represent.

Sir William Lyne:

– Rubbish !

Mr WILKS:

– Last night, when the Commerce Bill, which is a complex measure affecting the whole of the Commonwealth, was under consideration, where was the Minister?

Sir William Lyne:

– Looking after the interests of New South Wales.

Mr WILKS:

– -The Minister was looking after his own interests in his electorate. Even the Attorney-General said that he could not understand the Minister’s secondreading speech on that measure, and there were other honorable members in the same position.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not refer to ‘another debate.

Mr WILKS:

– What greater grievance can an honorable member have than the absence of a Minister during the discussion of such an important measure as the Commerce Bill? If the honorable gentleman had been present last night, a weary waste of time would have been avoided, and money saved to the country. It is not fair that, when an honorable member is taking advantage of his parliamentary privileges to forward the interests of his State, that the Minister should emphasize Mr. Speaker’s remark about the necessity for keeping order. I would like to point out, in this connexion, that the Minister himself was grossly out of order in interjecting when a ruling was being given. The Minister knows as well as I do that New South Wales was never more ready for an agitation for secession than now, and it would require very little to have that fact demonstrated to us.’ Are we to continue to let the people of New South’ Wales believe that the people of Victoria are against them, when we know that the matter is simply one of politics ? To-night I have learnt the lesson that one can easily be too generous to a Government who are so flagrantly neglecting the interests of the people.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not wish to occupy the time of the House, but merely to reply to the interjection made by the Treasurer when the honorable member for Dalley was speaking.

Sir John Forrest:

– I withdraw the interjection.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It has been made, and cannot be withdrawn.

Sir John Forrest:

– The interjection was apropos only of what the honorable member for Dalley was saying.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The Treasurer suggested that the last Ministry did nothing in connexion with the Federal Capital Site.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not suggest that the last Ministry did nothing. .

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The inference was that the last Ministry had not done what they should have done.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not mean that.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I have only to say that the last Ministry did everything in the matter that a Ministry could do. The situation was that the Ministry, some of the members of which did not approve of the choice made by the Federal Parliament of the Capital Site, felt itself honorably bound to carry into effect the will of Parliament. The Premier and Ministry of New South Wales were also bound by a resolution of their Parliament, which excluded Dalgety from selection as the Capital Site, and felt that they could not retire from the position created by that resolution. My intention as Minister was to recognise the resolution of the New South Wales Parliament - to extend that courtesy which we ought to extend to opinions expressed by the Parliament of any State, when we admit that that Parliament has a right to express an opinion on the matter at issue. I hope, at any rate, that the Prime Minister will treat with courtesy the representations made on behalf of New South Wales. I think, myself, that those representations ought to be laid before this House and a decision arrived at as to whether honorable members will adhere to their previous selection, or whether they will make any other request in connexion with the Capital Site.

Mr Webster:

– Does the honorable member want another vote?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I am not advocating any proposal in that respect. I merely say that a certain resolution has been passed bv the New South Wales Parliament. We must admit that that Parliament, while it may not have the powers claimed for it by the Premier of the State, has at least some say in the matter, and its resolution ought to be treated with the courtesy it deserves. As to statements that have been made to the effect that Victorian representatives, or some of them, hope that by the selection of the Dalgety site, the settlement of the question may be postponed, I should be sorry to think there was any idea of the kind. If there be any such impression it may be at once put aside. While I do not expect this or any Ministry, or this Parliament, to do what is unreasonable, if there were indications that delay was intended, it would become evident, first, by reason of the actions of the representatives of New South Wales, and, secondly, by the expressions of opinion given in various ways by the people of that State, that the question could not be postponed. But I do not think that we can yet accuse the present Ministry of delay in this matter. At the same time. I would join with the honorable member for Parramatta in impressing upon the Prime Minister the need for obtaining an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and that of New South Wales to some method of settlement. I have perused the letters which the Prime Minister has sent to the Premier of the State, and the only difference between the two parties seems to be as to the method of bringing the questions in dispute before the High Court. As both gentlemen are learned in the law-

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That seems to be the trouble.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It may be. But if there is a genuine desire on both sides to have the legal difficulty settled, a way will very soon be found. I trust that, in his reply/ the Prime Minister will indicate, for the benefit of the people of New South Wales and of the Parliament of that State, that he will not place any obstacles in the way of arriving at a decision, and that he will propose some means by which the legal points at issue can be brought to a settlement. I do not wish any honorable member to think that, because I am speaking thus moderately, I do not regard the question as a burning one. Unless there is such a settlement as I am pressing for, and unless the Federal Parliament shows that it has done everything to give New South Wales what she is entitled to under the Constitution, the feeling of one-third of the population of the Commonwealth will become so strong and bitter that it will make itself felt in Federal politics. An interjection was made by the honorable member for Gwydir, which. I think, was quite uncalled for. He said something to the effect that the people of New South Wales are not aware how they have been sold in con nexion with the Federal Capital by honorable members sitting on this side of the Chamber.

Mr Webster:

– Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I should like the honorable member to say in what waI honorable members on this side of the Chamber have sold New South Wales, in voting for the site which they thought the best. I suppose he alludes to those who voted for the Lyndhurst site. Every honorable member who voted for that site did so because he believed, for various reasons, that it was the best that had been put forward. They supported Lyndhurst until it was struck out of the list, and they then expressed their second preferences for one or other of the sites which were left. In doing that, they acted as honestly as the honorable member did. Does he say that, because they voted for one site and he for another, they were dishonest?

Mr Webster:

– I have not said anything of the sort.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– If, as the honorable member says, they sold New South Wales, they were dishonest: but every honorable member who voted for the Lyndhurst site was actuated by motives quite as honest as those which actuated the honorable member.

Mr Webster:

– We have known those honorable gentlemen to take a similar course before, - in voting for something of which they did not approve, merely to put a Government out.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The Minister of Trade and Customs is now going to support another site.

Sir William Lyne:

– I will not allow the honorable member to put words into my mouth.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I will take a contradiction, if the honorable gentleman will give it.

Sir William Lyne:

– I will not give it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– If the honorable gentleman is not going to support another site, from that which he previously supported, why does he not say so? If he felt verv strongly that the site chosen by Parliament should riot be adopted, he could have kept out of the Ministry. Having joined the Ministry, I suppose he will stand bv the selected site. The honorable member for Gwydir supported a site which, in my opinion, carries out the letter of the Constitution, but not its spirit. Having done that, he has the assurance to accuse other honorable members of dishonesty.

Mr Webster:

– I object to words being placed in my mouth.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Surely there could be no greater dishonesty than for representatives to sell their State, which is what he has accused honorable members on this side of.

Mr Webster:

– I will explain.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– If the honorable member will withdraw his remark, I shall say no more on. the subject.

Mr Webster:

– I will not withdraw it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Then the honorable member need not object to my statements. I do not impute improper motives to him for the action he took in supporting a- particular site, but I object to his imputing wrong motives to other honorable members. Does he think that, because the site which he supported was not chosen, the settlement of the matter should be postponed for years? If so, he had better, as a representative of New South Wales, say so. The matter is one which requires the serious attention., not only of the Ministry, but of Parliament, and I hope that when the Prime Minister replies he will give us the assurance that every effort will be made on his part to effect the settlement of the legal difficulty, and provide for the actual establishment of the Federal Capital at the earliest moment possible.

Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir

– I rise to make one or two observations in regard to the matter which has been so pointedly referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney. The statement which he has challenged was to the effect that the Federal Capital Site - was most marked, and I, for members of the Opposition were concerned, in a manner which prevented due consideration being given to it, owing to certain events which were trembling in the balance. I well remember the anxiety of the present leader of the Opposition, when he had counted the numbers behind him, and was sure that his opportunity had arrived, to prevent the adjournment of the debate on the Federal Capital question. He strangled the discussion of that question without regard to the interests of New South Wales, in order to secure a vote which would put him into power. As a representative of that State, I felt that action keenly. Before voting for any of the proposed sites, I did what the honorable member for North Sydney and many other honorable members on that side did not take the trouble to do, although it was part of their duty to the State which they represent - I visited the various sites.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Honorable members on this side knew more about them without visiting them than the honorable member knew.

Mr WEBSTER:

– No ordinary man could expect to have crammed into his pate as much brains as the honorable member for Parramatta possesses. The anxiety of the leader of the Opposition to gratify his personal ambition - even at the expense of strangling discussion on the Federal Capital Site - was most marked, and I, for one, deplore the fact that the interests of New South Wales were lost sight of by- the Opposition in the scramble to get on to the Treasury benches. I desire to refer to a matter which I have not mentioned before, because I did not catch a certain remark that was made by the honorable member for Lang. You, Mr. Speaker, were good enough to ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark, which, however, has been published in certain newspapers, which always seize hold of anything sensational, regardless of the, injury they may inflict on the person, concerned. When an honorable member refers to another honorable member in terms which are calculated to seriously prejudice him, he should be required to do something more than apologize. The honorable member for Lang made an explanation which really aggravated .his original offence- I have no desire to settle this matter in the way that would most directly appeal to me as a Britisher, but if anything of the kind occurs again in this House I shall resort to the readiest methods that suggest themselves of expressing my disapproval. The remark which was made by the honorable member was absolutely unjustifiable, because I have never been seen by any honorable member in this House in such a condition as was indicated by the observation of the honorable member for Lang. It was stated, upon the same occasion, that I had spoken six or seven times on the matter that was then being referred to. That is a wilful misstatement. I. had not spoken on more than one occasion that evening.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– Before addressing myself to the most important matter that has been brought forward this evening, I wish to call attention to an oversight that may have an important result. Allusion was made by an honorable member to an alteration made in a piece of furniture in this building. It is to be remembered that in this building we are guests, and have no control over such matters as that referred to. We are not responsible for what has been done, and as guests have no need to criticise what our hosts choose to do with their own property.

Mr Johnson:

– It is a great pity, all the same.

Mr DEAKIN:

– We may share the opinion of the honorable member, but we are not concerned in the transaction. The property does not belong to us.

Mr Johnson:

– I was not aware that it did not belong to us.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I thought not, and refer to the matter solely in order to prevent misapprehension abroad. I am sorry to say that the grievances which have been brought under the notice of the House this evening have kept me waiting for three hours for an opportunity to address myself - as I should have liked to do at greater length - to the question introduced by the honorable member for Lang, followed up by the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for North Sydney, and, casually, by other honorable members. In the correspondence in which we are at present engaged with the Premier of New South Wales, we are following exactly the same course that was adopted by our predecessors, and if any honorable member has directly or indirectly reflected on the conduct of the late Minister of Home Affairs, in regard to the Capital Site proposal, the correspondence will show that any adverse criticisms would be quite unfounded. The honorable member for North Sydney, adopting the Seat of Government Act as his basis, took, I think, every step that it was possible for him to take to arrive at a solution of the question. As I have recently reminded the Premier of New South Wales, that Act contains two different sets of conditions. One set this House, so far as it could, determined; the other it avowedly left open for negotiation and consideration. It was on those left to negotiation that the late Minister approached the Government of New South Wales, without any success except to discover that there was a wide difference between them with regard to the area and the proposed access to the sea. Upon neither of these points did the Premier of New South Wales appear to be prepared to negotiate. When the correspondence passed into my hands I took it up at the point it had reached, and carried it forward. I do not think that any of those who have perused the letters since written can say that I have avoided any point that has been distinctly stated. Certainly there was no desire to do so. On the contrary, I was anxious that the correspondence should bring matters to an issue. I have not opposed, and certainly would not oppose, any obstacle to a settlement of the matter in dispute. I think that would be contrary to the will of the House and to the interests of the Commonwealth, as well as to the wishes of New South Wales. I ha ve- observed a report of some remarks supposed to have been made by the Premier of New South Wales last evening. I do not accept - I cannot accept - that report. It appears to me impossible that the comments attributed to the Premier of New South Wales could have been passed by him on my last letter. That letter answered specifically, one after the other, the queries put by the Premier of New South Wales, until we came to his proposal that we shall state a case for the High Court. In theory, I have no objection whatever to that course. That is to say, if it could be pursued I should have no objection, but I happen to hold, whether erroneously or not, a clear opinion of my own that it is not possible to refer matters for extra judicial opinion to the High Court. The request that we should agree to state a case to the High Court implies that it is possible to refer such questions to that Court. I do not put my opinion forward with undue positiveness, because it is possible that I am wrong, so I clearly indicated the point of view from which I approached the question, without saying that no other opinion was possible. There is a second opinion upon this matter, although it is supported by little authority. I have the authorities - American and English; - before me, but do not propose to refer to them at this stage. The precedents of the United States Courts and of our own Privy Council in connexion with Canadian decisions both go to show that extra judicial opinions cannot be obtained from a Court unless it is expressly endowed, as is the Canadian Court, with competence to express those opinions.

Mr Watson:

– That would be a very good power to confer upon the Court.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Consequently, I was not able to accept the suggestion of the Premier of New South Wales. I expressed the view that the course he proposed could not be followed, but proceeded to indicate another which could be followed, namely, that if a friendly action were instituted it would be possible in the course of that action to state a special case. I assured him that we should offer every facility for the statement of that special case. That was going as far as we ought to go. The case may assume more forms than one, and there are some delicate points involved in the questions of form and procedure. Upon those points I did not desire to suggest to the Premier of New South Wales the course he should follow, but left him to select the one he thought preferable in his interests. I think we may say, without qualification, that whatever he suggests in this way we shall be able to accept. I will not commit the Government absolutely, because it is possible that owing to the limited range of my vision I do not see some incomplete form of action that may be suggested, but I can scarcely conceive of any form in which he could bring his action that would preclude us from cooperating with him. I am willing to cooperate, and am leaving him the choice of means in order that he may be the better satisfied. What was intended to be conveyed, and was conveyed, is that in obtaining the determination of the High Court in thai? way we shall, meet” him freely.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That is to say, the Commonwealth Government will find the cause of action.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Yes; but I prefer that he should suggest it. It should not be supposed for one moment that we are behaving as if litigation was taking place between two private parties, trying to take advantage of one another. If the course of action he follows requires us to do some overt act we shall arrange to have that overt act performed in such a way as to give the Premier of New South Wales the remedy he desires. I do not think we could act more frankly, and, personally, although there are some reasons why one does not desire to see a judicial tribunal like the High Court introduced into disputes which have a local or political bearing, my confidence in the High Court is so great, and the cause of difference between us so important, that I am perfectly willing to submit the case to that tribunal in preference to any other open to us. In view of this statement, I need scarcely enter more fully into the question of sites and the attitude taken up by New South Wales, because it appears to be clear that, even if we were agreed upon the situation of the Capital, certain questions as to area, possibly of access and other matters, would still have to be determined. These, at all events, require to be decided legally as the Premier of New South Wales proposes, so that we shall lose nothing by securing their settlement.

Mr Crouch:

– Could this Parliament legally do anything further to meet the wishes of New South Wales?

Mr DEAKIN:

– I think not. but am prepared to do all that is reasonably possible. In my last letter to the Premier of New South Wales, I quoted the opinion of two eminent counsel - Sir Julian Salomons, K.C, and Mr. C. B. Stephen - obtained by the Government of New South Wales, which went distinctly to show that the course that has been followed by this Parliament was not only constitutionally correct, but would probably provide the best and most convenient means of bringing the question at issue to a decisive point. Supported by that authority, as well as by the legal advice on which we originally acted, we have every reason to suppose that the steps we have taken up to date are, after all, most calculated to bring us to a speedy settlement. We have never yet taken a step involving delay that was not forced upon us by extraneous circumstances. The same may be said of every preceding Federal Government. The sooner the question is removed from the political sphere and the possibility of differences between the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments removed, the better for the whole of Australia. The Parliament has decided that the Federal Capital ought to be established1 as soon as possible, but a great deal of difficulty and delay has arisen from the form in which the section of the Constitution dealing with the Capital was cast. As honorable members know, it was not passed through the various committees of the Convention, nor sifted and criticised as most sections of the Constitution were. Compared with the proceedings of the Convention, it was hurriedly drawn up at a small Conference of Premiers, to settle the immediate clashing of interests that was before them. It was framed in a way which leaves a number of ambiguities. Having, when Attorney-General, carefully considered that section, I have arrived at a distinct opinion as to its meaning as a whole, and in each of its parts, but am not self-confident enough to assume that my opinion is necessarily right. I think it is, but one must not speak too positively of so difficult and complicated a section. Setting aside the necessary postponements to allow of the examination of suggested sites, almost the whole of the delay that has arisen since has been occasioned by the manner in which that section was framed. I am not reflecting on the draftsmen, having pointed out the special circumstances under which they accomplished their work, but the language they adopted has been responsible for almost the whole of the delay that has taken place, and will be the cause of the delay involved, in stating a special case - after action has been brought - for the High Court. If the Convention had been in existence at the time it would have been able to thresh out the provision, and to state its intention in clearer and more precise language. It is not the fault of this Parliament or of any Government, that the Capital Site remains unoccupied. I am sure that its utilization has not, and will not be delayed with the consent of the Parliament. Whatever remarks may or may not have been made by the Premier of New South Wales, I do not know, and am not particularly concerned to know, because I am determined that no criticism directed against myself in this matter shall drag from me either recognition or reply in the way of personal or party controversy. I am here to carry out the will of the Parliament as expressed in its Act, or in any addition to it, or expressed by any other action, when we have secured a settlement of the legal questions. I am here not as a party to any parochial dispute, or to add to the friction that has been unnecessarily created, but to settle this vexed question for the whole Commonwealth, giving due recognition to the claims of New South Wales as soon as possible.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 1151

ADJOURNMENT

Alleged Tyranny of Trade Unions

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– In moving -

That the House -do now adjourn,

I must express some disappointment that we have not been able to make progress to-day with the Commerce Bill. We shall proceed with the consideration of that measure to-morrow ; and honorable members will perhaps consider that I am entitled to make an appeal for extra expedition then.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– A few days ago the honorable member for Lang put a question to the Prime Minister with reference to a statement that appeared in the Argus concerning reported tyranny on the part of a trade union in Sydney towards a person who was working in a Mr. Cunningham’s monumental yard. Since that question was asked I have received a letter from Mr. Jeffries, vice-president of the Monumental Masons’ Union, in which he takes exception to the statement by the honorable member for Lang, that it was an instance of union tyranny. After giving a number of particulars as to the class of work which the employe performed, he states that the (reference to the Arbitration Court was not made on the representations of the union alone. The union, it seems, is working under an agreement arrived at between employers and employes, and registered as an industrial agreement in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which provides for the maintenance of a board of reference, composed of employers and employes in equal numbers. In this case Mir. Cunningham employed a man, thirtythree years of age, who is supposed to be somewhat simple-minded, as a monumental mason’s labourer). This man has been doing pick and shovel work.

Mr Johnson:

– Is that a crime?

Mr WATSON:

– Not at all ; but far doing this heavy work the man, who is supposed to have been kept on as a matter of charity, received only 12s. 6d. per week. That such a rate of wage should be paid for the work done is to my mind a crime.

Mr Johnson:

– Would it not be a greater crime to turn the man on the streets to starve?

Mr WATSON:

– It is a crime that a man should be employed to carry - as my correspondent says he has seen him do - a fair-sized load even for a donkey, at a wage of 12s. 6d. per week. The case was brought before the board of reference, composed of an equal number of employers and employes, and unanimously referred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court by that body, after it had examined Mr. Cunningham as to why he had kept the man on at a wage below the rate agreed upon by both parties. Mr. Cunningham was a party to the agreement under which it was arranged to pay£2 2s. a week for this class of work, and other employers were naturally somewhat indignant that they should have to pay the fair rate agreed upon, while Cunningham was employing a man. at this ridiculously low wage to do heavy labourer’s work.

Mr McWilliams:

– There must have been somereason for paying the man such a low wage when he was able to do heavy work.

Mr WATSON:

– There is no doubt that the man - although not as strong, mentally, as some - is able to do laborious work, and is deserving of much higher remuneration than he received. The case was not an instance of union tyranny, as has been alleged by the honorable member for Lang, but one where employers and employes agreed that the matter should be inquired into and decided by the Court.

Mr Wilks:

– What was the Judge’s decision ?

Mr WATSON:

– The Judge decided that, although an offence had been committed, a penalty of½d. was sufficient to meet the case; but as the same learned Judge once sentenced a man to two years’ imprisonment for stealing a tin of baking powder valued at9d., I do not think that is a matter of much moment. I have no desire, however, to enter upon that aspect of the case. It might have been imagined from the paragraph quoted by the honorable member for Lang that the case was one in which action had been taken by the union, whereas joint action was taken by employers and employés.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It seems that the Labour Party cannot trust the Court now.

Mr WATSON:

– This was a special tribunal appointed to inquire into breaches of awards, and Judges after all are only human.

Mr Wilks:

– The Arbitration Court is on strike in New South Wales.

Mr WATSON:

– I hope we shall soon overcome that difficulty.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– As my name has been imported into this discussion, it is only right that I should be permitted to make a few observations. I would remind the honorable member for Bland that when drawing the attention of the Prime Minister to the case, I specifically asked him if he had seen the report appearing in that morning’s issue of the Argus. At that time an opinion could be formed only upon the report appearing in the press, and I had a right to assume - so far as one can assume that any statement made in the local press is correct - that it was true. It was with a view of preventing anything of the kind occurring under the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill that I called the Prime Minister’s attention to the case. It must be remembered that the Judge’s remarks, if reported correctly, certainly pointed to a gross act of tyranny. I feel that I should have failed in my duty if, having noted the report, I had neglected to draw the attention of the Minister in charge of the Bill to it. I take it that, as the Judge had all the facts before him, and had made some very scathing comments on them - he must have thought that it was a gross act of tyranny, or he would not have made use of the expressions he did in his judicial capacity. I think I need say nothing more in justification of my action in calling attention to the matter on the occasion referred to. For the bald fact still remains unrefuted that an employer was compelled to discharge an inoffensive and unoffending half-witted man from his service, by process of arbitration law, possibly to starve on the streets.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050817_reps_2_25/>.