2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at . 3.15 p;m., and. read prayers.
– In one of The Melbourne newspapers published this morning, it is stated that I voted last night for the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley, whereas I voted with the Noes, as I did not consider that the charge made against the Attorney-General ‘haJ been substantiated. As the journal it> question has a large circulation, I think it due to myself and my constituents to make this explanation.
– -I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, without notice, if his attention has been directed to a statement in this morning’s A?e to the effect that certain ammunition issued by the, Ordnance Department between the dates of 26th May and 2nd August, of this year, has been shown to be very defective? Was the ammunition in question supplied by the Colonial Ammunition Company ? If so, I wish to know what action the Minister of Defence proposes to take to see that in future ammunition issued by this company shall be up to the standard requirements.
– Does the honorable member refer to the ammunition used in certain rifles which have burst?
– Immediately after the occurrences in question, a Board was appointed to inquire whether they were due to defective powder or to faulty rifles, and I am sorry that the report, for which I made inquiry this morning, is not yet to hand. As soon as it is ready, I will let theHouse know.
– Will the honorable member lay the report on the table?
– The House will be given full information at the earliest moment.
– In view of the statement of the Premier of Queensland that the Parliament of that State is about to ratify a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, under which the company’s steamships will visit Brisbane, I ask the Postmaster-General if this House will be given an early opportunity to discuss the Commonwealth contract with the company for the carriage of mails, upon which the other contract will really hinge. Can he say on what date the House will be asked to ratify the contract?
– I am anxious to move for the ratification of the contract as soon as possible, and I hope to be able to do so immediately the debate on the second reading of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is finished, perhaps tomorrow afternoon, or on Tuesday next.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a couple of articles which I have received, written by Mr. John Plummer, who is paid to give, according to his own statement, “ reliable information respecting the character, resources, capabilities, &c, of the Australian Commonwealth.” In one of these articles the writer says that “ Ample provision for the establishment of village settlements is also made in South Australia.” As that statement is inaccurate, I ask the Prime Minister if he will see that in future Mr. Plummer disseminates only accurate information ?
– I have not read the articles referred to, but I shall have the attention of the writer called to the honorable member’s complaint.
– I wish to know if the Prime Minister has noticed that a fatal case of ankylostomiasis, or dirt-eating disease, is reported from Williamstown, said to have been caused by cotton imported from abroad? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to prevent its further spread ?
– I will call the attention of the Department interested to the honorable member’s statement.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper: -
Return to an order of the House dated 10th August, relating to the High Court arrangements and expenses.
– Is it the intention of the Department of Home Affairs to retain the whole of the land at Cairns now occupied as a Customs House reserve, or is it intended to retain only a portion of it?
-The Inspector-General of Works is in Queensland making inquiries in connexion with transferred properties, and will give his attention to this matter. He is to report immediately on his return to Melbourne next week.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who represents the Minister of Defence in this House, see that some provision is made for the widow of’ Sergeant Fallon, who was accidentally killed while on duty at the Randwick rifle range. I understand that if he had been only disabled, provision could have been made for him under the regulations, but that the regulations are defective inasmuch as they do not provide for the giving of an allowance to the relatives of men who have been killed.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council advise the Minister of Defence to place on the Supplementary Estimates a sum’ of money to meet this case?
– If the case is dealt with favorably, and money is required, it should be given as promptly as possible. It is impossible to place a vote on. the Estimates in Chief, and I will submit to the Minister of Defence the propriety of doing what the honorable member suggests.
– It would appear from the answers to questions asked in the Senate yesterday, published in one of this morning’s newspapers, that a daily allowance of 25s. is paid to the members of the Royal Commission on the Tariff. The statement of the Government, through its mouthpiece in the Senate, is that this allowance is not to be paid to the members of the Commission who are also members of Parliament, rf the Commission is sitting in Melbourne while Parliament is ‘in session, but if the Commission is sifting in Melbourne when Parliament is not in session, it is to be paid to such members of Parliament as do not reside in Melbourne. Further, when the Commission sits in a State other than Victoria during the session of Parliament, the allowance will be paid only to those members of Parliament who are members of the Commission who do not reside in that particular State. The answers would seem to indicate that if the Commission is sitting in Melbourne, the Chairman, who lives in Victoria, will be paid for attending its meetings, but that a> member of Parliament residing in a State other than Victoria attending a meeting in that State will not be so paid. I wish to know from the Prime Minister if that is what is meant?
– No. The allowance is payable at all places where sittings are held, other than the place at which the member resides, with the exception of Melbourne during the session of Parliament.
– I should alsolike to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to some comments on the Commission in to-day’s Age. After animadverting, in the severest terms upon the work of the Commission, the writer of the article im question says -
Week after week passes away and the Commission makes no effort to discharge the duty for which, it was mainly appointed. Its Chairman has been from the first one of the causes of the Commission’s barrenness. He had the direction of itsefforts, and instead of taking such steps as would have made possible a progress report upon a few of the most urgent cases, he has dissipated his. inquiries over a wide range of comparatively useless investigation. He has made the mistake fromthe first of endeavouring to magnify his officerather than of making it useful. He has talked grandiloquently of a “ monumental report,” when common sense pointed to a limited and specialized’ effort. It is a matter of common gossip in the lobbies of the House that he has entirely failed! to obtain the confidence of his fellow Commissioners.
That is news to most of us -
Indeed, the disastrous failure of the Commission is very largely owing to Sir John Quick, the Chairman.
Does the Prime Minister propose to take any steps to deal with this serious reflection on a Royal Commission appointed at the instance of this House? Has he any view which he would care to express in regard to the leader from which I have quoted ?
– If the Government were called upon to answer all the comments which the press chooses to make on the actions of Parliament,’ we should do no other work.
– Parliament” should defend its Commissions.
– Yes, as the Ministry is ready, when necessary, to take action todefend itself. Not a day passes but criticism of the most hostile character appears in regard to the actions, not only of Ministers, but of Departments, and of public servants; but it is recognised that one of the conditions of free speech in a community like this is that the most opposite and antagonistic opinions shall be permitted to find expression. As one acquainted with the views of the Chairmanof the Commission, I know that nothing is further from his wish than that delay should occur. He has been from the first most anxious to press forward the inquiry at all times, and having made great sacrifices in accepting the office of Chairman, is prepared to make even greater sacrifices to expedite the work of the Commission. What is implied by the ‘article which has been read is that the newspaper in which it is published is, in accordance with its policy, pressing in the strongest fashion for the early consideration of certain specific industrial complaints. Because the Chairman of the Commission has not adopted the line of action which the writer considers best, he censures him, as public” men are continually being censured, without what appears to me an adequate allowance for difference of views or consideration of all the facts surrounding his work. The task of the Commission is one of the most complex and intricate which could well be cast upon any body of men. The Commission having thought fit to approach the work in a judicial manner, the newspaper contends that another course should have been adopted. No doubt there are a number of persons outside injuriously affected by the existing Tariff who hold opinions similar to those expressed in the press, and who give utter - ance in the strongest language to the view that their cases - that is, the cases of special hardship - should be first considered.
– And that the money derived from the taxpayers should be put into their pockets.
– It is not a question of putting money into the pockets of a few manufacturers, but of affording employment to hundreds: of workmen who have lost their work in consequence of the operation of the Tariff.
– Is that intended to be a justification of the language used by the Age?
– It is intended to be a justification of its presentation of the views of those who are being specially affected by the operation of the Tariff.
– Does it justify the Age in publishing a scandalous libel on the Commission ?
– We may not agree with the strictures passed by the press on the Commission, or upon this House, and we are not expected to indorse such comments. Journalists, in common with ordinary members of the public, are at perfect liberty to express their own opinions without looking to us for any indorsement. Unfortunately, the press desires to govern this House and every Parliament of every
State - that is the constant effort of all newspapers.
– If this sort of thing is to go on, it will be difficult to induce honorable members to serve on any Commission.
– It may also be found difficult to induce men to offer their services to the country as members of Parliament.
– Order! I would point out that under the Standing Orders no question containing argument can be put, and that Ministers, in replying to questions, are not permitted to indulge in argument. The question was put in a proper form, and the Prime Minister was replying in perfect accordance with the requirements of the Standing Orders ; but by interjection he has been drawn into a discussion of the question, and I would remind him that he would not be in order in continuing to argue it.
– I confess that I was drawn aside from a direct reply to the question. I desire to say that such knowledge as I have of the proceedings of the Commission, and of the opinions and intentions of the chairman, do not justify the comment upon him to which reference has been made. At the same time, as every honorable member holds his own opinion on this subject, so the great journals of the State are entitled to expresstheirs. I wish, however, that a purely intellectual argument could be conducted without the introduction of feeling such as has been manifested both inside and outside of the House.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
Whether he is yet in possession of the information necessary to furnish a reply to the following portion of a question asked upon notice on Thursday, 10th inst., and repeated on Thursday, 17th inst. : -
What is the amount of revenue received from the New South Wales Department from each of the following sources : -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
All the information available will be found on page 2 of the Budget papers circulated on Tuesday last, and now in the hands of honorable members.
Debate resumed from 10th August (vide page 818), on motion by Mr. Spence, for Mr. Thomas -
That a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to make full inquiry as to the advisability of the Federal Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers for the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Committee, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, to consist of Mr. Glynn, Mr. Mahon, Mr. McDonald, Mr. McWilliams, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Sydney Smith, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Webster, and the mover, and to have power to send for persons, papers, and records. Four to be the quorum.
That the foregoing resolution be transmitted by message to the Senate and their concurrence requested in the appointment of the Committee, and asking them to appoint members to serve thereon.
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ of both Houses of Parliament,” lines 1 and 2; “the advisability of the Federal Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers for,” lines 3 and 4; and “ so far as the House of Representatives is concerned,” lines7 and 8; and paragraph 2 be left out.
And upon which Mr. Robinson had moved by way of a further amendment -
That the words “ Mr. Robinson “ be left out.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh was kind enough to move the adjournment of the debate a fortnight ago, in order to enable me to speak. I desire to thank the honorable member for Darling for having very kindly taken charge of this motion in my unavoidable absence from the House. I have read the discussion which has taken place, and I feel sure that it is not necessary for me to add anything to what has been stated by the mover, who has covered all the ground. I was pleased to notice that very little objection was urged to an inquiry into the subject. The Prime Minister has moved some amendments which I readily accept. I desirethat this Committee shall obtain all possible information, with the idea of the Commonwealth Government ultimately becoming the owners of the steamers which carry the mails between Australia and England, because I feel sure that only when that change has been brought about shall we overcome the difficulties which beset us at present. I do not contemplate that the operations of such a line of steamers would be confined to the carrying of mails, but that it would also convey passengers and cargo. I am very strongly in favour of the Commonwealth acquiring a fleet of steamers which will be capable of carrying the mails between here and Great Britain, and also ofentering into ordinary business, such as is conducted by the present mail companies. I am contented that the whole question should be inquired into by a Committee, even though my ultimate objective is not made the main subject of inquiry, because I believe that all the arguments that could be brought to bear against my proposal would not be sufficient to outweigh the evidence in favour of Commonwealth ownership of the mail steamers. I understand that some objection is raised, and possibly with some degree of fairness, to thepersonnel of the Committee. One of the reasons why the Committee as it now stands is not fairly representative of both sides of the House is that when my motion was first framed the Reid Government were still in office. Since then, of course, the disposition of parties has somewhat changed. The honorable member for Parramatta pointed out that too many members of the Labour Party had been nominated on the Committee.
– Yes, in view of the fact that the objective was socialistic.
– I originally nominated eleven members, but the Prime Minister suggested that the number should be reduced, and I agreed to the elimination of the names of the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Bourke. The former honorable member consented to be nominated merely as a personal favour to myself, because he was busy in connexion with the Old-age Pensions Commission and in other ways, and afterwards the name of the honorable member for Bourke was withdrawn. Upon the withdrawal of these names five honorable members of the Labour Party and four other honorable members were left among those nominated. The honorable and learned member for Angas asked me to withdraw his name, as he was very busy, and the honorable and learned member for Wannon also desired that his name should be withdrawn. As that would leave upon the Committee too many members of the Labour Party. I now move -
That the words, “ Mr. Glynn,” and “ Mr. Webster,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ Mr. Chanter “ and “Mr. Gibb”; and that the words, “Mr. Starrer “ be inserted.
The Committee will then be constituted of three members of the Opposition, four members of the Labour Party, and two members of the direct Ministerial Party.
– That would not be fair.
– In view of the fact that the Labour Party and the Ministerialists represent two-thirds of the members of the House, I do not see that any objection can be taken to the selection, except possibly by members of the direct Ministerial Party.
– They could not raise an objection.
– The list now embraces the names of five members of the Labour Party, including that of the honorable member for Riverina.
– Although I was absent at the time that the honorable member for Barrier framed his motion, and was not consulted by him, I was quite prepared to serve upon a Committee upon, which all parties of the House were fairly represented. I shall not, however, be willing to act upon a Committee such as that now proposed.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I think that the proposed Committee will be able to do excellent work, especially under the conditions proposed by the Prime Minister. In the first place, it was proposed that the Committee should have a socialistic objective, but the modification suggested by the Prime Minister places it in quite a different category. If the. fullest possible information be obtained! with regard to the conditions under which mails, passengers, and freight are carried between Australia and the , old country, the very greatest benefit will be conferred upon our people.
– The honorable member for Barrier has told us that he will, as far as he can, direct the energies of the Committee to the achievement of his socialistic object.
– I take it that the honorable member feels that the amendment of the Prime Minister would preclude him from making the direct inquiries he first contemplated. Whilst certain honorable members might reasonably have declined to act on a Committee with an object such as that first proposed, it seems to me that no one need shirk the responsibility of assisting to conduct an inquiry such as that now contemplated. I am satisfied that if the matter is thoroughly inves tigated the very greatest benefit will result to the mercantile community, because excessive commissions have now to be paid by shippers who send cargo from Australia to the other end! of the world. The conditions that prevail in’ respect of the carriage of our mails are familiar to honorable members, and will require very careful investigation. I am sanguine that evidence elicited from witnesses who would appear before the Committee would prove of very great assistance to honorable members, and I venture to predict that the next mail contract which is entered into -with any’ of our large shipping companies would contain very much more favorable conditions to the Commonwealth than does the existing contract, owing to the information which would be derived from men who are thoroughly conversant with the conditions that obtain in the shipping circles of Austrafia.
– A Royal Commission would perform the work much better.
– I believe that the honorable and learned member is correct in affirming that a Royal Commission could investigate this matter much more thoroughly than could a Select Committee; but I have not risen for the purpose of proposing any amendment to the motion. At the same time, I think that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra has made a very valuable suggestion. I am of opinion that the Committee proposed would accomplish much more good than is at present conceived by this House, and that its report would prove of a most valuable character. I support the amendments of the Prime Minister.
– I think that there is too great a tendency in this House to agree to the appointment of Select Committees, which, in time, become converted into Royal Commissions. It seems to me that if a return were prepared showing, the cost already incurred by the Commonwealth in Royal Commissions, the public would be staggered by the bills which have been paid by the Treasurer.
– A Select Committee would be no cheaper than a Royal Commission.
– It would not, compared with a Commission, consisting of members of Parliament.
– The tendency to appoint Select Committees and Royal Commissions without rhyme or reason simply because some honorable member suggests a “ catchy “ question, is absolutely unjustified. To-day the honorable member for Barrier merely endorsed a bald resolution - he did not attempt to support it by any evidence showing that an inquiry into this matter is warranted. No man, I claim, can determine the limits to which an inquiry by this fossicking expedition would extend. If it is to be of any use at all, its members would have to visit, not only the centres of the -leading States of Australia, but probably the United Kingdom.
– Does not the honorable member think that the subject is worthy of inquiry, seeing that we are paying so much for the carriage of our mails?
– The data submitted is not sufficient to warrant the House in countenancing the motion for one moment. If it can be shown that excessive charges are being made by .the mail companies, or that there is inefficient transport of the mails, there might be some justification for the proposal. But it is preposterous to institute a fossicking expedition simply upon a bald resolution, and no one should more keenly oppose the creation of such a body than the Prime Minister himself. If he wishes to husband the financial resources of the Commonwealth, now is his opportunity to do so. If he fails in his duty in that direction, what is to prevent any honorable member from tabling a seductive resolution in favour of the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into almost any matter coming within the purview of Federal legislation? Under such circumstances, it is easy to conceive of the whole House being busily employed in travelling round the country. The history of this Parliament has been characterized by the appointment of too many Select Committees and Royal Commissions. Only to-day we find one of the powerful Melbourne newspapers voicing its dissatisfaction with the work of the Tariff Commission. In the face of such an expression of opinion, are we to appoint another Committee of the character proposed ? Every honorable member must have heard the absolutely indecent wrangle, which took place in the Chamber this afternoon regarding the personnel of the proposed Committee. In the blandest manner possible, we heard the honorable member for Barrier suggest the names of certain honorable members to serve on that body, four of whom are direct members of the Labour Party and two others in the closest sympathy with them - I refer to the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Bass.
– Two honorable members who will vote Socialism every time.
– I will not go so far as to say that ; but certainly those two honorable members have shown themselves in sympathy with the caucus movement, and caucus legislation, lt lias been proposed that six honorable members from the other side of the Chamber, -and two honorable members from the Opposition shall serve upon the Committee. What respect could the Commonwealth pay to the recommendations of a body of that character. In view of the fact that the Ministerial party number only nineteen all told, whereas the Opposition, excluding Mr. Speaker, totals twenty-eight members, it would be a lop-sided Committee. The balance of the House is represented by members of the Labour Party. Tested from the stand-point of those figures, not even proportional representation is proposed in regard to the personnel of the Committee. I say that before appointing any further Select Committees, we should tabulate the cost of Royal Commissions and Select Committees up-to-date, and let the public judge for themselves how little return they have received from the expenditure incurred in this direction. Moreover, the House has yet to decide that it is socialistically inclined. I could understand the Prime Minister declaring that it was the policv of the Government to introduce a system of State ownership of steamers; but for a private member to take that stand, and for this Chamber to indorse it, would be an admission that we are prepared to receive from a Committee a report of a socialstic character. Until more reliable data is forthcoming, I shall oppose the appointment of this or any other Select Committee.
Mr. McCaY (Corinella^.- When this motion was submitted, I must confess that I felt some surprise at finding that the Government concurred in the appointment of the Select Committee even with the modifications proposed by the Prime Minister. It is perfectly obvious from the honorable and learned gentleman’s amendments, tha; the Government are not at present prepared to consider as within the pale of practical politics the suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier that a fleet of steamers should be purchased and controlled by the Commonwealth. But instead of taking up the bold position of declaring that they would not sanction the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into that matter, the Government emasculated the resolution and were content to saddle the country with an unknown expense, notwithstanding that there was no hope of reward accruing to the community from such an investigation. I understand that the honorable member for Barrier has accepted the amendments of the Prime Minister. This i’s a motion which came in like a lion, and is going out like a lamb of very poor quality - a lamb which certainly would not be graded under the Commerce Bill as fit for export. If there was any prospect of the inquiry proving of some benefit to the community, I should not stand in the way of the appointment of the Committee. But what is to be gained from such an investigation? It is proposed to appoint a Select Committee to make full inquiry as to the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo, between Australia and the United Kingdom. Can such a body acquire from any source, information which cannot, and should not, be ‘acquired by the Government in the course of its duty? What source of information will be open to the Committee which is not accessible to the Postmaster-General and his Department ?
– What about the Old-age Pensions Committee and the Government of which the honorable and learned member was a Minister?
– That interjection is entirely irrelevant. I again ask what information can be obtained by this Committee which cannot be acquired by the Government ?
– Its members will find that out.
– Then the Committee is to be appointed to ascertain if it can discover something which the Government cannot find out?
– That is the object of the appointment of all Committees.
– I beg the honorable and learned member’s pardon. Committees pre usually appointed only when it is reasonably clear that they can gain information which is not so readily available to the Departments of the Commonwealth. I say without hesitation that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department can secure more, reliable information, and in a less space of time, than can possibly be acquired by the proposed Committee. The object of the motion is perfectly clear. The honorable member for Barrier and his friends in the Labour corner, would constitute a majority of the Committee, inasmuch as there would be five members of their party upon it, out of a total of nine members. In other words, there would be a majority of gentlemen serving upon it who have the reputation - deservedly or otherwise - of being Socialists, and who have no hesitation in affirming that Socialism is the proper form of government to adopt. They exhibit r.o lack of boldness in proposing the first hig experiment- in the direction of nationalization - an experiment in which it would be quite impossible for the State to succeed. This proposal would mean more by a great deal than the nationalization of a monopoly. It would mean the nationalization of a service which could not be made a mono- , poly, except by subjecting the commercial community to such enormous inconvenience that even our socialistic friends would shrink (from tackling the job. That is the nature of the proposal in its original form, but though the Prime Minister has taken rill the heart out of it, these bold Socialist warriors are content to accept everything that has been proposed by way of amendment. I can understand a man holding a view, and standing up for it; but I must confess that I am surprised at the attitude of those who, having made a suggestion of this kind, and having resolved to institute a fishing inquiry, which cannot result in any good, have abandoned the whole principle concerning which they desired to nave an investigation. What does the honorable member for Barrier expect such a Committee to accomplish? I notice that the Postmaster-General in the Watson Administration is to be a member of it. What does he expect to find out as a member of the Committee that he could not ascertain as Postmaster-General ?
– As members of a Select Committee, we can examine witnesses upon oath.
– We have seen witnesses giving evidence upon oath before Select Committees and before the Tariff Commission. I am not going to say that they are prepared to swear lies ; but I do say that sworn evidence is not always the best testimony which can be obtained. I do not wish the Commonwealth to incur further expense by the appointment of a body cf this character without some justification being shown for it. Not a word has been said to justify any such proposal. There has not been a suggestion that wrongs exist which can be righted by means of the information which would be furnished to this House and the community by a Select Committee, and, until that has been done, no case can be made out for its appointment. This is the first Select Committee whose appointment has been asked for without any justification being shown for its creation. The question of the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom is undoubtedly a difficult one, but it is not one which can be settled by the sort of information which this Committee could elicit from the witnesses it is likely to examine. For example, would it call the representatives of shipping companies and force them to disclose all the secrets of their business - a power which I doubt very much whether it could exercise? If that is intended, I venture to think that its members are more sanguine than they are justified in being. No arrangements( are made between the Commonwealth and shipping companies other than by open bargaining in the ordinary course of business. If it be suggested that the Commonwealth is at present paying money for the carriage of its mails which it ought not to pay, no one knows better than the honorable member for Coolgardie that, as far as the existing arrangements are concerned, it could not have hoped to get its work done at a less cost.
– It could be done if there were no shipping rings.
– -That is the point. The honorable member ought to know that a contract for the carriage of mails between Australia and the United Kingdom is not to be undertaken by any one unless he can satisfy the Government that he is a man of substance. Speculative brokers who make> offers to the Commonwealth to carry out large contracts, without giving any substantial guarantee of their ability to perform them, are not to .be seriously regarded. When the honorable member for Coolgardie interjects that if there were not a shipping ring in existence this, service might be carried out at a more reasonable cost, he betrays what, after all, may be the intention - although, perhaps, the unconscious intention - of the majority of the proposed Select Committee - that is, to find that no satisfactory arrangement can be made for this service in the absence of a nationalized system of steamers. In other words, those who are to be appointed to this Select Committee wish to deal with the whole question in a way that the amendment was designed to prevent.
– I do not think the amendment will prevent the Select Committee from considering the whole question.
– Even if the motion be passed as amended, the Select Committee, if it finds that the evidence justifies it, may report that the Commonwealth alone can properly carry out this system. The Prime Minister could not possibly have realized that fact when he moved the amendment, otherwise he would have opposed the motion. I am not going to be a party to inquiries that suggest that the Commonwealth is going to attempt to become a public owner in the very direction in which public ownership would be accompanied by difficulties - difficulties far greater than those which must naturally surround the ordinary assumption of such powers. A monopoly cannot be created in this direction. I should ‘have thought that the socialistic party would begin with something less ambitious than a proposition of this kind. If, on the one hand, the motion, as amended, will mean nothing more than an inquiry into facts, with which every one is fairly well acquainted, and which certainly could be ascertained with verv little difficulty by the Postmaster-General’s Department, I cannot support it ; and if, on the other hand, it will leave the Committee, with its majority of avowed Socialists, open to discuss the whole question as originally proposed, I must still vote against it. I should be very glad to hear some reason, good, bad, or indifferent, for the creation of this Select Committee, and as to why the Government should be ready to indulge so cheerfully in further expenditure in this direction. Public funds have apparently no useful purpose to serve. I am ready to be convinced of the justice of any case, but those who question the wisdom of appointing this Committee are entitled to expect its advocates to give some reason for its creation. We should .not vote for it merely because it has been submitted by a member of a party which controls the movements of the House, and has been agreed to by its obedient supporters in an altered form. Are we to support the motion simply because honorable members in the Ministerial corner say, “ We have the numbers, and are going to have this inquiry in some form or other.” That seems to be the position, and until some good reasons are adduced for the appointment of the Committee, we shall do wrong in agreeing to the motion.
– The reason for the opposition to this motion is obvious. The mistake that has been made lies in the fact that the motion was submitted from the Ministerial corner. I, for one, however, wish to know why the Commonwealth should have to pay so much for the carriage of its over-sea mails?
– Cannot the honorable member trust the Government to inform him?
– The PostmasterGeneral in the late Government informed representatives of the press a little time ago that an attempt was being made by the Orient Company to rob Australia–
– To extract a larger sum of money from the Commonwealth in respect of the mail service than was justifiable.
– Then the word “rob” was not used.
– That was the effect of the words which the late PostmasterGeneral used when dealing with the question. The honorable member for Parramatta is not always very careful in the choice of his words, but I am quite prepared to accept all responsibility for any statement I may make. It is well known that until quite recently we paid £70,000 per annum for the carriage of our mails between Australia and the United Kingdom, and that the Orient Company endeavoured to extract £150,000 a year from the Government in respect of this service. Those who are always ready to raise the socialistic bogey asserted that the demand for an increased subsidy was due to the trend of socialistic legislation -thatit was practically the result of the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act that black labour shall not be employed on subsidized mail steamers. Much to their chagrin, however, they found that the company would not support them in that contention. The company itself admitted that the demand for an increased subsidy was not due to the white labour provisions of the Act.
– The honorable member is wrong in his figures. We formerly paid, not £70,000, but £85,000 per annum for this service.
– The reason given by the company for demanding a subsidy of £150,000 was not that they would in future be required to employ only white labour, but that they were losing money on the Australian service. They wished the Postal Department practically to make up a guarantee equal to 5 per cent. on the capitalizedvalue of their Australian service.
– I rise to a point of order. It is a well-known rule, Mr. Speaker, that we may not anticipate a matter that is already set down for discussion on the notice-paper. The honorable member is now dealing with the amount of the subsidy required for the carriage of mails under the contract recently entered into by the Postmaster-General, and which contract, according to the statement made this afternoon by the Minister, will be submitted to the House in the course of a day or two. I submit that the honorable member may not traverse that phase of the question at length, as he appears to be doing.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is correct in saying that no discussion which anticipates the debate on notice of motion No. 2 of Government business can now take place. The honorable member for Grey can discuss the question of the mail contracts only in so far as it relates to the motion for the appointment of a Select Committee.
– I was not aware that I had exceeded my right inthis respect, and I venture to submit that the whole question of the carriage of mails may be reviewed under cover of this motion. I do not intend, however, to assist the opponents of the proposal in their desire to delay the appointment of the Select Committee. The Orient Company now charge something like £800 for the carriage of a ton of mail matter to England, although they will carry a ton of merchandise at from £1 to £3. As a matter of fact, the charge which they make for the carriage of frozen produce is only about £4 per ton–
– What about the time allowed for the conveyance of the mails?
– The honorable member will find that for some years very little saving of time has taken place. We have now entered into a contract with the Orient Company for the carriage of our mails from Australia to the United Kingdom at a cost of £120,000 per annum. It is nothing to honorable members of the Opposition that we should throw away a large portion of that sum of money, and in their opinion it is monstrous that an honorable member sitting in the Ministerial corner should suggest an inquiry into the whole of the circumstances surrounding the carriage of our oversea mails. When such a proposal is made they urge that it is a socialistic one. Everything depends upon the brand of Socialism put forward. I am satisfied that if the question were put before the public they would indorse my contention, that it is only reasonable for us to inquire whether or not we ought to pay £120,000 a year for this service.
– Let us put the question before the public.
– That is what we desire to do, but, in the first place, there should be a thorough investigation into the facts.
– Then the honorable member cannot trust the Ministry.
– I wish that the impetuous members of the Opposition would allow me to speak. The passing of this motion will commit the House to nothing.
– Except expense.
– What expense will it involve?
– Is it not fair that some inquiry should be made? In the course of the next few years we may have to renew the present contract with the Orient Company, and we have no guarantee that they will not then demand £150.000 or £200,000 a year for the service. Of all the propositions calculated to assist the producers of Australia this is one of the most important that has been submitted to the House.
– The secret butter rebates would not have been made had there been an inquiry.
– Quite so. That in itself is a justification for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Opposition has taken exception to the motion simply because it has been submitted by the honorable member for Barrier.
– Who has declared that he will prosecute the inquiry for socialistic purposes.
– Why should the Opposition fear a fair investigation?
– Because it is a chi- mercialidea.
Mr.POYNTON.- Is the honorable member’s brand of individualism so bad that he is afraid of an investigation in this case? The brand of Socialism that I am proud to support is such that I invite its closest investigation.
– Will the honorable member agree to there being equal representation on the Select Committee?
– My only desire is. that there shall be an honest inquiry.
– Will the Labour Party agree to a Committee consisting only of honorable members of the Opposition being appointed to inquire into Socialism?
– Judging from some of the speeches delivered by members of the Opposition, they are not in a fit state to be entrusted with so important a task. They have yet to learn the alphabet of Socialism. That, however, is not the question before the House. We desire an honest investigation in regard to the carriage of our mails.
– Let us have an impartial inquiry.
– If we had equal representation no doubt the Committee would be equally divided in regard to its findings.
– When the motion was before us on a former occasion a suggestion was made as to the personnel of the Committee, but it seems to have been ignored.
– I do not think that it has been ignored. Honorable members know that the position of parties has entirely changed. No one is more anxious than is the honorable member for Barrier to have an honest inquiry.
– There are only two parties on this question.
– Honorable members of the Opposition profess to be against any kind of Socialism, but when a socialistic proposal like a mail contract is brought forward, they call it State control. I have very great pleasure in supporting the motion, though I do not bind myself to vote for the proposed personnel of the Committee. I wish for are investigation into the arrangements for the carriage of our mails, because I think that it will show us how we may save, not the few paltry pounds that the inquiry will cost, but thousands of pounds, both in the present and in the future.
– Before the honorable member for Barrier adopted the amendment of the Prime Minister, there was something to be said for his motion as a straight-out socialistic proposal by one whom we all know to be one of the strongest Socialists in the House, if not in Australia. But, in deference to the Prime Minister, who, with his colleagues, are the servile members of the socialistic party which controls from the corner benches the destinies of Australia, he has agreed to throw on one side his socialistic principles. I have heard no reason from him for the appointment of the proposed Select Committee, though I have listened very carefully to what he had to say.
– The honorable member far Parramatta said that the honorable member for Darling had given very good reasons.
– I am speaking for myself, and I did not hear the honorable member give any solid reason for the appointment of the proposed Select Committee. The Committee, if appointed, is to inquire into the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom. As has been suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney, we might fairly trust the Government to give us all the information available in regard to the carriage of mails. There is no possibility of a Committee obtaining information in regard to the question from any source which, is not available to the Government. So far as passengers are concerned, they may verv well be left to look after themselves. Those who travel on the mail boats between Australia and the old country are not the class of persons about whom honorable members like the socialistic member for Barrier concern themselves. What we are all concerned about, however, is the carriage of cargo. Seeing how much Australia is dependent upon. her. export trade, the carriage of cargo from Australia to England and other countries is a matter of very great concern to her producers. But I ask the honorable member for Barrier how the proposed Select Committee can obtain any information, on this subject which could not be obtained from Sussex-street Svdney, or from Flinders-street, Melbourne. Has he any idea as to the present rates of freight prevailing? I undertake to saythat neither he nor six of the other proposed members of the committee, if they were questioned on the subject, would be able to inform the House what rates are paid now for the carriage of perishable produce from Australia to London. The only two members whom it is proposed to appoint to the committee who have acknowledge in connexion with the subject are the honorable members for Flinders and Macquarie. We can get from the Government all information about the carriage of mails, the passenger traffic does not concern us, and for an investigation into the carriage of cargo, the honorable member for Barrier should at least have procured the services of men who would properly represent the big producing interests of Australia. I object to the appointment of the Committee, because I think that the investigation proposed is not what is needed, and that the proposed personnel is unsuitable.
– I have wondered during the debate this afternoon whether the Opposition have held a caucus on this subject since it was last discussed, because the acting leader of the Opposition on that occasion pronounced his benediction upon the motion as amended bv the Prime Minister.
– He was verv foolish, then.
– I ‘hope that the honorable member will not denounce his leader.
– This is quite an open question.
– It ought to be an open question.
– The proposed personnel of4 the Committee makes it, not an open, but a settled question.
– Does the honorable member think that the Committee will be impartial ? ‘ f
– I do not know what names have been proposed, though I understand that the original personnel has been altered.
– Six of the names proposed are those of members sitting on the corner benches.
– That is not so.
– From many points of view, such an arrangement would be very sensible, though I do not advocate it in this case. Of course, we all wish to have an absolutely fair representation on the Committee, and at the instigation of the mover of the motion, I now move -
That the words “Mr. Mcwilliams,.” line 9, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Mr. Henry Willis.”
The proposal of the honorable member for Barrier, as amended by the Prime Minister, has the entire approval of the acting leader of the Opposition, and the suggested inquiry is one which, on the face of it, should be supported, because, if there is one thing about which the public and Parliament should have full and complete information, it is the conditions under which mails, passengers, and cargo, are conveyed from Australia to the old world. We must necessarily have such information before we can indorse any new contracts with steam-ship companies. We wish to knowhow the increasing requirements of Australia are being met, and whether there is any truth in the statement which is continually being made by newspaper writers and public men, that Australia is suffering loss by her White Ocean policy. We wish also to know what is the effect on the cost of the mail service of requiring compliance with certain provisions in regard to carriage of perishable produce. We desire to know whether the best machinery available is being used, and why the subsidy has been increased.
– I submit that the honorable member may not discuss this question of mail subsidy.
– The honorable member for Boothby is not discussing the merits or demerits of the contract for the conveyance of mails entered into by the Commonwealth’ with the Orient Steam Navigation Company; he is merely expressing his desire to know why the subsidy is being increased. He suggests that the reason could be ascertained by the inquiries of the proposed Committee, and he will be in order in following that line of argument. He may not, however, discuss the merit’s of the mail contract.
– I have no desire to do that. It was by the investigation of a Royal Commission that the public of Australia were informed of the existence of secret rebates in connexion with the carriage of butter.
– It was because the existence of secret rebates was known that the Butter Commission was appointed.
– The facts may have been known to the honorable member, who is in the inner commercial ring, but they were not public property.
– They were published in the press.
– The people at large were made aware of them by the inquiries of the Commission. In the same way, the Old-Age Pensions Commission has brought to light valuable facts which would probably not have been generally known but for its inquiry. For instance, I understand that in New South Wales one of the banks receives £10,000 per annum for performing work which is carried out in Victoria at a cost of £150. Further, it is stated that the cost of management of the old-age pensions scheme in New South Wales amounts to £20,000 per annum, as compared with £1,800 in Victoria.
– What has that to do with the shipping business?
– The question is whether it is desirable to conduct an inquiry into our shipping business.
– The facts mentioned by the honorable member are given in Coghlan.
– Some honorable members are omniscient - the honorable member, for instance.
– I am acquainted with the contents of a book which is published throughout Australia.
– Honorable members have not time to wade through the large number of publications which are distributed throughout Australia, and it is desirable that the salient facts in regard to matters of high public importance should be prominently brought before them by means of inquiry. At no time in our history have Commissions done more useful work than recently. Take, for instance, the Lands Commission in New South Wales ; that has performed most valuable service. I want to know something more in regard to the carriage of our products from Australia to the Home markets, and the conditions of our mail contracts, and I am not prepared, in the light of the information at present available to us, to trust even the present Government to enter into arrangements with the mail companies.
– That means that the honorable member is not prepared to trust his own party.
– I do not think that any section of the House should trust the Government without the fullest information being furnished with regard to their proposals. This is a matter in which the producers of Australia are most vitally inter- ested. I have been told by a member of a State Government - not a member of the Labour Party - that the practice has arisen of buying up cargo, space in some of the ocean steamers, and retailing it to producers at higher rates; in fact, cornering cargo space. If the proposed Committee can show that it is possible to insert a clause in future contracts, which will overcome that difficulty, some good will have been accomplished.
– There is already a clause in existing contracts which is intended to obviate any possibility of undue monopoly of space.
– The proposal for the appointment of the Committee appears to me to be such a reasonable one that I cannot understand the opposition to it, except, of course, such as may come from the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable member for North Sydney, who were members of the Government which entered into the contract with the Orient Company. Honorable members who oppose the proposal because its original objective was socialistic in character are taking up a most illogical position. The motion does not now bear a socialistic complexion.
– It does, so far as the names suggested are concerned.
– I frankly confess that I do not know what “ Socialism “ means. I have given up all attempts to distinguish between what is socialistic and what is not. The word “ socialistic ‘ ‘ has become positively meaningless. It has been used to describe proposals of all kinds. I thoroughly agree with the motion, because I. am sure ihat it is intended to secure an absolutely fair inquiry by an impartial tribunal.
– The honorable member for Boothby insinuated that I was opposed to this proposal because I happened to be a member of the late Ministry which completed the contract with the Orient Company. I can assure the honorable member that if a committee were proposed to inquire into the matter, I should not be found opposing it - in fact, I should urge no objection to an inquiry into any action of the late Government. This, however, is an entirely different’ question. The motion has changed its aspect since it was first introduced. In the first instance, the idea was not that which the honorable member for Boothby is supporting, but something entirely different. The proposal was -
That a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to make full inquiry as to the advisability of the Federal Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers for the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Is there not a straight and clear intent in that motion? Is it not a question as to whether the Commonwealth, in addition to other experiments already made or proposed, should carry its many powers and influences, and its rights of ownership, beyond its own borders, over the seas of the world ?
– That is the idea.
– Honorable members must, judge from their respective stand-points whether. such an inquiry is necessary. Now an entirely new proposal is made. What I have mentioned is not now the professed intent.
– But it is their intent still, all the same.
– It is not said to be the intent now, but there are two ways of arriving at the one end. There is nothing to prevent a committee appointed upon the amended >terms proposed by the Prime Minister from recommending that a fleet of steamers shall be acquired and run by the Commonwealth.
– If there were, I would not sit on the Committee.
– There is the frank admission of the honorable member that he would not sit on the Committee unless it could make such a recommendation.
– The Committee could not make such a recommendation unless the evidence justified it.
– But we know that some members of the Committee would enter upon the inquiry with preconceived ideas on the subject.
– That does not apply to the members of the Labour Party
– The members of the Labour Party come from various directions. They are supported by certain leagues.
– They are supported by the constituencies, and not bv the leagues.
– They have to sign the pledge of certain associations, which have a distinct policy, and I wonder that honorable members should try to evade the issue. The policy of the associations to which I refer is State ownership of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I am not wrong. I do not know what the personal views of the honorable member may be, but that is the policy of the party. That was the policy adopted by the Inter-State conference of the Labour Party.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong.
– Order. I must remind honorable members that interjections of such a character as will disturb the course of an honorable’ member’s speech are absolutely disorderly. It seems impossible for the honorable member to make any progress on account of the repeated interjections to which he is being subjected. Honorable members will have an opportunity to address the House later on, and I would ask them for the present to be content to listen to the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I recognise that it is desirable to maintain order, but I do- not object to reasonable and proper interjections, which I am quite ready to answer. It astonishes me that the members of the Labour Party should claim that their party - I do not say every individual member of it - is not in favour of the ownership by the State of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– I say that the honorable member is making a deliberate misstatement.
– Order. No honorable member must say that another honorable member is making a de-liberate misstatement, and I must ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I regret having to withdraw the remark, because the statement of the honorable member is absolutely incorrect, and he ought to know that it is - incorrect.
– I certainly do not. I Enow that the Labour Party, or a section of its members, are endeavouring to run away from it ; but I say that thev nailed that principle to the mast. I do know that, and the public of Australia know it.
– The honorable member does not know it.
– I do know it, and the public of Australia know it. Some members of the Labour Party are endeavouring to pull down the flag which they nailed so dramatically to the mast. But they only attempt to pull it down in this House. Let them go to their Conferences, and state what they are stating here. What did the leader of that party say at the Labour Conference in New South Wales? Did he not state, not only that he was a Socialist, but that he did not know how any man could belong to the labour organizations unless he were a Socialist? ‘
– And he said that that must be a sine qua non.
– Did he not say that, in his opinion, the objective of the Labour Party was the full socialistic programme which has been defined by honorable members themselves?
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Kennedy - whom I respect - does not deny it.
– Why should I ?
– But it is being denied by other honorable members, and I have been told that I am wilfully stating what is false.
– It is not true of South Australia
– When I made that statement, I said that I did not speak of individual members of the party.
– It is not true of any member of the Labour Party in South Australia.
– In view of the statement of the leader of the Labour Party at the Conference to which I have referred, I claim that the socialistic programme is, generally speaking, the policy of that party. Yet* I was told, when I made that declaration, that I was making a deliberate misstatement.
– Only as regards the Conference.
– I did not repeat my statement in regard to the Conference; but I was under the impression that that was the vote of the Conference.
– The honorable member said that it was.
– But I did not repeat it. I said that the socialistic programme was the policy of the Labour Party generally, if it was not the policy of every member of it. At any rate, it is the policy announced by the leader of that Party in this House. The author of this motion has declared that he would not accept it in its amended form, unless he had an opportunity of carrying out what the resolution, in its original form, proposed. How can he achieve his object? Obviously through the personnel of the Committee. What is the proposed’ constitution of that body ? Its constitution is such as to make the result of its inquiry practically a foregone conclusion. I agree with other honorable members who have stated that we are incurring a great deal too much expense in connexion with the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, and that, in many cases, these bodies are finding out - as was mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby - what was thoroughly well-known and what had been published to the world prior to their creation. The honorable member for Boothby alluded to the discovery by the “Old Age Pensions Commission that the cost of the old-age pension system in New South Wales was enormously in excess of that of Victoria. That was well-known previously.
– Not by this House.
– I have heard the right honorable member for Balaclava allude to it. Further, it has .been mentioned in the Parliament of New South Wales, and it will be found in the reports of the Statistician of that State. Yet the Commission apparently considers that it has made a discovery. ‘ I do not say that Select Committees which have been appointed have not accomplished useful work, but I do claim that if ever there was work for a- Government to do it is that which is outlined in the_ motion under consideration - assuming, of course, that the proposal is legitimate. If, on the’ other hand1, it is intended only as a means by whic’h the purchase of a Commonwealth fleet of steamers may be recommended, that is an entirely different matter. The only opportunity that the House can have of ascertaining whether or not that is the object is by the constitution of the Committee.
– How many members does th? honorable member think that the Opposition ought to have serving upon, it?
– I do not say how many should come from any par ticular side. As the question at issue seems to be one as between a State-owned fleet of steamers and a privately-owned fleet, there ought to be an equal number of honorable members upon the Committee holding diverse views.
– The Opposition can have four members upon it, and we will be content with five.
– That would settle the matter.
– I do not mean five labour members.
– If the opinions of the five members suggested are identical, why appoint a Committee ? Why not send in the report ? It has been represented that it would assist the Government materially if this Committee could make ah inquiry and report. In that connexion, I say that its appointment would be likely to place the Government in a position similar to that which was occupied’ by the late Ministry. It would probably cause them to delay taking action for a renewal of the contract until they were very close to the period when the existing contract will expireUnder such circumstances, any Government must be, more or less, in the hands of the particular shipping line, running the service, and it is highly desirable - I am sure the late Postmaster-General will agree. with me - that efforts should be made to secure prices from tenderers at a far earlier date than was the case in connexion with the present contract. The Ministry ought to be setting about that work at once. They ought not to await the report of any Committee. If they do so they will again beplaced in the unfortunate position of having to conclude a new contract with greater haste than should be necessary. That is not desirable. I am opposed to the appointment of the Committee, because I think that it will involve an unnecessary expense unless there is some charge attached to the motion. If a charge is attached to it. by all means let it be inquired into, but. if not, the appointment of the proposed’ body will constitute an unnecessary expense. It is not within the powers of a Committee to ascertain as effectively as a Government what can be done in the way of cheapening the mail subsidy. Such a body cannot open negotiations and ask prices from abroad. That must rest with the Government.
– The Committee could not do so unless its members visited the “United Kingdom.
– Even if they visited the United Kingdom they would not have the powers of a Government to inquire from different firms the price at which they would accept the mail contract or to advertise for tenders or to bring firms into competition with one another. They have no such powers. How then could they handle the question better than could the Government? I believe that we should hold the Ministry responsible for entering into contracts for the conveyance of our mails. Let them use the powers which they have for that purpose - powers which are greater than those which any Select Committee can possess - and let them submit their proposals to the House. Of course, I recognise that that is not the object of the motion. The honorable member for Barrier has clearly stated that he desires to see a fleet of steamers owned r<.nd controlled by the Commonwealth, and that he hopes to secure his object by the appointment of this Committee. That is an honest declaration.
– If it were not for that, I should not persevere with the motion.
– That being the object of the honorable member, I may say that I am absolutely opposed to a fleet of steamers being owned by the Commonwealth.
-Surely the honorable member is not so wedded to his ideas that he objects to an inquiry. I have already stated that the Opposition are at liberty to nominate four members of the Committee out of nine.
– Let the honorable member propose that the Committee shall consist of ten members, and let us have five members from each side of the House upon it.
– If the honorable member will agree to the motion, the Opposition can nominate five members out of the ten.
– I cannot say anything in regard to that proposal. I must leave it to the acting leader of the Opposition. If the Government had adopted the right attitude in connexion with this matter, they would have said that the inquiry was their business, that they could deal with it more effectively than could any Select Committee, and that they declined to be guided in their action bv the opinions of a private member of this House.
– I regret having come into conflict with the last speaker. I am not going to apologize to him, more than to say that I regret he should have repeated a misstatement in this House, seeing that upon the first occasion it was made I sought to assure him by interjection that he was mistaken.
– Will the honorable member say when that occurred, so that I may refer to it in Hansard.
– It occurred last week - I forget the exact occasion. However, I have no wish to waste time by referring to the matter at length. I do not think that the honorable member would wilfully mislead the House. I believe that he was sincerely mistaken, and that his mistake arose from not having acquainted himself with the facts. In order that there may be no further repetition cf the misstatement, or of the ill-feeling which may be aroused by it, I wish to quote from the proceedings of the recent Inter-State Labour Conference, to which the honorable member referred. He stated that that Conference decided in favour of nationalizing all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– Nobody said that.
– The honorable member quoted that as the decision of the recent Inter- State Labour Conference, representing the Federal labour movement in Australia. It was to that- statement I objected. I can easily understand how the honorable member has fallen into error. There was before that Conference a proposal from Queensland to make that the objective of the party. The exact wording of that proposal was as follows: -
The securing of the full results of their industry to the wealth producers by the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange to be attained through the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and local governing bodies.
That proposal was defeated by a large majority.
– Will the honorable member not admit that the amendment which was proposed was stated to mean the same thing?
– I intend to quote the amendment, which was adopted by a large majority.
– It was stated that the amendment meant the same thing as the motion. ti
– Is this question before the House?
– I think it is. I am going to quote the amendment that was agreed to, so that the honorable member for North Sydney may know what the Conference actually adopted. Having done that, I shall pass on to another phase of the question. The objective decided upon at the Conference was as follows : -
– And the honorable member now declares that all production is a monopoly.
– I have not said anything so foolish, and I do not think that the honorable member would make such a declaration.
– One of the honorable member’s colleagues said, the other day, that all production- was a monopoly.
– The words I have quoted are vastly different from those which the honorable member for North Sydney put before the House.
– It was said that the amendment-
-Order! An incidental reference to the fact that this proposal is, or is not, in accordance with a certain resolution is perfectly in order, but a detailed discussion of the proceedings of a certain Conference - which, so far as I know, had nothing whatever to do with the question of the mail contracts - is not. I have allowed the honorable member for Fremantle considerable latitude on account of the statements made by the Opposition; but ask him now to refrain from dealing further with the resolutions of the Conference.
– I should have refrained some time ago from dealing further with this phase of the question, but for the interjections of the Opposition. I had already expressed my intention to pass on to other considerations when I had quoted, for the benefit of the honorable member for North Sydney, the wording of the objective adopted by the Labour Conference.
– I thought the honorable member had read it. If he has not concluded the quotation, he may do so.
– Paragraph b of the objective continues - and the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality. 1 hope that, after this explanation, the honorable member for North Sydney will not be guilty of repeating the statement made by him on two occasions in the House, that a certain motion was passed by the Labour Conference, when, as a matter of fact, it was rejected by a very large majority. I was somewhat surprised at the objection raised a few minutes ago by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra with reference to this motion. He said, rightly enough, that the question of the carriage of cargo between Australia and Great Britain might, and possibly would be of greater importance to the people of Australia than would that of the carriage of mails and passengers. Although I am not going, to lose sight of the importance of the question in so far as it relates to the carrying of mails or passengers, I wish to emphasize the necessity for some such inquiry as suggested, in the interests, not only of our producers, but of all others concerned with the carriage of cargo between Australia and Great Britain. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra has stated that it would be impossible for a Select Committee to obtain information as to the terms and conditions upon which oversea cargo is carried. If that be so- if it be difficult to ascertain from the ship-owners, the brokers, or the merchants of Australia what these terms and conditions are - that fact in itself should make us the more determined to have an investigation.
– The honorable and learned member for Illawarra said that the Select Committee as proposed to be constituted could not obtain the information.
– That is so, and I repeat that if the statement be correct it ought to make us the more determined to appoint a Select Committee to secure the information. I am aware that there is a lack of knowledge on the part of the general public as to the manner in. which shipping companies conduct their business. We have all sorts of rumours as to rings and combines, but the shipping companies as a rule make such a close secret of the facts relating to their business that the people really do not know how they are being treated with regard to the carriage of goods to and from Australia. I wish to quote from a report recently presented to the Governor of Western Australia by a Royal Commission on Ocean Freights, which was appointed by the Government of that State.
– Can we not take the evidence of that Commission, instead of having a repetition of their inquiry ?
– What this Commission has done for Western Australia should be done by us for the whole Commonwealth. It is remarkable that the Commission mentioned as one of the possible solutions of existing evils the ownership and control of a line of steamers by the Government of the Commonwealth. The situation has become so bad in Western Australia that traders in that State appear to be almost at their wits’ ends to know what to do in order to secure the carriage of their freights at a reasonable rate. Among the recommendations made by the Commission was the following: -
Whilst your Commissioners would welcome the establishment of an Australian Mercantile Fleet under Commonwealth control for the transport of mails and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom, capable of being commissioned in time of war, we believe this ideal is not within measurable distance at present.
If that Commission, after taking evidence bearing on the shipping trade of only one State, was convinced that the owning and -control of a fleet of mercantile steamers by the Commonwealth would prove a solution of the existing difficulty, surely, out of respect to that Commission and to the people whom it represented, we have «i right to ask that an investigation shall be made on behalf of the Commonwealth. If time permitted I could quote instances of oppression on the part of shipping combines - or the shipping ring, as it is called1 - that would open the eyes of honorable members. I shall not say that that which applies to Western Australia applies to the whole of the Commonwealth, but it cannot be gainsaid that the shipping trade between Australia and Great Britain is in the hands of a ring or combine of shipping brokers - not of ship-owners - who absolutely fix rates at their own sweet will. ‘
– That is known.
– One result of -that system is that a cargo can be brought from America via Liverpool to Australia below the freight charged on a cargo direct from England to Australia.
– There is no need for the appointment of a Select Committee to ascertain that fact.
– The proposed Select Committee should do for the whole of Australia what this Commission did for Western Australia.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that, after transhipment at Liverpool, a cargo from America to Australia costs less than does a cargo from England to Australia direct?
– I repeat that freights for the carriage of cargo from America and Germany to Australia are much lower than are those for the carriage of cargo from England to Australia, and that in consequence of this our trade with Great Britain is suffering. The people of America can send their goods from New York to Liverpool, and thence to Australia, at a lower rate than that at which goods can be sent directly from England to Australia.
– That is not quite correct.
– In view of these facts, it is time that an inquiry was made in the interests not only of the producers, but of the consumers of Australia. I need not remind honorable members that business men - merchants and shopkeepers who have to pay these additional freights - pass on the increased charges to the consumer ; they actually make a profit on the higher freight they pay. The consumer, therefore, is doubly hit every time he makes a purchase. When the Commonwealth took over the Postal Department, we discovered somewhat to the surprise of many people, that we had been paying a very large annual subsidy to the mail steamers for the carriage, not only of postal matter, but of produce. There was considerable friction when the Government attempted to differentiate between a contract for the conveyance of mails and one which also included provision for large cold storage space on board the mail steamers. I am not going to say that, in any contract we may make, we should not pay due regard to the necessity of securing cool storage on mail steamers, and every possible facility for the carriage of our produce to England; but I do say that, as a Commonwealth Parliament, we have no right, under the guise of entering into a mail contract, to pay a large sum for something which is really no part of such a contract.. Let us, if honorable members please, make an agreement with the shipping companies that the mail steamers shall be provided with cool chambers, but let us also know what is the exact cost of carrying our mail matter to and from England.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has again referred to the oversea mail contract which is to be dealt with at a later stage, and two honorable members have already been ruled out of order for doing so.
– I am not aware that I have ruled any honorable member out of order for anything he has said. When honorable members have proposed to discuss the merits or demerits of the Orient Company’s contract, I have indicated that they would not be in order in doing so; but so long as they simply point out the various phases of the contract with regard to which, in their opinion, it is desirable to have the further information to be obtained by the proposed Select Committee, they will not transgress the Standing Orders.
– I have not referred to the existing contract, and do not intend to do so; but I hope to convince honorable members that, in entering into any future contract, we should know specifically what is paid for the carriage of our mails, and what is the additional cost which the requirement as to cool storage for the carriage of our produce involves.
– The time allotted for the discussion of orders of the day of general business has expired. Is it the honorable member’s desire to continue his remarks at a later date?
– It is, sir.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his remarks at a later date?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable -
That Commonwealth Treasury notes should be issued, on the lines of the Treasury notes issued by the State of Queensland.
That a reserve fund should be established for payment of the notes on demand ; provision fat similar payment being now in force in the Queensland Treasury.
That instead of such issue being put into circulation as in Queensland by being lent to financial institutions at the rate of 2 per cent. per annum, the proposed notes shall be issued on a population basis to the several State Treasurers, and each Treasurer shall credit the amount received as on account of the properties transferred to the Commonwealth.
That 4 per cent. of the issue shall be with drawn from circulation each year and cancelled, and that a sufficient sum each year shall be granted for the purpose of such cancellation.
I have been following this question ever since Queensland issued Treasury notes in 1893, and, in bringing forward my proposal, I am fully aware of the difficulties of the subject and its importance to the Commonwealth. The scheme has naturally been talked about. It has been discussed as if my object were merely to provide funds for the taking over of the transferred properties, and thereby the liquidating of the debts of the States ; but that is incidental only. The scheme aims, in the first place, at establishing a Commonwealth issue of paper money. Mr. Coghlan, at page 813 of the latest edition of his Australian statistics, speaking of the Australian note circulation, says that if the notes were guaranteed by the Commonwealth, and made a legal tender, their probable issue might be set down as £6,750,000, the present note circulation of the Commonwealth being only £3,800,000. The conference of bankers held in Sydney in 1895 made a proposal of a similar nature. If the Commonwealth chooses, it can set going £3,000,000 more of currency, which will be as good as gold. My proposal was shaped in the form in which I now submit it, after I had read the proposal of the Treasurer, made at the Hobart Conference, and referred to in the Budget debate last session. He is reported, at page 6145 of Vol. XXII. of Hansard, to have then said -
We ought never to forget that the Commonwealth and the States are composed of the same people, and that, therefore, if we have to pay any State a sum of money for buildings, not only has that State to contribute towards the payment for its own buildings, but that also it has to pay per capita for buildings taken over in every other State. I cannot look upon it as a sound business transaction, that we should borrow a large sum of money in order to pay for the buildings transferred from the States to the Commonwealth, in order to distribute that money amongst the States, thus placing upon them the obligation to pay interest, and to repay the capital borrowed within a certain time. It would mean that we -should be adding largely to the public debt of the Commonwealth, and doing no good to the States, either individually or collectively.
Then, at page 6146, he is reported to have said -
The conclusion at which I arrived was that, instead of borrowing immense sums of money, the same result would be obtained by debiting and crediting the amounts to be paid and the amounts to be received by each State.
As a result of debiting and crediting, £^904,967 is due to Queensland; South Australia, and Western Australia from New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. The Hobart scheme proposes to pay this money to the three States named, and to raise it from the other three States by annual payments of £40,722, extending over a period of forty-three years.
– That was not adopted at Hobart.
– That is the proposal printed in the report of the Hobart Conference.
– That was the proposal I put forward at the Melbourne Conference.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s correction. I think that the proposal was first put forward by him. That proposal, however, makes no provi sion for the paying off of bond-holders. My proposal, on the other hand,, is this : That the three debtor States shall pay to’ the three creditor States, £36,290 annually for a period of twenty-five years. It will therefore be seen that I would make the payments smaller, and the period shorter. Under this arrangement, Queensland will get ,£321, 2^8 ; South Australia, ,£358>72i ; and Western Australia, .£224,948, and the money, if used as I propose that it shall be used, will wipe out more than £1,000,000 of the indebtedness of those States. This, in brief, is my scheme. I suggest the issue of Treasury notes to a value of, say, £500,000, followed in three or more months by a second similar issue, and then by two other issues, until £2, 000, 000 of paper currency have been issued. These notes are to be handed on a population basis to the Treasurers of the several States, and credited to the Commonwealth as being paid on account of the transferred properties, which are estimated to have a total value of £0,000,000.
– Would the ‘notes be legal tender?
– Certainly. The States would use the notes at the earliest possible date, and, with the gold which they would thus have in hand - because the notes would take its place - they are to buy in the cheapest market some of their stock for cancellation. Three per cent, stock is to be bought on the London market, according to the Times, at ,£87, and £2,000,000 would purchase about £2,300,000 worth of such stock, on which the interest would amount to ,£69,000 annually.
– Will the notes be convertible into gold on demand?
– My motion sets forth that the note shall be payable on demand, and shall be legal tender. Thus ,£69,000 will be at once saved to the States. The cancellation of notes will go on for twentylive years, by which time they will all have disappeared, and new issues to buy “further bonds, or for the carrying out of public works, will be made. Now for the balances to be paid by the three debtor to the three creditor States. There can be issued to the three creditor States, in a suitable number of issues, notes which the three debtor States will redeem - New South Wales to the extent of ,£10,947 per annum; Victoria to the extent of £20,906 per annum;’ and Tasmania to the extent of .£4,345 per annum. This in twenty-five years will cancel the indebtedness of ,£904,967, and Queensland will have received .£321,378; South Australia, .£358,721 ; and Western Australia, £224,948 ; while the gold which the notes will enable them to use will allow them to buy back .£1,042,500 worth of debentures, and the interest saved on the transaction will be £31,275. The amount of debentures redeemed by these notes, and neither converted nor re-issued, will be £3,333,333, with a saving of £100, 000 in interest, while the note circulation will amount to only £2,904,967. Thus the States which have paid more than their due share into the Federal partnership will be quite fairly, but only fairly, treated. Treasury notes in Queensland cost on the average £2,000 per annum for expenses of issue and management ; but the Commonwealth, after the first year or two, could issue the notes which I propose shall be issued1, for an expenditure of £5,000. When the States buy back their bonds and debentures, they will effect not only a saving in interest, but a saving in the expense of management now paid to the Bank of England, or some oilier financial institution. To show the need for something of this kind being done, I wish to quote from the speech delivered by the right honorable member for Balaclava, on ]oth June, 1902, when introducing his Loan Bill. He is reported, at page 13431, of Vol. X. of Hansard, to have said -
When certain Departments were transferred, works were being proceeded with in most of the States, and were being paid for out of loan funds…… In the meantime, I am financing any very urgent works out of the Treasurer’s advance vote.
Further on, he says - at page 13433 -
This expenditure is to be charged against all the States on a population basis, and therefore we could not allow the works to remain in abeyance in the poorer States while proceeding with those required in the States which are in a better position-
While on page 13434, he is reported to have said -
If we adopt the practice which has been suggested of providing these large sums from revenue, I am perfectly certain that we shall leave the States in a difficult position….. In view of their present condition, it would be exceedingly unwise for us to take any such step.
These statements did not induce this House to pass the Loan Bill ; but if they were justifiable then, they are justifiable now, for nothing has been done to remedy the sad position of affairs which he pictured. All the States, except perhaps Western Australia, have paid in interest more than the sum total of their borrowings, and yet they all owe, and are likely to continue to owe, the full amount borrowed. I come now to the bedrock of my motion - the Commonwealth Treasury note issue. In dealing with this subject, I shall not quote academic authorities for or against what I advocate. I shall rely upon accomplished facts, and the’ attempts to float loans which have failed, to show that there is good reason for my proposal. To put before the House the main facts on which I rely, I must go back to the financial crash of 1893. The financial institutions of Australia, with three notable exceptions - the Bank of New South Wales, the Bank of Australasia, and the Union Bank - were then largely assisted by the Governments of the day in rallying from that disaster. I shall not burden the House with an account of what was done in that direction in the five southern States, but shall refer only to the case of Queensland, where prompt and effective measures were adopted for relieving immediate difficulties. The steps taken were remarkable and bold, but not original. The Government of Queensland, by their Treasury notes scheme, have demonstrated to Australia that it is perfectly right and proper for the State to issue a paper currency. The Administration of the day were anxious to avert the threatened collapse and restore public confidence. It. was decided that public faith in paper money must be restored, and therefore the Government commenced their task by taking the issue of paper money into their own Rands. It had been proved that such a public convenience as paper money ought not to be dependent upon the temporary financial condition of eight or ten banks, and the Government doubtless realized that, inasmuch as the Bank of England issued all the bank notes required in England, the State Treasury might appropriately fill the gap in Queensland. Arrangements were made for a Government note issue. The bank note duty of 4 per cent, was abolished, and a prohibitive duty of 10 per cent, was imposed on all banks wishing to continue their own note issues. Three Bills, were promptly introduced by the Government, and became law, viz., the Treasury Notes Advance Act, the Treasury Notes Act, and the Treasury Bills Act. Under the first measure, any bank which had stopped payment, or its manager or liquidator, could apply for an advance of Treasury notes to redeem from public circulation its own discredited notes, provision being made for ultimate repayment to the Queensland Treasurer. The Treasury Notes Act provided that the Treasurer should hold gold to the amount of one-fourth of the value of any notes issued, and should also issue Treasury Bills signed and ready for sale. The Bills were to be vested in trustees until required. Section 3 of the Treasury Notes Act reads as follows: -
All such Treasury notes made, issued, and circulated in pursuance of this Act shall be issued from and bear date at the Colonial Treasury of Queensland, and shall be payable in specie on demand at the Colonial Treasury.
Treasury notes made, issued, or re-issued under the authority of this Act shall be everywhere in Queensland good legal tender of money, by all persons other than the Colonial Treasurer, at the Colonial Treasury, to the amount therein expressed to be payable.
Section 4 provides -
The Governor in Council may, from time to time, apply any sum or sums of money to arise from any such Treasury notes to any service authorized to be defrayed out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Colony, or out of loans authorized by Parliament.
The Act also provided for departmental regulations being formulated whereby notes would be handed out to the banks requiring them, which had to deposit with the Treasurer gold representing one-third of the value of the notes issued, and to pay 2 per cent, interest on the remaining two-thirds cif the value. The Treasury Bills Act authorized the issue of Treasury bills, to be vested in trustees, for the same amount as the proposed issue of notes. These bills have never been required, are still intact, and can be utilized to raise money if required. At the end of the first year’s work the AuditorGeneral, in his report on the Treasury notes, said that ,£240,600 of the reserved gold could be placed out at interest. This advice was unheeded by the Queensland Government. The next year the AuditorGeneral reported that ,£250,000 of gold was unnecessarily idle. He also said that he realized that the Act was not intended to produce revenue. The Queensland Act was such a success that the money rolled in all the time, and the first impulse of the Queensland Government was to lend the surplus money to the banks. The accumulation of this gold had been brought about without expenditure on the part of the Government, excepting only the cost of the notes and office expenses, amounting to about ,£2,000 per annum. The unused notes of the banks were bought by the Government’ and faced with the Treasurer’s ‘promise to pay, and for several months Queenslanders endured that makeshift. I propose to quote some particulars from the report of the AuditorGeneral of 1903 as to the revenue produced by the Treasury note system. The interest on Treasury notes, amounting to £388,833, lent to the banks at 2 per cent., yielded £li776 13s- > the interest on Treasury notes gold, amounting to £50,000, lent to the Royal Bank at 3 per cent., yielded £1,500; the interest on Treasury notes gold, amounting to ,£100,000, lent to the Bank of New South Wales for six months at z per cent., yielded £”1,250; the interest on Treasury notes gold, amounting to .£75,000, lent to the Bank of New South Wales for another six months at i per cent., produced £937 10s. ; and interest on Government debentures, amounting to ,£300,400, at 3& per cent., yielded £10,514 i the total being .£21,978 3s. 46!. In addition to these sums, there was- £40,000 at current account, which produced no interest, and the reserve money, amounting to £336,208. The next year an addition was made to the Government debentures bought with Treasury notes, and! the amount increased to £386,522. Withthe exception of the ,£388,833 of notes lent to banks at 2 per cent, interest, there has been sufficient money held to pay off every note with gold. The Government have very properly invested some of their surplus cash, and ,£40,000 has been generously placed on current account without interest. Coghlan says that in 1893 the average bank note circulation in Australia was ,£3,912,062, the Queensland share of this amount- being £458,236. At present the note circulation of Australiaamounts to ,£3,844,866, of which Queensland is credited with .£620,000. It would* appear from this that Treasury notes aremore acceptable to Queenslanders than are bank notes to the people of the other States. The bank note duty realizes in Victoria £18,434, in New South Wales ,£28,743,. in South Australia .£8,055, in Western Australia £7,852, and in Tasmania £3,262, the total for the five States being £66,346. The revenue derived by Queensland from the Treasury note issue is equal to one-third of the total amount realized by the bank note tax in the other States, whereas the population of Queensland amounts to only one-eighth of that of the Commonwealth. I should like to say a few words with regard to the different note systems. The Bank of England practically has a monopoly of the note issue of Great Britain, and all the joint stock banks must go to that institution for their paper currency. This phase of the question is overlooked by bank advocates, who wish to retain paper money as a bank privilege. The Queensland Government have adopted the position of the Bank of England as an issuer of notes. In the United Statesthe practice adopted is the reverse of that followed in England. In the United States a bank which deposits Government bondscan issue notes of an equal value. Thisis a case to which the oft-quoted text may be applied -
For unto every one that hath shall be given,, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which, he hath.
The banks in the United States having interestbearing bonds are privileged to issue
Quotes, but the borrower who has not the wherewithal to carry on is often stripped and turned out a beggar. It will be necessary to explain a simple phrase used by bankers, and applied to a great instrument of profit making. I refer to “till money.” This does not refer to money in the till, but to that great power which banks of issue exercise to create money on paper, namely, credit, when they can use it to advantage. The United States banks and the English joint stock banks have to pay for their “ till money.” The Bankers’ Conference held in Sydney in 1895, at which the bankers of Victoria and’ New South Wales were represented, proposed to amend the Australian note issue, to obtain Government indorsement for their notes, and to pay the Government a better price for the privilege. They asked that £2,250,009 worth of notes should be ranked as notes for circulation, and a further £2,250,000 worth should be given to the banks to hold as “ till money.” This would have given the banks notes to the value of £4,500,000. So ‘that the bankers themselves practically admit that we want more note issue. Every bank in England, except a remnant of privileged note issuers, wanting any form of till money can only get it by paying for It at Threadneedle-street. Morton Breckenridge, the champion of the Canadian banks, says in Volume X. of the publications of the American Economic Association, page 402 -
How great is the saving of interest on the hard cash which, without the ability to use unissued notes, the banks would be obliged to hold as till money, is not particularly difficult to calculate.
On the following page he says -
If the banks were deprived of this advantage, it is safe to say that they would be obliged to withdraw some $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 now employed in the trade and industry of Canada.
I quote these passages to show what till money means. Now, for the other side of the shield. When Treasury notes were first issued in Queensland, the three strong banks I have named, hoped, by refusing to touch State notes, that they would cause the scheme to fail. In doing so they deliberately deprived themselves of till money, or its substitute, Treasury notes, at 2 per cent., instead of their own bank notes at 4 per cent, and till money gratis. There is no till money in Queensland, but the bank-note rate was 4 per cent., and the banks were allowed to use an equal number of notes as till money upon which they paid no duty. Now, in Queensland, every note has to be accounted for, either in gold, or by paying 2 per cent, interest upon it. I take it that that rate of interest, which is an extremely low one, is equivalent to giving the banks till money. These banks imported gold, and for twelve years they have not taken any State notes at 2 per cent.
– What are the names of those three banks?
– I refer to the Bank of New South Wales, the Bank of Australasia, and the Union Bank. A champion of these banks, writing to the Brisbane Courier in April, 1903, complained that for every Treasury note they used, £2 in gold had to be paid ‘ That seems to be a verycurious statement, but from their point of view it is actually correct. They had been using a promise to pay £1 on demand, so long that to do so they considered was their privileged right, and when they redeemed their promise by paying £1, and then paid £1 for a Treasury note, their innocent champion said that they were paying £2 for a Treasury £1 note. The Canadian system was referred to by our first Treasurer, the right honorable member for Balaclava, in introducing the Loan Bill, and last session my leader intimated that he favoured proposals in that direction. “Confiscation” was the epithet applied to his proposal. Morton Breckenridge speaks of the Canadian Dominion notes held by banks as the 40 per cent, reserve in the following terms : -
The Government have forced from the banks a permanent loan without interest of from $10,000,000 to $14,000,000.
Again, he says -
The justice of a forced loan for 16 per cent, to 22 per cent, of the entire banking capital of the Dominion need not be examined.
It is evident that the banks’ champion in Canada is - at one with some honorable members opposite upon that question. The Dominion notes are backed bv 15 per cent, of gold, and 10 per cent, of Dominion debentures guaranteed by the British Government. These notes throughout Canada are treated as the equivalent of gold just as Bank of England notes are in England. Morton Breckenridge gives equal value to them in the following passage which will be found upon page 430 of Vol. X of a publication by the American Economic Association -
For the four and a half years preceding 1st July, 1894, the amount of specie and Dominion notes held by all the Chartered banks at the end of each calendar month has averaged 9’II per cent, of their total liabilities on corresponding days. The lowest percentage shown by the Bank statement was 8; the highest IO’03 per cent.
This, it will be observed, is quite as high as the proportion of money kept on hand by the English Joint Stock Banks, although for most of them, gold, and its practical equivalent, Bank of England notes, are the only till money, aDd form part of their business machinery.
I should like honorable members to notice that gold and Bank of England notes, as well as specie- and Dominion notes, are phrased together as of equal value. Again, banking return forms give one entry for specie and Dominion notes, and one sum only is quoted embracing both denominations. There is no tax on the note issue in Canada. A bank holding £40 ©f Dominion notes can issue ,£100 of its own notes’. Honorable members opposite call that “confiscation.” What I wish to see is the whole of the ,£100 issued by the Commonwealth. The amount of gold held in Queensland shows that a one-fourth gold reserve is unnecessarily high. I would allow the reserve to be one-fifth, which is 33’3 per cent, higher than the reserve gold held for Dominion notes by the Canadian Government. I may add that in Canada there is what is called a bank redemption guarantee fund of z per cent, for two years, making 5 per cent, upon the amount of bank notes issued. Yet the Maritime. Bank failed in 1887, and its dollar notes sold for 40 cents. This is not likely to occur to Dominion notes, Queensland notes, or to our notes when we get them. If the privilege of using our own notes is attached to the scheme, so that our Treasurer can pay them away, we can arrange a reserve without difficulty. We handle £,I 1 ,000,000 each year, and 1 per cent, of that amount, replaced by a portion of our note issue, will give us our reserve. Morton Brecken ridge’s statement in reference to banks applies to us. He says -
The only way for a bank to get its notes in circulation is to pay them over its counter in the ordinary course of business.
The Panama Canal trouble, which was referred to last week in the Sydney Morning Herald, is analogous to the position which we have here. The railway combine, realizing that the canal imperils their supremacy, by buying over the engineers, and slandering the canal, are doing their best to block its success. We have to recollect also that all practical men in finance are trained, employed, or interested in financial institutions, and we must expect difficulty in getting our side advocated by other than laymen like myself. Bank notes are used by bankers in the place of specie money, at the risk of the people, for the bankers’ benefit. If paper money is used by the people’s Government, the risk borne carries a corresponding advantage. The Government reap the profit on behalf of the people. That the Commonwealth wants money is shown by the attempts which have been made to get a loan sanctioned. I have shown that, according to Coghlan, over £3,000,000 more of note issue can be used if an absolutely reliable security is offered. Further, I have pointed out that in Queensland, where good, indefeasible paper alone is used, the profit therefrom to the Government - the profit from that one-eighth of Australia - is one-third as much as the other seven-eighths get from their paper money. The redemption of notes is a necessary feature of my scheme. A promise to pay is all the better if after one, ten. Or fifteen, or twenty years the amount involved must be paid.
– What is the advantage of that ?
– the honorable member was not present during the delivery of the first portion of my address, otherwise he would realize what a saving in interest would be effected by the adoption of my scheme. When we borrow we neglect to pay back our loans, but we must pay our interest, and this periodic cancellation is only equivalent in burden to that which we now pay in interest alone, although every penny we spent in that way would be a net reduction of our debt. The low price which our stock realizes in London would be a, cause for rejoicing - not for weeping. Our transactions -in stock for the future must be in buying - not in selling. I cannot conclude my remarks without quoting the words used by Mr. Justice O’Connor in introducing the Loan Bill in the Senate. They will be found recorded in Hansard, page 2691. of the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament. They read as follows : -
The best security we cm possibly have is the security of the Government.
I know that when he made that statement he was, as we used to say in the old country, “putting the best side to London.” But this House, I trust, will endorse what, he said by insisting that for an issue of paper currency the best security we can have is the guarantee of an industrious and prosperous people, as represented by their chosen Government.
Debate (on motion by Sir John For rest), adjourned.
– I move-
That a return be laid on the table of the House showing the number of harvesters of Australian manufacture exported from Australia from 1st January, 1901, to this date ; such return to specify the destination of such exports.
The return, if granted, will be of some statistical value, not only to honorable members, but the public generally.
– What about the number of harvesters imported into Australia?
– I am informed that an honorable member moved some time ago for a return showing the number of harvesters’ imported into the Commonwealth, so that all that I now wish to learn is how many harvesters, manufactured in Australia, are being exported. If the motion is not’ to be opposed, it is unnecessary for me to speak at any length.
– As far as possible, we shall furnish the return for which’ the honorable and learned member moves.
– That is all I desire.
– I think it is highly desirable that this return should be furnished. At the present time, there is a proposal before the Parliament to expend a sum of £4,000 to encourage the manufacture off reapers and binders in Australia.
– That question is not now before the House.
– I thinkI am entitled to show that if this return be furnished, it may prove that the industry is well established, and that it is unnecessary to amend the Tariff in a way thathas been suggested.
– I have no option but to rule that a debate which anticipates the decision of another matter on the businesspaper is out of order. If the honorable and learned member can make a speech on this question which will not anticipate a later debate, he will be perfectly in order.
– In view of the discussion that lately took place in this House as to the value of harvesters generally, and the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in increasing the duty on imported machines, it is highly desirable that we should know how many of these machines are actually being made in Australia and exported.
– And why we should not send out more?
– I have no objection to these exports being increased. If the industry can stand on its own basis, it is deserving of our praise, but I shouldnot ask the people to contribute to it any more than I should expect the people of Australia to contribute to any industry in which I was engaged. I should like to knowhow many men are employed in manufacturing, these machines, and of the conditions generally under which the industry is being carried on.
– The Tariff Commission will report on that phase of the question.
– In view of certain evidence given before the Tariff Commission by a gentleman whose name has been mentioned in the House, I am “afraid that such information will not be forthcoming. The witness in question made a statement that, in the Argentine Republic, harvesters were indented at £60.
– I . regret to have to again interrupt the honorable and learned member, but I must remind him that the question, is simply whether or not a certain return shall be laid on the table of the House, and that that question alone can be discussed.
– Am I not at liberty to give reasons for asking for such a return?
– The honorable and learned member is perfectly entitled to say why a return should or should not be produced ; but he is not at liberty to discuss certain evidence which he asserts has been given before the Tariff Commission. That is a matter entirely foreign to the production of this return .
– -Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that no evidence that may be brought forward in regard to harvesters can now be discussed?
– I do not rule anything of the kind. I have ruled that the honorable and learned member may discuss any matter showing the desirableness or otherwise of this return being produced ; but if he proceeds to discuss any subject other than one relating to the production of the return, he will be out of order.
– My desire is that the return shall be laid on the table of the House, in order to contradict certain evidence that has been taken before another tribunal. Evidence was submitted to the Tariff Commission to the effect that harvesters were indented in the Argentine at a given price, and the return will show whether that statement was true or not.
– It seems to me that there is nothing whatever in the motion as to the price of harvesters, and nothing in it to show that the return, if produced, would indicate whether the price mentioned by the honorable and learned member was correct or incorrect.
-To put myself in order, I move -
That the following words be added - “the price of the harvesters, the places to which they were exported, and the firms by whom they were exported.”
This amendment will give us an opportunity to discuss the general question. From a report lately presented to the House it would appear that ‘one of the manufacturers of these machines made an untrue statement when before the Tariff Commission. While it was one of those statements to which the people have probably become accustomed, the fact remains that the Minister of Trade and Customs considered it of such importance that he acted upon it. The Minister took action on the oath of this man that he had positive evidence that £60 was, charged for these harvesters in the Argentine, and representations were made to the British Consul there, with the result that it was found that they! were entered at £41 each. The Tariff Commission was therefore deliberately misled by the person who gave that evidence. This gentleman has been moving in other directions, and it is highly desirable that steps should be taken to frustrate his efforts. Do the Government offer any opposition to the motion ?
– We are prepared to accept the terms of the motion, as submitted by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and quite apart from the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa.
– If that be so, I shall not press my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Mauger) proposed -
That the following words be added - “ also the number of harvesters imported into the Commonwealth from 1st January, 1901, to this date.”
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa stated that the object of his amendment was to show that we are exporting harvesters from the Commonwealth, and I am glad, therefore, that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has moved this amendment. Had he not done so, I should have moved an amendment to the same effect. The fact that harvesters are being made here shows that there is no necessity for their importation, and that there is room for a great expansion of the local industry, which, I hope, we shall see in the near future.
– I am glad that the return has been asked for. If the local makers of harvesters can send their machines abroad to compete with the manufactures of foreign makers, they can surely compete with those manufactures in Australia, where the foreign makers areat a disadvantage. They must, therefore, be getting a monopoly through the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable member for Hindmarsh evidently believes in monopolies, because he would prevent the importation of harvesters into this market.
– Is it not better to have a monopoly here than in America?
– I do not wish monopolies to be created either here or in America. Mr. McKay has made from £20,000 to £30,000 during the last year.
– Will he show his books to prove or disprove my statement ?
– I fail to see in the statement any connexion with the motion.
– Is the motion in order? If I remember rightly, a similar motion was carried last session, to which I added an amendment, asking for information with respect to the importation and exportation of machinery. That return has not yet been complied with.
– I do not know if the motion to which the honorable member refers is identical with that now under discussion, but, if it were, that fact would not make this motion out of order.
– Do the Government accept the motion ?
– I have no objection to it.
– The publication of the information asked for will do a lot of harm to a certain firm which is aimed at. Have they consented to it?
– I am not aware.
– It is a contemptible and dirty insinuation to say that any firm is aimed at.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but the honorable and learned member for Corio makes a most unwarranted statement in saying that the motion is aimed at a certain firm. There is no basis of fact for such a statement, and he should be ashamed to have made it.
– The honorable and learned member is aggravating his offence.
– If the honorable and learned member for Corio objects to that remark, the honorable and learned member for Wannon must withdraw it.
– Then I withdraw it.
Mr.CROUCH:- Itwould do away with my opposition to the motion if I knew that this firm had consented tothe publication of the information asked for.
– More than one firm is concerned. There are at’ least two firms in South Australia.
– The more there are the better; but I venture to say that it will do a large amount of harm to McKay and Company, whose Sunshine harvester, manufactured at Ballarat, is exported in large numbers, and to the other local firms who are in this business, if their foreign trade rivals are informed of the destinations to which Australian harvesters are sent. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has recently been supplied with information, in connexion with a debate in this House, by theMassey-Harris Company, a trade rival of McKay and Company,, which imports machines to Australia.
– The Massey-Harris Company has not approached me in any way about this return.
– Then the honorable and learned member is accidentally rendering a great deal of assistance to the importers of harvesters. The Sunshine harvesters have been sent to Peru, Chili, and to the Argentine.
– Where did the honorable and learned member get that information?
– It is a matter of public knowledge, and has been stated in the press.
– Then why object to the return ?
– Because it would give an advantage to the trade rivals of the local manufacturers of harvesters. I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to consult Messrs. McKay and Company as to whether they think the publication of the information asked for will injure their export business. The honorable and learned member for Wannon would have an equal right to ask for the names of the consignees to whom they send their harvesters. Cannot honorable members see that that might injure the local manufacturers? Those of us who are interested in building up Australian manufactures should see that nothing is done to assist Canadian and American firms which are endeavouring to crush out local production. But, perhaps, as the time allowed for private business has nearly expired, I may be allowed to continue my remarks on another day.
– Isit the pleasure of the House that the honorable and learned member for Corio have leave to continue his remarks on another day?
– I object.
– I intend to move-
That the words “ such return to specify the destination of such exports” be left out.
It may be that the production of this information will not do the harm that I anticipate, and the attitude of the Government towards the motion supports that view; but, as I am not aware of what the manufacturers themselves think about the matter, I am of opinion that it would be better to omit those words. In the United States of America, President Roosevelt, under what may be, called an elastic clause of the Tariff Act, has power, when he sees that there is a certain volume of imports into that country from abroad–
Debate interrupted ; Government business called on under sessional order.
– We propose to ask honorable members to adopt a course somewhatdifferent from that previously followed in regard to making provision for new works and. buildings. We desire to dispose of the works and buildings estimates before the general estimates are dealt with. Previous experience has shown us that generally it is very late in the year before the Estimates ;are passed, and that very little time then remains within which to proceed with works for which provision is made, and complete them before the end of the financial year. I think that the course we now propose is a good one, because it will enable us to place the works in hand at an early date, and probably obviate the necessity of coming to the House next year and asking honorable members to revote large sums of money.
– A great deal of the delay in the construction of works arises from the neglect to push on with them.
– There is great difficulty in pushing on with the works. In the first place, plan’s and specifications have to be prepared, and the Department is not in a position to incur even this initial expenditure until the works have been approved. Therefore, no work can be legally put in hand until the Appropriation Bill has been passed. Honorable members will see at once that if plans and specifications were prepared at considerable cost for the erection of buildings, and .Parliament afterwards refused to sanction the expenditure, no money would be available for the payment of even the preliminary expenses.
– Has the Treasurer ever known of such a system haying been adopted in any other Parliament?”
– I cannot say that I know of such a case, but I think that the course proposed is a most convenient one.
– Very convenient, for the Government.
– Not convenient for the Government, but of great advantage to the country.
– This matter should be dealt with as soon as the debate on the Budget has been concluded, and not before.
– That would involve a considerable delay-
– If the discussion of the new works and buildings were involved in the debate on the general estimates, I could see the point of the right honorable gentleman’s remark; but I con sider that, in view of all the circumstances, ic is in the best interests of the country to put the proposed works in hand at once. Honorable members cannot say that they have not had notice of the intention of the Government in this direction, because I intimated about a fortnight ago that we intended to follow this course. There has been no whisper either from honorable members or from the press that any objection would be raised, and I trust that no technical objections will be brought forward to interfere with the passing of this appropriation. The works and buildings estimates, which are included in the schedule of the Bill, provide for an expenditure of ,£418,911, as compared with’-nearly £12,000,000 provided for in the general estimates. I do not see why we should delay proceeding with the proposed works until honorable members have talked for two or three months. The change which we have made is, I think, in the right direction.
– Is it true that only about £10,000 of the money proposed to be appropriated will.be spent in wages?
– I cannot say the exact amount, but necessarily a large sum will be spent in wages, because buildings can only be constructed by the employment of labour, which, df course, has to be paid for. I cannot see any practical objection fo the course we are adopting. Honorable members will see by reference to the schedule that under the Department of Trade and .Customs, provision is made for a revote of £1,979, and for the expenditure of £185 upon new services. Under the head of the Defence Department, it is proposed to revote £26,245, and to appropriate for new services, ,£40,271. In the Post and Telegraph Department, it is proposed to. revote £23,565, and to devote to new services £56,016; the total being ,£148,261, of which revotes represent ,£51,789. It is anticipated that ,£20,000 of the total amount will not be expended during the year. It is proposed to appropriate for the construction of telegraph and telephone lines, £169,150, but it is anticipated that £20,000 of this amount will not be expended during the year. It is intended to place at the disposal of the Treasurer, £1,500 for the purchase of machinery and plant for the Commonwealth Printing Office,1! whilst the Defence Department is to have an appropriation of £181,060, of which it is expected that £41,060 will not be expended during the year. In the Defence revotes provision is made for the construction of a stable and gun park at Brisbane, at a cost of £1,250, whilst £1,909 is to be revoted in connexion with the additions to the Customs House at Sydney. Provision is made for a revote of £1,000 for the construction of a rifle range at Brisbane, £4,900 is to be revoted for the construction of forts and quarters at Arthur’s Head, at Fremantle, and £5,996 is to be revoted in connexion with the construction of the fort, and the acquisition of the site at North Fremantle. I trust th-at we shall be able to spend this money during the current financial year.
– That money voted for the construction of the fort at North Fremantle was not ‘spent last year, because the site was not acquired, and not because of the delay in passing the vote.
– I know that the site was selected two years ago by Major-General Sir Edward Hutton.
– I know that what I state is perfectly correct.
– It is proposed to revote £9,900 for post-offices in New South Wales, £4,937 for post-offices in Victoria, £1,299 for post-offices in Queensland, £1,754 for post-offices in South Australia, and £5,675 for post-offices in Western Australia. All these amounts were voted last year, but the works could not be completed because of the short time that elapsed between the passing of the Appropriation Act and the end of the financial year. I do not think it is desirable that we should repeat the same operation year after year. All these works for which these sums are to be appropriated have already been approved by the House, and still we have to come back and ask that the money shall be revoted. Under the head of new works, it will be seen that provision is made for fortifications and other defence works in New South Wales to the extent of £9,922, an3 that it is proposed to spend in Victoria £10,356 ; in Queensland, £3,821 ; in South Australia, £3,381 ; in Western Australia, £11,247; and in Tasmania, £1,544. The votes for new services in the Post-office Department are as follow: - New South’ Wales, £11,350; Victoria, £15,200; Queensland, -^^,84.6; South’ Australia, £3,870;, and Western Australia, £19,750. As I have already said, it is expected that £20,000 of the total amount of £169,150 will not be spent during the current’ .year. I may mention that provision is made in the amount voted for the Postmaster-General’s Department for £30,006 for the construction of a trunk telephone line from Sydney to Melbourne. It is proposed to expend £15,000 upon telephone lines in Queensland, and £10,000 upon similar works in South Australia, whilst £6,000 is appropriated for telegraph lines, and £17,000 for telephone lines in Western Australia. Under the heading of Defence, it is anticipated that there will be an expenditure of £140,000, in accordance with the plan which is being carried out for providing special up-to-date armament and material, and for placing our land forces upon a war footing. It is expected that we shall spend that amount this year, although, if it is possible to obtain the requisite arms and armament within that period, the expenditure will be £181,060. As I remarked the other evening, we are nearing the time when we shall have completed .the scheme for placing our land forces upon a war footing, so far as their equipment with arms and armament of the most approved type is concerned. My colleagues will be able to explain to honorable members any details in the Bill connected with their various Departments. The measure provides, I am sorry to say, only for the few works which the Commonwealth is able to carry out. Those works will be constructed out of revenue, and the expenditure upon them represents even less than the amount for which I have been accustomed to ask in a small State. Seeing that we are only asking the Committee to authorize an expenditure of £413,911 upon works for the whole of the Commonwealth, I do not think that any one can charge us with extravagance. Nobody who was unacquainted with the facts, would credit the statement that this great Commonwealth, with 10.000 miles of seaboard, is confining itself to absolutely necessary works, involving an expenditure of only £418,911 for the year.
– The Senate saved the Government £18,000 yesterday.
– I do not think that the work to which the honorable member refers would have been carried out in a year. Neither do I .regard his remark as a fair one. I could retort severely, but I hope that I shall be a more generous political friend to the beautiful State of which the honorable member is a representative than he seems to be to my isolated State, Western Australia.
– It is not a matter of friendship.
– I thoroughly understand that it is a matter of duty. I shall be glad to give any further information that I can to honorable members - and I am sure that I may make a similar promise on behalf of my colleagues - in regard to any of the items contained in these Estimates.
– I should like to make one or two remarks upon these Estimates at the present stage. I am totally opposed to the course which the Government propose to take in connexion with them. I am not opposed to reasonable despatch in the voting of supplies for necessary works, and I deeply regret that I have to place myself in antagonism to the Government upon this matter, for the simple reason that I anticipate there will come, from some quarters of the House as reasons for the urgency of the course which the Government are adopting, the cry that people are out of work and want it. I submit that great and urgent as such considerations are, and deeply as we may sympathize with the unfortunates who are in need of employment, we have still a higher duty to perform - the duty of guarding to the fullest possible extent, all the constitutional rights which are provided as checks upon a possibly extravagant Government. The Treasurer has told us that the proposals which he has made are in the interests of the country. I venture to say that’ we shall best consult the interests of the country if we carefully dissect and discuss any proposals relating to finance which this or any other Government may bring forward, and if we observe all those checks and balances which the .Constitution has provided upon the extravagance of those who have charge of our Executive functions.
– But there is no proposal, to hurry these Estimates through.
– There is to be a proposal to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I understand that the Government propose to suspend the Standing Orders, in order to put a Bill through immediately we have passed these Estimates. I am altogether opposed to the suspension of the Standing Orders, until greater necessity has been shown for adopting such an extraordinary course. The Treasurer has told us that it is a convenient practice to bring down these large Estimates of works, and I submit that they are large, having in view the possibility of expenditure on the part of the Government - expenditure the limitations of which the Treasurer so deeply regrets. I am sure that he is sorry that he has not scores of millions of pounds to spend all over Australia.
– If we had it I should like to spend it.
– I am sure that the right honorable gentleman would. He would very soon make it fly, and I feel certain that his colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, would back him for all he knew when the question of the expenditure of public money came to be discussed in Cabinet. Everybody knows that the Treasurer likes to spend money. He has made himself extremely popular before to-day by the adoption’ of that very means. He regrets that he has not millions to scatter over a smiling Australia. He says that he is adopting this course because it is a convenient one. May I remind him that that reason has been urged for the most corrupt and extravagant proposals which have ever come before the Parliaments of the world. Before to-day kings have found it convenient to dispense with parliamentary control altogether on that account. I submit that there is no more urgent reason for -adopting the course proposed than is to be found in the general observations of the Treasurer. I have no hesitation in saying that the proposal’ of the Government, under all the circumstances of the case, is” neither more nor less than an indecent one.
– Is it indecent to en,deavour to provide a little work?
– The honorable member might as well make that interjection as any other ; it is an absolutely foolish one.
– It is absolutely correct.
– That remark, I am afraid, shows -the total incapacity of the honorable member to view this matter in its proper relation-
– I know all about it.
– May I venture to say that these remarks only serve to show the demoralization which is coming over this House.
– Hear, hear.
– We are asked to put aside all the ordinary processes of legislation as applied to finance, and to abandon all the checks which the House is supposed to exercise upon Ministerial extravagance - to establish a new precedent in regard to the disposal of these matters–
– With what object?
– I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman does not take any account of precedent or custom, no matter how they may be sanctified by time. He has already shown a very decided disposition to make a new departure in connexion with the delivery of his Budget. Now he is endeavouring to remove the control of the finances from the House. No doubt that would be a very convenient practice, and the more a Government is inclined to be extravagant, the more convenient it would be. What are the facts of the case? The Treasurer submitted the whole of the financial policy of the Government to us two days ago. It has occupied a whole year in preparation.
– That is not correct.
– It is not correct from the stand-point of the honorable member, but from my point of view it is perfectly correct. I say that the Treasurer’s statement, as presented to us, shows the working of the Commonwealth Departments over a whole year.
– The honorable member has altered his original statement.
– I am amplifying that statement a little. I say that from that stand-point the Treasurer’s statement is the result of the year’s operation of the Departments. If it has taken the Departments a whole year to formulate these proposals, is it fair to ask us at two days’ notice to vote huge sums of money, involving large matters of Government policy, in this hasty manner? We have had no time to peruse the various items contained in the Estimates. They have been placed before us, and we are asked, forsooth, to vote the money and to discuss any question of policy which may be concerned subsequently. The other night the Treasurer agreed to an adjournment of the Budget debate for a week to enable the ex-Treasurer - the right honorable member for Balaclava - to peruse the statement submitted to the House.
– The ex-Treasurer rose to discuss this matter, but the honorable member took precedence of him.
– I am sure that the ex-Treasurer will be able to answer for himself, and I have yet to learn that the honorable and learned member for Corio is so much of a thought-reader as to know the intentions of the right honorable gentleman.
– The right honorable member for Balaclava rose to address the. Committee.
– I shall await with the greatest possible interest the statement of the right honorable member for Balaclava upon this matter. I am making my protest against voting, this money - involving, as it does, large matters of public policy - before there has been a thorough discussion of the Budget itself. Can we again discuss these matters after the money has been voted ? Will it be of any usefor us to do so? I venture to say that we are wrongly discussing the whole matter now. Wecannot possibly discuss these largequestions of policy so hurriedly, and with the small amount of information that is now in our possession. I am not complaining of the wisdom of dealing with’ these works estimates at the earliest possible moment. I do not wish to be misunderstood upon that point. I agree that every expedition should be used, consistent with the duty cast upon us of thoroughly investigating the items. But I submit that they should only be dealt with after there has been a thorough discussion of the whole of the Budget proposals - immediately after that has taken place, if honorable members please, but certainly not before. That is the point I take in connexion with the whole matter. What was done last year? It is well known that the ex-Treasurer has always urged that we should pass the Works Estimates as speedily as possible, on the ground that more time is thus given for the expenditure of the votes so passed, and that the Treasurer feels that he has greater freedom in dealing with the money. The action taken last year by the Government may have suggested the course now proposed to be followed, but the two cases are altogether different. If the Government would pursue the policy that was adopted by the late Government, I should have no complaint whatever and no ground of quarrel with the Treasurer. I find that the Budget was not delivered last year until the 17 th or 1 8th of October.
– There were special reasons for that.
– I do not know what led to the delay.
– The Government had to wait for the Public Service classification.
– At all events, the Budget statement was not submitted until October, and, notwithstanding the lateness of its delivery, no proposal was made to deal with the Works Estimates until the 2’4th November - six weeks later. I am not pleading for any delay, except that necessary to enable vis to thoroughly discuss the Budget proposals covering the policy regulating the whole of the intended expenditure. The reason for urgency, which existed last year, is not forthcoming in this case. We are now only in the month of August, and the discussion of the Budget proposals will probably be nearing its conclusion soon after the beginning of next month. I submit that the Government should follow the policy adopted last year, shortening, if necessary, the interval between the discussion of the Budget, and the submission of these Estimates. The moment the Budget has been discussed, and dealt with, I shall be prepared ,to vote these supplies. We have a higher function than that of hastening a little temporary employment for those who are unfortunately out of work, and that function is to thoroughly test and scrutinize the expenditure of the Government, which seems, to be so large, extravagant, and stately in its notions. I have already said that these Estimates involve important questions of public policy, and we have to discuss those questions in view of the Ministerial declaration. Let us, for example, take the Estimates relating to the Department of Defence, under which we are asked to vote about ,£140,000. In these Estimates we have the items, “ Field artillery, guns, harness, waggons, and ammunition, £58,000 “ j “ machine guns, £10,000”; “two 7.5 guns and ammunition, .£24,000.” I do not wish at this stage to discuss the question whether that expenditure ought to be- incurred. I am prepared to believe it is necessary, and that these are largely the Estimates of the preceding Government ; but, surely, there are questions of policy involved. We have been told by the Prime Minister that, in his opinion, the whole subject of the defence of Australia ought speedily be placed under review, with a view to a stable policy being decided upon.
– We are only proposing at this stage to carry out what- we have already agreed upon.
– There is much to be said as to the point raised last year by the leader of the Labour Party, in reference to the equity of the proposal to expend ,£24,000 at the present moment in putting the defences of Western Australia on a secure footing.
– What about the ,£30,000 for the telephone services?
– I shall come to that point. We spent large sums in perfecting the defences of New South Wales before the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth, and it is a question of moment whether we ought to expend this money in Western Australia until, at all events, the matter of the transfer of State properties has been settled, and their values determined. This is a matter that ought to be dealt with in the general discussion of the Budget before we are called upon to vote these huge sums of money.
– We voted the money in question last year, but ad not expend the whole of it.
– We certainly voted it last year, but there was much demur . to the proposed expenditure, objections being raised, on the initiative of the leader of the Labour Party, who pointed out how inequitable it would be to make this outlay in Western Australia until the question of the transfer of properties had been determined I do not wish to discuss these matters, and am referring to them only to show why we should’ delay the passing of these Estimates until the whole question of policy relating to them has been settled. The Treasurer told us last night that he was strongly in favour of Imperial defence, and that we ought to pay more for our defences.
– I did not say anything1 about the Imperial Navy. I am not taking back anything I said, but all that I asserted was that we should have to spend more on our own defences. I did not say in what way that expenditure should be made.
– Am I to understand
– The honorable member is to understand only what I said.
– As the right honorable gentleman refuses to vouchsafe any explanation, I must proceed in my own way. I am indebted to him for his courtesy in declining 10 assist me to understand what he had in mind.
– It is all in Hansard.
– But Hansard is not available to me at this moment. The right honorable gentleman, at all events, told us distinctly last night that we required to spend more for the purposes of Imperial defence.
– For the purposes of defence.
– I think the right honorable gentleman used the word “ Imperial.”
– I refer the honorable member to Hansard.
– The Treasurer was quite right if he did use that word.
– I am not saying that he was right or wrong, but in view of his statement I wish to direct attention to the item of £58,000 for field artillery. This appears to me to be putting the cart before the horse. I take it that our sea defences are our first line of defence, and therefore, if we are going to spend these huge sums in procuring field artillery, we ought also, according to the right honorable gentleman’s theory, to be attending to our coastal defences more adequately than we are. These are all matters of policy that should be discussed before we vote these huge sums. There is another item of £10,000 in respect to machine guns. We are to incur this heavy expenditure in purchasing machine guns before we have a definite policy of defence, as suggested by the Prime Minister.
– The £10,000 in question was voted last year.
– Even if that be so, the matter should be explained. I believe,) however, that the money has not been spent. Before we indulge in this great expenditure upon our land defences, we ought to have some definite statement from the Minister as to the defence policy of the Government. The Prime Minister has been travelling all over Australia, talking in his most eloquent way of the necessity of improving our defences, and practically of assimilating the defence system of Australia with that of Switzerland.
– Such a scheme cannot be drawn up in a few days. The honorable member ought to be fair.
– Certainly it cannot, but the Prime Minister, by implication, condemns our present system. That being so, a clear, definite, and. intelligent policy in regard to the defences of Australia should be placed before the House - either by the Prime Minister or the Treasurer - before we are asked to vote these large sums. If there is an explanation to be given, we ought to have it. Let us discuss these matters adequately, and know in what direction we are trending before we pass these huge votes. Then there is the question of Inter-State telephones, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I find that a sum of .£19,000 is to be placed to the debit of New South Wales, and a sum of £11,000 is to be debited to Victoria on account of their Inter-State telephones. Surely these items raise a matter of special importance, as to which we ought to have a declaration of policy on the part of the Government. We are told that if we vote these sums the Government will then allow us to discuss the question of policy. This is a matter of the most vital concern to the Commonwealth, and the obligation rests upon us to see that these Works Estimates are not hurried through without the fullest, freest, and fairest investigation. I simply ask the Government to deal, first of all, with the. Budget proposals. When the discussion of the Budget has been concluded, it will be open to them to submit their public works policy, and there nee”d be no doubt as to the attitude that the House will take up in deciding whether or not they should be passed with expedition. A delay of two or three weeks can make no practical difference in the expenditure of these moneys.
– It seems to be a case of live horse and you will get grass.
– I am Bound to say that the more I hear of the right honorable gentleman the more do I think the Parliament ought to be careful in intrusting him with sums of money without the fullest discussion as to their destination, and as to the advisableness of the proposed expenditure.
– I have been accustomed to being trusted in this way.
– I suppose the right honorable gentleman has. From what I hear, he used to have a very free and easy time in the West.
– The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
– It is very easy to get the pudding, and eat it too, when one is acting, the part of an emperor in one’s own State. 1 hope we are not going to have a repetition of anything of that kind in connexion with the finances of the Commonwealth. I can conceive of nothing more disastrous “to the finances of Australia than the pursuance of a policy that may have been advantageous in the early days ot Western Australia. I am not condemning the right honorable gentleman for anything that he ‘did in Western Australia, but suggest that the position of the Parliament of that State is entirely ^different from that of the Commonwealth. Here we are acting, as trustees in monetary matters for the whole of the States. Our position is very different from that of those who are agreeing to the expenditure of money in their own State. Before we have any further voting away of large sums of money, the least we may ask the Government to do “is to facilitate the discussion of the Budget, and to finish the financial debate before proceeding to deal with these Estimates.
– The acting leader of the Opposition has forestalled me in the remarks which he has just made. I think that he has put the position very fairly, and forcibly. The Government will not accuse me of desiring to prevent them from getting on with business, and it is my wish to facilitate the passing of these particular Estimates. My experience as Treasurer showed me that the effect of passing- these Estimates late in the vear, and of the Works Department not having ready in advance the necessary plans and specifications, so that the works for which Parliament voted money could be proceeded with directly the Works and Buildings Bill became law, was that the parliamentary appropriations could not be spent during the currency of the financial year. I therefore intimated, some time ago, that I intended to ask the House to deal with the works portion of the Budget proposals earlier than with the ordinary appropriations for the year ; the former practice being to discuss the ordinary appropriations for the year, which took several weeks, before dealing with the works estimates. Now, however, we are asked to go from one extreme to the other, and to do what, in my opinion, it would be highly improper, and, perhaps,, hereafter, dangerous to do. I am as anxious as is any one to see necessary public works proceeded with, but it will not make any difference whether we pass these Estimates to-night or three weeks hence, because, before anything can. be done tenders must be accepted ; and there is nothing in the world tq prevent the Government from calling for tenders, and having everything ready a month hence, by which time I am certain that the Estimates will have been passed, because a large part of the amount asked for fs made up of revotes for works in progress. I admit that it is useless to fight the Government on this question, because of their solid majority, but I urge the Prime Minister and the Treasurer not to ‘attempt to rush these Estimates through.
– About when would the right honorable member suggest as the pro-‘ per time for their discussion?
– I am pointing out that the Government will gain nothing by forcing through these Estimates now. Honorable members will desire explanation with regard to many of the items contained in them. Such an item is that which provides for the construction of a telephone between Sydney and Melbourne, to be charged to all the States on a population basis.
– Then that work is not tobe paid for by Victoria and New South Wales alone?
– No. According to the practice of the last two years, expenditure of this kind, whether incurred in Western Australia or in any other State, is debited to the Commonwealth as a whole. The suggestion I make to the Government’ is advanced in all friendliness, with a view to expediting the passing of the Estimates. We are to resume the debate on the Budget next Tuesday, and I am certain that the’ Government do not anticipate that the Estimates now before us can be finally dealt with in the two or three hours of to-night’s sitting, and the few hours at our disposal to-morrow. They perhaps could be forced through if they were not properly discussed ; 1 but the Government would make a grave mistake if they adopted such a course. Besides, they would have nothing to gain by adopting it. To say that by objecting to the consideration of these Estimates nowwe are preventing men from getting work is to make a statement for which there is no foundation in fact. I am as anxious as are my honorable friends on the corner benches that work shall be provided for the people, but such work cannot be proceeded with until the Works Department has all preliminaries ready, so that it will be sufficiently early if we pass these Estimates in a month’s time.
– Why did not the right honorable member see that preliminaries were advanced when he was in office?
– I have frequently urged the Works Department to have their plans and specifications prepared in advance of the voting of money by Parliament ; but I found it difficult to get them to do so. My suggestion is that we should commence the financial debate on Tuesday next, and deal with the Budget proposals as a whole. We cannot fairly discuss proposals of great moment, such as the Budget, piecemeal ; but that is what we are being asked1 to do. We must either pass these E stimates without discussion, and vote blindfolded, or we must properly consider them, in which case they will not have been dealt with by Tuesday next, when the debate on the Budget is to be resumed. I suggest, therefore, that they should be allowed .to stand over until the conclusion of the debate on the Budget, which probably will be concluded within a fortnight. My remarks on the Budget will t>e of the briefest character, because I have no desire to spin out the discussion on the Treasurer’s statement, and I do not know that any honorable member desires to do so. Therefore a fortnight, and perhaps a week, will suffice for the Budget debate, and these Estimates can be brought forward immediately afterwards. In regard to them, I suggest to the Treasurer that he might advantageously follow the practice which I adopted in connexion with my first Budget, and which I intended to adopt in connexion with the others, but found it impossible to do so, namely, to have a short statement prepared, giving all the information available in regard to every proposed work/ and to circulate that statement amongst honorable members. If that is done,, probably nine out of ten of the proposals will be passed without discussion. I appeal to the Treasurer, and to my old friend the Prime Minister, not to try to force these Estimates through now. The Government have nothing to gain by doing that. No harm may be likely to come from passing this particular set of
Estimates at this time, but to do so will establish what I think may be a dangerous precedent. While nothing will be gained by forcing the Estimates through, nothing will be lost by allowing their consideration to be postponed until after the Budget debate, because, in the meantime, plans and specifications can be got ready, and tenders advertised for, returnable, say, in three weeks or a month, by which time the Estimates will have been passed, and the money needed will be available.
– What will be the position of the poor people who go to the trouble of tendering for works which are not sanctioned by this House ?
– There are works to be tendered for which are certain to be sanctioned by this House.
– Then why not pass the Estimates now?
– Because we have no precedent for dealing with an important part of the Budget proposals before the statement of the Treasurer has been discussed1. I was astounded when I entered the Chamber, and found what was proposed’. I shall not take any further part in opposing the action of the Government if they refuse my request; but I urge them, in their own interest, and in that of the Committee, to prevent the establishment of a dangerous precedent, by allowing the discussion of these Estimates to be postponed until the conclusion of the Budget debate, when we on this side of the Chamber will” facilitate the passing of them, as much as men can do.
– As the first business after the conclusion of the Budget debate ?
– Yes, immediately afterwards.
– It is impossible for any of us to listen to. the right honorable member who has just resumed his seat without feeling that great deference is due to one of such large experience in both Commonwealth and State finance. The right honorable gentleman, however, spoke under a slight misapprehension, while the acting leader of the Opposition was still more in error. It is. not the desire of the Government that the Committee shall pass these Estimates without the closest scrutiny and consideration. We are ready to afford all information needed, and are not attempting to force, honorable members to accept them in any. unprecedented ‘ way. We understood that there was a consensus of opinion that the course now being followed should be adopted.
– It was suggested in previous sessions, and recently pressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the leader of the Labour Party, and others. We have complied with the suggestion, under the impression that in so doing we should be acting in accordance with the desires of honorable members generally. I took steps ‘ to assure myself that in improving, so to speak, on the excellent precedent set by the right honorable member for Balaclava last year in taking the Work’s Estimates before the ordinary Estimates of the year, we should do nothing contrary to the principles of right parliamentary procedure. We have passed a Supply Bill framed on the lines of the Budget proposals before the financial debate has begun, and are at liberty to deal similarly with these works and buildings estimates. It might well happen that, on occasion, some great principle might be involved, in which case it would be reasonable to request the postponement of that part of the Estimates until the Budget had been dealt with. There are, however, no such items now before the Committee, and the passing of these Estimates will in no way interfere with the discussion of the general financial position. There is no constitutional objection to following the course which the Government has proposed, if honorable members are ready to do so, and we understood that it was their wish that it should be followed. If any novel proposal can be discovered in these Estimates, demanding special consideration, there can be no objection to dealing reasonably in regard to it. In adopting this course, the Government have no intention of achieving any advantage for themselves. But, year after year, Parliament is asked to re-vote sums of money which could not be expended in the year in which they were originally voted. There are a number of such items in these Estimates from last year. The proposals to which they relate have been already thoroughly discussed, and approved by Parliament.
– Why not deal similarly with the Estimates which provide for the salaries of the public servants ?
– The House has just voted a month’s supply for them before dealing with the Treasurer’s statement.
– If any single item in these Estimates has to be postponed, it will prevent the Government from proceeding with the Works and Buildings Bill.
– There can be an understanding that, if the Estimates are agreed to,we shall not proceed to expend the money until the Budget debate is concluded.
– The Government have another place to consider.
– I am informed that there are works being proceeded with by the Department of Home Affairs, and the Postmaster- General’s Department, which will be stopped if money is not speedily voted. I pay great deference to my right honorable friend’s opinion, and he has made an appeal which it is very hard to resist.
– And a promise.
– I am quite sure that the right honorable gentleman would follow the same course, promise or no promise. He has made an appeal which it is very hard to resist, and to meet his friendly invitation I venture to make a suggestion. I find from consultation with the officers of the Postal and Home Affairs Departments that the requisitions have been received for a certain number of works, for which preparations are now in hand. The amount required by the Department of Home Affairs would not amount to more than £4,000 or £5,000, but a considerably larger amount would have to be appropriated for similar works in the Postal Department. I (understand that a number of payments would have to be made for work already done.
– Those amounts mightbe paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account.
– I was just about to say that provision could be made for such payments out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account. On the understanding that we shall proceed with the works which are ready, and so give whatever employment we can immediately, I shall consent to my honorable friend’s suggestion, and defer the further consideration of these Estimates until he and other honorable members have offered their criticisms upon the Budget. I think that by following this course I shall pay that regard which is due to the right honorable gentleman, and at the same time arrive at an understanding which will enable us to proceed with the more urgent works, and to some extent relieve the pres- sure. For the present, we shall have to rely upon the Treasurer’s advance, but I trust that honorable members will see that the course that we have proposed to follow with these votes is far from being opposed to any constitutional practice, and will be a convenient one. I think that by dealing with the works and buildings estimates at as early a period of the year as possible, we shall make our appropriations real instead of sham votes, and enable the money set apart for certain works to be expended, as it is intended it should be, during the year for which it is voted.
– Parliament would altogether surrender its hold upon the policy of the Government if it passed the works estimates before the debate on the Budget was concluded.
– That might be so upon some very special occasions, but I do not think that in the ordinary course there is anything to fear. Under the special circumstances I shall ask my honorable colleague the Treasurer not to proceed further to-night. I trust that ‘honorable members will give us every assistance in dealing not only with the Budget, but with the proposed votes for the works enumerated in these Estimates, regarding which every information will be circulated.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I feel that I ought to make one remark after the speech which the Prime Minister has addressed principally, if not wholly, to the right honorable member for Balaclava.
– The Prime Minister ignored the Opposition.
– I wish to say that, so far as any implied understanding is concerned, he must not take my silence as involving in any way my assent tothe proposal.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - I was placed in a rather special personal position in regard to a late colleague of mine, who not only advanced a pointed argument, but made a personal appeal ; and in my natural desire to respond to his suggestion inthe spirit in which it was made, confined my remarks to him, but without the slightest intention of ignoring the position occupied by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– All I wish the Minister to understand is that I am not a consenting party to any bargain such as he has suggested.
– I am quite satisfied to allow the honorable member to take his own course, so long as he realizes that I was speaking by way of reply to a personal appeal, and may have appeared to ignore him, withouthaving the slightest intention of so doing.
– I do not feel at all satisfied with the position the PrimeMinister is taking up on this occasion, and I almost feel disposed to think that his attitude–
Mr.Conroy. - What is the use of the honorable member’s yapping, if he does not intend to bite ?
– It is a novel thing to hear the honorable and learned member yapping, because when, he was sitting over on this side of the Chamber he was not even allowed to open his mouth. I am glad to say that honorable members on this side are at liberty to express their opinions upon any subject and at any time, and I am prepared to express mine to the extent of voting upon the question as to whether we should proceed further with the business now before us. The Prime Minister, in my opinion, for weakly yielding, deserved the rebuke which he received from the leader of the Opposition. Estimates were presented providing for revotes amounting to £51,000 for works which were authorized last year, and which should be proceeded with without any further delay, and yet the Prime Minister immediately complies with the request of the ex-Treasurer, and consents to set aside the business in hand. The right honorable member for Balaclava suggests that there is no precedent for pursuing the course proposed by the Government; but my view is that we should not think of precedent in connexion with a matter of this kind. There is every reason why we should proceed with the consideration of the works estimates to-night rather than in three or four weeks’ time. The members of the Opposition appear to be bent on taking advantage of every opportunity to prevent business from being transacted. They have in some cases extended their speeches over a number of hours, in order to delay business and discredit the Government in the eyes of the country. They are apparently intent upon showing the electors that the Government can do no good, and they are now going to the length of preventing us from revoting moneys for the construction of works which should have been completed last year. They are denying our artisans and others an opportunity of securing that employment which should be furnished for them at the first opportunity. If the members of the late Government were .so anxious to serve the interests of the unfortunate workers, why did they permit works to be delayed to such an extent that it has become necessary to revote ,£51,000? I think that question demands an answer.
– Has the honorable member the authority of his party for speaking in this way?
– I have the authority which my conscience gives me for any action that I may take. I am not at the behest of the leader of a band of honorable members who are prepared to prevent other honorable members from freely expressing their opinions. A few weeks ago I had an experience of some members of the Opposition which has made me particularly cautious in my dealings with them. When honorable members can sit on the Opposition benches, and hear every word that is said at the table to an honorable member whose face is turned away from them, they are very clever; and when they tell us that their present action is taken in the best interests of the country, I am not prepared to accept their assurances. I regret exceedingly that the Prime Minister should have seen fit, even at the request of the right honorable member for Balaclava, to postpone this business. We are abandoning one position because there is no precedent for it, and are establishing a much more dangerous precedent, namely, that of paying for works out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account. I do not think that the Treasurer’s vote should be drawn upon to pay for works for which the appropriations have ‘ to be partly revoted. Now is the time for us to express our opinions upon such proposed revotes. I am not pleased with the position, and I am prepared, if honorable members opposite will assist me-
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– Honorable members are prepared to make private arrangements which may be easily broken, but they are not prepared to enter into a public arrangement with! a view to facilitating the business of the country. The Prime Minister has had experience of. the “ wreckers “ who came across from the Opposition benches tq’ defeat him on one occasion, and that should have made him verv careful of accepting their plausible assurances. I do not at all approve of the present position of affairs, and I hope that a majority of honorable members will be in favour of proceeding with the business to-night.
– In that study of the law to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is devoting himself with so much praiseworthy zeal, he will find that he will have to be guided by precedent to a very large extent. It is simply because they have stood the test of time that they exist, and any departure from the great principles involved in them is always fraught with much more danger than is an adherence to them. I venture to say that it would be a very bad thing indeed if the House allowed these items of expenditure to pass before the Budget statement had been .discussed. Honorable members should recollect that we have now arrived at a very critical stage in the history of the Commonwealth. This year, after paying for the cost of the Commonwealth services, only a surplus of about £460,000 will remain, and out of that we shall probably have to spend £350,000. It will thus be seen that the Commonwealth will have only about ,£110,000, which it may use for purposes of administration. I wish to point out why we should most carefully scrutinize every proposed increase in expenditure. The sum I have mentioned is so small that it will not enable us to administer very many new Acts, and it is idle to pass enactments if we cannot administer them. In a large territory like Australia I suppose that any Act of importance will cost from ,£15,000 to £20,000 per annum to administer. Consequently, it is apparent that by the time we pass five or six more statutes we shall have reached the end of our tether. Under such circumstances, I ask honorable members when the Budget debate is resumed upon Tuesday next to recognise that there is one matter of paramount importance, namely, a system of sound finance.
– We have heard that statement before.
– If the Treasurer has heard it before it has fallen upon deaf ears. The more one regards the system of finance the more he must see how intimately it is bound up with the progress of the people. Without a sound’ system we shall embark upon a career which will bring ruin into thousands of homes, because, after all, it is the great masses of the people for whom we must have regard. We must take care that’ the rate of interest upon capital is not increased. By so much as we destroy credit, by so much do we destroy that which is of the greatest aid in the acquisition of wealth. I do trust that in the discussion which Wl. be initiated upon Tuesday next we shall all scrutinize the Estimates of expenditure very carefully, and do our best to cut them down to the lowest point possible consistent with sound administration. In the present instance I think that the Prime Minister is to be commended for the course which he has taken. I am sure that if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had been present during the sittings of the first Commonwealth Parliament he would have recognised that even his impetuosity, added perhaps to my own, would be quite powerless to coerce a House into doing something of which it does not approve.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he can give us any definite idea as to when this matter will again come up for consideration. The Prime Minister has stated1 that its discussion would be resumed after the right honorable member for Balaclava and two or three others had spoken upon the Budget. Upon the present occasion we had a full day’s notice, that these Estimates were coming on for consideration, and, although there are some matters in them which will excite no comment, there are others which may provoke discussion. In these circumstances, I ask that the resumption of the debate shall not be sprung upon the House without sufficient notice having been given.
– I do not regard the statement of the ex-Treasurer in the same light as does the Prime Minister. I think that the right honorable member for Balaclava gave the Committee the very best reason why we should pass this portion of the Estimates to-night. He assured us that everything is “ right as right can be” - so right that the Government could proceed to call for tenders for carrying out the works enumerated in the Bill: Personally, I am of opinion that we have been too long bound by bad precedents. I admit that we- ought to scrutinize these Estimates very carefully, but I am sure that if they had contained one- item which was open to challenge the Opposition would have found it long ago. The whole of yesterday’s’ silting was wasted in the discussion of a most trivial matter. If that is an indication of the way in which’ the work of the session is to be conducted, it is very difficult to hazard an opinion as to when these Estimates will be passed. If I thought that any important matter of policy was involved in any of the items, I should be the first to advocate delay. But if such a thing could be suggested, I am sure that the watchful deputy leader of the Opposition would have mentioned it ere this. I do think that it is time we endeavoured to do a little more for those persons who at the present time are starving. We have been doing too little for them, and indulging in too much wrangling. In my opinion, we should pass these Estimates, and provide what employment we can for those who are so badly in need of it.
-.! should like to understand from the Prime Minister whether he intends to proceed with these works before the Budget debate has been concluded.
– If the Budget debate is finished “within a reasonable time we do not intend to proceed with the larger works, but only with the minor works to which I have referred.
– I see no reason why the Government should not undertake the responsibility of immediately proceeding with the smaller works, for which the plans are ready. Although I am strongly opposed to the proposal to push these Estimates through before the Budget debate has taken place, for reasons which I shall mention in a moment, if I did not know that the practice of the Departments is such that they are not ready to proceed with the bulk of the works, I should be prepared to consider them. But the fact is that the Departments do not begin to get their plans and specification^ ready until the passing of the works estimates is assured. When I was Ministerial head of the Defence Department, I was preparing to issue instructions - so far as defence works .were concerned - that as soon as the Budget was introduced ,and the Estimates circulated, the plans and specifications of those works were to be got ready, in order that they might be proceeded with the moment that they were sanctioned. I am perfectly certain^ however, that that practice has not been followed in the Departments to any material extent. I am quite sure that the Minister of Home Affairs, so far as he is acquainted with the facts - and it is quite impossible to carry all these details in one’s head - will confirm my statement, that there is no substantial readiness to proceed. If the
Departments are instructed to prepare their plans and specifications, and to get their conditions of contract drawn and approved, I am satisfied that long before they are ready to proceed with any material amount of work, the Budget debate will have been concluded, and these Estimates will have been passed. From my own personal knowledge, I feel sure that there will be no delay in providing employment to men outside by the adoption of the course proposed.
– That is not what the officers of the Department tell me.
– I have been endeavouring to draw from the Minister of Home Affairs an interjection as to whether my statement is correct, and his silence impresses me as significant.
– I have been assured by the head of his Department that it is ready to spend £4,000 or £5,000.
– That is an infinitesimal amount. I venture to say that there is not .£20,000 worth of work: out of the £400,000 provided for in these Estimates which is ready to be proceeded, with. If the Departments are instructed to prepare their plans and specifications in anticipation of the Estimates being passed, there need not be an hour’s delay in providing employment.
– After a long experience, I do not agree with the honorable and learned member.
– One of the reasons why there is such a large amount revoted in this year’s Estimates is that the” Works Bill was not approved by Parliament till November of last year. While the Treasurer was speaking’ of these revotes, I took the trouble to run through some of them in the Defence Department, with which I am familiar, and I find that out of .£26,000, at least £12.000 is being revoted for reasons utterly apart from the delay which occurred in passing the Bill last year.
– There are two -sides even to that question.
– I am not referring to the works ‘ at Arthur’s Head, Fremantle, but I am referring, amongst other matters, to the North Fremantle forts. It was the difficulties which arose in connexion with the site which occasioned delay in that cas°.
– There was no difficulty experienced, except in buying the land.
– That is all.
– Why was there so - much delay about that ?
– If the Treasurer will inquire from the Department of Home Affairs he will obtain very good reasons for the delay which has taken place. There are thousands of pounds in the nature of revotes this year, which have no relation whatever to the time at which the Works Bill was passed last year. I merely rose to .say that, so far as I am able to judge from my limited experience as a Minister, there need be no delay in providing employment to persons outside by the adoption of the course which has been agreed to by the Prime Minister, if the Departments are instructed to get their plans and specifications ready in anticipation of the approval of Parliament.
– They have been doing so.
– If these Estimates were passed to-night, I do not think there would be .£5,000 worth of work begun within a month from now out of the proposed expenditure of ,£400,000, quite apart from the fact that a large proportion of that sum will be spent’ in the purchase of goods ordered upon indent from England. I feel that we ought to thank the Prime ‘ Minister for the Courtesy wi.th .which he readily recognised the reasonableness of the objections that were raised. That recognition casts upon me an obligation to assist the Government so far as I can to pass these Estimates with as little delay as possible as soon as the Budget debate’ has been concluded. Some questions of vital concern are involved in these Works Estimates. I believe, of course, that those relating to Defence are correct, because they are exactly as I left them on retiring from office. Even an item in respect of which I left a minute suggesting that it should be omitted remains in these Estimates, and the House may consider that if is right that it should. But the whole question of the defence policy of tEe Government is involved in connexion with the vote for special warlike stores.
– It is much the same vote as we Have passed before.
– That is so, yet I could, if necessary, show that the whole question of the defence policy of the Government is involved in that item. The Treasurer shakes his head, but he will permit me to hold some opinions at all events on this question.
– We are simply carrying out the scheme.*
– Quite so; but there are . other matters involved, and it would be very inconvenient to be called upon to discuss the defence policy of Australia piecemeal. I rose only to say that, as the Government have met my views in this matter, I shall do all that I can fairly be asked to do in seeing that, as soon as’ the Budget debate has been concluded, the Works Estimates are passed with as little delayas possible.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has lectured the Opposition for the action taken by us in regard to this matter ; but the very fact that the Treasurer has consented to the ‘postponement of the Works Estimates shows that we have taken up a justifiable position. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh and his party had been sitting in opposition, and we had been on the Government benches, we should have had very different treatment from that which we have received to-day at their hands. We have simply urged that the Government should adhere to principles that have been recognised for years in all Parliaments. If the course proposed by the Government had been in accordance with the usual procedure, the action of the Opposition would have been censurable; but I feel that we were justified in calling the attention of the House to the Tact that it was proposed to make a distinct departure from the usual custom. I am pleased that the Treasurer has “given way, and shall do all that I can to help him to pass these Estimates as soon as we have dealt with the Budget
Debate resumed from 23rd August (vide page 1383), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was interrupted on Tuesday evening, I was pointing out that the sum of ?250,000, proposed to be given by way of bonuses under this Bill for the encouragement of the iron industry, would be expended chiefly in the interests of an English syndicate. That statement was repudiated by the Minister df Trade and Customs, who said that, as a matter of fact, all the money required for the works would be raised in Australia. During the interval I have had an opportunity to examine the evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill, and find that my statement was absolutely correct. I do not propose to read Mr. Darby’s report bearing on this point unless it is the desire of the House that I should do so; but I am in receipt of a copy of the Trustees and Investors’ Review for August, in which reference is made to this very question. It clearly shows that this money is not going to be raised in Australia, but will’ really benefit an English syndicate. I specially commend the article to those who hold opinions similar to those entertained by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The Trustees tend Investors’ Review is pUDlished purely in the interests of financiers, and those having funds to invest ; it regards such schemes as this purely from a commercial stand-point, and it is, therefore, interesting to note that in dealing with this question it sets forth that - -
The evidence of Mr. Jamieson shows that the deposit was thoroughly examined by an English expert, Mr. Darby, managing director of the Brymbo Steel Works, in England, who reported on behalf of English capitalists -
Not Australian capitalists - who were prepared to find capital for establishing iron and steel works if the inquiry proved satisfactory.
– Who is the author of the article?
– I can only say that this is a well-known publication. The article continues -
Mr. Darby’s report evidently satisfied his principals
Not his Australian principals, but English principals who sent him to Australia in their interests’, and paid his expenses - as, according to Mr. Jamieson’s evidence, they were prepared to find capital to the extent of ^1,109,000, provided the bonus named in the Bill were provided, or a 15 per cent, duty were imposed. The evidence of Mr. Jamieson proved beyond a doubt that the industry can be established by the encouragement proposed if other intolerable conditions are not imposed.
I call the attention of honorable members to the concluding words of the last sentence, and propose later on to show that the “other intolerable conditions “ to which the writer refers are really the socialistic provisions of this Bill. I venture to assert that if those provisions be passed,’’ English capitalists will not be prepared to invest their money in the industry. They will not be prepared to make an investment which it is said by the advocates of this bonus will be attended with such beneficial results to the workers of Australia. It must be remembered that such publications as the Trustees and Investors’ Review are issued with the object of influencing investors, and that statements appearing in them must, from a financial point of view, bear some semblance of authority. In the opinion of the writer of, the article from which I have quoted, the passing of the socialistic provisions of this Bill will have a very injurious effect upon British investors. We must recognise, apart from the statement of the writer himself, that such must be the case: If such stringent conditions are imposed, English, capitalists will not even touch the scheme.
– What were Mr. Darby’s objections ?
– I am perfectly willing to read Mr. Darby’s report if honorable members desire me to do so. I have refrained from quoting it, simply because I do not wish to occupy too much of the time of the House, and because, also, of my desire to carry out an implied promise’ to the Prime Minister that in view of the concession which he extended to me last night in allowing the debate to be adjourned, I should curtail my remarks as much as possible. I certainly intend to do so if I am permitted to proceed without undue interruption. When dealing with this Bill on Tuesday evening, I referred to one aspect of it which, to my mind, is a very serious one. I pointed out that although it is proposed that the payment of the bonuses under the Bill shall be limited to a certain period, we have the evidence of those who expect to reap the benefit of the bonus system that at the expiration of that period, they will ask either for the continuance of the system, or for the imposition of a duty. It will thus be seen that the Bill before us involves something more than an expenditure of £[250,000. It means either the continuance of the bonus system after the time limit fixed by the Bill has expired, or the imposition of a higher duty. I have already quoted evidence in support of this contention. I have shown that Mr. Sandford and others stated, when before the Commission, that if the bonus system were not continued for a further period, or an equivalent duty imposed, the industry would have to be abandoned. That being the case, we are simply asked to throw away £250,000. In any event, that must be the result of the passing of this measure, because the Commonwealth itself will not derive a benefit, even to the extent of one farthing, f from the proposed expenditure. Every penny will go to ,the enrichment of a private syndicate. There is no getting away from that fact. We may seek to gloss it over as we will, but the bald truth remains that this expenditure will serve* no national or public purpose, and is designed solely for private gain. If honorable members turn to page 52 of the report of the Royal Commission, they will find what Mr. Jamieson said would be the position when the bonuses provided for in this Bill cease. He was asked by Mr. Winter Cooke-
Why do you want protection if things are still coming all the same ?
It is a very material point that notwithstanding that bonuses are to be given, for the encouragement of the iron industry, iron manufactures are to come in as before. Mr. Jamieson admitted that for years to come, many iron products in the form of manufactures will continue to be imported. Let me read some further questions which were put to him on the point - 1079. The duty you ask for is merely an estimate ? - Yes. 1080. Then it may be found that this guesswork of iai or 15 per cent, is not sufficient? - I would not call it mere guesswork. Men, before they were prepared to put down their money, sent out an experienced man to get the necessary data. That gentleman was introduced to this country merely as a nominee of others at home. We had the paying of his accounts, but he was nominated by those at home as the man who could give them the best opinion. 1081. We are aware that the estimate was carefully made; but, the industry having been established, if the estimate were proved to be wrong, what would happen - an application for more duty ? - In going into a business of this description, or any new business, you cannot make a dead certainty ; you have to run risks. What yow mean is that there is a possibility we might ask for more duty. 1082. That has been the experience, in Victoria, at all events ? - That may be ; but I cannot look into the -future. 1083. That is a danger I wish to point out? - Then the best thing would be to make the duty 20 per cent, at once.
So that the voracious promoters of this syndicate want not only a bonus but concurrently a protective duty of 20 per cent. The protectionists who support this pro- posal, in the belief that it will immediately benefitthe local manufacturers of iron and steel goods, will be greatly deceived.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– In this connexion I should like to read the following evidence - 1075. How long do you think it would take before the company would be able to supply Australia with all the iron required? - We should expect to be able to supply half, or perhaps a little less than half, within two or three years from the time the works were finished. 1076. In the meantime, in regard to the other half, the consumer would be paying more for his iron than he would pay if there was no duty ?
Mr. Jamieson fenced that question. ‘He replied
I would not say that. I should not think that he would. It is rather an intricate business,
He went on to say -
We propose to produce only certain classes,’ such as pig-iron and steel rails. All other classes of machinery, or special finished articles, will very likely be made abroad for many years to come.
– I desire to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that there is not a quorum present in the Chamber. [Quorum formed.]
– I wish now to deal with the question of the cost of production, and I think that I shall save time by at once directing the attention of honorable members to the evidence taken by the Royal Commission on the point. It is worthy of note that Mr. Jamieson, who was questioned very closely in regard to this matter, displayedgreat unwillingness to give the Commission any information about it.
– I desire to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The other night I stated that Mr. Sandford has estimated the cost of producing iron in Australia at something under 35s. per ton ; but, as doubt was cast on that statement, I shall read his evidence on that subject.
– I desire to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– This is what Mr. Sandford said in reply to question 1126–
– I desire to again draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the state of the House. There are not twenty-five members present.
– There are twentyfive, including myself.
– Mr. Sandford was asked if he had formed any estimate as to the cost of producing iron at Lithgow, and he replied that he had.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
- Mr. Sandford was then asked question 11 27 -
Are you prepared to reply to a question as to what your estimate of the cost is?
To that question he replied -
Yes, I am. After supplying modern blast furnaces, thoroughly well equipped, and every necessary appliance, from material already secured in the shape of the iron ore, coal, and limestone, pigiron could be produced at Lithgow for under 35s. per ton.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I have already said that this estimate took into account the fact that Australian labour is dearer than that employed in connexion with the manufacture of imported iron. Let me read some more of Mr. Sandford ‘s evidence - 1128. That, of course, would be a rate which would enable you to compete with foreign competition? - Yes. I may say that I formed my judgment in part from the action taken by a member of the Commission when Minister for Mines in New South Wales, in appointing Mr. Jacquet to inquire into the question. Mr. Joseph Cook has, in my opinion, done as much or more than any other man in New South Wales in connexion with this matter by appointing an expert like Mr. Jacquet to see what we have in Australia. Mr. Jacquet’s conclusions were confirmed by Mr. Enoch James, and I may say that when Mr. Enoch James was here we had over a dozen applications outside of known properties from people willing to supply us with ore, showing that the industry only wants to be set going for the manufacture of pig-iron, to have a number of works started in Australia. The best thing ever done for the iron industry of Australia was what was. done by Mr. Joseph Cook. It was action anticipating the next best thing to do, and it was done. 1129. By Mr. McCay. - I am not quite sure that I understand what you mean when you say that pig-iron could beproduced at Lithgow for under 35s. per ton. Is that taking everything into account? -I give that as an estimate of the net cost at Lithgow.
– We have read all this. Mr. JOHNSON.- I am reading it for the information of those who have not done so. The honorable member does not wish to hear it, because it breaks down his case. This evidence is of importance as showing; that there is no justification for granting a bonus of even one penny. I propose to quote the evidence of experts on this head, whether the honorable member wishes to hear it or not. Mr. Sandford was asked, in regard to his estimate -
Is that taking everything into account?
To which he replied - »
I give that as an estimate of the net cost at Lithgow.
When I stated the other night that that estimate had been given by Mr. Sandford, the Minister of Trade ‘and Customs said that it was incorrect, because it had been framed on a wrong basis, and that it did not agree with the estimate of Mr. Sandford’s manager.
– Mr. Sandford himself has contradicted that statement.
– He cannot contradict his sworn evidence given before the Commission, and repeated time after time. Mr. Sandford did not rely entirely upon his own calculations, but,, at the cost of £[1,000, enlisted the services of Mr. Enoch James, an eminent expert in such matters, who made a most minute investigation of the whole subject. It was upon the results of his calculations that Mr. Sandford based his estimates.
– On several occasions Mr. Sandford has qualified his original statement.
– We cannot go behind his sworn evidence before the Royal Commission, which is based upon the calculations made by Mr. Enoch James.
– - The honorable member, of course, knows that the price quoted by Mr. Sandford was net, and that other charges, which he has given in detail, brings the actual cost up to 61s. per ton.
– Why was not that stated at the time? Mr. Sandford had many opportunities to amplify his original statement, and we are justified in assuming that he put forward his case in the most favorable light possible.
– Mr. Sandford was in a state of high excitement when he gave the answer to which the honorable member is referring. He certainly was not as collected as a witness ought to be who was giving important evidence of that kind.
– But Mr. Sandford’s estimate was based upon the calculations made by Mr. Enoch James, and it cannot be urged that Mr. James,, as well as Mr. Sandford, was excited. Mr. Sandford cannot shelter himself behind any such excuse now- that he finds that the estimate he put forward is not serving his purpose.
– Surely the honorable member would not take advantage of an admitted mistake.
– I. take mv stand on the evidence given before the Commission.
– Yes, but surely the honorable member will accept Mr. Sandford’s statement that he made a mistake.
– I have never seen any denial by Mr. Sandford of his -first estimate.
– He has published it in the press.
– Even allowing that a mistake may have been made, there would still be sufficient margin of profit to the local manufacturer. We know perfectly well that when gentlemen engaged in commercial enterprises, such as that contemplated under the Bill, see an opportunity of obtaining a present of a large surra of money for which they are not expected to give anything in return, they will do everything in their power to improve their chances. I do not blame them,, but I think the conduct of the representatives of the people who are prepared to give them such a present is in the last degree reprehensible.
– I desire to direct attention to the State of the House. (Quorum formed.)
– I desire to make a comparison between the cost of production of pig iron in New South Wales, and the price of the imported product. According to Mr. Jamieson, imported pig iron costs from £3 15s. to 5s- per toil - the price varies - and, according to /Mr. W. A. Robertson, the cost ranges from £4 10s. to £5 5s- Per ton, and if those prices be correct, a very large margin of natural protection would be enjoyed by the local manufacturer.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House.
– There is a quorum present ; the honorable member may proceed.
– Mr.- Sandford estimates that pig iron can be produced at
Lithgow for£1 15s. per ton. If the freight to Sydney, 10s. 6d. per ton, be added to that price, the cost landed in Sydney will amount to £2 5s. 6d. That price compared with the cost of imported pig iron would give the local manufacturer an advantage of£2 4s. 6d. per ton, which would amount to protection at the rate of over 50 per cent. Surely that ought to be sufficient to encourage any local manufacturer. The truth of the matter is that the bonus is looked upon in the light of a present. That is shown by the evidence given by Mr. W. A. Robertson, who at page 138 of the report of the Commission, question 2895, was asked - 2895.Ifyougotabonus, you would still want a duty? - Now that the bonus has been offered, we should certainly desire it. To askus now to do without a bonus would be like offering a man a present and then taking it away.
– That is merely verbiage.
– That statement bears out my contention that this bonus is regarded as a present. Honorable members are practically proposing to make a present of£250,000 of the taxpayers’ money to an English syndicate. For what purpose? To benefit Australia ? Not in the slightest degree. The payment of that money to the proposed company would not benefit a single man, woman, or child in Australia. It will swell the profits of a rich English syndicate, which, on the face of the evidence of their own experts, have a splendid property from whichthey could derive high returns without the assistance of any grant from the Commonwealth. There is a very peculiar feature about the shares in this company. We find that they have practically no market value at present. They are supposed to be worth 2s. 6d, each, but it is expected that, if the bonus be granted, their value will be increased to £1 each. I do not propose to deal with this aspect of the matter at any greater length, because the ground has already been covered by the honorable member for New England. I wish now to refer to some of the provisions of the Bill. Clause 4 reads as follows: -
Where the rate of bounty is fixed on the value of the goods, their value shall be taken to be the same as the value of imported goods of the like kind and quality as ascertained for the purposes of Customs duties.
This clause will require to be very carefully considered, because we must not have a repetition of the experience through which we have passed in connexion with the imported harvesters, the values of which were artificially inflated’ by the Minister on the recommendation of his officers.
– The honorable member knows that the Minister had very good authority for his action.
– I know that neither the Minister nor his officers had any warrant for what they did, on the evidence of the papers in the case laid on the library table, and we should be careful not to leave the door open for similar action on their part in regard to the valuation of imported iron goods. Clauses 5 and 6 read as follows : -
The total amount of the bounties authorized to be paid in respect of any particular class of goods shall not exceed the amount set out in the third column of the schedule opposite the description of that class of goods.
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid on -
Pig-iron, puddled bar-iron, or steel, made after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and eleven ;
Galvanized iron, wire netting, or iron or steel pipes or tubes, made after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and nine ;
Reapers and binders made after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and seven.
I have already pointed out that the evidence of men who are interested in the establishment of this industry shows the absolute farce of imposing a time limit within which the bonus shall operate. We know perfectly well that when the bonus is about to expire, an agitation will be raised for its continuance, in order to protect what will be termed a “languishing” industry. Is not that the experience of every enterprise which has received artificial aid from the Treasury? Is it not our own experience in connexion with the sugar bounty ? In that- connexion, do we not find that long before the period during which the bounty is to operate has expired, an agitation has been created for its continuance, and did not the Government indicate in the Treasurer’s Budget speech that they intend to make provision upon the Estimates for an extension of that period? What has happened in the case of the sugar bounty will occur in the case of the iron bonus. It is a perfect farce to insert a clause of that character when we know perfectly well, from the evidence of the very men who will receive this bonus, that it will require to be continued.
– That did not happen in Victoria.
– The honorable member must know that we are being asked to pass a provision which the evidence before the Iron Bonus Commission shows will not have the desired effect. Where, I ask, is this system of bonuses going to end ? Only last session, the present Minister of Home Affairs proposed that a bonus should be granted to the cotton industry. Thus we shall establish a precedent for supporting any industry which likes to set up a claim for adventitious aid. I say that if we are going to grant a bonus to any industry we must grant bonuses to all. Why should we favour one industry at the expense of others? It is a scandal and a perversion of the powers of Legislature to convert public money to purposes of this kind. Coming to clause 8, I find it provides that -
All bounties in respect of pig-iron, puddled bar-iron, or steel, shall be granted on the condition that the manufacturer shall, if required, transfer as hereinafter provided the land”, buildings, plant, machinery, appliances, and material used in the manufacture of the goods.
There we see the first indication of an attempt on the part of the Government to bend its will to the socialistic ideas of its supporters in the Ministerial corner. That is amplified in the next clause, which states that - . ‘
The person claiming any bounty shall, before receiving the same or the first instalment thereof, give his bond to the Commonwealth, in the sum of the aggregate amount of bounty which he may thereafter receive (hereinafter called the’ secured amount), conditioned to be void if he fulfils all the following conditions : -
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House.
– Upon a point of order, may I direct your attention, sir, to standing order No. 59, which provides that any member who is guilty of persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House shall be dealt with in a certain way. I submit that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, by calling attention to the state of the > House so frequently, without cause, is obstructing the business of the Chamber. He has called attention to the state of the House when there is a quorum present, and -I submit that it is time for you to take action.
– If the honorable and learned member for Illawarra calls attention to the state of the House when there is no quorum present there is no more to be said, but I hope that he will not again call attention to the state of the House when there is a quorum present, and so interrupt business in so serious a way as he has done.
– I object entirely, sir, to your statement that I am acting in the way that you suggest.
– Does the honorable and learned member rise to a point pf order ?
– Yes; I submit that I ara entitled, as a member df the House, to call attention to the state of the House at any time I think fit.
– The honorable and learned member is entitled to call attention to the state of the House when he has reason to believe that there is not a quorum present. But he has again and again called attention to it when a quorum has been present. If the honorable member, who is addressing the Chair is to be continually interrupted bv the honorable and learned member calling attention to the state of the House, and’ necessitating a count of the House, I think he will admit that he is committing a breach of the orders which affect the conduct of business.
– I submit that upon the six or seven occasions when I called attention to the state of the House, you, sir, have ordered the bells to be rung.
– If the honorable and learned member desires to raise a point cif order he is at liberty to do so. If he desires to dissent from my ruling, he is at liberty to move in that direction. But otherwise I must ask the honorable member for Lang to proceed with his speech.
– I venture to say that paragraph a of clause 9 contains the only good feature which is to be found in this Bill. I refer to the attempt which is being made to preserve a high rate of wages. But, unfortunately for the Possible success of the measure, that very clause is one of those which will operate prejudicially to the successful flotation of this company upon the London market, that is, Sf the writer in the Trustees and Investors’ Review is correct in his surmise. In referring to this measure he says -
The new provisions in the Bill are evidently for the encouragement of manufacture by a State as against private enterprise. It cannot be expected that capitalists will look at the industry which is not to be under their control, but under the control of the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation. The Government evidently regard themselves as partners in the business by providing a bonus, and desire to actively interfere in the management. The fixing of wages by the Arbitration Court is no new power, it already exists in case of dispute between employer and employ^, where unions are formed. The fixing of prices, at which the manufactured article is to be sold, however, is an unnecessary and undue interference in the business, particularly as no steps have been taken to secure the home market.
So that the view taken by an expert financial writer is that capitalists will not feel very keen about investing their money in this particular venture if socialistic restrictions and conditions are embodied in the Bill. Clause 9 continues -
Neither directly nor indirectly to sell or cause to be sold any of the goods in respect of which bounty is paid at a price higher than that fixed as hereinafter provided; and
in the case of a bounty in respect of pigiron, puddled bar-iron, or steel, to transfer to the State in which the goods are manufactured all lands, buildings, premises, machinery, plant, and equipment of any kind, used in or in connexion with the manufacture of the goods’, if so required by the Governor of the St.ite, within months after the date of expiry of the bounty with respect to that class of goods; such transfer to be in consideration of fair compensation for the property transferred, to be assessed, in case of dispute, by the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, whose determination shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal.
I submit that that is a most extraordinary provision. We are asked in the first place to make a free grant of £250,000 to this English syndicate, and within six months after the bonus has expired - not during its continuance - the Government may purchase the property which has been established as the result of the Commonwealth Government subsidy.
– It is quite optional whether we do that or not. .
– The State Government may purchase the industry if it is required by the State. The State is to pay compensation, so that the taxpayer will again be called upon to hand over a large additional sum of money to this already heavily subsidized English syndicate. I say that- the proposal is monstrous and utterly indefensible.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. There is no quorum present now. [Quorum formed.]
– Further, I find that the President of the. Conciliation and Arbitration Court is to be the sole judge of the amount of compensation which is to be paid. I do not wish to dwell upon this point, because it has been amplified by the leader of the Opposition, and by the honorable member for “ New England. I merely wish to say that to me it appears extraordinary that no provision is made for expert evidence upon which to base a valuation. The President of the Arbitration Court is to be the sole arbiter. I think that we are asking too much of His Honor when we expect him to be familiar with all the details of such an immense industry as this. Clause 10 provides -
The Minister may at any time, but not oftener than once in six months, refer to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the question, of fair wages to be paid, or fair price to be charged, as in the last preceding section mentioned; and his determination shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal.
The President of the Arbitration Court is to be placed in a position which I think he cannot reasonably be expected to occupy without provision being made for expert assistance. There are other clauses in the Bill which, under other circumstances, I should criticise, but upon which I shall defer comment until the measure reaches the Committee stage, when I propose to offer the strongest opposition to the Bill. Before resuming my seat, I wish to read two or three clauses from a report signed by six members of the Royal Commission on the evidence submitted. As the House is aware, there were twelve members of this Commission, and six reported in favour of the bonus system, and six against it, the only difference being that the Chairman was among those who signed the report in favour of the Government proposal. As a protectionist he gave his casting vote in support of the bonus system. I have no objection to offer to the adoption of that course by the right honorable gentleman in question. No doubt he formed his conclusion on the evidence submitted to the Commission-, but, amongst those who signed the dissenting report, was the leader of the Labour Party, who is a protectionist.
– The honorable member will find the name of a free-trader appended to the majority report.
– I am aware that the late Sir Edward Braddon signed that report, but the position is not materially affected by that fact. Paragraph 3 of the dissenting report reads as follows: -
The Bill provides for the payment of £324,000 -
The Bill now before us provides for the payment of only £304,000, a sum of £20,000 having been deducted in respect of the bonus originally proposed to be paid for the production of spelter - of the people’s money to private individuals engaged in an enterprise for their private gain.
For their private gain be it understood -
There can be no guarantee that the bonuses proposed would permanently establish the industry, though it is probable the inducements offered might be instrumental in forming speculative companies.
One of the witnesses, Mr. Sandford, managing director of the Eskbank Iron Works, New South Wales, stated that he had made an agreement with an English syndicate to spend £250,000 in extending the Lithgow works if. the Bill passed.
Honorable members will observe that that is just about the amount proposed to be given by way of bonuses for the establishment of the iron industry -
In answer to another question, Mr. Sandford said that to make pig-iron he wanted a plant involving an expenditure of from £100,000 to £125,000. This estimate is less than half the sum proposed to be paid in bonuses.
In other words; it is proposed that the Commonwealth Parliament shall agree to the payment of bonuses aggregating twice the amount to be expended in the direction of plant and buildings.
– Mr. Sandford has a large plant at Lithgow at the present time.
– I am aware of that, but the English syndicate will in all probability so arrange matters that he will not derive much benefit from this measure. I shall now read what the reporthas to say as to the experience of Canada in this regard. But for the promise I gave the Prime Minister last night, that I would curtail my remarks, I should have dealt fully with the experience of Canada in connexion with the bonus system but in the circumstances, shall do no more than refer to what the report has to say on this phase of the question -
The Canadian experience is not encouraging. The bonus system for iron production was first instituted there in 1883. Subsequently a Bill was passed, in 1897, further continuing the system.
The payment of the bonuses was limited to a certain period, but at its expiration a demand was made for the continuance of the system. We may expect the same thing to happen in Australia., if this Bill be carried -
Another Bill was carried in 1899 providing for the diminution of the bounties by a sliding scale expiring in 1907. In July of this year the Dominion Government decided to postpone the operation of this sliding scale for one year, which practically means a further increase in the bounties paid.
I think that it is our duty to carefully consider the statements made in this report, based as they are upon evidence submitted to the Commission. We have a right to ask ourselves whether the experience of Canada is not likely to be the experience of Australia? Do we not know that, as a matter of fact, it will be our experience, if we pass this Bill?
– How do we know anything of the kind?
– We know that it is only human nature for one to seek to get as much as possible at all times. When there is a chance of gaining more by simply asking for it, these people are not likely to remain in the background. In clause 6 of the report, we have the following statement : -
Nearly all the witnesses examined before the Commission agreed that the payment of bonuses would “be useless unless followed by a duty. Experience shows that if the payment of bonuses be commenced the liability of the Commonwealth will not be limited to the sum proposed under the Bill, but that further Government aid will be sought.
This bears out what I have contended from the first. Paragraph 7 reads -
The evidence failed to show that there was any commercial necessity for the bonuses proposed. Mr. Sandford said he could produce pig iron at Lithgow under 35s. a ton. Allowing for freight to Sydney, Melbourne, and other parts of the Commonwealth, he could, on this showing, compete favorably with any imported pig iron. Other witnesses, who, however, had less experience than Mr. Sandford, doubted the correctness of his estimate of cost.
– The honorable member is quoting from the report signed by those who are opposed to the principle.
– I am quoting from a report which was signed by the leader of the Labour Party, a prominent protectionist, amongst others.
– The minority report.
– It cannot truthfully be called a minority report when it is signed by six of the twelve members of the Commission. The report continues -
But, on the supposition of his having made an under estimate, he would still, even without a bonus, be in an excellent position as compared with the imported commodity.
I have already shown that this is the position by comparing the price quoted by experts with that which was submitted even on the amended basis of 61s. per ton. Clause 8 of the report reads -
No effort was made to bring forward witnesses against the Bill. Notwithstanding that fact, the evidence given failed to establish a case in its favour. Several witnesses thought the establishment of ironworks in the Commonwealth premature, and much of the evidence was strongly against any attempt by the Government to establish the iron industry by the payment of bonuses.
It will thus be seen thatthe case for the granting of bonuses broke down on the evidence, not of those who were opposed to the principle, but of those who favored it, and came forward to give reasons for its adoption. I desire to say, in conclusion, that I regard this Bill as a most impudent and barefaced attempt to use the public. Treasury for the purpose of enriching a private syndicate. I shall use every legitimate means in my power to oppose the Bill line by line when it reaches the Committee stage. It is really one of those measures that ought to be submitted to a Select Committee. I do not know whether the Government are prepared to adopt that course, but they certainly ought to do so. There are many other points with which I had originally intended to deal, but, in compliance with the promise I made to the Prime Minister last night that I should endeavour to complete my speech within an hour, I do not propose to further discuss the question at trie present stage. I have only to repeat that I shall do all that I can to oppose the granting of these bonuses, when the Bill reaches the Committee stage.
– In view of the fact that it is now 10.15p.m., I think it only reasonable to ask the Government to agree to the adjournment of the debate.
– Not yet.
– Then I am prepared to proceed. In submitting the Bill to the House the Minister of Trade and Customs said he was not responsible for its drafting. We know that it was prepared by the Government draftsman, but we must certainly hold the Minister responsible for the principles which it embodies.
– Hear, hear - and very good principles they are.
– They might be very good principles if they were dealt with in separate measures, but they havebeen crowded into one Bill for a special purpose. The Bill is really a double-barrelled one. In the first place, it provides for the granting of bonuses - the desire of the Government being to placate those who, like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, are staunch protectionists, and believe in the system - while in the second it embodies certain conditions as to the ultimate nationalization of the industry that are calculated to satisfy the socialistic party and theirsupporters. I should like to point out to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who approves of this Bill, that when we were discussing it twelve or eighteen months ago, he asserted that he was in favour of the nationalization of the iron industry of Australia.
– I am now, if I can secure its nationalization.
– My strong objection to the Bill is that the Ministry, who are now. the servile and subservient supporters of the socialistic party in this House, have not only made provision for the payment of bonuses, but have inserted certain clauses in the Bill for the nationalization of the industry, in order to meet the wishes of that party. Notwithstanding the strong way in which he spoke on this matter some time ago, the Prime Minister, who is now the slave of those on the cross benches, has provided in clause 9 for the nationalization of the industry. Why has he not made a straightforward proposal in that direction, if he believes in this step?
– I made the same proposal three years ago, when the first Bill was before this House.
– If the honorable member believes in the nationalization of the industry, why does he not insist upon the Ministry proposing it straight out ? I believe in neither the granting of a bonus nor the nationalization of the industry, but if I were compelled to vote for one of the two I would vote for the latter. What I say now is exactly on all-fours with what I said when the measure was last before the House.
– The honorable and learned member’s leader once declared for the granting of bonuses.
– I am not to be intimidated by that statement. I speak on my own responsibility, and stand here as an independent member, to represent the interestsof my constituents. That has been my attitude ever since I entered the House. Provision is made for the resumption, under the order of the Governor of a State, of the ironworks which may be successfully established by means of the bonus. That will be a nice little business for Mr. Justice O’Connor, as President of the Arbitration Court of Australia, to adjust, though whether he will be able to give satisfaction to those connected with the industry, and to convince the members of this Parliament that the arrangement is in the interests of the Commonwealth, is a question which can be answered only in the future. In inserting this provision in the Bill, the Government are showing a most servile obedience to the cross benches, the like of which has never been shown by any previous Administration which has held office in Australia. The Barton Administration, in which some of the members of this Government were Ministers, afforded us instances of subservience and servility, but their “Yes, Mr. Watson,” was a small thing to the “ Yes, Mr. Watson !’ of this Government in connexion with the Bill now before us. Thosewho had the honour to be members of the Iron Bonus Commission know the strong opposition which was shown by the leader of the Labour Party to the granting of a bonus to private persons.
– They also know the strong position taken in regard to the matter by the first Minister of Trade and Customs, who is as great a radical as there is in Australia.
– He was so strong a radical in connexion with this matter, so strong a believer in the principle of one man one vote, that he himself took two votes in order that a favorable report might be published.
– He used his casting vote as chairman. It was the only thing he could do.
– The members of the Commission numbered twelve, including the chairman, six being in favour of the granting of the bonus, and six being against it, and the result of the action of this great radical in exercising his right to cast two votes, while his fellow members had only one, was that he was able to present a majority report in favour of the granting of bonuses.
– What was the chairman for, if not for that purpose? What is the good of a chairman if he is not to have a casting vote?
– I have too high an opinion of the right honorable member for Adelaide to think that he would consent to act in that way to carry out the wishes of others, and it was an insult for the honorable member to say of him, “ What is the use of a man being chairman of a Commission if he will not do this sort of thing to suit his party?”
– I did not say anything like that.
– That is what the honorable member insinuated.
– Then, I withdraw my remark. I opposed this proposal when it was previously before the House, and I do not intend to reiterate the arguments which I then used. They are on record in Hansard, and I am prepared to stand by them; but I was very much struck on that occasion by a remarkable statement which was made by an honorable member of the Labour Party, to whose word I attach a good deal of weight - the honorable member for Darling. In speaking in opposition to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, then before the House, thehonorable member used the following expressions, which are to be found recorded at page 13532 of the Hansard of the first session -
I am satisfied that if we leave the production of iron to private enterprise our action will result in the establishment of a monopoly, and all monopolies are bad.
No attempt was made to refute the arguments used by the honorable member. He further stated -
I shall never be found voting the money of the taxpayers of Australia for the boosting of a private firm to enable it to pay enormous dividends.
I should like to direct the attention of every honorable member to that statement. Setting on one side the clauses of the Bill relating to the nationalization of the industry, are not the whole of its provisions intended to hand over the money of the taxpayers to a private firm, to enable it to establish a monopoly in Australia, and to pay huge dividends at the expense of the Commonwealth? If that it not its object, I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to explain what it is. I think that the Minister in charge of the Bill should be present.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that a larger number of honorable members should be present. [Quorum formed.]
– I was referring to the fact that the Minister in charge of this Bill is not present, and I was also about to express my regret that the leader of the Labour Party is also absent. No one is more sorry than I am that ill-health should prevent the honorable member for Bland from attending here, and no one more cordially wishes to see him restored to his usual robust health and back in his old place. At the same time, when an important matter of public policy is being launched we are entitled to know what the great Labour Party intends to do, and to expect that the deputy leader of that party will make a pronouncement.
– What is the difference between giving a bonus here and granting it to a shipping company?
– So far as I am personally concerned, I have never been a party to granting a bonus to a shipping company. I understand, however, that the honorable member for Barrier and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports are both prepared to support the extension of the period over which the sugar bonuses are to be paid.
– I am.
– Then I stand in direct opposition to the honorable member, because I shall vote directly against any such proposal. I would ask the honorable member for Barrier whether he intends to vote for this measure, which is designed to put money into the pockets of private speculators, or whether he is in favour of nationalizing the industry?
– I believe in nationalizing the industry.
– I presume that there is not a man in this country who would not desire to see the iron industry established in our midst, but there are the strongest possible objections to the granting of a bonus under the conditions now proposed. I had the honour of taking part in the inquiry conducted by the Iron Bonus Commission, and, in common with my colleagues on that Commission, I gained a large amount of knowledge, such as would not be available to honorable members in the ordinary course of their experience. I venture to say that, however clever a man may be, he cannot when reading over evidence in connexion with a technical matter such as this, form anything like a correct idea of its value without having seen the witnesses. A large mass of evidencewas taken by the Commission, the value of which no honorable member of this House - apart from those who had the honour of being Commissioners - and no man in this country, can accurately estimate. In cold type that evidence conveys a very different impression from that which was left upon the minds of the Commissioners when it was given by the witnesses who appeared before them. What I am now saying applies equally to the testimony taken before any Commission. We all know what human nature is. I believe that if this Bill be passed, a great injustice will be done to the taxpayers of Australia, because a few private individuals will be afforded an opportunity of dipping their hands deeply into the public purse. Yet, when this important matter is under consideration, we find that Ministers are absent fromthe Chamber, and that honorable members occupying the corner benches are practically silent. To-night, I had repeatedly to call attention to the state of the House. Even when a Bill of this character, involving as it does, an expenditure of £324,000, is under consideration, we find that the Government are unable to keep a quorum. Such a condition of affairs is absolutely disgraceful. It is no wonder that the people of Australia decry Commonwealth politics, and declare that Federation has been a failure. To-day, from one end of the Continent to the other, we hear complaints in reference to the Commonwealth Government and Federal politics. It’ is because Ministers flout this House and the country, and because honorable members upon the cross benches are content to allow the Government to do as they like in matters of this kind, that there is such a public outcry. At the present time, the names of some of our leading politicians are a by-word throughout Australia. I have spoken strongly, because I feel strongly. In introducing this Bill the other day, the Minister of Trade and Customs said that there was no necessity for himto speak at length, seeing that he had already made two speeches upon the measure. Evidently he forgets that since he made those speeches a Royal Commission has exhaustively investigated this question. The Minister, however, during the course of his remarks, made only one reference to the labours of that body. He stated that Mr. Jamieson, in his evidence, declared that the industry, if es- ttablished, would provide employment for 3,000 men. I have looked through the official report a¥ the evidence, and’ I fail to find that he made any statement of that character. The Minister further declared that Mr. Carson - I do not know who he is - stated that if the bonuses were granted, instead of employment being found for 3,000 men, work would be provided for 10,000 or 13,000 hands. Honorable members can search the whole of Mr. Jamieson’s evidence, but they will fail to discover any statement of the kind attributed to him by the Minister. The fact is that the honorable gentleman endeavoured to bolster up this business in the same way that the honorable member for Riverina attempted to bolster it up the other night. He talked about the’ 3,000 men who would be engaged in the industry if a bonus were granted upon the production of pig iron. He said that it would lead to the establishment of a flourishing industry ; but he failed to produce a single particle of evidence in support of his statement.
– Because I wanted to save time and get on with the business.
– That is a very convenient method of saving time. ,The sworn evidence of witnesses before the Commission is in absolute contradiction to the statement of the honorable member.
– Let us pass the second reading of the Bill, and in Committee I will produce my authority ‘for the statement which I made.
– I do not propose to allow this Bill to pass its second reading if [ can prevent it. Why does the honorable member wish the measure to get into Committee? Simply because it will please his protectionist friends. If it does reach the Committee stage, we shall find the Labour Party pressing the Government to nationalize the industry. Just as in New South Wales a few years ago, an endeavour was made to sneak in protection, so will an endeavour be made now by the Labour Party with the help of the Government to sneak in Socialism. I shall do my best to prevent them accomplishing their object.
– Did not the. honorable and learned member vote in favour of nationalizing the industry?
– I would vote any day for the nationalization of the industry . in preference to the granting of the proposed bonuses. Honorable members pf the Labour Party favour the nationalization of the industry, but are prepared to accept a miserable compromise in order to keep the Government in. power. Why do they not stand to their guns? Why do not the Socialists who favour the nationalization of the iron industry, say straight out to the Prime Minister, “ This industry must be nationalized. That is our belief, and the belief also of the people who have sent us here.” The Prime Minister’s socialistic education, however, is hardly so complete, as to allow of that being done. When the motion submitted by the honorable member for Barrier was before the House” this afternoon, the honorable and learned gentleman showed that his socialistic education was not such as to allow him to support the ideals of the party to the extent that they desired. I am not blaming the Labour Party for the views which they hold. I honour them for the openness with which they proclaim them, but I certainly condemn them for proposing to support a Bill which, according to the statement of the leader of the party, and of the sworn evidence of Mr. Lamond, secretary of the Labour League in New South Wales, will simply produce a monopoly in Austrafia. That is a state of affairs which every member of the Labour Party professes a ‘desire to avoid. It is because I believe that if these bonuses are given to a syndicate to establish the iron industry, we shall have a monopoly that will crush all industries - industries like Mort’s Dock-dependent on cheap iron, that I am opposed to the Bill.
– Does the honorable member think that Mort’s Dock is not something in the nature of a monopoly? What influence has prevented a dock from being made at Newcastle?
– Perhaps the honorable member will tell me.
– It was the influence of the Mort’s Dock people.
– A request was made to the Government to build a dock at Newcastle, but it was refused. As a matter of fact,, Mort’s Dock was erected by private enterprise.
– But it has been fed by Government patronage.
– It used to employ between 2,000 and 3,000 hands at .wages as high as those obtaining in America, and nearly double those prevailing in England, What did the manager of that company, Mr. Franki, say in regard to the bonus proposals of the Government ? In this connexion I shall quote, not something alleged by a Mr. Carson to have been uttered by Mr. Franki - a statement on which the Minister relied - but the sworn evidence of the man himself. Until recently Mort’s Dock was a very prosperous company.
– Until the advent of protection.
– The company carries on its operations in the honorable member for Dalley’s electorate, and, as he says, it was one of the most flourishing institutions in the State until the inauguration of a protective policy for Australia.
– It flourished on the loan expenditure of the State.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter. Will he deny that Mr. Franki gave evidence before the Commission that a duty of 12s. 6d. per ton on. pig iron would be outrageous ?
– He certainly did make that statement.
– That being so, I wish the honorable member to say what he thinks would be a fair duty to impose. The honorable member is silent. I take it that, like many others who propose to support the Bill, he is not prepared to say anything in regard to the payment of these tonuses. Together with those who think with him, he is ready to allow the Bill to pass in any form that the Government desire. Such a state of affairs is much to be regretted. I am satisfied that a number of honorable members of the Labour Party will vote against the Bill, while others,, like the honorable member for Newcastle, will vote for it. In justice to his constituents, who are dependent upon the coal industry, the honorable member should hesitate to vote for the payment of bonuses that will benefit private speculators not in Australia, but in London. Why should we pass a Bill which will be the means, not of making our own people rich - not of putting money into the pockets of our taxpayers - but of riving persons in other parts of the world an opportunity to speculate? I object to the Bill from start to finish, and shall do mv utmost to prevent its becoming law. The Commission, of which I was a member, took exhaustive evidence in Melbourne, Sydney, Lithgow, and Newcastle. We examined about thirty-five witnesses, and ultimately presented a majority and minority report. The majority report was affirmed by the casting vote of the right honorable member for Adelaide ; but what I desire to draw attention - particularly of honorable members on the cross benches - to is the minority report signed by the six members of the Commission], whose names are attached. That minority report is signed by, amongst others, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, who is one of the leading members of the Labour Party in. this Parliament. The honorable and learned member has occupied high positions, not only in the Federal Parliament, but in the State Parliament of New South Wales, and no name stand’s higher than his in the party to which he belongs. For weeks past the honorable and learned member has been the intelligent representative of trade- unions in the Arbitration Court of New South Wales. Some honorable members seem to think that there is no good1 in lawyers, b,ut members of trade unions, in New South Wales seem to think there is a lot of good in “ Mr. Lawyer Hughes,” who is now representing them so ably. The honorable and learned member is no ordinary man; he is the accredited representative of trade unions, and a leader of the Labour Party, and his name appears at the head of the list in opposition to the granting of a bonus to the iron industry. What does that mean? It means that the honorable and learned member, like his colleagues on the Commission, including the then honorable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Kirwan
– How many meetings did Mr. Kirwan attend?
– Then we have the name of the honorable member for Bland ; does the honorable member for Newcastle wish to know how many meetings that honorable member attended?
– I know that he attended a. good many.
– The honorable member for Bland is the honoured leader of the Labour Party to-day, and, as a member of the Royal Commission, we find him in strong opposition to the granting of a bonus. Will the Labour Party sit quiet under these circumstances? We have not heard a single word from the cross benches in connexion with the matter. Has the honorable member for Bland gone away, and instructed his representative, the deputy leader of the party, to refrain from saying a word on his behalf? Has the honorable member for Bland, by reason of the extraordinary combination which resulted in placing the present Government on the Treasury bench, changed his ideas in regard to the report which he signed in common with us ? The hour is late, and I again ask leave to continue my remarks on a future day.
-Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the honorable member shall resume his remarks on a later day ?
– I regret to say that, although we have been dealing for four or five sittings with the second reading of this Bill, we are making very slow progress, and that, in view of the business on the paper, it is impossible to accede to the honorable member’s request. The honorable member has spoken for an hour, and we are able to afford any further time he thinks necessary. We have heard this report of the Commission read, and the comments of honorable members before; but if the honorable member thinks it necessary to repeat them, well and good. In the interests of business, we ask him to be good enough to condense his remarks, so that he may finish to-night.
– I object to the Prime Minister saying to me that he has heard all this before. I do not care whether he has heard it before or not ; he shall hear it again from me. The Prime Minister has been absent during the whole of the debate, and when he says he has heard all this before he is saying what is absolutely untrue.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Prime Minister will understand that I made the remark in the heat of argument.
– I assure the honorable and learned member that I have heard the report and similar comments before.
– Then I shall give the Prime Minister an opportunity of hearing them from me as a member of the Royal Commission ; and probably the honorable gentleman may, after hearing me, be inclined to change his mind.
– How much time does the honorable and learned member intend to take?
– That is for me to say. I have no doubt that the Melbourne Age, if it expresses an opinion in the morning, will say that my remarks were frivolous, and that I wasted a lot of time. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who was a member of the Royal Commission, knows that what I am saying is perfectly correct. The honorable member attended the meetings at Melbourne, Sydney, and Lithgow, though not at Newcastle or Brisbane, and he heard the evidence which I am about to quote. I do not wish to make any reflection on the honorable member, but it was a remarkable fact, to which my attention was called at the time, that the confidential report, which was handed to me and other members of the Commission by the chairman one afternoon, appeared the following morning at full length in the Melbourne Age. This was remarkable ; and it was generally understood that that report in the Age was supplied by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The report of the Commission, which I am about to read, was drawn up in no careless fashion, but had much consideration bestowed upon it.
– I rise to a point of order. My attention has just been drawn to the fact that the honorable member has asserted that I gave what was confidential information to a newspaper.
– That is not a point of order. If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports desires to make a personal explanation, he may do so as soon as the honorable member for Illawarra has concluded his remarks.
– But it is a serious matter, which should not be allowed to go unexplained until the end of the honorable member’s speech.
– A point of order may be raised in the course of a speech, and the speech may be interrupted in order that it may be considered. But a personal explanation can only be made at the conclusion of a speech.
– If I have done the honorable member for Melbourne Ports an injustice, I withdraw what I said. I shall not deal with the majority report, because I feel satisfied that honorable members are already acquainted with it, and I do not wish to occupy time any further than is necessary. But I do wish to direct attention to the report which, though it is signed by six members of the Commission in the same way as is the majority report, is called the minority report. I happened to be one of the six Commissioners who signed this socalled minority report, but I may say that, so far as their intelligence and attention to the business of the Commission are concerned, they do not stand behind those signing the majority report in any shape or form. I direct attention to the fact that the report to which I now refer was signed by Mr. Hughes, the honorable member for West Sydney, and by Mr. Winter Cooke, an ex-member of this House. Those who had the honour of knowing Mr. Cooke know that he was aman of more than ordinary attainments. The report is also signed by Mr. Kirwan, who drew it up. It was perused by the honorable member for Bland, who also signed it, and I undertake to say that there is no honorable member in this House who can go through the evidence submitted to the Commission and from it disprove a single statement in the report to which I refer.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– I throw out the challenge to the member in charge of the Bill, and also to the member for’ Newcastle, who was one of those signing the so-called majority report. I defy any one to show that the minority report is incorrect in any of its statements. - This afternoon we had a motion forthe appointment of a Select Committee. Various statements in support of that proposal were made by the honorable member for Barrier, and other honorable members on the cross-benches, but here we have a report, not from a Select Comimittee, but from a Royal Commission accompanied by a mass of sworn evidence, and I ask whether honorable members propose to take any notice of it, or intend to completely ignorethe labours of the Commissioners ? We gave the utmost attention to the matter, considered the whole of the evidence given from start to finish, and six Commissioners honestly and conscientiously drew up a report in opposition to the bonus proposal. I admit that the six other Commissioners just as honestly and conscientiously signed the so-called majority report; but I am still entitled to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill, and honorable mem bers who propose to support it, to show me any respect in which the minority report is wrong. I understand that the PostmasterGeneral has taken up the challenge. I am delighted that the honorable gentleman should have accepted it, though I know his capacity, his keenness in debate and his skill in the discovery of little points in support of the cause he has espoused. If the honorable gentleman can tell me from the evidence given before the Royal Commission that any statement appearing in the. minority report is not justified, I shallbe the first to admit that I have made a mistake; but it must also be remembered that there are others as well as myself who must be satisfied on the point.
– We have to be shown that the report signed by the other six Commissioners is not substantiated.
– The PostmasterGeneral in taking up my challenge must show that the honorable member for Bland, whose name is also attached to the minority report, is wrong. When a measure involving an important departure in policy is about to be launched in Australia, we are entitled to hear from the leader of the Labour Party whether he has changed his opinion in connexion with this matter.
– May not the position have changed since then?
– The political situation has changed.
– I have admitted that circumstances have changed. I have shown that -a Royal Commission has since been appointed, has taken evidence, and has come to certain conclusions after hearing the evidence of the various witnesses examined.I have shown that two reports have been submitted, each signed by six Commissioners, and that amongst those who have signed the report in opposition to the granting of these bonuses are two leading members of the Labour Party, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, and the honorable member for Bland, the leader of the party.
– Was there not a belief at the time that a State would nationalize the industry ?
– I should like to remind honorable members that it was on the motion of the honorable member for Bland that the matter was referred to a Royal Commission. The honorable member was one of those who were strongestin opposition to bonuses to establish a big monopoly, and to put the money of the people into the pockets of private individuals. On those grounds he moved a motion for the reference of the question to a Royal Commission.
– Did not the honorable member think that the industry could be nationalized at that time?
– I shall let the honorable member for Hindmarsh know all about that. I repeat that it was through the action of the leader of the Labour Party that the first measure of this kind was referred for inquiry to a Select Committee, which subsequently became a Royal Commission; and that after he had Heard the evidence taken during that inquiry, he was more strongly opposed to the granting of bonuses to private individuals than he had been before. I ask the Postmaster-General, who appears to be in charge of the measure at the present moment, if the Bill provides for the nationalization of the iron industry. As he does not answer, I assume that he does not know what the intention of the Bill is.1 Ministers” seem to be in the same position with regard to this Bill ‘that they were in with regard to the Commerce Bill, which the AttorneyGeneral thought provided for the grading of butter, and the Minister of Trade and Customs thought did not, they being thus in direct opposition on a question affecting one of the most important industries in Australia. I again ask the Prime Minister if the Bill provides for the nationalization of the iron industry. He does not answer my question.
– Question time has passed.
– It will soon be here again.
– I am prepared to go on until question time comes again if honorable members compel me to do so. I can speak for ten or twelve hours on this subject without repeating myself. I feel very strongly in regard to the matter, because I was a member of the Royal Commission, and attended most of its meetings. I heard the evidence of nearly all the witnesses who were called, and was in as good a position as any member of the Commission to form a fair and honest judgment on the question submitted to us. Having given careful consideration to the whole matter, having heard the evidence, and seen the demeanour of the witnesses who were called, I felt so strongly opposed to the granting of bonuses that I signed the minority report, which was agreed to bysix of the twelve members of the Commission. As some honorable members now present may not have heard that report, I shall direct particular attention to it. There can be no doubt that, in many respects, Australia is favorably circumstanced for the production of iron. The protectionists who sit on the Government side of the Chamber pose as the only members of the House who desire the establishment of manufacturing industries in the Commonwealth, but we free-traders who sit in opposition are as anxious as any protectionist who was ever elected has been for the establishment of such industries. But we desire that private enterprise shall have free and fair play - that men of ability and enterprise shall have the fullest opportunity to carry their ideas into effect, and to develop their businesses for the benefit of this great heritage which has been bestowed upon us by the mother land.’
– I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– We who are freetraders recognise the desirability of establishing the iron industry in Australia if only in order that we may manufacture guns and implements for defending our shores. We on this side yield in no par’ticular to honorable members on the other side so far as that question is concerned.While we recognise that we are not placed in as good a position as other countries for manufacturing iron, still we are placed in a very favorable position when we have such magnificent deposits of iron, coal, and limestone in close proximity in various parts of Australia. The report of the Royal Commission contains a list of the witnesses who were examined. The Minister of Home. Affairs, as well as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, will bear me out that no attempt was made to call witnesses in opposition to the principle of granting a bonus.
– Why did not its opponents call witnesses?
– Because it was not necessary. The evidence given by all the men who came to support the granting of a bonus was so weak that the Commissioners whose names I have read out twice felt themselves justified in drawing up a strong report, from which I intend to read after I have referred to the witnesses. The list of witnesses contains many names which are well known in the commercial community. Mr. Jamieson,’
Mr. Sandford, and others are prominent men in commercial undertakings. All these gentlemen were examined at length. The first witness was Mr. Edward Fisher Pittman, a gentleman who has occupied a high and honorable position in the Public Service of New South Wales for a great many years. He is a geologist, and his knowledge of the iron deposits in various parts of Australia is not excelled by that of any man in Australia, or by that of any of the experts who have been brought here from abroad. He was examined at length by the chairman and other members of the Commission. Although, in view of his official position, we did not ask him to express an opinion on the policy of granting a bonus, still he gave most valuable and interesting evidence in connexion with iron deposits and the possibility of establishing an iron industry here, which every honorable member before he votes on this Bill ought to study at length. If I find that honorable members are obdurate, and are disposed to treat this important question in a light way; if they are not prepared to study the report, it will be my duty, however long it may take, to quote those salient features which I have marked off. The honorable member for Barrier knows that Mr. Pittman is highly esteemed by all mining people in New South Wales, and that his word on these matters has never been questioned. Another expert who was examined was Mr. Jaquet, whose attainments in connexion with mining matters are well known in Australia from one end to the other. In his evidence Mr. Sandford declared that the honorable member for Parramatta, by appointing Mr. Jaquet to make full inquiries concerning the iron deposits of New South Wales, had done one of the most valuable things in connexion with the development of the iron industry. My honorable friend is entitled to great credit for what he then did. The evidence given by Mr. Jaquet concerning the deposits of not only New South Wales, but other parts of Australia, forms a volume which every honorable member ought to study before he votes on this Bill. If it is passed it will afford to certain persons an opportunity of floating a company. We have it on the sworn evidence of Mr. Sandford and Mr. Jamieson, two men who are specially interested in the formation of a syndicate, that although the bonus may be instrumental in enabling them to start the iron industry, it will be of little use to them in the end, unless ‘ protective duties are afterwards imposed. This measure has been placed before us by the Minister of Trade and . Customs as a Bill providing merely for the granting of bonuses; but we know perfectly well that if the iron industry is started here as the outcome of the bonus, and some hundreds, or even thousands, of men are employed, we shall pass through the same experience as has fallen to the lot of Canada. We know that demands will be made for an extension of the bonus, or for the imposition of high protective duties. In Canada applications have been made for further and higher bounties. The American iron industry was established without the aid of any protective duty, and in Australia, where we possess abundance of natural facilities for carrying on an enterprise such as that contemplated, we should be able to get along without any artificial aid. I had not the advantage of hearing the speeches delivered by the Minister of Trade and Customs or the leader of the Opposition, but from what I can gather from the official reports, the assertion of the leader of the Opposition that Mr. Sandford had stated that he could manufacture iron at Lithgow at a cost of 35s. per ton was questioned. I would appeal to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who attended the meeting of the Commission at which Mr. Sandford gave his evidence, to say whether that gentleman did not squarely and fairly State that he could manufacture pig-iron at Lithgow at the price mentioned.
– He also stated afterwards that he had made a mistake, and sought when it was too late to give further evidence.
– I was one of the members of the Commission, and I was present at most of its meetings ; but I never heard before that Mr. Sandford had expressed a wish to modify the evidence he had given, to the effect that he could manufacture iron at Lithgow at 35s. per ton. Will the honorable member say that Mr. Sandford did not assert that he could manufacture pig-iron at Lithgow as cheaply as it could be turned out in any other part of the world? ‘ Only last Friday a report of an interview with Mr. Sandford was published in the newspapers. In the course of his statement he said that he was satisfied that we had in Australia good qualities of raw material, though not of the best, and that our raw material could be treated at Lithgow as cheaply as in any part of the world. In the evidence he gave before the Commission, Mr. Sandford stated as one reason why the bonus should be granted, that it would help to enable him to pay freights and compete with foreign products in Queensland, Victoria, and other parts of the Commonwealth. Mr. Sandford, upon being interviewed shortly after his return from a visit to England, Sweden, Belgium, America, and other countries where the iron industry has been highly developed, repeated the statements he made before the Commission. He said -
I have always considered that if the Sydney market would not absorb the output of a modern blast furnace, the proposed Federal bonus would materially help in paying freight and meeting competition in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia.
As one who was intimately acquainted with the late Mr. Joseph Mitchell in his desire to establish the iron industry in New South Wales, I was extremely anxious that Mr. Sandford should have every legitimate opportunity to establish the iron industry upon a basis that would be beneficial not only to himself, but to New South Wales and the whole of Australia.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I have no desire to keep honorable members, but I recognise that this is an important matter to the people of Australia. Some honorable members seem to think that it is of no importance that a large sum of money is to be taken out of the pockets of the people for the benefit of a few ; but I think it is my duty, in the interests of the country, to point out these matters, because I feel keenly and honestly about them.
– No one disputes that.
– There are half-a-dozen other subjects to which I wish to refer.
– We have yet to go into Committee, and the honorable member can refer to them then.
– But I prefer to speak when it suits my purpose. I know that the Prime Minister wants to get the Bill into Committee, but I do not. If I judge honorable members opposite wrongly, I apologize to them, but I really do not believe that they have read the evidence of the Commission. They would not have so much calm confidence in reference to this Bill if they had done so. Let me again invite at tention to what is called the minority report of the Commission. They say -
We, the undersigned members of the Commission, are against the passage through Parliament of the Bill for the payment of bonuses by the Federal Government for the establishment of the iron industry within the Commonwealth.
The very first clause is, it will be seen, a declaration against the principle of paying bonuses. The second clause of the report is one to which exception cannot be taken. The members of the minority recognise that the Commonwealth possesses vast deposits of iron ore, of high-grade coal, and other material required in iron works.
– I think there should be a quorum present to hear this report read. [Quorum formed.]
– I have no desire to obstruct business. I thought it would be of interest to honorable members to hear what the minority of the Commission had to say. I had also intended to quote the evidence of Mr. Jamieson and Mr. Franki. But, apparently, honorable members are in. a frame of mind in which they are prepared to pass anything without consideration at the dictates of the present Government. It appears that honorable members on the cross benches who believe in the nationalization of the iron industry, and not in the granting of bonuses, are not prepared to stand to their principles. On a former occasion, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports proclaimed that he was in favour of the nationalization of industries. I have looked up Hansard, and have before me a report of his speech. But he and other honorable members are now chiefly anxious to keep the present Government in power. I suppose that one of the most treacherous things ever done in the history of parliamentary government in Australia was the means by which the present Ministry secured possession of the Treasury benches. The Prime Minister denounced Socialism from start to finish. People talk of what the leader of the Opposition has said in condemnation of Socialism in this House and in the country. But he was mild as compared with the declarations of the man who now sits on the Treasury bench, and is kept in power by the support of a party who are so obviously using him for their own ends. The public of Australia ought to understand clearly that while this measure purports to be one for granting bonuses to establish the iron industry, it is really a means by which the socialistic party are sneaking in their policy, lt is intended by them that this great industry shall be the starting point in their policy of confiscation in connexion with the industries of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. ] Kelly) adjourned.
SUPPLY BILL (No. a).
Bill returned from the. Senate without requests.
House adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050824_reps_2_26/>.