2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
Mr. R. EDWARDS presented a petition, from the Master Bakers.’ Association of Queensland, protesting against the inclusion of the union label clauses in the Trade Marks Bill.
– It is stated in one of to-day’s; newspapers that progress was reported from Committee of Supply on the Budget last night because there was not a quorum in attendance, but, as I distinctly informed the House, when moving the adjournment, there was a quorum of Ministerial supporters, apart from the members of the Opposition.
Motion (by Mr. G., B. Edwards) agreed to-
That a copyof all correspondence between the Government and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or any other persons,, subsequent to 30th November last, on the subjects of the coinage of silver or the adoption pf a decimal system of currency by the Commonwealth, be laid upon the table of the House.
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from 31st August, vide page 1821), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the item, “ President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).Before progress was reported last night, I was dealing with the assertion of representatives of the State of Queensland thatwhite men can work in the cane-fields there as well as black men, and I stated that, if that be so, there is no need for the expenditure of public money to provide bounties for the encouragement of -white labour. I added, however, that the experience which I had gained by a visit to Queensland some time ago, and in other ways, had led me to believe that climatic conditions there are entirely against the employment of white men, because of the exhausting heat caused by the vertical rays of the sun during many weeks of the sea-: son. My statement was challenged; but this heat is a physical fact which cannot be denied. With regard to the trashing of cane, it is said by some that it is necessary, and by others that it is not, but. the truth seems to be that everything depends on the district.In the Burdekin district, for instance, it would injure the cane to trash it, but in districts where the. rainfall is more copious, the cane must be trashed, or the moisture will reduce its sugar contents. Last session a planter from Queensland waited upon me here to know if the bounty would be extended. I told him that I was opposed to this extension, b.ut that I thought it would be agreed to. I then asked him if white men could cultivate cane in Queensland, and he replied “ Yes.” I asked him if he had registered his plantation as one on which only white labour would be employed, and he again said “Yes” ; but when I questioned him on his success he said, “ I have succeeded with white labour up to the cutting of the cane, though I have had to get black labour to cut it.” I asked this gentleman how it was that he had not continued to employ white labour and he replied that he could not get the men. I then suggested that that proved that white men could not perform the work, but he said that if the planters could get the right class of men, white labour would meet the case. He then explained that he meant sober, steady, industrious men, who were not afraid of a day’s work. I asked himwhether he thought that men of that class would go into the cane-fields to cut cane, when other work, such as shearing, was available to them.
– In parts of Queensland there is shearing to be done at abour that time -of the’ year. We know that shearers start from the Queensland stations and work their way right down through New South Wales, as far south as Victoria.
– It would take shearers six months to travel from the sugar plantations to the shearing sheds;
– Order. It will be utterly impossible for the honorable ‘member to continue his speech if continuous interruptions take place. I would ask the honorable member for New England notto address particular members or sections of the Committee, and not to so constantly turn his back upon the Chair.
– I am not turning my back upon the Chair with any intention to be disrespectful, but I am endeavouring to make myself clear to honorable members, and I have been told even by the reporters that sometimes I cannot be properly heard.
– On a pointof order,do I understand that a speaker must necessarily face the Chair?
– Even the canons of ordinary courtesy require that a speaker should face the person whom he is addressing
– I do not wish to offend against the canons of courtesy, or the rules of debate, but my sole desire is that every honorable member may hear my remarks. As I was proceeding to say, at about the time that men are required for cane cutting, there is plenty of other work available in parts of Queensland.
– To what time of the year does the honorable member refer?
– To the summer time, when the. cane is being cut: The other classes of work to which I refer absorb the better class, of men, and it is really the worst class which drifts into the cane-fields. My informant admitted that that was a difficulty. I asked him if he thought it was possible to obtain a sufficient number of men of the proper class to cut the cane, at that particular season of the year. He could not give me a satisfactory reply. I then asked him whether he knew anything about Hood’s gang, and he stated that he knew them well, as they had been working in his district. These men were reported to have done their work well right through the season. They had earned a large amount of money, and had satisfied both the growers and the mill managers. The gentleman to whom I have referred said that they were the right class of men. Thev were the sons of farmers, strong, sturdy, temperate men, and were prepared to do a good day’s work, and as a consequence did well. I asked this gentleman whether he could tell me how many of the men who started with the gang remained with it at the end’ of the season, and he replied that about one-third had stuck to the work. That seemed to me to afford absolute proof that white men could not successfully carry on the work in the canefields. Here were men, admitted to be of the right class, who were both willing and able to perform the work for a certain time, and yet two-thirds of them dropped out, because they were not able to continue it.
– Did the honorable member’s informant say that those men were not capable of continuing the work?
– I am drawing my own conclusions. My informant did not say that two-thirds of the men fell out because they were not able to do the work; but I contend that, in view of the fact that they had been able to earn a large amount of money, they would have continued the work if they had; not found it too much for them. I do not see how any stronger proof could be adduced of the fact that there- is something which prevents this work from being carried on by white labour.
– Has the honorable member any objection to give the name of his informant?
– I do not remember the name, but I will wire to my son at Townsville, and obtain it, if required. The gentleman to whom I have referred was a sugar planter, and I think his name was Crawford. I have had interviews with sugar planters, who declared that they had been prepared to employ white labour exclusively. One employer said, “ I started operations with the definite idea that I would not employ a coloured man upon my plantation. The first week the men engaged were all white, the second they were of a piebald character, and the third they were all black.” In other word’s, the first week the employes consisted wholly of white men, the second they comprised white and coloured men, and the third week they were all coloured. I met with innumerable instances of that kind. I do not make any charge against the white man. I say that the sugar industry is one in which he cannot work successfully. The very conditions of the country are against him. When we offer a bonus of £2 per ton to encourage the production of sugar by white labour, we are endeavouring to fight against natural conditions, and those conditions will always defeat us. I say that if we can assist to continue that industry in Queensland it will be a splendid thing. But this House has decided that the kanakas employed there shall be deported to their homes at the end of their engagements. From my stand-point, that was not a wise decision. I say at once that it would have been much better if we bad resolved that no further kanakas should be recruited, but that those who were already in Queensland should be allowed to remain there and to die out. Even if white labour can be successfully employed in the cane-fields, we must allow time to effect a transition from black to white labour conditions. In order to carry out that change upon humane lines, the Government should not enforce the deportation conditions, and, if necessary, those conditions should be altered. We are accustomed to say that we are superior to the black race. But let us prove our superiority. Why, in all our actions, we are practically proclaiming to the world that we are not equal to the coloured races. In my district I have repeatedly declared that I am equal to any six black men. I make that statement deliberately, and I am prepared to meet them in open competition in any occupation in which the natural conditions are suited to white men like myself. I contend that we should exhibit our superiority. As we are strong, let us be merciful. Possessing the power that we do over these men, let us show our humanity to them by tempering justice with mercy. In the interests of Queensland, in the interests of a White Australia, and of our own race, it is a mistake to adopt the high-handed course which we have adopted in connexion with these unfortunate men, who, in many instances, were brought here in opposition to their own will.
Let us prove that we belong to a race which’ is possessed of some chivalry and honour, and let us treat these men - black though their skins may be - as they should be treated.
– Is not the honorable member aware that the kanakas themselves wish to return to their homes?
– If that be so, I have no objection to their deportation to the islands from which they came.
– They were recruited upon the understanding that at the end of their engagements they would be sent back to those islands.
– Will the honorable member allow me to put my case in my own way? He declares that the kanakas were recruited upon the understanding that they should be returned to their homes at ‘ the end of their agreements. But I would point out that some of them may not desire to go back to their islands. I claim that if any of them wish to remain we should not insist upon their deportation; if, on the contrary, they desire to be returned to their homes their wish should be respected. Personally, I should not allow them to be recruited in the future. I do not believe in this semi-slavery business. Therefore, in the interests of the black race’s themselves, I should forbid recruiting. I have dealt somewhat fully with this question, because I regard it as a very important one,- and I do not think that we should take any steps which would be calculated to injure the sugar industry. On the contrary, we should do what we can to encourage its growth. Honorable members are aware that as we proceed north black labour becomes more efficient than white labour, but as we come south the reverse is the case.
– In the north less wages are paid.
– I think that the wages paid are about the same in all the cane-fields.
– What would the honorable member do when the kanakas, who are at present in Queensland, have died out?
– I say that by the time they had died out we should have been afforded an opportunity to accommodate ourselves to the new conditions.
– But the natural conditions do not change.
– When a certain number of men are adapted, to the conditions which obtain in Queensland, it is far better to allow them to remain than to effect a sudden change of policy.
– Would the honorable member continue the bonus during the period of transition?
– I would not. I claim that sugar can be grown successfully without the aid of any bonus.
– Would the honorable member protect the sugar industry ?
– If I had my way I would abolish the protective duty upon sugar. The moment we obtained command of our market and commenced to export, I would reduce the import duty. I would do that because otherwise a great advantage would be conferred upon the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When I made that statement last night some honorable members laughed at me. They do not understand this question. I stated that I objected to paying a tax in order to make commodities dearer for myself and cheaper for the “other fellow.” I will not be a party to- taxing the whole of the people of the Commonwealth in order to make sugar dear to them and cheap to the man outside. That would be the action of an idiot. Once our production is sufficient to satisfy local consumption, and we are becoming exporters, we should begin to take off the duties. Coming to the question of the Braddon blot, I wish to say that I am against the extension of that provision. I fully realize that the States require to be protected’ as well as the Commonwealth, but the system under which we are now acting is such that the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth are very seriously trammelled. It seems to me that the Commonwealth is to-day little more than a great revenue-producing machine for the States. When the Commonwealth Constitution Bill was before the people, I - perhaps in my foolishness, as some will say - opposed it, and did all I could to induce the people of New South Wales to vote against its adoption. One of the strong points that I then made against it was that it contained the Braddon blot, which, I urged, would limit the power of the Commonwealth in every direction. That statement has been fully justified by our experience. I have often advocated that it would be better to have some such system as that for which provision is made in the Constitution of the Dominion of Canada - a system under which the finances of the States would be protected to the extent of the revenue they are at present receiving, while the Commonwealth would be entirely free in respect of the disposition of the balance. If the States required any additional revenue, they would then have to raise it for themselves, instead of coming to the Commonwealth to obtain it. Under the provisions of the Braddon blot, we cando absolutely nothing towards extending the functions of the Commonwealth in matters involving expenditure, unless we impose direct taxation. I am a believer in a certain form of direct taxation, but hold that it should be imposed by the States themselves. We have the control of the Customs and Excise revenue, and all the revenue that we require’ should be secured by means, not of a protectionist, but of a revenue Tariff. The States should be allowed to secure their own revenue in their own way. Under the Constitution as it stands, if we attempt any extension of the functions of the Commonwealth requiring increased revenue, it is necessary for us to raise four times as much as we actually require for that purpose. By means of an income tax and a land tax, we should be able to at once raise what we required for ourselves, and there would be no necessity to return any proportion of the revenue so obtained to the several States. I do not ‘think the Commonwealth should be restricted in its financial operations, as it is at the present time. It should be free, in this respect, to take any course it pleases, and should not be controlled in any way by the States. There are some honorable members who seem to imagine that we are here to represent the separate States. As a matter of fact, however, we are here to represent, not any one State in particular, but the Commonwealth as a whole, and we should not allow a consideration of State divisions to in any way control our decisions. It should be our desire to do that which is best calculated to promote the interests of the whole Commonwealth. I should prefer to see a fixed amount given to the States. That is the course adopted bv the Dominion of Canada. Under its Constitution the Dominion took over, with’ the exception of a small amount, the debts of the provinces, subject to the condition that if the debts taken over from any one province exceeded the amount mentioned in the Constitution, that province should pay fo the Dominion the interest on the difference. In addition to this, the Dominion gave the provinces a fixed endowment, as well as an endowment of 80 cents, per head of the population, as fixed by the census of 1861. It was further provided that, so far as the smaller States, such as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, were concerned, they should)’ also receive an endowment of 80 cents, per head of their population until that population reached 400,000, after which they would receive no further increase. Whatever may have been said by the eminent men who framed our Constitution as to the practicability or otherwise of applying, this scheme to the Australian Federation, I am still under the impression that we could have arranged some such! system, and that it would have obviated the difficulties that have arisen. In connexion with the consideration of the Braddon blot, the question of the taking over of the debts of the States naturally arises. I should favour the taking over of the whole of the debts, but if we cannot do that, we should take over from each a proportion, the interest on which would be met by the revenue returnable to that State. If that course were adopted, we should be entirely free from the States for all time, so far as our finances were concerned. A good deal has been said in reference to this question. I favour the suggestion which has been made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that instead of taking over the railway revenues of the States, as advocated by the right honorable member for Balaclava, if the whole of the debts are taken over, the Constitution should be so altered as to provide that special Acts shall be passed by the States permanently appropriating the proportion of their revenue necessary to meet the interest payable on the debts taken over. These would be special appropriations, and with such a provision in the Constitution it would not be necessary for the States to vote the money every year. If the payment of interest were secured in that way, nothing further would be required. I hold that for the present at all events the Commonwealth should not interfere in any way with- the railway systems of the States. The question of what control should be exercised over ‘States borrowings is one of great difficulty upon which the States themselves are disposed to be very touchy. The honorable member for Kooyong advocates the establishment of a Board of Advice, consisting probably of the Treasurer of each State and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, which would deal with all ‘loan proposals on the part of the Commonwealth or the States. We should seek to so guide the States that they will not borrow as largely as they have done ; but if they desire to do so. we should not restrict their powers in this respect. There are certain matters in connexion with this subject that demand very close attention. It has been said that we should effect considerable saving by the conversion of the States debts; but many of the statements that have been made on this subject will not bear investigation. It would be impossible to bring about any large conversion except as the loans fell due. If it were known that we had a sinking fund, out of which we could buy up our stocks as they came into the market, the result would naturally be to keep up the price. We should not reap any benefit from such a system^ unless in consequence of . great financial depression the price of our stocks went down. We might then be able to enter the market and buy them up; but I feel that the knowledge that we should be purchasers in ordinary circumstances would keep them from going down. I have read a good deal by different gentlemen on the question of conversion. I do not profess to be a /very great financial expert; but I have tried to familiarize myself with the question, and I am quite satisfied that there can be no extensive system of conversion and that the conversion from State to Commonwealth stock would have to be made as the loans fall due. Any saving of interest which might be effected by the conversion should go to the credit of the State whose stock was converted.. It is said’ that Commonwealth stock would command a higher value than State stock. But that, I think, is imaginary ; the belief has no foundation. The idea is, I know, indorsed by big names. My name is, I suppose, only a little one in the financial world, but I am satisfied that if these things are examined carefully, it will be realized that there are innumerable causes which affect the value of stock. One of these causes is the question as to whether the affairs of the State are being conducted economically by its Government. Then, when a depression comes about - we know not why, sometimes - it affects the price of stock. So that we must come to the conclusion that, .whether he is dealing in Commonwealth or State stock, the investor is governed1 simply by the way in which the affairs of the Commonwealth or State are being conducted, and by no other consideration. The Commonwealth could not give investors greater security for Federal stock than they have to-day for State stock. During the contest on the acceptance of the Constitution Bill, ii. was continually urged that the Commonwealth would make a great profit out of the conversion of the States’ debts. I looked up the matter, and obtained some particulars which I shall quote, to show how little dependence is to be placed upon such statements. The figures relate to stocks of the same class, though there is a difference in the rate of interest, and the currency of the stock. In June, 1892, New South Wales 3^ per cents., with thirty-two years to run, stood at ^96 19s., while Canadian three per cents., with forty-six years to run, stood at ^93 17s. The fact that Canadian stock had fourteen years more to run than New South Wales stock gave it a higher value, and the fact that it paid one half per cent, interest less gave it a lower value, but still it stood at about ^3 less than did the other. Victorian stock stood at about 16s. less than did New South Wales stock, although it bore the same rate of interest, and had the same currency. In 1893 the value of New South Wales stock had fallen from £90 to ,£92, while that of Canadian stock had risen from ^93 to ^94. At that time Canada was federated, but Australia was not. Why did the value of New South Wales stock fall by £4 in that year, and that of Canadian stock rise by £l ? The reason was, because it was a year of depression in our State. Canadadid not feel that depression as we did, and therefore its stock continued to rise in value. In 1894 the value of New South Wales stock had risen from ^92 to .£98. In the interval we were forced to have very economical government; no loans, were floated, and because we kept off the loan market, the value of our stock rose. In the same year the value of Canadian stock rose by only £1, while the value of New South Wales stock was ^3 higher. Although Canada was a federation, still the stock of New South Wales stood £3 higher than it did the year before, when it was £p. lower than the other. Will any one explain to me how Commonwealth stock could’ have a greater value in the market than State stock ? The fact that New South Wales was forced off the money market, and was practising economies, sent up the value of its stock. But when we come-to 1898, what do we find’? In that year the value of New South Wales stock had risen from ^98 to ,£108. In a period of four years the value of our stock had risen by ^10, but the value of Canadian stock had risen by only £6. So that our stock stood higher than did that of Canada, although the latter country was much closer to the market. It must be remembered that during those years in New South Wales we had in power the right honorable member for East Sydney. Com-_ ments are made about his financial ability, but no man ever lifted that State higher than he did. He administered the revenue and loan funds so economically during those years that the value of our stock rose, I think, to the highest point it had ever reached. We cannot read these figures without realizing how it is that the administration of the affairs of a country, whether it be a State or a Commonwealth, raises or depresses the value of its stock. If the affairs of a Commonwealth or a State are administered recklessly, the value of its stock will fall. If, on the other hand, the affairs of a Commonwealth or a State are administered economically, the value of its stock will rise. The statement that the creation of Commonwealth stock would be an advantage to us is simply a matter of imagination, and not a matter of fact. How does the stock of New South Wales stand to-day? It stands higher to-day than it did two years ago.
– That is owing to Federation.
– No; the honorable member does not know his book yet, and I have yet to learn that he knows very much. The value of New South Wales stock fell from .£108 until it was less than the value of the stock of any State in the Commonwealth. Why did that occur? It was because those who believe in the policy advocated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports got control of New South Wales. As they always have done, they recklessly administered public affairs. They borrowed money largely, and wasted it in every direction, with the result that the stock of the State fell from its high position at the top of the market down to the lowest position. When I mentioned that the value of New South Wales stook had risen again, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports thought he had scored a point, but he would have had to rise earlier this morning than he did to do so. The value of New South Wales stock went down when the reckless protectionist party was in power. Now it has gone up again. Why ? Because we belong to the Commonwealth? No. Simply because the administration of the Government is economical, because we are borrowing less, and because we are ‘ living within our means. The history of recent years establishes this fact - that it does not matter to the Stock Exchange whether we are living as a Commonwealth or as a State. What they want to know is how you ate carrying on your affairs, whether you are administering your departments economically, whether you are reckless in the expenditure of your loan money, or whether it is being wisely spent. If the answers to these questions are satisfactory, your stock will be sought after ; if the answers be otherwise, your stocks will not be desired. It all depends upon administration.
– They have faith in the Labour Party.
– The honorable member for Darwin asserts that there has been an improvement because the Stock Exchange has faith in the Labour Party. I shall not say a word against the Labour Party. Its members act up to their lights. I give them credit for pure motives, but in my opinion they lack knowledge. The Labour Party was behind the reckless Ministry that lowered our credit in New South Wales. It supported wanton expenditure. Time after time we tried to prevent it, but these men stood as a solid body, fighting for the expenditure of money in all sorts of foolish directions - to give employment, as .they called it. Instead of employment being provided, the result has been that; although we have had one or two splendid seasons, we have had great distress. I do not charge the Labour Party with trying to bring that about. But while their motives may be pure, they lack knowledge, and until they set themselves to understand such affairs all their legislation, whether Commonwealth or State, will be to the injury of the people. I have now put before the Committee my views about various things affecting the welfare of this country. If Australia is to rise to any eminence amongst the nations of the world, it must be by the development of the individual courage, energy, . and push of our manhood. The policy. which the Commonwealth has entered upon is calculated to have exactly the reverse effect. We are seeking to improve the position of men by legislation - to make them happier and more prosperous by Act of Parliament. In no State has that policy been carried to such an extent as has been the case in Victoria. Here in every direction legislators have been seeking to coddle their people. The British race has grown to its present noble position, not through coddling by Parliaments, but by the inherent power and strength of individual men. If we are to rise as a nation by no other means can we do so. We must not take all the self-reliance out of our people, or we shall fail. Demands are made in every direction not to throw our people on to their own resources, so that they may be developed by their own strength, but to coddle them, to keep them swathed in bandages and flannels, and to shield them from the competition of the world. By this policy we are simply weakening the fibre of the race. We stand to-day a race of weaklings. Yet we presume to look down upon the coloured people with contempt. We affect to despise that little brown race which has just come victorious out of its great fight with what was thought to be the Colossus of the world. Let us compare ourselves with them - with their resource, their industry, their self-reliance and their strength. If we look at the matter in a right light, instead of our having any reason to elevate ourselves in our own opinion, and to think that we are superior to them, the little brown men, as it appears to me, stand superior to us; and until we develop in the same way as they have done, standing out as men prepared to fight our battles with any race-
– At 2d. a day.
– There need be no 2d. a day about it. The people of Victoria have had protection for thirty or forty years. Yet Victoria to-day is the one State that is bending its knees and crying out for greater help and more coddling. No other State in the union howls as Victoria does for assistance from the Government. After so many years of protection, if there is any wisdom in the system, Victoria ought to stand in the forefront. But she stands behind to-day, in everything that makes for true liberalism, and which conduces towards the development of a higher and nobler nature.
– I regret that the Prime Minister has not seen his way to comply with the request which I made to him yesterday, and to which I understood that he had agreed that he wouldthis morning move by leave that I be relieved from serving any longer on the Standing Orders Committee. Instead of that, the honorable gentleman gave an indefinite notice of motion, which will go out to the public without even a day being fixed for its consideration, and without any explanation of the reasons for it. Under the circumstances I feel constrained, in justice to myself, to make a short explanation of the reasons that induced me to ask the Prime Minister to move for leave to relieve me from serving any longer on the committee. When I went into the committee room yesterday morning, a notice of motion for a new standing order was placed in my hands in the following terms: -
If the Speaker considers at any time. that his attention is being called unnecessarily to the absence of a quorum, andhe is satisfied that there is a quorum within the precincts of the House, he may decline to count the House.
That means that, if the Speaker’s attention is called to the absence of a quorum at any time when, probably, there may not be ten members present - as was the case a few minutes ago - and he is satisfied there are enough honorable members in the billiard-room or the refreshmentroom to make a quorum, he need net count the House. Having regard to the gravity and importance of this standing order, andseeing that it was sprung on us without any notice whatever, in the absence of three prominent members of the Standing Orders Committee, the proceeding seemed to me, rightly or wrongly, so unfair that the only course that occurred to me by which I could express my emphatic protest, was to ask the Prime Minister that I might be relieved from serving any longer on the Committee.
– Hear, hear; that was the only honorable course to take.
– For obvious reasons, I do not think I need make any further comment; but I deemed it necessary to make a short explanation.
– The honorable member did not suggest that there should be a postponement or point to the absence of members of the Committee, or take any of these points at the meeting of the Standing Orders Committee.
– The motion was introduced so suddenly, that, until it had been put and carried with the assistance of the Prime Minister, I could not conceive that such a proposal, would have been adopted. I could not imagine that it would be declared by responsible members of this House, that the business of the country was sufficiently attended to by honorable members being in the billiard-room or the refreshment-room. I was taken entirely by surprise, because I really did not think it possible such a motion would be carried. However, I have said enough at the present time, but I wish the Prime Minister had given me the opportunity which yesterday I understood him to promise.
– I asked the honorable member to take twenty-four hours to reconsider certain arguments I submitted, and I understood, although be said he would not change his mind, that he agreed to that course.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that if he did not hear from me by this morning, he would comply with my request.
– I did so; 1 gave notice.
– In a whisper !
– I should now like to deal with the financial statement. I do not intend to go into details of the Budget ; in fact, 1 had not intended to speak at all, and it was only yesterday evening that I thought I had, perhaps, better say a few words since my silence might be misconstrued. I might add that in speaking to-day I am acting against the express orders of my doctor, who has told me not to take any “ part for the present in parliamentary business. Like most honorable members who have preceded me, I listened to the financial statement of the Treasurer with feelings of profound disappointment. .1 had thought that the right honorable gentleman would, at any rate, afford some indication of an intention on the part of the Government to deal with thd large and, important financial problems that confront this Parliament. In my opinion, there is no more important question’ than that of the States debts, and I did think that the Treasurer would have announced the intention of the Government to deal with that matter in a practical way.
– Why did the Government, of which the honorable member was a member, not deal with the matter in the Budget statement last year?
– The Government 01 which I was a member advanced the matter very considerably at the Conference which was held with the Premiers of the various States at Hobart; but the present Treasurer has not announced any intention on the part of his Government to takeadvantage of what was then done; on the contrary, the right honorable gentleman treats the question in a most perfunctory manner, as if it were not of the slightest importance. I should have thought that a Government with which the Prime Minister was in any way connected, and much more so a Government of which he is the head, would make some attempt to carry out a part of the extravagant promises that were made by himself and many others, when urging the people of Australia to’ consent to the Federal union. There was no point on which greater stress was laid, and I am certain there was nothing that weighed with the people of Australia more, than the promise of the large annual saving in interest, which it was thought would be brought about owing to the credit of the Commonwealth standing much higher than the credit of the individual States. At that time I certainly did not take the view presented by the present Prime Minister. I felt that any assets that would contribute to the credit of the Commonwealth would have to be extracted from the States ; that there would be no new asset. I admit that at the present time the credit of the Commonwealth should stand very much higher than that of any individual State, for the obvious reason that the revenues of the States have been largely diminished and impoverished, owing to the fact that the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue has been handedover to the Commonwealth. The States have nothing! but direct taxation on which to depend, and it is reasonable to assume that their credit must stand much lower than that of the Commonwealth at the present time, provided, of course, that the affairs of the Commonwealth are managed in a proper, business-like manner. Yet no serious attempt whatever is being made, or, at any rate, no attempt is foreshadowed by the Treasurer in his Budget statement - and that was the proper time - of any intention on the part of the Government to deal with this all-important matter in a practical business-like way. While we have no announcement from the Treasurer of any constructive financial policy, there is very clear indication of a destructive policy. Financial authorities agree, I think, that the weakest point in the Commonwealth Constitution is found in the defective provisions made in regard to finance - in the extraordinary, and, in my opinion, unfair allocation of assets and liabilities, as between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth is endowed with the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, and also with unlimited powers of direct taxation, with no responsibility whatever in regard to liabilities or interest charges. On the other hand, the States, whose only recourse is such direct taxation as the people can bear in addition to any direct taxation which the Commonwealth may impose, are left with the responsibility of providingfor the redemption , of loans and the annual interest charges. It is true that the Convention did make temporary provision by means of the Braddon section to provide for the return to the States of three-fourths of the Customs revenue, the expenditure of the Commonwealth being limited to one-fourth. I have no doubt whatever that the members of the Convention, when doing so, thought that a business arrangement would be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States for the taking over of the States debts before the period fixed for the operation of the Braddon section had expired.
– No doubt that is so.
– But my right honorable friend will see that he is making no move whatever towards taking over the States debts.
– What time had I to make any move, when I had to deal with the matter in a few weeks?
– But the right honorable gentleman has clearly expressed his opinion that there is no necessity to renew the operation of the Braddon section.
– I did not say that.
– I refer the right honorable gentleman to the. Hansard report of his Budget speech.
– I said that I did not see that much good would result to the States.
– That means, if it means anything, that the funds at the command of the Commonwealth Treasurer will be quadrupled without any provision whatever being made in regard to States debts or interest charges.
– I suggested the return of a fixed sum to the States.
– I venture to say that that fixed sum, being that which my right honorable friend could not find any use for, would be very small.
– That is grossly unfair.
– With our honorable friends in the Labour corner driving the right honorable gentleman, we know perfectly well that that fixed sum would be infinitesimal.
– I did not intend it to be so.
– This is a very serious matter, and I refer to it, not by way of reproaching my right honorable friend, but in the hope that the Government will give some serious and business-like consideration to the subject.
– The States will never suffer at my hands.
– Another very important matter is involved in the proposals in regard to the sugar bounties. As a protectionist I have been in favour of the payment of these bounties. I am always in favour of the State providing a reasonable sum to encourage any new industry, in order to tide it over its initial difficulties, provided that I am satisfied that when that has been done the industry will become selfsupporting and valuable to the country. In this particular case, the bounties were not given for this purpose, but in order to compensate cane-growers for the loss of kanaka labour. That seemed to be a legitimate policy to adopt, and I supported it. I quite agree that something further should be done in that direction, but I do not think that the burden should be a perpetual one on the taxpayers. I do not think it should continue for all time, and certainly the Government proposal is the first step towards making it perpetual.’ When the Government renew these bounties for five years, without any reduction whatever in the amount, we know perfectly well that the next Government, in the face of the clamour of those interested, and the pressure that will be brought to bear on them, will do the same, and so the bounties will go on for all time.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us what was the policy of the late Government in respect to this matter?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman what my views were. I had not announced them to the late Government, and I did not intend to do so until just on the eve of the opening of Parliament. The only member of the late Government to whom I mentioned the proposals I intended to make was the late Treasurer, the right honorable member for Balaclava. I intended to ask my colleagues to agree to the renewal of the bounties at the present rate for two years, in order that reasonable notice of a reduction might be given, and that at the end of the two years the bounties should be reduced by12½ per cent. each year, so that at the end of another eight years they would have entirely disappeared. That is to say, that ten years from the commencement of the new arrangement these bounties would have disappeared automatically.
– Would the protective duty have remained?
– I certainly intended to propose arenewal of the Excise duty at the present rate.
– That is to say, the honorable gentleman proposed to reduce the protection on sugar to £3 per ton?
– At the end of ten years, yes ; and that in my opinion is a very reasonable protection.
– It would be about 25 per cent.
– In my opinion it would be a reasonable percentage of protection, and I think the time allowed for the reduction of the bounty would have been ample. I made very close inquiries, went carefully into the matter, and secured all the information I possibly could, and it appeared to me that the proposal I was going to submit to my colleagues was fair, if not generous, to the cane-growers, whilst it afforded a guarantee to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth that there would be an end to the payment of these bounties.
– Did the honorable gentleman propose to reduce the beet-sugar duty ? How did he propose to deal with that?
– In precisely the same way as with the cane-sugar duties.
– I mean as regards the protective duty?
– The protective duty on beet sugar at the present time is prohibitive, as we know.
– How did the honorable gentleman propose to deal with that?
– I would not care a rush whether that remained at£10 or at£6 per ton. I do not see that it would make any material difference.
– It would as regards importations.
– I never did see that there was any substantial reason for making such a marked difference between the duties imposed on importations of beet and cane-sugar.
– The production of beetsugar elsewhere is subsidized.
– Honorable members may take my assurance that if the Government carry out their proposal to renew the sugar bounties for another live years without any reduction, that will be the first step towards making, them permanent. If the payment of these bounties is to be made permanent the people of the Commonwealth should know it, and unless the Government take some steps in the direction I have indicated, that is, diminishing the bounties by a sliding scale they will remain permanent. Ifthey think that the payment of the bounties for another five years is sufficient, I would advisethatthey should deal with the matter in another way. They might reduce the amount by 10 per cent. each year from the present time, which would be equivalent to a total payment for five years at the present rate. My proposal would be equivalent to a six years payment at the present rate; but it would take ten years under my proposal to extinguish the payment of all bounties.
– Is it the bounty, the excise, or the duty the honorable gentleman proposes to reduce?
– The bounty paid to growers of sugar-cane by white labour.
– What about the excise ?
– I propose to renew that at the present rate of£3 per ton.
– Would the honorable gentleman make that perpetual ?
– Yes, as a legitimate source of revenue, so long, of course, as the customs duty remains in operation. If the customs duty should become inoperative it would not do to continue the excise duty, and it might become inoperativeby the production in the Commonwealth of all the sugar we require for ourselves. In connexion with this matter, I might tell the Treasurer that, so far as I was enabled to investigate the subject, and I went into it very closely, I am of opinion that the cane-growers, although the bounty is paid directly to them, do not get the full .benefit of it. Because the price that is paid to them by the Colonial Sugar Refining Com- - pany is, in my opinion, very much lower than it should be, leaving regard to the fact that the company has free access to &11 the Australian markets, and is protected against importations from abroad. Apparently much of the bounty that should go to the growers goes to the company. But, turning away from that subject, I am very pleased to be able to congratulate my right honorable friend on the cheerful and optimistic tone of his speech. That he should adopt that tone was not unexpected by me, because when in office he is always optimistic. But what a different story he had to tell when the Watson Government were in power last session, and he was sitting on this side of the Chamber !
– What did I say?
– The right honorable gentleman said that he was clutched by an octopus.
– The right honorable gentleman used then to deplore the unconstitutional position into which Federal politics had. drifted. He told us that it was highly unconstitutional for the honorable member for Bland to occupy the Treasury benches, with the support of a party of only twenty-eight, and to depend for the retention of office on the votes of other sections of the House. Indeed, if I remember aright, he went so far as to say that the honorable member for Bland must have misled the Governor-General, and that he should return his commission.
– That was the expression of my opinion upon a constitutional point.
– Yes ; but my right honorable friend is now in a Cabinet which has the support of a party of,, not twentyeight, but eighteen, which depends for the retention’ of office on the votes of the very men whom he then denounced. The right honorable gentleman, in preparing has Budget, seems to have devoted far more pains to finding arguments in support of the piesent position, and to disarm in advance criticism of measures which the Government may feel constrained, under pressure of the corner party, hereafter to submit, than to making a clear statement as to our finances. If he had confined his denunciation of the detractors of the Commonwealth to those who misrepresent the acts of its public men, I would have been entirely with Lim. But he went rather further than that, and denounced those who criticised sections of Acts with which they did not agree.. That was the first time in my experience of parliamentary government, in which I heard people directed not to criticise the acts of public men, for fear of injuring the Commonwealth.
– T said that those who do not like the provisions of certain Acts should try to repeal them.
– If my right honorable friend will take his mind back a few weeks, or a few months, he will remember that he used to criticise some of the provisions in our Acts pretty freely. When I was in office he sent me voluminous extracts from Western Australian newspapers, containing reports of his speeches. Very good speeches they were, because in them he expressed his honest convictions, and did not mince matters in the terms which he employed, so that they were very unlike his Financial Statement. So voluminous were they, however, that I am not sure that I had not occasionally to pay something for deficient postage. But after the honorable and learned member for -Ballarat had made his pilgrimage to Western Australia, and had had that historic interview with my right honorable friend, these speeches in denunciation of Socialism suddenly stopped, and I had no more deficient postage to pay.. Honorable members will recollect a character in one of Dickens’ books, no less a personage than the public hangman, who was in the habit of visiting the cells of condemned criminals on the night before their execution, to harangue them through the bars as to how they should comport themselves on the following morning. He used to tell them that they should put on a cheerful expression, that they should walk to the scaffold with an elastic buoyant step, that- they should look at the crowd, and that if they felt equal to making a pleasant speech, it would greatly add to the enjoyment of the occasion. “ But,” he added, “ if, you cannot make a speech, or look cheerful, at any rate put on a dignified air, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t snivel, because snivelling spoils the effect of ‘ the whole thing.” So my right honorable friend told us, in substance, that whatever we might think of the socialistic measures which were being forced upon this Government, we were to be cheerful, and above all, not to snivel. [Sitting suspended in consequence of the indisposition of Mr. McLean.]
– I am sure that I voice the feelings- of the Committee in expressing the deepest possible pain at the cutting short of the brilliant speech which was in process of delivery by the honorable member for Gippsland’ I hope that after a little rest he may be able to resume, and in the meantime I desire at the earliest moment to refer to a matter of the greatest importance to this House and the country - a matter arising, out of an explanation made by the honorable member for Gippsland, concerning the reasons which prompted him to take the grave step of resigning his position upon the Standing, Orders Committee.
– I rise to a point of order. The matter to which the honorable member is referring already forms the subject of a notice of motion, and I wish to know whether it is in order to anticipate discussion upon that motion.
– I submit that the point of order raised by the honorable member for ‘Melbourne Ports cannot be upheld. I would point out that the deputy leader of the Opposition was not proceeding to discuss the motion of which notice has been given by the Prime Minister. He merely made incidental reference to the fact that owing to the action of the Standing Orders Committee the honorable member for Gippsland had resigned his seat upon that body. The honorable member for Parramatta was discussing the proceedings which led up to the action taken by the honorable member for Gippsland, and I contend, therefore, that his remarks! were perfectly in order.
– I think the Committee are quite aware that it is out of order to anticipate discussion upon any matter which has to be dealt with upon a future day. I understand that the resignation of the honorable member for Gippsland from the Standing Orders Committee will be debated upon a- future occasion, and under those circumstances, the resignation itself cannot now be discussed. Concerning the explanation made by the honorable member for Gippsland, I would point out that personal explanations cannot be the subject of debate. That is specially provided for in our Standing Orders. I would ask the honorable member for Parramatta to recollect these two points, and as far as possible to confine his remarks to the scope permitted by the Standing Orders.
– This is a rather sudden development. It is very sudden indeed, and is apparently so perfect as to suggest long cogitation and careful preparation. I do not propose to contest the matter further, but I shall place myself in order by moving -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
I take this course in order that I may refer to a most extraordinary matter - a matter of such grave importance as to involve the resignation from the Standing Orders Committee of one of (the most reputable members of this House, one who has always shown himself to be a keen student of proper parliamentary procedure, and, above all other things, a watchful guardian of the rights of the people of this country. I say that when that honorable member feels himself under the grave compulsion of resigning from a Committee of such an important and honorable nature-
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member is in order in discussing a question which appears upon the noticepaper for discussion on a future day?
– The deputy leader of the Opposition has moved that “ the Chairman do now leave the chair.”
– In answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Dalley, I would point out that we have not suspended the Standing Orders. I have already ruled that the honorable member for Parramatta will not be in order in! discussing the question referred to.
– I wish to ask a question in connexion with the point of order that has been raised. I desire to know whether your ruling is that, upon the motion “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair,” an honorable member is not in order in giving his reasons why you should leave the chair, irrespective of whether or not those reasons refer to the business before the House.
– My ruling is that the Standing Orders are not suspended merely by the moving of a motion, “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair.” That being so, notwithstanding that such a motion has been submitted, honorable members must observe the ordinary rules of debate.
– I wish to refer to a proposed standing order which was read by a previous speaker, and on which he was allowed to make a statement to the Committee. The matter has been freely criticised outside the Chamber, and I submit that I shall be perfectly in order in debating a question that is being discussed at every street corner, and is one of great public urgency. It is a well-known parliamentary procedure to move that the Chairman do leave the chair, in order to secure an opportunity to refer to an extraordinary matter in an extraordinary way.
– I suppose we shall have next to proceed to personal violence.
– I ask honorable members to preserve order.
– Honorable members will do exactly what they think is right.
– I take the ground that the Ministry are directly responsible for the proceeding to which I refer, and which has led to the resignation of the honorable member for Gippsland as a member of the Standing Orders Committee. We are asked to grant supply, but I, for one, decline to do so until I have ventilated a matter which, I think, profoundly affects future parliamentary control in the Commonwealth. If your ruling, Mr. Chairman, is that I cannot’ do that, it seems to me that we have arrived at a very serious state of affairs. Ohe of my complaints is that the decision of the Standing Orders Committee has been effected ‘by the Ministry.
– The Ministry had nothing to do with it I do not believe that a colleague of mine, even if he knew that the Standing Orders Committee was to meet yesterday, was aware that the matter was to be considered.
– Nor did the Standing Orders Committee.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister, I should like to ask him whether the announcement made in the newspapers this morning is correct.
– I am not responsible for a newspaper statement.
– We are told in the newspapers that the Prime Minister and Mr. Speaker supported the proposed standing order.
– I desire to draw the attention of the honorable member to standing order No. 344. That standing order relates to Select Committees - which includes standing committees - and is as follows : -
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the House, and documents presented to such’ Committee, which have not been reported to the House, shall not be disclosed or published by any member of such Committee, or by any other person.
Does the honorable member consider that the Committee would be in order in doing that which would not be permissible on the part of a person outside? In other words, should we not honour, within the precincts of the House, a standing order which we believe to have been disregarded! by others.
– That is part of my complaint. I am calling attention to a violation of the Standing Orders.
– I think that the honorable member has missed, his opportunity to do that. A violation of the Standing Orders of the House can scarcely be brought under notice in Committee.
– Then I shall, leave that point. I desire to call attention to the insidious way in which our parliamentary proceedings are being undermined” by the present Government. We have reason to believe that certain proceedings have lately taken place in a committee appointed by the House, which were of such a character as to involve the resignation of one of the most respected members of that committee. Such a course could have beenadopted by the honorable member for no light reason. If we may believe, not merely reports, but definite and decisive statements, by leaders in the House, and particularly on the part of the honorable member for Bland,, who the other night heartily denounced the proceedings of the Parliament as processes of obstruction-
– The proceedings, not of the Parliament, but of the Opposition.
– The honorable member denounced our proceedings as being; wilful obstruction and “ stone-walling.”
– The proceedings of the Opposition.
– I hope that the honorable member will not interrupt me. He ran away with the House the other night, but I shall take good care that he does not do the same thing to-day. We listened to the honorable member the other night making charges that lies were being hurled about the Chamber.
– That is just about as correct as some other statements that have been made by the honorable member.
– The honorable member charged an honorable member with having repeated lies in the Chamber. 1 shall take good care that he does not run off with the House to-day, as he did the other evening.
– I simply had a chance to reply to the honorable member; that was all.
– And- I shall have a chance to reply to the honorable member for Bland.
– I shall not accuse the honorable member of hurling lies around the Chamber - an accusation which he made against an honorable member on the evening to which I refer.
– I did not.
– The honorable member more than once characterized statements from this side of the Committee as a. repetition of lies.
– I said that they were on a par with the lies against the Commonwealth that were circulated by the *” stinking fish party.”
– The honorable member went on to describe as obstruction and a deliberate stoppage of business, a series of addresses that had been delivered on matters of supreme moment to the Commonwealth. It was a matter of very keen regret to me to hear Mr. Speaker rule that such expressions were in order. We know now, however, what expressions are permissible. I should not mind what occurs in the House if it were not that apparently other insidious processes are at work, which not only stifle parliamentary procedure, but have a tendency to bring our whole system of parliamentary government into contempt. I am one of those who believe that, with all its drawbacks and defects, there has not yet been evolved anything to take its place in a way which would be at all adequate to the free expression of the thoughts of a free people. And believing as I do, *hat it is the best form of government yet evolved, I intend to protest on every occasion when I see insidious influences at work tending to undermine it, and bring it into contempt. We are told in the newspapers to-day that it is in contemplation to take action to curtail the undoubted liberties of this House. We are told, for instance, that the honorable member for Kennedy has it in contemplation, and has already taken decisive action elsewhere, to bring about this condition of things.
– I hope so.
– It is a pity that the honorable member for Bland has only awakened so lately to the importance of getting, on with public business.
– I have always held that the majority should rule.
– During last session the honorable member’ sat here night after night aiding and abetting a series of obstructive and stone-walling tactics, which certainly have had no parallel in the Federal Parliament.
– That is a ridiculous statement.
– We had one honorable member after another talking for four or five hours at a stretch. By-the-bye, sir, I think it is well for the Prime Minister to leave the Chamber. He seems to have no control over the House, to have surrendered it entirely to his ally. the honorable member for Bland. I have never seen anything more appallingly degrading than the way in which he surrendered his functions as leader of the House the other night, and completely gave the control of it into the charge of the honorable member for Bland. We had the latter gasconading over the floor, lecturing the House, and saying what ought to be done, with the Prime Minister sitting here, I was going to say, like a boiled owl, afraid to speak.
– After the honorable member had been lecturing the House for twentyminutes. He should be the last te talk about lecturing.
– Nothing could have been more degrading than that spectacle the other night when the Prime Minister completely abdicated his functions as leader of the House, and entirely pave over the control of business to the honorable member for Bland.
– That consisted in making a few remarks in reply to the honorable member.
– It may be it was right that the Prime Minister should do so, seeing that the honorable member for Bland is in charge of more members in the House than is the former. All this kind of thing comes from the degrading spectacle which we are witnessing, day by day of having in office a Government without power to control, and therefore without real executive authority, only serving by their actions day by day to bring the proceedings of the House into further contempt. Yet we are told that the remedy for this state of things is that the Government should lead and control the House. The persons who are constantly giving the Prime Minister wholesale advice from outside ought to provide him with the ways and means. They ought to tell him how it is possible for a Government with twenty followers to control a House numbering seventy-five members. That is the primary problem which the purveyors of advice from outside ought to solve for the Prime Minister, and then he might be able to do what they wish him to do - to control the House as the leader of a strong majority ought to do. But, in the meantime, matters in the House must go from bad to worse, and our institutions must be degraded more and more in the eyes of rightthinking people outside. We are told that we are to have our privileges further curtailed, and that this is to be done on the initiation of the honorable member for Kennedy. He above all others is laying down the dictum that the chief concern of honorable members should be about the billiard-room and the chess-table - that honorable members may be anywhere than where they ought to be - in this deliberative Chamber - attending to the serious business of the country. That is a strange doctrine of political ethics to be laid down by a labour member. The honorable member for Kennedy, above all others, is telling the country that all a member of Parliament need to do . is to come here, get his name put down, and then scoot for the billiard-room or enjoy himsel f in luxurious ease ; that Parliament, under our democratic conditions, and with al] power and authority exercised within its walls by the Labour Party, may be a mere social club where the business of the country may be transacted quite incidentally.
– The honorable member would’ not surely call this a social club. It is just the opposite.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK. It may be unsocial, but I am now speaking of the ideal of the honorable member for Kennedy. He is proposing a reform. He is pro posing to turn Parliament into a social club, where amusement may predominate, and the serious business of the country should be done in the intervals. That is his proposal, I understand from the newspapers to-day_.
– I shall accept all the criticism quite cheerfully.
– I am sure it will be delightful reading for the strenuous individuals outside who support the honorable member, and who every day have before them an ideal which we may admire even if we do not agree with its details, by reason of its purity and genuineness. But their ideal is not that Parliament should be turned into a mere club for the convenience of those whom they send here, instead of being a Chamber where honest, serious business is done.
– Hear, hear ! Is honest, serious business being done now ?
– There can be nothing more serious than an attempt to preserve the liberties of the people, and not to curtail them. That is the first business which we owe to ourselves and to the country.
– Will not the best time to do that be when the matter comes before the House? No discussion can have any effect until a proposal is made.
– Has my old Rip Van Winkle friend just woke up ? He has been engaged for a long time in evolving that observation. I think he had better take Carlyle’s advice and go to bed for three days,- and think, if that is all he has to say on a matter of this great importance. Parliament, is not an idle pastime. Are we to lay down the doctrine that it is?
– It is being kept idle.
– If it is being kept idle, the fault must lie with the Prime Minister, -He has no power to govern it - no mandate from the people to govern it - no constitutional power of any kind. Having no mandate, he has no power, and cannot have any. Therefore, he can exercise no effective control over Parliament. If Parliament is idle, let us .dissolve.
– The fault lies with the honorable member.
– Then let us dissolve. I say that the Prime Minister should not, to cover up his own ineptitude and weakness - arising, not from any personal deficiencies, but from sheer lack of support - try to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt. Parliamentis not to blame.
– No ; the honorable member is.
– Only the peo- ple can effectively redress these matters, and the sooner we refer to their arbitrament the better. In the meantime, we have the delightful doctrine laid down by a Labour member that Parliament may be turned into a social club, and members attending to their own pleasure, and seeking their own luxuriousness and enjoyment, are to be considered as engaged in serious parliamentary business !
– That is a deliberate lie, and you know it !
– Order !
– He is lying; that is what he is doing !
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I will do nothing of the kind. He is lying, and he knows it !
– The honorable member is not in order. He must withdraw.
– I will do nothing of the sort. I say that he is” lying, and he knows it !
-The honorable member must recollect that the Standing Orders do not permit such expressions to be used. The Standing Orders are framed for the express purpose of protecting honorable members.
– I will withdraw the statement; but is the honorable member for Parramatta in order in getting up here and deliberately stating an untruth - that Labour members want to turn this Parliament into a social club?
– That is most offensive.
-The honorable member for Maranoa has withdrawn the statement, but he knows that he must withdraw it without any qualification. In regard to the statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta, I have followed them very closely, and took it that he based them entirely on some newspaper paragraph. They were not his personal opinions.
-The offensive statement has not been withdrawn.
– It is withdrawn.
– The honorable member repeated it.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has not withdrawn the statement unconditionally.
– Out of respect for the Chair, I withdraw the statement wholly.
– I care nothing for the honorable member’s personal respect ; nothing whatever.
– Don’t you - you cad !
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Maranoa distinctly called the honorable member for Parramatta a “cad.” I ask that that shall be withdrawn.
– I ask honorable members who desire that order shall be maintained to assist me in maintaining it. The honorable member for Maranoa must withdraw the remark that he has made.
– I will withdraw it, but the honorable member cannot stop me from thinking it.
– Now I will proceed. I much regret that the honorable member for Maranoa should be disconcerted with what I am saying. I am addressing my remarks principally to one member of the Labour Party.
– Then refer to me by name.
– The honorable member for Kennedy, I mean.
– That is right.
– I quite identify the honorable member, and I am glad that he does not deny it.
– The honorable member said the “ Labour Party “ ; I am not the party.
– I include, of course, the honorable member’s leader.
– I have had to call for ordermore than half-a-dozen times within the last minute. Honorable members on both sides are continually exchanging remarks across the floor. I ask them to refrain from so doing, and to allow the honorable member for Parramatta to proceed.
– I referto the honorable member for Kennedy, principally because, of all members of this House, I did not expect to see him adopting such sentiments as those which I have been condemning. I thought that if there was one honorable member who would have been the last to agree to any such course as is proposed, it would have been lie, who in the Queensland Parliament assumed an entirely different attitude. There was in the Queensland Parliament a Labour member named McDonald ; and when such a course as is suggested here was taken by the Speaker of that Parliament, he was the very first to protest against anything of the kind being done. There were allegations there that the minority were not getting fair play from the Speaker. There were allegations there that a huge majority was roughrid- ing the House, and obliterating all the rights and privileges of the minority. A number of members - all, I think, belonging to the Labour Party - got up to protest against anything of the kind being done by the Speaker.
– They ought to do it now.
– Order ; order!
– On that occasion it was the honorable member for Kennedy who moved to dissent from the Speaker’s ruling, because he had ignored those who had called attention to the want of a quorum, and dared to say that he had satisfied himself that there was a quorum present in the Chamber.
– - Hear, hear. Quite right.
– This, honorable member was the first to dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling on that very matter. But now we find, according to report, that he is proposing to take a course which will enableMr. Speaker to do the same - nay, much more than was done by the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament. I hope it is not the same McDonald who emphatically protested on that occasion?
– It is the same.
– The guardians of the rights of the House upon that occasion were the Labour members of Queensland. Now, it seems that one of them, at any rate, is going to try to stab the members of this House in a way which I venture to say is not in accord with any British precedent. I find that the whole of the members who voted with the Honorable member for Kennedy in the Queensland Parliament against the Speaker were Labour members of that State. In spite of what has been said by the leader of the Labour Party on the present occasion, and in spite of the course contemplated by the honorable member for Ken nedy, . I hope that enough members of the Labour Party will be found to say a word for the privileges of this Chamber. The honorable member for Maranoa did me a wrong in being so offensive to me just now, on the understanding that I had in my mind anything against him. I am identifying the people here to whom I refer.
– Why did not the honorable member mention their names? He said, “ the members of the Labour Party.”
– My own opinion has always been, and is still - and I will not believe anything to the contrary until I am forced to do so - that the honorable member will be one of those who will never agree to depriving the members of this House of their rights.
– Hear, hear !
– The subject is not up for discussionyet.
– I am referring to a newspaper report, and to some remarks which had been made previously in this debate. I ask myself the question - what is the purpose of Parliament? Honorable members opposite seem to suppose that the purpose of Parliament is to turn out legislation like sausages. May I remind them that that was not the original purpose for which Parliament was instituted? The main object of Parliament is to ventilate the grievances of people outside. That remains our great supreme object, and when its achievement is crippled by Standing Orders or other rules of procedure, a definite and decisive blow is struck at the very purpose of parliamentary government. Apropos of the charges of the leader of the Labour Party as to “stone-walling,” and as to the burking of the real business of the country, I point out that one of the great purposes of parliamentary discussion is to form and lead public opinion outside. We are not here merely as a registering machine, but exist as a deliberative Chamber; and it is our supreme obligation to inform and shape public opinion outside, as well as within these walls. When we submit to caucus rules, we largely abrogate this first and most fundamental of our parliamentary obligations. It would be appropriate for honorable members who believe in caucus rule, and regard Parliament as a mere registering House-
– When the honorable member used to abide by the decision of the majority in caucus, how often was that decision unfairly applied?
– The honorable member for Bland is prating, like a parrot, something that has been repeated in this House a score of times, but which has no point.
– I merely state a fact.
– What the honorable member states is not correct.
– It is ; the honorable member was one who signed the agreement to abide by the decision of the majority in the caucus.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– I am referring to the caucus of the first Parliamentary Labour Party in New South Wales.
- Mr. Salmon, I believe I did sign that agreement.
– Was it unfairly exercised ?
– That caucus lasted for three months. .
– That does not matter - the principle is the same.
– I learned enough in that caucus to keep me out of caucuses for the future.
– The honorable member was in the caucus for several years after that three months - he was in the caucus for two and a half years afterwards.
– That is an absolutely Incorrect statement, for which there is not a tittle of foundation.
– I say that it is absolutely correct.
– The honorable member is absolutely incorrect in his statement.
– Until the honorable member joined the Ministry he was in the caucus all the time.
– That is an absolutely incorrect statement.
– I maintain that the statement is absolutely correct .
– No one knows better than the honorable member for Bland that the statement is incorrect.
– Mr. Chairman, I must draw your attention to a remark which I think is out of order.
– The statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw; but I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to protect me from interruptions, which have never ceased since I rose.
– I must ask that the interruptions shall cease, and I also ask the honorable member for Parramatta not to invite interruptions by remarks which he may make.
– I do not care whether I invite interruptions or not ; I wish to express my opinion in a parliamentary way ; and it does not trouble me whether, or not those opinions excite interjections. I hope I have a right to express my opinion without interruption, no matter what the character of my remarks may be, so long as they are parliamentary.
– We shall have to fight our way with a bowie knife if the caucus members have their way.
– Order !
– It would be very appropriate for a caucus to propose those retrograde method’s of parliamentary procedure. But the caucus, in its very constitution, is out of accord with all that relates to Parliamentary Government. If caucus rule is to proceed, ramifying as we see it every day, and leading to the crippling of the privileges of the House, Parliamentary Government will soon be a by-word and a disgrace in this country. It is because I feel that there are constant inroads being made on the system of Parliamentary Government, as that system has been known for hundreds of years, that I am raising my protest against the latest attempt on the part of an honorable member who, above all others, should be the guardian of the rights and liberties of the people of this country. We have been charged with obstruction. This House has been sitting for six weeks, and I venture to say that in that time we have done as much business as any deliberative assembly ever did in a similar period. First of all, the policy of the Government was declared and debated - a matter which always involves discussion for a fortnight or three weeks, and never less in any Parliamentary Chamber in the world. We have concluded the consideration of the classification scheme for the Public Service - a scheme which, I venture to say, no one outside ever dreamt could ever be dealt with in four days. The Commerce Bill is through its second reading, and theTrade Marks Bill has been taken into Committee. The Evidence Bill, the Jury Bill, and the Life Assurance Bill have been passed, and on the enactment of the latter measure I congratulate the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Then it would appear that the Prime Minister is leading the House ?
– Two Supply Bills have been passed, and now we are in the first week of the debate on the Budget.
– There is also the second reading debate of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– The Budget debate was concluded last year within a week.
– And why? Because immediately preceding the introduction of the Budget, there had been a motion of want of confidence, which caused a debate of three or four weeks, thanks chiefly to honorable members in the corner. Under the circumstances, there was no need for any further ventilation of grievances, that” having been accomplished under cover of the motion of want of confidence.
– The half-Prime Minister last year asked that the Budget debate should be concluded in one day.
– I have no intention of occupying time at any length. All I desire to do is to protest against both the tone and temper of this Chamber in regard to the conduct of public business, and, above all, in regard to a deliberate attempt which has been made to curtail the privileges of this House. That is my object in rising, and I shall make the protest when permitted to do so by the noisy members in the corner. And what has been the result of discussion in this Chamber? Only yesterday the Minister of Trade and Custom promised to submit substantial amendments in the Commerce Bill ; and that promise, I venture to say, is the result of the elucidation of the question on this side.
– There has been no elucidation on that side of the House.
– That is a delightful statement from an honorable mernber, who, only the other night, promised1 the Opposition that he would submit amendments.
– I did not promise the Opposition anything of the kind.
– The way in which the Minister of Trade and Customs will eat his own words in twenty-four hours is remarkable. The result of the discussions which have taken place in this House up to date has been of the most beneficial character, having regard to the interests of the people at large. The Minister of Trade and Customs may sneer as he likes, but he never debated a subject in his life - he never could rise to the necessary intellectual plane. All he can do is to sit and sneer and jeer at honorable members who do de-‘ bate the questions! before us; but the Minister may keep his jeers to himself, for I shall not tolerate them. I propose to conclude my remarks in a very few minutes. I regret that, owing to many interruptions, they have occupied very nearly an hour. I did not purpose, when rising, to claim the attention of the Committee for more than a sufficient time to enable me to make a protest against the on-coming of what I believe to be a violation of our parliamentary privileges. Having made that protest, I do not desire to occupy the time of the Committee any further. I shall be very glad indeed if my remarks constitute the whole of the observations on the subject from this side of the Chamber at this stage. My point, to put it briefly, is that if these newspaper reports be true, and I believe there is every reason to assume that they are accurate in almost every particular, we are faced with a very serious state of affairs. The proposal is one to still further centralize the government of the country, and I say that the present Government, of all Governments, has no mandate to make any attack upon our parliamentary privileges. It is only a strong Government, possessing the complete confidence of the country, and consisting of a homogeneous party, that may begin to assail the privileges of Parliament ; certainly not a Government which comprises a party of less than one-third of the members of the House. In a condition of affairs like the present, we require more, and not fewer, parliamentary checks on the operations of a Government which represents only a minority of the House. The primary purpose of the institution of these checks is to preserve the privileges of minorities, but certainly not to provide a minority with instruments of oppression and coercion when they may happen to be in power. I say that the present Government has no authority from the country, and no constitutional authority of any kind, to whittle away the powers of. Parliament. Their continuance in office at all is a violation of every constitutional principle. The majority supporting the present Government is made up of shreds and patches. It can only live by shifts and expedients of the most dangerous kind.
– Like the last Government.
– I can find no better warranty for the course I am taking than the attitude of the honorable member for Coolgardie during the last session of Parliament. We can refer to Hansard to show that day after day the honorable member, with the persistence and rancour of the sleuth-hound, pursued the previous Government in their efforts to transact business. Whatever might be said of the last Government, it at least had the support of a majority of the members of this House.
– A majority of one. >
– Even that cannot be said of the present Government. It represents the smallest party in the House.
– The late Government had not a majority in the members of its own party.
– Does my right honorable friend suggest that he was not in the coalition after all - that he was not a supporter of the coalition ? Is that what the right honorable gentleman wishes us to infer? I take it that the right honorable gentleman, and the present Prime Minister also, were just as much supporters of the previous Government as we were. If not, then the COalition must not have been what it purported to be. I hope that my right honorable friend does not suggest that whilst he was in the coalition he was not of it. I say that the late Government had a majority, though a small majority, and they did not attempt to curtail the privileges of this House in the manner in which, if we are to judge by newspaper reports, it is the intention of the present Prime Minister to do. I say that the previous Government made no attempt to assault the privileges of the House in that way.
– What were the new Standing Orders to be?
-l do not know, and, as they were never discussed, it is impossible for any one to say. If it is desired to put an end to the privilege of discussion in this House, that is a fair subject for consideration in the constitution of the Standing Orders. But this proposal is but a piece of political hypocrisy. It is a proposal, according to the reports appearing in the newspapers, to make it appear that honorable members are in this Chamber when in reality they are attending to anything but the business of Parliament. It is quite sufficient for this Government to retain their offices, without their attempting to make an inroad’ like this upon our parliamentary privileges. If they like to take the odium attaching to minority rule, if they like to hold office and its emoluments without the power requisite to give force to their wishes, and if they are ready to violate every .rule of constitutional procedure, that is their own affair. But, at the same time, the obligation is laid upon the Opposition to seek by every means to avoid the dangers of such conduct. Retention of office by this Government under present circumstances, having regard to the composition of the Ministerial party, amounts to nothing more nor less than political obsession. If they like to retain their positions under present conditions, they have, of course, the right to do so; but my complaint is that, without having authority of a substantial kind, the Government are seeking to make an insidious inroad upon every principle on which this Parliament rests.
– The power which the Government possess seems to worry the Opposition.
– I say frankly that it is not the power which the Government possess, but the supplementary power furnished to them by the honorable member and his colleagues, that to-day makes me raise my voice in protest. I should have thought that the very last party to violate the privileges of Parliament, to do anything to stifle free speech and the thorough discussion of the measures submitted to Parliament, would be the Labour Party.
– They are Thugs.
– Is the honorable member for Dalley in order in saying that the members of the Labour Party are Thugs ?
– I used the term in its classic sense.
– That is its very worst sense. I did not hear the remark, but I now ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I have much pleasure in withdrawing it.
– These changes of Government are bad for the people. No one will gainsay that. The great need of Australia at the present moment is stable government. I make that admission freely and frankly. But we shall not get stable government by these shifts and devices. There is only one authority which can redress the balance of parliamentary parties, and that is the people of the constituencies. Parliamentary government is on its trial as it has never been before in this arena. There are forces insidiously at work outside and within this Chamber, seeking to bring about the overthrow of our present system of parliamentary government, which has been our inheritance for many hundreds of years, but which unless we exercise patience, tolerance, and forbearance in our methods, must always and everywhere fail.
– What is threatening parliamentary government at the present time is the honorable member’s tolerance and forbearance !
– What is threatening it now is the intolerance, of Ministerial supporters, and the charges of obstruction which are levelled at the Opposition dayafter day by honorable members opposite.
– And the neglect of Ministers to attend in their places.
– I have already quoted facts to show that six weeks’ good work has been done in this Chamber, and are we to be paid for it by being deprived of our parliamentary privileges? So far as I am concerned, I shall resist to the utmost of my power any proposal by this Government to curtail the rights of this Chamber, or the privileges which honorable members enjoy.
– It is not for me to determine the purpose or profit of the speech to which the Committee has just listened. The pretext put forward most frequently for its deliverance was the promotion of the serious business of Parliament. I ask in truth what serious business could be assisted by it? So far as it related to anything, it discussed two proposals which the honorable member for Parramatta believes will be made to the House, one involving the resignation of an honorable member of the Standing .Orders Committee, and the other the possible submission of a new standing order to the! House. Neither proposal can be advanced or retarded until submitted to the House for decision, so that in any case nothing will have been gained by the present debate. On the contrary, time has been absolutely lost by the speech to which we have just listened. Parliament, as the honorable member suggested, is a great and complex machine. But it was framed long ago, and works to-day under conditions which render every legislative body in the world incapable of transacting its business unless it takes measures to pro vide against abuse of the powers of individual members. With us a member physically strong enough could occupy with his speeches the greater part of every sitting throughout an entire session, to the” curtailment of the rights and opportunities of all his fellow-members, and the deprivation of all the constituencies other than his own of their due representation. The rights of the House are sacrificed to and by one member, whenever a speech is made, not bona fide for the advancement of the business of the country, but to discredit Ministers, the Parliament, or a party, or to serve some personal end. Such conduct is always unpatriotic, disloyal to Parliament, and harmful to parliamentary institutions. The parliamentary machine, like many other magnificent pieces of machinery, if injured in a slight and apparently insignificant part, may temporarily, at all events, be paralyzed. Honorable members have only to discuss to-day what cannot be done until to-morrow, or what ought £0 have been done yesterday, and year after year may go by without the enactment of a single piece of legislation. They have but to insist always on’ considering that matter of most importance which is not regularly before the House, and cannot then be dealt with, or dealt with only in an unsatisfactory and incomplete fashion, to absolutely destroy its usefulness.
– Is it wise to give this advice ?
– It only provokes discussion.
– Exactly. We sit silent, and are told that it is a conspiracy of silence ; if we speak, that we provoke discussion. Hit high or hit low, our blows are delivered always at. the wrong place and at the wrong time. I am not going to discuss to-day what I shall probably have to discuss next week, or at all events very soon, because to do so would be to pursue the course which I am condemning. The speech of the honorable member for Parramatta was merely the ebullition of his personal feeling, profitless to those who listened to it, and without a tittle of advantage to the business before us. He cannot pretend that anything he said during more than an hour will advance in the slightest degree either of the proposals with which he dealt. He spoke of the seriousness of parliamentary business, but must have had his tongue in his cheek while he did so.
– Has my honorable and learned friend ever known a course like this to be taken before on a matter of this kind?
– No course has been taken which is not in consonance with the ordinary procedure of Parliament, so far as Ministers are concerned. We put business before the House every day, but have to listen day after day to the discussion of the impractical, the impossible, and the unsuitable. Honorable members debate some questions which are of public interest, but only when they cannot be dealt with, and thus cause an absolute stoppage of the transaction of business.
– Will the honorable and learned gentleman say why he did not propose this motion to-day, as is usual?
– I do not know that course is usual. I expressly asked the honorable member for Gippsland to take twenty-four hours to reconsider his action, and waited until the last moment this morning to give him every chance to intimate to me that he had changed his intention. As he did not, I then gave notice of motion in the ordinary way. I do not propose to detain the Committee any further. I have exposed the true character of this debate, which has intruded upon another debate in itself sufficiently extensive in its scope to permit honorable members to discuss matters at large if they so desire. Whether they continue to do so or not will rest with themselves; but to speak of the seriousness of parliamentary business, and at the same time to turn the whole of its proceedings into a jest-
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the Prime Minister is in order in describing the proceedings of the Committee as a jest.
– I did not hear the remark of the Prime Minister, because I was engaged with the Clerk. Do I understand that the Prime Minister said that the proceedings of the Committee were a jest?
– I said that the proceedings were turned into a jestby the speech of the honorable member ; and that was what I meant.
– The Prime Minister did not say that.
– Then I say it now. The honorable member for Parramatta, who is acting as the leader of one of the parties in the House, has purposely intervened in the serious business of the country in a frivolous and resultless way, for the purpose of airing personal opinions upon subjects which can only be dealt with when they are properly brought before the House.
– To what personal opinions does the honorable member refer?
– Those having reference to the two motions which are likely to be brought forward, one relating to the resignation of an honorable member from the Standing Orders Committee, and another relating to the adoption of a new standing order. These matters must be brought forward, and must be dealt with. The honorable member’s duty will possibly demand that he shall discuss them, and then he can only do so by repeating once more what he has said to-day. His remarks on this occasion have been absolutely resultless. They involved a, waste of the time of a Parliament with a congested business-paper, which can only be cleared by the assistance of the majority of honorable members, including those opposite. It is not possible for any Ministry to force business upon an unwilling Chamber, but there should be nothing to prevent its being thoughtfully, deliberately, and carefully considered’. As the result, however, of proceedings such as those for which the honorable member for Parramatta is responsible, our business will probably be compressed into a short space at the close of the session, when it will have to be dealt with hastily, and under circumstances much less favorable to its proper consideration.
– The Prime Minister is seeking to crush out the strength of the House in order to do what he wants.
– No proposal ofthat kind has been made, and it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that we are doing that or invading the privileges of Parliament, or using coercion. Even if it were proposed to make a permanent rule as to a quorum-, instead of a rule optional under certain circumstances, the new standing order could not prevent any honorable member of this Chamber from addressing Parliament from January 1 to December 31 without stopping, if he were physically capable of doing so. The only object is to conserve the liberty of members, when they believe that time is being wantonly and wickedly wasted, so that they may devote themselves to some better occupation than listening to meaningless speeches in the Chamber.
– I desire to know whether the Prime Minister is in order in accusing the Opposition of a wanton and wicked waste of time?
– The words used by the Prime Minister did not, in my opinion, apply to any particular body in this Chamber.
– Does the Prime Minister say that an honorable member’s presence at the bar or in the billiard-room, constitutes attendance in this Chamber?
– The honorable and learned member has never seen me at the bar. I do not need to exculpate other honorable members, but say in reply to the imputation conveyed by the honorable and learned member that a more temperate and sober body of men never existed in any Parliament. It is perfectlywell known that an interjection such as that made by the honorable and learned member will be taken up, distorted and misrepresented, as the opinion of one speaking with knowledge. The honorable and learned member should know that his references made to billiard-rooms are misleading.
– And card-rooms.
– And card-rooms, if there are any. I do not know of any, and I have been in this Parliament from the beginning. All these references, so far as my knowledge goes, convey an impression which is absolutely incorrect. To my knowledge no honorable members are ever found in the refreshment-rooms, except at meal times. If they were as much patronized as the honorable and learned member’s interjection suggests, there would benecessityfor the provision made upon the Estimates for that institution. I have said as much as is necessary at this stage, and hope that the Committee will, after this futile and purposeless waste of time, return to the business of the country.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I wish to make a personal explanation, which seems to me to have been rendered necessary by the remarks of the Prime Minister. I have not uttered one word against either the billiard-room or the chess-table. . I agree with the Prime Minister that’ there is no more sober body of men in the world than the members of this Parliament. I have repeatedly stated that outside, and I deeply regret that anything should have been said calculated to convey any other impression. I am not one of those who believe that billiard-rooms and chess-tables are improper things. I believe that they afford forms of recreation which are very necessary in connexion with a Parliament of this kind. The whole point ofmyreference to them was that I objected to our providing in the rules of procedure of this House that attendance at such places was to be accounted as attendance upon the serious business of legislation in a deliberative Chamber.
– I do not intend to discuss this matter at present. I merely desire to direct attention to a remark made by the honorable member for Parramatta, which I think he will have the manliness to withdraw. He stated that I had taken a certain course, with the express object of turning this Parliament into a social club, where there is nothing to be done but play billiards or chess.
– What I did say was that the honorable member had taken a course which seemed to indicate that attendance at a social club was equivalent to attendance on the serious business of Parliament.
– In reply to the Prime Minister’s remarks, I wish to say that if I happen to visit the refreshment-room in order to obtain a drink, I will not have it recorded that whilst I am there I am present in this House attending to the serious business of legislation. Similarly, if I am engaged in a game of billiards or of chess, I decline to permit it to go forth to the public that I am present in this Chamber discharging my legislative functions. It is most unjust to bring forward a proposal which would have that effect. I will not take my pleasure and be a hypocrite over it.
Mr. McLEAN (Gippsland). - I wish to thank the Committee very much for their kind indulgence, to myself. When I discontinued my remarks I was attempting to illustrate the present attitude of the Treasurer by a reference to one of Dickens’ characters. That particular functionary endeavoured to impress upon his victims that they ought not to snivel at the prospect of their execution. . The Treasurer does not wish us to snivel even when we consider that the best interests of the Commonwealth are in danger. I would also remind the readers of Dickens that when that functionary himself was to be executed, he suffered even a greater collapse than did the Treasurer when he had to leave office. When he was taunted by a fellow criminal with inconsistency, and was reminded that he had been accustomed to declare that it was rather a jolly thing to be executed, he replied - “ I ain’t inconsistent. I was the hangman then. If I were the hangman now, I would say the same thing again.” Similarly, if the right honorable member for Swan were in opposition, he would say of our friends in the Labour corner what he said of them last year when he was in opposition. But coming to a more serious aspect of the matter, even at the risk of being accused of snivelling, I have no hesitation in saying that the present position of affairs in this Parliament is one of the most grave that I can possibly conceive. I have not the slightest objection to any of my honorable friends upon the Treasury bench. If they had a sufficient number of honorable members behind them, holding the same views as themselves, they would have my support. Even if my honorable friends in the Labour corner occupied the _ Treasury bench, I should not consider that the position was so serious, because, they would then be saddled with responsibility in proportion to their power. But what I consider threatens the best interests of the country, is the fact that the honorable members who occupy the corner benches - towards every1, one of whom I entertain nothing but the most friendly feelings - possess supreme power without any responsibility whatever. I venture to say that if they were in office they would not attempt - and even if they did, they would not succeed - to pass some of the legislation which has been taken up by the present Government at their dictation.
– To what legislation does the honorable member refer?
– If the right honorable gentleman will restrain his youthful impetuosity I will tell him. I have already pointed out the serious consequences which will ensue if we allow the Braddon section of our Constitution to lapse before any provision is made for taking over the States debts, and thus hypothecating the large revenue of the Commonwealth. In my opinion that matter in itself is sufficient to endanger the financial position of the Commonwealth. I consider that the clause relating to the union label which has been inserted in the Trade Marks Bill at the dictation cif the Labour Party-
– I can assure the honorable member that there was no dictation on our part.
– My honorable friend knows that that provision was inserted in deference to his views.
– It was quite a voluntary act on the part of the Ministry.
– If that clause be carried it will create a condition of things in Australia bordering upon civil war, and will stop very little short of that if it stops short at all. Again, in the Manufactures Encouragement Bill members of the Labour Party are not content with a measure which was framed in the interests of the whole people, and more particularly in the interests of the workers. They are not satisfied with the Bill, which was brought down by the right honorable member for Adelaide, who is one of the best friends of labour that Australia possesses. Instead, they have compelled the Government to insert in that measure a special clause conferring special . privileges upon the class which they represent. These are important provisions which have been inserted at the dictation of my honorable friends in the Labour corner, and which are probably indicative of many others to come. The present position of the Government reminds me very forcibly of a mine which is being worked upon tribute. Honorable members know that when mine-owners are unable to work a mine or are unwilling to risk their capita] in it, they frequently let it upon tribute. That is to say, the persons who work it give them a proportion of the gold which they derive from it. My honorable friends who occupy the corner benches are not now in power. To their credit, be it said, thev place the interests of those who sent them here, before their own personal interests. They are content to allow the Government the prestige and emoluments of office provided that the latter do their work for them. In other words, the Ministry are carrying on the government of the Commonwealth upon a system of tribute. In effect they say to members of the Labour Party, “If you will’ keep us in office we will do your work. We will insert a special clause in any Bill in the interests of the particular class which you represent.” I consider that such, a condition of affairs is a very serious one.
– It would be serious, if it existed.
– The Treasurer endeavoured to prove by statistics that any apprehension on our part was absolutely groundless. But his attempt to do so was rather a clumsy one. I felt particularly edified and amused when he was quoting Coghlan with a view to proving that there were no grounds whatever tor any of the slanders which have been levelled against ‘the public acts of public men, and that everything was prosperous. It was really refreshing to watch my honorable friends in the Ministerial corner as the right honorable gentleman spoke. I was looking at them all the time. They were drinking in every sentence that he uttered in reference to this point, and, as if their ears were- not sufficient to catch every word that he said, they had their mouths wide open’, like a row of letterboxes. “ I thought that Australia was being ruined by Socialism.” “ I was under the impression that this state of prosperity was not possible in the present condition of politics.” Such interjections as these were frequent. My right honorable friend was very astute. In quoting his statistics, he divided them into two parts, and dovetailed a few remarks on the Budget between the first and the second set. If he had submitted the two sets together, I do not think we should have seen so much jubilation as we did in the Ministerial corner, because no one could have furnished more destructive proof of his contention than was supplied by his own statistics. What did he prove? He proved by quotations from Coghlan that which’ we all know - that Australia has marvellous resources, and, given good seasons, has immense recuperative powers. Speaking from memory, and, therefore, subject to correction, I believe he said that one individual in the Commonwealth could produce as much wealth as could three in Great Britain, Germany, or Austria, two in France, or one and a half in the United States. This statement was cheered to the echo by honorable members in the Ministerial corner.
– The worker could always earn that amount of wealth, but we do not say that he always gets it.
– What did the other set of statistics quoted by the Treasurer show ? They showed that, in spite of our un paralleled advantages, and of the immense possibilities of wealth production in Australia, we have failed not only to attract population to our shores, but to keep that which we have had here. The right ‘honorable member went on to show that there is more idle money in our banks to-day than at any other period in our history- He proved that, notwithstanding Australia’smarvellous resources of natural wealth, and the splendid opportunities for investment in industrial enterprises, the owners of all this money continue to allow it to remain idle; and that those who should have been employed by its investment in our industrial enterprises, are leaving our shores in search of work. That is all that his statistics proved. They reminded me of the lines from Lalla Rookh, wherein the Veiled Prophet, drawing back his silver veil, and for the first time revealing his hideous countenance to the maid whom he has been tormenting, calls upon her to look and see - if hell, with all its power to damn, Can add one curse to the foul thing I am.
The most bitter detractors of our honorable friends in the Ministerial corner could not have offered us more destructive proof of the effect of their influence on the Government.
– What was the honorable member doing all the time he was in office ?
– I was doing the work of the country, instead of strutting about in gold lace and brass buttons. My right honorable friend referred to the intention of the Government to seek to attract population to our shores.
– We have not. had a chance. When I spoke we had been in office only six weeks.
– I did not hear the Treasurer say that the Government intended to pull down the slip-rails to let immigrants in.
– Why did not the Government of which the honorable member was a member pull them down?
– If we had been given an opportunity we should have submitted to the country a proposal to do so.
– After a six months’ recess the honorable member’s Government simply came -down to the House with a proposal to amend the Standing Orders.
– The Treasurer should have told us how the immigrants to be attracted to our shores could land in Aus*-‘ tralia. He knows that a former Government of which he was a member accepted a clause in the Immigration Restriction Bill which prevents unskilled labour from coming into Australia under contract. There was another clause in the same Bill which prevented any person coming in who might be a charge upon the Commonwealth.
– -The honorable member was in favour of that.
– I was, because it was not an unusual provision ; but I was bitterly opposed to the first-named clause. I was prepared to concede that which the honorable member for Bland first said he desired to get. If he desired only to prevent men being brought into the country ito take the place of others on strike, I should go with him so far as was necessary to guard against such a contingency ; or if he said that the desire of his party was merely to prevent men coming into the country to accept lower rates of wages than those prevailing in Australia, or to remove any other disability, I should also be with him.
– Then we may be able to meet the honorable member.
– But, subject to these conditions, I say that to prevent a man coming into the Commonwealth under contract is really to prevent immigration’. If a man who was without means, and had only his labour to offer, sought to land in Australia, he might be challenged on the ground that he might become a charge upon the people. - On the other hand, if such a man took the precaution to guard against becoming a charge on the people by bespeaking employment - and that is the best class of immigration we can have - he would, under the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act, be prevented from landing.
– Did the honorable member oppose that provision ?
– I went to the Minister in charge of the Bill as soon as the clause was submitted, and asked him what it meant. He replied that it was merely designed to prevent men being brought into the Commonwealth to take the place of others on strike ; but when I had considered the provision, and discovered its real meaning, I denounced it as strongly as I could, in the House, and also in the country
– It is a pity that the honorable member’s Government did not seek to repeal it if he was opposed -to it.
– Had we remained in office we should have referred it to the country. We could not hope to repeal it in a House that was largely committed to the principle. . I have no further observations to offer, but commend these, few points to the Treasurer, in the hope that he will profit by their consideration.
– The Budget which has been submitted by the Treasurer appears to be so satisfactory to Ministers that not one of them has thought it. necessary to speak to the question. So far, criticism of it has come solely from this side of the Chamber. The matter is one of such moment that it should be thoroughly and carefully considered. There are a few matters on which I should have liked the Treasurer to give us a little more light. For instance, on the first page we find agricultural products coupled with groceries. I should have preferred the right honorable gentleman to separate the items, andi let us know exactly what revenue he expects to receive from the duties on agricultural produce. When agricultural produce is coupled with groceries in the Budget, we cannot form an idea as to what quantity of the former is coming into the Commonwealth. We know that from New Zealand we receive oats and other articles. I should like to know what trade in agricultural produce it is doing with Australia. I notice that the great bulk of the criticism from this side has been directed against the sugar bounty. This is one matter in respect to which the Ministry has defined its attitude. It in- tends to extend the sugar bounty for a period of five years. I sympathize with the interjection of the honorable- member for Maranoa, that the kanakas came here under contract. The most trying time in the history of the sugar industry will be at the end of 1906, when the kanakas will be deported. In my opinion the Government is justified in extending the bounty for a period of five years.
– How many kanakas are employed in New South Wales ?
– Very few. I am pleased to say that in New South Wales the farmers are able to grow sugar with white labour, although I understand that some 2,000 acres are being cultivated with black labour. When the leader of the Opposition was in the Clarence River district, he was informed by a farmer that he preferred to grow sugar under black labour conditions, rather than to receive a bounty. The claim that the Commonwealth is placing a great sum in the hands of the farmers who use white labour is moonshine. If we believe in the policy of a. White Australia, we have a perfect right to show (our loyalty by giving this bounty to the farmers, so long as a black man is employed in the sugar industry at wages lower than those paid to white men.
– Then the honorable member would perpetuate the bounty as long as a black man was employed?
– I would not, because during the period of five years there will be an over-production of sugar, both the bounty and the Excise duty will become things of the past, and the industry, will have to compete with the sugar grown by black labour elsewhere. That is a point which we ought to remember. The revenue from the import duty on sugar is about ,£90,000 a year. A representative of Victoria was crying out the other day that it is receiving £100,000 a year less from sugar duties than it did under its old Tariff. That is one of the results of Federation. Victoria has not cried out about the way in which she is flooding the markets of other States, such as Queensland and Tasmania, with the products of its factories built up by means of protective duties. The estimated revenue from the Customs duty on sugar this year is £90,000. As the years roll on the revenue from this source gets smaller and smaller, and the time is very near when the import duty of £6 a ton will be inoperative. When that time arrives, there will be no necessity for granting a bounty, and the Excise duty will have to go, because it would be unfair to ask for Excise duty when the import dutv was inoperative. Our sugar-growers will then have to face the markets of the world. When the honorable member for New England’ was speaking with much warmth about the employment of coloured labour, he forgot to mention that the Treasurer will receive £514,500 from the Excise duty on sugar. If we deduct the bounty of .£146.000 Ave shall get a balance of £368,500. Despite the Treasurer’s brilliant account of the resources of this country, which we know are very great, the revenue is growing smaller and smaller every year. I notice that the estimated revenue for this year is £357,920 less than the actual revenue for the previous year. If the bounty be abolished the Excise duty will have to be repealed, and that represents a sum of £368,500 more than what the bounty cost. In that case, the Commonwealth will return to the States £726,420 less than it did in the previous year. We should consider very seriously how the revenue will be affected. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland on this subject. I can see that his idea regarding the bounty is a very good one, because it is only a matter of time when both the bounty and the Excise duty will vanish, and, owing to the large production, sugar-growers will have to compete in the markets of the world. I am sorry to see that the Treasurer is asking for such a small sum for the purposes of defence. When we come to consider how extensive .and wealthy Australia is, and what it has done for its people, I think we should be prepared to vote money for defending its shores. The sum placed on the Estimates is not adequate for that purpose. The Treasurer had no warrant for saying that he could not get more money voted, because we shall return to the States £400,000 more than we are obliged to. He would have been quite justified in asking for a larger vote for the military service. I take a very deep interest in the rifle clubs. The members of rifle clubs are not paid for their services, but they have sufficient patriotism to take up arms and devote a great deal of leisure to training. When the Government find a class of men willing to bear arms in this way, the very least it should do is to give them a little encouragement. The paltry sum of £600, which is set down for rifle clubs, in New South Wales, is altogether inadequate. That sum will be required to put some of the ranges in proper order. All that the military authorities - whom I propose to discuss when the military estimates are submitted - think they have to do is to put down a range, no matter how it is constituted, and give the men a target. They seem to think that that is good enough for the people in the country. In Kempsey, where there is a splendid rifle club, a range has been formed. I was there a few months ago. There are logs across the range, and it is impossible to lie upon the mounds for firing purposes. Furthermore, a rifleman has to wait two and a half hours for a shot. That is how the military spirit is being encouraged in this country. Instead of £600, the Government would be justified in giving the rifle clubs £6, 000. It is not necessary to go to New South Wales to see how they are being neglected. One has only to run down to the Williamstown range and look at it. Its condition is simply disgraceful. The Victorian Rifle Association has to find all the money to keep that range in order, without receiving one fraction from the Commonwealth. It is time these matters were looked into. The military vote for New South Wales is .£169,736. The amount for the permanent forces is £70,766. There are 505 officers and men to be paid, leaving for other military purposes ,£98,960. No efforts seem to be made to encourage people who are willing to take a part in the defence of the country to do so. Some time ago efforts were made to establish an artillery battery on the Clarence River. We have no means of defence between Newcastle and Brisbane. Men were willing to give their services, but they were refused because it was said we could not afford the expense. Yet the Treasurer proposes to give back to the States £400,000 more than the three-fourths which we are obliged to pay back to them. I consider that the Government ought to be more liberal in dealing with the defence of the country. No doubt the higher paid officers are properly treated ; but I am speaking in the interests of the rank and file - the men to whom we shall have to look if ever the time comes when we shall have to defend our shores.
– Hear, hear.
– I hear the voice of the Postmaster-General, and I compliment him on the satisfactory state of his Department. But he also might be a little more liberal in his treatment of settlers in the back-blocks who are asking for a postal service, with a delivery once a week. I trust that when these facilities are .asked for, the answer will not be that the Government have not funds available for extending the advantages of civilization to people who enjoy so few of them. I am of opinion that the Budget was) ably placed before us by the Treasurer. The Estimates have been criticised from many stand-points, and the criticism has been fair. I trust that when they are discussed in detail, those honorable members who have remained so silent at this stage will have something to say in the interests of the various States. It is said that we have tried to “ stone- wall,” and have prevented business from being expedited. I venture to say that the time which has been spent in this debate has been well employed. In the States Parliaments, Budget debates are protracted to a much greater extent than ours has been. In New South Wales, Budgets have been discussed for three weeks. In all the States, such debates are lengthy. We have to consider the affairs of six States. I think that the time has been well spent, and that the Government have no cause of complaint. In criticising these matters we, who are members of the Opposition, think that we have only done our duty, and we intend to continue to do it fearlessly. We are determined to criticise wherever we think criticism is necessary, and in so doing we believe that we shall be acting in the best interests of our States and of the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable the Treasurer has come in for a good deal of criticism in regard to his first Budget. It was not, I think, to be expected that, coming into office suddenly, as he did, he would be able to follow in the footsteps of the ex-Treasurer in displaying the facility for handling the figures of the Commonwealth that the right honorable member for Balaclava has always shown. I have heard that it takes three generations to make a Lombardy olive-pruner ; and I should say that it would require several attempts for any one to excel, as the late Treasurer did, in bringing forward his account of the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. We have had a great mass of figures /put before us. It (appears to me that the details are too numerous. To establish at once a close connexion between the speech of the Minister delivering the Budget and the mass of figures presented in the papers, must involve a great deal of work. In fact, the right honorable gentleman, in the position which he occupies, reminds me of a story of Mark Twain, related in his Innocents at Home. Mark Twain after giving an account of his experiences in the crater of a volcano somewhere in the Sandwich Islands, where he said the smell of brimstone was very strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner, went om to relate howin the course of his journey he arrived at an island where he found the natives engaged in an amusement somewhat resembling water toboganning. They went through the breakers into the sea, holding in their hands pieces of board, somewhat of the shape of the copies of the Estimates which have been placed before us, we may suppose. A native enjoying this amusement would put his board on the top of an incoming wave, and by that method glide in with much pleasure to himself. But when Mark Twain tried the same experiment, he got out all right up to the point when he had his bit of board on to the top, of a wave, but he missed the connexion, with rather disastrous results, and was only brought to shore by means of the assistance of friendly natives. I think the Treasurer may regard the honorable members who have been criticising his Budget as “friendly natives,” who have been trying to assist him.
– They were trying to drown him.
– Oh, no; I am sure they were .trying to help him. Their desire is to see him clothed and in his right mind again.” Within this labyrinth of figures, there is one matter which strikes me more forcibly than anything else, and that is that the Treasurer seems to be of opinion that if we go on as we are doing, we shall soon have to make some financial rearrangement. In fact, he seems to think that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, we are on the high road to bankruptcy. He has told us that last year the States received back from the Commonwealth £734,277 over their three-fourths. The estimate for the present year is that they will receive only £499>J7° over their three-fourths: That is rather a serious matter. In one way it indicates that the results which were expected from our Tariff have not been so disappointing to the Protectionist Party as is sometimes represented, because that decreasing revenue must show that industries within the country are prospering.
– That does not follow.
– In what way does it not?
– Very often a high Tariff will bring in more revenue, and at the same time be more effective in a protectionist sense, than a low Tariff.
– That may be; but certainly the figures show that the Tariff has not had the effect of diminishing our industries, or of dwarfing them. The view which I take of economics may be different from that taken by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I refer to this, merely in order to show that when the anomalies in the Tariff - and I grant that there are anomalies - are rectified, as I hope they will be, the result will not be to increase the revenue, but rather the contrary. The position which has been placed before us by the Treasurer will be accentuated. The revenue will be still further decreased, and the States will’ have to look elsewhere for funds.
– The whole falling off in the revenue has been on fodder and sugar.
– The Treasurer put forward’ a suggestion, though I think only incidentally, that it might be wise *not to reenact the Braddon section. If that course were adopted, we might begin a method of financing which was characterized some years ago in Victoria as dipping into the public purse in a “ free, easy, and accessible manner.” This would make the position very difficult, because the States have been deprived of the power of indirect taxation, which is the least objectionable system from the people’s point of view, simply because the effect cannot at once be seen.
– The Government have not suggested that the Braddon section shall not be re-enacted.
– As I have said, I believe that that was only an incidental suggestion on the part of the Treasurer.
– I did not make that suggestion; what I said was that another plan might be found of dealing fairly with the States.
– At the present time the States have a firm hand on the Commonwealth, and I understand that the Treasurer’s suggestion is that the finances should be placed practically within the control of the Commonwealth.
– Cannot the honorable member for Grampians trust himself as a representative ?
– There are a great many men whom I would trust individually, but who, acting in a body, might proceed in a slip-shod sort of way, of which I could not approve.
– There is nothing in my speech that is adverse to the States.
– What was suggested would, it appears to me, be adverse to the States.
– What I said was that I did not see that much good could result to the States by extending the duration of the Braddon section, and’ that I thought we might help them better in another way.
– When the Treasurer proposes that other way, no doubt he will be able to get the States to agree ; but he will have to show that it is also the better way.
– As to the question of defence, I am sure that honorable members, on whichever side of the House they may sit, must have been pleased with the masterly speech of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Some people seem to think that that gentleman introduced more matter than was necessary, having regard to his former position as Minister of Defence; but it is not always that we have the advantage of hearing a gentleman who can speak, not only as an ex-Minister, but also to a limited extent - I do not wish to flatter him by saying more - as an expert. I agree with the honorable and learned member as to the expenditure that is necessary, because I think that up to the present we have been rather playing with the question. There is no doubt that we shall have to tackle the matter in the way indicated by the honorable and learned member for Corinella; and we might even go further, andborrow £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 if that step should be shown to be necessary; to place the defences on a proper footing.
– Rather wipe out the whole business first !
– When once a Government starts borrowing, it does not know when to stop.
– The Stales have borrowed enough already.
– At the same time, ifwe are to have coastal defences, flotillas of torpedo boats, and so forth, as indicated by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, something will have to be clone to provide the £800,000 or so which is estimated to be necessary.
– We are spending £200,000 a yearalready on the naval subsidy.
– But if we do no more, some Power may come in and render it unnecessary for us to make even that contribution.
– It will take Japan and Russia fifty years to recuperate.
– At the same time, we shall have to make a beginning with an adequate defence expenditure. Unlike other British Possessions, and other countries of the world, we are in the happy position of never having had to engage in a war, not even a native war. We have been specially favoured in that respect; and any money we provide now will be for new expenditure incurred in anticipation of difficulties, rather than to meet indebtedness contracted in the past. We cam, therefore, I think, afford to be fairly liberal, and I have a suggestion to make which, if acted upon, would be the means of meeting the interest on any money borrowed for the purposes of defence. A great deal has been said about the Swiss system, which is referred to by nearly every one who addresses himself to the question of a civilian army. One feature of the Swiss svstem, however, has, I think, not yetbeen considered. We have become somewhat familiarized with the idea that all citizens should serve in the defence of the country ; but Switzerland goes a step further, and makes the men who do not serve pay a certain amount yearly towards the expense of the army.
– If a man in Switzerland is rejected from any cause, he has to pay an exemption tax.
– Even if he be medically unfit ?
– I should not go so far as to say that, but if a man is not called upon to serve, he has to pay an exemption tax. Of course, it may be reasonable to say that such a system would press rather hardly on the poor man.
– It would be a God-send to some poor men, because, at any rate, they would get good square meals when serving.
– All the members of a civilian army ought to be on the same footing, and a slight tax, such as I have mentioned, would affect all equally. If itbe contended that the wealthierclasses should contribute in proportion to their possessions, they might be called upon to contribute to the general system of taxation by means of some other tax. On the sum of £1,000,000, borrowed for the purpose of putting our defences on a proper footing, the interest, at per cent., would amount to only £35,000 ; and, if each of the 900,000 male voters in the Commonwealth contributed one shilling yearly, the result would be £45,000, or £10,000 more than as required for the interest. A small lax of that kind would amount to no more than the price of a voter’s right.
– If I went to my electors, and advocated borrowing £800, 000 for military purposes, they would shove me into a lunatic asylum.
– Does the honorable member think that the suggested contribution of one shilling each man is unreasonable?
– I do not think so, but my electors would think so, in view of the taxation they already bear.
– This money would be for unproductive work.
– I would point out to the honorable member that such a fund must be regarded in the light of insurance. There is another matter to which I should ike to refer, and that is the settlement of people on the land. I am sure the Treasurer will not think that I am “stonewalling “ in ventilating such views as occur to me on the subjects dealt with in his Budget speech. I am rather inclined to think that assisted immigration is not quite the best way to begin with. There is one way of encouraging people to come here which I should like to see tried before any attempt is made to introduce immigrants, who would have only their own -work to depend on. The Treasurer and other honorable members have referred to the Canadian grants of land. These are all very well if you have good land to grant;, but when the best lands have passed out of the hands of the. Government, the poorer lands left are not such as would attract people from distant countries. I think that the proposal put forward in Victoria under the Closer Settlement Act for financing people on small blocks of land is likely to bear good fruit. I believe that it is likely also to be adopted shortly in New South Wales, because I r-ee that the Minister of Lands in that State has made a similar suggestion, without being aware that the proposal had already been adopted in Victoria. I have always endeavoured to show my friends of the State House of Parliament in Victoria that the system of buying large estates and cutting them up for small settlers is not the most advantageous method of securing settlement. Under the plan now adopted, the whole of the lands of the State are practically thrown open for selection, and arrangement is made for a bargain between the man who has some capital and desires a piece of land, and the man who has the land, with the State Government as umpire to see that the buyer does not pay too much for the land. Under section 6 of the new Victorian Act an agreement can be entered into between buyer and seller with respect to land in any part of the country, and if the Government confirm the agreement, they will make an advance on the land in the same way as they would in the case of a settler taking up a portion of a repurchased estate. If it were generally known that it is possible to get land in Australia in that way it might attract men possessing some small capital, and a desire to better themselves by coming to what is not now the uncivilized country that Australia was when my parents came here sixty-five years ago. If it were made known to intending emigrants that all that would be required of them would be that they should have a certain amount of capital necessary to purchase a working, plant and make a start, and that they would require to pay only 4J per cent, interest on the valuation of the land, with i1 per cent, towards a sinking fund, I believe that many would be induced to emigrate to Australia to take advantage of such conditions.
– How much would a man require to start a farm in Victoria?
– About £300.
– Where could he get the land?
– Under the scheme to which I referred he could get it anywhere.
– There are more people in the old country without £300 who wish to emigrate than there are of intending emigrants who possess that sum.
– I see some disadvantages in inducing people to come out here who have not sufficient capital to make a start on the land. I believe that the scheme to which I refer would do good in providing employment for people who are here already. The principal objection raised to the scheme is not, in my opinion, a strong objection. It is contended that it might lead to owners of land putting too high a value on their land, but I have no hesitation in saying that I do not think that would follow.
– I understand that the State must be satisfied that the land is of the value set upon it.
– That is so. The condition of affairs with respect to large landed estates has altered very much within the last ten or fifteen years. Fifteen years ago, men in Melbourne engaged in business, and making a little money, were nearly all under the impression that they must have a landed estate somewhere. Their competition for land had then to be taken into account, but it has since entirely disappeared, and a cash purchaser for a large landed estate is hardly to be found inVictoria at the present time. The State Government is now practically the only cash purchaser for these properties. One great advantage which has followed the many discussions of the subject is that the State Government, instead of asking land-owners to take Government debentures for their land, now offer hard cash for it, and in this way they are in a position to buy land cheaper than any one else. If the people in the old country were made to realize what can be done in this way, I believe we should have many of them coming here. I am glad to see that a movement in this direction has already been made by Mr. Taverner, the Agent-General for Victoria. He has written to the State Government, suggesting the placing at his disposal of some areas of land toassist him in inducing families in the old country to take advantage of the new scheme.
– At any rate, it would help to keep those we have here.
– It would assist in keeping those we have here. I do not say that it would follow that labourers could not be introduced from the old country under this scheme, but I am afraid that the Immigration Restriction Act would not be found to work well in conjunction with “the scheme. But for the operation of that Act, I believe that under such a scheme farmers corning to Australia from the old country with a little capital would be able to introduce a number of labourers who would be glad to come out, if they knew that when here they could find work on the farms of men with whom they were acquainted in the old country.
– Is there a limitation, as to the value of land under the Victorian scheme ?
– Yes; at present, the limitation is £1,500 in value; but I am under the impression that the members of the Land Purchase Board are satisfied that in some partsof the country that is not a sufficiently high amount, and I should not be surprised tq see it increased to £2,000. However, that is a matter of detail, and I have referred to the general principle. I dp not propose to touch on the question of the transfer of States debts. Many schemes on the subject have been put before us, and while I have not any of my own to suggest, I say that the question is one which should be tackled as early as possible. The longerits settlement is delayed the greater will be the ‘difficulty, and some reasonable scheme should be brought into operation as soon as possible. A matter thathas not-, so far, been touched upon is that of the control of the railways. I think it is probable that this will be found to be even a more troublesome question than thatof the transfer of States debts. Speaking for Victoria, I am able to say that there is a strong disposition in this State to believe that it would be practically impossible fcr the Federal Government to manage the railways. I am of opinion that the railways of Australia cannot be properly managed from one centre. Referring again to Switzerland, it has occurred to me, without going further than the outer edge pf the subject, that the adoption pf another of their methods might probably assist us. While the legislative powers of the Swiss Federal Government are very large, its administrative powers are not so great, being left, to the Cantons. The feeling in Victoria is very strongly against the taking over of the railways by the Commonwealth, but I do not think we shall have full and effective Federation until we have taken over, not only the debts of the States, but the railways; and possibly we might adopt to our mutual advantage a system under which the financing of the railways would be left to the Commonwealth, and their administration to the States as at present. I shall not anticipate the report of the Old-Age Pensions Commission, but, no doubt, the subject into which it is inquiring is one which we shall have to consider very closely from several points of view. I think that something might be done by the encouragement of thrift in the community to make the public burden less than it would otherwise be. I have referred to the English Royal Commission of 1892, and Mr. Chamberlain’s suggestion that individual contributions to benefit or insurance societies might be supplemented by Government grants of equal amount on the individual attaining the age of sixty, or sixty-five years. While I was in Sydney the other day, I met a Mr. Luard-Pattison, who was secretary to Lord. Dufferin, when Governor-General of Canada, and. is now manager for Lord Iveagh, who has done so much for the better housing of the poor in England, from whom I obtained some very interesting information on this subject. Unfortunately, he was on the point of leaving Australia, so that I could not get him to give evidence before the Royal Commission ; but he told me that in 1896, or in1897., he Wrote a letter to the Times, headed “ A Voluntary Old-age System,” in. which he suggested a certain method for assisting people to’ provide for their old age. I have looked through Palmer’s Guide to the Times, . and . have been helped by the Parliamentary Librarian, but I have not been able to find the letter. Speaking frommemory, the system as described to me by Mr. Pattison, was that, when any person had been in the employment pf another for a period of a year, and had contributed to a sick pay insurance fund for the same period, the employer should buy for him by a contribution of an equal amount to an insurance or benefit society, or in some similar way, a portion of an annuity, to mature at a certain age. If the workman went to a second employer, that employer at the end pf the year would have to do the same. These payments were npt to be made to the workman himself, but to go to his credit, until, at the age of sixty or sixty-five, or whatever might be the time fixed upon, the annuity would mature, and become payable: If we can encourage men to do something for themselves in their ypunger years, it will be of great assistance to the Commonwealth in decreasing the amount that would be required from the Government for old-age pensions and charitable assistance, I do not propose to discuss now anyof the other questions arising out of the Budget, because I make it a rule to, as far as possible, confine my remarks to subjects which are not touched on by other honorable members. I hope, however, that when the debate is finished we shall settle down to business ; and 1 shall perhaps have a little to say hereafter as the Estimates of the Various Departments come before us.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In view pf the time that has been occupied by the debate on the Treasurer’s financial statement, and the necessary consideration that was due to honorable members thisafternoon, I feel justified . in asking for their assistance in bringing to a close the debate on the first item of the Estimates on Tuesday evening next. I understand that only a few more honorable members desire to address the House, and hope that we shall be able next week to make substantialprogress with the business which lies before us.
– I do not think that we can carry on business at all in the absence of the honorable, member for Parramatta, who has been away from his: place for some time, I should like to know in what business he is now engaged - whether he is in the billiard-room or thachessroom?
Question resolved in the affirmative:
House adjourned at 3.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050901_reps_2_26/>.