2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the, chair at 2.30 p. in., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer when it. is intended to pay the increments due to certain public servants under the classification scheme ?
– The classification has not yet been finally approved of.
When its approval has taken place, and the necessary votes have been granted by Parliament, the amounts will be paid.
– What is the cause of the delay?
– The Government waited until the debate in the Senate on the classification scheme was concluded - which happened on Thursday last - and then immediately, in accordance with our promise to Parliament, referred the whole matter to the Commissioner for his report. The scheme is now with the Commissioner.
– What is the Commissioner to report on ; is it the remarks made by honorable members and their suggestions for the amendment of the classification?
– He has been asked to make a full report to the Cabinet upon the questions raised with respect to the principles of the classification, and the position of the officers referred to, and to consider the recommend ations and suggestions of honorable members of both Houses.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, whether the reply to a question I asked some time ago as to the payment of the partially paid forces for Sunday work referred to the last encampment. If so, has the money due been paid ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information, and will let the honorable member know to-morrow.
– Has the Prime Minister any official knowledge of the agreement entered into between the Government of New South Wales and Mr. Sandford with reference to the manufacture of iron in that State? Will that agreement, or contract, in any way modify the views of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill?
– The contract in question has not yet been laid before the New South Wales Parliament, nor have its terms been made public. It will be necessary for me to see it before I can answer the honorable member’s second question. .
– I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether the discharge of two Chinese in Sydney under a writ of habeas corpus last week was due to a defect in the law, or to an error of administration on the part of the officers of the Department? Can the Prime Minister make a statement on the subject?
– Immediately on reading of the occurrence, I telegraphed for a report, and have been informed that, although posted, it missed the mail, so thai: I am not yet acquainted with the facts of the case.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Agreement between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, for the company’s mail ships to extend their voyages from Sydney to Brisbane.
Additions to Regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901, as to prepaid replies to telegrams within the Commonwealth, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 51 ; and regulation No. 4a, as to Value Payable Post, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 52.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made into this matter.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Has the Postal Department yet received the report, promised some months since, re the practicability and cost of including in all inland mail contracts a maximum number of hours for coachdrivers?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Reports have been received showing that, in the majority of the cases in which long hours were worked by mail post drivers, those hours have now been reduced. The question of providing in contracts for a maximum number of hours, during which the men employed on coaches carrying mails under contract with the Postmaster-General’s Department shall drive is receiving consideration, but there are difficulties in applying one rule in this respect throughout the Commonwealth.
Ocean Mail Contract : Position of the Ministry: Labour Party and Socialism : Preferental Trade : States Debts : Immigration Restriction Act : Federal Capital Site : Commonwealth Steamers : Fremantle Defences: Post and Telegraphs.
In Committee of Supply:
. I move -
That a sum not exceeding£660,185 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1906.
The House has already had before it this session two monthly Supply Bills, and the money voted will all have been expended by the end of September ; but as the Estimates
– I suppose that in this Chamber we still recognise that the proposal of the Government to take supply, whether for one month or two months, furnishes a legitimate occasion for a review of the political situation, because such a request to the House involves, as a rule, a state of affairs which I regret to say does not exist on the present occasion. The relations between the House and the Government, especially on questions of supply, have, as a general rule, involved confidence in the Government on the part of a majority of members. Now, unfortunately, with more or less truth, since the Federal Parliament began, there has never been a Ministry with an absolutely constitutional majority behind it, in governing the affairs of the Commonwealth. Neither the first nor the second Federal Ministry had any such majority, and when the second Federal Ministry returned from the country, it was in an even less strong position than it occupied in the first Parliament.
It was reduced to a pitiable condition, from which the then Prime Minister took the earliest opportunity to escape. The succeeding Ministry was in an even weaker position, because we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Ministry sitting on the Treasury bench with the support of one-third of the House, while the other two-thirds sat on the Opposition benches. That Ministry gave way to another Administration, which was the first under the Commonwealth to possess an absolute majority.
Honorable Members. - Oh, no !
– It had an absolute major ity, because honorable members cannot ignore the fact that a majority of two is a majority - as compared with the state of things which existed before, the Ministry had anoverwhelming majority. At any rate, it was a majority, although I admit that it was on the narrowest possible lines. All that can be said is that the state of affairs which’ existed whilst the Ministry was in office was infinitely better than any that had obtained before, and infinitely better also than that which now prevails. One of the results of possessing such anarrow majority was that the gentlemen in office naturally felt sensitive, because they recognisedthat it became them, so long as they held the reins of power, to maintain an attitude of absolute independence. Therefore, when their majority became doubtful, they did not wait to be ejected from office, but invited Parliament to terminate an unhealthy state of affairs by appealing to the only power that could apply the remedy, namely, the electors. That policy was naturally - I was not surprised at it - distasteful to the majority of honorable members of this House. There will always be a majority against the dissolution of Parliament if the majority has to decide the question ; and so it was in this particular case. If honorable members who sat on the Opposition benches had coalesced with the present Government, it would have been another matter altogether. If the Labour Party and the re-united Deakin party had come together upon the basis of a political alliance, they would have been perfectly justified - if they could have forgotten all that theyhad ever said - in carrying on the business of the country. But the objection to the present state of affairs is that it runs right across the main principle of parliamentary government. The main attribute of parliamentary government is that the power of the country should be in the hands of a Ministry supported by a majority of the members of the House, who, if a dissolution occurred at any moment, would face the country side by side with those to whom they had given the power to govern the country. That is the whole basis of parliamentary government. The use of parliamentary powers under any other conditions is altogether foreign to the history of British Parliaments. If a crisis occurred to-morrow in any British Parliament, the Government would go to the country with those who had supported them ; but in this case, we are face to face with the extraordinary position that there is no possible prospect of the gentlemen who sit on the Treasury benches going to the country in alliance with those who keep them in power. On the contrary, that would be impossible. There was some hope that, when the Inter-State Socialist Conference met a few months ago, some arrangements would have been made under which the gentlemen in this House who are keeping the present Government in power, would be able to put their alliance or connexion with the present Government on some, tangible political footing. But the authorities above my honorable friends of the Labour Party - the parliament of those who have the power to return them, or. rather, to nominate them - deliberately repudiated any political alliance with the present Deakin Administration. They deliberately reserved to themselves the right to stand against the Deakin Government in the event of a general election. Therefore, the basis of parliamentaryresponsibility, the responsibility of the men who are prepared to go before the electors to justify what they are doing in this House in support of a Government, does not exist in the present case. In fact it is no secret that whilst the gentlemen below the gangway are supporting the Ministry, the Labour authorities in Victoria are organizing an opposition to the present Prime Minister. If an election be held to-morrow or at the time when we. cannot prevent it from taking place - and that is generally the period at which elections are held - there is nothing more probable than that those honorable members who are now supporting the Government would be found ranged before the people of the country against Ministers and their immediate supporters. That is a most unhealthy and unsound state of things.
How can we have parliamentary responsibility if public affairs are to be governed under an arrangement by which the Government are kept in power by gentlemen who reserve to themselves the right of doing all they can to drive Ministers out of office, in the event of an appeal to the country? So I say that there is no proper basis of Parliamentary confidence, so far as the position of the present Government is concerned. My honorable friends below the gangway, having tasted the sweets of office for a short time, and having shouldered the responsibilities of opposition for a brief period, have had an experience which has disenchanted them. As a result, they are prepared to resume their former position - a position not of responsibility, but in which they are enabled to drive the Government in directions that it would not otherwise travel, with the full intention - after they have got all that they can out of it - of casting it to the winds. When the next appeal to the electors takes place, I hope that it will be a fair and square fight between honorable members occupying seats below the gangway and the Opposition. In that great contest the Government and their direct supporters will become mere accidents. They will be scattered to the winds between the power of these two opposing forces. Persons inside this House may endeavour to create all sorts of artificial situations, but when these issues come before the people, I think the latter will decide - and I hope finally - between the power which is possessed by my honorable friends below the gangway, and the cause which is advocated by members on the Opposition benches. Any chance of the eighteen or nineteen members who comprise the Government, and their direct supporters in a House of 75, and with 28 and 29 members belonging to the other two parties - surviving an election in a position of power seems to me to be absolutely hopeless.
– Then why does not the right honorable gentleman put the Government out of office ?
– Whilst that is the. duty of the Opposition, we have to recollect that so long as members of the Labour Party can make use of the Government, and so long as the latter are willing to be driven - willing to submit to the humiliation of being driven day after day, and month after month - the Opposition are positivelypowerless.
– In New South Wales they said that, of the right honorable member for five years.
– If they said it for five years, surely I may be permitted to say it once. But the Ministry in New South Wales, to which the honorable member refers, had the support of the Labour Party, because the latter were in agreement with it upon one great line of reform. The Ministry had the support of the Labour Party, not as a party which drove them, but as one which followed them. There is a great difference between the two cases - between the position of a Government which receives the support of gentlemen who believe in some great principle for which it is fighting, and that of ‘ the present Government, the support of which rests upon no principle whatever. The Prime Minister did endeavour to provide. a principle upon which the Labour Party, himself, and his friends, could work together. Whilst he was supposed to be a friend and ally of the late Government, the honorable and learned gentleman openly made an offer, to the Labour Party. There was a method underlying all his actions. The Inter-State Labour Conference was about to meet - a gathering of gentlemen who settle the policy which certain members of this House have to follow.
– We were there.
– The honorable member was there as one delegate amongst many, and he possessed no greater power than did any other representative.
– There was a majority of parliamentarians present-
– I am only anxious to get a word in occasionally. I trust that I am not exceeding my right in discussing public affairs. I know that it is becoming a subject of offence for any honorable member to avail himself of his parliamentary right to discuss public matters. No doubt, if I would submit to be tutored by mv honorable friends as to the precise way in which I should address myself to public questions, I should receive a very generous hearing. But I claim the right to express my own views in my own way.
– The right honorable member is not present very often.
– When I was in office I was never absent from the House for a single day. When I occupied the position of Prime Minister I threw all my private business to the wind’s, and that, I think, is an example which others might fairly emulate. I should like the honorable member for Fremantle to recollect - and I make no boastful reference to the subject - that, such as my attendance is, it probably costs me a great deal more than the honorable member will ever earn, if he lives to be 100 years old.
– Then it is a question of what the right honorable member earns?
– When I am present I should likehonorable members to be reminded of the fact that I have a right to address myself to a public question without a tumult in the House. Surely the drivers upon the box are all right. They do not need to grow restless. Surely they can listen to a public discussion. They occupy the easy and dignified position.
– We are not in the “ steerage “ now.
– Wherever the honorable member may be, I think that he will be very much the same - easily identified. However, I should like to take advantage of my presence to-day to point out the difference between the support which a party give to a Government upon some great national question, such as that which won for me the support of the Labour Party in , New South Wales, and the present situation. The Prime Minister - as I have already said - broke the compact that existed with me when he extended an invitation to the Labour Party to accept the principle of protection, in which case he and his friends were prepared to go over to, and support, them. He endeavoured - paying slight attention, I think, to the position that he occupied in relation to my colleagues and myself - to establish a connexion of principle - because, no doubt, protection has been his leading principle throughout his career - between the Labour Party and himself and his friends, because he stated that if that party would only make protection the leading plank of their programme, he and his friends would become their ardent supporters. That appeal was, perhaps, made at the wrong time. The honorable gentleman destroyed the arrangements which then existed, but at the same time there was a definite basis of public principle upon which such an alliance might possibly be made. But what was the answer of the Socialist Parliament when it met shortly afterwards? As we all know, enormous efforts were used to engineer, through the Inter-State Labour Conference, the adoption of the principle of protection. But, as one of the delegates - I believe he was a protectionist, although I am not sure that he was - said very frankly to his Labour friends at the conference, “ Why 1 we are much better off as we are. We can put up So-and-so as a free-trader in a free-trade electorate, and So-and-so as a protectionist in a protectionist constituency, and we are not going to give up this opportunity to run both causes at the same time. In an electorate where there are a majority of free-traders, we fight for freetrade, and, if possible, we return a freetrader; but, in a protectionist electorate, we can put up a protectionist candidate.” In the latter case they fight for their man as a protectionist candidate, they vote for him as one, and they return him, if they can, as a protectionist.
– No; Labour is first.
– To honorable gentlemen who boast of their rigid adherence to great principles, the situation is one which may well cause the observer to feel amused.
– Some of the party do , not regard either free-trade or protection as a great principle.
– I have never had much political association with the honorable member; but when the connexion between the Labour Party and myself in New South Wales Parliament terminated, the leader of that party spoke to me in terms very different from those which are employed by the honorable member. There was no attempt to sneer, nor was any ungenerous reference made to me. On the contrary, the leader of the Labour Party in. the State Parliament testified in the most generous way to the honorable course I had always pursued in all important relations with that party.
– Hear, hear; but the right honorable member has since fallen away. It is he who is sneering.
– My honorable friends are, of course, so sensitive that once one begins to differ from them, one is accused of sneering at them. As a matter of fact, I am not. There is an absolute difference of opinion between us, and I have been endeavouring to show the grounds upon which I disagree with the course they are taking at the present time. If honorable members of the Labour Party were sitting in the Ministerial corner with any intention, when going before the people of Australia, to take the responsibility of the Government policy on their shoulders, I should not have a word to say about their position. Butmy point is that whilst they avail themselves of the powers of this Parliamet to push their views 10 an extreme by using honorable members who do not believe in their principles - who, if they were free, would vote dead against them - they fully intend when they face the people to disavow those honorable members. They are making use of them with the full intention, when that time comes, to stand against them - in many cases, to put up candidates against them.
– The wish is father to the thought.
– I think that the honorable member is to-day the most precarious straw on the political current. I do not believe that he has by any means made his calling and election sure. I do not think that even his advocacy of Home Rule will bring about his return at the next election.
– Why raise the sectarian cry ?
– That is a new idea. Here we have a sapient member describing my reference to Home Rule as a sectarian cry.
– The right honorable gentleman is always ready to live by that cry.
– The honorable member should choose his epithets a little more wisely. But, as I have said, there is no connexion between the Labour Party and the Government that would justify any pretence to a proper condition of parliamentary affairs ; because the moment the responsibility of the Government for what is being done in this Parliament is put before the people, the Labour Party, instead of going on the public platforms of Australia tosupport the Ministry of whom they are making use, and to take a share of that responsibility, will adopt an absolutely different course. The Prime Minister, a short time ago, had only one ambition, and that was to take the sense of the Parliament on the engrossing, vital subject of preferential trade. That was the subject on which he soared to his highest flights of eloquence when before the people of Australia. He drew most enticing pictures of the enormous stretches of harvest fields which would, as ifby magic, spread over the surface of Australia, the yield from which would find a safe and profitable market in the mother country. The honorable and learned member asked for an opportunity last session to take the opinion of the House with regard to the question, and I gave him a chance to discuss it. I admit that it was at a time of the session when the matter could not be fairly fought out, but, as the honorable and learned gentleman said, I offered him an opportunity early this session to again bring it forward, in order that the discussion might be completed, and a record taken of the opinion of the House. The honorable and learned gentleman has now been in office some two or three months, but has made no reference to the question. Was there a word about preferential trade in the Treasurer’s Budget statement? I have not yet found an opportunity to read the Hansard report of it, but I do not think there was. Was there a word in the Budget speech about this great policy, which was to be of such enormous advantage to Australia, and which was also to be of some service in bringing the bonds of empire more tightly and profitably together?
– A number of figures relating to the question were quoted by the Treasurer.
-“ Preferential trade and fiscal peace “ was the motto on the banner of the Prime Minister’s party at the last election. Now, however, we have a Government that is equally divided - one half supporting preferential trade, and the other half in favour of fiscal strife. What is the policy of the Attorney -General, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Minister of Trade and Customs? Their policy, when they were sitting in the Opposition corner, was based upon a cry of distress, which naturally awoke the sympathies of those who did not know them. They had one surpassing anxiety, and that was to relieve certain Melbourne industries from the distress which the Tariff had inflicted upon them. This was notably their desire in regard to the iron industries. Their policy was one not of fiscal peace, nor even of preferential trade, because, according to them-, the only way to relieve the distress in the great iron industries of Melbourne was to increase the duties on iron imports from the mother country. What a mockery it would be - if there be any truth in this cry - to talk of preferential trade while professing, at the same time, to increase the duties on iron imports from the mother country. If the causes of the distress in these great trades in Melbourne are really traceable to the Tariff - to low duties, and not, as I believe, to a number of other circumstances with which the Tariff has nothing to do - do not honorable members who face the question fairly know that in order to relieve that distress, the Tariff must be raised against our fellow-countrymen, in Great Britain? If we opened the ports of Australia to the iron exports of the mother country, what a mockery it would be to tell the iron workers of this city that we were going to help them. They can be helped only by shutting out one of the biggest iron exporting countries.
– Can we not discriminate between imports from the mother country and those from foreign countries?
– I am pointing out to the honorable member that if the duties are not increased against the great British iron exporters, tariff revision will bring no relief. Does he think that, if the duties are left as they are against the mother country, there can be any substantial relief to the iron foundries of Melbourne, by taxing Germany and the United States out of the Australian market? Although Australia is a great country, still it is a small market compared with many of the large markets of the world, and does the honorable member think that if these duties remain as high as they now are against the mother country, with her enormous iron export and machinery trade, any substantial relief can be afforded to Melbourne ironworkers by putting up the duties 100 per cent, against German and American goods?
– I think that there will be some compensation to Australia from preferential trade to make up for that.
– Order. I hardly think that the right honorable member can discuss preferential trade on the motion before the Committee.
– Surely, sir, the policy of the Government is open to discussion, on a motion relating to a Supply Bill?
– There is no evidence before the Committee that preferential trade is part of the policy of the Government. While the right honorable member was giving a historical review, I did not interfere; but I think he will see that on a motion, preliminary to the introduction of a Supply Bill, it would hardly be , in “order to debate a matter which is not before either the Committee or the House.
– I bow, sir, to your ruling at once, as it is my duty to do; but I should like to point out to you that the conduct of the Government must always be open to criticism when they come down and ask for supply.
– Yes; and if the right honorable member had contented himself with complaining that the Government had not, for example, brought down a certain measure, he would have been’ in order. He cannot, however, discuss the details of the question to which he was .referring.
– I was addressing myself to the very point you mention, sir, until I was interrupted. I was pointing out that the Government had been in office for some time, and that the Budget speech did not contain a single word on the subject of preferential trade. I am criticising the conduct of the Government in not carrying out a matter which they had announced a strong desire to proceed with. I was drawing attention to the unhappy state of things which exists in the Cabinet. Whether we agree with the policy of preferential trade or not, we must all admit that it is one which is worthy in the highest degree of consideration. Either for good or for evil,, it is a great policy. It may contain the germs of illimitable good, or it may contain the germs of untold mischief ; and on such a subject each country affected is entitled to have its own opinion. For instance, we may think it a splendid thing for us, but the people of another country may think it very disadvantageous to them, and in that case they would ,be perfectly free to reject the policy. But my point is that it is impossible for a Government to stand in this position : That whilst the Prime Minister is an ardent advocate for preferential trade, his colleagues have committed themselves by every possible declaration to bringing relief to the ironworkers of Melbourne by increasing the duties on iron and machinery. I say to honorable members, as I said before, “You may put the duties up 100 per cent, against the United States, or France, or Germany, or Belgium, but, so long as you leave the Tariff as it stands against England, it is a cruel mockery to endeavour to make the ironworkers of Melbourne believe that it can give them any relief.” It is impossible to continue a method of fooling the people of the old country because we want some of our great products - and a very worthy object*, too - introduced under better terms into her markets. It is absurd for us to pretend not to see that the British people are entitled to make sensible terms for themselves, that there must be benefit for benefit, and not benefit on one side and no benefit on the other. The whole of this movement has been reduced to a farce by the conflicting demands of the two parties in the present Ministry, one clamouring for higher duties on articles which Great Britain produces, and the other speaking of giving to Great Britain an advantage in order to get the benefits of her markets for Australian products. That position seems to me to call for some observation. When honorable members criticise the good feeling which exists in the mother country for Canada; when they point out that there is no reason why Australia should not excite as much affection and esteem in the hearts and minds of the people of Great Britain, surely they know how different the course of the Dominion has been in reference to the mother country ! After the voluntary preference was established it was increased, not once, but twice; it became a substantial preference. That was done by Canada in no spirit of bargaining, but as a loyal and affectionate act on the part of her people towards the people of the mother country, without any business consideration of any sort expressed in any agreement, without asking for anything in return. I now come to another point which I think is one of great importance. It has been stated that Canada shuts out the people of the mother country as we do by the contract provision in our Immigration Restriction Act. I believe that statement is absolutely without foundation. So far from doing that, Canada has acted towards the mother country in a very different spirit. She is much nearer to the overcrowded millions of the United Kingdom than, we are. The danger of an undue influx of people, if it be a danger, is much greater there than here. But instead of shutting the Dominion against the people of the mother land, there is ‘not a man amongst the 41,000,000 in England, Scotland, and Ireland to-day who could not go over to Canada to-morrow without the slightest impediment. That is a marked difference from the way in which Australia treats the people of the mother country. Yet honorable members sit down easily under our law. If the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed a law which shut out a single Australian therefrom would not the people of Australia rise in strong indignation? Would it not put one of the most severe strains upon the loyalty of Australia if an honest Australian working man could not land upon the shores of England without the risk of being punished by imprisonment with hard labour or deportation?
– Is he free to land at Hong Kong or India?
– At the present time I am referring to England, not to Hong Kong.
– I do not think that the right honorable member read my little note.
– I did not, but the honorable member will admit that Hong Kong is a very small place compared with the mother country and Australia.
– It is the second port in the world, and is under English law ; but not every Englishman is free to land there.
– If my honorable friend will allow me, I should prefer to discuss the relations between Australia and the mother country. If the Imperial Parliament passed such a provision as we have, there would be burning indignation throughout Australia, and nowhere more so than amongst the working classes.
– Fortunately we have come to a more promising outlook. When the honorable member for Gippsland was speaking on this provision the other day, I learned with the greatest possible satisfaction that the honorable member for Bland interjected in such a way as to show that the matter was open for reconsideration, and, later on, when interviewed, he put his views in a still more clear and emphatic way. I was delighted to read what he said I believe that every member of the Opposition will be prepared to pass any Bill for the alteration of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act with the least possible delay. I welcome this change; but I cannot help remembering that when I used to advocate it - I advocated it very strongly at the last election throughout Australia - my honorable friends opposite opposed me for doing so, and spoke of immigrants under contract as people who were in nothing better than shackles, and as bondmen, because they happened to come out under agreement to work” here. As though the whole of the workers of Australia are not under contract to-day.
– The right honorable member was not in favour of any restriction whatever.
– I explained in my speeches on the subject over and over again that I was in no way opposed to what I took to be the real object of the section.
– I did not read that anywhere.
– Then the honorable member must have missed it, because I have stated that over and over again. I can quite understand the view of those who wish to see a certain precaution put in our Act, and the point that struck me was that so long as the agreement was an honest one, and so long as the immigrant was not brought here with the object of introducing reinforcements into some great industrial fight that was taking place in the country, he ought to be allowed to enter. I was always willing, subject to that understanding, to see a section of this sort embodied in the law, as I think every one else is also.
– The Act has not. kept out any desirable immigrant, has it?
– Suppose there were a law in another country that, if a workman entered into an engagement to work in that country, he might find, when he arrived, that he could be put in prison, or that he had at least rendered himself liable to imprisonment, and that he could not get out of prison unless he found two sureties - does not the honorable member see that no decent man would ever emigrate if he had to sneak into a country where such a law existed ?
– There is such a law in America, nevertheless.
– My honorable friend, I am sure, would not like to go to any country where there was a law of that sort against him.
– I should like to go as a free man,.
– But still, if a man goes under contract to work, is he not a free man? If not, we are all slaves - even members of Parliament - because we are all under contract ro some extent. That is not, perhaps, a very apposite illustration ; but what I want to point out is that there can be no moral degradation in being subject to a wages contract, or else all our people are under circumstances of moral degradation, because they are nearly all under local contracts of some kind. What I wish to emphasize is that feelings of irritation may well arise in the mother country, from the fact that such a law exists in Australia.
– The feeling arises from the misrepresentations of our law.
– It is not misrepresentation only.
– There has been nothing but misrepresentation ever since the Act was passed.
– There has been misrepresentation, and no one admits that more frankly than I do. As long as 1 can remember there has been a tissue of the vilest representations affecting Australia, especially from the financial position. That is no new aspect. It has existed for the last twenty or thirty years. But honorable members will recognise that the great body of the people of the mother country are not affected by statements of that sort, which may appear in newspapers that seem to have a most intense antipathy to everything in Australia. We do not identify the great body of the people of the mother country with a few miserable journals of that sort.
– But it is a fact that our law has been misrepresented.
– As there are so many slanderers, so many people who vilify Australia, we ought to be the more concerned to remove any pretence for that vilification. It will be a good thing for Australia if we remove that defect from our law, which makes an immigrant run the risk of getting into gaol as a criminal if he is found to have arrived here with an honest contract for honest work. The Premier of New South Wales wrote a despatch to the Prime Minister on the 18th of last month. The Premier asked fon an assurance that the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act as to contract labour would not be enforced in respect of farmers and agriculturists whom it was intended to encourage to. immigrate. That is a definite sort of statement from a Premier to the Prime’ Minister, asking him for an assurance that the provisions as to contract labour under the Immigration Restriction Act would not be enforced in the case referred to. The Prime Minister, in his reply, which is a very long one, expresses his gratification - that is always available - that strenuous efforts to induce British farmers and agricultural labourers to emigrate were to be made; and then he says -
But .1 shall be glad to learn what kind of obligations you have ‘in your mind when you mention “ white agricultural settlers entering New South Wales under contract.”
Then he refers to Mr. Coghlan and to certain intending, emigrants to whom that gentleman referred in a letter; and the Prime Minister points out that people who come out to purchase land under contract “except for manual labour” are not liable under the Act. We all knew that, and the Premier of New South Wales replied that he knew it. But the Prime Minister, in that reply, absolutely evaded the question put frankly to him by the Premier. The practical question is, as the Premier of New South Wales says -
That the provisions of the ImmigrationRestruction Act as to contract labour will not be enforced, lest our endeavours to promote immigration to these shores be stultified.
The Prime Minister sends him a despatch which evades the whole point. And I admit that the honorable gentleman could not give an assurance. I admit that no Prime Minister can give an assurance that the laws of Australia will be broken. He cannot break these laws. If an agricultural labourer came out from England, Scotland, or Ireland to work in Victoria under contract, if the Prime Minister knew that that man was in the streets of Melbourne, he would not be doing his duty if he did not have him sent to gaol. He cannot evade that duty under the laws of the Commonwealth. As the Prime Minister very fairly said, the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act permit exemption certificates to be issued ; but those exemptions have to be for definite periods, and the moment the exemption period is over, the holder of the exemption becomes again liable to be treated as a criminal.
– They give him a ticket-of-leave.
Mr.REID. - Something very like it. Suppose exemption certificates could be issued to agricultural labourers under contract. They could be issued for a special period, and the moment that was over the man could be informed against, and would be subject to the penalty of imprisonment or deportation. This is a disgraceful state of things : and now that we see there has been a mistake - now that we see that the object of the section was a very different one, on which we all agree - it is the duty of all parties to find, some remedy. The Prime Minister has said that a clause to effect the end which I suggest is most difficult to draft ; but, with all the eminent lawyers in the Cabinet, I think that, in the course of a month or two, the trouble might be got over. At all events, an attempt of the kind ought to be made very seriously; because, until we alter this law, we cannot wonder that the name of Australia stinks in the nostrils of the people of England. For instance, those farmers who are coming out from England, with their own money, to settle in Australia, may have able-bodied sons, or other persons who are not related to them, whom they desire to bring with them to work on their farms. Or they may have in their employ men who have worked on their farms in England for ten or fifteen years, and whom they naturally desire to bring with them to Australia. As the law stands, however, the farmers dare not take that step, because, not only they, but also any other persons who, in the most innocent way, helped to make an agreement of the kind, would be liable to the penalty of imprisonment. The Government ought, without delay, to introduce some substantial measure which will show the people of the old country that we have no desire to penalize our own fellow countrymen, or to prevent those who wish to do so from coming to Australia. With regard to the ocean mail service, I must say that the position in which the Orient Steam-ship Company has been placed is the most cruel of which I have ever heard. I should like to direct attention to the way in which that shipping company has been treated. Of course, as honorable members know, the Government of which I was a member were responsible for this contract ; but our responsibilities ceased when, on the assembling of Parliament, we were placed out of office, it then being for our successors to either take up the contract or disavow it. The present Government took up the contract - I do not think they could have adopted any other course - and the motion for rati- . fication was placed on the business-paper, and has since appeared fromday to day. According to the agreement,£30,000 became payable to the Orient Company on the 1st July, or just about the time when Parliament met under the present Government, and we are now at the end of September, when, within a. day or two, another £30,000 will fall due. This, as honorable members know, is the idle time of the year, when the receipts of those steam-ship companies are at a minimum, and vet in a day or two£60,000 will be owing on this score by the Commonwealth.
– The motion to ratify the contract will not be reached until next year if the Opposition can help it.
– I hope the honorable member will not say that, seeing that the motion could be introduced at any moment. I should like the honorable member for Hindmarsh to realize that the Government - subject, perhaps, to a reference to the caucus - may bring forward any matter of business they like.
– The Opposition stonewall so much that the Government cannot forward any business.
– Amongst business men a payment of this kind would be regarded as a pressing, honorable obligation. What two business men would enter into an arrangement involving the payment of £30,000. and allow the matter to run on for months without obtaining the verdict of those who had to finally approve? This is an abominable way in which to treat business people. Do honorable members think that this treatment of the Orient Company will commend the business management of the Commonwealth? If the House is going to approve of the agreement, why were we not asked to do so long ago, so that the money might have been paid in due course? I regard the delay as a very serious reproach to us as a party to a large business transaction. Another matter has struck me with a great deal of astonishment. The Postmaster-General, now that he has to attend to the administration of an enormous Department, is, I am afraid, neglecting a little the great question of the Capital Site, of which we, who rallied around him, now hear less and less. I admit that we desired another site than that of Dalgety, but we accepted that as the next commendable ; and I am prepared, just as staunchly as ever, to support the choice of the Parliament. My own impression, as against that of other’s in New South Wales, who so much ‘assail this selection, is that it is absolutely the best that New South Wales is ever likely to get - that any change would absolutely be for the worse. If that were not my opinion, I might not be so staunch about the site as I am, but I feel convinced that if the matter were reopened any alteration -would not be for the benefit of New South Wales. That is my strong belief from the information that I have received. I do not know whether the project has yet taken official shape, but I have heard of a proposal to drive a stake at some point on the Dalgety site, in order to, in some way, bring the matter before the High Court.
– That is to oblige Mr. Carruthers.
– The spirit of the suggestion is a very proper one; the object is to arrive at some friendly settlement of legal questions affecting this very important matter at the hands of the highest judicial authority in the Commonwealth. As I say, the object of the suggestion is an absolutely good one, and I am not criticising it ; but I do not know whether the Government have decided to accept it. I do not know by whom the suggestion was made.
– The Premier of New South Wales made the suggestion.
– My reading of the Constitution is that, if the Commonwealth Government were to drive a stake somewhere near Dalgety, and have a case stated, the decision would be against them ; because the Government have no right to drive a stake into territory which has not been “granted to or acquired by “ them. The site of the capital is to be within territory which shall have been granted or acquired, and we cannot have a capital in New South Wales until territory has been either granted or acquired under the powers of the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act. I suppose there is in that Act sufficient power to acquire the territory, but that would not settle the question about the 900 square miles, and I do not suppose the Government would dream of putting that Act in force in order to resume such an area. That, in my opinion, would be a monstrous proceeding. The question of area presents one of the difficulties of the position, and it ought to be a matter of friendly negotiation. Of course, I admit that there is a point in regard to the construction of the Constitution, which might settle the whole affair, because there might be a very strong argument to the effect that the words of the Constitution cannot possibly mean the power to go so far as this Parliament has intimated its desire to go; and it is quite possible that the High Court may hold that the area mentioned inthe Constitution binds the Commonwealth down to within reasonable limits of that area.
– The Court may take the view that the minimum mentioned is an indication that a very, large area was intended.
– So many excellent judgments have been upset by the High Court that I do not mean to pronounce one if I can avoid it. The point I wish to make is that, instead of these fanciful ways of assuming to be fighting when we desire a friendly settlement, it would be easy for the Government to pass a Bill - such as, I believe, is in operation in Canada - giving the Commonwealth Government and the States Governments power to state a case for the High Court, when there are vexed questions at issue.
– At the Convention I tried to have such a provision inserted, but it was rejected.
– In the light of our experience we cannot but regard it as a pity that such a proposal was rejected. The most sensible and friendly way of settling a trouble of this kind, would be for the two parties, under the learned advice at their command, to agree to draw up their respective cases.
– Did the leader of the Opposition oppose the proposal made by the honorable and learned member for Angas in the Federal Convention?
– I do not think so.
– The proposal received some strong support.
– I am afraid it shows some animosity on the part of the honorable member for Hindmarsh to make the suggestion he has. I urge very strongly on the Government that not only would the course I suggest enable the two Governments to dispose of this great difficulty without any unfriendly feeling,, but it would, from every point of view, make an invaluable permanent addition to the Statutes of the Commonwealth.
– Does the leader of the Opposition think that his suggestion could be carried out without an amendment of the Constitution ?
– If there is any trouble on that score, I must say that that is a point I had not considered.
– I think the matter might be referred to the Privy Council.
– I confess that I have not studied that aspect of the question. I do not know whether it will be necessary to pass any Act for a reference to the Privy
Council. If the Constitution stands in the way of the adoption of the other course, I should infinitely prefer to go to the Privy Council, if that could be done, because there is a perfect block at present in the settlement of the question.
– There would be no difficulty in passing a very short Bill to put this particular question before the High Court.
– Then I most strongly urge the adoption of that proceeding in the interests of the preservation of good feeling between the mother State and the Commonwealth. I think it would commend itself to the good sense of every one, and I think every member of the House would help to put such a Bill through.
– I hope so.
– I cannot speak for all my friends, but I can speak for myself, and I say that if the Government bring down such a measure, I shall be glad to help it through’ in one sitting, if possible.
– All the States would have to join in the proposal.
– That might be the subject of negotiation, if it were necessary to consult the States. I suppose there can be no doubt that it would be necessary to consult New South Wales.
– All the States must be consulted. We cannot amend the Constitution without the consent of all the States.
– In connexion with the settlement of this matter?
– I do not think that that is the proposal.
– That is not the proposal I was thinking of.
– I shall certainly look into the suggestion made as to the constitutional difficulties, but I do most earnestly impress upon the Government that every possible effort should be made to put this question of the Capital Site on a more satisfactory footing. There is not the slightest doubt that there is a very large amount of strong feeling in New South Wales on the subject which acts prejudicially to the whole Federal sentiment.
– Hear, hear. The sooner the question is settled the better.
– I say that if it is possible by a short Bill to enable this matter to be referred to some tribunal, such as the High’ Court, or, failing the High Court, if there is some difficulty under the Constitution, to the Privy Council, I shall be prepared to give such a measure my strongest support. I have no desire to repeat the observations which I have so often made with reference to the present state of the electorates, but I should like to know from the Government whether there will be any delay in fixing an enumeration day after the Representation Bill is passed.
– None whatever.
– To pass the Representation Bill is simply to do, as my honorable and learned friend the member for Corinella pointed out so admirably, what was proposed to be done in another way by. the previous Government. I do not mind that. So long as the thing is done, that is the main point; but I wish to remind the Government that after we get that Bill passed we shall still be a long way from having put matters in connexion with the electorates in a satisfactory state. There is a lesson to be learned from the experience of 1903, when this House took it upon itself to reject the boundaries recommended by the Electoral Commissioners upon grounds which the facts since known have shown to have been absolutely without foundation. It was pointed out that certain electorates were depopulated owing to the drought, but it is now known that there are only 1,500 or 2,000 more electors in some of those enormous electorates than in 1903, and this may be wholly accounted for by the number of young people who, in the last two or three years, have attained their majority. I want our experience on that occasion to be a lesson for the future. I am not disclosing any Cabinet secrets when I say that it was the intention of the late Government to establish a tribunal which would settle electoral redistributions absolutely outside the influence of Parliament. I think there is a radical danger in leaving matters which affect the interests of parties or of individual members of the House to be dealt with in the way in which they are dealt with under the present law. When the Electoral Bill gets to this House, I shall do all I can to so provide that, after the reports come in from the different States Commissioners, whether by ‘bringing the whole of the Commissioners together for a final decision on the whole of the reports, or by some other plan, there shall be some method adopted to deal with the matter apart from political influence. In any case, I hope we shall remove these questions affecting honorable members and parties in connexion with a matter vitally affecting the rights of the electors from the authority of Parliament. The present state of things, as some honorable members are aware, is simply abominable. The honorable member “for Yarra knows that in Victoria, in some cases, there are three times as many electors in one electorate as in another. It is a matter of absolute indifference to me that the alteration may bring about this or that result. What I am concerned about, is that we should respect the principles of our electoral law, and thai the rights of the people should be safeguarded much better than thev are under the existing system. I think that honorable members will feel very gratified that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is satisfactorily disposed of. Those who fought against that Bill last session and this session are, I think, entitled to congratulate themselves on the turn which events have taken. I said during the discussion on the Bill that Mr. Sandford was a man who had been connected with the iron industry in New South Wales for I do not know how many years, and that if there were any attempt to establish the iron industry I would infinitely rather see Mr. Sandford in it than any company that might be formed on the London or the Australian money market. As events have shaped themselves, we have now the establishment of the iron industry guaranteed, not to a syndicate which is going to be floated, but to a man whose life-long efforts have been devoted to the industry. I think the House can congratulate itself on saving that ,£250,000. New South Wales has solved this problem for us without any expense to the Commonwealth. I heartily congratulate the people, and I think I may say the Parliament of the Commonwealth, on the admirable arrangement which has been made between Mr. Sandford and the New South Wales Government, and which will give us the establishment of this great industry under circumstances which no one can possibly regret. I know that many years ago I tried very hard to get the iron industry established in New South Wales through a gentleman who at that time, possessed the coal and iron rights, although, unfortunately, he had not the necessary capital. There would have been no difficulty but for that. I now rejoice in the arrangement that has been made by the New South Wales Government, and hope that we have heard the last of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. One of the most serious objections to the proposal embodied in that measure was that, if the State came in ‘at all, it would be only in a disadvantageous way. ^250,000 would be sunk in the concern to make it more valuable against the State, and then the State would come along and buy it - that is, after its value had been jun up hundreds of thousands of pounds by means of its own grant of ,£250,000 to the industry. I see on the paper a proposal by the honorable member for Kooyong with reference to the appointment of a Council of Finance. I think that project is a very admirable one, but I view it with very grave misgivings. While I have a very strong feeling that it is desirable that the Commonwealth Government and the six States Governments should come into agreement more or less on questions of finance, I confess, with every respect for my honorable friend’s views, that I should not care to see a matter of such vital importance taken out of the hands of the Governments of Australia. I do not think that there would be the same flexibility of negotiation and control. If you take the question of the public debts and put it in the hands of a Standing Committee, I do not know of any function which the Government have to perform which could not be similarly handed over to a Committee. I am much obliged to ‘you, Mr. Chairman, for having allowed me to say these one or two words on the subject. At the Hobart Conference I took the same side as the right honorable member for Balaclava did with reference to the Braddon provision, and threw out the idea about returning to the States a fixed sum. I think that that is an admirable suggestion, in every way! worthy of consideration. Such an arrangement would enable the Treasurers of the States to know absolutely what amounts they would receive from the Commonwealth, and would perpetuate the responsibility of the Commonwealth by requiring it to devote a large share of its Customs revenue to the help of the States, while relieving it from that difficulty which arises from the present necessity of having to raise four times as much as it requires for any purpose of its own. The advantage of returning a fixed sum to the States would be first’ stability and certainty in the States revenues in regard to the amount and method of the financial assistance to be received from the Commonwealth, while the Commonwealth would gain liberty to deal with its Customs revenue upon a much more flexible footing than is at present possible. In other words, under such an arrangement the States would be guaranteed against the shrinkage of revenue owing to the operation of protectiveduties, and if the Commonwealth wished for more revenue it could raise it in an easy and convenient way, instead of being required, as at present, to raise four times the amount actually required. This method of settlement may commend itself to the views of those in authority in the States. I think it right. I see no objection to it, and? am rather inclined to favour it. The great point, with the States is to have certainty in regard to their finances. We do not wish to repeat here the experience of the United States of America, where they had an enormous surplus Customs revenue, which on one occasion they handed over to the States - though’ they have never repeated that action - and all sorts of extravagant methods of squandering the money had to be invented in order to make it appear that the duties which were being levied were absolutely required. I hope that we shall avoid these dangers in our financial relations with the States. I should like . now to say a word* or two on a subject which seems to be wrapped in obscurity, judging from a number of interjections which I have read ii> the Hansard report. It seems as if the attitude of my honorable friends in the Labour Party upon a great question of burning reform is now somewhat ambiguous. I have noticed several interjections in the way of a denial of the Socialistic programme of the Labour Party adopted at the Inter-State Conference. I think that the league in South Australia has taken some course not in accord with the definition of the Inter- State Conference.
– In South Australia they have never had an objective.
– In the interests of a clear perception of great political issues, I wish to know whether the Labour Party repudiates Socialism. If they do, it mav clear the situation very much. I have heard’ verv coarse observations addressed to myself and others who have called the Labour Party a socialistic party, and- have said’ that thev aim at getting the fullest control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. I have heard a number of people in various parts of Australia., whenI have described that as the policv of the Labour Party, denounce the suggestion utterly, as if it had been a misrepresentation, though I have no doubt that they did not know the real position of affairs. I wish to deal with this matter now, so that we may have some clear understanding as to how the Labour Party stands with reference to Socialism. From my point of view, we shall never have any settled condition of prosperity in Australia until this matter has been fought out. People talk about the mysterious want of employment, of enterprise, and of investment here, but there will never be a sound and healthy condition of affairs until the mind of Australia upon this question is made known. If Australia is going in for a policy of gradually annexing all industrial operations and putting them under State control, I am inclined to think that it would be infinitely better to have a sudden and thorough revolution, instead of this creeping change that some persons are trying to bring about.
– The people seem satisfied with the position, because they are electing more and more Labour members to the various Parliaments in Australia.
– That is a matter in regard to which we may have a change presently. My honorable friends were not keen about the experiment of taking the views of the constituencies when, a few months ago, I had the great pleasure of putting them to the test. Their response to my invitation was somewhat disappointing. Be that as it may, I wish to put on record, so that there shall be no misunderstanding about the socialistic objective of the Labour Party, a very able analysis of it by, I suppose, as competent a reviewer as any in Australia. This criticism and analysis comes from a friend, not an enemy, of the socialistic party, and is published in the Brisbane Worker. 1 look upon that newspaper as probably the ablest journalistic champion which the Labour Party possesses, and certainly one of the most straightforward and outspoken. After the Inter-State Conference had broken up, the Brisbane Worker, in an article published on the 22nd July last, referred to the objective established in the Conference - which is the same as the New South Wales objective - and made observations on the subject which I wish to bring before the Committee, because I think them fair and just, and they abso lutely support the view which I have expressed. The Brisbane Worker says -
The speeches delivered at the Conference exhibit both the strength and the weakness of the Labour movement at the present stage of its progress. We see in them the vanguard fierily storming the heights, and the stragglers limping in the rear.
I think that we have some of the stragglers in this Chamber.
The Queensland objective is more comprehensive and more exact in expression. It is also, we ‘ hold, more honest in intent.
The New South Wales objective goes really as far, but it does not seem to do so, and for that reason may be said to carry the stigma of guile.
It reads as follows : - “ Securing of the full results of their industry to all producers by collective ownership of monopolies, and the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality.”
In what can be secured “ the full results of their industry to all producers,” except by the collective ownership of all the means of production?
The mention of “ monopolies “ is utterly irrelevant, and that it has been merely dragged in, and is not of a piece with the rest of the sentence, is made evident by the improved reading which we get when the passage is omitted.
I think that the Brisbane Worker is right, and will now read, as they publish, the objective, with the words about monopolies left out- “ Securing the full results of their industry to all producers by the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality.”
It will be seen at once that no limit is placed to “ the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality.” In that respect the two objectives are in agreement, and this paper contends that there is no industrial or economic function, at present discharged by private enterprise, that couldnot be brought within the scope of that definition.
The New South Wales objective, therefore, is every bit as far ahead as that of this State.
The Queensland objective is, in point of form, far more definite. It is in these terms : -
Collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
Then they proceed to say how and in what way it can be attained- to be attained through the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and local governing bodies.
Now the Brisbane Worker says that the two objectives, that of the Inter-State Conference and of New South Wales on one side, and the Queensland objective on the other, are practically the same, and in agreement -
The New South Wales objective, therefore, is every bit as far ahead as that of this State. It aims to secure to all producers the full fruits of their industry by State and municipal ownership. No objective short of communism could go further.
The Queensland declaration is preferable, because it is more scientific in form, more precise in phraseology, and bears about it nothing that savours of political dissimulation, or is capable of being misconstrued.
But, all this aside, the one great fact of the Conference, transcending everything else, was the unanimity with which it was resolved to place a declaration of the socialistic aims of the party in the forefront of the platform. Of thirty-six delegates present, only one was against the adoption of an objective.
The lesson of present unity, and of faith in the future, thus impressively expressed, must be a powerful factor in the further progress of the party and of Australia.
That article furnishes one of the clearest exposures of the want of straightforwardness on the part of those who seek to say that the Inter-State objective is not downright Socialism. In that article the whole case is stated with perfect clearness, and whilst I am prepared to help this or any other Government to encourage immigration, to spread the fullest possible knowledge of the enormous resources and opportunities which are possessed by Australia, and to dissipate the atmosphere of prejudice and slander which has been so injurious to the Commonwealth - whilst I am prepared in every possible way to help in these matters this or any other Government, irrespective of any objection I may have to ils constitutional position, I cannot help stating my deliberate opinion that the arrested life and progress all through this country, shown by the stagnation of the movements of population, in spite of the good seasons and of the ascending prices of our great commodities, shown by the unmistakable lethargy of enterprise as compared with the enterprise that is possible, and the enormous amount of capital available, is due to the state of unrest of the public mind on the subject of Socialism, and that until we have the mind of Australia thoroughly declared on this important question, we cannot hope for any realization of the true greatness of this great country
– The right honorable gentleman who has just concluded his speech has availed himself of the opportunity to criticise both the constitution and the history of this Ministry - matters to which it is not now necessary to refer. He has also alluded more precisely to a few topics upon which, as leader of the Opposition, he is fully entitled to obtain the views o? the Government. Dealing with the subjects in the reverse order in which they were mentioned, let me first refer to the Federal Capital Site. The right honorable gentleman mentioned the view which I had submitted, andi with which I understood him to agree, that it was easily possible by the passing of a very short measure to supply the deficiency in the present Act, so as to enable us to offer a friendly casus belli. The Premier of New South Wales has furnished us with a list of fourteen points, most of them of a legal character, which he desires to have determined, and a short measure, such as I have alluded to would, in connexion with the present Act, authorize some action on our part, bv the driving of a peg or otherwise, which would enable all, or nearly all, those legal questions to be submitted to the High Court. . I recognise the fairness of the appeal made by the right honorable and learned member for expedition in connexion with this matter. The Government ‘are prepared to take early steps to enable the Premier of New South Wales to obtain his desire by clearing the way for practical action.
– How could the Commonwealth Government drive in a stake as the Prime Minister suggests?
– I quite agree with the right honorable and learned member that we can not take that action under the present Act, but we could pass a short measure which would enable us by a formal act to give cause for an appeal to the High Court. The right honorable and learned member also referred to the mail contract entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It must be a matter of regret to all- of us that the company which has proceeded to execute its contract should be required to stand out of the payments due to it for its services. However, we are only partially responsible for the circumstances which have caused that delay. The action of the company in having entered into another agreement, of a perfectly legitimate character, with the Government of Queensland, has led to the necessity of considering the original contract, coupled with the arrangement for the extended service. Subject to the opportunity for such consideration, and the necessity for disposing of business which will accord a sufficiency of work for honorable members in another place, I ‘rust that we shall have time for the discussion of the motion for the ratification of the mail contract next week. The allusion, made by the right honorable and learned member to the contract labour clause of the Immigration Restriction Act, and the correspondence which has passed between the Premier of New South Wales and myself, was so far incomplete that he did not refer -to my second letter, in which, after having obtained from Mr. Carruthers the specific statement which seemed necessary, I gave the assurance required, in accordance with the provisions of the Act as it stands. Any delay in submitting an amending measure will be largely due to the fact that, not only in regard to the contract labour clause, but in respect] to a number of other points, it will be necessary to alter the terms of the Act, if it is to carry out its original intention, and no more. I trust that the progress of business will permit of our submitting the whole question before the session closes. The right honorable and learned member was correct in his reference to the subject of preferential trade. Had he continued in office, as we expected he would have done, I should have taken advantage of the opportunity he was good enough to offer to discuss the question, and obtain an expression of the views of the House. Nothing more was possible under these circumstances. The circumstances have changed since then. We have a great deal of business requiring to be dealt with by legislation which cannot be postponed, and, moreover, there is some reason to hope that, instead of submitting an abstract resolution, we may, before this Parliament closes, be able to lay before honorable members a specific proposal for a practical step in the direction of preferential trade. I ami sure honorable members will feel that direct action is in every respect preferable to a mere expression of opinion - although an expression of opinion would be welcome and valuable if time would permit of its being obtained. I can assure the right honorable and learned member that i’f we proceed with the business now before us, as I hope we shall, all the other questions to which he referred will be disposed pf; and we may be able to do something with regard to preferential trade. It must be remembered that we have a Commission sitting which will raise by degrees the whole Tariff question - a question which can be much better dealt with at once than by a series of separate proposals one after the other. I trust that if this Government continues in office, the Tariff question, so far as it is ripe, will be satisfactorily grappled with before the work of this Parliament is completed.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the agreement which has been entered into by the Railways Commissioners upon the question of preferential and differential railway rates. I mention this matter again, so that the Minister of Home Affairs may pursue his inquiries with a view, if necessary, to some definite action being taken by the Commonwealth Government.
– I acted upon the information in my possession. I communicated at once with the States, and one or two of them have already replied. So far, however, the Queensland Government have not replied to my communication.
– I am glad that the Minister has taken action. Unfortunately, though the States have been corresponding upon the matter during the past three or four years they do not seem to have got beyond the epistolary stage, except in connexion with the agreement which was arrived at as the result of the conference of Railways Commissioners held in September, 1904 - an agreement dated May, 1905. Under that agreement, the Commissioners arranged to abolish preferential rates, such as the Dimboola to Serviceton rate, which was imposed upon goods passing to or from South Australia.
– The Victorian Government say that that rate has been abolished, in addition to the Albury rate.
– I would ask the Minister not to allow himself to be deceived by generalities in this matter. I have read the agreement which was arrived at by the Railways Commissioners, and I say that the reports which sometimes appear in the newspapers are misleading, though they may not be so intentionally. Under that agreement, which was to come into force from the 1st March, 1905, they make whatever traffic has been obtained under the competitive system the basis of their scheme. Tn other words, any traffic which has been acquired under the competitive system is to be regarded as sacred. In such circumstances, it is obvious that not much benefit can be expected to flow from any schedule of rates which may be agreed to. So long as the existing traffic is not interfered with, the Railways Commissioners have agreed to bring their rates into conformity with the ordinary mileage rates. I would ask the Minister to look into the question, and to see whether it is not possible, under the Constitution, to compel them to abolish differential, as well ,as preferential, rates, and to relinquish any traffic which has been acquired under the competitive system. In other words, I desire him to ascertain whether it is not possible to compel them to adopt such a schedule of rates as will render trade between the States free, as was contemplated by the Constitution. If the Commissioners do not come to an agreement - in the absence of an Inter-State Commission - we shall be positively powerless. I do not urge the appointment of such a tribunal, because I think we can very well do without it. I am merely pointing out that the agreements which have been entered into by the Railways Commissioners do not represent an adequate substitute for the Inter-State Commission. What is the position in regard to Western Australia? That State had in operation a system of differential charges, which imposed heavy rates upon goods shipped from outside its borders, in favour, of goods carried from within its borders, to such places as Kalgoorlie.
– That was in respect to local produce.
– No doubt it was. My point is that the imposition of such rates was a violation of the Constitution.
– I do not think so.
– It was never contemplated by the Constitution that preferences in favour of local products should be continued. -
– There is a proviso in the Constitution.
– If the Treasurer thinks that the proviso to which he refers applies to-
– It applies to internal trade.
– The Constitution never contemplated that the system of rates which was operative in Western Australia, and which imposed a higher charge upon goods passing from outside its borders to Kalgoorlie than was levied upon goods passing from Perth to that centre, should be continued.
– In such cases a higher rate was. never charged from the port.
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with the right honorable gentleman as to the right to- continue the rates.
– The honorable and learned member does not understand the facts.
– I have heard a good deal in reference to this matter, and I know that higher rates have been imposed upon goods passing into Western Australia from outside its borders than have been levied upon similar goods locally produced passing from- place to place within its borders. All I ask is that the Government should look into the matter and ascertain what is the position. The Treasurer displays a marvellous innocence, but he must know that Western Australia has been straining its legal powers against the spirit of the Constitution.
– What about the tests in regard to fruit? At the Fruitgrowers’ Conference a very strong remonstrance was entered against the test which is applied to the admission of fruit into that State.
– We wish to keep out disease.
– No doubt; but Western Australia also desires to exclude fruit which is not diseased. . Some Western Australians themselves complain of these police provisions under the guise of an attempt to protect the fruit of that State.’
– They will always complain.
– No doubt the Treasurer would give them a clean certificate as to morality.
– I can assure the honorable and learned member that there is no political influence used there.
– It is urged by some Western Australians that fruit which is not diseased is excluded from that State.
– That complaint comes from the individuals who send rotten fruit there.
– It comes from the persons who would consume that fruit if it were admitted to that State. I believe that a very large quantity of good fruit is excluded from Western Australia. The police powers of that State are being abused in this connexion. There is, I maintain, a method of preventing this by putting into force section 117 of the Constitution. I hope that the Ministry will see that something is done in this direction. I trust also that the Government will give effect to the suggestions made by the leader of the Opposition in favour of the speedy amendment of paragraph g of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act. Whilst the right honorable member was speaking I looked up the official report of the debate which took place upon that provision, and I find that the desire which was then in the mind of nearly every honorable member was to prevent persons being brought here under misleading contracts, or, as the honorable member for Bland put it, “ being inveigled into unfair agreements.” I suggested, at the time, that the proper way to deal with these agreements was to allow the parties to them to upset them if any misleading statements had been made as to the conditions obtaining in- Australia.
– They have the right to do that under common law.
– As a matter of common /aw, they could be upset. But if men have been induced to come here as the result of false statements regarding the rate of wages or the hours of labour which prevail, they should have the right of immediately testing their agreements in a Court of Justice. In order to overcome the difficulty m regard to contracts entered into in other parts of the world, certain matters should be declared to be prima facie evidence of the existence of these unfair conditions. I think that would be the best way to deal with the matter. Although the application of the Act has not been quite as extensive as our pharisaical critics on the other side of the world would lead the people to believe, it certainly has been administered’ lin a way that the House never contemplated.
– Why should not a contract be submitted to the representative of the Commonwealth in London, and a permit issued on its being passed ?
– Anything that would lead to a judicial settlement of the matter on the arrival of the men here without the possibility of a technical objection or mere failure of proof should receive our immediate consideration.
– There should be no element of permit as to the right of the men to come here.
– Absolutely no. That is the true solution of the difficulty. To show that it was intended that the Act should apply, not to men coming under contract per se, but only to those who had been misled or had a false notion when signing the agreement, as to the conditions of labour in Australia, I would point out that when the honorable member for Bland moved his amendment of the contract clause, there was a very short debate upon at, because honorable members took the statements of Ministers and the sponsor of the amendment as indicative of what its administration would be. Even the honorable member for Kooyong approved of the terms of the amendment in the light of the predicted administration of the measure, and the sense in which it was said that the responsible Minister would understand that it was to be an obligation upon him.
– It was because of that that we did not even call for a division on the amendment.
– No doubt. In view of this fact, the sooner the section is repealed the better. Why should we wait for a general policy of immigration before repealing a specific provision in the Immigration Restriction Act? What is the principle on which we draft our amending Bills? Is it not that we should not mislead those who may wish to refer to a specific provision by embodying an amendment of a particular Act in a totally different measure? To do such a thing would be to act against all principles of classification. I therefore cannot see why the Prime Minister should wait, as he said, some time ago, until a general policy of immigration is proclaimed by the Government, and embodied in a particular measure before he deals with the amendment of one section of the Immigration Restriction Act. The general immigration policy of his Government will have nothing to do with that Acf, and if the amendment be embodied in a Bill dealing with that general policy, those who wish to look it up will have to seek for it in the wrong Act. I can conceive of no reason why the section in question should not be at once amended, and I hope, therefore, that there will be no delay in repairing the mistake that we made as to the technical scope of the provision. There was absolutely no mistake as to what the House intended should be covered by it. The honorable member for
Bland, in submitting his amendment relating to contract labour, .said -
The amendment will cover most of the classes of labour likely to be affected through people being inveigled into unfair agreements, in ignorance of the conditions obtaining in Australia.
That was his statement of what he desired the clause to cover. The present Prime Minister understood it in that sense, but made an addition in favour of certain skilled labour coming in, which seemed to confuse its object, because it rather discounted the fact stated by the honorable member for Bland, that there was no intention to shut out labour.
– I do not think the honorable and learned member can now discuss the Act. I understand that he is discussing its administration.
– I am discussing its’ administration in the light of what was said when the Bill was before the House. I am merely showing that the provision in question as drafted was intended to receive an interpretation which Ministers have held themselves not entitled, on its wording, to give it. When it was before the House, Sir Edmund Barton, who was then prime Minister, said that it was to apply to men - who enter into bargains which they would not have made if they had had the opportunity of observing the working of our institutions.
He went on to say -
Moreover, this legislation has the further advantage of guarding against the making of agreements of which the workmen who made them would repent as soon as they landed on our shores.
Surely the intention of the Prime Minister of the day was that men who entered into contracts to labour in Australia were not to be excluded merely because they were contract labourers. If anything further were needed to strengthen my opinion upon that point, I might refer to the words of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who, in discussing the amendment, said -
There is no desire to exclude men who voluntarily seek to make their home here, for the purpose of engaging in manual labour, or anything else, so long as they belong to a civilized white race, and are themselves desirable immigrants.
The mere fact that men come here under contract surely does not make them undesirable immigrants - surely it does not bring them within the category of those whom the honorable and learned member for. Northern Melbourne suggested it might be desirable under the provision in question to exclude. I would impress upon the Prime Minister that, if in view of the wide terms of this section, he feels it incumbent upon him to administer the Act in a way never, contemplated by the House, he should at once introduce a Bill to put an end to an administration that certainly is not in accordance with the spirit of the Act itself. In making this request, I have not the slightest sympathy with the unfair and, perhaps, too harsh criticisms indulged in by persons in other parts of the world. They do not quite understand what our conditions are when they denounce the Immigration Restriction Act.
– When a man does not know whether he will be allowed to land on coming here, he is frightened to set sail for Australia.
– I am arguing that men. who are not undesirable immigrants, should be allowed to come in ; but, at the same time, I contend that too much pharisaical emphasis is indulged in by critics on the other side of the world who are totally ignorant of our conditions. I have heard the provisions in the Customs Act, under which we levy duties on goods used on board an over-sea vessel bound for other Australian ports the moment that vessel touches Fremantle, very strongly condemned, as being exceptional and monstrous, by men who ought to; know that it was simplytaken from the Imperial Act, where it is ineffective. It is ineffective there, because as soon as a vessel, say, from Australia, reaches Plymouth, its voyage practically ceases. There is no long stretch of sea between ports where its provisions would be operative. The position here is different. Oversea vessels, after touching at Fremantle, have practically to skirt threefourths of the Continent, and this makes the operation of the provision in question seem disagreeable to those who visit our shores. I say this as one who opposed the provision on the ground that it was better not tq collect duties in such circumstances. Still, we had practically a right to adopt the principle? of the Engli’sh. Act., There is too much harsh criticism sometimes indulged in beyond our shores, but it is not in deference to that criticism that I make the suggestion that we should amend the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act.
I make it because I hold that we should display a just sense of the obligations we are under to the Empire as a whole by removing a provision which is capable of being so administered as to prevent that freedom of intercourse which, as the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said, ought to exist between civilized white races, and particularly between those who are bound together by the tie of a common allegiance.
– I regret to find that the Postmaster-General is apparently asking us by passing this Bill -to vote half the amount payable under the new mail contract with the Orient Steam-ship Company. The proposal is one that will certainly lead to discussion. Before the contract can become operative, it must be ratified by the Parliament, but there are a number of honorable members - and I admit that I am one of them - who think that it ought not to be accepted. Unless we object to the course which the Government now propose’ to take, it will be held that we have practically agreed to a ratification of the contract. Because , the Postmaster-General is asking to-day for a vote of £60,000, being one-half of the contract money, I intend to avail myself of that fact to state my objections to the ratification of the contract. There are one or two features in it with which I am pleased. I am glad that the Orient Steam Navigation Company has undertaken to carry the mails from Australia to England without the aid of lascars. I am also pleased to know that the contract is not to last for more than three years. Outside these two features, I am against its ratification. In regard to the employment of lascars on mail boats, it may not’ be out of place to quote a passage from an article which was written by Captain Symons, of the s.s. Omrah, belonging to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. He says -
A good deal of sympathy is expended on the stokers ; but the most recent mail boats are so well ventilated that the heat in any part of the engine room scarcely exceeds 100 degrees.
Since that statement was made, a number of us have had the pleasure of reading a portion of the log-book written by the chief engineer of the s.s. Marmora. He gave the temperature on a number of days in the engine-room, and the stoke-hold when she was coming through the Suez Canal.
The figures are given in the following table
The table shows that the temperature is considerably higher in the engine-room than in the stoke-hold. In view of the opinion of Captain Symons, who is well able to speak on the subject, the record in the log-book of the chief engineer of the Marmora, and the fact that the Orient Steam Navigation Company is to-day running its mail -boats without the aid of lascars, it seems to me that a great deal of the sympathy which has been expressed on behalf of the white man who is compelled to work in the stoke-hold has been misplaced. My first objection to the ratification of the mail contract is the fact that the Post and Telegraph Department is paying a great deal too much for the services which are being rendered. Under the previous contract Australia paid only £72,000 a year to have its letters taken to England weekly. But to-day, for rendering absolutely the same services, we are asked to pay£120,000 a year, or an increase of £48,000. Before the PostmasterGeneral asks us to assent to that increase, he ought to explain what extra privileges and facilities are granted to his Department therefor.
– The passing of this Supply Bill will not ratify the contract.
– No; but it will appropriate £60; 000 for that purpose.
– But we shall not pay it.
– Then what is the use of voting the money now ?
– Was the honorable member here when I explained the reason ?
– No; but it seems to me that the right honorable member is now asking the Committee to vote £60,000 for the contractors. There has been ample opportunity, I think, for the PostmasterGeneral to bring on his notice of motion for the ratification of the contract. If it had been discussed and affirmed by a majority, this money would be voted without any discussion, I should think.
– There is £30,000 011 account of last year awaiting payment in London.
– We are asked here today to vote practically £60,000.
– We have done no more now than we did last year.
– Yes, trie Government have, because we are now dealing with a contract which was entered into by the previous Government, and which, I understand, their successors are prepared to ask the House to ratify. The agreement will not be valid unless it has been ratified by the Parliament, and the Treasurer is asking us to-day to vote practically one-half of the contract money. I, for one, am opposed to the ratification of the contract. We have a right to know what extra facilities have been granted to the Post and 1 Telegraph Department. I admit that it is an advantage to have white, instead of coloured, labour employed on the mail boats. If that substitution has rendered it necessary for us to pay a larger subsidy to the shipping companies, then, seeing that we required white labour to be employed, it is only right and fair that it should be paid. But Mr. Anderson, who is connected with the Orient Steam-ship Company, has stated that the demand for a higher subsidy was not due to the employment of white labour. In the report of the proceedings at the Premiers’ Conference, in Hobart, this year, I find that Mr. Morgan, Premier of Queensland, asked, “ what are the grounds assigned for the increase “ ? and that the right honorable member for East Sydnev, who was then Prime Minister of Australia, made this reply -
I have a quantity of private and what might be called public information. But it has been freely stated that it is not PUt down to the coloured question. The private reason is that the line is not paying.
The late Treasurer told the Conference that the Orient Steam-ship Company had said that the white labour conditions had not affected the amount of its tender. If the employment of. white labour did affect the cost of running the boats, we should be prepared to pay a larger amount. But, as I say, we have a definite statement from the right honorable member for East Sydney, and also from the right honorable member for Balaclava, that it was not the employment of white labour that increased the amount. Tha right honorable member for East Svdney says that the private reason given is that the line does not pay. But I do not know why the Post and Telegraph Department of Australia should be called upon to pay an added amount merely because the Orient Company’s business is not paying, especially considering that we have exactly the same service as before. Our mails are not sent to England more regularly than they were previously. We receive and send mails once a week exactly as we did seven years ago. Nor do we gain anything in respect of speed. Under the new contract letters from England, when carried by the Orient Company, are not received in less time than they were seven years ago. I think I am correct in saying that the contract time is not one hour less than it was when the previous contract was entered into. Therefore, some other considerations than regularity and speed have to be considered. “The honorable member for Macquarie “has said that in. this contract “cool storage facilities were now for the first time included* in a mail contract.” The clause, he said, ran as follows : -
Mail ships to be regularly employed in the service shall be provided with insulated spaces and refrigerating machinery for the carriage of perishable products.
And he went on to say, in the same interview, that he did not think that the contract between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company contained any such provision. Whilst I am one of those who do not object to contracts containing such provisions as these, nevertheless I strongly object to their being inserted in postal contracts. If the insertion of such a condition in a contract with the mail company adds anything to the cost, I object to the Post Office being called upon to bear the burden, and I regret very much that one from whom we had hoped for something better in connexion with postal administration, namely, the present PostmasterGeneral, should have, agreed to ratify a contract which involves his Department in payments for which it gets no benefit. The Post and Telegraph Department has no right to pay for anything more than services rendered to it. As I have already stated in this Chamber - and I may, perhaps, be permitted to repeat it - years ago numbers of contracts for the carriage of mails in the old country contained something more than merely postal provisions. Sub- sidies were paid to provide swift armoured cruisers in time of war, to maintain the supremacy of British commerce, as well as for the carriage of mails. No one would object to those considerations being (regarded ; but, in my opinion, the Post and Telegraph Department ought not to pay for anything except the mere carriage of the mails. Even in England the granting of subsidies for other purposes than the mere carriage of mails should, it has been urged, be separated from the payment of subsidies for mail purposes. A number of influential men in the House of Commons and elsewhere urge very strongly that the subsidies paid for Admiralty purposes should be dissociated from subsidies paid for postal purposes.
– There might be one contract, but the intention is that the two purposes should be separated.
– In England the whole amount paid is now debited to the Post Office, and it is being demanded that the Admiralty should have charged against it what is paid on its account. In Australia we have to pay a subsidy for the carriage of mails, but we have to pay an amount more than is required for that purpose in order to subsidize the vessels for other requirements. The boats, for example, have to go to Melbourne and Sydney. I have no objection to their being compelled, even under contract, to call at Melbourne and Sydney, but it is unfair to the Post and Telegraph Department that in the contract for the carriage of mails, the vessels should be compelled to call at any port except Adelaide. It is at Adelaide that our mails are removed from the ships in order that they may be conveyed by train to other parts of the Commonwealth. At Adelaide, our incoming mails are put on the train. The Post and Telegraph Department should absolutely cease to have anything to do with the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient boats after they have left Adelaide. Of course, when the dream of the Treasurers life is realized, and a train comes all the way from Fremantle to the east, the Post and Telegraph Department will have nothing to do with the mail boats after they leave Fremantle. The effect of insisting on the vessels visiting Melbourne and Sydney has naturally been that the people of Brisbane urge that it is equally fair that they should visit that port. It must be admitted that the contention is a reasonable one.
– Why should they not go to Hobart also?
– And why not to Birnie?
– Just so. At the Hobart Conference, Mr. Morgan, the Premier of Queensland, said -
I contend that, if we are able to have a mail service to Australia, which is to be more than a mail service - which is to be a cargo service, as tin: old service was - and Queensland is expected to contribute, then Queensland should enjoy equal advantages with the other States. The old service with the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient companies, though spoken of as a mail service, was very much more. We were paying for services which were of advantage to four States of the carrying service, and the only advantage Queensland gets is a mail service.
Mr. Evans, the Premier of Tasmania, said
If the Commonwealth is inclined to favour that contention, we are entitled to a similar claim.
But the mistake .was made by the Post Office in not calling for tenders for a service to finish at Adelaide. As to payment for requirements other than postal, if the Minister of Trade and Customs, for example, cared to make another contract, matters might be dealt with on that basis. It may be argued that it does not matter which Department pays, seeing that the money, in any case, comes out of the pockets of the same people; but I regard this as an important matter. While I do not argue that the Post and Telegraph Department should be conducted on absolutely commercial lines, or, in other words, made absolutely to pay - the people of this great Commonwealth ought to be given postal facilities whatever the cost - I still think that, as nearly as possible, we should endeavour to make the revenue meet the expenditure. The Adelaide Advertiser recently published an interesting interview with Mr. Cahill, who has lived a number of years in the Northern Territory, and who, by the way, expressed the opinion that it is not necessary to employ black labour in the development of that part of Australia.
– Then why is it not developed ?
– Why are New South Wales, Victoria, and the other States not developed ? The important point in the interview is that, according to Mr. Cahill, it is necessary for him, when in the Northern Territory, to go 200 miles once a quarter for letters, and that the nearest telegraph station is 320 miles distant. I know that it is impossible in this country of magnificent distances to provide every person with a daily delivery of letters, or bring a telegraph office within easy distance. We ought, however, to do all we possibly can to afford all proper conveniences and postal facilities to the residents of the backblocks, because there would be a poor Melbourne and a poor Sydney if it were not for the prospectors, miners, settlers, and others who develop the country. I am inclined to think that the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department might do a great deal in promoting settlement. Only a short time ago, I saw, from a paragraph in an American newspaper - though we cannot believe all that appears in newspapers - that the telephone in that country was doing a great deal in the work of settlement.
– Telephones are conducted by private enterprise in America.
– So were telephones in England until the Government took them over.
– And that, I suppose, was because telephones are profitable ?
– However that may be, this newspaper stated that the progress of settlement was being assisted by the means I have indicated, because settlers at a great distance from each other were able to converse over the telephone. What I urge is that no money should be paid by the Post and Telegraph Department for any except postal services, until the PostmasterGeneral has been able to satisfy every legitimate requirement of our settlers. When postal facilities are asked for, they ought to be refused, not on the ground that there is no money available, but simply on the ground that they are not justified by the circumstances. A number of honorable members, myself amongst the number, have approached the Secretary for the Department, with a request that the clocks of the post-offices in the country townships should be illuminated at night; but the reply given, and in my opinion a very proper and fair reply, is that the Post and Telegraph Department have nothing to do with telling the people the time. But while this convenience is refused, it is unfair for the Department to expend money in directions not associated with postal requirements. I understand that when the Watson Government were in power it was intended to call for two mail tenders - one for merely deliver ing the mails at Adelaide, and the other for providing refrigerating chambers, and cool storage, and taking the vessels on to Melbourne and Sydney. Whether that intention was carried out I do not know, but I think it ought to have been, for then we should have understood exactly the position. I object to the present subsidy, because I feel convinced that it will only lead to a request for more money. I have listened ‘with much pleasure to honorable members who oppose the; Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and for the very reason that if a subsidy of so much be given to-day, the time will come when the demand will be increased. That has been the experience in Canada in connexion with the iron bonus, and so, I believe, it will be in Australia, not only in connexion with a similar proposal, but also in connexion with our ocean mail contract. I mentioned this objection at a public meeting, and a day or two afterwards, on the 29th of April, I saw that Mr. Green, of the Orient Company, had stated in London that the companywould hesitate to continue the mail service after the expiration of the present contract, unless assured of an increased subsidy.
– Was that after the recent agreement ?
– Yes, and I think that the Orient Company, if they are to continue as a passenger and mail-carrying company, will have to ask for an increased subsidy. When companies like the Orient Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Company ask for a subsidy, they do not do so merely, to enable them to carry letters, because the passenger traffic is with them a big item. Germany, France, Japan, and the Argentine all grant large subsidies to their foreign-going boats, not so much with the object of conveying mails, as of extending trade and commerce. Travelling almost every week between Melbourne and Adelaide, I meet a large number of people about to join the mail-boats at Adelaide, and I regret to say that almost without exception they prefer the German and French vessels to those of the Orient or Peninsular and Oriental Company, on the ground that they are better accommodated, and are better looked after generally. Whether that is so or not I cannot say, as I have travelled only by English boats. It seems that the German companies are determined to cut into the trade of Australia as well as that of other places, and’ if the subsidy which the German boats now receive, is not sufficient to enable them to compete for this trade with British boats there can be no doubt that larger subsidies will be granted to them. Immediately the present contract is up a larger subsidy will be asked for on behalf of the Orient Steamship Company, to enable them to equip their fleet to fight against the competition which they will have to meet. I also object to the ratification of the contract, because it does not provide for greater speed. I believe that we should have the very best possible service. We should minimize the distance between Australia and England as much as we can. I find that there is absolutely no improvement in the matter of speed under the contract now proposed, as compared with that made seven years ago. The Cuzco, an old boat built thirty-four years ago, and of only 3,935 tons, was able, within a year or two ago, to cover the distance between London and Adelaide within the proposed contract time. «That is most unsatisfactory. In these days, we hear a great deal about turbine engines, and I think they are coming. There is no big steam-shipping company which has been more conservative than the Cunard Company. I say conservative in the best sense of the word, because I believe that company has always considered the safety and comfort of passengers more than the mere question of speed of transit. Yet I find that in their latest contract, although they gave an order to have their steamers supplied with the old pattern of engines, on inquiry they have arranged for the substitution of turbine engines. We ,know that the new boats which are plying between England and Canada are all fitted with turbine engines. I am not sufficiently an engineer to say whether the time has absolutely come for using turbine engines on vessels plying between here and England, but I do say that it is a most unsatisfactory arrangement that, for the next three years - and unless we give notice immediately that the contract shall cease, for the next five years - we shall have to put up with the slow rate of speed provided for in the proposed contract.
– It is only a matter of payment. The honorable member wants something for nothing.
– -I do not. I am not in the. habit of asking for something for nothing. One cannot get very much in that way. I am trying to show that we are paying £48,000 a year for nothing, because eighteen months ago we got everything we are getting now for £48,000 less than it is now proposed we should pay.
– The company only got before, for carrying the mails the whole way to England, the proportion which the Peninsular and Oriental Company got for carrying them to Ceylon. That is the explanation.
– Is that so?
– They had a Chinese line, and they shipped the mails into another boat.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company brought them here, and they looked upon that as their subsidy for bringing the mails from London ?
– It was only a proportion.
– The evidence given bySir Thomas Sutherland before a House of Commons Select Committee shows that thev looked upon that amount as their subsidy for bringing the letters from England here.
– It was an estimated proportion of £360,000.
– I am dealing with the evidence of Sir Thomas Sutherland, and not with the evidence given by Post-office officials. I have read his evidence within the last two or three days, and the honorable andi learned member for Parkes will admit that Sir Thomas Sutherland is likely to know something about the Peninsular and Oriental Company.
– Of course, he does; but the Peninsular and Oriental Company are not doing it themselves.
– He said that they looked upon the £85,000 of the £330,000 as their portion of the subsidy for bringing the letters from England to Adelaide. I prefer to take the statement made by Sir Thomas Sutherland, especially when his views and mine agree. I am prepared to admit that something had to be done, and that letters had to be conveyed between England and Australia. I have spoken here before of the poundage system. I believe that if we adopted that system, the Post and Telegraph Department would save at least £80,000 a year. Under that system! we should be able to get our letters delivered in England, though I am not prepared to say that this would be done at the same speed, or with the same regularity, as under a contract for which a subsidy of ,£120,000 is paid. I admit that it is a question for discussion whether the £80,000 additional should not be paid to secure extra speed and regularity of delivery. I shall not deal with the poundage system to-day, but I say that had the Postmaster-General been courageous, there is another scheme which he might have considered. As an alternative, he might seriously have proposed that we should run our own mail boats. The honorable gentleman ‘might have said distinctly that if the terms proposed were not agreeable to us, we should run our own mail boats. I am aware that there are some people who are opposed to the idea of Australia running her own mail boats. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, speaking some time ago, said that it would be -
An experiment in which it would be quite impossible for the State to succeed. This proposal would mean more by a great deal than the nationalization of a monopoly. It would mean the nationalization of a service which could not be made a monopoly except by subjecting the commercial community to such enormous inconvenience that even our socialistic friends would shrink from tackling the job.
That is an opinion which I believe is held by some, honorable members, and they have, of course, a perfect right to hold it. I have spent some little time recently in looking through the evidence given before a House of Commons Select Committee, and I find that very few references are made to Australia. There are many references to South Africa, and other places, and they would appear to think a great deal more about South Africa than about Australia. I may l>e pardoned for reading here some evidence given before the Committee by Sir Robert Giffen, a man who, I believe, is an out-and-out free-trader. I believe he is not a Socialist, but is, on> the contrary, as strong an individualist as is the honorable and learned member for Parkes. He gave the following evidence before the Committee to which I refer: - 166. It seems to me that the question of speed is so important that in order to bring the different parts of the Empire into communication, and in order to give the British Government a sufficient command of swift steamers, we ought to look into the question, for instance, of increasing the speed of our communication with South Africa. It is very important in these matters to have great speed, and I believe the Government should look into the question of accelerating the speed of the communication between this country and South Africa. 169. And as to freight, would you? - Yes, as to speed, as to freight, and as to carrying official passengers and troops. I think the freight is aa extremely important matter, and that we have been confining our attention in our mail steamer subsidies too much to the carrying of postal matter. 178. If the matter should become serious enough, the Government ought not to shrink from a last step, that is, to run ships on certain lines, to bring goods for nothing to English ports - no freight at all - so as to extinguish, by making unprofitable, the unfair competition. By levying a duty upon all goods imported from the countries concerned, we should cover the cost of running free ships, and we should lose nothing. It would not matter to consumers whether they paid the cost of carriage of goods to this country in the form of prices, which included freight, or in the form of duties charged by the Government in lieu of freight, to pay for the cost of carrying the goods. I do not believe so extreme a measure will be necessary, but it should be kept in reserve. 225. I think that is quite so. I think it is worth the while of the country to stipulate with the shipowners that there should be a large proportion of British seamen, and if that puts the ship-owner to more expense, then that is a question of compensating the ship-owner again. 235. Your final suggestion was, was it not, and I understood it to be only a last resort in case matters became” very desperate, that the Government should be prepared to run lines of their own from British Possessions, at all events? It appears to me that the chief thing in the question of subsidies is that you must face the question of having to run ships for nothing, because as we have found in the case of sugar bounties, the bounty in some cases amounts to from 80 to 90 per cent, of the selling price of the article, which comes to very nearly a subsidy of the whole amount. In any case, the point to be arrived at is that we must have mercantile ships to perform certain duties in time of war, and whatever is necessary to enable us to get, and to keep these ships, we must do. 236. It is a matter of as great necessity as having a war navy itself. Your suggestion was that the cost of that might be reasonably met without imposing any burden on the consumer - by levying duties on those special goods, as I understand it, to cover the cost of freight, was.it not? That was so, but the duties would have to be levied upon all goods coming from the country, not merely the goods coming by those ships, because that would be putting on the charge in another way. 239. Would not the merchant to whom goods were sent by British ships in that case have an opportunity of raising the price to the consumer to the amount of the value of the article, plus the duty that we paid on all the foreign imports? - I imagine, when that time comes, all the goods would come by the free ships. 250. (Question asked by Sir Edward Sassoon). If matters came to an extreme, and the Government carried out your suggestion as to having ships of their own, and carried goods for nothing, what do you think would happen to the shipping industry of this country? Would it not disorganize and dislocate it considerably? - I am a great deal concerned altogether by ,the taction of foreign Governments and these shipping combines, and new innovations of that sort, because wherever they exist and are applied, they lead to great difficulties in the way of carrying on ordinary business. These are desperate things which I have been suggesting, but the misfortune is that we have to deal with very difficult times, and with very difficult methods of business, which other people are following.
He actually advocates that as a last resource the people of England should run ships of their own absolutely free. Sir Robert Giffen is looked upon in the old land as a great statistician, and, while his scheme is not to be adopted, as a matter of course, merely because he advocates it, it cannot be regarded as other than worthy of consideration. .
– Does the honorable member propose that freights shall not be charged on the Government steam-ship line which he wishes to inaugurate?
– My scheme does not go so far as that of Sir Robert Giffen. I would charge for all services rendered. At the present time we pay a subsidy of £120,000 a year for the carriage of 41 tons of letters and 300 tons of packages and newspapers. If we were paying only for the carriage of letters we should be paying at the rate of £3,000 a ton ; while if we take letters and newspapers together we pay at the rate of £400 a ton. Last year, according to a statement made by Sir Thomas Sutherland, the chairman of the company, in putting the annual report before its shareholders, the Peninsular and Oriental Company placed on the water new sea-going ships of a tonnage of 62,890 tons, which was greater than the new tonnage of the United States in that year for seagoing vessels.
-What was the new tonnage of the United States?
– About 48,000 tons. At a cost of £26 14s. lod. per ton, the Peninsular and Oriental Company paid £1,681,954 9s. 9d. for its new steamers, the vessels being the Macedonia, 10,512 tons, the Marmora, 10,509 tons, the Mon golia, 9.505 tons, the Moldavia, 9,500 tons, the Pera, 7,635 tons, the Palma, 7,632 tons, and the Pal,nero. 7,597 tons. The Orient Company carries on its fortnightly Australian service with -a fleet of eight vessels - the Ophir, 6,814 tons, the Omrah, 8,281 tons, the Orontes, 9,023 tons, the Ortona, 8,000 tons, the Ormuz, 6,465 tons, the Oroya, 6,297 tons, and the Orotava 5,858 tons, making the total tonnage of the fleet, if allowance is made for the Orizaba, 6,299 tons, which was lost, and will have to be replaced by another vessel, 57,037 tons. An equivalent fleet, at a cost of £27 a ton, which is more than the average cost of the new Peninsular and Oriental boats, could be built for ,£i, 539,000. £120,000 per annum would represent 3 J per cent, interest upon a capital of £3,428,000. So that for an annual out. lay of £.120,000 we could actually piao; on the water a fleet equivalent to that ot the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and still have available for other purposes £1,800,000; or, in other words, we could maintain a fleet equivalent to that of the Orient Steam Navigation Company for £53»85° Per annum.
– The honorable member is forgetting that all the mail companies allow 5 per cent, per annum for depreciation.
– I am now dealing merely with the cost of the steamers. £ know that a large number of other things, including the expense of running the boats, have to be provided for. The Peninsular and Oriental Company have a total income of £3,000,000 per annum, including’ the £337,000 they receive by1 way of subsidy from the British Government. Their profits amount to about £250.000, and therefore it costs them about £2,750,000 to handle 371,626 tons of shipping. Consequently, we could handle a fleet representing a tonnage of 100,000 for £750.000 per annum. Included in this amount would be an allowance of 5 per cent, for depreciation. As I have already stated, we should be able to fall back upon the £120.000 now paid by way of subsidy to the Orient Company. The States Governments spend about £80,000 annually in bringing material out from England and the Continent, and a Commonwealth line of steamers might reasonably expect to secure the whole of the Government freights. At the Hobart Conference! the right honorable member for East Sydney approved of a resolution affirming that all the States should unite in. giving to some shipping company a guarantee of £200,000 worth of freight in connexion with the produce trade. I think I am correct in stating that evidence was given before the Butter Commission that there would be no difficulty in secur– ing a guarantee for £300,000 worth of butter freight. Mr. Swinburne, the Minister of Water Supply in Victoria, stated that one organization in Victoria could guarantee shipments which would represent 75 per cent, of the butter export trade, and no doubt a similar guarantee could be obtained in the other States. Mr. Evans, the Premier of Tasmania, has stated that there would be very little difficulty in securing a guarantee for from ,£50,000 to £100,000 worth of freight in connexion with the fruit export trade. If these statements be correct, a State-owned shipping service should be able to start off with the advantage of a subsidy of £120,000, and guarantees of Government freights from London representing £80,000, butter freights amounting to £300,000, and fruit freights amounting to £100,000, which would yield an assured income of £600.000 per annum. No company could, possibly compete with the State enterprise under such conditions. The balance-sheets of the mail companies show that if the subsidies now paid to them were withdrawn, they could not possibly carry on their operations at a profit. The Peninsular and Oriental Company receives £337>°°° by way of subsidy, whereas its profits amount to only about £250,000. In other words, if the subsidies were withdrawn the profits would disappear. Twenty-four shipping companies, which are subsidized by the Imperial Government to the extent of £[1,000,000 per annum, earn a profit of only ,£800,000 per annum, so that the subsidy represents something more than the total profit earned by them. If
Ave withdrew the mail subsidy from the Orient Company, its vessels would no longer be run as mail steamers in opposition to a State-owned line. Our present system does not yield us the best results, because we naturally hare to enter into short contracts. I admit that there is a good deal in the contention of Sir Thomas Sutherland that the Peninsular and Oriental Company cannot give the best of services unless it secures long contracts. His statement reads as follows: -
Short period contracts really represent a short sighted policy in the best interest of the mail service. Our present contract, for instance,, has only about four years to run, perhaps less. We do not know what is going to happen nt the end of those four years, and necessarily we are circumspect in regard to the outlay of capital for the purpose of constructing mail steamers, pure and simple. If our contracts, instead of being for seven years, had been for fifteen years, I have no hesitation in saying that, at the present moment, we should be expending at least a million or a million and a half more than we are doing now, in order to improve and accelerate Hie future mail service.
From the stand-point of the mail companies, that is no doubt perfectly cor- rect; but I should certainly object to the Government entering into a mail contract for, say, fifteen years, because during that term many things might happen. The science of engineering might make such strides that cargo boats would, before the end of the contract, be travelling faster than the contract mail boats. If the Government had control over these steamers that would not occur, because we should then be able to take advantage of every new invention which was made. Then there is the question qf defence, which can be considered at the same time. F’rom the stand-point of defence, it is very important that only British sailors should be trained in our mercantile marine. Some time since I read a leading article in the
South Australian Register, which was headed “Wanted, sailors.” It stated that there were two great problems before the Empire to-day - first, the problem of how to secure, and, secondly, of how to train. British sailors. I venture to say that if we can. only obtain the necessary sailors, it will be a very easy matter to train them. Some time ago there was a very serious statement made in the House of Commons by the President of the Board of Trade. He declared that if war were to break out to-morrow, and it became necessary to withdraw from the mercantile marine of Great Britain the sailors who were associated with the Naval Reserve, the British mercantile fleet would be absolutely manned by foreigners. If we were in a position to run- our own boats we could insist, not only that they should carry white crews, but that those crews should be Britishers. Even if the adoption of m,y suggestion involved the payment of a subsidy to that vote by the Defence Department, it would be a fair and legitimate charge against that Department. I believe that if we were to control our own fleet of mail steamers, we should get, for a less expenditure, a cheaper and swifter service than we at present enjoy, and that better facilities would be afforded the general public for the carriage of cargo. Whilst I do not think that produce should be carried at the expense of the Postal Department, I quite agree with the Prime Minister when he says -
In these days a mail question can no longer be dealt with by itself. There are other matters which must inevitably be associated with it.
Whether we like it or not, the action of Germany, Japan, and the Argentine - all of which pay large subsidies for the carriage of goods other than mails - will force us into that position. So far as shipping going to Singapore is concerned, Japan has increased her tonnage in thirteen years from 1,197 tons to 271,076 tons. Of course that country has paid large subsidies to shipping companies for the carriage of goods other than mails. I repeat that under the system which I advocate our mails would be carried cheaper than, they are at present - and quite as regularly - that better facilities would be provided for the carriage of produce, and that we should lie training our own sailors, who would not only serve us in time of peace, but defend us in the hour of danger. T.t would not then be necessary to fall back upon private enterprise for assistance. When the ReidMcLean Government were endeavouring to conclude some arrangement with the Orient Company for the carriage of our mails, the late Prime Minister was reported to have said -
Surely throughout the world we can find somebody to whom we can talk business on this matter.
At the time I thought it was pitiable that the Prime Minister should be compelled to talk in that way, because it showed the extent to which we were. dependent upon private enterprise. These are the reasons why I object to the amounts which have been embodied in this Bill at the instance of the Postmaster-General; and when the items come up for detailed consideration, I shall vote for their excision.
– I understand that I should not be in order in debating the position which has been taken up by the honorable member for Barrier. I am, however, justified in saying that the fact that the agreement which has been entered into with the Orient Company for the carriage of our mails has not yet been ratified does not reflect credit upon the Government. To my mind it was incumbent upon them to take the earliest possible opportunity of ascertaining what was the will of Parliament in regard to that matter. At the end of the present month I understand that the sum °f £60,000 will be due to the Orient Company under that contract. Surely the Government are not dealing fairly with that Company by deferring action in regard to the ratification of the contract for so long.
– The Prime Minister has already intimated that he hopes to be able to deal with the matter next week.
– The subject should be promptly dealt with in accordance with the spirit of the arrangement made with the Orient Company. I have merely risen to point out to the Postmaster-General that it is a surprise to the community to find that the present contract does not provide for placing us in the same position as does the contract under which the Peninsular and Oriental service is conducted. I am well aware that he is not responsible for that. When the increased subsidy was supported by the Chambers of Commerce in Australia because, in their opinion, it would settle a difficulty, they certainly did think the Orient Company would deliver the mails on satisfactory dates, and that we should get an improved service. Otherwise I am afraid that their advocacy would not have been so pronounced as it was. Quite recently the mails were delivered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company on the Wednesday I should like the PostmasterGeneral to say whether I am .Tight in stating that during the existence of the provisional agreement all the mails have been delivered within their dates?
– Yes. The mails by the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boat are generally delivered a few hours before time, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats generally run in a day before time.
M.r. KNOX. - The boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company were always ahead of time, and the boats of the Orient Steam Navigation Company were always very close behind their time.
– The British Government’, when making the contract with the former company, shortened the time.
– It is a very great inconvenience to persons to receive their letters in Melbourne - and still greater, of course, in Sydney- <>n a Wednesday, the latest date on which the outward mail can leave here. I hope that, even at this late stage, an arrangement may be made with the Orient Steam Navigation Company to lessen the length of the inward trip. I do not propose to debate the general question of the contract, as I understand that it will be submitted at a later stage. But I wish tr> direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the inconvenience which every one is suffering - and a case happened only the other day - from letters being delivered here creating difficulty in sending a reply by the outgoing mail.
– The honorable member can just do it.
– But persons in Sydney cannot.
– No; but Melbourne people can.
– The statement applies with greater force to Sydney, and I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to run special trains where necessary.
– I am aware that special efforts have been made in that direction. When the agreement was under consideration there was a strong feeling that, in all the circumstances, a subsidy of £120,000 was a fair compromise, but it was expected that it would secure an improved service so far as the time of delivery was concerned. I wish now to refer to the contract provision in the Immigration Restriction Act. While I admit that there has been a straining of the purpose of the provision, because it has not been understood, still the news of the concrete act of refusing to allow a few men to land here ‘ was spread broadcast throughout the British Empire. It cannot be gainsaid that any one who has visited Great Britain or Canada has been taunted with that one concrete act of refusal. Tt was never intended that the provision should have such a wide-spread effect, and on that point we are all agreed. But, however gratified I am at the prospect of effecting an amendment of the provision, I fear that we shall never be able to catch up, for years to come, that very serious lie, which has obtained so long a start.
– The whole thing was a political scandal-, and nobody should feel proud of it.
– It was a piece of bad administration, which was done for a purpose, and it is gratifying to know that at last the Government intend to take the course I suggested a long time ago. It will be remembered that when I was sitting in the place now occupied by the honorable member for Wide Bay, I was assured by the Prime Minister, then Attorney-General, that it was not intended to exclude men who were required here for general work, but practically to exclude men who might be brought Here for the purpose of dislocating trade conditions or interfering with a struggle in progress. I well remember saying, “ We are in a position to handle our own disputes without outside interference. We do not want men imported for the purpose of reducing, in a wholesale way, wages conditions.” I trust that, without delay, efforts will be made to remove this blot from our statute-book, as it is doing the Commonwealth incalculable harm in all parts of the world. It is comforting to know that the leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister, have agreed to unite in the drafting of a clause which, I trust, will be published throughout the world, and will indicate that we do desire people to come here under proper and legitimate conditions. We do not want hordes pf outcasts, but ‘,we ‘want people who will enable us to utilize the millions of acres of land which at the present time are not being made to produce as they ought to do.
– I am rather surprised at the honorable member for Koovong and the leader of the Opposition complaining that the Government have not paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company the money which is due to them. The last speaker supported the late Government, who met the House after a long recess, in which the agreement was made, without any provision in their programme for its consideration. On the contrary, they announced their intention, after passing one measure, to appeal to the electors. Apparently it was not their intention to make any provision for the payment of this money. So that it has come with ill grace from the right honorable gentleman and his supporters to complain of no provision having been made. Passing away from that question for the time, I wish to say that the Government ought to take vigorous action with regard to the site for the Federal Capital. I believe that some Ministers know the character of the statements which have been made in New South Wales - -un-truly - and which are being vigorously circulated by the daily press. They are well acquainted, too, with the attitude of the Premier of that State, who, so far as I can gather from the published correspondence, has been blocking the settlement of the point in dispute. My opinion is that he does not want it settled, but is hopeful that a change may take place whereby another site, more suitable to the -big city of Sydney, may be selected. I did not vote for the site which was selected, but the House approved of its selection, and the Government as the guardian of the rights and privileges of Parliament, should, as far as it can, see that the point in dispute is settled. Week by week, the newspapers which run the Government of New South Wales, which hate the Government of the Commonwealth nearly as much as they hate the Labour Party, and which consistently lie about everything that is done Here, have asserted distinctly that the Federal authorities are to blame. I should like the Government to note that the Government of New South Wales declare that they are still awaiting a reply from the Prime Minister. Statements of the kind to which I have referred should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. I contend that the Government of New South Wales are at fault, and that the blame for the delay should be placed on the right shoulders. The leader of the Opposition practically belongs to the political party of which the present Premier of New South Wales is a member, and consequently they ought to be on friendly terms. The fact remains, however, that although the right honorable gentleman, when, in office, enjoyed a recess of six months, he was unable to arrive at a satisfactory settlement with the Government of New South Wales. It is, therefore, somewhat amusing that he should now find fault with the -present Government for their action in this regard. As he met with difficulties during the negotiations with Mr. Carruthers, the present Government will probably encounter even greater obstacles in the woy of a satisfactory settlement of the question, but I feel that definite action ought to be taken with as little delay as possible. I wish now to refer to the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Barrier with respect to the mail contract with the Orient Shipping Company. I should not allude to the matter at this stage, but that I shall be unable to be present next week when the House is called upon to ratify the contract. It is evident to those who take any interest in shipping matters, that the Commonwealth is absolutely at the mercy of a great shipping ring.’ This ring is controlled bv a Shipping Conference, which meets in Great Britain, and which has abolished freedom of contract within its limits. The conference decides what loadings and sailings a ship shall have; it controls all the ships within the ring, and divides among them the work to be carried out. When negotiations were entered into for the new mail contract, the Orient Shipping Company indulged in. what appeared to be a game of bluff, designed to pave the way to the demand for a subsidy of £150,000 a year - a sum which honorable members on all ‘sides agreed would be absolutely too much to pay for the service. When the company declared that they did not want the contract, they were probably indulging in a good deal of bluff, for they knew that the existence of the ring practically shut out competition. From the first they gave no assistance to the Department,, and after endeavouring to make the Commonwealth Government feel that we were entirely at their mercy, so far as the carriage of our oversea mails was concerned, they resorted to a subterfuge that is always adopted by those who wish to obtain an advantage over others. They pulled the wires; articles were published in the press, and deputations waited on the Government, urging the Ministry to give way on the ground that the earlier delivery of mails that was promised was in itself sufficient to justify the .payment of the increased subsidy. Those who took up this attitude were simply looking after their own interests, and did not consider for a moment whether or not the subsidy demanded was too large. We know that if the proposed contract be entered into, a similar state of affairs will arise when the Commonwealth is called upon to enter into a fresh agreement. It, therefore, behoves us to seek an alternative, for it does not seem that the ring is likely to be broken up. I am sorry that the late Government did not take up a firmer stand in dealing with the Orient Shipping Company. I admit that they were in a position of difficulty, but they would have done better had they refused to pay the subsidy demanded. They might well have taken a leaf out of the book of the Orient Company, and have sought to ascertain how the game of bluff would pan out. It seems to me that if they had said4 “We will continue to avail ourselves of the poundage system,” other companies would probably have come forward and offered to carry our mails. I agree with the honorable member for Barrier that, in a contract for the carriage of mails, we should not make conditions as to the carriage of perishable products. Unreasonable complaints are being made at the present time as to the growth of Commonwealth expenditure, and yet the people on every Hand are asking for increased postal facilities. If the Postal Department is to be called upon to pay an increased mail subsidy, simply because the contract contains special conditions as to the carriage of perishable produce, it follows that the cost of the Department will be increased in respect of matters for which it should not be liable. Some separate system should be devised to secure proper provision for the conveyance of our perishable produce to the markets of the old world. I would point out that by insisting upon the conditions as to the cool storage space, and paying the increased subsidy of £[120,000 per annum, we shall reduce the chances of competition. The negotiations which took place did not go far enough. If the Government felt it incumbent upon them to impose conditions as to cool storage on mail steamers, they should also nave required that the rates to be charged should be specified in the contract. The Butter Commission has pointed out in its report that exporters of butter by the mail steamers are paying d. per lb., or Jd. per lb. more than is charged by other shipping companies offering better accommodation for the conveyance of our perishable produce. This difference of Jd. per lb. means £[47,000 a year to the butter producers of Victoria alone, and by paying a big subsidy to the Orient Shipping Company we enable them to cut into the trade and to make enormous profits. We have nothing to do with the question of whether or not a company is making profits. It is not proposed that the Commonwealth shall make cash advances to every man to assist him in making his business a paying one, and I am surprised that those who are opposed to anything in that direction should advocate the payment of the subsidy on the ground that the Orient Company’s service to Australia is not a paying one. The Butter Commission point out in their report that a saving of £100,000 a year in the cost of shipping butter to England might be effected, and mention that it ought to be possible to reduce the annual freightage by one-half. These are phases of the question thai: ought to be considered. The position might be different if we had in power a Government that was strong enough to adopt the action taken by the late Sir Charles Lilley, as Premier of Queensland, when the Australian United
Steam - ship Navigation Company refused to comply with the terms which his Government sought to impose in connexion with the carriage of mails along the coast. When Sir Charles Lilley gave an order for two vessels to be used for this purpose, he promptly brought the company to its bearings. It was not only prepared to accept the terms proposed by the Government, but to take over one of the vessels that had been ordered by the State Ministry, and to pay for work which had been done in connexion with the second. That was a case in: which the Government had the courage to stand up against a shipping ring. There is plenty of evidence to show that there is practically a combine which controls the whole of the shipping to and from Australia. Even if this contract with the Orient Company is ratified - and personally I shall vote against it - it will be requisite to make provision for dealing with the situation when the term expires. The Orient Company makes no secret of the fact that it will ask for more money ; and the company in what it asks for will be backed up bV .the shipping ring. It was the mail companies that practised the payment of the secret commissions that led up to the inquiry in Victoria, and that operated very unfairly towards our producers. Evidently the companies want a good deal of watching. We cannot expect any concession from them, and we shall have to protect the Commonwealth by taking up a firm stand in more than one direction. It seems to me that the -only way in which we can. protect ourselves is by establishing steamers of our own. Sir Robert Giffen has said that there is no solution of the difficulty except the State ownership of steam-ships. The question of Socialism has been referred to this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. We have heard nothing about it for some weeks past. I thought that we had determined in this Parliament to settle down to work, to pass the measures brought before us, and to establish a record for this session. Evidently, however, the right honorable gentleman wishes to revive that old issue. The best way of dealing with the socialistic question is for us to pass the measures in the Government programme and to get into recess. Then we can go on the platform and fight out the question. Some complaint has been made that the membersof the Labour Party have been too silent this session. The leader of the Opposition is apparently very anxious to know our views on a variety of questions ; but I thought. they were pretty well known. At any rate, honorable members opposite have had no hesitation in telling the public what they were. It appears, however, that they now doubt their own impressions as to our views. Before we go to the country again we shall take steps to proclaim our programme, so as to leave no kind of doubt as to our intentions and our relations to the Government. At present, however, the Labour Party and the Government can fix these matters up between themselves. The Opposition need not trouble about them. I wish to place on record my appreciation of the statement of the honorable member for Barrier, and my accord with him. I am totally opposed to the ratification of the agreement with the Orient Company, and strongly urge the Government to face the situation. Probably the Committee which has been appointed may be able to collect some evidence that will be a guide to the Ministry. But I do insist that this Parliament will sooner or later have to face the issue of the carriage of our mails and produce by our own vessels. It is quite within our power to do it, and, indeed, I do not see any way out of if. Either we shall have to subsidize a company liberally, guaranteeing freight to the extent of £300,000 a year, or we shall have to run our own steamers. At any rate, the Government must be prepared to deal with the situation when it arises, as it inevitably must, within a comparatively short time.
– What strikes me most in the speech of the honorable member for Darling is the facility with which, according to him, vast projects, such as the nationalization of mail steamers, may be accomplished. Yet, if my memory does not err, I can remember a time when the honorable member was confronted with the alternative between creating a central Government bureau to manage all industrial affairs of the Commonwealth, or allowing those affairs to be administered, as they are now, most skilfully, by trade union secretaries. The honorable member for Darling, who now tells us how easy it is to nationalize lines of mail steamers, on that occasion pointed out the impossibility of any Government Department managing a business involving such intricacies and ramifications as that conducted by trade union secretaries. And yet at the present time we find the honorable member regarding it as an easy matter to nationalize any thing or everything, provided it be not connected with the avocation which he so suitably represents and adorns. The honorable member is rather unfair to members of the Opposition. Sitting as he does, in the Opposition corner, which should not afford support to the Government, the honorable member stigmatizes proper parliamentary discussion on this side as almost “ stone-walling “ - tells us that it is ‘‘obstruction of business.” I can remember the time when the honorable member for Darling occupied four or five hours in speaking to sympathetic, if empty, benches, with considerable effect. .Nowadays, however, if an honorable member on this side speaks for five minutes on a question of such far-reaching importance as to threaten the whole trade of the country, the honorable member accuses him of obstruction. The honorable member has told us that we should proceed with all these non-contentious measures - that we should put the trade of the country in shackles quickly, and without considering what we are doing - and then go to the country and on the platform, discuss - what ? Socialism ! If my memory is not at fault, we have a Government in power which only recently, through the mouth of the Prime Minister, told the country that not one man in a hundred is a Socialist, or desires Socialism.
– What is the honorable member complaining of?
– I am complaining that the honorable member for Darling is anxious to rush through business of immense importance, in order to discuss something which the Prime Minister tells us is a matter of no concern to the country at large. Honorable members on this side of the House, however, recognise the dangers of Socialism.
– There is nothing about Socialism in the Bill.
– I think the honorable member for Wentworth is going outside the question.
– I honestly believe that I am, but I have been led to do so by the honorable member for Darling, who discussed the question of Socialism at considerable length. However, as a discussion of Socialism appears to embarrass the Treasurer, I shall not continue it. I should now like to refer to the Immigration Restriction Act. We have heard honorable members from every part of the House, for a short time past, telling us how anxious and eager they are for the immediate amendment of that measure. A fortnight ago, the adjournment of the House was moved on the question, and the Prime Minister then told us that he burned with disgust at the slanders which had been perpetrated against Australia on account of this measure, and that it was has ambition to amend it so that those slanders might cease. Then, the honorable member for Bland has told us that he is eager to see the measure amended.
– The honorable member for Bland is only one in the Labour Party.
– That is exactly the interjection I -wanted. The honorable member for Bland, on the public platform, before the adjournment of the House was moved, stated that he was anxious to see this section amended.
– The exact words of the honorable member for Bland ought to be quoted.
– I have had to deal with this question at a moment’s notice, and I do not carry around in my pocket quotations from the opinions of the honorable member for Bland. What I say is that that honorable member, in an interview, stated that he wished to see this clause amended.
– The honorable member has just said that the opinion was expressed KELa speech.
– A speech and an interview are much the same thing from the honorable member.
– The honorable member said that the honorable member for B landwas “anxious,” whereas now he says the honorable member expressed a “wish.”
– Surely an honorable member, who for such an interminable time addressed himself to this Committee this afternoon without misplacing a single word, might afford to be generous to a less gifted confrere! I shall now quote, not the honorable member for Bland, but his lieutenant, the honorable member for West Sydney, who said -
In some instances the Department had administered the Act foolishly, and against the intention of the framers of the measure.
The honorable member for West Sydney thus indicted the whole administration of the measure, “six potters” and all ; and he also is anxious to see it amended. But I am really rather doubtful as to the bona fides of those intentions. The honorable member for Capricornia has told us that the honorable member for Bland is the only” member of the Labour Party who is anxious for an amendment of the section.
– I did not say any such thing.
– I think that is what the honorable member said: but I do not care which position I take - whether all the party are in favour of an amendment, or only one is in favour of such a step. If the whole party is anxious for an amendment of the section, it has only to speak to. the Prime Minister, and he is bound to do its will ; and that is the course I would suggest to it. The country, however, will expect members of the Labour Party to prove the bona fides of their attitude.
– Let us get on with the business.
– I think that interjection comes with singularly bad grace from the honorable member for Bass, because those with whom he has associated, himself have lately been doing -most of the talking. In view of the urgency of the matter, I hope the Prime Minister will give us some indication that he really means to proceed at once with the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– First, I must do what honorable members in the corner say, and then what the honorable member says.
– I am asking what I believe the country demands, whereas the Prime Minister must do what the Corner demands. There is another point with which I wish to deal. The honorable member ‘ for Angas was speaking of the way in which the State of Western Australia has recently been infringing the provisions of the Constitution requiring absolute freedom of trade between the States.
– The honorable and learned member did not speak from his own knowledge, but from something he had heard.
– We have all heard it. The Treasurer contradicted the statement made, but the rumour referred to is in circulation throughout Australia at the present time. There is a feeling throughout Australia that the Commonwealth is now divided into two halves - the State of Western Australia and the other five States. Whilst the people of the other five States are trying to discover how much they can afford to give to keep the Federation going, the people of Western Australia are trying to get as much out of it as they can for themselves. The Treasurer will shortly be confronted in Cabinet with the settlement of a matter affecting the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. I refer to the proposed expenditure on the Fremantle fortifications. Judging by the answer given to a question in another place, it appears that the Government are re-considering the position as regards these fortifications, as laid down in the Works Estimates to which we have already agreed. We passed certain votes for the purpose of mounting two 7.5-inch and two 6-inch guns in the forts at Fremantle. A suggestion has now emanated from the Senate^ that the guns obtained should be 9. 2 -inch guns. Of course it will be admitted that a 9.2-inch gun is a better weapon than is a 7.5-inch gun to engage an armoured vessel.
– What class of 9. 2 inch gun; Mark X?
– I think it is. I refer, of course, to the latest type of 9.2-inch guns.
– The 9.2-inch guns we have in the Commonwealth are not better than the 7.5-inch guns suggested for Fremantle.
– The 7.5-inch guns which are now being put into the Fremantle fort are, without the slightest doubt, the best guns we now have > in Australia. An honorable senator has been pressing a certain matter on the Government, and has so far succeeded as to induce them to reconsider their proposals. There is not the slightest doubt that the newest type of 9.2-inch gun is a better gun than is the 7.5-inch gun. But we have to consider whether, in view of the circumstances peculiar to the port of Fremantle, the substitution of 9. 2 -inch guns for 7.5-inch guns at that place would be relatively so advantageous as to warrant the additional expenditure involved.
– Does the honorable member mean to suggest that the guns mounted at Fremantle forts would not require to carry so far?
– I shall show that that is so presently. In Australia, at the present time, all our defences are in a very serious state of unpreparedness, and require to be put in order. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has explained that, in addition to the unexpended balance of the amount asked for by Major-General Hutton - about £120,000 or £130,000 - £800,000 will be required to put our coastal defences in order, and to make our land forces mobile, and up to service requirements. That being the case, we are not in a position to squander money here, there, and everywhere. We should be especially circumspect when we are dealing with the expenditure proposed for fortifications in such positions as those at Fremantle. There is a large area of shoal water running in a northwesterlydirection from south of that port, and almost at right angles to the general direction of the port. Owing to that shoalwater, any ship anxious to shell shipping in Fremantle must approach within at least five miles of the position on which it is proposed to mount- the 7. 5 -inch guns.
– The 9.2-inch guns are much more expensive than the 7. 5 -inch guns.
– Yes, nearly twice as expensive, a 7.5-inch gun costing about £12,000, and a 9.2-inch gun costing between £20,000 and £24,000. If those on board a vessel attacking Fremantle wished to see what they were firing at, which is the only way in which accurate practice can be made, they would have to bring her within five miles of the position in which it is proposed to place 7.5-inch guns. I understand that the Treasurer holds that a warship could stand off at a considerable distance and fire over the intervening obstacles into the port. But if she did that, her gunners would have no means of knowing where her shells were falling, and, consequently, could get no check upon their practice. Assuming - as we have every right to assume - that vessels would have to come within five miles of the- North Fremantle fort to do the shipping in Fremantle any harm, let us compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of the 7.5- inch and the 9. 2 -inch guns over that range. In the first place, to enumerate the advantages of the former, a 7.5-inch gun costs only half of what a 9.2-inch gun costs. Secondly, it is of infinitely simpler mechanism, the ammunition of a 9.2-inch gun being so heavy that it must be lifted by hydraulic hoists - and simplicity of mechanism is a very serious consideration when militia forces are concerned. The simpler the mechanism and the working of the gun the greater the efficiency of a militia gun’s crew. Then, again, the 7.5-inch gun has a longer life than has a
It is a consolation to find that battleships and first-class cruisers of other nations are carefully ticked off at the British Admiralty, their whereabouts carefully watched, and in time of war British ships of equal or greater strength would attend their movements.
And in discussing the kind of enemy’s ves-1 sei most likely to visit the coast of Australia, he went on to say that the ships we have most to fear are armed and converted cruisers ; and Senator Matheson must know that no such vessel would dare to come within the range of a 7. 5 -inch gun, because such a gun could crumple it up quite as easily as could a 9.2-inch gun. With regard to penetration, the tests are only relative, and not altogether satisfactory. For instance, quite recently tests were made in a foreign country with an English 9.2-inch gun of the latest mark, and a Vickers’ steel plate, and the first projectile fired did not get through the plate. When the same gun was loaded with a new Vickers’ projectile, however, it cut through the plate as if it were butter. It will, therefore, appear that over a range of five miles, and for the uses to which the North Fremantle guns are likely to be Put. 7.5-inch guns are handier and better than. 9.2-inch guns, and are quite as efficient as will be needed to face the kind of vessels which may be expected to visit Australia in time of war. The argument that 9! 2-inch guns should be substituted for 7.5-inch guns, because they are better, could logically be extended to support the substitution of 12-inch for 9.2-inch guns, on the ground that the most powerful gun .procurable should be obtained. The Endicott Board, appointed in the United States of America to consider the whole question of coastal defence, laid it down that first-class fortresses should be armed for their heaviest ordnance with not less than 12-inch guns, and there are at present no fewer than 100 such guns in the forts of that country. But to me,, it appears that it would be ridiculous to arm some of our forts with these heavy guns before bringing our whole defence system to a reasonable general level of efficiency, and it behoves us to be very circumspect in the choice of armaments for our coastal defences, in view of the immense outlay necessary to put the general defence of Australia on a proper footing. The 9. 2 -inch guns of the old mark now in Sydney are not to be compared with the 7.5-inch guns of the latest mark, which it is now proposed to mount at Fremantle. And yet I have explained that I do not wish to see any more powerful guns mounted at Sydney until a general scheme of defence for that port hasbeen properly arranged. It is certainly ridiculous that the Government should be asked to turn Fremantle into a sort of Gibraltar when other more vital parts of Australia are open to attack of a much simpler kind than that anticipated by Senator Matheson for Western Australia.
– The honorablemember must not refer to speeches delivered in another place.
– I submit that it is a question of policy I am referring to. The whole of our defence system is based on the supposition that England will be able to maintain command of the seas; and noheavier ship than it is possible to deal with by means of 7.5 guns could possibly appear off the coast of Australia until such time as England has lost that command. If England does lose command of “the sea, of what use are our fixed defences? So far as fixed defences are concerned, it does: not matter how powerful they may be made, an enemy, who intended to invade the country, could do so out of the reach of their guns.
– Does the honorable member contend that because one country is defeated, all other countries will be attacked?
– I do not quite see the relevancy of the interjection. Does the honorable member ask whether, if England be defeated, therefore Australia will be attacked ?
– I think it very probable that a country which defeated England would afterwards have enough to do to mind its own business.
– It is clear that if England lost command of the seas, an enemy would find it much easier to transport material and men to any portion of the coast-line of Australia that is far distant from our centres of population than it would be for us to transport material and men to the same point. In the case of Western Australia, for instance, even if there were a transcontinental railway, the overland freights would probably amount to £20 per ton, while the freight from Western Australia to the country attacking us would be probably about 15s. per ton. That only shows the relative difficulty of maintaining defensive operations at the ends of such lines of communication. In a military sense, ‘Western Australia is nearer to Europe than it is to the Eastern coast of Australia, once command of the seas has been lost; and that is all I referred to when I said that an enemy, once the command of the seas had been wrested from England, would be able at any time, and with however small a force, to land at any part of our unoccupied coast-line.
– What is the use of crying out about our inability to defend ourselves ?
– I have no wish to cry out about our inability to defend ourselves, but merely to point out what we have to apprehend, and how, in consequence, we should direct our efforts. If we do not consider beforehand how best to direct our efforts, it is not likely that we shall arrive at the most satisfactory result. I am no alarmist, and I am merely pointing out self-evident facts. I am denouncing the suggestion to further burden the taxpayers of the country by over-defending - and not wisely so, either - one of the ports of the Commonwealth. We must look at these matters in a Federal spirit. We should not think of what this or that State requires, but what Australia as a whole is most in need of, and set ourselves to supply our requirements in the order of their urgency.
– Population is what Australia wants.
– And that is what the honorable member, and those associated with him, are trying by means of the Immigration Restriction Act to prevent Australia getting. What Australia requires most at the present time for the purposes of defence are secure bases from which the Naval Forces may operate; and I do not think for one moment that Fremantle has ever been claimed to be a naval base in the same sense as Sydney. Next, Australia requires harbors of refuge for shipping, and a certain amount of protection for strategical centres. If the news we hear this morning about Singapore be correct, Fremantle will probably become more important than it otherwise would be, but it cannot claim to be one of our most important ports from the point of view just indicated. I am not in any way taking exception to the expenditure proposed in the Estimates on the defences of Fremantle; but, as showing, that any further expenditure on that port ‘is inadvisable at present, I would point to the almost defenceless position of Newcastle, in New South Wales, which is not only one of the most vulnerable, but one of the most likely places for attack.both because of its coal and of its juxtaposition to the sea. The only protection that Newcastle has is the comparative shallowness of its approaches. The guns there are almost the worst of any in Australia, and most urgently need renewing. I hope that before the Government considers the question of over-fortifying any port, they will have regard to Newcastle and Sydney in the directions I have indicated. There is one curious point about the whole business which makes me rather regret the absence from the Chamber of the Treasurer. I now refer to the absolutely defenceless condition of Western Australia when the Defence Department was transferred to the Commonwealth. It is most singular that the Treasurer, who, for I do not know how many years, presided over the destinies of that State, should now invite the Commonwealth Parliament to undertake this expenditure without offering any explanation why he did not then remedy its lack of preparedness. The right honorable gentleman was Premier of Western Australia for years, and yet he left the State absolutely defenceless.
– He had to make F remantle first.
– But in Western Australia everything is topsy-turvy, if we are to believe the Estimates. For instance, it is proposed to expend £20,000 upon a new post-office at Fremantle, although there is a post-office within half-a-mile of it. These are matters which require explanation at the hands of the Treasurer. We all know that his ambitions are centred in Western Australia. Indeed, at one recent period of his existence he was cogitating a return to the brilliancy of political life there, and it was only the urgent solicitations of the Prime Minister that prevented him from giving effect to his idea. I hope that the Government will not accede to his wishes - if they are his wishes also - in regard to the Fremantle forts. If any further advice upon the question is necessary, it is certainly not in regard to the respective effectiveness of various guns, since the 7.5- inch gun is as good as the 9.2 for the work required. It is simply a matter of how far the finances of the Commonwealth will permit us to go. We have to find a lot of money to put our defences in decent order, and, so far as Fremantle is concerned, it is not a question of what we can get so much as of what we can afford.
– One question to which frequent reference has been made this afternoon is that of the existing mail contract. I take this opportunity of calling the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that last week, after reading certain remarks which were reported to have been made by the Governor of South Australia, Sir George Le Hunte, in which he stated that no public representations had been made as to the mail steamers ceasing to call at Adelaide, I asked a question.
-i have obtained the report, which I should have handed to the honorable member. The facts are that public representations were made before the period referred to, but from the date on which the steamers actually stopped calling there no representations were made.
– When a gentleman filling; the exalted office of Governor of South Australia is found continually in-, terfering in matters of policy concerning not only the State over which he has Executive control, but the Commonwealth, it is time that the Prime Minister publicly deprecated his utterances. Since I last spoke upon this question I have taken the trouble to ascertain, on the very best authority, that His Excellency’s utterances, as reported, were absolutely correct in every particular. That being so, it is high time he was informed that he should not interfere in matters of Commonwealth policy. A few days ago the Prime Minister laid upon the table of the House a copy of His Excellency’s report upon the Northern Territory. In that report His Excellency states -
Coloured imported labour is a necessity in the Territory, and if the system of employment of coloured labour has been abused, the fault has lain at the doors of the Administration in the place where it has occurred. With proper provisions and a pure and strong executive administration of the Labour Acts, there would not be the slightest fear.
These are very strong statements to come from the Governor of a State, and I take this opportunity of deprecating them. We know what has been the experience of South Africa in regard to the introduction of coloured aliens. There, those who were responsible for their introduction would, to-day, be very glad to get rid of them.. But Sir George Le Hunte goes very much further, and actually tells us that-
Bonuses to industries are indefensible on economic principles.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that His. Excellency’s report was laid upon the table of this House?
– Yes. That is what surprised me, seeing that it was prepared’ at the instance of the late Government of South Australia. I do not think that it is for the Governor of that State to say whether bonuses are indefensible on economic principles, especially at a time when this. Parliament is considering that very question. If His Excellency continues to be so indiscreet, I hopethat the Prime Minister will do - a’s the Premier of South Australia has doubtless done - tell him to confine himself to his duties.
– The Prime Minister cannot do that.
– The Prime Minister can send a communication to the Home authorities, pointing out that the representative of the old country in South Australia is exceeding his functions. I am sorry that His Excellency has been so indiscreet.He has been accustomed to- governing a coloured labour Crown Colony, where he was vested with full administrative power, and that fact I suppose constitutes some slight excuse for his having developed a habit that he finds it difficult to relinquish in a self-governing State. The leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Kooyong have referred to the necessity for amending the Immigration Restriction Act at an early date. I wish to impress upon the Government that I have not much sympathy with any proposal to amend that Statute on the lines that have been suggested. I want to be assured that a single desirable ‘immigrant has been excluded from Australia by the operation of that Act.
– The law excludes them.
– The law does not exclude a single desirable immigrant, if he comes here as a free man. I have not heard of any attempt being made to repeal a much more drastic provision which is to be found in the legislation of the United States. As honorable members are aware, there is no Labour Party to please in the Congress.
– Does that legislation shut out citizens of the United States?
– There are some of our own people whom it would be a good thing for the community to shut out. The present law, however, does not exclude any desirable person. It has been stated over and over again by the leader of the Opposition and others that when the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the House it was never intended that it should go further in the direction of shutting out contract labour than to prevent employers importing workers under contract to engage in an industry in connexion with which a strike was in progress.
– Or under deceptive contracts*
– Quite so. I would point out, however, that years before the inauguration of the Commonwealth the people of South Australia were advocating a measure on the lines that we carried. This agitation was based upon the experience of that State. Men who came out under contract were deceived as to the conditions of labour there. The result was that they broke their contracts, went to Court, and were very properly told that they would have to carry out their agreements. At the same time, however, their wives and families were suffering. I wish to point out the great danger of. altering the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– The honorable member must not debate the Act in detail.
– I simply propose to point out what might be done in administering the Act. I do not agree with every detail of the administration of the Act up to the present time, nor do I think any one does ; but to my mind subordinate officers have been more to blame than have Ministers for the difficulties that have arisen.
– The honorable member does not believe in excluding blind tourists ?
-That goes without saying; but the statement that the blind tourist was excluded is just as incorrect as is the statement that the six hatters were shut out.
– They were delayed for days.
– And very properly so, if they did not comply with the law. The leader of the Opposition would, have been able to bring those six hatters to Australia without the slightest difficulty, because he would have gone the right way about it. We shall have to be very careful in amending the Act if we do not wish to leave too much to .administration. If we decide to allow men to come here under contract what will it mean ? The Minister administering the Act will have first of all to ascertain whether any men landing in Australia are under contract, and will be vested with tremendous powers. If. he is not a Minister of the class mentioned the other day by the Governor of South Australia, or one of the character that Cannot be found in the Transvaal - because the Chinese, in spite of the administration, are practically doing what they like there - he will find the administration of the Act a most difficult task. When we know that no one may come in under contract, we can very carefully watch the administration of the Act, and as soon as we find that a Ministry allows persons to be imported under contract to do manual labour without taking’ action, the House will deal with that Ministry. If employers are allowed to bring in labourers or skilled artisans, leaving the Commonwealth authorities to ascertain whether those men come here under contract, a dangerous power will be left to those intrusted with the administration of the Act. Employers will not require to wait until a strike has occurred, in order to bring men out under contract to work at low; rates of wages. There was no strike in progress when certain labourers were imported under contract to work at less than a fair rate. The employers asserted that the rate was a fair one, but the workers said that they could not live under it. What is a fair rate for a labourer in Australia to-day? Honorable members will find that the rate varies in different parts of the Commonwealth. It is by no means uncommon to find men working for 4s. and 5 s. a day.
– And finding themselves?
– Yes; I believe there are thousands of men so employed, and I certainly should not like to see others imported to work at the same rates.
– Where are such wages being paid ?
– I am sorry to say that in South Australia hundreds of men are employed in driving carts, and in doing other work for 4s. and 5s. a clay.
– In the absence of legislation dealing with the question.
– Exactly. It is because we have no legislation to assist them to secure fair wages. The Prime Minister has paid great deference to the labour legislation we have passed.
– Men are working for 6d. per hour in the sugar-mills of Queensland.
– That is so. As there is no fixed rate for the payment of labourers in. South Australia, it will be open to employers to flood the country with unskilled labour at a wage which will result in pauperizing the men. I know! scores of men who are not above the poverty-line, and there are hundreds and thousands, whom I do not know, in the same position. Who has asked that the law should be amended?
– The honorable member must not discuss the proposed amendment of that law.
– I am going to show how much is to be left to administration. The Minister will be called upon to say what is a fair wage, except in respect of trades to which decisions of Wages Boards or Arbitration Court apply. I do not wish to trespass beyond the limits of debate.
– The honorable member is now discussing a proposed amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act.
I take it that that amendment cannot be made by the Bill now before us, and therefore if I allowed him to deal with it, I should have to allow* other honorable members to discuss the amendment of any Act on the ground that they were really dealing with it from an administrative standpoint.
– I am giving reasons why I regret that the. Government propose to amend what I think is a splendid piece of legislation. I wish the Ministry to know that I shall be opposed to anything of the kind. The leader of the Opposition was’ allowed this afternoon to discuss the objective of the Labour Party. What had that to do with the Bill now before us? I am sorry that the objective of the party is troubling the right honorable member. It is certainly not troubling the bulk of the people of Australia.
– Not at all.
– Surely the right honorable member will recognise that the Labour Party is not as hide-bound as he would have the people believe. We freely admit that it is a socialistic party, but the extent to which any member of the party is .prepared to go in that direction is entirely a matter for himself to decide.
– How far is the honorable member prepared to go?
– As far as the people will allow me, and no further. If the people said. “ We want the whole of the industries of Australia nationalized,” I should make one to give effect to that demand; but i’f they did not wish that to be done, I should not be able to do it. Every member of the Labour Party is free to act according to the dictates of his own conscience. In South Australia, as in the other States. the Labour Party drafted a platform for the Parliament, and stood by it. It is because we never swerve from our platform! that our numbers are increasing. We say, “ This is our objective for the three years of the Parliament, andi we shall not alter it without consulting the people.”
– The Labour Party adapt their programme to circumstances.
– I think that our honorable friends on the Opposition side have shown great wisdom in dropping the bogev of Socialism, because they are beginning to see every day that the people are less and less frightened of it.
– The Labour Party are dropping it as hard as they can.
– I think it will be found that all the prominent members of the Labour Party will be quite willing to stand on any platform in any constituency and say exactly what I have said here. I am sorry to say, however, that a good many members of the Labour Party do not understand what Socialism is. Their minds have been so confused by the rubbish which is daily printed in the press of Australia, and daily uttered by members of the Opposition, that they cannot tell where they are. But they all know that Socialism is not what is usually laid down by honorable members on the Opposition benches. I saw a comparative stranger in the Chamber to-day, and I am sorry that the honorable and learned member for Parkes is not present at this moment, ‘because last session he made what to me appeared to be a very valuable suggestion in regard to the transferred properties. I regret that we have not heard a great deal more about it since that time. I deplore the way in which the members of the States Governments adversely criticise the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. We are always hearing about the extravagance of the Commonwealth Parliament, but I think we cannot repeat too often that, while it has not borrowed a single sixpence for the carrying out of public works since it was instituted, the States Parliaments have borrowed no less than £31,000,000, and also that millions of pounds have been returned to the States which could have been spent by our authority, and which I regret were not dealt with in another manner. It is not often that I agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, but I cer.tainly think that the suggestion he made last session is worthy of more consideration than it has had, and that is that the Commonwealth Government ought to have employed the surplus in paying the States Treasurers for the transferred properties. It seems to me absurd that we should raise a loan to pay for our own properties, and thus Burden the people with interest. The honorable and learned member made, to my mind, a further excellent suggestion, and that is that, ff any State were in greater need than another in any year, it should get a far larger share of the surplus for that year. That raises, however, the question whether such a course would be constitutional or not. At any rate, I think that the idea is a good one. The Commonwealth’ Government would have ‘ received as much credit, and saved a great deal of trouble” iri the “future, if it had employed the surplus in paying for the transferred properties. I have said all I wish to say, because I am more anxious to get on with business than to criticise the Government or the Opposition. I certainly do not desire to offer any obstruction, and for that reason I trust that the debate^ on this Supply Bill will be ended at an early hour, so that we may proceed with useful legislation.
– I listened with some degree of interest to the speech of the honorable member for Hind” marsh. I do not mean to say very much about his ideas on Socialism, because the Labour Party are constantly changing their attitude on that subject. As they feel the. pulse of the people outside, and realize what is thought of the doctrine, so they change from one side to the other, as the wind blows, just like a weathercock. Thev really do not understand what their proposals mean. I do not know that I need trouble the Committee with many remarks as to their absolute changeableness in regard to this doctrine, which they tell us is going to rescue the people from the poverty into which they have sunk. If it is such a noble doctrine as they describe, surely they should try at once to put it into force ! If the people are being depressed into a state of deepest poverty, then they should force the Ministry to take some step. They have far greater power than they would have if in office ; therefore, they should compel the Ministry to put into force every proposal of a socialistic character. We have the leader of the Labour Party telling us here that Socialism is not likely ito come in his time; in other words, that the people may starve to death before their members will attempt to put into force the very doctrine which they think would mean their salvation. What can we think of the members of the Labour Party who take up that attitude? If Socialism is going to help the people, then all honour to them - though I cannot agree with them - for trying on every occasion and in every direction to put it into force. They should use all their strength to that end. But if they believe in the doctrine, and will not try to put it into force, what must we think of them?
– The honorable member would not put anything into force if he had his way.
– I am prepared to put anything into force that will assist the people, when I have the power. Let me lead a party like the party behind this Ministry, and I promise that they would do something in that direction. The difference between us is that, whereas the Labour Party have power, I have not. I wish to refer now to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act. I am against the introduction of a large number of men, under any form of contract, to compete with men who are in work, or to take the place of men who are on strike. But if men can be brought here under contract to develop new industries, and to increase the productions of the States, no obstacles of any kind should be placed in the way of their introduction.
– The honorable member has changed his opinion on the matter.
– No. My opinions do not change like those of the honorable member. I object to the introduction of any men under contract to take the place of men on strike, or to compete with men who are in work here, to lower the rate of wages, or to do anything of that kind. But if any men can be brought here, under contract or in any other way, ait a proper wage, for the purpose of opening up new industries, and developing the productions of these States, they ought to be allowed to land, without any” obstacles being placed in ‘their way.
– What does the honorable member consider a proper wage?
– The highest wage that a man can get. I am prepared ito give the highest wage. I do not consider that 4s. a day is a proper wage.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that question.
– I suppose, sir, that on this motion for granting supply, we can discuss the effect of the operation of the Immigration Restriction Act. I could quickly bring my remarks in order, by mentioning a case which has arisen under the administration of the Act, and which raises the question of wages, but I do not wish to deal with it until larter on. If General Booth is to bring 5.000 families here - and, I presume, sir, that it is quite in order for me to discuss that project on this motion - then we should see that they come under such conditions that their introduction will not be injurious to the men who are here to-day.
– How is the honorable member going to arrange that?
– The honorable member for New England will not be in order in discussing an Act of Parliament unless he is prepared to move a motion with regard to its repeal. That is specially provided for in the Standing Orders. In Committee of Supply an honorable member is entitled to discuss the administration of any Department which is covered by the Supply Bill.
– I take it that anything in connexion with immigration, and which has to do with the Department of External Affairs, is covered by this Bill.
– I have not said anything about that. What I have said is that the honorable member is not in order in discussing the rates of wages paid to certain men, because there is nothing in the Bill providing for those matters.
– May I suggest for your consideration the question whether the state of the country is not a permissible subject for discussion on this Supply Bill. My experience teaches me that upon the question of granting Supply to the Ministry, the general condition of the country is quite open for the consideration of honorable members.
– I allowed a good deal of latitude this afternoon to the right honorable member because of his official position ; but I would remind him that there is another and more fitting time for the discussion of such matters as he has mentioned, namely, grievance day, which occurs every third Thursday in the month.
– When will that be?
– Next Thursday.
– I may not be here then.
– I think I am quite justified in referring; to the statements made a little while ago by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to the state of the country.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh made that statement in answer to an interjection ; but both the interjection and the statement were out of order.
– I suppose I shall have to bow to the Chairman’s ruling, but nevertheless I think that I am within my right in alluding to the state of the country ; and the state of the country can only be dealt with by mentioning the state of the people in it.
– I should be very loath indeed to prevent the honorable member from making any statements that he desires to make. If he can indicate a vote concerning which he desires to speak, I shall be very glad to hear him, and he may be allowed to proceed.
– I do not know that there is any particular vote, but there are many references in the Bill to payments and contingencies in connexion with various officers and Departments ; and surely I may be allowed to show that the salaries paid by the Commonwealth are higher or lower than are paid outside, and that as a consequence the people outside are not receiving the emoluments that they ought to receive.
– I did not understand that the honorable member was pursuing that line of argument.
– I was referring to the Immigration Restriction Act. Statements have been made by honorable members opposite about persons who have traduced and slandered the Commonwealth. I have heard no slandering, of the Commonwealth. I have heard statements of what is true, and if the truth slanders the Commonwealth we should alter the law that allows that to be done. It has been, for instance, stated that there was some trouble about six hatters. Was there any trouble, or was there not? If there was no trouble about their landing in Australia, if they were not kept off our shores for a few days, the statement that they were kept off is a lie and a slander and traduces the Commonwealth. But if they were kept from landing for some days by reason of an Act of Parliament, the statement is true, and cannot be a slander.
– The Act has nothing to do with this Government.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh and other members of the Labour Party have dealt with the question in this way.
– But he dealt with it intelligently.
– That is more than the honorable member could have done, at any rate. Whilst I maybe supposed to be endeavouring to give information to the honorable member for Gwydir and other honorable members opposite, I cannot be supposed to give them intelligence to understand it. I say again, that if the six hatters were kept out of Australia for some days, as has been stated publicly here and in England, the statements to that effect are true; if ‘they were not kept out the statements are slanders. But, as a matter of fact, no one can say that they were not kept on the ship for a week or so. Another case is that of a man who h”ad to get a permit to come here with horses. The Prime Minister has said that there was no need for the permit, but the need arose in this way : Ship-owners will not bring such persons without a permit. If they bring out a man who is under contract they are responsible for taking him away again. They are not foolish enough .to incur that responsibility. The Prime Minister’s statement, that there is no need for permits, does not alter the law, and the ship-owners are advised by legal men that permits must be obtained. I have another case in my mind at the present moment. I do not wish to relate the circumstances, because they are not quite settled. The case has, however, occurred since the Prime Minister stated that it was not necessary for such people to get permits.
– What case is that?
– The honorable member has not heard of it, and I am not going to say any more about it until it is settled.
– The honorable member cannot prove his statement.
– Yes, I can. I have seen the man and spoken to him, and know all about the contract under which he came out here.
– The authorities could not have properly administered the Act, or the man would not have been permitted to land.
– He had a permit. Honorable members will probably remember the case of the six potters, in connexion with which members of the Labour Party charged the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney with having given instructions that the persons concerned should be prosecuted. Who slandered the country on that occasion ? Was it not the members of the Labour Party? They accused the honorable member for East Sydney of having commenced proceedings against the six potters, or those who were responsible for their introduction here; but it transpired that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney initiated the prosecution. Those honorable members who have been complaining most loudly and most frequently of slanders have been the most guilty in that respect. The Immigration Restriction Act itself is a slander upon the country, and the sooner it is amended the better. The six potters were introduced here in order that a new industry might be established. The manager of a certain pottery works who had been brought out from England reported to his employer that he could not succeed in carrying out the work he was engaged to perform with the skilled assistance obtainable here, and upon his representations six men were brought out to establish a new industry, which, if properly developed, would afford employment for hundreds of other men. Yet ‘it was proposed to punish the employer, and to send the men back to England. It happened, however, that no contracts had been signed prior to the arrival of the men in Australia. Verbal agreements only had been entered into, and proceedings could not be taken with any prospect of success.
– There is nothing in the Act with regard to written contracts.
– At any rate the prosecution fell through, but not owing to any fault of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.
– According to the honorable member’s statement the parties should have been prosecuted.
– Those who have complained most loudly with regard to the slanders upon Australia are themselves trailing the name of the Commonwealth in the dirt. Every one now seems to desire that the Act should1 be amended, and I hope that prompt measures will be taken in that direction. I understand that it is intended to substitute 9. 2 -inch for 7.5-inch guns in the forts at Fremantle. From what I have heard regarding these forts and their situation, it would be best to arm them with pop-guns. I am informed that if the smallest guns were mounted in the forts the shock of their discharge would probably smash the windows of all the buildings in Fremantle. If 9.2-inch guns were mounted there they would do more damage than any hostile squadron that might attack the port. The forts are situated in the midst of the population, and it seems absurd to mount heavy guns in such a situation. If money is to be spent in the purchase of 9. 2 -inch) guns, the weapons should be utilized? for the defence of some of our principal ports, such as Sydney, Melbourne, or Newcastle, where the greatest danger is to be apprehended, and the greatest injury would be inflicted upon us by an attacking force. The right honorable member for Swan, although, he had control of Western Australia and its finances for many years, left that State absolutely undefended, and he now comes to the Commonwealth Parliament, and desires to get all the money he can out of the pockets of the people of the other States for its defence. I do not think that is fair. If we are to spend this money, it should be at some more important place.
– Where would the honorable member spend it?
– I should leave that to those who possess the best knowledge of these matters, but I believe that the proper defence of Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, and such places should receive first attention. I hope that the Government will do something to bring about an amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act. In the case to which I have referred, a man who came here to establish in Melbourne a new industry, of which no one else in Australia has any knowledge, has been obliged to obtain a permit, which requires that he shall go back in six months’ time. The Prime Minister must see that an exemption in this case should be allowed under the provision exempting persons possessing special skill. As I quite believe that the honorable and learned gentleman will do what I suggest, I shall not’ dwell upon the matter. It has not got abroad so far, and I have no desire to assist’ its publication?
– I do hope that the Government will have the pluck to do aw!ay with all this military nonsense. Only in to-day’s newspapers we read that the British Government is already preparing to defend this country by the establishment of a naval base at Singapore. We know that Japan, the country which every one appears to be frightened of, is England’s ‘friend. Both France and England withdrew their China fleets the moment Japan said, “ We will look after this country.” From American papers received to-day, I find: that the United States Government have such absolute confidence in Japan, that they are considering the wisdom of withdrawing their fleet from Manilla, although the Philippine Islands are practically within a day’s sail of Japan. Here, in Australia, with 4,000,000 of people, a really good-sized woman’s skirt full of people, ail the talk is of Avar, war, war.
– It is a new craze.
– It is a form of lunacy. I am in favour of the appointment of a medical board for the examination of these people.
– Does the honorable member refer to the present Ministry?
– I refer to every one who is talking about building forts and shooting. This is a nation of peace, commerce, trade, and hope in a prosperous future. This nation is an integral portion of the great British Empire, and I would a hundred times prefer to shut up all our forts and military business, and give England £500,000 a year towards the upkeep of her Navy, if that were shown to be necessary. Let us not invite the nations of the world to come here. Let us not be continually holding out the red flag to them, and asking them to fight. The Argentine Republic, Costa Rica, and Mosquito Kingdom have all protected themselves for years, and no nation has invaded them. No nation can invade Australia without attacking the whole British Empire. Canada has a common border line with the United States for 3,500 miles. She has a population of a little over 5,000,000, and there is a population of 80,000,000 to the south in the United States, yet there is no talk of conquering Canada.
– What has this to do with the Supply Bill?
– It has to do with the talk we have heard here. In discussing these matters, it is essential to reply to these people who have gone mad on the military business.
– Order ! The honorable member must not speak of honorable members as these people.”
– I am not referring to members of this House, but to the plumed roosters outside. I have done with the military business, and I hope this House will soon have done with it also. I earnestly hope that half the money that it is proposed to spend on the military business will be put into immigration and irrigation. I have heard the honorable member for New England discussing the Immi gration Restriction Act, and while I agree with much that he said, I can tell honorable members that the Canadian Act is infinitely more stringent than ours, and the United States Act is a thousand times more stringent than ours. The United States received more immigrants last year than in any other year in her history. One million and fifty thousand persons entered the United States last year, and the Government of the country are endeavouring to keep people out. This great country in the Southern Hemisphere was laid out by the Creator for the surplus British population when all other countries would be filled; He preserved it, and walled it up by the eternal seas for this purpose. Yet we have the intellectual pop-guns of the twentieth century telling us that we should let the people of the earth flock here, no matter where they come from. When I wish to mix with alien races, I will go to their country ; but I want to pick the people who are to come’” here. I was picked to come here. At the proper time I shall oppose any amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act. My chief can declare what he likes on the subject. We are all one in the caucus; we are all equal there. When our chief makes a declaration on his own account on a subject which has not been discussed by the caucus, his declaration binds only himself, just as my speeches here bind only me.
– This is Jesuitical.
– Then I do not know what the right honorable member’s speeches are. A welcoming hand will be held out to every Britisher when the lands of Australia are thrown open to the people, so that they can get something to do here, and will not be landing at a time when there are twenty, thirty, or forty applicants for the one job. I know what poverty is, and I have seen it in this country. The heartless and soulless man may see no poverty in Australia, but those who think there is none are wrong. Let us lift up our own unfortunates and give them a chance.
– I will vote for any proposal brought forward to that end. If the honorable member will propose his single tax I will vote for it, although I shall have to face the music on the north-west coast of Tasmania if I do. I. will vote for anything that will help the suffering thousands. This country is full of poverty. Every country is. One of the things to be tackled is the interest difficulty. Interest is the curse of this country. Every ten years every bit of property in the world gets into the hands of the capitalists.
– I do not think that the honorable member’s remarks are in order.
– I quite agree with you, Mr. Chairman. The trouble is that nearly everything we say here has nothing to do with the subject under discussion. I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Barrier on his splendid presentation of the people’s rights this afternoon, in advocating the establishment of a Commonwealth steam-ship line. I listened to his words like a child listening to its mother, and was filled with joy. Amongst our friends opposite are some of the keenest and ablest intellects in the country. I suppose that the most towering intellect in the southern hemisphere sits on that side of the Chamber. If they were dealing with any commercial proposition on their own account, they would be studying very closely the possibilities of gain - because most of them are Scotch, or largely of Scotch extraction. But are they, or are we, showing any commercial ability or genius in our present mode of carrying on the business of the country? I do not blame any section in particular, because even if the Watson Administration had remained in power, the state of affairs to which I am about to allude would still have existed. We are throwing into the sea every year no less a sum than £120,000 in the subsidy which we pay for the conveyance of foreign mails. I propose to look at this question from a Yankee stand-point. The other day, the United States wanted a few pounds, and they got the money for about 1. 16 per cent. This Commonwealth is rich enough and powerful enough, and has sufficient assets to be able to borrow money in New York for 3 per cent. There may be a combination against us in London, but we could borrow on the New York market for 3 perl cent. The honorable member for Barrier has told us that the eight vessels which would be required to run a fortnightly mail service between Australia and England could be built for £1,500,000. To be on the safe side, I will increase the estimate to £2,000,000. That sum could be borrowed in New York at 3 per cent., a year. A sinking fund . of 1 per cent, would redeem the loan in sixty-nine years, while a sinking fund of 2 per cent. - or £40,000 a year - would redeem it in thirtyfour years. Therefore, with an annual, outlay of £[100,000 we could meet all interest charges and pay for our vessels in thirty-four years, and would have a surplus of £[20,000, which would enable us to borrow nearly £750,000 more if we required, the money.
– The honorable membermakes no provision for unprofitable journeys.
– How much would the ships be worth at the end of thirty-four years ?
– Even if they were not then worth a penny they would have been paid for, and we should have had the use of them. How much will our houses and farms be worth in thirty-four years? How much will we ourselves be worth at the end of that time? There never was a country which had greateropportunities than we have, notwithstanding the commercial combinations and rings in London against our produce. We are able to send fruit there when California and other places have none to supply. If the rates of interest were low enough, and freights were cheap, produce could be placed on the markets in London, Sap Francisco, and New York, when not a bit of local fruit was to be had at any of those centres. I hope that the Government will have pluck enough to look intothis question. When I was discussing the Budget, I proposed that there should bea Commonwealth building in London, and people looked amazed, although Londonis the centre of the earth.
– I thought New York was the centre.
– There are more Americans in London than in New York, where most of the Americans are Irishmen and Germans. There are morereal Australians than in Melbourne and more Canadians than in Montreal. I saw to-day from the newspapers how Mr. Coghlan, the representative of New South Wales, hadscored with his Guildhall exhibition. Mr. Coghlan is a man of brains and genius, who has not gone to sleep. The mistake is for Australia to send representatives toLondon when they are tired, instead of sending men who are full of business and determination. The honorable member for
Barrier put the question of steamship communication in a new light to-day. The interest on £4,000,000 is £120,000 a year, and with a redemption fund at 3 per cent., the indebtedness could be paid off in twenty - four years, while at 4 per cent, it could be paid off in eighteen years. Yet the rate of interest in Australia is over 7 per cent.
– Monstrous !
– I agree with the honorable member; and this is a question we must look into, because money at 7 per cent, .doubles itself in ten years. We have now a chance to have steam-ships of our own. The late Mr. Robert Reid, who was one of the ablest business men Australia ever produced, and one of the finest gentlemen I ever had the honour to meet, declared in the Legislative Council of Victoria that if those combinations, rings, and steam-ship aggregations sought to shut the people of Australia out of the markets of the world by means of exorbitant freights, they would find that the Australian Governments would institute a line of steamers of their own. Mr. Robert Reid was not afraid to tackle this question in that way, and no one would claim him as a Socialist. We ought not to try to “ score “ off each other, but to unite with the object of advancing the interests of Australia. What do I care whether the Opposition, the Labour Party, or the present Government are in power? What I want to see is old Australia win. The people in America desire to see America win, and do not care who is at the head of affairs, so long as the country advances.
– The greatest “boodlers” of the world are in Amenca.
– I shall not deny that, but it is the economic conditions that produce “boodlers,” and my friends opposite would be “ boodlers “ in Australia if they could get “at it.” The honorable member for Barrier spoke about the mail steamers landing the mails at Adelaide, and I should like to know whether those companies are paid merely to do that, or whether they are paid to carry the mails right through to Sydney. Is the money we pay for the carriage of the mails on the railways an extra payment? Are we paying double in order to have the mails carried from Adelaide to Brisbane? If we are, and everybody is having a hand in the pockets of the people, I want Tasmania to have a share. I want the mails to be carried to Hobart, and to my own constituents at Burnie. On the grounds of economy I am opposed to this subsidy. We have no right, as the custodians of the moneys of the people, to pay a steam-ship company for carrying the mails from Adelaide to Sydney, and then to pay for the railway! carriage of the same mails. When I was in the United States fifteen or sixteen years ago, there was no idea of giving any contract to a special company to carry the mails to England, all being conveyed on the poundage system. This, I believe, gave an infinitely better service, because the mails could be sent on. by the vessel first leaving. The £80,000 extra a year givenas a mail subsidy, would provide another £200 a year each as payment for the. members of this Parliament, and leave a surplus of £60,000. Yet honorable mem bers pay this subsidy with all the joy. of a father providing for his first child. I shall oppose the proposal, to give this subsidy, and shall also oppose the payment of an iron bonus, though I shall ‘not discuss the latter question now. Then, I have to say, more in sorrow than in anger,, that there is not a worse telephone system on God’s green earth than that in Australia. I know no Other country which, would tolerate such a system. Why, we had a better system away in the Washington territory of Western America, seventeen or eighteen years ago.
– What was the systemthere ?
– The system was that when a subscriber rang the bell, he got an answer straight away. I verily believe: that the system now in vogue in Australia was that by which the warning was given that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed. In all seriousness, I ask the Postmaster-General to endeavour to improve the present arrangements. It is far better to run down the street and” deliver a message personally than to endeavour to get into communication with anyone by means of the telephone. Only a few days_ ago, we read of a man in the Western district of Victoria, who sent a telegram a distance of forty miles, and then, got into his motor car, and reached the place 1 an hour and a half before the message. I hope that the Attorney-General will call’ the attention of the Postmaster-General to this matter. I believe that the heads of the Department ought to be sent on a trip round the world. I think it was Goethe who said that the expressions which we become accustomed to end by ossifying our intelligence and making us believe that they are the truth. I believe that the heads of the Postal Department in this country are suffering either from softening of the brain or ossification of the heart, and I wish to send them away to be treated by doctors in other parts of the world. What is the position to-day ? Every facility that I desire to see extended to Tasmania is opposed by the Deputy Postmaster-General there. Only the other day I informed the’ House how the late Postmaster-General, in spite of the Deputy Postmaster-General of that State, had caused the Ulverstone post-office to be opened in the evening for the benefit of the people, and how greatly they appreciated his action.
– How many people are there at Ulverstone?
– There- were sufficient to enable more than 800 votes to be recorded against me at the last election. Are we justified in taxing the brave miners upon the west coast of Tasmania to enable us to spend £120,000 upon the commercial classes ? Are we warranted in expending that amount for the carriage of our mails when the commercial community might well take their chance of forwarding mail matter by any ordinary steamer, thus enabling us to effect a saving of £[80,000 per annum - an amount which would be sufficient to provide the miners of the west coast ofTasmania with telephones and post-offices? Certainly we are not. The curse of this country is the injustice which the poor man has to suffer. Nobody seems to think of the individual who is without money. Oh, poverty, thou cursed poverty ! It fills the world with gloom. When I see the human wreckage that is drifting towards the slums of these great cities, and when I see mis Parliament voting £[120,000 to carry the mails of the pluto-goggery of this country to England, it makes me sad. In the
Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last I saw a statement to the effect that corn sacks under the standard weight are being admitted to the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister not to allow this debate to close without offering an explanation as to the reason of this.
– They are in the hands of the Customs authorities now.
– An explanation of that sort settles the question. I do not see any provision in this Bill to cover our share of the cost of the Pacific Cable. I wish to know if .that cable is being managed in such a way as to induce commercial men to do business with the Board controlling it. When I was in Sydney, I made careful inquiry into this matter, and I ascertained that if a man wishes to register code words1 - and we all know that every business man must have certain code words registered - the Government demand 10s. 6d. per word for their registration, whereas code words may be registered with the Eastern Extension Cable Company without any charge whatever. Do the Government imagine that they can make this cable pay while such peculiar business methods are adopted? Again, I was informed in Sydney that a man cannot do business with the Pacific Cable Board in the same way that he can with the Eastern Extension Cable Company. The latter are prepared tq allow .business men to settle their accounts weekly or monthly, but I understand that when they wish to do business with the former they are required to pay for each message before it is despatched.
– The Eastern Extension Cable Company does not allow of weekly or monthly settlements being made in all cases.
– If these cables are to be socialistic institutions, they must be conducted in the same way as Mr. Tait manages khe railways of Victoria. They must do business as others do. I understand that Reuters are interlopers, so far as Australia is concerned, and yet the operator will transmit a bundle of 100 cablegrams sent through their office before he will send away ai cable lodged at the office of the Department by an ordinarybusiness man. I bring these matters forward for the consideration of the PostmasterGeneral. If these various public institutions are to benefit the people, we must see that they adopt legitimate business methods. We ought certainly to dismiss from our minds the idea that the public will patronize Government institutions, simply because they are State concerns, when private establishments offer better inducements.
– I wish to refer to an item relating to the Defence vote for Tasmania, which was discussed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, in the course of the Budget debate. I quite agree with much that has been said by the honorable member for Darwin, and am not one of those who desire that the defence expenditure should be enlarged. At the same time, however, it is my wish that justice shall be done to the Military Force in Tasmania, as well as to those on the mainland For the information of those who may not be aware of the history of thismatter, I would point out that complaint was made some two or three years ago that the men of the Military Force in the State of which I am a representative, received less remuneration than was given to those on the mainland. Some time later, a parade took place in Hobart, and as some of the members of the Military Force did not turn out, a whole corps was disbanded. When last vear’ s Estimates were under consideration, the honorable member for Franklin and myself pointed out that the Defence vote for Tasmania was so low as to be out of all comparison with that of any of the mainland States. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, who was then Minister of Defence, promised to visit Tasmania, and to endeavour to settle the difficulty that had arisen there. I believe that he carried out his promise, and agreed to certain proposals made by the officers and men, with the result “that the difficulty was overcome. We now find, however, that instead of provision being made for carring out the undertaking given by the late Minister of Defence that the increased rates would be paid as from the 1st Julylast, the new/ arrangement is not to come into operation until the 1st January next. T take it that, so far as the Military Force of Tasmania is concerned, the two months’ supply which we are now asked to vote is on the basis of the reduced rate. I know that it will be said that this course has been adopted in compliance with the request of the Government of Tasmania. That assertion, however, has been contradicted.
– We could not spend the increased vote before 3 st January next. It will be October or November before the Estimates are passed.
– The point is that, in the Supply Bill that we passed a month or more ago, provision should have been made for the increased lates.
– This Bill will not provide us with money to spend on new services.
– The late Minister of Defence entered into a certain arrangement, and I contend that his successor should keep the promise that he made.
– What was the promise?
– That the Defence vote for that State would be increased. It was on the condition that it would be increased that we allowed last year’s Estimates to pass.
– We cannot grant the increase till the Appropriation Bill has been passed.
– But we are now asked to grant supply for two months. If we agreed to this, it would be said that it was not worth while dealing with the matter at the end of the year.
– This Bill provides for only the ordinary every-day expenditure.
– We have heard a great deal to-day as to the proposed expenditure on a fort at Fremantle, although provision is not made for it in the Bill now before us, and, in the same way, I am pointing out the position with regard to the forces in Tasmania. I shall avail myself of another opportunity to bring this question forward. I believe that there are hundreds of men in Tasmania who are willing to give their services for nothing, if others on the mainland will do the same. I served for many years in the Volunteer Force in Tasmania, and am satisfied that many others are prepared to do the same ; but I hold that, as the Military Forces on the mainland are paid, those in Tasmania should receive a like remuneration.
– I do not know why we should be asked to grant two months’ supply, nor why the Ministry should assume that they will remain in office so long. I should like to know why we should depart from the course hitherto adopted, and grant two instead of one month’s supply. I have a serious objection to it, because I” do not trust the Ministry in their political capacity. We are here to -keep a watch on their public actions, and I should like to point out that the Bill gives no details of the various items of expenditure. I do not know that that is unusual, but, at the same time, under the various headings - and especially under that of “ Contingencies “ - there may be numerous items to which we might be very strongly opposed. But we are not even permitted to know what the items are.
– Why worry the” Treasurer when he does not know?
– If the Treasurer does not happen to know. he ought to take the trouble to inform himself, and thus be in a position to tell the Committee what are the purposes for which it is asked to vote this money. To ask for two months’ supply is a departure from what has been the practice during this Parliament which ought not to be encouraged.
– It has been done before.
– I do not question that statement, except to say that it has not been done to my knowledge during the life of this Parliament; but the fact that it has been done before is no justification for doing it again. It is very important that we should keep a tight grip of the public purse. Once we grant the Government two months’ supply, we shall practically give them leave, as it were, to kick over the traces for that period, without having any control over them. Generally speaking, without discussing the votes for the various Departments, I object to granting supply to this Government, because it is irresponsible to the country, and is in office by accident. It is occupying the Treasury bench without any warrant from the people. It has not a majority behind its back, but represents the smallest party in the Chamber. I object to every administrative act of this Government.
– The honorable member’s leader did not object to the Bill.
– I object to the granting of two months7 supply, Because the Government are conducting the affairs of the Commonwealth on a principle which they themselves have condemned in terms far more severe than have been used by honorable members on this side. On a previous occasion they objected to a party occupying the Treasury^ bench when they could only carry on the Government with the. aid of a party occupying the crossbenches. No one has denounced that principle in stronger terms than the Treasurer has done ; and for him to come down and ask the Committee for two months’ supply is really imposing too great a strain upon the confidence of the members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member’s leader has agreed fo it.
– I cannot help what my leader has done. “Every man on this side is a free agent, and except in matters of principle, on which we were elected, we are not bound by the acts of our leader, or by those of each other on questions of this character.
– Does the” honorable member wish to imply that the Treasurer is not a free agent?
– Undoubtedly the Treasurer cannot Le a free agent when he can only hold office by the consent of a third party. If its support were withdrawn, he would be left stranded high and dry. I object to the Government holding office and spending money, not only because they are under the domination of a third party, which is really controlling legislation without having any responsibility therefor, but also because that party is the advocate of doctrines which, in my opinion, are most injurious and pernicious, and will most adversely affect the welfare of this country. I object to this domination of the third party just as strongly as did the Treasurer when he was opposed to it. I might very fittingly quote one of his speeches if I wished to make a more effective speech than I shall be likely to do, for no one has more strongly condemned that system of government than he did.
– He is sorry for it now. Mr. JOHNSON.- It may be all right for the Treasurer, but at the same time his present position is not consistent with his former attitude to the third party. I can remember the time when he described the party which is now driving him as the Octopus Party. I object to the Govern* ment holding the reins of power, because the party which is controlling their legislation is pledged to Socialism. It is all very well for the honorable member for Hindmarsh and other honorable members to tell us that their Socialism is harmless, and that there are certain aspects of it with which perhaps they do not agree. But we have had the objective of Socialism defined at various States Conferences, and also at a Commonwealth Conference. At these gatherings the Socialists agreed to a certain objective, which I think is absolutely injurious and hurtful to the best interests of this country. When we see a Government controlled by a party which is pledged to that objective, we are justified in objecting to grant them two months’ supply.
– Was not the honorable member- a pledged member of the Labour Party at one time ?
– Not of a socialistic party. The honorable member will remember, as his leader has pointed out here, that the socialistic plank was not adopted until 1897, which was four years after I had terminated my connexion with the Labour Party. If it had adhered to its original ideals, and had been controlling legislation, even from the cross benches, with those ideals steadily retainer!, I do not think that the results would have been in any way hurtful to the country, but I hold that the system of a third party of any kind controlling; the Ministry is a bad one, because there should be no ministerial or legislative act without responsibility therefor, and that responsibility can only exist when the Ministry has at its’ back a direct majority.
– What an absurdity ?
– Unquestionably that is so.
– The honorable member has never seen a Ministry which had a majority sitting behind it.
– When there are only two parties in the House, how can the Ministry carry on unless it has a majority behind its back ?
– There are always halfadozen men who can get their own way, even with a Ministry of that kind.
– Not necessarily. I have seen a Ministry with a good, substantial majority behind it. That, however, is not the case here, and until another appeal is made to the electors the Ministry has no right to spend one penny of their money, or to occupy the Treasury bench. Apart from the fact of the Ministers being driven in the shafts by the occupants of the cross benches, I object to them being in office, because they are carrying out, bit by bit, the socialistic provisions pf the Labour Party’s programme. There is not a Bill submitted, even of the most apparently simple and innocent-looking character, which is not loaded up to the hilt with Socialism, as the Treasurer knows perfectly well. I cannot conceive for a moment how he can occupy a seat on the Treasury bench, knowing, as he and everyone else must know, the objective of the Labour Party which controls his acts and those of his colleagues in the Ministry.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken.
– Honorable members have only to look at the Commerce Bill, the
Trades Marks Bill, and the Manufactures Encouragement Bill to prove that what I say is correct. There is scarcely a Bill that has been submitted to Parliament bv the present Government that has not the principles of Socialism embodied! in it. The Treasurer knows that, indeed, these Bills are loaded with Socialism to a greater extent than would have been possible if the Labour Party had been occupying the Treasury bench.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present to hear these remarks. [Quorum formed.]
– I object to granting supply to this Government, because they have not a majority behind them to give them the necessary authority to spend the taxpayers’ money. We ought to keep control over public expenditure as long as possible. That is a reason why Ave should not, at any rate, grant two months’ supply. We ought to do everything we can to induce the Government to relinquish the false position they occupy, and to send this Parliament to the country, so that we may get a verdict of the electors, and possibly secure the return of a Ministry which wil ha7e a majority behind it, and will be able to say conscientiously that it has the mandate of the country to carry on affairs. Some reference has been made to the Immigration Restriction Act. I, for one, certainly raise a most strenuous objection to the manner in which that Act is being administered. It has turned the eyes of the world towards Australia in such a manner as to advertise this country in the most injurious way as a country inhabited and controlled by selfish and inhumane barbarians. The impression has got abroad, rightly or wrongly, that British people are not wanted here. That impression has been deepened by the recent debate in the Trades Hall Council of Melbourne upon the proposal to bring out immigrants by arrangement
Avith General Booth. One of the reasons advanced by the supporters of the resolution was that they desired to build up a nation in Australia, and did not want families from the old! country. The proposal of the Prime Minister to introduce a measure to make certain sections of the Immigration Restriction Act less objectionable has also been opposed by the members of the Trades Hall Council, and I suppose that it will be opposed by the party which is keeping the present Government in office, not.withstanding the assurance of the honorable member for Bland that he was willing to support an amendment of the Act. I should like to know what the Government is going to do about this matter. Probably the Prime Minister will forego his intention, and things will be allowed to drift as they have done before in relation to other matters. The honorable member for Darwin has made reference to the problem of poverty which confronts us, and has said that we should set ourselves to ameliorate that state of things. In reference to the scheme for bringing 5,000 families to Australia, the proposal has been made, and has been viewed in a friendly spirit, even if it has not actually been agreed to by various States Governments, that there shall be set apart certain lands for the immigrants, so that they will not be burdens upon the rest of the community. We have many thousands of landless people here already, who would be glad of exactly similar facilities ; and I should like to know whether some attempt is not to be made to settle those people upon the land on just as good terms as are proposed in the case of the settlers who are expected to be brought from the old country. I know that the Commonwealth cannot exercise absolute control over the land monopoly which has obtained such a hold in this country, without coming into probable conflict with the rights of the various States Governments.
– Could we not impose a Federal land tax?
– There seems to be some difference of opinion among the legal constitutional experts as to the extent of our powers under the Constitution in that regard. At any rate, although I am heartily in accord with the principle of taxing unimproved land values as a substitute for taxing improvements and the results of industry, I shall be no party to imposing a land tax unless our industries are relieved of taxation to an equivalent extent. I do not believe in adding to theburdens of the people ; but, on the other hand, desire to, as far as possible, remove those which nowhave to be borne. I agree with the honorable member for Darwin that there is room for great improvement in connexion with the settlement of people upon the land, and I hope that the Government will set themselves resolutely to arrange with the States to provide for our surplus population, and to absorb the large armies of unemployed to be found in all our cities. At the same time, I have no objection to the families proposed to be brought here under the Salvation Army scheme, so long as they are converted into producers, who will in their turn create a demand for the products of those who are now living in our cities. I should like to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to the appointment of a High Commissioner. That is a matter upon which we are entitled to have some information before granting two months’ supply.
– The Bill contains no reference to that subject.
– I am perfectly aware of that; but certain obligations in regard to the appointment of a High Commissioner might be entered into during the next two months which might not meet with the approval of honorable members, and I think we are entitled to know at this stage what the Government propose to do. I notice that it is proposed to appropriate , £5,000 towards the expenses of the administration of New Guinea, and I should like to have some information with regard to that item.
– That is merely a portion of the annual appropriation of £20,000 towards the expenses of the administration.
– Some mention was made of an improved mail service for New Guinea.
– The proposed appropriation has no connexion with that matter.
– I shouldlike to know when the Papua Bill is to be brought under our consideration. It is high time that something was done to make definite arrangements for the administration of the Possession. The £20,000 which is now being spent annually is being to some extent wasted, owing to the fact that the residents of New Guinea are very unsettled, pending a decision as to the conditions under which they are to live. Some definite arrangements should be made to insure that the expenditure to which we are committed in connexion with the Possession is well applied. In regard to the proposed votes in connexion with the Department of Trade and Customs, I desire to express my objection to providing facilities for the Minister of Trade and Customs to frame regulations which may have the effect of reversing the taxation policy of the Commonwealth. I do not wish to apply my remarks especially to the present Minister of Trade arid Customs. The Minister has been granted extensive powers to make regulations under several Acts, and it is proposed by means of the Commerce Bill, which I regard as a most objectionable measure, and in other ways to largely extend his authority in that direction. I may mention the harvester case as illustrating what may happen in connexion with other articles of merchandise. 1 have already expressed my objection to the action taken by the Minister and his officers in that particular instance, and I feel very strongly tempted to reduce the proposed votes for salaries so far as they relate to the Comptroller-General of Customs, and the Collector of Customs in Victoria. The latter officer made most contradictory reports in connexion with’ the harvester case. After having indicated to the previous Minister that a certain firm of importers had established a reputation for exceptional honesty and fair-dealing, the Victorian Collector of Customs made statements to the present Minister which were entirely opposed to those contained in his first report. I think that some explanation is due from that officer. The papers which were laid upon the Library table failed to disclose the slightest evidence to justify him in departing from his first report. As soon, however, as a new Minister came into office whose sympathies were apparently favorable to what I can only term the unreasonable persecution of importing firms, that system of persecution was entered upon, and is still proceeding. Whilst such things are possible in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department, we should not vote supplies which would enable a Minister to exercise his powers in such a manner, as to call for condemnation. In view of the objectionable acts which may be committed by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and his officers, and which we ought bv all means in our power to guard against, I feel very chary of voting one farthing by way of supply, although I know that the Government have a majority, and that, no matter how emphatic our protests may be, they will probably be disregarded. I come now to the Department of Defence, and I should like to know what the Government propose in the way of expenditure on our coast, river, and harbor defences? In a previous speech on the subject, I said that I looked upon our coast, river, and harbor defences as our first line of defence. I regard them as of more importance than our land forces. While not under-estimating the value and importance of those forces, I look upon them as our last line of defence. I understand that the fortification of our harbors is more or less involved in military , expenditure, but so far as I have been able to discover, the military expenditure proposed by the Government does not provide adequately for improvement toward efficiency in this branch of the military scheme, or for the line of defence which, in my opinion, is of most importance. In this connexion, I wish to know what is to be done in the matter of the fortification of Fremantle? I understand that a proposal is now made to substitute 9. 2-inch guns for the 7.5-inch guns which the Government at first proposed to mount at the entrance to the harbor of Fremantle. I believe that the matter is at present under the consideration of the Government, and I should like to know whether they seriously propose to substitute the more costly guns for the 7.5-inch guns. The 7.5-inch guns will adequately serve all purposes of defence for Fremantle. Honorable members who have visited Western Australia must be aware that the harbor at Fremantle is not approachable in a direct line from the sea. A reef runs out for some miles in front of the harbor, so that vessels of war would not be able to bombard the port at Fremantle from any point opposite the mouth of the harbor, except at very close range, and within a distance of five miles, unless they did so from the seaward side of Rottnest Island, in which case they would have to fire over the intervening island. The reef extends for some considerable distance, and steamers leaving Fremantle to go to Adelaide have to make a considerable detour round Rottnest Island before they get into the open sea. No battleship would risk the dangers of the reef in order to get sufficiently close to Fremantle to bombard the place. In order to effectively bombard Fremantle, an attacking ship must come within a radius of five miles of the forts, and the 7.5-inch guns can cover that range as effectively as 9.2-inch guns. I understand that the cost of the 7.5-inch guns is £12,000, and the cost of 9.2-inch £24,000 each, so that the suggested alteration would involve the Commonwealth in a wholly unnecessary expenditure of £24,000. We are entitled to some information from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, as to whether the Government propose to adhere to the 7.5-inch guns, or to adopt the suggestion made by an honorable senator in another place?
– I have heard nothing about it.
– The matter is under inquiry now.
– If it is under inquiry, it must be because there is some reasonable probability that the suggestion made will be adopted. I object to its adoption, because there is no necessity for 9.2-inch guns at Fremantle, when we know that 7.5-inch guns will effectively cover the distance from which any hostile vessel could attack Fremantle. A hostile vessel to successfully bombard the harbor would have to come within the reef, which is not more than five miles outside it.
– There is a clear opening to the north.
– A vessel could not fire into the harbor from the north, because of a protecting neck of land which juts out there. For its fire to be effective, a hostile vessel would have to come within five miles of the fort, and 7.5-inch guns would deal with it at that range.
– A vessel could fire into Fremantle from a range of twelve miles.
– Yes ; but not with certainty of effect. As, to fire effectively, an enemy’s ship would have to come within five miles of Fremantle, larger guns than 7.5-inch guns are not required there.
– Of course, if the honorable member says so, that settles the matter.
– The right honorable gentleman, with his large ideas on the subject of finance, may think that my contention can be disposed of by a flippant observation of that kind; but I shall require a better answer to my objection before I shall withdraw my opposition to the proposed expenditure.
– If honorable members do not know the locality it is not my fault.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot call into question the accuracy of the statements which I have made. There is in the Chamber, for the information of honorable members, a chart showing the entrance to the harbor and the island, and giving the depth of water on the reefs and elsewhere.
– Ships do not come across the reefs.
– If the right honorable gentleman were listening to my remarks he would not make an inane interjection of that sort.
– Some honorable members pretend to know a lot about a place to which they have not been.
– The honorable member cannot say that I have never been to Fremantle, because he himself piloted me through a great portion of Western Australia only recently, and I had visited the State on a previous occasion. Besides having consulted all the information available to any other honorable member, I have personally visited Fremantle, and am acquainted with the natural features of the harbor and the adjacent coast line. Coming now to the Postmaster-General’s Department, I have several complaints to make. My first complaint has to do with the great length of time occupied in obtaining answers to letters sent to the Department.
– Does not the honorable member receive acknowledgments of his letters?
– Not always.
– What is the length of the delays referred to?
– It is sometimes a week or two before even an acknowledgment is received.
– I wish the honorable member would give me one single case.
– I know that these delays have frequently occurred, although I am unable to say exactly how long they have been.
– I cannot pay attention to general complaints ; I want some specific instance of delay.
– I had some correspondence with the Department recently in connexion with the establishment of a public telephone at the new railway platform at Oatley. A report by an officer of the Department had stated that there was a public telephone in existence at Oatley, and that the revenue received from it was only 6d., and the secretary of the local Progress Association therefore wrote to me, denying the correctness of that statement, as he and a friend had made an attempt to be allowed to speak through the telephone in the old station-master’s office, and had been informed that it was not a telephone for The use of the public, but a telephone for the use of the station-master himself. The report of the departmental inspector was in. . tended to convey to the PostmasterGeneral the idea that no telephone is needed in the district, because one is already there, and is rarely used, although the fact is that the telephone referred to is not a telephone for public use. I sent the letter of the secretary of the local Progress Association on to the Postmaster-General,but I have not yet received an acknowledgment of it, or any intimation as to the action the Department intends to take in connexion with the matter. I handed the correspondence to the Postmaster-General myself, and he promised to look into the subject. I have also tried to obtain a telephone bureau for a place called Miranda, and although it is a long time since I moved in the matter, since the regime of the present Postmaster-General, I have not yet had word from the Department in regard to it. I know that a report will be called for, and that the same officers will be sent to make the usual reports, on the usual
Ted tape lines. But I am tired of this kind of treatment. It is about time that the Postmaster-General determined that, whenever there is a certain population in a district, and telephonic communication can be given at a reasonable cost, no obstacles shall be placed in the way.
– Does the hoporable member not know that his request was refused by the late PostmasterGeneral?
– Yes, and by his predecessor ; but if every occupant of the office is to be guided only by what his predecessors have done, no progress will be made.
– Is the honorable member not aware that if the conditions were altered to meet the convenience of this particular case, a similar concession would have to be given to dozens of other place’s?
– Why should such concessions not be given ?
– Does not. the honorable member think that places far back are entitled to consideration before everything has been given to metropolitan centres ?
– I do not ask for everything. I have no objection to people in the back-blocks getting all, the conveniences they require, but at this particular place a large community, settled close to a great city, might as well be in Timbuctoo for all the advantages they get from the Post and Telegraph Department. Even in regard to their mails they have to put up with an antiquated and out-of-date system.
– I will look into the matter myself.
– I hope that the honorable member will do so, because I shall keep on worrying him until it has received His attention. i will not be put off by departmentalreports, based on insufficient inquiries. I hope that he will look into this matter personally, in order that something may be done for these unfortunate settlers. I do not know whether the matter is provided for in this Bill, but I understand that the Queensland Government is going to pay £20,000 to the Orient Company as a subsidy for the carriage of mails to Brisbane.
– That matter is not provided for in this Supply Bill, but the proposal referred to will come before honorable members.
– If the Queensland Government undertake this liability, I do not see why it should be passed on to the Commonwealth, considering that it was entered into before the Commonwealth Parliament or Government had an opportunity to express an opinion. I suppose I am bound to vote for this Bill, in Order that salaries and other imperative expenditure may be met ; but I do not approve of any expenditure beyond what is absolutely necessary for current purposes and obligations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Resolution of Ways and Means,covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. Deakin and Sir John Forrest do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages;
House adjourned, at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050926_reps_2_27/>.