2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took, the chair at 2.30. p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MALONEY presented five petitions, signed by upwards of 29,000 residents of
Victoria, praying for the enactment of stringent legislation to prohibit the importation of opiumfor smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
Petitions received, and one read.
– The following paragraph appears in this morning’s Argus -
Disappointment has been expressed at the refusal ofthe Commonwealth Government to permit an extension of the German cable from Hohenlohe (German New Guinea) to Cooktown vid Sa- marai. It isstated that permission for such a connexion was practically granted by the Philp Government, and it is contended that the action of the Commonwealth Government amounts to repudiation. It is claimed that immense advantages to Queensland would follow direct cable communication with the East and British and German New Guinea, especially from a trading standpoint, and it is suggested that the desire to keep this trade in the hands of the southern States has influenced the southern authorities against agreeing to cable communication.
Will the Prime Minister inform the House if the action which is complained of is that of his Government ?
– The papers dealing with this question were laid on the table early in August last, in response to a request made by the honorable member for Herbert in July. The whole of the negotiations are there disclosed, but no such motive is alleged. This is the first and only expression of disappointment which has been heard in regard to the action taken, and for it the writer of the paragraph is, perhaps, wholly responsible. The Imperial Government advised on. the matter.
– Did not the Imperial Government express its decided objection to the landing of the German cable at Cooktown?
– Yes. The despatch from the Imperial Government will be found among the papers.
– Has the Public Service Commissioner yet reported on the classification scheme, and, if. so, when is it likely that postal officials will be paid the money which has been withheld from them ?
– The report of the Public Service Commissioner is now being considered by the Cabinet, but the payment of increases depends on its adoption and the necessary appropriation.
– I particularly desire information respecting the payment of money in those cases where the Public Service Commissioner has approved of the appeals which have been lodged ?
– All persons in the service, whether originally classified for their present position, or so classified on appeal, stand on the same footing, except as to subdivisional increases.
– But some public servants have received their money ?
– That was under a special instruction.
Speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
-I desire to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. : - “ A recent speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs, proclaiming his hostility to a vital part of the policy of the Government of which he is a member, namely, the adoption of active measures in conjunction with the State Governments, to induce Europeans, and especially British emigrants to come to Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
-Another way of wasting time.
– I think I shall show that I am justified in taking this course. I do not know whether I have ever moved the adjournment of the House before; but, if I have done sp, it has been on very rare occasions. I wish to address myself to this matter in a spirit worthy of its importance, and with an endeavour to keep quite away from any display of party feeling or personal antagonism.
– How candid and kind the right honorable member is.
– My sense of duty in reference to this and other public matters is not measured by the peculiar standards of the honorable member for Lyne-.
– The right honororable member is getting mixed already. Who is the honorable member for Reid ?
– I should, have said the honorable member for Hume ; but I correctly described the honorable member in speaking of him as the honorable member for Lyne, because Lyne is the only con stituency which he has ever represented. It was a slip which revealed the truth. I hope that my honorable friend will allow me to address myself to this matter in the spirit to which I have referred. I know that some honorable members think that we should abolish our present system of government, and have what is called an elective ministry; but so long as we possess our present parliamentary institutions, ana until we adopt that new method of administering public affairs, we must pay some attention to the rules and traditions of Parliament and responsible government. Before I address myself to the subject on which I wish to speak, I should like to quote a few words uttered by Earl, Grey many years ago in regard to a much milder act than that to which I am about to allude. The then Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a despatch to the Governor of Jamiaca, had used some expressions which, although rather guarded, were sufficient to show that the decision of the Government which his despatch conveyed was not one with which he entirely sympathized. The matter was discussed in the House of Lords on the 14th June, 1862, when Earl Grey laid down this principle : -
When the Cabinet has decided, if the Secretary of State thinks that his colleagues are wrong, but not so overwhelmingly wrong as to warrant his standing upon his own opinion - in which case he will resign - it ishis duty to signify to the Governor of the Colony the final decision of the Queen’s Government, and not to weaken the decision by implying in his despatch any doubt as to the grounds and the propriety of the decision.
In another case, Mr. Gladstone, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, was taken to task for certain expressions he had used with reference to the public finances, and, after referring to other duties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he laid down the constitutional position in this way : -
He has no right, directly or indirectly., in the smallest degree to attempt to escape from the responsibility thai weighs on his colleagues.
At page 402 of the second volume of Todd’s Parliamentary Government in England, secondedition,theprincipleofCabinet government is laid down in this way : -
The influence which is rightly exercised by Ministers of the Crown in the Houses of Parliament depends in the first instance, upon the degree of unity, and of mutual co-operation they exhibit between themselves; and finally upon the amount of control they are able to exercise over the political party to which they belong. We have now to consider the mode in which these vital elements of- Ministerial existence are ex- emplified. In tracing the origin and development of the rule which requires political unanimity amongst the Ministers of the Crown, we have seen that it has become an acknowledged principle that, so long as a Minister continues to form part of a Government, he shares with his colleagues an equal responsibility for everything that is done or agreed upon by them. Except in the case of an admitted “ open question,” it must be taken for granted that the whole Cabinet have assented to the Ministerial policy as officially transacted or propounded by any Minister acting or speaking on their behalf. It ‘is not, therefore, allowable for a Cabinet Minister to oppose the measures of government - to shrink from an unqualified responsibility in respect to the same - to refrain from assisting his colleagues in the advocacy of their particular measures in Parliament- or to omit the performance of any administrative act which may be necessary to carry out a decision of the Government - even though he may not have been a consenting party thereto - or to withhold his support from the Ministry when attacked by their political opponents. A Minister who infringes any one of these rules is bound to tender his immediate resignation of office.
– That is what the honorable member wishes me to do.
– I never knew an occasion upon which there was the slightest danger of the honorable gentleman taking that step.
– I shall certainly not take it on this occasion.
Honorable Members. - Ha ! ha !
– In the present state of this Parliament, the most serious matters have become a subject for levity to my honorable, friends opposite; but it is the ditty of public men to maintain the traditions of responsible government, and no one has set himself a higher standard than has the honorable _ and learned gentleman who is Prime Minister. I wish to point out that the subject to which I am about to refer is a vital question of Ministerial policy. It is not some small matter of detail, but a vital question of policy which the Ministry put before the electors of Australia, and which they pledged themselves to on the assumption of the present Administration.
– That is not correct.
– I hope that the Minister will not interject, because I have only a limited time within which to make my remarks. At the general election in 1903 the Deakin Government, of which the Minister of Trade and Customs was a member, went to the country on> the question of immigration.
– Hear, hear; but not the present Government.
– I hope that the Minister will not steal my time in this way. Then when the Government came back, they announced .that the country had accepted their policy, and stated that they attached so much importance to it that they would stake their political existence upon it, and would carry it out to the utmost of their strength. Then a conference was held in 1904, at which the Prime Minister went somewhat out of his way to address the assembled Treasurers of Australia, in a brilliant speech which covers many pages of an official document, suggesting a hundred different ways in which the great question of immigration might be furthered by the Commonwealth, acting in conjunction with the States Governments. Later on, when the Government met Parliament in March, 1904, they put forward their immigration policy as a matter of vital importance upon which they would stake their political existence. In 1905, when the present Ministry assumed office, the Prime Minister in his Ministerial statement said - “ We come back with the same policy as that upon which we went to the country in 1903. We submit the same policy to this House as- a new Ministry. The majority of this Ministry were members of that Ministry, and the other members of the Government agree in every particular almost with the policy of the previous Government in reference to immigration.” Then again on the 14th September last - to show the continuity in connexion with this matter - the Prime Minister received the first practical proposal in this direction in the shape of a telegram from General Booth, offering to send 5,000 families out to Australia. I am discussing the question of Ministerial responsibility apart: altogether from the merits of that particular scheme. On the 14th September the Prime Minister received that message from General Booth, and on 15th September said in this House -
The offer received yesterday from General Booth, the head of the Salvation Army, to send here 5,000 reputable families, whose characters are without blemish, and who are not paupers or destitute - which will be about the average number available among those who will find the hardships of the coming winter in Great Britain too bitter - provides .1 touchstone for ascertaining the opinion of this country on the subject of immigration.
Could there be a more emphatic acceptance of the proposal of General Booth than these words of the Prime Minister? ‘He was fully adopting it when he said, practically, that we could judge of the sincerity of public utterances upon this question of immigration by accepting the offer.
– Without waiting for details ?
– That is what the Prime Minister said; I am quoting his words, and not my own. During the same debate he went on to say -
Those who accept the doctrine of a White Australia, as I have often said, must repudiate the suggestion that it means an empty Australia. It is impossible for Australia to be made or kept white except by means of a white people planted wherever white men can live and work with profit. We believe that is possible in most parts of the Continent - every one believes that it relates to all but a fraction of it - and this Government intends to exhaust every means of extending and multiplying white settlement. By that means only can Australia be kept white.
Surely that is making a vital question of immigration. The Prime Minister said, in effect, that only by means of immigration could we keep Australia white. I am not going to take up the time of the House by multiplying references to the brilliant language in which the Prime Minister has made the subject of immigration the corner stone of his Administration. It is notorious throughout the length and breadth of Australia, that he has done so. The Ministry are now standing upon that policy, and what do we find ? After the Prime Minister had sent General Booth’s proposal to the States’ Premiers, and had forwarded a message to General Booth couched in the most friendly and cordial terms, one of the members of his Administration went to a public meeting, and stated that he was opposed to the introduction of these people. The last sentence of the Prime Minister’s message to General Booth read as follows: -
Assure you of warm desire of this Government -
The Government including the Minister of Trade and Customs - to co-operate any movement which will result in introducing desirable settlers.
Through the press, General Booth expressed himself as being delighted with the cordial acceptance of his offer by the Prime Minister, to the extent of his having expressed his willingness to do all he could with the States Governments to promote his scheme. Then we have later telegrams published in the press from Perth and Hobart, showing that the Prime Minister is actively engaged in furthering the project, in conjunc tion with the Premiers of the States. So that we find this vital question of immigration is a matter of Government policy, and that with regard to the definite proposal of Genera] Booth, the position of the Government is unmistakable - subject, no doubt, as the honorable member for Bland has suggested, to the consideration of some details. That is the policy of the Government, and that is the policy, I believe, of nearly every member of the Government; hut the Minister of Trade and Customs has acted towards his colleagues in a wav that no man with any political experience could approve. What right has any Minister who is engaged in carrying out the public policy of his colleagues to let the people know that he throws his colleagues and their policy overboard, and that, while he may be dragged by them into doing what they wish, he is altogether opposed to a vital plank of Ministerial policy - to the introduction of the 5,000 families which General Booth proposes to send here? What right has the Minister to get out of the ship in that way, in order to save himself? It is known that a large number of persons disapprove of this immigration policy. I believe that the majority of honorable members below the gangway disapprove of it.
– I do not think so.
– I am very glad to hearit.
– We do not want men to be brought here to starve.
– The immigration that some of my honorable friends believe in, is the introduction of men, each of whom has a few hundred pounds inhis pocket - a different class of men from those who were responsible for their existence in Australia to-day. Neither their parents, nor mine, came herewith . £500. in their pockets. Now I come to the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs in reference to this matter. The Prime Minister said at Hawthorn on Monday night, that he believed in Socialism, and also in Individualism. Ministers are riding two horses in this Ministerial circus. One foot is on Socialism and the other on Individualism. That is the position of the Prime Minister. Now the Minister of Trade and Customs is going with the Government, in order to derive the benefit of their policy of immigration, and he is going also to the enemies of immigration, and telling them “ I do not believe in it. I am going to tell them in the Cabinet what I think about it.”The Minister thinks that I want him to leave office, but I know that, so far as we are concerned, he is much safer in office than anywhere else. He has no prospect of any such a position with us. He is like the elephant in the china shop. He does much more harm to the Ministry as a member of it than’ he could do in any other position. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council said on one occasion, if the Japanese wanted to subdue Port Arthur they ought to throw the Minister into 3. - he would blow up a much stronger erection than that fortress. This is the speech to which I refer. The newspaper report says : -
Sir William Lyne, replying to the. toast of Parliament, referred to General Booth’s immigration scheme, and said that in this, as in other matters, a Minister must pull with his colleagues or leave.
My objection to the Minister’s position is that he does neither. He does not pull with his colleagues as a loyal Minister would do, or leave them, as a selfrespecting Constitutional Minister would do. He pulls away from his colleagues. He isolates himself from his colleagues before the public of Australia, and puts himself forward as an advocate of the policy of anti-immigration, but, at the same time, remains in the Cabinet. He tells the people outside, “You wait until I get into the Cabinet.. I will give them a piece of my mind. I will square my colleagues up on the question of immigration.” The Minister works up his theatrical effects In order to curry favour with the great body of the working men of Australia. He wants to be safe whatever shipwreck may come. He wants to see a little dry land ahead.” He sees none over here, but he fancies that he can see a safe place among the members of the Labour Party. He wishes to appear as a sincere supporter of the Government policy, and he still believes in it to the extent of sticking to office, but he does not believe in it as a good thing for Australia. He goes on to say: -
The people we wanted to place on our lands were the sturdy sons of Australia’s pioneers.
We all agree with that. Every man agrees with’ that.
– Why do we not do it?
– It is not mv fault that it is not done. We all believe in that, but is there not room in this great country for other people, besides our own sons?
– Then let us put them on the land first.
– I am not raising that point now, but I am discussing a constitutional question that would be regarded as of the utmost importance in any other Parliament, and at any other time but this. The Minister went on to say : -
With regard to immigration itself, he believed that wherever the attraction existed, there desirable people would come.
Now there the honorable member takes the other side. There are two sides to this policy of immigration. One side is expressed in these terms, “ We must use our best efforts to induce some of the people who are now going to Canada, South America, and South Africa, to come to our shores.” That is the view of the Government and of the Prime Minister. That is the policy upon which the Ministry are prepared to risk their political existence. The other policy is this: that no special effort should be made, that no special inducement should be offered, that we should take our chance and allow the attractiveness of the country only to operate, that we should allow people to come here if they think the place attractive, but not use a single effort to induce them to come. These are the two sides of this great question. The effect of the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs is, “ I am against immigration, although I remain a colleague of the great chief of the movement in Australia. I am against immigration, but I will stick to office, although I embarrass my colleagues. I will weaken the Executive Government of the country by telling the opponents of the Government policy that I am- with them.” If that were whispered into the ear of the opponents of the Government, it would be a mean act- to a body of colleagues. If it were whispered secretly into the ear of the newspaper editor, it would be a mean thing to do; but when it is said publicly before the whole of the people, it is worse than mean and cowardly ; it is a treacherous acf. When men are joined together as a Ministry, surely they should endeavour to fight side by side. I do not know of any other Government that has had an experience of this kind. I do not think that members of a Labour Government would ever fight in that way, one against the other, on a question contained in their platform. I do not think you would get any member representing a labour constituency to weaken the power of a Labour Government by proclaiming his opposition to a plank’ in the Labour platform. Such a man would be drummed out of their ranks with execration. I say that the Minister of Trade and Customs is doing to his colleagues what such an individual would do to the Labour Party. The moment men. take the oaths of office, and agree to work together as loyal colleagues, it is their duty to adopt one of two courses. If they disapprove of the policy of the Government upon a vital matter, they can show the sincerity of their belief by sacrificing the advantages appertaining to their offices. But if they do not disapprove of that policy, strongly enough to’ warrant their taking such an extreme course, they have only one alternative. If they will not leave the Government, they ought to remain loyal to their colleagues-r-they ought to solidify the strength of the Ministry. The Government ought not to speak in two voices, the Prime Minister declaring, “We, as a Government, are committed to this proposal,” and the Minister of Trade and Customs saying, “ This scheme is all nonsense. I am absolutely Opposed to it. I do not believe in it.” I say that such a state of things is only possible under an alliance, such as we have to-day. It is not an alliance of principle. It is an alliance under which two parties with widely different aims have their own purposes to serve-
– Is this a discussion of the alliance?
– I say that under the alliance which exists to-day, so long as mernbers of the Labour Party obtain certain concessions, they are prepared to keep quiet.
– What was the principle underlying the recent alliance between the right honorable member himself and others ?
– I am happy to say that, so long as that alliance did exist, we remained loyal to one another, and the very moment there was a breath of disloyalty, we did not “say, “We will stick to our offices, in order to get another kick.” On the contrary, we declared, “We will seek an appeal to the country, and, if the Parliament is not prepared to indorse our proposal in that direction, we will go out of office.”
– The right honorable member had no alternative.
– If that be so, we are ali satisfied. The Minister of Trade and Customs went on to say -
He had spoken as strongly as possible without coming into conflict wilh his colleagues.
Just fancy a Minister expressing hisopinion in absolute opposition to a plank of Ministerial policy of vital moment - throwing his colleagues and their policy overboard, and affirming that he had spoken as strongly as possible without coming into conflict with them.
– Hear, hear.
– The Minister did something more than come into conflict with his colleagues. The fact is, that ‘ his unfortunate colleagues cannot get rid of him, because they are not strong enough to do so. They had to take him in, because he would be too dangerous if he were out of office. There is no doubt that when he is out of office the honorable member is just like a famished dingo. He is bound to get in somehow, or there will be trouble. But when the political dingo has secured a home, and is being affectionately and loyally treated by his colleagues, he might give them in return at least a semblance of loyalty. Is it possible to injure a Government more in the estimation of the people than by allowing ‘some Ministers to swear by a certain line of policy which another Minister openly scouts? Is that the’ way for a Minister to help his colleagues, or to maintain the character and prestige of a Government? Surely honorable members are incapable of acting in that way. I am sure that they are. I admit that, for political purposes, Ministers have to endure a number of outrages without taking any overt action. I have submitted this motion for no other purpose than to discharge my duty, as one of the oldest members of a State Legislature in this Parliament. As honorable members are aware - of course, it is no fault of mine - I am one of the oldest members of Parliament in this House, and I have a duty to discharge as the leader of a part’-. I wish, therefore, in the strongest possible way, to say, “ Let us have elective Ministries if honorable members so desire, but as long as we continue our present system of Government, which is founded upon the Cabinet systemas it is carried out in the mother country, a position such as that created by the utterances of the Minister of Trade and Customs is absolutely intolerable.”’ , He has been guilty of ‘an act of the greatest disloyalty to his colleagues. What is the effect of his action throughout Australia today ? Tens of thousands of people, who differ from the Government upon this question of immigration will say, “ Well, Deakin is a bit mad upon it, but we have the rogue elephant to keep him in order. The Prime Minister will not do ‘much damage while Sir William Lyne is in the Ministry. See how he stands up for the sturdy sons of the soil, and how he scouts the very project which the Prime Minister is busily engaged in furthering.” Within a day or two after the head of the Government has assured General Booth of his. cordial support and loyal co-operation in giving effect to his scheme, the news is transmitted to the old country that one of his leading colleagues has publicly denounced that scheme as absurd, and as one in which he does not believe. That sort of thing is unusual, to say the least of it. The Minister should recollect that he has to pay a certain penalty in order to preserve harmony in the Cabinet. If he differs from his colleagues upon a subject which is important enough to warrant him1 in taking such an extreme step, he should resign, in order to show the strength of his views; if the q’uestion is not important enough - and I cannot conceive that any matter will ever be sufficiently important to induce the honorable member for Hume to leave a Cabinet - he still has a duty to perform. As long as he remains with his colleagues he has no right; to play false to. them - he has no right to embarrass’ them by giving open expression to a division of opinion, and he has no right to take the public into the counsels of the Cabinet Chamber, and to tell them that he is opposed to his own colleagues. That is a method of selfadvertisement which ought not to commend itself to straightforward politicians. If the Minister wishes to remain in office he must be loyal to his colleagues ; if he cannot be loyal to them, he should resign, and leave them free from embarrassment. Talk about mutiny upon a ship ! There is no mutiny which is more disastrous to a country than is mutiny in the ranks of the Cabinet Council. Only the other day, on the question of preferential trade, what did we see? We saw one of the greatest statesmen in England’, one of the most powerful Ministers - I refer to Mr. Chamberlain - relinquish his high office, because he felt that the Government were not insympathy with him. At that very time, we also saw three free-trade Ministers sever their connexion with the .Cabinet for the reason that the Government, in favoring a retaliatory policy, went to a length which they could not approve.
– The right honorable member’s time has now expired.
– I feel very proud when I consider that the right honorable member has exhibited so great an interest in my welfare and in that of the Government. It is really most touching, because he is personally so very friendly towards me.
– Never. I draw the line somewhere.
– I think that if there were anything at all in the matter which the honorable gentleman has raised, he might very well have allowed the Prime Minister and his colleagues to settle it between themselves. But instead of doing so, he has chosen to make an attack upon me, because ‘there is no denying that his speech was a deliberate and personal attack directed’ against myself. This motion would not have been submitted had it not ‘ been for- ‘ the hostile feeling which the right honorable member has always exhibited towards me. When he talks about my clinging, tooffice, it is really very amusing, because I have had to kick him out of office with the toe of my boot. He would not go out in any other way. The right honorable member has hung his complaint upon a very, very small peg indeed. He has quoted from a newspaper report of a speech, the delivery of which occupied a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. That report hasbeen condensed into two or three inches of space, so that it is impossible for any reader to know what were the particular circumstances) which led up to the remarks quoted. The facts are that last . week a telegram was published in the newspapers - I do not know whether if was upon Thursday or Friday: - stating that it was a section of the submerged tenth which General Booth ‘ contemplated sending to Australia. A day or so later I attended an agricultural show, at which there were perhaps 1,500 farmers present, 300 of whom at least were young men looking for land, and were unable to get it. This question was brought prominently forward in the evening, and in- responding to the toast of “ the Parliament,” I said - as 1 say now - that I am opposed to the introduction of a section of the submerged tenth. I did not say a word against immigration. When immigrants come to Australia, we must have something for them to do, and, for those who wish to farm, some land upon which to place them.
– The telegram to which the Minister refers only appeared in the Argus yesterday
– The honorable member has turned himself inside out a good many times, and consequently he had better remain quiet, because I do not wish to be interrupted. I made the statement to which I have referred in consequence of a. telegram which was published in the press - a telegram which has since been confirmed by the following statement : -
Mr. Bramwell Booth, General Booth’s son, has replied to Mr. Collings stating that the Salvation Array is not sending people in comfortable circumstances to the Colonies, but only the unemployed, some of whom are suffering actual want.
I do not think I am misinterpreting the feelings of the Prime Minister when I say that he does not desire the introduction into Australia of that class of immigrant.
– This Parliament passed a law for the express purpose of excluding them.
– That is so. If a section of the submerged tenth is to be sent to Australia, there may be places in the Northern Territory, or in the northern portion of West Australia where) they ma)? be glad to establish a settlement of their own. However, I was -‘assured1 by the young farmers to whom I have alluded that some have been for two years unsuccessful in balloting for, 1’ancH. Some stated that’ they had spent what money they possessed attending every land ballot that had taken place in New South Wales, and that as a result they were impoverished and without land. ‘ What I stated was that in. my electorate, between the Murray and Murrumbidgee, there are about twelve stations, containing 1,000,000 acres of purchased land, the bulk of which is utilized for pastoral purposes. I said “ If you wish to secure land, let the Government purchase or resume some of that area, and put farmers upon it, so’ that they mav be enabled to secure a comfortable livelihood under suitable conditions of land and climate.” That was what I said upon the occasion. There was no intention on my! part to detract from the views of my colleagues - in fact, I do not know whether I even had a conversation with the Prime Minister upon the subject of immigration, at all. I am not aware that the matter was brought up at any Cabinet meeting. Certainly it was not considered when I was present. The right honorable member for East Sydney talks about his attendance here, but I would remind him that he takes very good care to look after his own business in Sydney. His action- to-day is thoroughly consonant with the line of conduct which he pursued last week. It was only then that he .made an appearance after an absence of four or five weeks. Yet he spoke for three hours each day last week.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the motion.
– As the right honorable member remarked, he has now started to bring up his average. THe newspaper report of the speech of which complaint has been made reads): -
Speaking at the smoke social of the Henty Show on Saturday, Sir William Lyne, in responding to the toast of “ The Federal Parliament,” made some reference to General Booth’s immigration scheme.
That, is correct. I referred to the proposal to bring out a portion, of the submerged tenth to Australia. The report proceeds -
He said that in this, as in other matters, a Minister must stand in with his colleagues or leave -
I repeat that statement, and I assert that I know as much of the principles of constitutional practice as does the right honorable member for East Sydney. I have been longer in public life than he has been, and I think that I know a little more about public affairs than he does.
– The Minister does know a little more than I do of some public affairs.
– The report continues - and he was not prepared to leave just at present.
That is quite true. I am not prepared at (present to leave the Ministry, unless something happens as between myself and my colleagues that renders it impossible for me to remain without a sacrifice of principle. I may say, however, that during the whole time we have been in office, there has not been a single word of discord between us, and that such a thing is not likely to occur. Who could come into conflict with such a chief as is the Prime Minister? I have never had an angry word with him, and hope that I never shall have. The report continues -
He had read a great deal about the scheme in one of the papers, which ought to know better. Personally, he did not think that any* one would bring 5,000 people, about whom we knew comparatively nothing.
I added to that statement that I had no desire to see a portion of the submerged tenth introduced into Australia. I do not think that any one would attempt to bring such people into the Commonwealth unless it were proposed to .found a colony in which they would not come into competition with the rest of the people. I went on to say that -
The people we required to place on the land were the sturdy sons of Australia’s pioneers.
I challenge the leader of the Opposition to say whether he would not repeat that statement, or at all events, whether he would declare openly that he is in favour of a portion of the submerged tenth of England taking the places of the sons of the farmers of Australia. Let the right honorable member answer that question. It is an awkward one, and I do not think that he will reply to it.
– Let the Prime Minister answer it.
– The leader of the Opposition was the first to attack me, and he should certainly answer the question. I appeal to the House to say whether any one who believes in Australia and Australia’s sons would desire a portion of the submerged tenth to secure the land that should go to the sons of our farmers.
– This is rough on the Prime Minister.
– It is not. I believe that the Prime Minister is, not in favour of any portion of the submerged tenth coming to Australia. We certainly desire immigrants when we have land to place them on, and work to give them ; but we do not desire immigrants of the class mentioned bv Mr. Bramwell Booth. Let me make a further quotation from this report -
With regard to immigration itself, he believed that wherever trie attraction existed, people of a desirable class would come. He did not think that the Federal Parliament would seriously entertain “ General “ Booth’s scheme.
The scheme which I had in mind was the proposal to bring out a portion of the poverty-stricken, submerged tenth of England. I .am satisfied that the Federal Parliament would be pleased to assist immigrants to come to Australia when we have land for them and work to give them. I think that every member of the House would receive immigrants with open arms, as long as we knew what to d’o with them, and where to put them ; but we certainly do not wish them to come here to” starve. The report sets forth that I went on to say that -
The matter of settlement was the affair of the States Parliaments.
This Parliament, however, has no power over the lands of the Commonwealth.
– Then why did the Prime Minister take up the question of immigration?
– Because he is an enthusiast, and all honour to him for it. He believes that, it would be a good thing to secure more immigrants, and if we could give them something to do, I should also approve of the scheme. The Prime Minister simply took action on behalf of the States.
– He does not want to bring them here to starve.
– I am quite certain that he does not. The statements which have been made this afternoon, to the effect that I have adopted an unconstitutional course in regard to this question, are absolutely without foundation. The leader of the Opposition is always ready to jump into the fray when he thinks there is a possibility of injuring my political reputation ; but I do not care what he does. I am prepared at all times to defend myself. I have been, and am still, loyal to my colleagues, and when I feel that I cannot continue to act in concert with them, T shall not cling to office as the leader of the Opposition has done in similar circumstances. It has been my endeavour throughout my political career to adhere to some principle. The leader of the Opposition himself told me on one occasion that I was consistent in my inconsistency, and that it did not do for a politician to be too consistent. He must have been thinking of himself.
– All I can say is that the honorable gentleman cost New South Wales 100 bridges when he had one man to square for a time.
– That is an insinuation unworthy of the right honorable member.
– Worthy of him.
-Perhapsit is. At all events, it is unworthy of an honorable man. I say distinctly that I never squared any one by building bridges.
– The honorable gentleman did.
– I dare say that if I approached the right honorable member in regard to a good many matters, I might be able to square him ; but I have never attempted anything in that direction. I think I have fully explained’ how I came to refer to the question of immigration on the occasion to which reference has been made. Had my speech been fully reported no misapprehension could have existed in regard to it ; but a summary of it has been seized upon by the leader of the Opposition with the object of creating dissension between my colleagues and myself. I am satisfied that that is the object underlying the action taken by him to-day ; but it will fail, as everything else which the right honorable member has taken in hand has failed. No Ministerial colleagues ever stood more loyally together than have the members of the present Ministry ; there has been an entire absence of dissension in our ranks. When I find, however, that I am out of sympathy with my colleagues, I shall know what to do, and will not hesitate to take that action which the leader of the Opposition would never think of taking in like circumstances.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).We have listened this afternoon to a tirade from the Minister of Trade and Customs, which I thought would end in his being seized with apoplexy. He declared that he did not care what was said by the Opposition, that he did not make the statements attributed to him, that he was on the best of terms with his colleagues, and that the attack made upon him was without foundation. The honorable gentleman began by making a contemptuous reference to the leader of the Opposition, saying that he had put him out of office with the toe of his boot. Let it be conceded that he did boot the leader of the Opposition out of office. Whom did he Loot into office in his place?
– More New South Wales politics. Why not let us come Jo the politics of Australia?
– Why did not the honorable member make that interjection when the Minister was speaking ?
– Because he did not talk solelv of New South Wales politics.
– When his particular friend, the Minister, was speaking
– Will the honorable member please discuss the matter before the Chair ?
– I think I am entitled to reply to a dirty and offensive insinuation made across the table by the MinisFer.
– I made no insinuation.
– Let it be understood that when the Minister did boot the leader of the Opposition out of office-
– I have asked the honorable member to discuss the question before the Chair.
– I think I am entitled to refer to a statement which the Minister was allowed to make.
– There is only one matter before the Chair, and that is the motion of the leader of the Opposition. That motion, as drafted by the right honorable member, limits the debate, and I cannot allow the honorable member for Parramatta to go beyond its scope. It is true that the Minister made a remark which was beyond the scope of the motion, and had he continued to speak in that way I should have called him to order. He made, however, only an incidental reference to the matter, and I therefore did not interfere. On the first occasion that the honorable member for Parramatta mentioned the point, I did not take action : but I cannot allow him to proceed on the lines he desires.
– Throughout practically the whole of his speech, the Minister was discussing New South Wales politics, in derogation of the leader of the Opposition. .
Several honorable members interrupting -
– I ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Parramatta to proceed without interruption, and the honorable member to keep to the question.
-The Minister laid down the strange doctrine that if there was anything in this matter it was no con- cern of the Opposition, and that it should be left to the Ministry itself. That is a remarkable doctrine to lay down. If it were conceded, there could be no further use for the Opposition, and we might as well pack up our political traps and go home. I venture to say that it is the obligation of an Opposition to take a deep and anxious interest in all matters which have to do with the preservation of the first principles of parliamentary government. I should like to say, in passing - for I may not refer further to a certain statement made by the Minister - that every one of the assertions which he made in defence of his position constituted the severest criticism that could be levelled against the attitude of his chief on the question of immigration. He told us that he is not in favour of General Booth’s immigrants coming to Australia, and that we had farmers’ sons going about the country seeking ballot after ballot in the hope of obtaining a block of land. All that criticism, however, should have been addressed, not to the House to-day, but to the Prime Minister, who, since coming into office, has been advocating immigration throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Immigration has been the cardinal feature of his policy ever since he came into office, and it is at this late hour - after the Prime Minister has approved of General Booth’s scheme in the most cordial terms - that the Minister of Trade and Customs raises criticisms which apply, not so. much to the facts of the case as to the action of his political chief. What does he say in defence of the Prime Minister? - that he has acted impulsively.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I- said1 that the Prime Minister was enthusiastic, and that all honour was due to him for his action.
– That is as near as a Minister could go to asserting that his leader had made a fool of himself.
– Not at all.
– The honorable gentleman could not directly say that the Prime Minister had made a fool of himself, because he has to remain in the Ministry ; but when a Minister declares in the House that his political chief has acted enthusiastically in relation to this question, any fair-minded man must interpret such’ a statement as indicating a belief that the Prime Minister has been talking too much, and talking foolishly.
– Such a man as the honorable member might so interpret the statement.
– To my mind a very important principle is involved. The broad fact - explain it away as the honorable gentleman may - is that he is opposed to General’s Booth’s proposal-
– Opposed to the proposal to bring out a portion of the submerged tenth.
– I challenge the Minister to say “yes” or “no” to the plain question whether he is in favour of General Booth’s scheme.
– What is General Booth’s proposal ?
-The attention of honorable members has already been directed twice or thrice this afternoon, as well as on previous occasions, to the fact that when a speaker’s time is limited by the Standing Orders, it is most unfair that any part of it should be occupied by the interjections of others. I ask honorable members, therefore, not to continue these interruptions.
– Why does the honorable member for Parramatta provoke them?
– The Prime Minister is in favour of General Booth’s scheme. He has committed himself definitely to it by cable. He has expressed himself in the most cordial terms regarding it. The statements of the Minister of Trade and Customs, however, here, in Sydney, and in Henty, are in diametrical opposition to the action of the Prime Minister. Could anything more clearly indicate the hostility of the Minister to the proposals of the Prime Minister than for him to express himself in this public way against a scheme to which his chief has committed himself as definitely as any man could.
– He has not done so.
– The Prime Minister has expressed himself in terms of cordial approval in regard to General Booth’s offer.
– In regard to General Booth’s offer, but not in regard to his scheme.
– The Prime Minister has sent General Booth’s message on to the States, and has replied to the General that he is glad to be in accord with him in regard to the main object of his proposal, and asking for further details with a view to the successful carrying out of the scheme. Does the Minister say that he will agree to immigrants coming here from oversea if they bring with them a little money ? If so, I ask him : Are not immigrants coming here with money more likely to compete with farmers’ sons than are immigrants who come here without money? The honorable gentleman has placed himself on the horns of a dilemma. Either he is in favour of immigrants coming here who will compete with our farmers’ sons, or he is not; and there is more likelihood of that being done by immigrants coming he/re with money with which to buy land and settle themselves on it, than by immigrants brought out under General Booth’s scheme to settle as a colony on the Crown lands of Australia.
– Is there to be a colony?
– Yes. That has been- made very clear.
– I have not seen it stated that there is to be a colony, but I have read the denial of such a statement.
– No one knows better than does the honorable member that General Booth wishes that these 5,000 people shall be settled together as closely as possible, by being placed on a block of land suited for colonization purposes.
– That has not been stated.
– On the Pilliga scrub !
– I exceedingly regret this persistency of honorable members in occupying time which belongs to the honorable member for Parramatta, and I am sorry to have to suggest that the Standing Orders give me certain powers which I shall have to put into operation if the interruptions continue.
– I shall not deal with details any further, because the ‘ statement of them seems to create trouble, and I do not wish to do that. I wish only to point. out, as I have a right to do, the inconsistency of the Minister for Trade and Customs. May I suggest to honorable members who sit on the corner benches that they should take the advice which the Minister gave respecting his dispute with the leader of the Opposition, and let us settle this matter without their interference? The Minister declared in the speech to which reference has been made, that when General Booth’s scheme came before the Cabinet he would have something further to say about it, and that he would have something to say about it outside the Cabinet. That shows a nice spirit it which to go into Cabinet to discuss the matter. Such a statement violates the secrecy of the Cabinet, without which parliamentary government cannot continue, because it is of its essence that Cabinet deliberations shall be secret. The Minister; announces before -the Cabinet has dealt with this matter what he is going to do in the Council Chamber. No matter how favorable the Prime Minister may be to the proposal of General Booth, the Minister of Trade and Customs will not agree to it, but will have something to say against it, not only in the Council Chamber, but outside as well. On the honorable gentleman’s own showing, he has no right to stay in the Ministry for five minutes, and if there is any booting out to be done, the obligation rests upon the Prime Minister to boot out the Minister of Trade and Customs, unless the latter will retire with the decency and dignity befitting the occupant of office, who finds himself in conflict with his Prime Minister. Of course, we do not expect the honorable member for Hume to do that. He, of all others, should not talk of booting persons out of the Government, since he would sacrifice every political principle of his life to obtain place, pay, and power. That has been one of his characteristics ever since he first got into office in New South Wales many years ago.
Sir- William Lyne. - The honorable member gave up the Labour Party in order to get into office.
– That is as true as most of the things which the honorable gentleman has said to-day. Cabinet government can be carried on only by the forbearance of Ministers towards one another, and. after matters have been discussed in Cabinet, each Minister must take responsibility for the decisions of his colleagues. That is the clear doctrine of parliamentary government. A Minister has no right to act in diametrical opposition to his leader upon a prime article of the Ministerial programme. The Prime Minister has committed himself to the encouragement of immigration more deeply, perhaps, than to any other item on his programme. He has gone about the country preaching from the house-tops the need of population for the maintenance of a White Australia - of our obligation to fill the country reasonably full of white people, for the sake of our own defence. After the Prime Minister has irrevocably committed himself to this policy, the Minister of Trade and Customs goes about the country repudiating it, and declaring what he will do when General Booth’s scheme comes before the Cabinet. Parliamentary government cannot be carried on in this way. The Government are playing a very old game of theirs. They must please both wings of their party, and must fly both flags for the purpose. Therefore, it was very appropriate the other night for the Prime Minister to go on a -public platform, and declare that he is both a Socialist and an Individualist. The Prime Minister says that we require population from oversea, whereas the Minister of Trade and Customs says that we do not, and adds, “ We will not have it. I am prepared to leave office first.” Of course, no one thinks that he would do that. The Ministry is likely fo get into a very peculiar position in regard to this matter. Every one knows that Cabinet Government places a dual responsibility on Ministers - their responsibility to Parliament and their responsibility to the GovernorGeneral. It is not a difficult stretch of the imagination to suppose that the Governor-General may receive a communication from the Imperial Government on the subject of immigration, as he did the other day from Canada on the subject of preferential trade. If that should happen, who would advise the Governor-General on the subject? Would he take the advice of the Prime Minister, or would he take that of the Minister of Trade and Customs?
– The time allotted to the honorable member under the Standing Orders has now expired.
– I regard the Minister’s reply as wholly unsatisfactory. The Prime Minister has laid down a certain definite line of policy towards ‘ immigration which, I think, is possibly the most important plank in his programme, since it affects all the others, while the Minister of Trade and Customs has gone behind the back of the Government, and made a statement to the country which his self-respect as a loyal colleague should’ have prevented him from making. This is, unfortunately, no new departure for the Minister of Trade and Customs to take. In June last, speaking in> East Sydney, in that fine old battle-ground, the Protestant Hall, of his famous change of front in reference to the inclusion of railway servants within the scope of the Arbitration Bill, he said -
Don’t make any mistake. I am going to speak straight from the shoulder to-night.
I shall not dwell on the unusual course which the Minister set himself to follow in determining to speak straight from the shoulder -
When the party known as the Labour Party went to the country, to a large extent the main question was whether the railway servants should be included in the Federal Arbitration Bill or not …. When they met the House the question- was made a test question, and the Labour Party was asked to go back upon the one great point that they had submitted to their constituents. He thought they would have been a contemptible crowd had they gone back on that point.
And yet he was the Minister in the last Deakin Administration who would have been most glad if the Labour Party had proved themselves a “contemptible crowd,” and had gone back on that point. The report from which I am quoting continues -
Although he (the honorable member for Hume) was a member of a Government which was against the inclusion of the railway servants in the Arbitration Act, it was well known that he was personally in favour of the proposal. He had been twitted by Mr. Sydney Smith with having first voted against the proposal and afterwards voted for it.
Surely a proper subject for twitting.
The explanation was simple. Being bound to the Government, he could not vote against his colleagues, but when he got the opportunity to vote for these railway servants he did so.
There are the articles of faith of the honorable member for Hume as a Cabinet Minister. He cannot vote against his colleagues, because to do so would cause him to pass into the cold shades of opposition; but he will speak against them as much as he likes. What would have been the position in regard to the claims of the railway servants had the Deakin Administration continued in office? Their claims to consideration would have been as nothing in comparison with the infinitely more pressing claim of the honorable member for Hume to continue in office. What would have been the position in such a case? Would the Minister have taken the truly awful step of surrendering that power and place which has such a strong attraction for him, and go back on his leader’s promises to his constituents - a thing which he declared the members of the Labour Party should not do? Or would he have stayed in office and forgotten about the poor downtrodden railway servants? It is no new thing for the honorable member to betray Cabinet secrets outside ; but it will be a slur upon the Government if they permit the Minister to continue in office and subject them to this indignity. The Commonwealth will be in an unhappy position if a Minister of the Crown is to have so small a regard for the dignity of his office that he is prepared to throw over his colleagues for the sake of currying favour with those to whom his whole past political career has been strongly opposed. I think the present position is a most pitiable one, and I am very glad that the leader of the Opposition has given honorable members an opportunity to express their views on it.
– There as an old saying that no show is complete without Punch, and I do not think it would be possible to conclude a debate unless the honorable member for Wentworth had something to say. Dunne the course of this discussion, statements have been hurled backwards and forwards which, j. think, would have been just as well left unsaid. Honorable members have charged each other with corruption, and with kicking one another out of office, and I think that it would have been more dignified if, in discussing a high constitutional question, all personalities of that description hadbeen left out. The leader of the Opposition intimated to the Speaker that he desired to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of vital importance, and he has attempted to show that the Minister of Trade and Customs has committed a grave offence against constitutional usage. I venture to say that if the right honorable gentleman had honestly thought that high constitutional principles were at stake, he should, instead of moving the adjournment of the House, have taken the more extreme course of tabling a ‘ motion of censure.
– What would have been the use of that ? Honorable members on the Ministerial side are too solid.
– That fact does not relieve the leader of the Opposition, and those who are supporting him, of their responsibilities. Personally, I shall certainly oppose General Booth’s scheme if he contemplates sending out to Australia a large number of paupers to compete with our own people, many of whom are at present either unemployed, or experiencing great difficulty in earning a living. The honorable member for Parramatta said that the members of the Labour Party were in favour of introducing immigrants with capital, and that such a class of people would compete with our farmers? sons to a greater extent than would the immigrants proposed to be introduced under General Booth’s scheme. The only inference to be drawn is that the honorable member is willing that a number of immigrants should be introduced who would compete with our own citizens who already have a very hard fight for existence.
– No such thing.
– I must accept the honorable member’s disclaimer ; but that was the only inference I could draw from his remarks. Then, again, the honorable member spoke about the intention of General Booth to form an immigration colony. That was the first I had heard of any such project.
– It is referred to in the correspondence.
– I have not seen the correspondence. Irrespective of whether or not it is proposed to form a colony. I shall certainly object to the introduction of a number of persons into the Commonwealth who will enter into competition with those among us who already find it hard enough to obtain the means of subsistence. Honorable members have spoken about the position of the Government in regard to the question of immigration and General Booth’s scheme. I would point out, however, that General Booth’s project must be dealt with by the States Governments, who must provide the land for the purposes of settlement. It seems to me to be idle to speak about assisting General Booth’s emigrants when so much difficulty is experienced in obtaining land for settlement in most of the States. For two blocks of land recently put up for selection at Dubbo, no less than 600 applications were received.
– Those were town blocks.
– Order. I would direct the attention of the House to the fact that there is a gentleman outside the House who is interjecting.
– I understood, Mr. Speaker, that when an honorable member was sitting within the corner spaces, parallel with the Speaker’s chair, which are usually railed off for occupation by strangers, he was not to be considered outside the House unless the bars were in position in the manner provided for when strangers are occupying the seats.
– It has been the practice, ever since the spaces have been railed off, to regard any persons occupying them as outside the House. That practice has been followed for two or three years, and unless honorable members express a wish to the contrary, it will be continued.
– The party to which I belong are not opposed to immigration. We are willing to receive any immigrants who are likely to become useful citizens, and we do not care from what part of Europe they come, so long as they are white.
– Honorable members do not believe in assisted immigration.
– No, we do not. We regard it as our first duty to provide for the people who are already here. Until we are able to find them employment, and to settle upon the land those who desire to engage in rural occupations, it is idle for us to talk about introducing large numbers of immigrants. We know that there are hundreds and thousands of unemployed amongst us, and thatmany thousands of others find the struggle for existence a very hard one. Under these circumstances, it would be unwise for us to spend money in addinglargely to our population.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Kennedy suggested that the leader of the Opposition should have moved a vote of censure upon the Government, and, therefore, he evidently considered that a very strong case had been made out. There is no doubt that the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs was utterly opposed to all constitutional practice. We all know that several Ministers left the Balfour Administration because they disagreed with the policy of the Government. One Minister went to Belfast some years since, and after having expressed himself as opposed to the policy of the Government upon the Irish question, stated that he knew that he must resign his position inthe Ministry. Immediately upon his return to London, Lord Salisbury called upon him to hand in his resignation. The constitutional practice was very clearly set out in that case. The Minister of Trade and Customs stated that he was not in disagreement with the Prime Minister, but
I would point to the reply given bythe Prime Minister yesterday to the question asked by the honorable member for Herbert with regard to the reported intention of Mr. Bramwell Booth to send out to Australia a number of impecunious persons. The Prime Minister said -
The negotiations have passed into the hands of the Agents-General of the States. That men are not in comfortable circumstances, or are even in want, does not, of necessity, cause them to be undesirable immigrants.
Some members of the Labour Party who have not been in Australia for more than ten years have held responsible office.
– Name one.
– The honorable member himself is a comparatively new arrival, and the honorable member for Coolgardie has not been in Australia for much more than ten years.
– If the honorable member doubled the term he would still be wrong.
– Does the honorable member for Robertson consider that his remarks have anything to do with the question ?
– I do, sir. I am quoting the reply given by the Prime Minister to the question asked by the honorable member for Herbert with regard to the proposal to send indigent immigrants out to Australia. The Prime Minister went on to say -
Most of these families may be desirable immigrants, and if the Governments of the States are able to settle them on the land, the prosperity of all classes must be thereby increased.
The leader of the Labour Party indicated by interjection that he was opposed to men beingbrought in here unless they had means.
– Just now, when I directed a question to the honorable member,he was referring to the length of time which certain honorable members had been in Australia, which had really nothing to do with the subject under discussion. Now the honorable member is again exceeding the bounds of proper debate. We are not discussing the question of immigration generally, or General Booth’s scheme. The only question before us is whether a Minister should or should not express an opinion in public in opposition to the policy of the Government to which hebelongs.
– In making his defence, the Minister declared that his remarks at the Henty Agricultural Show referred to the “ submerged tenth.” Shall I not be in order in pointing out that the Prime Minister has stated that the Government are in favour of bringing to Australia even immigrants of that class?
– Certainly, the honorable member will be in order in doing that.
– The Prime Minister has affirmed that the Government favour the introduction even of members of the “ submerged tenth,” provided that suitable land is available to them upon their arrival, and he has taken the proper steps to insure that such land shall be available to them. The leader of tie Opposition has shown very clearly the course which should be adopted by the Minister of Trade and Customs if he disagrees with the immigration policy that has been laid down by the Prime Minister - a policy which members of the Opposition entirely indorse. We are assured by those in responsible positions that in numerous parts of Australia to-day land is open for settlement by these poor people, who wish to seek fresh fields and new pastures.
An Honorable Member. - To what States does the honorable member refer?
– I allude to Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong.
– Only yesterday, Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of New South Wales, is reported to have said that in that State there are thousands of square miles of agricultural land which are suitable for settlement by ‘members of the “ submerged tenth “ - a class of people to the introduction of whom the Minister of ‘ Trade and Customs is opposed, although the Prime Minister admits that they may constitute very desirable immigrants. The report which was recently submitted by the Rhodes trustees states that immigrants who were in humble circumstances upon their arrival in Canada, have made the very best colonists. It is reasonable for us to assume that the same results will follow the introduction of a similar class into Australia. The Minister of Trade and Customs is opposed to the broad and humane policy announced by the Prime Minister. The latter has declared that he is in favour of settling, upon our lands the bone and sinew of Great Britain - a policy which’ is opposed by honorable members occupying the corner benches - so that for all time we may insure the maintenance of a White Australia. I trust that the Prime Minister will insist upon the Minister of Trade and Customs speedily recanting, and if the latter refuses to do so I hope that there will be a vacancy in the Cabinet. I am sure that the people of Australia will applaud his desire to encourage the immigration of sturdy agricultural labourers from Great Britain.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- If ever there was a political storm in a teacup we have witnessed one to-day. What are the facts of the case? I was present upon one occasion when the Minister of Trade and Customs made a speech upon this very question, and I can assure the House that he did not utter one word in regard to immigration to which any member of the Opposition would not subscribe. All our information concerning the scheme proposed by General Booth has been gleaned from the press reports. First, we were informed that General Booth proposed to send to Australia 5,000 families who were possessed of agricultural experience and considerable capital. He solicited the advice of ‘ the Prime Minister upon two points - first, as to whether their presence would be welcome, and secondly as to whether suitable land could be found for them upon their arrival. The’ Prime Minister very promptly replied that, as far as it was in his power to do so, he would be glad to assist the development of our resources by the introduction of a desirable class of immigrants. Before the Minister of Trade and Customs publicly spoke upon this question, we learnt from the press that a considerable body of workers in Great Britain, backed up by some of the most influential journals there, had protested against the members of this desirable class leaving England at all. They were referred to as the “ flower of the country.”
– That shows that they were not members of the “ submerged tenth.”
– I will come to that point presently.
– I am afraid that I cannot allow the honorable member to come to it. The whole question under consideration is whether or not the Minister hasbeen loyal to his ‘colleagues. The question of immigration generally, and of the merits or demerits of General Booth’s scheme, are entirely excluded from discussion by the terms of the motion.
– I quite agree with you, sir ; but I thought I might be permitted to point out that I was present when the Minister of T.rade and Customs spoke upon this question. I merely wished to give the reasons which induced him to make the statement that he did. The honorable gentleman was dealing with a matter of public . policy, and his action has been challenged by the leader of the Opposition.
– If the honorable member can so connect his remarks, he will be in order. I was waiting to hear him establish the connexion.
– It is necessary for me to relate the incidents which led up to the delivery of the Minister’s speech.
– Was the honorable member present at Henty on Saturday?
– No; but I was in Sydney when the Minister made practically the same speech. He had to confront - as he has often had to do - hundreds of splendid young men who are seeking an opportunity to make a living upon the lands of Australia. He was asked what was his attitude in respect of the question of immigration, and he clearly stated that he was not in favour of encouraging the introduction of members of General Booth’s submerged tenth. It is within the knowledge of honorable members generally that the great majority of the submerged tenth are absolutely unfitted to settle upon the land. If they were placed there they would be practically useless. Even in England itself they are very far from being regarded as a desirable class in the population. Under these circumstances, the Minister naturally stated that he was opposed to their introduction into the Commonwealth. There was not one word of his speech which would warrant the deduction that he was opposed to the immigration of men who would develop our resources. Surely he was justified in making the reply that he did? He was confronted by hundreds of young men, who were asking, “ Is it proposed to grant to members of the submerged tenth ‘ a preference over nativeborn Australians?” I give an emphatic denial to the statement of the honorable member for Robertson that ample land is available for settlement in the Commonwealth to-day. Quite recently, at a place which is very close to the town in which the Minister of Trade and Customs delivered the speech to which objection has been taken, the Government of New South Wales threw open for occupation a block of 640 acres.
– I must say that I cannot yet see the connexion between the honorable member’s remarks and the motion which is under consideration. Will the honorable member please establish it? The question is not whether General Booth’s scheme, or any other scheme, is a good one. It is simply whether or not the Minister of Trade and Customs was in his statements loyal to the policy announced by the Prime Minister.
– I have always paid great deference to your rulings, Mr. Speaker, and shall continue to do so. I regret, however, that the leader of the Opposition was permitted to go beyond the scope of the motion. He has made certain statements with regard to the conduct of the Minister of Trade and Customs, which, to my mind, are unfair. I have had the privilege and honour of being intimately acquainted with the Minister for twenty-five years. During the greater portion of that time I have been politically associated with him - on one occasion we were colleagues in a State Ministry - and I can say from my knowledge of him that he is the last man in this House who would be disloyal to his colleagues, or make any statement calculated to bring them into disrepute. There was nothing in the speech which formed the subject of the attack made by the leader of the Opposition thai could be construed as evidence of disloyalty on the part of the Minister to his colleagues. I am perfectly satisfied that the Government, as a whole,, are at one in the desire, if necessary, to bring to Australia a suitable class of immigrants, and that they are equally at one in the wish to exclude an undesirable class.
– Few of those who listened to the explanation that my honorable colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, made of his views, and the reasons for them, will consider that the purpose in his mind when he made the speech in question was in any degree inconsistent with his loyalty to the Cabinet, or to its policy of immigration. The policy of immigration is, as the leader of the Opposition has properly stated, vital to this Government. It is. however, a large issue embracing “the introduction of suitable settlers of all classes from Europe, and from the mother country, particularly with a view to their settlement upon the soil.
– No one wishes to see unsuitable immigrants admitted.
– We are agreed as to that. I think we are also agreed that it is not proposed that these settlers shall receive advantages superior to those offered the sons of the farmers of Australia now in the country. No one proposes that. We come, then, to the consideration of the particular proposal which the. Minister of Trade and Customs was discussing, and for his utterances in regard to which he has been criticised in this House. The offer made by General Booth, is one which I welcomed most cordially as a touchstone of this question. I regarded it in that light because it put to the States, in a form in which it could neither be evaded nor confused, the question of what lands were available, and on what terms they could be taken up. That question is of as much interest to the people already in Australia as it is to those intending to come here, because it made it necessary for the States to show that they can supply the natural and reasonable demands of the people already here as well as of those outside. I agree with the leader of the Opposition that, to look at the map of Australia, or to be acquainted with any single State, is to be satisfied that the area of fertile and wellwatered land in the Commonwealth is sufficient to supply the demands, not only of those of our own population who are legitimately desirous of settling upon the soil, but of 5,000 or 50,000 families from outside. The safety and prosperity of Australia depends upon the introduction of suitable immigrants. It was, perhaps, due to the fact that my honorable colleague was not present when the Cabinet had an opportunity to consider what General Booth’s proposal really meant - because, so far, his offer has not been put clearly and definitely before the public - that he was led to assume that the scheme was to send to Australia a portion of what is sometimes described as the submerged tenth. I am only assuming from what I know of the intentions of the General when he visited this country what is the meaning of the proposal which he has now made. I have very little doubt that I know what he has in view, since his chief officers in. Australia” support my interpretation. As I have said, my honorable colleague was not present at the Cabinet, and. appears to have assumed that General Booth’s offer was to send out 5,000 families taken from the submerged tenth. I am free to admit that if that were so, the offer would be regarded with a much closer scrutiny than it is likely to receive, because his own statements show that a great proportion of that number consists of city dwellers, born and bred in the streets, and possessing no knowledge of agriculture. It cannot be said, however, that it consists wholly of city dwellers. Unfortunately, owing to the harsh conditions that obtain in the old world, many of those who drift temporarily, at all events, into the submerged section, have had some training on the land, and have no stain on their characters. They are only the victims of misfortune, or of hard local conditions. I do not say that these comprise any great proportion of the whole, but they certainly constitute a marked proportion, and will”’ make good settlers when proper opportunities are afforded them in a new country. General Booth has three distinguishing faculties that are rarely found in combination. He is not only the leader of a most remarkable religious revival, but is, and has been, a great philanthropist, and, curiously enough, is also a keen man of business. His financial control and administration of his own organization, looked at merely from a commercial stand-point, are marvellous achievements. That was brought home to my own un-commercia’l mind during conversations that I had the good fortune to have with him when he was last in Australia. He then described to me in detail his series of proposals for settling people on the land. He explained how he first sifted from the applicants those who were able to come out with some chance of earning a living. If they were untrained, he sent them to the Army farms, and trained them. If they gave evidence of weakness of character, or of some other defect, he kept them under control in what would be called “colonies,” some of which he hoped to establish oversea. But these were a class apart - a class marked out for control - to be sustained until they were made selfsupporting, and were able to start with some means to seek an independent livelihood. Apart from these, he had sifted out those who were already trained, and those who were fit to be trained, in agricultural pursuits, and had wives and families capable of supporting themselves to some degree. In some cases these men had a little capital, and occasionally something more; but they were being driven from the soil owing to the growth of the great estates in England, and the turning of the land to other than productive purposes.
– Are they members of the Army ?
– They are not, and the General is not seeking to make them members. He assured me that he was simply acting in this respect because he was desirous of transferring them, and their capital, to countries where they would make good citizens, and would be welcomed. His officers in Australia assure me that I am right in assuming that the 5,000 families to which reference has been made belong to this class - that they are capable people whom any country would welcome, and who, if placed upon the land, would have a reasonable chance to make a good livelihood. I think that General Booth’s American experience, and his own practical instincts, have taught him that his scheme would not be successful if men unsupplied with capital were placed on isolated selections in a land with whose climate and methods of agriculture they were unfamiliar. His desire is, that although these men need not form colonies, they shall be settled in districts where they may co-operate in the common work of agriculture, and assist each other in their study of the methods necessary to be pursued.
– Have any details of the scheme been supplied ?
– None whatever. I have already said that I can only judge by the statements which General Booth made to me on the occasion of his last visit. I know that this, scheme was then in his mind. He said that thousands of strong, capable, honest families, having no mark against them, and some of them possessing a little money, were annually leaving England, and that his desire was tWat they should go to the country affording the best opportunities. Australia, to his mind, was one of the countries* offering the very best opportunities to immigrants. Its climate and its soils were immense assets, providing splendid opportunities for settlement. That being so, he asked why should we not take these men from the old land? I replied, that we were able and willing to do so. He went on to explain that the present rates of passage were such that a man’s capital might be exhausted in bringing his family to Australia, and that unless assistance were given him, he would be placed on the land without means. He is wise enough to know that to put men down in a new country without knowledge of local conditions, and with insufficient capital to work their land, is not to give them a fair chance to make a living. These immigrants want, not only farms, but knowledge, and must be sustained for! a time either by their own capital, or by some means of earning money being placed in their way. General Booth informed me, however, that if they were placed on the land where they could work together, or obtain, employment in the neighbourhood till they had acquired a knowledge of our methods, they would make good Australian agriculturists. I think that is the proposal he has in mind. The only course open to us was to transmit it to the States, because they have the land. But the scheme was a touchstone that has, in two or three weeks, brought home to this country more forcibly than years of argument have done, the difficulty of obtaining land, even for those who are already here. The people who will benefit because of General Booth’s proposal will be not only the 5,000 families whom he proposes to send out, but those already here, to whom the land will be made easier of access. It will help on the reform of our land laws. I do not fear the submerged tenth. The men sent out will be selected according to General Booth’s own judgment. The selection will be under the supervision of the Agents-General, or others in England authorized by the States to pick out suitable families likely to be successful in Australia. These officers will see that men who would not make a success under fair conditions, or are not fit to face the new circumstances of a new country, are not selected. I have no fear in this regard. My only fear is that our response will be too slow, and that hundreds of thousands who would people our unsettled lands - who would face harder conditions when they understood how to face them than most of our own would be prepared to do - will be lost to us. What would be prosperity to those who have been brought up under the severer conditions of the old world would seem hardship to many here.
– That is the answer to the honorable and learned gentleman’s colleague.
– If the Minister of Trade and Customs had been present when the matter was discussed by the Cabinet, and had heard our interpretations of the offer, I do not think he would have had even the apprehensions that he expressed. He made a satisfactory explanation of the position he had ‘taken up showing that when he spoke he believed that the scheme was to send out people from the streets. We know that to bring people from the slums, endeavouring to turn them into strong agriculturists, who would plough our fields and clear Australian forests, would be to expose them to a trial under which they would necessarily breakdown. They would be a burden to themselves and to the community. I think those whom it is proposed to send out are to be picked according to General Booth’s own judgment.
– And. are; to be helped by the Army, or by some other body.
– That is so. General Booth said that this was not to be a speculative undertaking. There was no desire to gain anything for the Army. These immigrants would be helped by his organization, simply because they believed it desirable to assist honest people to earn an honest living for themselves under the flag.
– The proposal is that we should help them in conjunction with the Army.
– In that respect the Commonwealth is not powerless. We havenot considered a precise proposal, because no definite proposition has yet been submitted. When it is this Government will not hesitate to ask the House to do what the States cannot do as well - to provide the necessary knowledge of our resourcesin the mother country, and the means to make access to suitable settlers from oversea easier than it ever has been. The House will then be able to pass judgment’ on our propositions.
– I take it that the Government’s immigration proposals remain unchanged.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden-
Monaro - Postmaster-General). - I move -
That this House accepts the Agreement, made and entered into on the 25th day of April,1905 between the Postmaster-General, in and for the
Commonwealth, of the first part; the Orient Steam ‘Navigation Company Limited, of the second part ; and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society, of the third part, for the carriage of mails between Naples and Adelaide, and other ports.
The agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company has been so much discussed, and has been before honorable members so long, that it. is not necessary for me to explain its provisions at any length. The document has been printed, and is in the hands of honorable members. Previous Governments have had before them the question of the best means of providing for the carriage of our mail’s oversea, which will always be of importance to Australia. Their efforts have been directed to securing a quick and regular service at the lowest price obtainable, with proper regard for other public needs. L shall not enlarge on the benefits and blessings conferred upon theCommonwealth by such a service, but prefer to place before honorable members some facts which will enable them to judge whether the present agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company should be ratified. The difficulties which beset previous Governments in dealing with the question of oversea mail carriage are known, and honorable members, no doubt, remember the alarm which was expressed when, the last mail contracts expired lest Australia should be left without regular and efficient means of communication with the old world. Honorable members will be interested to learn the particulars of past contracts for the conveyance of mails betweenAustralia and England. The facts show that, with the ratification of each new contract, there has been an increase in the speed of the service, and a reduction in the price paid by the people of Australia, this having been due largely to the advances made by science in regard to the construction of steamers. In view of this fact, while I do not wish to minimize the difficulties which beset the last Government in dealing with this question, I say frankly that I do not care very much for the agreement which they entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, because I think that, under it, we shall have to pay pretty well for the service which we shall receive. At the same time, it must be remembered that there are occasions, even in private business, when circumstances compel almost any payment to secure the rendering of certain services.
On going through the papers, I have found that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have carried mails to and from Australia under various contracts, from the 1st January, 1874, to the 31st January, 1905.
– No. The Orient Steam Navigation Company have carried Australian mails under various contracts from August, 1883, to the 31st January, X905, and since the 4th April of the present year have been carrying the Commonwealth mails under the agreement which I am asking the House to ratify. Previous to 1888, the company, under a contract with New South Wales, was paid 12s. a pound for letters, is. a pound for packets, and 6d. a pound for newspapers, the average annual payment under that poundage arrangement amounting to about £52,000, with £5 per hour in addition for early arrival, which increased the amount by about £19,000, making the total payments to the company about £71,000 per annum. At that time Victoria had a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company for the conveyance of mails to Colombo,” for which she paid £85,000 per annum. In 1888 a contract was made between the .British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental arid Orient Steam Navigation Companies for the conveyance of mails to and from Australia for a subsidy °f £:i 7°>°°o per annum, our contribution to which on a -per capita basis was .£75,000 per annum. That contract was for seven years, and in 1895 it was renewed at the same price for another three years. In 1898 there was a second renewal for a period of seven years, Australia’s contribution being reduced by an adjustment of some poundages to £72,000 per annum.
– Was the service a monthly or a fortnightly one?
– The same service as we have now. The unfortunate thing about the present agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company is that, while the subsidy has been increased, we are not getting the better service that might lie expected. The British Government, in making arrangements with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company for the carriage of mails to Australia, secured more speedy transit and a slight reduction in subsidy, and it is difficult to understand why, after all the advances which have been made during the past seventeen years, and the greater facilities which now exist for the economical running of steamers and conveyance of mails, an alarming increase in the subsidy should be required by the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– Is it not due to a ring?
– It is difficult to say to what it is due. One authority gives one reason, and another authority a different one. During the last seven years in which we subsidized the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steam Navigation Companies the time of journey for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was fixed at 686 hours, and that for the Orient Steam Navigation Company at 696 hours. The British Government provided for a service to the East as well as to Australia, and their total subsidy to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company amounted to £330,000 per annum, or 4s. 7d. per mile ; whereas, under the old contract Australia used to pay 2s. 7d. per mile, but the British Government obtained special advantages in regard to the use of the vessels of the company for naval purposes, and in other directions, which accounts for the difference. In the new contract between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company there will be a reduction of subsidy amounting to £15,000 per annum if the contract lasts for the usual term of seven years, which is remarkable in view of the fact that we have had to increase our subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and the service given by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company has been expedited by twenty-four hours, the length of the journey being now 662 hours, and the rate of speed approximately sixteen knots. Under our contract with the Orient Company we have to pay a subsidy which has been increased by ,£38,000 per annum, compared with our contribution under the former joint arrangement between the Imperial Government and the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steam Navigation Companies, which means an increase in the rate per mile from 2s 7d. to 3s. 8d.. while the time of journey stipulated for is 696 hours, or thirty-four hours longer than the time of journey agreed to by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and the rate of speed is approximately only fourteen knots, as against sixteen knots in the case of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats.
– This is a good recommendation for the agreement, and reflects great credit on the late Government.
– We expect to receive a poundage of ,£25,000 per annum, and to pay a poundage of £15,000 per annum, leaving a balance of £10,000 per annum in our favour. If, instead of agreeing to pay a subsidy, we had determined to pay the ordinary poundage rates - 35. 7 el. per lb. for letters and 41/3d. per lb. for other articles - it would cost us £15,000 per annum, so that to have had no subsidized contract would have meant a difference of about £80,000.
– Is it not a bold action, then, to ask the House to ratify this agreement?
– I shall presently give good reasons for its ratification ; but I think that the facts should first be placed before honorable members, so that they may view the matter from a commercial stand-point, and determine whether they are getting the worth of their money. It is difficult to understand why the amount of subsidy should be increased. The reasons given are an increase in the price of coal, the cost of handling cargo, and dues, and it is also alleged that the amount given previously did not pay for the service rendered. The late Prime Minister stated at the Hobart Conference that the Orient Steam Navigation Company had not been very successful of late, that their dividends had been few and far between, and the percentage of profit very low indeed.
– Is the subsidy to be given to the company as an eleemosynary contribution ?
– No. I do not ‘think that any such contention would hold good. The company have been carrying on the mail service for many years, and presumably their business has been well managed. In view of the fact that thev have made very little profit, and are getting very little, return for their service, it is quite natural that they should ask for a larger subsidy. It has been contended that the increase in the subsidy has been brought about by the stipulation in the contract .for the employment of white labour upon the mail steamers; but this has been emphatically denied by the representatives of the company. The expenditure incurred within the Commonwealth by the two mail companies amounts to at least £200,000 per annum.
– Is the honorable member contending that the companies come here for our good ?
– Certainly not; but I contend that we derive great benefit from the services which are carried on by them.
– Would they refrain from coming here if there were no subsidy ?
– That is a question I cannot answer. The necessity for a new contract in 1905 was brought about by the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act for the employment of white labour on mail steamers. The Imperial Government could not, owing to that stipulation, join with us in arranging for a fresh service, and consequently after certain communications had passed between the Commonwealth and the Imperial Government, notice was given of the termination of the existing contract, and tenders were called by this Government for a new service.
– The stipulation as to the employment of white labour made a good deal of difference ito the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– The Orient Steam Navigation Company deny that.
– That may be so; but if we had had the same power of negotiation in London as formerly, we should have been able to make better terms with the company.
– We ought to be in as good a position to negotiate here as in London. Honorable members are “fairly well acquainted with the history of the new contract. The honorable member for Denison, when occupying the position of Postmaster-General, invited tenders for a new service, and stipulated that additional facilities should be provided by the tenderers. It was required that certain conditions should be observed with regard to perishable freight, a speedier service was called for, and the contractors were asked to provide for better ventilation, and consequently Bor Better passenger accommodation, with a view to inducing more people to travel. We thought that if the passenger traffic were increased we might eventually obtain some reduction in the price charged for the carriage of the mails.
– What has the carriage of passengers and cargo to do with the Postal Department ?
– Whilst the contract for the carriage of mails concerns” the Postal Department, and it is my business to see that that Department does not pay for any other service, the Government, as a whole have, in making arrangements for the carriage of mails, to take cognisance of the requirements of our producers. The policy of this Government has been notonlyto provide a good mail service, but also to afford facilities to our producers for reaching the markets of the world.
– The Postal Department is to be made to pay for the facilities provided for the shipment of produce.
– Not necessarily. Whilst we are making our arrangements for the carriage of mails we cannot ignore the claims of our producers, and we have found it possible to obtain concessions from the mail companies at little or no cost to ourselves. If arrangements for the carriage of produce had to be made apart from the mail contracts, they would involve us in very heavy expenditure. Under the old contract Sydney was the terminal port. No stipulation was then made for the carriage of perishables, and, looking at the matter from a commercial standpoint, and realizing that in order to compete successfully with other countries the mail steamers must make provision for the carriage of perishables,itis, after all, an open question whether in framing the conditions of these contracts we are not making too much of the point thatcool storage facilities shall be provided. Every steamer that comes here has cool storage accommodation, and it is absolutely necessary for the mail companies to provide similar facilities for shippers. I have a list of the vessels which trade here, and which are furnished with refrigerating chambers, which shows that the total space available is enormous. Although there was no stipulation under the old contract, the Orient Steam Navigation Company, in their own interests, provided cool storage. A clause was inserted in the new contract provid ing that facilities should be offered for the carriage of perishables. That, however, is one of the advantages for which we should not pay very much, because, as I have said, the company is compelled in its own interests to comply with the demands of shippers. There was practically no competition when the first tenders were invited.
– That was one of the results of the operations of the shipping ring.
– It is very easy for the honorable member to say that, but the statement is difficult to prove. I have looked very closely into this matter, but have not been able to satisfy myself that the shipping ring was responsible for the paucity of tenderers.
– But the honorable member thinks that it is true.
– It is not wise for one to say what he thinks, unless he considers that he has good grounds for his belief. It is, however, remarkable that there was no competition. That appears to have been one of the reasons why a higher subsidy was asked for. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, in the first place, asked for 70,000. They afterwards reduced their tender to £150,000, and would not agree to make any improvements in the service. When my predecessor came to close quarters with the company he wished them to extend their service to Brisbane, but they stated they could not comply with his request until they could supply another steamer.
– Does the Minister know that the company have since extended the service to Brisbane, although they have not increased their fleet?
– Yes, they have extended their service, although they have not procured another steamer. It is questionable, however, whether they will be able to carry on with their present resources. The late Postmaster-General omitted all reference to Sydney as the terminal port, and that left the company free to extend their service to Brisbane if they chose.I am pleased to know that such an arrangement has now been made.
– Yes, andQueensland has to pay for the extension of the service, as well as to contribute its share towards thesubsidy.
– There are many other services to the cost of which the other States have to contribute, although they derive no direct advantage from them. South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria derive comparativelymall benefit from the Vancouver service, and yet they have to contribute towards the subsidy on a per capita basis. The Vancouver service is really subsidized for the carrying of mails, whereas no one can pretend that the contract entered into between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company has any reference to the mails.
– Why should the mail steamers be required, to come on to Sydney and Melbourne?
– Because it has been their practice for seventeen years to visit those ports. It was first proposed that the contract should be made for the carriage of mails from some Mediterranean port to Adelaide, but the Orient Steam Navigation Company at once said that they wanted to bring their steamers on to Sydney and Melbourne. The manager of the company said, “ Surely no one would be idiot enough to suppose that we should sign a contract to carry mails to Adelaide for £120,000 subsidy, and make that our terminal port. We should want £100,000 or £200,000 more if we were required to stay at Adelaide.” Therefore, as honorable members can see, the extension of the service from Adelaide to Sydney does not cost us a shilling.
– Then why should provision be made in the contract for the steamers going on to Melbourne and Sydney?
– Because the company offered us something for nothing, and we accepted it.
– That isa concession that has confused the issue.
– Yes, perhaps so. As Postmaster-General, I should have been just as well pleased if a contract had been entered into for the carriage of mails between a Mediterranean port and Adelaide; but in view of the fact that it costs nothing extra, and circumstances may arise to render it desirable that the steamers should continue to go on to Sydney, I think that we were wise to include that provision in the contract. No mails areto be carried by the Orient steamers between Sydney and Brisbane. That contract has been entered into purely for trading purposes, and I do not know that we should have any power under the Constitution to appropriate money for the purpose of subsidizing that particular service.
– Do the mail steamers always carry mails to and from Sydney?
– Yes, thesteamers always carry to and from Sydney some of the heavier mail matter only, theletters and the more important matter being, carried by train between Adelaide and Sydney. We shall be quite prepared to makea similar arrangement in regard to theBrisbane service.
– We shall accept than condition which will place us in the same position as the other States.
– I should like to point out in regard to the speed of the mail steamers, that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company provide us with a faster service than dothe Orient Steam Navigation Company, and that their boats frequently arrive twenty-four hours before the expiration of contract time, that is, fifty-six hours ahead of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s vessels. Averaging the last twelve trips, I find that the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have arrived thirty-nine hours ahead of their contract time - a very creditable performance. On the other hand, the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company have made the voyage upon an average in about twelve hours less than contract time. Each of these companies has nine vessels engaged’ in the service. Those of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s line are valued at about £250,000 each, and those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company at about £300,000- each. The tonnage of the vessels belonging to the latter is about 20 per cent. higher than that of the steamers belonging to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. In the light of these figures, one can easily see what a distinct advantage it would be to us if we could enter into a contract with a company which would carry our mailsas speedily as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company liners carry them under contract with the British postalauthorities. Naturally, we endeavour toexpedite the transit of mails as much as possible, and to this end, when vessels arrive ahead of their contract time, we are frequently called upon to provide special! trains.
– That costs a good deal.
– It does. But if we are warranted, in paying a subsidy of -£1 20,000 annually for the carriage of our mails, surely we ought, whenever the boats arrive in advance of contract time, to be able to do something to facilitate our commercial relations with the old country.
– Do the postal authorities run special trains north from Melbourne ?
– We frequently run special trains to Sydney. The subsidy paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is lower than the Vancouver subsidy, which represents about 4s. 7d. per mile. The rate of speed of the vessels belonging to the latter company is approximately thirteen or fourteen knots. It has been stated that the Governments of other countries pay higher subsidies than we do, and the action of the French and German authorities has been quoted in this connexion. But I would point out that the subsidies in question aire not paid for the carriage of mails alone, and consequently a fair comparison cannot be instituted. The amounts which we have paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company aggregate ,£2,780,000. On looking through the official papers, I find that, when the late Government were considering tenders, they intimated that no tender which was not based upon the payment of a subsidy of £100,000 annually would be entertained, and then only if certain conditions which provided for improved accommodation for perishable products, and for a faster service, were complied with. As honorable members are aware, the experiment was tried of carrying the mails upon the poundage system. That system proved to be unsatisfactory.
– It is unsatisfactory because we cannot insure a regular service, and because we cannot control the vessels carrying our mails in the way that we can if they are bound to run to a certain time-table, to travel at a specified rate of speed, and to call at certain ports. We all recollect the outcry which was raised when one of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamers did not call at Adelaide. People became alarmed lest their mails should be delayed at certain places.
– The Minister has stated that there has been no increase in the rate of speed of the vessels during the past eight years ?
– That is quite true. We all know the history of the negotiations which led up to the present contract. After much’ conferring, an arrangement was arrived at between the Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, under which the former were to pay a subsidy of £120,000 per annum. The Orient Steam Navigation Company had previously submitted conditions which the late PostmasterGeneral could not entertain, because of their stringent character. For example, the company wished to claim poundage upon all mails carried by their vessels, they desired settlements to be made in London - indeed, they wished to have everything their own way. In, my opinion, the conditions which they formulated were most unfair, and the late Postmaster-General would have acted very unwisely if he had acceded to them. About that time we know that an offer was received from Messrs. Scott, Fell, and Co., an Australian firm, to run a line of steamers as far as Bombay or Colombo. After due consideration, the Cabinet rejected that proposal, although the price stipulated would have meant to the Commonwealth £17.000 less than the subsidy demanded bv the Orient Steam Navigation Company. In connexion with that offer, a very important factor which had to be considered was that of the transhipment of our mails and produce at one of the ports I have mentioned. The transhipment of the mails did not present an insuperable difficulty, but the same remark is scarcely applicable to the transhipment of our produce. Under the conditions which the Orient Steam Navigation Company desired to obtain, that company- would have been enabled to collect, upon the poundage system, about ^25.000 per annum, and our parcels would only have been carried as far as Naples. Had that condition been agreed to, it would have been necessary to forward them across the Continent and to pay for this service. The cost thus incurred would have been considerable. As time pressed, the late Postmaster-General suggested that the company should practically” revert to the conditions which governed the old contract. In connexion with the present arrangement, it is noticeable that ali the advantages which we set out to obtain, such as a faster service, better accommodation - particularly in regard to perishable produce - and providing that Brisbane should be made a port of call, absolutely went by the board. It is difficult to understand why there was not more competition for the contract. It seems to me that one reason for this was that there was not sufficient time at the disposal of the Government to enter into an advantageous contract. In dealing with future contracts, I hope that plenty of time will be allowed. No doubt we shall then be able to obtain very much better terms.
– Plenty of time after the new contract has been accepted?
– After we have ratified this contract, ample time should be allowed to call for fresh tenders. We should, if necessary, give capitalists who are willing to invest their money in the enterprise, an opportunity of building the necessary vessels.
– After their tender has been accepted they require time to make their arrangements. .
– Yes. If this contract is to terminate at the end of three years, it would be wise to invite fresh tenders at as early a date as possible, with a view to inducing greater competition. Honorable members have asked, “ Why should we ratify the existing contract ?” In reply I ask, “ What will happen if we do not ratify it? Shall we be in a position to make better terms than those which were made by the late Government?” I admit at once that the present contract is not satisfactory. Whilst I ask the House to ratify it, I think we shall be acting wisely if, before the 30th January next, we give the Orient Steam Navigation Company notice of our intention to terminate it. The contract is for a period of nearly three years, and if we desire that it shall expire at the end of that time - that is, in January, 1908 - we must give notice of our intention, prior to 30th of January, 1906. If we do that, we shall have ample time in which to invite fresh tenders, and to induce competition amongst those who are willing to undertake the carriage of our mails. I ask the House to ratify the existing corntract, because, until that is done, the Orient Steam Navigation Company cannot get any money for the services which it has rendered.
– The Government should pay the amount due.
– We cannot do so until the contract has been rati fied. When the agreement was entered into, it was pointed out that no money could be paid until Parliament had approved of it. But the Orient Steam Navigation Company naturally expected that the contract would be ratified immediately the House met. At the present time there is a sum of £50,000 in London, which will be paid to that company immediately this proposal is agreed to by the Parliament.
– The Government will have to pay for the services performed, even if the contract be not ratified.
– That is so ; but I would point out that it is an open question as to what the company should be paid, and what claim would be made. I sympathize with the Orient Steam Navigation Company in its present position, because £50,000 is a very large sum to have locked up. Some objection has been taken to this motion by the honorable member for Oxley. He has indicated his intention to submit an amendment providing that Brisbane shall be made a port of call.
– I wish to include Hobart as a. port of call.
– Tasmania has as much right to be considered in this matter as has Queensland. I could easily understand the application of the Queensland Government, if the proposal of the honorable member for Oxley related to a mail contract. If we are to become a party to the agreement which has been entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company by the Queensland authorities, we certainly shoulcf have been consulted in some way, especially as that agreement does not relate to a mail contract. By no stretch of imagination can it be contended that it does. Does. the honorable member for Oxley imagine that it is our duty to subsidize a line of steamers for trade purposes between Sydney and Brisbane? Does he seriouslv contend that we have the constitutional power to do so?
– I do.
– With all deference to my honorable friend, I may say that a constitutional authority, whose opinion on this question I am prepared to accept in preference to his own, assures me that, even if we were so disposed, we could not do what he desires. It seems to me that the agreement in question was made without reference to the Commonwealth Government, and that by no stretch of imagination could it be described as a mail contract. If we agreed to take it over, where should we land ourselves?
– It is the most impudent proposition ever made in the -House.
– Could not Fremantle be omitted as a port of call?
–What would the honorable member say if, when the Vancouver mail contract were submitted to the House for ratification, the honorable member for Coolgardie urged that it should be referred back to the Government, in order that a clause might be inserted providing that the vessels engaged in the service should go round to Fremantle? I should like fo point out the position occupied by Queensland in regard to mail subsidies. For many years, queensland and New South Wales bore the cost of the Vancouver mail service, but the Commonwealth Government have now decided that the service shall be paid for, on a per capita basis, by all the States. Under the present arrangement, Queensland contributes £i5,7” per annum to the cost of the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, but instead of paying £10,227 per annum towards the Vancouver mail subsidy she will now have to pay only £3,486 per annum. The total amount provided in connexion with the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s mail service for 1905-6 is£i20,47o, made up as follows: - New South Wales, £44,100; Victoria, £36,550; Queensland, £15,760 ; South Australia, £11,260 ; Western Australia, £7,350; and Tasmania, £5,450 . If the Commonwealth took over the contract which Queensland has recently entered into with’ the Orient Steam Navigation Company, a very small moiety of the annual subsidy of £26,000 would be borne by that State. I say, first of all, that the Queensland contract is undoubtedly not one for the carriage of mails ; and, secondly, that the Commonwealth Government was not consulted in reference to it. If Queensland seriously considered that it was a Commonwealth undertaking, surely she would have asked the Commonwealth to endeavour to make the best possible arrangements.
– The Commonwealth Government refused to do so.
– When were we asked to do so?
– Deputation after deputation waited on the late Government and urged them to take action, with a view to making Brisbane a port of call under the Commonwealth mail contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– It is quite enough that I should have to answer for the sins of the present Government.
– Is it because the Government consider the Queensland contract is not one for the carriage df mails that they object to take it over?
– We say that the contract is not for the carriage of mails, and that it would be unconstitutional for the Commonwealth Government to give a preference to any State. For these, as well as for other good reasons, the Government cannot see their way clear to pay the Queensland subsidy or any portion of it. The contention has been raised that the Commonwealth contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company provides for the carriage of certain postal matter between Adelaide and Sydney. I have only to say that if any postal matter were carried by these steamers between Sydney and Brisbane, the Government would be prepared to pay for the service so rendered. Such a payment, however, would be so small as to be hardly worth considering. I think I have given very good reasons for the attitude taken up by the Government:. We are in sympathy with the honorable member for Oxley, and are anxious, as far as possible, to prevent friction between the Commonwealth and the States. We are ready to adopt a conciliatory policy when it is reasonable and fair to do so ; but I do not think any one would seriously contend that the Commonwealth should take over the contract arranged by the Queensland” Government. If we did ‘do so, we should have to pay not only the subsidy of ,£26,000 per annum, but for various concessions in regard to quarantine, wharfage dues, and other matters, which would considerably swell the total. Having regard to all the circumstances, the Government cannot accept the amendment of which notice has been given bv the honorable member for Oxley.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the speech delivered by the Postmaster-General, and must confess that I am much disappointed to learn that the Government are not prepared to pay a part, if not the whole, of the subsidy, which the Government of Queensland has arranged to give the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ in the opinion of this House the contract entered into with the Orient Company for Mail Service between Australia and Great Britain should be referred back to the Government for further consideration, with the object of including Brisbane as a port of call.”
I have been led to take this action because of the firm belief that Queensland has been unjustly treated in regard to the various mail subsidies -that have hitherto been paid. She has been forced to pay on a population basis for services that have been practically of little use to her. She has been paying her proportion of the subsidy given, not only to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, but to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, anc! yet has not enjoyed the advantage of mail steamers calling at Brisbane. The Australian subsidy for the Vancouver service was, until recently, paid by the Governments of Queensland and New South’ Wales, arid some two years ago, when the contract was about to expire, the Barton Government extended it tor a further period of two years, and increased the subsidy to the extent of £-3,000, without allowing Queensland to have any voice in the matter. That Government was apparently quite indifferent to the wishes and needs of the Stale of which 1 am a representative, and it never came forward with a proposal to debit the cost of the service upon a population basis. The late Government, however, saw the reasonaBleness of our demand, and decided that the subsidy should) be debited to the States on a -per capita basis. That was “a fair course to adopt, Tor each State must necessarily derive some advantage from the service. The Northern States probably secure a greater benefit from it than do the Southern States, but Queensland is obviously at a disadvantage in relation to the mail contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and has been called upon to pay a direct subsidy in order to reap some benefit from it. In 1903, when the Barton Government’ took steps to call for tenders for the carriage of mails between Australia and Great Britain, it was not proposed to insert a clause in the contract providing that Brisbane should be a port of caff. The Queensland
Government urged, however, that such a provision should be inserted, and the representatives of that State in this Parliament waited upon the Postmaster-General andstrongly pressed its claims in that regard. Our representations had but little effect; indeed, I must confess that the interests of Queensland have always been neglected by the Commonwealth. The present Government is in this respect no better than was its predecessors. If anything, the present Government, I regret to say, is very much worse thanthe last. I wish here to place on record the report of a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister of the day in regardto this subject in 1903, when Queensland was trying to get the Federal Parliament to do her justice in this matter -
A deputation, consisting of Messrs. Edwards, Paterson, Fisher, McDonald, Page (Q-), M.H.R.’s, Senators Dawson and Higgs (Q-), Senator Walker (N.S.W.), Senator Clemons(Tas.), and Mr. Harper (Vic), M.H.R., waited upon the Prime Minister at Parliament Houseyesterday, to urge that the new English mail contract should provide that the mail steamersshould call at Brisbane. The PostmasterGeneral was also present. Mr. Edwards said that Brisbane was the only leading port in theCommonwealth at which mail steamers did not call. In a letter which he had received, the Premier of Queensland pointed out that every facility was now available there for berthing the largest ocean-going vessels, while a very large export trade in fruit and dairy produce would be developed. He hoped the Government would recognise the very great importance to Queensland of Brisbane becoming a port of call, and that Queensland would be placed on the same footing as the other States. Mr. Fisher contended that Queensland had reached’ such a stage of development that it was entitled to become a port for mail steamers. Mr. Groom said that the suggested service would greatly stimulate the local producing industries. Mr. Page considered that -Queensland had a right to be included in the new contract merely as a matter of compensation for her contributions towards the service, and Mr. Wilkinson,. Mr. Paterson, Mr. Harper, Senator Walker, and Senator Clemons all supported the request
– Is the Mr. Groom mentioned in that report the present Minister of Home Affairs?
– Yes; and I expect him to support my amendment. The reply given to the deputation by the then Prime Minister was very unsatisfactory. We did not desire that alternative tenders should be called for, because we regarded such a course as an indication to intending tenderers that the Federal Government expected that a very much larger sum would be demanded for sending steamers to Bris- banethan for sending them only to Melbourne and Sydney. I maintain that a much cheaper service would have been obtained if there had been no alternative tender, and Brisbane had been specified as a port of call in every instance. Although the Postmaster-General now says that Brisbane is not to be a port of call, we are determined that the mail steamers shall go to that port. I claim this as a right, not as a favour, because, if I asked it as a favour, no one would be quicker to resent my action than the people of Queensland would be.
– If the honorable member had threatened to withdraw his support from the last Government he might have got what he wanted.
– If the late Administration had remained in power until this agreement was brought forward for ratification, I should have let them know, as plainly as I could, what I thought of it; but the members of the then Opposition were in such a hurry to get into office that they did not give me an opportunity to do that. The original advertisement calling for tenders was to this effect -
Tenders for the following alternative mail services will be received at the office of the Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Spring-street, Melbourne, until Four (4) p.m., on the 31st day of January, 1904.
A Between Adelaide andNaples or Brindisi, vid the Suez Canal, or between Adelaide and Colombo or Aden, fortnightly each way, calling at Fremantle and at such other ports as may be mutually agreed upon. After the delivery of the mails at Adelaide the steamer to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. Tenderers are invited to state the additional sum required to proceed further to Pinkenba, in the Port of Brisbane. Alternative sums for weekly and fortnightly calls.
Why was it required that the steamers should continue their voyage to Melbourne and Sydney, since the mails were to be landed at Adelaide? Is not the mail service completed when the steamers arrive at Adelaide, and therefore is not the requirement that they shall continue on to Melbourne and Sydney distinctly provided to give the people of Victoria and New South Wales a quick service for the carriage of perishable products and other cargo to the old country? What was being asked for was not only a mail service, but a cargo service, and that iswhat is provided under the present contract.
– A distinct advantage has been given to Melbourne and Sydney.
– Yes. These are some of the conditions in the first contract -
The service to be subject to the following conditions : -
Therefore, part of this £120,000 is being paid for the carriage of produce from Australia to the old country, though I was very pleased to hear the PostmasterGeneral say that the increase in the subsidy is not due to the employment of white labour. Care is taken to see that shippers from Melbourne and Sydney are not overcharged, and it is provided that there shall be an abundance of space for their consignments, with properly ventilated refrigerating chambers, and so on. The only reason why Brisbane should be left out of this arrangement seems to me to be that the authorities are always ready to do injustice to a State which is at some distance from the seat of government. Why should we not end the mail service at Adelaide ? I have no objection to the steamers coming on to Melbourne and to Sydney; but I claim that the people of Brisbane should be similarly treated. It is an injustice to Queensland to leave Brisbane out of the arrangement. I could understand such action on the part of the PostmasterGeneral if he had announced that he does not look upon Queensland as a member of the Federal family. As a matter of fact, Queensland has, ever since the inauguration of Federation, been left out in the cold when the benefits which have accrued under the Union were being distributed, though she has always been called upon to participate in the disadvantages which have resulted.
– I suppose the honorable member would not object to making Hobart a port of call, too?
– I am not quite clear as to the position of Tasmania in this matter, but I would rather suffer an injustice to be done to my own State than permit it to be done to another. Queensland is being unjustly treated, because her people are being called upon to pay for benefits in which they do not share. All the States should share in the benefits for which the whole Commonwealth is called upon to contribute, for does not the Constitution say that no difference shall be made between State and State? A great difference, however, is made between Queensland and the other States.
– Hobart has to specially charter the mail steamers that come there.
– The Common wealth Government should make good whatever subsidy Tasmania pays in that way, and should also pay the £26,000 which Queensland ‘is being asked to pay for thd privilege of having the Orient) Steam Navigation Company’s steamers come on to Brisbane. To my mind, the contract for the carriage of mails should not require the steamers to come further than Adelaide. If that arrangement were made by the Commonwealth, and it were left to the people of Victoria to pay for them coming on to Melbourne, and to the people of New South Wales to pay for them coming on to Sydney, the people of Queensland would be willing to pay for them coming on to Brisbane. Such an arrangement would be fair to all the States. It has been said, over and over again, that none of the £120,000 paid in subsidy is paid for freight accommodation.
– Yet there is a fixed scale of charges for the carriage of freights.
– Yes. Even if that statement be correct, Sydney and Melbourne are being benefited at no cost to themselves, while Queensland is being compelled to pay £26,000 per annum for a service which the other States get for nothing. I hope that honorable members will see their way to act justly to all the States. When the leader of the Opposition occupied the position of Prime Minister he expressed his determination to cultivate cordial feelings between the Government of the Commonwealth and the States Governments, and I was very pleased at the attitude assumed by him.
– Then he concluded the present contract.
– Yes, and I do not care to condemn him until T hear his explanation. Queensland has to pay her share of the subsidy of £120,000 per annum, which amounts in round figures to £16,000. She receives practically no benefit from that expenditure, and I maintain that she is suffering under a grave injustice. She also has to pay for the carriage of mails by rail from Brisbane to Adelaide, which involves an outlay of another £1,000 per annum, making a total expenditure in ^connexion with the mail service of £17,000. I understand that the mails from Adelaide to Brisbane are carried by rail at the expense of the Orient. Steam Navigation Company.
– Certainly notEach State pays its share of the expenseof carrying the mails overland to catch themail steamers at Adelaide.
– I was differentlyinformed when I made inquiries in the Department. As I have already stated, it wasabsolutely necessary for Queensland to arrange with the Orient Steam Navigation’ Company to extend their service to Brisbane, at a cost of £26,000 per annum.
– Does the honorable member contend that that servicewas instituted with the idea of carryingmails ?
– No; but why should not Brisbane receive the same advantages as are derived by Melbourne and’ Sydney from the mail service?
– The extension from Adelaide to Sydney does not cost theCommonwealth one shilling.
– In respect of what service is the Orient Steam Navigation Company paid a subsidy of £[120,000 per annum ?
– For the carriage of mails between Naples and Adelaide.
– Why should thecontract stipulate that the steamers shall” proceed to Sydney?
– The honorablemember had better ask the late PostmasterGeneral, who concluded the contract.
– I am verv sorry to say that members of the present Government are not very ready to afford informat- tion to honorable members on this side of the House. Even when I have asked them privately for information I have had to force it from them.
– Ministers will not get any support from me if they withhold information.
– The suggestion that any distinction is made between members on this side of the House and those sitting on the Opposition benches in regard to furnishing information is absolutely, without foundation, and the honorable member knows it.
– As I have stated, I have found by experience that Ministers are not very ready to give information with regard to the mail contract.
– But that applies all round.
– I urge that the Commonwealth should take over the obligations of the Queensland Government in regard to the extension of the mail service from Sydney to Brisbane. I do not ask a favour, but desire the recognition of a right. When the honorable member for Maranoa joined me in waiting on the Prime Minister in regard to this matter, he took the stand that Queensland had a right to be placed on the same footing as the other States.
– Did the Minister of Home Affairs take the same view?
– He said so at the time, and I do not see how he could very well have changed his views. The Treasurer has already committed himself to supporting my motion. On 5th September the following telegram was published in the Brisbane Courier: -
In the course of an interview to-day the Federal Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, referred to the arrangement entered into by the Queensland Government with the Orient Company for steamers belonging to that line to call at Brisbane. “ I notice,” he said, “ that the Queensland Government is to pay the Orient Company £26,000 for this service, and I do not think it is an extravagant sum.”
The right honorable gentleman does not consider the sum an extravagant one, andI do not suppose that the Postmaster-General would have been able to secure any more reasonable terms. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
I think there is a great deal to say in favour of this demand. Queensland pays her share towards the cost of our mail contract with the Orient Company, and Brisbane is the only capital which derives no direct benefit from the Com monwealth subsidy. I certainly think Queensland can make out a good case for assistance in carrying out the agreement she recently made with the Orient Company.
– I do not admit the accuracy of that report. I had a casual conversation with a press representative, and that is probablythe outcome of it.
– The report represents the right honorable gentleman as having taken the reasonable view I should have expected of him. I claim that the Government should take over this extended service, because it is only just that Queensland should share with other States the benefits of themail service in regard to the carriage of cargo. The mail steamers should call at the capitals of each of the States. The Queensland Government have relieved the Commonwealth authorities of the trouble of making the contract, and have made everything smooth for them. There is a very strong feeling in Queensland in regard to this matter, and very much resentment has been expressed at the way in which that State has been treated by the Commonwealth. In this connexion I desire to refer to a report of a public meeting which was recently held in Brisbane to discuss matters relating to the extension of the mail service -
A largely attended meeting of representatives of the Brisbane Chambers of Commerce, Manufactures, and Agriculture, the National Agricultural and Industrial Association, the Employers’ Association, the Pastoralists’ Association, the Brisbane Produce Merchants’ Association, the butter industry, Brisbane Traders’ Association, Warehousemen’s Association, and other industries, was held in the Chamber of Commerce room, Courier-building, yesterday afternoon, to consider the conditions of tenders for the new mail contract as decided upon by the Federal Cabinet, and to protest against Brisbane not being included as a port of call.
Honorable members can imagine the keen interest taken in this matter when it is stated thatthe commodious room of the Chamber of Commerce was filled by business men in the middle of the day -
A communication was received from the Hatton Vale Farmers’ Progress Association, intimating that it was decided at a recent meeting to write to the Chamber of Commerce urging that body to use their best endeavours in having Brisbane made a port of call for mail steamers in all mail contracts to be arranged; also stating that the benefit which would accrue to the bacon, dairy. and other industries called for a strenuous effort being made in the direction indicated.
The Chairman said that the matter of the conditions of the tenders for the new mail’ contract demanded the earnest attention of all sections of the producing and trading interests. He hoped the meeting would show its disapproval of the treatment ‘meted out to Queensland by the Federal Government in no uncertain voice. F rom, the inception of Federation, Queensland had been treated as a negligible quantity, and the time had arrived when they should enter their protest against the same. The Federal Government had no excuse for ignoring Queensland as it had done, and if “it had any intention of being just to the State, the case in point afforded them an opportunity of doing so. He alluded to the efforts made by the State Government and the Chamber of Commerce, through Mr. R. Edwards, M.H.R., to obtain common justice for Queensland in regard to the mail service, but they had all been in vain. They would have to pay their share towards the cost of a service from which they would not receive any benefit.
The Mayor moved the first resolution, as follows : - “ That this meeting, representative of the pastoral, agricultural, commercial, and industrial interests of Queensland, hereby places on record its strongest protest against the action of the Federal Cabinet in net directly including Brisbane as a port of call in the tenders for the new mail contract.” He said if it were only a mail contract, it would not have made such a great difference, but with the absolute fact before them that these mail steamers carried produce as well, it was patent that a serious injustice was being done to Queensland in calling for alternative tenders. The Federal Government had failed to show that it had any intention to do justice to Queensland, and the time had now arrived when they should raise their voices in protest.
Mr. Carter submitted the second resolution, which read as follows : - “ That the actual benefit derived from these services - as a mail contract - ceases on the vessel reaching Adelaide, whence mails are carried by railway, and if alternative tenders are called at all, they should stipulate (a) price for mails delivered at Adelaide, (b) extra cost for vessels proceeding from Adelaide to Melbourne, (f)” extra cost for vessels proceeding from Melbourne to Sydney, and (d) extra cost for vessels proceeding from Sydney to Brisbane.”
In speaking to the resolution, the mover gave it as his opinion that the present Federal Government would soon be wiped out of existence, and a new one would come into power, which would legislate for the weal of the States. He considered that they would have no reason to regret Federation if they were only treated fairly, as he believed good results must attend the unification of the various States. With regard to the arrangements for the carrying out of the proposed mail contract, they were anything but fair to Queensland, inasmuch as Adelaide would be the last port of call, and the other States benefiting thereby would not be called upon to pay anything extra as their share towards the expense of the same. On the other hand, if the alternative tender were accepted for the contract, Queensland would very likely be asked to pay the extra cost. This was grossly unfair, and they should not tolerate such treatment at the hand of the Federal Government.
Mr. Brentnall seconded the resolution, and referred in adverse terms to the way the interests of Queensland had been ignored by the Barton Government. It was for them to say now that they would not put up with any further injustice at their hands.
The resolution was carried.
Mr. Arthur, in moving the third resolution “ That any contract for the new mail service Which does not directly include Brisbane as a port of call is a grave injustice to anc! neglect of the rights of this State to equal opportunities with the other States in the development of its industries in accordance with clause gS of the Constitution Act,” said that they had been misled by the glib promises made by Mr. Barton on the occasion of his visit to this State, all of which had been broken. As their interests were being entirely ignored, it behoved them to rise up in arms against such treatment. He referred to the action of Mr. Edwards in crossing the floor of the House of Representatives,, and said that it should have the effect of bringing Mr. Barton to his senses. He was pleased to say that all shades of public opinion were unanimous on the point that a grave injustice was being done to Queensland in regard to the calling of the tenders for the mail contract.
Mr. Welsby seconded, and Mr. Sumner supported, the resolution, which was carried.
Mr. Denham moved the fourth resolution “ That the primary producing interests of this State and their unquestionable and rapid expansion in the near future make it imperative that Queensland should have the. same facilities of quick ocean transport as enjoyed by the Southern States.” He referred to the growing importance of the agricultural districts of the State, and the great strides made by the various industries connected therewith. There was an urgent necessity for affording producers an opportunity of sending their surplus produce to the home markets, and the only way to do this was by the Federal Government allowing them to take advantage of the P. and O. mail service. Few in Brisbane realized the great possibilities of the agricultural districts of this State, and the only thing wanted to make them boom was a little encouragement, such as they were now asking for. They did not want- to be treated in any way different to the other States, but they simply asked for common justice.
The resolution was seconded by Mr. Sinclair,, and carried.
Mr. Reid moved the fifth resolution , “That the port of Brisbane offers shipping facilities equal to any of the Southern ports, and is able to accommodate the largest oversea shipping.”
From the above report honorable members will gather how anxious the commercial community of Brisbane were at that time, and I can assure them that the same anxiety is manifest to-day. I do hope that the Government will reconsider this question. If they are averse to taking over from the Queensland authorities the entire subsidy of ?26,000 per annum, I trust that they will be just enough to shoulder at least a portion of the burden. The day following that upon which the public meeting to which I have directed attention was held, a leading article appeared in the Brisbane Courier, from which I make the following extract : -
There is no mistaking the feeling aroused in Queensland by the attitude of the Federal Government in the matter of the new mail contract. The meeting held in Toowoomba on Tuesday night gave some indication of the strength of the sentiments of indignation and disappointment that obtain on the Darling Downs. Equally unanimous protests against the injustice of the Federal proposals have been sent from Roma, Maryborough,Rockhampton, Townsvilie, and other centres. The expression of the views of the city of Brisbane was as powerful and as emphatic as could be desired at the splendid meeting held last night in the Centennial Hall. A more representative gathering has seldom been drawn together to discuss a question of vital importance to this State, and a stronger platform could scarcely have been secured amongst the leading business men of Queensland. It was pointed out by several speakers that this is not a. matter of party politics, nor a matter affecting any one section of the public or any one locality in the State. It is first and last a question deeply interesting to the whole community, and it is not to be wondered that men of all shades of political opinion and every walk in life should be anxious to testify in the most emphatic manner possible to the intense disgust the people of this State feel at the ungenerous and unjust treatment we have received at the hands of the Ministry. It may, however., serve a useful purpose to reiterate the fact that Queensland’s objection to the exclusion of Brisbane as a port of call for the contracting mail steamers is based upon a proper conception of our undoubted right as one of the parties to the Federal compact - a compact which distinctly contains the understanding that the Commonwealth shall not give preference to one State over another.
I maintain that the subsidies which are at present being paid by Queensland to the
Orient Steam Navigation Company and to the Vancouver line should be reduced unless the Commonwealth is prepared to take over this liability of £26,000 per annum. It is scarcely necessary to point out that Queensland will be called upon to contribute her share of the £30,000 which has been voted by this House for the erection of a telephone Fine between Melbourne and Sydney, despite the fact that that line will prove of very little advantage to her. Under these circumstances, why should not the other States shoulder some portion of the responsibility for the payment of this £26,000 per annum?
– Is the honorable member in favour of granting trade subsidies all round the Commonwealth?
– That is a bigger question than I should like to answer at a moment’s notice. The Government have assigned no reason why the subsidy which the Queensland Government’ have contracted to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Com pany should not be taken over by the Commonwealth. Queensland already pays £16,000 per annum for the carriage of Australian mails as far as Adelaide. Since the establishment of Federation, the northern” State has made great sacrifices. In Customs revenue alone she has lost no less than £2,000,000:
– She has benefited by the sugar bonus.
– Queensland would not have required any bonus upon the production of sugar grown exclusively by white labour if she had been left alone. The fact is that she had to submit to the decree of this Parliament. I admit that the late Government did not do justice to Queensland in connexion with the existing mail contract, but the present Administration, having taken over the responsibilities of their predecessors, should repair that injustice as speedily as possible.
Amendment (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “and Hobart” after the word “ Brisbane.”
– I think that the Postmaster-General made a very fair statement regarding the existing mail contract, so far as he went. Unfortunately he did not go far enough. When he asserted that certain statements were made by the representatives of the company tothe late PostmasterGeneral, I think that he might well have gone further, and have given more than the bare statement that, in the course of the negotiations in regard to this contract, his predecessor was informed by the company that if Brisbane were made a port of call, it would be necessary for them to add another steamer to the service. As a matter of fact, under the agreement made with the Government of Queensland, the company is now sending its vessels on to Brisbane, and apparently does not intend to make any addition to its Australian fleet. It seems to me that the assertion that an additional steamer would be required was nothing more than a piece of bluff, and that the late PostmasterGeneral might well have played a better game. The honorable member forOxley, in mentioning the conduct of the late Prime Minister, seemed to become almost lachrymose on account of his having left office, and appeared to expect that, had he remained in power, Brisbane would have received better treatment at the hands of the
Commonwealth. I am afraid that there is no reason to believe that such would have been the result. In support of that view, I would point out that in June last the leader of the late Government received a liberal application of soft soap at the hands of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, but that nothing of advantage to Queensland eventuated. On the occasion in question, the president of the Chamber informed his fellow members that he understood that the Prime Minister would shortly visit Brisbane, and that he considered it desirable to ask him to meet them. That was certainly a proper attitude to take up, but Queensland appears to have derived but little advantage from the free application of soft soap that took place. At the time in question there were a number of members of the Federal Parliament in Queensland, including four members who are now included in the present Ministry ; but the president said that he did not feel called upon to ask them to visit the Chamber of Commerce. If he really wished to soft soap the Parliament, that was a distinct oversight. This, however, is merely by the way. . The argument used bythe PostmasterGeneral, that, as the result of the payment of this subsidy, something like £200,000 goes to the Commonwealth in the way of increased business, militates against the acceptance of the contract as it stands. The point is, that that business goes only to the ports of Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, and that Queensland benefits nothing in this regard.
– Neither will Tasmania.
– That is so, and it is a strongreason why the Commonwealth should see that Queensland and Tasmania receive fair treatment under the contract. I thank the Postmaster-General for having mentioned the matter, and so furnished me with an argument against the ratification of the contract in. its present form. I propose to push home his point, and have shown how Queensland is disadvantaged under the present arrangement. The fact that there was nocompetition for the service is, in itself, significant. It indicates that there is something in the shape of a combine, which prevents others from coming in and competing for the contract. Queensland has had some experience of the working of this combine, for the combine actually blocks the vessels of the Aberdeen line from continuing to call at Brisbane, and compels them to refrain from carrying cargofor Brisbane beyond Sydney, so that they run empty to that port topick up cargo. It is imperative that we should endeavour, as speedily as possible, to break down the ring. The excuse made by. the Postmaster-General, that the contract into which Queensland has entered with the OrientSteam Navigation Company, does not relate to the carriage of mails, is a somewhat remarkable one, in view of the fact that we are asked to ratify a contract for a service, not merely to Adelaide, but to Melbourne and Sydney. The condition that the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company shall go on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney forms part of the mail contract. We might reasonably say that the contract should provide for Brisbane being included as a port of call for mails as well as for parcels. I am sure that honorable members will do their duty, and assist the representatives of Queensland to secure the extension of this service to Brisbane, so that the people of that State, equally with those of the other States, may share in the benefits to be derived from it. An informal offer was made by Scott, Fell, and Company to carry the mails between Australia and Colombo for a subsidy of £85,000 a year, and for an additional subsidy of £15,000 per annum they were prepared to carry them on to Naples. Had that” offer been accepted, the cost of the service would have been materially reduced. I should like to know whether an attempt was made to ascertain whether that company was prepared to make Brisbane a port of call.
-They offered off-hand to continue the service to Brisbane for an additional payment of £20,000 per annum.
– That being so, an enlargedservice would have been secured at a reduction of £20,000.
– What would have become of shipments of butter ? The vessels of the company go only as far as’ Colombo.
– The honorable member must not forget that the contract which Queensland has entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company provides’ For transhipment of cargo to the vessels of another company if necessary. The Postmaster-General goes too far when he says that we must take care not to provide under this contract for services other than those relating to the Postal Department. In view of the fact that the contract which we are now asked to ratify provides for a service not merely to Adelaide, but to Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane ought certainly to be made a port of call, so that she may share equally with the other States in the benefits of the mail service. There is one aspect of this question which was not touched upon by the Postmaster-General, and that is that the cost of the contract entered into by the Queensland Government is increased by reason of certain privileges to be given to the Orient Steam Navigation Company in return for its vessels going on to Brisbane. In incurring this expenditure, Queensland is seeking to assist the port of Brisbane in a fair and straightforward way, and I assume that the Government of that State would be content if the Commonwealth Parliament would allow that contract to be tacked on, so to speak, to that now before us. I feel satisfied that if that were done, she would not seek to debit the Commonwealth in respect to the concessions relating to wharfage and other dues which it has agreed to make to the company. At the present time Queensland is paying about £16,000 per annum towards the mail subsidy, and is not receiving an equivalent return. I quite agree that Tasmania is entitled to equal consideration, and that the vessels of the company should call at Hobart as well as at Brisbane. Some reference has been made to the time occupied in carrying mails between Naples and Adelaide. We are told that the cost of the Orient liners is almost the same as that of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats, and yet the latter company provides a quicker service. Mails are landed by its vessels thirty-two hours in advance of the contract time, while those of the Orient line cannot do more than land them twelve hours ahead of it. It is evident, therefore, that the facilities offered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the carriage of our mails are inferior to those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Since the contracts have been running we have paid £2,780,000 to these companies. If that money had been gradually expended in other directions we certainly should have had something to show for it. The answer of the Postmaster-General to our objection that the interests of Queensland are being neglected in connexion with this mail contract was that the mail service provides only for the running of steamers to Adelaide, and that the vessels are permitted to come on to Melbourne and Sydney because the Commonwealth is charged nothing on that account. Do the facts bear out that statement? For an answer, I turn to the agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I find that “ mails “ are there interpreted to meanand include - all bags, boxes, baskets, or other packages of letters and other postal packets, including parcels (each parcel not exceeding the maximum weight of 11 lbs.), without regard either to the country or place to which such packages may be addressed or to the country or place in which they may have originated, and also all empty bags, boxes, baskets, or other receptacles, and all stores and other articles used or to be used in carrying on the Post Office Service.
In regard to the services to be performed, it is provided that -
Clause 4 says - 4. (1) Each of the mail ships shall on every voyage from Naples to Adelaide as aforesaid start from a port in the United Kingdom, and after the due delivery at Adelaide of themails intended to be delivered at that port continue her voyage to Melbourne, and thence to Sydney, and each of the mail ships shall on every voyage to Naples call at Sydney (and Melbourne on the route to Adelaide), and after the due delivery of the mail? at Naples continue her voyage to a port in the United Kingdom whether any mails may or may not be required to be conveyed in any such mail ship from or to the United Kingdom, or to or from Melbourne or Sydney, on any such voyage, provided always that it shall be compifcnt for the contractors to convey the mails other than parcels mails between Port Said and Naples (or Brindisi if substituted) by a mail ship other than the mail ship whichis under obligation to proceed to and start from a port in the United Kingdom, in which event such last-named mail ship shall be absolved from the obligation to call at Naples.
But the provisions to which I wish to call special attention are these -
I think that those extracts show that the contract is a contract for a mail service, under which steamers have to come, not to Adelaide only, but right through to Sydney, and we ask that their journey shall be extended to Brisbane. It is a pity that the late Postmaster-General and the present Postmaster-General have not shown sufficient stiffness in dealing with Mr. David Reid. I have shown how he tried to bluff the Commonwealth by asking first for a subsidy of £170,000 per annum, then for a subsidy of £150,000 per annum, finally agreeing to accept a subsidy of £120,000 per annum, so that what stiffness was exhibited resulted in a saving to the Commonwealth of £50,000 per annum. It is a pity that we have not at the head of affairs here a man who would be equal to the position, as the late Sir Charles Lilley proved himself to be under similar circumstances in Queensland. Our PostmasterGeneral should have administered an emetic to the agent of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, such as Sir Charles Lilley about sixteen years ago administered on a similar occasion to the representatives of a steam-ship company who were asking exorbitant payment for the carriage of mails.
– It is strange that the honorable member did not advocate that policy when the tenders were first received.
– We did. We have always advocated it.
– I did not hear if advocated then.
– When Sir Charles Lilley was in power in Queensland, and a steam-ship company asked him an exorbitant price for the carriage of mails, instead of toadying to them, he threatened to run a Government line of steamers, and actually bought a vessel for use in the service. Those at the head of affairs in the Commonwealth ought to be prepared to act in the same way in any emergency. We ought to have in power men of sufficient backbone to conserve the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the honorable member for Macquarie has no backbone?
– Has he shown in his dealings with the shipping companies that he has a backbone? Queensland will get absolutely none of the money which is spent in the ports of the Commonwealth in connexion with the visits of the mail steamers to them, though, considering its tremendous coastline, and the large number of ports which it possesses, in addition to Brisbane - such as Townsville, Rockhampton, Maryborough, and others - it ought to get as much as the rest of the States put together.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the mail steamers should call at Rockhamptonand the other ports which he has mentioned ?
– No; I do not suggest that at present. I am very moderate in my demands.
– Will the honorable member advocate the extension of the Canadian mail service to Melbourne?
– We should willingly do so.
– I trust that honorable members will take the view that Brisbane should be made a port of call in connexion with the proposed mail service, and that the two contracts with the Orient SteamNavigation Company will be ratified as one. If the agreement between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company is backed up by the Commonwealth, we shall have a direct service from Fremantle to Brisbane, which will be of great advantage to Australia, especially if any freaks are attempted by the shipping ring to which I have referred. On one occasion the combine prohibited a certain shipping company from carrying cargo from Sydney to Brisbane, compelling its vessels to make the voyage in ballast.
That would be impossible under an agreement of this character. The Commonwealth would have a whip in its hand, which might be of great use to us.
– I intend to oppose the ratification of the contract on more grounds than have been mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley and the honorable member for Brisbane. Of course, I have the same grievance as they have in respect of the way in which Queensland has been treated ; but, beyond that, I think that under this contract Australia as a whole is paying too dearly for her whistle. As the Postmaster-General himself has admitted, instead of obtaining an improved service for an increased price, we have made no progress in that regard. The honorable gentleman declared that the late Postmaster-General yielded to a pressing demand to come to terms in some way or other in order that communication with other parts of the world might be maintained on something like the same terms as have prevailed for the last seventeen or eighteen years. But an analysis of that clamour would have shown that it was not so intense after all, and that the little delay which took place through the use of the poundage system was not such as to warrant us in spending £38,000 more for a service than we had hitherto been paying. Last week the honorable member for Barrier, in a very interesting speech dealing with shipping and the mail service, used some wise and, in my opinion, rather telling arguments against yielding to the demands of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. To me it seems to be most humiliating that the Commonwealth of Australia should go on its knees to any shipping company for a service which it could obtain by adopting the suggestion of the honorable member for Barrier, and by chartering ships of its own.
– That plan would be five times more expensive than the present system.
– I have examined the figures quoted by the honorable member for Barrier, not as minutely as he himself did. but with sufficient closeness to convince me that there is a good deal of truth in his contention. He said, in the course of his remarks, that the £120,000 per annum which we are paving as a subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for a fortnightly service would have provided interest at the rate of3½ per cent. on a capital of £3,428,000; and he argued that for such an annual expenditure we should be able to place on the water a fleet equivalent to that of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and still have available for other purposes £1,800,000.
– Where is the money ‘to come from if the Commonwealth is to continue its non-borrowing policy ?
– The amount of interest, as compared with what we now pay, would more than justify our taking the proposed step.
– Where could we borrow for ship-building at3½ per cent. ?
– I suppose that brokerage charges and other expenses would make the amount of interest more than3½ per cent. on the whole.
– What about the sinking fund, and provision for wear and tear?
-The honorable member for Barrier provided for that. He showed that he was dealing merely with the cost of the steamers. But he dealt with the expense of running the boats, and said -
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.
– Only 5 per cent. ?
– That is what the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company allows.
– That company puts aside a large sum every year for replacing ships.
– I am taking the figures of thehonorable member for Barrier, knowing that recently, as chairman of a Shipping Committee, he has been in a position to acquire a considerable amount of knowledge on these matters. He had been looking into the subject for a considerable time before, and I take his figuresas being substantially correct, knowing with what earnestness and honesty he enters into an inquiry of this sort. It is possible that he may have omitted some aspects of the question ; but even so, there was some margin allowed, as honorable members will see ifthey follow the next quotation, which I shall read -
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 Steam Navigation Company. The States Governments spend about £80,000 annually in bringing material out from
England and the Continent, and the Commonwealth line of steamers might reasonably expect to secure the whole of the Government freights.
Further on, he said -
Evidence was given before the Butter Commission that there would be no difficulty in securing a guarantee for £300,000 worth of butter freight 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 would be able to start off with the advantage of the 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.
Honorable members will observe that no allowance is made in this calculation for the export of wool, wheat, sugar, hams, bacon, and frozen meat, which are very large items that may be expected to increase in the near future. We have abundant evidence that throughout the Commonwealth the production of articles of export is very largely increasing - in some instances to a phenomenal extent. Therefore, the figures I have quoted cannot be said to exaggerate the position of affairs. I do not ignore the fact that before the Commonwealth could have procured, by charter or otherwise, a fleet of steamers, a considerable time would have elapsed ; but I contend that we should not have suffered very greatly during the interval, even if it had been necessary to pay for the carriage of the mails upon the bounty system. I am sensible . of the importance of having our mails delivered as speedily as possible, in order to minimize the disadvantages attaching to our remoteness from the more populous centres of the world ; but we may, as in the present case, pay too much for the benefit derived. The idea ofthe Commonwealth becoming steam-ship owners and common carriers by sea has been scouted in some quarters; but I would point out that if the Commonwealth embarked upon the business of oversea carriers we should be merely extending the principle already adopted in the States in connexion with land carriage. The expenditure involved in carrying out such an enterprise, large as it might appear, would be a mere bagatelle as compared with the money invested by the States in the business of common carriers. According to Coghlan, for 1903, the States had spent upon railways £132,000,000. This outlay was incurred in order to provide means of transport from point to point within the Commonwealth; and I contend that if it be advisable and proper for the States to becomecommon carriers upon land, there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from entering upon the business of transporting goodsby sea.
– Was not themoney spent upon the railways intended to> open up thecountry?
– Yes; and I contend that the benefits to be derived from a thoroughly efficient service for the carriage of mails and cargo would be quite as great as those which have been conferred by the railways. The working expenses of the railways of Australia represent an annual expenditure of £7,127,887, a sum far beyond the amount which would be required to provide Australia with a mail service equal to that which is now carried on by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and the Orient Steam Navigation Companies combined. Some persons would like to see the whole of our railways handed over to private persons, but I venture to say that 99 out of every 100 citizens of the Commnowealth would be opposed to any such idea.
– Private railway companies would not open up the country, but would merely seek to make as much profit asthey could.
– Exactly. That is what is now being done in America, and the mail companies are worked upon the same principle. They do not come here for our benefit, but for the sake of the profit they can make out of us. I do not think that the Government is called upon to work its utilities for profit. The object should be to confer the maximum of advantage upon the people as a whole, and not to secure profit in the shape of a substantial cash balance in the Treasury. Those who advocate the transfer of the States railways to private ownership always point to the fact that they are being worked’ at a loss; but the fact that they are not returning sufficient to defray the workingexpenses and interest charges on the capital does not necessarily afford evidence that they have not proved a profitable investment. They have, in a hundred and one ways, conferred the greatest benefits upon the community. They have enhanced thevalue of land, and have rendered possible- the settlement of millions of acres which would otherwise have remained unproductive.
– No advantages of a similar character could be conferred upon us by a Commonwealth line of steamers.
– There is no doubt that a thoroughly efficient service of steamers would offer substantial advantages to our producers. The country lying at the back, inland from Cairns, would never have been occupied but for the service of steamers which connects Cairns with the larger centres of population in Australia.
– But the honorable member does not advocate that the mail steamers should call at Cairns?
– No; because the people of Queensland do not ask for anything more than is reasonable. If Queensland had been divided into two or three States - as I believe it eventually will be- - we should have been entitled to ask that the mail steamers should call at each of our capitals.
– Why should they not call at all export centres, including Rockhampton, Newcastle, Warrnambool, and so on ?
– If that line of argument were adopted, the mail steamers would have to call at Twofold Bay and a score of other places. We are not asking for anything of that kind. Some honorable members may think that it is not fair to ask that the mail steamers should go on to Brisbane; but we think that we are placing a perfectly reasonable proposition before the House. We do not come here to crawl on behalf of Queensland ; but I hope that so long as we are of opinion, as I am, that Queensland has not been fairly treated in this matter, we shall not fail to make our views known. I agree with the honorable member for Oxley and the honorable member for Brisbane that had tenders been called for a mail service terminating at Adelaide, Queensland would have had no cause for grievance.
– Would it not have been better to pass Adelaide, and come straight on to Melbourne?
– Some objection’s have been raised by the representatives of South Australia to the claim made by Queensland, and it may be well to point out that Mr. Anderson, the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, stated that if the subsidy were not granted, the vessels of the company would cease to call at Adelaide. It was reckoned that it would cost the company £5,000 a year to call at Adelaide. Who is paying that money ?
– - Queensland is paying part of it.
– New South Wales does not pay very much, unless she gets a quid fro quo. Sydney would like to monopolize the whole trade of the Commonwealth, but, fortunately, other ports in Australia are now known. I wish to draw attention to a matter which seems to have been overlooked, even by the PostmasterGeneral. In the paper which was laid upon the table, we find copies of the tenders, arid the conditions of the contract laid down, but we do not find a condition which was submitted by the honorable member for Denison when he was PostmasterGeneral.
– It is given in the papers.
– The fairest invitation, I think, was the one which was issued by the honorable member for Coolgardie, when he invited alternative tenders for(a purely mail service.
Tenderers are invited to state the additional sum, if any, required to proceed further (i) toMelbourne (2) to Sydney (3) to Pinkenba in the Port of Brisbane, and (4) to all or any of these ports.
The service to be tendered for to commence, in the case of the service between Sydney or Brisbane and Vancouver, on 1st day of May, 1905, and in the case of other services so that mails shall leave Adelaide on 2nd February, 1905, and London on 3rd February, 1905, and to be subject to the condition that only white labour shall be employed on the steamers under contract.
Separate tenders will be received as in A., B., and C, but including the following additional conditions : -
I shall not weary the House by quoting the other conditions, as they have already been referred to. It was upon these conditions, or upon similar conditions, that the contract was finally entered into by the late Government, which we are asked by the present Government to ratify. I believe that the Postmaster-General voiced the opinion of the majority, if not the whole, of the Government, when he said he did not think that Queensland had a case, inasmuch as she entered into a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company without appealing to the Commonwealth Government. Not only by the deputation mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley, but time after time the Commonwealth Government was appealed to, not to give Queensland any concession which was not justly her due, but to do common justice to her. By deputation, by letters, which the Minister will find in his office, and frequently by references in this House, the claims of Queensland were set forth, but, so far, they have been practically ignored. As a last resort, in order that her products might be conveyed to the other side of the world on terms of equality with those of other States, she was forced into making an arrangement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their boats on to Brisbane, which they said they could not do without having another steamship built, but which they have done after having lost one of the steamships they had when they, made that statement.. Queensland would,’ not expect, and I do not think she does expect, the Commonwealth to reimburse her the whole of the charges which are being made. But I contend that had the Commonwealth Government insisted upon Brisbane being made one of the ports of call when the contract for a part mail and part cargo service was entered into, the extended service to Queensland could have been obtained for very much less than the sum for which it is being obtained. The Postmaster-General said. I think, that the Federal subsidy is at the rate of about 3s. 8d. per mile. For the service between Sydney and Brisbane, Queensland is paving at the rate of16s. 8d. a mile. At least some consideration might have been given to her position when, tenders were being invited, because, even although the Federal subsidy of £120,000 might have been increased by about £5.000 for sending the boats the extra distance, Queensland, instead of giving a subsidy of£26,000 a year, with all the other concessions it gives to the company, would have saved about £19,000. The extra payment of £5,000 would have been a very small item indeed, when it was divided amongst all the States. I do not think that. Queensland has been selfish in her dealings with the Commonwealth. I know it will be said that she has obtained a good deal from the Commonwealth in the shape of the sugar bounty. That, however, was Australia’s affair, not Queensland’s. It was not given to encourage the sugar-growers of Queensland, but to get a white Australia. The sugar industry in that State was getting along all right, but Australia determined upon a white Australia. So that the bonus was not given to encourage the sugar industry. I ask honorable members not to forget that fact when they taunt the representatives of Queenslandwith advocating what they consider to be her just claims. Those who listened to the honorable member for Oxley must have noticed that on the deputation to the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General of the day there were honorable members representing every State in the Commonwealth. The Queensland representatives did not stand alone on that occasion. They were supported by representatives of the other States in. each House of the Parliament, becausethey recognised that Queensland had a claim upon the Commonwealth for consideration. The Postmaster-General leads usto believe that it will not be recognised. If some consideration be not given, to Queensland in this matter, I am quite sure that not only the representatives, but the people of Queensland generally will believe that they have a. legitimate grievance against the Commonwealth Parliament and Government.
– Why was not Brisbane included in the ports of call?
– That is what we want to know.
Mr.Kelly. - Does the honorable member think that the arrangement under which the mail steamers call at Melbourne and Sydney is a bad one?
– I do not envy Sydney or Melbourne any of the advantages which they now enjoy. I take no exception to the Commonwealth encouraging cargo vessels to come to Australia for the purpose of conveying our produce to the markets of the world as speedily and cheaply aspossible. At the same time I think that the cost of that service should be apportioned among the different Departments, instead of being debited entirely to the Postal Department. Even if Queensland cannot get her rights in connexion with the existing mail contract, I am not prepared to deny justice to Sydney or Melbourne. I hope that honorable members will vote for the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Oxley. -During this discussion reference has been made to the Vancouver mail service. I should be glad, indeed, if it were possible, without delaying the return trip of the vessels engaged in that service to enable them to call at the chief port of each State of tha Commonwealth. Unfortunately those ports do riot lie in their line of route as do the capitals of the various States in that of the English mail steamers. When this matter was under consideration some time ago it was pointed out - as reference to Hansard will show - that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s mail steamers are compelled to lie for nine days at Sydney before the)’ can commence their return journey. Within that period it ‘is quite possible for them to proceed to Pinkenba to discharge their cargo there, and to take in fresh cargo.
– The same re’7 mark would apply to the vessels of the Vancouver service.
– If it can be shown that the steamers of the Vancouver line can visit the ports of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, without incurring any loss of time, I am quite prepared to extend the resulting advantage to those ports.
– Are not those ports well served already?
– I think so. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Oxley and the honorable member for Brisbane that the high subsidy which is demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company is due to the existence of a shipping “ ring.” I quite agree with them. Some one has said that it is easy to make a statement of that character, but difficult to prove it. To my mind we have already been afforded proof that a shipping “ring” is operating in Australia. When the Queensland Government entered into an arrangement with the Aberdeen line for the carriage of perishable produce, this “ring” brought pressure to bear upon that company, with the result that its vessels discharged their cargo in Sydney. Their cargo had to be transhipped to coastal boats at that port, and conveyed thence to Bris bane. It is clear that the Commonwealth is being prevented by a shipping “ ring “ from making the best possible terms with, other companies. I am aware that there is an impression abroad that Queensland has a British-India service. That is not so. When she did enjoy the benefits. . of that service, she paid for the whole of itIt was a Torres Straits service, and I suppose that it helped the whole of the States, to open up markets in the East. Queensland has never gone cap in hand to the other States, nor is she likely to adopt that attitude upon the present occasion. We never anticipated that the whole of thissubsidy of £26,000” per annum would be borne by the Commonwealth, but we docontend that some portion of it should be paid by the other States, whose burdensQueensland shares.
– I am rather surprised at some of the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Moreton. It seems to me that he haslost sight of one fact, namely, that the existing mail contract is practically a renewal of the old service. It is quite true that weare paying an increased subsidy, but it is nevertheless a fact that the present service was practically taken over by the Commonwealth when Federation was established. Under the old service, each State was obliged to pay a certain proportion of the mail subsidy, and each State now contributes as it did formerly. The honorable member for Moreton has declared that it cost the Orient Steam Navigation Company £5,000 per annum to make Adelaide a port of call, thus leaving honorable members to infer that that loss was borne by the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, it was borne by the people of South Australia. If the present agreement be ratified, the subsidy will be paid in exactly the same way that it has always been paid. But whenthis House is asked to assent to an increased subsidy of £26.000 for the exclusive benefit of Queensland, we are invited to make an entirely new departure. Under the circumstances, I am bound to oppose the amendment of the honorablemember for Oxley. The honorable member for Darwin desires that Hobart should also be made a port of call by our English mail steamers. I fail to see that Tasmania would derive the slightest benefit by the insertion of a provision in the contract requiring the vessels of the company to call at Hobart all the year round. We are well served at present by vessels trading between New Zealand and England, which call at Hobart during the winter and spring, while, during the summer months - when the apple trade is in full swing - the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and Orient Companies, as well as those of other lines, call there for our fruit, quite irrespective of any subsidy. Queensland pays nearly £16,000 per annum towards the cost of the mail subsidy, and she now very coolly asks the other States to join with her in paying an increased subsidy of £26,000 per annum. Tasmania now pays something like” £6,000 towards the mail subsidy, and if the Orient Steam Navigation Company were asked to make Hobart a port of call they would probably require an additional payment! of £8,000 for a service which would be absolutely useless to that State. Every penny that is wasted by the Commonwealth in this and other directions is deducted from the amount which is returnable to the States. In these circumstances, Tasmania would be in a much better position if the £8,000 to which I have referred were paid direct to her rather than devoted to a service which she does not require. Another point to which I desire to call attention is that,- under the mail contract, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney have been ports of call for a number of years. We are dealing with a proposal to continue the old service, and to include Brisbane in the port of call under the contract would be to” totally alter the character of the present service.
– It would be a sign of progress.
– I am pleased to see Queensland so progressive, but I object to a sign of progress that; calls upon the other States to pay for something for which no adequate return would be received. The suggestion that Hobart should also be made a port of call is merely an attempt to throw a herring across the trail, and is one to which I and all other representatives of Tasmania, who have considered the question in all its bearings, must certainly object. At the present time, the English mails are landed in Adelaide, and are sent direct by rail to Melbourne, whence they are shipped to Launceston, and from there carried on by rail to Hobart. It is the quickest service that we could obtain under any circumstances. Queensland has al ready been granted a bonus, and as I understand that the Government contemplate the giving of further bonuses, that State might perhaps be a fit subject for the experiment.
– They already enjoy the sugar bonus.
– We know that, as a rule, the appetite grows on that upon which it feeds, and I am sure the representatives of Queensland will be glad to take any bonus offered them. Those who are such sticklers for the maintenance of the rights and privileges of the Federal Parliament should scout the proposal that the Commonwealth should take over the Queensland contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. That contract is a direct interference with the privileges of the Federal Parliament. The Government of Queensland assert that they have repeatedly asked the Federal Parliament to assist them in this direction, and that their requests have been ignored. Be that as it -may, they entered into a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company to pay £26,000 per annum for the privilege of Brisbane being made a port of call, and they now have the assurance to ask the other States to share the liability. Has not Queensland been treated liberally enough by the Commonwealth ?
– In what wa-v?
– In the matter of the sugar bonus. I do not know whether the people of Queensland . desire it, but the fact remains that the other States have been deprived of much revenue by reason of the sugar tariff. Queensland now wishes a further encroachment to be made on the revenue of the other States, and its proposal is not one that should commend itself to the House.
– It is altogether too rapacious.
– It is repugnant to our sense of fair play. If my vote will prevent Queensland from obtaining that which she seeks, she will not succeed.
– We know that.
– I am, at all events, consistent. If we insisted upon Brisbane and Hobart being ports of call, the only result would be a wanton waste of the money of the taxpayers.
– Is the honorable member aware that Queensland gives the Commonwealth £350,000 after paying the bounty out of excise?
– Who pays the duty ?
– That is the point. As the result of the sugar tariff, Tasmania is losing something like £60,000 or £70,000 per annum. The weakest State of the whole Union is always being called upon to stand by the others.
– The people of Northern Tasmania did well out of New South Wales in the matter of fodder.
– We kept many of the flocks of New South Wales from starvation. We are consequently hearing in this House of the grievances of New South Wales. Some honorable members speak of New South Wales, and nothing else. I think I have shown conclusively, in reply to the honorable member for Moreton, that Adelaide, at any rate, is under no compliment to the other States for having been made a port of call. This, however, is not the proper time to deal’ with such proposals. If the people of Queensland are desirous of getting another bonus, they will, no doubt, not be forgotten when this kindly Government has under its consideration again the subject of bonuses. I ask the representatives of the State, however, not to press the amendment to a division, because it would be unfair to the other States to try to bring it into force. We are always willing to help Queensland when we can, but there is no reason why the other States should be roasted on this occasion.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).In the course of his speech, the PostmasterGeneral stated that the £120,000 which is to be paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company under this contract is in consideration of services rendered, not only in connexion with the conveyance of mails, but also for purposes of trade. The postal service really terminates” at Adelaide, because there the mails are put ashore or taken on board, their transportation between Adelaide and the Eastern States being made by train. As, however, the company’s vessels go on to Melbourne and Sydney every voyage for the purpose of trade, it seems to me that some provision should have been made for securing the extension of the service to Brisbane, seeing that Queensland contributes her share to the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth. But we know that no company would tender for a service to Brisbane, and, therefore, the late Government had no alternative but to take the tender which was offered to them. In the future, I hope that whoever may be in office as PostmasterGeneral will insist upon a clause being inserted in the mail contract providing that the tenderer’s vessels shall proceed to Brisbane. A’ great deal has been said during this debate about the advantages gained under the contract by New South Wales. That State, however, has always treated the Commonwealth fairly, and has contributed largely to the heavy exactions made on behalf of the other States, and notably on behalf of Queensland.
– To what does the honorable member refer?
– To the sugar bounty-, for instance.
– New South Wales gets more from it than Queensland gets.
– New South Wales pays one-third of the large sum which *is spent in maintaining the Queensland sugar industry.
– Most of the dividends of the Colonial Sugar Company are paid in Sydney.
– New South Wales would not object to pay one-third of the £26,000 which is tobe expended in extending the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service to Brisbane, inasmuch as it is a trade service as well as a postal service; and, as I have said, I hope that when there is a new contract, a clause will be provided requiring the vessels performing the service to go on to Brisbane.
– I am opposed to the ratification of the contract, for several reasons. In the first place, I shall oppose it because the contract introduces a system in connexion with our postal service which, I think, should not have been introduced. I have always been of the opinion that the Postal Department should not incur expense for the conveyance of produce. If it is desirable, as I think it is, that bonuses shall be given for the transport of perishable produce from Australia to the markets of the world, they should be paid by the Government out of the general revenue, and should not form part of the postal expenditure. To my mind, a serious mistake was made by the Governments of the States, and has been continued by the Government of the Commonwealth, in providing for the carriage of perishable produce in a contract for the carriage of mails. Such an arrangement is unfair to the Postal Department. I thought that the present Postmaster-General, being a man of so much experience, and of such broad and liberal views, would not have asked the House to ratify this contract.. My second reason for objecting to its ratification is that I do not think that the vessels performing the service should be compelled to come beyond Adelaide. The Postmaster-General says that the arrangement under which they come on to Sydney is something for which we have not to pay, and that the steamers would have come on to Sydney in. any case. That being so, it was a serious blunder for the. honorable member for Macquarie to insert in this agreement a provision requiring the company’s steamers to come beyond Adelaide. Tenders were originally asked for services to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Pinkenba - to all or any of these ports. It was distinctly required that the mails should be conveyed between Naples and the Semaphore, at Adelaide, and vice versa, in 696 hours, including stoppages, and the contract was to be for three years. I do not know why the late Postmaster-General offered an affront to Queensland by unnecessarily inserting the condition that the vessels of the company should come on to Melbourne and Sydney, and not to Brisbane, though, of course, his object was to bolster up the trade of Sydney. His chief, the right honorable member for East Sydney, was never tired of telling us. that he above all others, was the man who would try to create good feelingi between the States; but the first, or, at any rate the most important; act of his administration was to make this invidious distinction between Brisbane and the southern capitals. It was a blunder on the part of the honorable member, and. one for which he ought to blush.
– It is a wonder that the Government which the honorable member supported did not provide for all these things.
– It had no power.
– Yes ; it called for fresh tenders, having refused to accept the first tender.
– If that Government had remained in power, everything would have been done in a proper manner. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who held the portfolio of Postmaster-General in the Watson Administration, never made a single mistake during his term of office, and to imagine that he would make a blunder of this nature is simply inconceivable. I am. totally opposed to the ratification of the contract, and intend to move an amendment, in. case the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley is not carried. I shall propose that the words “ and other ports,” after the word “ Adelaide,” be deleted. That will make Adelaide the terminal port; and, as has been pointed out by other honorable members, if that were done, there would be no caus.e for complaint on the part of Queensland. So far as concerns the contract entered into by the Queensland Government to pay £26,000 to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, I may state at once that I am not in favour of the extension of the service to Brisbane on those terms. I think that the Queensland Government has made a grievous mistake. The old Torres Straits route, which served Queensland admirably for years, would have been better for her purpose, instead of this new service, which serves only the southern portion of the State. I hope that the Queensland Parliament will not ratify the agreement with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, just as I hope that this Parliament will refuse to ratify the agreement now under consideration. The honorable member for Moreton has said that, whilst the contract for the service averages 3s. 7d. a mile, and might have been extended to Queensland at the same rate, according to his figures, Queensland will have to pay for the extended service 16s. 8d. per mile. According to my figures, however, the amount which Queensland will pay will be £1 per mile. In addition to that, the agreement provides that the company shall not be charged with lighterage, wharfage, and pilotage rates. If the late PostmasterGeneral had been wise, I am satisfied that the service could have been extended to Brisbane for 3s. 7d. per mile.
– The company refused to do it. This is a very different contract.
– If the honorable member had stood out a little longer, he could have exacted better terms. I consider that the late Government was very much to blame, and that the ex-Prime Minister certainly did not show his usual tact in dealing with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. His Postmaster-General comes under the same condemnation. The honorable member is usually most tactful, and, though I admit that hewould not willingly do anything to offend any State, I must convict him of a very grave mistake in respect to this matter. The exPrime Minister repeatedly stated that his object was to create a good feeling between the States, but there is no evidence of it so far as this subject is concerned.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that the previous Government was wholly to blame for the terms of the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company which is now proposed for ratification by the House. The honorable member has accused the late Postmaster-General of making an egregious blunder; but it must be remembered that the late Government was taken at a great disadvantage, owing to the failure of two previous Governments. The first of them- - of which the present Postmaster-General was a member - neglected to advertise for tenders before the termination of the old contract. When tenders were called for, the time available for making the necessary arrangements for a new service was so limited that the late Government were placed at a considerable disadvantage, and found themselves forced to agree to terms, which, under more favorable circumstances, they would probably have rejected. It must be remembered that the Orient Steam Navigation Company, first asked for £150,000. That amount was subsequently reduced to £140,000, but the Government declined to grant such a high subsidy, and, after further negotiations, the Orient Steam Navigation Company agreed to accept £120,000 per annum. Whilst I have no objection to Brisbane being made a port of call for the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamers, I do not think that any extra expenditure should be incurred by the Commonwealth. The contract entered into by the Queensland Government was made on their own responsibility, and without reference to this Parliament, and it seems to be rather cool on the part of Queensland to now ask us to assume their self-imposed financial responsibility. If we were to comply with their request, we should establish a most undesirable precedent. The States Governments might go behind the back of the Commonwealth Parliament, and enter into all kinds of contracts, in the belief that they had only to ask us to take them over.
Therefore, we have to be’ very careful in dealing with this matter. If the Orient Steam Navigation Company are willing to extend their service to Brisbane without asking for an addition to their subsidy, I see no objection to such an arrangement being made. We must recollect that the exten sion has not been arranged for with a view to facilitating the carriage of the mails, but merely with the object of offering the producers of Queensland greater advantages in connexion with the export of their produce. This is purely a commercial consideration. I should certainly object to the Commonwealth being called upon to pay any more money in respect of the services rendered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. The addition of £26,000 per annum to the present subsidy would increase it to an amount £6,000 in excess of the £140,000 which the late Government declined to pay for the carriage of the mails.
– Would the honorable member agree to the contract being referred back, with a view to its being ascertained whether the Orient Steam Navigation Company would extend their service to Brisbane without asking for an increased subsidy?
– I have no objection to that course being adopted; but I should certainly protest against the Commonwealth being saddled with any further expenditure. I regard the £120,000 demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company as excessive, but I recognise that the late Government found themselves in a very tight place, and had to accept the terms of the company or run the risk of reducing the whole of the commercial affairs of the Commonwealth to a state of chaos.
– According to the reasoning of the honorable member, there is nothing to prevent him from voting for the amendment.
– Except my objection to the increased cost. No harm could be done by referring the contract back in order to ascertain if the service could be extended? to Brisbane without incurring further expense.
– The honorable member must know that that cannot be done. Does he suppose that the company will extend their service for nothing?
– Perhaps not, unless the Government are able to touch some tender chord which the late Government found it impossible to reach. I shall keep my mind open upon the question of referring the contract back until I hear what the late Postmaster-General has to say. Perhaps he will tell us that every effort has already been made in the direction desired.
– I shall regard it as a national calamity if the contract entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company is ratified in its present form. The increase in the subsidy from £85,000 to £120,000 seems to me to be outrageous. I have no doubt that if an arrangement had been made for a mail service between Naples and Adelaide, a much smaller subsidy would have been accepted. The Orient Steam Navigation Company took advantage of the absence of competition, brought about by the influence of the shipping ring, and were practically able to make their own terms as to ports of call and everything else. Repeated efforts have been made to secure the extension of the service on to Brisbane, but without success, until the Queensland Government took the matter into their own hands. So far as I can see, the Government have not tried to include Brisbane.
– That is £7,000 to be paid by each State, as opposed to the ,£26,000 which the honorable member is asking for.
– I think that ^£26,000 a year is too much to pay for the service from Sydney to Brisbane, and that ,£120,000 a year is too much to pay -for the service from Great Britain to Sydney. I am not very much in favour of the mail service from Brisbane by the Orient Steam- Navigation Company. I believe that a mail service via Torres Strait would suit Brisbane far better than that service. In Northern Queensland we have ports which from the commercial standpoint are of far more importance than other ports in Australia. We may not have the population at the present time, but we have a country with potentialities far greater than those which may be discerned in the southern States. Honorable members from Tasmania say that it does not want this or that, and speak about the sugar bounty. But Queensland is suffering more from the payment of that bounty than is any other State. The price of sugar was far cheaper before the bounty was authorized than it is now, and yet we hear very much talk about the little island’s apples and Jam factories.
– Why does not Queensland ask for the repeal of the sugar bounty ?
– That has nothing to do with the mail contract which we are asked to ratify. The representatives of Tasmania recognise that its mail service is suitable, and would not be benefited by the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats calling at Hobart; but in Brisbane we have produce, such as butter, for which cool chambers are required by the exporters. For that reason a mail service by that company might be of some benefit to Queensland exporters. The Aberdeen line used to take away this produce, but it has been cut out by the ring. There is no greater evidence of the existence of a ring amongst the shipping companies than the fact that when tenders were called for the northern mail services in Queensland the prices asked, by the shipping companies were all about the same. When we find the shipping companies combining for the purpose of “taking down” the Commonwealth it is time that it established its own shipping, and did not ratify this mail contract. It would be far better for the Commonwealth to resort to the poundage system. A few persons in Flinders-lane talked about the insufficiency of the mail service, because they did not receive their letters at the stroke of the hour. That is not of very much importance to the bulk of the people of Australia, who do not notice when the mails arrive. It is only from a few commercial men in the great cities, and a few Chambers of Commerce, that we hear all this talk about the insufficiency of the mail service. I feel quite sure that the people of Australia would not suffer if the mails were carried under the poundage system. I intend to oppose the ratification of this mail contract because it is my opinion that Queensland has been treated very shabbily by the Commonwealth. It has been the greatest sufferer, not only in this matter, but in every other way. It would be far better out of the Commonwealth than in it.
– How has Queensland been badly treated?
– The State which has been treated best has been Western Australia. I give the right honorable gentleman credit for what he has done for that State, which has always had a mail service.
– We have never had a penny from the Commonwealth vet.
– It is remarkable to hear that statement from the representative of a State which has the distinction of having the greatest surplus in the Commonwealth. I wish that it would contribute a portion of its surplus to Queensland. In that event, Queensland would not ask the Commonwealth to contribute any money towards the subsidy of £26,000 a year which it is paying to the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– What about the sugar bounty and the Vancouver mail service ?
– Has the honorable member heard about the guns and the post-office at Fremantle?
– I know all about the guns and the post-office. We are always hearing about the sugar bounty. The Commonwealth gets £400,000 or £500.000 a year out of the Excise duty, but if we had free-trade in sugar it would get nothing.
– I am sorry that the Government of Queensland did not ask the Reid Government to do the same thing for that State that it did for Victoria and New South Wales in connexion with this mail contract. It is laid down in the Constitution that there shall be no differentiation between States by the Commonwealth. How the ex- Postmaster-General can reconcile the provision of mail steamers for carrying perishable produce from Victoria and New South Wales and not from Tasmania and Queensland I do not know. Queensland has not been treated in a princely fashion by the Federation, and therefore I can understand the strong remark made just now by the honorable member for Capricornia, who, perhaps, was an antiFederalist.
– In what way has she been badly treated ?
– Take, for instance, the case of this mail contract. It is all very well for honorable members to laugh at my remark. If the representatives of Queensland did not come into the House and fight for its interests, who would ? That is what they were sent here to do. It is from no provincial spirit that I am speaking. While I represent a Queensland constituency, I shall do my best to see that the interests of that State are not neglected. Queensland is such a good place, inmy opinion, that I hope to live and endmydays there. The Postmaster-General to-night, when submitting this motion, complained that the Queensland Government did not give the Commonwealth Governmentany notification that the contract with the Orient Steam
Navigation Company was to be entered into ; and I now ask the honorable gentleman whether that is why the repayment of this subsidy, or part of it, is refused by the present Government?
– That is one reason, but I gave many other reasons.
– I admit that the case of a person who enters into a contract and then asks another person to pay the cost may be regarded as weak; but I may be allowed to put the Queensland side of the question. If the Queensland Government had asked the Commonwealth Government to enter into this contract so as to extend the service as far as Brisbane, on the condition that the State should, pay all the out-of-pocket expenses which the Commonwealth incurred, does any honorable member mean to say that the arrangement would have been made as quickly as it has been? My own idea is that months would have been occupied in negotiation, and possibly yards or miles of correspondence would have followed, before anything was done; and in the meantime the Queensland producers would have been left out in the cold. The honorable member for Oxley and the honorable member for Brisbane have to-night referred to the fact that the vessels of the Aberdeen line were not allowed to carry cargo to Queensland direct, but had to take all to Sydney, where it was dumped down on the wharfs, and thence transhipped to the northern ports by coastal boats, while the Aberdeen vessels themselves actually went on to Brisbane empty. That, of course, is one of the effects of the system of the shipping “ring.” Mr. Bierne, a Queensland merchant, when in London, asked the manager of the Aberdeen Shipping Company why cargo was not allowed to go direct to Brisbane, and the reply given was, “Damn Queensland ! What do we care about Queensland ? We run these ships on commercial lines, and, if you do not like to use them,you can use other ships, but the cargo will be dumped down atSydney all the same.” What sort of a Government would it be that permitted such a state of things to continue? Would the Commonwealth Parliament or Government have taken any notice of the circumstances? It was really necessary that the Queensland Government shouldact quickly in this matter. When a clause was put into the mail contract making Melbourne andSydney ports of call, why was not the same step taken in regard to Hobart and Brisbane, which are equally ports of the Commonwealth?
– The Government could not get tenders which embraced those ports.
– This exPostmasterGeneral, through the newspapers, announced that a tender had been received under which Brisbane would have been made a port of call, but that it was not accepted because the charge was excessive.
– The ex- PostmasterGeneral informs me that that is not so.
– Then the ex- PostmasterGeneral ought to inform the Committee exactly what was done, and not leave us to vote this £120,000 blindfold.
– I intend to speak.
– I suppose the exPostmasterGeneral wishes all the Queensland representatives to speak first, so that he may then sail in and swamp the lot.
– That would be rather a big contract.
– It may be very well for the ex-Postimaster-General to treat this matter in a jocular spirit, but there is nothing jocular about it for Queensland. That State is in the throes of another big drought, and an annual payment of £26,000 is a big consideration. There is no desire on the part of the Queensland Government to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth for relief ; allwe ask is the same fair and square dealing that is meted out to other States.
– Queensland was acted fairly by in reference to the Vancouver mail service.
– That is only for twelve months.
– It may be longer, because, unless notice is given, the contract is extended for two years.
– If the contract of the Queensland Government with the Orient Steam Navigation Company lasts for three years, that means three times £26,000, and the quid pre quo offered is £7,000 for the Vancouverservice. If there is to be equality as between the States, I ask the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria to extendto Queensland the same treatment that has been extended to their own States.
– And we must remember that- the Vancouver service starts from Sydney.
– That is so. The Commonwealth contractwith the mail companiesprovides for the termination of the mail service at Adelaide, and, that being so, I should like to know why it was stipulated that Sydney and Melbourne should be ports of call. Then, again, the mail companieshave to provide refrigerating space for so many thousand tons; and’ what is the meaning, of that unless it be to either force or induce the vessels to visit Melbourne and Sydney ? We certainly do not require refrigerating plant for the carriage of our mails. Queensland is paving her share towards the mail subsidy, and is quite willing to pay a share of the extra cost which would be incurred in making arrangements to carry perishable products from Brisbane. I hope the House will act in that true Federal spirit which I am sure would have been shown by the Reid Government. If the case had been put to thatGovernment as it has been put to this House to-night I am sure that the right honorable member for East Sydney, as Prime Minister, would have returned to Queensland, if not the whole of the £26,000, at least a part of it.
– Half of it. I think.
-I have given support to the present Government almost to breaking point sinceIcametothis side of the House,and, considering, the political principles I have swallowed, I ought to receive some consideration inthis matter. I ask the present Postmaster-General and the Ministerof Home Affairs if they will not go as far as the right honorable member for East Sydney would have gone, and return Queensland one-half of the amount, to, at least, return some portion.
Debate (onmotion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE laid upon the table the following paper: -
Coasting trade amended regulation148 and regulation 148 A, and amended form 40, and form. 49A (Customs Act 1901) - Statutory Rules 1905,. No.61.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
– Last night I think there was some little misunderstanding as to the particulars- which, will be collected under clause 13a of the Bill. The Minister has already assured me that under the- term “ prescribed matters “ very much additional ground may be covered. I have no desire to delay trie progress of this Bill - I merely wish to emphasize the necessity which exists for ascertaining who are the owners of property, how their property is held, and what is its value. I quite recognise that a householder may say, “ I am not qualified to make a valuation of my property.” But I would point out that he has the municipal valuation to guide him. It seems to me that it is much more necessary to secure information in regard to the distribution and ownership of property than it is to obtain particulars of the materials of which a house is constructed, and of the number of rooms which it contains. I am of opinion that- it would be wise to set out in. this Bill the form of a householder’s schedule. Last night, however, the Minister offered some practical objection to the adoption of that course,, and consequently I did not press the matter to a division.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The last speaker has raised a question of considerable importance. Unless the Minister can assure the House that, he already possesses power to secure the information which the honorable member “for Kooyong desires, some definite provision should be made for it in this Bill. It is of the utmost consequence that we should have the particulars to which he- referred. 1 do not at. all under-rate the importance of numbering the houses, and counting the rooms which- each dwelling contains. I know of no broader and fairer test of the general comfort and standard of decency of the population of a country than an estimate of the- character of the houses-, in which its people dwell. I had occasion to refer to a table of this kind only a little while ago for the purpose- of showing that in Australia there are about 50,000 people living in houses of two rooms each, and all the rest in houses having more accommodation. I do not at all under-rate that kind of enumeration, but I do not think it should be- set up in competition with the information that my honorable friend is seeking - that is, as to the value of house property and the value of land in par ticular. It. is of the utmost consequence that we should make Lt imperative upon the Statisticians to ascertain accurately the value of land in the. Commonwealth. It is of the very essence of. a good computation that there should, be uniformity in assessing the: value of the lands of the Commonwealth. It may be that this power is latent in the Bill ; but even if it is, no harm can Le done by expressing it definitely and clearly in clause 16. We have already,, in that clause, provided for a schedule covering a number of matters, but as to- the value of land and what might be called real propertythere is no stipulation- whatever. It is true that we take power to estimate all kinds of industrial occupations in respect of the numbers engaged in them and their value, but there is no provision in any- part of this Bill making it obligatory upon those w/ho will have charge of this business to estimate, the value of the realty of the community. As I have already said, it looks as if we shall more and more have to do with the question of direct taxation throughout the Commonwealth. Taxation is being differentiated in the various States. In some a tax is imposed on land ; in others on land values-; in others a general wealth or a general propertytax. It is, therefore, very necessary, in estimating the taxable resources of the Commonwealth that we should know what the lands of the Commonwealth are worth, what they are in extent, and what are the possibilities of direct taxation in that direction. For this purpose, as well as in the interests of a fair estimate of the wealth of- the community, we should incorporate some such1 provision in the Bill. I shall be glad to hear the Minister on this point. It is, I think, rather unfortunate that the honorable member for Kooyong was not present last night when- clause 16 was discussed.
– I was present, and I drew attention to the. matter.
– Then it is unfortunate that the honorable member did not propose what he now suggests, by way of amendment to the clause.
– I explained that I did not do so as the result of a misunderstanding.
– That in itself is ai good reason for a recommittal of the Bill. I suggest that the Minister, should allow the Bill to be recommitted for the purpose of including a provision to secure the information which the honorable member for Kooyong has referred to. I can conceive of nothing of more importance than the taking of a strict account of the lands of the Commonwealth and their value, and of the value of the general property held in the Commonwealth. We are told now that, roughly speaking, there is in the Commonwealth £1,000,000,000 worth of property. That may foe only the very rudest guess, but whether it is ,a guess or not, it is only arrived at by an attempt on the part of somebody to assimilate various means of computing this wealth in the various States. At the present time, as I pointed out last night, nearly every man who essays to do this work has a method all his own, differing from that of every other Statistician in the Commonwealth. It might turn out’ that a very different estimate would be the result of a uniform method of arriving at these values throughout the Commonwealth. We cannot be sure that it is being, done accurately and properly until we have one authority operating throughout the whole of the States in regard to this very important matter. I therefore support the remarks made by the honorable member for Kooyong. I think it is a pity that the honorable member did not formally move the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose of including in clause 16 some such amendment as he has outlined.
– It will be recollected by the Minister in charge of the Bi 11 that with the concurrence of the AttorneyGeneral he agreed to a recommittal of clause 12.
– No; I agreed to postpone it. It was postponed, and then brought on after consultation with honorable members of the Opposition.
– I think that is so. My first impression was that there was an agreement to recommit, but really what was agreed to was a postponement of the clause.
– We met the right honorable gentleman to that extent.
– That is so. Unfortunately I was not here when the clause came on for reconsideration, and I see that the difficulty which was raised by the honorable member for Maranoa and by myself has not been met. One difficulty referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, in the case of city premises occupied as offices where there is a caretaker, has been met. As the Bill stood yesterday, in such cases every office .would be a dwelling. That has been remedied by the insertion of the words “and used for the purpose of human habitation.” But another serious difficulty pointed out by the honorable member for Maranoa has not yet been met. Throughout Australia there is an enormous number of hotels in which persons lease a room for weeks or months. They are practically lodgers, and hold their rooms in the hotel ; and under sub-clause 2 of clause 12 every one of those rooms is made a dwelling. By this Bill, if there are fifty such’ rooms in a large city hotel they will become fifty dwelling-houses. The tendency of such” a law is to misrepresent the condition of the people of Australia, because when the total number of tenements is compared with the total number of householders, our statistics will point to a state ‘of discomfort and poverty which will not actually exist. We know that in New York and in many other places it is a reproach that there are so many families in the occupation of one tenement house. That is looked upon as a sign of the utmost poverty, and of the absence of comfort. Take the enormous building that is being erected not very far away in Collinsstreet, which will probably contain 100 or 200 rooms to be let in residential flats. If fifty different people occupy those room’s, by the wording of sub-clause 2 of clause 12 that one building will be held to be fifty dwelling-houses, requiring fifty different returns under this Bill. That is altogether wrong. Surely, in the case of an hotel, the licensee is the proper person to furnish one return in regard to ail the inmates, whether they be inmates for one particular day, or reside there under an arrangement to remain for weeks at a time. The tendency of this provision is to place the conditions of the people of Australia in a wrong light. I admit that it would be somewhat difficult to so amend the clause as to overcome the objection which I have mentioned ; but ‘ if we exempted licensed, premises, one serious objection would be removed. Coming to the part of the Bill which deals with annual statistics, I would point out that, in reply to the request made by the honorable member for Kooyong, the Minister may say, “ That is a matter that we have power to add to the Bill.” But unless we provide for it in the Bill itself. it will be left entirely to the discretion of the Minister. One Minister may require that information shall be annually collected with reference to the tenure and occupancy of land holdings, but another may remove the item from the list. I do not know of an item which is more valuable as giving an insight into the development of rural industries. I suppose that most of the burning questions in Australia, and of most other countries in the future, will concern the tenure of land, and the size of landed estates. These are subjects respecting which information will be sought to a greater degree than in regard to any other statistical matter. Clause 16, which deals wilh the annual statistics, is framed with considerable ability. Paragraph a, for instance, is put so well as to cover an enormous range of subjects ; but, unfortunately, the question of land tenure and land occupancy is omitted.
– The right honorable member also desires that information shall be collected as to the values of land.
– I do not press that request. If the values .were appraised by an expert they might be of some service ; but the value which each man would put upon his holding would not be reliable.
– And enormous expense would be incurred in collecting the information.
– The point is that it would not be sufficiently reliable ; but the information collected with reference to land tenures would be not only reliable, but useful. It could be readily obtained, because every occupier of land could state the nature and extent of his holding. We have practically finished with the Bill, and I do not wish to press my views in regard to clause 12 very strongly, as there would be a certain degree of difficulty in giving effect to them. But it would not take the Committee five minutes to insert an amendment in clause 16, providing that information shall be collected as to the tenure and occupancy of land.
– That information could be obtained more readily from the States land offices.
– But the point is that unless we provide in the Bill itself for the collection of such information, the matter will be left to the whim of the Minister. A Minister who is a land reformer, might be very anxious that the public should get information on this question; but another might say that it was unnecessary. I certainly think that the Labour Party should attach some importance to my proposal, because, so far as I have followed many of their public utterances, questions concerning the tenure and occupancy of the land seem to have ranged in their minds to a very high degree. Whatever our views upon the land question may be, no one could object to the fullest information being elicited. Is it not more important that we should obtain a bird’s-eye view of the land tenure and occupancy of Australia than that we should Know whether a man is a Baptist, a Wesleyan, or a Presbyterian?
– Infinitely more important.
– I should say so. Compared with the information that is to be collected, with regard to place of birth, length of residence in Australia, and the material of the dwelling and the number of rooms contained therein, surely details as to land tenure are infinitely the more important.
– The particulars to which the right honorable member has referred are obtained at every census, in order to arrive at an estimate of social conditions.
– Quite so; but what a flood of light would be thrown upon the land problem, if every member of the community could obtain a bird’s-eye view of land occupancy and tenure in Australia. I am sure that the present Minister of Home Affairs would make provision for the collection of such information ; but my point is that when we are passing a measure which is likely to stand for years, we should not leave such matters to the whim of a Minister.
– Does the right honorable member think that the amendment he suggests would enable us to find out anything about the land agents of New South Wales?
– I do not know that it would ; but it is just as well that we should see what is to become of the country after they have clone with it.
– We shall find how little land is left for the submerged tenth.
– I do not know how many millions of acres of land there are in New South Wales not yet in occupation.
– There is not much unoccupied land there which is any good.
– It is surely good enough for the submerged tenth. To persons who are accustomed to being submerged a removal to our drier, plain country might be an agreeable change. I look upon this as one of the most important lines of statistical information.
– Is not the matter sub judice?
– If that be so, I have nothing more to say on the subject. I think, however, that the information asked for is valuable, and should be supplied.
– Cannot what the right honorable member suggests be done in the Senate ?
– Are we getting “ that tired feeling” in this House? When an alteration which could be made in two minutes is proposed!, we are told to leave it to the Senate. It is. not well to leave our work unfinished, because if we send our Bills to the Senate in slipshod language, and full of defects, we do not know what use may be made of it by-and-by. If there is a difference between the two bodies, it will be flung inour faces that our Bills are sent up in such a way that they must always be amended to improve them. Besides, it is our duty to do our best in connexion with every measure that comes before us. I will not press mv suggestions in opposition to the general feeling of the honorable members, but I think that it is worth while to spend five minutes in giving effect to them in the Bill.
– I think that the leader of the Opposition has made a very wise suggestion in proposing the insertion of the words “ licensed houses excepted,” in sub-clause 2, of clause 12. I raised the point last night, and I think the difficulty to which I then drew attention will be overcome if that is done. With regard to clause 13A, I should like to explain that, when I divided the Committee on my amendment to leave out the words “ length of residence in) Australia,” I did not know that in so doing I should preclude the honorable member for Kooyong from making a proposal for the collection of other statistics. I agree with the leader of the Opposition that we cannot have too much information, especially in regard to land matters. We are all desirous of knowing what land is available for settlement ; what is occupied, and what is not occupied, and what are the various kinds of tenure.
– And the size of the various holdings.
– Yes. The information should be made as complete as possible. I hope that the Minister will recommit clauses 12 and 13 a.
– It would be better to recommit clause 16 than to recommit clause 13a.
– Yes; so that information in regard to land tenure may be collected yearly.
– Whatever may be the proper clause to recommit, I should like to see a provision put into the Bill requiring the collection of information in regard to land tenure. Such information will be no more troublesome to collect than information regarding religion, age, length of residence in the Commonwealth, and so on.
– I ask rather that the Minister should hold his hand in connexion with the creation of a Commonwealth Statistical Department than suggest that the number of subjects on which statistics should be collected be increased, because it seems more likely that we shall have a very large Commonwealth Statistical Department than that any branch of statistics will be neglected. Surely the words “ any other prescribed matters “ are wide enough to cover the information which the honorable member forKooyong wishes to have collected.
– Yes; but under those words different Ministers might order different information to be collected.
– The same objection might be applied to the clause which says that -
The Statistician shall, subject to the regulations and the direction of the Minister, collect, annually, statistics in regard to all or any of the following matters.
That provision gives the Statistician a discretion.
– But it is not intended to have the effect of annulling the provisions of the Bill.
– It is just as likely that the collection of statistics in regard to some of the matters specified will cease as that there will be any change in regard to the collection of statistics in regard to “ other prescribed matters,” once any matters have been prescribed. It is, of course, advisable that we should know how the lands of the Commonwealth are held, and I do not suppose that there will be any difficulty in collecting information as to tenure. ‘ All that would be necessary would be to have a compilation made of the information in the possession of the officials of the States; but it would be a huge business to try to get information in regard to the value of the land in private occupation.
– Only the rateable value is asked for.
-In those states where there is land taxation, and assessments of value have been made by capable experts, the difficulty would not be so great ; but the information obtained would relate only to the unimproved value of land. In cases where there is no land tax, it is necessary to take the estimates of the owners.
– Where there is a shire rate the valuation can be obtained.
– The honorable member surely knows that shire rates are extremely unreliable. Furthermore, they are not on a uniform basis. I have been told that in some cases in Victoria it is notorious that some shires undervalue to an extreme degree. They have local taxation of, say, zs. in the£1, but the return does not represent the real value of the property in the shire. I know that this matter has been looked into by previous Governments. Estimates of the cost of establishing a Commonwealth Statistical Department are to be found in the office. The result of the inquiries made was to show that there would be a considerable increase in the cost of collecting statistics if they were to be obtained on a uniform basis throughout the Commonwealth. Mr. Coghlan estimated a large increase of cost as compared with what is being paid by the States. Of course, it is advisable to take power under the Bill, but the Minister should by no means create a huge Statistical Department. Mr. Reid. - Surely land tenure is more important than social statistics?
– I quite agree with the right honorable member in regard to the importance of collecting information as to land tenure. But I am talking about attempting to get land values or rateable values for the whole Commonwealth on a uniform basis.
– I quite agree with the honorable member there.
– The whole subject is covered by paragraph h, which gives power to prescribe.
– Why have any details in the Bill ? Why not say “ all prescribed matters” ?
– Of course, this is only a skeleton Bill. Everything depends on its administration.
– It would be a reflection on us to have eight lines of details, and not to include land tenures.
– I am quite prepared, if the Bill is recommitted, to agree to insert a provision in regard to conditions of land tenure. But I do not think there is any advantage in attempting to lay down every possible line under which it may be found advisable hereafter to collect statistics.
– I agree; but this is a big line.
– I urge the Minister to hold his hand, and not attempt to make the whole of the information, absolutely uniform at once, as to do so would add very much to the cost of collection.
– The land tenure information is already in existence; there will be no expense as to that.
– That is, comparatively speaking, a very small matter, but if there is to be information uniformly computed there must be special agents appointed by the Commonwealth.
– That would be going too far.
– I hope that the Minister will not be in a hurry to take over the collection of information on all these subjects. However advisable it may be to have our statistics on a uniform basis, and however inconvenient it may be that the statistics for various States do not always mean the same thing, a uniform system at present would be very expensive.
– I am sorry that I cannot follow the argument of the honorable member for Boothby. I cannot see how any reasonable objection can be urged against the recommittal of certain clauses for the purpose of making them more complete in character, and obtaining more information at no additional cost to the Commonwealth. The proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong is very important. I know that he intended last night to bring the matter forward, but, unfortunately, he was too late. He voted for the clause as a whole, under the impression that he was voting for the omission of certain words only. I knew that he intended to bring forward another amendment. I was surprised at the way in which the question was put by the Chairman. Not only the honorable member for Kooyong, but other honorable members also, myself included, were under the impression that we were voting on the question of omitting certain words from this clause, and not upon the clause as a whole. As the result of this misapprehension, the opportunity to bring forward the amendment was lost. Having in view these facts, I hope that the Minister will see his way to recommit the clause. Last night, when speaking on clause 12, the leader of the Opposition pointed out certain defects in clause 12, and I also directed attention to imperfections in sub-clause 2^ which provides that -
Where a dwelling is let, sublet, or held in different apartments and occupied by different persons or families, each part so let, sublet, or held shall be deemed a dwelling house.
I indicated that if each occupant of a separate room in a dwelling - and there might be a hundred in- one building - were expected to fill in a complete schedule relating to the occupants of the building, the result would be an absolutely misleading set of statistics, because information as to the same set of facts would be multiplied by the number of separate occupants in a building. I recognise to the full the value of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Kooyong, which I think, however, should be embodied in clause 16, and not in clause 13A, and I think also that both that clause and clause 12 should be recommitted. ,
– I cannot consent to the amendment of clause 12, because we have adopted the word’s of other Acts which, under administration, have been found to be sufficient as recently as on the occasion of the last census. No words that would effect an improvement have yet been suggested.
– We should guard against making provision for an erroneous statement of facts ; but in this case we not only do not so guard against error, but insert provisions which must inevitably lead to error.
’. - The honorable member for Kooyong has suggested that we should include among the matters upon which statistics are to be collected the question of land tenure. I quite agree with the honorable member that that is an exceedingly important matter, upon which information should be obtained, but I am afraid that it will be difficult to avoid making the inquiry very expensive. If, as the honorable member has suggested, we were to inquire into land values in every State, and we were to adopt the values furnished by each individual according to his own method of valuation, apart from any uniform principle, we should land ourselves in all sorts of difficulties.
– I did not suggest anything so absurd.
– I am sorry that I misunderstood the honorable member. The only valuations we could accept would be those arrived at under the assessments made by the local government bodies, and I would point out that such bodies are not constituted throughout the whole of the States. Then, again, even where such information is available, the valuations are arrived at according to differing principles. For instance, in Queensland the properties are assessed upon their unimproved value. It is a question of raising revenue, and if values decline a heavier rate has to be levied. Therefore, owners of property very often do not trouble to appeal against excessive valuations. Moreover, owners of property very frequently agree to excessive valuations, because they think that thereby the market value of their properties may be enhanced. With regard to the matter of land tenure and occupancy we shall need to proceed very cautiously, otherwise we shall land the Commonwealth in great expense. I think that the matter can be dealt with in clause 16, in which I am prepared to insert the words “ land tenure and occupancy.” Even if those words are inserted we can only express the pious hope that those who are intrusted with the administration of the Act will have due regard to the expense of collecting such statistics as are suggested. Even in regard to land tenures serious difficulties will have to be faced. The conditions under which land is classified differ considerably in the States, and varying names are applied to areas of a similar character. Therefore, when it comes to a matter of making comparisons a knowledge of the local land laws will be required. I understand, however, that the honorable member desires to obtain information as to the area of land in each State, the area which has1 been alienated, the area which is held generally on leasehold, the area which is held on freehold, the area which is held on mining tenures and so forth. That is useful information which may be gathered from State Departments, in consequence of annual returns being required to be furnished by them. I’ can see that it may be collected without very much trouble if the Act is administered with care and economy. On the other hand, if there is much “ double-banking,” the Commonwealth may be put to unnecessary expense. At the same time, under the clause as it stands, land tenures could have been included in the matters prescribed.
– I am quite aware of that. I do not want to increasetheexpense.
– I understand thai the honorable member doesnot want to incur additional expense.
– Then why talk about it?
– The Bill already gives power to include land tenures, but if the honorable member desires the power to be given in black and white amongst the discretionary powers which we already possess, then, with a view to facilitating business, I am quite prepared to add the necessary words. I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration pf clause 16 in regard to the addition of a new paragraph, “ (gg.) Land tenure and occupancy.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 16 -
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - “ (gg.) Land tenure and ocupancy.”
Bill reported with a further amendment j report adopted.
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to be read a third time this day.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understand that on Friday next a large number of honorable members intend to make a trip to Mildura, which, by-the-by, I should very much like to visit if I had the opportunity. It is one of the places which I think honorable members ought’ to see,’ because the information to be obtained there would greatly assist our future dealings with industries which are characteristic of the place. In view pf the large number of honorable members who propose to go away on Friday, I apprehend that the Prime Minister will have some difficulty as regards a quorum. But, apart from that, would ft not be well for the honorable and learned gentleman to let us know at once whether he contemplates having a sitting of the House on that day. I certainly . think it would be better for himtolet honorable members know his intention, so that they may be able to make their arrangements accordingly. I should be glad indeed to see the opportunity to make the trip largely availed of by honorable members, and, if possible, I would go myself, because I think it is an opportunity not to be lightly set aside.
-My feeling in regard to the visit is that which has been expressed by my honorable friend. It is a visit of an educational character, which we should all bc glad to undertake; but I have regarded the proposal with somewhat mixed feelings, and certainly if I had the power to stop it, I should do so in order not to lose a day’s sitting. I find that practically a third of the House is engaged to make the visit, and that, taking into account the unavoidable absences at this period of the year, it would leave us, if with a quorum, at all events with so small a House that we could scarcely ask that decisions on important questions should be arrived at. Most reluctantly, therefore, I am compelled to forecast no sitting for Friday; but trust that honorable members opposite will recognise the position in which we are placed by enabling us to dp tomorrow evening as much as we should otherwise have done with an extra sitting.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister has fpund us very uhreasonable.
– Not to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051004_reps_2_27/>.