House of Representatives
2 November 1905

2nd Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 4511

QUESTION

REMUNERATION OF MEMBERS

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
DARWIN, TASMANIA

– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if there is any truth in the rumour on ‘change that the Government have a Bill drafted to raise members’ salaries to£600 a year, and intend to proceed with it before the close of the session?

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for External Affairs · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– I know nothing about the rumour onchange, but there will have to be a great change in the rumour before it becomes true.

page 4511

PRINTING COMMITTEE

Distributionof Papers

Report (No. 3) presented by Mr. Poynton, and read by the Clerk.

Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -

That the report be agreed to.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– I wish to draw attention to the delay which occurs in connexion with the distribution of many important papers which are laid on the table, but reach honorable members several days, and, in some cases, a week or more later. I understand that the principal cause of this delay is that the advisability of printing the papers has to be considered by the Printing Committee, but the result is thatvaluable reports, which should be in the hands of honorable members to enablethem to properly discussthe Esti mates, or to take part in other debates, are often not available until the last moment. In most cases the documents laid on the table are in print, and it is but seldom that papers are presented in manuscript or typewritten, and I do not see why honorable members should not be put in possession of all printed papers next day. During; the discussion of the Estimates valuable reports have several times not been available to honorable members when they were wanted, and the consideration of the New Guinea vote has had to be postponed on this account.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I should like to direct the attention of the honorable member to standing order 322, which sets out the requirements of the case, as follows : -

A Printing Committee to consist of seven mem- ‘ bers shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament, to which shall stand referred all petitions and papers presented to the House, or laid upon the table, the Committee to report from time to time as to what petitions and papers ought to be printed, and whether wholly or in part; provided that when a paper has been laid on the table, a motion may bemade at any time, without notice, that the paper be printed.

I understand that the Printing Committee has determined that when a paper is laid upon the table in print, the Government Printer shall be asked to supply copies to honorable members at once, and that delay occurs only in connexion with papers which are not laid on the table in print.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Report agreed to.

page 4511

SUGAR BOUNTY BILL

Mr BAMFORD:
HERBERT, QUEENSLAND

– Can the Prime Minister inform us when it is likely that the Sugar Bounty Bill will be introducer!?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– The measure must be initiated by the presentation of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, and I hope to bring down such a message to-morrow.

page 4511

QUESTION

ALIEN IMMIGRATION

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement by Mr. Power, a member of the Queensland Parliament -

He hadbeen informed that the Chinese were coming into the north in hundreds. He had received an offer from a prominent Chinaman in the north to provide 500 Chinese, if they were required, for the sugar plantations.

Will the Prime Minister make inquiries as to the truth of that statement ? If it is true, has he any information as to how these Chinese are getting into Queensland?

Mr Fisher:

– The statement is not correct.

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– A question was asked on this subject about two months ago, by the honorable member for Herbert, or some other representative of Queensland, and the Governmentthereupon, not only communicated with our officers in Queensland, but asked the Premier of that State to allow the police of the northern districts to report whether they could discover evidence of the unauthorized landing of Chinese on the coast, and whether there are, living in outlying districts, unknown Chinamen, or Chinamen who cannot speak English, whose presence there would indicate that the law is being evaded. We have received interim reports, and what may be regarded as the final report has just come to hand; but I have not yet had time to fully peruse it. I understand that it is the testimony of officers and police alike that - leaving out of consideration a Chinaman here or there whose landing one could scarcely hope to detect - there has not been anywhere in the northern districts of Queensland, any such influx of Chinese as has been rumoured.

Mr Fisher:

– It is a trumped-up affair.

page 4512

QUESTION

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MILITARY INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF

Mr HUTCHISON:
HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. The number of officers holding appointments on the Instructional Staff of the South Australian Military Forces?
  2. The number of officers appointed to the Instructional Staff since1st July, 1903?
  3. The number of officers who have passed the educational qualifying examination?
  4. The number of officers who have passed the military competitive examination?
  5. Will those officers who have not qualified in the educational and military competitive examinations’ be candidates at the examination to be held during the week ending 16th December next?
Mr EWING:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I am informed-

  1. Two.
  2. For the Commonwealth, two; for South Australia, none.
  3. None.
  4. None.
  5. No.The Minister further states in explanation that no examination for such appointments has been held since1st July, 1903. Of the two officers appointed since that date, Captain Robertson passed the examination in military subjects on the completion of his term of probation, and

Lieut. (Hon. Capt.) Holman, D.S.O., is now being examined. Under the regulations in force at the date of these appointments, officers of the militia and volunteer forces were “ eligible for transfer to the administrative and instructional staffs, subject to their passing the prescribed’ examination in military subjects, and on being certified by a medical board to be physically qualified.” Under the existing regulations to be eligible for appointment to the administrative and instructional staff, candidates are required to pass a prescribed educational and military examination before appointment. Should there be more candidates than vacancies, the military examination will be competitive,

page 4512

QUESTION

RIFLES : DEFENCE DEPARTMENT

Mr BROWN:
CANOBOLAS, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. What are the standard rifles adopted by the Defence Department for the equipment of rifle clubs and defence purposes generally?
  2. Is it a fact that rifle clubs are loaned MartiniEnfield rifles at the rate of one rifle for each two active members or one Lee-Enfield magazine rifle for each ten members, and, if so, why this difference ?
  3. Are both these rifles considered equally suitable for rifle club and defence purposes?
  4. Is it proposed to supply all members of rifle clubs with latest standard pattern of rifles, and, if so, when is it expected that clubs will be so equipped ?
Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– I am informed -

  1. The. Defence Department does not equip rifle clubs with rifles, but clubs may procure a number of Martini-Enfield and magazine LeeEnfield rifles from the Department on loan or by purchase. For military purposes, the standard rifles are - Magazine Lee-Enfield, long for infantry, short for light horse.
  2. There are no particular proportionslaid down in the case of the loan of Martini-Enfield rifles. The loan issue of magazine Lee-Enfield rifles is at the rate of ten per cent. of the active members.

Martini-Enfield rifles are single loaders; but as they take the same ammunition and can be better spared from stock, the proportion issued on loan has been arranged accordingly.

  1. For rifle club practice they are both equally good; for military purposes, the magazine LeeEnfield is superior.
  2. It is not proposed to alter the practice just at present, but members of rifle clubs are afforded facilities for buying rifles on deferred payment from the Department.

page 4512

QUESTION

SALE OF WARSHIPS

Mr HIGGINS:
NORTHERN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

Is it true that the warships lately on the Australian Station, under subsidy paid by the Australian States, have been discarded on reaching England, and just sold at Portsmouth; and, if sold, at what prices?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– I am informed -

The Government have no official information on the subject; but it is understood to be reported in the press that the Boomerang and Karrakatta have lately been sold - the former for £1,900 and the latter for £1,875.

Mr Higgins:

– Surely the honorable gentleman can get the information.

Mr EWING:

– The Minister is not in possession of it now, but I will suggest to him that he might make inquiries.

page 4513

QUESTION

PENNY POSTAGE

Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 2318), on motion by Mr. Lee -

That, in the opinion of this House, the penny postage system should be extended to all parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr LEE:
Cowper

– When last I addressed myself to this motion, I had got so far as to show that in the year 1904-5 the expenditure of the Postal Department was greater than the revenue by £66,695. I have questioned the Department as to their estimate of loss of revenue by the adoption of penny postage in each State and throughout the Commonwealth, and have been informed that if penny postage were adopted in each State there would be a loss of £202,500; and that if it were made uniform throughout the Commonwealth the loss would be £265,000, showing a loss of about£62,500 on Inter-State correspondence. I asked if that estimate allowed for the probable increase in the business of the Post Office, and was told that an allowance was made for normal growth’. I was also informed that it was not thought that the adoption of uniform penny postage would affect the revenue from telephones and telegraphs. When the Estimates of the PostmasterGeneral were under discussion, I understood from an interjection made by the honorable gentleman that Victoria is losing £50,000 a year by the adoption of penny postage. I tried to ascertain how that loss is arrived at, but have not yet received a satisfactory answer on the subject. I think that it had been calculated on an entirely wrong basis. It is all very well to say that 27,000,000 letters have been posted under the penny rate over and above the number posted under the twopenny rate. My contention has been that if a penny postage rate were adopted the number of letters would be largely increased. I find that in 1898, when the twopenny rate was still in vogue in Victoria, 54,101,357 letters were despatched whilst in New South Wales, where the same rate of postage prevailed, 76,900.000 letters were sent through the post. To-day we find that in New South Wales 92,238,211 letters are annually sent through the post, or 16,000,000 in excess of the figures of five years ago. whereas in Victoria 105,922,527 letters, or 51,000,000 more than in 1889, were despatched. Therefore, the number of letters sent through the post in Victoria exceeds the correspondence posted in New South Wales by 13,684,316 letters. I consider that these figures furnish strong evidence in favour of the adoption of the penny postage system. It is all very well for the postal officials in Victoria to say that a great loss has been incurred owing to the introduction of penny postage. I find that in 1900, the last year during which the twopenny postage rate was levied, the Victorian Postal Department incurred a loss of £13,000 - that was the difference between the total revenue and the total expenditure - whereas in 1904 the transactions of the Department showed a net profit of £9,000. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will be able to show us how the penny postage system has resulted in a loss of £50,000to the Department. It would be absurd to suggest that a loss has been incurred to the extent of1d. upon every letter that has been posted. The Railways Commissioners in New South Wales might as well say that they had lost £30,000 by reducing the fares on the tramway between Circular Quay, Sydney, and the railway station at Redfern to 1d., on the ground that if the fares had not been reduced they would have received so much more revenue. It is well known that if the facilities offered by the railways or other public services are increased they are more largely availed of by the public, and that in many cases the reduction of charges has resulted in converting a loss into a profit. The Treasurer, in his financial statement, presented an interesting summary of the transactions of the Post and Telegraph Department. In 1901-2, the revenue amounted to £2,372,861, and for 1904 to £2,630,905. Thus in the four years there was an increase of £258,044. I notice that for the current year it is expected that a profit of £25,286 will be derived. The new works and buildings, for which provision has been made since the Commonwealth has been established, have cost ^709,813, and during the current year it is proposed to expend £213,900. These works are being charged against the revenue of the year during which the expenditure takes place, and we shall within a very short time derive substantial advantages from this outlay.

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

– What about the interest payable on that outlay?

Mr LEE:

– There is no interest to be paid, because the money is provided out of revenue.

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

– The States Governments now have to pay interest on the money expended on the transferred properties.

Mr LEE:

– The States are having returned to them by the Commonwealth more money than they are entitled to, and I think they might very well be content to pay the interest on the loan money referred to.

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

– The interest charges should be included in the accounts of the Post and Telegraph Department, in order to arrive at a proper balancesheet.

Mr LEE:

– The chief argument in favour of introducing the penny postage system is that it would offer increased facilities for correspondence throughout the Commonwealth, and would thus confer a great boon upon the public We have from time to time, made heroic attempts to cheapen the cost of public services, and I think we must all admit that the reduced telephone and telegraph charges have proved of immense advantage. We are also paying £120,000 per annum for an ocean mail service, which confers considerable benefit on persons beyond our shores, and also proves of special advantage to the business section of the community. Whilst we are studying the interests of these classes, we should do something to promote the convenience of the people at large. Settlers in the back-blocks of Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia, do not enjoy the advantages which are conferred upon the residents in city and suburban areas, to which the penny postage rate is applied. It has been urged that Victoria was guilty of a piece of sharp practice in introducing the penny-postage system just prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, but I consider that the State Parliament acted wisely, and that the residents in all the other States should be placed on a footing similar to that occupied by the inhabitants of Victoria. We should pay special regard to the requirements of our settlers, who are opening up the country, and who, by developing our resources, are enriching the people in the cities. An increase of 27,000,000 letters per annum would be equivalent to only one letter per fortnight per head of the population in Victoria, and I am confident that if the penny postage system were introduced, the volume of. correspondence would be so greatly increased that the extra revenue derived would more than compensate for the reduction in the rate and any extra expenditure that might be involved in carrying on the service. I do not think too much regard should be paid to the financial side of the question, but that the convenience of the public should lie the first consideration. That was the object held in view when the recent mail contract was entered into, and also when the telegraph and telephone rates were reduced. Those who desire to send correspondence through the post have as much right to cheap means of communication as have those who use the telegraph and telephone services. Viewing the matter purely from a commercial stand-point, I consider that the proposed change is justifiable. Moreover, we are certainly called upon to do something to fulfil the bright promises that were held out when Federation was established. The benefits enjoyed by the residents of Victoria should be extended to the people of other States.

Mr Poynton:

– Victoria has to provide for the loss incurred in connexion with the penny postage system.

Mr LEE:

– I do not think that it can be shown that Victoria has sustained any loss. . The £50,000, to which reference has been made, is a loss merely on paper, and I believe that, as a matter of fact, there has been an actual gain.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– It is claimed that Victoria Will sustain a further loss of £17,500 per annum in connexion with Inter-State postage, if a penny rate is universally adopted.

Mr LEE:

– The loss which is incurred by us in connexion with the ocean contract’ is conveniently forgotten. The service is availed of by a comparatively small number of persons, whereas a penny postage rate would confer benefit upon the great mass of the people. I am sure that the £400,000 which is returned to the States, in excess of the amount to which they are strictly entitled under the provisions of the Constitution, could not be applied to any better use than that of defraying the cost of a universal penny postage system. We pride ourselves upon being a thoroughly uptodate community, but in the matter of our postal arrangements we are behind New Zealand and even Fiji, both of which Colonies have adopted the penny postage system. Not long since the Railways Commissioners in New South Wales found it to their advantage to adopt what is known as the zone system of charges, which’ has, for some years, been in operation in Belgium and other countries. Under this system produce can be carried for a distance of fifty miles at the same rate that is charged for freight over a distance of ten miles. From one stand-point that arrangement may be considered unfair, but it has so far proved of immense advantage, both to the producers and to the Railway Department.

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

– I understand that it is breaking down in Belgium.

Mr LEE:

– It is working very well in the State of New South Wales. Under the present arrangement produce can be sent from Singleton at the same rate that is charged for freight from Maitland, which is thirty miles nearer to Sydney. The result of introducing the Zone system has been to increase the value of land in outlying localities, and to encourage farmers to send their produce to market. I trust” that honorable members will discuss this matter from a liberal stand-point and realize the immense advantage that would be conferred upon the public if the proposed change were brought about.

Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -

That the debate be now adjourned.

Mr CHANTER:
Riverina

– I hope that the House will not consent to an adjournment of the debate.

Mr Poynton:

– Why did not the honorable member speak upon the original motion ?

Mr CHANTER:

– I was ready to speak, but I thought that the Postmaster-General would reply to the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Cowper. Personally, I think that the debate should proceed.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– Surely the Postmaster-General should indicate the views of the Government in regard to penny postage.

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

– We are all in favour of that system.

Mr KELLY:

– That is so. The question is merely as to whether it is practicable to give effect to it at the present time. I trust that the Postmaster-General will supply the information which the honorable member for Riverina very reasonably desires.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I hope that the honorable member for Grey will withdraw his motion. It will be generally admitted that the honorable member for Cowper delivered a very instructive address, and the House desires to hear some reply to it from the Postmaster-General. Apparently, the Minister is opposed to the adoption of penny postage at the present juncture. I think that the question should be discussed this afternoon, and consequently I hope that the motion for the adjournment of the debate will be withdrawn.

Mr McCAY:
Corinella

– Surely this motion is not the result of an arrangement between the Government and the honorable member for Grey?

Mr Page:

– The honorable and learned member can see that that is not so.

Mr McCAY:

– Things are not always so obvious as the honorable member seems to imagine, especially where the PostmasterGeneral is concerned. I hope that the honorable member for Grey will withdraw his motion.

Mr Poynton:

– Not after the insinuation which the honorable and learned member has made.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– There is an old saying that evil-thinkers are evil-doers.

Mr.McCAY. - I find that it is quite impossible in the face of a running fire of interjections to address myself to the question before the Chair. If the motion be pressed to a division, I shall vote against it. I should have spoken upon the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper, but that I waited for the Postmaster-General to rise and express the views of the Government upon what is, after all, a large question of policy. The House is entitled to look to the Ministry for guidance upon this matter, and that is the reason why I oppose the adjournment.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Monaro - Postmaster-General · Eden · Protectionist

– It is interesting to note the concern of the honorable and learned member for Corinella to get information from the Government. Apparently, he wishes to embarrass them.

As regards the policy of the Ministry upon the question of penny postage, I wish to say that it was stated very clearly last night. The honorable member for Parramatta had twitted me with my attitude upon, this question. It is well known, that, together- with almost every member of the Government, I am in favour of penny postage.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I ask the Postmaster-^ General not to discuss that question.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I was telling the deputy leader of the Opposition what happened in this Chamber last night, apparently during his absence. There was certainly no arrangement between the honorable member for Grey and myself–

Mr Poynton:

– I moved the adjournment of the debate to save the situation.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I was informed by the honorable member for Cowper? that several honorable members were prepared to speak. He has asked me for some information which I propose to furnish. But I fail to see why I should rise and make a statement at the dictation of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I congratulate him upon the zeal with which he indulges in pin-pricks whenever he can. As I have said, the attitude of the Government upon the question of penny postage was clearly defined last night; and it is useless for me to now occupy three-quarters of an hour in stating what I then stated in three minutes.

Mr Kelly:

– Why should the Minister do in two weeks’ time what he is not prepared to do now?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I also deny the right of the honorable member for Wentworth to catechise me. Under the circumstances, if no other honorable member is ready to speak, I think it would be wise to agree to the motion .for adjournment, if only in order that I may have an opportunity to supply the honorable member for Cowper with the information for which he has asked.

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).There are several discrepancies in the statement of my honorable friend, otherwise we might accept it literally. For example, he stated that he is consumed with a desire to furnish information to the House upon this question. Yet he declared only a few minutes previously that last evening he had supplied the information desired in three minutes.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I said that I had stated the attitude of the Government upon the question.

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

– That is so. But does not the Minister see that his two statements are contradictory? I am utterly unconscious of having twitted the Postmaster-General with holding certain views upon this question. Either the House has a right to debate this question or it has not. When he says that he is not prepared to discuss it now, because he outlined the policy of the Government upon it last evening, that is not a reason for an adjournment of the debate. It is rather a reason why we should get to a division. But the motion of the honorable member for Grey need not have been submitted at all. Several honorable members, including myself, were prepared to speak. .

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member did not rise.

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

– Because I thought the Minister should have made a statement upon the question, and have supplied us with some financial reasons either for or against the motion of the honorable member for Cowper. Of course, every honorable member is in favour of penny postage upon sentimental grounds. But there is a financial side to this matter, and we have a right to consider the finances of the States before our own personal predilections. When the PostmasterGeneral resented what he chose to describe as dictation from this side of the House, I think that he was indulging in a little bathos, and cheap bathos at that. I would advise him not to adopt that style of speech, because it does not become him at all. If he will tell the House that in this matter he has nothing to propose, and that he is really waiting for some honorable member upon this side of the Chamber to give him his cue, we will endeavour to persuade his predecessor to unburden his soul, and- then, perhaps, the Minister will follow his example. I do think it is time that the Postmaster-General informed the House whether it is possible to adopt a system of penny postage at the present juncture, having regard to the finances of the States. If the honorable member for Grey will withdraw his motion, I am perfectly prepared to speak to the original proposition at once, and I believe that the honorable member for Riverina is also anxious to speak.

Mr Poynton:

– Is the honorable member afraid of a division upon it?

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

– Not at all. Why does the honorable member suggest that? Whilst the Postmaster-General resents, with a show of indignation, the merest suggestion by the honorable and learned member for Corinella of wrong-doing, he himself is attributing all sorts of motives for our attitude in reference to this matter. Our only( attitude is that of an open mind upon the question. ‘ If the Minister declines to give the House any information as to the policy of the Government, or if he takes the view that he .has already flooded the Chamber with light upon the question, I suppose I must potter along in the twilight, and make my own contribution to the debate as best I can. I do not think that the honorable member for Grey will be acting fairly if he presses his motion to a division.

Motion negatived.

Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I need hardly say that I am in hearty sympathy with the object which the honorable member for Cowper has in view, believing, as I do, that it is highly desirable that a uniform system of penny postage should- be adopted. I have been waiting to hear whether there are any financial considerations in the way of the acceptance of the motion by the Government, but so far no information on the subject has been furnished by the Postmaster-General. I propose briefly to review the position in the various States. During the Federal campaign, nearly every advocate of union assured the people that the Commonwealth Parliament would doubtless agree at the verv first opportunity to the adoption of a uniform postage rate throughout Australia.

Mr Frazer:

– Who would secure the cream of any reduction?

Mr CHANTER:

– I shall endeavour to show that the adoption of this reform would for the most part benefit settlers in rural districts - the pioneers of Australia, who are now penalized by being called upon to pay double the rates of postage demanded from those who are more fortunately situated. For instance, we find that whilst a considerable number of the people of New South Wales have to pay a 2d. postage rate, a large number of others in that State enjoy the advantages’ of penny postage. The zone system has been applied to many of the towns of New South Wales, and residents of those places are able for id. to send a letter to any address within a certain radius. This is the position in regard to the principal towns in New South Wales, but those outside these zones are called upon to pay double rates. I fail to see that there is any justification for thus differentiating between people residing in different parts of the same State. I am given to understand that similar conditions prevail in other . States. What is the position in regard to the postal service? At the present time we have a variety of rates. In some States all. letters must bear a 2d. stamp; in others the penny postage system prevails. Then, again, letter-cards are issued at ijd. each, and post-cards are carried by the Department for one penny; while circulars may also be distributed through the Post Office for J-d. each. I would draw particular attention to the grievances of those living in the border districts. Residents of the border towns and districts of New South Wales have not only to pay .a 2d. postage rate, but are penalized by being called upon frequently to pay a surcharge of 2d. on insufficiently stamped letters addressed to them from Victoria, where penny, postage prevails. Residents of the border districts of New South Wales have extensive business, transactions with Victorian firms, and are often called upon to pay id. extra postage and id. fine on insufficiently, stamped letters from this State which contain circulars of no particular value to them. The result is that many of them now absolutely refuse to accept delivery of letters insufficiently stamped. During the bookkeeping period the revenue collected in each State has to be credited to that State ; but I am in a position to say that New South Wales is losing a large proportion of its legitimate postal revenue owing to the existence of the 2d. postage rate. Many business men in New South Wales, who reside close to the Victorian border, post their letters_on the Victorian side of the river, and thereby secure penny postage, and they also have their correspondence addressed to post-offices on the Victorian side, in order to avoid the risk of having to pay for letters that are insufficiently stamped. These are only a few of the anomalies which exist, and to my mind uniform postage throughout the Commonwealth is the only remedy. The adoption of such a reform would also be a great convenience to travellers, who now have to carry a variety of the stamps of the different States. I anticipate that the Post- master-General will inform the House that, owing to financial considerations, the Government do not see their way clear to accept the motion. But, in that event, I think that he might agree to the extension of the zone system to the border districts. As I have pointed out, this system applies to m-any of the towns of New South Wales, and it seems to me that the Minister and his officers should be able to devise a scheme by which letters might be delivered for a -charge of id. each within a certain distance of the border. Under this system, letters sent from one State to a district within the zone, but across the border, could be delivered for id., and a longstanding grievance would thus be removed.

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

– We should still have the border of the zone.

Mr CHANTER:

– That is true. We shall never be able to completely overcome the difficulty until we apply penny postage to the whole Commonwealth-; but it seems to me that the adoption of my suggestion would largely remove the anomalies arising under the present system. I am sure that the Treasurer of Victoria does not desire that persons om the New South Wales side of the border shall be subjected to the inconvenience and annoyance of the presentsystem, in order that this State may secure increased revenue.

Mr Crouch:

– The revenue derived from the postage-due stamps goes, not to Victoria, but to New South Wales.

Mr CHANTER:

– That is so; but I have already pointed out the practice, which many persons on the New South Wales side of the Murray adopt, in order to rid themselves of the annoyance caused by their being called upon to pay for insufficiently stamped letters addressed to them from this State. If the honorable and learned member were residing in one of the border districts, he would find the present system so intolerable that he would heartily support this motion. I am not in a position to discuss the financial aspect of the question, inasmuch as the Minister has not supplied us with any figures for our guidance ; but as we have already agreed, without justification, so far as I can see, to the postage rate from Australia to Great Britain being reduced to 2d. - a reduction which will mean a loss of about £30,000 per annum - and’ to a further encroachment upon our revenue to the extent of £40,000 per annum by reason of the increased mail subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation

Company, we ought surely to be prepared to face the loss which the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth would involve. The reduction of the postage rate from Australia to Great Britain was not discussed in thisHouse, the late Government having, brought- it about by Executive act. The position is : that we can send a letter toan address 16,000 miles away for 2d., whilst in many parts of Australia a letter cannot be sent through the post a distance of sixteen yards for less than that charge. AsParliament has agreed to a reduction of the postage rates between Australia and Great Britain - a reduction which will benefit only a- small section of the people - it should not hesitate to adopt a reform which would beof real benefit to the people of Australia asa whole. The honorable member for Cowper has not stated what would be the loss arising from the change which he advocates, but we have been informed that the estimated loss is £200,000^ per annum. I do not know uponwhat basis that estimate has been formed. I should like to know if these Estimatesare based only upon the revenue derived; from the 2d. postage of New South Wales,, or on the whole revenue from postage of every “denomination. Uniform penny postage would make both letter-cards and postcards unnecessary, though possibly it would be desirable to have a lower rate for circulars.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– If we did away with postcards we should destroy a great source of revenue.

Mr CHANTER:

– I do not think any one would use a postcard who could send a letter for the same price.

Mr McCay:

– Postcards save a lot of trouble. The postage on postcards is asgreat in Victoria as the postage on letters, and yet a very large number of postcards? are sent through the post.

Mr CHANTER:

– My experience is that postcards are used! only for purely format correspondence, in regard to which there isno need for privacy.

Mr Crouch:

– The letter-card is almost-, obsolete in Victoria.

Mr CHANTER:

– I do not object to persons using either postcards or letters as they please ; but I think there should be a. uniform postage rate. I should like to know from some Victorian representative what increase of correspondence followed the reduction of the Victorian rate from 2;d. to 1d., because that information would be of assistance in estimating the effect of a similar reduction applying throughout the Commonwealth. It is only reasonable to assume that if the rates of postage are reduced and made uniform the number of letters posted will greatly increase. Apparently no allowance is made for the increase by those who oppose the reduction. No doubt the Treasurers of the States might for financial reasons oppose the reduction at first, but if the question were submitted to the people of Australia, 90 per cent. would vote for a uniform penny system.

Mr.Frazer. - No doubt the bankers and business people would favour the reduction - the Flinders-lane people.

Mr CHANTER:

– The Flinders-lane people already enjoy the benefits of penny postage.

Mr Frazer:

– Only so far as Victoria is concerned.

Mr CHANTER:

– I have already explained that correspondence is often transmitted from Victoria to other States for the penny rate. When I speak of 90 per cent. of the people being in favour of this reduction, I refer to the population of the Commonwealth, and not merely to the business men of Flinders-lane, Sussex-street, Hindleystreet, and other similar thoroughfares.

Mr Page:

– How would the reduction benefit the farmer?

Mr CHANTER:

– If you ask a farmer whether he would sooner pay1d. than 2d. for the postage of his letters, he will tell you at once thathe would sooner pay1d.

Mr McCay:

– Yes, if one omits to speak of the loss, towards the making good of which he will have to contribute in some other way.

Mr CHANTER:

– We have not yet had any official statement of the estimated loss which would follow the proposed change.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– The loss is estimated at £250,000.

Mr CHANTER:

– That statement, of course, puts another complexion on the matter.

Mr Kennedy:

– The proposal is like a proposal to buy sovereigns for twenty-five shillings each.

Mr CHANTER:

– Will the honorable member justify the present arrangement? Why should one section of the people be penalized to the advantage of other sections ?

Mr McCay:

– That is what a reduction of the postage rates will bring about.

Mr CHANTER:

– In New South Wales those who live in the large towns have the advantage of the1d., rate, whereas those living in the country have to pay 2d. on their letters. Why should the farmer and the townsman be treated differently?

Mr Page:

– The farmer is quite satisfied if he is let alone.

Mr CHANTER:

– The farmers and those in the towns whom I have the honour to represent have forwarded resolutions to me and to other members, asking us to give this motion our hearty support and approval.

Mr Kennedy:

– The honorable member should tell them what the reduction will cost.

Mr CHANTER:

– They know what it means. My honorable friend happens to live on the right side of the river. He would take a different view if he resided amongst those who suffer under the grievance which I am representing.

Mr McCay:

– It costs 2d. to send a letter across the border either way.

Mr CHANTER:

– Not always.

Mr Tudor:

– One has to pay 2d. to make sure of the delivery of his letter.

Mr CHANTER:

– In many places persons living near the border take delivery of their letters in Victoria.

Mr McCay:

– Do they cross the border to get their letters?

Mr CHANTER:

– Yes. When a business man is sending away some dozens of letters, it is an easy thing for him to despatch them by a boy on a bicycle to a Victorian post-office.

Mr Johnson:

– That is defrauding the New South Wales revenue.

Mr CHANTER:

-I have already pointed out that the revenue is suffering. Honorable members say that the proposed reduction will injure the farmers, but the farmers ask for it. They desire that the postage on letters shall be uniformly1d. within the Commonwealth. We have uniformity in regard to our telegraph rates, and we should have it in regard to our postal rates also.

Mr McCay:

– The rate for the despatch of telegrams within a State is lower than the rate for the despatch of telegrams from one State to another.

Mr CHANTER:

– Yes ; but the rates are uniform throughout the Commonwealth. If uniformity could not be obtained in any other way, I would sooner see a uniform rate of 2d. than allow the present system to continue.

Mr Wilson:

– The adoption of a uniform 2d. rate would) be retrogression so far as Victoria is concerned.

Mr CHANTER:

– What I desire is a uniform id. rate. That is the rate in Great Britain, and we have reduced the rate between Australia and England; but although the States have been federated! for five years, nothing has been done to bring about a uniform id rate for the Commonwealth. I shall not delay the House longer now, because I ann not supplied with official figures, but I hope that honorable members will vote for the motion, leaving it to the various States to make good whatever slight deficiency there may be, and feeling certain that the great increase of correspondence which will result from the reduction will very shortly justify the step which we have taken.

Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I cannot support the motion, much as for abstract reasons I would desire to see uniform penny postage. If the reduction asked for were made, the Commonwealth would have to face a loss of revenue of £250,000.

Mr Chanter:

– The change would not make any difference to Victoria, at any rate.

Mr McCAY:

– My view extends sometimes beyond the limits of this State. I was not in favour of the introduction of the penny postage system into Victoria. I think that at the time it was proposed the idea was held that the people of this State would not have to make good the whole of _ any loss that might result. (The reduction of postage below a reasonably paying rate would lay upon those persons who do not write letters, the’ burden of paying postage for those who do. If a penny postage system were introduced, large commercial or banking institutions would in some cases probab.lv save £3,000 or £4,000 per annum. That deficiency would have to be made up out of the general revenue, to which the taxpayers who do not write letters would have to contribute. How many letters does a farmer or artisan, or miner, write as compared with those which are despatched from an ordinary business institution, or by professional men ? Tt is no doubt very pleasant for those who have to write a large number of letters to have them sent at a cheap rate of postage ; but the arrangement is not very satisfactory for those who use the post-office infrequently, and still have to pay their share of any deficiency that may be involved.

I do not believe that there is one case in a million in which a man or woman is prevented from writing a letter because the postage costs 2d. instead of id. If it could be shown that the proposed reduction would not result in a substantial loss of revenue, I should be quite willing to support it; but I must refuse to join in imposing upon the general body of taxpayersa burden which should be borne by those who take most advantage of the service.

Mr Chanter:

– Why did the honorable and learned member approve of the arrangement under which we are incurring a loss of £30,000 per annum on the postage of letters to England?

Mr McCAY:

– I do not think that any such loss will be involved.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The reduction of the postage upon letters for England from 2jd. to 2d. involves a loss of only £7,000 per annum.

Mr McCAY:

– The honorable member for Riverina is only about 320 per cent, out in his calculations. There are certain compensations in connexion with the case referred to, including. the adoption of the. penny postage upon letters from England. My position is that the ordinary citizens, such” a? farmers, miners, artisans, and the pioneers to whom the honorable member for Riverina referred, do not use the post-office ‘to any considerable extent, whilst large business houses do, and until the figures furnished by the Postal Department are much more reassuring than those submitted to us to-day, I cannot support any proposal such as that before us.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– I am very glad that this discussion has taken place, because it will be necessary for the Government to consider - perhaps not this session, but certainly during next session - the question of making new arrangements at the - expiration of the bookkeeping period. If we are to introduce a uniform system of postage, we shall have to either increase the Victorian late, or reduce the rates prevailing in other States. I understand that in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania a twopenny rate is charged, except within certain zones, including, some of the larger towns and their immediate environs. In South Australia 2d. postage is charged upon both town and1 - country letters, whereas in Victoria a penny postage rate is in force throughout the State, and it will be necessary by Octa- ber next year to make these systems uniform. I do not th’ink that the citizens of Victoria would agree to a reversion to the twopenny rate, because when people once have a concession granted to them, it is difficult to induce them to give it up - particularly in view of the fact that the threatened loss of £90,000 in Victoria has been reduced to £50,000. Therefore, we shall have to very carefully consider the matter. I do not see how any member of the late Government can possibly oppose this proposal, because, although the honorable member for Macquarie states that the reduction of the postage upon English letters has involved a loss of only £7,000 or £[8,000 per annum, it must be rememberedthat that Government brought about such a condition of things that whereas 2d. is now charged upon a letter despatched from Echuca to Moama, a letter can be sent from London to Moama for id.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That was done by an arrangement with the British Government, in order to enable them to establish penny postage in the old country upon letters posted to Australia.

Mr CROUCH:

– I consider that any arrangement is bad which entails the necessity of affixing a 2d. stamp to a letter sent from Portland to Mount Gambier, whilst it is possible for a letter to be sent from Glasgow to Mount Gambier for id. It is our duty to first consider the interests of our own people. The honorable member for Macquarie may urge that the British’ taxpayer will have to bear the burden of the reduction of British postage to id.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– A good many persons in the old country believe that the introduction of the penny postage system; will not involve any loss.

Mr CROUCH:

– I do not believe that it will, because we are proposing to give the British manufacturers and producers a very great advantage over the traders of the Commonwealth by enabling them to send their letters out here for id., whilst we charge our own citizens 2d.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The question of ocean postage is not now before us.

Mr CROUCH:

– No, sir ; but I am arguing that, in view of concessions such as I have described, the members of the late Government cannot oppose the present motion on the ground of financial stress, or of any loss that may arise. If they are so ready to throw away £7,000 or £8jOO0 per annum in order to facilitate those who de sire to send letters oversea, they should be only too glad to extend further benefits to the great mass of the people.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member had taken that line, he would have been quite in order; but he was discussing the wisdom or otherwise of certain steps taken by the late Postmaster-General, and was distinctly out of order.

Mr CROUCH:

– I do not wish to proceed much further. It seemed to me that it was necessary to point out one or two anomalies in the present situation. If we are to make the Commonwealth one, we should aim at uniformity in connexion with our postal arrangements. We should not legislate for any particular State, but deal with the Commonwealth as a whole. I believe that we shall be doing good service for the cause of Federation, and make the Commonwealth’ administration more popular, if we introduce a uniform stamp and a uniform rate of postage.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– We must pay some heed to the finances of the States. The proposed reduction in postage would result in a loss to Tasmania amounting to £25,000 per annum.

Mr CROUCH:

– That is on the presumption that a loss of £250,000 per annum would be incurred ; but I do not anticipate any such result. It is, of course, necessary to pay regard to the financial position of the States; but, at the same time, we must not lose sight of the necessity for introducing’ legislation at an early date which will have the effect of bringing about uniform conditions. In the meantime, I shall vote for the motion.

Mr WILSON:
Corangamite

– I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina, and I think that some of the anomalies upon “the Victorian border, to which he has referred, furnish strong arguments in favour of bringing about a system of penny postage. As “The honorable member for North Sydney indicated, if the zone system were established, there would always be a certain tract of territory beyond the zones to which the twopenny rate of postage would apply. But it must be pointed out that in the event of zones being arranged, to include towns within, saY twenty miles on either side of the river, most of the Targe towns would be situated near the river, and behind them would be a sort of hinterland, within which the ‘demands upon the postal service would be very small indeed. I think that the representations of the honorable member for Riverina should be taken into consideration, and that the Postmaster-General should endeavour to put a stop to the pinpricking policy now pursued of collecting excess postage upon letters intended for delivery in localities close to the border. There is no doubtthat it is incumbent upon us to consider the loss that might result from the introduction of the penny postage system; but, as the honorable member for Cowper has pointed out, there will probably Be such a large increase of correspondence that the deficiency will not be a very serious one. The introduction of the penny postage system into Victoria resulted in an increase of over 40 per cent. in the number of letters despatched, and any such augmentation of correspondence would go a very considerable way towards making good the initial loss of revenue.

Mr Kennedy:

– Forty per cent. would not be sufficient.

Mr WILSON:

– It would go a long way towards making good any deficiency, and we might reasonably look for a gradual increase in the volume of correspondence until the revenue would be fully recouped.

Mr Chanter:

– We must be prepared to make some sacrifice.

Mr WILSON:

– Certainly. I should like to see the penny postage system established throughout the Commonwealth, because it has certainly proved a great boon to the whole of the people of Victoria. It is all very well to say that the principal benefit is derived by the merchants.

Mr Tudor:

– Absolutely the whole of it.

Mr WILSON:

– I do not agree with the honorable member. I think the poorer people have benefited very considerably by it. The farmers and the working classes generally have reaped an advantage through its adoption.

Mr Page:

– The farmer has benefited to the extent that it has imposed an additional burden of1s. 3d. per head upon himself and his family. If he has half a dozen children it represents an extra expenditure of 10s. a year. Let the honorable member put the matter to the farmer in that way, and he will then see whether he is in favour of that system.

Mr WILSON:

– I am disposed to challenge the accuracy of the honorable member’s figures. I very much question whether the adoption of the proposed change would involve the Commonwealth in a loss of£250,000 annually.

Mr Tudor:

– I think that the loss has been understated at £250,000 a year.

Mr WILSON:

– If penny postage were adopted throughout the Commonwealth a far greater number of letters would be written and posted than is the case now. The increased volume of correspondence would very considerably reduce the loss occasioned by the change.

Mr Tudor:

– Would not the increased volume of mail matter carried add to the cost of working the Department?

Mr WILSON:

– Not to any considerable extent. The loss would eventually be wiped out by the economical administration of the post office, and by the increased number of letters carried by the Department. Thus a great many of the difficulties which present themselves at the present moment would disappear. The question of inter-Imperial penny postage is a very fascinating one, and effect should be given to that scheme as far as possible. While the honorable member for Macquarie held office as Postmaster-General, the Commonwealth secured the advantage of having letters forwarded from England under the penny postage system. That has been of great benefit to the people of Australia.

Mr Cameron:

– In what way do they benefit ?

Mr WILSON:

– Because they get more letters from Home than they formerly did. There are a great many people in England who, as the result of the reduction in postage from 2½d. to1d. forward more letters than they did previously.

Mr Frazer:

– Can the honorable member furnish proof of that statement?

Mr WILSON:

– Yes. The proof of its accuracy is to be found in the fact that the letter-bags are now heavier and the revenue derived from stamps is greater. The British post-office is conducted upon commercial principles. The loss which it incurs is a mere trifle, and will become a negative quantity within a very short time.

Mr Tudor:

– How do the Imperial authorities pay the men who do the work of the Department?

Mr WILSON:

– That is a matter for the British taxpayer to decide, though I have not the slightest doubt that - following the example of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne in reference to the question of Home Rule - the honorable member for Yarra will be prepared to submit a motion to this Houseinviting it to remonstrate with the Imperial authorities upon the way in which they administer their Postal Department. It as about up to the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Coolgardie to do something of the sort, and I shall expect to see such a motion placed upon the business-paper shortly.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member is proceeding beyond the question now before the Chair.

Mr Mahon:

– Will the honorable member give us his opinion of measles?

Mr WILSON:

– If I had time I should like to express my opinion of an article written by the honorable member, and which was recently published in the Catholic Press.

Mr Mahon:

– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has stated that I wrote a certain article in a Sydney newspaper. Is he in order in charging me with the authorship of an article, when I denyit?

Mr SPEAKER:

– A few moments ago I was about to call the attention of the honorablemember for Corangamite to the fact that he was going beyond the legitimate scope of the motion. If the honorable member for Coolgardie objects to his statement, I am sure that it will be withdrawn.

Mr WILSON:

– If the honorable mem- ber for Coolgardie assures me that he did not write the article in question, I am bound, under the rules of the House, to accept his statement.But I still have the right to express my opinion upon the matter outside.

Mr Mahon:

– Let the honorable mem- ber make his charge outside, and see what willhappen.

Mr.WILSON. - I congratulate the honorable member for Macquarie upon the fact that he was instrumental in securing a reduction of a half-penny in the postage rate between Australia and Great Britain. I am quite sure that the loss of £7,000, which he says the alteration imposes upon the people of the Commonwealth, is a burden which will be borne without any complaint. I feel that the honorable member for Cowper has rendered a great service to the community by submitting this motion. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will give it his earnest attention, and that this House, after careful consideration of the matter, will bestow upon the people of Australia the advantages of a system of penny postage as soon as possible.

Mr KENNEDY:
Moira

– It is refreshing to hear honorable members ex press their sympathy with a proposal of this sort, especially when it means a reduction in the charge at present levied for services rendered. But they all seem to fight shy of the chief point which should be taken into consideration, namely, the effect of the establishment of penny postage upon the finances of the States. We were told last night that at the present time the working of the Postal Department involved the Commonwealth in an annual loss of at least £400,000.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– But in making up that amount the authorities have added to the departmental expenditure the cost of ordinary postal buildings.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Is there any reason why any other Department should bear interest upon the cost of buildings which are used exclusively for postal purposes?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– But the Government have charged the Department with the whole cost of the buildings.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Seeing thatthose buildings are used exclusively for postal purposes, why should not their capital cost be debited to the Department?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The other Departments are charged only interest upon their buildings.

Mr KENNEDY:

– The Postal Department has not even been charged interest upon the capital cost of its buildings. So far as I can gather, the annual interest charge upon those buildings is , £250,000. Seeing that we have departed from the unsound financial system adopted in preFederation days, and that we are now constructing all public works out of revenue, is there any other source to which the capital cost of the buildings can be debited?

Mr Lee:

– Is the honorable member in favour of raising the postage rate in Victoria?

Mr KENNEDY:

– If it is necessary that we should secure uniformity throughout the States, I am quite prepared to consider even that proposal. Despite the statement of the honorable member for Corangamite to the contrary, we know, as a matter of fact, that the adoption of the penny postage system in Victoria has resulted in a loss of , £50,000 per annum.

Mr Wilson:

– The honorablemember for Yarra says that the loss is £70,000.

Mr Tudor:

– It was £70,000 at the outset.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I do not think that Victoria has ever suffered a loss in excess of £50,000 per annum. If I remember rightly, the honorable member for Gippsland had something to do with the introduction of penny postage into this State. Of course, it is desirable that we should obtain as cheap a service as possible. But when the honorable member for Corangamite asserts that an increase of 47 per cent, in the number of letters carried would be sufficient to make good any deficiency which might be caused by the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth I disagree with him. Surely he must realize that an increase of even 100 per cent, would not’ meet the loss of revenue that would be sustained without taking into consideration the expenditure that would be rendered necessary by the increased volume of business.

Mr Wilson:

– Where does the 100 per cent, come in?

Mr KENNEDY:

– There would be a reduction in the postage rate from 2d. to id., and I have a hazy idea that that reduction represents one-half.

Mr Wilson:

– But 100 per cent, means one whole.

Mr KENNEDY:

– If we add a penny to a penny we get twopence. It is beyond question that at the present time the working of the Postal Department of the Commonwealth involves a loss of more than £400,000- per annum. The proposal of the honorable member for Cowper would increase that sum by £250,000, making the loss approximately £700,000 per annum. Are we in a position to sustain that ? The honorable member for Cowper asked, by way of interjection, whether I would be prepared to increase the postal rate in Victoria. In reply, I would ask him whether the general taxpayer of this State has been benefited) by the reduction of the postage late to id.? Has he not had to make up the difference? Some of those who supported the establishment of a penny postage system in Victoria were labouring under the delusion that the other States would contribute to the loss thus occasioned, just as they imagined’ that the other States would share the loss resulting from the operation of section 19 of the Act, of which we have heard so much. But the Victorian taxpayer has to foot the bill, and rightly so. I have told my constituents - notwithstanding requests in favour of penny postage - that its adoption means an absolute loss to Victoria, and that they were not being, charged too much for the services rendered by the Postal Department. Until there is some reason) to hope that the loss of revenue which would result from the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth would be compensated for by the increased volume of business, I cannot support the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper.

Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- I intend to vote for this motion, because I believe that it represents a step in the right direction. I should like to have heard the PostmasterGeneral speak on this matter before giving expression to my own views, because I wished to ascertain the reason why effect should not be given to the proposal. I have an idea that one of the arguments advanced by advocates of the draft Constitution ‘Bill was that the establishment of Federation would result in a large saving in postal managementWe were told that uniform postal and telegraphic rates would be among the benefits which Federation would confer upon the people, and that that uniformity would be brought about, not by increasing, but bv reducing the burdens on the people. We were told that the Commonwealth Parliament would endeavour to secure that which’ all true postal reformers desire - uniform postage, not only in Australia, but throughout the British Dominions. It cannot be denied that these promises influenced” the votes of many electors. The Parliament has already taken steps towards their realization. It has reduced the minimum’ charge for telegraphic messages from is. - the rate formerly prevailing in New South. Wales - to Sd., and in that respect our effort has popularized the service. No one objected that the reduced telegraphic rates would mean a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. It was recognised at the time that the proposal was a step in the right direction, and that it would confer a benefit on all who had occasion to avail themselves of the service. The objection that a uniform reduced postage would benefit only the trading and commercial community at the expense of the farmers and the miners of the back-blocks might have been urged with greater force against the “ reduction of the telegraphic rates. Residents of many rural districts cannot avail’ themselves of the telegraphic system to anything like the extent to which they can use the postal service. The aim of the Commonwealth Parliament has been to bring the telegraphic service into general use ; but so far we have left practically untouched the questionof penny postage. The honorable member for Cowper now calls upon the House to affirm the principle, and to declare that the reform should be speedily effected1. Although it has been objected that the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution operate against its immediate adoption, it seems to me that the time is opportune to consider the advisableness of introducing it at the close of the period referred to. The desire of the honorablemember for Cowper is to ascertain what are the difficulties in the way, and he invites honorable members to carefully consider the whole question. With the exception of a few hostile interjections to the effect that penny postage would not benefit the farmers and miners of Australia, I have heard no strong objection to the principle involved. Judging from the utterances of the Postmaster-General on various occasions, I believe that he is in favour of the principle, and that his sole objection to its immediate adoption is that it is impossible for the Commonwealth at the present time to devise ways and means of carrying it into effect. Every postal reform that has been effected,every extension of postal facilities, as well as the gradual reduction of postage rates, has been met with the objection that “ the state of our finances will not permit of the proposed concession.” But many of these pessimistic forecasts have not been realized to anything like the degree suggested, and I take it that this will be our experience in connexion with the adoption of penny postage for the Commonwealth. We have been told that it would result in a loss of from £100,000 to £400,000 per annum, but it seems to me that the law of progress must apply to this as to all other cases. Where a substantial concession is made, a large loss must be anticipated, but it is only reasonable to assume that the loss from a Commonwealth system of penny postage would diminish gradually as the population increased, and as the people availed themselves more freely of the service. Whilst I admit that it is necessary to give some consideration to the possibility of loss, I do not think that that possibility is such a serious obstacle in the way of the introduction of this reform as some of my honorable friend’s would have us believe. I wish to direct the attention of the House to another aspect of the question. Under the provisions of the Braddon section of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has to return to the different States three-fourths of the total revenue which it collects. So far the Federal expenditure has not by any means absorbed the remaining one-fourth to which we are entitled, and it seems to me that if some portion of the surplus that we now return to the States were devoted by us to the granting of improved public services, the whole community would be advantaged. As an indication of the means which we have at our disposal to assist the people in this way, I would point out that since the establishment of Federation we have returned to the different States something like £4,560,000 of the onefourth to which we are entitled. With the exception of Queensland, all the States have benefited by this distribution. New South Wales has received something like £1,835,000; Victoria, £1,200,000; South Australia, £393,000; Western Australia, £1,013,000; and Tasmania, £134,000; but we have had to draw against Queensland’s three-fourths to the extent of £18,635. This shows that we have a large margin upon which to work. If the Commonwealth had at the outset adopted uniform penny postage, it would have given effect to one of the principles which it was practically pledged to carry out, and would have conferred more real benefit upon the taxpayers than is derived by them from the expenditure of the surplus which we now return to the States Governments. As the time allotted to the consideration of notices ofmotion has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.

Leave granted; debate adjourned until a later hour of the sitting(vide page 4533).

page 4525

COST OF HOBART CONFERENCE

The order of the day having been called on,

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
Darwin

– If the Postmaster- General can give me the information asked for in my motion, I shall be willing to withdraw it.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Postmaster-General · EdenMonaro · Protectionist

– I can furnish the honorable member with a statement of the cost of the Conference, but I do not know that I can give a detailed statement of the expenditure.

Mr King O’Malley:

– I do not ask for that.

Order of the day discharged.

page 4526

QUESTION

TELEPHONES AND TELEGRAPHS IN COUNTRY DISTRICTS: GUARANTEES

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I move-

That the practice of insisting on guarantees to cover any deficiency between the revenue and the cost of erecting, maintaining, and working telegraphs and telephones in country districts, retards settlement, and should be discontinued.

The discussion of the Postal Estimates and the other debates which have preceded this motion have anticipated much that might be said respecting it. They have also given it a somewhat belated appearance, and prejudiced to some extent the views of honorable members. Therefore, in submitting the motion, I am like one who leads a forlorn hope. I recognise that, from the nature of its composition, this House is, if not hostile, indifferent to the claims of those living in the remoter portions of Australia. Honorable members for the most part represent coastal constituencies, in which live the majority of the residents of the Commonwealth. They seldom, if ever, go into the interior ; they consequently have few opportunities to make themselves acquainted with the conditionof the pioneers located there, and are necessarily in ignorance of the special needs of remote communities. I fear that, because of the want of opportunity to learn the requirements of those who are living in the remoter parts of Australia, honorable members are not so ready as they would be under other circumstances to do them justice. In proof of my statement that the House is composed of representatives who know little of the interior, let me remind honorable members that if tenFederal electorates were taken out of the Continent, very little of it would be left. If from New South Wales were taken away the electorates of Barrier, Riverina, Darling, and Gwydir, little more than half of the State would be left. If from Victoria were taken away the electorates of Wannon, Wimmera, and Gippsland, very little territory would be left; while if the electorate of Grey were taken from South Australia, there would remain only a strip of coast-line, containing a few towns and the capital. Similarly, if the electorates of Coolgardie and Swan were taken from Western Australia, very little of that State would remain. The lack of practical knowledge in a House so constituted, and not any reluctance to do justice, is, I am confident, the true explanation why the remote portions of the Continent are neglected. Population concentrated in big cities on the coast can always look after itself. Not only has it a large number of representatives in this and the State Parliaments, but it has also many influential newspapers to voice its requirements, and apart from them a congested population can always exercise pressure on the Government, which is bound to effect necessary reforms. Those who are living in the back-blocks, however, are far removed from the seat of Government. They have no newspapers to publish their views, and very few politicians to represent them in Parliament. Their only means of making themselves heard is through these politicians, who are in a very small minority, which to some extent explains the disposition of the Government in regard to them. But it must be remembered that it is the people living in the interior who sustain and support the population of the big cities. I remember to have read that a century or more ago some philosopher described London as a wen on the fair face of England, and there is more than one parallel for that in Australia. It is obvious that the coastal populations of Australia are unduly congested. The tendency of population to drift to large towns is world wide, as is proved by the experience of Europe and America; but it is especially noticeable in this country. Our duty is to combat that tendency, by endeavouring to make the country more attractive to settlement. The population of the cities, which dominates this Parliament, owes some consideration to the people in the remote parts of the continent. The residents of our cities enjoy the advantages of an elaborate telegraph and telephone system, and Have three deliveries of letters every day. But when the Governor of South Australia was making a trip to the Northern Territory recently he found a settler who had paid £30 to send a message to the nearest telegraph station, Wyndham, and ascertained that a large number of the settlers there receive their mails only once a year. In both South Australia and Western Australia there are districts which receive mails only once a month, or at the best only once a fortnight; while there are several stations in the Northern Territory where letters and papers are received only when the station carts and camels return from Port Darwin bringing stores. Those facts are substantiated in a report by the Governor of South Australia recently laid on the table.

Mr Mauger:

– How many people are there so situated?

Mr MAHON:

– Of course, their number is very small in proportion to the population on the coast ; but the people who live in those remote localities are doing very important work for the Commonwealth, and it is the duty of this Parliament to neglect no opportunity to extend to them facilities of communication which are part and parcel of our civilization. We have heard a great deal lately about the need for population in Australia, and honorable members of this and the Parliaments of the States seem to be ready to expend large sums in inducing people to come to Australia from abroad. No doubt that is a wise and. statesmanlike course of action, because it is absurd to think that 4,000,000 people are all that this great continent, with its varied resources and its magnificent advantages, is capable of carrying. To assert the contrary would beto utter the greatest libel that could be published regarding this country. But any policy of immigration will be a hollow one if those settled in inland parts are not given reasonable facilities for communicating with the outside world. It is cruel to induce people to settle in a country under conditions which are little better than barbaric. A proper mail service and telegraph and telephonic communication have now become essentials of civilization. We shall never arrest the tendency of population to drift towards the cities until we render the country more attractive. Country life is now in many of its aspects very forbidding, especially to women and to young people, and we must do all we can to bridge over distances, and to destroy the isolation of our settlers, if we are to render the country attractive. I agree with the PostmasterGeneral in what he said about the need for extending the telephone system throughout the country, and I hope that the time is not far distant when a telephone will be found in the home of every settler in Australia. There is no doubt that telephones will do more than anything else to assist the farmer, the miner, and the pastoralist in developing the resources of the country and to make country life tolerable.

Mr Mauger:

– I have been told that it is the exception in New Zealand for a farmer’s house to be without a telephone.

Mr MAHON:

– I have read that telephones are to be found in almost every farmer’s house on the Pacific Slope of the United States. I hope that the efforts of the Department will be concentrated on cheapening the cost of poles, wires, and other accessories, in order to provide telephones at more reasonable rates. Even though a loss may be made in extending telephonic and telegraphic facilities into remote districts, that loss will be less unprofitable to the country than the loss which is sustained in connexion with other branches of departmental activity. If an expenditure equivalent to the loss sustained in connexion with the ocean mail service were incurred in extending temporarily unremunerative telephone services, the deficiency would be cheerfully made good. After all, the number of persons who are interested in the ocean mail service is limited, whereas practically the whole population are concerned in the extension of local telegraph, telephone, and mail facilities. Any money we may have would be much more advantageously devoted to the extension of the facilities of communication than to wasteful military expenditure.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Any loss would probably before long be converted into a profit.

Mr MAHON:

– I am just about to refer to that point. I have heard the honorable member for Macquarie and his friends boast of the great advantages that have been conferred on the community by the adoption of the condenser system. There is no doubt that where telegraph lines exist, great benefit has been derived from the application of that system. I do not deny that for one moment, but, unfortunately, it does not meet the necessities of the most deserving class of persons in this country, who are not connected with the centres of civilization by means of telegraph lines, but whose only means of communication are represented by . weekly, fortnightly, or monthly mails. There are numbers of such settlers in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth, not merely in Western Australia, but in South Australia, Queensland, and also in New South Wales. That being so, a great deal still remains to be done. I do not wish to belittle that which has been accomplished, nor do I desire to deprive any one of the credit to which he or they are entitled, but a great work still remains to be performed, namely, that of extending telephone facilities to those who are now least favorably situated with regard to mail services. When this has been accomplished, the Department will have done something to boast of. I would ask honorable members to consider the position of those persons who are now cut off from civilization, and who do not even enjoy mail communication. We know that, however busy their lives may be, they must have some time to spare, which could be profitably spent in reading the news which might reach them from the outside world. These privileges are, however, denied to many people in outlying parts, and I contend that if we have any money to spare this is the class of persons who should receive our most careful consideration. They are doing the very best work for Australia. The men who are engaged in mining, in pastoral pursuits, in timber getting, or pearl fishing, and are enduring the great hardships inseparable from their callings, should have placed within their reach every facility we can reasonably afford them. I wish to say a few words with regard to the principle embodied in the Post and Telegraph Act, that each service should be made to pay. I remember that when the Bill was before this House, the honorable member for Parramatta questioned the expediency of adopting that principle. He was one of the few honorable members who doubted whether it was wise on all occasions to expect mail services or telegraph or telephone lines to pay from the outset.

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

– I did not know that any such provision was in the Act.

Mr MAHON:

– It is embodied in one of the earlier sections. I think that that is a very questionable principle, even when applied to small business undertakings. No business man would hesitate to incur a temporary loss in connexion with one branch of his business if thereby he could impart an increased value to his assets or develop resources which were lying dormant. We have in our back country enormous possibilities of development, but unless we place reasonable facilities of communication at the disposal of those who are inclined to settle there we shall not make the best use of our resources. The main question for us to consider is, whether the country as a whole will benefit from any expenditure upon postal or telegraphic services, and I think there can be no doubt that advantage will be derived from any undertaking which will promote settlement in the interior, conferring upon our pioneers advantages which will render their lot more comfortable and induce them to remain on the soil. The system of making the post-office an auxiliary in the work of settlement was recognised by the States authorities prior to Federation. Until the Post and Telegraph Department was transferred to the Commonwealth we heard very little said with regard to the necessity of every service being made to pay its way. It was not then insisted that the revenue should balance the expenditure, because the States Governments very reasonably took the view that by granting postal and telegraph facilites they were promoting settlement in the interior, assisting in the development of the country, and attracting population, thereby increasing the wealth and general prosperity of the State. Now .a totally different principle has been introduced - a purely commercial principle, which, under all the circumstances, can scarcely be regarded as sound. However, I recognise that the Department is now committed to it, and that very strong ^reasons will have to be advanced before it will be abandoned. It is, however, quite as true now as ever it was that it is necessary to extend to certain parts of Australia postal and telegraph facilities which cannot pay now or in the immediate future. The question arises, “ What is to be done?” Let me quote the case of the mining camp at Black Range, in my constituency. On either side of it, at a distance of about 100 miles, are telegraph and telephone stations, but the Department do not see their way to construct a telegraph or telephone line to bridge the gap, because the probable revenue would not balance the expenditure. They say that if the residents enter into a guarantee that they will recoup the Department for any loss that may be incurred they will construct the line, but such a proposition is absolutely impracticable in such outlying localities. The population is very much scattered, and there is no possibility of joint action on the part of the residents. Furthermore, in thi* and other cases with which the Postmaster . General is familiar, there is no local municipal body which has the power to impose or enforce the payment of rates. Therefore, the residents are absolutely unable to enter into any guarantee. I might mention another hard” case, namely, that of Wodgina, a new tin field which has recently been discovered, and which is situated seventy miles from Port Headland. At present there are about 300 or 400 people on the field who are cut off from the world as completely as they would be if they were located on an island in the

Pacific. I think that the unfortunate position of people so situated should appeal to honorable members and to the Government. How would it be possible for such persons, who may be there to-day and gone tomorrow, to give the Department a guarantee? The Postmaster-General is entitled to ask what I propose to substitute for the guarantee system. I say that if he is not in a position to dispense with guarantees the Government should open up communications with the States Governments, with a view to inducing them to give the necessary guarantees in connexion with the construction of new works. The Minister is in a position to advance very strong arguments in support of such a proposal. Prior to Federation the State Government of Western Australia used the Post and Telegraph Department to aid them in the development of the country, and they expended upon the Department not only the revenue derived from the services carried on bv it, but also a portion of the land revenue. Furthermore, they pledged the credit of the country for loans, which were applied to carrying out certain works. As I have previously mentioned in “this House, the position of a Federal representative is somewhat anomalous when compared with that of a State representative. We return to Western Australia a very large surplus of revenue every year. This is applied, at the instance of States representatives, to the construction of bridges, culverts, and other works, for the benefit of their constituents, whilst the Post and Telegraph Department is being practically starved, and new services which are required for the convenience of settlers in the more remote portions of the State cannot be granted. I have no wish to unduly occupy the time of the House. Although my remarks today have to some extent been anticipated by the “discussion upon the Estimates, I think that they are worthy of the serious attention of honorable members. I know that if it were not for the neglected portions of Australia, and for the pioneers who endeavour to develop the resources of this great country, the cities which now smile along its coast would not be the wealthy and prosperous places that they are. Therefore, I confidently ask the House to extend, some consideration to the pioneers of the interior.

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

– I have just been reading in Hansard the speech which was delivered by the honorable member when the Post and Telegraph

Bill was submitted to this House. There I find that he said all sorts of kind things in reference to myself - so much so that I wish we could re-establish the ‘happy relations which then obtained. Now the honorable member never has a kind word to say of me.

Mr Mahon:

– As soon as the Tariff is reopened I shall be found upon, the side of the honorable member.

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

– Would the honorable member kindly explain what he means? lis he referring to the telephonic or telegraphic tariff, or to the tariff upon harvesters ? I am anxious to know, because I desire to renew the friendly relations which formerly existed between the honorable member and myself, and which I regret to say have suffered such a rupture in recent times. I listened very attentively to the honorable member, with a view to hearing him advance some reasons for the abolition of these telephone guarantees. He did not do that. He talked generally of the advantages of the telephone to residents of the interior, and he discoursed eloquently upon the disadvantages under which they laboured in- pioneering enterprises. With all of his remarks in that connexion I most cordially agree. All through my life it has been my aim to confer upon those who are bearing the heat and burden of the day in pioneering enterprises in the back country the communal advantages which are enjoyed by the residents of our cities. My experience is that the telephone is the simple instrument which will link up the scattered populations out back, and bring them into closer touch with one another. For that reason I think that, in all cases where telephones are required, we ought not simply to consider the question of whether or not they will at once prove remunerative undertakings. We ought rather to regard them as developmental means of communication. We ought to pay some attention to their effect upon the community generally, and to the collateral advantages which they will confer upon the settlers who are remote from our centres of population. For that reason we ought not to place obstacles in the way of those who seek this means of communication, and who are really doing the hard part of the pioneering work to-day. In all fairness to’ the Department, it must be noted that a very radical change has been made in connexion with these guarantees. Formerly thev contained conditions of a most prohibitive character, and more than once in this House I have had a very serious tilt at them. I am glad that riper experience has resulted in their almost complete abolition in so far as they affect our telephonic communication. I suppose that the credit for this improvement rests with the late PostmasterGeneral, who slashed down these guarantees in a way that should have been done years ago. Indeed, why such prohibitive conditions were ever imposed by a liberal Government is a puzzle to me.

Mr Bamford:

– It has been said that the honorable member introduced the system, of guarantees.

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

– A lot of things are said about me which are not correct, and that certainly is one of them. I did not introduce the system. It was introduced into our Federal administration because of what happened in New South Wales some years ago. When the Department was federalized, it was discovered that in New South Wales a sum of £8,000 was outstanding on these guarantees which could not be recovered. That amount had been accumulating during twenty years, I think.

Mr Brown:

– It extended over the whole period during which the guarantee system had been in existence.

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

– Fifteen or twenty years of administration had resulted in the accumulation of about £8,000 upon these guarantees. Whenever any amounts became due under them - whilst I filled the position of Postmaster-General in New South Wales- I wiped them out. I would do the same thing again tomorrow. I think it is wrong to impose financial obligations upon private individuals for public works. As I stated last night, I would not go bond for any public undertaking. If the Government are not prepared to take the risk of embarking upon these enterprises, they ought to have the courage to say “ No “ to the requests which are made to them. My own opinion is that if they shouldered a little more risk, and acted a little more courageously, we should not receive less telephonic facilities than we do now. At any rate, I do not think that private individuals should be asked to undertake public liabilities. What was the experience in New South Wales? In most cases, after these guarantees had been entered into, the majority of the guarantors left the particular district in which they had previously resided. Consequently, when the conditions of the guarantee required to be fulfilled, it frequently happened that a single individual was left toshoulder the .whole liability. Whenever a case of that kind came before me, I used to wipe out the obligation. Some of these liabilities!, however, were not cancelled. They remained as debits to the Department, and at the time the Department wastransferred to the Commonwealth, they aggregated about £8,000. Because that amount had accumulated over a period of about twenty years, the present central staff’ inaugurated the system of guarantees, which’ has proved such a tremendous obstacle totelephonic development throughout Australia. But, thanks to the better spirit which now obtains in the Department, and to the wisdom of the honorable member for Macquarie, that system has now been rendered1 almost innocuous. It cannot be said that the present guarantees materially affect anybody, and because of the easy conditions which they impose, I think that they should be entirely abolished. In my opinion, the State should go a step further, and incur the little risk that would be involved under the proposal of my. honorable friend. I an? heartily in accord with him upon this matter. I only regret that he did not confine himself more to the terms of the motion, and less to the general statements which’ he made. For instance, there was no need? for him to refer to our military and naval expenditure as “ waste “ expenditure. There was no call for him to institute a comparison between the guarantee system and any system which has to do with the defence of the Empire or of Australia. I deprecate such references, because this is a matter which should stand by itself. Either the proposal for guarantees is right, or it is not, and to institute all sorts of obnoxiouscomparisons will not help us in the slightest degree. I am informed that during the past twelve months not more than halfadozen of these guarantiees have been entered into. If that be the case, surely the Department should abolish the guarantee system, and be prepared to accept the responsibility of determining in connexion with half-a-dozen cases per annum, whether or not the lines should be constructed.

Mr Skene:

– In that event, would there not be twenty dozen other applications?

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

– I should not care if there were. Let the Department take the responsibility of dealing with them.

Mr Watson:

– And a lot of people would have to do without telephone lines.

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

– I do not think so.

Mr Watson:

– Ask the ex- PostmasterGeneral.

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

– I think that the honorable member for Macquarie told us last night -that there were six guarantees given last year.

Mr Watson:

– Many people who desire telephone lines would not be able to secure them unless they were required to give a guarantee.

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

– It appears that at present the people are securing the construction of these lines without being called upon to any extent to enter into a guarantee. We have been told that only six guarantees were given in the course of a year.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– In many cases, a guarantee is desired simply as evidence of the bona fides of the application.

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

– The Minister may test the bona fides of applicants without calling upon them to enter into a bond. He should avail himself of the services of his inspectorial staff for that purpose.

Mr Johnson:

– When a progress association asks for the construction of a line, surely that should be sufficient evidence of the bona fides of the application?

Mr Austin Chapman:

– That is “ too thin.”

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

– We are assured that scores of persons who apply for the construction of these lines have their request granted without being called upon to enter into a guarantee. The fact is that the condenser system ought to be fatal to the practice of demanding guarantees.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That has been largely the result of the introduction of the condenser system.

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

– That is the explanation. Since the condenser system has come- into operation, it is possible to construct these lines at such small cost as to obviate the necessity for the exaction of guarantees. Inasmuch as a line which, under the old system, would have cost. £3,000 to £4,000, can now be supplied by means of the condenser system at a cost of about £100, there is no further need for the exaction of guarantees, and there should be no hesitancy on the part of the Department in accepting the risk incidental to the granting of these facilities.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– In one case a line which would have cost about £5,000 under the old system, was provided under the condenser system at a cost of £400.

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

– Instances of the kind might be multiplied. In the interests of the back-country, more particularly, the Department might very well dispense with the guarantee system, and accept the risk incidental to saying “ Yes “ to requests for these undertakings. As we have been told that it has been necessary to exact guarantees in only half-a-dozen cases during the year, it seems to me that there is no occasion to irritate the people most in need of telephone facilities by such an unjust imposition.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– A great many applications have been refused, because of the persons concerned declining to give a guarantee.

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

– Does not the honorable gentleman recognise that even if the guarantee system were abolished, it would still be open to the Department to refuse applications? I can only say that I would not give a guarantee. I do not think that any private individual ought to be asked to’ incur liabilities of this kind in respect of public undertakings. The Department should deal with these requests just as a private firm would deal with them. It should ascertain for itself whether the granting of the facilities demanded would be justifiable. In doing so, it ought to view the matter from the broadest possible stand-point ; instead of having regard merely to the cost of the service, it should consider the advantages which it would confer. It should recognise that such extensions would bring about collateral advantages that would far outweigh any possible loss. Judging the matter from this broad stand-point, the Department should have no hesitation in deciding whether or mot applications for new lines should be granted. Since the condenser system has facilitated in a marvellous war the multiplication of these lines, it seems to me that guarantees ought to be a thing of the past.

Mr LEE:
Cowper

– I hold that the practice of demanding guarantees in respect of new telephone and telegraph lines is calculated to retard settlement, and largely interfere with the success which might otherwise attend the operations of the Department. Residents of the sparsely settled districts of the Commonwealth should not be. called upon to enter into these bonds. The adoption of the condenser system has enabled the Department to provide telephone services at comparatively small cost, and it should not be forgotten that the advantages flowing from the opening of new lines1 are not confined to the residents of the districts served. When an application is made for a telephone service, the parties concerned are immediately met with a demand to furnish a guarantee. Many farmers certainly object to the practice. They have probably had some unfortunate experience in connexion with the endorsement of promissory notes, and as they decline to enter into these bonds, the desired extension of the system is withheld from them. If there be a reasonable prospect of a line becoming a payable one, the Department should not hesitate to erect it. I do not object to the Department being conducted as far as possible upon commercial lines; but it seems to me that it is absurd to expect a telephone line to pay from the outset. The extension of the telegraph and telephonic systems in country districts, where doctors are not available, and where settlement is widely scattered, is much appreciated, and I think that the Department would act wisely in granting, wherever possible, the demand for new lines. The Government inspectors should be able to judge of the prospects of a suggested line, and where there is any possibility of a reasonable’ return being derived from it, the Department should proceed with its erection without exacting guarantees from the people of the district to be served.

Mr CARPENTER:
Fremantle

– I am sure we shall all agree that the honorable member who has submitted this motion is actuated by the very best of motives. He represents a constituency which I think I am correct in saying is geographically the largest in the Commonwealth, and he comes in contact with a class of people who suffer all the hardships of the pioneer. We shall also agree with him that those hardships are such as should excite our deepest sympathy. We recognise how much these people do towards the development of Australia; but while we are prepared to assist in making their lot in life endurable, we have to remember that we owe a duty, not to them alone, but to the whole Commonwealth. I should be delighted if some method could be devised by which the Postmaster-General would1 be enabled in the most economical way possible to erect telephone lines in every district in which they are required. That would do much to alleviate the hardships under which the people in rural districts labour. But whilst we agree that such a system would be highly desirable, we must take care, as I have said, that we do not overlook our duty to the whole of the people of Australia. ‘ I am jealous of the honour and reputation of the Post and Telegraph Department, and do not wish any action to be taken that might bring it into disrepute. It is to me one of the most interesting experiments - and it is still in the experimental stage - in the way of State control of an intricate business. The people of Australia may congratulate themselves that, although the service extends over a vast area, it is managed in a highly creditable way, every one in the Department, from the Minister to the smallest telegraph messenger, being imbued apparently with a desire to make it a success. I am not ashamed to refer to the Post Office and its management as an illustration of how the State can run a business, and run it well.

Mr Kelly:

– Hear, hear. Not long ago the Postal Department took three weeks to deliver a letter at an address four miles from the office at which it was posted.

Mr CARPENTER:

– That is a statement which may be easily made.

Mr Kelly:

– And easily proved. The charge has been admitted by the Department.

Mr CARPENTER:

– The incident is one which I am sure could be satisfactorily explained, and it does not in any sense represent the ordinary practice of the Department.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Considering the millions of letters that pass through the Department, it is remarkable that so few go astray!

Mr CARPENTER:

– Quite so. I do not wish to see anything done in connexion with the Department which would, injure the excellent reputation that it enjoys. It has been presided over by Ministers who have been well up to their work. I am not going to say one word against those who have held office as Postmaster-General, but I would point out that we might have n Minister who was unable to resist applications pressed upon him by members who wished to please their constituents. A member has a perfect right to do all that he can to benefit his constituents, but

I can understand that a Minister who was not too strong might show himself unable to resist the pressure of members, and, it might be for political reasons, would grant telephone extensions all over the country, without insisting upon guarantees for the protection of the revenue. While I desire that everything possible should be done to provide facilities for communication in the country districts, I feel that the interest of the Commonwealth at large must be protected, and that if the Minister were to decide on his own motion what requests for telephone extensions should be granted, and what should be refused, we should have untold confusion. A Minister, having granted a telephone extension to one part of the country without asking for a guarantee, could hardly refuse to grant the same favour to another part, and the result would be an increasing annual loss in the administration of the Department which would ultimately become intolerable. It is a great pleasure to me, in contemplating the work of the Post Office, to know that the man in the back-blocks has a letter brought to him over a distance of 500 miles for the same price as is paid by the man living in the city to have a letter carried only a few hundred yards.

Mr Mauger:

– The delivery of letters is not so frequent in the country as in the towns.

Mr CARPENTER:

– No ; but it’ must be remembered that the cost of delivering letters within the boundaries of a city is probably not one-twelfth of the cost of delivering letters in country districts. If those who live in the country are set against those who live in the towns, and the cry is raised by the people in the country that they do not get as much consideration, or the same privileges, as those who live in the towns, the latter will reply, “Why should we pay id. or 2d. for the carriage of our letters when the cost of the service is not anything like that sum?” Personally, I am not aware of any great objection having been raised to the guarantee system. I have not had much to do with the extension of telephone lines since I became a member of this House, but, as a representative of a country constituency in the South Australian Parliament, when extensions were frequently asked for, I did not hear much objection raised to the guarantee principle. As a rule, those who asked for the convenience of a telephone system thought it a busi ness proposition that they should guarantee a fair return for the expenditure involved, and, although I had more than one request for a telephone extension without guarantees, I was able to show those who made them that if the Department departed from its rule in any one instance, confusion would result; and, in most cases, it was agreed that there was good reason for insisting on a guarantee. I think that we should retain the guarantee system, and trust to the cheapening of telephonic communication, which is going on rapidly, to overcome the difficulties to which the honorable member for Coolgardie has referred. If the Postmaster-General can show us how the rule can be modified without endangering the finances of the Commonwealth, or that some other rule which will work equally well can be substituted for it, I shall be glad to consider the change, but at present I see no reason for departing from the system which we have adopted.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Sydney Smith) adjourned.

page 4533

QUESTION

PENNY POSTAGE

Debate resumed (vide page 4525).

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– In view of the approaching end of the session, the anxiety of the Postmaster-General that nothing should prevent the adjournment of the debate on the motion of the honorable member for Cowper to another day, affords a ground for suspecting his motives, and, in looking through some previous utterances of his on the subject, I have found what I think a probable cause for his anxiety. He told us last night that the policy of his Department was “ progress, tempered with prudence “ ; but, on looking through the radical speeches which he made as a private member, before his views had been matured by the responsibilities of office, I find that prudence was then no part of his stock-in-trade. Speaking during the first session of the first Parliament, he mocked as absurd the idea that any Department of the Commonwealth should be run on commercial principles, and gratuitously urged the adoption of universal penny postage, suggesting that any possible loss resulting therefrom might be met by charging the proprietors of such excellent organs as the Melbourne Age for the carriage of their newspapers. The quotation which I am about to read would have been equally applicable to the motionof the honorable member for Coolgardie^ and it is no doubt extremely inconvenient to the Postmaster-General to be reminded of these utterances at a time when he is relying upon the support of the newspaper which he proposed to tax. The remarks to which I refer are reported in Hansard, at page 3658 of Vol. III., and are as follows : -

When Federation was accepted by the people <of this country, there was a prevailing opinion in the State from which I come, at any rate, that it would mean uniform postage. I hope that when this Bill becomes law, the wishes of the people will be realized ; because it does strike me as an anomaly that the people of Victoria and some other States may enjoy a cheap rate of postage, whilst people in other parts of the Commonwealth are charged double rates. It was said to-night by the honorable member for Echuca, that the Postal Department should be worked on commercial lines. If the honorable member represented a back-blocks constituency, or knew what a mail or a post-office means at times to people away back from the centres of civilization, he would hesitate about saying that before a mail service was extended, the Department should make sure that it would pay.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I think that the honorable member has misrepresented what I said about the Age.

Mr KELLY:

– The report of the honorable member’s remarks in regard to the Age is as follows: -

It has been said here to-night that some States tire almost run at the dictation of one or other of the big newspapers. Reference was made to the influence the Age has in Victoria.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– All the newspaper proprietors have now to pay for the carriage of their papers.

Mr KELLY:

– He went on to say -

I hope the day is not far distant when we shall Slave a penny post throughout the Commonwealth.

He also said that the Department should not be run upon commercial lines. This afternoon the Minister appears to have gone “back upon* his immature views of three years ago, to the extent that he has maintained silence in regard to a motion which is designed to give expression to his former hopes and ambitions. I can understand the difficulty of my honorable friend’s position, seeing that he is associated with such astute gentlemen as the Attorney-General and the Treasurer. He proceeded to say -

It has been said that this will entail a considerable loss of revenue. The Canadian example disproves that. Canada suffered a small loss at the commencement, but it was gradually reduced. In New Zealand, when penny postage was instituted, there was a profit from the start.

It is apparently implied that iri Australia also a profit would be derived from the outset.

The people in one part of the Commonwealth should have the same rights as the people in another part, in connexion with a Department run by the Commonwealth, to which all have to contribute alike; and we should, as soon as possible, have a uniform postage rate throughout the country. If there is a loss, I hope that Parliament will see its way clear to make it up by imposing a tax, or a charge of some kind, upon the carriage of newspapers, for the time has gone by when we should carry them free. . . . This is an important measure, which should have been dealt with at the earliest opportunity -

Now the Minister is anxious that the matter should be relegated to the limbo of recess. He said further - and the more quickly we set the Department in order the better. . . . The only way we can accomplish that object is by not being too strict in our ideas that the Postal Department should be run as a commercial concern, that it should be self-supporting.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Hear, hear. I hold the same view to-day.

Mr KELLY:

– The quotation proceeds - But we certainly should not allow some” of those who receive the greatest services from the Department to escape scot free, while others have to pay, and pay heavily too, for every convenience which is afforded to them.

In connexion with a motion of this kind, in which the financial question is practically the only one involved, the Minister should have spoken at the earliest possible moment, because he alone is in a position to enlighten us upon that question. The Minister told us yesterday that his policy was expressed by the three words “progress with prudence.” I think that we might now change his motto to “ progress without prudence.” Every honorable member is anxious to see our postal facilities cheapened, but if that can be accomplished only at a loss of something like £750,000 per annum-

Mr Lee:

– The departmental estimate U £250,000

Mr KELLY:

– The estimates of loss have varied from nothing to ,£750,000, and this conflict of opinion affords the strongest argument in support of my: view that it was the duty of the PostmasterGeneral to give us the fullest information upon the financial side of the question at an early stage of the debate.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I shall do so at some future time.

Mr KELLY:

– That probably means that we shall have to wait until next session for enlightenment on the subject. I do not propose to express any opinion as to the practicability of the proposal. We all desire to see penny postage adopted, but I should strongly object to any proposal that would involve an increase in the cost of working the Department and the imposition of further burdens on the general taxpayer.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Knox) adjourned.

page 4535

QUESTION

ELECTIVE MINISTRIES

Debate resumed from 21st September (vide page 2618), on motion by Mr. Fowler -

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

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

– I think that it is somewhat of a reflection upon the practice of this House, so far as it relates to the business of private members, when we find that a motion of which notice was given on the first day of the session is still under discussion, and will probably not be disposed of before we enter upon recess. This circumstance in itself affords sufficient justification for considering the whole question of the powers of private members in regulating the affairs of the Commonwealth. When I last addressed the House, I had not time to submit the amendment which I had proposed to move, and I therefore asked for permission to continue my remarks on some future occasion. At that time my suggested amendment took the form of a proposal to remit this very interesting and difficult question to a Select Committee. Had that been carried then, it would probably have achieved the object aimed at, but at this late stage of the session ,no good purpose could be served by appointing a Committee such as that suggested. One of the objections urged against my amendment was that I proposed to include the name of Mr. Speaker. Personally, I do not think that there was any real ground for any such objection, because, if we are to have any enlightenment upon this question it is essential that the Committee should consist of gentlemen possessing the utmost experience, and in whom we have every con fidence. I think that honorable members generally would have agreed with me that the inclusion of Mr. Speaker’s name would have afforded a substantial guarantee that the inquiry would be conducted with a view to achieving the legitimate results expected from it. I had intended, in the event of any serious opposition being raised, to propose that the Committee should be elected by ballot, and I am sure that if, under those circumstances, you, sir. had been selected, you might have been, prevailed upon to give us the benefit of your valuable services. The fact that you, sir, are a member of the Standing Orders Committee, which has to deal with a number of important matters of possible party controversy, would have afforded one of the strongest reasons why you should be selected to take part in the proposed inquiry In view of the time which has elapsed, and the impracticability of any useful workbeing done by a Select Committee betweenthe present date and the close of the session, I now move -

That all the words after the word “ therefore,” line 7, be left out, with a view to insert in> lieu thereof the following words : “ this House asserts its right to determine which of its members shall be recommended by address to the Crown for appointment to administer particular Departments, and to represent the House in theExecutive Council of the Commonwealth.”

I have endeavoured to get rid of what I conceive to be a flaw in the motion, inas much as it assumes that legislation is necessary to enable the proposed reform to bebrought about. I contend that, under the Constitution, we have the power to determine the form of the Executive and the manner of its appointment, and that, consequently, no legislation is necessary. I foresaw, however, the difficulty which must arise sooner or later owing to the fact that this House cannot altogether control theappointment of members of the Executive Council. I do not think that the other branch of the Legislature could very well” question the right of this House to “determine who should have charge, as Ministersof State, of the great spending Departments. Neither could we gainsay the claim of the-Senate tobe represented upon the Executive Council. It is absolutely essential that the Executive Council should’ consist partly ott representatives of this House and partly of representatives of the Senate. Consequently, my amendment leaves the question open as to how the representatives of the other branch of the

Legislature shall be appointed to the Executive Council. I have no desire to further detain the House, because I have already fully addressed myself to the question.

Mr SKENE:
Grampians

– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat referred to the length of time which this motion has been upon the business-paper. It seems to me to be months, at least, since the honorable member for Perth intimated that he proposed to submit a motion of this character, and asked me to look into the subject, and to say something upon it. At that time, in a general way. I was rather opposed to this proposal. But after listening to the exhaustive speeches delivered by the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for South Sydney, I have come to think that it is worthy of consideration. The. notes from which I propose to speak to-day were made some weeks, if not some months, ago, and consequently I feel .very much in the position of the man who was seen gazing at a knot in his pocket handkerchief and wondering why he put it there. I regret that I shall not be able to do as much justice to the subject as I might have done some time ago. Every one, I think, admits that party government and Cabinet responsibility are quite impossible to reconcile in the presence of three equal political bodies. That doctrine has been laid down by the Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and other leading men who have studied the subject. The question then arises : “ Have these three parties come to stay?” If so, I think that under our Federal system, we must find some other means of working the parliamentary machine. I am more than ever impelled to that conclusion, because, so far as I can gather from my reading, there is no Federal system of government in the world which has worked in the way that we are endeavouring to work our Federal system. Under the American system of government, the members of the Cabinet are not members of Congress, and the same remark “is applicable to .the Swiss system.

Mr Watson:

– Under the Swiss system the members of the Cabinet are not outside the House.

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

– Thev cease to be members after they are elected.

Mr SKENE:

– It seems to me that in Australia it will always be a case of two parties endeavouring to “ down “ the third.

The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne used to employ the illustration of the “ top dog,” but I think that under our Federal system of government, the two “ top dogs “‘worry the third. Party government and Cabinet responsibility have never yet been successfully associated in a Federal system. It may be said that they have been in Canada; but there the Federal authority exercises control over the States, whereas we derive our authority from them, so that the two systems cannot be regarded as quite similar. I find, as a result of the researches which I have been able to make, that the framers of the American Constitution, after giving the matter due consideration, did not regard a system of party government coupled with Cabinet responsibility as a suitable one for the Federation which they established. An American writer, James Russell Lowell, claims that-

The great Americans who laid the foundation lines of the United States, in addressing themselves to the task of adapting English principles and precedents to the new conditions of American life, solved the problem with singular discretion. . They put as many obstacles as they could contrive, not in the way of the people’s will, but of their whim.

Lawrence Lowell, writing upon this question of Cabinet responsibility, admits that-

Government by a responsible Ministry has many unquestionable advantages - and adds -

If the object of government is to divide the people into two political parties, and to give rapid and unlimited effect to the opinions of the majority, no better political system has ever, perhaps, been suggested. . . But in the United States the object of government is looked upon in a very different light from this. It is here considered of the first importance to protect the individual, to prevent the majority from oppressing the minority, and except within certain definite limits, to give effect to the wishes of the people only after such formalities have been complied with as to make it clear that the popular feeling is not caused by temporary excitement, but is the result of a mature and lasting opinion.

It was the opinion of those who framed the American Constitution that the system of Cabinet responsibility was not suitable to the ends which they hoped to attain. The Swiss, some seventy years afterwards, followed upon the same lines, with the result that Lawrence Lowell says that their system is -

On the whole, the most successful democracy in the world.

These facts lead one to inquire whether the existence of three parties in modern politics is not the effect of latter-day development. Proportional representation is an idea which is constantly put forward in regard to elections. I think that proportional representation in the Cabinet is only a fitting corollary to the idea of proportional representation in the constituencies. Party government is properly meant to be government by discussion. But we know that that plan does not work out under such circumstances as those which obtain in this Parliament. In Federal politics, the trend is towards government by compromise, and that is likely to be the system adopted in the future. Our present system is based on compromise between ‘two parties in the House. The Swiss system goes further, in that it is based, on the recognition by the majority, that all other parties should at least be represented in the Executive. A tacit understanding to that effect exists in the Swiss Parliament. Throughout the cantons also that understanding obtains, except in the case of two - Berne and Aargau in whose Constitutions that principle is embodied. Naturally, the idea occurs that any system of that sort must lead to a Cabinet composed of men holding dissimilar views. No doubt that is so. But nevertheless, that system has been found to work exceedingly well in Switzerland. Lawrence Lowell, in his Governments and. Parties on the Continent of Europe, says -

It is indeed surprising that a body so composed should work smoothly, but it does - and the explanation, he remarks - must be sought partly in the habit of compromise and submission to the majority ; partly in the fact that the final decision of all the most important questions rests with the Assembly ; and partly in the absence of any necessity for unanimity such as exists in a parliamentary system. The councillors are not obliged to stand by each oth-er, or even to pretend to hold the same opinions.

That system seems to have worked well throughout Switzerland. It is a system of proportional representation in the Cabinet, to which the trend of public opinion lends itself, and I think it may be found to be a system of compromise tempered by discussion

Mr Mcwilliams:

– It is not necessary that there should be proportional representation ?

Mr SKENE:

– But that system has practically been adopted in Switzerland.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– But proportional representation is not inherent to the system.

Mr SKENE:

– The honorable member must see that if we did not adopt proportional representation as a basis, so far as the election of Ministers is concerned, we should be no further forward than we are at present, because the majority of the House would elect the whole Cabinet. But I would point out that in this system of government by discussion, the discussion would take place, in the first instance, between the eight or nine men who composed the Cabinet. We all know how much easier it is to effect a compromise amongst a few than it is to bring about that result by a debate in a full House. After the Cabinet have arrived at a conclusion, a decision has still to be come to by the House. But, in that case, there would be no ulterior designs upon the Government. Matters would be discussed purely upon their merits, and without ulterior motives. If we followed upon the lines of the Swiss system, the Cabinet would have the authority to determine what measures should be brought forward. In this connexion Lawrence Lowell says -

None of them - meaning the Federal councillors - has a right, it is true, to propose any law to the Assembly without a vote of his colleagues, but it is often said that the Council is very indulgent in authorizing its members to bring forward their favourite measures, and it is certain that a Councillor does not feel bound to support a Bill because it has been introduced in accordance with such a vote.

But all these things would be done only in the light of day. When Ministers came down to the House, they would come confessing their honest convictions. They would not conceal them until some future period, when they could indulge in a number of post-mortems, such as we have witnessed in this House.

Mr Knox:

– Revealing Cabinet secrets.

Mr SKENE:

– That is putting the matter in other words. Ministers would not be called upon to sacrifice any of their self-respect. It seems to me that a system based upon such principles would be infinitely better than our present system. The Cabinet would still act as the originating brain of Parliament. The only difference would be that we should know which members of the Cabinet entertained one view and which another. I may tell the honorable member for Franklin that this system of all-round representation seems to be gaining ground in Switzerland. The tenure of the Government seems to become more secure under if than it is under our present system, which makes the fate of a Ministry dependent upon the good-will of the House. In Governments and Parties on the Continent ofEurope, a work which is. well worthy the attention, of honorable members - Lawrence Lowell points out that the system of all-round representation has grown in favour -

The Federal Council has habitually contained men from two out of the three chief groups, the Liberals and the Radicals, and of late the feeling that it ought to represent all classes of opinion has grown so strong as to lead in 1891 to the election of Dr. Zemp, a clerical from Lucerne. He was elected President in 1894 by a vote of nearly three to one.

Up to that time the clerical party had not been represented, the members of the Cabinet having been selected chiefly from among the business men of the House. Lawrence Lowell further points out that -

The members of the Federal Council are elected at the same time by each new Federal Assembly as soon as it meets. They are chosen for three years, or for the term of the National Council. If that body is dissolved before the three years have expired, the new Assembly elects the Federal Council afresh.

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

– That is where he blunders ; that body cannot be dissolved.

Mr SKENE:

– It can only be dissolved in a roundabout way by the people under their system of initiation by referendum demanding an amendment of the Constitution. But that is a point which does not materially affect the argument. Lawrence Lowell states that -

The councillors are not suffered to be members of the Assembly, but they appear in both Chambers, taking an active part in the debate, and exercise a great influence on legislation. They are not responsible in the parliamentary sense of the term, and they do not resign when their measures are rejected. The Federal Council is essentially a business body, and in selecting candidates, more attention is paid to executive capacity than to political leadership.

One of the greatest incentives to an agitation for an alteration of our parliamentary methods is the desire to prevent such lightning changes of Government as we have witnessed in this Parliament. I think that an amendment of the system is more necessary in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament than it is in relation to the Parliaments of the States. One departure which we have made from the system followed by the States is, to my mind, to be regretted.

I recognise that there are difficulties in the way of our following the practice under which an honorable member, on taking office in a State Ministry, has to present himself for re-election; but it seems to me that if we are to place a check upon the lightning changes of Ministry, to which we have become accustomed, we shall have to revert to that system. One Commonwealth Ministry succeeds another without any appeal being made to the country, and I think we shall eventually have to make an alteration in this respect.

Mr Frazer:

– What percentage of Ministers who submit themselves for reelection are rejected?

Mr SKENE:

– That is an immaterial point. We know that in some cases men who have submitted themselves for reelection, on taking office, have been defeated.

Mr McWilliams:

– A good many have been rejected.

Mr SKENE:

-That is so.

Mr Frazer:

– Does the honorable member think that 5 per cent. of the men who have sought re-election, upon taking office, have been defeated?

Mr SKENE:

– I have not inquired into that aspect of the question.

Mr McWilliams:

– The percentage is much higher.

Mr SKENE:

– The point I desire to make is that when an honorable member, on taking office is required to seek re-election, the people are afforded an opportunity to give expression to their views in regard to the change of Government which has taken place. Those who object to the new Ministry may nominate candidates in opposition to them.

Mr Knox:

– And the whole matter is discussed by the people.

Mr SKENE:

– That is so. There are many objections to the present system, but I recognise that there are difficulties in the way of our reverting to the practice of the States in this regard. Even if we do not alter our Cabinet system in the way proposed by the honorable member for Perth, the question of whether or not we ought to revert to the practice of requiring those who take office to go before their constituents is well worthy of consideration. The Swiss system is based on the recognition by the majority that other parties should at least be represented in the Executive. There is a tacit understanding that all the different parties in the Parliament should be represented, but that would be rather too much to expect of the people of the Commonwealth. Party feeling would for a time be strong. If one party were in a majority, all the Ministers would be selected from their ranks, or two parties might coalesce, and thus obtain a majority. I believe that it would be wise to adopt the system followed in the two cantons of Berne and Aargau, and have a hard-and-fast rule, stipulating the number of Ministers to be elected by each party.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– In proportion to their numbers in the House.

Mr SKENE:

– Yes. Another point of interest with regard to the Swiss system is that the Executive is elected by the two Chambers sitting together. Whilst we might do away to some extent with Cabinet responsibility, I hardly think that it would be wise for us to wholly abolish it. The honorable member for Perth has suggested that a Minister might be removed by a three-fifths majority of the House, and it might be advisable to decide that a Ministry should be removable by the same majority. It is obvious, however, that we could not adopt the system of election by the two Houses sitting together, for the reason that members of the Ministry, elected by the votes of the two Houses, might not necessarily have a majority in one Chamber. Having regard to that fact, I am inclined to believe that a separate vote would have to be taken in each House. The present state of parties in this House would lend itself to a system of proportional representation. There is no party in this House so large, or so small, that such a system could not be applied to it. I do not suggest that mathematical accuracy should be observed. Each party should be entitled to two members, and byandby, if the parties changed, or were split up into sections, it would be necessary to adopt a quota system. Judging by the experience -of Switzerland, however, I do not think that there is much chance of the parties being seriously disturbed. Lawrence Lowell states that the most remarkable peculiarity of the Swiss parties is their extreme stability. The relative strength of the different groups is constant, or changes slowly, and since 1848 there has been no sudden party fluctuations. Some people assert that it is a much simpler matter to carry on the functions of Government in Switzerland than it is elsewhere. I .have not found any evidence of this. They have had more burning ques tions- to ‘settle than, we have had. Between. 1848 and 1874 the parties there divided on no less than four distinct and important issues. The first of these was the question of the refugees. Next came the capitulations - the Radical party objecting to the soldiers serving in Italy against those who were fighting for their liberty.

Mr Higgins:

– It has been, said that we have three elevens in this Parliament, but it would appear that in Switzerland there are four.

Mr SKENE:

– I am simply referring to the party lines of demarcation. I find that the parties were divided during the period I have mentioned on such important issues as those relating ‘to the refugees, the capitulations, the Savoy question, and the question of the State ownership of the railways. Since 1874 only three parties have existed - the Clericals, known as the Right ; the Radicals1, known as the Left; and the Liberals, or Liberal Conservatives, known as the Centre, standing between the Right and the Left. As the time allotted to private members’ business has almost expired, I ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to continue my remarks on a future occasion.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

page 4539

ELECTORAL BILL 1905

Bill received from Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Deakin) read a first time.

page 4539

ESTIMATES

In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 1st November, vide page 445 2) :

Department of External Affairs

Division 13 (N-ew Guinea), £20,000.

Mr MCDONALD:
Kennedy

– When the New Guinea Estimates were before the Committee last year, I made certain statements about the administration of the Territory, but, as any one who turns up the Hansard report of my remarks will find, I was careful to preface what I had to say with the explanation that I had never been in New Guinea, and that the information which I was about to make public was, therefore, second-hand, and I could not pledgemyself for its correctness. The right honorable member for East Sydney was at thetime Prime Minister, and stated that thereport of my remarks would be forwarded to the Administrator, and a reply obtained from him. That reply was laid on the table- of the House some time ago, and, although it was not printed, I have been furnished with a copy of it. The Administrator, Captain Barton, in his reply, accuses me of unfairness, a charge which I can afford to overlook, though I do not think that it was proper for an officer in the employ of the Commonwealth to refer to me in that way, especially since I had stated that my information was second-hand, and I could not personally vouch for the correctness of it. I do, however, take exception to the language which is used in regard to other people. During my speech I read a letter from a Mr. Cusack, a gentleman whom I knew in Queensland for many years, and whose family were highly respected in the Northern districts. He was in New Guinea for a time, but apparently gave offence to the Administrator by his connexion with the Labour Party.

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

– Is not that a veryserious offence?

Mr MCDONALD:

– It may be a serious offence in the eyes of . the honorable member, but a Commonwealth official has no right to take sides with political parties, and should deal with matters without imputing motives. Mr. Cusack, I am sorry to say, is now dead, but the Administrator, in referring to him, says in paragraph 13 of his report -

A letter was read during the debate, written by the late Mr. J.. P. Cusack, some time resident at Woodlark Island. Mr. Cusack was employed by the Government to effect some mining surveys at Woodlark Island. The Commissioner for Mines, who was also Chief Government Surveyor, was unable to pass the work done by Mr. Cusack, and, though I suggest it reluctantly, it may be that it was on this account that Mr. Cusack’s mind was embittered against the Government.

I think that that was a cowardly and scandalous attack to make on a man who is dead, and cannot defend himself. Captain Barton does not say that the thing was so, but that it may have been so. He had no right to make such a statement in an oth- cial document, and I think that the Government should return the report to him, and ask him to delete the paragraph which I have read. One of the statements made by Mr. Cusack in his letter was that the mining wardens appointed in the Territory know little or nothing about mining law or about the mining industry. On that point all that Captain Barton has to say is -

It is true that most of the Wardens appointed have no special qualifications for mining work, their principal duties being of a magisterial nature.

Therefore, the correctness of Mr. Cusack’s statement is admitted. Referring again to Mr. Cusack’s letter, Captain Barton says -

The letter, if it represents public opinion in Woodlark Island, discloses how unjustly poisoned are the minds of the class therein represented against the Government, and to some extent explains the difficulties which occasionally confront this Government in the execution of its administrative duties.

It is well known that Mr. Cusack represented a labour organization in Woodlark Island ; but Captain Barton had no right to make a biased statement concerning any section of the community under his administration. Had Mr. Cusack been alive, I probably should not have referred to this matter, because he would have been able to justify himself. I have already mentioned that in other portions of the report reference is made to me in language which I maintain should not have been used, but that is a matter which I am prepared to allow to rest. I regret the position in which the Committee is always placed when dealing with these Estimates. It seems to me that we should not be content with information about the Territory which is at least twelve or fifteen months old. No doubt, as Captain Barton says, the various districts are wide apart, but surely six months would be ample to allow the information which is required to be obtained and forwarded to us. Instead of being” furnished with a report on the affairs of the Territory within six months of the closing of the financial, year, we have to be content in this case with the information furnished for the year 1903-4, which is practically two years old. I hope that the Government will see that these reports are forwarded earlier.

Mr Page:

– It was promised last year that we should be better supplied with information.

Mr MCDONALD:

– Yes, but there is not much improvement. Of course I do not take exception to the fact “that the report of the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs has only just been laid on the table, because it is a special report. In reference to that document, however, I should like to say that I think that no Departmental head should be asked to report on questions of policy. One of the first things the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs was asked to report on is. “ A policy for the Possession,” and in quite a number of cases Mr. Atlee Hunt lias been compelled to give a definite opinion on questions of policy, which, in some respects conflicts with the views of this Chamber. The proposal which he advocates may have been in accord with the opinions of the Government which authorized him to go to New Guinea; ( but after he had received his instructions from the Reid Administration, another Government came into power, and therefore it is just possible that Mr. Hunt may find himself in conflict with his Ministerial head and may be called upon to administer laws in which he does not believe. That appears 1:0 me to be a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. Mr. Hunt expresses his opinion upon the prohibition question, and advocates the adoption of a pension system, although this House has expressed itself as quite opposed to the principle. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that this House has already emphatically expressed itself as opposed to a borrowing policy, he suggests that a loan of £300,000 should be floated for the purpose of carrying out certain works in New Guinea. In addition to this, he advocates the sale of land, although provision to the contrary is made in the Bill now before us. Mr. Hunt speaks in his report of the standard of civilization of the Papuans, and, among other things, states -

Happily, intoxicating liquor is unknown to the native, and it is the firm resolve of the Government that it shall remain unknown. In this determination the Administration have the sincere support of the whole white community, it may safely be said, without a single exception. Consequently, whatever ills civilization may have brought to the Papuan, the evil effects of indulgence in strong drink are not among them.

I am very pleased to read that statement, and I hope it is a true one. Mr. Hunt also makes reference to the very serious ravages of a certain disease - which I need not mention - which has been contracted by the natives owing to their contact with white men. He mentions that the natives in the extreme eastern part of the Possession have been practically decimated by this disease. This is a most regrettable circumstance, because those who have had experience of the evil results that have been wrought among the natives in Northern Queensland by the same disease may imagine what consequences will follow in New Guinea if it obtains a firm hold upon a population which may be estimated to number anything from 300,000 to 1,000,000. The evils attending the spread of this disease are even greater than those associated with the drink traffic.

Is it to be supposed, in face of the fact that this terrible scourge has been permitted to obtain such a hold on the natives, that we can for long guard them against the acquirement of a taste for intoxicating liquors? In reference to the disease referred to, Mr. Hunt says -

The Administration is determined to do everything possible to stamp out the evil. Last year a new native regulation was issued requiring persons affected to report themselves for treatment, and two hospitals are being built specially to deal with this complaint. The expenditure in connexion with these is a serious item, and retards the extension of Government influence elsewhere, but the local Executive regard the preservation of the native races as their first duty, and are resolved to leave nothing possible undone that may conduce to this end.

It is satisfactory to hear that the Executive are resolved to do everything they can to stamp out the evil; but it is singular that they should have allowed the disease to obtain such a hold upon the people. I have been told by several persons who are in a position to know that it has been ravaging the natives for a number of years, and that no attempt has been made to stamp it out. I have for years past read all the official reports relating to New Guinea, and I have never previously seen any reference to the matter. When we decided to take over the control of New Guinea, I remarked that we were assuming a very serious responsibility in connexion with the care of the natives, and I trust that we shall do our best to discharge the very heavy obligations which rest upon us. I trust that the Government will urge the Administration to adopt the most drastic methods to stamp out the disease to which I have referred. Some mention is made bv Mr. Hunt of certain plantations, and it would have been of some assistance to us if he had mentioned the names of the planters to whom land has been granted. I have been informed that some of the plantations are held by Government officials.

Mr Deakin:

– Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company own the largest of the plantations, and there are two more which, so far as I know, do not belong to officials.

Mr MCDONALD:

– We all know that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company have practically run the Island - the administration and everything else. In connexion with sugar-growing ‘ and the culture of tropical products generally, Mr. Hunt advocates that Malays or Filipinos should be introduced as gangers to give the natives the benefit of their experience in .the cultivation of tropical products. No doubt it is desirable ‘that the natives should be properly instructed, so that they may reach a high standard of knowledge in this connexion; but I see no reason why the work of instruction should not be carried on by white men rather than by coloured men. I can foresee some difficulty in connexion with the cultivation of sugar in Papua. We have placed a bar upon the employment of black labour by sugar planters in Australia, and if we are to allow the sugar planters in New Guinea who employ black labour to introduce their sugar into Australia under a preferential tariff, such as Mr. Hunt suggests, I am afraid that great injury will be done to the industry on the mainland. The sugar planters of Queensland will naturally prefer to carry on their operations in Papua, where they can obtain an abundance of black labour at ios. or £i per month per man. A number of other matters are referred to in the report, which is a very valuable document. Mr. Hunt has been able to obtain a great deal of information which otherwise, would probably not have been made available to us. Although I personally disagree with many of his opinions, I think that we are largely indebted to him for the information which he has afforded to us. I find from the report of the Administrator that, in connexion with the sale of tobacco in Papua, the traders have been in the habit of palming off on the natives tobacco which runs thirty-two sticks to the pound, instead of twenty-six sticks. Tobacco has become a medium of exchange between the white traders and the natives, and the white men by increasing the number of sticks to the pound, have been imposing upon the natives. I notice that the duty upon tobacco has been increased from is. to is. 6d. per lb., and that an ordinance has been passed providing that tobacco shall run twenty-six sticks to the pound. I think that that is a very good measure. It is stated that twenty-eight wilful murders and fifteen murders were committed during the year. I do not know why the Administrator differentiates between wilful murders, and murders pure and simple. In none of the cases referred to has the punishment inflicted upon, the murderer exceeded imprisonment for three years.

Mr Conroy:

– Is not that sufficient ?

Mr MCDONALD:

– If a man steals a pair of boots, he is sent to prison for six years.

Mr Conroy:

– But in New Guinea we are dealing with natives, not white men.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I do not know whether the murderers referred to were white men or natives.

Mr Deakin:

– They were all natives.

Mr Conroy:

– The honorable member for Kennedy would not place blacks and whites upon an equality in regard to the punishment for murder?

Mr MCDONALD:

– It seems to me that we have made ourselves responsible for the care of the natives, whose lives are as dear to them as are our own to us.

Mr Conroy:

– The circumstances are absolutely different.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I maintain that the life of a coloured man is as dear to him as our lives are to us.

Mr Conroy:

– That argument might be used with advantage in a debating school, but it is out of place here.

Mr McDONALD:

– We have no more right to kill these natives than we have to go out into Bourke-street and kill white men. It is just as great a crime to shoot down coloured men in cold blood as it is to shoot members of own race. There is nothing in the Administrator’s report to show whether these outrages were committed by white men or coloured men. Whilst I do not believe in capital punishment, I say that a proper penalty should be exacted from the perpetrators of these misdeeds. Upon page 7 of the Administrator’s report will be found an account of an expedi- tion which came into conflict with the natives. I suppose that in opening up new country such encounters are unavoidable. What I complain of is the matter-of-fact way in which the report refers to this matter. It says -

The tribes inhabiting the country traversed opposed the passage of the expedition on several’ occasions, with a consequence that a number of the former lost their lives.

Honorable members will see that the incident is referred to as if depriving these men of their lives were of no more account than the knocking down of a few ninepins. As these expeditions go further into the interior of New Guinea, they will probably encounter a more warlike race, and similar collisions will be inevitable. I claim that in every instance of the kind the Administrator should insist upon a correct record being made of the event, and of the number of lives lost. I now wish to refer to the Merrie England.

From what I can gather, that vessel is utterly unsuited to the work in which she is engaged. At the present time we are expending no less than £7,500 annually upon the up-keep of that vessel. I maintain that, instead of incurring continual expense in patching her up, it would pay the Government to purchase a suitable boat. Only the other day £2,000 was spent in this direction, and I make bold to say that if the Merrie England were required to undergo inspection at the hands of the Queensland Marine Board, she would not be allowed to put to sea.

Mr Fisher:

– She has to undergo inspection.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I am informed on the best authority that she has not to submit to inspection at the hands of the Marine Board. As a matter of fact, a gentleman who was on board the Merrie England whilst repairs were in progress has assured me that he poked his .stick through some of the planks of the vessel. Regard for the safety of those who have to use that steamer should induce us to purchase a better vessel. At present the money expended ‘upon the up-keep of the Merrie England is absolutely wasted. I would suggest that, although the initial outlay might be large, it would be advisable to purchase a few oil launches. I am informed that if these craft were introduced a greater area could be covered, and better administrative work could be carried out.

Mr Conroy:

– The Government could purchase a couple of good oil launches for £1,000 each.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I would further point out that last year 2,193 natives were recruited in various capacities, and in one district alone more than £300 was deducted from their wages by way of fines. Considering that they receive only from 10s. to 20s. per month, I think it will be recognised that these fines operate very harshly. There is another aspect of this matter to which I desire to direct special attention. To my mind, the work of recruiting natives should be under the control of the Administrator of the Possession. It should not be allowed to remain in the hands of private individuals. We are all familiar with the outrages which occurred in recruiting kanakas for the sugar industry in Queensland. A perusal of the Administrator’s report, and of that by Mr. Atlee Hunt, will show that very stringent regulations have been imposed in connexion with the recruiting of native labour. That fact in itself evidences that abuses must exist. Seeing that those who engage in this traffic are paid from £4 to £6 per head for the natives whom they recruit, I hold that the work should be controlled by the Administrator of the Territory. There is another point in the annual report which calls for some explanation, and I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give us some information in regard to it. Upon the nearest gold-field in New Guinea, I find that last year there were 625 natives employed. Out of that number, 134, or 19.4 per cent., died. Although’ that is an appalling mortality rate, the Administrator’s report gives us very little information concerning its cause. But there is another matter which is even more serious than the death rate. I find that twenty-seven of the natives employed on this gold-field are classed as “missing.” If we add that number to the total deaths, it would bring the rate up to 23 per cent. This is a very serious matter, and I think that the report should have supplied us with some direct information concerning it. I trust that, in his reply, the Prime Minister will tell us what was done by the authorities in connexion with these missing natives. Did “they run away from their employment?

Mr Deakin:

– They are supposed to have gone back to their tribes.

Mr MCDONALD:

– It would be just as well if the authorities endeavoured to find out whether they actually did so.

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

– I suppose that we act upon a similar supposition in regard to the consumption of liquor in the Possession. We “ suppose “ that the natives do not get it.

Mr MCDONALD:

– Yes. Mr. Hunt in the course of his report, refers to the question of what is’ to be the ultimate destiny of these coloured races1, and it seems to me that in that regard we haw a very serious problem to face. I have brought these matters forward in the hope that the Government .will cause a thorough inquiry to be made. I think it is only reasonable that the annual report of the Administrator of the Territory should be presented to us within six months of the close of the financial year, and that fuller information should be given as to the treatment of the natives. For instance, it appears to me that further particulars should be given as to the cause of the death of the natives, to which reference is made in the report, and also as to what has become of the missing men. I am pleased to notice that for the financial year 1903 the Territory had a surplus of over £6,000. Whilst those responsible for its administration are to be congratulated upon their evident desire to keep the expenditure within reasonable limits, I feel that this surplus might well have been spent on the making of new roads into the interior, and the opening up of the gold-fields. It is generally considered that the agricultural resources of a country are of primary importance, but it appears to me that Papua will -be more speedily developed by the pioneering work of the prospectors than by any other means. We cannot “fail to admire the pluck and energy of the men who risk their lives in the effort to develop the Territory, and I think that any surplus ought to be spent on the lines suggested by Mr. Hunt. For instance, a prospecting allowance might well be offered, and resort should also be had to other means of encouraging the development of the mineral resources of the Territory. If one payable gold-field were discovered there, it would do more to cause an influx of white people than would anything else of which I know, and I trust that every assistance will be given to miners and others to develop the country.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Nearly all the miners iri British New Guinea sit down while the blackfellow does the work.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I do not agree with the honorable member.

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

– That is what Mr. Hunt recommends should be done.

Mr MCDONALD:

– I take a different view of the matter. Miners who igo to New Guinea make enormous sacrifices. They may be led to go there merely because of a love of adventure, but it cannot be denied that they run serious risks, and have to work fairly hard to make ends meet. I know many men in the northern part of Queensland who, as the result of fever which they contracted while in New Guinea, are physical wrecks, and I know of others who, shortly after their return from the Territory, succumbed to the ravages of this disease. Having regard to all the circumstances, it seems to me that the Government should do everything in their power to assist prospectors and1 others in developing the Territory.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– The honorable member for Kennedy has called attention to a number of matters which’ are proper subjects for consideration by a representative assembly charged with the responsibility of administering the affairs of the Territory. It is not easy for us at once to dismiss from our minds preconceptions formed from the conditions with which we are familiar, in order to read the information supplied to us in the light of the actual surroundings of settlement in New Guinea. Some of the occurrences there, and particularly the acts of personal violence to which the honorable member has directed attention, would be alarming if they happened in our own country. But the number of these offences, as we should! call them, that occur in that portion of the Territory under white control is wry much less than the number of exactly ‘ similar offences that occur in other parts of New Guinea that are not under our supervision. The punishment meted out by magistrates in many cases appears very light, but the reason for this may readily be explained. We read, for instance, of a man being imprisoned for two or three years for murder. The fact is that in that unsettled country war between village and village, or settlement and settlement, proceeds spasmodically from year to year, and has continued from time immemorial. In almost every instance, the man killed is not a personal enemy of the man who kills him, and is not killed from any motive of personal vengeance. By a tribal law, an offence given by the people of one village to another is regarded collectively, and isresented by attack when opportunity offers. On some of the occasions when, to use a phrase from the books of our boyhood, they “ go on the warpath,” village rises up against village, and the first man from the offending village who is met by the attacking party is promptly sacrificed. I am pleased to say, however, that this custom is being rapidly put down in every portion under the control of the Government. It is not yet entirely stamped out ; but it is not to be expected that the habits of generations can be eradicated in a day. It must be remembered thai: what “are crimes in our eyes are not offences in the eyes of this people. The killing of a neighbouringvillager is regarded as being quite as legitimate as is the action of the soldier inuniform, who, after the declaration of war. does not hesitate to take the life of the enemy. War has been carried on in this fashion between village and village for longer than we can discover, and hence the killing of one native by another is an act of war, and not a case of personal crime. As our control improves there is a steady reduction taking place in the number of these offences. It must not be forgotten that year after year we push a little further into the interior; we touch new villages that have not been brought under control, and whose inhabitants have never realized that it is an offence to take human life. The taking of the life of an enemy is rather exalted by them ;-and some time must elapse before the people of these villages can be brought under control. The honorable member for Kennedy referred to the record of casualties which occur in unfortunate collisions between Government parties and the natives as our influence is gradually extended. His demand for further information is a reasonable one, and, as far as possible, will be complied with. As the honorable member is aware, however, these conflicts are always provoked by an attack upon the Government party. Our officers never allow the use of weapons except in the last resort. .The constabulary are always under the command of a white officer, who keeps them under restraint, and no aggression on our part ever takes place. Our first overture is always a friendly one. The Government party seek to convey, through the agency of an interpreter, their pacific sentiments for the natives, and1 by the use of the sign language and other means endeavour to indicate that their mission is one of peace. These opening visits are made in the first place to enable the Government to secure a little1 knowledge of the people of the villages. The expeditionaries give the natives a few presents, and pass on. But in some cases, often owing to circumstances unknown to us, the villagers, perhaps because they are at war with the village which the expedition has just left, lie in ambush, and attack it. When such attacks are made, it is necessary to at once impress them with the effectiveness of the white man’s weapons. The members of the party fire over their heads, but if the natives, instead of dispersing, seek to close in on the party, it becomes necessary to fire on them. If one of the latter is hit in the jungle, that fact is discovered only by the man’s cries, or by blood-marks 011 the ground because the villagers almost invariably carry away their dead and wounded. As far as possible, all these expeditions- are kept careful Iv in

[IS”]

hand. They go out on a mission of peace, and not of war. If they succeed in capturing a villager in one of these encounters, they gradually convince him that they have no hostile purpose. He is kept with the party for a few weeks, and when he returns to his village he tells his people that he has met with no harm-. The Government party is able to enter into better relations with them on. the occasion of the next visit. In New Guinea, as elsewhere, force has to be used in the first instance in order that force may be repressed. Honorable members may, at all events, congratulate themselves that the number of cases of violence recorded in the official reports would probably have been multiplied ten or twenty-fold had not the’ Government taken control of the Territory. I admit that the Merrie England is in many respects unsatisfactory, and requires to be replaced, but in regard to this and many other matters, the Administration have been waiting the passing of the Constitution of Papua and the necessary legislation which we hope will follow the establishment of a measure of local government. A recruiting of labour is always placed in the hands of trustworthy persons. It is subjected to severe restrictions, and, so far, has been carried on without complaint. The system is different altogether from the recruiting that goes on in the South Sea Islands. The recruiting vessel in that case sails away from an island with a large number of kanakas, and nothing more is known of them there. In New Guinea, however, the natives are rarely recruited for more than a year, and if they do- not relish the new service they desert very early. Thev are recruited from a village of which we know, at least, something. There is either a village constable stationed there, or one is near at hand. That being so. we are bound to hear, sooner or later, of any misconduct which takes place in connexion .with the recruiting. Then, again, the native is taken to a place where he is under supervision, and close to a magistrate. As soon as he is able to make himself understood, he can thus place before th? authorities the terms upon which he has been taken. Before he is set to work, he has to be taken before a magistrate, who must be satisfied that he is being fairly treated. He must also he paid off before the magistrate. Therefore, unlike the recruiting of coloured labour for Queens- land, this system is under control at both ends. The reference in the report to those who are missing usually indicates that the natives have been recruited from villages of which we nave little control or knowledge. The natives of New Guinea have never been accustomed to regular work or tilling the ground. The occupations of the males have hitherto been the training for warfare, the fashioning of their tools - which, before the advent of the whites, were made of stone - and weapons, and the ornamentation of sundry articles. Constant work is irksome to them, and although a large number are tempted by the offers made to them to recruit, many, after a few weeks, tire of their employment and run away. Where these are men who have come from distant villages, they are often marked down as missing, but that statement does not mean - except in a few cases - that any harm has come to them.

Mr McDonald:

– But this occurs only in one district.

Mr DEAKIN:

– It is only natural that the honorable member should have called attention to certain figures. In -New Guinea, almost all the mining is done in the beds of streams, and, recently, the opening, up of new ground in swampy country, in the northern division, has proved a prolific source of fever. Quite -a number of deaths are attributed to this cause. Then, again, the native, in his own village, lives on yams and a little fish. When he goes to the mining fields, however, he is fed largely on rice, which is transported for great distances on the backs of carriers, at an expense ofl as much as is. a lb.’ in some instances. This food is new to the natives, they relish it, and will, if they get the opportunity, over-eat themselves. But the medical testimony is that the change from the soft yam diet to a hard food like rice, coupled with regular work, to which they have been unaccustomed, causes many illnesses. I admit that the figures are startling, and that more knowledge is needed, . but we are getting more exact information on the subject. In reference to Cap- . tain Barton’s memorandum, I do not agree with the honorable member for Kennedy in reading the word “ class ‘ ‘ as referring to the Labour Party. I take it to refer to the miners, on whose behalf petitions have been presented to this House, and elsewhere, and whose distrust of the Government was a matter of general knowledge. It must be remembered however, that matters have improved since the report was written. More road-making has been done, and generally there is a better understanding between the miners and the Government.

Mr McDonald:

– The paragraph to which I referred associates Mr. Cusack with a certain class - the class whose secretary he was.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I read the paragraph before the honorable member spoke, and took it to refer to the miners, and, having read it again since, still think that my interpretation is as tenable as his. I know, from the reports received, that during the last twelve months, or two years, efforts have been made to convince the miners that r they are not a class apart, and are not be- ing dealt with by the officials differently from other classes. New Guinea is, of course, an immensely interesting subject, and if I were to follow the honorable member into the various matters on which he has touched, I should probably occupy too much time. The points on which he spoke are important, and honorable members will agree generally with many of his statements. The obligation which has followed the taking, over of New Guinea by the Commonwealth is the safeguarding of the natives in every respect. They must be encouraged in habits of healthy industry, inter-village wars must be suppressed, and peace restored. The cultivation of valuable products - many of which are indigenous - must be fostered. In this way we shall enable the natives who come under our control to’ enjoy greater freedom and a higher standard of living than they have previously known. As Mr. Atlee Hunt’s interesting and excellent report shows, they are a far more ingenious, interesting, and promising people than many of us have hitherto supposed. There are great possibilities in New Guinea. Thanks to the labour of the missionaries, ideas are being inculcated in the minds of the people which will play an increasing part in their mental and moral development, .penetrating and softening the life of hardship and strife which they have hitherto led. It is to be hoped that under the combined’ influence of the missionaries and the Government the Territory will become thriving and - in a modest sense of the term - progressive.

Mr Liddell:

– Is it not a fact that the natives’ are deteriorating?

Mr DEAKIN:

– They are physically deteriorating for want of work or exercise.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:
Franklin

– I think that we require more information about New Guinea than we have hitherto obtained. I have tried to get some idea of the conditions under which native labour is performed, and, according to the reports which I have read - which are of a most interesting character - the system of mining obtaining in New Guinea is very different from that practised in Australia, each miner working his claim to a large extent with native labour. There is, however, an absence of , information in regard to the death rate on the northern gold-fields which should be explained.

Mr Deakin:

– We are causing searching inquiries to be made into the matter.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– The Commonwealth has incurred a great responsibility in connexion with New Guinea, and yet I find that although 500 blacks have signed on at Murua, there is no doctor there. In the northern division 625 natives are employed, and the known death rate is 19^ per cent. But, adding the number missing and unaccounted for, the real death rate is 23 per cent.

Mr Conroy:

– What is the death rate in our large cities ?

Mr Tudor:

– In my electorate, which is one of the most dense! y-populated in the Commonwealth, it is less than ten per thousand.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– If the death rate of the adult black miners in New Guinea is compared with the death rate of the adult population of any part of Australia, I think the comparison will shock honorable members. That being so, it is the duty of the Government to obtain information as to the conditions under which the natives are working. In the northern division there are 59 natives employed by miners, and 566 by storekeepers; but we are informed by a footnote to the report that the majority of these latter are transferred to the miners when they arrive on the mining fields. They are indented - to use a word which is familiar in New Guinea - by the storekeepers to carry stores to the mines, and when they get there are transferred to the miners, a considerable number of them remaining to work on the mines. Apart from these, there are 746 blacks working on the mines. As the total white male population of New Guinea is only 450, a large proportion of whom are officials and storekeepers, the ratio of black miners to white miners is very great. Including those who are trans ferred, there are over 1,300 blacks working on the mines in New Guinea, and we should know more about the conditions under which they work. I have obtained private information to the effect that their surroundings are infinitely worse than those of the kanakas on the Queensland sugar plantations. The large death rate alone should be sufficient to make the Committee insist on obtaining fuller information. I am very disappointed that in Mr. Hunt’s report no attempt is made to explain the conditions under which the blacks are engaged and labour, and I hope that the Prime Minister will take an early opportunity to get a full report on the subject. These people are distinctly primitive, knowing not even as much about ordinary business and trading arrangements as is known by the blacks who are brought into contact with whites elsewhere; and our responsibility will not cease in prohibiting the sale of liquor to them. We must insist upon obtaining information in regard to the conditions under which the men are engaged, and under which they labour, and it’ is especially important that we should know the reason for the. shockingly high death rate which has been referred to.

Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - I rise only to call the attention of the honorable member for Franklin to two facts. The first is that the death rate in the northern division is not to be attributed to any’ action taken in regard to the natives by the whites. Both the natives and the whites have suffered very much from the unhealthiness of the district, as the following passage in the annual report shows -

The northern division keeps up its reputation for unhealthiness. The frequent” and severe attacks of fever which Government officers suffer, especially at Tamata, are the cause of serious interference to their work.

The deaths of whites are 10 per cent. I admit that the figures relating to the deaths of natives call for the most searching inquiry, and that inquiry is now being made. The whole of the northern division is. however, notoriously unhealthy, because of the opening up of large tracts of swampy ground, which causes the whites, as well as the natives, to suffer severely.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– But the countrywould not be nearly so unhealthy for the natives as for the whites.

Mr DEAKIN:

– With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Franklin that there was no medical man at

Murua, I would point out that there is at that place an unregistered, but otherwise qualified, practitioner, who attends to the requirements of 125 whites. I would not venture to insinuate that the absence of. a regular practitioner has any relation to the fact that the death-rate there is only 1.6 per 100.

Mr Maloney:

– That would be equivalent to 16 per 1,000 - a very fair rate.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Yes. Owing to the establishment of the two hospitals referred to, we have medical men stationed at no great distance from Murua.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I regret that we have not had more time in which to acquaint ourselves with the contents of Mr. Hunt’s report. It seems to me, from what I have read, that the ‘ Minister of External, Affairs acted very wisely in despatching Mr. Hunt to Papua, andI trust that this will not be the last occasion on which the Possession will be visited by a leading official from the controlling Department. I should like to see an arrangement entered into by which Mr. Hunt, or some other qualified officer, could visitPapua once a year in order to ascertain howthe affairs of the Possession are being administered. Under such conditions avery desirable connecting link would be established between the Territory and this Parliament, which is responsible for its good government, and we should be thus in a position to keep down abuses such as very often occur in connexion with isolated administrations. The question raised by previous speakers as to the treatment of native labourers is one that should engage the serious attention of the Government. The experience we have gained in connexion with the employment of black labour hasshown that verylittle consideration is shown by white employers for the interests of the native labourers, who suffer because they are unable to protect themselves against injustice.

Mr Deakin:

– They have many remedies in Papua. There is always a white magistrate available, and if they do not care to rely on him, they can run away without any fear of being caught.

Mr BROWN:

– If I were in the place of the natives I should prefer to run away, especially if the white magistrates are of the same kidney as those whowere appointed in the early clays in Australia. A serious problem is presented to us in connexion with the relations of white men in

New Guinea to the black labourers, and the most careful supervision will have to be exercised in order to secure fair treatment to the natives. There seems to be some point in the contention of the honorable member for Franklin, that the death-rate among the natives engaged in mining is very high.

Mr Deakin:

– Only in one division.

Mr BROWN:

– That may be due, to some extent, to climatic conditions ; but experience gained in Queensland has shown how mortality among black labourers may be largely increased by inhumane treatment and insanitary conditions, and we must not fail to protect the natives against any such abuses. I am glad to find that Mr. Hunt’s investigations led him to the conclusion that the natives had not yet acquired a taste for intoxicants, and I hope we shall take measures to insure that they are guarded against the demoralizing effects of the drink habit. We know that one of the results of contact between white and black people is the introduction among the latter of infectious diseases.

Mr Deakin:

– The quarantine arrangements in Papua have, so far, been effective - there has been hardly any outbreak.

Mr BROWN:

– I am pleased to notice that from Mr. Hunt’s report. We know that in the early history of Australia great mortality was caused among the natives by the introduction of small-pox, and the introduction of measles to Fiji caused alarming mortality among the natives. It is a matter for congratulation that the authorities have sofar realized the dangers to the natives from this particular source that they have instituted a system of quarantine. I trust, however, that the Prime Minister will consider whether it is practical to do anything beyond what has already been accomplished, and that he will not allow any question of reasonable expenditure to weigh with him against full consideration for the health of the natives. Mr. Hunt also tells us that a certain disease, which it is not desirable to mention, has wrought much harm to the natives. I recently had a conversation with a missionary who has spent a considerable time in Papua, and he informed me that dealing with this terrible scourge was one of the most serious problems which the missionaries had to solve. He represented that while they could do a great deal, the evil could be effectively stamped out only by the Government. He seemed to think that “the Government had not vet realized the full extent of their obligations to the natives in this connexion. I trust that now that Mr. Hunt has directed attention to the matter special steps will be taken to cope with the difficulty. In our humanity we have provided in the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill that certain funds shall be appropriated to the assistance of infirm or destitute natives. I notice that Mr. Hunt says -

My attention was more than once called to the difficulties that would be created by clause 50, on page 1 1 of the present print of the Bill, which provides for an appropriation for infirm or destitute aboriginal natives. The statement was made to me, and all the inquiries I was able to make confirmed it, that there are no destitute natives in the Possession. While life is not conducted altogether on communistic lines, there is a clearly recognised duty that every village is bound to provide food for all its inhabitants, and the fact thata man is old or ill or incapacitatedf rom any cause isno reason why he should be allowed to starve. The consequence is that there is no such thing as a Papuan beggar, and if any native feels at times the pangs of hunger it is only because the crops have failed, or some other unforeseen contingency has reduced all his fellows to a similar plight.

The report shows that the New Guinea native in his barbarous simplicity is relieved of at least some of the evils which afflict his more civilized brother. I also find that amongst the natives there is no destitution as the result of physical incapacity. The well-being of each individual in a village is apparently the concern of all. In fact, many of the evils attendant upon modern civilization are eliminated from their conditions of life. Mr. Hunt suggests that some regard should be pa id to the health of the natives by erecting proper hospital accommodation, and by providing for a more effective system of quarantine than obtains there at the present moment. The question of indentured labour is one which should engage our serious attention.

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

– What would that system be called in a European country?

Mr BROWN:

– It would be called slavery.

Mr Deakin:

– Where natives are indentured for one year?

Mr BROWN:

-The conditions governing much of that indentured labour amount to nothing short of slavery. The pretence of paying for native labour is overcome by the imposition of innumerable fines, which practically leave the money in the pockets of the employers.

Mr Cameron:

– The employer of labour cannot fine his employe.

Mr BROWN:

– At any rate, the wages of the natives are to a large extent forfeited. Mr. Hunt points out that even under primitive conditions, these people could produce more than sufficient for their requirements, and that the introduction of the implements which accompany civilization has to a large extent relieved them of the necessity to perform labour which they would otherwise be called upon to undertake. As a result of the easier conditions which now obtain, he is apprehensive of the deterioration of the race. I do not know that such conditions necessarily lead to deterioration. However, that is the idea which is put forward, and it is suggested that, by special taxation, the natives should be compelled to work a little harder.

Mr Johnson:

– Why should a native be compelled to work hard if he can live comfortably without doing so?

Mr BROWN:

– Simply because, in the opinion of quite a number of persons, a black man belongs to an inferior race. Consequently we are told that it is in the interests of these individuals that they should be required to performmore work. I trust that the condition of the natives will not be made any harsher for the mere purpose of causing them to become beasts of burden, and that, before any policy in this direction is entered upon, it will receive very earnest consideration. From the Cooktown Independent I learn that, whilst Mr. Hunt was in New Guinea, a deputation from the Samarai Progress Association waited upon him and made certain suggestions. Its members presented the following petitions-

  1. Asking for protection for the miners on the Mambare and Ikora Rivers from the depredations of hostile natives. The deputation pointed out that there was no protection available at present.
  2. Requesting the imposition of a hut tax on coastal natives. The deputation suggested that 5s. per head, to be paid either in kind, labour, or cash, be imposed.
  3. Re Papuan mail service. - The deputation suggested that either Cooktown or Cairns be appointed the terminal port in Australia, instead of Thursday Island as at present. 4.Re the Steve Wool ffe murder case, and asking that it be reopened. It was stated by the deputation that Woolffe was a minor on the Ikora River, who had recently been sentenced to death for the alleged shooting of a native. The sentence was subsequently commuted to imprisonment for three years. It was explained that the prisoner was the first white man ever sentenced to death in British New Guinea. The only evidence against him was that of natives.
  4. Trial by jury was asked for. The deputation explained that at present all cases are tried by the Judge solely.

These are important subjects upon which I think the Prime Minister should give us some information. They are not dealt with by Mr. Hunt in his report. There is just one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. During last session a very old resident of New Guinea, in the person of Mr. J. R. Craig, interviewed several honorable members, including myself. He made some very grave charges against the administration in New Guinea - so grave that I fear the Ministerial head of the Department believed Ob. at he was drawing largely upon his imagination. When the right honorable member for East Sydney was Prime Minister, he intimated to honorable members that Mr. Hunt would be instructed to ascertain whether there was any ground for the charges made, with a view, if necessary, to further action being taken. I have here the documents relating to those charges, and in them Mr. Craig asks for a fair investigation by some independent officer, who would not be biased. I should like to know what has been done in this particular matter, and whether the Prime Minister proposes to investigate these complaints. Anybody, who is aware of their nature, must recognise that the administration of New Guinea is in a very bad condition. I ask the Prime Minister to take the Committee into his confidence, and inform us of the result of any investigations which have been made.

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

– I think that the matters to which the honor-* able member for Canobolas has just alluded are of first-rate importance. They indicate to us the measure of our responsibility in taking over the control of this huge Territory. We took it over in a very light and airy fashion, and I fear that we did -not stop to think of the- tremendous possibilities which inhered in the government of that country, and of all the obligations imposed upon us, if we are to develop and police it as thoroughly as we ought to do. However, having assumed that responsibility, it devolves upon us to discharge it with as much care and ability as possible. I have read Mr. Hunt’s report very cursorily, because I received it only this afternoon. I think we have .reason to complain that these Estimates are being considered so soon after that report was presented to this House, inasmuch as we have not had time to be stow upon it the close consideration that its importance merits. Mr. Hunt was sent to New Guinea at some expense to the Commonwealth. He has devoted a great deal of time and ability to his task, and has produced a report which, as far as I can judge, is worthy both of his reputation and position, and is in every way a meritorious, one. I think that it is a very notable document, in regard not only to the information which it gives, but to the way in which that information is presented. Whilst I do not agree with some of Mr. Hunt’s conclusions, I recognise that he has presented a very able and lucid report. Our responsibility for the care and protection of the natives of Papua is a very grave one. We have practically within the confines of the Possession from 300,000 to- 1,000,000 savage and semi-savage people. That in itself presents a problem, the seriousness of which dawns upon one’s mind only when one reads of the great gulf that yawns between the civilization of New Guinea and that of which we boast and are so. justly proud. The problem before us is sketched very succinctly by Mr. Hunt when he says that we should steadily pursue the aims of civilization in that far-away Territory as circumstances may permit, and that we should devote to this work as much care and cash as possible. Throughout his report Mr. Hunt speaks of the New Guinea natives as our fellowsubjects. That phrase brings home the responsibility cast upon us in regard to the government of the Territory. If these natives are our fellow-subjects, the sooner we succeed in raising them to something like an appreciation of the conditions and the plane of life on which we dwell the better it will be for us.

Mr Brown:

– They are something more than our fellow-subjects- they are in subjection to us.

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

– They are none the less our fellow-subjects. We are subject to the one King and to the one Imperial form of government. The facts and figures given in the special reports presented to us from time to time tell a serious tale regarding the. internal government of the Territory, and I am not at all satisfied with the very sanguine complexion which the Prime Minister puts upon them. I am very much afraid that the explanations that are forthcoming do not account for the strange occurrences there. While I make no complaint - because I have no knowledge upon which to found one - I say that we ought to look very closely into the government of the Territory, and endeavour to ascertain whether it is. not possible to minimize the appalling consequences of our so-called civilizing efforts there. Take, for instance, the death rate, to which reference has been made. So tremendous is the death rate among the natives on some of the mining fields of New Guinea that it can only be described as a veritable holocaust. I have here a few statistics, supplied to me by the industry of some friends. They tell a very sad tale. I find, for instance, that the death rate in Australia is 12.7 per 1,000 ; in England, 18.8 per 1,000; and in Italy - which I believe has the highest death rate of any European country - 25.5 per 1,000. These are the percentages of deaths to the total population. The percentage of deaths among persons ‘ over twenty years of age in Australia is 3.7 per 1,000, whilst in England it is only 5.5 per 1,000. When we turn to New Guinea, and find that the death rate on the northern gold-fields there is 194 per T, 000, we begin to realize how deadly the climate must be. Every fifth man is doomed to die. I am not quite sure that the climatic conditions furnish the true explanation of this high death rate.

Mr Maloney:

– It is fifty-two times in excess of the death rate in Australia.

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

– And nearly as greatly in excess of the death rate of England.

Mr Johnson:

– The honorable member is referring to the death rate among the native population of New Guinea.

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

– Yes.

Mr Page:

– The death-rate among the whites there is almost as bad. I was one of a party of seventeen who went there and was the only one to return.

Mr Deakin:

– The whites there are constantly down with the fever.

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

– I think it is clear from Mr. Hunt’s report that NewGuinea is not a white man’s country. I do not agree with his conclusion as to the future governance of the Territory. After reviewing a number of suggestions as to the best way of dealing with the Island, he concludes by saying that, in his opinion, what we ought to aim at is -

To encourage the development of the country under European auspices by the employment of imported capital to be expended under European direction, employing native labour, and at the same time extend the influence of the Government until the whole Possession is brought under control.

The problem of how we are to bring the whole of the Possession completely under control is one which, I feel sure, will remain unsolved 100 years hence. I take this view because of the climatic conditions prevailing there, and because also of the very slight degree of civilization which the natives have achieved, the nature of their government, ‘ and their modes of living. I apprehend the greatest possible trouble to New Guinea when we begin, as indicated by Mr. Hunt, to bring the whole Territory under control. The natives have no unified form, of government. They comprise a number of scattered communal tribes, and their form of government more closely resembles the anarchic ideal than does any other of which. I know. We find that within an area of sixteen miles in a certain part of the Territory, there are various native races speaking as many different languages, and having apparently no intercourse with each other. They are as completely isolated as if the sea rolled between them. I venture to say that to bring the Territory under one system of control, and one scheme of civilization, is an almost superhuman work. I am afraid that when we have done our best, we shall have failed for some time to come, ‘and I therefore do not view with equanimity the prospect of betaking ourselves to the task of civilizing New Guinea. The one bright feature is that the missionaries are there. If anything is to be done in this civilizing process it will be accomplished, not by the system of government which we are endeavouring delicately and tentatively to extend, but by the quiet work of the missionaries. I have become more and more convinced by the reading of the reports presented from time to time to us that we ought to hold, protect, and “ police “ New Guinea chiefly for the natives, and give the missionary every facility for carrying on his work. In my judgment, he is to be the great civilizing agency in the Territory.’ I gather this from the report presented by Mr. Hunt, who pays the greatest possible compliment to the missionary enterprise there. The missionaries have their own peculiar altruistic methods, but these will succeed with the natives when our iron-bound governmental processes may have failed. Our methods are destined to fail, unless we go carefully to work, and seek to push out the fringe of civilization in only the most gradual and tentative way. The figures in the report of the Administrator tell a sorry tale of our civilizing methods in New Guinea. I can conceive of no greater condemnation of those* methods than is furnished by the tabulated statements which he gives. They ought to be seriously inquired into. If they indicate the price we are to pay for the little civilization we are carrying there, we had better consider whether it would not be well to adopt different methods, and whether we ought further to attract white people to the Territory when the consequences of their settlement there are so deadly to the natives. After all, I fail to see why we should seek to make New Guinea particularly attractive to white people. We need the white population in Australia; it is* here that we require pioneering enterprises. Mr. Hunt refers to this matter in his report. In dealing with the suggestion that our objective should be the settlement of European families in the Territory, he writes -

New Guinea cannot be fairly advocated as a country for white men to settle in. The class of immigrant that I have mentioned is the very kind of man of whom Australia stands in need herself, and in Australia such a man can reasonably hope to found a home and raise a family.

These are very wise words, and should guide us in dealing with the Territory. It is no time to push our population out into the tropical regions while this vast and virgin continent which we possess is almost unoccupied, and fertile fields under fair climatic conditions remain uncultivated. I cannot understand this itching to develop tropical industries, which are to be fostered by bonuses and in other ways. Why should our people be attracted to these industries in which, in every country in the world, the rates of pay are low? Having this vast possession, where men may live in decency and comfort, under pleasant social conditions, and receiving fair rates of remuneration, we shall not act wisely if we try to force our population to embark in tropical industries in which’ only low wages can be paid. As to New Guinea, we are told that white people cannot live there, because the climate is so deadly. Why, then, should we be particular about establishing land tenures, which will attract to New Guinea the capita! and enterprise of white countries? Mr. Hunt recommends that we should establish a fund of ,£300,000 for the purpose of opening up the Territory to the white population of Europe.

Mr Johnson:

– He says that no smaller sum is worth considering.

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

– £[300,000 is the minimum.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Does not the honorable member think that we could do better with such an amount?

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

– I do. If we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide men with facilities to go to death and destruction we shall be on the wrong track. Our work in regard to the people of New Guinea for many years to come willi be to facilitate in every way the enterprise of the missionary. Let him go to work there, and let us care for and protect him and support him while he is at work. After he has done his part we may follow in his wake, with our governmental and civilizing methods. We sent the missionary to Fiji, and he opened up a way for us there. In New Guinea we had better leave the missionary alone for a while, instead of trying to interfere in this work ourselves. There are some statements in the report to which I wish to briefly allude, and I shall refer first to that part of it which has to do with the social condition of the natives of New Guinea. Mr. Hunt gives them a meed of praise for their attainments, their home-loving qualities, and their social status. He says that they are not barbarians, and .he attributes the ‘lack of crime amongst them first of all to the absence of intoxicating liquors. . He pays the natives the compliment of saying that they abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors.

Mr Johnson:

– Our civilization will soon alter that.

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

– In another part of his report he points out that, although the use of intoxicating liquors is not known among the natives, there are other vices prevalent amongst them which are quite as bad. These vices are operating in such a deadly way that two hospitals are being built to try to cope with the evil which results from them. If this has already followed upon our contact with the whites, I venture to say that it is only a matter of time when the natives will have acquired the vice of drinking. I make that prophecy most confidently, if regretfully. If we can keep drink near the natives, and yet from them, we shall do what has never yet been done in the history of the world.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– We’ cannot do it.

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

– I do not think we can, though I should like to, in view of the Bill recently passed, believe that it is possible.

Mr Watson:

-It is said that the natives of New Guinea have no taste for alcohol.

Mr Johnson:

– No one has at the beginning. It is an acquired taste.

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

– In my judgment, it is impossible to keep liquor from the natives. If the men who employ them have plenty of grog in their possession, will not the natives see it?

Mr Page:

– Yes, and taste it too.

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

– I am sure that they will, though I wish that I could believe to the contrary. We ignore human nature if we suppose that the natives can be employed in carrying grog for their masters, and can see them drinking it, without wanting it, and getting it themselves. There is a warning standing out for us, in clear and portentous language, in the passage of the report to which I have referred, and it is only a matter of time when these other vices of our civilization will affect the natives. Mr. Hunt says -

Happily, intoxicating liquor is unknown to the native, and it is the firm resolve of the Government that it shall remain unknown.

I doubt that. This Government is resolved that the white people of New Guinea shall have the sole determination of the liquor traffic in New Guinea, and a majority of honorable members have agreed that grog may be circulated all round the natives. I do not regard that as a determination that it shall be kept from them. There is only one way in which to keep drink from the natives of New Guinea, and that is by keeping it out of the Territory. I believe that even under prohibition the white people could get all the grog they needed ; but the traffic in it would be under searching and keen control. I do not say that we should prohibit the white people of New Guinea from getting grog altogether if they need it for medical purposes. If a white man there wants it, we cannot prevent him from getting it ; but I think that all the grog that is needed could be obtained from the medical men there. Prohibition, however, would make the sale of liquor under ordinary conditions impossible. Having read the report, I do not see much prospect of local option being carried in New Guinea. There was never a greater farce played in this Chamber than when we deliberately gave local optionto the white people of New Guinea, who have already declared that they are opposed to it. They told Mr. Hunt that they will have grog in spite of all the Parliaments in Australia.

Mr Bamford:

– They said that in respect to prohibition.

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

– Yes. Does the honorable member think that they will deal with local option differently from prohibition ?

Mr Bamford:

– Possibly.

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

– They will vote against it to a man. The honorable member assisted in the veriest farce.

Mr Bamford:

– I wished to do the sensible thing, by placing the sale of liquor under Government control.

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

– The honorable member and others seem to think that liquor can be circulated all round the natives, and by their agency, and that they will never get any of it. He ignores human nature when he imagines such a thing. I feel that we played the veriest farce when we provided for local option in New Guinea.

The CHAIRMAN:

– The honorable member must not make such a statement, because it reflects on a vote of the House.

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

– ThenI withdraw it. I meant no personal reflection. I give my opponents credit for the fullest sincerity, and believe that the Prime Minister has acted in accordance with his best judgment, but I believe him to be mistaken. However, the question will be put to the test in about twelve months’ time, when the local option poll is taken. Meanwhile I would remind the Committee of the kind of material from which local option . is sought to be obtained. This is a very striking passage in Mr. Hunt’s report -

The whites feel that it would be an injustice not to pay some regard to the principle of local option in this connexion, and thatfor a great and powerful community to impose on a smaller one - unrepresented and voiceless in the councils of the nation - a deprivation which it does not. impose on itself, is making an unfair use of the authority vested in it, by using a small and influential body of fellow-citizens, against their will, as a subject for a mere experiment.

We have no desire to make them the subject of an experiment. I would not care what they drank, they are so few. We are not concerned about them so much as for the hundreds of thousands of natives whom we can reach only through them. If a prohibitive law were imposed upon the white population, they would still be able to obtain as much grog as was good for them - just as much as the doctors thought they should have. Judging from the reports we have received, I think that the doctors would prescribe pretty liberally, and therefore I have no fear that in a country where people are almost always sick with fever and malaria there would not always be a plentiful supply of grog on hand. When the white residents represent that we are trying an experiment on them they entirely misrepresent our purpose and intention. Our action is not aimed at the white people, but is directed to the preservation and care of the natives. Mr. Hunt says -

The words I repeat in dealing with this matter may appear strong, but they are only a faint reflection of the expressions uttered over and over again in New Guinea.

Some pretty tall statements must have been made, if Mr. ‘Hunt’s expressions are only faint reflections of them. He says -

One statement may be quoted as some evidence of local feeling. It was made by a well-known resident at the meeting at. Woodlark Island, and I may add that nothing said at that meeting elicited warmer applause.

I commend this to the notice of honorable members. The statement was -

Look here, Mr. Hunt, you can tell the Federal Parliament that they can pass what laws they please, because we will get our grog.

That means that, whatever local option or prohibition laws may be passed, they will get their grog. I give credit for sincerity to those who differ from me, and I am sure that the Prime Minister thinks that he is doing his best for the natives. I base my opinion not so much an the actual expressions of opinion concerning this matter as upon the facts disclosed in the reports. I hope that this matter and the other problems arising out of our relations to the natives in Papua will be approached in a serious spirit, and with a full sense of the responsibilities- we have undertaken. I reiterate that, in my judgment, our best policy for many year’s to come will be to “police” this territory lor the natives, to care for them and protect them, and’ to leave the missionaries without unnecessary interference to gradually superimpose our civilization.

Mr CULPIN:
Brisbane

– I understood that Mr. Hunt was sent to Papua in order that he might report upon certain statements involving very serious charges against some of the officers connected with the administration of the Possession. Mr. Craig made a number of serious allegations, and a motion was submit ted in the Senate in favour of holding a special inquiry. That proposal was defeated by only one vote. I have looked in vain for any reference to these matters in Mr. Hunt’s report, and, in view of the fact that the late Prime Minister promised that Mr. Hunt should make inquiries into the charges of maladministration preferred by Mr. Craig against nineteen magistrates, or assistant magistrates, who may become permanent officers, I think it is a pity that the whole of his statements should have been ignored. Mr. Craig, in addition to other matters, as will be seen by reference to Hansard for last session, pages 7669 to 7673; stated -

A certain officer, with a posse of about twenty members of the armed native constabulary, took Sipilia and other prisoners with him to Milne Bay, and he specially invited several diggers to accompany him in a general raid upon the peaceful natives. During the three days’ duration of the Gibara raid, Sipilia was led about in irons under the charge of the chief warder, Tauakina The gold was not recovered, and there was no charge whatever against Sipilia, but he was hated intensely by Symons and certain diggers as being a missionary spy. The officer arranged with four white men that they should execute Sipilia. He instructed Tauakina to hand Sipilia over to the four white men, instructing them if the boy did not find the gold to “ remove “ him. The four men led Sipilia further into the bush, knocked the irons off him, so as to leave no mark of identification, and shot him dead without any legal form of trial whatever.

That is a very serious statement, and certainly some inquiry should have been made. I might also refer to a letter which was written by Bishop Stone Wigg to Mr. Craig on 2nd February, 1904, as follows : -

I have read through, your papers, and think that you make out a prima facie case for inquiry by the Federal authorities. I must say I hope a thorough inquiry will take place.

That letter appears to me to show the necessity for a full inquiry. Honorable members were certainly under the impression that Mr. Hunt would make it his special business to investigate the charges, because incidentally the question arose as to whether he should take evidence on oath. I should like to hear some explanation from the Prime Minister.

Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I think that, after the statement made by the deputy leader of the Opposition in regard to the death-rate amongst the natives engaged in mining, it behoves the Government to institute a searching inquiry.

Mr Deakin:

– I have said that a special inquiry into the matter is now proceeding.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– It is a deplorable fact_ that last year one out of every five of the natives employed in a particular locality died. It is nothing short of murder to allow such a condition of affairs to continue. I confess that the revelations made by the honorable member for Kennedy came as a shock to me.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Why did Mr. Hunt not report upon this matter?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I do not know. When the administration of New Guinea was brought under the notice of the late Prime Minister, he approved of sending Mr. Hunt to the Territory.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– I understood from the right honorable member for East Syd3 ney that special inquiry was to be made into the death rate.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– It seems to me that the absence of inquiry into that matter weakens the value of Mr. Hunt’s report.

Mr Deakin:

– Not a bit. I have already given the results of his inquiry. The high mortality rate is due to fever contracted in opening up new country, to beri-beri, and change of food. We are now making further inquiries into the matter.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I should like to know how long this extraordinary mortality has prevailed. It is a very sad state of affairs, and I hope that the Prime Minister will institute further inquiries. If we cannot manage the Possession- more efficiently than we are doing, the sooner we relinquish its control the better. Instead of inducing people to go to New Guinea, we should ‘direct our effort’s to improving the conditions of settlement in Australia.

Mr Lonsdale:

– But here the “other fellow” has the land.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– An abundance of land is. available for settlement in Australia, if people only choose to come here. I fear that in the past too little attention has been paid to the administration of affairs in New Guinea.

Mr Lee:

– WJ11 the granting of a Constitution to that Territory prove of any assistance to it?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Not unless we take steps to insure that proper officers are charged with its administration.

Mr Liddell:

– Is it a fact that it costs £150 a year for whisky and quinine there”? tas)- 2

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I should not be surprised. I understand that whisky and quinine is highly recommended by the medical profession, though I never had to resort to its use myself.

Mr Liddell:

– Does the honorable member think that the white population there can do without whisky ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I am not in a position to say.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– There are men in New Guinea who never touch it.

Mr Brown:

– Competent medical opinion is against the use of alcohol.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I know that some prominent medical men are opposed to the use of spirits, especially in tropical climates,

Mr Lee:

– It is only quacks who recommend the use of alcohol.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I do not say that. Of course there are differences of opinion amongst medical men, just as there are amongst politicians. But there should be no difference of opinion in regard to the administration of New Guinea. Energetic steps require to be taken to place affairs there upon a proper footing. I have no desire to .refer to the action which was taken by the House the other evening in regard to the use of intoxicants in the Territory. Nobody can accuse the honorable member for Cowper of being anything but an ardent prohibitionist. Judged by our own experience, the introduction of spirits into New Guinea will be fraught with the gravest consequences. In Australia, it has practically resulted in the annihilation of the aborigines.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– And the law provided that they were not to be supplied with liquor. ‘

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– They got it all the same. I believe that the position in, New Guinea will be infinitely worse than it was in Australia. Consequently, I think that we should have acted wisely by prohibiting the sale of intoxicants in’ the Possession. However, we can do nothing further in that matter at the present time. I hope that the inquiry which the Prime Minister has promised to institute will be a searching one, and that it will be conducted by an independent man, who will be able to express his opinion fearlessly.

Mr LONSDALE:
New England

– I confess that it came as a great surprise .to me to learn that the death-rate amongst the natives of New Guinea was so extremely high. Had the same mortality obtained amongst the white residents there, I could then have credited the statement that it was the result of fever contracted in opening up swampy country. But I find that the death-rate amongst the white settlers is not nearly so high as it is amongst the natives. I understood that when Mr. Hunt visited the Territory, he was to be instructed to inquire into the charges made by Mr. Craig last session.

Mr Deakin:

– He did so.

Mr LONSDALE:

– We have not the result of his inquiries before us. I do not think that honorable members should be kept in the dark.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– If the Prime Minister has any report upon the matter. I should like to see it.

Mr LONSDALE:

– The sooner the Committee is taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister the better. I recognise that we have to deal with a very difficult problem. We should not permit the severity which now appears to mark the treatment of the natives. It is their own country, and the white people there are really interlopers.

Mr Liddell:

– Does the honorable member regard the missionaries as interlopers?

Mr LONSDALE:

– I do not. The missionaries go there not for their own personal advancement, but to endeavour to raise the natives to a higher standard of civilization. On the other hand, the settlers have gone there for their own gain. They do not care what becomes of the black man, as long as they are able to profit by his labour. Having regard to the high ‘death rate, one cannot help suspecting that the natives are not being treated as they ought to be, particularly as the percentage of deaths amongst the white population is not nearly so high.

Mr Deakin:

– The white men in the division in question are constantly iri.

Mr LONSDALE:

– They may be ill, but, unlike the natives, they do not- seem to die. It seems to me that something is being kept back, and that the Government should cause a careful inquiry to be made.

Mr Deakin:

– Special inquiries are being made.

Mr LONSDALE:

– We should not attempt to deal with the coloured races as we deal with the white population. Reference has been made to the statement in the official report that one native was hanged for murdering his employer. I hold that it is only reasonable that we should not deal with offences committed by blacks against blacks as severely as w’e should deal with those committed by white settlers against the natives of the Territory. A white man is taught to recognise the sacredness of human life, although he does not always appear to consider that the lives of the blacks are sacred. We should teach these men that the life of a black man is just as sacred as is the life of a white man. It has been said that we should deal very gently with those who kill the natives. I “” disagree with that view. I would punish a white man who killed a native with much greater severity than I should punish one of the natives who killed a white man, because the natives have not been taught to recognise the sacredness of human life. We should see that they are properly treated. Mr. Hunt points out in his report that the natives are lazy and will not work. Very few men have a desire for work. We find to-day that those who toll not are far better off than are those who do. It is the poor man who has to work. I fancy that the- natives must have heard something of this, and that their disinclination to work is to be attributed to a belief on their part that it will make them poor. Why should we permit the white men to make slaves of the coloured people in the Territory? If we can encourage the latter to work for themselves and so improve their condition, well and good; but we should not allow the miners and others of the Territory to engage the natives to work for ios. per month. On such a wage . they -are not likely to wax fat !

Mr Deakin:

– They are also supplied with rations, and it must not be forgotten that rations on the fields are very expensive.

Mr LONSDALE:

– It appears to me that it would be better for them if, instead of being supplied with rice and other rations, they were allowed to eat yams and other native foods. We are told that the rations kill them off.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Is the honorable member sure that it is not the rations that they do not get which kill them off?

Mr LONSDALE:

– That may be so, but I have no knowledge of the facts. There are many matters in respect of which we are left entirely in the dark, and the sooner fuller particulars are placed before us as to the government of the Territory the better. I should be pleased if we could induce the natives to work for their own advancement ; but I object to the system under which they are compelled to work in the mines for 2s. 6d. a week and their rations. On some of the fields the whites appear to be able not only to secure the labour of these men at that low wage, but to succeed in having them fined for all manner of offences, with the result chat in the end they receive hut very little. If a man is working for himself, an3 obtains but a small return for his labour, he can put up with it, but he objects to work for others without receiving reasonable remuneration. The position of the natives of Papua should be an object lesson to us. It shows that where the land is free to the people, it is possible for them to live well without doing much work; but that when the land is monopolized, the man who does the most work gets the poorest return for has labour. We should take this object lesson to heart, and, instead of allowing our lands to be held by monopolists, with the result that the mass of the people are “hard-up,” take care to open them up. In that event we might have the people settling on the lands of Australia, instead of going to New Guinea and other places, and in such circumstances it seems to me that we might very well 3o without the silly system of protection.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– In taking over the government of New Guinea, we are incurring in a small way the difficulties and responsibilities which fall to the lot of a people who endeavour to deal’ with a race alien to themselves in manners, speech, and habits of thought. We are experiencing, on a small scale, the difficulties that English statesmen have always encountered, in dealing with the affairs of a country like India, or with other parts of the British dominions in which there is a large native population. Members of Parliament are prone to endeavour to deal with people living under such conditions purely from the stand-point- of those whom they directly represent. We have to recollect that we are legislating for a class of people, amongst whom representative institutions would not be possible. An attempt to set up representative institutions amongst the native races of New Guinea would not be nearly as successful as was the attempt made in 1887 by the Sultan of Turkey to establish such institutions within his domain. Let us refer to the position of Russia at the present time. We often hear it said, “Why does not the Czar at once grant free governing institutions to the people?” But those who put that query forget that while it might be possible on the western borders of Russia, and in some of the provinces-

The CHAIRMAN:

– The honorable member may not discuss that matter in detail.

Mr CONROY:

– Do you rule, Mr. Chairman, that for the purpose of illustrating my argument I cannot refer to what is taking place to-day in Russia? I do not propose to go into the history of the institutions of that country, but I submit that I am entitled to make a comparison.

The CHAIRMAN:

– The honorable member is not in order in discussing in detail matters relating to the government of Russia. He would be in order in discussing the administration of New Guinea, and if he could find a Russian parallel for any proposal made by the Government, he would be entitled to refer to it. Up to the point at which I interrupted the honorable and learned member, he had not drawn any comparison between the two countries.

Mr CONROY:

– I was merely, going to show that we could ho more hope to apply the ‘ principles of representative government to the natives of New Guinea than the Czar could successfully apply them to some of the provinces of Russia. The very fact that we are asked to grant this vote shows that we are administering the Territory, and are not allowing the natives to exercise any control. If we were, we should call upon them to bear a proportion of the cost of administration.

Mr Page:

– Does not the honorable and learned member think that it is time that he brought his remarks to a close?

Mr CONROY:

– The honorable member may go to sleep if he pleases.

Mr Watson:

– The honorable member for Maranoa knows something about New Guinea, because he has been there.

Mr CONROY:

– Nineteen times out of twenty it happens that the person who has been born and bred in a place knows practically nothing, about it. Surely the honorable member will not suggest that the honorable member for Maranoa knows all about the customs and ceremonials of the natives of New Guinea, just because he has been there?

Mr Watson:

– He lived and worked there for months.

Mr CONROY:

– Then I judge from his appearance that the climate is not so unhealthy as we have been led to believe. The Committee are now being asked to vote £20,000 for the administration of New Guinea, despite the fact that the revenue collected locally amounts to between £17,000 and £18,000. Moreover, the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, in his report, recommends us to spend another £5,000. I gather from that report that, although the expenditure in New Guinea has increased, the place is practically at a standstill. Sir William McGregor had nothing like so much money to spend as is now being expended in New Guinea, and yet he managed to carry on his work there very effectively. The spending of a larger amount, instead’ of being an incentive to activity, seems to have brought a partial paralysis upon the Territory. I think that this matter should be thoroughly inquired into.

Mr Deakin:

– As soon as the Papua Bill becomes law New Guinea will have a Constitution.

Mr CONROY:

– I admit that the place has been handicapped by the want of a Constitution. I supported the Bill warmly on its first introduction four years ago, and have always been anxious that it should pass. I am sorry to detain honorable members at a somewhat late hour, but I feel obliged to speak on this subject now because I may not have another opportunity.

Mr Deakin:

– The honorable and learned member will have an opportunity on the motion for the adoption of the report.

Mr CONROY:

– Then I have little further to say at this stage. When the honorable member for Kennedy was speaking about the punishment inflicted for murder in the Territory, I made an interjection, believing that he was referring to the punishment inflicted on black men by other black men. It seemed to me ridiculous to treat murders’ which are really the result of tribal warfare as of the same importance as the murder of one white man by another, or the murder of a black man by a white man. Where for centuries past a race has been in the habit of avenging injuries with death, it is ridiculous to treat murder as seriously as it would be treated in a civilized community. The value set on human life is by no means so high amongst many coloured peoples as it? is amongst European nations.

In China, strangely enough, a condemned person can sometimes obtain a substitute who will allow himself to be decapitated on the payment of a sum of money to his family. It is impossible to apply to an uncivilized community, in all strictness, the rules which govern a civilized community. One of the difficulties we shall have to face is the question of permitting Papuan black labour to be introduced to Australia. I do not see how it will be possible for us to entirely shut out the natives if we are to treat that Territory as a Possession. When it was first proposed that we should take over the control of New Guinea, I pointed out that this difficulty would arise, but I do not suppose we shall be called upon to deal with it in any practical form for at least some years to come.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Division 14(Mail Service, Pacific Islands), £12,000, agreed to.

Attorney-General’s Department

Division 18(The High Court), £1,585, agreed to.

Resolutions reported.

page 4558

REPRESENTATION BILL

Bill returned from Senate with amendments.

page 4558

LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANIES BILL

In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message resumed from 31st October, vide page 4337) :

Clause 1 - . . . “ Life assurance company “ means any company, society, or body of persons (not being a friendly society) incorporated or regulated or enabled to sue and be sued by any charter or Act and associated together with the object solely or amongst others of granting policies upon lives or entering into contracts for future endowments by way of annuity or otherwise. . . .

Amendments Recommended.

After the words “body of persons” insert the words “ corporate or unincorporated”

Omit the words “ incorporated or regulated or enabled to sue and be sued by any charter or Act and.”

Mr GROOM:
Minister of Home Affairs · Darling Downs · Protectionist

– I have looked into the question raised by you, Mr. Chairman, when this matter was previously before us, and in order to meet the question you raised, I move -

That after the word “ society,” line 3, the following words be inserted - “ corporate or unincorporate associated together with the object either solely or amongst others of carrying on and, in fact, lawfully under the laws of the State carrying on the business of granting policies upon lives or entering intocontracts for future endowments by way of annuity or otherwise.”

This will meet the point to which I directed attention the other evening, and will confine the operation of the Bill to companies carrying on their business lawfully in accordance with the laws of the States. I shall afterwards move consequential amendments.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– I am assured by the Minister that this is practically a formal amendment, which has been drawn up upon the advice of the Attorney-General, and with the approval of the companies interested. It makes clear a matter that was previously in some doubt, and as the various insurance companies who would be affected by the amendment have, through their representatives, expressed the opinion that it will more effectively safeguard them in carrying on their business, I have no hesitation in agreeing to it.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– This is an important matter, and I think we should have some information as to the reasons for proposing the amendment.

Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - When the Bill was.’ first passed, the word “ Act “ occurred in it, and as, according to the Acts Interpretation Act, this may mean an Act of the Commonwealth, and the effect would have been to restrict the operation of the measure to companies carrying on business under Acts passed by ‘the Commonwealth, whereas it was intended to apply to companies operating under the laws of the States, an amendment became necessary. Consequently a recommendation was made to this House that the words “ corporate or unincorporate “ should be inserted. It was contended that this recommendation would enable companies which did not comply with State laws to carry on the business. It was urged that we should confine the operation of the Bill to those companies which were carrying on life assurance in accordance with the laws of the States. The proposed amendment gives effect to that suggestion.

Mr McDonald:

– How does the suggested amendment reach us?

Mr GROOM:

– Under the Constitution the Governor-General has power to make a recommendation to this House. He has made the recommendation with which we are now dealing, as we have power to do.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– This is the second occasion upon which we have been invited to make amendments in Bills which have been returned to us by message from the Governor-General. To my mind that practice is a bad one. It evidences a lack of ability on the part of the draftsman. I do not think it is a good thing that we should have Bills returned to us practically with amendments made by the Crown. Of course I recognise that the idea underlying the practice is that we shall be provided with an opportunity to rectify any technical errors. But the return of Bills in that way evidences either that they have been rushed through the House or that carelessness has been exhibited by the draftsman.

Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - In reply to the honorable member, I wish to saythat the Parliamentary Draftsman was not responsible for the original drafting of this Bill. It was drafted outside by private persons.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -

That the remaining words of the definition be left out.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Reported that the Committee had agreed to one amendment with an amendment, and to the other with a consequential amendment; report adopted.

page 4559

ADJOURNMENT

Federal Capital. - Order of Business

Mir. DEAKIN (Ballarat-Minister of External Affairs). - In moving -

That the House do now adjourn,

I desire to lay upon the table a copy of a letter whichI have received from the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the Federal Capital Site.

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

– May I ask the Prime Minister what business he proposes to proceed with to-morrow?

Mr Deakin:

– The report stage of the Estimates.

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

– Have the items relating to the High Court and the mail service to the Pacific Islands been dealt with?

Mr Deakin:

– As Estimates, yes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.55p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 November 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051102_reps_2_28/>.