2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Defence aware that some of the NewSouth Wales companiesof the Naval Militia are practically without uniforms, and, unless the Commonwealth shortly comes to their rescue, will be obliged either to appeal for public subscriptions or to clothe themselves? Is it not time that this badly treated arm of our Defence Force received some measure of justice?
– I have no information in regard to the matter, but will make inquiries, and endeavour to communicate with the honorable member on the subject in the course of a day or two.
-In this morning’s Age the following statement is attributed to me in regard to yesterday’s sitting: -
Never had such a good House at prayers before.
I made no such remark, nor did I, so far as I can recollect, say anything regarding the attendance of honorable members at prayers. I should not trouble the House with a personal explanation on the subject, however, were I not greatlyconcerned that no false impression shall be conveyed by this report. The attendance of honorable members at the reading of prayers is always excellent, and fully representative of those who are here for the early part of the sitting. I know of no honorable member who designedly absents himself from the reading of the prayers.
– I wish to know whether the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to a leading article appearing in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of Monday, and containing some very strong libels ore this Parliament. I mention the fact that it is an editorial because the gentlemen who represent the newspaper in these galleries are, I believe, quite incapable of writing such misrepresentations.
– The newspaper has good men here.
– T,he comments of this paper should cause its creatures to writhe and wince with shame. But I hope they will give me an opportunity to read the statements to which I wish to draw attention. The writer of the article says -
There could not be anything more artistically in keeping with the whole record of the present Federal Government than its action in connexion with the Melbourne Cup. This is an event which has no more to do with the Commonwealth than the Sydney Cup or the Brisbane Derby has. It is purely a Melbourne affair, and although the Victorian State Parliament may allow its business to be interrupted by it, for the Federal Legislature to adjourn on Cup Day is as absurd as if the Parliament of West Australia or Queensland were to do so. But it seems quite impossible for the. present Government to get rid of the notion that Melbourne and the Commonwealth are convertible terms. Mr. Deakin would never think of suspending Federal business in order to allow members of Parliament to attend the races in any of the other States. But as the meeting takes place in Victoria, that puts a different complexion on it, and hence we have a Melbourne horse race assuming the character of a pre-eminent Federal function, which is allowed to take precedence of ordinary Commonwealth affairs. Is not that perfectly characteristic of the kind of Government we have had all the time that the present Government has been in office? Mr. Deakin explained that in setting aside Federal business, “ he was merely making allowance for the undoubted fact that a holiday was prevailing in the city.” Exactly. “In the city.” And for the City Council that would have been a fairly feasible excuse for knocking off work to join in the city festival. But then, in the view of the Deakin Government, the Commonwealth Parliament is only a glorified Melbourne Council, hence to-morrow its proper place will be at Flemington, helping to celebrate the city carnival. And just as the Government was true to the instinct which prompts it to survey all things Federal from a Melbourne stand-point, it likewise stuck to its old habit of make-believe by taking the holiday in a roundabout way. Mr. Deakin, hesitating to propose straight out that the House should adjourn on Cup Day, moved that it meet at 2 o’clock, “ or such time after as the Speaker should take the Chair.”
– Is the honorable member asking a question?
– I am reading parts of it in order to draw attention to several mistakes which it contains. The writer is ignorant of the usual hour for the meeting of this House, and of the number of members necessary to form a quorum.
This was simply a sly tip to the Speaker not to be there at 2 o’clock, as the House would wait for him until the Cup was over. Or if the twenty members necessary to form a quorum preferred to go out to Flemington and back their opinions, while the Speaker did not, business would be kept waiting for them. By this means provision was made for the House going to the Cup without openly taking the responsibility of it.
Having absolutely misstated what was done, the writer proceeds -
The effect of it all, however, is an example to the community which cannot be regarded otherwise than as absolutely deplorable. It would be bad enough for a Parliament which professes to be interested in the suppression of turf gambling, and therefore refuses to allow sweep correspondence to go through the post, to set the example of putting aside its work and going to the Cup at all ; but when it does so on the sly, while pretending to be at work all the -time, the moral effect is necessarily much worse. The young man who, while arranging to make his employer believe that he is still at work, sneaks out and goes to the races, only does the same thing as the Federal Parliament is now doing in another way. It makes the Acts that we pass against turf gambling look worse than foolish when the Legislature itself cannot resist the temptation of surreptitiously visiting the saddling paddock, where the bookmaker bawls the odds into the greedilycocked ear of the law itself.
I ask the Prime Minister if he cannot see his way to vindicate the House against the abominable and entirely unfounded aspersions contained in these statements?
– I am aware of no effective means whereby the most false and scurrilous statements made about a Parliament can be resented by it, though^ on many occasions, Legislatures in various parts of Australia have had the gravest reason to complain of misrepresentation, which, as we now know, has told most sadly against the interests of this country abroad. If we pay more for our loans than we ought to pay, if we get fewer people from the mother country than we ought to get, and if our progress is hampered in every direction, it is largely due to the malignant falsehoods circulated about us bv Australian writers in Australian newspapers.
– Standing order 93, which deals with the asking of questions without notice, says -
In putting any such Question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such Question.
The reading of a whole article was not in accordance with that standing order. I ask honorable members in future to state briefly the substance of any article to which they wish to refer, instead of reading it through.
– May I say, in explanation, that I did not read the whole of the article ; I merely read extracts from it.
– The honorable member read so much that I thought he read the whole article. As it was not the whole of the article which he read, my reason for calling attention to the matter is all the stronger.
– Is it true, as stated in the press, that the Postmaster-General’s Department contemplates accepting, for the Commonwealth postage stamps, a design representing the King’s head.
– I hope that the King’s head will not be accepted.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ask this Parliament to ratify any decision that he may come to on the subject?
– Designs for new stamps are now under the consideration of the Department. I think that the King’s head would be very suitable.
– Why not have something Australian ?
– I wish to ask a question of the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– The honorable member cannot ask a question of another private member, except concerning business which that member has on the notice-paper in his own name.
– Then I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he heard the interjection of the honorable member for Wide Bay that he hopes the King’s head will not be used on the Commonwealth stamps ?
– I do not think that that is a question which should be put.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the design of the New South Wales twopence halfpenny stamp, and, if so, has he formed any opinion as to its suitability for the Commonwealth postage? I understand that the design has been declared by experts to be one of the most artistic in the world.
– I shall be very glad to look into the matter, and to give the honorable member a reply later.
asked -the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
Will he give informationas to the amount of revenue derived from the sale of stamps in -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Federal Capital Site : Water Conservation and Irrigation; Conduct of Business : Trade Marks Bill : OldAge Pensions : Defence : Seizure of Hats : Harvesters.
Debate resumed1 from 7th November (vide page 4683), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Last night I spoke at very much greater length than I had intended on the question’ of the Federal Capital site, chiefly owing to the action of the Treasurer, who supplied me for ait least half the time with his interjections. I do not propose to say anything more upon that question, except to express the hope that the Prime Minister will make it clear that he has mapped out a definite course, which will lead to the early establishment of the Capital under conditions which will free us from the irritating influences which pervade the principal cities of Australia, and enable us to devote ourselves to the work of shaping the destinies of the Commonwealth. I regret the growing irritation between the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Parliament, and all that I have said on the Capital site question has been directed to the establishment of more harmonious relations. The position of affairs is becoming very serious, and it is of no use for honorable members to blink the fact that considerable feeling exists, not only in New South Wales, but in every other State. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to tell us that he hopes to reach the fi.nal stage of this question by means of the Bill which he proposes to introduce. So far as I am aware, there is no intention on the part of honorable members sitting on this side of the Chamber to delay the passing of the Appropriation Bill. I do not believe that it will in any way be retarded if we can induce the Prime Minister, during the course of this debate, to make a clear, definite, and reasonable statement as to the business that it is proposed to transact before the session closest I think that before we lose our control of .this Bill we are entitled at least to some information on these points.
– So far as I am concerned, I would not object if we brought our labours to a conclusion next week.
– Would the honorable member be content to close the session before a satisfactory understanding has been arrived at with regard to the Federal Capital Site.
– Yes, I think so, because I believe that if we closed the session to-morrow we should be just as far forward as we shall be when we have considered this precious Bill proposed to be introduced by the Government. The honorable member is very sanguine if he expects that we shall approach any nearer to a solution of the present difficulty by passing that measure. I do not.
– Does the honorable member really think that the New South Wales Parliament want the Federal Capital to be established? It does not look very much like it.
– I am quite certain that the honorable member’s opinion is an erroneous one. The New South Wales Parliament are thoroughly in earnest or they would not spend so much time in discussing the matter.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that they are in earnest ?
– Why should the honorable member imply the contrary ? I apprehend that they are quite as earnest as is the honorable member. Why does the honorable member make all sorts of suggestions -and imputations with regard to his own State Parliament ? - We do not hear representatives of other States continually decrying their Parliaments. We have evidence on all hands of the perfect loyalty of the representatives of other States to their respective Parliaments and their people.
– The New South Wales Parliament are not very loyal to this Parliament when they talk of revolution.
– They are perfectly within their rights.
– I would point out that it is almost impossible for the honorable member to pursue a consistent line of argument whilst these constant interjections are being made. He has been diverted from the line of argument he was following by a succession of interjections, and I would ask that he should be allowed to make his own speech in his own way, even though he may express views which are not shared by any other honorable member.
– On a point of order, I think that that is a reflection on the House. No one has attempted to influence the honorable member for Parramatta.
– What is the point of order?
– I consider that your remarks constitute a serious reflection on the House.
– There is no point of order involved in the observations of the honorable member. The fact that the honorable member for Parramatta has been diverted from the course of his argument must be manifest to every honorable member who has given attention to the debate.
– Even at the risk of provoking more interjections, I wish to say that the honorable member for Gwydir seems to take notice only of what New South Wales does in the way of protest against the action of this Parliament. He conveniently shuts his eyes to the protests which constantly mme from other States. For instance, a very vigorous protest is now being made by the South Australian Parliament on the question of irrigation.
– -That has no reference to the action of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That protest is directed to what is being done by New South Wales.
– I know it is, but it affords an instance of the irritation which exists in all the States upon the question of States rights under our Constitution.
– It has nothing to do with the Federal Constitution. .
– I venture to say that very possibly it will have something to do with this House before the dispute is settled. Any question relating to the locking of the rivers and water conservation for the purposes of irrigation by means of the barring of such rivers is a matter which very closely concerns this House and its attitude to the States. Honorable members have heard1 nothing in this House as to the protest made by the South Australian Government, but if the New South Wales Parliament happen to assert their rights in any way the representatives of that State are the first to unjustifiably trounce them on the alleged ground of their attempted dictation, and to attribute to them every motive except the one I believe to be animating them. Why should honorable members suggest that the New South Wales
Parliament is filled with a desire to act truculently, and in an adverse spirit towards the Federation? I think that the suggestion is unwarranted, and I am surprised to hear it coming from representatives of mv own State. However, I shall say no more upon that point. I shall con- “ tent myself by expressing my earnest hope that the course which the Prime Minister intends to take with regard to the Federal Capital Site question will lead to an earlyselection, and put an end to the existing friction. We are supposed to be nearing the end of the session. When the Government asks the House to pass the Appropriation Bill it is supposed to be committing one of its final acts. When that measure has been passed we shall have surrendered our final hold on the Government. I shall not be sorry when we reach that stage, because I have no reason to entertain any but the happiest feelings with regard to the consequences. If I had my way I would shut up the House to-morrow, because I believe it would be a good thing for us to do so, and to betake ourselves to a good long recess. However, certain other business has to be done. The Government have a good tough business-paper to negotiate, and the end is probably not yet. At this late period of the session new Bills are being hurled1 at our heads every day. Three or four new Bills have been presented this week, and two or three others are promised. All this does not seem to presage an early close of the session. I hope to hear from the Prime Minister a clear statement as to what he intends to do. If he presents a reasonable programme, we shall all join very heartily in assisting him to close the session at the earliest possible moment.
– Give the Government the Appropriation Bill, and we can then talk about other matters.
– I am going to do so. Honorable members on this side have no intention to follow the example set by the honorable member and his colleagues last session, when they “stone-walled” the Appropriation Bill to such an extent as to necessitate one or two all-night sittings. We are going to do nothing of the kind on this occasion. All I ask for is a statement regarding the public business for the remainder of the session. For all the work that has been accomplished the session might have been closed long ago. Looking back upon that which has been done, it occurs to me that there has been a singular want of proportion in connexion with our work. For instance, we spent weeks in debating a Commerce Bill, for which no one ever asked, which, so far as I can ascertain, no one wants, and which would do this country no good if it were put into operation to-morrow. A whole month was occupied in the effort to make that measure as little irksome as possible to the traders of the community. Then there is the Trade Marks Bill, which, so far as I can gather, after having read carefully the proposals of the Government iti the direction of amending the trades union label clause, will not confer any benefit upon the people who are most anxiously asking for it. I await a statement from any honorable member which will indicate that the unionists of Australia will obtain one more day’s work, or is. extra in the way of wages, or benefit in any material sense from that measure.
– Why does the honorable member oppose it?
– Because I believe that in this case, as in other cases-
– Order ! I would direct the attention of the honorable member to two of the’ Standing Orders. One of these prohibits even an allusion to a measure that is before another branch of the Legislature, and the other precludes the anticipation of debate upon a measure that is on the notice-paper. The Commerce Bill is now before another branch of the Legislature, and the Trade Marks Bill is on the businesspaper of this House. There is nothing to prevent the honorable member from incidentally referring to. those measures, but he must not enter upon a detailed discussion of them.
– I do not intend to discuss them. My object was merely to make one or two remarks regarding the measures in question, because they form the staple of the Government programme for the session. I take it that when we are discussing the Appropriation Bill, a general ventilation of grievances is possible, and that a general review of the actions of the Government during the session would also be in order. But I do not propose to pursue that line of argument further than to remark, in answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Kennedy, that, whilst I think the Trade Marks Bill will not confer one pennyworth’ ! of material good upon the trade organizations of Australia, it will lead to more embittered relations be tween the employers of the Commonwealth and their workmen. That is why I oppose it. I can see that only ill will result from it to those persons who are most earnestly asking for it at the present time. I know that there is a very great difference of opinion upon that point, and I am merely expressing my own view as honestly and sincerely as I can. after a very full review of the whole course of similar legislation elsewhere. In the meantime, consideration of an old-age pension scheme, which would be an excellent thing for the aged poor of the Commonwealth, is deferred’, though no clear reason has been assigned by the Government for the adoption of that course. The Royal Commission which is investigating the matter does not appear to be in an violent hurry to bring its inquiry to a conclusion.
– We are awaiting the report of the Commission which was appointed by the late Government.
– I was merely remarking that the Commission does not appear to be anxious to close its inquiry. There is not nearly so much hurry displayed in connexion with that matter as is exhibited in connexion with other matters which are of no material concern to the workers of Australia. Then there is the promised Navigation Bill. That also is hanging fire in a most mysterious way. I am told that the deliberations of the Navigation Commission are being constantly postponed, because of the frequent absences of its chairman. I do not know why that should be so. I do not think that any man ought to be able to obstruct the progress of the business of a Commission week after week, and month after month, in that way. These most important matters, far-reaching in their’ results, are being quietly shelved, whilst small measures, the only product of which will be irritation, are being pushed through as though they were of first-rate consequence. I should like to emphasize the difference between the attitude which is now being adopted by the Government and the attitude, of its members prior to their taking office. There were then some very urgent and serious problems demanding immediate attention. For instance, defence loomed largely on the horizon. The Prime Minister at that time regarded the defence of Australia as a question of first-rate concern, the settlement of which would apparently brook no delay. We were assured that Australia was menaced!- by the Eastern nations. Now, however, we hear nothing about that matter. Then there is the question of population, which was the great item in the bill of fare presented by the Government for the concurrence of the leader of the Labour Party. We are now told that all that the Government mean by “ population “ is some proposal to bring immigrants to Australia, but even that proposal is contingent upon the States taking the initial action. Then, again, there is the great question of preferential trade. What is to be done in reference to that? When the Prime Minister was supporting the late Government as a private member, the whole of the work of the House had to be set aside to allow him an opportunity to discuss that question. He was given Government time in which to debate it. Strange to say, his own Government does not give honorable members time for its consideration. Apparently it is to find no place in the programme cf the session. Meantime the great question of the consolidation of the States debts remains untouched. Unless some fresh financial features are presented to the country by the Treasurer, I venture to saythat it will not be long before we shall have a united protest against the way in which the finances of the Commonwealth are being administered. With all these great measures awaiting treatment, what have been the outstanding features of the session ?
– The session is not half completed yet.
– Oh, yes, it is. We are going into recess shortly. The outstanding items of the session appear to me to be these. The Minister of Trade and Customs, being originally, under the impression that the Commonwealth was being defrauded of its proper revenue, has held up a hat manufacturer in Melbourne, and has caused quite a sensation by his action.
– The honorable member said a “hat manufacturer.”
– I .mean a hat dealer or importer. All this besmirching of a reputable firm, and all this display of fireworks, has occurred over a mere matter of ^40 difference in the valuation of 1,000 hats.
– There was a bigger difference than that.
– It would not matter if the difference involved were only is.
– The difference was one as between £60 odd and ^108.
– It was a difference of 50 per cent.
– But the total amount involved was less than j£$o. Does the honorable member seriously think that so much humbug should have occurred in connexion with a dispute over £50 ? Even now, to any fair onlooker, it is questionable whether the Minister was justified in holding up the shipment of hats at all. It is true that he received a tender for nearly £50 more than the invoice price of the goods, but it is also true that the amounts of two out of the four tenders were less than half the value returned by Messrs. James Henty and Company. Only today I was told that one of the tenderers offered a low sum because they honestly believed the hats were worth no more. Consequently, there appears to be a very great difference of opinion as to the value of the hats, below a given point ; but that difference does not obtain when we get over the price of ^100. Seeing that two out of the four tenders received were 50 per cent, below the invoiced price returned by Messrs. James Henty and Company, there was no justification for the Minister taking the action which he did. Then there is the matter of the importation of harvesters. That seems also to have been another popular dish of the session. An importer has had his harvesters held up, and the price of them has been arbitrarily increased for Customs purposes. So far as I know, the promised redress of the Minister to that firm has not been forthcoming. I am chiefly concerned with Massey-Harris to-day. He belongs to the same race and subscribes to the same Imperial laws and usages as we do, and therefore I am concerned with him. He is asking that he may be heard before the Tariff Commission, before we take the further step which appears to be contemplated by the Government. When we find people being held up in this way by the Minister of Trade and Customs, it is time for us to inquire whether our pretension to believe in preferential trade as a means of binding closer together the various parts of the Empire has any scintilla of basis - whether it is not mere empty mouthing. I desire to know from the Prime Minister what he thinks of this Massey-Harris question when he talks so loudly - as he constantly does - of his desire to draw the Empire closer together in preferential trade relations. I sincerely hope that the Government will not be led by the little agitation which has been worked up outside of this House into rushing into legislation upon this question. At the present time there is a Royal Commission investigating all matters concerning foreign competition. The whole of the Tariff has been submitted to that body for investigation, and, amongst other matters, the question, of the duty which should be levied upon harvesters, hats, boots, and other articles. If the Government introduce legislation dealing with any item which properly comes within the purview of that Commission, it should be the signal for the instant resignation of every member of it.
– Perhaps that would not be a bad thing.
– I am inclined to think that the honorable member would like it. If ever an attempt was being made to rush a” Government off its feet by means of a mere scare, it is being made at the present moment. Meetings have been held in the Town Hall, and in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, and honorable members havebeen button-holed in the parliamentary lobbies in a way that I have never seen before. All this has been done in the interests of a firm which manufactures Australian harvesters, whose members, upon their own showing, are doing amazingly well. They are making large profits, and during the present year they exported 200 of their machines, thus demonstrating that they are able to compete with the world. There is no indication, therefore, that this National Parliament should bend the whole of its energies to relieve that firm from proper competition with its rivals outside. Surely this is a matter which can wait for investigation. I should be very sorry indeed to see any outside trust bring about the downfall of an Australian firm. In making that statement, I believe that I voice the sentiments of every honorable member. We have no wish to see any American trust break clown our Australian industries, but in the absence of the slightest evidence that any real damage has been actually sustained, we ought not to be scared by a mere threat. That is the position which I take up. There is no real urgency in this matter, and, pending a full, fair, and free inquiry by the Royal Commission appointed for this specific purpose-
– If the honorable member will permit me, I should like to saythat His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania is within the precincts, and I desire that he shall be accorded the usual courtesy of a seat upon the floor of the Chamber.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Harvesters : Preferential Trade :
Effect of Commonwealth Legislation : Western Australian Elections : Seizure of Hats : Federal Capital Site : Royal Commissions : Printing of Stamps : Postal Administration : New Hebrides : Order of Business.
– I wish to say nothing morein reference to the matter of. harvesters, except to express the hope that the Government will not allow agitation outside to force it into hasty legislation on this subject. Before we legislate against the harvesters now coming into Australia, we ought, above all things, to obtain evidence from the Massey-Harris Company,’ which belongs to the same Empire that we do. The question of preferential trade has become very dead. Since the present Government came into power, they seem to have been content to allow it to be relegated to the musty governmental dust-heap. Presumably, we are not to discuss the question during this session. I hail with delight the prospect of its remaining in abeyance for the present. I shall tell honorable members why. It is a matter which concerns, not only Australia!, but the whole Empire. It is of equal concern to all parts of the Empire, since there must be a bargain as between the whole of them.
– Not necessarily.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should give unconditional preference to British goods ?
– I should do so.
– That is a new brand of preferential trade that has not been advocated previously by honorable members on that side. If the honorable member is in favour of giving uncondiditional preference to Great Britain, I shall probably be found supporting him in any such proposal.
– I advocated it at the last election.
– There is nothing which I should hail with greater delight than the granting of unconditional preference to British goods. I can understand a movement of that kind, but a different brand of preferential trade is advocated by the Prime Minister. He contemplates a trade bargain with certain stipulations, preference being granted by us to the people of Great Britain, and the rest of the Empire, and the same course of action being adopted by them in regard to Australia.
– There was no bargaining on the part of New Zealand, and yet that country has given a preference to British goods.
– Is the honorable member prepared to support a proposal that Australia shall follow the example of New Zealand ?
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to do the same? If he is, I apprehend that there will be no difficulty in the way of our granting a preference of that kind. But, as I have said, that is not the preference so strongly advocated by the Prime Minister and his Government. We ought, at the present time, to keep clear of the question of preferential trade relations between Australia and Great Britain, for the reason that the people of the old country appear to be on the eve of a general election. In. my judgment, it would be a piece of impertinence to obtrude our opinions in connexion with that election. Indeed), I believe that we have been obtruding our opinions upon questions of Imperial legislation to too great an extent recently, and in a way that conduces neither to the dignity of our Parliament, nor to the placing of Australia in its proper light in the eyes of the rest of the Empire. Any in-: terference on our part would be particularly inopportune on the eve of a general election in the old land. The people there are shaping up to try conclusions upon, some very serious issues - some of them affecting the question of preferential trade, others affecting matters of internal concern, and all of them being of the utmost importance to the integrity and well-being of the Empire as a whole. We ought to allow them to settle these issues without any expression of opinion on our part. I hope that we shall allow the question of preferential trade to remain in abeyance until these issues are decided, and until there is in power a stable Government possessing some prospect of a fair lease of political life, and representing firmly and decisively the opinions of the people. Then, and then only, shall we be justified in making any proposal of this kind, and in entering into negotiations with them. I speak in this way because I read the other day a statement to the effect that the British Government contemplated in February next summoning a Colonial Conference to meet in the month of July. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has heard anything of the matter.
– I know nothing of it, except the newspaper statement.
– When I read it, it struck me as being neither more nor less than an electioneering dodge. If representatives of. the Commonwealth attended that Conference, and made a trade bargain with a Government which had to go before the electors of Great Britain immediately afterwards, with no prospect of being returned, it would be a calamitous, meddlesome, and intrusive action on our part.
– It is generally anticipated that the English elections will take place before July.
– That makes my argument all the more forceful.
– There is a strong possibility that in July next there may be another Government in power in Great Britain.
– I doubt if the present Government is going to call a Colonial Conference, and immediately afterwards rush to a dissolution, which they themselves admit is likely to result disastrously so far as they are concerned.
– They have not yet called it.
– But I understand that they are going to do so. I therefore express the hope that we shall not be caught in any of the electioneering toils of the old country, but will keep ourselves quite apart from their political contests. I . hope that, unlike a prominent Australian now in Great Britain - prominent from the view point of his splendid abilities - we shall not interfere in matters that concern Australia in only the remotest degree.
– What is the honorable member’s objection to a Colonial Conference being held ?
– I have no objection to it. My only objection is to its being made the sport of party warfare by being called on the eve of a dissolution of the Imperial Parliament, and at a time when there is every probability of the Government being defeated at the polls.
– That is mere conjecture.
– Imperial Ministers themselves admit that it is not mere conjecture, but safe prophecy. Since they anticipate defeat, I think we may rely on their forecast. If there were any prospect of the British Government being successfully returned, I should not have anything to say, except that we ought to keep clear of the matter until the elections have taken place.
– They may desire a Conference in order to turn threatened defeat into victory.
– I am afraid that that is why they desire the Conference. That is an additional reason why we ought not at the present time to obtrude ourselves into their electioneering contests. I try to keep a perfectly open mind on the question of Imperial trade relations. I do so for the reason that I believe that, from a political stand-point alone, the low tariff party will be able to meet the position very much more successfully than can the Prime Minister, who believes in high tariffs. Those who believe in low tariffs, as against high ones, will be the better able to treat with the Imperial Government concerning any matter of mutual trade. Those who are prepared, as I am, to make common cause, as to trade, defence, and many other matters in the interests of a united and stable Empire, may look to this question with the fullest confidence as to its issue. Meantime, I do think that we ought, at this particular time, to avoid meddling with Imperial affairs. What takes place when a gentleman from the old country comes here and expresses, concerning Australian affairs, an opinion with which we do not agree ? Take the case of Mr. Jellicoe, a former resident of New Zealand, and a candidate for a British constituency, who came to Australia the other day, and expressed an opinion regarding our politics. It caused us at once to be up in arms against him. The Agents-General of the States attacked him in the British press, and we altogether repudiated his intervention as * that of an impertinent meddler. If that be our attitude in respect to adverse criticism from abroad we
ought surely to abstain from an impertinent interference with the affairs of the Imperial Parliament. I do not propose to say much, more to-day in respect to this matter, but I would point out that the work of the session has not, in my opinion, added much to our reputation as a Federal Parliament. It has certainly added nothing to the welfare of the country ; I believe on the other hand that it has lowered our prestige and position amongst the States of Australia to a point that is very near zero. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to indulge in mock heroics, as he did this afternoon in reference to the newspaper paragraph which was read in the House, and to attribute the whole of our troubles to press writers. It is ridiculous to endeavour to sheet home all the troubles which have come to Australia to what the Prime Minister described as a false and malevolent press. While abuses of the press are constantly taking place in all the State capitals, I do not believe that our troubles are referable to them ; I believe that they are referable very largely to the doings of this Parliament. What is the fact? This Parliament to-day is impotent. Honorable members may say what they like to the contrary, but after an existence of nearly two years we have not a measure of first-rate importance to which we can point as the result of the occupancy of our seats here. The Parliament is impotent, and will remain so, as long as there are three parties equal, or approaching equality of strength .in this House. That is the real cause of the trouble. All our legislation is mere pretence; it is merely adding to the bitterness, the irritation, and annoyance of the various States of the Federation, and is not contributing to the elevation of the Commonwealth in the eyes of the rest of the world. For all these troubles various remedies are (suggested. Honorable members just now are discussing very vigorously the question of the desirableness of a change in our method of government. May I suggest that it is not fair to charge to our present method of government the actions of the Parliament at the present time. Parliamentary government can be operated successfully only when there is ramifying through this Chamber the clear and decisive will of the constituencies, as expressed at the ballot-box. The only voice we now have from the constituencies of Australia is a confused and. jarring one.* But that is not the fault- of our system of parliamentary government. The fault originated not in this House, but in the constituencies, and the source which originated it can alone cure and control it. If we therefore wish to see this Parliament relieved of its impotent position, and reestablished in that dignity and strength and ability which it ought to possess, the constituencies are the source to which we should look for such a reform.
– How can we get there?
– I do not think that it will be very long before we get there. Meantime we had better be patient with our system and not begin merely because of temporary difficulties to overturn the method of government under which we live. There is nothing occurring to-day in connexion with the government of the Commonwealth that has not occurred time and again in parliamentary annals. There is nothing occurring to-day here that is not occurring at the present time in the House of Commons. I believe that the trouble there will be redressed so soon as the constituencies aire appealed to, and there appears to be every indication of that happening shortly. I also confidently believe that our troubles .will be redressed so soon as we appeal to the constituencies of Australia. It- is a temporary embarrassment caused by the confused voice of the electors from which we are suffering, but it will not be cured by overturning the system which has done such good service in the years that have passed. There are indications on all hands that the public of Australia would like to redress our troubles, and to express its voice concerning our methods of legislation, and our conduct of business, and I suggest to the Government, and particularly to the members of that party whose leader is so confident of their ability to successfully challenge the verdict of the constituencies, that they should take the> tide of public opinion on the full, and see what the result will be. There must be an appeal to the electors sooner or later, and the House will not settle down to useful work until it is made. Anything that we dc in the meanwhile will lead only to further irritation between the States and the Commonwealth. Therefore, the sooner we submit our disputes to the resolution of electors, the better it will be.
– Why not dispose of noncontentious business first?
– I do not know of any business that cannot wait, and the honorable member was df that opinion a year ago. He saw then no business which he thought should prevent him from appealing to the electors, and I do not think that a lapse of a year has made business, which was comparatively unimportant then, of supreme urgency now. The sooner we get the constituencies to express their opinion upon our work, and the position of parties in this Chamber, the sooner shall we hae a chance of seeing in power a party with loftier aims and a broader outlook, which will restore confidence to our industries and make prosperity to abound amongst all classes.
– Like’ the honorable member for Parramatta, I have no wish to unduly prolong the passing of the Appropriation Bill.
– I have.
– Then there is one honest man on that side.
– The honorable member has been absent for a few days, and therefore may not be aware of the good feeling towards the Government which has lately sprung up among the members of the Opposition, which cannot fail to hasten the transaction of business - perhaps injudiciously. But when we have passed this Bill we shall have lost all control over the Governmp.nl’. The moment that we relax our hold on the purse-strings, we give up our authority. Therefore, the question which interests me at this juncture is what advantage are the Government going to take of their freedom from parliamentary control during the recess. The Treasurer is a member of a Government which, although nominally under the leadership of the honorable member for Ballarat, really acts only at the nod of the honorable member for Bland, and indications are not lacking that he is even now preparing, to make another change of front. Quite recently he pointed out to a newspaper interviewer that the Labour Party, who are his masters in this Chamber, have been defeated in his constituency with considerable slaughter, and are done for so far as Western Australia is concerned. He also inferred that thev are coming to the end of their tether in connexion with Commonwealth legislation. Six weeks ago he would not have dared to draw such inferences, while six months ago it would not have been necessary to supplement his bitter remarks against the party in that way. He then denounced them as a whited sepulchre, but shortly afterwards began to maks friends with the doorkeeper, with a view to admis sion into the sanctuary ; and now, six months later, makes the belated discovery that he has been living all this time with a corpse. Or, to use another figure, six months ago he was the bitter enemy of the Caucus party. Some time after, as recent events have shown, the Caucus party fell sick, and the right honorable gentleman, having expectations from it, took his seat by the bedside. Now that the late-lamented has definitely departed, the right honorable gentleman finds that the will was not drawn as he hoped it would be, and therefore proposes to institute a series of lectures, setting forth how the Caucus died, and why it is a corpse. The Labour Party have done many foolish things, and many things which could be characterized with a harsher word ; but I do not think that they have done anything more foolish than to associate themselves with, and allow themselves to be used by, public men of the anti-labour tendencies of the right honorable member for Swan. He and the members of the Government to which he belongs are prepared to mouth the words of any author. It does not matter to them who wrote the words which they utter, so long as the audience likes to hear them, and it pays to mouth them. But they will be the first to turn against the Labour Party when it meets with misfortune. This has been shown by the recent expressions of the right honorable member for Swan in regard to the Western Australian elections, and what is true of him is true of the remaining members of the Ministry to a greater or less degree.
– Shocking !
– It is shocking that a party can be so deficient in intelligence as topermit itself to be used in thisway.
– Can the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I think so, Mr. Speaker. Directly the Appropriation Bill is passed, we lose control of the Government. The present Government is obedient to every whim of the Labour Party, but it is doubtful if honorable members of that party would release the Government from their control if they thought that their behests would no longer be obeyed. The practice of mixing oil with water is not popular with the supporters of the party outside. In support of that statement. I need instance only the fact that those who represent the labour leagues in this
Chamber were denied permission to join this Government, apparently lest something bad might happen to them through getting into such dangerous company. The supporters of the party outside the House are determined to have no truck with the present Government. Their attitude is a frank one. The party has told the Government that it will fling them contemptuous votes in return for solid concessions. That is ‘the language which they use towards the Treasurer, their once stalwart opponent.
– What has that to do with the question?
– I have already explained the connexion to Mr. Speaker. What we have to consider at this juncture is whether the political tendencies of the Government justify us in intrusting them with the uncontrolled administration of the affairs of the country. The right honorable gentleman denounced the Watson Administration for daring to ask for a three weeks’ adjournment, in which to prepare a programme of legislation.
– Cannot those who were members of the Watson Government defend themselves?
– Apparently not. The Labour Party seem to be only too willing now to be used by the Treasurer and the Government with which he is connected, and the right honorable gentleman judging by his comfortable smile admits that he is using the party. There are one or two points which I wish to discuss. The first of these relates to the administration of the Customs Department. One honorable member recently asked a question with regard to the lamentable land scandals in New South Wales; and it appears to me that opportunities for corrupt practices similar to those referred to exist in connexion with the Customs Department. I would be the last to suggest any want of integrity upon the part of our officials ; but no doubt opportunities for fraud exist, and sooner or later they will be availed of. Let us. for example, consider those sections of the Act which permit the Minister to forfeit or purchase goods which he thinks have been undervalued. These provisions place an enormous discretionary power in the hands of the Minister, and I venture to express the hope that during the recess they will not be availed of. except in the clearest cases of fraud. If they are exercised heedlessly,they will set up a precedent which would eventually - not, of course, during the regimen of the present Minister - lead to corruption of the most lamentable character. The honorable member for Gwydir saw fit to cast half a brick at New South Wales in connexion with the land scandals ; but of ‘ all other honorable members, he should have maintained silence on the subject. I do not mean to say, of course, that he was mixed up in the scandals, but he was one of the first members of the New’ South Wales Assembly to become aware of the existence of the unsatisfactory state of affairs.
– I was the first man to move in the matter.
– Yes; many years ago. The honorable member was one of the first men to become aware of the corruption that existed, and with that fearlessness which characterizes him he stood up in Parliament, and stated that after the tea adjournment he intended to deal with those who were responsible.
– Does the honorable member think that this matter has anything to do with the Appropriation Bill?
– I desire merely to say a few words in order to remove certain false impressions. The honorable member indicated his steadfast determination to deal with the evildoers, but when the sitting was resumed his determination was nowhere to be found.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to ask whether, in view cf the fact that his statements cannot be contradicted off-hand, the honorable member is in order in making assertions which he must know are incorrect ?
– That is not a Doin of order. But I have already asked the honorable member for Wentworth to refrain from making any lengthened reference to the matter to which he has alluded. I hope that he will restrict his observations to the question before the Chair.
– I merely wished to say that the honorable member failed to discharge his duty.
– That is untrue.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the remark in deference to you, sir. I merely wish to say that the statement of the honorable member is not correct.
M.r. KELLY. - I am informed across the table by the honorable member for Bland that my statement is not correct, and I at once withdraw it. I was fully under the impression that I was adhering closely te* the facts.
– In any case, the honorable member is quite out of order in departing from the question before the Chair.
– I wish to refer to one or two incidents in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department, and to express the hope that nothing of the same kind will occur during the recess. Honorable members are familiar with thecircumstances in connexion with the recent importation of Panama hats, and with theexplanation made by the Minister. They were led to suppose that the price realized for the hats would fully justify the action of the Customs authorities, who contended that they were not rush hats, but screw pine hats, commonly known as “Panamas,” which could be sold in Melbourne at from, one guinea to two guineas each. I do not wish to refer to all the shifts and turns resorted to by the Customs Department, or to the methods by which they sought to prevent Messrs. Henty and Company from, justifying themselves in a court of law -r but the fact that the hats were eventuallysold for 3s. each is a curious commentary upon the whole of the proceedings of the Department. If the Minister was right when he told honorable members that the hats were worth from one guinea totwo guineas each, he has allowed himself to become a party to depleting the Customsrevenue to the extent of the difference between 3s. and the prices mentioned. The price at which the hats were eventually sold’ represents only a fair profit over and above their cost to the importers. Thy arrived’ here at the beginning of the season., and’ were about to be launched upon what waspractically a new market. They did not constitute a recognised line of trade, such as straw hats, upon which the profit could be accurately gauged. The importers had to take the risk of an unfavorable sale. A shipment received during the previousseason was sold at the rate of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per hat, and the highest tenderer for the consignment which was seized by the Customs paid about an equivalent price. Under these conditions, I do not think that any one can contend that the results have justified the action taken by the Department. Some of the tenderers, who had had* large experience, and who were fully aswell able as was the successful tenderer to form an estimate as to the value of the goods, offered only one-fourth of the price- given by him. The Minister said that he did not accuse the importers of any fraudulent intent, but thought that they merely made a mistake. It now appears, however, that the mistake, if any. lay on the side of the Customs officials, and it would be only in keeping with the dignity of a great Department of the Commonwealth if the Minister were to consider what restitution he could make to Messrs. Henty and Company, who have been injured in reputation and pocket by the ignorance or stupidity of his officials. Now with regard to the question of the valuation of imported harvesters, the honorable member for Parramatta has told the House that the “ Sunshine “ Harvester Company have been exporting a large number of harvesters to parts beyond the Commonwealth. This fact was known to the Government, because on the 30th August last, in answer to a question by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the Minister of Trade and Customs stated that 252 harvesters had been exported during this year to the Argentine, Algeria, Cape Colony, Italy, and Tunis. The duty levied upon imported harvesters is 12 J- per cent., but owing to the methods adopted by the Minister in arbitrarily increasing the valuation for Customs purposes, the duty levied represents, I think, about 22 per cent. Calculating the duty at the lower figure, however, it would appear that the local ““Sunshine” harvesters can be sold in Australia at a profit of 12 J per cent, in excess of that derived from their sale in any other country. Iti addition to the loss of the 12½ per cent, duty, the “ Sunshine “ Harvester Company have “to pay in regard to all the implements they export various charges, which would probably bring up their total loss to, let us say, 16 or 18 per cent. Therefore, the harvesters cam be sold in Australia at 18 per cent, more profit than can be obtained elsewhere. Moreover, if the harvesters cannot be sold in Australia at a profit - and it is upon this assumption that the whole agination for an increase of duty has been based - they must be sold at a dead loss when exported to parts beyond the Commonwealth. Surely we have had evidence of the business capacity of the firm which is engaged in the manufacture of these harvesters at Ballarat. As politicians, we know that they are almost without equal ; as lobbyists we have never seen their like; and it is only reasonable to suppose that in the conduct of their business - to which they have been trained from boyhood - they are no less expert. Surely they are not so foolish as to sell their machines to persons outside Australia at a loss of” from 20 to 30 per cent.
– Does the honorable member know the price ‘ that they get for their machines outside Australia?
– I know that outside of the Commonwealth they have to compete with the same persons that they compete with inside of it. The International Harvester Trust sends only a few harvesters to Australia, and the Massey-Harris Com-> pany competes with the “Sunshine” harvesters wherever the latter are sold.
– Is the honorable member quite sure that the Massey-Harris Company have not fixed a price at which the will’ sell?
– I do not wish to be led into by-paths by the interjections of the honorable member. The facts are obvious. The same competition has to be encountered all the world over, but in Australia the persons who are engaged in the manufacture of harvesters enjoy a protection of 12 </inline> per cent., in addition to the cost of oversea carriage upon the imported article, which increases their advantage to, let us say, 20 per cent. Seeing that **Mr. McKay can sell his machines outside of Australia at a profit, why can he not do so inside ‘the Commonwealth? I ‘have no desire to labour this point. I now wish to supplement the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition in reference to preferential trade. Ninety per cent, of the harvesters which are imported into Australia come from Canada, and only 10 per cent, from the International Harvester Company. If the Government impose a higher duty upon harvesters, they will hit the Canadian product very severely. This reminds me of a story that I once heard in regard to preferential trade. At Ballarat a great agitation was being fomented upon that abstract question, which, after serving its purpose to oust the late Government, is now being relegated to the wastepaper basket by the Prime Minister. A public meeting was called, at which one man suggested that they must do away with the existing unfair competition. He said, “ It is not fair that harvesters should be imported to interfere with our local products. But I am a preferential trader. I believe in loyalty to the Empire, and in strengthening the bonds of union.” A little later another member of the audience rose, and said, “We must on no account interfere with Canadian harvesters, because Canada is a part of the Empire.” As a result, nothing more was heard of the matter from the first orator. I do hope that the Prime Minister will see that new burdens are not imposed upon our fellow-citizens oversea. If, when he seeks to increase the existing duty, he will see that an increase is made against our cousins overseas, I am quite sure that he will satisfy the preferential trade sympathies of his supporters, and that his efforts will meet with recognition at the hands of
– One or two remarks have been made by the deputy leader of the Opposition which I cannot allow to pass unanswered. In- the first place, he stated that an agitation in favour of legislative action in regard to harvesters was being worked up by one firm. I wish to say that the agitation to which he alludes is- one for which the workmen outside that particular firm are entirely responsible. The employes of at least half-a-dozen other firms are deeply and vitally interested in that question. It is by no means a one-man agitation, and it is not confined to one district or to one State. At present men employed in the manufacture of agricultural implements in two or three of the States are in communication with their fellow-employes in Victoria, and are urging that the Government should take action to meet this threatened trust invasion. As honorable members are doubtless aware, the New Zealand Government have already passed legislation to meet such a contingency, so impressed are they with its’ importance. I urge that the Commonwealth Government should adopt similar measures. The existing unrest is not confined to one firm or to one State. It is a matter of national importance, because the most vital interests of the indus trial development of the Commonwealth are threatened. At this stage I have no desire to initiate an unprofitable discussion, but I am anxious to emphasize my statement that the assertion that the agitation in question has been worked up by one firm is entirely contrary to fact. I trust that the Government will give this matter that earnest and immediate attention which the seriousness of the present situation demands.
– This discussion reminds me of the ordinary full-dress debate which takes place upon the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. It is then customary for “the Opposition to castigate the Government for their sins of omission and commission during the recess. Unlike the honorable member for Wentworth, I do not wish to get into recess until the public have been again reminded of the position occupied by the Government. It must be admitted, however, that the majority of honorable members are very anxious to terminate our labours. It Isalso known that the Opposition have verv little prospect of displacing the present occupants of the Treasury benches. As that is part of the game, the fact may as well be frankly stated. So long as the public interests’ do not suffer, we are justified, under certain circumstances, in opposing such an important measure as the Appropriation Bill. We all know that the passing of that measure is one of the final acts of the session. After it has been passed, the Government have their hands upon the purse strings of the country, and are in a position to put up the parliamentary shutters whenever they may choose to do so. They are then in a position to tell the independent members of the House, the Opposition^ or in this case, their powerful allies, the members of the Labour Party that those shutters are to be put up. Some fine morning upon reaching the House we may find a proclamation posted proroguing the Parliament. To growl about tEe acts- of the Ministry after the Appropriation Bill has been passed would be equivalent to beating the air. Let me take a sort of biographic view of the position of the Government. They rule the Commonwealth without having behind them a majority sufficient to constitute a quorum. When we pass the Treasury benches, upon which members of the Ministry sometimes recline gracefully, and occasionally ungracefully-
– Where is the Opposition ?
– My reply to the honorable member for Grey is that I am dealing with the position of the Government. Behind them sit four honorable members - a noble quartette. One member of that noble band, who is a most earnest supporter of the Government - I refer to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - broke silence this afternoon upon the harvester question, practically for the first time this session. I wish it to be known far and wide that the Deakin Administration can command four supporters. When the House met after the present Government came into power honorable members occupied the same seats that they do to-day. There were then eight Ministers seated upon the Treasury benches, supported by this “noble quartette. But seating accommodation could scarcely be found in the Ministerial corner for their noble allies. That! state of affairs remains unchanged. After a long session, the Ministry have “not strengthened their position. They present to-day the same miserable picture that met our gaze on their coming into power. They still have four straightout supporters, but the bulk of the party on whom they rely for their political existence sit as far away from them as they can. It was imagined that the Government would secure the powerful assistance of the Labour Party, but latterly they seem to be neglecting this section of their supporters. Some weeks ago I inquired from the Prime Minister whether their neglect to expedite the consideration of the Trade Marks Bill, which makes provision for a trade union label, was attributable to a desire on their part to await the result of the State elections in Western Australia. I was led to make this inquiry because of the general belief that the existence of the Government depends upon their pushing, on with the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill.
– Will the honorable member assist us to pass that Bill?
– The honorable, member is a tied supporter of the Government. It “is all very well for members of the Labour Party to pose outside as free and independent members of this House; the fact remains that they dare not chastize the Ministry for their delay in dealing with the Bill in question. The Bill occupied the attention of the Senate for many days ; its consideration has involved the country in an expenditure of thousands of pounds, and now, like Mahomet’s coffin, it is suspended between heaven and earth. Notwithstanding this, the Labour Party dare not rebuke the Government, for thei’r neglect. I am not going to allow the Appropriation Bill to pass without asking why the Labour Party have allowed the action of the Government in this regard to pass without criticism.
– I suppose that in the honorable member’s opinion we ought to be running after the right honorable member for East Sydney?
– I hold that the Labour Party ought not to run after the leader of any other party in this House. If they fought their own battles, I should be amongst their strongest admirers. I am inclined! to believe that if they run after either the Prime Minister, or the present leader of the Opposition, their death-knell will be sounded when they go before their constituents. The party “were powerful only when they were not associated with any other section of the House. The fact remains, however, that their hands are tied. I challenge the honorable member for Southern Melbourne-
– What has this .to do with the Appropriation Bill?
– I hold that the Government ought not to be allowed to secure trie passing of the Appropriation Bill until they have intimated their intention in regard to the Trade Marks Bill. The Labour Party are the allies of the Government, and’ they say that the passing of that measure, containing as it does, provisions in regard to the trade union label, is essential to the political existence of the Ministry. I was challenging the honorable member for Southern Melbourne to rebuke the Ministry for their neglect.
– Therein the Honorable member was departing from the business before the House.
– I wish now to ascertain whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the trade union, provisions of the Trade Marks Bill before the close of the session ?
– Certainly and immediately.
– That is a very important announcement.
– Now the honorable member has it.
– Although I am an opponent of the Government, I have elicited from the Prime Minister information which the Labour Party apparently could not obtain from him. “Until a few months ago the Prime Minister was one of the most vigorous critics of the three party system in this House. When the Government was defeated in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, he left office in a way that did credit to him, and he proceeded to vigorously condemn the state of parties in the House as being intolerable. The state of parties to-day is the same as it was then, and we find the honorable and learned gentleman again at the head of a Government, which is able to retain office only because of the very position of parties to which he objected. On the deathbed of (the first Deakin Administration, the right honorable member for Swan, then Minister of Home Affairs, said -
The Labour Party have said to my honorable, my generous friend - and no more generous man will they ever have to deal with - “ Unless we get everything that we want, out you go.” Like Shylock in the play, they want the whole pound of flesh. I appeal to honorable members as generous men, as men who are rubbing shoulders with men of the world every day, to say whether that is the way in which to treat those who, to say the least of it, have not been unmindful of the interests of the Labour Party or of any other section of the House.
– Does not the Minister wish that he had never done it?
– No; I reserve that for the honorable member. It goes without saying that we who have been in public life for so many years are not anxious to promote, or assist in promoting, any division in this House, or any crisis. We wish to continue the work upon which we are engaged, but only with honour.
This is a very fine sentiment. It was uttered by the right honorable gentleman on the 20th April, 1904, but we find him to-day a member of a Government which is supported by the very party that he so vigorously criticised and insulted only a few months ago. The State elections in Western Australia took place some days ago, and I should not think that the result is pleasing to the Labour Party. They cannot yet tell whether or not the political pendulum is swinging away from them. Skilful politicians though they may be, they cannot conceal from us the fact that they view with much concern the result of the recent appeal to the electors of Western Australia. The Treasurer has openly rejoiced over the defeat of the Labour Party there, and it would be interesting to learn whether the party are still prepared to support a Government of which he is a member. If they are they must relish being cuffed and openly insulted. I certainly should like honorablemembers of the Labour Party to state whether they appreciate those who openly gloat over their defeat. I propose now todeal with another reason for my opposition to the passing of the Appropriation Bill at the present juncture, and I trust that in discussing the matter I shall not display any undue warmth. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite, and especially the representatives of New South Wales, should be prepared toallow the session to close until the Capital Site question has been finally determined. The Prime Minister apparently does not recognise the serious feeling of the people of New South Wales in regard to this question. If ever a people were on the verge of agitating, against the Union they. are. So many members have been crying “ Wolf “ in regard to this matter that the Government possibly discountenance the suggestion that New South Wales desires to withdraw fromthe Federation. I know that the Prime Minister believes that the present agitation in that direction is only a move on the part of a few politicians of New South Wales, and does not truly represent public feeling in that State. If he visited many of the cities in New South Wales, however, he would find that the question there is a burning one. The people of that State do not believe that the electors of Victoria desire that the compact with regard to the Capital shall not be carried out; but thev consider that the Commonwealth Parliament has shown no real desire to have the question finally dealt with. There are three representatives of New South Wales in the Ministry, and I urge them to join with the Opposition in demanding that tho question shall be satisfactorily determined before the session closes. We find a burping desire on the part of the Ministry to deal with the sugar bounty question. The representatives of Queensland openly and honestly fight for the interests of that State, and they must be applauded for doing so. But why should their cries be listened to while those of the representatives of New South Wales go for nothing? There has been so much finessing between the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister that it is difficult to know what is the real position in regard to the
Federal Capital Site. But four weeks ago I informed the Attorney-General that the trouble which has arisen was due to the fact that the provisions of the Seat of Government Act are not mandatory, and therefore he could not take any action which would allow the questions at issue between the Commonwealth and the State to be determined by the High Court. That opinion has since been borne out by events. The mere promise to introduce another measure, however, is not sufficient for us. The people of New South Wales honestly believe that they have been neglected in this matter. They see that, after five years of fooling with the question, it is as far off settlement as ever, and if any public man of eminence were to start an agitation in the State against Federation nothing would be easier than to secure an overwhelming majority in favour of secession. I do not make that statement for party purposes, and I challenge the Minister of Trade and Customs, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the Postmaster-General - all of whom represent New South Wales constituencies - to deny the truth of it. We have evidence of it in the views which have been expressed in the State Parliament. It is objected that, although this Parliament has nominally kept faith with the State, it has really broken the spirit of the compact in the Constitution by selecting a site as near to the borders of another State as POSsible and by asking for 900 square miles of territory. No State in the Union is nearer to declaring for secession than is New South Wales at the present time. I therefore ask the Prime Minister whether he has reason to believe that there will be a final treatment of this question before the end of the session?
– I hope so. It rests with the House.
– Has the honorable and learned gentleman reason to hope so?
– I think so : but everything depends on the view which the House takes of the matter.
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman think that the interests of New South Wales will be conserved, and the general intention of the Constitution observed ?
– There is no doubt about that.
– We think that the question ought to be settled within a reasonable time, so that the present generation may see the Federal Capital established. The people of New South Wales feel that they have been fooled, and are not being fairly treated by the Commonwealth. I shall not go over again the ground covered by the honorable member for Parramatta, but I enter my protest against the delay which is occurring, and say, further, that I think the Opposition should resist the passing of the Appropriation Bill until the Prime Minister has promised to bring down a measure which will give a reasonable chance of the Federal Capital Site question being settled very shortly. If the matter concerned Victoria some such step would be taken by the representatives of that State, and I am certain that the representatives of Queensland would not sit quietly if they were being treated in regard to the sugar question as the representatives of New South Wales have been treated in regard to this question. I may be accused of being actuated by parochial considerations, but I find that the representatives of other States are always ready to defend the interests of those States, and I am a representative of New South Wales first, and of the Commonwealth afterwards. I know of no other way of exercising control in regard to the “ Ministry than by holding back the Appropriation Bill, and, as the settlement of the Capital Site question is one of vital concern to the people of New South Wales, we should take this action to secure the payment of respect to their views. If the Minister of Trade and Customs, the Postmaster-General, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council were in Opposition, they would be the first1 to take action such as I am suggesting; and I appeal to them, therefore, as Ministers, to force the matter on.
– It is going on. Mr. WILKS.- It is all very well to tell children to close their eyes and open their mouths, but that- is not the sort of overture to make to practical men of the world. I do not wish to be a doubting Thomas, but I wish for some evidence of the bona fides of the Ministry in regard to this urgent question. There is not a representative in New South Wales, from the leader of the Opposition down to myself, who has not done! all that he can in connexion with this matter, but the Parliament’ of the State is now setting us an example. If this Parliament neglects to settle the question, it will, by so doing, play into the hands of the members of the Parliament of New South Wales, who will hold us up to opprobrium and public distrust.
– It will not be long before the honorable member can eat his Christmas dinner i!n Dalgety.
– I think that the settlement of the matter should not be delayed any longer, though I am opposed to the granting of 900 square miles. The conference between the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth has evidently failed!; and I ask the Prime Minister, who I believe takes a Commonwealth view of the question, to do what he can to have it settled as scon as possible. I cannot myself prevent the passing of the Appropriation Bill, but if I held ai responsible position, nothing would delight me more than to prevent it from passing until we had obtained a guarantee of the bona fides of the Ministry in regard to this matter. It is not that I doubt the Prime Minister, but I fear that as soon as the Appropriation Bill becomes law, pressure will be put on him to put up the shutters, honorable members not being- so unhappy in their homes that they wish to stop in Melbourne, and away from their families, all the year round. I wish now tq deal with another pin-prick which is irritating the people of New South Wales. The two Melbourne newspapers this morning give long reports of a debate in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales yesterday, instigated by the representative of North Balmain., on the action of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the printing of stamps. I understand that it is contemplated to import some up-to-date machinery for the printing of stamps at Adelaide, and to print in that city all stamps required for the Commonwealth. The members of the New South Wales Parliament, however, take the view that no change should be made in. the present arrangements until the Federal Capital is established, and the Government have a central printing press there. The New South Wales Government Printing Office is an up-to-date establishment, and recently £6,000 was expended in. modernizing the plant. Now thev are told that the printing of stamps is to be done in another State.
– Does not the honorable member forget that the Adelaide office is a Federal office?
– I am not putting the claims of New South Wales as against those of another State, but I am showing that the New South Wales Assembly, inflamed as it is in regard to the treatment of the Federal Capital question, viewsthis as another blow at the State. In the State office there are twenty-five employes who are under the impression that if the work of printing the stamps is transferred to South Australia their occupation, will be gone. This may seem a very small matter-
– The fact that such a small matter has been so much discussed affords proof of the existing tension.
– Exactly. I can quite appreciate the point of view from which, this matter is looked at by the men whose employment is at stake; but, apart from, that question, we have to consider the fact that the New South Wales Government recently spent £6,000 upon a stamp-printing plant, which it is feared will now be thrown out of use. All these matters are adding to the bitter feeling which exists in New South Wales, and I am not exaggerating, when I say that the public mind is becoming more and more inflamed. If any influential man were to enter upon an anti- ‘ Federation campaign in New South Wales he would attract many thousands of followers. Under these circumstances, I would urge the Prime Minister to do everything, that lies in his power to allay the present irritation. It is alleged that postage stampscan be printed in Adelaide at 2¼d. per thousand, as compared with iod. per thousand elsewhere. But upon that point, Mr. Anderson, the representative of Balmain North, in the New South Wales Assembly, who is an expert, says’that in England, where labour is 30 per cent, cheaper than in Australia, the stampsprinted for the Indian Government cost 60 per cent, more than the rate quoted by the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Aus- ‘ tralia. He contends that the work cannot be done for the price indicated. We are told by the Minister of Home Affairs that it is intended that all the electoral rollsshall be printed in Melbourne, and this, again, is a matter of considerable importance to the employes in the Government Printing Office in Sydney. I trust that Ministers will cease to farm out the Commonwealth printing work until they canestablish an office of their own at the Federal Capital.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Federal1
Stamp Printing Office in Adelaide should be closed?
– No. I do not desire to inflict any injury upon South Australia or any other State. I do not suppose that the honorable member for Barker wishes to inflict any injury upon New South Wales.
– Certainly not.
– I recently obtained quotations for certain printing work, and I found that the authorities in Adelaide were prepared to do what was required for £111, whereas the New South Wales quotation was £222. I also found that what would cost 5d. in Melbourne would entail an outlay of 7 Jd. in Sydney. The work will be done wherever it can be accomplished most cheaply and in the best manner.
– Where it will be done worse. I never saw any good printing come from Adelaide.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs does not know what he is talking, about.
– In view of the difference of opinion which exists between Ministers, I would urge the Prime Minister, for the sake 6T peace and quietness among his colleagues, to make further inquiries before any decision is arrived at. I believe that there has been some misunderstanding. I do not see why our postage stamps should be printed in a central office until Ave have adopted a uniform design. I think it is only right that some regard should be paid to the feeling existing in New South Wales. The people of that State honestly believe that the other States are getting the better of them.
– What was the attitude of former Postmasters-General on this question ? The honorable member for Coolgardie and the honorable member for Denison took the same view that is held by the Postmaster-General.
– I do not know anything about that.
– I am also informed that the same attitude was assumed bv the late Postmaster-General.
– I am not attacking one Postmaster-General or defending another. All I ask is that consideration shall be given to the claims of New South Wales. Last evening this question was discussed in the New South Wales Assembly upon a motion for adjournment by an honorable member who had some knowledge of the question, and who was supported by the Premier and several other members. The view taken appeared to be that the proposal of the Postmaster-General added another link to the chain of evidence that NewSouth Wales was not receiving proper treatment. I now wish to refer to a matter of great concern to the Commonwealth. Some little time ago I moved for a return showing the cost of the various Commissions and Select Committees appointed since the establishment of the Commonwealth. The return has not yet been printed, and, although a summary has been published in some of the newspapers, I am afraid that its full significance has not been realized bv honorable members. I think that the extent to which Commissions and Select Committees have been appointed has become a serious abuse, and that Ministers are being permitted to evade their responsibilities. The return shows that the aggregate cost of Commissions and Select Committees has been upwards of ^15,000. The items are as follow : -
I consider that when we have highly-paid Ministers, with officers who are supposed to be efficient, we should not delegate their work to Commissions and Select Committees.
– Honorable members do not allow Ministers any rest.
– I am quite willing to admit that the office which the honorable member formerly occupied is one which entails more work upon the Minister than any other. The Post and Telegraph Department is one which should be placed under the administration, not of the weakest, but of the most careful and able man that could be selected for a Ministry. A number of Commissions and Committees, including the Navigation Commission, the Tariff Commission, and the Old-Age Pensions Commission, are still sitting. With regard to the last-named body, I might point out that the honorable member for Maranoa resigned his position as a member of it, because he regarded its proceedings as a farce. That Commission has already cost us . £548.
– The honorable member for Maranoa resigned his position because he considered that the subject was one that did not require investigation by a Commission.
– Exactly. My contention is that requests for Select Committees and Commissions have been too freely granted. I do not go the length of saying that no Select Committees or Commissions should be appointed under any conditions, because I can conceive of circumstances which might render the appointment of some such body absolutely necessary. I opposed the motions in favour off , the appointmentof Select Committees, which were submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corio, the honorable member for Barrier, and the honorable member for Kooyong. In reference to the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corio, I was pleased indeed to find that after the lapse of several weeks the VicePresident of the Executive Council took a bold stand, and declined to countenance a fishing inquiry into the affairs of the Defence Department. Ministers are never more to be respected than when they are fighting against the appointment of Select Committees or Royal Commissions. What is the general experience in connexion with these bodies? They meet, take evidence, and submit a report. That is the sum total of their labours. Can honorable members cite one instance in which a motion has been submitted for the adoption of the report of any Select Committee appointed by this Parliament?
– Yes. The adoption of the report of theSelect Committee upon decimal coinage was moved by the honorable member for South Sydney.
– The recommendations of the Iron Bonus Commission have been embodied in the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– Practically every suggestion made by . the Select Committee which inquired into the administration of the Electoral Act has been embodied in the Electoral Bill, of which I moved the second reading yesterday.
– The Department of Home Affairs should have been able to supply all the information which it was necessary to embody in that measure.
– What is the meaning of the honorable member’s reference to Select Committees ?
– I am arguing that Ministers too frequently escape their responsibilities by the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions.
– Who moved for the appointment of the Select Committee to inquire into the question of Old-age Pensions ?
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Barrier is evidently under the impression that my remarks are influenced by party considerations. Had he been present in the Chamber, he would have known that they apply equally to the present and previous Governments. I was arguing that Ministers should not surrender so freely as they have done their responsibilities to Select Committees and Royal Commissions. I do not intend to labour this question. I merely desire to show that up to the present time the total expenditure upon these bodies
– Why did not the honorable member obtain a detailed statement of the expenditure?
– I moved for a return setting out the expenditure upon the various Select Committees andRoyal Commissions which have been appointed by this Parliament. That return was laid upon the table of the House some days ago, but it has not yet been printed.
– Does the honorable member know the amount paid to honorable members who have sat upon Select Committees and Royal Commissions?
– I am not concerned about that. I am not exercised in mind about the personal side of the question. But I am opposed to the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions upon every conceivable occasion, and I wish honorable members to realize their enormous cost and the very little benefit which results from their labours. I have taken advantage of the present opportunity to emphasize a number of grievances. All the criticism which was indulged in upon the motion for the adoption of the Ad’dress-in-Reply can be applied with equal force to-day. The Government have not increased their strength with age. As a matter of fact, they are kept in power by the Labour Party, which received such a severe blow in Western Australia during the past few weeks. The Treasurer has emphasized their defeat.
– What did the honorable member for Wilmot say about them last session ?
– When the interests of his constituency are concerned there is no more powerful advocate than the honorable member for Barrier, but when the interests of New South Wales are threatened there is nobody who is more neglectful of them. His horizon seems to be limited1 to the boundaries of his own electorate. If a question be right for the Barrier electorate, the world is right with Thomas. If it be wrong for that electorate, the world is wrong with Thomas. Sometimes he poses as a broad-minded politician, but if the slightest thing should touch him he winces like a jaded cat. He shows that he is jaded by his non-attendance in this House. He can assume an air of superiority better than any other honorable member. Within the last couple of days he stated’ that he was quite prepared to reside in Melbourne for all time. He cares nothing for the constitutional bond in regard to the Federal Capital, so long as his own personal convenience is suited. The Barrier is a New South Wales constituency, but the honorable member says in effect : “ Perish the Constitution and its compact, but do not disturb by convenience.”
– I have never said any such thing.
– When, at the. next’ election, it suits the honorable member’s! purpose he will not forget to voice the interests of New South Wales. The honorable member now supports a Treasurer who recently gloated over the defeat of the Labour Party in Western Australia.
– We “bumped “ the right honorable member for East Sydney and hi*, crowd out of office.
– We “bumped “ the party to which the honorable member belongs in Western Australia, and we will “bump” them/ at the next Commonwealth elections in other States. The honorable member and his colleagues are such faithful advocates of labour interests that they support a Ministry whose members are to-day laughing at the defeat of their fellow-members in Western Australia. As far as I am concerned, I invite any or all of them to contest my constituency, which is absolutely a labour constituency.
– I invite any or ali of the honorable member’s party to contest my electorate.
– Unless I am very much mistaken, the honorable member for Kennedy will meet his Waterloo at the next election. But I have no desire to pursue this matter any further. Probably, if I had not been “ crossed “ I should not have spoken with such warmth. If I were the leader of the Opposition I would resist the passing of the Appropriation Bill until the Capital Site question had been definitely settled. If the representatives of New South Wales do not oppose this measure they will, in my judgment, be guilty of a dereliction of duty.
– Why does not the honorable member block it?
– I am doing my very best.
– That admission supports the suggestion that the honorable member is “ stone-walling.”
– If I am “ stone-walling, “ I am doing so in the interests of the State of which I am a representative. I do not wish to suggest what action should be taken in order to block the Bill, but I would point out that it has yet to pass the Committee stage. I trust that the Prime Minister will state that he is going to deal with the question of the Capital Site, and deal with’ it satisfactorily, during the present session.
– Have not the Ministry been faithful ? Have we not selected a site ?
– I speak with no party feeling when I assert that the electors of. New South Wales believe that the Com-, monwealth Parliament have fooled them in regard to this question. A man who meant business could readily stir up an agitation in favour of secession, and in the event of a referendum being taken, manyhonorable members would be surprised at the number of votes that would be recorded in that direction.
– Does the honorable member believe that the first twelve men whom he met on alighting from the express at Sydney would care twopence where the Federal Capital is established?
– I do. The Parliament of a State is the best guide to public opinion in that State.
– Not always.
– If we carefully watch the proceedings in a State Parliament, we can generally tell which way the current is flowing. We find that the Parliament of New South Wales has on several occasions unanimously disapproved of the attitude of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in regard to the question of the Federal Capital. Only last night the action of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the printing of stamps was vigorously discussed in the State Legislature, and was seized upon as a means to arouse public feeling against the Commonwealth. The Labour Party, sitting in Opposition in the State Parliament, feels just as strongly in this regard as do the Ministerialists. It is suggested that some of the members of that Parliament are endeavouring to cover their own political delinquencies by means of an agitation against the Commonwealth in regard to the Capital Site and other questions; but even if that were so, it would not obliterate the fact that by neglecting to deal with this question we are committing a political sin.
– But are we neglecting it?
– I maintain: that New South Wales has not been fairly treated. The selection which we made, and the conditions which we imposed as to the area of the Federal Territory, are not regarded as satisfactory evidence of our bona fides, and, in my judgment, the feeling of dissatisfaction against the Commonwealth is growing in New South Wales. I trust that honorable members of the Opposition will deal with the Appropriation Bill as fairly as I have done, but I hope that no honorable member on this side of the House will say that he considers that the Bill ought to be passed without delay, in order that we may go into recess. I do not wish Parliament to be prorogued until the grievance of New South Wales in regard to the Federal Capital has been remedied.
– It cannot be gainsaid that the difficulties which have arisen in regard to the selection of the site of the Federal Capital have caused dissatisfaction in New South Wales. I regret very much that most of the debates which take place in this House resolve themselves into a consideration of the interests of one State as against those of another.
– In what way has New South Wales not been properly treated?
– While the letter of the compact may have been properly kept, the spirit of it has been broken.
– In what way has it been broken ?
– When Federation was established, the expectation of the people of New South Wales was that the Capital would be established as close as possible to the roo-mile limit, having regard to the selection of a suitable site.
– Not at all. I was a citizen of New South Wales at the time, and I am sure that that was riot the feeling.
– I fought the Constitution Bill, and as one who has travelled over a large part of the State, I say that, rightly or wrongly, that was the impression which the people of New South Wales formed.
– Was that the honorable member’s opinion?
– It was. I hold that if we are to comply with the spirit of the Constitution, we must establish the Capital on the best possible site that can be selected close to the 100-mile limit.
– Would the honorable member .have objected to the selection of Armidale?
– I should not. I have already said, however, that as Dalgety has been selected, I am prepared to stand by that selection, not because I consider that it is the best site-
– It is about the worst that could have been selected.
– That is my op in.on I have no desire to deal with this question upon provincial lines. Although I consider that Armidale is a far better site than is Dalgety, I did not attempt, on entering this Parliament, to secure its inclusion among the list from which a selection was to be made by us, because! saw that the feeling of the House was against it. I hold, however, that it is one of the best sites that could be selected, and that the trend of population is such that in the course of a few years it will be nearer the centre of population than Dalgety will be.
– Let us select Armidale as a compromise.
– If the Commonwealth Parliament made such a selection I should be prepared to accept it.
– If the’ honorable member could induce the people of New South Wales to solidly support that selection, I would undertake to say that Queensland would vote solidly for it.
– Therein lies the difficulty. I have at no time attempted to put forward a site in my own electorate. I regret, however, that some honorable members have taken up a different attitude. They have fought not for what would be best in the interests of the whole Commonwealth, but for what they considered best for their own electorates. In dealing with this question, we should not be influenced by such selfish considerations. It should be our desire to establish the Capital on the best site.
– Even if it be far more than 100 miles from Sydney?
– I repeat that the opinion of the people of New South Wales was that the Capital would be established as close as possible to Sydnev, having regard to the constitutional limitation.
– Surely the people desire that the best site shall be selected?
– I suppose that some Qf them do, but there are others who wish the Capital to be established on a site that will best serve their interests. If we could induce the people to regard this matter from the point of view of what is best for the whole Commonwealth, we should have no difficulty in arriving at a speedy determination. I told members of the New South Wales Government that they made a mistake in omitting Dalgety from the motion relating to the site of the Capital which they submitted to the State Parliament, and I have from the first taken uo that attitude. No one can successfully charge me with provincialism. I opposed the Constitution Bill because I felt that it would lead to provincial feeling rather than to a true federation of the people; and experience has proved that my fears in this regard were well founded. The sooner the site of the Capital is determined, the better. I am prepared to bow to the decision of the majority. You may choose the worst site obtainable if you like, but I think that some consideration should be paid to the wishes of the people of the mother State. We should try to ease, if possible, the friction which has been created in connexion with this matter, because no doubt the feeling exists amongst the great body of the people of the State that they have not been properly treated by the Commonwealth. In regard to the printing of stamps, I say that the Commonwealth has a right to get its printing done in the cheapest and most economical manner. It should not waste the money of the taxpayers.
– It is a pity that more of the representatives of the State of New South Wales do not talk like that.
– I do not want an undeserved compliment ; will the honorable member wait until I have concluded my remark? I think it advisable, inasmuch as the printing of stamps has hitherto been done by the Government Printing Offices of the States, to leave matters as they stand until we get a Commonwealth Printing Office established at head-quarters, and can employ Commonwealth servants.
– Would the honorable member suggest the establishment of a Commonwealth Printing Office at Dalgety straight away?
– It could be established there if that was thought proper.
– The machinery which is being imported is for Dalgety.
– Then why should it be taken to Adelaide first? The Minister, like myself, jokes so badly that he should explain whether he makes his statement in earnest or not. The South Australian estimate for the printing of stamps seems a very low one. Why should they be able to print stamps more cheaply in the Adelaide printing office than in the offices of the other States?
– Or than anywhere else in the world ?
– Because of the new and special machinery which is employed.
– This machinery has not yet been tested.
– It has been tested in Adelaide, and the printing of stamps done there is the cheapest in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member’s provincialism prompts that remark. I question if the printing in Adelaide is better than the printing in Sydney.
– The figures show it to be cheaper.
– I have no doubt that the machinery in the other States is as up to date as that in South Australia. One generally finds that the machinery is most up to date where the production is the largest, and, therefore, it would be extraordinary if a small State like South Australia, where the demand for stamps is small, should have better machinery than the large States of Victoria and New South Wales.
– Would the honorable member be satisfied, to have the Commonwealth printing done where it can be done best and most cheaply ?
– -Yes ; but until we get a head-quarters printing establishment of our own it will be better to adhere to the present arrangement. It is not as if the Commonwealth issued.stampswhich could be used all over Australia. Each State issues stamps of separate designs, and under all the circumstances it would be better to leave the printing of them to the various State Printing Offices. The same course might be followed in regard to the printing of electoral rolls, providing that each office will print them at something approximating the lowest estimate of what the work should cost. Although the Postmaster-General says that the stamps are printed better at Adelaide than elsewhere, the Minister of Trade and Customs has declared that he has never seen good printing which has come from South Australia.
– I said more cheaply, not better.
– If they are worsecheap and nasty - the Commonwealth should not take them.
– The Adelaide printing is good, but so is that of the other States.
– In dealing with all matters of this kind, we should try to prevent friction. I wish now to refer to a couple of matters to which I drew attention some time ago. In connexion with one of them, certain charges were made against the Opposition by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and something in the nature of a scene occurred when I denied a statement which he made. Next day he was inclined to be much more generous, if anything comingfrom him may be termed generous, and explained that he had been misreported. That is always done by some people when they find that their statements are not well received. It is strange that both the Melbourne newspapers reported the Minister on that occasion in the same words. I do not think that he should have placed his sinon the shoulders ofthe reporters. Having made the statement, he should have withdrawn it, and apologised for it, instead of saying that he had been misreported. His statement was that the members of the Opposition were . trying to help a ring to “ get at” the Customs Department. I give that statement a most emphatic denial. I have never yet been a party to assisting any one to defraud the Customs, nor have I ever tried to prevent the Customs from getting full value for goods offered for sale. So far as I am aware, no member of the Opposition has ever beenquilty of any such thing.
– The honorable member must not refuse to accept the Minister’s denial of the statement attributed to him.
– According to parliamentary usage, I must accept that denial, but I can think what I like. No member of the Opposition has assisted persons to defraud the Customs. What we did was done in the interests of justice and fair play, and to prevent wrong and tyranny. An Opposition which would not defend the right should be kicked out of Parliament. I care not what Minister does wrong, I am prepared to stand up for what is true and right and just, even though there may be only half-a-dozen who will support me. I should like to know who encouraged Mr. Anderson, of Sydney, to tender for the hats seized by the Customs. We were told moreover that the hats were worth£11s. each., but they were sold for 2s.111/2d. each. so that, on their own showing, the Government allowed the Commonwealth to lose money on the transaction. The Minister must know in his heart of hearts that his officers placed him in a wrong position, but he has not had the manliness to admit it, and has allowed the honour of men who, for years past, have conducted their business properly,, to be besmirched. To come now to the other matter to which I wish to refer, the honorable member for MelbournePorts. speaking inthischamber referred to the manufacture of harvesters as an industry going to the heart of our national life, an extraordinary statement to make. I asked him, in an interjection, whether there were more men employed in the industry in Australia to-day than there were two years ago, and that question shut him up, because it cannot be denied that the number is greater. He afterwards came to me privately, and I asked him if McKay would let us look at his books. McKay is making* a fortune out of the duties on machinery. He comes here to lobby honorable members, not for the benefit of the farmer, or for the benefit of those in his service, but so that he may increase his wealth, and take all that he can out of the pockets of the farmer. I should like to say something about him, but, speaking in this Chamber, ray remarks are privileged. I have told him in the press what I think about him, and about his attempts to rob the people. What are the facts about this gentleman? Mr. McKay is a member of a combine, the object of which is not to reduce, but to keep up, the prices of harvesters. Upon his own sworn evidence, if he can be believed, he did not reduce his price, although other manufacturers wished him to do so, but entered into a combination to keep up prices against the farmer. Yet we find honorable members expressing the fullest sympathy with a manufacturer who is simply seeking to get all he can for himself. I venture to say that if Mr. McKayshowed his books to the Tariff Commission - he has already declined to do so - it would be found that he was making a fortune. Honorable members talk about the ruined industries of Victoria, but the Sunshine Harvester Company are competing with other manufacturers” in the markets of the world. Mr. McKay has told us through the press that his export trade this year is as large as, if not larger than, it has ever been. He is able to hold his own in the markets of the world with the very men who are his principal competitors here. When he goes beyond the Commonwealth he is at a disadvantage compared with his trade rivals. Here he has an advantage of at least ,£20 per machine over his competitors, whereas in the outside markets he has To compete on far worse terms than they do, because, as a rule, he has to pay higher freights. Yet he comes whining to this House and asking for protection. Honorable members who have any sense of justice should see that Mr. McKay is work-‘ ing, not in the interests of the Commonwealth, but in his own. We should have no consideration for a monopoly which is intended to secure benefits for a few manufacturers. When I was recently at Newcastle, I happened to remark to a gentleman with whom I was staying, that I wondered why more manufacturers did not turn out harvesters. I stated that my inquiries had led me to the conclusion that a large profit was made upon such implements. The gentleman informed me that his brother-in-law had acquired Hudson Brothers’ Engineering Works at Newcastle, and had been carrying on his business for four years. He had first intended to manufacture harvesters, but had not yet entered upon that branch of industry. Protectionists would at once say that his failure to do so was due to the want of a sufficiently high duty, but they would be altogether wrong. He did not enter upon the business because he had so much work to do in every other department of his works that he could not take up the manufacture of harvesters. This is one of the ruined industries of which honorable members are so fond of talking. I venture to say that if we could investigate the banking accounts of some of those who complain that their industries are being ruined, and could ascertain how they had stood before Federation and since, we should find that instead of being ruined they were making fortunes. The manufacturers of New South Wales do not complain that their industries are being ruined. It is only in Victoria that any such cry is heard.
– There are no industries in New South Wales to be ruined.
– In New South Wales, before Federation, we had more men employed in factories than in Victoria, although we did not employ so many women, and girls, and boys. The Minister of Trade and Customs must realize that in increasing the valuation of imported harvesters he made a great mistake. He increased the price to £fi$, and the duty thus amounts to 2s. 6d. per machine. According to Mr. McKay, the cost of distribution is ^21 per machine, and this, added to the Customs valuation and the duty, would bring the value up to ^94. As the machines are “being retailed at ^81 each, the importers must, according to the Customs valuation, be selling them at a loss of ^13 each. Surely the Minister must see that he has made a mistake. We have heard a great deal about Preferential Trade, the advocates of which seem to me to have indulged in a lot of hypocritical talk. Will these gentlemen tell me what they propose to do to assist the mother country ? So far as I can understand, they are all seeking to get their hands into the pockets of the old country. They want her to impose duties 011 the produce from other countries, which is intended to feed her people, but not to enforce those duties against us. They want to secure to our farmers higher prices for their produce, by increasing the difficulties already experienced by the poor in England in obtaining food sufficient to keep body and soul together. I never heard of anything more inhumane. Protection is bad enough, but the Preferential Trade proposals are worse. Protection is a curse to any country that has ever had anything to do with it. It has proved a curse to Germany, many of the inhabitants of which have to live on horse-flesh, and even on the lungs of horses. When the advocates of Preferential Trade profess to have the highest regard for the old country, and talk loudly of their Imperial instincts and aspirations, I say that they are acting the part of hypocrites. Do any one of these gentlemen propose to give the slightest relief to the old country? Do they propose that Ave shall admit British goods into our markets free of duty? Nothing of the kind. But they want to obtain all they can from Great Britain. They stand upon the platform and tell us how they love the old land, and, in so saying, insult every man of common sense. They love only themselves, and are seeking to obtain every advantage at the cost of the old land. I do not agree even with the deputy leader of the Opposition in this matter. I contend that it would be foolish for Great Britain to attempt to meet us with regard to so-called Preferential Trade.
– Hullo ! Is there a split in the camp?
– Honorable members sitting on this side of the House are independent. Every man is free to express his own views. We are not bound down to one view, nor are we called upon to do violence to our consciences. We are absolutely free to say what we think. We are free men, and represent a free people.
– But honorable members are bound1 to vote the one way.
– No, we are not. Honorable members must have seen us voting on opposite sides of the House on many occasions. I have always voted in accordance with the views I have expressed. I contend that it would be foolish on the part of England to seek to impose duties, upon products which are now imported by her from foreign countries merely for the purpose of conferring benefit upon the few people in her colonies. She has to import all her raw materials, and she would impose a serious handicap on herself if she adopted Preferential Trade proposals such as have been suggested. From the Commonwealth point of view also, Preferential Trade, would be undesirable. For instance, England cannot take all our wool, and we must find markets elsewhere - in Germany, France, the United States, and Belgium. Therefore, the more directly we can send our wool to those countries, and the more directly we can receive payment in return, the better it will be for us.
– Will the honorable member connect his argument with the Appropriation Bill?
– I am indicating my opposition to the proposed Colonial Conference, to which the Prime Minister has referred.
– The honorable member is entitled to advance arguments why the Bill should not be passed forthwith, but it is not competent for him to discuss in detail the question whether Preferential Trade is or is not a good thing.
– I am opposed to the Bill being passed, and I shall do all I can to prevent it from being disposed of at this time. I think that before we allow the measure to leave this House we should satisfy ourselves that the work of the session has been nearly completed.
– The honorable member is perfectly in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– We should not permit the Bill to pass until we are nearer the end of the session. If we once allow the Bill to go through we shall lose all control over Ministers, who will be in a position to close the session as soon or as late as they like. S01 far as I am concerned, I shall1 first require to know what are the intentionsof the Government with regard to certain proposed legislation. There are some measures on the business-paper which I do not desire to see become law, and I do not think we should pass the Appropriation Bill until they are dealt with in one way or the other. Ministers are not particularly anxious to see some of the Bills’ carried to their final stages. They are being pressed forward by forces which they cannot resist, and they do not know exactly what to do. If I thought that the passing of this Bill would result in the prorogation of Parliament to-morrow, I should do everything in my power to facilitate its progress through this House. But I contend that we ought not to surrender our control over the Government until we have definitely ascertained the measures with which they intend to proceed during the current session. Reference has been made to the Colonial Conference, which it is proposed! to hold in London. In the interests of .the Commonwealth, I do not think that we should permit any representative to attend that gathering. We should not assist either party at the coming elections in Great Britain. We should not attempt to influence the politics of the mother country in any shape or form, especially in view of the fact that our action would spring from selfish motives. When honorable members, who profess to be imbued with a great love for the old country, propose to take a course which would result in her injury, they must expect from me the strongest condemnation of their hypocritical policy. I feel that the present session has not redounded to the credit of the Ministry. To a large extent, too, last session was a barren one, inasmuch as, after the fiercest discussion, we passed only one or two Acts. The present Government have placed before us nothing but a set of Bills which seek to interfere with the freedom of the people. They appear to imagine that we can make business people happy by interfering with them in every department of trade. In my judgment, the less we interfere with them the better. Some persons seem to entertain the idea that so long as we pile up reams of legislation, we are accomplishing good work. But, as a matter of fact, the best service that we can render to the community is to keep from our statute-book the class of legislation which the Government have submitted for our consideration. For instance, the Commerce Bill will not confer any good upon the community; on the contrary, its operation will probably result in harm. I am opposed to legislation of such a restrictive character, and I am very glad that no proposals in regard to Tariff alteration are likely to be put forward during the present session. If they are, we shall not be released from our labours until late next year. Of course, some honorable members wish to enrich a few capitalists at the expense of the community. I notice that the Tariff Commission is to be called together at the end of the current week, to deal with no less than eight or nine progress reports, in order that the Tariff question may come before the House as soon as possible. In my opinion, the longer the re-opening of that question is delayed, the better. I am opposed to any revision of the Tariff, except in the direction of reducing the existing duties. If the Opposition will accept my advice, the passing of this measure will be delayed until we obtain a definite statement from the Government as to .the legislation with which they intend to proceed.
– Before this Bill is passed, I, too, think that honorable members should be given some indication of the business with which the Government propose to proceed. If the harvester question is to be dealt with, we ought to be informed of the fact, because a bigger bogus claim than that put forward by the Sunshine Harvester Company has never been made. That company has attempted to show that the industry in which it is engaged is being adversely affected by the operation of the Tariff, when, as a matter of fact, it is exporting the machines which it manufactures to .the markets of the world. I think we ought also to be told whether the Government intend to submit any proposals for an amendment of the Tariff. During the course of this debate, frequent reference has been made to the vexed question of the Federal Capital. When this House first met, we were all anxious that that question should be settled definitely. I do not blame this Parliament because a satisfactory solution of the problem has not been arrived at. I consider that the blame rests with the last New South Wales Parliament, and particularly with the See Government. Whilst the fight upon, the Federal Capital Site was in progress we received no assistance whatever from New South Wales, but after we had selected Dalgety, the Government of that State said, “You shall not have it.” I was1 not in favour of the selection of Dalgety, but I am prepared to abide by the decision of this Parliament, and I should like the Government to insist upon giving effect to that decision. Seeing that the New South Wales Parliament has refused to grant us Dalgety, why did they offer it as an eligible site? In the first instance they appointed an officer to choose eligible sites, and they submitted ten of these for our consideration. But after we had selected Dalgety, they withdrew that site from the list. They have now taken the action which they should have taken at the outset.
– What have they done now ?
– They have offered us three sites.
– They have gone back upon the report of their own officer.
– Personally, I do not regard Dalgety as the best site available in New South Wales; to my mind Armidale is infinitely preferable. Certainly it is much more centrally situated. As a settlement of this question has been so long delayed, perhaps it would be as well to reconsider our decision in regard to it. At the same time, I would not permit the Parliament of New South Wales to dominate this Parliament. I do not know whether the Government intend to submit any proposals this session in regard to preferential trade; but. if so, I hope that the matter will be debated from a higher stand-point than it was upon a former occasion. I object to misleading the British public. Some honorable members wish to make the people of Great Britain believe that we intend to do something for them, when, as a matter of fact, the doctrine that they preach is a purely selfish one. All these matters, I contend, should be definitely settled before we relinquish our control over the Government by allowing the Appropriation Bill to pass.
– I am not in accord with the view just expressed by the honorable member for Cowper, that the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory position in regard to the Federal Capital rests with the Parliament of New South Wales.
– With the immediately preceding Parliament.
– I do not think that that Parliament had anything to do with the trouble which was the subject of the recent correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales.
– It should have offered sites :to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I think it would be more reasonable for the honorable member to say that the Commonwealth Parliament, before proceeding to select a site, should have ascertained what, territory New South Wales was prepared to grant for the purposes of the Capital. It was not incumbent upon the Parliament of New South Wales to take the first step in this connexion, and to offer territory to the Commonwealth before it had been asked to do so.
– They should have done so.
– It might have been their duty, had they been asked, to offer sites.
– The first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth asked them to do so.
– That is not so. The first Government of the Commonwealth did not enter into negotiations for the acquisition of territory from New South Wales. That is the point which I desire to emphasize, because it is from that neglect that the whole difficulty has arisen. The Commonwealth Parliament proceeded to select a site before ascertaining what territory New South Wales was prepared to cede to the Commonwealth. The rights of the State were wholly ignored, and I hold that the Legislature of New South Wales was therefore justified in protesting against the action of the Commonwealth. We must remember that certain rights in regard to the acquisition of territory are vested jointly in the two Parliaments. The initial mistake which we made was in selecting a site and saying in effect to the Government of New South Wales, “ We have decided, without consulting the wishes of the people of your State, to have a particular area.”
– Does the honorable member think that the Federal Parliament should have no voice in the selection of the site?
– I have advanced no such contention regarding the site of the Capital, which is a different matter entirely from the question of determining territory. The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall have the right to choose the site of the Capital, “ within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by it “ ; but it does not give the Commonwealth the right to dictate to New South Wales what territory shall be surrendered.
– Does the honorable member for Grey think that the New South Wales Parliament should have no voice in the selection ?
– I do not think that it should.
– Does the honorable member contend that New South Wales has no right to be consulted - that we should flout the Parliament which is the custodian of the territory to be surrendered ?
– The State Parliament should not have neglected the exercise of its right.
– I do not think that it has. After we had taken a course of action, which to my mind was unjustifiable, the State Parliament expressed its unwillingness to grant the territory within which the selected site is situated. So far as this question is concerned, I take exception, not so much to the attitude of the representatives of the other States, as to that of some of the representatives of New South Wales. They are chiefly responsible for the delay in the settlement of this question.
– They sold- their State last session.,
– I am surprised that representatives of New South Wales, some of whom have been members of the State Legislature should now practically vilify that Parliament, and deny that it possesses rights which are recognised by any fair-minded person. I am astounded at the disloyalty of these honorable members. The least one might expect from representatives of New South Wales is that they should stand up for the rights of the Parliament of that State, as well as for those of the Legislature of the Common wealth. Is it reasonable that they should attempt to thrust upon the State Parliament the responsiblity for the muddle whch has occurred ?
– Honorable members opposite sold New South Wales.
– I do not know to what the honorable member is referring. So far as, I am aware, we have not done anything that could be so designated.
– Eight months of office was the price.
– I do not think that an honorable member should accuse other honorable members of having sold the State they represent for eight months’ of office. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw if, sir. When I address the House, I shall put in another way the point that I wish to make.
– A’ perusal of the correspondence between the Prime Minister and1 the Premier of New South Wales will show that the attitude taken up by the Premier is absolutely unassailable. He has displayed all through a spirit of calm reasonableness which is to be highly commended. He has, from the first, shown a distinct desire to .arrive at a proper settlement ofl this queston, and I am surprised to learn that negotiations between him and the Prime Minister have been somewhat ‘abruptly broken off. It is not too late, however, for us to endeavour to bring about a friendly arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State, and I propose to briefly refer to the official correspondence in. order to show that it does not substantiate the charge that there is a desire on the part of the State Parliament to block the settlement of the question. The crux of the whole matter is to be found in a paragraph of a letter addressed by the State Premier to the Prime Minister on 26th September last. I may say, in. passing, that in glancing through the correspondence, I have been struck by the fact that it opened in a very friendly, not to say affectionate manner. We have, “ My dear Mr. Deakin,” and “ My dear Mr. Carruthers,” but toward* the end we find the two Ministers coming down to the formal “ sir,” marking a distinct change of feeling.
– The first mode of address was used in letters- that were written confidentially, and afterwards published, whilst the second was used in accordance with the usual custom in letters that were written officially. The change in the mode of address marks no difference of feeling.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s assurances. As I have said, the crux of the question is contained in the following paragraph, from a letter addressed on the 26th September last, by the Premier of New South Wales to the Prime Minister : -
If tlie provision of the Constitution had been followed prior to this legislation -
The Premier was referring, to legislationmentioned by the Prime Minister - then the territory comprising the Seat of Government would now be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and the Federal Parliament would have exclusive jurisdiction over the same. Rights of ownership and jurisdiction of the widest possible character would thus be conferred upon the Federal Parliament, to the absolute exclusion of any competing claim” of the State. Can it be doubted, if these rights are conferred, that the Commonwealth authorities have the inherent power to drive in a survey peg, or (if the word “ survey “ creates a difficulty) to drive in a peg as evidence of ownership?
The Premier of New South Wales went on to state -
I agree with you that the Seat of Government Act does not in so many words say that the Commonwealth may “drive in a survey peg ; but it is an irresistible inference, provided that territory shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth previously to the determination of the Seat of Government.
You. further state that such an Act, authorizing the survey for the purposes of the Act of 1904, must clearly stand or fall with the latter, and enable its validity to be tested. To this proposition I am unable to agree.
The Premier of New South Wales says, further, that the introduction of such a Bill as was proposed to be submitted would, in his opinion, frustrate the object which both parties had in view, but, as his statement is very concise, I shall save the time of the House by giving it verbatim : -
I am satisfied, if my proposal to insert a peg is adhered to, that it will lead to the determination of the majority of the questions submitted by myself in my letter of the 1st August last. On the other hand, I am confident that if this supplementary legislation is interposed, the object we both desire will be frustrated.
That seems to me a very reasonable explanation of his objection to the proposal. He continues -
If the provisions of the Constitution have been followed, the Commonwealth must now he able to exercise such an act of ownership as is proposed. Further legislation to authorize such a proceeding is unnecessary, will lead to delay, and the High Court may be forced to decide that the insertion of this peg has been technically authorized by the Seat of Government Survey Act i»)o.5, although they may at the same time be of opinion that the Seat of Government Act itself is not binding on the State of New South Wales.
He evidently saw clearly that the legislation suggested would block the settlement of the main question by clouding the real issue, and his objections, considering the source from which they came, and the clear, concise, and courteous language in which they are couched, should have received more consideration. Replying to that letter, the Prime Minister wrote from Melbourne on 27th September: -
Some further legislative provision is, therefore, necessary, and the draft Bill is intended to supply the requisite authority. Even as it stands, it would, I think, effect all you desire ; but in order to satisfy you upon this point, I shall have pleasure in adding another clause. The effect of that clause will be that no act done under the Bill shall be deemed to be authorized by law if the Seat of Government Act 1904 is held to be invalid, and, therefore, not binding on New South Wales’.
What the Premier of New South Wales pointed out was that if the Commonwealth’ had acted consistently it could assert its authority, and therefore to pass legislation such as was suggested was not only unnecessary, but would complicate, instead of simplify, matters. As a further evidence of the bona fides of the honorable gentleman, let me quote from his letter of the 29th September, in which he writes : -
I note your suggestion as to adding a new clause, and appreciate your desire to meet my objections, which have been made in no spirit of captiousness, but with a sincere belief in their validity.
Speaking; as a layman who professes to have no expert knowledge of legal questions, I think that there is reason and logic in that position. He goes on to propose a remedy which appeals, to me because of its directness and its simplicity -
In my opinion, the simpler course will be for each Parliament to pass an Act agreeing to remit the real issues - to be defined in a schedule - to the High Court.
It seems to me that that procedure will lead to a settlement of the question more rapidly than any other. I understand that the Prime Minister has intimated his intention to bring, in a Bill to provide for an appeal to the High Court on this, matter, but he has not yet indicated the nature of its provisions. I think that he should let us know what the Bill is. intended to do before he asks us to pass the Appropriation Bill, because it may be that his proposals would excite adverse criticism from all sides of the House. I cannot see why he did not agree to the simple and direct procedure suggested by the Premier of New South’ Wales, who is evidently anxious to have this matter settled without unreasonable delay, by the highest judicial authority in the land. Now that the negotiations have been brought to an abrupt conclusion, however, we seem to be as far off from a settlement of the question as ever we were. I think that it is very much to be deplored that a sort of mutual antagonism between the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, or, at anyrare, between those at the head of affairs, has gradually sprung up, and created what I regard as needless friction. The honorable member for Cowper stated that the Parliament of New South Wales approved of Dalgety as a site, but, so far as my memory serves me, I do not think that the previous Parliament, to which he was referring, took any action in regard to Dalgety. A former Premier of the State, I belieVe, accepted certain suggestions, made either directly or indirectly - I am not sure which - but no real compact was entered into with regard to Dalgety or any other site. Whatever was done was done, not by the Parliament of New South Wales, which comprises the two Houses of Legislature there, but by the Premier of the day, acting either for his Government or on his own- responsibility. The matter certainly never came before the Parliament, so far as my memory serves me. They have never had an opportunity to say whether they approve of that site, ft may, however, be taken as an indication of the fact that they do not approve of it that, when the Government to which .1 refer was. sent to the country, it was hopelessly defeated. The present Government of New South Wales has a better claim to voice the opinions of the people of that State, because it is supported by a Parliament which was. elected since the determination of the Dalgety site by the Commonwealth Parliament. I think that we should recognise the undoubted rights of the people of New .South Wales to be consulted upon a question which involves the surrender of a portion of their territory. This matter affects the people of New South Wales more than the people of other States, although, doubtless, the latter are interested to a greater or less degree. As a preliminary to the selection of a site, some consultation should have taken place between the members of the Commonwealth Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament. If, as a private individual, I wished to occupy a certain block of land, it would be foolish on my part to start building operations without first ascertaining whether the owner was willing to grant me the site, or to permit me to acquire it in some other manner.
– But did not the New South Wales Parliament reserve the Dalgety site ?
– Not the Parliament; but a previous Premier did so. Since that time he has appealed to the country for a renewal of its confidence in his administration, and it has been refused.
– Was not that the same Premier who reserved all the sites?
– Was that the reason why his Government was sent about its business ?
– No; I do not say any such thing. But I contend that the action of the people of New South Wales indicates that they do not approve of the Dal gety site. The present State Government can speak with more authority as representing the people than could the previous Ministry.
– The honorable member knows that the question of the Capital Site was not a direct issue at the elections.
– I did not say it was; but the matter was referred to during the campaign.
– Would, it not facilitate matters if we said to the people of New South Wales, “ Do as you like “ ?
– I think it would; but are we prepared to do that?
– That is really what they want.
– I do not think they have manifested any such desire. There is certainly nothing in the correspondence to justify such an inference. If the Parliament of New South Wales had any idea of doing anything hurtful to the Commonwealth Parliament, they could not achieve their object more effectively than by granting the Dalgety site for the Federal Capital, because I believe that if honorable members ever have to conduct the legislative business of the Commonwealth in that locality they will be sorry that they chose such an inhospitable spot. The real point of the objection on the part of the New South Wales Parliament is that, without endeavouring to ascertain the wishes of New South Wales, this Parliament has determined upon a certain site for the Federal Capital.
– That site was offered to the Commonwealth by New South Wales, and recommended by its own Commissioner.
– That offer was not made by the people of New South Wales - it was never sanctioned by them. I venture to say that if a poll were taken of the people of New South Wales-
– Does not the honorable member think that the people of Australia should be consulted ?
– Certainly. But the people of New South Wales, who have to grant the territory, are primarily interested in the matter ; and if a vote were taken tomorrow, I am sure that the vast majority would support the action of the State Parliament. I know that there is a strong prejudice on the part of many honorable members against Sydney, and it appears to me that most of the opposition to an alteration of the present arrangements is clue to the fear that Sydney might derive some advantage from the establishment of the Federal Capital’ in the State of which it is the metropolis. I contend that a most un-Federal’ spirit has been manifested, and that it should not be fostered in this House.
– Is it not a fact that the Dalgety site was reserved by the Government of New South Wales, and that it is still reserved ?
– Yes. As I have explained, that was due to the action of a previous Government. The present State Parliament had nothing to do with it. So far as they have been consulted, they have intimated their objection to Dalgety.
– Then it was a waste of time for us to consider the matter.
– It was a waste of time for us to select a site, and to thus deliberately invite all the opposition we have since encountered.
– The honorable member did not say so at the time.
– I did point out that our action might lead to friction between the two Parliaments. I quoted the Constitution, and maintained that the acquisition of the territory should precede the selection of the site. If my view is’ not correct, I should like to know why it was provided that the site should be selected within territory “ which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth.”
– What is the use of asking us that question?
– We have to ask that question, because our disregard of the provisions of the Constitution has led to the present difficulty.
– How was it the honorable member did not discover that before?
– I did discover it before, and I warned honorable members of the difficulty that would probably be created. But many of them had pledged themselves to vote for particular sites, and paid no heed to what I said. The present difficulty has been created by our selection of the site before we had acquired the territory. If we had first entered into friendly negotiations with the New South Wales Government, and made sure that we could acquire territory within which we could’ select a desirable site, we should have experienced no difficulty. However, it is too late for us to discuss that matter, except to the extent of admitting that we have made a mistake.
– I do not admit that we have made a mistake.
– In any case, the House should have an opportunity to say whether or not any mistake has been made. Even though we may not be prepared to acknowledge that we have committed a blunder, we should, by way of deference to the State which has to give the territory, extend reasonable consideration to the suggestions made by its Parliament. If we refuse to do so, we cannot expect to. promote those amicable relations which should subsist between all the States and the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The New South Wales Parliament prefers that we should continue to sit here.
– The honorable member is stating what is not in accordance with fact. I am perfectly sure that the New South Wales Parliament sincerely desire that the matter should be settled fairly and squarely. At any rate, I prefer to give them credit for sincerity rather than to attribute to them evil motives such as have been imputed by some representatives of New South Wales. Some honorable members who have had the honour of sitting in the State Parliament have apparently carried away with them bitterness, hatred, and ill-feeling, and now speak of that Parliament in the most contemptuous terms.
– That is not a fair accusation to make.
– I said some of them - not all of them. I trust that the Minister does not suppose that I am attributing any such feeling to him. Other honorable members have, however”, manifested a spirit which is anything but creditable to them. In cultivating a spirit of resentment between the Parliament of New South Wales and this Parliament, we are deliberately hindering the promotion of a healthy Federal spirit. We are adopting a course of action which, if persevered in, must lead to a condition of things which is anything but desirable. The Commonwealth Parliament would exhibit a very much more commendable spirit if it endeavoured to re-establish amicable relations with the New South Wale.*, Government with a view to getting this question determined at the earliest possible moment. If the Government of that State has any valid objection to granting us the Dalgety site, we ought to meet its wishes, provided that we can obtain some other site which will suit our purposes equally well. We are entitled to know what action the Prime Minister proposes, to take in order to assert the rights of the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion wilh this matter. Tt must be recollected that the New South Wales Parliament has never claimed to exercise any voice in the selection of the Capital Site, but only in the choice of the Federal territory.
– -But the site must be within the territory.
– We. have made the mistake of selecting a site before we have acquired any Federal territory. By so doing, we have practically said to New South Wales, “This is the land that we will have, and we intend to take it whether you like it or not.”
– That is certainly the intention of the Constitution.
– Does the Constitution mean that New South Wales, is to have no rights in connexion with the determination of the Federal territory?
– Yes: I was one of those who framed the Constitution, and I ought to know something about it.
– I do not think that the Treasurer’s view is the correct one. The representative of New South Wales at the Premiers’ Conference would never have agreed to a proposal of that character.
– To locate the Seat nf Government within her territory was a concession to New South Wales. ,
– Nominally, the Dalgety site is within her territory, but for all practical purposes the Seat of Government might just as well be at the North Pole. The same remark is applicable to the other site which was pitted against Dalgety when the final vote upon this, question was taken in the House. I maintain that the granting of the Federal Capital to New South Wales was intended to represent a substantial concession to that State. It was, a material part of the bond.
– The honorable member knows what was intended much better than I do, because he was not present at the Premiers’ Conference, and I was.
– Does the Treasurer mean 1.0 imply that because he was present he could interpret the mind of every member of that Conference?
– I know what wassaid.
– I will guarantee that the right honorable gentleman cannot produce anything in writing to support his view.
– Because there were no reporters present.
– I do not think that the representative of New South Wales at that gathering was such a traitor to that State as to surrender her rights in that way.
– He was very glad to get the concession that he did.
– He was. glad to secure the concession that the Seat of Government should be located in New South Wales, and in such a position that it would represent a substantia] gain to the State. It has been stated - and I think correctly - that the provision in regard to the 100 miles limit was inserted for the express purpose of excluding the selection of Moss Vale.
– It is a great pity that it was.
– The idea underlying the insertion of that provision was that the Seat of Government should not be located too close to Sydney. I wish honorable members to understand that I am not speaking on behalf of Sydney, but on behalf of New South Wales, and of the best interests of the Commonwealth. Whilst I am perfectly prepared to uphold the constitutional rights of this Parliament, I am equally willing to champion the constitutional rights of New South Wales, or of any other State. In taking up that attitude I claim that I am exhibiting a truly Federal spirit. I appeal to the Prime Minister to comply with the reasonable desires of the people of New South Wales in this matter. I feel sure that perseverance in the attitude which has hitherto been adopted by the Government will lead to results that we do not clearly foresee at the present time. I believe that the friction which has been created by the delay in settling this vexed question is so great that, if an appeal were made to the electors of New South Wales to-morrow there would be practically a unanimous vote in favour of seceding from the Federation. I am surprised that a manwho has spoken in such grandiloquent language as has the Treasurer upon the necessity of promoting a truly Federal spirit, should refuse to recognise the rights of any State other than his own. I cannot understand the animus which is exhibited against Sydney.
– There is no animus.
– I am referring to the fixture of the interjections which have been made by representatives of New South Wales sitting in the Labour corner. I cannot understand their objection to allowing Sydney to obtain any advantage which may result from trade relations with the Federal Capital. So far as the Victorian representatives are concerned, I believe that some, at least, of them are so liberalminded that they would be quite prepared to allow Sydney to become the Capital tomorrow if an opportunity were afforded to secure an alteration of the Constitution. That, however, is not asked. All that New South Wales desires is that we shall recognise the spirit of the bond which was entered into. If any benefit is’ to be conferred upon New South Wales by the possession of the Seat of Government it must be located in territory which is easily accessible. It is well known that Dalgety is situated in the most inaccessible position from the stand-point of all the States.
– That makes it all the better.
– It may be all the better in the opinion of those who desire to get into an inaccessible place, but if this site be inaccessible, so far as the majority of the people of New South Wales are concerned, and for all practical purposes might as well be in another State, what becomes of the substantial concession which formed the very basis of the bond ? The complaint is that the bond, although observed in the letter, has been, and is being, broken in the spirit. A great many honorable members, and more particularly the representatives of New South Wales, are aware of that fact. It is for this reason that I feel and speak strongly upon this matter. Whilst prepared to uphold the constitutional rights of the Commonwealth in regard to this and every other question, I am equally ready to uphold the constitutional rights of New South Wales, and, indeed, of every State. Mv desire is, as far as possible, to guard States’ rights from infringement by the Commonwealth just as I would resent an encroachment on the part of any State upon the rights of the Commonwealth. I propose now to pass to another matter, respecting which I put certain Questions this afternoon to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the printing of Commonwealth stamps, which last night formed the subject of rather heated references in the State Parliament. The criticisms then offered afford another indication of the irritation that has been produced amongst the people of New South Wales by the legislative and administrative acts of the Commonwealth.
– Is not the Minister doing right in proposing to obtain the stamps in the cheapest market?
– I do not say that he has not a right to do so, provided that the work can be done as efficiently as it has been in New South Wales.
– The Minister states that under the new arrangement he will be able to have the work carried out more reasonably and effectively than before.
– As the machine to be obtained for the printing of stamps has not yet been tested here, I do not know how the Minister can be confident that that will be the result of the new arrangement. Any interference with the present system of printing stamps for the Commonwealth will dislocate long-settled avenues of employment, not only in New South Wales, but in the other States. It is well known that the Government of New South Wales incurred considerable expense in obtaining the plant necessary for the printing of stamps and in securing competent men.
– They have not the machinery necessary at the present time to print all our stamps.
– I admit that; but they expended about £6,000 in installing stamp printing machinery in the State Printing Office.
– Surely they did not expend £6,000 on machinery designed sol el v for the printing of stamps?
– I am basing my remarks upon information furnished by the press as to the debate which took place last night in the State Parliament.
– The machinery is probably used for the printing of postal notes and postcards, as well as stamps.
– That may be. I have not yet received a copy of the official report Of the proceedings in the State Parliament, but from the newspaper reports it would appear that it was stated in the course of the debate that the Government of New South Wales had expended £6,000 upon the installation of machinery used primarily for the printing of stamps.
– No wonder the stamps are so costly.
– At all events, it is admitted by experts that the work turned out by the Government Printing Office of New South Wales is of the highest standard, and I suppose that with improved machinery it would be able to print the Commonwealth stamps quite as cheaply as could any other State Government Printing Office. If this machinery is to be imported, why should it be set up in Adelaide ?
– As a matter of fact, it has not yet been determined that it shall be set up there.
– I am glad to learn from the answer given to my question this afternoon that the matter has not been finally determined.
– The machine in question is to go to Dalgety.
– I am sure that the climate of Dalgety will have utterly destroyed its parts before an opportunity occurs for it to do effective work; it might as well be sent to the Antarctic regions. I understand that an expenditure of ^2,000 - which, I presume, the State Government would be willing to make - upon improved machinery would enable the Government Printing Office of New South Wales to print all stamps required by the Commonwealth for some time to come.
– - Surely this is a matter which is under the control of the Commonwealth.
– I admit that it is; but I am dealing with the question as it affects not only New South Wales, but all the States. Whilst the Commonwealth might be technically right in adopting a certain line of action, it need not necessarily assert a right when by doing so it would unnecessarily disturb the industrial conditions of the States.
– Will the honorable member stand by that argument when the Tariff is under consideration?
– All that I say is that the Commonwealth, in dealing with matters of administration, need not take an action in the assertion of its rights which would unnecessarily disturb the industrial conditions of the .States, so far as the -work of the various Government Departments is concerned. I am not speaking of commercial matters outside the control of the Public Service of the States. Moreover, I distinctly said “unnecessarily.” I trust that the Postmaster-General, before finally dealing with this question, will consider the effect which his proposal would have upon those engaged in the production of stamps in the various States. According to answers furnished to-day by the PostmasterGeneral to questions which I put to him, it appears that the revenue obtained from the sale of stamps in the several States is as follows : - New South Wales, .£787,660 5s. 6d. ; Victoria, £543,879 13s. 9d. ; Queensland, £271,517 is. id.; South Australia - where it is proposed to print the whole of the stamps of the Commonwealth - £196,013 13s. 2d. ; Western Australia, £186,801 17s. id. ; and Tasmania, £°3>349 rs. nd. It will be observed that there is a wide disparity between- the revenue derived from this source in New South Wales and that obtained in South Australia.
– Is that a reason why the State Government should fleece the Commonwealth ?
– It is not correct to use the word “fleece” in this connexion. It may be that hitherto the cost of printing our stamps has not been as low as it might have been ; but is there not a possibility of the Commonwealth Government making better terms with the Government of New South .Wales ?
– Does not the honorable member think that . my promise that I will have the stamps printed where the work can be most cheaply and effectively carried out is a fair one?
– And so as to protect the Commonwealth against fraud?
– There is no urgent meed to interfere with existing conditions, but I think that the PostmasterGeneral is within his rights in endeavouring, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to secure the best article at the cheapest rate. I am not advocating a monopoly of this work. The Commonwealth, at the earliest possible moment, should take steps to do all its own printing, provided the work can be carried out as economically as it is done under the existing arrangement with the various States. Another complaint from New South Wales relates to the printing of the Federal rolls. According to the press reports, the Premier of New South Wales stated last night in the local Legislature that it was the intention of the Common wealth
Government to have the whole of the electoral rolls printed in Melbourne. I should like to know if that is the intention of the Government. If it is, honorable members are entitled to some explanation of the reason for this proposed course of action. If it were proposed to print the whole of the Federal electoral rolls in New South Wales, the representatives of other States would at once be up in arms. Surely, therefore, the representatives of New South Wales have a right to know the why and the wherefore of the proceeding referred to, assuming that it is in contemplation. During the consideration of the vote for the administration of British New Guinea, it was suggested that a Committee should be appointed to investigate certain statements as to the spread amongst the native population of diseases imported by the whites, and the enormous death-rate in the Northern Division of the Territory, for which no definite cause is assigned. Certain other matters were hinted at which indicate the need for an inquiry; but we have not yet had an assurance from the Prime Minister, or any member of the Government, that an inquiry will be held. I hope that we shall receive such an assurance before the debate terminates. This Bill makes provision for the payment of a subsidy for a mail service to the Pacific Islands, one of the main reasons for which is that it is hoped that it will assist to establish trade relations with these islands, and thus promote settlement, with a view to bringing about such effective occupation as will be regarded by the Imperial Government as a reason for granting the request of the Commonwealth Parliament for their annexation. In this connexion. I should like to know what has been done bv the Government towards the settlement of the New Hebrides question. The longer its settlement is delayed, the more difficult will it be. I think that the Government should tell us what steps thev are taking to secure the recognition of British interests in those islands, and to bring about a different system of control. Have they taken such action as will induce the British authorities to give effect to the desire of the. Commonwealth that the islands shall as speedily as possible be brought under British control, and the dual control which now exists be done away with, bv a mutual’ arrangement between France and Great Britain? It has been suggested that the two powers might effect an exchange, whereby France would acquire territory in an- other part of the world of more material advantage to her than the retention of her present rights in the New Hebrides, while Great Britain would acquire the sole control of those island’s. The commercial interests and defence of Australia are close!connected with this question, and, therefore, as little delay as possible should take place in connexion with its settlement. I think that the Government should also tell the House what steps they propose to take to secure a renewal of the mail contract, on the expiration of the present term. I hope that the mistake made on the last occasion of leaving the matter until the last moment will not be repeated.
– We shall not make that mistake again.
– I hope not. I hope that the Government will enter into timely negotiations, with a view to securing better terms than those which were more or less forced on the Commonwealth on the last occasion.
– We are getting ready now to invite tenders.
– I am . glad to know that. I wish now to call attention to an item in the schedule to the Appropriation Bill, which occurs with alarming frequency, I refer to the expenditure under the head of “Miscellaneous,” which, in the aggregate, is very large. I was astonished to find that in the Department of External Affairs, £1,350 is to be expended under that heading; £37,800 in the Department of Home Affairs, and £2,720 in the Department of Trade and Customs - or £41,870 in the three Departments.
– Are the amounts larger than they were last year?
– That is not the question to which I wish to draw attention.
– The honorable member had nothing to say on the subject then.
– Because it had not occurred to me that Parliament was voting away such a large sum of money in rega.r<i to the expenditure of which honorable members had little or no explanation. The heading “Miscellaneous” occurs in other Departments besides those which I have named, large sums being set down for incidental expenses and petty cash- I did not have time to go through the Estimates of the Defence Department under this and similar headings, but I find that in the Post and Telegraph Department incidental and petty cash items represent a total of £4,680. This amount, together with those previously mentioned under the head of “miscellaneous,” bring the total up to £50,270. That is a very large expenditure, and, so far as I can see, it has a tendency to increase.
– The provision made for honorable members’ salaries appears under the head of “miscellaneous.”
– I am referring merely to the Departments, and not to the expenditure connected with the Parliament itself.
– The provision for the conveyance of members, appears under the head of “ Miscellaneous “ in the Home Affairs Department, and is included in the amount mentioned by the honorable member. Last year it amounted to £47,700.
– I did not notice it then, but that is no reason why I should not direct attention to it now. I am indebted to the honorable member for the information he has given me. I mentioned this matter because I think that it is only right that we should be made acquainted as far as possible with the various, items of expenditure. Some Ministers are no doubt inclined to think that we devote too much time to the consideration of the Estimates, but in my opinion we do not sufficiently scrutinize the various votes. In future I shall regard it as my dutv to Pav a little more attention than I have hitherto done to the Estimates.. If I have been remiss in the past I can only plead my inexperience as a member of Parliament. I recently had forwarded to me from New South Wales certain correspondence with reference to letter-carriers and Other employes in the Post Office, and my attention was also directed to a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th of October last. Under the heading of “Post Office Regulations,” the following statement is made : -
During the hearing of a charge of letterstealng against a letter-carrier at the Quarter Sessions yesterday, the practice stated to be in vogue at the General Post Office of letter-carriers assisting one another to place their letters in the order of delivery, and the apparent want of supervision in checking the return of undelivered letters by the carriers, were the subjects of comment by both Judge and jury. It was said, however, that the office regulations prohibited .one letter-carrier interfering or touching another carrier’s letters, but undisputed evidence was given that this regulation was not generally observed. Judge Docker, .commenting on the evidence, said he had been unable to ascertain if the regulations were even printed or posted in the room, so that all concerned could understand them, as would be expected in a commercial establishment.
Those are very strong remarks to come from a Judge.
The Post Office was at the root of all business, and its efficiency and honesty were esential to commercial welfare. The jury in acquitting the accused indorsed some remarks which had been made by his Honour with respect to the loose and irregular way the particular regulations affecting letter-carriers were carried out. His Honour hoped the expression of opinion would have some effect in securing a strict observance of the regulations, and their more clear definition.
Then in the report of the case I find the following, reference to the action of the detectives : -
The detectives saw the accused take out the letters from McLaughlin’s box, adjoining his own, and, after running through them, he selected four one of them being the trap letter. These he tied up, and subsequently placed in his bag when leaving for his delivery. The detectives stopped him. When asked he produced the small bundle of letters, which belonged to the other beat, and said that the carriers usually ran through each others’ beats, and exchange letters on the ‘bus which they had not time to arrange in order of delivery before leaving the office.
The practice of exchanging letters which have not been arranged for delivery before leaving the office appears, to me to be a loose one, and if the regulations are not known, steps should be taken to bring them under the notice of the officials,, and to insure that they are properly observed. I trust that the Postmaster-General will not allow himsef to be deterred bv any obstacles which may be placed in the way owing to departmental red-tapeism, or the conservatism that is inherent in every Department, from meeting as far as he possibly can the requirements of the public in regard to telephone extensions and improved means of communication between sparsely populated districts and the large business centres. The demands which are now made for guarantees are very irritating. I know that modifications in the regulations- have been made from time to time, but in view of the fact that no substantial benefit is derived” from the guarantees I think they should be done away with altogether, and the Department should trust entirely to the development of the telephone services. I trust that the Postmaster-General will not pay too much attention to official prejudices and to that spirit of conservatism which resents any attempt at innovation or reform of established usage. I do not say that this spirit is peculiar to the Post and Telegraph Department - it is characteristic of every Government Department - I give the Minister credit for doing the best he can, and I can only hope that his efforts will be crowned with success. Now I come to the Customs Department, which above all others, requires to be carefully watched, especially by members of the. Opposition. I notice that persistent attempts are being made to bring outside influence - in my opinion, undue influence - to bear upon the officials, upon the Minister, and upon members of this House, with a view to secure certain advantages for a particular firm of manufacturers in Melbourne. Honorable members are, I think, entitled before the Bill is passed to receive from the Prime Minister information as to whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation during this session to alter the Tariff, or to interfere with it in the direction indicated by frequent paragraphs in the newspapers. We have noticed that certain interested manufacturers have recently been busily engaged in lobbying.
– Is that a fact - has there been any lobbying this session ?
– Yes. . I have noticed it myself. I have seen strangers within the lobbies button-holing members in regard to matters affecting their own businesses, and I have been approached myself - not by the firm to which I have referred, but in connexion with matters in which they are interested. Therefore, I am speaking with some knowledge of what is going on. It is our duty to see that the various Departments are administered free from undue pressure from outside. I think that we should - no matter in what part of the House we may sit - discountenance any attempt to induce those charged with the administration of the Customs Act to employ the powers whch have been vested in them -and which were intended -to be exercised only in extreme cases - to defeat the will of Parliament in regard to Tariff matters. That is what is going on at the present time. I do not wish to enter into a detailed discussion upon the question of harvesters, as the matter has “been previously threshed out. It has been shown that the action taken by the Customs Department, besides having a most irritating effect upon commercial enterprises, inflicted a very grave injustice-
– Will the honorable member explain how it brought about a reduction in the price of harvesters?
– It did not bring about any such reduction. It it had had that effect I am sure that the honorable member would not have been pleased with it.
– Mr. McKay’s “ ring “ was broken up. That is how the price of the harvesters came to be reduced.
– Exactly. The “ring” was broken tup by outside competition. That is what brought about a reduction in the price of harvesters. Would the honorable member for Moira support the Minister if he again raised the valuation of those machines for Customs purposes?
– If his action would produce a similar result I should like him to still further increase the valuation of imported harvesters. .
– We know perfectly well that the Minister’s’ action was not intended to achieve that result.
– It had the effect of bursting up the “ ring.”
– I can show that the statement of the Minister is not absolutely in accordance with facts.
– I say that the effect of my action was to reduce the price of harvesters.
– I say that that was not its effect at all. The reduction in the price of those machines was brought about by the failure to- establish a ring, as was advocated in the organ of the manufacturers - the Age. If the honorable member desires me to do so, I will quote from an article which appeared in that journal, in which it is clearly set out that it would be wise to increase the price of harvesters to such an extent that the manufacturers in Australia would enjoy an absolute monopoly. But, quite apart from these considerations, I maintain that the action of the Minister in going behind Parliament and putting into operation powers which were intended to be used only with the utmost discretion - in short, in flouting the will, of Parliament in regard to matters of taxation - was Unconstitutional and wrong. It simply illustrates the danger of vesting too large discretionary powers in Ministers. We must recognise that Ministers and officials are not infallible. As a matter of fact, whenever large discretionary powers are vested in officials there is always a tendency to use them harshly. The official mind is trained to run in such a groove that officialism stands before everything else.
– That is not so in regard to the drink question.
– It is so in regard to every question. In my opinion, the Minister did not wisely exercise the powers which have been vested in him under the Customs Act.
– I think that I acted very discreetly.
– The papers which were laid upon the table of the Library clearly; showed that there was no. warrant whatever for the Minister’s action. . The particular firm which .was importing these harvesters enjoys a reputation for honesty and uprightness. Mr. Smart, in reporting on the dealings of that firm paid an unsolicited tribute .to their integrity. He took pains to point out that an examination of their invoices on previous occasions showed that they were absolutely reliable. His statement was borne out by the invoices which were submitted for a couple of years previously, and also by light which was shed upon the matter subsequently.
– They have now brought an action against the Government, and1 we shall see what will come out of it.
– If there is an action pending at the present time I will not discuss the merits of the case. But I would point out that this particular company offered to submit the whole of its books for the inspection of the Customs Department.
– The papers which they sent to me do not correspond with their books, and are of a most unsatisfactory character.
– The firm upon whose representations action was taken by the Customs Department is not prepared to submit its books for the inspection of the Minister.
– I am speaking of the Massey-Harris Company.
– I was referring to that company, but I am now alluding to the Sunshine Harvester Company. While the importing firm were prepared to submit all their books for the inspection of the Customs Department, the company upon whose representations the authorities took action, namely, the Sunshine ‘ Han-ester Company, was not willing to submit its books for inspection.
– But the books of the Massey-Harris Company here would be of no value in showing the cost of production in Canada.
– The statement made by the Customs authorities in Canada to the head of the Customs Department in Victoria showed that the invoiced price of the goods represented the reasonable market rate- of these machines in Canada. .
– They are not sold in Canada.
– I am referring to the statement made by the Customs authorities there, and I take it that they ought to know a little more about that aspect of the matter than either the honorable member for Bland or myself.
– The honorable member should know that harvesters are not used in Canada, and therefore the authorities there have no means of arriving at a comparison.
– The Canadian authorities have access to the books of the company, and therefore they must be in a better position than we are to arrive at an accurate valuation of the cost of these harvesters.
– We shall see who comes out of the action on top. I think that the result will be similar to that which followed upon the recent seizure of Panama hats.
– The Minister did not come out of that incident very well. He raised the valuation of a shipment of Panama hats for Customs purposes to ,£200. Did he receive a tender for that amount?
– I received a tender for ^148.
– That is £52 short of the Customs valuation.
– But it is a long way in excess of the importers’ valuation.
– We do not know what strings were pulled to secure that result. Of course, I do not say that any strings were pulled by the Minister, because in a matter of that kind a Minister should be above suspicion.
– I did not speak to a single individual about those tenders. I never even saw Mr. Anderson.
– At any rate, the tender accepted was far below the valuation which the officers of the Department had placed upon the hats, and showed clearly that a mistake had been made by them. The Minister has admitted in this House that there was no attempt on the part of the firm in question to defraud the revenue ; but the interjection made by- the honorable member for Bland would imply that there was.
– How would the honorable member describe an attempt on the part of a firm to secure the admission of goods below their value?
– The tenders received by the Department do not show that there was an undervaluation of these hats. It must be remembered that the price which the Department received for them does not allow for the cost of freight, insurance, and distribution, and * for other incidental charges which had to be added to, the valuation made for Customs purposes.
– The Customs received double the amount at which the hats were valued for Customs purposes.
– The valuation made for Customs purposes did not include the cost of freight and other charges which the importers had to bear, but which the successful tenderers had not to meet.
– They merely amount to jo per cent., or about £5 in all.
– But that and all other incidental charges have to be deducted from the price obtained by the Department for the hats. The Department has not scored over this transaction. The hats were imported at a valuation which had been accepted as correct in the case of a prior consignment and it was shown by the persons concerned that they were retailed at a price which merely allowed of a reasonable profit upon the declared value.
– No argument can disprove the fact that they were entered for Customs purposes at half their value.
– That is not a correct statement of fact. In the circumstances, the declared value was a fair one. The tenders received for these hats afford no real indication of their value f.o.b. at the port of export, and that is the basis upon which they must be assessed for the purposes of the Customs Act. In both these matters the Department has figured in a verv unfavorable light. These incidents show that it is necessary to keep a careful watch upon its, administration, in order that there may be no undue interference either by the Minister or his officials with the commerce of the country. The prosperity of Australia largely depends upon the extension of its commerce, and anything which interferes with commercial enterprise as between the Commonwealth and any other country should be discountenanced by all who have at heart the best interests of Aus tralia. Neither the Customs Act nor any other statute should be used for the purpose’s of persecution and tyranny. I submit, however, that the action of the Department of Trade and Customs, in connexion with the importation of harvesters and the consignment of hats to which I have referred, amounted to a tyrannical and autocratic interference with business people in this city, whose bona fides have not been questioned. What is tantamount to a reign of terror has been sought to be initiated to injure trie trade of importers in the interests of local manufacturers. The Minister may rest assured that there is at least one watchful eye kept upon the doings of his officers. Although he may have the good fortune at an early date to escape into recess, he may be confident that if he perseveres in such a policy as that with which I have been dealing, he will bring considerable trouble upon himself. Any act of maladministration, whether it be in regard to the raising or the lowering of duties, or anything that unduly interferes with the ordinary run of commercial transactions in the Commonwealth, will be closely scrutinized by me.
– In any event, that would be the attitude of the Opposition.
-Legitimate action on the part of the Minister or his officers to protect the revenue will have the support of the Opposition, quite irrespective of their fiscal beliefs. No honorable member of the Opposition would be prepared to support an. attempt on the part of importers or any one else to defraud the Customs. If it could be shown that such an attempt had been made, Ministers would have the support of all sections of the House in prosecuting the offenders. But it has1 been admitted, as I have said, that the importers of these hats had no intention of defrauding the revenue. That being so, there was no reasonable ground for the action taken by the Department. I come now to the question of the sugar bounty, which is dealt with in the Estimates, and therefore comes within the scope of the Appropriation Bill.’
– The honorable member will not be in order in making any reference to the Sugar Bounty Bill, or the Sugar Excise Bill, inasmuch as both are set down on the notice-paper, for consideration. I am not aware that there is any item in the Estimates relating to the sugar bounty.
– I apprehend that provision will have to be made for the con- tinuance of the bounty, and I am sure that the Estimates contain some reference to the matter.
– If the honorable member turns to the notice-paper he will find that order of the day No. 4 relates to the Sugar Bounty Bill, and order of the day No.. 5 to the Sugar Excise Bill. The whole ground is covered by these measures, and I can scarcely conceive of any remarks which the honorable member could make upon the subject that would not be precluded by the Standing Orders,, so far as the measure now before the House is concerned.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, would not the honorable member be entitled to discuss the amount paid away by the Commonwealth in respect of the sugar bounty ?
– If the sugar bounty were paid out of the Consolidated Revenue upon theauthority of the Appropriation Act, I should undoubtedly be constrained to allow the honorable member some* liberty in the matter ; but since the present bounty is paid, not upon the authority of the Appropriation Act, but upon, the special authority of the Sugar Bounty Act itself, I cannot allow the matter to be discussed in connexion, with the measure now under consideration.
– I was not proposing to discuss the provisions of the Sugar Bounty Bill. But I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that at page 6 of the Estimates, under the heading of “ Special appropriations,” the following item appears: -
Act No. 4 of 1903 - Sugar Bounties,£146,000.
– The honorable member has just quoted the authority for the payment of the present bounty that I had in mind. The item to which he refers shows that the bounty is paid, not on the authority of the Appropriation Act, but upon the special authority of the Sugar Bounty Act itself. He will find that the figures relating to special appropriations do not appear in the Appropriation Bill.
– I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that at page 3 of the Estimates we find a statement showing that the estimated net revenue from the excise on sugar for the current financial year is £514,500. I merely point this out from a desire to elicit information as to the procedure open to us.
– The honorable and learned member is perfectly entitled to solicit information in regard to these matters. He will recognise, however, that we are now discussing the Appropriation Bill, covering the expenditure for the year, and that the items to which he refers are in no sense covered by the Estimates. I do not say that the honorable member is precluded from dealing with the subject, but he will have to be very careful to connect his remarks with the Appropriation Bill, and to exclude reference to the Sugar Excise and Sugar Bounty Bills.
– As I shall havean opportunity to deal with this matterwhen the Bills you, Mr. Speaker, have named, are before the House, I shall make no further reference to it on this occasion, seeing that I have already spoken for a longer period than it was my intention to do. There are many other matters which I wish to bring under notice, but on which I shall not speak now, for the same reason. I hope, however, that the Government will give us an indication of the work which yet remains to be done during this session, and of the action they propose to take inregard to the settlement of the Federal Capital Site question and the New Hebrides question. In regard to the former, I hope that the suggestions of honorable members on this side of the Chamber will be followed, and that a conciliatory attitude will be adopted towards the people of New South Wales.
– I am somewhat surprised, in view of the many subjects with which he dealt, and the length of his speech, that the honorable member for Langdid not ask for leave to conclude his remarks to-morrow. I have not risen to make a long speech, but I intend to voice my opinions very plainly in regard to the present position of affairs. Imay be accused of lecturing all and sundry, but I, nevertheless, intend to speak my mind openly and freely, and I hope that I shall not make enemies by so doing. In the first place, I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral for having, for the first time since he took office, come from behind his predecessor. During the discussion of the Estimate’s,and until he made a remark across the table to the honorable member for Lang to-night, he has been, so tospeak, carried “ on the back of his father.” He has always pushed the late Postmaster-General forward when objection has been taken to proposed expenditure, or to matters of administration ; but to-night he promised to do something definite in regard to one particular matter.
It is about time that something definite was done in regard to that matter in particular, and in regard to matters generally. We have heard a great deal, in season and out of season, about the necessity for obtaining finality as to the Federal Capital question. If one question has claimed more attention than- another during the existence of this Parliament, it is the Federal Capital question. What is its history? Does blame for delay really rest with this Parliament? Before we took any action, the New South Wales Government appointed a Commissioner to inspect and report upon available sites. His recommendations were laid before us, and, strangely enough, we finally selected one’ of the sites which he recommended.
– He did not. report on the Dalgety site.
– Reference to his report will show that he did. During the regime of the Barton Government was not a special appeal made to the Premier of the day for a recommendation from his Government to the Commonwealth Government in respect to the Capital Site? Nothing, however, was done by that Government. The Barton Government thereupon submitted proposals to the House of Representatives and to the Senate, who disagreed in their choice, owing to an honest difference of opinion amongst members of the two bodies. Finally, however, a site, was agreed upon by .the two Houses, and determined, by the passing of the Seat of Government Act. What did the New South Wales Parliament do then? They professed to be ready to grant to the Commonwealth any . territory other than that which we had chosen.
– Mr. Oliver recommended Bombala first, and then Canobolas or Yass.
– How far is Bombala from Dalgety ?
– Thirty-five miles.
– They are practically in the same district.
– Yes, if the Commonwealth is to obtain a grant of 1,000 square miles, or thereabouts, instead of the 100 square miles provided for in the Constitution.
– This Parliament has asked for a grant of 900 square miles. The New South Wales Parliament is ready to grant any other site than that which has been chosen. But are we to go back on our decision, when no reasons for doing so have been advanced?
– The honorable member will at least admit that the refusal of the New South Wales Parliament to suggest Dalgety indicates their feeling in regard to the site.
– I do not admit anything at the present time. An officer selected by the New South Wales Government recommended the district which takes in Dalgety. I regret that the Prime Minister has gone so far as to “ kow tow “ to New South Wales about the driving in of a peg and the referring of questions to the High Court. I hope that this Government will pay regard to the decision of the Commonwealth Parliament, and not be pulled this way and that by the views expressed by other people. We have a Constitution to guide us, and have created a judicial tribunal to interpret it, so that if we go beyond our powers any State which we may injure will have a remedy. In my judgment, the work of this Parliament has been discredited by the excessive consideration paid to the opinions expressed by members of State Parliaments, and I would almost welcome in office a revolutionist, a Minister firm enough to act on his own volition, and not at the dictation of a State Government.
– And who would shoot down any ohe who disagreed with him.
– There need be no shooting down, and no friction. The honorable member for Lang to-night spoke about the dislocation of industry which will occur if the Commonwealth determines to have all its stamps printed at one office ; but how long is it since that honorable member has paid consideration to the effect of any act of legislation or administration upon the industries of Australia? Is it for the New South Wales Parliament, or any State Parliament, to say that we must continue to employ six offices to do what can be better done by one office? Surely the honorable member for Lang would not contend that the printing of stamps can be done more cheaply at six offices than at one central office. We hear a great deal about the Federal spirit, but there will be no healthy national spirit so long as we “kow tow” to and pay attention to the jealousies of the States. Whilst we have to depend upon what the State Parliaments do, we shall foster these feelings of jealousy. What is the position with regard to the High Commissioner at the present time? We are waiting and watching to see what the States Parliaments will do.
We are elected by the people of Australia, and we should act in a manner calculated to reflect credit on them, and should not submit to be discredited by the States Governments. I have heard some reference made to the effect of the policy pursued by this Parliament upon the finances of the States. It seems to me that this Parliament has reduced itself to a state of impecuniosity, in order that it may be in a position to hand over largesse to the States Treasurers to scatter about. I am answerable for my statements, and I am not afraid to voice my opinion that that is the position so far as Victoria is concerned. We have no money available for the construction of telephone lines, unless it can be demonstrated that the services will be conducted upon commercial principles. What is the use of honorable members endeavouring to discuss anything of an abstract character in the hope that finality will be reached? - I recognise that it is futile, even for the Government, to attempt to reach finality in regard to any matter of a controversial character, while we have to sit here time after time and listen to such a parrot-cry as has been repeated for five years in connexion, for example, with the Federal Capital Site. The Government have been charged with doing this and that and the other, but under existing conditions, they are powerless. It is admitted on all sides that there is complete paralysis in Parliament. What is the cause, and what is -the remedy ?
– There is too much talk for one thing.
– I have not said anything for about two months, and I am not going to accept any responsibility in that direction. When any matter of a controversial character comes before us, I think that every honorable member is within his rights in voicing his opinion. When the talk in Parliament has a tendency to retard the public business, surely we ought to be able to apply a remedy. There is no denying, however, that we have absolutely drifted into that position at the present time. The honorable member for Lang told us that it was absolutely necessary to more fully discuss the Estimates, and he went the length of asking Ministers for particulars regarding the items appearing under the heading of “ Miscellaneous.” If the honorable member had looked at the Estimates, he would have obtained the fullest information - information as ample as could have been afforded him if Min isters had addressed the Housie for halfanhour on the subject. I find that in one of the Departments, to which the honorable member directed attention, the expenditure provided for under the heading of “ Miscellaneous,” is £1,350. The amount voted last year was £1,700, but the honorable member took no exception to that, probably because he was sitting behind the Government which submitted the Estimates. Now he seriously asks Ministers after the Estimates have been dealt’ with for an explanation regarding items which are fully set forth in detail in the Estimates themselves. In the Department to which I refer, the items comprise “ Advertising the resources of the Commonwealth,” and “ Investigation of Tropical Diseases,” and so on. I have said enough to indicate that it is possible for an honorable member, if he chooses, to talk until all is blue.
– Including the honorable member.
– I have no objection, if the honorable member thinks fit to include me among those who possess that power. We have had dissertations upon a variety of subjects, from hats to harvesters, and from Kosciusko to the sea. Just one word about hats. In regard to the importation of so-called Panama hats, what happened was this: An undervaluation was made by some one to the extent’ of 100 per cent. The honorable member for Parramatta said that, as only £50 was involved, it was not worthy of the Customs Department to take any notice of it ; but I would point out that it was not a question of amount, but of ‘principle.
– I suggested that it was not enough to justify all the public fuss.
– The fuss was made by honorable members on the Opposition benches, who sought for an opportunity to declaim against the Minister of Trade and Customs, and to belittle his efforts to protect the revenue. .
– The Minister made the matter public with a great flourish of trumpets.
– The valuation of £53 bv the importing firm was challenged, and certain action was taken by the Minister, which resulted, eventually, in the consignment being sold by tender for £108.
– Quote all the tenders.
– The amount of the highest tender seems to me to indicate that in the first instance there was an undervaluation of 100 per cent.
– Not at all. It might disclose a mistake on the part of the highest tenderer.
– But, strange to say, there was another tender by a gentleman in Sydney amounting to £100.
– And there were two tenders amounting to £25 or £26.
– It is strange that the two highest tenderers should each have made a mistake. I believe that one of them was a gentleman who had a little difficulty with the Commonwealth authorities with regard to the introduction of the notorious six hatters. The tenders proved that the action of the Customs Department was fully justified-, because there was an undervaluation in the first instance.
– There was no undervaluation at all. The honorable member could buy 1,000,000 of the same class of hats in Formosa at is. 3d. each.
– Then it is remarkable that the highest tenderer, who evidently knew his business, should pay the price I have quoted. Now, passing to the subject of harvesters, I was told on a previous occasion that if I supported the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in increasing the. valuation of imported harvesters for the purpose of levying Customs duty, I would rob every farmer who purchased a machine of £10. Honorable members, however, who took that view, have proved themselves to be false prophets. The honorable member for Gippsland, when he was Minister of Trade and Customs, increased the valuation of imported harvesters by some £10, but we heard nothing whatever about that. When the present Minister took office the Customs officers obtained more information, and the particulars they obtained from the importers led to their increasing the valuation from about £38 to about £58. We were then told that farmers who required imported machines would have to pay a higher price, the increase being estimated, roughly speaking,’ at about £ro per machine. And I was accused of supporting the Minister in an action that would prove prejudicial to the best interests of the agriculturists. Instead of that result having been brought about, however, harvesters which, prior to the increase in the ‘ valuation, were being sold for £81, were in a very short time reduced in price to the extent of £11. I should like to know what would have happened to the farmers if the valuation had been increased to £81.
– According to the view taken by some honorable members, they would have got their machines for nothing.
– They would not have gut them for nothing, but probably would have had to pay less than £70. I should not have referred to this matter, but for the statements which have been made as to the effect of the increased valution. Some farmers may have been induced to think that there was something in the arguments used by the honorable members of the Opposition, but they are now fully aware that they can obtain machines for £10 less than they were formerly called upon to pay. . _
– Is that owing to the increase in the amount of the duty ?
– The honorable and learned member can explain the cause himself. I am dealing with the result. I believe that if the valuation were increased to £100 it would not make a difference of one cent, in the cost to the Australian farmer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the farmer is being, benefited by the operations of the trust which is fighting our people here?
– I know the extent to which the farmers were benefited by the action of the Government, which had the support of the honorable member, in subsidizing a huge trust by granting them £120,000 per annum. I should like some information as to the intentions of the Government. We have within the last few days passed a number of Bills through their .preliminary stages, and as other measures of a controversial character are still on the business-paper, it appears to me that we have a large amount of work before us.It is not often that I bother my leader with regard to matters of this kind. I know that a Government supporter has occasionally to allow his leader a considerable amount of discretion, and even to follow him when he is wrong.
– The honorable member, I understand, is one of the four Ministerial! supporters.
– To-night we have heard a good deal from members of the Opposition as to some premeditated action in connexion with this Bill. I desire to say that if they had the numbers they would not ask what the Government intentions were either before or after the Appropriation Bill had been passed.
– What does the honorable member mean ?
– The honorable member for Dalley stated that if he were the leader of the Opposition he would block the passing of this Bill until the Government had made a definite statement of their intentions. I asn the Government to make a specific announcement as to trie business with which they propose to proceed during the remainder of the session, and as to how long they intend to keep honorable members here. In this, connexion I do not claim to be a greater martyr than any other honorable member. But there is a limit to human endurance, and if the present condition of affair? is permitted to continue. I venture to say that within a very short time only two sections of the community will be represented in this Parliament - the wealthy, leisured class, and the unemployed. No man following an ordinaryoccupation can afford to devote ten months out of the year exclusively to parliamentary Work. I have told my constituents that I am not in a position to do so. When I first became a candidate for a seat in this Parliament, I did not anticipate that I should be called upon to devote eleven months out of the year to a consideration of public matters. Until the termination of- the present Parliament I am prepared to do that ; but no longer. When the Estimates were under consideration I reminded the Government that the States had been deprived of the right to grant bonuses to or subsidies for the development of the agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural industries. The right to grant these bonuses is. now exclusively vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Every Commonwealth Government has loudly proclaimed its desire to assist the development of our rural industries, and more particularly those appertaining to the soil.. But so far nothing whatever has been done.
– Instead, taxes have been imposed upon the people.
– Considerations of taxation do not trouble me. I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian is. the most lightly-taxed individual on the face of the earth. I have heard men complain because they were required to pay an income tax.
– We never complain about that.
– At any rate, I do not. It is time that the Government made a move in the direction of developing our resources. If the States will not take action, the Government should do so upon their own responsibility. We should no longer rest under the stigma which has been cast upon us. as the result of our inaction. To assist in the development of rural industries has been a plank in the platform of every Commonwealth Government. Even the Reid Administration told the people what they intended to do in this connexion.
– No; they merely said they intended to amend the Standing Orders.
– They had a plank in their platform ‘relating to the development of our rural industries. At the present time, I feel inclined to persist in my objection until some action has been taken in that direction. These are the two points upon which I desire information. I wish to know what business the Government propose to proceed with during the remainder of the session, and when we may expe’ct Parliament to be prorogued. I belong to the recess party. I also desire to learn whether the Government intend to do anything definite in the way of extending assistance to the agricultural, viticultural, and horticultural industries. We have enormous unexploited areas - particularly in the Northern Territory - and we possess very little knowledge of their capabilities. I think it is time that the Government took the House into their confidence, and told us exactly what they propose to do.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat having criticised the Government to a certain extent, I take no exception to his criticisms. They are those which I myself would pass if I were not engaged in the tasks of administration, while endeavouring to cope with the business of this House thrown upon us without warning at the very commencement of this’ session. Up to the present time, we have had only odds and ends, so to speak, of what I cannot call “ leisure.” but merely of opportunity to consider the very vital question to which the honorable member has specially called attention. I had hoped to submit for the consideration . of this House a scheme of assistance to rural industries, calculating that we should receive much encouragement and assistance from the States Governments. I regret to , say that their encouragement has not been general, and has been scanty. It is true that we have been offered the services of State officials connected with the various. Agricultural Departments to advise us. There are very few honorable members who possess the knowledge of the honorable member for Moira regarding the precise conditions under which new products of the soil, to which attention is most directed in Australia, Gan be best developed. We have gone the length of collecting a great deal of information in this connexion, and of appointing a subcommittee of the Cabinet to sift it. Beyond that, I must admit that we have not been able to progress, owing to the pressure of other duties upon us. When I consider the obligations which my colleagues have already undertaken, I feel that if the honorable member for Moira shared my knowledge he, would not consider that they had failed in their duty.
– I merely wish to know what has been done.
– I am replying to the honorable member, because I think that his criticism is fair. I confess, with regret and disappointment, that we have not yet reached the stage at which we can submit definite proposals! which will take into account the circumstances of the Commonwealth as a whole, what the States are at present doing, and how we can supplement their efforts bv judicious assistance. But the fact that nothing has yet been done is not due to any want of energy or application on the part of the Government. The other questions put by the honorable member in regard to the business which we propose to transact, and to the time which it ought to occupy, are reasonable and practical, and I propose to answer them - as, indeed, I agreed to do last night. Before doing, so, however, I may be permitted! to remark that one or two references have been made to the frequency with which members of the Government have called attention to the fact that the Estimates they were submitting were, with scarcely an exception, those framed by their predecessors. I think honorable members will realize the fairness of that reply since it_ was addressed to members of the Opposition, not by way of excuse, but by way of indi cating that for the particular items to which attention was called, either they or the Government which they supported were primarily responsible. We do not desire to shelter ourselves behind the late Government. The frequent reference to the fact that the Estimates were framed by others will be found upon examination to have been made in reply to comments from supporters of the late Government, and not from a desire to prevent criticism or to ‘ avoid responsibility for anything we may have done. We found those Estimates already framed, and, with a few exceptions, we were bound to accept them, without that close scrutiny which would otherwise have been given to them by us. The question of the Federal Capital dispute has been discussed to-night. The honorable member for Moria has reproached the Government for the manner in which we have dealt with the Premier and the State of New South Wales. But I would rather be open to reproach for having given that State an undue amount of consideration than be liable to censure for having adopted a less conciliatory attitude. The question of the site - although I do not dispute that it has been legitimately raised - will be before the House within the next few days in a specific form, which will permit of its discussion from every aspect. In speaking upon this subject last night, the deputy leader of the Opposition made one or two errors, with which it will perhaps be as well for me to deal at once. In the first place, there is no record in the correspondence of the undertaking which he states was given by the late Minister of Home Affairs that the proposals of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in regard to the Capital Site would be brought before this House for discussion.
– I admit that. But I have it distinctly from the honorable member for North Sydney that he gave such a promise.
– That is the first intimation I have had upon the matter. The last letter of the Premier of New South Wales raises precisely the same point. In reply, I may at once state that any measure which we may submit to this House will permit of any consideration that may be ‘ desired by any honorable member being given to the recommendations of the State Legislature; though the Government did not feel called upon to make a proposition in that direc tion. This Parliament is not, as the Premier of New South Wales suggests, in the same position as the Parliament of New South Wales in regard to this question. After the steps alluded’ to by the honorable member for Moira had been taken - steps which afforded the fullest opportunity for action on the part of the Government of New South Wales and its officials - this Parliament arrived at a particular decision. Subsequently the New South Wales Parliament, by resolution, expressly excluded the site which this Parliament had chosen, and included three other sites in the list from which a selection might be made.
– They said that the site which we had selected was unsuitable.
– Exactly ; but had we acted in the same way what would have been said ? If ‘ the Legislature of New South Wales, in the first instance, had selected three sites, and we had swept them all aside and chosen a fourth, that had been excluded by them, what would hare been said as to our conciliatory conduct of the negotiations? Surely the least that could have been done by an Assembly desiring to tread a conciliatory path would be to include among the sites for consideration that to which this Parliament had already definitely committed itself. Their action cut off the possibility of negotiation in this regard. The only possibility of negotiation which the late Minister of Home Affairs held out to them was in regard to the area to be taken, and the question of access from the sea - matters which, when our measure was passing, through this House, were expressly left in a form that would permit of consultation. Taking up the correspondence at that point, the present Government were invited by the Premier of New South Wales to consent to a course that would permit of the determination of the legal questions involved by the High Court. That request was preferred by the Premier of New South Wales in the very first letter he addressed to this Government, after he had been in correspondence for some time with our predecessors. Later, it was the Premier of the State who proposed the driving of a peg into New South Wales territory. This proposal, with which I have been generally credited during the course of the debate, as well as the suggestion that we should go to the High Court, emanated, not from us, but from the Premier of New South Wales.
It was also at his suggestion that the two Attorneys-General met to decide the legal ground upon which effect might be given to both these propositions. For reasons, of his own, which may have been excellent, but of which I am not aware, the Premier of New South Wales put aside the general memorandum, agreed upon by them, and made an entirely new proposal. We therefore replied in brief, but I hope not unfriendly, terms, that we proposed to submit the whole matter to this Parliament. It was necessary that this course should be taken, unless the correspondence was to be interminable, and this session was to close without any possibility of our dealing with the question. The measure to be submitted by the Government will embody our ideas of what the course to be followed at this stage ought to be; but it will not shut out the fulfilment of the desire of the Premier of New South Wales. If it be placed on the statute-book he will still be able to go to the High Court and obtain a decision upon issues which can be decided by that tribunal. There may or may not be a driving of a peg. That is an unimportant < incident ; but there will be an opportunity to test the legal position if the’ Premier of New South Wales desires to test it. There will also be an opportunity, if any honorable member desires to take advantage of it, to give to the resolutions of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales the consideration which he suggests. Consequently, the course which we are following affords mo ground for complaint. It exhibits no mark of haste, and certainly no indication of temper. If we are to deal with the question this session, the course we propose is the only one left open to us now that the Premier of New South Wales has thought fit to depart from the attitude which he adopted at the commencement of this correspondence. These questions will come before us in a precise form, I hope, within a few days, so that the House, in the circumstances, will excuse me from dealing with them in a more detailed way.
– Can the Prime Minister make a more definite statement as to when the Bill will be dealt with? He will recognise that it is of the utmost importance that we should at once deal with it.
– It will be brought on as soon as possible. In this respect the Government are -in a somewhat painful position. It was the practice of the Parliament of which I was a member prior to Federation to permit questions affecting the constituency of any Minister to bedealt with by that Minister independently of the Cabinet as a whole. The Cabinet did not ask him, because of any decision at which they had arrived, to sacrifice what he believed to be his duty to his constituents in respect of matters directly affecting them. We recognisethat my honorable colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, throughout the consideration ofthis question by the Parliament, has taken up a strong attitude, as to the site which ought to be. selected. He objects to the selection made by a majority of this House, and I am not to be taken as depriving him of the opportunity to adopt any course that he believes to be due to his constituents. The Bill as drafted, and as approved by the Cabinet, with the exception of my honorable colleague-
– Then the Minister of Trade and Customs does not regard the selection of Dalgety as final ?
– I do not think he ever will.
– The selection of Dalgety is absolutely absurd.
– That is very comforting.
– I think that the Minister would regard the selection of Lyndhurst as equally absurd.
– My honorable colleague is entitled to his own opinions in respect to this matter. So far from keeping back this Bill, we are pressing it forward with expedition. I recognise that at this time of the year, and particularly in connexion with an Appropriation Bill, questions as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the transaction of business are perfectly legitimate. I am ready at once to reply. We have eleven items on the businesspaper for to-day. I need not refer to the Appropriation Bill, nor to the Representation Bill. I think that the latter can be disposed of in five minutes, as the Government have but to propose two trifling verbal alterations in the amendments made by another place. I do not think that we shall be able this session to deal with Orders of the Day No. 8 and No. 9, relating to the High Commissioner Bill.
– That is an important matter.
– It is am extremely important measure, and one that I have an earnest desire to deal with. I have only within the last few days obtained from the States Governments the latest particulars of the cost of their London offices. I am expecting within the next few days to be furnished with a report by a committee of the Agents-General in London respecting information which I sought from that side. But, judging by the information already obtained, I do not look forward to the possibility of being able to ask the House this session to pass this, measure. Honorable members will recollect that it was promised by us at the very outset, not by itself, but in connexion with proposals which we hoped to submit in regard to immigration and other matters specially calling for the attention of a High Commissioner. I fully admit that the ordinary political and diplomatic duties associated with such an office are of the first importance; but the desire of the Government was that this should be something more than a political or diplomatic office. It was our wish from the first that it should be a business office, and that it should be undertaken in such a manner as to permit of economies in the present outlay of the several States. I find that last year they were spending at the rate of £35,000 per annum upon their London office?.. Therefore, while it need not be suggested that the appointment of a High Commissioner should lead to the abolition of their representation in London in respect to matters which are peculiarly their own, such an outlay as I have mentioned surely offers a large field for saving. The expenditure upon the office of High Commissioner, especially when associated with the practical duties to which I have alluded, would, at all events, be balanced in part by the savings which could consequently be made by the several States. Turning to the remaining business on the noticepaper, we find that two practical measures - the Electoral Bill and the Copyright Bill - havealready run the gauntlet of another place. Both demand some consideration, but neither is a party measure. The Electoral Bill is founded on the report of a Select Committee, and the Copyright Bill is based upon a study of the latest law and proposals in regard to copyright. Both ought to be passedby this House without an undue expenditure of time.
– There are some very contentious matters in the Copyright Bill.
– There has been some contentious matter, but not of a party character.
– One or two very important matters in the Electoral Bill will require to be dealt with.
– There are only two or three that ought to occupy much time. There is 110 reason why these measures should not be passed without an undue extension of the session. The Commerce Bill has passed this. House, and is being considered by another place, but so far as we are concerned, the work has been done.
– Is there any violent hurry for the passing of that measure?
– It is important, and will be very useful, but I do not wish to discuss its merits.
– They are very debatable.
– And they have been well debated. The Secret Commissions Bill has been passed without amendment by another place, and the Census and Statistics Bill is at the same stage. The consideration of these,so far as I can judge, will practically occupy no time. They may ‘ be regarded as passed. The Sugar Bounty and the Sugar Excise Bill are practically one measure, but the Constitution requires us to deal with their subjectmatter in two parts. They embody” a proposal which, however honorable members regard it, is simple in itself, and the consideration of which need not long detain us.. The Manufactures Encouragement Bill will not be pressed in its. existing form, but in a much simpler shape.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - This session?
– This session. This is a matter of the utmost moment.
– To a few individual members, or to the country?
– To the whole country.
– And especially to New South Wales.
– I hope to satisfy honorable members that it will be of immense advantage in the development of the resources of Australia.
– In any case, it is a very debatable measure.
– The Trade Marks Bill, so far as most of itsclauses are concerned, is a simple and practical measure, in regard to which there should be no difficulty.I am aware that the proposals which have come down from another place are highly contentious and likely to be debated, but the amendments suggested by. the Government, as the Attorney-General will be able to show, differ in toto from them, and should remove grounds for debate and difference of opinion, while making the Bill more comprehensive and effective.
– Is it to go through in one sitting ?
– I hope so, but I will allow two as a liberal estimate.
– Is that measure put down for this session too?
– Certainly. The Bills amending the Immigration Restriction Act will, I hope, occupy only a short space of time.
– Is it definitely decided to introduce them this session?
– I see no reason why they should not go through with comparatively little debate. The Immigration Restriction Amendment Bill will remove from the principal Act certain phrases to which objection has been taken, and make such necessary minor amendments in its machinery as have been proved to be necessary for efficient working.
– It will create a great deal of debate.
– The honorable member has not yet seen it.
– When shall we see it?
– On Tuesday at the latest, but I hope on Friday. I do not think that the honorable member for Kennedy, when he reads it, will consider . that it calls for much debate. The Contract Labour Bill is a more difficult measure, but discussion will centre on one or two of its clauses. Both Bills are very short, and should not occupy us unduly.
– This is a programme which we might expect at the beginning of a session.
– It provides a good session’s work.
– The deputy leader of the Opposition, when inviting a statement of this kind, indicated the matters to which, in his opinion, attention should be given. He spoke of the consolidation of the debts of the States, ‘the consideration of which might well occupy the greater portion of an active session. He referred to the establishment of a Commonwealth scheme of oldage pensions, which will raise intricate and difficult problems of finance, affecting as it will both States which have old-age pension systems and States which have not.
– I think that the subject was mentioned in the first GovernorGeneral’s speech.
– It was. The Navigation Bill, to which the honorable member for Parramatta also alluded, to be founded on the report of a Royal Commission which has not yet concluded its labours, will certainly not be introduced this session, though if the honorable member had his way all those great questions would have to be considered before the prorogation.
– I have not said so. What I said was that their consideration should have taken the place of the consideration of these trumpery Bills which the Government are trying to push through.
– The consideration of any one of those three matters would probably have occupied more time than that which we have devoted to all the, practical and useful, though perhaps minor, measures to which the honorable member refers.
– At any rate, substantial business would have been done. These measures do not come within that category.
– They are useful measures.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the union label provision in the Trade Marks Bill is an important and necessary measure?
– The Trade Marks Bill faced us when our administration commenced.
– There was a simpler way to deal with the question than that adopted by the Government.
– Simpler in the sense of being embodied in fewer clauses, but it would have led to even longer debates than are called for on the proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Parramatta commented on the fact that, while public attention has been called to questions of defence, no scheme has yet been submitted to this House.
– We were promised something this session.
– I am not sure that the session will close without an intimation of what is being done, so that honorable members may know what progress has been made, but, so far, we have not reached the stage when that can be done.
– There has not been a meeting of the Council of Defence, except a formal one.
– That statement, though nearly, Is not quite, accurate. A great deal has been done, part of which will come before the Council of Defence in due course. The subject of immigration was given prominence in our programme, and we have indicated our willingness, if the States are prepared to make land available for intending settlers here, as well as for immigrants, to introduce a proposal which would enable us to advertise the resources of Australia abroad1, and to prepare the way for the introduction of a desirable population. That proposal still stands. But to expend money to bring men here who, on arrival, could not expeditiously be placed in occupation of land would be cruel to them and injurious to the community. The administration of the lands of Australia is not under our con- trol, but we are prepared to ask the House to support any general action on the part of the States for making the resources of Australia known abroad, to enable the production of the Commonwealth to be increased by placing population on land which, though at present lying idle, is capable of being profitably cultivated. Unfortunately, we have not that control of the lands which has enabled the Governments of Canada and the United States to make both branches of this policy march hand in hand. But for that fact, the House would have been asked to consider proposals this session. The honorable member for Parramatta has also directed attention to the question of Preferential Trade. I believe it would have been possible to carry a general resolution: in favour of Preferential Trade this session ; but that could have been accomplished only at the sacrifice of considerable time. With the knowledge before us that during next session we should be faced by fiscal issues of magnitude, in connexion with the reports of the Tariff Commission, and that we should then be afforded an opportunity to give practical consideration to the subject of Preferential Trade, we decided to devote the time at our disposal this session to more practical work. Had this been a time of leisure, with nothing but the Standing Orders to deal with, we could have passed a resolution in favour of Preferential Trade. But the complaint made to-night is that we still look forward with hope to being able to perform too much work.
– The Minister knows that that is so.
– When does the Minister expect the session to end ?
– Before Christmas.
– The Redistribution of Seats Bill has been forgotten.
– That measure has not been forgotten this session, nor will it be forgotten next session. It has not been forgotten upon this occasion, because the Representation Bill and the Census and Statistics Bill together represent all the steps necessary in the intervening time to prepare the way for the consideration of a Redistribution of Seats Bill. We could and should have dealt with Preferential Trade if time had permitted this session, and we ought to deal with it in a practical fashion before we go to our constituents. I do not think that I have, omitted to mention anything upon the businesspaper, or any matter of which we have direct knowledge. But, of course, the Tariff Commission is still sitting, and I understand that at the end of this week the members of that body will take into Consideration some of the subjects upon which evidence has been presented to them. Personally, I have no knowledge of what these subjects may be, and, necessarily, am not acquainted with the nature of the recommendations which will be made. The Commission may make recommendations of such a nature that they will not call for immediate action on our part, or action may be taken with regard to them, with the consent of both parties, during this session. We cannot, having regard to our obligations to the country and to the Commission, shut the door upon any proposals they may make. What those proposals will be I have no means of knowing. I have not even made a guess as to the subjects with which they propose to deal, but I have seen statements in the press from time to time to the effect that some matter connected with the liquor industry may form the subject of the first report. I have no expectation that the reports of the Commission will render it necessary for us to invite the House to spare much time this session, but as I have no knowledge of the recommendations that are about to be made I cannot say that some matter of special urgency may not arise. Then, again, attention has been called, in a very striking fashion of late, to the operation of, the Tariff in regard to a particular industry - to a peril that is threatening all civilized nations to-day, and especially those which are in the forefront of industrial development.
– That is all fudge. The man the Prime Minister is endeavouring to protect is a member of a. combinewhose object is to rob the farmers.
– I know nothing of any particular individual. I am speaking of an industry. I am not raising my voice on behalf of any man or men, but on behalf of the industries of Australia, when I say that the action taken with regard to the particular industry referred to is of such a character that it is impossible to pass it by. It assumes a special importance in my eyes, because I regard it as symptomatic, and as the probable precursor of a condition of things with which this Parliament will be called upon to deal, and may be called upon to deal without delay. The inquiries so far made show that the matter is surrounded by great difficulties ; but it has engaged, and is still engaging, the closest attention of the Government. It will continue to do so whilst any representations can be made, on behalf of any interests in Australia, which tend to show that the movements of large organized bodies such as trusts and combines, within or without Australia, are imperilling our industrial development. Some honorable members have spoken to-night as if the fact that one particular industry had been capable of exporting abroad was in itself a sufficient answer to the statement that it was being threatened. But for all we know, the action now taken in Australia may be aimed at that export trade. What better means could there be of destroying that export trade than by destroying the home trade, without which no export trade could exist.
– That is debatable.
– I do not think that my statement is debatable. If you destroy your home trade you certainly destroy your export trade. As I. have said, the real importance of this incident lies in the fact that what is the case of one industry today may be the case of another, or of many others, to-morrow. We require to consider, not merely the circumstances of a particular industry but the possibilities of the whole industrial situation. It would be idle to stop one breach in the wall if , others could be made immediately afterwards.
– The cure for that is free competition.
– I do not think that has been found to be the cure in the mother country, where free competition has reached its highest development. I know that the mother country is agitated with regard to the question how far it will be possible to protect its manufacturers against dumping.
– That agitation is being, carried on by a few manufacturers who want to enrich themselves.
– Many of those who stand apart from the Preferential Trade movement altogether have already become converts to the anti-dumping movement. When honorable members speak of enriching the manufacturers of any country, be it Great Britain or Australia,they speak of a process which may have some drawbacks, but, . at all events, has considerable advantages, whereas the destruction of the manufactures of a country has all drawbacks and no advantage.
– Not when the people as a whole get the advantage?
– I do not desire to be led into a discussion on the merits of this proposal. I have endeavoured to confine myself to the reasons why the particular matters before us should be dealt with.
– I only wish to point out that the Board of Trade reports do not bear out what the Prime Minister has stated.
– I have made no statements with which any Board of Trade reports can conflict. I have indicated the feeling in the . mother country against dumping, and what I thought to be the justification for “provisions against dumping, and these are matters not affected by the Board of Trade reports for any particular year.
– Does the Prime
Minister suggest that he proposes to legislate on the subject this session?
– I have said that the matter has been, and is still, engaging the closest attention of the Government, and that we have found it surrounded with so many difficulties that up to the present time we have not been able to bring down a proposition. I hope, however, that we shall do so.
– This session ?
– Yes, this session. But I do not put that on the list of the measures which I have undertaken to submit, because I do not as yet know whether that course will be absolutely necessary. If the Government are convinced that action ought to be taken now, they will not shrink from the responsibility. Deducting, the matters with which we cannot hope to deal, I find that we have the sugar bounty proposal, which is surely not one for any lengthy discussion. Then there is the Copyright Bill, which can either be passed, or, if so decided, postponed very rapidly. We have the Encouragement to Manufactures Bill in a very much simpler and shorter form; and the Trade Marks Bill, which will turn on the amendments proposed. Then there is the Immigration Restriction Act Amendment Bill, which is also very short ; and the Electoral Bill, which may be regarded as in the same position as the Copyright Bill. The other measures are passed, or practically passed. I am reminded by the PostmasterGeneral of the Capital Site question, which I alluded to earlier. That, again, will be an extremely short measure.
– What about the redistribution of seats?
– The Representation Bill and the Census and Statistics Bill provide for all that is necessary in that regard, and these measures are practically passed. Under the circumstances, we have left some five weeks before Christmas. Of course, I propose to ask honorable members to give up to the Government for the rest of the session the time now devoted to private business. I propose to give notice of motion tonight, and hope to receive the consent of honorable members, so that the Government may have the advantage of the further time from to-morrow. If, however, honorable members claim their rights, then the Government will have to wait until next week. I hope, in addition, that honorable members will agree to curtail their speeches. If they do we may be able to finish before Christmas. . It is clearly impossible to ask honorable members to sit much longer hours than’ they do now, but the Government will not hesitate to suggest that sacrifice if it appears necessary. Surely then, with the recess close at hand, and with a record of good work behind, honorable members will be repaid for the sacrifice, and the country will feel that the Parliament, however it may have fallen short of our ambition, has, at all events, devoted itself with energy and assiduity to the measures before it, has cleared the paper of business submitted to it, and dealt with a great many practical questions in a practical way. Thus the course will be left clear next session for that series of large issues, some of which havebeen touched on to-night, and which ought to be fully presented to this House before they are submitted to the country at the next election.
– The Prime Minister forgets that his programme was for a noncontentious session. Does he say that the measures’ he mentions are non-contentious?
– I believe the bulk of them are. We cannot have a session of worthy work in which some contentious matters are not dealt with. Beyond the amendments of the Trade Marks Bill, and, possibly, the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, I cannot see what measures there are that can be regarded as party contentious measures.
– Just wait until we reach the Sugar Bounty Bill, and one or two others !
– I may be pardoned for saying that, while I think honorable members, who differ from the proposal made for the continuance of the bounties, are perfectly entitled to express their views, when it is made manifest that the bulk of honorable members are against them, and that no good end can be served for them or the country by their unduly prolonging their remarks, they will consent to take the opinion of the House, and to record their protest upon that, or any similar measure.
– If honorable members consent to say nothing, we might close the session to-morrow, but I do not think that is a reasonable request to make.
– It is an amiable proposition that the Opposition shall suppress itself !
– Even that may be a patriotic course under certain contingencies.
– It is a course that has never yet been followed.
– Then I hope the honorable member will set a precedent which we shall be happy to adopt when we are in opposition. I feel inclined to apologize for having taken time, and yet do not apologize, because I feel that I could do nothing but frankly and fully state the expectations of the Government. I am re minded that the Minister ofHome Affairs has a short Bill of two clauses which he desires to introduce, in order to rectify some technical matter in connexion with the acquisition of property ; and there is also a further doubt which appears to have arisen in New South Wales in regard to one section of the Patents Act. I need not refer to these merely technical matters, which involve no alteration of principle, but are needed to assist administration, and to make the existing legislation more easy in its working,. I ask honorable members not to treat my proposals as if they were made merely as a cover for something unreasonable. I do not see one measure that cannot be dealt with as fully, closely, and. thoroughly as it deserves to be within the next five weeks. With the assistance of honorable members we can accomplish our task.
– I presume the Prime Minister does not propose to deal with his programme to-night, and therefore I suggest that the debate might be adjourned.
– The understanding was that we should go through with the Bill to-night.
-I ask the Prime Minister in. all good faith to consent to an adjournment, in view of the importance of the utterance he has just made to the House, and’ to the country.
– I agreed to an early adjournment of the House last night, and also to make the statement I have, on the understanding that we should now go as far as we can with the Appropriation Bill to-night.
– What does the Prime Minister meanby “as far as we can”?
– I mean that we should go through with the Bill. The understanding was that we should get the Bill through.
– When I heard the remarks of the Prime Minister I was irresistibly reminded of the lines by Bret Harte -
Do I wake, do I sleep, do I dream, do I doubt, Are things what they seem, or is visions about?
There must have been visions in the mind of the Prime Minister when he announced that before the current session closes he intends us to deal with the list of measures he mentioned. Their consideration would occupy at least three months. When he expressed the hope that the session would close within the next five weeks, I think that he must have known that it is impossible to realize it.
– At any rate he intends to have a try.
– I am satisfied that there can be no proper discussion of the measures which he outlined, if’ they are to be rushed through in that way.
– Let us get this Bill through.
– The Prime Minister has told us that a measure in favour ot Preferential Trade can be carried by this Parliament. At the time he made that statement, I interjected that the members of the Labour Party were not prepared to support him in that matter. We know that they are not.
– How does the honorable and learned member know that?
– I know it from a hundred and one interjections which have emanated from the members of that party. The honorable member himself is not prepared to support a measure in favour of Preferential Trade, although free-traders generally might welcome it, since it would widen the area over which freedom of trade would obtain. It is not possible, however, for protectionists to honestly welcome the introduction of any such Bill. The Prime Minister’s suggestion in that connexion is all very well as an expression of his individual opinion, but he must be aware that, as the House is at present constituted, - it is impracticable. Otherwise he would have submitted a proposal dealing with that matter. Ever since the Prime Minister’s return to office he has absolutely declined to do anything more than make a purely academic statement in regard to Preferential Trade. At this stage I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed]. lt does! seem to me to be a farce that the Prime Minister should now pretend that he is going to do something in connexion with the question of the Capital Site. As far back as September, 1902, I directed attention to the way in which this House was conducting that business, and to the fact that there was no evidence of sincerity in the proposals then brought forward. In 1903 I find that I was able to point to the remarks which I had previously made, and to say that it was obvious that the whole business was a farce and1 a sham, and that there was no intention “whatever to deal with the question practically. The mere fact that the Prime Minister throws it in now as the last of a long string of measures to be dealt with is sufficient proof that again there is no sincerity in the profession of a desire to deal with this matter. This House by its general course of conduct is irritating the people of every State. The present Ministry, by their utter and contemptuous disregard of the pledges given to their constituents, and by their wanton exercise of parliamentary power on behalf of an extreme section who happen to be their supporters, are absolutely alienating from themselves all good feeling. I should say that ours must be almost the first Australian Parliament of whom it could be truthfully said that, by a course of policy, domestic and foreign, it has succeeded in irritating everybody outside our borders.
– Whom have they irritated ?
– They have succeeded in irritating a great power like Japan. Is not that a matter for serious consideration ?
– The honorable and learned member voted for the Alien Immigration Restriction Bill.
– I did nothing of the sort. If the honorable member will look up the records he will find that I voted on that measure with the object of destroying the Ministry.
– There was no division recorded against it.
– If the honorable member will consult Hansard he will find that I spoke of the gross muddle that was likely to be made of the whole affair, and that when speaking, in Committee of Supply I assured the then Prime Minister that I would be prepared to give him my support in connexion with the measure, and to depart from the course which I had laid down for myself, if he would recognise that the susceptibilities of the great power arising in Japan should be studied. I considered that it was so much in the interests of Australia that that should be done that I placed it in the forefront in the consideration of the measure in” question. It is now clear that the course I took was absolutely correct. It is clear, also, that the course adopted by the House was unworthy of sensible men. I looked ahead at that time, and pointed out that we might exclude Japanese immigrants on the high ground of the necessity for the preservation of our race, and that the Japanese would, perhaps, be willing to arrange the whole matter with us by treaty. The suggestion was not new, because we had the example of Queensland, and had learned what could be done by means of a treaty. Under a treaty with Japan, the influx of Japanese to that State practically ceased, and there was at least no danger of the introduction of a large class of foreigners who, not understanding our laws or speaking our language, might constitute some hindrance to sound legislation. We have ourselves begun to amend the law in respect to passports, and our administration of the Act is now more acceptable to the Indian and Japanese people than it was before. When we find a Parliament continually departing from sound legislation in respect to such matters, it is time to retrace our steps, and see whether wiser counsels cannot be made to prevail. The counsel on which we acted in the past was not sufficiently wise to prevent us making mistakes so gross that we stand convicted before all the world as a people who do not understand the Law of Nations. That must in itself be a very serious reproach to us, and our action would have been followed by more serious consequences if we had not the power of England behind us. If we had not been able to rely on the assistance of the Navy that is so much derided - but which we make use of, though we grumble at a small contribution of £200,000 a year towards its up-keep - we should not have been able to frame our laws in the way we have framed them. We should have had to amend our legislation at the dictation of some man-of-war at the entrance to one of our harbors. Under a threat of the bombardment of one of our capitals, we should have ‘been compelled to recognise that we were acting in a way which our circumstances did not warrant - that we were far exceeding the limit of our capacity to give effect to our legislation. The present Ministry, which is a re-hash of the first Cabinet, is just as directly responsible for the legislation which was then introduced as it will be for the legislation it now proposes, and which promises to be equally foolish. Let me point out how seriously we, by special appropriations, are doing away with the parliamentary control of the public funds. In less than five years, special appropriations to the amount of £454,500 have been removed from annual criticism. Indeed, it is difficult to initiate a discussion in regard to any special appropriation, unless a special motion be submitted. If we continue to pursue that policy, then, in a very short time, there will be only a few items to be appropriated in the ordinary Appropriation Bill. It behoves all who think that Parliament ought to be in a position to safeguard the finances to see that we do not proceed much further in this improper course. Take the special appropriation for the suga<r bounty. In 1904-5. the bounty was, estimated at £100,000, but it actually came to £121,000. It is estimated at £146,000 for the current year, but we have no guarantee that that amount will not be exceeded by at least £20,000. Who would think that the1 bounty would spring in the first year from £40,000 to £90,000; in the second year, from £90,000 to £121,000, and, in the present year, from £121,000 to £146,000? If the House had been in a position to exercise annual control over this expenditure, that increase would not have been allowed. The enormous sum we have been called upon to pay would have been brought home even to the dullest of men, in the clearest possible way. The Government do not seem to grasp the fact that by means of these special appropriations the control of the finances is gradually passing away from the House. We are called upon to see that an Immigration Restriction Bill is passed in a few minutes. If the Immigration Restriction Act had been sanely administered - and I never expected that it would be, as I pointed out at the time to the House - the present trouble would not have arisen.
– That applies to all Acts.
– Of course it does. We went out of our way to make a severe law more severe than there was any necessity to do. Who, -in his five senses, believed that that measure was passed for the purpose of excluding shipwrecked sailors, who happened to be cast upon our shores, and that it would be taken advantage of to keep such men within certain bounds until they were put on another ship to be taken away ? I venture to say that no honorable member anticipated that the law would ever be stretched to that extent. Such administration is, I think, the greatest hindrance to sound government. Any one can understand a law being stretched to a certain extent if the object be to do some good ; but this Act has been stretched in such a way as to make ourselves a laughing-stock to the .rest of the world. We ought to feel ashamed of the position in which we have been placed by the action of the Executive. I shall certainly welcome the change which has been foreshadowed in that regard. I was one of those who held that it ought to have been made perfectly plain in the Bill that it was not intended to apply to a British subject, and that men who, if they did not speak our language, understood our civilization, and were capable of being assimilated with the population in a short time, would be welcomed to our shores, if able-bodied. The deputy leader of the Opposition reminds me that he has entered into an arrangement with the Prime Minister in regard to the Bill passing the Committee stage to-night.
– The promise made bv the other side has not been fulfilled. We did not expect that such a programme as that just outlined- by the Prime Minister would have been submitted to us.
– In regard to the Electoral Bill. I would point out that I prophesied three years ago that whilst the Parliament itself exercised control over these matters, New South Wales would never obtain the additional representative in this House to which she is entitled. I am satisfied from what I have observed that the additional member is going to be denied her. On the occasion of the last election, we went to the country under the old distribution of electorates, and I have no hesitation in declaring that unless the Electoral Bill, as sent down from another place, is amended in several respects, that will be the position at the next general elections.- I feel satisfied that both in regard to this matter, and the question of the Federal Capital there is, on the part of some honorable members, a disregard of the wishes of New South Wales that amounts to a deliberate attempt to flout the will of the people of that State.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I had intended to address a few remarks to the House on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but having regard to the understanding arrived at between the leader of the Government and the deputy leader of the Opposition, I do not intend, at this late hour, to delay the passing of the second reading. Those who anticipated the early prorogation of Parliament must have been keenly disappointed by ‘the announcement made by the Prime Minister as to the business yet to be dealt with during the session. The honorable and learned gentleman must be of a sanguine temperament if he imagines that the Opposition will allow the important matters of policy which he has indicated to be disposed of without full discussion. We have a lively recollection of the discussion which some “of the items in the Tariff evoked. As honorable members are anxious to catch their trains, I shall refrain from offering any further observations at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Mr. ISAACS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Provisional regulations under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 70, and regulations relating to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 71.
Orders of the Day read and discharged.
Order of the Day read and discharged.
Order of the Day read and discharged.
– With the concurrence of honorable members, I should like to give notice that to-morrow I will move -
That until otherwise ordered Government business shall have precedence on each day of sitting of all other business.
– I object.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051108_reps_2_28/>.