2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The House met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
Mr. Speaker took the chair.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. Speaker read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendanceof honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act for the preservation of Australian industries, and for the repression of destructive monopolies.
I may mention that I move the motion at this stage to maintain the privileges of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– When will the Prime Minister give us the digest of the anti-trust laws of the United States, which he promised six months ago?
– The necessary information is ready, and will be laid on the table at the earliest moment. .
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Reports, with maps, of the Commissioners appointed to distribute the States ofNew South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia into electoraldivisions.
Ordered to be printed.
Return under the Immigration Restriction Acts, showing -
Return under the Naturalization Act of the number of persons to whom certificates of naturalization were granted during the year 1905.
Amended Customs regulations Nos.103 and 104, Statutory Rules 1906, No.1.
Amended drawback regulations, No.132 - Jams, &c. - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 32.
Regulation under the Distillation Act relating to spirits for export - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 9.
Regulations under the Excise Act, tobacco - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 5 ; and drawback regulations, No. 50 - Jams,&c. - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 33.
Amended Defence Act regulations governing the landing of foreign troops, &c. - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 80. Cadet Corps regulations - Statutory Rules 1906, No.31.
Military Force regulations; paragraph 57 - lieutenants - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 79; paragraph 216- addition of figures “214 “ - Statutory Rules1906. No. 3 ; paragraph 130 - alteration - Statutory Rules1 906, No. 4 ; paragrapha -
Promotion Board - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 29; paragraph 12S - age for retirement - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 30. Financial and allowance regulations - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 77.
Naval Forces : regulations and standing orders -Statutory Rules 1906, No. 20. Financial and Allowance regulations - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 21.
Notifications of the acquirement of land under the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901 at Armidale, New South Wales, as a site for a drill hall, at Bodangora and Gilgandra, New South Wales, at Gwalia, Western Australia, at Kadina, South Australia, at Kurri Kurri, and at Ryde, New South Wales, as sites for postoffices; at Mount Nelson, Hobart, Tasmania, and at Randwick and Singleton, New South Wales, for defence purposes ; and at Sandy Bay, Tasmania, for rifle range purposes.
Pursuant to the Public Service Act, a list of the permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, 1st January, 1906.
Recommendation, &c, and approval of (he promotion of Messrs. O. S. Maddocks and H. T. Brown, as inspectors, Department of Trade and Customs, Sydney ; and appointment of Mr. E. I”. Eberbach as draftsman to the Public Works Branch, Department of Home Affairs.
Amended Regulations, No. 104, grading of general division - Statutory Rules 1906, Nos. 2 and 14. No. 64, overtime in the General Division - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 13; No. 163A and 164 - special allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 15; Nos. 48, 141 (B), 168, iq6, 197, 358- Chief Officers, &c- Statutory Rules 1906, No. 16; Nos. 48, 141 (n), 16S, 196, 197, 258- Chief Officers, &c. ; also Nos. 104, 163A, 164 - Statutory Rules 1906, No! 28. No. 153 and 155 - allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 37. No. 199 - telegraph messengers - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 38. No. 16S - allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 39.
Certificate under the Representation Act of the Chief Electoral Officer in regard to the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and the several States.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence what steps, if any, are being taken, pending the report of the Imperial Defence Committee, to provide suitable coastal defence for Australia?
– I will reply to the honorable and learned member’s question tomorrow, if I can.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what decision, if any, has been arrived at, in regard to the demand made by the Premier of Victoria for rent for the use of Government House, Melbourne, during its occupation by the Governor-General, and whether the Premier of New South Wales has made a similar demand in regard to Government House, Sydney?
– To answer the questions in inverse order, the Premier of New South Wales has made no such demand. On the contrary, I believe - although I have not seen the document - that a further lease of Government House, Sydney, has been signed without any such condition as that indicated. In respect to Government House, Melbourne, the correspondence which is still passing will be laid on the table of the House next week.
– In view of the demand made by the Premier of Victoria for a rental of .£3,000 per annum for Government House, Melbourne, will the Government consider the advisableness of taking the steps necessary to enable His Excellency the Governor-General to reside in Sydney and to fulfil the duties of his position there?
– I understand that the Premier of New South Wales has forwarded to the Government some reports concerning additional proposed sites for the Federal. Capital. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister has any objection to laying the reports on the table ?
– I have no objection. In fact, I hope to be in a position to lay them on th© table of the House tomorrow, together with certain correspondence which has not yet been published. The resolutions passed bv both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament at the close of last session were communicated to this Government, and we asked for information as to the ground’s upon which the resolutions were passed This was received and replied to. and two further letters have been exchanged’. I propose to lay the correspondence, as well as the plans and papers relating to the proposed new sites, before the House to-morrow.
– I desire to’ ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to afford members an early opportunity to consider the question of the Federal Capital Site?
– As the honorable member knows, a paragraph appears in the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral
– It is right away down at the bottom.
– What the honorable member calls the bottom is that portion of the speech which relates to the business that it is proposed to bring before the House during the coming session. The first portion of the speech necessarily deals with the past. The latter portion with the future, and the position which the paragraph occupies does not indicate that the question of the Federal Capital Site will be introduced after the measures referred to at an earlier stage of the speech. After the plans, which were received only yesterday, have been laid on the table and the House has been placed in possession of all other available information on the subject, we shall be ready to proceed.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether any of the butter factories in New South Wales are at present making butter unfit for export, and, if so. whether he will lay on the table the official .report showing that to be the case?
– I am not aware that any butter factories in New South Wales are making butter unfit for export, but I shall make inquiries.
– In view of what the Minister is doing, I want to know.
– I am not aware that any factories are doing what the question of the honorable member seems to suggest.
– I think that the Minister misunderstood my question. I did not suggest that any butter factories in New South Wales were manufacturing butter unfit for export, but I wish to know whether in view of the action recently taken by the Minister he has any official information, and whether he will present it to the House?
– I shall make inquiries as to whether there is any official information on the subject, and lay it on the table.
– Surely the Minister must know whether he has any official warrant for the action he has taken?
– I certainly concluded from the honorable member’s question that he had obtained some information of the character indicated.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether any decision has been arrived at with regard to the extension, or otherwise, of the bookkeeping period provided for in the Constitution, and, if so, whether he will communicate it to the House ?
– I have nothing to communicate at present.
– In view of the reply given by the Treasurer, which appears to me to be unsatisfactory, I should like to know if the Prime Minister is in a position to indicate when the Government will make up their minds upon this important matter ?
– The honorable member cannot have refreshed his memory by looking at the Constitution. The existing .provision continues until altered. Before any alteration is made a definite proposal must be brought forward by any Government which desires to change it.
– Exactly. We want- to know whether the Government propose to alter the present conditions?
– That is whether they propose to make a proposal ?
– I wish to ask the Acting Postmaster-General whether he has any objection to lay on the table the correspondence which has passed between the Tasmanian Government arid the Commonwealth authorities with reference to the alteration of the mail service between Victoria and Tasmania?
– I have no objection.
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government will introduce a Bill or otherwise make provision for the introduction of the products of the New Hebrides into the Commonwealth free of duty ?
– No such proposition can be submitted by the Government at the present time, but in the course! of the consideration which the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the members of this Government have been giving to questions relating to the New Hebrides, the necessity for rendering the best assistance we can to British settlers engaged in cultivating the lands of those islands has been given attention. Proposals will be made in connexion with the Convention proposed in London relating to the future government: of the islands.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in drafting the proposed reciprocity treaty between New Zealand and the Commonwealth, he will exclude potatoes from the list of articles in respect of which preference is to be given to New Zealand imports ?
– The matter to which the honorable member refers, and other similar matters, are being taken into consideration at the present time.
– I have to report that 1 have attended in the Senate Chamber, where His Excellency the Governor-General was pleased to deliver his opening speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of Sir Langdon Bonython, Mr. Chanter, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Storrer, be appointed to prepare an AddressinReply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament.
That the Committee do report this day.
The Committee retired, and, having reentered the Chamber, presented the proposed address, which was read by the Clerk, as follows : -
May it please Your Excellency :
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I move -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech as read by the Clerk be agreed to by the House.
I suppose that His Excellency’s speech contains nothing, that will surprise those who have carefully followed the addresses which the Prime Minister has delivered during the recess. It certainly presents a very long programme of work - long enough, I am afraid, to occupy, not merely three months, but three yeans. As the present session must necessarily be a short one, for the simple reason that it will be followed by the elections, I hardly see how we shall be able to accomplish all that the Government propose to ask us to do. At the last elections1 I declared myself to be in favour of fiscal peace ; but I imagine that the period during which ‘ fiscal peace was possible has now come to an end. If that be so, I must say that I now have to proclaim myself a militant protectionist. I take it for granted that this House will give effect to the reports which come to us with the unanimous approval of the Tariff Commission. But I would ask, “ What will be done with the reports which do not command the unanimous approval of that body ? “ I suppose that we shall get such reports, and if they are not dealt with, will not that fact create unrest in trade and commerce? If they relate to matters of urgency, I am disposed to think that such will be the case. I regret very much indeed that it has not been possible to establish trade relations with Great Britain on a preferential basis, but I sincerely hope that -the Government will succeed in giving, effect to a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand. Such a treaty would prove of great advantage to the sugar industry, especially if, as suggested’ by Mr. Seddon, the Australian product be admitted into New Zealand free, whilst d’utv is collected upon sugar going into that country from all other parts of the world.
– Is the honorable member a militant protectionist in the light of that statement ?
– South Australia will also be interested in such a treaty, because New Zealand will provide a market for many of her products, especially for her wine, salt, and flour. It is highly satisfactory to know that South Africa made a favorable response to the Commonwealth proposals for reciprocity in trade, and it would be foolish indeed on our part if we did not utilize the opportunity of securing for ourselves a preferential market for some of our most important exports. I notice that the UnderSecretary of State for the Colonies, -Mr. Winston Churchill, at a Western Australian dinner in London the other day declared himself in favour of preference as between the dependencies of the British Empire. Now, if preference as between dependencies be good, would it not also be good, as a means of drawing trade relations closer, that there should be preference between the Colonies and the mother country?
– Upon the hustings the Under-Secretary of State for the [Colonies was one of the most bitter opponents of preferential trade.
– I notice that under present conditions Australian trade with British Possessions has a tendency to increase, and under a system of intercolonial reciprocity, such as is suggested by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, that movement would certainly be accelerated. Whilst the trade between the Colonies has a disposition to grow, the trade between the mother country and the Colonies tends to a diminishing ratio, only to some extent held in check by the voluntary concessions1 of preference which have been made by Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand.
– That statement is not borne out by the official statistics in the Blue Book.
– It is borne out by Cog/dan, and Coghlan is said bv many to be as infallible as Holy Writ. I have here some figures showing the value of the imports into the Commonwealth from the United Kingdom. In 1881 these imports were valued at ^21,131,869 ; in 1891, at ,£26,433,841 ; in 1901, at .£25,296,677 ; and in 1903, at £19,855,340 Let me say at once that 1903 was a bad’ year, ‘both for our exports and imports. It is to be deplored that the trade between Australia and the mother country should be diminishing.^ The following testimony upon this point is borne by Coghlan: -
One third of all the goods now imported into Australia may he said to be of non-British origin, as compared with one-fourth ten years ago.
In 1891 our imports from foreign countries amounted to only £6,927,941, whereas in 1903 the total was £12,975,251. From the United States the imports included boots, agricultural implements, leather, machinery, metal manufactures, vehicles, and tools of trade, while from Germany we obtained wearing apparel, dynamite, candles, fancy goods, pianos, machinery, metal manufacture’s, piece goods, and manures. Under adequate protection we hope, of course, to produce more of these things ourselves, but of the outside trade the larger share should go to Great Britain, and under a system of preference this would certainly be the case. I must say that I am not surprised to find that the Government have already taken action with regard to the introduction of an Anti-Trust Bill. Evidence appears to be accumulating that a measure of that sort is necessary in the interests of the producer and consumer alike. There is no doubt that the great power wielded by the trusts of America is largely due to the fact that the railways there are in private hands. Fortunately that is not the case in Australia, and although that fact has an important bearing on local monopolies it does not, it seems to me, obviate the necessity for legislation dealing with trusts which have their headquarters in other countries. I am very pleased’, indeed, to read that a Bill is being prepared for the protection of Australian policy-holders in foreign life assurance companies carrying on business in the Commonwealth. But I am not sure that such a measure will go far enough. I am disposed to think it would be wise so to legislate as would prevent, by anticipation, the abuses which have created such appalling scandals in America. Whilst I say this, I would like to add that I think the assurance companies in Australia include some of the bestmanaged companies in the world. There is one clause in the vice-regal speech which possesses a special interest for South Australia - I refer to clause 4 - which reads -
The South Australian Government forwarded to Ministers resolutions from its Legislative Assembly, offering the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth upon certain terms. Correspondence ‘is now proceeding, which, it is anticipated, will lead to a formal offer being made. All papers in the matter will be laid before you. [ may say that during the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s speech at the opening of the first Federal Parliament, I declared myself in favour of the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. I have seen no reason to change that opinion in the meantime, although there has been some vacillation on the subject in South Australia. The reason I have always1 held that view is, that the administration of the Territory is controlled, not by the Parliament, of South Australia, but by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is the legislation of the higher Parliament which determines its management, and under these circumstances, I think that the sooner the Terri- tory is taken over by the Commonwealth the better it will be for all concerned. When the first Federal Parliament met an offer of the Territory had been made to the Commonwealth, provided terms could be arranged. I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, as Premier of South Australia, were instrumental in making that offer. Tha head of the first Commonwealth Government, Sir Edmund Barton, was prepared! to proceed with the negotiations, but South Australia changed its attitude, and, as a consequence, nothing has resulted. But last year an altered spirit was manifested in that State, and a long discussion took place in the House of Assembly in regard to the matter upon a motion submitted by Mr. V. L. Solomon. That motion was carried, but not quite in the form in which it was introduced. In the form in which it was carried it directed the Government to re-open negotiations with the Commonwealth Government with a view to ascertaining the terms upon which the latter would oe prepared to take over the Northern Territory. The resolution also directed that the conditions upon which the transfer would be allowed should be made clear to the Commonwealth Government. Those conditions are that all moneys spent by South Australia in connexion with the Northern Territory shall be repaid, that the Transcontinental Railway shall be constructed from the southern boundary of the territory to Pine Creek, that the rail-, way, when made, shall follow as nearly as possible, the route of the overland telegraph line, and that upon arrangements for the transfer being completed the two Governments shall simultaneously start with the construction of the railway from each end.
– Is that all that South Australia requires?
– That is all that she asks at present. The resolution, in the form in which it was originally introduced, contained another stipulation, namely, that the northern boundary of South Australia should- be extended to the 22nd parallel of south latitude, so as to take in the McDonnell Range country, but the House of Assembly eventually determined to waive that condition. From what I have said, I think it will appear that the path is now open for negotiations, and that there is no reason why those negotiations should not have a successful issue.
– South Australia will need to withdraw one condition.
– There is time enough for us to discuss the conditions. Nobody possessed of any knowledge can look at the map of Australia without realizing that the Northern Territory should be under the jurisdiction of the Federal authorities.. One thing is certain, namely, that South Australia cannot indefinitely carry its present burden. The annual loss upon the Territory exceeds £100,000, and the debt has accumulated to nearly £3,000,000. That debt is made up of moneys which have been expended upon public works, upon the cost of administration, and in payment of interest upon the debt. I may say that some time ago the South Australian Parliament passed an Act which provided’ for the completion of the Transcontinental Railway, on the land grant system. The passing of that Act, as a matter of fact, had something to do with the changed attitude of South Australia in relation to this matter. But. as to the railway, no progress has been made. The explanation is that the terms were attractive neither to investors nor speculators. The conditions as to labour, I am afraid, rendered the whole scheme quite unacceptable. I am aware that there are persons who have declared that the Northern Territory is worthless, and that it will never carry a large population. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his irresponsible days, affirmed that the Territory was a howling wilderness, and that it would remain so for all time.
– I never believed it, though.
– That is just what I thought. I am quite sure that the honorable gentleman will be glad of an opportunity to withdraw that reckless statement for the reason if for no other, that it casts a very serious reflection upon Australia as a whole.
– I withdraw.
– The Northern Territory consists of a tract of country over 1,000 miles in length by a breadth of 500 miles; or, to put it in another way, it contains more than six times the area of land within the State of Victoria. I. do not say that there is no inferior land in the Northern Territory - it would not be a part of Australia if there were not - but I do say that it comprises some of the finest land to be found in any part of the world. The latest visitor to the Northern Territory to make public his opinion with regard to its possibilities is the Governor of South Australia, Sir George Le Hunte, who has had great experience in tropical countries. His Excellency grows quite enthusiastic as to the future of the Territory, provided that conditions such, as he thinks essential are established. Sir George Le Hunte believes that within, the present generation a Transcontinental Railway will run from Adelaide to Port Darwin, linked on the one hand with Western Australia, and on the other with Queensland. There can be no doubt that Australians must make up their minds to deal with the northern portion of the Commonwealth. One of the Melbourne daily newspapers stated recent! v that it was rapidly becoming a recognised maxim that no country on moral grounds could maintain a claim to any part of the earth’s surface unless there was effective occupancy. In the case of the Northern Territory, it cannot be said that there is effective occupancy, and I am afraid that, so far as South Australia is concerned, there never can be. Before Federation, South Australia could very easily have relieved itself of the Northern Territory, and its debt, on terms entirely advantageous to that State. To allow the introduction of coloured races was all that had to be done. Refusing, however, to pursue a selfish policy, South Australia retained the Territory in the interests of Australia as a whole. But, supposing’ there was a disposition on the part of South Australia to act differently - I do not say that there is ; I do not for one moment believe ‘that there is - she would be powerless ; her hands are tied. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility of the Territory. I am glad to discover, from the Governor-General’s speech, that the Ministry are willing to enter into negotiatons to that end. I am especially el ad to know that the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth is a nol icy approved both bv the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Labour Party. The honorable member for Bland went so far as to say recently that South Australia should be relieved at once of the burden which she had carried so long and so honorably in the interests of the continent as a whole;
– When did the honorable member make that statement?
– In the course of an address which he delivered in
Adelaide. It was the proper place in which to refer to the subject.
– What else could he have said ?
– I said the same in other places
– I would impress upon the House that, since the war between Russia and Japan, this question has become one of very grave importance. The results of that war are such as to suggest possibilities which twenty-five years ago would have been regarded as the dream of a disordered imagination. The chief want of Australia tb-day is more population. Every one admits that. We need more population for two reasons. On the one hand we require more people to develop the resources of our great country, and on the other we need more people to defend our shores in case of invasion. There is no more enthusiastic advocate of immigration than the Prime Minister, but whilst it is easy to talk on this subject, difficulties arise the moment one proceeds to consider what action should’ be taken.
– Will the honorable member tell us the way out ?
– This is how the Prime Minister put the case in a letter to Mr. Rason, the late Premier of Western Australia: -
The Commonwealth is subject to a disability peculiar to itself. Among its powers is that of controlling “ immigration,” and it was clearly intended by the framers of its Constitution, and by the electors who approved it, that it should possess and exercise this essential authority in the interests of the whole continent. Yet its independent action is practically barred. Were the lands of Australia in its possession the Federal Parliament would not have waited until now without acquiring suitable settlers for the fertile areas still unoccupied. But all lands are vested in and available only under the sanction of the Legislatures of the States, and, apart from their effective co-operation, the introduction of fresh colonists is not federally feasible.
I have quoted these words in order to say that the difficulty referred to in the Prime Minister’s letter will, to a large extent, disappear as soon as the Government succeed . in taking over the Northern Territory. They will then have an immense tract of country wholly at their own disposal. They will be able to collect desirable immigrants in Europe and themselves locate them- on the land, just as is done at the present time in Western Australia, and as was so attractively described by the Treasurer when addressing a meeting of the members of the Australasian Chamber of Commerce in London. In this connexion I should like to quote the message of the President of the United States to Australia. I dare say honorable members are familiar with it-
– It cannot be heard too often.
– Quite so. The message is as follows : -
Beware of keeping the Northern Territory of your continent empty. Encourage the immigration of Southern Europeans. They will cultivate that rich country, and become good Australians.
Could words be more appropriate or more opportune?
– Yes; an amendment of the provisions regarding European labour in the Contract Labour Immigration Act would be far more pertinent.
– There would be no difficulty in the way of their coming in.
– I realize that the message of the President of the United States refers not exclusively to the. Northern Territory of South Australia, but to the whole of the northern part of this Continent. I should like to see the whole of the northern, portion of Australia handed over to the Commonwealth authorities, since I am disposed to think that in this direction there might be found a simplification of the debt difficulty. I would, at all events, suggest to honorable members that they should allow their thoughts to travel along this channel, and consider for themselves whether or not it offers a possible solution in the direction I have indicated. I am quite certain that the time is not far distant when Australia will attract many more people than she is at present doing. We hear a very great deal of Canada, but, like many other honorable members, I well remember the time when immigrants were pouring into the United’ States, while Canada was entirely neglected. I think I am right in asserting that Australia is a better country to live in than Canada. In spite of the heat, the climate of Australia is more genial, and, all things considered, our country is more productive. At a meeting of the Royal Colonial Institute in London, Mr. Jenkins, the Agent-General for South Australia, made some very interesting and striking comparisons between, Australia and Canada. Later, Mr. Beale, of Svdney, the President of the Amalgamated Chambers of Manufacture, put the case concisely and very effectively in a lecture which he delivered before the Society of Arts in London. This is what he said -
Australia, compared with Canada, has but twothirds the number of inhabitants, yet our population has increased, decade by decade, up to the. present ‘in a higher ratio than has Canada’s. In productivity Australia is far ahead of Canada, and is likely still more markedly to excel her sister. Of wool we produce annually 40 times as much. Of sheep we have 30 times as many. Of cattle we have one-half more. Of horses the same number. Of wheat we produce 26 per cent, less in actual figures, but per capita as much as Canada. Australian minerals -
I should like honorable members to pay special attention to this point - alone are in value about three times the total produce of Canadian mines, fisheries, and forests added together. Animal products of Australia exceed those of Canada in value by about two to one. Our imports are about ^12,000,000 less than Canada’s. Our exports are ^11,000,000 more than Canada’s. The bank and Savings Bank deposits are larger than Canada’s.
As Australians, we have been apt to take too mean a view of the capabilities of our vast estate. We are beginning .to discover that in the settled districts we have left untouched much good1 land. For instance, in South Australia, we are only now beginning to turn to serious account the land on the west coast, lying between Port Lincoln and the State of which the Treasurer is a representative. That land has an excellent rainfall, and last year produced magnificent wheat crops. Then we have Kangaroo Island - at the entrance to St. Vincent’s Gulf - which is quite a province in itself. Under the new conditions, the future of agriculture on Kangaroo Island is assured, and great hopes are entertained that it may be found to contain mineral wealth. I think the States may be left to develop the settled districts, and to do all that may be possible in the way of attracting further population. I would therefore advise the Government to devote themselves to the work of developing the outlying portions of the Continent. They might well begin with the Northern Territory. If they are successful there, they will have accomplished two things. In the first place, they will have furnished an object lesson of the highest possible value, and in the second place they will have made a contribution of the best possible description towards the defence of our northern shores. It should not be forgotten that our northern seaboard at the present time is entirely unde- fended, and is, besides, in most dangerous waters.
– Not only undefended, but even unoccupied.
– This brings me naturally to the subject of defence. I contend, as I have done before, that we should do something towards the creation of an Australian Navy. I know that: we cannot do much, but that ought not to deter us from making a beginning. Personally, I have never been quite satisfied with the arrangement that exists between the Commonwealth and the Admiralty. I have never felt altogether certain that in an emergency, events would be equal to our anticipations. I .know that the maintenance of the Empire depends upon the British Navy, and that Australia would be in a sorry plight without that navy, towards the cost of which we contribute, and ought to contribute. But I would ask again : Cannot Australia help England effectively by being prepared, at any rate, to some extent, to look after herself? We want to do something on our own account to protect our harbors and seaboard. To show that this is not wholly an unreasonable view, I shall quote from an article bv Admiral Fitzgerald, which appeared in the April number of the National Review. He says -
Australia had already made a beginning (that is in the creation of a navy), but her infant was crushed shortly after birth, under the plea that it would be cheaper and better for her to pay a small donation to the Home Government for providing naval defence instead of doing it herself. Cheaper it may be, but certainly not better; as being totally at variance with the spirit and principles of a self-governing community.
I may supplement that with the opinion of Lord Tennyson, who preceded Lord Northcote as Governor-General of Australia. In the latest number of the British Australasian, Lord Tennyson expresses his opinion in the following words : -
An alternative lias been suggested, and it is this - that instead of paying_ over to Great Britain the contribution of ^200,000 annually, it might be better if Australia spent the same sum in equipping and manning a fleet of torpedo boats and destroyers of her own which she would herself buy or build. Such a flotilla would be supplementary to, and act in close co-operation with the British Navy, and in case of war, might defend Australian harbours from raids, protect Australian sea-borne commerce, valued at ^145,000,000, keep touch with the enemy, and watch over the “ danger areas “ in the vicinity of Australian ports, and so liberate the Australian squadron more readily for service with the
China squadron or elsewhere. After consultation with more than one naval expert, I cannot help thinking that this is a reasonable proposal, and well worthy of consideration and discussion, and, were it adopted, would have the additional advantage of satisfying in a measure the national and natural desire of Australia to be a sea power, and an effective bulwark of the British Empire in the Pacific.
Nothing, in my opinion, could be better than that. It is an admirable statement of the case from the Australian stand-point. In a recent issue of the British Australasian is published an interview with Lieutenant Carlyon Bellairs, a member of the House of Commons, who makes some astounding statements. He states -
The British squadron at present in Australian waters is quite inefficient, and in case of danger Australia is almost as defenceless as if there were no squadron at all. The reason is that not one of the nine vessels on the station is armoured. Even the Powerful, as understood by naval experts, is not an armoured vessel. Now, it must always be presupposed that an enemy would send only ‘ armoured vessels to attack Australia. To think of sending unarmoured vessels against them would be absurd.
Lieutenant Bellairs goes on to say : -
The Admiralty keeps the squadron in Australian waters, not because they believe it is of any use, but because they are bound by the naval agreement with the Commonwealth. Canada refused to enter into a similar agreement, and the Admiralty has withdrawn the squadron formerly stationed on the coast. I think the present naval agreement with the Commonwealth is a bad bargain for both parties. The up-keep of the squadron costs the Admiralty ^670,000 per annum, while Australia’s contribution amounts to only ^200,000. That is a bad bargain for us, but it is worse from an Australian point of view, because Australia is paying ^200,000 a year for a squadron which in time of real emergency would be, as I have already explained, useless to meet an enemy’s armoured vessels.
– That is a very narrow view, because our contribution is to the whole British Navy, and for the protection of the British Flag.
– We support the principle of naval co-operation.
– The question is : Are the statements which I have quoted facts? If they are, they should receive the immediate consideration of the Minister of Defence.
– They are merely the opinions of a member of the House of Commons.
– Of one who is recognised as a very competent critic.
– A fact which I am sure !has not escaped observation is that war vessels, on being withdrawn from the Australian station, are generally sold by the Admiralty, or converted into scrap-iron.
– That is because war vessels soon become obsolete, in whatever part of the world they may be.
– It is said that Captain Creswell has underestimated the. cost of his scheme. I am not prepared to express an opinion as to whether that is or is not the case, but his scheme, or some other scheme on similar lines, is that which will commend itself to the people of Australia.
– To which of Captain Creswell^ schemes does the honorable member refer? Captain Creswell has put forward five or six schemes.
– I refer to his last scheme. I cordially agree with those who think that our young men should be trained in the methods of warfare. Conscription is both undesirable and unnecessary ; but the object which that system achieves in Europe must, by some means or other, be attained in Australia. The citizen soldier must be an efficient man. Our school boys should be made familiar with drill, .and should be enrolled as members of cadet corps. I am very pleased at the enthusiasm which exists at the present time in reference to the cadet movement, and I am sure that membership of cadet corps wil’l prove invaluable for naval or military training. Lord Roberts * is right in emphasizing the importance of skill in the use of the rifle, and in urging the wisdom of encouraging by all means possible the formation and maintenance of rifle clubs. I am glad to read in the speech that in future “’ preference in appointments will be given to Australian officers and noncommissioned officers,” especially ais it is supplemented by the statement that “ the policy of sending, men of promise to England, India, and elsewhere for training will be continued, and arrangements have been made for the periodical exchange of our own officers with those of the Imperial Army both in England and India, and also with the Canadian forces.” I now come to a matter which I regard as of special importance. This House acted very wisely when it determined that an inquiry should be made into the old-age pensions question, and I think that the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was at the time Prime Minister, is to be commended for having converted into a Royal Commission the Select Committee which began that inquiry. As a member of both the Committee and Commission, I unhesitatingly say that its report and the evidence constitute a most valuable Commonwealth document. The investigation was of a thorough character. Evidence was taken in each of the States, and, while there was not unanimity, but, as a matter of fact, great diversity, in the opinions expressed, that very diversity adds value to the evidence. I believe I am justified in saying that the bulk of the evidence, including that of those most competent to speak on the subject, is in favour of the payment* of pensions to poor persons who have become old, and regards the providing of such pensions as a Commonwealth responsibility. It seems absurd that a man living in Victoria or New South Wales should, under the State laws, be ineligible for a pension because, for a time, he had lived out of either State - perhaps in the other. Before we had Federation the restrictive condition in the State laws to which I refer may have been right enough, but now that the States are welded together into a Commonwealth such things must be viewed from the Federal stand-point. As honorable members are aware, the Commission recommends that poor persons, on attaining, the age of sixty-five years, shall be eligible for pensions of 1 os. a week.
– These pensions should be paid five years earlier than the age of sixty-five.
Sir LANGDON (BONYTHON. - That would make an enormous difference in the cost. It does not seem to me that these pensions would operate to discourage thrift. I confess I started with some prejudice, having been influenced by the draft report on the treatment of the aged deserving poor furnished by Mr. Lecky to the Select Committee of the House of Commons. This is an extract from that report - i can hardly consider anything more certain to discourage ‘ thrift and to sap the robuster qualities of the English people than that the belief should grow up among the whole working population, including the most industrious, the most respectable, and the most independent, that they should look forward to the State, and not to their own exertions, to support them during their old age.
The evidence, converted me. In the first place, it is hardly likely that the prospect of receiving ios. per week from the Government on attaining the age of sixty-five years would cause a man to be improvident between the ages of twenty and forty, and, in the second place, we discovered that the working man who receives ios. a day does not average more than about £2 a week, taking the whole year through, even when he is in fairly regular employment. How, then, can he save very much out of the margin left when he has .paid rent, has provided food and clothing for his wife and children, and has met other necessary expenses? In one particular the recommendations of the Commission follow the example set by Victoria rather than the New South Wales practice, and if these recommendations are embodied in legislation, aged persons, having well-to-do relatives, will have to look to them, and not to the Commonwealth, for their maintenance. The Commission, wishing to encourage thrift and the spirit of independence, suggests that the Government shall establish an assurance system which would afford those who desire to do so an opportunity to make provision for their old age with the certainty given by a Government guarantee. The report says -
A scheme under which a parent could, on the payment of a small sum or sums, secure for his child an old-age pension, or any person could by a similar payment or payments on his own behalf, provide a like benefit in old age, would be worthy of careful consideration. Such a system of deferred annuities on a liberal basis would certainly prove an inducement to thrift.
The New Zealand Government contemplate action on similar lines, as honorable members will have gathered from the speeches of Mr. Seddon, who grows eloquent in regard to old-age pensions, which, he declares, have proved a great success in New Zealand. I quote Mr. Seddon -
The proposals are that there shall be a fund created by payments thereinto by the persons desiring to secure an annuity by a given age - say 60 years. Every post-office at which there is a savings bunk will open its hooks lor the receipt of payments to the fund - weekly, monthly, or at any lime people are inclined to pay something into the fund. The minimum payment, if weekly, will be rs. ; if monthly, 5s. On the amount paid there will be a fixed amount contributed by the Government by way of subsidy. The amount of subsidy will be thus determined - single man or single woman so much, married couple so much, the subsidy in the case of married people being greater than in the case of single depositors. Then, if there are three children in the family, the subsidy will be in- creased. If there are six the amount will be larger than if there are only three.
The New Zealand Government also intend to subsidize friendly societies under certain conditions. These societies, honorable members will admit, are doing a most valu- 1 able work throughout the Commonwealth, and I entirely agree with Mr. Seddon when he states that the world does not realize, or if it realizes, underestimates the importance of that work. If it were not for these societies, the various State Governments would have to contribute very much more than at present towards charitable aid. The cost of a Commonwealth old-age pension scheme is estimated at £1,500,000 per annum. Of this sum New South Wales and Victoria are spending £700,000 at the present time. This leaves an amount of £800,000 to be expended by the other four States’- In the interests of South Australia, I wanted the Commission to recommend that the money needed by tha four States should be provided bv the Commonwealth out of Custom duties, but I did not succeed, as Mr. Sydney Smith and other members of the Commission were quick to perceive that this would provide the two larger States with much unasked-for revenue. With no Customs revenue to fall back on, the smaller States will ba brought face to face with a big difficulty, but I trust not an insuperable one. I am glad to notice that the Government intend to make quarantine a Federal matter, and that they also propose to establish a Meteorological Department. Reference is made in the speech to the fact that the Treasurer paid a visit to England during the recess I understand that the right honorable gentleman paid his own expenses. If he had received the pay of an ambassador he could not have worked with greater zeal to maintain the honour and the reputation of the Commonwealth. All his time whilst in London, both his days an,d his nights, must have been occupied with interviews and articles for the press, and in preparing and delivering addresses of one kind’ and another. All the newspaper contributions, all the articles in the magazines, and all the speeches of the right honorable gentleman were permeated with that cheery optimism which is such a striking characteristic. I am sure that his visit to the old country was a magnificent advertisement for Australia. The Agent-General for South Australia. is reported to have told a London audience recently that with the exception of the people of England, Aus- tralians were the richest in the world. I am sure that the -right honorable the Treasurer must have succeeded by his enthusiasm and his eloquence, in convincing all those with whom he came into contact that Australia was the greatest country on earth.
– It is with some diffidence that I rise to second the adoption of the AddressinReply. I desire, at the outset, to congratulate the Government upon the comprehensive programme which they have put forward, and which .presents a striking contrast to that which was submitted to us at the beginning of last session. Then the Goverment had to confess that it was incapable of doing anything, and had no recourse but to commit political suicide.
– It is sometimes more honorable to die than to live.
– The Government have at least given evidence of their desire to do something.
– There will be no sign of suicidal mania on the part of this Government.
– No; because they have a useful purpose to serve, and believe that there is a great1 future before Australia. I trust, therefore, that they will not do anything in the direction indicated by the leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member need not be alarmed.
– The complaint has been made that the Government do not possess a sufficient amount of fighting talent; but I do not think that any serious exception can be taken to the attitude which they are now assuming.. To be a successful leader in any sphere of life, a man must be a born fighter, and of this fact no better evidence could be afforded than is to be derived from a contemplation of the career of that great leader of public life in New Zealand who is now in Victoria. .Whether or not we agree with a man, we can all admire his fighting qualities. Before I proceed to deal briefly with the matters referred to in His Excellency’s speech, I may be permitted to say that during the recess the public have been repeatedly told that ruin would overtake Australia owing to the legislation passed by this and the preceding, Parliament. I am surprised, indeed, that the leader of the Government, and even the leader of the Opposition, can meet the House with a cheerful countenance. The right honor able member for East Sydney and his lieutenants have been touring the country telling the people that we shall be overwhelmed in ruin because of the socialistic legislation that has been passed; but no one has pointed to a single instance in which an enactment placed on the statutebook by this Parliament has proved injurious.
– Has the honorable member become a Socialist ?
– I do not know but that a Socialist is as good in public life as is a single taxer. So far as my political tendencies are concerned, I have no responsibility excepting to my constituents. In view of the task which has been allotted to me to-day, I was pleased to notice the opening paragraph of His Excellency’s speech, which I venture to say cannot be refuted by the most able anti- Socialist in Australia. The paragraph reads as follows : -
I have called you together, I rejoice to say, in a season of general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth, production having increased, prices being favorable, while both trade and finance afford most encouraging evidence of the soundness of business.
Where are we to find evidence of the deplorable effects of the legislation passed by this Parliament? In proof that His Excellency has correctly stated the position, I would quote the statement made by the president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, in his annual report, that never in the whole history of Australia were the general conditions of the community more prosperous, or the prospects’ more favorable, than at present. I would also direct attention to the support given to His Excellency’s statement by the remarks of the honorable member for Grampians, who, speaking as chairman of directors of a leading banking institution, said that the conditions were’ such that it was really difficult to find investments for our wealth.
– Will the honorable member contend-
– Will the honorable member mind his own business? When a few hard facts are related those who have been crying “ stinking fish “ with regard to Australia cannot sit quietly by. I think it must be admitted by men of all shades of ‘political opinion that there is ample evidence of sound business conditions and prosperity throughout the Commonwealth. I have to admit that, unfortunately, in times of prosperity there is a tendency to depart from the lines of legitimate business, but the Government cannot help that. I wish, however, to emphasize the fact that, notwithstanding our prosperous condition to-day - the prosperous condition of those who have opportunities for wealth production and for the development of our natural resources - a considerable number of persons have had no such opportunities presented to them. This Parliament, and the Parliaments of the States, can, in their respective spheres, afford further facilities to such people for increasing the production of wealth and developing our great natural resources. They can also, by legislation, encourage our white brethren in other lands to come and settle here. But what is the use of attempting to attract immigrants here unless we bring about such conditions that they can earn a decent livelihood ? There are practically only two ways by which production can be encouraged by legislation. One of these is by offering greater facilities for the occupation of the land. This is a matter which at present is under the control of the States Governments. The Federal authorities can do little or nothing in that direction. They can, however, assist the States to introduce suitable immigrants and grant bounties or bonuses, with a view to a fuller development of the industrial and mechanical arts. I repeat that a considerable amount of hostile criticism has been directed to some of the legislation passed by this Parliament. Unfortunately, in this House, as well as outside of it, when the Government attempt to do anything of a progressive character, criticism is directed not with a view to improving their measures, but with the object of destroying therm. Very frequently, also, misrepresentations: are made for party purposes. With regard to the Commerce Act, which was passed during last session, misrepresentation has been the order of the day. It is well known to honorable members, and to those who have taken an active interest in that measure, that the intention of the framers of the Act, and the desire of this House in passing it, was to secure honesty in trade. When the honorable member for Gippsland’ was Minister of Trade and Customs, he had the good sense and the courage to pass a regulation dealing with the importation of cornsacks, one of the classes of goods to which the Commerce Act? will apply. He. was bitterly assailed on the ground that his action would interfere with the course of trade, but there was no doubt as to the! good purpose which he desired to accomplish. He wished to insure that those who purchased cornsacks should know exactly what they were buying. To-day I had the good fortune to attend! a meeting of representatives of the whole of the agricultural societies and farmers’ unions of Victoria, at which requests were received from all parts of the State that the regulation passed by the honorable member for Gippsland be enforced. In many cases it was further urged that not only should the bales containing the bags be branded, but that the bags themselves should! be marked according to their quality. This incident alone seems to me to afford proof of the necessity for the Commerce Act, and justifies the congratulations which I bestowed upon the honorable member for Gippsland for the action which he took to secure honesty in that particular branch of trade. Yet if we refer to the section of the press which professes to speak for the farming interests, we find it decrying the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs. It was in the interests of honest trade that the Commerce Act was enacted, and the section of the press to which I refer admits that the farmers actually demanded some such provisions as it contains. I have now given an illustration of the necessity for that Statute. But the assumption appears to be uppermost in the minds of some persons that the Minister of Trade and Customs is, perforce, going to harass traders and importers. Nothing of the sort. He is going to protect the honest trader and the honest importer, and to put the dishonest trader upon an equality with the honest trader. I notice that in the Vice-Regal speech reference is made to the early introduction of an Anti-Trust Bill. It is well known that an absolute necessity exists for the enactment of such a measure. Those who take a keen interest in farming pursuits know what foreign importers have done with Australian! inventions up to the present time. Those who have been following the operations of the foreign manufacturers are aware that within the last three weeks one of the biggest importing firms here has sent around to the different local implement manufacturers, and bought up patterns of what is known as the disc plough. That firm has had a field trial of these ploughs conducted by experts from America with a view to combining the perfections of each, to manufacturing them in America, and to sending them to Australia to kill the local industry. I have no objection to these gentlemen engaging in the manufacture of agricultural implements ‘here if they desire to do so. But what I have stated is an evidence, I submit, of the necessity which exists for the introduction of anti-trust legislation. It may be urged that our own manufacturers can protect themselves by the acquisition of patent rights. I happen to know that the patentee of one of these disc ploughs has patented it throughout Australia. He is not a wealthy man, and can any reasonable individual assume for a moment that if an implement imported from America contained some part of his patent he would be in a position to fight the trust? He has no possible hope of doing so. He would go to the wall, another Australian industry would be ruined, and there would be an addition to our unemployed. A special reference in the Governor-General’s speech to members of this House brings me to the one little lone proposal of the last Government. I refer to the Redistribution of Seats Bill. As one of those who was opposed to the method proposed to be adopted upon that occasion, I desire to say that no word or action of mine will delay for a moment the redistribution of our electoral divisions in Victoria.
– Does not Moira disappear?
– The individual’s interests are a matter of small concern. All Victorians must, I think, view the question as I do. I commend the Government for their action in bringing down this proposal at the earliest possible moment, with a view to arriving at finality. If the law demands that it shall be done the sooner it is done the better. That is only just to the other States. Victoria has no word of complaint to urge so long as she receives justice. She does not ask for concessions, but merely for justice. There are some of us who, it was alleged!, would occupy a peculiar position in the event of any Tariff proposals being brought down during the life of this Parliament. I am among those who stood on a clearly-defined platform at the last general election. I stood behind the leader of the present Government for fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament.
– For fiscal peace and preferential trade.
– Fiscal peace, loyalty, and preferential trade.
– I propose to deal with one thing at a time, if the honorable member for Dalley will permit me to do so. As is well known, the present leader of the Opposition at that election was in favour of fiscal war.
– I wanted to settle the question right off, and it would have been better had ‘we done so, as matters have turned out.
– That may be the case, but we have to deal with things as they are. Who will be responsible if we have to deal with the Tariff during the current session? I say unhesitatingly that it will be the leader of the Opposition, who, with his party, fought for fiscal war at the last election.
– That is one good thing I did, at any rate.
– At the last election honorable members opposite fought for fiscal war, whereas I was in favour of fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament. But the whirligig of time and the changes in politics placed the leader of the Opposition in power, and whilst he was head of a Government he agreed - I presume at the instigation of his supporters, because it is not to be assumed that he would be dictated to by an Oppositionto the appointment of the Tariff Commission. I have heard honorable members opposite declare that the right honorable member took that action at the instigation of the present Attorney-General. But is such a procedure in accordance with the policy of the leader of the Opposition?
– I appointed the Commission because I thought that we could not have too much daylight in connexion with the operation of the Tariff, whichever way the evidence might go. I would not have appointed it if I had not approved of it I am not afraid of daylight.
– The right honorable member also stated that, in the event of reports being submitted by the Tariff Commission during the life of this Parliament, opportunities would be afforded honorable members of dealing with them. That is the position with which I am confronted to-dav. If the reports of that Commission are submitted during the current session, what option have I - or, indeed, what alternative have the Government - but to deal with them? Can they be withheld from the House? What will be the demand of the Opposition when those reports are submitted ?
– Let’ us adhere to our pledges.
– But what is the position of the Opposition to-day ? They now desire a continuance of fiscal peace. They wanted fiscal war at the last general election. Sitting behind their leader, they sought fiscal war; but now that fiscal war has arrived they desire- fiscal peace. They wish to dodge the issue anyhow. They want to get behind a kopje at all hazards.
– That is just what I said in- reference to the Deakin Government.
– The Tariff Commission has submitted some reports. If they present further reports during the present session, I venture to say that I shall not shirk my responsibility. My views on this matter are well known. I was quite prepared not to raise the fiscal issue during the life of this Parliament. Up to the present time I have .not asked that it should be raised. However, it has been raised without any action upon my part, and, that being so. I shall certainly not shirk my responsibility. But. however willing the Government and the House may be, there is not the slightest possibility of a complete revision of the Tariff being undertaken, during the current session. I do not think that time will permit of it. /;
– Then why this long Go vernor-General’s speech.
– Upon the relative merits of the questions at issue, the viceregal speech’ devoted less space to this particular matter than to any other.
– That is a very startling announcement in reference to the appointment of the Government Statistician.
– We did not get even an announcement of that kind from the late Government.
– Small as the dose was, the honorable member could not swallow it.
– There is one paragraph in the Governor-General’s speech relating to defence matters, and to Australian officers, which embodies a policy of which I have’ been an ardent supporter and advocate aM my life. I have always been at a loss* to understand why when a vacancy occurs in any particular Department, we in Australia, who are not altogether in our infancy as a people, cannot appoint one of our own men to it. It seems to me the height of absurdity that, whenever we require a leading officer, we should go outside Australia for him, and thus advertise our incompetence to manage our own affairs. If the States Governments require a prison superintendent, or a railway manager, they usually go abroad to secure him.
– Then why go abroad to select a Governor-General ?
– That is an entirely different matter. We do not grow kings in Australia. We have confidence that the Imperial authorities will send us a representative of the King, worthy of the position. We do not appoint the GovernorGeneral. He is practically the tie which binds us to the Crown, of which we are justly proud. Personally, I should not give a voice or a vote to bring any man to Australia to control a Department of the State. We are old enough now to be able to go on our own in such matters. I shall not now deal generally with the question of defence, because I believe that some scheme of defence is to be submitted to us on a future occasion. I wish to say with regard to the paragraph dealing with the High Court that I think it is about time the Government took action in the matter dealt with in that paragraph. We have upon our statute-book a measure which it took something like two years to pass, and which caused the downfall of two or three Governments. It is practically unworkable as the High Court Bench is at present constituted. It is the duty of the Government to see that measures placed on the statute-book are given effect, and, so far as my information goes, it is only by strengthening the High Court Bench numerically that the Act to which I refer can be brought into effective operation. In the interests of Austraia and in justice to all concerned, I think that this should be done as soon as possible, and I commend the Government for their proposal in this regard. With regard to immigration, a good deal has been said upon the subject. I admit the value of an increase in the white population of Australia. I admit the necessity for it. But whilst I say that, and give the Government credit for their desire to assist the States Governments, which thev have every right to do, and which it is their duty to do, I remind them that thev will have to move in other directions. Thev will have to make this country prosperous and attractive, before thev attempt to bring people here under conditions which will only mislead them. It is well known that even amongst those reared to farming pursuits, whether they come from other countries or are native born, there are men already here who find it absolutely impossible to get land on which they can settle. If honorable members will permit me, I shall read an extract in corroboration of what I have stated, from a letter I received within the last day or two. I know the writer of the letter well, and I also know three or four of his brothers, who have not been ‘ quite so unfortunate, since they have been able to obtain land. With respect to the contention of the Government that there are not sufficient people in the Commonwealth, that immigration is needed, .and should be encouraged, the writer of the letter says -
My own experience is quite different to that. I came to this country sixteen years ago, and I had a bit of money with me. My intention’ was to tate up land and settle on it. I was much disappointed on my arrival at not being able to get any land, and was forced to take on the share system. The rent for same was much too high, and, coupled with the drought, I was forced to give up the land, and go on to a glutted labour market. Without assistance from anybody, I have succeeded in getting on, but I am still seeking for land to settle on, as I have nowhere to go to when out of work, only to camp by the wayside.
The writer asks me, if I know of any land available for selection, to inform him of it. I know this man personally, and I know that what he states is absolutely correct. He says further -
I have travelled from Melbourne to the Queensland border, and back, in search of land to select.
– Why did he not go to the West?
– I have known men who went to the West, and came back, though I admit that some stayed there and made fortunes. My correspondent proceeds -
I saw plenty of it, and put in applications, but it was of no use, as there were numerous applicants, and one would need to be very lucky to get a block. I do not wish to dispossess any man of his land. All I want is a block of ground that [ can make a living on.
He goes on to say that unless there is some one to take by the hand the man who is seeking land to settle on, the cost incidental to inspection, attending land boards, lodging deposits, and so on, preclude the poor man from obtaining it. I am grieved when I look round in my own district and see the number of young men reared to farming pursuits, who have been in the district for the last twenty years, and have grown up there, and who are unable to get land. We may be told bv some honorable members that the land monopolist will give them land on the share system, and I wish to say here, and not without full consideration, or without having looked very closely into the matter, that the share system as conducted in northern Victoria and southern Riverina is not one remove from slavery. It is only a single remove from serfdom.
– What are the conditions to which the honorable member refers ?
– If a man makes a living on the land this season the landlord alters the conditions so that it will be hardly possible for him to make a living on it next season. I am speaking with knowledge. I have been there, and I am farming in the district.
– Does the tenure extend only for a year?
– The tenure under the share system is such, and the conditions of tenancy are such that as scon as the harvest is over the owner of the land can put the tenant out “on his ear.” He is under no obligation to the tenant, and there is practically no fixity of “tenure.
– That is in Victoria.
– The tenant under the share system has no control over the land. He cannot even say whether it is desirable that a crop shall be eaten off by sheep. If the squatter wants feed for his sheep he runs them over the land, and takes the consequence. I am speaking of this matter with absolute knowledge, because I am “ at the game.”
– The honorable member is not aware of the instances in which there is fixity of tenure.
– I do not know of a single instance in which there is any fixity, of tenure under the share system.
– Then the honorable member has something yet to learn..
– In the district to which I refer, in the last ten years, to my knowledge, the landlord has always had the right to say “ out you go “ to the man on the land under the share system. As a result, there are men who have gone over into New South Wales on the share system, and some who have remained in Victoria on the same system, who are in a worse position to-day than they were ten years ago. I say, without any hesitation, that before the Government induce immigrants to come here, in the belief that they will have land to settle upon, they should know beyond all manner of doubt what they are going to do with those immigrants when they get them here. May I direct the attention of honorable members representing New South Wales constituencies to a little matter which came under my notice ten or eleven years ago? Some of those honorable members clamour for a white population from Europe. The leader of the Opposition interjected1 only today to the effect that we cannot bring contract labour here unless it is British labour. Of what use is it to bring any man to New South Wales to-day unless he is a Britisher? He cannot take up a piece of land in his own name, and why then should the right honorable gentleman speak with his tongue in his cheek?
– We were talking at that time of the settlement of the Northern Territory.
– I venture to say that conditions approaching a reasonable degree of civilization and favorable to closer settlement exist to a greater extent in New South Wales to day than on the Roper River. We should develop the Northern Territory by all means, but those who talk about objections to contract labour from Europe may fairly be asked why, when, they ha!d the power and authority, they placed on the statute-book of New South Wales laws to prevent white immigrants from Europe taking up land in that State, and why thev have let them remain on the statute-book of that State to this day?
– I do not believe thev are there. I cannot positively deny it. but it astonishes me to hear the statement made.
– What Government did that ?
– The Act was passed on 3rd May, 1895.
– Some one must have smuggled the provision in.
– The honorable member has not told us the remedy for the conditions of which he has spoken.
– One remedy is to allow a white European to take up land, if fie desires to do so, on entering New South Wales. The Act to which I refer, how ever, precludes his doing so. It provides that -
A person who is not a natural born or naturalized subject of Her Majesty shall not be qualified to apply for any holding of the class referred to in the last preceding section. . . .
– But what is the class referred to?
– I shall tell the right honorable gentleman. I am armed to meet the bear. It covers homestead selections, settlement leases, original homestead leases, and, most important of all, original conditional purchases. It will thus be seen that it comprises practically everything coming within the definition of farm holdings of mode’rate size. I learned by accident of this provision, and, strange to say, every representative of New South Wales whom I Have addressed on the subject has denied its existence. As a matter of fact, it is still the law of that State. In these circumstances, is it not singular that the honorable member for Lang should’ ask me to state a remedy for the conditions to which I have referred. I would say to honorable members, ‘ ‘ Do not worry about the question of the introduction of contract labour, to the injury of European labour, in Australia, since we do not happen at present to want any, but rather consider the action of those who, when members of the State Legislature of New South Wales, deliberately passed legislation making it impossible for a white European, in some circumstances, to take up land there.”
– I am not guilty of such legislation ; I was not a member of that Legislature.
– I would not accuse the honorable member of possessing the ability necessary to deal with such a measure, but I do not hesitate to say that, although the Government of Victoria, during the last twelve months, have spent practically £1,000,000 in resuming estates for closer settlement, they are still unable to meet the local demand, to say nothing of the demand that might arise from immigration.
– -They have not even been able to meet- the demands of purchasers.
– Quite so. The State Government still find themselves unable to meet even the demand of purchasers who are prepared to pay two instalments down, and so rid the Lands Department of any risk. Thev find themselves unable to overfake the local demand’ for land. In these circumstances, I would urge .the Government to exercise the greatest caution. If they bring ai number of men to Australia with the object of putting them on the land, they will do no good for the Commonwealth, or for the immigrants themselves, unless they have first found land on which to settle them. The question, arises, therefore, what are we going to do? We have ample land in Australia to allow of furthe development, but, unfortunately, this Parliament is not in a position to deal satisfactorily with the problem. The problem, rests practically with the States Governments; it remains for them to solve it. On the other hand, however, it is entirely within the province of this Parliament to widen very considerably the sphere of industrial employment. I was pleased to find in the speech from the Throne a proposal for the assistance of rural industries. When the honorable member for Gippsland held office as Minister of Trade and Customs lie had, I believe, a somewhat similar proposal in mind, and I may say, in passing, that no honorable member is better fitted to give effect to such a scheme. T trust that when the Ministry bring down their proposals in this regard, they will have the active support of all those who wish to diversify the field of employment in the Commonwealth. We have hardly realized the extent or the potentialities of Australia. Few of us, indeed, have realized the possibilities of Victoria, small as it may be, or of New South Wales, large, as it may be. If I may be permitted to say n word or two in commendation of the Inst Conference of Premiers, I should! like to say that the Premiers of Victoria. New South Wales, and South Australia, in settling the question of the control of the Murray waters, placed the people of those States under an obligation which thev do not at present seem to realize. No question of greater importance to a large section of the people of these three States has been dealt with - and dealt with more successful^ - than was that to which I have just referred. Great industrial possibilities are awaiting development in Australia. Tn connexion with nil our manufactures, there are numerous opportunities for extension, and when the Government bring down their proposals - and in this direction thev have unlimited scope - I trust thev will leave no stone unturned to secure to Australia the advantages cres that mav accrue to it in this regard. It is unnecessary for me do refer to the value of the goods that we annually import, thus giving to workers in other lands work that we could satisfactorily carry out- for ourselves. It is in this respect that I am hopeful of a sound policy from the present Government. I have already said that I do not believe that we shall have a complete measure of Tariff revision this session. Time will not permit of anything of the kind. A session, or, indeed, a Parliament, is a very small factor in the life of a country or the development of a nation, but in all seriousness I would ask those who talk of the possibilities of Australia and of the necessity of developing our resources, to leave aside party considerations for the time being. I am never much concerned as to the party with which I am allied, as long as I am satisfied that it is proceeding on right lines. I am almost losing respect foi those who are eternally raising a cry which must create party strife. We hear so much from some about anti-Socialism that I am commencing to wonder how they find time or opportunity to think of anything else. I have not yet heard a definition of antiSocialism, nor have I heard Socialism defined as a policy injurious to the people of Australia
– The honorable member was not a very strong Socialist last session.
– I was as strong a Socialist last session as I am to-day, but I have never been afraid of legislation of a progressive character. If in Australia one class more than another is socialistic, it is the fanning class in Victoria, which has been assisted by the Government at every turn. Those who object to protection must object to grants and subsidies to rural industries; but I am delighted that the Government have in the fore-front of their programme a proposal for subsidizing and bringing into existence new industries connected with the soil. The honorable membet for Gippsland knows well the immense future possibilities of the development of our country ; but will those who talk so much about anti-Socialism assist the Government in doing something tangible for this development ? As for State, or, as it mav be termed. ss.ie, Socialism, no section of “the community has derived more benefit from it than have thb farmers of Victoria. In the Budget statement of the Treasurer of the State, practically £90,000 is set aside as a free gift for agricultural education, assistance of the export trade, and so on. Is there anything wrong in that? In my opinion, there ‘has been too little State interference in the interests of the producers of Australia. Was it not an act of Socialism for the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs to pass a regulation prohibiting persons from selling to Victorian wheatgrowers bags not of standard quality ? Was it not State Socialism for the Victorian Treasurer to pay ^50,000 out of the general revenue of the State to the Victorian Railways. Commissioners to recoup the loss sustained in connexion with the carriage of wheat over our railways? It is useless to talk about the ruin that the Labour Party will bring about if they attempt to intervene between the dispoiler of the producer and his victim. I would not countenance any proposal which would have the effect of killing or injuring private enterprise, and to me it is absurd to dream of the nationalization of our industries; but if I am accused of Socialism, I say that I am in favour of al) practical legislation to enable our people to do what they cannot do individually. When theories, dreams, visions, and ideals are spoken of, I say that no proposal will get my support until it has been brought down to hard mother earth. I have at times found myself in conflict with my friends of the Labour Party, and, no doubt, will do so again, but I have no quarrel with them on that account, any more than I have a quarrel with the honorable member for Dalley because he sits on the opposite side of the Chamber. There are many things worthy of attention, but I have already taken up much more time than I intended to occupy. I shall, no doubt, have an opportunity to refer to these matters later. I am delighted that the Government have* come down with a programme of a progressive character. I do not intend to be alarmed* by a mere name, nor by a proposal because it is termed socialistic. I shall not condemn any proposal until it has been put before me in a tangible shape, and I can see what its effect is likely to be.
– The honorable member will direct the horse’s head right up to the precipice.
– It is absolutely necessary, notwithstanding that we are fairly prosperous at the present time, that we should give our producers further opportunities, and make our country more attractive. Having done that, little will be required to be done to induce immigration or to retain tlie immigrants who are already here.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Reid) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at halfpast two o’clock on each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past ten o’clock 011 each Friday morning.
Protest against Imperial Interference with Natal.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understand that some time ago, the Government made, through the Governor-General, a protest to the Imperial authorities against their interference in affairs controlled by the Natal Government, more particularly in respect to the carrying out of certain capital punishment. Is the Prime Minister prepared to lay the papers in this case on the table of the House?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060607_reps_2_31/>.