House of Representatives
13 June 1906

2nd Parliament · 3rd Session



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

page 91

INTER-PARLIAMENTARY CONFERENCE

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

– A somewhat unusual invitation, which extends to the whole of the Federal Parliament, has been received in the following cable message from Mr. William Randall Cremer, M.P. : -

Cordially invite members Federal Parliament Conference Inter-Parliamentary Arbitration Union, Westminster, July 23. Twenty Parliaments participating.

Mr. Randall Cremer has been a member of the House of Commons for upwards of twenty years. He was the founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Conferences which have met since 1888 at Paris, London, Rome, Berne, the Hague, Buda Pesth, Brussels, Christiana, Vienna, and St. Louis, U.S.A. He has been prominent in all movements having for their object the settlement of international disputes by arbitration, and was actively associated in promoting the Anglo-American Treaty of Arbitration. His services in the cause of peace were recognised when, in 1903, the gold medal and Nobel Peace Prize were allotted to him. Of the amount of that prize he gave£7,000 to the International Arbitration League as an endowment. That league is an influential body, having 102 members of Parliament as vice-presidents.

page 91

QUESTION

INTRODUCTION OF MICROBES

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

– I understand that the Government have taken stepsto prevent the use of the microbes which Dr. Danysz has brought from France for experimental purposes. Willthe Minister for Trade and Customs state precisely what has been done, and with what object?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The Government has, if I may use the term, impounded the microbes inDr. Tidswell’s laboratory, to be held there until further directions are given. It is not intended to take further action, pending the discussion of the notice of motion of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, unless it is represented by Dr. Tidswell that the microbes may be injured by delay ; but I saw him in Sydney, and he informed me that he did not think that any harm would be done to them. If the discussion of the motion is not deferred too long, no instructions will be given until it has been disposed of.

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

– Will the Government facilitate the discussion of the motion, in view of the very grave importance of the matter at issue?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– If the honorable and learned member for West Sydney will consult with me, I’ shall endeavour to fix a very early date for the discussion of his motion.

page 92

QUESTION

TELEPHONE SERVICE

Mr SALMON:
LAANECOORIE, VICTORIA

– I wish to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he is prepared to make a statement with regard to the adoption of the much discussed toll system in connexion with our telephones?

Mr EWING:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I am not prepared to make a definite statement. As, ho doubt, every honorable member is aware, considerable difficulty has been met with in obtaining the information requisite to discover the financial and commercial basis of the matter, and the Government is not yet in possession of all the facts necessary to a determination. I understand, moreover, that the Postmaster-General has inquired very closely into the subject during his recent visit to Europe, and under these circumstances I shall probably suggest to the Cabinet that the matter may be allowed to wait over for another fortnight, until his return.

page 92

KALGOORLIE TO PORT AUGUSTA RAILWAY SURVEY BILL

Mr CARPENTER:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– I should like to be informed if it will be necessary for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill to be taken again through all its stages in this House, or whether it can be revived in the Senate?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– The Bill was laid aside on a motion declaring that, until the consent of the South Australian Government had been given to the construction of the proposed railway through its territory, the Senate would not renew its consideration. In response to communications which have passed between the South Australian Government and ourselves, I have to-day received the intimation that that Government does not object to the proposed survey, but desires to be consulted on questions of route and terminal points. That, in my opinion, is not a compliance with the resolution of the Senate, and consequently the measure cannot be revived there; but, in view of what has now happened, the Bill can be re-introduced either in this or the other Chamber.

page 92

QUESTION

IMPERIAL DEFENCE COMMITTEE

Mr KELLY:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Has the report of the Imperial Defence Committee been furnished to the Government? If so, will an opportunity to become conversant with its contents be given to honorable members as soon as possible ?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister of Defence, and give the honorable member a reply to-morrow.

page 92

QUESTION

SWEATING OF POSTAL OFFICIALS

Mr MAUGER:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA

– When will the return relating to the sweating of postal officials, which it was agreed should be presented to this House, be laid on the table?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– Ishall make inquiries, and inform the honorable member tomorrow.

page 92

QUESTION

BUSHMEN’S CONTINGENT DECORATIONS

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, when the clasps to which the members of the third Bushmen’s Contingent are entitled, will be ready for distribution? They were promised five years ago, and it was definitely understood that they would be ready at the beginning of the present year.

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– The honorable member informed me on Friday last that he intended to askthis question, and I accordingly made inquiries into the matter. I am informed by the Defence Department that the clasps arrived in Adelaide on the 1 8th ultimo, and are available for issue. It has been found difficult to ascertain the names and addresses of the men entitled to them ; but, no doubt, that difficulty will be overcome by advertising in the newspapers.

page 92

QUESTION

BRISBANE POST OFFICE

Mr CULPIN:
BRISBANE. QLD

– I desire to know from the Minister representing thePostmasterGeneral whether the proposed alterations of the Post Office at Brisbane will obviate the necessity for building a new General Post Office, and will give to Brisbane the facilities which that growing centre requires ?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– The whole matter is now being reported on, but I am satisfied that anything that this Government does with regard to Brisbane, or any other place, will be all that will be necessary to be done, andthat when the alterations are completed, the people of Brisbane will find that their requirements have not been overlooked.

page 92

QUESTION

TRADE MARKS ADMINISTRATION

Mr.McWILLIAMS. - On behalf of the honorable and learned member for Angas. I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and

Customs whether a sub-office under the Trade Marks Act will be established in each of the States, and whether copies of all essential particulars and other documents, with a proper index for reference, will be kept in each sub-office?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Protectionist

– I should like the honorable member to give notice of the question, because the matter will require some consideration. No doubt there will be a sub-office in New South Wales, and, if it can be managed, in the other States ; but, before giving a definite answer, I should like to consider the matter further.

page 93

QUESTION

GOVERNMENT IMPORTATIONS

Mr MAUGER:

– I wish to know when a statement showing the imports for Government use will be presented to Parliament ?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– I shall make inquiries.

page 93

PAPERS

Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following papers: -

Reports of the Board of Inquiry upon the charges made in the House of Representatives against Major J. C. Hawker.

Ordered to be printed.

Pursuant to the Post and Telegraph Act, amended regulations, &c, as to prepayment of postage (“ Library of Famous Literature “) - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 78; prepayment in cash for large quantities of mail matter - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 36 ; postal notes - Statutory Rules 1905, No.81 ; telephone exchanges - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 17; packets, commercial papers - Statutory Rules 1906, No.18 ; packets, commercial papers, insurance of parcels, &c. - Statutory Rules 1906. No. 26 ; packets, printed papers - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 35 ; private mail bags - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 27.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE substituted for the copies of the Tariff Commission’s evidence lying alongside the Fremantle wharves?

Minutes of F.vidence -

Vol. I., Division I. - Stimulants, beer, together with sugar in beer, barley, malt, and hops, spirits, and wines. Division II. - Narcotics, opium, tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes.

Vol.II., Division III. - Sugar, glucose and sugar; confectionery and jams. Division IV. - Agricultural products and groceries.

Vol. III., Division V. - Apparel and textiles.

Ordered to be printed.

page 93

MAJOR HAWKER INQUIRY

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– I wish to explain that, as the evidence taken by the Major Hawker Inquiry Commission is very voluminous, it has not been printed, but will be available to honorable members in the Library.

Mr Crouch:

– Does the Department decline to print that evidence?

Mr EWING:

– No; but as the evidence is voluminous, we think it well to give honorable members an opportunity to save expense by consulting it in the Library, instead of having it printed and circulated. Of course, we are in the hands of the House in this matter.

Mr TUDOR:
YARRA, VICTORIA

– As the evidence is so voluminous, will the Minister have printed that portion relating to the stealing of coal ?

Mr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

– And the drinking of cheap drinks by officers and gentlemen ?

Mr EWING:

– I do not think it possible to enter into a discussion of that matter. The whole of the evidence is available to honorable members.

Mr KELLY:

– In view of the language used by the honorable member for Yarra, I ask if the charge of stealing coal was sustained, and whether the evidence taken did not relate only to the borrowing of coal ? I ask the question to prevent a stigma attaching to our Defence Force.

Mr EWING:

– All information on the subject will be found in the evidence.

Mr MALONEY:

– In view of the successful inquiry held in connexion with the Hawker case, in which the Commissioners did not think it worth while to have sworn evidence, does the Government intend to do away with the swearing of witnesses on oath in the various courts of the Commonwealth, from the lowest up to the High Court ?

page 93

QUESTION

TELEPHONE FACILITIES AT FREMANTLE

Mr CARPENTER:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– I wish to know whether the Acting Postmaster-General will lay upon the table of the Library the correspondence which was passed in reference to an application made some time ago for telephonic connexion with vessels lying alongside the Fremantle wharfs?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– There will be no objection to affording the fullest information, and if it will be sufficient to lay the papers upon the table of the Library, I shall have them placed there.

page 93

QUESTION

DEPORTATION OF KANAKAS

Mr McWILLIAMS:
FRANKLIN, TASMANIA

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Whether he intends to lay upon the table of the House the correspondence thathas taken place between the Federal Government and the

Government of Queensland dealing with the deportation of kanakas?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– Yes, when further advanced.

page 94

QUESTION

LAND SETTLEMENT: NORTHERN TERRITORY

Mr HIGGINS:
NORTHERN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Is anything yet being done, or is anything going to be done, by the Government in the direction of getting suitable white settlers for the unused and partially used lands of Australia?
  2. What is the present stale of the negotiations for the cession of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth ?
Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. Yes, as promised in the Governor-General’s speech. The correspondence since the Premier’s Conference will shortly be laid before Parliament.
  2. Awaiting a reply from the Government of South Australia.

page 94

QUESTION

GOVERNMENT HOUSES: SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE

Mr MCDONALD:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

In view of the demand made by the Premier of Victoria for thu sum of ^.’3,000 a year rental for Government House, will the Government take the necessary steps to arrange for the GovernorGeneral to reside in Sydney, and save the expenses entailed by the upkeep of Government House, Melbourne ?

Mr GROOM:
Minister for Home Affairs · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · Protectionist

– I would ask the honorable member to postpone his question for a week, because correspondence on the subject is now proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the Victorian Government.

page 94

QUESTION

EXAMINATIONS FOR TELEGRAPHISTS

Mr HIGGINS:

asked the Acting PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is it true that telegraphists in the 4th subdivision of the 5th class are compelled to pass in examination before passing to Hie 5th subdivision?
  2. If so, under what power is the examination held ; and if there is power, why is it not exercised in the case of other subdivisions, and in Hie cn.se of clerks?
  3. Is it true that bv means of this examination most of Hie female telegraphists are kept at ;£i20 per annum, and prevented from passing to ^140, as prescribed by the Act?
  4. Is it the policy of the Commissioner to keep female operators from getting increments under the same conditions as male operators?
Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– The replies furnished by the Public Service Commissioner are as follow : -

  1. Yes.
  2. Sub-section 5 of section 21 of the Public Service Act entitles the Public Service Commissioner, before granting an increment, to satisfy himself that the officer possesses the requisite efficiency to justify such increase. The examination has been arranged upon the subdivision because ^’120 per annum is a reasonable advance upon the minimum wage, and is full value for the work of officers who cannot pass a simple examination in their daily work. While telegraphic efficiency can be accurately gauged by means of practical tests, it is impracticable lo adopt the same method of appraisement- in the case of clerks, whose duties are diverse, and who, if not suited to a particular class of work, can be transferred to other clerical duties.
  3. No; female telegraphists are subject lo exactly the same tests as, and their efficiency is gauged on an identical basis with, male telegraphists.
  4. No ; identically the same conditions apply to male and female operators.

page 94

QUESTION

IMPERIAL SHIPPING CONFERENCE

Mr HUGHES:
WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Whether he intends to give effect to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Hie Navigation Bill that delegates from the Commonwealth should attend the proposed Imperial Shipping Conference in London?

Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : -

After consultation with the right honorable the Premier of New Zealand, the Government have agreed to send delegates to the Conference, provided it is held shortly before April next year. So far no reply has been received to the suggestion as to date.

Mr Hughes:

– Has the Prime Minister any objection to laying the correspondence on the table?

Mr DEAKIN:

– The consultation with Mr. Seddon was verbal, and, as a result, a cable was sent to England, to which we have not yet received a reply.

page 94

QUESTION

FINANCIAL RELATIONS OF THE COMMONWEALTH AND THE STATES

Mr HIGGINS:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Can he state now, or at some early date, for the consideration of the House and of the public, the present position of the questions of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, the bookkeeping system between the States, and the taking over of the debts?

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Treasurer · SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– In reply to the honorable and learned member, I desire to say : -

These subjects are receiving the attention of the Government, and, it is hoped, may be dealt with when the Budget is submitted to Parliament.

page 95

QUESTION

BENDIGO LIGHT HORSE BRIGADE

Sir JOHN QUICK:
BENDIGO, VICTORIA

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

What steps have been taken to form a squadron of the Light Horse Brigade in Bendigo, as suggested last session ?

Mr EWING:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : -

Bendigo is in the district in which the9th Australian Light Horse Regiment is raised, and squadrons are already allotted, which make up the authorized Peace Establishment under the existing organization. Some changes in connexion with two of the squadrons are, however, under consideration, and a recommendation regarding the same will be made by the Military Board, probably next week.

page 95

QUESTION

DATE OF GENERAL ELECTIONS

Mr PHILLIPS:
WIMMERA, VICTORIA

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

Whether, in view of the fact that the months of November and December are busy months with the farming community, it is possible to hold the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives in the month of October?

Mr GROOM:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

The Chief Electoral Officer reports that, having regard to the proposed redistribution of the Slates, and to the large number of polling places requiring re-adjustment, and to the time which will be occupied in reprinting the rolls, in his opinion, it would not be practicable to hold a general election in the month of October.

Mr SPENCE:
DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

Whether he is aware that the month of October is the middle of the shearing season, and that thousands of electors are then so circumstanced as to be unable to vote either in person or by post, and, in view of that, will he arrange that the coming elections be held later in the year ?

Mr GROOM:

– The information desired is contained in the reply given to the honorable member for Wimmera.

page 95

QUESTION

APPOINTMENT OF STATES GOVERNORS

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Whether his attention has been directed to the fact that Lieutenant-Governors, correspond ing to the position of State Governors in Australia, have been appointed in two of the colonies of South Africa by the High Commissioner from South African men?
  2. Whether it is not a power under the Constitution, and was not at first intended as the Australian practice to give the power to appoint State Governors in Australia, as in Canada, to the Governor-General ?
  3. Whether he will advise the Colonial Office to reserve this power to the Governor-General in all future State appointments?
Mr DEAKIN:
Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. No. Presumably these are not selfgoverning colonies. 2 and 3. There does not appear to be any authority conferred on the Governor-General by the Constitution to make such appointments.

page 95

QUESTION

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH : ADDRESS-IN-REPLY

Debate resumed from 8th June (vide page 83), on motion by Sir Langdon Bonython -

That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech as read by the Clerk be agreed to by the House.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- It is not always easy to preserve the continuity of one’s remarks when they are interrupted by so long an adjournment as that which has occurred since Friday last. When the debate was adjourned, I was proceeding to enter my protest against the Government continuing to bring forward proposed legislation when it was obvious, not only that they had not a majority of their own supporters behind them, but that the support of the party which was keeping them in office was being flung at them in the most contemptuous manner.

Mr Page:

– Why not put them out of office instead of weeping and wailing?

Mr JOHNSON:

– The honorable member for Maranoa may not like what I am saying, but I cannot help that. Not more than twelve months ago the Prime Minister said -

You may accept if you please every item in the published labour programme - the fighting programme of the future, its present programme, the State programme, the Federal programme - and yet be excluded from the ranks of that party. You must swallow not only the programme but the organizations. What is more, you must swallow them whole. If you accept every article in the programme, support every proposal they put forward, and you once endeavour - as many of their own members have proved in this and other States - to assertyour individuality, if you once try to have an independent mind on other subjects or in relation lo party arrangements, you are a heretic, banned wilh bell, book, and candle.

I would remind the Prime Minister that these are the words which he applied to the party by whose assistance alone he is able to retain his present position. About the same period he pointed out -

Those most closely allied wilh the Labour Parly, those who make the greatest sacrifices lor them, who stand closest lo them, and who most wish to help them, are always the first to be sacrificed by them. One may help the Labour Party for one month, two months, three months, or four months, but the moment that one stops or makes a single independent step he is treated as a bitter enemy. After being apparently trusted, he will be treated as if suspected from the very first moment; he will be condemned as if he had attacked them from the outset. That is the treatment which follows alliances with political machines.

These remarks are as applicable lo the Labour Party to-day as they were when they were uttered, and one could feel some sympathy with the Government in their present humiliating position but for the fact that they accepted office with a full knowledge of the degrading conditions attached to it, and a full appreciation of the ingratitude of the party whose proposals they are doing so much to embody in our legislation. I might point out that the remarks I quoted from the Brisbane Worker last week have been Borne out by Mr. Heaghney, the secretary of the Sydney Labour Conference, who, when speaking recently at a picnic, said: -

We are practically on the eve of a battle, and we have just held a council of war. Many were inclined to have the enemy in our service as mercenaries, but the decision has been arrived at to pui them to the sword at all quarters. Those who have been inclined to hire the mercenaries are now ready to put them to the sword to-morrow. We shall go forward lo the fight as fanatically as Mahomedans

There is a nice prospect for the Government to look forward to. They can no longer be in ignorance of the fate that awaits them at the hands of the party which thev are doing so much to assist, and which, when it occupied the Treasury Bend had not the courage to bring forward legislation embodying the principal planks in its platform. The speech of the Governor-General is significant, not so much for what it puts forward, as for what it omits. It is important to note that it contains no declaration as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the proposals which have been put forward by the leader of the Labour Party upon the question of Socialism and progressive land taxation. I have carefully read the Prime Minister’s speech on the Address-in-Reply, and have failed to derive any enlightenment as to the attitude of the Government on these questions. The leader of the Labour Party, when he put forward his proposal for a progressive land tax at Crow’s Nest, challenged the Prime Minister to declare his attitude towards it. The Prime Minister has not done so. Upon the first occasion that he made any reference to the subject, he stated that he was opposed to the imposition of a progressive land tax, on the ground that it was a matter entirely within the domain of the Slates Governments. In his next public deliverance he did not take up an attitude of direct opposition, but attempted to evade the issue. Now, in the light of the insistent declaration of the leader of (he Labour Party that proposals for a progressive land tax will be submitted as part of the Labour Socialist policy at the next general election, the attitude of the Prime Minister is one of wavering uncertainty. It is non-committal, because, as he says, he does not want to commit his party before they have had an opportunity to discuss the matter in Cabinet. We have, however, had a public declaration by one Minister - the Treasurer - and it will be interesting to know whether the Government intend to ask that Minister to send in his resignation, or whether he will, be called upon to climb down. The Treasurer was most emphatic in declaring his opposition to a progressive land tax. It will be interesting to watch the developments of the next few days or few weeks, as the case mav be, to ascertain what will be the attitude of the Government in regard to this most important question. The Prime Minister made one statement which I cordially indorse, when he said that the land problem is at the root of all other political problems, and that no industrial questions can be satisfactorily settled until the land question has been intelligently and satisfactorily disposed of. Whilst I entirely disagree with the proposals of the leader of the Labour Party in regard to his progressive land taxation scheme, I have always favoured the principle of land values taxation. Upon that question I do not see eye to eye with all those who sit upon the same side of the House as I do. I believe that the Prime Minister is right when he declares that the land question is at the root of the whole industrial question, and that the latter cannot be settled satisfactorily until we have successfully grappled with the former. Of course, I recognise that we now occupy a very difficult position by reason of the fact that we have six State Parliaments, in addition to theCommonwealth Parliament, all practically possessed of the same powers of taxation, except as regards one source of revenue, namely, the Customs, which, of course, is entirely under Federal’ jurisdiction. I realize that very great difficulty will be experienced in grappling with the land question, unless some amicable arrangement in regard to it can be arrived at with the different States. I am totally opposed to the principle of progressive land taxation, which the leader of the Labour Party has put forward, and with which the Prime Minister himself has inferentially admitted he is in agreement, as applied, of course, only by the States. But whilst the leader of the Labour Party to-day contends for an exemption up to £5,000 of land values, it is interesting to recall that he was not always in favour of that exemption. Indeed, I do not think that he was always in favour of the principle of land values taxation itself, as a matter for Federal legislation. Whilst I do not make that assertion with any degree of positiveness, that is my impression. But be that as it may, I am certainly under no misapprehension when I say that it is only very recently that he has favoured an exemption up to£5,000 of land values.

Mr Watkins:

– When did he say anything else?

Mr JOHNSON:

– In the New South Wales Parliament he not only spoke against an exemption up to£1,000 of land values, but voted against the proposal.

Mr Ronald:

– That is ancient history.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I propose to quote exactly what he said at that time. In reply to the question put by Mr. Copeland -

Why did the honorable member vote against the£1,000? the leader of the Labour Party said -

Because I believe it to be too great an exemption.

Mr Poynton:

– From what is the honorable member quoting ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am quoting from the New South Wales Hansard of the 7th of March, 1895. The leader of the Labour

Party, in discussing the land proposals of Mr. Reid at that time, said-

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member for Bland was not the leader of the Labour Party then.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am speaking of the attitude of the honorable member for Bland upon the occasion in question, irrespective of whether he was the leader of the Labour Party or not. My own impression is that he was. However, that consideration is quite immaterial to my argument. The honorable member continued -

I voted in favour of the£500 because, as far as I can see, it is reasonable. I believe that £1,000 would allow many large holders to escape. If this evil is existent - that men who hold land in large areas would cut it up to such an extent as to escape a good deal of taxation - if that exists in regard to the£500, it is twice as great an evil in regard to the£1,000.

If the honorable member really believes that to exempt from taxation the holders of land values up to£1,000 is twice as great an evil as to exempt those who hold land values up to . £500, it necessarily follows that a£5,000 exemption which he now advocates must be ten times as great an evil.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Irrespective of whether the taxation is levied for State or Federal purposes ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– That consideration does not affect the principle one iota. It will be observed that the leader of the Labour Party declared that an exemption of£1,000 was too high because it would allow a great many large landholders to escape taxation. If that were so then, it must be obvious that such an exemption will permit just as many large landholders to escape at the present time. But the key-note of the honorable member’s reasons for favouring an exemption up to£500 worth of land values is to be found in the following words which he uttered upon that occasion -

I take it that each one of them - referring to the members of his own party - will have to answer to their constituents for their attitude on this question. If the Bill is carried in a form in which they will have prevented any exemption from being arrived at, they will have to answer to their constituents for it.If, therefore, they do not believe in any exemption, let them by all means negative the proposal now made.

That was an appeal to the members of his party not to assert a principle because of its inherent soundness, but simply to aim at one class of landholders in the community because they happen to hold large areas, and to throw a sop to the larger number of smaller holders, whose votes the honorable member preferred to gain, rather than maintain a sound principle that he professed to believe in. I do not agree with that idea at all. I am in agreement with the principle of land values taxation because I believe that the land question is at the root of all other questions. If we are going to institute a system of land values taxation it must apply all round. Further, it must apply in an equal ratio all round, and must not be an addition to existing taxes, but a substitute for such taxes. I do not advocate any additional burdens, but a lightening of those burdens by changing the incidence of taxation. It must not operate as the progressive land tax would operate, by mulcting some persons in double and treble the rate that others would be required to pay. If we are to have a land tax of id., 2d., or 3d. in the j£i, the same rate should be levied all round, so that the man who owns -f.x worth of land would contribute in exactly the same proportion as the larger holders.

Mr Thomas:

– I beg to draw attention to the state of the House - [Quorum formed].

Mr JOHNSON:

– I was proceeding to show that if the principle of land taxation be a sound one, it should be applied without discrimination all round. It should apply equally to the owner of £1 worth of land as to the owner of ,£1,000,000 worth.

Mr Webster:

– Is the honorable member in favour of an all-round land tax of 3d. in the £1 ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do not propose to discuss that question at the present time. My point is that the imposition of a progressive land tax would constitute an attempt which is characteristic of most qf the Labour Party’s legislation, to benefit one class of the community at the expense of all others. The proposal merely affords another instance of that class legislation which I have consistently opposed being placed upon our statutebook at the instigation of the party which at present controls the Ministry. If it be just to institute a system of land taxation undoubted^ it should apply all round. The reason underlying any exemption that may be suggested by the Labour Party springs from a desire to placate a certain section of the community, and to obtain their votes. But I warn the electors that when once the thin end of the wedge has been got in, the progressive system will be made to apply all round, and those who have been -deluded into voting for it will discover that they have been victimized. I believe in the principle of land value taxation, and the exemption of improvements, as a matter of justice, quite apart from the consideration of the question of whether this Parliament has a right to impose such taxation, upon the people. That is a constitutional matter which must be fought out by members of the legal profession. Speaking in regard to the principle itself, I say that it should be made to apply all round, and that its introduction should be concurrent with a reduction of other taxation, and not an addition to it. We should not have a State land tax and a Federal land tax. We should endeavour to arrive at an amicable arrangement with the States, under which this Parliament should have the sole control of their lands in regard to measures of taxation, outside of taxation for purely local government purposes. If we can come to some such arrangement, I am certain that we shall speedily settle all those industrial troubles which legislation has been vainly endeavouring to remedy for so many years.

Mr Webster:

– Will the honorable member tell us what he proposes to substitute?

Mr JOHNSON:

– It is for the Government to make proposals. I am not here to make proposals, but to criticise those which have been already submitted, and to show that they should not commend themselves to our judgment, either on the ground of principle, of justice, or of honesty. As a matter of fact, the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Bland, and in regard to which the Prime Minister does not appear to be quite able to make up his mind, is one which is aimed at only one section of the community. I maintain that land values belong as of right to the community as a whole, because they are produced by the presence, growth of the necessities and activities of the people. If they belong to the community, it necessarily follows that it is right that the community should have power totax them for public purposes. And if it be wrong for an individual to appropriate to himself £5,000 worth of land values, it is equally wrong for him to appropriate to himself £1 worth. I see no difference in principle between the owner of £1 worth of land and the owner of £5,000.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member would rob him of the lot?

Mr JOHNSON:

– The honorable member for Grey admits, then, that his leader proposes to rob all those who are possessed of more than £5,000 worth of land values. According to his dictum, it is right to rob those who hold more than £5,000 worth, but holders up to that value should not be touched. If it is robbery to tax £1 worth of land one penny, it must be exactly a thousand times as big a robbery to tax £1,000 of land the thousand pennies. But although we always are met with the charge of robbery when it is proposed to tax land values, the honorable member for Grey would repudiate any accusation of robbery when the tax is imposed on the soap, candles, and kerosene of the washerwoman who owns not a farthing’s worth of land. If the honorable member for Grey believes that it is robbery to impose a tax upon land values, he must admit that it is just as much robbery to tax the holder of £5,000 worth as it is to tax the. owner of £5,001 worth.

Mr Poynton:

– The question does not present itself to me in that light.

Mr JOHNSON:

– There are many points that do not occur, perhaps, to the honorable member until they are brought to his notice in such a way that he cannot escape from them. Passing away from that subject to the attitude of the Prime Minister on the question of Socialism, I would point out that we have not been enlightened by him as to the position that he and his colleagues take up upon the question which, above all others, is bound to be fought out at the next general election. The issue is going to be placed before the country, not by those who occupy the Treasury benches at the present moment, but by the party at whose bidding they must dance, and who set the tune for them. It was due to this Parliament, therefore, that some reference should have been made by the Prime Minister to the attitude that the Government proposed to take upon this question.

Mr Poynton:

– Does not the honorable member think that his own party ought to state its attitude more clearly ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– There is no am biguity about the attitude of the party to which I belong - it is one of straight-out opposition to Socialism in all its forms. There is no “ beating about the bush,” so far as we are concerned. Our attitude towards Socialism is one of uncompromising hostility, because we regard it as a danger to the community. When I say this, I wish it to be understood that I am speaking with the utmost good feeling towards the Labour Party and those whom they represent personally, but I believe that in endeavouring to bring about an alteration of existing conditions - an alteration which some of them, I think, honestly believe will be for the better - they are seeking to establish a revolutionary system which will tend only to bring down the people to utter and abject slavery. Any one who has studied the proposals of the Socialists as propounded by their ablest thinkers and writers must come to that conclusion. That being so, we were entitled to have from the Prime Minister some definite pronouncement as to his attitude and that of his Government upon this question. I have no doubt that by the time the general election comes round the Ministry will gradually find themselves getting closer and closer to the Labour Party in regard to these proposals.

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

– The Labour Party are already in hot retreat from Socialism.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I was about to refer to that point. Since the first declaration of their obiective in relation to Socialism the Labour Party have been industriously seeking to run away from it. Each succeeding utterance of their leader has been so watered down that at the next general election we shall probably seek in vain in their declarations to the electors for a vestige of that objective which they started out so boldly and valiantly to proclaim when, they thought that public opinion was likely to be with them. At the very first sign that public feeling was against their socialistic proposals we beheld them, not standing up like valiant warriors for the principles in which they professed so ardentlv to believe, not prepared to hold their banner aloft as we should have expected of men who were prepared to do battle for principle, but explaining again and again that thev did not mean this or that, and that it was the other fellow who called them Socialists. They have now reached the stage at which they begin to feel ashamed of the veryname of Socialists. They whine that “ these fellows who belong to Reid’sparty class the Labour Party as Socialists.” wholly overlooking the fact that the leader of the party himself declared at the Labour Conference that it should be a sine qua non of membership of the Labour Leagues that all candidates for membership should be Socialists.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member is a Socialist.

Mr JOHNSON:

– The honorable member is quite wrong, as usual. I have never had any sympathy with anything in the nature of Socialism as I understand the term. Whilst we have the Labour Party on the one hand complaining that we are calling them Socialists without warrant, and endeavouring to explain that they are not Socialists, we have individual members of the party touring the country, and preaching Socialism of the most rabid kind. I have here the latest issue of .the Queensland Worker, which contains an interview with the honorable member for Maranoa upon this subject. I propose to quote briefly from it.

Mr Poynton:

– Read the lot, and we shall get the truth.

Mr JOHNSON:

– The House will have the whole truth, because I shall read all that the honorable member had to say on this subject.

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

– Let us see whether the Labour Party will accept the statement as the truth.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am anxious to learn whether they are prepared to indorse it. If they are we shall know exactly what their position is. Unfortunately, however, the leader of the party at present makes so many contradictory statements on the public platform that it is difficult to know where they stand. The honorable member for Maranoa does not leave us in doubt as to his attitude. He is quite enthusiastic about it. The report sets forth that the interviewer asked him - “ And what about the honorable member for Maranoa?” “Well.” said he, in tones that shook the Trades Hall to its foundations, “ I let them know where Jim Page stands all right. I am a Socialist, and I not only believe in Socialism in our time, but in Socialism all the time.”

The interviewer went on to inquire - “You spoke at Barcaldine, too?” “Yes; and the best thing that happened there was to’ hear Brother Ryland expounding Socialism.”

These Socialists call each other “ brother,” and also address each other by their Christian names.

Mr Higgins:

– Is there any harm in that ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Not the least. It is a kind of familiarity that is very refreshing, especially among men who are often persona] strangers to each other. The honorable member for Maranoa went on to say - “ It would have done your heart good to listen to him. Why, bless you, none of our Objectives go half far enough for him ! He told them he was not only a Socialist but a true Anarchist, in the proper meaning of that much abused word. I’ve heard Tom Mann going ‘the whole hog1 pretty strong, but even he’s not in it with Brother Ryland.”

That is the kind of Socialism of which the Labour Party speak in Queensland ; they go “the whole hog.” There is no ambiguity about this statement, and I say that it is neither courageous nor honest on the part of the leader of the Labour Party to tour New South Wales, as he has been doing, endeavouring to run away from Socialism, or else seeking to associate it with the principles of Christianity. That, I think, is the worst feature of the whole business.

Mr Webster:

– I am sorry to hear the honorable member talking about Christianity.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I hold that there is nothing in common between the principles of Socialism - which appeal to the basest instincts of humanity - and the noble ideals of Christianity. It is little short of blasphemy to seek to associate the two.

Mr Poynton:

– It is such men as the honorable member who tour the country lying about us.

Mr JOHNSON:

– There is no foundation whatever for that statement. It is the labour organs of the party to which the honorable member belongs that decry and belittle Christianity, in common with leading Socialist authorities. I have only to go to the labour organs to prove my contention! as to what is their attitude in regard to religion. Let me quote from the Tocsin, one of the recognised organs of the Labour Party, and show the House its published views of religion, and the Labo.ur Party’s creed : -

Labour, unlike all other political parties in Australia, is utterly creedless and unprejudiced. Most of its members have outlived the silly gibberings and superstitions of unwashed dogma, and the few who will take stock in the same are treated with brotherly indifference and forbearance. To the Labour Party militant gods and josses and creeds and scraps of theology are as nothing, and social and industrial reform are the whole world. Whether a man worships a portion of his woodheap, or goes in for hard-husk Baptist proceedings, or laughs at the whole yowling 200 of prophets and apostles and saints, troubles the Labour Party less than the colour of Satan’s boots.

What it does care about is the welfare of the man, the wage he gets, how much sweat he perspires for it, and similar close-at-hand claspable affairs. Man’s body, in short, is absolutely all that he cares about; his soul - if he has any - can rip.

There is not much Christianity about a sentiment of that kind.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member knows that that statement was repudiated.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am not aware of the fact, if fact it be. But I do know that since that appeared the same journal has published much of a like character; then the Queensland Worker has declared that they want no gods; that there is no room for a God in the Labour Party.

Mr Webster:

– What is the date of the Tocsin from which the honorable member has just quoted?

Mr JOHNSON:

– It was published in April, 1904 - during the life of the present Parliament, and just prior to the last Victorian State elections. The Tocsin went on to say -

By downing every candidate with the faintest suspicion of religious leaning, and by putting in mcn armed only with a firm regard for the people’s secular welfare, this State’s electors will do the thing which above all others is right. For, take it any road you will, religion is a curse, and a snare and a delusion and a malicious sham, and all those qualities are preeminently suitable for leaving outside of Parliament.

What semblance of Christianity is there to be found in such a declaration? The honorable member for Grey challenged my right to say that the Socialist movement was not allied with Christian principles, and I have made these quotations to show what the recognised official organs of labour say .in, regard to the grand principles of Christianity, which most of us, I trust, hold in respect and reverence.

Mr Poynton:

– Why is not the honorable member honest enough to show how those statements came to be published?

Mr JOHNSON:

– That is a matter with which I am not concerned. They have been published, not once, but repeatedly. There is at the present time a member of the other branch of this Parliament who was at one time the editor of the Tocsin, and whilst a member of the State Parliament he allowed to be published in it statements which the State Legislature felt demanded an apology from him. They called upon him to apologize, and, I believe, took an even more drastic step.

Mr Poynton:

– And after that the electors returned him to the Federal Parliament.

Mr JOHNSON:

– More shame to the electors who returned him after he had published such statements. Electors who return to Parliament a man who would print and distribute throughout the land sentiments of that kind in regard to one of our most cherished and revered institutions do not reflect very much credit upon themselves. I do not wish, however, to pursue this subject further. The honorable member for Grey challenged me, and I gave him my authority for mv statement.

Mr Poynton:

– I say that the honorable member is giving it dishonestly. He has not given us the whole statement.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I have read the statement so far as it relates to the principle involved.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member has given us half of the truth, and half the truth is worse than a lie.

Mr JOHNSON:

– The honorable member’s assertion is absolutely incorrect : I challenge him to point out in what respect I have suppressed the truth, for I have wittingly omitted nothing that materially bears on the question.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member has omitted ‘the explanation as to how this got into the newspaper.

Mr JOHNSON:

– That has nothing to do with the matter. I do not know what explanation there was ; I have not seen any No explanation can alter the fact that what I have stated was published in this newspaper, and that since that time, even if there was an apology or explanation, or anything of the kind, worse has been published, and not apologized for or explained away. No later than a few weeks ago we had in the labour organ- in Queensland, sentiments expressed of a similar character, and these sentiments have not been repudiated by the Labour Party. Indeed, soon after the publication of one of the most scurrilous attacks on religion, the leader of the Labour Party sent a message of eulogy to the Queensland Worker for the great work it was doing in furthering the labour cause. There was no word of condemnation or protest in that message. When the honorable member for Grey talks about my suppressing facts, I say that I’ have not wittingly suppressed any, and that there has been no contradiction or repudiation of equally objectionable statements made since, not only in the paper to which I first referred, but also in the Queensland Worker, which is the most influential labour organ in the whole of Australia.

Mr Poynton:

– I say that there has been, an,d the honorable member knows it.

Mr JOHNSON:

– There may have been, but I have not seen any contradiction or repudiation. When the honorable member says that I know of any contradiction or repudiation, I can only say that I do not know of any.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member does not want to see the explanation.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I take that newspaper pretty regularly, and I have seen no contradiction.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable member only takes what suits him.

Mr JOHNSON:

– We cannot get away from the fact that the statements I have quoted have appeared in the newspaper mentioned, not once only, which might have been accidental, but at various times. Therefore, I say that it is all the more important that we should have a declaration by the present Government of their attitude in regard to Socialism in the light of the various objectionable features associated with that policy. I now .desire to deal with one or two matters referred to in His Excellency’s speech. In regard to Papua, we are told -

The future of Papua has engaged earnest attention during the recess, and proposals for a new administration will be laid before you. Meanwhile the issue of the Proclamation bringing the Papua Act into force, and creating British New Guinea a territory of the Commonwealth, has been deferred until new ordinances are ready for enactment.

It will be remembered that the Papua Bill was introduced in a great hurry. It was pointed out that it was a most urgent measure, which it was necessary should be pushed on with by the late Parliament. The Bill was pushed through, and what is the result? We find that the issue of the proclamation has been delated, and that, after all the talk about the great importance and urgency of the legislation last session, matters are not very much further advanced now than they were then, although several months have elapsed. I also desire to draw attention to paragraph 8 of His Excellency’s speech, as follows : -

For over twenty years Australia has enjoyed the assistance of a number of Imperial officers for the purpose of training those in command of our local Forces, in addition to which many of the latter have been sent to England and India for instruction. Hereafter preference in appointments will be given to Australian officers and non-commissioned officers.

That may or may not be a very wise thing to do. Whilst it is advisable to encourage Australians to become thoroughly proficient, so that they may be eligible for appointments of this kind, to simply appoint Australian officers because they are Australian would be a very sad and lamentable mistake, which might possibly hereafter involve the loss of many valuable lives. The sole considerations that should govern any such appointments should be those of efficiency, merit, and capability. If we can find Australian officers possessed of those qualities, in the same degree as are other officers who are not Australians, then by all means give preference to Australian officers; but to put the fact of an officer being born in Australia in the balance to weigh against more efficiency, greater merit, and greater value, not only to the Australian community, but to the Empire as a whole, would be a fatal mistake. I hope that the course outlined in His Excellency’s speech in this regard will not be persevered in. I now come to the question of the appointment of an additional Judge, which is thus referred to in His Excellency’s speech: -

The pressure of appeal business upon the High Court precludes attention to its original jurisdiction, and prevents the discharge of the additional duties cast upon the Justice who is President of the Arbitration Court. A measure to relieve the strain upon the Court and provide for the full exercise of its functions by increasing the number of its members will be laid before you.

I am not going to say that I do not believe it is advisable to appoint an additional Judge to deal with any accumulation of work in this Court ; but the name of a certain member of the present Ministry has been publicly mentioned in the newspapers in connexion with the appointment, and I desire to take this opportunity to express the hope that, whatever appointments may be thought necessary in connexion with the Arbitration Court, none will involve the appointment of a political Judge. It is very undesirable, from every point of view, that any political advocate, who has had a strong bias in connexion with the framing of legislation of this character - who has been responsible for moulding the legislation, so far at any rate as the present Act is concerned, and who must necessarily have a strong leaning to the one side or the other - should be appointed to administer the law under that Act. When the Bill was under discussion I expressed the hope - and, apparently, with the concurrence of several members of the present Ministry - that when the time came to appoint a Judge of the Arbitration Court special care would be taken that no political Judge would be selected. I know there is a tendency in certain quarters to have partisan Judges. I have seen it seriously proposed by a member of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney - who, I think, has taken the place of Mr. Samuel Smith in connexion with the Arbitration Court work in that State - that there should be a partisan Judge selected - that is to say, a Judge in sympathy with labour. What would he say if the other side seriously advocated the appointment of a Judge with a. strong bias in favour of the employer of labour? I hope we shall not start that kind of thing in Australia. It has long been our boast as Britishers - as members of the British Empire - that our courts of justice may be relied on as absolutely free from bias either to one side or the other. I hope the day is far distant when we shall initiate anything like what we have seen in America and other countries in regard to our courts of justice. I hope we shall always endeavour to secure the services of high-minded men, who will not be biased either in one direction or another, but who will occupy such a position as will enable them to give fair and honest verdicts on the evidence brought before them. These have been the principles underlying the appointment of Judges who have proved the pride and glory of the ‘British race for many years past. I hope, therefore, that the proposal to appoint- a member of the present Government to the position of Judge of this Court will not be persevered with. At any rate, if the proposal is submitted. I shall oppose it as strenuously as I can. With regard to the anti-Trust Bill, which we shall shortly be asked to consider. I do not propose to deal with it now, seeing that when it is placed before the Chamber there will be opportunity for full criticism. I only desire to make a passing reference to the fact that this is a Bill of the character of many which have preceded it, and which aim at the destruction of the trade and commerce of the country. The measure is now introduced to us in the form of an old friend dressed in a new suit, and when it is before us there will, as I say, be opportunity to criticise all its details, and show the hurtful character of such legislation. There were other matters to which I desired to refer, but I have already spoken longer than was my intention. In conclusion, I wish to reiterate what I said at the beginning, namely, that the conditions under which the present Government hold office are of such a character as to give them no warrant whatever to push forward with any more legislation, than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of bringing the session to a close, and enabling the country to give a verdict on the various measures of public importance with which the Government propose, to deal. The efforts of the Government should be confined to, first of all, submitting a Redistribution of Seats Bill, so as to give more equitable representation to the electors and obtain a more correct verdict at the hands of the people. Whilst the electoral machinery is being prepared for the general election we might deal with the Federal Capital question, and bring it to finality, and perhaps deal with a Federal Quarantine measure, which is admittedly very necessary . We ought to do nothing further, except, of course, to grant Supply to cover the period between the dissolution of this Parliament and the meeting of the next. I sincerely hope the Government will not persevere with its intention to push forward measures of so contentious a character as to be likely to delay the tabling of other measures, which” all sides of the House mav bf expected to concur in carrying to a proper and legitimate conclusion. So far as the measures I have indicated are concerned, the hearty co-operation of the members of the Opposition may be relied on to give them the effect of law as speedily as possible.

Mr HIGGINS:
Northern Melbourne

– I think that we have on the present occasion the longest speech on our records, and that for a short session. The situation was very different last year, when we had the shortest speech, and when, as

Ave could not amend that speech, we amended the Address-in-Reply by inserting the words. “ And that the House proceed with practical business.” I should like to congratulate the Government on carrying out the spirit of that addendum to the AddressinReply of last session - on the fact that thev have proceeded, and are proceeding, with such practical business as they can carry in the present state of the House. I must say that I think the Government are doing what is wise and proper in selecting such business as they see they can complete ,in the present state of parties, with the concurrence of the majority of the House. As I understand the position, the Government do not care from which party or parties in the House their support comes, so long as they can carry the measures to which I refer. That, so far as I can see, is only a proper course to pursue. They have refused, are refusing, and, I hope, will still refuse to put before the electors a futile issue on an impossible question, the question of Socialism or anti-Socialism. I take it that the members of the Government know full well that, under our Federal Constitution, no system of Socialism is possible, and that before we can alter the Federal Constitution the people of Australia have to be consulted iri their numbers, and in their States, and both Houses of this Parliament must also be consulted, and consent given to the alteration bv an absolute majority.

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

– If the Government know that, why are thev spending money to investigate these projects?

Mr HIGGINS:

– Knowing that, why we should be asked to spend our time in Parliament and at public meetings in dealing with issues which may become live issues, perhaps, in a few centuries, is more than I can understand. As one who will not be frightened against voting for a good measure, because it may happen to be called socialistic, I shall be prepared to give the Government my cordial support, so long as they endeavour to enact legislation required by the circumstances of our time. I wish to refer to something which has happened, and which seems to me to be of very great importance in its bearing upon the constitutional relations between our Governments and the Government of the Home country. I refer to the communication made by the Prime Minister to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with regard to the disturbance by kaffirs in Natal. It seems to me that this communication raises a question with regard to the internal relations of the Empire, and a question which, I say with all respect, has, in my opinion, been raised in consequence of a mistaken view of our constitutional position taken by the Prime Minister. I am as strong as any one can be with regard to noninterference with the self-governing Colonies in matters of their self-government. I believe, in the words of Burke, that there is nothing which conduces to the peace and prosperity of the Empire so much as “a wise and salutary neglect “ of the doings of the people in their self-governing Colonies. At the same time, I submit that, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister has said, the English Government has just as much right to express its opinion as to the doings of the Natal Government towards the kaffir as the Government of Australia has to express its opinion with regard to the dealings between, the Home Government and the Government of Natal.

Mr Johnson:

– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.”]

Mr HIGGINS:

– I say that the more we encourage, on all sides, the interest taken in each part of the Empire in each other part, the better for the Empire. I think it is our duty, as far as we can, to encourage, and not to discourage the practice of looking at the interests of the whole Empire. We should, in considering the interests of Australia, consider the interests of the Empire as being bound up with those of Australia. The interests of Australia are the interests of the Empire, and the interests of the Empire are the interests of Australia. What are the facts of this case? I do not propose to give any opinion on, or to prejudge the merits of the matter, but it seems that, in collecting the hut tax from the kaffirs an officer in the employment of the Government of Natal was shot. It appears that, in consequence of that, without trial, twelve men who were kaffirs were to be shot for being concerned in the riot. The important point to remember is that there was no trial. The action was taken under what was called martial law. which is no law. and what was proposed was simply an illegal shooting of twelve men.

Mr Maloney:

– Very cruel action, too.

Mr HIGGINS:

– I am not saying a word on the merits of the matter. There are cases in which a Government has to do such things; but I say that when these facts occurred, tha Imperial Government asked for information from the Natal Government, because the Zulus are no ordin ary black tribe or nation, they are a tribe possessing great force, power, and numbers ; and the whole force of the Empire might have had to be called in for the purpose of enforcing the will of the Natal Government. Nothing could be more natural, therefore, than that the Home Government should ask for information before they permitted this shooting to be carried out. I take it that here, as in London, they control the naval and military forces of the Empire; and it is only fair that before the naval and military forces should be staked, as it were, and the whole wealth and power of the Empire staked, in any matter, the Home Government is entitled to inquire what is being done, and why it is being done. As to the manner in which the inquiry was made I say nothing, except that perhaps it might have been done more discreetly - that is to say, questions might have been asked of the Natal Government privately, and secretly, and in such a way as not to have raised false hopes amongst the Zulus. What I wish to disclaim, so far as I am concerned, as a member of this Parliament, is the principle assumed by the Prime Minister in his despatch, that the Home Government hare no right to interfere in such transactions with a Colonial Governnent.

Mr Carpenter:

– To disclaim?

Mr HIGGINS:

– Yes. The Prime Minister puts the matter as “ an intervention of His Majesty’s Ministers for the United Kingdom, with the administration of the self-governing Colony of Natal,” and he appears to think that it was .done to establish, even with a .regard to the prerogative of pardon, a dangerous precedent affecting all the States within the Empire. There was no prerogative or pardon involved here, because there was no verdict and no judgment. The prerogative of pardon can be exercised only when men have been found guilty after ‘trial. These men had not been tried. Thev were never before the Courts, and the Home Government simply said in this case : “ You are shooting twelve men, who ate Zulus, without trial. Let us know what you are doing.”

Sir John Forrest:

– - -The men were tried by court martial.

Mr HIGGINS:

– A court martial, as the right honorable gentleman knows, is not a legal Court.

Sir John Forrest:

– Martial law had been proclaimed.

Mr HIGGINS:

– There is no such thing as martial law, which simply means no law. It means simply that you do something which you think you have a right to do, and hope for indemnity afterwards.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is what was done in Natal.

Mr HIGGINS:

– I submit that the Prime Minister was wrong in assuming, that there was any interference with the prerogative of pardon which I think, all in this House will admit, is a prerogative that must be administered within Australia on the advice of Australian Ministers, and within Natal on the advice of Ministers in that Colony. I find from the papers laid on the table, that the late Mr. Seddon seized the position accurately, and put the matter correctly. He said -

Quite agree with you that any interference with the constitutional rights of any selfgoverning Colony should be strenuously resisted.

But he also said that it was necessary to make further inquiries, because -

Where so many human lives were at stake, and the trial having been by court martial, ami that not at a time of war, postponement to enable full information as to legality of sentences may have been all that was actually dune by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

The right honorable gentleman, whose loss we all deplore, and in connexion with which we expressed our condolences yesterday, seized accurately the true facts, and also the true constitutional position. The reply made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies was to this effect -

His Majesty’s Government have at no lime had the intention to interfere wilh the action of the responsible Government of Natal, ot to control Governor in exercise of prerogative, but that Ministers would recognise that in all the circumstances then existing, and in view of the presence of British troops in the Colony, His Majesty’s Government were entitled, an..l were in duty bound, to obtain full and precise information as to these martial law cases

It is clear, then, that all that His Majesty’s Government in London wished to do, as they had to be responsible for war or peace, and for the army and navy, was that, before any irrevocable step was taken, they should know exactly why certain things were done. I do not think that in their communication they show any want of confidence in the Colonial Governments. There has been a large grant of power and liberty made to the various Colonies and States, and the Imperial Government have never of late shown the slightest indication of an intention to interfere between a colonial Government and individuals under its control, in the ordinary course of law. But I think it will be recognised that it was only reasonable in the circumstances, with British, troops in the Colony expected to enforce the decrea of some martial persons for the shooting of those twelve kaffirs, that the British Government should know what they were about. Of course, this opens a much larger question but with regard to the interference of the Home Government with Natal affairs, I wish to point out that while the Barton Government, of which the present Prime Minister was a member, was in power, there was an interference by Mr. Chamberlain, as. Secretary for State for the Colonies, with the legislation and action of an Australian Parliament, to which the present Prime Minister made no objection. He must foe taken as having assented to it. If we look at the papers in regard to legislation restricting coloured immigration, laid upon the table of the Senate and ordered to be printed on the 14th November. 1901, we shall see there a telegram sent bv Mr. Chamberlain to the Governor of South Australia, at a time when the right honorable gentleman, whose presence here we are very glad to recognise again this afternoon, was leading that Government. That telegram had to do with some complaints of Japan ns to the colour restriction, and Mr. Chamberlain wrote -

Inform Ministers that Her Majesty’s Government, will not be able to advise Her Majesty to assent to reserve Hill, but if legislation on line of Natal Act is passed, you may assent at once without referring home.

He enclosed the communication in a letter to the Australian Government when, in 1901, the Immigration Restriction Bill was under discussion, and said’ -

Secret. I have the honour to forward, for the information of your Excellency’s Government, copies of two despatches which I have addressed to the Governor of Queensland, relative to the reserved Bill of the Legislature of that State, entitled “a Bill to amend the Sugar Works Guarantee Acts 1803 lo ‘895.” I trust that your Government will join with His Majesty’s Government in deprecating legislation of the character of the provision in that Bill, to which His Majesty’s Government have felt bound to take exception

That was not resented by the Barton Government, the Prime Minister of the dayreply hig in these terms -

Minute to His Excellency, intimating that I am quite in accord with the principles and the policy laid down in the two despatches of which copies are transmitted, and that this Government does n”t contemplate the proposal of any legis lation likely to conflict with the views which the Secretary of State has expressed.

Mr Henry Willis:

– - What was the objection to the measure?

Mr HIGGINS:

– That it drew a colour line. If the Australian Government was willing to submit to suggestions, criticisms, and proposals as to Australian affairs from the Home Government which did not involve the question of peace or war, how much more ought the Natal Government to listen to suggestions, proposals, and criticisms with regard to matters happening in Natal which may involve the question of peace or war? We cannot draw any such line as the Prime Minister has suggested. We ought to preserve and carefully cherish, not only the right of the Home Government to communicate with us so far as our proceedings affect the Empire, in both its internal and external relations, font also the privilege which we have of sending to the Home Government, and to the Kin if need be, our opinions and views as to our relations to the Empire, or as to the relations of the different parts of the Empire with one another. We have no vote in Imperial affairs, but we have voices, and our constitutional right to petition the King upon any subject upon which we think fit to petition him is one which the Prime Minister ought to be the last to give up.

Mr Carpenter:

– Our ri’ght of suggestion would not justify their right of veto.

Mr HIGGINS:

– There is a legal right of veto. The Imperial Parliament, as a rule, does not express its opinions, because it can do more. It can. act, and can veto; but in place of vetoing our Bills, the Home Government intimates beforehand that there is danger that they may be vetoed. We have carried with us, in coming here from the old country, the right to express our views by petitioning the King on any matter on which we may see fit to do so ; and a clause in the Bill of Rights of 1689 confirms to us the privilege, which is also the privilege of all living in Great Britain and Ireland, to petition the King, all commitments and prosecutions’ for such petitioning being illegal. That pronouncement arose out of the case of the seven bishops. It is the right of all subjects to petition the King directly. The Prime Minister appears to think that it is a very wrong thing to send messages to the King, but I would remind honorable members that, much as the Prime Minister deplores the interference of the Home Government in only asking for information, it was by the interfer ence of the House of Commons and the House of Lords that slavery was abolished throughout the British Dominions, against the wishes of the local Parliaments. I admit that those Parliaments were conservative and reactionary bodies, composed of slave-holders, or those interested in slavery ; but they were local Parliaments nevertheless, and slavery would not have been abolished throughout the British Dominions had it not been for the interposition, about eighty years ago, of the supreme power of the Imperial Parliament. I am sure that the Prime Minister has a strong love for the unity, and a strong hope for the strength, of the Empire as a power making for civilization ; but the worst enemies of the Empire, whether they know it or not, are those who say that we here in Australia should not concern ourselves with the broad interests of the Empire, and the relation of its different parts one to the other. The more we encourage the practice of grieving with the grief and rejoicing with the joy of the other parts of the Empire, the better it will be for the Empire and for ourselves. When any part is wounded, the other parts should suffer, and when any part is healthy the other parts will tend to become healthy. I have dwelt longer on this subject than I should otherwise have done, because I do not find that any notice of it was taken by the leader of the Opposition. It is, to my mind, one of the gravest matters which occurred during the recess. It stood out so prominently as affecting the future of the Empire that I am surprised that more attention was’ not given to it, instead of to the displaying of mere debating school oratory. There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer in concluding my remarks. I think that the Government is unwise in not letting the House and the country more into its confidence as to the efforts which it has been making to secure immigration. I do not think that any problem is so urgent for Australia as that which is involved in the getting of suitable immigrants. I would connect with that, the problem of the Northern Territory, but I need not go into any details at present. I would merely say that there is a great deal of misapprehension throughout the country with regard to the attitude of the Government in this matter. The public seem to think that the Government are doing nothing. To-d’ay I asked the Prime Minister what action was being taken, but he gave me a non committal reply. He has often declared upon the public platform that we cannot increase our population by means of immigration unless we can secure land upon which to put the immigrants. I trust sincerely that he will not throw up his hands in despair because of the difficult’- which confronts him in that regard.. I hope he will recognise that the people of Australia want the great potentialities of this country to the developed’ without the introduction of peoples who do not maintain the same standard of living as our own. I feel that the problem must be solved, and solved soon. There is no time for delay. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister has the matter at heart, and we ought to know what he proposes to do.

Mr Henry Willis:

– What should he do?

Mr HIGGINS:

– I do not say what he should do. All I wish is that some information should be given to the public as to the proposals of the Government in the direction of solving the problems to which I have referred. As a member of the Convention of which you, sir, were also a member, I have been surprised that five or six years should have been allowed to elapse before anything is done with regard to the taking over of the States debts. The whole of our public men appear to be in a fog with regard to the bookkeeping sections and the Braddon section of the Constitution. The Treasurer assured me this afternoon that he would declare his policy when he delivered his Budget speech. I think that, having regard to the importance of the subject, he should take the House into his confidence, and not endeavour to solve the problem for himself, independently of the guidance and advice of others. If he submits cut and dried proposals to the House, he will be bound to adhere to them. But there never was a subject which had so many phases, nor was there ever an occasion upon which so many matters had to be taken into account ; and I trust that he will afford honorable members an opportunity of discussing the whole question before he finally makes up his mind. He may see one phase of the question, and perhaps confine himself to that, and submit a consistent scheme dealing with it. But I would point out that the question presents itself in a number of different aspects. These, I hope, he will full,T consider, and formulate a scheme that will fully meet all the requirements of the case. It may mean millions of money - perhaps tens of millions of money - to the Commonwealth, if we arrive at a well- advised’ decision, upon the subject. Greater vitality will be infused into the Commonwealth as a whole if we have plenty of money to spend in developing our resources, instead of being called upon to pay unduly large sums to bond-holders. The financial problem is one of the first that should have been dealt with by us. That is indicated by the wording of the Constitution, which provides that the. Commonwealth may take over the debts of the States, but only to the extent to which they existed at the tame that Federation was accomplished. And yet nothing has been done in that regard. I submit that Ministers might consider the advisableness of arranging for an open discussion - not a debating society discussion, but a discussion by honorable members, with a full appreciation of their responsibility in regard to the whole subject. The Treasurer might afterwards bring forward proposals for the solution of the difficulty.

Mr LIDDELL:
Hunter

.- I dc not consider that the speech which has been placed in the mouth of His Excellency the Governor-General is worthy of the Prime. Minister, of the Government, or of the Commonwealth. It looks very much like one of those monthly letters that are issued by .stock jobbers, containing information as to the state of the weather, the prospects of the crops, and the condition of the share market. In the first paragraph the Government rejoice in the fact that we are enjoying a season of general prosperity, that production has increased, and that prices are high. Do the Government for a moment imagine that anything they have done has conduced to this condition of prosperity? I do not think that they have any right to place this self-congratulatory paragraph in the forefront. The only thing that the Government can claim is that prices to the unfortunate consumer are higher, because, of the policy of protection they have adopted. The speech concludes by expressing the pious hope that, under the blessing of Providence, our faithful labours will promote the growth and prosperity of Australia. Unfortunately, however, the general opinion outside appears to be that if this Parliament could only be adjourned for ten years, and the country could be jil lowed to go on under a settled system of government, something approaching real prosperity might be expected. It is a curious fact that no sooner had the House prorogued than an exodus of Ministers took place. The Postmaster-General went to Rome, and the Treasurer to London. The House had no information as to why it was necessary for them to proceed to the other side of the world. One of the consequences of the absence of Ministers from their posts has been that the administrative work of the country has not been carried oh in an efficient manner. All matters connected with the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department have to pass through the hands of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who, although he is fully capable of filling the highest position in the Ministry, should never have been asked, in the absence of hi; colleague, to accept responsibility ir these matters. For instance, in regard to the telephone toll system, which was sprung upon the mercantile community, the Acting Postmaster-General could not make any definite pronouncement, but had to leave the matter in abeyance until the return of the errant Minister, who should have retained control of the Department. This seems to me to be an unsatisfactory state of affairs. I should like to know whether the Acting Postmaster-General intends to call upon the large mercantile houses to pay as large a sum as formerly for their telephones, and at the same time to permit them to make only two calls per day. Unless the present proposals are modified, general dissatisfaction must be caused. Then again, in relation to our defences, we have at the head of the Department a gentleman who admittedly is not very fully acquainted with defence matters. Unfortunately, we have not had the advantage of an administrator who himself was a soldier, as we had in the case of the previous Government. But we have a gentleman who has admitted in public that in defence matters he is a sort of amateur, and the very man upon whom he should rely for instruction and advice was sent away to London at a critical moment, ostensibly for the purpose of arranging for a supply of warlike stores. I believe that the proper officer to send there in such circumstances was an officer of artillery who knows something of ordnance. The Secretary for Defence, estimable officer though he may be, was taken from the Naval Department, and consequently is not supposed to know very much about ord- nance. Yet, without any intimation having been given previously to the House, he was sent away to London to take charge of this important business. With what result? The Minister of Defence says that he is in favour of training our Citizen Forces to use a rifle, and to become firstrate shots. But during the recess of six months my experience has been that it was almost impossible to get anything done in relation to rifle ranges, notwithstanding the Minister’s public statement that he believes that the power of accurate shooting is the one virtue which a soldier should possess. ‘ Month after month has been allowed to go by, and under the administration of this Government it has been impossible to get anything dona in relation to rifle ranges. The speech has certain faults of omission as well as faults of commission. One fault of commission which strikes me on looking over its contents is the fact that the country has teen put to enormous expense by the appointment of no ‘less than three Royal Commissions. In the first place we hari a Royal Commission relating to oldage pensions, and the alleged tobacco monopoly- It is well known that nothing can be done in relation to the tobacco monopoly without an alteration of the Constitution. I contend that the country has been put to enormous expense without any good result whatever. In the next place we had a Royal Commission relating to navigation and shipping. Then we have had a Royal Commission relating to the Tariff, and I suppose we shall have a Royal Commission relating to sugar. What I want to know is why the country has been put to this expense. So far as T can see it has been due to the fact that we are governed to-day by a ragged remnant of a party which is dominated entirely bv the Labour Party, and compel led to carry out such measures as these simply at the command of its leader.

Mr Batchelor:

– Does the honorable member know who appointed the Tariff Commission ? ‘

Mr LIDDELL:

– Yes ; and the honorable member knows as well as I do that the demand for the appointment of that Royal Commission came from his quarter of the House.

Mr Batchelor:

– Did they dominate the Reid Ministry?

Mr LIDDELL:

– I give the members of the Labour Party credit for sufficient cleverness to get the Royal Commission appointed. Furthermore, I complain of the indefinite statements contained in the speech. Take for example paragraph 26. in which information of this sort is given to the House and the public -

Field guns of the latest type have been obtained -

It does not say how many or what sort of field guns have been obtained - and a large number of new rifles ordered. . .

The strength of the Citizen Forces has been well maintained.

What sort of information is that lo place before the public? The speech does not contain a great many matters which it might reasonably be expected to contain. I should like, for example, to get some information about our relationship to-day with Japan. Here we have been entertaining the sailors of the Japanese fleet, feasting them, and inviting them to our homes, when at the same time the Japanese are prohibited immigrants. I believe that the Prime Minister has received from Downingstreet some information in relation to the admission of these people as immigrants to Australia!, and that he has not taken the House into his confidence on the subject. It is only right that we should know the relationship which we now hold with regard to the Japanese.

Mr Webster:

– Does the honorable member refer to the sailors?

Mr LIDDELL:

– I mean the immigrants who may come to Australia from Japan. I am satisfied that there is a movement afoot to admit Japanese to this country very much more freely than any of us would like to see. I believe that we shall be forced to do so by instructions from the old country, which, if we only knew their nature, we should resist.

Mr Webster:

– Is the honorable member against the admission of Japanese?

Mr LIDDELL:

– I am against the admission of coloured races to Australia. Then, as regards the present session, the Electoral Bill is the first measure which should have been brought forward. I cannot understand how, if all the electorates have to be altered, we can possibly have the rolls completed in time to carry out a general election in or by December in a satisfactory manner. I think that everything should have been ready long ago. During the recess action should have been taken to prepare for the writing up of the rolls. I am satisfied now that by the time the Electoral Bill has gone through the House this session, if it should, there will not be time to get the rolls properly prepared. Instead of the Electoral Bill” being brought forward, what do we find? The Australian Industries Preservation Bill is placed in the forefront, simply to placate, I suppose, the Minister of Trade and Customs.

Mr Wilks:

– The honorable member means that he has got his own way, in spite of the Prime Minister.

Mr LIDDELL:

– The Minister of Trade and Customs will always get his own way” with this Ministry. Another important Bill which I think should be brought forward very early, but which is placed lower down on the programme of the Government, is the Federal Capital Site Bill. Here we are simply lodgers in Victoria.

Mr Batchelor:

– These are very comfortable lodgings.

Mr LIDDELL:

– Yes, but we have already been asked to pay rent for the lodging of the Governor-General, and before very long we may be asked to pay rent for this House. Why was not the ventilation of this chamber properly attended to during the recess? In every sense of the word it is truly a lethal chamber. During the recess of six months the place might have been attended to, and put in a proper, habitable state. In this atmosphere it is impossible to exist for more than two hours at a time. Yet nothing has been done - why ? Simply because we have to go to the State Government and get their permission before we can place ourselves in comfortable circumstances. What stronger argument than that can honorable members need for the establishment of a Federal Capital, where we could have our own premises and carry out our own ideas as we pleased? There is one Bill for which I have been waiting for some time, and which I see no prospect of ‘being brought forward by this Ministry, and that is a Quarantine Bill. Here we are, living on an island continent in such al position that, with a proper quarantine law, we could very easily prevent the introduction of disease. But as we are at present, there is every risk that leprosy, small-pox, cholera, and other similar contagious diseases may be introduced at any moment. 1

Mr Webster:

– Would the honorable member quarantine microbes for the eradication of rabbits ?

Mr LIDDELL:

– The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir affords a very good reason why we should have a Federal system of quarantine, because although fortunately there is a law in New South Wales which prevents the dissemination broadcast of the rabbit exterminating microbes to which allusion has been made, there is, I understand, no such, law in Victoria. I believe that if those microbes had been brought to Victoria no action could have been taken to prevent their being spread abroad. In America there is a very efficient quarantine system. Officers are there appointed to examine immigrants. Hospitals have been established to attend to sailors in the mercantile marine who mav be sick. There is also a system by which immigrants are examined in foreign ports, that is to say, before they leave their own shores ; in addition to a system of insular quarantine in connexion with the various island dependencies of the United States. If we had a similar system in Australia it would, I think, be to our advantage. More than that. I do not wish to say ; but I hope that some useful legislation will be passed during the present session.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 110

QUESTION

COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I desire to move, under standing order 240 -

That the House will on Tuesday next resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 110

QUESTION

COMMITTEE OF WAYS AND MEANS

Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -

That the House will on Tuesday next resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.

Mr SPEAKER:

– No; it is a motion of a formal character for the purpose of putting the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means on to the notice-paper.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 111

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS: WESTERN AUSTRALIA

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

– I move -

That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of ‘Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Mr. M. A. C. Fraser, the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in his report laid before Parliament on the 7th day of June, 1906.

As honorable members are aware, during last session, a Representation Act was passed which laid down the principles which were to govern the electoral representation of the various States. Immediately that measure became law, action was taken to obtain the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, with a view to enabling the proper officer to determine what representation in this House each State was entitled to. In the case of Western Australia, its representation was left unaltered, so far as its number of representatives was concerned.

Mr Mahon:

– That had to be so in accordance with the Constitution.

Mr GROOM:

– But, as it was desirable to secure an adjustment of the representation of the States throughout Australia upon a proper basis, a proclamation was issued in connexion with Western Australia, ordering a redistribution of seats. That step was taken because it was found that in one of the divisions there, the number of electors did not accord with the limit allowed by the Act. ‘The Commissioner, in accordance with the Act, issued his proposed plan of redistribution. This was exhibited at the various post-offices throughout Western Australia. Objections to it were invited to be lodged within thirty days, according to law. No objections, however, were received, and the Commissioner consequently forwarded his report of the various divisions as he had constituted them. I repeat that the maps were posted throughout the length and breadth of the State, and no objections were taken to them.

Sir John Forrest:

– That doss not mean that there were no objections.

Mr GROOM:

– Individuals may not have agreed with the redistribution proposed, but no objections were taken to it, and therefore I ask the House to affirm the adoption of the Commissioner’s report. The final result of the re-adjustment of boundaries in Western Australia is that in the division of Perth there are 24,523 elec tors, which is 1,283 above the quota. Of course the Commissioner had the right to vary the number of electors in any division to the extent of one-fifth above or one-fifth below the quota.

Sir John Forrest:

– But he has not taken advantage of that provision in the Electoral Act.

Mr GROOM:

– Oh, yes. In the electorate of Perth he has allowed a margin of 1,283 above the quota. In the division of Fremantle he has grouped 22,924 electors, or 316 below the quota. In Swan, there are 23,955 electors, or 715 above the quota, and in Coolgardie, 22,624 electors, or 616 below the quota. In the electorate of Kalgoorlie he has grouped 22,173 electors, which is 1,067 below the quota. The total number of electors in Western Australia is 116,199. These figures show exactly the way in which the redistribution of seats in that State stands, so far as the number of electors are concerned.

Sir John Forrest:

– Has the Commissioner said nothing about the community of interests on the part of electors in his report?

Mr GROOM:

– Yes, he has endeavoured to observe each of the points laid down by the Act, including that ofcommunity of interests.

Sir John Forrest:

– How does he reconcile the interests of the squatters of the North-west with those of the miners ?

Mr GROOM:

– In the first place, the Act definitely lays down that a quota shall be arrived at for the whole State. To determine that quota, the number of electors throughout the State has to be divided by the number of its representatives. In his distribution of the electors, the Commissioner is allowed a margin of one-fifth above or one-fifth belowthat quota.

Sir John Forrest:

– He has taken no advantage of that provision in the Act.

Mr GROOM:

– He has.

Sir John Forrest:

– Very little.

Mr GROOM:

– TheCommissioner reports that in his opinion he has fairly met the circumstances of the case. Under the Act, the points which he is called upon to consider are -

  1. Community of interests.
  2. Means of communication.
  3. Physical features.
  4. Existing boundaries of divisions.
  5. Boundaries of State electorates.

In his report he shows how he has endeavoured to comply with those conditions.

Sir John Forrest:

– Has his report been printed ?

Mr GROOM:

– It is in the hands of the Government Printer at the present time.

Sir John Forrest:

– Copies of it have not been distributed?

Mr GROOM:

– No. The maps, however, are exposed to view in the vestibule of this chamber.

Sir John Forrest:

– I have seen the maps, but not the reasons advanced by the Commissioner in support of his action.

Mr GROOM:

– His reasons are contained in his report. The Commissioner sets out that he has been guided by the principle laid down by the Act, will; reference to the numbers of electors. At the same time, he has endeavoured to comply with the other points to which I have referred, including that of community of interests

Sir John Forrest:

– Does he know anything about the interests of the interior of Western Australia at all ?

Mr GROOM:

– He knows a good deal about them.

Sir John Forrest:

– Why was not the Surveyor-General of that State appointed to undertake this work?

Mr GROOM:

– The gentleman who was appointed was thoroughly competent, and upon the whole I think that he has made a fair distribution of the State.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
TreasurerSwan · Protectionist

– I do not intend to oppose this motion, but I should not like it to go forth that I approve of it. I have ha. I some experience in work of this kind, since at different times during a period extending over about twenty years I divided the State of which I am a representative into electorates. In order to carry out such a duty satisfactorily, one needs to have an intimate knowledge of the country with which one is dealing, as well as an intimate acquaintance with the avocations of the people and the interests of all sections of the community.

Mr Lee:

– Does not Mr. Fraser possess that knowledge?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

- Mr. Fraser is a friend of mine ; he .is a thoroughly reliable and upright man - but, in my opinion, he lacks the personal knowledge of Western Australia possessed bv the original Commissioner. I may say, bv the way. that I did not wholly agree with the distribution made by that gentleman, but that is a mere detail. The Surveyor-

General of Western Australia has an intimate knowledge of the State. No one has more fully traversed it than he has done, and no one is better qualified to deal with such a question as this. For some reason, however, he was not called upon to make the redistribution, or, if he was, he refused. I regret that his services were not available. It is hardly necessary for me to say that I have not communicated with him, either directly or indirectly, on the subject, nor have I had any communication with Mr. Fraser, except that I wrote to him last year protesting against his redistribution. The effect of the new scheme is that the quota is very closely adhered to. This Parliament, when passing the Electoral Bill, provided for a margin of one-fifth either below or above the quota, but in the scheme before us advantage has not been taken of that provision to any material extent. As a matter of fact, the existing divisions are almost in accord with the law. Speaking from memory, I believe that only a slight alteration is necessary to secure absolute compliance with the Act.

Mr Mahon:

– Is there community of interest in the existing divisions?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– We endeavoured, as far as possible, to secure community of interest.

Mr Mahon:

– What about the squatters in the Kimberley district, in the North west ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– When the original distribution was made there were not many there, and it was impossible to foretell the possibilities of the country. Although squatting pursuits are largely followed in the Kimberley district, the number of electors there is small, and it was for that reason that they were originally included in the electorate of Coolgardie. As the mining district of Pilbarra intervened, we could not add Kimberley to the Swan unless we were prepared to divide that constituency into two electoral districts - North S>v.an and South Swan. The Kimberley district was so sparsely settled that it was not worth while making two divisions of the Swan, otherwise my inclination would have been to include Kimberley within its boundaries, seeing that, with the exception of a few miners., there was community of interest between the people of the two districts. As a. matter of fact, there is community of interest in the exist- ing divisions. We have the mining electorates of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, and we have the rural district running from Albany in the south to Roebourne on the north-west coast, which includes timbercutters, and, indeed, all engaged in rural pursuits from one end of the country to the other. In the scheme of redistribution, this rural district, which I have the honour to represent, has been cut off above the Irwin, 200 miles north of Perth, and the whole of the northern part of it, including the town of Geraldton and the squatting districts of Sharks Bay, Gascoyne, Ashburton, and1 Roebourne have been added lo the electorate of Coolgardie.

Mr Mahon:

– What is the population of those districts?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Including Geraldton, they have between 3,000 and 4,000 electors.

Mr Mahon:

– Geraldton and Greenough alone account for 2,000 out of the 4,000.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Quite so; but these districts have ! been taken from a pastoral and agricultural electorate, and added to the mining electorate of Coolgardie. If the honorable member thinks that the addition will help him, well and good, but I think he wiM find that it may not.

Mr Page:

– He ought to allow the right honorable member to keep the electors in question.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– They would be useful to me, but I do not think they will be of any great assistance to the honorable member. That, however, is merely by the way.

Mr Mahon:

– I should like to have them, whatever the result.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not think it is wise to attach these districts to a mining electorate.

Mr Henry Willis:

– What is the right honorable member receiving in exchange for what he is losing by the alteration ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The number of electors in the Swan has been reduced. The Commissioner seems to have been imbued with a desire to secure equal electorates, irrespective of whether community of interest was secured or not. The Murray district, which used to form part of the electorate of Fremantle, has been added to the S wan. That is a wise alteration, because it seems to me that, although the people of the Murray may be in sympathy with Fremantle, greater community of interest is secured by including them in the Swan, since they are for the most part orchardists and’ others engaged in the cultivation of the soil. With a alight alteration, designed to bring the numbers within the quota, the existing divisions might well have remained, for it is unwise to tinker with electorates, unless there .is sound reason for doing so. I speak, of course, subject to correction, but I believe that with one exception the present Federal electorates in Western Australia need only to be slight lv altered to comply with the law. As I have said, an improvement has been effected by including the Murray district within the Swan electorate, since it is a rural community, but it would be idle for any one who has a knowledge of the country to say that community of interest, in the sense intended by the Act, exists between the squatters and1 pastoralists from Geraldton north to Roebourne and the people on the gold’-fields. Although we are one people, working with the same object. I think that “community of interest” means something more than that : it means the bringing together within an electorate of people carrying on the same kind of work for the benefit of the community. If that be the meaning of the term, then the pastoralists of the north have no community of interest with the miners of Coolgardie, hundreds of miles away. I trust that nothing I have said will give rise to the inference that I have aught but the greatest respect for the integrity and uprightness of the Commissioner. He was aware of the objections I have raised, as I objected on the same ground last year, and thev are on the records of the House. At the same time, I think he has made an error of judgment in adhering too closely to the quota, and in npt taking advantage, as he might have done, and as he had a perfect right to do, of the marginal allowance of 20 per cent.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

.- I think that, taking it altogether, the subdivision of the electorates of Western Australia has been carried out very equitably. The Treasurer has stated that the Commissioner could have allowed, with one exception, the electorates to remain as they were. With that statement I am not in accord. Although the Commissioner is given a margin, of one-fifth on either side, I conceive the spirit of the Act to be that he shall adhere as nearly as possible to an equal number of electors in each electorate.

Sir John Forrest:

– Surely the margin is allowed for some purpose.

Mr MAHON:

– But on !v where it is impossible to have equal electorates.

Sir John Forrest:

– That could, never be possible.

Mr MAHON:

– It could never be tolerated, and I do not think it was the intention of this House of Parliament, that one electorate should contain 25,000 and another1 20,000 electors permanently. The idea of honorable members was that each electorate should as nearly as possible contain, an equal number of electors.

Sir John Forrest:

– Then why have a margin at all ?

Mr MAHON:

– The object of the margin is well understood ; it was to meet some special difficulty.

Sir John Forrest:

– Some honorable members desired more margin.

Mr MAHON:

– Very likely, and perhaps in some cases an additional margin might be advantageous. Had an additional margin been given, I believe that the Treasurer would not now be complaining about the slice of territory taken off his electorate.

Sir John Forrest:

– That really does- not influence me; I am not interested personally.

Mr MAHON:

– I agree that the Treasurer is not either benefited or injured by the deprivation. I think that the number of squatters and farmers’ votes he would get in any contested election would be counterbalanced bv the industrial vote at Geraldton and other centres in the electorate.

Mr Kelly:

– Would they not all. vote for the Treasurer?

Mr MAHON:

– That would depend on which side of the House the right honorable gentleman was. If the Treasurer was, as I hope we shall see him, working cordially with the Labour Party, it is possible he would get all these votes. If, how ever, the Treasurer were acting with the leader of the honorable member who interjects, he might not receive such support. I should like to refer to another objection made by the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman now says that there is no community of interest between the squatters of the North- west or Kimberley division and the miners of the Coolgardie gold-fields. I may point out that the Commissioner has only done what the Treasurer did when he. as Premier of Western Australia, divided that State into electorates.

The right honorable gentleman, as State Premier, cut up Western Australia into five electorates, and he placed the squatters of the Kimberley division, who were separated by a distance of from 1,100 to 1,50c miles, in the same electorate with the miners of Coolgardie.

Sir John Forrest:

– I explained the reason for that.

Mr MAHON:

– Well, the right honorable gentleman, has not satisfactorily explained. The mere fact that they are only a handful of men-

Sir John Forrest:

– Pilbarra came in between.

Mr MAHON:

– As the right honorable gentleman knows, there are a good many squatters, as well as miners, in the Pilbarra division, so that I do not think that that argument altogether applies or covers the ground. In my opinion, there is in the Coolgardie division as much community of interest between the voters taken from the Swan electorate and the miners who are the bulk of the population, as there was between the squatters and the miners in the division as originally fashioned by the right honorable gentleman himself. That is my point, and I do not wish to emphasize it further. It would have been an advantage to honorable members generally, had longer notice been given that these distributions would be moved to-day, for nobody expected the debate on the Address-in-Reply to close so abruptly. We have before us no Commissioner’s report, nor have we the maps.

Mr Groom:

– The maps are in the vestibule.

Mr MAHON:

– I think the maps ought to be on the walls of the chamber, so that honorable members might see for themselves what has been done; at any rate, that would! be a great convenience. In regard to the other electorates, I believe that all the alterations are advantageous. I am not familiar with the alterations in detail, but I understand that the Treasurer himself, who knows Western Australia from Wyndham around to Eucl’a, is satisfied with the division. I should like to pay a compliment to the gentleman who has divided the electorates. He has, in my opinion, paid regard to the spirit, as well as to the letter, of the Act, and, in adhering so closely to the quota, he has carried out to the best of his ability the wishes of this Parliament.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– I hope the Minister will not accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie to postpone the consideration of the proposed redistribution of seats because the plans have not been distributed in the chamber.

Mr Mahon:

– I did not suggest a postponement.

Mr KELLY:

– - I understood the honorable member to do so; but if he did not, I have nothing further to say on that point. In common with other honorable members, ] regret that the Minister did not have time during recess to prepare the plans for presentation to the House when he placed the schemes before honorable members.

Mr Groom:

– As soon as the House met, a motion was submitted to have them printed; that could not be done before.

Mr KELLY:

– But while regretting that the papers are not to hand, I do not think that that fact should in any way delay our arriving at a vote on this important question. I hope that the Treasurer will not press his objections to this redistribution scheme. No doubt. the right honorable gentleman’s complaints and objections have been heard in Cabinet, and have had due regard paid to them ; and, now that the Government take the course of presenting this scheme to the House, in spite of the Treasurer, I think we can safely take it that there is not much the matter with it. I hope that the House will come to a vote at once on the question before us, and proceed to deal with the whole of the redistribution schemes.

Mr CARPENTER:
Fremantle

.- It is highly complimentary to the Commissioner for Western Australia that his plans should meet with such general approval. I say that much, notwithstanding the remarks of the Treasurer, whose objections to the scheme appear somewhat weak, and whose attitude is somewhat that of “ vesno,” disapproving, as he does, of some parts, but accepting the scheme as a whole. The right honorable gentleman has lost sight of one very important fact. Since the last division of Western Australia into Federal electorates, the State electorates have been rearranged ; and), the old boundaries having disappeared, it is essential, in order to avoid endless confusion, that the boundaries of the State electorates shall he made as nearly as possible coterminous with those of the Federal electorates. If that is not done - if the scheme before us, or some similar scheme, is not adopted - we shall, at the time of the next election, have the electors almost despairing of ascertaining in which electorates they have to vote. The old boundaries having been altered, a new grouping became necessary ; and, taking everything into consideration, the grouping here proposed does Mr. Fraser great credit. The right honorable member for Swan, as he has said, has had added to his electorate the MurrayState electorate, which was certainly out of place when attached to the Fremantle division. It comprised an area of agricultural and horticultural country, and is more properly placed with the agricultural division which the right honorable gentleman represents. I remind him also, that he has had added1 to his electorate another State electorate which bears his own illustrious name.

Sir John Forrest:

– That was in my electorate before.

Mr CARPENTER:

– No; the Forrest electorate is a newly-created electorate, taking in the timber country. It is made up of a piece of one electorate and a piece of another, and the bulk of it was originally in the Murray electorate, and was taken from that electorate when the last redistribution was made. I congratulate the right honorable member for Swan upon the addition to his district of a State electorate bearing his own name. In a previous division proposed, it was sought to equalize the numbers by adding the State electorate of Subiaco to the Fremantle division. That was very strongly opposed by the right honorable member for Swan, and also the honorable member for Perth, Mr. Fowler. There was something in the contention that an electorate which was a suburb of Perth, and within three miles of that city, should not be attached to the Fremantle division. I may point out that the same objection applies now to the State electorate of South Perth, which is still nearer to the city, and yet is included in the Fremantle electorate. There is, however, a certain amount of poetic justice in the arrangement by which the Guildford electorate is included in the Fremantle division. Owing to the removal of the railway workshops, a large number of workmen who previously resided in the Fremantle division had .to make their homes in the vicinity of Guildford and Midland Junction, and they have now been retransferred to the Fremantle division.

The)’ will, I hope and believe, appreciate the change. On the whole, I think that the proposed division shows the wisdom of intrusting the work to an independent officer instead of leaving it to members of this House to wrangle over. From past experience we know how very difficult it is for honorable members to come to any decision as to what is a fair and equitable division. I can only express the hope that the apparent unanimity of opinion in favour of this proposal will be found to apply also to the proposals submitted for the division of the other States.

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

[5]- - It is not my intention to make any objection to these redistribution schemes. As a matter of fact, I wish to see them put through as early as possible, so that the officers of the Electoral Department may get to work with a knowledge that their administration is based upon legislation which has actually been passed, and may not, as now, be working tentatively, and with, a view to legislation which has yet to be passed by Parliament. I am one of those who believe that if these proposals were put through to-morrow the time left is all too short for the Department to complete their machine, and prevent the possibility of a hitch when the general election takes place. I am not quite sure that the officials are not taking far too sanguine a view in assuming that thev will be ready for the elections. My experience of elections is that there is always something occurring to require fresh arrangements. It would appear to be one of those matters in connexion with which there is no finality.

Mr Groom:

– We are taking all possible steps in anticipation.

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

– I am a.ware that the officers of the Department are taking all steps considered necessary, but I shall be very much surprised if. when the elections take place, it is not found that there are some things which have been neglected or overlooked. The Electoral Department is one which would appear to lend itself peculiarly to that kind of thing, and that is one of the reasons why I think we should put these resolutions through as speedily as possible. I should like to know from the Minister why it is that the scheme proposed for the division of Western Australia is taken first.

Mr Groom:

– We are taking first the States in which the most remote districts with which the Department has to deal are situated.

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

– Do I understand that the Minister proposes to deal with the whole of these schemes at once?

Mr Groom:

– If possible ; as soon as we can get them through.

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

– I have no objection, to that, and I shall, not offer the slightest objection, to this motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 116

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS: QUEENSLAND

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

– I move -

That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions, as proposed by Mr. R. H. Lawson, the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in his report laid before Parliament on the 7th clay of June, 1906.

If honorable members, will look at the map of the Queensland divisions-

Mr Mahon:

– How is it that we have a map of the Queensland divisions when a map of the Western Australian divisions could not be supplied ?

Mr GROOM:

– I asked that both maps should be brought into the Chamber at the same time. ‘ Mr. R. H. Lawson was the Commissioner appointed to divide Queensland into electorates in accordance with the Act. After his division was completed the maps were duly exhibited, and certain objections were made to the distribution as proposed by him. Those objections were considered by Mr. Lawson, and they are referred to in his report, while he adheres to the scheme he originally proposed. He. states in his report that he has followed the provisions of the Act, and has had due regard to community of interests or diversity of interests, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries, and boundaries oi State electorates. He then sets out the problem he had to face, so far as the division, of Queensland was concerned. He states that the number of electors in Queensland is 234,172. He points, out the anomalies which were presented by the fact that in some constituencies the number of electors was far in excess of that in others, and that, in some instances, the number of electors far exceeded the limit allowed of one-fifth above the quota, and in other instances, was far below the limit of onefifth below the quota. There are nine

Divisions existing by law at the present time. In the Brisbane Division there are 34,009 electors. In Capricornia there are 20,669 electors. Darling Downs, 25,927; Herbert, 26,119; Kennedy, 20,359 > Maranoa, 18,186 ; Moreton, 28,216; Oxley, 31,694; and Wide Bay, 28,993. The quota is 26,019, ^ in the existing division of Brisbane is exceeded by 7,990, the one-fifth limit being exceeded by 2,786. In Capricornia there are 5,350 below the quota and 146 below the limit, while in Kennedy there are 456 below the limit, and in Maranoa 2,629. In two electorates the population is above the margin allowed by law - in Brisbane by 2,786, and in Oxley by 471. The chief difficulty which the Commissioner had to face was that, surrounding the metropolis, is a very large population, while in certain outlying districts the population is so small as to be below the quota. In providing for a redistribution he had to keep in mind the community of interest, and to take some of the population from the electorates in centres like Brisbane, revising the divisions so as to bring th’em into compliance with the provisions of the Act. He accordingly proposed the scheme which has been .placed before honorable members. Under it Brisbane will contain 28,992 electors, which is 2,973 above the quota, and 2,231 within the margin; Oxley will contain 28,867, or 2,848 above the quota; Moreton will contain 28,053, or 2,034 above the quota; Darling Downs will contain 2^, 326, or 1,307 above the quota; Wide Bay will contain 25,695, or 324 below the quota; Capricornia will contain 23,971, or 2,048 below the quota; Herbert will contain 26,1.19, or too above the quota; Kennedy will contain 22.tt1, or 3,908 below the quota, and Maranoa 23,038, or 2,981 below the quota ; but the Commissioner points out that large mining development is likely to take place there, and that new railways are being constructed, so that there will be a considerable influx of population within the near future.

Sir John Forrest:

– What is the difference between the copulations of the most populous and the least populous divisions ?

Mr GROOM:

– Brisbane will contain 28.992 and Kennedy 22, in electors.

Sir John Forrest:

– The Commissioner has used his margin a good deal.

Mr GROOM:

– Yes, and he gives his reasons for doing so. He has left a fairly large quota in excess in the large centres where the population is fairly settled, and has allowed for the increase nf population in country districts where land settlement and mining development is taking place, so as to avoid having to make a new distribution at an early date. One of the difficulties which the Commissioner had to face is the vastness of the divisions. For instance, Maranoa will contain 286,443 square miles.

Mr Page:

– It is very nearly as large as New South Wales.

Mr GROOM:

– On the other hand, the smallest electorate - Brisbane - contains only fourteen square miles. The surrounding boundaries of the largest electorate measure 2,840 miles, and of the smallest electorate twenty-three miles.

Sir John Forrest:

– The Commissioner had the boundaries of the State electorates to guide him.

Mr GROOM:

– Yes, and of the Commonwealth electorates. But, although he has had a difficult task, I think that, on the whole, he has accomplished it successfully. Faults may be found with his distribution on one or two points, and regret may be felt that some of the historical boundaries will have to go; but, having regard to the exigencies of the law, I think it must be admitted that the work has been done well. With regard to the naming of the electorates, it was formerly done bv the Commissioners; but. as the law now stands, the names are declared bv the proclamations bringing the distributions into force, though the Commissioners were invited to make suggestions. Honorable members mav desire to express an opinion in regard to the naming of one or two new divisions which ha.ve been created.

Mr Wilkinson:

– Where are the reports ?

Mr GROOM:

– Unfortunately, they are not vet in circulation. I shall read, for the information of honorable members, the whole of the remarks of the- Commissioner dealing with the naming of the divisions. He says -

Although the naming of the divisions does not come within the scope of the Commissioner’s functions, T venture to remark that the names of the existing divisions would generally be suitable and appropriate to the proposed relative divisions, with the exception of Oxley and perhaps Maranoa.

Mr McDonald:

– There is a State electorate as well as a Commonwealth electorate named Kennedy, and much confusion results.

Mr GROOM:

– That is a matter for consideration. The Commissioner continues -

Oxley was never a particularly suitable designation for the division so named ; the name has an entirely local significance, and applies to a locality which will not come within the boundaries of the proposed division B, so that it will be even less appropriate than before. “Wickham” would, I think, be a suitable designation ; Captain Wickham was at one time the Government Resident at Brisbane; Wickhamterrace and Wickham-street are named after him ; the adoption of this name for the division would be unattended by any confusion of localities.” Stanley “ would also be a suitable name; it was the name in olden times of the electorate surrounding Brisbane, and the whole area of the proposed division B is situated in the county of Stanley. There is, however, a State electorate in the Moreton division named “ Stanley,” but I do not think any confusion would arise, as the name is not generally applied to the locality covered by the electorate.

Maranoa covers so great an extent of country, that any existing name would be more or less indescriptive. “ South Western “ or “ Western “ division would be descriptive, so far as relates to Queensland, but not to the rest of Australia. “Maranoa” is not altogether appropriate or descriptive, inasmuch as the name is locally applied to the comparatively restricted area of the geographical district watered by the Maranoa river, and also to the State electorate surrounding Roma, both of which are within the boundaries of the division. The adoption of another name, however, might be attended by confusion, so that on the whole, “ Maranoa “ might be retained for the proposed division “J,” which embraces nearly the whole of the existing Maranoa division.

The honorable member for Moreton has referred to the fact that the reports have not been circulated, and I think it is only fair to him to state that, as regards the objections that were taken to the inclusion of a portion of the Moreton electorate in the Darling Downs division., the Commissioner is still of the opinion that the Lockyer State electorate should be included in the Darling Downs division. The name “ Darling Downs “ has had an historical significance, but, unfortunately, the Downs have been cut in twain, and the Commissioner regards it as necessary to include the Lockyer State electorate inthe Darling Downs division, and to attach a portion of the Downs to the Maranoa division.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

.- I wish to compliment the Commissioner upon the manner in which he has performed his work. I think that he has made a very admirable distribution. I can speak with some authority with regard to the Maranoa division, because, at one time or another, I have been over the whole of it. The Commissioner has paid regard to community of interest, and to geographical and State boundaries, and in such a manner that I confess I could not have performed the work any better. Honorable members will see that a large tract of country has been taken away from Maranoa and included in the Kennedy division, but the population in this area is so sparse thalt Winton is really the only centre in it, and only a few hundred votes are affected. I hadhoped that Queensland would have so far recovered from the effects of the late drought that, like New South Wales, it would have been entitled to an additional member. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall be able to claim additional representation. The Commissioner has very appropriately remarked, that the name “ Maranoa” is not truly descriptive of the division which bears it, and I would suggest another name. In view of the fact that Maranoa embraces the whole of the artesian area in Queensland, I think that Artesia would prove; an appropriate and acceptable name. “Maranoa” is a good name, and I am loath to part with it, but there is a State electorate, bounded on the western side bythe Maranoa River, and having Roma as a centre, which also bears that designation, and hence confusion arises. I intand to move that the name of sub-division J on the map be altered from Maranoa to Artesia.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

.- I should like to know whether the Government would agree to substitute the name “ Browne “ for “ Kennedy.” There is a State electorate named Kennedy, and a certain amount of confusion arises in consequence. I think that it would be wise to adopt names quite distinct from those used to designate State electorates. The Kennedy electorate takes in the principal gold-fields in the northern portion of Queensland. The late Hon. W. Browne who, in Queensland was Minister for Mines for a considerable time, was well known in those districts for about thirty years. He worked in nearly every important centre in that vast area where gold has been discovered. He was universally liked, and I think it would be paying to him a deserved tribute, to say nothing of the fact that we should get over the inconvenience which is felt from having two electorates of the same name, if we were to substitute his name for that of Kennedy. I move -

That (he name of the electorate of Kennedy be changed to Brow.ie.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If honorable members please I will put the amendments indicated by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Kennedy in this form -

Provided that the district A shall be known a.s Browne, and that the district J shall be known as Artesia.

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

– I would suggest to honorable members not to move an amendment for the purpose of altering the name of an electorate. These motions are complete in .themselves, and we have either to accept or to reject the report which really covers the boundaries of the electorates. If both Houses ‘pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution the naming of the constituencies is a matter which is left for a Proclamation by the Governor-General in Council -

If both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution, the Governor-General may by proclamation declare the names and boundaries of the Divisions, and such Divisions shall, until altered, be the Electoral Divisions for the State in which they are situated.

I do not object to the House expressing an opinion.

Mr Watson:

– Is there not some way of getting an expression of opinion from honorable members?

Mr GROOM:

– That is what I should like to get. I shall give every consideration to the names which have been suggested. It is not desirable to have State and Commonwealth electorates bearing the same name, as it leads to great confusion. It is just as well, I think, to let the House know any change of name which is going to be proposed. If there is any desire to alter the names perhaps we can give honorable members an opportunity of dealing with .the matter of names on another occasion.

Mr Bamford:

– How would it do to suggest names to the Commissioner ?t

Mr GROOM:

– It will be open to honorable members to suggest new names to the Governor-General in Council after the proposed resolutions have been adopted by both Houses. This is purely a legal question. We want to get the motions adopted as soon as possible, and not to make any additions which might impede or delay their passage. I think that we can give honorable members an opportunity, if it is desired, to submit fresh names to the Governor-General in Council.

Mr Page:

– Why not do that now ?

Mr GROOM:

– I do not want the two questions to be mixed up. Before the Proclamation is issued by the GovernorGeneral in Council we will see if we cannot give honorable members a chance to submit fresh names. At this stage I think it is quite proper for honorable members to express their opinions as. to any names. So far as I can see Artesia is a very appropriate name to adopt for the Maranoa electorate. Other honorable members may think it is desirable that instead of picking out the names of individuals we should try to preserve suitable native names. Take, for instance, the suggestion which the honorable member for Kennedy made in regard to the perpetuation of the name of Mr. Browne, who was a most esteemed politician in Queensland. Other honorable members might think it desirable, if we are to perpetuate any names, that we should rather perpetuate the names of men like Dalley, Parkes, and others who were Federalists.

Mr Watson:

– We have got them already.

Mr GROOM:

– I only mentioned those names bv way of illustration. I do not think it is advisable to impede the passage of the motion by adding something which might cause delay in getting to work.

Mr Bamford:

– Let the Minister submit a separate motion when these motions have been passed.

Mr GROOM:

– At a later stage we can give an opportunity to honorable members to deal with the question of names. In the meantime, if they make any suggestions, most of them may commend themselves, and if they do, we can promise that the Government will take action accordingly.

Mr WILKINSON:
Moreton

– What the Minister of Home Affairs has just said with regard to re-naming the constituencies may contain some force, but if he will look at the map he will find that in Queensland all the constituencies, except, I think, Capricornia and Darling Downs, are named after individuals. Not only are Moreton, Oxley, Kennedy, and Fitzroy in Queensland named after individuals, but I think that the majority of the constituencies in the Commonwealth will be found to be similarly named. The Minister desires to pass the motion without obscuring the matter, and asks merely for an expression of opinion. I think, and I believe I express the opinion of a majority of my constituents when I say that the names suggested’ by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Kennedy would be welcomed. Like other members who have spoken for Queensland, I have to compliment the Commissioner upon the excellent work which he has done, but I think that nothing would have been lost if the consideration, of this motion had been delayed for a week, until the report from which the Minister has quoted so copiously had been placed in the hands of honorable members, because I know that there is not a feeling of universal satisfaction with the division which has been made. Personally I vam perfectly satisfied, because I know the difficulties with which the Commissioner had to contend. I believe that he has made the best division of Queensland which could possibly be made, and therefore I have no objection to offer. An objection which has been urged is possibly consequential upon our electoral law, which, rightly in my opinion, gives the franchise to those who have done as hard pioneering work in the State and Commonwealth as other men have done, and who are now in Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. An objection is taken against these men voting en bloc for one constituency. Although they will come into the new constituency of Moreton, still I think that there is some justification for the objection. These men and women who have come upon bad times in their old age and infirmities are gathered in one centre on Stradbrooke Island, in Moreton Bay. They number between 1,000 and 1,100, and have been drawn from various parts of Queensland. I think that if an alteration had been made in the electoral law so as to allow such persons to vote for the constituencies from which they had come, it would’ have given greater satisfaction to the people of Moreton electorate and to the people of Queensland generally, because those who are now engaged in earning their living, and have to pay taxes to keep up this benevolent institution, consider that the votes of a considerable number of them may be outnumbered by its inmates. I think that these people have every right to exercise the franchise, because, although they are not now engaged’ in an active struggle for existence, still in the past they have done their work for the country.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I am afraid that the honorable member is hardly discussing the question.

Mr WILKINSON:

– I bow to your decision, sir. I am merely stating the reasons which have been alleged by Queensland elec tors as to why some other divisions might have been made. In my own opinion, better divisions could hardly have been made, though I know that petitions have been lodged against them. I believe, for instance, that a petition came from certain residents in the districts at the lower end of the Lockyer.

Mr Groom:

– They came too late.

Mr WILKINSON:

– Petitions were also sent from the northern end of what is called in the State the Moreton electorate. They also were too late. It appears that there is some dissatisfaction with regard to the present Moreton electorate. It would have been well, in my opinion, if honorable members had had the report relating to the division to peruse, in order that they might see the reasons which were given for the divisions proposed by the Commissioner. Unfortunately, we have not the report before us, and, therefore, are acting in the dark. Personally, however, I shall not oppose the proposal. I am aware that my action in regard to this matter has been called in question by opponents. I wish to put myself straight with my constituency, the House, and the country, and to say that I took no part whatever in inciting people to raise objections. I say now, as I said in the beginning, that, in my opinion, Mr. Lawson has made the best possible division under the circumstances ; and, while I should have liked to see effect given to the wishes of those who have expressed opinions against the proposed changes, still I do not see how the matter could have ‘been settled in a better way than it has been. I offer no objection to the proposal of the Minister. All I have to remark to him is that it would, perhaps, have been just as well to allow the divisions in Queensland to remain as at present, because, in a short time - having in view the population that Queensland is attracting from New South Wales and Victoria1 - T am sure that she will be entitled to a tenth representative when a further redistribution will require to be made.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

.- It is quite evident that the feeling that we are told has been aroused at the delay in making the alterations in the electorates in some States has not been aroused in Queensland. Very little interest has been taken in the matter there. As the honorable member for Moreton has pointed out, many people who were Severed from one electorate and put into another knew nothing about the change until it was too late to petition against it. In my own electorate, Bundaberg, which we look upon as the Mecca of radicalism and labourism in Queensland, disappears from Wide Bay. The people of Bundaberg did not. know of the change until it was too late to petition against it. I have no objection, personally, to the alterations made. I think that the Commissioner appointed for the ‘ purpose has done his work admirably. Although I cannot help feeling some regret that the Wide Bay electorate will have attached to it a piece of Moreton - whilst, of course, the Moreton division will lose a piece to Wide Bay - still I can see that such changes could not be prevented. Naturally, all honorable members desire that those whom tbey have previously represented shall continue to be their constituents; but I think that the best thing has been done, and I congratulate the Government on having proposed this resolution so early in the session.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I have no objection to the redivision of Queensland now proposed. Personallv, I think I shall get rather less travelling in my constituency under the new scheme than I had before. A piece has been taken off one end of Capricornia, and another piece has been tacked on to the other end. The change has not increased the size of the electorate very much, nor has it materially affected the number of electors in the division. So far as concerns the names of the various electorates it appears to me that the names suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa and! the honorable member for Kennedv are very appropriate. I am not aware that anv alteration can with advantage be made in the name of the electorate which I represent. Capricornia is a very appropriate name, and there is no need for an alteration. I think that Mr. Lawson has made a verv good division of the State, and it only remains for the Electoral Office to give effect to the redistribution as quickly as possible.

Mr BAMFORD:
Herbert

.- I fully indorse the remarks which have been made with reference to the Queensland redistribution. So far as my own electorate is concerned, no alteration ‘has been made. The boundaries have been satisfactory to me in the past, and I hope they will be in the future. The names which have been suggestfed by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Kennedy are most appropriate, and I am sure will be received with acclamation by the Queensland people. I suggest that the name of my own electorate might be alteredL I have not thought of another name for it, though, perhaps, Carpentaria would be appropriate. I do not think that there is a State electorate so named.

Mr Groom:

– Yes, there is.

Mr BAMFORD:

– If the Minister purposes making any recommendation in this connexion, he should bear in mind the advisability of having no Federal: elecEorate so named as to clash with the name of a State electorate. It has been suggested that my own constituency might appropriately be termed Alligatoria. I do not think that that would be quite so appropriate as other names that could be mentioned. With regard to Mr. Lawson I have great pleasure in speaking as to the way in which he has dtome his work, because I was responsible to some extent for the first redistribution having been thrown out. On that previous occasion, when the redistribution had been carried out by another gentleman in Queensland, I pointed out to the House that the proposals as made had a verv fishv appearance. There is no doubt, in my mind, that I was fully justified in what I said, and subsequent events have gone to prove it. I have nothing further to say, except to commend to the Minister the suggestions which have been made as to names.

Mr Groom:

– If honorable members will withdraw their amendments. I will give them1 a subsequent opportunity to make suggestions.

Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn. Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 121

QUESTION

ELECTORAL DIVISIONS : NEW SOUTH WALES

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

– I move -

That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions, as proposed bv His Honour Judge Murray, the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in his report laid before Parliament on the 7th day of June, 1906.

The same Commissioner was appointed to undertake the redistribution of the State of New South Wales as was appointed by our predecessors in, office. Certain doubts existed as to the proper procedure to be adopted for the purpose of determining the true representation to which the various States were entitled in this House. A Representation Act was accordingly passed to allay these doubts, and under which statistical returns were sought from the various Government Statisticians. These officers furnished the returns in question, and a certificate was presented in accordance with the Representation, Act which showed that New South Wales was entitled to an additional member. The result is that we now have to make provision for twenty-seven representatives, in lieu of twenty-six. The commission was issued to Judge Murray, and instructions were given to him in the usual way. He was asked to redistribute the New South Wales electoral divisions on, the basis of twenty-seven representatives. The position in which he found the State is set out in his report. The total number of electors in New South Wales is 673,282. At the present time these are distributed between twenty-six electorates. In several of the divisions in that State the number of electors is above the maximum allowed by law, whilst in, others it is below the minimum. For .instance, Lang is 6,475, North Sydney 7,515, Parkes 5>730, Dalley 1,709, Newcastle 1,555/ South Sydney 189, and Wentworth 620 above the maximum; whilst Darling is 6,548, Riverina 4,723, Barrier 724, Bland 902, and Canobolas 633 below the minimum.

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

– What is the number allowed?

Mr GROOM:

– I am speaking of the existing divisions, and not of the electorates proposed under the redistribution scheme. The total number of electors in New South Wales is 673,282. The number of divisions required to give effect to the present scheme of redistribution is twenty-seven, and the quota is 24,936. On the present basis of distribution, with twenty-six divisions, the quota is 25,895, the maximum number of electors in any electorate is 31,074, the minimum is 20,716, and the margin of allowance above or below the quota 5,179. In North Sydney, at the present time, there are 38.589 electors, whereas its maximum number, according to law, should’ be 31,074, thus giving that electorate an excess above the maximum of 7,5’i5. In many constituencies the numerical strength of the voters is not in accordance with the Act. and the Commissioner had to face the question of how he- could distribute these electors throughout the State. He has decided upon dividing the State into two parts, one of which comprises the metropolitan, sub-metropolitan, and extra metropolitan divisions. In the city electorates, he has allowed a higher number of electors upon the whole than he has grouped in the country divisions. This to some extent preserves the existing divisions, and also gives a fair representation to the country districts. The result of his distribution is that he has increased the metropolitan districts from nine to eleven. In other words, he has added two electorates to the metropolitan area. Then he has redistributed the country districts in such a way that Canobolas entirely disappears, its electors being divided” amongst other constituencies. In New South Wales, therefore, we shall in future have eleven representatives of the metropolitan and submetropolitan area, and sixteen representatives for the rest of the State. Altogether the metropolitan electors number 293,335, and those of the extra, metropolitan divisions 379)947- I” his report the Commissioner states that several objections were taken to the redistribution scheme proposed, and that these have been considered by him. He sets out that he has acted upon some of these objections, but states that in one or two instances he has not been able to do so.

Mr Henry Willis:

– To what objections has he acceded ?

Mr GROOM:

– If the honorable member will mention any particular electorate I can tell1 him. whether the Commissioner has acceded to the objections that were urged in connexion with it. I know that he has considered objections lodged in regard to the divisions of Parkes, Lang, Darling, Riverina, and Canobolas.

Mr Henry Willis:

– The redistribution’ of Robertson was not objected to?

Mr GROOM:

– I do not think that it was affected in any way. However, I am asking the House to adopt the report made by the Commissioner. He has had a difficult task to perforin. He was faced with the fact that there was a very large city population, and he has endeavoured to cope with that difficulty by grouping together in the metropolitan area a larger number of electors than he has distributed in the country divisions.

Mr Wilks:

– He has taken away about 5,000 red-hot supporters from me.

Mr GROOM:

– The honorable member will always gain supporters wherever he may go. I do not know that it is necessary for me to add anything more, unless honorable members have any objections to urge against the motion. If it becomes necessary for me to give any further information to the House, I will do so at a later stage. In conclusion, I would point

Out that it will be necessary to rename three of the electorates. One of these, in the neighbourhood of Sydney, it has been suggested should be known by the name of Cook, and another by that of the Nepean. The new division which has been constituted out of the electors of Orange and Canobolas it has been suggested we should call Mitchell, after the explorer, Canobolas being no longer a suitable name.

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) J6.10]. - I propose to offer no objection to this redistribution scheme. My own opinion from the first has been that the less Parliament interferes with these arrangements the better for all parties and all interests. So far as New South Wales is concerned, we have appointed a Commissioner in whom we have absolute confidence, and I presume that I may say the same of the other States. Every one who knows His Honour Judge Murray has the fullest confidence in his ability and integrity, and in his special skill in the making of redistributions. This is not the first time that he has done a work of like character for his State. While there may be defects in the scheme which he has submitted, I have no doubt that if we begin to put our fingers upon those defects with the intention of remedying them, we shall make much bigger blotches on it. I have no doubt that for every mistake in the scheme there are many weighty reasons against any alteration or alternative that might be suggested. So far as I know, the work, on the whole, has been done well, having regard to the difficulties of the situation. I speak in this way because I know that the scheme has involved the cutting- in two of the electorate I represent. My constituency has been sliced diagonally, and out of one-half of it a new electorate has been created. The remaining half has no appearance of symmetry. That is owing to the configuration of the country and the necessity of relieving the electorate of North Sydney of 13,000 or 14,000 electors in excess of the number permitted. When one considers the difficulties surrounding this redistribution scheme, one must recognise that, whilst it is easy to pick holes in it. it is quite another thing to remedy it. Having selected for this task the most eligible men that could have been obtained, we had better trust to their judgment, believing that the work has been done with due regard to the best interests of the State and free from any tinge of partisanship or bias. Believing that to be the case, I shall support most cordially the redistribution as laid on the table of the House.

Mr THOMAS:
Barrier

.- I am very pleased to be able to support the motion for the adoption of the scheme for the redistribution of New South Wales. I have only to say that the fact that the motions relating to the redistribution of the States are apparently to be carried without opposition proves that we were absolutely justified in the conclusion at which we arrived some time “ago that the first redistribution scheme was objectionable. The scheme then submitted for the redistribution of New South Wales’ was different from that now before us. It did not give to the State the additional representative for whom provision is now made, and I would remind honorable members that if it had been passed, New South Wales would not have had for some years the extra representative to which she is entitled. The way in which these motions’ have been received shows, to my mind, that the schemes now before us have been carried out satisfactorily, and affords a complete justification for the action taken by a number of honorable members, who, in common with myself, opposed the original redistribution submitted to the Parliament.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

.- I should have thought, before we listened to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, that it would be difficult for any member of the Labour Party to offer any justification for interfering with the basis’ of the principle of “ one vote one value.” The honorable member opposed the redistribution of New South Wales in 1 0,02 . and supported a state of affairs which permitted a few members of his party to sit in this House as the representatives of only half the number of electors in other constituencies. I fail entirely to see what justification there could have been for taking such a step. The step was subversive absolutely of equality of representation in this chamber.

Mr Bamford:

– Why rake up ancient history ? ;

Mr KELLY:

– I am not; I am seeking to put right a matter raised by the honorable member for Barrier. Mr. Wilks. - The honorable member is giving a correct reading of what happened on the occasion to which the honorable member for Barrier referred.

Mr KELLY:

– I am showing what actually happened, and that the honorable member then took a course for which he had no justification. I have no desire, however, to labour the matter, since the honorable member himself did not address himself seriously to it. The House knows that he was not serious, but the pages of Hansard are not as capable of reflecting humour as is the honorable member’s own countenance. I am simply putting the matter right, so that the true position will be set forth in Hansard, and the possibility of a mistaken impression removed. The growth of population that has occurred since the last distribution, is in no way due to the honorable member for Barrier or his party, and the course they then took could have no justification therefrom.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I am very glad that the scheme for the redistribution of New South Wales has been, introduced at this early stage in the session. I recognise that it is the imperative duty of Parliament to move in this direction, for the reason that the existing divisions were framed bv the State Government prior to the constitution of the first Federal Parliament, and under conditions very different from those now obtaining. The State electorates formed the basis of the division of New South Wales into Federal constituencies, and at that time the electoral rolls of New South Wales did mot embrace the female section of the community. The extension of the franchise to women has given a special accession of voting strength to the cities, the fema.le portion of the community being concentrated in the populous centres near the seaboard rather than in the country districts. As the result of the redistribution mow before us, New South Wales will secure an additional . representative, owing to the increase of its population, and those living in the metropolis will gain two representatives. This is perhaps a matter for regret, since the country districts will lose in the new Parliament one of the representatives that they at present possess. Still, no one can cavil at this, since the basis of the change is thoroughly sound and democratic. The fact that the population is converging into the cities cannot be helped, and the readjustments have been made accordingly.

Mr Wilks:

– Even under the new scheme the city electorates carry a larger voting power than do the rural ones.

Mr BROWN:

– I have just pointed out that under this scheme the country electorates will lose one representative, and the city or metropolitan districts will gain two.

Mr Wilks:

– Each electorate in the citv exercises a larger voting power.

Mr BROWN:

– That may be so. The Commissioner had certain limits within which he had to work, and the whole of those city divisions are within the maximum allowed.

Mr Wilks:

– In some cases they are beyond, even now.

Mr BROWN:

– I have not . looked so carefully into the latest divisions as to know whether that is a fact, but I understand that it was the purpose of the Commissioner to keep within certain maximum and minimum limits of population, and that that has been observed as far as possible with equal justice all round!. With reference to the manner in which the work has been done, I do not wish to criticise it adversely. I recognise that the Commissioner had a very difficult task, to which, I think, he has done justice. I do not see where, in the general scheme, any great improvement can be made. There are matters of detail in which, possibly, some improvement could be effected. With regard to my own constituency of Canobolas, the head-centre of that electorate, so far as density of population is concerned, is Orange and the surrounding district. Orange contains something like 5,590 electors within that portion of the district affected by this division. The Commissioner proposes to add that number of electors, including the town of Orange, to the Macquarie electorate. Some very strong protests have been made through the local municipal council, on behalf of those places. It is very strongly objected that there is not that community of interest between Orange and Bathurst that the

Commissioner seems to think exists. The fact that both towns are on one railway system, and both are large farming centres, seemed to convey to the mind of the Commissioner the idea that there was a certain community of interest between those two important centres, and that led him to add this portion of the Canobolas electorate to the Macquarie, and to compensate for that addition by taking away from the existing Macquarie electorate a portion of country embracing Cowra, Canowindra, Goolagong, and so on towards Grenfell, and adding that portion to the proposed Bland-Canobolas electorate. I think that was a mistake - that it would have made the electorate verv much more compact, and given greater consideration to the general community of interests, if he had allowed .the Orange portion, to remain in the new division, and had not taken from Macquarie that portion embracing Cowra and the other centres I have named. I know that the electors affected have made representations through me, in the first place to the Judge, and in the second place to the Minister, to the effect that they would much, prefer to remain in the Canobolas electorate. Had it been possible to move in that direction nothing would have afforded me greater pleasure than to do so. But I understand the position is that this House cannot intervene - that if any alteration has to be made, it can only be byremitting the whole scheme back to the Commissioner with a recommendation to that intent. I recognise that such a step would practically mean the killing of the scheme before us. We are near the end of this Parliament, and within a few months this House will cease to exist, and honorable members will have to present themselves to the electors. There does .not seem, therefore, sufficient time to allow this matter to be referred back for reconsideration bv the Commissioner. I recognise that if the proposals before us are approved even now, the Department will have all it can do to get the electoral machinery readv for the coming elections. The existing rolls will have to be revised, and there is a good deal of work in connexion with the new boundaries. In very manv instances those boundaries separate polling-places, and the rolls in connexion therewith will have to be revised, so far as the new divisions are concerned. That. I understand, will occupv the Department for some considerable time, and it is very de sirable that the whole machinery shall be as complete as possible. We do not want a repetition of what we experienced on the last occasion, when the rolls were hurriedly compiled, and were in a most unsatisfactory condition. In some instances, it was discovered bv the committee of investigation that the work was so rushed in the Departments, and in the Government Printing Office that an incomplete list was submitted. The result was that places which ought to have had 200 or 300 names on the list had only a small percentage of that number when the list was published. The completion of the list was kept back to such a late period that it was impossible to correct mistakes amd anomalies. If a similar experience is not to be repeated on the coming occasion, it will be necessary for the Department to get the whole of the. machinery in complete working order. That being so, it is with very considerable regret that I must refrain from giving expression to the wishes of that portion of Canobolas which, under the new arrangement, will be added to Macquarie. If time permitted a reconsideration, I should feel it my bounden duty to move in the direction of remitting thisi proposal back t:b the Commissioner with a view to see whether the division could not be so altered as to permit of Orange and district remaining in the Canobolas! division. I understand that a suggestion has been conveyed by the Commissioner that the name of the combined electorate shall be altered - that, instead of “ Canobolas” or “Bland,” the name shall be the Mitchell division. Mitchell is a name that is hi ghi v honoured in New South Wales. “Sir Thomas Mitchell being one of the pioneer explorers in the State. It is true that a considerable part of this country was explored by that gentleman in the very earlv davs, and that he made a couple of trips down the Lachlan. I understand, however, that Sir Thomas Mitchell was not the original explorer, but that Oxlev claims the distinction of making the first trip, though, no doubt, Sir Thomas Mitchell did al great deal of work in making this part of the country known. But I do not think it is wise to make the proposed departure at the present time. It seems to me that “ Canobolas “ is quite as appropriate a name for the new division as it was for the old.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to y.30 p.m. Mr. BROWN.- The Minister has intimated that it has been suggested that the name of the new division should not be either “Canobolas” or “Bland,” but that it should be called “Mitchell.”

Mr Groom:

– The “ Lachlan “ has also been suggested as a name for the division, but there is a State electorate of that name.

Mr BROWN:

– I do not think that it would be desirable to adopt that name, because there is a State electorate of Lachlan, and it is advisable to make a distinction between the Federal and State divisions. I think that the name suggested by the Commissioner for the State was “ Calarie,” which I understand was the aboriginal name for the Lachlan. The name “ Canobolas” was considered more appropriate, because it was better known, and is the name of an important land-mark in the electorate. I understand that an objection to the continuance of that name is that Mount Canobolas will be outside of the new division. I have looked at the map, and so far as I can ascertain the Canobolas Range forms the boundary line between the proposed division and the Macquarie division, and still forms an important landmark in the electorate. Another reason why I think we should adhere to the name of “ Canobolas “ is that it has become generally known during the last five or six years.

Mr Wilks:

– That applies also to “ Bland.”

Mr BROWN:

– That is so, but under present conditions one of the names must disappear. We must give up “Bland” or “ Canobolas,” or both, as the Minister seemed to indicate was the intention of the Government.

Mr Groom:

– I said only that that had been suggested.

Mr BROWN:

– There are some reasons why, if one name only is to disappear, it should be “ Bland.” In the proposed new division there will be nearly 14,000 voters on the roll for the existing Canobolas division, whilst there will be only 6,000 voters who are at present on the roll for Bland. So that the preponderance of voting power in the new electorate will be derived from the existing Canobolas division. Again, “Canobolas “ is an aboriginal name, whilst “Bland” is the name of a district surveyor, who did a great deal of survey work in that portion of the country in the early days. I hope the Minister will consider the advisability of retaining the name of “ Canobolas,” and will give me an oppor tunity to test the opinion of the House on the question of its retention.

Mr Wilks:

– Why not suggest “ Bland ‘ ‘ as the name for the new division which it is proposed’ shall be called “ Cooky” and thus retain both names of existing divisions ?

Mr BROWN:

– That is a suggestion which, I hope, the honorable member for Dalley will make. I think it is well worth considering on the ground that we have certain names of divisions now which have become generally known, and should not depart from them without very good reason. In the present case there is a reason why one of these names must disappear. I must again express my regret that the proposed division has been submitted to the House at so late a date that it is impossible for us to refer it back to the Commissioner with a view to dealing with some anomalies such as that which, has been, brought about by adding the Orange portion of the existing Canobolas division to the Macquarie division, and adding a portion of the present Macquarie division on to the proposed! new division which I suggest should be called the Canobolas division. For the reasons I have indicated, I feel strongly disposed to move that the report should be referred back to the Commissioner, but if I were supported by a majority on such a motion it would mean the death-knell of the whole of these proposals for the division of New South Wales for the next Parliament. I do not think, in the interests of New South Wales and of the Federation generally, that that would be desirable, but I expect to be given an opportunity to consider the names to be adopted for the divisions later on.

Mr. WILKS (Dalley) [7.35I - I approve of the divisions which have been submitted in the Commissioner’s report, and am pleased that there should be a. disposition on the part of the House not to interfere with the action of an officer who is altogether outside Parliament. I am one of those who think that the division of the States into electorates should be removed new. and in future, from all political influence. The Minister pointed out that the metropolitan area in New South Wales comprises eleven districts, but he also stated that the number of voters included in each metropolitan district was Greater than the number in other electorates in New South Wales. That is in marked contradistinction to what appears in the division of Victoria which has been submitted. The

Commissioner appointed to divide the State of Victoria appears to have carried out his work with mathematical precision, and has treated city electorates on exactly the same footing as country electorates.

Mr Tudor:

– No, he has not. There is as much difference in that respect in the Victorian divisions as in the divisions proposed for the other States. “Perhaps the honorable member is trying to explain away a vote which he intends to give.

Mr WILKS:

– If the honorable member for Yarra will study the proposed division of Victoria, he will find that it has been carried out with almost mathematical precision, having regard to the number of voters in each electorate. The only fault I have to find with the New South Wales scheme is that I object to any differentiation between country and city electorates. It appeared to me that the Minister, in explaining the New South Wales scheme, expressed approval of the distinction drawn between country and city electorates in New South Wales, but in Federal matters I do not approve of any difference being made in this respect between metropolitan and country areas. An ideal scheme of division, if it were possible, would be the division of a State into aliquot parts, so far as the number of voters in the State is concerned. That appears to have been impossible, and we must now accept the scheme as proposed. The honorable member for Canobolas objects to the disappearance of “ Canobolas “ as the name of one of the divisions. The honorable member argues that the name has become well known in the Federal Parliament, and it would therefore be a pity not to retain it. I think it would be a pity. also, not to retain the name of “ Bland,” which has been associated with the name of a member of the Labour Party in this Parliament. The Minister has made a suggestion that a new electorate, which at present is a kind of no man’s land, should be called the “ Cook “ electorate.

Mr Groom:

– That suggestion is made by the Commissioner.

Mr WILKS:

– I suggest that the name “Bland” should be given to that electorate, not only because of its associations in this House, but also because it would commemorate the work of one of the most estimable characters in New South Wales history. Bland was an historian of high repute, whose works are quoted1 to-day in the public life of New South Wales, an ex plorer, and a politician. Therefore, I suggest that it would be appropriate to retain the name of Bland to designate one of the New South Wales divisions.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

.- I do not propose to discuss the general merits of this distribution, but I wish to emphasize what was said by the honorable member for Canobolas as to the desirability of retaining native names for our electoral divisions, so far as that may be possible. If we are going to make this Commonwealth distinctively Australian, we should use Australian names where we can.

Mr Mauger:

– Australia for the Australians !

Mr ROBINSON:

– That is, in some respects, a good cry. We know to what a ridiculous pitch the nomenclature pf the United States has been brought by the borrowing of names from other countries. We have there such towns as Troy, Ilium, and others whose names, by association, appear absurd. I agree with the honorable member for Canobolas that a native name should be given to the proposed new division. This is merely a matter of sentiment, but it seems to me that the sentiment is worth cultivating. The Australian Natives’ Association, of which I am proud to be a member, feels that steps should be taken to retain native names, and when the first Victorian distribution was made, a committee was appointed by the Legislative Assembly of the State to find suitable native names for the new divisions. As a result, many of the Victorian divisions now bear Australian names. I suggest to the Minister that a sub-committee of the Cabinet, or he himself, should look into this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 127

QUESTION

ELECTORAL DISTRIBUTION : VICTORIA

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

– I move -

That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Mr. C. A. Topp, the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in his report laid before Parliament on the 7th day of June, 1906.

We appointed, to distribute the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, Mr. Charles A. Topp, the Commissioner appointed to that work bv our predecessors. Honorable members will remember that a little time back (here was some discussion as to the right of Victoria to retain the twenty-three members who now represent her, and! the statistical returns which we obtained bearing on the matter were incorporated by the Chief Electoral Officer in a certificate which he presented’ to Parliament. That certificate shows that Victoria is entitled to a representation of only twenty-two members, and instructions were therefore given to the Commissioner to distribute the State into twenty-two divisions. After the distribution had been made, the Commissioner’s maps were exhibited, in accordance with the law, but the thirty days prescribed elapsed’ without a protest being made against the proposal, which I now ask the House to adopt. The existing divisions contain many anomalies. The total enrolment for Victoria is 616,426 electors, and with twenty-three members that makes the quota 26,801. The maximum number of electors who ought to be in any one constituency is therefore 32,161, and the minimum 21,441, the margin of allowance above and below - one-fifth - being 5,360. In Kooyong, however, which should not contain more than 32,161 electors, there are 39,223, or 7,062 above the maximum; in Yarra there are 40,270 electors, or 8,109 above the maximum; in Balaclava the excess is 1,489; in [Bourke, 1,220; in Northern Melbourne, 1,175; and in Southern Melbourne, 305. There are certain electorates which are below the minimum, of 21,441. Wimmera is short of the minimum by 3,531, containing only 17,910 electors; Gippsland contains only 20,808, a deficiency of 633; Corinella only 20,813, a deficiency of 628; and Laanecoorie a deficiency of 854. The other electorates are within the legal limits. But, as I have shown, in six electorates there is an excess, and in five a shortage. The Commissioner had to adjust these inequalities, and at the same, time to reduce the number of divisions. He had an electoral population of 616,426 to divide among twenty-two constituencies. The quota was fixed at 28,019, the maximum number was 33,623, and the minimum 22,415. The margin of allowance, therefore, was 5,604. The Commissioner had to deal with, a large city population, and with a comparatively scattered country population, and his idea is that there should be nine metropolitan divisions and thirteen country divisions. At present Victoria has fifteen country divisions, which the Commissioner has reduced to thirteen, and he has increased the number of metropolitan constituencies to nine. I might inform honorable members that

Balaclava, which at present has an electoral population of 33,650, will under the new scheme have 28,969, or 950 above the quota. The Bourke electorate will have an electoral population of 28,753, or 734 above the quota. It has been necessary, in the metropolitan area, to readjust the boundaries of some of the old constituencies, in order to provide for the increased number of divisions. Division No. 3, which consists of parts of Yarra, Northern Melbourne, Bourke, and Melbourne, will have an electoral population- of 28,219, or 200 above the quota. No. 4 electorate, which consists of parts of Melbourne Ports, Northern Melbourne, Bourke, and Melbourne will have an electoral population of 30,244, or 2,-225 above the quota. Kooyong will have an electoral population of 30,014, or an excess of 1,995 over the quota. Melbourne will have an electoral population of 29,506, or 1,487 above the quota. Melbourne Ports will have 29,237, or 1,218 above the quota. Southern Melbourne will have 31,348, or 3,329 above the quota. Yarra will have 28,180, or 161 above the quota. Ballarat will have 28,342, or 323 above the quota. Bendigo will have 28,616, or 597 above the quota. The constituencies to which I have referred are all populous centres, and are mostly in the city. Now, I shall refer to what may be regarded as the country constituencies. Corangamite will have an electoral population of 27,738, or 281 below the quota; Corio will have 28.416, or 397 above the quota ; Echuca and Moira will have 27,387, or 632 below the quota ; Flinders will have 26,358, or ‘i, 661 below the quota; Gippsland will have 26,549, or 1,470 below the quota; Grampians will have 26,236, or 1,783 below the quota; Indi will have 27,541, or 478 below the quota; Mernda will have 26,969, or 1,050 below the quota. The division which consists of parts of Corinella and Laanecoorie, will have 26,175, or 1,844 below the quota; Wannon will have 26,120, or ‘1,899 below the quota ; and Wimmera will have 25,509, or 2,5.10 below the quota. Honorable members will see the method which the Commissioner has seen fit to adopt. In the populous centres he has, in almost all instances, brought the figures, above the quota, and in the country constituencies he has kept them below the quota. In conclusion, I may mention that no objections have been lodged against the proposed distribution.

Mr McLEAN:
Gippsland

– I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether I should! be in order in moving -

That the words “ 7th day of June” be left out, with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words “ 29th day of June, 1903.”

My object is to substitute the first plan of subdivision for the one now before us.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I know of no parliamentary rule to prevent the honorable member from doing as he proposes, but I cannot pronounce an opinion as to whether or not his amendment would accomplish any purpose.

Mr McLEAN:

– In moving the amendment, I desire it to be distinctly understood that I do not wish to reflect in any way whatever on the Commissioner. On the contrary, I think that he is an excellent man, and that he has done his work conscientiously and to the best of his judgment.

Mr Tudor:

– Upon which occasion - the first or the second ?

Mr McLEAN:

– Upon both occasions. I have read his reasons for making the second distribution, and I must say that they do not commend themselves to me to the same extent a-s did the reasons he gave in submitting his first plan.

Mr Tudor:

– I think that the second set of reasons is the best.

Mr McLEAN:

– I shall read what the Commissioner said in his first report -

As I was informed that the number of electoral divisions was to be twenty-two, it became my duty, in, connexion with the new distribution to reduce the existing number of divisions by one. It was not possible to lessen the number of metropolitan divisions, as to have done this would have involved raising the number of electors in several of the divisions above the legal maximum. The number of the country divisions had, therefore, to be reduced by at least one. The question further arose whether that number should not be reduced by two, so as to allow of an additional metropolitan division. Such an alteration would certainly have tended to more nearly equalize the number of electors in metropolitan and in country divisions, but, after full consideration, I did not deem this course advisable, as I found that I could, by making use of the margin of allowance which the Commissioner is authorized to use whenever necessary, distribute the metropolitan area into eight divisions as at present, in each of which there would be a reasonable community of interest, and in forming which the existing boundaries could be more closely kept than if a larger number of divisions were adopted, while a distribution of the country portion of the State into the largest permissible number of divisions afforded the greatest facilities for giving attention to the four’ matters specified in section 16, namely : -

Community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features and existing boundaries of divisions.

In all these respects his first proposal conformed more nearly to the provisions made by Parliament for regulating the matter than does the second. I am not one who would claim for a country elector more power than a metropolitan elector. But I contend that the compact, wellorganized electors in the metropolitan districts exercise infinitely more influence upon the legislation and government of the country than do the scattered, unorganized electors in the country districts. While I thoroughly believe in the principle of one vote one value, I believe in the substance, and not in the mere shadow. I could give a number of instances which I believe would convince honorable members of the truth of my statement, but, as I do not wish to take up time unduly, perhaps it will be sufficient if I mention one. As I did not know that this motion was coming on to-day - and I do mot. think that any of us expected that it would - I have not got the figures with me, but, roughly speaking, I believe that the country districts! must have 40 per cent, more electors than have the metropolitan districts. Yet, with that preponderance of electors, we find that the country districts have not been able to return a solitary member to the Senate; the metropolitan districts return the six senators. Then, again, although there are seven more country electorates at the present time than metropolitan electorates, the metropolis sends far more members into the House of Representatives than do the country districts. I believe that honorable members, whatever their views on the subject may be, wish to be fair. I think thev must concede that, when under existing circumstances the metropolis exercises so much more influence upon the legislation and the go vernment of the country than do the country districts, by reducing the number of members for the country districts bv two and giving an additional member to the metropolis it will practically mean disfranchising To a large extent the country electors, and thai: I do not think any honorable member wishes to do. I do not desire to take up time unduly, as I want’ to see this question go to a vote. I regret exceeding] v to find that Victoria must lose a member : T recognise that, under the provisions of the Constitution, our population does not entitle us to retain our present number of members, and therefore I bow to the inevitable with the best grace I can. I would’ ask honorable members to weigh the reasons I have given in favour of substituting the first report of the Commissioner for the other. I do not think that it would cause any inconvenience, and it would be dealing out some modicum of justice to country districts. I recognise that it was only fair that one member should be taken from the country districts, but to take an additional member from them, and give an additional one to the metropolis would, in my opinion, be most unfair to them. I feel that I would not be doing my duty unless I asked honorable members to support the amendment and do justice to the electors in country districts, without doing any injustice to the metropolis.

Sir George Turner:

– There would be no delay.

Mr McLEAN:

– It would not delay the carrying out of the scheme. When honorable members consider that at the present time, with a much larger discrepancy between town and country, the former exercises infinitely more influence upon the legislation and the government of the Commonwealth than: does the latter, thev can readily realize what the disproportion will be if the second scheme be adopted instead of the first.

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

– I hope that the House will not adopt the amendment. Like the honorable member for Gippsland we have a strong sympathy with the country electorates and electors, and we desire just as earnestly as he does that they should receive their due proportion of representation in this House.

Mr Page:

– This is the only Government in Australia that does, then. That is my experience.

Mr GROOM:

– Perhaps that accounts for the honorable member sitting behind us. Honorable members must recognise that this distribution was carried out by a Commissioner who was appointed under the authority of a Statute, and who, I may add, was appointed for a similar purpose by my predecessor. It is exceedingly desirable that we should move forward, and have these schemes adopted in order that they may be brought into operation for the purposes of the next general election. In anticipation of Parliament following this course, we took the responsibility of having everything, as far as it was pos sible, prepared in advance on the basis of the report which was submitted by the Commissioner for Victoria. At the present time the police are allocating the polling places and the electors upon the assumption that this scheme will be adopted. I ask honorable members to consider the practical effect of accepting the amendment even if they could legally do so. The whole of that work in this State would have to be started afresh. We should have to get the names re-collected, and the probability is that it would raise serious doubts as to whether it would be possible this year to hold an election on that basis.

Mr Skene:

– Why would the work have to be started afresh?

Mr McLean:

– The officers will not bear out the Minister’s statement.

Mr GROOM:

– I can assure the honorable member for Gippsland that I am acting upon information which has been officially supplied to me. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Grampians recognises that this is not a question of party politics.

Mr Skene:

– Certainly, but I do not quite understand how the adoption of this amendment would cause the work to be started afresh.

Mr GROOM:

– The honorable member perhaps did not follow me. What I said was that Victoria is now to have twentytwo instead of twenty-three constituencies, which means a new constitution of the electorates.

Mr McLean:

– -Under both schemes Victoria is to have twenty-two members.

Mr GROOM:

– It is quite true that the two schemes provide that Victoria shall have twenty-two members, but as a matter of law it now has twenty -three constituencies. The electoral rolls were ordered to be printed bv my predecessor as Minister for Home Affairs, the honorable member for North Svdney, on the present basis of twenty-three divisions. At the present time those are the electoral rolls for the State of Victoria.

Mr McLean:

– We must have fresh rolls.

Mr GROOM:

– That is so. But the honorable member must see that in order that Victoria may have twenty-two constituencies, instead of twenty-three, we have to get the police to give us information as to the names on the various rolls, so as to allot them to their appropriate polling places. In anticipation of this scheme being adopted by Parliament, instructions were given to the police to take note of these electoral divisions, to collect all the names of electors, and to assign them to their appropriate polling places. That work has been proceeding on the basis of the proposed redistribution. Steps were taken, I think in February, and instructions were immediately given to the police to act upon the report of the Commissioner. The police have the collection and allocation of the names well advanced. We felt that it was essential to hold the elections this year, and that we had to incur the responsibility of undertaking this work. If the honorable member’s amendment were given effect to - even supposing it could legally be clone - it would delay alb that work, and serious risks would be incurred as to whether we could get the rolls ready in time for the general election. Supposing we ‘could not get them ready, would Victoria have twenty-three representatives in the next Parliament? It is not as though this was a scheme fresh out of the mind of the Commissioner. It is not an immature scheme. The Victorian Commissioner was one of the first to be appointed, and he was one of the last to send in his report. We know that he is a thoroughly conscientious, painstaking, and careful Commissioner. If he had .been a man who did not realize the responsibilities of his position, or one who would be likely to send in what he had previously submitted without fresh consideration, we might feel doubtful about accepting his report. But instead of that, he realized the responsibility cast upon him by Parliament. He realized that he was in a quasi-judicial position. Although he divided the electorates last year, he has since reconsidered the whole basis of his determination, and acted upon the information placed before him. He has acted in accordance with the principles laid down in the Electoral Act, and has constituted the divisions as we have them before us today, in accordance W’ith those principles. I am perfectly mire that he gave due weight to all that has been said bv the honorable member for Gippsland, to-night. But there is another point. This matter has been before the electors concerned, and they have raised no objection.

Mr McLean:

– Did thev raise any objection to the first scheme? I think you will find they did not.

Mr GROOM:

– I think they did. At all events, the Commissioner found objections in the first scheme. Although this matter was thoroughly discussed last year, and although the public were fairly notified, so that every person throughout Australia might know of the proceedings that were taking place - and in no place was more publicity given to the matter than in Victoria - no objections were raised. There have been no protests whatever. Tonight we have had the first notice of any objection to the Commissioner’s scheme. I maintain that the only step which we can take in the circumstances is to adopt the scheme. I do not say so because the Government has not sympathy for country constituencies. I am sure that if the honorable member for Gippsland occupied the position which I now hold, he would find it necessary to stand bv. his Commissioner. I do not think that he would ask the House to reject the scheme. If there had been a serious flaw in the distribution, and if due weight had not been given to the considerations which have been advanced bv the honorable member for Gippsland, there might have been some force in his objection. I was asked a few moments ago whether any objections were made to the last scheme. I find that there were three objections to it. But none have been made to this. I think that, on the whole, electors are fairly alive to their own interests; and if they were not, the members who represent them are. There has been no objection to the scheme in the case of Gippsland, even on the part of the honorable member himself. In several instances where members thought that their constituents were not fairly treated’, thev have not scrupled to send in objections.

Mr McLean:

– It is not an objection to my own electorate I am raising. It is a matter of principle.

Mr GROOM:

– Quite so. But the honorable member must see that the Commissioner must also be guided bv principle. The principles which guide him are laid down in the Electoral Act.

Mr Crouch:

– Where is the principle in making Corio larger than two metropolitan constituencies?

Mr GROOM:

– The Commissioner has set out his reasons for his action, and I find that, even in the case of Corio, there has not been a single objection!. There is this further point - that it is open to serious objection whether it is legally possible for the honorable member for Gippslands amendment to have any effect. Even if it is legal, it is certainly opposed to the spirit of the Electoral Act.

Mr McLean:

– Not a bit.

Mr GROOM:

– I say, with all due respect, that it is, and I will give my reasons. In the first place, the honorable member knows that serious doubts were raised as to whether, under the Constitution, the population could be adjusted upon Executive act. An opinion on the point was given by a gentleman for whom the honorable member for Gippsland himself has the highest respect - Mr. Irvine ; and his opinion as a lawyer is entitled to every consideration. Mr. Irvine expressed the opinion that the action taken by the Government was unconstitutional.

Mr Robinson:

– We will chance it.

Mr GROOM:

– As the Minister administering the Department, I am not going to chance anything. My feeling is that it is a duty which I owe to the House and to the country that each step that we take shall be sanctioned ‘ by law, and not be subject to mere chance. I must be satisfied of the legal grounds upon which I am proceeding. What has happened since then ? It was felt that the method of determining the population was exceedingly unsatisfactory, and we accordingly passed the Representation Act. One of the natural consequences of that Act was that if, in the enumeration of the population, it appeared that, according to law, the representation of a State was unsatisfactory, a Commission should issue to constitute the electorates upon the basis of the evidence revealed by the statistical return. The honorable member for Gippsland was present upon the occasion in question, and consented to that step being taken. That course, I maintain, implied that as a consequence of the issue of a certificate a fresh distribution should take place. My predecessor in office, the honorable member for North Sydney, asked the Government to insert in the Act a provision to insure that effect should be given to the issue of the certificate. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Dalley were also insistent upon that point. They asked us whether we would cause a redistribution to be made upon the basis of the evidence disclosed bv the statistical returns. I assured them that we would, and to-night we are endeavouring to redeem our promise. Since the passing of the Representation Act we have secured the statistical returns, issued the proclamation ordering redistribution, and fresh Commissions have been issued, and the Commissions that had previously been issued were cancelled. We have had a fresh count of the electors made up to the 30th September, 1905, which was the latest information that we could obtain. All these steps clearly indicate that this House never contemplated, even if it were legally possible, that we should revive the reports of last year. It was understood that fresh Commissioners would be appointed. Since then, even the Electoral Act itself has been altered, because the ‘boundaries of the State electorates have had to be taken into account by the Commissioners in coming to a decision. As a matter of law, I am inclined to think that Ave cannot revive these superseded schemes. At any rate, it is open* to very serious question. Are we going to rest the electorates of the big State of Victoria upon a basis of doubtful legality ? The intention of ail the steps that have been taken by the Department was to put everything upon a definite basis, and I claim that in what we have done we have loyally given effect to the opinion of this Parliament. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland to bear in mind the serious nature of the difficulty to which I have already alluded. Even if we could legally adopt his amendment, I maintain that it would lead to very serious practical difficulties.

Mr Wilson:

– Cannot we legally adopt it?

Mr GROOM:

– I am inclined to thinkthat we cannot. T have looked into the question, and, in view of all the facts that I have enumerated, I do not think any legal member of the House wiM say that it is not open to very serious doubt. I confidently ask honorable members to reject the amendment, and to assist the Government in giving effect to the redistribution, proposed.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

.-! am verv glad that the honorable member for Gippsland has raised this question, because it is a matter of very serious import to the representatives of country electorates. As far as the Wannon division is concerned, it will make no difference to me which scheme is adopted, because the Commissioner appointed to make the redistribution recommended exactly the same boundaries in 1905 that he has recommended in 1906. But when the question of representation was first discussed by this Parliament, it was laid down that there were differences between country and city electorates. Those differences arise from the scattered nature of the population in rural districts, and from the fact that the electors there experience a difficulty in getting into touch with political influences. They cannot come into contact with their representatives as rapidly and effectively as can the electors in the city divisions. To give an example, which I can verify by actual statistics, I may mention that whilst in many towns in my own electorate over 60 per cent, of those whose names appear upon the roll voted at “the last election, in some of the more scattered country districts - owing to the difficulties attendant upon exercising the franchise - not more than 25 per cent, of the electors voted. In many cases it is impossible for the farmer and his wife to go to the poll at the same time. Consequently, in the country districts, we are faced with practical disfranchisement, and the only way in which that difficulty can be overcome is by making a difference between the number of electors in city constituencies and the number in country divisions. Under the. proposed scheme, the electors in the city divisions average about 29,000, as against 27,000 in the country constituencies. That is to say, the proportion is as 29 to 27.

Mr Tudor:

– Will the honorable and learned member give the other figures?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I am prepared to quote a good many figures. Under the proposed scheme the proportion of electors as between the city and country constituencies is as 29 to 27. That represents almost equal electorates. When Ave turn to the scheme which was proposed last year, we find that under it the proportion was as 32 to 25 - a very considerable difference, and one which allowed for a proper representation of country interests. Under the proposed redistribution scheme the Commissioner has practically increased the difficulty under which country electorates labour. The whole change that is contemplated will fall upon the rural divisions with redoubled force. I do not object to Victoria losing, one of her representatives. It seems to me absolutely necessary that she should do so. But I do claim that, in the redistribution scheme that is now proposed, the loss should not fall entirely upon the country districts. The objections which have been urged against the amendment will not hold water for a moment. It must be recollected that this scheme was not in the hands of the departmental officials until about the 20th May last. Consequently, the only work which they have been able to perform has been accomplished between that date and the present. Moreover, in some of the electorates no change in the boundaries has been made. If the amendment be adopted, the only cases in which work will require to be done again will be those isolated ones in which mere are towns on the borders of two continuencies. That work would no doubt be considerable, but with the assistance of half-a-dozen extra hands this objection could easily be overcome in a very short time. There is no reason why the Department should not take the 1905 scheme in hand to-morrow if the House decided to adopt it, and be ready for the next general elec tion just as if we adopted the present scheme. The question as to the legality of the procedure need not trouble us. If there be anything at all in it the difficulty can be readily overcome by passing a Bill of one clause. But I do not think there is anything in it. The Minister who usually gives his legal opinions with, great confidence was very timorous in his objections, and I think we may fairly assume that there is not very much in his contention when he adopts such a hesitating attitude. This is a question of the greatest interest to electors living in country districts, and if those who represent such electorates do not object to the redistribution we might as well say once and for all “ bring in equal electorates.” If, instead of a difference of one-fifth above or below the quota, we are to have one of only 7 per cent, between the quotas of town and country eletorates, that difference can be wiped out without making any change so far as country electors are concerned, and we might as well do away with the section in the Act which was designed to protect country interests. I think that the honorable member for Gippsland is to be commended for the action he has taken - an action which is in accord with many others designed bio him to protect the interests of country electors - and I sin.cerely hope that he will press his amendment to a division.

Mr SKENE:
Grampians

– I followed the arguments of the Minister of

Home Affairs as closely as I could, but must confess .that they did not impress me. He pointed out incidentally that there was no protest against the scheme ; but I would remind him that there was practically only one raised against the last scheme submitted by Mr. Topp. That objection came from my own electorate, but the suggestion then made was not adopted. The division to which exception was taken remains in the scheme now before us, but no protest has been entered since it is useless to raise objection after objection when no heed is paid to them. I see no ‘difficulty in the way of putting into operation the 1905 scheme, as compared with that now submitted, and I fail to recognise the force of the objections raised by the Minister. He spoke as if one scheme provided for twenty-three representatives for Victoria, and the other for only twenty-two.

Mr Groom:

– No.

Mr SKENE:

– That, at all events, was the impression which I and others formed.

Mr Groom:

– I said that as regards the scheme providing for a representation of twenty-two members we had already done a great deal of work which would have to be started afresh if we adopted the other.

Mr SKENE:

– I happened quite accidentally yesterday to enter the Electoral Office, and was there introduced to the gentleman who has just been appointed Chief Electoral Officer. I had not given any consideration to this matter, but in the course of conversation we thrashed it out, and I believe that the proposal made by the honorable member for Gippsland could be given effect to. As a matter of fact, supplementary rolls would be necessary under the scheme that the Government ask. us to adopt. 1

Mr Groom:

– Supplementary rolls would be necessary under any scheme. The difficulty relates not to supplementary rolls, but to the constitution of fresh polling-places.

Mr SKENE:

– The polling places could foe left as they are in the different divisions.

Mr Groom:

– A main’ roll has to be adopted, and must definitely set forth the various polling places.

Mr SKENE:

– I have yet to be convinced that any difficulty would be experienced in giving effect to the amendment. If it were carried the necessary readjustment could speedily be made. I have a plan of my own electorate under the new scheme, showing the different polling places within it, and if it provides for polling places for which Mr. Topp made no provision in his previous scheme, it simply rests with the Department to draw boundary lines around’ them. If the polling place’s in the one scheme are convenient for a certain number of electors, they will be found equally convenient in the other. Coming to the question of the difference between the size of town and country electorates, it has been suggested that these sweeping changes have been made by the Commissioner merely for the purpose of striking off some corners of electorates which stood in the way of a reasonable plan of distribution. But would any one seriously suggest that, in order to do this, it is necessary to have a difference of 10,720 electors between two divisions? Surely a margin of 1,000 or 2,000 would be sufficient to work upon in making such readjustments. The honorable member for Gippsland read from Mr. Topp’s first report some very excellent reasons in support of its adoption, and all that can be said against it now is that a discrepancy of 361 votes in the electorate of Balaclava demands the alteration now proposed. In his first report, Mr. Topp almost went so far as to suggest that he had’ contemplated eliminating one of the town electorates. He told us that the electorates within the metropolitan area were drawn upon good natural boundaries, and that the division of the country into Federal constituencies had been made with the desire to secure greater community of interest, and so forth. What has he said in his second report? He has simply declared that it is necessary to depart from his first scheme in order to provide for the rapid movement of population, as illustrated in the case of the electorate of Balaclava. I think that the injustice which has been done to rural districts in this matter is greater than appears at first sight. We have no option but to submit to the loss of one representative of Victoria in this House. But what does that loss mean? I understand that in New South Wales the quota is 4,000 less than that fixed for Victoria, and that whilst New South Wales gets another member, each of its representatives represents 24,000 electors, as against 28,000 represented bv the members returned by Victoria. The country districts of Victoria have to submit to the loss of two representatives, and the whole readjustment tends to the disadvantage of this State. We have lost a representative by a narrow majority, and New South

Wales has secured an additional one; the whole disability falls upon Victoria. The Minister has failed to show why the 1905 scheme should not be adopted. It would mean no alteration so far as the population is concerned; it would simply involve an alteration of the electoral areas. I can see no reason why the population could not be divided into the different areas suggested. I shall certainly support the amendment.

Mr TUDOR:
Yarra

– I trust that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland will be defeated. That honorable member in his opening remarks advanced the reasons given by Mr. Topp in his report of last year, but the honorable member evidently overlooked something in that report. Mr. Topp states -

In a scheme of distribution I prepared last year I found it possible, and considered it best, to leave the existing number of metropolitan divisions unaltered, though this necessitated three of them having within a few hundred of the maximum number of electors, and required the exclusion of the Borough of Oakleigh from the metropolitan divisions. In the scheme I now submit I have increased the number of metropolitan divisions to nine; the number of country divisions is, therefore, reduced to thirteen. I found it necessary to make this change so as to include in the metropolitan divisions all the State metropolitan electorates, and also Brighton, and thereby to include in them all the suburbs of Melbourne, such as Sandringham and Oakleigh, the majority of whose residents carry on business or other occupations either in Melbourne proper or in the adjacent cities of Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond, &c, and while including these suburbs, yet leave a sufficient margin below the maximum number of voters.

Now, this is what the honorable member overlooked -

I may mention, as illustrating the rapid movement of poulation which sometimes occurs, that though, in the scheme I submitted last year, the number of electors in the division Balaclava was 361 below the maximum number, the electoral population had increased in last September to 454 above that maximum number, and to 361 above the legal maximum for the present distribution.

If the honorable member’s amendment is carried there will have to be a fresh distribution, because, according to Mr. Topp’s report, the electorate of Balaclava is above the average allowedby the present Act. Honorable members of the Opposition are, some of them, apparently anxious to have the divisions of 1905 adopted, and the honorable member for Gippsland has stated that the country has 40 per cent. more population than the towns, and that the former is not represented in the Senate. I desire to congratulate the farmers of Wan- non on their farming representative. The honorable member for Wannon is a barrister, or solicitor, or some sort of legal gentleman from Collins-street or Chancerylane. No doubt, the honorable member is a good farmer - he farms the people - he is a shearer of the shearers. The proposal so much favoured by the honorable member for Gippsland would bring about the magnificent result that in the Bourke electorate there would be 33,400 electors, and in the Wimmera electorate only 22,727.

Mr McLean:

– Look at the size of the electorates.

Mr TUDOR:

– They are small’ as compared with the electorate of Coolgardie or the electorate of Maranoa; but as these are represented by labour members I suppose it does not matter. I am sure that the honorable member for Maranoa would not approve of the electorate of Bourke containing 50 per cent. more electors than does the electorate of the Wimmera. Since these figures were collected the population of the country electorates has gone down. In 1905thecountry electorates contained 354.000 electors as against 351,000 at the present time, while a similar contrast in the case of the town electorates shows 260,000 electors in 1905 as against 264,000 now.

Mr McLean:

– The country will be depopulated if Parliament continues to pass the kind of legislation which the honorable member favours.

Mr TUDOR:

– If the party which the honorable member supports in the State Parliament keeps on driving the people out of the country districts the State will be depopulated. That depopulation cannot be laid at the door of the Labour Party.

Mr McLean:

– The party in the State House are driving the people out of the towns.

Mr TUDOR:

– Not out of the towns, because there are more electors in my constituency than there were when I first represented it.

Mr Page:

– More’s the pity.

Mr TUDOR:

– I too should like to see the people going into the country, but as a fact they are being driven off the land. No doubt if the honorable and learned member for Wannon were to repeat his political history, and advocate the land tax as he did before-

Mr Robinson:

– I never advocated a Federal land tax.

Mr TUDOR:

– That is because the honorable member had changed his side before Federation came about - that is the only reason.

Mr Robinson:

– That is false.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I must ask the honorable and learned member for Wannon to withdraw that statement.

Mr Robinson:

– I withdraw the statement, and say that seven years ago, before Federation,I opposed a Federal land tax. The honorable member for Yarra knows that, and he is repeating what is not correct. I do not think that is fair fighting.

Mr TUDOR:

– I accept the honorable member’s withdrawal, but I say that before he turned his political coat he advocated a land tax, and lectured on that subject in the South Melbourne market on Saturday nights. I am sorry the honorable member for Wannon takes my remarks so much to heart. The honorable member and myself are very good friends-

Mr Robinson:

– I do not like misrepresentation.

Mr TUDOR:

– It is not misrepresentation. If the views held then by the honorable member for Wannon were held by the majority of the people to-day, and there was an effective land tax, there would be more people in the country than in the towns. If we went back to the scheme of 1905. as advocated by the honorable member for Gippsland, we should’ give certain town electorates 50 per cent. more voters than there are in certain country electorates, and one of the town electorates would be above the maximum as provided by the Act. The honorable member for Gippsland has surely overlooked the fact that there would then have to be a fresh distribution. I admit that the present distribution deprives me of three-eighths of my electors. I am very sorrv to lose the support of a lot of good people at that end of my electorate, but no doubt thev will support some one else, and I only hope that may be some one belonging to the same party as myself. The electorates of Ballarat, Bendigo, and Corio, while not city electorates, are not purely country electorates. No honorable member on the other side of the House will contend that these are country electorates. If we go back to the scheme of 1905, eleven country members will represent 275,000 electors, and eight town members will represent 260,000 electors; that is, 15,000 electors will return three extra mem bers. That, apparently, is what some honorable members of the Opposition desire.

Mr McLean:

– That would’ be well within the margin the House has already prescribed.

Mr TUDOR:

– I admit that that is so, except in the case of Balaclava, for which there would have to be a fresh distribution. There cannot be a fresh distribution for all the electorates.

Mr McLean:

– That is only one electorate

Mr TUDOR:

– But that would upset the scheme. In view of the changes of population which are taking place, and which appear likely to continue, the metropolitan electorates will grow whilst the country electorates will become, to a certain extent, depopulated. I deplore this condition of affairs, and, with others of the party to which I belong, have done my utmost to bring about what we consider would be a remedy for it. So far, we have not been successful, but we hope to be successful in the very near future. The honorable member for Dalley stated that if we were to adopt this particular scheme for Victoria it would bring the country and town electorates in this State more nearly to a positipn of equality. In the New South Wales scheme of division which we have adopted, the disproportion of voters between the smallest country electorate of Barrier and the largest metropolitan electorate ‘ of Dalley, comprising portion of the old Dalley and West Sydney electorates is 6,500, and there is a difference of 300 voters between the electorate formed of a part of Illawarra and the electorate formed of parts of Wentworth and of South Sydney. There are no two electorates, metropolitan and country, under the Victorian scheme of division, in which the numbers in each are so nearly equal. I admit that I am including amongst metropolitan electorates Ballarat, Bendigo, and Corio, though the honorable and learned member for Corio mav not think that I am justified in that.

Mr Crouch:

– Of 28,000 electors in Corio 16,000 are country electors.

Mr TUDOR:

– Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that there are only 12,000 town electors, including those in Geelong in the Corio electorate?

Mr Crouch:

– Yes.

Mr TUDOR:

– That may be so, but we might find that the same thing applies to the electorate of Newcastle in New South

Wales. Honorable members opposite can advance no reason to induce the House to vote for the amendment proposed without going backupon the decision that they have already given this afternoon in respect of the three schemes of division which we have already adopted.

Mr KENNEDY:
Moira

.- I desire to say a few words in regard to this proposal. I understand that the honorable member for Gippsland has moved an amendment on the motion to the effect that the scheme now submitted should be set aside, and a scheme which took shape some twelve months ago, but was never placed before the House, should be accepted in its stead. If it were not for some Acts which were placed upon the statute-book during last session I could quite understand the honorable member’s attitude. But in view of the amendment of the Electoral Act, and another Act passed in the last session of this Parliament, the only alternative which we have on this occasion in dealing with the motion submitted to the House is to accept or reject the proposed scheme. As I stated a few nights ago, the rejection of the proposed scheme would place me in a positionI am not prepared to face, that of claiming for Victoria at the ensuing elections more representation than her population entitles her to.

Mr McLean:

– The amendment proposes the substitution merely of oneplan for another, and both make provision for only twenty-two members.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Both make provision for twenty-two members, but my information is that if this proposal is rejected there will not be the slightest possibility of any other being put into shape in time for the ensuing general elections.

Mr McLean:

– The Government have only had this proposal before them for a fortnight, and they do not move so rapidly as to have done very much to give it effect in that time.

Mr Groom:

– We have had this scheme before us for six or eight weeks.

Mr KENNEDY:

– The proposal now submitted was published early in April.

Mr McWilliams:

– Practically, the Department has not yet commenced work on the scheme now proposed.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I have made inquiries, and have been informed that the Electoral Department is going on with its work, on the supposition that Parliament will accept the present proposal.

Mr McLean:

– For the last fortnight.

Mr KENNEDY:

– For the last two months, if not more. If the Electoral Department had not acted Upon that supposition, it would not have been possible to give effect even to the scheme now proposed in time for the next elections.

Mr McLean:

– The honorable member is mistaken. I made inquiries before I moved the amendment, and I found that there would be no difficulty at all in giving it effect.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I do not claim to know everything, but I have made careful inquiries on the subject, because I was asked to express an opinion in a portion of my electorate shortly after the publication of this scheme, and the issue of the maps, early in April. I made inquiries at the Electoral Office at that time, and more recently from the Minister in charge of the Department, and from the information I have received I am confronted with the fact that if I oppose the scheme now proposed, the only alternative will be to fall back upon the existing conditions for carrying out the next elections, and that I am not going to do.

Mr Skene:

– The honorable member is not asked to do that.

Mr KENNEDY:

– It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that we are not placed in that position, but I have taken the opinion of the Minister answerable to Parliament, and to the Commonwealth, on the subject.

Mr Wilson:

– We have heard the honorable and learned gentleman to-night, and he is very uncertain about the position himself.

Mr KENNEDY:

– When I sought his opinion, the Minister had no hesitation whatever in giving me reasons for the conclusions at which he had arrived. Unless the Minister will tell the House that some other scheme, allowing for representation on the basis of the law passedby this Parliament last session, can be given effect to. I shall be noparty to the rejection of the division now proposed.

Mr Wilson:

– The honorable member will permit the country to suffer for the sake of the town.

Mr KENNEDY:

– That is a statement which is not warrantedby the facts. Although the Commissioner states that there are. only nine metropolitan electorates under his scheme for the division of Victoria, in my opinion there are eleven, because I class Bendigo and Ballarat, ‘having a larger number of urban than of rural electors, as metropolitan electorates. In that view the scheme provides for eleven metropolitan electorates and eleven rural electorates, classing Corio as a rural electorate. I .am informed, on the best authority, that in that division there are 16,000 rural and 12,000 urban electors. The actual figures show that the eleven metropolitan divisions comprise 321,000 electors, whilst the eleven rural divisions comprise 294,000 electors. The rural districts, therefore, on the proposed basis, have an average representation of one member more than they are entitled to, assuming an equality of value for votes. That proves that there is not the injustice supposed to be perpetrated on the rural districts in this State that is alleged by some honorable members. Under the present proposal, including Bendigo and Ballarat amongst the metropolitan districts, the average number of voters for each representative in the metropolitan districts is 29,300, and in the rural districts 26,800. That gives an average of 2,500 electors more per representative to the metropolitan electorates than to the rural electorates. Seeing the condition of Victoria at the present time, and the facilities afforded to electors in this State to make representations to Parliament, as compared with those in the more distant States. I can see no injustice whatever in the scheme now submitted by the Government. I ask honorable members to compare the advantage, from the stand-point of the representation possessed by electors in the most remote division in Victoria with the disabilities under which electors must labour in Western Australia and in Queensland. Legislation which mav affect the people of Queensland or Western Australia mav go through practically without the knowledge of a single elector in a Queensland or Western Australian constituency.

Mr Frazer:

– And they are not squealing for special treatment.

Mr Wilson:

– I think they are very fairly treated, and properly so, too. 1

Mr KENNEDY:

– They are fairly, treated, but, in mv judgment, the electors in Victoria have less reason to complain than have the electors of any other State in the Commonwealth. When the Electoral Bill was before us last session, I opposed the methods by which it was proposed to arrive at an adjustment, but I stated that, when a determination was come to in the matter, and embodied in the law, I would not oppose the results flowing from it. I should place myself in an absolutely false position if I were to vote against the present motion, and would risk the possibility of it being stated that I, a Victorian representative, had voted for an amendment to give Victoria more representation than she is justly entitled to.

Mr Skene:

– We do not suggest that.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I have it on the authority of the Minister that that is the only alternative.

Mr Skene:

– The Minister has not said so to-night. He is doubtful about it.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I am not going to repeat what I have said. I wish, in conclusion, to direct attention to this phase of the question : It may pertinently be asked why the Commissioner who made a distribution twelve months ago has now made a different distribution. He gives his reason. Before the Electoral Act of 1905 was passed, a Ministry could, whenever it thought fit, come down with proposals for redistribution; but redistributions are now provided for by law, and it is enacted in the Act of 1905 that whenever, in onefourth of the divisions in a State, the number of the electors differs from the quota to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less, a readjustment must be made, and therefore, the Commissioner did not feel justified in getting too near to the maximum or the minimum in any division.

Mr MALONEY:
Melbourne

– The honorable member who preceded me made, a good point when he spoke of the saving of expense that would be effected by adopting the proposal of the Government, instead of the amendment. As an old member of the State House, it occurred to me, when the honorable member for Gippsland said that he did not want an advantage for the country at the expense of the town, that, although he was Premier, Minister, and member of the Victorian Legislature for something like twenty-three years, a single instance cannot be recalled - and I say it in all good temper - of his having tried to wipe out the infamy which still attaches to the State representation. When he was in the State House, Castlemaine returned two representatives, while Flemington and Essendon, which contained four times as many electors, returned only one, the present Prime Minister; so that a voter in Castlemaine had four times the voting, power of a voter in Essendon. I cannot remember that the honorable member for Gippsland ever fought against that system, though the party of which I am a member has always declared that a vote should have the same value, whether the voter resides in a city or in the country.

Mr McLean:

– What is the value of a vote? Is it not the influence which attaches to it?

Mr MALONEY:

– The value of a vote is the value of the human being who gives it. Human life is the only thing which is of value. For that reason, the greater population of Victoria gives her a larger representation, although she is a mere mouthful of territory, than is given to Western Australia, which is ten times as big. If area counted, how could Victoria stand against Queensland, South Australia, or Western Australia?

Mr McLean:

– I do not regard area, but the influence which a vote exercises on the government and legislation of the country.

Mr MALONEY:

– The influence of the country members of Victoria has been directed towards obtaining a disproportionately large expenditure of public money in the country. Mr. Service, who was Premier of Victoria for many years’, showed that clearly, to his eternal credit. The honorable member for Gippsland says that he does not ask for an advantage for the country as against the towns ; but he cannot get it, because this House is established on too democratic a basis to permit any such infamy. I am glad and proud that, throughout the length and breadth of Australia, every human unit has the same political value, whether living in the town or in the country. But we could never get the idea into the bucolic intellects of the country representatives in the State Parliament, and those who have spoken on the other side were, with the exception of my honorable friend, supporters of the party which took away from part of the com.munity their rights as citizens. I believe that Mr. Bent will, to his credit, soon reverse that action, although, if he does so, that little tin god, Mr. Irvine, will weep, put ashes on his head, and clothe himself in sackcloth. Why should not Victoria lose a member, and New .South Wales gain a member, if the relative populations of the States make that fair? The land laws of New South Wales have been much better than those of Victoria.

Mr Wilson:

– In what way?

Mr MALONEY:

– Companies and individuals who could command money could get thousands of acres of the mallee country for as. 6d. a square mile; but when I moved that any head of a family should be allowed to get it at the same price, these gentlemen voted against me.

Mr McLean:

– When Minister for Lands, I passed a law preventing the aggregation of mallee lands. There is no similar law anywhere else in Australia.

Mr MALONEY:

– That was a good action, and I acknowledge it, as I acknowledge another statesmanlike act in regard to the wiping out of the power of the Upper House which Mr. Irvine allowed to be reversed. The honorable member understands my allusion to action taken in connexion with the Factories Act. If the amendment were adopted, I should have a better chance of retaining my seat than if the distribution now proposed were approved of. That consideration, however, does not weigh with me against what I conceive to be the fairness of the Commissioner’s latest recommendations.

Mr McLean:

– I could not have a better proposal than that now made bv the Commissioner - it suits me admirably.

Mr MALONEY:

– In that case honours are easy, and perhaps the honorable member will withdraw his amendment. I regret deeply having to leave behind me the veterans who stood bv me for nineteen years. They always kept the flag of labour living, and thev were not daunted when Mr. Irvine, who could not keep me out of the House by fair means, destroyed my constituency by dividing it into three. I feel sure that the motion will be carried, and that the honorable member for Gippsland will fail to achieve his object. I am certain, moreover, that the veterans to whom I have referred will vote for labour no matter under what circumstances they mav be called upon to exercise the franchise. Thev will support the great cause of democracy, ar.d will always be in favour of fair and square representation.

Mr WILSON:
Corangamite

.- I am very glad to be able to support the amendment. So far as my electorate is concerned the new scheme of distribution is more favorable than the old one. Therefore, if I were swayed by personal considerations I should support the motion, rather than the amendment. I feel, however, that the Commissioner’s first proposal was a fairer one in every way so far as the residents in ihe country districts are concerned. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the very large electorates represented by the honorable members for Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, and Maranoa, and I wish it to be understood .that I have every sympathy with the electors resident in those divisions. I recognise that it is almost impossible for the honorable members who represent such large electorates to reach every portion of them, and that their electors labour under great disabilities. In considering a matter of this kind we should not allow our minds to be influenced by the class of representative that is returned for a particular division - whether he be a member of the Labour Party, a Ministerial supporter, or a member of the Opposition. We have to consider the desirability of giving the electors equal facilities for recording their votes, and for coming into contact with their representatives, and insuring that their interests shall receive due attention in Parliament. The honorable member for Yarra quoted certain figures, and boasted of the action which his party had taken with a view to securing equal representation for both town and country. I should like to remind him that on a previous occasion when the question of redistribution was under consideration most of the members of his party voted against the proposal for reducing the discrepancies between certain -metropolitan and’ countrydivisions in New South Wales. When it was proposed to redistribute the electorates in that State nearly all the members of the Labour Party voted in favour of retaining the Riverina electorate, which then had 15,993 electors, in preference to the proposed new division which would have contained 22,218 voters. At that time the Darling electorate had 14.168 electors, and it was proposed under the new plan of distribution to increase the number to 21,495. 1°- marked distinction to these country electorates the metropolitan, division of North Sydnev had 38,589 electors, and the Parkes division 36,804.

Mr Kelly:

– Hear, hear. More than too per cent, in excess of the number of electors in the Darling and Riverina electorates, and vet the Labour Party voted in favour of retaining those anomalous conditions. That is what thev call “ one vote one value.”

Mr Tudor:

– The conditions in Victoria were worse still.

Mr WILSON:

– I think that the figures I have quoted show that the Labour Party did not, on that occasion, pay full regard to the principle of “one vote one value,” to which they profess to attach so much, importance. It must be recorded to the credit of the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that they voted in favour of the proposed redistribution. But all the other members of the party voted in support of perpetuating a most iniquitous state of affairs. I think that it has been shown conclusively by the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and the honorable member for Grampians that the first scheme brought down by the Commissioner is preferable to that now before us. I notice that Ballarat and Bendigo, which are to a very great extent metropolitan constituencies, have electoral populations of 28,342 and 28,316 respectively, as against 28,180 in the proposed new electorate of Yarra. The Bendigo electorate embraces a considerable rural population, and the representative of that district would have to occupy some weeks in order to reach every part of his division. I admit that the number of electors in the Yarra division at present is grossly disproportionate, and that some alteration should be made : but the Commissioner has gone to the other extreme by allotting to the division a smaller number of electors than are contained in the proposed divisions of Ballarat and Bendigo. By the expenditure of a few pence on tram cars, or by holding one or two meetings, the honorable member for Yarra can reach the whole of his electors practically in one or two nights. But in the other case it takes weeks for a man to reach his constituents. In Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, it is practically impossible for some honorable members to reach their electors within a reasonable time. What chance, for instance, has the honorable member for Grey to reach those of his constituents who live in the northern portion of that electorate ? Absolutely none ! If the electors are to know how they are represented in Parliament, and what sort of men their representatives are, then at some time or other they should have the opportunity of meeting them. It is in every way desirable that the amendment should be carried, so that the older scheme of Mr. Topp may be adopted. It must be borne in mind that the two schemes were drawn up by the same man, and after careful revision. Both are worthy of consideration from the House.

Mr Storrer:

– Second thoughts are the best.

Mr WILSON:

– Very often, as honorable members know, a man’s best comes out in his first thoughts, and not in his second.

Mr Kennedy:

– But the Commissioner, in his report, explains why he recommends the second proposal.

Mr WILSON:

– That is quite true, but on page 4 of his report he says -

Though in the scheme I submitted last year, the number of electors in the Division Balaclava was 361 below the maximum number, the electoral population had increased in last September to 454 above that maximum number, and to 361 above the legal maximum number for the present distribution.

That only exists in the case of one electorate,but it can be altered aseasily as possible. The honorable member for Kennedy has said that it would be difficult to bring about the proposed alteration, and the Minister of Home Affairs has said that the work of re-arranging the rolls for the electorates has been proceeding upon the assumption that the new scheme would be adopted. Only a fortnight’s work has been done in connexion with the rolls. When the rolls are pinned together, each polling place is represented’ by a roll. Therefore, if the amendment be adopted, it will only be a question of bringing the rolls together in a different form.

Mr Groom:

– There is a great deal more than that involved in the adoption of the amendment.

Mr WILSON:

– The amount of work that hasbeen done isvery small indeed. If a reasonable amount of work had been done, we should not have had the Minister stating to-day, in answer to a question, that on account of the backward state ofthe rolls, it would be absolutely impossible to hold the general elections in October. By giving that answer, hereally condemns himself out of his own mouth. If the rolls were so far forward’ as he now states, there would not be the slightest reason why the general elections should not be held in October. All the facts show that it is almost immaterial which scheme of distribution is adopted to Victoria.

Mr Groom:

– The honorable member will remember that I stated that it was the Chief Electoral Officer’s opinion, and that it was based upon the assumption that we would adopt the scheme.

Mr WILSON:

– I quite understand that, but the Minister’s reply to the question, and his statement with regard to the adoption of this scheme, are not consistent.

Mr Groom:

– It is the statement of the Chief Electoral Officer.

Mr WILSON:

– In my opinion, the Minister is inconsistent in the action which he is taking with regard to this scheme. I sincerely hope that honorable members like the honorable member for Maranoa and others who represent large electorates will give country constituencies in Victoria the benefit of the first scheme by supporting the amendment.

Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.

AYES: 33

NOES: 12

Majority … … 21

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

page 141

DEATH OF MR. SEDDON

Mr SPEAKER:

– I take this oppor tunity to read a telegram which I have received from the acting Prime Minister of

New Zealand in response to the telegram sent by me yesterday afternoon -

On behalf of the Government and people of New Zealand, I thank the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia for the honour it has done to the memory of our late Premier. - W. Hall-Jones, Acting Premier.

page 142

ORDER OF BUSINESS

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I desire, by leave, to move -

That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday t f each week until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence over all other business, and that on each Thursday until halfpast 6 o’clock until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– - I should like to ask the House whether it is not well for us to reconsider the position in relation to our days of meeting. In the past the House has sat four days a week. It is an absolute impossibility for any member to read through the whole of the Bills and documents relating to the business of the House, in order to understand what is being transacted, if we sit so often. There cannot bc a better proof of that than is afforded bv noting that most honorable members.are absent half the time. From the administrative point of view I fail absolutely to understand how the work of Ministers can be got through when Parliament sits four days a week.

Mr Deakin:

– They do a great deal of the work here.

Mr CONROY:

– That accounts for the absence of Ministers from the Chamber. They cannot be doing both administrative work and their parliamentary work at the same time. Are we not in our present practice acting against all sound canons of government? If a Parliament is to do its work properly it must give proper consideration to the business before it. I say positively that there has not been an Act passed bv this Parliament during the past five years that has not been amended or does not require to be amended. The reason is not far to seek. If a Parliament sits four daxs a week arguing about matters it cannot be thinking over them, reading up in relation to them, and digesting the subjects with which they deal.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I point out to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that the motion simply has relation to de termining which days shall be set apart for Government business, and which shall be set apart for general business. The question whether Ave shall sit so many days a week was determined last week, when it was resolved that, until otherwise ordered, the House shall sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I must, therefore, ask the honorable and learned member to confine himself to the question as to Government and general business taking precedence on particular days.

Mr CONROY:

– I think I can put myself in order by pointing out that, in my opinion, Government business should be transacted only on three days a week, and that on the fourth day general business should be transacted by those honorable members who desire to stay here for the purpose. If that is resolved upon,, honorable members, I think, will find a difficulty in inducing the Government to go on with general business on the fourth day. I suggest that, under the circumstances, the Government should recast the whole scheme, and consider whether it is wise for us to be sitting more frequently and longer hours than any other Parliament in the world. I say unhesitatingly that, by meeting three days a week, we shall be sitting quite as frequently as we can if Ave are to be prepared to discuss the measures brought before us. As it happens, Ave are al’l falling into a confession of ignorance on the subjects brought before the House. If one asks a member a question about any business before the House, he generally says, “ I do not know anything about it, do you?” The answer usually is. “No. I do not.” A state of affairs like that is not a good, healthy one. Legislation ought to be slow, because Ave are dealing Avith matters affecting the whole country. We do not know how many thousands of persons mav be affected by our Acts. More especially is there a need that careful consideration shall be given to measures on only three days per week when Ave recollect that almost every one of the Bills brought before Parliament in some way or other tends to restrict the liberty of a large number of our fellow-citizens - -whether for good or ill is a matter for argument. The whole trend of legislation as introduced in this House is to limit the power of our fellow-citizens and their freedom in some form or other. Consequently the greatest deliberation is required. That deliberation, unfortunately, is not now given. I shall not move an amendment upon the motion, but I would ask honorable members to recollect that in sitting here eight or ten hours a day four days a week they must not think that they are* doing the work of the country. They are doing nothing of the sort. They are only meddling unnecessarily, as a rule. If we can get a body of men, in this House who have thought out the questions to ‘ be submitted for their consideration prior to meeting here, I maintain that three days a week will be quite sufficient to devote to the transaction of Government business. Certainly it is as much as is compatible with sound administrative work by any Executive.

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

– Personally, I think that no obstacle ought to be interposed just now which would .in any way interfere with the transaction of the business remaining to be done during this session. We have been told by the Government, for example, that many of the industries of Victoria are languishing for want of a little parliamentary attention, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will give every possible, consideration to that iwy important matter, affecting as it does so profoundly the existence of many of the industrial concerns of his own State in particular. Doubtless with a view to that end, he will seek to facilitate in every way the consideration of the matters upon which the Tariff Commission has reported. Then there are some other questions of first rate importance, which require to be dealt with this session, including financial matters, and the very important question of the continuation or the cessation of the bookkeeping system, which affects one State very particularly, and three or four others in a lesser degree. I think that the Government should be given the fullest latitude as to time and opportunity for the discussion of these very important subjects. But I would again call attention to the fact that the Ministry should at the earliest possible moment deal with matters which are of first importance, and upon looking at their programme, and perusing their declared intentions, I confess that I do not see any sign of an attempt being made to deal with first things first. However, I shall be glad to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs upon that question when we are called upon to deal with his Anti-Trust Bill.

Sir William Lyne:

– Does not the honorable member think that that is a very important Bill?

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

– I shall be very glad to hear the honorable gentleman make out a case that it is a measure of first rate importance. If he is able to show us that it is of more importance than the reports of the Tariff Commission I shall listen wilh attention. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are anxious to facilitate the consideration of the matters I have mentioned early this session, and to give the fullest attention to the recommendations of the Tariff Commission.

Sir William Lyne:

– Will the honorable member give us a new Customs Tariff?

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

– I am sure that the Minister of Tra-de and Customs is quite willing to rip up the Tariff from A to Z, and if he had his own way he would be prepared to discuss any matter which related to the conferring of favours upon any section of the community, but particularly those sections which are always appealing to Governments for further consideration to be extended to them. That is a line in which he has taken particular stock throughout his whole political career, and to-day he is only acting consistently in seeking to dole out from the Treasury more financial favours to whoever may come along.

Mr Mauger:

– How does the honorable member make out that protection does that ?

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

– I am not speaking of protection just now. Every opportunity for consideration will be given by honorable members upon this side of the House to those matters which the Government have declared to be urgent, in the hope that we may speedily get through the work of the session, so thai? the great appeal to the country may be made at the earliest possible moment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion (bv Mr. Deakin) agreed to -

That on Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, general business shall bc called on in the following order, viz. ; - On one Thursday, Notices of Motion, Orders of the Day ; on the alternate Thursday, Orders of the Day, Notices of Motion.

page 143

ADJOURNMENT

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– In moving -

That the House do now adjourn.

I have to express my obligation to honorable members upon aM sides of the Chamber for assisting us to dispose of the AddressinReply so satisfactorily, and to make a start upon the real business demanding our attention. Ihope that our goodbeginning will be continued to-morrow, and for the rest of the session.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjournedat 9.54 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 June 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060613_reps_2_31/>.