2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30, and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a reply to the communication which he sent to the Home authorities some time ago in reference to the New Hebrides ?
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform me who is to blame for bungling the information in the Port Adelaide Customs case?
– I do not know that anyone is specially to blame. The Acting Collector there applied to the Crown Solicitor of South Australia without consulting the Comptroller-General of Customs, and acted upon the advice which he received. If any bungling has occurred, it has happened in that way. The matter, however, will not rest where it now stands. Very extensive additional information has been received affecting money matters, and I believe that there will be further prosecutions.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has noticed that, apparently owing to the piecemeal manner in which the reports of the Tariff Commission have been submitted to the House, none of the recommendations contained in paragraphs1 to 14, inclusive, with reference to the proposed amendments of the Excise, Distillation, and Commerce Acts, have yet been published in the press for the information of the general community. Will he direct that the reports and recommendations as a whole shall be consolidated, published, and circulated in the form in which they were originally presented to the AttorneyGeneral ? Will he also make arrangements with the Government Printers of the States for the publication, and sale to the public, of copies of these and other reports of the Commission ?
– So far as I know, everything received from the Tariff Commission until now has been laid on the table of the House, and if the representatives of the press do not care to take the trouble to publish the information therein contained, I cannot compel them to do so. The honorable and learned member spoke to me privately last night about the advisability of printing as one publication the reports which were divided and laid on the table separately. The reason for the division was that it would have been improper to lay on the table those portions of the reports which were laid on the table the other night until the Government had taken action in regard to the recommendations submitted. Had there not been that reason for delay in connexion with the laying on the table of portions of the reports, the whole of the reports would have been laid on the table at one time. Last night however, I asked the Clerk if the separated portions could be bound together, and submitted to honorable members complete, and I am prepared to have that done. As to selling bound copies of the reports through the Government Printers of the States, I see no objection to that course, though I am not prepared at this moment to sneak definitely on the subject. If I had my way, I should not sell these reports, but should give them away. I should have a good number printed and distributed, and should be prepared to take the same action in regard to other reports which have come, or will come, from the Commission.
– I understand the Minister to say that he is prepared to give away the reports of the Tariff Commission which relate to duties on spirits. Will he do the same thing in connexion with the two reports handed to the Prime Minister last night dealing with stripper harvesters and agricultural implements and machinery?
– I said all reports, both those already “sent in. and those to be sent in. I wish to qualify my answer by saying that it was given on the spur of the moment, and without consultation with the Prime Minister or the Treasurer; but I do not think that the cost of doing what I have suggested would be much, and, if I can get them to consent to the distribution of these reports without charge, I shall do so.
– Will the Minister have the reports to which I have referred printed and circulated amongst members of Parliament at the earliest possible moment ?
– I must first take time to read them. The reports are lengthy, and I am not sure that it would be judicious to publish the recommendations contained in. them until action has been taken by the Government in the matters referred to.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following papers: -
Return to an order of the House dated 1st August, relating to canteens in barracks.
Return to an order of the House, dated 26th October, 1905, giving the estimate of cost and revenue from the Melbourne-Sydney telephone line.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Commerce Act regulations, which I understand have been laid on the table, carry into effect his decisions and the promises made to those whom he consulted on the matters with which they deal, or whether there have been variations ?
– If I had caused the regulations to be framed so that they would carry out the recommendations of all whom I consulted, they would be contradictory. I gathered all the information I could, especially from those whom I asked to come together in Sydney to discuss the subject.; but the regulations have been somewhat modified in consequence of certain representations which were afterwards made, and because the interpretation put upon the law by the AttorneyGeneral would not allow me to do exactly what I wished to do.
– The Minister has failed to reply to my question. I did not ask if the regulations vary from the suggestions made to him, but whether they vary from what he indicated to be his intentions. The Minister stated that for certain reasons there has been a variation, and I ask now if the variation is from what he undertook to do or indicated that he intended to do, or from the requests of those approaching him?
– The honorable member has put a question which it is almost impossible to answer. He does not say to what promises he refers - whether they relate to butter, cheese, bacon, hams, or something else. He asks me if I have varied my promises, and my reply is that I have adhered to my promises as nearly as circumstances would permit.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain from the Minister of Defence whether he will allow the vouchers for the money paid to military members of. and witnesses appearing before, the Hawker Board, referred to in my question of Tuesday last, to be placed on the table in the Library for the information of honorable members ?
– I shall transmit the request to my honorable colleague.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
When the Minister for Defence will arrange for the establishment of the long-promised corps of Mounted Rifles in Geelong?
– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : -
Funds were not provided on this year’s Estimates because pending the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee it was not considered desirable to establish any new corps.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - /
– In reply to the right honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– The following are the replies to the questions asked by the honorable member for Darling on the 2nd inst. in relation to the number of contract and unofficial post-offices in the Commonwealth, and the rule guiding the Department in determining whether a post-office shall be made an official or contract one : -
– I .move -
That, in order to effectively defend the Commonwealth against possible enemies, it is imperative that all able-bodied adult males should be trained to the use of arms and instructed in such military or naval drill as may be necessary for the purpose.
The motion is substantially the same as that which I had the honour to bring under the notice of the first Parliament on the occasion of the introduction of the Dofence Bill by the right honorable gentleman who occupies the position of Treasurer in the present Administration. At a later date, in connexion with the proposed amendment of that Act, I again brought the matter forward, without on either occasion pushing my proposals to a division. So far as I recollect, the objections urged against them by the right honorable member, who was then at the head of the Defence Department, were, first, that they were opposed to the spirit of the British Constitution, and, secondly, that they would cost a lot of money to carry into effect. As to the first objection, since he did not then, and has not since, explained exactly what he mea;it by it, I shall not now endeavour to traverse it. As to the second, I would point out that it is obvious that expense is no longer of vital consideration. The Treasurer has told us in his recent Budget that the country is in a most prosperous condition., and that he has an overflowing Treasury, and he sees his way clear,? I gather from an expression which he made use of in replying to an interjection by the honorable member for Bland, if the revenue is insufficient to do what he wishes, to float a loan.
– The honorable and learned member should not misrepresent me.
– Therefore, whatever objections the right honorable gentleman may have now that he is no longer a.t the head of the Defence Department, those to which I have referred will not lie. Since that time, however, a change has taken place in the attitude of manyhonorable members. And many citizens of the Empire, not alone in Austral ia, have, by reason of the irresistible logic of facts and the teachings of experience, altered their opinion. On the occasion when the National Defence League, with which I have the honour to be connected, was inaugurated in Sydney, we were favoured with the presence of the representative in this House of the Defence Department, who spoke with very great eloquence, as he always does, and with very much reason, as he always does when he is on the same side as myself. Further, on the occasion of the inauguration of the League in Victoria, the Prime Minister himself was good enough to favour us with his presence and with his advocacy, without precisely committing himself to the details of any scheme - which, indeed, he was not asked to do then, and which I myself do not now. I am not, in this matter, to be tried by what other men may have conceived to be a proper . scheme of national defence, involving compulsory .military training. I am advocating the broad principle without committing myself to any details whatever. Since there will be no opportunity of pressing this matter to a division this afternoon, I may be permitted to put forward, not at any great length, but still with some detail, the reasons why I advocate the introduction of universal military training. Australia, a country of 3,000,000 square miles, practically as large as Europe or the United States, but with a population almost as small as that of Switzerland, a country whose aggregate wealth, excluding the value qf unalienated Crown lands and public property, is close upon 000,000,000, whose annual oversea trade is valued at ^95,000,000, and whose Inter-State trade by land and sea is valued at ,£75,000,000 annually, offers as rich a prize as well could be imagined to the enterprising powers of Europe. When I add that we have a. coast line of some 8,000 miles, and that the opportunities for the landing of an enemy, or for raiding, are almost innumerable, I think that I have stated the position without exaggeration. In this morning’s newspapers a report was published to the effect that the German Emperor had stated that anti-militarism was the international plague of Europe. On the previous day it was reported that the Czar has declared his intention to rule his people, as his forefathers had done, by fire and the sword. And we know that the whole of Europe is an armed camp. Britain has not in the past - nor is she likely to do so in the future - so conducted herself as to merit, or, at any rate, to succeed in obtaining, the good will of the nations. Nations that are successful seldom do. At the present time we are protected from the aggression of foreign nations, first, by the British Fleet, and, secondly, by our own land forces. I shall have something to say with regard to the latter presently. With regard to the
British Fleet, our first and most important line of defence, it is only necessary to point out that it is magnificent, and that while it- maintains a position of superiority, we need have little or no fear of aggression. But in the very nature of things, it is not invulnerable. And, of course, it is intended for the defence of the Empire, as a whole, and not of any particular portion. The warships in our waters mav be called upon at any- time to proceed to the China seas or elsewhere; they must, in short, proceed where the requirements of the Empire are most pressing. The British Navy, resting as it does on a prestige acquired by a series of victories at the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the like of which the world has never known, is now desperately struggling, to maintain a two-power standard. Captain Mahan points out that - and I emphasize this point, because it is the chief argument of those who object to any innovation such as I propose that whilst the British Fleet is here all is well - the British Navy, magnificent and powerful though it is, is nevertheless very much less powerful relatively than it was 100 years ago. He states that a century ago the British Navy was superior to the whole of the fleets of Europe put together. At the present time, however, it is maintained with difficulty - the Navy League declares it is daily falling further from that standard - only on the basis of equality to the navies of any two other Powers. It is true that since the destruction of the Russian fleet by the Japanese, there is less menace of an effective hostile alliance against Great Britain than was ‘formerly the case. But the fact that we should now rely on the Japanese for the maintenance of British supremacy in eastern seas is not calculated to inspire with confidence those who have the ideal of a White Australia, and all that this term connotes. In any case, a life of inglorious’ ease and luxury under the aegis of a people whom we affect to despise is surely a grievous fall from the ancient traditions of our race. That the British Fleet is not all-powerful has been amply demonstrated by the Navy League of England. It is regarded as scarcely powerful enough, in view of the ever-increasing efforts of Germany to attain naval supremacy. Since that country seems to gain fresh vigour with every advancing year, and to press more strongly on towards a goal which is only too obvious, it follows that as each year passes our reliance as a portion of the Empire on the British Fleet becomes less and less warranted. Even at the best, there will surely come a time, as even the most optimistic must admit, when Britain’s supremacy will be challenged. It is obvious that in that day the enemy will not make war where it suits Britain, but at the point that will best suit themselves. The enemy’s fleet will concentrate, not after having given notice, but like a thief in the night; and in spite of wireless telegraphy and of all the other resources of modern civilization, as has been proved by Admiral Togo - a large fleet can lie hidden from the most prying eyes for weeks and weeks together. Therefore the British Fleet might be withdrawn from our coasts, and we left defenceless. What is our position? We have here now a population of 4,500,000. According to Brigadier-General Gordon, we had, in 1905, a population of some 750,000 persons between the ages of twenty and forty years of age, capable of bearing, arms. According to the returns made available by the Defence Department, we have a total fighting force of 23,582 men of all arms, or, including the administrative and instructional staff, 23,933 men. That is to say, less than, 3 per cent, of the total population, between the ages of twenty and forty years, are in any sense of the word being trained to the use of arms. I am not omitting from my calculation, although I have not yet made any mention of them, the members of rifle clubs. No doubt the rifle clubs are doing a great deal of good. I cheerfully assent to the proposal that it would be an excellent thing if every man in this country could be taught to shoot. But, after all, only a comparatively small number of persons are pursuing, ‘ in the most desultory wa.y, the practice of rifle shooting, and they are largely, if not almost entirely, untrained. We have a permanent army consisting of 1,389 men. We cannot contemplate without some feeling of amusement such a comic opera army - not as to its personnel, or its discipline, which is excellent, or its courage, which is undoubted, or those other qualities that go to make up a soldier, but in its numbers. Scattered over 8,000 miles of coast-line, and over 3,000.000 square miles of territory, what could 1,389 men do, even if every one of them were the very apotheosis of a hero? Success goes with the big battalions, all other things considered, and assuming that our Forces “were capable of the utmost mobility, and assuming that we succeeded in doing what has never yet been achieved, namely, in hurling our troops from one quarter of the Continent to another with inconceivable rapidity, and without breakdown, and assuming, further, that we were able to make the best possible use of our militia and regular troops, we should be hopelessly outnumbered and outclassed in an v serious encounter with an enemy. In Great Britain,- it is already recognised by competent authorities that the present volunteer system has failed. We have the declarations of distinguished soldiers like Field-Marshal Wolseley and Lord Roberts to this effect. The latter, whose experience has been later than that, of any modern general, except those who were engaged in the -Russo-Japanese war, who has had ample opportunities of seeing, in the course of the Boer war, what ‘British troops could do, and who saw there the efforts of an unprepared army, does not hesitate to declare that England now has an unprepared army, and, what is worse, an unprepared nation. Upon the occasion when a motion was submitted in the House of Lords by Earl Wemyss, Lord Roberts declared that the one salvation of Great Britain was to be found in some sort of compulsory universal training.
– Mr. Haldane, the present Minister of War. has expressed an opinion to the very contrary.
– I know nothing of that, but I do know that the declaration of those who are best able to form a sound judgment - I am speaking of soldiers and not merely of persons who haunt the War Office, because, after all, we must recognise that there is a great difference between men who sit in an office, and who manipulate divisional corps as if they were chessmen, and those who go to the front - including Lord Roberts, who has had an honorable career, and is now regarded as one of the chief soldiers of the Empire - is that the present system has failed, and that England is unprepared for war. Lord Roberts makes that statement, despite the fact that England enjoys a protection, which we lack, in the majesty of her fleet. Under such circumstances, how much more do we require some secondary line of defence? Notwithstand ing that Great Britain does not embrace more than one-twenty-sixth the area of Australia, that she possesses a population of 40,000,000, that she has a regular army, of which, a very large proportion is retained within her own borders, that she has a large militia and volunteer force, and a still greater number of men who practise rifle shooting, it is declared by. competent authorities that she is unprepared to resist invasion. Further, she has the Channel Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet at her disposal. Yet, in spite of all these advantages, it is unhesitatingly asserted, both by the Navy, League and the Army League, that she is quite unprepared to resist invasion. Under such circumstances, we have to consider what is our own position. This year it is proposed that we shall spend nearly £700,000 upon defence. The expenditure in this direction for the year 1906-7 is estimated at £617,837, exclusive of the Naval Subsidy, and of the amount to be expended in the purchase of rifles, and in undertaking new works. The sum which I have stated is to be utilized for the purpose of maintaining our existing forces. In the light of these figures it seems to me that we are paying a very great deal for defence, and getting very little for our expenditure. I am not at all inclined to blame any particular person for this. Upon the other hand, I am disposed to be particularly guarded in my criticism. It is very much easier to be destructive inone’s criticism than it is to suggest a practical remedy. Nevertheless, it is a fact that. Major-General Hutton, BrigadierGeneral Gordon, and every other professional soldier- irrespective of whether he be a soldier who has had1 the advantage of experience in the Imperial Army, or whether he be one who has grown up and won his spurs in the Australian service - are of opinion that our present system of defence is hopelessly inadequate. I shall say nothing regarding the way in which we are armed, because I suppose that nothing could be at once more fatal and more conclusive in its way than the statement that the number of modern rifles which we possess - I see that we are going to purchase some more - are totally inadequate to arm one-third of our forces. I am very well aware that the- principle of compulsory military training finds numerous objectors and critics. It is, of course, very much easier to sit at home and to allow other men to fight than it is to go into the field of battle and fight oneself. The reasons against’ any change are various. I know that a section of the community declares that if we had a larger population we should be better able to put up a fight. Dr. Richard Arthur, President of the Immigration League in New South Wales, in writing to the press’ concerning the amount which has been placed upon the Estimates for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth, has affirmed that we ought to spend ,£50,000 in that direction, because by that means we should secure a larger population, and thus be better able to defend our country. I admit that if, by that expenditure, we could secure immigrants to the number of those who ure pouring into Canada- - say 50,000 per annum, it would no doubt solve some of the problems by which we are confronted. That immigration would be a very good thing indeed for Australia - assuming that the immigrants were of a desirable class, and that suitable land was available for them - but the suggestion that it would solve the question of defence is, upon the face of it, absurd. Only 3 per cent, of the adult males who are available for service have been trained to the use of arms, and if the same proportion were maintained amongst the new arrivals it would mean that there would be exactly 240 persons out of every 50,000 added to our Defence Forces. ‘ The position of England is, however, a sufficient answer to Dr. Arthur’s contention. Population in itself is no guarantee of adequate defence. On the contrary, the more numerous the mob the more easily it is dispersed. I would point out that in this matter neither courage, nor wealth, nor anything else can make up for lack of discipline and skill. The report of the Committee, which was appointed by the Senate of the United States to inquire into the condition, of the American marine, states that had one reverse overtaken the’ American navy in its war with Spain, it would have been impossible to obtain fresh crews of trained men. At that time there was not one boat’s crew available for service, apart from those who were already engaged upon the fleet. For some reason or other it has been impossible in the United States to induce sailors to volunteer for the navy. ‘ Although America is possessed of magnificent resources - her power of building ships is certainly not ex- celled, if it be equalled by any other nation in the world - it is a fact that her navy would have been hopelessly defeated had any ordinary disaster overtaken her. The importance of having a reserve force available is obvious. During the discussion which took place upon this motion when I had the honour to submit it upon a previous occasion, one honorable member stated that it was an admirable thing to vest in the Government power to call upon the available population to defend the country in time of trouble. I pointed out then - and I repeat my statement now - that the Government take to themselves no new power in that section in our Defence Act to which reference was made, and which gives them the right to call the nation to arms. Every executive Government has the right to call upon any citizen or upon any number of citizens to defend the country, or to do anything else for the purpose of preserving law and order. But I would point out that to call upon men for the defence of the country who are quite unable to defend it, is but a sorry farce. To insert a section in. our Defence Act which gives us power to levy upon our citizens in time of danger - when the tocsin rings and the enemy is it at our gates’ - and which enables us to call upon every male between the ages of eighteen and sixty years to stand to their guns, is a sorry farce, unless they have received a preliminary training. The effective complement of the right to call upon our. population to defend the country is a preliminary military or naval training. In a speech delivered in 1806, Lord Castlereagh, in referring to the insertion of a similar clause in an Imperial Defence Bill, said -
The principle of that Bill rested on the undoubted prerogative of the Crown to call upon the services of all liege subjects in case of invasion ; and the only power that was added by that Bill, was the power of organizing and training those men who were subject to this exercise of prerogative ; so that, in case of invasion, the prerogative might be effectually exerted for the defence of the country.
I say that that is a salutary principle. It is an obvious corollary that the right to levy en masse must be preceded by the right to train the persons who are subject to that levy. When I submitted a similar proposal upon a previous occasion, the right honorable gentleman who was at the head of the Defence Department said that it was opposed to the spirit of the British. Constitution. So far from that being the case, it is eminently in harmony with it. It was by the practice of such principles as I advocate that all the most precious privileges and liberties which we enjoy today were obtained. And it was by a standing army that these privileges were first invaded. It was because the people of England would not permit King Charles to abrogate this ancient law, and to illegally levy taxes upon them by means of a hireling soldiery, that a revolution took place. It is pointed out in Clode’s work on The Military Forces of the Crown, volume 1, page 16’ -
When Charles I. ascended the throne, the law recognised the obligation of every citizen to bear arms, either in the country force, or in the trained band of his own town or city.
Upon page 31 of the same volume I find that-
By an early statute every free man between the ages of fifteen and sixty years was obliged to be provided with armour to preserve the peace.
Again, on page 350, chapter 18, I read -
The duty of every subject was stated to be to serve and assist his sovereign at all seasons where need shall require.
The law of England is the same in principle now, although the yearly suspension of the Militia Act does permit of the employment of a standing army. In 1757 the Militia Ballot Act was passed, the underlying principle of which was that the militia should be raised only by ballot. Prior to that; every person was liable for military service. The Militia Ballot Act provided that only certain persons, to whom the lot should fall by chance, should be so liable. That Act was passed in 1757, but its operation, is now suspended. The ancient law of England was that all the people were liable to serve in the ranks, and very properly so. “ Conscription,” which term it is attempted to apply to my proposal, is absolutely a misuse of language so applied. It does not follow, because a term when used in one sense connotes certain things that one of those things can be properlydescribed only by that term. The conscription in force in Europe - which creates an armed camp, which makes as it were the maintenance of an army one of the chief industries of a country, and draws from productivity a very large proportion of the flower of the nation - is a system to be not eulogised, but universally condemned. Mv scheme means something very different. It is that which has been adopted by a European country, which, though it may be small, is one whose history is not sullied with disgraceful defeat, nor cowardly surrender, arid which has never meekly bent its neck to the yoke of any foreign power, however great. I refer to Switzerland, which has at the present time an army that for its size, effectiveness, and cost, will compare with that of any other nation.
– Colonel Bridges is attending the manoeuvres there this year in. order to study that system.
– We have the opinionsof a very lange number of experts who have no hesitation in saying that the Swiss army to-day offers one of the most admirable^ examples of discipline, of skill in the use of arms, and particularly of effectiveness from the stand-point of speedy mobilisation, that the world affords. No other European nation mobilizes such a. considerable portion of its troops every year, nor mobilizes them as quickly as does Switzerland. It is a nation in which every man is a soldier, and every soldier is a citizen. There a citizen is a soldier by virtue of his being a citizen. I emphasize that as being the’ chief reason why a man should defend his own country. In these “ piping days of peace” - and I use the term in no derogation of peace, for it is, I suppose, the end of civilization - we see the brutalized application of force gradually being replaced by appeals to law and by other peaceful tribunals. Yet it is in this arena that Force takes her final stand, although, doubtless as. time goes on, resort to some generalinternational tribunal will replace - perhaps not in all, but in most cases - those terrible struggles that now disgrace mankind. We live, however, not in Utopia, but in an everyday world of hard facts. Those who . cry out for peace where there is no peace are men who, whatever they may, call themselves, are enemies both of peace and of their own country. The man who failed in the face of an approaching epidemic to do all that he could to build up his constitution to ward off the attacks of that epidemic would be a fool. If he insisted upon applying the same methods to his children or others under him, he would be something worse. We are living peacefully, and with no immediate prospect of war, but we are nevertheless exposed to dangers. Those dangers which may come to-da.y. to-morrow, or ten year* hence, ought to be provided against now, just as a man insures his life or insures himself against accident, the risk of unemployment, or losses by fire, not because he hopes to die very shortly, or because he hopes to meet with an accident, or believes that his building will be burnt down, but because these are risks against which every prudent person and nation provides. Lieut.-Col. G. F. Ellison, C.B., who had an opportunity to see the Swiss army at work, writes of it -
Of the Swiss Army, as a war machine, it is impossible to write in terms other than those which to any one who has never witnessed its performance, must, I fear, appear somewhat too laudatory. That it is perfect in all its details, or that it is the same highly-finished instrument, that the French or the German army is, I do not pretend to assert, but I do unhesitatingly affirm, and in this opinion I am supported by more competent judges than myself, that taken as a whole it is, for war purposes, not unworthy, so far as it goes, to court comparison with the most scientifically organized and most highly trained armies of the Continent. In some respects it even surpasses all other armies in its readiness for war, for no other military force in Europe can it be stated that the establishment in personnel is the same both for peace and war, and there is certainly no other country that I am aware of, a fourth of whose army is annually mobilized for manoeuvres on exactly the same scale of equipment and transport as it would be for actual warfare.
What are the objections to this scheme? It is said, first of all, that its compulsory nature makes it distasteful to liberty-loving people. No doubt complusion in itself is very odious. Nothing can be said in its favour except that without it civilization, peace, and very many of the blessings which flow from it would be impossible. Those who urge that compulsion is in itself so objectionable as to afford a reason why we should not adopt this scheme, should consider the functions of legislation. In these days law enters into the most complex ramifications of life, and there is scarcely one act performed by the citizens which legislation or some sort of compulsion does not control or modify. We are not in any case to choose between nondefence - the proposals of the “ peace at any price party “ - and the proposal that I make. We are to choose between a standing army, a professional soldier)’, between the present system and that which I propose. The present system is, on the face of it, hopelessly inadequate, and a standing army that would be sufficient to defend these shores would1 be impossible because of its cost. We should require 50,000 regular trained troops to offer a successful resistance to an enemy. We could not afford to withdraw from production such a number of the prime of our nation, nor could we afford to pay them even if we did withdraw them. We have, therefore, to choose between the present system and that which I propose. On the 5th August, 1903, I moved in this House that -
The mole population liable to serve in the national Militia Forces shall -
Present themselves once in each year at such times and places as may be prescribed for the purpose of undergoing fourteen days continuous training ;
Present themselves for detached drills on such other days as may be prescribed. Provided that it shall not be compulsory to attend more than 32 of such detacheddrills, aggregating a period of 112 hours….
Whilst I do not pin myself down to any of the details of that motion, it will serve sufficiently to show what is my idea as to the application of this proposal. It was proposed by me for reasons that are obvious, that the scheme should not apply to persons under eighteen years of age. This is a novel, if it be not a new, system, and it would be difficult to fix any particular age at which it would be desirable to commence the training of our male population. There is no reason why we should say that persons who are now over or under twenty-five should be exempt. I, therefore, thought, and still think, it advisable that the scheme should not apply to those who are at present under eighteen. With this limitation there would be something like 40,000 persons available during the first year, when only those under eighteen years of age would come under the scheme, and they would devote fourteen or sixteen days per annum to continuous drills. The Government Statist’s Department has supplied me with a return showing that there are in the - Commonwealth 74,000 persons between the ages of eighteen years and nineteen years inclusive, and, assuming that the number of persons of eighteen years of age was equal to the number nineteen years of age, there would be some 37,000 available for training during the first year. Therefore, the cost in that year would be only that necessary to cover the maintenance of 37,000 persons. In the second year there would be some 74,000. When all males from eighteen to twenty-one years were available, we should have, I apprehend, 108,000 persons coming under the scheme. These would constitute, as it were, the first line of defence, whilst those who had passed through the first .grade, and were in the second! line of defence, would, perhaps, have to put in a smaller number of days at continuous drill, and attend a reduced number of detached drills. We should thus have available at all times a number of persons who would be familiar with the use of arms, and would be taught to shoot. I can hardly emphasize too strongly the necessity of replacing, by rifle shooting, some of the sports in which our men engage to-day. Archery very properly was considered the national sport of England, when her military glory, having regard to her population, was not exceeded by any other nation. Her archers then won all her battles, and in these days rifle shooting plays almost the same important part. As to the cost of the scheme, the honorable member for Bland, during the discussion of this subject which took place in 1903, estimated that it would cost some hundreds of thousands of pounds in : excess of the present expenditure to carry my proposal into effect. The Government now propose to introduce penny postage throughout Australia, having £209,000 to spare for making this change; but I say, with all deference to those whose positions make them much abler to judge of the value of money than I, that it would be better to expend this amount in preparing for the defence of our country than in making good a loss of revenue consequent upon a reduction of the postage to one penny. I shall not, however, commit myself in regard to cost. I believe we could effect the change for little, if any, more than we expend upon, the present unsatisfactory and inadequate system, and it is difficult to exaggerate the gain. We should then have a nation in arms, and no enemy would dare to think of invading us, although it might bombard and raid our great cities. Not even the innumerable hordes of Asia, now awakening, could, with any hope of success, land a force in a country where it would meet 200,000 or 300,000 persons, familiar with the use of “arms, and able to shoot with precision ; and where our coastal defences, torpedo craft, and forts would be manned ‘ by ‘ a trained citizen Naval Force. No expenditure is too great to incur for adequate protection, and, therefore, arguments brought against this proposal on the ground of expense will not weigh with me. I am, however, as I have said, perfectly persuaded that the expense need not be great, being inclined to think that -£100,000 or, at the most, £200,000, in addition to that which we now spend, would give us am adequate system of defence, which in times of difficulty, would render us independent of the rest of the Empire, and able to defend our country without assistance from abroad. Now let us consider the effect of this system upon the nation in other directions/ The effect of regular training upon the physique of a nation can hardly be exaggerated. It is undoubted that sufficient importance is not attached to physical culture in this country, or sufficient time and attention given to the subject. .The effect of physical training upon not only the physique, but also the mental and moral powers of a people, is tremendous. I was made acquainted with this fact in a very simple way. At one time I lived in London, within a stone’s throw of a great barracks, and upon the other side of the water I used to see the Surrey Militia going each year to its annual training. When it went down a certain road, the shutters of many shops were closed, and those shop-keepers who ventured to present themselves to the public .view during the progress of this marvellous force, did so with fear a,rid trembling. As the men passed down the road, some had their bayonets fixed and some their bayonets unfixed; some carried their guns at the port, some at the trail, and some in other positions, not generally recognised by military authorities ; some of them held their helmets in their hands, while others wort them on their heads, but “rarely in the rightway ; and some were accompanied by females whose character, or lack of it, was but too obvious. But after the period of six weeks’ training they returned different men, changed, if not in spirit, at least in bodily appearance. They then carried their arms, in a way which the Brigade of Guards might have envied, whilst their martial bearing must have inspired every one who sa.w it. They had evidently come to recognise that there were other things in this world besides walking through the chief thoroughfares of London arm-in-arm with females’ of doubtful reputation. In short, they were men who had been physically, mentally, and morally braced. They had been treated as men ought to be treated. They had been worked hard, and made capable and decent citizens, and London and England were the better for their training, quite apart from the fact that they . had been made of service for the defence of their country should occasion arise. These remarks would be true of the training of any militia regiment. No doubt the tremendous vitality of Australians is something to be proud of ; but it is important that it should be directed into the proper channels. That is what is needed. Our people should be taught obedience, which is a primary virtue, and an essential of citizenship in a free State. I wish now to say a word about the political aspect of the subject. I do not hesitate to affirm that democracy and a standing army are incompatible. Democracies have arisen and flourished’, but they have, without exception, fallen through the one cause, having been ground beneath the heel of military despotism. If one ransacks history he will not find an instance, from the beginning of things down to now, which will disprove that statement. The Athenian the Spartan, the Roman, and the French democracies all succumbed to military despotism, usually effecting its purposes by constitutional means and the terrorism of a professional soldiery. The third Napoleon effected the change from practically a republic to a despotism by a coup d’ etat. Herr Bebel, the leader of the Socialist party in the Reichstag, declares that a citizen soldiery would prevent coups d’ etat, and is in favour of establishing such an institution. The Socialists like all decent citizens, are good patriots in this matter. They realize that it is the first duty of citizens to defend the State. Men speak about liberty and’ about compulsion, but I suppose that John Stuart Mill will be accepted as an authority on the subject. Although, in his Essay on Liberty, he goes almost to the length of advocating anarchy, he declares that it is essential to citizenship and not incompatible with liberty that men should be forced to defend their country. These are his very words-
Every one who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest. ‘This conduct consists, first, in not injuring the interests of one another . . . and, secondly, in each person bearing his share (to be fixed on some equitable principle) of the labours and sacrifices incurred in defending the society or its members from injury or molestation. These conditions society is justified in enforcing, at all costs, to those who endeavour to withhold fulfilment.
The International Socialists’ Congress of 1896 put forward as the first plank of its platform the abolition of standing armies and the establishment of a national citizen defence force, its second plank being the establishment of tribunals of arbitration to regulate peaceably- disputes between nations. It regarded as essential, and as the concomitant, the necessary precedent of tribunals of arbitration, that there shall be a citizen defence force, because at the’ back of all tribunals there must be force. Force is the sanction of law, and law, without some sanction of force, is of little, if any, value. Some people regard the Hague tribunal with a degree of optimism which - in view of the present antics of the semi-insane person who is now permitted by the Deity to afflict the Russian nation - is extraordinary. The day of universal peace is not yet. What can stand behind the decisions of the Hague tribunal but force? Why should not a nation which is peacefully pursuing its way towards a higher civilization be ready to defend itself if attacked by an uncivilized people or an unscrupulous ruler ? There is nothing to prevent it from doing so if its citizens are armed and ready to defend themselves. If it does not do so it must perish, and neither the justice of its cause nor the peaceful achievements of its people will save it from destruction. Therefore we must first prepare to effectively defend ourselves, and then, if you like, prepare for the submission of all disputes to arbitration. I am very pleased that the Socialist Party of Europe, which has been subjected of late to much abuse in this House, and in the country, has made a straightforward declaration of its attitude in this matter. Instead of a wholesale condemnation of military training, it has condemned only training such as that of which we see the fruits on the Continent of Europe at the present time. The establishment of a citizen soldiery,too, will do a great deal to kill the jingo spirit, the cheap patriotism which makes men throw up their hats and sing patriotic songs. They do that because they know that they will not have to fight themselves, but will send others to fight for them. Men who have to fight 0their own quarrels will be very careful about entering into wars. When one knows that if he insults another he will be called out to justify his action in his own person, he is generally willing to submit differences of opinion to arbitration ; but it is another matter if he can hire some one to fight for him. The existence of a mercenary professional soldiery, whose only opportunities for advancement occur in warfare, and the disturbed conditions resulting from the fomentation of quarrels between peaceful nations, is incompatible with the higher civilization, and a direct incentive to and cause of war. I might have emphasized my points at greater length, but it is sufficient for me to have shown that the present military system is inadequate, having been condemned alike by *the professional soldiers whom we have had the honour to employ here, and by every thoughtful’ man among us; that we are living in a fool’s paradise in relying entirely upon a fleet which, in the nature of things!, may be called away from our shores at any moment. We must have a navy of our own, manned by our own citizens, in such an emergency, and an armed nation in reserve. The opposition to my proposals is based largely upon sentiment. Instead of them being contrary to British traditions, they are in the highest degree in consonance with the old and admirable methods followed with such success in Great Britain for hundreds of years. Standing armies are incompatible with democracy. A professional soldiery lives by fomenting disturbances, and sees its only chance of advancement in war. To defend one’s country is the first duty of citizenship, and is one that every citizen should be taught to perform. Men should be ready to fight as they should -be ready to vote. It is proposed in Victoria to adopt what I believe is already the law in New Zealand, and tq make it compulsory upon electors to vote. It should be also compulsory for citizens to fight if necessary. In fact, the statute law of the country compels every one to fight, if called upon. I merely ask that citizens shall be trained, so that’ they shall be able to fight if called upon, and so that we may, by being prepared for war, insure everlasting and honorable peace.
– I think we may all congratulate the honorable and learned member upon having made the best of his case; and if there is anything unconvincing in the argument, the fault does not lie with him. He has told us that the opposition to his proposal will naturally fall under two heads, namely, that of expense, or of coercion. He considers, however, that, whatever objections may be urged upon these two grounds, the extreme urgency of his proposal entitles it to the consideration of the House. I do not oppose the motion from any consideration of the extra, burden that would inevitably be imposed upon the taxpayers if the proposed scheme were carried out, because I have always held that money well spent in defence is money soundly invested. Moreover, I do not oppose the motion because I hold that the State has not the inherent right to compel every Australian citizen to perform military service. I think that the State has that right. The motion now before us was introduced last session, when its discussion was deferred, and I regret that the honorable and learned member has not had an opportunity to bring it forward at an earlier period of this session. The Prime Minister has only to-day given notice of a motion for the abolition of private members’ business for the rest of the session - a motion which, although’ I quite agree with it, will have the effect of preventing the full discussion of the motion so ably moved by the honorable and learned member. It is solely because I realize that anything to be said against the motion must be said now, that, with all due humility, I propose to make a few unprepared observations. I should like to ask the honorable and learned member what purpose the forces he proposes to raise are intended to fulfil? He has told us that the proposed training will have a very beneficial effect in improving the physique of Australians, and- also that the force of trained men who will be placed at our disposal will have the effect of preventing an invasion of our shores. On which of these grounds does the honorable member mainly rely? If he rests his case upon the ground that the proposed training will improve the physique of Australians, why does he not propose to debit the Education Department with the cost? The defence of Australia should not be hampered with the cost of training men solely with the object of improving their physique.
– The physical improvement would incidentally follow from the military training. The country would have to be defended even if the training did not result in an improvement of physique.
– Then I understand that the’ honorable and learned member thinks that his motion can stand upon its merits as a defence proposal. Upon that point I join issue with him at once. In the first place, the honorable and learned member stated that the system he advocates has been adopted in Switzerland. He told us that the defence forces of Switzerland could be very easily mobilized, and that the system adopted there was in other respects highly beneficial. He did not explain, however, how it would be applicable to our conditions. In the first place, Switzerland has not chosen her present system of defence solely because it is the best, but because she is debarred by her Constitution from maintaining a standing army. Granting, however, that the present system is best adapted! to the needs of Switzerland, I would point out that that country has an area of 16,000 square miles, and a population of something less than 3,500,000. In other words, she has 207 persons to every square mile, whereas our population per square mile is only one and one-third - men, women, and children. Whilst it would be very easy to mobilize a universal military force in a small country having a population of 207 persons to the square mile, it would be a work of insuperable difficulty in a country like Australia. To form a regiment here under such conditions might involve the mobilization of all the males capable of bearing arms over one-half of the Continent. For these reasons, if for no others, the Swiss system is absolutely inapplicable to our conditions.
– The same arguments might be used against the maintenance of a standing army.
– We have no standing army.
– I do not advocate a standing army. With, regard to the guarantee which the proposed scheme would afford us against invasion, I would point out that the distances in Australia are too vast to permit of it being defended by means of a land force alone. The forces that we at present maintain are not designed with a view to repel invasions. They are almost entirely coastal defence forces - in other words, forces complementary to sea power. Forces such as the .honorable and learned member is proposing to raise would be of no use whatever for the defence of Australia against invasion if the command of the seas passed from the British Empire. The honorable member for Bass will appreciate the position that his State would occupy if the command of the seas were lost by Great Britain. In such an event, Tasmania would be an easy prey to the enemy, and would probably be the first portion of the Commonwealth lost to us. So far as the rest of Australia is concerned, the great bulk of the people are congregated in the south-east corner. If Great Britain lost command of the seas, it would cost us more to transfer our forces and forward supplies and ammunition to the scene of operations in an unsettled portion of Australia than it would cost a hostile power. Let us take the case of a hostile force landing in Western Australia. If the enemy held command of the seas, he would be able to forward munitions and supplies for the troops engaged in Western Australia at a cost of about 15s. per ton, whereas, even though we had a railway right through, our transit charges to the same place would amount to £4 or £.5 per ton. Who would wim in a struggle of that character - a nation of 50 or 60 millions under such favorable conditions, or a people of four millions waging war at such a disadvantage? Obviously, by the mere process of exhaustion, we must go under. Therefore, the true defence of Australia does not rest with proposals such as that put forward by the honorable and learned member - iri fact, it does not rest with any system of land defence pure and simple.
– Where would the honorable member obtain men to make up his sea forces ?
– Will the honorable member a’llow me to excise from his motion the word “ land “?
– The difficulty is that the word “ land” does not occur in the motion.
– Then the honorable and learned member is making me a present of something that is valueless. He has spoken a great deal about Switzerland, and I should like to know whether Switzerland has a large navy?
– No. It must be taken for granted that it is not required.
– If the honorable and learned member wishes to see an Australian naval power built up on proper Imperial co-operative lines, I shall be willing to give him all the help in my power. The true defence of Australia must inevitably rest upon sea effort. In this connexion the honorable and learned member seems to have arrived at some alarming conclusions. He seems to think that, because theBritish naval power happens, for the time, to be concentrated in European waters, Great Britain gains some measure of safety from those fleets which we in Australia do not share. He declared that our dependence upon the British Navy must yearly become less and less satisfactory. . I quite agree with that statement so far as it goes. My only desire is to make the Imperial Navy a co-operative one, in which we can all take an equal interest. The honorable and learned member is, however, quite wrong in thinking that the fleets which Great Britain maintains in European waters do not protect us equally with the Home shores. The idea to which he has given expression has been very actively pushed in Australia by persons who should know the real facts of the case. As a matter of fact, quite recently there has been a concentration of naval power in the North Sea, and upon the northern coasts of Europe. The British dispositions have been made with a view to having an adequate naval force upon the spot the moment there is an outbreak of war. There would not be the slightest sense in the Empire maintaining fleets in the China Sea or in Australian waters if the ships which they were required to attack on the outbreak of war were 10,000 miles away. They must keep as close to the enemy whom they wish to track down as they conveniently can. The British Admiralty have given effect to that policy, and in consequence the honorable and learned member for West Sydney has mistaken their motive. In conclusion, I should like briefly to refer to the authorities which the honorable and learned member has quoted in support of his proposal. He cited the opinions of a number of very distinguished soldiers. It is a matter for general congratulation, I think, when we see a member of the party to which the honorable and learned, member belongs quoting the testimony of military authorities in opposition to the opinions of the parliamentary officers who are charged with the administration of Departments. The officers whose opinions he has quoted are certainly very anxious to increase the standing and the power of the purely land forces of the mother country. But the Minister of War, who is responsible to the people of Great Britain for their present system of defence, has in unqualified terms . denounced any departure from that system in the direction of conscription. In one of the ablest speeches ever delivered by any Minister in submitting the War Estimates to the House of Commons, Mr. Haldane explained his ideas regarding the form which the second line of Britain’s defence should take. He gave the. strong adherence of the War Office to the principles of the blue water school - the principle of affording home security by naval effort off the enemy’s coasts. He then went on to point out that, as Great Britain is the dominant naval power, an interval of from six months to a year must elapse after the outbreak of hostilities before her shores could be seriously threatened with invasion. He declared that no nation could invade England while she maintained her mastery of the seas, and he added that, under any circumstances, her naval supremacy could not be wrested from her, in all probability, in less than six months or a year.
– Who said this?
– Mr. Haldane, the Minister of War. The honorable and learned member is not pleased-
– Why did he not tell us the number of days and hours during which England could maintain her naval supremacy ?
– Probably if he had thought that there was anybody who was so capable of appreciating his views as is the honorable and learned member he would have gone even to that length. But he did not think that the ordinary member of the House of Commons required spoon-feeding. He pointed out that, inasmuch as the interval which I have indicated must elapse before England would be open to invasion, it would be possible for her - the moment war was declared - to devote herself to the training of the raw material at her disposal in time to convert that raw material into good soldiers before that crisis of invasion really came. He said that Great Britain’s duty should be to concentrate her attention upon her main objective. He also declared that she could not do everything that might be desired in the way of defence. She could not afford to maintain a predominant navy and a supreme army. That being so, he urged that she should devote all her energies to the maintenance of her sea-power, only retaining as a secondary insurance against the risks of war a skeleton military machine with all the parts, which could not be completed at a moment’s notice, permanently ready - a machine with all the necessary knowledge and staffs ready, but a machine, to use his own words, into which “ the rills of men could flow “ when the time for use arose. That is his opinion of England’s necessities in this connexion, and her necessities are upon all-fours with our own. Our position is the same as that of England in all particulars, so far as the general policy of defence is concerned. I fear that I have already occupied a longer time than I had intended to occupy in addressing myself to this question. I deeply regret that I have not had as full an opportunity as I could wish to answer the case presented by the honorable and learned member. He has presented his side of the question in a speech of his customary ability, and after very careful preparation. If any member remains unconvinced of the wisdom of his proposals after having listened to his speech, it is not because of the advocacy which they received from the honorable and learned member. I have had no opportunity to prepare myself to submit the other side of the case, and if my speech is unconvincing - as, probably, it is - it is not because the merits of the question are not upon my side,but solely because of the way in which I have put it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McCay) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the law relating to appeals by public servants as set forth in section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902.
.- In moving -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I desire to place on record the existing conditions in relation to fire insurance. I find that the fire insurance companies operating in Australia are doing so under State laws. In the majority of cases, they are working under special Acts and under regulations which, though they differ in subsidiary matters, are, in the main, in agreement. I propose that the Commonwealth shall embrace this opportunity to exercise the right conferred upon it by subsection xiv. of section, 5.1 of the Constitution, which reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to : -
Insurance, other than State insurance ; also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned.
I think that that provision is sufficiently broad to enable this Parliament to take such action as it may deem to be necessary to regulate the conduct of the business carried on by fire insurance companies in Australia. In looking through the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, I see that its authors, at the end of their observations upon insurance, say -
Whether the Federal Parliament could pass laws determining the manner in which Federal corporations should enter into contracts is a question for judicial determination when the case arises.
That is the only statement, so far as I can gather, which questions the right of this P arliament to enact laws relating to fire insurance companies. Whilst I hesitate to set my opinion in opposition to that of the authors of the work from which I have quoted, I entertain no doubt whatever that under the Constitution we have power to legislate in respect of that subject. Most people are aware that both the life and fire insurance companies carrying on business in Australia own the best buildings in our cities, and conduct their operations in the most pretentious style. Apparently, they have plenty of money at their command. It seems to me that there is only this difference between the position of the life insurance companies and that of fire insurance companies. The buildings of the former represent the savings of the community, and the provision which has been made against possible disaster by our people. I am afraid that, on the other hand, fire insurance companies owe their affluence and their magnificent buildings in a great part to the deception that they have practised upon those with whom they have had business transactions. I have experiencedsome difficulty in obtaining the information that I desired to present to the House. In the first place I wrote some time ago to something like sevenforeign insurance companies operating in Australia, asking them in courteous terms to supply me with copies of their balance-sheets. In response to these communications I received only one balancesheet. Some of the companies promised to furnish me later on with copies; others said they had none at hand, and’ others again offered to supply me with any information I might desire on calling at their offices. Two of them had not even the courtesy to reply. In these circumstances I am not in a position to present any statistics, relating to the business of these foreign corporations; but from the Banking and Insurance Record I have obtained some interesting information relative to the position of the sixteen Australasian companies carrying on business in the Commonwealth. I propose to place on record some figures showing the position which these companies occupy, and I shall endeavour later on to indicate the means by which they make their profits. The South British Company, which has its head office in Auckland, in 1901 had a capital of £64,628, and its reserves amounted to £140,000. In 1904 its reserves had increased to £300,000, showing an advance of £160,000 in respect of its operations, with a capital of £64,628, in three years. The profit which this company made in 1904 was £76,101.
– And one big fire might cut down all that profit.
– But the position of this company is no different from that of the average company in the matter of losses sustained during the period under review. In 1904 the company made a profit of £76,101, and declared a dividend of £19,388, which was equal to 30 per cent. on its capital. The Victorian Insurance Company, with a capital of £50,181, in 1901 had reserves amounting to £36,888. In 1905 those reserves had increased to £88,838, and it had undivided profits amounting to £10,158.
– Does the honorable member disapprove of these companies building up reserves?
– I am not disapproving of their operations in that regard; I am simply endeavouring to point out that the business in which they are engaged realizes for the shareholders enormous profits. Later on, I propose to show the sources from which those profits are derived. The Victorian Insurance Company in 1905 made a profit of £27,571, and declared a dividend of £17,975, more than 30 per cent. on its capital of £50,181. The New Zealand Insurance Company in 1900 had a capital of £200,000, and reserves to the extent of £255,000; in 1904 it had built up those reserves to £401,519.
– It is a good thing to have a big reserve fund when! a great fire takes place.
– That is so, but I would point out that these companies donot take exceptional risks in connexion with scrous conflagrations; risks in respect of large policies are distributed over a number of other companies. The profits of the New Zealand Insurance Company for the year 1904 amounted to £62,098, and it paid a dividend of £30,000 or 15 per cent. on its paid-up capital. The Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Company has a capital of £62,500. In 1905 it had a reserve fund of £121,500, made a profit of £17,136, and paid dividends to the extent of £9,312 or 15 per cent. on its paid-up capital. To put the position shortly, the sixteen Australasian companies operating within the Commonwealth in 1904 had a total capital of £1,058,285. In 1905 their total capital was £1,101,409, showing an increase of £43,124 for the year. During the same period their reserves increased to the extent of , £1 18,952. Their undivided profits amounted to £48,742 - and these were really reserves - and in 1905 they made a profit totalling £350,567,or £53,774 more than the profit made by them during the previous year. During the same period with an increased capital of £43,000 they paid an increased dividend of £23,603, or more than half the amount of the increased capital. These figures show that the Australasian companies operating in Australia are in an exceedingly prosperous condition, and that they are building up their reserves’ at a remarkably rapid rate. It is evident that they are carrying on a business which is far more prosperous than is that in which ordinary financial agencies engage. It is interesting to learn how these profits are made. I have on record statements made by several leading business men in Westers Australia - and particularly in Kalgoorlie - in which it is claimed that these vast profits are secured as the result of excessive charges. I believe that excessive charges do contribute partly to the enormous profits realized by these companies.
– The honorable member refers to excessive premium charges.
– I do; but there are other methods of building up profits. The owner of the second largest soft-goods business in Western Australia accompanied a deputation to the Government of that State, and urged the establishment of a system of State insurance, in order that the people might be relieved of the exorbitant charges of- the insurance combine operating in that State. That request was indorsed by other business men in Western Australia, who complain - and justly complain, I believe - of the high charges imposed by those companies. Whenever an alteration in the law relating to fire insurance companies is proposed, those interested in them speedily raise an outcry. It will be said, no doubt, that the States themselves should take action in the direction I propose. Why have they not done so? Unfortunately, the States Parliaments at present are not so constituted as to be very amenable to a request on the part of the people for consideration in- this direction. Their Upper Houses in each case are an effective harrier to any interference with the privileges and powers of financial institutions. Circulars in regard to this Bill have been distributed amongst honorable members, but I have been excluded from the lists of recipients. Some of these circulars have been sent out anonymously, and do not altogether escape the charge of impertinence. .In these circulars a strong point is. made of the contention that insurance means indemnity, andi that this Bill will bring about an alteration in that regard. But I say that, whilst insurance should mean indemnity, it certainly does not under the existing conditions, because one of the contracting parties does not intend to pay. What I propose is that those who insure shall be able to obtain the amount of insurance due to them when the disaster against which they have insured overtakes them.
– This Bill means that insurance is profit.
– -It means nothing of the kind. It means that fire insurance companies shall not be able to contract them selves out of their liability, and to accept risks in the absence of an intention to pay.
– It might mean that they would have to pay five times the amount of the loss.
– In what part of the Bill is there a provision that could be so construed ?
– It is pure imagination on the part of the honorable member. The Bill contains no such provision. It is wonderful how some people call out directly there is submitted to Parliament a proposal trespassing upon! the particular preserves of the boodlers of this country.
– The honorable member is proposing to create a new industry - that of fire-raising.
– I am trying to put an end to the industry of the fire insurance companies who refuse to give to those who have insured the amounts for which they have paid1 premiums. To my mind, the methods of the insurance companies are very unsatisfactory. In the first place, they make very little examination, if any at all, of the proposed risks. Although, they have agents in different places, it frequently happens that valuators are not sent out to inspect the properties which it is desired to insure. But, although the person who wishes to effect an insurance may not be satisfied with the conditions imposed in the policy of any company, he is compelled to accept them, because the conditions in the policies of the other companies are in the main the same. What usually happens is this : The person wishing to insure makes a proposal, and a fire insurance company accepts the proffered risk. Later on a fire occurs. If there were no fires, there would be no insurance companies; but, although it is often insinuated that there would be fewer fires if there were no insurance companies, many fires occur for which no one is to be blamed. After the fire the company sends an adjuster to ascertain the amount of the damage. He is very often paid a commission on the reduction that he can effect in bringing about a settlement, and is consequently interested in getting the person insured to accept a smaller sum thani that upon which he has been paying premiums. Frequently accompanying the adjuster is a builder, sometimes a bogus one, who, in the event of a contract being let, would not be able to erect another building. They, having viewed the premises, the person insured is informed that the place can be rebuilt for so much, and that sum is offered without prejudice, being, invariably less than the amount stated on the policy. The person insured may fume, but what alternative has he but to accept the offer?
– He can allow the company to reconstruct.
– On that point I will read one of many letters which I have received from persons who have had dealings with fire insurance companies. This letter was sent to me by a reputable citizen of Kalgoorlie, and I shall quote it because of its moderation, and because I know that every word contained in it can be verified by an independent inquiry into the facts alleged. My correspondent writes - 950 Bourke-street, Boulder City, 12th July, igo6.
I received your ‘ letter, and I see you wish to be reminded of the actual facts regarding the fire which occurred at my place on January 16th, when my home and furniture were totally destroyed. The fire started in my sisterinlaw’s bedroom, through the curtains coming against a lighted candle. My house and my furniture were insured with the Commercial Union Insurance Company for ^250 and ^75. Of course, after the fire, I made my claim ‘o the insurance company. After waiting about fourteen days the company’s adjuster, Mr. Horner, arrived, and I met him, and he had a builder named Heron with him, and we took measurements of what remained of the house. After about nine days, I received a wire, “ Heron’s price to rebuild £180, offer you that amount without prejudice. HorneT.”
That is, £70 less than the amount upon which he had been paying premiums -
Well, I tell you, I was surprised, as the place cost me well over ^300 to build. I immediately wrote back, and said that the only offer I could accept was the place rebuilt as it was before, or the full amount df the insurance, ^250. Mr. Bignell, who lives next door to me, told me that the way he heard Heron and Horner ‘speaking he did not think I would get a fair deal. After another week’s delay I was informed that Mr. Horner would be up on the fields again, and would see me himself.
By this time thirty days had elapsed -
I met him, and he had Heron with him again, and he asked me to accept the money, ;£i8o, but I told him I did not want any money, I wanted the place rebuilt as it was before. He «aid that they would start to rebuild right away, but when I told him I wanted to see the architect’s plans of the place he proposed to build, he was taken back. He thought he was just going to run up any sort of place, but I would not consent to any building going up without an architect and proper plans and specifications. Horner then took me to Mr. Cummings, architect,’ Lane-street, Boulder, and instructed him to draw up plans and specifications, and gave him the measurements of the place. Well, the trouble began then. The architect made me “get a copy of invoices for nearly every item in the place, such as box framed windows, size and make of doors, stamped metal ceilings, fly screens foi windows, and fly doors, and every little item that was outside of Jarrah timber. As the timber and materials were all purchased in the Boulder, I was able to get them, although it gave me a great amount of trouble. Another week’s delay -
By this time thirty-seven days had elapsed - and the plans and specifications were finished, and, on the whole, it was a fair thing, and about as near as could be expected. But I had to keep getting notes from the timber merchants to make the architect put them in. Another fourteen days’ delay, and Mr. Horner arrived again, and I asked him when they were going to start and build. He said he was not satisfied with the plans, and I asked him what part he was not satisfied with, as I had got all the proofs his architect wanted. He said he would underline all he took objection to, and would then send the plans back to me. He then -
That is, after about forty days - offered me ^225 in settlement of my claim for ^250 for the house, as I had received the ^75 for the furniture. But I told him again that the only offer I could accept was the full amount of the insurance or the place rebuilt. Another week’s delay, and the specifications were sent back to me with all Mr. Horner’s objections underlined in. red pencil, and I had to prove every detail. Mr. Horner said if I could prove his objections he would recommend that my claim should be settled in full. One item in the specifications that he underlined was - stamped metal ceilings at 22s. 6d. per square, and I produced a copy of Wills and Company’s invoice to show I had paid 37s. 6d. and 2&s. 6d. per square for all stamped metal used in my place. The studs in my house were only iS in. apart, and in the new plans they were 2 ft. apart. But the architect told me that there must be a little give and’ take in these matters. Well, when I satisfied them of all materials they took exception to the way the place was painted, but I had lost patience. I wrote direct to the head manager in Perth, and went and saw the Kalgoorlie manager, and told him that unless I had a speedy settlement I would publish the full details of my case in the. press. I also instructed Mr. J. N. Brown, solicitor, to write a letter for an early settlement. I had also engaged an expert builder to go through the plans with me, and he told me that the place could not be built for under ^300. Anyhow, I do not know whether it was the solicitor’s letter or my threatening to write to the press, but the company settled up with me in full, after keeping me waiting over sixty days.
– That is worthy of a blackmailer.
– It was a deliberate attempt to blackmail. No other language is applicable to the transaction. I am surprised at the moderation of the writer, considering the difficulties and aggravation to which he was subjected by tie company -
Well, I went and saw Mr. Brown, and paid him £11s. for writing a letter, and when he saw the cheques he told me that they had not added the exchange, which is 5s. for every hundred pounds. I also told him I had to pay Mr. Greenwood, builder, £2 for his services assisting me with the specifications and plans. He advised me to write for the exchange and builder’s expenses’. I wrote, and I think that they were afraid I was going to publish details in the Gold-fields press, so they sent a cheque for the exchange’ and builder’s expenses. When I insured my place the company’s Fremantle manager was in Kalgoorlie, and he came out and inspected the place, and was fully satisfied, and asked me to make the furniture ; £100, but as I just had the money in the house I let it go at £75. Now, it seems to me that this insurance company will insure your place for a certain sum, and when a fire occurs, they employ their adjuster to try and arrange terms so as they will not have to pay the full amount, and the only reply one can get if you write to the head-office is that the matter is in the hands of their adjuster. Now, you can use my name in connexion with these details, as I am prepared to swear on oath that every detail is correct, and the way I was humbugged was disgraceful, and it was only that I was so sick of the whole affair that stopped me from writing all details to the press. I have rebuilt on the same ground, and I have one room less than I had before, and the place has cost me £252 2s. 6d. This is not the only case, for since I was burnt out I have heard of dozens of others who have been served the same way, and I suppose if I had not had my father and brother to stand by me I would not have got on so well as I did, as we lost everything in the fire. The only thing was, I knew that the place could not possibly be built for £250. Well, I think that is about all, but when I see you again I will tell you a few more details of how I was humbugged.
The writer happens to be a relative of the Chairman of Committees in this Chamber, and is one of , the most reliable men that I ever met. I have received many other letters making a similar complaint, but they are couched in slightly exaggerated language. Moreover, they do not put the case in the same able, complete, and, at the same time, moderate manner that Mr. McDonald has done. In his case, there was no inquiry, and there was no suspicion of foul play, but the company tried to bring their power and influence to bear to force Mr. McDonald to accept their terms, rather than fight the case through the arbitration proceedings and the Law Courts. There are some cases in Australia that have remained unsettled for years. I propose, to give honorable members some statistics bearing on this question. We are told by the companies that they desire to settle points in dispute as soon as possible, and I take it for granted that this desire; if it existed at all, would be most strongly manifested just prior to the preparation of their annual balance-sheets. The companies which are sufficiently frank to show in their balance-sheets the amount of their unsettled claims - seven out of sixteen companies do not do so - would naturally be anxious to reduce the amount of unsettled claims as much as possible. I find by reference to the balance-sheet of the South British Insurance Company that the losses sustained in 1904 amounted to £159,550, and that claims amounting to £57,599 were unsettled. The Australian Mutual Company sustained losses amounting to £7,000, but they do not indicate the amount of the claims that they refused or - as they would doubtless put it - were unable to settle. The New Zealand Insurance Company sustained losses in 1904 amounting to £273,000, whilst the claims unsettled amounted to £67,969. The Victorian Insurance Company sustained losses amounting to £36,000, whilst the unsettled claims amounted to £7,800. In all, sixteen insurance companies sustained losses aggregating £755,000, and nine companies show unsettled claims amounting to £192,000.I am sure that I shall be within the mark in. saying that if the other seven companies had made a declaration as to their unsettled claims, the claims not paid would have aggregated at least , £300,000. Therefore, it appears that the companies have paid 60 per cent. of their losses, and have failed to settle claims representing 40 per cent. of their liabilities. I think that these figures furnish an effective reply to the argument that insurance companies endeavour to settle claims as soon as possible. Personally, after having listened to the statements made to me by their unfortunate victims, I do not believe anything of the kind. I believe that they endeavour, in most instances, to induce the insurer to accept less than the amount to which he is entitled, and that if he refuses to compromise with them, they are not anxious to pay over the money which he has a right to claim. I wish to quote some of the conditions included in the policies of the insurance companies. I admit that the companies are justified in inserting provisions against fraud or misrepresentation, or any act of the insurer that would result in their undertaking an unreasonablerisk. But many of the conditions which they impose are in the highest degree inequitable. One of the conditions is as follows: -
If, after the insurance shall have been effected, there shall be any erection or alteration or extension of the premises, or any erection or alteration or appliance or apparatus for producing heat . . . the policy shall be void.
Any erection or alteration, let honorable members remember.
– What is the date of the policy the honorable member is reading?
– It bears no date. I am reading from a copy of the Commercial Union Company’s policy, which was in operation until last month. I believe that new conditions have been imposed since. In connexion with the argument that has been used in some quarters that the insurance company must be protected against the removal of goods that were in a building at the time that the stock was insured, I would point out that they have power under the conditions to cancel the policy at any time. Therefore, they are in a. position to protect themselves against any undue risk on account of a reduction in the value of the goods originally insured.
– What notice have they to give ?
– The condition reads-
If, during the currency of this policy, the company be desirous of discontinuing the risk, the company shall have the option of cancelling the policy on giving notice in writing to the assured.
No term of notice is specified. This provision seems to me unjust in view of the fact that the insurer cannot have thepolicy immediately cancelled, if he so desires.
– Yes, he can, under the new policy.
– I see, on reference to the new policy, that what the honorable member states is correct. It is provided -
The insurance may be terminated at any time at the request of the insured.
That is a more generous provision than the one inserted in the old policies.
– Is there any provision for a refund to the insured upon the cancellation of the policy ?
– Yes, there is provision for a refund of the premium for the unexpired period, less some small penalty. There is another provision in connexion with the Commercial Union Company’s policies, which reads as follows: -
Persons insured by this company sustaining any loss or damage by fire are forthwith to give notice thereof at the office of the company, or to the agent of the company, through whom the policy was effected, and, within fourteen days, deliver in writing as particular account of their loss or damage as the nature of the case will admit of, such account of loss to have reference to the value of the properly destroyed or damaged immediately before such fire, and shall verify the same by the production of their books of account.
I have here an opinion furnished to me by a member of the legal profession in Western Australia, whose firm carries on one of the largest insurance businesses in that State. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to disclose the name of my correspondent, because, if it became known that he had communicated with me, the insurance companies would make things very unpleasant for him, if they did not actually ruin him. This gentleman writes to me as follows : -
Most policies require that the insured has to supply receipts and vouchers, and produce books as required by the company within the fifteen days. Very often all these are burnt. The company asks for them, and because they are not forthcoming, use this as a threat to enforce a reduction in the amount of the claim.
The writer is more competent than is any honorable member in this Chamber to speak on this; question. He does not speak under the influence of bias. He does not support my proposal, but he thinks that some of the present harsh conditions should be done away with.
– Can the honorable member give us the name of his authority?
– I have already stated! that I cannot make public his name ; but I do not mind communicating it” to the honorable member in confidence.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of the books being the first things burnt ?
– Yes. I have ; but I do. not think that because books happen to be the first things burnt the person insured should be deprived of the amount to which he is entitled under his policy ; but fraud finds no support under this Bill. It would be fair to insist that a man should supply such documents as could be reasonably furnished. To take advantage of the assured in the way that I have outlined is to obtain money by the most objectionable means imaginable. The rebuilding clause, which is embodied in the conditions under which the policies are issued is one under which the most reprehensible practices are resorted to. The way in which the game is worked is most ably demonstrated in the letter which has been written to me by Mr. McDonald. In the Commercial Union Company’s policy it is stated that -
In every case of loss or damage by fire for which the said company shall be liable, the same, on being duly proved, shall either be paid within sixty days, or the said company shall have ‘the option with all convenient speed, to rebuild, repair, or reinstate, or replace the property insured, and in the case of buildings, to put them into as good and substantial a condition as they were in at the time such fire happened.
It further provides -
If any difference shall arise in the adjustment of a loss, the amount, if any, to be paid by the company shall, whether the right to recover under the policy be disputed or not, and independently of all other questions, be submitted to the arbitration of some person to be chosen bv both parties, or of two indifferent persons, one to be chosen by the party, and the other by the company ; and in case either party shall refuse or neglect to appoint an arbitrator within 28 days after notice, the ‘other party shall appoint both arbitrators; and in case of the arbitrators differing therein, the amount shall be submitted to the arbitration of an umpire, to be chosen by the arbitrators before they proceed to act; and the award of the arbitrators or umpire (as the case may be) shall be conclusive evidence of the amount of the loss, and the party insured shall not be entitled to commence or maintain any action at law or suit in equity upon this policy until the amount of the loss shall have been referred and determined as hereinbefore provided, and then only for the amount so awarded.
That condition is contained in the new policies under which the combined companies are working, and I maintain that it compels a man to resort unwillingly or otherwise to arbitration before he can secure justice from the Court. The fire insurance companies nearly always employ a man in whom they have implicit trust to act as arbitrator, and the insured having appointed his representative, a difference generally arises as to who shall be the umpire. In instances the companies - by refusing to agree to an umpire - succeed in indefinitely delaying the settlement of cases. Doubtless, that practice accounts in part for the £192,000 which represents the amount of the unpaid claims which stand on the books of the companies at the present time. My legal friend also expresses the opinion that nearly every policy issued provides that no legal proceedings shall be taken until after arbitra- tion has been resorted to, and indicates the result. a He says -
In one instance, one company would not give any reasons for not paying. They simply would not part. They went to arbitration, and after that expense they still would not part, and would not give any reason for doing ‘so. They did not pay, and the assured could not afford to fight, and he never got a bean. A man should have the right to sue without arbitration, or the company might be given the right to claim arbitration, but if so they should be bound to pay the amount , awarded without being allowed to make other defences. A favorite practice by companies is not to pay, not to refuse to pay, and not to give any reasons for not doing so. When this occurs the assured is placed in this position : He reads the numerous and stringent conditions of his policy. He finds after consultation with his lawyer that it would be easier for him to walk a tight rope than to live up to all these conditions. He imagines all sorts of things, from want of authority on the part of the agent of the company to his own defective compliance with the conditions. He has before him the expenses of first arbitration, and secondly a supreme court action. He is probably compelled by his lessee to build, whether the company pays or not, and possibly there is a hungry mortgagee looming largely on the horizon with threats. He generally accepts what the company offers or gives.
I know that statement to be an absolute fact. The insured are generally forced, by reason of their own helplessness, to accept just what the companies choose to give them. In connexion with the provisions relating to arbitration, I note that the conditions attaching to new policies go further than did the old policies, in that provision has been made for the death of an arbitrator. In the new policies it is provided that in the event of an arbitrator dying before the arbitration proceedings have been completed, another can be appointed in his stead. That provision has no doubt been inserted as the result of the experience which the companies gained whilst they were working under the old conditions. In the majority of cases, however, the insured dies before the arbitrator. I have endeavoured to point out the way in which the conditions attaching to existing policies harass and endanger the rights of the assured. But I would direct attention to still another provision of which advantage has been taken. It has been decided in the Courts of Western Australia that the agent of a company is the agent of the insured. The legal friend to whom I have previously referred says -
One of the conditions on most policies is that the. agent of the company is for all purposes deemed to be the agent of the assured, and not of the company. The effect of this is that if the agent makes a mistake and the assured suffers, the mistake being made by his agent he must stand the loss. The company is in nowise liable. Such a condition ought- to be rendered inoperative.
Another provision which does not appear to be a legitimate one, although I do not see that any very great amount of damage can be done under it, is that which requires any person who effects an insurance for, say, £500, and who takes out a second policy, to have the second insurance indorsed upon the first policy. I have no objection whatever to a company being notified of the existence of Ohe second insurance, and whilst it is right that the first policy should be indorsed upon the second, it is not right that the second policy should of necessity be indorsed upon the first. But in Western Australia a company has successfully pleaded that, because the second policy had not been indorsed upon the first, it was not liable. I now wish to show the way in which this Bill will operate if it becomes law. In this connexion I mav say that a circular has been forwarded to some honorable members, headed, “ Some remarks on a Bill relating to fire insurance brought in by Mr. Frazer.” It is an anonymous circular.
– Where was it circulated?
– The copy which I hold in mv hand was presented to me to-day by a Minister.
– Does it show by whom it was printed?
– Do not advertise it.
– But I wish to advertise it, because I desire to refute a statement which it contains,’ and which was repeated in a. leading article which appeared in this morning’s A,gus. I have never expected to obtain the truth from the Argus. It is a journal which is associated with all the big financial undertakings of this country. It is owned bv men who have no sympathy with the unfortunate individuals who may be the victims of a fire, and whose insurance money - perhaps amounting to - may be all that stands’ between them and destitution. But thev have an extraordin ary sympathy with the great fire insurance companies of this country, which possess a capital and a reserve fund amounting to about £>. 000, 000. They exhibit their sympathy with these companies by lying - either deliberately or ignorantly - in refer ence to the provisions of this Bill. The first statement contained in the article which appears in the Argus is also repeated in the circular to which I have alluded -
A man insures for so much-
The writer at this point is dealing with the system of insurance in America - and if he had a fire - and fires are constantly occurring in America - it is held that he should receive the amount named on the face of the policy irrespective of the actual amount of his loss. Even reinstatement is objected to, for it is thought that anybody having a fire should be entitled to make a profit out of it.
Further on we have the statement -
But it is desired by a member of the House of Representatives that the crude notions of the back-wood American States should be adopted in Australia, and a Bill introduced by Mr. Frazer (W.A.) is designed to carry out this wish.
That is a charge which I repudiate, and hurl back at the writer.
– It is made not against the honorable member, but against the Bill itself.
– The making of such a charge against the Bill indicates on the part of the writer an ignorance which would be tolerated only on the staff of the Argus. The writer goes on to say that an injustice would be done to firms insuring for large amounts if this Bill were passed -
But should the Bill now before the House of Representatives become law, a firm that has taken out a policy for say ^’100,000 to cover the maximum amount of its stock during the year, and experiences a ‘total loss when between seasons its stock is worth only £60,000, will be able to claim ,£100,000, and make ^40,000 on the operation.
That will not be possible under this Bill. Clause 5 provides that -
In the event of total loss covered by a policy, the insured shall, notwithstanding any stipulations contained in the policy, be entitled to recover from the company the amount insured by the policy, and upon which the premiums have been paid ….
– Then the honorable member is asking for something more than an indemnity?
– That is not so. I think that insurance should not be more than indemnity, but the position should be such that the man who takes out a policy may rest assured that he will be indemnified. At present he cannot do so. The evidence that 1 have presented to the House shows that he runs a risk of being deprived of the amount properly due to him under the contract. The managers of fire insurance companies are not simpletons ; we may fairly assume that they are conversant with all the difficulties which surround their business. When a man is insuring his furniture or other goods, he has to make a statement as to the contents of the building in which they are housed.
– But those contents often vary.
– That is so ; but how does the company determine what the building actually contained when it was, destroyed ?
– The policy - holder has to prove what he had in it.
– Exactly; and under this Bill the person insured would not be paid anything in respect of goods that were insured but not in the building when it was destroyed.
– The Bill as it stands does not provide that.
– I think it does. If my honorable friends of the Opposition can express more clearly my intention as to what shall be the position of a tradesman with a fluctuating stock, I shall be prepared to consider any amendment they may move in that direction. It cannot be said that my proposal is one that has bean hurriedly arrived at. I have given it careful consideration. A man who insures a fluctuating stock against fire has to prove his losses when he makes a claim under his policy ; he has to prove that the articles in the inventory have been destroyed.
– There is no inventory in some cases.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon ; I have seen these inventories.
– There is no inventory in the case of merchandise.
– In that case the matter is dealt with by an average adjuster.
– That is so in some cases. Under this Bill, unless a. man can prove that he has lost that in respect of which he makes a claim against the company with which he Kas insured, he will be held guilty of fraud, and will receive nothing. That disposes of the objection raised by the genius* who wrote the subleader in the Argus to which I have referred, and raised also by the genius who has distributed amongst honorable members an anonymous circular in denunciation of this Bill.
– It does not dispose of the objection, because that objection remains in the Bill itself.
– I fully recognise that the honorable member for North Sydney has had great business experience, and if he can arrive at a better means of giving effect to my intention I shall be prepared to (jive every consideration to it. We have in this, sub-leader the further statement that -
As a general rule the principle involved in a “ valued policy “ is wrong.
If it be wrong for a mam. to be held responsible to pay that which he has contracted to pay - and that is all that a “ valued “ policy, when properly safeguarded, can be claimed! to do - it is the first time that I have heard the principle so described. If it be wrong it is wrong only when.1 applied to a lire insurance company.
– It is only a promise to pav up to a certain amount!
– But the companies contract themselves out of paying the losses provided for on the face of the policies. I have proved that, I hope, to the satisfaction of the House.
– Do they not contract to indemnify losses?
– They do, but I claim that they do not, carry out that contract. Under this Bill a valuation would have to be made. When a life insurance company receives a proposal for assurance the applicant has to submit to a careful examination. The policy-holders in the company willingly pay for this examination, in order that it may be determined whether or not the applicant is a fit person to assure. But when a man proposes to insure against fire, the fire insurance companies do not require that his business shall be valued. They simply say, in effect, “ We will accept this risk. It will not matter much to us, because we shall not pay if disaster overtakes the man.” There is another statement in this exceptionally inaccurate sub-leader to which I desire to refer. It is as. follows : -
There is an immoral feature of the Bill which is to be gravely reprehended. It is that it aims at making existing contracts, entered into in good faith, null and void, so far as one party is concerned. Whatever may have been agreed upon by the fire offices and the assurants that is contrary to the provisions of the Bill is to be abrogated in favour of the assurants. If the Commonwealth Parliament is going to invest itself with the right to nullify private contracts, where will the mercantile world ultimately find itself landed?
Those who make that statement - and it is indorsed in a circular sent to the representatives of Tasmania by managers of insurance companies operating in that State - are ignorant of the contents of the Bill. Clause 2 provides that the Bill shall not come into force until 1st January, 1907, while in clause 3 it is provided that it shall apply only to .policies “ issued, made, or renewed after the commencement of this Act.” No sane individual, who has not a desire to slander the man responsible for this Bill, would assert, in these circumstances, that it is designed to nullify contracts at present in existence. Another objection raised in circulars that have been distributed amongst honorable members is that the method which the Bill provides for ascertaining partial losses is a very crude one, The Bill expressly sets forth what method shall be adopted in the event of mutual agreement being impossible.
– And what a method it is!
– Can the honorable member suggest a more reasonable one?
– I could not suggest a more unreasonable one.
– Can the honorable member suggest a tetter method of carrying out the intention of the Bill that justice shall be meted out to the insured ? If he can, I shall be prepared to accept it. In sub-clause 2 of clause 5 it is provided that-
In the event of partial loss covered by a policy, the insured shall, notwithstanding any stipulations contained in the policy, be entitled to recover from the company compensation equal to the amount of the loss sustained, but not exceeding the amount insured by the policy. Such loss shall be ascertained by mutual agreement or by the sale of the salvage, and a deduction of the amount received therefrom from the amount of the policy.
This will render it impossible for a company to refuse to pay, and to invite the person assured to fight it. It gives the parties the option of arriving at any method of settlement that mav be thought desirable, but, at the same time, it places the assured in such a position that, in the event of a mutually satisfactory settlement being impossible, the matter can be dealt with in a definite and decisive fashion. My experience leads me to believe that this is the only way in which
Ave could deal’ with these companies.
The provisions relating to the event of total loss are not to apply - where misrepresentation, fraud, or any act of the insured in failing to comply with any reasonable requirement of the policy is proved against the insured.
– A lot of legal proceedings would arise under that provision.
– Not so many as arise now, when the companies take a particular delight in harassing those who have suffered loss by fire. It is impossible to frame provisions which will prevent the legal fraternity from profiting. The Bill, however, requires that matters shall be decided as soon as possible, sub-clause 4 of clause 5 enacting that -
It shall be competent for the insured to bring an action in any Court of competent jurisdiction under this section at the expiration of one month from the happening of the event or contingency insured against.
– Why does the honorable member prefer legal proceedings to arbitration ?
– Because, at the present time, arbitration proceedings are sometimes so protracted that the companies, in preparing new agreements, Have made provision for the death of one of the arbitrators. If the honorable member proposes an amendment, making it competent for the insured to demand~~ arbitration at the expiration of thirty days, and compelling companies to pay whatever sums are awarded against them, I shall be prepared to, give consideration to it. Under the Constitution, however, we cannot prevent either an’ insured person or an insurance company from appealing to the Courts, if either party thinks fit to do so, and my desire is that disputes shall be settled with the least possible delay. There are many other matters with which I could have dealt. I have received many letters from persons who have suffered loss by fire, and have made statements criticising the actions of the companies concerned; and more figures might be presented to the House to show that the companies are in the position which I have declared them to hold. Many more arguments than I have used might be adduced in justification of my proposals. I think, however, that I have shown the urgent need for safeguarding the interests of those who insure with the great financial institutions carrying on business in Australia by preventing the repudiation of liabilities. In my opinion, an effective and proper system of fire insurance will be secured only by the ultimate establishment of a national system. In a circular issued to-day, the insurance companies say> that if the Bill be passed they ‘ must take other methods to protect themselves, by which I suppose they mean that they intend to still further harass those who have dealings with them. The Bill, however, if carried into effect, will go a long way towards mitigating their harshness towards those who are insured. I do not think that its provisions will interfere with the operations of companies doing a legitimate business, but they will prevent insured persons from being robbed by adjusters who receive commissions on the reductions which thev effect.
– There can be no doubt about the importance of the measure j though, if I read it aright, the fire of the honorable member’s ambition will, if allowed to hold sway, spread other fires throughout Australia. I regard the Bill as a fire-stick, and am not convinced by the statements of the honorable member that it means what he has explained it to mean, and . not what is the literal effect of its provisions. In opposing the measure, I do not intend to take the part of the insurance companies. No doubt most honorable members are the insured, and very few are insurers or have any interest in insurance companies. I, for one, have no such interest. I once held shares in a fire insurance company, but, instead, of making the gigantic profits pictured by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I lost all that I had invested, and would be very glad to make him a present of the scrip, if I still possess it.
– Was the honorable member knocked out by the ring ?
– No; the company lost its money. The fires were too numerous for the premiums.
– That has been the fate of a good many companies.
– The Government ought to clearly declare its position with regard to this measure, legislation in regard to insurance being one of the powers given to the Parliament by the Constitution. In my opinion, there is reason for the enactment of a comprehensive
Commonwealth measure dealing with the subject. In connexion with fire insurance companies, it would be well to establish a standard policy, which would be fair toinsurers and insured alike. Many of the difficulties which occasionally, though not frequently, arise in connexion with the settlement of claims might be removed by the substitution of fair standard conditions for the differing conditions which, now exist, and occasionally allow companies, if they desire to push things to extremes, to put those who are insured to a great amount of trouble in making good their claims. The provisions of the Bill are most undesirable. Clause 5 providesthat
In the event of total loss covered by a policy,, the insured shall, notwithstanding any stipulations contained in the policy, be entitled to recover from the company the amount insured by the policy, and upon which the premiums havebeen paid.
Therefore, if a person had insured his stock for £100,000, and a fire occurred when he had only £25,000 worth on his premises, he would be entitled to recover the amount insured by the policy. Subclause 3, which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie says would prevent that happening, would have no such effect. It reads -
The above provisions shall not apply where misrepresentation, fraud, or any act of the insured in failing to comply with any reasonable requirement of the policy is proved against the insured.
– The question which would arise would be, what has been the total loss?
– “ Total loss” is a well-known insurance term, which has been interpreted by the Courts over and over again. .
– The goods must have been destroyed to enable an insured person to obtain compensation for them.
– Not under the Bill. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, in framing the measure, evidently had in his mind only one class of insurances, those covering houses and risks which do not alter materially from time to time. Such risks are a portion, possibly only the minor portion of .the business of the insurance companies.
– It is only fair to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to say that he is prepared to accept amendments to express his intentions, if they are not already expressed in the Bill.
– We have to deal with the measure as it has been placed before us. The honorable member apparently forgot that very large and important branch of insurance business - the insurance of stocks of merchandise. Merchants who wish to be safe must insure to an amount which will cover the full value of the merchandise likely to be in their stores at any particular time.
Mr.Fisher. - Their maximum carrying capacity.
– They insure on that or something very close to it. If they do not,the loss must fall upon them. Insurances are, therefore, effected upon the value of the largest quantity of merchandise they are likely to have on their premises when their stocks are at the fullest. But these stocks vary from day to day and f rom month to month, as the stores are filled by the arrival of heavy shipments, and emptied in the ordinary course of trade. In this way, stock may dwindle from a value of £100,000 to a value of £25,000. But, under the Bill, if a merchant had insured his stock at £100,000, and his premises were burnt down when they contained only £25,000 worth of merchandise, he would be able to recover the whole amount insured for.
– No; only the amount of his loss.
– That may be the intention of the measure, but it is clearly provided that, notwithstanding any stipulations contained in the policy, the insured shall be entitled to recover from the company the amount insured by the policy, and upon which, the premiums have been paid. The provision in regard to misrepresentation and fraud would not apply, because there would have been no misrepresentation. The merchant would have told the insuring company that his stock is a varying one.
– Does he not make a statement as to what he had in stock?
– No. He simply insures for £100,000, and the company contracts not to pay him £100,000, but to indemnifyhim for loss up to that amount, which loss he has to prove.
– I think that provision is made for a contingency of the character indicated by the honorable member, but if he thinks he can make the intention clearer I have no objection to accept an amendment.
– I contend that the proper course would be for the Government to introduce a measure dealing comprehensively with the whole subject of fire insurance, and that any attempt at piecemeal legislation should be discouraged. We could embody in such a measure provisions that would remedy any wrongs now inflicted. It is perfectly clear that, under the Bill as it now stands, a person insuring for £100,000, and having only £25,000 worth of goods in his store at the time of a fire, could claim the full amount payable under his policy.
– That would be no more dishonest than the method of averaging adopted by the companies.
– I am not saying anything about honesty or dishonesty. I contend, however, that it would be a very bad thing for the community if we enacted any such provision as that referred to. The honorable member for Bland must see what any such provision would lead to. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie states that the third sub-clause would get rid of the difficulty. But I would point out that in the case to which I have referred there would have been no misrepresentation or fraud, or any failure to comply with the reasonable requirements of the policy.
– The honorable member is referring to a case in which there would be only a partial loss, and not a total loss.
– The honorable member is confused as to the meaning of the term “ total loss.” It has a recognised meaning both among insurance people and’ in the Law Courts. The term “ total loss “ is applied to a case in which the whole of the goods insured have been totally destroyed, and are of no value. The honorable member assumes that if an insurance policy were entered into for £100, and goods of that value were destroyed that would be a total loss. There is, however, no connexion between the two things. Now we come to the provisions dealing with partial loss. It is provided in sub-clause 2 -
In the event of partial loss covered by a policy, the insured shall, notwithstanding any stipulations contained in the policy, be entitled to recover from the company compensation equal to the amount of the “loss sustained, but not exceeding the amount insured by the policy.
Now we are on different lines altogether. That is the law at the present time. It is further provided -
Such loss shall he ascertained by mutual agreement, or by the sale of the salvage, and a deduction of the amount received therefrom from the amount of the policy.
In other words, the insured is to receive not an amount representing the difference between the value of the goods in the store at the time, and the salvage - which would be fair - but he is to be entitled to the difference between the sum realized by the salvage and the amount of the policy. Therefore all that he would need to do would be to refuse to come to an agreement - and how many agreements would be arrived at under the circumstances - in order to0 obtain an amount representing the difference between the sum realized for the salvage and the amount of his policy. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie might have been less free in his remarks in regard to those who have criticised his measure. He has referred to them as supporters of “boodlers,” “liars,” “insane, “ and “ ignorant. “
– The honorable member is not justified in making that statement. 1 used those terms in regard to certain persons who had made specific statements which I had shown to be untrue.
– The hon»orable member used some of the terms in reply to an interjection of mine. He said that we were supporters of “boodlers.”
– Is not that true?
– No, it is not true ; and I think that the honorable member for Barrier ought to deprecate the use of expressions in which he does not indulge himself. The honorable member accused those who had criticised the Bill in a certain way of being “insane” and “ ignorant,” but I think that I have shown by my reading of the Bill - if I am not ignorant or insane - that objections can reasonably be urged against it.
– Does the honorable member say that the mart who made the statement that the measure would alter existing contracts was not ignorant?
– That maybe. But the honorable member used his opprobrious terms so freely that he apparently included all his critics within the same category.
– Nothing of the kind.
– However, as the honorable member is still young, he will have plenty of time to mend his ways. The honorable member spoke of the desirability of having an exact valuation made before insurance. He apparently, again, had in his mind properties such as houses. I would point out to him that you cannot arrive at an exact valuation of stocks which are always varying. The goods in a warehouse or general store are subject to change from time to time, and it would be impossible to permanently fix a valuation upon them. I admit that a certain valuation can be placed upon a house when it is insured, and I agree with the honorable member that all prudent insurance managers should take care to assure themselves that a man is not over-insuring his property.
– -They do not care ; thev will take as much as thev can get.
– That is not mv experience, because, whenever I have bad mv furniture or house insured, an officer has always been sent to inspect, and ascertain whether the valuation was proportionate to the amount of the insurance.
– That is the experience of most of us.
– It is prudent for the agent or manager of a com”pany to guard against deliberate attempts at over-insurance, but I would point out that, even in the case of house properties, the valuation made at the time of insurance ceases to apply after a little while. Depreciation is always going on. Sometimes houses are left untenanted, and become knocked about, and sometimes the market value of property in certain, localities depreciates. The risk of fraud in connexion with house property is not so great as in connexion with merchandize, if the full amount of the insurance had to be paid, but there would still be some chance of the owner of house property obtaining an amount in excess of its value. I believe that the wiser insurance companies are reasonable in their dealings with their clients, but I quite agree that there may be cases of hardship. In all cases of contract hardship may occur when the question of performance comes to be dealt with. The only way in which that hardship can be overcome is by securing a reasonable policy of insurance - a policy which has. not been drafted with a view to conferring undue advantages upon either party to it. As long as there are clauses in these policies which enable difficulties to be put in the way of a settlement of claims, cases of hardship will occur. But the proposals of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would create a condition of affairs which would be infinitely worse than is the present. Most certainly this Bill, if carried in its present form, would lead to the establishment - and that without a Government bonus - of a; new industry - I refer to the practice of insuring stock for a larger amount than it would be worth at the time disaster overtook it, although the amount of the insurance might not be an unreasonable one at the time the insurance was effected. The Bill would lead to all sorts of fraud being committed.
– 1In my worst statement I did not cast such a slur as that upon the commercial community.
– I have not cast a slur upon any section of the community. Judging by his speech, the honorable member has evidently not struck a community of angels. Whenever an opportunity presents itself to make money by means of fraud it will, be availed of by some persons. This Bill would grant a bonus to that sort of thing, and I hold that fire constitutes a great danger to the community. It is not merely the individual with whom it starts who may suffer, but thousands of others. Consequently, the less we encourage fires the better. The honorable member alluded to the considerable profits which were made, and the large reserves which were held, ‘by some of the companies. I should be very sorry to see our fire insurance companies without large reserves. What would they have to fall back upon in the absence of such reserves ?
– I did’ not denounce the reserves.
– But the honorable member mentioned the reserves as a reason why we should deal with the companies.
– I merely pointed out the enormous profits which have been made.
– The honorable member pointed to considerable profits and to large reserves. I say that if our insurance companies were not financially strong enough we might have to enact legislation in the interests of the insurers. But the stronger they are financially, the more secure are the insured, to whom losses which the companies were unable to satisfy would be a very serious matter indeed”. In certain cases there may be some reasonable objections urged against the practice of average to which reference has been made. I know that the companies now declare that they do not apply average except to a hazardous risk unless the amount of the insurance is over £10,000. If a man insures his stock for £10,000, and keeps goods worth -£5,000 more in his store, they claim he becomes his own insurer for £5.000, and consequently he should share to that extent in any loss which may be sustained.
– But is it fair that the fire insurance companies should afterwards accept the full premium from him ?
– The claim of the companies is that if he acted properly - inasmuch as he had only insured his stock for two-thirds of its value - he would be establishing an insurance fund for the remaining third, and that he ought to credit that fund with the premiums which under other circumstances he would have paid upon that third.
– That is not the point.
– The companies urge that the policy-holder is the insurer as well as themselves,_ and that he ought to bear his proportion of the loss. The honorable member for Hindmarsh says that, although the individual is required to pay a premium upon £10,000, he would receive less than that amount if disaster overtook him. The answer of the companies is_ that that circumstance is due to the fact that the individual is partly his own insurer.
– Then, why do they take the full premium?
– Their claim, they argue, is not an s unreasonable one. Thev are ready” to insure the whole of his stock, and if he will only insure a part of it he should bear his proportion of the loss. There are instances, however, in which I believe the companies refuse to accept the full amount of the risk. In such cases it is not fair to apply the average clause. But under any circumstances, I think that the application of that clause by the companies is rather to their disadvantage than otherwise. The only benefit which can possibly accrue from it is that persons mav be induced to insure for a larger amount than thev otherwise would. The strongest objection that I see to it is in cases where insurance companies refuse to accept the full amount qf the risk, and compel a man against his will to bear a share of any loss which may be incurred. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will declare the intentions of the Government in respect of this measure, which will have very farreaching effects. I cannot dream that it will be agreed to in its present form, but even if it be passed with amendments, it may lead to the . imposition of higher insurance rates, because, undoubtedly, the insurance companies will be rendered liable to larger losses.
– -But there-will be a better chance of the insured getting his claim satisfied
– I believe that the honorable member did cite one case in which an insurance company, or its adjuster, was absolutely wrong. Personally, I have no reason, to entertain too friendly a feeling towards these companies, because I have had one or two struggles with them. But, in a business of this description, there must be strong safeguards. If the Bill were amended so as to make it provide only for the payment of the actual loss, it would be useless, because provision is already made for that in our existing law.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has gone back to the principle of indemnifying the insured in the event of partial loss.
– But the Minister will note that sub-clause 2, of clause 5, provides -
Such loss shall be ascertained by mutual agreement, or by the sale of the- salvage, and a deduction of the amount received therefrom from the amount of the policy.
That is really giving effect to sub-clause 1 of that provision. Under such circumstances, is it likely that the parties would arrive at any agreement? The measure is important to the whole community. It deals with a matter in which strong safeguards must be provided against fraud. Those safeguards are in the interests of the community, and in a Bill of this description we should not deal with one aspect of insurance only. Further, any measure dealing generally with the subject should be brought forward by the Government.
– (Darling Downs; - Minister of Home Affairs) [6.14!.- I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is deserving of credit for having initiated a debate upon the very important question of fire insurance. It is a matter of very grave moment, and is one which, so far as legislation is concerned, should not be entered upon lightly. The principles of law relating to fire insurance have been more developed in the United States than iri any other country. But the Commonwealth is in even a better position to deal with this matter than is the United States. There, the question is a matter for State law. But the central Government have felt the necessity for dealing with it from a national stand-point. These fire insurance companies extend their ramifications through the whole of the United States. The Commonwealth has full power under the Constitution to deal with this matter. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has put before the House many important considerations relating to fire insurance, and has also referred to questions that do not affect the principle enunciated by him, that a person who has sustained total loss by fire should receive the full amount for which he has insured. That is practically the principle of the Bill itself. There appears to be a certain element of unfairness in the case which he cited. A firm insures its stock for a very large amount, and annually pays large’ premiums, but when a fire takes place on its premises, the amount which it receives is based only upon the actual losses, although the insurance company itself has been receiving annually large, sums of money on the basis of a larger amount.
– But the firm was fully covered at the same time.
– Quite so. It is worthy of consideration whether, when a company is carrying a very heavy policy, and knows that that policy is in excess of the fair valuation of the property to which it relates, it might not be advisable to have a refund of a certain amount.
– That proposal is too complicated.
– I am not suggesting that it should be adopted. I am merely dealing, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has done, with the equities of the question. But I do not think it advisable simply because of inequity to strike at the very foundation of the law relating to fire insurance. The whole structure of fire insurance is based upon the principle of indemnity. The insurer agrees to pay to the insured the loss that he sustains - he agrees to indemnify him against that’ loss, and in return premiums are to be regularly paid. I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie made his position very clear.
He said that he did not desire to do an injustice to the insurance companies, but he emphasized the point that a person who had insured against loss by fire should be indemnified against any loss so sustained. He said, in effect, “ Here are two parties to an agreement. On the one hand, we ha.ve powerful insurance companies, with a big organization behind them, laying down the terms of a policy. On the other hand, we have the person desiring to be insured, who accepts that policv in good faith, and expects to be indemnified under it. I wish to make sure that that person shall be indemnified the loss he sustains.” He emphasized the point that the difficulties in the way of the person seeking compensation should be reduced, and I think that the House will sympathize with that view.
– The honorable member went somewhat .further.
– That is so. He pointed out that there was a difficulty in securing adjustments.
– The Bill does riot deal with that question. ‘
– I have already mentioned that it does not. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie also referred to the arbitration clauses in these contracts, and, in doing so, touched upon a very important question. Those who have a, knowledge of insurance conditions are aware that some of them are highly technical, and give rise to much difficulty.’ ,
– Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are in favour of the Bill ?.
– They sympathize with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to the extent that they realize that the question should be taken into early consideration, but they think that it should be dealt with in one comprehensive law relating to fire insurance.
– And life assurance.
– We hope that the House will have an opportunity to deal this session with a Bill relating to life assurance. My own opinion is that, in pass- ing a -comprehensive measure relating to fire insurance’, it might be advisable to adopt the suggestion made by the honor-, able member, and1 approved bv the honorable member for North Sydney, that there should be a standard policy for the whole of Australia. That is practically the principle which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been emphasizing.
– I think that it is, although the condition which he desires to enforce is one with which some honorable members cannot agree. If we decided to have a standard insurance policy, we might consider the -precedent of the United States. Great difficulty was experienced there owing to the different insurance laws of the different States. At page 182 of The American Academy of Political and Social Science it is pointed out that-
– Is the quotation designed to illustrate the scope of the Bill ?
– It will show that some of the States of America were forced to adopt the standard policy. The writer states that -
The progressive and aggressive companies sought to make an attractive form of policy, while some others issued ‘forms which apparently afforded an opportunity for contests in case of loss.
The various steps that were taken are traced by the writer, who proceeds to point out that -
Five years later the Massachusetts legislature enacted a law providing for a standard form of policy, and in 1880 the use of this form of policy was made mandatory for all companies operating in . that State. In 1886, the legislature of New York adopted a standard form of policy, which became mandatory 15th January, 1887. This policy was devised by the superintendent of insurance -
This is. the point that I desire to emphasize - after consultation with insurance officials and organizations.
It was not dictated by the companies -
It was carefully prepared, and while not entirely ideal, is the best and most satisfactory fire insurance contract yet brought into anything like general use. It has been made mandatory by seven other States, and is used generally in all the States where the statutes do not forbid.
The writer then proceeds to name the States that have adopted the standard policy. I repeat that the Government do not think that it is desirable to deal with this question in the form proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. We consider that, when we deal with, the question of fire insurance, we should do so in a comprehensive measure, so that the Commonwealth law on the subject may be found in ‘ the one statute. It is a matter that requires careful investigation and comparison. The Government are prepared to take it into immediate consideration, and at the earliest possible date to prepare and present a comprehensive measure dealing with insurance legislation. That will not prevent the honorable member from again bringing forward the proposals that he has submitted to-day, and he certainly deserves credit for having brought this very important question under the consideration of the House.
– I do not wish the Bill to be read a second time before the Government have had an opportunity to make up what they call their “mind” in regard to the attitude which they should assume in regard to it.
– It is open to the honorable and learned member to move the adjournment of the debate.
– I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– As a matter of fact, I should not accept a motion for the adjournment of the debate from the honorable member for Corinella after he has spoken to the question ; butI presume that, in the circumstances it is the desire of the House that I should do so.
Honorable Members.- Hear, hear.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made in this Bill by the House of Representatives.
– May I mention, Mr. Speaker, that I have laid on the Library table a copy of a short statement with reference to the Immigration Act This will meet a suggestion made in Parliament in consequence of a misleading notice having been placed on mail steamers and random allegations made elsewhere relative to our immigration laws. It is a very short notice, and will be headed by an outline map of Australia, giving some idea of its extent arid its railways. It puts in simple language the position in regard to our immigration law.
– What has been done with the notice?
– We have been asked by the States to prepare for their immigration agents something which they can use for the guidance of those likely to come to Australia. This statement will meet that request.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th August (vide page 2520), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the item, “ President,£1,100 “ be agreed to.
– No doubt the Treasurer has placed before us statements and figures which are very gratifying to these who desire to see Australia advance and prosper, the prosperity of the Commonwealth during the past year having been very great. It is to be remarked, however, that this has been due almost entirely to the returns from primary industries. The Budget shows clearly that no country in the world, including even those which are protected by the highest import duties, is in as prosperous a condition as that of Australia. That fact ought to silence the talk which we have heard about the strangling of our industries. It is evident that in a country situated as we are, with large tracts of undeveloped land, for many years to come we must rely chiefly upon our primary industries. The Treasurer referred to the development of our export and import trade, and called attention to the fact that there has been a decline in our trade with the mother country, and a corresponding increase in our trade with foreign countries. That is a stock assertion with those who declare themselves to be in favour of preferential trade, but who have not ascertained the cause for this state of things. It is not brought about by protective duties against the mother land, because those duties cannot affect her in competing in her own possessions on fair and equal terms with foreign countries. Our trade with foreign countries has increased because we now deal with them more directly than was formerly the case. At one time, we did very . little trade with France, Germany, and Belgium, direct. London was then the great market for wool, buyers going there from all parts of the world to make their selection from the large supplies available.As time went on, Australian wools came to be recognised as superior in many ways to the wools of other countries, and, in order to get first choice, foreign manufacturers sent buyers here to purchase their supplies. In this way, big local sales were developed,, and now, instead of the wool required by foreign countries going to London to be purchased there, and transhipped, it is bought here, and sent direct to the purchasers. Surely no one would contend that this is a bad arrangement for our producers, and that, to give business to people in England, our wool and other produce should be sent in the first instance to London. It is best for every one to trade direct, and to save transhipment and handling as much as possible. As a free-trader I was, when a member of the New South Wales Parliament, always opposed to attempts to force the Riverina trade to Sydney, believing Melbourne to be the natural market of the people settled there.
– The honorable member did not succeed.
– That was mainly because of the large number of members holding principles such as those of the right honorable gentleman. I do not think that trade should in any case be diverted from its natural direction.
– Trade should follow its natural channels.
– Yes. We should not attempt to direct it into unnatural channels. In return for the wool and other produce which we export to foreign countries, we take, of course, imports from them, exports being paid for by imports, so that a country which exports largely, of necessity imports largely. It dees not follow that a country exporting largely imports largely from the country to which it exports, because sometimes there is a triangular trade, and the bulk of its imports come from a third country. I find that, deducting the importations of oils, tea, coffee; and similar” goods which cannot be produced in Great Britain, in 1904, 79 per cent, of our imports came from that country and 21 per cent, from other countries.
– Was the 79 per cent, made up of English productions?
– The bulk of it was, though, no doubt, some of the goods imported had originally been imported into England. In the year 1905, 74 per cent, of our imports came from Great Britain, and 26 per cent, from foreign countries. In 1903, however, only 65 per cent, of our imports came from Great Britain, so that in 1905 the imports from Great Britain increased by 9 per cent. The Treasurer did not tell us that, though the fact ought to be a satisfactory one to him.
– How much of our imports from Great Britain was imported into that country?
– I cannot say. When I inquired into the subject on a former occasion, I found that about £2,000,000 worth of the goods imported’ into Australasia from Great Britain had been originally imported into that country. But these transhipped imports must be paid for in British goods, so that Great Britain profits by the arrangement. In 1905, 74 per cent, of our imports came from Great Britain and 26 per cent, from foreign countries, while 35 per cent, of our exports went to foreign countries. We have increased our exports to foreign countries, and, if the protectionists are to be believed, and dumping ruins the country in which it is practised, we are. by increasing our exports to them, injuring the foreigner. No doubt honorable members who are protectionists would like to see us go on exporting until we can ruin him entirely. As a matter of fact, we export to foreign countries about £8,000,000 more than we import. Of course, we are paid in some way for our excess of exports. Probably that excess tends to create an excess in exports from foreign countries to England, where it goes to pay interest, to meet freights and other charges, and to pay returns to people in Britain, who have properties in the Commonwealth. In any case, the trade of the Empire is increased. I admit at once that we are prosperous, and that ‘there is no ground for the assumption that we are being ruined by the strangulation of our industries. If the Treasurer could have shown us that we were in a bad way, there might have been some justification for the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite, but nothing of that kind is disclosed by the figures now before us. I desire to say a few words with regard to the sugar bounties, which were intended to bring about the displacement of black labour by white labour upon the sugar plantations of Queensland and New South Wales. No doubt, the bounties have had a good effect in Queensland during the last year, but the real test will be applied when the whole of the kanakas have been deported from Queensland, and white labour only is employed on the sugar plantations. Of course, if we pay large sums by way of bounties, those who are engaged in the sugar industry will ‘ take care to avail themselves to the fullest degree, of the .money placed at their disposal at the cost of the rest of the community.
– How much Excise do the sugar planters pay?
– The honorable member will require to look into this matter a little more deeply before he will be able to convince me that the general public do not pay the Excise. I know that the idea which prevails amongst protectionists is that the foreigner pays the duties that are levied upon imports. Those who talk about the foreigner paying import duties show their ignorance of the whole question. The quantity of sugar produced in Australia since Federation was established, up to the end of the last financial year was 513,886 tons, and the honorable member for Bass wishes us to believe that the price paid by the consumer for sugar of local production was not increased in consequence of the duty levied upon imported sugar. The total amount of duty paid upon the sugar imported into the Commonwealth during the same period was £1,270,658, and1 the increased cost to the people of the 513,886 tons of sugar locally produced- was £3,083,316. The Treasurer, however, did not receive that amount, because it was paid to the men who produced the sugar within the Commonwealth. Thus the grower pays the Excise duty after having put his hand into the pockets of the consumer for the increased price.
– That statement is not correct.
– I repeat that the local grower of sugar demands the same price that is paid for imported sugar o£ equal quality. Out of the £3,083,000, of which the sugar planters have received the benefit, they have paid by way of Excise duty £1,541,000. Therefore, the public have had to pay over £4,000,000 to assist the sugar industry of Queensland, and out of that £1,541,000 has been taken from the sugar growers in the shape of Excise.
– How much would the consumers have had to pay in any case?
– I admit that the consumers would probably have to pay the whole amount in any case. If there had been no production of sugar within the Commonwealth, the price of the imported article would probably have been the same ; but the whole of the revenue, instead of going into the hands of the sugar planters, would have been retained by the Treasurer. Thus, it would have -been within the power of the Parliament to reduce taxation in other directions in order to lessen the burdens of the general taxpayer. Now, I shall inquire what has become of the excise duty paid by the sugar-growers. The representatives of Queensland think that they are doing a great thing in connexion with the sugar industry, that they are very patriotic. Up to the end of 1907, it is estimated that we shall have paid the Queensland sugar planters, by way of bounty, £532,000. In other words, the sugar -growers, after paying £1,541,000 with the one hand, have collared £532,000 with the other. The New South Wales sugar-growers will have received sugar bounties to the amount of £192,358, which, will be a clear gift, because they have ‘never produced much sugar by the employment of black labour. I see that the Treasurer has expressed regret that the bounty has not proved more successful in New South Wales. But we could not do away with black labour that -did not exist.
– The honorable member misunderstands me. What I meant was that I regretted that the area under cultivation had not increased.
– The area, under sugar cultivation in New South Wales does not increase, because it pays the farmers better to grow butter. Why should we force men into engaging in unnatural industries, when it will obviously pay them best to follow some occupation suited to the conditions of the country? The whole object pf bounties such as that paid for the production of sugar is to force people to engage in industries which are not natural to the country, and which cannot exist unless they are fostered at the cost of the whole community. I would point out, further, that three-fourths’ of the total amount of excise duty paid upon sugar was handed over to Queensland, so that the Federation has been a loser all the time. Moreover, when we endeavour to ascertain what proportion of the £532,000 paid in sugar bounties is contributed by Queensland we find that her share amounts to £94,606. That is very good business for Queensland, and I am sure that we should all like to engage in a transaction of a similar kind. The representatives of Queensland think that that State is being harshly treated, but I hope that they will realize that they are milking the Commonwealth cow extremely well. As I have stated, up till the end of 1907, the New South Wales sugar-growers will have received sugar bounties amounting to £192,358, but the contribution made by New South Wales towards the bounties amounts to £266,493. Therefore, that State, instead of gaining, as Queensland does, is a loser to the extent of £74,000. I have referred to the imports and exports of the Commonwealth, and to our trade with Great Britain and foreign countries. I desire to have . placed on record some figures that will be of special interest to preferential traders, who are always talking about the decay of British commerce. In 1905 our imports from Great Britain were valued at £23,074,717; from British possessions, £5,384,150; and from foreign countries, ^£9,887,864. In 1903 we received from Britain imports valued at £19,855,340 ; from British possessions, £4,980,880 ; and from foreign countries, £12,975,251. Thus, within three years, there was an increase in our importations from Britain of £3,219,377; and from British possessions an increase of £403,270; whilst our imports from foreign countries fell off to the extent of ^3.087,387. We are told that the foreigner is improving his position here, but these figures show that he is losing ground. I desire to have these figures placed on record, because we have heard so much from the Treasurer about the fall-i ing-off of British trade.
– The honorable member is speaking at random as to what I said.
– I have the figures here, and I am quoting them quite correctly. I know that the Treasurer does noi like these comments upon his statements. In 1905 our exports to Great Britain were valued at £26,089,996; to British Possessions, £10,751,886 ; and to foreign countries, -£17,619,326. As compared with 1903, our exports to Great Britain increased by £6,518,193; and to foreign countries to the extent of £5,408,051.; whereas there was a falling-off in our exports to British Possessions to the extent of £3,045,975. The difference in the proportion of British trade is represented by our exports to foreign countries, and these figures should certainly satisfy our protectionist friends. They tell us that the way to ruin - a country is to send all the goods that we can into it. As we are increasing our exports in this direction, we have apparently learned the protectionist gospel that we can make a man poor by giving him all that he wants. One of the reasons why I opposed Federation was because of the financial provisions which are contained in the Constitution:. I pointed out that our Constitution was a provincial one, which would compel every State to fight for its own hand, instead of developing a broad, fraternal spirit. I am quite satisfied that since the advent of Federation the provincial spirit has grown, and I am sorry for it. Any proposal to remove this constant source of friction will command my support. At the first meeting which I addressed during my Federal campaign I pointed out the course which I would take to bring about a solution of this difficulty. But my friends, thinking that my attitude might be misinterpreted, and that the electors might be led to believe that I was still opposed to our Constitution, advised me to say nothing further about the matter, and I followed their counsel. But I have always felt that, if possible, we should make some arrangement with the States which would have the effect’ of entirely separating our financial arrangements from theirs. I am prepared to adopt any course which is fair to the States, and which will ‘ bring about that result. As a representative of New South Wales, I would be willing to make some sacrifice for the purpose of securing that end, in the interests of those States which have suffered by Federation. I agree with most of the statements of the honorable member for Mernda in this connexion. I believe that the Commonwealth should take over the whole of the States debts. At the same time, I can scarcely regard the scheme which he has outlined as a fair one to the States. I do not profess to be a very great financier ; but I have taken the position as it has been placed before us bv the honorable member for Mernda, and I have assumed that his figures are correct - although I find that they do not agree with those contained in the Treasurer’s Budget–
– The figures which I gave were those which were submitted to the Hobart Conference of Premiers.
Mi. LONSDALE. - Assuming that the honorable member’s figures are correct, and that the whole of the States debts are taken over, the following is the amount which each State will annually be required to pay to the Commonwealth to make up interest: - New South. Wales, £459,310; Victoria, £173,006; Queensland, £736,250; South Australia, £572,061; and Tasmania, £95,541. Upon the basis of the population, of Australia in December of last year, that would mean a per capita payment by New South Wales of 6s. 2d., by Victoria of 2s. 10¼d., by Queensland of £1 7s. nd., by South Australia of £1 us. 3d., and by Tasmania of us. iod. It will be seen that there is a verv great difference between these amounts. When I first read the memorandum prepared by the honorable member for Mernda in regard to this matter, I felt that he had supplied us with a solution of the whole difficulty, and that we could separate our financial arrangements from the States without difficulty.
– So we can.
– No doubt; but the question arises, will the States agree to his proposals?
– Would not the States have to pay at least the same amount if the debts were retained by them?
– Yes; I admit rhat. Honorable members will notice that I have omitted Western Australia from my calculations, because that State has a revenue which would enable her to receive a payment from the Commonwealth after her interest claims had been satisfied. The honorable member for Mernda proposes that from 1910 onwards the States debts shall be annually reduced by 5 per cent., so that at the end of a certain period, they will disappear entirely. In that period, I need scarcely point out, the population of Australia will have increased, and consequently there is a difficulty in making an ‘accurate calculation. Assuming, however, that our population during the next twenty-five years increases at the same rate which has characterized th’e past five years, the population of Australia will be distributed as follows: - New South Wales. 2,149,063; Victoria, 1 .325,396 ; Queensland, 697,458 ; South Australia, 461,993; and Tasmania, 22’i,74i.
– What will be the total population then?
– Excluding Western Australia, I have estimated that the population of the States will then be 4,855,651. Under that distribution, each State will be required to pay 8s. 4fd. per head towards the interest upon the debts. In other words there would be an increase of 2s. 2d. per head in the case of New South Wales, of nearly 6s. in that of Victoria, and there would be a fall of about 20s. per head in the case of Queensland, of 23s. per head in that of South Australia, and of 3s. per head in that of Tasmania.
– Under my scheme all these calculations are utterly beside the question.
– It is idle to say that they are beside the question. They must be in it. Twenty-five years hence the position of affairs will be entirely altered. Under a system of that kind New South Wales would contribute towards the payment of interest £901,039, or £441,720 more than she pays to-day, and Victoria £555,690, or £382,684 in excess of what she pays to-day. Queensland would pay £292,421, and thus make a saving of £443,829 ; South Australia would pay £193,700, and save £378>3<5i ; and Tasmania would pay £92,969, and effect a saving of £2,572.
– Assuming that all the honorable member’s figures are correct, is it not infinitely more important that the States should get rid of their debts if it is possible for them to do so?
– I am putting the case as it will present itself to the States. Whether their indebtedness can be redeemed during the next twenty-five years will depend entirely upon the state of the money market, and that is problematical. But it is not problematical that the burden which now rests upon South Australia and Queensland will be transferred to the other States.
– It does not follow.
– I do not think that the honorable member can question my statement. There is no escaping from the position. I am entirely in favour of the honorable member’s scheme ; but he must admit on his own figures that the incidence of the payment must change on a per capita basis. No matter how the population grows, the payment of £736,000 by Queensland, and £572,061 by South Australia, must be reduced, and New South Wales and Victoria must pay an increased amount. If an alteration could be made in the scheme so that it would be more equitable in that regard, I should prefer it to the proposal submitted by the Treasurer, which, after all, means a “ go-as-you-please policy.” Under his scheme, everything would depend upon the man who held office as Treasurer. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman has dealt with the question in a statesmanlike way. On the other hand, the honorable member for Mernda has endeavoured to put the position very clearly before the House, although his scheme needs to be altered in the direction I have indicated. If the debts were dealt with separately by the proposedCommission, and the savings effected were credited to each State, the position might be different. I have put these facts before the House in order that honorable members may realize what would be the effect of the growth of our population at the same rate that it has increased during the last five years. I said when I opened my speech last night that the Treasurer was too practical to be a poet, but in concluding his Budget statement he invited us -
Occasion by the hand, and make
The bounds of freedom wider yet.
– Does the honorable member say that the Treasurer is a practical man ?
– He is to a certain extent.
– But not a practical Treasurer.
– He is a practical accountant. I would ask the House whether the right honorable gentleman or his party has ever proposed anything that is designed to “ make the bounds of freedom wider yet”? If he would submit some practical proposal to make the bounds of freedom wider - if he would have Australia follow the example of the old land, which he professes to love so well, and recognise how England has developed under conditions of freedom, there would be something practical in his invitation. That little land from which most of us have sprung has attained her present position by the development of freedom. Away back in the centuries her people stood out against the tyranny of kings, and wrested from them the right of personal freedom. Throughout her history she has ever been growing under freer and freer conditions. England is the home of f reedom of speech and of conscience.
– The home of starvation.
– And child labour.
– No. Under her free conditions she has’ attained a higher and better position than have other countries where restriction of trade prevails. As her freedom has developed, her prosperity has increased. Is it not in the protectionist countries of the world that we find the most misery and cheap labour? The Treasurer talks of freedom, and yet he is a member of a Ministry which is seeking in every direction to destroy the freedom of this country, and to put all the actions’ of its people under State control. Every step taken by his party has been in that direction. He retains office in the Ministry, although he does not believe in many of the proposals that they attempt to place upon the statute-book. Although he calls himself a free man and a lover of freedom, he is driven by others. Let him show us that he is sincere in these professions by standing out for that in which he believes. Let him show; us that he is in favour of free conditions. If the right honorable gentleman believed in the spirit of the quotation to which I have referred, he would not consent to occupy for ten minutes his present position. He is a bond slave, and will continue to occupy that position until he shows that he is capable of attempting to put into force that which his conscience tells him is right. I have no more to say, except that I sincerely hope that the right honorable gentleman will never again talk of freedom.
.- After the speech just made by the honorable member for New England, which traversed lines so often followed by many honorable members of the Opposition, bothin this Parliament and in some of the States Legislatures, I might reasonably expect to be excused if, only for the sake of diversion, I allowed the fiscal question to remain untouched. I am somewhat surprised that those who profess free-trade views always shirk an opportunity to give effect to them. As a matter of fact, we have on the Opposition benches theoretical free-traders, who have for many years proclaimed their views ; but never in the history of the freetrade party have they had the temerity to seek to give effect to the policy that they have so vigorously expounded. During this debate honorable members of the Opposition have repeated previous speeches to such a degree as to cause them to become positively nauseating. If they were consistent they would at once make a direct effort to place on the statute-book of the Commonwealth a Tariff which would give effect to the fiscal views they profess. But they are prepared to do anything rather than attempt to take that course. They are prepared to say to the country, “ Let us get into office, and we will sink the fiscal issue for ten long years.” Have we not heard one of their party telling the people that for the sake of getting into office he is prepared to cry a fiscal truce for ten years? When honorable members assert on the public platform that they are prepared to take a vote even from the Prince of Darkness, as long as it will land them in position and power, we can well imagine how insincere are their professions with regard to the fiscal issue. I come now to the Budget statement. I do not altogether agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Bland with regard to the proposal of the Government to establish penny postage throughout the Commonwealth and with other countries which are prepared to reciprocate. We must keep step with the march of progress, so far as postal communication is concerned. The postal system is one of the main arteries along which the blood of commerce flows. Through its medium, also, we are enabled to communicate with our friends, no matter how far away they may be, and it is important that we should make this means of communication as effective, and, at the same time, as economical as possible. Some say that the revenue which it is proposed to sacrifice in this way could be more profitably used in other directions. I believe, however, that we must sooner or later fall into line with other countries in regard to penny postage, and that there is no time like the present to take action. If we allow the reform to stand over until our expenditure absorbs the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, to which we are entitled, there will be a strong disinclination on the part of this Parliament to concede it. Unless we avail ourselves of the present opportunity to effect it, the reform may be postponed for years. I am not satisfied that the extension of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth will involve an annual loss of £209,000 per annum. Even if at the outset it does so, I feel assured that the number of letters transmitted through the Post Office will be so increased as to return eventually a larger revenue than that estimated. I am not at all satisfied with the attitude of the Government in regard to the telephone system. In answer to a question by the honorable member for Yarra, the Postmaster-General informed us to-day that numerous deputations of commercial and business men had protested against the adoption of the toll system.
– Against the rate; not the toll.
– The one involves the other, and the rate cannot be altered unless by the adoption of the system. Hitherto the business and commercial men in the large cities of Australia have obtained more than a fair share of a service which is unequalled in any other part of the civilized world. But, although they are protesting against the adoption of equitable telephone rates, we hear no protests from them against the proposal to establish penny postage throughout the Commonwealth. This shows the insincerity of their declamations against what they brand as Socialism. When their own pockets are benefited, and they are able to take advantage of socialistic arrangements, they are prepared to do so, however much others may suffer ; but they are always ready to protest against the extension of justice and equity to other sections of the community. Those who are receiving an altogether unfair share of the advantages of our telephone system denounce the Labour Party because we are trying to bring about a more equitable distribution of the benefits arising from a just administration. The right honorable member for East Sydney has the support of these men. In his wonderful campaign in Queensland, he dilated upon the enormities of the programme of the Labour Party. He told his hearers that Australia is being ruined, and that the good achieved up to the present time is being undermined by the horrid Labour Party. I am pleased with the efforts which he has put forward, because I know that the more he tries to put his view of the case before the public the more will the people be convinced of his insincerity, and of the fairness of the aims of the Labour Party. Our present telephone system is altogether inequitable. It is not surprising that business men do not com- plain of the charges made for the telephone service on the flat system. because there are in Melbourne, and in Sydney, business houses who use ‘‘it service to such an extent that, if the Mere charged ½d per call for all calls in excess of a maximum cf 750, thev would have to pay £95 per annum instead of £9 as at present. These are the men who, taking an unfair advantage of the socialistic machinery of the Postal Department, cry out against the Socialism of the Labour Tarty. I ask the Postmaster-Genera] not to back down upon the determination to establish the toll system. I ask him to see that equity and justice are done to the whole community, and not to pay heed to the protests of those who desire Socialism for themselves, but will not allow others to share its benefits. It is in the interests of the dwellers in the back-blocks that we should charge fairly for our telephone service, so that we may expand it and increase its usefulness, bringing the blessings of civilization into the homes of those who now are isolated. I ask honorable members not to forget the pioneers who have borne the heat and burden cf the day, and are the men who have made Australia prosperous. They should be considered in this matter. I shall not, however, deal, with it at greater length this evening, but shall proceed to speak upon another subject which is of more importance than anything else mentioned in the Budget speech of the Treasurer. Many men have exhibited placards to display the remedies which they propose for saving the country. The cry has been raised that Australia needs population, and it is said that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to make preparations for the reception of useful, industrious immigrants, who will settle upon and make habitable land which is now not profitably occupied. The subject, however, is not regarded as an important one by those who are the political leaders of the country. They are content to squabble over the mythical advantages of protection, and free-trade, in regard to the advantages of which it may be said that there are six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. I say deliberately and designedly that the socalled protectionists in this Chamber are not true protectionists ; they are really revenue tariffists of a little darker shade than that of the so-called free-traders who sit on the Opposition side of the Chamber, and who in no sense of the term have a right to call themselves free-traders. All that they are concerned about is the changing of duties from one item to another, to suit Treasury exigencies. I do not believe in political manoeuvring, which allows men to escape from the principles which they profess. There is something much greater than the fiscal question. The evils of which I am about to speak will not be removed by the quack remedies put forward by our party leaders. When the time was opportune, and it served his purpose to do so, the right honorable member for East Sydney went to the bedrock of the matter, though he takes very little interest in the subject now. What lies at the root of our troubles, and prevents the development of the country, is the land legislation of the past. That is the cancer which has struck its roots into the very vitals of the people, and is preventing the expansion of Australia and retarding its welfare. Day after day it is demanding toll from humanity to an extent which, bearing in mind the smallness of our population, has never been witnessed in any other country. The history of Australia covers a period of only a little more than 100 years ; but already a large part of the land of the Continent is in the hands of a very small minority, and, whenever land is in the hands of a few, the majority are virtually their slaves, because those who wish to use it have to accept the terms of those who own it. In this way a gigantic national evil has sprung up. Men propound remedies, and theorize about land reform, just as they theorize about free-trade and protection ; but no honest effort is made to bring about the realization of what we all know to be necessary. The press and many of our leading public men declare that we have no right to interfere with those who own the land, because they have bought it, and should be left in possession of it. I should like to know by what moral or legal right any Government is empowered to sell for ever the patrimony of the people. Governments exist for the purpose of administering the affairs of the community in the interests of the public. What may be an equitable arrangement in a country populated by only 3,000 or 4,000 persons may have become inequitable when the population has increased to 3,000,000 or 4,000,000. Governments have exceeded their rights in alienating the public estate-. If to-day the whole of the lands of the
Commonwealth were parcelled out among those who now reside here, what would be the position of those who will be here ten, twenty, or fifty years hence ? Surely those who are born in the likeness of their Maker are entitled to some of the benefits which God has created for the use and enjoyment of all. Yet there are public men who maintain that, because certain persons who came early and obtained the lion’s share, picking out the eyes of the land, and paying only a peppercorn in return, reaping, all the advantages of railway construction - often brought about by political log-rolling - and the expenditure of Government money in providing the other conveniences necessary in a civilized country, so that their wealth has increased as they have slept, thev must now be regarded as the lords of creation, against whom none must raise his voice. I question the right of Governments to alienate the lands of the people for ever.
– They have done it.
– The fact that deeds have been issued under laws made in Parliaments in which there was no one to raise his voice on behalf of the masses, by those in possession of the land, or their representatives, or the lawyers who were their tools, does not prove it to have been right. When a Government mortgages the rights of those yet unborn, when it takes away from my children and my children’s children the right to live in a free country without having, to pay toll to a privileged class, I contend that it exceeds its func-tions, and is not governing the country for the advantage of the people. I am sure that no honorable member will be found to enunciate the contrary doctrine. The Government have improperly assumed the right to permanently alienate the public lands. As they represent the whole community, it is their duty to administer the public property as may appear from time to time to be most advantageous to the country. In acting otherwise, the« assume rights and powers which they are not entitled to exercise, and it is full time that they were compelled to rectify the wrongs done in the past. No Government has a right, moral or otherwise, to alienate the lands of the people for all time, and thus rob unborn generations of their birthright.
– Before we had selfgovernment there was no alienation of land in Australia. - Mr. WEBSTER.- Exactly. However, our land has been alienated to a very large extent, and there have arisen among us a body of men who call themselves singletaxers, and who, for the most part, are earnest anu sincere in their efforts to remedy one … the most grievous wrongs that have ever been inflicted upon a community. We row see some of these singletaxers sitting cheek by jowl in this Chamber with the representatives of land monopoly. We see men who have for years advocated the doctrine of confiscation - I believe that the right honorable member for East Sydney has .*o termed the policy of the single taxers - now sitting in the camp of those who are the strongest advocates of land monopoly.
– They do not draw the line at £5,000. Why does the honorable member draw the line at that amount?
-Because we believe that any man. who toils for his livelihood, and has to provide food for his wife and children, should have secured’ to him a reasonable living, wage.
– It takes a lot of property to represent £5,000 of unimproved value.
– When I speak of providing a man with a reasonable living wage, does the right honorable gentleman suppose that I contemplate that the father and mother should be provided with the bare necessaries of life? Has the worker no title to a little luxury? Is he so far forgotten by those who pretend to represent him as to be placed beyond the pale of any consideration other than that necessary to secure to him a bare subsistence? Is he not entitled to derive some benefit from the wealth that he is producing ? Not only is he entitled to consideration, but some provision should be made for the wife who struggles at his side, and for his children. Surely it should be our desire to improve the race both physically ar.d mentally, and it must be admitted that a sound constitution cannot be more readily developed than by engaging, in some outdoor occupation. Those who work on the land are engaged in the most healthful occupation that could well be conceived. It is a well-known fact that, if it were not for the constant influx of people from the country, the population of London would die out in three generations. The country is a storehouse from which we draw our mechanics, our professional and business men. and all those who follow occupations in and around the centres of business activity. I am one of those who hope to see the State recognise the right of’ the poor man’s children to be properly clothed and fed. I do not wish them to be fed upon Chicago tinned meat, or anything of that kind, but upon good wholesome food. I also hope to see them placed amidst healthy surroundings. And I trust that our conditions of life in the Commonwealth will enable us to raise up a sturdy yeomanry such as through all the ages has been the backbone of every community, and without which we cannot attain the position to which we aspire. I take it for granted that the children of our settlers upon the land are entitled to some educational training, and> that men who have large families should be in a position to make due provision in that direction. Incidentally, I might mention the probable effect upon the birth-rate of .our settling upon the land a prosperous and vigorous yeomanry. We know very well that those who follow rural occupations are, as a rule, healthy and vigorous, and that to the. extent to which we encourage settlement we may expect our birth-rate to increase. We mav fairly assume that those who settle upon the land will have large families, and will therefore have a correspondingly larger’ claim upon our consideration. Therefore, I say that the exemption of £5,000, which we propose in connexion with our land taxation scheme, is not more than sufficient to enable our yeomanry to perform all the functions I have indicated, and to live under conditions which should prevail in any democratic and progressive country. That is my answer to the right honorable member for East Sydney. -Up to the present time, the States Parliaments, and especially that of New South Wales, have endeavoured, as far as has been practicable, in view of the opposition with which they have met, to pass laws to insure to the working classes a reason? able share of the wealth which they are producing. ‘ We are. not like the commercial men in the cities who want to retain all the cream, and to- leave the skimmed milk for other sections of the community. We desire to place our farmers and other settlers upon the same equitable and fair footing as that occupied bv workers engaged in our centres of industry. We therefore fixed an exemption with a ; view to giving our settlers an opportunity to surround themselves with ‘comfortable conditions and rear their families with satisfactory results to’ the community. The right honorable member for East Sydneytells the farmers that the representatives of labour would ruin them, that the proposed progressive land tax would spread’ desolation throughout the farming districts. The right honorable gentleman’sheart bleeds for the Door farmers ; but he does not say anything about the- poor farmers’ sons who are growing up landless, and who are travelling through the States day by day in the vain search for land suitable for occupation. He does not say what is to become of the farmers’ grandsons. He does not profess to look oneinch ahead. He is concentrating all his attention upon the farmer to-da.. and is endeavouring to excite his selfishness. He wants to frighten him, and he cares nothing for those who will have to follow. I have looked carefully into this question, and I have come to the conclusion that the lands of the States have been monopolized to such an extent that it is time that something should be done. The single taxers have proposed a remedy which is impracticable, and some of them have now allied themselves with the right honorable member for East Sydney. I should like that right honorable gentleman to tell the farmers that there is a danger that the single tax- party, who are worming their way into his camp, may succeed in substituting the single tax fct the progressive land tax advocated by the Labour Party. 0 I should like him to point out that the deputyleader of the anti-socialistic party is an ardent single taxer, and that there is imminent danger of a .policy being’ introduced which pays no consideration to theright of a man to make a fair living wagecut of his labours on the land. We propose the progressive land tax for various: reasons.’ Our main object is to burst uplarge estates* I have previously asserted! that the bulk’ of the best land in the Commonwealth has been monopolized’ by those who first came here - I refer to the land most suitable for close settlement and for profitable occupation by small farmers. Are the’ lands which have been benefited by the expenditure of Government money - by the construction of railways, bridges and culverts, and by the erection of telegraphs and .telephones- available to “those who are willing to enter upon them,- and put them to- a profitable use? Admittedly they- are not. Consequently it- only remains for me to show that the imposition! of a progressive land, tax’ will effectively burst up large estates in order to justify that proposal. In this connexion we have benefited by the experience of New Zealand. This tax was first put in operation in that country twelve or thirteen years ago. That political celebrity, the late Mr. John Ballance, was the father of the proposal, and he sacrificed his life in fighting the opposition which’ we have to encounter to-day - the opposition of the anti-Socialists. In so doing he rendered a great service to Australia, and his name is like a. beacon light to every individual in the community who desires to see this country prosper. But, notwithstanding that the late lamented Premier of New Zealand, Mr. Richard Seddon, faithfully carried out the behest of his former leader, and was sufficiently strong to overcome the temporary difficulties which beset his path - difficulties which were raised by those who are preaching anti- Socialism to-day - the operation of the progressive land tax there has not been as effective as it might have been. Owing to the fact that it partook of the character of experimental legislation, a very small progressive rate was imposed, and it was because of the smallness “of the increase - an increase of only one-sixteenth of a penny per pound for every £2,500 of unimproved land values held by an individual in excess of £5,000 - that that legislation did not accomplish all that it was designed to effect. Profiting by that experience, the Labour Party - the coming party in Australia, and the only party which has a policy that it is not ashamed to propound-
– What is the fiscal policy of the party?
– We do not profess to imitate the right honorable gentleman by telling the people that we are what we are not. We do not regard the fiscal question as one of paramount importance. We aim rather to strike at the root of the evils upon which the right honorable gentleman has politically thrived for years. He seems to relish interjections when he is speaking, and I suppose it is only natural that he should think that others like them. Because he requires spoon-feeding he imagines that I am also in need of it. I can assure him that I am not. However, I take his interpolations in the best possible spirit, - I am, in fact, verv much obliged to him for them. Our policy is intended, primarily, to burst up the large estates, and incidentally to raise revenue. The latter object is not a bad one, seeing that the Labour Party propose that any revenue derived from this source, after the expense of col: lection has been defrayed, shall be applied to alleviating the distress of the aged men’ and women of Australia. In other words,, it will be utilized as a fund with which to pay old-age pensions. Nobody can object to that, indeed, I feel sure that our proposal will receive the endorsement of the people. We have only to observe the signs of the times in order to determine which way the wind is blowing. To-day the whole ot the Tory press of Australia is rampant. If any man or woman in the community needed an indication of how he or she should vote, they have merely to look at the way in which the monopolists are going, and the way in which the press is striking, in order to discover it. The press of the chief cities of Australia is a mercenary one. It is governed by the patronage which it derives from advertisers, ‘who pay so much per inch for the space which they occupy in its columns. It is practically controlled by monopolists. It has not a soul to be blessed, or a body to be damned. The right honorable member for East Sydney has been travelling round the country raving about the proposals of the Labour Party, and the provincial press have been religiously reporting every word that he has uttered. In almost every little town that he visited, I think special numbers of the local journals must have been issued, in order to insure a verbatim report being given of his utterances upon the great question of Socialism.
– And yet the newspapers will not print the speeches of the honorable member. That is the trouble.
– -I know the reason of that. When they print my utterances I shall begin to think that I have deserted the people with whom I formerly worked, with whom I suffered, and with whom I toiled, and I shall be obliged to look round to see what is likely to happen to my political opinions, and to my reputation. What do I care what the press says about the party with which’ I am associated? It is because there has been too much pandering to the press that reform has been strangled on the very threshold of Parliament. It is because the Labour Party will not back up its policy of boodle, oppression, and tyranny that the press never reports the utterances of our members, except to hold them up in ridicule. I venture to say that there are scribes in the press gallery of this House who would not hold their positions very long if they were not pastmasters in digging out, and holding up to ridicule, any utterances by members of the Labour Party, and in polishing up the addresses of the followers of the right honorable member for East Sydney, whenever they make incursions into anti-socialistic mythology. The cry of confiscation has been raised by the press and by the public men to whom I have referred. What do they mean by confiscation? What are we going to confiscate? What land monopolists enjoy to-day they do not enjoy by virtue of right. In this connexion we must recollect that it was the necessities of the people which led to the French Revolution, when every gutter ran with blood, and when every lamp-post was a gibbet. Those results were brought about by conditions similar to ‘hose which exist in. Australia to-day. The people rose in protest against such conditions, and overthrew the landed classes, so that in France to-day, instead of a few thousand’ persons holding man’s heritage from God, there are more than 3,000,000 landed peasants contributing to the stability of the country. This Parliament is elected on adult suffrage, and looks upon all adults as having equal rights. The right honorable member for East Sydney tells the farmers in the back-blocks that, under the land-tax proposals of the Labour Party all estates under the value of £5,000 will be exempt, but that they ought to look ahead, for it is only a matter of time when the exemption will be reduced. The honorable member fears that the bogey which he is endeavouring to raise with regard to our land-tax proposals will not be sufficient to alienate from the. party the support of the men on the land, and he, therefore, seeks to frighten them by drawing a woeful picture of what we may do tenyears hence. I wish to show how utterly fallacious are the arguments of the right honorable gentleman, and that when he speaks in this way he shows that he either does not understand the operation of land taxation or that he is not sincere. I say without hesitation that, instead of bringing about the confiscation of the land of the farmers whom the right honorable member for East Sydney has been endeavouringto scare, the proposals of the Labour Party will secure them against anything of the kind. Let me illustrate how this will be done. Every large estate which is subdivided will mean increased voting power on the part of the farming community. If, say, in Victoria an estate of 50,000 acres is subdivided, and 200 families are placed upon it, that will mean an increase of something like 300- votes on the rolls of the division in which, it is situated, and, surely, those votes will go to protect the farmer from any additional taxation which may follow from a reduction of the exemption. That the statements of the right honorable member, in regard to the land-tax proposals of the Labour Party, are a hollow mockery, ought to be palpable to any one who gives the matter a moment’s consideration. I am satisfied’ that if the members of our party went into the country and expounded our policy to the farmers, they would not only secure their undivided support, but cause them to decline to listen to the right honorable member, although he is supposed to be so eminent a leader of public opinion. The proposal of the Labour Party is that a tax of½d. in the £1 shall’ be imposed in respect of all estates between the value of . £5,001 and £10,000. Surely a man owning £10,000 worth of land will not be ruined if he is called upon to pay an annual tax of £10 8s. 4d. I am confident that those who to-day have no land would be proud if they could qualify to pay that tax. Then, again, estates valued at from £10,001 to £15,000 are to be subject to an additional tax of½d. in the £1. And so the tax continues to progress until we arrive at estates of the value of £60,000 and over, which, we propose, shall be taxed to the extent of 4d. in the £1.
– And then the party propose to nationalize the land.
– That is another purely mythical idea.
– Does not the platform of the State Labour Party of New South Wales provide for that?
– When honorable members of the Opposition cannot confute the arguments of a member of the Federal Labour Party who is expounding the proposals of his party with regard to land taxation - proposals which are practically an instruction from those responsible for his return - they ask him, “ Why does the platform of the State Labour Party in New South Wales propose ?” or “ What are the proposals of the Victorian State Labour Party?”
– When the honorable member ‘is answering one argument he turns to another.
– It is the honorable member who desires me, when answering one argument, to turn to another.
– Does the honorable member say that the policy of the Federal Labour Party is opposed to that of the State Labour Party of New South Wales?
– The honorable member cannot “ trap “ me by means of these thinly-veiled devices.
– Would it be “ trapping” the honorable member if he made that statement ?
– Is the honorable member trying another little dodge? If he is he is not likely to succeed. I have tonight a mission to fulfil. The majority of the estates in the Commonwealth range in value from £20,000 to £40,000 each. There are a number of others which are more valuable, but it is to those ranging from £20,000 to £40,000 of unimproved land values that our proposals would principally apply. It is because we desire that it shall be practically effective and profitable that we have adopted the scale of taxation which I have indicated, and which has already been published. But we are going a step further. It is proposed that these rates shall be increased 50 per cent. in the case of absentee landlords, who spend in other countries the profits derived from estates within the Commonwealth, and pay little or nothing towards the cost of protecting their property. We make this proposal because it is our desire to bring about a complete reform. We are well aware that the Opposition, and those who think with them, will endeavour to convince the man on the land that the Labour Party are his enemies.
– They have only to put forward the nationalization proposal.
– A man who has the welfare of the people at heart, and is proposing that which will practically transform the whole basis of land settlement in Australia, cares nothing for press statements in regard to him. He knows that his policy is founded on equity and justice, and that it is only a matter of time when the people as a whole will see that legislative effect is given to it.
– Why single out the Opposition ? What about the Treasurer ?
– So far as we are concerned, there is. only one Opposition; those who are not for us are against us. I care not in what corner of the House honorable members are thrust, whether by political necessity or otherwise; all that I desire to know is whether they are opposed to that which will benefit the people as a whole. If I conclude that they are, I know what to do. I pay no homage to an honorable member, whether he sits on this side or on the Opposition side of the House.
– The honorable member pays a very willing homage to the man who sits over there.
– I pay no homage whatever ; but honorable members on this side are prepared to go a little further than are the Opposition. If I were walking along a rough and hazardous road, and a foreigner, although not particularly friendly to me, offered me a “ lift,” I should be prepared to accept it, because I should know that it would assist me in reaching my destination. In this connexion I am prepared to take whatever help I can secure,just as the honorable member was prepared a few years ago to accept the assistance of either side in giving effect to his principles. A few days since I was reading a speech delivered by him when he had the honour - and it was an honour - to be the leader of the Labour Party in the State Parlament of New South Wales. 1 question whether the honorable member feels as comfortable to-night as he did when he was amongst men with whom he had worked, and whose sympathies were in harmony with his own. Generally speaking, in the speech to which I have referred the honorable member indicated that he was prepared to do that which I am prepared to do. He asserted that Governments were nothing, but that principles were everything to him, and that, in giving legislative effect to the principles he professed, he was quite prepared to receive assistance either from one side or the other.
– I believe that I was then as big a simpleton as the honorable member is at the present time.
– Then the honorable member has deteriorated since that time. I was dealing with the honorable member in his political capacity. I do not think that he is a simpleton, although he has so dubbed himself. He is nearer being an opportunist, and since he has been in political life has not missed an opportunity to benefit himself. No man can deny that statement. In that respect he is in congenial company, because the man who stands bv the cause of labour rarely makes much out of it, seeing that if he does his duty by his constituency and those who have claims upon him, he generally has but little to spare.
– I do not know. The Labour Party has made a good deal more out of Parliament than I have done.
– I read in a newspaper the other day that the honorable member is reported to be worth £20,000, though I do not know how true that state-, ment is.
– It is as true as most of the statements of the honorable member.
– If it isi true, I understand why the honorable member sits where he does. There is no magnet like gold to attract the ordinary, average human being. The tax which we propose, instead of confiscating the land of the farmer, will increase his security by 50 per cent. We wish to indicate to him how it will protect him. and that is done by showing that every new settler placed upon land which is now unoccupied will add to his security by providing an additional vote against treachery on the part of any party in Parliament. I am pitting my views on record in Hansard for the benefit, of the public. I am not speaking to the press, because I have no desire to rob the proprietors of the newspapers of advertising space. The people of my electorate, away out in the alleged Never Never country, rarely see the daily newspapers, or get them only when they are very ancient. But they get Hansard, in which is published what is spoken here; and thus they can know the thoughts of those who represent them in Parliament. I speak to the people in the country, not to the classes represented by the members of the Opposition. In New South Wales, the mother State of the Commonwealth, the number of holdings of sixteen, but not exceeding ‘400 acres in extent was1, in 1880, 27,501 ; and, in 1905, fifteen years later, 39,843, an increase of 45 per cent. In the former year, the number of holdings of 40 1 acres and upwards, was 7,443; and, in 1905, the number of such holdings had increased to 15,245, an increase of 105 per cent. These figures may, perhaps, be more easily read in the following table: -
– The figures relating, to’ the alienation of land in New South Wales would be very instructive.
– The honorable member for Parramatta was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for a large number of years, and he cannot escape responsibility for the results of the legislation passed during that time. The total area of land alienated in New South Wales is 48,081,314 acres, of which 22,830,261 acres, or nearly 50 per cent., are in the hands of 722 persons.
– The State Government has the power, under an Act of Parliament, to resume such land as it requires for closer settlement.
– I shall deal with that matter presently, and show the beautiful results of the New South Wales land policy. I know the arguments of the honorable member, and of those associated with him, and I am prepared to meet them. I shall show how big estates have been built up under the land legislation of the State. Holdings of 30 acres and under represent only .40 per cent, of the total area alienated there. Those are mostly the holdings of men who have to work for their living in the employ of others, and are trying, to make homes for their families. The average size of such holdings is 7.7 acres. Of the holders of areas between 401 acres and 1,000 acres, each has an average area of 634 acres, or ti.88 per cent, of the total area alienated. The owners of holdings of areas varying from 1,001 to 10,000 acres possess 29.11 per cent, of the total alienated area, and the 722 holders of estates of 50,000 acres and upwards possess 47.48 per cent, of the total area alienated. Could monopoly go much further? The Macarthurs, the Australian Agricultural Company, the Peel River Company, and the owners of other large estates have taken the cream of the land, strangling the progress of the towns of the States, and undermining the prosperity of the Commonwealth. Estates are being built up, and land is going out of occupation, under legislation made bv Parliamentarians who were elected to do the will of the land-owning classes. Since 1882, 44,352,613 acres of conditionally purchased land has been transferred. To whom has it been transferred? Most of it has gone into the hands of the 722 men who possess half the alienated land of the State. Land has been dummied, bond fide settlers have been crushed out, and today, if one goes through the State as I have travelled through it during the past twelve months, he will, see the remains of the little homes of settlers who have parted with their heritage, tempted by the money offered to them by the large land-holders, and are now adrift on the labour market. In the period to which I have referred,’ only 18,481,880 acres have been applied for as conditional purchases, and 28,870,733 acres have gone out of occupation. That is a damnable indictment of those who defend the present land system. Surely such a state of affairs must in a very short time be reformed by revolution, if evolution will not produce a change. I say to members of the Opposition, “ If you are not with us in this matter, you are with the 722 monopolists who own half the alienated land of New South Wales.” Of the total property in that State, £136,417,000 worth, or 36 per cent, of the whole value, is held by 178,000 persons. The State has a population of 1,500,000 persons, of whom 700,000 are ‘adults, male and female. Therefore, there are 622,000 adults, male and female, who have no property. The bread-winners of the State, that is, those earning a livelihood for wives and families, number 564,000, while the wage-earners, number 386,000. There are, I repeat, 622,000 landless men in New South Wales - men who have no right to participate in the wealth that is their rightful heritage - no right to use -any portion of the ‘land’s of the States for the benefit of their wives and families. The time for action has arrived. Unless we immediately bestir ourselves in the direction of reform, we shall, in effect, commit national suicide. In Victoria, I find that the position is much the same. In that State there are 18,342 holdings of from :r. acre to 100 acres, having a total area of 675,672 acres, or an average per holding of 36 acres. There are 15,414 ‘holdings of from 1.01 acres to 320 acres, having, a total area of 3,280,5.12 acres, or an everage of 2T2 acres per holding. There are :l3>32°. holdings of from 320 to 1,000 acres of a total acreage of 7,7.62,575 acres, or an average of 582 acres per holding. There are 610 holdings of from 1,001 to 50,000 acres, with a total area of 8,275,111 acres, or an average per holding of 13,565 acres. And, finally, holdings of 50,000 acres and over are held by twenty-three people, who own the absolute freehold of 3,432,381 acres. , The average holding represents an area of 149,233 acres. Whilst these twenty-three men’ have each 150,000 acres, there are thousands of white slaves who are sweating for a bare existence in the cities- and towns of Victoria, without a hope of ever seeing the country, or enjoying the pure country air. We are told that we are entering upon a mistaken policy, but those who cannot appreciate the equity of our proposal are blind, not only to their own welfare, but to that of their children, of the country of their birth or adoption, and of the Empire, of which we form a part, and upon which the sun never sets. Without population in this country we cannot make our position secure, and unless we gain, access to the land we cannot increase our population under such conditions as will tend to the solidity of the community. If we do not take time by the forelock,, and introduce the reforms necessary to make ourselves secure before the time of trouble arrives, it. will be useless afterwards, for the purposes pf security, to demand that the . sliprails shall be pulled down, and that the people shall have access to the large estates, so that they may be developed for the benefit of the community as a whole. It is because I feel that there is no time to be lost that I am . speaking so earnestly this evening. I represent a country district in which the pastoralists and farmers form a large element in the population, and I rake the risk of their disapproving of my conduct, because my whole concern is the welfare of the country pf my adoption. I venture to say that if the right honorable member for East Sydney were placed in my position, he would be the last person in the world to take such . a risk as that to which I am exposing myself. I find that the cancer of land monopoly has already worked serious evil in South Australia. Outside the towns and corporations in that State there are 304 taxpayers who own 3,545,000 acres of land. I wish to emphasize the fact that the land to which I have been referring is the very pick of our territory. . What is left has been practically cast aside by those who have skilfully picked the eyes out of the country. In addition to the 304 landholders I have mentioned, there axe thirty others who own 1,269,704 acres. Why, this is enough to make those who believe in equitable government sound the death-knell of land alienation. Western Australia, although scarcely out of its swaddlingclothes as a progressive State, has also suffered from the operations of land monopoly. When I was recently visiting that State, it was obvious to any observant man that the land monopolists had been very active. 1 find that 11,558,308 acres have been alienated. The Government have leased 135,854,318 acres, and there remains unoccupied an area - much of which is useless, and will remain so for many years, owing to its distance from means of communication - of 473,176,174 acres. When we turn to Tasmania, a small island whose area is a mere nothing as compared with that of the other States, we find that it has suffered from the curse of land monopoly to such an extent that its growth has been strangled. The members of the community generally, apart from the landowning class, have had to bear heavy taxation, and the national debt has assumed altogether abnormal proportions, owing to the influence of the owners of large estates, who have escaped scot-free. Many people ask how this land monopoly has been brought about. In New South Wales it has been due largely to the class of legislators who have framed the laws. Much of the Crown lands have been acquired by dummying conditional leases and purchases, and through the instrumentality of volunteer land grants. Altogether, the administration of the land laws was carried on without any consideration for the rights of the masses of the people at a time when they were not strong enough to raise their voice in protest. Now that we are endeavouring to right the wrong that has been done, in. order that our children, shall not suffer to a far greater extent even than we are now doing, we are met by a howl of execration from those who are opposed to any interference with their friends, the monopolists. I think that those who have enriched themselves in the past by exploiting the public lands, should rest satisfied, and restore to the community that which has been improperly taken from them. Th’c honorable member for North Sydney suggested that the remedy for the! present trouble was resumption of private lands by the State. He said that we should pur-‘ chase the land from the present holders at a reasonable price. I hold, however, that there is grave danger of introducing corruption into our public life if we adopt any such policy as that indicated. We should not entertain the idea of buying back land at valuations fixed by biased landlords, and subject only to the. review of an influenced- board of arbitration, or of a Parliament which has been prompted by various motives in the past to part with the public estate. The very first resumption of private lands by the State that took place in New South Wales gave rise to a grave scandal. The whole of the facts were investigated by a Royal Commission, but the matter has not been brought to a conclusion, because the culprits have yet to answer for their misdeeds. I was pre-, sent in the New South Wales Parliament when the Bill for the resumption of the Myall Creek Estate was under consideration, and I did not hear any question raised as to whether the price proposed to be paid by the Government was excessive. The silence was most ominous, and will never be forgotten by me, because I am fully cognisant of the duty which a public man has to perform when such matters are being discussed. The Judge who presided over the inquiry into the circumstances connected with the purchase of the land said that the State made a good bargain. He was, of course, guided entirely by the evidence, and I am not sure that he was competent to express an opinion upon the real merits of the case. The land is situated in my electorate, and I know all about it, and I am not satisfied that, as the years roll on, those who have settled upon it will agree that a good bargain was made by the State. Large estates are sometimes acquired, with a view to subdivision, by syndicates, who do not care what becomes of the man on the land, or in what areas the land is taken over from them.. All that they desire is to make a profit. The proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney is a most delusive one, and would not effect the object that we have in view, namely, that of placing people on the land. I know of one large estate in my own district which has been subdivided with a view to its being more closely settled. It has an area of 40,000 acres, and comprises some of the best farming land in that part of the country. Four hundred acres of such land would be sufficient to support in comfort a man with a large family ; but, instead of a hundred families being settled on the estate, only eleven new settlers have made their homes there!
That . is what has been accomplished, in one instance, by means of closer settlement. “ What became of the rest of the estate?” some honorable members may inquire. It was purchased by land monopolists from speculative motives. They bought it in thehope that at a later stage they would be able to lease it to the men who will have to occupy it. Thus, in getting rid of one landlord, we have practically increased the number of landlords tenfold. That is the remedy which has been suggested by the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for North Sydney. The former stated that the man who purchased a subdivision block in Victoria would be disappointed if he did not clear its value by the results of his labour within three years. Other members say they have known of cases in which the primary cost of the land has been cleared in one year. Why? Simply because the men who sold it did not realize its productive capacity. Had they known that one crop wouldyield sufficient return to pay for the purchase of the land they would not have parted with it.
– But a man may hold more land than he can put under crop. That is why people can obtain it upon those terms. A man cannot put 20,000 acres under crop.
– I am very pleased to hear that there is something which the landed classes cannot do. But I would ask the honorable member why they cannot put even 50,000 acres under crop? Simply because they do not care to pay a living wage to the men who would be required to perform the work.
– That is not correct. Does the honorable member say that they could get the labour with which to do it?
– Ifthe land-owner were prepared to pay a living wage to his men, there would be no reason why he could not put 50,000 acres under crop.
– I am afraid that the honorable member does not know much about the matter”.
– That is what we are always told when we hit our opponents on a soft spot. I know as much about the land question as does the honorable member. I was born upon the land, and when I was only in my teens I was compelled to earn my living in a country where they understood how to farm scientifically.
– I hope that the rest of the honorable member’s argument is sounder than that.
– That is a vicious attack.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is no judge. I recognise that the honorable member for Grampians usually understands what he is talking about. But to-night he is a bit off.
– He is not a bad sort.
– That is what is said about all the landlords in England.
– But the honorable member recognises that there is a difference between the individual who works the land for himself and the man who hasto pay wages to get it worked ?
– I do.
– I think that the honorable member for Grey knows more about the matter than does the honorable member for Gwydir.
– That is not the question. I must ask the honorable member for Grampians not to double-bank me.
– Why does not the honorable member point out the weakness of the scheme of the honorable member for Grampians ?
– I am doing so. His idea is that if landed proprietors would subdivide their holdings, there would be no occasion for us to resort to a progressive land-tax.
– But would not an increased demand for land increase its value ?
– Undoubtedly. That is the weakness of the scheme. We must recognise that there are lean seasons as well as fat seasons in Australia. I represent a constituency in which it is possible for men engaged in the production of wool to clear off the cost of their holdings in two years if they enjoy good seasons. It is most productive country. But the pleasure which they derive in securing these large profits is as nothing compared with the torture which they undergo when they are endeavouring to save their stock from the devastating effects of drought. So far, there has been no real settlement in Australia. The scheme of the honorable member for Grampians is a gamble, and it is with a view to remove that form of gamble from our midst that the Labour Party are advocating the proposal which I am urging to-night. Of course, I am aware that our opponents say that we wish to interfere with State rights. They declare that the land ques. lion belongs to the States. To me, it is perfectly clear that the individual who raises that cry is an enemy to reform. There is not a State Parliament in Australia to-day which can pass a progressive land tax, no matter how urgently it may be desired by its people.
– That is why our opponents say that it is a State question.
– And we are told that they are the only people who have a stake in the country.
– The man who has a wife and family has a bigger stake. This matter has been talked about, in the States for the past twelve years, but in no instance has the Legislative Council - the House of landlords - sanctioned the imposition of more than a mere apology for the progressive land tax. Thev have thrown out land taxation proposals without consideration, and have practically shown that as long as they exist the landlordism of the Commonwealth is safe in its monopoly.
– There is a land tax in operation in Victoria.
– It is a mongrel taxan absolute mockery. Although, as the result of Government action and private enterprise, some 448,000 acres in Victoria have been subdivided during the last four years, the number of estates is greater than before. The reason for this is that the monopolist has come in and bought up some of the land so dealt with. Others speculate in land, and put tenants upon their holdings. That is what has taken place under the system that is advocated by the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for North Sydney.
– lt is due to the fact that the farmers are allowed to obtain the fee-simple of the land.
– It is because the people cannot help themselves. It is hopeless to expect action to be taken by the States Parliaments in the direction that our .party propose. Even if it were possible for land taxation to be imposed by some of the States Legislatures, it would be unwise to leave this task to them, since our desire is to populate Australia, and not to populate one State at the expense of another. If a land tax were imposed in New South
Wales, with the result that various large estates were offered for closer settlement, we should have farmers hurrying there from Victoria, South Australia,’ and other States. We desire to give effect to a policy that will apply equally to all parts of the Commonwealth. We desire a tax that will cause the sliprails of ‘ large estates to be thrown down, so that the sons of our farmers and their dependents may go upon them. We desire, also, that, the people, of the old world who come here, bringing money and experience with them, shall have an opportunity to assist in laving the foundation of a strong and healthy yeomanry. It is because we believe that State legislation in this direction would be ineffective, that we advocate a Federal progressive lar.r) tax. We shall secure such a tax when the electors do their duty, and relieve us of the presence in this House of those who either do not understand or refuse to understand the true interests of the people. When the Parliament of the Commonwealth recognises its full power - when if recognises the shallow mockery of the proposals of the Opposition - it will pass land tax legislation that will be effective. We desire to meet the legitimate demand for land. Whenever a desirable block of land is thrown open for settlement in New South Wales it is_ sought for by men who travel miles in the hope of securing it. After all, it is only a chance; it is very much’ like taking a ticket in one of Tattersall’s consultations in the hope of drawing the winning marble. Only by mere chance can a citizen! in New South’ Wales secure a piece of land on which to make a home for himself and his family.
– In the last five years during which according to their boast, the honorable member and his colleagues ran the Government of New South Wales, 4,000,000 acres of land were alienated.
– The honorable member is once more resorting to his cunning tactics, but I am not going To run over the rail that he has put down. I have known of men who saved .£400 or .£500, and who. in their desire to secure a block of land on which, to make a home, travelled from town to town until their means were exhausted, and were then left landless and moneyless.
– Western Australia gives 160 acres for nothing.
– I have seen some of the land there, and am of opinion that Western Australia is prepared to give away that which she cannot sell.
SirJohn Forrest. - There is plenty of good land.
– The Midland Company has some of the best land in Western Australia. Its holdings represent a gigantic grab made in the early days. The land which the Government of Western Australia are prepared to give away is of no value.
SirJohn Forrest. - It is being taken up by large numbers of people.
– How could men be expected to go into some parts of that land of sand and blight?
– There are forests there.
– And a monopoly is now denuding those forests more rapidly than any similar territory has been stripped of its timber. The remarks which I have made in regard to the demand for land in New South Wales will apply also to Victoria. In Queensland there is still an opportunity to secure good land, because the whole of it has not yet fallen into the hands of monopolists. The desire of the Labour Party in proposing a Federal land tax is to secure closer settlement in all the States. If a holding of 50,000 acres be subdivided, and settled by 100 families, other employment is created. Roads and bridges are needed, and railway and telephonic extensions axe demanded. Then, again, co-operation can be induced, not only in working the land, but in distributing its products, and in this way great economies can be effected. Mildura furnishes an illustration of what a number of settlers living in close proximity can do by co-operation in the marketing of their products. I could talk for hours if it were necessary on the benefits to be derived from closer settlement. When water conservation is required to-day an appeal is made to the Government to come to the rescue of the people. Sometimes the Government are unable to do so, but this difficulty would be overcome as the result of closer settlement. The people so settled on the land would take care to conserve God’s precious fluid,’ and so use it that the pastoral lands of Victoria and other States would bring forth crops that would enrich the people and gladden the hearts of tillers of the soil. I have already incidentally referred to another aspect of the subject. The vast territory which constitutes this Commonwealth is populated by a little over 4,000,000 persons - men, women, and children.
– A large proportion of whom are sweated and starving.
– Where should we be if national danger arose? Land and property are of little value, unless those who hold them have some security in their possession, and know that they will not be taken away by an invading, victorious foe. When troubles ariseit will be the men who are paying tribute to landlords who will be asked to fight the battles of the country. In the interests of our children, the custodians of whose rights and liberties we are, I appeal to Parliament and to the country to adopt a policy which will provide for the protection, as well as the continuous development of the nation. We cannot fight without soldiers.
– There are 22,000 Hindoos, kanakas, and other coloured aliens in Queensland who might be called upon to do some of the fighting.
– I would not trust a coloured man to defend my children ; I would rather try to defend them myself. We wish the country to develop in every direction, and yet are not prepared to adopt that policy which is best calculated to promote development. The Minister of Defence is afraid to move, because of the strong grip that Parliament has on him, and honorable members object to the spending of a large amount to provide armaments and equipments for defence against invasion. Why cannot we do what is necessary for our proper defence? It is because we have not sufficient population. The heritage of the people is monopolized by a few, so that their lands are not producing what they should produce. If we settled our country, allowing our peopleto establish homes therein,the community would benefit by the increased circulation of wealth which their industry would create. Let us throw down the slip-rails, and let the people on the land.Let us settle them on the country through which our railways pass, and close to our markets. In this way our lands will be developed to the fullest extent, bringing forth plentiful harvests, and the Commonwealth will prosper and proceed steadily on the road to nationhood. We must put aside all fallacies, all myths, all delusive proposals of politicians who from time immemorial have been bandying words on such questions as freetrade and protection. We must get down to bed-rock. We must dig out the cancer which is preying upon our social system, so that the organism may have a chance to recover its health, and to grow strong. I am not appealing to men of money, to the landholders, or to the bankers of this country ; I am speaking to the workers, in the interests of our children, and of those who are yet unborn. I want the land for the landless and the landless for the land. That is the policy which we must inscribe upon the flag which we nail to our mast. Without such a policy the country cannot progress as a young country should. The large estates which are now held by a few are strangling development. They are preventing the progress of districts, decimating towns and villages, depopulating the country, and driving those who should be settled upon the land into the already over-crowded cities. This is a rotten state of affairs, and the party which has the courage to try to reform it, notwithstanding the opposition of vested interests, is undertaking a noble cause. By carrying out reforms we shall benefit Australia, the glorious Empire upon which the sun never sets, of which we are a part, and humanity at large. But we shall do this only if we have the courage of our opinions, standing by them and fighting for them, until people are convinced of the wisdom of our proposals, and a prosperity follows our efforts four times as great as that which has resulted in New Zealand from the actions of Mr. Ballance and Mr. Seddon. We must not be triflers, playing on political harps to the delusion of our fellow citizens, but must tread the thorny path of duty, urging always the interests of the people, and ready at all times to defend their rights and liberties.
.- It is a great relief to an ordinary member of the Committee to know that the speech just concluded by so torrential a peroration is not designed as an appeal to party feeling. The honorable member for Gwydir has told us that he has spoken solely in the public interest, without party motive, and, with no such object as the obtaining of votes. The honorable member said something about nailing his colours to the mast. If his political career stands for anything, the fittest place for him to nail his colours would be the political fence. He accused honorable members upon this side of the
House of masquerading as free-traders. He also accused protectionists upon this side of the Chamber, and upon the Ministerial benches of masquerading as protectionists. It is singularly unfortunate that this misdescription! should come from an honorable member who has been everything - a protectionist, a free-trader, and a Socialist - all within a short space of time. In 1891 the honorable member submitted himself to the Canterbury Labour League as a candidate for that constituency. Before his name went to the ballot, however, it was withdrawn, and he afterwards opposed the selected labour candidate as a protectionist. He was defeated upon that occasion. Afterwards, in the Marrickville electorate, he succeeded vd gaining, upon his own merits, the suffrages of eleven trusting electors. Subsequently he joined the Labour League, and was returned to this House. He now feels called upon to traduce many better men. I did not, however, rise with a view to making a party speech. We have’ listened to some fairly comprehensive addresses, and I propose to speak as briefly as the occasion will permit upon a non-party question, and in a non-party spirit. I am glad to at last find myself in complete harmony with the Treasurer upon the matter with regard to which I intend to address the Committee. The right honorable gentleman made some statements with regard to the Naval Agreement, which show beyond the shadow cf a doubt that he, as the mouthpiece of the Government, is prepared to accept the verdict of the Imperial Defence Committee and stand by the principle of the Naval Agreement, instead of giving his adherence to the policy so recently advocated by members of the Labour Party. In considering the question of Australian defence, the first thing that strikes one is the extraordinary concentration of power that has been going on throughout’ the world. Just- as honorable members know that this concentration has been going on in the industrial world, and that what I may term the tools of trade have been passing into fewer hands, so, throughout the world, the control of armaments is passing into fewer hands. One hundred years ago the armaments of the smaller powers were factors that had to be taken into account. During the Napoleonic era great efforts were made to gain possession of the armaments of the Netherlands, Denmark, and other small countries, and the motherland made immense efforts to counteract this movement. In those days the smaller powers counted for something, but to-day they are hardly worthy of consideration. The military power of Europe is practically now concentrated in the hands of tha Triple Alliance on the one hand, and the Dual Alliance on the other, with England holding the balance between them. There are smaller countries, which exist only because the time is not opportune for the larger powers to absorb them. In South America, there are a number of small powers which exist, not because of their inherent merits, but because of the Monroe doctrine, established bv 80,000,000 of our own flesh and blood in the United States, which insures the inviolability of American territory. Therefore, it appears that the sun of the small powers is set, awd I am prompted to the conclusion that, for this reason if for no other, this Continent must be, for all time, indissolubly bound up with the great Empire of which we form a part! What is Australia’s position in the Empire? Up to the present, we have been able to devote ourselves to the development of our immense territory, without being called upon to pay any regard to the responsibilities of nationhood. We have never had to fight for our great heritage ; we have never heard a shot fired in anger, nor have we ever been asked to take part in the Imperial Defence Scheme. What is the reason of this ? Great Britain has had to provide for her own territorial integrity, and for the safety of her trade. Her only possible enemies have been centred in Europe, and as she has been compelled to maintain a vast fleet to hold the European powers in check, she has been enabled, incidentally, and without providing any ships or armaments for the exclusive defence of Australia, to afford us security. British armaments have been thrown like a cloak round the coast of Europe, and access to the high seas has been denied to any possible enemy that might threaten Australia. Under these conditions, Australia was right behind the Imperial shield ; but what is her position to-day ? She has suddenly moved from behind the Imperial shield, and has taken v,p a position far in the forefront. She is now an outpost nearest to the danger centre. We are very near to the new powers in the East, with one of whom we are fortunately in alliance, but with whom we can- not expect - although we may hope - to remain always at peace; and I ask honorable members to consider the changed situation, and to reflect that we now owe a duty to ourselves infinitely greater than any we have had to discharge in our past history. The people of the mother country will not have the same interest or the same concern in building war ships in competition with the new powers in the Far East that they have had in maintaining huge naval armaments against the powers of Europe, who offer greater menace of invasion. What does , all this mean? It seems to me that when foreign armaments more nearly approximate our own the great empty lands of Australia will be in danger of being taken from us, without our being able to offer anything but the most flimsy and hopeless resistance. That. I am sure, is a consideration with which honorable members will deeply concern themselves. What duty do we owe to Australia under such circumstances? Our own capacity to protect ourselves is likely to become comparatively less and less effective year by year. Alone, . we cannot hope to compete with the great Eastern powers. A mere comparison of our population with theirs should be sufficient to enable honorable members to recognise that fact. For instance, Japan - which is by far the less powerful potentially of the great powers of the East - possesses a population of nearly 48,000,000. The population of China is, roughly speaking, 400,000,000. At the present time, the Japanese fleet, which is only in its infancy, consists of 166 vessels, and there are 39 additional vessels at present in course of construction. In other words, the fleet of Japan - including the ships which are new being built - numbers 205 vessels. I mention this merely with a view to showing that we have no possible chance of standing alone. I have already pointed out the danger of Imperial slackness in this matter, and I ask what solution of the difficulty presents itself which is not in the direction of Imperial cooperation? What possible hope is there that a proper solution of the problem, from an Australian stand-point, can be arrived at if it does not lie in our being able to make a business arrangement with the mother country under which we shall insure that Imperial strength, in battlefleets shall always increase in the same ratio as the fleets of Europe and Asia combined? Unless we can enter into some such arrangement, Australia will not long remain in possession of the race which now occupies it. In suggesting that we should make a business arrangement with the mother country in this connexion, I wish it to be clearly understood that I do not mean that Australia should stint her own efforts in any way. She must devote herself to training her own men and to developing her own naval power. If her men are to be used in u co-operatve effort, thev must be trainer under the one control. The Australian contribution to any Imperial fleet - and I use the word “Imperial” in its widest sense - must be under a proper system of discipline, and under the same command as are the contributions from other sections of the Empire. To insure discipline in all the Empire’s fleets, there must be one control, otherwise how can a commander know how to employ the forces at his disposal to the best advantage? There must be one control for the construction of the Empire’s ships, or how can we know that the tactical difficulties of the commanders in manoeuvring them will not be immensely increased? There must be one control in the distribution of those fleets, or how can we be assured that, upon the outbreak of war, the Empire’s efforts will be put forth to the best advantage? There we have the ideal of a co-operative Imperial navy. Some honorable members - especially those in the Labour corner - have been wont to ridicule the idea that Australia is unable to provide for her own defence. But I would point out that it is no more unworthy for Australia to seek to co-operate in a manly way, to her own advantage, with the people of our own blood overseas than it is for a trade unionist to combine with another trade unionist for a common purpose.
– The trade unionists will be called upon to fight the battles of the Empire when that time comes.
– I am not casting any reflection upon trade unionists. I am merely pointing out that the honorable member cannot legitimately oppose the co-operation of Australia with the mother country-
– If the honorable member was not sneering at trade unionists, why does he accuse. the Labour corner of doing anything of the kind?
– I cannot understand the observation of the honorable member. The ideal of a co-operative Imperial navy will involve some very serious modifications in the existing Imperial Constitution. Its attainment is beset with difficulties. But, although those modifications may be undesirable to a degree, some change is absolutely necessary. Australia unaided cannot defend her own shores. She must join with other people, and she can only join equitably with them by securing a modification of the existing Imperial Constitution. These modifications may be, for many reasons, undesirable, but they are none the less necessary on that account. Before many years have passed, honorable members will recognise that fact. I am afraid that this is a subject with which I am scarcely fitted to deal. Nobody has a keener appreciation than myself of my own inability to do it justice. Honorable members know that I have done my best to interest the leaders of opinion in the House in this all-important Imperial question. But I have not been successful in inducing them to take action, and therefore it becomes necessary for the rank and file to grope their way to the light as best they can. We have this idea before us as a beaconlight. We want to take all the steps we can to move in the direction indicated, even if we cannot achieve all that is desired at once. For my own part, I think that what we should endeavour to do is to extend the principle of the Naval Agreement in every way possible. I think that the naval reserve in Australia at the present time has a serious cause for complaint, and I do hope that the Government will do all that it possibly can to insure the extension of the principle of the Naval Agreement to this force, constituting the naval reserve of Australia as an Imperial naval reserve in these waters, trained on Imperial vessels at certain times of the year. If that principle be so extended, the naval reserve will be made greatly more useful than it is now. It needs extension in that direction, and also in the direction of offering facilities for Australians to rise to the highest grades in the service in Australia. These are extensions of the principle of the Naval Agreement which I hope the Government twill take even)’ opportunity to have made as soon as possible. If they were made, the “burning question” of an Australian Navy would be relegated to the background. It is quite possible to do it. It is possible to use all the officers we have in Australia in our locally-controlled forces, transferred and made into an Imperial naval reserve in Australia. The only difference between themselves then and now would be that they would then be subject to the Imperial standard of discipline, whilst now they have a standard of their own under which they have to work. The first step would be to ask Imperial officers to make an annual inspection of the Australian forces, and to furnish an annual report on the state of their discipline. So much for the naval side of the Australian defence problem. May I ask for leave to continue my remarks to-morrow?
– On the understanding that we finish this debate to-morrow.
– Honorable members on this side have not been making long speeches.
– As long as the honorable member does not interfere with speakers on his own side, I do not object. I think there are no more speakers from this side. How long would the honorable member be to-morrow?
– Probably half-an-hour.
– Why not finish to-night?
– I do not object, but I did not wish to keep honorable members up at this late hour. I turn now to the second line of Australian defence. I propose to deal solely with the anti-invasion forces of the Commonwealth, and not at present with the coastal forces as they exist at the present time. I include, the garrison artillery and troops in the coastal forces. When we are considering the question of what forces we need in Australia for the distinct purpose of repelling invasion, it becomes necessary for us to consider when it is likely that these forces will be called into requisition. It is obvious that Australia cannot be invaded until the command of the seas has been lost. It is obvious, therefore, that our anti-invasion forces cannot be called into requisition until such an eventuality occurs. Our position in Australia is very much like the position of Great Britain. The British problem is our problem. Great Britain’s second line of defence will be called into operation ait about the same period as our own. I have here the opinion of the present Secretary for War in Great Britain as to the position of the anti-invasion forces there. I quote from column 664 of the English. Hansard for the present session - volume 153. Mr. Haldane said -
The first thing we want is absolutely clear thinking about the purposes for which the Array exists, and the principles on which it is to be organized. That, perhaps, seems a. trilling thing to say, but it would seem more trifling to say that copy book maxims are useful things. Every error multiplies itself into millions. In the Army you are dealing with an enormous body of men under all sorts of complicated conditions, and if you are not perfectly clear what you want to do with these men, and on what principles you desire to fashion their organization, you may be involved in an amount of expenditure, and in a state of confusion you cannot realize beforehand.
He went on to say -
It was laid down with extreme clearness by the right honorable gentleman, the member for th’e City of London, on nth May last, in a speech to which we all listened wilh the deepest interest, because we felt it marked a new stage on the way to efficiency, that on the hypothesis of the worst possible moment of our military position, and on the calculation of Lord Roberts, accepted by other military critics, it would not be possible to attempt an invasion of our island with less than 70,000 men, and no admiral of the British Fleet would undertake such a task. That is the advantage of a strong Navy, and very useful when considering the cutting down of all unnecessary army expenditure. The right honorable gentleman,, the late War Minister, was of opinion that no foreign nation would care to land 5,000 or 10,000 men. If they did land 5,000 or 10,000 it would be no use, because they could not come subsequently and take them away. Such a number of merv might cause some annoyance, but they would alt be cut up, not one of them would get back.
He then referred to the essentiality of the Navy, and said -
Let us start then on the assumption that we are in earnest with this principle, and that it is now a continuous principle. It is the principle of the late Government ; it is the principle of the Defence Committee; it is the principle of the Navy ; it is the principle of the War Office, and the Army Council ; it is the principle of the present Government, just as it was the principle of the late Government. It is an accepted principle, and one on which the rule of clear thinking should apply. We have bed-rock fact here for the organization, of our defence.
That bed-rock fact was the predominance of the Navy and its efficiency to repel invasion. Mr. Haldane went on to say that, as the country’s whole effort had been put into this unit, and as the country could not afford both a navy and a large army, it became necessary, in considering the second line of defence solely, to provide only such portions of a.n army machine as could not be constructed between the period of the outbreak of hostilities and such time as our naval supremacy might be wrested from us. He held that, if the country provided such portions of the military machine as could not be provided in a hurry - as could not be provided in the interval between the outbreak of war and the loss of the command of the seas - the rest of the country’s second line of defence might be left until the outbreak of war. The position of Great Britain is entirely that of Australia. If the Government were to content themselves so far as our second line of defence is concerned with providing a truly efficient administration - and that we have not got at present - by providing either small arm ammunition and ordnance factories, or an adequate supply of ordnance and ammunition, and all the stores that cannot be supplied at a moment’s notice, they would be doing all that is necessary at present. In such a case they might well leave the mere raising of levies to such a period as between” the outbreak of war and the loss of sea command would enable us to train them to be efficient soldiers.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Isaacs) read a first time.
House adjourned at 11. 14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060809_reps_2_32/>.