2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister received from Captain Strachan a communication asking that costs be not claimed in the case in which a non-suit was granted against him, because of the plea of noliability raised by the Commonwealth Government, and requesting an investigation into the whole matter? Is it intended to claim costs?
– I have received a letter asking that costs be not insisted upon. . It niay - though I do’ not remember that it does - contain a request for an investigation. The papers have been referred to the ‘Law Department’-
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if he has any objection to laying on the table of the Library the papers containing the report of the Acting Chief Clerk in the General Post-office, Sydney, relating to the working of the office?
– There might be an objection to the production of merely the report of the Acting Chief Clerk, but there is no objection to laying the full file on the table of the Library.
– In which the report of the Acting Chief Clerk will be included ?
– I wish to ‘know from the Postmaster-General if it is correct, as stated in this morning’s Argus, that the Acting Secretary tohis Department ‘has said that telephone girls who have conscientious objection to working on Sundays will be sent to the country districts ?
– I cannot answer that question until I have consulted the officer referred to, but I shall endeavour to supply the information on Tuesday next.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take steps to see that the conscientious objection’s of all public servants, male and female, are properly respected?
– I desire to ask theAttorneyGeneral the question relating to a statement by the Minister of Trade and Customs in reference to the valuation of Massey-Harris harvesters, standing in the name of the honorable and learned member for Parkes?
– I think that the honorable member will see that his question might properly be addressed to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who will be here during the day.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and’ Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will present to the House the Tariff Commission’s Report on the Iron Industry immediately or at an early date?
– I do not know whether the reports alluded to are those relating to harvesters and agricultural implements already on the table. No other reports have been received. I ask that the question be given notice of for Tuesday’, and be made more definite.
Motion (by Mr. Bamford) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Library a copy of the report of Judge Murray in the O’Brien case in New Guinea; also a copy of the instructions issued to Judge Murray in connexion with this case.
Motion (by Mr. Bamford) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Library a copy of the preliminary and the final reports of Messrs. McLachlan, Garran, and Miller, concerning the Richmond case in New Guinea.
– I wish to ask leave ic move, without notice, a motion standing in my name under the heading of general business, which I think the Prime Minister will not oppose, but which I am not likely to be able to get at unless this course is permitted. It asks for a return relating to the trade of the New Hebrides.
– I think that it will be unnecessary fcr the honorable member to move that motion, because I am willing to give him next week all the information available, though reference will have to be made to the New Hebrides for replies to some of his questions.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to validate the electoral divisions of the State of New South Wales.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Copyright Act 1905.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 2997), on motion by Sir John Forrest - .
That the item, “ President, , £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- Last night I made reference to the fact that in the discussion of the financial problems of the Commonwealth on this year’s Budget, a more national sentiment has been expressed than has been given utterance to on any previous occasion in the history of this Parliament, and it is to our credit that so many honorable members have devoted time and attention, and I presume have incurred some expense, to the production of schemes for solving the question of how best to take over the debts of the States. It is not my duty, nor would it be of much advantage to the Committee if I were, to express my opinion of the individual efforts which have been put forth in this direction. From my point of view, the bolder the scheme the more successful it will be. Political backbone means more in this matter than financial genius. The leader of the Opposition stated, during the Convention debates, and his statement has since been repeated here, that if the Commonwealth took over the debts of the States, it would make a present to the bondholders of the difference in interest.
– That is, before conversion.
– Yes. But the States did not federate with a power greater than themselves. The Federation is made up of the six States which were formerly independent colonies, and the Constitution contains a provision which practically calls upon the Commonwealth to see that the credit of no State is injured, and that the credit of the Commonwealth is not injured through injury to the credit of a State. The Constitution having thus empowered the Commonwealth to stand by any State which may be in difficulties, the credit of the Commonwealth has practically been given to the weakest State, so that it seems to me not to make any difference whether the Commonwealth takes over the States debts now, or merely guarantees them under the constitutional provisions requiring it to see them through any difficulty. The national sentiment of Australia will never allow the debts of any State to be repudiated or its credit to be depreciated.
– The credit of the smaller States is as good as that of the larger States.
– The Tasmanian 3 per cents, are higher than the Queensland 3 per cents.
– That may be so, but it does not affect my argument. I am pointing out that no State will be allowed to go under, and that the credit of the Commonwealth is no greater than the mean of the credits of the States.
– All the authorities concur as to that. The Commonwealth has no credit at present over and above the credit of the States.
– That is so. The leader of the Opposition, however, stated in the Convention that the Commonwealth would make a present of the difference between Commonwealth interest and States interests if it were to take over the debts of the States at the present time. ‘
– That was acknowledged by all those whom I consulted upon the subject in London.
– But does not the Treasurer see the fallacy underlying that?
– No; because one class of securities is negotiable, and has the authority of the Commonwealth behind it.
– But does not the Treasurer know that the Commonwealth would be bound to meet, to the utmost farthing, everv engagement of the States?
– However reckless they might be?
– It is not a question of recklessness. The Constitution makes the necessary provision. The Commonwealth is no stronger than those who have made it, and can never permit any portion of the States debts to be repudiated. I belong to a party thathas been accused of endangering the credit of the Commonwealth, but I declare that, so far as I am concerned, not a single obligation of the States shall be repudiated, whilst the Commonwealth can provide the necessary assistance. It is illusory to say that if we take over the States debts now we shall make a present to the bondholders.
SirJohn Forrest.- I say that we shall be making a present to them.
– We may improve the security, but the States joined the Union with that very object in view. We are bound to see the States through, and the best thing we could do would be to take over their debts forthwith, and arrange for the payment of the interest to the bondholders.
– The Prime Minister based one of his strongest arguments upon the proposed transfer of the States debts to the Commonwealth when he asked Queensland to join the Union.
– Just so. The States are all members of the one family, and the whole resources of the Commonwealth should be behind their securities. Any disadvantage that might result from our giving greater security to the bondholders would be more than compensated for by the benefits that would be derived if we dealt with this matter forthwith in a national spirit.
– Has the honorable member any plan of his own?
– I am not here to submit a plan, but I would suggest that the main thing that is necessary in dealing with this question is a little political backbone.
– Does the honorable member mean that the Treasurer should shake himself free of the Labour Party?
– The onlv way in which this matter can be effectively dealt with is for a strong man who knows exactly what is required to put forward a proposal, and take the full . responsibility . of his action. If, on appealing to the people, he can secure the approval of the majority, he can go- right ahead with his scheme, and carryit to a successful issue. I know of no other way of settling a question of this kind. I have no confidence in conferences and boards. Finally, the whole question must be settled bv the members of this Parliament, who are directly responsible to the people. During the last session of this Parliament, we are entering upon a financial path that may lead us into the gravest difficulties, if not disaster. The Treasurer thinks imperially in regard to matters of finance - he thinks in millions.
– I have had more experience than the honorable member.
– I quite agree with the honorable gentleman, and I trust that he will have much further experience. I am making no charge against him.
– The honorable member seems to infer that I am an extravagant person.
– That was never in my mind. The right honorable gentleman was a child of fortune in his own State. When he ruled the affairs of that State so well there was a great boom in Western Australia. He has also been a child of fortune here. He came into office immediately that the revenue began to recover after the recent severe drought.
– There was an increase of £413,745 in the revenue last year as compared with the previous year.
– But the revenue is continuing to increase. There is a difference between rising to the crest of the wave and starting to fall after the wave has reached its maximum height. The Commonwealth was launched at a time of difficulty and distress, and we started on our financial career upon sound lines. We should not in times of prosperity imagine that! the revenue will go on increasing indefinitely. Since the Treasurer made his Budget statement another body not directly responsible to the people has brought down a financial policy wjhich will have the effect of entirely upsetting the Treasurer’s estimates of revenue. How will the Government face the situation ? In the States Parliaments when Ministers are embarrassed by financial proposals with which they disagree, but which are accepted by Parliament, they decline to carry on the Government. It has, however, been the rule here to deal with financial matters with the utmost freedom. When the Tariff Commission recommended alterations in the duties which it was estimated would result in a loss of £90,000 per annum, honorable members agreed to the proposals, and the Government had to accept them. The Commission may make similar proposals with regard to a hundred or more items, and the Treasury may be sadly depleted. What could the Government do in such a case? They are sadly hampered by the restrictions imposed upon them by the Constitution, and they should at least proceed with extreme caution. I do not think that this is a fitting time for the consideration of Tariff proposals that may involve a heavy loss of revenue. If the Treasury were seriously depleted as a result of the adoption of amendments in the Tariff such as those dealt with yesterday, the Treasurer would be in a difficulty that could not be over come by smooth words. I make no charge against the Government, because they have been tied hand and foot owing to the policy adopted by the Opposition. The leader of that party stated that if the Tariff Commission brought down any proposals upon which they were unanimously agreed he would support them.
– The Government should not take its policy from the leader of the Opposition.
– That is not the question. I am dealing with a matter of the very first importance. We cannot escape our responsibilities. We should not deal with the finances as if we were a lot of children. This is the very worst possible time at which we could deal with the proposed alterations of duties. We are not being asked to adopt the proposals df Ministers fully sensible of their responsibilities with regard to the finances, but to act at the instance of an outside body that is responsible to no one. The idea of introducing penny postage is a grand one, and I agree with the PostmasterGeneral that one of the objects of the Federal union was to (bring about uniformity in this and other matters. But can we afford to do so now?
– I am exceedingly glad to hear it. That statement entirely fits in with the arguments I am about to advance. What is the question of first importance before this House which has not yet been dealt with? What is the question upon which successive Governments have appealed to the country, and upon which they have practically commanded the unanimous support of honorable members? Undoubtedly it is that of old-age pensions;. Where is the policy of uniformity in that connexion? In the manifesto which was issued to the electors by the first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, it was stated that that question was urgent, that it was necessary, that it should be dealt with, and that the Government were entirely in favour of the proposal. Yet nothing has been done to give effect to a workable scheme. Instead we find the Ministry urging the need for uniformity in our postal service - a proposition which certainly has something to commend it - and ignoring this more urgent and vital question. What about the poor unfortunates who, during the past five years, have had the stigma of pauperism attached to them, and who are being permitted to go down to their graves ‘in that condition? Evidently the Government believe in uniformity in small matters, but in great questions that consideration finds no place in their programme. As far as I am personally concerned, I believe that penny postage must ultimately be adopted. But the matter is not urgent, and the system need not foe initiated until we have dealt with the Braddon section of our Constitution and with the bookkeeping provisions.
– It need not be dealt with, I suppose, until a more convenient season ?
– The Treasurer himself has asked what w.as the object of Federation, if it was not to bring about uniform privileges. If there be any force in his contention, surely it is applicable to the question of old-age pensions. I wish now to direct attention to the misapprehension which exists in regard to the sugar bountv. In a leading article which it published uoon the 3rd instant, the Argus fell into a srrievous error regarding this matter. Not onlv did it quote old figures, but it made statements which were not in accordance with facts, and which ought not to have appeared in a journal of such standing. I wish again to point out that the sugar industry is an agricultural industry,, which is being carried on in a tropical country bv means of white labour. Practically it constitutes the first experiment of the kind in the world.
– Cotton is being grown by white labour in the tropical regions of America.
– When the industry was started in Australia, it afforded the first object-lesson in the world of a tropical enterprise being carried on by means of white labour. I admit that the white growers of Queensland receive a protection of£5 per ton. The whole question, to mv mind, is whether that is too high a measure of protection or not. For the honorable and learned member for Angas to argue, as he’ did last night, that the Commonwealth is annually giving away a large sum of money out of the revenue to support the industry, is too absurd a proposition to debate. The reason why this Parliament sanctioned the payment of a bounty was to insure that the white growers should receive the benefit which we intended that they should secure.
– How much have we given them? More than , £1,500,000.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. For every £2 that we have given to the white growers of sugar in Queensland they have paid £3 into the Treasury.
– But we give them a 50 per cent. Tariff on top of that.
– If the Tariff is too high, let us attack it in a straightforward manner. It is extremely to be regretted that honorable members who are perfectly honest in their intentions, but who misunderstand the position, should make statements which have the effect of misleading persons who have no opportunity of becoming familiar with the facts. The Argus, in discussing this matter, said -
It is a notable fact that the policy - meaning the White Australia policy - has not been to drive black labour out of the fields, but only to stimulate the growth of sugar by white labour at the expense of the imported article.
That is not correct. The article then goes on to quote old figures which are misleading. When this matter was previously under consideration, I stated that the cur rent year would afford a true test of the efficacy of the policy which has been indorsed by this Parliament. I repeat that statement, and I venture to say that during the present year fully 70 per cent, of the whole of the sugar output of Queensland will be produced by white labour.
– Will there not also be an enormous increase in the bounty ?
– As I have already endeavoured to explain, for every £2 which the planters receive by way of bounty, they have to contribute to the Treasury £3 by way of Excise.
– What is the increased percentage of white labour employed in. the cane-fields ? The increase of the bounty is about 80 per cent, or 90 per cent.
– The increase in the production of sugar by white labour last year would represent quite that percentage. This year the increase will represent 150 per cent. Last year 50,000 tons of sugar were produced in Queensland by white labour, whereas this year the production will be 125,000 tons.
– Bow much will be produced by means of black labour?
– About 53,000 tons. In No. 1 district, which embraces an area to the north of Townsville, and within the tropics, the production will be 31,650 tons.
In No. 2 district, which covers the Burdekin, and the delta behind Bowen and Mackay, 34,000 tons will be produced; in No. 3 district, which includes my own constituency, the production will be 52,000 tons, and south of that it will aggregate 7,350 tons. In the- light of these figures, those who have consistently supported the policy of a White Australia must feel exceedingly pleased. I had intended to quote the resolutions which were passed by various bodies in Queensland at the time that legislation was introduced, but perhaps it would be unwise for me to do so. Even men of experience, who were resident in my own district, declared that it was impossible for the industry to be successfully conducted exclusively by white labour.
– Every Chamber of Commerce said the same thing.
– A Chinese opera would not be more interesting, in the light of the figures which I have just quoted, than would be a perusal of the communications which reached us from various organizations. I wish that honorable members, before declaring that Queensland is deriving an undue benefit from the operation of the bounty, would investigate the facts for themselves. I have never denied that this Parliament has done justice to Queensland, but I do think it is to be regretted that misleading statements in connexion with the sugar bounty should be so frequently repeated. I come now to another question. A few days ago we were assured by a leading journal in this city that a large number of the members of the Labour Partv in this Parliament were returned by minority votes. The newspaper in question published certain tables with a. view to supporting its statements. This circumstance stimulated me to institute a comparison between the number of votes polled in Victoria at the last Senatorial election by the Argus four, as against the four labour candidates. I find that the votes polled for the Argus candidates were as follow: - Sir John Mclntyre, 84,699; Mr.Derham, 81,912; Colonel Templeton, 74,062 ; and Mr. Smith, 8r,875, or a total of 312.548. The Labour candidates polled the following number of votes: - Findley, 88,614; Sollv, 80,593; Barker, 76,039; and Lemmon, 73,245. They polled a total of 318,491 votes. The Age also ran a “ ticket,” and the votes scored by its candidates were as follow : - Best, 97,693; Styles, 85,287; Dow, 68,123;and McCulloch, 58,284, making a total of 309,387. The Labour Party polled the highest number of votes, namely, 318,491, but . succeeded in securing the return af only, one member. The Argus, which was next on the list with a total of 312,548. votes, did not secure the return of one candidate, whilst the Age, which was last on the list with 309,387 votes, secured the return of two members.
– The candidate who headed the poll was not included in any “ ticket.”
– That is beside the question.
– I think that it affects it.
– I do not care to attack a newspaper, but I should like to ask what other journal would have resorted to the contemptible tactics adopted by the Age in connexion with the candidature of Senator Trenwith. Does the honorable member for Moira claim that the votes polled by Senator Trenwith should be credited to the Age “ ticket?”
– No, but I say that the figures quoted by the honorable member do not give a true reflex of the position. The honorable member should take the total number of votes polled.
– The same argument might be used to explain away various difficulties. I do not object to the occasional curtain lectures which the Age gives the Labour Party, for they really assist us. Newspaper criticism has no terrors for me. At one time the Labour Party used to revel in it, and I certainly think that far too much attention is paid in this Parliament to the views of the press. The figures I have quoted afford a complete answer to the charge of minority representation made against the Labour Party by the Age. As a matter of fact, its own candidates were elected on a minority vote, and if they have any qualms of conscience in this regard they ought to resign. I wish now to direct attention to the position occupied by New South’ Wales - the dear old mother State - and its “ city of the beautiful harbor.”
– The honorable member ought not to be sarcastic.
– The reference to the “mother” State may be sarcastic, but I am not at all cvnical in referring to Svdney as the “city of the beautiful harbor.” I wish to draw the attention of the representatives of New South Wales to the fact that various objections to the Federal control have been raised by that State in the narrowest possible spirit.
– Surely, not during the present session.
– I shall give evidence’ in support of my contention. As the result of clamouring on the part of New South Wales the Commonwealth Government has been induced to take a step which, if not unconstitutional, is certainly unseemly. The merchants of Sydney raised an outcry that the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs from Melbourne was an injustice to them, with the result that the Minister has practically transferred a part of the administration of that Department to Sydney.
– That was the fault not of Sydney but of the Government.
– I may illustrate my point by mentioning that last night the Chairman of the Tariff Commission informed me that his reason for capitulating in regard to a certain matter before the Committee was that no honorable member had risen to support another proposal in which he believed. The Government apparently, for similar reasons, yielded to the clamour of the merchants of Sydney. It seems that they were prepared, if the clamouring were loud enough, to do a wrong thing in order to placate the merchants of Sydney.
– That shows the weakness of the Government.
– I agree with the honorable member. It was a concession made in a weak moment.
– A concession for advantages ?
– If the step was taken in order to secure political support, it was a most contemptible one.
– It was not taken for that reason. I do not think that the Opposition knew anything of the matter until the step had actually been taken by the Minister.
– It was done solely for departmental convenience.
– Then what has the right honorable gentleman to say as to the position of the more distant States, Queensland and Western Australia?
– The honorable member is raising an outcry about nothing.
– I make no serious complaint regarding the partial transfer of the administration of the Department of
Trade and Customs to New South Wales, but there is a smallness about the whole proceeding that is unworthy of the great State of New South Wales. The action of the Government in yielding to the clamour to which I have referred was also unworthy of them.
– Did New South Wales clamour for the gazetting of an Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs? No one asked for it.
– I never heard of such a demand being made.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs agreed to administer his Department partly from New South Wales and partly from Victoria.
– It was entirely of his own motion that he did so.
– But it was to conciliate the people of Sydney, who were clamouring for the change.
– I never heard of any clamour.
– If, as the Treasurer alleges, the action taken by the Minister of Trade and Customs is a wise one, why should not the administration of the Department be, so to speak, perambulatory, and transferred from time to time to the capitals of all the States? As a matter of fact, the people of the other States capitals have not demanded anything of the kind.
– Is it not reasonable to assume that, for the sake of convenience, it may be well to centralize a certain portion of the administration of the Department in the largest port of the Commonwealth?
– If the procedure were constitutional it might be justified on that ground, but as a matter of fact it is not. The Constitution provides that, until the establishment of the Capital, the Parliament shall meet in Melbourne.
– That the Parliament shall meet, not that the Departments shall be wholly administered here.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that a Department may be administered in any other State?
– That meets the position I take up. If it is necessary to centralize a portion of the administration in New South Wales, it is far more necessary to adopt the same course in regard to Queensland, where we rarely see a Commonwealth Minister.
– And also at Perth.
– Quite so. Why do not the Government frame a policy with a due regard for the smaller as well as for the larger States? Are they to yield only to the clamouring of the majority ?
– It might be legal to transfer the administration of a Department from one State to another as the honorable member suggests, but at the same time it might not be necessary or convenient.
– I have no doubt that the Minister considered it necessary tlo partly transfer the administration of his Department to Sydney, or he would not have done so.
– The honorable member says that Sydney clamoured for this change. He seems to know more about the matter than do the representatives of that State. I never raised the question.
– The honorable member will not deny that the leader of his own party, when Prime Minister, stated that he found it necessary or advisable during certain months to administer the Government from Sydney in order to conciliate the people of New South Wales.
– I do not remember such a statement being made.
– It certainly was published.
– When was it made?
– I shall look it up. I am speaking only from memory, and should not have referred to the statement I have mentioned but for the demand for evidence in support of my contention.
– It would appear, according to the honorable member, that it is wrong for a Minister to go to New South Wales.
– The honorable member is seeking to shift his ground. I come now to another point. Although the Constitution Bill, when first submitted to the people, contained no provision as to the site of the Capital, it was accepted by a majority of those who went to the poll in New South Wales. But for a provision inserted in the Enabling Bill by the State Parliament that there should be a certain number of votes cast in favour of the Bill, the Constitution would 1have been finally adopted without any reference in it to the site of the Capital.
– The State Parliament declared that not less than 80,000 votes should be polled.
– Not less than 80,000 affirmative votes. I blame the politicians rather than the people of New South Wales. The people themselves were more far-see;ng and straightforward than were their politicians. I do not believe that the great body of the people of that State are so narrow-minded as to make all the demands upon the Commonwealth of which we hear so much. I think that the trouble arises from the clamouring of politicians. As the result of the action taken by the State Parliament, the Constitution had to be amended by the insertion of a provision as to the site of the Capital - a provision to which I do not object - before it was finally accepted by New South Wales. It would now seem that we are to be tied down to other conditions demanded by the politicians of that State.
– Why did not the other States federate without New South Wales? Was it not that they could not carry on without her?
– Why did the Government of New South Wales insist that, before it joined the union, Queensland should declare in favour of it?
– For the good of Queensland.
– The grand old mother State desires to direct the national policy. I speak in this strain not because of anyfeeling against New South Wales.
– The remarks of the honorable member suggest that he has such a feeling. ‘
– I repeat that the people of New South Wales are not so narrowminded as are their politicians.
– The honorable member should allow their own representatives to speak for them.
– Those who know me are well aware that I have no ill-feeling towards that State.
– The honorable member is exceedingly provincial.
– That may be so, but I do not make statements in private concerning New South Wales which I am not prepared to repeat in public.
– Do the honorable member’s strictures on the politicians of New South Wales apply to his own leader?
– I make no exception. My convictions may be wrong ; but those who differ from me will have an opportunity to point out that my views of the situation are narrow, short-sighted, and oblique, and that I do not understand the New South Wales position.
– We wish to know whether the honorable member is expressing the feeling of his State?
– I am expressing the broader national feeling.
– And the feeling in other States too.
– I am sorry if I have irritated honorable members. I did not intend to do so. A site was selected by this Parliament. Since then, trouble of various kinds has arisen, and faults have beer, committed by one and. another; but we should! have the matter definitely settled as soon as possible.
– Was it not narrowness to say that the Capital should not be within 100 miles of Sydney?
– When two parties are bargaining, and one tries to get the better of the other, the second is entitled to defend himself by insisting on modifications. The site of the Federal Capital is an Australian, not a State matter, and why New South Wales should have insisted that, as a matter of right, the Capital should be located within her borders is more than I can understand. Her claim did not breathe a national spirit or feeling. Every true Australian must feel that the Federal Capital should occupy the best site in Australia.
– When the honorable member voted for the Constitution on the second referendum, he indorsed the New South Wales demand.
– I did, and I desire that the terms of the Constitution shall be carried into effect. The people of New South Wales have attempted to embarrass the situation. I wish to have the matter absolutely settled as soon as possible: but I am unwilling to have put aside what I consider to be. within the provisions of the Constitution, the best site available. I have held these views for a lonr time, and express them the more freely, because I have endeavoured on every occasion to assist the representatives of New South Wales in bringing the matter to an issue bv obtaining a determination from this Parliament. It does not matter when the question is dealt with, or where the site is fixed. New South Wales must in any case be benefited. What is of importance to me and to the people of Australia, is that the settlement of this question will put an end to local interests and rivalries, and afford opportunities for the growth of an Australian sentiment worthy of and beneficial to the great country of which we have the honour to be citizens.
– I preface my remarks by saying that, in order to compass a great deal within a very short space of time, I shall not weary honorable members by the use of exact figures. In dealing with millions, one maybe excused for leaving out odd thousands, or in dealing with thousands for dropping odd hundreds. By doing so, I hope to avoid wearying honorable members, and to bring my remarks on the Budget to an early conclusion. In the States, prior to Federation, the pronouncement of the Budget by the Treasurer was always one of the great events of the year. Those connected with trade and commerce, and the community generally, anticipated with interest the Treasurer’s presentation of the country’s balance-sheet, so that they might know what the new taxation would be, to what extent the expenditure of the past year could be approved or disapproved, and how far the servants of the public had discharged their duties properly, and were entitled to future confidence. In dealing with this Federal Budget, I desire, first of all, to thank the Treasurer for the manyuseful tables which have been furnished by the officers of his Department. They have saved honorable members a great deal of trouble, and most of them are indicative of very satisfactory results. The Commonwealth is to be congratulated on the fact that the revenue from Customs and Excise, and from the Post-office, Telegraph, and Telephone Departments has been well maintained. The right honorable member for Balaclava, in his first financial statement, said that he anticipated that the importation of free goods would amount to £5,000,000, but we have been told by the right honorable member for Swan that it now amounts to £14,000,000. The right honorable member for Balaclava thought that, after four or five years, a revenue of £7,500,000 would be obtained from the Tariff duties, but the facts show that in no year has the return been less than £8,700,000, while the highest return is £9,500,000, the mean being between £9,000,000 and £9,300,000 a year. These figures are exceedingly satisfactory, because the increase in revenue shows an increase in trade and general prosperity. But, while the Tariff has proved revenue producing, it has also assisted, aided, and abetted the establishment of factories, so that our local manufacturing output is much greater now than it was prior to Federation, and the production of) the country has grown year by year. The revenue of the Postal Department is now £2,800,000, there being last year a surplus of about £150,000, while the surplus estimated for this year is about £60,000, after making provision for a loss of at least £1.50,000 by the establishment of penny postage. But, turning to the expenditure of the country, we get a rather gloomy picture. The people of the States are not satisfied with the continued growth of the expenditure of the Commonwealth. They are doing their share in providing money for the services of Government by paying duties of 20, 25, and 30 per cent, on textiles, fabrics, jewellery, and other imports. Thev are doing this willingly ; but they are unwilling that the expenditure of the Commonwealth shall continue to increase.
– There is no evidence that they pay these high duties willingly. I think that they pay them merely because they have to do so.
– There has been no strong expression of public opinion against the high duties of which I speak. The Tariff has forced the State to which I belong to make up a deficiency of £180,000, or more, in its revenue, in addition to requiring its people to pay high Customs duties; but I have’ not heard any special complaint on that score. When we go to the polls, however, a few months hence, and have to give an account of our stewardship, we shall be very closely questioned in regard to the expenditure of the Commonwealth, which, in five years, has increased by £5,000,000. During that period the surpluses paid to the States have amounted to £5,200,000, the highest return in any one year being the £1,145,000 paid in the second year of the Federation. I regret that the estimated surplus for the current year is only £331,000.
– The States will probably get even less next year.
– I. have arrived at the conclusion that the Commonwealth has nearly got to the end of its tether so far as expenditure is concerned, unless the Treasurer is prepared to face a possible deficiency. With the return of £331,000 this year, Tasmania will have a deficiency of £14,900 ; Queensland, which has had a deficiency every vear but one, will be in default to the extent of £83.000 ; while South Australia will have a surplus of only £4,000, and the remaining £304,000 will be divided between New South Wales and Victoria. With so small a margin as £331,000, and the expenditure growing at the rate of £500,000 a year, it must be apparent that the Treasurer will, before the end of the year, find that he has not sufficient revenue to meet the appropriations of Parliament. Having regard to our increasing expenditure, the loss by the adoption of penny postage, and the cost of the proposed bounties, there is every probability that the Treasurer next year will have a deficit.
– We shall, I feel sure, be able to prevent that.
– I think it most probable that when the right honorable gentleman delivers his next Budget he will have to confess that one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue is insufficient to meet the demands made upon him.
– The recent legislation of the Government is sure to bring about a result of that kind.
– I think it most likely. Some new system of taxation will have to be devised before the next Budget statement is made, and then the Government will find themselves in a greater difficulty than they have yet experienced. It has been very easy sailing for the Government during the first six years of Federation. They have had nothing to do but to receive money and’ spend it. Like the wool that grows on the sheep whilst the pastoralist is sleeping, the money has been rolling into the Treasury while the Treasurer has been travelling.
– Sometimes sheep die.
– That is true, but in the same way that our wool has been realizing, record prices, so our revenue has been increasing until it has reached record figures. I am sorry to say, however, that our financial resources, instead of being husbanded, are being gradually frittered away. I notice that it is proposed to spend £2,000 upon new offices in London and to contribute £600 in searching the muniments of the record office ib London. The work done by the late Mr. Bonwick, who for so many years served New South Wales in London - work which was paid for by New South Wales and Tasmania - has proved of very little service. Of some manuscripts that were sent to Tasmania, only a few fragments were of any special service. Mr. Bonwick searched the record office in London for many years, but his inquiries could relate only to the very early history of New South Wales and Tasmania, that is between the years 1787 and 1810, because all the records relating to later years have been kept in the States. I do not know what good could result from further search of the records in London. Then it is proposed to spend . £5, 000 in advertising Australia. I am aware that New Zealand, and some of the States of the Commonwealth are making themselves known in England by advertising on the railway platforms and elsewhere. I have no objection to offer to that, because I recognise that pictorial advertisements are very good ; but £5,000 would prove a mere drop in the bucket if we intended to advertise properly. Commercial men know that some business houses spend £5,000, or even twice that amount every month. Then again, with what purposes are we going to advertise Australia - to bring tourists here,- to attract people to our beautiful country, to show them our resources? But, while we may attract tourists, I fear that we shall not add to our permanent population. All our efforts to attract the proper class of immigrants to Australia will be futile until the States take the matter in hand. The Commonwealth can do nothing single-handed. I can quite understand the Prime Minister endeavouring, to induce the States to act, but I would point out that all the States, excepting, perhaps, Western Australia, have no room except for those who. can do pioneering work, as our own people did -in the early days. If we had land in Tasmania to give away, we should present it to our own people. We could find hundreds of persons who would be willing to settle on the land if they had the means to do so. Unless immigrants can bring capital with them, it is useless for them to think of going on the land. Many men eke out a miserable existence upon small holdings, because they have no capital.
– What, about poultry farming ? Cannot they pursue that line of industry ?
– The poultry farmers and the bee farmers are very small fry, and very few of them have made any great success of their industry.
– The Government proposed to offer a bounty to encourage the cultivation of chicory.
– Yes; that was a gross blunder. We are already growing too much chicory. The prices offered by merchants are so low that many Tasmanian farmers have had to root out their crops. Whilst I have every sympathy with decayed men of letters, I think it is premature for us to provide , £500 for their benefit. We should defer dealing with all such matters until we have settled upon our new system of taxation. We should not think of incurring such expenditure when we are threatened with a Federal land tax, which is to be added to the already burdensome imposts placed upon the land by the States. If a Federal land tax is imposed it will have the effect of throwing out of use a large area of the pastoral lands of Tasmania - lands which ten years ago were more valuable than three years ago, and which until lately were let at a rental equivalent to 6d. per lb. of the wool produced upon them, and were charged with a land tax equivalent . to a 5 per cent, income tax. The land of Tasmania has been burdened in that way, and the people of the State have been called upon to pay the highest income tax levied in Australia, because of their having joined the Federation, which has spent their money too freely and recklessly. The land will not bear any further taxation. I notice also that it is proposed to purchase a trawler
– That trawler is to form the nucleus of the Commonwealth fleet.
– New South Wales tried an experiment similar to that now contemplated by the Commonwealth, but did not make a success of it. I think that the less we incur expenditure of that kind, and the smaller the number of public servants that come under the Commonwealth, the better. We have been reckless in our finance. We may have been prudent in paying for new works out of revenue, but the extra burden that has been thrown upon the shoulders of the people through taxation has been seriously felt. We have been reckless in our- expenditure.
– In what way?
– To the extent of £500,000 per annum. Honorable members can dissect the items for themselves.
– That is a random statement.
– What is a random statement?
– One that is incorrect.
– The question is, are we spending £500,000 per annum made up of items of expenditure, which might very well be deferred for a period?
– Will the honorable member indicate the items?
– I shall not weary the Committee by mentioning them in detail. A large number of these items should not appear upon the Estimates. I am thinking of one particular item, which is increasing the expenditure of the Commonwealth beyond the figure that was indicated at the Convention. Whilst the Treasurer, tells us that the cost of Federation is is. 10d. per head of the people of the Commonwealth, I should like to remind him that an additional is. 3d. per head has been expended in our efforts to preserve a White Australia.
– That is the law, and we have to abide by it.
– No doubt, but we might have saved a large amount of money if we had adopted a wiser policy. I would point out that we have arrived at almost an equality of taxation, so far as the States are concerned.
– Not quite. There is 8s. difference between some of them.
– Between Victoria and New South Wales there was a difference last year of only is., and, seeing that New South Wales and Victoria have between them three-fourths of the population of Australia, the equality between them suggests that there are no serious obstacles in the way of a return of revenue to the States upon a per capita basis. I am aware that there is still a difference of 63. 7d. per head between Tasmania and Victoria, but I would point out that during the five years of Federation Tasmania has increased her revenue per head in the consumption of luxuries and semi-luxuries by 5s. or 6s. - to a very much greater degree than has any other State - and that the revenue now amounts to £1: 16s. per head. There is no serious disparity between any of the States.
– We are never likely to more closely approach equality.
– No. I doubt very much whether Tasmania, with its population of 180,000 although prosperous, notwithstanding that she does not producelarge quantities of metals in the same way that the other States do, will within the next five years be very much nearer toequality with, the other members of the Union. My remarks lead up to the proposition of the honorable member for North Sydney, whom I desire to thank publicly for the Federal spirit he has manifested in dealing with Commonwealth financial matters. His attitude is a sufficient contradiction to the statements which have been made that New South Wales was barring the way, and acting selfishly. In another Chamber, also, a representative of New South Wales has supported a proposal that the bookkeeping period should be brought to an end. We have had five years’ experience of the bookkeeping period, and I am sure that if members of the Convention were canvassed thev would tell us that the bookkeeping provisions were intended merely to give Parliament experience upon which they could base a readjustment of the finances. I have pointed out that Victoria and New South Wales are practically equal in their revenueproducing power. There is only is. between them.
– There is 3s. between them.
– No; I have the figures here. Last year the revenue collected in New South Wales was £2 3s. 4d. iter capita, and in Victoria £2 is. 7d. This year it is estimated that in New South Wales £2 4s. 7d. will be collected ; in Victoria, £2 is. 8d. ; in Queensland, £2 3s.; in South Australia, £1 16s.; and in Tasmania, £1 16s. “id. The mean is £2 4s. 2d. Of course, Western Australia now stands in the way of the abolition of the ‘ bookkeeping provisions, just as she stood in the way of Federation until the Convention conceded heir special terms. There is no reason why special treatment should not be granted to Western Australia at the present time, if her peculiar circumstances justify the adop- tion of that course. If she will be disadvantaged by the abolition of the bookkeeping provisions, by all means let us extend to her whatever terms may be necessary, but do not let her prevent us from getting rid of those provisions so that we may distribute our revenue upon a -per capita basis. In this connexion I should like to say to the. representatives of Victoria and New South Wales, that the interState adjustments of revenue indicate that during the past five years those States have enjoyed immense commercial and trading advantatres. The trade of all the other States has had to filter through them - trade which to New South Wales means probably from four to six millions, and to Victoria from ten to fifteen millions in the six years of Federation. I have made some inquiry in this connexion, and T find that in one business of which I know a great deal, for everv £100 which was formerly sent to London, only £60 is now sent there. The balance goes to Victoria and New South Wales. Surely if these States have benefited to such a iarge extent during the past five years, bv reason of this growing trade - a fact which was admitted by the honorable member for Mernda the other evening - they can scarcely object to divide with the other States the difference between . £1 16s. per head, which is the lowest amount of revenue per capita collected in ar.v State, and £2 4s. which is the highest amount. I am sure that all thoughtful, people will agree that we should pool the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise, and divide it upon a per capita basis. We should then be in very truth a federated people. At the present time we are federated in everything except that we do not possess a common purse.
– Tasmania will help to spend the surplus which Western Australia pays.
– The honorable member proposes that special treatment shall be extended to Western Australia.
– I have alreadystated that we do not desire to take anything from that State. Let her put forward her own scheme, and I am sure that this Parliament will give it every consideration.
– That was not the tone adopted by the Tasmanian Premier a few days ago.
-I should be sorry to hear that he made any other suggestion. I am quite sure that if he did so the Tasmanian Parliament would not countenance it.
– I am quite sure that he would not ask for anything else.
– Dealing now with the Post and Telegraph Department, I find that year by year its revenue has been growing, despite the fact that we have reduced the telegraphic rates very considerably, and send a sixteen word message from shore to shore of this great continent for one shilling. Last year the revenue from this source was £2,800,000, an increase of £186,000. During the current year it is estimated that the surplus will be £86,000, notwithstanding the anticipated loss of £150,000, by reason of the introduction of penny postage. But honorable members must recollect - as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta - that up to date, the Department has not been debited with any charges by way of rent or interest upon the capital cost of its buildings. Therefore, the actual loss incurred is still many hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. Yet, in the face of this fact, we are asked to forego a postal revenue of £250,000 annually. I know that the Treasurer has set down the loss upon penny postage for nine months of the current year at £157,000. Of that sum, £20,000 is the amount which it is estimated that Tasmania will lose. Although I have for years looked forward to the time when we would be able to afford to indulge in the luxury of universal penny postage, I recognise that we have not a sufficient surplus to warrant us in indorsing such a proposal. Therefore, I regret that at the present juncture, when we are getting, so close up to the border line at which new taxation will be rendered necessary, such a policy should be initiated. The normal increase of the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department is about 3 per cent, per annum. In 1901-2 it amounted to £2,400,000, and in 1906-7 it is estimated that we shall receive from this source £2,800,000. These figures show the normal increase of revenue in that Department. The loss, which will be incurred by reason of the adoption of penny postage “is purely a matter of speculation. I do know, however, that during the first year of its operation in Victoria there was a deficiency of £100,000. Consequently, I fear that this year we shall have to say good-bye to all our. Commonwealth surpluses, and that we shall be faced with the necessity of resorting to some new scheme of taxation. During the course of this debate, reference has been made to the loss which we have sustained consequent upon the adoption of the White Australia policy. Upon that question I entertain an entirely different view from that which is held by the honorable member for Wide Bay. ‘ I venture to say that our efforts in that direction have cost us £1,500,000. We have lost, by way of sugar duties, £397,000 annually, but we have gained by reason of the Excise duties £255,000, so that the annual loss sustained was £.140,000, or a total during five years of £700,000. Then we haw paid by way of bounty during the same period £699,000, making a total expenditure of about £1,500,000 for the purpose of preserving a White Australia. I’ could not understand why the honorable member for Wide Bay was so jubilant this morning regarding the increased quantity of sugar which has been produced by white labour. I find that, whereas prior to Federation there were 975 farmers engaged in the industry who employed black labour, there are to-day 837. In other words, there are now 138 white growers fewer than the number in existence prior to Federation. Probably that is due to the fact that other growers have been induced to enter the field bv, reason of the bounty which we have been paying. The decrease represents only about 14 per cent, during a period of five years. This points to the probability that when coloured labour becomes illegal, the 53,000 tons grown bv coloured labour will be a lost production. In New South Wales alone - where only an infinitesimal change has been brought about - we have paid £187,000 in bounty to the sugar planters. These facts naturally lead to the inquiry, “When shall we reconsider our position with respect to the sugar bounty”? The present system cannot continue for all time. Next year we can have no sugar grown by coloured labour. I presume that contracts made with the kanakas will expire this year, since we have enacted that the “ boys “ shall not earn their living bv working on sugar plantations after the end of December next. That being so, we shall probably lose the 60,000 tons of sugar -now grown by black’ labour in parts of Queensland where white labour cannot be employed in the industry. We are paying far too much under the present system, and I hope that the time is not far distant when our losses, bv; reason of this legislation, will be materially reduced. During the sittings of the Convention it was contemplated that if we gave the sugargrowers of Queensland and New South Wales the advantage of the difference between an Excise duty oF ,£3 per ton, and a Customs duty of £5 or £6 per ton, it should enable them to establish the industry on a sound basis. But for the legislation passed by the Commonwealth in respect to coloured labour, we should have dor.e so. Prior to Federation, Queensland was rapidly taking possession of the Australian market, and with the exception of about 20,000 tons of crystals, which are imported specially for brewing purposes, she has now full command of it. We have given her full possession of the Australian market, and no one begrudges her that advantage. I am sure we are glad to know that one of the States of the Union is able to cater so largely for our necessities in this direction. The time must come, however - and I hopethat ‘it will come speedily - when the sugar-growers of Queensland and New South Wales, must rely, not upon bounties, but upon the difference - and I hope it will always exist - between the Customs and Excise duties. Having referred briefly to one or two features of the Budget, to which: my attention was more particularly drawn by reason of their importance to the smaller States, I come now to the hopeful figures with which the Treasurer closed his speech. If it be true that the notes of the dying swan are more beautiful than are its notes of strength, ‘ it is equally true that the notes of the right honorable member for Swan, in closing his speech, were the most hopeful that he sounded. He gave us, in the course of a few minutes, a collection of facts with respect to the progress of Australia, and what the 4,000,000 Britishers here have done, that led one to reflect that what men have already done can be improved upon. I have no doubt that the energy of cnr pioneers, which has enabled us to accumulate £1,120,000,000 of wealth-
– The production of Australia is valued at about £120,000,000 a year.
– Quite so, but I am referring to our accumulations of wealth. The savings bank returns, as well as those of the banks of issue, bear testimony to what the people, by their thrift,’ are accomplishing for themselves, and I should like to remind our honorable friends of the Labour Party that the achievements of Australia, to which the right honorable gentleman referred, are the result of action taken by Parliaments long before a Labour Party was known to parliamentary history. Members of States Parliaments have been seeking, day by day, and year by year, to do everything possible to aid and abet the efforts of the people to improve their position. I can say, as the result of a parliamentary experience extending over fifty years, that in no session of a State Parliament have the representatives failed to show every desire to meet the wishes of the people, to provide public works, to give them employment, to assist them to secure good wages, and to settle on the landWhat more could have been done? What more have we to do? The figures submitted by the Treasurer show that New South Wales closed the financial year with a surplus of £1,000,000, and that even the weaker State of Tasmania can show a surplus of £20,000, notwithstanding that during the last five years she has had to gather in from new sources revenue to the extent of nearly £200,000 per annum. But what will be her position during the current financial year when, instead of receiving as she did last year £8,000 as her share of the surplus revenue, she will suffer a loss of £14,900? In these circumstances, the Treasurer of Tasmania instead of being; able to show a surplus of £20,000 at the end of the current financial year will find that he has a debit, apart altogether from the loss of £20,000, which that State must suffer under the penny postage scheme. I am forced to allude to the position of Tasmania, since it illustrates what will be the effect on the smaller States of” the Union, if the Commonwealth continues to increase its expenditure. If we relieve the people, as we .have done, of taxation in the shape of duties on tea and kerosene, whilst at the same time we grant bounties to encourage various industries and increase our expenditure in other directions, Tasmania in all probability next year will have a deficiency of £60,000, notwithstanding that she has already had to seek’ new means of raising revenue to the extent of £200,000 per annum. The situation is becoming very serious, and I am satisfied that at the next general election candidates will be pledged by the people of Tasmania to vote against every Government that will not seek to meet the position by a proper adjustment of revenue and expenditure. In dealing with the Budget proposals, I have not digressed into the dozen or more by-ways by which a speech may be prolonged, since I am anxious to devote special attention to the more important portion of the Treasurer’s proposals in relation to the conversion or. consolidation of the States debts. I have read carefully all that has been written and said on this subject, and when in Cabinet, was fairly well drilled by the right honorable member for Balaclava, who presented numerous capable and thoughtful papers, evidencing much research, with reference to this question. In these papers the right honorable gentleman showed the great difficulty with which the position is surrounded. He pointed out the difficulties with respect to the varying rates of interest, and the varying periods over which the loans extended. He dealt particularly with the complications arising from the fact that if we take over only a proportion of the debts df the States, we must .necessarily leave them with a certain proportion not backed up by the revenue from Customs and Excise, which was pledged under their various Loan Acts, as the source from which the bondholder would obtain payment of his interest. These are all very serious problems, the like of which never arose in connexion with the various major or minor conversions or consolidations to which effect has been given by the Imperial (Parliament. When we look back at the conversion of 6 per cents, into 5 per cents, by Pelham in 1751, to the conversion of £150,000,000 made by Vansittart in 1822, to the major conversion of £250,000,000 by Goulbourn in 1844, and to that of £558,000,000 made by Goschen in 1.888 - and these are the major conversions that have taken place during the last 150 years - we find that no such difficulties confronted those who undertook them. Varying rates of interest prevailed, but it was found possible to consolidate and to convert. The 5 per cents, were reduced to a per cent, and 4 per cent, consols. It was then that we heard of “ consols “ for the first time. Then we had a later conversion, under which the 4J and 4 per cents, were reduced to 3J per cents. When I had the pleasure of being on the London Stock Exchange in 1847 we used to deal with the reduced 3 per cents., the 3 per cents, consols, and the 2f per cents. It was with these three divisions of the Imperial debt that Mr. Goschen had to deal in 1888, when he put to the Imperial Parliament the question which .had been, asked by all his predecessors as to whether or not it would be wise to issue 3 per cents, in place of 35 per cents., and to give the bonus which would be absolutely necessary under such a conversion. When a man who is receiving £3 10s. interest in respect of a bond for £100 is asked to accept only £3 by way of interest, it is natural that he should demand some premium in capital for agreeing to such a conversion. I shall refer later on to that point, and also to the remarks made to-day by the honorable member for Wide Bay, who considers that it would be exceedingly unwise to enlarge the capital responsibility by reducing the interest. It must be patent to honorable members that if we converted a 4 per cent, stock into a 3 per cent, one we could not expect to obtain more than about £80 or £85 for it, and that at the end of the period for which the loan was granted we should have to lose the difference between that amount and £100. In dealing with the proposals of the Treasurer, we have to consider whether we can convert at 3 per cent., and whether the people of the States will agree, as the- honorable member for Mernda has said, to view the whole matter in a broad Federal spirit. If we can achieve these two ends everything will be satisfactory. We cannot, however, establish 3 per cent, consols on our present amount of capital debt. If the market would permit us at any time to borrow at 3 per cent, the position would be different; but we have to bear in mind that we can borrow at that rate only when the market is favorable to us. Market variations are so frequent that we seldom hear of low rates prevailing for an extended period. Whilst we might to-day float a loan of £50,000,000 at 3 per cent, on its face value of £100, five years hence the market might be completely altered. However, if the market remains satisfactory and we can convert at 3 per. cent, the scheme propounded by the honorable member will prove a most admirable one. The question to be asked is whether the peoples of the States will recognise in the
Commonwealth the right to throw on them the responsibility for £2,036,000 in a period of twenty years, or £100,000 a year. No doubt the proposal is a very tempting one, since it would cost New South Wales only £45,000 a year. We are told that, at the end of twenty years, the whole responsibility will rest upon the Commonwealth. The honorable member for’ Mernda suggests the establishment of a sinking fund out of a saving of .6 per cent, to be made by the reduction of interest to 3 per cent., and he reckons that in sixty years the accumulated savings and interest will be sufficient to pay off the debt. Of course, the term might be made shorter by -.increasing the appropriations for the sinking fund. But it must be borne in mind that the money market will vary. Whilst the Commonwealth may be able to consolidate on one occasion at 3 per cent., it may on another occasion have to take £80 for £100. If it can borrow all that it needs at 3 per cent., and the people will permit us to take a responsibility of £100,000 a year, and agree to the appropriation of .6 per cent, for the establishment of a sinking fund, all will be well. But there are a good many conditions there.
– It is certain that the ‘Commonwealth would do better on the money market than the States could do.
– The joint and several credits of the States will give a better security to the bond-holders than can be given by any one State. The discussion here to-day will no doubt strengthen the position of our bonds and stock in the English money market.
– The uncertainty of the market would prejudice the States if they borrowed individually more than it would prejudice the Commonwealth.
– Yes. It has been, said that if the Government converted, consolidated, or took over the debts of the States immediately, it would put up the money market in England against itself ; but I do not hold that view. No doubt the value of Australian stock would increase.
– That is, the ideas of holders in regard to its value would increase.
– Yes. Consequently sellers would get more for it; but the Commonwealth would not lose, because it would not be a buyer. It would redeem only on the face value of the bonds. On the. contrary, if the investing public raises the price of Commonwealth stock over the existing value of States bonds, then the Commonwealth will gain all the advantage when seeking in that strengthened market for new loans.
– And would have funds to buy up bonds when they became low enough in price to make that advisable.
– Yes. If our stock went up to 4 per cent, to-morrow, it would not injure us, though holders who could sell at that price would gain. Ten or twelve years ago I was in communication with a London actuary in regard to the management of our debts by Commissioners or trustees, and he went so far as to suggest that such persons, if appointed, should be given a lien over the revenue of the State. I replied at once that I was sure that no State in Australia, poor or rich, would give such a lien. He assured me that the arrangement which he suggested would put a gilt edge on our securities. But they will be gilt-edged because of the fact that the Commonwealth can collect its own revenue. So long as the people of England know that we are prospering year by year, and are making proper provision for the repayment of our debts, they will be prepared to allow us, as an integral part of the Empire, to borrow as much as we require ‘for useful purposes. There is one other point with which I wish to deal. I presume that the honorable member intends to do away with the issue of bonds, and to substitute inscription, which is so simple a process as to make the other absurd. Bonds can be bought only for amounts like £100, £200, or £400, and the possessor has to keep them in his safe ; but under- the system of inscription, such as I provided for in Tasmania in 1894, persons can go to the Treasury, and without being put to the inconvenience of having to provide even hundreds, can advance to the Government any amounts they please. The clerk at the counter takes the money, their names are entered, in a ledger, and next day they “accept” the stock, as it is called, by placing their signatures in the ledger. Thus, if any one wishes to make sure that his trustee has properly invested his money in stock, he has only to consult this ledger. Imperial stocks are dealt with in exactly the same way. A man gives his broker the necessary instructions to purchase stock, the transfer is made at the bank, and the whole transaction is completed without any difficulty or trouble. The right honorable member for Balaclava followed the practice instituted by me, and issued inscribed stock for municipal loans in Victoria, and the same system has been resorted to in connexion with local municipal borrowing. On one occasion, in Tasmania, I borrowed £1,000,000 at 3 per cent, within a very short time without the cost of one penny. I believe that when the conversion of the States debts is taken in hand by us, we shall be able to adopt the same method that was followed in France when that nation had to pay, £200,000,000 to Germany. The authorities merely invited the people to lodge their money in the public exchequer, and had nothing to do with syndicates, or brokers, or bankers. The people threw their wealth on the Treasury counter, and had their stock inscribed. We have in the past conducted our borrowing operations upon the most extravagant lines, and have been paying very exorbitantly for any work that has been done for us. During the last years of the Federal Council I brought under notice the extravagant system of borrowing that was adopted by the various States. Out of every £100 borrowed, £2 had to be paid to a syndicate, and an allowance of per cent, for brokerage, and of per cent, to the bank for inscribing the stock, had to be made, in addition to per cent, when the stock was paid off. The result was that cut of every £100 borrowed we received only about £96. In addition to all’ this, some of the States had to pay the banks £100, whilst others paid £600, per annum for tile management of the inscribed stock.
– Was not that because the stocks were not in demand ?
– No ; whether the stocks had been in good demand or not, we should have had to pay the bank for looking after the inscribing of the stock. When I was in London some years ago, I learned from our bankers that the operations in our stocks were largely increasing.’ I hope that the Treasurer Will be able to afford us some information as to the changes by means of transfer and new purchases that have taken place during the past few years. I think that he will find that our stocks are becoming popular, and that not only trustees, but dealers, and others who invest for only a year or two are taking them up. I tender my hearty thanks to the honorable member for Mernda, as well as to the right honorable member for Balaclava, and to the honorable member for Kooyong, for the attention that they have devoted to this very important subject.
– The honorable member has said nothing as to future borrowing by the States.
– I think that it must be recognised that once the States debts are consolidated, the States must not borrow in the open market. They must recognise the necessity of placing themselves under some restriction, but I am not sure as to how they can surrender their sovereign power.
– They are not in the mood to surrender anything more at present.
– I am afraid not. They may not be inclined to renounce their right to borrow, and I am sure that there is no hope; - and thank God for it - of their giving up their railways. The Commonwealth would be rearing up a very Frankenstein if it took over the railways, and added to the already numerous list of public servants 60.000 or 70,000 railway employes. The idea of the Commonwealth taking over the railways is monstrous. If the States, however, choose to pledge their railwav revenue for certain purposes that will be another matter. The difficulty is that, although a State may renounce its borrowing rights to-day, a subsequent Parliament may repeal the act of renunciation. I think that the States will have to consent to refrain from borrowing except from their own people, or through the Commonwealth. They cannot expect to borrow through the Commonwealth, except for the purpose of carrying out approved works. They should not in any case come into the open market in competition with the Commonwealth. Whilst we have not done anything of a practical character, so far as the States debts question is concerned up to the present time, we have ventilated the subject, and have imparted a tone to the discussion which I hope will develop into that high Federal spirit we all desire to see manifested when we are dealing with the affairs of the Commonwealth. I believe that when the bookkeeping period is abandoned, when the revenue of the Commonwealth is distributed per capita, and the States debts are taken over regardless of the consideration that one State may have to undertake a little more responsibility than another, we shall have reached the goal which we have been striving for years to attain, and shall have achieved the true unity which was held in view when the Commonwealth was established.
– I am one of those who view with considerable alarm the increasing expenditure of the Commonwealth. I know that this is not a very popular view to take, so far as this Chamber is concerned, because the moment one mentions Commonwealth expenditure he is told that the States should retrench. I would, however, direct attention to the fact that the Federal expenditure is increasing enormously year by year, and that we shall have to absorb the whole of the revenue at our disposal before we have taken over manv of the functions which we shall soon be called upon to discharge. We shall soon be face to face with the necessity of either curtailing our expenses very considerably or imposing direct taxation. We commenced under Federation with an annual expenditure of £3,733,000 whilst next year it is proposed to expend something like £5,000,000. So far as Tasmania is concerned, every Department that the Commonwealth has taken over has involved increased expenditure; and, iust as there has been a reform movement in several of the States in the direction of cutting down expenditure, I am convinced that in the near future the taxpayers will demand that we shall similarly economize. In spite of all that has been stated with regard to the successful operation of the sugar bounty, the employment of black labour has not been dispensed with. We are. however, closely approaching the time when the planters must cease to employ kanakas in the cane-fields. At the end of the present year the kanakas will practically disappear from the sugar Dlantations of Queensland. We shall then be in a position to remove the hvbrid system of duty, excise, and bounty, which now obtains.
– Would an Excise have been imposed upon sugar if black labour had not been emploved in its production?
– I think not. Except from a revenue stand-point there is no more reason why an Excise duty should be levied upon sugar than upon any other Australian product. At the end of the present year the employment of kanakas will have practically ceased, and we shall then be in a position to deal with the production of sugar in exactly the same way that we deal with the production of any other Australian commodity. I am quite prepared - seeing that up to the present time this Parliament has adopted a protective policy - to extend to the sugar planter of Queensland the same measure of protection which is accorded to other producers. But, apart from the stand-point of expediency, there is no reason why an Excise should be charged upon sugar, or why a bounty should be paid upon its production.
– What has the bounty to do with the matter?
– My. point is that if it had not been for extraneous circumstances connected with the desire of Australia generally to foster the employment of white labour in Queensland, we should never have imposed an Excise duty upon sugar and have provided for the payment of a bounty out of that Excise.
– At the present time the consumer is called upon to pay no more for his sugar than he would ‘ do if there were no bounty operating.
– If it had not been for the employment of kanaka labour in the cane-fields, this Parliament would not have levied a Customs duty of £6 per ton upon sugar. It would not have reduced that duty by imposing an Excise of £3 per ton, and have afterwards paid a bounty of £2 per ton.
– It is the Queensland planters who pay the Excise.
– Now that we have practically abolished kanaka labour, I desire that sugar should be dealt within the same way as any other Australian product. We have already decreed that the kanakas shall be repatriated, and we are therefore in a position to face this question fairly. I say that we should abolish both the Excise and the bounty, and impose such a duty upon sugar as the circumstances of the case warrant, if the revenue will permit. To my mind, there is something wrong in the fact that sugar which is the raw material of one industry should be called upon to pay the enormous duty of £6 per ton - which is equivalent to an impost of 50 per cent. - when its price in Australia is 33 per cent, more than it is in countries where it is not produced. To-day sugar is £4 or £5 per ton dearer in Australia than it is in England.
– Is that the result of the operation of the Customs duty ?
– I believe that the planters themselves are quite willing that we should deal with the sugar industry in the way that I have suggested. They have no desire to continue paying an Excise duty, and I am firmly of opinion that the moment kanaka labour is abolished, we shall be deprived of any justification whatever for continuing either the present Excise duty or the payment of the bounty.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– With regard to penny postage, I desire to say that I am unable to support the proposal of the Government at the present time. It would perhaps be an exceedingly pleasant thing to adopt penny postage, as it would be to have a great many other luxuries, but I think we shall have to postpone it. The estimate of the Deputy Postmaster-General, ‘ Hobart, shows that, allowing for an increase of letters to the extent of 20 per cent., penny postage would mean a loss to Tasmania of £22,000 per annum. To some of the larger States a loss of £22,000 might not be considered very serious, but a small State like ours, especially in the financial position in which she now is, I say emphatically cannot surrender so large an amount. Even if she could, I believe there are other directions in which £22,000 could be more profitably spent, even in connexion with the Post and Telegraph! Department. If we could spare so large a sum, it would be infinitely better for the Government to spend it in extending post-offices, . and especially telephones, in the back-blocks. I have always held that, while we make large professions about our desire to assist land settlement, there are not many ways in which Commonwealth policy can operate in that direction. But we can assist by giving those who go into the interior, and shut themselves off from many of the advantages of civilization - God knows their life is not too happy - some of the benefits which are enjoyed by those who live in the more settled portions of the country. By extending telephones and post-offices, it is within the power of the Commonwealthto assist them to some extent. The amount’ which the Commonwealth is asked to surrender by establishing penny postage - be- tween £200,000 and £’250,000 per annum - might, if it is to be spent at all, be much more advantageously devoted to the useful purpose I have indicated. I am exceedingly pleased to find that there are at last in this Australian Parliament men who are awakening to the knowledge of the financial position of some of the smaller States. It is indeed a most hopeful sign to find men like the honorable member for Mernda and the honorable member for North Sydney, representing the larger States-
– There are some on this side of the House, too.
– I am speaking of representatives of the larger States, which will be called upon to make a certain amount of sacrifice. It is hopeful, I say, to see such men coming forward in a most generous and Federal spirit, recognising that the time is at hand when the financial strain that is. being borne by such States as Queensland and Tasmania must receive recognition at the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am sure that the members from Queensland, like those from Tasmania, would utterly refuse to approach the Commonwealth Parliament in the position of paupers. Personally, rather than see my own little State surrender her independence and self-respect by coming cap in hand to the Federal Parliament, I would see fifty Federations wrecked. I should prefer that we returned ilp (the position in which we were before Federation. I should like to see our genial friend the Treasurer become Treasurer of Tasmania or of Queensland for twelve months, and let him have to provide the funds to keep such a State going. Whatever other States may have done in the direction of reducing expenditure, the Government of Tasmania has retrenched in every possible direction. We pay our Members of Parliament the magnificent sum of£100 per annum. We pay our Ministers £600 a year, and the officers of Parliament in a proportionate rate. The salaries of our civil servants range from 33 to 75 per cent. and even clown to 100 per cent., below those paid in the larger States. Men like our railway employes, our police, and our State school teachers’, especially those in the lower-paid branches, are receiving salaries of which some of us are ashamed. But owing to the financial situation that has been brought upon us in consequence of Federation, we find it to be absolutely impossible to increase those salaries. That is not because we have not attempted to face the position. Tasmania is receiving in Customs revenue from the Commonwealth Treasurer about £247,000 per annum; whilst, if we reverted to the Tariff . that was in existence before Federation, our receipts would be £600,000 per annum. What would immediately happen if one of the larger States, Victoria or New South Wales, had been placed in such a financial position ? The direct taxation in Tasmania which before Federation was 12s. iod. per head, has now been increased to £1 4s. 3d. per head, the- highest rate in any State of the Commonwealth. We have had nearly to double our direct taxation to make up the deficiency through the reduction of our Customs revenue. In addition to that, the Tasmanian Government has imposed the heaviest land tax in Australia.
Mr.Bruce Smith. - Has not the Customs . revenue per capita decreased proportionately with the increase in direct taxation ?
– The position is that in Tasmania, before Federation, we had a Tariff levied solely with the object of producing revenue. Our maximum duty was about 20 per cent.
– What was the amount per head ?
– Prior to Federation our Customs revenue amounted to 80 per cent, of the total revenue of the State.
– That is about 50s. per head.
– It is something like that. We had an all-round Tariff.
– What is it now?
– About 36s. per head.
– That is a reduction of about 14s. per head.
– If honorable members think, as some appear to do, that what has been lost to the Tasmanian Treasury has been saved to the people, they make a very great mistake. For instance, take the item boots. Before Federation we had a duty on boots, from which we derived a considerable revenue. But now practically the whole of the boots purchased in Tasmania, especially in the heavier classes, are imported from Victoria, and, while the price . to the consumer is practically about the same, the State Treasury has lost the whole of the revenue which it formerly received. Our imports from the mainland pay no duty. Moreover, owing to the fact that there is a duty operating against English, American, and German goods, whilst those manufactured in New South Wales and Victoria are admitted free, the result has been practically to drive English and foreign goods out of the market. 1 am very pleased for many reasons to see our requirements being met by Australian productions. But to Tasmania the loss of revenue which it entails is a very serious matter indeed. Tasmania has done all it possibly could in the direction of cutting down the expenditure and imposing direct taxation. The land tax in the State is infinitely heavier than any land tax on the mainland. The capital value of the land, the buildings, and all improvements are taxed. It is a graduated tax, without exemption. It ranges from.½d. in the £1 on properties up to £5,000; to1d. in the £1 on the value of larger properties. If my honorable friends in the Labour corner think that bv imposing a land tax throughout Australia, they will burst up the big estates, I can tell them that their proposal would not yield one-half of the revenue which is derived from the land tax in Tasmania.
– But the Federal land tax is to be superimposed upon the State tax.
– That is where the unfairness of a proposal of that character would come in.
– The declared purpose of the land tax makes it an absolutely immoral and dishonest proposal.
– What uniformity could there be if a Federal land tax were imposed in a State which, so far as we can see, has already taxed its lands up to the utmost limit?
– How much land tax per annum iioes the Van Diemen’s Land Company pay on its 280,000 acres ?
– My honorable friend has given a very good example. The biggest land company in Tasmania so far as area is concerned is paying a cheque of over £1,100 per annum to the State as a land tax. I know the desire of my honorable friend to see these properties held in small areas - a desire in which I think practically every honorable member joins - but he will admit, I think, that that is a very substantial tax for a company to pay. If, in addition to that impost, it were saddled with a Federal land tax of £2,000 a year, the impost would cease to be land taxation. It would be, in effect, confiscation.
– How could it be censfication if the company could sell its land and’ get out ?
– The lands of Tasmania are also subject to a municipal rate of is. in the £1 on the annual value. That is what is called in Victoria a shire council tax.
– Is that included in the 24s. 3d.?
– In Tasmania, the landowners are very lucky. In Victoria, the municipal tax averages more than is. in the
– On the top of all that Tasmania has had to impose what is called an Ability Tax. The State takes the annual value of a man’s house, and on that basis computes his income. Graduating from id. up to 6d., it is, I suppose, the heaviest impost under an income tax in the southern hemisphere, not excepting New Zealand. It starts without an exemption’, and is graduated. From the Ability Tax the State derives nearly twice what it obtained from an income tax of 6d in the £1 on personal exertion, and is. in the £1 on realized wealth. If it be taken as an income tax it is the heaviest of which I am aware, especially on small moneys. Tasmania having cut down its expendituie to the utmost degree, and levying taxation more drastic in character than does any other country in the southernhemisphere, even including New Zealand, the Commonwealth has reached breaking point, so far as any further demand uponthe State’s resources is concerned. When I travel about the country districts of my State, and see roads which were constructed out of borrowed money, practically going to decay because of the inability of the Government to continue subsidies for keeping them in order ; when I know that thelocal property owners are taxing themselvesto the hilt, in order to maintain the roads, and that the funds at their disposal are not sufficient for that purpose-
– What is the highest municipal rate in Tasmania?
– I think it runs to about 3s. 3d. in the £1 in Hobart, and to about 3s. 4d. in the £1 in Launceston.
– In England it reaches 12s. and 14s.
– There is a much higher rate in Melbourne.
– The rate is not nearly so’ high in Melbourne as in Hobart and Launceston.
– Let the honorable member add on the sewerage rate,, and’ he will find out exactly what it is.
– In addition to the burdens I have mentioned, the orchardist has to pay a codlin moth rate, and, in different parts, a. water rate is levied. But that is over and above what is paid in respect of the land in order to keep the roads in repair. When I travel through the State and see the dilapidated state of public works, as compared with their condition prior to Federation ; when I recollect that the sale of Crown lands is hung up in some districts because people will not settle upon them while the Government are unable to construct decent roads, I am impressed with the conviction that it is utterly absurd to talk about any system of immigration until the States have been enabled to place their own people on the soil. I am one of those who think that the best settler which a State can have is an Australian. I believe that far more good will be done by affording to young Australians an opportunity to do as their fathers did - to go back into the forest - than by spending money in bringing out immigrants while those already here are not in a position to take up land.
– It is protection which takes them from the land to the towns.
– I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the question of protection or free-trade. I am afraid that we shall all hear more than enough of that subject before the session is closed. In dealing with the Estimates, it is the bounden duty of honorable members to consider, not so much the requirements of the Commonwealth, as the necessities of the smaller States. It is no pleasure for the representatives of the smaller States to have to stand here and oppose proposals and appointments which they would very much like to see carried out - proposals which we should be glad, under different conditions, to support. But we are led to take this stand, because we know that the people we represent are depriving themselves of absolute necessities in order that the interest of the States as a whole may be conserved. That being so, we hold that the Commonwealth Parliament has no right to deprive a State of that which is absolutely essential to its progress and well-being, in order that it may provide for what may be regarded as luxuries.
– What is the proposed deprivation mentioned in the Budget statement to which the honorable member refers ?
– The proposal to establish penny postage throughout the Commonwealth, which will result in a loss of £22,000 per annum to Tasmania. The revenue so proposed to be sacrificed would be put to much better use if it were devoted to the extension of postal facilities.
– Tasmania is making more than £22,000 per annum out of its sweep ticket tax.
– What has that to do with the question before the Chair?
– In view of the position of the smaller States, it is a source of much satisfaction to us to find representatives of the larger States devoting much of their time and attention to an attempt to solve the financial problems which confront the Commonwealth. It is gratifying to learn that the States which they represent are prepared to surrender a portion of their revenue in order that the smaller States may meet the strain that is placed upon them. The progress of the Commonwealth may well be compared to the march of a great army. If any section of that army is, by reason of deprivation, or because of the extent of its baggage, unable to keep pace with the main body, the leaders have to consider whether they should press on, and compel the weaker members of the force to fall by the wayside, or whether they should reduce the pressure. Those who have taken up this question recognise that Queensland and Tasmania are the more heavily burdened members of the Federal army, and have said’, in effect, “ We are prepared to reduce the progress of the army in order that the weaker members of it may keep pace with the main body.” I do not intend to discuss at length the question of loan conversion, for it has already been debated by honorable members who are able to deal with it more exhaustively and effectively than I could hope to do. There is one point, however, that I wish to emphasize. The absurd suggestion has been made that, if the Federation took over the debts of the States, it would give away something to the present holders of our stocks. The position which the Commonwealth occupies in this respect is similar to that of a man who buys mining scrip as an investment. The man who does so, as a rule is foolish, but we know that there are some who make such investments. To the man who buys mining scrip as an investment, and intends to derive the whole of his profits from the dividends, the fluctuation in the market value is of little concern. In the same way, when we take over the States debts, it will be immaterial to us if, before- the dates on which they fall due, the stocks depreciate or increase in value. If the depreciation went beyond a certain point, the Commonwealth might be in the exceedingly happy position of being able to buy some of the stock below par. But the Commonwealth cannot possibly lose by taking over these stocks, since, when the time comes for redeeming them-
– Supposing that we sell “short” and have to buy “long.”
– But we do not sell “ short. “ We are not in the position of holders of perpetual stocks. When the stocks fall due, we shall have to redeem them at their face value only, and, therefore, any fluctuation in market values can have no effect upon the Government of the States or the Commonwealth. I would urge honorable members to give consideration to this point. It we are to have a true Federation, then the policy of the Government, especially in the early stages of the Commonwealth, should be guided by a desire to conserve the interests of the smaller States. It may seem desirable to grant the people concessions - by some they may be regarded as luxuries - but when some of the members of the Union are not in a position to bear the cost of such concessions, it should be the duty of those who have the welfare of the States at heart to say, “We shall postpone these proposals until the smaller States are in a position to keep pace with the larger ones.” It isi by no means pleasing for the representatives of the smaller States to have, as it were, to almost plead poverty on their behalf, but we are led to take this stand because it has been brought strongly home to some of us that we have almost reached the breaking point in our State finances. By way of income and land taxation, Tasmania has taxed herself as no other State has ever done, and has reduced its expenditure to almost the level of parsimony. I believe that every member of the State Parliament is ashamed of the wages received by the lower paid men in the State service. I wish to press home that point. In Tasmania, the people are paying in direct taxation 24s. 3d. per head, as compared with 17s. 5d. per head in Queensland.
– That is quite enough !
– But, if in Tasmania there be added another 7 s., and, including an ability tax far exceeding in severity any income tax imposed in the southern hemisphere, the honorable member for Maranoa will realize the strain to which a handful of people are being subjected. Honorable members, while indulging an what some of us may call luxuries, are depriving the smaller States of absolute necessities,, and reducing the dailv bread of the poorer paid members of the Public Service.
– My sympathies are with Tasmania.
– In, all seriousness, I warn honorable members that if the Federal expenditure be continued at the rate at which it has been increasing up to the present moment - from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 - it will be made impossible for Tasmania to remain in the Federation. Some may sav that they do not care whether Tasmania remains in the Federation or not, but, in any case, her position, as a State of the Union, will be rendered impossible. There will be no other alternative for Tasmania but finnncial bankruptcy,, because she is being driven to the fullest possible extent. In the Defence Department, the expenditure has been more thandoubled, and our forces are not one whit more efficient than before.
– The number of the forces in, Tasmania has been reduced.
– The number of” men has been reduced, while the expenditure has been increased very considerably.
– How has that been done?
-In Tasmania pieviously the volunteer system prevailed to a very large extent.
– The men did notattend drill very well, I believe.
– If it be decided to pay a certain proportion of the volunteer. forces, the unpaid members very naturally claim that, if they give their services, they also should be paid.
– There is not much patriotism in that !
– However strong the patriotism of the men may be, those who are unpaid do not take the same interest that they did before.
– They do in the old country.
– Yes, I know. There is one other point in connexion with the Defence Department to which I desire to allude. The whole policy of the present system is to crush out what, in Tasmania, were promising to become a very useful arm of the Defence Forces, namely, the country rifle clubs.
– The rifle clubs are in a better position than they were before.
– The rifle clubs get more encouragement now than ever before in the history of Australia.
– In my opinion the rifle clubsi have not received the attention thev ought to receive.
– They are better off now than ever they were before.
– Hear, hear.
Mr.McWILLIAMS. - I have always contended that the members of rifle clubs should be brought up to a certain standard of efficiency by means of an ordinary course of drill. As a matter of fact, however, provision for drill in connexion with rifle clubs does not exist. My idea of a defence force, including volunteers or members of rifle clubs, has always been that if the men could be encouraged to take sufficient interest in the work, and qualifv themselvs as marksmen, and in a knowledge of the ordinarv rudiments of drill-
– That is what thev object to.
– Some of the rifle clubs have never had an opportunity to be drilled. It has always been mv opinion that members of these clubs should not object to a certain amount of drill.
– And thev do not.
– Mv experience as a volunteer is, that unless the men subiect themselves to a certain amount of drill, thev are destroying to an enormous extent their efficiency as a field force, should they ever be called upon to defend their country.
– Ninety per cent, of the members of rifle clubs are willing to drill.
– That is exactly my experience; but the difficulty is that there are no instructors.
– That is it.
– No instructors are ever sent into the districts ; and I do not care how good a marksman a man may be, he enormously depreciates his efficiency unless he is drilled to some extent.
– Which would the honorable member rather do - stand in front of a man well drilled, who could not shoot, or stand in front of a man who could shoot well, and had not been drilled?
– The men who are not drilled can never get to the front to shoot.
– The great probability is that, unless a man is drilled to some extent, he will never be in a position to shoot anybody. The history of the American Civil War shows what a body of untrained men are worth.
– We are talking about individuals, not bodies.
– If there be thrown into the field) a mass of atoms who are not in a position to work under instruction - who are not in a position to take up their formations, or to accept discipline
– Who have no leaders to-, lead them.
– Who have noleaders to lead them; then, I am afraid that, under such circumstances, they would be found wanting in that which could besupplied at small cost.
– What has the honorable memberto say about the Australian troops in South Africa acting on their own initiative ? I have heard the honorable member praise those troops many times in this House. Of course, I know the other side too well.
– I should now like to refer to some remarks which were made Ly the honorable member for Wide Bay. and with which I thoroughly agree. I have been struck, from the time I entered the Federal Parliament, by the utter want of real Ministerial responsibility in dealing with proposals which come before Parliament. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that we are being asked to take a very improper position when the Treasurer brings down a Budget of expenditure, especially expenditure from Customs, and when, immediately afterwards, proposals are made for taxation through _ the Customs - proposals which may alter, to a very considerable extent, the Estimates submitted. Whatever Tariff proposals were intended should have been dealt with when the House mrt at the beginning of the session. We ought to have had full knowledge of what our revenue was to be, before being asked to sanction the proposed expenditure. The Commonwealth expenditure is such to-day that, if we were paying interest on transferred properties, the Treasurer’s figures would show an absolute deficiency. Without incurring one penny of expenditure in excess of that estimated by t?he Treasurer, if we had to pay interest on the value of the transferred properties the Commonwealth would not be paying its way to-day. It must be remembered, also, £hat we have not so far undertaken any of the great works to which many members of file Federal Parliament stand pledged. Where should we get the revenue required to give effect to old-age pensions, to carry out the overland railway fo Western Australia, or to enable us to embark on the construction of the Federal Capital ? There is absolutely no revenue at the disposal of the Government to give effect to any of these proposals. Are Ministers in earnest, for instance, in their professed desire to establish old-age pensions? Do they really intend to bring forward an old-age pension scheme for the Commonwealth? Their sincerity in the matter may well be judged by the provisions they have made or have failed to make to give effect to that proposal. I honestly believe in the establishment of reciprocal trade arrangements with the old country. That is a question about which we heard a great deal from the hustings at the last election. I was exceedingly pleased to support that policy then, and shall do so again, although it may not be quite in accord with the views of some honorable members on this side. I believe nhat there should be trade reciprocity between the different portions of the British Empire. I am prepared to say to outsiders, “ I prefer to trade with my own kith and kin in Great Britain and in Canada rather than with the people of Germany, the United States of America, or other countries, who close their ports to our products.” The battle cry at the last election was “ White Australia and reciprocity of trade.” We have secured a White Australia, but reciprocity of trade has been absolutely set aside. I am reminded by what has taken place of the concluding portion of a passage of Scripture, which I shall put in this way, “ And reciprocity died and was buried, and Australia for the Australians reigned in its stead.” Reciprocity is dead and buried, and we have set up in its stead another king - Australia for the Australians. We have secured a White Australia, but we hear no word now about reciprocity. On the contrary, we have gone to the opposite pole, and we hear now of “ Australia for the. Australians.” The proposal now is to shut out the Britisher and the Canadian, as well as foreigners, and to deal only with our own people. The financial position of the Commonwealth and of all the States to-day is very much more serious than it has been considered to be up to the present time. Although we have undertaken none of the real objects of Federation, our Federal expenditure already absorbs nearly 25 per cent, of the revenue from Customs and Excise, which is our extreme limit There is at the present time a Conference sitting in Melbourne to consider what shall be done in connexion with the transferred properties, tout no provision has been made to meet the interest on the cost of those properties. If it should be decided by Che Conference now sitting in Melbourne that the transferred properties should be handed over at once to the Commonwealth, there is not sufficient revenue indicated in Che Treasurer’s Budget to meet the interest on their cost. We are talking of constructing the overland railway to Western Australia and also the Federal Capital, and we have no money to meet the expenditure involved. If the Government of the Commonwealth should introduce Loan Bills to carry out those works, I hope that I shall be in this House at the time to vote against loans, from whichever side of the House they come. If these great works are not to be constructed by loan money, then we are face to face with the necessity for direct taxation ; and I say that we are not honest in the matter, because we know that there is not a .single State in the Federation able to stand the direct taxation which would be necessary to provide the revenue required to carry out those works. Whilst the proposals which have come from honorable members not included in the ranks of Ministers deserve the sincere consideration of the House and the .heartfelt thanks of those who represent the smaller States for the generous treatment those honorable members are prepared to accord to them, I must say that, so far as the action of Ministers is concerned, the Budget submitted by the Treasurer is wretched in principle and reckless in the proposals it makes for expenditure.
.- I ask the indulgence of the Committee for again intervening in the debate. I do so because, although I have already spoken at considerable length, I found it impossible on that occasion to deal with two or three matters to which I had intended to address myself. 1 wish now to supplement my previous address in order that my proposals may be before’ honorable members in a complete form. Before doing so, I wish to say that honorable members must agree that t,he representatives of Tasmania who have addressed the Committee this morning have put a case before us which emphasizes very strongly the necessity for immediate action in the direction of taking over the States debts, the adjustment of our finances, and the termination of the account-keeping period. There can be no doubt that these are the questions of the hour, not only from the point of view taken by the honorable member for Franklin, but also in view of the absolute danger, looking a few years ahead, to which the financial credit of the Commonwealth and of the States is exposed, if the loans shortly falling due in the different States are allowed to mature without adequate provision being made to meet those obligations. There is another matter to which I wish, to’ refer before I deal with the questions -upon which I rose to address the Committee. I informed the honorable member for Koovong before the luncheon adjournment that it was mv intention to allude to what I cannot but think an unfortunate remark which he made when addressing the Committee yesterday- It has been noticed in the press, and was to the effect that I had, rather ungraciously, he seemed to indicate, ignored his proposals.
– The honorable member stole his thunder.
– Yes, that is the inference. I certainly did not steal his thunder, and he should not have made such a remark. As I endeavoured to remind nim at the time he made the statement, his suggestions, whatever their value- upon that point I give no opinion - are based on lines totally different from mine. He proposed to continue practically the present conditions by providing a body, elected partly by the States and partly by the Commonwealth, for that purpose. My object is the very reverse. I wish to do away with, the present divided management - to unify, not the States, as tha honorable member said, but their debts; and, by placing them in the hands of the Commonwealth, to avoid financial difficulties, and enable us to meet our creditors, so that we may bargain with them on equal terms, by preventing competition between the States in the money market. If I allude to two or three of the proposals of the honorable member for Kooyong, it will be seen how radically different they are from mine. For instance, he provides for an extension of the Braddon section, and thinks that the body which he would like to see created should have placed in its hands all surpluses of Customs and Excise revenue for the payment of interest, and should receive the railway revenues of the States, less actual working expenses; whereas I wish to free the States from interference by the Commonwealth, or any other authority than the States, with the management of revenues of their railways. He suggests the hypothecation of the railways of the States, or the placing, of a floating charge over them as security for loans, “ to prevent misunderstanding with present or future bond-holders.” In short, his proposal is for the creation of a body for the protection of bond-holders, whereas my object is to do away with the need for the Braddon section, and to adjust the finances of the States and the Commonwealth so that neither will have to make any material sacrifice. He proposes to hypothecate their properties, or to deal with them in some other way not explained. I wish to free them from interference. When I went into this question, I regarded it as deserving of the greatest consideration but the honorable gentleman’s proposals were not in my mind. It is only since he called1 attention’ to them in the Committee, in what
I think a somewhat ridiculous way, that I have looked into them, and I believe that if he himself had made a similar comparison he would not have uttered the remarks to which I am replying. There were three points dealt with in my memorandum to which I did not allude in my previous speech. The first was that, assuming that the line of action which I propose as a soluticn of all the financial difficulties were adopted, part of the settlement should be that the transferred properties should be assigned at once to the Commonwealth without payment. Some honorable members may regard that as a somewhat startling proposition, but when it is remembered that a considerable portion of the value of those properties is represented by the loans which under my proposal would be taken over, it will be seen that it would be absurd for the Commonwealth to take over the debt and to pay for the properties as well. It would, in fact, be paying twice. With regard to that portion of the value, which is not represented by loans, it is represented mainly by freeholds which for many years have been occupied by the authorities of the States for the purposes for which they are now used by the Commonwealth. Is it not equitable and reasonable if the Commonwealth takes over the whole of the debts of the States - making itself responsible, for example, for . the £80,000,000 borrowed iby New South Wales, and the £56,000,000 borrowed by Victoria - that the oroperties transferred by those States should be part of the consideration? These properties are not to be removed from the States, and are to continue to be occupied precisely for the purposes for which they were used under States control. The only difference is that there is a change of tenancy.
– And of ownership, too.
Mr.HARPER. - We cannot dissociate ourselves! from ourselves. The Constitution Act establishes two sets of Governments. The States have federated for certain purposes, and remain independent for certain other purposes. This involves the transfer of certain buildings and properties from the States to the Commonwealth. The States having been relieved of the obligation of conducting the Departments of Government in connexion with which these properties are used, and the obligation having devolved upon the Commonwealth, no injury is done to the people of the
States by the transfer of the properties from State to Commonwealth control.
– The States claim that the value of the transferred properties per head of population differs considerably.
– The -per capita consideration has no weight here. The properties which have been transferred have not been shifted, and are being used by those for whose convenience they ‘ were erected. New South Wales may have built more elaborate and costly court-houses and post-offices than are to be found in Victoria, or vice versa, but the fact that that State has a larger population than the other States is not a reason why it should be given a larger credit
– The fact that it has a larger population is not a reason, but the fact that it has more properties per head of population may be.
– It does not seem to me that, because some States may have more properties! per head of population than are possessed by other States, the Commonwealth should be charged on that account now that they have federated. The people of the States are using these properties just as they did prior to Federation.
– There is a distinction between State and Commonwealth ownership.
– I decline to admit that there has been a change of ownership, except in one sense. The Commonwealth’ is carrying on the business of certain Departments of Government, and it has therefore been necessary to transfer to it the properties and appurtenances which are requisite for the performance of these functions. These properties, however, remain where they were erected. They are not taken from one State and given to another.
– The same principle would apply to the land of the State - the land would still be there, but the Commonwealth could control it.
– That is altogether irrelevant, because we have nothing to do with the land of the States, My contention is that it would be reasonable to hand over to the Commonwealth properties the expenditure upon which has been met partly out of the loans for which it is to assume the responsibility. The other properties upon which no loan expenditure has taken place should be included as a part of the bargain, because they are used by the Commonwealth primarily for the benefit and convenience of the people of the different States. If this course were adopted, we should overcome all the troublesome business of settling values. The next matter I shall refer to is the proposed transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. My contention is that if the proposed arrangement as to the transfer of the States debts to the Commonwealth is carried out, the Territory should be handed over to the Commonwealth as part of the arrangement, without any payment to the State chiefly concerned. Some representatives of South Australia seem to be rather astonished at my proposal, but I should like to direct attention to the position in which the Northern Territory stands. The correspondence which has passed between the Commonwealth and States Governments includes a paper signed by Sir Frederick Holder, dated 18th April, 1901 - Parliamentary paper 943 - from which it appears that the Northern Territory is charged with the cost of the overland telegraph line, and a railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, 150 miles in length. The cost of this railway is said, on page 3 of the paper, to be £452,713, and on page 4 to be £1,013,200. I cannot reconcile the two amounts. It is stated upon page 4 that the overland telegraph line cost £462,000. The bonded debt of the Territory was then £2,114,000, and the cash due to the South Australian Treasury on account of temporary advances £738. Since then the debit against the Territory is said to have been increased to £3)45°>298 by the addition to the debt of interest chiefly. The Territory has been in the hands of South Australia for about forty years, and during that period the revenue of the possession has never been sufficient to defray the working expenses. There has been an annual deficiency in working the Territory, apart from the interest payable upon loans and advances. The interest charge which has to be met by South Australia amounts to between £80,000 and £90,000 per annum. So far as I can ascertain the South Australian Government are allowing the deficiency to accumulate. They are debiting the interest in their books to the Northern Territory, and they are asking the Commonwealth to pay them something like £3,400,000. As a matter of fact, they acknowledge that the bonded debts amount to something over £2,000,000, and that the remainder of the debit is the balance due to the Treasury of South Australia, which has borrowed the money so that this Treasury debit against the Territory practically forms part of the debt which we are proposing to take over. In the event of the Commonwealth taking over all the debts of the State, including those of the Northern Territory, I should like to know upon what principle South Australia can ask us to pay the sum mentioned ?
– They could not possibly debit the Commonwealth twice.
– When it is understood that we are taking, over the whole of the States debts, including the debts of the Northern Territory, and the debts which the South Australian Government have contracted in order to meet the annual deficiency in the Northern Territory account, the State can have no claim to special payment for the Territory.
– But the Northern Territory debt must not be debited to South Australia.
– My point is that if we take over the States debts, which include that incurred in connexion with the Northern Territory, we should not be called upon to pay for the Territory over again.
– It is a matter of bookkeeping.
– The question is as to how the interest would be debited afterwards.
– That is another matter. If the Commonwealth were to assume the obligation to pay in future the interest upon that portion of the debt represented by actual outlay for works, such as the Railway, incurred in connexion with the Northern Territory, as well as undertake the management of the Territory in future, South Australia would be enormously relieved. The Commonwealth should not, however, be charged with interest lost by South Australia in the past. With regard to the Western Australian railway, there can be no doubt that that State has a right to special consideration. That has been admitted all round. Western Australia has raised a much larger revenue “per capita than any other State. Their contribution from the Commonwealth, claimable by the State under the Braddon section, leaves them a balance of something like £229,000 over and above the amount necessary to pay the interest on their debts.
That condition of affairs, which I admit will not always continue, gives Western Australia a claim to special consideration. If they want their railway - and I think they are entitled to it - they would, under my proposal, practically contribute towards the interest upon the cost of its construction something like £2,180,000. That is to say, they would be entitled to an annual payment by the Commonwealth ‘ amounting to £229,303, till 1910, which I propose to reduce thereupon, cumulatively, by 5 per cent, per annum. The total amount payable to them for the twenty-year period would be about the sum above named. My proposal is that the- Commonwealth should borrow the money for the construction! of the railway - assuming that it would cost not more than £5,000,000 - and instead of making the above payments to the State, pay the interest upon the debt, and the sinking fund in respect to it, for a period of, say, fifteen or twenty years. The Commonwealth contributions at 3J per cent, would equal £175,000 per annum. Thus, during twelve and a half years, the cost to the Commonwealth would amount to £2,187,500, or about the amount which Western Australia would be entitled to receive from the Commonwealth in twenty years. In fifteen years, the minimum period mentioned in my scheme, Western Australia would receive an additional amount of £437,000 ; or in twenty years, the maximum period, £1,312,500. This, as may be arranged, would give them a solatium in acknowledgment of their position as differing from that of the other States. If, under my scheme, we could settle not only the great financial questions to which I referred on a former occasion, but the. three thorny questions, to which I have referred to-day, would it not be a great achievement ? I am extremely gratified with the reception which has been accorded to my proposals. I have to thank the honorable member for North Sydney and others, not only for the sympathetic mariner in which they have dealt with them, but for the suggestions which they have made as to the way in which they might be improved. Unfortunately, I only obtained last night a copy of the speech which was delivered upon this question bv the honorable member for North Sydney, and I have not yet been able to master it. I intend to do so. It seems to me, however, that the difference between the honorable member and myself is a comparatively small one. It is not a difference of principle, but one of detail. The honorable member does not see his way clear to support the taking over of the whole of the States debts immediately.
– Not immedi.ately.
– The honorable member wishes to limit the proportion of the debtstaken over to an amount the interest upon which would absorb the amounts returned to the States under the Braddon section. I have not yet had time to examine his suggestion, but I shall give it every consideration, and I think I may be able to show him that, for other reasons, it is desirable for the Commonwealth to take over all the debts of the States, and to pay all the interest upon them. During the course of this debate, the honorable member for Bland, and the honorable and’ learned member for Northern Melbourne, raised a point which, I think, has been amply answered by the honorable member for Franklin, and the honorable member for Denison. They objected to the Commonwealth announcing that it intended to take over the whole of the States debts, either under the Treasurer’s scheme or under my own, or under that outlined by the honorable member for North Sydney, upon the ground that it would have the effect of enhancing the value of existing stocks. That argument mav have been sound enough at the period when it was believed that we could effect a great conversion - that, by means of the Commonwealth credit, we should be able to say to the holders of 4 per cent. State bonds, “ We will give you 3 per cent. Commonwealth bonds in lieu of the stock you now hold for a very small consideration.” Even when that suggestion was first made, financial men were agreed that it was impossible to effect any such saving, and the recent inquiries of Mr. Coghlan and others show that it is quite out of the question.
– I stated the opposite. I said that we should be able to effect a saving on conversion, but that we should not put the Commonwealth brand upon any stocks until they were about to mature.
– That is substantially the same thing.
– The honorable member urges that we should put the Commonwealth brand upon all stocks at once.
– Under my proposals we practically say to the bond-holders, “We do not wish you to convert. When your bonds fall due you will only get their face value. We will wait until they mature.” But, assuming that the Commonwealth becomes strong financially, that need not prevent it - in times of depression in Europe - from buying up some of the stocks of the States when they fall below par.
– But they are chiefly in the hands of trustees.
– If they are in the hands of trustees, they will be held until they fall due, when the trustees will receive 20s. in the £1 for them. But if, in the interim, anybody has stock to sell under par, the Commonwealth should purchase it. For instance, if a convulsion took place in Europe, and 4 per cents., which are worth £105 to-day, fell to £95, we should purchase them if we had the money to do so. That would be a proper thing to do, because we should save five points. The worst that could happen to us would be that, when the bonds fell due, we should have to pay 20s. in the £1 for them. That argument, however, ought not to weigh one iota with us now. We are prepared to pay 20s. in the £1 for our bonds when they mature, but if they can be purchased in the interim at a satisfactory rate, we hope to be in a position to purchase them.
– Where would the honorable member get the money with which to convert ?
– If the honorable member will read my scheme he will see. We shall have to borrow it. If we have loans to meet, we hope that we shall be able to borrow the money at 3 per cent., and to take them up when they fall due by paying the bond-holders 20s. in the £1, unless thev are willing to accept 3 per cent, bonds at a figure which is satisfactory to us.
– But I am thinking of the monev that may be available before the bonds fall due.
– The honorable member must see that immediately the scheme is launched we shall begin to make savings. Mr. Coghlan estimates that within five years we shall be savinsr £273,000 in interest uoon loans which will fall due at the end of that period. That in itself is a fund. He further savs that at no very distant period we shall have . £1,370,000 per annum coming in.
Mr.Henry Willis. - That is assuming that the Commonwealth holds the profit which is made upon those bonds.
– 1 have been replying to questions put by the honorable member, and thus have been led away from my subject. It has been suggested in the newspapers - and the honorable member for Denison alluded to it to-day - that the Commonwealth may not be able to save the difference between 3 per cent, and 3.6 percent. The basis of my calculation is that by doing so the Commonwealth will acquire a fund which, in sixty years, will wipe out the whole of the States indebtedness. Now the question arises : “ Will’ the Commonwealth be able to borrow at 3 per cent. ?” ‘ In my paper, I point out that it is quite probable - and, in this particular, I am following the view which is entertained by Mr. Coghlan - that at first the Commonwealth may not be able to borrow at 3 per cent, at par. But in time it will be able to do so. The success of my scheme does not depend upon a saving of . 6 per cent. That is to say, the scheme, as a scheme of finance, does not necessarily mean that. If the Commonwealth does not make that margin, all that will happen is that we shall not pay the debts off so quickly. But whatever margin we make, . 6 or . 3 per cent., it is a saving which will sooner or later pay off the debts.”
– Or we could do it by means of a sinking fund of ir per cent, as we reissued the substituted loans.
– We could do that. I agree with the honorable member that if we received J per cent, sinking fund from the States on each of their loans as they mature, we could effect our object. But my object is, so far as the existing debts are concerned, to remove the whole responsibility for them from the States, and that the Commonwealth should take the whole of that responsibility by taking from the revenue not more than the amount the States are paying to their creditors for interest. Whatever saving the Commonwealth could make, it would apply, not to its own expenditure, but to wiping out the debts. It may be that, owing to a high money market, or some other cause, the Commonwealth might not ibe able to . make so large a saving as . 6 per cent. In that case it might take eighty years instead of sixty to liquidate our indebtedness. But that does not alter the scheme. It simply means that we should be longer in paying off the debts. My object is that the debts of the States shall not in any way involve them in any further difficulties whatever, and to attain that end without interfering with the current revenue of the States. That is to say, the administration will cost no more than it is costing the States now - it will, in fact, probably be a great deal less than the States collectively may be compelled to pay. I notice that Mr. Bent yesterday secured the passage of a Bill to float his loan at up to 4 per cent. I feel assured that unless something is done by the Commonwealth Government to take over the debts, it is probable that instead of the States having, as at present, to pay on the average 3.6 per cent, they will have to pay 4, possibly 4^, per cent, for their renewed loans. The danger of the position is most serious. Our creditors know our necessities. They know as well as we do when our loans are falling due. They know that each of the States will have to come .and ask them for money to renew. The management of financial affairs in London, as my honorable friend the Treasurer is well aware, is confined to a comparatively small circle. You cannot get outside of it; and if our creditors know that we have to renew loans for, say, £15,000,000 in one year - the States collectively will have to renew £31,000,000 in 1 92 1 - can any one say that under the ordinary rules of the market, if there is a large demand for money, the lenders will not make the most of their opportunity? It therefore behoves us to take this question seriously. It should be taken up by the Commonwealth Parliament without delay, before the big loans mature. We have, as I have shown, large renewals to make, and the Commonwealth ought to be well in front of the danger, and be prepared to pay the lenders their money, or to renew on favorable terms. Whenever lenders know that a borrower is in a strong position, so that they cannot corner him, they will be much more likely to come to terms which will be satisfactory. If they will not come to terms with us we ought to be in the position to pay them.
– Does the Minister intend to deal with the matter this session ?
– I have not asked him. It is due to the Treasurer that I should acknowledge tha- he has been very fair in this matter. He had made up his own mind on a certain line of action, and at a later stage another view was put before him. He has considered it. I have not pressed him as to what he intends to do. Probably the matter has been made a little clearer than it was before. At all events, my right honorable friend has had the advantage of hearing the opinions of honorable members, and will therefore be in a better position to deal with the question. It is not a matter entirely for the Treasurer. It is very much a matter for the members of this House. If honorable members are in earnest about it, they will make their weight felt by the Government. And there is a very much more important consideration, namely, to get these proposals understood to be equitable and fair to the States - to get the States Parliaments and Governments to understand them, and be prepared to accept them. It is because I believe that a complete system on these lines would end the entanglements between the States and the Commonwealth Government ; that it would place the States Governments in a position of absolute freedom to deal with their public works as they chose; that it would free them from any apprehensions about their debts ; that it would enable them to deal - under the conditions imposed in my scheme, or similar conditions - with the question of incurring fresh liabilities for new works, the Commonwealth Government being the only borrower in the London market; that it would enable the States to get money for such purposes at the lowest rate of interest current from time to time - because of all these advantages, I urge that the matter should be considered without delay. Mv honorable friend the Treasurer, at the opening of his Budget speech, said that we had not yet learned to think Federally. I agree that we have not. But this is the kind of thing to make us think Federally. If we can show by our administration that the Commonwealth can, without trenching upon the resources of the tax-payers of the country more heavily than is done at the present time - or without substantially imposing fresh liabilities upon them - so finance for them that it can release them from their liability for their debts, and can also provide enough money to meet the debts when they are due, I think most people in Australia will’ say that Federation was a good thing after all. If it did nothing beyond this, they would realize that the union had been justified. My scheme would, at the same time, enable the Commonwealth Parliament to pursue its own policy free from the perplexing considerations which hinder it at present. When, for instance, such a proposal as penny postage is brought forward, we are told that it would so completely punish the Treasuries of some of the States that the people of those States would immediately say, “ It is all very well for the Commonwealth to do this; we should like it very much ; but we cannot afford it.” I want to get into such a position that the Commonwealth will be able to institute penny postage or any other policy that it thinks desirable, without any . State feeling that it is being impoverished. The States would, of course, know that they were paying for it, but, the burden being divided over all of them, it would not be felt in the keen way in which it is now. By that means we shall knit together the citizens of the Commonwealth, and make them feel that, after all, the boundaries of the States are practically imaginary lines, and that we are all one people. It is only by the prevalence of this spirit that we can hope to build up a great and enduring Federation, which will attach to itself a feeling of affection and patriotism, and lift us above the small petty States’ rights idea, which I am sorry to say exists to such a large extent to-day.
.- It is not my intention to take up much of the time of the Committee in dealing with the matter of States rights, because so much has already been said upon the subject. But I think that it is necessary for me to indicate my feelings in reference to some of the questions which have been mentioned. I believe that the debts of the States should be taken over by the Commonwealth as soon as possible. I believe that if it had been done long ago, many exhibitions of jealousy and questions of State rights in reference to finance would have been, avoided. Unfortunately the question of distributing the expenditure -per capita and transferring the States debts has so fully seized the minds of State Treasurers and Premiers that it has become a cause of friction: between the States and the Commonwealth, which, I think, should not exist. I am aware that many of the charges made bv the State Premiers are not well founded, and that some of them are exaggerated. The electors were told that Federation would result in the transfer of the States debts, and the saving of a considerable sum to the States.
For that reason, I think the Commonwealth should have been represented long ago in London by a High Commissioner doing the business of the States, and thus saving a large expenditure on brokerage and other services during the year. Even if the saving in the rate of interest were only J per cent., it would mean an annual saving °f j£500i0°o or -£600,000 to the people of the Commonwealth. That is worthy of consideration, I submit. The Treasurer has talked of putting off the performance of this duty until we have learnt to think more Federally than we do.
– Not at all. I urge the opposite.
– I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that he proposed to put off dealing with the question of States debts.
– No ; he proposes to put off dealing with the distribution of expenditure on a per capita basis.
– I am very glad to hear that the Treasurer is willing to deal with the question of the States debts, and I trust that he will be able to effect their transfer, if not this session, as quickly as possible afterwards. I realize that many difficulties lie in his way, but, as the honorable member for Wide Bay said this morning, some one must take up the question with a determination to carry it to a successful issue. I feel satisfied that; but for our system of parliamentary management, this question would have been” dealt with long ago, and in a business-like way. Perhaps the best course would be to appoint a Committee to take into consideration the best means of carrying out the object, and to bring up a report. I believe that if a Committee consisting of the honorable member for North Svdney, the honorable member for Mernda, and the Treasurer were to agree to a report, it would be adopted bv a majority of honorable members. But while our system of parliamentary government continues - with all the party questions cropping up. and changes of Government taking place - it will be difficult to deal with a question of this kind.
– This is no party question. ‘
– No. I am very glad that party considerations have been totally absent from the debate. I also appreciate the very fair way in which even speaker, especially the honorable member for North Sydney, has dealt with the question. A great deal has been said as to how the transfer of the debts would affect the various States. I should be quite willing to grant a special concession to Western Australia if it were shown that her finances would be affected in an injurious way. When the people of the Colonies were urged to federate, they were assured that they would become one people, with one destiny, and one purse, and they voted accordingly. I did not vote for the acceptance of the Constitution, because I recognised how much Tasmania would lose by entering into the Federation. Now, however, that we are a federated people, we should not recognise boundary lines. The Government of Victoria, for instance, never considers whether a proposal would suit Ballarat, or Geelong, or Echuca, or Bendigo, All it considers is whether the proposal would suit the State. All questions ought to be dealt with here on a Federal principle, and less attention should be given to State considerations. Until that is done the causes of friction will not be removed, and we shall not have a true Federation. If I entered into a partnership, I should consider, not what would be best for myself, but what would be best for the partnership, and that is the way in which pub- ‘<: questions should be dealt with here. I am glad that, so far as the post and telegraph service is concerned, Tasmania has been brought up to the level of the other States, and is to receive justice under this Budget. I” shall have some remarks to make in that connexion when the Estimates are being considered. Having made a careful examination of the Estimates, I believe that they contain many items which could be done without at the present time, and that the proposed expenditure is too large. In a time of prosperity, it is our duty to be careful. Last year we had a prosperous season, but we cannot expect it to be often repeated. I shall consider the Estimates very carefully and require an explanation concerning many items. I shall support any Government or any man who brings, forward a proposal to deal with the question of the States debts this year, or at the earliest possible opportunity.
– I do not know whether the Government desire to bring this discussion to a close to-day.
– Hear, hear.
– I understand that several members who have gone away on a trip to the Federal Capital sites are anxious to have an opportunity to discuss the Budget. I do not think it is quite fair to them to close the debate to-day.
– They all understood before they left that it would be closed today. They will have an opportunity to speak on the Estimates.
– At this stage, an honorable member can discuss a good many subjects with which he cannot deal when the Estimates are being considered in detail. I believe that if the Government could see their way not to close the debate until next week, it would convenience many honorable members. In the first place, I wish to congratulate the Treasurer upon being able to bring down this Budget. Generally, he is optimistic, and on the present occasion, he has very good reasons for his optimism, because the revenue is coming in very satisfactorily. That indicates the advantages springing from the good seasons with which latterly the Commonwealth has been blessed. I believe that all sides of the Chamber heartily entertain the hope that the present outlook of fair and promising seasons will continue, and that on the next occasion, a similarly optimistic Budget may be submitted. On the question of taxation, I am pleased to note a falling off in some items which appeared in the. Budget of 1902-3, and of 1903-4, when the Commonwealth was going through the trials of, I suppose, one of the severest droughts which had occurred since settlement first took place. From grain duties, the Treasurer netted in 1902-3, £597,000; and in 1903-4, £265,000.” This taxation was imposed, not upon luxuries, But upon absolute necessities. Even those who, because of their protectionist principles, advocated the retention’ of the grain duties will learn with satisfaction that the Treasurer estimates that, given a good season this year, the revenue derived from these duties will be only £29.022, as compared with £597,719 in 1902-3. I have no desire to refer at length to the fiscal issue, but there are one or two facts relating to it that I wish to place before the Committee. When New South Wales entered the Federation her Customs and Excise taxation was equal to £1 6s. 4½d. per head of the population, but, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, the revenue “derived from those sources this year will be equal to .£2 4s. 7d. per head of the population. In other words, under the State Tariff a man with a wife and three children had to contribute by way of Customs and Excise taxation something like £6 ns. io£d. to the revenue, whereas under the Commonwealth Tariff he has to contribute £11 2s. nd.
– But the State receives three-fourths of the revenue so collected.
– I was about to refer to that point. During the last five years the Commonwealth has returned to”~&ew South Wales no less than . £6,123,359 in excess of the amount which would have been collected under the State Tariff, on the basis of the Customs and Excise returns for 1900. If the Treasurer’s estimate for this year be realized, it will mean that the people of New South Wales will have contributed to the Customs and Excise revenue a Sum of . £7,475,188 in excess of what they would have’had to pav under the State Tariff. It is true that the State Government has benefited bv this increased revenue, but the people themselves have had to put their hands in their pockets to provide it. The difficulty is that, whereas the New South Wales Government have been able to draw upon this increased revenue, thev have been under no obligation to the people with respect to its collection, and sufficient control has not been exercised over its expenditure. Although the large amount I have mentioned has been raised by Customs and Excise taxation in New South Wales the Government of that State has since Federation added very considerably to the public debt. That being so, the position of the taxpayers there is even worse than is that of the people of other States, whose revenue has not been, so largely increased under the Commonwealth Tariff. Had there been a smaller revenue available greater economy would have been exercised by the spending powers and the taxpayers would have received a corresponding benefit. I regret that, whilst the Federal Tariff was under consideration, those who were fighting for reasonably low duties were unsuccessful. At that time there were in this House a number of freetraders under the leadership of the right honorable member for East Sydnev, and it seems to me that there was a possibility of the campaign being carried to a far more successful issue. I regret that, as the result of the lightning changes that have since taken place, the chances of success in this direction have been reduced, and I fear that many years will elapse before an equally good opportunity will present it self. It would seem that the Free-trade Party have ceased to recognise free-trade as an important plank in their platform. They have even changed their name, and have blossomed forth, as the “ anti- Social - ist “ or the “anti-Labour” party. Whilst the Tariff was under consideration, the P’ree-trade Party received substantial assistance from members of the Labour Party.
– Does the honorable member classify labourites as Socialists ?
– Are “labour” and “Socialism” synonymous terms?
– It is the honorable member who refers to the Labour Party as Socialists.
– We refer to Socialists as Socialists ; I do not know that we could do more than that.
– The honorable member uses the word “ Socialism “ in a much wider sense. Those who espouse the labour cause are branded as Socialists by his party. The Free-trade Party, which at one time existed in- this House, had, amongst its supporters the following members” of the Labour Partv : - The honorable member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Barrier, and mvself, as representatives of New South Wales ; the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Maranoa, and the honorable member for Wide Bay, all representatives of Queensland.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has denied that he was a revenue tarifEst.
– The Free-trade Party received from him a good deal of support in connexion with some of the Tariff items.
– And a good deal of opposition.
– The honorable member for Perth, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, together with Senator Pearce - all representatives of Western Australia - were supporters of the free-trade cause, whilst the honorable member for Grey and other members of the Labour Party who hailed from South Australia also stood “by it. There were no free-traders among the members of the Labour Party returned by Tasmania and Victoria, but altogether about eleven members of that party were fighting with the Opposition for Tariff reform.
– The honorable member has failed to mention Senator Dawson, who also stood bv the free-trade cause.
– That is so.
– How does the honorable member classify the honorable member for Darling?
– The honorable member for Darling is a fiscal atheist. When the Free-trade Party entered this House it had only one supporter from this State - the then honorable member for Wannoro, Mr. Winter Cooke. But in the meantime there has been a great change. The members I have already mentioned are, I understand, to be cast overboard, and thrown to the Conservative sharks, to be devoured, if possible, at the coming elections.. On the other hand, the Free-trade Party has been strengthened by the addition of the very respected member for Oxley, and also, I understand, by Senator Drake, who was a member of the’ Government who introduced the Tariff. In Western Australia there is no change; but in the case of South Australia the party has lost the honorable member for Grey ; whereas in Tasmania they have secured Sir Philip Fysh and, probably, Senator Dobson, on important questions. But the great change in the party has occurred in the case of Victoria, where their gains include the honorabje member for Gippsland, who was co-equal in the Premiership a little while ago, and was previously responsible for the stock tax in Victoria imposed against the rest of Australia. With the honorable member for Gippsland there are the honorable member for Corinella, the right honorable member for Balaclava, and the honorable member for Echuca. After the passing of the Tariff , the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Grampians, and the then honorable member for Flinders, Mr. Groom, passed over to the free-trade, or Opposition, side ; and after the elections the honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable member for Wannon joined the party,, along with Senator Fraser.
– Where does the honorable member place the honorable member for Mernda ?
– I do not know; but I think the honorable member for Mernda is rather friendly ‘disposed towards the Government, and I give him the benefit of the doubt. The changes which I have indicated are responsible, I presume, for the alteration in name from the “ Free-trade Party “ to the “ Anti-Socialist,” or “ Antilabour Party.”
– Not anti-labour, but anti-Socialist.
– When the Labour Party first entered politics, they had to combat much prejudice, and some scare was caused by the entrance into the political arena of men new to politics, who claimed to represent labour. That prejudice, to some extent, has disappeared, and the Free-trade, or Anti-Socialist, Party find it necessary to find for the Labour Party some new appellation likely to engender mistrust, and justify, from their point of view, an appeal to the prejudice of the public. Hence the Labour Party are now described as the “ Socialist Party.”
– Do the Labour P arty object ?
– In time, however, the term “ Socialist “ will cease to act as a bogy, and no doubt will disappear, to give place to some other.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Coolgardie be appointed temporary Chairman.
– I simply desire to express an opinion as to what is responsible for the changes I have indicated, and intimate what may be expected from them in the future.
– One fact responsible for them is the honorable member’s leech-like sticking to the present Government.
– The honorable member for Parramatta was prepared to stick closer than a leech to the members of the present Government when they were united with his party.
– I stuck to my leader, while the honorable member ran away from him.
– All that can be hoped for in the future, in the matter of reduced taxation, is a kind of guerilla warfare. That which was once a solidj and, to a certain extent, democratic party, in defence of the rights of the community in the matter of taxation has ceased to exist as such; and in the Opposition there is now a large protectionist element, which, I understand, will be an important factor in the counsels of the party on this side, not only for the present, but in the future. I can only regret that what otherwise might have been an important and successful fight in the interests of fair taxation has been indefinitely postponed, and that, when the question is raised again, it can only be by other leaders and other men.
– The honorable member has not shown that he would do anything to put a protectionist Government out of office.
– The protectionists on the Opposition side of the House are fighting, not against the Government, but against democratic reform - the question of freetrade or protection is only secondary. Those protectionists, rightly or wrongly, consider that they can fight with greater advantage under the wing of the honorable member for Parramatta than under the wing, of the honorable member who leads the present Government. There are a number of items in the Budget which vitally affect the future welfare of the Commonwealth, and which call for comment; but, so far as most of these are concerned, I shall reserve what I have to say until the Estimates come before us in detail. In passing, I recognise, with others who have spoken, the importance of dealing with the States’ debts. I think, however, that we should go slowly in the matter- that we should be very sure of our ground, and obtain all the* information possible - before we commit the Commonwealth to any particular scheme. I regret that the States Premiers appear to be disposed to discuss this matter in a somewhat provincial manner. They seem to desire to unload all their burdens on the Commonwealth, without giving the Commonwealth Government any adequate means to meet the additional responsibilities they would cast upon them, and without being prepared to hand over reasonable assets to cover their obligations. If the Commonwealth Government will take over the States debts, pay the interest on them the best way they can, will seek no curtailment of the rights of the States with respect to future borrowing, and will not demand States railways or lands as security for the debts taken over, most of the States Governments will readily accept that as a solution of the difficulty. That, however, would not be fair to the Commonwealth, or to the persons from whom the money has been borrowed. I think that the better plan to adopt in dealing with the matter would be to appoint an expert Committee to investigate the whole question’ and report to Parliament. In the meantime, the Federal Government should keep in close touch with the States Governments, and should try to make them understand the position, in order that some common agreement might be arrived at. It would not be well for us to move in these matters without the consent of the States Governments, and I do not think that it is desirable that we should take any step which might be considered hostile to them. It must not be forgotten, however, that in the near future the position will be very much! more serious than it is at present. The honorable member for Mernda, in the able paper which he has submitted, quotes from the Victorian Year Book a statement to the effect that within the next eleven years States debts to the amount of £78.000,000 will mature, and that within the next thirty years no less than £200,000,000 of the £236,000,000 representing the total indebtedness of the States will have to be provided for. In the floating of their various loans in the past the States Governments have been to some extent their own masters. They have been able to choose the time at which a loan should be floated, and to withdraw proposals from an unfavorable market. But it is a difficulty of the question with which we are called upon to deal that provision must be made for the various loans as they mature. Those who control the money market are well aware of what are likely to be the conditions of the market for some considerable time to come, and will make their preparations to meet, them. There is no philanthrophy about money transactions, and it is probable that the money market will be found to be so controlled that the States will find some difficulty in meeting their loan obligations as. they fall due. In the circumstances, it would be wise on the part of the States and Federal Governments to endeavour to anticipate possible unfavorable conditions of the money market. That contingency is one which might very well engage the attention of both Governments. In connexion, with the proposal for the establishment of penny postage, I should like to say that I do not join with those who consider that it is likely to involve loss to the Commonwealth. I am unable to see the financial difficulties which apparently loom so largely in the view of some of my brother members. The experience of penny postage in Canada, New Zealand, and, in a lesser degree, in Victoria, does not bear out these gloomy forebodings. I believe that in a very short time penny postage, if established as proposed, instead of involving a loss of revenue, will be found to pay for itself, and probably, as in the case of Canada, to return a handsome profit, which will enable us to provide increased postal and telegraphic facilities, and, possibly, also some contribution to the fund necessary to enable us to give effect to a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme. I shall leave the matter for further consideration at a later stage. One matter which has been touched upon to some extent bv other honorable members is the necessity for increasing the population of the different States. Some move in this direction has recently been made by the States Governments, and a vote appears on the Estimates to enable the Federal Government to render some assistance. Population is a vital factor in the progress of the Commonwealth. We cannot afford to see our population diminish, or even to remain stationary. We must use every legitimate means to increase it. It is unreasonable for us to suppose that we shall be permitted to continue to hold empty a continent with such great latent possibilities. I have not said all ‘I should like to say on this subject, and, perhaps, as we have now reached the usual time for adjournment, the Prime Minister might not object to report progress.
– The honorable member can finish his general remarks now, and can deal with details later on in the Estimates.
– I believe that other honorable members desire to speak on the Budget - I wish to deal more fully with the subject of immigration, and should like to be able to continue my remarks when the Committee next sits.
– The honorable member has twenty minutes yet in which he can speak.
– As the Prime Minister in all probability must then report progress, and allow an adjournment, he might as well do so now.
– Very well, then we shall have to sit late next week.
– I shall be very glad to do so.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Deakin) read a first time.
– With the per mission of the House, I should like to move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the law relating to Parliamentary Elections.
– I object.
Electoral Bill : Conduct of Business : Naval Agreement : Australians on War Vessels.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Parramatta objected to the introduction of the Electoral Bill. The effect of his objection will be to postpone honorable members’ acquaintance with it.
– I do not particularly wish to make its acquaintance.
-We are continually being asked to break the rules of the House in this way.
– The Bill reached us this morning a little late. All we desire is to have it read a first time, so that it may be circulated.
– If our rules are not to be observed’, they may as well be abolished.
– Then there are other means for making the objects of the Bill public.
.- Yesterday, when I asked what number of Australians are serving on the war vessels on the Australian station, I was informed that, although we are entitled under the Naval Agreement to place ,1,000 officers and men or. those ships, no Australian officer has yet been appointed, and only 430 men are employed on board them. The Naval Commander-in-Chief speaks of the difficulty of getting experienced men to take the place of those already on board. There are, however, a number of real seamen who are waiting to be appointed. A fisherman, who knows a good deal about seamanship has ‘ informed me that about twelve months -ago he passed an examination upon the Katoomba, and was accepted, being told that he would be called .upon shortly, while several others were in the same position ; but they have since heard nothing about the matter. Altogether, contrary to the terms of the Naval Agreement, there are 570 British seamen on these vessels whose places ought to be filled by Australians. When the agreement was being considered, we were told that it provided for the training of 1,000 Australians, but, although it has now been in force for some years, only 430 are being trained. It is due to Parliament and the country that the Prime Minister should make some representations to the Imperial authorities on this subject, or approach the Naval CommanderinChief in regard to the matter.
– I objected to the introduction of the Electoral Bill, chiefly by way of protest against the malingering which has characterized the action of the Government this session. I think that, instead of projecting new legislation, they should have taken steps to complete the legislation already begun, particularly the legislation affecting the Tariff.
– Malingering means pretending to be sick; but the honorable member is complaining that the Government are pretending to be strong.
– The word is capable of another interpretation. The actions of the Government in regard to the spirit duties have been in the nature of a burlesque. Indeed, they have treated the alteration of the Tariff as quite a casual matter. The report of the Tariff Commission in regard to spirit duties was presented on the 16th May, but it was not until the 2nd August that a motion was moved in regard to them, the Government doing nothing for a period of nearly three months. Yet the Prime Minister goes about to public meetings saying that Jie would be very much surprised if any of these reports took more than a night to deal with, and expressing his anxiety to give relief to injured industries. At Footscray he adopted an almost patlheric tone. He said, “ We have no. time to deal with doctrinaire proposals, but intend to give relief to injured industries.” As it took the Government nearly three months to do anything in regard to the spirit duties, I should like to know how long it will be before they formulate their proposals in regard to the Tariff items last reported upon by the Commission. A week ago the Minister of Trade and Customs moved a motion, for which he said he was not responsible, and which might be altered when he had time to look through the report, and then he bolted to his electorate to do a week s electioneering. It seems that just now his political seat is of more consequence than the condition of any of the strangled industries of Victoria, or than the position of the harvester and agricultural implement manufacture. What the Government should have done was to formulate proposals of their own at the earliest possible moment. If there had been any urgent reason for the -Minister’s absence last week, I could have understood it ; but I submit that there was none, and that the questions before us were more important than even tihe Corowa show. If the Minister could not stay to look after the urgent and important business brought before us, his colleagues should have dealt with it in his absence The present uncertainty in regard to the Tariff is very distressing to all classes of business in this country. A definite set of proposals should have ‘been brought forward at the earliest moment, and I should like to hear that that will be done. The spirit resolutions having been passed, why should not a Bill be framed and introduced to give effect to them as soon as possible? Instead of that the Government are projecting new legislation of a total! v different kind - legislation upon which the country has never been asked to pronounce judgment, and- which is neither urgent nor very important.
– It has already been rejected bv the Federal Parliament.
– Exactly .; and yet it seems that it must take precedence of proposals which relate to industries which it is) said are being strangled. I make mv protest against this casual method of treating urgent public business, and against the obstacles placed in the way of our disposing of the remaining business of the session at the earliest possible moment.
– I had not intended to make any remarks’ this afternoon with reference to certain cowardly attacks that were made upon me during my absence for a few days. But the honorable member for Parramatta has repeated these cowardly attacks, and I propose to say a few words.
– I should like to know whether the honorable member is in order in alluding to the remarks of the honorable member far Parramatta as cowardly attacks.
– I heard the Minister say that he had been subjected to cowardly attacks. If his remarks applied to the honorable member for Parramatta they must be withdrawn.
– The sensibilities of honorable members are becoming very tender. If, according to the rules of the House, I have to withdraw the remarks, I shall do so in deference to you, sir. The honorable member for Parramatta has made statements to-day, and previously, with reference to the conduct of the business placed in my hands, but he is very much mistaken if he supposes for a moment that I will submit to any dictation from him. I shall do as I think best. With reference to the remarks that were unfairly made - I presume that that is not unparliamentary - with regard to my going away the other evening, I should like to ask where are the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Macquarie ?
– Neither of those honorable members, are in charge of an important Department.
– I do not intend to quietly submit to the leader of the Opposition and others travelling around the country and doing their best to injure me. I shall deal with any one who adopts such a line of conduct towards me as I have done in the past. The honorable member for Parramatta stated that I should have left the proposals with regard to the spirit duties in the hands of one of my colleagues. All I need say is that the Prime Minister took charge of the resolutions, and had placed in his hands a com- of the suggestions which I had not received from the Comptroller-General until after I had addressed the Committee. I. think that the. Prime Minister handled the proposals as well as I could have done, and that they have been dealt with satisfactorily
– The case referred to was the fourth during this session in which the Minister had handed over his work to other Ministers.
– It was nothing of the kind. The honorable member is not so constant in his attendance that he need crow about it. It seems to me that members of the Opposition are constantly absent. If I ask one of my colleagues to take charge of a measure in my absence, what right have honorable members of the
Opposition to object to my conduct? It is like their impudence to do so. Reference has. been made to the delay in bringing forward the spirit duties. Any delay that occurred was unavoidable, because important measures had to be dealt with in the meantime. Included among these was the Australian Industries Preservation. Bill, in regard to which one of the Melbourne daily newspapers told a deliberate untruth when it stated that I had forced on that measure against the wish of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stated before the session was opened that that Bill would be the first submitted to Parliament, and I merely repeated what he had said. I am not prepared to submit without protest to unfair comment by the journal which prematurely published the report of the Tariff Commission with regard to metals and machinery - an action which has never been taken before by any journal of repute. The Bill embodying the resolutions of this House with regard to the spirit duties is practically ready now, and if I am not here on Tuesday next, the Prime Minister will introduce it.
– I understood that the Prime Minister was waiting for the honorable gentleman’s return.
– I have seen the Comptroller-General, and the Bill will be ready for. presentation on Tuesday. I took the draft away with me in order to look through it.
.- I should not have said a word, but for the lecture with which the Minister of Trade and Customs has favoured us, and his statement that it was like the impudence of members of the Opposition to criticise his action. What were the facts? The Minister made a pilgrimage to Adelaide at the end of last week, and stayed there over the Sunday. He came back and told us that he was saturated with information about the spirit duties, that, in fact, he had obtained more information on the Sunday than the Tariff Commission had been able to collect in fifteen months.
– I think that it was better information.
– He told us further that he would place this information before us, and invited us to go on discussing the matter - to kill time - until he thought proper to return. The hurried manner in which he scuttled away for the train on Tues- day, reminded me of the words of the old nigger song : -
He seen a smoke way up de ribber Where de “ Linkin “ gim boats lay, He took his hat an let very sudden, And I ‘specks he’s run away.
– I do not desire to take any part in personal recriminations,’ but think that the deputy leader of the Opposition has done justice neither to himself nor to the party he represents by putting forward as a’ plea for stopping the mere publication of a measure a statement of his opinion with regard to the order in which the business of the House should be taken. Under present circumstances, it is not m the interests of the public or of the House, nor is it worthy of an honorable member to interpose the forms of the House to prevent the publication of a Bill which happened to arrive a few minutes too late to be placed in the hands of Ministers this morning. No advantage was sought to be taken of honorable members, but we simply asked, as a matter of courtesy, to be allowed to take a certain course which we were unable to adopt this morning. That courtesy was refused, very improperly, and inconsistently, and in a manner that showed that the honorable member for Parramatta was not anxior.5 to assist us in transacting the business we have before us. Then the honorable member went on to question my own anxiety and that of the Government to dispose of the Tariff proposals as expeditiously as possible. I do not think, however, that any honorable member who has cast his eye, as I have had to do, over the last set of recommendations of the Tariff Commission which were laid before the House in an unexpected manner, in consequence of the improper action of a newspaper, will suggest that the Government, who were not aware of the recommendations until they were communicated to thi: House, has yet had time to sift them thoroughly, and properly examine them, so as to be able to submit its own proposals to the House. It is only a few days since the recommendations of the Commission in respect of agricultural machinery came into our hands. Those recommendations had engaged the attention of that body for some time, and resulted in a very serious division of opinion among its member’s.
– I do not think that the Government should be expected to adopt them holus bolus.
– But the point is that ths Commission, after weeks of consideration, were unable to arrive at agreement in respect of these recommendations, which only reached us. at the same time as they were placed before the public. Since then we have been engaged in discussing the spirit duties, and any leisure on the part of the Customs officers is now being devoted to considering the recommendations referred to. So far from having delayed their examination, I have personally urged upon the ComptrollerGeneral the’ necessity for supplying us with the fullest criticism which he and his officers can bestow upon them at the very first opportunity. I have not yet received a line of that criticism, nor could I have reasonably expected to do so.
– In any case, the reports could only reach the Prime Minister through the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Exactly. But I have already explained that I was acting for the Minister of Trade and Customs. I can assure the honorable member for Parramatta that we shall continue to urge the Customs officers to expedite their comments upon the Tariff Commission’s recommendations, and that there will be no delay in submitting the Government proposals to this House. On the contrary, I believe that we shall be able to deal with those now in hand before any others are received from the Commission. In the meantime, we are bound to keep the general business of the House going, and to lay before honorable members the short Bills which we are introducing. Two or three of them are, in a sense, purely formal - at all events they are Bills not likely to arouse any party antagonism. One of them is designed to cure a purely technical question of law in reference, to certain constituencies. Another- is intended. to repeal the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, and to re-enact it with necessary amendments. One or two other measures relate to the dates at which the Federal elections shall in future be held, the desire being to avoid holding them at harvest time. That Bill involves an amendment of the Constitution, which, although formal, has to be submitted to the electors for their ratification. .The consideration of these Bills ought not to be delayed. When we asked permission to introduce a more disputable measure - one relating to the method of conducting the elections - our object was to get it before the public early, because if it is to be rejected, we ought to be apprised of that fact without delay, inasmuch as the instructions to the returning officers have to be issued, and the electors warned. Nobody will deny that this is a matter of great urgency, and that we were justified in pressing it before the country.
– Will the Government proceed with a Bill of that character - which will be highly contentious - before the consideration of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission is resumed?
– That depends upon the time when we receive further recommendations, and the extent to which we are able to agree with them.
– But some reports of the Commission are already in hand.
– That is the group of which I have spoken. The Government proposals ‘will be submitted as soon as possible. It is undesirable that we should depart from the recommendations of the Commission unless we are absolutely obliged to do so. In regard to the duties upon spirits, we believed that it was incumbent upon us to do so for the protection of the revenue. But there has been no delay upon- that account.
– The Government are introducing contentious measures when they already have their hands full.
– In the last session of this Parliament we have no choice of the time when we shall introduce contentious measures.
– Who rs asking the Government to put such measures through ?
– The Government are introducing the Bill relating to the conduct of elections because thev think that it ought to be introduced. We are acting under compulsion as to time under pressure of work, and, though I make no complaint of the manner in which the business of the House has been dealt with hitherto, to-day a general and important debate has been carried over to next week, although nothing definite can result from it at present.
– The debate has been carried over at the request of the Government’s own supporters.
– Backed up by some honorable members opposite. I am not attributing blame to any side in that connexion. I am merely speaking of the. posi tion in which we find ourselves. Only a few more weeks of the present session remain.
– Can the Prime Minister tell us when the session will close?
– It is impossible. But I trust that we shall not hear even the eloquence of the honorable member again at such length - as we heard it upon the Budget, though his remarks, like those of others, were devoted to the education of the public. We must neglect our own interests if our remaining business is to be transacted within a reasonable time. I hope that upon another occasion the honorable member for Parramatta will not endeavour to throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of our work, and thus compel us. to remain in session later than we otherwise should.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060817_reps_2_33/>.