2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– By leave of the House I desire to move -
That the proceedings inCommittee on the Bounties Bill, which lapsed on Friday last, be resumed, and that the House will, this day, resolve itself into a Committeee of the Whole for the further consideration of the Bill.
– I object.
Count-out at Last Sitting.
.–I desire to make a personal explanation. It has been stated in the press and elsewhere, during the last few days, that before the honorable member for Bourke, the Government Whip, left the House last Friday morning, he made ah arrangement with me which would have precluded me from taking the steps which led to the exposure of the inability of the Government to keep a quorum. In an interview with a representative of the Melbourne Herald, published on Friday afternoon, the Government Whip is reported to have said -
I had to address one of the mid-day protectionist meetings. Before leaving the House, I saw Mr. Chapman, the Postmaster-General, and asked him to look after matters in the House for me. Mr. Chapman said - “ You had better see Mr. Kelly (the acting whip on the other side) and arrange for pairs and other matters.” It is always a matter of honour with the whips during the absence of one of them, that the’ other will not take any unfair advantage.
I saw Mr. Kelly, and told him that I would be away until two o’clock, and that I had arranged with Mr. Chapman the details of pairs and other matters. Mr. Kelly said “ All right.” I returned before I had expected, but by that time a number of members had left, and there was no quorum.
On Friday the honorable member saw me in the Opposition room, where I was writing letters, and told me that he was going away, but that in his absence the PostmasterGeneral would act as Whip, and would arrange for pairs in connexion with any divisions which might occur. He did not speak of any other matter. The possibility of a quorum not being present was. not mentioned, and no arrangement was made with me in regard to the keeping of a quorum. Evidence of the correctness of what I say exists in the fact that he told me that the Postmaster-General would, in his absence, look after divisions, and, if there bad been a division, how could the Government have prevented a count-out in the absence of a quorum? The honorable member made no arrangement with me in regard to the keeping of a quorum ; he did not suggest that the Opposition should connive at the evasion by the Government of its constitutional responsibility to keep a quorum for the transaction of public business. I am therefore inclined to think that he must have been misunderstood or misreported by the Herald interviewer. Nothing transpired during the conversation with me which could have inspired the honorable member with the belief that an arrangement had been entered into between us for the keeping of a quorum. There was no such arrangement. Furthermore, when the count-out occurred, of the five Ministerialists in the Chamber, the only private member present was the honorable member himself. As he was here to see what was happening, that disposes of the ridiculous contention that I was guilty of a practically dishonorable act in calling for a quorum while he was away. A blackguardly attack Was made upon me yesterday by the Melbourne Age in connexion with this matter. It is not my custom to take notice of newspaper criticism, especially not of libels emanating from a journal which daily prostitutes its talents in the services of Sapphira; but I cannot allow the virulently mendacious attack to which I refer to pass without comment, even though appropriately enough this newspaper has erected over its portico a statue of Mercury, the patron of thieves and liars. The article to which I refer is as follows: -
There is a code of honour, it is said, even among thieves, and Mr. Chapman says there is one amongst politicians, and particularly amongst the Whips who marshal them. Men have to play the game or be ostracised…..
It is certain that on Friday the Opposition broke al] recognised rules in bringing the sitting to an end with a “ count out.” This it was that caused the. Government to cry “A foul!” A “count out” is a part of the game, too; but it has to be brought about according to the code. Friday’s “ count out “ was a breach of political honour, and hence the Ministerial indignation. The standing orders fix a quorum of the Chambe at twenty-five. Any member may object to going on with business if there are fewer mem bers present. Very often there are not half that number, and no notice is taken, because it is known that they are in the precincts of the House and available on call. But if from any cause those in Opposition can seize a time when there are not twenty-five Government supporters within hail, they can leave the Chamber with only two or three of their number to demand a count out. And that is a quite legitimate part of the game as it is played. To guard against such a thing, it is the duty of the Ministerial Whip, when Government supporters desire to leave the Chamber in any unusual numbers, to make an agreement with the Opposition, and such agreements constitute a code of honour. On Friday that was done.
I have shown that it was not done. The article continues -
Mr. Hume’ Cook told Mr. Kelly that he and some other members desired to be absent for a couple of hours during the adjournment for dinner. The latter acquiesced, and that bound him. But no sooner were these members absent, together with a few others who left early for lunch, than Mr. Kelly drew the Speaker’s attention to the want of a quorum, with the necessary effect that, as none could be obtained within a few minutes, Parliament had to rise for the week, and the business before the House had to be sacrificed. Mr. Deakin characterized this in his Maryborough speech as “ watching men off to their lunch, and then counting out the House before they could get back.”
In palliation ‘ of this dishonorable trick it may be urged by its impish perpetrator that the Opposition had more members in the House than the Government had. And that is true. But the time was 12.45 P-m-> only a few minutes before adjournment, when members leave for lunch with a sense of security, relying upon each other to at least abstain from the tactics of a political welsher. However, there are some natures which no honour binds when expediency seems to perceive advantage in a dodge. There was no party gain in the spiteful little piece of cunning, and there was, of course, no public purpose to serve, but only a loss of valuable public time. There was the petty gratification that a Quilp might feel in pinching his wife’s arm or in belabouring his wooden figure with the blows of his waddy. It was an act that brands the Opposition Whip as contemptible amongst his fellows, but as that does not alter his previous status, the people are the only sufferers. It might be well, however, if Ministers, to mark their sense of the meanness of the deception that was practiced on their own Whip, should refuse to hold any further intercourse with the offender for the rest of the present Parliament.
The remainder of the article is not relevant to myself. Those statements- can, I think, best be shown to be false by comparing the present attitude of the newspaper with that which it took up on a similar occasion a couple of years ago. By such a comparison I shall prove, out of the mouth of the Age, that its mendacious attack upon me was absolutely without justification. The House was counted out on Friday, the 9th September, 1904, a few minutes after the resumption of proceedings following the luncheon adjournment, when a luncheon party was being held within the precincts of the Chamber. This is what the Age said of that occurrence: -
After the adjournment for luncheon a curious thing happened. When Sir William Lyne resumed there were only nineteen members present. The member for Hume looked about him, and made a signal to Mr. Thomas, member for Broken Hill. That honorable member promptly jumped up and called attention to the state of the House.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe that.
– T am quoting the Age. The article proceeds -
This extraordinary contretemps created not a little dismay in the Ministerial ranks, and some degree of humour at the expense of the Government. Almost at the very inception of its term of office, and of an important debate, the Government had failed in its responsibility to keep a House. The two Ministers in the Chamber appeared to be panic-stricken. Here was evidence of a fine capacity to conduct the business of the country ! Sir John Forrest was entertaining the Prime Minister and others upstairs at a luncheon, but where was the newly appointed Government Whip, Mr. Wilks ? Why did he not keep a House? The episode was regarded as a further conclusive proof of the demoralization of the House under its present leadership.
Sir William Lyne, who was speaking at the time of the count-out, was by no means displeased at the turn of events. He had several strong criticisms to level against the Prime Minister, he said, and he was not going to continue with them while Mr. Reid persisted in Tunning away. According to all precedent the Government is responsible for the transaction of public business, and must bear the responsibility of keeping a quorum.
Apart ‘from the member for Hume, members strongly expressed the opinion that a Govern-^’;’ ment which neglected its duty in this fashion, which deserted its post to allow public affairs to look after themselves, and which in a craven way refused to face criticism, must be brought to account with promptitude. The “ count out “ probably did more than anything else could have done to hurry up a no-confidence motion.
That was the view taken by the Age newspaper in regard to a similar ocurrence during the life-time of a Government to which it was opposed.
– Was the Age opposed to the Reid-McLean Government ?
– If it had not been opposed to that Government, the honorable member for Barrier would have received treatment similar ‘ to that received by me yesterday in its scoundrelly leader.
Mr,- Thomas.! - But I did not intenttionally count the House out.
– This is what the Age said when the House was counted out on the 2nd November, 1904 : -
While the Opposition is not fulfilling the threat of some of its members to give the Government no quarter, it can be depended upon to embrace opportunities for embarrassing Ministers when those opportunities prominently present themselves. On two occasions the Government has neglected to keep a House. On Wednesday night there was a “ count out “ almost at the usual hour of adjourning, and the Treasurer yesterday wanted to evade the penalty for this neglect by replacing the lapsed estimates on the notice paper, going on as if nothing had happened. Oppositionists were not inclined to be so lenient. They might be as anxious to get into recess as the Government, but like all true oppositionists, they must support the standing orders.
Having quoted those statements, I have done with this newspaper. It has shown itself so unworthy in all its political criticism, from whatever stand-point directed, that I thought I could not do better than answer its lies out of its own mouth. The Prime Minister and others sitting on the Ministerial side of the Chamber, have said that I deliberately counted heads before calling attention to the state of the Committee. To that charge my reply is that on Friday morning I did not enter either the Labour room or the Ministerial room, and I therefore leave it to the Government to explain how I could have counted heads. The best evidence of the falsity of the charges which have_been made by the Government in its extraordinary indignation at this exposure of its inability to maintain a quorum, lies in the fact that of the three parties represented in the Chamber when attention was called to the state of the Committee, the members of the Opposition, who were in no way responsible for the keeping of a quorum, were proportionate! v a larger representation than were the members of the other parties present.
Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke) [2.45I.- T also wish to make a personal explanation with respect to what occurred on last Friday. The statement of the honorable member for Wentworth is correct to a certain degree, but I think’ that it is necessary that I should give my version of what took place. What happened was this : I found it necessary tq leave the House for about two hours, and. in the ordinary course of business, I communicated with the PostmasterGeneral, to whom I usually refer upon such occasions of the kind - I think that I had been under the necessity of doing so only three times since I have held my present position. TheMinister said - “You had better see the Acting Whip of the Opposition, the honorable member for Wentworth, tell him how things are, and put him on his honour as to the state of the House.” I think that the PostmasterGeneral added : “ If you do that, things will be as safe as a church.” My answer was that I did not think it necessary to put the honorable member for Wentworth upon his honour, but that I would inform him of the circumstances, and that it would then be all right. I saw the honorable member for Wentworth and told him that I would be away until two o’clock, and asked him to see the PostmasterGeneral if it were found necessary to arrange for any pairs. I did not ask him not to count out the House. I did not make any particular or special arrangement with him as to that or anything else. If one had to make a special arrangement of that kind in every such case, it would be necessary to enter into a solemn compact half-a-dozen times a day.
– How often has the honorable member helped us?
– In every way I could. I have always arranged the business with the view to meeting, as far as practicable, the wishes of honorable members of the Opposition, and I am sure that not a single honorable member can say that he has been inconvenienced by any act of mine. I did not think it necessary to enter into any special arrangement upon the occasion referred to. because I naturally expected that the business would be allowed to proceed in the ordinary way. As proof that there was an understanding in this respect, I desire to point to the fact that the honorable member for Lang, who now significantly objects to the restoration of the “Bounties Bill to the business-paper, arranged with the honorable member for Yarra that there should be no count-out.
– No; he did not say there should not be a count-out.
– I understand that the honorable member for Yarra desired to go to lunch and that he saw the honorable member for Lang, who stated that rather than permit a division to be taken before lunch he would keep the debate going.
-i asked the honorable member for Lang whether he thought there would be a division before1 o’clock, and he said “ No.”
– And I understood1 he also said that the business should be kept going until1 o’clock. The honorable member for Lang told nae that he had agreed that the debate should be kept going until1 o’clock, which I understood to mean that there would be no count-out, but that business would be permitted to proceed in the ordinary way. If the honorable member for Lang states that what I now say is incorrect, all I can add is that I misunderstood him. What I have stated tends to prove that there was an understanding on Loth sides of the House that the business was to be allowed to proceed in the ordinary wav. It is well known that at noon on Fridays honorable members who have to leave Melbourne are busy making arrangements for their departure, and no advantage has, so far, been taken of that fact. I admit that it is the duty of the Government to keep a quorum, but I would point out that the circumstances connected with the previous count out were entirely different from those which surrounded the proceedings on last Friday. Upon the previous occasionno arrangement was entered into, nor was any undertaking given.
– That count-out also occurred on a Friday.
– If an arrangement had been made between the representatives of both sides upon the previous occasion no attempt would have been made to count out the House. I know that the previous) count out took place on a Friday, and I am further aware that the statements made with regard to the dinner that took place on that occasion are true. It is also quite possible that the bells may not have been heard by some honorable members who were within sufficiently easy reach of the Chamber to attend and help to make a quorum. The circumstances, however, were entirely different from those on Friday last, when a number of honorable members went away in the full belief, that no tricks would be played. They felt satisfied that the honorable understanding would be observed, and that there was no danger of their being deprived of an opportunity to vote, or of any business lapsing.
– I rise to a point of order I think that it is a serious reflection upon the House that twenty minutes should be occupied in explaining differences between two honorable members that might very easily, be dealt with outside, or in the press; I desire to know whether extended explanations, such as those to which we have listened are in order, unless a motion is moved which will enable other honorable members to take part in, the discussion.
– It is always a matter for deep regret when honorable members indulge in very long explanations. . I do not think that such explanations do so much service as those who offer them may think. At the same time, it has always been the custom of this, and of every other Parliament of which I have any knowledge, to allow very considerable latitude to an honorable member who feels aggrieved, even though the grievance may appear trifling to other honorable members. I should be very sorry to restrict the rights and liberties of honorable members in this respect, but I hope that they will refrain from making explanations at length, and especially from making them in such a form as to provoke other explanations, and practically give rise to a prolonged debate.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with the leading article which appeared in the Argus relating to the matter under discussion. The comments of the writer show that either he is blindly prejudiced, or absolutely ignorant of what transpires in this Chamber. If the members of the Labour Party, like prominent members of another party, were to complain of every unfair comment that is made in the press, they would occupy the whole of the time of the House. In yesterday’s Argus the following statement appeared -
The Watson Ministry managed to secure a count-out in the House of Representatives.
That is absolutely incorrect. The person who wrote that statement endeavoured to convey the impression that whilst the Watson Government were in office the House was counted out. As I happened to be the Government whip at that time, I should take it as a reflection on myself “if a count out had taken place. If the writer of the article will take the trouble to examine the records of the House for the three and a half months during which the Watson Government were in office, he will find that no count out occurred. I have a distinct recollection of the two count-outs, which occurred during the time the half-and-half Ministry occupied the Treasury bench. The Argus, which backed up that Ministry, however, forgot to mention the events referred to. I would recommend the Argus to exercise a little more care, and to confine itself to accurate statements. With regard to the events of last Friday, I may mention that as I was about to go to lunch I saw the honorable member for Lang, and asked him if there was any likelihood of a division taking place before lunch. He said he thought not, and that, if necessary, he would keep the business going.
– I had not intended to trouble the House with a personal explanation, but as my name has been mentioned, it is only fair to myself that I should make some explanation as to my connexion with the events under review. So far as I am concerned, what happened was this: At about twenty minutes to 1 o’clock I was on my way to the library, when I met the honorable member for Yarra, accompanied by several others, who were about to go to lunch. The honorable member for Yarra said, “I suppose there will not be any division before lunch.” I said that I could not answer for that absolutely, but that I did not think so, because the honorable member for New England had just risen, and I thought that he would in all probability cut out the time until 1 o’clock. I added that I did not think that there would be any division, because, if necessary, I would keep the debate going until the adjournment for lunch.
– But the honourable member did not know that there would be a countout in the meantime.
– No. When I returned to the Chamber, I was surprised to find that the honorable member for New England had concluded his speech, and that the honorable member for Kooyong was addressing the Committee. As soon as the latter honorable member had concluded, at about a quarter to 1 o’clock, I rose with the object of continuing the debate, but simultaneously the Minister in charge of the Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, also rose, and suggested that the adjournment for lunch might at once take pl’ace. I was thus prevented from speaking, and then the honorable member for Wentworth suggested that it would be desirable to have a quorum before an ‘ adjournment was made for lunch.
– Had no consultation taken place among the members of the Opposition ?
– There was no conspiracy organized by the Opposition, as alleged by the Prime Minister, to effect a count-out by calling for a quorum. I believe that, as a matter of fact, the PostmasterGeneral was to blame for what occurred, because in an audible whisper he advised the Minister in charge of the Bill-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to an explanation of his own conduct.
– I shall content myself with what I have already stated.
– The count-out was a wicked waste of public time.
– We have had a wicked display of bathos on the part of the Prime Minister.
[2.59). - As my name has been brought into this matter, and it lias been stated in the press that I was mainly responsible for what happened on Friday last, I wish to say a few words in explanation. I was attending to some business in the Ministerial room when the honorable member for Bourke came to me and stated that he desired to leave the House until 2 o’clock. I asked him before doing so to see the Opposition Whip .and to put him on his honour as regards the business of the House. That is the usual practice, and it is the one which was followed during the whole time that I occupied the position of Government Whip. It was the only arrangement which it was necessary to make. For example, when I was about to visit England, I merely informed the honorable member for Macquarie of the fact, and his reply was, “ I will see that everything is all right.” There was never any occasion to bind him down to an agreement of that sort. That is why I said to the honorable member for Bourke, “ Put the honorable member for Wentworth upon his honour.” Of course, I do not know what the honorable member for Bourke said to the honorable member. I was not aware whether there was a quorum within the precincts of the building at the time of which I am speaking, but I was informed in the Ministerial room that the honorable member for Wentworth was arranging for a count-out.
– Who informed the PostmasterGeneral ?
– I do not go “ blabbing “ around information which is imparted to me confidentially, and, therefore, I do not intend to reveal the name of my informant. If the honorable member for Wentworth is sincere in his statement that the charge levelled against him .is absolutely false, I should like him to definitely say. that he did not arrange in any way to secure a count-out. Let him say that. When I entered the Chamber the honorable member was in close consultation with honorable members of the Opposition. It was about fourteen or fifteen minutes to 1 o’clock, and, as we have often risen before the ordinary hour for luncheon, in order to allow of amendments to Bills being framed, I suggested to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that hie should consent to an adjournment. I did so, believing that my information was good, and that it was the intention of the honorable member for Wentworth, if possible, to count-out the House. It transpired that my anticipation was correct, because immediately the Vice-President of the Executive Council rose, the honorable member - who had not had time to arrange with some other honorable member to act for him - himself called attention to the State of the Committee. Let the honorable member deny - if he can - the statement that he took steps to arrange for a count - out.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the following statement which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of Friday last:-
The Mossman canegrowers are experiencing considerable delay in obtaining payment of bounty claims, which amount to between £300 and £400 weekly. The head office, it is stated, only remits a comparatively small amount, and then awaits the return of the farmers’” vouchers before further remitting. The funds available are only sufficient to meet half, the claims. Unless the present arrangements are altered, the payments at the end of the crushing will be at least £10,000 in arrears, and at the rate of £400 per fortnight the final payment on the present season’s cane will not be made till late in 1907 - a prospect which the farmers never contemplated when registering. The mill directors have wired a protest to the Collector of Customs in Brisbane.
I should like to know whether the Minister will inquire into the matter.
– I heard, only this morning, that some dissatisfaction existed with regard to the payment of the bounties, but upon inquiry I found that the officers in my Department knew nothing about the matter. The bounties are paid over by the Treasury, and perhaps, the Treasurer can afford thehonorable member some information upon the question.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs the following questions: -
– In answer to the honorable member, I may say that 1 was at Ballarat on Friday night addressing a public meeting. I was asked to attend by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I did not know who was to be present, and I must say that this is the first occasion upon which I have heard the statement, which the honorable member for Barrier has just made, regarding an utterance by Mr. Atkins.
– He made that statement most definitely.
– I did not know anything about that. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports informs me that the invitation to attend the meeting came direct from Ballarat. The meeting which I addressed was-
– A very successful one.
– I was very successful ; but I scarcely know what sort of a meeting it really was.
– What does the Minister think of a protectionist candidate who “barracks” for freedom of contract?
– The paper which was placed in my hand described the policv of the promoters of the meeting as being of a “ non-party and non-political character.” I told them that I did not understand what sort of a party that could be. I repeat that until now I have never heard of the utterance of Mr. Atkins which has been quoted by the honorable member for Barrier.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister when the papers in the case of Strachan v. The Commonwealth will be available for perusal by honorable members? Some time ago, I understood that thev were to be laid upon the Library table.
– I was under the impression that they had been received and laid upon the table of the Library. I know that they had to be obtained from the Court in Sydney, but understood that they had been received. I will make inquiries into the matter.
– The Age of Monday last contained a paragraph which stated that it is the intention of the Electoral Department to print the chief electoral rolls, giving only the names of those who were enrolled prior to the 16th of July. It added that persons enrolling after that date would be listed upon a supplemental roll. I wish to ask when that supplemental roll will be published?
– The principal rolls for all the States will be printed on or about the date mentioned, but they will contain more than the names of electors who were enrolled prior to the 16th of July. In New South Wales and Victoria, for example, they will contain the names of persons who have been enrolled upon specific claims, and of others who have been enrolled UDon the information collected by the police. In fact, in all States thev will include the names of all electors whom the electoral officers are satisfied are entitled to enrolment. In some of the States these rolls will be printed earlier than they are in others. Then the supplemental rolls will contain all the names of electors who are qualified to vote, and have applied for enrolment up to the time of the issue of the writs. The desire of the Department has been to include upon the principal rolls the names of as many elete- tors as possible, so that the supplemental lists may be as small as possible.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister when the information relating to the cost of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, which was orderedto be furnished upon the motion of the honorable member for New England, will be presented to honorable members ?
– It was submitted to me for the first time this morning, and needs only the headings to make it complete. It ought to be available either today or early to-morrow.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the President of the Board of Trade is about to appoint a Commission to inquire into the question of rebates connected with oversea shipping? As this is a matter which closely affects Australian trade, will he take all necessary steps to have such representations made to that body as will put before it the position as it affects our trade ?
– I am aware that it is proposed to appoint such a Commission, and it will probably contain a representative of Australia. However, I am not yet fully informed of its scope, or of its intention, so far as the matter to which the honorable member has alluded is concerned However, I will take steps to obtain, all the necessary particulars.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister of Defence, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Transfers of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council under the Audit Act, financial year 1905-6 (dated 24th August).
Amended Public Service regulations, Nos. 153, 155, 168, 199, allowances and telegraph messengers, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 66.
Recommendations, &c, and approval of Samuel McHutchison’s promotion to the position of clerk in charge, Crown Solicitor’s office, Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the submission to the electors of proposed laws for the alteration of the Constitution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Duties on Agricultural Machinery and Implements.
– I beg to move -
That in lieu of the duties of Customs imposed by the Customs Tariff, 1902, on the items shown in the attached schedule, duties of Customs shall from the 28th day of August, 1906, at 4.30 p.m., Victorian time, be imposed as follows : -
Stripper harvesters, each £16.
Strippers, each £8.
Metal parts of stripper harvesters and strippers, per lb.,2½d.
Ad Valorem Rates.
Stump jump ploughs, disc cultivators, winnowers, horse and other power, combined corn sheller, husker, and bagger, combined corn shelter and husker, ad valorem, 25 per cent.
Ploughs, other, plough shares, harrows, chaff cutters and horse gear, cultivators other than disc, scarifiers, plough mould boards, com shellers, corn huskers, ad valorem, 20 per cent.
The following goods shall be free of Customs duty : -
Manufactures of metal, viz. : - Hand-worked rakes and ploughs combined, hay tedders, maize harvesters, maize binders, maize planters, mould board plates in the rough and not cut into shape, potato sorters, potato raisers or diggers.
I submit this motion in lieu of the resolution which I moved some time ago, and which embodied the recommendations made by the Tariff Commission upon these particular items. The present proposal differs from the former resolution only in this respect : that it is considered by the Department and by myself much more satisfactory to impose a specific duty upon harvesters and strippers than to levy an ad valorem duty. Honorable members will recollect that in the past a good deal of trouble has been experienced on account of the impossibility of ascertaining the correct ad valorem duty which should be collected upon these goods. Any further trouble in that connexion will be obviated if, upon these two classes of machinery, resort be had to specific duties.
– At about 25 per cent. It is five shillings less than the ad valorem duty recommended by the Tariff Commission.
– That statement is based upon the Minister’s arbitrary valuation of harvesters ?
– It is based upon a proper valuation.
– The Minister knows that it is not.
– Sometimes honorable members say that I know nothing.
– The honorable gentleman does not know very much.
– I know quite enough for the honorable member. The basis upon which this has been arrived at is the valuation of£65 placed on these machines. As I explained just now, our proposal will, if adopted, save the Department a great deal of trouble - it will avoid the necessity of communicating with the States and with Canada. If we had had in the first instance a specific duty much of the difficulty that has arisen would have been obviated.
– It is a piece of political thieving.
– Is the Minister making any condition as to price?
– It is unnecessary to embody in the motion the conditions as to price, but I shall lay upon the table a short memorandum showing what the Government propose to embody in the Bill to prevent a combination charging more than a certain price for these machines without losing the advantage of a portion, if not the whole, of the duty. The Bill, which I shall not prepare until the motion has been dealt with, will provide that the cash price of 5-feet stripperharvesters must be reduced by the end of 1906 to £70. I wish to emphasize the point that the Tariff Commission recommended that the price should not exceed £81. That, to my mind, would be an outrageous charge.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not think that£65 is a fair price for the imported machines?
– I have heard that statement so often that it is unnecessary for the honorable member to repeat it.
– But the two things do not fit.
– I have no wish to listen again to a tirade of abuse such as that to which. I have been subjected. The Bill will also provide that the price of the 5 ft. 6 in. harvester shall be reduced by the end of 1906 to£75.
– They can be bought for £71
– The honorable and learned member goes about the country talking in a blustering way of things about which he knows absolutely nothing. I shall show how little he knows of this subject. Before we fixed the Customs valuation of £65 upon the 5 ft. 6 in. harvesters, the selling price in Melbourne was . £84.
– Who sold at that price ?
– All the firms concerned.
– Then again, the price of the 5 ft. harvester was £81 I propose that the price of these machines shall be reduced by the end of 1906 to£75 and£70 respectively, with a. further reductionby the end of 1907 to £70 for the larger size, and to for the smaller size. Failing such reductions, power will be taken to reduce the import duties, by proclamation, or resolution of the House, to an amount to be determined by such proclamation or resolution, not to be less than one-half of the new duties imposed. I said that the honorable and learned member for Wannon did not know anything about present prices. I have before me the pricelist of one of the local makers of these machines.
– What about wages conditions ?
– Will the MasseyHarris Company pay fair wages?
– If we are going to have protection for the manufacturer, we must have protection for the worker.
– I hope that the honorable member for Maranoa will not fly at me so impetuously.
– I am flying not at the Minister, but at the Government Whip.
– I think- and I believe it is the desire of the Committee - that some conditions will have to be imposed in the Bill, or a Wages Board will have to be appointed, to prevent the payment of unduly low wages to those engaged in the industry.
– And to prevent the employment of too many boys.
– I hope that the honorable member will allow me to deal with one matter at a time. I cannot go into every detail in submitting this bald motion which is intended really for the information of the Committee, and is not part and parcel of the Bill to be hereafter submitted. I recently met a member of the firm of Hugh Lennon and Co., who directed my attention to a statement which appeared in the Argus of 22nd and 24th instant, to the effect that, in consequence of the motion submitted by me, in .accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, the price of harvesters had been increased. The gentleman in question gave me his business card, showing that the prices charged for these machines are ^75 for the smaller size and £&o for the larger size, and that these prices have prevailed ever since the ring that was in existence was partly, if not wholly, dissolved.
– The ring in which Mr. McKay joined.
– And in which the Massey-Harris Company and the International Harvester Company also took part.
– - They were all in it.
– The honorable member’s friends were members of the ring.
– The men who will provide funds for the free-trade party.
– They were all in it.
– I never said that they were not ; I believe that they were a.ll im it. This constant harping on the name of McKay Brothers-
– Have we not seen them in the gallery talking to the honorable gentleman? It is disgraceful.
– And have not honorable members seen the Massey-Harris and the International Harvester people talking, to the honorable member ? I know that I have.
– How much have they donated to the funds of the other side?
– I wish they would make a donation to me.
– No doubt the honorable member would take it.
– Following the Minister’s example.
– Honorable members cannot accuse me of ever, having done anything of the kind. I hope that the Chairman of the Tariff Commission will not join issue with me on thi9 question. No doubt the Commission have done the best they could; but I feel that, given the protection: suggested, the- regulation of future prices as they propose, would not be sufficient from the stand-point of the purchaser amd the public.
– The honorable gentleman does1 not believe, as he .did a little while ago, that the crying need of the country is fiscal peace.
– The honorable member is always talking rubbish ; no one takes the slightest notice of what he says. It is for the” reason I have indicated that the Government propose at the present time not only to protect the manufacturer, but the purchasers and users of these machines.
– And the workmen engaged in the industry.
– Certainly. I am very glad that the honorable member for Maranoa referred by interjection to that phase of the question. If there is one thing I desire more than another it is that the weaker section of the community shall be fairly paid. I desire that the workers shall be protected just as strongly as I wish to secure protection for the manufacturer. If honorable members require further information as to the number of machines imported, I shall be prepared to supply it at the proper time. I may mention that the proposal to pLace on the free-list certain- articles which are at present dutiable will not come into force until the Bill has been passed. At the present moment hand-worked rakes- and ploughs combined, maize harvesters, maize binders, maize planters, moulding boards in the rough and not cut into shape, and potato raisers or diggers are on the free-list, and it is proposed to add hay tedders and potato sorters to the list, for the reason that it seems that they are not manufactured here, and that probably* if they were not made free, as recommended by the Commission, the price would be unduly increased. I shall be glad at the proper time to give honorable members all the information that is required in regard to this matter, but I do not think that it is necessary at present to do so.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the Bill is to give effect to the resolution’ agreed to by the Committee of Ways and Means for the imposition o? duties of import on spirits, and to carry into effect the recommendations of the Tariff Commission on the subject. This is done in greater detail than it has hitherto been the practice to adopt. In one or two respects, however1, die measure requires amendment. For instance, medicines are to be interpreted to include “ medicines for internal or external application.” It has been pointed out to me that.if that interpretation ,were ‘left as i’t stands, injustice would be done, and unnecessary expense would have to be incurred. I therefore propose to add the words,’ “ other than liniments and veterinary medicines.” I also propose to amend the provisions relating to “methylated spirit,” because I have been informed that, for some time past, the law has been abused, owing to the practice of illegally treating the spirit so that it can be sold for human consumption. This, of course, is an evasion of the Tariff, with which I propose to deal very stringently. Scents are interpreted to include “ all liquid preparations of perfumery and liquid preparations for toilet purposes.” That interpretation and the definition of Australian standard brandy. which has already gained a high reputation, carry out the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. Clauses 10 and 11 provide -
It has been reported to me that those provisions will cause a good deal of trouble and, perhaps, create injustice unless we make arrangements for a supply of spirits during a period in which no supply would otherwise be available. With a view to partially meeting; the difficulty, I have already decided that no further action shall be taken until the 1st March next.
– That W111 not be sufficient for wine spirit, although it may be sufficient for molasses spirit.
– In Committee I shall place my information clearly before honorable members, and leave them to take the responsibility of making an alteration. If the words “ two years “ are allowed to remain as thev stand, I .shall have no power to do other than see that the provisions are complied with.
– If the period is altered there must also be an amendment of the Excise Tariff Bill.
– Yes. But I shall have no power to extend the time if the provision remains as it is. The term “two years” has been inserted in the Bill because that is the period recommended by the Tariff Commission. It is provided that gin shall be matured in wood, which, judging by samples which have been sent to me, tends to make it brown. I understand that chemists say that to mature gin in wood is to improve it, but those in the trade complain that the drinkers of gin and schnapps are so accustomed to a clear spirit that their business will fall off if a discoloured spirit is placed on the market. Moreover, I have been told that a large quantity of gin which has not been matured in wood has been ordered, and is on its way here. In dealing with the subject, the Committee will have to determine whether gin shall be matured in wood, and, if so, for what length of time it must be kept before being used. I have received so much information lately on the subject of wines and spirits that I arn almost in a position to lecture in regard to them. I have been informed that pot distilled spirit is received into iron* tanks which have been bricked and cemented, and is as good on the day of distillation as it ever will be.
– The honorable gentleman refers, not to pot distilled spirit, but to rectified spirit. The former requires maturing, while the latter does not.
– The honorable and learned member was with me when Mr. Seppelt explained the matter to us, on our visit to the distillery, where we saw the whole process. If spirit is put into wood, it may be discoloured, but it improves, although there is a considerable loss through absorption and evaporation. No loss occurs when the spirit is kept in iron tanks, bricked and cemented, and my information is that such spirit can be used at once, because keeping does not improve it. I discovered, in going through three distilleries I have visited, that the patent still eliminates the ethers, while the pot still allows them to pass over, and consequently makes a better spirit. That, no doubt, is why the Tariff Commission is so strongly in favour of pot stills. In the process of distillation, four tanks are used, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. The best spirit is that which goes into the tanks numbered 2 and 3, and the spirit in the tanks numbered 1 and 4, being equally good, is put through the still again, to bring it up to the same standard as that in tanks 2 and 3. I agree with the Tariff Commission that, where it is possible to use the pot still, it should, in the interests of the public, be used. I should, however, like to know what is the exact meaning attached to the words “ pot still or other such method.”
– I think the words are “ similar processes.”
– They mean processes giving somewhat similar results.
– Mv desire is to ascertain how the words will be construed, and in Committee I hope to get information from- the members of the Tariff Commission on the subject which will enable me to prevent the leaving of a loop-hole of which advantage may be taken. In clause 13 I propose to insert the words -
Spirits to be used for the purpose of scientific investigation in connexion with universities and public institutions.
The use of spirit under that provision will be subject to strict supervision. I shall, however, deal with the matter more fully in Committee. I refer to these proposed amendments now in order that honorable members may know the course which I intend to take.
– Although” the Bill has been introduced to carry into effect a resolution arrived at by the Committee of Ways and Means a week or ten days ago, . I think that it affords us an opportunity to deal with the suggestion made in regard to the time allowed for the maturing of rectified spirits of wine.
– That is a new point. The Committee did not accept the honorable and learned member’s view.
– No vote was taken on the question.
– The honorable and learned member wishes to reopen the Excise question.
– I see no objection to reopening it for the prevention of injustice.
– We cannot reopen the Excise question unless we have the Excise Tariff Bill before us again.
– The matter with which I wish to deal is an important one, and a way should, therefore, be found for dealing with it.
– If it is dealt with, it will break up the whole scheme.
– I think not. Although I recognise the splendid work done by the honorable and learned member, I do not regard the Commission as infallible.
– Our recommendations were based on the evidence laid before us, which the honorable and learned member did not hear.
– I have gone to some trouble with a view to understanding this subject, having visited several of the distilleries - one twice in one week - and having studied the reports of the Commission, and read some of the evidence given before it. It cannot reasonably be held that the Commission made no mistakes. The treatment which the Government have meted out to the recommendations of the Commissioners constitute a reflection upon their work. Either the Government are wantonly disregarding sound recommendations, or the reports furnished by the Commission are at fault. My point is that some of the grape spirit does not require to be kept for two years in wood in order to secure the degree of purity desired. The remarks of the Minister might apply to pot-still spirit, but not to rectified spirit produced from grape wine. When distillation takes place by means of pot stills the results arrived at are very different from those which are brought about when spirits are rectified by means of patent stills. The process of high rectification has the effect of removing from the spirit all the impurities that can possibly be eliminated. The Bill provides that the blended brandy shall contain 25 per cent. of pot-still grape spirit and 75 per cent. of pure rectified grape spirit.
– That will not be brandy, but merely simulated brandy.
– I am speaking of pure wine spirit. Does the honorable member seriously say that a spirit which is made soltely of wine spirit is not brandy?
– Not if the spirit is made by the rectification process.
– I know that the honorable member has got pot stills on the brain. He has been reading up something with regard to the use of pot stills in France, and thinks that none of the products of distillation under the improved methods adopted during the last two or three generations can compare with the brandy produced by the pot stills used in the south of France.
– That is the opinion of all the best experts.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the point with which I am dealing. What I say is that spirit made from pure grape wine is pure brandy. It is provided in the Bill that blended brandy shall consist altogether of pure wine spirit, and that 25 per cent. shall be made by the pot-still process. Now, experts tell me that pot-still brandy should be kept in the wood for a period of two years, in order to eliminate from the spirit some volatile oils which are passed over in the process of distillation. By maturing the spirit in wood for two years these oils become eliminated or of less strength. The same remarks would not apply to the 75 per cent, of rectified wine spirit which is proposed to be used in making up blended brandy. By keeping that spirit for two years you would not attain an appreciably higher degree of purity, because the process of rectification eliminates the volatile oils which are to be found in the pot-still products. I have taken the trouble to visit some distilleries and obtain accurate information on this point, and the view which I have expressed is supported, not only by distillers, but by Excise officers. Therefore, I cannot be so much mistaken as the honorable member for Perth seems to think. The Bill provides that the whole of the blended brandy, including the rectified grape wine spirit, shall be matured in wood for two years, and I contend that, according to the information supplied, that provision is not necessary in regard to the rectified spirit, which cannot reach any higher degree of purity by the process of maturing, although. it may approach a little more closely to the standard of alcoholic purity known to chemists. There is not sufficient rectified spirit in store - nor could it be obtained within six or eight months - to enable the manufacture of brandy to be Carried on. Plenty of molasses spirit can be obtained, but rectified grape spirit cannot be made until the next vintage takes place. Therefore, the two-year period specified in the Bill would not commence until after the next vintage. I would suggest that in the case of rectified spirit, a period of two years should be allowed to elapse before the provision to which I have referred is brought into force. Of course. I know that, according to the views held by the Chairman of the Tariff Commission and by the honorable member for Perth, what I am now saying is all fudge, but it is the judgment of science.
– My opinion is merely based upon the evidence.
– But evidence is not always correct.
– The evidence is as reliable as any information that the honorable and learned member could obtain by visiting the distilleries.
– Some of mv information has been derived from Mr. Seppelt, who has written a letter upon which the Tariff Commission-
– Mr. Seppelt has been priming honorable members with information in his own interest.
– No,he has not. I visited Mr. Seppelt, because I was on circuit within five miles of Seppeltsfield. My visit took’ place a week after I had been, approached by a deputation of representative distillers of South Australia, and mv sole desire was to obtain a little more information. Distillers and Excise officers alike state that it is not necessary to keep rectified wine spirit in the wood for two years.
– They did not say that to the Commission.
– I cannot help that; I am merely giving the information as.it has been conveyed to me.
– The honorable and learned member is raising new points.
– Are we to remain silent because certain information has not been given to the Commission? Cannot we bring forward any new points that may be brought under our notice? A number of reports have been presented by Commissions since the first Commonwealth Parliament was opened, and, I think, only two have been acted upon. This tends to show that honorable members have not attached any very great importance to the evidence which has been taken at such great expense, or to the conclusions which have been based upon it. Now we are told that in the case of the Tariff Commission we must accept the evidence as incontrovertible, and their conclusions as beyond all possibility of error. I am endeavouring to supplement the evidence given before the Commission with information’ which may fairly be regarded as reliable, seeing that it is the testimony of expert witnesses- My. contention is that we should provide that the use of rectified spirit that has not been kept for two years shall be allowed until after the next two vintages have taken place. Until March next there will not be sufficient wine spirit available to permit of the manufacture of what is described in the Bill as blended brandy. Molasses spirit can. however, be procured at once, because the raw material is available. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage an amendment will be carried in the direction I have indicated.
– The Bill is intended to give effect to the general recommendations of the Commission, which could not have been included in the Excise Tariff Bill. I am glad to see that Ministers have seen their way clear to accept the recommendations of the Commission with regard to the spirit and wine industry generally. I hope that this Bill, in conjunction with the new Excise duties, will have the effect of placing the distillation industry of Australia upon a sure, satisfactory, and scientific basis, and that the industry will receive a great impetus. I trust that the manufacturers will welcome the opportunity to carry on their industry upon proper lines, and that the consumers will be able to feel assured that thev are obtaining a good article. I should like to draw attention to some of the features of the Bill with which I think the general public are not fully acquainted.
I refer more particularly to the provisions relating to what may be described as the standardization of spirits. Distillers will no longer be granted a concession by way of Excise duty without having to give something in return. As a compensation for the Excise advantages that are conferred upon distillers, they will be required to produce a good article, whether it be brandy, or whisky, or rum. Upon complying with the statutory requirements, they will te entitled to affix to their goods a Commonwealth certificate and trade name. Therefore, it seems to me that thev will have every inducement to comply with the law in order that they mav enjoy the advantage of. the standardized name whether it be “ Australian standard brandy,” .”Australian blended wine brandy,” “Australian standard malt whisky,” “Australian blended whisky,” or “Australian standard rum.”, I think that these provisions will give rise to a spirit of emulation as between distillers, and that they will take a pride in turning out a. good article. In the course of the evidence given before the Commission, very great stress was laid bv a number of witnesses, comprising manufacturers, Excise officers, and wholesale merchants, upon the absolute necessity of strong spirits being preserved in wood for a certain length of time before they were permitted to pass into consumption. There was a general consensus of poinion that spirits matured by being kept in wood - I believe that only one witness was doubtful upon this point - were much improved in character. It was pointed out that, owing to the process of oxidation of the secondary products., or, in other words, the evaporation of the strong volatile elements, the spirit became verv much purified. It was stated that one of the causes of the failure of Australian, and particularly of “Victorian, spirits, was that they were placed upon the market when they were immature. Mr. Joshua admitted that age matured spirits, and agreed that, perhaps, there should be a limit placed upon the introduction of immature spirits to the market. It was also urged that that time limit should apply not only to imported, but also to locally-produced spirits - in other words, that it should operate all round. To that proposition there was a general chorus of approval. The point upon which I have brought into conflict with the honorable and learned member for Angas 7- for whose opinion I entertain the very greatest respect - is that whilst throughout the whole of the evidence tendered to the Tariff Com mission it was laid down as a general proposition that young and immature spirits should not be allowed to pass into general consumption, not a single word was uttered in reference to differentiating between spirits which are distilled at a low strength and spirits which are distilled at a high strength. The general opinion was that the advantage to be derived from oxidation applied not only to spirits produced at a low strength by means of the pot still, but also to highly rectified spirits. There was no suggestion that highly rectified spirits did not require time for maturing. It was distinctly laid clown that all spirits should be kept in bond or “ quarantine,” as I might term it, for a certain term before they were allowed to pass into general consumption. What I complain of is that the point which has been raised by the honorable and learned member for Angas is a new one, which was never suggested by the wine-growers,by the distillers, themselves, orby the departmental experts who were called upon to advise the Commission. There may be something in the point, but I am guided only by the evidence. I know nothing whatever about what has transpired in private conversation. The recommendations of the Commission are based upon the sworn evidence of witnesses, and if certain gentlemen desired us to differentiate between spirits distilled at a low strength by means of a pot still and highly rectified spirits produced by the patent still, they ought to have brought that fact under our notice. I submit that the information presented by the honorable and learned member for Angas should not carry the same weight as should attach to the general views which are embodied in the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. As a member of that body, I am guided only by the evidence and not by the ex post facto statements which have been communicated to the honorable member and to others who have had no opportunity of cross examining their informants. Probably had the point been brought under the attention of the Commission, that body would have investigated it. I repeat that no distinction was drawn between spirits produced at a low strength and spirits distilled at a high strength, and, consequently, our recommendation is that no spirits intended for general consumption - irrespective of whether they are produced by means of the pot still or by any other method - should be allowed to be taken out of bond, unless they have undergone a certain period of probation.
– But time ought to be afforded those who are directly interested to get their spirits matured.
– I quite agree with the honorable and learned . member. I rose for the purpose of making a similar suggestion. What I complain of is that the honorable and learned member attacked the Commission for failing to discriminate
– The honorable and learned member jumped to that conclusion before I had spoken. I merely asked what he himself apparently regards as a right thing.
– I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the proposal that this limitation should not be brought into force suddenly, but that a certainbreathing time should be granted to importers as well as to local distillers. But I object to the honorable and learned member attacking the Tariff Commission merely because they acted in accordance with the weight of evidence.
– I did not do anything of the sort.
– If the honorable . and learned member and myself have arrived at an agreement upon the proposed suspension of the limitation, we need not continue the controversy. I believe that the remaining clauses of the Bill relating to methylated spirits will, upon investigation, be found to be highly beneficial to Australian industries. In the spiritswhich are derived from molasses there will be found an almost inexhaustible reservoir of power which can be utilized for industrial purposes, and the Commission have suggested a scheme under which those spirits may be made available for such purposes, whilst, at the same time, providing every safeguard for the protection of the revenue. I think that the House will have accomplished good work when it passes the Bill, coupled with the Excise resolutions, and that the work of ‘the Commission will not have been altogether fruitless.
– I do not wish for a moment to discount the work performed by the Tariff Commission. But I have been at considerable trouble to investigate this question of spirits, and I wish to point out to the Chairman of the Commission that the only spirits which require to be kept in wood for two years are whisky, rum, and brandy. According to the testimony, not only of expert distillers, but of expert officers of the Customs Department, a highly rectified spirit is no better after it has been stored in wood for two years than it would be after it had been stored there for only two weeks.
– That is what I said.
– I cannot understand why the members of the Commission overlooked that point.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “ highly rectified spirit ?”
– I mean a spirit from which all the injurious ethers have been expelled, and one which, consequently, cannot possibly improve with age. This highly rectified spirit is used for the purpose of blending with pot still spirits which contain these ethers. Take the case of gin as an illustration. If we insisted that gin should be stored in wood for two years, it would become exactly the same colour as whisky.
– If it were kept in a whisky barrel it might.
– Gin is always kept in iron’ vessels. It is not necessary to harass the trade at all, unless the Commission can bring indisputable evidence that a highly rectified spirit will improve with age or that its consumption, when newly distilled, is injurious. The honorable and learned member for Angas was perfectly right in his contention, and I am aware that he has taken a good deal more trouble to investigate this matter than I have. The Minister, however, can soon settle the point. He has experts in his Department, whose opinions could be easily obtained.
– They would report against the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Undoubtedly they would not. I am sure that they would say that all spirits distilled by the pot still should be matured in wood for two years, because that process would undoubtedly improve them.
– I am speaking of rectified spirits, which are produced at a high degree of distillation. Experts say that all the deleterious elements of those spirits are eliminated.
– Undoubtedly, they are, and that is why they are used as a blend. Their presence assists to reduce the injurious ethers which are contained in spirits distilled by means of the pot still.
– But they must be kept in wood.
– With the exception of gin. I thoroughly agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that there is an unlimited opening for the use of methylated spirits. But the Minister must see that those spirits are not demethylated.
– That is provided for in the Bill.
– But the Minister will require to see that much more effective supervision is exercised than has been exercised hitherto. Although it has been against the law to denature spirits, we know that they have been denatured. Whilst we are affording a fair measure of protection to the distillers, we ought to see that the revenue is thoroughly protected. In this connexion I would call the attention of the Minister to the fact that a large amount of revenue is being lost to the Department through what is known as the “grogging “ of casks. In dealing with this matter, I find that the Imperial Parliament has provided an elaborate set of regulations which’ prevent distillers, when they are refilling their casks, from extracting spirits from the wood and from selling them, thus evading the payment of duty. A very large amount of spirit can be extracted in that way, and the Minister should see that something is done to prevent it. I should like to quote some regulations upon this subject which are in force in Great Britain. Regulation . 289 reads -
Empty casks to be refilled or removed to a distillery. - Spirit casks left empty after any operation, whether they have contained British spirits or foreign spirits, are, as a rule, to be refilled. When this is not desirable or convenient, as far as the proprietor is concerned, they may, at his option, be removed to a distillery or bonded warehouse, or they may be exported ; the casks in either case being first properly drained, and bungs, which should be of hard wood, firmly driven in.
Regulation 290 relates to the removal of empty casks to a distillery, and provides that -
When casks are so removed a dispatch showing the “ number “ and the “ content “ of each cask, the denomination and the strength of the spirit which it last contained, and the date of removal, is to be sent to the officer at the distillery or warehouse to which the casks shall be consigned. The officer at the distillery or warehouse is to send a receipt on the same document showing the date of arrival of such casks, and report whether there be any indication of the extraction of spirit from the wood of the casks during transit. The officers at any distillery or warehouse to which the empty casks are sent are to exercise a general supervision over such casks, and to see that they are not again removed from the distillery premises or warehouse for the purpose of having the spirits extracted from the wood prior to being refilled.
Regulation 291 has reference to the exportation of casks, and provides that -
When casks are exported, a dispatch showing the spirits stated in the preceding paragraph is to be sent to the export officer at the station where the ship is lying, who will state thereon whether there be any indication of the extraction of spirit from the wood during transit, and if satisfied of the contrary, certify to the actual shipment of the casks. The document thus attested should then be returned to the officer at the warehouse from which the casks were removed. In cases where the officers are not satisfied, as specified above, the casks must be detained for the decision of the Board as to whether the bond should be put in force.
Thev have to enter into a bond with regard to these casks - 292. Bond for removal to be given. - General bond may be entered into. - Bond should be given for the security of the revenue in respect to the spirit contained in the wood of such casks during their removal. If the ordinary bond be given the amount of the penalty should not be less than £2 for each puncheon, ^’2 for each hogshead, and £1 for each quarter-cask, with proportionate amounts in even pounds for casks of other kinds; but, if desired, a general bond may be given, the liability of” the remover being calculated on the above relative bases. In cases of exportation the penalty will be double the above rates.
Apart from any penalty to which the remover may be liable, it must be understood that any misuse of the option of sending casks to a distillery or warehouse may result in the withdrawal of such option. 293. Casks may be washed out instead. - Spirit casks, not belonging to a distiller, or which it may be inconvenient to send to a distillery or warehouse for refilling, or which, from unsoundness or unsuitableness the proprietor mav not wish to refill at the warehouse, may be delivered therefrom, provided that at the’ expense of such proprietor they be effectually washed out with water, so as to remove the spirit from the wood prior to delivery. For this purpose each cask should be partially filled with water to the extent of a sixth part of its “content,” be retained in warehouse at least six days, be rolled round at least once daily, and be left at rest after being rolled with a fresh surface in contact with water each day. The rinsings from the casks thus treated are to be destroyed in the presence of the officers, unless, at the’ option *f the proprietor, duty be paid on the quantity of spirit at proof which they contain.
The fact that it is deemed necessary to frame regulations of this kind should le sufficient to show honorable members the importance of the question with which we are dealing. I know of no provision made by the Excise Department to deal with the large quantity of spirit that can be extracted in this way -
In the latter case, an account is to be taken of the quantity and strength, and the particulars are to be entered at the foot of the operation account to which the casks belong after the rinsings have been collected in suitable sized casks; and such rinsings may then be delivered on the passing of a warrant in the usual way ; or they may be added to a subsequent operation, subject to the regulations with regard to spirits reduced with water, or they may be exported either in original casks or in others of legal size. 294. On certain conditions a similar quantity may be used. - Should the proprietor give notice of his wish to pay duty on the rinsings of casks, and express a desire to obtain the spirit in a more concentrated form, a similar quantity of water, not less than 10 per cent, of the “ content,” may be used, the cask being retained a longer time in warehouse, the essential principle being that each part of the internal surface of the cask shall remain in contact with water for about forty-eight hours before the cask is removed from the warehouse.
On certain conditions casks may be cleared after twenty-four hours. - If, however, the proprietor should so request, the casks may be completely filled with water and the contents destroyed after remaining in the casks not less than twenty-four hours, an undertaking being given on the request that the casks shall not be subsequently “grogged.” Water may be added in the warehouse or immediately on removal therefrom in the yard or other suitable premises adjacent thereto, and the casks when filled mav be left in any convenient place within the walls of a dock or under Crown lock or other place of reasonable security elsewhere. The officer must examine the casks when filled, and see the contents destroyed at any time after twenty-four hours from his examination, certifying to this effect in the register. 295. Examination and destruction of contents. - The officer must examine the casks when filled and see the contents destroyed at any time after twenty-four hours from his examination, certifying to this effect in the .register. 296. Casks emptied for methylating spirits. - When spirits are removed from the distillery or from the warehouse after methylation the empty casks are to be removed to a distillery or warehouse, subject to the foregoing regulations, or at the option of the methylator they may be washed in a locked compartment at the place of methylation in the same manner as casks washed in warehouse, the rinsings being, at the option of the methylator, destroyed or added to the spirits in the next methylation, on condition that the spirits to which the rinsings are added be not thereby reduced below the legal strength at which methylated spirit may be sent out. In case the washings are added to the methylated spirit the stock should be adjusted accordingly.
Casks of British liqueurs, such as orange bitters, of which the strength is under 42 per cent., may be delivered when emptied without the grogging regulations being applied to them. 297. Empty casks delivered. - All empty casks before being delivered from warehouse must be properly drained, and, as far as possible, subjected to examination at the time of passing the outer door, when they must be rolled over with their bungs out.
I discovered these regulations quite casually whilst glancing over Ham’s Inland Revenue Y ear-Book for 1896, and I was struck by the fact that they had not been mentioned by any Minister of Trade and Customs in this House. Whilst we are effectively protecting the manufacturer, we should take steps to effectively protect the revenue. I am glad that the members of the Tariff Commission are prepared to consider the amendment of clauses 10 and 11, and I think that after giving the matter further attention they will come to the conclusion that those clauses are unnecessary, except in so far as they deal with purely pot-still spirit. Whilst I am pleased that no delay has occurred in taking steps to protect a trade which was all too rapidly falling into the hands of foreign manufacturers who have been introducing into the Commonwealth the worst kind of spirits-
– Thev could not be worse than Joshua’s “ Boomerang “ brandy
– I do not’ know why the honorable member invariably singles out Joshua Brothers for special attention.
– Because their brandy is only white spirit coloured.
– More white spirit than is made by Joshua Brothers goes into circulation in Australia.
– Exactly. The quantity of white spirit, coloured and flavoured with essences, which goes into consumption in Australia is much larger than could possibly be issued by Joshua Brothers. I have no brief .for that firm, or for those who are guilty of the practices to which I have just referred.
– I merely say that the importers are no worse than Joshua Brothers.
– I hope that the supervision henceforth will be more effective than it has been,- and I shall be pleased if, when the Bill is under consideration in Committee, honorable members will see that complete justice is done to the manufacturers.
– I wish to congratulate the honorable and learned member for Angas and the honorable member for Hindmarsh upon the way in which they have blossomed forth as experts in the spirit trade. I heartily admit that the House may learn much on this question from those who are not members of the Tariff Commission. At the same time I would respectfully urge that the recommendations of the Commission have been based on very careful and painstaking research, and that, while in some respects the evidence submitted to it has not been of that all-embracing character that we could have desired, the Commission has endeavoured to supplement any shortcomings in that direction bv official information available from other sources.
– Hear, hear.
– I regret that, although I have listened very carefully- to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Angas and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I am still unable to adopt their view with regard to the non-necessity for ageing rectified spirit. So far as I can remember, they have not adduced any particularly expert evidence to support their contention. The honorable and learned member for Angas has spoken of the knowledge of the experts of the Department. I admit that they are, as a rule, highly capable and efficient, so far as the particular work with which they have to do is concerned ; but I do not admit that they have that special knowledge which would enable them to decide what are the true classes of spirit, the higher classes of spirit, and what constitute the essential elements of good and bad spirit. Those matters are wholly beyond their province. Whilst they have given the Commission much useful information, they have been careful, as a rule, to deal only with those details upon which their experience enables them to give information of value. In most cases, they have frankly indicated their limitations in this respect. I have been at considerable pains to read up, not one), but several authorities an. rectified spirits, and, in addition to what is the universal experience, I find an overwhelming mass of evidence to support the contention of the Commission that even highly rectified spirit, if new, is not nearly so wholesome as that which has been matured for a number of years.
– In what respect is it bad?
– I have already said, but for the benefit of the honorable member I shall repeat the statement, that chemistry is very much at a loss to explain the particular constituents of alcohols - their qualities and the operations that take place in the changing of the various constituents from one chemical form to another. That has beep admitted by the ablest chemists who have come before the Commission. In dealing with questions about which the ablest men know the least, witnesses, as a rule, have been most dogmatic in proportion to their lack of knowledge. We have overwhelming evidence to the effect that raw rectified spirit is highly injurious when taken into the human system. That is undoubtedly the experience of those countries in which alcohol is used as a common beverage by the mass of the people. In Scotland, “ Ireland, and of late years, on the Continent of Europe - in Germany and France, where highly rectified spirits have, unfortunately, largely been coming into consumption - the testimony is almost unanimous that a process of deterioration physical, mental, and moral takes place in those who swallow raw, and highly rectified spirit:
– That is so, but we are dealing with rectified spirit to be used for blending purposes.
– The evidence goes to show the necessity for keeping highly rectified spirit under lock and key for two years after it. has been manufactured.
– What effect would that have on the spirit?
– It would make it less injurious. Common experience points to the advantage of keeping such spirit in bond for two years. It is found that, as the result of ageing, it mellows and becomes less injurious in human consumption.
– That is contradicted by many experts.
– I should be glad if honorable members would quote those experts. I have been at great pains to discover the opinions of experts on this subject, and am indicating that, whilst they think-
– Is not the honorable member dealing more particularly with highly rectified spirit, which is sold for use without being blended with other spirit.
– I say that highly rectified spirit, VE new, even when taken in con junction with any other spirit, is injurious in proportion to its newness.
– All spirit, whether rectified or otherwise, is injurious.
– But the pot distilled spirit must be kept.
– The honorable member admits that, but he will not admit that highly rectified spirit should be kept. In my opinion it should be kept, and the experience of experts shows that it is more necessary to mature highly rectified spirit than to mature pot distilled spirit.
– That is not easy to explain. The chemical constituents of spirit, and the changes which take place in it, are not very well known, even by the best chemists. They admit that they have to act largely on the result of practical experience, which is almost universally to the effect that crude spirit, even though highly rectified, is injurious to the human constitution, and becomes less injurious after it has been kept for a period of years.
– That is very questionable.
– The honorable member may question the statement, but it sets forth what I believe to be the attitude of science and of experience in regard to the subject.
– Does not the honorable member think that all spirits are injurious if used as beverages?
– I do not wish to discuss that point at the present time. If spirits are poisons, thev must be regarded as remarkably slow in their action.
– They sometimes produce insanity very quickly.
– I do not believe in the use of alcoholic beverages; but I ask why it is, if spirits are so injurious as some persons would make out, that nations. which have been soaking in alcohol for centuries are still, physically, mentally, arid morally, amongst the highest races on the earth?
– I dispute the soundness of the contention.
– The subject is a big one, but I do not wish to discuss it now, as I must keep to my text. If rectified spirit is used in Australia, in the manufacture of brandy, I regret it, and hope that the practice will be discouraged by this Legislature. A great deal of the evidence put before us shows that the best brandy is produced by means of the pot still, and pot stills only are used in those countries which manufacture the brandy bearing the best reputation. Rectified spirit may be used in compounding a so-called brandy, but the concoction is not a true brandy.
– It should not be called brandy.
– With regard to the maturing of gin in wood, it is objected that the colour thereby imparted to the spirit would retard its sale.
– It would give it the colour that whisky possesses.
– Although of recent years’ the whisky sold has possessed an amber tint, I remember when in Scotland all the whisky was as colourless as the gin now on the market, notwithstanding that it had been matured in wood. The colouring to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh refers is due, not to maturing in wood, but to maturing in sherry casks, and it has not. been proved that casks or other wooden vessels could not be made in which gin could be stored for a number of years without being coloured. A great deal of the whisky sold nowadays is almost identical in its component parts with gin, though flavoured differently.
– Does the honorable member know of any merchant who keeps his gin in wood ?
– No : but I think it likely that gin can be stored in wood without being discoloured thereby. If, however, it could be shown that it would be of advantage to mature gin in vessels other than wood, I would not object to that being done.
– It is best to sell gin soon after it has been made.
– If the honorable member inquires the prices of different brands of gin, he will find that he must pay more for gin which has been matured than: for gin which is new, and will be told that matured gin is superior in quality to new gin. What weighed with the Commission, in recommending the storage of spirit in wood, was that it is necessary to prevent storage in bottles being allowed to count, it being the general opinion of experts that spirit doe’s not lapp red ably mature after bottling,
.- I understand that the Minister has accepted the suggestion of the Pharmaceutical Board to amend clause 3 so that the interpretation of medicines) shall include medicines “ other than liniments and veterinary medicines.” Medical men will agree with me that, for external application, methylated spirit can be used to advantage, and that it would be very expensive if other spirit had to be used in our hospitals and .asylums. I am informed by the Minister’s colleagues, and by the official who is watching the Bill, that it will not be necessary to reinsert these words in clause 15; but I ask the honorable gentleman to see that they are inserted, if it is at all doubtful that they are not covered by the amended interpretation of the word “medicine.”
.- I believe ‘that if the community would forego the use of alcoholic beverages1 it would be all the better for doing so. Indeed, if people generally were persuaded that spirits are injurious, instead of beneficial, when used as a beverage, there would be no need for legislation of this character; but until the happy time comes when that truth is recognised we should do our best to secure that only spirits of the highest purity get into consumption. This measure however, pays special consideration to the interests of the Victorian distillers, at the expense of the industries of the other States. It is well known, so I am credibly informed by persons whose opinion is entitled to respect, that Victorian distilleries do not possess up-to-date appliances, being fitted up with the old-fashioned pot stills, which have long since gone out of date. However much it may be desirable to provide for the maturing of spirit distilled by pot stills, because of the large quantity of impurities contained in it, it is not so necessary in the case of the highly rectified spirit distilled by the patent stills. In any case, I understand that the effect of keeping spirits in wood for a long period is not to get rid of the impurities, but to disguise their presence. As a matter of fact, these impurities still exist, although the spirit becomes so mellowed that the impurities are less noticeable. This applies to spirits distilled in pot stills, but not to spirits produced in patent stills, such as are used by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The spirits produced in pot stills contain a very large proportion of impurities, whereas the product of the patent stills is much purer, because in the process of rectification all deleterious substances are eliminated, and the spirit is as pure as it is possible to make it.
– It is pure in the same sense that distilled waiter is pure; but we know that it is unwholesome.
– If the honorable member drank distilled water mixed with a very little phosphoric acid he would very much prolong his life, because I understand that that mixture will prevent the ossification which leads to senile decay.
– The honorable member may obtain some very pronounced opinions with regard to distilled water from old prospectors in Western Australia, who have been drinking it for years, and who are fully aware of the disadvantages attached to its use.
– It was not the distilled water, but the tinned dog, that killed off the diggers on the Western Australian gold-fields.
– I am informed that, by the process of high rectification, all the most poisonous elements in the spirit are eliminated, and that it is not necessary to mature the spirit by keeping, it in wood. If it were to be kept in the wood for twenty years, it would not be .any better than if it were matured for five years. This information is given to me by men who have had many years of experience in distillation, and who are practical men.
– Are they men who distilled by the patent still process?
– One man has been engaged in distillation for over forty years, and has used every conceivable kind of still. On reference to the report of the Tariff Commission, honorable members will notice that it is stated by witnesses that a pure spirit cannot be turned out by means >f a pot still, whereas spirit upwards of 60 degrees overproof can be manufactured by means of patent stills. According to the evidence of Mr. Wilkinson, the Government Analyst of Victoria, the purer spirit produced by the patent still is the least poisonous. Mr. Wilkinson, speaking of the secondary products, says -
In the higher boiling portions, there was what was called “ fusel oil.” This consisted of alcohols higher in the series, for instance, propyl, butyl, and amyl alcohols. In distillation, the impurities were in part eliminated, but they were necessary for flavour. A spirit containing none of them was practically featureless. It had no character, and was neutral in taste.
Referring to Mr. Wilkinson’s evidence, it is further stated -
He summarized these articles by stating that the so-called impurities of any spirit, upon which for commercial value the flavour was largely dependent, possessed toxic properties greater than those of ethyl alcohol, the main constituent of all spirit and the least toxic. If alcohol were pure, it would have no injurious effect other than that due to alcohol, no’ matter its origin. So far as scientific knowledge goes, the substances removed in the rectification of spirit were more injurious than alcohol itself.
With regard to inferior spirits and adulteration, it is stated in the report -
Mr. Wilkinson had examined some of the cheap spirits imported, and had found that they were highly rectified, and contained very few impurities indeed. They might have been of any orgin. Physiologically, they could not be considered injurious. So far as “scientific. knowledge went, the substances removed by the rectification of spirits were more injurious than alcohol itself.
This statement is in direct contradiction to that of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who said that the imported spirits were of the most injurious character, and were poisonous in a marked degree. I do not recollect the exact remarks of the honorable member, but he represented that closer supervision would have to be exercised in regard to imported than in regard to locally manufactured spirits. A little later on Mr. Wilkinson said -
There was no proof that the keeping of spirit for a time would eliminate certain poisonous elements. Medical men were very much divided in opinion upon this subject. Only an improvement in flavour would be gained.
He stated, further -
It was a scientific fact that, no matter how long spirits were kept, the poison in them remained.
I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I think that we should paysome regard to the opinions of men of experience which are backed up by the independent testimony of men like Mr. Wilkinson.
– Mr. Wilkinson says that if spirit were kept in wood for two years or more it would be of advantage to the consumer.
– Yes ; but he qualifies that statement by indicating that the advantage to the consumer would take the form of improved flavour.. He points out that the effect of keeping spirit in wood is not to eliminate the poisonous elements, but to disguise their presence. He says that the poisonous element still remains, but that the flavour is improved.
– That is because of the gradual process of oxidation to which the secondary products are subjected.
– Just so. But the poisonous elements still remain.
– No; they are converted.
- Mr. Wilkinson says that it is a scientific fact that, no matter how long spirits are kept, the poison in them remains, and, therefore, the advantage to the consumer to which he refers must be merely a matter of palatability. In other words the spirit, by being kept in wood, will become more palatable. His testimony in that respect is supported by men who are entitled to be regarded as experts. It seems to me that if any reason can be advanced in favour of maturing in wood for a period of two years spirits which are produced by means of the pot-still, it does not apply to spirits which are produced by means of the patent still. I understand that if the proposal of the Government be enforced, some distillers will be required to expend a vast sum in acquiring land, and in providing immense storage accommodation for their spirits. Whilst I do not appear as a special pleader for any distiller, I do say that, if the Minister desires to place the manufacturers of all the States upon an equality, due regard should be given to these considerations. Unless it is absolutely necessary - upon the ground of health - to compel the distillers to incur an immense outlay to provide storage accommodation for their spirits, the Minister ought to consider whether it is desirable to enforce a provision of this kind. Personally I should be very glad to see an end put to the distillation of spirits, so far as they are intended for consumption as a beverage. If it is necessary - as I suppose it is - to distil spirits for medical purposes, I have no objection to urge. But if we could only persuade the community that the less they indulged in spirits the better it would be for them, we should soon arrive at that period when it would be no longer necessary to enact special legislation for the preservation of the public health.
– As the Minister has paid some attention to one or two points upon which I intended to offer some criticism, and on account of other personal reasons, I do not intend to occupy the time of the House at any length. There is still another reason which deters me from speaking in any but the most deferential way upon this question, and that is the presence in the House of members of the Commission. They have paid more months of attention te this matter than ordinary members have, been able to devote hours to it, and they must be presumed to have discussed its pros and cons very fully and deliberately. But, notwithstanding that they have given all this attention to the subject, there may be points which have been left unconsidered - points as to which the evidence has not been so full and complete as to enable them to arrive at the real facts of the situation. Of course, it is very easy for honorable members who have not been through the process of sifting and inquiry to know all about the subject. I confess that I have not read the evidence taken by the Commission as carefully as the honorable member for Lang appears to have done. Not having read that evidence, I suppose that I am in a much better position to record an intelligent vote upon this proposal. I speak, therefore, only of information which has been conveyed to me by persons who know all about the subject, and who are interested in it from a commercial standpoint. All that information is in agreement upon the point of the standard which should be set up in connexion with the distillation of, say, rum, which is made from molasses. All’ the evidence which I have gathered goes to show that that rum cannot be cleared of its impurities at so low a degree as 35. In fact - to use the expression employed by the persons who spoke to me upon the subject - rum so distilled simply “stinks,” and the stink cannot be overcome.
– The spirit has to be distilled twice, and it is the central portion of the distillate which has a commercial value.
– I was not aware of that. I am speaking of the molasses spirit which is distilled in New South Wales. The trade describes it as being in a stinking condition when it is so distilled, and they urge that nothing less than 60 degrees would eliminate its objectionable odour.
– It would be too highly rectified then. Experts say that if it were distilled at 60 degrees of strength it would not be rum.
– I am informed that nearly all the rum which comes from the West Indies - and a large quantity of the rum used in Australia comes from there - is distilled at from 65 to 70 degrees of strength.
– Then it must be “ doctored “ or simulated rum.
-That is what my informants tell me. They say that in any case to distil rum at so low a strength as 35 degrees would mean that they would never be able to get the stink out of it.
– The standard has been increased by general consent to 45 degrees.
– That is a very considerable difference, I admit, and to some extent it meets the objection which I have been urging. The fact that a higher degree eliminates impurities from the spirit is not questioned, and it is only the degree of rectification which is concerned in the argument. If we can eliminate these impurities by rectifying the spirits at a higher degree, it seems to me that we should do so. Then I am informed that rum is rarely more than six months old when it is sold in the markets of London. It is never kept longer than that period, and rarely so long. The argument is advanced that if in one of the great markets of the world a standard of. six months or under is observed in the sale and consumption of these liquors, it should afford some guide to us in prescribing the period during which they should be bonded here. Concerning the importation of this stuff, I am told that it would be almost impossible to ascertain the duration of the storage of rum. For instance, I am assured that no certificates are issued by the Excise Department in London, or at any of the other places oversea.
– We are considering that question now, and I have communicated with the Imperial authorities in reference to it.
– I am glad to hear that. There seems to be something lacking which would permit of an easy identification of the age of spirit. I take it that the Minister only requires to be assured that spirit has been stored for the prescribed term. If hecan bemade aware of that fact in a way which will not unduly interfere with business, so much the better. At present theredoes not seem to be any facile means of ascertaining how long spirit has been actually stored. In the absence of any certificate from the Excise Department at Home the only other course for the Minister to adopt would be to accept a certificate from the distillers. Whether that could be done under a system of proper supervision, I do not know. I do not know how supervision can be applied to spirit which is produced in another part of the world. That is the difficulty in regard to the importation of these spirits under any circumstances, and under any system of classification. We want to be able to check the certificates which accompany them, and how that is to be done, seeing that there are no checks kept by the Excise Department at Home, is a problem which requires to be solved before we can determine the facts of the case as they apply to the period during which rum should be stored. However, these are matters of administration, and no doubt the Minister will look into them. I am glad to hear that he is in communication with the authorities at Home, with a view to ascertaining whether they have any better means for determining the age of spirits than we have. No doubt he will avail himself of the experience of the world if any such experience be available in the official quarters in which he is apparently seeking it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “Medicines” includes medicines for internal or external application ; “Australian Standard Brandy” means brandy which complies with the following requisites : -
It musthave been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years; and “ Australian Blended Wine Brandy “ means, brandy which complies with the following requisites : -
It must have been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, by storage in wood for a period of not less than twoyears; and “Australian Blended Whisky” means whisky which complies with the following requisites : -
It must have been matured, while subject to the control of the Customs, “by storage in wood for at least two years.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “ application,” line 2,. the following words be inserted : - “other than liniments and veterinary medicines.”
.- The honorable and learned member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Perth were of opinion, when I was speaking a few minutes ago, that I intended to propose an amendment to exclude rectified spirits from the provisions regarding maturity. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and I endeavoured to point out that those provisions were not required, but, at the same time, we do not object to their application. What we do wish is that their operation may be postponed for, say, two vintages. At present, there is not sufficient rectified spirit in stock to enable the law to be complied with, and the result would be that the making of blended brandy, composed partly of pure grape spirit, would cease. We desire a period of grace to enable manufacturers to comply with the Act. The vignerons have first to obtain a vintage, and then to keep the wine in stock for two years, so that the immediate application of the maturity conditions would be harsh in view of the fact that, as I have said, there is not sufficient wine in stock to enable blending to be carried on. The definition clause ought to be amended. We ought to exempt from the operation of the second paragraph b of clause 3 Australian wine brandy which, before some date to be prescribed, is cleared from the Customs or entered for home consumption as .provided in clause 1 1 . Clause 1 1 prescribes the 1st March, 1907, as the date from which the maturity condition shall apply. I should like the date in the case of Australian blended wine brandy to be extended for two years after March, 1907; but as there might be some objection to such a long postponement, I suggest that we should fix upon 1 st March, 1908, as the date from which this provision shall apply. I am in doubt as to whether we should also amend the definition of “Australian standard brandy.” I believe that in South Australia, at all events, the pot-still brandy is kept until it has matured for two years and upwards, and that there may Be in stock sufficient of that spirit to enable this provision to at once come into operation, so far as Australian standard brandy is concerned. We ought to amend the provision in regard to Australian blended wine brand v, and if it be found that a mistake has been made in not amending the definition “clause in regard to Australian standard brandy, we may later on amend it in a similar way. It has not been clearly stated, but I believe that there is no objection to “the provision as to maturity applying at once to the Australian standard brandy. All the distillers, whom I have met, desire that every condition considered necessary by the Government to insure the proper maturing of brandy shall be applied, but that a reasonable date on which the .maturity conditions shall come into force should be fixed.
– I have a prior amendment to propose.
– Then I shall refrain from moving at this stage the amendment I have indicated.
.- On behalf of the honorable member for Grampians, I move -
That the words “ Australian standard brandy “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof words “ Pure Australian grape brandy.”
– That is a new name.
– The honorable member for Grampians considers that it would be a better name to apply since it would convey to the minds of the consumers the fact that the brandy in question was essentially a grape brandy.
– It would lead to the opinion that there was brandy other than that made from the grape.
– Perhaps so; but the honorable member for Grampians represents a wine-growing district, and I presume that the amendment was suggested by vignerons in his electorate.
.- I hope that the amendment will be rejected. The name embodied in the Bill is a typically suggestive and comprehensive one. It was well considered, and conveys an idea as to what a true brandy is. On the other hand, the words proposed to be substituted would suggest that there might be a brandy other than grape wine brandy.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang) rs.25].- If my memory serves me rightly, this question was thoroughly threshed out when the Government proposals regarding the spirit duties were before us in another form, and I think that .we arrived at an agreement that the term “ Australian standard brandy “ should be applied to the spirit in question.
– I understand that there was some agreement.
– There is a possibility that the amendment, if adopted, might give rise to misapprehension. All consumers of brandy do not know what are its constituents, and T dare say .that the average user is not aware that it is distilled from the grape. I do not think that it is very material whether we retain the clause as it stands or agree to the amendment, but it is just possible that the use of the term proposed on behalf of the honorable member for Grampians might lead to confusion.
.- I move-
That before the word “It,” line 1, second paragraph (4), the words “ Unless entered for home consumption before the 1st day of March, 1908,” be inserted.
It is understood that if, as the result of further inquiry, it is found that the same condition ought to be inserted in the paragraph relating to Australian standard brandy an opportunity will be afforded for the necessary amendment to be moved.
.- I do not object to the amendment, which will postpone the application of the two years’ maturity condition to Australian blended wine brandy until 1st March, 1908 ; but in view of the previous discussion I would object to the postponement of the condition in regard to Australian standard brandy. That brandy is composed of pot-still spirit containing volatile elements that can only be worked off by the maturing of the spirit. The point, however, must be raised as to whether, if this amendment be made with reference to Australian blended wine brandy, we ought not also to grant a similar postponement of the maturity condition in respect to Australian blended whisky. I give notice that at the proper stage I shall move such an amendment.
.- I wish to put before the Committee an expert opinion in regard to the advantage of maturing spirits of all classes which I had intended to quote when speaking on the second reading ; but the volume was not then available. Mr. J. A. Nettleton, F.C.S., an authority of very considerable weight, at page 236 of a work which is, I believe, regarded as the principal exposition of the methods of manufacturing spirits in the United Kingdom, the processes of maturing, and the general regulations connected with Excise and Customs, says -
In pot still whiskies the by-products range from 40 to 80 grains per proof gallon, the variations in quantity and quality within these narrow limits, vary considerably affecting their flavour. In patent-still spirit or whisky, scarcely any by-product other than propyl alcohol is collected. Both descriptions of spirit, however, are, so far as the consumer’s practical tests are applied, decidedly improved by storage in good wine casks.
He proceeds to explain what I have already tried to impress upon honorable members, that although the chemical processes and changes which take place are not very well understood, practical experience shows that it is of advantage to mature spirits by storage in wood. Like the Chairman of the Tariff Commission, I have no objection to the modification proposed by the honorable and learned member for Angas, in view of the custom existing in some of the States which has been recognised as legal and proper, on the understanding that the concession is to apply only for a limited period.
– I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Perth by placing on record two brief extracts from the evidence of experts in regard to this subject. Dr. Thomas Fiaschi, surgeon, of Macquariestreet, Sydney, said in reply to question 21279 that no spirit should be sold until it reached a certain age, in reply to question 2 1 281, that spirits should be aged before being consumed, and, in reply to question: 21323, that they should not be allowed to go into consumption unless threeyears old.
– He is a great authority upon wine, and a medical man of high standing.
– Dr. George Harker, B.Sc, of the Sydney University, and D.Sc. of the London University, a chemist in the employment of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, gave similar evidence.
– He is one of the most uptodate chemists in Australia.
– He is a young scientist, whose evidence was considered of very great value by the Commission. He specially investigated certain points for us. and received the thanks of the Commission for the valuable information which he put before us. He said -
It has been found during the process of maturing spirits that some of the obnoxious constituents diminished in quantity. With brandy the proportion of furfural diminished with age, and the proportion of esters, and of higher alcohols increased. This was supposed to be due to the formation of esters of a peculiar kind, from which old spirit obtained its aroma. From a scientific point of view, the ageing of spirits improved them by removing some of the deleterious constituents, but it was difficult to say to which of the esters or of thehigher alcohols the beneficial effects of spirit were due.
– Does he say by what process the removal of obnoxious constituents is accomplished ?
– No. That is one of the inscrutable secrets of nature. It was on scientific evidence such as I have read that we based our recommendation, without discriminating between spirits of high strength and spirits of low strength.
Amendment agreed to.
– I was under the impression that the honorable and learned member for Angas had accepted my suggestion to adopt 1st January, 1908, as the date to be fixed. I cannot agree to a longer period of time than that, and must therefore recommit the clause for the purpose of having the amendment altered.
– I should think that that would be the more convenient date.
– I should prefer March, because in any case the time allowed is not long enough.
– A year and four months is allowed.
– The period allowed is practically only twelve months, because the reckoning must be made from vintage to vintage, and there is not a big stock of rectified spirit kept in hand. There is not, however, much difference between January and March.
.- I think that the same arrangement should be made in regard to Australian blended whisky as has been made in regard to Australian blended wine brandy. In a letter which I have received from Mr. J. M. Joshua, he says -
Re “ Spirits Bill 1906,” and the maturing pro visions thereof, it appears to us that there will be a strong (and just) demand for preliminary notice, both on the part of distillers and importers. May I take the liberty of reminding you that this matter was carefully worked out in the Canadian law.
In Canada notice similar to that now proposed was given, and, in view of the attitude taken by the representatives of SouthAustralia, I move -
That before the word “ It,” third paragraph b, the following words be inserted : - “ Unless entered for home consumption before the 1st January, 1908.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
When an officer has given a certificate … he may, at the request of the owner of the spirits, mark the description of the spirits on the cask.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “ mark,” line 3, the words “or cause to be marked,” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Imported spirits to be matured).
– I should like the Committee to take into consideration the question whether it is advisable to require the maturing of all spirits for a period of two years, or whether extra time should not be given. I have already issued instructions that the provision with regard to spirits being matured in wood for two years shall be suspended until 28th February, 1907. Perhaps we can deal with the matterto whichI have referred by inserting a proviso to the effect that the clause shall not apply until the 1st January, 1908, to gin, Geneva, Hollands, schnapps or liqueurs.
– I do not think it very much matters whether or not the suggested proviso is inserted in this clause in order to bring the provisions with regard to imported spirits into line with those relating to locally-manufactured spirits. This clause relates to the spirits of the whole world, and surely there cannot be any such dearth of two-year old spirits as to lead to a suspension of importations. With our own manufacturers, the case is different, because they have not the material upon which to operate. It is already provided that the clause shall not come into operation until the 28th February, 1907, and that seems to me to get over the difficulty with regard to shipments on the way to Australia. The notice to shippers and others should surely be sufficient, and I do not see why we should gobeyond what we have already done. It is provided that clause 11 shall not apply to spirits which were subject to the control of the Customs on the 17 th August last, and which are entered for home consumption before the 1st March, 1907. It was not considered necessary to make a similar provision with regard to imported spirits, and it seems to me to be unneces- sary to insert the amendment proposed by the Minister. The only question is as to whether we should make any provision for spirits now in bond which have not been matured in wood for two years. Personally, I do not think there is any necessity to amend the clause.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following proviso be added : - “Provided that this section shall not until the1st day of January, One thousand nine hundred and eight, apply to gin, Geneva, Hollands, schnapps or liqueurs.”
– I should like to know whether the Minister has considered the representations made during the debate on the spirit duties that gin is a spirit which deteriorates rather than improves with age. It is said that whatever medicinal properties it possesses are due to the juniper berries from which the spirit is popularly supposed to be distilled. But I understand that the juice of the juniper is added to the spirit after distillation. It has been stated that the sooner gin goes into consumption the better it is for medicinal purposes. It is well that this matter should be considered so that we may avoid making a blunder.
– I take it that the clause as it now stands would permit of the withdrawal from bond of spirits which had not been stored in wood for two years. If my impression be correct, it will not be necessary to amend the clause.
– It has been very strongly represented to me that in regard to gin, Geneva, and schnapps, the time allowed is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the case, and I promised this morning that I would amend the clause.
– Do I understand that it will be competent to clear spirits in bond until February next?
.- I should like to correct the misapprehension under which the honorable member for Lang appears to be labouring. I would point out to him that gin is not distilled from juniper berries, but is merely a highly-rectified spirit produced largely from potatoes, and very bad potatoes at that, and flavoured withjuniper. I should bevery pleased to learn the name of the authority from whom the honorable member for Lang learnt that the immediate consumption of the article is to be recommended. Immediate consumption might be necessary to prevent the identification of the spirit.
– I merely mentioned that it had been stated during the debate upon the spirit duties that gin was not improved by being kept in wood, and I asked whether the matter had received the attention of the Minister.. I did not pose as an authority on the subject.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Spirits distilled in Australia shall not be delivered from the control of the Customs for human consumption unless they have been matured by storage in wood for a period of not less than two years.
Provided that this section shall not apply to spirits which were subject to the control of the Customs on the seventeenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, and which are entered for home consumption before the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and seven.
.- This clause requires to be amended in order to bring it in keeping with the definition clause as altered by the Committee. I move-
That after the word “to,” line 6, the following words be inserted : - “ Australian blended wine brandy, or Australian blended whisky which are entered for home consumption before the1st January, 1908.”
– What does the honorable and learned member propose subsequent to that? What about other spirits ?
– I propose an extension of time only in the case of Australian blended wine brandy and Australian blended whisky. My proposal would have the effect of bringing the enacting clause into line with the definition. In its present form, the clause refers to spirits which are subject to the control of the Customs Department. That portion of it must be eliminated, because - as I have already pointed out - some of the wine in relation to which the exemption is proposed will be the wine of the next vintage, which cannot possibly yet be subject to the control of the Customs.
– I approve of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas, which postpones the operation of the maturity condition for nearly two years in the case. the two blends which he has mentioned.
But I ask the Minister to consider whether the same provision ought not to apply to locally-made gins and Genevas. If the operation of the condition as to storage in wood is to be postponed in the case of imported gins and Genevas, it ought also to be postponed in the case of locally-made gins and Genevas. I therefore suggest that the honorable and learned member for Angas should add to his proposal the following words, “ and Australian gins and Genevas.”
– I have no objection.
– I do not know what effect the amendment might have. I do not know whether Hollands, or schnapps, or liqueurs are produced in Australia.
– There are no liqueurs produced here.
– What about schnapps ?
– Schnapps are distilled in Australia.
– Then the exemption should also apply to them.
.- I fancy that liqueurs are produced in some parts of Australia.
– Are they not made at Seppeltsfield ?
– I believe that they are, and that they are also produced in, at least, one Victorian wine-making establishment. I am of opinion that there is a considerable future in Australia for the production of liqueurs. If we are going, to relax the condition relating to the maturing of spirits, I see no reason why it should not be relaxed all round. In my judgment, it is a distinctly retrograde step, but I like to be as logical as possible, and if we grant an extension in the case of two classes of spirits, I think that other spirits which are upon the same footing as regards their manufacture should be treated in a similarway.
– I am sure that the Minister must recognise that, inasmuch as we have exempted imported spirits from the condition laid down as to storage, we must also exempt spirits which are locally produced. If we intend to make any distinction between the two classes of spirits, we should not do so to the detriment of our own distillers.
– I would point out that this provision applies to all
Australian spirits. All that seems to be necessary is to alter the latter portion of it, so as to make it apply to spirits which are entered for home consumption before the1st of January, 1908.
– No; because some of the wine cannot be under the control of the Customs Department at present.
– That remark applies only to next year’s vintage.
– Surely the honorable and learned member for Angas would not make the extension applicable to that?
– Spirits cannot be matured if they do not exist.
– These are very delicate matters to touch upon without first giving them very full consideration. If the honorable and learned member will allow the clause to pass, in its present form I will have it re-drafted in such a way that there can be no possibility of mistake, and I will agree to its recommittal.
– I do not quite follow the honorable and learned member for Angas in his proposal. I think the clear intention of the provisions of the Excise Act is that spirits shall not be allowed to pass into consumption until they have been matured in wood for a period of two years. I can quite understand the provision which is embodied in clause 10, that some little extension of time should be allowed for the clearance of imported spirits, and that Australian spirits, which have already been distilled, should be permitted to pass into consumption under similar conditions. But to allow spirits which have not yet been distilled to pass into consumption in less than two years was never contemplatedby honorable members.
– I can assure the honorable member for Moira that I really intended to ask that this provision should apply to future vintages, because we cannot make Australian brandy from the present wine stocks. I would point out to him that the amendment would not apply to Australian standard brandy. but simply to the rectified spirits, which enter into blends, and which it is urged do not impiove with age.
– I should like time to consider the honorable and learned ber’s proposal, because it seems to me that he suggests a rather long extension.
– The extension would apply only in the case of grape wine spirit, because we have to wait for the vintage. In the case of molasses spirit the materials for its distillation are already available.
.- I would prefer to grant an extension of time rather than agree to the abolition of the condition relating to the maturing of spirits. The Minister might,’ therefore, consider whether, in the case of grape spirit, he will extend the provision relating to the maturity of spirit till March, 1908, as suggested by the honorable and learned member for Angas.
– If the honorable and learned member will allow the clause to pass in its present form, I will consent to its recommittal at a later stage.
– Upon the understanding that the Minister will bring down a clause to overcome the difficulty. I ask leave to withdrawmy amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Inferior spirits).
– It seems to me that this clause contains a provision which is not altogether in harmony with the Commerce Act. It provides that if, after examining a sample of any spirits which are under the control of the Customs, a Commonwealth analyst certifies that they are of an inferior quality, and unsuitable for human consumption, the Minister “ may “ permit them to be exported. It seems to me that under the clause as it stands, a firm might import a quantityof unsuitable spirit, and export it as an Australian production.
– There would be no likelihood of such a thing taking place. The word “ may “ is used,
– It might be construed as having in this connexion the same meaning as “ shall.”
– I do not think that what the honorable member suggests could be done under the Commerce Act.
– It seems to me to be a very dangerous provision.
.- I think that the contention of the honorable member for Hunter is one that the Minister should seriously consider.
– Since an importer of inferior spirit could not redistil it in Australia, surely he ought to be allowed to redistil it beyond the Commonwealth?
– It seems to me that such spirit might be exported, not for redistillation, but to be sold as Australian spirit, and might be regarded as the usual product of Australian distilleries.
– The Commerce Act would prevent that being done.
– If it were enforced, it might do so; but this provision seems to be in conflict with the Commerce Act.
– Such spirit could not be exported as of Australian production. Would the honorable member have the Minister throw it into the sea?
– Willingly. The Minister would have no control over it after it left Australia, and I repeat that it might be regarded as of Australian production.
– There is no danger of that.
– In the absence of a Ministerial explanation, there appears to be a difficulty in ascertaining the intention of this clause. I take it that it is to afford something in the nature of a guarantee to an importer that, if any spirit which he introduces does not come up to the standard required by the analyst - a standard he cannot forecast - it will not be destroyed,, if intended for re-export.
– That is the intention.
– Then there can be no objection to it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
There shall be three classes of methylated spirits as follows : -
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the word “ three,” line 4, be left out, with a view to insert inlieu thereof the word “four.”
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - “(d) Spirits to be used for purposes of scientific investigation in connexion with universities or public institutions.”
– I should like to know whether the amendment would apply to spirits used, for instance, for the preservation of museum specimens? Some requests were made to the Commission by those in charge of museums that a concession should be granted in respect of spirits so used, and Icertainly think that the Minister ought to extend this concession to spirits for the preservation of such specimens intended, not necessarily for scientific investigation, but for the equipment of museums, and incidentally for the instruction, if not for the amusement of the people.
– I think that the amendment would apply to spirits so used. The preservation of certain things in spirits would be for scientific purposes.
– If my memory serves me correctly, the greater proportion of spirit required by public institutions,such as museums, is used for preserving specimens. If the Minister has any doubt on the point he ought to so extend the amendment as to embrace spirits used in museums.
– I think that the amendment will cover such spirits, but if it does not I shall be quite prepared to extend it to them.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ 4A. Spirits for use in scientific investigation shall be treated and dealt with in manner prescribed.”
– Why not “ shall be methylated ?”
– I did not draft the amendment, but the Crown Law Officer who dealt with the matter thinks that it is the better provision to insert.
– It is very dangerous.
– This provision will have to be carefully safeguarded, for it will open the door to an evasion of Customs duties. It is difficult to say how many men will show a desire for scientific investigation if they have no difficulty in securing spirits at ordinary rates. The Minister ought to tell the Committee how he proposes to safeguard this provision.
– Such a concession is granted in almost every civilized country.
– It has been very strongly represented to me that this concession should be granted, and I find that it is customary to allow spirit for scientific purposes to be used, subject to stringent restrictions.
– That is all I desire.
– I cannot tell the honorable member what will be the wording of the regulations governing this concession until they have been drafted, but I can assure him that I shall be very careful, since the whole of that part of the Bill which relates to merhylation has been framed with a view to prevent the evasion’ of Customs duties which now takes place. I referred to the matter on moving the second reading of the Bill, and mentioned that not long ago a process was discovered by which the methylation may be removed, and that spirits , so treated can then be sold as being pure. The object of this clause is to safeguard the revenue to a greater extent than it has been, and it will be difficult to evade the regulations under it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
A person shall not -
sell or ‘have in his possession any illicit methylated spirits ; or
sell or have in his possession any article of food or drink, or any scent essence tincture or medicine, containing any methylated spirits.
Penalty : One hundred pounds.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That before the word” sell,” line 4, the words “ After the first day of January, 1907,” be inserted.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
– I am glad that the Minister has inserted in the Bill a provision which imposes a penalty on any person who may sell or has in his possession illicit methylated spirits, orany article of food or drink, or any scent, essence, tincture, or medicine, containing methylated spirits; but I should like to know whether such a provision can be enforced if enacted by Farliament. If it can, we have power to pass similar enactments in regard to other spirit. On the 7 th March last, to quote from a newspaper report of the meeting of the Adelaide Central Board of Health -
Messrs. W. P. Auld and Sons forwarded sample of whisky which had been purchased by them at the Agricultural Show ground. The whisky was in a bottle labelled “ Buchanan’s House of Commons whisky.” The writers had no hesitation in pronouncing the spirit to be South Australian spirit made from grapes. It was pointed out that there was a great deal of this false trading being carried on in and around Adelaide, and the board’s co-operation was asked for in endeavouring to put an end to such a “ disgraceful practice.” To be informed that the board had for some )’ears been cognizant of the practice of selling colonial spirit as imported, but on account of the importation of bulk spirit, capsules, corks, and labels, by some importers, and the legal difficulties that had arisen in connexion with prosecutions by this board, under present legislation, the board felt unable to take any useful action in the matter.
I referred to this matter here about three years ago, suggesting that the Minister should, under section 51 of the Customs Act, prohibit the importation of capsules and labels. It was objected that if their importation was prohibited, they would be made and printed here; but I pointed out that if that were made an offence, the fear of detection would act -as a deterrent, and suggested that it might be made compulsory to bottle imported spirit in bond. If that were done, it would prevent good spirit from being blended with cheap spirit, on which a lesser duty had been paid. I could not, however, persuade the Government to do anything in the matter, and, therefore, bring it under the attention of the Minister once more. Again and again in the South Australian Courts have cases been brought for the sale of spirit under proof; but it has been held that once spirit has passed through the Customs, the Commonwealth Government cannot interfere with its sale. The question has been raised before the Full Court of South Australia, whose judgment is given in the following report : -
In the Full Court judgment was delivered by Mr. Justice Gordon and Mr. Justice Homburg in Robinson versus Hall, which was a special case reserved by the Police Court of Adelaide with respect to the sale of liquors under a certain degree of proof strength The results of the judgments suggest that the law is in an unsatisfactory state, from the public point of view. There are at present two statutes in existence which deal with the question of the sale of liquor under proof. Both judges held that the State law could not be enforced because the only person who could lay informations under it was the State Collector of Customs, whose office had been abolished by the establishment of the Commonwealth. Mr. Justice Homburg, however, went further than this, and gave expression to the startling decision that in legislating with regard to the sale of spirits within the State, the Commonwealth had exceeded its powers under the Constitution, and therefore that part of the Commonwealth Act which dealt with this matter is invalid. The effect of the decision of the Full Court is that the State law cannot be enforced, and that the Commonwealth law dealing with this matter is invalid. In these circumstances, it appears that there are no provisions of any Distillation Act which govern and regulate the strength at which spirits are to be sold to the public in South Australia.
– There must be a defect in the South Australian law, because in this State such cases are dealt with under the Victorian law.
– I take it that the Victorian Judges_would be in accord with the South Australian Full Court.
– But the prosecutions are not proceeded with under a Commonwealth Act.
– In the report from which I have quoted it is stated that the Commonwealth Parliament has exceeded its constitutional powers, and its legislation, therefore, is invalid, while it is also held that the State law cannot be enforced.
– That appears to be because there is no officer to prosecute, a difficulty which could be got over.
– Under the Victorian licensing law an inspector prosecutes, and it is not unusual for fines to be recovered for the sale of spirit more- than a certain number of degrees under proof.
– I am very glad to hear that it is so.
– The Commonwealth Parliament cannot deal with this matter.
– It seems to me that if we have power to prohibit the sale of methylated spirit in the “manner provided for in clause 15, we have power to make laws relating to the importation and subsequent adulteration of bulk spirit.
– I do not think so.
– In many cases, there is no control once spirit has passed through the Customs House. Consequently good spirit is often adulterated with poor spirit, on which less duty has been paid, so that the Commonwealth loses revenue, and the public is supplied with an article which is not much better than poison. I should like the Minister to explain how he intends to enforce his provision.
.- In my opinion the clause should be amended. It provides that any person selling, or having in his possession, illicit methylated spirit or any article of food or drink, or any scent, essence, tincture, or medicine containing methylated spirit shall be liable to a fine of £100. It seems to me that this provision, if not’ amended, might operate harshly and unjustly. A young lady who buys or is given a bottle of scent cannot reasonably be expected to know what it contains. But, if it contained methylated spirit, she would be liable,, under the clause, to a penalty, of £100. I suggest the insertion of the word “knowingly “ in the first line of the clause, so that it shall read “ a person shall nol knowingly sell or have in his possession.”
– That amendment may open a very wide door. We must be very strict, as otherwise we cannot prevent the illicit use of methylated spirit. It seems to me that the person proceeded against should at least have to prove that he did not know that he was selling, or that he had in his possession, methylated spirit.
– Chemists and medical men might well be held responsible for the preparations) with which they were dealing, because they would know what they contain; but the average layman could not reasonably be expected to have such knowledge.
– Ignorance is no excuse under the local health Acts.
– If so, that does not make the injustice of this provision any the less. The honorable member might, with that generosity which characterizes a young man during a certain phase of his existence, purchase from a druggist a bottle of scent to present to the object of his affections, not knowing that it contained methylated spirit, and if it were found in his possession he would be liable ito .a penalty of ,£100. The young lady to whom the scent was presented would be similarly liable.
– The honorable member does not suppose that the inspectors would search every private citizen?
– We have had sufficient experience with regard to the exercise of unlimited powers conferred on officials to make us careful in matters of this kind. We know that certain provisions have been administered in a manner that was never dreamt of by those who enacted them ; and what has happened in other cases may occur in this instance. At any rate, we’ should do our best to safeguard innocent persons. I suggest that after the word “not” the word “knowingly” should be inserted.
– I could not accept that amendment.
– Then perhaps the Minister might consent to amend the clause by providing that a person should not “knowingly” have in his possession any illicit methylated spirits.
– That would not quite meet the case. The only amendment that I could consent to would be a provision which would throw the onus of proof that he was innocent upon the person having the spirits in his possession. I shall have to recommit other clauses in the Bill, and I shall consider the question of framing anl amendment to achieve the object which the honorable member has in view.
.- I think that there are provisions in the Customs Act, and also in the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, to much the same effect as that which the honorable member for Lang desires to insert. The honorable member for Hindmarsh raised a question as to our power to pass this legislation. When the Distillation Act was under discussion, two or three years ago, I and other honorable members expressed doubt as to our power to prescribe certain standards of purity and strength for wine .and spirits, except for the purpose of checking the collection of duties. Although we have power to prescribe certain standards of purity, as we have done in the Excise Act, I doubt very much whether we “can go beyond that. This Bill contains provisions that have nothing to do with the collection of duties, and the same remark applies to the Distillation Act. In one case, in South Australia, our power to prescribe certain standards that were not required for the collection of duties was questioned. I do not think that that point was absolutely decided, because another question was raised. The information had to be laid by the State Collector of Customs under the State Act, and the question was whether the State Act had not been abrogated by the Commonwealth Distillation Act. It was decided that there was no Collector of Customs appointed by the State, inasmuch as the State Collector had been superseded by the Commonwealth officer. I argued on, a previous occasion that our legislation was ultra vires, in so far as it exceeded our power to prescribe standards required to enable us to protect the revenue. I _ think that the Attorney-General, as a private member, then took a similar view. The difficulty could best be overcome by the States stepping in and passing an Act under which information could be laid by someone else, or by the Common- wealth laying an information under some Commonwealth Act. I think that our legislation is ultra vires to the extent I have indicated, and no doubt the question will be raised at the very first opportunity.
– I wish to know whether the Minister will recommit the clause with a view to having it amended in the direction I have indicated ?
– Yes, I am prepared to look into the matter, and see what can be done.
– I should like to know if we have power under the Constitution to enforce the clause now before the Committee? I hope that we have, but I judge from what the honorable and learned member for Angas has stated that the question will probably have to be argued before the High Court.
– It is the opinion of the Law Department that we have the power to enforce the clause, or it would not be in the Bill. However, as the question has been raised again, and as it has the weight of the opinion of the honorable and learned member for Angas behind it. I shall ask the Attorney-General to make further inquiry into the matter.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 25 agreed to.
Standard for Industrial Spirits.
The spirit before methylaticn to be of a strength not less than sixty-five degrees over proof, and to be methylated’by the addition of two per cent. of wood naphtha and one-half per cent, of pyridine liquid.
Standard for Mineralized Spirits.
The spirit before methylation to be of a strength not less than sixty-five degrees over proof, and to be methylated by the addition of one per cent. of wood naphtha, one-quarter per cent. of pyridine, two to twenty per cent. of benzine, and one-quarter . per cent. of aniline violet or blue dye.
– The standard prescribed for mineralized spirit is based upon the evidence of Dr. Harker, of Sydney, whose valuable assistance I have previously been glad to acknowledge. He has written to me, pointing out two slight technical errors which I desire to rectify. I move -
That the word “ benzine,” line 13, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “benzene.” “ Benzine “ is derived from coal tar oil. whereas “ benzene “ is a product of petroleum oil.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir John Quick) agreed to-
That the words “ a solution of “ be inserted before the ‘word “ aniline,” line 13.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
.- I should like to ask the Minister whether he will take steps to get the Excise Bill brought into line with this measure? It seems to me that that course must be adopted owing to the changes which we have made in the definition of brandies.
.- The question raised by the honorable and learned member is rather an important ones seeing that the Excise Bill is at present before the Senate. I quite recognise the necessity for doing as he suggests. To-morrow, I shall endeavour to ascertain whether effect can be given to his suggestion.
.- I understand that it is the intention of the Minister to recommit clause n for the purpose of allowing honorable members to further consider the date upon which that provision shall come into operation. I have some technical information which I should like to put before him prior to its reconsideration being entered upon.
– I may inform the honorable member that amendments have been made in the definition clause, and these necessitate an amendment of clause11 I did not deal with the matter to-night, because I thought that the provision might not be amended in a symmetrical form, and I promised to recommit it, perhaps to-morrow, so as to permit of that being done.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Debate resumed from 23rd August (vide page 3315), on motion by Mr. Groom) -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- I move-
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “It is not expedient to proceed further with this Bill during the present session, for the following reasons : -
In submitting the amendment I would point out that at the two general elections which have been held for the Commonwealth, I was returned, not only by absolute majorities, but by enormous majorities.
– The honorable member will not be so returned at the approaching election.
– I am not a prophet, and I do not indulge in political forecasts as frequently as does the Minister of Trade and Customs. He usually blunders in his prophecies. I need scarcely point out that when he filled the office of Minister of Home Affairs, inthe Barton Administration, he was opposed to this very Bill.
– I do not think that is so.
– I was pointing out that at the two Federal elections which have taken place, although I was engaged in three-cornered fights, I defeated both the protectionist candidate and the official Labour candidate by one of the largest majorities obtained in the Commonwealth. It cannot, therefore, be urged that my action on the present occasion is prompted by personal considerations, I could quite understand the action of the Government in fighting for majority rule ifthey forced a majority of the electors to vote. If they submitted a scheme of compulsory voting I could quite appreciate their actionin bringing forward this measure. Personally, I believe that in thevery near future the citizens of Australia will be compelled to respect the Electoral Act just as they are obliged to respect any other Statute. The Minister of Home Affairs “does not propose that the Bill under consideration shall apply to the elections for the Senate. He is content to prescribe one form of ballotpaper for the election of representatives to this House, and another form for the election of members to the Senate. I am not one of those who believe that the electors would be likely to be “ fogged ‘ ‘ at the poll by the adoption of a system of preferential voting, but I do say that the use of two different systems will unquestionably cause confusion, and perhaps arouse their suspicion. The Minister of Home Affairs, in moving the second reading of the measure, stated that the present system of voting had failed, so far as majority representation is concerned, only in thirteen constituencies throughout the Commonwealth - that two of these electorates were to be found in Tasmania, two in Queensland, and nine in Victoria. The existing system has not resulted in the return of any representative to this House upon aminority vote, either from New South Wales, South Australia, or Western Australia. Consequently this Bill has been drafted in the interests of Victoria alone.
– In the interests of Australia.
– It is all very well for the Minister to say that. I hold that by the introduction of the optional system of preferential voting the Ministry are considering only the interests of Victoria. At the last general election, I find that of the persons who were entitled to vote, only 47 per cent. exercised the franchise in New South Wales, only 51 per cent. in Victoria, only 54 per cent, in Queensland, only 32 per cent. in South Australia, only 28 per cent. in Western Australia, and only 45 per cent. in, Tasmania. That is a pitiful picture to put before the country. Any political party is materially benefited by organization, and we all recognise that the best organized political force in Australia is the Labour Party. I am firmly of opinion that in the very near future measures will have to be taken to compel the electors to act up to their citizen responsibilities. At the general election, which was held in 1901, there were only four constituencies, in New South Wales which returned representatives to this Parliament uponminority votes. In Victoria, however, there were nine such constituencies - the same mystical nine that were referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs. In those days we heard nothing from the Age newspaper or from the leader of the present Government upon the defects of the existing system. If it be wrong to-day, it was wrong then. In Queensland and South Australia a system of single electorates has prevailed, and you, Mr. Speaker, were among those who secured an absolute majority. A similar condition existed in Tasmania, but in the return before me no particulars are supplied with respect to the position in Western Australia. I wish to emphasize the fact that this Bill does not provide for compulsory voting, and that the exercise of the contingent vote will be purely optional. If the Government consider that the contingent vote would lead to majority rule, surely they should have proposed that it should be compulsory. The weak spot in this Bill is that, if it were passed, a well-organized force, such as the Labour Party, would advise its supporters not to exercise their right to cast a contingent vote.
– The system ought to be compulsory.
– But under this Bill it will not be compulsory. A well-organized, well-disciplined force, like the Labour Party, would simply direct its supporters to exercise only their primary votes. In this way, the Bill would lead to what the Age, which strongly supports it, has described as clique or fancy voting. The honorable member for Kennedy has told us that the contingent voting system is not availed of in Queensland. In December, 1902. the Barton Government introduced an Electoral Bill providing for a system of proportional or contingent voting,- which was to be compulsory, and Senator Dawson, a representative of Queensland, when discussing that Bill, said that the Queensland contingent voting system had been an absolute failure. On the 17 th June, 1902, the honorable member for Bland, in dealing with the same measure, said the contingent vote would prove confusing to the electors. The honorable member for Hume, who was then Minister of Home Affairs, urged, on his own initiative, that the proposal in regard to the contingent or proportional vote should be negatived. He said that he had made a calculation, and as he found that the proposed system was most confusing, he recommended the Committee to reject it.
– I think that that Bill embodied a proposal on the lines of the Hare system of proportional voting.
– It provided for proportional voting, but in that case the contingent vote would have been compulsory, whilst under this Bill it is to be optional.
– Would the honorable member support the Bill if the contingent vote were made compulsory?
– In conjunction only with other measures.
– What other measures?
– Compulsory voting. The Minister of Home Affairs must be aware that many schemes have been propounded to secure effective voting power. When the Electoral Bill providing for the proportional or contingent vote was before the Senate in 1902, the Age, which to-day is the most powerful press advocate of this measure, and is publishing articles by Professor Nanson in support of it, held his scheme up to opprobrium. To-day it is employing Professor Nanson to write articles in support of a system which only a few years ago it violently opposed. I propose now to quote from an article published in that journal in February, 1902. On that occasion it referred in complimentary terms to the action taken by Senator Symon, who opposed the contingent voting system and the proportional system generally. Senator Symon pointed out the weakness of the Government proposal, and the Age applauded his action.. It also referred to the opinion expressed by John Bright in the following terms: -
John Bright denounced the Hare system as one that “ shows mistrust of the people,” and as a fad which seeks to make Parliament “ a political photograph “ of the nation in order that fads, fancies, and follies may have their representation in the House of Parliament.
Bright may have been exaggerating a little when he said that proportional representation is designed to call into being Parliaments of political lunatics, but it cannot be denied that in making electorates “ constituencies of opinion,” instead of persons, the system encourages the formation of Legislatures fit only to debate and argue abstract theories and not to make laws on subjects which are ripe in the popular intelligence.
I believe that statement focuses the present position. Parliament is not only a deliberative, but a legislative and governing, body. We come here not only to debate fads, theories, schemes, or principles, but to carry legislation and to control the public affairs of the Commonwealth. I can well understand any far-seeing man asserting that, if this work is to be properly carried out, we must have majority representation. The Right Honorable Richard Seddon was always an advocate of compulsory voting, and I believe that it was on his initiative that the New Zealand Legislature passed a law under which the names of electors who fail to record their votes at an election are struck off the roll. Their failure to exercise their right is construed as showing that they are either dead or have lef t the district. Their names are struck off the rolls ‘Unless the returning officer is presented with a medical’ certificate showing that they were unable to vote.
– And their names are almost immediately afterwards restored to the rolls.
– Neither the police nor any other officials take steps to immediately place them on the rolls, unless they make personal application. The citizens themselves must take action. I have often thought that if, instead of requiring the police to prepare voters’ lists, we made it compulsory for the electors to register their names within a certain period, we should secure more complete rolls, and avoid much expenditure. The honorable member for Yarra may shake has head, but I feel; confident that that system would prove most effective.
– When it prevailed in Victoria the number of males on the rolls was 33 per cent, below the present number.
– Were the electors required to register?
– Their names were transferred from the ratepayers’ roll to the general roll.
– If the electors knew that they would be subject to certain penalties for neglect of their right as citizens to vote, they would be careful to register their names, and the country would be saved great expense. At the same time, I feel confident that the polling at a general election would be much heavier than it is. 1 know that ideal representation is secured by the proportional system.
– In the passage the honorable member quoted, did not Bright condemn proportional representation?
– Whenever I refer to proportional representation the Minister mentions the names of Clark, Droop, or Gregory. He forgets to tell the House that the schemes of those men were all based on the contingent voting system, and that it was said that contingent voting would lead to great difficulty and confusion. I am not here to demonstrate a problem in higher mathematics - I am not here to explain either the Hare-Spence, Gregory, or Nanson system. If I were I should require a blackboard and a piece of chalk. It would be easier for me to present the Treasurer with a treatise on the differential calculus than it would be for me to give him a clear exposition of these several schemes. We cannot deal with electors as we can with a formula in mathematics. Every candidate has a personal as well as a political influence. My first reason for moving this amendment is that a general election is imminent, and that there is consequently not sufficient time for the consideration of the measure, or to make the necessary electoral arrangements if it becomes law. I do not say that the people would be unable to understand this system if it were used at the next general election. I should not cast such a reflection on electors who went to the poll. If I did I could not hold that the electors were competent to deal with the many complex problems of legislation. I do say. however, that since they have been accustomed in most of the States for years to cast only a primary vote, the system proposed under this Bill would be somewhat novel to them. The electors are to be presented with two different ballot-papers, one for the election of senators, framed according to a system which they understand, and the other for the election of members of the House of Representatives, which must be marked with the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on according to the order of preference. This will create confusion, and, moreover, will give an advantage to organized voters. In Queensland, we are told, the preferential system is rarely used, even the Minister of Home Affairs having admitted that it has affected only five elections in fourteen years. The Labour members who represent that State say that the people do not use the preferential system, and Senator Dawson has spoken of it as confusing. In Tasmania, a more definite system of proportional voting, embodying the contingent principle, and making it compulsory, was tried, but, after a trial extending over two State elections and one Federal election, they went back to a simpler arrangement.
– They gave up a good system. “ Mr. WILKS.- The Tasmanian public did not protest against its abolition.
– Yes, it did.
– We have heard no protest against the action of this Parliament in abolishing the system in connexion with Commonwealth elections. I should not have so much objection’ to the preferential system if it were made compulsory. The Minister, however, has admitted that there is not sufficient time this session for the proper consideration of the measure.
– When the honorable gentleman was moving the second reading, the honorable member for North Sydney asked him why he did not propose to apply the principle to the election of senators, and his reply was that he would be glad to do so if the Senate could find time to consider and agree to such an arrangement. But surely the concurrence of the S’enate will be asked in reference to the proposal now before us, and that will take time. I read the Minister’s speech very closely, and it seemed to me that it contained the tacit admission that we have not time to deal properly with the measure this session. Another reason why we should not pass the second reading is that there is not sufficient time within which’ to make the arrangements necessary to bring its ‘provisions into operation. Some honorable members are feigning a burning desire to go before their constituents, and are asking every day when is the election to be. I have been in Parliament for many years, but I have never known honorable members to be really desirous of going before their constituents. It seems to me that those who had the narrowest majorities at the last election are apparently the most eager to submit themselves for re-election.
– Let us not talk about it.
– That is exactly how I feel. In reply to these inquiries, the Minister of Home Affairs has said that the elections cannot take place before the 21st November, because his officers cannot have everything in readiness at an earlier date. The returning officers are amateurs, who are most anxious not to violate our complicated electoral law bv any oversight or any misunderstanding of its provisions, and if they aire asked to make themselves acquainted with an entirely new system, and to carry out the preparations and to give the instructions necessary for bringing it into operation, the elections will have to be put off until a later time. My next objection to the Bill is that its provisions are crude and incomplete. ‘ They must be incomplete so long as they remain optional. If contingent voting would prevent minority rule, and bring about majority rule, it must be made compulsory. Is this measure to be dealt with by the Government as they have dealt with all their other measures? They have not yet submitted a Bill which they have not had to seriously amend; in many cases to such an extent as to entirely alter its complexion. After the members of the Opposition have pointed out blemishes in and objections to a measure, we have had the Attorney-General or some other Minister, as in the case of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, bringing down sheaves of amendments, completely altering its structure. Is that course to be taken in regard to this Bill? Although the Government appear now to be so much in favour] of majority rule, and assert that their proposals are made in order to secure it, they brought forward no measure of this kind in 1902, when they were in power. Dotes the Minister intend now to make the contingent system compulsory? If he does not, leaving it optional, the measure will be incomplete, while, if he does, the Opposition will have the right to any credit that may exist in connexion with it, although its provisions will still be as crude as any which could well be presented to a legislative body. All the able political thinkers who have dealt with this subject favour the compulsory and not the optional adoption of the system. Another objection I have to the Bill is, that it makes no provision for increasing the number of votes polled, or for securing effective voting. Any Government honestly wishing to secure majority rule should make provision for increasing the total number of votes polled.
– I intend to move an amendment to that end.
– I am glad to hear it.
– The honorable member’s amendments are too drastic.
– He should reserve them until the Committee stage is reached.
– This young member of the Ministry which claims to long for responsible government, is unwilling to take responsibility for the principles of the
Bill, and to fight for them on the motion for the second reading, although all constitutional authorities say that the principles of a measure should be stood by at this stage. The real desire of the Ministry is to secure an advantage for their party in connexion with the Victorian elections. They ask us not to strike a hard blow at this stage ; tout are they really studying the interests of the electors’? I should be willing to assist in bringing; about the polling- of a larger number of votes, and in securing effective voting, because it is the duty of every public man to do so, but the Government are taking no steps in that direction. Their proposals will not get rid of minority representation, because organizations will direct their members not to use the contingent vote. That will at once provide for plumping, a system which was deliberately rejected when the electoral laws were under consideration before. I cannot believe that even those who have fathered this measure desire that it shall remain in force after the next general election. It is intended to be used upon that occasion alone. It is all very well for the Minister of Home Affairs to tell me that I am suspicious, but, under the circumstances, I cannot be otherwise. Three years ago the Age expressed itself very strongly against the adoption of a much superior system of voting, and now they are enlisting the assistance of Professor Nanson in, advocating the present faulty scheme. The scheme submitted to us is an abortion- I am sure that the Labour Party do not want to introduce compulsory voting. Thev would not adopt any system which would compel the Deakinites or the Reidites to go to the poll and bring about their discomfiture, whilst I could not support an optional system of preferential voting which would place undue power in the hands of the organized forces of labour. I feel perfectly sure that the measure is not expected to operate in New .South Wales, but that the Ministry have their eyes upon nine seats in Victoria, two in Tasmania, and two in Queensland, which will be affected by the adoption of the preferential voting system. This cannot be called a Commonwealth measure, because it would be only partial in its operation. On a former occasion the Minister of Trade and Customs advised the House to throw out a similar proposal, because he could not understand it. The Argus, which, like al] the other principal papers of Aus tralia, is verv. creditably conducted - I do not speak of it from a party point of view, but as a literary production - recently took the trouble to give illustrations of the manner in which the proposed new system would work out. It published several sets of figures, which, in the main, were correct ; but in the second or third illustration a mistake of 100 votes was made. When the system is so complex that the Argus becomes fogged, how can we expect the average returning officer or deputy returning officer to understand it? It would not be fair to call upon our electoral officers to introduce a new system of voting upon such very short notice. If they were called upon to undertake such an unreasonably heavy task, grievous, blunders would be inevitable, and the public would be bewildered. At the first Federal election the electors were invited to vote by striking out the names of the candidates for whom they did not desire to vote. At the next election they were told that they must put a cross against the name of the candidate they preferred, and now they are told that they are to put a figure against the name of each candidate to indicate the order of their preference. There are thousands of persons who, with a view to protect their own privileges, and with other objects in view, will fail to indicate the order of their preference, and the conditions under which the polling is carried on will be rendered more irritating than ever. The more trouble that is involved so far as the electors are concerned, the smaller our polls will become, whereas it should be our endeavour to make our arrangements for recording votes as simple as possible. We should also aim at announcing the results of the elections without undue delay. I do not, therefore, believe in the adoption of complicated systems of voting. The Minister of Home Affairs tells us that the proposed new system cannot be applied to the Senate, but I contend that there is more) reason why it should be applied to the Senate elections than to those for the return of members to this House. In New South Wales, there will be at least fifteen candidates for three vacancies iri the Senate, and electors should, in that case, if in any, have an opportunity to express their preference. Under the present system, they have either to cast a block vote for those who are nominated by the party to which they belong, or have to select one or two men whom they like, and others whom they do not like.
– They should not be called upon to vote for men whom they do not like.
– I am sure that the honorable member would not care to go hack to the three-cornered -constituency plan that existed in England many years ago.
– I believe in plumping.
– I do not, because I consider it to be the most undemocratic system of voting.
– Why should an elector be compelled to vote for a man whom he does not like or want as a representative?
– A man should vote for principles and not upon personal grounds. The honorable member for Maranoa is not known all over Queensland. People know his name, however, and they vote for him as a representative of the party to which he belongs. It is the same in New South Wales. I do not pretend that Senator Neild, who had 189,000 votes recorded in his favour, at the last Federal election, obtained that very large record on the strength of his own personality and his own merits. He- was on the party ticket, and it was the power of the party that secured him such large support. I have no doubt that similar results will be brought about in Victoria if the newspapers arrange to support any particular group of candidates, or the Protectionist Association take a similar step. There is much more reason why we should adopt the preferential voting system in connexion with the Senate elections, because in that case it would have a distinct tendency towards the destruction of minority rule. If the electors are to express their preference, it should be made compulsory for them to do so. I believe that the Government have introduced this measure for the protection of their own political lives, and I blame them for thinking that we are such fools as not to see through their manoeuvre. Thev are struggling for their political existence.
– Why shouldn’t thev?
– Is it right to tamper with the electoral machinery in order to serve political ends?
– I have never known a political party-
– Order ! I must ask honorable members not to carry on conversations across the Chamber. I have had frequent occasions to call attention to the transgressions of honorable members in that respect.
– As I have said, the eyes of the Government are attracted to the nine seats in Victoria which would be affected by the adoption of the proposed new system.
– And to the twenty-seven seats in New South Wales, too.
– I have shown that none of the seats in that State would be affected, but that the measure would be effective mainly in Victoria. If the Government would only admit that their object was as I have indicated, we ‘could more, readily understand the change of front on the part of .their principal press supporter, which, upon a former occasion, whipped with scorpions a much better proposal. I have endeavoured to show that the new system would play into the hands of well organised political bodies, and although I hope to see the day when the polls at election time will be larger than at present, and when majority; rule will obtain, I cannot support the measure now before us. I have no desire, as has been suggested, to sand-bag the Bill, but I have given unreasons, which, I think, are sufficiently cogent, for desiring that it should be set aside, and that a thoroughly scientific and up-to-date proposal should be submitted next session.
.- The chief force of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Dalley appears to lie in paragraph 1 of his proposal. Personally, I am never much impressed by a series of amendments upon the motion for the second reading of a Bill, because they introduce so many matters which may lead to discussion, and thus induce honorable members to be led away from the consideration of the main question. There is, however, some force in paragraph 1 of the amendment, because it is an extraordinary circumstance that, although we passed an Electoral Act in 1905, when the question of the amendment of our electoral law was raised on a somewhat elaborate scale, not a word was then said regarding the imperfect working of the present system. That was less than a year ago. At that time, we passed a fairly comprehensive Electoral Act, the scope of which was almost as great as the principal Act itself, but not a single word was uttered concerning the necessity for an amendment of the law in the direction which is now indicated, and no hint was given that the single electorate system was working so badly that it was deemed necessary to apply a corrective to its acknowledged evils. So fair as one can say so without a breach of the respect due to our statutory laws, I certainly think that that system is unsatisfactory. Under our Constitution, we are required to undertake a periodical rearrangement of our electoral districts.- To provide for the shifting of population, we are required to have a shuffling of the constituencies, which, according to one of the reports presented to the United States S’enate, “ reduces electorates to a mere fortuitous concourse of atoms.” We cannot overcome that difficulty, because it is one of the results of that section of our Constitution which provides for a periodic re-apportionment of political representation as population changes. But the other evil, that attaching to the single electorate members, can be overcome. It is as 01 corrective of that evil that this Bill has been introduced. That it would work all right, I have no doubt whatever. In Germany, and also in Sweden, the same system was introduced, and, notwithstanding the vaticinations that it would break down, it has worked excellently. It has also been tried in Tasmania, where, so far as my reading goes, it was very popular. Why it has not been continued I cannot explain ; only recently I have heard representatives of Tasmania speak well of it. I read the results of two elections which were held in that State under the contingent-voting system, and I know that they were favorable to it. There were very few informal votes cast - in fact, I do rot think that the percentage of such votes was greater than that cast under our existing system.
– It was less.
– I think that ih; honorable member is correct. Moreover, the result of the elections was quickly known. In Belgium the elector is allowed to make use of a pre-arranged system of preference ; the system works excellently there, and it has produced a fair approximation to a proper proportion between the number of representatives returned to Parliament and the state of parties in the country - a far greater approximation to that ideal than had ever been obtained in Belgium, and which we all desire to achieve. Though the scrutiny of the votes runs into tremendous numbers, the work has been done expeditiously. In France, the Chamber of Deputies has asked that the system of proportional representation which was in vogue in Belgium shall be adopted.
– That is not the system which is contained in the Bill under consideration.
– I understand that. If the ‘honorable member will be patient, I shall have a few words to say against the Bill presently. The theory that the system of preferential voting would break down in practice has not been supported by experience. What the Government propose is merely a corrective to the acknowledged evils of the single member system. The true cure, however, is to be found in the abolition of that system, and the adoption of a system of proportional representation. My objection to this Bill is that at the end of the session, and when we are within two months of a general election, we ought not to introduce a new method of voting without even proceeding upon radical lines - -without doing more than patching up a bad system. Undoubtedly the adoption of the system outlined in this Bill would lead to confusion in the Electoral Department. It would also to some extent confuse the electors, who are no more the embodiment of human wisdom than are members of Parliament. The single member system is a bad one, because to a large extent the result of an election is left to chance, inasmuch as it is dependent upon the apportionment of parties throughout the electoral districts, and upon the cohesion of parties within those districts. It is possible for parties to be so distributed throughout the State that there may be a very small majority of a particular party in a majority or all of the districts. We mav thus achieve one of the most vicious endsat which we could aim, namely, pure majority representation. So far as honorable members aim at that result, they are aiming at the very opposite of a democracy. Democratic government does not consist in the representation only of a majority, but in the representation of parties in accordance with their strength. It does seek, however, to give effect to majority rule after the voice of all fairly large parties has been heard. It is a prostitution of the ideal of democratic government to say that it must secure absolute majority rule in every constituency throughout the Commonwealth. In order to get rid of the possibility of minority rule, outside bodies - and I am not speaking of one political party only - are obliged to select candidates to represent them. What is the result ? Undoubtedly the effect is to narrow political life, and to bring the expression of political opinion from the glare of publicit v, where men are checked by opinions not altogether assumed for party purposes, to small committees or parties, these committees to a certain extent being worked, perhaps, by still smaller committees. The biggest electorates in America are ruled by small committees, which select the candidates to be nominated. In many cases the final nomination depends upon the “boss” of these committees. The result is a parody of representative government.
– Government by committee.
– Exactly. That is what we are coming to under the caucus system ; and I am not using that term in the restrictive sense in whch it is usually applied to the Labour Party. Under it men are compelled to degrade their moral fibre, and to kow-tow to small committees, in order to secure the privilege of appearing upon the hustings with some prospect of success. That is one of the acknowledged evils of the single member system. The indirect result is to compel’ men to do that class of political touting which, even in the case of Ministries, is too often successful, in order to obtain permission to state their honest convictions upon the public platforms of the country. That is the position which obtains in America. In a report which was presented to the American Senate upon the working of the single member system, it is declared that men who were not willing to sacrifice their own judgment and conscience to the behest of party. and to become the servile echo of those who are their inferiors in knowledge, do not allow their names to be submitted as candidates for Congress or the Legislature, as it is certain that they -would be defeated. John Stuart Mill puts the true ideal thus -
In a really equal democrary every and any section would be represented not disproportion, ally, but proportionally.
That result is to be secured, not toy a Bill of this character-
– John Stuart Mill wished to change the whole character of Parliament.
– He desired to introduce the system of proportional representation as it was advocated by Leonard Courtney and bv varions parties in Australia, and which was so clearly expounded by a woman of very great brains and patriotism in South Australia - I refer to Miss Spence. When we find men like Mr. Henry Fawcett strongly advocating it, and talking of the fetish of majority rule as being diametrically opposed to the first principle of democracy, which is representation in .proportion to numbers, we ought to feel called upon to fairly examine the merits of that system. I may add that in America there was one man who attempted to break down this caucus system - a man for whose memory we should entertain the greatest respect, because he was an individual of great ability and splendid patriotic instinct - I refer to the late Henry George. He stood for the Presidency of the United States as an independent candidate, who did not seek the support of any political party or caucus, and he polled a very large number of votes. A man of his popularity and great intellectual fibre, notwithstanding the splendid loyalty of his following, was unable to obtain the support of more than a fairly large minority of the electors. This shows how hopeless is the task of a man of independence who endeavours to break down the effect of the one-member system, and that of the caucus. The last election in Great Britain afforded conclusive evidence of the fact that the one-member system works badly. I remember reading two articles in the Times - one of which I noted, and which I have looked up this afternoon - on the question of electoral methods. In one of these articles the Times reviewed the morality of the system of canvassing, and dealt with the necessity of placing a check on the evils arising from the working of the one-member system. It also dealt with the question of the second ballot and transfer vote, proposals for which are now embodied in this Bill. The point I wish to make is that the solution of the difficulty lies not in either of these systems, but in the introduction of a system of proportional representation. On the 27th of January last the Times wrote -
The difficulty might, however, apparently be overcome by what is known as “ the transferable “ vote….. Probably if either were presented to Parliament it would be confronted by a formidable rival in the system of proportional representation which was advocated by John Stuart Mill, and, in a revised and simplified form, has long had a sturdy champion in Mr. Leonard Courtney.
If I remember rightly, Mr. Leonard Courtney, in 1884 or 1885, when the Gladstone
Electoral Representation Bill and the Redistribution Bill were under discussion, gave a very fine exposition of the principle of this system. Gladstone then threw cold water on it, but his objection was levelled at the fact that it was an invasion of a longstanding, system which had, in effect, grown round the hearts and prejudices of the people of England. The Times points out that at the last election, under the onemember system, there were 529 contests in counties and boroughs, and that the. Ministerialists polled 2,818,878 votes, and secured the return of 396 members. The Unionists, on the other hand, polled 2,233,685. and secured a representation of only 129 members. In other words, the Liberals represent an average of 7,118 electors per member, whereas the Opposition represent an average of 17,315 per member. In Wales the Opposition, polled four-ninths of the electors. They secured a total of 52,637 votes, bud did not get a seat; whereas 90,000 Ministerialists won thirty seats. In Manchester ten Ministerialists were returned by 51,000 votes, as against 34,000 polled in opposition to them, whilst in Birmingham only eight Oppositionists were returned by 51,000 votes to 23,000 votes. This shows that, under the one-member system, we do not obtain ideal results. It is said by some that the irregularities in one district will counterbalance those of another; but that is not a proper system. Under it, large minorities are silenced in, the, one district, and their only consolation is that in another district a minority, holding the same views as they do, have secured representation. That is not such a result as justifies the continuance of the one-member system. My objections to this Bill are that it has been introduced when the general election is very near; that it is simply a proposal to patch up a bad system ; that it evades a question, which, ought to be thoroughly threshed out in this House ; and that we should have an amendment of the electoral law in a different direction. We should have an amendment providing for a system of proportional representation on the lines - subject, of course, to some changes to make it applicable to local conditions - that have been adopted in Belgium, the Swiss cantons, and also in Tasmania, where it seems to have been successful. For these reasons, if a division be taken, I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill, although I cannot allege as one of the grounds of my opposition that I think that the proposed machinery would not work effectually. I do not think that the actual calculations would not be properly made by the returning officers, or that there is a possibility of a great number of informal votes being cast. The experience of Tasmania shows that the number of informal votes would not be likely to be large, and we have no reason to assume that the remaining electors of the Commonwealth would display less intelligence.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas has delivered a speech more in condemnation of the one-member system than of the Bill itself. What he contends for is not majority representation, as, it is said, would be secured bv this Bill, but for minority representation.
– No ; I contend for both.
– The proportional system of voting means the representation of minorities - it does not mean that minority representation shall prevail. I believe just as firmly as do the Government in majority representation ; but I hold that we shall not secure it bv passing this Bill. I wish to test the feeling of the House by moving am amendment. I should be very pleased if I were sent here as the representative of the majority of the electors in my constituency, and I think it is time we took action to bring about such a desirable state of affairs in relation to all the electorates of the Commonwealth. For reasons that I shall briefly give, I am opposed to the Bill ; but should the second reading be agreed to I shall move in Committee the insertion, of a new clause, to the effect that any elector who fails without just cause or excuse to vote at an election shall be fined 5s. It is unnecessary to provide a severe penalty ; but I do think that it is the duty of every citizen to take an interest in the candidature of those who, if successful, will have to make the laws under which he lives. A very small penalty would be sufficient to insure a large vote at every election.
– Why spring the amendment on the House at this stage?
– Because I wish honorable members to have an opportunity to consider its effect. I have just as strong an objection to important amendments being suddenly proposed in Committee as I have to the introduction of a measure of this kind in the last weeks of the session. It has been suggested by the Minister of Home Affairs that the Bill was not introduced because of party considerations. Whom is it intended to assist ? So far as I can see, it would probably have the effect of causing the rejection of several labour candidates.
– It is intended to assist the electors.
– I. was very much amused by the illustrations of the working of the system which were given last week by the Age and the Argus. In no illustration was it shown that a labour candidate could succeed.
– Prophecies are not always accurate.
– But in this case the wish was father to the thought.
– Quite so, and I think I shall be able to show that the illustrations given by those newspapers correctly indicate what is likely to be the effect of the system. The Age stated that there would be a possibility of a tie in some cases, and that the candidates in that event would draw lots ; but I notice that, even in such circumstances, the labour candidates, in the illustration, lost. To my mind, this shows precisely how the system would work. What would be the result of an election in which we had a labour candidate, a liberal-protectionist candidate, and a free-trade candidate? Under the contingent voting system, the supporters of the protectionist candidate would vote anti-Socialism, and would exercise their second choice in favour of the freetrade candidate. Although the labour candidate might be leading on the first count, and his supporters might have exercised their contingent vote, the supporters of the other two would not give a contingent vote for him, so that, if he failed to secure an absolute majority on the first count, he would necessarily be superseded by one of the other candidates. Is it reasonable to assume that if the system were optional I should cast my second vote for one of the other candidates in the circumstances to which I have referred? I do not wish to record a vote for any one with whose views I am not in sympathy. If the system is to be adopted, it certainly must be compulsory in order to be effective. In Queensland it has not been compulsory. The Minister said that in only five cases during the last fourteen years had it affected any election. I wish that the honor able and learned gentleman had mentioned them specifically, for I was under the impression that it had affected only two electorates.
– I have the official statement that it has affected five.
– It would be most interesting to look up the cases in question, and to ascertain the effect of the voting. The illustration which the Minister drew from the Queensland system was not a happy one. There is another point worthy of consideration. Under the. Bill contingent voting is not to be compulsory, and I should like to know what will be the position if in any electorate very few contingent votes are polled, and no candidate secures an absolute majority?
– Even then the relative majority in the end will count.
– We are approaching this proposed vital change in our electoral system far too hurriedly. It is, moreover, in my opinion, a mistake to make it partial by applying it to the elections for one House only. We should, above all things, try to secure uniformity in our electoral methods, and apply the same system to the election of the two Houses. The statements which have been made as to what would happen if the provisions of the Bill were in force are very misleading. In today’s Age an attempt is made to show that a Labour representative would have been elected for Corangamite had the proposed system been in force at the time of the last election. But its illustration is, however, incomplete. There were four candidates for Corangamite. The successful candidate, who now represents the electorate here, was returned because of the support of 4,600 votes. The next candidate, Dunne, who, the Age says, was a Labour candidate-
– He was not.
– I will assume, for the purposes of my argument, that the Age is right for once. Dunne polled 4,036 votes, Woods, the third candidate, who was said to be running on practically the same ticket as Dunne, 1,484 votes; and Wynne, the fourth candidate, 2,968 votes. The Age comes to the conclusion that Dunne would have been returned under the preferential system, because Woods’ votes would have been added to his. Nothing, however, is said of Wynne’s votes, which would probably have gone to the candidate at the head of the poll, giving him a large majority-over the combined second and third votes. In my opinion, the measure does not provide for majority representation, though it is possible to secure it, or something nearly approaching it, by the adoption of my amendment, if the Ministry are in earnest in regard to this matter, and will apply the same system to the elections for both; the Senate and the House of Representatives. I cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley, because it affirms that it is not expedient to proceed further with the Bill during the present session, while, in my opinion, it is not expedient to proceed with it at all. I wish to see a straight-out vote taken on the proposal of the Government. If I were a Ministerialist I should support the Bill, because that party has everything to gain from it, while the Labour Party has everything to lose where a Government and a Labour candidate are running for the same constituency. But, while I do not blame the Ministry for doing what they can in the interests of their, party, I should blame the Labour Party if they did not do all they could in their own interests. Before makin up my mind definitely as to my action regarding the second and third reading, I shall listen further to the discussion which may be expected to take place on the motion. , .
. I am opposed to the Bill. I cannot conceive why, if Ministers think that its provisions should be embodied in our electoral law, they did not make an attempt to embody them when an amending Bill was before us last session. Whatever the motive, it seems to me that the measure has been introduced as an afterthought. The Prime Minister, the other day, said, very unfairly, that the leader of the Opposition, now that he has been given an opportunity to provide for majority rule, runs away from it. That statement was not correct, to say the least of it. The right honorable gentleman has been travelling all over Australia, not to advocate the preferential system of voting now proposed, but to urge the electors to go to the polls of their own free will, and vote for the candidates whom they think will best represent them. Moreover, the Bil] will not do what it professes to do. It by no means insures majority voting, and, if passed as it stands, most of the voting will be similar to that) which takes place now. If the measure becomes law as it stands, I shall ask those who will vote for me to place the figure, 1 against my name, and not to use their remaining preferential votes, and no doubt other candidates will give the same instruction. Therefore, the Prime Minister was altogether unfair in the reference which he made to the attitude of the leader of< the Opposition. Even if the exercise of the preferential vote were made compulsory, the Bill would not insure majority representation. What would take place would be that the preferential votes would be cast, not in the real order of preference, but for the men whom the electors thought had the least chance of success, and we should not encourage that kind of voting. Under the compulsory contingent voting system, the friends of candidates .will try to get the electors to place the number 1 opposite the name of the man whom they support, and to allot their remaining preference to the weakest men, and the result may be, in some cases, the return, not of the man whom the majority think best fitted to represent them, but of the weakest man, whom probably a majority of the electors would not like to see elected. That sort of thing has occurred already. When voters are not allowed to plump, they sometimes vote first for the candidate whom they particularly wish to elect, and give their other votes to candidates whom they think have the least chance of success. While the Prime Minister, when speaking at Maryborough, denounced the Opposition for having wasted time, the charge is one which might justly be brought against the Government. I was willing to destroy the Bounties Bill because I do not believe in the bounty system, and therefore cannot rightly be accused of wasting time in the action which I took to secure my object; but the Government are deliberately wasting time in introducing a Bill which cannot effect its avowed purpose. Of course, the Government may try to get the Opposition to amend the measure so as to make it serviceable. The honorable member for Dalley says that he will vote for the preferential system if it is made compulsory. I, however, am opposed to the Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. There is a good deal to be said for proportionate voting, but it is useless to think of radically altering our electoral system at this stage in the life of the Parliament. Proportionate voting is, in my opinion, theoretically sound. I do not know why the Tasmanian system failed; but if the proportionate system can be carried into effect, it should have our support, as being likely to give every elector his proper share in determining the legislation of the country. The Minister of Home Affairs must know that the Bill will not achieve the object which he professes to have in view, namely, majority rule. It will be an absolute failure. We have heard some reference made to the fact that in Victoria the fewest number of voters returned the largest number of candidates to the Senate at the last election. If that be so, the evil which it is sought to cure exists in a still greater degree in connexion! with the Senate elections than with those of the House of Representatives. If preferential voting is to be permitted in connexion with the election of members to this Chamber, the same system should be followed in connexion with the Senate elections. If it is right in one case, it is right in the other. Ministers say that they wish to bring about majority rule, but they do not propose to apply to both Houses the system of voting which is expected to achieve that end. I realize that it would be difficult to educate the ejectors to the point of enabling them to understand the preferential voting system by the time that the general elections come on. If preferential voting were made compulsory, a large number of informal votes would be recorded. If it is not intended to make it compulsory for the electors to express their preference, the present system should not be interfered with. I shall vote for the amendment, and, if that is defeated. I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill.
– I intend to vote against the amendment, because it is intended to kill the Bill. At the same time, I am absolutely opposed to the contingent voting system. Some fourteen or fifteen years ago that system was introduced into Queensland by the Honorable A. H. Barlow, the present Minister of Education in that State. The object was to “dish” the Labour Party; but the Act failed to achieve its purpose. The Labour Party in Queensland urged the voters not to have anything to do with the system, and that advice has been religiously followed. I see no reason why the ballot should be complicated in the manner proposed. It seems to me that the Bill is intended to add to the bewilderment of the electors. The contingent voting system was used in Queensland for the first time in 1893. The Honorable
– The proportion of votes recorded at the second ballot is generally very small.
– All the candidates submit themselves at the second ballot.
– I do not! see anything in that to object to. Under the contingent voting system, it would be possible for one man who registered 500 votes out of 1,000 to be defeated upon the second or third count by one of three other candidates who had polled only 500 first votes between them. Therefore, the will of the majority would not be asserted. The man who polled 500 primary votes might, upon the third or fourth count, be rejected because no contingent votes were recorded in his favour. That has happened in some cases.
– That would practically establish minority rule.
– Exactly. The honorable member for Hindmarsh put the matter very clearly. The Age worked the whole thing out very nicely, but their calculations reminded me of the Irishman who insisted that he was still 5s. short in his wages, although he was assured that he had received a rise in his salary. I notice that, according to the Age calculations, the Labour Party are defeated every time. That, in itself, would have been sufficient to show me that the whole scheme was .wrong. I will put another case. Suppose that in my electorate there were three candidates - myself, a free-trader, and a protectionist. I should certainly poll every labour vote, but I should not receive the support of any boodler or squatter in the electorate.
– The honorable member is a squatter himself.
– That does not matter. I am a Labour man first. I believe in the masses - nob in the classes. I have had the good luck to rise a little bit out of the ruck, but I have not forgotten, and I never shall forget the time when I went through the mill. The electors know very well that, whilst I am representing them, I shall do the best I can for them, and that no one will be able to accuse me of giving a class vote. I have received letters from my constituents conveying thanks for the votes I have given in various matters, and expressing the opinion that I am looking after the interests of the constituency, and not studying those of any particular class. If a protectionist and a free-trader were to contest my electorate against me, the free-traders would give their second preferences to the protectionist candidate, and the protectionists would give their second preferences to the free-trader, in order to defeat the labour man.
– If there were a combination of that kind at the next elections the honorable member and his party would have a very bad time.
– I do not know about that. The honorable members for Macquarie, Parramatta, Lang, and Hunter, when they attend tea-and-bun fights, and address the women electors, urge them that, whatever they do, whether they are free-traders or protectionists, to vote against the Labour Party. They tell them that it is the Labour Party of whom they have to be afraid. I do not blame them for that, because I tell the electors to do their best to down the George Reid faction and the Deakin faction, and to vote for the labour man every time.
– Then why is the honorable member supporting the present Government ?
– Because I consider that it is a better one than could be formed by members of the Opposition.
– The reason the honorable member supports the present Government is that he is obliged to do so.
– That is not correct.
– In my opinion, the honorable member would not support the present Government for a month if he were not obliged to do so.
– Never mind what the honorablemember’s opinion may be - he is not right. So far as my fiscal views are con.cerned, I candidly say that I should prefer to see the right honorable member for East Sydney in the position of Prime Minister. My opinions, so far as that is concerned,, have not changed in the slightest degree, but under present conditions, I must support the present Government. Members of the Opposition are travelling about the country fighting us as hard as they can. Thev are after our blood. They talk about cutting the claws of the tiger. I am sure that the claws of the tiger would be cut, if the contingent vote were introduced.
– Tt is the octopus, and not the tiger that we have to deal with.
– I do not know what the honorable member means. The only octopus of which I have any knowledge is the anti- Socialistic party, and if they desire the system of contingent voting, whydo they not. declare in a straightforward manner, “ We want to rule by means of the majority.”
– The Bill does not provide for that.
– The Government affirm that it will secure majority rule, and honorable members. I suppose, must trust the Government. At every meeting which I have heard honorable members opposite address, they have clamoured for majority rule. Personally, I am of opinion that, instead of the Bill safeguarding majority rule, it would have the effect of complicating the conduct of elections. If it would benefit the electors of Australia, I would support it, but my experience as an electioneering agent - and I have done a little bit of work in that capacity in my time - leads me to believe that it would not. I engineered things well enough to secure a seat in this House-
– The honorable member was returned upon his merits.
– No; I was returned by the aid of a powerful organization which was behind me. That organization has not been a bit sorry for mv return.
– - It was the honorable member’s oratorical powers which secured his election.
– No; it was my medical skill. I only hope that the honorable member’s medical skill will secure his re-election for the Hunter. Indeed, I should like to see all the present . members of the House re-elected. The main reason why I cannot support the Bill is that it would have the effect of complicating, instead of simplifying, the conduct of elections.
.- I must confess that I am opposed’ to this Bill, and I. cannot understand why it has teen sprung upon us at the eleventh hour of the session. No mention was made of it in the Governor-General’s speech at the opening of Parliament, but with the general election close at hand, it has .been suddenly launched upon the House. In this measure, I recognise the malign influence of the press. With the advent of Federation, it was hoped that the power of the press would to a certain extent be curtailed. It has been curtailed, but there is still strong evidence that this Parliament is dominated to a large extent by the Melbourne press. I firmly believe that the measure under consideration has been brought forward as the result of the influence exercised by the Age -newspaper. I am also of opinion that the average elector will experience some difficulty in comprehending the contingent-voting system which is proposed by the Government. I confess that I had great difficulty in following the explanation of that system, which has been given by the Minister. I further maintain that it would be almost impossible for the electoral officers to give effect to the provisions of the Bill on such extremely short notice. At the last general election, I polled 6,300 votes, my protectionist opponent, 6,100 votes; and the labour candidate, 900 votes. There were also 113 informal votes registered. Consequently, I was not returned by a majority of the electors, but yet I flatter myself that I represent the opinions of the people throughout that electorate.
– I am satisfied that the honorable member does not.
– I am certain that I do, and, although my constituency has been horribly mutilated, I still hope - as does the honorable member for Maranoa - that I shall continue to represent ray constituents. I arn not in favour of compulsory voting, and I do not believe that under that system we should be any better off than we are to-day. After all, no arrangement that we can make will absolutely insure the return of parliamentary representatives by the votes of a majority. I was not aware until the honorable member for Maranoa spoke that it was possible to “dish” the Labour Party in Queensland, but now that I know that it is possible I feel more assured than ever that the Bill has been brought forward by the Ministry for the purpose of bolstering up their own cause. I intend to vote against it.
– Many charges have been levelled against the Government in regard to the motive which has actuated them in bringing forward this Bill, and I should like to explain my reasons for supporting it. For many years I have been in favour of the preferential system of voting, or of the Hare system, which was formerly in operation in Tasmania. The Government are evidently gaining wisdom by experience, and they have introduced this measure to insure that honorable members shall represent a majority of the electors who choose to exercise the franchise.
– Does the Bill provide for the same system of voting as that which operated in Tasmania?
– Not exactly; but it gives effect to the same principle. I do not think that the Bill’, if passed, would benefit one political party more than it would another, but it would certainly afford the majority of the electors an opportunity to indicate the order of their preference in respect of the various candidates seeking their suffrages.
– Does the honorable member say that the same system should apply to elections for the Senate?
– I do. I certainly think that the representation of Tasmania in the Senate during the first Parliament was the best that it was possible to secure. The first election, it will be remembered, was conducted under the Hare system, and as a result the protectionists secured the return of their representative, the freetraders elected their candidate, the Labour Party secured the return of one of its members, the commercial community elected another, and those who took a great interest in defence matters were also represented.
– Why was the Hare system abandoned in Tasmania?
– I cannot tell. I know that a meeting was called at Launceston, and that, after a discussion extending over two hours, a resolution condemning that system was rejected. Thereupon
I submitted a motion approving of the Hare system, and it was carried by an overwhelming majority.
– The State elections of Tasmania are not conducted under that system ?
– No. I think that is because a number of members of the Legislative Council, who are very old, and who do not take the trouble to study it, are opposed to it.
– The honorable member does not call the system which is embodied in the Bill the Hare system?
– No. If the Bill reaches Committee we can make it apply to the elections for the Senate. Personally, I intend to support the measure.
.- The first thing that strikes me in connexion with this Bill is that it bears a remarkable resemblance to other measures which have been introduced by the Government, in that it professes to do something which its provisions are designed to defeat. It is ostensibly brought forward for the purpose of establishing the principle of majority rule. But when we come to examine its provisions we can easily see that it will fail to accomplish that object. The result of passing it will not be to secure majority rule, but in certain contingencies to effectively insure minority rule. To that extent it is a denial of that broad democratic principle in which so many honorable members believe - the principle of majority representation. The honorable member for Maranoa made an assertion which was tantamount to an accusation that the Opposition is opposed to this Bill because it provides for the giving of effect to that principle. In the immediately succeeding sentence he proceeded to show that it does not provide for anything of the kind.
– In my opinion, it does not.
– It is said that its object is to accomplish majority representation, but it will have the opposite effect. That must be the view of any one who has analyzed the Bill. It bears on its face evidence of being simply a Victorian measure. As usual with all the Bills introduced by the present Government-
– That statement is not correct in regard to this or any measure that the Government have introduced.
– I repeat that, like all other Bills introduced by the Government, it is purely a Victorian measure. It is to give Victoria an advantage that will not be enjoyed by the other States.’
– What ground has the honorable member for such a statement?
– I do not think that it is a Victorian Bill. The honorable member should say that it is an Age Bill.
– I was about to say that it is a Victorian Bill, engineered and prompted by the Age. If the Government were really anxious to so amend our electoral laws as to give effect to the democratic principle of majority rule, why did they not indicate in the Governor-General’s speech their intention to do so? If the omission from that speech of any reference to such an intention was accidental, why did they not avail themselves of the opportunity to bring in these proposals when the amending Electoral Bill was under consideration? At that time, however, no thing was said by them as to the necessity for altering our voting system in this direction. We have recently seen in the Age articles-
– Articles written by Professor Nanson, whose scheme it condemned a few years ago:
– I believe that the articles to which I refer were prompted, if not written, by Professor Nanson, and that the germ of the present idea is traceable to the Age office. The Age is responsible for much of the mischievous legislation that has been introduced by the Government. It seems to me that it is not the Government which frames the Bills submitted to us, but that, they have their birth in a certain newspaper office in Collinsstreet. A most enthusiastic effort is invariably made by the Government to give effect to legislation suggested from that quarter. These proposals, instigated from the Age office, and of an intensely mischievous character, are an insult to the House. Few of the measures introduced by the Government are as mild as is the one now before us ; but I contend that even this Bill will be mischievous in its effect. As showing that it is merely an Age measure, prompted by the belief that it will give Victoria an advantage which she would not enjoy under the pre. sent system, I would point out that Victoria is at present the great shocking example of minority representation. The returns show that at the last general election seventeen seats were uncontested, and that of the remaining fifty-eight constituencies forty-five returned representatives by majority votes. Only thirteen out of the fifty-eight returned representatives on minority votes. Of these thirteen, nine were in Victoria, two in Queensland, none in New South Wales, two in Tasmania, none in South Australia or Western Australia. It will thus be seen that Victoria embraces the largest number of constituencies that have returned representatives on minority votes. The polling in these constituencies was as follows : -
These figures show that the number of electorates which returned representatives on minority votes form only a small proportion of the whole; the overwhelming majority pf the constituencies returned representatives by majority votes. In these circumstances, the question of urgency has no weight, and may be at once dismissed. We are entitled to inquire what is the reason for the sudden anxiety displayed by the Government to give effect to a principle which was certainly just as urgent six years ago as it is to-day. This Bill has been brought forward on the eve of a general election, when there is no time to give the constituencies reasonable notice of the contemplated change, and certainly insufficient time to educate the electors as to the operation of the new system. There is no justification for the charge that the Opposition are seeking to prevent the Government from bringing about legislation by majority rule. The Prime Minister and his colleagues know that there is not the slightest foundation for such an accusation. I U0 not know that I should be in orderin describing such an attack as a very cowardly one, but honorable men cer- tainly cannot consider it to be justifiable even from the stand-point of political tactics. .On referring to the speech recently delivered by the Prime Minister at Maryborough, I find that he is reported to have said -
The leader of the Opposition desires majority rule.
That statement is perfectly correct. The leader of the Opposition, in common with every member on this side of the House, certainly desires majority rule. I do not claim that as a virtue exclusively possessed by the Opposition; I am willing to concede that there are honorable members on all sides who are as anxious as we are to secure it. The Prime Minister went on to say -
From Cape York all over Australia that gentleman has bewailed the fact that although the electors could go to the poll, the man elected might not represent the majority of the people. He has demanded a scheme that would remedy this, and at one time even commended the scheme which we submit now.
I have no recollection of having either read or heard of a statement by the leader of the Opposition that he desires such a system ; I have not read of his making such a statement during his Queensland or any other tour’; but I have heard him declare that he desires that the people shall record their votes. He has bewailed the fact that there is so much apathy among the public, and has pointed out that those who blame Parliament for its legislation are themselves responsible for the present state of affairs, because they have not taken the trouble to go to the poll to secure the return of candidates representing the views of the majority. He has always eulogised the organization of the Labour Party, so far as it has resulted in having the names of electors placed on the rolls and in bringing the electors to the polls, and he has pointed out to those who complain of such legislation, as is naturally to be expected in the circumstances, that if they did their duty, and recorded their votes, different results might be looked for. Those are the lines on which the leader of the Opposition has conducted his meetings, and yet the Prime Minister, with a full knowledge of the facts, deliberately conveyed to the public an incorrect idea as to his attitude. f am surprised that the honorable and learned gentleman resorted to .such tactics. To continue the quotation -
There is no mon who wants to run further and faster from this scheme than the same leader of the Opposition. A characteristic performance, but one which must be driven home to the people of the country.
That statement goes beyond the bounds of decency in political warfare, because it is an absolute misrepresentation of facts of which no one is more fully aware than is the honorable and learned gentleman. The report continues -
We have put the Opposition to the test with the touchstone of a practical offer. I am prepared to say that I would be in favour of making it compulsory for every elector to indicate his preference on the voting paper, and I am prepared to extend the same system to the Senate. But, recognising the period of our session, we brought it forward in a more mild form, and leave it to the Senate to come in. Now, men that talked against minority rule till they should have been a different colour in the face, are opposed to this. And why? Because Parliament is near its close. Because there was other business to be done. Any reason but the real one - that they like minority representation, because they hope they can score more out of it than we can. That shows what you have to expect when you trust other declarations from the same men.
The Prime Minister knew that there was no justification in fact for such statements, and it is to be deplored that one in his high station should deliberately try to mislead and hoodwink the electors. In my opinion, the Bill will not do what its authors profess it is intended to do. Professor Nanson, in this morning’s Age, says, of the contingent voting system -
For every contest will be between three parties, and in very few cases will any party run two candidates. Thus the result of the first count will show the strength of each party, say, free-traders 500, Labour 400, protectionists 300. So soon as these figures are announced the merest tyro can foresee the result of the election. When the protectionist candidate at the foot of the poll is rejected, all the protectionist votes will go’ to the Labour candidate, who will thereby secure election. But if the preferential vote is not used, if the safety valve is not applied to the body politic, the free-trader will be elected by a minority vote.
Then he warns the Labour Party that -
This simple example ought to open the eyes of the Labour Party to what they have to gain by the preferential vote. Can they any longer fail to see why it is that the preferential vote is so obnoxious to the free-traders?
This sudden interest in the welfare of the Labour Party is hardly calculated to deceive the members of that party, especially if the article from which I have just quoted is compared with other articles which have appeared in the Age on the same subject. Now, if it is assumed that the Labour candidate polls the lowest number of votes, and the votes cast for him have to be’ redistributed, they should then, according to this, be allotted to the protectionist candidate. But it is as likely that the majority of those voting for the Labour candidate, irrespective of fiscal considerations, will be free-traders as that they will be protectionists, and to give their votes to a protectionist, would, therefore, be to do what they were actually opposed to. In my opinion, the illustrations are altogether worthless. But I now come to the most fatal defect in the Bill. The Government professes to be anxious to establish majority rule. Yet the Bill makes it optional oh the part of the voter whether he will exercise the preferential vote or not. If there is to be_ any value in the system it can only arise from its compulsory use, and from uniformity in its application. If it is to be optional, a candidate would be a born ass who did not advise his supporters to plump for him, and absolutely to disregard any preference for every other candidate. On the face of it, therefore, the Bill is a fraud and a sham. In my opinion, it was never intended to be anything else. When the preferential system was tried in Queensland it did not bring about the result that its promoters desired. Something like it was also in operation in Tasmania, but as it has been abandonedthere it is reasonable to suppose that it was found to be ineffective. The honorable member for Maranoa has shown that in Queensland labour candidates advised their supporters not to adopt the preferential system.
– It was of no practical advantage there.
– I have no hesitation in saying that if the- Bill passes, it will merely lead to confusion. It embodies proposals which will involve two or three systems of voting at one. election on the one day. In the case of voting by post, I see that provision is made whereby those who vote have to write the names of the candidates for whom they desire to vote in the order pf their preference. I wish to know what is going to happen in the case of an illiterate voter, who is not able to write thename of the candidates on the paper?
– An illiterate voter cannot vote by post at present.
– If the illiterate voter is allowed to vote at the ballot-box by making his mark, there is no equitable reason why he should be deprived of his right to exercise the vote by post if he chooses. The Bill throughout is one which will not commend itself to the good sense of honorable members. In any case, however admirable it might be, the time at our disposal is insufficient to let the public know what changes it would make in the present voting system. If it were passed it would bring about the greatest confusion, and so far from securing effective voting, would lead to quite the opposite result. For the reasons which I have given, and for others which I could adduce, except that I desire to terminate my remarks, owing to the lateness . of the hour, I shall vote against the second reading, and support the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor), adjourned.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yes; the motion of which notice was given to-day would, if passed, enable the Bill to be dealt with to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060828_reps_2_33/>.