2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 4) presented by Mr. Watkins, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the Government intend, in accepting the invitation of the Imperial Government to send delegates to a conference in London to consider the navigation laws of the Empire, to despatch a representative of the commercial and shipping interests of the Commonwealth?
– We have replied by cable to the effect that we accept the invitation, and hope that all Australian interests will be represented.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Memorandum by the Honorable Wm. Knox, H.P., containing a proposal for the transfer of * the debts of the States to the Commonwealth.
Supplementary report on the financial problems of the Constitution by the Honorable Robert Harper, M.P. further correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales relating to the Federal Capital Site.
List of subjects suggested for discussion at the Colonial Conference.
Public Service Commissioner’s second report. (Correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania in reference to the surplus revenue returnable to that State.
Correspondence concerning the Naval Agreement.
Correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of South Australia in reference to his appointment to the High Court.
Tariff ‘Commission’s reports : -
Minutes of Evidence. Supplements lo Vols. II., ITI., and IV. (Division ITI., sugar; division IV.. agricultural products and groceries; division V., apparel and textiles; division VI., metals and machinery).
Minutes of Evidence, Vol. V. (Division VII., oils, paints, and varnishes.: division VIII., earthenware, cement, china, glass, and stone ; division IX.., drugs and chemicals: division X._, wood, wicker, cane).
Minutes of Evidence, Vol. VI. (Division XI., jewellery and fancy goods; division XII., leather and rubber; division XIII., paper and stationery : division XIV.. vehicles: division XV.. musical instruments; division XVI., miscellaneous).
Ordered to be printed.
Provisional Defence Regulations. Amendment of military financial and allowance regulations relating to contract price of rations. Statutory Rules, 1906, No. S2.
Provisional Public Service Regulation 14S. Appointments to vacancies. Statutory Rules, 1906. No. 6v
The Clerk laid upon the table
Return to an order of the House dated 12th September, with reference to the services of Mr. W. P. Hallam in regard to telephone systems.
– When in Hobart at the beginning of the week, I learned that the Commerce Act Regulations are having a most disastrous effect on the shipping of fruit there, and I think that I have the authority of the officer in charge for saying that if they continue to be enforced the result will be unfortunate in the extreme. Has the Minister received any report on the subject?
– If the honorable gentleman will let me know to what report he refers, I shall, if it has been received, obtain it at once.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he will see that from this time forward officers and gentlemen are compelled to pay at the canteens the same prices for alcoholic and non-alcoholic liquors as are charged to rankers ?
– The matter is one for the decision of the Minister of Defence, but from conversations which I have had with him, I feel sure that he intends that the canteen charges shall be uniform.
– I understand that reports have been obtained from Dr. Angus Johnson and Mr. Giddens, of Adelaide, on the experiments made in connexion with Dr. Danysz’s method of rabbit destruction. If so, will the Prime Minister lay them on the table, and have them printed?
– We have received one, and, I think, two, reports. I shall be happy to lay them on the table.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House before the prorogation of the intentions of the Government regarding the appointments to the High Court?
– It was stated in Saturday’s Brisbane Courier that the general election will be held on Thursday, 6th December. As a Saturday would be a much 1 better day than a Thursday, I hope that that date will not be adhered to.
– The statement was entirely unauthorized. No date has been fixed.
– On Friday last, the hon orable and learned member for Corio asked for certain information in regard to the alleged refusal to allow certain members of the Permanent Forces to attend police examinations. I now lay on the table the information asked for.
– If it is considered necessary to make visits of inspection to Federal Capital Sites which have not yet been visited, will the Government arrange for them prior to the meeting of the new Parliament, so as to secure the greatest expedition in the final settlement of the question?
– That course would be most desirable if it were not that the new Parliament will assemble immediately as required by the Constitution. There may be nn interval later, which might be occupied as the honorable member suggests.
– In connexion with the regrading of post-offices in New South Wales, what is the reason for permitting a number of postmasters, who are gazetted for removal, to remain in their old offices, while others desiring to remain in their old positions, even at the sacrifice of promotion, were not permitted to do so? In the event of other postmasters or other officers desiring to remain in their present offices, foregoing promotion, will they be permitted to do so ? If not, will the Minister of Home Affairs ascertain the reasons for allowing some to do so and refusing permission to others ?
– I shall try to obtain the information asked for.
– Where a medical certificate is forwarded, showing that the removal of a postmaster from any district would be detrimental to his health, will it be regarded as sufficient to prevent such a transfer ?
– The matter is one for the Public Service Commissioner ; but so many medical certificates are sent in that I think he would require further reasons. If the honorable member will state any definite case, I shall be pleased to> lay it before the Public Service Commissioner.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The prices for1905 were shown in red ink alongside the prices for the current year; but through an oversight on the part of the military authorities, the return did not include a list of the reduced prices charged to sergeants’ messes and to officers. The list in Hansard referred to by the honorable member requires to be read in conjunction with the lists furnished on the 2nd inst.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the Bill as amended at its request.
Message received from the Senate inti mating that it had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives in the Bill.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message insisting on amendments in clause 3.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Australian standard malt whisky “… must have been distilled … at a strength not exceeding forty-five per cent, over proof. “Australian blended whisky” . . . must have been distilled at a strength not exceeding forty -five per cent, over proof.
Senate’s Message. - Amendments leaving out “forty-five” and inserting “thirty-five” insisted on.
– As we have twice asked the Senate to accept “ fortyfive,” and it has twice insisted on its amendment leaving out “forty-five” and inserting “ thirty-five,” I now move byway of compromise -
That the amendments be disagreed to, and that the words “forty-five” be left out, with a view to insert “ forty.”
– What is the recommendation of the Tariff Commission?
– Their recommendation is “thirty-five,” but the Chairman afterwards agreed that “forty-five” would be better.
– Will this compromise be accepted by the Senate?
– I have made inquiries and hope that it will be.
.- If the compromise will not be accepted, we had better stick to “ forty-five.” There was a difference of opinion among, the members of the Tariff Commission, and it would be unfortunate if our deliberate decision were set aside because of the pressure of the members of another place, who took the view of the minority. Several remonstrances were sent to me against the insertion of “ thirty-five.” It has been pointed out that very often wine made at a strength less than thirty-five degrees over proof will by keeping sometimes increase to a strength of thirty-seven or thirty-eight degrees, and thus become unsaleable under the Distillation Act, although foreign wines are sold at an alcoholic strength of up to, and, if I am not mistaken, exceeding forty degrees. However, if there is a possibility of forty degrees being accepted, I will agree to the motion.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the amendments with modifications.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a message pressing requested amendments in the schedule.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Spirits, viz. : -
Senate’s Message. - Requests, leaving out “45” and inserting “ 35,” and leaving out “11s.” and inserting “ 12s.” - pressed.
.-Inthis measure the Senate have requested that amendments shall be made similar to those effected in the measure with which we have just dealt. I move -
That the Senate’s requested amendments in items 4 and 5 be modified by leaving out the figures “ 35 “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “40.”
Motion agreed to.
– I regret to say that the Senate have also decided to press their request that the Excise duty leviable upon blended whisky shall be 12s. instead of11s., as proposed by this House. The reasons for fixing the Excise duty at the lower rate have been given upon two or three occasions, and honorable members, by a large majority, have supported the recommendations of the Tariff Commission in this regard. Unfortunately, the division which took place in the Senate showed a majority of more than two to one m favour of imposing the increased rate, and it would appear to be hopeless to expect that decision to be reversed. It is not necessary to repeat the arguments that have been used with regard to the expensiveness of the materials which have to be used in the distillation of the spirits used for making blended whisky, as compared with those utilized in the manufacture of other spirits. I move -
That the Senate’s requested amendment leaving out “n” and inserting “12” be agreed to.
– I shall support the motion, because I think that the amendment will make the whole scale of Excise duties more symmetrical than before.
– The Tariff Commission took the contrary view.
– In view of the composition of blended whisky, I do. not know how the Tariff Commission could come to any other conclusion. We proposed to charge an Excise duty of 11s. per gallon upon blended whisky containing 25 per cent, of pure barley malt whisky dutiable at 10s., and of 75 peT cent, of spirit n.e.i., which, under ordinary circumstances, would be subject to an Excise duty of 13s. per gallon. Averaging the duties over the two classes of spirits contained in blended whisky, the Excise duty would amount to about 12s. 3d. per gallon, which would approximately be the amount fixed by the Senate.
– The blended whisky must be composed entirely of grain spirit, namely, of pure malt and other grain spirit.
– Any kind of grain, except barley malt, might be used in the manufacture of spirits n.e.i.
– Grain spirit is much more expensive than that made from molasses or other cheap material, and that is why the distinction was made in regard to the Excise duty.
– Yes ; but the whisky blenders would be required to use only 25 per cent, of pure barley malt spirit. Therefore, the Excise duty would, as I have stated, average out at 12s. 3d. per gallon upon the blended article.
– But the distillers would not have to pay 13s. per gallon upon the 75 per cent, of n.e.i. grain spirit beforehand.
– No, there would be no actual payment; but I contend that an Excise duty of 12s. per gallon upon blended whisky would make the whole scheme more harmonious and symmetrical.
There is another point which ought to weigh with us, namely, that if the Excise duty, were retained at ns. we should lose many thousands of pounds of revenue annually. I do not think that we ought to needlessly sacrifice revenue. The difference between The 12s. Excise duty and the 14s. per gallon levied upon the imported article would afford the local distillers ample protection. This consideration no doubt weighed with the Senate, and I am glad that it did so. I think that the Bill has been improved, and I shall therefore support the motion.
.- The decision of the Government to concede the request of the Senate is regrettable, because I believe that the majority of honorable senators voted for the increased Excise duty under the impression that blended whisky is composed for the greater part of inferior spirit. As a matter of fact, blended grain whisky is the commodity which, is most acceptable to the public taste. According to the information which we had before us, and which honorable members accepted, pure malt spirit by itself would not be consumed by the public. It seems rather curious that the Government should abandon the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which was twice adopted by this House without a division, and at this stage ask us to yield to the opinion of the other Chamber, arrived, at under a misapprehension.
– And in a taxation matter, too.
– Exactly. Honorable senators were under the mistaken impression that they were acting in the interests of the revenue. All the inquiries made by the Tariff Commission tended to show that the revenue would not be benefited by the increase of the Excise duty to 12s., but that, on the other hand, the higher duty would probably lead to an increase in the importations. I believe that if proper representations were made the decision arrived at by the Senate would be reversed.
– The members of the Tariff Commission in the Senate voted in opposition to their own report.
– Yes ; there has been the most extraordinary change of front on the part of some senators who are members of the Tariff Commission. I suppose that under the circumstances there is nothing O do but submit, but I feel inclined to move an amendment, which I think would probably, be accepted, namely, that the Excise duty should be11s. 6d. per gallon.
– I cannot understand the action of the Government in giving way in this matter.
– The Senate decided by a majority of more than two to one to press their request - we have not altered our opinion.
– Judging from the evidence submitted to the Tariff Commission, and the facts disclosed in the course of the discussion in this Chamber, the increased duty will preclude the possibility of manufacturing whisky of a marketable character in Australia. It is provided that blended whisky must be made purely of grain spirit, of which 25 per cent, must be distilled from barley malt, and it will be impossible for the local distillers to manufacture such a blended article under an Excise duty of 12s. per gallon, and successfully compete with imported whisky. The Tariff Commission were unanimous in recommending an Excise duty of11s. per gallon on blended whisky, and the members of that body in this Chamber stood loyally by that decision. As far as I can see, the Australian distillers will occupy practically the same position that they did under the old Tariff, and will not be able to place upon the market a popular blended whisky.
– We are proposing that the request should be acceded to, because of the stage of the session which we have now reached, and also for the reason that the decision of the Senate was of such a decisive character. The matter, however, cannot rest where it is. and an alteration will have to be made when the Tariff is revised during next session.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had modified two requested amendments, and had made the third.
.- Last Fri day, upon the motion for adjournment, I referred to the difficulty which members of the Royal Australian Artillery at Queenscliff experienced in qualifying themselves for positions in the police force. I stated that seventeen men had not been given permission to attend a recent examination. The
Minister representing the Minister of Defence promised to make inquiries, and today he has laid on the table papers which contain a statement by Major B ruche, D.A.A.G., directly contradicting my assertion. Major B ruche says -
No soldiers have been refused permission to attend the examination recently held for appointment to the police force.
I am now in a position to support the statement I made by quoting a District Order, issued at Queenscliff on the 24th September, 1906, and which reads as follows: -
In future applications from N.C.O.’s and gunners to present themselves for examination for employment in the public service, police, &c, will, if of good character, be recommended if applicant has three years’ service in the R.A.A. Subject to these conditions being fulfilled, successful candidates will be required to purchase their discharge in accordance with C.M.F. regulations, part II., paragraph 185.
By order, (Sgd.) H. Cox Taylor,
Staff Captain and Adjutant.
It appears from this that, unless a man can show that he has three years’ service to his credit he is not to be permitted to present himself for examination.
– Where is the personal explanation, so far as the honorable and learned member is concerned ?
– The Minister has laid on the table a statement to the effect that the assertion I made last Friday- was incorrect.
– But that does not affect the honorable and learned member.
– I wish it to be placed on record that the statement made by Major Bruche is incorrect - a very serious position for any officer to take up in regard to this House - and that my assertion is supported by an official document. I hope that the Minister will make further inquiries into the matter.
– There is no objection to making further inquiries.
Bill returned from Senate with an amendment.
That the Senate’s Message be considered forthwith.
Senate’s Amendment. - After clause 3, add new clause : - “4. No application shall be revived under this Act if the Commissioner is satisfied that the invention is already patented in Australia, or that another application for the same ‘invention has been lodged and will be unfairly prejudiced.”
– The Senate has made an amendment in this Bill which I am going to ask the Committee to accept. As it left the Chamber the Bill provided that in certain cases under section 29 of the Patents Act 1903, and in other cases where an error, or omission, on the part of the officers of the Patent Office had occurred, /certain steps might be taken to revive an application. The Senate has agreed to those provisions, but has added a new clause providing that -
No’ application shall be revived under- this Act if the Commissioner is satisfied that the invention is already patented in Australia, or that another application for the same invention nas been lodged and will be unfairly prejudiced.
– What is the meaning of the reviving of an application?
– An application may have lapsed by reason of the omission to do some act or to take a step within a prescribed time. This Bill provides that in certain cases under section 29 the language of which is ambiguous, and may have misled the people, lapsed applications may be revived where there has been an error or omission on the part of some officer of the Patent Office. The intention of the Bill is to prevent the public suffering from an official mistake, and the amendment made by the Senate provides a sort of safeguard. I do not think that there is any harm in it, and I therefore move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- While I entirely agree with the improvements which this measure is designed to effect in the patent law, I think that a rather unfortunate omission has been made. The Minister admits that there has been great difficulty in construing various alterations in the patent legislation of Australia, and he has provided in this Bill that applications which have lapsed owing to mistakes on the part of the Patent Office, may be revived. If Government officers, notwithstanding the facilities at their disposal, have made mistakes in interpreting the principal Act, and also the regulations, surely it is not unreasonable to assumethat mistakes may also have been madeby outside persons. As a matter of fact, owing, to the confusion that exists, mistakes similar in kind and degree to thosethat have arisen in the. office itself, have been made by persons outside the Department, and yet no attempt has been made to remedy these. If it be right to .make good the claims of an inventor, who has suffered by ‘an error on the part of the Patent Office, surely it is alsoreasonable, as a matter of equity, that any one who has suffered by reason of the Action; of his attorney should have his application righted in the same way.
– Or who has suffered by his own act or failure to act.
– That is another case. If an inventor has thought fit to make personal application for a patent, and has made a mistake similar to any of those made in the Patent Office, there is no remedy for him under this Bill. I propose, if I am in order, to remedy thisobvious defect.
– This House determined a few days ago not to do that which the honorable member proposes, and the Senate last night rejected bv an overwhelming majority a similar proposition.
– We could not do what the honorable member proposes, since we are confined to a consideration of the Senate’s amendment.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether you can accept the following; amendment -
Provided also that the error or omission having occurred wholly or in part through inadvertence of the applicant shall be no bar to an application made bv him, when, in the opinion of the Commissioner, it is not shown that any other person will be detrimentally affected.
– That would be a limitation of the .proviso inserted by another place.
– I wish! to know whether the proposed amendment of the amendment is in order. I believe that it is.
.- I recognise that there will be great “difficulty in inserting such an amendment, unless it be attached to that made bv the Senate. I understand that the Attorney-General is prepared to accept the amendment made by another place!
– Yes, but I could not accept the amendment of the amendment as suggested by the honorable member for Perth.
– The virtue of the amendment made by another place will depend upon the administration. I cannot see how the Minister can accept the amendment made by another place, and at the same time carry that proposed by the honorable member for Perth. The only course open, to us is either to amend the amendment of the Senate or to reject it.
– There are several reasons why I would ask the honorable member for Perth not to press his proposal. In the first place, I would submit that it is out of order, since it is not relevant to the amendment made by another place. It is an absolutely new provision, and I doubt very much whether, even if. it were carried, as a proviso to the new clause, it would be effective. It would simply be a proviso to the effect that an applicant should not be disentitled to do certain things, but at the same time there would be nothing in the Bill to entitle him to do those things. The provision would therefore be nugatory. I would point out that if it is proposed to put it as a substantive amendment, it must be out of order, since it is irrelevant to the amendment made by the Senate. I pointed out to the Committee a few days ago that it is one thing to say that the public shall not suffer from any mistake made by the Patent Office or its representatives, and quite a different thing to say that where an individual has through any mistake of his own, given the public rights, and his invention - if it be an invention - has passed into public use, that the Parliament should step in and remedy his mistake. Companies may have been formed, and businesses enteredinto, in consequence of an invention having passed into public use,- and if there is to be a crop of litigation all over Australia to determine who has any right to an invention - to decide who is prejudiced and who is not - we shall have such a state of confusion that no one, not even inventors, will know where they are. It was for this reason that the House determined the other evening not to take the course proposed by the honorable member for Perth, and the Senate last night, by a majority of something like sixteen to nine, arrived at a similar decision. I have no hesitation in repeating what I said last week, that I should not proceed with the Bill if it were amended as the honorable member proposes. It would throw the patent law into a state of confusion, and might lead to black-mailing.
– Let us make the provision operative for only six months.
– We might do more damage in six months than we could remedy in six years. If the suggested amendment be agreed to, I shall not feel justified in proceeding further with the Bill. I tell the Committee absolutely that it would lead to much danger to the public, and might interfere with public rights.
– Does not the same argument apply to the provisions of the Bill as it stands?
– Not in the same degree. We have some idea of the cases to which it applies, and know that they are of a very limited class.
– And those to which my proposal would apply are also limited.
– The honorable member will recollect that when we introduced this Bill it simply contained two clauses. It was only as the result of extreme pressure that I consented to clause 3, in its limited form, being inserted. I declined to go any further. The honorable member now asks me to take a step further, and I say frankly that if the clause were amended as the honorable member proposes I should not proceed with the Bill. On all grounds, first of all on the point of relevancy, and, secondly, on the merits of the proposal itself, I would ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
– I do not think there is very much merit in the position taken up by the Attorney-General. The original suggestion that theBill should apply to applicants who had made mistakes as well as to those who had been misled, or had suffered by the omission orerror of the officers of the Department, was a good one. It is natural that at a time of transition mistakes should be made by applicants, and I cannot imagine that, simply because certain applications have lapsed, huge businesses have been started. I understand that only a few cases are covered by the proposed amendment.
– I asked for some particulars the other night, but have not obtained any.
– I have none to give; but I have heard the statement made that only a few cases - and cases of extreme hardship^ - would be affected by this measure if it provided that all applications that have lapsed, either through the fault of the Patent Office or because of mistakes on the part of the applicants themselves, might be revived within a prescribed time. I do not know that the honorable member for Perth might not succeed in securing the insertion of his proposal. It is assumed that the Senate’s amendment is satisfactory. 1 question it. The first part, which provides that -
No application shall be revived under this Act if the Commissioner is satisfied that the invention is already patented in .Australia is satisfactory, but I do not know that there is very much merit in the latter part of the provision. It seems to me that it would be possible for the honorable member . for Perth to secure the insertion of something like the spirit of his proposed amendment bv a qualification of the amendment made by another place. I think we might modify that amendment by providing that an application may be revived and granted in the circumstances proposed by the honorable member, provided that another application for the same invention has not been lodged, and will not be unfairly prejudiced.
– Hear, hear ! That would meet one of the strongest objections advanced bv the Minister.
– The Attorney-General, as a Minister desirous of protecting the officers of the Patent Office, is acting properly in refusing to accept the proposed amendment. The Crown says that one of its officers has committed certain errors which render an amendment of the principal Act necessary. As a representative of the Crown, the AttorneyGeneral is anxious to protect the officers, and as representatives of the people we desire this further amendment to be made. The objections raised by .the Attorney-General to our granting ami opportunity to persons outside to rectify mistakes made by them owing to a want of knowledge of the law could be raised with equal force against the proposal to rectify anomalies due to the errors or omissions of officers.
– The amendment would affect the whole of the public who are using such. inventions, and mining companies might be very much prejudiced.
– If they were prejudiced it would be because they were improperly using a patent.
– Every argument used against remedying the mistakes made by applicants can be urged with equal force against the Government proposal.
– Not* to the .same extent.
– Is it not possible that vested interests or public rights, to use the words of the Attorney-General, have arisen in consequence of some error or omission on the part of the Patent Office? If the Attorney-General is not prepared to say that public rights have not been created in that way, what right has he to seek to differentiate between the errors made by applicants and those made by officers in the Patent Office? We have passed new patent legislation, and the duty of the Committee is to protect ignorant people outside rather than officials, who should be thoroughly conversant with the patent law. I hope that the suggested amendment of the amendment will be pressed. The AttorneyGeneral says that if it be adopted he will not proceed with the Bill. That threat has been used before.
– It is not a threat. I made the same statement the other night, and it is one which I think I ought fairly to make to the Committee.
– Last session the Minister of Trade and Customs said that he would not proceed with a certain Bill if a proposed amendment were made, but he did not carry out his threat.
– Why argue this question when it is out of order?
– The Chairman must consider the suggested amendment is in order, otherwise he would not permit this discussion.
– I have allowed a discussion which is largely out of order to take place while I have been considering the question raised by the honorable member for Perth. I hold that the proposed amendment is out of order. If the whole of clause 3 were under consideration the honorable member would be in order in moving such an amendment, but having regard to the amendment made by another place, I do not think he can move that which he has outlined.
– Clause 3 is under discussion.
– The whole of the clause is not.
– On the point of order, Mr. Chairman, I should like to know whether clause 3 is absolutely beyond discussion at this stage ? To my mind the amendment made by another place modifies the whole clause, and any provision which will have the effect of making further modification of it should be relevant.
– I understand that at this stage no new matter can be introduced except such as is relevant to the amendment made by another place. The whole question is one of relevancy.
– Clause 3 is not at present under discussion. It would be competent for honorable members to refer generally to the whole clause in dealing with the amendment made by another place, but it would not be in order for an honorable member to propose to amend other parts of the clause. The amendment suggested by the honorable member for Perth is not relevant to the amendment made by the Senate.
– I would point out, Mr. Chairman, that clause 2 allows applications for patents to be revived under certain conditions, and that clause 3-
-Does the honorable member desire to move that my ruling be disagreed with?
– No, I do not.
. -I should like to know the scope of the last sentence in the amendment made in another place. I understand that the revival of an application under the Bill can take place only where, owing to an error on the part of the Patent Office, certain proceedings in taking out a patent have lapsed. As I read the. last part of the clause, an application which has been irregular through no fault of the applicant, but solely by reason of an error or omission on the part of the patent officer, cannot be revived if a third person who has recognised the error or omission is unscrupulous enough to pirate the invention, and, after the lapse of the first application, immediately registers another in the proper form.
– The third person referred to would not be the inventor, and therefore could not succeed in an application for a patent.
– The clause savs that-
No application shall be revived under this Act if .. . another application for the same invention has been lodged, and will be unfairly prejudiced.
The whole thing turns on the meaning of the words “unfairly prejudiced.” Is the patent officer to decide, inthe case which I have just mentioned, whether it will unfairly prejudice the second application to allow the original application to be revived, and that to prevent the second application from being put through in order would be an undue interference? It is obvious that hardship and black-mailing may occur if the clause is agreed to in its present form.
– I do not think that the fraud suggested could be perpetrated, because a patent would not be granted to an applicant who was not the true and first inventor. However, the observations of the honorable and learned member for Angas and the honorable member for Wentworth lead me to think that it would be better to insert after the word “ Commissioner “ the words, “ or, on appeal from him, the Jaw officer.” That would apply to this clause the safeguard that is contained in other parts of the Bill.
– While an applicant for a patent might not be the true inventor of a design, he might, by slightly altering it, be able to secure a patent for what was practically a piracy.
– The clause says “the same invention.”
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Isaacs) agreed to -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ Commissioner,” the words “or on appeal from him the law officer.”
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by inserting before the word “or,” the following words: - “but the Commissioner may revive any application where the error or omission has, in his opinion, occurred wholly or partly through the inadvertence of the applicant and”
– That is the same proposal over again.
– The new clause added by the Senate affects paragraph b of clause 2, and paragraph a of clause 3, which allow the Commissioner to revive applications under certain circumstances. We propose to accept the provision, but it is surely in order to import the further condition which I wishi to insert. I ask you, sir, to say whether the amendment is relevant?
– I rule that the amendment is not in order.
Senate’s amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the amendment with an amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported: -
Electoral Validating Bill.
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Clause 2 -
After section eight of the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 the following section is inserted : - 8a. (1) The Minister may grant a certificate to any Pacific Island labourer excepting him from all or any of the provisions of this Act.
Certificates under this section shall be of two classes, namely -
general certificates to be issued only to Pacific Island labourers whom, on account of long residence in Australia or for other reasons, it is not deemed desirable to return to their islands, and
special certificates (not to be issued or remain in force after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seven), to be issued to Pacific Island labourers whom in the opinion of the Minister it will not be convenient to return to their islands immediately after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and six.
A certificate under this section (whether general or special) shall, subject to the terms and conditions expressed in the certificate, have the effect of excepting the Pacific Island labourer mentioned therein from any specified provisions of this Act, but may be cancelled by the Minister at any time.
Senate’s Amendments. -
Sub-clause (2), leave out paragraph la), insert - “(a) general certificate to be issued only to a Pacific Island labourer who proves to the satisfaction of the Minister -
That he was introduced into Australia prior to the first day of September, One thousand eight hundred and seventynine ; or
That he is of such extreme age, or is suffering from such bodily infirmity as to be unable to obtain a livelihood if returned to his native island ; or
That having been married before the ninth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and six, to a native of some island other than his own, he cannot be deported without risk to the life of either himself or his family ; or
That he has been married before the ninth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and six, to a female not a native of the Pacific Islands; or
That he was on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and six, and still is, registered as the beneficial owner of a freehold in Queensland ; or
That he has been continuously resident in Australia for a period of not less than twenty years prior to the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and six ; and “
Paragraph (i) consequentially amended.
Sub-clause 3. - Before “ certificate “ insert “ special,” and leave out “ (whether general or special).”
At end of clause add new sub-clause - “ (4) A general certificate under this section shall, subject to the terms and conditions expressed in the certificate, have the effect of excepting the Pacific Island labourer mentioned therein from any specified provisionsof this Act, but may be cancelled by the Minister if at any time he has reason to think such certificate has been obtained by false and fraudulent representation.”
Mr.DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs) [4.46]. - The amendments of the Senate embody in the form of law recommendations which it was the intention of the Government to follow. A Royal Commission appointed by the Queensland Government made elaborate inquiries into the circumstances of the kanakas, and a series of recommendations. A parliamentary paper, which has been printed, contains a communication from the Premier upon the subject, and my reply, to the effect that we would adopt the recommendations of the Commission, except with regard to two causes of exemption, as to which we indicated our intention to make inquiries in each individual case. The Senate has considered it advisable to incorporate in the Bill the grounds of exemption recommended by the Commission. Sub-paragraphsI.,ii.,v., andVI. of the new paragraph a practically embody recommendations a, b, e, andf of the Commissioners, sub-clausesIII. andIV. varying recommendations c and d, by con- finingthe exemption to labourers married before the 9th October of this year.
-“ Pacific Island labourer ‘ ‘ is defined in the original Act. A definition’ of Pacific Island is not needed. The Commissioners also recommended exemptions in the case of labourers whose offspring has been educated in State schools, or who are the holders of unexpired leases to whom compensation has not been paid. We did not accept those recommendations, but expressed our willingness to consider them in, respect to individual cases. There are a few instances in which the children of Pacific Island labourers, having been educated in State schools, have become, in a sense, members of our community, and it would be a hardship to separate such children from their parents, or to send them back with their parents to conditions of life of which they have had no experience. I move -
That the Senate’s amendment substituting a new paragraph for paragraph (a) be agreed to, and that the following words be inserted after the word “six” in the last line, “or whose name the Minister directs to be included in a list to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.”
These words will appear, not as an additional paragraph, but as a general conclusion to this portion of the clause. The provision will enable us, if any casesof special hardship are brought under our notice, to lay a list before Parliament of the names of the persons affected, giving reasons in each case for issuing a general certificate. I take no exception to the conditions embodied in the Bill, because they are similar to those we have already indicated as necessary. But under the Seriate proposals we should be deprived of the power to consider instances in which the circumstances are exceptional, and which appear to call for the issue of a certificate. I therefore propose that the Minister shall have power to issue certificates in! special cases to Pacific Islanders whose names are to be included in a list to be presented to both Houses. This will give us the necessary measure of elasticity. Instead of absolutely tying the hands of the Minister, we should give him power to act subject to the control of Parliament.
– I should like to know whether sub-paragraph iv. refers only to male kanakas? When I and a number of other honorable members were recently in Rockhampton, a case was brought under our notice in which a white man was married to a kanaka woman, and had a large family.
– The amendment would meet any difficulty that might arise in such acase.
– It is remarkable that the Government should be so ready to accept any proposal made by the Senate.
– These were our own proposals in the first instance.
– But they were adopted on the recommendation of the Queensland Royal Commission.
– Then we are being dominated by three or four men in Queensland.
– We made a selection from their recommendations, and chose only those we could agree to.
– I should prefer to see the Prime Minister mark out a course for himself and follow it.
– If my amendment is agreed to, I shall have exactly the same power as was previously proposed.
– I think the Bill, as originally introduced, was preferable to the measure in its present form. I wish to know whether the provision made in subparagraph vi. does not cover the cases provided for in sub-paragraph 1.
– Sub-paragraph (i) was inserted merely with a view to put the position clearly. The Queensland law compels us to exempt kanakas who were introduced into Australia prior to the 1st day of September, 1879.
– Would not those cases be covered by sub-paragraph vi., which provides for the exemption of kanakas who have been continuously resident in Australia for a period of not less than twenty years.?
– No. The Queensland law gives the kanakas provided for in subparagraph (i) a legal right to remain in that State.
– I presume that very few kanakas who came here prior to 1879 have not been continuously resident in Queensland for twenty years.
– Doubtless in many cases they have gone away and returned. Very few cases would come under sub-paragraph 1.
– I should like the Prime Minister to inform us what is meant by the phrase “ has been married.” Does that mean legally married?
– A question may be raised as to whether a tribal marriage would not come within the meaning of the provision. I think that we should insert the term “legally” before the word “marriage. “
-i think that the term as it stands is sufficient. Marriage means legally married. If kanakas are not legally married they are not married.
– If the Act is administered upon that understanding it will be all right.
– There is no doubt about that.
– How many persons would be affected by these provisions?
– The estimates vary from 700 to1,000.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments in paragraph b agreed to.
Amendment inserting the word “ special “ before the word “certificate,” and leaving out the words “whether general or special.” in sub-clause 3, agreed to.
-Itis proposed to insert a new sub-clause in clause 2. providing that a certificate may be cancelled bv the Minister if at any time he has reason to think that it was obtained by false and fraudulent representation. I should like to know what would be done if it were discovered eighteen months or two years after the general deportation of kanakas had been completed that a certain islander had obtained his certificate by false and fraudulent representation? Would the Government send him back by special steamer or ship, or would they provide for his punishment? It appears to me that our troubles in connexion with these kanakas will never cease. We passed the Pacific Island Labourers Act under the impression that we could clear out the whole lot from Australia, but owing to the exemptions now proposed, it is quite possible that any number up to about r.000 may remain in Australia. I think that we should be informed as to what would happen in a case such as I have’ suggested.
The punishment proposed to be inflicted upon any person aiding, or abetting a kanaka inobtaining a certificate, namely, a fine or£50, orthree months’ imprisonment, or both, would not be sufficient. At the outside we could not recover more than £50, and the cost of sending an islander back to has native home might exceed that amount.
– I think that we could send back an individual kanaka tor£7 or £710s.
– If that is so, we ought not to be called upon to pay£5 10s. each for sending back the large number who are about to be deported. I think that the expense would very much exceed the amount mentioned by the Prime Minister, particularly if the man belonged to one of the remote islands rarely visited by trading vessels.
– The honorable member is quite entitled to ask for information. I consulted Mr. Brennan, who has been in charge of the Pacific Islanders in Queensland for many years, upon this very point. It was thought well to make some provision against deceit, but Mr. Brennan states that under the system hitherto adopted in Queensland the entries are so complete that they can very easily bowl out any islander who may be attempting to practice deceit upon the authorities. He says that it is only upon very rare occasions that an islander can tell a consistently untrue story for any length of time under the system of examination adopted by those accustomed to deal with them. The kanakas are simple-minded, and if they are not telling the truth are easily led into committing themselves. Cases of successful deceit are practically unknown. Mr. Brennan does not anticipate any trouble. The list of exemptions appears very formidable, but the number of islanders affected by the provisions other than those in subparagraphsI. andV. will be very small in number. I would point out that very few women have accompanied the kanakas to Australia, and that only 2 or’ 3 per cent, of them are married. The race is a disappearing one, because very few of the natives have any families, or are likely to have any. It is confidently anticipated that in the course of a few years they will almost disappear.
Amendments adding new sub-clause 4 to clause 2’, and new clause 3 agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the amendments with an amendment ; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee .
Clause 2 -
Section one hundred and eighty of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 as amended by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1905, is amended by omitting from naragraph (a) the words “ other than an advertisement announcing the holding of a meeting in a newspaper,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “(other than an advertisement in a newspaper announcing the holding of a meeting).”
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “in lieu thereof the words ‘(other than an advertisement in a newspaper announcing the holding of a meeting)’ “ ; insert “ after the word ‘notice’ the words ‘(other than the announcement in a newspaper of the holding of a meeting)’ “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment proposed by the Senate will make absolutely no alteration in the law as proposed by this Chamber. The Senate has asked that words similar to those proposed, and which we desired to insert within brackets in the earlier part of section 180, should be inserted a few lines lower down.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
That the requests be considered forthwith.
In Committee :
Heading to 3rd and 4th columns : - Duties. -
On dutiable goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported direct in British ships manned exclusively by white seamen.
On dutiable goods hot the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, or not imported direct in British ships.
Senate’s Request. - The schedule under heading “ Duties,” after the word “ ships “ (in first sub-heading), insert “ until the 31st day of
August, 1907, inclusive, and thereafter on such goods imported in such ships.”
– In connexion with the first request made by the Senate, a very important and unexpected development has occurred. The effect of the amendment requested by another place would be to postpone until August next the operation of the provision as to the employment of British ships manned exclusively by white seamen. That is an amendment which I should have been happy to accept, as affording, at all events, an opportunity to another Parliament to further consider this phase of the question. But since Saturday last, I have become acquainted with certain facts which will render it necessary for me to propose in this connexion a more serious amendment I have received a cablegram to the effect that the Board of Trade, in examining these proposals, has discovered that the discrimination that we propose in favour of British ships is forbidden by a number of treaties, several of which are binding on some, if not all, of the Australian Colonies which assented to them prior to Federation. Those reciprocal concessions cover such countries as Honduras, Morocco, Egypt, Austro-Hungary, Paraguay, and Greece, and include covenants of a mutual character providing that the ships of neither nation shall receive an advantage when trading in the waters of these countries.
– I think there is a reference to that matter in the Merchant Shipping Act.
– The CustomsDepartment did not furnish me with any record of the particulars of these treaties, if it had them. There is also the difficulty that in a number of cases they are drawn in general terms, and apply or may apply in a way determined by the British Government. No circumstances have hitherto arisen in Australia rendering it necessary that we should make ourselves acquainted with the terms of these treaties.
– Do they apply under our Constitution Act?
– Some of the Australian States actually entered into these agreements, which are still binding upon them.
– Does this objection apply only to the amendment inserted on the motion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the preference shall extend only to British goods brought out in ships manned exclusively by white seamen?
– I regret to say that it applies to my own proposal that the preference shall be granted only to British goods brought out in British ships. The granting of a preference to British goods is clearly within the terms of the agreements, but we are directly forbidden to discriminate between British ships and those of quite a number of nations, with whom we have entered into various commercial treaties.
– What is the currency of those treaties?
– Some will soon expire, and others are for longer periods. We have not full particulars of all of them. The index has been made up to 1895, and since then a number of treaties have been made. There is a network of obligations which will have to be considered before it is possible for us to discriminate in favour of British shipping. That being so, convinced as I am of the wisdom of the proposal we originally submitted, I am now forced to ask the Committee to agree to an amendment.
– Could we not pass this scheme of preference as a superior treaty, and allow it to be applied so far as it can be?
– No; the treaties are so numerous that it would be almost impossible to discriminate between them. These questions, as I said when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie submitted his amendment, must be considered at the Navigation Conference which is to meet next year. They are matters to be dealt with in a Navigation Bill. The effect of this discovery will be that the Navigation Conference will undoubtedly have brought before it the operation of these treaties, upon any such proposal as we may desire to make in respect to any particular part of the Empire. In the meantime, the only course open to usis to remove from the schedule the whole of the provision relating to British shipping. I therefore move -
That the request be disagreed to, but that the schedule be amended by omitting from the first sub-heading to the column headed “Duties” the words “ and imported direct in British ships manned exclusively bv white seamen,” and by omitting from the second sub-heading to the column headed “Duties” the words “or not imported direct in British ships.”
The result of this will be that we shall simply discriminate in favour of British goods, without regard to the vessels by which they may arrive. We shall adopt this course for reasons which honorable members will see are entirely beyond my control.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister has adopted this course.
– He cannot help himself.
– Apparently not, otherwise, judging by what he has said, he would not have submitted this proposal.
– Hear, hear.
– I am unable to subscribe to the wisdom of a stipulation as to the employment of white British crews in connexion with such a Bill as this. It occurs to me that the provision, which happily has been amended in another Chamber, instead of fostering British seamen and assisting the trade of the Empire, would have had the opposite result. I am unable to appreciate the statement of the Prime Minister that such a step would have been characterized by wisdom. 1, for one, am glad that the Board of Trade, or, in other words,, the Imperial Government, has called our attention to the false position in which we have placed ourselves, and has brought us back to reason. It seems, after all, that it was necessary for the Imperial Government to save the dignity of the Australian Parliament, and, through us. the dignity of the Australian nation. Had the provision as to British shipping been carried info effect, it would have been a blow to the sentiment of Empire. The whole preference proposed to be given is so small that no shipping company would find it worth while troubling about seeking to comply with the conditions we sought to impose. We provided that as to 2 per cent, of our trade with Great Britain a preference should be granted conditionally on the re-arrangement of the manning of British vessels to carry this small percentage of goods to Australia. Obviously, from a commercial point of view, there is nothing in such a provision that would warrant the re-arranging of the crews. It would pay the owners better, commercially speaking, to retain their present crews and suffer the disability consequent upon the increased duties. The range covered is so small as not to make it worth while for shipping companies to re-arrange the crews of their vessels to enable them to cater for the trade on the conditions laid down. By the carrying out of the provision in question, we should have invited the British, who, we are told, cannot man their ships with their own labour, to discharge their coloured labour and take on foreign labour in its place. No increase in the employment of British seamen would Save been secured. If we could have insured such an increase, it would have been worth fighting for, but I understand that 50 per cent, of the men on British boats to-day are foreigners. It is true that they are white foreigners, but are we, for the sake of 2 per cent, of our trade, to say to Great Britain, “ You must remove coloured crews from your vessels, and put on foreign seamen.” I could have understood the insertion of this provision if we had made it imperative that Great Britain should employ only British seamen on these vessels. There would have been some sense in that, al-, though I am told that such a provision could not be carried out. But since the Bill, as passed by us, would have had the result of giving employment to more foreign labour on British vessels, it would not have contributed anything to the cause of Empire. It would have meant training on our vessels an increased number of German, French, or Russian sailors, who in time of war would step from these vessels into those of their own country, and fight against us.
– Lord Brassey says that that is what we are doing now.
– I think that we are doing so to some extent; but that is because Britons will not take to the sea as they used to do. The better condition of things keeps them ashore. The provision under discussion would aggravate instead of improve the present state of things. No one desires that the number of foreigners on British ships shall increase. The problem how to deal with our mercantile marine is one which, in mv judgment, will have to be faced by the Imperial authorities sooner or later.
– The sooner the better.
– I think that it should be faced very soon. Personally, I should not be averse to paying a prettystiff price to increase the proportion of British seamen in our mercantile marine, if only for the better defence of the Empire. It is because I feel that the provision would have hindered the bringing about of an improvement that I am glad that the Board of Trade has taken action. We need not trouble about what the reasons were. The great point is that we have been prevented from making a mistake.
– We have been prevented from doing what ought to be done in the interests of white workers.
– The right thing to do is to increase the proportion of British seamen in our mercantile marine. The provision which we are considering would not have done that, but would have resulted in an increase in the number of foreigners employed on British ships. If the object was to secure a larger proportion of British seamen on British ships carrying British goods the subject of a preference, a different course should have been taken. I hope that on the next occasion when we try to pass legislation of this kind, we shall do it bv a definite and specific proposal, not by negative proposals. I am glad that the amendment is to be made, because I believe that the provision as it came from the Senate would, if adopted, do .more harm than good, without achieving the end in view, at the same time laying us open to charges of inconsistency and of want of consideration for the Empire and its obligations. I do not believe that honorable members wish to disregard our obligations or those of the Empire; but they ‘were so anxious to do something in a tentative and partial way that they did not wait to ascertain the full effects pf their proposal. It is best not to pass legislation in this form unless we can be sure of securing our ends - the increasing of the number of British seamen in the British mercantile marine.
.- I regard the provision that the importations in respect to which a preference is given must come here in British ships as most shortsighted, and inimical to British interests. As was plainly pointed out by an English Royal Commission which reported on the matter a few years ago, the best way to encourage the manning of British ‘ships by Britishers is to offer better wages than are now paid. It is because the wages on British ships are higher than those paid on foreign ships that foreigners are so ready to enter the British mercantile marine ; but these wages are not as good as, during the last twenty or thirty years, Britishers have been able to secure on land. Therefore, notwithstanding the strong desire of many youths to go to sea, there are not proportionately as many Britishers offering as seamen as there were previously.
The London Times, in its new zeal for protection, beginning with preferences, a few years ago appointed a Commissioner to inquire into the effect which the policy originally proposed by the Government would have upon British trade. After pointing out that more than half of the carrying trade of the world is done by British ships, he had to admit that -
So important a change as that of a system of preference may involve gravest dangers .to British shipping.
He went on to say that -
A change in the British fiscal policy on the lines of Mr. Chamberlain’s proposals would be a great and growing benefit tQ about 32 per cent, of British shipping, would injure 47 per cent., and would have little or no effect upon 14 per cent. This leaves out of account any possible retaliation by other Governments in the form of. tonnage dues.
A memorandum on the subject prepared by the Board of Trade was published in August, 1903, in a Blue Book’ numbered 1761. That memorandum is, no doubt, familiar to all who have looked closely into the question of Imperial preferential trade. It shows that British vessels constitute 91 per cent, of the shipping with cargoes and 76 per cent, of the shipping in ballast between the United Kingdom and the colonies and possessions. In the coasting trade of the United Kingdom 99 per cent., and of the colonies 96 per cent, of the tonnage with cargoes is British. These figures show that not much is to be gained bv requiring that the imports in regard to which a preference is given must be in British ships, since nearly the whole of our imports now come in British ships, even though part of them may have come originally from foreign ports. When the matter was originally under discussion, I pointed out that, unless there is a change of date, several vessels - among them an Italian vessel - now earning British goods from Great Britain would be prejudicially affected. In 1900, of the total tonnage employed in the foreign trade of Germany 26.9 per cent., of France 40.6 per cent, of Belgium 44.6 per cent., of Holland 41.7 per cent, and of the United States 55.8 .per cent, was British. No wonder, therefore, that the Times admitted that the influence of the preferential system was exaggerated. Inasmuch as British vessels in some instances carry the bulk, and in nearly every case almost half of the foreign trade of other countries, the British mercantile marine affords an admirable target for retaliation such as the pro- vision now in the schedule might provoke, without benefiting to any appreciable extent the trade and commerce of the mother country. Therefore I am glad that an opportunity has been afforded by the request of the Senate to reconsider the whole position.
– I feel that the Prime Minister would not have taken the step which we are considering had he not felt it his duty to do so; but I should like to know what pressure was put on the members of the British Board of Trade from this end to induce them to send a cablegram to the Government.
– Having read of the resolution, they cabled to ask if we proposed to proceed with the Bill, and we replied on 3rd October that we did. They then sent their subsequent cable. The whole subject will come before the Navigation Conference and before the Imperial Conference at the beginning of next year.
– How can they alter treaties?
– The giving of notice will be discussed.
– The treaties which have been referred to do not bind us.
– Some of them were made by individual States prior to the Federation.
– The Prime Minister takes the position that, because prior to Federation individual States made certain, treaties, we must continue bound by them.
– Until they are terminated in the proper way.
– A change of status abrogates any treaty concluded by an inferior State. I refer, not to non-sovereign States, but to States which have entered into a Federation. Dr. Oppenheim, in his work on International Zazu, says, at pages 556 and 557, in respect to the cancellation of treaties -
A cause which if so facto cancels treaties is such subsequent change of status of one of the contracting States as transforms it into a dependency of another State. . . . Thus, for example, when a State becomes a member of a Federal State, it is obvious that all its treaties of alliance are ipso facto cancelled, for in a federal State the power of making war rests with the federal State, and not with the single members.
– I do not dispute that principle.
– The adoption of the Constitution changed the position of the individual States.
– Not in this regard. The States, as members of the Empire, were offered the opportunity of accepting or rejecting certain treaties, and accepted them with the consent of the mother country.
– Do I understand that what is referred to are not treaties of individual States, but a treaty accepted by certain States?
– Then we must consider the question of how far an Imperial treaty binds us. Undoubtedly, no treaty has been accepted by Australia since Federation.
– Not of this nature.
– My point is that the acceptance of the Imperial treaty by a State was abrogated by Federation; that there having been a change ofstatus, and the State having lost the right to make treaties, the principle of international law referred to in the passage I have read takes effect.
– We have taken no steps to alter our treatv relations.’ That authority does not say that the treaty becomes ip so facto dead.
– Legislation by the Federation, which includes the inferior States, is sufficient to put an end to the treaty.
– As a matter of fact, Japan is still conceding to Queensland the benefits of a treaty into which that State entered prior to Federation, although we have cut off the advantages which Japan was enjoying under it.
– Japan concedes those privileges to Queensland as an act of grace, not as an international right. If we passed legislation which was ultra vires of the Constitution, the Courts would hold that it did not apply. According to the Prime Minister, there are treaties in existence which affect our right to give a preference to British ships. Egypt, Morocco, Honduras, and other places have been mentioned as being affected by these treaties. But, according to the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, the only one of them from which we receive imports is Egypt, and those imports are valued at about £36. Are we to give up our right to legislate as we think proper merely for the sake of , £36? No doubt we should regard our treaty obligations; but we might very well pass the Bill as it stands, giving the preference to British ships, and exempting Egyptian imports, if the claim were made that the treaty with Egypt overrides our legislation. Would it not be better to make the requested amendment, allowing our legislation to be overridden by international law in respect to treaty obligations just as it is, in particular instances, overridden by the Constitution and Acts of the Imperial Parliament applying to Australia? Let us provide for a preference to British shipping, and when a case arising under a treaty comes before us, recognise our treaty obligations, if any. I do not like to suggest that possibly the Government are less anxious to secure preference to British ships, because of the possible complications which the white labour provision may create. If, in spile of that provision, they are desirous of adhering to the important policy of giving preference to British ships, I counsel them to accept the Senate’s request, and to deal with special cases as they arise, in accordance with the principles of international law.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has moved to leave out of the heading all the words after the words “United Kingdom,” and thus to alter the whole effect of the schedule. The House has already affirmed the principle that preference shall be granted only in respect to goods imported direct in British ships, and the Senate has agreed to that proposal, only requesting that the proviso which this House had added, that the crews shall be composed solely of white sailors, should not come into operation until a certain date, which is fixed in the request. I submit that now we can deal only with the Senate’s request, and such amendments as are relevant to it. The Prime Minister’s amendment goes far beyond the Senate’s request, and strikes at the root of a policy adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Therefore, I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether we are not confined to the consideration of the Senate’s request, and whether the amendment of the Prime Minister is in order.
– A little consideration will show that the power of dealing with requested amendments undoubtedly covers an amendment like this. The effect of adopting the Senate’s request would be to alter the whole schedule. If the requested amendment were made, a preference would be given on dutiable goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom imported direct in
British ships, until the 31st day of August, 1907, and thereafter on such goods imported in such ships manned exclusively by white seamen. Undoubtedly this is vital to the whole schedule, and the amendment omitting all the words after the words “ United Kingdom,” which are the words in respect to which the Senate’s requested amendment applies, is clearly in order. It extends their extension.
– I do not subscribe to the statement of the Prime Minister. I submit that we cannot now go back upon what we have done since our proposals have been agreed to by the Senate. They have agreed to the giving of a preference on dutiable goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported direct in British ships.
– My amendment was ruled out of order on the very same point.
– We are supposed to proceed in a constitutional manner. If any one is charged with the special duty of keeping us informed as to the probable effects of any legislation we may pass upon the treaty obligations of the Empire it is the Attorney-General.
– Is the Attorney-General supposed to know all about every treaty that has been entered into?
– He, in conjunction with the Prime Minister, is supposed to protect us in regard to all external affairs. Our Standing Orders assume that, when we have amended the latter portion of a provision, we have in effect affirmed the former part of it and cannot go back. That is clearly the practice ‘that has been laid down time after time, and applying that rule of procedure to what the Senate has done, my contention is that all the headline down to the word “ ships “ has been affirmed, and that anything that we may do by way of amendment must relate to the latter part of the provision. I ask you, sir, to rule that the amendment of the Prime Minister is out of order, because it opens up the whole schedule again - a thing that we are precluded from doing by the action of the Senate.
– If it were possible for us to go beyond the amendment made by the Senate, that Chamber could follow a similar course in regard to any amendment made by us, and our proceedings would be interminable. We can only deal with the amendments submitted by the
Senate. We could not possibly strike out words which both this House and the other Chamber have already deliberately accepted. I am opposed to the provision as it stands in the Bill, but as it has been accepted both by this House and the Senate I do not see that it is open to us to make any amendment prior to that effected by the Senate.
– I think that the deputy leader of the Opposition has taken up a correct attitude. You, sir, have ruled time after time that it was impossible for us to go back beyond the point in a clause where an amendment had been made. The same rule would apply in this case. The Senate has practically indorsed the (provision ‘agreed to by this House down to the word “ ships,” and we could not now strike out’ any words preceding that. I should be glad if this were not the case, because I think that the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister would be an improvement.
– We have before us an amendment which would have the effect of suspending the operation of a certain provision for some months. I hold that the amendment moved by the Prime Minister would have the effect of further extending the suspension, perhaps, for an unlimited time, and that it is therefore in. order.
– In view of the fact that your ruling affects not only the proceedings of the Committee, but the whole question of the conduct of business between the two Houses, I submit, with all deference, that it might be advisable to ask Mr. Speaker to give his ruling.
– I would point out that the Committee is quite competent to deal with points of order arising in connexion ‘ with its proceedings. Whilst, personally. I have no objection to the course suggested by the honorable member, I do not think that it is wise to be continually referring to the Speaker in matters of this kind. If some honorable member moves that the matter should be referred to the Speaker, the position will, of course, be quite different.
– I do not wish to do that.
.- I am very sorry that the Prime Minister has moved his amendment. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that the provision, in its original form, would have the effect of benefiting the foreigner instead of British sailors. I do not share that opinion. When we endeavoured to make provision that ships carrying goods entitled to preference should be manned by white British seamen, neither the honorable member for Parramatta, nor any of his associates in the Opposition, helped us in any way.
– I was not here.
– So much the worse for the honorable member - he should have been here. It appears to me that if the Prime Minister’s proposal be agreed to, the whole of the advantage conferred by the agreement will be derived by British manufacturers, and that British ship-owners and white British seamen will not receive any consideration. We should never! have heard of the present amendment if it had not been for the success which attended the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. There would have been no cables despatched, and we should not have heard of the treaties entered into with Honduras, Egypt, or Morocco. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corio that we should adopt the provision as it is, and permit it to operate so far as it will do so.
– How can it operate in regard to British ships ? Seeing that the Imperial Government are bound by the treaties into which they have entered, they could not allow it to operate in regard to British ships.
– Then the whole agreement would lapse, and I am not sure that that would not be a good thing. I am not greatly taken with the agreement, and I regard the time spent in its discussion as having been very largely wasted. I shall call for a division against the amendment, because I consider that once both Houses have agreed to. a particular proposal, it should be adhered to.
– It seems extraordinary that any point of order should have been taken in regard to this matter when we are all anxious that the preferential proposals shall have some good effect. If the provision passed’ by this House had been adopted by the other Chamber, we should have occupied an absolutely ridiculous position, and I am gratified to know that the amendment was made.
– I think that the Committee will be wise if it adopts the amendment proposed bv the Prime Min ister. As the Chairman has ruled it in order, we have to remember that the schedule does not provide that the ships carrying preference goods shall be manned by British seamen, but by white seamen. Therefore, instead of operating to the advantage of British sailors, the provision would tend to confer benefit upon foreign seamen. That was not the intention of the Committee. It is well known that British vessels are manned very largely by foreign seamen, principally Germans, because it is found that not more than 52 per cent, of seamen required for the British mercantile marine are available for such service. If the schedule were adopted in its present form, it would practically provide for a subsidy to German seamen, and the British mercantile marine would be used for the purpose of training men who would be withdrawn in time of war to man vessels belonging to the German Navy.
.- This Chamber and the Senate have indorsed the principle that British goods shall not be entitled to a preference unless they are imported direct in British ships manned exclusively by white sailors. In the first place, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie sought to insert a provision that the ships carrying British preference goods should be manned exclusively by white British seamen. That proposal was rejected by twenty-seven votes to eight. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney then proposed that 80 per cent, of the crews of the ships referred to should be white British seamen. The House would not entertain that proposal, and the honorable and learned member withdrew it. At page 3521 of Hansard he is reported to have said : -
I am afraid that there is little chance of the amendment being carried, and while I feel very strongly in regard to it, yet as the proposed preference affects only 2 per cent, of the imports of Great Britain, it is not likely to have any considerable effect, while ineffective legislation tends to bring Parliament into contempt. Therefore, although I shall not withdraw it, I shall not press it to a division.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie then moved that the ships should be manned exclusively by white seamen - not white British seamen - from which it appears that this House is more anxious about white foreigners that white Britishers ! His speech occupies only a few lines of Hansard. No member of the Government replied to his observations, and a division took place in a thin House of thirty-four, resulting in the proposal being carried by a majority of one.
– When was that division, taken ?
– After dinner on 25th September.
– And the Government voted against it.
– Quite so; also the Opposition. The leader of the Opposition pointed out that there was only a small number of honorable members present, and suggested that the Government might ask the House to reconsider the matter. He pressed the Prime Minister three times, to take this step, but without avail. When the Bill went to the Senate the Government endeavoured to have the provision excised, but without success. The Prime Minister himself now proposes, to omit it, and something more. He has taken this step not on his own initiative, but upon that of a body in no wise responsible to the people of Australia.
– Does the honorable member wish the provision to be retained ?
– No; I am merely pointing out the absurd position into which we are drifting. The Government have admitted that it has been ignorant of our own treaty obligations, and we have to wait for the (Board of Trade, 10,000 miles away, to point out the facts and save the dignity of Australia. While congratulating Australia upon having the Board of Trade to remind her of her treaty obligations,, I congratulate the country on the step that has been taken, but not on the means it has been found necessary to adopt to have this provision rescinded.
.- The discussion which has taken place on this question is another illustration pf the fact that the Opposition are always ready to avail themselves of an opportunity to seek to discredit the Government. I well remember the vigorous appeal which the Prime Minister made to honorable members to vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Mr. Kelly. - Why did he not move to recommit the schedule?
– I knew what “the numbers were
– The division-list tells us why the Prime Minister did not attempt to recommit the schedule. Although the Government and its direct sup porters practically voted against the inclusion of this provision only four members of the Opposition were to be found in the House to support them.
– And some of them were in the precincts of the House.
– Who were they?
– I am not going to mention names.
– Some members of the Opposition may have been away through no fault of their own, but I have pointed out why the Government saw the absolute futility of seeking a recommittal.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendment - Schedule, item 136E, leave out “up to,” insert “on and after “ - made.
Senate’s request. - The schedule, before item 122g, insert new item -
Item 122 (f), Strawboard, per cwt. (British), is. ; (other), is. 6d.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the request be agreed to.
– I certainly think that this request should be rejected. When we had the Bill under consideration the Minister of Trade and Customs admitted that representations had been made to him which entirely changed his views with regard to the item of stra w - board in the schedule, and it was therefore omitted. The Minister was absolutely satisfied that strawboard was not made in the United Kingdom.
– The question is still disputed.
– Whether it is or is not, 1 would point out that if this request is agreed to serious injury will be done to industries already established in this country whilst absolutely no benefit will be conferred on Great Britain. As a matter of fact. Great Britain uses an immense quantity of strawboard in the manufacture of boxes, and imports it largely from Holland. It does not make an ounce.
– Hargreaves’ makes some.
– They make, not strawboard, but millboard, which is used for entirely different purposes. This has been pointed out to the Minister of Trade and Customs and others by manufacturers of cardboard boxes in Melbourne. When the Bill was before us it was clearly demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Government that the inclusion of strawboard in the schedule would confer no benefit upon
Great Britain, and I cannot for one moment understand the complacency with which the Government are prepared to agree to this request.
– The matter has since been fully discussed in the Senate, and much information given.
Mr.JOHNSON.-If honorable members of another place obtained their information from the manufacturers of cardboard boxes in Australia, they must know that strawboard is not made in England.
– I do not know where they obtained their information.
– I have information on the subject.
– Which the honorable member obtained from the box-makers.
– Certainly.Is there any reason why such information should not be considered?
Mr.JOHNSON.- There is only one strawboard mill in Australia.It makes strawboard of a certain kind.
– Of every kind.
– The box-makers say that the local strawboard is too brittle, and altogether unsuitable for the finer classes of work, although it is suitable and extensively used for other purposes. I shall certainly resist the request.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [6.20]. - I strongly urge the Government to reject this request. Strawboard is not made inGreat Britain.
– That statement is incorrect.
– I should be glad to have proof to the contrary. Those best able to speak with authority on the question saw that no strawboard is made in Great Britain. We are therefore asked to place an additional tax on the people of Australia, without granting any preference to Great Britain. If the desire is to secure protection for the Australian strawboard manufacturer, let it be made a Tariff matter. Honorable members ought not to sneak in protection in this way. I do not know how this request came to be made. It was moved bv, a senator representing, not Victoria, but another State, and I think that the Government would do well to refuse it.
– I understand that the Prime Minister takes the view that because another place mav or may not have received further information bearing on the question of strawboard,he should at once acquiesce in their request. I fail to see why we should take anything for granted in this way. I have received information which I have not vet had an opportunity to verify, to the effect that a certain quantity of strawboard is manufactured in the United Kingdom, but that there are no imports from that country into Australia; because it is said, that the freights on such goods from Germany to Australia are infinitely cheaper than are those from England to Australia, and that this absolutely prohibits British competition. If this be true, it shows that the proposed preference would be of no benefit to the British manufacturers. To make it effective, we should either grant a very substantial reduction of the duty in favour of the British strawboard, or remove the impost altogether. I understand that a certain quantity of strawboard of good quality is manufactured in Victoria, and that the industry here is thriving under the existing duty. Honorable members whose fiscal views differ from my own, often urge as a reason for increasing a duty that increased protection leads to improved local production. Now my unsubstantiated information is to the effect that locally-made strawboard is of actually better quality than that which is imported, and that therefore, from the protectionist point of view, no further duty is required. I do not know whether the Committee is fit at this stage of the session to deal with these emergencies, but, however anxious we may be to cease pretending to work, we ought not to reverse, without explanation, our previously expressed determination merely for the sake of saving our own time, and getting back to our constituencies.
– I hope that the Government will not urge the Committee to agree to this request. The item of strawboard was discussed when the Bill was under consideration, and after consulting the officials of his Department, the Minister of Trade and Customs acknowledged that the case made out for its excision was a good one. He therefore allowed it to be omitted. On what grounds are we asked to re-insert it? Has the Minister received information which is at variance with that furnished by his officials? It seems to me that this is one of the items which lays these preferential proposals open to the suspicion that they are frequently used to secure for articles of local production a measure of protection in excess of that which the House is prepared, after mature deliberation, to grant. The item of strawboard was fully discussed when the Tariff was under consideration, and a certain rate of duty was agreed to as affording sufficient protection to the local manufacturer. No case has been made out for an increase of the duty, and seeing that our information is that no strawboard is being imported from Great Britain, no preference will be granted to the mother country by the insertion of this item. It will have the effect of increasing the price of the raw material used by a large number of manufacturing industries, and we certainly ought to have from the Minister some information to justify us in departing from the decision at which we arrived a week or two ago.
– Do the Government wish to injure the boxmaking industry?
– This seems to be a proposal needlessly to injure the boxmaking industry. No more assistance is required by the local strawboard manufacturer, who is turning out a very good article, although it is not suitable for a certain class of work. I do not think that we ought to agree to the request.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
The tellershaving handed in their lists -
Mr. Johnson. - No.
– There are eighteen Ayes and six Noes. There not being a quorum, I must report the matter to Mr. Speaker.
In the House:
– I have to report that it appeared from the tellers’ lists on division in Committee that there was not a quorum present.
– As there were twenty-five members present when the division was being taken, there was a quorum present.
In Committee :
Question - That the request be agreed to - resolved in the affirmative.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the Senate’s requests with amendments.
– As a point of order, I submit that, as the tellers’ lists inthe division just taken show that there was not a quorum present, the vote cannot be regarded as effective. Can twentyfour members carry a proposal in Committee?
– Does not the Chairman count ?
– Apparently the Chairman cannot count himself, but Mr. Speaker can count him.
– There were twentyfour members voting in the division. They, with the Chairman, made up the quorum of twenty-five required by the Constitution and the Standing Orders. Standing order 32 provides that -
When the Speaker shall be informed by the Chairman of Committees, in consequence of a report by the Tellers, of a Division of the Committee, that a quorum of members is not present, he shall forthwith adjourn the House till the next sitting day.
That was not reported to me. The twenty-four members taking part in the division and the Chairman made the quorum.
– Do I understand the effect of your ruling to be, sir, that the Chairman was in error in so reporting to you?
– I do not know that the Chairman expressed any opinion on the matter. My opinion on receiving the reports of the tellers was that, there being twenty-four members voting, and the Chairman in the chair, there was a quorum present.
Sitting suspended from 6.4.2 to 10.5 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in its amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it insisted on that part of amendments 4 and 5 respectively disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and disagreed to the further amendment of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I do not see how the question of privilege could arise. Of course, an honorable member can always take a point of order.
– Does the honorable member’s point of order affect this “Bill ?
– A point of order is always in. order.
– As affecting a division which took place in Committee this afternoon, I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to standing order 216, which SaVE that-
The quorum in Committee of the whole shall consist of the same number of members, exclusive of the Chairman, as shall be requisite to form a quorum of the House - and section 39 of the Constitution enacts that a quorum must consist of - at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives.
I wish to know whether a division which was taken in Committee this afternoon, wherein it was shown by the tellers’ lists that the number of ayes was 18 and of noes 6, making altogether only 24, exclusive of the Chairman, can be regarded as of any effect. Standing order 233 provides that-
If notice be taken, or it appears upon a division in Committee, that a quorum of members is not present, the Chairman shall leave the Chair of the Committee, and shall inform the Speaker thereof, but make no further report.
No decision of the Committee shall be considered to have been arrived at by such division.
The Chairman of Committees, on the tellers’ lists being handed to him, left the chair, I understand, for the purpose of reporting to you, sir, that it appeared upon the division that there was not a quorum present, and I understood you to rule that there was a quorum present. When you so ruled, had standing order 216 escaped your recollection, or do you consider it ultra vires of the Constitution?
– The figures showed me that in the division 18 members voted “Aye” and 6 “No,” and they, with the Chairman, made up a quorum of 25.
– According to standing order 216, a quorum in Committee must consist of twenty-five members, exclusive of the Chairman.
– I had to give my decision in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. There being twenty-five members present, I had no recourse but to rule that there was a quorum as provided for by the Constitution.
– Then do you regard standing order 216 as ultra vires of the Constitution ?
– I have not to rule that. It is a matter for the Chairman of Committees to decide if occasion arises. Standing order 32 provides that -
When the Speaker shall be informed by the Chairman of Committees, in consequence of a report by the tellers, of a division of the Committee, that a quorum of members is not present, he shall forthwith adjourn the House till the next sitting day.
If the numbers reported to me had been less than a quorum, .that is to say, had been less than twenty-five, I should have had no option but to declare the House adjourned until next day, with the result that the House would have been adjourned, and the division would have been null and void, and of no effect whatever.
– The decision has a very important bearing on our proceedings in Committee.
– You, sir, may be right in your interpretation of the constitutional provision in respect to a quorum, but it is clear that there was not a quorum present within the meaning of standing order 216 when the division was taken.
– A standing order cannot override the Constitution.
– It is not for the Speaker or the Chairman to determine the meaning of. the Constitution. That is the function of the High Court.
– Does the honorable member for Parramatta propose to dispute my ruling?
– No. I am merely seeking for information as to the effect of your ruling upon the division that was taken in Committee. A quorum was not present, and I understand that, according to our Standing Orders, the vote could be of no avail.
– The ruling I gave was that, as there were eighteen members on one side, and six on the other, besides the Chairman, there was a quorum present, and in that case the division holds good.
– I wish to ask whether the Constitution overrides standing order 21 6, which provides that a quorum shall consist of twenty-five members, exclusive of the Chairman ?
– I consider that the final reference must always be to the Constitution - that it is the superior authority which binds all of us.
Consideration of Senate’s message.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That this House does not insist on disagreeing to the portion of amendments Nos. 4 and 5 insisted on by the Senate, and does not insist on its further amendments therein to which the Senate has disagreed.
.- I think that we made a great mistake when we did not insist upon these provisions being restored to their original form. We deliberately agreed that the maiximum strength at which pure malt whisky should be distilled should not exceed 45 per cent, over proof. That suggestion was made by some honorable senators who are now objecting to the compromise proposed by the Prime Minister, under which the maximum strength would be fixed at 40 degrees over proof. We understood the Prime Minister to say that one of the senators who had originally taken objection to the provision for the higher alcoholic strength had written a letter stating that he had acted under a misapprehension, and that if this House insisted upon the maximum being increased to 45 per cent., support would be given to the position taken up by us,. Now, however, the Senate have rejected the proposed compromise. If the Senate are going to quibble about their rights, we ought to take up a firm attitude. The maximum strength of 45 degrees over proof was decided upon after due deliberation, and after the most elaborate evidence had been taken by the Tariff Commission. It may be all very fine in theclosing hours of the session to accept amendments in order to avoid any fuss or trouble, and so that we may have opportunities for making longer speeches to our constituents. But I would point out that in this matter the Senate are imposing their will upon us in a matter of taxation, and that the Government should have adhered to their original proposal. I previously mentioned that some weeks ago a wine expert wrote to me stating that the provision in the Distillation Act that wine should not contain more than 35 per cent, of alcohol was operating detrimentally to the production of wine for export. He represented that if wine were kept for four or five vears it reached a strength of 37 or 38 per cent, of alcohol, and was then by law unsaleable. I do not know whether the deputv leader of the Opposition would care to take action in the direction, of insisting upon the adoption of the original provision in the Bill, but my feeling is that that course should be followed.
– I am afraid that we cannot insist upon anything in this Chamber, because we have become merely passive resisters. All that the Senate has to do in the closing hours of the session is to insist upon anvthing that it pleases, and its will must be done. That appears to be the attitude assumed by the Government, and the sooner that this House closes the better. We are rapidly becoming a mere registering machine for the decisions of the Senate. I do not know that that is the proper function of this Chamber.
– That is the danger attaching to the condition under which a number of honorable senators are not required to go to the country.
– I do not think that that has anything, to do with the matter. The present -position has arisen owing to the want of a little spunk in this Chamber.
– I think that we ought to have the spunk to stand up for our own determinations.
– We are now engaged, in the closing hours of Parliament, in giving our assent to all the proposals that the Senate chooses to forward to us, and at the same time very questionable methods are being adopted to push through legislation. I protest against the course that is now being pursued, and I can do no more.
– Could not the honorable member make representations to the members of his party in the Senate, and induce them to cease obstructing business?
– What is the honorable member talking about? The sooner he goes back to the wilds of the West, and in solitude finds out where he is in a political sense, after some of the votes he has recently given, the better it will be for all concerned. I think that we ought to insist upon our amendment, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall test the feeling of the House in the matter. I decline to make this Chamber a “mere registering machine for the decrees of another place.
.- When the Prime Minister was endeavouring to induce us to agree to the compromise he proposed he led us to believe that there was some kind of understanding that it would be accepted in the Senate. He did not tell us specifically that the compromise would be accepted, but his intimation was of such a nature as to lead us to believe that the course suggested was the only practicable one to follow, and that it would be agreed to in the Senate if we accepted it. Now the Senate have taken up an attitude which seems altogether inconsistent with the discharge of their proper functions, and which seems to me to convey a reflection upon this House. I think it is about time that Ave took steps to maintain the proper position and dignity of this House. The principle of taxation is in volved in these amendments, and it is very questionable whether the Senate- has any right to insist upon its amendments, which, if accepted, may seriously affect revenue returns.
– The Bill involves no financial obligations.
– Still, the question of the strength of spirits would indirectly affect the revenue.
– Not in the slightest degree.
– I take a different view. 1 think that we should enter an emphatic protest against the dictatorial attitude assumed by the Senate and also against the supineness of the Government in quietly submitting- to every rebuff that this Chamber receives at the hands of another place. We have adopted the principle of compromise as far as we can reasonably be expected to do so, and I shall certainly join the deputy leader of the Opposition in entering my protest against quietly submitting to the dictatorial attitude of the Senate in connexion with some of our measures.
.- Before honorable members opposite had directed attention to the fact that the Government were showing too much disposition to yield to the requests of the Senate, I had referred to the matter in very forcible terms. Whilst I am at one with honorable members as to the inadvisability of this House yielding to every request made by the Senate, 1 cannot ignore the fact, and I do not think the public will do so, that the present position has been brought about largely owing to the conduct of gentlemen in another place belonging to the same party as honorable members opposite.’ They are taking advantage of the dying hours of this Parliament to send forward unreasonable requests, and to enforce them by improper means. Who are taking points of order, delaying the business, and keeping this House from the .constituencies? Undoubtedly the party with which the Opposition is associated.
– If the honorable member will look at the division-lists he will find that the members of his own party have been assisting the objectors all through.
– Without absolving those responsible for what has taken place, I contend that it is hypocritical for honorable members opposite, in view of the fact that they have repeatedly, if not obstructed, talked out, measures, and tired the patience of honorable members, to protest at this stage. I charge them with the full responsibility for having dragged this House down to the position which it now occupies.
– We have had to do the honorable member’s share of the talking as well as our own.
– Whenever I speak it is not for the sake of speaking, but in order to elucidate facts. When I was on the Opposition benches I should have been ashamed to comport myself as some honorable members opposite have done.
– Will the honorable member discuss the question before the Chair? .
– I presume that the question is that raised by the honorable member for Parramatta, who stated that the Government had shown undue weakness in yielding to the requests of the Senate. Surely, I am in order in pointing out that the Government are unable to do anything else. I cannot permit honorable members opposite to pose as pure patriots who have no other obiect but that of furthering the business of the country without pointing out that members of their party in another place are principally responsible for the present congestion of business. I have listened with great patience to the speeches which have been delivered by honorable members opposite upon every conceivable occasion, and I now intend to relieve my mind-
– The honorable member is hardly ever here.
– I challenge the honorable member to place his attendance roll in contrast with mine.
-Order ! The question whether honorable members have been regular or irregular in their attendance has nothing whatever to do with the matter before the Chair, and disorderly interjections will not justify any further reference to the subject.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker. If it had not been for the interjections made by honorable members opposite, I should not have made any reference to the point. I desire to enter my protest against the attitude assumed by the Opposition in condemning the action of the Government.
.- At the risk of being accused of hypocrisy by a past-master in that art, and at the further risk of being accused of obstructing business, I rise to make my protest against the course that is being adopted by the Government. I think that the Prime Minister might have made some effort to carry out the understanding into which he entered this afternoon.
– Senators belonging to the party with which the honorable member is connected were responsible for the rejection of the compromise.
– It is very easy for honorable members to make insinuations of that kind. I do not know anything about the attitude assumed by members of the Senate, but I am assured that members of all parties joined in the action taken by that Chamber. An insinuation such as that indicated is as unworthy as it is baseless. I think that some explanation is due to the House as to the reason why the compromise proposed by the Prime Minister was not accepted. In order to enable Parliament to prorogue a few hours earlier than it might otherwise, it is proposed that we should eat our own words without explanation. I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, as the guardian of the privileges of the House, to say whether the Prime Minister ought not to make some explanation before asking us to take this step.
.- I do not rise to discuss the question of compromise, but because I think there is some confusion with regard to the degree ofrectification required for different spirits. If I remember rightly we were not clear upon the point when we decided that the degree of rectification in this case should be 45 per cent. The Tariff Commission recommended that spirits distilled from grape wine or malt should be distilled at a lower strength than that obtained from other product’s. I sav frankly that when I find that I have made a mistake I am prepared to retrace my steps, and it is because I believe I made a mistake on a former occasion that I propose to support the motion. The Tariff Commission is of opinion that 35 per cent, should be the maximum degree of rectification for two classes of spirit. They state that they were informed bv Messrs. Joshua Brothers -
That most of the grape wine brandy and malt .whisky now in stock at the Federal Distillery at Port Melbourne has been distilled at a strength from 30 under proof to 40 over proof.
Mr. A. R. Read, of South Australia, was of opinion that the average run of a still engaged in the production of brandy should not exceed 35 degrees over proof.
– What about whisky?
– I am dealing now with brandy, but the same conditions apply to whisky distilled from malt. Mr. E. P. Clarke, according (o the report, said- -
The very best brandy, in his opinion, averaged about iS degrees over proof. He considered that brandy was an article made from the pure juice of the grape and pure wine, and that it should not be over 40 degrees over proof. For blending purposes he would not think of buying a brandy exceeding 30 degrees over proof.
It is also stated in the report that -
The Senior Inspector of Excise, Queensland (Mr. W. E. Burrell), being asked whether he would recommend that there should be a standard strength up to which brandy, rum, and whisky should be rectified, in order to maintain their natural ethers, said he favoured the establishment of a standard of strength. He suggested that 35 per cent, over proof would be a good standard for brandy. That would rectify the spirit, and allow the natural ethers and flavours to be retained.
In paragraph 16 of their conclusions the Commission point out -
That brandy and whisky distilled at an alcoholic strength not exceeding 35 degrees over proof, should in the scheme of Excise duties, receive a distinct advantage over spirits distilled at a higher strength.
In paragraph 18’ they point out -
That no spirit should be recognised as a blended brandy unless it contains at least 25 per cent, of grape wine spirit, the product of a separate distillation, at a low alcoholic strength.
That is the point to which I desire to direct the attention of the House.
– Is this why the Government originally proposed that spirit should be fortified up to 45 per cent. ?
– I honestly thought at the time that some mistake had occurred, and it may be that those who in another place contend that the alcoholic strength should be only 35 per cent, are perfectly justified. I am not going to quarrel with another place as to its right to exercise its independent judgment. 1 honestly believe that it has taken up the right attitude. The Commission point out that the same conditions apply to blended brandy, and that a spirit made from malt for pure or blended whisky should not be distilled at a higher strength than 35 per cent.
– Why did not the honorable member point out these facts when the Prime Minister asked us to agree to accept a compromise?
– The honorable member might as well put the same question to other honorable members. I do not profess to know everything, nor am I so obstinate that when I find that I have made a mistake I am not prepared to admit it. If I supported the insertion of the provision as to 45 per cent., the report of the Tariff Commission shows that I did wrong.
– I am perfectly in accord with the position taken up by the deputy leader of the Opposition, and shall certainly give him my support. I scarcely agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, who urges us in the last hours of a dying Parliament to hurriedly pass legislation which we. as reopresentatives of the people, do not consider to be likely to conduce to the well-being of the country. We have conurges us in the last hours of a dying Parand it is lamentable that the Ministry should bring forward such proposals in the last hours of the session, and seek to rush them through the House. There has recently been a good deal of successful lobbying in connexion with this matter. I was addressed the other day bv a wellknown manufacturer, who took the somewhat. Questionable liberty of remarking that he would like to see me returned again.
– He wished to put the honorable member in good spirits.
– The spirit that he is prepared to manufacture under this measure is anything but good. The result of this Bill will be that the country will be inundated with an inferior spirit. This manufacturer said he would be pleased to see me returned again, and that as the Opposition were now successfully muzzled he would have no hesitation in offering me his congratulations. He added that he was able to congratulate himself that, as the result of the legislation recently passed in this Parliament, he had an opportunity to make money. That was sufficient to show to me that we have not regarded the interests of the Commonwealth as we ought, and I therefore protest against this hurried and indiscriminate legislation.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from Senate with a message intimating that it again pressed its requests in items 4 and 5 of the schedule (vide page 6383).
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– Necessarily the decision in regard to the Spirits Bill governs this matter. The question at issue is precisely the same in each case. I, therefore, move -
That the Senate’s requested amendments be made.
.- As the Opposition is in a hopeless minority, it is useless to do more than formally protest against the acceptance of. these requests. I am glad that the terms of the message are somewhat different from those of the message which we received from the Senate with regard to the Spirits Bill.
– As the other Bill was not a Money Bill, the Senate had no option but to transmit to us the message in the form adopted. This is a Money Bill, and therefore the form of the message is different.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 10.50 p.m. to
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the Bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it disagreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives on its amendment No. 1.
That the message be taken into consideration at a later hour.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message: -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “An Act Relating to Duties of Customs,” and acquaints the House that the Senate has considered the Message of the House of10th October in reference to this Bill, and has resolved to press its requested amendment No. 1 as originally requested, and which the House has not made.
The Senate considers the amendments made are not a modification of the request made by the Senate.
Melbourne, nth October, 1906.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– It is unfortunate that this measure has been returned to us. No exception can be taken to that part of the message which acquaints this House that the. Senate is resolved to press “ its requested amendment as originally requested, which the House has not made.” That is a course which it is entitled to take, though at this stage of the measure and of the session not a desirable one. But, in adding that it “considers the amendments made by the House of Representatives are not a modification “ of its request, it opens up a Question which it is not possible for us to discuss directly with the Senate. So far as my experience and reading of the Constitution enable me to form an opinion, I have no doubt that the amendments made are a proper modification of the Senate’s request. To adopt a contrary reading would be to make ourselves slaves to the mere words, without regard to their sense or substance. To adopt this reading, allowing purely technical objections, which are not required by the substantial necessities of the case, would be destructive of the proper method of interchanging views between the two Chambers, and would enmesh us both now and for the future. The proposition is, I regret to say, capable of suggesting a certain colouring of a partv character. There is an evident desire to defeat this measure in some form, or by some device, so as to get rid of the proposed British preference, and advantage has been taken of the fact that we have unwittingly included in the Bill a desirable provision forbidden by engagements which we had overlooked. I therefore move -
That the Bill be returned to the Senate with a message informing it that the House of Representatives has thought fit, at the present stage of the Bill,to make the requested amendment, and desires to inform the Senate that, in its opinion, theamendment previously made was clearlv a modification of the amendments requested.
We join issue with them on their interpretation of the requirements of the Constitution, and re-assert in express terms that which we had by implication asserted by our previous action. The effect will be an adoption of the provision requested by the Senate, extending the time for the coming into operation of that part of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie until the end of August next. This, as I said yesterday, is an improvement. Although it does not remove the provision which I originally objected to, it postpones its operation long enough to allow of its reconsideration in the next Parliament. Although I now invite the House to make the requested amendment, I do not think it is possible for us to stop there. We have received a clear intimation from the Board of Trade that there are treaty obligations which require to be taken into account. There is not the least doubt that if the provision as to British ships be allowed to remain in the schedule, even as the Senate wish it to be amended, and without our amendment, the fate of the Bill would be imperilled. We should be wanting in our duty to ourselves and to the people if we allowed it to pass in an imperfect state. While, therefore, assenting to the Senate’s proposal for the time being, I intend to ask the House to take advantage of the powers which it possesses to make the amendment in another form. We proposed yesterday to strike out all the words in the provision after the words “United Kingdom,” so that we could grant a preference in respect to British goods, no matter what vessels were employed to bring them to our shores. That amendment was designed to meet the treaty obligations to which I have referred. By making the Senate’s amendment, the condition in regard to British ships will remain, with the further condition that only white seamen are to be employed after a certain date next year. I therefore propose to submit, when the proper time arrives, an amendment which will have the effect which we desired to accomplish yesterday by our amendment of the amendment requested by the Senate - that is to say, I shall propose the removal of allthe words after the words “ United Kingdom “ from the column headings to the schedule.
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman suggest the introduction of a new Bill?
– Not necessarily. That course may be adopted if we have to sit next week in order to push this business through, though I am anxious to avoid it. The first step I propose is to take advantage of the constitutional provision allowing us to advise the Governor-General to recommend the alteration by message. Under the circumstances, we are clearly entitled to take that step-. The maintenance of , treaty obligations is clearlv obligatory upon us all. I shall ask that his message be sent to both Houses, and shall move its adoption. This is the shortest and most expeditious means whereby we can attain our end. If its failure can be conceived there remain other means, though I shall regret the continuous prolongation of our sittings and the postponemnt of the elections which they might involve. There need be no mistake as to the issue. The proposal of some of our opponents is fo defeat the Bill, and it shall not be defeated, so far as the Government can prevent it.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - This is disgusting party clap-trap.
– The epithets used by the honorable member describe his speeches on this nuesfion. Those who are opposing preference must come out into the light of day and do so. If they can obtain the support of the majority, they are, of course, entitled to succeed.
– The whole business is a sham:
– We intend to make evident who is responsible for the fate of the Bill. No step will be wanting, and no resource left untried, to give effect to this measure, which was introduced as an instalment of preference to British trade. It asserts a principle which will be adopted on a far larger scale, and in more thorough fashion, after there has been an opportunity to consult, early next year, the statesmen of the mother country and of the rest of the Empire. In the meantime, I submit this answer to the message from the Senate.
– What will be the ultimate effect of the course which the honorable and learned gentleman proposes? In what form will the Bill finally leave us?
– Precisely in the form in which we desired yesterday to pass it.
– That will not be the effect of what the honorable and learned gentleman is proposing to do now.
– Not by this amendment alone.
– But I understand that the Prime Minister intends that that shall be the ultimate effect of his action.
– I not only intend, but undertake, to do what I have suggested.
– The honorable and learned gentleman said the same about the compromise yesterday.
– My proposal yesterday would have accomplished the same end. We asked then for all that we desired, and for all that we now seek, and we are determined to obtain it, if it be in our power to do so.
– With the desire of the Prime Minister to return the Bill to the Senate in the form in which he thinks it should pass, I have the greatest sympathy, but for the means which he proposes to adopt to secure his end I have the greatest contempt. Whatever we mav do in a legitimate way to achieve our object and our party purposes, we have no right to drag the Governor-General into our politics as the honorable gentleman proposes. The honorable and learned gentleman has no right to suggest this way out of the troubles which he has got himself into bysheer political ineptitude and inability to see his measures properly through the two Chambers. Now, in the dying hours of a dying Parliament, he wishes to call the Governor-General tohis aid ; to drag faim into the mire of party politics in order, as he clearly expresses it, to defeat some machinations which he says are working against the measure. Has it come to this - that the Governor-General is to be brought in to defeat those who are opposed to a party measure? To make such a proposal is to descend to a depth to which no member of this Parliament or of any State Parliament has ever previously descended in order to realize purely party aims. Yet it is the cool and deliberate proposal of the Prime Minister, which I presume he has been sleeping over, to use the GovernorGeneral to further his partv ends, and to defeat those whom he alleges are opposed to the granting of preference to British trade. If anything could prove the need for the dissolution of this House at the earliest opportunitv,t itis the desperate shifts, resorts, and devices to which the Prime Minister is descending. His proposal degrades this House, its politics, and its conduct of business, and, if adopted, will make us the laughing stock of those whom he seeks to propitiate by this trumpery means. I use the word “trumpery” because the Bill affects only 2 per cent, of our imports from Great Britain. For the sake of this 2 per cent, the Prime Minister wishes to set aside the authority of Parliament. Why does he resort to these courses ? Simply to obtain a placard with which he can go to the country. There is nothing in the measure to make any one proud of it. The honorableand learned gentleman has described it, in his euphemistic language, as an instalment ; we, on this side, call it a miserable apology for preference, introduced so that it mav be used for political party ends. The Prime Minister and his supporters have a right to use the resources of their brains in attempting to defeat those whom they think are against their proposals.
– Whom they know to be against them.
– If the honorable member wishes, I will say, “ Whom they know to be againstthem.” But we have no right to inquire Into the motives of the members of another place. Honor- able senators have done what we declined to do. They have obeyed the rules of Parliament clearly laid down in the Standing Orders. Last night we ignored and set aside those rules, although the members of the Opposition tried to have them observed and obeyed. The amendment of the Government covered entirely newground, no matter what its intention may have been, and in the interpretation of our Standing Orders, no regard should have been had to their effect upon matters of policy. They must be applied as methods of procedure, irrespective of their effect in regard to the policy of measures under consideration, which it is the duty of the Government to look after as best they may. What would have been the result if the Senate had acted differently? There could then be no finality in regard to any Bill. The provisions of the Standing Orders clearly prohibit the introduction of new matter in any measure as to which this House is in conference with the other ; and we are practically in a form of conference when messages are passing to and fro between us. The Government deliberately introduced new matter, and the Senate, I conceive, was entirely within its rights in asserting that its, and incidentally our, Standing Orders should be’ obeyed. The Government, owing, in the first place, to ignorance of our treaty relations with other parts of the world, and, in the next place, to the ineptitude which has characterized their conduct of business, now find themselves in a difficulty. In order to save this apology for preference, which makes no substantial concession to the United Kingdom, and to make good their placard for electioneering purposes, Ministers are trying to drag the GovernorGeneral into the political arena. Thev hope, by this means, to influence another Chamber. It may be that they have the 1ec.hnic.al right to do so, but the Prime Minister is deliberately creating the necessity for the Governor-General to step in. He is .placing His Excellency in an entirely false position, by making him the instrument of political parties in this House, and asking him to helD him out of the hole into which he has fallen, owing to his own political ineptitude and his ignorance of our treaty obligations.
– The honorable member does not even know the Constitution.
– I know that it is the very spirit of the Constitution that the Governor-General should be kept far and away above all party politics.
– So he is.
– He will not be in this particular case. He is to be invited to plunge himself into the vortex of party politics, in order to help the Government out of a hole.
– To no greater extent than he does in connexion with every message that he sends down to the House.
– The position is quite different in this case. Had the Government proceeded with this measure in the ordinary way, and worked within the limits of the Standing Orders, this trouble would never have arisen. If the Prime Minister wants to get out of the hole into which he has fallen, let him withdraw the Bill, and introduce another. If we are to meet next week, in order to deal with this matter, we should proceed in a regular parliamentary way, and no attempt should be made to drag the Governor-General into our party political arena, for the purpose of influencing this Chamber, or the other. That is the one thing that the Constitution is intended to preserve us from, and the Prime Minister will be straining both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution if he adopts the course that he is now proposing.
.- With all respect to the honorable member for Parramatta, I contend that he is absolutely mistaken. According to his reading -of the Constitution, the Governor-General is empowered to advise an alteration in a Bill of his own personal will, apart altogether from the lines of responsible government. I would point out, however, that the Constitution says that the Governor-General may make recommendations, and it naturally follows that he would take that course upon the advice of his responsible. Ministers. The whole working of the Constitution depends upon the exercise of the functions of. responsible government, and the representative of the Crown does not exert his personal will in the matter at all. Hem we have the very strongest case we can possibly have.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that the Governor-General may not. without the advice of his Ministers, interfere in connexion with treaty obligations ?
– We are not discussing treaty obligations.
– That is the whole point - the Prime Minister said it was.
– No, I did not.
– If that isthe impression of my honorable friend,I can quite understand how he has gone astrav. Section 58 of the Constitution provides -
The Governor-General may return to the House in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendations.
This Chamber has expressed its corporate will that an amendment shall be made. This is not even a question of party politics. Independently of party, we have plainly indicated our desire, and have communicated our wish to the other Chamber, which has decided, as we imagine, erroneously, that for a technical reason our wishes cannot be acceded to.
– They have ruled our amendment out of order.
– Exactly. It is not a question of party politics, but merely one of procedure.
– They had no right to discuss our procedure.
– I do not wish to deal with that point, because we now have a larger question to consider.
– We made a mistake - there is no doubt about that.
– In my opinion, we made no mistake. However, I do not desire to quarrel over mere technicalities. The Prime Minister has adopted a course which would overcome all technical difficulties. It is our desire to grapple with the substance. In order that this question, which is of Imperial as well as of Australian importance, may be settled, we desire to remove from our path any mere obstacles of procedure. We have in our possession the knowledge that this Chamber, without divergence of opinion, desires the law to be adopted in the form in which it was sent up to the Senate, but a difficulty has arisen in regard to a question of procedure.
– Unfortunately, this is not merely a matter of procedure. The Prime Minister told us that the present course was being adopted to defeat some party ends.
– Section 58 of the Constitution enables technical difficulties of this kind to be overcome - it is intended for that purpose. It provides that any amendment may be recommended by the GovernorGeneral.
– That is only intended to overcome technical difficulties arising from errors or omissions in the drafting of Bills.
– When the Constitution savs that the Governor-General may transmit “any” amendments, no limit can be placed upon his powers, so far as the character of the amendments are concerned. Moreover, there is no doubt that this power is to be exercised by His Excellency upon the advice of his responsible Ministers. In this case the whole House desires a certain course to be followed, and it seems to me that the objection raised by the honorable member for Parramatta is without substance. If Ministers have no right to suggest amendments to the Governor-General, the whole principle of responsible government must be forsaken. The moment that it is admitted that the Governor-General must act upon the advice of his Ministers, the argument of the honorable member for Parramatta falls to the ground. We are not, as has been stated, dragging the GovernorGeneral into the arena of party politics.
– The Prime Minister deliberately stated that he would drag in the Governor-General in order to serve party ends.
– All that the Prime Minister says is that the Constitution provides a way by which a technical difficulty mav be overcome, and by which the express will of this House may be given effect to.
-Isthat all that the Prime Minister said?
– That is the effect of it.
– He said that there was a party against preference, and that he would defeat them by this means.
– Is the honorable member for Parramatta prepared to say that there is no party which desires to block this Bill ?
– So far as I know, there is no party which desires to block the Bill, but that is not the question.
– Then everything ought to end very happily. If there is no party desiring to block the Bill, there can be no possible objection to asking the GovernorGeneral to recommend the desired amendment. The honorable member has answered his own obiection, and it is, therefore, unnecessary for me to proceed further.
.- The House is, I suppose, to be congratulated upon having had the advantage of the opinion of the Attorney-General upon, a constitutional point, immediately before his translation to a sphere in which the determination of constitutional questions will be one of his principal functions. He tells us that this is a mere question of procedure, and that the objections raised by the other Chamber were based upon mere technicalities. We are further informed that the Governer-General is to be invited to import himself into this matter, not for party reasons, but in order that a great question ofprinciple may be settled without a slavish regard for mere matters of form. The extraordinary feature of the case is that the Attorney-General differs materially from his political chief. The Prime Minister certainly stated, rightly or wrongly, that party machinations were on foot, and that the members of the Opposition had entered into a combination to prevent the passing of the Bill. He then went on to say that this measure asserted a principle, that it was his duty to see that that principle triumphed above all party machinations, and that he would bring in the GovernorGeneral to deal with the question.
– He did not say that he would “bring in” the Governor-General.
– I do not wish to argue upon mere verbal “ technicalities.”
– I said that I would “ advise” the Governor-General.
– Exactly ! But the AttorneyGeneral told us that the GovernorGeneral must necessarily act upon the advice of his Ministers, and, therefore, his Excellency would practically be compelled to do as his Ministers might decide. If honorable members will look at section 58 of the Constitution, they will see that it is certainly not intended to meet a case of this kind. If the GovernorGeneral could be dragged into such matters with a view to altering the will of Parliament at the dictation of the Prime Minister the principles of responsible government would be subverted. Ministers could not only secure the recommittal of any measure that they pleased, but could induce the GovernorGeneral to implore the House to reconsider its decision, after a Bill had been finally passed as Parliament wanted it. Responsible government and parliamentary institutions would, under such circumstances, be reduced to an absolute farce. It seems to me that our present proceeding is entirely irregular. The course open to the Senate was either to agree to our amendment or to insist upon their own. They have, however, chosen to add a rider to their insistence ; and that irregularity on the part of the Senate, although it may be deplorable, affords us no warrant for committing further irregularities. We have drifted into an unfortunate position owing entirely to the ignorance of the Prime Minister as to our treaty obligations and his inability to comprehend our Standing Orders. Having blundered thus far, we should not blindly stagger on any further into a false position. I submit, sir, that the whole of our present procedure is out of order, and I would ask for your ruling. Standing order 196 provides that, if the Senate returns a Bill with a message informing the House that it insists upon its original amendment, the House may agree, with or without amendment, to, the amendments to which it has previously disagreed. Then there is a provision that, if an agreement is not arrived at, or if the Bill be again returned by the Senate with any of the requirements of the House still disagreed to. the House shall order the Bill to be laid aside, or request a conference. The Prime Minister has not adopted either of these alternatives. He proposes to return the amendments, with a message, which would be entirely out of order.
– What about the rider attached to the Senate’s message?
– The fact that the Senate has committed an irregularity will not warrant us in following their example. Our proper course is either to agree straight out to the Senate’s amendment, or to drop the Bill.
– The Senate have no power to amend the Bill ; they merely have the right to make requests.
– The Attorney-General is now raising a “technical point.”
– The honorable member is setting up a technicality.
– The honorable member is reading the wrong standing order.
– I would ask you, sir, to rule whether we shall be right in adding a rider to our message to the Senate, and whether the method of procedure proposed by the Prime Minister is in order.
– On the point of order
I have no hesitation in saying that, if this House deems that its constitutional rights and privileges are being assailed, it is perfectly competent to take any steps in order to re-assert them. Upon that ground, I say that the House is perfectly entitled to do what the Prime Minister proposes upon this occasion. Further, I would point out that standing order 196 deals with amendments, and that no amendments are before us. This being a taxation Bill, its provisions can be made the subject of requests only, and not of amendments, so far as the Senate is concerned. In the third place, I am quite satisfied that, if it had been competent for the Senate to amend the measure, this House would have been fully justified in taking any steps that it might have considered necessary to protect its rights and privileges.
– Are there any standing orders dealing with requests in this connexion?
– Then, is not a request to be treated in the same way as an amendment? .
– Under the Constitution, requests and amendments are specifically different, and there is no possibility of confounding the two. If the House were to attempt to confound them, it would detract from its own. powers. I wish to point out to the House, as I have already indicated to the Prime Minister, that his motion does not provide for the withdrawal of the amendments which were yesterday made in the Bill. I have, therefore, asked him to submit his motion in the following amended form : -
That the Bill be returned to the Senate with a message informing it that the House of Representatives has thought fit, at the present stage of the Bill, to make the requested amendment, instead of the amendment made and transmitted to the Senate, and desires to inform the Senate that, in its opinion, the amendment previously made was clearly a modification of the amendment requested.
– Could you, sir, inform us as to our position in regard to requests? Seeing that we have no standing order bearing on tne subject of requests, is it open for us to take whatever course we may think fit?
– I would suggest that the House should follow, as nearly as may be, the lines laid down for ordinary communications between the two Chambers, subject to the condition that this House is open to take any course it pleases to assert its rights.
.- Although I am opposed to the principle of preferential trade, believing that its adoption will be injurious to the Empire, I am not pre pared to avail myself of any of the formalities of the House to destroy this Bill. I said yesterday that, instead of raising the point of order in this House, we should have allowed it to be taken in another place, and that we ought to seek to conserve our rights. I am of opinion that the amendment can be made, and that it would be better to press the Senate to comply with our request than to fall back upon our technical powers under the Constitution by asking the representative of the Crown to suggest an amendment of policy. Section 58 was not inserted in the Constitution to cover such a case as this. The matter is perfectly clear. There were various debates in the Convention as to what we ought to prescribe regarding the powers of the GovernorGeneral, to make it perfectly clear that it was intended that he should merely exercise the prerogative delegated to him subject to the same conditions as were obligatory on the Crown. I suggested in connexion with the consideration of one of the earlier sections of the Constitution that we should expressly declare that the powers of the Governor-General were to be exercised according to the conventions of the British Constitution. But it was declared that such words were unnecessary. Amendments suggested by the Crown are intended merely to cover informalities or technical mistakes. It was never intended that a Ministry, bv presenting a Bill, should open up a moot point of policy, and ask the Crown to interfere by suggesting an amendment. It would be intolerable to suggest that the voice of the two Houses was wrong. It is assumed from the fact that a Bill has passed the two Houses, and that the Ministry retain office, that it represents the voice of the majority of the two Houses. If it did not the Ministry of the day ought to resign. If the meaning of section 58 of the Constitution is that the Ministry can ask the Crown to say that a Bill is wrong in policy, and ought to be amended, that certainly was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution. Such a meaning would be absolutely contrary tothe constitutional powers exercised in the mother country. The power of the Crown to deal with matters of policy is limited to refusing the Royal Assent to, or reserving Bills. The Governor-General can disallow a Bill or reserve it for the Royal Assent. That is perfectly clear. Quick and Garran, at page 693 of the Annotated Constitution, deal with the practice in a -note on section 59.
– Has the honorable and learned member looked at the notes to section 58?
– I shall deal presently with them, and show that the honorable the Attorney-General is in error. The power of the Crown, so far as policy is concerned, is that of disallowance. It is unconstitutional to exercise it unless, by our legislation, the interests of the Empire are at stake. It is the duty of the Government, so far as matters of policy are concerned, to insist upon the Crown assenting to a Bill which has passed the two Houses. . If a Bill is of an important character, but wrong in policy, then the Ministry, if the House is against it, should resign. The power of disallowance is referred to by Quick and Garran in a note to section 59. They point out that -
This method of conserving Imperial interests is more satisfactory, and more in harmony, with the larger-measure of self-government granted by the Constitution than the old system of instructing the Governor not to assent to certain classes of Bills, many of which were quite within the competence of the colonial legislatures, and 1 elated to matters of purely local interests.
The moment we instruct the GovernorGeneral not to assent to certain clauses, we open up points of’ policy. My interpretation of section 58, that it is intended only to cover technical mistakes - and in one or two instances we have availed ourselves of it to rectify such mistakes - is supported by Quick and Garran. At page 692, in a footnote to section 58, they point out that -
This power of recommending amendments -vested in the Governor has been found in -parliamentary practice a very useful one, and even under our system of responsible government it has been used with advantage. It is of special value towards the end of a session, when Bills have been passed through all their stages in both Houses of Parliament, and when it has been found that inaccuracies or discrepancies have crept into some of them. In such circumstances, Ministers formulate the required amendments, and upon their advice, the Governor transmits a message to the House in which the Bill or Bills requiring rectification originated.
I contend with the greatest respect that it was never intended that section 58 of the Constitution should be relied upon in regard to amendements affecting questions of policy.
– The honorable and learned member will notice that the note refers to the section as being ‘ ‘ of special value.”
– I know how clever the Attorney-General is. I do not think the Minister can point to a case in which this power has been used in England, or Australia, for any other purpose than that of curing informalities.
– Is there any such power in England?
– Where should we look for such a power in connexion with the Imperial Parliament”? Surely not in the letter of the Constitution. There is no written Constitution.
– We cannot look for precedent where there is no power.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that under the Imperial system the Crown has no power to suggest, as a condition to the granting of the Royal Assent to a Bill, that certain technical mistakes shall be cured ?
– I have never heard of it.
– I differ from the honorable and learned gentleman.
– The power is used in Victoria.
– And also in South Australia. Surely it is repugnant to common sense to say that this power can be used to point out matters of policy in a Bill that are really settled by the presentation of the Bill itself. The method which the Government . propose to bring the Senate to reason is a wrong one. I regret that they have not seen fit to insist that the amendment that we have power to make shall be assented to by another place.
– I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, whether it is permissible for this Chamber to propose to amend parts of the schedule already agreed to by both Houses ? The Chairman of Committees has ruled, time after time, that it is not permissible when a clause has been amended, to move to amend an earlier part of it. Last night, however, he decided that the Committee had power to deal with part of a clause, notwithstanding that both Houses had agreed to words following that part which it was proposed to amend.
– I am not prepared to rule on the supposititious case put by the honorable member, but I am prepared to rule definitely as to the matter dealt with by the motion .now under consideration. I have seen in the records a report of the ruling given last night by the Chairman of
Committees, and must say that I entirely agree with it. It appears to me that the amendment was perfectly relevant. It is a modification of an amendment suggested by another place. As the Bill left us originally, it attached to the granting of preference to British goods the condition that those goods should have been brought out in British ships, and that condition was to operate forthwith. Another place sent down a modification, providing that the condition should not attach until August next. We, dealing with the same matter, declared that we would forego our requirement as to the goods being brought out in British ships, and that we would reject the suggestion of the Senate that that condition should attach from next August. We declared that we should take a course entirely relevant to the suggested modification by declaring that the condition should not take effect at any time.
– I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Senate simply proposed to insert certain words following the word “ship” in a sub-heading to the schedule, and that the Minister proposed to amend the schedule by omitting words preceding the word “ ships.” I wish to know whether the ruling you have just given may be taken to apply to all clauses and Bills?
– We cannot deal with imaginary cases.
– It is important that we should know what is to be the procedure in Committee in all similar cases.
– I am not willing to give a ruling to-day concerning a matter that mav arise any time hence. I can deal only with a particular point; but I would remind the honorable member that the question at issue is not one as to words. We are bound not by the words, but by the questions arising in the interpretation of those words.
.- I listened very carefully to the speech delivered by the Attorney-General, and would point out that the reasons he gave in support of the proposal made by the Government did not coincide with those which the Prime Minister himself submitted. I submit that the deputy leader of the Opposition was perfectly right in objecting to the course suggested by the Prime Minister being pursued. It is highly objectionable that even the name of the Governor-General should be dragged into party disputes, and it is still more reprehensible to involve him in matters of a controversial and distinctly party character. With regard to the allegation that the Opposition are opposed to the granting of preference - an allegation which was made by the Prime Minister and inferentially by the Attorney-General - I would say that there is not the slightest ground for it. The Opposition have time after time expressed its full belief in the principle of the preferential treatment of British goods; but they have announced their decided objection to the Government proposals, since they believethat they simply impose disabilities upon the British nation and British goods. The whole purpose of this Bill is, under the hollow pretence of giving a preference to Great Britain, to raise duties beyond the point which Parliament was prepared to raise them when the Tariff was under consideration. It has been clearly demonstrated that the total preference proposed to be given to British goods does not exceed 2 per cent. ; that a great many of the items in the schedule are already free, that Great Britain holds the bulk of the trade in regard to those not already free, and that the balance embraces chiefly specialties in goods which do not seriously enter’ into competition with. British imports. I therefore resent the allegation made bv the Prime Minister and re-assert that this pretended preference is a sham and a fraud to cover a design to increase the Tariff in the interest of Victorian manufactures.
– I should like, by leave of the House, to speak a second time, as I have a suggestion to make.
– Is it the pleasure of honorable members that leave be granted to the honorable member?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The course which the Prime Minister has outlined is so serious that I would go to any length to avoid it. We ought to endeavor to avoid resort to those reserve powers which the Prime Minister proposes to call into use. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should withdraw the measure, and, later in the day, bring in a new Bill, to which we, on this side, will offer no opposition. That would be an easier way out of the difficulty than the course which he has in contemplation.
– If he does so, we will pass the measure without debate.
– Effect could be given to that undertaking only by cooperation in another place, because the measure must pass both Houses. The consideration of the Bill before us has been narrowed down to one or two amendments, and we cannot, of our own motion, place a new Bill in the position which it occupies in both Chambers. I am prepared to show, by the dictum of an AttorneyGeneral of Victoria, that a provision in the Constitution of this State in respect to a message from the Governor has been used in regard to matters of substance. It was stated, in reference to a measure then being debated in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, that, although the provision had been generally used to make clerical alterations in Bills, when Parliament so desired, it could be used as now proposed, to secure material amendments. It was then contended that the Victorian Parliament should create another precedent for its use in that way, and it was created.
– The suggestion of the deputy leader of the Opposition absolutely removes the wretched plea of the Prime Minister for a course out of which he wishes to make as much political kudos as he can. I speak as one of the strongest supporters of preferential trade in the House. I have supported the principle on the platform and in this Chamber, and have attempted to assist Ministers in every way in passing their preferential measures, although I have not entirely agreed with their proposals. The position into which we have got is absolutely the fault of the Government. They kept their preferential proposals back until towards the end of the session, and then threw them into the Senate in a mass. In this Chamber they accepted a defeat in an exceedingly thin House, and declined to take action to secure reconsideration of the question, although they were told that, if the Bill were recommitted, amajority would vote for their original proposal. They were afraid to strike out the words which had been inserted, because the insertion had been moved by a member of aparty which has been keeping them in office, but which, during the forthcoming electoral campaign, will be at their throats. Theirpreferential proposals are the emptiest shams ever put before a Parliament. Thestraitsin whichMinisters find themselves are made only too evident by their attempts to hang out this tattered rag of preference as the flag under which they will go to the constituencies. The Senate was absolutely right in the position which it took up. In spite of the rulings given here, I say that all the English authorities, May especially, lav it down that, under the circumstances, we had no right to go beyond the scope of the amendments of the other House, and make a fresh amendment.
– The honorable member is now going back to another matter.
– I have not spoken on this subject before. As constitutional points have, for someyears. been a hobby of mine, I have refreshed my memory by a reference to May. where I find it stated at page 478 that -
It is also a rule that neither house may, at this time, leave out or otherwise amend anything which they have already passed themselves ; unless such amendment be immediately consequent upon the acceptance or the rejection of an amendment of the other house. In 1678 it was stated by the Commons, at a conference, “ that it is contrary to the constant method and proceedings in Parliament to strike out anything in a- Bill which hath been fully agreed and passed by both houses.”
I humbly submit that that is what we have done.
– Does the honorable member propose to dissent from my ruling? If so, there is only one course for him to take.
– I do not intend to dissent from your ruling; but I wish to refer to the procedure of the House of Commons, as laid down in May. I presume that I may hold what views I like on a point of this kind.
– Of course, the honorable member is at liberty to do so ; but he cannot discuss a ruling except on a motion to dissent from it.
– I am pointing out that our present position is due entirely to the fault of Ministers, and I am prepared to abide by the result of an appeal to any constitutional authority, in any part of the British Empire, as to the correctness of the procedure which we have followed. We have deliberately gone beyond the scope of the Senate’s amendments, the Chairman and you. Mr. Speaker, having ruled that we were within our rights in doing so, while in another place it has been ruled that we were not. Constitutional methods are provided for settling differences between the two Chambers. Where the issue is not material, one House may accept the decision of the other; but where it is vital, provision is made for a Conference. The Prime Minister stakes his political future on his preferential trade proposals, and the Constitution enables us either to deal with the difficulties which have arisen by way of a conference, or to let the electors decide who is in the right. The course proposed is to ignore both the second Chamber and the electors, and to drag the GovernorGeneral into the matter, using him as a tool.
– That is a disgraceful expression.
– The proposal of the Prime Minister is a disgraceful one. He wishes to make a political tool of an officer who should be above all party strife. If effect is given to the proposal, the GovernorGeneral will override the deliberate decision of the Senate, whose members represent the States.
– The Governor-General’s message will have to come to both Houses.
– The honorable member’s assertions are imbecile.
-The Prime Minister must withdraw that remark.
– I do so.
– If the Prime Minister chooses to forget the dignity which the leader of the House should display, that is a matter for himself. It is seriously proposed that the GovernorGeneral’s message shall be dealt with by both Houses this session.
– In accordance with the Constitution.
– What an absolute farce the proposal is ! We know that Ministers cannot keep a House to-day.
– Several members of the Opposition came over from Sydney to make a quorum for them.
– There were not thirty-three members within the precincts of the Chamber at any time yesterday, and only a bare quorum is within the precincts now.
– There is more than a quorum.
– It is proposed to adopt an absolutely new and unique course, to bring the Governor-General in, not to arbitrate between the two Chambers, but to enforce the dictates of this Chamber, although not more than one-third of its members are present and to override the views of the other branch of the Legislature. This course is not a creditable one to propose. Why does not the Prime Minister withdraw the Bill, in regard to which the Government have got into a hopeless muddle, and act upon the generous suggestion of the leader of the Opposition ?
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
Mr.Mcwilliams.-i submit that, whatever views may be held by the Chairman of Committees, or you, Mr. Speaker, the opinions expressed by the presiding; officers of the other House are entitled to rule in that Chamber ; and they have takers the position that the amendment made by us is one to which fhe Senate cannot agree. To call the Governor-General in to decide the question at issue is so discreditable that I am surprised that the Government, although in the last stages of despair, have consented to make such a proposal.
– I am surprised at the honorable member’s outrageous statements.
– The outrage is done by those who make these proposals, not by those who have the courage to show whither their acceptance leads. I do not think that the electors of, Australia are prepared to accept the arbitration of the Governor-General in a matter affecting the relative powers of the two Houses, seeing that they themselves enjoy, under the Constitution, the right to do that. Although I am a strong supporter of preferential trade, I say that the proposal over which such a fuss is being made is an absolute sham.
– The honorable member must not discuss the main question.
– I contend that we ought not to bring the Governor-General into a dispute which involves only the mere shadow of a principle. The present position of affairs is a positive political disgrace. The Government have brought the whole trouble on themselves. For weeks in this House in the earlier part of the session, and in the Senate until now. they have allowed time to be wasted on academic discussions relating to private members’ business.
– Such discussions are valuable for intellectual culture.
– Are we going to turn the Commonwealth Parliament into a debating society?
– Has this anything to do with the question ?
– I am showing that Ministers have brought this trouble on themselves, by allowing time to be wasted in the discussion of questions of no practical importance, with the result that business of the greatest magnitude has had to be rushed through at the fag end of the session, and, now that we have no time for the calm and logical consideration of a dispute between the two Houses by means of a conference, they propose to drag the Governor-General into the mire of politics, merely to secure a rag under which to light their electoral campaign. The whole thing, is most discreditable.
.- It seems to me that there are considerations occupying a higher level than considerations of mere party gain, and when the honour and prestige of this House is affected, all parties should unite to maintain its dignity and privileges. Incomplete as I regard the preferential trade proposals of the Government, if the motive underlying the action of the Senate is to defeat them, I feel that the Ministry deserve the support of all who desire the best interests of the country.
– Is the honorable member aware of the offer made by the deputy leader of the Opposition?
– I am just about to refer to that. The honorable member for Parramatta has suggested that a new Bill should be introduced, and I think that Ministers might agree to follow that course.
– The honorable member for Parramatta cannot guarantee that the Senate will pass a new measure with despatch.
– But there are means of ascertaining how such a Bill would be treated by the Senate. My object is to extricate this House from what might resolve itself into a very ridiculous situation. We should not introduce party considerations into a discussion of this kind, but should do our best to sustain the honour and dignity of the Chamber. I do not think that the best means of doing this is bv appealing to the Governor-General. I admit, however, that in the last resort such a course might reasonably be taken, and that no special significance would attach to it as an invasion of the Parliamentary domain. We have gradually drifted into our present position. The provision inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie started the trouble, and one mistake after another has since been made, until we find it has become necessary to adopt heroic measures to extricate ourselves from a difficulty. Honorable members should join hands, quite irrespective of party, with a view to maintaining the privileges and rights of the House. I know that the deputy leader of the Opposition earnestly desires that we shall arrive at the proper solution, and perhaps it would be advisable for the House to adjourn for a short period, in order that the position may be considered and information obtained as to the most convenient course to pursue.
– I cannot help feeling that the Government are getting us into a mess, and that they are precluding honorable members, who are favorably disposed towards their preferential trade proposals, from assisting them in the present dilemma. Above all things, this House is bound to protect its own privileges and dignity, and the way in which the question now before us has been dealt with makes it apparent that, unless we are extremely careful, we shall drift into a position from which it will be very difficult to extricate ourselves. We were all agreed as to the principle of the preferential trade proposals submitted byrne Government. But a new provision was proposed by one section of the House, and, although the Government were strongly opposed to it, they allowed it to pass. This provision came back to us from the Senate in a somewhat modified form, and we made our first blunder when we sought to bring about a further modification. Notwithstanding Mr. Speaker’s ruling, I think that ws were wrong in adopting that course. I do not wish to dispute Mr. Speaker’s ruling, but I must traverse it in order to explain the vote which I shall be called upon to give. I cannot join with the Prime Minister in justifying the action that was taken yesterday, because I do not think that we can go back upon an amendment beyond the stage at which it was presented to us by the other House. Suppose that this House passed an Income Tax Bill with a provision for an exemption of£200, and that the Senate increased the exemption to £300. Could we, upon the return of the Bill to this House, strike out the exemption altogether? I do not think so. The most we could do would be to revert to the original position. I cannot subscribe to the motion now before the Chair, which affirms that we were right in dealing with a portion of the provision anterior to that brought under our consideration by the Senate’s amendment. The friends of this measure are, owing to the erroneous course now being followed, prevented from supporting the Government. I do not quite agree with the views expressed bv the deputy leader or the Opposition upon the question of bringing the GovernorGeneral into this matter, because I do not think that he is being dragged into the arena of party politics ; but I hold that the powers conferred by the Constitution must be availed of only in such cases as were contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. In this case, a certain policy has been introduced, and” subjected to a vital alteration, and instead of the Government fighting out the matter here they propose to invoke the assistance _ of the Governor-General, in order to reverse the policy adopted by Parliament. It is open to question whether any such action can legitimately be taken. The Prime Minister stated that in one of the States a similar constitutional provision is made and that it has been availed of. He might point to fifty cases in which such a power had been availed of without removing the objection which I entertain to the powers of the Governor-General being invoked at this stage of our proceedings in regard to an important principle. The honorable and learned member for Angas tore to shreds the contention that the action proposed to be taken by the Government was permissible under provisions of the Constitution, which were clearly intended to be used only for the purpose of correcting errors and omissions of a technical character which had been overlooked when Bills were before the Legislature. State Ministers have frequently had reason to regret that there was no power under their Constitutions to remedy mistakes of this kind. It was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution that section 58 should be used in the way now proposed - that is, for the purpose of reversing a policv adopted by the Legislature. The principle over which all. the trouble has arisen is a dangerous one, and, instead of cementing the different parts of the Empire into closer union, it will have a diametrically opposite effect. It will make for disunion, friction, and inharmonious relations where we had hoped to bring about the most beneficial results. To that extent I sympathize with the Government, and I am willing to help them to effect the purpose they have in view. I think, however, that the deputy leader of the Opposition has suggested the best way out of the difficulty. No more time would be occupied in securing the passing of an entirely new Bill than would be required to obtain the assent of the Senate to any recommendation submitted by message from the Governor-General.
– The Senate have not objected to the amendment upon its merits, but have ruled it out of order.
– Quite so. So far as the policy underlying the amendment is concerned, we should be just as far forward if the present Bill were dropped, and a new measure introduced, as if the Governor-General were to recommend an amendment by message.
– Perhaps the best course to adopt would be not to drop the Bill, but to pass a short supplementary measure.
– Our sole object should be to extricate ourselves from the false position into which we have drifted. We must, at all hazards, avoid a surrender of our rights and privileges. It seems to me that if we adopted the course proposed by the Government, we should fail to improve our position. If an entirely new Bill were introduced it could be passed through all its stages in this House without any delay, and no more time need be expended upon its discussion in the Senate than would be devoted to a recommendation by the Governor-General. It seems to me that the whole weight of the argument is in favour of adopting the proposal made by the honorable member for Parramatta.
.- I quite agree with other honorable members that the discussion of this matter should not be tinged by party considerations. Our dealings with the mother country and all matters relating to the privileges and dignity of this Chamber, should be considered entirely free from party considerations. We should proceed to almost any length rather than adopt the measure with all its present imperfections. In the first place, the preference proposed to be given to the mother country was very small, and was scarcely worthy of the dignity of the Commonwealth.
– It was certainly small, but it was not beneath our dignity.
– I think that the Minister of Trade and Customs stated that the preference proposed to be given was small, because in the closing hours of the session there was no time for the consideration of a more elaborate and comprehensive scheme. The condition attached to the granting of preference, at the instance of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, would be calculated to embarrass the mother country in her relations with her own coloured subjects, and, therefore, to make the Bill unacceptable in the old land. Furthermore, it would involve a violation of existing treaties. I recognise that in view of the defects in the Bill, the Government had a difficult situation to face. It is proposed that we should have recourse to the provision of the Constitution which enables the Governor-General to recommend amendments. I do not think that is the most desirable course to adopt. I am anxious to assist the Government to arrive at the happiest solution possible in the circumstances. I have always thought that the provision in question was designed solely to enable technical errors or omissions to be cured. I certainly do not think it was intended to apply to matters of policy - to cases in which both Houses of the Legislature, with a full knowledge of the difficulties in the way. have passed certain legislation. It appears to me that it is wrong to ask the Governor-General to take action in a matter of policy. It would be far better for the Government to bring in an amending Bill to overcome the difficulty.
– We have said that we are prepared to bring in an amending Bill if another place will receive it in the same spirit as this House is prepared to do.
– I think it would be well to have a short adjournment to enable a settlement to be arrived at.
– But we must deal with this Question in any case. We must answer the Senate.
– If there is no better way of overcoming the difficulty, well and good.
– I undertake not to bring down the ‘Governor-General’s message until after the luncheon adjournment. Even if we deal with the question now before us. I shall not proceed with an amending Bill until we have had an opportunity of ascertaining the feeling of another place.
– Then I shall not further occupy the time of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be forthwith returned to the other branch of the Legislature amended accordingly.
Consideration of Senate’s message (vide page 6408).
– The Senate has declined to accept the amendment that we introduced yesterday, giving a more elastic power to the Minister to deal with special cases; although it was proposed that none of them should be dealt with until all the papers relating to them had been laid on the table of both Houses. I have taken an opportunity this morning to place myself in communication with members of another place who objected to the introduction of the amendment, and regret to say that they do not see their way at this stage of the session to reconsider their decision. I am told that the arguments that can be submitted in favour of our proposal would impress them, but that they feel they are at present legislating under a strain that might prevent them from giving to the question the full consideration it deserves. We shall be able, however, to legislate at any time during the first half of next year, and, as we shall have another opportunity to extend the provisions of the Bill in this direction before the expiration of the six months’ period covered by it, I propose to ask the House not to insist on the amendment which we have made, but to accept the Senate’s proposal. I undertake, so far as this Government is concerned, that one of the first measures submitted next session will be one introducing a provision to enable special cases to be dealt with by the Minister. I do not know of such cases at present, but it is suggested that thev may arise. It is necessary to provide for them, and during my administration of the Department I shall conceive it to be my duty not to employ the provisions of the existing law in connexion with individual cases of hardship until Parliament has had another opportunity of saying whether or not this additional proviso shall be made. I shall have no hesitation in extending a generous consideration to special individual cases outside the classification to which we have agreed. I move -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
– I think that the Prime Minister ought to take the responsibility of any action that may devolve upon him in administering the Pacific Island Labourers Act in a humane manner. I do not think that he need wait for the authority of this Parliament to deal humanely with any case of hardship that may arise. He should deal instanter with such cases.
– That is what I propose to do.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman does so the House will support him. I do not think that there will be many cases requiring special treatment other than that for which provision is made in the Bill. But apart from the terms of the Bill itself, the Minister, in carrying out the deportation, should be guided by humanitarian principles. If he finds that he has not sufficient legal power, he should take the responsibility for his actions in humanely carrying out the law.
.- I pointed out yesterday to the Prime Minister that, whilst the Bill permitted exemptions to be granted to kanakas married to women of other nationalities, it made no provision for kanaka women married to white men. At North Rockhampton (here lives a kanaka woman who married a white man, and has a large family.
– I am going to take the responsibility of dealing with that case.
– I do not want these people to feel that they are illegally in Australia, and I think it would have been better had we made the amendment which I suggested yesterday. I hope that the new Parliament will pass the measure which the Prime Minister has promised to introduce; otherwise, for the sake of peace, we shall have been yielding to proposals to which we ought not to have acceded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The proposition I am about to make will show that the action taken by us in regard to the Customs Tariff (British Preference) ‘ Bill was dictated by no desire to score a party success. It is my desire to bring in a Bill of two clauses, which will offer another place a means of overcoming the whole difficulty. I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the ‘Customs Tariff (British Preference) Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Bill benow read a first time.
The Bill contains only two clauses, and we have an exact precedent for it in the Bill introduced in 1903 to cure certain omissions in the High Court Procedure Act, which was passed during the same session. It was discovered that there were serious omissions in that measure, and consequently we brought in an amending Bill that repealed sub-section 1 of section 8, enacted a new clause, and made alterations in six sub-sections of the principal Act.
– Was the High Court Procedure Bill so amended prior to the Royal Assent being given to it?
– In such circumstances the two measures are practically taken together. The principal Bill is first assented to, and the Governor-General then gives his assent to the amending Bill. Under the Acts Consolidation Act as soon as His Excellency has signified his assent to both measures, we need publish only the original Bill in its amended form. The principal clause in this Bill is as follows : -
The schedule to the Customs Tariff (British Preference) 1906 is amended by omitting in the column headed “Duties” all the words in the first and second sub-headings after the words “United Kingdom.”
– Can we amend a Bill which is not yet law?
– We are following the course adopted in connexion with the High Court Procedure Bill.
– How can we amend an Act that is not an Act?
– We shall not amend the principal Bill until it is an Act. When His Excellency the Governor-General has put his signature to the original Bill, it will become an Act, and he may then put his signature to this Bill. The practice has been followed elsewhere, as well as in Australia, and nothing could be simpler. It was suggested to me that if we did not proceed in this way, we might appear to be holding out to another place the threat that, unless they took a certain step, we should do something else. By this action we relieve ourselves of such a suspicion, and remove the party aspect of this proposal. If the’ Bill be rejected, we shall not be responsible for what may follow.
– This is an extreme! v- wrong course to take. I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, whether it is competent for the Government to bring in a Bill to amend an Act that is not in existence?
– There are precedents both here and in’ the mother country for the adoption of this course.
– I doubt whether the Prime Minister can quote a precedent showing that an amending Bill has been introduced to rectify errors in a Bill passed by the two branches of the Legislature before it has received the Royal assent. There is a right and a wrong way of dealing with these matters, and the Government will persist in taking the wrong course.
– The reference in May will be found at page 478. After referring to the difficulties in the way of amending Bills in their final stages - difficulties such as we have experienced in connexion with this measure - May points out that -
So binding, indeed, has it been held -
That is the rule not to strike out anything which has been agreed to by both Houses - that in 1850, a serious oversight as to the commencement of the Act, having been discovered in the Pirates’ Head Money Bill, before the Lords’ amendments had been agreed to, no attempt was made to correct it by way of amendment, but a separate Act was passed for the purpose.
The reference is not absolutely conclusive, because it does not show whether or not the- separate Act which was passed for the purpose of making the desired amendment was agreed to before the final stages of the original Bill had been taken. But in any case, I should not be prepared to rule that this was a step which ought not to be taken, since it is not forbidden by the Constitution or the Standing Orders^ If the House pleases to take this course there is no reason, so far as I can discover, why iit should not do so.
– On a point of order, sir, I should like to know what would happen in the event of the Governor-General reserving this Bill for the assent of the
Crown, and granting the Royal assent to the other?
– So far as lean suggest, if the representative of the Crown reserved the Bill for the expression of His Majesty’s pleasure in the one case, he would do so in the other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill of two clauses. In the first it isi provided that -
This Act may be cited as the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Amendment Act 1906.
Whilst in the second it is provided that -
The schedule to the Customs Tariff (British Preference) 1906 is amended by omitting in the column headed “Duties” all the words in the first and second sub-headings after the words “ United Kingdom. “-
In the schedule, as it will then stand, it is provided that preference shall be given to the goods named which are the produce of the United Kingdom imported in British ships. Under this Bill, the latter condition will be omitted.
– There is no mention in this measure either of an Act or a Bill. The title of the Bill is “ A Bill for an Act to amend the Customs Tariff (British Preference) 1906.” There is no such Act.
– There will be when the measure has passed.
– But it may not be passed. There is nothing in this Bill which makes, it contingent on the passing of the principal Bill.
– The fact that it provides for an amendment of the principal Bil! makes it contingent on something that is existing.
– Not at all : so far as this measure is concerned, we are simply enacting a piece of nonsense. There is, no Act “to amend.
– There is a Bill, but not an Act.
– We are drifting into an extraordinary position when we propose to amend an Act that is not in exist,ence, aand which, for anything we know to the contrary, may never have any existence. Taking up the role of comedy, which seems to be popular just now, another place may pass this Bill and reject the other.
– Then, as in the case of the jackdaw of Rheims,no one will be any the worse.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether we can by this Bill alter a schedule to the Customs Tariff, except by an amendment of the Act embodying that schedule. There is nothing in this: Bill to connect the proposed amendment with any Act. Therefore, I submit that it is entirely out of order. We are proposing to amend the schedule without saying what Act it is the schedule of. This is merely a proposal to amend a “ schedule for British preference, 1906,” whatever that may mean.
– The schedule is part of the Act.
– But this is a proposal to amend part of an Act which does not exist. I submit that the measure is entirely out of order.
– The title of the Bill is -
A Bill for an Act to amend the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Act1906.
That is the first reference it contains to the measure which is to be amended. Then the short title enacts that -
This Act may be cited as the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Act 1906.
That is the second reference to the measure to be amended. Clause 2’ speaks of the “ Schedule to the Customs Tariff (British Preference) 1906.” I suppose there is a clerical error there which it will be for fhe Committee to deal with. I hold that there is an ample specification of the measure to which the Bill relates, and sufficient identification of the portion of that measure which it is proposed to amend.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I wish to again point out that we are now dealing with a proposal for the introduction of which, according to Mr. Speaker, no specific provision is made, either in our own rules of procedure or in May, and are departing from the procedure which regulates the consideration of ordinary public Bills. There is a clear and definite course laid down for public Bills and for private Bills, but we are now carrying through a proposal in regard to which all that Mr. Speaker can say is that what we are doing is not, so far as he can find out, forbidden. No one can discover in our Standing Orders or in May anything authorizing the passing of a Bill amending a measure which is not law, and which may never become an Act of Parliament, though, so far as is known, there is no statement to the effect that this course cannot be taken. I submit that we are laying down a precedent which mav have awkward consequences, a precedent of a most undesirable kind, which could be obviated without the slightest difficultv by setting aside the objectionable Bill and substituting for it an unobjectionable one. If the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill were an Act, it would be a proper thing to propose to amend it in this way, but as it is not, the correct procedure, as we cannot amend the Bill directly, is to set it aside, and to introduce a new Bill without the objectionable provision. As a procedure is laid down for the passing of public Bills, and we are not now conforming with that procedure, I am of opinion that we have no right to pass the measure before us.
.- I entirely indorse what the deputy leader of the Opposition has said. It seems to me that in unthinking minds resistance to the proposal of the Prime Minister may be confused with the desire to resist giving effect to the principle of preference to British trade. It should be clearly understood that there is no such desire. If any moral is to be drawn from the tangle in which we find ourselves, it is that Governments should accept the assistance, proffered to them from time to time by Oppositions. The leader of the Opposition pointed out to the Prime Minister immediately after the original division the extreme gravity of the provision which has caused all the trouble, and no fewer than three times urged the reconsideration of the schedule’s amended heading, on the ground that a majority could be obtained to excise the words objected to. The Prime Minister would not agree to that. He preferred to blunder into a morass of difficulties, and I might almost say, so far as procedure and the conduct of business is concerned, of disgrace. No doubt he now regrets as keenly as; any one in the Chamber that he did not accept the advice tendered to him. In passing this Bill we shall place ourselves in a ridiculous position, because it is impossible to amend an Act which does not exist. The original Bill cannot get the Royal assent until what we seek to do in this Bill is done. Consequently the Bill we are seeking to amend will never become an Act. We are bringing parliamentary institutions into contempt. But 1 regard the possible excision of the objectionable feature in the British Preference Bill as of more importance than the reputation of the Government, and therefore offer no resistance to this proposal.
– The AttorneyGeneral has reminded me of a precendent of ours for what we are now doing. In 1901 three Bills - the Beer Excise Bill, the Distillation Bill, and the Excise Tariff Bill - were brought in practically at the same time, each of them referring to provisions in the others as provisions in an Act though all were Bills ; and all three were assented to by the Governor-General on the 5th October of that year.
– That statement does not make the present course a right one. No objection was taken to the three Bills to which the honorable and learned gentleman refers. Although the Government of the day may have acted ridiculously in regard to them, that is no reason why we should act ridiculously now, when there is another procedure open to us. To attempt to amend an Act which does not exist is ridiculous, and I am glad that the only precedent which the Prime Minister can allege in support of his proposal is one created by a former Administration of which he was a member.
– It seems to me extraordinary to propose to amend an Act which does not exist. The Executive may put this amending Bill into the hands of the Governor-General before he gets the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill, and he will then be in the position of assenting to a Bill amending a, law which is not in force.
– What suggestion does the honorable and learned member make to meet the circumstances?
– I am not bound to make any. If the Government choose to get into a muddle of this sort, they must get out of it.
– The proper course is to withdraw the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill.
– The Senate may not acquiesce in that course. The difficulty might have been got over if we had insisted on our amendment. I cannot allow the measure to pass without criticising it as a proposal which may eventually put v.s into an absurd position.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and passed through its remaining stages.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 3.30 p.m. (Thursday).
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the Bill as amended by the House of Representatives at its request.
Sitting suspended from 3.31 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. (Thursday).
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General: -
In accordance with section 58 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Governor-General returns to the House of Representatives a proposed law intituled “ An Act relating to Duties of Customs,” and known as the Customs Tariff (British Preference)1906, which has been presented to him for the King’s assent, and transmits herewith the following amendments, which he recommends to be made in the said proposed law
Government House, Melbourne, 11th October,1906.
Amendments recommended : -
The schedule, in the column headed “Duties,” omit all words in the first and second subheadings after the word “ Kingdom.”
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move -
That the amendments recommended be made.
These are precisely the same amendments that we have already twice indorsed in this Chamber. Upon the last occasion we transmitted these amendments to another place embodied in aBill.
– I rise to a point of order. The amendments now submitted may be the same in substance as those previously adopted, but as to that point we have nothing, but the statement of the Prime Minister to guide us. We are now being called upon to consider a series of amendments suggested by the GovernorGeneral in relation to a Bill which, from the Imperial point of view, is deemed not to be satisfactory, and I submit that it is our duty to go into Committee to consider them.
– The Standing Orders permit of amendments being considered in the House or in Committee.
– I submit that the House is the proper place in which to deal with these amendments, which have already been before us twice ; which have been elaborately discussed; with which we are perfectly familiar; and which deal with only one point, namely, the omission of the words after the words “ United Kingdom.” These are amendments which we are called upon to make in obedience to our treaty obligations and in consideration of the interests of the mother country.
– The amendments were originally proposed in Committee.
– The Bill necessarily passed through the Committee stage. We now have presented to us The last opportunity in this Parliament afforded to us under the Constitution to re-affirm once more our wish that this Bill, instead of running a risk of being indefinitely suspended, shall be put into such a form as to permit of its being brought into operation without delay. It has not been the practice for the Colonial Office to communicate to the Customs Department the text of the various British treaties made from time to time, though they may contain provisions likely to affect us. Up to the present time the Colonial Office, and the British Government generally, appear to have dealt with all such matters as being within their own particular domain. They have not considered it necessary, except in some special’ emergency or in consequence of special circumstances, to inform us of the nature of the treaties entered into by them. I am not now referring to treaties which have been submitted to us for our acceptance. As a consequence, we did not find out until a very late stage that one of the provisions of this Bill was in conflict with treaty obligations. We are now face to face with the position that the Bill must either be sent forward containing conditions which it is now shown are in conflict with the treaty obligations of both the mother country and the Commonwealth, or we must make simple verbal amendments which wilt remove the objectionable feature, and enable the other provisions of the measure, granting a preference to British goods, to stand on their merits when submitted for His Excellency’s assent. It is proposed to make the Preference Bill a real measure, to which assent can be given at once, liecause it will not conflict with our treaty obligations. The position was different when we, in all good faith, inserted what we believed to be a desirable condition, intended for the encouragement of the British mercantile marine. Whatever differences of opinion may have existed amongst us in respect to that proposal have disappeared, because at the present time our only concern is to make the Bill, which came unwittingly in conflict with treaty obligations, what from the very first it was intended to be, namely, a substantial proposal, although only in the nature of an instalment, for extending preference to British goods. And in what position are the opponents of the measure placed? They must now say that they prefer to intentionally retain provisions which conflict with our treaty obligations, in the hope that by this indirect, undesirable, and reprehensible means they may render our preference proposals ineffective. Any such attitude would be unreasonable, unfair, and unworthy. Those who are opposed to the principle of the measure have been afforded every opportunity to vote upon the main issue as to whether preference should be granted to British goods. No one has challenged their right to plainly and straightforwardly express their views, or to give effect to their opinions. But now, if an endeavour is made to defeat it bv a side wind- by bringing us into conflict with treaty obligations - I say that such proceedings are utterly discreditable.
– I am not auite certain as to the persons to whom the Prime Minister is directing his remarks, but I would point out that if they are intended to apply to honorable members of this or another place thev are out of order.
– The manner in which I wish to express my opinion is by saying that if there be any such opposition - I do not know that there is. and hope that there will not be - it mav be fairlv criticised in the terms which I have used.
– The Prime Minister has already stated half-a-dozen times that there is such opposition.
– I have not said that such opposition was being directed to the proposal in either House. I hope that if will not be manifested here. We are now taking the last step in our power. Unfortunately, the Standing Orders in another place do not admit of an explanation of the provisions of a measure upon the motion for the first reading.
– There are other steps which could be taken, and the Prime Minister knows it.
– I should like to know what they are. I am aware that a proposal was made to lay aside the whole Bill, subject to an undertaking on the part of the Opposition that, they would lend us their assistance in bringing a substituted measure tq the same position that was occupied by the Bill recently sent forward to the Senate. But I would point out that no security was offered as to how it would be dealt with in the other Chamber, where the smallest measures of two or three clauses are being rejected on the ground that it is unreasonable to ask that Chamber to consider any new Bills at this stage of the session. If we sent forward an entirely new Bill, honorable senators might regard our action as a direct challenge to them, and we might be inviting defeat.
– The Government should have accepted the proposal to recommit the Bill, in order to excise the objectionable provision before it was sent to the Senate.
– That does not affect the present situation. -That suggestion was not accepted, because it would have involved great delay, and could have brought about no result, because it left British ships in the schedule. I was of opinion that the proposal as to seamen was injudicious, that it was made at the wrong time and place, and that it should not have been supported. Under the Standing Orders of the Senate, no explanation of the provisions of a Bill can be made upon the motion for the first reading, and, consequently, the supplementary Bill which we recently sent forward was dealt with in the same manner as certain other short measures have been treated, on the ground - at least, I hope so - that it was a new measure, and that the time was inopportune for the introduction of fresh legislation for the consideration of honorable senators. If there had been a chance to place before honorable senators the plain and simple proposition now submitted here, and to explain that the measure was intended merely to obviate a breach of treaty obligations, and to render a measure which had been approved of by both Houses a real and effective piece of legislation, instead of being reduced to a nullity, the result might have been different. As I have previously explained, it has not been the custom of the Imperial authorities to keep us in close touch with treaty obligations which we share in common with the rest of the Empire. But I trust that at the forthcoming Navigation Conference, and at the Imperial Conference the necessity will be recognised of arriving at some understanding upon this matter, so that we, as a Commonwealth, may know the position in which we stand when we are seeking to legislate upon questions affecting the commerce of this country and of the motherland. The treaties into which the mother country has entered are .more numerous than I care to think of, and deal with a great variety of subjects. Some of them directly, and some only incidentally, deal with commercial matters, and in many cases they only indirectly affect us. The task of mastering the intricacies of all these treaties, and of ascertaining the extent of the obligations they impose upon us, has not, so far as I am aware, yet been essayed on this side of the world. Although we have thirty odd volumes of Hertslet’s treaties in our possession, we have next to no acquaintance with the commercial ties which have been contracted by us through the agency of British treaties.
– Does the Prime Minister mean to convey that we cannot offer any preference to British shipping owing to the treaty provisions?
– Apparently, we cannot do so in respect of British shipping, but there is no difficulty in regard to the admission of British goods into the Commonwealth. At all events, there are expressed or implied undertakings in connexion with a number of treaties which make it impossible to deal as freely as we might* desire with the shipping of the mother country. That, however, is not likely to be a subject of complaint on the part of the British Government, because past British Cabinets have deliberately entered into these treaty obligations. Now that our eyes have been opened, we are making an effort to repair a mistake that has been unintentionally but honestly made, and to put our legislation in such a shape that it can receive the assent of the GovernorGeneral, and become the law of the land, instead of being suspended. I take it that even the opponents of this measure, whoever they may be, will shrink from adopting such means as I have indicated to prevent the execution of the expressed will of both Houses. All that is desired is to remove an addendum of our own, important, it is true, but not essential to the main purpose of the measure. If this effort fails, the Government will have taken every step in its power to remedy a defect, and to enable the position to be fairly reconsidered. We shall not, however, have exhausted all the weapons in our armoury which may be used hereafter, but which cannot be used in this Parliament.
– I. do not intend to imitate the Prime Minister by employing violent party language in connexion with the consideration of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General. The fact that the message is from His Excellency, and relates to Imperial treaty obligations, should preclude the possibility of any strongparty language being employed in connexion with its discussion. ‘But the Prime Minister has not been deterred from indicating that the message is intended to secure a tactical advantage for the Government. In other words, we are given to distinctly understand that the Government have asked the Governor-General to help them to escape from, the consequences of their own bad party tactics, and from their own blundering in connexion with a measure of ordinary policy and legislation. Other courses which are open to the Government have been suggested bv honorable members on this side of the House, who have given full and free offers of assistance which would have enabled the Government to bring about the same result that they are now aiming- at. I hope that this will be the last occasion upon which the aid of the Governor-General will be invoked by any Government for the purpose of securing a temporary tactical advantage in a matter of mere party policy.
.- I think that, on reflection, the Prime Minister will regret that he should have used such violent language in commenting upon the action of members in another place.
In a matter of this kind, we should be very careful to keep His Excellency the Governor-General absolutely free from participation in what the Prime Minister has described as “ a piece of discreditable party manoeuvring. ; ‘ I should have thought that mere considerations of diplomacy and tact would have precluded the Prime Minister from making such a bitter attack upon the Senate. As a matter of fact, the other Chamber has - rightly or wrongly - been standing up for its dignity, and if it sees fit now to crawl, because the Prime Minister says that some members - a majority - of that Chamber have been “guilty of discreditable tactics”-
– I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the impropriety of the observations to which, the honorable member is now referring, and I must ask the Honorable member not to proceed in that strain.
– I shall merely say that it was unwise on the part of the Prime Minister to use such language. The honorable and learned gentleman did not correct] v state the position. He knows that if the Bill had been recommitted, as suggested bv the leader of the Opposition, in order to excise the objectionable provision before it had left tins House-
– That would have made no difference, because we should merely have struck out the provision relating to the employment of white seamen, and that would not have affected the stipulation with regard to. the carriage of preference goods in British shins.
– - -The Prime Minister must remember that the provision in regard to the manning of British ships with white seamen was indorsed by the Senate, with the qualification that it should not be brought into, operation until August next.
– It was the provision with regard to British ships that caused the trouble.
– Yes. but it was because we refused to accept the Senate’s stipulation with regard to the manning provision that we have been landed in all this trouble.
– That would not have affected the question.
– If the provision with! regard to manning had been excised by us in the first instance, the difficulty would not have arisen, since the Senate would not have come to a dead-lock with us on that point.
I think that the Prime Minister should take this opportunity to withdraw the most violent language which he used just now.
– He has withdrawn it.
– I am referring, not to a particular phrase, but to the whole speech, which was throughout a grave reflection on the members of another place. The only way to get the Senate to withdraw from its position - which we all desire - is to treat it with ordinary courtesy and good feeling. Unless the Prime Minister does what I suggest, there rs little likelihood of honorable senators being bulldozed into reversing their twice declared decision.
.- I desire to protest against the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the members of the Opposition in another place. When pouring out the vials of his wrath upon them, he ignored the fact that a section of his supporters are responsible for the whole of this dead-locking business, by inserting a proviso now seen to be in contravention of our treaties.
– I am referring to the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– Exception is taken to the preference to British ships, which was provided for in the original Bill. The position would ‘have been the same had not the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie been inserted.
– At all events, if the honorable and learned gentleman wishes to blame any one beyond the members of the Government, who are primarily responsible for the whole muddle, he should credit a section of his own following with their proper share.
– The provision to which the honorable member refers had nothing to do with the present position.
– It had everything to do with. it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 4.53 to9 p.m. (Thursday).
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had disagreed to the amendments recommended by His Excellency the Governor-General.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I regret that the other Chamber has not seen fit to concur in the amendments made by this House on the recommendation of the Governor-General, and I therefore have to move -
That the House does not insist on its amendments transmitted by the Governor-General, and agreed to by the House, but disagreed to by the Senate.
I am forced to take this action. This House supported the Governor-General’s recommendation, but the Senate having refused to concur in the amendments made by us, our only hope of saving the Bill is not to insist upon those amendments. If this course is taken, the measure will be again presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and it will be for him to say whether he will assent to it or reserve it, and for the Imperial Government to say whether the preference which we have offered should be accepted or not. Should it not be accepted it will be readily recognised that the misfortune is not due o this House or to the Government.
– I think that the Attorney-General takes a proper course, though, in my judgment, if the Bill is not placed on the statutebook in a satisfactory form the fault will be that of the Government. Their conduct regarding the measure has all through not been such as could tend to facilitate its passing. The language indulged in by the Prime Minister to-dav in reference to his opponents has been anything but creditable to him, and whatever may be the fate of the measure, the responsibility for what has occurred will rest on the Government.
.- Personally I am of opinion that the wrong course has been taken. I do not know what reason operated with the other House to cause it to refuse to concur in the amendments made by us on the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral, though I heard it alleged that it thought that the recommendation had been made by the Governor-General in Council, since the Governor-General acted on the advice of the Ministry, whereas under the Constitution he should have acted on his own initiative. Surely it is not for either House to assume that the GovernorGeneral, in exercising his undoubted power to make a recommendation - the policy of such action is another question - did not act in pursuance of section 58 of the Constitution. If he acted alone under the powers covered by section 63, his action would be void ; but the fact that, in acting in pursuance of his powers under section 58, he did so on the advice of the Executive Council, does not invalidate what he has done. If concurrence in the amendment was refused by the Senate on the ground that the Governor-General acted on the advice of the Executive Council, its action seems almost too simple for men in the exalted position of senators. Howeer, the Senate’s concurrence in our amendments having been refused the question arises should the Bill be sent on to the Governor-General for the Royal assent. In my humble judgment it should not, because it contains a provision affecting Imperial treaties which defeats its object. The Imperial Government have striven to defend the rights of nations with whom treaties - too numerous for the Prime Minister to look into, and most complex in character - have been made by some of the component States of the Union. These treaties are obligatory upon us, whether entered into by the individual States or by the Imperial Government. They provide - and the principle is affirmed by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 - for a certain amount of equality of treatment. We should have known that, because when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was being discussed, the question of our power to prescribe different rules for foreign and British vessels in the Australian coastal trade was discussed in this Chamber. The question whether the exerciseof an intended power of discrimination would be a violation of the treatyobligations referred to in one of the sections of the Merchant Shipping Act was raised, and the point arose whether that Act is repealed by the Constitution so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Certainly those who are in the responsible position of Ministers should have known a little of the Imperial obligations which were being violated by the provisions of this Bill. Now the question arises, are the preferences offered to the Imperial Government of such substance that we should insist on embarrassing it in its treaty relations with the great nations of the world? I do not think that they are. In my opinion, the Bill amounts to nothing more than an affirmation by both Houses of the principle of preference, and surely this expression of opinion should be sufficient to let the British people know the views of the majority here on the subject. Whv should we go further, when the moral effect of our attempt to legislate is sufficient, and the Imperial Government has not the mandate of the British Parliament to reciprocate ? There is no need for hurry in this matter. The subject is to be discussed at the Imperial Conference next year, and if action is decided upon, something can then be done which will go beyond the mere expression of opinion which the Bill amounts to. Even if the preferences offered were really of value, they would be outweighed by the embarrassment of the Imperial Government in its treaty relations. Is not the telegram which has been received a suggestion that we should be satisfied with our expression of good-will, letting the matter rest at that until next year, when, perhaps, a measure can be passed which will not embarrass the Imperial Government?
– I understood the Prime Minister to say this afternoon that he had other resources if this failed.
– No doubt he referred to resources in the next Parliament; there are none in this. As men who take an interest in the affairs of the Empire, our loyalty should prevent us, even at the expense of the kudos to be obtained by making this imperfect gift of preference, from embarrassing the relations of the mother country with foreign nations. In making the suggestion that we should not proceed with the Bill, I ask the House to remember that the passing of it would very seriously embarrass the Imperial Government. I mentioned yesterday that the carrying trade of Great Britain is tremendous, her commercial fleet being estimated1 at 11,000,000 tons, which I believe is more than half the total tonnage of the rest of the world. British ships carry 55 per cent, of the trade of the United States of America, and about 26 per cent, of that of Germany, and it has been pointed out that legislation of this sort may lead to reprisals by foreign countries in the way of tonnage dues on British shipping. That being so, it would be well for us not to tempt foreign nations to such action by pressing this gift of preference on the Imperial Government in violation of treaty obligations. I do not believe that British shipping can be successfully attacked for many years to come, because, owing to the free ports of Great Britain, it is too strong. Other nations could not do their foreign trade without using British ships, and, if by their reprisals they prevented British ships from entering into it, it would be a long time before they could substitute a sufficient tonnage of their own. They may, however, try some method of hitting back at the Government which we wish to help by the gift of preference. I do not think that the British people require this gift. Surely a country, with a trade valued at ^973,000,000 does not need a pettifogging preference like this. As we are all desirous not to embarrass the mother country, I ask the Government if it would not be well to withdraw the Bill, resting on the moral effect of the affirmation of the principle of preference by both Houses, and waiting until the Imperial Conference has dealt with the whole question to see what further we can do? That seems to me to be the true course to adopt. In the face of the. message from the Imperial Government it would be very awkward to ask the GovernorGeneral to assent to a Bill which violates Imperial and some local treaties. . If we did so, his constitutional duty would be to refuse to assent to the measure, or to suspend its operation until the Royal Assent or veto had been declared. I do not think that we should put him in that position. I regret that the Senate did not see fit to concur in the amendments made by us on the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral. I commend the Government for the course which they took, and recognise the embarrassment of their position. I acknowledge, too, their bond fide efforts to get out of it. But, on the whole. I think that it would be better to rest on the expression of good-will towards the mother country, which has been shown by the passing of the Bill by both Houses, and to wait until next year, when, perhaps, a measure which has received the indorsement of a Conference representative of the various units of the Empire may be passed.
– There is a great deal in what the honorable and learned member for Angas has said. No doubt, if we proceed further with the Bill, it will be most embarrassing to the Imperial Government. Although our opinions in regard to it differ. I agree with the honorable and learned gentleman that the people of Australia are desirous of giving a Tariff preference in some form to the people of Great Britain, and of other parts of the Empire. That policy has already been affirmed. Unfortunately the preference contained in the Bill is saddled with a proviso which makesit anything but acceptable to Great Britain, because of certain treaty obligations, which affect the Australian States as well as the mother country. The Government have sought to remove that proviso, but as they have failed, I think that it would be better to drop the Bill, than to force the Crown to disallow it, since that course would necessarily beget a degree of friction which we must all be desirous of preventing. I think that I voice the opinion of a great number of persons outside when I say that the Bill, saddled with the condition, to which I have referred, is not a measure of preference which should be forced on the mother country. The circumstances which have arisen, unfortunate as they are, emphasize the fact, which will be still more emphasized as time goes on, that some change in the constitutional form of our Executive is necessary.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss that question.
– I merely wish to refer to what would have been the action of the Government if this House had insisted on the provisions which it has desired to eliminate. Under those circumstances the occupants of office would have felt called upon to resign. But the provisions having been insisted upon by another branch of the Legislature, the Government cannot take that step, because no Administration could be responsible to both Houses, and they are, therefore, in, the position of having been flouted by the Senate in regard to a matter of grave public policy. If we are to continue our present system of Government, it will be necessary to have Ministers -whose views are in accord with those of the majority of this House.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed.
– I am very sorry, because this is one of the most important considerations: arising in connexion with the event which has transpired. A position such as that which has just occurred is likely to arise again and again from time to time, until we shall be forced to acknowledge the necessity for making some constitutional change.
.- I think that all will recognise that the Government is in a rather awkward position.
– Not at all, though British preference is in an awkward position.
– A great number of the people of the country will recognise that the Government are entirely responsible for this position. Not only must we consider the embarrassment which the passing of the Bill will occasion the Imperial Government ; but we must also have regard to the good name and credit of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister yesterday explained to the House that the Australian States had entered into certain treaty obligations which would be absolutely infringed if this system of preference, hampered as it is by certain obnoxious details, were given effect to. He therefore strongly urged us, for the sake of the good name and credit of Australia, to make every effort to eliminate these provisions. We have done so, but our attempt has been frustrated, and they still remain in the Bill. Now it is the duty of the AttorneyGeneral to see that the good name of the country is not imperilled by passing the measure as it stands. That duty is higher than his duty to the Ministry’s reputation, and what is at stake is more important than the electioneering success of Ministers. The first thing that we should seek to do is to fulfil our obligations. Political parties may occasionally fall short in that regard, but surely the Commonwealth Government will not be found wanting when the good name of Australia is at stake. Why should we endeavour to throw on the GovernorGeneral the onus of getting us out of this difficulty? We have too often seen an inclination on the part of some honorable members to allow the High Court to act for us in deciding constitutional questions; but I hope that the House will not descend to the depth of calling upon the Crown to decide Australia’s obligations of honour, which is what will happen if the Government seek to pass the Bill in its present form. The only way to safeguard the credit of the Commonwealth is to adopt the course suggested by the honorable and learned member for Angas. The Government have done their best by these proposals to grant a preference to 2 per cent, of British trade. I admit that their best was not well advised or well thought out, but they have done what they could according to their lights ; and the duty now devolves upon them to secure the honouring of the obligations of Australia, and thus to safeguard the good name of the country committed to their charge.
.- There is just one point that I think we should carefully consider.
– That is the matter of going home.
– Yes; and it is regrettable that so many important measures should have been submitted for our consideration after the majority of honorable members have gone to their homes. We are now proposing to place the GovernorGeneral in a position that he should not be asked to occupy. The Prime Minister very distinctly pointed out that the treaty obligations of Great Britain would preclude us from imposing certain conditions. We know very well that in the pre-Federation days the States gave in their adherence to the treaties entered into by Great Britain, and there is no doubt that these agreements are binding on the Commonwealth, which took over the obligations of the States. The two Houses have disagreed with regard to the provisions which should be embodied in theBill - two Houses elected on exactly the same franchise. One would imagine from the way in which some honorable members speak that the Senate was a kind of Legislative Council, but it is returned by exactly the same electors as are the members of this House. The Senate has taken a view different from that adopted by us in regard to the measure, and the Governor-General is to be called upon to override the decision of one House or the other. The British Board of Trade have told us that the Bill in its present form will not prove acceptable, and yet the Government propose to ask the representative of the Crown to assent to it.
– Who prevented the Bill from being made acceptable ?
– The prime cause of the difficulty was the amendment proposed by a member of the Labour Party, a party that has been applying the spur to the Government throughoutthis session. The Government were told by the Opposition that if they cared to recommit the Bill, in order to remove the objectionable provision, the Opposition would assist them ; but they had not the pluck to adopt that course. Instead of the present difficulty being due to the action of the Opposition, it is solely attributableto the ineptitude of the Government arid to their in- ability to properly carry on the business under the spur of the Labour Party, which is now springing at their throats. The preference proposed to be given to Great Britain is a mere sham, and a deliberate insult to those who are really desirous of conferring upon the mother land some really substantial commercial advantage. The Government have gone the length of dragging the Governor-General through the mire ot party politics, in order to secure the passing of a measure which could not, under any ‘ circumstances, confer an appreciable benefit.
.- It is quite refreshing to hear honorable members opposite bemoaning the loss of a measure; in regard to which they have throughout taken up an attitude either of hostility or indifference. The first evidence we had of the desire of honorable members for preferential trade was that afforded by their honest efforts to provide remuneration for professional burglars in connexion with the Preservation of Australian Industries Bill. When the British preference proposals were introduced, objections were raised by honorable members opposite, one after another of whom uttered the oldparrot cry that no preference could possibly be given to the old country without a reduction of duty in every instance. We were told that the increase of duties against foreigners to the extent of 10 per cent, would confer no advantage upon the manufacturers, of Great Britain. The deputy leader of the Opposition directedparticular attention to the fact that if these preference proposals were lost - and I admit that they have been rendered absolutely valueless - the blame would rest entirely upon the Government. But, as a matter of fact, the present position has been brought about bv the action of the Opposition. What course did they adopt when the vote was taken upon the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie? With one or two exceptions thev absolutely refused to vote.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– It is quite true.
– I say without hesitation that in my humble opinion the fact that this Bill has been rendered valueless is wholly duc to the action of honorable members opposite. They have merely acted in accordance with the crv of their leader at the last election, that no preference could be given to the mother country.
– The one question before the Chair is. whether or not we shall insist upon the amendment recommended by the Governor-General. The honorable member must not debate any extraneous matters.
– I agree with much that was said by the honorable and learned member for Angas. I have a great respect for his opinion, because I recognise that he is absolutely fair. He put the question before us very clearly and concisely. No one realizes more fully than I do that the Bill, even if it be assented to, will not confer anything like the modicum of preference that we desire to give to the old country. I trust that the next Parliament will be able to carry into effect the principle to which we have given our adherence. I am sure that any Government that will makepreferential trade one of the principal planks in its platform will have the country solidly behind it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Motion (by Mr. Isaacs) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until 3.15 p.m. to-morrow.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable members that the prorogation will take place at halfpast 3 o’clock to-morrow afternoon.
– I have just referred to the division lists in connexion with the vote taken on the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, in relation to the stipulation in the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill, that preference goods shall be earned in British ships manned by white seamen, and I find that not a single member of the Opposition voted for the provision.
– The records of the House contain imperishable testimony that the members of the Opposition skulked away from the vote on that occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at9.34 p.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19061010_reps_2_35/>.