3rd Parliament · 1st Session
The House met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-Genera 1 .
The Usher of the Black Rod being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message, that the Commissioner appointed by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral requested the immediate attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
The Commissioner to administer the oath entered the chamber.
The Clerk read a Commission, under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth, authorizing the Right Honorable Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, P. C, G.C.M.G., Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the King required by law to be taken or made by members of the House of Representatives.
The Clerk announced that he had received returns to the writs issued for the election of members of the House of Representatives. .
The following honorable members made and subscribed the oath of allegiance : -
Colonel the Hon. Justin Fox Greenlaw Foxton, C.M.G., Brisbane, Queensland.
Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn, Angas, South Australia.
Hon. Charles McDonald, Kennedy, Queensland.
John Keith McDougall, Wannon, Victoria.
William James McWilliams, Franklin, Tasmania.
Hon. King O’Malley, Darwin, Tasmania.
Edward Walker Archer, Capricorna, Queensland, made an affirmation of allegiance.
The Commissioner then withdrew.
– Mr. Clerk, I beg to move -
That the honorable member for Wakefield, Sir Frederick Holder, K.C.M.G., do take the Chair as Speaker of this House.
If I were commending to honorable members a member as yet unknown to them, it might, perhaps, be necessary to say something which is within the common knowledge of all. That is that, at the very outset of the Commonwealth Parliament, a most fortunate choice was made for the office of Speaker by the selection of a gentleman who seems to possess all the qualities necessary to establish the dignity of his position, and to maintain the traditions of this House. For equity, vigour, and courage, for a complete knowledge of parliamentary, law; for judgment, tact, and decision, we have found in Sir Frederick Holder - all of us who have served under him - an incomparable controller of the business of Parliament. It is with the greatest personal pleasure, and with a sense of the high privilege of doing so, that I submit his name to the judgment of the House.
.- Mr. Clerk, theeulogium which the Prime Minister has just pronounced upon the past services in the chair of the honorable member for Wakefield was one of a very high character. I believe that I express the sentiment of every honorable member sitting upon this side of the House, as well as my own, when I say that that eulogium was thoroughly well deserved. I confess now - as I have stated upon former occasions - that I always support this proposition with a tinge of regret. My regret is that we are deprived on the floor of this House of the eminent services which the presence of the gentleman who has hitherto filled the distinguished office of Speaker would confer upon our deliberations. Still, the position which the Speaker holds is not only one of eminent dignity, but is one which is capable of a vast range of practical value in our legislative proceedings. I wish to say thatI most cordially and most gratefully acknowledge the services which Sir Frederick Holder has rendered in that capacity in the past, and I feel - as we all feel - the most profound confidence in his future conduct in that distinguished position.
– I desire to support the proposition which has been moved by the leader of the House and seconded by the right honorable gentleman at the head of the Opposition, and to say that I consider this new Parliament is extremely fortunate in having an opportunity to secure in the office of Speaker the services of one as able as is Sir Frederick Holder. There is no doubt that all that the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition have said is fully indorsed by every honorable member who has had experience of Sir Frederick Holder’s conduct of the proceedings of this House. I know that during many trying periods in the past two Parliaments a number of us were, perhaps, inclined to lose our heads, and occasionally to forget the dignity which was due to the House ; but we could always rely upon the clear perception and cool head of Mr. Speaker. It affords me the greatest pleasure to support the motion.
– Mr. Clerk, speaking as the representative of the electors of Kooyong, I wish to indorse every word that has been uttered by the previous speakers, and to say that I am perfectly sure it is the unanimous desire of honorable members who have served in this House since the Commonwealth Parliament was initiated, not only that the honorable member for Wakefield shall be elected Speaker for this Parliament, but that he may be spared to occupy that position in many other Parliaments. I indorse the remarks of the previous speakers.
– I submit myself to the will of the House.
Members of the House calling Sir Frederick Holder, he was taken out of his place by Mr. Deakin and Mr. Reid and conducted to the Chair.
Then Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT, standing on the upper step, said : May I express to honorable members my deep sense of the honour that has been clone to me by my election once more to the responsible position of Speaker of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I feel that the words which have been uttered have been all too flattering, but at least I can endeavour to live up to what has been said, and in the course of the Parliament which isbefore us to maintain the dignity of debate and also to secure to every honorable member that liberty to express his views - whether they be the views of other honorable members or not - which is his right in this House. I need say no more. My feelings will be best expressed, I think, by the endeavour which I shall certainly make during the term of this Parliament to be worthy of the confidence which honorable members have again so kindly reposed in me.
– Mr. Speaker, it now becomes my duty and pleasure to offer you the heartiest congratulations of this House upon your acceptance of the very honorable position to which honorable members have been pleased to raise you.
May I add that we regard it as an extremely hopeful augury for this new Parliament that at least one element of continuity of policy in the Commonwealth has been secured by your election.
.- It is a subject of great congratulation in a House which contains so many parties that, in the first business which has been brought before it, unanimity has been reached. I should like to say, as one who for some time has been a member of a deliberative Assembly, that even when the occupant of the Chair is a gentlemanofthe qualifications to which we have already referred, a great deal depends upon the loyal assistance which honorable members in the course of their deliberations render to him. In the past I have been grieved to observe occasionally a desire to get round your rulings, Mr. Speaker. I trust nothing of that sort will occur in the future, and I, possibly the chief offender in that respect, certainly hope to be a very much better subject than heretofore under your rule.
– I can only say that any success which I was able to command in the performance of my duties during the last six years was achieved by the assistance of honorable members and of the officers of Parliament. Without that help I should certainly have failed. I again thank honorable members, those who have spoken as well as the House generally.
Sitting suspended from 3.34 to 4.15 p.m.
The House proceeded to the Library, there to present Mr. Speaker to His Excellency the Governor-General.
The House having reassembled,
– I have the honour to inform honorable members that on presenting myself to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral as having been elected to the position of Speaker of this House, His Excellency was so kind as to congratulate me thereupon.
The Usher of the Black Rod being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate Chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
– I have to inform the House that, having attended in the Senate chamber to hear the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, I have obtained a copy of the same. I presume the usual course will be followed of talcing the speech as read(vide page 8).
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he will lay on the table all correspondence and papers relating to the introduction of European labour for the cane-fields of Northern Queensland, and also copies of any agreements or proposed agreements in connexion with the same?
– The honorable member speaks of Northern Queensland, but I assume he means the whole of Queensland, where any such agreement has been made. I shall comply with his request with pleasure.
– I wish to ask the Minister acting on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Customs ifhe will lay on the table a statement showing -
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of the matter, and if the question is submitted in the form of a motion to-morrow, I shall see whether it can be allowed to go as formal.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral -
– The honorable member was good enough to give me notice of his questions, the answers to which are as follow: -
– Having regard to the fact that the details of the mail contract were submitted to and considered by Parliament, will the Prime Minister give the House his assurance that no alteration will be made in those details without the matter being again submitted to Parliament ?
– There has been no variation in the contract; nor so far as we are concerned is any proposed. The honorable and learned member’s question, as he states it, is so wide that it might include some trifling circumstance which he does not intend to cover. Possibly, the matter will be again alluded to when an answer is received to the cablegram we have despatched, asking for the information referred to by my honorable colleague a few minutes ago. The honorable and learned member will then be in a better position to renew his question.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Kooyong, I would ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has read the report of the last annual meeting of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company which appeared in the Times about two months ago, and whether, if he has, he does not think that some doubt is there expressed as to the possibility of the mail contract being carried out on the terms entered into with the Commonwealth?
– Yes, I have read the report referred to.
– May we have the assurance of the Prime Minister that any suggested alteration of the details of the contract will be submitted to Parliament before any modifications of it are made ?
– I could not have made myself understood in my previous reply to the honorable and learned member. There are no suggested alterations. That is why I hesitated to reply to the question.
– If there should be any ?
– If there are, then they might involve matters of a trifling or unimportant character, whilst the question, as put by the honorable member, would prevent our dotting an “ i “ or crossing a “ t “ without reference to Parliament. When we are informed of the facts, whatever they may be, which lie behind the cablegram in this day’s newspapers we shall be in a better position to judge, and the honorable and learned member will then be in a better position to repeat his question.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay on the table the despatch or despatches from the Imperial Government relating to the forthcoming Imperial Conference, and particularly the despatch convening the Conference.
– I have -the despatches here now, or shall have them to-morrow, to lav on the table.
– I ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if, in view of the fact that Parliament has twice refused to grant compensation to Colonel Tom Price, it is the intention of the Government to ask Parliament to indorse the action taken in paying ^500 to that gentleman out of the Treasurer’s advance account?
– Colonel Price’s claim for compensation has not vet been dealt with. The payment made to Colonel Price, as announced to both Houses before the last Parliament rose, was in pursuance of the finding of a Medical Board, which considered the case of Colonel Price in connexion with an accident which happened to him while proceeding from Victoria to another State. The sum awarded would have been paid at that time by the Government of the day if the State had not claimed that it should be dealt with as Federal expenditure. Colonel Price also asked for compensation in connexion with the circumstances under which he left the service. That claim has not yet been dealt with. All that has been dealt with in his case has been a claim made in pursuance of the finding of a Medical Board, in accordance with the practice adopted, I believe, in every similar case.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the revelations made in connexion with the immense Customs frauds at Port Adelaide, the Government will consider the advisability of appointing an Inspector-General of Customs, in order to insure some more effective check upon frauds irc connexion with Customs business ?
– My honorable colleague, the Postmaster-General, who is taking up the work of the Customs Department, has before him certain reports with reference to the officers concerned. These are now being disposed of, and, when they are dealt with, the larger question to which the honorable member has alluded, and one of two other matters of a similar nature, will be taken into full consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the agreement with South Australia for the taking over of the Northern Territory has been completed so far as the Commonwealth and State Governments are concerned, and, if so, what is the objection to reveal the terms of the agreement to the House now?
– I have pleasure in informing the House that the Premier of South Australia, on behalf of his Government, signed the agreement this morning. I was so informed bv telegraph. I have signed the agreement within the last hour for the Government of the Commonwealth. It is here, and will be laid on the table in a few minutes.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he has any objection to lay on the table of the House all papers relating to the New Hebrides Convention?
– I have before me, for submission to the House, the papers received from England. If the honorable member desires the production of any others, I shall be happy to oblige him.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General if he is aware that a person in Adelaide, and I presume that the same thing occurs in other States, wishing to get a New South Wales 2d. stamp is charged 3d. for it. Seeing that we havea Commonwealth Postal Department, it should be possible for residents of each of the States to obtain anywhere stamps of the other States at the price charged in those States?
– I was not aware of the circumstance to which the honorable member has referred. If what he says is the case, I shall have an alteration made. I hope we shall soon have a Commonwealth stamp.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he will see that a stop is put in future to the present practice of taking in and discharging cargo, with the exception of mails, by steamers at Port Adelaide, on Sundays, as such a practice has not obtained for over twenty years there.
– I shall be glad to give the honorable member’s representations every consideration.
Mr.DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs) [4.55]. - In order to maintain the time-honoured privileges of the House, I present a Bill for an Act relating to grants and dispositions of freehold estate in land in the Territory of Papua, and move -
That the Bill be read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
The Clerk laid upon the table a copy of an election petition received by him from the Deputy-Registrar of the High Court, under section 202 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, wherein Thomas Kennedy petitioned against the return of Albert Clayton Palmer as member for the electoral division of Echuca, in the State of Victoria.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Memorandum setting out the terms on which the Northern Territory of South Australia is to be surrendered to the Commonwealth.
Ordered to be printed.
Correspondence relating to the convention with France re the New Hebrides, dated 20th October, 1906.
Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the present conditions of Papua, and the best means for their improvement, together with Minutes of Evidence, appendices, and maps.
Annual report upon British New Guinea for the year ended 30th June, 1906.
Ordinances (Nos. 4 to 10 of 1906) of the Territory of Papua.
Report of the International Workmen’s Congress in Vienna, 1905, with an account of the system of workmen’s insurance, including old-age pensions, in Germany, by the Hon. Sir John Cockburn, K.C.M.G.
Second report on Dr. Danysz’s experiments in rabbit destruction by Dr. E. Angas Johnson and W. J. P. Giddings.
Despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 7th December, 1906, intimating that he proposed deferring, until after the Colonial Conference, rendering any advice to His Majesty regarding the Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill 1906.
Return of the number of persons to whom certificates of naturalization were granted during1906 under the Naturalization Act.
Regulation No. 5A, S.R. 1906, No. 70, under the Immigration Restriction Acts.
Regulations re orders for deportation, S.R. 1906, No. 71, under the Pacific Island Labourers Act.
Copyright Act regulations, S.R. 1906, No. 119.
Designs Act regulations, S.R. 1906, No. 117.
Amended Distillation Act regulations, Nos. 48, 69, 70, S.R. 1906, No. 115.
Excise Act Sugar regulations, S.R. 1906, No.
Excise Tariff and Excise Act regulations relating to scents and toilet preparations, S.R. 1906, No. 116.
Spirits Act regulations, S.R. 1906, No. 118.
Sugar Bounty Act regulations, S.R. 1906, No.
Trade Marks Act regulations, S.R. 1906, No.
Transfers under the Audit Act approved 22nd January, 1907, financial year 1905-6.
Notifications pursuant to the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act of the acquisition of land at Epping, N.S.W., as a post office site; at Ross, Tas., as a drill hall site ; and at Mr Nelson, Hobart, Tas., as a road of access to a battery site.
List of permanent officers in the Commonwealth Public Service, 1st January, 1907.
Amended Public Service Act regulations : - No. 104, telephone indoor supervisors, S.R. 1906, No. 96; No. 276A, boards of inquiry, S.R. 1906, No. 100; No. 43A, soliciting presents, S.R. 1906.No. 113; No. 163A, 104, 148, 17,18, 21, 90, bicycle, fines, &c, S.R. 1906, No. 112; No. 40, performance of duties, S.R. 1907, No. 6.
Recommendation of the appointment of H. A. Hunt as Commonwealth Meteorologist.
Recommendation and approval of the appointment of C. H. U. Todd as clerk of works, Public Works Branch, Department of Home Affairs, and of the promotion of C. J. Murphy as manager, Telegraph Branch, Postmaster-General’s Department, Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of Mr. Wise, Mr. John Thomson, Mr. Chanter, and Mr. Storrer, be appointed to prepare an AddressinReply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of Parliament ; and that the Committee do report this day.
The Committee retired, and, having reentered the chamber, presented the proposed address, which was read by the Clerk, as follows : -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I move -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
Honorable gentlemen will have gathered from the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General that the House has been called together, not for the despatch of business, but to give effect to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, which requires that the newly-elected representatives of the people shall have an opportunity, as soon as possible after the general election, to express their opinion as to the conduct of public business, and to declare whether the Government of the day possesses their confidence. There being no intention to proceed to legislation during the present session, the only legitimate question for us now is whether the proposal of the Government to postpone the consideration of measures until a later session is justifiable? It seems to me to be perfectly justifiable for two or three reasons. As His Excellency has informed us, an Imperial Conference is shortly to be held in London, at which it is absolutely necessary for the Prime Minister of Australia to be present. I am aware that it has been contended in some quarters that this Parliament might proceed with business in his absence, the arrangement being made between parties that no attack should be made on the Government while he was away ; but I regard that as an absurd contention. In my opinion it is impossible for Parliament to proceed with business in the absence of the Prime Minister. The ‘ first question which thisParliament will have to consider is the re- arrangement of the Tariff, because, undoubtedly, the recent general electionturned upon the fiscal question. Some ner.sons endeavoured to bring other questions before the constituencies, but before very long they were compelled, by. the force of public opinion, to give the fiscal question the most prominent place in their addresses ; and they dwelt more and more onthat question the nearer they got to the day of the election. The fiscal questionbeing the principal one upon which theGovernment appealed to the country, it is ridiculous to contend that the Tariff can be dealt with in the absence of the PrimeMinister. He would be placed in a humiliating position if he went to London asthe representative of Australia under any arrangement between political parties of the nature to which I have referred. Whoever goes, must be supported by Parliament.
– Hear, hear.
– I am satisfied that “the present leader of the Government will go, and’ that he will carry with him the confidence of the majority of the members of this Parliament.
– The honorablemember speaks very confidently.
– I am quite confident, and am satisfied that if it is attempted to test the feeling of “the House, the fact will beplaced beyond doubt.
– The meeting has been held !
– Meetings may have been held ; but other meetings have yet to be held to discuss whether the proposal of the Government shall or shall npt be opposed,, because, as has already been pointed out, there are several parties in this House. As I have said, the Prime Minister, if he goesHome, must go as the representative of Australia, with the confidence of Parliament,, and not under any arrangement made by. grace of his political opponents. A second reason for postponing legislative action at the present time is that the Government must be given an opportunity to prepare itsmeasures. Six months is the customary length of recesses between ordinary sessions. During the life of the last Parliament each of the two Governments in office took recesses of that length, which I presume is evidence that that is the period which it is considered is required to enable a Government to recover from the work of one session and prepare its measures for the next ; but if it is necessary to have a six months’ recess between ordinary sessions, a similar recess is still more urgent when two or three months have been occupied with the worry and turmoil of a general election. I have said that the first question which must be considered by Parliament is the alteration of the Tariff. The Government has the responsibility of considering and placing before Parliament proposals for fiscal reform; but the subject must be dealt with as a whole. Ministers must consider every detail of importation, not merely from the protectionist, but from the revenue point of view. This is no easy task, and will take time. The need for an opportunity for consideration is by no means lessened by the fact that the Tariff Commission, which! for two years has been investigating the subject, is now reporting. The work of the Commission cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, too, it was not unanimous, and in regard to some items presented more than one report. If these reports have taken the Commission some months to prepare, in addition to the time spent in hearing the evidence of expert witnesses, surely Ministers require a few weeks’ leisure in which to peruse the evidence and to consider the reports based upon it. They have to propose to Parliament, not only a complete scheme of Tariff reform, but a Bounties Bill as well. I have pointed out that the general election turned upon the fiscal question. It was my experience - and I have gathered that it was the experience of other country representatives - that the farmers and graziers of Australia are now as pronounced protectionists as are our miners and manufacturers.
– I have no hesitation in making that statement, because I have canvassed and have been returned for a pastoral and agricultural constituency.
– Others who have done the same thing are of the contrary opinion.
– I have been surprised at the hold which the policy of protection has taken upon our farmers and graziers.
– The honorable member speaks for Victoria only.
– I cannot speak from personal experience as to the position in the other States. This Parliament, however, has been called into existence to deal with matters which affect Australia as a whole, and a very large majority of the members of the House, returned by constituencies in various parts of the Continent, were elected to support the policy of protection. As a protectionist, I consider Tariff reform the most material question before us.
– Some honorable members got elected by sinking the fiscal question.
– Who are they?
– Most of the protectionists did so.
– I do not know of any protectionist who got himself elected by sinking the fiscal issue. In this State the fiscal question was a very live issue; so live that not a solitary free-trader has been able to keep his head above water. Undoubtedly sectarian feeling entered into the contests, but there are always electors who vote in accordance with their sectarian beliefs. The sectarian feeling did not, however, affect the result of all the elections in the State, and the public now expect this Parliament to give it a thoroughly effective system of protection, and a satisfactory bounties system.
– And preferential trade.
– Yes. What is desired is a Tariff which not only will make it possible for, but will induce, capitalists to invest money in manufactures in Australia; which will settle the fiscal trouble for some years to come; and will give a fiscal measure which protectionists will have pleasure in fighting to maintain if it be attacked. But I do not feel justified on this occasion, when there is practically no business proposed to be done, in detaining honorable members longer.
– Why are we here?
– I am dealing with His Excellency’s speech. I do not know what business the Opposition, intend to bring forward.
– Or the Labour Party?
– Or any party. As it is not intended by the Government to proceed with legislation at the present time, I do not think I should be justified in prolonging my remarks. At the opening of next session, the Government should be able to place before us a matured Tariff scheme. Some people seem to think that we should deal with Tariff matters piecemeal.
– The Government thought so last session.
– The Government did not think so.
– In my opinion, it would be wrong to deal with the Tariff piecemeal. It must be dealt with as a whole. That has always been the course taken in Tariff reform so far as my recollection of politics goes, and that recollection extends back to the introduction of the first Victorian Tariff in 1865. Not only has it been contended that the Tariff can be dealtwith piecemeal, but some persons seem to think that we should accept the reports of a section of the Tariff Commission. In my opinion that Commission was appointed, not to rule Parliament or the country in regard to Tariff reform, but to take evidence and report for the information of the Ministry and Parliament. The responsibility of proposing a new Tariff must rest with Ministers, and the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the proposals of the Government will attach to Parliament, honorable members being unable to shelter themselves behind the reports of the Tariff Commission, even if those reports were unanimous, which I do not think any of them are. Moreover, it must be remembered that some of the members of the Tariff Commission are not members of Parliament, and are therefore not directly responsible to the people. Not only will the Government be able to place before us, at the beginning of next session, a matured Tariff scheme, but Ministers will be “repared with proposals affecting other questions of great national importance foreshadowed in the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. There will be enough questions of magnitude to satisfy all those who are continually demanding that this Parliament shall deal with great national problems. But it must be remembered that many of these great problems cannot be dealt with unless there is a large expenditure of money, and the necessary funds will have to be obtained either by the floating of loans - a course which the Commonwealth has not taken vet - or by increasing taxation. I hope, therefore, that those who are urging the present Government to deal with great national problems, will Le equally ready to assist Ministers to find the means necessary to do so. It will be their duty, too, to remind the country that the States of Australia federated to deal with great national problems, which no single State was in a financial position to face, though the expense might easily be borne by the Commonwealth as a whole. When the people are educated up to that point of view, there will not be so many complaints about the .unsatisfactory results of Federation. There was one modest announcement towards the end of His Excellency’s speech which I think will give great satisfaction to every true Australian, namely, that the Government have agreed with the Government of South Australia to take over the vast Northern Territory. Sufficient problems will arise in dealing with the transfer and administration of that Territory to satisfy those who are now most anxious that the Commonwealth Parliament should consider great national questions. Concerning the popular disappointment with the results of Federation, I wish simply to say that if the public are spoken to, and if matters are discussed with them from a Federal stand-point, they do not find much fault with Federation. Their great disappointment has been - and I speak as one who has hitherto been one of the people, and who has therefore heard their view of the matter more freely perhaps than have honorable members - that in our National Parliament many of our public men have failed to deal with questions from, an Australian stand-point, and have kept the interests of their respective States too much in the foreground.
– They are mostly Victorians.
– There is no doubt about that. The honorable member’s remarks apply to one little spot in particular.
– If they will cease to regard the great questions claiming their attention fr]om a State stand-point, and consider them from an Australian point of view - if they will avoid wasting so much time in wearisome and unnecessary discussion, and will transact the business coming before them more expeditiously - I think we shall find at the close of this Parliament that the people will not be disappointed either as regards their ideal of Federation or as regards the members whom they have returned to represent them.
– I rise with much pleasure to second the motion which has been so ably moved by the honorable member for Gippsland. In these, my first remarks in this Chamber, I am sure that I shall have the indulgence of honorable members who have had more experience in the public life of the Commonwealth than I have had. I feel that I can freely ask honorable members, representing as they do all parts of the
Commonwealth, to reciprocate the congratulations offered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral upon its general prosperity. The expressions contained in the Vice-Regal Speech regarding the prosperity of the several industries mentioned therein as the result of the good seasons we have experienced, and of the energy of our people, are such as Australians may well be proud ot. I trust that as the outcome of the work of this session, and of a continuance of the bountiful seasons which have been granted to us by Providence, the prosperity of the Commonwealth will be sustained during the life of the current Parliament. I observe from the Vice-Regal Speech - as has already been remarked by the mover of this motion - that Parliament is not to be called upon at the present stage to undertake any deliberative work. During the recent election campaign, honorable members must have experienced a good deal of fatigue, and T am glad to know that an opportunity will be presented to us - owing to the visit of the Prime Minister to London - to recuperate. I am sure that the matter which is the cause of the Prime Minister’s projected visit to London is one of great interest to the whole of Australia. We are all pleased to acknowledge the benefits derived from the Conferences which have been held in London at different periods between the Prime Ministers of the self-governing parts of the Empire. These Conferences have met with general approval in the old land and in the Colonies, and we are pleased to know that the practice is to be continued, and that still another gathering of the kind is about to be held. We have every reason to expect that, when the Prime Minister attends that Conference, he will carry with him the confidence of this House and of the people of Australia, and that he will do the Commonwealth that justice which his reputation warrants us in expecting. I believe that we shall have every reason to be proud of the part which he will play in its deliberations. I am very glad to learn that he has decided to visit England, and I feel satisfied - irrespective of what the individual opinions of honorable members may be - that every one of them will act in such a way as to facilitate his departure. We all recognise that very important subjects will be discussed at the Conference, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister’s experience will be of such value to Australia that we shall be large gainers by his visit. As the result of that gathering, and of the interchange, of thought between leading men from all parts of His Majesty’s Dominion, I feel convinced that the consolidation of the Empire ‘will be advanced. Almost simultaneously with the holding of the Imperial Conference of Premiers in London, another Conference will be held upon a very important subject, because, whatever our individual opinions as regards policy may be, we must admit that, Australia being an island, its oversea trade is a matter of great moment. It is certainly very necessary that the people who are engaged in trade and commerce in the Commonwealth shall be afforded such legislation as will adequately protect them, or will at least place them upon an equal footing with other nations with whom they come into competition. The proper way to secure that result is to permit of representatives of the Commonwealth attending the Navigation Conference which is to be held in England next month. As the result of its deliberations, I hope that our delegates will return fully seized with the responsibility attaching to their positions, and that they will be able to lay before us such legislative measures as will enable us to develop the shipping trade of the Commonwealth. I observe that the Governor-General’s speech makes reference to a Conference which was held some time ago by the Premiers of the various States of the Union. At that Conference a good deal was said regarding the financial relationship of the Commonwealth to the States. One of the most important aspects of this matter relates to the transfer of the States debts. I believe that it is in the interests of the States themselves that as far as possible, their public debts should be consolidated. By that means, I am convinced we could secure a reduction in the rates of interest at present being paid bv the States, and that, in case of further borrowing, we should be able to place our loans upon the market to better advantage than we have done hitherto, for the simple reason that the States will not then be competing with one another. I hope that the Commonwealth will speedily be able to take over the States debts. I am sanguine that by doing so we could effect a considerable saving to the public revenue. Another phase of this matter bears upon the question of old-age pensions, and I am pleased indeed that the Vice-Regal speech makes reference to it. There can be no difference of opinion regarding the desirableness of enacting a Federal system of old-age pensions. We cannot question the wisdom of granting some assistance to our aged poor, so that in their declining years - in the winter of their lives - they may receive some small recompense for the services which they have rendered to Australia. It is. true that in some States this provision has already been made. Nevertheless, hardships have occurred, and many of these have come under our personal observation. Many of our aged poor have spent a portion of their lives in the various States, and because they have not lived continuously in one portion of the Commonwealth! for a prescribed period, they have been debarred from participating in old-age pensions. In this House I am sure we recognise that the fact that a man has been resident in New South Wales for fifteen years, in Victoria for five years, and in South Australia for a similar period should not exclude him as a citizen of Australia from the receipt of a pension. We are all prepared to concede that when he has resided in the Commonwealth for a certain period he is a citizen of Australia. I trust that when we come to consider this question we shall introduce into our legislation some provision to deal with cases of hardship such as I have outlined. A further provision might be inserted for the purpose of granting assistance to persons who may not have reached the age limit stipulated by some of the States, and who are prevented by infirmity from participating in the advantages of an old-age pension system. Reference is also made in the GovernorGeneral’s speech to the administration of Papua. This is one of the subjects that Parliament should certainly take into its serious consideration. If we are to carry out the work for which we have been elected, surely we should not ignore the administration of affairs in Papua and the other islands in close proximity to us. It is hoped that the report of the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into this question will suggest some means for improving the administration of the Possession, which will commend itself to the judgment of this House. We all recognise that the safety of Australia is to a great extent dependent upon the population of these places, because whilst at one time we may have imagined that we were living in an isolated portion of the globe, we must now realize that these islands are very close to us, and that they may easily be populated and governed by nations which, are not too friendly disposed towards us. I
Mr. /3s *Thomson trust that we shall show that we are aliveto our responsibilities by enacting legislation of the character suggested. That portion of the Governor-General’s speech which deals with the Tariff Commission has been very fully dealt with by my honorable friend who has submitted this motion. It will be generally admitted that Tariff reform is an all-important questionto Australia. That is acknowledged bv all parties. This House contains a number of gentlemen who affirm that they want some revision of the Tariff, and that they are not satisfied with existing duties. They say that the people wish the Tariff to be so reformed that our industries shall be placed on a substantial basis. The electors have given their mandate regarding what we should do in respect of making the Tariff one which will foster the industries of the country. I trust that in considering the recommendations of the Government in the light of the reports of the Tariff Commission we shall deal with the question in such a way that we shall secure a Tariff which will have some degree of permanency, and which will give to those persons who are prepared to invest their capital in industries greater security than is afforded them at the present time. I feel sure that we have in Australia much dormant capital, and any number of people with sufficient enterprise to engage in industries calculated to tend to the increased wealth and progress of the Commonwealth, provided that we grant them a modicum of protection and the encouragement that they deserve. I hope that we shall have an opportunity during our deliberations to so encourage these people by means of protection, or the granting of bonuses or other inducements, that they will be prepared to embark in new industries, thus showing, not only that the people of the Commonwealth have confidence in it, but that we are capable of producing all that we require. I am confident that when the Government submit their proposals to the House it will be found that they are prepared to bring into existence such a degree of protection as will lead to the upbuilding of the nation. I wish now to refer as briefly as possible to the last paragraph in the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General - a paragraph which goes a long way to forecast what the House at a later date may expect from the Government, and the legislation which they intend to submit. Many of these proposals must commend themselves to honorable members on all sides of the
House. We are promised that later on, when the opportunity offers, the Government will submit such proposals as are calculated “to develop the latent resources of the continent.” That is a far-reaching phrase; but whatever may be the construction placed upon it by the Government, I am sure that as long as their intention is to submit proposals having for their object the .opening up of our vast mineral deposits, the opening up of fresh avenues of trade and the development of new industries - with the ultimate aim of developing the country and settling the people on the land - the House will give them the assistance and consideration they deserve. ge are also promised legislative proposals for the promotion of trade within the Empire. I am sure that the sentiment is one which every, citizen to-day entertains. During the recent appeal to the country we have shown - and the people themselves, by their votes, have indicated - an anxiety to do as much as possible in the direction of keeping our trade within the Empire. We :are prepared, after considering the exigencies of the ‘people of Australia, . and providing as far as possible for their wants, to give the fullest consideration to any proposal that the Government may submit for granting a preference to the mother - country’. Those with whom I have come into contact have unmistakably expressed their feelings in regard to trade with the mother country. Whilst they are compelled, as they are likely to be for some time, to obtain from beyond the Commonwealth goods that are not produced here to-day, their (desire is to make such purchases in the mother country or in other parts of the Empire. They have shown that their wish is that our money shall follow our sympathies. I trust that this is the view of the Government, and that when they submit their proposals we shall grant such a preference to the mother country and the rest of the Empire as will show that our object is not only to establish a new nation in the Southern Hemisphere, but to consolidate the Empire, so that we shall become by-and-by one people with one great destiny. I should like to commend to the consideration of honorable members that part of the Governor-General’s speech which refers to the intentions of the Ministry with regard to the defence of Australia. One of the strong points made in favour of Federation was that it would enable a uniform system of defence to be undertaken. The feeling of the people outside - and the opinion, doubtless, is shared by many hon orable members - is that the work done in this direction, so far, has not been satisfactory. By this time we should have had more definite proposals for the defence of Australia, and I trust that the Ministry, who suggested this reference in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, will give us an opportunity to give effect to the desire of tha* Commonwealth in this direction. My hope is that the Government scheme will embody a system of coastal defence, an’9 that the opinion of the House generally is that we should not only build the vessels necessary, to defend our coasts, but build them in Australia. I also hope that when these vessels shall have been constructed the young men of Australia will be afforded ‘ an opportunity to train for service in . the Navy, and that, having regard to the sympathies of the young men of Australia, we may look forward to a time when we shall have Australian- ships manned by Australian men. I trust that the Government will take into early, and serious consideration the matter of coastal defence. My proposal is not that we should separate ourselves from the system of defence instituted by the mother country, but that we shouldassist her by means of a coastal defence system working in harmony with that of the rest of the Empire. Such a system can be established, and I hope that, as far as possible, the Government will enter wholeheartedly upon the consideration of the question. I would commend to the Ministry the proposition that the lads of Australia should be given every possible encouragement to form companies, of cadets. The cadet system is a means, not only of educating our youth in soldierly attainments, but of inculcating, in them a proper sentiment and a due regard for discipline. Every man who has been, trained in the ranks has a sound sense of the responsibilities of citizenship. If our lads are given full scope to form cadet companies, I am sure they will show their readiness to place their services at the disposal of the people, and in this way we should have by-and-by. an Australian soldiery recruited from the public schools. The proposition is a reasonable and sound one, and I hope that the Government will give it their serious consideration. The establishment of a smallarms and ammunition factory would also be a step in the right direction. With a proper system of coastal defence, a citizen soldiery, aided by the development of our cadet corps, together with the establishment of a small-arms and ammunition factory we should be able to say that we had made some headway in the matter of defence. I am pleased that the question has found a place in the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, and I hope that the Parliament will have an opportunity to do something in the direction I have indicated. I have now only a few words to offer with regard to the action of the Government in agreeing to bring the Northern Territory under the control of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, this afternoon, laid upon the table of the House papers dealing with the matter, and I am satisfied that, in the interests of the Commonwealth generally, a wise step has been taken. We require a much larger population than we have, but, under existing conditions, it is not an easy matter for the Government to successfully carry out a system of immigration. Whilst the Government have been anxious from time to time to induce immigrants to come to Australia, they have been confronted with difficulties in finding homes for them. The different States have different land laws, some of the provisions of which are not attractive to the people - laws which in many cases are so harassing that the people of Australia have serious difficulty in interpreting them, and making for themselves homes on the land. I trust that full advantage will be taken of the opportunity which the acquisition of the Northern Territoryoffers; that when the Government are providing for the administration of the Territory, they will introduce such liberal land laws that not only the people of the Commonwealthand no people are more eligible or desirable as pioneers than are young Australians - will find it easy to make homes for themselveson the soil, but desirable citizens from other countries will be attracted to our shores. In this way we should be able to bring about a flood of immigration that would do much to increase the prosperity of the Commonwealth and make it what we have a right to expect it to be. I trust that our deliberations will be such that when we have again to appeal to the people we shall be able to show that we have done something to promote their welfare, that we have passed laws that will cause Australia to be looked upon as leading in sound legislation, whilst at the same time tending to make the Commonwealth prosperous and its people happy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Reid) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at half-past two o’clock on each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past10 o’clock on each Friday morning.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to know whether the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to a statement in the press to the effect that some arrangement - has been entered into by the Government of South Australia for the settlement of 50,000 Russian Jews in the Northern Territory, and whether, assuming that any such arrangement by the South Australian Government has been made -
– I do not think that any, such arrangement has been made.
– My desire is to ascertain whether the Prime Minister is in possession of any official information bearing upon the question ?
– South Australian Ministers, in the course of conversation with me, mentioned thatthey had been approached with a proposal for the settlement of a number of Jewish agriculturists in the Northern Territory, but so far as I know the matter was a bare proposition, without, as I understood, any reference to a particular number.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1907, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070220_reps_3_36/>.