3rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform honorable members that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable members.
Mr. DAVID W ATKINS made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Newcastle.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Colonial Conference. - Despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, containing preliminary proposals on the subjectof the agenda and procedure.
Contract Labour. - Introduction of European Farm Labourers under Contract - Applications to the Prime Minister from - Cane Farmers’ Association of North Queensland (Cairns) ; Pioneer River Farmers’ and Graziers’ Association (Mackay); Mossman Central Mill Company Limited ; Mossman Central Mill Company Limited - Correspondence respecting application.
Elections, 12th December, 1906 -
Statistics relating to Senate Election, General Election, House of Representatives, and submission to the electors of a proposed’ law for the alteration of the Constitution, entitled The Constitution Alteration (Senate Elections) 1906.
Statement showing - (1) Cost of the Senate Election ; the General Election, House of Representatives; and the Referendum 1906 ; (2) Comparison of cost with previous Commonwealth Elections.
Defence Acts1903-1904 -
Cadet Corps - Amendment of Regulations, para. 22, sub-paras, (a) and (A) - Clothing Allowance, &c. - S.R. 1906, No. 93 ; regulations governing Landing of Foreign Troops, &c. - Repeal of S.R. 1906, No. 48 - S.R. 1907, No. 3.
Naval Forces - Regulations Amended - Para. 55 - Retirement of Warrant Officers - S.R.1906, No.87 ; para. 171 (a) - Courts Martial - S.R. 1906, No. 91. Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended - Paras. 70, 73 - Compensation for Injury, &c. - S.R. 1906, No. 86 ; para. 49 - Pay of Armourers - S.R. 1906, No. 90; para. 49 - Pay of Painters, &c. - S.R.1906, No. 92; paras. 37, 39, 41 - “ Treasury Regulations” - S.R. 1907, No. 2.
Military Forces - Regulations Amended - Paras. 1, 2, 3 - Council of Defence, &c. S.R. 1906, No. 101 ; paras. 20, 146 - Warrant Officers, &c. - S.R. 1906, No. 102 ; paras. 514(a), 516 - Rifle Clubs - S.R. 1906, No. 103; paras. 493A, 501, 504A,b, c - Canteens, &c. - S.R.1906, No. no; para. 128 - Retirement of Warrant Officers,&c - S.R. 1906, No. 124. Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended - Para. 122(c) - Payment for Duties - S.R. 1906, No. 88; part VIII., Sec. I. - Travelling Allowances (Inspector-General) - S.R. 1906, No. 89; paras. 151, 151(a) - School of Gunnery, Sydney - S.R. 1906, No. 94; para. 235 - Telegrams - S.R. 1906, No. 95 ; para. 77 - Pay of Sergeants-Major - S.R. 1906, No. 104; reg. 144 - Allowance for Courts Martial, &c. - S.R. 1906, No. III; para. 98-Clothing, &c, Allowance - S.R. 1906, No. 123 ; paras. 45, 47, 49 - “ Treasury Regulations” - S.R. 1907, No. 1.
– Does the correspondence relating to the influx of farm labourers into Queensland which the Prime Minister has just laid on the table refer to the importation of Italians into that State?
– It refers to the introduction of Italiansi amongst others, but I do not think that Italians are. solely asked, except so far as a batch of fifty are concerned. Probably the honorable member has seen a cablegram published in this morning’s newspapers which bears on the question.
– Is the Postmaster-General in a position to give the House any information in regard to the English mail contract? Has he yet seen the gentleman who, according to this morning’s, newspapers, has arrived in Australia in the interests of the contractors?
– I have information from the Commonwealth agent in London that the statement that Mr. Beardmore has retired from the directorate is true, but the firm is still in the syndicate, and it is not thought that the position is altered in any way. Our representative is making further inquiries, and I hope to have full information shortly. I saw Mr. Clarke this morning, and he told me that his vis.it here is not to seek an alteration of the conditions of the contract. He is looking into shipbuilding and other matters, and, it is hoped, will be able to afford the Government information of interest in connexion with the contract.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, if his attention has been drawn to the allegation that Chinese are coming into Northern Queensland in very large numbers? According to a statement attributed to a Mr. Ransford, a Melbourne barrister -
Numbers of Chinese are entering Australia at some point on the coast, and evading the immigration restriction laws ……. He passed over a large area of arable land, and found the banks of the river populated by thousands of Chinese, who, Mr. Brotherton stated, were growing sufficient opium to supply, not only Australia, but probably the whole of China.
It is also alleged that large quantities of opium are smuggled from some of the steamers coming to Australia from Canada. Is the Prime Minister in a position to say whether there is any truth in these statements ?
– The Melbourne barrister to whom the honorable member refers is Mr. Hansford, but the statement which he repeats is made on the authority of Mr. Brotherton, a mining expert with whom I am acquainted, who called on me during his last visit to Melbourne. I cannot conceive it possible that Mr. Brotherton has made the statement repeated by Mr. Hansford, because he appeared to supply me fully with his information on the subiect. I think that Mr. Hansford has misunderstood what he said. Mr. Brotherton, referring to the possibilities of York Peninsula, which he had been exploring for mining purposes, spoke very highly of the mineral indications there, and said that there were on the banks of the rivers many thousand acres of” arable land, capable of cultivation, but that the whole country is so unknown that there is nothing to prevent its settlement by large numbers of Asiatics without the knowledge of any white person. He thought it possible for Chinese and other Asiatics to enter that part of Australia without detection.
– Are not the Customs officers sufficiently numerous to prevent that ?
– Not in the York Peninsula. It is well known, however, that the aboriginals in that part of the Commonwealth are hostile to intruders.
– They are not particularly fond of the Chinese, except for eating purposes.
– Thev are especially critical of yellow-skinned persons.
– Why could we not get this information from the Minister of Trade and Customs ?
– Because the matter is one coming under the administration of the Department of External Affairs, and is not connected with Customs administration.
– Did Mr. Brotherton refer to the east or to the west coast of York Peninsula?
– I believe he landed on the east coast, and took a zig-zag course, though I do not know whether he went so far as the west coast.
– There is no possibility of settlement taking place in that part of the Commonwealth without its being known.
– I have gathered since that settlement could not take place there without our knowledge; but, as there is occasion for vigilance, I have asked, for the third time, to be informed by the Commonwealth officers and by the Queensland police, whether there are indications of a yellow invasion, of which we have yet no official intelligence.
Debate resumed from 20th February (vide page 34), on motion by Mr. Wise -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- The proceedings of this session have been shorn of much of the interest which otherwise might have attached to them, owing to the circumstance that theimperium in imperia to which the Prime Minister has often referred has met, and decided that we shall have a short session. Therefore we are here only to register the edict of that mysterious tribunal. This is a situation which does not excite much enthusiasm. The idea of a prorogation for a few months at all times; appeals, strongly to the inner man of the average politician, and to no one more strongly than to myself. Owing to my infrequent presence here during last session, because of ‘important engagements elsewhere, I feel that I should be the last to endeavour to goad honorable members into deciding to make the session a long one. As the session is to be short, I hope and believe that, so far as the party which I represent is concerned, there will be no long debate on this motion. I believe that most of the members of my party are willing that I should express, their views inregard to the various questions which have to be considered, so that there may be no undue prolongation of the debate. Of course, every honorable member, no matter where he sits, has a personal right to address the House at any time, if he thinks it his duty to do so, but my influence, so far as it may extend, will be exerted in the direction of shortening debate on the present occasion. I desire to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply upon the manner in which they acquitted themselves of their task. I think that the honorable member for Cowper has had parliamentary experience in New South Wales., but the honorable member for Gippsland is new to Parliament, and, however much we may differ on political questions, I appreciate the ability which he displayed in his first speech in this House. But I am sure that even he will allow me to express profound regret at the absence from the Chamber of a historic figure, the late member for the important constituency of Gippsland.
Mr. McLean’s physical infirmities and advancing years made it impossible for him to embark in the late contest as freely as most of us were able to da Some might have thought that his. splendid record, his eminent services to this State and to Australia, would have outweighed even the evident ability and zeal of the honorable member who has been elected. I also wish to express my deep regret at the absence from this House of the right honorable gentleman who represented Balaclava. I feel that no more useful, no more honorable, no more devoted man ever occupied Ministerial office either in a State or in the Commonwealth Parliament. I am sure that, irrespective of ali political distinctions, we shall look forward with eagerness to the time when he will again become a, member of this Chamber. There have been losses and gains upon all sides. I do not think that any party is in a position to indulge in any language of triumph. I myself have lost several most valued friends, and I am sure the House will pardon me if I especially express my sorrow at the defeat of my old friend and loyal ally at all times, the honorable member who in the last Parliament represented Macquarie. That gentleman devoted himself to the general interests of the party which I lead, at the sacrifice of his own personal interests, in a manner which I believe greatly contributed to his defeat. There are a number of others whom we miss upon all sides of the House, but the net result of the campaign is that in numerical strength the parties have varied in this way : the present Government have had the slender following of which they previously boasted diminished from nineteen to sixteen, the three seats which thev have lost having been shared by the Labour Party and the Opposition. The Opposition have gained two of those seats and the Labour Party one. The latter party entered into the recent contest with twentyfive members, and they have returned from it with twenty-six. Under these circumstances. I think I may express my very deep regret that the unsatisfactory position of parties which prevailed in the last Parliament continues in this. I know that, so far as the Labour Party and the Opposition were concerned, there was a very strong desire that that state of things should come to an end, and that we should re-establish parliamentary government upon sound constitutional lines.
– Nonsense !
– I would like the Honorable member to listen to me. Of course, I am bound to make some observations with which honorable members will not agree, but I hope that they will allow me the liberty of expressing my own views. The anti-Socialists in the Senate entered upon the recent campaign with thirteen seats to gain, and the labour Socialists with only five seats to risk. The elections, I think I may say, have produced a marked change in that Chamber.
– Hear, hear; labour is stronger now than it was previously.
– These are all matters of personal opinion, and I am merely expressing mv own opinion.
– It is a matter of arithmetic.
– In reference to the simple arithmetic of the matter, I say that in the last Parliament the Socialists really dominated the Senate, whereas at the present time thev are practically helpless in that Chamber.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– I do not want an orchestral accompaniment to my remarks. I do not mind an occasional note of discord, but I do not desire any band accompaniment. So far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the Opposition entered upon the recent campaign under a disadvantage from which my honorable friends of the Labour Party did not suffer. Unfortunately, before the Parliament was dissolved the Opposition were divided. My honorable friend the late member for Gippsland, with that perfect straightforwardness which’ he has always manifested, informed me months before the dissolution that he was bound to differ from me upon the issue of fiscal peace which I proposed to raise, that hie believed that most of his friends occupied a similar position, and that he was bound to fight for an immediate adjustment of the Tariff with a view to securing more effective protection. So that it will be seen that we anti-Socialists entered upon the battle disunited, whereas the Socialists - fortunately for thiem - presented an unbroken front. Free-trade and Protectionist Socialists acted loyally together. Advanced free-traders like Senator Pearce, the honorable member for Perth, the honorable member for Maranoa, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, and others found it possible to fight side by side with protectionists in one solid phalanx as a political party.
– The right honorable member himself made that possible.
– I suppose that my visit to Queensland did that? I must, I fear, appeal to you, sir, to carry out the determination which you expressed yesterday that an honorable member should be allowed to express his own views. I should like to say that, so far as the Government are concerned, they took up an attitude of affecting to disbelieve that the issue of Socialism or anti-Socialism was before the electors. The Labour Party, however, did not take up that attitude. They accepted my challenge in a straightforward manner. They did not discard or ignore or belittle the issue.
– We were not afraid of the ghost.
– I must candidly admit that the greatest surprise of the election is the re-appearance of the honorable member, and I wish to give him the utmost credit for the unflagging zeal with which hie nursed all the babies in his electorate. Whilst the Government went before the people of Australia with apparently only one eager cry - the cry of the strangled, starving industries - as a matter of fact they did not put forward a single protectionist candidate save sixteen in Victoria and two in New South “ Wales. In four of the States there was not one protectionist candidate put forward bv this protectionist Government.
– What about the honorable member for Fremantle?
– I think that that honorable member is sitting in a very sensible place, and if his return represents one of the Ministerial victories, I wish that they had secured more of them.
– He received the Ministerial support in Western Australia.
– If he did, it has resulted in the return of1 a very good man, and I do not quarrel with that. But in New South Wales this remarkable fact was observable : that honest, loyal protectionists, with good records, were mysteriously dragged out of the election contest until the Prime Minister, in a natural feeling of indignation, which was not intended for publication, but which got there all the same, exclaimed, “ They have made a hash of things in New South Wales.” He should have known very well that that illustrious navigator, the Minister of Trade and Customs, would not make a hash of anything with which he had to do. He worked in alliance with the Labour Party, and like a sensible man, he did that party all the good turns that he could. One of those good turns was to secure the withdrawal from the contest of several protectionist candidates. Thus the sacred principle of protection was subject to modification according to the degrees of latitude. I admit that the result of the election, in the light of my appeal to the people for fiscal peace, was a distinct adoption of the protectionist principle throughout Australia. I confess that a considerable majority of the members of this House were returned owing to the pledges which they gave to their constituents that they would make the present Tariff more effectively protective. To what extent they will go in that direction is of course a matter entirely for themselves, but I frankly recognise the fact to which I refer. In the first Parliament we had a grievance which Jed us to fight the Tariff with the utmost bitterness. We believed - as did five Victorian representatives who evidenced their belief by crossing the floor of the House - that the first Commonwealth Government did not put the protectionist issue to the Australian people in a straightforward, honest way. We laboured under the sense of a grievance which called ‘upon us to fight that issue till the last. The second general election was won by the present Prime Minister upon a policy of fiscal peace, and when he introduced some fiscal changes, there was again a sense of grievance in some quarters here, because under the flag of a declared fiscal peace, which had been ratified by the electors, an attempt was made to alter the Tariff in the direction of conferring upon certain industries an increased measure of protection. These were grievances that we felt we were justified in exhibiting by our strenuous resistance of the Government proposals. But on the present occasion we have no such complaint to make. We candidly admit that there was one feature in the Government policy which stood o>ut unmistakably - although in their actions perhaps it was not so fully adhered to as it might have been. There is no doubt that that issue was put clearly before the electors, and that upon it we were defeated. So that in .any adjustment of the Tariff which may be attempted, we labour under no sense of treachery, no feeling that the people have not authorized such changes.
– The right honorable member will not say that we were defeated upon that issue. We did not test it.
– I wish that the honorable member’s party had done so.
– My honorable friend the member for Parramatta is perfectly correct, but I am viewing the matter broadly ‘as it appears to me, and in the plainest possible way.
– Others cannot go back upon their opinions as rapidly as does the right honorable member.
– If I may be allowed to interrupt the proceedings, I should like to say that whilst each of us in the performance of our duty to our constituents will faithfully represent the views which we profess, and whilst we will do our best to give full effect to them, there will be no attempt to thwart or delay a thorough settlement of this question in the direction in which the electors have decided. I go further, and I say that in the interests of Australian politics, it ought to be settled. It has been the disturbing element which has twisted Australian politics for the nast thirty years, and nowhere has that confusion been more observable than in this Commonwealth Parliament. Here we have gentlemen who are anti-Socialists by conviction, just as strongly as I am-
– What is an antiSocialist ?
– I do hope that honorable members will permit me to choose the order of my observations.
– Is the honorable member a Fabian Socialist?
– The honorable member has reminded me of an allusion, to ancient history, which sounded strangely unfamiliar when it fell from the lips of my honorable friend the leader of the Labour Party. He was careful to explain to the puzzled electors of some remote locality that in ancient times there was a very distinguished general whose name was Fabius. “ Begorrah !” said Mick, “ Who was he, anyhow ?” My honorable friend explained that be was a distinguished general who invariably conquered his enemies by taking one step at a time. That has been my honorable friend’s policy. He described himself ns a Fabian Socialist. That really means that,, like every other general, he proceeds slowly when there are solid obstacles in the way, but marches very rapidly when the goal and the victory are in sight. I shall come later on to that aspect of the question, and I deplore these studied and persistent efforts to confuse me. I find myself being constantly taken off the track that I have marked out for myself on this occasion. I hope to see the Tariff promptly and effectually disposed of. The Prime Minister - whose eloquence is always brilliant and, at election times, sometimes positively lurid - in his anxiety for the immediate carrying out of this reform, and when convulsed with the pangs of agony which smote his sympathetic breast at the sight of empty factories and empty dinner plates in various parts of this great metropolis, said that if I Had the opportunity I would take all the Tariff Commission’s reports and choose, not a moonlight night, but a moonless midnight, to bury them in the Yarra. The honorable gentleman is now going to bury them in the travelling portmanteau of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The solemn programme of this ardent benefactor of starving humanity is that the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the course of a sea voyage of a kind in which he does not fare so well as he does on shore - in the course of his travels, and whilst he is coming constantly in contact with most distinguished personages to whom he will be a most interesting Australia exhibit - is expected to wade through something like 10,000 pages of evidence, comprising about 200,000 questions, and come back with a heavenborn, complete Tariff, via one of the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental or the Orient Steam Navigation Company. This ludicrous expectation is sufficient for the present occasion. It is, perhaps, wholly satisfying to my protectionist friends. The matter, after all, is one that concerns them, and if they do not complain it does not lie in my mouth to do so. It is a matter between them and the Government. If they are satisfied I have no right to complain. But I do say that in the interests of the general community, and quite apart from fiscal considerations, these _ vital questions, affecting as they do the industrial development of Australia - these vital questions affecting the course of trade and commerce - are the most urgent that the Ministry or the Parliament could consider at the present moment. Instead of the
Ministerial head or the official head of the Department of Trade and Customs being in his place, during the next four or five months, engaged in preparing a wellconsidered Tariff, we find that both will be at the other end of the world whilst this work is being carried out.
– They can put the Tariff together there.
– My honorable friend thinks that this work is equivalent to putting together two pieces of board. As a man of intelligence, he ought to know that there is no more troublesome task than that of adjusting a Tariff for a great country like this. When that Tariff is projected on protectionist lines, I hope that the industries of every part of Australia will receive the same attention. If we are to have protection, we are entitled to see that New South Wales, with some of her great industries, secures a fair degree of it.
– We have this time from New South Wales a majority of protectionists who will attend to that matter.
– I hope that they will do so. When the Tariff was last under consideration they were putting goods on the free list.
– Only tea, and one or two other like commodities.
– Tela is all right; it is grown in China. It is a calamity that this, the most urgent of all questions, should be the sport of travelling expeditions. If it was necessary to appoint a member of the Government to attend the Navigation Conference, a Minister not at the head of the Department of Trade and Customs might well have been chosen. Passing on, I should like to point out the absolutely unnatural and revolting state of things that exists in the House to-day. A few weeks ago the Government and my honorable friends sitting below the gangway were fighting to the death. The Labour Leagues of Australia declared war against the Government as well as against myself. The air was just as full of execrations of the head of the Government and the Treasurer as of myself. The Labour Party and the Government were allies once; enemies in 1904-5; allies again in 1905-6, enemies at the last general election, and now thev are allies once more. Are these the mechanical transformations of the political conjuror, or do they represent the honest feelings and convictions of the hundreds of thousands of electors who have recorded their votes? There is, I believe, a mythological deity with a Hibernian name - that of Janus - who had two faces. They were two honest faces. I do not wish on this occasion to be at all offensive, and I am not going to say that the two faces of the Government do not represent in each case an honest personal belief. I do not wish to insinuate anything against them. I merely desire to point out that the honest personal beliefs of the different Ministers amount practically to two opposing forces. In the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, one does not wish to say of him a word that would go beyond fair political controversy, and my allusions to him, will not, I am sure, appear to be unfair. I must admit that his attitude at the last general election was entirely on the lines of his public conduct for years past. It did not represent any sudden change in his political course. We had the honorable gentleman championing the Labour Party, their Socialism and their land tax, whilst on the other hand we had the Prime Minister, after a delightful flirtation with the land tax, absolutely discarding all the attractions of that debutante, and joining the stalwart phalanx headed by my right honorable friend the Treasurer. Even my amiable friend the Attorney-General was so impressed by new light on the subject that at the general elections he gave an absolute pledge to the farmers of Darling Downs that he would oppose a Federal land tax. That is all right. I know my honorable and learned friend well enough to feel sure that when he gives a pledge he will respect it. But a Federal tax was a great practical plank, for immediate legislative action, on the part of my honorable friends sitting below the gangway.
– They are the only genuine reformers.
– I heard a good many expressions of that kind in a quack remedy case in which I was recently engaged.
– When the right honorable gentleman was selling pills.
– The difference in that case was that the parties were able to show that they did cure people, whereas the Labour Party have not yet been able to show a cure. The leader of the Labour Party sai’d that I had no policy. I admit that I was not chained to a series of timber planks. Speaking of the Prime Minister, the honorable member said - “ But beyond the Tariff Mr. Deakin has no policy.” This language, used before the electors, has perhaps evaporated, but my point is that, whilst a certain degree of latitude must always be allowed to the eight or ten gentlemen who comprise a Cabinet, it is at all events greatly inconvenient that on important public questions Ministers should be pulling in opposite directions. I believe that when the record is made up it will be admitted that the course we took when the Federal Labour Party in July, 1905, hoisted the flag of Socialism was a correct one. As long as they buried it in the political cellar, where, although a political antiquarian might possibly discover it, no one else could, no one could say anything about it-
– The right honorable member did not care whilst he was in office.
– I believe that my honorable friends of the Labour Party had some such plank in their political cellar whilst they were supporting me for a period of five years ; but they never even gave me a smell of the saw’dust. Was it not unfair that, whilst I was so anxious to regenerate humanity in New South Wales these honorable gentlemen for five years kept this wonderful prescription concealed from me?
– It was just as prominent then as it is to-day.
– My honorable friend has just passed through a general election, and after an experience of that kind I am prepared to make great allowances for the wildest inaccuracy o’f statement.
– So do I
– But in those days there was no Federal Labour Party.
– That does not matter.
– I thought it did. Thirtyfive to one in the Federal Labour Party affirmed this principle as an aggressive one. and pointed to its adoption, as the beaconlight bv which they were to steer. It is only right that I should say that the leader of the Labour Party throughout the late campaign put his views very fairly. For instance, at Ipswich he said, “ I do not believe, and Socialists do not believe, in the private ownership of land.”
– And the other side dropped the word “ land “ and substituted the words “ private property.”
– I am dealing at present with the leader, and shall come by-and-by to the! “droppers.” The leader of the Labour Party said, “ I do not believe, and
Socialists do not believe, in the private ownership of land.” When he was asked whether he believed in the private ownership of shares, merchandise, and things of that sort, he replied, “ As capital, no - as wealth, yes.”
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– I shall quote the exact words used by my honorable frien’d in his reply. They were formal questions and answers^ and were published throughout Australia.
– From what newspaper does the honorable gentleman quote?
– I Iliad enough tumult at the elections from labour sympathizers ; I do not want any here. I think I am entitled to just a little rest here. I had the howling and the casual missile at the elections, but that is all over, and I wish in this House of Parliament to be heard. The gentleman who asked the questions to which I refer had a very strong labour appearance, which probably accounted for the frankness, of the replies.
– I knew he was an emissary of the right honorable gentleman.
– I never knew the man, and never heard of him until I visited the place a few days after the honorable gentleman.
– I knew he was an emissary of the right honorable gentleman’s side.
– I hope that the nature of the honorable gentleman’s answers to questions does not depend upon the nature of the questioner.
– Not in the slightest degree.
– I know that when a man shied a brickbat at me I did not call him an emissary of my honorable friend.
– I happen to know that in this instance the person referred to was an emissary of the right honorable gentleman.
– Not of mine.
– Of the right honorable gentleman’s side.
– If the honorable member for South Sydney only knew what the emissaries of his side have done ! They went through my electorate telling all the servant girls that if they voted for West they would get 30s. a week, whilst if they voted for me they would not get more than 2s. 6d. a week ! I lost 4,000 votes on that statement alone. Yet, strong as my, indignation was, I never called these people, emissaries of the honorable gentleman. The honorable gentleman was asked -
Do Socialists admit the right of private ownership of land ?
I do not think they do, so far as I am concerned I do not.
Is that right?
– Thanks. The next question was -
Do Socialists admit the right of private ownership in personal property, such as merchandise, capital, or shares?
Socialism does not prevent the holding of private properly. It would prevent the holding of so much private property as is capital ; so much as was used to produce a. return.
There is a very great distinction between wealth which is capital and wealth which is private property and not capital.
That is one of the most astonishing revelations’ of political wisdom that I have ever heard of. If you have ^1,000 in the bank it is wealth, and it is not capital. If you invest £1,000 in 1,000 mining shares, that it capital, and it is not wealth.
– Who said it is not wealth ?
– I do not care which way the honorable gentleman puts it.
– The right honorable gentleman evidently has forgotten his political economy since he wrote “ Free-trade Essays.”
– I have not forgotten it, but it has been considerably modified by listening to the honorable member.
– I am glad to hear that. It is, time we made some impression on the right honorable gentleman.
– This is one of the good things which follow from the public discussion of great questions. Instead of the aggressive, triumphant spirit of regenerating humanity which marked the utterances of some of my friends opposite before the battle began I found that as the battle went on their utterances were modified. Senator Pearce and others spoke with the greatest fearlessness. Senator Pearce manfully said he was as sure as that the sun would rise to-morrow that the whole of the industrial forces would be manipulated and controlled by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for South Sydney, except when referring to Roman generals, did the same thing. Other honorable members said, “Socialist? I am no Socialist. I go by the planks and hang the objective.”.
That is something like the texts we see on the walls of churches - things one does not need to think much about when one is outside. “I am not a Socialist. I go by the planks, and if private enterprise can do things better than the State, let it.” That is sensible, though it may be only milk-and-water Socialism. Some honorable members were careful to make that distinction ; but for absolute fearless courage, combined with poetic inspiration, commend me to the honorable member for Wannon. The honorable member’s political economy was put first as prose and then as poetry.
– The right honorable gentleman took to poetry once himself.
– I will tell the honorable gentleman what I did. After I wrote it I got all the copies I could and burnt t hem ; my political enemies have been hunting for stray copies ever since. The honorable member for Wannon was so thoroughly convinced of the wisdom of the inspiration as well as of the proper quantities of his effusion, that he committed them to immortality in the pages of a lurid paper, which I believe is called the Tocsin. The honorable member said -
No laborite can justify private property in land on ethical or rational grounds, any more than he can theft or bigamy.
When a Government does contract to give land away - as all Governments in Australia do - that contract is no more moral than the action of a burglar who steals a watch from a jeweller’s shop, and gives it to his best girl, or sells it to a pal.
– That is not poetical.
– No, T am coming to the poetry now. The honorable member for Wannon turned this into poetry.
– The right honorable gentleman should sing it.
– Fancy the honorable member for Coolgardie singing the “Wearing of the Green,” or something of that sort, and adding in that way to the miseries of his unfortunate country. The honorable member for Wannon wrote -
Grind the landlord and his laws
On the nether mills of Time.
Vilest thief that ever was -
Drown him in his seas of crime.
That alludes to the honorable member for West Sydney, because that honorable gentleman is a landlord.
– In a very modified Way.
Air. REID. - It refers also to several other honorable members of the party who have been more prudent than I have in investing their money in that way. The poetry continues -
Take his land, and part it free ;
Let the new Democracy,
Singing songs of Liberty,
March away to goals sublime.
I had almost read “gaols sublime.” I should fail in my duty if I did not refer to one feature of the elections which I think has challenged the serious attention of the people, and cannot be forgottenunfortunately in judging of the recent contest. There have been a series of bitter attacks upon one or two ministers of Protestant churches in connexionwith the display of sectarianism during the recent elections. I wish to say at once that sectarianism in politics is one of the greatest calamities that can afflict any country.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– We may differ as to where the blame really rests, but I think there is not one honorable member in this House who does not agree with me that the thing in itself is an evil which should not be allowed to lift its head in our politics. But it did so as long as thirty or forty years ago. It has been used as an hereditary vendetta against the party I represent since the Public Schools Act of 1866 was passed. For fifteen years of my public life I stood all the drawbacks of its antipathy and its antagonism - not personal to myself, but inherited by me - though I never endeavoured, during the whole course of that career to make use of it, but on the contrary tried to suppress it on every occasion. However, I cannot stand by and listen to these attacks upon one or two gentlemen without condemning the absolute hypocrisy of the men who attack them for perhaps an injudicious sermon, and have not a word to say against a life-long interference in the politics of Australia by the most powerful influence in the ecclesiastical world. How is it that these fearless gentlemen who wish to regenerate society, and who see the poison of this thing, can see the poison only on the lips of Protestant clergymen, and cannot see it on the lips of a cardinal ?
– It is a mistake to introduce such matters here.
– Let me say that in these matters there is no element of personal disrespect. I take this view - that no minister of religion should ever introduce into the exercise of his calling politics in an active form. I have always held that view, but 1 say that whether the minister be the humblest of the humblest denomination, or a princely member of a great church, the principle should apply equally to both. The power of evil in the utterances of a minister of a Wesleyan or Methodist church is but as a grain of sand 011 the seashore compared with the tremendous power of the idlest word that falls from the lips of the head of the great Church to which I refer.
– I think the right honorable gentleman is making a. great mistake.
– Over and over again I was held up to ridicule as the leader of a political party in political addresses, and I claim the right of reply to attacks of that sort from a prince of the church. Only a day or two before the elections the most bitter attack that could be made against a political party was made at a Riverview function by His Eminence. We know that the slightest word that falls from the lips of that eminent personage travels through Australia and influences the votes of thousands and tens of thousands of persons who. perhaps, do not know much about politics, but who naturally will pay the most profound attention toanything which falls from so distinguished a member of the church.
– I say again that I think the right honorable gentleman is making a great mistake in saying that.
– I think the right honorable gentleman is absolutely wrong.
– All I can. say is that I speak for my own State. I do not pretend to speak for other States.
– The right honorable member does not speak for the whole of the State of New South Wales.
– I am happy to say that in Queensland, so far as I know there was no trace of this. I do not think that there was much in South Australia, or in any part of Australia, with the exception of New South Wales, and, perhaps, of Victoria. I am speaking for New South Wales. The question in connexion with this matter is : Who was the aggressor ?
– Dill Macky.
– I was silent year after, year, although feeling the weight of the handicap; but when I am asked to condemn men who banded themselves to resist a deadly interference with* politics, my reply is that I would rather condemn those who made such a movement inevitable.
– Let us condemn those who started the whole thing.
– What about Dill Macky coming over to fight me?
– I do not wish to condemn any one. My only desire is to justify my own position. If sectarianism had not had such a large influence in politics, I should not have dreamt of referring to it. But I feel that it has altered the complexion of the political affairs of Australia, and the question is : Who was the aggressor ? In some cases the only way to put down sectarianism is to show that it does not pay.
– The right honorable member has evidence of that now.
– But what about the sectarianism which put in the honorable member?
– Who was annoyed because the sectarian movement did not workout as he expected ? The man who started it found that it did not work as he thought it would.
– I do not know who that was.
– The honorable member wasone. I can produce his letter. It was published in the newspapers at the time. In it he encouraged the sectarian movement.
– I can assure the honorable member that never in the whole course of my life did I do anything of the sort.
– It is four and a half years since the right honorable member’s letter was published.
– Is the honorable member referring to the letter about Archbishop Redwood ?
– No ; to a letter published eighteen months later than that. A meeting was called by Dr. Dill Mackyin the Town Hall, Sydney, eighteen months after the Redwood incident.
– I cannot permit a dialogue at this stage. The honorable member for South Sydney will be able to reply later if he wishes to do so.
– I sat quiet, and said not a word, for fifteen or sixteen years of my public life; but there is a limit to endurance of an unfair influence against one in politics. I am the first to acknowledge that there are just as independent, fearless, and patriotic men in the Roman Catholic Church as there are in any other Church in Australia. My three strongest supporters during the election - men who absolutely slaved for me - belong to the Roman Catholic denomination. I have had most generous support from members of that Church. But the great mass of its adherents, who do not study politics, or, perhaps, have no taste for them, are influenced by the utterances of its head to an extent beyond anything that the lips of any other man in Australia can effect. I mention these matters in the hope that sectarianism will be put down. It should Be put down on both sides. You will not bring about a better result by affecting to shut your eyes to its existence. The way to cure this evil is not to affect to believe that it does not exist. A still worse attempt at a cure is to blame the wrong party. Sectarianism has been a most unhealthy influence in politics. But there is all the difference in the world between men who resist aggression and men who originate it. If organization is not met by organization the evil will become more rampant.
– Where is the organization on one side?
– There is one power in this world which needs no organization. When I am asked where is the political organization on one side. I say that the mighty Catholic Church has been an embodied political association throughout the ages.
– As a Catholic, I say that I never take my political views from my church.
– I am sure of that. I have just stated that I had friends who stood by me during the election who are members of that Church, and hundreds of its members have shown the same fearless spirit. The wav to cure this evil is not to blame the wrong side.
– Declare war. That is what the right honorable member is trying to do.
– I think that reform would be better thanthat. I wish to deal now with what I say is an unnatural and revolting state of things - the position of parties in this House as we see it to-day. In 1904 the Prime Minister denounced the party sitting below the gangway as enemies of Australian liberty, as men who were destroying our political independence and driving Australia over a precipice. Then followed his alliance with them. Later came the election. What did the honorable and learned gentleman say of the Labour Party only a few weeks ago? I am happy to say that when I had an alliance with the Labour Party in New South Wales we went to the election, not lighting one another, but side by side. Its members supported me in Parliament, and before the electors of New South Wales. We fought loyally and fairly, side by side. But lately the situation has been very different. Let us see what was said by the Prime Minister just prior to the recent election.
The selection of the Labour candidate is left to a mere handful, who cannot claim, or prove their claim, to be thoroughly representative of the whole constituency, and yet they prevent every other candidate who wishes to be a Labour candidate coming before the constituency. By that means the party does not get the best men in its own ranks. Having put the candidate in the party, it makes him a member of a caucus, and pledges him to sacrifice his judgment to the majority on every question brought before it.
– That is a misrepresentation.
– It is the right honorable member’s report of my remarks.
– It is the report of a public newspaper, not my report. I do not go about reporting the Prime Minister. I am not like the right honorable member for Maranoa, who, in 1905, came all the way from Queensland to Ballarat to hear a certain wonderful speech. The honorable and learned member continued -
On some questions greater freedom is allowed, but there is a rigorous military discipline, and if the candidate stands against the caucus he is taken out and practically shot at sight.
Those are the words of the political ally upon whom my friends the Labour Party smile. Is it that they despise the opinions of the Prime Minister?
– The statement was an allegorical one.
– Then it was like that of the honorary Minister, who, after he had done a very gross wrong to the labour candidate for Kooyong, explained that what he had said was a parable ; though I should have called it a tarradiddle. The Treasurer, whether it suits his friends or his enemies, always speaks out like a. man, and if he is to be the acting Prime Minister in the absence of the present leader of the Government, no member of the Ministry will be more welcomed by us in that capacity. Speaking before the elections, he said -
The chances are that the whole, control of the legislation of Australia will, after the next election, fall under the dominion of the Labour Parly.
It had been so for some time previously.
They have captured for a time the Government of Australia.
How true ! They had captured it, and held it tight for some months.
– I referred to the time when the Labour Government was in office.
– That is the one thing for which the right honorable gentleman cannot forgive the Labour Party. If it had gone on supporting him for ten solid years it would have been right. But four months of office for them ! Oh, it was horrible ! The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
They are almost able to capture it now.
They have got hold of Sir William Lyne, and there is a tug-of-war going on. The Treasurer, who is in the secrets of the Cabinet, says that the Labour Party are almost able to capture the Government now.
They probably will capture it, and control it for the next three years.
What a lively prospect for him. We are told by the Postmaster-General that if we think that the Government does not possess the confidence of Parliament we should try to turn it out of office. At first sight that seems a fair challenge. It reminds me of a little incident. I once congratulated a man, who had been in the service of a very kind master and mistress for about ten years, upon having enjoyed the esteem and confidence of his employers for so long a period. He replied, “ I do not owe them any gratitude. For the last five years they have been trying to get rid of me, but they cannot agree in regard ito a man to take my place.” There is a great difference between the position of a man who is holding a billet because he is enjoying the confidence of his employers and that of a man whose employers will not sack him because they cannot agree as to who should take his place. The confidence shown in the latter case might warm the heart that beats under a livery, but can scarcely be grateful to the feelings of a Minister of the Crown. I. should say that the greatest suffering felt by men who feel as Ministers have expressed themselves lies in having to receive support from the enemies of their country, knowing that they are compelled to endure the humiliation of remaining in office by their leave.
– The Treasurer has said that he is full of it.
– Like myself, he has one of the most wonderful uniforms in the world.
But we must always judge a man by his good points as well as by his faults, and must give the Treasurer credit for speaking his mind.
– Though he changes it occasionally.
– This is the appeal which the right honorable gentleman made to the electors : -
The people should be up and doing. I hope you will buckle on your armour, and show you are not going to be like dumb driven cattle.
The dumb driven cattle are on the Treasury benches, whilst the drivers are the Labour Party. When the Treasurer talks like that, and denounces those by whose support he lives, I say that it must be a source of regret to him that he is compelled to continue in so humiliating a position. The honorable member for Barrier spoke the other day in no uncertain tone. He declared that there was some talk about alliances. An alliance with the Opposition, he added, was inconceivable. I should hope that it was.
– ‘For how long?
– Until the honorable member’s party gets, rid of a lot of its troubles. The great reproach hitherto urged against me has not been that I was a; dumb-driven ox in the yoke, but that I had developed suicidal mania. When any public man feels the yoke upon his neck, if he is worth anything, he will develop suicidal mania. That represents, the difference between being dumb and submissive under the lash and getting out of a humiliating position. The honorable member for Barrier went on to say -
There might be a coalition with the Deakin Administration, but our leader must be Prime Minister, and we must have a majority of the offices.
So that even these patriots have regard to substantial results of that character. Of course, I recognise that the. numerical strength of the Labour Party warrants the claim put forward by the honorable member.
– If the right honorable member’s party were to coalesce with the Opposition corner party he would demand that the majority of the Ministerial offices should be filled by his. own direct followers, because they are numerically stronger.
– A great advantage on our side is that Ave are not wearing a livery. We are free to follow our own views without enduring the humiliation of the sup port of men who denounce us. This is the Prime Minister’s definition of the two parties when he was before the electors -
The policy of the Anti-Socialist Party is “You shall not do what you cannot.”
That is a very illuminating utterance; I think that it is quite true. The Prime Minister continued -
The policy of the Socialist Party is “ You shall do what you cannot.”
– That is. a most intelligent presentation of our policy.
– It is. There is a certain degree of sense in the definition of the policy of the Socialist Party, because they say to the Prime Minister when he says that he cannot, “You shall do what you cannot,” and he does it.
– Was that the experience of the right honorable member in New South Wales?
– No; and when I left office the leader of the Labour Party gave expression to sentiments of which I have been proud ever since. I hope that when the fiscal question has been disposed of, and the Prime Minister is in a position to throw overboard the Labour Party, they will part company, with him upon the same terms as those on which I separated from the Labour Party in New South Wales-
– I have no doubt that that will be so.
– There is still another definition, which was put forward by the Prime Minister. He described his followers as the “ centre party.” Now I find that after the general election the Government have two Ministers and two supporters in the Senate out of a total of thirty-six members. That is the centre party in the other Chamber. In this House they have seven Ministers and nine supporters. I do not include my right honorable friend opposite, the member for Adelaide, whom we are so delighted to see here., because I think that he adopts an independent position. But, leaving him out of consideration, the Government have seven Ministers and nine supporters in this House. Out of sixty-eight ordinary members, they are supported by nine. So that, in one sense, the Government and their followers are an impossibility in the centre of two moving possibilities. The Prime Minister continued - .
They were the centre party fearlessly resisting on one hand the retrograde conservatism of Mr. Reid’s party -
Conservatism ! Why, most honorable members who sit upon the Opposition side of the House are free-traders, though I am happy to say that the honorable member for Oxley, the honorable member for’ Brisbane, the honorable member for Capricornia, and the honorable member for Wilmot, who reserves to himself absolute liberty of action on the fiscal question, are just as honest and loyal protectionists as those who sit in any other part of the House. But the majority of members of the Opposition are free-traders. In this connexion I wish to point out that the party which we represent has carried out some of the greatest democratic reforms which stand on the statute-book of New South Wales. The Prime Minister and his friends, it is only fair to say, have, in the course of Victorian politics, been associated with some of the most democratic reforms in Australia. The only substantial difference between us is one of fiscal belief. Is Senator Pearce a retrograde Conservative because he is a thorough free-trader? Are the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Maranoa, and the honorale member for Perth retrograde Conservatives? Are not the Labour Party in England f ree-traders to a man ? What nonsense it is to appropriate an epithet of that sort and apply it to a difference of fiscal belief ! The Tories of England are the protectionists of England, whereas the masses of the old country are free-traders. I merely point this out to show that to class a man as a Radical or Conservative because he happens to be a free-trader or protectionist is to draw the silliest distinction in the world. But what was the defintion given by the Prime Minister of the Labour Party ? He continued -
And on the other hand the rash Socialism of the Labour Party, which ruled and plunged this country into political and industrial confusion.
Are these mere dicers’ oaths, which can be exchanged by the dozen across the political shop counter, or do they represent the honorable gentleman’s honest opinions? Dare he repeat them in this House?
– Yes, with the proper context, which the right honorable member has carefully omitted.
– This statement was typewritten by a gentleman’ in Sydney who collects this sort of things. I do not go hunting up newspaper paragraphs, and I suppose that the Prime Minister has somebody to bring newspaper extracts to him.
Surely ha does not forget what he said a dozen times ir* 1904 !
– .Not in the least.
– But I would point out that the present condition of affairs makes it inevitable. I admit that the members of the Opposition have no conceivable right at present to occupy the Treasury benches.
– We have not the ghost of a chance of occupying them.
– 1 am sure that my honorable friend would not jump at it if he had. We have not the remotest right to sit upon the Treasury benches, and instead of that being a subject of regret it is a matter for congratulation. I think that my opponents will admit that I showed by my action that I did not cling to Ministerial office. They even went so far as to call me a suicide. By the way, my honorable friend the Minister of Defence also said -
Alliance with the Labour Party is like an alliance with an American Red Indian. He may fight for you, but pretty soon after the battle he will scalp you if he gets the chance.
That is a lovely position for a Minister of the Crown to occupy - to be supported by gentlemen who have a concealed knife with which to take his scalp.
– From where did the right honorable member get that statement?
– The Minister will find it recorded in Hansard.
– That is from a free-trade publication.
– It is wonderful how men become inured to a trying position of the kind described by the honorable member. Sir George Turner, upon a memorable occasion, declared that he had eaten so much dirt that he could not eat any more, but all men are not built upon similar lines. The Minister of Defence was wholly wrong in his illustration. It is not the North American Indian to whom he should liken the Socialist Party, but to a nearer specimen of humanity - the cannibal of the South Sea Islands. When these cannibals get somebody upon their island who requires a certain amount of fattening, they keep him until such time as they deem him fit to devour. That is what the Labour Party are doing with the Government.
– They are not allowing them to grow too fat either.
– I think I was justified, after a general election, in dealing with these matters of retrospect, but I wish now to come to the work which is before us. In this connexion there is very little to be said, but there are one or two matters to which I should like to refer. The first relates to the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the administration of Papua. I have not yet had an opportunity of reading the report of the Commission, but as the Minister who was in charge of the Department of External Affairs for some time, I wish to put on record my high opinion of the ability, the devotion, and the single mindedness of the present Administrator, Captain Barton. Upon the report of the Commission he may not, perhaps, be deemed the most suitable man for his office. I merely desire to say that so far as my official experience went I entertained the highest opinion of him. 1 say frankly that, whether he be an Australian or not, I prefer the man who looks after the interests of the helpless hundreds of thousands of black natives to the man who does not. The position of Administrator of Papua is one of the most delicate in the world. Settlement must n)ot be stopped, and the man who has to protect all these swarms of natives and, at the same time, advance white settlement undertakes ‘ one of the most arduous tasks in the history of civilization. The thing as -to which I should feel most acutely would be any want of consideration of the interests of absolutely helpless natives.
– That is to say we must take one step at a time.
– There are some people who take a step at a time when they have their “ jemmy “ upon them, and others who do so from much more honorable motives. With reference to the Navigation Commission, I wish to say that the invitation of the Imperial Government cannot possibly have been properly considered by the Ministry, in view of the selections which they have made. A special desire was expressed by the Imperial authorities that a competent expert representative of both the sailors and the ship-owners should be appointed. I think that that was a most sensible suggestion. We can get any number of lawyers to incorporate ideas in a Bill after they have been arrived a,t, but in the formation of a workable scheme, we require men with, practical knowledge. Seeing that we have men in the Commonwealth like Senator Guthrie, who has devoted his life to the interests of the sailors, I wish publicly to say - without any reflex antagonism to the gentleman who has been appointed to represent the seamen, because the honorable and learned member for West Sydney wasChairman of the Navigation Commission, and is a very able man - that if there isone man in Australia who should have gone home to watch the interests of our local seamen, it is that honorable senator. What can the ablest man who does not know accomplish in competition with the able man who does? Our delegates have to meet men like Sir Thomas Sutherland, the head of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a practical man with a lifetime’s experience, and one who is possessed of very great ability. What can a man who has not the practical expert knowledge to be derived only by a long connexion with maritime pursuits, achieve in such company? Again, I do not wish to say one unkind word in reference to the Minister of Trade and Customs. He occupies a high position, and if the preparation of the Tariff had not been his chief duty there would not have been half as much said about his going Home. We all know the honorable gentleman. No one can deny that he is possessed of abilities, but we all must admit that when dealing with subtle, quick intellects in the settlement of technical and intricate matters connected with navigation the honorable gentleman, from no fault of his own, is not fit to do justice to the great interests committed to his charge. Let us look for a moment at the difference in the case of New Zealand. The Premier of that Colony is going to the Conference of Premiers to be held in London, and says that he wi,ll be able to watch the proceedings of the Navigation Conference. In these circumstances, he has chosen as a representative of New Zealand at the Navigation Conference a leading ship-owner in that Colony. I refer to Mr. Mills, of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand ; and Mr. Belcher, who, I understand, is a practical man, has been selected to represent the interests of the seamen. Those were sensible appointments. If we must send politicians, let them have the trip, but do let us send practical men also.
– What >fsi the difference between the situation in New Zealand and here?
– Is this the old game that used to be played? Are we all to wait for a Seddon or a Ward to take the initia tive? What an answer the honorable and learned gentleman makes - that the people of Australia and their vast shipping interests are to look to the representatives of New Zealand.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that has nothing to do with the matter.
– I think that the interjection made by the Prime Minister was a most unhappy one.
– New Zealand has a Navigation Act, so that the Navigation Conference is a matter of indifference to her. We have no such Act, and therefore the Conference is everything to us.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has many matters to attend to and none of us can be experts sp far as all these questions are concerned; but if he will allow me to say so, he is revealing a want of acquaintance with the structural idea of the Convention. What is that idea or object? It is that all the different Navigation Acts, shall be thrown into a crucible and one brought out that will, if possible, apply throughout the Empire.
– If possible.
– Is not the experiment worth trying?
– It is impossible.
– Then why incur the expense of sending delegates, to the Conference?
– To try to adjust some of the difficulties.
– I am beginning now to know why some of these appointments were made. At the outset I certainly did not. There is to be a little expedition, which may not do any harm; and incidentally the Minister of Trade and Customs will be able to look at the reports of the Tariff Commission and drop in occasionally to see that everything is going on all right at the Conference. I hope that the House will forgive me for referring to one other matter that is not strictly before us. I wish to place on record my profound dissent from a most dangerous course which was followed at the end of last session, when, in connexion with,’ a controversial point, the Governor-General of Australia was brought into the arena of practical legislation. When the Constitution was drafted. I pointed out that the clause enabling the Governor-General to send down a message as to the alteration of a Bill was one that might be abused. I ‘was then told with indignation that it was intended really to provide for trifling technical slips involving no question of principle or controversy. It was designed, I was told, to avoid the necessity of introducing an amending Bill to correct a mistake caused by a word slipping in or falling out. But the extraordinary incident to which I have referred has occurred in connexion with this very provision. Last session we had a division on the question of whether a preference should be granted to British goods carried on certain vessels, and it was agreed by a majority of one that such vessels should be manned only by white seamen. There was an acute disagreement dividing the Chamber. The Bill was then sent on to the Senate, and without going into details, I may say that I appealed to the Government at the time to have the words in question, left out. I pointed out the difficulties that would arise in view of Great Britain’s shipping relations with the rest of the world. I implored the Prime Minister to face the situation and to at once have the words omitted. He declined to do so, and we know what happened. The GovernorGeneral was advised - and His, Excellency always acts on the advice of his Ministers as long as he has their services-
– Hear, hear !
– I wish it to be understood that I am referring not to the GovernorGeneral, but to the action of the Ministry.
– The responsibility is wholly and solely ours.
– Exactly. That is why I am criticising the action in question. We find that a message is received in the usual form; from the! ‘Governor-GefrieTa.1, returning to the House the proposed law, and stating that he transmits therewith the following amendment, which he recommends to be made in the proposed law. The Crown was made to recommend an amendment of a Bill before Parliament in reference to a vital matter over which much controversy had occurred. I ask the House to picture the abuses that might follow the introduction of that system.
– It was simply a matter for the consideration of the House.
– We ought to patch up all our troubles and mistakes here.
– Hear, hear !
– We ought not to invoke (he Crown to come to this Chamber-
– It was the Ministry.
– The honorable and learned gentleman must not say that.
– I repeat that it was the Ministry.
– The Ministry must deal directly with the House.
– So they do.
– They have no right to go behind the Governor-General to deal with this House.
– We did not go behind the Governor-General. We take the responsibility.
– Of course the Government do; they cannot help it.
– And we do not wish to avoid it.
– There was a difference of opinion in the House; a difficulty arose in connexion with a very important matter.
– Why should the question not have been reconsidered?
– I agree that we should have reconsidered it, but not on a Viceregal suggestion.
– On the suggestion of the Ministry through the Governor-General.
– The Ministry should not deal with the House through the GovernorGeneral. If honorable members can justify that sort of business, I shall say no more than that I think it is a wrong thing to do.
– What were we to do?
– The Cabinet has the House to deal with. If it does not like a Bill it can have it altered. If it cannot secure its amendment it can allow it to pass as it stands. What was the next stage in this incident? The Bill went to the GovernorGeneral, and I learn from a despatch laid on the table yesterday that the Prime Minister, after sending up the measure for the Royal assent, advised his Excellency that he could not assent to it, owing to its interference with treaty obligations. That information was brought before the Government prior to the occurrence of this trouble.
– No. It was brought before us after we had taken the steps in question.
– It was referred to in the debate.
– Directly the information reached us by cable I laid it before the House.
– I do not deny that. I merely say that the information was available.
– But it came at so late a stage that we were obliged to take the unusual course of asking the House to reconsider the matter.
– The Prime Minister will find that this occurred on the 3rd October, and that the message from the Governor-General was dated nth October last. The incident, however, has passed, and I do not wish to raise any question about it. I simply desire, as one of the older members of the House, to say that the section of the Constitution under which the action was taken should not be used by Ministers except for dealing with trivial alterations. If the Government wish to make a communication to the House they can do so directly. They certainly ought not to take advantage of a section which is intended for a harmless purpose, and so open the door to abuse. Although I regret that the Prime Minister will not take with him to England the confidence of the people or the House, in the sense in which other Prime Ministers who will assemble at that board will do, I wish at once to acknowledge his ability and capacity for the very high duties that he will be called upon to discharge. I do not want for one moment to suggest that the honorable and learned gentleman is not one of the best men that could be selected in Australia for so important a task. But there is one point I wish to make, and I think it better to mention these matters before the Prime Minister goes than to leave them until his return. We should endeavour to help him, because in his capacity he will represent the whole Commonwealth. He has to discharge a public duty, and I wish to impress upon him certain views which I entertain, and which I have no reason to believe are not shared by the honorable and learned gentleman himself. I have watched for many years a studied attempt in certain quarters to substitute for the present relations between the selfgoverning States of the Empire and the mother country a new system of a less elastic character. I wish to remind the House, in a few words, of the history of our connexion with the mother country. One hundred years ago the different parts of the Empire could not send a package of goods to any other country except in a British ship, which would touch at a port in the British Channel. If Australia wished to send goods, for instance, to France, those goods had first to go to England. Such were the iron-bound commercial laws of that period, and our political relations were equally hard and fast. In the old days the smallest appointment in the Government offices in Sydney was filled by the Downing Street officials. We have now got right away from those rigid official bonds, and with their relaxation we have had an everincreasing measure of strength, stability, loyalty, and peace. I am strongly against any change in our relations with the mother country that might make the tie between us less elastic. Endeavours may be made to substitute for the present system some council in London of a permanent character, and even if it is a mere advisory body it must acquire in the course of time what one might call a semblance of authority - an appearance of a right to speak for us. The best possible relations between the mother country and the Commonwealth are those secured through the Governments and Parliaments of Australia. No authority should stand between them. We may have our High Commissioner. He would be a mere representative of the Government and Parliament who might very well carry their views to the proper quarter; but any attempt to establish a sort of standing council, even of the most harmless kind, would in my opinion be an absolute mistake.
– Canada objects even to change the term “ conference “ to “ council.”
– Quite so. I wish respectfully to express my absolute concurrence with that view. Just as we admire the marvellous harmony in the heavens above, where majestic worldsdescribe for all eternity their unerring orbits without friction or collision, so we must recognise that in the mighty system with which we are bound up under the British flag the more the self-governing Colonies are allowed to pursue their own course and their own orbits without any attempt to establish artificial ties, the more sublime and the grander will be the harmony and strength of the British Empire. A want of loyalty will be shown in making changes that are not fully justified by experience. The strength and the marvellous results of our freedom are such that I for one wish it to be understood that our desire is that whatever the Prime Minister may do on behalf of Australia in London, the Commonwealth should not be committed to any new-fangled projects of newfangled authorities in regard to the management of our affairs. The situation in regard to preferential trade has been cleared considerably by the decision of the people at the last general election. Given a protective Tariff the freetrade objections, wherever they exist, to a system of preferential trade, pretty well disappear so far as we in Australia are concerned. We can have no possible objection to relaxation of fiscal bonds in favour of the mother country. As to trade beyond the Commonwealth, while I wish to see themother country helped in every way, Ido not wish it to be understood that I have in any sense a desire to discourage trade with other countries. We have a vast range of natural products that are sought for in all the great markets of the world, and we must endeavour to reconcile our desire to help the mother country with our wish that the volume of our trade over the whole surface of the globe shall not be contracted. I am deeply indebted to the House for permitting me to express my views on these subjects. In conclusion, I would point out that in the last paragraph of the Governor-General’s speech the Prime Minister seems to have put in wonderfully clear language what I think are almost the five greatest wants in Australian politics :
Measures to place our national industries on a sound and permanent basis, under equitable conditions ;
We are all in favour of that - it is a grand object - although we may differ as to the best means of giving effect to what is desired. to develop the latent resources of the continent ;
That is another grand object, although there may be various ideas as to the best way of carrying it out. promote trade relations within the Empire ;
Another grand object, so long as we do not seek to destroy trade with other parts of the world. make adequate provision for our defences;
Another grand object. We have been talking about it for years, and things are worse now, I believe, than they have ever been before. and augmentthe population Of Australia by a judicious encouragement of immigration.
Another grand object, although the word “judicious” will wear different appearances to different minds. What I wish to say is that, whenever these great subjects come before us, and whoever submits them, I hope every member in this House, regardless of party, will endeavour to give them the best possible shape. Unfortunately, in politics it is easy to paint beautiful pictures of future greatness arc prosperity, covering large areas and swarming populations. To paint such magnificent vistas, appealing to the senses and the imagination, is a delightful task for a skilful artist; but I hope ours will be the nobler task of converting these grand ideas into sound, practical action, in order to promote so far as we can the prosperity and the happiness of the great masses of the people of this country.
– The House has had the advantage of hearing the honorable the leader of the Opposition exercise to the full his exceptional powers, and enjoy all the privileges which the circumstances of the recent election conferred upon him. He naturally remits to the background his own trials, in order to expose those which my colleagues and myself have had to encounter. I accept the expressions of sympathy from the right honorable gentleman with our disappointments as being absolutely sincere. He best can paint them who has felt them most. At the outset of his speech the right honorable gentleman intimated, in a fair spirit, that he did not apprehend that any party in this community was entitled to raise a specially exultant note over the results of the recent elections, and, so far as we are concerned, at all events, I see no reason to challenge that statement. Never did any Government fight an election under greater disabilities or more disadvantages. The extent of Australia and the impossibility of providing for anything like immediate co-operative action even between sections of the same party, were necessities which imposed themselves, and which must always be allowed for in Federal elections. Over and above that, this Government and its supporters had forced upon them one of the most cruel choices which could be imposed upon men in their position. They had to choose between the endeavour, at any cost, to increase the number of their direct supporters, or else to imperil the chances and prospects of the chief principle of their programme. We possessed opportunities which we did not seize, and some of which we ought to have seized. We might fairly have contested seats that were not chal lenged, but preferred, in many instances, to deliberately abandon the effort to win seats where those who came forward were at all events staunch supporters of the principal proposals on which we appealed to Australia. Where candidates were sound and thorough protectionists we either did not fight them at all or but half-heartedly. We believed the national acceptance of our fiscal principle to be so urgent at the present time, and the gravity of the issue submitted so serious, that it was better we should suffer in the numerical strength of our own party, if by that means it could be made more certain that this great and pressing necessity would be dealt with by this Parliament in a decisive fashion.
– The Ministry did not adopt that course in Western Australia, where a protectionist was defeated bv a gentleman sitting on this side of the House who was supported by the honorable gentleman’s colleague, the Treasurer.
– We did adopt that course all through.
– I think there is an applicable text in this relation which says - “ Delivered as a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
Perhaps the honorable member will recollect that I partly dealt with that aspect of the matter by pointing out the impossibility at present of acting over the whole area of Australia from any one centre with absolute unity in regard either to the selection of candidates or the conduct of a campaign. There were variations in every party, not even excepting that of my honorable friends in the corner. They displayed distinct differences, of a minor character it is true, in each of the different States. The supporters of the right honorable leader of the Opposition in this State submitted a programme at the election as his programme, or at all events as being in harmony with it, which would not have been so recognised in the other States.
– The honorable and learned gentleman’s colleague sent the leader of the Opposition a supporter.
– I am not aware of it, and at all events, would not advise that right honorable gentleman to rest upon such support. Making no complaint, I am pointing at present to the inevitable physical and other difficulties and disabilities peculiar to Federal elections. Desiring to get as quickly as possible to the core of the subject, we may now clear away these matters.
– The honorable and learned gentleman might make some reference to the informal votes.
– The right honorable gentleman omitted to mention the great number of informal votes recorded at the election, and suggests apparently that they should be a subject of study in all the States.
– I referred to the matter simply as affecting the electoral system, which certainly needs some improvement.
– We are in thorough agreement on the point. The Government regret that, in spite of its efforts last year, there was no better system so far as the selection of candidates was concerned.
– I refer to the electoral machinery.
– The right honorable’ gentleman prefers to refer to electoral machinery, and not to the methods of selection of candidates. I join with pleasure in the tribute which the leader of the Opposition paid to some former members whom he mentioned, and to others whom he wished to mention. But it is not desirable that the commencement of our proceedings should take the form of a funeral oration. The gentlemen whom) he named, and some whom he has not named, must be aware that the feelings of camaraderie which inevitably spring up in the House between men of all parties leads to a generous appreciation of the powers and abilities of those engaged with us in a public task, even though they may be exercised with objects antagonistic to our own. Our conflicts here do not prevent manly and mutual feelings of liking, regard, and esteem, which make us regret to be severed even from political opponents. This is true particularly in the case of the right honorable gentleman, who retired of his own accord, to whom the leader of the Opposition referred. In this State he requires no further tributes, but we heartily welcome those accorded to him elsewhere at any time. We are especially pleased that the leader of the Opposition included the right honorable gentleman in his references, because POSsibly his services are less appreciated in other States. The right honorable gentleman struck the commanding note, not per haps of the whole of his address, but of the whole situation, when he frankly admitted what the verdict of Australia had been. It suited him afterwards, and we have no cause to object, to twit us with being but one of three, four, or more parties, and to make sport of our varying relations with them from time to time. I do not grudge the right honorable gentleman the excellent use he made of all his opportunities in that direction, but as a matter of fact, he cannot yet have obliterated from his memory the recollection of the true position at the polls. This was put by himself, and put for him in still more unmistakable terms by his own immediate supporters and by his newspapers published in his State and in his own constituency. They declared most unmistakably before the elections that there were ‘ only two parties - one the right honorable gentleman’s party, the true anti-Socialists, and another composed of persons who were either Socialists or allied with them so closely as to be indistinguishable from them, who were to receive no more shrift than the Socialists themselves. In point of fact, it was urged that the Ministry and its supporters should be destroyed rather than the Socialists themselves, because of our supposed combination with them. The electors of New South Wales were also told in the clearest and most unmistakable terms that there was no fiscal issue except the proposition submitted by the right honorable gentleman’s party, which was that there should not, and could not, be a fiscal issue. Consequently the votes of the people were to determine the fate of the two parties - his own anti-socialistic free-trade party, and of the other protectionist sections, whom he was to rout and conquer. After this the right honorable gentleman cannot dispute the fact that, taking that division line drawn by his own newspapers and supporters, this House, as he has himself frankly admitted, does give the final answer of the country. Three-fourths of the members of the House belong fiscally to our side, and only onefourth to the right honorable gentleman’s own party.
– The newspapers said nothing about free-trade in relation to the party.
– The honorable member’s leader said that he proposed in this Parliament to make no real alteration whatever in the existing Tariff.
– Except to redress anomalies disclosed by the reports of the Tariff Commission.
– Exactly ; and the right honorable gentleman specially guarded himself as to them by a reference to the fact that the Chairman and half the members oS the Commission were protectionists, saying that he would not even consider any recommendations unless at least one of the freetrade members of the Commission voted for them. We know that his promised consideration of anomalies had no fiscal force. When coupled with the qualifications imposed by the right honorable gentleman, this was equivalent to an absolute refusal to reconsider the Tariff in this Parliament, much less to deal with it in the manner which the Government proposed. The verdict given by the people, to gain which, to a large extent, the Ministry sacrificed its own fortunes, is at all events., as the right honorable gentleman admits, a final and incontrovertible decision on that point. There is no need to labour the point. I am glad to be disarmed since the right honorable gentleman has cleared the way, by commencing with a frank admission that the great issue is settled so far as Parliament is concerned, and that what remains to us to do is merely to give effect to the verdict of the country. The pithily effective summary of the honorable and learned member for Gippsland, Mr. Wise, , Put the position in a nutshell. In regard to the criticism of the Labour Party in which the right honorable gentleman has indulged, let me saN that my own criticisms, and the grounds, for them, have been stated over and over again. They have not varied during the recent campaign. I have before me a statement made at the outset, and recollect with perfect clearness the several similar statements made at the close. They were made to the same constituency, and did not differ from those uttered by me in 1905.
– Unfortunately they contained misrepresentations, possibly due to misapprehensions.
– I was careful, as the reports before me show, to recognise the honorable relations which had existed between us in Parliament, and in all the dealings of the leader of the party with us. I drew in the most emphatic terms a broad distinction between the parliamentary labour representatives, who have acquired great ex perience in the handling of public questions, against whom I have no cause of complaint, and the men behind them now outside the House who are without that experience. It appeared to me that the latter fasten trammels upon their representatives which are not in the interests of the party or its platform. I then criticised, as often before, their method of choosing candidates, and their exercise of the power of the caucus, though I was careful to state - and this was omitted from one of the quotations of the right honorable member for East Sydney - the matters in regard to which the decision of the caucus was final.
– In regard to both subjects the honorable and learned gentleman was wrong.
– When I first offered my criticism a member of the Labour Party called my attention to the difference between the Federal platform and some of the State platforms, and I was careful at my next meeting to make the necessary correction of the ambiguity. I mentioned the difference on each occasion when I had to allude to the subject afterwards.
– The honorable and learned gentleman’s election paper made grosser misstatements than that concerning the Labour Party.
– I was not the editor of that paper, but if my attention is called to misstatements with which I can be associated I shall not hesitate to put them right.
– I intend to point out one or two.
– Anything except sectarianism is fair in a fight.
– I do not admit that, being myself especially careful not to confuse criticism of methods and machinery and articles of a programme with criticism of men and their principles. As the right honorable member for East Sydney reminded us to-day, there are within the Labour Party members of different shades of political thought. They differ considerably one from another in regard to Ohe lengths to which they would go.
– That is true of every party.
– There is a great difference between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.
– The difference is so obviously in favour of my right honorable friend that I shall not pursue that topic.
While I have criticised parts of the policy, methods, and machinery of the Labour Party openly and unconstrainedly, my statements have always been accompanied by the necessary distinctions between representatives of the people and the outside organizations with which they are associated.
– I wish that the honorable and learned gentleman had questioned some of the members of the Labour Party on tine subject before making those statements.
– I have done so. I have discussed these matters casually, and in private from time to time with members of the Labour Party, and have spoken to my honorable friend himself on certain points. While exercising to the full my right of criticism, which there was every reason to do, I was careful not to mislead my audiences in any respect, and when challenged by the labour men who were present at my first and other meetings, laid down in the broadest manner possible the distinctions of which I have spoken, as the reports of my speeches, some of which I have here, show. I have marked the passages, because the leader of the Opposition has alluded to the matter from press clippings, but unless further challenged, consider it unnecessary to read the full text.
– The Labour Party still exists,.
– It is all right now.
– My only regret is that I could not alter the mode of the party’s existence.
– By wiping us out.
– No. Recognising the political necessity for a Labour Party, E look forward to the time when its methods and machinery will be as free from challenge in respect to its control of its representatives as are those of other political parties.
– It is a great deal better than the other political parties in this. State.
– Why enter into that comparison? Look instead at two points in the speech of the honorable member for Cowper. He reminded me that, in reply to a complaint of his as to misrepresentation, the Sydney Daily Telegraph informed the public that there were only two parties at the elections,, and that although he might call himself a protectionist and independent, he was, as a protectionist, so much an ally of the Labour
Party that he was to be treated as an enemy, and to receive no quarter from the anti-Socialists. We are also indebted to him for a happy epithet. The right honorable member for East Sydney has, during his career, bestowed a good many of these, but when the honorable member for Cowper, in the course of his remarks, referred to the parties in this House as the protectionist party on the one side, and, after an obvious, but unintentional, pause, the “ what-nots “ on the other, he, by implication, gave an extremely happy definition of my friends opposite.
– The present Cabinet is a “what-not.”
– The term seems to me to be apt, remembering that the party opposed to us is, as we have just been told, made up of a few protectionists of a colour, of sundry free-traders, and of others Whose fiscal views are apparently indefinable.
– Surely the honorable and learned gentleman does not count me in amongst the “ what-nots “ ?
– A “what-not” is a fragile and rather useless piece of furniture of early Victorian make, and now antique.
– They are out of date.
– And usually stand in a corner.
– Yes, their chief use being to hold painted pottery and other articles of little grace and no utility.
– The Chinese nowadays are making all the “ what-nots.”
– I am surprised to hear that “what-nots” are still being made at all, but not at the quarter from which, if made at all, they are now being obtained. Postponing for a few moments some remarks upon certain questions affecting the Commonwealth and other parts of the British Empire, and commenting upon a telegram appearing in yesterday’s newspapers, I regret to note that it implies an intention of some Premiers of the States not to meet in Conference again this year. That, I trust, is not their mature decision. As honorable members are aware, they assembled in hot haste during the closing days of our last Parliament to consider the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and to discuss several of our proposals then pending in this House. This Government had submitted proposals for obtaining the authority of the people to take over the whole of the debts of the States and also impose special duties for the purpose of providing old-age pensions; but, owing to the lateness of the session, a senator or two being absent in another place, the absolute majority necessary to secure their submission to the electors was not obtained. However, the Conference adjourned, having weighed only the effect of the proposals of the Treasurer in regard to half the questions before them. They considered how the revenue of the States could be safeguarded in the future by an amendment of the Constitution; but they postponed considering when the States’ powers of borrowing should be curtailed, and the manner in which that should be effected, On the acceptance by the Commonwealth of responsibility for all present and future loans. A verv large saving is expected to accrue, spread over a number of years, from the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth, and the issue of Commonwealth stock. There are no more important questions in State politics to-day than those lately before that Conference, and the issues bound up with them. Moreover, it was recently proposed that the Conference should resume this month, but now a telegram has come from the Premier of New South Wales implying that it is not to meet again this year. There was no hint of so long an adjournment when the Conference met last. The Commonwealth Government were not represented on that Conference, though Ministers were present at its meetings, and interchanged views with its members. Advances were most freely made to them by us, and apparently with success. There can be no doubt that an agreement between this Parliament and the Legislatures of the States will facilitate enormously the dealing with a series of problems bv which we are confronted, and will result in the saving to the taxpayer of a verv large sum of money which at present is spent in paving interest to bond-holders. The sums and issues at stake being so large, surely the absence of the representative of one of the States should not prevent an earlier meeting of the Conference. In the Conference before last Western Australia was not represented in Svdney, though her representative was present in Melbourne, whilst South Australia was not represented in Melbourne, though she was in Svdney. We appealed to the States’ Premiers to assist us in facing this immense question in the hope and belief that, as the result of their deliberations, we should be equipped with the views of the States on the important and pressing questions involved.
– Some of the States desire that the Commonwealth should formulate and submit schemes to the Conference.
– That course was followed in Melbourne. The Treasurer’s proposals were laid before the Conference, and have been published as the proposals of the Government, with amendments made in them by the Conference. These amendments have considerably altered them, but we have intimated that, although we do not oppose these we are not to be taken as having accepted them. All depends on how the matters which were postponed till now are to be handled by them.
– An amendment was agreed to under which the States were to be guaranteed the return of at least as much revenue as they now receive from the Commonwealth, and anything additional which might be collected.
– The observations which otherwise it would have been my duty to address to honorable members upon certain proposals which .hinge on the consideration of the financial question would be premature now. We must wait until it has been finally determined that the Conference of Premiers shall not be held during the present year, or until it is held, and we make one more effort - and we have made several - one more concession - and- we have made several - to obtain unanimity and to permit of speedy action in the direction of setting both the States and the Commonwealth financially free from the obligations at present imposed upon them by- the Constitution. The right honorable member was again quite fair in saying that any reproaches which might be addressed to us for not having endeavoured to immediately proceed with the reports of the Tariff Commission should come from others rather than from himself. But since he has raised the question it is only right that I should take this opportunity of reminding honorable members of what the situation in that regard really is. I do not think that any of us who took part in the piecemeal method of dealing with the Tariff which was forced upon us in the last Parliament by wholly exceptional circumstances - a method such as has never been adopted to my own knowledge in any State of Australia or in any country outside of it - can say that the fruits of that action were satisfactory. We were then confronted again and again with the complaint that the particular items before us must be considered in relation to others, and told that honorable members would willingly have agreed to a certain proposed duty if it had been coupled with another affecting industries that were not then before us. That was a reasonable view to take, for it was explained repeatedly that the different products dealt with were most closely commingled, and that to touch one without touching the other was to incur considerable risk and possibly dislocation of business. Nothing but the spur of peremptory necessity compelled us to adopt the unknown, untried, and piecemeal method of dealing with the Tariff, and so far as the Government are concerned nothing shall tempt us to accept it again. It is absolutely necessary that the Tariff proposals shall be dealt with as one complete whole, the parts of which bear a mutual relation to each other wherever the interests of one really affect the interests of another.
– What made the right honorable gentleman so anxious to pass the Harvester Bill last session?
– Because one of the reports presented by the Tariff Commission dealt with the harvester question, upon which, as the honorable member will recollect, there had been a prolonged controversy. Questions had been raised regarding the importation of these machines, their cost, and their prices, and I think that a suit had actually been launched in the High Court in connexion with their introduction. In addition to that, statements had been made with considerable authority regarding the intention of those who governed the great organization overseas who were importing harvesters into this country. We have since had. from what I believe to be the best authority, an assurance that either one or both of the foreign firms forwarding these machines to Australia are now actually considering the means - they have decided upon action - of establishing their factories here, so that they may conform to Australian conditions–
– Is no? that equally true of other trades?
– It may be.
– But the manufacture of harvesters was one of the “ strangled “ industries.
– It might easily have been. But in that case, as in others, where people are willing to conform) to Australian conditions of labour, there is a welcome awaiting them.
– The Government cannot prevent them from starting operations here.
– We have no desire to do so. Fair conditions have been imposed, and they have only to obey those conditions.
– The excuse made by the Prime Minister for pressing the Harvester Bill through was that the recommendations of the Tariff Commission had been anticipated by the newspapers.
– I think that the honorable member has in mind the action which was taken in reference to the duties, upon spirits, and not upon agricultural implements. I wish honorable members to understand what is the position of the Government in regard to the Tariff Commission’s reports. From the numbers affixed to them, and from what I know, about forty reports on forty subjects are expected to complete the work of that body if it were unanimous. Of these six were dealt with last year. That left thirty-four subjects still to lie considered. It will be remembered that the Commission consists of two sections, which, so far as is known, are in agreement only in respect of a very few of their reports. Since the reports of the Commission were dealt with last year, eighteen others have been presented, but two of these are duplicates as to subjects.
– Are not the members of the Commission unanimous?
– The reports duplicated differ widely on each subject, but each is signed by four Commissioners.
– Is it wise to declare that at the present time?
– I am merely speaking of the number of signatures. Eighteen reports, signed by four Commissioners, have been presented, and two others have been received, signed by the remaining four members of the Commission. The eighteen reports now in hand, therefore, are those of four members of the Commission, headed by the Chairman.
Mr. Page. Why does the right honorable gentleman wish to preserve secrecy about the matter?
– In anything relating to the public revenue secrecy must be observed. These eighteen reports are, I understand, to be followed in a number of cases by reports of a different tenor from the other half of the Commission. Besides, while sixteen more subjects may be disposed of in as many reports if both sections are in agreement, thirty-two reports may be sent in if that section of the Commission which does not include the Chairman thinks it necessary to frame separate reports in each case.
– Has the Prime Minister any idea of when those reports are likely to be presented?
– I am working up to that point. There are sixteen reports in hand which may lead to other reports, and sixteen subjects, upon which there must be a report from at least one, section of the Commission and in which, there may be duplicate reports from both sections. I have asked Mr. Lockyer, who is now the acting head of the Customs Department, and who has these reports in his, special charge, how long he believes his official examination of the twenty reports now in hand will occupy. He says it will take him at least four weeks, as far as .’he can judge from a casual perusal of them. I cannot indicate the reasons why that is so, because I might be trenching upon other ground. But on the face of them he says that an examination of the reports will occupy him for a month. Since there are nearly as manymore reports to be presented, it is obvious that the term to be occupied by the official scrutiny of the Department may be set down at two months. If those other reports are not presented - as it is possible they may not be - for another month, it will be over two months at least before the Minister is in a position to take them in hand and lay them before the Cabinet.
– Will it be necessary for Mr. Lockyer to wait till all the reports are presented before he commences his examination of them ,
– No. As soon as I receive them they are placed in his hands. He has charge of twenty now. He examines them and where they deal with particular products obtains such information as is not in his possession from leading officers. Only leading officers are consulted. He then prepares his commentaries and lays them before the Minister. As soon as he puts them before the PostmasterGeneral, who is the acting Ministerial head of the Customs Department-
– I think that all these steps are very unwise.
– Why? The recommendations are taken off the reports of the Commission. We have even taken care that those recommendations shall not be seen by anybody except the Minister concerned, and the official heads of the Customs Department. I have taken care not to open one of them myself. No Minister will know the nature of the recommendations of the Commission until Mr. Lockyer lays his commentaries before the PostmasterGeneral.
– The methods of the Commission were not lax in respect of secrecy. We were particularly careful in that connexion.
– Members of the Commission were particularly careful at every stage. But the Government found that the addition to its reports of the recommendations of that body involved certain risks which lately we have taken care to avoid. I have asked Mr. Lockyer whether it is not possible ‘for him to complete his official examination more expeditiously, and he has. assured me that it is not.- 1 need hardly remind the House that in New South Wales that officer is known not only as an extremely capable, but as a very rapid worker. Consequently there is no delay in dealing with these questions involved by the absence of the Minister, and in order that there mav be none we have arranged that as the reports are presented they shall be - minus the recommendations of the Commission - forwarded to him. So that by the time he lands in Australia he will have all the reports in his possession. The recommendations of the Commission will be received by Dr. Wollaston, who will accompany him, and will be criticised by him, so that the Minister will Le in a position to keep pace with these progress reports.
– Amid the crush of work which he will be called upon to do in England, he will be unable to do that.
– But he will have the leisure which is afforded by the voyage both ways. He has twenty reports with him now.
– There will be a series of reports in his hands verv often.
– All I need add on this point is that although my honorable friend has, I think, gone rather beyond the bounds of fair criticism of the Minister of
Trade and Customs to-day, neither he nor any other honorable member who is acquainted with the Minister will suspect the latter of parting with one tittle of responsibility, or of leaving to any other person work which he himself can perform. I can assur’e honorable members that the statement of my colleague that he visited England unwillingly is absolutely correct, and that the reason why both he and I deeply regret the occurrence of the Imperial Conference at this particular time is because we are not being associated with the work of Tariff Reform at every stage of its progress. We shall only be able to regard it in the light of the written information supplied to us and in a less personal manner. But as the Imperial Conference was adjourned from last year owing to the representations of Australia and NewZealand regarding the inconvenience which would attach to the attendance of our representatives at that time, and as I looked forward to the general election to determine more decisively than was then possible, who should represent Australia, in London, it was not possible for us to propose a second adjournment. Had it depended on our own personal wishes, we should have done so, because we realize that the work of Tariff revision is of the gravest and most critical character in all its details. For my own part, and for that of my colleague, I have to say that so far from desiring to be dissociated with it our gravest objection to leaving for England is because the work must proceed in our absence. But it need not and apparently will not be delayed because we are not present. If honorable members revert to the periods required to complete the Tariff they will recognise that under ordinary circumstances even had there been no Conference a full consideration of the reports of the Tariff Commission will occupy the officers of the Department for more than two months before the Cabinet will be able to enter upon its work in connexion with them. With the Cabinet, and especially with the Treasurer, rests the vital question of revenue. As honorable members know, we have to revise the whole of the proposals in that relation as well as to consider their effect upon Australian industries.
– Then the Government will study the revenue aspect of the Tariff?
– We cannot avoid doing so. The Commonwealth at present lives upon one-fourth of the total Customs and Excise revenue. Anything that affects that revenue not only affects every State in the Union, but affects the Commonwealth most seriously.
– That ‘is to say, the Government’s protective policy depends entirely upon the limitations of the present revenue duties.
– In looking through our political spectacles, we have to gaze through a revenue as well as a policy glass.
– Direct taxation would get over the difficulty.
– Direct taxation when it comes will be dealt with on its merits. We cannot deal with revenue-producing items without considering the question of revenue as well as their greater production in Australia. Any honorable member who, as a member of a Cabinet, has considered Tariff proposals will know that no matter that ever comes before a Government occupies more time or demands closer attention. Consequently, I point out again that the figures quoted show that even if there were no. Conference to be held the period that is likely to be employed in dealing with the Tariff would be inevitable. The latest despatch laid on the table of the House to-day shows that it is intended to conclude the sittings of the Imperial Conference at the latest by 20th May, and if possible before that date. That Conference will meet on 15th April, and as the proposals to be dealt with are set out in the despatch I need not repeat them.
– It will sit for at least a month.
– Quite so. It is not proposed that the sittings shall be extended beyond that limit. Other self-governing Colonies, like the Commonwealth, must recall their representatives not later than 20th May. That means that we shall return here before the end of June. I find that last year, even with a dissolution facing us, we did not meet until 7 th June, and considering the time at our ‘disposal we did a very large amount of work. Then again, the session of 1905 was not opened until 28th June. Had there been no Conference in London, an adjournment of about the length proposed by us would have been necessary to afford fair time for the consideration of the great questions - other than the Tariff - that we propose to put before honorable members, and consequently, had there been no Tariff to be dealt with, Parliament would not have been called together before the end of June. To permit the Government to give to the Tariff proposals, after they have been criticised in detail, from a technical standpoint, by the officials of the Department,, the scrutiny they require, since we must assume responsibility for every one of them, we should meet about the ordinary time, Conference or no Conference.
– Why wait for the Tariff Commission ?
– The honorable and learned member suggests that we should propose a Tariff of our own ?
– Even if that were possible, no saving of time would be effected.
– Should the Government take such action after the expense which has been incurred in connexion with the Commission ?
– Of course not.
– The Tariff Commission was appointed by the Reid-McLean Government only as a sort of political trick.
– The honorable and learned member “ barracked “ for it.
– It was appointed to make a careful study of the conditions of Australian industries, and has done so most laboriously. The Chairman of the Commission is not present; but a leading member of it is, and must be acquainted with the facts. Ever since the Government took office, it has not only thrown’ no obstacle in the way of reports being speedily furnished by the Tariff Commission, but, whether appealed to or not, has by every means encouraged the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible.
– That is so.
-The chairman of the Commission - always a sanguine man - has made perfectly straightforward but extremely sanguine estimates of the time to be occupied by it. He expected at first to present the bulk of its recommendations in 1905. Then the honorable and learned gentleman anticipated that the whole of the work of the Commission would be completed before we met for the 1906 session. He is equally sanguine, I believe, as to the earlypresentation of the remaining reports ; but, having regard to the extent to which the differing opinions of members of his Commission have expanded the period within which the chairman formerly expected the work to be completed, I ought to be quite safe in saying that we shall be fortunate if the Department and the Acting Minister of Trade and Customs are furnished with the final reports in sufficient time to enable them to be laid on the table of the House at the end of June next. My own conclusion, based on experience, is that to complete the work within that time will involve a great strain on both sections of the Commission, and then upon the Cabinet. This work of revision has to be done once and for all. It is therefore difficult to understand why pleas should be put forward against the attendance of Ministers at the coming Conferences, having regard to the work that has yet to be done by the Commission itself, by the officers of the Commonwealth, and by the Ministry, who will be held responsible, and properly held responsible, for their proposals.
– Would not the Prime Minister recommend .the appointment of a permanent Commission ?
– I am personally in favour of some permanent body that would always be in touch with the Tariff, able to suggest to the House the removal of what might be called anomalies, or to call attention to the urgency of alterations. It appears to me that once a true Tariff has been passed, such a body might save the Legislature from periodical crises while ministering to the needs of Australia. That, however, is only my own personal view of the matter. I heard the leader of the Opposition, in the presence of the Minister of Trade and Customs himself, make a good many more or less humorous suggestions last year to the effect that he had not made himself acquainted with the measures of which he was in charge - that his presence was unnecessary ; that one of his colleagues might well take up and discharge his task. I have heard the right honorable member compliment some of the colleagues of the Minister of Trade and Customs on the superior ability displayed by them in connexion with measures introduced by that honorable gentleman. < Observe the transformation to-day in the views of my right honorable friend. He tells us now that the Minister is indispensable - no Tariff framed, item by item, in his absence, will be of any value. If it escapes his vigilance, we shall be in peril ! I rejoice in the reformation of his opinion in this regard.
– My Tariff would consist of only about five items, whilst the Government would make a Bible of that proposed by them.
– It might properly be described as a Bible of duties or a fiscal prayer-book. Let me deal now with the other topics to which the right honorable member has alluded. He referred, first of all, to the Papua Commission. As stated in the Governor- General’s speech, the recommendations of the Commission are being examined. It is, however, due to the House to inform them that the Acting Administrator, Captain Barton, applied a short time ago for a year’s leave of absence. When he was appointed Acting Administrator, he was proceeding to England on leave of absence, and his renewed application for twelve months’ leave has been conceded.
– He is fairly entitled to twelve months’ leave of absence.
– I do not think that Captain Barton would desire to return to Papua.
– How is it that Mr. Atlee Hunt did not discover any of these faults of administration on the occasion of his visit to Papua? In his report, everything was painted in roseate hues.
– Mr. Atlee Hunt is an able man.
– Admittedly, but why did he not discover these troubles?
– The report of the Papua Commission in no way touches upon that furnished by Mr. Atlee Hunt. From a perusal of the report itself, without going through the evidence, I learn that the personal findings are based mainly on documentary evidence. This evidence, which is set out at length, was on the files of the various departments which were not seen bv Mr. Hunt. Having regard to the limited time at his disposal, it. was impossible for him to inspect them. He went to Papua only to acquaint himself generally with the circumstances of the Territory. I think it due to the House to add that the recommendations of the Commission are of such a character as to involve the consideration by this House of some legislation, the amendment of a number of ordinances now in force in Papua, and a number of administrative changes. I do not think that Parliament would desire effect to be given to the greatest of those changes until the whole of the matters have been laid before us. It is, therefore, the intention of the Government, as was done in the case of Ohe late Mr. Robinson, to ask the present Chief Justice - Judge Murray - to act as Administrator pending the re-assembling of Parliament.
– - Hear, hear; he is a good man.
– On the re-assembling of Parliament, the Government will be able to submit a complete set of proposals. In the meantime, we propose to take action. I hope before the House rises to be able to make a short statement in regard to certain direct recommendations of practical import, to which effect can at once be given. Having had time to look more closely at those recommendations, I hope to be able later to be prepared to set out the immediate intentions of the Government, and when the House re-assembles, to bring forward the necessary legislative proposals and a complete scheme for the reorganization of the administration of Papua. With respect to the Navigation Commission, may I remind the leader of the Opposition, who evidently did not see it - and it was not necessary that he should - of a statement made by me to the press in some detail in regard to the selection of representatives. The choice made by us implies no reflection, either upon Senator Guthrie, as a representative of the interests of the seamen, apart from other maritime interests, or upon several other gentlemen, who were mentioned as desirable representatives of the ship-owners, but who were not invited to proceed to London. As I have said, by way of interjection, New Zealand has a navigation law, which, as I have ascertained from the Premier of that Colony, if amended at all, would probably be amended only in some minor particulars.
– It is the subject of a memorandum by the Board of Trade.
– It is; but nevertheless the Premier of New Zealand expresses satisfaction with their present law, and sees no necessity for altering it. Of course he is going to the Conference to lister, to any proposals which may be made there with an open mind.
– The important point referred to in that memorandum was raised in connexion with the appeal to the Privy Council.
– It was mentioned as an illustration. That is quite true, and the honorable and learned member’s memory is, as always, correct. Sir Joseph Ward, however, informed me, and he made no secret of it in his own Parliament, that, so far as he could foresee, no amendments of importance are likely to be required in the New Zealand Act. He therefore took Home with him as representatives men possessing special knowledge in regard to particular callings, who could speak for the interests which they represented should any question be raised in relation to them. But our position is wholly different. We have just received the result of the labours of the Navigation Commission. That Commission, with the assistance of Senator Guthrie, exhaustively examined seamen, shippers, and owners all over Australia, and everywhere they expressed themselves at length as to their interests. The Chairman of the ‘Commission is not only a member of the legal profession, but has had the advantage of special sources of knowledge in relation to some marine employments. He goes Home as Chairman of the Commission., seized of the representations of all the classes of persons who came before the Commission. He will be assisted by the honorable member for North Sydney, who, as every honorable member will recognise, possesses one of the best business heads in the House, and is perfectly competent, as his minority report shows, to champion any cause to which he gives his adherence.
– And who had seafaring experience himself at one time.
– Yes, the honorable gentleman was in his youth engaged in a seafaring occupation.
– Why not send four representatives ?
– We were asked only for three. To make a fourth appointment we should need to step outside the Commission, and the appointment of a representative for one section would instantly be met with a request for the appointment of the representative of another section.
– The invitation specially asked that a representative of the shipowners should be sent to the Conference.
– It did; and we consider that, so far as representation of the ship-owners is necessary, it is supplied by members of the Navigation Commission who have heard the evidence of all the shipowners of Australia. The Chambers of Commerce of Australia, of which the hon orable member for Kooyong is president, applied for a special representative, and if this were a new Conference on a new subject their application would have been a perfectly proper one. When the seamen asked for the appointment of a representative, the engineers made a similar application, and when the engineers made their application there was another made by the merchant officers and others. As a matter of fact, we had applications from., I think, half-a-dozen different bodies requiring special representation at the Navigation Conference. That was not possible, but what was possible was to send the Chairman of the Navigation Commission and Mr. Dugald Thomson, one of the leading members of the minority of that Commission. The Minister of Trade and Customs’ was added, both because he will require to be in charge of the Bill, and because, I think, that in charge of it he will be in close touch with Australian sentiment amongst all classes of the community. To us, the chief and almost the only interest of the Conference lies in the information and assistance it will give us when we shape our own Bill relating to navigation very shortly. Our representatives were the best possible for that purpose, allowing for the regrettable loss of our fourth proposed representative. In addition to that, although so far as active participation in the Imperial Conference as a whole is concerned, the invitation to it is limited to Prime Ministers or the direct representative of a Prime Minister in the event of his unavoidable absence, other Ministers have been invited to attend, and are attending from Canada, and, I believe, from South Africa, who will take part in the discussion of particular subjects before that Conference. On several important questions relating to preferential trade, the employment of white seamen on British ships, and questions of that nature, I venture to say that Sir William Lyne will be a tower of strength. Those who have been engaged with that gentleman in the business of Conferences will admit that they have never had any cause for regret when he has been an advocate on their side. These Australian interests will be safe in the honorable gentleman’s hands, and with a full sense of my own shortcomings, I feel that he will be able to lend most material assistance. I shall be strengthened by the presence of Sir William Lyne if it should be my duty to attend the Conference as Prime Minister. A principal reason for our meeting the House now is to invite honorable members to decide who shall attend it. The leader of the Opposition alluded in terms which appeared to me to be exaggerated and unjustifiable to the course adopted by the Government last session in taking advantage of the clause of the Constitution which permits the GovernorGeneral, on the advice of his Ministers, to submit amendments to the House when they could not be brought forward again in any other way. The instance to which reference was made arose in connexion with the British Preference Bill, and the provision with respect to the employment of white seamen. The circumstances were sufficiently extraordinary, I think, to justify an interference when it is remembered that that interference simply led up to a reconsideration of the measure by the House. It in no way fettered or influenced the House, but permitted each member to review what was an entirely new provision introduced by a very small majority. WRen we heard for the first time of the limitation imposed upon us by our treaty obligations, we- had to examine the statement, and found the materials at our disposal quite inadequate for that examination. It actually appears that up to this time none of the States of Australia, or the Commonwealth itself, have even been kept informed by official records or copies of all the treaties by which they are held to be bound.
– It has always been done in the States.
– It was always done, so far as I was aware, in “Victoria.
– We always got copies of treaties in New South Wales.
– Some of the treaties are mentioned in the Merchant Shipping Act.
– Some of them are, but it appears that there was a net-work of treaties in which we were concerned, and of which we had no knowledge, though it is true that when attention was called to the matter it was shown that there were certain acts of which we had been informed. One of our duties at the Conference will be to request, and I am sure to obtain, first of all a full statement of treaties affecting Australia, either by obligation or concession, and next, for the future, to invite information before treaties are concluded when it is intended that Australia should be bound by them.
– How does the Prime Minister now view the proposal to limit preferential trade to goods carried in ships manned by white seamen?
– As I did before in relation to the preference we proposed. That was limited to a mere instalment ; but the condition attached was such that we could have no assurance that it would be observed. It is impossible by looking at any bale of goods to say whether it has been carried in a ship on which a black steward was employed.
– Is the Prime Minister going to ask the Imperial Government to veto the measure passed by this Parliament ?
– We sent a communication on the subject, and the despatch received since from the Secretary of State for the Colonies consents to our proposal that this Bill shall not be dealt with until we have an opportunity of discussing the whole situation with him. I may say that it is not probable that the advice we shall tender will be of the nature which has been indicated, but it will depend to some extent upon the views held bv the British Government on this matter.
– The Question of the application of treaties is being discussed at the present time in the Canadian Parliament.
– That is the wider Question.
– The British Government will never accept any preference to which such conditions as have been referred to are annexed. We can, safely offer it in such circumstances, as it will never be accepted.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas will understand that I am answering a particular question with regard to a particular matter. What I can promise the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is that, if I continue to occupy my present position, this House will have another opportunity of reconsidering the question.
– The honorable and learned gentleman is going to ask that the measure which was passed by this Parliament shall not receive the Royal assent.
– I said something just now which is not consistent with that statement, excepting in one limited contingency.
– I do not Quite understand what the honorable and learned gentleman means.
– The question is hardly a fair one to ask, because one should first hear what is to be said from the point of view of the Imperial authorities.
– The honorable and learned gentleman should go to the Imperial Conference with an open mind.
– Exactly. Until one has heard what is to be said from their point of view, one does not know what may be learned and what effect the information gained may have upon one’s judgment. So far as I am at present informed, there is little possibility of what the honorable member suggests taking place. I was about to say that I feel that there was no possible justification for the complaint of the leader of the Opposition in respect of the use made of the section of the Constitution referred to, which amounts to no more and no less than an addition to our existing standing orders, providing in certain exceptional cases for another opportunity being afforded to honorable members of reconsidering some question which they have decided perhaps hastily in a particular way.
– Would the honorable and learned gentleman seriously suggest that the Crown, on the advice of Ministers, should enter into communication with the House as to the nature of measures which it was engaged in passing, and of the amendments which it ought to make in them ?
– We practically do that every day, as the right honorable gentleman knows. We cannot vote a shilling in this House without a message from the Crown.
– That is not the same as making amendments in an existing measure.
– What is the difference in principle ?
– The Crown asks us to give something.
– Parliament is asked to give money by one message, and to make an amendment by another. In both cases it is the Ministry who ask in both Houses, but it is the Governor-General’s hand that signs the message. We asked for the reconsideration of a measure by the House, and the Ministry alone were responsible for asking for that reconsideration.
– That could be done by the honorable and learned gentleman at this table, and by the representative of the Government in another place.
– The provision was made use of at a time when what was. desired could not- be done at this table. I do not wish to labour the point, but in case it should be misunderstood wish to repeat that in my deliberate opinion it is an additional convenience to Parliament in the prosecution of its business, under exceptional circumstances such as occurred in the case referred to, that there should be a suggestion by a Governor-General’s message, of possible amendments which both Houses will have an opportunity to consider. Neither House need approve of them any more than it is bound to approve of a viceregal message proposing a grant of money. In my opinion, it is a very useful provision for use in emergency.
– I do not think that it was ever before applied to a, matter of policy.
– I would not deny that, as my memory of cases of the kind is not sufficiently extensive, but that does not prove it to be wrong.
– The honorable and learned gentleman means that there should, if necessary, be a third review of the measure.
– Yes, at exceptional times and in exceptional circumstances. In ordinary cases advantage would not be taken of such a provision.
– The message suggested definite amendments in a measure which the House was considering. That is the point.
– If we brought down a proposal to this House to-morrow to vote any sum, £i or ^1,000, for a particular purpose, the House would give the proposal not one whit more consideration because it came down by message from the GovernorGeneral. An amendment is not forced on the House but merely submitted. It would not affect the judgment of the House in the slightest degree, because the House knows that the recommendation by message is simply a form.
– It is the preservation of the fiction of the prerogative.
– And a very useful exercise of it at times. I now approach the most serious part of the task devolving upon me to-day. As the position of the Government has not been challenged, I make bold to assume that it may be my lot to proceed to England next month to attend the Imperial Conference. The intentions of the Government in regard to that Conference were communicated to the Imperial Government as long ago as
October last, in such a fashion as to show in the clearest way possible exactly what we understand by the invitation addressed to us, and what we propose to submit or to amend at the Conference. The original despatch of 1905, signed by Mr. Lyttelton, relating to the future conduct of these Conferences, has been laid before the House, and explains the several steps leading up to the present position. It was resolved in 1897 that the Conferences should be held periodically, and that resolution was indorsed at the Conference of 1902. The last paper which has been laid on the table shows the manner in whichi the subjects to be dealt with are to be grouped, how they are to be associated, and in what order they are to be placed. Reading the two despatches together, honorable members will be in possession of _ the whole situation, though the particular attitude of this Government in regard to the proceedings of the forthcoming Conference remain to be disclosed. In October last we forwarded to the Imperial Government a set of resolutions dealing with the questions submitted to us. In regard to the use of the term “ Imperial Council,” which, as the original despatch shows, is a new name for the old body, Si. Wilfrid Laurier has suggested, on behalf of Canada, that perhaps “ Imperial Conference “ would be a better title, inasmuch as it is not proposed to add to the powers of future Conferences, but merely to provide certain machinery to give continuity to their debates and proceedings. The name after all is a secondary consideration. The thing is the same. Our resolution relating to the subject is as follows : -
That it is desirable to establish an Imperial Council, to consist of representatives of Great Britain and the self-governing colonies, chosen ex officio from their existing administrations.
We think that the Conference should not be composed of elected or appointed persons, sitting permanently in London or elsewhere, but should consist of the heads of the Governments of the self-governing portions of the Empire - Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand - each Prime Minister, on accepting office, taking upon himself, ex officio, membership of the Council, and the accompanying responsibilities.
– It is to be a purely consultative body.
– A Prime Minister ought not tobe ex officio a member of anything of the sort. He is Prime Minister, and nothing else.
– He is invited to each Conference ex officio.
– That is all right. He goes as Prime Minister.
– He acts only in that capacity.
– But how can he act in two places?
– He can write. Our desire is that no person shall be appointed as a representative of a self-governing part of the Empire other than the man who for the time being possesses the confidence of its Legislature. The reason why we think that Prime Ministers should be ex officio members of the Council is that it is a Council of representatives of the people, and its members should be those who for the time being exercise for the people, with the consent of their Legislatures, the chief offices of government in the countries which they represent.
– The Imperial view differed from that.
– I am stating the Government proposals. The next part of the resolution is -
That the objects of such Council shall be to discuss at regular Conferences matters of common Imperial interest -
That is just as at present - and to establish a system by which members of the Council shall be kept informed during the periods between the Conferences in regard to matters which have been or may be subjects for discussion.
The last is new. I think that the right honorable member for East Sydney, who has been a member of the Conference, will bear me out in the statement that it has been subject for complaint that statistics, summaries of laws or treaties, and other information, has been supplied only at the last moment to those who have met together to discuss questions involving the interests of countries which, though under the same flag, differ greatly in their conditions and circumstances. This information takes time to digest, and that makes adjournments inevitable, causing the Conference to pass abruptly from subject to subject. As the reports show, every day’s proceedings are broken up because some member has not had time to inform himself about the subject under discussion, or wishes to put himself into communication with the country which he represents, in order to obtain the knowledge he requires before coming to a final decision. We wish to obtain sufficient continuity in the collection and classification of information between meetings for the information of members or probable members, so that when men representing countries haJf the world asunder, possessing different populations and having different problems to face, meet together, they will be equipped with more than the information which the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, or the War Office may be able to supply at the moment. I learn from many despatches that the want of means for collecting and supplying information has been felt. Probably complaints have been made in regard to it by representatives from every dominion. The only difference between the future Councils and past Conferences is that this new link for the supplying of information is now in project. Under this system, if Australia desires that at a future Conference, two or three years off, some question’ particularly affecting her interest shall be discussed, there will be an opportunity for the communication of our views on the subject to all the other members of the Conference, and similarly we shall obtain criticisms and suggestions from the other countries represented upon it. The information thus supplied will be added to that in the possession of the Government of Great Britain, and every member of the Council will, before the Conference meets, have his brief on the subjects to foe dealt with.
– All that is excellent. No one can object to the object in view; but a fixed Council of Prime Ministers is not necessary to transmit information from time to time. Some machinery is required, but it is not well to create the fiction that Prime Ministers scattered all over the globe are a resident Council in London.
– Nothing is to be fixed except a new means of inter-communication. Our next resolution is -
That there shall be a permanent secretarial staff charged with the duty of obtaining information for the use of the Council, of attending to the execution of its resolutions, and of conducting correspondence on matters relating to its affairs.
– That is where the danger comes in.
– Will the decisions arrived at by the Conference have any binding effect on the countries represented?
– Not unless ratified by the Legislatures of those countries.
– May they not be used by a powerful Ministry?
– That sort of thing is being done now, apart from the Council.
– That is one answer to the honorable member’s objection. Another is that it is hard to conceive of such a thing happening. The subject dealt with must be of genuine interest to the countries affected or they will not respond, and no part of the Empire will be under the obligation of supplying a particular answer.
– The representatives will all be human.
– The Prime Minister will remember how frequently Mr. Chamberlain stated that Sir Edmund Barton made certain representations regarding the attitude of Australia on preferential trade. There is a great distinction between a consultative body and one in which the representatives bind themselves subject to Parliamentary approval !
– A great difference.
– I take exception to the words “ Execution of its resolutions.”
– “In furtherance of “ would be better.
– The words now used will cause misapprehension.
– The resolution can be verbally amended when the proper time comes, and any misapprehension removed.
– While the objects in view are excellent, they are to be obtained rather by the creation of a secretarial staff than by the formation of an Imperial Council, which would be singularly disproportionate to the end in view.
– Other members of these Conferences have not thought so, and my experience leads me to the same conclusion. In addition to the many very grave and serious responsibilities imposed upon the representatives of these Conferences is the sense that each speaks with only a limited knowledge of that part of the Empire which he represents, and practically with no sufficient knowledge of other parts to justify him in assuming a strong position when they are being affected by his scheme. This want of knowledge is a crushing burden which hitherto has prevented advance on some questions of common interest. The proposal involves no sacrifice of power, but promises a better mutual understanding in regard to matters of great importance.
– The Conferences are a great antidote to provincialism.
– Yes, to the members, and, incidentally, to those associated with them, to whom they must make the best reports they can.
– These changes, if agreed to, will come to us for consideration.
– Of course. There is to be no alteration of the powers of the Council, but each Conference is to be connected with its predecessors and successors by the creation of a staff to obtain and circulate information. Then when members meet in London to consider questions affecting the whole Empire or any parts of it, they will not, as at present, be in the difficult position of being required to accept statements made to them without opportunities for their criticism or appreciation.
– Shall we be bound by the decisions arrived at by the Conference?
– Only after they are ratified by this Parliament.
– Has any benefit to Australia resulted from the holding of these Conferences ?
– Yes. In many respects a very much better understanding now obtains in the old land than was formerly the case, and the same remark is applicable to their position here. But for many reasons that understanding has not been efficient. It has been partial, occasional, and temporary. There is still a great deal of misunderstanding in the mother country regarding Australia.
– I thought that it was more pronounced than ever at the last elections.
– I do not know that misunderstanding will ever be entirely removed, because we have misunderstandings amongst ourselves. There are, however, means by which, in matters which are outside the realm of party controversy, better and sounder opinions can be interchanged. I believe that the holding of these Conferences are amongst the most potent of those means. The next proposal is a very important one from our stand-point. We reaffirm the resolutions which were adopted bv the Conference of 1902. The first of these recognises that the principle of preferential trade between the “United Kingdom and His Majesty’s Dominions beyond the seas would stimulate and facilitate mutual commercial intercourse, and would, by promoting the de velopment of their resources and industries, strengthen the Empire. The second proposal reads -
That this Conference recognises that in the present circumstances of the Colonies, it is not practicable to adopt a general system of free trade as between the Mother Country and the British Dominions beyond the Seas.
The next proposal reads -
That with a view to promoting the increase of trade within the Empire, it is desirable that those Colonies which have not already adopted such a policy should, as far as their circumstances permit, give substantial preferential treatment to the products and manufactures of the United Kingdom.
Those are the old resolutions. We propose to add two new resolutions, as follow : -
That it is desirable that the preferential treatment accorded by the Colonies to the products and manufactures of the United Kingdom be also granted to the products and manufactures of other self-governing Colonies.
That it is desirable that the United Kingdom grant preferential treatment to the products and manufactures of the Colonies.
As the resolution stood previously, the only preferences conceded were those to the United Kingdom. We suggest that a proper subject for discussion is the granting of preferences by the United Kingdom to the products and manufactures of the Colonies.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that free-trade between the mother country and the Colonies is not practicable?
– We propose mutual preference, and the honorable member may perhaps regard that as a step towards freetrade.
– Is it not desirable that weshould ask the Home Government to co-operate with the Commonwealth in attracting immigrants to Australia ?
– I will deal with that matter presently. As honorable members are aware, there are at present two Courts of final appeal in Great Britain - one t!he House of Lords, and the other the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to which all Colonial appeals go. We have previously submitted that it is undesirable that there should be a continuance of the severance between these two bodies, and that they should be replaced by one Court of Appeal. We do not desire better treatment than is accorded to our fellow subjects in the United Kingdom. If the House of Lords is good enough for them, it is good enough for us. But if the Privy Council is not good enough for them, it is not good enough for us. Any such apprehension, however, would be entirely removed by the substitution of a single Court of Appeal for the whole Empire.
– That would be the House of Lords, unless it was not to be the final Court of Appeal. It would be the House of Lords ; there would be a change in the jurisdiction of that body.
– Does the Prime Minister think that there is any need for the existence of either of those bodies?
– Most certainly. The change would not affect the High Court ‘if Australia, because the powers of that Court under the Constitution are limited to a certain ambit. That was the subject of our battle upon clause 74 of the Draft Constitution Bill. I now come to the question of Imperial Defence. The resolutions which we propose to submit to the Conference in this connexion read -
That it is desirable that the Colonies should be represented on the Imperial Council of Defence.
That the Colonies be authorized to refer to that Council for advice any local question in regard to which expert assistance is deemed desirable.
That has been already offered to us. The resolutions do not imply a permanent appointment, but merely provide that we shall be afforded an opportunity from time to time of being represented upon the Council and of obtaining its advice. We further intend to propose -
That the provisions of the Naval Defence Agreement, 1902, be reconsidered.
That affects a very important question. Honorable members will recollect that in the despatch which I had the honour of forwarding to the Home authorities in 1905 I pointed out that Australia’s contribution 10 the Imperial Squadron in these seas did not take the most desirable form.
– We have sanctioned the agreement for ten years.
– Yes; and it is unalterable for that period except by consent. The agreement provides for setting aside a certain sum of money,’ which is paid into the pockets of the Admiralty. The question which we intend to raise is whether that money cannot be utilized to better advantage by encouraging Australian sentiment in the matter of our naval defence.
– In other words, the Prime Minister proposes to take away from the Admiralty the money which Ave now pay to it, and to expend it upon our own Forces ?
– Does New Zealand, the other party in the agreement, support the position of the Australian Government in thi.? matter?
– Not that I am aware of.
– Is it not a fact that the Imperial Government do not desire a standing agreement, and that they are willing to tear it up to-morrow?
– No. The despatch to which I refer was written in consequence of certain statements made by Admiral Fanshawe, which clearly implied dissatisfaction with the existing arrangement. The Admiralty authorities have expressly dissociated, themselves from those expressions of dissatisfaction.
– They have not offered to abandon the agreement?
– No. We think that means ought to be found by which the Australian contribution to the Imperial Navy could be employed i’n some manner which would associate Australia more directly with naval defence, and awaken more interest in the operations of the Imperial Navy in these seas or elsewhere.
– Could not the Treasurer go Home to argue that case?
– My honorable colleague could argue that or any other good case admirably. In regard to merchant shipping and coastal trade, we propose to reaffirm the resolution of the Conference of 1902, which was couched in the following terms : -
That the Imperial Government be requested to take the necessary steps for the revision of any commercial treaties which .prevent preferential treatment being accorded to British goods carried :n British ships. Other resolutions to be deferred until the receipt of the resolutions of the Merchant Shipping Conference.
Then Ave venture to make a proposal for which. I think, the leader of the Opposition, from his own experience, will concede there is some justification. It relates to the organization of the Colonial Office in London, and reads -
That the Secretary of State for the Colonies be invited to frame a scheme which wi’l create opportunities for members of the permanent staff of the Colonial Office to acquire more intimate knowledge of the circumstances and conditions of the Colonies with whose business they have to deal, whether by appointments, temporary interchanges, or periodical visits of officers, or similar means.
I must say that the information which can be disseminated by means of the proposed secretariat is largely necessary to supply deficiencies in the knowledge possessed in regard to many questions by officials who have a wide acquaintance with Colonial circumstances generally, but who cannot be expected to be particularly conversant with those special to any one special Dominion when they come before them perhaps in a new shape.
– Would the Prime Minister advocate having a secretary as alert as is Captain Collins?
– If they can obtain one, certainly. The next proposal reads -
That in order to encourage investment in Colonial bonds, it is desirable that the stamp charges imposed in the United Kingdom should be reduced.
Still another proposal has reference to the Islands of the Pacific, and reads -
That in view of the probable completion of the Panama Canal, it is desirable that all possible means of strengthening British interests in the Pacific should be adopted.
– Let us open our markets to their products.
– The ninth resolution is as follows : -
That it is desirableto encourage British emigrants to proceed to British Colonies rather than foreign countries.
That the Imperial Government be requested to co-operate with any Colonies desiring immigrants in assisting suitable persons to emigrate.
– Are the Government giving effect to the spirit of that resolution in reference to the importation of immigrants to Queensland?
– In every case we have asked that a preference shall be given to British citizens.
– What guarantee has the right honorable gentleman that the authorities will do that?
– They have undertaken to do it. We have their assurance, which will require to be supported by testimony, that they have done it. otherwise they will get no more sanctions. If the honorable member will look at the cable message which appears in the newspapers to-day - with the purport of which I was previously acquainted - he will find that the Governments abroad are themselves anxious for the welfare of their citizens, and that any proposal to introduce immigrants from Europe will be scrutinized by the Governments there in the interests of those who are invited to come here.
– We were told the same thing in regard to the Italians and Japanese who were introduced into Queensland some years ago.
– Did they get the approval of their respective Governments?
– But, during the past few years, the restrictions imposed upon immigrants have been made much more stringent. The fact is that the Germans, for example, are well employed in their own country. None are leaving it.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to put all these proposals forward as representing public opinion in Australia, or as representing merely the opinion of the Government?
– They represent the opinion of the Ministry, and, I believe, that of a majority of the people of Australia.
– If the Prime Minister says that a majority of the people believe that free-trade between the mother country and Australia is impracticable, I dispute hu statement.
– Our tenth proposal reads -
That the profit on silver coined for the Colonies be credited to the Colonies in respect to which it is gained.
The next proposal to be submitted is as follows : -
That the Imperial Government be requested to appoint a Royal Commission which would include representatives of the Colonies, to take evidence and consider the advisableness of establishing a system of decimal coinage applicable to the whole Empire.
I may add that I have just received another studious communication in respect of this subject from a former member for South Sydney, Mr. G. B. Edwards. We further propose to again consider the following resolution, which was agreed to by the Conference in 1902 : -
That it is advisable to adopt the metric system of weights and measures for use within the Empire, and the Governments represented at this Conference will recommend the same to their respective Governments for adoption as soon as convenient.
That, however, the Conference is of opinion that it is desirable that when the change to the metric system is made, it should be simultaneous throughout the Empire.
In reference to the mutual protection of patents, we propose to move -
That it is desirable, in the interests of inventors and the public, that patents granted in Great Britain or any Colony possessing a Patents Office of a standard to be specified should be valid throughout the Empire.
That the Imperial Patents Office be desired to recommend the necessary steps to secure this end.
We have finally the proposal -
That the Imperial Government be requested to prepare for the information of Colonial Governments statements showing the privileges conferred and the obligations imposed on the Colonies by existing commercial treaties, and that inquiries be instituted in connexion with the revision proposed in Resolution No. V. to ascertain how far it is possible to make those obligations and benefits uniform throughout the Empire.
These are the resolutions proposed to be tabled. They also afford an indication of what we need in the way of knowledge and co-operation, if any such propositions are to be practically dealt with. The men who are called upon to consider them in London will be powerless in themselves to give effect to them j but in order that they may be able to recommend their acceptance or rejection by the Legislatures of the countries from which they come there must be that continuity and completeness of information without which such great problems ought not to be approached. Whilst submitting these resolutions as a matter of duty, and as covering subjects that are of deep interest to Australia, I have the fullest sense of the insufficiency of the knowledge that we must necessarily possess with regard to the precise degree to which some of the latter would operate in certain parts of His Majesty’s Dominions. I recognise that we can only expect the best results in regard to them based upon provisions that will make adequate information available to properly qualify either the Conference itself or the several Legislatures represented when deciding whether they are justified in making any alteration of their laws. From the visits I have previously paid to what all of us term “ the Mother country, ‘ ‘ but which, in the case of many of us, is the country of our ancestors, I find that while we recognise, as we must at every turn, and in every walk of life, the similarity, though not the identity, of our people everywhere, there is an extraordinary contrast in the conditions we have to face. As a race sprung from the English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh, and blending them all, we naturally meet in their own country, in all its institutions and in all its methods of government and private life, much that we expect, because we know it here. At the same time, while we find on every hand fresh evidence of the closeness of the relationship maintained in different parts of the world by a race that has spread itself over a greater area than any other people the world has seen, we are almost equally impressed by the absolute contrasts in the problems and conditions of the problems we are severally called upon to face. That is why we press the need of ample information, and prize what the leader of the Opposition has called the elastic conditions of the relations at present subsisting between the self -governing Colonies and the Government of Great Britain. That Government is Imperial in name and in responsibility. It is a Governnent in which none of the other Dominions have or can seek to have direct representation. Owing, to our numbers, we should be an inconsiderable factor, however we were placed, and for this reason, among others, the elasticity of our present relation is necessarily to be preserved and prized. Nothing in the proposals I have just read detracts from or seeks to diminish that elasticity. On the other hand, we have the apparently simple task of securing at Home a better understanding of the difficulties besetting each of the self-governing Colonies -difficulties which may be realized in part by those whose official or other duties require them to study our many organs of public opinion. By these we mav feel justified in ro u g h 1 v testing our mutual knowledge of each other. We have only to read an our own papers the articles in which they diverge into foreign politics, and contrast their versions of the facts with the knowledge we obtain later from the countries concerned, in order to realize for how much distance and perspective count with us. In the English newspapers, too, one finds many errors more than geographical when they are dealing with us. Australian or Canadian problems put before their readers by the greatest papers published at home often prove to be curiously astray in the assumptions on which they most confidently proceed to interpret or seek to interpret what we are doing. Having regard to the closeness of our blood ties, and the constant commercial and other relations subsisting between the people of the old land and those of the Colonies, this is remarkable. It must be our absorbed preoccupation with purely personal and local interests, and also ai similar engrossment of theirs that accounts for the want of appreciation of each other’s difficulties that we encounter so often in different forms to-day. To many of us a visit to England is a1 lesson in respect to the problems that confront Imperial statesmen at Home. Even a short acquaintance with their public affairs arouses a sympathy that no study at a distance can awaken. We then realize how we too unintentionally assume that they are facing conditions familiar to us, which are really entirely foreign to them. The gulf has to be bridged from their side as well as from ours. We behold in the mother country at present not only the axis of our Empire, but its dominating population and Government. Hence it becomes more than ever important for those of its outer wards to seek to educate, at all events to some extent, those of the home islands in regard to our institutions, ambitions, and the character of the national aims within our local party strifes. Familiar as these may appear to British critics in forms and names, they differ often in spirit and in method. These periodical Conferences have alreadydone some excellent work, and will, perhaps in a cautious and timid manner, gradually do better work still. The best work they can accomplish will enable us to harmonize our laws, to simplify procedure, co-operating, wherever possible, with our kith and kin in any and every field of public life. We can knit ourselves together by common interests, and should do so consistently, remembering that in the present state of world politics, ‘we have undoubtedly, whether we realize it or not, one common destiny. Anything fatal to the United Kingdom would, in ways unnecessary to imagine or describe, be fatal to the great Dominions associated with it. None of us can afford to stand apart. It is necessary for all parts of the Empire to draw closer together. I am not pointing merely to the adoption of the special proposals which it will be my duty to submit to the Conference. They can achieve nothing unless afterwards indorsed by this Legislature. Endeavouring as far as possible to view them in their right relation, I shall urge them, since they are among the matters that we may make contributory to our broad general task of Imperial co-operation and consolidation. The Conferences should lead the various parts of the Empire to a better understanding, and deeper confidence in each other. They should discount the feeble cries we sometimes hear that some English-speaking people, exercising full powers of self-government, fuller than are known in most other parts of the world, are yet unwise enough to take a suicidal course that will affect its fellow dominions. We should have faith enough in our race and in the substance of our union to remember that, though all may make mistakes - we assuredly are not immune ourselves - we owe the same confidence to our kindred everywhere that we in each of our States are learning to extend to our fellow-citizens of the Commonwealth as the essential of our Federation. We have first to break down the provincialism of our own minds and parties, and next to endeavour to remove that existing in the minds of others. We have to widen our view, to share ideas and opinions, recognising that, with all our differences, whether of rank, station, or climate, we are citizens of a self-governing Empire, mighty and free, whose noble aim is to perfect that self-government and extend its sway. We devoutly believe that its unity and scope will be best developed as we exchange guarantees for common action amongst all our communities for defence, trade, and multiplying population from the old stock. By these means only can we hope to see Australia’s citizens secure; every man under his own vine or figtree, leading in peace the life of high purposes and honest pursuits for the sake of which all Governments and armaments exist.
Sitting suspended from 6. 11 to 7.30 p.m.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas . - I intervene in the debate with the feeling that, although perhaps the Address-in-Reply is not an occasion for an elaborate dissertation upon principles or methods of government, or possibly for an exhaustive summing up, even arter the elections, of the virtues we assume and the delinquencies we impute in the interests of party and its chief objecttive, place, still, perhaps it is an occasion of which one might avail one’s self to deal with a few matters of administration. Ministers, however long in office, and however deceptive appearances may be, usually retain sufficient common sense to be able to appreciate the justice of a few wellmeant . criticisms upon their actions and omissions. Perhaps the debate on the Address-in-Reply, which appeared likely to collapse, will, if not too prolonged, serve some useful purpose. We must make allowances for Ministers, some of whom, not having sufficient to do, are apt to acquire the habit of doing nothing effectively. Their absences, though frequent, from their offices are, perhaps, never sufficiently long to be conducive to efficiency, and we know what distractions a certain historical character, who has been operating through the ages and who seems to have a considerable influence over Ministers, can find for idle hands. Besides, it has been well said that minds too much conversant with office are rarely minds of remarkable enlargement; and we know that some Ministers have been subjected, for the greater part of the years of our Federal life, to the cramping associations of the Treasury benches. This, perhaps, accounts in some measure for the failure in connexion with a few matters of administration of which I have to complain. Referring to the elections, I think that, to some extent, Ministers are responsible for the fact that the elections were held at a time that was inconvenient to the great agricultural interests of Australia. During last session the business was not so arranged, as it might have been, that the Senate, ‘ a House of considerable leisure, could have gone on earlier with some important measures, while three Bills relating to amendments of the Constitution were introduced at a time which rendered it impossible for the electors to deal with them by referendum before December, although during the session Ministers expressed a sense of the desirableness of holding the elections at a time when the bulk of the people would have been able to register their votes. I think that the Electoral Act itself is, to some extent, to blame, as well as Ministerial ineptitude in its administration. The secrecy which at one time had its value when a man’s independence of judgment might be affected by his position in regard to his employer or landlord, is now pushed to an extreme which renders some parts of the electoral machinery useless. I refer, as an example, to the provisions ‘securing secrecy in connexion with postal votes. Then, from the fear that electors might neglect to exercise that tendency to go wrong which some of them display, instead of having the cross on the side of the ballot-paper to which they were accustomed in previous elections, it was placed at the last election on the other side. One would like to have simplicity in administration, and would wish that Ministers having made themselves fairly familiar with the Act, would communicate information on various points in a precise way to the officers called upon to put it in force. These gentlemen had plenty of information, but not of the kind they required, and what was supplied to them was, to a great extent, misleading. To some matters their attention was particularly called. I might refer, for instance, to one of the pamphlets that was circulated, and of which, no doubt, honorable members were given copies, ignoring the decision in the case Chanter v. Blackwood that the signature of the returning officer on the back of the paper was directory, and that if the signature appeared even on the front, so that the fact that it was marked could be seen by the returning officer, the vote would still be valid. Ministers, ignoring that decision, gave instructions that no papers which did not bear the indorsement of the returning officer should be counted, and so acted against the judicial interpretation of section 147 of the Electoral Act. I call particular attention to that. This forgetfulness or ignorance of the Minister responsible led, I think, to a considerable percentage of the informal votes recorded. I propose to show the extent to which, owing to faulty administration, informalities increased at the last election. They were, as I have already indicated, to some extent due to the Electoral Act itself. We required, for instance, that counts should be made wherever there was an assistant returning officer. That necessitated, in the case of South Australia, ninety-five separate counts where, under the State system, one was considered sufficient. The object, I suppose, was to satisfy the curiosity of candidates as to how they stood on the poll, though perhaps the knowledge which some of them were thus enabled to acquire was not particularly appreciated. Under the system, at all events, a candidate might obtain information on the subject on which he could have a chat with his wife before he went to bed rather than on the following morning. Votes in South Australia were counted at ninety-five places, with the result that there were ninety-five chances to one which existed previously of informalities occurring. Then, owing to the parsimonious way in which the administration was conducted, and the niggardly allowance made to men who were not experts, it was hardly reasonable to expect that they would develop all of a sudden the skill sometimes required of returning officers. I can give some figures in connexion with informalities at elections in South Australia. In 1901, following the State system, which ought to be perfect - I had a hand in it myself- -we had, of the total vote’s for the Senate, 2.31 informalities. That was on a vote for the whole State. In . 1 903 the percentage of informalities was 2.2;r, but in 1906 it had increased to 3.91. If we take the figures for elections for the House of Representatives we find that in 1901, though the voting was over the whole State, the low percentage of 1.56 of informalities was shown, whilst in 1906, for three divisions only, the percentage went up to 4.93. I say that this was largely due to the absence of concise and definite instructions on a few points, to the misleading character of many instructions given and to the fact that quantity appears to have been considered superior to quality and accuracy in the instructions. I have no objection to reading, but I did object that a considerable portion of Sunday time, which perhaps I should have occupied with my devotions, had to be devoted to reading the lucubrations of the Minister’s assistants spread over five or six elaborate pamphlets intended for the enlightenment of unfortunate assistant returning officers. What we should have is definite instruction on a few principal points. We should have the effect of the High Court decisions communicated to the returning officers, and the forms of the States should, as far as possible, be followed.
– Should not the States follow the forms of the Commonwealth ? How could we follow six different forms in the different States?
– We could not expect the States,, who have legislated before we existed, to follow us. I never heard of a father being asked to follow his children.
– How could the Commonwealth follow six different systems?
-With the acuteness which perhaps I hayg acquired through sitting geographically so near to the Ministerial side of the House, T qualified my statement by saying that the forms of the States should be followed “ as far as possible,” but the difficulty would appear to be no greater than some Ministers are able to surmount. On 18th June, 1902, I made certain recommendations, which will be found on page 1384 of Hansard for that year. I said -
I look forward to a time when, through a delegation of power solicited by the Federation, and granted by the States, we shall have both in the Commonwealth and the States one Electoral Act- at all events for the popular House - one principle of divisions involving as they will one suffrage, one set of officers, one roll, one mode of election, and one codeto secure the purity of elections.
– Our last Act was passed with that object. And we asked the States to act with us.
– Unfortunately, like many other things initiated by Ministers, it has not succeeded, and all wecan do is by criticism to endeavour to lessen the possibility of the administration going wrong. Occasionally when a member of the Opposition makes a suggestion it is taken up, if not by Ministers, at least by the experts of Ministerial Departments, and 1 mention as something rather hopeful that I find that on 27th April, 1906, the conference of electoral officers, in their report, made a recommendation to a large extent in the direction indicated by what I had said. That it is not quite so difficult to bring about uniformity, which was one of the objects of Federation, is shown by the fact that there is a practical uniformity in all the States, except Victoria, which is the only State which at present lags behind in democratic development in connexion with adult suffrage. There are a few minor matters of difference, which do not touch the principle of uniformity, and may easily be remedied. However, I make the recommendation to the Minister without verymuch hope that it will be carried out. Pass ing over a few matters whose comparative unimportance might not justify me in trespassing upon the time of the House, I should like to direct the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs, wherever he is, to the ques tion of competitive railway rates, as being one which is largely connected with the growth of trade between the States. On 7th November, 1901, I called attention to the desirableness of abolishing rates which under the Constitution ought no longer to exist, pointing out that on the expert evidence taken in Adelaide, when the Convention was sitting, it was probable that if an effort were made by Ministers, an agreement for the purpose could be come to. I referred to the evidence of Mr. Pendleton, amongst other expert?, who said that such agreements having been successful in other countries, there was no reason why they should not be equally successful here. Again, on the 27th Mav, 1903, I mentioned the matter on the Address-in-Reply. I speak of these things now so that they maygo on record once and for all. Passing by some other occasions, I find that on the 27th July, 1905,. I asked the Minister of Home Affairs what had been done in this matter. The question is reported on page 214 of Vol. XXV. of Hansard. His answer was that practically all the States had abolished preferential rates ; that the rates which under the Constitution should not exist had been abolished by practically all the States. He informed me that Tasmania had a rate which was to go in a few months, and that the last of the differential rates in Western Australia would cease to be levied after five or six months. I believe that the rates which were not competitive but differential between goods have been abolished, though, as to that, I speak subject to correction. A Conference ‘took place in Sydney in 1904 between the Commissioners and the general managers of the railways in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland. Resolutions were come to, one of which affirmed that a Board should be appointed to arrange rates in respect to the various competitive districts. This Board met subsequently in Melbourne, and drew up a series of determinations, which were to form the basis of an agreement. The principle adopted was that rates were to be increased to the mileage rates subject to the retention by each State, or the right of each State to retain, the volume of traffic acquired under competitive conditions. In other words, whatever traffic they had acquired by means of the unconstitutional war of rates was to be regarded as sacred. Subject to that, in order to get bigger revenue, which was the only thing to be considered, the rates were to be raised to the mileage rates. To show that I am putting the case correctly, I will read the resolution. It states -
That the Commissioners, in conference, having given careful consideration to the question of rates on traffic to and from territory where competition exists, and with the object of each obtaining such an increase of revenue for the service rendered as the conditions will permit, and at the same time maintaining the status quo in respect of the tonnage of each class and description of goods to and from such territory as is carried by each of the States concerned, hereby enter into the following agreement as a modus vivendi.
The period at first was to be for twelve months, with three months’ notice of termination, and any readjustment was to be such as to give the same proportion of the tonnage of each class and description of goods as each State had enjoyed on the average during the past five years. Another resolution affirmed that the States were -
To prepare without reservation particulars of every rate, rebate, allowance or consideration, or other special service granted now or within the last twelve months in respect of all goods traffic to and from territory where competition for such traffic exists.
Unfortunately Queensland, for some reason which her representatives did not disclose, objected to that, and the resolution was not carried. As to the recommendations of the Board, in January, 1.905, the Commissioners met, and an agreement was come to, dated, I think, the 24th May, 1905, to be operative from the preceding March. In that agreement the principles of the resolutions which! I ‘have read were embodied. Honorable members will remember that I stated that there were to be higher rates without interfering with the volume of traffic acquired by the old rates, which were illegal under the Constitution, and the advantages of geographical position were absolutely ignored. The object of the new rates - and they are now in force - is to place Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney in exactly the same position so far as competition for the trade of the river districts is concerned, no matter how distant these particular districts may be from any particular city. So much for what was done by the Railways Commissioners and their general managers. I come now to what has been done by Ministers. There was a Premiers’ Conference in Sydney in 1906, at which the Prime Minister attended to give information on certain points. He then induced the Premier of South Australia to withdraw a motion in favour of the appointment of an Inter-State Commission. I do not believe in the appointment of that Commission, and am glad that, through the strenuous opposition of a few of us on this side of the Chamber, and of Mr. Justice Higgins, a measure introduced to provide for its* appointment was not proceeded with.
Mr. Watkins. Why does the honorable and learned member object to the appointment of an Inter- State Commission?
– I prefer not to go elaborately into the question now. Briefly, I do not consider such a Commission necessary. I think that we can accomplish all that is needful by agreement, and I hope that Ministers will display sufficient energy and intelligence to perfect the arrangement which the Commissioners have drawn up purely in their own interests. My objection to the appointment of the Commission is an objection to machinery which is not required, and which may become harassing in its operation. The President of the Conference asked the Prime Minister -
Does Mr. Deakin desire to say anything with regard to the appointment of the Inter-State Commission?
– It has become unnecessary now owing to the action of the States.
As honorable members will find on reference to page 70 of the Blue-Book, the motion for the appointment of an InterState Commission was withdrawn on the assurance so given by the Prime Minister. The agreement referred to is that which I have mentioned, which did not abolish rates which are bad under the Constitution. To show the class of rates still in existence under it, I propose to give a few instances. On the Victorian railways these are the rates prevailing when the rivers are open for traffic : from Euston via Echuca to Melbourne, for class 1, 42s. 6d., and from the Darling River district, via Echuca, 25s. 6d. The rates for class 2 are respectively 55s. and 30s., and for class 3, 62s. 6d. and 35s. If the Minister will refer to page 27 of the South Australian rate-book, he will find a note as regards the Riverina traffic to the effect that ordinary rates of carriage will be charged in the first instance, and that rebates on those rates to the amount specified below will subsequently be allowed on evidence that the goods were delivered at or received from places beyond the South Australian border. Again, South Australia, in competition with Victoria for the trade of her south-eastern districts, such as Mount Gambier, has a system of rates which is strongly differential. We find, for instance, that where the true rate ought to be, for class 1, 84s. 6d. a ton, the actual rate is 27s. 6d., while for class 2 the rates are110s.11d. and 32s. 6d., and for class 3, 137s. 4d. and 40s. respectively. I think that I have said sufficient without going elaborately into detail, to show that the unconstitutional rates are not abolished, though the Prime Minister at the Conference of 1906, assumed that to be the case ; while the Minister for Home Affairs seemed to assure us in answer to the question put to him in 1905 that they had been abolished then. I hope that during the coming adjournment or recess, the Minister in charge of this matter will make more elaborate and careful inquiries, and will base on them some recommendations to the House. Some of the Commissioners assume that the present rates are good, and that decisions have been come to in America which justify their continuance. I do not wish to argue the point. I have read those decisions, and think that they are the effect of legislation, not of the provisions of the Constitution. Section 102 of our Constitution provides that a rate which is undue, unreasonable, or unjust to a State, and has been declared to be so by the Inter-State Commission, is bad. Due regard is to be had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of railways, and section 104 provides that rates are not to be unlawful if deemed by the InterState Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of a State, and if applying equally to goods within the State and to goods passing into it from other States. None of the rates which I have mentioned come under that provision. I believe that we could get the States to come to an agreement in this matter, but I ask the Minister to make inquiries, and when he has sufficient apprehension of what is going on, to consider whether it would not be advisable to formally appoint an Inter- State Commission, not with the powers given by the former Bill, but merely to declare rates whichwe know to be bad and wrong, bad under the Constitution, so that we could legislate in the matter.
– Could we? There are no Inter-State rates.
– I think that we could, though I do not wish to go into an exhaustive discussion of these moot points.
– Will the honorable and learned gentleman name any rates which can be called Inter- State rates?
– I have tried to do so.
– I know that there are anomalous rates in each State, but I cannot think of any which would come within the jurisdiction. Theydo not apply from one State to another.
– The point is that they affect Inter-State trade. The Prime Minaster has spoken to-day about the expediency of having one Court of Appeal, to be obtained by an amalgamation of the House of Lords with the Privy Council. There is no harm in that amalgamation, but I fail to see that much good will come of it, because practically the same Judges sit in the Privy Council as in the House of Lords. It would, of course, render it impossible for a decision of the House of Lords, which is the Court of Appeal for Great Britain, to conflict with the decision of the PrivyCouncil, which lays down the law for the British Possessions; but that is a small matter compared with the fact that we have now two Courts of Appeal in regard to Australia, one of which is nominally, and the other really, final. The Prime Minister said that the matter was dealt with in 1900, when the Constitution was discussed at home, though I think that the impasse into which we have unfortunately been led is the result of a blunder made by the Convention which the delegation from Australia in 1900 could not have corrected without an alteration of the Constitution. The facts are these. Between the 12 th and j 6th March, 1898, just at the close of the Convention, it having been decided by a majority of one to retain the right of appeal to the Privy Council, I made the suggestion that, as we were about to appoint a High Court, we should give it sufficient work to do, and make it a tribunal of importance by, as far as we could, finding it work to do and giving finality to its decisions. I pointed out that we had left open the right of appeal from the State Courts in both Federal and State matters, and that what we ought to do was to take away from the States Courts the right of appeal in Federal and in State matters, to send all except one class of appeals to the High Court of Australia and thence to the Privy Council as of grace, the exception being cases in which the interests of other parts of the Empire are concerned, and in which an appeal to the Privy Council ought to lie as cf right. I urged that we should retain the power to abolish by Act of Parliament the appeal to the Privy Council in all cases except those in which the interests of other parts of the Empire were involved. I am reluctant to introduce my own matter into a debate of this character, but I desire to quote from page 2416 of the report of the debates, of the Melbourne Convention, with a view to explaining what would have been the effect of m- amendment. I said -
There will then be retained the right of appeal to the Privy Council in all matters involving the interests of any other part of Her Majesty’s dominions, so that it cannot b? touched bv Parlia ment. The appeal from the Federal Court other than the High Court, or from a State Court, direct to the Privy Council will be abolished, and that cannot be interfered with by Parliament. But the right of appeal in all matters, whether of a private character, or involving the interpretation of the Constitution through the High Court, to the Privy Council will be retained until the Parliament abolishes it. That is the effect of the words I wish to put in, and we have a statement by Mr. Barton that he will mould the clause so as to carry out these intentions.
Unfortunately, some of my legal friends in the Convention misunderstood the position which we had then reached. Sir Edmund Barton said that the direct appeals from State Courts to the Privy Council was abolished, and Senator Symon took the same view. The misapprehension which occurred was due to the fact that in Canada there are few appeals from the High Court, and these gentlemen overlooked the circumstance that two-thirds of the appeals there go direct to the Privy Council.
– I suppose that the honorable and learned member recognises that every common law principle may involve the rights of other parts of the Empire?
– Have I not already said that in these matters the appeal would be retained as of right? Had we accepted these suggestions, Mr. Chamberlain’s memorandum would never have been written. By this time it was found that we had not abolished the direct appeal to the Privy Council in State matters, and that possibly we had not abolished it in Federal matters. When the Judiciary Bill was under consideration in this House, Mr. Higgins - who was recently appointed to the High Court Bench - and myself took the view that we had not abolished that appeal, that the right existed inherently, and that in conferring Federal jurisdiction on State Courts, if not inherent, we could not condition that with a declaration of what was to occur after judgment had been delivered. That was the position which was taken up by Mr. Justice Hodges in the decision which he gave in the case of Webb v. Outtrim, in 1905, and last December the Privy Council laid it down that his judgment was the correct one. I am sorry that a mistake was made in the Convention, because it upsets the principle upon which the cases of Webb v. Deakin and Webb v. Lyne and D’ Emden v. Pedder were decided. Indeed, it has. shaken the very foundations of those decisions by the High Court, and as a result, we are in doubt as to which Court has the final word upon the matter. Personally, I believe that the Privy Council has, but it is to be regretted that we may have two tribunals of great dignity, and composed of men of great ability, giving, upon points which involve the very foundation of our Constitution, conflicting decisions.
– Is that one of the questions to be considered by the Imperial Conference ?
– Not directly.
– It is with “ bated breath and whispering humbleness “ that I propose to say a word or two upon the question of defence, which is one of the matters to be discussed at that gathering. I am sorry that the Prime Minister has decided to support the adoption of the title of “ Imperial Council,” rather than “Imperial Conference.” The word “ Council “ does not perhaps convey to some the significance that it does to others, but I recollect that several months ago Sir Wilfrid Laurier sent a very strongly worded memorandum to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which he objected to the substitution of the word “ Council” for “ Conference,” because the former is usually associated with legislative power. To my mind the term. “ Conference “ would represent the position in a way which would be more consistent with our notions of local autonomy. The Prime Minister, however, seems to have voted for the scheme which was foreshadowed by Mr. Lyttelton in one of his despatches, and which was conceived by Sir Frederick Pollock, because the whole policy outlined by the Ministry was framed by him in an elaborate letter which he wrote to the Times some years ago.
– My recollection is that his scheme was for the establishment of a permanent Council sitting in London.
– It was to be a Council composed, not merely of Prime Ministers, but of other Ministers of the Crown.
– I think that the Council which he suggested was intended to sit all the time.
– I do not think so. Of course I am speaking from memory. I do recollect, however, that the scheme origi nated with him. Personally, I think that it would be wise to adopt the title of “ Conference “ in preference to “ Council,” so as to avoid our acknowledgment of the beginning of a system of legislative connexion. It has been urged by the advocates of an Imperial Council at Home that its establishment would represent the beginning of something of that sort. Upon the question of defence it seems to methatwe have experts at issue with experts, experts at issue with amateurs, and the Home Government at issue with the Commonwealth Government. We find, for instance, that, to some extent, ‘we have copied the recommendations made in England, although the authorities there do not seem to be able to adhere to any line of policy for twelve months together. For example, Mr. Haldane has completely reversed the recommendations of Mr. Arnold Foster, who advocates a more scientific organization of the Forces than that which already obtains, a highly-trained rather than a large army. On the other hand, Mr. Haldane bases his system of defence upon the regulars and a million volunteers, who are to be under no obligation to serve abroad, and whose inclination to do so was tested during the South African war, when, although they were offered higher than the ordinary rates of pay as an inducement to serve, they did not volunteer to the extent of a tenth. His system is based upon a very large body of partially-trained troops, such as is advocated here by those who favour universal service. Coming to Australia, we find that Major-General Hutton very properly recommended organization with a comparatively small force of efficients. But when we compare his statements with those of our local Council of Defence, we discover that they are in utter disagreement. Major-General Hutton estimated the cost of warlike stores at , £524,000, but upon being submitted to the Council of Defence that estimate was increased to close upon £1,400,000 - a difference which I cannot account for, assuming any efficiency upon their part.
– Major-General Hutton was considered extravagant.
– I do not know anything about that. We have a Council of Defence, which seems to have met once or twice, and then to have departed, never to meet again. General Finn declares that that body is useless in time of peace, and would be a menace to our safety in time of war. In naval matters, perhaps, we are not so much at sea.
– Is that remark intended as sarcasm?
– No. The naval policy which the Prime Minister will advocate at the Imperial Conference was first outlined in 1899, at a Conference of naval officers, at which it was stated that each Colony must deal with the particular danger to which it was exposed, and that Australia, having no military frontier, required for her defence a sea or naval force. Then Sir John Colomb said -
A single cruiser bringing her guns to bear on our coastal depdts would in a few hours paralyze the action of the fleet for months. . . . The danger can in several instances be met by port defences, and torpedoes.
That recommendation was never acted upon. It was abandoned, forgotten, and recently revived by Captain Creswell.
– I think that he advocated it before 1899.
– Then he has changed his views. It seems to me that these experts are almost as bad as politicians in that respect. A few years ago Captain Creswell stated that our best means of defence lay in cruisers. As this matter will be raised at the Imperial Conference, I should like to mention that the attitude which we assume of recognising as far as possible our local sovereignty, and of developing our local defence, is sympathized with by some of the best writers in England. The Edinburgh Review, for instance, says -
State sovereignty is inevitably bound up with military power. No Colony can really be selfgoverning which has not also control of its own forces.
The Admiralty view is to be found at page 15 of the Blue Book of the 1902 Conference -
There must be only one authority with full power and responsibility to the Empire to move the ships, to concentrate them where they can deal the most effective blow against the forces of the enemy, and any separation of the responsibility, any diminution of the power of that central authority, any risk of hesitationor delay in making a conjunction of the squadrons where they can deal the most effective blow, might have disastrous consequences.
While these differences of opinion exist, and whilst we have these varying ideals and recommendations regarding administration and organization, other nations are pushing on with a consistent policy.
– Was not that argument urged against a divided authority over the different squadrons?
– It was. It is an argument in favour of an Imperial as opposed to a divided authority. It means, in effect, that, so far as the Navy is concerned, we are not to depend on local organizations. As I have said, whilst we are taking matters coollv other nations are pushing forward. Japan is settling Manchuria, and is likely to remain there. I read thatthe Japanese schools of law were recently discussing the international question of whether or not the northern parts of Australia are effectively settled. We know what that means. Plainly stated, the question is whether they are open to acquisition by anv Power on the ground that we are not making adequate use of our territory. That is one of the matters mooted, not bv a Power aggressive towards us, but by one to which, for the next ten years, we are bound by a treaty alliance. The Eastern nations, at once old and young, seem, after the sleep and seclusion of centuries, to be gathering their energies together, and, unaffected by the ethical considerations that the great Western nations have professed, but never applied when they came in contact with the nations of the East, are themselves beginning to take a hand in the game of territorial exploitation and aggrandisement. I am a man of peace. My fighting days, except so far as this House is concerned, are over ; but I had hoped at one time that we might desire to develop Australia only on industrial lines. Militarism, however, is still aggressive, although a little more canting hypocrisy or vulgarity may characterize our modern invocations of the God of Battles. A comparison1 of the relations of European nations towards one another, and their common relations to the weaker coloured races, shows that, with all their boasted civilization, they are still dominated by a spirit of rapacity. They are as blinded by self interest as ever, and fear, rather than a sense of justice, only restrains them. How many of our military men or statesmen, who so often take their enthusiasm from the music hall and move armies from behind the scenes, feel any of those compunctious visitings that affected the great Henry when, taking his place in the van, he thought of the method by which his father compassed the Crown? How many of them feel any compunctious ViSit.ings when, as was the case in connexion with the South African trouble, they lightly launch a nation into war? However much we may develop our industrial lines, it is our duty to face the inevitable; to construct an organization of military and naval forces, and, having conceived it. to push on with it with all the energy of a young nation. I have no desire to trespass further upon the time of honorable members. I have heard a great deal as to the unfortunate position of the House owing to the present relations of parties. It seems to me that the trouble at the present time is not the balance of parties. The situation to a large extent suggests that the people have not definitely made up their minds to adopt any particular policy, and that none so strongly dominates them as to lead to the return of a large majority of any one party. We must endeavour to steer a wise course between the extremes of Socialism or antiSocialism - between the ‘ pure revenue tariffists and those who believe in the Victorian system of prohibition, under the name of protection. It seems to me that the electors are of opinion that the philosophers who, ignoring history and human character, are so simple, if they are sincere, as to believe in the possibility of a sudden economic transformation by Act of Parliament, as well as the pure individualist who, failing to realize the ameliorating efficacy and operation of the social legislation of the last sixty or seventy years, assumes that the State, which is the people in their corporate character, can do nothing to modify the working of plutocratic self-interest, had better continue to edify select and unthinking audiences for another generation or two before attempting to apply their crude theories to the grim facts of civil life as we find them.
.- One fully realizes that this is not an opportune time for the delivery of long speeches, but I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without offering a few observations to the House. We are now entering upon the work of a new Parliament, and may take a retrospective view of the battle through which we have just passed. There is one party which may congratulate itself upon, having come out of the fight with much success. It had to combat not only the individual wealth of Australia, but the great daily newspapers published throughout the length and breadth of the continent. It had also to contend against monopolistic wealth, and to depend solely for its success, upon the love of the people. Notwithstanding that it has been traduced again and again, the Labour Party stands to-day in a proud position. I was amazed at the reported utterances of some honorable gentlemen with regard to the intentions of our party. Either because of crass ignorance or with the deliberate intention of deceiving the people, they, during the election campaign, made misleading statements with regard to our position. Time after time the objects of the party have been explained in this Parliament, yet honorable members have gone from this House to the country and misrepresented us. In some cases they have deliberately lied with regard to the attitude of the party, and yet ours is the only one that has come back with increased numbers. Does this not show that there is something in the labour movement ? Should not our success appeal to those who call themselves anti-Socialists? Should it not be recognised that there must be something in a movement that can withstand such forces as were pitted against it at the recent general election, and which, indeed, have opposed every step it has taken? We are the only party that has come back with an accession of strength. I was grieved to read in one of the newspapers a. report of a speech delivered in Ballarat by the Prime Minister, in which he accused the Labour Party of having as its objective the nationalization of all industries. The honorable and learned gentleman may have been misreported, but that was the statement attributed to him in South Australia. If any one has had an opportunity to ascertain our objective, surely the Prime Minister has. He has sat with us in ‘ this House for six years., and has had every means of ascertaining what our aim is. The statement is also made that we are dominated by the Trades Hall Councils - that they pull the strings and that we dance to the music they play. Does any one for one moment believe that we as a party are subject to such conditions? Is it not well known that no Trades Hall or political body can alter the platform on which we are elected? That platform must stand ‘for the life of the Parliament, and no outside body has power to interfere with it in the slightest degree. Many people know that this is so, but for political purposes the statement is constantly made that our great party is controlled by Trades Hall influences, and that when such a body passes a resolution we must give effect to it. I challenge any honorable member to point to a piece of legislation designed to benefit the primary producer and passed by any of the Parliaments of Australia that has not been placed on the statute-book^ with the assistance of members of our party. When we drive our traducers into a corner they seek to escape by saying that the question at issue is not so much what we have done as what we intend to do. No one can foresee what the future may bring forth. No one can say how far the people will indorse the policy of Socialism! or antiSocialism, but it ought to be recognised that the Labour Party cannot go one step ‘further than the people permit. It is said that we have extreme measures, so to speak, up our sleeves. We are. either going to take advantage of the people who have returned us, Or are such fools as to believe that they will allow us to pass some of the wild cat schemes from time to time attributed to us. The safety of the labour movement lies in the fact that every forward step made by the party has to stand the test of public opinion. We have no legislative power other than that conferred noon vis by the people. We must first of all submit our programme - whether it be an extension or a modification of that originally proposed by us - to the electors, and are bound to stand or fall by it. It has been said that we are controlled by the caucus. No such thing is the case. If a man is true to the pledges he gives to the electors nothing more can be expected of him. I would not give a fig for the man who is not prepared to stand by the pledges given by him on the hustings,, and those which we have given in connexion with the labour movement are to be found in our programme. I regret exceedingly that the sectarian question should have been introduced into this Chamber to-day in a deliberate way, and, I believe, for the first time. From the bottom of my heart I deplore the fact that any honorable member should introduce such a tiling here. We had quite enough of it at the recent elections. I would not countenance the introduction of the sectarian question even by my own brother.
Has there not been enough of that kind of thing in the old world ? The leader of the Opposition to-day deliberately introduced the subject in this Chamber, and I regret the fact exceedingly. I pass on to deal with some matters which occurred during the recess. I do not know whether honorable members have read a document issued by the Public Service Commissioner, but I know that I was greatly surprised at some passages which it contained. I regret that this officer should have gone out of his way to libel thousands of honest men. His report goes too far, or it does not go far enough. He deliberately accuses public officers of neglecting their work during week days in order to secure overtime at the rate of time and a half for work done on Sundays. If that be true, the report does not go far enough, and the Public Service Commissioner should make an example of those who have done that kind of thing. If he had not the necessary proof to enable him to do so, he should have refrained from libelling the whole staff. I believe that in the Commonwealth Public Service we have a very fine body of men. There might be some who could be improved upon, but, taking the staff as a whole, I think we havereason to be proud of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I should like to know who this gentleman is who hurls these insinuations at a body of men many of whom are quite as good as himself? The Public Service Commissioner has also objected to the exercise of outside and political influence. I do not hesitate to say that I have written to him, because I found it necessary to do so in the interests of public servants. He may possibly be referring to me, and, if so, why does he not make a direct charge? Why does he not make his charge against the Members of Parliament who have tried to bring political influence to bear upon him? He says that it has been exerted, and in every such case nothing was done for the individuals concerned. If there had been any attempt at political influence, it would have been more manly for the Commissioner to name the Members of Parliament concerned, but in this case also he contents himself with inferences of general application, and does not make a direct charge. I shall interfere where I think it necessary, no matter how many Public Service Commissioners we may have. We passed a resolution some few years ago to the effect that Sunday work should be paid for at the rate of time and a half. It came under my notice that the Public Service Commissioner instituted a. new method of dealing with Sunday work, and arranged that officers requiring to work on Sundays should be relieved from work on one day during the week. He contends that that is carrying out the instructions received from this Parliament. I wrote to him, stating that men who were relieved from work on the Saturday were paid nothing extra for their Sunday work. I received the following reply through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department: -
Melbourne, 20th December, 1906.
With reference to my letter of 13th ulto. and previous correspondence respecting the question of payment for Sunday duty performed by officers of the Commonwealth Service, I have the honour to inform you that the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, and the following is a copy of a Minute received in reply : - “ The arrangement that officers are to be relieved for one day in seven is made in pursuance of a resolution passed by Parliament that it is the duty of the Government to make such arrangements as will insure at least one day’s rest in seven to each .of its employes. “ With regard to the regulation providing for the payment of Sunday duty, Parliament directed that officers are to receive pay at the rate of time and half when they have worked seven days in one week, and in all cases where these conditions are fulfilled time and a half is paid.”
It will thus be seen that the action taken in this matter is in strict conformity with the wishes and intention of the Legislature as expressed by resolution.
It will be seen that in this matter the Public Service Commissioner tries to shelter himself under a resolution passed by Parliament. It is interesting to note that he recognises that Sunday labour is to be paid for at a higher rate than week day labour, and that being so, it must be admitted that the course adopted of relieving an employe on a week day to make up f°r labour on the Sunday, deprives him at least of halfaday’s pay, and if an employe” is required to work on Sunday he should be allowed at least a day and a half off during the week, if this method of dealing with Sunday labour is to be adopted. Public servants are compelled in the public interests to work on Sunday and the Public Service Commissioner, instead of doing what he was asked to do, has instituted a system under which they are deprived of a half day’s pay or a half day’s rest.
– He has misread the instructions.
– Notwithstanding the statement of the Public Service Commissioner in his report, that there is no necessity for the exercise of political influence to secure justice to the employes of the Commonwealth, I venture to say that some of them would never have received justice but for the interference referred to. There are many other matters in the report, and one especially in regard A> the Appeal Boards which is a matter of great importance to the Public Service, with which we shall have an opportunity to deal later on. I understand that the Government have decided to amalgamate the repeating offices at Eucla. I am informed that it is to be placed under South Australian control, and this will mean the’ inclusion of fourteen additional officers in the South Australian service. I have had some correspondence with the Postmaster-General on. the matter, which up to the present has not been very satisfactory. I understand that the proposal is to be carried out, and I make a complaint because the inclusion of these additional officers would interfere with the promotion of men already in the service in South Australia. It will mean that these men will have to be absorbed before promotion which is due can be given to a number of others in the State. I ask the Postmaster-General to take into consideration the position, which is put very clearly in a letter now before him. I hope that he will see the necessity of doing something to prevent the officers of South Australia being put into a worse position by reason of the amalgamation. I have no objection to that amalgamation, and believe it to be an economical arrangement; but while it gives an advantage to fourteen juniors in Western Australia, it places fourteen South Australian officers in a worse position than they formerly occupied. In my opinion, the staff should be taken over as. it exists to-day. Then no injustice would be done to the officials of either Western Australia or South Australia. I have also to complain of the extension of the obnoxious practice of creating contract post-offices. One can hardly pick up a Commonwealth Gazette without noticing the growth of the system.
I showed last year, from my place in this Chamber, the abuses which exist in this State, where there are contract offices whose annual revenue amounts to as much as £2,000, and mentioned that there are scores of contract offices which, according to the returns obtained by the honorable member for Darling, have a revenue of £500 and upwards. To my mind, the contract system is most objectionable. It was initiated in South Australia by the Public Service Commissioner. I know of one contract office there whose revenue is nearlv £600, while tenders are being called for the establishment of contract offices in a number of other places. The contract system results in sweating, while the public is not given as good a service as it gets bv the appointment of officials.
– Do the contractors make money out of the system?
– Of course; but the result is that low wages are paid, and the offices are run under conditions of sweating, whilst the service given is not so reliable, nor is the responsibility so great as where public officials are employed. In Victoria more than in any other State is there ground of complaint about this state of things ; but the system is being extended to all the States, and the sooner the House expresses its disapproval of it the better. I do not intend to prolong my remarks, because the Government have intimated that nothing* is to be done this session. I am surprised that the Victorian representatives are willing to have another recess. A few months ago they had a great deal to say about the languishing condition of the industries of the State. I see no reason for thinking that any great change has come about in the condition of those in. dustries. If the statements which we heard were true, and so much misery and poverty exists in Victoria, why are not Victorian representatives eager to go on with the Tariff? The charitable construction to put on their present attitude is that prosperous times have brought about better conditions. At any rate, if the Victorians are satisfied, the people of the other States have no reason to complain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following sessional Committees were appointed (on motion by Mr. Deakin): -
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, Mr. Joseph Cook, Mr. Groom, Mr. Kingston, Mr. Watson, and Mr. Wilson be members of the’ Standing Orders Committee ; three to form a quorum.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Glynn, Mr. Harper, Mr. W. H. Irvine, Mr. Knox, Mr. Salmon, Mr. Brute Smith, and Mr. Spence be members of the Library Committee ; three to form a quorum.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Chanter, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Mahon, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Page, and Mr. Dugald Thomson be members of the House Committee; three to form a quorum.
Mr. Edwards, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Hutchison, Sir John Quick, Mr. Storrer, Mr. Watkins, and Mr. Willis be members of the Printing Committee ; three to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next at half-past two p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to know if on Tuesday an opportunity will be given to honorable members to discuss the business on the notice-paper?
– The Address-in-Reply having been carried, I should like the Prime Minister to tell the House whywe should meet on Tuesday next.
– I moved the adjournment until Tuesday, so that, if the other House concludes its business, the prorogation can take place before it will be necessary for honorable members’ to reassemble here.
– What will happen if the other House does not get throughits business?
– I will intimate to honorable members what will be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 February 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070221_reps_3_36/>.