3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the report of an interview with the Prime Minister, which appears in this morning’s “newspapers, it is stated in relation to the European mail contract which has just been cancelled I hat the amount deposited by the contractors, or its ‘equivalent, is actually in the hands of the Ministry. I wish to know from the honorable gentleman what is the form of the equivalent,, and whether it is held in London or in Australia. If cash is not held, is an attempt being made to convert the equivalent into money?
– If the statement quoted is attributed to me personally it is a very free translation of ir.y remarks. ‘ Speaking from memory, we hold .£2,500 in cash, and. a bond for ^25,000,. or .£27,500 altogether.
– Who has given the bond ?
– The bond is held in London, and was given by the contractors, with the banking firm of Barclay and Sons as sureties.
– Is it the intention of the Ministry to have the bond turned into cash at the earliest possible moment?
– All possible steps have been taken.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral lay on the table of the House the advertisements which he purposes to publish, calling for fresh tenders for a contract for a mail service to Europe, andi give honorable members an opportunity to discuss them before publication ?
– There is not time to do that, but I shall be glad to give honorable members’ any information which they may desire in regard to the matter and to which they are entitled?
– I should like’ to know from the Prime Minister if an opportunity will not be given to the House to discuss the specifications on which tenders are to be based. Is it intended that honorable members are not to discuss them before they are advertised ?
– The honorable mem. ber’s parliamentary experience will inform him that the Government cannot prevent honorable members from discussing anything to which they choose to call attention ; but tenders must be invited at once in order to afford the fullest opportunity for the submission of plans for the construction of new vessels. The tenders are not returnable for something under three months, and honorable members will have an opportunity within that period to call attention to any matters relating thereto which they think require attention. Mr. THOMAS. - Suppose the House wishes to alter the specifications?
– If the honorable member compares the new specifications with those drafted on the last occasion when tenders were called for, he will find them elastic enough to cover almost every contingency that even bc can foresee.
– Is it the intention of the .Government, in making a new contract, to stipulate that any new steamers which may be required are to be commenced within a specific time, and to provide for the imposition of a penalty in the event of failure to carry out the terms of the contract in any particular?
– Both points are dealt with in the advertisement calling for tenders.
IMPORTATION OF PATENT MEDICINES.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs what action has been taken by the Government to enforce the resolution unanimously carried by the House of Representatives last Parliament affirming that all patent medicines imported into the Commonwealth should be labelled with a full description of their component parts.
– I cannot quote from memory the regulations governing the importation of patent medicines; but instructions were given for the carrying of the resolution into effect as far as possible, and I believe that they were complied with.
CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES.
– As the first notice of motion on the business paper provides for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means to sit before the AddressinReply has been agreed to, and to allow a Supply Bill to be passed through all its stages, I wish to know, since the services of a Chairman of Committees will be required for the conduct of this business, whether, before that motion is called on, the Prime Minister will take steps to ascertain the opinion of the House as to’ the desirability or otherwise of electing our Chairman for the duration of the Parliament instead of for the current session ?
– I have always favoured the Victorian practice, under which the Chairman of Committees is elected for the Parliament. It seems to me extremely undesirable to allow a contest for the position of Chairman each session. However, the matter is one for the consideration of honorable members, arid if they wish to deal with it without notice, I am willing to fall in with their view.
YOUNG TELEPHONE EXCHANGE.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that a good deal of dissatisfaction exists at Young because of the failure of the Department to supply telephones to would-be subscribers to the local telephone exchange? If he is, I desire to know what steps are being taken to remedy their grievance?
– Owing to the success of the toll system, it has been very difficult to cope with the consequent very great demand for telephones; but some thousands of new instruments have been ordered, and I expect the first instalment of them shortly. These telephones will be supplied to would-be sub- scribers at Young and elsewhere without delay.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral undertake to supply the people of Young first of all?
– I undertake to supply every one who requires a telephone.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
No such information has been received. I shall be glad if the honorable member will forward me any particulars.
Whatever steps are possible to prevent raids of the kind, and to recover stolen property, will be taken without delay.
Appointment of Chairman of Committees : Treasurer’s Advance Account : Urgent Expenditure.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day 1 and 2 be postponed until after the consideration of Notice of Motion No. 1.
– I ask some explanation of this very unusual and unconstitutional course. Is the Government so pressed for money as to make it necessary? If I am assured that that is so, I shall have nothing further to say on the question, because, however we may desire to preserve the constitutional procedure of the House, any urgent demand for money must be met, as the Commonwealth must pay its debts. I await with great interest the statement that money is urgently necessary at this early period of the month.
– I quite agree with the acting leader of the Opposition that it would be very desirable if we could avoid adopting the procedure which I ask the House to follow on the present occasion. But the fact of the matter is that meeting as we did three days after the close of the financial year, and since under the provisions of our Audit Act, the Treasurer has no money whatever in hand, it becomes necessary to ask the House to adopt - speaking from a constitutional stand-point - this somewhat unusual course. I may say, however, that in all the States of Australia a similar course has been followed on many occasions. Necessity knows no law. Wages and other payments have to be made, and whenever the Parliament meets after the close of. the financial year the course which I now ask the House to adopt has to be followed.
– Is the Treasurer’s Advance Account exhausted?
– The Treasurer has no money after the 30th June in each year - not a single farthing. Under the Constitution the surplus balances have to be returned to the States at the end of every month. I therefore ask the House to grant Supply for one month, as I am absolutely out of funds. At the present time there are, for example, wages due in Sydney which cannot be paid. I have in my possession a telegram which I received only this morning saying,, “Must have money to-day, as it is urgent.” Under other circumstances I should like to postpone the motion for obtaining Supply for two or three days or until the debate upon the AddressinReply had been concluded. I can assure honorable members that the Supply Bill will contain no expenditure which is not purely of a recurring nature. It will not cover more than one month, and I already have the pledgeof the acting leader of the Opposition that he will not raise any objection to it if the matter be one of urgency. I assure him that it is a matter of urgency. We must pay our debts. As it is necessary for us to go into Committee, and as a Chairman must be appointed - I regret that the practice has arisen of electing a Chairman every session instead of the practice to which I have been accustomed of electing him for the whole Parliament - I will move for the appointment of a temporary Chairman.
– I should point out to the Treasurer that the motion before the Chair has reference to the postponement of certain business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I would suggest, for the present, that we should elect some honorable member to temporarily fill the office of Chairman. Let us select an experienced man like the honorable member for Coolgardie, and let us fix a day upon which the permanent Chairman will be elected. Of course I have no personal interest in the election of a Chairman of Committees. I merely make the suggestion with a view to overcome the immediate difficulty. But for the urgent necessity of granting Supply to-day it would not have been necessary to appoint a temporary Chairman. I therefore move -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means to be appointed before the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s opening speech has been agreed to by the House, and to enable all other steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House will, this day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
,- If we intend to elect a Chairman of Committees to-day it will be necessary for us to do it prior to the motion which has just been submitted being adopted.
– Does the honorable member refer to a permanent Chairman of Committees ?
– I refer either to a temporary or a permanent Chairman.
– The course to be followed will be for the House to pass the two contingent motions of which the Treasurer has given notice. If they be passed I shall remain in the Chair till some provision has been made for the appointment either of a temporary or a permanent Chairman of Committees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the House will, this day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider the ways and means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) proposed -
That the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– Perhaps the honorable member will allow me to point out that Orders of the Day Nos. 1 and 2 have been postponed till after the consideration of Notice of Motion No. 1. The course he now proposes would require a further postponement of the Orders of the Day till after his motion had been dealt with. Of course, if any member of the Government chooses to move in that direction the matter can be dealt with forthwith.
– I strongly urge that the course suggested by the honorable member for Boothby should not be adopted. The circumstances with which we are confronted today are altogether exceptional, and there is nothing to prevent the House appointing a temporary Chairman to tide us over the present difficulty. The election of a permanent Chairman may proceed in a perfectly orderly way to-morrow. Nothing is to be gained by rushing the matter through in the way proposed. I therefore suggest that the Government should not follow the course suggested by the honorable member, but that we should proceed with the appointment of a temporary Chairman.
– I think there is a sound reason in the argument of the honorable member for Parramatta that the circumstances of to-day are of an exceptional character. Otherwise the debate upon the Address-in-Reply would take precedence of the appointment of the Chairman of Committees. The best course for us to adopt will be to appoint a temporary Chairman. We can afterwards decide whether the gentleman appointed shall continue to hold office for the whole Parliament or only for the session. Of course I am entirely in favour of the Chairman of Committees being elected for the full term of the Parliament. I do not believe in raising this question every session. I think that my honorable friend opposite has the law on his side, and that! the motion, of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Boothby, does not come within the category of urgent matters, and should not take precedence of the debate upon the Address-in-Reply.
– Why did not the Treasurer indicate yesterday that he intended to bring this motion forward to-day ?
– I gave notice of it yesterday. A similar course has been taken on previous occasions. We had better appoint a temporary Chairman of Committees to-day. We can deal with the appointment of a permanent Chairman in a deliberate way after proper notice has been given, and we can also decide then whether the gentleman elected shall be Chairman for the whole term of the Parliament or not.
– I should like to raise a question of order. I submit that even if the Government . were agreeable and the House consented to the further postponement of the Orders of the Day, it would not “be possible to proceed with the election of Chairman, because the motion of the Treasurer merely asked for the suspension of the Standing Orders sufficiently to allow of a Supply Bill being passed through all its stages without delay. If the whole of the Standing Orders are to be suspended, we want to know exactly what we are doing. In my opinion we can appoint a temporary Chairman of Committees at any time.
– The position at the present time is that there is nothing whatever before the House. The motions of which notice had been given have all been disposed of. I had anticipated that the Treasurer would have concluded by submitting a motion, but, as he has not done so, I shall be glad if some motion is moved - otherwise the debate upon the AddressinReply must be proceeded with.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the honorable member for Coolgardie (Mr. Mahon) do take the chair as Chairman for this day of sitting only.
.- In view of the statement of the Treasurer that honorable members should understand when the election of Chairman will be held so that the matter may be decided deliberately, I think we should have some indication as to when the Government will allow the House an opportunity to take a vote upon the question. Personally, I think that some time next week should be fixed for the contest.
– Say next Wednesday.
– I do not know whether that would suit honorable members sitting upon the left of Mr. Speaker, but it would certainly suit the section which occupy seats in this corner of the Chamber. Indeed, any day would suit us.
– I think it better to fix a definite day.
– Say next Wednesday. That will suit everybody.
– Then I understand that it will be the first business dealt with on Wednesday next.
– In order to give effect to the suggestion which has been made, and with which I have in previous sessions expressed my entire sympathy, I shall probably give notice for Wednesday next of a motion allowing the member elected Chairman of Committees to fill the office for the whole term of the Parliament.
.- Personally, I do not think that any argument has been advanced why the election of Chairman of Committees should not be proceeded with to-day. In my opinion, as we are now required to go into Committee of Supply, this is the proper time to elect a Chairman. As a matter of fact, so far from the matter having been sprung upon members, the names of the gentlemen who are candidates for the office have been known for months past.
– Not at all. It was only yesterday that we heard of one of them.
– The honorable member for Kennedy having been elected Chairman of Committees during the last Parliament, and it having been announced that he would be again a candidate for the office, it is idle for the acting leader of the Opposition to pretend that he was not aware of the fact.
– Another party might nominate another candidate.
– Had that been the case there might have been something in the suggestion that we should postpone the election for a time. However, I do not wish to press my view upon honorable members. As it seems to be the desire of several that this matter should not be dealt with to-day I shall certainly not attempt to proceed further with it.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) .- Might I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should submit his motion in the form of an amendment of the Standing Orders. Standing order 215 requires that the
Chairman of Committees shall be elected annually. Personally I am entirely in favour of the view which he has expressed, but to give effect to it I think it will be necessary to amend the standing order in question.
.- If my memory servesme accurately, I think that the Chairman of Committees is elected until such time as his successor is appointed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply:
– I moves -
That a sum not exceeding£457,243 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1908.
It is necessary that Supply should be granted at once as the Treasurer is absolutely without funds. Already urgent applications have been made for money to pay men engaged on public works on day labour, colonial seamen engaged in the Imperial Squadron, and gratuities to masters of vessels for carrying mails, whilst the fortnightly pay of public servants will shortly fall due. The amounts included in the Bill are purely of a recurring nature. No special item which Parliament has not already authorized is covered by them. The amounts in respect of payment of salaries are in accordance with rates already voted, and no increases in salaries paid during the last financial year will be granted until voted. The only item that may require some explanation is that of Treasurer’s Advance,£80,000. The amount is the same as was voted in the first Supply Bill passed last year. As no supply is taken for works and buildings in progress, the Treasurer’s Advance is charged until the Appropriation Act has been passed, and the amount asked for is therefore larger than it might otherwise be, In respect of Refunds of Revenue a sum of , £12,000 is sought. A like amount was voted in the first Supply Bill passed last year. I might explain to honorable members that this vote is used for payments to money order account of value of postal stamps affixed to postal notes; the re-purchase of stamps from the public; payments to the Eastern Extension Company, on account of telegraph receipts, portion of which is due to the company, and refunds of revenue wrongly paid in. The Bill covers only one month’s supply and I commend it to the consideration of honorable members.
– The only item to which I can take the slightest exception is that of “ Treasurer’s Advance, £80,000.” The right honorable gentleman will not argue seriously that he is in want of that amount, and I would strongly urge him to omit the item from the Bill.
– We could not do that. We have to meet payments in respect of buildings.
– Contractors would not be obliged by the omission of the item.
– I doubt whether the Treasurer is in such urgent need of this money as he would have us believe.
– Many contracts all over the Commonwealth are in progress, and the Treasury has no money to meet payments in respect of them.
– I know that many contracts are in progress, and I feel assured that but for the institution of fortnightly payments to public servants there would be no need to pass a Supply Bill before the end of the month. That is the custom in all the States Parliaments, and I can conceive of no reason for the passing of this Bill other than the urgent necessity of providing funds to pay salaries under the new system of fortnightly payments.
– But the States law differs from that of the Commonwealth.
– Under other circumstances the Treasurer would not ask the Committee to grant Supply until the end of the month.
– But we may have to make payments in respect of works completed in June.
– I urge the Treasurer to adopt the usual course with regard to all those items of expenditure. There is no need for us to vote a huge sum like this until the end of the month. We shall not gain anything by doing so, and it occurs to me that since we have extended to the right honorable gentleman the most gene- rous treatment in regard to his ordinary, every day requirements, he is proceeding to ask for a huge vote which should not be asked for except under conditions absolutely urgent.
– We have always adopted this course.
– No urgent reasons for agreeing to this item are forthcoming. The ordinary payments to contractors in respect of various works and buildings can readily stand over until the end of the month. I would therefore urge the Treasurer to eliminate the item.
– I do not think that the deputy leader of the Opposition has quite appreciated the position with regard to sums that ought to be paid, apart altogether from the ordinary recurring monthly expenditure. He has asked the Treasurer to omit the item of £80,000 in respect of the Treasurer’s Advance. I had the misfortune, or otherwise, to be in office in the month of July a year or two ago, and I know that it is absolutely essential that the Treasury should have some money in hand to meet payments in respect of work which might have been completed in June, although not passed by the inspectors until some time in July.
– Did the honorable member secure a vote of this kind when he was in office?
– Yes, there was no difficulty in regard to it. The Opposition agreed to it without a suspicion of delay. If the Treasurer has no advance account to operate upon, he will have to allow all these special claims to stand over until another Supply Bill is passed in August, and contractors - many of whom are small men, to whom a delay in making payment is a serious matter - will have to wait until that measure has become law, and the necessary red-tape machinery has been put in motion, before they can obtain their money. I do not think that the honorable member for Parramatta desires anything of the kind, and I am sure that when he considers the position, he will no longer offer any objection to an advance - I do not know how much is required - being made to the Treasurer. There can be no doubt that some advance is required.
– How much did the honorable member obtain?
– -The amount asked for is always, practically, the same.
– I think that the vote I secured was the same as that for which the Treasurer now asks, I am notquite certain that we used the whole of the amount so granted during the month of July. But it sometimes happens that big claims fall due after the close of the financial year, and it is, therefore, necessary for the Treasurer to have something to go upon.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Trea of the Opposition will not object to the item of “Treasurer’s Advance.” I find that we have always asked for something like the amount which we now invite honorable members to agree to. In 1903-4, the Treasurer’s advance was £75,000. On the 2nd July, 1904, £120,000 was passed; on the 8th July, 1905, £50,000 was passed ; and on 28th June, 1906, £80,000. It will thus be seen that we are asking for £40,000 less than was granted in respect of Treasurer’s advance in July 1904. As I have already mentioned, various contractors have to be paid, and men working on day labour all over Australia are anxious to obtain what is coming to them. There are various unforeseen expenses that may have to be met, and I think that the Committee may trust the Treasurer, as it has done hitherto, with this vote of £80,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. Deakin and Sir John Forrest do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through its remaining stages.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 28) 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.
– We meet to-day under circumstances which are quite unusual. I personally express my deep regret that my leader is not here.
– He is doing better work.
– Of course I know to what the honorable member refers, but may I say plainly that the real reason of the absence of the right honorable member for East Sydney is an illness of a very serious nature which has befallen his wife. Honorable members know that Mrs. Reid is at present in a private hospital, having only recently undergone a very dangerous operation. Mrs. Reid is not yet out of danger ; and her condition is, as I say, the real reason of the absence of the leader of the Opposition.
I desire to make that explanation because I have heard every reason given but the right one in various quarters of the right honorable gentleman’s absence. We are told by the Government that owing to the last session being entirely a formal one, the same mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply have been selected on the present occasion in the Senate and the same mover in this House as when we last met. Of course, we must accept the explanation for what it is worth ; but I take leave to say that it is a case of “ needs must when the devil drives.” At any rate so far as the Senate is concerned it is well known that the Government had no one in the Chamber on whom they could rely, and they had to appeal to a gentle man to come to their rescue, who at the last election was in direct opposition to the Government and all its works. The present position probably discloses why that selection was made in the Senate, and why the same selection, so far as the mover is concerned, has been made in this House. This reminds me of the generally anomalous position in which the House finds itself. After an appeal to the country there is, I should say, a huge majority in the House opposed to Socialism as a national policy. But that fact notwithstanding, our honorable friends in the corner are still directing the policy of the Government, and are still the arbiters of political matters in this Chamber. In my judgment, the sooner that is ended the better.
– How much of our policy is in the Government programme?
– It is not altogether what is in the programme. Honorable members know that during the currency of the last Parliament most of the legislation which was termed socialistic was never contained in any programme brought forward in the House between the time of the meeting and the close of the Parliament. Indeed, honorable members have given several notices of motion to-day which indicate the trend of events which we may expect in the course of this Parliament. We may be very sure that before the close of this session our honorable friends in the corner will take good care that, although there is not very much of Socialism in the programme of the Government, the time of the House will be taken up by the consideration of some proposals which may be fairly termed socialistic - I mean, of course, in the conventional sense of the word. I admit freely that the decision at the last election was, so far as practical legislation in this House is concerned, that preference was to be given to protection over that much greater question - in my judgment, at any rate - of sound constitutional government for Australia. I bow to that decision; any public man must bow to the decision of the electors, no matter how much- he may disagree with it. As to the mover of the AddressinReply, I only desire to say that the honorable member for Gippsland delivered a speech to which, so far as I know, no exception can be taken, beyond, perhaps, the little lecturette he felt called upon to deliver as to the preservation of those allegedly musty old forms such as we are observing at the present moment.
– Those lecturettes are a privilege of young members.
– That is so, and I should not have mentioned the matter had this been the first and not the second essay of the honorable member for Gippsland. As the honorable member for Gippsland spoke it struck me that I had heard, or read the language before in one of the morning journals of this State. I have no doubt that the honorable member, out of sheer gratitude, repeated, almost after the manner of a phonograph, statements made in a newspaper which had contributed so much to assist him to displace a man of the highest character, and certainly one of the best statesmen this country has ever produced.
– The honorable member for Parramatta did not say that when the Tariff was before the House.
– No. I am glad to be reminded by that interjection : it enables me to point out that the late member for Gippsland has not been replaced by a better protectionist ; I think I am perfectly safe in saying that, and the sequel will prove it.
– The honorable member for Parramatta will get his “ Waterloo “ if he lives long enough.
– No doubt we shall all get our “Waterloo” by-and-by. As to the seconder of the Address-in-Reply, I only desire to say that in my judgment he put in a very modest little plea for more of what is termed the new protection for the electorate of Batman. I should like to remind honorable members that Batman, the founder of Melbourne, was born in Parramatta. So far as this demand for further new protection is concerned I, at any rate, will interpose no obstacle to a free, full, and fair discussion of the matter, nor to a speedy end of. the controversy. The mover of the AddressinReply went on, in a large spacious way, to argue that the Commonwealth ought to immediately, or as early as possible, acquire for itself all the functions to which it is entitled under the Constitution. May I respectfully say in reply that a condition precedent to the clothing of the Commonwealth with the further powers to which it is lawfully entitled is the acquirement by some means or other of a greater measure of the country’s confidence. I say that advisedly. We shall get all. the functions to which we are entitled under the Constitution, without the. slightest hindrance from the States, when we have proved to the people of Australia that we can perform those functions better than they are being performed now. The first condition to a further grant of power, I take it, is to win the confidence of the country - to establish in the hearts and minds of the people that confidence which, I regret to say, does not exist at the present time. Nothing could be more damaging to the confidence which ought to exist between the States and the Commonwealth, and between the various peoples of this vast continent, than to perpetuate fiascos like that of the late mail contract negotiations. Such is not the way to win the confidence of the people of the country, and is certainly not the way to obtain the further functions to which the Commonwealth is entitled under the Constitution. In this connexion I should like to mention a little incident which occurred just prior to the last election. An Inter-State Fruit Conference was held in Sydney, and on the agenda paper there was a proposal by the Victorian delegates in favour of the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau under Federal auspices, a proposal which, before to-day, has been ably championed by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. I happened to go to the Conference in the afternoon, when I found that this question had just been discussed. I ascertained that every delegate who had spoken agreed as to the advisability of setting up a Federal Agricultural Bureau, but, strange to say, every delegate, including some of the Victorian delegates, voted against the proposal giving as their reason that they would not trust the present Federal Government with’ any further powers. If the Commonwealth is to exercise those further functions to which it is entitled under the Constitution, we must sooner or later begin to win our way to the confidence of the great bulk of the people, who, after all, are the basis of any real power which we may possess. As to the speech itself, it contains the usual catalogue of Ministerial aspirations. Everything that could possibly be thought of is placed in the programme. The Prime Minister is back from the hub of the universe, and displays to us his package of political wares, and we discern in the package many very old friends, some of which have been in Government programmes during the whole currency of Federation. The shop window is gaily dressed as of yore, and the Prime Minister appears once more in the garb of a universal political provider. This is a way which most Governments have; and the Prime Minister is following it on the present occasion. Amongst the many old friends we find reference to old-age pensions. The item is tacked on to the financial relations between the States and the Federation ; apparently old-age pensions are to be an incident of a thorough discussion of the whole of these financial relations. In my judgment, the Government is only trifling with this great question. On the last occasion the old-age pensions proposal was tacked on to a proposal for specific duties, and we, on this side, who opposed that proposal, have been amply justified by the course of events.. We pointed out then that the Federal Treasurer had underestimated his revenue. I do not want to use any hard names, but it seems to me a practice, and a pernicious practice, of our Treasurers, to undervalue the possibilities in a revenue direction.
– That is better than over- valuing.
– I remind the honorable member that huge surpluses are only a slightly lesser evil than huge deficits. We see what is going on to-day all over Australia; every Treasurer in the group is distributing largesse, and no doubt making himself popular thereby throughout the whole of the electorates.
– That does not apply to one of them.
– I believe that the Western Australian Premier is an exception.
– And so is the South’ Australian Premier.
– The Commonwealth Treasurer greatly underestimated his revenue, and his present surplus appears to be almost exactly the amount forecasted by members of the Opposition when discussing the proposal for special duties. However, I shall not deal with this matter at greater length now. In my opinion, a proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth Old-age Pensions system should not be tacked on to any other. Any Commonwealth pensions scheme should be broad-based, like the other functions of the Federal Government, on the revenues of the country, without respect to any particular ear-marking or allocation. Similarly the establishment of a High Commissionership should not be tacked on to immigration proposals. If I remember aright, that proposal was, last Parliament, tacked on to one for fostering our rural industries by the establishment of bounties. It is large enough and important enough to stand on its own merits. Reference is made in the speech to the cancellation of the mail contract, which has at last come to an inglorious end. That is what the Opposition predicted twelve months ago. No set of business men would have allowed a business proposition of the kind to dangle for so long a time. May I remind honorable members of one or two facts concerning it?
– Facts? They were rather rare in connexion with the history of this matter.
– My honorable’ and learned friend is quite right. Perhaps I should say one or two aspects of the case. The history of this affair is very curious and interesting. In the first instance, the contract was a speculative option, which, in spite of our protest at the time, was treated seriously by the Government. All business men are aware that the providing of a mail service is of supreme importance to the commercial interests of the land, and would have known that the shipping companies which in the past have been providing such a service would not readily allow a good thing fo slip from them. The fact that they were put out of the competition was, in my judgment, a reason for requiring every possible financial guarantee of the bona fides of the contractors. The first suspicious incident after the signing of the contract was the withdrawal of Messrs. Beardmore and Company from the contracting syndicate. That firm alleged that it withdrew on the ground that it had been led to believe that the Commonwealth would guarantee the debentures of the syndicate. Its withdrawal was made light of by .Mr. Croker, who has had such a marvellous influence over the Government throughout the proceedings. I do not know him, but he seems to be a very able man. At any rate, to put it vulgarly, he has “ had the loan “ of the Commonwealth Government for a whole twelve months. He immediately announced that other firms had stepped into the place vacated by Messrs. Beardmore and -Company. At this point it would have occurred to ordinary business men to make inquiries into the truth of that statement. We have, as our agent in London, Captain Collins, a keen, shrewd business man.
– He is generally six weeks behindhand with all his information.
– He cannot give information which he does not possess.
– Mr. Clarke arrived here before Captain Collins knew that he had left England.
– We must not judge Captain Collins in the same way as we judge those on the spot. The strictest inquiry should have been made as to the proof of Mr. Croker’s allegations, and the Government should have satisfied itself that other firms had taken the place of Messrs. Beardmore and Company. As a matter of fact, no other firm did so. That would have been ascertained had an inquiry been conducted with ordinary business acumen. That Ministers did not find out the truth shows that they are not possessed of that quality, or, if they knew the facts, they had no right to keep them from the people of the country. Messrs. Clarke and Esplen then appeared in Australia, and it was announced in a cablegram that they had come here to try to secure an amendment of the agreement. This was denied by them, and by the Postmaster-General as well. It was next alleged that they had come out to advise the Government in matters of naval construction in connexion with the proposal to construct a Commonwealth Navy, and the Minister of Defence publicly stated that all they were here for was to give him valuable information on that subject.
– If I made that statement, it was a true one.
– I am told that these gentlemen never have had to do with the construction of battle- ships. All through the history of this matter there has been little better than’ wilful misrepresentation on the part of our public men concerned. We were told at a later stage that Captain Collins had approved of the plans of the proposed vessels, and that the keels of some of them had been laid, and some of the materials supplied, and that the builders were only awaiting the working out of some little details. Mr. Croker then declared that the delay which was evident was being caused by- Captain Collins in his criticism of the plans. The next thing that happened was that the Minister of Trade and Customs when, in London demanded the payment of the bond of the syndicate, to which they demurred on the ground of some technical informality. When a great firm of reputed standing began to quibble on technical grounds about paying a paltry bond of .£25,000, the Government should have looked further afield. No selfrespecting firm which had definitely undertaken to carry out a contract of this kind would have demurred to the payment of their bond. On the Prime Minister arriving in England he made a further demand, to which the company replied that it would put up the money as soon as the Commonwealth guaranteed its debentures. Notwithstanding all the demands for bonds and all the guarantees which the Government were alleged to have received, are they able to say that they hold threepence in cash be- longing to the contractors?
– The Prime Minister said this afternoon that we hold £2,500 in cash, and a bond guaranteed by a bank for £25,000 more.
– Has the Government taken steps to secure the honouring of that bond ?
– The statement was made to-day that all necessary steps have been taken.
– Then we may assume that the Government intend to secure the £25,000 represented by the bond?
– That is so.
– For my part I hope that we shall never see so much muddling by Commonwealth- Ministers again, and that we shall never again see “an- Acting Prime Minister closeted with a State Cabinet, advising them to annex for themselves all the advantages of a contract which it was solemnly declared would be equally apportioned between the States.
– Does the honorable member refer to the attendance of the Acting Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference?
– I refer to his attendance at a Cabinet meeting of the Victorian Government. I hope we shall never again see a spectacle of that kind. We were promised by the Prime Minister that the States should share equally in the collateral advantages of the contract. However, that matter is over and done with.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would have been a fine thing for Australia if the contract had been carried out ?
– I said at the time that the terms were too good.
– Then we ought all to be sorry that the contract has fallen through.
– We are told by the Prime Minister that fresh tenders are to be called for, and that the late contractors may tender again. I question the desirability of the Government tying itself again to this firm, under any circumstances. If it secures the new contract, it will have been given another year to do what it has been trying to do during the past twelve months. Ministers having been once bitten should be twice shy. It will be difficult to deliberately shut out tenders, but there will be need for infinite care in the drawing up of specifications, and in connexion with the acceptance of the proposals made. I come now to more important features of the Governor-General’s Speech, and paradoxical as it may seem, the important features of this speech are the omissions from it. What is not in the speech is of infinitely more consequence to Australia than are the items which it contains. I hope to refer to one or two of these matters in a few moments.
– It is remarkable to find anything omitted from the speech.
– There are several very important omissions. The Prime Minister went to London to attend an Imperial Conference. Nothing could exceed the importance of a delegation such as that, and the honorable gentleman, I venture to say. went under circumstances as favorable - so far as the attitude of the public of the Commonwealth was concerned - as those under which any man ever proceeded upon an important embassage. The Prime Minister and his colleague have now come back. They had a right royal good time in the mother country. It is true that they went under some disabilities - I mean, of course, representative disabilities - which were pointed out at the time very clearly by my honorable friend the member for Flinders.
– What were they?
– The Prime Minister differed from other Prime Ministers who attended the Conference in that he did not represent a majority of the Parliament he was supposed to represent. I speak of his disabilities in a purely representative sense. Nobody will question the display of consummate ability by which the Prime Minister distinguished himself at that Conference. And I say that, in spite of those disabilities, he displayed splendid powers of speech, which must entitle him on personal grounds to the highest commendation of all. He was qualified to do this. He stands, I suppose, almost alone in those powers of oratory which appeal to the imaginations of people, and they made him a great figure even when his representative disabilities were so enormous. He is amiable to the last degree. If we term him “ Alfred the Great,” it should be because of his great amiability and his great powers of speech. To be quite accurate, I should not forget his political suppleness, which renders him so great a favorite, and which sometimes makes it very difficult to understand exactly what he means. These qualifications, I apprehend, would help rather than hinder him in the mission which he undertook. Of course, he found himself in a new environment in London, and his political associations changed with the change of his sphere. He foregathered there, not with the Labour part - I have never heard of his paying them a visit-
– Yes, he did.
– Did they entertain him at lunch? Did they fete him? Nearly ev;,1 V other section of the public men of London did : and I venture to say that altogether he found himself in very much more congenial surroundings than he does here.
– He had two or three interviews with Mr: John Burns.
– He was a new man in a new world. He had no Socialist corner to conciliate there. He was free to let himself go as the representative of all classes and of all sections, and the result was the “ deep water “ speech. Of course that has been explained. The honorable gentleman could explain anything, so great are his powers in that direction. He experiences no difficulty whatever in making explanations of that kind. He talked most brilliantly. The Minister of Trade and Customs says that he never heard him speak so brilliantly before. I wish to say that, with all his disabilities, he had need to talk eloquently and brilliantly. He did so. He talked himself into a conspicuous place amongst all his compeers in the great and distinguished gathering to which he went. What was the result of that talk? He told the people in Ballarat that he had set the ‘busmen in London talking. He did not supply the explanation of that talk amongst the ‘busmen ; that was afterwards supplied by the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is much more frank in these matters. He says that the ‘busmen cursed and raged violently. Why? Because Ministers whizzed by them in a motorcar, and poor cabby was left without his fare.
– Where did I say that?
– In Sydney.
– No, I did not.
– My sympathies are very largely with poor cabby, who did not get his fare. It does not seem quite fair that these great champions of democracy in Australia - most of all the Minister of Trade and Customs - should whizz in a motor-car past poor cabmen without condescending to give them a fare. Of course, both the Prime Minister and his colleague have brought back “impressions” of the mother country. The Minister of Trade and Customs says that he was six weeks in London, but did not have time to enter a train.
– I did not say that. I said that I never entered a tram.
– I take it that the Minister entered some trains, but not the underground ones. He was too busy navigating - so busy that he had no time for anything else. But he has brought back a most vivid impression of Great Britain. He declares that it is in a bad way. He was there a whole six weeks, during which he never travelled in a tram, and was hardly out of his motor-car, yet he is quite certain that England is in a bad way. Not ‘only so, but he has brought back im- pressions of Great Britain’s public men. Mr. Balfour is his beau ideal.
– Who said so?
– The great champion of the House of Lords and the landlords of Great Britain is his beau ideal of a statesman. Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, the man of all the public men of Great Britain who most nearly approaches the Minister, so far as his democratic purposes are revealed, is the man whom he found was “ not up to much at all.” The Minister declares that Sir Henry CampbellBannerman actually reads his speeches. It struck me as peculiar that the Minister should make use of an expression of that kind concerning the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The idea of the Minister of Trade and Customs, of all men, accusing the Prime Minister of Great Britain of reading his own speeches ! Does the Minister forget that when he was Treasurer in New South Wales I pulled him up on two occasions for reading his speeches?
– But he was not Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– But he thought he ought to* be. . I have yet to learn that, it is a crime to compose a speech and to read it. Of course, the best man he met in the old country was Mr. Lloyd George, and he proceeds to offer the explanation of this fact. It appears that at the Navigation Conference Mr. Lloyd George gave him most of the concessions for which he asked, and, being the most benevolent gentleman with whom he had to deal, the Minister naturally comes back with the impression that Mr. Lloyd George is the very greatest statesman in the British Empire. Of course, it is very difficult indeed to criticise the Prime Minister and his actions amid the glamour and shimmer and shine - shall I say glory - in which he is now enveloped. But, in my judgment, he made one or two serious mistakes. The honorable gentleman told us that he did not interpose in party politics in Great Britain. I have read some of his speeches, and I am quite unable to acquit him of interposition. He did interpose, and he did deliver party speeches. One in particular, the so-called Baltic speech., was from beginning to end a long-drawn-out jeer at Mr. Asquith ‘s speech in the Conference. The Prime Minister had his audience crying shame on Mr. Asquith. That was no part of his function. He was not sent home to do that.
– Mr. Asquith supplied some pretty good facts.
– I am not deal-, ing with the merits of the case at all, but it did seem to me that the Prime Minister transgressed in making such a speech as that which he delivered before the gentlemen who foregathered at the Baltic Exchange. It was that speech which supplied the reason for Mr. Churchill’s somewhat rude remarks at Edinburgh, or Glasgow, when he spoke of having “ banged the door in the face of the Colonial Premiers “ on the question of preference. That address was a reply to the Prime Minister’s speech at the Baltic Exchange, and when we realize that, we understand the reason for the somewhat bitter feeling which sprang up at that particular time. However, I have no desire to dwell upon that episode. The Prime Minister, when in London, confessed himself disappointed with the work of the Imperial Conference, so far as its actual results were concerned. But the moment he reached Australia, he practically said, “ We have done more good than will ever be realized.” That was a great change in sentiment and attitude. Of course, he had in the meantime been transported 12,000 miles. The Minister of Trade and Customs, when on the other side of the world, just as plainly expressed his disappointment with the result of the Conference, but the moment he returned to Australia, and found the people greeting him in a representative capacity, he began to discover that he and his colleagues had done very good work. I now wish to ask the Prime Minister some questions relating to the Imperial Conference. I think that we have a legitimate right - now that the shouting and the tumult which very properly greeted the honorable gentleman upon his return, has died away - to apply our critical faculties to the work of that body, and to interrogate the Prime Minister concerning some of his actions there, and some of the work which was performed. In His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech there is but a vague reference - if, indeed, there can be said to be any reference whatever - to the work of the Imperial Conference, and so it is to the Prime Minister’s statements, since his advent to Australia, that we must turn’to ascertain what really took place. The honorable and learned gentleman the other day declared the Imperial Conference to be “a new creation for Imperial purposes.” After stating that the mother land had taken the first important step of calling to her counsels representatives of her Dominions, and treating them on a footing of equality, he went on to say that “ this is valuable, because it makes us a sharer of those powers which the mother country exclusively possesses.” In respect to this point, I should like to ask the Prime Minister one or two questions, and I hope that he will not regard them as being put in a factious spirit or for purely party purposes. There are some matters that are beyond the scale of party warfare, as such, and I therefore hope that the Prime Minister will give a little attention to the questions which, simply to make the issues plain, I now propose to put to him. What is this new creation of which he speaks? The Conference was the third held in London at which representatives from oversea Dominions were present and took part. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether this “ new creation for Imperial purposes “ is intended to supersede any of the older powers which we possess, and which we have found so valuable in the working out of our destiny in these oversea Dominions. The question is of the gravest consequence, and we ought to know exactly what is being done. The Prime Minister, however, does not tell us, except in the most vague and general terms, what he means by the setting up of this new creation which is to exercise such extraordinary powers. What is our present position? We have absolute autonomy. We are working out our own destiny as seems best to us, nobody questioning what we do except now and again when, perhaps for high Imperial purposes, some action is taken to which we afterwards cordially assent upon just reason being always shown. That is the only hindrance that we suffer. We are absolutely independent and free to exercise all the powers and functions given to us by the conferment of our Constitution. Our present relations with the mother country are in every way satisfactory. There never was such a flood tide of loyalty throughout the Australian States as there is to-day. The same, indeed, may be said of the whole Empire. The Empire is welded together to-day, as never before, in the highest and surest of all bonds - the bond of mutual loyalty to every part of the Dominion. Then, sir, our powers extend even to the control of the commerce sought to be carried on with us by the mother country itself. In other words, we are permitted to exercise our powers of independent government to such an extent as to tax the products of the mother country brought to our shores. That itself is a new branch of Imperial power given, shall I say, to daughter States - a grant that has never hitherto been known in the history of the world - and I should like, by the way, to say that as soon as we have dealt with the motion now before us we are going to put this taxing power into active and vigorous operation. Then, again, we have a Torrens title to the whole of this vast continent - a Torrens title given to us by the Imperial Government. In addition to that we exercise, and are proud to exercise, to-day all the privileges resulting from the consular services of the Empire, services which some of us when we go abroad do not appreciate as we ought to do. All these are given to us .without the payment of a penny. We have undisputed possession of this Continent, unrestricted freedom in its development, and are guarded by the Imperial fleet while we proceed. What are we to gain by “this new creation”? The Prime Minister may have in his mind some proposal for the conservation of these privileges, and indeed, for their expansion. If so, will he tell us what it is?
– Is the honorable member referring to the Imperial Conference?
– I am referring to the proposal which the Prime Minister describes as “ a new creation for Imperial purposes.” The term is so large and vague that it is incumbent upon him in his position of responsibility to the people of Australia to tell us exactly what he means. Is it intended to curtail any of the powers and privileges that we now possess, or to extend, amplify, and conserve them? If the honorable and learned gentleman, when he speaks of a; new creation for Imperial purposes, has in mind the new Secretariat, I do not quite concede the aptness of the language employed by him. I should like to hear some definite meaning given to his statement, and as one in search of information, I appeal to him to say what benefit we shall obtain by the transference of our relations with the Home Government from the Colonial Office to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Does the honorable and learned gentleman expect a larger grant of powers and privileges, or does he anticipate that our present privileges will be facilitated by our views regarding treaties directly concerning these islands receiving better treatment? What happens now?
When we make our representations to the British Government, they go to the Colonial Office. Does the Prime Minister think for one instant that such representations are disposed of without reference to the British Cabinet? 1 am sure that the Prime Minister of Great Britain is consulted in regard to every important matter relating to these oversea Dominions.
– He ought to be, if he is not.
– Quite so, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will not deny that he is. That being so, what shall we gain by being able to go direct to the Prime Minister of Great Britain? If we sent Home an important document concerning, say, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, or in relation to any of those perplexing questions so near to our door, what would the Prime Minister do with it? Would he not refer it to the Colonial Office? It is the Colonial Office which supplies information and makes recommendations to the British Cabinet concerning such matters. I am therefore unable to see that the mere transference of these questions to the Prime Minister will mean any actual advantage to us. I know that the proposal is part and parcel of the sentiment whichis expressed in the phrase that the Conference has been a meeting of nation with nation instead of a gathering of subordinate peoples with superior peoples, as has hitherto been the case. I mean of course, in a purely official sense; but I have yet to learn that, so far as any actual advantage is concerned, our dealing direct with the Prime Minister of Great Britain will facilitate the business which we have to transact with the Home Government. The new Secretariat can of itself do nothing. It has been clothed with no executive function; it will have no representative character. I understand that it is merely to collect and col- late information. If that is to be its sole duty, it occurs to me that a branch of the Colonial Office could do the work equally well. Having regard to the character of the work to be performed, and the facilities already existing for its performance, I was not surprised to find Sir Wilfrid Laurier in opposition to my honorable and learned friend, so far as this matter is concerned.
– Would the honorable member like to see the Secretariat clothed with executive authority ?
– I am afraid that that question might be more usefully answered by some one a hundred years hence.
– I should not like to see it.
– The question can be answered when time has permitted the evolution of events - when we have grown into a nation. It is impossible to say what the future may unfold for us in the way of closer Imperial relations, and whether an Imperial Council, having a common legislative authority, will finally be set up. I do not expect in my time to see any such creation, but I desire to know whether that is the ultimate objective of the new creation to which the Prime Minister refers. Meantime Iask whether the Secretariat will do for us in London anything which the Agents-General, or the High Commissioner to be appointed, could not do. What are these officers for but to collect and collate information of advantage to every part of Australia as well as to every other portion of the King’s dominions? I shall be glad, however, to hear that the Secretariat has to subserve a function of some practical and not merely theoretical value to Australia. If the Prime Minister means that there was established at the Conference the principle of common consultations at certain recurring periods and places, then, beyond the possibility of doubt, I shall admit that something has been gained for us. I should not, however, exaggerate its importance in the way that the Prime Minister, in the full flush and heyday of his return, is disposed to do. He has told us that this new creation is only the beginning - that the first step only has been taken. What are the other steps or stages and where will they ultimately lead us? Before we take even a first step we ought to know the direction in which we are trending, and I hope to hear from the Prime Minister a statement that the direction which he proposes is such as will comport with the preservation of our autonomous powers.
– If the honorable member will pardon me I should like to say that I have received to-day a cablegram informing me that a consultation is being held with respect to, a proposal made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier as to the “ All-red route.” One set of proposals goes to the British Cabinet and the other - that relating to the cost and value of the proposal to New Zealand and Australia if the route be extended through the Pacific - is being threshed out. That is the kind of action that I contemplate.
– We shall all be delighted with action of that kind, and we can only hope that the fullest explanation will be given.
– Hear, hear ! That is a new development.
– I think the Prime Minister will admit that our efforts in that direction have not been particularly successful. There is, for* instance, the Vancouver service, which has not developed to anything like the extent we expected. Nor can it be said that we have yet secured from the Pacific Cable all that we expected. If the Prime Minister can assure us that we are to obtain from the Secretariat better official machinery for dealing with matters of this kind I shall say at once that the achievement is a very valuable one. But is that all he proposes to do? For instance, does he propose to take any step which will bring us nearer to a common trade within the Empire? If there is one man more than another who has emphasized the absolute necessity for this in any grand Imperial scheme, it is the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada. A little while before going to the Imperial Conference, Sir Wilfrid Laurier gave expression to his views on the matter, and it is a thousand pities that we had not an opportunity to hear our Prime Minister before he left our shores. I venture to say that such an utterance would have helped him in the conduct of affairs in England, and would certainly have enabled us to much better understand the trend of events there. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, speaking in regard to the Imperial Conference, just before going Home, said : -
There could be no Imperial union unless a Grand Parliament representing it had power to enact fiscal legislation for all divisions of the Empire, or unless an absolute system of freetrade was established between its component parts.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier is not alone in that idea. All those who have studied the question earnestly have come to see that we can have complete consolidation of the Empire, only on the basis of a common trade and a common defence. These, it seems to me, are the two fundamentals.
– How much does Canada contribute towards the Imperial Navy ?
– Nothing. I am not putting Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s view as to that point, on which he did not touch ; I simply say that the more I look into the matter, the more it seems to me that we can have no Imperial Union - I am not arguing whether Imperial Union is right or wrong, advisable or otherwise - unless by means of a common trade within the Empire, and a common defence of that Empire. One proposal of the Prime Minister at the Conference appeals to me very strongly ; I refer to his proposal for a slight Imperial duty for the purpose of Imperial Defence. I think it was the late Cecil Rhodes who first threw out that idea over twenty years ago.
– It was Hofmeyr.
– I think it was Cecil Rhodes who was the originator of the idea. I remember reading about twenty-five years ago a proposal made by Rhodes that there should be an Imperial duty of, I think, 2 per cent., and I am bound to say that this is an idea which appeals strongly to my mind. What steps are to be taken in the evolutions which are to follow, in the direction of a common Legislature’ for the Empire ? Is the ideal to be a common Legislature for the Empire, or, as Mr. Bryce put it the other day, common legislation for common purposes by the various sections of the Empire? The distinction is very broad - one preserves ‘ our absolute autonomy, while the other, it seems to me, absolutely, surrenders it. These are the two ideals, and I should like the Prime Minister to make a definite statement as to what is to be done in this respect. If there is to be a common legislative authority our autonomy, must go, and no Australian is prepared, I think, to surrender our autonomy at the present time. If it is to be legislation of a common character by the various portions of the Empire, that is more feasible. It would preserve our autonomy, though, at the same time, it would originate some very, awkward problems for us to solve. For instance, would Australia be prepared to-day to permit outlying portions of the Empire in any legislative fashion, or even by way of recommendation or veto, to have anything to do with our immigration restriction legislation, or interfere in our relations with the islands in our immediate vicinity? No Australian would, I think, be prepared to permit an outlying portion of the Empire to seriously trench on our legislative domain in these matters. But that, I take it, is the ideal which the Prime Minister set up when in England; at any rate, it is the idea of Lord Milner, whom the Prime Minister seems to take as his great exemplar in regard to Imperial questions. Every advance towards Imperial control must necessarily mean the modification of our autonomous powers. The practical question we have to put to ourselves is this - will this modification of our autonomous powers lead, in the main result, to an amplification or an increase in the scope of the beneficial influence of those autonomous powers which we possess to-day ? That is the problem ; and I desire to hear the Prime Minister make himself clear on the matter, so that we may understand exactly what he has done, and what he means by the creation of this new order of affairs. Are we to advance towards a common defence of the Empire? If we are to believe Mr. Haldane, the recent Imperial Conference has clone a great deal in this direction. Speaking the other day, Mr. Haldane waxed very warm on the matter, and said, amongst other things, that the Premiers had come to the conclusion that the forces of the Empire could be welded to a large extent into one. That is a very serious statement, which means much, and I should like to hear from the Prime Minister how far it is correct as applied to the work of the recent Conference. Speaking of the Imperial Staff, which he declared to be not a staff for the British purposes alone, but for the forces of the whole Empire, Mr. Haldane said : -
The Premiers had come to the conclusion that the forces of the Empire could be welded to a large extent into one.
An interchange of officers, in my opinion, is to be commended in every way. But our position lately has been somewhat antagonistic to anything of the kind. We sent away an Imperial officer before he had time to do what he should have done for the efficiency of our forces. Since then we have not taken the slightest trouble to get other Imperial officers to advise us. We rely, I take it, on General Hoad, whom I do not know, but whom I believe to be an excellent officer. I do not think, however, that General Hoad would have us believe that his attainments are equal to the best military ability in England.
– He might be better than an Imperial officer.
– No doubt he might be a great deal better, but we desire to be assured of that. I take leave to think that General Hoad is not better, and in saying that I hope I shall not be misunderstood. I have nothing whatever to say against General Hoad, whom I believe to be an able and valuable officer; but in the matter of the defence of the Empire we ought to be able, irrespective of localities or local conditions of any kind, to command the best ability available within the Empire.
– In every State for years past Imperial officers have been imported to teach Australian officers, and surely some of the latter must have learned something by this time?
– I hope a step forward has been taken towards obtaining the best teaching ability of Great Britain.
– We have been taking such steps for many years.
– I take leave to doubt even that. I think we have been getting just what we paid for.
– Good salaries were paid to most of them.
– Yes, but we could have got better men if we had paid much higher salaries - the honorable member will not controvert that.
– I do not ‘know enough about the matter to do so.
– I do not think we have been getting the best ability in the Empire for the training of our Forces. If any step in the direction I have suggested is taken, I should welcome it, and I should like to know from the Prime Minister what it is that is proposed and what is the - shall I use the word? - objective in regard to the common defence of the Empire. I should also like the Prime Minister to explain what seems to me an anomaly in connexion with this matter. Mr. Haldane says that we are go ing a step towards organizing a scientific system of Imperial Defence in the direction of a unitary control of the Army. It seems to me, however, that we are departing from that principle in regard to the Navy, though, again, I say I speak subject to the correction of the Prime Minister. While the honorable gentleman seems anxious to go with Mr. Haldane in any scheme to unify our Army control, he does not seem to take the same view in regard to the Navy, the control of which, I submit, is of more serious importance to Australia.
– Both the proposals are on the same lines. Of course, the honorable member for Parramatta is speaking under the disadvantage that, until next week, he will not have the advantage of the reports of the Conference. I hope that next week we shall have those reports.
– We do not need to wait for the reports. I take it that the Prime Minister knows exactly what he did in Great Britain, and can make the matter clear. In regard to the naval proposals, if anything the Prime Minister has done will insure for us a common purpose in regard to the navies of the Empire - a common plan, a common type of vessel, and a common command in war time - he will not find any difficulty on this side of the House, so far as I know ; he certainly will not find me in opposition to anything he proposes if he will preserve those essentials of what I take to be an efficient naval defence of the Empire. There is only one other point to which I desire to refer in this connexion. The Prime Minister has said that we are to share further in the powers of the Empire, in powers which now belong exclusively to Great Britain. I ask the Prime Minister this question - does that mean that we are to be sharers of the cost as well as of the powers? Power means cost, and if we are to become sharers in those great powers which are now in Great Britain’s exclusive possession, are we also to share the cost which the sharing of the powers involves? Lord Milner, speaking the other day, referred to this matter in this way :
Once establish the principle of common deliberation about external affairs, or even only about external affairs directly . affecting one or more of the colonies, and you are bound to face the problem of what I may call mutual insurance.
I take that to mean that if we are to pos sess those ampler powers and control which the Executive of Great Britain now exercise exclusively, we must share the cost also. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister subscribes to that doctrine, because it seems to me the logical sequence to our coming into the possession of the ampler powers to which he referred in those splendid speeches of his. I desire here to make allusion to the supreme importance for Australia of the Naval Agreement now in existence, and in regard to this I should like the Prime Minister to be as explicit as possible. In the old country the Prime Minister was explicit enough ; there was no doubt about his voice there. He spoke in resonant tones, as to which there could be no possibility of mistake, of his intentions in regard to a Naval Agreement. But since he has come back to Australia we have not been able to get him to make a definite statement on this important matter. Why ? Does he find his proposal not so popular as it seemed in London? Nothing could be more ludicrous or - I use the word again - tortuous than the course of the Government in regard to this supreme matter of the Naval Defence of Australia. It is only four years since the present agreement was made, and when made, its purpose as set out in the preamble of the Bill which we passed, was to secure unitary control of the naval defence of the Empire. There was to be one control, one discipline, one drill. The Government of the day consisted largely of the Ministers who form the present Administration, though the then Prime Minister has been translated to another sphere of action. Those Ministers subscribed to the principle which I have enunciated. Ever since, however, they have followed a more or less tortuous political course. The Treasurer has avowed himself one of the warmest advocates of the Imperial Navy, and in a memorandum which he submitted, he affirmed that if we paid as large a contribution to the upkeep of the Australian Squadron as we ought to pay, our share of the burden would amount to £5,000,000. He argued strongly that there should be one navy and one control, and condemned in unqualified terms the proposal for the building of an Australian Navy. He said -
I am not prepared to recommend, under existing conditions, the establishment of an Australian Navy. Even if it were established, I am afraid it would not be very efficient no change for the officers and crews, who would go on year after year in the same ships, subject to the same influences, and, I fear, with deteriorating effects. There is only one sea to be supreme over, and we want one fleet to be mistress over that sea.
That was the right honorable gentleman’s statement four years ago. But since he has been a member of the present Government he has been playing with the question, and has been making statements to the country of a very doubtful character. This course, I take it, has been ended by the straight-out declaration of the Prime Minister, made in London, that he is prepared to move for the cancellation of the Naval Agreement. From time to time, Ministers have given answers to questions put to them by honorable members, and furnished information on the subject of the Naval Agreement which, to say the least, were of an unsatisfactory character. The Minister of Defence declared the other day that nine-tenths of the people of Australia are in favour of an Australian Navy. Does he mean that nine-tenths of the Australian people are opposed to the maintenance of the present Naval Agreement? That is the point. They may be in favour of the establishment of an Australian Navy. I do not know any man who is opposed to it. But the honorable gentleman is trying to throw dust in the eyes of the public in making these random statements. We are all in favour of doing something for our own defence, but the question is, shall what is to be done be the alternative of, or supplementary to, the present arrangement?
– Can we find much for the establishment of a local fleet, in addition to paying a subsidy of £200,000 a year for the maintenance of the Imperial Navy ?
– The honorable member, when the Prime Minister last year told us that he proposed to spend £35°>°00 per annum on our own defence, in addition ‘ to the present subsidy of £200,000, a total expenditure of £550,000, took part in a dialogue-
– The honorable member for Bland asked the Prime Minister to do without the £200,000, but the latter refused.
– My honorable friend is very keen on these matters.
– He shows keenness without breadth.
– The honorable member for Bland no doubt spoke jocularly, because if any man in the House has studied the question of Naval Defence, it is the honorable member for Wentworth. We should be told by the Prime Minister whether the Government’s proposals for an Australian Navy are to dovetail in with the scheme of Imperial Naval control, and if so, to what extent. We wish to know what his proposals are. It has been laid down by all the experts that the first essentials of effective naval warfare are unitary control, common drill, and a common type of battle-ship. It is of supreme importance that an Admiral in war time should understand his ships, and his men, as otherwise the consequences may be disastrous to all concerned. Lord Milner makes the position very clear in the following statement: -
Without a common understanding or any arrangement for mutual help, Colonial Defence Forces may become a burden out. of ail proportion to their utility.
He there .follows the expert opinion of the Empire, and I am anxious that the Prime Minister shall make it clear whether he proposes to derogate from the principle of unitary control in time of war. The Prime Minister has declared that the Naval Agreement is unpopular in Australia. I quote his remarks from a report which appeared in the Age, because that report is a little fuller than some of the others, and because I am sure that that journal would not willingly misrepresent him. It states that: -
Before the Conference rose, a most important announcement was made with regard to the Australian Navy by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Lord Tweedmouth stated that, as the result of several interviews with the Australian delegates to the Conference -
I take it that the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the responsibility for this report because he was the Australian delegate, and as the plural number is used, the Minister of Trade and Customs seems to be included- he was now able to summarize the British Admiralty’s decisions. As far as Australia and New Zealand were concerned, the Admiralty would be willing to leave the continuance of the present subsidy entirely in their hands, leaving them to do whatever they thought best. He realized that Australia did not favour the present mode of contribution. Mr. Deakin, following him, stated that, assuming Sir Joseph Ward’s consent, he would ask the Commonwealth Parliament to terminate the agreement with Great Britain, and apply the subsidy to secure the harbors and coastal ports.
I do not believe that Australia is anxious to cancel the Naval Agreement, or that it is unpopular. I am of opinion that if the mind of Australia could be ascertained, it would be in favour of contributing more, and not less, to the upkeep of the Imperial Navy, and that altogether apart from any. proposal for the construction of an “Australian Navy. I have never heard any one declare himself to be opposed to the Naval Agreement, with the exception of a few whose views are set forth by a prominent Victorian newspaper, and who include Captain Creswell. If the opinion of the Australian people could be ascertained tomorrow, we should, I believe, get a short, sharp, and emphatic affirmation of the desirability of continuing the Naval Agree- ment. The question has been somewhat prejudiced by the interference of irresponsible persons, who have from time to time made suggestions as to our contribution and line of conduct in this matter. A little while ago, an Admiral who had been on the Australian station declared that we should contribute at least £500,000, and not twelve months since the Times published the opinion that we should contribute not less than £1,000,000. Sir Frank Swettenham, following our own Treasurer, thinks that we should pay £5,000,000 per annum. I am emphatically of the opinion that these meddlers should keep out of the business. Their interference does no good, and vitiates a question which ought to be dealt with in a calm, rational way.
– Is the New South Wales Premier one of the meddlers ?
– I think that he is.
– The Premier of a State has a right to speak for its people, and to say what their attitude is regarding a question of this kind.
– What he thinks their attitude to be.
– Precisely. That is all that any man can do. The Prime Minister can say only that he thinks that the Naval Agreement is unpopular with our people, while I. say that I think it is popular. We learn that the proposals of the Government are to be of a progressive character. That is stated in the Governor-General’s Speech. It is proposed that, ten years hence, we shall have obtained for ourselves a mosquito fleet which will be able to defend our large ports and to prevent an enemy from landing on our coasts. But I venture to say that, while we may make half-a-dozen of our large ports secure, we shall not have prevented the possibility of an enemy’s fleet raiding our shores and landing men upon them. Our coast-line is far too extensive for any such measure as that to be of an effective character. Indeed, speaking in Sydney a little while ago, the Prime Minister himself seemed to realize this. Here is a quotation from a journal called The Patriot, which, I understand, was circulated very freely by Ministers during the recent elections, and which it is said enjoyed special facilities for transmission through the Post Office. I do not know with what justification that statement is made, but it is alleged that the postal authorities looked with a verykind and considerate eye upon this particular newspaper.
– It could not have obtained more facilities than were enjoyed by free-trade organizations in New South Wales.
– I expect that before this debate closes we shall hear something about those facilities.
– Certainly they got as many facilities as they could reasonably expect.
– Apparently The Patriot did - at least rumour says so. That, however, is a matter which will be cleared up at a later stage. According to The Patriot the Prime Minister declared -
A country which is unpeopled must necessarily be undefended, and when we look at the vast north of this country, we behold a vast menace to the whole of our Continent. . . . There is little that makes Northern Australia ours except the British flag and the British fleet.
I venture to say that that is a correct estimate of the position of affairs here. There is nothing that will make Northern Australia ours but the British fleet in close proximity to our shores. Under the Government proposals we are to get a fleet of our own in ten years, but meantime our commerce is expanding by leaps and bounds. I wish now to put my view of the matter of our contribution under the Imperial Naval Agreement. Our commerce is expanding by leaps and bounds, and there is an old saying that “ the fatter the lamb the stouter must be the fence.” If that be the case with regard to our commerce to-day, the practical question arises - “ Shall we make the security of Australian commerce and Australian soil greater or less by cancelling the Naval Agreement ?” That is the only practical question we ought to face and answer. If we could guarantee to our commerce the same security that it enjoys now, I admit that the Prime Minister might make out a good case for the cancellation of the Agreement. The matter appeals to me in this way : This proposal is merely one to defend our shores. Captain Creswell admits that - no one more definitely and readily. He recommends -
A defence not designed as a force for action against hostile fleets or squadrons, which is the province of the Imperial fleet, but as a line necessary to us within the defence line of the Imperial fleet - a purely defensive line, that will give security to our naval bases, popular centres, principal ports, and commerce.
In everything but the last statement there is room for argument. Personally I cannot see how it is possible that any fleet such as Captain Creswell proposes can defend our commerce.
– I think that he merely aims at protecting Inter-State trade.
– Just so; but even the protection of that trade cannot be assured by a fleet such as he proposes. I am fortified in this opinion by the judgment of the best naval experts of the Empire. So the question resolves itself into this : are we going to continue to allow the Imperial Navy to police our commerce on the high seas whilst we pay not a cent towards its upkeep?
– Where are those republican speeches of the honorable member?
– The honorable member is at liberty to find them if he can. I hope that he will presently say what he has to say, and allow me to proceed. I -am quite sure that he will have plenty to say by-and-by, and if he will allow me to give him a little advice, it is that, as a new member, he will not do himself any harm by treating other honorable members as he should. What is the position with regard to our commerce to-day ? One-fourth of our commerce never touches the shores of Great Britain. One-fourth of the commerce of the Empire is between British possessions and foreign countries, and never goes near Imperial shores. One-half of the total trade of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and India, is with foreign countries. Similarly one-fourth of the British trade is with foreign countries of the world. These facts may be gleaned by a perusal of the Admiralty memorandum which was submitted on the occasion of the last Conference of Premiers. I am indebted for them to a pamphlet which was issued some time ago by the honorable and learned member for Angas. One-half of our trade, I repeat, is not done with Great Britain, but with foreign countries. Who is to continue to police that trade? Is it to go undefended in its track across the ocean to find its markets in foreign countries, or are we to rely on the Imperial Navy to protect it?. If we are to rely upon that Navy, are we so mean as to allow it to perform that duty without receiving any consideration from us ? The proposals of the Government relate to coastal defence, and that coastal defence would be of little use if once the Imperial Navy were destroyed on the high seas. But admitting that it would be effective in defending our large ports, and in protecting us from hostile raids, there yet remains the policing of the commerce which leaves our shores, which is valued at over ^100,000,000 per annum, and which is advancing by leaps and bounds. The least that we can do is to continue our present contribution, if we do not increase it, towards the protection of that commerce. There is another aspect of this matter which we ought to take into consideration. I refer to the menace which is gradually closing in around us, to the intricate and difficult problems of statesmanship which are looming up in regard to the control of our islands. Do we remember that already there are 30,000 Indians in Fiji, and that very many more are expected there shortly? The Fijian is dying out rapidly. Do we remember that only the other day 3,000 Chinese were landed in Samoa by the German Government? The Chinese are flocking to New Britain, the Solomon Islands are being peopled by the Javanese. Altogether these islands are being taken possession of by other nations, and Asiatics are being crowded into them by Governments over whom we have not an atom of control. To decrease our contribution towards making our security as great as it is possible to make it, in view of this Asiatic menace, would be the acme of folly. I shall not weary the House further. There are some other matters to which I should have liked to refer. I will only say that we have a large empty continent here, and in view of the overcrowded state of the other countries of the world, a large empty fertile continent becomes a menace to ourselves and a constant temptation to people outside. It is no bogy to say that we shall soon be compelled to take further steps for our security by attracting a larger population, and by initiating a more efficient system of defence than we have to-day. Taking a broad view of the matter, therefore, I conclude that this is not a time when we should cease our contribution under the Imperial Naval Agreement, notwithstanding that we propose to take such steps as we may deem feasible to defend our ports and to prevent hostile raids upon our continent. Concerning the remainder of the Vice-Regal Speech, and the proposals of the Government, I have only to say that if in the prosecution of their programme, the Ministry will treat honorable members of the Opposition fairly, they will receive fair treatment in return.’ I do not think that any honorable member upon this side of the House has the slightest desire to prolong the session beyond the moment when it may reasonably be closed. But we do expect fair treatment from the Government, and if we get it, they will receive reciprocal treatment. I trust that, as scon as possible, they will bring forward that measure which they urge as the supreme reason for their occupancy of the Treasury benches, so that it may be disposed of after reasonable discussion and fair, considerate treatment, and so that the way may be clear for such a rearrangement of parties in this House as shall, in some measure, bring to it that dignity, status, and confidence which this branch of the Commonwealth Parliament ought certainly to possess.
– I, have no complaint to utter against the tone of the speech which has just been delivered by the acting leader of the Opposition. lt is very pleasing to’ know that he is in a better frame of mind than he has sometimes been. I am quite sure that the good feeling which he has expressed will be reciprocated by the Government. Before I deal with one or two matters to which he has referred, I wish to say on behalf of the Ministry - if I may be permitted to do so - that we exceedingly regret the reason which has been given for the absence of the leader of the Opposition. I speak personally, and I say that I regret it as much as does anybody. The honorable member for Parramatta commenced his speech by declaring that the Government represented a ‘minority of the House, and that there was a huge majority in this Chamber which is opposed to Socialism. Before he dealt with that question, which has been so much debated, and which is so much misunderstood, I should have liked to ask him to define what he means by “ Socialism.” I have been called a Socialist.
– The Minister has called himself one.
– To a certain extent I am a State Socialist, and so is every honorable member. The only exception that I know of is the honorable and learned member for Parkes. Practically, Ave are all Socialists - it is merely a question of degree. I warn honorable members op- posite that they must be very careful how they employ the word “ socialism,” because I noticed the other day that a very influential newspaper in Sydney had been heavily fined for applying that term to a certain individual. Evidently the press are not going to be allowed the extreme latitude which they have hitherto enjoyed in the use of that term. Consequently, I advise honorable members opposite to take care. I venture to think that since it has been in office, the Government has not induced Parliament to pass one Act which will not be approved by a majority of the people of this country. That being so, how can it be said that the Government does not represent the people? I hold a very different opinion from that expressed by the honorable member as to the use of the word “majority,” and as to the absolute necessity for having only two parties in this House. No one can point to a Parliament where the parties are so limited, and we certainly have not reached the millennium in Australia. So long as the Government are able to bring forward useful measures and secure a vote in their favour in this House, the electors will be protected, and the will of the country will be expressed whether there be two or twenty parties in the Legislature. I was glad to hear the deputy leader of the Opposition express the hope that we should speedily discuss and deal with the Tariff question, and I indorse everything that he had to say in that regard. I cannot say exactly when the Tariff resolutions will be submitted, but at an early date, at all events, Parliament will be asked to deal with them. Everything will depend upon the time occupied by honorable members in dealing with the question, but I may say at once that there will be no delay on the part of my Department or of the Ministry in preparing the proposals for the House. I am likewise glad to have the assurance of the Chairman of the Tariff Commission that, despite what’ has been said by some one else, he will give me every possible assistance in dealing with the Tariff. I shall need all the assistance that I can, secure in order to be able to deal satisfactorily with one of the most difficult matters that could be considered by a Parliament. In this connexion I desire to say that if I have my way our proposals will embody something in the direction of what is known as the new protection. My own view is that we should have all-round protection for every section of the community, and last year I sought in one or two measures to give effect to that principle.
– The Government require to deal with the starch -makers.
– I hope that we shall deal fairly with every one. The deputy leader of the Opposition made some reference to a conference of fruitgrowers, at which he was present. If my memory serves me rightly, he introduced to me some time ago a deputation from that gathering.
– I was referring to another conference.
– Perhaps I was not in office at the time, and that will explain why I am not acquainted with the matters to which he refers. The honorable member devoted much attention to the work of the Imperial Conference, and to the question of defence. I venture to think that at the recent conferences in London we achieved quite as much as most members of the Opposition expected. Without going into details as to the work of the Imperial Conference - a matter which will probably be dealt with by the Prime Minister - I desire to say that although the principle of preferential trade within the Empire was not indorsed as we desired, it is altogether impossible, at the present time, to carry out the proposition made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier for absolute free-trade within the Empire. Would honorable members care to see cheap goods, made in India or Hong Kong, imported duty free into Australia?
– That is not impossible. We can make exchanges.
– In my humble judgment, it would be practically impossible for us to accept any such proposal. As I said in England, we are not likely to go so far in the direction of free-trade within the Empire as some honorable members desire. I believe, however, that there is a strong feeling on the part of honorable members generally that Australia should grant a considerable preference to Great Britain. The Government showed its sympathy with such a policy when it submitted certain measures last year to Parliament. As to the action taken by the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference with respect to the question of naval defence and defence generally, I may say at once that it was not his desire in any way to weaken the ties existing between Australia and the rest of the Empire. On the contrary, he sought in every possible way to strengthen them. The creation of the new Secretariat certainly will not affect prejudicially the position we have hitherto held. I am sure that Australia would not approve of its being clothed with executive power. It has been created to collect and collate information for the use of future Conferences, and perhaps to facilitate in the interim communications between the different parts of the Empire. Honorable members need have no fear as to the outcome of the action taken by the Prime Minister in respect to this matter. I wish again to add my tribute to the work of the Prime Minister in London. If honorable members had been privileged to be present at the Imperial Conference, and to observe the persistency with which he pressed his proposals,I am sure they all would have admired him. I think I have heard him speak as often as has any one in Australia, and I can honestly say that I never knew him to be so brilliant as he was throughout the proceedings in the Old Land. I was proud of him, and proud of the power that he gained over the people of Great Britain.
– We recognise that he did well.
An Honorable Member. - And so did the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– At all events, I did my best.. The deputy leader of the Opposition referred to the desirableness of appointing a High Commissioner for the Commonwealth. That is a matter which will be brought before the House at an early date. If we are to maintain the status of the Commonwealth] in Great Britain, it is absolutely necessary that a High Commissioner shall be appointed without delay. I felt ashamed when I saw in various parts of London the little pigeon-holes, so to speak, which comprise the offices of the representatives of the various States - offices calculated to give the people at Home a totally wrong impression of what Australia really is. There must be concentration, and the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth must be at the head of affairs. I do not mean to say that the States should not have independent representation, but we ought to have in London the strongest representation of the Commonwealth generally. Honorable members would be surprised if they witnessed the efforts made by Canada to advertise her resources in Great Britain, and would be at once convinced of the necessity for Australia to take a like step.
– Canada is a “boss” advertiser. She spends something like £500,000 per annum in advertising.
– Probably she does. Much has been said as to the desirableness of promoting immigration to Australia, but I do not think that what has been done in this direction so far is likely to be successful. A month before I left London something like 16,000 emigrants from the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other cities in Scotland, left for Canada. This was the result of advertising done in Great Britain by the Dominion as well as by the railway company. I may say, by the way, that the railway company iri Canada advertises perhaps even more largely than does the Government of the Dominion.
– Is the Minister prepared to advertise Australia in a big way ?
– I should, if I had my way. Australia is in a sorry position if she cannot afford to incur the expenditure necessary in this direction.
– We should either advertise well, or leave it alone.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and I trust the Prime Minister will be induced at an early date to take action in the direction I have indicated. I come now to the question of the mail contract. The negotiations were far more protracted than I desired, but the object which the Prime Minister, and I think I may say all his colleagues, had in accepting the tender in the first instance, was to secure the substantial saving which seemed open to us. The Orient Steamship Company had offered to carry our mails for a larger subsidy, and it was recognised that there was a vast difference between that and the tender of the syndicate to do the work. The Government, no doubt, were largely influenced by this prospect of effecting a substantial saving, and personally I do not think that we have been treated fairly by the contractors. They dragged on the negotiations, although we had given them more than ample latitude up to the time when the Prime Minister and I left London. I was requested by my leader to undertake the task of carrying on the negotiations in connexion with the mail contract whilst we were in London, since he found it impossible, owing to the pressure of other duties, to do so. I endeavoured to find out what sort of men were in the syndicate, and what they had previously done in this direction. I certainly took action, with a view of completing the negotiations, and served on the contractors a notice requiring them to give further security. Subsequently, a second notice was served on them. I do not know whether the first was considered to be invalid, but if it was, I certainly cannot be held responsible, since I acted on legal advice. Thereafter, the only delay was that which took place during our voyage to Australia, and which was unavoidable, since it was only at three or four points that we could ascertain what was being done. Almost’ as soon as the Prime Minister returned to Australia, the question was finally dealt with. If honorable members are prepared to view the matter in a fair light - and judging by the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition. I think they are - they will readily admit that the Government could not have done more than they did, particularly having regard to the statement made, and also published, in the press, that the money required by the company had actually been raised in London. I was of opinion at the time that this assertion was not correct, and my surmise proved to be right. The money was not found, and we had to cancel the contract. In future the PostmasterGeneral, who has the conduct of these matters, will take great care that any company or syndicate tendering for the carriage of our oversea mails makes a substantial cash deposit.
– That will be one outcome of our experience.
– It cannot be denied that the cash deposit lodged by the syndicate under the contract was not sufficiently large, and I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral will insist, in future, upon a large deposit being made in connexion with such tenders. The honorable member for Parramatta, in the course of his speech, referred to certain remarks which he said I had made about my visit to London. I do not think it is quite nice, on an occasion of this kind, to refer to conversations which may have been held. So far as I am concerned, I never made any such statement as the honorable member indicated I had made to the public press ; at any rate, if it is not possible to have a little joke as to events which may have occurred during a trip, we shall - all have to hold our tongues.
– Some funny things happened in the trip to the Northern Territory.
– As the honorable member suggests, there were doubtless some amusing occurrences during the recent trip of certain honorable members to the Northern Territory ; I have heard one story about an alligator and a rock. I take it, however, that what the honorable member for Parramatta said was more in joke than earnest. In London, both the Prime Minister and myself were faced with a great deal of work which had to be transacted in a very short space of time, with the result that certain matters had to be left unattended to. Under the circumstances it was impossible to do justice to one’s self or to the work in every direction.
– The Australian delegation was only a small one.
– The honorable member is quite right. When I arrived in London I found that the Australian delegation at the Navigation Conference was the smallest of all. The New Zealand delegation was larger than that of Australia, while the Imperial delegation and the shipping delegation were larger still. If the occasion should arise for another Conference of the kind, I should certainly not hesitate to propose that more representatives should be sent from the Commonwealth. I do not intend to deal in any detail with the deliberations of the Imperial Conference; that, I take it, is a matter which I should leave to the Prime Minister. I desire, however, to say a word or two in reference to the Navigation Conference. When the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney and myself left Australia, remarks were made which were derogatory to the personnel of the delegation. But I do not think it could have been anticipated by those who expressed their disapproval in that way that the delegation would practically obtain everything which they were sent to advocate. The present position in Australia now is, that the Commonwealth Parliament has full power to pass what laws may be deemed advisable for controlling shipping on our own coasts’.
– There is no Imperial veto ?
– No; the British representatives agreed to certain resolutions which, I believe, have been published, and we now have the power to deal not only with the Australian ships and Australian seamen, but also with oversea ships and seamen if they trade on the coast.
– Can we over-ride the British Merchant Shipping Act?
– Yes ; except where it is arranged not to pass certain provisions interfering with it, we have been given power in every respect. In regard to oversea ships, the only fear which the English ship-owners seemed to have was that we in Australia might give the foreigner greater ;privileges than we would the Britisher trading to Australia.
– The British representatives agreed that this power on the part of Australia should be declared, but asked that it should not be exercised.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon; that is not so.
– It was so stated by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons.
– We were given full power over all ships engaged in InterState trade. We were never asked not to put that power into force; on the contrary, the Australian representatives declared that the power would be put into force if occasion arose. Resolution No. 9 which dealt with this matter, declared that there should be power over any vessel from oversea which carried passengers or goods from one port to another in Australia.
– What about the mails?
– Mails are exempt. There is provision that if a passenger chose to stop at a particular port, and then resume his voyage in another ship belonging to the same line, or if goods, were left at a port and were subsequently carried on by a vessel of the same line, this should not be held to come within the definition of coasting trade.
– So long as new trade is not taken up?
– That is so. The point raised by the honorable member for Angas refers to oversea ships which might come here, and, while doing no coastal trade, did not conform to all reasonable conditions. In such case, while the vessels are in Australian waters, we have power to deal with them and cause proper conditions to be observed.
– For instance, if vessels were undermanned?
– Yes; and in various other directions. That is the provision which we were asked not to put into force except under extreme circumstances. If a vessel under such circumstances went away from Australia, the authorities here, of course, would lose control of her, but should she return on any future occasion, the master could be dealt with.
– I referred to a speech made in the House of Commons in which Mr. Lloyd George disapproved of the policy of the resolution.
– I do not know what was said in the House of Commons, but I know what appears in the official report of the Conference, which is quite as full as our own Hansard reports, and which, I expect, will be available for honorable members shortly. There were one or two motions which I had intended to press, but legal representatives of the Imperial Government, and also Mr. Lloyd George, said that all that those motions would achieve could be done under other resolutions which were carried. In short, we have been given power to protect our seamen in the matter of food, wages, air space, and so forth, and to compel ship-owners to make any improvements which are proved to be necessary. Altogether, I think it must be acknowledged that the British Government have dealt very fairly by us, and in most cases the ship-owners were more moderate than I had anticipated. There is not the slightest doubt as to the success of the Conference, the beneficial effects of which will be felt in the future.
– There will be no need for these resolutions when the Tariff is passed, because there will be no ships to regulate.
– If everything is produced here what will be the good of pre.ferential trade?
– If we do produce everything here we can export.
– And get nothing back in return ; that is preferential trade ?
– We import an immense quantity of foreign manufactures, and not so much British manufactures as we ought to; and preferential trade would benefit the old country.
– Then it is not anticipated that we shall manufacture all our commodities in Australia?
– The honorable member is a practical man, and I ask him to look at possibilities and probabilities, and not at imaginary eventualities. It cannot be supposed that during our life-. time Australia will be able to produce, for instance, the £7,000,000 worth of manufactured iron and steel which is now imported.
– At Lithgow the Treasurer said we could produce all the iron and steel we wanted.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– At any rate, we shall manufacture in Australia as much as we can. The honorable member for Parramatta contended that a certain action taken in the Imperial Conference would lead to a weakening of that loyalty which he very aptly said is greater now than ever before throughout the Empire. I contend that that action will not only not weaken the existing bonds of Empire, nor lessen the loyalty now felt, but will, on the contrary, very much strengthen the bond, and the regard we feel for our own people.
– Then why tear up the Naval Agreement to start with?
– r shall leave that question to the Prime Minister. What has been done has been mainly his action in this connexion ; and I much prefer that he should express his opinion before I touch upon the matter.
– Is the Minister now expressing his own opinion or that of the Prime Minister ?
– I am now expressing my own opinion on matters which I desire to place before honorable members. However, I know the Prime Minister’s opinions in reference to the Naval Agreement; and I think it desirable that he should express them himself.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is reported to have said that the Labour Party is the most patriotic in Australia.
– The Labour Party will compare with any other political party, and I’ said so in Great Britain more than once. I am never afraid to say what mv opinion is regarding the Labour Party. Nothing that was said at the Imperial Conference is calculated. in any way to weaker the loyalty which prevails throughout the Empire “Nothing that was said by either the Prime Minister or myself at that Conference could be construed into our interfering in British party politics. Of course, it was most difficult to deal with preferential trade, which, in Great Britain, is a party question, without touching the fringe of party politics, but any person who reads the reports of the Conference must observe the efforts made by both the Prime Minister and myself to avoid entering into party issues.
– Then both have been misreported ?
– Honorable members will see the speeches when the reports are issued. I have no desire to prolong the debate; indeed, I have not much to say in reply, because the honorable member for Parramatta did not make what I call one of his vicious speeches. I reciprocate the desire of the honorable member that the business of the session may be conducted as amicably as possible, but when our corns are trodden on, then the corns of the treader must also suffer. The Government are only desirous to get on with business, and to deal with all urgent questions as soon as possible. If the Tariff be disposed of in reasonable time, honorable members will then have an opportunity to carry out their desire, which I look upon as impossible of attainment - the desire to have only two parties in the House.
.- Honorable members who have spoken display a disposition to apologize for speaking on the Address-in-Reply, which is, to some extent, doomed, like the House of Lords and a good many other institutions. But I dare say the form will last our time; and no doubt it has its usefulness. I have often felt apologetic in speaking on this motion when there has been nothing very urgent to consider. I desire now, however, to direct the attention of the Government to a few practical points. Before doing so, I should like to add a leaf to the Prime Minister’s abundant laurels by expressing my recognition of the splendid way in which he represented Australia in the councils of the Empire. I think that we one and all are pleased with the manner in which we were represented there.
– The honorable member should be content to speak for himself.
– If my remarks are too wide, and honorable members disagree with them, I hope that they will say so. My opinion is that we were worthily represented by the Prime Minister in the Councils of the Empire. I do not intend to touch upon the very debatable measures named in the Governor-General’s Speech. They are referred to as being in draft.
Those who are acquainted with the wine industry are aware that when a wine is bottled it is very different in appearance and flavour from what it was in draught, and my short political career leads me to know that the provisions of a Bill are often very different from what we were led to expect. Therefore, we cannot definitely express our opinions in regard to the proposals of the Government until we see their measures in print. For this reason, I shall confine myself now to minor matters. In paragraph 18 of the Speech we are promised that something shall be done in the way of electoral reform that there shall be a simplification of the methods by which the electors express their opinions at the poll. Most of us haverecently had to contest constituencies, though a few were fortunate enough to be returned unopposed. Those who went to the poll know that the electoral rolls were in a deplorable condition.
– They were much better than the Victorian State rolls have ever been.
– I am glad to hear it. The Victorian State rolls have always been very bad, and are getting worse and worse, so that in future there will be hardly any one left to vote. I speak from experience, because, within the last four years, I have contested three elections. But perhaps the respectable majority which I gained last December is a guarantee of a walkover next time. I hope that the Minister will seriously set about reforming our electoral machinery,, and will not be content with having promised reforms. In my opinion, the Electoral Departments of the States and the Commonwealth should be amalgamated. That would be a simple matter where those States whose franchise is the same as that of the Commonwealth are concerned. I would bring the municipal rolls under the control of the amalgamated Department.
– Hear, hear !
– In saying that, I do not express the opinion that the municipal franchise should be the same as the parliamentary franchise. I have no sympathy with the view that one class of persons should tax the property of another class. The amalgamation which I suggest would perhaps abolish many choice billets ; but it would reduce the cost of elections, and tend to greater efficiency. I should like to see the parliamentary rolls checked with the ratepayers’ rolls, the postal directory lists, and the records of marriages and deaths. There are on the present rolls the names of many men who are dead,, while in some cases both the maiden and married names of women appear. I think that the Ministry have shown considerable practical ability in electoral administration.
– Would it not be a good thing to get all whose names are on the rolls to vote?
– If men will not take sufficient interest in politics to go to the polls, we cannot make them do so. Many of the electoral forms employed require simplification. The absent voters’ form, for instance, requires that a man shall sign a document “with his own hand.” That is a ridiculous wording. If he does not sign with his own hand, he does not sign at all.
– In one instance, at Charters Towers, another person signed for the person who should have signed.
– Then the person himself did not sign at all. Old-fashioned legal verbiage has been used which dates back from the time when lawyers were paid so much a line, but a man of common sense could easily simplify the forms, and put them into plain English. I do not know why the term “ electoral division “ has been substituted for the old-fashioned English word “electorate.” The change is certainly confusing. These are only matters of detail, but details are important, and genius has been defined as the art of understanding them. In paragraph 23 of the Speech we are promised unification of legislation on many commercial subjects, which will be a good thing. There is to be a Banking Bill, dealing with bills of exchange and cheques. I want the Ministry to remember in this connexion that it is necessary that they should have a power similar to that possessed by the Bank of England, to suspend cash payment in times of crisis. We were promised that this important matter would be dealt with early in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament; but it has not yet been touched, and now that our credit is high is the time when we should deal with it. Such a power wouldprevent a crisis from going as far as the last banking crisis went.
– I think that the Treasurer proposes to do something of the kind.
– We all hope that it will never be necessary to exercise this power. But if it is ever required it will have to be exercised quickly, and should the Government have to ask for it during a crisis the panic would be increased. The matter is one to be dealt with while things are peaceful and prosperous, so that not even the most timid can be frightened. I hope that the banks will be empowered to make a note issue, properly guaranteed by coin or other deposited securities. A great deal of suffering and distress would have been avoided in the last great crisis if that power had then been in existence. It was the action of the New South Wales Government of the day, in empowering three of” the Sydney banks to pay in notes, that stayed that crisis.
– The New South. Wales Parliament passed an Act having a currency for two years.
– That saved the New South Wales banks which had not closed their doors. No bank could pay every depositor at a moment’s notice. I hope that the Government will take this matter in hand. By so doing,, it will effect a great amount of good. With regard to the proposal that the Commonwealth should take over the Northern Territory from South Australia, I hope that it will be very seriously considered. I have done a good) deal in my time in connexion with; the development of country, and the question with me is not so much the driving of a hard and fast bargain with South Australia, because what a friend gets is not altogether lost. Still I think that the present proposal is outrageously in favour of that State, and will have to be modified. But before anything permanent can be done, the Government should say how they propose to develop the Territory. We may proceed on the old lines, and exchange the South Australian Government stroke for the Commonwealth Government stroke. If so, I am against the proposal. South Australia has lost £3,000,000 in administering the Northern Territory, and if the Commonwealth administers it in the same fashion it may lose about£10,000,000 more without any advantage being gained. Governments are unfitted to do pioneering work, which requires the utmost pliability of method, and’ the least amount of red tape possible. This is not compatible with Government management. It may be admitted that a Government can manage a tramway or a railway, but it is beyond question that it is not fitted to . run a great pioneering work like the development of the Northern Territory. If any one of us were going to undertake the task, we should look around the world and ascertain who was doing that class of work well. The State must do what the individual would do, otherwise the State must come to grief. If we look around the world we shall see that Canada is successfully developing her territory. She possesses an inhospitable region in the northwest of her borders, just as we do. But Canada is filling up that portion of her territory, and we are not filling ours. She is going about it in the right way, and is now receiving an enormous stream of people. The Canadian Government called for tenders in all parts of the world from persons who were prepared to develop that territory, and they were fortunate enough to strike the Canadian Pacific Railway Syndicate. The Dominion Government made that syndicate a present of one-half the territory which it developed. It was a present which was worth nothing at the time, but the Canadian Pacific Railway Company possessed sufficient pluck and experience to take the work in hand, with the result that besides filling up vast areas they have made the land which remained to the Government very valuable indeed.
– There is some very good land in the Northern Territory.
– I am very glad to hear that, because I have read a good deal about it. I have been just across the Queensland border, and I have heard it described as very indifferent country by some and in the most glowing terms by ethers. Personally, I do not know much about it. But we must deal with this matter in a business-like way. If a syndicate did make a little money out of the transaction, we must not forget that the Commonwealth would gain in population. About twenty years ago, I am aware that the Men.nonites were very desirous of sending out members of their sect to the Territory, but the project fell through at the last moment. If any similar body is prepared to embark “upon the enterprise, I say that we should allow them to do so. Let us try to get the northern portion of this country settled in some way. When the Government introduce the Bill covering the transfer of the Territory, I hope that they will “indicate upon what lines they propose to deal with it. Tf it is to be administered as it has been, save that the Commonwealth
Government stroke is to replace the South Australian Government stroke, I am entirely averse to taking it over.
– In South Australia the public servants have to work very hard for their money.
– I am not attacking the civil servants in any way. But the system of endeavouring to do developmental work with the red-tape that surrounds Government departments-
– Does the honorable member think there would be the slightest chance of carrying a proposal for a land grant railway?
– If the alternatives presented to us are to leave that country practically vacant or to develop it through the agency of a syndicate, or of the Salvation Army, or some kindred body, surely the Labour Party will be patriotic enough to assist us to settle it.
– A syndicate had the Northern Territory under its control for years.
– There are a number of syndicates which have a certain form of tenure there. They are referred to in a good many journals as “cattle kings.”
– They can obtain the freehold if they like.
– Who would have freehold there?
– That is my view of the matter. I look to see how successful developmental work has been done in other parts of the world, and I say that we cannot cite a single instance in which it has been undertaken by a Government upon a large scale. It is true that the Government can assist the enterprise in a thousand different ways, but it cannot successfully perform the initial work. If the Northern Territory is to be transferred to the Commonwealth to be held vacant, or if we are going to squander money upon it, I am entirely opposed to taking it over. Paragraph 20 of His Excellency’s Speech makes reference to a Bill which will deal with the much-debated question of the Federal Capital Site. I look upon this question, as it were, de novo, and I say that if we are blessed with anything in superabundance in Australia it is large cities. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be the greatest possible calamity if we were to build another capital. Of course, I am aware that a bargain was made between the Commonwealth and the people of New South Wales which must be kept to the letter, and consequently the only suggestion I can make is that the representatives of New South Wales should advocate the adoption of what has always seemed to me a common-sense way out of the difficulty. I think that they should agree to take a referendum of the people to ascertain! if at the end of this Parliament they are in favour of the capital being located for ten years thereafter in Sydnev.
– What about taking a referendum to establish the capital anywhere else?
– I do not think we can expect the people of New South Wales to consent to the Seat of Government being established outside their ‘territory. An agreement was made with them, upon the strength of which they voted when they accepted the Federal Constitution. That agreement must be carried out if they wish it. But I think it is quite possible that the representatives of New South Wales in this Parliament may see their way - in preference to spending the limited amount at our disposal in building a new capital - to recommend that at the end of this Parliament the Seat of Government should be transferred to Sydney. The only feasible objection raised to the adoption of that course was that urged by Mr. Carruthers, who said that it might involve the sale or the transfer of a certain area in Sydney to the Commonwealth authorities as Federal territory. I think that that difficulty could be overcome by the flotation of a loan or in some other way. I feel sure that a suitable building in which this Parliament might meet could be found in Sydney. It seems to me that the plan I have suggested is a common-sense one, which would obviate a vast expenditure. If we are short of anything in Australia it is money. We know that it is not too easy ‘ to raise large loans. Fortunately we are in a position to pav off our indebtedness, but if we had to go to the London market for a large sum we should have to pay exorbitant rates of interest. Consequently our aim should toe to conserve our resources as far as possible, and not to fritter them away upon the establishment of a new capital.
– How would the honorable member overcome the provisions of the Constitution ?
– By taking a referendum. A simple referendum might be taken to ascertain whether the people were willing, at the end of this Parliament, that the capital should be located for ten years in Sydney.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that it should be removed then ?
– The matter would have to be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the present agreement. I do not say that we should alter that. I simply throw out a suggestion, the adoption of which would save the Commonwealth several millions sterling, and I feel sure that it is worthy of consideration. I shall not trespass upon the time of the House at any greater length. We shall have opportunities afforded us to discuss various important matters at a later stage. I have touched upon a few questions’ of practical moment, and I hope that the Ministry will take them into their serious consideration.
– My constituents are specially interested in the matter of the early establishment of the Federal Capital. They are anxious that the question shall be settled without further delay. It seems to me that whilst the Seat of Government is located in any of the States’ Capitals we shall always have a fruitful source of provincial jealousy and strife. I wish particularly to impress upon the Government the fact that my section of the electors of New South Wales are very desirous of having this vexed question finally determined. Until we can conduct the proceedings of this Parliament upon neutral ground, we shall never clear the’ Federal political atmosphere. Paragraph 17 of His Excellency’s Speech says: -
Effect has been given to many of the recommendations of the Papua Royal Commission, and others are receiving consideration.
I should like to know how far effect has been given to the recommendations of the Commission. With some of those recommendations I am in entire accord, but the wisdom of others, I think, is open to question. For instance, the Commission reported that as a condition precedent to the development of the Possession, the safety of the natives would need to be conserved in every way. That is to say, they will require to be protected from the demoralizing conditions of modern civilization, upon which I need not enlarge.. The Commission urges the opening up of the country in large areas to capitalists, and the exploitation of the natives to a certain extent, while at the same time providing machinery for their protection against such exploitation, or, at any rate, against demoralization. The Commissioners declare that all contracts between Europeans and the natives must be under the strictest surveillance. They further state that the Government should establish experimental farms with a view of seeing what can be done in the way of production. All this is to be undertaken apparently in order that syndicates may grow rich at the expense of the Government. We are asked to provide the machinery to protect the natives, and to render production possible, and to dispose of all the profits to individuals. If we are not going to tolerate the nigger in Australia, I do not see why we should license anybody, to exploit him in New Guinea. Paragraph 5 says -
There will also be submitted for your approval a Bill for the encouragement of new industries by means of bounties. My Advisers are confident that there are many latent sources of wealth in Australia which only require moderate encouragement to insure successful development.
It seems to me that the “new” protection should dispose of the necessity for the payment of “any bounties. Certainly I am opposed to them, and I shall, at the proper time, do all in my power against the initiation of that system.
.- At the outset of my remarks I may be permitted to set at rest any’ curiosity in the minds of honorable members regarding the view which I take of the debate upon the Address-in-Reply and the position of the Government. I wish to say at once, in order that there may be no misapprehension on the point, that I have not risen for the (purpose of indorsing the eulogiums which we heard fall from the lips of the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Batman. I should have preferred that the right of the Ministry to occupy the Treasury benches should be challenged.
– The honorable member is very unkind.
– After the very conciliatory speech of the deputy leader of the Opposition, the Minister of Trade and Customs may think it unkind that I should express these sentiments. But while I entertain the most kindly personal feelings for most if not all honorable members sitting opposite, I must not lose sight of the interests of the country, and it seems to me a reflection upon our system of government that a Ministry which, inclusive of the Cabinet itself, can command only seventeen members in a House of seventyfive, should pretend to direct and control the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– That is not in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– But it is an undeniable fact. We had before us the peculiar spectacle of a Government so situated sending to England two of its members to represent the opinions of Australia, and to take part in the proceedings of the Imperial Conference. I hold very strongly that the Prime Minister could not reasonably claim that he went Home in a representative capacity. He had no mandate either from this Parliament or from the people of Australia to proceed to London as their representative or to express opinions on their behalf. When he professed to y giving expression to opinions in the name of the people of Australia, I venture to say that in some respects he very largely misrepresented their views. This was particularly the case in regard to the question of preferential trade, and the Naval Agreement, but with those matters I shall deal later on. What I desire now to learn is whether or not the Prime Minister still entertains the view so often expressed by him in this House and in different parts of Australia as to the impropriety of the business of the country being conducted on the tri-party system?
– We have now a four-party system
– No; there are only three parties in the House. We may have divisions of parties, but that is very different from separate and entire parties. The Ministerial following, just as in the case of the Opposition, may be divided into sections ; but while the Opposition, for convenience, comprises two divisions, I do not know that it is divided in relation to material points affecting the Government. On the other hand, we find before us a Government which, with its supporters, numbers only seventeen members in a House of seventy-five, whereas the Opposition comprises something like thirty-four members.
– There are not ten members in the Opposition party.
– We have thirty-four members as against seventeen comprising the Government party, whilst on the cross benches opposite there is another party, the members of which do not claim to be followers of the Ministry. At the last general election, they violently opposed it.
The two parties opposite who are now sitting together apparently in perfect amity were then flying at one another’s throats, saying most unkind things of each other, and refusing to play in the same political yard. On that occasion, we had the Prime Minister emphasizing the fact that the Government and the Labour Party were two distinct bodies. On the 18th of October last - just prior to the general election - he stated publicly that -
We now resume our original position as an absolutely independent party, without engagements, public or private, expressed or implied, and nothing else except the policy we now put forward - the policy of immediate Tariff revision, of immediately dealing with the reports of the Tariff Commission, which will be knocking at the door when the new Parliament assembles.
No later than the 27th January last, the Prime Minister, speaking at the Australian Natives’ Association banquet in Melbourne, said that the existence of three parties - , is like riding on a tricycle on a track made for a bicycle. Three wheels could not go along a track made for two. The efforts of a person trying to get three wheels on it could be better imagined than described.
Do the Prime Minister and his colleagues still adhere to the belief expressed in the quotation I have just made?
– How would the honorable member alter this state of affairs ? ‘
-The Prime Minister tells us that a tricycle cannot travel along a track made only for two wheels, and yet we see him attempting to ride the political tricycle on a bicycle track.
– One can ride a tricycle on two rails.
– The metaphor, perhaps, is not the best that could be used, but it is that which the Prime Minister employed. The honorable gentleman’s object was to show that there was no room for three parties in the House - that there was no room for the Government of the country to be conducted under a tri-party system. In these circumstances, I wish to know how he is going to carry on the Government of Australia. If he really believes what he says, is he going to retain possession of the Treasury Benches, and carry on with the support of a separate politically independent party, or is he going to endeavour to bring to an end a system which he has so often described as utterly destructive of the first principles of responsible government? Speaking at a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne on 9th May, 1904, the honorable and learned gentleman said -
It was three months since he took occasion to call attention to the matter in the most open manner. He pointed out then that there were three parties, and that if two is company and three is none, two parties meant constitutional government, and three were just about equal to none.
This statement was received with cheers. He went on to say that -
Consequently, one of the chief considerations before Parliament and the public was the reduction of these three parties to two.
That declaration is on all-fours with the views expressed by the Prime Minister when, a few months ago, he used the illustration of the tricycle on the bicycle track. On another memorable occasion, he declared that -
The existence of three parties rendered constitutional government impossible, and such a state of things must not, and ought not, to continue.
He also declared that -
Instead of taking . the downward path that would lead to political servitude, and perhaps to political slavery, we want to rally to our flag those in favour of responsible government - to restore majority rule, and maintain that priceless heritage that our forefathers have handed down to us, and which we should preserve, or perish.
These are admirable sentiments beautifully expressed. Does the Prime Minister still stand by them? If he does, how can he reconcile them with his present attitude in trying to carry on the Government of the Commonwealth only by the favour of a party which he himself has condemned in the most unmeasured terms ? The position of a Government able to remain in office only by the favour of a party which has not concealed its hostility to them, and which several of its members have described in terms which imagination in its wildest flights could not describe as friendly, is a most degrading one. We have only to turn to the speeches delivered by the Treasurer to learn in what estimation he holds those who, presumably, are according him their support. The sooner some attempt is made to bring about a state of affairs more in accordance with our ideas of responsible government - to place in office a Ministry with a working majority, and to secure an active Opposition to check any mischievous legislation that they may attempt - the better it will be.
– Does the honorable member suggest a dissolution?
– I do not know that a dissolution would bring about the change I have indicated unless we were able to arouse more enthusiasm among the electors, and to induce them to more fully appreciate their duties at the poll. At the last general election, only about 52 per cent, of the electors recorded their votes, and the responsibility for the present state of affairs rests mainly with those who neglected to exercise the franchise. It seems to me the matter is one for adjustment within the Parliament itself. We have had the Prime Minister deploring the present conditions, and expressing again and again a desire to alter them. There was an occasion when largely through his instrumentality, something like a two-party system was established. Strangely enough, the same honorable and learned gentleman who had professed the desire for and assisted to re-establish the two-party system, brought about its disruption, and reinstated the tri-party system. It appears that the Government are not unanimous as to what is a proper form of constitutional government. No later than this afternoon we had the Minister of Trade and Customs giving expression to views the very antithesis of those voiced by the Prime Minister.
– I have stated a dozen times what I said this afternoon.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs said this afternoon that he saw no difficulty in the multi-party system.
– I said that there was no possibility of having only two parties in any Parliament.
– The note I have of the Minister’s remarks is - “ Does not believe in two parties, and does not believe that it matters if there are a dozen or fifty parties.”
– I said fifty parties or ten parties, or whatever number the honorable member likes.
– Well, we will say that the Minister sees no difficulty in a multiplicity of parties.
– How many parties are there in the House of Commons?
– What the Minister calls parties in the House of Commons are largely subdivisions of existing parties, and not, with the exception of the Irish Party, distinct parties in themselves. In any case, the Prime Minister himself has said that we must preserve the two-party system or perish, and it seems to me that he .is prepared to perish, seeing that he is prepared to accept the three-party system in its very worst form. He accepts the humiliating position of carrying on the affairs of Government while the control really rests in the hands of another small party, also numerically small, which has no responsibility whatever.
– That was done by Mr. Reid in New South Wales.
– The circumstances were entirely different. In that case the support given was quite voluntary, and the measures, which the present member for East Sydney submitted when he was Premier of New South Wales, were never first submitted for the approval of the Labour Party.
– Where is that done now ?
– Whether it be true or not I am not prepared to say, but it is alleged that in some instances a certain gentleman connected with the socialistic party has to be consulted before this Government submits any measures. If that be correct, it is a state of affairs which should be put an end to as soon as possible, because it reflects no credit upon our representative institutions.
– Would the honorable member suggest elective Ministries?
– No ; I do not think that elective Ministries would result satisfactorily. We shall have to perfect human nature before we can expect any such system to fulfil the promises of its advocates. Turning to the speech of the GovernorGeneral I find it there stated -
The Imperial Conference was attended by delegates from all the self-governing deminions of the Empire -
That is very interesting information, no doubt, but Ave were in possession of it before - who were received with the greatest cordiality by the King, the Government, and the people of the Mother Country -
All that is most satisfactory -
Most important matters were debated, and resolutions relating to some of them unanimously approved. The meeting will promote a much better understanding, and more intimate relations between Great Britain” and . all the over-sea dominions. A full report of the proceedings will shortly be laid before you.
I am a’ery sorry that these reports are not now available.
– They have not arrived yet.
– I arn not blaming the Government in any way, but merely pointing out that honorable members are placed somewhat at a disadvantage in having to depend absolutely ora the cabled press reports. We all know that cabled reports, or newspaper reports at any time, are not always the most reliable source of information; that is especially true of reports in certain newspapers published in Victoria. One fact that strikes me on reading the speech- of the Governor-General is the omission of any reference whatever to the Naval Agreement. Seeing that this question loomed so largely at the Imperial Conference, it was reasonable to expect that some reference would be made to it, whereas the fact is there is not a word about it in the speech of His Excellency. If we are to believe the cabled messages published in the newspapers some very important steps were taken by the representatives of Australia, who committed us, or, at any rate, professed to express Australian sentiment in connexion with the matter. I venture to say that Australian sentiment has been absolutely misrepresented in this connexion. If the opinion of the (people of Australia were tested to-morrow it would be found that, so far from there being any desire to modify the terms of the Naval Agreement, the desire is rather to retain the Agreement for as long a period as possible, only on much more liberal conditions than our present contribution fulfils. If one fact stands out more prominently than another, as a matter of regret, so far as the people of Australia are concerned, it is that we pay so little towards the up-keep of the Imperial Navy in Australian waters. Our contribution is something like £200,000 a year, while the Imperial Government spend in Australia on the Navy something like £300,000 in excess of our contribution.
– The total is about £700,000.
– It is about £500,000.
– That makes my argument stronger, seeing that the amount I mentioned is considerably smaller than the actual expenditure. Even from the most sordid point of view we have decidedly the best of the bargain ; and on the ground of self-interest alone we should be making the most fatal mistake if we modified die Naval Agreement in any way. Of course, it may be that the Prime Minister was incorrectly reported; but, at any rate, all the leading newspapers published similar cablegrams, and I should like to read one or two extracts from reports which were published in the Sydney Morning Herald and also, I believe, the Melbourne Age.-
Lord Tweedmouth (First Lord of the Admiralty) stated that as the result of interviews with the Australasian delegates, he was now able to summarize the Admiralty’s decisions. So far as Australia and New Zealand were concerned, the Admiralty would be willing to leave the continuance of the present subsidy entirely in their hands, leaving them to do whatever they thought best. He realized that Australia did not favour the present mode of contribution. The Admiralty was willing to adopt the principle of Australia choosing for herself, especially as the Admiralty wished to be relieved of the obligations of the agreement respecting the strength of the squadron to be kept on the Australian station.
It is very clear from this statement that something of a definite character must have been said as to the attitude of Australia towards the Naval Agreement. Whatever may have been the actual words used, the impression was evidently left on the mind of Lord Tweedmouth, and, I suppose, on the mind of the British public, that the Australian people had expressed views indicating that they were tired of the agreement, and desired to get rid of the expense of contributing towards the maintenance of the Imperial Navy in Australian waters. As I gather from the English newspapers, the idea was that the Australian people thought the money would be better expended in building the nucleus of a fleet of their own. Although that may be the opinion and desire of a certain section of the Australian community, that section is extremely limited in number. So far as the press is concerned, I believe there is only one newspaper - the mendacious Age, published in Melbourne - that has expressed views of the kind.
– Does the honorable member not think it better to have local vessels for coastal defence?
– I do not in any way undervalue the advantages of having a local navy, or the nucleus of a local navy, for coastal and harbor defence, but I do not desire to see such a force substituted for the vessels of the Imperial Squadron, and placed under separate control. What I have always advocated is the encouragement of the construction of torpedo vessels, torpedo destroyers, and submarines for coastal and harbor defence, but only as auxiliaries to the vessels of the Imperial Fleet, and also at all times under Imperial direction and control, because in naval, as in military matters, divided control is fatal. But that apparently is not the idea of the Prime Minister and others associated with him. Their idea evidently is to do away with the Naval Agreement altogether, and depend entirely upon our own resources for the defence of our shores, devoting the present contributions under the Naval Agreement to the construction of local vessels, to be manned by local officers and men, under the control of the Federal Government.
– Is the honorable member not criticising without knowing what was really said ?
– I shall read the report of what the Prime Minister said -
Mr. Deakin followed, speaking on the lines of his despatch to the British Government on August 28, 1905. He stated that, assuming Sir Joseph Ward’s consent “were given, he would ask the Commonwealth Parliament to terminate the agreement with Great Britain, and apply the subsidy to securing the harbors and coasts. By protecting them, they would relieve the Admiralty of maritime responsibility, and also be providing a base of supply, and shelter for merchantmen, and increasing the security of their own traders. In the. event of a cruiser raid, Australia would possess the power of resistance in her own ports, also when the British squadron arrived she would be able to some extent to supply reinforcements.
It will be seen that the Prime Minister is reported as distinctly saying - he would ask the Commonwealth Parliament to terminate the agreement with Great Britain, and apply the subsidy to securing the harbors and coasts.
– The hour for the usual adjournment for dinner has arrived, and it has been suggested that it would be advisable to suspend the sitting for an hour and a quarter, instead of an hour,” as hitherto. The Government are agreeable to the change, if honorable members desire that it should be carried into effect.
– Make the suspension for an hour and a half to-night.
– I have no objection, so long as that is not taken as a precedent.
– I can only act in this matter by desire of the House, which must be practically unanimous. Is it the pleasure of the House that the sitting be suspended for one hour and a half to-night?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Sitting suspended al 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to draw special attention to the advantages Australia gains in the training of her men in the Imperial squadron, from which we should reap a great benefit should we ever be called upon to defend our shores from invasion. The British Navy is at present, and for many years to come will be, our only safeguard against the attacks of neightours which have recently become considerable naval Powers. To my mind, there is not the slightest doubt that, but for the presence of British war vessels in these waters, Australia would not remain much longer in the hands of those who inhabit this country, since this vast continent is populated by only some four millions of people, a population equal to about two-thirds of that of the city of London. Yet a small section of our citizens, whose views are supported by a very influential, but erratic, Melbourne press organ, advocate the tearing up of the Naval Agreement and reliance upon our own resources for the protection of our 8,000 miles of seaboard ! Their position is ridiculous. We have neither the means to build, nor the men to man, an efficient fleet, and, under the most favorable circumstances, could not unaided properly protect our coast-line. We might get together a mosquito fleet of torpedo boats, destroyers, and submarines ; but they would be useful only for the protection of a limited number of harbor and river ports close to populous centres. It would be impossible for us to prevent or repel an invasion of our northern and northwestern coasts. I have heard it said recently that we have not to fear invasion in that quarter, because, notwithstanding the unprotected state of our shores there, the hostility of the indigenous black population would, guard us against attack. That contention is unworthy of serious consideration, as the blacks, however hostile, would be absolutely impotent if they were to match their primitive spears and flint clubs against the artillery of a civilized nation. Until our natural resources have been developed by the settlement of a large population within the country, it will be idle to talk about the tearing up of the Naval Agreement. There are no fewer than sixteen foreign naval stations within three weeks’ striking distance of Australia. There has been an immense development in colonization on the part of foreign Powers, and a great increase in the number of their naval bases, and as these
Powers are contending with Great Britain for supremacy in the world’s trade, we have every reason to fear that in the not far distant future commercial relations may become so strained that the Pacific Ocean will be the theatre of important naval engagements. For many years to come we must rely upon the British Fleet as our first line of defence. However anxious some of our friends may be to cut the painter, and establish an Australian Republic, they will be obliged, in their own interest, to wait for the realization of their desires until our population becomes very much larger than it is at present.
– Who advocates the establishment of an Australian republic?
– I do not think that the honorable member does, but there are those associated with him who do. I believe that the Labour Party, as a whole, recognises the truth of what I have stated.
– But the British Fleet must buv its cabbages in Svdney.
– I think that when the next agreement comes to be considered Victoria will insist that no cabbages shall be supplied to the ships except from Melbourne. Such a demand would be in keeping with her (policy ever since the inauguration of Federation. However, I shall not deal with this subject at greater length, because the Governor-General has told us that it is proposed to introduce a progressive scheme of coastal and harbor defence, and when it is under consideration we shall be able to go more fully into the general question. The Minister of Trade and Customs informed us this afternoon that our delegates to the Navigation Conference in London succeeded in getting considerable concessions to Australian sentiment.
– Not merely concessions to Australian sentiment, but substantial concessions in regard to the framing of legislation.
– Those were concessions to sentiment. I am quite willing to give the members of the Conference credit for the good work done by them, but some most important things did not receive attention at all. No doubt this omission arose from the fact that none of the representatives of Australia possessed any nautical knowledge. One of the members of our Navigation .Commission, Senator Guthrie, has had a nautical training, and should have been one of the Australian delegation. His practical knowledge would have been of great service to the Conference. In the absence of the official reports, I cannot speak with accurate knowledge of what was done; but, judging by the reports received bv cablegram, no mention was made at the Conference about the periodical surveying of ships.
– Yes; that matter was dealt with and settled.
– I am very glad to know it. I saw no reference to any provision for securing the safety of steamers possessing no auxiliary power. At the present time many steamers carry no effective sails, and have only one propeller, upon which they rely wholly as their means for reaching one port from another. Should the tail-shaft break, or the blades be stripped from the propeller, such a vessel would, if on a lee shore, and the wind strong, be unable to save herself from destruction.
– Most of our steamers are like that.
– A number of our mail steamers and other passenger vessels rely wholly upon a single propeller, and it is by the greatest good fortune in the world that we have not had on our coast accidents such as I speak of, resulting in an appalling loss of life. Numbers of steamers in the Australian trade have broken down, and have drifted for weeksat the mercy of wind and wave; but thebreakages which have crippled them havehappened when they were away from land. Let honorable members imagine cases of that kind happening on the coast of New South Wales during the prevalence of a south-easterly gale. Let them picture a ship fitted with ,a single propeller and a couple of sticks which are unable to carry enough sail to keep her off the lee shore. There would be absolutely nothing to prevent her from being dashed to pieces upon the rocks. That is one of the matters which was overlooked at the Navigation Conference, notwithstanding that it was one of the most important which should have engaged attention. It is little short of criminal to permit persons to send ships to sea under conditions such as I have outlined. Every vessel should be fitted with twin propellers, or should be able to carry sufficient sail to render her independent of steam incase of an accident to her screw.
– What does the Minister’ think of that?
– The Conference went a long way further than that. It discussed the propriety of installing the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy upon every vessel.
– I am afraid that the adoption of the Marconi system would not be of much aid to a ship in a case such as I have described, except that it might be the means of procuring assistance from a port which might be some 200 or 300 miles distant when the margin of safety might be a matter of minutes. Another matter to which I desire to address myself has reference to the equipment of ships with life-saving gear. It is true that provision is made for carrying a certain number of boats, but if the Minister of Trade and Customs took the trouble to note the way in which these boats are made fast on some of the vessels sailing to and from our ports, and are covered up, he could not fail to be struck by the fact that in nine cases out of ten it would be impossible to launch one of them in a heavy sea in less than twenty minutes or half-an-hour.
– We dropped a man overboard and had him aboard the vessel again in seventeen minutes.
– I am not speaking of modern mail steamers, but of the smaller vessels which trade along our coast. The boats which they carry, in many instances, have rusted in the chocks in which they rest, and have been painted there year after year until boats, chocks, lashings, gear, and davits seem to be one solid mass, and it would take the entire crew the best portion of an hour to launch one of them in calm water. That is the condition of a number of vessels which sail from Australian ports.
– The honorable member is making a very serious statement.
– Nevertheless, it is a true statement.
– Oh no ! To what line of ships does the honorable member refer ?
– I am not going to specify any particular line.
– Why not expose them ?
– I am doing my best to call attention to the matter.
– But the honorable member will not give the names of the vessels.
– If honorable members choose to accompany me to the wharfs I will show them vessels which sail from the ports of Melbourne and Sydney day after day, and which are in the condi tion which I have described. I made a trip from Hobart some years ago in an old ship called the Albion.
– How many years ago?
– I believe that the vessel has since disappeared. It was possible to drive a penknife through portions of her bulwarks, and I was told that her bottom was in a. similar condition. In the centre of the plates the iron was no thicker than the blade of a dinner knife.
– The honorable member is thinking of the ferry boats in Sydney Harbor.
– No; but I believe that Mr. Samuel Smith, who made an investigation into that marker, found the same condition of affairs in connexion with some of the ferry boats. It is bad enough for such conditions to obtain in vessels which are confined to the smooth waters of the harbor, but it is a great reflection upon the responsible authorities when they apply to vessels which go to sea. It was alleged that when the Albion was placed in dock for a periodical overhaul, workmen were warned not to hit too hard with the chipping hammers because they might go through her plates. These are matters which were not dealt with at the Navigation Conference.
– Everything of that kind was dealt with.
– If the Minister assures me that these matters were dealt with, I must commend him for his action. I shall be very glad to read the reports of the proceedings of the Conference in that connexion, and I hope that I shall be able to congratulate the Minister upon having brought about a most necessary reform.
– I was not alone. I had the assistance of the services of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, and the honorable member for North Svdney.
– I admit that the Minister had some good men associated with him. . Passing away from that matter, I come now to the question of Tariff reform. Paragraph 4 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads -
The reports of the Royal Commission upon the Tariff already forwarded are under review. You will be asked as soon as possible to consider proposals for the amendment of the existing Tariff in order to place our national industries upon a sound and permanent basis under equitable conditions.
We are informed that we are to be called upon to deal with Tariff reform as soon as possible. In this connexion, it is rather amusing to recollect the speeches which were delivered by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs during the recent election campaign and prior to that period. During the last Parliament, we were assured that the industries of Australia, and particularly those of Victoria, were in a most deplorable condition. The spectacle was presented to us of honorable members upon the Ministerial side of the House organizing agony dinner meetings at which they urged all the factory employes to agitate for an immediate revision of the Tariff, with a view to securing an increased measure of protection, and so averting the ruin of languishing industries. So urgent were these meetings deemed to be that some Ministerial supporters actually sacrificed their luncheons in order that they might lose no opportunity of arousing the operatives to a proper appreciation of the position. Upon one memorable occasion, at least, the House was counted out while the Government whip was absent on an expedition of that kind.
– It was the Reid Government which was counted out.
– No. I arn referring to the occasion when the honorable member for Bourke arrived just too late to save the situation. I mention this matter with a view to showing how anxious the Government were to deal with the Tariff question at that time- They urged that it would not admit of a moment’s delay. The late Attorney-General, who has since been translated to a quieter, and I hope more congenial sphere, actually shed crocodile tears whilst assuring us that so great was the distress amongst languishing industries throughout Australia that he felt it a difficult matter to conscientiously eat his Christmas dinner. Then the Prime Minister, in Adelaide, some fifteen months ago, said -
The circumstances of our situation have made protection indispensable here and now. Until the fiscal policy of the country is placed on a sound economic basis the discussion of the other great problems pressing upon us can never receive our undivided attention.
Notwithstanding that declaration by the Prime Minister upon 29th March last year, no attempt was made to deal with the Tariff as the session progressed. Later on, speaking of the reports of the Tariff Commission, the Prime Minister said -
They must be ready for presentation early next year. ‘ So we say, and I think the public will say with one voice, that nothing can justify the burying of the reports and recommendations of the Commission when they are presented in the first session of the new Parliament.
The honorable and learned gentleman was then referring to the first session of this Parliament. But what was our experience? Notwithstanding this declaration, as soon as we met, the Prime Minister came down to the House, with no proposal to deal with the Tariff, or anything in that direction. Despite his earnest declaration - received by the people of Victoria with frantic cheers - he laid aside the Tariff as not being of [pressing importance, and went off to attend the Imperial Conference, although he had no mandate from the people to represent Australia there. When such declarations are followed by such an unnecessary delay in any attempt at execution we are entitled to doubt very much the sincerity of the professions of the Prime Minister and the members of his Government in this or any other regard. Referring to the fact that the leader of the Opposition would, willy nilly, have to face the fiscal question as soon as the reports of the Tariff Commission were presented, the Prime Minister said -
I say, in these circumstances, it would be criminal to put the fiscal question aside. What is to become of the great work of the Commission if the recommendations of the Commission are not to be dealt with. (Cheers.) In reviewing the coming elections for the next Parliament, never forget this cardinal fact, that the Tariff Commission will be knocking at its door the day that it assembles.
– But do the Government wish to put the question aside?
– We were told that it would be criminal to lay aside the reports of the Tariff Commission in the first session of the new Parliament, yet we were not asked to deal with any of them in that session. Although the Tariff Commission was knocking at the door, and demanding early consideration of its reports, the Prime Minister, together with the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the Comptroller of Customs - who were all intimately connected with the framing of the new Tariff - left for England on a four months’ trip. Meantime the Tariff Commission was still vainly knocking at the door of Parliament, and demanding the immediate attention which the Prime Minister had declared it would be criminal to withhold. I mention these matters only to show the evident insincerity of the Ministry when before the country. For there was no necessity to delay the work of Parliament and remove to Eng- land the Minister of Trade and Customs, and his chief executive officer, who alone had the responsibility of framing Tariff legislation. >j
– Why did the honorable member not raise his voice in protest last session on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply ?
– I did not have an opportunity. The debate was promptly closed down.
– But the honorable member could have spoken.
– What effect would my protest have had? What effect, may I ask, will my protest have to-night?
– The Tariff Commission may still keep knocking at the door,.
– And they may go on knocking until doomsday if the Government think fit to submit something else to the House. If an opportunity arose for Ministers to attend another Imperial Conference they would find a further excuse for shelving the Tariff.
– Does the honorable member complain of the delay in dealing with the Tariff?
– I have never said that it is an urgent matter, nor have I been anxious to deal with the Tariff, except either to abolish or reduce it. The Government, however, declared that no other question could receive their undivided attention until the Tariff had been disposed of, and that it would be criminal to allow anything to interpose before the Tariff Bill had been dealt with. The AttorneyGeneral was, I presume, as anxious as any one to have the Tariff disposed of, and I should like to know whether he indorsed the Prime Minister’s declaration that it would be criminal not to deal in the first session of this Parliament with the reports of the Commission.
– They must be dealt with soon.
– I do not envy the Ministry in the position in which, on their own showing, they find themselves. We are now promised that the Tariff is to be dealt with as soon as possible. The Minister of Trade and Customs told us this afternoon that he did not agree with Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s contention that we should try to promote free-trade throughout the Empire.
– I said it was not practicable.
– How can we demonstrate the practicability or otherwise of a proposal unless we try it? Is the Minister agreeable to make the experiment? If he is, he will have my hearty support in such a laudable effort. I fear, however, that when the Tariff Bill is introduced, we shall find that it goes in the direction, not of reducing the burdens upon those who have to pay the piper in order to put money into the pockets of would-be monopolists - for the most part resident in Victoria, and chiefly centred around Melbourne - but of still further increasing those. burdens.
– Can the honorable member tell me the difference between a fat importer and a fat manufacturer?
– I shall be glad to discuss such an abstruse question with the honorable member on another occasion when we shall not disturb the deliberations of the House. I believe that there is a general desire to finally dispose of the Tariff question, since this perpetual tinkering with it must have a very injurious effect upon trade and commerce generally. I can assure the Minister of Trade and Customs that I shall be prepared to assist .him to the utmost to reduce the taxation of the people.
– Will not the honorable member help me to raise the Tariff ?
– The honorable gentleman cannot rely upon me for any assistance in that direction. If it be impossible to obtain a reduction of the Tariff, I shall certainly fight against its being increased.
– A good many industries are springing up in the electorate of Lang.
– I am very happy to say that they have sprung up under natural conditions, and do not require to be fostered at the expense of the general community. The people engaging in those industries belong to the old British stock. They are thoroughly independent, and like to fight out their battles without leaning on the Government, or any one else. Having regard to the representative they have selected, the honorable gentleman ought to be aware of that fact. I observe that we are promised in His Excellency’s Speech that there will be submitted for our approval -
A Bill for the encouragement of new industries by means of bounties. My Advisers are confident that there are many latent sources of wealth in Australia which only require moderate encouragement to insure successful development.
Here we have a further proposal to take more money out of the pockets of the unfortunate people - to dip more deeply into the Treasury in order to enrich private individuals at the public expense - to encourage some new industry by means of bounties. Is a bounty again to be proposed for the production of peanuts?
– If the honorable member is not careful he will have the same fate that befell “ peanuts.”
– I do not think I am likely to meet with that fate for some time, although it often befalls those least deserving of it. There are honorable, members whom we could have spared far better than some we have lost. The system of encouraging industries by means of bounties is, save in very exceptional circumstances, a most pernicious one. Whenever a bounty is granted, we almost invariably have a demand for an extension of the period originally fixed for its payment. In this way, we have put before us propositions for sliding scales extending over a number of years, and these in turn are followed by proposals for imposing protective duties as soon as the bounty is entirely removed. In these circumstances, I think we should be very chary in adopting the principle of granting bounties. A better means of encouraging new industries is to be found by co-operating with the States in the extension of agricultural and technical colleges, so that the best information may be imparted to those engaging in primary production. If any public money is to be spent for the encouragement of industries, it would be much more justifiable to distribute it in some such way as that than to give direct bounties to producers. I see that the appointment of a High Commissioner is referred to in His Excellency’s Speech in the following terms : -
Though immigration to the Commonwealth is generally increasing, its growth is not in any degree commensurate with our needs or opportunities. The conditions under which it is proceeding call for serious consideration. The appointment of a Commonwealth High Commissioner, urgent on many grounds, will supply the necessary authority in the mother country.
No one, I think, disagrees with that view ; but where trouble may possibly arise will
De in selecting a suitable gentleman for the office, and it would be interesting to learn what are the Government intentions. Is the House to be consulted, or is the appointment to be an Executive act, irre spective of the wishes of honorable members? In another place a desire was expressed that there should be a joint sitting of the two Houses for the purpose of considering the matter; and that is a proposal which should seriously commend itself to the Government. At any rate, the House might be enlightened as to what course the Government intend to pursue. The matter of harbor and coastal defence I shall leave to a later period, when the terms of the Government proposals are before us. I should like, however, to draw attention to the cancellation of the mail contract. Paragraph 10 of His Excellency’s Speech is as follows : -
I regret to inform you that the new mail contract, vid Suez, has been cancelled ; fresh tenders will be invited to-morrow. An arrangement has been almost completed with the Orient Company for an extension of their current contract for another year.
The whole proceeding in connexion with this mail contract reflects anything but credit on the business capabilities of the present Administration!. The Commonwealth of Australia has been, held up before the eyes of the world in a very unenviable light. The Government cannot complain that the circumstances which have arisen were entirely unforeseen when the negotiations for the contract were entered into. When the terms of the contract were laid on the table of the House some honorable members oh this side, including the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Parramatta, myself, and others, drew special attention to the fact that the contract was very loosely drawn ‘ up, and that a great want of foresight had been exhibited in its preparation. We contended that the amount of the deposit wa« ridiculously small, considering the financial interests involved, and that there ought to have been a cash deposit, that there ought to have been a time fixed for the commencement of the construction of the vessels, and a penalty provided for the non-fulfilment of the conditions of the contract. But all these suggestions were poohpoohed by the Prime Minister, the PostmasterGeneral, and other members of the Government. Our attempts to safeguard the interests of the community were regarded as not worth listening to, because, I suppose, the objections proceeded from members of the Opposition ; at least, I take that to have been the main reason for the Government’s inattention to obvious defects in the contract and the failure to make any provision for the circumstances which have since arisen, and which justify all that was said at the time. Apparently there was never any serious intention to go on with the contract, but it was merely an option which a certain syndicate had power to hawk round for twelve months,’ and which could then be dropped without any serious loss to the members of the syndicate. Now that the anticipations and fears of the Opposition have been realized, I am glad to have the assurance of the Prime Minister of the. day that safeguards of the kind suggested by the Opposition on the last occasion will be placed in the new contract.
– We could not get on without the Opposition.
– No doubt the Government have very much to thank the Opposition for. The Opposition has assisted the Government in a way which reflects the highest credit on honorable members on this side ; they have, certainly improved many of the Government measures, and made them much more acceptable to the people.
– I do not think the Opposition altered any of the measures.
– Not a single Government measure was carried in the form in which it was introduced, and I am glad to find the Minister of Trade and Customs so grateful and appreciative of the assistance we have rendered. In connexion with the mail contract, I should like to call attention to the following paragraph, which appeared to-night in the Melbourne Herald : -
Tlie determination of the Federal Cabinet to cancel the mail contract when it was thought the capital required by the Laing syndicate was about to be subscribed in London is attributed, in some quarters, to the influence of New South Wales members, who are stated to be jealous of the bargain made by the Victorian Government under the guarantee scheme.,
Will the Minister of Trade and Customs tell us whether that alleged reason is the true one - whether the cancellation of the contract is due to the action of representatives of New South Wales? I have been led to believe myself that the contract was cancelled from! motives of an entirely different character, and that there is absolutely no truth in the statement in the newspaper. However, the contract has been cancelled, and I suppose we have seen the end of what, to call it by the best name possible^ is a very bad piece of commercial business for the Commonwealth. Another matter referred to in His Excellency’s speech is that of the Federal Capital site - almost at the end of the speech.
– That was done intentionally.
– I do not know whether it was done intentionally, but it would be interesting to know whether the fact that the reference to the question is’ almost at the end of His Excellency’s speech, and is confined to one line, is ari indication that the consideration of the matter is to be held over till late in the session. I hope that is not the case, because the people of New South Wales regard this as a- serious question - as a failure of the Commonwealth Parliament and of the other States to keep the compact with New South Wales’, a compact which was largely responsible for inducing New South Wales to enter the Federation. The delay has caused an immense amount of irritation and dissatisfaction in the mother State, and is looked upon as a serious breach of. faith. I hope the question is not going to be hung up indefinitely, but that it wil? receive prompt attention. It is to betrusted that the present Ministry, if they remain in possession of the Treasurybenches long enough, will bring down some proposal at an early date, so that the matter may be settled once and for all. I notice that the Minister of Trade and Customs said nothing about the Federal Capital in the course of his remarks.
– I confined myself to matters dealt with by the acting leader of the Opposition, who did not say anything about the Federal Capital site.
– Then I hope the Prime Minister will give us some information as to the intention of the Government, and that he will assure us that the matter will not be left over till late in the session.
– Do the New South Wales people know what they want?
– That is not the question ; the point is what is. in the bond,, and the fulfilling of a compact. If it is allowable to break faith with one State, it is allowable to break faith with any other State. I do not think any fairminded honorable member really desiresthat an agreement solemnly entered intowith any of the States should be broken. The failure to deal with this question in a. satisf actory manner is a source of continual friction in New South Wales, and the sooner it is settled the sooner we are likely to get more of the Federal spirit, about which we hear so much in Victoria, and see so little put into practice by Victorians.
– Both Houses dealt with the matter years ago; it is the honorable member and Joey Carruthers who are making all the stink.
– It is an electioneering cry.
– It is a matter which enters very seriously into the thoughts of the people of New South Wales quite apart from all electioneering. New South Wales was invited to join the Federation under certain conditions, which have not been fulfilled, and which, apparently, on the part of some honorable members at any rate, there is no desire to fulfil.
– What condition has not been fulfilled?
– The condition that the Federal Capital should be in New South Wales.
– Dalgety was decided upon years ago.
– The question was not then dealt with in a final way.
– :Both Houses of Parliament decided on Dalgety.
– The very fact that the Prime Minister brought the matter up again last session is an admission that the question was not settled. Dalgety was chosen only because honorable members were limited to three sites, and had no opportunity to insert other names.
– We took a ballot on several sites.
– I am speaking of the time: when Dalgety was selected. That site was voted for by a number of honorable members on both sides - certainly by a number on this side - simply because they had no option but to choose between that and a less desirable site. In any case, the Prime Minister and the late AttorneyGeneral, by re-opening negotiations with the Premier of New South Wales, have admitted that the matter has not been finally settled.
– This is so much flapdoodle !
– If honorable members continue in that frame of mind I am afraid-
– Civil war will break out.
– I do not say that, but honorable members will find it very undesirable to allow these causes for friction to remain. As I say, this matter is regarded very seriously by the people most affected, and yet some honorable members seem disposed to treat it in a flippant and jocular way. I am certain that if the compact had been made with Queensland, we should have found the honorable member for Maranoa .and his colleagues fighting for a recognition of the rights of that State.
– That is what I am sent here for.
– And I am sent here to stand up for the rights of the State which I represent, in the same way that the honorable member for Maranoa defends the recognised rights of his State. However, I do not wish to dwell on the subject longer now. No doubt, other representatives of New South Wales will have something to say about it, and the House will find that we are very much in earnest in regard to it. I assure the representatives of other States who are so anxious to secure the transcontinental railway that, if they, seek the support of New South Wales, they must first give some consideration to the Federal Capital question. They have no written bond, whereas we have a bond signed by the Premiers of all the States.
– It has been fulfilled.
– No, it has not. If it had been fulfilled, we should not find in the Governor-General’s Speech a reference to the proposed introduction of a Bill relating to a site for the Seat of Government. If the matter has been dealt with, why do not the supporters of the Government ask what is meant by introducing legislation relating to a matter which has been settled? The paragraph to which I refer is an admission that the matter has not. been settled, and if I had had no other justification for referring to it, it would have been sufficient to cause me to do so. The people of New South Wales have another grievance. Reference was made by the Governor-General to the appointment of a Commonwealth Meteorologist. But why was it necessary to bring that officer from Sydney, and to locate him in Melbourne? We hear a great deal about the Federal spirit from the representatives of Victoria, but so far as they and the newspapers which support them are concerned, the opinion seems to be held that Victoria is the whole Commonwealth, and that no part of the country outside this State is worth consideration. To Victorians, the importance of Queensland is a bagatelle; Western Australia is a mere dot; South Australia is tolerated as a next-door neighbour; but New South Wales should be wiped off the face of the earth. Everything must be concentrated in Melbourne, and it has been said by the Premier of the State that Melbourne is the centre of the Federation. Victorian members are never tired of talking of the parochialism of the representatives of the other States, whereas they are themselves the most parochial in their views of any body of men in the universe. An officer in the other States cannot get a yard of red tape without referring to Melbourne. What a fine outcry there would have been in Victoria if all the Federal offices had been located at Adelaide, Sydney, or Brisbane. There would have been nothing but denunciation of such an un-Federal act. It is, however, quite right to concentrate them in Melbourne, which, according to Victorians, is the hub of the universe. I do not complain because Victorians exhibit the parochial spirit, but I take exception to their grumbling about the parochialism of the representatives of other States who ask for the fair recognition of the rights of their people. The mention of the Federal Capital within the hearing of a Victorian is like the waving of a red rag in the sight of a bull. Passing away from the Federal Capital question, I wish to refer to the proposal of the Government to take over the control of beacons and ocean lights. Although the matter is mentioned in the last paragraph of the Governor- General’s Speech, it is one of the most important with which we can deal. Undoubtedly there should be a central authority to control the lighting of our coasts. Our sea borne trade is constantly increasing, and the adequate lighting of our coasts cannot be left entirely to the Governments of the States, because it entails a burden which some of the less populous States are unable to bear. During my recent visit to the Northern Territory I’ had an opportunity of seeing how inadequately the Queensland coast is lighted.
– On the whole, it is well lighted.
– It is very badly lighted within the Barrier Reef. I went very carefully over the charts of that coast with the captains of the vessels by which I voyaged, and with members of the Torres Straits Pilots’ Association whom T met, and was supplied with a list of eighteen or twenty places where, I am assured, lights or beacons are urgently needed. A portion of that coast is not much better lighted now than it was twenty or thirty years ago, when the traffic was much less.
– Between what points?
– The most intricate and dangerous navigation is between Palmerston and Sandy Cape. Even the most experienced pilots are obliged to anchor for one or two nights, and sometimes in thick, hazy weather more frequently. This imposes a heavy charge upon ship-owners, and now that our trade is increasing so largely, demanding the use of faster and bigger vessels, the necessity for more lights has become a pressing one.
– I have been through the recommendations to-day. There is to be a light near Cape York, and another close to Port Darwin. We cannot do everything at once.
– No. I do not suggest that light-houses are needed at all the places to which I refer, because beacons would be sufficient in some instances. Some time ago a very valuable light, situated off the Proudfoot Shoal, was removed, and I have been informed by a pilot that, in consequence of its removal, three fine steamers have had narrow escapes within the last few months.
– It is recommended that a light be placed there.
– In the past the practice has been to compel lighthouse-keepers to remain at their posts for a protracted period, and the isolation of their situation has often caused melancholia. This trouble can’ be got over by giving frequent reliefs. I do not propose to refer at length to the taking over of the Northern Territory, because I have already been speaking longer than I intended to speak. But as the honorable member for Fawkner seemed to indicate that he favours a system of land grants in connexion with the construction of railways there, I wish to say that I hope that that system will not be adopted. One of our duties is to guard against the monopolization of natural opportunities. The contention which has been advanced in opposition to land value taxation and measures of that kind has been that vested interests have become so gigantic that such taxation would in some cases amount to confiscation.
– How would the honorable member build railways there without the land grant system? Would the honorable member not advocate construction by the State ?
– I am not prepared to give private individuals control of land without safeguarding the public rights in it for all time, and avoiding the creation of monopolies such as have already brought about disastrous results everywhere else.
– Then the honorable member is a Socialist?
– I am absolutely opposed to Socialism. That question is not involved. Some honorable members seem to be unable to discriminate between sound business propositions allowing the greatest possible individual ‘freedom, and State control and regulation involving the negation of the principle of individual freedom so necessary for the development of any country. I hope, at any rate, that no proposals will be submitted which will permit of the alienation of any territory acquired by the Commonwealth in such a way that the people’s rights may be disregarded, and those very conditions brought about which, under similar systems, we have found it so difficult to get rid of hitherto. We know what has been the experience of land grant railways in other countries. Surely that experience ought to warn us against introducing the system in Australia. If we are going to promote white settlement in the Territory, I see no reason why we should not adopt the experiment of building its railways by white labour. If the necessary lines are constructed by white labour, a fair opportunity will be afforded of testing whether the country can be successfully settled bv that means. Personally I believe that it can. The greatest evil that we have to fear in connexion with the Northern Territory is the drink evil. So long as the white man there keeps away from the hotel, I think it is quite possible that he may be able to develop it without the aid o’f Asiatic or any other alien labour.
– What men were employed upon the railway which .was constructed to Pine Creek?
– Local residents assured me that they were mostly Chinese.
– The line-repairers are all white men.
– I saw some white men in the Territory who did not seem to suffer from climatic conditions, but most of the women there did not appear to be of too healthy a type. One in particular who was pointed out to me as having been a very buxom and fresh looking young lady when she first went there, certainly appeared to be extremely anaemic.
– The same thing might be said in reference to any part of Australia.
– Of course there has been no means hitherto of fairly testing whether the climate is suitable for white labour or not. Before we talk seriously about developing the Territory with alien coloured labour we might very well try the experiment of constructing the railways which are necessary there by white labour, and of giving those who are thus employed an opportunity to acquire lands for the purposes of cultivation. There are one or two other matters to which I had intended to refer, but I do not propose to trespass upon the time of the House at greater length. Regarding the work of the session, I trust that the Government will exercise a little more care than they/ have previously exhibited in the preparation of their measures. When Bills are submitted to the House, I hope that they will be dealt with immediately, and that the practice of introducing them and of then withdrawing them temporarily and proceeding with the consideration of other measures will be discontinued. I trust, too, that we shall not witness the spectacle of Ministers bringing down Bills, laying them upon the table, and afterwards introducing amendments which are even more numerous than the clauses of the Bills themselves. I thank honorable members for the attention which they have given me, and I hope that I have not exhausted their patience. I trust that the feeling which has thus far been exhibited in the debate will continue throughout the session, so that we may part at its close with the kindliest recollections of one another.
.- I had placed the matter of the Federal Capital last among the subjects upon which I had intended to touch during the course of my remarks, but, after listening to the observations of the honorable member for Lang, and recalling the position which has been taken up by the Premier of New South Wales upon this question, I wish, in making my initial bow to the House, to enter my protest against the ridiculous parochial spirit which is being fanned by certain members. At this stage of our history - seeing that we have taken the main steps towards the establishment and building up of a young Australian nation - it is indeed to be deprecated that they should still attempt to fan that flame. I was amused, during the Premiers’ Conference in Brisbane, to note the querulousness exhibited by the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the non-representation of the States by their Premiers at the Imperial Conference. To my mind, that was about the worst note that could possibly have been struck. Surely the day has arrived when the people of this continent should be known as Australians, and not as parochial New South Welshmen, Victorians or South Australians. Concerning the Capital Site I have no grievance whatever, although I am a New South Wales representative. But I do hope that the Government will make all speed to definitely determine this question. The Commonwealth Parliament has already done its share in that direction. I throw the blame for the present unsatisfactory position upon the New South Wales Administration, which failed to meet this Parliament in a fair and honorable way. I have not a predisposition for any site, because I have not had an opportunity of viewing any of them. Perhaps before the question is finally settled I shall be afforded such an opportunity. It seems to me, however, that a definite stand should be made against the Seat of Government being permanently established either in Sydney or Melbourne. I shall certainly vote against either of those cities being made the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member is compelled to do so if he respects the Constitution.
– I would like to inform the honorable member that an underground endeavour is now being made to make Sydney the Seat of Government. Personally, I object either to Sydney or Melbourne, or indeed to any coastal town, being selected. My ideal of a Federal Capital is one that will at least be out of the range of the guns of an enemy. We all know that some of our coastal cities might very easily be shelled by ships lying a. few miles out. My ideal of a Federal city is one built well within our territory, and possessing such a grand natural protection as our great Dividing Range w’ould afford.
– Armidale might suit?
– If the honorable member imagines that I am so parochial as to advocate the selection of a site there he is very much mistaken. But if, after an examination of the eligible sites, I were of opinion that Armidale was the best, I would certainly vote for it. I wish to see a site selected where all the archives of State may be kept, where the bullion of the banks may be put away - a site which may be held against any attack, and which might be surrounded by our land forces,, even after a large portion of our coastal fringe had been taken by an enemy. We should approach this matter in a national spirit, and not in a parochial one. I was very much interested in* the remarks of the honorable member for Lang upon the question of defence. He raised the old shriek in reference to “ cutting the painter.” To me, it is most amusing to hear honorable members yelling- because any man dares to criticise British administration - that he desires to “cut the painter.” To my mind, the true patriot is a man who will make a fight to bring the laws of his country into harmony with what is just. I am loyal to the British people - I am descended from them - and I feel that the greatest safeguard to Australia to-day is that the British flag floats over her, and that she enjoys the protection of the British Navy.
– Then what is the honorable member growling at?
– I am growling at the honorable member for raising the ridiculous cry that there are men here who want to “ cut the painter.” It is all very well to talk about the British flag, and the great protection afforded by the British fleet, so long as the world is at peace, but the day may yet come when Great Britain will be involved in an international war, when she will have to call that fleet to the centre of the Empire, and Australia will have to do a little for her own defence. Should that day arrive, how are we to make anything like a stand against the invading hordes of Chinese or ‘Japanese? It seems to me that when honorable members talk in the style adopted by the honorable member for Lang they are playing with a very serious problem. Let us stand solidly together, let us strike out on new lines, and build up an Australia that will be a credit to the British Empire. Do not let Australia act the part of a profligate son, who spends everything, and then wishes to live upon his father. Rather let us hope to see the day when we shall even be financially independent of Great Britain. Coming more closely to the subject immediately under consideration, I wish to say that to me the peculiar feature of this debate is the attitude of the Opposition. I was astounded to hear so mild a speech from the deputy leader of the Opposition. I had been led to believe, by statements published in a section of the press, during the general election, that the occupants of the Ministerial benches were most outrageous people, and I at least expected in this, the first debate in the House in which I have taken part, to hear the Ministry severely castigated by the Opposition. Instead of that, however, I listened to a speech from the deputy leader of the Opposition, so meek and mild, that it might have come from one of the supporters of the Government who has a small grievance. The honorable member for Lang made a for more vigorous speech, but I was grieved as I watched the clock and saw a whole half-hour being devoted by him to a speech on the tri-party system. This three-party system seems to be a source of much trouble to the honorable member. To my mind, the real reason for the outcry is to be found in the fact that of the three sections in the House, the Labour Party possesses, and has possessed for some time, the greatest power. But we have placed in the hands of the people of the Commonwealth an instrument by which they can determine this great question,, and it is to them we must look for a settlement. I am so optimistic as to believe that the time is rapidly approaching when the people will definitely settle it by returning to this Parliament an overwhelming majority of the members of the party to which I belong. I was highly amused to hear the honorable member for Lang refer to the Labour Part as Socialists. I think that in future I shall speak of the Opposition as the “ Anarchist Party.”
– Are not the Labour Party Socialists ?
– When a Labour Ministry is in office, honorable members opposite will find that they possess sufficient common sense to submit to the consideration of the Parliament something that is immediately practicable. They will find that the difference between the Labour Party and the Socialist Party lies in the fact that the former is a body of level-headed men, conscious of the great Tory opposition which confronts them, and fully aware that behind the Opposition and others who try to obstruct progress there stand two consoli dated anarchistic bodies - the large land monopolists and the big financiers.
– Is this a notice to the Government to quit?
– I am dealing now with the Opposition. It will be time enough to describe the Labour Party as Socialists when a Labour Administration comes forward with a proposal to adopt Socialism.
– The Labour Party describe themselves as Socialists.
– I do not protest against that Socialism which means cooperation, but I do most emphatically protest against the absurd, farcical and ridiculous scarecrow put up by the leader of the Opposition and others, and labelled “Socialism.” When I know that every Sunday in the Sydney Domain, what is known as the Socialist Party denounces the Labour Party as not being socialistic, I feel constrained to ask whether, in this matter, the Socialists themselves ought not to be regarded as the best judges. If a member of the party to which I belong declared that the Opposition were not freetraders, who would be the most competent judges to deal with the assertion? This matter is one on which I feel very strongly. In view of the consternation with which the great financiers and land monopolists have viewed even the meagre proposals put forward for democracy at any time in its history, I often wonder what sort of panic would occur among them if there were returned to this House a party with a proposal for the practical application of the principles of Christianity to every-day life. What kind of panic would take place amongst those gentlemen if, for instance, it were provided - “ Thou shalt take no usury.”
– I have never heard a Socialist say that it is better to give than to receive.
– Then I do not think that the honorable member -has heard much from the Socialists. As a matter of fact, there has not been in the House a Socialist Party to .tell him anything regarding its principles. Throughout the British Empire to-day there are clergymen by the score - clergymen of all denominations - who call themselves Socialists.
– And there are others who call themselves anti-Socialists.
– If these gentlemen can speak of Christianity as Socialism I would advise the honorable member to make -a more complete investigation of the subject, r may say at once that I am not here as an apologist for, or an advocate of, Socialism. I am here to fight for immediately practicable measures - measures that can be brought into existence within the next three years. Socialism may be a grand scheme to renovate humanity; it may be practical Christianity ; but I am forced to realize that we must not waste the time of the House in dealing with mere dreams or ideals. If the aspirations of the party are immediately practicable, well and good; I shall be willing to support them. I take exception to the omission from His Excellency’s Speech of any reference to the question of the consolidation of the States’ debts. The recent Conference of Premiers in Brisbane was attended by the Treasurer, and I am sorry that a Labour Premier, instead of the acting leader of the Ministry, was not present when Mr. Carruthers said that the States Governments were in a better position than the Commonwealth to deal with the debts of the States since they had States banks, because a Labour Premier would have undoubtedly replied at once - “ Very good ; we shall have a National bank and deal with them.”
– Mr. Carruthers spoke of savings banks.
– They are State institutions. I also note that there is no reference in the speech to the taking over of the railways of the States. But while admitting that there seems to be a want of sincerity in many directions, I am faced with the pleasing fact that the piece de resistance of the programme for the session is the proposal for an effective system of protection. I am prepared to “ go the whole hog “ with the Government in establishing a good’ efficient system of protection - one that will make Australia selfsupporting. This proposal has been dangled too long before the public. I might remind honorable members that I come into this Chamber displacing an old gentleman named Lonsdale who was an ardent freetrader. In me the House sees the change from the old order to the new, and the neworder is “ Australia for the Australians, whether they are born here or imported.” The only way to give effect to such a policy is to establish an effective system of protection, which will afford abundance of employment to Australians. When I hear in other States parochial squirmings against
Victoria, I cannot help thinking that the chief cause df complaint is that Victoria, because of her previous system of protection, is in this respect slightly in advance of the others.
– As, for instance, in the starch trade, with its 30s. a week for married men.
– I am coming to that matter. The honorable member has referred to something which is of deep interest to me, as well as to -honorable members generally on this side of the House. We hear a lot nowadays of the new protection, and whilst I have not come into this House in the belief that I can revolutionize it, I feel that I may be able to assist those who have been so earnestly at work in the interests of democracy and help them to push that democracy a little further. I wish at this stage to pay a tribute to my .comrades of the party for the good work they have already done in the House. Why do we find in this Parliament to-day men who some years ago were Tories, standing up for the new protection ? Does not their attitude show that the Labour Party has been working with some effectiveness? Does it not show that men have been educated up to a recognition of the altered position of affairs, when we find even members of the Ministry agreeing with us that a system of protection such as that prevailing in America - a system under which great industries primarily, totally or mostly in the interests of a class, the wealthy monopolists, are built up - is not what we need for Australia? That which we desire is, first of all, an effective Tariff, to enable the manufacturer to carry on his industry, and secondly, a system whereby we shall be able to insure to every, man or woman employed in that industry a fair wage for employment extending over a reasonable number of hours. I hope that concurrently with the passing of the Tariff we shall have the valued assistance of the majority of honorable members in securing a reasonable amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which will keep the lawyers out of the Court. I lived for two years in New Zealand, where I saw in operation an Act which provided that if one of the parties to a proceeding before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court objected to the presence of a lawyer in the case, he was not permitted to appear. There should be such a provision in the Commonwealth Act. We find that by the raising of technical points, and in other ways, the time of the unions and of employers has been wasted, and exorbitant expenses have been incurred, particularly by the former.
– And the lawyers get the money.
– That is so. The Ministry, if they are in favour of the new protection, might have included in their proposals for the session some such proposition. It is only by an effective system of arbitration that we can get proper protection for the workers.
– We should arrange wages when we frame the Tariff.
– That is a matter we can deal with when the Tariff is before us. I am totally opposed to outside independent bodies interfering in disputes between employer and employes. The day *has come when we should have an effective system whereby men who understand the disputes, namely, the employers and the employes, should be able to settle matters in an expeditious way. “ I now come to another phase of the new protection. I am sorry to see no mention in His Excellency’s Speech of any proposal to nationalize monopolies. I know there has been some anti-trust legislation, but I am afraid that that will not be of much benefit. The best way to deal with a trust which is a private monopoly is to make it a public monopoly, and allow every member of the Commonwealth to participate in the benefits.
– Does the honorable member know of a complete private monopoly in Australia? The Tobacco Commission, which was composed of Labour representatives, declared that the tobacco combine was not a complete monopoly.
– The tobacco monopoly is near enough to a complete monopoly to justify its nationalization.
– If a partial monopoly may be nationalized, we may nationalize anything. How does the honorable member define a complete monopoly?
– A complete monopoly, in my opinion, is when competition ceases, and the members of the monopoly are able to sweat the public, and make them pay any price they choose. If there is a Tariff to protect industries, we should have reasonable competition amongst manufacturers, and we are not going to allow a Tariff which will permit monopolists to sweat the people. Surely we ought to benefit by the experience of other nations. The United1 States is a magnificent model, and, though I do not say we ought to copy that country, so far as “cutting the painter” is concerned, we .might well follow her example in the establishment of industries. I do not see why, with the great resources of the Commonwealth, we should not look forward to a day when we shall be almost as great a nation as America is to-day. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Lang say that, in his opinion, the one prime necessity for Australia is population. Can the honorable member show me a better method of attracting population than by framing an effective Tariff? That is the first real step in defence. Men may say what they like about defence, but the first and necessary step to preserve Australia as a white man’s country is to fill it with white population. I quite thought for the moment that I was listening to an honorable member on this side of the House when the honorable member for Lang said he believed in filling Australia with white people. The honorable member knows as well as anybody that if we continued under a free-trade policy, the additional population we require would be practically non est for another century. In the framing of the Tariff, there are other points on which the Government will have to insist. I am pleased to know that some legislation has already been passed, but it will be necessary to further secure the purity of foods, and prevent the use of shoddy in woollen manufactures. I believe the great majority of the people, who look at affairs in the light of history and of the experiences of other countries, would much prefer that protection should be introduced by a Labour rather than by any other Administration. They know that a Labour Government would safeguard the interests of the whole people; and to-day we have the next best condition, inasmuch as there is an Administration introducing protection with the support of the Labour Party, who are able to act as watch dogs in the people’s interests. I am surprised to hear querulous statements in reference to postponement of the consideration of the Tariff from the short formal session until the present session. I was quite willing that there should be a postponement under the circumstances, and, seeing that the Tariff Commission has only just now finished its reports, I think we- are entering upon the discussion at the very best time. In connexion with immigration, I must express my sorrow that there is no proposal in His Excellency’s Speech for a progressive land tax on all estates over £5,000 in value. Every man must acknowledge that land settlement must proceed step by step with protection in building up population. The Premiers of the States are simply dilly-dallying and playing with the question of land settlement. In New South Wales the Premier is so callous to Australian interests that he is making every effort to bring men from the old country to settle on the land, when he knows there are thousands of New South Wales men who cannot get a home to-day. We have to turn to Queensland, where there is a Labour Premier, in order to find available land for settlement.
– The Queensland Premier is not a labour man.
– The Queensland Premier may not be an extreme labour man, to say nothing of his being a Socialist, but he is moving in the right direction. He has done a great deal for labour in the past, and I hope that the position into which he is forced now will compel him to do a great deal more for labour in the future. Although the day has not arrived for the Commonwealth Government or Parliament to take over the land administration of the States - I hope, however, that it soon will arrive - we could produce a very strong effect on closer settlement by instituting a progressive land tax. I advocate an exemption of . £5,000, with the first and foremost object of compelling a better use of the alienated lands, and also of compelling the present owners to sell for the purposes of settlement.
An Honorable Member. - Confiscation !
– Anything thatgoes “ against the grain “ of the old ruling party, those monopolists and financiers behind the men who carried out land legislation in the past - anything that tends to take away one scintilla of their privileges - is confiscation. But confiscation to whom? To the whole public. If the lands administration had been on a just basis in the early days there would be no trouble to-day. People ask - “ What has the Labour Party done ? “ They ought to be ashamed to ask such a question. The Labour Party have never had control of land administration. It would be much more sensible to ask, “ What have the old parties done?” The old parties have allowed the eyes of the Common wealth to be picked out by a few land monopolists, and have passed such land laws that thousands of our own people cannot get a home. I laugh when I hear honorable members talking about the Labour Party being against immigration. Think of the monstrosity of such a charge ! The Labour Party has toiled, laboured and fought for a White Australia policy; and can it be thought for a moment that they are so asinine as to contend that 5,000,000 people cankeep Australia white. It is unfair to make such an insinuation. The Labour Party know that the only way to defend this country is to fill it with white men, and they are determined to bring those men here. But beforethis is done, they are of opinion that Australians should have the first “ show “ of getting homes for themselves. Amongst Australians are men who have pioneered the way, not only for us younger men born on the soil, but for men who will come from the old country. It is not fair that there should be a land system under which preference is given to new comers over people who have toiled to make the Commonwealth what it is to-day. When the land hunger of Australian men and women is satisfied, then the Labour Party would throw open the gates and welcome Britishers - Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen - and also the members of any white race, but not “ Chinkees “ or Japanese. During my election campaign, I was twitted with being opposed to my coloured brother. I was opposed to my coloured brother, but only because I considered he would be very much better off if he stopped in his own country. If coloured people come here, I am afraid that in the future we may see a civil war of very great magnitude; Australians might have to fight by other means than they now use in order to keep this country white. In America there are millions of a coloured population, and it is not known how to get rid of them. Those negroes are a menace to the security of the United States, and the day may yet come when it may be necessary to deport them to their natural home in Africa. Although I consider those men my coloured brothers, I totally object to them as brothers-in-law. I consider that if theyare not fit to intermarry with our race, they are not fit to be citizens of the Commonwealth. Another matter which is just mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech isthat of old-age pensions; but I hope to hear something more definite in regard to this matter. Although the reference to this subject is low down in the programme submitted, I trust the Government will take early action in the direction of federalizing those pensions. In my own State, there are thousands of deserving men and women who are debarred from obtaining a pension because they have not resided twenty-five years in New South Wales. We want this anomaly swept away so that any old, necessitous man or woman who has been twenty-five years within the Commonwealth shall be entitled to assistance in this way. Federal action is specially necessary when we see the Premier of New South Wales introducing a Bill which, by raising the residence qualification from twenty-five to thirty-five years, would have the effect of preventing thousands more of old people from obtaining pensions. This is an urgent matter, and I hope that the Government will push forward with it. Members of the Labour Party feel that, although Tariff and measures for the settlement of the land are necessary, we must not forget the aged and helpless. We are of opinion that the two sets of legislation can be proceeded with simultaneously.
– What about pensions for ourselves?
– Surely the honorable member is not looking for a pension yet. I hope to see some very vigorous work done by him in this Parliament. I desire now to say a word in regard to the proposed taking over of the Northern Territory. I did not visit it with other members of this Parliament recently, and was consequently unable to do any “ Rougemonting. “ I have not, like the honorable member for Lang, ridden on an alligator, nor did I find cannons under a cairn. But I am not jealous of those who had these adventures. Still I am afraid that they did not see very much of the country, because the arrangements were such that their opportunities for doing so were very meagre. I should be willing to make one to go to the Northern Territory if facilities were given for a trip to it right across the continent. Such a journey would enable honorable members to see very much more of the country than they have yet seen. I am almost inclined to vote for the taking over of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth in the interests of the defence of Australia, provided that the financial conditions are such as I can indorse; but I have yet to give the matter very careful consideration. To secure the development of that country it is necessary that we should have a proper geological survey of it, so that we may know what its mineral possibilities are. We know what Ballarat, Bendigo, and other mining fields have clone to attract andkeep population, and it would mean a great deal to the Northern Territory if a good mining field were opened up there.
– Why not try to discover one nearer home?
– I am willing to do so. Perhaps my honorable friend thinks that, because I am a member of the Labour Party, I am opposed to the investment of capital. My contention has always been that the investment of capital in mining is a splendid thing for the country, and I would always vote for the encouragement of such investment. I should like to see £100,000,000 invested in this country in speculative mining. Although many of us may live to see the day when it will be necessary to nationalize many manufacturing and other industries, none of us will see the nationalization of speculative mining. By speculative mining I mean mining for precious minerals, and I do not include iron and coal. The mining for iron and coal are industries which might well be nationalized to-day. But in regard to all industries, it is our duty to see that the men employed are paid decent wages, and required to work only decent hours, and that every safeguard is adopted for the prevention of accidents and injuries. That is what some honorable members refer to when they speak of confiscation. I wish to express my pleasure at the statement of the honorable member for Lang that he is opposed to the adoption of the land grant system for the making of railways in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory. I voice the opinion of the members of the Labour. Party when I say that we are emphatically opposed to that system. I hope no such system will be adopted. For a new member, I have already occupied sufficient time.
Honorable Members. - No. Go on.
– It is incumbent upon every member to give his opinions upon matters brought before this House, and, as I become more accustomed to parliamentary usages, and to the interjections of the members of the Opposition, I hope to give more effective service. I shall always be found fighting in accordance with Australian sentiment for the building up here of a young nation on better lines than those upon which the old nations of the world have been built up. I shall advocate only measures intended to guard against the mistakes which have been made by the old nations of the world, and I hope that in the future - perhaps not in the early future - Australia will be not looked upon as the dumping-ground and tail-end of the Empire, but as one of the greatest and brightest territories under the British flag.
– There are one or two matters upon which I wish to address the House in this debate. It is very much to be regretted that there has been expressed lately, at the Premiers’ Conference and throughout the country, a feeling of distrust and dissatisfaction in connexion with the Federal administration. I do not think that there is distrust of Federation. The great body of opinion in Australia realizes that if we are to become a self-contained nation under the British flag we must remain federated. But there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the administration of the Commonwealth Government, and I intend to mention one or two instances which give point to it. In my opinion, the complaints which we hear are largely due to lack of knowledge of the conditions of the Commonwealth on the part of our legislators. When the sugar industry was being dealt with by Parliament, it was agreed that a bounty should be given to growers who employed white labour only, but that, to obtain it, growers must pay a living wage. Of course, none of us desires to see men working for less than a living wage. There cannot be true prosperity while any class of the population does that. Therefore, exception could not be taken to the provision to which I have referred. But difficulty has arisen in regard to its interpretation. A short time ago the growers said to themselves, “ Now that the season is commencing, and we have to make contracts and engage our men, let us ascertain from the Government what they consider a living wage, so that we may take advantage of the bounty.” They therefore applied to the Government to fix the rates which they should pay. This the Government did by publishing an ordinance, making the minimum wage for day labour 22s. 6d., and for contract work 4s. or 4s. 6d. There are four sugar districts. Number 1 is situated in the far north of Queensland ;Mackay is the centre of number 2 ; and Bundaberg is the centre of number 3. The conditions under which work has to be performed vary greatly in these districts, and the quality of the cane differs. I represent the Bundaberg district, and know that last year contracts for harvesting were made there at prices ranging from 2s. 9d. to 3s. and 3s. 6d. a ton, according to the work required to be done. Therefore, the ordinance fixing the rate at 4s. came as a thunderbolt. Men were glad to work last year for 2s. 9d. and 3s. a ton, and made £5and £6 a week at those rates, and they were willing to enter into contracts for the coming year on the same terms.
– Does the honorable member think that 2s. 9d. is a fair wage in any district?
– Not for every class of cane, but under certain conditions it is.
– How many men employed earned £5 and£6 a week?
– Three lads who took a contract earned £16 a week between them.
– Then they must have worked twenty-five hours out of the twenty-four.
– Of course, the amount earned at contract work depends on the condition of the cane and the length of time worked. The point I wish to make is that numbers of men came forward and accepted contracts at the old prices. Yet this ordinance was passed which fixed the minimum price at 4s. That upset the whole industry. It evidences a woeful lack of knowledge of the conditions of the industry that this ordinance should have been passed when there were four different districts declared by the Department-
– To what proclamation is the honorable member referring?
– The northern farmers applied to the Government to fix a rate which should be the minimum rate. I wish members to distinctly understand that I do not bring forward this matter in any captious spirit, but with a view to showing why there is dissatisfaction and unrest with Federal Administration.
– That was before the harvest.
– Exactly. I give the Government every credit for having righted those conditions. The growers of Bundaberg formed a deputation, which waited upon the Treasurer when he passed through that centre, and pointed out these facts to him. He realized the force of their contention, and corrected the evil. The present ordinance with regard to wages is upon a thoroughly common-sense basis. Still the whole of the circumstances disclose a lack o’f a proper grip of the conditions of the industry - a lack of knowledge which is to be seen in the conduct of Federal affairs generally. That is the cause of the dissatisfaction with and distrust in Federal administration which we are very sorry to know exists to-day. I hope that the example which was recently set by certain Ministers in travelling through, our northern State will be continued. It is hopeless to expect sympathy between the people of the north and the Commonwealth Government unless southern residents do their best to get into touch with the conditions under which we live there.
– The honrable member must not forget that the first ordinance issued was at the request of the planters.
– I am aware of that. The next matter to which I desire to refer is that of granting proposed bounties. I wish to speak particularly of bounties for agricultural products. The proposal previously submitted by the Ministry dealt specially with tropical agriculture. I think that the adoption of the bonus system is a dangerous one in principle. If it be decided to offer bonuses, they should certainly disappear at the end of a prescribed period. If an industry be worth fostering by means of a bonus, it should be an industry which in a certain number of years will be able to stand upon its own feet. I feel sure that the money proposed to be offered in the form of bonuses might be much better spent in procuring machinery which would be of assistance to producers. The idea which I have in my mind is ons which has been adopted in the United States - that most progressive country - and which has proved of immense assistance in developing the different industries there. I think there is what is called a Department of the Interior. Under that Department, there are a number of bureaux. For instance, there is the Agricultural Bureau which devotes its attention exclusively to fostering that industry throughout the Union, and which works in con.junction with the States Agricultural Colleges and Experimental Farms. It has a network of correspondents all over the world, whose duty it is to keep it advised of the movements of the markets as they affect the producers, and also to keep it posted regarding any new products which they think might with advantage be cultivated in their own country. All the information thus collected is published and broadcasted among the farmers, to whom it has been of immense assistance. If a similar department or bureau were established here it would be a ‘ far better means of encouraging agriculture and of enabling farmers to get into touch with those branches of agriculture which might be most profitably followed by them than would the payment of the proposed bounties. Such an, agricultural bureau would, I hope, mark the first step towards the establishment of a Department of the Interior. In addition to the Agricultural Department, we might also have a Department of Forestry. It is true that the States Governments deal with forest administration in a very small and inefficient way, but I think the work might be better done for the whole of Australia by a central authority. There should be an office or bureau dealing with geology, and a Survey Department dealing with every branch of survey work throughout Australia. We know very little about the surface of our own country. I think it was the previous speaker who remarked that we ought to have a thorough survey of the Northern Territory before we undertake to settle it. The same remark is applicable to the whole of Australia. There are many portions of the Continent which are just as badly in need of a survey as is the Northern Territory. Then, to complete the Department of the Interior, we should establish an Immigration Bureau. We have recently seen the efforts which have been made to secure labour from the southern States for the sugar-growers in the north. There has, however, been no proper organization to undertake that task, and we should certainly have in the interests alike of the employer and the worker a Federal Labour Bureau which would bring together those who want the work, and those who require the labour. The next matter to which I. desire to refer is that of defence, particularly in its relation to our cadet system. I understand that an honorable member proposes to submit a motion in favour of compulsory universal service, but I think that we ought to commence at the beginning. At the present time our cadet system confines the movement to a limited number of our school boys. The expense involved, prevents the greater number of them from participating in that movement. To my mind it is highly desirable that we should make it universal, and if we are to do that we must abolish all unnecessary expense. It is quite unnecessary for the boys to be uniformed for the purposes of being drilled and trained. Consequently we should allow the parents to provide, say, a khakee jumper which would be useful as , part of the lad’s clothing, whilst the Government furnished them with dummy rifles which would familiarize them with the handling of weapons. The Government should provide short ranges for practising, a certain number of rifles, and also instructors. The cost to the people should be made as small as possible, and that could be brought about by the means I have indicated. All that it would be necessary for a boy to provide would be perhaps a ribbon for his hat. This is, I think, a far more important matter at the present time than is universal service. It is really the foundation of universal service. If we can train every boy at school to march - in fact, instil in him a taste for this kind of instruction - we shall make a great step forward. The only other matter I wish to refer to is the proposal for the Commonwealth to take over lights and beacons. I think it is high time that it took that step. Queensland has, perhaps, the most extensive and most difficult coast to light. I am satisfied that three-fourths of the produce which is carried along the coast is the produce of other States. Yet the whole onus of lighting the coast is thrown upon Queensland. That is essentially a work which should be undertaken by the Commonwealth. No doubt some of us desire to see other matters of wider scope, such, for instance, as land matters, brought under the control of the Federal Government; but the time has not come when the people would be prepared to trust this Parliament with more powers than it already possesses. The only way in which that result could be brought about would be by every Federal Government endeavouring to instil confidence in the minds of the people, and by keeping themselves thoroughly in touch with the conditions of those who live in the fardistant portions of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frazer) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070704_reps_3_36/>.