3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt from His Excellency the Governor-General of messages recommending appropriations for the purposes of the following Bills : - .
Seat of Government Bill,
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill,
– The following paragraph appears in this month’s Review of Reviews: -
Lord Northcote and Mr. Mauger have gone to the Northern Territory on a trip that will last some weeks. Mr. Mauger has, of course, resigned his portfolio as Acting PostmasterGeneral. There is universal regret at this. Mr. Mauger has shaken things ug during his term of office, and done much to popularise the Deakin Government. Mr. Deakin will add to its length of days if Mr. Mauger he put in permanent charge of some Department. He has far outstripped his companions with years of a start, and has shown what can be done if administrative matters are dealt with from a business stand-point. We hope that Mr. Mauger will contribute to the Review an article, if not more, on the Northern Territory. He is going to make free use of his note-book for that purpose.
I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral if his attention has been drawn to that paragraph. If so, is it his opinion that there is universal regret that the honorable member for Maribyrnong has ceased to act as Postmaster-General, since he has outstripped his Ministerial companions who had years of a start, and does the Minister intend to resign his portfolio in favour of his colleague with a view to allaying this regret?
– I have not read the paragraph, but I was very pleased to hear it read. The honorable member for Maribyrnong carried out his duties in the Post Office,, as he carried out his duties in connexion with the Northern Territory trip, in a very satisfactory way, and I believe that the opinion expressed in the Review of Reviews is held by a good number of persons in this country.
– In connexion with the proposed taking over of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth, will the Government obtain from the Government of South Australia complete information as’ to the area and situation of the land held by private companies there, and the terras and conditions under which it is held?
-The honorable member for Cook has a notice on the business-paper of his intention to move for a return asking for information with refer,ence to the proposed transfer.
– He does not ask for information in regard to the terms and conditions on which land is held in the Northern Territory by private companies.
– I shall speak’ to the Prime Minister about the matter, and see if he can get the information asked for. Apparently its preparation will take a great deal of time.
– Is not the_ Minister aware that the particulars required have been given in the course of the negotiations between the Government of the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government, which have been going on since 1901 ?
– I know’ that the matter was discussed between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister in the early part of the present year, but I do not know that all the information which has been asked for is immediately available. However, I shall place the matter before the Prime Minister, and ask if the required particulars cannot’ be obtained at an early date.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if there is any truth in the statement appearing in this morning’s Age that Colonel Gordon is coming from. Sydney to Melbourne to establish a small arms and ammunition factory here.
– The Government have under consideration the desirability of manufacturing small arms in .the Commonwealth, and Colonel Gordon having informed me that he has been identified with that branch of the service which deals with such matters, and that he thinks he could give rae valuable information, I have said that I shall be glad to see him.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say when the undergrounding of telegraph and telephone wires in the metropolitan centres will be undertaken ? I have had communications on the subject from Perth, where the work is regarded as urgent.
– We are anxious to proceed with the undergrounding as rapidly as possible, and I shall make special inquiries in regard to the state of the work at Perth.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Recommendations and approvals of the promotions of Messrs. H. M. Robinson and R. Ewings Customs Department.
Debate resumed from 4th July (vide page 131), 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.
.- I shall begin my remarks by expressing regret that up to the present stage of this debate we have not had the privilege of listening to the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding the absence of the leader of the Opposition, for reasons about which I am not called upon to express an opinion, J think that, as the Prime Minister has just returned from a visit to the old country, where he took part in a Conference with representatives from all parts of the British Empire, he had no justification for withholding from the House information as to what was done there.
– He sent me word yesterday that he is unwell.
– I did not know that, and I am sorry to hear it. I hope that we shall have the privilege of listening to the honorable and learned gentleman as soon as he is in health again, because it would be most reprehensible to allow to pass the earliest opportunity for informing the House of what took place at the Conference. The position of affairs in this Chamber to-day is much the same as that which existed during last Parliament. We had a general election! in December last, but on the new House reassembling,,: although the cry of many members of the Ministry had been that’ a change in the Tariff was urgently necessary, we were immediately asked to consent to a prorogation for several months. According to some members, the settlement of the Tariff question was an urgent matter two years ago.
– And will be two years hence.
– We heard that persons would have to go without their Christmas dinner in 1904 because of the starving condition of some of the Victorian industries then, but while the Deakin Administration has been in office ever since, they have done nothing in the matter, except to announce that the Tariff Commission has presented reports from time to time. I am anxious to have the Tariff question settled, and the Ministers now in power are those who should bring forth proposals for settling it. But, while engaged on this work, to use the language of Jim in the “ Squaw Man,” “ They should not stop to pick flowers on the way.” Although most members of the Government fought their elections upon the issue of granting effective protection to our industries, at least one Minister did nothing of the kind. The Treasurer-
– Where is the Treasurer?
– If the right honorable gentleman does not choose to remain! in the Chamber while I am criticising his actions, that is entirely a matter for himself. I wish to say that although I believe some members of the Government are genuinely in favour of granting an increased measure of protection to Australian industries, the Treasurer is not. The sole issue upon which he fought the recent election in Western Australia was an anti-Labour one.
– He said that only “ swells “ should be returned to Parliament.
– He declared, amongst other things, that only “ swells “ and wealthy men should get into Parliament. But I propose to deal with his attitude in regard to the Tariff question. Whilst his colleagues in the Ministry were appealing to the electors to return candidates who were pledged to alter the Tariff in the direction of granting effective protection to our industries, the Treasurer was supporting the candidature of a free-trader in the person of Dr. Thurston, who was standing in opposition to Mr. Fowler for the seat of Perth. He did so, despite the fact that Dr. Thurston had proclaimed himself a Redite and a free-trader.
– The Treasurer has said that the only differences between himself and the leader of the Opposition are differences in respect of the Tariff.
– The only difference between them is that they do not seem to be able to fit into one Ministry. The Treasurer made no secret of his attitude towards the
Labour Party during the recent campaign. I hold in my hand a few quotations from his utterances in this connexion. One of these reads -
The Labour Party had fourteen members in the Senate, and expected to get five more. This would give them a majority, and every single measure that was passed would have to be approved by that party. This seemed to him one of the gravest questions they had to confront. The Labour Party would then carry out their whole platform, which was against the vested interests of the community, and it meant taking from those that had, and giving to those that had not. They had no admiration for self-denial or economy, but they took the industry of others and gave it to those who had not been so industrious.
– When did he say that?
– During the recent election campaign. I notice that the right honorable gentleman has not put in an appearance in the Chamber. It is a singular circumstance that he never can be present when he is to be subjected to adverse criticism. At such times some matter of pressing importance always calls him elsewhere. In view of his attitude during the recent election it is somewhat remarkable that at the present time he is as gentle as a cooing dove whilst occupying a seat upon the Treasury benches, where he is, to a great extent, under the control of the very party which he so violently denounced.
– They are very comfortable seats upon the Treasury benches.
– They are not half so comfortable to some Ministers as they appear to be. The Treasurer went further, and declared -
The Labour Party were aiming at a Utopia where every one would be equal, and every one would be poor.
Probably there are some members of this Parliament who believe that they conform to the latter portion of that description. To my mind it is an extraordinary circumstance that a gentleman who has had a pretty considerable /public career, who has occupied a proud position in the politics of his State for many years, should in the final stages of that career be so absolutely incapable of giving effect to the opinions which he has so openly expressed. I would also remind honorable members that we have had experience of the right honorable gentleman as a constitutionalist. When the Labour Government were in. office he affirmed that they were unconstitutionally there, because they did not represent a majority of the House. He added -
The present management of Parliament by the Labour Government is scandalous as well as being demoralizing to responsible government.
May I remind him that when the Labour Government were in office their followers were considerably in excess of the adherents of the present Ministry, so that if the former were unconstitutionally upon the Treasury benches, what can be said of the latter? Apparently the only consideration which weighs with the Treasurer is whether he is a member of the Government of the day. If he is, everything is satisfactory from his stand-point, but if not, the reverse is the case. There is another complaint which I have to urge against the right honorable gentleman, and it is certainly the most serious of all. Whilst his attitude upon the Tariff question un-. doubtedly evidenced, to use sporting language, “ an extraordinary reversal of form,” it did not inflict any considerable injury upon the Commonwealth. But to his action in another connexion we should all give serious attention. During the progress of the recent campaign it was not an unusual thing to find the Treasurer openly coquetting with the anti-Federal movement, promoted by a small section in Western Australia. In one of his afterdinner speeches at Newcastle he went so far as to assert that -
If there was no railway there would be no union, so far as he was concerned.
He participated in the cry which was raised of injustice to Western Australia, and did all in his power to foment anti-Federal feeling, regardless of what might be the consequence of his assistance to the movement.
– That was treasonable conduct.
– It was treasonable conduct. What was the object that he had in view ? After violently denouncing the Labour Party in another speech he concluded by saying that -
He wanted men to go with him to the Parliament of the Commonwealth who had opinions of their own, not men who obeyed labour unions. He wanted colleagues who would obey him. Then Western Australia would be safe.
He obtained one colleague from Western Australia - or at least one who was supposed to be a colleague - but as soon as this gentleman arrived in Melbourne he took his seat upon the Opposition side of the House. He was the only candidate who successfully received a little assistance by hanging on to the coat-tails of the Treasurer.
– That is where the Treasurer ought to be.
– It is where .he will be in the near future if I can get him there. Throughout Western Australia we had to contend during the recent campaign with this anti-Federal feeling, and I do say that it i; most reprehensible for a Federal Minister, who has sworn to uphold the Commonwealth Constitution, to give expression to utterances which can only tend to embitter the feeling which exists between the States and the Federation. Now, I wish to say a word or two in reference to the Conference of Premiers which was recently held in Brisbane. In my judgment, the correct title to apply to such gatherings would be “the anti-Federal conspiracy.” Whenever the State Premiers have met since the establishment of Federation, they have in the main discussed questions with which this Parliament alone is competent to deal, whilst the tone of their debates has been distinctly hostile and embarrassing to the Federal authority. At the recent Conference in Brisbane, the Federal Treasurer practically gave his consent - and, I presume, that of the Government- to a continuance for a period of ten years of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth upon a basis somewhat similar to that underlying existing relations. Paragraph 6 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads -
The subject of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States has been further discussed with the States Premiers, and the results arrived at will be communicated to you. The great issues affected, including the federalization of old-age pensions, will be considered in this relation.
I wish to say that if there be one question more than another upon which the attitude of the Government has brought them into popular contempt, it is that of Federal oldage pensions. Although the Treasurer, speaking at Bunbury recently, shed crocodile tears in discussing the position of the aged poor of Western Australia, he concluded his address by telling them that, under existing financial conditions, the Commonwealth had not the means to pay them the pensions that he would like them to receive; but these conditions were soon to be ended. Despite this declaration, which was evidently made for the purpose of misleading the old mer. and women of that State, he attended the Conference of Premiers at Brisbane, and actually agreed to a proposal to continue the existing financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth for a period of ten years on nearly the present basis. In my opinion, the arrangement which he made with the States Premiers would hamper the Commonwealth to such an extent that its sphere of usefulness must be very seriously reduced. Although I am not opposed to a reasonable return being made’ by the Commonwealth to the States, I certainly object to the continuance of the system prevailing under the Braddon section, whilst I consider that, from the Commonwealth point of view, the new scheme proposed by the Federal Treasurer would be infinitely worse. As to the taking over of the States debts, I think that the Government, if they wish to settle the question, must either exercise their right under the Constitution to take over the debts existing at the time of the establishment of the Federation, or seek further constitutional powers. Judging by the attitude of the States Premiers, I do not think there is a possibility of our securing from the States anything to which we are not entitled under the Constitution. That being so, if we desire to effect the savings that we are told must result from the taking over of the debts of the States, we should either make up our minds to exercise our present powers, or seek from the people an extension of our constitutional authority ‘enabling us to take over the whole of the debts. I am sure that such an extension would be readily granted. I sincerely hope that, in the near future, arrangements will be made to place the finances of the Commonwealth on such a basis that an end may be put to the dreary repetition of the statement in speech after speech by the Governor-General that the Government intend to establish a system of old-age pensions. Instead of such promises, let us have the announcement that a scheme so beneficial has actually been carried into effect. Having regard to public opinion, a Government that is not prepared to face! the necessities of the situation in this regard has no right to remain in office. There are other matters which indicate that the Treasurer’s Federal spirit is a doubtful quantity, but since the right honorable gentleman has left the Chamber I shall not refer to them. Turning from the financial problem to other considerations, may I say that I trust that in any new agreement for the carriage of our oversea mails we shall achieve something better than we had under the mail contract recently cancelled. It was apparent months ago to any one familiar with the methods of financial speculators and syndicate hawkers, that the contract was in the hands of such men, and the Government, by allowing them to trifle with them, and failing earlier to take decisive action, have held themselves up to the contempt of the people of Australia. I trust that in any new agreement that may be entered into, provision will be made for a substantial deposit being lodged with the Government as a guarantee of good faith. For some months prior to the cancellation of the contract, it was pointed out again, and again that the contractors were not making such progress with the building of the ships and the other arrangements necessary for the carrying out of their agreement as might reasonably be expected ; and I sincerely trust that we shall take care that the Federation henceforth is not used by syndicators for money-making purposes. The transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth is another question of great importance. From the meagre information that I have been able to secure from the Government since my return to Melbourne, I am forced to the conclusion that the agreement which the Prime Minister entered into with the Premier of South Australia was made without careful consideration ;as to the possibility of the undertaking being made a profitable and satisfactory one. I am at one with those who say that it is absolutely essential to people the Northern Territory.
– Because I recognise that it is within striking distance of hordes of Eastern races, who are awakening to a sense of their power, and that if allowed to remain unpeopled, it may at any time become a menace to us.
– That is a mere nightmare.
– It may be to the honorable member, but it is not to me. I thoroughly appreciate the situation - a situation that must be apparent to any one who has given the matter careful thought. The most effective defence open to us is that to be secured by settling a white population on the lands of Australia. The Commonwealth should be able to control the Territory to better advantage than can
South Australia, but I wish to draw, the attention of the House to statements which I think we should seriously consider before confirming the agreement tentatively made between the, Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia. In yesterday’s issue of a Melbourne daily newspaper we had the statement that - lt will thus be seen that out of a total of 136,475 square miles leased, no less a portion than 86,295 square miles, or 55,228,000 acres has been alienated from the Crown for a period of fortytwo years, during which time it cannot be resumed without payment of compensation, and, for the first ten years of the term, not at all, except with the consent in writing of the lessees.
– Half of the ten years’ period has expired.
– I am glad to hear it, but the position is sufficiently serious to arrest attention. Surely the Prime Minister was conversant with these facts when he entered into the agreement. We may rest assured that the lands that have been alienated comprise not the sandy patches, but the best pastoral, agricultural, and mining country available.
– The agricultural areas may be resumed without compensation.
– I shall be very pleased to hear later on from the honorable member an explanation of these matters.
– How many persons hold the leases in question?
– So far as I have been able to ascertain, they are held by about a dozen men. Another significant statement - and we have not yet heard from the Prime Minister anything in regard to it - -is. that reported to have been made by the Premier of South Australia -
The Commonwealth Government also agreed to take over the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta - that is, to take control of it, but to give South Australia the same facilities and running powers as the State has at present, and to give any improvements that may be necessary.
In other words we are to give them the present service, or, if desired, something better.
We shall run the railway as at present, but it will be done for the Commonwealth Government.
Then we come to the pith of the statement by the Premier of South Australia.
This will relieve South Australia of an annual loss of £82,000
Another statement made by Mr. Price, and published in the Adelaide Advertiser a couple of days after the agreement was entered into, is as follows : -
A most important matter agreed upon was that it- the Northern line - shall be the first through line. What I mean is that there will not be any shooting off from this trans-continental route to touch Brisbane first, or anything like that. Including the loss we are bearing on our lines, this agreement will relieve us of a burden of a quarter of a million a )’ear.
Although I recognise the necessity of altering the control of the Northern Territory, and am prepared to make many small sacrifices in order that the control may be transferred to the Commonwealth, I feel that such statements as these, coming as they do from the Premier of South Australia, will justify us in most carefully scrutinizing the agreement before we finally adopt it. I am prepared to approach its consideration with an open mind.
– Notwithstanding all this, the Legislative Council of South Australia will not confirm the agreement.
– That is so. Another point to which I desire to refer relates to the alleged labour necessities of Queensland. The attitude adopted by the Government in regard to this matter shows that they are far from being in sympathy with the aspirations of the people of Australia. They are permitting agreements to be made for the importation of foreign labour - so Jong as it is white labour - to be employed in the cane-fields. Representatives of Queensland who were resident in that State a few years ago know that, although foreign labour is imported for a particular purpose, it invariably drifts from the sugar fields into other employments.
Colonel Foxton. - The kanaka did not.
– The kanaka did not drift from the sugar industry into other industries because he could not.
Colonel Foxton. - The law prohibited it.
– That is so.
– But the kanaka did drift into other industries before he was prevented by the law.
Colonel Foxton. - That is so.
– We have had many debates on this question, and I am afraid that, although the electors of Queensland have agreed to change temporarily some of their representatives, even the influence of those gentlemen will not alter the opinion of this House in regard to kanaka labour.
Colonel Foxton. - We do not desire to do so.
– We have no desire to change the opinion of the House; we wish to have white people.
– And so do I, and I wish to see the industry continued as successfully as it is at present ; but I think that the honorable member for Oxley will admit that the attitude of this Parliament towards the sugar industry has been pretty generous throughout. The Government ought, however, to insist on an effort being made to obtain labour in the British Dominions before the representatives of those engaged in the sugar industry are permitted to seek it in foreign countries. I have been in communication with several of the immigrants who lately arrived in New South Wales under the conditions offered by the Government of that State, and amongst these were notably some Scotchmen, who assured me that if the conditions of labour in the Queensland sugar industry had been made known in many parts of Scotland and the North of England, they were certain there would have been no necessity to go to foreign countries for labour. In my opinion the agents of the sugar planters in Queensland have made no serious effort up to the present time to get British labour.
– Unfortunately the Colonial Office, for some reason or other, advised British people not to come to the sugar fields.
– That is unfortunate, if so, and there ought to be a provision in any agreement made for contract labour in this industry that there shall be efforts to secure men in Great Britain before foreigners may be engaged. In this connexion there is certainly room for an alteration in the attitude adopted by the Government, who, I hope, will do all that is possible to encourage the immigration of Britishers in preference to foreigners. The speech of the Governor-General mentions another matter about which honorable members of previous Parliaments have alreadyheard much. This is an assurance that a Bill relating to the site of the seat of Government will be submitted. Although I place the chief blame, and nearly all the blame, for the delay which has occurred upon the present New South Wales Premier, I think this Government have not done quite as much as they might have done to reach finality. There is no necessity for us, who are conversant with the facts, to have the history of these negotiations repeated. We know, however, that in the opinion of the members of this Parliament the settlement of the site of the Federal Capital is constitutionally in the hands of the Commonwealth ; further, that certain sites, including Dalgety, were offered by a previous New South Wales Premier, and that both Houses of this Parliament agreed on the site I have just mentioned.
– The Dalgety site was never offered.
– The Dalgety site was amongst those offered by the then Premier of New South Wales, the late Sir John See, and I am sure that the honorable member who interjects will admit that it is only a quibble to say that this site was not offered, but that Bombala was. The Federal Parliament carried out its portion of the contract, and settled on a site which, in our opinion, would be acceptable to the people of Australia. That decision was arrived at by a majority vote of both Houses j but New South Wales got a new Premier, in the person of Mr. Carruthers, who deliberately withdrew the offer, and broke the agreement entered into by the previous Premier. Personally, I desire to see this question of the Federal Capital Site settled, and New South Wales given that to which she is entitled under the bond. This I am prepared to grant to New South Wales at the earliest possible moment, but when that State has deliberately broken the promise she gave to the Commonwealth I refuse to reverse the vote I previously gave for what, in my opinion, is the best possible site. Of course I do not know what are the provisions of the promised Bill, or how it will advance the settlement of the question, but there is no doubt that we shall have to face the inevitable. The Commonwealth Parliament must take one of two courses - we must bow to the New South Wales Parliament, and let the latter choose the site, or we must assert our constitutional rights, and make ourselves possessors of the territory on which we have decided.
– What about staying in Victoria ?
– I do not think that the majority of the members of Parliament, or the bulk of the people, desire that the seat of Government should continue to be in Victoria. In my opinion there is no truth in the cry raised by the Premier and the newspapers of New South Wales, in order to embitter the feeling against Federation, that the people of Victoria are anxious to retain the Seat of Government within their borders.
– It is only a “ red herring “ to cover up the land scandals of New South Wales.
– That is so, I believe; at any rate, I have never heard any desire or opinion expressed to that effect while I have been resident in Victoria. However, all that does not affect my position ; I desire to see the question settled quickly. The Commonwealth ought not to bow down to the State of New South Wales in view of the fact that a site has already been constitutionally agreed upon. My opinion is that provision should be made to permit the highest legal tribunal in the Commonwealth to decide once and for all whether the Commonwealth or the State of New South Wales has the power to fix the Capital Site, and I hope the Government will take steps to that end with all reasonable despatch. In the last paragraph of His Excellency’s speech mention is made of the proposed Transcontinental Railway Survey Bill.
– Notice was given of the Bill this morning.
– I am very glad to hear that, and I hope the measure will be pushed on, and will be more successful in the other Chamber than was the previous Bill.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth ought to back down to the State of Western Australia in the matter of the transcontinental railway ?
– There is absolutely no analogy between the two positions. In the case of the Federal Capital site, there was a written promise given - a promise which, in my opinion, the Federal Parliament is desirous to carry out. In the other case, there was a verbal or implied promise by the leaders of the Federal movement, and there now seems to be a disposition on the part of a section of the Federal Parliament to repudiate that promise. As I say, Parliament is desirous to settle the question of the Federal site, whereas the majority in another place do not seem to approve of the construction of the transcontinental railway. If there be any analogy between the positions, Parliament is doing what it can to settle the question of the Capital Site, but has not done all it can to settle the question of the railway. I am pleased to see in His Excellency’s speech a reference to the granting of bounties for the encouragement of industries. The great natural resources of Australia - which might have been exploited years ago - have, owing to the absence of a little assistance, been allowed to remain undeveloped. That position will, I believe, be overcome by the granting of a bounty. Although we have the squealing Premier of New, South Wales stating that he is opposed to any action on the part of the Federal Government in connexion with the iron industry, I believe that that industry will require further assistance than has been granted by the State Government, and, personally, I am prepared, as a member of this House, to give that assistance. The pearling industry is another that could be benefited by the application of the bounty system. That industry at present is entirely in the hands of coloured people, although white people are as competent and successful divers as the men now engaged. The only difficulty is the absence of any assistance or encouragement, and I think it would be possible to grant a bounty Cn a well-matured system, which would lead to the encouragement of white labourers and the displacement of foreigners.
– The honorable member would white-wash the bottom of the ocean !
– I have no desire to undertake such an impossible task, but I <lo desire to encourage the (employment of white Australians and Britishers in preference to coloured people. There are no other points in His Excellency’s speech to which I desire to refer. In conclusion, I may say that if the Government show any desire to so amend the Tariff as to make it thoroughly effective, and, if the member, of the Government to whom I made particular allusion this morning is still prepared to swallow everything and remain in his present position, I shall still be prepared to assist in getting the Tariff out of the way. As to other matters, I shall take a later opportunity to express ray views more fully. I hope the consideration of the Tariff will be proceeded with almost immediately. I am sorry that the natural companion to the Tariff is not mentioned in conjunction with that measure in His Excellency’s speech. When we talk of immigration and of the necessity for population, we seem to forget that the land monopolist is the greatest bar to progress in this connexion, and, although we are always hearing the expression of opinions in favour of attracting immigration to our shores, and of providing employment in Australian industries - at the ex pense of the Commonwealth revenue - no effort has been made, by the imposition of an equitable land tax, to cause land to be available for our people, and to obtain revenue for a humane system of old-age pensions. This is a deficiency for which the Prime. Minister may be able to give us a reason, and I hope to. have an opportunity of listening to him in the near future.
.- I should not have risen this morning but for the personal attack on the Treasurer made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– The Treasurer went all over Western Australia denouncing the Labour Party.
– He had walked over a large part of Western Australia almost before the honorable member was born. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie made a personal attack on the right honorable member, and tried to make me appear as one of his followers.
– The honorable member tacked himself on to the Treasurer during the election contest.
– I did not. If the statements which the honorable member made in regard to the doings of the Treasurer were no more true than his statements relating to Dr. Thurston, no reliance can be placed upon them. I was present at the Queen’s Hall in Perth when Dr. Thurston was asked if he was a protectionist or a free-trader, and I heard him say that, while in the past his sympathies had been with free-trade, he was now sure that protection is the proper thing for Australia, and came before the constituency as a protectionist. Therefore nothing could be said against the Treasurer for supporting Dr. Thurston, supposing that he did so. Dr. Thurston was opposing a freetrader in the honorable member who represents Perth. I can understand a professional man being a free-trader, but I do not know why a Labour man should be one. In my opinion all Labour men should be protectionists. The remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie about the Treasurer were quite uncalled for. I wish that there were more men who had done as much for Australia as the Treasurer has done, and, although I am not a follower of the right honorable gentleman, I shall not allow him to be abused in his absence. The Labour Party made a strong fight in
Western Australia at the last elections. Its candidates secured six out of eight seats. How many more are wanted?
– The whole eight.
– We shall get Fremantle next time.
– At any rate, the Labour candidate failed to win the Fremantle seat at the last election. The Labour Party thinks that it ought to get everything. It will certainly get all that is due to it.
– Not from the quarter from which the honorable member is speaking.
– I am certainly willing , to give the members of the party fair play. I cannot understand their position in regard to the old-age pensions question. They are always saying that something should be done to establish old-age pensions, but they never bring forward a practicable scheme. I have been a large employer of labour for nearly thirty years.
– Chiefly Italian labour.
– Yes, if the honorable member is a sample of Italian labour.
– The honorable member has scores of Italians working for him.
– The members of the Labour Party do not know enough about the old-age pensions question. If they knew more, a practical scheme might emanate from them. In my opinion, provision for the establishment of an old-age pensions fund might be made in a manner similar to that in which insurance premiums are collected in regard to the men employed on large railway contracts and by mining companies, all of whom are insured. The money so collected might very well pass into the hands of the Government, instead of going to the insurance companies, and be used to establish a fund both for the relief of cases of distress and for the payment of pensions. I would not confine these pensions wholly to old persons; because many young men are as much incapacitated by injury or sickness from earning a living as are old people by their age. The present mode of collecting premiums is a very simple one, based on the analysis of the pay sheets ; but I should like to make it necessary for all employers of labour, including those who have only one domestic, to act as collectors for the Government for the establishment and maintenance of a pensions and relief fund. I think that this could be done by requiring all employers to affix to their pay sheets stamps, procurable at any post office, of a value proportionate to the wages paid.
– How would the honorable member provide pensions for business mer* who might become impoverished ? Hisscheme applies only to employes.
– I do not feel at liberty now to deal with the subject in great detail. The present compensation law does not always work quite satisfactorily, because,, occasionally, injured men to whom compensation is due get into the hands of unscrupulous persons, who take care that nearly the whole amount is eaten up in professional costs. The members of the Labour Party are always calling upon others to do something for the establishment of a pensions fund, but I should like them to give attention to the formulation of a practicable scheme. I think that if my suggestion were adopted, it could be put into working order within a month, and it would provide a simple and effective means of collecting money. I trust that it will be considered when the question of pensions is before the House. At the same time I should like the term “ old-age pensions “ system to be abolished, and something better put in its place.
– What would the honorable member call his system - a wages tax?
– No; because I think both employers and employes should contribute.
– How could men getting only 30s. a week contribute?
– The whole matter requires great consideration; but an adjustment similar to that made by the insurance companies could be made by the Government.
– What the honorable member proposes is State Socialism.
– I am not concerned about that. I have contributed a great deal to insurance funds. _
– It is the workers who contribute.
– It is the employers. We have been sent here to study the best interests of Australia, and we should try to justify our existence by satisfying our constituents that we are working earnestly for their good. This we cannot do if personal matters are constantly being imported into the debates. I hope that all the matters mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s speech will be dealt with in due course, and that consideration will be given at the proper time to the suggestions which I have made. I believe that money for a pension system can be collected without harassing any industry, and without calling upon the public to pay more than is now being paid.
– I have read the address of His Excellencythe Governor-General very carefully. The honorable member for Gippsland congratulated us upon the departure from precedent shown in its form ; but, to my mind, there is nothing commendable in that. In the first place we find that it is addressed to nobody in particular, but to the world at large or to anybody who may choose to take it to himself. Further, it contains no reference to the question of granting Supply. Whether the statement be true, which was published in the Age, that this omission was made in order to placate the Senate, I cannot say, but I very much question the right of the other branch of the Legislature to have .an equal voice with this House in the granting of Supply. I am of opinion that the speech should have contained a reference to the question of voting Supply, and that such reference should have been addressed to members of this House only. Then I should like to protest against a third omission from the speech. I observe that all reference to Divine Providence has been omitted from it - even the customary prayer at the end of it. The statement which commends itself most to my judgment is contained in paragraph 10, which relates to the cancellation of the mail contract. So ends what is perhaps the greatest piece of muddling with which the present Government has been associated. Personally I regret that the contract was not cancelled months ago. The longdrawnout negotiations have brought, only ridicule upon the Commonwealth and discredit upon the Ministry. As soon as it was seen that the bona fides of the syndicate were open, to question, that it had merely secured a speculative option for the purpose of exploiting the London moneymarket, action should have been taken to cancel the contract. It was not sufficient for the Postmaster-General to adopt his usual attitude of admitting nothing and denying everything. I hope that the new specifications will be so drawn that there will be no room for a repetition of such muddling, and that the Commonwealth Government will insist upon a substantial cash deposit being made as an evidence of the bond fides of tenderers. To my mind it is one of the most serious indictments which can be levelled against Federal administration that after six years’ experience of it there is a feeling of antagonism to it throughout all the States. We have bitter complaints concerning Federal administration, not only from New South Wales, but from Queensland and Western Australia.
– They are chiefly bogus complaints.
– The reason under: lying these complaints is that Federation has not fulfilled the great predictions which were made at the time it was inaugurated. At that period we had streams of oratory, which were intended to show the absolute necessity of enacting uniform laws throughout the States. We were assured that we needed uniform banking, company, and bankruptcy laws. But nothing has been done by Parliament in that’ direction, and after six years’ experience of Federation we merely find a reference to them at the fag end of the Governor-General’s speech. I saythat it behoves us to do our best to redeem the promises which were made when the Federation was established. Even in connexion with the transferred Departments we have not had any judicious administration. In the Post Office, which was one of the first Departments taken over, we have found that the last state is worse than the first. Even now we have no uniform administration in connexion with the Department. We have not a uniform stamp for the Commonwealth. The stamps sold in one State by the Commonwealth Government are dishonoured by the Federal authorities in an adjoining State. Similarly we have no uniform telegraph forms, and we have different postal notes. I was recently informed that a gentleman handed in at the Brisbane Post Office a telegram which was written upon a New South Wales telegraph form, and the officer in charge refused to accept it until it was written upon a Queensland form. So much for Federal administration. Then we have a constant concentration of Federal business in Melbourne. It is very difficult to ascertain whether certain matters are being dealt with in Sydney or in Melbourne. Just before I came to this city I had occasion to call at the General Post Office in Sydney to make an inquiry about a long-promised site for a new post office at Lithgow. I was informed that the matter was in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs, and that I would need to make inquiries here.
– Surely the honorable member knew that the Department of Home Affairs has to carry out all postal works?
– I visited the Department of Home Affairs, where I was informed that the papers in reference to the matter had been referred to the Deputy Postmaster- General in Sydney, where they now are. The Telephone Department does not evidence any better administration, though the Postmaster-General has only told us that when he obtains new telephones we may expect ;a better state of affairs. A good deal has been said during the course of the debate upon the question of the Federal Capital. So far as New South Wales is concerned, nothing h,as created such a bitter anti-Federal spirit as has the unsatisfactory position which exists to-day in regard to this matter The honorable member for New England deprecated what he called the parochial spirit of the honorable member for Lang. But, to my mind, it is not a question of parochialism, but of adhering to a bargain which has been made. In a reply which he made to the honorable member for Maranoa, he stated that the cry in reference to the Federal Capital in New South Wales was merely a political one, which was raised by a few Sydnev merchants. In making th,at statement he showed that he is in absolute ignorance of the real state of affairs there. In my own electorate, which is not a metropolitan one, but which is, of course, the most important in New South Wales-
– Has it a Capital site?
– No. It is within the hundred mile radius, so that it has no special interest in the selection of the Seat of Government. But wherever I went during my campaign, whether it w/is amongst the ironworkers of Lithgow, the railway employes of Penrith, the farmers of Castlereagh and Campbelltown, the workers of Granville, or the residents of the various tourist resorts in the mountains, I found that this feeling of irritation at what they deemed to be the unfair treatment of New South Wales was rampant. Whenever I omitted to refer to the question of the Capital site, I was in variably asked whether I would do all in my power to expedite its settlement. The position of New South Wales prior to Federation was very different from that of any of the other States. This House must always recollect that in New South Wales there was a very strong minority against Federation from the beginning to the end of the fight. If I remember rightly, there were over 83,000 electors who voted against the Constitution Bill upon the referendum. One of the strongest arguments used by the opponents of that measure, particularly by Mr. Pilcher and Dr. McLaurin, was that the clause which gave the Seat of Government to New South Wales was merely a bogy, that the Federal Capital would be located in Melbourne, and would remain there for an indefinite period. That statement was broadcasted throughout New South Wales. It was repeated so frequently that the champions of Federation there deemed it necessary to secure personal letters from the Premiers of the other States indignantly repudiating the -suggestion. These letters were published at the time. Now those who fought for Federation are continually being met with the very irritating statement, “ I told you so. What I said h,as come absolutely true.” I admit that it has come true, inasmuch as the Seat of Government is still in Melbourne, and is, apparently, likely to remain there for some time. The bargain which was ni,ade with New South Wales was that the Capital should be within its borders, but not within 100 miles of Sydney. I do not forget that that limit was agreed to as a compromise between two proposals. The feeling in New South Wales is that the Federal Capital ought to be somewhere on the line of the 100-mile limit. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was very insistent that there was an unwritten promise that we should have a transcontinental railway connecting Western Australia with the eastern States.
– There was a written promise which he repudiates, that we should have the Federal Capital in New South Wales.
– That” is so. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie appeals to the House to observe the spirit of a promise which he says was made during the Federal campaign in Western Australia. I, for one, am willing to go with him in making that appeal ; but I ask in turn that the Parliament shall observe the spirit of the promise made to New South Wales that the Federal Capital would be established somewhere about the 100-mile ‘limit which represents the compromise of contending interests, and is provided for in the Constitution. A good deal has been said as to the taking over of the Northern Territory, and those honorable members who visited the Territory returned impressed, at any rate, with the necessity for the transfer. The question of the agreement entered into, however, stands altogether apart from the general proposition that the Commonwealth should take over and administer the Territory. I, for one, cannot indorse the agreement that has been made. To my mind, the bargain is wholly one-sided. South Australia, over and over again, wishes to dictate what we should do. She desires to make a bargain as to the point to which the transcontinental railway should run, whilst, at the same time, she eases herself of an annual deficiency variously estimated at from £180,000 to ^250, 000. If the Federation is going to relieve South Australia of so heavy a burden, surely we ought to have much better terms than are to be found in the provisional agreement to be brought before us. I agree with the honorable member who has said that we do not desire the construction of a railway either in South Australia or any other part of the Commonwealth upon the land grant principle. We do not wish to have repeated here the experience of Canada, where the . Canadian Pacific Railway Company has practically dominated politics for the last fifteen or twenty years. I regret that the speech contains no reference to the intentions of the Government with respect to the establishment of a smallarms factory. We were led to believe that the Minister was very strongly impressed with the urgent necessity of such an establishment, and I had hoped to see some reference to the project in His Excellency’s speech; but we find that what is, to my mind, one of the most important matters relating to defence has been absolutely ignored. We also fail to discover any reference to the Naval Agreement. I was aghast when I read the statement reputed to have been made by thf Prime Minister that, conditionally upon his securing the consent of Sir Joseph Ward, he would ask Australia to terminate the Naval Agreement with Great Britain. If such a statement was made by the Prime Minister he absolutely misunderstood the sentiment of the Commonwealth. We re cognise that the very existence of Australia, from the time of its birth, has been dependent upon the British Navy. We know that it was only the breaking up of the navies of other European nations during the Napoleonic wars that made it possible for Lord John Russell to make his famous declaration, when, about 1830, in reply to a question from the French Minister as to what portion of Australia England claimed, he said, “ We claim the whole.” It was only because for seventy, years after Waterloo Britain held uninterrupted and unquestioned sway over the oceans of the world that we were able to claim and keep Australia. We have, in the division of Papua, an illustration of what might have happened to Australia but for the British Navy. We know that the Island of New Guinea has been divided amongst three different nationalities, and but for the British Navy the same fate might have befallen this Continent. I am glad that the Prime Minister admits that it is because of the power of the British Navy that we have been able to hold, and still hold, the Northern Territory. I go further, however, and say that it is because of the power of that navy, and the fear of the British flag, that we are able to hold, and still hold, not merely the Northern Territory, but the whole of Australia. I, for one, shall not be a party to anything that will lessen the great influence of that” navy upon Australia. The annual payment made by the Commonwealth under the Naval Agreement should, in my opinion, be increased rather than decreased. I am willing that Australia should build more ships provided that we have but one undivided control of the navy, and it seems to me that the question to be determined is trending more and more in the direction of whether we should have here a divided control or one control of the whole navy throughout the length and breadth of the Empire. Our true aim should be not so much to secure an independent Australian Navy as to maintain the undivided control of the whole fleet of the Empire. I. welcome^ the reference in the speech to the administration of Papua, and hope that we shall do something which will make our administration an object-lesson to the whole world, showing what the Federation is able to accomplish. But until we can implant in the hearts of our own people absolute confidence in the Commonwealth, I have not much hope of our being able to take over more (powers with any reasonable prospect of popular approval. I trust that the promise made in the last paragraph of the speech will soon be realized, and that we may soon be able to take in hand the proper lighting of the coasts of this great Continent. There is much force in the assertion made by the honorable member for Capricornia, that it i3 unfair that Queensland should be asked to light the whole of her extensive coastline, since such a work is practically of greater benefit to other States than to that part of the Continent. Any one who has travelled along the Inner Passage cannot but realize the absolute necessity for a more efficient system of lighting than at present exists between Cooktown and Port Darwin, and I hope the time will soon come when we shall have from this House an expression of opinion upon these and other matters of vast importance to Australia.
– I listened attentively to the speech made by the honorable member for Gippsland, who by his matter, and the method of his delivery, made it plain to the veriest tyro that although he is new to this Parliament he is not unaccustomed to public speaking. I take exception, however, to the remark made by him that we should depart from the ancient usage of bringing forward an Address-in-Reply to the Speech from the Throne. In my view, the debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply at the opening of Parliament affords a valuable opportunity for criticising the actions of the Government during, recess. The acts of the present Administration certainly lend themselves to criticism on the part of the Opposition, and there are many matters in His Excellency’s Speech to which I take exception. In the first place, I notice that the reference which it makes to the Imperial Conference is so guarded that it is exceedingly difficult to take exception to it. Nothing is said about the success or otherwise of the Conference; but, having read the reports of its proceedings as published in the Home journals, I am forced to the- conclusion that the Prime Minister1, who left Australia somewhat under a cloud, and received on his return the plaudits of the multitude, must himself admit that he has not succeeded to the degree that the Commonwealth expected. I take exception to the selection which the Government made of representatives of the Commonwealth at the two recent Conferences in England. Why was the
Minister of Trade and Customs selected to> represent Australia? He certainly went to England without any mandate from Parliament. I recognise, of course, that the Ministry had the power to appoint whom it pleased, and have no doubt that they found it very convenient to send the Minister to the Navigation Conference, since such a man as the Treasurer was to be Acting Prime Minister during the absence of the leader of the Government. The position reminds one of the story of the individual who had to cross a river in a boat, taking with him a fox and a goose, and who found it very undesirable to leave both of them together on the land. Had he left the Treasurer and the Minister of Trade and Customs behind, goodnessknows what might have happened ! As it was, he took away the Minister of Trade and Customs ; and thus was able without fear of trouble, to leave behind him the late Acting Prime Minister. The Minister of Trade and Customs, when in England, acted in a way which I do not think met with the approval of the people of Australia. The honorable member called down on his head what was really a reflection on us as a people. It was pointed out to him that he must remember that while in England he was the guest of the nation, and should conduct himself in the manner that guests are expected to observe. That I consider a reflection on us as a nation, and 1 regret very much that such a criticism should have been called forth. So far, this debate has been of a very quiet and desultory nature, for what reason I do not know. I suppose it is because no one quite knows, in the present state of parties, what the next turn of the political kaleidoscope may bring forth. We are very much like men about to engage in a contest on the mat. We shake hands and look at each other across the floor, waiting to see what sort of hold we may get an opportunity to take. I can see quite well that this little simile appeals to the Postmaster-General.
– I hope that the honorable member has nothing like that in his mind.
– It would appear that we are all afraid to open our mouths and say what we think. Later, perhaps, when the fight begins, matters may alter. Just at this present juncture, I should have liked to hear something from the Prime Minister as to the attitude of the present Government. When matters of the kind now under discussion are before the House, we do not expect members of the Government to sit still and say nothing, but we look to them to lead the House. Nothing, however, has been said by the Prime Minister, nor have we heard anything from the leader of the Labour Party. I further regret to say that the leader of the Opposition is not present, though we know there are certain circumstances in his case which preclude his attendance. What are the facts in regard to the offers made by the Commonwealth Government to the Imperial Government in the matter of preferential trade? It was very easy, indeed, for astute statesmen like Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Asquith to at once see through the offer which the Australian Prime Minister presented. What did the Australian representative offer? The Imperial Government asked for bread and the Prime Minister offered a stone; all the preference he could offer was to raise the Tariff of Australia against the foreigner, and to maintain the present Tariff as against the mother country. That was not preference; it was simply another method of taking the bread out of the mouths of the British working men. In order to show what the opinion of the British working men and the Labour Party in the old country is on this matter, I shall take the liberty to quote from a report which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of the 2nd of this month as follows : -
LONDON, July 1.
Twenty-two Labour members of the House of Common’s, belonging to the trade union group, have issued a manifesto headed “ The Colonial Conference and Preferential Trade.”
In this document the declaration is made that it is time the British working man protested against the absurdities of the contentions of some of the colonial Premiers.
This shows exactly the feeling of the British working man, whatever may be the feeling of the working man in Australia.
Although New Zealand’s white population only equalled that of the Birmingham district, and Australia’s half of London’s, their Premiers assumed to treat with Great Britain with 40,000,000, as nation with nation, using threats if we refused their demand. Yet Canada, which had made the most advance in national importance, being represented by a statesman, dissociated herself from these demands. New Zealand demanded preference for her products and manufactures - not foodstuffs or raw materials only - though knowing perfectly well that this could not be given unless we altered our whole fiscal system, and taxed all foTeign imports. Even with a liberal estimate of the value of colonial preference, the advocates of the principle were unable to show that the increase of the present trade with the colonies would be beyond from 10 to 15 per cent., affecting about a quarter of 1 per cent. of the total British trade. In return for this magnificent result, securing¼ per cent. fewer unemployed, the cost of every necessary article consumed by the British ‘ workman would be increased.
The manifesto ridicules the Premiers who supported the foolish proposition that a small rise in the price of wheat would not affect the price of bread, and quotes approvingly Professor Marshall’s declaration that free-trade was never more essential to Great Britain’s prosperity than now. “ Needless to say,” the manifesto sneeringly remarks, “one of the chief objects of the Premiers is the welfare of the British workman. Their anxiety is only equalled by that of the tariff-reform ing capitalist at home, who never speaks and never thinks of his share of the plunder.”
Thosemen were able to see very clearly the object of the Commonwealth Ministry in offering preference to England under such conditions.
In testing the disinterestedness of the colonies by a concrete instance, the manifesto refers to Mr. Deakin’s ingenious proposal -
How like the Prime Minister that is ! to raise a common fund for Imperial, but chiefly colonial, purposes, to which Great Britain would subscribe4½ millions, and the colonies a few hundred thousands. The manifesto states that British workmen do not think they are called upon to contribute to the maintenance of children beyond the sea to this tune, nor are they to be entrapped by those who exploit the Imperial sentiment in the interest of tariff reform at their expense.
The Times condemns “ the utterly parochial point of view displayed by this amazing manifesto, its entire failure to realize the stand-point of the working classes in other parts of the Empire, and the cheap sneers against the bona fides of the colonies and the spokesmen Premiers.” It would probably be realized that the signatories of the manifesto represented a very small fraction of their countrymen.
That, of course, has been the attitude of the English people throughout in reference to the Conference. The Prime Minister himself has told us that he was received in a magnificent manner. We hear how our representatives’ were banqueted all over the country, and how they were carried about in royal carriages and motor-cars, and so forth. But that is an old trick which Great Britain has found very useful in connexion with the Indian Empire. Many times when in England I have seen Indian princes loaded with favours. I have seen examples of the way in which English statesmen practically get round men they wish to conciliate. I have known statesmen even go so fax as to give the coveted title of M.D. to a coloured prince who studied for only two years at a university, when the recognised course for any of our own people is not less than five years. That, I think, is the sort of way in which our delegates have been treated. So far as our getting what we desired is concerned, I consider that this Conference has been simply an absolute failure. We put forward a proposal that there should be preferential trade ; and with what result? Cold water was thrown upon our offer. From the first it was seen that our proposals would be declined, and all we obtained was an admission that, if we chose, we could have preferential trade with the other dependencies of Great Britain, but that, so far as Great Britain herself was concerned, the idea could not be considered for a moment. Then it was hoped by our representatives that, instead of doing business with the Colonial Office, a special department or secretariat would be organized for the purposes of the Commonwealth and other selfgoverning Colonies. The suggestion to that effect was also negatived, and all that the Prime Minister obtained was the grudging admission that, so far as the Colonial Office was concerned, a distinction might be made in the future between self-governing Colonies and Crown Colonies. That, in my opinion, was a very small gain. Another proposal was that the Commonwealth should have representation on the Imperial Defence Committee. What were we offered instead? Our representatives were told that if in regard to local matters Australia required advice, and chose to send a delegate to ask for it, the Imperial Defence Committee would be very glad to give us the benefit of their knowledge; but representation on the Committee was regarded as entirely out of the question. I am perfectly justified in saying that the Prime Minister cannot congratulate himself on the result of his mission. Furthermore, I object to the political propagandist work which was carried on by certain of the Australian delegates. Did we send those delegates Home and pay their expenses in order that they might talk politics? In my opinion their action amounted to an abuse of hospitality. At any rate, I object to some of the remarks which were made by the Minister of Trade and Customs. During his visit to England he said he had not the slightest hesitation in declaring that the Labour Party was the most patriotic in Australia, while another member of the Navigation Conference said that the Labour Party was the pet of all the other parties in the Commonwealth. Yes, the Labour Party is a young tiger pet, no doubt; but, at the same time, I do not think that our delegates had any right to utilize their visit to the Home country for political propagandist work. Another statement I object to was that it is entirely owing to the efforts of the Labour Party that Australia has been kept a white man’s country. We know well that the opinion of all parties in Australia is that Australia should be a white man’s country ; and the remarks to which I take exception were altogether misleading to the people of the old country. The Prime Minister, before he left London, admitted that the Conference had practically been a failure ; and I shall quote from the remarks he made on that occasion. He was asked whether the results of the Conference had come up to his expectations, and he replied in these words: -
If you mean by results the resolutions which have been unanimously passed at the Conference, I. should be obliged to say no, because on several of the most important subjects we not only failed to induce an acceptance of our proposals, but even to receive a definite approach towards them. Something, it is true, was done in nearly every case ; but that something could have been accomplished by correspondence, and that is why I say that if we judge the Conference by its official resolutions we cannot claim cause for congratulations.
As a matter of fact the result of all the trouble and expense that has been caused, and the delay of nearly seven months in the progress of parliamentary work, is that the Conference has proved abortive.
– Why did they not send the right honorable member for East Sydney ?
– H - Had that right honorable member gone in place of the Prime Minister, the results of the Conference would have been very different. He would have offered a true preference which the British workman could accept with open arms. Had a Reid Administration been in power instead of a Deakin Administration, the Conference would have produced useful results. The statement was made by the Minister of Trade and Customs in a speech before a Chamber of Commerce at the Bristol Hotel - it is strange that these meetings should always take place at hotels - that as far as the Conference was concerned -
There had been a lot of ventilation, but, as the raven said, “ Nothing more.” …. But as new generations arose in the colonies, they would lose their sentimental feeling of kinship for Great Britain unless something was done to sustain it bv interchange and commerce, and by quickening the means of communication.
Ministers claim that their visit to the old country has drawn Australia nearer to the motherland, and tightened the bonds which bind us to the Empire. I venture to say that it has had exactly the opposite effect, though had another set of men gone the result might have been different. I am glad to know that -
A progressive scheme for the improvement of harbour and coastal defences is under consideration ; our fixed defences are receiving special attention ; the number of members of our Military Forces proceeding abroad for instruction and training has been increased ; provision for a further increase of naval and military cadets will be made ; the progress of the rifle clubs is still satisfactory ; the local production of the munitions of war will be provided for.
I would emphasize the necessity for immediately strengthening our coastal defences and properly equipping our forces. There are on the coasts of Australia numerous harbors which naturally lend themselves to the purposes of defence, and it is most important, in the interest of our commerce, that they should be protected. We must provide secure ports of refuge in which our shipping can shelter in time of war, fortifying these ports so that they may be readily defended against the attacks of an enemy. I understand, however, that the condition of our existing fortifications is unsatisfactory. Members of the Instructional Staff are told off to look after our guns and defences generally ; but they are so few in number, and the means placed at their disposal so limited, that it is extremely difficult for them to perform their duties properly. In my opinion, too, our Forces are inadequately equipped. We have been told that should war break out at any time, we could easilv make the saddles, bridles, and ammunition waggons that would be required. But it is a very dangerous thing to be short in equipment, and I therefore urge the Ministry to pay attention to this matter at once. No reference is made in the Governor-General’s speech to the proposal to terminate the Naval Agreement. In New South Wales the subject is being discussed by everyone, and surprise is being expressedchat it should be proposed to take such action. The Prime Minister must have been astonished at the ready manner in which his suggestion was received by the Admiralty authorities. As a matter of fact, our contribution towards the upkeep of thu Imperial Navy is a mere drop in the bucket. The sum we pay is not sufficient to commission a single man-of-war. I believe that the mother country would be glad to be rid of the agreement, because it compels her to keep more war vessels in Australian waters than her experts consider necessary here. If it were not for the Naval Agreement we should have fewer British warships in our waters. The first object of the British authorities is to make the North Sea safe, and to thoroughly fortify the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. To improve the home defences, the Admiralty are building docks at Dover, and it is proposed to build docks on the Forth. In the far eastern waters the head-quarters of the Navy is at Singapore, and no doubt Great Britain would be glad to keep there some of the vessels that are now attached to the Australian Squadron. Therefore, it behoves us to deal with the Naval Agreement only after much consideration. The Governor-General has informed us that -
Though immigration to the Commonwealth is generally increasing . . . 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.
Immigration is a subject which should receive great attention at our hands. At the present time, the various authorities are working at cross purposes. Each State has its scheme of immigration, differing from the Commonwealth scheme. I understand that the New South Wales Government, which is very active in this matter, is advertising largely in Canada and in the United States of America, countries to which there is a flow of immigrants from other lands, and where, I think, our advertisements have been practically wasted. We should advertise where our efforts will produce good results.
– Is not the New South Wales Government advertising in England ?
– England and Europe are places where advertisement may be wisely undertaken.
– Does the honorable member know that miners are being brought to his district to compete with the men already there, which has the result of throwing some out of work?
– I am coming to that point. Great care should be taken in selecting immigrants. I was told the other day that numbers of men wearing sandals have been seen in our streets, men coming from Spain, who have been imported by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to work in the Queensland cane fields, and that probably they will be followed by 400 or 500 others. Care should be taken to see that we get only the proper class of immigrants. All immigrants should have to pass through some office abroad where their desirability could be tested. At the present time there is a risk of importing undesirable immigrants.’ One of the conditions which should be enforced is the passing of a medical examination. The Commonwealth should have a Minister of Health. America has such a Minister, and employs in every part of the world medical officers whose duty it is to examine and report on intending emigrants to America. Those upon whom they report unfavorably are refused admission to that country. The whole subject, it seems to me, should be dealt with in connexion with the establishment of Federal quarantine. That, I am sorry to say, has again been placed last but one in the list of measures for the coming session. t do not see what strong relation there is between the appointment of a High Commissioner and the proper control of immigration. In my opinion, the control of immigration is largely a matter for health authorities, and I hope we shall soon hear that a Minister of Health has been appointed. At the same time, I think that the sooner we appoint a High Commissioner the better. Whoever fills that office should not be merely a commercial agent. We should be represented in the motherland by men who will reflect credit upon’ the Commonwealth. Other countries have their ambassadors, and we should choose a m,an who is eminently suited to fill the office of High Commissioner. He should be an individual with a large private income, in order that he mav be able to supplement the official salary which he will receive from the Commonwealth. He should be a m.an of good appearance and address - one who would shine in the courts of Europe. I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs will agree with my remarks in this connexion. He has recently had an opportunity of mixing with dukes and duchesses, and he must be aw.are of the importance which attaches to a good appearance.
– How would the Minister himself fill the bill?
– I have said that I would not take the position if it were offered to me.
– Nobody regrets that fact more than I do. I am sure that nobody is more fitted to fill it. But there are other members of this Parliament who would adequately fill the bill, and the sooner the appointment is made the better. The High Commissioner would be in a position to see th,at the Commonwealth offices in London were properly administered - a very important circumstance in itself. One matter to which I take exception in connexion with the administration of the Government during the recess has reference to the repatriation of certain Australians who were stranded in South Africa. I am given to understand that a great many of the unfortunates who have reached our shores are not Australians ,at all. I think that some inquiry should be instituted as to why these men were allowed to come here under the auspices of the Government, and to have their passages paid. Further, I fear that many of the returned Australians are not exactly what we might call “ desirable “ immigrants. However, I have no fault to find with the Government upon that score, because the mere fact of a man being ,an Australian was quite sufficient to arouse popular sympathy, and even if a few undesirables were introduced, the vast majority will undoubtedly prove an acquisition to the country. Paragraph 17 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads : -
Effect has been given to many of the recommendations of the Papua Royal Commission, and others are receiving consideration.
I feel, as a humble member of this Parliament, although I do not see why I should call myself a humble member in view of the fact that I represent some 20,000 electors, that the Government do not take honorable members sufficiently into their confidence. We know very well that the condition of affairs in Papua recently has not given satisfaction. We .are aware that a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the administration of that Territory, The report of that body has been placed in our hands, and the Ministry have undertaken to give effect to many of its recommendations. Personally, I do not agree with all of those recommendations. In my opinion one of the Commissioners was totally unfitted for the work which he was called upon to perform.
– Who was that?
– I allude to Judge Murray. I cannot understand how any person of a judicial temperament could render the evidence which he did.
– In respect to what ?
– In reference to the Administrator. The Commission, after being duly constituted, visited New Guinea. It started from Port Moresby, and proceeded on an expedition from point to point until it returned to its starting place. Throughout that tour the members of the Commission met with no person who expressed dissatisfaction with the administration of the Territory, notwithstanding that it examined representatives of the settlers and of the miners. But upon its return to Port Moresby the administration was subjected to all sorts of unfavorable criticism. The chief objections which Judge Murray appeared to entertain to the Administrator were that he was a friend of the natives, that to a, certain extent he was opposed to the introduction of a large mining population, that he was entirely opposed to Australian sentiment, and objected to the colonization of the country by the white man. In reply, the Administrator has declared that he is not opposed to the population of the country by colonists, that he is in favour of extending its agricultural capabilities, but that he does not favour the introduction of a mining population because experience has taught him that it is not the most desirable form of population to encourage in such a country as Papua.
– From what report is the honorable member quoting?
– I am basing my statements upon the report of the Royal Commission.
– Judge Murray was not a member of that Commission.
– No; I should have said that he gave evidence before it.
– That is not Judge Murray of Sydney.
– No. He was an officer who two years ago was appointed Chief Justice of British ^ New Guinea. I take exception to the nature of his evidence. He has imported into it certain private conversations between himself arid the Administrator, and he lays great stress upon these after-dinner chats. He also draws conclusions from them which no person of a judicial mind could do. He endeavours to condemn the Administrator out of his own mouth, but in my opinion his charges have not been sustained. In the case of Surveyor Richmond, that officer was displaced from his position by the Administrator because of laxness in his work. The action of the Administrator was perfectly justified ; but notwithstanding that fact, Surveyor Richmond was given an opportunity of communicating with headquarters in Melbourne, and was informed that when the opportunity occurred, if he chose to revive the subject it would be inquired into. As a result, of the reply to his private communication - a communication which should have been transmitted through the Administrator to the Prime Minister - Surveyor Richmond was distinctly insubordinate, (and refused to comply with the orders which had been issued by his superior officer. The condition of affairs revealed by the inquiry in connexion with the Land Office was not entirely due to Captain Barton. He says that it was largely due to the action of Mr. Richmond. Only one or two cases were disclosed in which delay had occurred owing to negligence in the Lands Department. I do not regard that as a very serious offence. I have been agitating without success for nearly four years to get a piece of land set apart for a rifle range at Singleton. How, then, can we blame an official in New Guinea if small land matters are not attended to more expeditiously ? What I object to is that the Commission recommend taking away from the natives the lands which they hold.
– Who suggests that?
– The Commission recommend it in their report, and I do not know whether the Government intend to adopt their recommendation. When the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth the natives were distinctly given to understand that the lands which they owned would be left in their possession, and that if any portion of those lands were required by the Commonwealth they would be fully compensated for them. If the Government adopt the recommendation of the Commission they will be practically saying, “We will be the judges as to what lands the natives shall utilize, and any areas in excess will become Crown lands.” We all recognise that the success of Great Britain as a colonizing power has been largely due to the fact that the native tribes under her control believe implicitly in the uprightness of her rulers. A distinct pledge has been given to the natives that the land which they own shall continue to be theirs, but if the Government act upon the recommendation of the Commission that land will be taken from them, irrespective of whether or not they are will-, ing to part with it. I believe that the Administrator of this Territory has not received justice. When we reflect that he superseded a man who naturally expected to be appointed to that office himself, we cannot wonder that Captain Barton found it very difficult to work with him.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Before the adjournment for luncheon, I was endeavouring to show that Captain Barton had not received justice at the hands of the present Administration. It is generally understood that Captain Barton has practically been retired from his position as Administrator of Papua, and I shall endeavour to substantiate all that I have said in regard to his treatment. I propose now to quote from the report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the present conditions, including the methods of government of Papua, and the best means for their improvement. The Commission reported that, after carefully inquiring into the subject, they had come to the conclusion that they could not recommend Captain Barton’s permanent retention in his present office. Thev further reported that it was not until their return to Port Moresby in November last that- they were for the first time met with the long array of charges and recriminations, which will be fecund in the evidence.
This goes to prove my statement that it was not until the Commission returned to Port Moresby, a hot-bed of disloyalty to the Administrator, on the part of public servants appointed to assist him, that any evidence was found against him. Since the Minister of Trade and Customs appeared to have some doubts as to the identity of the Mr. Murray to whom I referred, I must explain that the gentleman in question is Mr. John Hubert Plunkett Murray, who, in reply to an inquiry by the Commission, stated that he was the Chief Judicial Officer of the Territory of Papua, and had held office for two years and two months. After reading the evidence, I have not much respect for his judgment, nor can I understand how a man reared, as he must have been, in a judicial atmosphere, could have given such biased evidence as he did.
– In one or two places he contradicted himself.
– That is so. It is difficult to understand how a man trained as he has been could have given expression to sentiments such as we find in his evidence. For example, in dealing with Captain Barton’s policy, he stated that -
In regard to the natives, after twenty or twenty-five years of settlement, a harmless old market gardener, Weaver, is killed within ten miles of Port Moresby, and the object of the murderers who killed him, and who had lived,’ some of them, within rifle shot of Government House, was partly to have the right to paint the posts of their houses red, and to wear feathers in their heads.
Now comes the argument: -
If that is the result of twenty years of the present policy, I think another policy should be adopted.
Is it not a fact that even in this settled community we hear from time to time of most heinous crimes being committed ; of innocent men being murdered while at work in their offices? And yet because one man happened to be killed by untutored savages in Papua, Mr. Murray considered that there was evidence that another policy should be adopted.
– I do not think that he should have taken careful notes of private conversations with a view to attacking the Administrator.
– I have already referred to the fact that he took notes ot certain after-dinner remarks made by Captain Barton, although no one usually attaches any serious importance to observations made in such circumstances. Mr. Murray said, further, that when he called the attention of the Administrator to the delay in dealing with a certain application -
He said that the delay was due to the slowness of the Lands Department. I had not been here long at the time, but my subsequent experience showed me that the delay is generally due to Resident Magistrates. Whether it is due to the Lands Department or the Resident Magistrates, my contention is that the Administration is to blame.
He endeavoured to place the whole blame upon the shoulders of the Administrator. One qf the chief complaints made against the Administrator appears to have been that he felt that he occupied very much the position of a father to the natives of Papua. The Commission asked Mr. Murray: -
Have you any specific cases coming under your notice of his want of sympathy for the white settlers? 1
His reply was: -
I have often heard him in conversation. I have argued the point with him on several occasions, and he has told me that he wished to God that gold had never been found in the country, and he wished there were no miners here.
– Captain Barton denies that statement.
– He does. Mr. Murray continued: -
I said that if there were no miners he would get no revenue, as they paid most of the taxes. He said he would do without the revenue, as if they had no miners they would not have the trouble and expense of administering the Northern Division.
The remark made by Captain Barton was one that might naturally be made by any one having the control of affairs in a new country. In such circumstances, a man would naturally be inclined to favour the encouragement of agricultural settlement rather than the rush and tear incidental to mining operations. Mr. Murray had the further question put to him -
It is not a feeling against white so much as it is sympathy for the blacks.
To this he replied : -
I think it is both. His opposition to white settlement is due largely to his sympathy for the natives.
So far as I have been able to ascertain that is the keynote of the whole position. Mr. Murray continued -
It is largely also due to a lack of sympathy with democratic ideas. I do not wish to give you to understand that he sits down and says deliberately, “ I will oppose white settlement,” or that he acts dishonorably, but I think that fear on the one side and sympathy on the other have led him into a position which appears to me impossible.
Later on, a question arose as to the shooting of some natives who had committed depredations on a far-out white settlement. Mr. Murray said, in his evidence -
I do not say for a moment that the shooting of these natives was not justified, as I do not know the facts. I am only pointing out that a great number are shot, and the two men who shoot nearly all of them are the two particular friends of His Excellency.
That is a very grave charge, and Captain Barton distinctly denies it. Although Mr. Murray admitted that he did not know the facts, he declared that friends of the Administrator had shot most of the natives. I have made these quotations with a view to show the character of the statements made by this witness. .When Captain Barton was examined by the Commission, he said -
In the first place, Mr. Murray tries to make out that the Government is averse to white settlement. I deny the imputation. It is my desire now, and it always has been, to encourage white settlement, more particularly agriculturalists.
What exception could be taken to such a policy ?
In fact, I believe that the future prosperity of this country and the salvation of the natives depend upon agricultural development. The only obstacle which has stood in the way of inducing such settlement has been the unsettled condition regarding the land policy.
He then went on to deal with complaints as to delay in dealing, with applications for land -
If the statements in the letters which have been submitted to the Commissioners on this matter may be relied upon, the delay was caused in some measure owing to the insubordinate conduct of the Chief Government Surveyor, Mr. Richmond, and his relations with Mr. Matthews.
He went on to point out that the particular case cited to bolster up the charge of delay in dealing with applications for land related to a lease sought by a Mr. Graham. He said : -
Mr. Murray cites the case of G. Graham as an instance of culpable delay on the part of a Resident Magistrate. I have not the papers before me, but as far as my recollection goes, it was an unusual case, being complicated by (1) a change of officers! -
At this time, the officers were frequently being changed -
Such delays are not confined to Papua. As a matter of fact, although the Government profess great anxiety to encourage rifle shooting, during the last four years I have applied again and again without success for the transfer of a rifle range in my electorate from the State to the Commonwealth. Captain. Barton went on to say: -
The witness continues by saying that there has been a change since the arrival of the Commission, and “ since they started talking down south in Parliament.” He loses sight of the fact that the change commenced when Mr. Richmond was removed from the charge of the Lands Department.
Further he said -
Mr. Murray states that the mainsprings of administrative action are personal spite and favoritism.
That was a very grave charge to make against a public Administrator. Captain Barton’s reply to this allegation was : -
I take it that the Commissioners will not accept that statement as far as it applies to me without proof, and I challenge His Honour to show that there is as much as a vestige of truth in it.
When such a charge is made it should not be difficult to substantiate. I shall conclude my quotations from this report by reading an extract from the evidence of the Administrator in which he vindicates his conduct. He says: -
It was not until I had read Mr. Murray’s evidence that I became convinced of his disloyalty. I can see now that he has been disloyal from the very first. It is true that I have had doubts sometimes, but I have always succeeded in brushing them aside. Instead of doing his best to help my administration, it is evident to me now that he has seized opportunities to weaken it. I have not the least idea why he should have taken a dislike to me. I have not, as far as I know, given him cause. Judging from his social attitude, I have had every reason to suppose that his disposition towards me was friendly. He has scarcely ever failed to accept my hospitality, and I have talked to him and before h’im without reserve, and with the result that I now find that he has been carefully noting things I have said in friendly, unguarded conversation, with a view of using them to my disadvantage. Mr. Murray has betrayed my confidence, and in the face of this he has the effrontery to say that I am not a fair-minded man. I do not like to introduce more personal reflections into this matter than I can with justice to myself avoid, but one instance goes to show that Mr. Murray has deceived me. When the Liquor Bill was passed in Executive Council, in Port Moresby, a liquor licence-fee of £25 was approved. I clearly recollect the conversation which then took place relating to possible amendments being moved by the non-official members to the several Bills, and as to how long it would probably take to put the Bills through. I said I did not suppose there would be any amendment proposed to the Liquor Bill, and Mr. Murray replied that he did not think it likely, unless Mr. Whitten, who holds several licences, tried to get the licence-fee reduced. I replied that I did not think it too high j did he? And Mr. Murray then, in a reassuring manner, said he did not think it any too high, and even a higher fee would not be too much. When the Bill came before the Legislative Council at Samarai, Mr. Whitten proposed that it should be reduced to £15. Mr. Murray, without demur, supported the amendment, and it was carried. I maintain that Mr. Murray’s action in this case was due either to his inclination to hamper the Administration, or to gain popularity with a section of the public. A general review of his evidence re- veals, in my opinion, a personal bias against me, and against Mr. Ballantyne. He has mixed up truth and fabrication with ingeniouscare, but I urge that, where spite and betrayal are two such notable features of the evidence throughout, the evidence, in my opinion, canner be considered to carry weight. The only thing which lends importance to the evidence is that it was given by the Chief Judicial Officer. Had it been given by any other person, I should not have troubled to answer it. That is all.
The evidence referred to no man would expect from the lips of one who had been trained in the study and practice of the law. Had the evidence been given by any other person I should not have troubled to draw attention to it. I suppose that no good can. be done now, because the officer in question has practically left the service, on the usual terms, I suppose, of six months’ leave of absence. It is only right, however, that I should1 take the opportunity to,, if possible, vindicate the character of one of the best and most useful Administratorswho has ever had control of this Territory. I have nothing further to say, except to congratulate the Prime Minister on his return to his native land, and on the magnificent speeches he delivered in the old! country.
, - The House would, in my opinion have been infinitely better employed in dealing, with reform of the Tariff ; but the old, timehonoured custom of an Address-in-Reply, which I should be very pleased to see abandoned, enables us to refer to questions- for the consideration of which another opportunity might not occur. I regret that the health of the Prime Minister has not enabled him to give the House a resume of what took place in the old country. Under the circumstances, I am confined for my information as to the proceedings of the great Imperial Conference, to what is contained in the speech of the GovernorGeneral, which states that, in consequence of the gathering, a much better understanding has been arrived at. If that means that the people of the old country have a better understanding of the great resources, the power, and the future of the Commonwealth, I am quite satisfied. But if it means that a better understanding has been arrived at between the Colonial Prime Ministers and the Colonial Office, the representatives of which seemed to dominate the Conference, as to the creation of a new body, I am entirely with the deputy leader of the Opposition in trusting that we shall not allow any of the autonomous powers we possess to be curtailed. I give the Prime Minister every praise for the way in which he endeavoured to make the resources of Australia known, and I am pleased also to think that the Minister of Trade and Customs seems to have impressed on the people of the old country that Australia is a power in the Empire, and that he would not play a secondary part, but claimed an equal footing with all the other representatives invited to the Conference. I find that in regard to the Navigation Conference also a good understanding was arrived at. If that means that the Imperial Government now recognises that we have the right to deal with out own coastal trade in what manner we think best I ami satisfied that the Minister of Trade and Customs has done good work. That honorable gentleman talks about providing regulations to deal with oversea shipping which engages in our coastal trade. But I contend now as I have contended before, that this matter will never be effectively dealt with until we follow the splendid example of America, in seeing that not a single passenger or pound of cargo is carried from one Australian port to another except in Australian ships. I am delighted to see the Treasurer in his place, because I have something to say of importance, not only to the House, but to him. According to the Governor-General’s Speech it is recognised that there is urgent necessity for an amendment of our Electoral Act, and I am sure every honorable member will agree as to the correctness of that view. I was rather astonished two days after the last Commonwealth elections to find the Acting Minister of Home Affairs congratulating the Chief Electoral Officers of the Commonwealth on the efficiency they had displayed in the organization and conduct of the huge electoral machine.
– Have we, who have been -returned, any cause of complaint?
– I have no cause of complaint personally, because the electoral machine did not have to operate in my case, and I hope it never will. If the electoral machine had been operated honestly as it ought to have been, I am quite sure that I should have had at least one other Labour colleague in this Parliament ; but I am in hopes now that his place will be satisfactorily filled. If we are to have an amending Electoral Bill, I trust the Government will make all in,quiry that is possible as regards the defects in existing legislation, and see that these defects are remedied. I hope the Government will go further and ascertain whether some of the blunders which were made were not criminal; because, so far as my experience goes, I am quite prepared to say that some were criminal. In the case of the vacancy which has been declared by Mr. Justice Barton, I am quite satisfied, after my experience in connexion with the election, that something radically wrong, if not criminal, occurred ; and the case ought to be inquired into. I acted as scrutineer in the recount, and dealt with all the votes in my own district ; and in not one single instance did the recount tally with the first count. There were differences of twentyone votes, nineteen votes, eight votes, and so on, and there was the enormous discrepancy in Hindmarsh at one polling-booth of ninety-six votes.
– The Labour Party in Victoria lost thousands of votes in the case of the Labour senators.
– And I am satisfied that thousands of votes were lost in South Australia through the same blunder. The chief blunder was actually a blunder, but, at the same time, we must take care to provide that no such blunder is possible in the future. I have before me the results of the first and second counts at the Senate elections in South Australia, and, as I have already indicated, I find that the differences were very considerable. In the Angas district, in not one single instance did the second count tally with the first, and the same condition of affairs prevailed in nearly all the other districts. In Hindmarsh, the difference represented ninety-six votes lost bv Senator Crosbie and 101 votes gained by Mr. Playford, and other differences were thirteen, eight, and fourteen. The South Australian electoral system is so simple that I am glad to say we have never had a protest in regard to the conduct of elections.
– If there has never been a recount in South Australia how can the honorable member say that ?
– We have never had a recount in the Federal elections in South Australia. There was one protest in a case of a State election, and in that instance, the returning officer had burnt the votes in the same way as occurred in the Angas district during the Commonwealth elections.
– Has the burning of the votes anything to do with the Electoral Act?
– Yes. In the ca<e of the State election to which I have referred, the burning of the votes made it impossible to say how the election really stood. As to the burning of the votes in the Commonwealth election, I do not know what action the Minister of Home Affairs proposes to take. But the Minister was to blame, the Chief Electoral Officer was to blame, and those officers who received instructions from the higher officials were in some cases to blame, and in other cases were blameless.
– And sometimes the instructions were to blame.
– Just so. I found that the returning officers had - in one case only the night before the election, and in other cases only two or three days before - received a ton, if not more, of literature containing instructions, with which they were supposed to make themselves familiar before the /polling took place.
– And the instructions that were wrong were underlined.
– Quite so. If a similar course were adopted in the appointment of returning officers as is usual in the case of the Civil Service, I am sure that not one in fifty would pass a satisfactory examination as to his duties. I may say that the Chief Electoral Officer of South Australia wrote to the Minister of Home Affairs complaining that it would be impossible to carry out the instructions; but. of course, nothing was done. ,
– Why “ of course” ?
– Because I believe the Minister himself did not understand the difficulties of carrying out a Commonwealth election. If the matter had been left to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of South Australia there would have been no trouble in the conduct of the elections, and I ask honorable members to peruse the South Australian Electoral Act. Our State elections were open to all the abuses that have been exposed throughout the Commonwealth, but we were able to rectify these; and I have no doubt that if the Commonwealth Act had been based on the South Australian Act there would have been no ground of complaint. We find that the returning officers, about six months before the polling, were asked to send to the Chief Electoral Officer a return giving the names of the poll-clerks and of all officers who were to be engaged at the elections. Of course, that was an utterly impossible task. If the returning officers had had the conduct of the elections they «would have seen that the whole of the votes were counted at one centre, and they would have been responsible. Instead, however, the work was intrusted to postmasters throughout the length and breadth of the country, who had never conducted an election in their lives, and who really could not agree as to what was an informal or formal vote. Consequently, I, for one, am not surprised at the confusion which resulted.
– They were very poorly paid.
– Yes. If one wants good work he must pay good wages, and should expect only bad work for low wages. Mr. Blundell was compelled to test the validity of the election, and in connexion with the case had to pay ^15 as witnesses’ fees to the returning officers who were compelled to appear before the Judge to explain their blunders. Surely the Government will refund that money. I never heard of anything more unjust than that a candidate who had suffered from the blunders of the returning officers should have to pay the officers to appear in Court to explain them. As the Judge said, had the law here been the same as the English law, not only would they have had to pay the expense of attending the Court, but they might have been mulcted in the whole of the expenses of the election. Yet I have far more serious charges to make against Ministers in regard to the conduct of the elections than have been levelled against any of the departmental officers. I have here a copy of a newspaper called the Patriot, issued in Western Australia.
– The same newspaper was issued in Victoria.
– Under very different conditions.
– The conditions of its issue in Western Australia could not have been worse than those of its issue here.
– I think they were. On the front page is a portrait of the Treasurer as he now looks - not as he will look when I have finished with him. On the back page is a portrait of him as he looked when he was leading the more strenuous life of an explorer in 1874.
– What harm is there in that?
– I shall make clear directly what it is that I complain of. On an inner page there is a good portrait of that excellent woman, Lady Forrest.
– Did the Treasurer pay to have these pictures published?
– Perhaps he will give an explanation when I have finished. The paper also publishes a magnificent picture of the Forrest Buildings. The statement appears on the front page that the publication is registered at the General Post Office, Perth, for transmission by post as a newspaper. I hope that the Treasurer will explain why it was that, after thousands of copies had been transmitted through the post, an acquaintance of mine who went to Messrs. Sands and McDougall, the printers, and asked them for copies of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 - the copy which I have here is No. 3 - was informed that they knew nothing of the issue of Nos. 1 and 2, and that No. 3 could not be had. He then asked if he could buy a copy at any news agency, and the printers were not able to tell him where a copy could be bought. He tried several agencies without obtaining a copy.
– All the copies had been distributed.
– They had been distributed through the post.
– In the way that the Worker and other newspapers are distributed. What had the distribution to do with me?
– If this publication was sent through the post at newspaper rates before it had been registered for transmission as a newspaper, the Commonwealth revenue was defrauded.
– Does the honorable member wish it to be inferred that I had anything to do with the distribution?
– My friend went to the post office at Perth to ascertain if the publication had been registered. I am about to show how the Treasurer conducted the last election. If the Labour Party ever conduct an election on the same lines I shall not continue to be a member of it. I am ashamed to be on the same side of the House as the Treasurer.
– Then the honorable member should change his seat.
– I would rather have one devil to cast out than seven. When my friend could not obtain a copy of the publication in Perth, he went to the General Post Office there, to ascertain if it had been registered as a newspaper, and was told that it was not so registered in Perth. This is a matter to which the Postmaster-General should give attention. On the 7 th December he made further inquiries, and two hours afterwards the publication was registered. But copies had already been distributed through the post.
– If so, that was very wrong.
– The publication is dated 22nd November, but its registration as a newspaper for transmission through the post in Western Australia did not take place until early in December, and was done, I think, on the 7th of that month.
– Were copies of it sent through the post prior to registration ?
– I am not going to say anything that I cannot prove.
– The honorable member has asserted that copies were sent through the post prior to registration. If he cannot substantiate the assertion he should withdraw it.
– It rests with the Treasurer to show that copies did not go through the post prior to registration.
– Because the publication was distributed entirely in the interests of the right honorable gentleman, and of the candidates in whom he was taking an interest, who were not Labour candidates.
– It was circulated in the interests of the advertisers also.
– Let me give the names of some of the advertisers - “ Forrest, Emmanuel & Co., Forrest. Buildings,” “ Forrest Chambers.”
– There is not a bit of clearing in the whole thing. It is all “ Forrest.”
– I have nothing to do with the companies named.
– Another advertiser was the “ United Stores Ltd.”
– I do not know who are represented by that company.
– The honorable W. T. Loton is the leading director.
– He has nothing to do with me.
– The newspaper publishes in facsimile two letters issued from “ The Bungalow,” Perth.
– They are both genuine.
– This is the first : -
The Bungalow, Perth, October 30th, 1906.
My Dear Sir,
I hope you will do all in your power to obtain the return of the three persons named herein for the Senate, and also the persons named herein for the House of Representatives. The time has come when every one must do his utmost, and I confidently appeal to you to assist me in upholding the interests of West Australia. You can render much assistance by not only recording your own votes, but by inducing all your friends and neighbours to do the same.
Believe me to remain.
Your old friend,
– The Labour Party tried to take my seat from me; but is it to be thought that I would allow it to be lost without doing all I could to prevent that?
– The second letter was issued from the same address, and on the same date, and reads : -
Sir John and I would be glad if you will vote for the candidates whose names are given below at the coming Federal election. My husband thinks they are good, reliable men-
The country did not think so - and feels sure they would assist him in Parliament. We both urge you to form a Ladies’ Committee, and get all your friends and neighbours to vote also.
Yours very sincerely,
Margaret Elvire Forrest.
– Who were the candidates referred to?
– Their names are given, and their portraits as well. The Senate candidates were Mr. Charles Clark, Sir E. H. Wittenoom, and Mr. H. W. Mills. The candidates for this House were the present member for Fremantle and Dr. Thurston, a free-trader who stood in opposition to my honorable colleague, the able representative for Perth, and was supported by the pretended protectionist Treasurer. These are the tactics to which the Treasurer resorted after having been kept in office by members of the Labour Party, who could not be expected to stand behind him at the election after having found him out. Four of the candidates were not returned, so perhaps the right honorable gentleman will have the pleasure and privilege of assisting them on another occasion.
SirJohn Forrest. - Why does not the honorable member quote what was said about me by Labour candidates? Does he wish it to be thought that nothing was said against me by my opponents ?
– I will tell the Treasurer what this paper says about the Labour Party before I conclude my remarks. I wish to remind honorable members that under the Electoral Act the expenses which may be incurred by a candidate for a seat in the House of Representatives are limited to £100. As a printer I know that it must have cost a very large sum to broadcast a publication such as this, and I want the Treasurer to explain how it was possible to transmit it through the post in thousands without exceeding’ the maximum expenditure to which I have referred. The Postmaster-General is bound to tell the House how it came about that the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia, after declaring that the publication was not registered as a newspaper, registered it for transmission through the post a fortnight after its issue, although no later copy of it was printed.
– That publication did not cost me anything.
– I would remind the Treasurer that nobody is allowed to incur expenditure upon a candidate’s behalf without his authority.
– There are advertisements contained in that publication.
– That will not get the Treasurer out of the difficulty. The fact remains that under the Electoral Act the right honorable gentleman is not permitted to expend more than£100 upon his election, or to sanction an expenditure in excess of that sum on his behalf.
– Who pays for the Worker ?
– The people pay for it.
– It advertises Labour candidates for nothing.
– The Worker had nothing to say on my behalf. It is not published in the State to which I belong, and, therefore, cannot be regarded as a medium for advertising me. If this be the principle upon which elections are conducted it is high time that some action was taken to put an end to it.
-Why not attack the work of the Patriot in Victoria? Why go to Western Australia?
– I will leave Victorians to deal with the work of the journal in this State.
– Let the Treasurer walk out of the Chamber. He does not like criticism.
– I will walk out now if it will please the honorable member. I will not listen to this rubbish.
– Had the Treasurer remained in Victoria he would have been wiser. The Victorian issue of the journal in question did not contain the announcement that it was registered for transmission through the post. It was simply issued as a newspaper.
– It passed through the post.
– It could not do so unless it paid the ordinary rate.
– The Western Australian edition had to pav also.
– I am glad to hear that.
– I suppose that it paid, although I do not know anything about it.
– I think this House has a- right to know what it paid. It is a question in which the revenue of the Commonwealth is concerned. If the Treasurer asserts that it paid the full rate he is impaled upon the horns of a dilemma, because it is obvious that his expenses must have exceeded .£100.
– Not one penny of mv expenses were paid to that newspaper.
– They ought to have been.
– That fact does not extricate the Treasurer from his difficulty. Did the right honorable gentleman denounce what is contained in that newspaper?
– I did not. There is a lot of good stuff in it.
– From the right honorable gentleman’s stand-point there is. It contains the most abominable lies. Is that the “ good stuff “ to which the Treasurer refers?
– I do not know anything about that. Let the honorable member read some of the lies.
– I will read just one or two extracts from this marvellous publication, of which the Treasurer thinks so highly, and the production of which cost him nothing. I ought to say, that if it be possible to register this newspaper, it is time we had a censor appointed to see that honest statements are put before the public. I find in it a heading which conveys the information that “ Sir John Forrest has been alone for six years.”
– What is wrong with that?
– I hope that he will be alone for sixty years. The article states : -
His remaining four colleagues in the House of Representatives belong to the “socialistic caucus party,” and have had to consider the interests of their unions, whose pledged nominees they are, first, and the interests of Western Australia afterwards.
Will the Treasurer tell me the names of the unions to whom the members of the Labour Party are pledged?
– I have made the same statement upon many occasions. Everybody says the same thing.
– There is not a member of the Labour Party who is pledged to any union. The article continues -
In the Senate it has the same labour union’s pledges and the “ caucus “ first and State afterwards. We have had four members belonging to the “ socialistic caucus party,” and one at least of the other two in close sympathy with it, so that we are justified in saying that Sir John Forrest has been our only real independent representative in the Federal Parliament.
– Who said that?
– The Treasurer knew perfectly well that this paper was to be issued.
– Who wrote it?
– Did not the Treasurer himself write it?
– I know that the statement is thoroughly in accord with the opinions expressed by the Treasurer at various meetings, and if the right honorable gentleman himself did not write it, the reporter responsible for it wrote exactly what was in the Treasurer’s mind. I wonder what the right honorable gentleman has to say in regard to his pet subject - the transcontinental railway to Western Australia. Every member of the Labour Party has fought as hard for that measure as has the Treasurer. This publication, I believe, was broadcasted at the public expense.
– What does it say about the railway?
– It says:-
Sir John Forrest has been our only real independent representative in the Federal Parliament.
It makes that statement, notwithstanding that there is not a member of the Labour Party in this Parliament to-day who is not more independent than is the Treasurer.
– I stated from the hustings a hundred times that the Labour Party had fought for the transcontinental railway.
– The journal contains other statements which have no reference to the railway. This is the kind of literature that the Treasurer, permitted to be broadcasted throughout Western Australia, and I say that it evidences the unfair tactics which were adopted by our opponents. Had similar tactics been followed by the Labour Party, my colleagues and myself would have been found denouncing them from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. Here is another heading, “ A Grave Political Danger.” The article says -
A grave political danger threatens Australia.
– Hear, hear. That is true.
-Yes, the members of the Opposition might get on to the Treasury benches. It continues -
The complete control of the legislation of the Federal Parliament by the labour unions has almost been accomplished. The labour unions have already fourteen members out of thirtysix in the Senate, and during the coming elections they not only expect to retain all their present seats, but have been for months making desperate efforts to capture five additional seats, which will place them in a majority, and enable them to dominate and control every legislative enactment passed by the House of Representatives.
If the Treasurer had fought his election upon honest, lines he would have denounced that statement as untrue.
– It is absolutely true.
– My reply is that it is absolutely untrue, and that there is not a single member of the Labour Party in this House under the domination of any union, and there never has been. We are under the domination of our electorates and of nothing else. We are selected, not by any union, but by the whole of the people who choose to sign the platform of the Labour Party.
– Why does not the honorable member turn his attention to the Prime Minister?
– The Treasurer has just declared that the statement which I have read is absolutely true.
– Order. It is my duty to give as close attention as possible to the remarks of the honorable member who is addressing the House.
– Perhaps it would assist in the maintenance of order if I retired.
– While there are so many interjections, and what is worse, so many remarks being addressed by honorable members in the Labour corner to the Treasurer, it is quite impossible for me to follow the utterances of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I ask honorable members to allow him to continue his speech.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it in order for any honorable member to leave the Chamber while you, sir, are on your feet?
-It is not in order for any honorable member to make any remark or to move about the Chamber while the Speaker is addressing the House.
– I do not feel annoyed in the slightest degree at interjections so long as they do not amount to interruptions. But I do think it is my duty to show honorable members - particularly those who are here for the first time - the kind of tactics which are sometimes resorted to by old and experienced politicians. I hope that whatever may be our political differences, we shall always win our seats by fair fighting. I feel that some members of the party with which I am associated have had to win their seats despite unfair fighting from quarters from which they might least be expected. As the Treasurer has retired from the Chamber, I intend to deal with only one or two more statements which are contained in the publication to which I have previously directed attention. That publication, the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia declared was’ not registered as a newspaper. Subsequently one of my friends instituted inquiries and found that it had been so registered. I believe that many thousand copies of it have been transmitted through the post at newspaper rates, and that consequently the revenue has been defrauded in addition to an unfair advantage having been taken of certain candidates.
– Perhaps that was for the good of the country.
– I do not think it is for the good of the country that the Postal Department should be defrauded of revenue.
– Who paid for the free issue for a period of three weeks of a newspaper which was circulated near Mount Morgan in the labour interest?
– I do not know. I hail from South Australia.
– But the honorable member is dealing with Western Australia now.
– Because I am conversant with the subject upon which I am talking. I do not know what obtained in Queensland, but I am sure that some of my colleagues will be able to supply the information asked for by the honorable member for Capricornia. I find in this paper, which was scattered broadcast, many statements designed to mislead the electors. Why should attempts be made to mislead them? Why is it not possible for us to place our honest views* against those honestly held by our opponents? Under the headings of “Incorrect Assertions,” “ Baseless Claims to Legislative Work,” I find the statement that in the first Parliament the House was divided as follows: - Protectionists and supporters of the Ministry, 33 ; free-traders and supporters of the Opposition, 25 ; Labour members, 16; and Mr. Speaker.
– What is said as to the strength of the several parties in the second Parliament?
– No mention is made in this newspaper, which was issued shortly before the last general election, of the fact that the Labour Party in the second Parliament consisted, not of sixteen, but of twenty-five members, and that both the Ministerial and Opposition parties had dwindled considerably. The article continued -
Every measure was promulgated, introduced, and carried on the initiative of the Liberal Protectionist Party, and not one of them was suggested or approved on the motion of the Labour Party.
– What were those measures ?
– The Bills providing for a White Australia, as well as measures relating to the extension of the franchise to women, the policy of protection, conciliation and arbitration, a Citizen Defence Force, agricultural bounties, anti-trust legislation, and the Constitution of Papua. I venture to say that not one-fourth of those measures could have been carried without the assistance of the Labour Party.
– We introduced many new principles in some of them. The Government itself in the last Parliament opposed the policy of the New Protection.
– We undoubtedly introduced new principles. As the Treasurer has seen fit to retire from the House, I shall refrain from making any further reference to him. I wish now to say a word or two with respect, not to the administration of the Government, but to something which the Government should inquire into. Although we have a Public Service Commissioner, with an inspector in each of the States, the greatest dissatisfaction prevails throughout the Commonwealth in regard to the administration of the Service. I am surprised and disappointed to find that men who have been charged with serious offences in different parts of the Commonwealth, and have been dismissed from the Service, have been able, with certain influence, to secure reinstatement, and even to secure promotion to high positions. I know of one case in New South Wales where an official was actually arrested for theft.
– To what Department did he belong?
– As my information is second-hand, I shall ask the Minister to make independent inquiry. I believe that the Postmaster-General knows something about the case. I am informed that a public officer, who had been arrested for theft, and against whom there was a suspicion of other offences, was not only placed in charge of a suburban post-office, but was ultimately promoted to the position of inspector. This is only one of a number of cases that have been brought under my notice. Similar cases have occurred in South Australia.
– Does the honorable member say that this was done with the concurrence of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– If the specific case to which I referred did not come within the cognizance of the Public Service Inspector in New South Wales, he must have paid very little attention to his duties. If we had no Public Service Commissioner it would be open to me at any time to lay before the responsible Minister the case of a public servant who felt that he was unjustly dealt with, and to see that his grievance was investigated. Under the present system, however, I am told that if
I say one word to the Public Service Commissioner on behalf of an officer who has been unjustly treated, that officer is liable to be dismissed. I hope that we shall put an end to this condition of affairs.
– Does the honorable member advocate the abolition of the office of Public Service Commissioner?
-I do, and had I been in the House when the Public Service Bill was before it, I should have voted against the appointment of a Commissioner.
– It was the best appointment ever made.
– If the honorable member for Maranoa could say that the corruption obtaining in New South Wales existed also in Queensland and other States, he might well claim that the Public Service should be administered by a Commissioner. In South Australia we have not had these corrupt practices.
– But South Australia is the model State.
– No, we have our faults; but, thank Heaven, we have never had anything approaching the land scandals in New South Wales.
– That is because South Australia has not the land.
– If the honorable member casts a glance at the map he will see that we have in South Australia more land than there is within the New South Wales borders. I am not permitted to say anything to the Public Service Commissioner as to the unrest in the Service, but he must know full well that dissatisfaction -exists when a man arrested for theft is promoted over the heads of honest officers. Reference has been made during the debate to the Northern Territory, and, whilst I do not propose to discuss in detail the agreement for its transfer to the Commonwealth, since it will be submitted to us later on, I feel it necessary to deal with some of the criticism that has been levelled at the Government. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was very much- concerned because of a statement in one of a series of excellent articles in the Age dealing with the Northern Territory. I think that the writer of those articles takes too pessimistic a view of the position in regard to the locked-up lands. It is true that .86,295 square miles have been leased for a period of forty-two years, but I would remind honorable members that the area of the
Territory is 526,620 square miles, or 335,116,800 acres. It will thus be seen that a comparatively small part of the Territory has yet been leased. I admit that the land so held at present includes some of the best to be found there; but when honorable members say that the whole of it has been locked up for forty-two years, they, like the writer of the articles to which I have referred, are labouring under a misapprehension. The position is that, on notice being given and compensation paid, agricultural lands may be resumed at any time after the expiration of ten years from the date of the issue of the lease. We are not going within a year or two to settle hundreds of thousands of people in the Territory, and I would draw attention to the fact that four or five years hence much of the land that has been leased by the Government of South Australia can be resumed. The position, therefore, is not nearly so bad as it would appear at first sight. If the lands locked up are really suitable, as I believe they are, for closer settlement - for the growth of tropical products - they are of value, and in the event of their not being used, it would be only right to impose a reasonable amount of taxation in respect of their unimproved value. If that course were adopted, the bulk of the land would soon fall back into the hands of the Government. I have no desire to prolong the debate, but wish to refer briefly to the necessity of appointing a High Commissioner. In view of what has been said as to some of the Commonwealth delegates at the recent Conferences in London, I sincerely trust that the Prime Minister was misrepresented in regard to his utterances with respect to the Labour Party. It has been mentioned, both in the House and out of it, that the Treasurer is likely to be appointed as High Commissioner of the Commonwealth. I hope, however, that no appointment will be made until the Government have submitted to Parliament the name of the gentleman whom they propose to nominate. I am anxious to see, not only that the Labour Party is not misrepresented by the High Commissioner, but that such an appointment will be made as will insure fair treatment to every section in the Parliament. If a selection were made from some whose fitness for the office has been suggested, we should not secure that fair play to which we are entitled. Every member of this House has declared his approval of the principle of old-age pensions, and I am disappointed to find that in His Excellency’s Speech the subject is dismissed in a mere phrase -
The great issues affected, including the federalization of old-age pensions, will be considered in this relation.
As a member of the dominant party - the party uppermost, both in regard to its numbers and its position - I feel that it will be our duty to consider how long we shall support the smaller party unless it is prepared to take action towards the establishment of a Federal system of pensions. If the Government are in earnest in their oftrepeated expressions of approval of certain principles included in the programme of the Labour Party, they must give us some proof.
– The Labour Party can obtain only that which they can squeeze out of the Government.
– I am sorry to say that we have been unable to squeeze much out of them. The Opposition have said that, although there is not much of a socialistic character in the proposals of the Ministry itself, the Labour Party can secure its support for any socialistic measure. No one has been able, however, to point to one socialistic measure introduced by a Labour member and carried with the assistance of the Government. Those who think that much can be done by private members will find, on placing their notices of motion on the businesspaper, that they are lamentably mistaken’. It is high time the Government took a stand, and gave a tangible0 expression of their sympathy, not only with the aged poor, but with the sick poor. We all know how funds devoted to charity are wasted. On an average the object of charity receives j£i, while the distribution costs about £5 ; at any rate, that is how the system worked out in connexion with the Victorian Humane Society. That being so, charity organisations should be relieved of a great deal of the work they now perform, and some relief should also be afforded to those generous-hearted citizens who do not make full inquiry into the charities to which they contribute. For those reasons I am prepared to go as far as possible towards compelling the Government to carry out what every section of the House is in favour of, namely, a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions. I desire to say one word in regard to the Federal Capital site. I have no preference, or, rather, I had no preference, for one site over another in New South Wales when I entered this Parliament. But having, viewed the several sites, I believe I honestly did my duty, not only to this Parliament but to New, South Wales, when I voted in favour of Dalgety. I did not cast that vote because I considered Dalgety to be the best site, but the site I preferred having been rejected, I regarded the territory now favoured by me as the second best. On looking into the matter I find that Dalgety, which has been accepted by this Parliament, was the verysite offered by Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of New South Wales. It is the duty of honorable members opposite, and also of members on this side, who are now opposed to Dalgety, to tell us what we have not been told up to the present, namely, what has led them to change their opinions on this question. The site of Dalgety, it appears, was offered by Mr. Carruthers some time ago, when the matter was under discussion.
– Both the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Lang, when the question was put to them, failed to explain which site the Premier of New South Wales now desires to have chosen. It is of no use appealing to me on this question, unless I am told something definite. I am satisfied, so far, with Dalgety, although, as I said before, I voted for it simply as the second best site.
– Which site does the honorable member consider the best?
– Has the honorable member seen Canberra?
– Canberra is a very beautiful place, but is only a small patch ; we require something bigger for the Federal Territory
– Something like the Northern Territory, I suppose?
– No ; but I contend that we should not have anything less than 900 square miles. The honorable member for Fawkner wishes to save the Commonwealth some millions of money by postponing the selection of the site for ten years, and, in the meantime, have the Seat of Government removed to Sydney. But the sooner we fix the Capital the sooner we shall save money to the taxpayers ; that is, if we carry out the idea favoured by the majority of the members of the last Parliament, and I trust by a majority of the members of this. Parliament, that none of the Commonwealth lands shall be alienated. If that policy be carried out there will result a revenue sufficient to relieve the country of the entire cost of the Commonwealth Government.
– How will the revenue be obtained? ‘
– From the land. The honorable member cannot refer me to any unprejudiced authority who would deny for one moment that in a very few months a very large revenue would be derived from the Federal territory.
– The honorable member will not find any one in New South Wales, except, perhaps, members of the Labour Party, who would be willing to cut 900 square miles out of the State territory for the purposes of the Federal Capital.
– That amount of land would be given without a quiver to private land speculators.
– In the Northern Territory areas of land larger than many principalities in Europe have been given away ; and the same thing would be done in New South Wales if there were land swindlers possessed with the idea of getting hold of it.
– That has been done.
– Supposing that 900 square miles were devoted to the purposes of the Federal territory, who would be the gainer? The people of New South Wales would reap the greatest benefit from the trade which would result, and, at the same time, the revenue derived would be sufficient to cover the cost of government. I do not desire to prolong the debate, because I shall have an opportunity later tn deal with the other subjects mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech. I trust that very soon we shall be actively engaged in a work which is of the greatest importance to Australia, namely, the reform of the Federal Tariff.
.- Honorable members, who have already spoken, have set a good example in making their remarks brief ; and that example I intend to follow, because I have no desire to unduly trespass on the valuable time of the House. In the first place, if I am not considered too presumptuous, or as lecturing honorable members, I should like to say that, in my opinion, we have arrived at a critical period in our Federal history. Seven years have not passed since Federation was inaugurated, and, unfortunately - whether justifiably or not I am not arguing - a feeling of grave dissatisfaction has spread over more than one State. In fact, it is freely declared that if the question were again put to the people of New South Wales and other States at the present time, there would be an overwhelming majority against Federation.
– I think there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of it.
– I am afraid I cannot agree with that view. If such a feeling exists it is our duty to recognise it, and, acting in sympathy with the States, to endeavour to observe in every particular the spirit of what we are - a Federation. We have also to recognise that the last general election was fought, not on the Tariff, but on the question of Socialism v. antiSocialism. It appears, however, that the Tariff is in the way of other business ; and, therefore, I for one should be exceedingly glad to see the Government introduce their Tariff proposals with all expedition. I hope the House will take a reasonable view, and assist in getting the Tariff out of the way as quickly as possible so that other measures may be proceeded with. If that course he followed, it is possible that there may be then found in the House a party strong enough to form a Government with sufficient legitimate followers - and by that I mean followers who do not lend their support from any ulterior motives-
– -that is just what we might expect from the honorable member.
– I hope there may be found a Government with sufficient followers of its own to pass the measures which they introduce, and that those followers will be in close touch, and see eye to eye with the Administration. If we should succeed in bringing about that desirable state of affairs we shall be able to freely congratulate ourselves on reestablishing, or perhaps, establishing for the first time in our Federal history what is known as responsible government. That should be our object, and the sooner it is attained the sooner Australia will be satisfied with its Federal Government, and will confidently look for pood legislative work. When the Tariff is introduced, as I hope it may te soon, I intend to take a free hand, and treat each proposal on what I consider its merits - to vote for an increase or decrease of duty, as either course may commend itself to my judgment.
In February last, the leader of the Opposition stated that that was my position ; and ray desire is to assist the Government when I think they are in the right in regard to the Tariff, and, of course, vote against them when I think they are wrong.
– Then the honorable member is an independent member?
– I do not think there will be found much reason for great increases in the Tariff. According to paragraph 4 of His Excellency’s Speech: -
The Reports of the Royal Commission upon the Tariff already forwarded are under review. You wi’l 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.
Then we read in paragraph 16 : -
I am happy to state that the last year was one of great prosperity throughout the Commonwealth. A remarkable expansion is manifest in local production and export trade, as well as in Customs receipts, and the revenue derived from the Postmaster-General’s Department.
This paragraph refers to our present abounding prosperity. If we are prosperous, and that fact is due to remarkable expansion in local production and in the export trade, I cannot see how the Ministry can expect any great increases in the present Tariff. For myself, I think that owing to the necessities of our peculiar circumstances in Australia, the Tariff should first and foremost be one that will produce the revenue required to carry on the work of the Commonwealth.
– Why not a land tax? Why not direct taxation?
– It is because I desire to avoid direct taxation that I am so firm on the point that we should obtain all the revenue we need from the Customs. My opinion is that the Commonwealth should riot resort to land taxation until actually forced by circumstances to do so. The spirit of the Federal bond is that only in circumstances of urgency should the land be taxed for the purpose of producing Commonwealth revenue. If the spirit of the bond be broken in this direction, then I am afraid a precedent may be formed for breaking it in many other directions. At any rate, I am opposed to the Commonwealth undertaking to tax the land except under such necessitous circumstances as I have indicated.
– Would the honorable member call old-age pensions a matter of Urgency ?
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member would if he needed a pension.
– Perhaps I need an old-age pension more than does the honorable member for Maranoa.
– The honorable member is not old enough.
– I should like to see an equitable system of old-age pensions established; but if the States are prepared to deal with this matter each for itself, I do not know why the Commonwealth should interfere.
– Tasmania has done nothing yet.
– Unfortunately, Tasmania cannot afford to do anything.
– Tasmania never will do anything until she imposes a land tax.
– The Tasmanian land tax is the heaviest in the Commonwealth.
– The Victorian land tax is the heaviest.
– I think that the Minister is in error there.
– The direct taxation of Tasmania is 27s. 6d. per head of population.
– That is not all land tax.
– Once the Tariff has been disposed of, this Parliament will be able to turn its attention to the fostering of immigration, and we may then, within a few years, expect a steady flow of immigrants only too ready to exchange the hard conditions which accompany the congestion of population in the old world for the freer life of Australia, where their energy and self-reliance will give them better opportunities to improve their position. The Governor-General made reference to the holding of “ two very influential Conferences “ in London. I do not know what some honorable members expected from the Imperial Conference; but I think we have got as much as we could reasonably look for. When next an Imperial Conference is held, four years hence, the delegates to it will assemble as the partners in a large firm, or the representatives of nations which are on an equality. That is a step in advance which is the natural outcome of the labours of past Conferences, and especially of the last Conference. The Prime Minister deserves the thanks of Australia for the excellent manner in which he represented the Commonwealth in London. I do not agree with the policy which he advocated for the establishment of preferential trade, or in many other matters ; but he bore himself so well as our representative, and gave us such a splendid advertisement, that we owe him our thanks. Undoubtedly he was playing a part which fitted him like a glove; but he played it so well, taking such full advantage of the opportunities presented to him, that he did admirable service. Owing to his eloquence, courtesy, and firmness, his visit has done much to restore the good relations which existed between Australia and the mother country prior to Federation. I am glad that the proposal to make the Conference an executive body was not pushed. In view of the cordial relations between Australia, the mother country, and other parts of the Empire, we should let things develop gradually and naturally. In this way alone can we strengthen the ties that bind us together. The Tariff having been dealt with, I hope that whatever Government may be in power will do its best to deal with the subjects which the people thought would be speedily settled as the outcome of Federation. At the present time the country is extremely prosperous, statistics showing that our production now is greater per head of population than that of any other country. This prosperity is noc due to our legislation, but to the beneficent seasons which we have had, and the consequent bountiful harvests. Still, we should do our best to encourage the immigration of the right class of people, to further develop our territory, and to increase our production. But I do not think that the Commonwealth should be in too great a hurry to undertake large developmental or experimental works. I represent the smallest State of the Union, and I say that the interests of the smaller States should be studied when proposed Commonwealth expenditure is being considered. It is true that the Tasmanian finances show a surplus of ,£70,000 this year ; but that is a small amount compared with the Victorian surplus of £800,000 and the New South Wales surplus, which exceeds £1,000,000. The surpluses of the other States have come about more naturally than that of Tasmania, which has practically been wrung from the people. Our direct taxation is so heavy that our people cannot bear very much more. Therefore, the Commonwealth should not enter upon works whose expense will be too heavy a burden upon the smaller
States. The proposed transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth is likely, if agreed upon, to cost us a vast amount of money. I admit that in its present undeveloped and undefended state the position of the Northern Territory is calculated to give the Minister of Defence great anxiety. But if the Territory were transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth, would its development proceed at a faster rate? If only the question of defence has to be considered, some more satisfactory method of dealing with the matter than that embodied in the proposed agreement should be found. I admit that South Australia has had a heavy task, and has done good service in holding and administering the Northern Territory. But the terms of the proposed transfer are unjust to the smaller States, and I hope that better terms will be agreed upon. The Territory having been taken over, we shall have to face the serious problem of how best to develop it. There is great difference of opinion as to whether white men can work in the tropics without ruining their health. In my opinion, the balance of evidence shows that they are not able to perform work continuously there without injuring their constitutions. However, when the matter comes before us, I hope that a satisfactory arrangement will be made, whereby South Australia will be relieved of her burden, and the position of the Territory improved without unfairness to the remaining States. The mismanagement of the recent mail contract reflects discredit on Ministers, since it shows that they have not displayed the business capacity to be expected from men in their position. From what I read in the newspapers, the Minister of Trade and Customs would have liked to terminate the contract some time ago. That should have been done, and new tenders called for as soon as the Government found that the syndicate was playing a game with them. In paragraph 8 of the Governor-General’s Speech it is stated that -
A progressive scheme for the improvement of harbor and coastal defences is under consideration ; our fixed defences are receiving special attention ; the number of members of our Military Forces proceeding abroad for instruction and training has been increased ; provision for a further increase of Naval and Military Cadets will be made ; the progress of the Rifle Clubs is still satisfactory ; the local production of the munitions of war will be provided for.
To deal with the last-mentioned matter first, I should like to know what procedure the Government intend to adopt before expressing any opinion on the proposal to produce munitions of war locally. As to the progressive scheme of harbor and coastal defences referred to, I doubt whether the provision of a small torpedo fleet will be sufficient. It might be a good thing to provide such a fleet as an auxiliary to the Imperial squadron. That was suggested by the Government last session. The consideration of this matter opens up the question of the Naval Agreement, and of the establishment of an Australian Navy. 1 am sorry that we have not the benefit of the real opinion of the Ministry in regard to the suggested termination of the Naval Agreement. When the Imperial Conference was sitting in London, a cablegram was published in the Australian papers to the effect that the Prime Minister had practically given notice of his intention to terminate that agreement. I read that information with the greatest surprise - indeed, it came as a shock to me - because it is not many years since the honorable and learned gentleman did all that he could to induce Australia to enter into the agreement. Only last session he spoke most eloquently in favour of it, and consequently I was very much astonished to learn that he had notified the people of England that Australia would rather spend upon local defences the paltry sum which it now contributes towards the maintenance of the Imperial Squadron in these waters. If a referendum were to be taken to-morrow, I am satisfied that the Prime Minister would not find his view supported by the people of Australia. Popular feeling is decidedly in favour of the continuance of the present agreement. For my own part, I think that it forms a splendid link between the Commonwealth and the motherland, and affords us a far better protection than we could hope for from anything in the shape of an Australian Navy.
– The honorable member would not object to our employing submarines and torpedo destroyers on our coast ?
– I have already said that there may be something beneficial in the proposal of the Ministry to build small torpedo boats and vessels for our coastal defence as an auxiliary to the squadron already in our waters. In the matter of defence, the British Navy is practical I our sole protection. Our vast commerce throughout the Empire absolutely imposes upon us the necessity for maintaining the supremacy of the seas. I cannot see how we can insure that supremacy unless we keep up an extensive Navy - a Navy that shall at least be equal to the combined navies of any other two powers. If we do that, we can protect our trade routes and insure the safe passage of our great ocean carriers. If Australia wishes to do more in the way of naval defence, let her increase the subsidy which is at present payable under the Naval Agreement. Our contribution is a mere pittance compared with the benefits which we derive from that agreement. It represents only about is. per head of our population as against a tax of 18s. per head on the people of the motherland. ‘ Without the Navy, our Empire would soon crumble to pieces. We have now the greatest Empire that the world has known, and it is not only our privilege but our bounden dutv to uphold it.
– Would the honorable member favour direct taxation for naval purposes ?
– If we pay anything at all, why not contribute our fair proportion towards the up-keep of the Imperial Navy ?
– The existing agreement provides that we shall pay £200,000 annually, and I am not aware that the people of England ask us to do more.
– The honorable member ought to be prepared to advocate that Australia should pay her full proportion, and not a paltry £200,000.
– Later on, we may be able to provide ships, and if that be done they should be built upon some recognised plan, so that each may form a unit of :a great Imperial Navy. Paragraph 13 of His Excellency’s Speech refers to the payment of income tax by Federal officers. I do not pretend to know exactly what is meant by it, but I do hope the Government intend to see that Federal officers shall ,pay State income tax. I cannot see why the individual who has the good luck to hold a Federal position should be above the law in this or any other respect. Paragraph 19 commands my approbation, inasmuch as it promises the introduction of a system of preferential voting. If the Government can submit an effective measure in that direction they will be doing a good work. Every honorable member who represents a constituency should represent a majority of the electors in it. If the Ministry address themselves seriously to the task, I think they will be able to devise a scheme of preferential voting which will insure the rule of the majority. If they do so I shall be very glad to give it support. I shall not detain the House at any greater length, but, before I resume my seat, I must thank honorable members for the very patient hearing which they have extended to me. Of course, I do not expect such mild treatment upon future occasions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thomas) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to apologize for having left the chamber a short time ago while you were addressing it. It was a pure act of inadvertence on my part, and I very much regret it.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I am able now, in reply to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, on the subject of cadet uniforms in South Australia, to give the following information : -
The following information has been received from the Commandant, South Australia : -
Every effort has been consistently made to hasten the supply of caps by both Commandant and Shierlaw and Company (the contractors).
All schools had caps delivered within six weeks of delivery of uniforms. Parents have been, and are still, being reimbursed when Cadets leave before delivery of uniform. No representations have been made to Commandant by parents or officers.
.- As the Postmaster-General is now drafting fresh conditions of tender for the new mail contract, I should like to ask if he will be good enough to embody in them a provision requiring the clocking of the ships in Australia. Under the last conditions of tender, that was provided for only “when practicable.”
– Does the honorable member think that it should be compulsory ?
– I think that it should. If we use the expression “ when practicable “ in the contract agreement, we know that there aresuch shrewd people on the other side that it is likely they will never be able to make it practicable to dock the ships here.
– The honorable member is coming on.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I suppose that when I become a thorough protectionist I shall expect a clause in the agreement providing that the ships must be built in Australia, but I have not yet come quite as far as that. I trust the Postmaster-General will be lynx-eyed on this occasion, and will see that it is one ofthe terms of the new agreement that the ships shall be docked in Australia.
.- As the Postmaster-General has not been able to distribute copies of the tender forms in connexion with the mail contract to-day, I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether he will see that they are distributed to-morrow. There is a great deal of concern as to their contents, and I should like to have an assurance from the honorable gentleman that the information will be given without unnecessary delay.
– Are they to be distributed to honorable members?
– Yes, they will be distributed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070705_reps_3_36/>.