3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Seizure or Wire Netting : Cancellation of Carriers’ Licences- Distribution of Copies of Tariff - Duties on Wheels and Axles, Kerosene and Chairs.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the Sydney newspapers of Friday last, 30th August, that three carriers employed by a Government contractor named Sutton to assist in removing wire netting under instructions from the New South Wales Government have been peremptorily ordered by Mr. Baxter, Acting Comptroller for Customs, to return their licences, and show cause why they should not be cancelled? Was this high-handed proceeding authorized or approved by the Minister? As the carriers referred to were, according to the report, in no sense principals in the contract with the State Government. “and the withdrawal’., of ‘their licences must seriously injure them in their carrying business, will the Minister- recall the order issued by Mr. Baxter, until an inquiry has been held and an offence has been proven?
– As the matter to which it relates is to come before the law courts, I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question. Every care will be taken to show that neither private persons nor State officials may break the Customs law with impunity.
– I should like to know from the honorable member whether, in suspending these carriers’ licences, he is not emulating the Premier of New South Wales by taking the law into his own hands while the matter is sub judice t
– As the matter will come before the law courts, it is, perhaps, undesirable to refer to it here, but surely questions dealing with it should be placed on the notice-paper, so that before replying to them I may know exactly what they contain. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall be pleased to answer it, and to give him any information that he may require. So far as I. am aware, no licences have been cancelled.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs supply to honorable members) alphabetically indexed, copies of the old Tariff, as used by the Customs officials ?
– I think that honorable members have been supplied’ with copies of the old Tariff, and .T shall be glad to supply any other information that they may require. In my opinion, it would be a good thing to distribute copies of the new Tariff throughout the country, so that the public might know exactly^ what the rates are, and be in a position to meet, those who have raised prices on goods on which duties have not been imposed or increased. It has been suggested to the Acting Prime Minister that we might distribute a number of copies of the Tariff, and that one should be sent to any person desirous of obtaining a copy, on receipt of his application, accompanied with an addressed stamped wrapper.
– A few could be sent to each country post-office.
– I desire to’ ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he has received from the officers of his Department any information in reference to the duties which are being levied upon railway wheels and axles, imported by the Government of Western Australia, which the Minister of Railways has ‘ complained are excessive ?
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN__ I telegraphed to Western Australia for further particulars, and I hope to be in a position to-morrow to furnish accurate information to the honorable member.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the following paragraph, which appeared in Saturday’s Argus -
Reference was made in the Federal Parliament two days ago to the fact that no duty has as yet been collected in Victoria on kerosene under the new Tariff. The manager of the Colonial Oil Company (Mr. H. A. Forrest) remarks, however, that it has paid over £3,000 in Adelaide and over £1,000 in Brisbane. With regard to stocks, Mr. Forrest doubts whether there was three months’ supply of American tinned and cased oil and Asiatic bulk oil combined in. Australia on 8th August, when the Budget Speech was delivered. The Colonial Oil Company had about two and half months’ supply onhand, which was about half the stock usually carried, and to ask whether that amount of duty has been paid on kerosene in Adelaide and Brisbane?
– The statement I made the other day was in reply to an allegation that the price of kerosene oil had been raised in Victoria. From the Customs House I ascertained that no duty had been paid in Victoria since the introduction of the new Tariff, and, consequently, I was at a loss to understand how persons here could claim that in charging the extra price they were simply passing on the duty. As regards what payments have been made in other States, I have no knowledge, but I shall be glad to ascertain the amount, and let the honorable member know.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question with reference to the importation of chairs). It is evident that a mistake has been made in the printed matter, and that the trade is being blocked by the charge of 7s. 6d. per chair which the Customs officers are now making. I ask the Minister whether he will take the matter into consideration, so that business may not be impededby the action of the Department, owing to the mistake to which I refer.
– This and other matters which have been brought under my notice by honorable members and deputations, are receiving every attention, and at the earliest possible moment some information will be made available to the House.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question without notice. . When telegraphists are kept at work for more than their usual hours, will he see that they are paid for the overtime which they are compelled to work.
– I shall certainly do so. I am entirely opposed to the working of overtime, and think that it should, as far as possible, be avoided. When overtime must be worked, it should be paid for; but I shall discountenance the working of overtime.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister take into consideration the fact that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, agricultural shows in the Commonwealth is being held in Melbourne this week? Usually the Victorian Parliament adjourns on the Thursday of the week in which the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show is held - that being the popular day.
– Hear, hear. Let us adjourn on Thursday next until 8 o’clock in the evening.
– Apart from any other consideration-
– In the asking of a question, no debate may take place.
– I understand that, sir, and did not think that I was debating the matter. Knowing the desire of the Acting Prime Minister to get on with work, I felt it necessary to say a word or two, with the object of inducing him to consent to the adjournment for which I ask.
-While acknowledging the importance of the show to which the honorable member refers, I regret that it will be impossible to adjourn on Thursday next, because there is so much work that we want to get through.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs the return showing the working of the Excise Tariff Act relating to agricultural machinery for which I have asked?
– I brought it on Friday, intending to present it then, and unfortunately I have forgotten to bring it to-day. However, I shall present it to-morrow.
– It has been announced by the Premier of Queensland, that he proposes at the time of the next Federal elections, to take a referendum of the State on the subject of Scripture education, and that the Premier of Victoria, if a referendum Bill is passed through the State .Parliament, will propose a similar referendum. Does the Acting Prime Minister think it right that sectarian issues should be permitted to enter into Federal politics, as they necessarily must if, at the time of the Federal elections, a referendum’ is taken in regard to the teaching of Scripture by the State?
– The matter has recently been brought under my notice, though not by the Premier of Queensland, and, in regard to it, I have had occasion to refer to previous correspondence of a- confidential character. While the Government does not wish to refuse any reasonable request by the State of Queensland, Ministers feel that as the Queensland State elections will take place before the Commonwealth elections-
– Or about the same time.
– That is not so with the Victorian elections.
– The State elections are likely to take place shortly after the Commonwealth elections, and, therefore, the Government does not intend to agree to the proposal. In my opinion, it would not be wise to allow any matter savouring of sectarianism to be mixed up with Federal politics.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether the whole of the increments set down for the Public Service are being paid, or whether increments are being paid only to officers receiving salaries of less than ^200 per annum.
– So far as I know, increments are being paid to public servants receiving salaries of not more than £160 per annum ; but I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If he will inform the House, where gloves, of the kind upon which it is intended under the Tariff to impose an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., are made in Melbourne, as slated by him on page 2364 of Hansard!
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows
Housemaids’ gloves, gardening gloves, harvesting gloves, and driving gloves, all of which come within item 121, are made locally, in considerable quantities. The manufacturers’ names are R. S.’ Don, 203 Elizabeth-street; and J. and J. Smith, 2 Lord-street, Richmond. I believe gentlemen’s gloves are also being ir.ade in Melbourne.
I may tell the honorable gentleman that I have purchased them.
– Where are they made? That is all humbug.-
– I must ask honorable members to avoid conversing in loud tones and also passing remarks across the chamber during question time.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
This is a matter which the Prime Minister particularly desires to settle himself, and I hope that he will be in attendance shortly.
– On Tuesday last the honorable member for Fremantle asked the following questions -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers -
Victoria. - No, unless desired by consignee. Queensland. - No
South Australia. - Same as New South Wales.
Western Australia. - No.
Tasmania. - No.
– I desire to ask the Minister if he is aware that the building provided as a warehouse at Perth has been practically condemned by the Inspector to the Board of Health ?
– I have no knowledge on that head, but I shall be very glad to make inquiries. I understand that an application had been made by a gentleman in Perth, who wished to monopolize the warehouse. It seemed to me that that was the difficulty, but, perhaps, I am mistaken. I shall look into the matter and give the honorable gentleman further information.
– Some time since the Postmaster-General entered into negotiations with the shipping companies trading on the north-west coast of Western Australia for the carriage of mails. It was understood at the time that an arrangement would be made with those companies in regard to the rates and fares to be charged on that coast. But it appears that a contract has been entered into, and that no appreciable difference has been made in that regard. I, therefore, ask the Minister whether he can see his way to lay upon the table the correspondence with the shipping companies, so that it may be perused by honorable members?
– I made full inquiries into the matter. I understand that representations were made to my predecessor, and that something was. done, or attempted to be done. I have no objection to give to the honorable member any information in my possession.
West Maitland and Sydney
– I desire to ask the
Postmaster-General if he can see his way to reduce the charges on the telephone line between West Maitland and Sydney. Seeing, that, although a reduction of 50 per cent, has been made in the rates between Newcastle and Maitland, no reduction hasbeen made in the rates between Sydney and Maitland, and that practically the subscribers on all the other lines have received consideration, I ask the honorable gentleman seriously to consider the question, as it is of much moment to the persons concerned.
– I am under the impression that the same rates are being charged on. the line to which the honorable member refers as on similar lines in New South Wales. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall have inquiries made, and furnish a reply.
– I ask leave to move, without notice -
That on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
The object of the motion is to carry out a suggestion I made a few nights ago in regard to business on Thursday afternoons.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Treasurer have leave to move the motion forthwith?
– I object.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua - Ordinances of 1907 -
No. 2. - Public Service.
No. 3. - Native Children Custody and Reformation.
No. 4. - Criminal Code Amendment.
No. 5. - Post and Telegraph.
No. 7. - Jury.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
I have noticed the motion carried by the State Parliament, and in due course, when the items are arrived at, the Government will deal with the matters alluded to. but will not interfere with the principle of protection.
In “Committee of Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 30th August (vide page 2683), of motion of Sir William Lyne -
That duties of Customs and duties of Excise be imposed according to the following Tariff (vide page 1648)…………
.- The Acting Prime Minister to-day acted wisely in refusing to consent to a proposal that would have interfered with the progress qf this debate and have delayed the settlement of the Tariff. I hope that we shall subordinate everything to the consideration that it is of the utmost importance that the Tariff should be disposed of with the least possible delay. It is for that reason that I do not propose “this afternoon to occupy the attention of honorable members at any great length. I feel that, at the outset, it is my duty to accentuate the point which the honorable member for Flinders made in the course of his forcible speech last week, when he said that the circumstances under which we were called upon to proceed with this debate were most unsatisfactory. We have now before us one of the most important Budget statements that it has been our duty to consider. The first submitted to the Parliament was one which involved speculation and doubt, for at the time we were confronted with the duty of harmonizing the various Tariffs of the six States, whilst in dealing with later Budgets we had not that fuller experience that we now possess of the working of the Federal machine. This is the first occasion on which we have had presented to us a Budget which foreshadows a time when we may not be able to meet the just demands upon the Commonwealth exchequer. It is quite clear that under existing circumstances we shall not have at our disposal anything like the revenue necessary to accomplish the various objects and undertakings for which Federation was established. My honorable friends of the Labour Party may not view the situation with the same concern and dismay that I and others do, because such a shortage might lead to resort being had to a means of raising revenue which is one of the planks of their platform. I arn strongly of opinion that if the Commonwealth Parliament enters upon a system of direct taxation, it will assume a serious responsibility, and, in my judgment, break the whole spirit of the Federal compact. I hold very strongly that the intention was that- the power to impose direct taxation should be exercised by the Commonwealth only in a national emergency.
– From where does the honorable member obtain that idea?
– That was the idea of the framers of the Constitution
– Is there anything in the Constitution to indicate that it was ?
– I am addressing the Committee to-day under somewhat of a physical disability, and therefore ask the indulgence of honorable members.
– Hear, hear. The honorable member was repeating what the leader of the Opposition said in the Adelaide Town Hall.
– I do not know what the right honorable member said on that occasion. What I am putting before the Committee comes off my own bat. I am not endeavouring to repeat the views of anybody else, and I ask honorable members to permit me to develop my speech in my own way. I do not think that any Budget statement has been submitted to us under conditions so unsatisfactory as those associated with that now before us. We have had from the Government no indication as to what are their intentions with reference to the carrying out of their programme, having regard to the fact that they have only a small margin to work upon. It is unfortunate that we should have had a joint submission of the Budget and the Tariff, but probably the Treasurer found that it would be impossible to dissociate them. In view of figures which I shall presently put before the Committee, it is of the utmost importance that honorable members should have their attention drawn to the fact that we are rapidly approaching a time when we shall exhaust the revenue, which, under present conditions, is at the command of the Commonwealth. The electors of Australia must recognise that if we are to fulfil the purposes and objects for which the Commonwealth “was established, there must be some readjustment of our present financial relations with the States. Otherwise we shall have to resort to the process of direct taxation, which, in my opinion, would be not only unfortunate for the Commonwealth, but a source of con- stant irritation between the Federal Government and the States. It would be more fruitful of discontent, and possibly of disruption, than any other policy which we could pursue. The power to levy Customs and Excise duties was intrusted exclusively to the Federal Parliament. No State was left with any power to derive revenue directly or indirectly from/ that source. Consequently, the Commonwealth became possessed of all possible Customs and Excise revenue to be raised in Australia. When we turn back to the debates which took place in the various Conventions from which the Constitution emanated, we must be struck with the fact that much discussion centred around the question of how the apportionment of revenue derived from Customs and Excise was to be adjusted, so as not to interfere unduly with the revenues of the States. The late Sir Edward Braddon devised a method of dealing with that difficulty which has been shown to possess merits even greater than were originallyacknowledged. My honorable friend, the member for Flinders, has drawn attention to the fact that, having regard to the arbitrary apportionment of at least threefourths Customs and Excise revenue to the States, we are justified in assuming that the framers of the Constitution recognised that the amount of money represented by that proportion was a;t the time nearly equivalent to the amount of interest which had to be paid by the States upon their debts. My honorable friend argued that we were, therefore, warranted in looking upon the three-fourths as the minimum amount which the ‘States might reasonably expect to have returned to them. It will be remembered that, at the time of the establishment of Federation, the amount pf debt which might be taken over by the Commonwealth was £201,500,000. Debts which might subsequently be incurred by the States did not enter into the calculation. But I believe that, until some final and satisfactory adjustment is arrived at in connexion- with State and Federal finance, we ought, in any settlement we make, even at the end of 1910, to provide that the additional sum of over .£7,000,000 - representing 3J per cent, upon State borrowings at the establishment of the Constitution - should be ear-marked to the States for their benefit. There is no matter which demands more serious consideration than does our present financial position. It ought to have engaged the best attention of the Ministry, instead of being placed before us as though it was a matter about which honorable members might be left to wrangle as they pleased. Let me draw attention to the very great increase in our expenditure which has taken place since the Commonwealth has been in existence. The estimated expenditure for 1907-8 amounts to .£5,976,000. That represents an actual increase upon the expenditure for 1901-2 of .£2,035,000. In addition, I find that the estimated increase for the current .year, as compared with the expenditure for 1906-7, is ,£980,691.
– That includes the cost of carrying out public works.
– That is the full amount which has to be provided, irrespective of whether the expenditure contemplated is upon capital account or upon items of a recurring character.
– Or whether it is on account of services rendered?
– Yes. They are all included. I shall presently show that our expenditure is accumulating in such a way that very soon we shall find ourselves in the position of not having sufficient revenue to make the necessary provision for these various purposes.
– How many Departments have been taken over by the Commonwealth from the States since 1901 ?
– If the honorable member desires that information, I have the whole of the figures relating to it in my possession. I may say that I have had a rather elaborate analysis of the whole position prepared. The information is contained in a large bundle of papers, with the details of which I shall not trouble the Committee. These papers, however, are at the service of any honorable member who desires to peruse them. I say, with all respect to the able and efficient officers in the Treasury Department, that “the manner in which some of these figures are presented should be more in accordance with the system with which we are familiar in commercial offices. I wish to show the position of the. Commonwealth from the stand-point of the estimated revenue and expenditure for the current year. The information which I have obtained is in the form of a table, which I ask may be published in Hansard for future reference, so that honorable members may be enabled to ascertain our exact position by simply referring to it and without the necessity for an examination of other parts of the Budget statement. The table.- is as follows -
I think that amongst the electors there is an altogether wrong impression as to the magnitude of the sumwhich the Commonwealth has to appropriate for various purposes. Relatively to the amount which is handled by the Federationsof Canada and the United States, that sum is a very small one indeed. Within our cities there are undertakings, with which some of us are associated, which disburse a very much larger amount.
– Omitting the receipts from the Post Office.
– The Post Office I, regard as purely a business enterprise, which, upon its own bottom, ought to show a working profit. If ithet Treasurer’s estimate for the current year be realized, that Department will show a profit of £357,913.
– In some of the States the Department is being worked at a loss.
– Yes. The expenditure upon the Defence Department aggregates £916,206, less receipts - which are derived chiefly from rents - amounting to £6,000; “Miscellaneous” involves an expenditure of £25,000, and Quarantine of £8,000 ; the total of other expenditure is £1,090,780. Then the construction of new works represents an expenditure of £817,874, making a total of £2,851,860, leaving us a balance of £103,992, which represents the margin available for new purposes of the Commonwealth. I am sure that honorable members must regard that situation as one demanding their serious attention. If we avail ourselves of other powers which we possess - such as the power of direct taxation - our action will probably be fraught with serious consequences to the Commonwealth and to the States. But I venture to think that the expectations of the Treasurer will not be realized. The late Treasurer took what we thought at the time was a very optimistic view of the financial outlook, but I am glad to say that his expectations were fully realized. His estimate was based upon the requirements of an estimated population of 4,121,000. The estimate of revenue from Customs and Excise for 1907-8 is based on an estimated population of 4,190,000, or an increase of 69,000 people. It amounts to £10,509,000, or an increase of , £1,409,000, equal to over £20 per head of the increase in population. Averaged over the whole population, the estimate of revenue for the last financial year was £2 4s. 2d. per head, while that for the current year is £2 ros. 2d. per head, or an additional 6s. per head for every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. The estimate for 1906-7 of Customs revenue only - eliminating sugar as a disturbing element, to which I shall presently refer - was £7,051,000. The actual revenue received was £7,500,368, or an increase over the estimate of £449,368. That was equal to an increase of 6.37 per cent. The estimated Customs revenue only for 1907-8 is £8,161,000, or £1,110,000 more than the estimate for the previous year. This, on the basis of a consumption equal to the estimated consumption of 1906-7, means an increase in the present dutiesof an average of 15.6 per cent. Or, if we take the consumption for this year as equal to the amount which actually paid duty last year, then the difference of £660,632 between the amount of £7,500,368 of duty actually paid last year, and the estimate of £8,161,000 to be received during the current year, is equivalent to an increase in the present duties of 8.8 per cent. There has not been in our past experience any increase of our consuming powers sufficient to justify the expectation that those high percentages will.be realized.
– The Acting Prime Minister told the people of England that our whole Tariff averaged 6 per’ cent.
– That was on the whole of the importations.
– The figuresI have given have been very carefully worked out. Let us turn now to the Post and Telegraph Department. A point which I have ventured to urge upon the consideration of the Department both last year and in previous years was that there should be a proper segregation of the three business accounts of the Department - the postal account, the telegraph account, and the telephone system account. Each of these is a separate entity of business in itself, and inasmuch as they do segregate the revenue of each branch, there ought to be no practical difficulty in ascertaining the details of the separate expenditures. If that were done, the result would really be instructive to the. House, and I think we should find that we are deriving a very large revenue in- deed, in fact, more than is at present supposed, from that public convenience, the telephone. It will be noted that the re- venue from the Postal Department is estimated at £272,500 more than the estimate fnr last year, and only . £16,157less than was actually received last year, in spite of the fact that it is reckoned that £117,000 less will be received through the introduction of penny postage. This is equivalent to estimating that if the present rates were maintained £100,000 more would be received than last year.
I cannot reconcile the estimate of loss from penny postage with the figures given in that connexion last year by the late Treasurer. He estimated that the loss would be £157,000.
– 1 hat was for three-quarters of the year. This amount is for half-a-year.
– I quite recognise that the amount of £117,000 is for only half a year, and that my honorable friend’s estimate was for nine months, but even then I am not able to reconcile the two estimates. I must say that I prefer to accept the expectation of loss indicated by the late Treasurer. The estimate of revenue for the telegraph branch is ,£58,000 more than the estimate for last year, which is practically an increase of 10 per cent. The estimate of receipts from telephones shows an increase of £46,500’ over last year’s estimate, or an increase of 12 per cent. To cope with the anticipated increase of business, the strength of. the staff of the Department rises from 10,931 employe’s to 11,606, or an increase of 675 hands, involving an estimated increase of salaries of £65,133. In addition, the general’ expenditure ..is estimated at ,£93,943 more than last year’s estimate, and £116,658 greater than last year’s actual expenditure. Taken together, the figures I have given show an. actual increase of expenditure in the Department of £203,719 over last year. That is a serious factor, and supports me in the belief that the expectation of revenue of the Government will, from these. two Departments, not be realized. If I were not rather showing the position from an adverse point of view, I should have liked to give, at this stage, in connexion with the question of penny postage, some figures which Mr. Henniker Heaton was good enough to supply me with the other day. I think, however, that it would be better to defer them until the item is under consideration. On these two Departments alone the surplus of the Government is entirely swept away.
– Provision is made in the Estimates to cover the loss on penny postage.
– I have already said so.
– Then how would the surplus disappear?
– I have shown tha? the expectation of revenue of the Government will not be realized..
– The estimate will be affected if penny postage is not sanctioned.
– Of course if the proposal for penny postage does not pass this House, we shall have £^117,000 of additional revenue for six months, or a greater sum for twelve months. On defence, the estimate of expenditure is £916,000, being an increase of £61,000. In view of the complications which are taking place in the Pacific, in the shape of the new factor of a great American fleet entering that ocean, the advance which has taken place in China, and the position which has been occupied by Japan,, we are absolutely playing with the whole defence question if we suppose that an increase of £61,000 in expenditure will in any adequate degree meet the necessities of the situation.
– What is the honorable member’s method of raising the money required ?
– I shall deal with that matter in a few moments. I do not know whether it is expected that next year the Naval Agreement will “be cancelled, and that the £200,000, how spent annually under that agreement, will revert to revenue; but I earnestly hope that a strong, solid vote will be recorded against any proposition of the kind. ‘ If ever it were necessary to have the assistance of the British Fleet, it is necessary now; and the assistance is becoming more imperative in view of the fact that the theatre of international complication, and of naval trouble, must be in the Pacific. Are we in the self-sufficing position to provide whatever expenditure may be necessary in this connexion ? No policy has been enunciated by the Government ; on the contrary, the only policy of the Government - and it is one on which I am at strong divergence with the Prime Minister - seems to be a policy of surrender of the Naval Agreement, as indicated during his recent visit to England. I am perfectly sure that if a poll had been taken throughout the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister would have received no support in the position he then assumed.
– What does the honorable member mean by ‘ ‘ surrender ‘ ‘ ?
– I mean the Prime Minister’s surrender in connexion with the Naval Agreement. ‘
– The Prime Minister did not surrender the Naval Agreement. ‘.
– But he said that he desired to do so.
– The Prime Minister said that Australia desired to.
– That is so. Does the right honorable member for Swan desire to surrender the Naval Agreement?
– No; but I do not think that “surrender” is the right word to use.
– Even now we cannot ascertain what the naval policy of this Government is.
– The Government have no naval policy ; and the only financial policy which they seem to have is to impose high duties; that seems to be the beginning and end of the policy of the Government, apart altogether from revenue considerations. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner, however, have a distinct policy, and, though we may be opposed to that policy, I say all honour to them, because they know where they are from day to day.
– They have been a bit wobbly lately.
– Well, that may be so.
– What is the policy of the Opposition corner?
– The policy of good, sound, solid finance; we advocate stability and security in our financial position.
– These are only words ; what is the policy of the Opposition corner?
– I do not propose to deal at length with new works expenditure and “other” expenditure; but if we imagine that we shall be able to develop the resources of the Commonwealth in the various directions proposed simply out of revenue, it means taxation which the people will never be able to bear.
– There is a suggestion of a policy in that remark.
– Well, it is inevitable that the time must arrive when the Commonwealth will have to take the only business course of borrowing, for the purpose of reproductive works. I admire the effort which has been made in some of the States to reduce their indebtedness out of the revenue derived from their various methods of taxation, but it is absolutely impossible to imagine that we shall be able to fulfil the purposes of Federation without eventually borrowing.
– If the honorable member’s policy had been carried out from the inception of the Federation, we should have been in debt already to the extent of
– No one desires more than myself to avoid entering upon a borrowing policy, and no one will analyze or criticise more keenly than myself any proposal to borrow ; but if we are to carry out all the objects favoured by honorable members in the Ministerial corner, borrowing will become a business necessity, or we must curtail the development policy of the Commonwealth. I should like to invite the attention of honorable members to the sugar industry, as there appears to be some misconception of our exact position. I have prepared a statement, in which I show what our financial position would be if we had not to pay the sugar bonus. That bonus was arranged for general purposes of policy, but had it been dealt with as a business undertaking, we should to-day, instead of a balance of £103,992, have had a balance of £533,742 for this year - that is, if the bonus had ceased last year, even though it had been paid during the two previous years. For instance, the real excise, in my opinion, is £173,000, whereas’ the excise actually collected was , £746,000, and the bounty paid was £573,000, the real excise being the difference between the two. That leaves us with . £9,936,000, and, with the ordinary amount from Customs and. other receipts, there is a balance of . £533, 7 42. If there had been no bonus, we should have been in a position to refund to the States that balance, instead of only £103,992.
– That is, assuming that the importand excise duties remain.
– That is so; but when the bonus terminates, I hope the excise will be reduced in such a way as to adjust the financial position, and place our accounts on what I regard as a proper business basis.
– It is so provided in the Act.
– Yes, and I desire to show how we are suffering financially at the present time by our adherence to a great policy, the merits ofwhich I myself favour. But, as I expressed at the time, the means and machinery to secure that policy are rather complicated and roundabout.
– The honorable member is in error, because if the Act were carried out, and there were neither excise nor bounty, we should not be so well off as we are now.
– I do not desire the excise to be taken off entirely, but to be reduced to such an amount as to represent the real excise, namely, the difference between the bonus and the excise now. collected. Leaving out detailed figures, with which I shall not trouble the Committee, I think it will be seen from the representations I have made, that on the Treasurer’s anticipations we shall sustain a loss in Customs and Excise revenue and in connexion with the Postmaster - General’s Department amounting to £123,256. In all the circumstances, therefore, it must be admitted that the honorable and learned member for Flinders last week outlined the financial position of the Commonwealth in a manner which demands the most .serious consideration and criticism of honorable members, if we are to establish confidence in our financial stability abroad. At the present time, I believe that from the financial stand-point the Commonwealth occupies a position abroad, which is not superior to that of any one of the larger States. It is my contention that we should occupy a much better position than we do at the present time, had it not been for certain legislation and certain misrepresentations of the Commonwealth published at Home. The duty is imposed upon us of seriously considering what remedies are available to establish the superior financial position of the Commonwealth. Some time ago I submitted a proposal for the transfer of the States debts. I gave it, as my opinion, that we should accept a lump sum of £200,000,000 as covering the debts to be transferred, and if we provided for an interest charge of 3J per cent, on that amount, we should practically carry out the idea to which the honorable member for Flinders gave prominence last week. I then suggested that it would be necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to make provision for the return to the States annually of a fixed sum amounting to not less than £7,000,000, and I estimated that a further sum of £350,000 should be provided to meet the special necessities of Western Australia, because of the high consumption of dutiable goods per unit , in the population of that State. I find that if that idea had been carried out, the sum I have mentioned would have been very nearly met by the actual amount returned to the States at that time, viz., £7,039,199. I think it is essential that we should keep in mind the £201,580,185 of States debts as they existed at that time, and should regard the amount of the interest charge thereon, £7,254,948, as establishing the minimum amount which the States are entitled to expect shall be’ returned to them. I quite recognise that the figures will have to be adjusted in making the returns on a different basis from that on which we are now making our returns.
– Would not the honorable member take over the States debts as they became due?
– I am glad my honorable friend asked me that question, because I used to think that the adjustment and settlement of the finances of the Commonwealth at the end of the year 1910 absolutely and irrevocably involved the taking over of States railways and the adjustment of the States obligations in that respect.
– The taking over of the railways ?
– Yes, but I may say that I am not of that opinion now. I now believe that the adjustment of the finances under section 87 of the Constitution must be carried out irrespective of any consequential transfer of the States railways. The two things may be concurrent, and I should be glad if that could be arranged ; but the settlement of the financial position in 19 10 will have to be carried out quite irrespective of the other question to which I have referred, if the States do not themselves come together and make some proposals or overtures to the Federal Government. It has been a perfect mystery to me that the States Governments have not pressed the necessity for the adjustment of the finances more earnestly than they have done or are doing at the present time. If there is any friction between the Commonwealth and States authorities at the present time it is probably due to the manner in which the present Acting Prime Minister has flouted the Premiers’ Conference held at Brisbane, the Prime Minister, and the right honorable member for Swan, in coming down to this House and saying that he was not going to agree to the arrangements arrived at with the Brisbane Conference, and making it plain that he preferred to take another course, with a view to hastening directtaxation. It is also a mystery to me that any one holding so responsible a position as that which the Acting Prime Minister occupies at the present time should have allowed himself to take up a position of that kind. I think that perhaps we can best deal with the Tariff when we’ are considering the detailed items, but it is only right that at this stage I should say exactly what my attitude in connexion with it will be. At’ the late elections I made my position absolutely clear. The Prime Minister had said that he was in favour of scientific national protection!; scientific because of careful adjustment of the needs of each industry, and no more than is sufficient to meet its honorable needs.
– - There is nothing wrong in that.
– No. It exactly expresses my views.
– It might be taken to mean anything.
– What does the honorable member understand by “ scientific protection “ ?
– I do not undertake to interpret the statements of the Prime Minister, but the meaning which I attach to the phrase is that each proposal for a duty must be carefully considered by honorable members, and, personally, it is my intention to make close inquiry into the reasonable needs of each industry for the protection of which a duty has been proposed, and to see that they are met.
– We are .all with the honorable member in desiring to give close attention to the needs of industries.
– - ‘The honorable member for Flinders has given publicity to the phrase “ effective protection.” I have declared for effective protection. But I have shown it to be of the essence of the union between the States that the Commonwealth shall obtain by means of Customs and Excise duties the revenue necessary for the administration of its Departments, and for further development.
– It is not necessary for us to obtain that revenue from Customs and Excise duties.-
– I know that the party to which my honorable friend belongs would like to raise revenue by other means, but, according to my view, our primary source of revenue- must be such duties. Then there is what I may call the humanitarian aspect of the Tariff, On every platform from which I have spoken, I have pledged myself to give consideration to the humani tarian point of view, a new element in connexion with Tariff proposals which I have not heard of as being considered in other parts of the world. In dealing with the Tariff, we must first of all remember the obligation to so adjust duties that we shall have sufficient revenue for the administration of the Commonwealth Departments, and be able to return to the States, as their three-fourths share, a sum not less than the annual interest of their public debts at the date of Federation. The observance of this obligation will make it impossible for us to impose prohibitive rates. We must also take into consideration what I have just referred to as the humanitarian point of view, that is, we must recognise that it is the desire of the public that the workmen employed in our manufacturing industries shall be well paid and humanely treated. But I. have always stated clearly and distinctly that prohibitive duties, that is duties which prevent reasonable competition, or impose undue or unnecessary, burdens on consumers, are opposed to the public interest, and that I shall not vote for them. It will be my endeavour to secure effective protection where a just demand has been made for it, but I shall see that consumers are not unduly interfered with, or made to bear unnecessarily heavy burdens, even to bolster up the great manufacturing industries of Australia. Moreover, I have publicly indicated’ that I am in favour of preferential trade. I wish to see ultimately a union of the various parts of the Empire, under which reciprocal trading arrangements will be made. As for the pro- posals of the Government,- they must each be dealt with on its merits, but, speaking of them generally, I venture to regard them, having in view what was said by Ministers when in London, as farcical. However, I shall consider myself free to deal with them individually, because there may be items in regard to which a preference has been wisely proposed. My speech has occupied more time than I intended to take up, and I have not yet covered a tithe of the ground which I wish to cover, but, before sitting down, I urge honorable members, both those who have recently taken their seats in this Chamber and those who were elected to the first- and second Parliaments, to resolve to do something towards placing the Commonwealth finances iri a sound position. It is idle to think that we can flout the opinion of the great commercial centres of the world. I speak with’ some knowledge of the subject when I say that we should make ourselves ridiculous in pretending to do so. Notwithstanding the enormous increase of wealth in Australia, we cannot regard this country as independent of the great financial, centres of the world.
– The Acting Prime Minister says that we should be self-contained.
– Whatever the Acting Prime ‘ Minister may have said before he went to London, I do not think that he is now of the opinion that Australia can be regarded as independent of the financial centres of the world. It is our duty, when proposals for expenditure are placed before us, to see what their effect will be upon our finances. We are to be asked to undertake serious obligations which may jeopardize our financial position, and injure our relations with the States. A dominating fault in connexion with this Legislature has been the too pressing desire to pass unnecessary legislation. We ought to realize that the legislation and development of this great Commonwealth must be a work of time, and that hasty action on our part will bring about adverse consequences. We have to recognise that in the individual States there are local interests, experiences, customs, and prejudices which the Commonwealth was not created to inflame or to continue. We, as representatives of the people, ought to endeavour to reduce the feeling of discontent and irritation. Unless we place the Commonwealth in a sound financial position, the causes of irritation will increase, and we shall find elements of destruction within ourselves. .1 plead with my honorable friends opposite to pause.
– Does not a similar thing happen in every business?
– There is not disaster in every business.
– If a business is not in a sound financial position disaster must follow.
– Unless the finances of the Commonwealth are placed on a sound basic principle disaster must follow. We have a magnificent heritage. I did propose to read some statements showing the magnificent development of our resources, irrespective of State or Commonwealth legislation, and the natural increase which has taken place, but I shall not weary honorable members by reading them. When I look at the figures which they contain, I find that the value of Australian products exported in 1901 was £47,741,776, and in 1906, £66,299,874/ showing an increase of. £18,558,098. The value of our imports and exports amounted last year to £114,467, 269 - the high water mark of our commercial relations - showing an increase of £22,337,086 since 1901. In every department of production we are advancing. In not one case has the result been due to any State or Commonwealth legislation, but to the efforts of the bone and sinew, the thought and judgment of our people.
– Let not the honorable gentleman forget the principal assets - grass and water.
– Yes. My honorable friend reminds me, quite justly, that we are “ not always inclined to take Providence in as the dominant partner when everything is going on well. What has this Parliament done so far? The Bounties Bill is the first piece of constructive legislation which it has passed during a period of six years.
– It is not through yet.
– It is through this House.
– What about the “sugar” legislation ?
– That was to give effect to a great principle, and involves a large annual expenditure. I plead with honorable members to be alive to the ‘great trust which has been reposed in us, and to remember that before we follow any Ministry, they ought to come down with financial proposals which will be understandable. In view of the proceedings which have characterised the House during the session, and with a knowledge of the financial disabilities which exist, I contend that it is not fair or just for the Government to put before honorable members in an immature, ill-considered manner proposals for large expenditure.
– I wish that the honorable member would take a hand, and let us know what he proposes.
– :I am more indebted to my honorable friends than I can express for the attention which they have given to my remarks. I did wish to speak at considerable length, and to deal exhaustively with the whole financial position, but I feel that I have never previously addressed the Chamber less effectively on an important pcca.sion.1 It was quite doubtful as to whether I should be able to attend to-day, and I am very grateful to honorable members for their kind consideration.
– I think that every honorable member will indorse the anxiety of the last speaker to see a system of sound finance established. But the whole question is, How are we to arrive at that result? From the speech of the honorable gentleman to-day, and also from the speech of the honorable member for Flinders last week, I gather that their view of sound finance is to plunge the Commonwealth into a policy of borrowing. If their speeches on the Budget indicate anything, they indicate that in their opinion this Parliament should abandon the policy which it established at the beginning of its existence, and that is, to live within our means. In its first session Parliament was asked to adopt a proposition to borrow £1,000,000, * It was resisted most strenuously by the leader of the Labour Party, opposed by a majority in the Chamber, and abandoned by the Government. Had we agreed to the policy which was then advocated, and which is now favoured by the honorable members for Kooyong and Flinders, by this time we should have ‘ borrowed £2,500,000, and the taxpayers would have been paying interest on that sum. Fortunately, we have been able to carry out all our work without resorting to the money market.
– Does the honorable member imagine that our borrowing would have stopped short at £”2,500,000?
– I do not think that it would have done so. I believe that had we initiated the policy of borrowing our loan expenditure would have amounted now to something like £5,000,000. Which is the sounder system of finance - that of the man who lives within his- means, or that of the individual who borrows ? The policy indicated in speeches delivered by honorable members in the Opposition corner is that of borrowing and booming, and we have also had an indication that in their opinion a reduction in the salaries of public servants is ‘desirable. The speech made last week by the honorable member for Flinders indicated - if it showed anything at all - that, in his opinion, we were paying too much to our public servants, and that their salaries should be reduced.’ It is well that the country should know that the policy of the Opposition corner is that of borrowing, booming, and sacking hands.
– And sweating those left behind.
– That would naturally follow.
– The honorable member has no justification for that statement
– I shall not deal further with that aspect of the question. I want to devote special attention to the Tariff. Honorable members appear to be practically unanimous on the point that the details of the Tariff should be left severely alone during this debate, and it has been said more than once that we shall be able to deal with them more satisfactorily later on. A singular feature of the debate is that so far we have not had one speech in support of the Tariff. When I first saw it I was amazed. I was under the impression that since the Commonwealth had incurred the expense incidental to the appointment of a Commission to investigate the working of the Tariff, the Government of the day, in bringing down the revision proposals, would, at”least, have had some regard to the recommendations of that industrious body, which devoted nearly three years to its work. The Government, however, have done nothing of the kind. They seem to have proceeded in haphazard fashion to frame a Tariff, adding 5 per cent, here, and 10 per cent, there, and taking various items off the free list. They do not’ appear to have considered the probable effect of a Tariff so framed. That, I am sure, is the opinion of the public generally, for neither protectionists nor free-traders are satisfied with the Government proposals. The old Tariff was more acceptable than is the present one to a number of protected industries. Another point to be remembered is that, whilst the’ duties under it in some cases were high, and in others fairly substantial, there was a distinct free list. In the Tariff now before us, however, raw materials are taxed to such .an extent that the increased protection of 15 per cent, given in many cases to industries in which those raw materials are used is not likely to be of any advantage to them. The honorable member for Kooyong expressed the view that the Government would not secure from this Tariff as much revenue as they estimated. I have no hesitation in saying that, if it be passed in its present form, the revenue from it during the first, or at all events the second, year of its operation will be at least £[1,000,000 in excess of that estimated by the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer estimates that it will produce nearly £1,000,000 in excess of the revenue obtained last year from the old Tariff.
– I venture to say that it will lead to an increase of nearly £[2,000,000. Every one associated with our manufacturing industries knows that to-day they are rushed with work. In a vast majority of cases orders have to be booked some time ahead, and thus there is every reason to believe that, although heavy duties have been imposed on many manufactures, enormous quantities of such goods must continue to be imported. The Tariff has been designed especially to suit the interests of Victoria. It is not by any means an Australian Tariff. The framers of it do not appear to have taken into consideration the ramifications of industry and the difficulties which those engaged in our primary industries have to face. They are penalized in every direction to such an extent that, unless the Tariff be considerably modified, it will very seriously affect them. Before proceeding to deal with the details qf the Tariff, I, wish for a moment to discuss the question of revenue. It is estimated that we shall receive this year from all sources a revenue of £13, 745, 200, or an increase of £912,934 as compared with the returns for last year. Notwithstanding this estimated increase, however, the outlook for the States is by no means satisfactory. The people of Australia, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, are to be taxed to the extent of nearly £1,000, 000, although, in my opinion, the proposed taxation will nearly double that amount. But this year the surplus revenue returned to the States will be only £103,992, as compared with .£805,766 returned to them last year, and of that amount South Australia will receive only ,£239. In connexion with the consideration of these figures, the question of interest on the transferred buildings is naturally brought to mind. I know that it is argued - and up to a certain point it can be argued with a good deal of force - that the payment for such buildings as post and telegraph offices, and defence works by the Commonwealth would te a mere bookkeeping entry ; that if the Commonwealth were to pay the States Governments at a valuation, or were to take over from them a proportion of their debt equivalent to the value of the buildings, and pay the interest - it would simply be like the taking of money out of one pocket and putting it into another. But that is only true until the Commonwealth “arrives at what may be called the vanishing point in respect to the surplus revenue which it returns to the States ; and, so far as South Australia is concerned, the Surplus is reaching vanishing point this year, inasmuch as it is estimated that that State will receive only £239 more than she is entitled to under the Braddon section. So long as the surplus returned to the States was large, it was immaterial whether the Commonwealth paid for the transferred buildings or the States paid the interest on them out of the surplus which the Commonwealth handed over. But the moment the surplus vanishes, we shall be in this position. The States will not receive any more than the three-fourths to which they are entitled under the Constitution, but, at the same time, they will have to pay the interest on money represented by the transferred buildings which the Commonwealth holds. Now, that is not a proper position in which to put the States. Some effort should be made to bring about a satisfactory arrangement. It is singular that the Commonwealth, under different Governments, should have been in existence for seven years, and should have as yet failed to arrive at a valuation on account of the transferred properties. I do not know the cause of the delay, but it is astonishing that a fair estimate has not yet been determined. It has been recently stated by a Minister that it is expected, at an early date, to arrive at a fair valuation. But, in the meantime, the Commonwealth has the use of the buildings. We have arrived at the stage when we ought to pay to the States interest on the capital thus represented. Otherwise, the States will have to fall back upon local taxation for the purpose of making up the loss. I do not think it is fair that they should be put in that position. If the Government carries its penny postage proposal, it must lead to an enhanced expenditure on account of the Post and Telegraph Department. Penny postage would involve a greater volume of correspondence. Whether the additional revenue would make up the loss occasioned by the reduction of the rate from 2d. to id. .is a matter about which 1 have grave doubts. At any rate, the loss could not be made up for a considerable time. The increased volume of correspondence would involve additional expenditure for the carriage and delivery of mails over this vast continent. Consequently, we have to anticipate diminished revenue and increased expenditure if the Government proposals are carried. Personally, I am not_ in favour of penny postage, until it can be demonstrated that the receipts will be nearer to the expenditure than the information now before us discloses. Any Post Office deficiency in consequence of the introduction of penny postage would have to be made up by the community at large, and not by the people who would derive the chief benefit from the reduction.
– The Post Office receipts exceeded the expenditure last year.
Mr. -POYNTON. - But I have just referred to the fact that the Commonwealth has paid no interest on the buildings which it occupies.
– We have paid £6,000,000 to the States.
– My State will get this year £239 above the threefourthsdue to it, with which to pay interest on buildings transferred to the Commonwealth. That amount is obviously insufficient. It is problematical whether the volume of increased correspondence would, for a considerable time, reach the point when there would be a revenue equivalent to the additional expenditure. The reduction of the postage rate would mean hundreds of thousands of pounds to business men, but to the ordinary working man and the farmer the benefit would be a mere bagatelle. If any loss has to be made up the Commonwealth Government will fall back upon the Customs House, and the clerk in an office will have to pay as much towards making up the deficiency as the man who perhaps pockets thousands of pounds as a direct result of penny postage. Therefore, until it can be demonstrated that the receipts will approximate to the expenditure, I shall vote against the proposals of the Government. I have a word or two to say ora preferential trade. The members of the Government must not take to heart what I intend to say, but the more I study the preference proposals of the Ministry the more I am satisfied that they are a delusion and a sham. While they pretend to grant a preference to Great Britain, as compared with foreign powers, the Government have, under the Tariff, struck the United Kingdom a more severe blow in the matter of trade than it has received for many years. I will prove that statement from the schedule of duties before us. I have gone to some trouble to find out the origin of the imports which I shall mention. Take apparel and attire, woollens. Last year we imported to the value of £1,437.000. Of this amount £1,083,000 was imported from the United Kingdom. The Govern ment propose to increase the duty on those imports from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent., and to raise the duty against imports from foreign countries to 45 per cent. In other words, it is proposed to give the United Kingdom an advantage of 5 per cent., as compared with foreign powers, but to increase the duty against Great Britain by 15 per cent. Next, take woollen piece-goods, n.e.i. The imports last year amounted to £1,900,000, of which quantity .£1,590,241 came from the United Kingdom. The Government propose to increase the Tariff against those goods from 15 to 30 per cent. In other words, there is a proposed increase amounting to 100 per cent. in. the duty against the goods of the United Kingdom, although Great Britain is given a preference of only 5 per cent, over foreign imports. Let me take the item of cotton and linen piece goods. Last year the importations under this heading were valued at £3,209,000, of which £3,0^,517 worth came from the United Kingdom. In this instance, the duties have been increased from 5 and 10 to 25 per cent., notwithstanding that under the old Tariff a large quantity of cotton goods was upon the free list. In respect of flannels the imports last year were valued at £52,000, of which £[42,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Yet the duty upon these goods has been increased from 15 to 30 per cent. The importations of flannelette last year aggregated a value of £253,000, of which! £203,000 worth were of British origin. In this instance, the duty has been increased from 15 to 30 per cent. - an advance of 100 per cent, upon the original rate of duty. Last year the importations of coatings, vestings, and trouserings, were .valued at £[92,000, of which £72,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Here again the duty, has been increased from 15 to 30 per cent. In the matter of trimmings, mantles, dress, bonnets, &c, the total imports last year were valued at £282,000 of which £111,000 worth came from the United Kingdom: Yet the duty upon these articles has been increased from 15 to 20 per cent. The total imports of carpets and carpetings last year were valued at £124,000, of which £115,000 worth were of British manufacture. The duty upon these materials has also been increased. Last year, the importations of floorcloths, coverings, &c, were valued at £319,894, of which £304,000 worth came from the
United Kingdom. Yet the Government (have increased the duty upon these articles from 15 to 30 per cent. Cannot honor - able members see that under this Tariff we shall obtain an enormously increased revenue? Where are the industries in Australia to cope with such a great volume of trade? I say that even if higher duties increased the local output to some extent a very much larger revenue must be collected, at any rate, for a time. The total imports last year of earthenware, brownware, and stoneware were valued at £143,582, of which £116,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Upon these articles the duty has been increased from 20 to 30 per cent, in the case of British manufactures, and to 35 per cent, in the case of goods of foreign origin. Last year, the imports of galvanized iron, plate and sheet, represented a value of ^£1,245,211, of which- the United Kingdom supplied £1,028,806. The duty upon this material has been increased from 15s. per ton to 20 and 25 per cent, in the case of British! and foreign goods, respectively, which represents an advance in the rate of duty of more than 100 per cent. A similar remark is applicable to galvanized - that is, plain sheet iron, not corrugated - the importations of which last year were valued at £200,000, of which £111,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Upon this line, which was formerly free, -duties’ of 15 and 20 per cent, respectively have been imposed in respect of British and foreign goods. These materials are in every day use, and must continue to be imported for a considerable time, despite any duty that may be levied upon them. Under the heading of socks and stockings, I find that the imports last year were valued at £311,412, of which £305, 000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Yet the duty in respect of these articles has been increased from 25 to 30 per cent. The imports, of towels, and handkerchiefs, cotton and linen last year aggregated a value of £199,000 of which the United Kingdom supplied £180,724. Here again the duty has been increased. In the case of blankets and blanketing, the old rate of duty has been advanced from 15 to 30 per cent, notwithstanding that of the £53,000 worth imported -last year £49,000 worth were of British origin. I come now to a number of other instances which will serve to show the enormity of the imposts which are being levied upon ‘British goods.
Last year, the total imports of portable and traction engines were valued at £108,000 of which £87,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Yet the duty upon these engines has been increased 25 to 30 per cent. Last year the total importation of the parts of these engines was valued at £628,301, of which the United Kingdom supplied £395,102. In respect of these parts, the duty has been increased from 12J per cent, to 25 per cent. in. the case of British goods, and 30 per cent, in the case of the foreigner. I now come to that most useful article wire-netting. Last year, the total imports were valued at £521,788, of which the United Kingdom supplied £378,847 worth. Under the old Tariff, this commodity was free, but under the present Tariff, it is dutiable at 25 per cent, in the case of British goods, and 30 per cent, in the case of goods of foreign origin. Surely the sham nature of the prefernce proposals of the Government is demonstrated by these figures? Whilst they have imposed an additional 5 per cent, upon metals of foreign manufacture, they have advanced the duty upon metals from Great Britain by five times that amount. I say that there is more cant talked about extending a preference to the goods of the mother country than there is about any other political question. The Australian manufacturer does, not care a tinker’s curse where these goods come from. If they are a menace to his trade, he desires that protective duties shall be levied upon them. He is equally anxious that all his raw material should be placed upon the free list. Every manufacturer in short, is a free-trader so far as his raw material is concerned, but a protectionist in the matter of everything that he desires to sell. Let us assume that the present duty upon wire-netting had been operative last year. There is only one manufactory of wirenetting in Australia, and the owners of it have considerably more to do now than they can cope with. Although there has been a vast increase in the duty, they have kept all the time within a margin of the top price, although they have a big market in Australia for their product. I refer to Lysaght Brothers, of New South Wales.
– They could not’ supply the orders that were given to them.
– I have just said so. I venture to say that even if this extra duty had been imposed before, the wirenetting I am speaking of must have come in. I want to show what this increased duty means to the farmer - the primary producer, the man who has to battle in the back country against rabbits, and very often ‘ must take inferior land because he cannot get any better. He has quite enough of hard times to contend with without being taxed as he will be under this proposition. Assuming that we import this year as much wire-netting as we imported last year from the United Kingdom, the duty of 25 per cent, proposed by the Government on manufactures from the United Kingdom would represent £94,711. If we take the duty of 30 per cent, on the wire-netting to the value of £142,943 which came from foreign parts, the receipts would amount to £42,882.
– Those are not all foreign countries. A good deal comes from Canada and New Zealand.
– They are foreign, so far as the Tariff is concerned.
– Do not Canada and New Zealand receive preference?
– No. The total duty on last year’s imports on the basis of the new duties proposed would have been £137,593. Recently a question was put in the Senate as to the number of hands employed in the wire-netting industry in Australia. The answer was that 656 hands were employed, not only in wire-netting, but in wire-mattress making, bird-cage making, wire-nail making, and a number of minor industries of a similar nature. Consequently, 656 hands represent the whole of the men and boys in the wireworking industry in Australia. Assuming that the whole of them were engaged in the manufacture of wire- netting, this impost on the unfortunate farmer, who has to go out into the back-blocks, and battle against vermin, is equivalent to the payment of a bonus of £209 14s. per head per year for every man and boy engaged in those establishments in the making of nails, bird-cages, wire mattresses, and wirenetting. Is this House going to tolerate such a thing? Are we going to allow our pioneers to be plundered in this way? If I base my calculation on the actual basis of the hands employed in the manufacture of wire-netting only - probably about half of the total hands in the .wire-working industry - that amount of duty is equivalent to a bonus of something like £456 per year for every man and boy employed. And for what? For an industry that has already more work than it can cope with, that cannot supply all the orders now forwarded, and that was built up without a duty at all. The Chairman of the Tariff Commission himself said on the floor of this House that this duty was recommended, not because it was asked for, or because of any special merits as disclosed by the evidence, but, as he said, “ because if we did not put it on, it would be complained that we had . left the New South Wales industry out of consideration.”
– That is a nice thing. They are going to saddle a duty on the whole of the Commonwealth to please one manufacturer in New South Wales.
– I have already shown that the new duties on the basis of last year’s returns represent £209 14s. per head for every one employed in the wireworking industry, which the farmer would have to pay for his netting before he could get it.
– Is that on the present output ?
– Yes. .
– What would be the bonus on the probable consumption?
– I venture to say that the output will increase on that of last year. Representing, as I do, a district where you might as well throw the wheat into the sea as attempt to grow it without using wire-netting, I. say without .hesitation that, having to buy wire-netting, even at first cost, means a tax on the farmer equivalent to from 2d. to 3d. an acre rent, in order to keep the vermin out. On top of that, the Government want to load him up with these duties of 25 per cent, and 30 per cent., or an equivalent of £137,000 to be paid by the farming community. It is one of the most monstrous duties that could be imposed, and when the House sees it in its true light, it will get very short shrift. There is another aspect of this Tariff to be considered. We talk a lot about placing the people on the land. The Government say that we require population. They say that what we need is a good yeomanry. I agree with them in that. But how does this Tariff appeal to men who want to go on the land? What inducement can they see in it to help them on to the land? If a man secures a block of land, I have already indicated the increased tax he will have to pay on his fence at the outset to protect him against vermin. The price of the implements which he re- quires to work the farm is also to be increased. The manufacturer must have his machinery from the best makers in the world. He must get the very best and most up-to-date machinery, and must have it on the free list. But the farmer must take his machinery from the local manufacturer, who has every opportunity with the high duties to charge higher prices.
– The only free machinery is that used in hat-making.
– I am reminded that the only industry which enjoys a rebate equivalent tq the duty on the machinery, is that of hat-making.
– And hat-makers are making enough profit to pay 10 per cent., and then save another 5 per cent.
– If I, or any tradesman, went to the Denton Hat Mills, tomorrow, and offered to buy £1,000 worth of hats, I should not be supplied direct from the factory, but would have to go to Flinders-lane, where I should have to pay 20 per cent, more to the middleman.
– And get an inferior article then.
– The honorable member for Wilmot knows nothing about the matter.
– A tradesman must buy through Flinders-lane.
– Well, that is business.
– That is not the sort of business we desire to pay for.
– >May I tell the honorable member that one of the largest factories in Victoria tried direct distribution, but lost hundreds of pounds by the experiment, and had to go back to the other method ?
– Then the Minister admits the truth of what I say.
– The market is so contracted that it is impossible to distribute directly - the cost is too great to the manufacturer, and also to the purchaser.
– I was dealing with the case of the young farmer. If a settler desires to build a house for himself and his family, he finds himself confronted with increased duties on the whole of the material he requires. There are many places in Australia where stone or brick is not available, though, even in the case of stone and brick houses, there is an extra cost, consequent upon the Tariff, of ,£3 on the roofing, and also in regard to the wood required. . I consulted three different builders as to the present cost of erecting an ordinary four-roomed cottage at Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill, or in Queensland, where brick or stone is not available, and I was informed that the additional cost amounts to £30 or £40.
– What timber would be used ?
– Soft timber is usual.
– Is there no Queensland timber suitable for the purpose?
– The honorable member knows that Queensland timber was not available when required in the furniture trade.
– It is stated that the forests of Queensland are better than those of New Zealand, from the point of view of the cabinet-maker.
– I think there is plenty of local timber available for building in Queensland.
– At any rate, in South Australia, the imported timber is nearly always used for building purposes, and in this connexion the Tariff hits the settler very badly. Then the miner finds himself under similar disadvantages. At Broken Hill, for instance, the duty on timber is a very serious matter. Owing to the immense width of the lodes, in many instances hardwood timber cannot be used.
– What the miners want is timber which creaks before it breaks.
– There may be a place 400 feet wide, propped up with Oregon timber, which, by its creaking, gives sufficient warning of danger before it gives way, whereas hardwood snaps oft’ at once. It will be seen that, under these circumstances, the duty on Oregon timber is very severe. Then, with low grade ores, the best machinery is necessary ; and here we have a problem which faces those interested in mining in Western Australia. This problem has to be met either by a reduction of wages, or by procuring up-to-date machinery which will do the work at less cost. I venture to say that, in order to get the necessary machinery, it is necessary to go abroad; .but, then, those who require machinery have to face a duty of 25 per cent., and pay several other charges before they can get to work. As I said earlier in my speech, the Tariff is illconceived, inasmuch as it does not even give the protection it pretends to give. One manufacturer in my constituency produces strippers, but the duty on his raw material takes away all the advantage which the-
Tariff pretends to give him. I have here a piece of imported steel, which has to go through nine stages of manufacture until it is ready for the market. That raw steel bears a duty of 2¼d. per lb., and, although this manufacturer has tried his utmost to get a locally manufactured article, he cannot do so.
– Where does that steel come from?
– Some of it comes from America and some from England. This manufacturer was informed that the steel was turned out locally, but he found out that the local steel cost him 8d. per lb., and, moreover, would be of nothing like the quality of the English or American product. The particular piece of steel which I have here is American; and it costs five cents, a pound in the country of origin. Here we have a case, in which, although there is a duty on the manufactured machine, the taxation through the Custom House on the raw materials removes all the supposed advantage. As a matter of fact, this manufacturer would sooner work under free-trade conditions than under the, severe handicap of a duty on his raw material.
– The bootmaker has a similar complaint in so far as there is a duty on the leather which he uses, while, of course, the manufacturer of leather also requires the duty.
– Of course he doe’s. I wish to direct attention to some striking examples of the effect of the Tariff. I have here the stamped invoices of two small consignments of goods removed from vessels at Port Adelaide. One consign- ment arrived from Liverpool on the 14th August, in the Oswestry Grange. The invoice value amounted to £95 12s. 5d., and the duty paid on it under the new Tariff amounted to £19 2s. 6d. I have the invoice of another consignment.
– Of what?
– Stoneware and chinaware.The bulk of these goods comes from England, “but those included in the second invoice to which I refer were imported from Hamburg, and arrived at Port Adelaide on thesame day as the goods importedby the Oswestry Grange. Under the old Tariff rate of 20 per cent, the goodsincluded in the second invoice would have been liable to duty to the extent of £601s. 9d. ‘ The importer paid that amount’ of duty on the goods without ques tion, but he paid the additional impost due to the increased rate under the new Tariff under protest. I am quoting figures from an invoice bearing the Customs Department stamp, and it shows that the additional impost charged on this consignment as the result of the increased rates under the new Tariff amounted to£51 16s. 9d., or nearly 100 per cent, more than the duties chargeable under the old Tariff rate. The gentleman who imported these goods has supplied me with figures showing the actual transport cost. I take another invoice for goods arriving from Liverpool on the 24th August by the Everton Grange. The total invoice value of the goods amounts to £10 1 8s. 6d., and on these there were the following charges made: - Packages, £1 14s. 6d.”; inland carriage in England, 13s. 4d. ; ocean freight to Adelaide, £5 1 6s. 6d. ; bank exchange and marine insurance, 5 per cent., 19s. 3d. ; landing charges at Port Adelaide, wharfage, agency and cartage to Adelaide, £1 10s. ; or total charges amounting to £10 13s. 7d. on goods -valued at £10 18s. 6d. It should be remembered that thesegoods were chiefly jugs and other crockeryware in universal use, and requiring to be replenished probably more often than any other articles in the same line. The figures I have given show a total transport cost representing nearly 100 per cent, upon the actual cost of the goods. I have another invoice of similargoods to the value of£5810s. This is submitted as a sample of the charges on the consignment of goods from America, which arrived at Port Adelaide on the 26th August from New York, by the Kazembe. This consignment consisted of butter dishes, sugar basins, and such ware for table use, and the charges in connexion with this shipment were-packages, £11 7s.1d. ; inland carriage in America, £10 14s.1d.; ocean freight to Port Adelaide, £31 3s. 6d. ; bank exchange, marine insurance, 5 per cent., £5 12s. ; landing charges at Port Adelaide, wharfage, agency, and cartage to Adelaide, £7 13s. 9d., or a total of £66 10s.5d. These charges, without any duty payment at all, represent no less than 113 per cent, on the invoice value of the goods. Yet, notwithstanding this great natural protection and advantage, an additional impost of about 33 per cent, is added under the last Tariff to the amount of the duty chargeable on the goods under the old Tariff. I venture to say that every line of crockeryware and stoneware will befoundto give similar results. There is no escaping these figures, as honorable members may, if they please, see them set forth in the original stamped invoices.
– Invoices on which duty was charged and paid.
– That is so, except in one case, as I have already said, the additional amount due to the new Tariff was paid under protest, and the invoice will be found to be marked by the Customs officials, “ Received under protest.” When we come to consider the detailed items of the Tariff I am sure that similar results will be found to arise in connexion with other lines of goods. While I recognise that protection is the policy of Australia, I wish to draw a line between protection and prohibition. So far as I can learn from the evidence taken by the Tariff Commission, there have been no languishing industries in Australia, and they were all going on well under the old Tariff. Notwithstanding all the criticisms of that Tariff, it was producing good results. Two or three manufacturers in Australia in a large way of business have informed me that they would prefer the old Tariff, with its extensive free list, under which they could import their raw material, and many of their tools of trade, duty free, to the Tariff now submitted. I venture to say that so far as the primary producer is concerned, this is one of the most oppressive Tariffs ever introduced in Australia. It would be bad enough if its effects were confined to Victoria, but when honorable members come to consider the great extent of Australia, and the disadvantages and difficulties attending the development of the country in many remote districts, they can realize how burdensome this Tariff must be on many of those connected with our primary industries. I take, for instance, the duty on cream separators, and I ask whether we are going to manufacture those machines here?
– Yes, as many as the honorable member pleases.
– Perhaps the honorable member is not aware that there are very few of these machines manufactured in Great Britain, in spite of the wonderful advance in manufactures which has taken place in the old country. I have here a statement from which it can be seen that the cream separators sold in Australia in 1906 were valued at £400,000, and yet machines to the ‘value of only £15,000 or £18,000 were imported from Great Bri- tain. I may inform the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that only the finest class of steel can be used in the ‘manufacture of these machines, in consequence of the extremely high rate of speed at which they are run. Swedish steel is used- in their manufacture, and the greater number of them are imported from Sweden.. Had there been a duty on cream separators last year, not one of these machines would have been made in the Commonwealth, although the unfortunate dairymen of Australia, who often - perhaps with wife and family - have to work from daylight to dark, would have had to pay £40,000 more for them, in addition to the indirect charges which, no doubt, they would have been called upon to bear. The possibility of having these machines manufactured in Australia is not contemplated, and why, then, should the dairying industry be penalized? If protective duties are to be imposed, let them be imposed for the protection of industries which have a chance of succeeding in Australia. Do not let us unduly burden primary industries- as has been proposed in connexion with- the duty on wire netting - for the benefit of an insignificant manufacturing industry. Why should the whole Commonwealth pay 2d”. per dozen more for matches than was charged prior to the introduction of the Tariff, merely to’ benefit thirty or -forty hands who are receiving a few shillings a week in a small Richmond factory ? t trust that the Committee will so modify the Tariff as to greatly reduce the burden of the producers and consumers of Australia. I am sorry that we cannot tear it to pieces at once. While we are talking generalities, the public is being overcharged. We have heard a great deal about the political grab in connexion with the increase of the parliamentary allowance, but it was nothing to the grab of the tradespeople under the Tariff. Hundreds of them have increased prices on goods upon which no extra duty was paid, and even on goods which are not dutiable under the Tariff. This robbery of the public will continue until finality is arrived at in regard to the duties. I trust that, whatever Tariff is agreed to, it will remain for a number of years.
– That will not happen, because Tariff alteration is too good a subject for politicians.
– Seeing that the Tariff Commission has spent more than two years in obtaining information for our guidance, if we cannot use our experience to evolve a Tariff which will stand for ten years, we should not be here.
– I recognise that it is difficult, if not impossible, for any one of us to say anything that is entirely new on any of the many subjects which are comprehended under the two very wide motions which we are discussing, but I am consoled by the reflection that no two members, and I suppose no two men, look at any large subject eye to eye. We are here, as the members of a deliberative body, to listen to the views of representatives from different States, and from different parts of the States, espousing different fiscal beliefs, and reflecting, unconsciously, if not consciously, the views of the various classes affected by the Tariff. The speeches which are made from the many stand-points and substandpoints from which the feelings of the people of the Commonwealth may be expressed are of the utmost advantage to us, and I acknowledge that I have derived very great benefit from hearing the views of honorable members. None of us imagines that he monopolizes all know- ledge on subjects of this kind. We may have a very full acquaintance with the purely economic aspects of free-trade and protection, and be firmly of opinion that one or other fiscal policy is absolutely the correct policy ; but, as practical men, we must recognise that we are npt providing for the conditions of a new country ; that we are not here to determine how things can be managed, having regard to abstract principles, but must bear in mind the conditions under which the existing industries of the Stares are being conducted, and the individual and class views which are held throughout this enormous territory which we call Australia. I have derived great advantage from the speeches of the honorable members for Illawarra and Perth, which were highly valuable for the light which thev threw upon the proceedings of the Tariff Commission, one of the most important todies ever constituted in this country. It was expected that the appointment of the Commission would contribute largely to the final settlement of the seemingly interminable Tariff discussions. To paraphrase the utterances which were made at the time, it was said, “ We do not want to occupy the time of the Federal Parliament for another year in discussing fiscal questions : but there are many anomalies and inconsistencies in the Tariff which ought to be rectified.” It ought to be recollected that it was a free-trade Ministry which appointed the Commission, on the distinct understanding that its primary object was to remove the anomalies of the Tariff.
– That is hardly so.
– I think it is quite so.
– Does the honorable member say that it was a free-trade Ministry which included Sir George Turner and others holding his views?
– No; but I state that the head of the Ministry was a freetrader, perhaps one of the greatest freetraders of Australia. At all events, even if I admit, as the honorable member reminds me, thatit contained some protectionists, it was such a mixed Ministry that its only possible object could have been - presuming that it had the welfare of the country at heart - to come to some just settlement of this question.
– The main reason given for the appointment of the Commission was that there were strangled industries.
– No. That reason was given by the Age, but it was not given until after the Commission had been appointed.
– Did not the honorable member for Maribyrnong move the adjournment of the House to make an appeal on behalf of the strangled industries?
– The primary purpose was to remove anomalies, and it was only on the ground that it would remove them, that the Prime Minister consented, when he could have refused, to appoint the Commission.
– He could not have lived a week if he had refused to appoint the Commission, and he knew that.
– I admit at once, al though it does not touch my argument, that it was stated afterwards - possibly before, although it did not come to my ears - that in this State there were strangled industries, and industries which were dying; because pf the competition from the imported articles. The Tariff Commission was very cautiously appointed, and I think that the House scrutinized its constitution with very great care and interest. Everybody recollects that it was made’ up of four recognised free-traders and four recognised protectionists, and it was hoped that one of the results of its appointment would be that not only would the anomalies be removed, but that many so-called injustices would be remedied. But I ask honorable members to recollect that where we appoint experts, or men who are qualified and willing to hear expert opinion, weigh the pros and the cons, and arrive at something like a judicial determination thereon, they are much more eminently fitted, than is any advocate of a particular cause, to decide what is just and reasonable with regard to any question submitted. We ought not to forget that the Commission was at work for two years and a half, and that it had advantages which no member’ of the House can have; because, whatever one-sidedness there may have been in the minds of the free-traders, was counterbalanced by the equally strong views of the protectionists, and vice versa. We had, if it ever could be obtained in human affairs, a wellbalanced body of intellect, specially appointed, with the power of extracting the truth from evidence given under oath, and arriving at balanced conclusions as to what was just and fair to all. concerned.
– And they came to absolutely different verdicts.
– The honorable member is such an extreme protectionist-
– A prohibitionist.
– And a prohibitionist.
– Who says so?
– I do.
– The honorable member has no right to say so.
– I believe it.
– The honorable member may believe what he likes, but he! has no right to say so.
– The Tariff Commission, I repeat, was in the nature of a ‘jury, which was itself put under oath, which put its witnesses under oath, and which was equally balanced in regard to two conflicting fiscal doctrines. Can the opinion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, such as he has just expressed, be placed by any rational person side by side for one moment with the judicial opinion of a body of eight men who were under oath themselves, and had heard evidence under oath, with regard to the matters committed to their care? The Commission ought to have been to this Cham ber a guiding star. No one can gainsay,, without uttering an untruth, that it was a balanced body of men.
– I repeat that the Commission was a balanced body of men, because it contained four free-traders and four protectionists ; and now, after knowing most of those gentlemen as legislators for nearly seven years, I should find it very difficult to say which of them has the stronger convictions. It strikes me that they are all- men with some firmness of character, and strength of views, and that they brought these qualities to bear on the work of the Commission. If honorable members seriously consider the position in which the country is to-day they must honestly say “ The Commission was appointed by the Government of the day, sat for two years and a half, and brought up certain recommendations into which they threw all their knowledge and ability. We shall not and cannot enter into those details for ourselves, but will accept their conclusions as a fair solution of a very thorny and difficult question which has been submitted to Parliament.”
– Which conclusions ?
– I am coming to that in a moment. The other evening the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in answering a question as to what the Tariff Commission had said, gave as- an1 answer the conclusion which the protectionist portion of it had come to; and I took exception at the time by an observation as to the impropriety of speaking of the conclusion of any part of the Commission as the conclusion of the whole Commission.
– That was reasonable.
– The very essence of the Commission was that it was a complete body, with, as I say, the balanced corporate judgment of protectionists and free-traders. But whenever the free-traders alone or the protectionists alone have come to a conclusion, I think that the Committee has a perfect right to say, “In that case you are not’ the Commission ; you are only part of it, and although we W1 not reject your deductions, we think it necessary to look into the evidence to see on what grounds you acted.” .
– And then it might be fair to say. “ You are both wrong.”
– It might be, but I do not think we need lay down a stereotyped answer until we have made an examination. The honorable member will admit that if the four Commissioners who were opposed to his fiscal views came to different conclusions, he would be not only entitled but under an obligation to examine into them to see how far those Commissioners had gone wrong. It has been , made clear to us, I think, why in a great many cases the free-trade quartette, as I shall call them, came to a different conclusion from that arrived at by the protectionist quartette. “ After the examination-in-chief of a very large number of witnesses the freetraders entered upon a very severe crossexamination of the witnesses, and founded their conclusions on the primary evidence and the cross-examination combined, whilst, according to one .authority here, the protectionist quartette confined their consideration to the evidence in chief. Honorable members will understand that I am not going to find fault with one side or other, because I am talking now in general terms about a body which I regard as having been appointed as a sort of judicial tribunal. If after asking men of calibre to sit on a Royal Commission to inquire into difficult questions, putting them under the obligation of an oath and enabling them to take evidence on, oath, the House lightly regards the results of their hard work, which has been illrecompensed, I believe that it will find very great difficulty in the future in getting men of calibre to sit on. Royal Commissions; because any man who regards himself as competent to do that work may well say, “ I may sit for months, and hear a great quantity of evidence; I may give many evenings to the consideration of that evidence, and come to certain conclusions, but I may find that the whole -of my work and my conclusions have been ignored by the House.” If an honorable member anticipated that the House was going to ignore all his careful thought and consideration, he’ would say at once, ‘ ‘ I shall not sit upon this Commission.”
– The honorable member must recognise that no Government could accept two verdicts from the same Commission.
– I am not suggesting that they” should. I am merely deliberating upon the serious position in which “ we stand towards the Commission. I have heard one or two honorable members, ‘principally on the Ministerial side of the House, speak of the findings of the
Commission as if they were mere offhand* opinions - mere expressions at venture - ; animated by some extreme fiscal belief, andthat, therefore, the Committee should not pay any consideration to them. That discloses a serious state of affairs. I hopethat there are occasions upon which even honorable members who, like myself, aresuspected of being rabid on all questions, will be heard apart from party considerations upon a matter which does not involvetheir particular feelings. All of us, Ministerialists, Oppositionists, arid members of the Labour Party alike, are interested i» upholding the dignity of Royal Commissions unless we know that some irregularity has affected their conclusions.
– The honorable member could not agree with the findings of both sections.
– I am not suggesting that we should do so. I merely say that we ought to regard the findingson which the members of the Commission are unanimous, as - I will not say sacred,; but at all events as - carrying’ such enormous weight that they ought not to be touched.
– What would the honorable member do if he were on the Treasury Bench?
– I arn not speaking of any individual member of the House.
– Ministers are not to have an opinion of their own.
– I do not wish the personal factor to obtrude in this discussion, but if I were a member of a Government which had deliberately appointed a Commission to inquire into some very grave ‘ problems, and had invested it with important and weighty powers, I should feel it my duty, if that Commission had spent anything like the time which the members of the Tariff Commission have devoted to their work - either to accept its findings or to take some other step that would clear the question.
– The present Government did not appoint the Commission.
– The Government must recognise as clearly as I and every other honorable member must do that it was a balanced tribunal.
– The leader of the Government said distinctly that he would not pay any attention to their findings.
– The House acquiesced in the appointment of the Commission.
– I opposed it right .through.
– The honorable member may have done so, but the House generally acquiesced in the appointment.
– I do not understand the attitude of the Acting Prime Minister. There are occasions upon which we expect Ministers, and especially the leader of a Government, to take up some stand for principles. I am advocating a principle which I am sure every honorable member, irrespective of the party to which ;he belongs, must recognise. It is an easy matter for the Acting Prime Minister ito “ pooh pooh “ the idea, and to say that since the Commission has not reported in accordance with his own individual opinions its findings should be disregarded.
– It has, to a large extent, found in accordance with my own views.
– And how does the honorable gentleman treat those findings with which he disagrees?
– I leave them out. Mr. BRUCE SMITH.- Where does’ that place the honorable member?
– What I mean to say is that, to a considerable extent, I leave out the “ B “ reports.
– The, attitude of the honorable gentleman is very like that of the individual who says of an arbitration award, “. What! Do you call this arbitration? Why! it’s against us!” We have the Acting Prime Minister saying of the findings of a deliberately appointed body,
I will approve of what it has done as long as I agree with it.”
– Hear, hear. I should not approve of it if I did not agree -with it. . - Mr. BRUCE SMITH.- The honorable member has already indicated in one short sentence what he would do, and what I knew twenty years ago he would do, in like circumstances. That being so, his statement requires no iteration. I. have known him since he. was in- political longclothes. *
– I was in politics before the honorable member.
– The honorable member’s advent into’ political life may have been years before my own, but that does not affect the question.
– The honorablemember has not lost sight of the fact that, the free-trade section of the Commission did not send in their reports until shortly before Parliament met?
– That fact does not affect in the slightest degree the principle at issue.
– How could we agree with reports that we had not received ?
– I have not yet found fault with the Government as a whole. At present I am merely inculcating a general principle, but I do not think that the House has so far indicated a disposition to show to the findings of the Commission that respect which it ought to have for them. When I speak of the Commission I refer, as I have said before, not to four free-traders, or to the four protectionists, but to the eight gentlemen appointed to investigate and report upon this very difficult question.
– For what was the Commission appointed? Here are the terms of its appointment. It was not appointed to make a Tariff.
– Why does not the Minister make a speech ?
– I presume that the honorable member will do so.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member.
– But the honorable member is doing so.
– The Commission was not appointed to frame a Tariff.
– The Commission was appointed to remove anomalies and to report upon industries seriously affected by the Tariff. The expression “ remove anomalies ‘ ‘ was used over and over again by the honorable member for Indi, Mr. Isaacs, when urging that a Commission should be appointed.
– And -by the honorable, member for Darling Downs.
– The terms of the appointment did not permit of the Commission, doing what it has done..
– That is immaterial to my present argument. The Commission was also appointed to inquire into cases in which industries were being ruinously affected by reason of the insufficiency of the Tariff. Whatever may be the view of the Committee as to. the scope of the Commission, I. am sure that a large majority of honorable members will agree that, having regard to the fiscal bias that we naturally possess, no man in the House possesses a capacity equal to that of the composite body of free-traders and protectionists who inquired into the working of the old Tariff, took evidence, and analyzed that evidence in a variety of reports. The Acting Prime Minister, however, has plainly told the Committee - and I hope that honorable members will note this - that even where the Commission of eight has weighed the evidence relating to any question, and arrived at a unanimous conclusion upon’ it, he will concur in that conclusion only in so far as he approves of it.
– Hear, hear. Is the Government to have no mind of its own ?
– The Committee will have something to say upon the point.
– I dare say that the honorable member will have a lot to say upon it.
– The honorable member’s tu quoque is ordinary if not commonplace; we have heard it very often, and it is neither logical nor controversial. It suggests the attitude of small- boys calling one another names.
– The honorable member is not our schoolmaster.
– The Committee should note the position taken up by the Acting Prime Minister. It is very well for him to say, “ I will do this or that” ; that is the attitude, not of a schoolmaster, but of a despot, who imagines that this Committee is to be whipped into certain conclusions which he holds,, and is to indorse them, simply because he holds them. I hope that there is in . the Committee enough spirit to lead to the honorable member being made to understand that it is going to use its own brain power, and its own intelligence in utilizing the findings of a body for which it has, and ought to have, great respect.
– That is what I might be allowed to do.
– I have, I say, derived a great deal of advantage - especially in regard to the work of the Commission - from the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Illawarra. . I did not have the pleasure of hearing that delivered by the honorable member for Illawarra, but I had the advantage - which I willingly admit - of reading it. Those two speeches reveal an immense amount of useful information, which honorable members should take into their consideration. There is no man in the Labour Party to whom I attribute so- much acumen and who seems to have read so widely and to think so independently as the honorable member for Perth; and that gentleman gave us a most calm and dispassionate statement of the position which he and his fellow free-traders have taken up upon the Commission. He did not say, “ We free- trade members alone are right, and the House ought to accept our findings,” but he said, “ I will tell the Committee the circumstances under which we, as freetraders, arrived at certain opinions.” They were these - that after a number of witnesses had been examined, they were crossexamined. Honorable members will recollect from their perusal of the newspaper reports” that in many cases where manufacturers went before that Commission and told a woful story of the dreadful ‘ condition, financial and otherwise, in which they . found’ themselves, and when they were faced with their own balance-sheets in cross-examination they actually went the length of contending that such questions were not subjects of inquiry. But they were the subjects of inquiry, because one of the functions of the Commission was to find out how’ far it was true that certain industries were being strangled. I shall mention in a few moments an industry which has constantly, cried out about thebad times it was undergoing, and I will show that for five years it has paid 10 per cent.- dividends, that it has put away in the last year another 5 per cent. - although it has placed that money away in funds which are to be seen on. the balance-sheet - and that its £1 shares to-day stand at 36s. and 38s.
– Will the honorable member show also the balance-sheet of a good importing house?
– It serves no purpose for the Minister to drag a red herring across when a speaker is on a distinct trail. Honorable members will see why I give this illustration - and it is only one. I want to show, that if you have a large body of manufacturers coming before a Commission, which is going to have weight with Parliament, and if you find that a number of witnesses tell that Commission a woful story of their financial state ia consequence of the Tariff, and if then, when they are examined against their will, it is shown that their businesses are producing very large fortunes, and exhibiting great success, it proves the importance of cross-examination. I take it that the primary object in appointing the Commission was to elicit the truth. We want to get at the truth. We enabled the Commission to put the witnesses on oath in order that the Commissioners might have a better chance of eliciting the truth. And if, as the honorable member for Perth states, there were many cases of the kind I have indicated, they should induce honorable members not only to accept the findings of the Commission where the eight members were unanimous, but to look with great scrutiny into those cases in which the findings of one part of the Commission have been based upon the evidence in chief of a number of witnesses who, under crossexamination, have shown that their first representations were - well, not true, to put tha mildest construction upon them. I have had put into my hand the terms of the Commission. They read -
Whereas it has been represented that the operation of the Customs Tariff of the Common wealth of Australia has been injurious to certain industries know ye that we do by these our letters patent appoint you to be Commissioners to inquire into the effect upon Australian industries of the said Tariff and into the working of the said Tariff generally.
If I were asked for my opinion as to whether or not that Commission places any limitation upon the scope of the inquiry, I should say, “Absolutely none.” It is an authorization to the Commission to explore the whole field of our industries. Whether it authorizes them to recommend a cure for unsatisfactory conditions in the shape of a cut and dried Tariff is another matter. But if the Commission has exceeded its functions - and I do not admit it - in not only inquiring and reporting upon the condition of industries, but in recommending a Tariff which in their opinion is best qualified to meet the case, that does not interfere with our right to look into the matter for ourselves, and it does not lessen the value of the Commission’s reports. I have thus derived great assistance from the two speeches on the work of the Commission to which I have referred. They have been an invitation to me to look very closely into the reasons which led to the free-trade quartette differing from the protectionist quartette upon those subjects upon which witnesses were crossexamined. I remember - and most honorable members will recollect also - that many witnesses, after telling what I have called a woful tale to the Commission about the bad times they were having, revealed, by their own balance-sheets, that their condition was a very prosperous one. One industry to which I have referred shows a very healthy State of things. We shall, I insist, have to look very closely into the findings of the two branches of the Commission. We now know the principles which have actuated the Acting Prime Minister. We now know that the Acting Prime Ministerand, possibly, the Government, too - have approached the whole question in this spirit: “It is true that you have had a Commission, but we did not appoint it.” What has that to do with the matter? If we assume that the Commission was composed of eight honest men, actuated by a desire to arrive at honest conclusions with regard to this question, four of whom came from the other side of the House, and four from this side, what does it matter what Ministry appointed them? . What would be thought of a Government who said, concerning the judgment of a Court, “ We did not appoint those Judges.” It amounts to the same sort of thing. . .
– What nonsense !
-The Commissioners were appointed to examine witnesses, and elicit evidence,
– No Government would adopt recommendations of which it did not approve.
– I am talking of the Acting Prime Minister’s attitude towards a tribunal having the power to take evidence upon oath. It is well that this Committee should know how the Go vernment regard the Tariff Commission. We now know that they have paid no heed to the recommendations of that body unless they chanced to agree with its conclusions.
– The Prime Minister said that two years ago.
– I understood that thePrime Minister knew nothing about this Tariff.
– I objected to the Commission at the time its appointment was suggested.
– It would be just as relevant to my argument for the Acting Prime Minister to tell us that some of its members have fair hair andothers dark. He does not seem to have grasped the principle which I am emphasizing. I do not know whether he wishes to grasp it ; but evidently he does not grasp it, otherwise he would not volunteer the statement as to the way in which he, personally, has looked at this matter. If the Committee know that the Government have paid no regard to the recommendations of the Commission-
– I did not say anything of the ‘kind’.
– The Acting Prime Minister is now going back upon what he did say.
– The honorable member is not going to put words into my mouthwhich I never uttered.
– The Acting Prime Minister said, in effect, “Do you wish me to approve of the results of the Tariff Commission, if I do not agree with its conclusions?” To that question I reply”Yes.”
SirWilliam Lyne.-I will not do so.
– If I know the temper of the Committee, its members will npt submit to being pushed about from pillar “to’ post because the Acting Prime Minister does not agree with the conclusions of the Commission.
– I am going to accept full responsibility for this Tariff, and I am not going to accept responsibility for recommendations of a Commission in some of whose reports I do not believe. The honorable member is talking nonsense.
– As long as the Committee know the attitude of the Acting Prime Minister my purpose will be served. It appears then, that the work of the Tariff Commission extending over two and a half years is to count for nothing. Of course, the Tariff is primarily the work of the Treasurer and the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. When honorable members know that the minds from which it emanates have been actuated by a want of principle of the sort I have mentioned, they will know how to approach its consideration. Whilst I have elicited that fact, I have endeavoured to emphasize the gravityof treating the recommendations’ of the Commission as if they were a mere haphazard expression of opinion by some individual with a biased mind.
– How does the honorable member get over the position that the Commission is an irresponsible body reporting upon matters affecting the revenue of the Commonwealth? Surely responsibility for the raising of a sufficient revenue must rest with the Government.
– The proper time to have considered that aspect of the matter was before the Tariff Commissionwas appointed. I do not say that we are bound to accept the conclusions of the Commission if we should discover some irregularity in its mode of working. But the Commission has done its work thoroughly and harmoniously. There has been so little indication of any differences of opinion between its members, otherthan those of a fair and intellectual character, that we ought not to hesitate to accept its unanimous conclusions.
– I have been seeking a way out of a difficulty, but I cannot find it.
– I say that we ought to accept the recommendations of the Commission so far as its eight memberswere unanimous.
– Even the adoption of that course would not overcome the difficulty of responsibility on the part of Ministers. If the revenue collected under the Tariff were insufficient to carry on the services of the Commonwealth, the responsibility would rest with the Government.
– I submit that the Government ought to accept responsibility. If they are not prepared to accept the unanimous findings of the Commission, they should take the consequences of their action.
– They ought to be prepared to consider the evidence.
– I would point out to the honorable member that we are at liberty to act as we please in regard to any item.
– The Government can arrive at their own conclusions upon the evidence taken by the Commission.
– Does the honorable member suppose that the thousands of pages of evidence taken by the Tariff Commission have been read by every member of a Government having a fiscal bias as they have been considered by the members of the Tariff Commission ? Will the honorable member notconsider that if we obtain a recommendation from eight members of the Commission, four of whom have a fiscal bias towards protection, and an equal number of whom have a fiscal bias towards free- trade, the proposals to which they agree will represent a fair compromise under the circumstances under which they were appointed?
– It might.
– Who is to judge that it does not, except a person like the Postmaster-General, who has a fiscal bias of the most aggressive character, and who. is content to say, “I do not agree with it.” Is not his position similar to that of one of the parties to a law suit, who runs into the jury room, exclaiming “ You must give your verdict this way ; otherwise I cannot agree with it.” The whole object of appointing a Royal Commission like the Tariff Commission is that the House may be saved from undertaking unnecessary work. If we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Flin- ders that, in connexion with this Tariff, we should endeavour to arrive at some conclusion which will be regarded by protection ists and free-traders alike as a rational settlement of the question for a number of years, I think that in. future questions of this sort should be left to a Tariff Commission to investigate judicially, and to advise the House upon from time to time.
– The honorable member wishes to get rid of his responsibility when he is beaten.
– Is it a proper or desirable course for a legislative body, composed of seventy-five members, to attempt to settle one of the most vital questions in political life by means of a wrangle similar to that which in 1902 lasted over twelve months?
– Over eighteen months.
– Is it not feasible that a question of this sort ought to be settled for a number of years, in order that it may be removed as a party wedge from political life, and in order that. other matters may be put upon a proper basis? The Acting Prime Minister no doubt would like to keep the question alive. He would like to tear open the wound, and to keep it open, so that he might thrive on. the differences that exist between other sections of the House.
– The honorable member has been endeavouring to do that for years. He is practically beaten, and he is now attempting to “ sneak out “’ of his responsibility.
– I do not know whether you, sir, think that the Acting Prime Minister is setting a proper example to the younger members of the Committee. It is quite evident that he cannot doze over my speech. At least it is having the effect of keeping him intellectually active. Of course I do not expect him to approve of it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I wish now to pass away from my observations upon the nature and authority of the Tariff Commission as distinct from its work. I have already been too long in dealing with that question, but that was the result of the numerous observations by the Acting Prime Minister, who evidenceda distinct animosity, both with regard to the authority and value of that body.
– That is not a fact.
– I paid a tribute, which I think is justly due, to the honorable member for Illawarra and the honorable member for Perth’, for’ their valuable contributions to the debate.From his point of view, the’ honorablemember for Bendigo has also said a gooddeal to assist the Committee in its deliberations. I wish to acknowledge, because I am perfectly sincere whenI say that I feel indebted to several honorable members for their speeches, the important information and arguments put forward by the honorable’ member for Flinders and the’ honorable member: for Kooyong withregard to the state of our finances. I cannot pretend not to have entertained serious doubts myself, looking over the records of past years, as to our financial position, and as to the time which we are now very closely approaphing when we shall have reached the end of our Federal financial arrangements, and have to exercise a. great deal of care and caution in dealing with questions that determine the relative financial positions of the States and the Commonwealth. Those honorable members have placed the Committee under an obligation by Having gone so carefully, and I think so impartially, into the finances in order to inform honorable members of the apparent gravity of the’ situation. There is at times too great a tendency in this House to attribute everything a man says to his party feeling. But however strongly one may feel uponcertain issues, there are questions ofa broad Federal character upon which a great many of us ought to be carefully listened to, inasmuch as the observations made about them are irrespective of party or fiscal . beliefs. The remarks made upon the financial position by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Kooyong were very valuable in that respect, for they did not seem, either by the manner or the tone of their delivery, to indicate the presence of any party bias. I wish also, in order to be fair, to acknowledge the great value of the speech of the honorable member for South Sydney. It was most notable for the honorable member’s candour about what he intended to try to do in .regard to the Tariff. Those of us who read our papers, and study current events, know that the intention has been generally credited to the Labour Party for a very long time - I am not going to say that it was not their intention - to encourage a prohibitive Tariff in order to reduce the revenue and so necessitate the imposition of a land tax. There is no doubt that, if that course had been followed, it would have carried out the intention frequently expressed by the leader of the Labour Party to “burst up,” or, as he. more mildly, but quite as effectively, puts it; “disrupt” big estates. The honorable member was perfectly candid in saying that, whatever his intention may have been, he is now pre- - pared to lend a hand to reduce the Tariff considerably. I have always felt that the two most important factors in arriving at a determination of the probable fate of the new Tariff were the opinions of the Labour Party and of the group of honorable members who sit in the Opposition corner, but whose leader I am not able to name at present. When the Labour leader told us candidly that it was their intention to cut down considerably the proposed duties upon many items affecting the expenditure of the working classes, I began to feel that at least one factor was at work in the direction of emasculating this extravagant production of the Acting Prime Minister. It is important, however, to bear in mind that, although the expectation of the attitude of the Labour Party with a view to a land tax was almost universal, yet as soon as the Tariff ‘was announced a cry went up against the high duties proposed, not only from the mercantile class but from the working classes throughout the whole Commonwealth. At -a later stage- I shall quote from ‘the Queensland Worker, the ablest and “most representative labour, journal in Australia, to show that in its opinion the Tariff as promulgated by the Acting Prime Minister would add from 3s. to 5s. a week to the cost to the working classes of the necessaries of life. We may depend upon it that the Queensland Worker is carefully read by most labour members, and ‘that article would no. doubt influence their attitude towards the Tariff. It seemed to receive an echo in New South Wales; for a special meeting of the Labour League of New South Wales was called, and a resolution, which I shall read to the Committee shortly, was carried to the effect that the Tariff was calculated to add substantially to the cost, of living of the working classes. The president of that body, Mr. Flowers, a member of the Upper House in New South Wales, and Mr. McGowen, the leader of the Labour Party in the Parliament of that State, were deputed as a special commission to come to Melbourne and represent to the leader of the Labour Party the serious effect of the Tariff upon the expenses of the working classes. The Parliament of Western Australia, representing a very large body of the working classes as well as other sections of the community of Western Australia, passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution - a most unheard-of proceeding, but, apart from the question of its constitutional propriety, a very valuable indication of public feeling in that State - denouncing the Tariff. All these forces have been coming from different directions towards this Parliament, and have no doubt had their effect, upon the views of the Labour Party. [ am happy to see - and I say it without any feeling - that instead of the Labour Party now supporting this prohibitive Tariff as a solid body, a number of its free-trade members have made it clear that the party is now as free as ever it was upon the fiscal question. We can, therefore, expect the honorable member for Perth and a number of others who sit in the Minis*terial corner to exercise their own discretion as to the Tariff.
– They always said so; they never said anything different.
– The PostmasterGeneral has not a monopoly of all the journalistic knowledge in this country. It would be more seemly if he said that he himself had never heard otherwise.
– I know they never said otherwise.
– I have heard constantly, and read . in the papers, that the intention of the Labour Party was to approve of a prohibitive Tariff, in order to lower the revenue, and thus necessitate a land tax. The honorable member for Maribyrnongmay not have heard of it, but, nevertheless, what I say is quite compatible with that fact. I have heard of the matter, and we may both be telling the truth; and, therefore, I stand practically uncontradicted. If one man makes a statement, and another man says that he does not know of it, there is no necessary contradiction.
– I said it was never the case.
– The honorable member is now arrogating to himself an omniscience with which, in my most favorable views of him, I have not credited him. Apart from this, the other factor was the attitude of what we call the Opposition Corner Party, which is made up of Victorian protectionists.
– No; Victorian new converts.
– I am bound to say it was expected that members of the Corner Party would give their votes for a very high Tariff in the interests of the industries of Victoria.
– The electors expected that.
– Hear, hear !
– The AttorneyGeneral, who says, Hear, hear, has now seen that that is not a likely result.
– I have not seen so yet.
– One of the most prominent members of the Opposition Corner Party, who has taken a leading part in the discussion, has made an intimation of the greatest value to the Committee - an intimation that goes much deeper than the Tariff. That honorable member, and I think also the honorable member for Kooyong - two of the most determined mien of that party - have shown a desire, not merely to cut down the Tariff, but to do what is a fair thing in regard to Tariff reform as a whole, that is, to endeavour to arrive at some settlement which will get rid of the fiscal question for some years to come. Of course, the Acting Prime Minister laughs at such an idea.
– I cannot help laughing.
– It is the scheme of the Acting Prime Minister’s political life to keep this question open as a raw wound. I say, unhesitatingly, . that the
Acting Prime Minister’s very political existence depends on this fiscal question being kept an open one. If honorable members were not divided on this question, would anybody expect the Acting Prime Minister, or the men around him, to be in office as representing the political wisdom of this Parliament’? The Acting Prime Minister is here as an accident of the threeparty system, and so are the men around him.
– There are four parties.
– Well, I shall say the multiplicity of parties. If it were not for the existence of three or four parties - instead of two parties, according to the principles of responsible government - neither the Acting Prime Minister nor his colleagues would be in office to-day. I say that in no ill-natured spirit; but anybody who has watched the history of this Parliament, with their eyes and their minds open, must know that the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues are the veritable accidents of our political life. It is very cheering to find an honorable member like the honorable member for Flinders telling us that the object of himself, together with the honorable member for Kooyong and others - whether they effect that object or not is another matter - is to reduce the Tariff to such an extent as to make it acceptable to all parties - to not only cut the Tariff down, but to try to get rid of this embarrassing fiscal issue for someyears to come.
– They will not get rid of the issue.
– That may be. I am sure that the Postmaster-General will be as active as the Acting Prime Minister himself in keeping the question open. ThePostmasterGeneral, if he will allow me to say so, knows no political interests, from a fiscal point of view, but the interests of his own State ; he looks at everything through the knot-hole of Victorian industries, and any complaint that may be made by the consumers of the greatest State of all. New South Wales, that they are suffering from the imposition of high duties, meets with no response or sympathy in his heart. The honorable gentleman may talk about humanitarian legislation, but his humanitarianism is limited to the confines of Victoria. I have told the honorable member over and over again that such is his point of view ; and I have made a tolerably close psychological study of him ever since this
Parliament met, in 1901, so that I could, I think, give him a mental chart which would be quite readily recognised by his friends. Another important and valuable admission was made by the honorable member for South Sydney as to the nature of the new protection. I am bound to say that I think we are very much indebted to that honorable member for the very candid way in which he answered the questions and interjections made during his exposition of that theory. Whether the theory be practicable or not, I shall endeavour to show at another time ; but the contribution of the honorable member under this head was most valuable, because it shows that the ultimate object of the honorable member and his party is to tack on to the duties, however low these may be, a provision which will enable part of the duties to be shared by the working classes whom he represents. I shall have some observations to make hereafter in regard” to the practical possibility of this new protection, and, therefore, I shall not go into detail now. I desire to show that I have not come here to merely advocate my own views, but to acknowledge the light thrown on the question by other honorable members. The right honorable member for Swan made an admission, from his own point of view, which is a veritable search-light on Federal history. The fisht honorable member has been in office five years out of nearly seven, and, although that fact has been the subject of much persiflage, he nevertheless made the admission, which is important, that during the whole life of this Federal Parliament there has. never been one Government in power with a working majority so as to be independent in its executive and legislative action.
– The honorable member stopped in office all the same !
– The admission of the right honorable member for Swan is very important ; and everybody who has watched the progress of events will recognise its truth. When the public have a clear admission from one of our most prominent members, that during the whole of the seven years of Federation there has never been a Government in power with a sufficient majority to enjoy or exercise independence, either in legislative or in executive work, it is, as I say, a searchlight on Federal history; and it leads to some rather important deductions which account for much in the past. The right honorable member also made another admission which I think ought to be emphasized for the information of honorable members. The Acting PrimeMinister who, true to his diplomatic nature, always has a smile for everybody, pursues methods of his own ; and I think he ought to be reminded of the omission made by his late colleague, the right honorable member for Swan. The right honorable member told us that notwithstanding that he attended the Premiers’ Conference, and endeavoured to make an arrangement as to some substituted method of dividing the Customs revenue after the Braddon section has ceased to operate, the whole of that arrangement was broken up by the Acting Prime Minister. The right honorable member further said - and this ought to give great weight to his revelation - that the scheme which he submitted to the Premiers of the different States had been submitted to the. Cabinet of. which he and the present Acting Prime Minister were members ; and that it had been indorsed by the present Prime Minister, the latter having actually written a letter approving of the arrangement, and of its being placed before the Premiers. But the moment the back of the right honorable member for Swan was turned - although it is a fundamental constitutional principle that whatever a member of a Government may say in his Ministerial capacity is the voice of the Ministry itself - the Acting Prime Minister practically repudiated the arrangement, and he has told us, in the course of the debate, that he regards is as. “ impracticable.”
– I am sure it is.
– The honorable gentleman is sure of everything.
– The honorable and learned’ member for Flinders supported my view of the matter.
– That does not touch the principle with which I am dealing. The Acting Prime Minister is always some yards behind the point one has reached in a discussion. What I wish to emphasize is that it is one of the most settled constitutional principles that a Government is in the position of a. firm, any one of whose partners or members can commit it to a matter of policy by an authoritative expression of opinion. The right honorable member for Swan, who at the time was Acting Prime Minister, in his desire that some arrangement of a permanent character should be made with the States to avert possible difficulty or conflict with them as we approach the end of the term during which the Braddon section will operate, attended the Conference of Premiers at Brisbane, and made a proposal for the return of a fixed and definite sum annually “to the States by the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman did that with the authority of his Cabinet and with the specific authority in writing of the Acting Prime Minister as a member of ‘that Cabinet.
– What nonsense the honorable member is talking !
– He did it also I repeat with the authority ofthe actual Prime Minister.
– The honorable member should not talk such rubbish.
– The right honorable member for Swan will certainly repeat it. He said the whole question had been discussed in Cabinet, and agreed to.
– I never knew it to be discussed there.
– I can appeal to any member of the Committee to say whether that was not the statement made by the right honorable member for Swan. The right honorable gentleman further said that he had a letter from the Prime Minister confirming his proposal. But the moment the Prime Minister’s back was turned, and the right honorable member for Swan left the Government, the Acting Prime Minister, in his confident manner, denounced the proposal as impracticable.
– I said it was not possible to do what was proposed, nor is it.
– The occurrence throws a very interesting light on what I may refer to as the sense of constitutional propriety of the honorable gentleman who is now acting as Prime Minister. Then the right honorable member for Swan told us something further, which throws additional light on the delicate political and constitutional sense of the honorable gentleman who occupies the position of acting leader of this House. He said that he had refused to make provision in the Estimates for certain increments to public servants until the matter had been discussed by Parliament, because, according to his opinion, the question involved was one on which this House had a right to express an opinion.
– That is not what he said at all.
– Having left the Estimates behind him the ex-Treasurer found that the moment he retired from the Cabinet the honorable gentleman who is Acting Prime. Minister, not only put a sum on the Estimates to cover those increments, but actually paid them.
– Did not the right honorable member for Swan say that he had paid some of them?
– I admit that the right honorable gentleman said that he had paid the smaller increments.
– And other Treasurers had done so before him. Sir George Turner paid them for four years.
– He said there was a principle involved between those which he paid and those which he refused to pay ; but, instead of recognising the . necessity for a continuity of policy in the Department, the Acting Prime Minister not only provided for the increments on the Estimates, but actually paid them.
– Sir George Turner also paid them.
– If the Acting Prime Minister will allow me, I must say that his interjection does not touch my argument. What I arm saying now is that the honorable gentleman simply ignored the action of his immediate predecessor, and that is certainly not a recognised practice of Governments.
– In precisely the same way as the right honorable member for Swan ignored the action of his predecessor, Sir George Turner.
– No, I do not think so.
– The right honorable member for Swan told the honorable member so.
– I think not.
– I am sure of it.
– I think that all these speeches to which I have referred have been of very great value. The speech delivered by the acting leader of the Opposition was also a very valuable speech. I hope that honorable members of the Labour Party will reflect uponthat portion of it in which the honorable member dealt with the effect of the measures adopted in New Zealand for the purpose of what is called “disrupting” the large estates. I think that byhis speech the honorable member for Parramatta was successful in pricking a bubble ; becausehe showed that, although the policy which has been so strongly recommended is in force in New Zealand, it has not had the effect now anticipated for it. It has resulted in New Zealand only in a reduction of the size of the estates sufficient to bring them within the provisions of the law’, while they have still been left too large to give effect to the desire of the men who introduced the reform referred to. I pass away from that, because I wish to say something as to my own fiscal position. We have had_some expressions of opinion which I think” have led to a little confusion as to the attitude of the men who gave utterance to them. The leader of the Opposition has taken up an attitude on this fiscal question with which I am bound to say I do not sympathize. Of course, on a great question of this kind, each of us is entitled to think and to say. just what he deems proper. We have reached a stage at which it is quite impossible to hope for an absolutely free-trade Tariff in this country at present, and possibly for many years to come.
– The honorable gentleman would appear to be even more cock-sure now than he was before dinner. I am not dealing with what the honorable gentleman thinks, but with what the leader of the Opposition said. The right honorable gentleman practically admitted that the constitution of this House can be taken as a reflex of the opinion of the Australian people on the fiscal question. He has said that protection and preference have spoken during the last election, and that this Parliament has a mandate from the Australian people to give them as much protection as they thinkproper. I differ entirely from that view, and for this reason. The right honorable member for East Sydney has frequently said before that he would make and had made the issue of the election Socialism versus antiSocialism, and certainly no one did more than the honorable gentleman in that direction. He told the people everywhere that the fiscal question had been put on one side, and that the real question before the electors was “Are you a Socialist or an anti-Socialist?” One of the consequences of making that question the issue of the election was that in New South Wales, which is the largest of the States, it was distinctly arranged that anti-Socialists should not demur to supporting protectionist candidates so long as they were anti-Socialists. Even some free-traders were opposed by the free-trade partv in New South Wales, because we knew that they were Socialists. The result in the case of New South Wales at least - and I am sure that in the other States the same thing prevailed - was that many honorable members were returned quite irrespective of their fiscal beliefs. “ They were returned upon the issue of Socialism and anti-Socialism. I say, therefore, that this House returned on that issue cannot be taken to represent the feelings of the people on another issue altogether. I am not so sanguine as to believe that when once a country has been committed to protection for any length of time it is easy, even if possible, to bring it back to free-trade, because the operation of a policy of protection creates protectionists. I can refer to typical instances in New South Wales. Three or fourimporters in that State who were strong free-traders, finding their business as importers so checked that it was impossible for them to confine it to importing, deliberately established small industries for the manufacture locally of some goods which they had previously imported. Those men are to-day, if I may say so, rabid protectionists.
– Hear, hear.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister mean to approve my statement as a fact, or does he mean to express approval of what those people have done? What they have done they have done for self-interest. By conviction they are free-traders, but for political and business reasons they are now protectionists. Will honorable members contend for a moment that because their personal interests are one thing and their intellectual convictions another, those men have changed their views from those of free-traders to those of protectionists, when they know that they are advocates of protection merely because they find it best suits their pocket, which is with them a vital consideration? Protection converts importers into manufacturers, and thus makes more protectionists. Every man, woman, boy, or girl who finds that his or her living depends on the maintenance of a particular industry naturally follows that particular fiscal cult which supports the enterprise from which he or she derives subsistence. Therefore, I’ do not expect that for perhaps many years to come there will be any close approach to free- trade . But that does not affect my convictions. It is one thing to say what I believe to be right under certain conditions, and another thing to say what I believe to be practicable. An honorable member cannot say, “ Adam Smith is my Bible, and I insist on nothing short of free-trade ‘ ‘ ; but a practical politician may say, “ I regard free-trade as the ideal of commercial freedom, and part of the great body of freedom for which all Liberals fight. I cannot get all that I want, but I am willing to take the best that I can get.” We began Federation with the prospect of an Australian Tariff against the world. Free-traders l ike myself naturally said, “Although, we are living in a free-trade Colony, we so value freedom of trade between the Colonies that we are willing to risk some protection against the outside world in order to abolish the miserable fiscal barriers which now interfere with the free commercial dealings of the people of Australia. _ If we do this, we shall have gone some distance towards the achievement of our ideals.” No less a person than the Prime Minister, when addressing the Imperial Conference in London, said that if it would entertain the idea of Imperial free-trade, we in Australia would consider it. I do not think that it would be considered by protectionists generally. But the statement showed that, just as I and other free-traders were willing to take our chance of a Federal Tariff against the outside world in order to secure Inter-State free-trade, so there are protectionists as well as free-traders who are content to risk a Tariff against the outside world to obtain free-trade between all parts of the Empire, and thus gain the economic advantage of having every conceivable human need supplied within the King’s dominions. The honorable member for Flinders, in answer to, I think, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, told the Committee that he has changed his fiscal views. That was has way of stating the position. My idea is that the honorable gentleman, though a free-trader at heart, recognises that to Victoria, at all events, protection is, at the present time, a necessity, and he is, therefore, prepared to accept the inevitable in regard to the Tariff. So, too, am I when I have done my best t’o make the duties as low as possible. It is not that I believe in tariffs; because I regard the perfection of liberalism to be absolute freedom of commerce-
An Honorable Member. - We want revenue, not protection.
– I agree with the honorable member. To obtain’ revenue, even free-traders impose duties on such goods as stimulants and silks, which cannot be made in the country, so that the duties may not act protectively, and rear up hot-house industries at the expense of the public. A great many persons suppose, because they cannot get absolute free-trade, that every free-trader in Parliament has practically foresworn his opinions. I’ pin my faith as much to-day as before I entered Parliament, to the doctrines which Adam Smith pioneered. But I recognise the practical difficulties of the case, as, I take it, the honorable member for Flinders does. A quotation was made from a Hansard report of what he had said in the Victorian Parliament; but it must not be_ forgotten that his position as a member of that Parliament was entirely different from his position here. He was at that time a member of a Legislature controlling the affairs of one State only, in which protection had been established for over 30 years ; to-day he is a member of a Legislature in which six States are represented, the largest of which, before entering the Union, was notoriously free-trade.
– It is not so now.
– I shall not stop to argue with the honorable member on his assertion, though I have my own opinion on the subject, and believe that, apart from the conversions which have been made through people’s pockets, New South Wales is to-day as great an advocate for freedom of trade as it was prior to Federation. When Federation was- mooted, the great problem was how . to find the revenue which would be needed for Federal expenditure. We all remember the difficulties over which Conferences and Conventions laboured in their endeavour to solve that problem. The late Mr. James Service, one of the ablest politicians we ever had in Australia, spoke of it as the “ lion in the path.” He did not see how it was going to be solved. It was solved by the very simple proposition of the late Sir Edward Braddon. I have heard the provision which he caused to be inserted in the Constitution referred to as the Braddon “blot”; but every constitutional student knows that but for that blot the States would not have federated. None of them, especially not the smaller States, would have dreamt of giving up their Customs revenue without being guaranteed the return of a large portion to meet ordinary Executive needs. As a compromise tending towards a settlement of the question, the Braddon provision was limited to ten years. Therefore, when the States federated, it was upon the condition that the revenue collected from duties of Customs and Excise should be distributed by the return of three-fourths to the States, leaving onefourth to meet the needs of the Commonwealth Administration. We knew that for some years the States would be largely dependent on their share ; and the ten years for which the Braddon section had force was regarded as a period during which each and all could look round and think out some new adjustment of “ the finances. We all came into this Parliament pledged to recognise the duty of imposing such a Tariff as would produce sufficient revenue to return to the States as much as would meet their needs. In the first instance, it was thought that a Tariff yielding £6,000,000 a year would give a sufficiently large return. But the needs of both the States and the Commonwealth have grown, and in the seventh year cf Federation we are approaching the time’ when the Commonwealth will require the whole of its one-fourth of the Customs revenue, and must determine whence it shall get more revenue if more should be needed. I am sure that no thoughtful member of the Committee can fail at times to feel anxious for the future when he hears from certain honorable members a programme which involves an expenditure of many millions sterling. Rightly or wrongly - my own opinion is that it is wrongly, as I shall . endeavour to show in a few moments - we are told by the Labour
Party, who have dominated this Parliament since 1901, that we must not borrow any money. If we must not raise a loan what are we to do? We are getting near the end of our fourth of the Customs and
Excise revenue, and we have put before us a programme including the taking over of the Northern Territory, the construction of a transcontinental railway to Western Australia, the payment of £500,000 on bounties, the establishment of the Federal Capital, and a variety of other expenditures with which we are all familiar. One naturally asks oneself the question, “Where is the money to come from?” That is a conundrum to which there is no solution, unless it is further taxation, reduced expenditure, or the taking over of a larger part of the Customs and Excise revenue by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is supporting my statement.
– The honorable gentleman must not be hasty ; I ami not advocating it.
– What is the honorable member doing then?
– If the honorable gentleman would carefully listen to my speech, he would know what I am doing. I am putting the position hypothetically, because I want to show, as the honorable member for Flinders did, its gravity. It simply means that if we take no more of the revenue, and continue the scheme of expenditure which the Acting Prime Minister is prepared to enter upon, with a youthful indifference to where the morley is to come from - on. the Micawber principle of “ Thank God that is paid,” long before it is paid ; - if we enter upon a phase of that sort, we shall land ourselves in very great difficulty. Therefore, one has been obliged to consider one’s free-trade principles here, and how the revenue is to be raised. Whilst maintaining one’s fiscal convictions one has to recognise in the circumstances that we are forced to impose a certain amount of taxation, which, however, free-traders hold can best be raised by low duties. After the speeches of the honorable members for South Sydney, Flinders, and Kooyong, it must be quite evident to the Committee that the Tariff will be cut down considerably.
– Does the honorable member really think so?
– I ‘do not think that its own parent, the Acting Prime Minister, will recognise the Tariff when that process is finished.
– We shall see about that.
– When he is on his own dunghill at Wagga Wagga, the honorable gentleman may boast as much as he likes of what he is going to do. It is simply a case of the rooster on the hill-top flapping his wings.
– That is not a very classical illustration.
– It is not, but it is a very suitable one. The honorable member will see that I adapt my illustrations to my subjects. The Acting Prime Minister may flap his wings at Wagga Wagga, but we shall clip them here.
– No. The honorable member has not done that yet, and he never will.
-This is a very free country - for boasting, and no extra charge is made for doing it; but I venture to say that bv the end of the year, if the honorable gentleman should deliver another address at Wagga Wagga, he may flap his wings as much as he likes, but I think that his constituents will see that his boasting has been premature.
– The honorable member has only got his own vote, he cannot depend on any other.
– The honorable member boasts of what he can do in his constituency.
Sir - William Lyne.- It is what the honorable member cannot do.
– I can generally surpass the honorable member’s majority. I do what I think right, and my constituents are liberal enough to allow me to do so, because they defer .to my better judgment. But the honorable member is on an entirely different footing. He goes to his constituents, finds out what they want, and promises it to them. His convictions are usually an algebraical x, whilst mine remain, and. my constituents pay me the compliment of considering that in most cases I have opportunities for knowing better than they.
– What a thing for the honorable member to say of his constituents ! He must have a funny lot of constituents.
– I am prepared to reiterate what I have said.
– For goodness sake do not.
– It is fine outside, and the honorable member can take a walk if he does not like what I have to say.
– No, I am quite satisfied to listen to the honorable member.
– I want to say again what I have said here more than once. I do not think that we ought to forget that the whole of our troubles over the Tariff have resulted from a great breach of faith at the very beginning of Federation. There are new members of the House who perhaps have not had reason to make themselves as familiar with the early stages of Federal history as have I and others who have been here since the opening, and who took an active part in bringing about its establishment. We all know that Australia looked to its first Prime Minister to solve the great fiscal problem. What was the position at that time? Here was Victoria, hav ing enjoyed protection for thirty-five years, with a substantial Tariff in force, and there was . New South Wales with what was popularly known as a freetrade Tariff - a Tariff certainly the freest in the world, freer than that of Great Britain - and the question for any man who seriously considered the circumstances of Australia, was to ascertain h’ow the difficulty of establishing a Tariff which would do justice to both States should be solved. I pay Sir Edmund Barton, then Mr. Barton - now a member of the Bench of the High Court - the compliment of saying that his conception of how it should be done was very sound, but, unfortunately, precept is one thing and practice is another. When he went to Maitland, he told the people of Australia who were listening anxiously for the solution, how he intended to solve the difficulty. He proposed to do justice to everybody, to establish a Tariff which would give “ revenue without destruction.” He found it necessary to tell the people that he did not propose to destroy the industries of Victoria, but he implied in that remark that he intended to give some consideration to the greatest State of all, so far as population was concerned - New South Wales, from which he came. In the Town Hall of Melbourne, he said, “ Victoria cannot have her Tariff, and New South Wales cannot have her Tariff “ ; he made it clear that there must be a compromise between the two. His intentions were good, but he got into bad political company. He had taken, into his Government the honorable gentleman who is now Acting Prime Minister. Can honorable members imagine that honorable gentleman trying to do a fair thing between two States on the fiscal question? Mr. Barton took into his Government also Sir George Turner, Mr. Alfred Deakin, and Mr. Kingston.
– Good men.
– All good for a certain purpose - as I shall show. Mr. Barton took those gentlemen into his Government. What did they do? Whilst one of his colleagues, now Mr. Justice O’Connor, was deprecating in New South Wales the raising of the fiscal issue as a thing which had nothing to do with the election, because we were simply aiming at fair treatment of all the States; whilst “lie was deprecating the fiscal question being dragged into the election we found Sir
George Turner, Mr. Alfred Deakin, and Mr. Kingston advocating high protective duties in their own States.
– The Acting Prime Minister said that we should have a Tariff with from 10 to 15 per cent, duties.
– I remember that he did.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable gentleman must not be taxed too closely with what he said sui years ago, because the principle on which he represents Hume involves many and frequent changes. Six years is too long a time to be forced to hold the same opinion when a man represents a constituency on the principle he adopts’. Whilst Mr. Barton, both in New South Wales and in Melbourne, was advocating a fair compromise between the Tariffs of New South Wales and Victoria, and whilst Mr. O’Connor, who was afterwards a member of the Government, was deprecating the raising of the fiscal issue at all in New South Wales, the three gentlemen I have named were telling the people of Victoria and South Australia that a Tariff as high as that of Victoria was necessary, or - and here we have the old story again - the industries of this country would be ruined. We free-traders, who were actually supporting the candidature of Mr. O’Connor, together with that of five out-and-out free-traders for the Senate, began to see which way the land lay ; we began to see that, although Mr. Barton might be disposed to do what was spoken of as “ the fair thing “ between New South Wales and Victoria, his colleagues were determined to drag him into extreme protection. We recognised immediately that we should have to sit in opposition, but not necessarily to oppose the Government, provided it carried out the policy and observed the statements and undertakings of its chief. We soon discovered that the Government had no such intention; for whereas Mr. Barton started with fine precepts, he ended with the most melancholy practice. He gave himself up entirely to these gentlemen as well as to the honorable member for Hume, now Acting Prime Minister, who told the people of New’ South Wales that a 10 to 15 per cent. Tariff would be a fair one.
– I have just said that that statement is not correct.
– I saw it again and again in reports of the honorable member’s speeches, just as I saw reported in the press his swashbuckling attitude when at Wagga Wagga, two or three days ago. I read the newspapers, and I keep these extracts as curiosities. It is quite natural that the honorable member should forget that he made such a statement.
– I did not make it, and the assertion is repeated regardless of the truth.
– It is said that we undergo intellectual changes, and that if one tells an untruth often enough, one comes to believe it. And so, when a man tells the truth about a certain matter, but changes ‘his views in regard to it after a lapse of many years, it is perfectly natural that he should forget that he had told the truth. I can afford to put aside the honorable member, and not allow him to disturb the course of my argument. We came down here, and what did we find? There was submitted to the House a Tariff which, instead of being a compromise between the people of New South Wales and those of Victoria, averaged, according- to my own showing, 6 per cent, above the old Victorian Tariff. We, as a party, had to fight for twelve months to reduce that Tariff. In that work we were assisted, among others of the Labour Party, by the honorable member for Grey. We fought for twelve months to bring down the Tariff to the level at which the leader of the Government had undertaken that it should be launched. Mr. Barton was then in the hands of these honorable members to such an extent that he had not a will of his own, and could not do all that he wished. Then, again, he was beguiled by the three gentlemen I have named, and influenced slightly by the present Acting Prime Minister. I wish the Committee to remember that this has left a dangerously, sore place in the feelings of the people of New South Wales. It is not a matter for merriment, that more than 1,250,000 of the people of Australia should yet harbor a feeling of resentment in regard to that deliberate breaking ‘ of a promise as to the nature of the Tariff which should be imposed upon them. Honorable members will recollect that the people of New South Wales already had to bear a land tax and an income tax, and’ that, in order to justify those imposts,, duties’ had been removed. I have just had put into my hands - and it is very- useful - an extract from a report of a speech made by the Acting Prime Minister, and published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22nd January, 1901. The honorable member for Hume then said -
An ideal policy of protection was out of question. The Tariff would have to ‘be a moderate one, from 10 to 15 per cent.
– I did not say that at all.
– I shall read it again, in order to show how the Sydney Morning Herald reported the honorable member.
– We shall read speeches made by some honorable members of the Opposition.
– Some honorable members opposite seem to think that if anything unpleasant in regard to them is read to the Committee they can extricate themselves from an awkward position by reading something unpleasant about their opponents. I make- the Minister of Trade and Customs a present of anything he can read concerning me, and shall accept his criticism in a much better spirit than that in which the Acting Prime Minister is accepting mine.
– I am smiling.
– It is a painful smile. This is what the Sydney Morning Herald, properly or improperly, attributed to the honorable member -
– The report reads -
An ideal policy of protection was out of question. The Tariff would have to be a moderate one, from 10 to 15 per cent., in order to raise the £8,000,000 revenue. The Ministry held office in trust for the present; and consequently were supported by the strongest free-traders.
That is what the honorable member anticipated. But when he came into the House he was a party to such an extravagant Tariff that he found the whole of the freetraders in opposition, whilst he was on the Government bench. The honorable member had never been in a Ministry in which he could, had he possessed it, exercise independence of thought upon that question.
– I denied the statement at the time.
– 1 know that the honorable member denies it, but that does not prove it to be incorrect. I have quoted from a report in a reputable newspaper.
– A free-trade newspaper.
– And the same statement was repeated at two or three other meetings.
– It was reported two or three times, but I denied it.
– The impartiality of this free-trade journal is fairly well shown by the fact that it gave the Acting Prime Minister a three-column report of his speech at Wagga last Saturday. That does not suggest bias or prejudice against him on the part of the Sydney Morning H Herald
– The material was so good.
– Both reports appeared in the same newspaper. If this Committee were sitting as .a- jury,’ and had to give a verdict as to which of the two contentions was correct, I should be perfectly satisfied as to what its decision would be.
– They would give a verdict against th2 honorable member if he were advocating his case in the way that he is now doing.
– This is history - and it touches all of us - which has a very important bearing upon the harmonious working of the States. I am sure” that no one can view the present attitude of the States towards the Commonwealth without feeling some concern. There is, of course, the happygolucky attitude, which, I hope, few honorable members take up, of snapping one’s fingers metaphorically speaking, at the States, and saying “ We do not care.” But every observant person will agree with me that there are to-day many indications of growing discontent and a dangerous attitude on the part of the States towards the Commonwealth. It behoves every one of us to look very closely into the position in order to see what we should do or not do further, because, as long as we have this condition of unrest touching the conditions of the “people we certainly shall not, as a body politic, progress as we might otherwise do. The secret of commercial success lies in the - certainty of what is ahead. If we are to have Tariff changes every five, six, or seven years, it follows that every, business man - I care not whether he be a merchant prince or a coffeestall-keeper - must be left in uncertainty. If .we are going to have the- Tariff .changed in this way from time to ‘time without, in some cases, rhyme or reason- and I snail show in a moment that there is no reason for the present change - then the progress of this country will be very seriously retarded. But quite apart from our commercial progress there are indications that we are approaching a very dangerous time. There is more than we see in the action of the Premier of New South Wales in seizing upon a few beggarly rolls of wire. There is nothing in the wire itself, but it is an indication of the spirit which exists in that State; and, although I seriously deprecate a person in the high position of the’ Premier of the largest State of Australia resorting to physical - I might even call them primeval - methods of seizing property from other people, instead of appealing to the tribunals which exist for the purpose of settling disputes, there is very little doubt in my mind, from what I can see in the New South Wales newspapers, that hundreds of thousands of people thoroughly indorse the extravagant action of the Premier, because of the trend of public feeling in that State towards the Commonwealth. It is a very serious thing.
– It is deplorable that it should be so.
– It is truly deplorable. It is an example to other people of less importance. When the highest political personage in a great country like that takes steps of this sort to obtain possessionof certain property, instead of resorting to the Courts of law it is reprehensible and an example of the worst kind to other classes, who may be much less ready to observe the. law than he is. We are very apt to lose sight of the fact, because we are a different legislative body, that we represent the same people as do the Premiers of the States. Those very people in whom this feeling of antagonism is being created are all of them our own constituents. Twenty-seven members of this House represent the very people in New South Wales who have these feelings of antagonism against the Commonwealth. The similar feelings existing in Western Australia and Tasmania are the feelings of the very people who are represented in this House. They are not merely the feelings of. the people of the States, because the people of the States and our constituents are identical in sympathy and in interest.
– The feeling of antagonism in Tasmania is very small.
– It is a small country, but the feeling is, I think, very intense.
– Nonsense !
– The Acting Prime Minister dismisses the matter in a sort of “ Let there be light ‘ ‘ manner. The honorable gentleman would dismiss anything. I will put him out of the question if he will permit me. But I say that it is a very serious thing that such feelings should exist.
– I was referring to
– If I can judge from what the Premier of Tasmania has said at the different Conferences and in interviews with him that have been published, there is a very strong feeling of antagonism in Tasmania towards the Commonwealth, particularly with regard to its financial action.
– Does the honorable member think that it is justified?
– That is another question. In political matters it is not always whether a feeling is justified that we have to consider, but whether it exists. The honorable member knows that some of the biggest struggles that have taken place in the world have arisen over very small things. They have begun in a very small way. Reprisals have been taken,, and very soon conflicts have ensued, having social and political consequences over which it was impossible to exercise any control. It is very much like a devastating bush fire that may result froma discarded match.
– Begun by ridiculous people like the Premier of New South Wales?
– The honorable member may say so if he likes, but if people are sometimes ridiculous - even if, as Carlyle said, theyare “ mostly fools” - you have, nevertheless, to reckon with them. It is of no use to say that this affair is of no importance. It is a very remarkable thing that a very large portion of the population of New South Wales actually indorsed so reprehensible an act because of their indignation with the Commonwealth’ on account of other things.
-I do not think that afifth part of the people of Sydney indorse ‘ that action.
– How does the honorable member know that the New South Wales people indorse it?
– I have already said that I am expressing my own opinion. I am not laying down a law of theMedes and Persians. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is no doubt going to make a speech on his own account. We shall then be able to have his opinion about it. I am. expressing mine. From reading the newspapers of New South Wales, I have come to the conclusion that a large number of the people of that State indorse the action of the Premier.
– The New South Wales newspapers have not indorsed it.
– I did not say that they had indorsed it, but hundreds of the people of New South Wales are thoroughly approving of what the Premier has done.
– I do not think that they are. I think that the honorable member is maligning them.
– I have been repeating what a ‘ number of people - men who respect and understand our civilization - say about it. They say that it was a very good protest against the action of the Commonwealth. A very large number of people express that opinion. I do not hesitate to assert that. There are many indications just now I think of a very strong feeling.
– What sort of people are they?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh asks what sort of people they are. That is riot the point. If it is essential that a body of people should work together in harmony, and if, instead of that, you see that there is antagonism amongst them it does not matter whether the feeling is wise or not. If there are such feelings of antagonism, it is the duty of everybody who has at heart the welfare of the community to try to stop those angry feelings, to do something to prevent them. It is our duty to find out how they have arisen ; ‘and when we find that they have arisen in consequence of injustices alleged or real, we should endeavour to get rid of the imagination in the one case, and of the injustice in the other. I would ask the honorable member to listen to what seems to me to be the causes of these feelings, not on the part of the New South Wales people only, but on the part of those of the other States also, towards the Commonwealth. The fencing wire is a very small matter, but it shows at all events that the highest political officer in the State can afford to do what could ordinarily be done only in a primitive community. . His action has not been generally condemned. It has not been generally condemned in the New South Wales newspapers.
– Yes, in both the morning newspapers of Sydney.
– They have said something about it, just as I have done.
– They have condemned it thoroughly.
– At all events, they are printing numerous letters of approval of the action of the Premier as a good political move to draw attention to the action of the Commonwealth.
– That is it - a good political move !
– The honorable member admits it now, does he?
– Those expressions of opinion show the feeling that ex- ists
– The honorable member admits that it was a political move !
– I did not say that it actually! was a political move.
– The honorable member, told us that the newspapers said so.
– I did not even say that the newspapers said so, but that many, approved of it on that ground.
– That was a little slip of the honorable member’s !
– If it were not for the feeling of antagonism which exists towards the Commonwealth, the action of the Premier would have been denounced - properly denounced - from one end of New South Wales to the other.
– So it is.
– The newspapers., have deprecated the action, but ha.ve supported the Premier solidly.
– So would every right-thinking man in the community deprecate it. But to-day you have that sort of man saying that it was a good political move, because it draws the attention of people to the position of New South Walesin relation to the Commonwealth. Mr. Hutchison. - It takes the mindsof the people off the land scandals.
– The honorablemember thinks that I am talking about hisparty. I can assure him that I have nowish to accentuate this matter.
– These New SouthWales Ministers never go to New South Wales, and know nothing about the feeling there.
– It is a great mistake to suppose that one has any personal feeling in this affair. I am not speaking of the Minister of Trade and Customs. There seems to be a sort of electricity in the air which induces some honorable members almost to impute to me party motives in making this statement. I am deprecating the position, because, as one of the politicians who took an active part in bringing about Federation, I am grieved .to think that what we expected would result in a veritable political partnership, looks as if it were in danger of ending in disruption. We hear secession talked of on every hand. It has been advocated in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh suggests, this may be the result of action on the part of very foolish people, but at least it indicates a desire at the present time-
– Surely we ought not to regard it as serious by discussing it in this House 1
– I do not know whether the honorable member is speaking in irony.
– Indeed, I am not.
– I think it is a very serious thing that the whole of the States should be in their present’ condition of mind. I do not know whether or not the honorable member for Flinders thinks it is unwise to discuss the matter in this Chamber. To my mind, this is the place where it ought to be debated. If some honorable members do not point out that the position is a very serious one—
– From the point of view’ of madmen let loose.
– Of course, we ought to avoid every possible cause of friction and annoyance.
– Throughout the States there is a serious feeling of antagonism to the Federation. If discussion of the matter be avoided here, I do not know where it will be debated. We can on l, prevent an increase of this antagonism by recognising its existence, and by openly discussing it. What is the condition of the finances of the States? Have not all the States been crying out about the way in which they have been treated ?
– They have been treated too well so far as money is concerned.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest foi these State differences ?
– A simple change of parties.
-Rather a change in conduct. I do not care what party is in power. But when we recollect that all the Premiers of the States deliberately met the Treasurer of the Commonwealth in Conference, and arrived at an arrangement with him in substitution of the Braddon section of the Constitution, and when we remember that that arrangement has been thrown on one side by the Acting Prime Minister, who has declared it to be ridiculous and impracticable, I ask whether his action is not offensive to the States?
– The proposal to continue the Braddon section is -not possible.
– The arrangement arrived at did not contemplate that.
– It did.
– The right honorable member for Swan proposed that a fixed sum should be returned to the States based upon a certain calculation as to the revenue collected by the Commonwealth. The Acting Prime Minister has talked of the scheme as an impracticable one, notwithstanding that, at the present moment, he does not know what the scheme is.
– But some of the States Premiers insist upon the Braddon section being continued.
– I am not talking about what some of them, insist upon, but about what the ex-Treasurer proposed. After asking the Premiers of the various States to meet the Treasurer of the Commonwealth in solemn conclave, and after making an arrangement which provided for the return of a fixed sum to the States in substitution of the Braddon section, is there no offence in the Acting Prime Minister snapping his fingers at the whole agreement in the very teeth of the Prime Minister ?
– I did not do anything of the kind, and the honorable member is not fair or just to me.
– The right honorable member for Swan has told us what was the exact position.
– What did the honorable member for Flinders say about the proposal?
– What has that to do with it ?
– We should like to know if the Government have any proposal in respect of this question?
– I said that it was impossible to continue the Braddon blot.
– Order. I have repeatedly called honorable members to order for interjecting, and I am afraid that members upon the Ministerial bench are the greatest offenders in this respect. In any case these conversations across the Chamber must have the effect of preventing any honorable member from making his speech in an intelligible way, and therefore I must ask honorable members to cease their interruptions.
– All that I did, sir, was to correct a misstatement which was being made by the honorable member for Parkes, and I have a right to do that.
– Has the honorable member a right to interrupt the speech of the honorable member for Parkes ?
– The honorable member has a right to make a personal explanation if he desires to do so and the honorable member for Parkes does not object.
– But I do object. I desire to know whether the Acting Prime Minister has a right to say that my statement is a misstatement?
– The Acting Prime Minister has no right to say that a statement by the honorable member is a misstatement. If he did so describe a statement by the honorable member he must withdraw the remark. But the Acting Prime Minister has a perfect right to make any. explanation that he chooses after the honorable member for Parkes has completed his remarks.
– Do I understand, sir, that I am at liberty to make an: explanation now?
– No. The Acting Prime Minister will have an opportunity to do so whenthe honorable member for Parkes has concluded his speech.
– I am not going to wait for a week.
– The Acting Prime Minister must withdraw his remark” that the statement of the honorable member for Parkes was a misstatement.
– If the remark is unparliamentary, I am quite willing to withdraw it, but at the same time I wish to say- -
– The Acting Prime Minister must withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I have done so.
– Order. The Acting Prime Minister having withdrawn the remark must resume his seat.
– I wish to say that I have never made the statement which the. honorable member for Parkes has attributed to me.
– The right honorable member for Swan has told the Committee that when he filled the office of Treasurer in the present Government he made an arrangement with the States under which the Commonwealth was to guarantee to them the return of a fixed sum annually, in lieu of the continuation of the Braddon section. That arrangement was to come into operation after the Braddon section had expired. The proposal of the exTreasurer was to return to the States a fixed sum in order to compensate them upon a definite basis for the loss of revenue they will sustain consequent upon the expiration of the Braddon section.
– I have never said what the honorable member has attributed to me.
– I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will not further interrupt.
– I hope that the honorable member will adhere to the truth.
– I must ask the Acting Prime Minister to withdraw that remark.
– The honorable member has attributed to me a statement which I have never made, and am I to sit here and allow his statement to pass without comment?
– I understood the honorable member for Parkes to refer to a statement made by the right honorable member for Swan. I did not understand him to refer to the Acting Prime Minister.
– His remark was based upon a statement made in regard to myself.
– The honorable member for Parkes was quite in order in taking the course which he adopted. If the Acting Prime Minister does not think that the remarks of the honorable member are justified he will have an opportunity to make an explanation when the honorable member has concluded his remarks.
– We all have our ideas as to the qualities which should be possessed by an Acting Prime Minister, and I will make no comment in that connexion. But I repeat that the right honorable member for Swan told the Committee that he himself had made an arrangement with the Premiers of the States, under which the latter were to be guaranteed the return of a fixed sum annually after .the expiration of the Braddon section of the Constitution.
– He had no power to do that.
– He told us that that arrangement had been thoroughly indorsed by the present Prime Minister. Very naturally, therefore, the States thought that it would be likely to receive the sanction of this Parliament. Whether that be so or not, the fact remains that it was put before a Conference of Premiers assembled for the purpose of discussing it. But the moment the right honorable member for Swan vacated the office of Treasurer the arrangement was repudiated by the Acting Prime Minister. The latter has declared in this House that he would do the same tiling again, because the agreement arrived at is an “ impracticable “ one. That is the data upon which I am about to found an observation. Is it unlikely or unnatural that the leading politicians of the States should come to the conclusion that they are being played with ? The honorable member for Swan, as Acting Prime Minister, called the Premiers of the States together, to a Conference, and made an arrangement with them, subject, of course, to the approval of Parliament. But then the States found that, although the Prime Minister himself approved of the arrangement in writing, somebody who stepped into his place for a little term of power turned round, and on his own responsibility said, “ I ignore that act of the Acting Prime Minister, although it is confirmed by the Prime Minister.” That in itself is not calculated to soothe the feelings of the States. It is treating them as children, and they naturally ask, “ Who does represent the Common wealth? We have a Prime Minister who is ill. We had one Acting- Prime Minister while he was away in England, and now we have another. Whilst the actual Prime Minister approves of what the first Acting Prime Minister did, the second Acting Prime Minister steps in and says that it is impracticable.” That is a pretty state of things for the States to have to deal with. They are very likely to say, “ God only knows who is governing this country, and managing its Executive affairs.” Yet we are told that the States’ must not be angry, but must take that sort of treatment from the Commonwealth coolly.
– They are very solid grievances.
– I am not speaking of them as solid grievances. I am only putting these as what the French call pin-pricks. There are such a lot of them that at last they stir up some strong feeling.
– If the Premiers of the States did not accept the arrangement, where is the grievance?
– The .grievance is. that they came .together in order to have a proposal made to them by the Acting Prime Minister. After that proposal was made to them and entertained by them, bearing, as it did, the indorsement of the actual Prime Minister, the then Acting Prime Minister. . went away and the second Acting Prime Minister - I admit that this sounds rather like a conundrum - snaps his fingers at it, characterizes it as impracticable, and refuses to take notice of it.
– It would be a grievance if the States had accepted the arrangement.
– To have the fingers snapped at a proposal which they came together to consider does constitute a grievance to them, for it leaves them in great doubt as to the actual position of affairs.
– Have not the Government a grievance against the States Premiers for not accepting the- arrangement ?
– My desire is to get rid of grievances on all sides. Any man who understands his position as a Federal politician will regard it as one of the obligations of every thoughtful mm in - both State, and - Federal Parliaments to try to make things work smoothly between the States and the Commonwealth. The. greatest war that ever took place in the United States of America was the consequence of a long-gathering quarrel, and we do not want even a suggestion of anything of that sort to arise here even on a small scale. We have to remember that the people of the States are the people of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, we are dealing with identical interests. Seeing that we in this -Parliament represent the whole of Australia, we ought to’ do. our best to smooth away these difficulties and prevent their recurrence, even if they are individually only pin-pricks.
– They smite us on one cheek, and the honorable member wants them to smite us on the other.
– They are trying to smite it now, but we shall be showing a little magnanimity if we try to soothe them without any reprisals. Another matter that has displeased New South Wales, apart from any other State, is the treatment of the Capital Site question, with which I do not think we have dealt fairly.
– I have no prejudice about that matter.
– I am not blaming anybody ; I am not even blaming this Parliament. But it is perfectly natural that a great State like New South Wales, having the largest population, should feel a little hurt that, although this Parlia ment has been in existence for seven years, no step has been taken towards establishing the Federal Capital.
– That is not so. We have passed the Bill.
– I do not want to go into the constitutional aspect of the choice, but this House had no power to choose a Capital Site until the Federal Territory had first been placed at its disposal. That is the ordinary reading of the Constitution.
– I think it is very doubtful.
– As a matter of fact, was not that territory placed at our disposal?
– No, never.
– It was, emphatically.
– The honorable member may entertain his own opinion. I cannot change it.
– The honorable member knows that what I say is true.
– I know nothing of the kind.
– Then the honorable member knows nothing about it.
– The honorable member may say that if he chooses, but I shall not allow him to impute motives to me by saying that I know that what he says is true. Some of the ablest members of the Bar in New South Wales have given the opinion thatit is absolutely essential that the Parliament of New South Wales should first place the territory at the disposal of the Federal Parliament before the Federal Parliament can choose the Capital
Site. The honorable member has evidently not read the Constitution.
– The site was submitted by the New South Wales Government.
– Legal opinion in all the States is that the Capital Site has never been properly chosen. If it has been, it is quite open to the Commonwealth Parliament to put a stake into the ground. Why is that not done?
– The honorable member’s own leader’said we should stick to our decision.
– What any leader said, has nothing to do with the legal position that I am putting. If the Commonwealth Parliament has really done all that is required, it can to-morrow take charge of the Capital Site. It has been dared over and over again to put a stake into the ground. To do so would raise the whole question for the decision of the High Court.
– If that were done, the honorable member would tell us that it was the cause of more offence to New South Wales.
– The honorable member is going from one question to another. If the Federal Parliament has really taken legal possession of the land, as asserted by the honorable member, who is not a legal member, and speaks much more confidently than legal members will on legal questions, how is it that the CommonwealthExecutive has never touched the ground? It cannot do so. It can physically, but the moment it does so it becomes a trespasser, and then the whole question is raised for the High Court to settle. If the honorable member asks the Prime Minister, or any other member of the Cabinet, why they do not put the pegs in the so-called chosen site, they will tell him confidentially why they do not do it. If the site was chosen three years ago, why are not some steps taken to give authority to the choice?
– Simply because some honorable members are opposed to that site and wish to get another chosen.
– I shall not stop to deal with the explanation which the honorable member so readily offers. Either no Capital Site has been chosen at al’ or the one which was chosen is not touched by the Government, although the choice was made three years ago. The people of New South Wales’ feel that they are being fooled over the matter. Rightly or wrongly, it is a grievance, because every one will admit that New South Wales is entitled to have the Capital within her boundaries. If the site has been chosen, let the Government do something- to test their right, and then let us see what the High Court says about it. Perhaps then the honorable member for Grey will come to the conclusion that he does not know as much law as he thinks he does. Why has Melbourne been retained as the Seat of Government ? Why is the site not chosen, or the one which has been chosen not taken? We know very well the attitude of the press of this State on the subject. The Melbourne Age said that it was quite true the Constitution provided for the selection of a Capital Site, but that the Constitution did not say “ when ‘ ‘ the site had to be selected. The newspaper went on to say, “ We, of Victoria, ought to adopt the attitude of Shylock, and say, You can have your pound of flesh, but no blood.’ “ That is the miserable, paltry, contemptible attitude assumed by the Melbourne Age.
– It is a very dishonest attitude.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. The Melbourne Argus, as everybody knows, supported four candidates for the Senate, who deliberately advocated, in the very fore-front of their programme, an indefinite postponement of the choice of the Capital Site. The Argus not only supported those four candidates, but mentioned that advocacy as one of their merits.
– But none of the four candidates were returned.
– I really do not know what the names of the candidates were, not even the nature of their politics - neither fact touches the question. New South Wales is alive to what is going on ; and it is very natural that the people of that State should feel aggrieved. The Western Australian Parliament has taken a step which points to the widespread dissatisfaction there is in regard to the Tariff. Did any one ever hear before of a .Parliament passing, by an overwhelming majority, a condemnation of a Tariff which the Commonwealth Parliament had the power to pass? Whichever State we go to we find evidence of dissatisfaction. Whether the people be right or wrong, foolish or wise, they are our constituents, and we ought to try to prevent them entering into conflicts, whether of mere words or suggestive of a more substantial and serious character. It is part of our duty to remove causes of dispute and grievances. We ought to remember that originally we were promised a Tariff in the nature of a compromise between the fiscal arrangements of the greatest State and the next greatest State of the Commonwealth. From 1902 until the other day, we had a Tariff which was only reduced to its working proportions after a year’s fighting, and that Tariff was, as introduced, 6 per cent, above the previous Tariff of Victoria. Whether we are freetraders or protectionists, we ought not to allow our fiscal bias to prevent us doing justice. There are 1,250,000 people in New South Wales, the bulk of whom we must remember have strong free-trade proclivities, and when the first Federal Tariff was passed they were enjoying greater fiscal freedom than any other country in the world. That is a fact which ought to be taken into consideration. I should like to say another word, in more detail, about the Tariff Commission. When that Commission was appointed by the then Prime Minister, who was the .right honorable member for East Sydney, he was asked whether the consumer would be considered, and he replied, “Yes, certainly.” Thus it was part of the duty of the Commission to consider the consumer ; but I submit that there is a tendency on the part of Parliament, especially on the protectionist side, to forget the consumer. I do not say this with any party feeling, because freetraders, I admit, regard the fiscal question largely from the consumer’s point of view. It is the consumer whom we have first to consider, and next there is the manufacturer. It is unfortunate that, although many manufacturers and producers gave evidence in support of their claim for more protection, the consumer was not at all represented, except in the minds of the Commissioners. No representative men who might . be said to reflect the feelings of the general public, came forward to lay their views before the Commission. We free-traders, of course, look on protection as a form of subsidy which is given by the general public in order to start an industry, and, naturally, we feel that the man who has to pay the subsidy ought to be considered in regard to the amount to be paid. The consumer has not been sufficiently considered; and, therefore, I say to the protectionists in the House - if there is any use in saying it - that when we are considering the propriety of particular duties, we should take into serious consideration the effect of the duties on the ordinary householder. Let us, by way of illustration, take the very homely domestic article of condensed milk. This milk, I suppose, enters into the economy of almost every working man’s home, and, indeed, every other home, as child’s food, or as a substitute for ordinary milk. We find that there are eight manufacturers of condensed milk within the Commonwealth. The duty under the last Tariff was1d.per lb., and it is a fact that the whole of the present manufacturers have declared that they require no higher duty. Letters to that effect have been sent by the manufacturers broadcast, and have reached the Government ; and yet it is proposed that there shall be a further extra duty of1½d. per lb.
– Why is that?
– That is what I want to know.
– It is because they do not want any more competition.
– The manufacturers say that under the old duty they were making a profit equal to the duty, and I am sure the honorable member for Macquarie cannot suspect the manufacturers of having any particular motive in not desiring any higher duty.
– There is nothing to prevent them importing, is there?
– Does the honorable member mean to say, on his own authority, that those manufacturing firms import ?
– I did not say so. I say there is nothing to prevent them importing.
– But I am looking for a practical motive for their declining any higher duty. Why should people be burdened with a duty of1½d. on condensed milk - an article which is used in every household - when the manufacturers do not ask for a higher duty?
– The duty need not entail a higher price.
– I hope the honorable member will -not make those economic reflections. Condensed milk is a very good illustration of the absurd way in which the Tariff hasbeen framed. The consumer has been forgotten ; it is the man in constant touch with the Minister or his officers who can get what he asks, while the consumer may figuratively speaking “go hang.” The consumer is everybody, and, therefore, it is nobody’s particular business to represent him; and this is a matter which ought to be taken into serious consideration by honorable members. We were told that there were many ruined industries in Victoria; and we all remember the story told to the Tariff Commission by the representatives of the Denton Hat Mills.
– Where are those hat mills?
– In Victoria.
– That, of course, is enough to condemn the duty.
– It is not enough, though there is a good deal to condemn. I should like to let honorable members know what this “ miserable, declining” industry is doing. They should find the information somewhat interesting. I have here a copy of the company’s report, which appeared in the Investors’ Review of Victoria, which shows that whilst the face value of the company’s shares is £1, their present market price is 38s. I find also that this Company, which we have been invited to believe has been suffering so seriously, paid a dividend of 10 per cent, in 1904, in 1905, in 1906, and again in 1907. This year, in addition to the 10 per cent, dividend, the Company put away £500 towards an insurance reserve, and still had a balance of , £1,013ofun- divided profits. Honorable members will see that this declining industry really made enough profit to pay a 15 per cent, dividend, and yet, naturally, it wants more, and it will go on wanting more till further orders.
– The honorable member does not mean to say that the Company could have paid 15 per cent, over the whole four years?
– No, the Company paid a 10 per cent, dividend for each year mentioned, but put away enough this year to represent another 5 per cent. Last year the Company put away £829 in the shape of undivided profits, in additionto £3,000 paid in dividends. They put no money to an insurance fund that year, but they did set aside £100 for another purpose. I should be justified in saying that last year the Company might have paid a dividend of 13 per cent, or 14 per cent., and this year they made enough to pay a dividend of 15 per cent. If the interests of those engaged in manufacturing industries are to be kept in view in accordance with the principles adopted by the Commonwealth, it may be that some protective duty is necessary, but should we make our protective wall so high as to enable this Company - because the duty is a factor in enabling them to make their profits - to make the public pay so much for their head-gear that by manufacturing the article locally they can pay a dividend of 10 per cent., and put away additional profit equal to another 5 per cent., and nearly double the value of their shares?
– I think the Company’s shares have been at the present price for the last five years.
– That only shows how prosperous they have been during that time. If the honorable member for Yarra knows anything of the share market, he must know that £1 shares do not go up to 38s. for nothing.
– Sometimes they do.
– Possibly Mie honorable member, for Wide Bay has been in some little mining investments. At all events the man who gives 38s. for a £1 share thinks that there is some substantial reason for the rise. The hat-making industry does not exhibit sudden rises and falls, and no parallel can be drawn between that industry and the gold-mining industry. I give this as another illustration to show that the public are being made to pay this larger sum because it is supposed that this particular industry is suffering a very great decline in its prospects. I wish to say that I think we are making a very great error in Australia in connexion with our industries. If we are to consider the welfare of the race, the conditions under which our people labour, and the advantage of humanitarian legislation, we should try to induce our people to follow those occupations which are most healthful. That will be admitted as a general proposition. It will also be admitted that there is no comparison between the healthgiving character of rural life, and that of life in a great manufacturing city. The people of Great Britain followed pastoral and agricultural pursuits as long as they could. It is only in the later history of that country, when pastoral and agricultural pursuits failed to maintain’ the great population that had arisen, that they resorted to manufacturing pursuits.
– The peasantry were cleared out in some cases in order to make deer forests
– I wish to say that the development of manufactures is a part of the later history of Great Britain, and was resorted to by the English people as a matter of necessity. If one visits such towns as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, or Nottingham, he will notice that the people are anaemic and unhealthy as compared with, those who are to be seen in the rural districts. No one doubts for a moment that this is due to the life which people have to lead in the great manufacturing cities. No matter how carefully they -may be provided for by regulations insisting upon smoke consumption and proper ventilation, they cannot expect anything like the health-giving conditions of the rural districts. Yet in a young country like this, where we have millions of acres which can be cultivated, we are doing our best to offer inducements to people to come into the towns, instead of trying to see what we might do to induce them to lead the more healthful country life.
– Are they given much inducement to go on the land?
– I am not at present saying whether they are or not. We are doing all we can artificially to aid manufacturers .to offer employment to people which will draw them from the country into the city. The higher the wages offered to people to engage in city industries, the greater will be the temptation held out to them to leave the land.
– That is a good argument for a stiff progressive land tax.
– I am merely laving down a general proposition/ The Labour Party devote their attention to the conditions” of the working people, and they profess to regard the health, careful living, and prosperity of the working classes as an element in their policy. i am in entire sympathy with them in that. If even as ah individualist I am shown something which is inimical to the interests of the people” and infringes their right to healthy occupation, I shall be one of the first to lend a hand to prevent such a thing. A broad -consideration attaching to our protectionist policy is that to-day, instead of lending ourselves to schemes for putting people on the land - and I am not now saying how that can best be done - we are offering artificial inducements to manufacturers in order that, in their’ turn, they may offer monetary inducements to people to come into the cities instead of remaining’ in country’ districts. The policy is one which we ought to carefully watch. We ought to do all that we can, and should leave nothing undone to enable our people to lead the healthiest possible ‘life. 1 have heard explanations of what is going on. When I made an observation to this effect the other night I heard some one say that the large estates should be burst up to enable the people to go upon the land. I join issue on this point. I do not believe that the land is as fully utilized as it might be, but when we hear it said, as we often do, that there have been 800 or 900 applicants for one piece of land, no one who knows anything of .land ballots will take such a statement as an index of the number of people honestly wanting land. It has been the practice in some cases, and certainly in New South Wales, at certain times, to put up land at upset prices very much less than the land is worth in the market. As a consequence, hundreds of people living in the towns send their money to an agent at the place where the land ballot is to be held, and he makes a regular business of putting in applications on their ‘ behalf , and if any of them are successful at the ballot, he sells the land for them.
– That is a very small matter.
– It~ is, but it leads many people who have never investigated the question to say that when 800 or 900 people are balloting for one piece of land there must be a very great demand for land.
– It is bad~ enough to have two or three balloting for the same piece of land.
– I have seen it stated that 800 people have balloted for the same piece of land.
– Why should they gamble for it at all?
– To ask why they should be men would be just as relevant. The honorable member has peI haps a little more experience of the land than other people, but he ought to remember that we are all trying to learn something of what he knows. I say that the fact of 800 or 900 people having balloted for a piece of land in this way is not an indication that they all desire to settle on that land.
– Applicants for land have to undergo an examination in South Australia.
– That is perhaps under a better law, but the fact does not touch my argument.
– There have been 1,150 applicants for 200 lots in South Australia.
– There is an answer to the honorable member for Macquarie^ doubt.
– And they all had to give evidence before a Land Board that each desired the land for himself.
– I am not now arguing as to what ought to be done, but 1 am referring to one of the causes of misunderstanding on the part of certain people who imagine that these rushes of applicants for a particular piece of land afford an indication that they all desire to settle on the land. A large part of them have no intention to take up land, merely wishing to get it at upset prices in order to resell at a profit. I admit, of course, that there are hundreds of others who are desirous of settling in the country. But it is one of our misfortunes in Australia that our people have been taught to look upon land as worth only £1 an acre, and, when they want land, they expect to get it at that price. There are many land-holders possessed of large estates who would be willing to cut up and sell their properties at their actual market value. I know of many cases in which land-holders would sell their estates for the actual earnings over a number of years capitalized, but as* that would make the cost £2, £3, or £4 an acre, there are no buyers. Prospective settlers expect to get at least 640 acres, and cannot afford to buy so large an area at such prices. But land-holders cannot be expected to give away their land, nor should Parliament take it from them except at its market value.
– We do not wish to do so.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. But the leader of the Labour Party is reported in both the Sydney morning newspapers to have advocated a tax upon land increasing up to is. in the j£i on its capital value.
– He has in this Chamber denied the accuracy of that report.
– To avoid offence, I shall put the case, hypothetically and say that, if such a proposal were advocated, it would be equivalent to a proposal for confiscation. What is meant by “ disrupting,” by “ bursting up “ the large estates ? .
– These are expressions equivalent to “ dividing.”
– The land is to be “ disrupted ‘ ‘ irrespective of the volition of the person who holds it. _ A tax equivalent to 5 per cent, on the capital value of land would destroy its profit-earning capacity, and if a tax were imposed with that object, so that the owner might be forced to part with his property to other persons, a gross breach of contract would be committed by the State. The State, in selling land and taking money for it, enters into a bargain guaranteeing peaceable possession and quiet enjoyment to the purchasers. If afterwards they are forced to sell for less than the market value of the land, the forced sale amounts to confiscation.
– That - is a differentthing from a tax which destroys only inflated or unfair values.
– When a tax is so heavy that it makes land valueless to its holder, its imposition amounts to confiscation. If our people, instead of wanting land at j£i an acre, or at less than its market value, and in large holdings, were prepared to buy small holdings at market values, thousands of settlers could be scattered over Australia. In the United States men will be found making a living near big cities like Philadelphia on, perhaps, an acre of land, growing strawberries, or asparagus, or’ similar crops for the local market; while thousands do well on holdings of ten acres. In this country it is thought that no settler should have less than 640 acres, of which often only twenty or thirty acres are cleared, the rest remaining a wilderness for years, while the holder struggles on with a great debt round his neck. If persons were content with smaller areas, and thoroughly worked their land, we could settle a very large number in the country, and thus find openings for many who are now seeking work in protected industries. Our people must be satisfied with smaller areas, and must cultivate their land more completely than they do at present, before we can satisfactorily settle our territory. If the public could be induced to pay market values for land, and to take up areas within the limits of ‘ their capital, instead of clamouring for large holdings at small prices, the land question would be largely solved without the need for legislation. Three days ago Professor Macmillan Brown gave a lecture in Sydney touching this subject of town and country. He is ‘ a very thoughtful man, and his remarks ought to be of- great interest. He said -
Labor, if wise, when it holds the reins of power, will not forget this natural truth, that it is out of, the rural districts a nation must reinvigorate itself, and that the zone of cultivable, land is comparatively narrow in Australia. True statesmen should do everything in their power to extend this zone and ‘to push small settlement and intensive culture as far as irrigation, afforestation, and other means will carry them ; and, in order to check the hugeness and wastage of cities, should encourage the spread of cottage industries and the transference of even the larger industries to the country. The concentrated industries and factory life of our age are surely not the goal of human development, else that goal is Hades. For out of it comes an irresponsible plutocracy that dies of luxury at one end, as it breeds at the other an enfeebled, impoverished people, that gradually dwindles. True statesmen will see that the rewards of settlement in the country, and of intelligence, wisdom, and invention in the ranks of urban labour are not lessened, but increased.
– .What is he professor of?
– I do not know. I can only tell the honorable member- that Professor Macmillan Brown has been employed by the Sydney University to deliver a series of lectures in New South Wales.
– That is the best portion pf his lecture, too.
– I am very glad that I have taken what the honorable member approves. I propose to say a few words about the Tariff proposals. There are a number of general considerations which I think ought to operate. I believe we shall find that a great many of the duties have been imposed without much thought. Take an instance which came under my notice a few days ago. An importer of coachbuilding material told me - and I think that his statement is correct - that prior- to the new Tariff there was a duty of 60 per cent, on the material required for coachbuilding, especially wheels. He said that under the new Tariff there is a specific duty which is equivalent to 180 per cent, in addition to the old duty of 60 per cent., but that since the duty has been imposed a fresh rule has been issued to the effect that in future a set of wheels shall be two instead of four. That increased the new duty to 360 per cent, on top of the old duty of 60 per cent., making a total duty, of 420 per cent.
– Why did they not go one step further and make each leg of a pair of trousers dutiable?
– They might have done that. A good deal has been said” about the effect ‘ that the duties will have on the working classes. Let me quote from the columns of no less a newspaper than the Worker, of Queensland, and other sources, what their opinion is. The resolution of the New South Wales Labour League reads as follows -
That Mr. McGowen, leader of the New South Wales State Labour party, and Mr. Flowers, president of the League, be appointed to visit Melbourne, and place before the Federal Labour party the views of the Political Labour League of New South Wales respecting the urgency of endeavouring to readjust the Tariff proposals, in order that the proposed taxation introduced by Sir W. J. Lyne may not press unduly heavily upon the working people of this State.
The Queensland Worker says -
It is the workers, who have nothing to sell but their labour, who will bear the brunt of. this new taxation, and find it hardest to pass it on. Taking, all the factors into consideration, and not merely one of them, the estimate of from three to five shillings a week as the price of the tariff to workingclass families, is not too high.
It has since published a leading article confirming that view, in answer to some criticism which was offered on the calculation. The Herald, which is the labour newspaper of South Australia, has also published its view.
M4 Frazer.! - The honorable member reads these journals extensively. ,
– I do, because I find that they are full of information. 1 always know what the honorable member’s party is doing, because the information gets into these newspapers.
– We never do anything that we are ashamed of.
– Never; and that is why I read the newspapers. If I thought that they would print anything of which the honorable member would be ashamed, I should be afraid to read the newspapers, for I have great respect for his standards of propriety. In its leading article of the 17th August, the South Australian, Herald is not very complimentary to the Ministry. Still I shall read what it says -
It is early yet to deal effectively with the new tariff, for at present it merely represents the suggestions of a rapidly decaying Ministry. . . . .
So far as the preferential proposals are concerned they may be at once referred to as but a pretence ; but perhaps all that should be expected from a man like Mr. Deakin, whose whole political, life has been one of lamentable indecision.
These extracts, coming from the labour journals of two large States, Queensland and South Australia, added to the reso- lution passed in the Western Australian Parliament^ may, I think, be regarded as good evidence that a very large proportion of the people of those three States regard the Tariff as unduly trespassing upon the fair earnings of the working’ classes.
– Does the honorable member think that it is fair to quote these Socialist newspapers against us?
– They are not against, the Labour Party, I hope, but in their favour.
– They are against the Government.
– I want to show what the honorable member and his party think. I do not propose to discuss the question of the conversion of the States debts at great length, but I remind the Committee that about four years ago I characterized the movement as being entirely inopportune. I take it that the object is to avail ourselves of a lower rate of interest under the Commonwealth. After reading Mr. Coghlan’s despatch to the Federal Government, in which he deals with the question of the conversion, and speaks of it as being entirely ill-timed just now, one must realize certain facts. When we federated, in 1900, under the Constitution, and the Parliament met in 1 90 1, a New South Wales debenture for £100 bearing interest at 3 per cent, was worth £99, and Canadian 3 per cent, stock was worth £99 too. From 1901 the New South Wales 3 per cent, stock, which I believe is the best priced stock of that kind in Australia, has gradually gone down pound by pound until at the present time it is worth only £86, sometimes realizing £87. Meanwhile the value of Canadian 3 per cent, stock has remained at £99- In the course of his paper, which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie read, and evidently attached some importance to, Mr. Coghlan says that, whether we like it or not, we, as national borrowers, are dependent upon the London money market. He does not suggest that we ought to borrow. He says that there have been exaggerated statements made, and that it is unfair that our stock should have been so affected; but certain it ‘ is, he adds, that our stock is affected, not by the want of prospects in ‘ the country, but by our legislation.
– Was it not by Mr. Carruthers’ threat of a revolution?
– This is not a threat at all. Mr. Coghlan is a civil servant of considerable standing, whose name ranks high amongst statisticians, and who is on the spot. It is idle for honorable members to make fun of his statements, because they do not like them. _
– I do not think that the honorable member, caught -my remark.
– I am endeavouring to seriously consider this quest-ion, and I hope that the honorable member will do so. It is all very well for him to treat it flippantly, but the fact remains that it is a very serious matter.
– If the honorable member will pardon me, I am laughing, not at Mr. Coghlan, but at him.
– The honorable member may laugh after I have completed my speech. I am quoting Mr. Coghlan, who says that whilst New South Wales stock, which, in 1900 was at ,£99, has fallen to £86, Canadian stock remains at £99- If what he says be true - and I put this case hypothetically, because honorable members seem to think that when T put a principle I am advocating it - if it be true that New South Wales stock in the London money market has been prejudicially affected by our legislation, we must pause for a moment to consider what that means to us. In the next ten years, we shall have to redeem loans < amounting to ^80,000,006! and if Mr. Coghlan’s statement be correct, we shall ha.ve to float ^80,000,000 at £86 in order to pay off ^80,000,000 at par. In other words, we shall have to make good the difference between ‘ ^80,000,000 at £86 and ^80,000,000 at £100
– -What is the remedy ? To allow the bond-holders to legislate for us ?
– We have to remove the cause of the trouble. If our stocky remained at £86, we should suffer a loss of something like ^18,000,000 in converting our stock when the due dates arrived.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that; Australian stocks went up whilst the. Watson Government was in power? ‘
– I dp- not know that they did.
– They; did.
– Perhaps it was due to a.’ feeling of relief, on the part. “ofl the people when no intimation of drastic ‘ legislation on the part of the Labour Go- .vernment was given. The honorable member knows very well that that Government were very quiet.
– They had to be.
– The honorable member is giving away his case.
– I am not. “Mr. B”RUCE SMITH.- If the honorable member will pardon me, he has done so. . When he says, “ They had to be,” he ad- ‘mits that the Labour Government would have introduced drastic legislation if they . could have done so with any prospect of success.
– We had not the numbers.
– It came as a shock to people in the old world when the ‘ Labour Party, on entering office, did not announce any revolutionary schemes. I. have no doubt that the hearts of our bondholders were cheered to some extent, and that they said, “ These are not such revolutionary people as they were represented to be.”
– And they are not.
– The honorable, member was not at the time a member of this House. Had he been, he would have - been very much struck by the extremely modest character of .the proposals which that Government submitted.
– The shock to the country was due to the fact that the Labour Party had been- misrepresented.
– When the honorable member says that they had not the numbers, he implies that the intention tointroduce drastic legislation was present, but that the ability was not. The world was astonished when they did not do what was expected of them, and this probably gave rise to a greater feeling of security. ‘
– .’When the Reid-McLean Government, came into power stocks went ‘ down. ‘ …
– In my humble’ opinion, it is ‘ useless to attempt to convert . States stock into Commonwealth stock until., we have shown that there is likely to be a> difference in the’ value of the two’, securities. The honorable member will recollect”’ that when Federation was being advocated, no less an authority than Mr. Nash, the financial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, estimated- and there was no feeling’ in the matter - that the conversions of States stock into Federal stock would’- lead to an increased price representing an annual gain of from £500,000 to £1,000,000.
– Who is to say that he was not right?
– The honorable member will recognise that if, as Mr. Coghlan states, Commonwealth legislation has led to a reduction in the price of New South Wales stock from £99 to £86, we should not do much good by attempting to convert States stock. The opportunity has gone. When, by floating a loan for some purpose or other, we have shown that a Commonwealth debenture will command a better price than will a State stock, it may be advantageous for the States to hand over their stocks to us in order that we may borrow to pay them off. We might have taken this step at the outset, and we may have a suitable opportunity on some futureoccasion. I think, however, that the present is an inopportune time for advocating such a proposal.
– The honorable member will recognise that, in any event, . the people of Australia will have to pay. Does he think that, in the present state of the London money market, a State would be able to borrow more advantageously than could the Commonwealth?
– No. If New South Wales stock had remained at £99, we should have been able to borrow at £99 in order to pay it off in full. Let me take as an illustration theposition in regard to one debenture of £100, which, in 1900, was worth £99. If that price remained unchanged, when we had to pay off that debenture, we should be able to borrow another £100 at £99 to pay it off, and we should thus lose £1 on the transaction. If, on the other hand, we could only obtain £86 for our new bond of £100, we should lose £14.
– These stocks, in any event, must be paid off. Could New South Wales borrow more advantageously than the Commonwealth?
– It is not a matter of who has to find the money; it is simply a question of finding it. My point is that the present time is not opportune for redeeming these loans.
– The question’ is whether the Commonwealth could. borrow more advantageously than the States.
– I cannot say, since we have not attempted to borrow. I am quite satisfied, however, that if Mr.
Coghlan be right in saying that Commonwealth legislation has caused New South Wales stock to fall from £99 to £86, we could not borrow more advantageously than could the States. We know very well that people at Home do not take into consideration the divisions between one State and another. They have regard to Australia as a whole, and do not take the trouble to distinguish between the States. “Australia” is the word they use. The question that we have to consider is, how can we borrow more money to pay off these debentures at par?
– Does the honorable member seriously say that a financier does not take the trouble to find out whether he is dealing with a Commonwealth or a State asset ?
– At present we have no Commonwealth stock.
– Does not the honorable member think that a financier would take such a point into consideration?
– He might distinguish to aslight extent between the stocks of the different States, and, as a matter of fact, there is a difference of 10s. or £1 between the prices of some of the Australian stocks-. I have taken that which was at the top of the list when Federation was established. Had I taken the. stocks of other States, I should have shown that they had fallen from a lower rate to a still lower rate. My only object is to show the difficulty we should have in endeavouring to raise money to pay off our debentures at par.
– The honorable member would not hand over our legislation to the bond holders.
– I am not proposing to do so.
– That, practically, is what the honorable member is suggesting.
– I am not advocating anything; I am simply pointing out that the present time is inopportune to attempt these conversions.
– Does the honorable member say that we should have to pay £100 for debentures selling at . £86 ?
– No. That is the price at which they are selling on the market to-day.
– Could we not buy them ourselves at £86?
– The whole operation would not be carried out in one act. We should have to pay off the old stock by floating new loans.
– But the procedure I suggest would be possible.
– Those debentures all terminate, and it is when they terminate that we have to buy, or issue new stock.
– If they are at £86 now why cannot the State buy them up?
– The State has something else to do with its money, I suppose. Now, I have a word or two to say about the transferred properties. I do not approve of the way in which they have been treated. Five years ago I advocated that the money paid over by the Commonwealth to the States above the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue that was due to them should not be paid unconditionally, but that it should be arranged with the States that those payments should be on account of the transferred properties. We were under no obligation to pay this money to the States if we had a means of spending it, and we might well have said that as one of our obligations was to purchase from the States properties for carrying on our postal and defence functions we would do so by means of the surplus which was paid over to them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should have paid the States for the properties out of the money which we have paid to them out of Customs and Excise revenue?
– -Those properties are the assets upon which part of the national debt of the States was incurred, and unless we were prepared to take over the portion of their national debt which was raised upon the security of their assets, we had no right to take the assets from them. It has been the practice in New South Wales, and in the other States also, I think, that all works of permanent value which were in the nature of lasting assets, which could, if necessary, be sold in the market as properties, should be paid for out of loan money. As they were paid for out of loan money and we took over ^£9, 000,000 or ,£10,000,000 worth of them, it was an obligation on us to take over debt to the amount of ^9,000,000 or £10,000,000. It was not fair to creditors of the States to relieve them of their properties without relieving them of the debt. By adopting the course which I have suggested, we should have paid over about £8,000,000 out of the £9 000,000 or £10,000,000 borrowed by the States on account of the properties we have taken over.
– And then the States would have borrowed again on the same assets.
– They might have done so, but, of course, the State borrows on its general reputation, and there is no ear-marking of particular’ properties for particular debts. It borrows on the general security of its public buildings, railways, and other works.
– The States would have squandered the money in the meantime.
– I had intended to deal with some other matters, but my speech has been prolonged, largely owing to interjections, and I shall therefore reserve those points until I have an opportunity of speaking on specific items of the Tariff. We shall have full latitude on each particular item. I desire now to. thank the Committee for the attention and patience with which they have listened to me.
– It has been said that the quotation which the honorable member made regarding 3 per cent, stock concerns stock which was about to mature at the time Federation took place.
– I can assure the honorable member that no distinction is shown. The quotation only refers to New South Wales 3 per cent, stock at ,£86.
– And that stock has many years to run before it matures.
– Some of it.
– Much of it.
– The honorable member contended that as each State had borrowed independently of other States, the consequence was that great quantities of loan money became due on the same date.
– Needless to say, I do not indorse the allegiance to Adam Smith which the honorable member for Parkes has signified. The honorable member has again given evidence of his affection for precedent and longestablished custom, from which, apparently, he does not desire to depart. I am here to represent’ the protectionists of the Macquarie electorate.
– Yes, because they accepted the protection which I enunciated as a candidate of the Labour Party. The honorable member for South Sydney has formulated what is termed the “ new protection.” I did not subscribe to the old protection; because I considered that simply to build a high Tariff wall, and by doing so to license the power of money to exploit the poor of the country, is a mischievous proceeding. I do not want to see any industries built up in Australia at the expense of the bone and sinew of our race, undermining its stamina in the process. I quite agree with the honorable member for Parkes in his denunciation of that aspect of industrialism. But are we to forego the right to develop this country and its natural resources, and to produce for ourselves whatever may be useful and necessary in times of peace, or for purposes of
Avar, and to fulfil all the requirements of modern civilization? Are we to be bound by the policies of older nations, or are we to carve out for ourselves a new course, and to develop the industrial possibilities of our country on right lines? We can hedge about this- “ new protection “ in an effective way so as not only to protect the industries concerned, but also the consumers and the wage-earners. Surely we can devise some plan which will secure the end which we have in view. As I understand that Ministers are willing to adjourn, I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
– This is the night upon which we usually adjourn at an early hour, and presently I shall be quite agreeable to move that progress be reported. Before doing so, however, I desire to take this opportunity-
Mr. -Joseph Cook. - Upon a point of order, do I understand that the Acting Prime Minister intends to make a speech?
– I am at liberty to speak as often as I choose in Committee.
– I understood that the honorable member for Macquarie asked for an adjournment of the debate, and that the Acting Prime Minister is about to move that progress be reported. “ In doing so, he is quite in order.
– Surely it is not contended that any honorable member may move that progress be reported?
– The honorable member for Macquarie has resumed his seat upon the understanding that he will be permitted to continue his remarks tomorrow, and I desire to know if the Acting Prime Minister will be in order in making a speech in the interim?
– I must point out that the course we have always followed has been for an honorable member to suggest that the debate be adjourned. A private member has no power to move that I report progress. That motion is usually submitted by the Minister who is in charge of the Bill immediately under consideration. But the honorable member who suggests the adjournment of the debate is naturally called upon to resume it on the following day. There is no rule which provides that he should be so called upon, but as a matter of courtesy that practice is adopted.
– Do I understand that the honorable member for Robertson wishes to deny the honorable member for Macquarie the right “ to resume his remarks tomorrow ?
– My point is that if the Acting Prime Minister now moves that progress be reported, honorable members ought to be at liberty to speak to the motion.
– Under the new Standing Orders no honorable member is at liberty to discuss that motion.
– I merely wish to make a personal explanation. I desire to do so, because I was precluded from explaining my position while the honorable member for Parkes was speaking. He based almost the whole of his remarks upon a statement which he alleged I had made in regard to the Braddon section of the Constitution. I said that I. was referring to the proposal to extend the Braddon section. I have just looked up what I actually did say, as it is reported in Hansard. I find that I said that “ two months ago another Conference was held in Brisbane,” when the . following, proposals were agreed to by the Premiers -
It was upon those resolutions that I made my statement. I referred to all the Premiers’ Conferences which have taken place, and I said -
Of .course, those provisions would not be binding on Parliament; they were adopted subject to ratification by Parliament. With regard to the other ‘question - the continuation, of the operation of the Braddon section - it appears very evident, from the figures I have quoted this. evening, that such an arrangement, however desirable to the States, will be quite impossible in view of public expenditure which must be carried out by the Commonwealth. I have been called suddenly t.o take the position I now occupy, and have had so little opportunity of considering this question that I feel that some time must ‘elapse before my views are thoroughly matured.
I wish to say that those remarks were made entirely upon the question of the proposal to extend the Braddon section of the Constitution, which would mean a continuance of the obligation oh the part of the. Commonwealth _to return to the States threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. I have never said, one word which would indicate that I proposed to leave the States without .some provision under which their Treasurers would know exactly what they were doing.
. -I do riot know whether the Acting Prime Minister thinks he has bettered his position by the explanation which he has just made. He has read to the Committee three alternative proposals-
– Three proposals, one on top of the other.
– Of course; they could not all be side by side, arm in arm. They are stated as three alternative propositions.
– That is not so. ‘
– Is the Acting Prime Minister going to make another speech ?
– No ; but . the honorable member should be accurate In his statements.
– Three alternative proposals appear to have been agreed* to at the Premiers’ Conference in Brisbanewith the full knowledge and consent of the Prime Minister, who gave his written approval. When the right honorable member for Swan told the Committee what hehad done in this connexion, the Acting Prime Minister, from his place in theChamber, declared that the scheme was animpracticable one.
– I say so now.
– I am quite aware of that. The Acting Prime Minister has repudiated the negotiations of theexTreasurer with the States Premiers.
– That is not the point which the honorable member was making.
– He has rep.u:diated the negotiations entered into by the ex-Treasurer with the States - negotiationswhich were entered into with the consent of ‘the Prime Minister.
– The. honorablemember said’ that I had repudiated our obligation to the States by not agreeing to extend the Braddon section .of the Constitution.
– I said nothingof the kind. What I said was, that trieright honorable member for Swan had proposed to return to the States a fixed amount annually, in substitution of the Braddon* section when it should come to an end.
– A worse proposal.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question. The right honorable member for. Swan said that, Tn his negotiations with the States Premiers, he proposed that” the Commonwealth should return to the States a fixed sum annually, in lieu of the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. When he made that statement, the Acting Prime Minister interjected that the scheme was impracticable. I merely drew the attention of the Committee to that fact. I thought that the gravest feature in connexion with” it was that, the honorable gentleman was acting in opposition to the Prime Minister and the Acting Prime Minister -for. the time being. ,
Progress reported. !
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070903_reps_3_38/>.