3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m.,. and read prayers.
– I rise to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question relative to the payment of the sugar bounty. In order to make the question clear, I may mention that a few months ago the sugar-growers in North Queensland complained that they were put to considerable inconvenience owing to the delay in the payment of the bounty. This was rectified for a time, but the sugar-growers are again experiencing, similar delay in getting themoney paid, and much inconvenience is also caused to the workers. I hold in my hand a telegram, which was addressed to Senator Chataway from Mackay, and which reads as follows -
Customs without money again, dozens farmers anxiously waiting, shake Minister up.
Will the Minister be good enough to state the reason for the non-payment of the bounty, and to sec that in future it is paid promptly and regularly?
– I promise the honorable member to look into the matter, and to ascertain if there is any delay.
Duties on Dressed Timber.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has yet given consideration to the representations of the deputation of timber merchants which waited upon him in Sydney in reference to the anomalies in the new duties on dressed timber, and, if so, will he, instruct his officers to give effect to his expressed i ntention to make no alteration in the old duties thereon?
– I certainly shall not give any instructions, because the matter does not come within my Department. I shall speak to the Minister.
– The honorable member promised a deputation that he would.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I promised a deputation that I would inquire into the matter, and I also said that the only place in which the matter could be dealt with was in Committee of Ways and Means when the item was reached.
– Now that the Prime Minister is sufficiently recovered to grant an interview to the Age on the subject of Australia’s military arrangements with the Imperial authorities, will the Acting Prime Minister induce him to favour the Parliament of the country by answering the question so frequently put to him. as to the Ministry’s declared intention of terminating the Naval Agreement?
– More bad taste.
-I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question.
– Did the honorable member write the question asked by the honorable member for Nepean?
– The Prime Minister can give an interview to the Age.
– Of about two minutes.
– I shall be glad if honorable members will permit me to make myself heard. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he intends to reply to the question.
– I asked that notice should be given of the question.
– I regret very much to have to refer to a personal matter, but I am compelled to. do so because I do not care to be altogether misinterpreted.
– Is the honorable member about to ask a question?
– No, sir; I wish to refer very shortly to a leading article in the Age of the 14th September, with reference to myself. In supporting its views, in opposition to party government in Australia on the British model, the Age made me say in my remarks of the 12th inst., when replying to the honorable member for Coolgardie’s statement as to my constituency -
I did not believe in high duties then any more than I do now. But the well-understood principle of loyalty to the Government’ policy compelled me to vote for what I disbelieved in. I am not now a member of any Government, and I shall vote according to my conscience.
This statement is printed between inverted commas, and is, therefore, likely to convey the impression that it is a report of what I actually said, which is not the case. It implies that I said that I had voted against my conscience in the cases referred to, which is also not a fact. The fixing, of a duty is a question of practical judgment and not of conscience. I have not referred to Hansard, but in the Age of the 13th inst., I am reported as follows -
On the question for the adjournment Sir John Forrest said it was a well-known rule that members who joined Governments had to sink their individual opinions in many matters unless they were matters of conscience or so grave that one could not long retain his position in the Government.
That is what I did say.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether any further steps have been taken to amalgamate the Electoral Departments of the Commonwealth and the States with the view to saving the duplication of expense ?
– Every effort is being made by the Department of Home Affairs to bring about unity of action as nearly as possible.
– I desire to ask the Fostmaster-General whether, .in; view . of break-downs to machinery on steamers, it is his intention to ta’ke into consideration the question of the early establishment of a system of wireless telegraphy on the coast of Australia?
– That is my intention. I have already ordered an experiment to be made, and if it is successful, I hope to extend it.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister of Defence, whether his attention has been called to the result of the test applied by the National Rifle Association to the cadet ammunition as supplied in New South Wales, and, if so, whether steps will be taken to have that defective ammunition recalled and proper ammunition supplied in its place?
– My attention has not been formally called to the matter. I have read the statement in the press in the ordinary way. The Minister of Defence is in Sydney at the present time, making inquiry into that amongst othejr thinlgs. The honorable member may depend upon it that the Government will not lose sight of such a serious state of affairs as is represented.
-asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions . are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The replies to these questions are contained in the reply given to the honorable member for Yarra in reply to question No. 1 on the notice-paper of to-day.
asked the Acting Minister of External Affairs -
Church submit a list of grievances in connexion with their mission work in the New Hebrides to the Minister for External Affairs, and afterwards to the Acting Minister?
– In reply to the honorable gentleman’s questions, I beg to state -
Matters regarding the New Hebrides brought before the Government by the Presbyterian Church authorities have always received full and sympathetic consideration, and everything in the power of the Government to assist them in their humane and self-sacrificing work has been done. The mission bodies have repeatedly thanked the Prime Minister for his efforts on their behalf.
Protection of Workers and Consumers
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
The intentions of the Ministry will, I hope, be made public to-day.
– I shall repeat the questions to-morrow if I do not receive an answer to-day.
asked the Acting Prime Minister -
– The Commonwealth Statistician, who has devoted considerable attention to the question of anthropometry and school hygiene in Australia, and who specially investigated the matter in nearly every country of Europe and America, reports as follows -
I am fully seized of the importance of comparative statistical records of school physique and school hygiene ; and consider that the value of such records would be greatly enhanced if they were made on a uniform plan for the whole of Australia. The subject has already received some attention in the Commonwealth - i.e., in New South Wales and Tasmania - but the records, while possessing a certain local value, do not cover a sufficient number of children or refer to a sufficient number of different years to possess comprehensive significance. It was suggested by the Premier of Tasmania, towards the close of 1906, that the various States should be invited to undertake the work of collecting complete data, and the Honorable the Minister for Home Affairs expressed his concurrence in the proposal that the Commonwealth Statistician should analyze and tabulate the results. Communications were addressed to the Premiers of the States, but owing to the fact that unfavorable replies were received in some instances, I understand the matter has not been further proceeded with.
– I propose to ask honorable members to proceed with the consideration of the Estimates relating to additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the year 1907-8. The expenditure, for which provision has been made in this connexion, totals £819,874, and is rendered necessary by additions, new works, buildings, &c., in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, the Department of the Treasurer, and the Department of Defence.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister now moving that the whole of the works Estimates be agreed to?
– I desire to say a few words upon the whole of these Estimates, before the details are submitted to the Committee. In dealing with this matter, it is only right that I should refer to the total expenditure involved, and to certain questions in connexion with the Budget which, in my judgment, come within the purview of the Government proposals. It has been said that although the revenue derived by the Commonwealth during the first year of the operation of the uniform Tariff - 1902-3. - was £1,640,000 less than the amount which it is anticipated will be collected during the current financial year, the sum of £1,145,234 in excess of their three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue was returned to the States, whereas during the present year, it is expected that they will receive only £103,992 more than the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled. To put the matter even more clearly, I would say that out of a total revenue of £12,105,937 in 1902-3, the Commonwealth Treasurer was able to return to the States £8,204,563, whereas during the current financial year, with an anticipated revenue of £13,745,200 - a revenue exceeding that which was collected in 1902-3 by £1,639,263 - the Treasurer estimates that he will be able to return to them only £7,779,290, That is to say, the States will receive £425,273 less than the amount returned in 1902-3. The inference to be drawn from these criticisms is, I presume, that the Commonwealth should return to the States in 1906-7 , £8,204,563, the amount returned in 1902-3, plus the £1,639,263, the increase inrevenue estimated during 1907-8 - in all £9,843,826. The amount estimated to be returned to the States this year is £2,066,618 less than that amount.
The contention of some honorable members would have been quite correct, on one supposition, namely, that the expenditure had remained stationary. This, however, has not occurred. I will enumerate the items of expenditure occurring in the Estimates for 1907-8 which did not occur in 1902-3. I ask honorable members to take special notice of the amounts which I am about to submit. We now pay £5,000 per annum in connexion with Papua. This amount is in the nature of a loan to be used for the construction of roads. The repatriation of Pacific islanders involves an expenditure of £6,500, being the balance required for returning the kanakas to their islands. The expenditure on advertisingour resources in Great Britain amounts to £20,000, and is mainly expended in Great Britain. The Commonwealth London office accounts for £4,400. This office has justified its existence. Last year interest was earned in London amounting to £2,852, the rates varying from2¼ per cent. to 5½ per cent. Before the creation of this London office the Commonwealth earned no interest in London whatever, all our remittances being made to the AgentsGeneral of the various States, and forming part of their balances. So that honorable members will see that there has been a great saving in connexionwith our London office. Our Crown Solicitor’s office, which did not exist in 1902-3, involves an expenditure of £3,360. The High Court was not in existence at the time to which I have referred, and the expenditure upon it amounts to £22,145.
– Some of the honorable gentleman’s comparisons begin in 1904.
– I am enumerating the fresh items of expenditure since 1902-3.
– The honorable gentleman is not answering the strongest case. Some of the expenditure to which he has referred did not commence till 1904, and, consequently, does not affect his argument.
– I am taking the additional expenditure as from1902-3.
– The honorable gentleman has taken the weakest case put by honorable members, and not the strongest one.
– I take the whole period of the Commonwealth’s existence. I am not picking out any particular case, but desire to show truly what has taken place, and why we are spending more money now than we did at the commencement. In sodoing, my object is partly to show that the States have been relieved of a considerable amount of expenditure, although, nevertheless, some of them have not reduced, but have increased their own expenditure.
– Have they been relieved of expenditure in connexion with the High Court, for instance?
– The Commonwealth Statistical Department has involved an expenditure of £10,808. This should relieve the States of a considerable expenditure.
SirJohn Forrest. - It will not.
– Why should it not?
– They will want their own Statistical Departments also.
– I think they ought to be able to work with the Commonwealth in regard to the collection of statistics.
– Our Department certainly should relieve them of. expenditure.
– The Commonmonwealth Meteorological Department involves an expenditure of £15,996. This is an amount of expenditure directly transferred from the States. I hold that they should be relieved of an expenditure of at least £10,000 odd. Our Patent Office involves an expenditure of £13,357. That also is a relief of the States.
– It is a revenue producing Department.
– I quite understand that it is, but, notwithstanding that, the States incurred expenditure on account of patents of which they are now relieved.
– We relieve them of the revenue also.
– Our net expenditure on account of trade marks is £3,838. In 1906-7 the expenditure amounted to £6,390, and the receipts to £3,951. The abolition of the cable charges between the mainland and Tasmania has cost the Commonwealth £8,781. In consequence of the abolition of the charge of½d. per word on cable messages we have to pay the Eastern Extension Company £5,600 per annum. The balance represents arrears.
– The reduction was only just.
– But the Commonwealth gets very little credit from Tasmania for the justice that it has done.
– The Tasmanians are as loyal as the people of any other State.
– The Commonwealth gets credit from the people of Tasmania, although not from the Premier of the State.
– I think the honorable member is quite right. In my opinion, wherever trouble is caused in the various States regarding increased Commonwealth expenditure it does not come from the people, but from a few only who are constantly trying to belittle the Commonwealth whenever they get a chance. There is a loss on the Pacific Cable of
– That has always been the case.
– There was no expenditure under this head in 1902-3. The cable was not finished until December, 1902. New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland together bore one-third of the loss of working the line.
– There must have been an expenditure in connexion with the construction of the line.
– I am informed by my officers that this is an item of expenditure that did not occur in 1902-3. I was not Treasurer at the time, and must accept the statements furnished to me by my officers.
– Who paid it then?
– The three States concerned paid it at that time, I suppose. The expenditure on new bounties amounts to £25,000. There is also to be spent this year a sum of £15,000 on the survey for the transcontinental railway ; and here let me say that if a promise was ever made regarding the construction of that line, or a promise to do justice to Western Australia, at the time when she entered the Federation, that promise ought to be carried out regardless of any factious opposition. Provision is made for the repayment to the Government of New South Wales of an advance of £25,000. This advance was made prior to Federation by the New South Wales Government for Savings Bank business, and it was also used for money order purposes. The New South Wales Government now wish this sum to be repaid to the Savings Banks Commissioners; and, therefore, a new advance from the Commonwealth funds is necessary. The money represents the amount that was in the tills at the time the Commonwealth took over the Department. With the addition of the other items I have quoted, it will be seen that, in all, there is a sum of £203,185, which did not appear in any way in the expenditure of 1902-3, but’ which is now necessary; and in many respects this means a relief to the States. In respect of the GovernorGeneral, there is this year an increase of ^5,758. In the present Estimates, £1,000 is included for services rendered by the Railway Departments of the various States - an amount that was not charged in 1902-3. In addition, we are providing this year for repairs, furniture, and so forth, for the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne, to the amount of £5,985 more than in 1902-3, and the total expenditure under this head is ^20,389. In regard to the item of £1,000 especially, I wish to say that in 1902-3 the Railway Departments of the States did not charge for the conveyance of the Governor-General, though I do not remember whether a charge was made on account of members of Parliament.
– A charge was made for the conveyance of members of Parliament, but not for the conveyance of the Governor-General. I think we have paid all the arrears in respect of members of Parliament.
– At any rate, we have to meet a charge now which we did not have to meet then on account of the .travelling .of the Governor-General. The reason I refer to this item, is that I desire to show first, the largely increased sum of money which has to be provided, and’, secondly, that the increase, though large, is not extravagant as compared with 1902-3.
– There is evidently no extravagance in the administration.
– Quite so, and in justice to the Commonwealth, in view of statements that are made, I desire the fact to be placed on record. I am not accusing any Treasurer or Government of extravagance - far from it; but I desire the position to be made clear by means of figures from the Secretary to the Treasury. Under the heading of Parliament there is an increase of £34,588. The main item of the increase is that of £27,863 in connexion with the electoral administration. There is an item of £6,000 for a new mail service to the Pacific islands, one to the New Hebrides, and the other islands, involving £4,500, and another to New Guinea involving ,£1,500. The Public Works staff is represented by an increase of -£7,066. In 1902-3, the sum of £44,178 was paid for the construction of buildings and so forth, and for 1907-8 provision is made for £221,824. I desire to point out that in 1902-3, practically no works were being proceeded with. We were not in the position at that time to know where works should be carried out ; but each year since the expenditure has been growing. We have to. keep all the buildings in repair, and, especially in the Post and Telegraph Department, offices have to be extended, in addition to the ordinary repairs over the whole continent of Australia. I may say that the buildings were discovered to be in very bad repair, indeed, in 1902-3 and subsequently ; and, therefore, more work, and, of course., more expenditure is now necessary.
– The older the buildings get, the more repairs they need.
– Quite so; whatever happens we must keep the buildings in repair. Under the head of Naval Agreement, there is an increase of £95’°35- I” i902-3 we paid ,£126,000 per annum, which was shared with New Zealand on a population basis. We now Pa)’ £200,000 per annum, and the £95,035 is necessary, partly to meet the increase and the share formerly paid by New Zealand. Naval expenditure “other” is represented by an increase of £15,788. In 1902-3 the Naval’ Forces were severely retrenched, but since then this arm of the service has been strengthened. “ The increase in the military expenditure is £98,299. This increase is a large one, and I desire honorable members to observe the cause. On account of rifle clubs, there is a sum .of ,£24,057, and, I presume, no honorable member will raise any objection on this score, because I believe the expenditure on these clubs has the approval of all. Then cadet corps are represented by £46,902 ; and I think I am safe in saying that the Parliament of the Commonwealth will cordially approve of both this and the item I have just mentioned. The balance of the increase is caused by bringing the personnel of the various arms of the Defence Forces nearer to the maximum strength ; and there has been a corresponding increase in the cost of equipment. The defence works, under the head of ‘ ‘ maintenance, ! ‘ are responsible for an increase of £15,586, and it is proposed this year to renew the boilers of the naval vessels. In 1902-3, all alterations and improvements were charged to the new works vote, but that is not ‘done now. The increase in the Postmaster-General’s,
Department, Central Office, is £5,465, there being now 35 officers as compared with 15 in 3902-3 - an increase found necessary on account of the expansion of the Department. In connexion with the expenditure on account of the conveyance of mails across Bass Strait, I think the action of the Government will show the representatives of Tasmania how groundless is the charge that the Commonwealth Government are neglectful of that Sta.te. An item of £7,000 represents the increase in the expenditure necessary to secure the more rapid service provided by the fine steam-ship Loongana. I am quite sure that Tasmanians, and, indeed, all Australians who travel, must agree that this is an expenditure to be commended, and that it must have been a relief to the Tasmanian Government, who could have ill afforded to pay the extra cost.
– And a relief to travellers £LS wel 1
– Of course. In connexion with ocean mails, there is an increased payment to the Orient Steam Navigation Company of £52,880. In 1902-3 we paid £72,000 per annum, whereas we now pay £120,000 per annum, with £4,880 in addition in consideration of the company’s vessels calling at Brisbane. Rent, repairs, &c, in the Department of the PostmasterGeneral are represented by an increase of £9,273. Works are more expensive to carry out than they were in 1902-3 ; and it is believed that the buildings are being kept in much better repair than they were at that time. The general increases in the Department of the Postmaster-General amount to £311,325, the bulk of which is represented by salaries. The amount provided under this hea.d for this Department in 1902-3 was £2,296,552, while for 1907-8 there is provided £2’,6o7,877, showing an increase of
– Does that include the salaries of the 600 permanent hands appointed this year?
– Yes. In the Department 1,159 new positions have been created in six years, additional officers having been found necessary to cope with the greatly increased work. The minimum wage provision of the Public Service Act is responsible for an increase of £30,000.
– As compared with 1902-3.
– Yes. I believe that in common with myself all the members of the Committee approve of the minimum wage that is being paid. Itsinstitution has placed the service in a proper position. Prior to this provision being made, officers in one branch of the service were being paid sometimes as little as £30 a )’ear, and the average, I think,, was something like £50 or £60 a year.
– Some officers donot get more than that now.
– Let the right honorable member name one.
– I could name plenty of them, in contract post offices.
– There is not one in Australia. .
– I know of one who is getting only £36 a year.
– I know of several.
– There are also increases iri the revenue. That for 1902-3 was £2,404,730, whilst the estimate for 1907-8 is £3,190,000, or an increase of £785,270. It should be stated that £130,000 of the increase is due to the system of charging now adopted by the different Departments. I should explain that for some time in the Commonwealth we followed the practice which used to be adopted in New South Wales under which one Department of the Public Service did work for another without charge. For instance, the Railway Department of a State did not charge for work done for the Postal Department of the State. At the present time each Department charges every other for work done for it. It, of course, makes no actual difference in the cost, but the practice is convenient, as showing accurately the value of the services performed by each Department. This practice was not followed in 1902-3. The estimate I have quoted for 1907-8 allows for a loss of £117,000 on penny postage. Very many of the charges to the public have been reduced since 1902-3.
– -Noteworthily the uniform charge of is. for telegrams throughout the Commonwealth.
– In 1902-3 the receipts were £27,343 under the expenditure. But that calculation does not include a sum of £135,699 on new post offices. In 1907-8 it is estimated that the receipts instead of being £27,343 less, will amount to £324,891 in excess of the expenditure. If honorable members will turn to page 70 of the Budget papers they will see a reference to an item of £434,078 for expenditure on new works and buildings. I desire to say that in the past in some of the States at all events, these payments were made chiefly from borrowed money. They are now paid out of revenue, but I am not quite sure that they should not be charged against the Post and Telegraph Department. If that course were adopted, the expenditure would be in excess of the revenue.
– Those payments should not all be debited to one year. .
– The interest on capital already expended on post offices is not taken into account.
– That is so. I wish to place the matter clearly before honorable members, because it is impossible to make a true comparison between what was done previously by the States and what we are now doing, unless’ it is remembered that a large portion of this expenditure was previously defrayed from loan money. I refer to the matter only incidentally to show that if the accounts of the Department were kept as they were under the management of the States Governments it would be shown that the deficiency was very much greater before we took over the Departments.
– Does not the Minister think that the post-office officials should publish a balance-sheet just as the Railways Commissioners do, that we might know how the Department stands every year ?
– They are preparing one now.
– They have been at it now for a good many years,and some of them ought to be shot out of their billets.
– The same thing was promised for years in Victoria.
– I do not know whether it will be necessary to shoot anyone out of his billet!, but I am certain that we must be very firm if weare to get them to do what is proposed. I think that what the honorable gentleman suggests is a very proper thing to do.
– The balance-sheet should cover the operations of the Telephone Department also.
– It would cover the whole of the operations of the Post and Telegraph Departments. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that it would be a good thing to do as he suggests, and I hope it will be done. A statement should be published every year, not only in regard to expenditure and receipts, but in regard to appointments, dismissals, removals, and other changes in the Department. There is an increase of £23,541 in respect of pensions and retiring allowances, under section 84 of the Constitution. The rights to these pensions are secured to certain officers under the section mentioned, and the rates are fixed by States’ laws and practice at the date of the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth. Honorable members will therefore see that we are compelled to pay this amount under the Constitution..
– It is a pity that we did not recognise that in all cases. I know that the Government could not help it, but Parliament should have recognised those pension rights.
– We could not help ourselves. I notice that the honorable and astute member for Angas takes up every little point as I proceed.
– I do not specially blame the Government. I think that Parliament should have recognised these obligations.
– We could not have dealt with the matter in any other way than we have.
– We could have recognised the old payments.
– We have done it now, though perhaps rather late, and I hope that will satisfy the honorable member. The amount set down in connexion with new works and buildings and special defence votes is . £655,436, the detailed items of increase being -
Under the States administration much of this expenditure would have been charged to loan account. The increased expenditure caused by the payment of sugar bounties is £519,496.
– Is the Minister reading a report?
– No, I am putting forward a statement of accounts supplied by the Treasury. I wish to place the facts before the Committee in their proper order.
– If the honorable member is not reading a report prepared by himself, he must be reading one prepared by Professor Allen.
– The figures are supplied by the officers of the Treasury. Where else should I obtain the facts which the Committee demand?
– It is the illustrations that I am referring to.
– I am sure that the honorable member cannot take exception to any of the illustrations I have given. I shall refer more fully presently to the question of the sugar bounty.
– We have been told that the payment of the bounty is causing people in Queensland to talk of secession.
– I was rather surprised to learn that a representative of Queensland wished the bounty to be repealed.
– Is the Minister referring to the honorable member for Brisbane?
– I am.
– The honorable member was only gammoning.
– The sugar bounty, as I have said, involves an expenditure of £519,496, and sundry items not detailed represent£900, making a total increase of £2,066,621 in the Federal expenditure for 1907-8 as compared with that for 1902-3. I have no hesitation in asking the Committee to say whether, save by repealing the Sugar Bounty Act, that expenditure could be fairly reduced. In many cases it represents expenditure taken over from the States.
– L - Let us repeal the Sugar Bounty Act.
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind.
– Will the honorable member have the figures he has quoted printed as a parliamentary paper?
– They will appear in Hansard, and I shall be very glad to supply honorable members with copies. In the Estimates, as submitted to me, I made considerable reductions.
– All Estimates are reduced before they are finally submitted to Parliament.
– Quite so; the following table shows the amount by which the original Estimates for New Works and Buildings have been reduced : -
In other words, the Estimates as first submitted to me have been reduced by
– That is not an excessive amount to strike off draft Estimates.
– It is a fairly large sum. I should be glad if the honorable member would point to any item in the Estimates which could be largely reduced. I venture to think that there will be very little objection to the Estimates as submitted, and that it will be difficult to suggest where any material reduction could reasonably be made. I have here another return showing the expenditure estimated to be made by the Commonwealth in 1907-8, and which would have been made by the States if the Commonwealth had not been established-
We have practically relieved the States of that expenditure, whilst, on the other hand, their outlay has not been correspondingly reduced. Notwithstanding the many services that we have taken over and for which we provide out of our one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, the expenditure of New South Wales alone has increased by £2,000,000, as compared with the expenditure of that State in 1899.
– I suppose that the State Government is giving the people some corresponding advantages ?
– During the recent State election campaign, it was stated that the Government of New South Wales intended to repeal the income tax, to increase the pay of the police, and to reduce school fees by £85,000. These concessions are made possible because of the large sums that we have handed over to the States. The. Commonwealth is blamed for imposing taxation, and whilst we are handing over to the States most of the money so obtained, and thus enabling them to relieve the people of various imposts, we are held to be responsible for all the ills from which it is alleged they are suffering.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that we give the States this money? It is their money. We take it out of their pockets.
– If the Commonwealth did not raise this revenue, the States would have to raise it.
– Prior to Federation, they did not require to take it out of the pockets of the people.
– In some cases they took more.
– A great deal more. When the honorable member for Parkes was Minister of Public Works in New South Wales, he expended in one year £1,100,000 on roads and bridges.
– For the good of the people. What has that to do with the question now before us?
– I propose now to refer to the increase in the number of employes of the Post and Telegraph Department, concerning which I was asked a question a few moments ago. The following return shows that, since the establishment of Federation, the number has been increased by 4,440; but, during the same period, there have been 3,393 retirements, so that the actual increase was only about 1,047 -
COMMONWEALTH PUBLIC SERVICE.
Return showing -
Number of new appointments to the General, Clerical, and Professional Divisions of the Public Service, respectively, during each of the years since Federation.
The Department applied for i, 000 .more hands. After a considerable discussion, I advised that a smaller number of permanent employes should be taken on, with the result that it was agreed that 68,5 new appointments should be made, as follows -
I undertook to find the money necessary for the payment of temporary hands should more assistance be required. I was induced to take this stand by reason of the fact that in dull times it is very difficult to retire permanent officers who have been appointed in a boom year, and whose services are no longer necessary. Under such conditions, the wisest course to pursue is to take on temporary hands, who, if the circumstances require it, may subsequently be permanently employed.
– Has not the increase in the number of telephones greatly increased the work of the Department?
– No doubt.
– Will not that be a permanent increase ?
– It probably will, but it. is far better to be sure that this large number of 1,000 additional officers in one bunch are permanently required before they are promiscuously appointed.
– The necessity for extra hands shows a healthy development.
– There is no question that it does show a very healthy-
development. With regard to the revenue from sugar, the ‘receipts from Customs duty on sugar, including glucose> are estimated at £68,000 for the year 1907-8. The estimated revenue from- Excise is £746,000. From that has to be deducted the bounty of £573,000, leaving’ a balance of £173,000, which, adding the £68,000 Customs duty, gives a total estimated revenue from this source of £241,000. When we repay to the States three-quarters of the Customs and Excise duties, we lose £369.500 on the transaction. Therefore in order to pay the bounty to Queensland we have to debit our own accounts with that large sum of nearly £400,000 to enable us to carry! out the Act. I feel sure that at the time the first Sugar Bounty Act was passed, it was not contemplated that the loss to the Commonwealth revenue would be so large, or probably some other means would have been adopted. Still, thai is the law, and we have to carry it out.
– How is it that the Government refund to the States so much Excise?
– I gave the estimated receipts from Excise as £746,000 for the year.
– If the money was not given in bounty, it would be returned to the States.
– Of course, we should have to. do so, if the money was raised in that way.
– But the difference would be that the money would not go to the same States.
– It would go to the consuming States. The total receipts from Customs and Excise duties on sugar are estimated at £814,000. One quarter of that sum is £203,500. We repay in bounty £573,000, so that, as I said, we are £369,500 to the bad on the transaction. I wish to deal with the question that has been raised as to the amount of money that we shall have to repay to the States in the future. The estimated revenue from Customs and Excise for the current year is £10,509,000. It has been predicted, judging from the; effect of a somewhat similar Tariff in Victoria in 1892, that the receipts are likely to drop in a few years to £9,000,000. But in the Victorian case there were not, I think, so many Excise items. I admit, however, that the total receipts will probably be reduced after a year or two. But what will be the position if the receipts do fall to £9,000,000? Assuming that the expenditure was not increased, this would be the effect -
If we lose that amount of revenue, no doubt it will be a good thing in one sense, because we should have increased our manufactures, and so have filled up the gap caused by goods not being imported into the Commonwealth. We would then return on those figures £6,268,208 to the States. This would not comply with the Braddon section, as is shown by these figures : -
– When ,is that to come about?
– It has been estimated that if the revenue falls to £9,000,000, we shall be short in our repayments to the States, supposing that there are no further increases of expenditure.
– I think it was estimated, during the debate, that this result would ensue in two years.
– Is that estimate based on Sir George Turner’s calculation of a normal revenue of .£5, 000,000 from the Tariff which Mr. Kingston introduced?
– I am giving the Committee the practical results of the working of Federation up to the present, and estimating what would happen if the receipts from Customs and Excise duties fell to £9,000,000. I have here a table showing how each State would be affected. New South Wales would receive £26,195 more than the three-fourths.
– This is all hypothetical.
– It is hypothetical as to the amount of money to be received from Customs and Excise duties, but the argument has been used that under the new Tariff the receipts will fall to £9,000,000, and I am showing what would happen to the States if that argument has any strength in it at all, or if an attempt were made to so reduce the Tariff that the receipts actually would fall to the amount named.
– I understood the Acting Prime Minister to say, when he tabled the Tariff, that it would yield a revenue of £9,000,000 after it became thoroughly operative.
– I said it w..s estimated to yield a revenue this year of £10,509,000. It has been stated during the debate that the revenue would fall very shortly to £9,000,000, and an example was given of another Tariff. It was argued that if, in consequence of its protective character, it decreased the’ amount of imports, the receipts under it would probably in two years fall to .£9,000,000. I am showing what the result would be to the States if that happened.
– The receipts could not possibly fall to that extent in two years.
– It was suggested by one honorable member that it would happen.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister suggest that the reducing of duties will decrease the revenue?’
– Unless it do that. The effect on the various is made a revenue Tariff, and. I do States would be as shown by the follownot think this Committee is likely to ing table: -
Thus New South Wales would receive £26,195 in excess; while Victoria would receive £100,138 less; Queensland, £123,214; South Australia, £30,095; Western Australia, £9,475 ; and Tasmania, £36,531.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that it will frighten the States to tell them this?
– I did not think that it would frighten the States, but it is my duty to reply to statements that have been made, and to show what the effect would be if the ideas that have been put forward come into operation. My criticism is fairly straight and fairly good. In making that comparison, I am taking it for granted that the expenditure will not increase.
– I understand that the honorable gentleman is now proceeding on the assumption that the revenue from the Tariff will fall to £9,000,000, as forecast by the honorable member for Flinders?
– No. But for the time being let me take that proposition, and show what it means.
– Quite so; but the honorable member for Flinders said that in all probability this Tariff would produce
– Yes, in about two years, I think he said.
– And therefore there is a necessity for overhauling it, so as to take care that we have sufficient money with which to finance the States.
– I do not think that it was put in that way.
– It was.
– I do not care for what purpose the statement was made. I am taking the statement as it was made, and showing the position in which the States will be. I hold that it will be found necessary in the future to expend considerable sums under the head of new works and buildings, and, in addition, as we expand we shall have to expend larger sums. That would make the case still worse, sofar as the States are concerned. The expenditure under the special defence votes for this year amounts to £296,050, and when the expenditure for coastal defence is fairly started, it will annually be a very large sum. The honorable mem- ber for Flinders pointed out the difficulty with which we may be faced, and suggested two ways of meeting it. . One was by cutting down the expenditure on the Civil Service, and stopping the increments to civil servants, and the other by resorting to loans.
– All the Minister’s figures point in the direction that prohibitive duties are bad for the States.
– I do not think that they do. I shall mention presently how the new duties are operating, and the information will astonish honorable members.
– In any case there are no prohibitive duties.
– Exactly. Comparatively speaking ours is a low Tariff, and not a high one.
– Nonsense !
– If the honorable member makes a comparison he will find that our Tariff is as nothing compared with that of the United States, or Canada.
– Does the honorable member want a Tariff like Russia’s?
– Russia’s Tariff averages131 per cent. on all imports from Great Britain, whereas our Tariff averages 6 per cent.
– That is rubbish.
– It is not, as the honorable member will see if he looks up the Tariff.
– Canada’s Tariff averages 30 per cent. on British imports.
– Our Tariff averages 6 per cent. on all imports from Great Britain.
– That is not the test.
– I am sorry that I did not bring with me a statement in which all the Tariffs of the world are compared with Great Britain’s. Russia stands at the top with an average of 131 per cent. on British imports, and Australia is near the bottom with an average of 6 per cent. In the case of New Zealand, the average is 9 per cent., while in the case of Canada it is 17 per cent.
– The Tariffs are not compared on the same basis.
– They are. If the honorable member will do me the favour of looking at a speech I addressed to the Imperial Conference, he will find that it contains all the information required.
– The comparison is not made on the same basis.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. The comparison was worked out by statisticians. It was quoted by me to the Imperial Conference, and it has not been questioned since, although it has been published in a large number of newspapers in Great Britain.
– Within the last two months it has been questioned publicly.
– It may be questioned, but it cannot be disproved. It was admitted by Mr. Lloyd George, who joined in the discussion, that 6 per cent. was the average of the Australian Tariff.
– I may refer to the document before I resume my seat.
– The honorable member suppressed the report during the debate upon the Address-in-Reply, but I read it.
– I didnot suppress it.
– The honorable member suppressed the report until the debate was finished.
– That, sir, is not a proper remark for the honorable member to make. I gave no instruction in the matter. I had a confidential copy which I gave to the leader of the Opposition.
– Marked “ 36.” I saw it. We got the report immediately after the debate on the Address-in-Reply was concluded.
– The honorable member for Flinders pointed out the difficulty confronting us. But, as I said, he did not point out any possible decrease in ordinary expenditure, except in one case where he urged that the civil servants should not be paid their increases, and that in other cases salaries might be reduced. The Committee will agree, I think, that any considerable reduction in expenditure is not possible. The only Departments in which it could be urged that a reduction could be made, but in which I think it is hardly possible, are the Defence and Post and Telegraph Departments. We cannot cut down the expenditure on the Defence Department if we earnestly intend to strengthen our defence. We cannot cut down the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department without impairing its efficiency, and reducing the conveniences which it supplies to the public. I venture to think that the Committee is not prepared to do one or other of those things. As regards the possibility of effecting any saving by reducing the amounts of increments paid to junior officers in the service, I find that the total amount of the increments to be paid this year to fifth class officers is only £5,810. These youths enter the service between the ages of 16 and 21 years, so that even if they should get their statutory increment each year they will be between the ages of 22 and 27 before they can attain a salary of £160 a year.
– It would hardly save anything appreciable for the States if we withheld the increments.
– No. Allowing three years to intervene before the lads receive promotion to fourth class, they are from 25 to 30 years of age before they receive a salary of £185. Perhaps after that their promotion should be guided largely, if not wholly, by merit, but not before. That is the position of these young men, rising gradually, as they do, and not too rapidly, to a position carrying a salary of £185 a vear.
– And the incrementsfor the year aggregate £5,810.
– That is thetotal amount. The honorable member for Flinders also referred to the revenue estimates of £9,000,000 and £10,509,000.. So far as it can be calculated, it is estimated that if the duties levied on British goods only were levied on all imports therewould be a reduction of £500,000 in the estimated revenue of £8,229,000 from the new Tariff.
– What the honorable gentleman means is that that would be the result if the preferential proposals in the Tariff were given a general application ?
– Yes, if we give to the lower duties a general application we should lose a revenue of £500,000. Let rae now refer to a table to show the effect of the new Tariff -
For the week ending 14th August last year the return from Customs and Excise duties was £86,142 for New South Wales, whereas for the corresponding week of this year it was £48,174. In the following week of last year, the returns amounted to £76,109, and of this year to £81,713. In the week ending 31st August last year, the returns amounted to £107,929, and this year to £132,396.
– Is the Minister comparing weeks in each year?
– Why is the comparison made in respect to weekly returns ?
– Because the figures available for comparison deal with weekly returns. In New South Wales, the returns for the month ending 31st August, last year totalled £351,812, and this year £366,530, an increase of about £15,000.
– A large quantity of goods had left England and America, and were on their way to Australia, on the date of the introduction of the new Tariff, and duty must be paid on them when imported.
– The increases were due mostly to the payment of higher duties upon taking goods out of bond. The returns in New South Wales for the first week of September last year were £75,283, and this year £88,228; while, for the second week, they were £67,952 last year, and £96,768 this year. In Victoria the returns for the period between the 8th and 14th August last year amounted to £124,572, dropping to £47,207 for the same period of this year. In the following week of last year they were £64,720, and of this year £46,536; and in the third week last year £94,451, increasing to £107,888 this year. For the first week of September last year they were £35,997, and this year £60,707, and for the second week last year £63,564, and £71,738 this year, showing an increase in the Victorian revenue, as well as in that of “New South Wales. In Queensland the returns during the week following the 8th August last year were £23,975,and they dropped to £13,529 during the corresponding period of this year. In the succeeding week last year they were £21,746, and this year dropped to £14,169, and in the last week of August last year they were £31,761, and dropped to £23,685 this year. In the first week of September last year they were £22,279, and rose to £24,510 this year, and in the second week of September last year they were £15,559, and increased to £18,382 this year. Therefore, Queensland, too, is benefiting by the new Tariff. The position of Western Australia is different. For the week beginning 8th August last year, the returns in that State were £16,074, and in the corresponding period of this year they fell to £13,375. In the following week of last year they were £20,222, and this year fell to £13,477; and in the last week of August last year they were £33,474, and this year £29,669. In the first week of September last year they were £11,637, and this year £6,012; and in the second week last year £16,156, and this year £12,459. The figures for South Australia for the five weeks’ period to which I have been referring are, in the first week, last year, £13,075, and this year £15,099 ; in the second week last year £19,061, and this year £17,921 ; in the third week last year £26,071, and this year £35,096 ; in the fourth week last year £12,214, and this year £23,094; and in the fifth week last year £11,862, and this year £18,773. So that in some weeks the revenue under the new Tariff was nearly twice as much as that received under the old Tariff.
– Notwithstanding that a number of merchants are keeping as much as they can in bond.
– The figures for Tasmania for the period to which I am referring were, for the first week last year £4,813, and this year £4,564; for the second week last year £2,888, and this year £5,260; for the third week last year £5,407, and this year £5,411; for the fourth week last year £6,249, and this year £7,273; and for the fifth week last year £5,151,andthisyear £5,340.
– Does the Minister seriously believe that the returns for the month immediately succeeding the introduction of the new Tariff are a criterion as to what will be received six months hence ?
– Honorable members have said that the returns would not be so large this year as they were last.
– No .
– I am showing that the returns this year are in most cases higher than they were last year, and that the revenue of the States is benefiting by the new Tariff.
– Has not every honorable member admitted that the returns for this year would show an increase because of the increase in the rates of duties?
– A number of honorable members said that that would not happen. I am giving figures which honorable members opposite do not like to hear. - They have tried to do all they can to injure the proposals of the Government, and have decried the possibilities of revenue under a protective Tariff. I am” showing exactly what has happened.
– Does the honorable member expect to receive an equally large amount of revenue two years hence?
– It is possible, though I do not say positively that we shall. The statement attributed to me more than once in regard to the extension of the Braddon section of the Constitution is not correct. My remarks on the subject are reported on page 1644 of the Hansard record of this session. After quoting the resolutions submitted to the Brisbane Conference by the right honorable member for Swan, and agreed to by the Premiers, I said in my Budget speech -
The Conference also agreed that the further consideration of the taking over of the States debts by the Commonwealth should be postponed until the question of distribution of the surplus revenue amongst the States was determined.
– The honorable gentleman is not surprised at the States being willing to accept that provision ?
– Not at all. 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 so suddenly to take the position I now occupy, and have had so little opportunity of considering this question, that I feel that some lime must elapse before my views are thoroughly matured.
The right honorable member for Swan has stated more than once that in repudiating the arrangement which was made at the Brisbane Conference I was repudiating the views of the Prime Minister. Let us see what the official report of the proceedings of that Conference discloses. In the first place, I affirmed that the Prime Minister never authorized what was attempted to be done there. I will quote his very words in support of my statement. If honorable members will refer to pages 200, 238, 239, 241, 244, and 245 of the official report, they will see the position for themselves. The resolution which was carried at the Brisbane Conference reads -
That the further consideration of taking over the State debts be postponed until the question of the distribution of the surplus revenues amongst the States has been determined.
It will be seen, therefore, that what the States desired was to secure an extension of the Braddon section of the Constitution before the question of the proposed transfer of the States debts to the Commonwealth had been dealt with. What did the Prime Minister himself say upon that aspect of the subject upon a previous occasion - upon the last occasion that he spoke of it, so far as I am aware. The question was put to him by one of the representatives of the States -
We clearly understand then that the scheme of Sir John Forrest is that in taking over the State debts we cannot deal with one part without the other?
To that question, the Prime Minister replied -
Exactly, not one without the other.
That is the Prime Minister’s opinion today. In other words, if the Braddon section be extended, the States debts must be taken over by the Commonwealth. The proposed extension of the Braddon section represented only a portion of the proposals made bv the Commonwealth Government to the States - a portion to which, by itself, the Prime Minister does not adhere, and to which he did not give his consent. According to the official report of the Conference held at Brisbane, the right honorable member for Swan said -
I am here, as you know, acting for the Prime Minister, and I point out that that answer was given deliberately. I. said yesterday that the two matters were distinct under the Constitution, and that one could be arranged for without the other, yet it was the view of the Commonwealth Government that both should go together.
– Without disparaging the statement of Mr. Deakin, you recognise that there is no necessary connexion ?
– The Acting Prime Minister stated that the arrangement to which the Prime Minister did give his assent was impossible.
– I did not. I said that it was impossible to give effect to. the resolution which was agreed to at the Brisbane Conference, which reads -
That the further consideration of the taking over of the States debts be postponed until the question of the distribution of the surplus revenues amongst the States has been determined.
– I said that too.
– In answer to the following question put to the Prime Minister at a previous Conference -
We clearly understand then that the scheme of Sir John Forrest is that in taking over “the States debts we cannot deal with one part without the other? he replied -
Exactly, not one without the other.
– I said that at the Brisbane Conference of Premiers. I quoted the utterance of the Prime Minister at that Conference.
– Then why did the right honorable member accuse me of having said that what the Prime Minister proposed was not practicable ? I said that it was not practicable to extend the Braddon section of theConstitution unless we took over the States debts.
– The taking over of the States debts will not provide us with any revenue.
– The interest payable upon the States debts would absorb the amount returnable to the States under the Braddon section.
– The two things are quite separate.
– They are not separate. They are absolutely inseparable. I repeat that it is practically impossible to extend the Braddon section of the Constitution unless we take over the States debts.
– It may not be expedient to extend the Braddon section unless we take over the States debts, but to extend that section it is not absolutely necessary that we should take over the States debts.
– I tell the right honorable member again that it is not possible to extend the Braddon section without taking over the States debts. That is what I said before.
– The Acting Prime Minister does not grasp the situation.
– The right honorable member stated that I had repudiated an arrangement which was agreed to by the Prime Minister.
– So the honorable gentleman did.
– I did not, and I have since received the word of the Prime Minister that I did not.
– He did not hear what the Acting Prime Minister said.
– He heard of it.
– The honorable gentleman stated that the arrangement was impossible.
– I said that the proposal by itself to extend the Braddon section beyond the ten years fixed by the Constitution was impracticable and impossible, and I say so to-day.
– It is useless to argue with the honorable gentleman, because he does not understand the question.
– If we take over the States debts the whole of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which the States are now entitled will be absorbed in paying the interest upon those debts.
– And more than absorbed.
– Exactly. We have power, however, to obtain from the States a sum of money with which to pay the balance.
– We should require to obtain from them about £400,000 or £500,000 annually at the present time.
– I wish to let the public know what are the facts of the matter, because a wrong construction has been placed upon my remarks, and in all the States it has been alleged that I am opposed to granting them any consideration after the expiration of the ten-years’ period.
– The Acting Prime Minister said so.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– It is on record in Hansard.
– I am putting the position before the Committee and before the country.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister say-
– Order ! I have repeatedly called the right honorable member for Swan to order.
– But the Acting Prime Minister is misrepresenting the position.
– I hope that the right honorable member will recollect that we are in Committee, and that he will have an opportunity to reply to the statements of the Acting Prime Minister.
– Does not the Prime Minister approve of everything that I did at the Brisbane Conference?
– I do not wish to say anything that the right honorable member may regard as offensive, but I do say that if he agreed to an extension of the Braddon section without simultaneously providing for the transfer of the States debts to the Commonwealth I do not agree with his action.
– I do not want to know what the honorable gentleman may think - I want to know what the Prime Minister thinks.
– The Prime Minister would not agree to a proposal to extend the Braddon section unless provision were made for the taking over of the States debts.
– I never agreed to that. The honorable gentleman has not grasped the situation.
– I understand the situation just as well as does the right honorable member.
– The Acting Prime Minister repudiated an arrangement of which the Prime Minister approved.
– The Prime Minister did not approve of it. He said that we must not agree to an extension of the Braddon section unless provision were made at the same time for taking over the States debts.
– Who made such an arrangement?
– As far as I can gather, I think that the right honorable member did, because he agreed to the suggestion of the Premiers at the Brisbane Conference.
– That had reference to the adjustment of’ the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable member cannot escape from the difficulty in that way. He must have done one of two things. Either he agreed with the proposal to extend the Braddon section without taking over the States debts, or he did not.
– There is no extension involved.
– The proposal of the Conference was that the Commonwealth should continue to return to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– That is not the Braddon section of the Constitution.
– Is it not?
– No. We do not necessarily keep one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– I cannot understand what the right honorable member is driving at.
– The Acting Prime Minister should study this question before he comes to this House.
– I understand the question very well. If the right honorable member says that by subscribing to an arrangement under which the Commonwealth would continue to return to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and would retain only one-fourth of that revenue for Commonwealth purposes, we should not be extending the Braddon section of the Constitution, I say that there is no meaning in words.
– There are other conditions involved, such as the right to levy special duties.
– The honorable member for Parkes has questioned my statement in reference to the percentages.
– I have the figures here.
– I hold in my. hand the British Trade Year-Book for 1906. It gives the “ average rate per cent. ad. valorem import duties levied in certain foreign countries, and in certain British Colonies and Possessions, on all manufactured articles exported from the United Kingdom.” I will mention only a few - Russia, 131 per cent. ; United States, 73 per cent. ; New Zealand, 9 per cent. ; Canada, 1 7 per cent. ; Australia, 6 per cent.
– It is ridiculous !
– If the honorable member is prepared to teach the author of the British Trade Year-Book-
– The error was pointed out at the time.
– If the honorable member will not take any notice of this book, it is of no use for me to talk about the subject further, I hope I shall be in order in this debate in dealing generally with certain matters connected with the Tariff. I particularly desire, if I can do so, to submit the proposals of the Government in regard to the “ new protection “ ; but, not desiring to come into collision with the Chair, I wish to ask you, sir, whether I shall be in order in so doing. I have now completed what I had to say in regard to the Budget, and wish to know whether I shall be in order in dealing, although not at great” length, with various generalities connected with the Tariff, and iri submitting the” proposals of the Government regarding what is known as the “ new protection “ ?
– The Acting Prime Minister has asked me a question - Whether he would be in order in dealing with matters connected with the Tariff in Committee of Supply? I must rule that he would not be in order, for the following reason : - It would certainly be a new procedure, and one that ought not to be permitted, to have two debates in the two Committees of Supply and Ways and Means running on parallel lines. If I permitted the Minister to do what he desires, we should have a similar debate in Committee of Ways and Means to that which the Minister proposes to initiate in Committee of Supply. I realize the difficulty in which we are situated owing to the fact that there is no standing order to guide us, whilst the references made to the point in May’s Parliamentary Practice are so vague that they afford no light upon the situation. The House goes into Committee of Ways and Means for the purpose of devising methods of raising revenue. But we are now in Committee of Supply. While in Committee of Supply, we deal with the manner in which revenue shall be expended. It is, of course, only reasonable and right that honorable members should be allowed in a general way in Committee of Supply to make reference to the manner in which money to be expended shall be obtained. The Minister himself has made certain general statements concerning the probable revenue of the Commonwealth. He was quite in order in taking that course. But to refer in detail to matters connected with the Tariff would not be in order. The proper place in which to make those observations would be, not n Committee of Supply, but in Committee of Ways and Means.
– Then I understand you to rule, sir, that I am not at liberty at the present time to deal generally - not in detail - with certain features of the Tariff or to submit for the information of honorable members, and of the country, the proposals of the Government regarding the “new protection?” These proposals include measures to be taken for the protection of the workers, of the manufacturers, and of the public. If you rule that I cannot proceed further, I have finished what I intended to say.
– Would it not be possible for the Minister to make a further explanation of some statements which he has made as to the effect of the Tariff upon the revenue? For instance, a sacrifice of Excise duty may be involved in carrying out the policy of the Government. Would it not be in .order for the Minister to deal with the subject as having a certain effect upon the revenue?
– It has occurred to me, Mr. Chairman, that you yourself laid down the proper course of procedure on Friday last. I beg leave to remind you of what y.ou then said. In reply to an observation which I made, you said -
I understand that the honorable member for Parramatta is going to discuss the first item. I may point out that, although we may be discussing the first item, the whole Tariff is under discussion. What I wish to convey is that if an honorable member desires to introduce the question of free-trade versus protection, it is ‘ quite open to him to do so on each separate item.
I take it, therefore, that in Committee of Ways and Means it is possible to discuss the Tariff in all its bearings, but not in Committee of Supply.
– I quite understand that.
– I submit that the Minister would be in order in discussing the effects of the Tariff upon the revenue at this stage. It seems to me that the proper course for the Government to pursue is to revert to Committee of Ways and Means, and then, upon a particular item of the Tariff, it will be possible for the Minister to discuss the “ new protection.”
– I put a question to the Chairman just now because he ruled the other day, when in Committee of Ways and Means, that the general debate was finished and that when we arrived at a particular item the discussion must be confined to that item.
– I have just read a ruling to the contrary.
– The Chairman ruled otherwise on Friday.
– If I understand that when we get ‘back into Committee of Ways and Means I shall be at liberty to make a statement with regard to the policy of the Government as to the “ new protection,” I shall be content. I shall be able to accomplish what I desire in that way, just as I have accomplished what I desired in reference to the Budget in Committee of Supply. “If I am given to understand that in Committee of Ways and Means I can discuss the Tariff ‘generally, I shall be quite prepared to allow that part of my speech to stand over until we get back into that Committee; but shall I be able to do so?
– I am not called upon to say exactly what I shall rule when we get into Committee of Ways and Means. I prefer that the Minister should leave that point until we get out of Committee of Supply.
– I suggest that’ it is most important that an answer should be given to the question put by the Acting Prime Minister.
– It is not usual for the Chairman to give rulings upon hypothetical questions.
– But this is not a hypothetical question. It is a question of procedure to which we ought to have an answer. The “ new protection,” or the rate of any item of the Tariff, or of any duty, or proposal regarding Excise, must, affect the financial proposals of the Government, and consequently must have some relation to Supply. The honorable member for Angas has asked whether any honorable member - because, of course, the same privilege as was extended to the Acting Prime Minister would be extended to other honorable members - would be at liberty to refer in a. general way in this Committee to the “ new protection,” or to any proposed duty of Customs or of Excise having regard to its bearing upon the finances. That I take it, is the question put by the honorable member for Angas, and I think we are entitled to have it answered. It is not a question of the convenience of the Acting Prime Minister just now, but a Question of laying down an important precedent. Indeed, it is a matter which affects the freedom of speech in this House, and the right of honorable members . to discuss, in the fullest manner possible, questions which come before them affecting the finances. We all know the golden rule that we may discuss grievances before Supply is granted, and I should like to hear an answer to the question put by the honorable member for Angas.
– As to freedom of speech, and the discussion of grievances before Supply, I remind honorable members that our action in that connexion is limited by our standing order, to the effect that we shall discuss grievances before the granting of Supply only once every three weeks. That rule is laid down definitely in our Standing Orders, beyond which we cannot go. I have already pointed out that questions of Ways and Means and questions of Supply are so involved that it is almost impossible to discuss one without considering the other. While questions of Ways and Means ought to be discussed in Committee of Ways and Means, and questions of Supply discussed in Committee of Supply, it is only reasonable to suppose that the discussions may sometimes overlap. But seeing that we are in Committee of Supply, I must rule against any detailed discussion of the Tariff, because that is a discussion which must take place in Committee of Ways and Means. It is obvious that Supply will be affected by the Tariff to a greater or less extent, because the Tariff is one of the means by which ‘we make good Supply, and, therefore, a general reference to the Tariff cannot well ba avoided, just as in Committee of Ways and Means, when we are dealing with the Tariff, a general reference to Supply cannot be avoided. I point out that we are in the peculiar position of having this question introduced both in Committee of Supply and in. Committee of Ways and Means, and I do not see how some reference to the Tariff could possibly be avoided in this Committee. However, I rule that it would not be in order to deal with the details of the Tariff while we are in Committee of Supply.
– I gathered from what took place on Friday that that would probably be your ruling, from which I do not propose to dissent on the present occasion. I must say, however, that I was of opinion we had a larger range of discussion. I moved the House into Committee of Supply in order to deal with the matters with which I have dealt this afternoon ; and when we get back into Committee of Ways and Means I shall be prepared to proceed with the remarks I had intended to make on Friday last. . I think I have shown to-day that the Com- monwealth has not been extravagant in its expenditure, and that there can be but little reduction made.
– Would the Acting Prime Minister mind saying what his intention is at the present time?
– As to what?
– Does the honorable gentleman propose to go into Committee of Ways and Means?
– Not now. I propose to proceed with the discussion of the Works and Buildings Estimates, in the hope that we shall conclude it to-night.
– It is a free country for hoping !
– And hope deferred has been the honorable member’s trouble. As I was saying, there can be but little saving effected in the Estimates now before honorable members. We must look forward, at no distant date, to considerable expenditure if we take over the Northern Territory ; and, further, I hope that it will not be long before we shall have to make provision for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway. Both these undertakings will mean a considerable addition to the expenditure.
– Has South Australia consented to the survey ?
– No reply has yet been received from the South Australian Government, but I presume they will carryout a promise which undoubtedly was made. However, that is a question with which I do not desire to deal at the present moment. When I delivered my Budget speech, and also this afternoon, I showed that the Commonwealth will require all the money we are likely to receive as a result of the present Tariff, in order to keep our engagements with the States during the next three years or so. I have pointed out the danger to the revenue which would result from reducing the Tariff. At present the revenue is rising, and is sufficient to enable us to carry out intended works, and, perhaps, a considerable number of other works not proposed on the present occasion. I strongly impress upon honorable members that we must deal with the Tariff in such a way as not only to make it protective to our industries, but to cause it to continue to return the revenue we receive at present. In deference to your ruling, sir, I shall not deal in detail with the Tariff, though I should be very much tempted to do so were it not that I have no wish to come into conflict with the Chair. As I said before, when we get into Committee of Ways and Means I shall, on the first item, deal with the Tariff to the extent I had intended on Friday last. At present we shall proceed with the consideration of the Works Estimates, and as there is little or nothing to object to in these Estimates, I earnestly ask honorable members to deal with them as quickly as possible. If the Estimates are not dealt with promptly, it is possible that some works may have to be stopped; indeed, that is the reason the Estimates are placed before honorable members at the present time.
– I shall, as usual, allow a general discussion on the first item.
– I sympathize to the full with the desire of the Acting Prime Minister to have the consideration of these Estimates concluded as speedily as possible; I mean, of course, as speedily as is consistent with a fair and just review of the items, in order to insure that the money is not voted without proper consideration, and that we are getting the worth of the money we vote. These are always considerations with honorable members, no matter what haste may be desired in regard to the Estimates or any other question. I should now like to make one or two observations regarding some of the statements which the Acting Prime Minister has thought fit to make in regard to the state ofthe finances. Although there has been no criticism of anything I took the opportunity to say during my speech on the Budget, there are, none the less, matters of general importance in reference to which I should like, in the first place, to correct some of the statements of the Acting Prime Minister, and, in the second place, to show’ how inadequate, in my judgment, was the address of the honorable gentleman this afternoon. The Acting Prime Minister has fallen short of the request made in all the criticism on the Budget, for a sketch of the financial outlook from the Government point of view, and of the needs of the Commonwealth during the next few years, particularly in the light of the Tariff. During his observations this afternoon, the Acting Prime Minister treated us to a comparison of the revenue of to-day and of the revenue as it stood years ago in New South Wales. For instance, the honorable gentleman went back to 1899 in order to afford a comparison of the revenue required by the Government of that State then with the revenue required to-day. I do not know why the honorable gentleman did so, unless, to put it vulgarly, he desired to have a dig at Mr. Carruthers, who seems just now to be his bête noire.
– I did not once mention Mr. Carruthers’ name.
– I am aware of that. What the honorable gentleman did was to show that the Government of New South Wales is expending £2,000,000 per annum more to-day than it expended in 1899. Why did he not, at the same time, tell the Committee that his Government succeeded to power in New South Wales in 1899, and that the moment at which his Government has succeeded to power in New South Wales, or anywhere else, has synchronized with a swift upward leap of public expenditure? The honorable gentleman is noted for his spending proclivities. It was’ the Government that he put into power that increased the expenditure in New South Wales by no less a sum than £2, 500,000.Honorable members who have any political experience know how difficult it is once expenditure has been increased to reduce it to what it was before the increase. Somehow or other, public expenditure always creates vested interests. Departments are increased to pretentious proportions, and it is with the greatest difficulty in the world that they can be reduced to their original proportions without very great injustice and hardship to individuals. The Acting Prime Minister, therefore, has to-day unconsciously informed the Committee of one of the enormities of which his Government in New South Wales was guilty in sending expenditure up to a figure which it has not since been possible to substantially reduce. This should make us only the more careful as to our financial dispositions so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. When we know that it is so difficult in the government of a State to bring about a return to normal financial conditions, there is all the more reason why we should, during the period of financial boom through which we are passing, husband our resources, and not play the part of the spendthrift with them. I can conceive of no more salutary illustration than that to which the Acting Prime Minister has referred us in connexion with Government expenditure in New South Wales. The honorable gentleman was at great pains to tell us of the very large Federal expenditure which has been incurred since we took over our functions of government. A great deal of expenditure has been incurred to which no one can take any exception. Every one listened quite sympathetically to the narration by the honorable gentleman of the items of expenditure incurred in the proper and normal discharge of our Federal functions. But I venture to say that the Acting Prime Minister’s statement was still quite inadequate. We all knew these things before. No one quarrelled with them. The honorable members for Flinders, Parkes, and Swan have repeatedly said that they do not challenge these particular items. That has not been the criticism from this side at all. The criticism has been that all this piling up of expenditure, legitimate though it may be, is very speedily creating for us a very serious Federal financial outlook. That is the challenge which has been addressed from this side to the Acting Prime Minister.
– Then are we to stop or to go on with the work of the Federation ?
– We are to take the usual honest course of cutting our coat according to our cloth. We are to take the honest course of raising moneys before we undertake the spending of them. What we say is, that these items of expenditure constantly piling up show the necessity for proceeding cautiously with such proposals as those which are contained in the Tariff, which must necessarily destroy revenue if they are to have a protective incidence, and to attain the object at which the protectionist authors of the Tariff are aiming.
– If we are to have protection we must expect to reduce Customs revenue.
– Quite so. We were reminded of this last night at that particularly cordial meeting which Ministers addressed at Brunswick. I congratulate Ministers on the cordial reception which they receive whenever they address public meetings. I suppose we must take the tone of last night’s meeting as a complete justification for their proceeding with the Tariff. It was no doubt a booming success in every way from the fiscal propaganda point of view. I have no wish to discuss that meeting, but the PostmasterGeneral reminded his audience that three years ago he called attention to the fact that industries were being strangled. in Victoria. It has taken over three years to prepare this remedy, and now that they have it prepared I charge the Government with loitering over its application. I say that they are loitering over the Tariff, and show no disposition to get to close grips with it, and put the strangled industries upon a permanent basis. After three years of struggling, industries which have continued to pay handsome dividends-
– Order. I must ask the honorable member not to go into that question.
– I am dealing with the financial aspect only. During that time the volume of business in all these industries has increased, but notwithstanding the statement that they have been struggling for three years, there is still no disposition on the part of the Government to put them on a permanent footing. Passing from that, I should like to say that in my judgment the Acting Prime Minister has not replied to the criticism from this side. Our criticism has been that the Tariff will in all probability be ultimately in a form which will give us a revenue of £9,000,000.
– I did not say that. I think it will give a great deal more.
– I know that the honorable gentleman did not say that. He would not tell us what is his estimate of its operation. That is what we complain of.
– I did tell the honorable member. I said that I expected that it would give a revenue of £10,500,000.
– The honorable gentleman told us that that would be this year’s revenue, but in his Budget statement he also admitted that it was unquestionable that this revenue would be very largely reduced when the protective duties became operative. Does the honorable gentleman repeat that statement now?
– I did not say “largely.” I said that the tendency would be towards a reduction if the Tariff had its proper effect.
– Quite so. The Tariff, in proportion as it becomes protective, must have the effect of destroying revenue from imports. The Acting Prime Minister will not deny that, having just said the same thing in other words. We are forced to supply a basis of our own, since the honorable gentleman will not favour us with the probable results from the point of view of the Treasury. I thought that this afternoon we should have heard a definite statement as to the financial outlook, and the bearing of the Tariff upon it, after the infinite pains at which the honorable gentleman has been to state the financial position. Whether we have been economical or extravagant is not the point at issue. We desire to know our financial bearings before we set out to reduce or increase the revenue-pro-“ during capacity of the Tariff. On this subject we get no guidance from what the honorable gentleman has said this afternoon. We should have been informed of the financial outlook, and the honorable gentleman should give the Committee some forecast for the next two or three years before he asks us to deal with the Tariff. We have no reliable data to guide us, and the Government have at least no right to sneer at the Opposition, as some of them did at a public meeting held last night at Brunswick, and to ask whether or not certain honorable members on this side of the House are protectionists.
– It was a piece of gross impertinence.
– It was; and it was particularly impertinent to make personal references such as those in which the Postmaster-General indulged when he went so far as to speak of an honorable member of this House as “ The honorable member for the wine vats.”
– That was an interjection which I answered.
– It was a piece of impertinence on the part of the honorable gentleman to compare one honorable member with another, whom he called an “iceberg.”. We want less of these frothy, trashy utterances- r
– The honorable member indulges in such utterances in this House. He is constantly insulting me, as well as other honorable members.
– May I say that the great need of the moment in this House is a passionless, and, if honorable members like, an iceberg view of our financial outlook. It is far better to apply cold reason to these matters of finance than it is to make general statements on a public platform where there is no one to answer them and to indulge in tirades and diatribes against honorable members who in this House are striving to do their duty, and taking, as (Par as they may, a responsible view of our immediate financial outlook. I wish to recur for a moment to the position.
– Members of the Government, at the meeting in question, had a bad time, so that the honorable member need not attack them.
– It would seem that they had.
– Did the honorable member say I had increased the expenditure of New South Wales by £2,000,000?
– Yes. The Acting Prime Minister has endeavoured to saddle upon Mr. Carruthers the responsibility for an increased expenditure of £2,000,000 on the part of New South Wales. He tells me that he meant to indicate that Mr. Carruthers was responsible for the increase in question.
– I said so.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken.
– Mr. Carruthers has increased the expenditure, and the Commonwealth has supplied him with the money.
– If I remember rightly, the last utterance on this subject made by Mr. Carruthers was to the effect that the expenditure of New South Wales at the present time was much the same at it was when he took office three years ago.
– That is not correct.
– The Ministry which the Acting Prime Minister set up to govern that poor distracted country - New South Wales - rushed up its expenditure by no less than £2,000,000 a year.
– The Government of which I was the leader?
– The very first Estimates which the honorable member, as Treasurer of New South Wales, brought down - before he had been in office many months - showed a large increase.
– Nonsense !
– After the honorable member had been in office in New South Wales for twelve months, the expenditure of that State was increased by no less than £500,000. He is true to type. The moment he obtains control of the finances of the Commonwealth up goes the annual expenditure. That is what happens after he has acted as Treasurer for only a few weeks.
– The honorable member ought to be fair. I had nothing to do with the increase of the expenditure. I think I have given a very good reply to-day to the charge which has been made as to the increased expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– Quite so, but the honorable member has not replied to the question as to how our increased expenditure, necessarily extended as Commonwealth development proceeds, is to be permanently safeguarded. That is the issue, and the honorable member is challenged to deal with it. Before we set out upon our detailed discussion of the Tariff we need some information on the point.
– I want to know a little more of the returns from the Tariff before I can possibly supply it.
– Even then the honorable member would be very foolish to indulge in forecasts.
– That is so. The honorable member is fairer than the deputy leader of the Opposition.
– The exchange of compliments between the Acting Prime Minister and the honorable member for Dalley is becoming very frequent.
– The honorable member had better look out.
– I had indeed. When I find that the honorable member is amiable to the Opposition, I should do so as much for the safety of honorable members on this side of the House as for anything else. The Acting Prime Minister is putting the cart before the horse. He says to us in effect, “ Fix this Tariff as you please, and then I shall be able to forecast the financial future.” The matter at issue between us is very simple. We say to the Government, “ Let us know what is the financial outlook, so that we may know how far to proceed with the destruction of revenue in the consideration of the Tariff.” I venture to say that while the honorable member may be unable to forecast with accuracy what will be the financial position some years ahead, he should be able to look ahead, as Sir George Turner, the right honorable member for Adelaide, and every Treasurer has tried to do, for at least several years. The Government would have been well advised had they refrained from touching the Tariff for another year or two. I believe that for purely financial reasons it should not have been touched for some time. We may revise it now if honorable members desire to do so, but there can be no doubt that there will have to be further Tariff revisions after the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States have been settled in 1910.
– It is admitted that the Tariff is full of anomalies.
– It is full of anomalies, and will require considerable re-adjustment, but I am not now dealing with that point. There are purely financial considerations which might very well render Tariff re-adjustments necessary after our financial, relations with the States have been permanently fixed. With such frequent reconstructions of the Government, however, one begins to despair of any definite arrangement being made with the States. We do- not know where we are; the office of Treasurer passes from one member of the Ministry to another ; and every arrangement is changed during the course of a few months. It seems absolutely impossible to forecast the future, and to indicate what may happen even six or twelve months ahead. In such circumstances, it is the bounden duty of every honorable member to try to apply passionless logic to the financial question, and even to attempt to make a forecast, since the Government themselves, with all the resources at their command, refuse to do so. That is all the honorable member for Flinders did the other night. He attempted to make a forecast, saying distinctly that it was a rough and ready one, and no man could do more when he had not the resources of the Treasury behind him. Instead of dealing with that forecast, as he ought to have done - instead of attempting to correct the honorable member’s outlook - the Acting Prime Minister to-day set out to show that if we proceeded upon the basis indicated by the honorable member for Flinders we should have a huge deficit. That was exactly what the honorable member for Flinders pointed out. The whole point of his argument was that if we proceeded on, the basis of an annual revenue of £9,000,000 from Customs and Excise, we should find ourselves at the end of 191.0 face to face with liabilities amounting to no less than £1,000,000, which we should be unable to meet. That is the criticism which the Acting Prime Minister was asked to meet ; instead of meeting it, he has burked it. He can give us no statement of his own as to the outlook; he has none to give, and perhaps has not even considered’ the question. All that he has done has been to quote the flowing revenues of to-day. Any one who knows anything about business matters is aware that the revenue must necessarily increase whilst traders are unloading their stocks and before the Tariff has had time to operate in the direction of preventing imports and setting up the local supplies to meet the demands which- arise from day to day. Every one knows that, none better than the Acting Prime Minister. The relation of those figures, showing that to-day there is an overflowing revenue from the Customs, mattered little. Everybody knows that for this year there will be an overflowing revenue. An extra revenue of £1,000,000 ib provided for in the Estimates.
– It is not provided for to the extent that the revenue is coming in at the present time.
– But the honorable gentleman does not seriously think that the revenue is going to continue all the year like this? If so, he ought to revise his Estimates of revenue. If he has made a mistake he should recast his ‘ balancesheet.
– I have made no mistake.
– Clearly, therefore, the honorable gentleman contemplates a falling off of the present rapid rate of revenue before the year is closed. For the whole year he estimates that he is going to get, roughly, £1,000,000 more out of the Customs than he received last year.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon ; the extra sum is estimated to be received from the Post and Telegraph Department. The question, then, is whether this rate of revenue is going to be maintained in the years that are to follow. If it is, then what becomes of the protective incidence of the new duties ? I : take it that’ . their main function is to destroy revenue by setting up local works to supply the demands which are now supplied from oversea. It was incumbent upon the Treasurer, with all these serious obligations immediately in front pf him, to attempt to scan the financial horizon, to show us what revenue he expected from the new duties when they had settled down, and what the probable financial obligations of the near future were to be. In my judgment we are making somewhat of a mistake in proceeding with this Tariff at the present time. When vie set out on our Federal career it was ‘anticipated that the first ten years would be years of adjustment, and of the taking over of new functions, with the finances, therefore, somewhat . unsettled. That was the reason, I take it, why the financial safeguards were included in the Constitution. It was said in the Convention that whatever re-adjustments were to be made, whether they were to be economical or extravagant, the States at least should be safeguarded during the period’ of adjustment. As I have already said, when that period closes, with the close of the year 1910, it is inevitable that our financial outlook will have to be re-adjusted to the new conditions. That this was in the minds of Ministers themselves at the outset of our Federal career is quite plain from the records. Sir Edmund Barton declared that we could not have during the bookkeeping period, and trie period of the Braddon section, any definite settlement of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth. Accordingly he said that we should have a compromise Tariff which could be supported by freetraders and protectionists. His colleague, the present Acting Prime Minister, said the same. He repeatedly asked for the support of free-traders in his first electioneering campaign, and hoped confidently that he would get it, because he said, ‘ ‘ We cannot have a protective Tariff until the year 1910. It must be a Tariff averaging from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent.”
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said the average would be 15 per cent, or 16 per cent.
– The statement was quoted the other night from the Sydney Morning Herald, a very accurate paper, so far as its reports are concerned.
– Terribly accurate when it suits them.
– It showed that the honorable gentleman said at Cootamundra that all that we could expect was a Tariff of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent.
– I have denied that a dozen times, and denied it then.
– Not then.
– I denied it immediately afterwards - within a fortnight.
– That statement was reported in the same paper as having been made at two other meetings within a period of three or four weeks from the time it was first made. There were three or four distinct statements repeated by that paper, showing the honorable member to have said what I have just indicated. What shall we say of another member of that Ministry - a man who (would never, upon any other basis than that of a fiscal truce, have seen these Houses of Parliament as one of the representatives of New South Wales? He accused people who proposed to raise the fiscal issue in New South Wales of being traitors to the Commonwealth. On the basis that there could be no scientific protection for some years at least, all our initial arrangements were made. So far as I am able to judge, those forecasts have proved to be singularly accurate. It is not the forecasts that are wrong. It is our politics that, in the meantime, have not adjusted themselves to the forecasts that were then made, or - shall I say?- to the inevitable conditions arising from the very act of Federation. No sooner was that Tariff brought into operation than we heard the cry of “ strangled industries,” and so, because ,of those strangled industries in one State, we have this new Tariff brought down three years after the cry was raised Now we are face to face with a financial outlook which, I venture to say, is of the most menacing and serious kind. The seriousness of the outlook arises from the very fact that this Tariff is to further destroy revenue, and, therefore, before we adopt it, we have a right to know what the financial prospects require of us, so that we can, on the basis of the figures supplied by the Treasurer, and on the basis of past experience, so adjust the Tariff as to insure the receipt of sufficient revenue to meet our needs in the years that are to come. It is idle, therefore, to quote the Tariffs, in the way they have been quoted this afternoon, of Canada, the United States, and other countries. There is no analogy between the cases. Ours is a very different Federation from that of Canada. We are not able to deal as airily and lightly with our financial position as they may be able to do in Canada, where the Federation has control of the greater portion of the functions of Government, and leaves little for the States to do. Ours is a different problem from theirs. Say what you will, do what you will, turn this Tariff about as you will, the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States will always to a certain degree colour your financial outlook, and make for you your Tariff problems as well. I cafe not how you act, you cannot escape from that responsibility, unless you take an easy and short cut to those other sources of taxation to which reference has already been made in this debate. But, assuming for the present that we are going to finance Federation-
– Is there not a lot to be said for some direct taxation ?
– The whole point of my argument is that our present resources are altogether inadequate to meet out requirements. The Acting Prime Minister said nothing about direct taxation.
– That is the trouble.
– It does not trouble me, or other honorable members on this side. Our trouble is that the honorable gentleman cannot meet his obligations in the future without a resort to something of that kind unless a very great change takes place.
– The honorable member wants me to forecast for three years ahead - a nice little job indeed.
– The honorable gentleman is, I take it, fixing a Tariff for many years ahead. He is forecasting with respect to the Tariff at least. I call the attention of honorable members to his light and airy way of disposing of the financial outlook of the Commonwealth. He - the Treasurer - declines to have anything to do with the financial outlook for even two or three years ahead. What is the immediate financial outlook? We have to look two or three years ahead, and more, before we can fully realize what it is. The question of taking over the Northern Territory is not likely to be disposed of in less than two or three years.
– Is it not just as well to wait until we take over the Northern Territory ?
– The only trouble is that that proposal is included in the Government programme for this session. Is the honorable gentleman now repudiating the programme with which the Government met Parliament only a few weeks ago? If he says now that they do not intend to go on with all the large items of expenditure which were then forecasted, it will make the position very much simpler and the outlook very much easier. But I am assuming that their programme was honest and straightforward. I assume that the Government intend to deal with the transfer of the Northern Territory during this session.
– If we get an opportunity we will, but we may not have that opportunity. South Australia may not agree to our scheme.
– I see the position.
– What a stupid thing it would be to forecast things which were not likely to happen.
– If I recollect rightly, the honorable gentleman declared that that matter would be submitted for the consideration of this House during this session.
– If it comes off.
– Nothing was said then about whether or not South Australia was likely to agree.
– If South Australia does not agree, there will not be much good in going on with the proposal.
– It is not of much use to waste our time if South Australia is not going to agree.
– I propose to make one or two assumptions. I think it is safe to assume that South Australia will agree to the terms of the compact.
– South Australia has not yet agreed.
– South Australia has not refused to agree, and Ishall be very much surprised to hear that it has refused to accept the bargain which has been offered to them by the Prime Minister. I should say that it is not quite so safe to assume that the terms of the compact will be agreed to by this Parliament, as it is to assume that they will be agreed to by the South Australian Parliament. When a person begins to consider the outlook he is obliged to look a few years ahead at the very least. The transfer of the Northern Territory, the construction of the transcontinental railway, the transfer of lighthouses and buoys, the development of the fisheries and the discharge of other new functions have to receive our consideration. It should be remembered that these new functionsdo not necessarily mean a corresponding financial development. So far, our experience has shown that we may not hope to receive any revenue fromany of our ordinary functional departments. What I mean is that the Post and Telegraph Department to-day is spending all it earns, and a little more if a strict account of its expenditure were kept. Take that functional Department which on its spending side has developed most of all. I rete] to the Department of Defence, and I have to guard myself by alluding only to its spending side. I am afraid that there has been no development on the side of its efficiency.
– - There has been a large advance.
– I wish I could believe that. I have no hesitation in saying that its efficiency has not corresponded with the huge increase in its expenditure.
– As a matter of fact, its efficiency is greater, but the expenditure is not greater than it was when the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth.
– I will not stop to contest that point, as I am only making an incidental illusion. The only point I was making was that the Department which seems to be developed more than any other, and in which, during the last four years, the expenditure has practically doubled itself, is the one to which we can look for no return. I mean to say that it is all dead expenditure so far as the balancesheet is concerned.
– It is like an insurance premium. Once it is paid there can be no return until a fire occurs.
– Precisely. The money may be well spent, but it offers no return or relief to the national balancesheet. Therefore we have to look to a further drain on our reserves of taxation to meet the constantly expanding functions of the Federal Government.- The matter becomes very serious indeed if we intend to take over the Northern Territory. We shall have to face a deficit of something like £300,000 to begin with, beside the cost of developing the Territory in its earlier years. If we face the question of the transcontinental railway we find that an even larger expenditure is involved. Right round the development of our Federal functions we are confronted with a huge expenditure without any corresponding revenue.
– The honorable member does not assume for a moment that the cost of those works will be provided by the Customs revenue?
– I do not know where the money is to come from, but we have a right to ask the Government to attempt to forecast the probable sources from which the expenditure is to be met.
– When a vote for the expenditure is submitted the honorable member will get all necessary information, but that occasion has not arisen yet.
– Does not the honorable gentleman see my point?
– No. I do not think that the honorable member has any point to make.
– From a man so ignorant of finance as is the honorable member, I should expect nothing else. No man has shown more unbounded ignorance of the functions which he has been set to administer than the honorable gentleman has done during this debate. It is therefore only proper that he should say that honorable members who are trying to probe the matter a little are making no points, and have none to make.
– The honorable member has not made any yet.
– The honorable, gentleman has asked the Committee to condition the revenues of the country by a Tariff which he has introduced, and while doing that we ought to look to the probable demands upon that revenue in the very near future.
– One- hundred years hence.
– Again the honorable gentleman is dribbling out his inanities, which only shows his utter irresponsibility.
– Do not get angry.
– The way in which the honorable gentleman dribbles and loiters would make any one get angry. It is time that this Government began to assume an attitude of responsibility. The honorable gentleman’s statements only make it the more incumbent upon the members of the Committee to try to do for him that which he is either incapable or unwilling to do himself. Already we have outrun the constable. Take the functions which we are developing at present. We have not enough money with which to meet our requirements.
– Yes, we have.
– That interjection does not settle the matter. Take the figures of the honorable gentleman’s own balance-sheet, which shows that this year £io3,°°° is to be returned to the States in excess of their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. Out of that sum they must meet the interest on the transferred properties. Therefore, from the point of view of an ordinary honest balance-sheet we have outrun the constable.
– That is nonsense. Let the States stop some of their extravagance.
– What has that to do with the point?
– It has a great deal to do with the point about which the honorable member is talking.
-That raises quite another question. I am pointing out the present position of affairs. What the States may or may not do is a matter for the year 1910, and is not a matter of immediate concern. Until that year is reached the States will have a right to demand from the Treasurer three-fourths of the total Customs and Excise revenue which hereceives.
– And we are going to give it to them.
– I am inclined to think, with the honorable gentleman at the Treasury, that it is very fortunate that that safeguard is contained in the Constitution. Otherwise, the States would not get their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue very long. The honorable gentleman is constantly gibing at them., but that does not alter the fact that until 1910 they are guaranteed three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. Even in 1910 theCommonwealth will haveto so order its finances that, apart from any constitutional provision or hardandfast bond, the States may be well within their reserves in exercising their proper functions. The Minister has pronounced strongly for the termination of the Braddon section, and the taking over of the debts of the States. He assumed that we shall thus obtain more money to spend.
– I did not say so.
– The taking over of the debts of the States will give usno financial relief for some years to come.
– I said that the taking over of the debts of the States would make it unnecessary to deal with the Braddon section in any way.
– The point I am making is that the taking over of the debts of the States will not relieve the finances of the Commonwealth, except by any saving that may be made by conversion on maturity in the years ahead. However desirable it may be for the Commonwealth to assume control of the debts of the States, we should be living in a fool’s paradise if we were to think that it would necessarily and immediately relieve our finances.
– It would get rid of the trouble caused by the Braddon section. Mr. JOSEPH COOK. - It would put an end to the financial connexion between the Commonwealth and the States.
– That is all I said about it.
– It would not give us more money to meet our obligations and to develop our policy.
– We have still three years in which to prepare for the expiration of the Braddon section.
– The criticism advanced against the Government in this debate has been that, even if we do not undertake the large obligations to which reference has been made, there will be a deficit of£1,000,000 when the receipts from the Tariff settle down to normal proportions. To that criticism the Minister has returned no reply. He assumes that it is correct, and asks “How will it work out?”
– I did not assume that it is correct. I said that for the time being it might, for the purposes of argument, be taken as correct.
– It has been pointed out that there is a deficit of £1, 000,000 in sight.
– I have not stated that I agree with that.
– My complaint is that the honorable gentleman has put no alternative before the Committee. He seems to be willing to allow the difficulty to solve itself, believing in the essential goodness of things political. But no one should know better than the Minister charged with the financial administration of the Commonwealth that the increase in our revenue is due not merely to the higher rates of duty, but to the fact that we are passing through a period of boom trade; and that should be taken into account in estimating future returns. The financial outlook is strained and menacing, and yet the Minister passs it by as though of no importance, instead of trying to find a way out of our troubles. I do not wish to say more on the subject at the present time. I shall listen with interest to what he has to say in regard to the new protection. If he has a scheme, and I suppose that by this time he has, it will probably be found to be an adaptation of that submitted in outline by the leader of the Labour Party. But I shall be glad to know how the Excise is to be affected. All such schemes must be regarded from the financial point of view, and it is the duty of the Treasurer to deal with them from that stand-point. Instead of doing so, he is content to blunder along without any reliable forecast as to the future returns from the Tariff, allowing honorable members to determine for themselves whether the proposals put before us are based on sound lines, or will lead to financial straits and friction with the States. Friction must inevitably result if we cannot put a satisfactory financial scheme before the authorities of the States. The termination of the Braddon section in 1910 is not far off, and they have a right to complain of the want of breadth and lack of information in the statements of the Treasurer of the day and in his Budget speech. I hope that before we commence to deal with the details of the Tariff the Treasurer will endeavour to show us, in the interests of the States and of Australia, what our financial bearings are, and to what we may look forward with confidence in the immediate future.
– I do not profess to be a financier, but, as the honorable member for Parramatta has complained that the Treasurer has not told us how means are to be provided for carrying out such large undertakings as the taking over of the Northern Territory and the construction of railways which will follow it, together with the construction of the transcontinental line from South Australia to Western Australia, I would say that, if they are to come out of revenue, if they are to be deferred until the necessary financialprovision for them can be made out of the returns from the Tariff, they will remain in abeyance for many years.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. But the honorable member himself will admit that if these undertakings result in deficits, those deficits will have to be liquidated out of revenue.
– There is no honorable member who will contend that huge works such as the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, which will involve the expenditure of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, or the building of a line between Oodnadatta, in South Australia, and Pine Creek, in the Northern Territory, can be undertaken out of revenue.
– I was speaking of the annual loss which would result from these undertakings.
– The Acting Prime Minister is to be commended for having placed before the Committee a statement showing the reasons which underlie the increase of Federal expenditure. When the honorable member for Flinders was speaking upon the Budget, he was at great pains to show that the expenditure of the Commonwealth has increased, but he was not candid enough to admit that that increase was the result of the Commonwealth policy of constructing public works out of revenue instead of paying for them out of loan funds, as is done by the States. ‘ When I find honorable members talking of the increase which has taken place in our Federal expenditure, but lacking the candour necessary to show how that increased expenditure has been made up - in short, when I find them attempting to make it appear that the Federation is extravagant - I say that the Acting Prime Minister was perfectly within his rights in following the precedent established by Sir George Turner, and pointing out that the Treasurers of the States have been exceedingly well treated by the Commonwealth.
– Did not the honorable member hear the honorable member for Flinders say that he did not charge the Commonwealth with extravagance. Why does the honorable member deliberately misrepresent him?
– The honorable member for Flinders went to considerable trouble to show that Commonwealth expenditure has increased. As a matter of fact, had the works which the Commonwealth has undertaken been constructed out of loanfunds, instead of out of revenue - the honorable member for Flinders himself suggested that a great many of these works should nave been paid for out of loan money - the people of Australia would have been paying £86,000 annually as interest upon those undertakings.
– But we should have had all the principal in hand.
– Should we? It would have been “ played up “ long ago.
– There is no obligation upon the Commonwealth - from a constitutional stand-point - to return to the States more than three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. But, as a matter of fact, we have handed back to them £5,800,000 in excess of the three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled. Had the Commonwealth desired to indulge in extravagance, it had plenty of scope to do so. I ask the deputy leader of the Opposition how much we have saved the taxpayers of the States in that respect? If the States had not received £5,800,000 in excess of their share of trie Customs and Excise revenue, they would either have had to increase their taxation, or to borrow money for the purpose of carrying out their public works.
– Since Federation, the States have increased their expenditure by £4,000,000 annually.
– We do not hear anything about the increased expenditure of the States.
– I spoke about it, but the honorable member for Parramatta denied that there was any extravagance.
– The States have not carried out their portion of the undertaking which was entered into when Federation was established. . When the Constitution Bill was before the electors, its advocates persistently urged that the establishment of the Commonwealth would result in a considerable reduction of expenditure by the States. Has any such saving been effected? It is true that a small saving has been made in some of the States Parliaments by reducing the number of members, but I venture to say that £20,000 annually would represent the whole of theeconomy effected in that connexion. Yet the representatives of the States, in the’ persons of their Premiers, are constantly telling the people that the Commonwealth is extravagant. As a matter of fact, the extravagance is a little nearer home. Had the people ever imagined that the States would continue their huge costly establishments after the inauguration of the Federation they would not have sanctioned the creation of another Parliament. But State expenditure, instead of having decreased, has increased, and no opportunity is lost of endeavouring to discredit the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie pointed out the other day that since the inception of the Federation the expenditure of the six States has increased by £4,000,000 per annum.
– I was’ not present when the honorable member for Coolgardie spoke, but I do know that there has been a considerable increase of expenditure by the States. It is all very well, for the deputy leader of the Opposition - from party, motives - to attempt to discredit the Government. But we must recollect that anything which he may say may be used outside of this House to discredit the Commonwealth. Whilst I differ from the Acting Prime Minister as to the Tariff proposals of the Government, I think that the Opposition should assist the Government to place the plain facts of the position before the people, with a view to showing what is responsible for our increased Federal expenditure. Seeing that our expenditure makes provision for a number of public works which have hitherto been constructed out of loan funds-
– Nobody has adversely criticised our public works.
– The honorable member for Parramatta -himself criticised the statement of the Acting Prime Minister.
– No, the statement which he made was all right. It did not go far enough.
– I have a few words to say with regard to the per capita basis of expenditure. When that system was introduced in connexion with our public works, I stated that it would work out unfairly. If any honorable member takes the trouble to go through the figures it will be found that mv prediction has been verified- In some of the States we have to pay for the construction of most elaborate and, in some cases, extravagant buildings. But the per capita system tends towards extravagance. What inducement is there to keep down expenditure upon public buildings in any one State if it is found that the people of that State have to pay for the construction of expensive buildings in the other States? Glancing through the Estimates, I find that largie sums are set down for post-offices for comparatively small places.
– £3,000 is to be spent at Roma.’
– That is in the Maranoa district, and it is one of the large centres of the west of Queensland.
– What ‘is the population ?
– There are thousands of people there.
– I venture to say that the population of Roma is not so large as that of Port Pirie, where the Government officers ‘ begrudge the expenditure of ;£i;5°°-
– Roma is a big distributing centre for the whole of the west of Queensland.
– It appears to me that there are examples of extravagance throughout these Estimates. I do not know who is responsible for it.
– There is £2,500 to be spent at Northam.
– That is a very important agricultural centre in Western Australia.
– My point is that the per capita method leads to this sort of thing. A State is naturally inclined to say. “ What does it matter how much is spent, inasmuch as the other States have to assist to pay for it ?”
– For several years not a single building was erected by the Commonwealth in Queensland.
– The Minister will find on examining the facts that in Western Australia more Commonwealth buildings have been erected in proportion to population than in the State which I represent. I believe that the same is the case with Queensland also.
– No; for the first three years of Federation the Queensland expenditure was very low.
– The -per capita method is distinctly unfair; unless it is’ made to apply also to revenue. During the first three years of Federation each State was charged with its own expenditure on public buildings. Sir George Turner instituted this new procedure, and I pointed out at the time the unfairness of it unless the revenue was also distributed on a per capita basis.
– .It ought to work both ways - as to revenue and as to expenditure.
– Undoubtedly. The tendency is for the people in a particular’ State to endeavour to have elaborate post offices built, because the other States have to find the money. There seems to me to be something radically wrong with these public works Estimates. ‘ In some cases the expenditure is far too large, whilst in others there is the greatest difficulty in securing an expenditure of £500, £600, or £1,000 for a post office in a place that is of admitted importance. There is some fault either in regard to the officer in charge of this work or in connexion with the Public Works Department’s arrangements in the different States. I understand that in some of the States the recommendations to the Commonwealth Public Works Department go through the hands of States public servants. It is so in South Australia. Mr. Owen Smyth is the officer under whose control these matters are. I am inclined to think that his recommendations are below the mark in many instances. But at the same time South Australia is charged with her share on account of the more costly works carried out in other States. I would gladly see a return to the old method under which there were inducements to keep within reasonable expenditure in the matter of public works. The Federal system conduces to extravagance and to the erection of elaborate buildings in places where thev are not required.
.- I have risen chiefly to qualify the effect of some figures given by the Acting Prime Minister. I should like also to mention in connexion with some remarks that have fallen from the honorable member for Grey as to Federal extravagance, that I as a member of this House have never lost an opportunity that has been afforded to me on the public platform of referring to this alleged extravagance in the Administration of the Federal Government. I have always said that it did ‘not exist. The only direction in which we can be charged with extravagance is in matters of policy - not in matters of administration ; that is1 to say, in connexion with such matters as the sugar bounties over which, of course, we have control. I have seen it stated in the newspapers that some people have complained of increases in the cost of administration, but they were increases in the actual cost of government plus .the cost of our policies such as the sugar bounty, the expenditure on New Guinea, and several other matters. I should also- like to mention that I think the Minister made a mistake to-day in going into a very elaborate explanation of the estimated shrinkage of revenue returns under the Tariff during the first few years. No man in his ordinary senses would say that in eighteen months or two years this Tariff is going to lead to such an increased production that our manufactures will be able to overtake the consumption of the country. Take apparel and textiles. Does any one suppose that the requirements of our population will be compassed by the local, production for some years to come? The figures given by the Tariff Commission, for instance, show that the total imports of woollens amounted to £700,000 in value, while the total local production was £70,000. Even with all our mills working at full tension, we can easily see that we are not going to add to the local production by £700,000 within two or three years. My belief is that this Tariff will involve taxation upon the masses for some years to come. The only consolation is that a good deal of the money will find its way into the revenue instead of the pockets of the manufacturers. I have a word to say, also, with regard to figures quoted by the Acting Prime Minister from Schooling’s statistics, copied from the British Trade Year-Book of 1904. I have been unable to obtain a copy of that Blue Book in the library, but it was compiled upon certain statistics given in connexion with the Imperial Conference, those statistics being supplied at the instance of Mr. Balfour. Picking out seventeen representative exports from the United Kingdom, the statistics showed the percentages of the duties, when expressed in ad valorem terms, levied by some twentyeight or thirty countries on those exports. We have first to remember that those seventeen exports were representative exports from the United Kingdom, but were not representative imports of each particular country, and, therefore, from the latter point of view, their significance altogether disappears. It was found that the ad valorem incidence of the duties, specific and ad valorem, of the twenty-eight or thirty countries on those goods worked out in such a way that in Russia, which was at the top, the rate was equivalent to 131 per cent., while at the other extreme was Australia, with 6 per cent. But many of those imports, such as coal, were practically prohibited in some countries by the import duties of 100 per cent. and over, while in the case of Australia the representative imports were absolutely free. Honorable members will see at once the fallacy of basing the significance of our Tariff on a comparison with, the Tariffs of other countries in the way here attempted.
– Were the prohibitive duties included in working out the average?
– Yes; what is shown is the comparative incidence of the Tariff as a whole. I guarantee to pick out a dozen items, and to show that the incidence of our Tariff on English imports is even greater than in the case of Russia. I do not wish to labour the question; but that is the fallacy underlying the statistics picked out by Schooling for the Board of Trade. Let us refer to Coghlan to see the true incidence of the Tariff. Mr. Coghlan’s last production was in 1903, and it gives the real ad valorem equivalent of our duties, specific and ad valorem. He shows that the average on dutiable goods was 19.10 per cent. Now, I venture to say that the ad valorem equivalent of the duties on dutiable imports - I am not taking the whole range of the imports - is nearer 30 per cent. The Canadian rate is 30 per cent. on all dutiable imports, or, if we add the surtax against Germany, it is 37 per cent. I remember that a few years ago the ad valorem rate on all dutiable imports into America was 45 per cent. ; so that, worked out on a true basis, I believe that the incidence of our Tariff is not very much less than the incidence of the Canadian Tariff. I almost apologize for taking advantage of the present opportunity to deal with these matters, but I thought it just as well that the figures placed before us should not go forth without some qualification.
– The honorable member for Grey conveyed to me the impression that in his opinion the expenditure on the proposed transcontinental railway, and in connexion with the taking over of the Northern Territory, should come out of the revenue of the Commonwealth. I know that the honorable member had no desire to convey such an impression, but his argument would lead one to suppose that that was what he thought was in the mind of the deputy leader of the Opposition. What the deputy leader of the Opposition really referred to was the fact that there must of necessity be a very heavy expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth in connexion with both of these undertakings, inasmuch as there is at the present time a very heavy deficit on the Northern Territory, amounting to any sum up to £300,000 a year.
Mr.Poynton. - The deficit is not so much as that; it is£120,000.
– Let us take the deficit at £100,000. There is something very mysterious about the Northern Territory. While I am, personally, in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the Territory, I am certainly not in favour of handing over £3,250,000 to South Australia.
-Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth ought to have the Territory for nothing?
-I should treat the taking over of the Northern Territory asI would a commercial transaction. If the South Australian Government have unjustly piled up the expenditure, and burdened the Northern Territory with a debt of £3,250,000, whereas the liability should be no more than £1, 000,000, should we as business men be justified in paying South Australia£3,250,000?
– The honorable member is quite right ; those who have stood to the bargain have the last say.
– I take it that it is not a bargain at all, but a matter of expediency.
-Does the honorable member think that the Northern Territory ought to be handed over for nothing?
-I do not wish to discuss the merits of the proposal, but I say definitely that South Australia would do well if the Commonwealth were to take over the Territory without paying any money in compensation.
– If that is the opinion of the Commonwealth Parliament, we shall not be troubled with the matter.
-South Australia has very few assets in the Northern Territory on which to base a claim for compensation. However, as I said before, I do not wish to discuss the question because I feel disgusted with South Australia for her mismanagement of the Northern Territory. I have travelled a little in that part of Australia, and I shall have something to say regarding it at the proper time. At present, I am merely suggesting that the honorable member couldnot reasonably have had the impression that the necessary money will have to be provided out of revenue. The honorable member lost sight of the fact that there must of necessity be a very heavy loss on both of the undertakings to which I have referred. It is estimated that if the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway be constructed, there must, for a number of years, be a very heavy deficiency, and that, of course, will have to come out of the Commonwealthrevenue. If a railway were ever seriously proposed as betweenOodnadatta and Pine Creek, another heavy burden would be imposed on the Commonwealth, amounting to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. That, I take it, was what was referred to by the honor able member for Parramatta. The Government is charged with incurring a great deal of expenditure; indeed, I think the deputy leader of the Opposition said there was a good deal of extravagance. While I believe there is extravagance on the part of the Commonwealth, it is not extravagance of the nature that is charged against the Government by the States authorities. The heavy expenditure disclosed in the Budget papers on account of public works is caused by the large sums unnecessarily devoted to Roma and two or three other places.
– Roma is a most important centre.
– It is proposed to spend several thousands of pounds at Roma. In Commonwealth affairs, we should do as is done in the United States, namely, build for the needs of the time, and add to the building as occasion requires. In this connexion, no State has shown a better example than South Australia, where we never find a public building more than is required. Looking through the Estimates, I find that the expenditure on post-offices proposed for South Australia is less than that proposed for any of the other States, although comparing one with another the towns of that State are far more important than some of the towns in other States in which twice the amount of money is proposed to be expended. So I say that the administration of the Department is expensive and extravagant. But, on the other hand, Isay that it is false to contend that, as a Parliament, we fritter away Commonwealth funds. We have not done so. The unnecessary expenditure that I hint at is in making provision for increase in business . that may never accrue in the centres named. In the carrying out of Commonwealth policy considerable expenditure has been involved. This must of necessity be continued, in pursuance of the policy of the Commonwealth, upon which there has been no division of opinion, in this Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Grey, that we ought not to take the abuse of States Premiers lying down. They have throughout Australia attempted to lord it over this Parliament. It seems to me that the Government might with some dignity have stood up for the rights of this Parliament. They have, however, knuckled under to the States authorities.
– As, for instance?
– The honorable gentleman wishes me to quote an in- stance, and I tell him that at these Premiers’ Conferences the Government have invited States Premiers and Treasurers to tell them what policy they should submit to the Federal Parliament.
– The States Premiers have invited Commonwealth Ministers to be present at their Conferences.
– The States Premiers have called Conferences, and have invited the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to receive his policy from them.
– No, to listen to their representations.
– To listen to their representations, and to adopt their resolutions, and the Commonwealth Government have adopted them. The members of the present Commonwealth’ Government are unworthy of the position they hold, since they frame their policy under “the dictation of the States authorities.
– The honorable member’s own leader took up that position.
– I am not defending the action of my leader, but I am glad the honorable gentleman admits the truth of my statement.
– I do not admit anything of the sort.
– In this matter the late Government was just as bad as the present and previous Commonwealth Governments. They have all knuckled under to the States authorities. The fact that States Premiers travel through the country abusing the Federal Government and Parliament is nothing more than might have been expected, in view of the way in which we have knuckled under to them. We have made the States authorities paramount, instead of giving them notice of what our policy is going to be, in order that they might make due provision when submitting their Budget statements to their respective Parliaments. Instead of adopting that dignified course, we have accepted dictation from them, and have framed our Budget in accordance with their policies. I am of opinion that the States Governments should be given to understand that they must economize. They have in the past received too much money. New South Wales has received millions more than the States authorities had a right to expect. Before the present Administration took office, they spent all they received, to the extent of millions of pounds, and ran into debt to the extent of £350,000. In addition to that, they have frittered away £12,000,000 of borrowed money. The Government of New South Wales is the most extravagant Government in Australia. They have been reared upon extravagance. They have had command of an immense revenue, great credit, and magnificent returns from the lands of the State. The Federal authorities should give them to understand now that they must live within their means, and the Victorian Government should be told the same thing.
– Victoria does live within her means.
– That is so; but her Government is most extravagant, and is nearly as bad as that of New South Wales in the way in which they dragoon this Parliament.
.- Listening to the criticism of these votes, I have been wondering if it is possible to secure the assistance of honorable members opposite in any attempt to cut down the total of the proposed expenditure, or the expenditure proposed in connexion with anyparticular item. If not, criticism of the votes is not worth very much. I do not care to undertake the duty of saying what amount may properly be expended on a particular post-office. No private member is in a position to do that. But I should certainly be prepared to support reasonable reductions, and in the case of one or two items, to which I might refer, I should be prepared to suggest an increase in the votes proposed. I do not believe that Commonwealth expenditure on buildings is generally extravagant, but I point out that the expenditure on post-offices and other Commonwealth buildings is much greater in some States than that proposed in others for doing practically the same work. As this expenditure is now debited to all the States on thepercapita basis, it is right that it should be harmonized. I do not for a moment suggest the parochial view that the amount of expenditure should be the same in each State, but that, having due regard to the higher price of materials and wages in one locality as compared with another, we should expect to be able to do about the same work for the same money in one State as in another. It is proposed to expend a sum of £3,000 on a post-office at Roma, a place with only some 2,300 people. There is only a very small staff there.
– Where is Roma?
– Roma is in Queensland. It is an important town. There are a couple of artesian bores there, and also a bore which produces natural gas, by which the town is lighted. I am rather well up in the history of .Roma, its geographical position, its potentialities and possibilities, but I cannot for the life of me see why we should have a post-office there costing £3,000, whilst at other places, as, for instance, at Port Pirie, where there is a very much larger population, and a much greater volume of business, £1,500 is considered quite sufficient for a post-office. The post-offices required for some places in Western Australia would appear to be designed on the most lavish scale, judging by the amount set down for them. For instance, £2,900 is set down for a post-office at Northam, which, although the centre of an agricultural district, is but a very small town.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– When we ad.journed for dinner I was pointing out that it was difficult to arrive at the basis of the proposed expenditure on new works and buildings. In some towns the population of which is very small, the Commonwealth, appears to be prepared to expend far more on its public services than in other towns of greater importance, and boasting a much larger population. I cited the proposed expenditure of £3,000 on a post office at Roma, and the Minister of Trade and Customs referred, by way of interjection, to a proposed expenditure in connexion with the Unley post office. I am rather pleased that he did so, since his interjection gives point to my remarks. After some agitation, the ‘ Government have placed on the Estimates something like £200 to provide additional postal facilities at Unley, a South Australian municipality comprising a population of 20,000. For that expenditure additions will be made to the post office there, the total cost of which was considerably under £1,000. The necessary provision for a fairly large staff will be made, and the people will be satisfied ; yet in other towns, with a mere handful of people, very large sums are to-be expended.
– It will be a waste of money.
– That is so. The Attorney-General will probably tell us that Cloncurry, where it is proposed to expend £1,500 on a post office, is a very important place. I learn from the directory that it has a population of 239.
– I dare say that the cost of erecting a building there would be very expensive.
– Very great difficulty was experienced in inducing the Government to provide a sum of £1,500 for a postal building ait Port Pirie, with a population’ of upwards of 10,000. Mr. Austin Chapman. - The honorable member must not forget that there is already a post office at Port Pirie, whilst at Cloncurry the post office may not be a Government building. . It may be a question of erecting a new building in one case, and of repairing an old one in the other.
– That is a point on which I desire to be enlightened. . I should think that there is already a post office at Cloncurry, and that in many cases where* a large sum is to be expended in ‘the erection of new buildings comparatively small expenditure on additions would be sufficient. We ought not to be constantly spending 011 new postal buildings all over the Commonwealth much larger sums than appear to be justifiable. Certainly an expenditure of £3,000 on a new post office at Roma, and of £2,900 on a new post office at Northam require some explanation.
– But remember who was Treasurer When the amount for the Northam post office was placed on the Estimates.
– Northam is a very important place.
– And the amount proposed to be expended on the post office there is an important item. I notice some striking disparities between the amounts proposed to be voted for the erection of drill rooms. One would imagine that such buildings would be much the same all over Australia. For the most part they are built of weatherboards and galvanized iron. In some towns drill rooms have been erected at a cost of .£200 or £300, whilst in much smaller ones they have cost up to £1,000. I should like to know the basis of the allocation of this expenditure. When in the early days of the Commonwealth each State was debited with the expenditure incurred in it by the Commonwealth, the Government of Queensland specially requested the Federal Ministry not to incur any expenditure in that State unless it was absolutely necessary. One or two other States made a like request ; but since the Commonwealth expenditure has been dealt with on a per capita basis we have had no such appeals. On the contrary, the constant desire of these States is that we should spend as much as possible on new works and buildings.
– New works and buildings are paid for on a per capita basis.
– The proposed expenditure in New South Wales and Victoria amounts in each case to about ^£100,000; but the expenditure on new works and buildings in Queensland is £85,000; South Australia, £52,000.; and in Western Australia, the population of which is only about half that of South Australia, £57,000.
– Western Australia has had to contribute to expenditure in Victoria and New South Wales.’ ,
– What does” she contribute ?
– South Australia’s per capita contribution is very nearly what it would be under the bookkeeping system.
– That is a consideration which demands some attention.
– The expenditure, taken over a series of years, works out pretty much the same in all the States. I think that Western Australia is about ^20,000 to the good, but it is a matter of give and take.
– I recognise that the population of Western Australia has increased so rapidly that there has been a greater necessity for a large expenditure on public buildings to meet its growing requirements than there has been in the case of some of the other States.
– The small States have to contribute to the expenditure of the big States, and vice versa.
– Whilst that may be so, unless a comparison be made between the revenue received from each State and the expenditure in each, we cannot say whether or not a fair distribution of expenditure has taken place.
– The revenue is dealt with under the bookkeeping system, whilst the expenditure on new works, as I have said, is dealt with on a per capita basis.
– That is so. We have either adopted the per capita system of distribution of the expenditure too soon or we ought to extend that system to the distribution, of revenue. I recognise that in the latter contingency it would be necessary to have special consideration for Western Australian conditions.
– The Constitution prevents our adopting a different course in regard to new works and buildings until 1910.
– The real reason for the adoption of the present system of dealing with expenditure was that Sir George Turner said that, as Treasurer, he could not separate capital from maintenance on any legal basis.
-.- I well remember the statement made on the subject by Sir George Turner when he held office as Treasurer. I wish to be sure that real economy is being practised. I speak from some little’ experience, gained during the short while that I was Minister of Home Affairs. I found there plans prepared and buildings proposed on what I thought was a more elaborate scale than necessary.
– Woollongabba, for instance.
– That was only one instance. Others never reached that stage.”
– They have a magnificent building there now.
– That must have been determined upon after I left office. I did not propose the expenditure of money on magnificent buildings anywhere within the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member obstructed progress.
– If that is obstructing progress, I did. I cut the Estimates down as far as I was able. I am a great deal more concerned about the people of Australia having old-age pensions at the earliest possible opportunity than elaborate buildings. I notice that the Treasurer has included a provision for .£250,000 for harbor and coastal defences. An amount of £125,950, which it is anticipated may not be expended during the year, is deducted from the total of .£342,000, leaving a sum of £21.6,050 udder the “Special Defence” provision. I presume that unless some scheme is placed definitely before Parliament, the Government will not ask the Committee to pass that item. I would not pass any such huge vote without knowing precisely what was to be done with it. The Committee will require to know before it passes this large vote, which one may assume involves some new scheme, precisely what that scheme is. I shall not vote for any such proposals unless we know what we are doing.
.- I am one of those who view the financial outlook for the future with very serious misgivings.
– Does the honorable member know anything about it?
– If I did not know a little more about it than the Treasurer seems to know, I should not consider myself fit to occupy a seat in this House. If he knows anything at all about the finances of the country, surely it wasnot too much to expect him to lay before the Committee, not only a complete statement of the actual condition of the finances at the present time, but also an indication of the policy of the Government with regard to future financial provisions which must be made to meet the readjustment which is imperative on the expiration of the Braddon period in 1910.
– What more does the honorable member want to know than that we have money enough probably for the next two years? Does he want me to go into the dim future?
– Certainly not, but every careful and prudent administrator of finance will not only have regard to the immediate necessities of the present, but look ahead a little, . and see that, whilst immediate financial exigencies are met, suitable ‘provision, is also made against’ getting into deep financial waters in the future. If the Treasurer had any proper sense of his responsibilities to this House, and to the country, he would have gone into the matter in a very much more careful and business-like way than he appears to have done. My own impression is that he knows nothing at all about the matter, and that he has not got the information. The Budget speech he recently delivered is the poorest that ever came from any Treasurer in any Parliament - State or Commonwealth. All he seemed to do was to lay before the Committee the figures which had been compiled by his officers, without apparently having any practical knowledge of their application to the general affairs of the Commonwealth. He appeared to know absolutely nothing at all about the general condition of the finances, and he certainly did nothing in the direction of indicating what was to be the financial policy of the Government for the immediate future. I have taken occasion before, when speaking on the Budget, to, object to the practice, whilst we see in the future a certainty of our financial responsibilities increasing by leaps and bounds, of” handing over to the States a sum over and above the three-fourths of the Customs and* Excise revenue which, under the Constitution, we are obliged to return to them . I shall quote what I said when speaking on the Budget last year. I hold the same view now. As reported on page 2489 of Hansard, of last year, I said -
The policy of handing over to the States surpluses of revenue which have aggregated!! £5,233,000 is an entirely erroneous one. The-
Treasurer has admitted that it cannot continue, and he has pointed out that in the near future we are likely to incur increased obligations. I say that we ought to conserve our funds for contingencies of that kind. Whilst we have the opportunity we ought to make provision to meet these prospective increases, and, possibly, some unforeseen expenditure. Instead of doing that, we have been handing over these balances to the States, with the result that some of them are able to point in their financial statements to surpluses. I have always maintained that a surplus of revenue in the hands of a Treasurer is more indefensible than is a deficit.
The right honorable member for Swan was then Treasurer. He certainly gave a much more explicit and comprehensive Budget speech than we have had on the present occasion. Heknew what he was talking about, and that is more than I can give the present Treasurer credit for. We have paid to the States, over and above the amount which we had a constitutional obligation to pay, a total of £5,728,114. At the same time, although our expenses have not been very great up to the present stage of the existence of the Commonwealth, there are impending in the immediate future a number of liabilities which we must face, and for which we must make financial provision. The Treasurer has made no attempt to make provision for those liabilities. These will include the expenditure on the Federal Capital. No one, ofcourse, can estimate how much that is likely to be.
– The Treasurer is going on the principle of “ Take no thought for the morrow.”
– The Treasurer has just stated that it is quite sufficient to provide for the next two years, and not to trouble about what is likely to follow.
– He is not providing for the next twoyears.
– No. The honorable member is quite right.
– I do not think that the Treasurer said that.
– The Treasurer told us that it is quite sufficient to provide for the next two years.
– Surely that is enough to do.
– I do not think it is ; but, in any case, that has not been done. We ought to look ahead, and face the facts which confront us.
– We may look ahead, but we need not provide for more than two years.
– We want to know where we are going, and what we are expected to do. I do not mean to say that out of the current revenue we should provide for future expenditure. The Government ought to outline a general scheme. We have . looming ahead this expenditure on the Federal Capital, which must be faced, and for which provision must be made, no matter where it may be established.
– It does matter.
– If we should be so -unfortunate as to decide on an outlandish place like Dalgety as a. site- -
– Since the last trip it is dead.
– I think that Dalgety is dead as a site, but if we should have to face such a misfortune as I have indicated, I ami sure that we could not do with an expenditure of less than £10,000,000 for that purpose alone. I believe it is part of the Government policy to take over the Northern Territory.
– How can we do anything in that matter until we know whether South Australia is going to agree to the transfer?
– I understand that the taking over of the Northern Territory’ is part of the Government policy - at any rate, it was so stated in the Governor-General’s speech.
– The honorable member is suggesting a stupid impossibility.
– Why did the Government make that announcement in the GovernorGeneral’s speech? If the Treasurer now repudiates it, it is a most extraordinary position for a member of the Government to take up, and one which cannot be easily understood by a.n ordinary person.
– For heaven’s sake, talk sense, and not nonsense.
– The honorable gentleman might set me an example. I have not yet heard him put that- ; advice into practice. It is also proposed to sacrifice ,£117,000 of the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department in order to establish penny postage throughout the Commonwealth. Then we _ have to face the question of defence, which in the near future must involve a very large expenditure. Other questions to be considered are the transfer of the States debts, the construction of transcontinental railways, and the erection of necessary lighthouses which the ex-Treasurer in his last Budget estimated would cost from £150,000 to £200,000. No account of those questions seems to have been taken by the present Treasurer, and I hope that even now it is not too late for him to indicate the views of the Government.
– Cannot the honorable member wait until we propose to take over the lighthouses, buoys,, and beacons from the States?
– It is not necessary to wait for that event to happen before we proceed to consider the question of ways and means.
– To consider something which may never be done.
– Perhaps it may never be done, but it ought to be done, and speedily, too; and if it is to be done we want to know where the money is to come from.
– We shall tell the honorable member when we propose to take that step.
– I do not think that the honorable member will be able to tell us even then. Last year we returned to the States ,£805,000 in excess of their three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue. The total amount paid by the Commonwealth in that year was - to New South Wales, £2,361,846; to Victoria, £1,518,670 ; to Queensland, £61,519; to South Australia, £527,463; and to Tasmania, £158,706. I think it is very bad policy to keep continually-
– But we cannot alter that until the expiration of the Braddon section.
– I think we can. We can pay the three-fourths share to the States, but there is no necessity to have an unexpended balance.
– Under the Constitution we have to pay over the balance.
– There need have been no balance if we had met some of our financial obligations. A number of the defence and other works, which are provided for on these Estimates, might well have been carried out with the aid of the unexpended balance.
– It would be far better to use the unexpended balance as payment on account of transferred properties.
– The money might’ well have been used in that direction, or in other legitimate ways, instead of being returned to the States. I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that there should be considerable curtailment of some items on the Estimates before the . Committee. Attention has already been called to the large amounts which are proposed for a number of postoffices. I do not intend to refer to those items in detail at the present time, but I cannot help being struck with the fact that large sums are set down for post-offices in the back-blocks, where there is apparently only a very limited population. Although the population in those places may be numbered almost by the dozen, yet the pro- posed expenditure on post-offices runs into a very large sum. I miss one item from the Estimates.
– What is that item?
– I am alluding to some additions which are required .for a post-office in my electorate.
– Would not that be extravagance?
– Not in this case, because the district is extremely populous, and the amount is very small. I am not asking for a penny to be spent . in the construction of a new post-office in any part of my electorate, but it has been represented by the municipality of Rockdale - one of the most populous portions of the electorate- that it has a post-office in which the accommodation for the public is only about 8 feet square. In that space, the postal officials have not only to transact ordinary postal and telegraphic business, but also to pay old-age pensions. Honorable members can easily imagine the congestion which must take place on a counter only 6 feet long and in a space about 8 feet square. A report was called for, and some alterations were approved, but on these Estimates I do not see anyprovision made for the purpose. Perhaps the Treasurer can tell us whether provision is made in the Estimates-in-Chief.’ I understand that the sum required to make the alterations, which are imperatively necessary, is less than £200.
– I shall ascertain, and let the honorable member know.
– I should be the last to advocate expenditure which was not absolutely necessary; but I think that it has been reported by the officers of the Department., that this expenditure is so, and I understand that plans have been approved. Generally speaking, honorable members are not desirous of unnecessarily curtailing proposals for expenditure in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department^ but they should exercise discretion in regard to such as on their face seem excessive. We have had no explanation . of the items set forth in division 8, under the heading. “ New special defence provision,” namely -
We should not starve the Defence Estimates, but should make liberal provision for a proper system of defence. We must, however, know the general policy of the Government before voting large sums of money for defence purposes. The Acting Prime Minister has been asked to explain the items to which I am drawing attention, but he has refraine’d from doing so, on the plea that the Prime Minister wishes to deal with the matter personally, and he does not desire to anticipate anything that he might say. It would, therefore, beonly fair to ask him to postpone the items until we have received the Prime Minister’s explanation.
– We are not going to abandon our local defence because of other arrangements that may be contemplated.
– Certainly not. But the Prime Minister, when in London in connexion with the Imperial Conference, made an arrangement with the Imperial authorities in connexion with the Australian Naval Agreement, and we are entitled to know the policy of the Government in regard to defence, and whether, amongst other things, this proposed expenditure on coastal and harbor defences is to provide the nucleus of an Australian Navy.
– What does the Treasurer say about the matter?
– We cannot get information from him in regard to it.
– Then we should not vote the money.
– He tells us that we must await an explanation from the Prime Minister, and I think that we should not vote the money until we get that explanation.
– The honorable member would make us wait for everything, if he had his way.
– I shall be very much surprised if the Committee votes for these items in the absence of an explanation of a satisfactory character in regard to them. I understand that the Tariff debate has been interrupted to allow of the consideration of these Estimates, because it is urgent that provision should be made for new works. However sound that reason may be so far as it applies to perhaps most’ of the items, it does not apply to the items to which I have called special attention. There is no urgency so far as they are concerned, and I submit that they might well be postponed until information “has been supplied to honorable members as to the purpose of the proposed expenditure, and the general policy of the Government in regard to naval defence. I do not wish to detain the Committee longer now; but when the items are being considered in detail, honorable members will, no doubt, feel it advisable to considerably curtail some of the proposed expenditure.
.- I do not think that honorable members desire to prolong the discussion of these Estimates. For the most part they provide for necessary works, upon whose construction we should enter at the earliest possible moment, and I shall, therefore, assist the Government in passing them, reserving to myself the right to ask for information in regard to individual items. Items about which I desire information are those in division 8, where £216,050 is proposed to be expended, under the heading of “ New special defence provision. 1 ‘ I have no doubt that “the Minister of Defence, or in his absence some other Minister, will be able to make a full explanation of those proposals.
– Does the right honorable member think that these items should be passed in the absence of the Minister of Defence? There can be no great urgency, so far as they are concerned.
– I do not know that, the Estimates could well be passed without them. Ministers are not likely to ask us to vote for proposals which they have not fully considered, and in regard to which they are not able to give us full information. But I should not have risen to make these observations had I not wished to refer to one or two matters to which I think it is necessary that I should direct attention. The first of these has reference to the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth. For some reason or other, the Acting Prime Minister and -myself appear to have got at loggerheads in regard to what was the intention of the Deakin Government in this connexion. There ought to be no difference whatever upon this question. However, an impression appears to have got abroad - an impression which has been created by the interjections of the Acting Prime Minister - that I did something at the Brisbane Conference of Premiers which I was not authorized to do. I venture to think that the Acting Prime Minister has not given that attention to this subject which I have devoted to it, and consequently is not quite so fully versed in all its details. To-night, he seems to think that there is really no difference of opinion between us. I am rejoiced to hear that that is so. In speaking this afternoon, the honorable gentleman quoted a statement which was made by the Prime Minister at the Melbourne Conference of Premiers - a statement which I quoted at the Brisbane Conference. I told the Pre,miers there that -
My object was to place the matter before you as it occurred to me, and also in accord with the powers with which I am vested.. I cannot but know, as you all know, that on the 10th October last, in response to a question; asked by the Premier of Tasmania of Mr. Deakin to .this effect -
We clearly understand then that the scheme of Sir John Forrest is that in taking over the State debts we cannot deal with one part without the other?
In other words, we could not’ deal with the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth unless we also, dealt with the taking over of the States debts. To that question the Prime Minister replied -
Exactly, not one without the other.
I went on to say -
I am here, as you know, acting for the Prime Minister, and I “point out that that answer was given deliberately. I said yesterday that the two matters were distinct under the Constitution, and that one could be arranged for without the other, yet it was the view of. the Commonwealth ‘Government that both should go together.
The Acting Prime Minister said this afternoon that the two matters were not distinct under the Constitution.
– I did not.
– The honorable gentleman said that we could not extend the Braddon section without taking over the States debts.
– I said that the Prime Minister would not agree to doing the one thing without the other.
– The two matters are quite distinct.
– Constitutionally they are.
– The official report of the Brisbane Conference continues -
The President : Without disparaging the statement of Mr. Deakin, you recognise that there is no necessary connexion?
To that I replied -
I say there is no legal connexion between the two.
The Acting Premier of Victoria, the Honorable J. M. Davies, then said -
We have accepted your conditions in connexion with the first portion in the expectation that that would be sufficient to induce you to proceed in the meantime with one without the other.
To that statement I replied - and here again I was carrying out the view of the Prime Minister and of the Deakin Government -
Besides that, there can be no doubt that getting the concurrence of the Federal Parliament will be much more difficult in dealing with one rather than in dealing with the whole matter of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. -Again, this provision about taking over the State debts is one that has been well considered both by the people and by all the Legislatures. From the date . the Federation was established until now it has been continually talked about, and the general opinion of the people of Australia - and I have not heard it demurred from - has been that the State debts should be taken’ over at the earliest moment, because they know that taking over those debts must mean in the end a considerable saving to the people.
The last words that I uttered at the Conference - as will be seen by reference to page 269 of the official report - were -
In saying good-bye, I hope you will have a successful completion of your .labours. I am very glad to have had an opportunity of meeting yon. I cannot say I go away altogether satisfied, but still one-half of the work is very satisfactory.
– What half was that?
– The half defining the financial relations of the Commonwealth to the States. The States Premiers had agreed to the terms of the proposal in that connexion which I had put before them. The other half of the proposal had reference to postponing the consideration of the question of taking over the States debts until a more convenient season. I continued -
The other half is not so satisfactory. I still hope before you separate you will see the wisdom of trying to put into the pockets of our own people some of that £13 per cent, of our loans, amounting to ^30,000,000 a year, which they . are now losing.
That was the position which I took up at the Brisbane Conference - a position which I had the full authority of the Prime Minister to take up, and which did not bind the Prime Minister to accept one half of the scheme - if he did not desire to do so - in the absence of the other half.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I said from- the very first.
– I did not understand the Acting Prime Minister to say that. Evidently there has been a misunderstanding. In my speech, upon the Budget, I quoted what the Prime Minister said at the Melbourne Conference of Premiers in regard to this proposal. He said -
My colleague, the Commonwealth Treasurer, has prepared what we believe to be the best and fairest scheme to adopt all round.
I also said that the Prime Minister might fairly say - .
It is true we did put forward those proposals in reference to a return of the surplus to the end of 1920, but we associated with that the taking over of the whole of the debts, and we are not prepared to put one matter Before Parliament without the other.
I understand from the Acting Prime Minister that the Prime Minister still says that he will not put forward that portion of the scheme which has been agreed to by the. States Premiers, without also putting forward the taking over of the States, debts - a proposal which has not been agreed to by them. But I would point out that there is no necessity to ask the States for permission to take over their debts. Under the Constitution we have full power ‘ to take over £202,000,000 of their “debts - that is the amount of the debts in existence at the time of the consummation of Federation - and I have always advocated the adoption of that course, although I have no objection to taking over the whole of the debts.
– It would be much better to take over the whole of them.
– But if we took over the whole of the debts existing now, they would not always represent the whole. There is no reason why this Parliament should not take over the £202,000,000 of the public debts of the States at any time that it chooses to pass the necessary legislation. It has full power to do so under the Constitution. Upon a previous occasion I saidthat the Acting Prime Minister had declared that he would not accept the proposals which I put before the States Premiers at Brisbane. If he meant that he could not accept the two proposals separately I accept his explanation.
SirWilliam Lyne. - I meant the extension of the Braddon section without providing for the transfer of the States debts.
– My opinion is that it is not impossible to do the one without the other. If we do not choose to take over the debts we need not do so. The Constitution provides that we “may” take them over; it does not say that we “shall.” It is not compulsory upon us to do so. It is solely in the interests of the whole Australian people that we should take over the debts. The Commonwealth Treasury will not gain a farthing by it. The profits will go into the coffers of the States Governments, and the people will probably in the end save£20,000,000. That is the reason why we should be anxious to see the debts taken over by the Commonwealth. As to the matter of the amount to be returned to the States, the Constitution provides that at the expiration of the Braddon section the Customs and Excise revenue may be retained by the Commonwealth for the purpose of paying interest on the debts of the States.
– The amount over and above the three- fourths?
– No, after the operation of the Braddon section ceases, it will be optional with the Commonwealth how much it returns or retains. But if the Commonwealth does not spend all the money, it is bound to return the balance to the States.
– We have a means of spendingit ourselves.
– But the States require the money verymuch, to enable them to carry out their obligations. It must be remembered that the people of the States and those of the Commonwealth are all one people. The revenue of the States and the revenue of the Commonwealth belong to the same taxpayers, and whatever we do in relation to the debts will benefit the same people. The£800,000 which we are now going to vote will not, so far as the people of Australia are concerned, be as though it were thrown into the sea. It will benefit each State in which it is expended just in the same way as the expenditure of money voted by the Parliament of Victoria benefits the people of this State.
– What about State extravagance ?
– I do not think that there has been any Federal extravagance. I have not seen any. If we have at any time spent money a little more freely than we might have done, we had it to spend, but I am quite certain that no money has been’ spent by the Federal Government, whilst I have had anything to do with it, that has not been necessary, and that has not been carefully spent.
– The honorable member for Gwydir said, “State extravagance.”
– I should not like to say anything about the expenditure of the States, but I know that the Commonwealth Government has been economical.
– Why not speask out?
– I would if I had any knowledge, but I am not going to speak without knowledge. Again,I went on to say that the proposals submitted at Brisbane in regard to our financial relations with the States were exactly the same as those submitted by me in the last Parliament. I was twitted by my honorable friend, the Acting Prime Minister, thatI had shown a leaning towards my own State. Well, I shall certainly never try to do an injustice to my own State, but I hope I shall never do a good turn to my own State at the expense of another.
– I only said that I thought the right honorable member had an eve on his own State.
– The honorable gentleman said that he very soon found out what was underlying my action. I do not think that he had looked closely into the matter at that time, and probably he was speaking under some irritation and without full knowledge.
– I was not irritated, and was not speaking without knowledge.
– Again, the honorable gentleman said that my proposal was ari absolutely impossible one to carry out.
– So it is.
– It can be carried out as easily as possible if it is thought desirable to do so. There is really no difference between the Prime Minister and myself in regard to this matter. Indeed, there cannot be; and if the Acting Prime Minister will only consult the Prime Minister, and will look at the instructions which I received, and which the Prime Minister is in a position to give him, he will ascertain that I acted with full consideration to the Prime Minister, as it was my duty to do; that I carried out his wishes and instructions to the letter; and that the arrangements we made at Brisbane were no other than those which he had approve j of, and upon -which he congratulated me on his return. There is another matter to which I wish to refer. I am sorry the honorable member for Coolgardie is not in his place. I have not given him notice, but I shall have something to sayabout him.
– I will go and look for him.
– I desire to say something in regard to the observations made last week by the honorable member concerning my action as a. Minister in the Barton Government. The incidents to which he referred occurred five years ago, when the Tariff was under consideration. I am glad to see that the honorable member is now in his place. I may preface my observations by saying that they are made ‘ ‘ more in sorrow than in anger.” His remarks about me were to the effect that I was an. inconsistent person., because when the Tariff was under consideration I threw both my judgment and my integrity to the winds. I do not know what object the honorable member had in view in attacking me, seeing that I have not yet given a’ vote upon the Tariff and have merely expressed myself in general terms as being not anxious to be more protective than those members of the Tariff Commission who were protectionist in their views. The Chairman” of the Tariff Commission was the honorable member for Bendigo. One would think that even active protectionists would agree that if one was generally in accord with the protectionist side of a Commission that sat two or three years in vestigating the Tariff, one could not be very far from being a protectionist.
– Does the honorable member not say that the duties are excessive?
– The honorable member for Coolgardie, who is a freetrader, sunk his fiscalism for party purposes, there being no fiscal policy in the party to which he belongs. He seemed to think that there might be a chance of my voting with him if there were a division; but he was very anxious to show the people of Australia that the person who was likely to help him to carry out views which he believed would benefit his constituents, was one who ought to be “ shown up” as thoroughly inconsistent. That is certainly an unusual plan, because, as a rule, we are glad to get support wherever we can.
– There would not have been those high duties but for the honorable member.
– I do not think that any of the duties were carried bv a majority of one.
– Some were.
– Then I might be responsible for those ; at any rate, I am not one to disclaim anything I have ever done.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks about the Tariff wtih the vote under discussion?
-A charge of inconsistency has been made against me, and I do not desire to deal with the Tariff, but with the inconsistency of the honorable member who made the charge. The inconsistency of the honorable member was not on the Tariff question, and I do not think I shall have occasion to refer to the Tariff again. I am charged with Inconsistency,because, while a member of the Barton Government, five years ago, I voted with my colleagues on some- of the items of the Tariff then under discussion.
– The honorable member then voted for a duty of 25 per cent, on mining machinery - a duty which he now denounces.
– I will admit that. The duty was. I believe, afterwards reduced by the Government to 20 per cent.
– After it had been six months in operation.
– I shall refer to the honorable member’s inconsistency before I have done, if he will only be quiet.
– I shall be as quiet as the honorable member was when I was speaking.
– I voted with my colleagues five years ago; and it is represented that I am more moderate in my views now that I am without any ministerial obligation. The whole charge is based on an assumption as to what I am going to do in regard to the Tariff. As a matter of fact, I have not as yet done anything, and, perhaps, it would have been wiser for the honorable member for Coolgardie to have waited a little before launching his invective. The honorable member, in the course of his speech, said that his remarks in reference to myself were all for my own good, and that he was sorry to have to make them. But I do not take the honorable member’s remarks in that way, because I regard them not only as not for my good, but as absolutely unnecessary. I am sure that the honorable member and myself will not be any worse friends when this affair between us is over; but I have to. say to him that those who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones. I shall relate something that occurred not five years ago, but three years ago, with which the honorable member was intimately associated. On the 21st April, 1904, the present Acting Prime Minister, then being a member of the Government, and also the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was a Ministerial supporter, voted against the inclusion of State employes within the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which was a Government measure. When I am charged with inconsistency by supporters of the present Government I shall show that if I were inconsistent, others were more inconsistent. I merely gave a vote on an item in the Tariff, but I shall show that there were those who voted on a principle - a great principle - and afterwards reversed their votes. I shall show that the honorable member for Coolgardie, on a principle on which he was pledged to his constituents and to Australia, changed his vote. The honorable member knows whatI am talking about. However, at present I am dealing with the Acting Prime Minister.
– I shall give the honorable member another “shot” when he has finished.
– The honorable member may do what he can, he may heave all the bricks and stones he likes at me.
The Acting Prime Minister gave as his reason for voting against the inclusion of State employés-
– What has this to do with public works ?
– The honorable member had better study it.
– “ By their works we shall know them.”
– The Acting Prime Minister expressed his reason for voting against the inclusion of State servants in the following words -
Despite the arguments used by our leading lawyers, who have been about equally divided in this matter, I, as a layman, still feel that it is unconstitutional to bring railway servants under the control of the Federal Government in the way proposed.
What has the Acting Prime Minister to say to that?
– I do not know what the honorable member is talking about.
– The Acting Prime Minister will know shortly. Here we have the great friend of the working men - the great friend of the railway men, saying that it is “ unconstitutional to bring railway servants under the control of the Federal Government in the way proposed.”
– “ In the way proposed.”
– On that question the Government went out of office. We, the members of the Government, stuck to our guns, and resigned as a matter of principle. We felt that the Commonwealth had no right to interfere with State servants - that it would be an interference with the financial arrangements of the States, and altogether wrong. When we resigned, the honorable member for South Sydney and his. colleagues took office, the honorable member for Coolgardie becoming PostmasterGeneral, and the present Acting Chairman (Mr. Batchelor) Minister of Home Affairs. What happened is all set out in Hansard, and the records of the House. Forty days afterwards, on the 1st June, the present Acting Prime Minister, and also the present Attorney-General, voted for the inclusion of railway servants within the operation of the Bill. If the honorable member for Coolgardie was so anxious to purify the House, why did he not level his invective against those who were involved in that change of front ? Why did he not devote his attention to those gentlemen instead of to me ? I represent the same State as he himself does, and have never done him any harm of which I am aware. I have worked, as he has done, for the good of Western Australia, and Australia; and I have never mentioned his name, or the name of any other representative from my State, unless to resent personal attacks.
– The honorable gentleman joined the Ministry with the present Acting Prime Minister and the Attorney-General
– The Acting Prime Minister can give his own explanation.
– I shall not explain, anything; I have nothing to explain.
– The honorable gentleman reversed his vote in forty days ! Why did the honorable member for Coolgardie not level his charges against his acting leader?
– Why should he?
– It was his duty to do so if he was desirous of purifying public life. Why should he attack me now that I have resigned office, and sit in the cold shades of opposition? At any rate, I did not act like the Acting Prime Minister when, on a recent occasion, it would have been in my interests to vote in a certain direction. I am bound by my election pledges; and I have shown no feeling whatever, to honorable members opposite. With those honorable members I have no personal quarrel ; and I hope they are as good friends with me now as they were before I resigned office. I should like to ask what the honorable member for Coolgardie and the other members of the Labour Party did on the same occasion? Those who accuse others of inconsistency should at least be consistent themselves. Those who accuse others of impurity should themselves be pure. Let me tell the honorable member what he and his party did. On the same occasion, the 21st April, 1904, the honorable member for Coolgardie, with the Labour Party in a body, voted in favour of including railway and other public servants in the Arbitration Bill, and in doing so turned out the Deakin Government because they would not agree to that proposal, and stepped into their_ shoes.
– Did they turn the Government out, or did the Government resign ?
– We resigned because we were defeated.
– And have been sorry ever since.
– No, I havenot been sorry. There are some considerations of more importance than continuance of office. Some people refer to office as if it were everything, but I do not care a snap of the finger for office unless it gives me peace of mind and satisfaction. On the 21st April, 1904, the honorable member for Coolgardie and the other members of the Labour Party turned the Deakin- Government out of office and secured office for themselves. They were assisted at the time by some of the members of the Deakin party, whovoted against their leader. The present Postmaster-General was one of those whodeserted his leader at the time and voted. against the Government. They insisted onturning us out, and I hope they are proud of their action, for they reversed that voteimmediately afterwards. The present PostmasterGeneral, after assisting to turn the Deakin Government out of office, reversed his vote forty days afterwards.
– I voted consistently for the inclusion of the raiLway employes right through.
– Perhaps the honorable member is right. I thereforewithdraw the statement that he reversed hisvote, but I do not- withdraw the statement that he . deserted his leader.
– I never deserted my leader. The Government deserted me inthat matter.
– The honorable member deserted the party to which he belonged. On the 1 st Tune, forty days after the vote to which I have referred, the honorable member for Coolgardie, in common with other members of the Labour Party, voted to exclude civil servants from theArbitration Bill. They had pledged themselves in connexion with the. matter in thevarious electorates throughout the country, and the Bill was ‘ being considered just after an election. They had stated that they were in favour of the inclusion of” civil servants in the Federal ArbitrationAct. The honorable member for Coolgardie was amongst those who gave that pledge, and if he now contends that he did” not so pledge himself let him say so. I say that in Western Australia the honorable member did pledge himself, as did’ other members of the party appealing to> the electors in that State, in favour of the. inclusion of the civil servants in the Federal Arbitration Bill. The fact remains that they pledged themselves to the electors, and? they were fresh from the country when we were considering the Federal Arbitration Bill. Why did they change their views? One might at least suppose that a great party like the Labour Party, and a man like the honorable member for Coolgardie, after turning out a Government by a certain vote, and thus securing an importantposition, would, at any rate, stick to their colours. But forty days afterwards they changed their votes, threw the civil servants to the winds, and included only the railway servants, leaving all others out of the Bill.
– Was that on the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin?
– I think it was.
– The right honorable member knows that that was a trap amendment.
– I do not think it was. I do not think there was any trap about it. It was a straight-out vote.
– The right honorable member has been long “enough at the game to know that it was a trap amendment.
– I say that I do not think it was.
– Were honorable members of the Labour Party compelled to fall into the trap?
– What did it matter? A pledge had been given by honorable members before they entered the House. They considered that pledge so sacred that they could not escape its consequences ; that, notwithstanding the love and affection they professed for the Prime Minister - though I do not know that they had so much for his colleagues - they must turn him out and step into his shoes. Forty days’ experience of office seems to have tempered the honorable member for Coolgardie and the party to which he belongs, because they then reversed the vote which they had previously given and allowed the civil servants to go to Jericho. I make this statement “ more in sorrow than in anger.” I notice that the honorable member for Corio is not present, but, on looking up the matter this morning, I found that he was a consistent supporter of the inclusion of the employés of the States Governments in the Arbitration Bill. He was pledged to his constituents, and he voted against the Government. Although he had previously supported them, like the present Postmaster-General, he took part in turning them out of office on that occasion. He was not at all satisfied, and at page 1835of Hansard, for the 1st June, 1904, the honorable member stated the matter so clearly and fairly, that I take the liberty of quoting him, his statement is so apropos of the whole case. The honorable member said -
I expect the Government which made certain pledges to the country- which are recorded in Hansard - in which they said they believed in all State servants being included in an Arbitration Bill …. to keep their pledges it is abundantly clear that every member of the Ministry has mentally retrogressed. I trust that honorable members will exhibit their strong disapproval of the inconsistent attitude of the Government by refusing to sit behind them when they decline to carry out the pledges upon which they succeeded to office.
What was the use of an appeal of this sort ? Wherever it came from, the appeal was in vain. Election pledges were cast to the winds. Honorable members defeated the Deakin Government and took office by a vote which, forty days later, was reversed by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and by the Labour Party, without any compunction whatever.
– In fact, they behaved with as much human nature as any other set of men.
-I hope that what I say will not be taken as any more than a political statement. My honorable friends in the Labour corner are aware that I have no personal feeling against them. But I am not, on that account, to be prevented from saying what I think. Why should I seek consistency from the honorable member for Coolgardie, or from the party to which he belongs? They are always the tail of some party. In point of numbers, they form the largest party in this House, and where are they ? They are content to support the weakest party. Why is this?
– It is the policy of the Labour Party to support the weak.
– They do so, in order to secure power and obtain advantages which they could not otherwise obtain by keeping others in office.
– Will the right honorable member say what advantages we are obtaining ?
– I say that the honorable members of that party hope to obtain advantages by keeping the present Government in office. Their object is to secure power and obtain advantages by keeping in office a party without whom they could not obtain those advantages. The great Labour Party of Australia, of which we hear so much, is bowing its head to a party half its strength to gain that which it could not otherwise obtain.
– “ Sour grapes.”
– There are no sour grapes about this. The honorable member may criticise’ me, but he must do so in courteous terms. I could’ well understand the Labour Party supporting a Government whose party is smaller than their own if there were any great bond of union or of respect between the two. But we know that the contrary is the case so far as the Labour Party and the present Administration are concerned. The Prime Minister, in unmistakable terms, has told the Labour Party over and over again what he thinks of their organization and their methods, yet we find them bowing their heads and giving him support.
– Have we not told the Prime Minister over and over again what we think of him?
– That does not affect my argument. The Labour Party are supporting the Government, and are responsible for all its acts, since without them it could not carry on.
– The people of Western Australia told the right honorable member what they thought of him.
– And the right honorable member came back by himself. He is the “old man of the sea.”
– I was returned with another honorable member who shares my views.
– But the honorable member had to leave this side of’ the House in order to join him.
– At all events, we are a party of two out of the five representatives of Western Australia in this House,- and we hope to add to our number at the next general election. The Prime Minister has told the Labour Party what he thinks of them. He has said -
The present mechanism of the Labour Party threatened the independence of the whole of that party, and became dangerous to the community.
Then he went on to say -
How many of them were men who themselves could not obtain representative positions for the simple reason that they had not the confidence of a sufficient number of citizens. Yet those very men presumed to usurp authority over others.
– I rise to a point of order. This afternoon the Chairman of Committees ruled that the Tariff could not be discussed on the motion -now before the Chair. I therefore ask whether the right honorable member for Swan is in order in discussing the Labour Party and various occurrences of three or four years ago, which are not relevant to the question under consideration ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The right honorable member is not depart, ing from the practice laid down by the Chairman. The Tariff can be discussed only in Committee’ of Ways and Means but the right honorable member for Swan when interrupted was referring ‘to another matter. I would ask him to assist me in maintaining order by confining his attention to financial matters. He has been departing from the question immediately before the Chair, and covering a wider range of subjects than he is entitled to.
-I was under the impression, sir, that great latitude is allowed honorable members when they are debating questions relating to financial and defence matters. I was explaining when interrupted that the Prime Minister had referred to the Labour Party as a. “ political machine.”
– Will the right honorable gentleman explain in what way he proposes to connect these remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I intend to conclude my remarks with a reference to the financial problem. Am I not at liberty, sir, in connexion with the question of finance, to quote the opinions of the PrimeMinister with -regard to any party in thisHouse ?
– The right honorable gentleman will be in order in dealingwith questions of finance, but he has not’ attempted to connect his references to the Labour, Party with the question now before the Chair.
– I was under the impression that in Committee of Supply there was practically no limit to the scope, of the arguments that an honorable member might advance. That, at all events,, is a practice to which I have been accustomed for over - twenty years.
– I “would remind the.: right honorable member that under theStanding Orders we have limited the ventilation of grievances to a formal .Supply; motion, which is submitted once a month. The Minister in charge of the House moves -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
On that motion honorable members are entitled to discuss grievances. We are now, however, in Committee of Supply, and the right honorable gentleman must understand that the Budget proper has been already delivered and debated in Committee of Ways and Means.
– I have never heard that ruling from any Chairman before. I have always understood that we had full scope to ventilate grievances when we were in Committee of Supply.- I had reached a very interesting part of my remarks.
– It is a great pity the honorable member was cut out.
– I shall not be cut out. I cannot say that the Prime Minister was referring to’ the present state of the finances at that time, but the fact of the Labour Party being a political machine ‘has a direct bearing on finance, which is the foundation of every business that we transact in this House. He was showing that, in regard to their votes and actions on finance and other questions, the Labour Party was a political machine, that its members acted as one man, and did not vote on the principle followed by most parties, of which some members vote one way and some another. He said that they voted as a machine, and described what he meant by a machine. He said -
One may help the Labour Party for one month or several months, but the moment one stops or makes a single independent step he is treated as a bitter enemy. . . . That is the treatment which follows alliances with political machines, and when you come to the machine you are dealing with something which has no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment.
– Order ! Will the right honorable member show what this has to do with the item before the Committee?
– If to have affairs controlled by a machine, such as is the Labour Party, does not affect the -finances of the country, I should like to know what does. The Primer Minister went on to say that the path of the Labour Party was-
The downward path which leads to political servitude and, perhaps, to political slavery.
– Order”! The right honorable member must not follow that course. I must ask him to confine himself to the question now before the Committee.
– I have very nearly finished.
– Surely we can attack parties here.
– I am going; to obey the Chairman’s ruling. I should like to point out to the honorable member for Coolgardie, who isa supporter of the Government in its financial proposals and every other proposal, and whose idea is to keep them in office at the present time - ‘without the support of the party to which the honorable member belongs the Government could not remain in office - that what I have quoted is an expression of the opinion held by the Prime Minister in regard to them. The Prime Minister is a man well known in this country. He is an upright, honorable man. He has not asked for the support of that party to carry on the affairs of the Government or to direct the finances. But the party have determined, without being asked, to keep the Prime Minister in office with the object, no doubt, of governing the country through him.. It is not for his good, but for their advantage, that they do so. It is not because they love him, for I believe they will bring him to political ruin ;. but it is because they want to obtain from the Government what they cannot otherwise obtain. I am very sorry that I should have incurred your displeasure, Mr. Chairman, or overstepped the mark. I assure you that I was not aware that I was not quite within my rights. I bow to your decision .. I should not have said a word of the foregoing but for the uncalled-for attack which was made -on me last week - an attack which was said to be made “ more in sorrow than in anger,” but which was still very severe. I want to remind the honorable member- for Coolgardie that I am a Scotsman, and that my motto is Nemo me impune lacessit
.- I hope I shall be able to discuss the subject of finance without either citing Latin quotations or losing my temper. The right honorable member for Swan has been very severe to-night in resenting what he is pleased to consider an attack upon himself. He attacked the Labour Party because he imagines that, in some way,, it controls the Government, and in that manner is responsible for the state of the finances. That may be true in a sense. But as other combinations are possible which would deprive the Labour Party of its paramount power, I do not see why the right honorable gentleman should not arrange for a combination of that kind.
I hope that I may be able, without transgressing the rules, to refer to his onslaught upon me. He said that he had not, on any occasion, attacked me, or referred to me unless under some provocation. I well remember a time here when, without any provocation, he led a furious onslaught upon me personally.
– No, no.
– The right honorable gentleman threatened that at the then next general election he would drive me from my constituency.
– I do not think so. Where is it reported? Quote it.
– I can prove from Hansard every statement that I make.
– It was in reply to something from the honorable member, then.
– There was no proximate cause whatever. The right honorable member’s statement was made in this House in 1905. He seems to think that because I happen to come from the same State as he does I should not draw attention to his inconsistencies, and to the fact that the position which he took up when the former Tariff was under consideration here is grossly inconsistent with the position which he takes up to-day. I shall not refer to the Tariff, sir, except incidentally. In the attack which he made to-night, the right honorable member attempted to get over the fact that he now denounces a 25 per cent. duty on mining machinery when, a few years ago, he voted for a similar duty thereon. He seems to think that I ought to speak of him in the House with “ bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness.” I do not know why he should hold such an expectation. I owe him nothing. During the manyyears he was in power in Western Australia I never had a favour from him. Indeed, the, only thing I owe him and his party is bitter persecution. Since he has been a Commonwealth Minister he has not done, nor has he had the opportunity of doing, anything for me. I have always respected the right honorable gentleman for the great services which he has rendered as an explorer and a politician. But when he rises here and attempts to say that I have no right even to criticise him. in any way-
-I did not say that.
– Well, I cannot understand what has thrown the right honorable gentleman into such a furious passion.
– I was dealing with the attack which the honorable member made the other evening.
– That was a perfectly fair attack.
– I do not think it was.
– The right honorable gentleman hits as hard as does any one in the House, and he ought not to squirm and whimper like a big baby when he receives a few thrusts in return.
– There was no occasion for the honorable member to do it.
– In that opinion I differ. But for the attitude of the right honorable gentleman a few years ago we should probably not have the present Tariff.
– I was led away by the interjection.
– That is an assumption, I think.
– I notice that since leaving the Government the right honorable gentleman spends most of his time in making explanations. It is a most remarkable thing that at nearly every sitting some statement in a newspaper, or by an honorable member, requires correction at his hands. The necessity of making these repeated corrections shows the deplorable position into which the right honorable gentleman has drifted. I would like to reply at length to the right honorable gentleman, sir, but in view of the ruling which you gave after you resumed the chair; I do not think that I should be in order in going into the matters which I had intended to do. I shall take advantage of another opportunity when, without transgressing the rules of the House, an effective answer may be given to some of the baseless charges which the honorable member has uttered to-night.
.- We have been listening to speeches for several hours, sir, but I do not think it can be said that the last one or two speeches have had any relation to the finances of the Commonwealth. I desire to get back to the real question before the Committee. To-night, under cover of obtaining Supply, the Treasurer has given practically a second edition of his Budget.
– No, I did not use any of the figures before.
– To-night the honorable gentleman has supplied figures which he should have furnished when he delivered his Budget some weeks ago.
– I supplied the figures in answer to statements which had been made.
– I stand .here with no personal grievance, or desire to work up a struggle between the honorable gentleman and myself ; though probably we shall have one before I have concluded my remarks. Very often it indicates weakness in debate not to have a personal grievance, so as to hold the close attention of those whom one is attacking. . This afternoon the Treasurer shovelled out a number of figures - that is all it can be called - and I interjected that he was then using Professor Allen’s figures. I meant Mr. Allen, Secretary to the Treasury. The Acting Prime Minister certainly ought to go to that officer for his figures, but he ought to rely upon himself for the application of the figures. I protest against any Treasurer making use of a departmental statement as his own statement. Of course, I do not expect a busy man such as the Acting Prime Minister is to-day to be able to talk of the finances in a poetic manner to the Committee. But I do complain of the verbiage of a Treasury officer’s explanation and application of the figures - because apparently the document was read - being addressed to honorable members. I look to the honorable gentleman as a responsible Minister to’ apply the figures with which he has been furnished by the Department whenever he is delivering ‘a Budget. Afterwards the honorable member’ for Parramatta, without any prepara-. tion, made a very critical examination of the statement of the Treasurer, who was asked a question in regard to a forecast. That apparently is the trouble. Within a few days we shall be asked to deal with the Tariff, when we do not know the exact financial position of the Commonwealth.
– Yes, honorable members do.
– That is the burden of the complaint against the honorable gentleman. The honorable member for Parramatta and those who think with him are justified in opposing a Tariff which is to impose heavy burdens upon the people until they know the financial condition . of the Commonwealth. That exposition hasnot yet been given. I am one of those who care nothing for a forecast. The Acting . Prime Minister is to be complimented upon his cautiousness in refusing to give a forecast of the probable result of the Tariff. The first Commonwealth Treasurer, the Right Honorable Sir George Turner, a very able1 man and a capable Minister, skilled in accountancy and equipped with all the information in his Department, estimated that under normal conditions the Kingston Tariff, after it had been in operation for four years, would not return more than £5,000,000 per annum. But from that day to this, the revenue of the Commonwealth has always beer* about ,£9,000,000 per annum. So much for forecasts.’ The statement that only £5>000>000 per annum would be collected from Customs and Excise duties was the glided pill which the people of Australia were induced to swallow when they accepted! the Kingston Tariff. But they have actually been required to contribute nearly/ £9,000,000 a year. The Treasurer estimates the increase in revenue for the current year at £.1,000,000.
– £800,000 odd.
– I am speaking in round numbers ; and I think that the increase will’ be £1,000,000. Now the honorable gentleman is afraid that he was not warranted1 in expecting that increase, because there have been shortages in the Customs House clearances.
– The figures whichI gave to-night show that the rate of increase is greater than I allowed for.
– That may appear from the figures which the honorable gentleman will shovel into Hansard. But, replying to the honorable member for Parramatta, hesaid that if the rates of duties were reduced he was afraid that he would not obtain the increase which he had estimated. But while during the six weeks prior tothe introduction of this Tariff there wasan enormous clearance of tobacco, spirits, and other highly dutiable goods, the stocksthen imported will shortly be exhausted, and two months hence the clearances will’ be much larger than thev are to-da.y. Wemay reasonably anticipate a return of probably £10,000,000 a year for the next -four or five years, because, even if theTariff is effective in establishing industries, it will be quite as long as that before our importations are seriously affected. Even the most ardent protectionist cannot think that the Tariff will have its full effect in ayear or two. At the present time, the difficulty of manufacturers is to obtain a sufficient number of suitable employes to keep their establishments in full work, and it will take at least four or five years to establish all the industries which the Treasurer, a thorough-going protectionist, wishes to establish. I do not know why he gave us a second edition of the Budget speech this afternoon, unless it was to attack the Treasurers of the States.
– Not at all.
– The Commonwealth returns to them large sums, which they expend. This Parliament has to bear the opprobrium and unpopularity of imposing taxation, but it does not control the expenditure of the money collected. The Treasurer tells us that millions of pounds have been poured into the Treasuries of the States, more money having been returned to New South Wales than to any other State.He apparently desires that the impression shall be created that the money which is not needed for Commonwealth purposes is returned to the people from whom it has been collected. That is not so. They have not received a penny of it. They have had to pay the duties which we have imposed, and the money has gone into the Commonwealth Treasury. But in returning part of it to the Treasurers of the States we have not returned it into the pockets of those from whom we took it. The Commonwealth Government will always remain unpopular while the present financial arrangement exists, while the States Treasurers will enjoy the fleeting popularity of spendthrifts, who are always more popular than economical persons are. I do not believe in taking from the people £1 more than is necessary for the purposes of government, and the drawback to the present system is that millions of pounds are unjustly taken from the people by the Commonwealth, and what is not required for Commonwealth purposes is returned to the Treasurers of the States, who, instead of reducing the burden of State taxation, may squander the money to make themselves popular with their supporters. The Premier of New South Wales has recently made some very serious attacks upon the Commonwealth Parliament. To-day the electors of that State realize that they are paying heavier taxation than they have ever been called upon to pay previously. That is the only fact which is brought closely home to them. They do not realize that the Commonwealth has returned to New South Wales millions sterling in excess of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which she was constitutionally entitled. Mr. Carruthers has gained great popularity by suggesting the repeal of the income tax and the reduction of State taxation.
– To the extentof £1,000,000.
– We have no right to impose more taxation upon the people than is absolutely necessary for the “purposes of government.
– The reason why such a large amount is returned to New South Wales is that under the Constitution we are compelled to keep the necessitous States in funds.
– That is the difficulty under the Constitution.
– Quite so.
– The States Treasurers naturally say that if the return of a fixed annual sum is not guaranteed to them they will soon be in an insolvent position. Of course, the Customs and Excise Departments form the most prolific source of revenue in Australia. The States Treasurers fully realize that if the Braddon section be discontinued - if the return of a certain sum is not guaranteed to them each year - they will never know what is the condition of their finances. The reason why the Acting Prime Minister desires the enactment of a Tariff which will produce a large revenue is that the smaller States may be maintained in a solvent position. I have longwaited for the formulation of some scheme which, whilst permitting of the imposition of the’ lowest possible amount of taxation upon the people, would insure the annual return to the States of a sum sufficient to preserve their solvency. All the trouble which we are now experiencing is due to the introduction of the new Tariff.
– Even if a new Tariff had not been introduced, the financial outlook would have been very serious.
– Exactly. I was under the impression, however, that the Tariff Commission was appointed for the purpose of securing the adjustment of fiscal anomalies. If that idea had been adhered to by the Ministry, the present trouble would not have been experienced. It is eight weeks to-night since the Treasurer de livered his Budget, and yet this afternoon we had the departmental statement of the position. I object to the departmental view-
– Does the honorable member think that I could have obtained the figures anywhere else?
– No. What I object to is the application by officials of the data supplied by them to our financial position to-day.
– It will read all right.
– If that is the only concern of the Treasurer he might have handed his speech over to Hansard and thus have saved the hour and a half which he occupied in its delivery. There is no doubt that a good many more honorable members might adopt the course which I have suggested with advantage. The newTariff is full of anomalies.
– There are not many.
– The Estimates submitted by the Acting Prime Minister for additions, new works and buildings, contain provision for the expenditure of a large sum upon defence matters. Some honorable members have asked why we should sanction expenditure upon these works without knowing the defence policy of the Government. That is a very pertinent question to ask. If we vote an enormous sum of money in this connexion without being informed of the defence policy of the Government we shall be surrendering our control of the finances of the Commonwealth. I have always urged that that control represents the greatest power with which honorable members are invested. Only a short time ago we granted the Government four months’ Supply.
– We were foolish to do so.
– I said so at the time. We knew then that the Tariff proposals of the Government were objectionable to a large section of the people. Of course it suited the Treasurer to obtain four months’ Supply.
– He has not misused the Supply granted.
– I do not wish to provoke a quarrel with the Acting Prime Minister, or I should call him the “ Grand old Bluffer of the Commonwealth.”
– I am assured that I am the closest-fisted Treasurer who has yet held office.
– I know that the honorable gentleman is the hardest-handed man in the Government. He can retain office longer than can anybody else. When once he gets his claw upon a portfolio he never relinquishes his hold until he is absolutely compelled to do so. I repeat that either these Defence Estimates ought or ought not to be canvassed. ‘ Of course, any honorable member who is satisfied with the Government may say, “I will act blindly in this matter and vote the full amount which is asked.” As a representative of the people I am not prepared to adopt that course. L objected to granting “the Government Supply, because I did not like either their Tariff proposals or the statements contained in the Budget. I am glad that we have awakened from our lethargic sleep upon defence matters. We should certainly recognise the necessity for securing a more efficient defence system, and it is idle to deny that such a system will involve us in a large expenditure. But to ask to sanction the expenditure of an enormous sum of money without knowing the defence policy of the Government is absurd. It appears to me that it is the bounden duty of a representative man to be most watchful in regard to the finances. No matter whether a Protectionist, a Labour, or a Free-trade Ministry is in power, if we allow the Government to control the finances unchecked, or permit a Treasurer to do what the Acting Prime Minister has done to-night - make a financial statement which is really that of a departmental officer - we virtually surrender all sound control over the finances of the country. I am speaking in no partisan spirit. Of course, I am well aware that when Works and Buildings Estimates are thrown down upon the table the argument in favour of passing them can be put in a very seductive way. The Ministry have simply to ask, “ Are you going to suspend operations in regard to these works, and so prevent us from employing hundreds of men “ ? But that is no’ reason why we should surrender our power of just criticism. The honorable member for Parramatta made to-night one of the best and clearest speeches I have ever heard from him, in regard to the financial situation. As a representative man in this Chamber, I feel that I am put to a disadvantage when a State Premier is permitted to slander or besmirch the position which I occupy. The Premier of New South Wales has placed the Commonwealth Parliament in an unfair position before the people of that State. But if we surrender our duty of analytical examination of the finances, we give opportunities for men like Mr. Carruthers to criticise us. It is our neglect of the duty of superintending the finances in a proper manner which affords scope for the States Premiers and other State politicians to make points at our expense. The position, so far as the people of New South Wales are concerned, is this : They feel the enormous taxation that is taken out of their pockets by means of Customs and Excise duties. In the preFederation days, New South Wales had the good fortune of being the most lightly taxed country in the world. Certainly, it was the most lightly taxed State in Australia. But when New South Wales entered the Federal Union, her people had to bear the burden of heavy Customs taxation. They did not see the millions trickling back into ‘the State Treasury. The people generally have enough to do in bustling round to earn their own living, and do not fully realize that a large portion of the money taken out of their pockets in the form of taxation is returned to the State Treasury. Sir George Turner said, in recommending the Kingston Tariff to Parliament, that after it had been in operation for three or four years the amount of taxation under it would be reduced, because it would have the effect of bringing industries into existence, and thereby of reducing the quantity of goods imported. That was good sound logic from a protectionist point of view. But we have had some years of protectionist duties, and the people have had to pay import duties from Monday morning to-Saturday night. Suppose that the Lyne-Chapman Tariff is passed very much in the form in which it is submitted to us? Does the Treasurer expect that fresh factories will spring up within six months or two years? Does any. one expect that scores of belching chimneys will arise, indicating where factories are producing thousands of pounds worth of goods that are now imported from the outside world? At present, the factories that are in existence have not sufficient men and plant to fulfil orders. The most advanced protectionist who considers the facts must come to the conclusion that whilst this Tariff remains in operation the people will simply continue to be paying millions more than are necessary for the purposes of government. They will not be condoled by being assured that a large portion nf the money will be paid’ back to the States Treasurers. In the meantime, the members of this Parliament will have to bear the opprobrium of placing upon the backs of the people heavier taxation than they had to bear in the pre- Federal days. What I chiefly regret is that we have not the power to ear-mark the money returned to the States. If we could it would probably remove a great deal of the feeling which now exists. But while it is true that the people get back a considerable amount of the revenue in an indirect manner, still it has to be remembered that there are considerable leakages, and that the people receive no real compensation for the money that is taken from them. Even if they did, I must confess that I belong to that school of thought which holds that the people themselves are much more competent to spend their own money than any Government can possibly be. It may be an old-fashioned view, but it is the one that I stick to. Whatever we do with regard to these Estimates, I trust that the Committee will suspend action upon the items relating to defence until we know more about the policy of the Government. We were told in the early days of this Parliament, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that it was not intended to continue the Naval Agreement. My own strong opinion is, that the Naval Agreement should be continued, and, further, I believe that if the people of Australia were polled the majority would be willing to pay even more than £200,000 a vear if necessary. None of us are sufficiently well versed in the subject to know whether the money voted for defence is well or ill spent, and we have to trust to the Government. The only true test of the efficiency of a defence ‘ force is war ; and thai test we, of course, do not desire to undergo. While we do not believe in being miserly in regard to defences, there ought to be no squandering of money with the practically civil force on which we depend. As I said before, the Government ought to take the Committee into their confidence in regard to their policy when they ask us to Vote such a large sum of money as is nowproposed. The excuse that the Prime Minister is absent is not .sufficient. No one regrets more than I do the enforced absence of any honorable member; but the affairs of Australia must not be permitted to drift simply on account of the sickness of the Prime Minister. I understand from the newspapers that Mr. Deakin was strong enough to-day to pass an opinion on the defence policy of Great Britain as forecasted by Mr. Haldane.
– I hope the Prime Minister will be here in a few days, and pass a few remarks on the honorable member.
– If the Prime Minister is likely to be here in a few days, I ask the Government to suspend the consideration of the defence vote.
– It is scarcely correct to say that the Prime Minister passed an opinion on the defence policy of Great Britain. I am informed that the honorable gentleman merely referred a’ pressman to Mr. Haldane’s speech.
– Then I suppose that what the Prime Minister did was to tell the reporters that if they looked up the record of the Imperial Conference they would find what his attitudewas on the matter. The press representatives would not evolve such a piece of news out of their inner consciousness ; in a matter of this kind they would be cautious. Why should the Government attempt to force this defence vote through ?
– In order to get on with the Tariff.
– But the Government propose to interpose other business. Unless we know the defence policy of the Government, we shall surrender our rights if we pass this vote. This afternoon the honorable member for Maranoa, in his usual outspoken manner, asked whether honorable members were really asked to pass this last vote without having the defence policy laid before them. Is the honorable member of the same mind still ?
– It is out of order to interject.
– Under cover of Supply, the Treasurer has introduced these Works and Buildings Estimates, to the bulk of which no objection can be taken. The Treasurer “ gulled “ the House when he secured Supply for three months ; and if I resisted that proposal, why should I not resist this defence vote in the absence of information ?
– When the Treasurer left Commonwealth finance, he simply, in. vulgar language, “ put up a fight “ between “Bill Lyne and Joe Carruthers.” With that quarrel we do not desire to be bothered ; but we do want sound finance.. As a matter of fact, the finances are in as unsatisfactory a position as they were three or four years ago; and there is no scheme put forward in order to get over the difficulty. I understand that the ‘Treasurer does not approve of taking over the States debts, except on a certain condition.
– I said I would not agree to an extension of the Braddon. section unconditionally.
– On the other hand the right honorable member for Swan is very much in favour of taking over the debts; and it is remarkable that the States do not surrender the debts. Why have not the States debts been taken over when the Constitution providesfor that being done? Some persons who pose as financiers have said that we should save £30,000,000 by taking over the States debts. I am not one who shuts his eyes and opens his mouth and then thanks God for what is sent him, and I do not believe that statement, but I am prepared to have the States debts taken over that we may see what can be saved. If we can show them that we can make such a bargain as has been suggested by the taking over of States debts contracted prior to Federation, we can trust the people of the different States to compel their respective Governments to surrender also the debts contracted since Federation.I have enough horse-sense to recognise that the brokers operating on the London market, who are amongst the keenest financiers in the world, and know as much about our affairs as we do ourselves, will take care that if there are millions to be made by this transaction very few of them will come to the Commonwealth. However, we have the power to take over the debts of the States, and I believe that every function of theCommonwealth Parliament should be speedily assumed. The time is not far distant when we must ask ourselves whether we are Federalists or States representatives. If any proposal is made by which the States may suffer injustice, or which may involve an invasion of States rights, the Senate is the House in which the battle should be fought out. If I were a member of the Senate, I should hold the opinion that in dealing with such matters the House of Representatives is invading the province of the States House. I am surprised that the Senate has not long before this asserted its position. I am afraid that honorable senators are as ready to surrender their powers as we are in the House of Representatives, and if they do not soon wake up the Senate will become a mere revising Chamber, such as are the Legislative Councils of the various States Parliaments. The Ministry have the numbers behind them. It is impossible with thirtyone members to outvote forty-two, and it is therefore a waste of time to continue this struggle. But we should realize that, no matter what Government is in power, it is a serious mistake to surrender our rights as representative men. I complain that the Treasurer has to-day dealt with matters which should have been included in his Budget statement.
– The matters to which I referred to-day were referred to in consequence of the debate that has taken place on the Budget statement.
– The honorable gentleman devoted his attention to one or two honorable members who attacked his financial proposals. It will be some years before the local factories will be established and will be able to supply our requirements, and, in the meantime, heavy importations must take place, so” that we shall in consequence be extracting unnecessary revenue from the people. I say this as a low-Tariff man speaking to a high-Tariff man like the Postmaster-General.
– I am a medium-Tariff man.
– When, by an interjection, I referred to the Russian Tariff, the honorable gentleman’s eyes glistened, as he thought of Russia with a Tariff imposing duties up to 131 per cent. I would like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he would not, if he had the power, impose a Tariff as high as that of Russia ? The Postmaster-General, as a high-Tariff man, believes in protection, and that everything that can be manufactured in Australia should be manufactured here. That is the protectionist belief, but I would ask the honorable gentleman whether it is right that we should extract millions of money from the people when he knows that it must be a number of years before the local manufacturerscan supply their requirements ?
– I think that we should leave off talking and get to work.
– The honorable member should go out to Brunswick.
– He would get a great reception there.
– I have been to Brunswick, and I got a good reception there.
– What was the date?
– The best of all dates, but it was not the 17th of March. If some bad-livered people were present these interjections might lead to a scene, such as we have had between two members of the Committee to-night. If I could provoke a scene which would lead to my expulsion from the Chamber about a month before an election, I think it would secure my seat. It is a good plan sometimes to provoke a scene, but it is not on my list tonight. I am afraid that the honorable members for Swan and Coolgardie have started their scene two and a half years too early. I contrast the fine speech which was made by the honorable member for Parramatta on the financial position with that made by the Acting Prime Minister. The honorable member for Parramatta analyzed the figures quoted by the Treasurer whilst that honorable gentleman took the statement written by the Under-Secretary of the Treasury and read it out to the Committee. I do not expect the honorable gentleman to be poetic every time he speaks, but I do expect him to deliver his own speech and not to allow a departmental officer to make his speech for him. That is a scandal on representative government. I should prefer the rough-and-ready way in which the honorable gentleman would deliver a financial statement of his own.
– It would probably not read so well.
– I should have preferred to hear the honorable gentleman’s own speech. The Treasurer says that he does not like a “ dead” speech.
– I have not said so.
– The speech which he made this afternoon will read as if it had been delivered at the Morgue. The kind of speech that the peoplelike is one that has some life in it. The Treasurer, with all his faults, would have been heard to greater advantage had he spoken in his own roughandready way, instead of delivering a polished essay prepared by the head of his Department. The officer in question may be one of the most skilful in the service, but I object to his making a speech in this House.
– There is a standing order against reading a speech in the House.
– We showed our generosity by not availing ourselves of that standing order. One of the blots on the present systern is that the Treasurer is surrendering his rights and powers to a leading official.
– Rubbish !
– Do not talk nonsense.
– Those who were present this afternoon will remember that at one point the Treasurer lost the thread of his speech. He turned over page after page of his notes, but the mosaic had been disturbed, and he had almost to ring up the officials of the Treasury.
– That is not a fact ; the honorable member should tell the truth.
– I defy the honorable member to deny my statement. If he says that it is untrue, then he is an absolute liar. It seems that I am now about to create a bit of a scene.
– Order !
– I withdraw that remark, sir, and I think you axe sorry that I have to withdraw it.
– The honorable member must withdraw his remark, and apologize to the Commitee for the unwarranted reflection which he cast upon the Chair when he said that he would withdraw the remark complained of, but believed I was sorry that he had to.
– May I say, sir, what I understood the honorable member for Dalley to say? He said - “ I withdraw the remark, and am sure the Chairman will be sorry that I have to withdraw it.”
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– If the honorable member did not intend to reflect on the Chair I do not wish to insist upon his apologizing, but I ask him unreservedly to withdraw the remark that he addressed to the Acting Prime Minister.
– As a Temporary Chairman of Commitees, sir, I ought to be the last to disobey your ruling. I did not intend to cast any reflection upon the Chair, and I withdraw the. remark. The point that I was trying to impress upon honorable members was - -and I do not wish the Treasurer to be angry, for I feel strongly on this question - that the honorable gentleman lost the run of his notes, and that if he had been delivering his own speech the incident would not have occurred. I am not attacking the Secretary to the Treasury, but I think it time that some honorable member’ should stand up for the rights of Parliament. The
Treasurer is capable of preparing his own speeches. I am not casting any reflection upon his capacity. I have simply referred to what I consider to be. an infringement of our rights. The financial question has not been properly dealt with by the Government, and I hope that the Treasurer, when he replies later on, will clear up several points. We are here, not to deal with Joseph Carruthers or William Lyne, but with the finances of the Commonwealth; and the time is fast arriving when we shall have to take up the defence of Federal rights. The more lax our method of dealing with these great problems of finance is, the more difficult will it be for members of the Federal Parliament to maintain their true position. I am not actuated by any party feeling in speaking thus. I may not be talking to slow music, and, perhaps, if some other honorable member were to give utterance, with a great show of dignity, to the views I have expressed, honorable members would think that they were worthy of consideration. If we are to defend the powers of the Federal Parliament, we must start early by putting ourselves in a right position in dealing with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. There is no more important work before us. I do not believe in a high Tariff, and in the raising of ^10,500,000 per annum by means of Customs and Excise taxation. Three or four years hence the Government will find that their policy of protection is ineffective. Industries cannot be built up in a month, and, as a believer in a low Tariff, I have a right to- protest whenever the opportunity offers against heavy imposts.
– The honorable member ‘for Dalley, just before he resumed his seat, said that sooner or later we should require to defend the Federal power in connexion with some friction that is occurring between the Commonwealth and the States. If we are to do that, we ought to take care that our own position’ is beyond reproach. I therefore deeply regret the attack which the Treasurer went out of his way to-night to make upon Mr. Carruthers’ administration. Amongst other statements made by him was one that Mr. Carruthers, during his term of office as Premier of New South Wales, had sent up the expenditure of that State by £2,000,000 per annum.
– That is absolutely true.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Absolutelyincorrect.
– I have the figures here.
– I, too, wish to quote some figures in contradiction of the honorable member’s assertion. I have taken the trouble to look into the finances of the State of which I am a representative, for the last few years, and I ask the Committee to listen to these figures, in order that they may learn what warrant there is for the Acting Prime Minister’s statement.
– Mr. Carruthers, at all events, has been courting criticism.
– He has got it.
– What has that to do with the question?
– Mr. Carruthers has lately been hawking Federal matters all over the State.
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s interjection shows that he cannot be fair to Mr. Carruthers.
– Mr. Carruthers cannot be fair to this Parliament.
– At all events, I do not know that anything that Mr. Carruthers might say would justify any honorable member in misrepresenting the actual state of affairs with regard to the finances of New South Wales. The correct figures are these : In 1899 the expenditure in New South Wales was £9,708,000. By the year 1904, when Mr. Carruthers again succeeded to the Premiership, the expenditure had gone up to £11,384,000, notwithstanding all the functions that had been relegated to the Federal Parliament. Consequently between 1899 and 1904there was an increase of State expenditure of no less than £1,675,000. That was during the administration of the Government which was instituted by the Acting Prime Minister.
– And which contended with the worst drought ever experienced in this country.
– I am not dealing with the cause of the increased expenditure.
– It was no Government of mine.
– It was a continuous Government, although the personnel may have been slightly changed.
– I had nothing whatever to do with it. I had no control over it.
– According to the honorable member, the Acting Prime Minister mustbe in it.
– At least, the honorable member who rushes to the rescue of the Acting Prime Minister will admit that that honorable gentleman was in the Government for over twelve months. He was in it in 1899.
– I was in it until 1st February, 1901. It was my Government until that date.
– The honorable member was in it therefore for nearly two years. I am quoting the increase in expenditure in five years, during two of which the honorable gentleman had charge of affairs in New South Wales. He resigned his position early in 1901. One of his old colleagues took his place, and the personnel of the Government remained practically the same. To all intents and purposes it was a continuous Government. I am not concerned with charginganything to that Government. What’ I am concerned with is the correct state of affairs so far as concerns the present Premier of New South Wales. In 1904 Mr. Carruthers succeeded to the Premiership. By that time the expenditure had gone up by no less than £1,675,000.
– It is only fair to say that the payment of old-age pensions accounted for nearly the whole of it.
– I am not explaining how the increase occurred. The honorable member can supply that information if he cares to.
– I want to be fair to the Acting Prime Minister and Mr. Carruthers.
- Mr. Carruthers found the expenditure at £11,384,000. His estimate of expenditure for this year is £11,685,000, or an increase in the four years of his Administration of only £301, 000. Last year the expenditure was less than the estimate for this year. The actual increase during Mr. Carruthers’ term so far has been about £250,000, and not £2,000,000 as the Acting Prime Minister led the Committee to believe to-night. There was no justification for a statement of that kind.
– Mr. Carruthers has transferred the whole cost of roads and bridges to the local government bodies, which were not in existence in those years.
– What has that to do with it? If Mr. Carruthers has transferred the cost of roads and bridges to the local government bodies, he has transferred taxation to them also. He has given them his land tax to operate upon, and guaranteed to them huge subsidies for this year. Therefore, he has not relieved himself of one penny of expenditure this year by the passage of the Local Government Act. Ultimately there will be some relief to the national finances, but not this year. I am only concerned now in showing that the Acting Prime Minister did the Premier of New South Wales a great injustice in alleging that he had sent the expenditure of New South Wales up by £2,000,000, when as a matter of fact he has only increased it by a little over £200,000 in the four years.
– I cannot allow the misstatements of the honorable member for Parramatta to pass without challenge. I did not mention Mr. Carruthers’ name once to-night.
– The honorable member mentioned his Government, anyhow.
– I did not mention his Government. I mentioned the Government of New South Wales since Federation. I will give the correct figures, which the honorable member has not given. I did not refer to any particular time since Federation took place. I said that the increase had occurred during the existence of the Federation. The honorable member for Parramatta tried very unfairly to put a wrong construction on everything I said. The State expenditure of New South Wales in 1899-1900, the year before Federation, was £9,045,096. In the year 1905-6, it was £11,395,243, or an increase of £2,350,147. Those are the exact figures, taken from the Treasury accounts. They are absolutely correct.
– Those are the figures which the honorable member for Parramatta quoted.
– The honorable member for Parramatta now disputes them.
– I do not dispute them. The honorable gentleman must be very dense.
– The honorable member said that he did dispute them.
I handed them to him before he rose to speak, and he said that they were wrong.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is growling, not about the figures, but about their application.
– The honorable member must be stupid. I have never applied them in this Chamber in any other than the way I am doing now. The honorable member for Parramatta tried to fix upon me the responsibility for a Government that was not my Government. I had no control over the expenditure of the Government that followed me. What I say is that during the period of Federation, and since I gave up the reins of government in New South Wales, the increase of expenditure in that State has amounted to over £2,300,000.
– The honorable member for Parramatta does not deny that.
– The honorable member for Parramatta does not want any one to apologize for him. The honorable member tried to fix on me a statement which I never made regarding Mr. Carruthers. What he has said is absolutely incorrect. I did not fasten the responsibility for the increase upon Mr. Carruthers at all. I never named any person or Government. I said that during the period of Federation the See Government and the Carruthers Government in New South Wales had dealt with the finances in the way which I described. I complain of the honorable member saying that I made an attack upon Mr. Carruthers. I did nothing of the kind. I was only anxious to lay before the Committee and the country the exact state of the finances during the period of the Federation as it had been said that the Commonwealth had been, and is, extravagant. My object was not to hit any individual or Ministry, but to defend the Commonwealth Government and Parliament, and to show that instead of having those reflections hurled at us we should be commended for the economy which we have practised, and for not carrying out works which we might very reasonably have undertaken. The honorable member is always attributing some motive to me, but to-night I had not in my mind Mr. Carruthers or his Government or any person in New South Wales. I came here simply to lay the figures before the Committee and the country in order to show what had happened. The honorable member for Dal ley referred to my having read a financial statement. A man who is not an expert in figures, such as the Secretary to the Treasury is, is a fool if he depends on himself and gives figures to the Committee in a not understandable way.
– It is not the figures but the application of them that I complained of.
– The application of the figures is done in a way which even the honorable member in his denseness cannot misunderstand. Let him look through the Budget as it was delivered by me and he can understand “it. Let him look through the reply which I gave tonight, and he can understand it. I have heard Treasurers trying to make their speeches without having had them either typed or the figures typed, and a nice mess they made of them. I do not intend to place myself in that position. I do not pretend to be an expert in dealing with the figures of the Treasury. I have to look to my officers to prepare the figures and to throw upon them the responsibility for their accuracy. I believe that the people would rather trust the officers who have been so long in the Treasury to furnish the figures than trust to any Treasurer, I do not care who he is, to analyze the figures and give them himself.
– The figures are all right, but it is the application of them that I complained of.
– I hope the honorable member will not go on in that way. I could not allow the statement which was made to go forth without giving the true figures. I do not know whether the honorable member for Parramatta intentionally stated - I hope not - that my object was to make an attack upon Mr.. Carruthers. I assure him that if he will read Hansard he will find that I did not mention the name of Mr. Carruthers so far as the figures are concerned. Nothing ‘was further from my thoughts than that. I was too anxious to give the figures correctly to think for a moment of Mr. Carruthers or any one else in regard to the matters with which I was dealing. As it is getting rather late, sir, I move -
That the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again.
.- Mr. McDonald-
– Order. The Treasurer has moved that I report progress.
– I submit, sir, that it is not fair on the part of the Treasurer to make a statement of that kind, and then conclude with that motion.
– I am willing to withdraw it.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the motion be withdrawn ?
– No; report progress.
Motion agreed to; progress reported.
.- I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 3 o’clock to-morrow.
I believe that a large number of honorable members have accepted an invitation to lunch with the Governor-General tomorrow, and that it will be almost impossible to get a quorum before 3 o’clock.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Correspondence : Post and Telegraph Department - Proceedings in Committee - The Tariff : Hours of Sitting - Northern Territory - Fires in New South Wales.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some days since I referred to the dilatory manner in which correspondence is attended to by the Department of thePostmaster-General. To-day. I received from the Department three letters, namely, one in reply to a letter forwarded on the 13th April, respecting the necessity for telephone communication in my electorate; another in reply to a letter I forwarded on the 19th April, on a similar matter of much urgency ; and another in reply to a letter sent on the nth June, respecting the great urgency of providing telephone communication to businesshouses and private persons, and the connexion of townships in my electorate. The receipt of the letters was acknowledged at the time in a formal way, and to-day, after a period of five and three months respectively, I received a reply to them. It shows, I think, that the Department is managed in a very slipshod manner.
– The Department is over-worked.
– It may be that the inspectors are over-worked and unable to report on matters forwarded to them for consideration. Once I met an inspector working on a Sunday in my electorate, far from the large centres of population, in order to get through with his work. I was told on one occasion that the inspectors received large batches of papers and had to sit into the middle of the night in order to deal with them. Judging by the long delay in replying to my communications, the officers are overworked. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will look into the matter and see that some alterations are made so that one may expect to receive a reply to his communications withinareasonable period. During last year I forwarded to the Department scores of letters, but up to the present time I have not received a reply.
– In the case of the letters which the honorable member has mentioned, has finality been reached?
– That is not the point which I am discussing. All I wish to say is that the Department is dilatory, or it may be that the men were overworked, or unable to reach the papers until the dates I mentioned. If the latter has been the case the Department is undermanned, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will lookinto the matter.
.- It is of no use for the Acting Prime Minister to go into mock heroics, or to shed crocodile tears. We are all used to that now, as we have known him ever since the Parliament was opened. I beg to inform the honorable gentleman that I am neither drunk nor stupid. I am in possession of my faculties just as much as he is. I was listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta as intently as I could. He did not try to juggle with the Treasurer’s figures. All he wanted to do was to fix the blame upon the authorities who were responsible for the increased expenditure. What he said was that there was £300,000 expended by the Carruthers Government over and above the expenditure of 1904. He did not say that the Acting Prime Minister had misstated figures.
– I am not aware of the matter to which the honorable memberis referring, but if it is a matter which took place in Committee, seeing that the Committee has not reported, as I have pointed out several times, it ought notto be referred to, and cannot be debated in the House.
– I have said all that I wished to say, sir, but with all due respect to your ruling, do you think it is a fair thing for the Treasurer to make a speech, and then move that progress be reported, so that an honorable member who has been attacked by him cannot reply ?
– He offered to withdraw the motion.
– I am not able to answer the honorable member’s question, and to say what is or is not fair in this connexion, because I know nothing of the facts of the case to which he wishes to refer. But in pursuance of my duty I must insist that debates begun in Committee shall not be continued or referred to in the House. The Committee must attend to, and do its work properly, and the House must do likewise. I cannot allow Committee proceedings and proceedings in the House to overlap.
– IfI cannot get a fair deal from you, Mr. Speaker, from whom can I get it ? You have stated repeatedly - and promised when sworn in last February - that you will see fair treatment given to all members of the House. That is all I am asking for now.
– The honorable member, like every one else, is entitled to fair treatment, and, I am sure, will get it from any officer presiding over the proceedings of the House. But itis my duty to see that the rules of debate are observed, and I should neglect it if I were to allow a Committee discussion to overlap the proceedings in the House. The Committee must deal with its own business. If the honorable member desires to continue the remarks which he has commenced, he will have an opportunity to do so in’ Committee.
– But Mr. Speaker-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to debate my ruling.
– If I cannot get justice from you, Mr. Speaker, from whom can I getit?
– The honorable member will get justice from me in all matters concerning the proceedings of the House, and he will get justice from the Chairman in all matters concerning proceedings in Committee.
.- I do not intend to say anything in regard to the matter referred to by the honorable . member for Maranoa, or as to what took place in Committee between the deputy leader of the Opposition and the Acting Prime Minister. These matters can, I take it, be discussed when the consideration of the Works and Buildings Estimates in Committee of Supply is resumed’, and the honorable member for Maranoa and others will then have an opportunity to deal with them at length. But as to the complaint of the honorable member for Robertson, I desire to say that I am of opinion that we should have great sympathy with the officers of the Postal Department in regard to the delays in the answering of correspondence which are laid at their door. For months past it has been impossible for the men employed in the correspondence branch of the New South Wales Post Office to meet the demands made upon them. I have already shown that that is so, and on a future occasion will do so at greater length, and will put before honorable members a more definite statement of the position than has hitherto been given to the public. I trust that the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer will, as soon as possible, relieve the pressure from which the officers of the Department have suffered too long, and which* results in delays in replying to the correspondence which members have to conduct in the interests of their constituents.
– I thought that things were to be better when we provided for inspectors being sent into the country ?
– I do not think that the present System has had a fair trial. Hitherto we have not had permanent inspectors, but have employed “ acting inspectors, with the result that they have overlapped, or the report of one has been contrary to that of another. There has been a muddle, because there has been no security of tenure, so far as the officers acting have been concerned. We cannot hope for an improvement until the serious grievances which have been laid at the door of the Department have been rectified. I trust that the Postmaster-General, who has been looked to to effect a wonderful improvement, will not merely promise to do something, but will prove his sincerity by his actions.
.- As the House has agreed to adjourn until 3 o’clock to-morrow afternoon, I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the need for lengthening our hours of sitting if we are to deal with the Tariff within a reasonable time. The suggestion was made the other day that we should meet in the morning on Wednesdays and Thursdays, or on Mondays.
– When are we to deal with our correspondence ?
– It is all very well to consider the convenience of honorable members who wish” to return to their homes on Fridays, but we should have regard to the interests of the commercial community, and deal with the Tariff as soon as possible. I hope that the Ministry will take the matter into consideration, and see whether they cannot propose the lengthening of our sittings, or some other steps which will expedite business.
.About two months ago I moved for a return in connexion with the Northern Territory. It is about time that something was heard of it. I expected that it would have been ready before this, and I now ask the Acting Prime Minister to expedite the preparation of the information which I require.
– I moved for a return six years ago, and have not got it yet.
– In reference to the complaint of the honorable member for Robertson, if he will give me the particular instance I shall have inquiries made. I believe that there is a great deal in what he said. The abnormal increase in the work of the Department has not been adequately provided for by the appointment of additional men. But I hope to visit Sydney within a week or ten days, and to make personal inquiries there. Arrangements have been, or are being, made to give clerical assistance to the inspectors which will enable them to get through their work with something like reasonable expedition.
– Clerks couldnot draw up their reports for them.
– They could give great assistance in the preparation of the reports. The system of locating inspectors appears to demand inquiry, and will receive all the attention that I can give to it. But the time available for administrative work is exceedingly short, seeing that Parliament meets four times a week.
– The honorable member for Bass wishes us to make it still shorter.
– I have been trying to grapple with the far-reaching and important problems which concern my Department, and will endeavour, with the assistance of my predecessor, to get at the bottom of the complaints which have been made about postal administration. As to whether the increase of business is abnormal or likely to continue, there may be differences of opinion, but at present the staff is too small.
– Then why not increase it?
– We are trying to do so. But we must know first whether the present volume of business is likely to continue, or whether the rush is merely temporary. It would not do to appoint a large number of permanent officers only to discharge them next year because of a falling off in business.
– At the present time the number of officers is less than when the Department was transferred to the Commonwealth. I am now speaking of the officers dealing with correspondence.
-At all events, the matter will receive every consideration. We shall see what can be done.
– As to the number of officers employed in the Post and Telegraph Department, I think that the honorable member for Gwydir is a little mistaken. I quoted figures to-night showing that 4,440 appointments have been made, and that there had been 3,393dismissals, leaving a net increase of 1,007.In reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Cook, so far as my memory serves me application was at once made to the South Australian Government, who possessed all the information necessary for the preparation of the return which was asked for. When I inquired the other day, I found that no reply had been received from South Australia.
– I tried to get the information from the South Australian Governmentfivemonthsago,butcouldnot.
– The Department cannot do impossibilities, and the return is impossible without the assistance of the South AustralianGovernment.
– The South Australian Government do not seem to wish to give the information.
– I should not think that the South Australian Government desire to’ withhold the information, because they are the most friendly of the States Governments so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. I shall see whether anything further can be done in the matter. I desire to take this opportunity to refer to the dreadful fires which have occurred in the coastal districts of New South Wales. This is, perhaps, the first time on record in Australia when a large and flourishing township has been destroyed by fire within an hour or two. Then there occurred a second conflagration between Casino and Grafton, involving the loss of twelve or fourteen houses. I am sending a telegram of regret on behalf of the Ministry, . and, with the permission of honorable members, I shall send a similar message on behalf of the House, because the catastrophies are such as to call for some expression of sympathy on our part.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070917_reps_3_39/>.